Archive | February, 2017

‘The ABC Murders’ on Agatha Christie’s Poirot (TV Show)

28 Feb
Image via Fanart

Image via Fanart

One of the things I love about WWW Wednesday is when I learn something new from the bloggers. Huge thank you to 4thhouseontheleft for letting me know there was a television series of the Poirot mysteries! I was able to watch the episode of The ABC Murders when I was home sick last week.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Sticking to the book. I was ready for some serious deviation in this show, but I was happily surprised. The writers did an amazing job of sticking to the plot and not cutting any major element. I kept smiling while I was watched it because I was so pleasantly surprised!

 

Poirot’s speech pattern. I’ll admit that reading Poirot in Spanish and having him inject French phrases was a little off-putting. I wasn’t ready for it and since I don’t know French, it really messed with my head. It was an adjustment but I managed. In the show, it sounded very natural the way the actor would speak and I really appreciated how smooth it was.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Taking out the land lady’s daughter. I thought she was really unnecessary in the book and just added to an already long character list. What she did to help Cust was confusing and I’m glad it was taken out.

Cust’s interrogation. In the book, because Hastings is narrating, the interrogation is presented as, “Poirot did this and then told me what happened” which came across as a bit choppy and awkward. I’m glad the show got away from this POV because it was much more natural and flowed well the way it was shot.

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

 

Details of the D murder. In the book, it seemed like Cust was messing up when he murdered someone whose initials weren’t DD. That small detail was taken out of the show and I think it added a lot to how tricky Franklin was. I wish it had been kept.

Things That Changed Too Much

 

Franklin. I pictured him as younger, maybe a Silver Fox kind of guy in his 50s. Perhaps it’s a difference in style to when the show was shot, but I didn’t think Franklin would be able to seduce young Betty Barnard. I know I wouldn’t have been tempted at all and she seemed rather shallow so it surprised me that they chose an actor who looked so much older.

Japp’s perspective. I liked getting Japp’s perspective from time to time and seeing how frustrated he was getting and how superior he felt when he got some information before Poirot. I wish that had been added back to the show.

Hastings. He was pretty annoying and dim-witted in the show which I didn’t see as believable. Why would Poirot keep him around if he was like that? He kept insisting on talking about the Cayman he brought back and it was tiresome. I liked it better when he was narrating and painted himself in a good light.

Reader, have you seen Agatha Christie’s Poirot? Did you watch this episode? What did you think?

Until next time, write on.

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Library Writers’ Group: Revising

27 Feb

I’ve told you all before how amazing my friend Kristine Kruppa is, right? She led our writers’ group this month and talked about the revision process, using a lot of her experiences from revising her novel and giving me some good insight on the revisions she just gave me for my manuscript. I’m excited to share with you some things we learned.

First, revising and editing are different in a very notable way. Editing implies line editing, looking at structure and grammar and improving it. Revising comes earlier in the process and is on a story-level. You have to revise before editing or else your edits might get revised away. After finishing the first draft, leave the story for about a week or so to get some distance from it. Then do a read-through and start the revision process.

The first thing to look for is characters. Could any be cut from the plot if they don’t contribute to the action? Maybe combining two characters into one makes more sense to reduce the number of characters. The motivation behind each character must be believable and drive their actions. As many characters as possible should have an arc and develop through the book.

The setting is sometimes easier in contemporary novels that it will be for science fiction, speculative fiction, or fantasy. Many times, an outsider will show up in a created world to help build it. While this is the easiest way to do it, others can build one from scratched. Our group touched on transitioning between settings. It’s not always necessary to have the character driving from home to work, but you need to know as the writer how that happened.

