Archive | September, 2014

Library Writers’ Group: THE HORROR!

30 Sep

A lot awaited post about writing! I know it’s been a long time since I was able to put one of these together and I apologize to those who like my writing posts. Please don’t panic (Douglas Adams anyone?) as there should be some more of these coming up.

In keeping with the Halloween season, our group talked about horror writing this month. The obvious question is why do people read horror? Personally, I don’t read a lot of books I would consider horrific (or didn’t before this meeting, more on that later). When I do read, it’s an escapism. I want to experience something different from my daily life and books help me do that. But a horror book isn’t exactly the place I want to go. The horror readers among us weren’t as escapist as I am. Not many people want to live in a world saturated with killers and ghosts. Many didn’t consider themselves pure horror readers, but commented that the horror they’ve read is blended with other genres, especially SciFi and fantasy.

Horror writing has existed for longer than it has been considered its own genre. It began to come into its own with Gothic literature, but we can see traces of it as far back as Beowulf and classic fairy tales. In the 80s, the modern horror genre emerged with Stephen King being a prime example of the resulting genre.

We read an article which you can find here on the ten elements of horror. We went through them and talked about situations in books we’ve read and enjoyed which could fit into these characters. For example, some story lines that fall into ‘helplessness and isolation’ could be a new family situation or being stranded at sea. For ‘urgency,’ persecution and war are good examples.

Reading through these elements, I realized that a lot of recent dystopian fantasy have similar themes and situations. When I thought about it, they seem to fit the horror genre really well. It hooked back to the comment about genre being combined with other genres and I’ve come to see that I might not mind horrific literature after all.

We reviewed again why our horror readers liked horror books. Mostly, it was for the thrill they got from reading it. But also, it helped them not be as afraid of the unknown, unexpected, and unnatural.

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!

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Book Review: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (4/5). We liked this book.

29 Sep

This book is another gem that came to me through my Book-A-Day Calendar in 2013. That thing really filled up my TBR list and this year, I’ve read 5 of them with an average rating of 3.8. That’s pretty good for a stack of papers! Especially when you consider the 10 personally recommended books I’ve read this year have an average 3.2 rating. I should trust this calendar more.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

We came over from Japan on boats to meet husbands in pictures. We work the fields of the wealthy white men in California, never having a moments rest. We bear the children who we hope will grow up to be just like us, but much better. And we are the ones that suffer when we’re taken away and put into camps.

Written in the collective first person, this story chronicles the Japanese brides who came to American after World War I in hopes of a better life. They work for years, raising children who reject them and their traditions and being seen as outcasts by the others living around them. And then the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. What’s a Japanese to do? They purge themselves of their heirlooms and pictures of their families, but the accusations still fly. People start to disappear in the night. And then the word comes that they’re all going to be moved. In a mass exodus, the Japanese will leave the coastal cities and be relocated inland. The silence they leave behind is deafening.

I was not expecting much from this short little book. It’s length actually made me wonder at first if it was written for a young audience, but the quick dive into these women’s personal lives and thoughts corrected me. I knew about the Japanese camps during World War II, but I never gave much thought to what those people had endured before. I hadn’t read anything about Japanese immigrants to America before and it was eye-opening to see how they were treated.

One thing about history that’s always bothered me was why we put the Japanese in camps. I understand the logic that some immigrants were thought to help coordinate the attacks, etc., but I’m asking specifically why the Japanese and not the Germans or Italians or other nationality against which we were fighting. I’m German in heritage myself and I kept thinking of my grandma as a little girl being taken away to these camps, wondering what her distant relatives back in Germany could have done. I think the Japanese children felt this way, too. One theory I’ve heard is that the Japanese were just more easily identifiable. This makes me sad. Any comments?

It was almost impossible to draw individual characters from the text because of the first person plural POV. Otsuka presented the experience as collective and individual at the same time. It would say something like, “We endured and we flourished.” The reader knows some of the Japanese women endured and others flourished, but there was no tracking who did which. It was also hard to tell the size of the group the book tracked. Parts of it seemed like a small group, one ship’s worth of women, but at other times it seemed to represent all Japanese brides in that time period.

