Archive | July, 2014

Book Review: A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers (4/5). I can’t put my finger on just why I loved this book.

15 Jul

My book clubs have been amazing at picking books lately. This last selection was something I never would have considered and hadn’t heard of, but I absolutely LOVED it.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

Alan Clay is almost bankrupt and almost hopeless. His last chance seems to be selling hologram telephone equipment to King Abdullah for the new Saudi Arabian city he’s building on the coast. The only problem is, no one knows when the King will arrive. He hasn’t been around in ages and his plans change constantly. So there’s nothing to do but wait.

Alan finds several ways to entertain himself in the very foreign country. His co-workers are much younger than himself and he makes new friends; a foreign worker living on an ex-pat compound who is able to introduce him to illicit parties and a local cab-driver who invites him to visit a house in the mountains where old traditions still hold strong. Alan is fascinated with the country around him as he waits and waits and waits and waits….

I absolutely adored this book. Eggers writing was engaging and his characters were very unique. I loved how they all had two sides; the side they showed in public, and the side they kept hidden from the eyes of the Kingdom. I know several Saudis and while what’s in this book might be extreme, I’ve heard that it’s pretty accurate. I loved that I could relate to this book in that way. I guess my only complaint would be that not much happened, but that seemed to be on purpose. Our book club leader said that this was often compared to ‘Waiting for Godot’ and I can see the similarities. If you couldn’t guess, I adored ‘Godot’ as well.

My cultural knowledge about Saudi Arabia is pretty basic. I had friends who were from there in college, dating a guy from there (SHOCKER!) and have a friend who lived on an ex-pat compound during an internship. So I guess I know more than the average Joe, but I’m no expert. The characters Eggers described fit a lot of the impressions I had from my friends. I loved the Danish consultant who took him to ex-pat parties; this reminded me of stories from my friend who lived there. I liked the conservative cousins Alan ran into at Yousef’s house in the mountains; they reminded me of some of the Saudi’s I met at school while others reminded me of Yousef. I think they showed a pretty good spread of Saudi’s and other residents.

Yousef was my favorite character. I liked his story the best. He’d gone to college in the US, wanted to do something different from his family and went out on his own. I liked the insight he was able to provide to Alan on Saudi life. He reminded me most of my friends from Saudi. On the surface, they’re conservative but they harbor a desire to be radical; to experience something different and break a few rules. But, when pushed too far, they’ll revert back to the conservative upbringing they had. This is one of the aspects of Saudi culture I find most fascinating; the attraction to changing things, but the simultaneous desire to keep it as it is.

Dave Eggers Image via Amazon.com

Dave Eggers
Image via Amazon.com

I related to Alan’s uncertainty in the story. He seems to bounce between decisions constantly and I feel that way about my life some times. I struggle to make hard commitments and decisions and I saw this in Alan’s inability to write his daughter a letter and his reluctance to see a doctor about the growth on his neck.

The plot line with Dr. Hakem was my favorite. She was such a strong woman who defied stereotypes of woman from that region. I loved how bold she was, even if I didn’t fully agree with her infidelity. I loved how sure she was of herself and her medical skill was commendable. It must have been a struggle to put a strong female character in a book set in Saudi Arabia, but Eggers did it really well.

I’m not sure I had a ‘least favorite’ part of this book. It was really solid throughout. The only reason I didn’t give it five stars is because not much happened, but then again that was the point. In my mind, it reached its full potential.

Would you believe this book is being made into a movie? Starring Tom Hanks? It seems to be true.

Waiting for Godot was once described as,

“a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats.”
-Vivian Mercier, The Irish Times 18 Feb. 1956

I think A Hologram for the King is a literary equivalent. Alan does nothing of importance, accomplishes nothing, and kept me turning the pages as quickly as possible. I think this is very reminiscent of life; we go from day-to-day, doing something, but never really going anywhere. At least, we don’t know where we’re going and we don’t know when we’ll get there. The characters in most stories have a purpose; a drive, an adventure, a mission. Alan Clay had a mission, to make a sale, but he doesn’t do it. Moreover, he has to wait before he can even try to do it. In what world is that a mission? This book is memorable for its blandness.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book might be the worst example of a ‘Writer’s Takeaway’ section yet. I don’t think we should try to replicate this style. It’s a unique form to write a book like this and I don’t think many amateur authors (I’m assuming not many seasoned professionals are reading this) could pull it off. I think the best thing to take from this is that your character can always be doing something, but it won’t always lead to an end, but you can still make it interesting.