The plot is the biggest area to look at. Is your plot predictable? CHANGE THAT! You want to keep the reader guessing until the end. Look for plot holes. Does anything happen for a reason that doesn’t make sense? Does anything contradict? Also look at the flow of the book. Pacing is hard to fix but try to use subplots to keep the book moving. A really key part to pace is the climax. We all said we’d read books where the climax happened too fast. After the whole rising action, it’s okay to linger on the climax a bit so the reader feels satisfied with the resolution. One member suggested exploring third level emotions. (More at this link, scroll down until you see the questions in bold.) This technique is pulling out the less obvious emotions a character has at a key moment and expanding on that feeling. Make sure that this climax and resolution happen for every character arc and subplot, not just the main one.

Read the manuscript through at least once more, making sure you caught everything. One suggestion Kristine had was doing a draft map. For this, she writes down the POV character, characters involved, purpose, and a synopsis of each scene. Any that don’t add to a plot or subplot can be scratched and it helps with pacing for main and subplots.

Next, make the changes!

After you’ve revised, it’s time to turn to Beta readers. Kristine suggests 2-5 who read the genre of your book. It might be great to hear what your mom says, but if she reads high fantasy like mine does, her feedback on my 1920s YA book might not be as helpful. One exception to this is if you’ve written something you don’t know well and what someone to check it for you. I’ve written a book about a woman during her pregnancy. I need to have someone who’s had a child read that one, even if they don’t read women’s fiction. My YA book has a male protagonist; I’ve asked several male friends who were at one time 17-year-old boys to read it for that reason. If your book has occupational details, try getting someone in that field to read it. Ask the Beta reader questions that help drive at the points brought up earlier.

Kristine is one of my beta readers and has given me some amazing advice. If you haven’t read her book yet, please go take a look!

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: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling (5/5)

23 Feb

I don’t think there was any chance I wouldn’t read this. My husband got me a copy for Christmas and it sat on my shelf taunting me. I was waiting for a hold to come in at the library and decided I had the time so I might as well read it. I feel even more in love.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

Other books by Rowling reviewed on this blog:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, Illustrated by Jim Kay
Harry Potter y el orden del fenix by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter y el misterio del principe by J.K. Rowling
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Summary from Goodreads:

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…

Having seen the movie, there was nothing in the plot itself that surprised me much. The only thing I might mention is that I was unsure how old Credence was supposed to be in the film. Ezra Miller looks younger than he is and I thought he was supposed to be in his mid to late-teens, not his early twenties. No wonder Grindelwald didn’t suspect him! The art in this book was a great joy. The drawings of the animals I had seen on-screen were really fun and I enjoyed having them as part of the scene breaks while reading.

It’s hard to judge the characters too harshly. I think we’ll learn a lot more about Newt and what drives him going forward. The only character that bothered me was Queenie and I felt the same when I was watching the movie. She seems almost stupid with what she reveals about herself and her ability to read minds but she’s very resourceful at the same time. She uses her looks and flirtation to get everything she can and she seems almost useless besides this. It was kind of frustrating when paralleled with a strong character like Tina.

Jacob is so easy to like and very lovable. Folger did a great job with him in the film and Rowling wrote him well, too. He’s very well-meaning and just stuck in a bad situation. I’m glad the muggle all Potterheads wanted to be was a good person!

Tina loved to try to do the right thing even when it was hard. I think most people can relate to that. Be it saying something no one wants to say or helping someone who annoys you, Tina tried to do the right thing and would put herself at a disadvantage to do it. It made her very admirable and made her easy to look up to and relate to her bad situations that most people have faced from time to time when putting their necks out for someone else.

J.K. Rowling Image via The Telegraph

J.K. Rowling
Image via The Telegraph

I loved the Niffler. I think most people did. I didn’t expect for a little creature to have such a great personality and shine in the book and story so much. Pickett was a close second to me.

I thought the scenes chasing down many of Newt’s creatures were a bit of fluff for movie-goers. They didn’t add much to the plot, but they must have looked good! (I did see it, they did look good.) Reading the screenplay made these stick out to me and I realized how little difference they made to the plot.

