Archive | May, 2016

WWW Wednesday, 11-May-2016

11 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!

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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.


AskingCurrently reading: I’m finally getting back to Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling and it feels so good! I’m not sure how long it will take for me to finish this, but I’ll enjoy the ride.
I made small progress with In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson again. I’m at about 20% but I’ll get there to be sure. It might take a while, though.
My audiobook now is The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. It’s nice for runs because music from her band will randomly come on during it but the narration is a bit quiet which is frustrating when I have to play with the volume so much.

ClashofKingsRecently finished: I finished A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin! I’m glad I finished it and I honestly don’t think I’ll get to the next book anytime soon. I felt this one was a lot less exciting than the first book. I dunno. I’ll get to it eventually, but I’m not sure when.
I flew through The Virgin Blue by Tracey Chevalier. The book was a bit more magical than her others books have been, but I still enjoyed it a lot. I’m excited to discuss this one with the book club. I’ve volunteered to lead the discussion.

27 Days_HighResReading Next: I’m posting about this tomorrow, but my friend Kristine Kruppa released a book last week and I plan to read it next. It’s called 27 Days to Midnight and I’m really looking forward to reading it!


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!

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Midwest Literary Walk in Chelsea, Michigan

10 May

If you’re a book nerd like me and not friends with a local librarian, I HIGHLY recommend it. They’re always in the know about the coolest bookish events around. My good friend Amy told me about the Midwest Literary Walk in Chelsea, Michigan and we trudged the hour out there to see the five authors who came to the event.

Sorrentino is on the right.

Sorrentino is on the right.

The first two speakers were based out of the Chelsea Depot, the old train station which made a perfect venue. The first speaker was Christopher Sorrentino, a contemporary fiction writer. He spoke about his latest book, The Fugitives. The book is set in the fictional Cherry City, which many Michiganders identified as Traverse City, Michigan (TRAV-erse, not tra-VERSE). He said that all of his characters are liars and they’re all running away from something. That must make for some fun writing to be sure! The book is different from the normal character-driven plots he writes because there is a thriller/heist element to the book. He still think’s it’s a character study, but with a lot more plot than he usually bestows on a book. He put a part of himself in each character and I think all writers can agree they do that to an extent. Sorrentino spoke about how draining it is to write a book. This book took him five years and the one before took four. He was asked about how the book was received and despite the good reviews he’s received, he wasn’t able to forget about one bad review in the New York Times written by a review he knew personally. I guess even the seasoned pros get stuck on some bad comments.

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Me and Watkins.

The second speaker was Claire Vaye Watkins. Amy had read her short story collection and really liked it so I decided I was going to buy her book (which I did, thanks to Literati Bookstore being on site!). He novel is called Gold Fame Citrus and I’m really excited to read it. She told us it’s classified as ‘cli-fi,’ climate fiction which she only heard of after publishing. Watkins has never worried about genre or form and writes whatever she wants. Her earlier books were praised for being fearless and bold but she feels that since she had a child, she’s become a bit more feminine. She writes in the mornings, after dropping her child with a sitter and writes for 2-3 hours, cranking out between 1,000 and 5,000 words. She said that she lets herself stop when writing is hard but not when thinking is hard. When she’s too tired, she stops but if she’s at a rough point in the book, she keeps going. When I got my book signed, I asked her what advice she would give me as an aspiring writer. She said to embrace perfection on the page, but nowhere else in life. Look for the perfect word, the perfect paragraph, but let appearance fall by the wayside. I’ll have to work on that one!

May and Lewis.

May and Lewis.

There were two poets at the third stop, Robin Coste Lewis is the National Book Award Winner for Poetry. She writes long form poetry which allows her to take the reader on a journey. She said that never tries to explain a feeling or experience to her reader, she lets them determine it for himself. The other poet was Jamaal May, a Detroit poet. When he read, it was very obvious he got his start writing slam poetry. His biggest advice was when there is something bothering hi, it’s a good sign that it’s something he should write about.

img_2980The last author up was the big headliner, Paula McClain. I read McClain’s book The Paris Wife a few years back and wasn’t a big fan of the novel but it was interesting to hear her speak. She earned her MFA in Poetry from the University of Michigan and was amazed that she was able to do that. McClain spent 14 years in foster care and was on academic probation at a community college for three years so finishing a master’s degree was never what she expected of herself. Her first novel was a memoir and it took her five years to write. After learning about Hadley and being inspired by her, she hunkered down at a Cleveland Starbucks and wrote The Paris Wife in seven months. I was surprised to hear she’d never been to Paris before she wrote the book. She visited since, but I’m still amazed how alive she made Paris feel without having visited. I was amazed to hear that at a reading in St. Louis, she met Hadley’s nephew and other family members. What a rush that must have been!

