Archive | April, 2018

Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (4/5)

30 Apr

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I’m a bit ‘done’ with World War II novels. I think they’re overdone in the last few years. That’s not to say they’re not amazing, but I think after Sarah’s Key, Life After Life, All the Light We Cannot See, The Gurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Book Thief, etc., I could use a break from the setting. Especially those set in Europe. I adored most of these books, don’t get me wrong. I’m just looking for something fresh and new in Historical Fiction. This is why I went into The Nightingale very skeptical. It was going to have to be a stand-out novel to really blow me away. And it was very good. I think if I’d read it before these others, I would have loved it to death. It’s just a timing thing.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Summary from Goodreads:

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.

I kept waiting for something completely original to come, something that would surprise me and knock me off of my feet. It didn’t happen to me which is why I couldn’t give this book five stars. However, it was very good. I loved the character development, the changing points of view, and the breadth of coverage of historical facts. With the two sisters, we see two very different sides of a war and how someone can survive a war. I loved how much they overlapped and came to be like one another. I thought Hannah set up her plot beautifully and moved it along at a good pace. For such a long book, it never dragged. Like I’ve said, it only suffered to me because it’s one in a long line of WWII novels.

I thought Vianne and Isabelle were great protagonists to show the war unfold. I also liked that their losses were real and painful. Losing a friend, neighbor, colleague, or family member doesn’t happen slowly in war: it happens all at once. Decisions have to be made suddenly even when they’re difficult. I thought these women were strong but realistically so. I loved Isabelle and her determination to help. I loved Vianne and her determination to protect. This book gave two wonderful role models and showed how it felt to be in an occupied country. It was well researched and a joy to read.

I related better to Isabelle than Vianne and I liked her better because of that. I don’t have children, or I may have related to Vianne better. Isabelle was younger than me when the war started and I was able to remember my first love and convictions I felt (and still feel) to do what’s right. She didn’t have anyone holding her back and she came across as brave and strong and I respected her. I would have been terrified to do what she did and I can only hope I’d have the same determination and bravery.

It’s hard to imagine living at a time when so many freedoms were stripped of people. I’ve never felt it to the same extreme as the people of occupied France. Things they would have never considered (murder, rape, human trafficking, giving children to strangers) became necessary. It’s hard to fathom such desperation in modern America.

Kristin Hannah
Image via USA Today

I was intrigued by Isabelle establishing herself in the underground efforts. It was interesting to see her being vetted and only slowly being given responsibilities as they grew to trust her. Being inside her head, we wanted to scream at these people that they could trust Isabelle, but they had no way of knowing that and it’s a credit to Hannah’s writing that the slow process of her coming into the fold was worth the wait.

The scene with the dead airman was my least favorite. I felt it turned the plot in a dark direction when it was already going to end up somewhere terrible. Putting a rift between Vianne and Isabelle didn’t add anything to me. Things would have played out the same way without it in my opinion. I think bringing in von Richter was a good way to move the plot but I think it could have been done without a fight between the sisters.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Polly Stone. She did an amazing job. She did French accents and German accents for the characters that weren’t distracting and added to the storytelling. She put great drama into her voice and built up suspenseful moments and languished in happy ones. I listened to her reading of Sarah’s Key as well and I hope she continues to narrate, but possibly something that’s not WWII fiction set in France.

Family creates a bond that’s hard to break. Even though the sisters did not get along growing up and their lives have been lived separately, their bond couldn’t be broken. Even though their father ignored them and pushed them away for years, he was there when they needed him. A family is tested in war but it can be tested in other situations as well. It’s hard to break that bond and I’ve seen times when it has been shattered. I wonder if that would happen if the bond was tested as much as a war can test a family. I bet there would be more reconciliations.

Writer’s Takeaway:  Hannah’s pacing is incredible. With such a long book, I was afraid of downtime and slow parts of the plot. I didn’t get any. There were tense moments peppered throughout that kept the plot moving at a blistering pace for such a long book. Having a setting that lent itself to so much drama and action helped a lot. The conflict inherent in the setting was great and a good pick for any book.

I enjoyed this book and I wish I’d read it before so many of the other WWII titles I’ve read. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah | Amy’s Ever-Growing Bookshelf
#18: A Book With a Blue Cover | So Many Books
The Nightingale – by Kristin Hannah | Pages and Margins
Book Discussion – The Nightingale | Never Enough Novels
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah | The Next Book on the Shelf

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Off Topic Thursday: Cycling

26 Apr

I’d almost forgotten it was Off Topic Thursday! My husband had to remind me when I was talking through my weekly posts with him. I’m so excited to share another thing I love outside of books, cycling!