It was hard for me to relate to the characters. I felt that their story was very unique to the time in which it was told and would more relatable to an immigrant. I was born and raised in the US and I can’t relate to the struggles to learn the language and culture aside from my study abroad experiences, and I don’t think that holds a candle to what these women endured. I can see a struggle such as this one in some of the immigrants I interact with, but I can’t imagine the struggle.

I thought the end of the book was the most powerful. The point of view switched to the people who lived in California and how it felt when the Japanese were gone. There was a shared sense of emptiness and a realization that the Japanese had never harmed them and in truth had added a lot to their lives. No one seemed glad that the Japanese were gone and there was a slight sense of guilt in the voice.

Julie Otsuka Image from the author's website.

Julie Otsuka
Image from the author’s website.

The section of the book toward the beginning about manual labor when the women first arrived in the US was hard to read. The suffering that these women described reminded me of The Grapes of Wrath. It was hard to read about that suffering and I knew then that this book would take on a dark tone. The men were portrayed in a very negative light during this part of the book and it made the women seem very alone and vulnerable.

The point of view lends itself to a theme of community. The Japanese women shared many of the experiences in the story and kept a close community with those enduring with them. Their diaspora from California was also done as a community and their group was unwelcome as a nation. Their community stayed tight-knit throughout and I think that’s the best they could have asked for in the situation. Sometimes, having each other is enough.

Writer’s Takeaway: What a great example of being brave with writing choices. Not many novels are written in the collective first person and I’ve never read one so coherent as this. Otsuka did a wonderful job of bringing the story of a community together with one voice. She was also very smart to choose a time in history that’s not as well-known and make it relatable today. Plus, she did it in a short number of pages. Bravo all around to the writing in this book!

Really enjoyable overall and a quick, refreshing read. Four out of Five stars.

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:
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The Buddha in the Attic (2011) – Julie Otsuka | A Novel Approach
No 704 The Buddha in the Attic | 746 Books

Read Along With Me #2: The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar Chapters 1-5

25 Sep

Read Along 2

It’s time to start another Read-Along! Wooo, so excited. I’m joined by two veterans, Claudia and Ashlee. You can look at all of our posts on the hub page. And if you think you want to join up, send me an email! We’d love to have you.

Set-up of the Read-Along has changed just slightly. We all submit one or two questions and then one person suggests a major topic we can all ‘muse’ over. Hopefully this well give us a more consistent discussion across blogs. Let’s get to this!

Question from ClaudiaHave you had friends or relatives desperately fight against your decision(s) and/or choice(s)? (ie. you’re too young, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t know any better)
As a matter of fact, yes. I got engaged when I was 21. I know some of you are thinking, “So?” and others are thinking, “Why so young? You have your whole life ahead of you!” At least I assume you are because those are the two reactions we got. Some people didn’t think it was a problem and some thought we were too young and that by telling us, we would ‘come to our sense’ and call off the engagement. Needless to say, I married that man 22 months later and I’m so glad I did. But I had some relatives (an in-laws) who were against it for a long time.

It’s a hard position to be in. The people who you are used to leaning on and being supported by are pushing back at a major decision you’re making. You were so happy and excited about it, and now there’s no one smiling with you. I sympathize with Maya in this respect and can feel her pain. Bhima is ashamed (which I hope my relatives didn’t feel) and thinks she knows what’s right for Maya, though Maya may not agree.

 

Question from AshleeBhima and Sera both make a comment along the lines of, “Oh, but she is good to me so I shouldn’t be so hard on her.” I find it interesting that two women from two very different social classes can look at each other in the same way. I assume this is without the other knowing. A common thread between them that is perhaps never mentioned throughout their relationship. I’m sensing this might be the author’s goal with this novel, but how do you see it playing out?
I think this plays right into the title. There is a gap between the two women and even though they think and feel the same things, there’s something that has to be overcome. That space isn’t something that they can overcome, perhaps, because it might be more deeply seeded than they are able to break. India existed in a caste system for a long time and the characters mention how even though it is gone, there’s still an influence and a shadow of the system.

I think Umrigar is making a larger point as well; we never know how someone else is looking at us. We’re all human, yet we assume we’re a ‘different’ human than someone else because we look different or have a different background when we have no basis for making this assumption. I’ve been very blessed to have a diverse group of people around me growing up in Metro Detroit and having parents who raised me to believe everyone is the same. I know my mom grew up in a household where things were not quite so free and I can understand from that how Bhima and Sera are influenced by the place where they grew up. They’d have to grow a lot to overcome it.