I adored this book. Four out of five stars.

This book fulfills ‘Foreign Country: Saudi Arabia” for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Dave Eggers’ A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING | Bite the Book
A Hologram for the King. Dave Eggers Come Back, Please | Walworth Sentiments
Failure of a Salesman – Dave Eggers’ A Hologram for the King | Books and Bits
2012 National Book Award finalist in Fiction: Dave Eggers, A Hologram for the King | Vaguely Borgesian

Like this review? Let me know on Goodreads.

Saturday Writers Group: Names and Stanzas

14 Jul

Yet again, I’m way behind on getting these posts up. My Saturday group met on 7-June and this is just now being posted. I’m embarrassed!

One of our members is a talented poet, but she says the thing she struggles with most is stanza breaks in her poems, so this is something we always talk about with her work. The poem she brought had a series of illusions and we discussed if it was better to separate each illusion into its own stanza or to keep them in one stanza and let them bleed together. It the poem is about illusions, isn’t it good to let them become one and create an ultimate illusion? I feel there are some poems that work better in one stanza and others that need to be broken apart to clarify the meaning. When do you break a poem into stanzas?

Some books will have a character without a name, referred to as ‘the boy’ or ‘the mother.’ We talked about the effects of doing this. Does it give the characters a more universal appeal than ‘Brian’ or ‘Mrs. Horm’ would? Certain stories seem to need something like this where as others seem awkward when written this way. When is it okay to not name a character?

One of our members writes personal essays and this got me thinking. In real life, it’s likely that I have two friends named Cat (this happened in college). In real life, that’s fine; you create nicknames or say ‘Blonde Cat’ when talking about these people. But if I were to write a story and Cat and Cat appeared in it, should I change one of their names? Should I refer to one as Catherine and the other Cat? Is it okay to change people’s names to make a stronger distinction between them in a personal essay? When would you keep them the same?

I hope you like the shorter post! Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Library Writers Group: Flash Fiction

11 Jul

Another yay for the library writers’ group! We talked about two things this time; July writing goals and Flash fiction. So, I’ve decided to set a goal for the month. I’ll report on it in my posts and in the monthly wrap up. I’ve started already, so don’t think I got a late start. Here’s my goal, short and simple: EDIT! I have a huge pile of critiqued stories and poems on my desk that are doing nothing for me. I’m going to get through the pile and then start revising my NaNo. If you follow me, you know I finished reading through it a while ago and now I’m going to make it a point to re-write the first 20. Hopefully they come out to more like 35 pages, but we’ll see what happens. The story now is 96 pages, so this will be a good solid chunk of the editing. Wish me luck!

The second thing we talked about was flash fiction. We shared this awesome article from the New York Times. One of the main things we got from it was the Iceberg Analogy. In short, it says that only 10% of the story is written, the other 90% is implied. A good example is the one given in the article, Ernest Hemingway’s story:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

We can get a lot from those five words. Why weren’t they ever worn? Were they the wrong size? Did the baby die? Were they stolen? We can make a story in our heads from that simple beginning.

Nicole commented how a lot of five-word stories like this are more poetic than they are prose. I can see this extending to short works because the Iceberg Analogy has to be used more. Poetry tends to give us less concrete detail and we have to rely on our imaginations to fill in the rest.

A member commented how he’s always been taught every story must have conflict and that in flash fiction, that was hard to do. But is implied conflict enough? There are several ways one could assume conflict in the example story. Does a writer have to state the conflict, or can it be implied?

We took a hand at our own flash fiction. I’ll share a couple here but I’m wondering if I should try submitting the rest to flash fiction magazines. We ere challenged to do stories no more than three sentences in length. Enjoy!