It was a really great event and I’m glad I went. I plan to go again next year. 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: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

9 May

I promise this is my last post about Child 44. I’ve already done the book review and the movie review. Last is the book club reflection. If you recall, I wasn’t a big fan of the book (mostly because of the narrator) and I thought the movie was okay but was disappointed by a few missing parts that I thought made the book bearable. It seems I was alone in my opinion because my book club found it gripping.

The scary thing is how many of the details of the murderer were real! There was a murderer known as the Butcher of Rostov who had a similar background to Leo’s brother. His name is Andrei Chikatilo and he killed from 1978 to 1990 before being executed. There was an HBO series about him called Citizen X. Reading about him in Wikipedia, it’s terrifying how similar the case Leo chased is to this man’s life story.

Tom Rob Smith was born in London and went to Cambridge. He’s written for British TV shows and found out about Chikatilo while researching for a show he was writing about. Child 44 is his debut novel.

We learned a lot about life in Soviet Russia, assuming what we read is all true. The biggest takeaway was the fear and status of a criminal state that these people lived in every day. One of our members read that the mentality of turning people in, the fear of persecution, is returning to Russia again under Stalin and this book comes at a good time to remind people how damaging that can be.

There were parts of the book that were really hard to believe. Surviving the escape from the train was a big one for us (and maybe why it was cut from the movie). Vasili ending up in the basement at exactly the right moment was a bit convenient as well. We didn’t understand why he was able to take on such a big role in the investigation in the first place. His status didn’t seem to deserve that.

I brought up my biggest complaint about the book, which was Leo’s motivation. He had no children so he wasn’t afraid for their safety: why did he begin the investigation? Why did he feel such a personal connection to these crimes? We decided he felt guilty, likely as far back as his war service. He also had a major shift in his worldview when Raisa was charged. He was traumatized by the idea that his family could be the target of suspicion and rough treatment. If that could happen to him, what else could happen in life? He wanted to do something to make the positive impact he thought he was making as a KGB. When he realized officials were lying about interrogations and that there was no virtue or honor in his position, he changed and started to see the world differently.

Raisa’s charge was a big change in the book. We wondered who turned her name in because we seriously doubted that the veterinarian actually gave her name. I thought it was his commander trying to see how far he would go for the state. Others wondered if it was Vasili or the doctor she refused to sleep with.

Leo and Raisa adopting the girls at the end seemed a little too ‘pretty,’ wrapping the story up with a nice bow on top. We thought about it and it’s a new beginning for Leo. He was adopted by two parents who originally meant to do him great harm. Leo didn’t have it out personally for the girls, but it’s easy to see why they might be afraid of him. He knew from experience that they could grow to have a good relationship. He was living proof of that.

Our next read is The Virgin Blue by Tracey Chevalier which I’ve almost finished! I love her writing.

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!

‘Child 44’ Movie- Raisa is so awesome

5 May
Image via IMdB

Image via IMdB

I knew I wasn’t going to finish the audiobook for Child 44 before my book club met to talk about it so I went ahead and watched the movie. I know, I know- the bibliophile’s greatest sin. I did finish the book, however, a few days later so I can fairly draw some comparisons between the two.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Raisa. Maybe it’s because I adored Noomi Rapace in the Millenium trilogy, but I thought Raisa rocked. She was a lot stronger of a person in the movie, helping in the train fight and in the final fight (which, granted, didn’t really happen in the book).

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

No car crash and other scenes removed. As I started to notice these small scenes missing, I was at first upset, but in the end, they weren’t needed. Leo’s car crash, escaping under the train, they all built tension but that tension was already there. Taking them out of the movie didn’t detract from the plot or characters at all so I was okay with it in the end.

Child44Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

Finding out about other murders. I thought that finding the bodies made Leo more invested in the mystery. Having someone tell him about them ruined that motivation so I felt it feel a bit flat.

