Archive | March, 2016

Book Review: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (4/5)

31 Mar

My book club selected this title for later in the summer but I rushed to read it early. I received a copy of the movie in exchange for a review so I wanted to read the book first. My awesome library had a copy available so I figured, why not? I’m glad I got through this book, it was really great.

Book image via Goodreads.com

Book image via Goodreads.com

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Summary from Goodreads:

Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America — to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood “just like Ireland” — she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.

Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

It’s rare for a woman’s voice to be captured so well by a male author. I was thinking all along that I must be wrong and that Colm must be a woman, but his picture says otherwise. Eilis was a great character and I really connected with her. She was practical and smart and I think that’s why I was frustrated with her toward the end (I’ll talk about this later) when I felt she broke that image of herself. I liked how Tóibín described all of Eilis’s friends and acquaintances, letting the reader know how important these people were in shaping her life. There were a few times I felt frustrated at not receiving more closure about these characters. Did Dolores ever adjust to the borders? Why did we learn so much about Frank to have him disappear? What was in the unopened letters? I felt the book needed another 20-50 pages and that was my only complaint.

I found Eilis’s struggle very relatable. No, I’ve never lost someone close to me (trying not to give spoilers) but I understand the obligation she felt. I understood why everyone acted the way they did including Tony and Jack and her mother. It was a story where I felt like I knew what would happen and to an extent, things played out how I thought they would because I could think like the characters. It wasn’t predictable, but I could divine what everyone would be thinking. I hope this comes off as the compliment it is.

Except for a bit at the end, I loved Eilis. I felt like I understood her and her thought process and I could relate to why certain things were important to her. She thought like me and that was reassuring. I liked that she was practical but things like her homesickness were purely emotional and she didn’t know how to control them which I loved. She was very real.

I almost wish Eilis’s story was my story. I can’t imagine the pain she felt at her loss, but I wanted to jump into her life and try it out. I thought she was brave to move away from home but I would have loved to do the same. I thought it was crazy how fast she fell in love with Tony but he was the perfect gentleman and I had a book-crush on him.

Colm Toibin Image via the author's website

Colm Toibin
Image via the author’s website

Surprisingly, I loved the scenes in the boarding house the most. I thought the other girls and Mrs. Kehoe were great and they not only helped set the tone for the book but made Eilis stand out when she needed to (how she was nice to Dolores and gave her direction and a push when she needed it to (to go to the dances). It was a good home base for Eilis to return to and I missed the characters toward the end of the book.

Spoiler alert here so skip this paragraph if you haven’t read it. There were a lot of unfinished threads in the book that I would have liked to see tied up more. The scene with Miss Fortini and the swimsuits raised a lot of questions for me that were ignored in the rest of the book. Eilis didn’t treat her boss any differently even though she was really uncomfortable. Who would act like that? At the end of the book, Eilis doesn’t open the letters from Tony. I was convinced one would say Tony was ill or had died and she’d be returning to no one in Brooklyn. Dolores is dropped from the book with little to wrap up her role in Eilis’s life. I thought a lot of this could have been cut because it made the book seem unfinished and it frustrated me.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Kirsten Potter. I was a little wary at first when I realized the narration would be in an American accent but anything Eilis or another Irish character said would be in an Irish accent. I was afraid Potter would slip up, but she was great. The accents helped me understand when a character was talking and to my American ear, they sounded great. I thought she did a wonderful job.

Eilis always had to do what was right and very seldom had the option to do something for herself. The only thing she did for herself, date Tony, ended up being a sad thing for her mother who wanted her at home. She went to school because it was smart, she moved to America because there was a job and she could support her family. She started seeing Jim because her mother wanted her to. Sometimes, we have to do somethings for ourselves, even when our lives don’t seem to be our own. Tony brought Eilis more joy than she could imagine without him even though it hurt some others. I believe the end was positive though I’ve seen this contested. I think Tony was the right choice for her, even if it wasn’t the easy one.

Writer’s Takeaway: As I said above, I was frustrated by themes and characters that I didn’t feel had closure. As a reader, I want to know more than Toibin gave me. This is the second book in a month where I’ve had an issue with the book not finishing an arc that was started. I’m having one of those times when I want to write my book to show everyone what I mean! If only school were over…

I really enjoyed this book but my structural problems with it means to me that it doesn’t get a perfect rating. Four out of Five stars.