 

The pending exposure the magic community is facing is having Grindelwald start something similar to a race war, what Voldemort is able to provoke in the Harry Potter series. I think this is very timely with the escalating racial tensions we’re seeing in America. The things said about Jacobs and other no-maj’s are not the nicest things people could say and there’s a strong sense of superiority in the magical community that Newt points out, doesn’t exist in the UK. I’m really interested to see how this evolves with Jacob as a main part of the plot.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m not sure what else I can learn from the great J.K. that I haven’t already. I think she had fun with this book and that excites me because I thought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was fun, too, but it was so much deeper than that. I think we’ll see a big growth of these characters and a big deepening of the plot in the movies to come and that makes me so excited.

As if there was any doubt, this book gets a full Five out of Five stars from me.

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:
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling || Review | Romi Reads

WWW Wednesday, 22-February-2017

22 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm 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.youre-not-doing


Currently reading: We didn’t make any progress on Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs during our trip this weekend. We had a few things on our minds and used the time to talk instead. There are worse things in this world!
Not much with The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler because I’ve been out-of-town so much but I’m still really enjoying the book and I hope to keep moving on it!
I started another comedian memoir because I needed something light to read over my vacation. I grabbed You’re Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black from my shelves. I enjoyed his commentary on the VH1 I Love The… series and I watched Wet Hot American Summer last summer and remembered how funny he was. The book is a great delivery of his dry humor and I’m really liking it.
I also just started The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. I’m glad Bryson seems as fascinated by the English language as I am! Sometimes I find myself wondering how much money a linguist could make because it’s so fun!

fantastic-beastsRecently finished: I finished Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling last Thursday. It was a super quick and fun read. I’m super excited for the movie to come out so I can watch it again from home this time! I’ll likely post a review tomorrow.
I also finished The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom on Thursday, it was a big day for me! This was a good audiobook and I really liked that Albom narrated it himself. I posted my review on Monday so please go check it out and see why I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

I posted one other review, Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars, please check it out!

nightsoldiersReading Next: I know I’ve been saying it for weeks but I picked up Night Soldiers by Alan Furst from the library last night! I’m going to start in on this one as soon as I finish Black’s book, which I hope is really soon!


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!

Mental Health Day: I’ll Be Back Tomorrow!

21 Feb

Hi, all.

I had a very stressful weekend which is only worse because I was on vacation! Yuck. As such, I don’t have anything ready to post today but I’ll be using this evening to prepare for the rest of the week.

My apologies for a delay in content but rest assured my brain is recovering!

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom (4/5)

20 Feb

Mitch Albom is from Detroit and he does a lot of book signings in my area as a result. A good friend of mine and I went to hear him speak a few years ago and I got a copy of his latest (at the time) signed. I hate taking signed books out of my apartment, so using an audio version of this book made the most sense to me. It was a nice, quick read.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

My past post on Meeting Mitch Albom

Summary from Goodreads:

The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief–and a page-turner that will touch your soul–Albom’s masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.

I’ve read and listened to a few of Albom’s books before and this seems right in line with his style. He’s going to talk about Christianity without hitting you over the head with it and he’s also going to talk about doubting religion and that strengthening belief. This book was hard to read only because my Christian side wanted to believe and my reader side wanted to think ‘Magical Realism’ but following a character who doubted so strongly made me doubt, too. I wasn’t sure what to think until the end, which I’ll avoid talking about. I liked the ride, though. The breadth of characters covered the topic well and gave me someone to commiserate with each step of the way.

I liked that there were characters who were strong believers, skeptics, and people who went through all stages of belief and disbelief along the way. I think that’s a fair representation of how humanity would respond to such a miracle. I’ve often wondered if a great prophet came to Earth, would we believe him or her? Would we discredit this person or recognize that he/she is the one we’ve been waiting for? I think Albom must have wondered something similar when he wrote this book. Some believed it immediately, dropping everything and moving to Coldwater while the miracle was happening. Others came out of anger and a lot kept at arms distance and waited for proof that the whole thing was real. I liked how the people of Coldwater went through this as well, even those receiving the calls. It seemed real and made me wonder where I would fall if calls like that really happened.