Seeing Child 44s body. It was a huge point in the book that he hadn’t seen the boy’s body, just heard about the mutilations. I thought seeing it removed that and to me, it made no difference. It felt like the filmmakers just wanted to show a dead body to keep the ‘action adventure’ level a bit higher.

Things That Changed Too Much

Knowing he was the orphan from the beginning. This upset me before the credits were over. Finding out that Pavel and Leo were the same was a big turning point in the book, though, we don’t know about Pavel’s brother and honestly, that was taken out of the movie so why do we care that Leo’s real name is Pavel at all or that Leo is adopted? We really don’t care at all. I thought it was a dumb thing to add in unless it becomes important in the sequels.

The brothers. OH MY GOSH! How could they cut this, it was the best part of the book! Knowing that the two men are long-lost brothers is the motivation behind the murders and it ruined the movie for me. It was so twisted to hear why he murdered and having that taken out completely was stupid! Ugh, so mad about this one.

My husband says I was predisposed not to like it after I hated the book. Was it just me? Reader, what did you think of the Child 44 movie?

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!

WWW Wednesday, 4-May-2016

4 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!

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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.


ClashofKingsCurrently reading: I hope to get back to Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling soon. It’s sitting on my bedside tale for now.
I’m making great progress with A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. I’m about four hours from the end and in the midst of the final battle. I got the eaudio back and the battle is great listening during my long runs!
I got through a bit of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson but nothing to brag about. I’ll be working on this one for a while!
I’m really enjoying The Virgin Blue by Tracey Chevalier. I always love her books so no surprise to me here. I’m hoping I can tear through this one and get back to Harry!

 

Child44Recently finished: I finished two books! The first was Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith which I got through just a few days after my book club meeting last week. I was so close to finishing in time, but it slipped past me. Oh well. I wasn’t a big fan of the book. My review went up yesterday where I explained why I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. I’ve still got a book-to-movie review and a book club reflection to write on this one so it will be around for a bit.
The other book I finished was Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones which I loved! The book was really well written and I loved the characters. A full 5 out of 5 stars. My review is already up for this one so check it out.

AskingReading Next: I’ll be grabbing my next book club selection, The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. I haven’t decided if I’ll do the physical or audio copy yet, but I’m leaning toward audio so I can fee myself up to finish Harry and work on some other books I’ve been waiting to read.


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: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (2/5)

3 May

I think there have been books I rated highly because the audiobook had a wonderful narrator. However, this is not one of those cases. I hated the narration for this book and it might affect how I feel about it, but I’m still going to say this wasn’t in a genre I typically enjoy anyway and I might have disliked it with a good narrator or reading the physical book.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Summary from Goodreads:

Stalin’s Soviet Union is an official paradise, where citizens live free from crime and fear only one thing: the all-powerful state. Defending this system is idealistic security officer Leo Demidov, a war hero who believes in the iron fist of the law, but when a murderer starts to kill at will and Leo dares to investigate, the State’s obedient servant finds himself demoted and exiled. Now, with only his wife at his side, Leo must fight to uncover shocking truths about a killer–and a country where “crime” doesn’t exist.

There were too many times in this book where I had to suspend my disbelief and it became too much for me. The first was early on when there was a ‘truth oil’ that was injected into prisoners. It sounded straight out of Harry Potter. Then we had a drug-addicted police officer who never took drugs again through the rest of the novel. I was poised to not like it from the beginning. My book club has met since and argues that these two things are real and could happen, but I still thought it was too much and I had already given up from there. I’ll say that everything wrapped up nicely and it was well plotted to be sure, but I gave up on it by the second prologue (you only get one!).

The characters were really well done. Most of them had more than one layer to them which made reading farther into the book really fun. I hated Vasili, but that doesn’t mean he was a bad character. Leo probably changed the most. His belief in the state was almost unbelievable at the beginning and it was interesting to see that break and how it developed. It felt like the was the only ‘true’ Soviet left for a lot of the novel.

I think Raisa was easily my favorite and she changed the most through the book. I wish she’d been a stronger female character, but I admired her dedication and love for her husband. I thought Smith worked in well that she was afraid of Leo and that her actions weren’t those of a loving wife early on so that when she admitted that she didn’t love him, all the points she drew upon, wich fro Leo’s perspective were minor and not worthy of note, they seemed harsh. She was well written in.