This book fulfilled 1940-1959 in my When 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:
Brooklyn – Colm Toibin | The Lucid Reader
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin | Book Snob
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin | Michael K Freundt
VCE Book Review: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin | Bibliopotamus

WWW Wednesday, 30-March-2016

30 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

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

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


BeastsCurrently reading: Still holding on Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling. I’m hoping to pick it up gain soon but I’ve been moving slowly through physical books lately.
I’m back to A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin on audio. I actually have the eaudio and the CD audio right now but I’m going to stick to eaudio so I can listen to it more for a while. I’ll probably switch back and forth a few times before I finish it, haha.
So far, I’ve really enjoyed Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller. The main character, Sheldon it great and I really enjoy the parts he narrates. Maybe I’ll get a bit more reading done on my mini-vacation next week.
I was at my in-laws when I finished my ebook and the next one available was In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. I’m a big fan of Larson’s so I’m excited to read this one. I owned a copy but lent it to a co-worker who got fired before he returned it to me! I think it’s never coming back so the ebook is a good option.

SlaughterhouseRecently finished: Waiting for Easter dinner to be reading, I finished Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I know it took me a long time but I’m just happy to have finished it. I liked it but didn’t love it. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. Review to come!
In order to meet the deadline of tomorrow, I flew through Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. I’ll post my review tomorrow but know I really liked it but found the ending a little disappointing. I’m looking forward to watching the movie soon because I think I’ll really enjoy the story

Child44Reading Next: I had book club meeting on Monday and we got our next book, Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. I’m not usually big on thrillers but they tend to be fast reads. I’m not sure if this will be a physical or audiobook for me so we’ll see how this plays out.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

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!

Library Writers Group: Plotting (Part II)

29 Mar

I posted yesterday about the first half of my writers group meeting from last week where we had a great discussion on the Three Act Structure of a story. Today I’ll continue with that discussion and go over some plotting strategies that different writers use. As I’ve talked about before, there are two extremes when it comes to preparing for a novel; plotting (or outlining) and pantsing (or organic). Organic plotters explore the story with their characters, not thinking ahead of the moment they are writing. They tend to have long first drafts with tangents. Most people lie in the middle of the plotter/pantser spectrum. Here are some other techniques that lie between the two extremes.

  • Headlight method: The writer writes one chapter at a time beginning with an outline of the chapter, and then writing it. They only follow as far as their metaphorical headlights can see.
  • Polisher: Write one chapter, polish it until it’s perfect, then move to the second. This involves little planning ahead of the current chapter. (Honestly, I think this one seems like a waste of time. Does anyone do this? How much editing are you doing?)
  • Outliner: This is the method I use, which involves writing out an outline of the entire plot and writing to it.
  • Start here, finish there: This technique can be used in a few ways. The writer can figure out the beginning and end and fill in the middle with the plot. He or she might know where they want to end to be and fill in to get there.
  • Tent Pole Method: The writer plans out several events or ‘poles’ that the story needs to stand on by writing a summary of the events. He then writes to string these ‘poles’ together.
  • Series of Sequences: In addition to the events, the writer plans out the events leading to each major event. This is a more detailed method than the Tent Pole Method.
  • Mindmapping: This involves a stream of consciousness from a character which gives the writer background notes and helps him figure out how the characters will interact with each other.
  • Dialoguing: The writer has the characters talk to each other to flush out what is going on between them and how they feel about certain things. Most of this writing will not end up in the book.
  • Character Arcs: The writer writes a story about each potential character, talking about how the character would act in the given situation. After writing a few, the author picks which character will be the protagonist of the book.

Another example is one my favorite author, J.K. Rowling used to outline the Harry Potter books. She put time periods or chapters in rows and had columns for the major plots, subplots, and arcs that would happen in the book. Then she filled in each square or left it blank, writing the chapters to include all the plot points needed. Here’s a cool picture of what that looks like from Rowling herself.

J.K. Rowling's out line of 'Order of the Phoenix' via OpenCulture

J.K. Rowling’s outline of ‘Order of the Phoenix’ via OpenCulture

A lot of authors change steps or use a combination of these. A method is only good if it works for the writer.

We spent the majority of the meeting talking about one final method, the Snowflake Method as described by Randy Ingermanson on his website, Advanced Fiction Writing. Ingermanson claims his method can triple the speed of a first draft and improve its quality. Here are his ten steps.

