Archive | May, 2016

Book Club Reflection: The Virgin Blue by Tracey Chevalier

31 May

I’m afraid I’m going to lose my rights to pick books for my book club. For this group, the last two books I’ve suggested, One Hundred Years of Solitude and now The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier, have been flops in the group. The difference, this time, is that I really liked Chevalier’s book while the rest of the group hated it. I recognized a lot of the plot holes they pointed out, but I loved the writing and style enough to look past them. It seems not everyone could do that. I agreed that it was hard to remember the beginning by the time you got to the end. I missed that Isabelle’s maiden name, Moulin, was the name of the woman who owned the Bible. I also recognized it was too convenient that the archivist gave the Bible to Ella. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

This book had a lot of information about religious tensions in Europe that many of us were not aware of. In the last paragraph, we thought Jacob was deciding to return to France, to go back to the Catholics because he disagreed with what he saw of the Calvins, which was not very accurate. His father, Etienne, practiced the old religion where human sacrifice could save a house. We suspected that one of Etienne’s brothers was under the hearth of the hold house and that his presence protected the Bible during the house ransacking. One of the few things that bothered us universally about the book was the inclusion of French passages with no translation. It seemed arrogant to assume every reader speaks French but since this book was first published in England, it’s less assuming but still annoying for an American reader.

There were some strong similarities between Isabelle and Ella though there were superficial. Both had problems with skin reactions, both were in bad marriages and had to give up their midwife careers and strangely, both lay naked in rivers. Both had men named Paul that they were attracted to. We felt that Isabelle might have run off with Paul at the end. For a while, we thought he was a figment of her imagination, but she traded messages with him through the Italian courier so he had to be real. The France they lived in was similar as well. Both found hostilities and were able to escape to Switzerland where things were calmer. However, for Isabelle, things were still rough though it was easier on her family.

As I said in my review, Ella’s relationship with Rick bothered me most. She treated him unfairly as she fell out of love. Some of our members didn’t like Rick as much as I did. They felt he was shallow, being afraid to touch her psoriasis and being concerned with his flowing hair. I thought he was confident enough that he didn’t care what others thought about his appearance.

Our impressions of Jean Paul changed through the book. He was a good listener when Rick wasn’t and he really cared about Ella’s project. He got sucked in even when he was trying to withdraw. We understood why he wanted to withdraw after hearing about his past relationship and it made him sympathetic.

Ella’s hair change was one of the strangest parts of the book to me. It was very unbelievable and for me, planted this book in the magical realism realm. We believed it more with Marie, whose hair seemed to be slowly changing.

Ella is very convinced that the baby she conceived is Rick’s. We thought she felt less guilt in carrying Rick’s baby than Jean Paul’s. Who know who the real father is, but she wanted it to be Rick. We wondered if he would stay involved in the child’s life. He’s moving to Germany and doesn’t seem to be around for the pregnancy. Does he want to be? I explained the situation to my husband and he said if I was pregnant and was going to leave him for a lover, he’d want me to be carrying the other man’s baby. He would not want to be involved. That was a fun thought exercise.

I’ve already read our next selection, Brooklyn, and I think it will be a fun discussion.

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 Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer (4/5)

26 May

The woman who runs one of my book clubs is a self-proclaimed HUGE Neil Gaiman fan. As a result, she added his wife’s memoir to our list for the month. I’m a huge memoir fan and I’d heard of Amanda’s band, The Dresden Dolls, but only in passing and though I listened to ‘Coin Operated Boy’ once in high school, I wasn’t hooked and never bought a CD or anything. I was interested to hear about this singer who captured the heart of one of the world’s most beloved writers.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

The Art of Asking: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

Summary from Goodreads:

Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world’s most successful music Kickstarter.

Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for- as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn’t alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.

I think this book will touch each listener in a different way. I wasn’t particularly interested in her rise to rock-star status or how she learned to play the ukulele. I was more interested in how she could be so trusting and how she could overcome the stigma of asking for help. I’ve always had trouble asking for help when I needed it. I was impressed with the things she asked for and how much she trusted in everyone around her. It’s so different from how I live my life. I’m not mean or reclusive, to be sure. But I don’t air my shortcomings and ask for help to overcome them. I force my way through. Amanda wouldn’t do that.