Jack was my favorite character. I thought the way he dealt with his son’s calls was really believable. At first he wants to keep them to himself and not call attention to himself, which I could see a police officer wanting to do. I liked seeing his internal struggle to tell his ex-wife and how he told Tess to commiserate with her. I think he really struggled with believing Robby was really talking to him and thought that if he said it out loud, he would have to believe it.

I think I would have trouble believing something as wondrous as phone calls from Heaven at first. I think I would be like Elias or Jack and think it was someone trying to trick me for a while, testing the miracle to see if it stood on its own two feet before I could buy in completely. Even Pastor Warren was skeptical and Father Carole called in his boss to make a decision. This helped me feel like it was OK to doubt but to question and not discredit something that could be a miracle.

Me and Mitch

Me and Mitch Albom, 2013.

I love Sully’s story. It was so moving and complicated and I thought Albom did a great job of balancing all of the conflicting feelings inside Sully. I was scared for a second that he was going to give him a romantic relationship with Liz but I think the way that ended was for the best. Sully was looking out for his son most of all and on his journey to protect the boy, he ended up neglecting him a bit. He needed to refocus his priorities and Liz helped him do this.

I didn’t’ like Amy’s character very much. She was really self-focused and I felt like she was taking advantage of Katherine the whole book. Even when she was taken off the story, she stayed with Katherine because she had no where else she wanted to be. She didn’t even seem to care when her fiance left her and didn’t try to hard to contact him. She seemed unimportant to the plot and just fulfilled Albom’s desire to have a reporter character in the story.

Albom narrated the audiobook himself which I really liked. He gave the characters the voices he wrote them with. There were a few instances of him using audio effects like knocking and thumping to enhance the story which I really liked. He narrated well but that can be expected from a radioman. I hope he does his other audiobooks as well.

All of the characters struggled with belief. Even Catherine, who believed immediately and spread the word, struggled with others not believing her and how to handle those who doubted her. The characters were very representative of Christians that I’ve met. Some believe with all of their hearts and struggle to see how others can live without the faith they have. Others used to believe but have fallen away from God for one reason or another. Others don’t believe and many are somewhere in the middle. The book brought up something incredible that effected people’s faith in different ways and showed how no one Christian is exactly like another and how things can shake or build faith depending on how they’re perceived.

Writer’s Takeaway: I thought Albom had almost too many characters. I struggled a bit to keep Jack and Jeff straight and I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the TV people besides Amy. I’m glad he didn’t include all of the people receiving phone calls but I thought he could have focused on just a few less to help the reader keep more of them straight.

This was a solid book that helped me see how strong my faith is. 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:
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom | Words Are My Craft
The first phone call from heaven by Mitch Albom ~ Book Review | Ebaarat
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom | Reading_Rexy
Warner Brothers Lands Mitch Albom Novel ‘The First Phone Call from Heaven’ | Deadline

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (3/5)

16 Feb

I love comedian memoirs. That might be kind of niche, but there are enough books in this genre that I feel it’s safe to make that blanket statement. I’ve read many I enjoyed and about the time I read Bossypants by Tina Fey, I was also binge-watching The Office on Netflix. Logically, enjoying both, I wanted to read Mindy’s book. I found it a few months later at a massive book sale and I’ve been waiting to read it for a while.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Summary from Goodreads:

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka

Having read in this genre before, I knew this book could go one of two ways: 1) memoir of her life up until the point of writing or 2) sporadic, jumping around commentary on life. This book was oddly a mix of the two. Mindy followed her life pretty steadily until she broke into writing and then skipped around with parts that sounded like bits she had no show to write them into. I enjoyed the first part more than the second half. I would have liked to hear more about Mindy on The Office. She devoted one chapter to it and while it was the longest of her chapters, it was still short in comparison to the length of the book.