  1. Write a one sentence summary of fifteen words or less of what will happen in the novel. Think of it as a Twitter pitch, use no names, and keep it focused on the big picture.
  2. Turn that sentence into a paragraph where the first sentence is equivalent to Act One, sentences 2-4 are the major plot points, and the fifth sentence is the ending to the book.
  3. For each major character, write a short bio that tells their name, a sentence about their place in the storyline, their motivation, goals, and epiphany moment.
  4. Turn the paragraph into a longer summary where each of the five sentences becomes a paragraph.
  5. Turn the major character bios from Step 3 into a page long talking about what the character is doing in the story. Add 1/2 page summaries for all other important characters.
  6. Expand the synopsis from step 4, which should be about a page, to five pages so each paragraph is expanded to a page.
  7. Do a deep character chart for each character. You can find examples of these online and they tend to be a few pages each of some great details to build each character.
  8. Make a list of all the scenes in the novel. This can be up to 100 scenes and he recommends using Excel to keep them straight and get them in the right order.
  9. Expand the scenes from Step 8 into a narrative description of the novel, writing multiple paragraphs about each and including all details and descriptions as well as key lines of dialogue that come to you. This may end up being longer than the book itself. Ingermanson himself admits that he doesn’t do this anymore but suggests it for people writing with the Snowflake Method for the first time.
  10. Write the darned novel!

I’d be interested in finding out if anyone’s had success with this method. It makes sense to me up until Step 9. I think I would skip that.

We’ll be talking about world building next month so look forward to that one, I am! 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: Plotting (Part I)

28 Mar

Our library writers group is having members take turns leading the discussion. I missed last month’s discussion on script writing but was glad to make it this month when my friend Gary talked about plotting. There was a lot to learn so I’ll jump right in.

If you’ve never heard of K.M. Weiland, you should listen up. She’s an author who’s willing to share the secrets of the craft and she’s put a ton of resources on her website, Helping Writers Become Authors. It’s full of great resources that Gary shared with us.

One thing that’s always been hard for me is the difference between a scene and a sequel. A scene is the action and a sequel is the reaction. Each scene in a book is a small chunk of the plot. It has a goal that the character is trying to achieve, conflict that keeps them from achieving the goal, and ends with either disaster of not achieving the goal or resolution of achieving it. It’s followed by a sequel, in which the character has to figure out what to do differently to meet the goal and reevaluate his or her strategy. A sequel has a reaction, a dilemma, and a decision. I’ll have to go back through my novel and be sure I have these  in the right order! No sequels without a scene first and scenes progressing the story along steadily.

We next talked about the classic Three Act Structure. Gary referenced the below image from Weiland’s website. Click the image for a full-sized view.

Three Act

The part below the graphic explains it pretty well but I’ll go through it shortly here. Weiland breaks the structure down with some examples so I’ll use her example of The Lion King to illustrate. Act one is for the author to set up the novel. There’s an inciting event that either begins the story or takes place before the main action of the plot. The Inciting Event leads to the key event which is the beginning of the book’s plot. In The Lion King, Simba’s birth is the Inciting Event because it means Scar is not next in line to the throne. The Key Event is Scar convincing Simba to go to the Elephant Graveyard which might result in his death though Simba survives.

The first plot point ends Act One and happens around 25% into the plotline. Though this might be the same as the key event, it won’t always. In the case of The Lion King, the first plot point is Simba running away after blaming himself for his father’s death. Act Two begins with a strong reaction to the first plot point, in this case, Simba running away from home and changing the course of his life forever.

At about 35-40% of the plotline, the first pinch point shows up where the antagonist shows up. Scar taking over the Pridelands is the major event in The Lion King. About half way through the book, the protagonist reaches the turning point when reacting to what has happened turns to action and the direction of the story changes. Simba starts to act when he returns to the Pridelands to take them back from Scar. Ending the Second Act are a second pinch point where the main villain shows his power such as Scar abusing Simba’s mother in front of him, and a second plot point, the confrontation between good and evil. We see this when Scar tries to kill Simba in a stampede.

The Third Act begins at bout 75% of the book at the second plot point just discussed. From here we get the resolution such as Simba overpowering his uncle and forcing him to confess his crimes to the pride. The climax of the story is the last 10% of it, which ends in a climactic moment such as when Scar dies. The resolution should only be a scene or two of the story and is a reactionary phase of the book where we see Simba take his place as the head of the price.