I’m always amazed when I meet artists because they are so reliant on other people’s opinions of them. I find it hard to understand how someone can trust that people will like what they make and pay money for it. I loved seeing Amanda’s doubt and love in this system. She doubted the traditional music industry and trusted her fans to do what each thought was the right thing to do. It was really touching to hear her story because it’s so different from what you hear from other artists. The whole book made it more believable.

I loved when Amanda talked about Anthony. He was my favorite of her friends. He was the person she came back to when everything seemed beyond control and he made Boston her home all the time. I have a friend who travels a lot but whenever he’s in town, we have lunch. Maybe I’m his Anthony. Except the getting sick part. I loved how Amanda canceled her tour to be with him and how understanding all of the fans were. There are things we have to put aside for the ones we love and I’m glad she could do that.

Amanda was hard for me to relate to. She’s so different from me that I couldn’t see myself in her shoes, doing the things she did, saying what she said, and wanting the life she had. It was hard to see myself in her but reading this book helped. It helped me see why she was the way she was. I could see why she could trust as strongly as she did. I think other people’s lives are fascinating and reading this confirmed that.

Amanda Palmer Image via TED.com

Amanda Palmer
Image via TED.com

I liked Amanda’s origins as a living statue. I thought that was the most interesting part of the story and it’s where I learned the most about her. She kept coming back to the Bride and what being the Bride taught her. I’m glad she explained how this was where she learned to be herself and it shifted my impression of street performers a lot. I understand how they are artists.

Hearing about her abortion and subsequent depression was very hard for me. I can’t imagine the pain going through with that brought to her. I have very conflicted feelings on abortion to start with and hearing about Amanda’s struggle with it is muddling my feelings on it. I’m sad for her, to say the least. I wish she hadn’t had to go through the pain physically and emotionally that it brought to her.

Palmer narrates the audiobook herself. It’s fun to have her sing bits and put songs into the audiobook. My biggest complaint about her narration was the sound level. Sometimes, she would whisper and I’d have to turn the volume up to hear her and the next second she’s freaking out and yelling and I almost went deaf. The sound mixer should have made it more consistent so this wasn’t an issue. Other than that, I loved having her tell her own story.

Amanda things we can still trust in humanity and that people are genuinely good. She couch surfs alone and with her band all over the world. She lets people write on her naked body at a house party and lets her fans carry her around at shows. She trusts that people are looking out for each other in a day when we’re taught to trust no one and be out for only ourselves. That was refreshing and amazing, but it didn’t quite convince me to trust everyone I see. Not yet.

Writer’s Takeaway: I was a little confused by the timeline of the book. Amanda was telling her story from college to modern-day, but put in the story of her romance with Neil Gaiman as a sort of back-and-forth. I couldn’t tell where the Neil parts fit in with the Amanda parts. I thought they were concurrent until one point where she mentioned the book project where she first got involved with Neil toward the end of the book. I thought they’d been together that whole time! Having a clear timeline is something I’m a strong proponent of and something I will look for in my writing.

Fun to listen to and a good read about someone completely different from myself. 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:
Amanda Palmer: The art of asking | TED
The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer | The Writes of Women
The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer | Lavender Lines
A book review- The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer | Act Like It’s Normal

WWW Wednesday, 25-May-2016

25 May

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.


DiscipleCurrently reading: I’m so close to finishing Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling! Two chapters left in this one and it’s great to have the end in sight! I’d love to finish this by the end of the month. I haven’t finished my Spanish book until the end of the summer the last two years so this is a great pace for me.
Not much with In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson this week. I didn’t have a lot of waiting time going on to fill with the story and I don’t see a lot coming on this week so it might be a while.
I started a new audiobook that I’m really enjoying so far. It’s The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose. I forget how I heard about it, but in the beginning, Roose mentions interning with A.J. Jacobs, one of my favorite non-fiction writers, so that’s probably it. It’s great to get Roose’s opinion on what he’s witnessing going on around him because, like him, I don’t know many born-again Christians. I find other people’s lives fascinating.

AskingRecently finished: I finished up The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer on Wednesday last week. I’ll have a review up tomorrow. I liked it, but I’m so different from Palmer that some of it was hard to wrap my head around. Four out of Five stars from me. The audio was great because Palmer included a lot of her songs.