She measures, measures, again, makes a small mark, measures again, marked again, and finally with great trepidation, makes a short cut, defiling the polka-dot pattern with her will; her imposition. Again, again, and once more she repeats the process before she can lift up the perfect shape; the quilters’ ideal parallelogram with sharp edges which will ultimately be hidden in seams. With tears of joy in her eyes she lifts the scissors and ruler again to repeat and repeat and repeat.

Hearing that zipper finally go up makes me cry because the voice in my head is so loud as it screams, “YES! I DID IT!”

Do you write flash fiction? What do you think of mine?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Read Along With Me #1: The Maze Runner by James Dashner Chapters 39-51

10 Jul

ReadAlong1Maze

This is the second to last installment. Can you believe it?! I’m still trying to get over the fact some crazies joined me in reading this book. Thank you to all of you who are reading along, you’ve made this so much fun!

Question from Nicole: I wondered towards the end of this section if the Creators were aware of the boys and what they were on too. And if they did know what was happening, why didn’t they try to stop it or was this part of the “plan”?
There weren’t any mentions of Beetle Blades in these last chapters, so I’m not sure. I feel like the blades are spies for the creators so if they’re not around like they were when Thomas first arrived, maybe the Creators aren’t as aware. If they did know about the plan, their next step would probably depend on what the purpose of the experiment is.

Question from Ashlee: Do you think Theresa was the only girl who went through the special training? Or why weren’t more females thrown into the Maze?
They talk so much about variables, I wonder if all men was a way of removing the romantic variable. No women, no distractions. Kind of like Catholic high-schools. As far as Teresa showing up, I think that the part of the ending sequence she triggered threw a lot of variables to the wind. The doors weren’t supposed to stay open either.

Question from Sultana: Just one last chunk of reading left! General predictions, anyone?
As of writing this, I’ve finished it, but my prediction going into the last section was that Minho would die. He’s my favorite character and my disappointment in this book so far dictated that he would have to die.

Question from Barb: Why is Newt so negative to Thomas’s code breaking? There is no better option so why does Newt resist so much?
I think Newt was so new to being in control that he didn’t know how to act. He wanted to stay in control and be leading the boys, but Thomas had a monopoly on that for the time being. I think he resented Thomas more than he resented the idea of breaking the code.

Question from Lynn: Also, the people who have been through the changing – some of them don’t want to leave the maze as a result as they think the world out there will be much worse – how come Thomas isn’t feeling that?
I think Thomas somehow was raised apart from the rest of the boys. His memories are different, he has a different connection with Teresa, and he feels familiar in the maze. To me, all of these point to having been there before and having been involved somehow in design, which it seems obvious the remaining boys were not.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 9-July-2014

9 Jul

Progress, progress, progress! At least, it feels like it. Consider joining in MizB’s WWW meme if you haven’t before!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:  I’m about halfway through The Coward by Kyle R Bullock. This is the last ARC off my shelf and I’m enjoying it so far. It’s strange to be reading this at the same time as The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I’ve got to keep World War II and Vietnam separate in my mind! On audio, I just started is reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, my next book club selection. It’s too early to tell how I’ll feel about this one.

Recently finished: I finally finished The Maze Runner by James Dashner Monday night. I wanted to throw the book at the wall. I get frustrated when a series doesn’t have good stopping points between books and this one sure didn’t! I can’t decide if I want to read the sequels or not. I also finished Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser on Monday (a big day for me). It was informative, well written, but not as captivating as I’d hoped for.

A big week for reviews as well! I covered O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn as well as The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

Reading Next:  Still a good number. Looking for Alaska by John Green has yet to come in at the library so I hope to get that soon. And I want to start The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen soon. This will fulfill the 1500s time period of my When Are You Reading? Challenge. We’ll see after that.

The hubby and I are doing a massive bike tour this weekend so I hope to get something read before then! What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn (2/5). It wasn’t for me, unfortunately.

8 Jul

A while ago, I cut myself from registering for First Reads. I decided I had enough books to read that I didn’t need to get another. But then, of course, I had some spare time at work and decided to browse. What’s the harm, right? Well, let me tell you because I won one. It’s set in the late 1920s and if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for anything 20s. The worst part was that I really, really couldn’t get into it. I just couldn’t. I’ll elaborate later.