I learned to ride a bike as a kid and my mom always enjoyed scenic rides around the area. When I started a sedentary job, I knew I would fight an uphill battle to stay fit before my wedding. I saw a sign in the office for the corporate Bike MS team and decided to join. That was 2013. I rode 50 miles in one day and raised $250. To get in shape, I found a local easy-going bike club and recruited my husband on a few rides. It’s only grown from there.

Last year was my fifth year of Bike MS and I’ve done three of the four courses offered in Michigan. My husband joined me for my second year and this summer he’ll hit his fifth year. Here’s a picture of us from 2016.

We’ve had a great time riding for Team Ford and I don’t see a reason we’ll stop doing this. If you’re interested in donating toward our 2018 ride (scheduled for July 14-15), you can donate at the link below.

Donated to Bike MS 2018!

Of course, Bike MS isn’t the only reason I cycle. Cycling is a key part of one of my biggest hobbies, triathlons. Most of the time I rode my bike last year, it was alone. I’m anticipating the same this year though my favorite route is closed for construction all summer. I’ll have to find something new.

I love cycling and enjoying nature on a bike. It’s fun to go fast, too! I’m not super fast myself but I do enjoy the ride. My goal for this year is to get faster and be more comfortable on the bike. I got a professional fitting in February so I’m excited to try it out on the road.

Any other cyclist out there? Competitive or recreational? Here’s a picture of my bike (Fuji Gran Fondo). Let me see yours!

View this post on Instagram

Now with pedals and aerobar! #bikenerd

A post shared by Sam Ann Elizabeth (@samannelizabeth) on

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, 25-April-2018

25 Apr

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.


Currently reading: Lots of driving for work and the emergence of spring means that I’ve made significant progress on The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. The book’s really good and I found myself moved near to tears at one point (no, I wasn’t chopping onions). I know the big question is if the older woman in the 1990s timeline is one of the sisters or not and I keep changing my guess. Please, no one tell me!
I’m getting there on The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s still slow for me. This part of the book has been jumping around in time and character and I’m not enjoying it at all. I often find myself confused about who’s talking and if it’s in the timeline or a flashback. I’ll be glad to finish this one.
I’ve made some fair progress on An Abundance of Katherines by John Green but not too much. It’s enjoyable still but not sucking me in yet. John Green tends to suck me in late so I’m waiting for it.
I was able to start Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs and I’m already over half way through it. I adore Jacobs’ writing voice and I’m also a big fan of all the health tips and tricks I’m picking up along the way! I bet this one is off this list by next week. Seriously.

Recently finished: I finally finished Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling! It was great to finish this one up after so long at it. There’s my Spanish book for the year. Phew. I posted my review of the book yesterday so please check that out when you get a minute. It’s not my traditional review, but I’m guessing if you wanted to read it, you probably have by now. Or at least saw the movie. Either way, you likely know the plot by now and I’m not going to say anything new original that you haven’t heard or thought before. It’s pretty much me gushing, I’ll be honest. Oh well.

Reading Next: I hope to finally start Mister Monkey by Francine Prose soon. I’m getting close to the end of Nightingale so it shouldn’t be far off. I still have no idea what this book is about, but I’m looking forward to finding out!
In my efforts to tackle Mt. TBR, I’ve requested an inter-library loan of the book currently sitting on the top, What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self by Ellyn Spragins. It’s a collection of letters and life advice from successful women in various fields. I think it will be a good pick-me-up as I struggle through finals and get ready to head into an accelerated summer class. At least I hope it is.


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: Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte (4/5)

24 Apr

I did it! I finally finished my Spanish language book for 2018. It took me almost four months this time but I’m so glad to say I finally finished and even more excited because it means I’ve finished my read through in Spanish which I started in 2012. Yep, it was that long. I started off strong and read the first four in a year but then I slowed way down when I started working full-time. But it’s done and I’m now working on the illustrated versions as they’re released. I’m currently behind and only on the second book. But that’s a story for another post.

Cover image via Goodreads

Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte (Harry Potter #7) by J.K. Rowling

Other books by Rowling reviewed on this blog:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
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)
Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Summary from Goodreads:

Concluye así la serie más vendida de la historia de la edición, que a la postre se ha revelado como un gigantesco puzzle literario de casi 3.700 páginas dividido en siete partes. Con un ritmo infernal que corta el aliento, y un final tan emocionante como inesperado, el último libro constituye un broche de oro en el que infinidad de detalles que surgieron en las seis entregas anteriores cobran sentido y tienen una explicación exacta, dejando al lector maravillado ante tan inmensa obra de relojería.