27 Days_HighResReading Next: I hope to start 27 Days to Midnight by Kristine Kruppa this week. I had drinks with Kristine last week and after hearing her talk about her book launch, I’m even more excited to read this one! Woop.


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: Software Overview

24 May

I know my writers’ group has gone over writing software before, but I can’t remember if it made it to the blog yet. Regardless, we went over it again so I’ll write another quick synopsis here. Enjoy!

We focused on three major types of writing software; outlining, basic writing software, and commercial software. For outlining, we took a look at The Guide, an open-source software. Similar packages include Keepnote, Treepad, and Cherry Tree. The software exists with simple parent-child relationships composed of different ‘pages.’ You can reorder them fairly easily and the data saves and backs up with minimal issues. There is no spellcheck and formatting is a bit limited. You can, however, changes icons in the outline to notes things completed, in process, etc.

Plume Creator is an example of a basic novel-writing software package. Another would be Rough Draft. With Plume Creator, another open-sourced software, you have all of the features of The Guide except the icon changes. In addition, you can add notes and synopses. You can compile selected parts of the data and  backup is still very simple. There is a spell-checking option with Plume Creator and it’s undergoing a lot of changes at the moment to make it more like Scrivner (see below). You also have the option to format your writing in a manuscript format when you’re ready for that step.

Scrivener is probably the best-known writing software. It’s only $40 and if you win NaNoWriMo, you can buy it for 50% off. yWriter is a free version of Scrivener though I can’t speak to its features. Scrivener has the same features as Plume Creator with a more extensive export options list and brings back the ability to change icons to mark scenes as you see fit. I know many people who have used this to some success and the major complaint I’ve hears is that if you want to get the .txt file for one scene, it’s hard to find because the scenes names you use do not translate to the base documents. That’s a pretty minor complaint, though!

Personally, I use Word. I find it’s enough for me and I have a better idea of seeing how far into the story each plot point happens by looking at the right-hand scroll bar. It works for me, but some people swear by these other softwares. It’s all personal preference.

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!

Meeting Emily St. John Mandel

23 May

If you’ve been here a while, you’ve seen a number of posts about Emily St. John Mandel’s book, Station Eleven. I’ve posted a book review and two book club reflections about her book because it was chosen as the 2015-2016 Great Michigan Read by the Michigan Humanities Council. The finale of the program is usually an author tour around the state and Mandel came to a city near my parents’ house two weeks ago so I had to go!

Me and Mandel

Me and Mandel

The obvious question when an author from western Canada living in New York chooses Michigan as a setting for her novel is “Why?” Mandel had visited Petoskey, Michigan on a book tour one time and fell in love with the area. She said that was her main reasoning, really. She also liked that as a peninsula, it had access to fresh water and a boundary around which the symphony could travel. When my mom was reading the book, she noticed a few lines about how things were more violent in the South. She asked Mandel why this might be. Mandel simply shrugged and said she figured there were more guns in the south. We thought so, too.

She was asked about a sequel which surprised me because I saw the book as very complete. The asker referenced the electricity at the end as the means for a sequel. She assured us this is a standalone and was making the point that the world will continue to change after the story ends. There is a future for these characters.

The symphony played a big part and Mandel was asked why she included them. She liked the idea of a symphony being improvised because of the odd mix of musicians that made it up. The idea was really fun to her and she ran with it.

Everyone wanted to know about the prophet and if she was trying to make a religious statement. Mandel included him because she sees in areas where there is not a strong societal structure, warlords are able to take control. Even though the US does not have a lot of strong religious figures now, she felt the collapse might lead to one. He’s an inevitable figure in a state of anarchy.

This book is a large deviation from what Mandel normally writes. She has written genre fiction before and wanted to do some more literary fiction, but with a strong plot. She didn’t want to be labeled a crime writer and decided to write something about the lives of actors so her first ideas were not post-apocalyptic. She thought about the things we take for granted; phones, planes, lights, the computer I’m using to type this. What would we do as a society if we lost those? We have become complacent to the technology around us, what would we do with solitude and quiet? These two ideas together helped craft the book.

Another popular question is why she chose Shakespeare. At first, she had the actors replaying episodes of Seinfeld or How I Met Your Mother, but it didn’t feel right. She realized that if something was preserved, it would be the best theater of the current world and that’s arguably not a sitcom. The parallels between Shakespeare and the Station Eleven characters is staggering and it played well into the plot the more Mandel looked into it.