The story wasn’t something I could relate to, but I did sympathize with some of the characters in other ways. I felt that Leo was like myself, very practical and trusting. Many times, I could anticipate what he would do before he did it. He was fiercely loyal to his wife and family and I admired that. I admired his determination to solve the case.

Image via BookFans.net

Image via BookFans.net

I thought the train escape was great. It was really innovative and the characters were lucky, but it came at a cost to them. They had to kill, maim, and fight tooth and nail (ha!) to escape and I could see it happening. It was also a turning point for Leo because he realized the average person didn’t like the state either. They were willing to keep quiet and risk death to let Leo and Raisa escape. I thought the tooth part was a bit much and it made me gag, but it was still well done.

I can’t say I had a single least favorite part of the book, but there were a lot of coincidences I thought were too perfect and times when I wanted Leo and Raisa to have the smallest win and the book just tore them down. No description of the killer from the eyewitness was a rough one to read. There were some other parts when I thought things were too perfect, like getting to the company records so easily or their fake papers being overlooked. Small things that should have derailed it completely. I also didn’t understand why Leo was so determined to find the killer. I didn’t get his vested interest in the case. He had no children to protect and wasn’t close to any of the victims. Why was he so driven?

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris. To be honest, it was terrible. He read the narrative in his normal voice, but every character was given a Russian accent that grated on me. He wasn’t able to differentiate the voices of the characters as well as I think he could have done without the accent and it seemed completely unnecessary to me. I would have liked it better read to me straight and I think the reading is one of the biggest reasons I couldn’t stand the book.

Loyalty was the biggest theme I got out of this book. Leo was loyal to the state, the only character who was. Vasili and Raisa are loyal only to themselves. But for Leo and Raisa, this changes as the book goes on. He loses his loyalty to the state and he and Raisa become loyal to each other. Other characters have their own loyalties but sticking to those loyalties seems the only way to survive in Soviet Russia.

Writer’s Takeaway: Smith did a great job of connecting all the loose ends of his plot. I was getting angry toward the end when the prologue didn’t seem to be connecting to the rest of the story. There were small things like Raisa’s relationship with Ivan that I wanted to connect and why Child 44 was important enough to make the title. Smith did a great job bringing these things together and it shows that he is a great editor of his own work to be able to do this. Kudos.

Overall, not my cup of tea and I doubt I’ll continue with the rest of the series. Two 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 Post:
Review of “Child 44” by Tom Rob Smith | Rhapsody in Books Weblog

Challenge Update, April 2016

2 May

April was the month of plodding through long books. Not a ton of progress, but I’m predicting a lot of these giants will fall in the next month. Look out! I’m going to get through these challenges, just you watch! You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in April:

Norwegian by Night // Derek B. Miller
Texts from Jane Eyre // Mallory Ortberg
The Tales of Beedle the Bard // J.K. Rowling
Child 44 // Tom Rob Smith
Silver Sparrow // Tayari Jones

Two more big ones I’m hoping to topple next month! And my only missing review will be up tomorrow so look out for Child 44!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

8/12
This is my challenge to read a book from 13 different time periods. You can read about it here. I only crossed one off of the list this month, Pre-1500 with The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Yes, I know, it’s a bit of a stretch to count it but I’m at peace with this. If I end up reading something that fits it better, I’ll swap them out, but I’m going to count it until then.

Goodreads Challenge

16/45
I’m two ahead of where I should be! I feel like I’m slogging through books now, but I’m doing alright for the year. I keep forgetting it’s still early in the year! I’ll be fine on this one, I’m 99% sure.

Book of the Month

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Hm. It’s for sure between Silver Sparrow and Norwegian by Night, but I have to go with Norwegian by Night by Derek B. Miller. This book caught me completely by surprise and I just loved it. My book club enjoyed it too and we all had a great discussion.

Added to my TBR

I’m down two! Two of the books I read weren’t on my TBR and I added just one. It’s slowly coming down…

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowing. Is anyone surprised I added this? I still need to figure out where I’m going for a release party but I have a good idea. So excited for it!

How are your challenges going? I hope you’re killing it. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge, it’s fun!

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!