 

Here’s the new part. I proposed a topic for us all to think about and write about to draw a common thread across our discussions. The one I proposed this time was the effect of those not living in the story. I remember when I was high school we read the Tennessee Williams play The Glass Menagerie. The essay we had to write was about how the father (who is deceased) influenced the play. I thought of this a lot while reading these chapters. Both of our main characters have people in their lives who we either assume or know are dead that have influenced them greatly.

Bhima is influenced by her daughter, who I think has passed. Shes taking care of her granddaughter and soon, her great-granddaughter. She seems to have had a bad falling out with her daughter that she has imposed on Maya quite unfairly. There is a line on page 6 that makes me think Bhima might have had a pregnancy when she was very young.

… Maya would live, would continue going to college and choose a life different from what Bhima had always known.

I admit it could mean getting out of the slum, but I took this to mean Bhima blames her daughter for keeping her in the slum because she was pregnant at a young age. I think Bhima also doesn’t want Maya to blame her child for keeping her in the slum.

Sera is influenced by her late husband., Feroz. She did not have a happy marriage and sees it as her duty to make sure her daughter and son-in-law have a good relationship. She seems to be pandering to Viraf to be sure he is happy and treats her daughter well. Another way Feroz influences her is through his mother. Sera feels obligated to visit the woman daily, even though she was cruel to her in earlier years, because she cared for Feroz in childhood. It seems like more of a duty than an act of love and it’s entirely driven by Feroz.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along. Please drop me a line if you are interested in joining us; we have so much fun doing these!

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, 24-September-2014

24 Sep

Time for MizB’s WWW meme! No new progress this week, but it’s looking like there will be some soon.

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 made some respectable progress in Canada by Richard Ford over the last week. It was my main read last week, but life got in the way. My audiobook of The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory is going well. I had a long car ride over the weekend and knocked out a few disks. My ebook is The Domesday Book by Connie Willis and as expected, this is a long haul. I’m 17% of the way through and that’s about 100 pages. Sit tight, we’ll be here for a while. The second section of Read Along #2 has begun and I’m working through Chapters 6 – 8 of The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar. I hope to finish it before Friday.

Recently finished: I’m sad to report there’s nothing new! I’ve made great progress in a couple, but nothing new for today. I may cry.

But book reviews! I’ve been doing pretty well on these so far. Check out my reviews for Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan and The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

Reading Next:  No new news on Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It’s still waiting at the library and I’m waiting for a miracle to finally get it! Hoping I finish Canada by Monday, I’ll start Misterio de La Guia de Ferrocarriles by Agatha Christie. The English title is The ABC Murders. A co-worker gave it to me before he returned to Mexico and I want to start it soon because he’s coming back! My book club meets on Monday to talk about The Orphan Train so I’ll be starting our new title, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King. I haven’t read a non-fiction in a while so this should be a good break.

Still trying to get through Canada. That’s my goal for next week! How is your WWW? 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!

‘The Maze Runner’ Movie- Did the screenwriters read the book?

23 Sep

The day has finally come that The Maze Runner, which I read along with a few friends for my first Read Along, became a film. So, in a sense, this is my last post for that Read Along. And fair warning, there are huge spoilers here if you haven’t read the book and seen the movie. Be warned.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Image via IMDb.com

Image via IMDb.com

Finally seeing the Grievers! Throughout the book, I had trouble picturing what these things would look like. I thought they would roll a little more than they did in the movie, but it really helped to have a visual of the creatures.

Gally. Will Poulter, wow. The only other thing I’ve seen him in is We Are The Millers and I didn’t have high expectations but he was incredible. He struck a really good balance of ‘I care about the Glade!’ and ‘I hate you all!’ Really well done.

Minho’s hair. No more words needed.

The last five minutes. I thought it was really well done and I was glad to see the screenplay kept pretty well to the book. I thought for a minute that the people who died weren’t going to die and they wanted to change that as well, but I was glad to see that the movie stuck to the original story.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me
Seeing the maze move. I actually liked this because it made the maze seem more dynamic and threatening. In the book, it seemed almost static and the Grievers were what was really scary ‘out there.’ By seeing the maze move, and more than just the doors of it, made the whole atmosphere more foreboding.