Mindy portrays herself in a very relatable light. She seems like your average everyday young woman and I think many people have a friend who is reminiscent of Mindy. It was refreshing to read that someone who is invited to awards shows also sits at home in her pajamas or cries over TV shows or calls their mom when something weird happens with her eye. She did seem to focus a lot on how she looked and fret about it, which was something I hadn’t read in a memoir before but I can most certainly understand.

There weren’t any major characters in Mindy’s story. Her parents showed up from time to time, as did her brother, and then a few roommates from college but no one who was a major part of Mindy’s story through the whole thing. I noticed this in a few other memoirs I read about celebrities and I wonder if there’s some celebrity editor who recommends this. How do I get that job?

Mindy Kaling Image via Paste Magazine

Mindy Kaling
Image via Paste Magazine

Mindy made a few predictions in the book which have wound up being true. First was a female Ghostbusters and the second was an Oceans 5 but which will actually be Oceans 8 but close enough. There were some things that dated the book as well. Most notably the Blackberry references and talking about how Amy Poehler and Will Arnett are a great couple that all couples should strive to be like. While funny and grounding, these made the book feel ‘old’ six years after publication.

I think this book would have been better as an audiobook. I know Kaling’s style only as far as Kelly is a reflection of how she really talks. If Kelly is nothing like her, I have no idea how some of her jokes were supposed to come off. I might have missed a few that fell flat without her inflection. I couldn’t tell if she was actually at odds with Rainn Wilson or if they were the kind of super-close friends who rag on each other all the time. Audiobook could have helped there.

 

Mindy stresses her body image a lot. As a woman in Hollywood, she’s pressured to fit into a certain body style and she just doesn’t do that. She says she’s the average American woman and I would argue she’s probably a little smaller than average. Anyway, she’s constantly forced to dress in a way that stylists think is appropriate for her body type instead of what she wants. She talks about the pushback she’s gotten from this and I think it’s her main message. She’s trying her best to be comfortable in her own skin but she’s pushed back on a lot. I think Kaling is a good role model for girls. She’s a minority, a woman, and not a size 0 but she’s still funny. That’s a great combination.

Writer’s Takeaway: The second half of the book seemed thrown together to me. Her stories would bounce back to college or The Office and there wasn’t a strong sense of a timeline like there had been in the first half. I would have liked a little more structure to it.

A fun and quick read by a funny woman. 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: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling | Book Spoils
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling | Literary and Lovely

WWW Wednesday, 15-February-2017

15 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm 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.


phone-callCurrently reading: My husband and I were finally able to listen to some of Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. We had four hours in the car and got through some of it. This is a really long book so we might be at this one for a while. We have next weekend to get through a bit more.
I’ve been making steady progress on The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler during lunch and doctor’s appointments. I’ll keep it up at this pace as much as I can. Lunch has also transformed itself into a study time for me which might take over a bit.
I started reading Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling. It’s great reading this now because it’s moving super fast and I can pick it up and put it down easily as school makes other demands on my time. I should finish it soon.
I also started The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom on audio. Albom narrates the story which is a fun twist. He loves basing his books here in Michigan (where he’s also from) which makes fun reading for me!

awayRecently finished: I knocked out Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling really fast. Celebrity memoirs tend to be fast reads and I enjoyed getting through this one fast. My review will come up tomorrow so look out for that.
My review of Away by Amy Bloom posted yesterday. I liked the book but was disappointed by the ending. I thought it seemed like the main character gave up at the end and that disappointed me.

My review of El misterio de la guia de  ferrocarriles by Agatha Christie posted last Thursday. Thanks again to those who commented on it, I’m really excited about having finished it so quickly!

nightsoldiersReading Next: Night Soldiers by Alan Furst is in transit! I should be able to pick it up from the library soon and get started on it. I’m keeping my 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!