I received this book for free on Goodreads in exchange for a fair review.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

O, Africa! by Andre Lewis Conn

Brothers Micah and Izzy Grand are having the time of their lives making movies in the late 1920s. Their comedies have audiences in stitches and their star actor doesn’t seem to be fading any time soon. However, their production company as a whole is on its way down. Their boss has an idea; go to Africa and get stock footage which they can sell to other companies and while they’re there, film another movie. Two birds with one stone, right? Well, in theory anyway.

In reality, Micah is in debt to a gangster who’s convinced him to pay off his debt by filming a second movie during their time in the DR Congo (Belgian Congo in the 20s). The natives of the village the boys visit are used as extras in their film and Izzy grows close to the prince.  [SPOILER ALERT!] In a twist, the prince kills one of the crew members and the team returns to New York with nothing to show. Izzy, distraught over the loss of his lover, returns to Africa, desperate to make things right and restore order to the village. Micah must traipse across the ocean after his brother, squandering the last dollars he has in hopes of helping his brother home.

This book really didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t sure how big of a release it would entail but I saw the book on the shelves of Barnes and Nobel last week so Conn must have made bank on this one. I didn’t find the humor that funny and it seemed a bit forced. I liked the plot for the first half, but the second half fell apart for me. Izzy was the only character I liked and he became my least favorite character: someone I couldn’t relate to. By the end, I liked Micah only because he was the only character who hadn’t gone off the deep end. Well, maybe Rose, Micah’s mistress, but she still didn’t do it for me.

I don’t think the characters were meant to be believable. As part of the Roaring Twenties, everyone was bigger than life and that goes double for the movie business. People had the disposable income to spend on movies and the men in the field were taking it to the bank. I think Micah ended up being the most believable throughout. At first, my attraction to Izzy was that I could relate to him because he was logical and even-headed. Then he went crazy at the end and I couldn’t figure out why. The secondary characters were a little easier to believe; Henry the silent film star and Rose, Micah’s black mistress (talk about a scandal in the 20s!).

If forced to pick, I’d say Rose ended up being my favorite of these two. I don’t agree with her morally, (having a relationship with a married man when she herself is married) but she was looking out for herself. When she wanted a baby to take care of, she knew where to go. When she needed protection, she had her brother to turn to and knew where to find a husband who would take care of her. She saw the bright and flashy life that Micah had and knew she wanted something less gaudy. She had an even head on her shoulders.

Andrew Lewis Conn. Image from RandomHouse.com

Andrew Lewis Conn. Image from RandomHouse.com

I related to Micah at the end. He knew he had to throw away his last dollars to go see his brother and bring him home. This is a very raw human emotion of love and family ties and it resonated with me on a primitive level. If my brother were in trouble, I would want to go help him, even if he was in primitive Africa. To me, this was the most ‘real’ thing Micah did.

My favorite part of the book was the opening scenes where the brothers are filming a movie with Henry Till and Babe Ruth. It was great to see a historical figure as memorable as Ruth make an appearance in the book. The writer pulled in some other well-known figures of the day later in, Charlie Chaplin being the one I remember. It helped root the book in the 20s.

Izzy’s return to Africa was my least favorite part. The things he was doing over there were too much for me to process: talking to a dead body, making movies out of clips of the dead king, not eating, living in a junk field. It was too much. I thought Izzy was a well-developed character until this point. I wish the book had ended sooner so I didn’t have to see him like that.

I felt a lot of the book was about the fragility of man. Micah’s comfortable life in New York is fragile and his relationships came to a head many times in the book. Izzy’s sanity is fragile and he deteriorates quickly. The villagers are easily influenced by their contact with the Western film-makers and it skewed their perception of reality. Ultimately there was a way to put each of these back together, but it was a lot of work and effort by all those involved.

Writer’s Takeaway: Oh boy. I think my lesson from this book was about how to incorporate humor into my work. I like when there is one character that can make me laugh consistently or when appropriate, but I felt Conn was using all of his characters as comic relief all too frequently and not in the appropriate times. It made all the characters seem like jokes and belittled their problems.

Not my favorite. 2 out of 5 stars.

This book fulfills ‘Foreign Country: DR Congo’ for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

Like this review? Let me know on Goodreads!