Man, did my spell check hate the Spanish summary. Oh well. If you don’t know what this book is about, I’m not going to spoil it by posting the summary in English. You’ll have to read the first six first (or at least those summaries). This was one of my least favorite books in the series when I read it the first time and I liked it marginally more now, having watched the final movie enough and recognizing the deep emotions that I flew past when reading it the first time (and admittedly skimming them again this time). I liked the structure that the books got when they focused on a year at Hogwarts. There was Quidditch (except book 4), classes, holidays, and a huge host of characters that showed up each year. I missed this structure in the final book and even though there are epic adventures, there was minimal McGonnagal. And that’s sad no matter how you slice it.

I think one of the reasons this book translated well to screen for me was because the emotional turmoil that Harry goes through fell flat to me a bit on the page. These characters are going through a war and it was hard for me to see that Ron was so moved by his brother’s death or that Harry was scared to face his death. The writing worked better for me in the first six books but it was a bit lacking for me in this one.

I don’t normally say this with Potter books, but Harry was my favorite character in this one. He’s finally matured and stopped yelling at everyone which is really refreshing. He’s also very strong when it’s needed of him. He figures things out and is smart, but not unbelievably so because he asks for help when he needs it. And I can’t forget brave. He’s very brave in this book but he shows his weakness. With the way the plot’s structured, you’re a bit out of luck if you don’t like Harry in this book because the other characters don’t play as big of a role.

Unfortunately, the characters aren’t very relatable in this book. The situation Harry’s going through is very unique and it’s not very comparable to anything in my everyday life. At this point in the series, I’m reading because of my investment in the story, not because I feel a personal connection to the characters.

J.K. Rowling
Image via The Telegraph

I read this over such a long period of time that it’s hard to remember specific parts I enjoyed. I did like the time at Shell Cottage, which was drastically shortened in the movies. I’d forgotten how much they disliked Griphook and it was such a joy when Remus showed up to announce Teddy’s birth.

I’m not a fan of the epilogue. It does show that everything was able to return to normal, in a way, but it also shows that people chose odd names for their children and sets up for a sequel that I’m still sorting my feelings out about. I think it could have involved a lot less name dropping and focused more on Harry and Albus. It was too busy for me.

 

Love was a very strong theme in this last book. Ron and Hermione’s feelings for one another, Harry for Ginny, love between family members and loving friendships. Voldemort’s lack of love was not as obvious to me as I wish it had been, but I did see some great examples of it. Someone who kills a loyal follower like Severus as quickly as Voldemort did is clearly incapable of love. You do get a glimpse of Bellatrix’s feelings for Voldemort, though, and I liked realizing that wasn’t as much of an afterthought as I originally thought it might have been.

Writer’s Takeaway: Wrapping up a series can be incredibly difficult and I really commend Rowling for how well she was able to do it. Of course, not everyone will be satisfied. But she did a great job of tying up her loose ends and giving readers the ending they wanted without it being easy to get. I can’t say I ever plan to write a seven book series, but if I do, I hope I can wrap it up as well.

Overall an amazing book but hard to compare it to the other amazing books in this series. 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:
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling (Book 7) | NardiViews
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling | One Book Two
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows | Vulpes Libris

Writers’ Group: Culture

23 Apr

Somehow I convinced my writers’ group to let me lead them this month. I didn’t drug them, I swear!

I had a flashback to my semester of sociology in college and remembered the seven elements of culture. Well, I couldn’t find a list of seven and my Google searching gave me ten. When you’re writing a historical setting or a fictional setting, it can be really helpful to think more about the background of your setting in terms of these elements. There’s a lot more to creating a world, race, or religion than you’d think!