The serum. Why didn’t they always have the serum instead of Theresa bringing it up with her? It made Theresa a lot more suspect (in my mind) than she needed to be. She was already the only girl and had come at an odd time; why make her seem even more out-of-place? It would have explained why Ben seemed to recover from a sting a lot better as well.

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

The whole code system. The code was Thomas’s contribution to solving the maze and it was taken out. The key was a weird way to have them solve the maze, especially because the Griever hole was completely different as well and they were led to a part of the Maze Minho had conveniently ‘never seen before.’ I thought it was weak.

No telepathy. I was actually glad this came out. It was too much in the book and it probably would have been weird in a movie. No issues with that change.

Taking the boys to a ‘safe house’ at the end. It was just a bit at the end, but it gave the characters a sense of security after their time in the Maze, which we quickly learn will be disrupted soon. I think ending with that sense of security was important and I’m sad it was taken out.

Things That Changed Too Much

Theresa. She went from being a strong female character to a miss-placed female who looks oddly like Kristen Stewart, including the mouth breathing. Instead of liking her, I felt like she was in the way more often than she was helpful. Definite downgrade.

‘The Ending Sequence.’ I was not a fan of this, at all. In the book, Theresa was somehow able to trigger the ending where the door didn’t close and the Grievers came inside. In the movie, now we assume Minho and Thomas are responsible for it and the doors re-open? Add on top of that the sky doesn’t change and the Grivers kill more than one per night. That was just too different to even consider it was related.

Alby’s death. I was furious. Instead of sacrificing himself, he’s taken by the Grivers during the miss-guided ending sequence. The way he died in the book added to his character but this? This did nothing.

Overall Reactions

I was hugely disappointed. I thought the book wasn’t that great but could make a good movie but once I saw it on-screen, it was nothing special. My dad (who hasn’t read the book) didn’t think much of it as a film. “It’s just another action movie.” Which I think is well put. If I hadn’t read the book, I don’t think I would have liked the movie at all. Having read the book, I wonder if the screenwriters read it. Or maybe they disliked it as much as I did and were trying to re-write parts of it. Either way, fail. It’s not as different from the book as Silver Linings Playbook ended up being, but these still have some major differences.

Reader, I’m dying to know what you think. What did you think of the Maze Runner movie? Did it change the book too much for you to enjoy? Do you think the sequels will be made into films? Was there anything else you would add to my lists?

If you’re feeling like we need more of a conversation, click on over to my Facebook fan page where I started this conversation yesterday and see what others are saying.

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 Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (5/5). Life sucks and it has always sucked and will continue to suck.

22 Sep

This book was recommended to me twice by two people whose opinions I greatly trust. The first is my mother. She’ll recommend a book to me but I know she really really liked it when she buys a copy for my grandmother and gives it to her, especially when it’s not for a holiday. And that’s what this was: one of those “You have to read this right this second I’ll drive to Ohio to give it to you” recommendations. The second person was one of my supervisors at work. She’s always reading and when we talk about books, she’ll sometimes tell me the book she’s reading is worth picking up and I’m seldom disappointed. This one she offered to give me because she had two weeks left on her library rental period. I waited a month for my book club to pick it up but I almost wish I hadn’t.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Molly has been around the foster care system long enough to know how things work. She’s well aware that her foster-mother can get rid of her in a heartbeat if she’s not behaved and that stealing a book from the library and being sentenced to 50 hours of community service is not exactly model behavior. Luckily, her boyfriend, Jack is able to find her some work helping 92-year-old Vivian clean out her attic. Molly comes to learn that Vivian isn’t just some rich old lady living in a huge house. Her roots are much like Molly’s. When she was 8, Vivian rode the Orphan Train that took her away from New York City and deposited her in the Midwest with no family and no guarantees for her future.

I started out very skeptical of this book. The foster care system structure immediately made me think of The Language of Flowers, which isn’t a bad comparison, but gave me some preconceived ideas of how Molly was going to act. But she blew me away. Her relationship with Jack was a lot more than I was looking for in a high school relationship and I liked that. I also got a lot more out of Vivian than I was expecting in her older years. I though Kline was going to present her as a pure storyteller without giving her much action in her older age, but she went beyond my expectations. Everything about this book was so much better than I thought it would be.