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Post:
O, Africa by Andrew Lewis Conn | 52 books or bust

You are welcome for the Inspiration

7 Jul

A huge thank you to Amanda’s Nose in a Book  and AlenasLife for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! This is my second award and I’m really excited to receive it. I mean, really, look how awesome that award image is!

veryinspiringbloggeraward

I’m touched and I’ll be adding this to my blog awards list very soon. If you haven’t seen Amanda’s blog yet, please go check it out. She’s a fellow reader/writer who’s ventured into booktube! I’m very intimidated by cameras and have the utmost respect for her because of this. Alena and I have connected more recently through the WWW meme due to our similar interests. She blogs about books, love, and life!

The rules for the award are quite simple:

  1. Thank and link the amazing person who nominated you.
  2. List the rules and display the award.
  3. Share seven facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
  5. Optional: Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger who nominated you.

# 1 and #2= Done!

Seven facts about me!

  1. I completed a triathlon in May. It was the first one I’ve done since I was 15 (9 years ago) and even though my knees started killing me, I finished in under 2 hours. I’m going to do another one in September and my goal is to drop time.
  2. I will be moving soon! Not far, but to a nicer apartment and a bit closer to work. My husband got a job (HUGE CELEBRATION) so we can afford a bigger place. We’re looking and it’s wonderful to dream when I know it will soon be a reality.
  3. I had hip surgery when I was 20. I tore the cartilage inside the hip-joint because of a bone spur and had it sewn up. I’m considered 100% recovered.
  4. I’ve finished two manuscripts and am working on a third. My first one is my baby and I’m determined to see that one traditionally published, even if the others never are. It’s very dear to me.
  5. My mom got me my current job. Call it nepotism or networking, but it’s true. I’ve kept it from my skill, but she got me the interview and I took it from there. Now I go to the company functions as an employee instead of family.
  6. I’m at the library as I write this. Are you jealous?
  7. I’m lactose intolerant but love cheese. It’s terrible.

Fifteen nominations are a lot! Here’s the ones I can provide:

  • Jen’s Pen Den: I started following Jen recently and I love her GIFs for humor and the messages she sends out.
  • Living on Borrowed Days: Claudia and I connected through my Read-Along and it’s been great to follow her blog and get to know her.
  • Lovely Literature: Anne and Ashley have two different styles and always contribute equally to their Top Ten Tuesday meme and I love seeing the different opinions.
  • Wrote Some Things: Yet again, I’ll nominate my friends. Katherine is a very talented writer and will soon be pursuing her MFA so I’m curious to see where this blog will go!
  • Bitches With Books: Another tag-team blog where I enjoy the voices of both writers. Claire is studying at Oxford and shares her experiences.
  • Heart of Sultana: Another friend of mine! Sultana blogs about books, fashion, and her battle with Thyroid Cancer.
  • Cooking with the book club: Do I need to elaborate why food and books are a great combination?
  • Blogs-Of-A-Bookaholic.: A fellow book-blogger with similar tastes and a love for good quotes.
  • Jodie Llewellyn: Jodie is a fellow aspiring YA writer who share her troubles and motivations. It’s good to know there are more of us out there struggling!
  • Scribbles & Wanderlust: It’s good to find a book blogger with similar tastes who can point me in the direction of some good books!
  • Life {Faith} Tea: Ashlee and I met during NaNoWriMo and connected again through my Read-Along. I adore her blogging about books, life, and God.
  • Book Rhapsody: Someone who loves his book club as much as I love mine!
  • Shannon A Thompson: Shannon is a YA author who connects with readers through a ton of interaction on her blog. I love hearing about her story.
  • Out Where the Buses Don’t Run: Gus is one of the first blogs I followed and I’ve been rewarded by winning a giveaway and getting to read his posts as he works through his first novel.

Yes, I know that’s fourteen. I can’t pick someone to fill the final spot, so I’ll stop while I’m ahead. Thank you again to Amanda and Alena for the nominations, I’m very honored.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian (4/5). A harrowing tale of right and wrong.