Mandel talked about the weird Google rabbit holes she had to go down for this book. If you took a truck down to its frame, how much would it weigh? How many horses would be needed to pull that? She said a lot of the things she needed to know were hard to find and she spent a lot of time on survivalist discussion boards. She does not recommend doing this. A lot of the research went into pandemic research. She felt there were two ways to end the world, the other being a nuclear holocaust, which can be very political and she didn’t want to get into politics. But plagues have unknown or undiscovered origins. The Romans thought they had brought on a plague by sacking a shrine. We all have relatives who at some point in history survived a plague. How cool is that?

There are many reasons readers are drawn to stories of disaster. The one I’ve heard most is economic inequality, the idea that this world is unfair and if it were remade, we could remake ourselves based on our skills and not the hand we were dealt. The other idea is that it always seems like some current event is going to end the world. We all think we’re living at the end of the known world. Mandel’s point is that when the world does end, another one will begin. Yet another idea is that in our modern age, there is so little left that’s uncharted, so little to explore. We want a world that we don’t know or understand and apocalyptic stories satisfy that restlessness.

Miranda’s comic book was something Mandel wanted to say about art. She wanted a character who, like her, went to art school and found it was hard to become employable. That was her own story. As the plot evolved, the book started to tie the story together and it became a good way of reflecting the future world in the present story.

img_3006-1Before I had the chance to, someone else asked Mandel if she had advice for aspiring writers. Her first advice was to finish stuff. It’s so easy to start writing a book and when it gets hard, to put it aside and start something else that’s fun and new. Push through the problems, finish a story and see where it goes. She said to also actually write (I’m guilty of this), not just talk about writing but to actually write. She writes by hand (first time I’ve heard an author say this!) and she writes everywhere, even on trains while she’s out for the day. Five to ten pages is a good day. Mandel doesn’t have a high school diploma and wants people to know that publishing is not closed to them if they don’t have the MFA or creative writing degree that ads online tell us we need.

When Mandel was 26, she had the first draft of a novel and started searching for agents. She got a full request from one agent who later rejected the novel, but sent her a lot of ideas on how to change it. Mandel made those changes and, though it wasn’t requested, resent the manuscript to that agent. It was accepted. Two years and 35 publishers later, the book landed. Mandel recommended looking at the agents of books you love or books similar to yours. Let them know that’s why you’re querying them in your letter. Flattery almost always works.

I ran into my friend Chelsea in line and she was nice enough to take the picture of Mandel and I. I got my two books signed and they’re now safely on my shelf. I don’t have another author event on my calendar but I’m sure I’ll find something to go to soon.

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 Club Reflection Pt 2: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

19 May

The problem with my book clubs both being based out of my hometown library is that we tend to read the same books from time to time. One book club read The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls back in September of 2015 and my other one read it for our May selection. I didn’t reread the book so I did a lot of listening this time around.

A few people in our group had read the title when it first came out a few years ago, but most were reading it for the first time. It’s been a few years since Walls wrote the end of the book to tell us where her family was so our moderator looked it up for us. Walls and her husband live in Virginia and last was heard, her mother was living with them. No idea how long that lasted, but that was the update. Brian is a police officer in NYC with a wife and children. The oldest sister was illustrating children’s books. Not much is known about what’s going on with Maureen. She didn’t support writing the book and it seems Jeannette avoided talking about her problems as a sort of compromise. Brian read the book and had no problems with it, remembering a lot of the same events Jeannette did. Both her mother and older sister read the book eventually and it seems they had no problem with it. Jeannette feared that she would be rejected by her peers for writing the book. She felt that if they knew where she came from, no matter what they thought of her when reading it, they would no longer want to have anything to do with her.

Even though the Walls children suffered from neglect at the hands of their parents, there’s been evidence to suggest that children who are overindulged are more damaged than those who are deprived growing up. I can see how this would happen. Children in poverty learn resilience and confidence like the Walls children did. When faced with an obstacle, they learned how to fight it. Children who have everything handed to them don’t know how to solve their problems. I think the Walls children would have had a harder time keeping on par with their peers in the modern day. Technology is so integrated into the classroom and socialization that not having access to a computer can be detrimental. If they couldn’t get to a library to do homework, they would fall behind.