  1. Economic System– We’ll start with the boring ones. Well, probably the borning ones. If you’re writing about a currency revolution, this might be really exciting. Normally, this is more of a background element to a culture. It sets up how goods and services are exchanged. Currency and bartering would be most common.
    • Example: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter uses galleons, sickles, and knuts. Not our filthy Muggle money.
  2. A Form of Government– Again, this could be exciting or boring depending on your story. The government in A Song of Ice and Fire is central to the plot while The Fault in Our Stars doesn’t mention who’s president. If you’re writing about royalty or politics, this is a big one to think about. Otherwise, it’s likely a background element that you should give a few second’s thought to.
    • Understanding the legal system and how corrupt it was in the 1920s is helping me with my novel set in that time period.
  3. Symbols– Now we’re getting to it. A symbol is a visual that stands for something. It should evoke a reaction from the members. It’s a form of nonverbal communication or a material object. The meaning one group attaches to the symbol may be different from another group which makes a symbol unique to each culture.
    • US President Richard Nixon made a hand symbol while visiting Brazil that means ‘OK’ here but meant something very rude to Brazilians!
  4. Language– This one may seem obvious. For people to share a culture, they need to share a language to communicate. However, language can also divide cultures. Think of different regions of a country. How I speak in Michigan is going to be different from someone in Texas. Meanings of words vary by country (chips) and region (Coke).
    • My first conversation after landing in London was with the woman at the coffee counter. She asked me if it was “For here or take away?” I stared at her for twenty seconds before responding, “To go.” My jet lag brain didn’t process what had happened until the next day.
  5. Rituals– These often mark a transition in life and many are religiously based. In the US, the Super Sweet Sixteen is a non-religious ritual. Rituals often have established procedures or ceremonies, like a wedding or funeral.
    • Again to Harry Potter, having the trace lifted is a ritual that signifies someone has grown up.
  6. Artifacts– An artifact is an element of material culture that holds meaning for that culture. In modern times, our artifacts change quickly because of technology. My simple Nokia phone from middle school seems like an ancient artifact next to my iPhone 7. These can include the household tools and clothes of a people and are very important to visualizing and describing the setting.
    • A book set in ancient Rome wouldn’t have watches but the togas and shoes the people wear are going to be essential in setting the scene.
  7. Social Organization– This mainly covers family patterns and social classes. Does my imagined race of blue centaurs live in herds or do they hunt alone? Would the poor and the rich be able to eat at the same restaurant? How people interact and who they interact with defines the social organization.
    • In The Space Between Us, Serabai lives with her mother in law because of the traditional family patterns in Mumbai.
  8. Customs and Traditions– This is a big one. I’ll break it into two major groups, values and norms. Values are judgments of good and bad that a society has. They define something as desirable or undesirable and shape the way people act. Norms are these ways of acting. They are accepted standards and expectations for behavior. They can be formal norms which are strictly adhered to and called mores. The most important norms are made into laws and enforced with a punishment for breaking them. Informal norms are called folkways or customs and do not carry a strong stigma if they are violated.
    • Because American culture values individual achievement, it’s a norm that we don’t use all of our vacation days (unfortunately).
  9. Religion– While not every person practices a religion, most societies (especially in past times) have one. Before modern science, people answered the questions of the universe with a supreme being, be it God, Zeus, or Krishna. While a culture might not have a god, chances are they do.
    • Many wars are fought over religion. There are too many A Song of Ice and Fire examples to count.
  10. Art and Literature– The best for last! Art and literature might be a subcategory of artifacts, but they’re not always material. Stories can be passed on orally and many times these stories reinforce customs and traditions. They’re also an example of entertainment in the culture.
    • The Tale of the Three Brothers in Harry Potter warns young witches and wizards about the dangers of power and living in the past. And it tells the origin story of the Deathly Hallows

I hope I haven’t bored you too much! My group assured me this was helpful but they’re too nice. 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: History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

19 Apr

My book club met last week to talk about a book I really enjoyed, History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. The consensus was that we liked the book but it wasn’t what we expected. The title and the first few chapters gave us a different sense of what we would read than the rest of the book delivered. The young protagonist gave the sense at times that this might be a YA novel, but the themes and writing were clearly not YA. Fridlund has said in an interview that she likes writing the YA perspective but that it didn’t mean her books were YA novels.

The structure of the book was somewhat unusual. We know from the first few pages that Paul will die. The story is like a mystery because we’re trying to figure out why and who. Knowing that he’s going to die gave the whole book a sense of foreboding that kept us on our toes. We kept waiting for it to happen and we didn’t know if he’d be attacked in the woods or fall into the water on a canoe trip. It also made Linda seem sinister. She always seemed a little off and while I personally doubted she would hurt Paul, it made me feel like she’d be complicit somehow. In a way, she was. A bit.