We went over a lot more but this post is getting long! I’ll save more of it for tomorrow. Check back then for an explanation on a few approaches to plotting and a discussion of them.

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!

‘The Scorch Trials’ Movie- Does the Title Even Make Sense?

24 Mar
Poster Image via Fox

Poster Image via Fox

This was another instance of me realizing a movie adaptation of a book was going to be released, reading the book, hating it, and delaying seeing the movie until I was bored on a Sunday night. I’m left highly disappointed on two fronts. I read James Dashner’s The Scorch Trials in the summer, around when the movie came out, and only just not snagged it from a Redbox.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Crumbling buildings. Really all of the sets in general. I thought the image of a crumbling city that was taken over by sand was really well done. Though, I’m not sure where all that sand would have come from. It did look cool, didn’t it?

The creepy drug trip. I thought that scene would be taken out because of the audience, but I’m almost glad it was left in because it shows us a lot about Thomas and the world they’ve been thrown into. It’s creepy and violent but was still good to have in there.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Jorge’s age. My husband and I had both imagined him younger, maybe his mid-20s, not the guy in his mid-40s we had in the movie. He seemed too much like a father figure in the movie instead of an ally because of the age difference.

Taking out head-eating bubbles. I hated this scene, it was stupid and I thought it had nothing to do with the trials they were really being put through. What was the point of it? I’m glad the movie makers decided to take it out. Good riddance.

Teresa was with them the entire time. It bothered me in the book how she would show up and disappear seemingly at random. I liked it better when she was traveling with the guys.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

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

Traveling at night. Honestly, I thought the movie characters came off as stupid for this. In the book, they realize traveling during the day in the desert makes them visible and exposes them to extreme heat. So they travel at night. In the movie, there must have been budgetary problems with filming at night because those idiots traveled across the desert in the middle of the day. Are you kidding me?!

Things That Changed Too Much

The whole thing being a test. Honestly, this bothered me the whole time. In the book, they’re given a trial (thus the name of the book) to travel a certain distance across the scorch. A scorch trial if you will. In the movie, they’re running away, have no idea where they’re going, and take off in search of a group they’re not sure exists. The title of the movie doesn’t make sense. We’re led to believe that WICKED is bad again instead of trying to help them. It’s so different from the book that I couldn’t pretend to enjoy it.

Teresa’s betrayal. Yeah, this was just the whipped cream on the top of my dislike sundae. Teresa does betray Thomas in the book, kind of. But she wouldn’t betray all of her friends for WICKED. They changed Teresa’s character too much and made her really unlikable and a terrible love interest for Thomas.  Boooo.

I doubt I’ll see the final movie or read the book. Reader, have you see the Scorch Trials movie? What did you think?

Until next time, write on.

WWW Wednesday, 23-March-2016

23 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

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

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


BrooklynCurrently reading: I’ve had to put Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling on hold for the moment. I’ve got some other reading obligations to attend to first.
I’ve been making a point to get through Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I’m on chapter 8 of 10 so I know I’m getting close to the end. Maybe I can finish this in a week or two? Maybe?
After some intense audiobook switching, I’m still listening to A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin on CD audio in my car. I’m moving along fine and with some other books requiring my attention, this seemed the best decision at the moment.
I put Potter aside to pick up a copy of Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller. My book club is going through this one right now and I’m only a few chapters in but I’m really enjoying it so far. The writing reminds me of my friend John’s style and it’s making me happy to read it. The premise is a bit different than I expected from the title, but I’m enjoying it.
A sudden decision, I’m listening to Brooklyn by Colm Toibin on my phone. I was sent a copy of the BlueRay movie if I would post a book and movie review by the end of the month. Agreed! I was supposed to get a copy of the book in the mail, but it hasn’t arrived and I had an hour and a half drive on Friday so I jumped into it. So far, so good!

Black DuckRecently finished: I finished off Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle AND got the book review posted on Monday! Look at that efficiency! Super proud of myself and glad I was able to finish a book. Woo!

Reading Next: I’ve got enough going right now that there’s no plan on starting another book anytime soon. I’ll get through what’s in front of me first.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

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 Club Reflections: Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

22 Mar Cover image via Goodreads.com

As part of the local library coalition’s Everyone’s Reading program, I had my first book club discussion about Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls. The second one will be in mid-April and I’m excited to meet her soon after!