4 Jul

This was on the tail end of my reading list so I didn’t think I’d get to it so soon, but it being the first available non-CD audiobook (yes, that is very specific), it made its way up quickly. I wanted to read another Bohjalian book after meeting him and as my cousin-in-law once removed (again, specific) is Armenian, I wanted to read this. So yeah, I read it. Well, listened to it; same thing.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

In 1915, the Ottoman Empire began systematically killing Armenians by first executing the men and then leading the women and children on a death march across the desert. Elizabeth Endicott and her father have traveled from Boston to Aleppo, Syria to help the woman arriving daily from across the desert. She meets Armenian engineer Armen and refugees Nevart and Hatoun who introduce her to life in Syria and Armenian culture she’s previously been oblivious to. She’s swept up by the sad stories of Armen and his past-wife and how Hatoun lost her mother and sisters crossing the desert and how Nevart’s husband will never come back to her.

The story is interspersed with narration from Laura Petrosian, Elizabeth and Armen’s granddaughter and the author of the story (It’s a ‘story within a story’ feel). She is retracing her family history during the genocide and learning things about her grandparents that they never told her in their lifetimes.

I really really REALLY enjoyed this book. Bohjalian combined drama, action, and history in a wonderful whirlwind of story. I liked how Elizabeth and Laura mirrored each other in their time almost 100 years apart. I felt that Laura’s portions of the book were not too overwhelming and fit the book well. The only part I didn’t like (and this isn’t much of a complaint) is that it ended too quickly. It was appropriate, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted a bit more. (FYI, the ending is about to be spoiled. Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want it to be ruined.) After Karine died, I wanted to see how Elizabeth came to deal with the guilt (because I’m assuming she felt something) and secret that she had to keep from the man who would be her husband. I guess this is another case of me not wanting the story to end.

I loved the characters and I thought Bohjalian did a wonderful job of developing voices for each. Ryan Miller had a strong backbone and motivation completely different from Armen or Alicia Wells. The German soldiers had a sense of humor and secretiveness to them that other characters didn’t have. I think Hatoun’s character was my favorite. She was such a sad and quiet little girl that getting inside her head the way Bohjalian did was really enlightening. She showed the reader what it was like to be a refugee and even though it was softened slightly through the eyes of a child, it was still chilling.

Laura was my favorite character, if that’s fair. I feel like I should choose one of the characters from the Aleppo setting, but I keep coming back to how much I loved Laura. She was so brutally honest even though she knew people wouldn’t like what she had to say. She was revealing a huge family secret (Annie’s Ghosts?) and didn’t seem too worried about what her family would think.

Due to a very vague connection, I related to Elizabeth. Her relationship with Armen reminded me of myself and my husband. Now don’t rush into things, let me explain. I had a crush on my husband for a very long time while he was dating another girl. I waited and waited for him to be available, but they stuck it out for longer than I thought they would. I was reminded of this as Elizabeth waited to see if Karine would show up in Aleppo from across the desert. She could look at Armen- touch him, laugh with him, and love him- but until he gave up on Karine, she couldn’t be with him. I sympathized for her while she waited for him. In the end, I could understand, though not fully agree with, her actions but they still made me sad.

Me and Chris Bohjalian

Me and Chris Bohjalian

I enjoyed when Laura talked about growing up Armenian (yes, I’m reverting back to my favorite character again). She talked about her first real boyfriend, Berk, and how it was an issue for her parents because he was Turkish. Her father, only one generation removed from the atrocity, couldn’t understand it and thought it was a violation of her Armenian heritage. But for Laura, it was no big deal. I think this speaks volumes to the differences of prejudices and opinions between generations. A more lighthearted example but the first time my grandmother met my husband, she said to him, (her first words) “You look Italian.” When he confirmed that he is, in fact, Italian, she said, “That’s okay. They were on our (the German) side during the war.” Yes, that would be World War II. Thank you, Grandma.

I’m still wishing the book was longer. Just a little more of Elizabeth’s turmoil about telling her husband the truth about his late wife would have helped, I think. I won’t say the end was my least favorite part, but it let me down. Why do books have to end?

I liked how Bohjalian decided to talk about himself in this book while still writing historical fiction. There was an interview with him at the end of the audio I had where he said Laura was a lot like him and his discovery of what it means to be Armenian. I also liked what he was able to say about family. Navart and Hatoun were able to become family by a shared experience. They were more or less adopted by Elizabeth due to necessity but one can’t say they’re not family. A family is what you make of it, even though it starts with blood.