Book Review: Away by Amy Bloom (3/5)

14 Feb

The page-a-day book themed calendar I had in 2013 has struck again! This calendar filled my Goodreads shelves when I fist started using the software and there are many on there to this day that I have yet to read. (Actually 6, I just checked.) It won me over saying only that it was set in the 1920s. It doesn’t take much prodding to get me to read if that’s the setting.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Away by Amy Bloom

Summary from Goodreads:

Panoramic in scope, Away is the epic and intimate story of young Lillian Leyb, a dangerous innocent, an accidental heroine. When her family is destroyed in a Russian pogrom, Lillian comes to America alone, determined to make her way in a new land. When word comes that her daughter, Sophie, might still be alive, Lillian embarks on an odyssey that takes her from the world of the Yiddish theater on New York’s Lower East Side, to Seattle’s Jazz District, and up to Alaska, along the fabled Telegraph Trail toward Siberia.

Lillian’s story was epic, to say the least. What started as a young immigrant trying to make a living in New York turned to the story of a mistress and from there to a murderer to a convict and finally to a frontierswoman. She endured the hardships of every place she went to an extent that bordered on unbelievable. Each part of her journey could have been a short story that, strung together, was Lillian’s journey from Russia to New York to Alaska.

I enjoyed the side characters in this story and I think Bloom knew she created some great ones. Lillian endures and while that’s admirable, she’s very fluid, adapting to what’s around her at the time. It’s the people she’s adapting to that make the story interesting. The Burstein men are hiding secrets left and right and Lillian becomes an accomplice. Gumdrop wants to redefine her life and sees Lillian as a kindred spirit though they are so different. John Bishop is quiet and introspective and his fierce loyalty has already caused him one heartbreak. Each of these characters (and others I haven’t mentioned) were very different from each other and from Lillian. They marked her journey to Alaska and are what made it memorable.

Gumdrop was a favorite of mine. She seemed very bland at first and desperate. But as she reveals her story to Lillian, talking about her mother and child, she becomes a much deeper character. I loved the scene with her, Lillian, and Snooky. It was dark but really showed Gumdrop’s strength and all Lillian would do for Sophie. I adored that Bloom gave us short stories about what happened to the strongest side characters after Lillian leaves their lives. Gumdrop has the best story, in my opinion, and lives out the dream she always wanted.

I related best to Lillian when she was living in New York. While she wanted to work, she was also forced to act the perfect wife which I think a lot of modern women can relate to. She felt cooped up in the apartment waiting for Meyer and she would get upset when he’d come later than expected. She wanted to be respected and valued and I’m sure every woman has wanted this from someone in their life, either a father, boss, friend, teacher or romantic partner. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where some men want women in traditional roles and more and more women are finding them unfulfilling.

Amy Bloom Image via the author's website

Amy Bloom
Image via the author’s website

I found Lillian’s walk to Dawson most intriguing and a bit unbelievable. Maybe I didn’t catch it, but how could she have survived with no shelter in the cold in that part of Canada? Were there cabins each a day’s walk from each other? They weren’t all mentioned, to be sure, but there had to have been something to keep her going. Her food was explained and with snow around, water wouldn’t have been an issue, it’s the shelter that gets me. Anyway, it was sill my favorite part of the book. Her determination is evident and so strong. Each step, she knows it’s to find Sophie that she continues and while she’s excited, she also seems scared and rightfully so. I saw how strong Lillian was in this part.

The ending was my least favorite part and I’m going to talk about it here so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want it spoiled. I thought Lillian gave up too easily. It wasn’t like her to give up. She was so determined and spent so much time trying to get to Siberia just to give up, especially when someone who wanted to help her showed up. I get that she had almost no chance of finding Sophie, but she was so sure it could happen. Maybe they were both better off with the way things turned out, but I think Lillian would have kept pushing forward.