A lot of the people in my club had mediocre reactions to the book. They liked it but weren’t blown away. I think the ending ruined a lot of people’s opinions of it like it did to me. Several others brought up being disappointed with it. I’ve heard that the sequel makes you like Shanghai Girls better and that her solo book, Sun Flower and the Secret Fan, is enjoyable as well. I have both, but I’m not sure when I’ll have the time to read them!

See herself has a unique background. She was born in Paris but raised in LA Chinatown. If you look at her, you wouldn’t guess that she’s Chinese but she says a lot of the family she was raised with don’t look like her. We felt that she felt the need to teach the reader a lot about Chinese culture and wondered if feeling disconnected from her heritage had something to do with it. At times, it was a bit preachy instead of feeling like a fiction novel.

No one in our group knew much about Chinese history in the early 20th century. We felt that See created a really good image of what life was like, depicting the clash between tradition and modern. It was clear Pearl loved her city though as time went on, it lost its shine in her memories and she remembered the death on the street and the unfair ways rickshaw pullers had to live and the smell of too many people crammed into the city. We got to see the good and bad of the city through Pearl.

Vern was a unique character in the book and we wondered if he’d come into play more in the second book. He didn’t have an effect on the plot other than giving May a sure claim to citizenship. He didn’t further the plot in any other way and took a lot of time in the book. He wasn’t well fleshed out as a character and it felt like he could easily have been dropped. Oh well.

Because Pearl told the story and was a very strong character, our group thought the story was unfair to May. When they had their blow-up at the end, it was easy to see how Pearl was focused in her own world and didn’t notice the world the way May saw it. It’s true that Pearl had stopped living and was in survival mode. They represented two very different paths of life, Pearl having the traditional loving husband and a daughter while May had freedom but no husband or child to love her. We suspect that each was jealous of the other. There was a lot of contrast between the two in their zodiac signs, as well. May the sheep was very sheepish at the beginning, following what had to be done while Pearl dragon fought tooth and nail for what she wanted. Once they arrived in America, they acted like the other. Pearl didn’t fight May when things between them were strained. We would have expected so much more tension between sisters considering what they went through.

We were all surprised by the suicides associated with verifying citizenship status. It seemed a very sudden thing but our leader did some research and found that it was a common practice at the time. If there wasn’t someone to tell the truth, if they were dead, then everyone else was safer. Sadly, it was a sacrifice to make things better for the rest of the family.

I’ll have another discussion in a few weeks. It will be interesting to see if there are different opinions from that group.

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: Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle (3/5)

21 Mar

As someone hoping to publish a YA novel set in the 20s, I try to often read YA novels set in the 20s. My husband was alerted to this book, a 2006 novel that I should look into. It was an easy choice when I saw the eaudio was available.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle

Summary from Goodreads:

It is spring 1929, and Prohibition is in full swing. So when Ruben and Jeddy find a dead body washed up on the shore of their small coastal Rhode Island town, they are sure it has something to do with smuggling liquor. Soon the boys, along with Jeddy’s strongwilled sister, Marina, are drawn in, suspected by rival bootlegging gangs of taking something crucial off the dead man. Then Ruben meets the daring captain of the Black Duck, the most elusive smuggling craft of them all, and it isn’t long before he’s caught in a war between two of the most dangerous prohibition gangs.

The book is aimed at more of a middle-grade level than my book will be, which I wasn’t expecting with the subject matter of the book. Gangsters with alcohol and guns are not normally aimed at middle schoolers, but the writing and the characters of this book were good for a middle-grade level. I didn’t find a lot of the ‘big revelations’ to be very surprising because the author set them up pretty obviously, but it was a good story. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ‘story within a story’ trope. It was hard for me to believe that Ruben would tell his story in such a professional manner and it would have seemed more natural to me for it to be a simple first person narrative instead of an oral story to a 13-year-old.

Lisle did a good job of creating characters. I liked how she led us to sympathize with the rum runners who were employing local guys and were only breaking laws that no one supported. The New York and Boston mobsters were portrayed in a bad way, understandably, but I liked Billy’s outfit. I thought Marina was a great addition to the story. I only loosely understood her purpose in the story at first, but I grew to like her character a lot and thought she was a great tie-in to the plot. I thought their opinions and actions represented 1929 well.