I thought the characters were brought to life very well. Kline gave them the layers the people I know have; a set of necklaces with meaning, a dislike of technology, being quick to defend one’s mother. This added a lot to the story for me because the characters jumped right off the page.

Jack was my favorite character. He was so supportive of Molly and went out on a limb for her when she needed it. For a high school boyfriend, he was very devoted and when Molly moved in with Vivian, continued to be supportive of what Molly needed, even if that wasn’t ‘normal.’ He tried to help win over his mother in Molly’s favor, which I know can be a challenge to undergo. He was a great side character and I enjoyed him a lot in the book.

I related to Molly’s frustration because I felt very caged in for a good chunk of high school. I wanted to be on my own and allowed to make my own decisions. I wanted to make mistakes. Molly wanted the same things, but the people holding her back weren’t her parents and in the case of Dina, didn’t even want her around. I sympathized with her anger and her desire to feel like her own person.

Christina Baker Kline Image via the author's website

Christina Baker Kline
Image via the author’s website

I loved when Vivian and Luke found each other. I thought it was the sweetest moment and it was just when she needed it most. She shouldn’t have been out with the two girls she was with any way, and running into Dutchy was so perfect. I thought it was a little predictable that they would find each other again, but I liked how Kline put it in a location no one would ever expect. It was a good curve ball.

I found it hard to read the times where Dorothy/Vivian was treated badly by her foster parents. Seeing her treated like a slave to make ladies dresses was bad enough, but the rape scene with second foster-father was even worse. I worried something like that would happen because I was just beginning to like him as a character. It seemed like whenever there was someone good in Dorothy/Vivian’s life, something was about to go wrong.

The way Vivian and Molly define family was a very prominent theme for me. Molly had an attachment to her late father, but didn’t seem to set down roots with anyone except Jack until she became close to Vivian. Vivian was able to find a bit of a family connection wherever she went. First it was Fanny, then her teacher, and lastly the Dalys. It seemed natural for Vivian to accept Molly as family. For the first time in a long time, she was able to find someone who defined family the same way she did.

Writer’s Takeaway: Juxtaposing Molly and Vivian in a lot of the chapters helped make this book more accessible to a wide range of readers. Elderly readers would relate to Vivian, younger readers to Molly and Niamh. The wide age gap, though it leaves a big range of readers who don’t relate, created a good dynamic. Being between the two characters in age, I related more to Molly and a younger Vivian, but elderly Vivian reminded me of my grandma and I still adored her. I think the diversity of the characters was a strong point of the novel.

Great story, great pacing, great characters. A full Five out of Five Stars.

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:
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Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline | Harrowing, yet Beautiful | Found Between the Covers
Book Review: Orphan Train | Literary Hoarders

Book Review: Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan (2/5). Too long and poor audio.

18 Sep

If someone recommends a book to me, I feel required to read it. Double that if it’s a librarian. So when a librarian asked me if I’d read this title, and added on top of that how much she enjoyed the audio, this seemed like a no brainer. Well. I’ll be more selective of the books I decide to read now because I’ve gone through a string of not-very-good recommendations. (To clarify, that’s in-person recommendations. Book blog recommendations have yet to fail me.)

Book Cover image via Goodreads.com

Book Cover image via Goodreads.com

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

Fanny Osbourne has finally found it in her to run away from her cheating husband and go to Europe to pursue art. She’s taken her three children in tow and never expected to fall in love in France. No less with a man ten years younger than her. But she can’t run away from the charms of Robert Louis Stevenson. After ensuring a divorce from her husband, Sam, Fanny and Louis begin an adventurous life together, never settling down completely and keeping near to the water. Louis has bad lungs and being near the sea seems to make him better which leads them to settle down in Samoa. Finally able to work on some land she calls her own, Fanny’s mind starts to betray her and she finds herself paranoid and for once being the patient instead of the nurse.