The audiobook was narrated by Barbara Rosenblat and I thought she did an amazing job. She gave Lillian an appropriate accent and portrayed the numerous side characters in great ways. Her voice was good for a sweeping narrative of America and Canada which follows a Russian Jewish immigrant. That’s got to be a niche market.

Lillian is driven by love for her daughter. That’s a very powerful force. She comes to respect her late husband less and less which is sad, but her love for Sophie never wavers. The things she did to get to Sophie from letting men take advantage of her to murder to unimaginable physical pain are incredible. That love drove this novel.

Writer’s Takeaway: As a reader, I hate when characters are dropped and I’m left wondering what happened to them. I felt Bloom gave her side characters good closure without dwelling on them. Gumdrop or Chinky or the Bursteins are wrapped up nicely, with just enough information to keep my wandering mind at bay. I liked this technique a lot.

A good read but a bit unbelievable and a bit disappointing in the end. 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 Post:
Just my final thoughts on the ending of Amy Bloom’s ‘Away’ | The Northshore Book Club

‘Z’ TV Series- I hate hating F. Scott Fitzgerald

13 Feb

Poster via Amazon

Poster via Amazon

Normally, the targeted ads I see online are random things I Googled once and I can ignore them. But from time to time, they’re something I’m head-over-heels excited about and this is one of those times. Amazon did a 10-episode series about Zelda Fitzgerald based on Therese Anne Fowler’s novel Z which I read last year. I was super excited and got to watching it right away.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Zelda. Wow, Christina Ricci was amazing in this series. Her accent, her dress, her reactions, it was all great. I could see Zelda in Montgomery and she was a rebel when she wanted to be and a southern lady when she wanted to be. And then in New York, she was almost the same. She was an icon when she wanted to be and a wife when she wanted to be. Her character is very adaptable but at the same time, has a strong personality and sense of who she is. I loved it.

Montgomery. I’ve considered going to Montgomery now that I’ve seen this. It could be a great winter-time vacation when I’m sick of the snow. It was beautiful and it gave off a great feeling of home that helps me understand why Zelda wants to go back.

The Flapper look. The look Zelda creates developed slowly through the show and I thought it was wonderful. She has all of her frills and lace that she loves so much but doesn’t fit in with New York women. When she tries to blend in with their clothes, she realizes it isn’t for her and the way she finds her own median is wonderful. The show does a great job of showing her settle into her own style.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Visiting Princeton. I don’t remember this from the book but I could be wrong. It gave a really good sense of Scott’s personality. He had kept from Zelda that he never finished school like he’s kept many other things from her. He made the whole thing so about himself that it ruined things for everyone else. He signed books that weren’t his and that he couldn’t pay for. He threw a fit and insulted people who supported him. He got drunk to avoid confrontation and put himself in a terrible situation. It was very telling of how their life would continue forward.

Cover Image via Goodreads

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

Zelda’s birthday party. The party he puts on for her was a turning point in the book when Zelda started taking him seriously as a suitor. I think it would have played out wonderfully on-screen, but it was for some reason overlooked.

Zelda’s awareness of their financial troubles. She is more aware in the book early on of his excessive spending and reins herself back. She rejects some of his extravagant gifts (again, not in the show) and encourages him to not celebrate as much. All of this was missing.

Things That Changed Too Much

Scott. I didn’t like the Scott in the book much, but the one in the show made me angry. He was so full of himself that he was completely unlikable and I felt the actor was terrible. He never seemed serious, only joking or angry. He didn’t spoil Zelda at all and when she complained, wrote her off completely. This show has made me hate Scott so much.

I hope there will be more seasons of this show. Scottie hasn’t even been born yet and Fowler has so much more of Zelda’s story to share. The very opening implied that the show would go through the entire novel and I hope I get to see that. Reader, have you seen the TV show? What did you think?

Until next time, write on.