Writer’s Takeaway: The Sandcastle Girls is a great example of point of view. Laura gives a first person narration that’s very conversational in tone. We move to those in Aleppo and we get a series of third person limited points of view that work together to tell the whole story Laura is trying to write. I think is a really great example of how to combine first and third person point of view, which one doesn’t see done very often.

Again, I loved this but was disappointed there wasn’t more to it. Four out of five stars.

This book meets two challenge goals! The first is the 1910-1929 time period for my When Are You Reading? Challenge. The second is ‘Syria’ for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge. Yay for double dipping!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian | BrodartVibe
Book Review: “The Sandcastle Girls” by Chris Bohjalian | LibrarianSpivey
The Sandcastle Girls – Chris Bohjalian | Stewarty
‘The Sandcastle Girls’ – Chris Bohjalian | The Things I Read

Novel Girls: Comfort Zone and Fantasy

3 Jul

My Novel Girl friends probably thought I forgot about this post. Nope! I just ran out of time to write it so it’s only now going up. We met waaaay back on June 5th. Yes, we’ve met since then. I’ll get to that later.

I shared the first half of a piece I wrote back in February that I’ve shared with one person but really not touched since. My main character is a man named Mitchell who sees a girl he used to know from school and plucks up the courage to go talk to her. He’s a shy guy and remembers her as a quiet girl, but it still makes him nervous to go see her. However, he seems to find his balls really quickly and asks her out on a date. This took Nicole and Katherine aback because it seemed like a really sudden change and it wasn’t well motivated. I’ll have to look at either giving him more balls early on or making him more nervous throughout.

Katherine brought us a piece that will begin a longer story to get our initial reactions. From the portion we read, it was hard to tell if the book was fantasy or not because it had several elements grounded in this world. We talked about ways she could introduce fantastical elements to the story up front. She could show some supernatural powers, describe the setting’s place in the fantastical world, etc. Depending on how outlandish a fantastical world is, there are tons of different ways to do this. The problem is conveying what you have in your head to your readers. It can be hard to get the image on paper the way you want it to look. Which makes me think; maybe it’s okay if you don’t. Part of the magic of reading is being able to create by yourself what the world will look like in detail. There’s a line between enough and not enough. What are some books you thought gave too much detail and what are some that gave too much? Do fantasy books lend themselves to more detail than contemporary books to convey the setting?

Nicole‘s piece was a little different from other things we’ve read from her. We talked a lot about how it can be refreshing to get out of your comfort zone and write something that’s a stretch. Sometimes really good things can come from it. We did an exercise at a writing group once where we all had to name our least favorite genre or the one we didn’t like to read, and then write our first prompt in that style. I think really good pieces like Nicole’s can grow out of exercises like that.

By the time you read this, we’ll have already had another Novel Girls meeting, so be ready for another one of these posts… eventually!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 2-July-2014

2 Jul

A bit of progress for MizB’s WWW. Enough that it’s respectable.

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading:  I’m at the final stopping point of The Maze Runner by James Dashner and I plan on plowing through it come July 5th. I’m so excited to finish this one. On audiobook I’m half way through Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and I’m hoping to make more progress soon. I’ve been driving a lot this week (vacation!) and getting through it well. I picked the final ARC off my shelf, The Coward by Kyle R Bullock. I just finished Part I but I’ve slowed down a bit to finish ‘Orphan Master.’

Recently finished: I soared through A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. I can’t put my finger on what was so awesome about it, but I really really loved this book. I’m excited to discuss it with my book club in August. Last night I finished off The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. This had a solid ending, I really enjoyed it.

Reading Next:  There are a few. My book club is reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe which I have on hold for audio. Hopefully I can start that soon. I put Looking for Alaska by John Green on hold for my carpool buddy and I to listen to so that should be started soon. And I want to start The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen soon. This will fulfill the 1500s time period of my When Are You Reading? Challenge. I’ve also put the eBook for The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien on hold to fulfill the 1950-1969 time period.

I hope to finish at least one for next week but I’ll be out-of-town for the 4th. My cousin is getting married! What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!