It felt like Rex and Rose Mary were the focus of our conversation. They seemed very cohesive and like they were on one team until they moved to West Virginia. It felt like Rex couldn’t live well in that town and it tore him away from the family. His alcoholism caused a lot of the financial problems in that family and he, like his wife, was a narcissist. Interestingly enough, what Jeannette says about her father being smart is true. There’s a physicist in our book club and he said that he was shocked when Rex started talking about thermodynamics because everything he was saying was scientifically accurate. Most of the parts about Rex were surprisingly positive seeing as he stole from his family. We wondered if, in light of his death, Jeannette didn’t want to say anything negative about her father.

We felt Rose Mary was more to blame for the family’s status. With Rex, it’s easy to say ‘Oh, he’s an alcoholic. We can’t expect him to act in his children’s best interest because he’s sick.’ It was harder with Rose Mary. We think she suffered from some kind of mental illness but her refusal to see a professional made it impossible to understand why she acted the way she did. While Rex let the kids down with his actions, they had no expectations of their mother for her to live up to so she was less of a disappointment. We think she might have been affected by the baby that didn’t survive, even though she says Rex was the one affected. The only smart thing she did was holding on to the $1,000,000 property in Texas. If she’d sold it or cashed in somehow, that money would have gone straight to Rex and the local bar.

The frustrating part of reading the book is that it’s so void of self-reflection and pity when the reader is feeling so much pity for Jeannette. The three oldest took care of each other, creating their own world where they could survive. Maureen was too young to join them. The oldest three recognized the bad situation they were in and got out. Once she moved away, it seemed Jeannette was very defensive about her upbringing. She would put her walls up when she was asked about it (like in her college course). Writing this book might have been very therapeutic and very difficult for her.

Our next book is another memoir, The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. I’m already almost finished with it (#overachiever) and it will be a good talk.

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, 18-May-2016

18 May

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: I feel like I can finally say I’m getting toward the end of Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling. I’ve got 150 pages left, but it feels so obtainable at this point. I’m ecstatic.
I read a few chapters of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson and got the renewal again. I’ll be working on this one for a while still, probably.
I’m getting to the end of The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer already. I’ve had a lot of long runs and cooking in the past week and I feel confident this one will be on my ‘finished’ list next week.

Recently finished: Nothing this week. BUT! I did write reviews for both A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin and The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier. Check it out!

27 Days_HighResReading Next: There’s still some time until my next book club book will come up so I’m planning on 27 Days to Midnight by Kristine Kruppa next. She’s a friend of mine and I can’t wait to read the book!


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 Review: The Virgin Blue by Tracey Chevalier (4/5)

17 May

I’ver read and enjoyed several of Chevalier’s previous novels. Before this blog, I read The Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Lady and the Unicorn. When I found a copy of The Virgin Blue at a bag sale, I grabbed it, figuring it would be a good read for somewhere down the road when I finally got to the bottom of my infinite TBR. Luckily, it was a title my library owned in mass quantities for book clubs and I convinced my book club to read it this month. The catch is that I have to lead the discussion but that’s hardly a hardship for me.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier

Other books by Tracy Chevalier reviewed on this blog:

Burning Bright

Summary from Goodreads:

Meet Ella Turner and Isabelle du Moulin—two women born centuries apart, yet bound by a fateful family legacy. When Ella and her husband move to a small town in France, Ella hopes to brush up on her French, qualify to practice as a midwife, and start a family of her own. Village life turns out to be less idyllic than she expected, however, and a peculiar dream of the color blue propels her on a quest to uncover her family’s French ancestry. As the novel unfolds—alternating between Ella’s story and that of Isabelle du Moulin four hundred years earlier—a common thread emerges that unexpectedly links the two women.

This was much more magical than the other Chevalier books I’ve read but the summary had prepared me for that. I liked the alternating points of view and how Chevalier used them to move the plot along. At first, I was angry that Isabelle’s timeline jumped around, but it was done very well and I understood why after a while. My biggest complaint with the whole novel was Ella cheating on Rick. That really really bothered me. I hate books where people cheat on each other (Brooklyn for example) and it can often ruin a perfectly good book for me. Besides that, I liked Ella and I thought she was a really great character to tell this story.