I should have been more skeptical of this going in. I’ve read two other ‘famous wives’ books before this one, The Paris Wife and The Aviator’s Wife and I wasn’t a fan of either. By the time I realized this was another in that trend, I was so in need of a 1800-1889 book that I said ‘screw it’ and got a copy any way. I liked it enough at the beginning because Fanny is a strong woman and I thought she was a good protagonist. But about four disks in, I started feeling the slowness. Some audiobooks seem like they take longer than they do, the same as some books seem to be longer than they are. I thought this one would never end. I was also highly disappointed in the narrator, Kirsten Potter. Stevenson is Scottish and they spend a lot of time with a British friend, which should lend itself well to audio accents to distinguish character differences. However, Potter seemed to have some trouble when switching between characters with different accents. On occasions, Louis would speak with no accent that would slowly become British and then later be strongly Scottish and Fanny at times spoke with a Scottish accent. Instead of clarifying who was speaking, I found myself frequently more confused. I don’t tend to comment on audio often, even when I listened to the audiobook, but I was really disappointed in this one.

Fannny seemed a bit ahead of her time as far as woman’s rights are concerned, though that was explained away on a European influence. She was very head strong and went after the things she wanted, sometimes at the expense of those around her. Her pushing nature could be good, as in her divorce from Sam, but they could be punishing as well, in the example of planting the cocoa plants in Samoa. She’s the kind of person I’d like to work with, but wouldn’t want to be friends with. Until her mental illness, she seemed like a very real person I could know, so that’s a tribute to Horan’s writing.

Sam/Lloyd was my favorite character. He was gone from a good chunk of the novel, but when he came back, he played a rather large role in Fanny and Louis’s lives. I loved how he wanted Louis to mentor him and he became a very good help to his parents while they were sailing. Maybe I liked him best because he was a good brother to his older sister and that reminds me of my brother (not that I’m comparing myself to Belle!).

I found all of these characters to be very removed from myself. Their concerns and lifestyles were nothing like those I’m used to in 21st century Michigan. Your literary friends on the other side of the world are saying your wife is pushy? Can find good help these days in Samoa? The art school doesn’t accept women?!?! Yeah, not really my life now and I don’t see it ever becoming my life. It made it hard to get into this book.

Nancy Horan Image via Barnes & Noble website

Nancy Horan
Image via Barnes & Noble website

Belle and Fanny’s reunion was my favorite part of the book. It was good to see Belle realized she had become her mother. They had both made rash decisions when it came to men but realized they were stronger than that and could learn to do their own things. I was scared for Belle when she went off to Hawaii to be married and it was good to have her reappear in the book with a cutie pie little son.

I actually disliked most of this book. I think it was exceedingly long (14 disks on audio) and I never felt like I knew what the purpose was. I like in books when there is a defined journey and I don’t like the excuse of ‘life is a journey.’ Taking the Ring to Mordor is a journey; killing Lord Voldemort is a journey; establishing a new government system in Panem is a journey. Living with Robert Louis Stevenson is not a journey. You’re only done with it when you’re dead, not when you’ve accomplished something. I was bored.

Loyalty to family is the biggest theme I can think of for this book. Fanny was loyal to Louis when he was sick and when she had the chance to be reunited with Belle, Fanny did it in style. She included her good-for-noting husband even though he and Fanny did not get along. She let Lloyd follow his dream of being a writer and supported her children even when there wasn’t the money for it. Fanny was a loyal character and when she needed to rely on those around her, she could, because she’d taught them to be loyal.

Writer’s Takeaway: Stories need a journey. I feel that the novels I’m writing have a journey and when the journey’s done, I’ll end the story. Horan has a different take on this and it’s not for me. I couldn’t get into this book because I didn’t know what the characters were after, what they wanted to accomplish. I waited for them to die and that’s not an exciting story to me.

The poor audio doesn’t help my rating for this. Two out of Five stars.

This book fulfills 1880-1889 for my When Are You Reading? Challenge and Foreign Country: Samoa for the 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:
Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan | booksaremyfavoriteandbest
Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan, review | Book Drunkard
Audiobook Review: Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan | Writers’ Rumpus
Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan {Book Review} | tempestbooks

WWW Wednesday, 17-September-2014

17 Sep

Time for MizB’s WWW meme! Not too much progress this week, but I suspected that would happen.

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 will be picking up Canada by Richard Ford again at lunch today. I hope to make a dent in it! My audiobook is The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory. So far, this one isn’t disappointing. Gregory’s ability to throw in tons of historical detail and still move a plot is incredible. My ebook is The Domesday Book by Connie Willis and it’s moving as slowly as expected. I’m devoting a lot more time to it than I normally do to an ebook and I’m only at 13%. The race is off for Read Along #2 and I’ve finished the first section of The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar. I’m itching to start section two!