Ruben was a great protagonist. It was easy to follow and agree with his thought pattern and he never did anything out of character that made me frustrated with him. I rooted for him the whole time and got frustrated at Jeddy with him. I liked him for being friends with Tom and for trying to do what his father wanted him to do.

Part of what made Ruben a great character was how easy it was to relate to him. I remember a lot of the feelings he describes from my youth even though I didn’t live through prohibition or get kidnapped by a mob. I had fights with my friends. I had secrets I was afraid to tell my parents. I hated to hide things from people but was afraid what they’d say if I told them I knew. I saw things I wish I hadn’t seen. Ruben’s experiences were universal but culminated in a great adventure. Of that I was jealous.

Janet Taylor Lisle Image via the author's website

Janet Taylor Lisle
Image via the author’s website

Without spoiling it, I’ll say that the ending was my favorite part. I thought the story culminated in a great adventure with the Black Duck. I think the relationships that formed as a result of that adventure were very fitting and showed a great arc from the beginning of the story. I would never have expected that ending from what I read at the beginning and that made me appreciate what Lisle was able to do with her characters.

I didn’t have a specific part that I disliked, but there were parts of the book I thought were slow and I think that’s the nature of reading middle-grade fiction as an adult. It comes off as childish, rightfully so, and as an adult reader, I was a bit frustrated by it. I had the whole ‘Get on with it!’ mentality, just wanting to see the book through to the end. That’s the main reason I couldn’t fully enjoy the story.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by David Ackroyd. I thought he did a good job of building tension with his narration and storytelling. I was disappointed that he didn’t use voice inflection to differentiate the characters so that Marina sounded much like Ruben. I would have liked to see a little bit more of this.

Like many prohibition stories, the story has a good message about right and wrong not being a black and white thing. Jeddy thinks it’s that simple, that mobsters are bad and cops are good. By that logic, his dad is the best of them all. But as the reader, we know that Chief MacKenzie is dealing with some shady stuff and that Charlie is mixed up in the worst of it. Billy would seem to be a bad guy, but he’s able to help out a lot of guys who are down on their luck. It’s good to show a middle-grade audience that these choices and designations are not always easy.

Writer’s Takeaway: The ‘story within a story’ structure didn’t work for me and is the main thing I would have changed were it my story. I felt that the only main purpose it showed was that [SPOILER] Ruben and Marina ended up together. I didn’t think that was worth structuring the book in such a way. The story could have been a first-person narrated flashback, told entirely by Ruben without David being involved at all. I didn’t think David added anything to the story.

Overall, a good middle-grade book, but not one a lot of adults will enjoy. Three 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:
Review #44 (6-6-14) | Book Inspired
Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle Reviewed by Aarron Ward | On The Edge
Black Duck | Agutt’s Blog
Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle | Benji’s Book Blog

Spring Break

17 Mar

This week is Spring Break in my master’s program and I’m going to celebrate by skipping a post today. I’ll be back Monday, don’t you worry. Today I’m going to read and balance my checkbook or something equally fun. However, it’s St. Patrick’s Day and even though I’m American with no Irish heritage, I’ll partake in the tradition of dying my beer green and pinching people.

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, 16-March-2016

16 Mar

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

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

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


PrincipeCurrently reading: I’m a bit farther Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling. It’s been a crazy few weeks but I’m on Spring Break right now with grad school so I’m using it to my advantage and trying to read a bit more.
Still going slowly with Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. My husband has been working late a bit more so I’m eating dinner alone and trying to have this with me and make some progress. I’m on chapter 6 now so it’s coming along.
I’ve gotten through a lot more of the A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin audio than I thought I would. I believe I’m on disk 13 now (out of 30) and I’m waiting to get the eaudio back. I need to start another book soon and it’s going to account for a big jumbling around (that’s totally a thing) of my audiobooks to keep it all going. I have a plan.
Part of that plan involves finishing Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle. I’ve got two hours left on my audio and I’m listening every spare second I can to get through it and hope the A Clash of Kings eaudio comes back so I can make it my phone audiobook and start a new car-audio for my book club.

Recently finished: You all guessed it, no change here. Second week in a row I haven’t finished anything. Yikes!

NorwegianReading Next: My book club met on Monday and our next selection is Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller. I’m hoping to listen to this one on audio so I can keep on with Potter and try to get through it. Let’s hope all the pieces fall into place for me. (Fingers crossed.)


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

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!