I liked Ella, but she was unlike anyone I know and it made it a bit hard to relate to her. She was an American abroad, which I could relate to from my time studying in Europe, but she didn’t try to fit in and she didn’t know the language which would have frustrated me beyond reason. She seemed very lost and had little to do, which is NOTHING like me. I’m always so busy I can’t think. I appreciated her interest in her relatives. I’ve used the free ancestry sites and traced my family back to Germany in the 1500s (if all that can be believed). Her lifestyle and clothing were nothing like what I would do or say so it was hard to sympathize with her. When she cheated on Rick, I had a hard time liking her at all.

Jean Paul was my favorite character despite what he and Ella did together. He was dark and mysterious, the kind of guy I fall in love with in a book. I could see what attracted Ella to him and I loved that he was a librarian. I liked that he was strong but still delicate. In short, he fulfilled my ‘bad boy’ desires for a male lead while still being relatable. I just wish he didn’t smoke. Or sleep with Ella. I wish they were friends with a frustrated sexual chemistry. And no cigarettes.

I related to Ella’s sense of meaninglessness in France. When I studied in Spain and England, it was hard to fill my day. I’d spend hours and hours on school, but that could only take up so much time. I was (and still am) slow to make friends so that wasn’t how it would happen. I felt alone and wanted to go home so I could spend time with my boyfriend (now husband) and friends in Indiana. It’s hard to find something to take up your time. In Spain, I read a lot. In England, I joined a comedy troupe. It’s not ancestry, but it was my way of coping.

Tracy Chevalier Image via Wikipedia

Tracy Chevalier
Image via Wikipedia

I liked the flashbacks to Isabelle best. She was a great character and I found it easier to relate to her. I think it’s easier to relate to people in a time and place so removed from my own because I can’t compare her to myself. With a modern timeframe, I can criticize relationships, choices, clothing and much more easily whereas I don’t know what I would have been like in Isabelle’s time. I enjoyed how Chevalier made the punctuation different for Isabelle’s sections. It helped me remember whose head I was in if I had to put the book down.

I’ll say it once more, but I hated that Ella cheated on Rick. He never did anything that upset her other than his job and she didn’t give him much of a chance. She hid her life from him and it felt like she cheated on him because she was having nightmares. How does that become his fault? I’ve gone through depressions and it’s never made me want to cheat on my husband so I couldn’t comprehend that and it ruined the book for me just enough so it didn’t get a full 5 stars.

 

The two themes I got from this book is that our history matters and that family will always support you. The first is more interesting to me so I’ll talk about that. Ella felt lost in France but felt her family might help her connect to it, only to find out what she really needed was in Switzerland. It didn’t end up making her connect with a country but with herself. She was able to see herself as part of a history of people instead of a lost individual. Her distant relatives were people she could confide in because they had the same history. Susanne and she were both connected by the nightmare to Marie and Isabelle. Though this was the magical element, knowing their past gave them peace.

Writer’s Takeaway: One of my biggest frustrations with books that head jump is that I can’t remember who is speaking when I pick the book up. I loved how Chevalier managed this by using both a different punctuation rule and different points of view. I could read one sentence and know that it was first person modern punctuation (Ella) or third person unconventional punctuation (Isabelle). I loved this stylistic choice.

I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to discuss it with the book club. 4 out of 5 Stars.

This book fulfills 1500-1599 for 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:
The Virgin Blue, Tracy Chevalier | A Novel Thing
The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier | She Reads Novels
Book Review: The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier | Imperfect Happiness

Book Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martian (3/5)

16 May

I’m slowly buying into this trend. Slowly. I still haven’t seen the shows and I don’t think I’ll jump on the third book anytime soon. This isn’t my genre but the characters are great and that kind of makes up for it. Sorry for any big fans, you can’t please everyone!

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin (Book #2 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series)

Also reviewed on this blog: A Game of Thrones (Book #1 in the A Song of Ice and Fire series)

Summary from Goodreads:

Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon—who held sway over an age of enforced peace are dead…victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky—a comet the color of blood and flame—six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard’s son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King’s Landing. Robert’s two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers.