Recently finished: Only one finished this week. My book club selection for October is We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson and I finished it at lunch yesterday. This is one that was hard to read before bed because it was so creepy! Really good but not my normal style.

I’m banging out these book reviews lately. It’s been hard to catch up. Check out reviews for Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors and Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt.

Reading Next:   Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is still waiting on my library list. I don’t have much else waiting now because I just started so many! I wish it would come in soon, but I’m starting to give up a bit. If I can finish Canada, I want to read another one in Spanish and I’m likely to pick up Misterio de La Guia de Ferrocarriles by Agatha Christie. The English title is The ABC Murders. Has anyone read this one? It will be my first Agatha Christie and it will be in Spanish so it’s bound to be a good time!

Let’s see if I can get through Canada this week, but no promises! How is your WWW? 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: Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (5/5). Combining Abuse, Disability, Theft, Birds, and Jane Eyre

16 Sep

I hadn’t planned to read this book, but a co-worker was insistent enough to hand it to me and when someone hands you a book, it’s a moral obligation to read it and return it as quickly as possible. Well, I think that. Some people I’ve lent books to don’t feel the same way. But I did my moral duty and finished this book easily in three days.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

Doug has just moved to a new town and he’s convinced it won’t be any different from the old one. His dad will still get angry and hit him or his mom, he’ll still struggle in school, and he’ll still fight with his older brothers. But somehow, when he meets Lil Spicer on the steps of the library, things change. And finally, for the better.

I didn’t expect to like this book. I expected to fly through it because it’s written for a younger audience and would likely be almost light while it talked about dark topics (I’m looking at you, 13 Reasons Why). Instead, Schmidt wrote about a real boy with real problems who has to suffer through them and find his own internal strength while not being afraid to lean on those around him. What a complicated character for a young book. I was really impressed.

When I finished, my co-worker asked how I liked it and I told her it was perfect because, “I wanted to kill half the characters and hug the other half.” Truthfully, that’s how I feel about the people I meet in real life. Some of them are awesome, incredible people and some of them shouldn’t share my air. I loved how real the characters seemed and so many of them were really dynamic. Doug himself was really dynamic, but his father and brothers changed a lot as well. While I hope there’s no one like Mr. Swieteck out there, I could believe that there is and that’s a credit to Schmidt’s writing.

Doug himself was my favorite character. I understood why he was so angry at first and I loved that he wanted to be different from his dad and brothers by being a good kid but kept resorting to what he had been taught. He was easy to sympathize with even though I’ve never had a similar life situation. And he was so dynamic! He changed in all the ways you want a main character to grow and it was so great to watch it. Add on that the great voice that Schmidt gave him and you’ve got a very lovable 8th grader. I adored him.

I related most to Lil because she was a book person. There wasn’t much else about her that I could sympathize with, but knowing this about her early on in the story made me like her instantly. I guess that’s a good way to get readers to like someone.

I loved the Audubon aspect of the story. I think it was a really cool thing to bring into the story and it made the story very visual for me. I liked looking back at the pictures at the beginning of the chapters to see what the birds looked like. I loved hearing about Doug’s struggles to paint and draw them. His mission to bring them all back to the library was heartbreakingly beautiful for me and I think was a great thread to run through the book.

Gary D. Schmidt Image via Wikipedia

Gary D. Schmidt
Image via Wikipedia

Major spoilers in this next paragraph so skip it if you don’t want to know. Lil’s illness at the end was so devastating to me. So many bad things were happening around Doug that it was hard to see him deal with it. And Lil had been such a positive character that it was really tough to see her weakened. That part of the book reminded me off the story in The Things They Carried when O’Brien reflects on the girl he knew as a child who died from cancer. It’s always so sad to see a child suffer and Lil Spicer broke my heart.

Doug’s story taught us that everyone can change and everything can get better. Doug was so negative at the beginning of the book and believed that everything would end badly for him. Even when something went well, he would sabotage it so that things would go badly. But slowly, he let things go well and they started to get better and his attitude even changed. When his attitude changed, he could surround himself with more positive people and make good things happen. His positivity even extended to his brothers and his father, the three people who brought him down so far at the beginning.