I read this book over a three-month period when I would have and lose the audiobook for it. I think that detracted from my enjoyment a lot. I would lose track of what was happening to characters, especially the more minor characters like Theon and Davos. I wished there were more about Dani because she was one of my favorite characters from the first book, but she didn’t have as big of a role in this book. I know she’ll come into play in a large fashion but it will be a while first.  Oh well. I found this book slower than the first and harder to enjoy because of it. Maybe it was my pace, but it was hard for me to get into it.

Martin’s characters are what I love most about this series. The women are smart and the men are cunning. I like the play of magic and strength for power. I think there are a few too many characters, though, and it would be easier if we didn’t have to follow so many plot lines to stay with the story. There was never a time I remember thinking ‘WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?’ about a character. They were all motivated well, even the ones you didn’t agree with (Theon).

Tyrion was my favorite character. We saw a softer side of him with Shay this book and I liked that, though he had to be even more cunning than before as Cerci tightens her grasp on the crown. Because my other favorite characters are the Starks, I feel like I should really dislike Tyrion, but he’s so well written and he has so many good one-liners that it’s hard to dislike him.

I related to Catelyn, Sansa, and Arya in different ways. I related to Catelyn’s loss of control. I’m at a point in my life when I’m in over my head and I don’t feel like there’s a lot I can control going on around me. Sansa’s fear of being her true self reminds me of high school when I (and I’m sure many others) felt like I had to play the part another friend (Cerci) wanted me to, even if I didn’t like it. And I related to Arya’s resilience. That was one thing that stood out to me in this story. No matter how much hardship was thrown at Arya, she always found a way to get through it and survive. She’s very admirable for that and I think anyone who’s had to tough out a bad situation can relate to her.

George RR Martin Image via GeorgeRRMartin.com

George RR Martin
Image via GeorgeRRMartin.com

I thought Dani visiting the ghosts was a great scene. It was great that her dragons went with her on the quest and she was so smart in how she approached each of the puzzles. Martin had great imagery in this scene and I was able to picture the complicated setting with clarity. It was a bit more magical than I’m used to, but it was really fun to see what happened.

I’m not a fan of war and battles so the battle at King’s Landing was a big dull for me. Luckily I was in the middle of a seven mile run so I toughed through it! It felt drawn out to me, reminding me of the Battle of Helms Deep in the Lord of the Rings. I felt that could have been faster, too. I’m not a war person.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Roy Dotrice, the same narrator from the first audiobook. I still stand that he’s my favorite narrator I’ve listened to. He does an amazing job with voices for the minor and major characters. I never get confused about who is talking. He works in the mannerisms of each character, something I rarely hear in audio and I greatly enjoyed. Him narrating could get me to listen to the third sooner than expected.

A lot of the characters in this book had to be self-reliant. Arya, in particular, can’t trust anyone around her and I think the same can be argued  for Sansa and all the contenders for the throne. I have a feeling this will come into play later in the series when everyone will have to trust each other and count on one another to succeed but that’s just my conjecture. We’ll see how it goes.

Writer’s Takeaway: The build-up on this one was rough. A lot of you have said the third one is great and totally worth it, but I’m dragging a bit with this series overall. I need some big event to take place and the battle at King’s Landing didn’t do that for me. It didn’t affect the characters I cared about very much and I’m reading for something new.

Well written, yet again, but not for me. 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: A Clash of Kings | The Literary Omnivore
A Clash of Kings: Book Two of A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones), George R. R, Martin (HarpurCollins, 1999){Random House Audio, Narrator: Roy Doltrice) | The Archaeologist’s Guide to the Galaxy.. by Thomas Evans

Book Release Party for ’27 Days to Midnight’ by Kristine Kruppa

12 May
Me and Kristine.

Me and Kristine.

I was so excited last Tuesday to join my good friend Kristine Kruppa for the release of her first book, 27 Days to Midnight! She hosted a release party at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’m so excited for Kristine and this success! She’s published with Giant Squid Publishing (as you can see in the pictures below) and hopes to publish some more books in the future.

I was introduced to Kristine by a mutual friend three years ago and I’ve watched her develop this book into what it is today. We worked on the synopsis together and even though she told me how it ends, I forget the details and am really excited to read the published version of the book! I hope you might consider picking up Kristine’s book in the near future. It’s available on Amazon.

It’s too bad not all of you could make it to the book release party, there were cupcakes! 🙂 Here are some pictures to make up for it.

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!