Writer’s Takeaway: Doug’s voice was what pulled me through this book so quickly. His comments to the reader (“Can you believe that? I am not lying.”) made me smile as I was reading and I think would make this book more relatable to young readers. I love a book with a strong voice.

What a refreshing book! I loved it and flew through it. A full Five out of Five stars.

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:
Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt | Don’t Take My Books Away
More than okay | The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say shhh!
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt | Biblio Links

A Lovely Post on a Lovely Blog!

15 Sep

I’m lucky enough to have been nominated for TWO (yes, 2) blog awards last week. The first was a Liebster Award from mrsmamfa. I’m so very thankful for this nomination! I received a Liebster in April so I’m not going to nominate anyone, but I want to answer the questions!

Do you set a reading goal for each month? I don’t. I set one for the year and then evaluate what books I need to read to meet that goal (because some are not solely numerical).

What genres are your favorite and do you ever try reading outside your preferences? My favorites are YA, historical fiction, and some literary fiction. For example, some favorite authors are JK Rowling, John Green, Philippa Gregory, and John Irving.

Do you ever write yourself? I do! I’ve written a YA manuscript, a NA/Woman’s Fiction manuscript, and several short stories. I’m working on yet another YA and trying to edit them all!

What way do you arrange your bookshelf? Ha, arrange is a hard word to describe it. I’m very cramped for book space now but when I move next month, I’ll have tons more space. I keep my TBR books in the order I want to read them in. Not that I always stick to that, but that’s the order. I keep my text books and reference books separate, my autographed books are in a separate section, and we keep series off by themselves. Not very organized, huh?

What is your favorite reading beverage? A hot chai latte, but I normally don’t drink anything while reading. I’m not coordinated enough.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take one book, what would it be? Probably the King James Bible. Please don’t seize up at this. It’s long, I could read it for a long time and start over without remembering the beginning. It can lift you up from the monotony of living on a desert island. (has anyone noticed the monotony of typing monotony before? Weird.) In short, if I had to read one thing forever, I think it’s the perfect choice.

What are you reading at the minute? I’ll refer you to my latest WWW for that whopper.

What is your favorite childhood book? Scribbler of Dreams by Mary E. Pearson. I’m not sure why, but I loved it.

Do you prefer books or an e-reader and why? I like physical books. They fill a shelf better and I like the weight of them in my hands.

Do you prefer hardback books or paperback books and why? Paperback only because they’re lighter, smaller, and easier to put in my briefcase.

Do you have any reading habits? Only reading way too many books at a time.

 

Thanks again to mrsmamfa for the nomination. And now, on to the new award! I’m so thankful to Yvo @ It’s All About Books for this nomination: The One Lovely Blog Award.

LovelyBlog

Rules:

  • You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog. (Done!)
  • You must list the rules and display the award. (Done!)
  • You must add 7 facts about yourself.
  • You must nominate 5-15 other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they’ve been nominated.
  • You must display the award logo and follow the blogger who nominated you. (Done and done!)

Seven facts about me:

  1. This is always hard because I don’t want to repeat ones I’ve said before. I just began my MBA earlier this month. I’m deciding on a concentration now but I think Global Supply Chain Management and Organizational Management. Right now I’m taking Marketing.
  2. I’m moving next month! We’ll be doubling our square footage and I’m so excited.
  3. My parents just bought a lake cottage. Now I have to landscape it (apparently that’s how this works).
  4. I stress really easily. I don’t know how my husband deals with it. My mom worries about my blood pressure.
  5. Come November, my first nephew will be born! I’m beyond excited.
  6. I finished my second triathlon of the year last week. My proudest accomplishments within it were that I finished the 5K in under a half hour and I was the first in my age group in the swim portion. Woo!
  7. My stomach hurts right now.

And now for the nominations! I’m going to try to nominate blogs that I haven’t been following for a very long time yet. I don’t want to over-nominate the ones I’m devoted to.

  1. Cat Lumb
  2. Alena’s Life
  3. As I Lay Reading
  4. This Is My Soul Called Life
  5. The Skeptical Reader
  6. Lipsyy Lost & Found

So there it is! Thanks again to Yvo for the nomination! The award image has been added to the right hand widget.

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!