The book was split into two sections, Science and Health. The titles seem to come for the Christian Science text, the book of Science and Health. The book also had two plot lines which some of us struggled with (see my review for my personal grievances). We talked about how they were intertwined. The biggest was grappling with action versus inaction. In both cases, there was someone who felt guilty for doing nothing. Linda struggled with feeling that she should have done more to help Paul. Mr. Grierson struggled with convictions for something he didn’t do but thought of doing. They both felt guilty. When Linda is angry after the trail, she wants to lash out at Patra but she can’t. Instead, she thinks of lashing out at Lilly. The two plots also played with the idea of the predator being prey. While Leo seems like an alpha male predator, he also suffers the death of his son. While Lilly is the teenage girl who ends up ‘in trouble,’ she also ruins Mr. Grierson’s reputation and gets him sent off to jail. The punishment in the two plot lines contrasts as well. Both the Gardner’s and Mr. Grierson did nothing wrong. However, Mr. Grierson’s other crimes were dragged up and he ended in jail. The Gardner’s inaction resulted in their son’s death and they didn’t serve any criminal charges. Christian Science convictions of negligence have varied by state, per one of our group members. In another state, it might have ended differently.

Linda’s home life did not prepare her well for the life she experienced with the Gardners. She finally felt loved in their home and she felt like Patra needed her. She was afraid to act against Patra because she didn’t want to be rejected from the first place she felt loved. Linda was an outcast at school and since Tamika left, she hadn’t had a female friend. She was so desperate to be Patra’s friend that at some points, we wondered if there was anything sexual between them, but ultimately decided there must have been just Linda’s lack of understanding. Linda’s relationship with her mother seemed strained as well. After the trial, the emotional turmoil Linda had to go through, her mother wouldn’t comfort her. We debated if they were really related (we don’t understand the beliefs of their commune very well) and if her mother was mentally stable. The anecdote of her living in the shed for a winter doesn’t emphasize sound judgment.

For anyone interested, I do encourage you to look up a bit about Christian Science. There was some confusion in our group about the differences between Christian Science and Scientology. They are quite different!

We’ll meet once more in May before taking a break for the summer. I always miss these fine folks during my summer adventures!

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-April-2018

18 Apr

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.


Currently reading: I’m. So. Close! I’m on the last chapter of Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte by J.K. Rowling but my week has been just nuts and I haven’t had a lot of time to read it at night. I swear I’ll get to it by next week, promise!
The Midwestern weather has been terrible so I haven’t done much running and thus not much listening to The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I’m still enjoying the story and hoping something radical happens so I can see why people loved this one more than other WWII fiction. I’m still a bit neutral on it.
To be honest, I’m not enjoying The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro much at all. I know his books keep something hidden from the reader, but I’m lost and confused at this point and I’d really like a clue as to where this one is going. Maybe it will recover, but I’m not counting on it. I’m just trying to finish this one.
I haven’t gotten through much of An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. It’s a rather short book so it shouldn’t take too much longer but I haven’t had lunches to read during. My crazy week involves work and working through lunch. Yuck.

Recently finished: I’m sad to say I have none to report! With two wrapping up last week, it’s not a huge surprise. I’m feeling good about having some for next week, though. Positive thoughts.

I was able to post one review for The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp. It went up last Thursday and I gave the book 4 out of 5 Stars.

Reading Next: I’ll start Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs as soon as I finish Potter. I’m looking forward to a fun read!
Once I finish The Nightingale, I have another book club pick to enjoy as an audiobook. The next one is Mister Monkey by Francine Prose. I know nothing about this one and I’m excited to go into it blind! That’s honestly my favorite way to enjoy a 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!

‘The Spectacular Now’ Movie Review

17 Apr

Image via Movie Poster Shop

I’ve been watching a lot of movies based on books lately! It’s been a good way for me to relax while school has been crazy. I watch them in two or three chunks which drives my husband crazy and ensures I get to watch them alone! I hadn’t heard of this book until I saw the trailer for The Spectacular Now so I had to watch the movie right away!

Things I Thought Were Awesome

The narration as a college essay. I was wondering how the writers would get Sutter’s strong voice to influence the story but using a college essay at the beginning and end was a great way to get his personality across and emphasize how he changed. Kudos!

Sutter’s dad. This wasn’t awesome in a way that means ‘cool’ but in a way that means ‘well done, writers.’ I hated Mr. Keely even more in the movie than I did in the book and he was pretty terrible in both. How little he cares about seeing his son after so many years is really depressing and seeing him go back to the bar instead of home to see Sutter was infuriating. I understood Sutter’s anger better and why Aimee was more worried about Sutter than herself after the car accident.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Simplifying his relationship with Holly. The opening when Sutter sets a fire in Holly’s house set the tone well for how combative the two would be and helped the reader understand why Holly is so reluctant to give Sutter his dad’s information. I think implying they didn’t have a lot in common and the obvious age gap between them was enough and I’m glad they took it out.

Cover image via Goodreads

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

Aimee’s drinking. The amount Aimee drank and the problems she started running into with drinking were a major message in the book. I felt this was a bit glossed over in favor of Sutter’s drinking problems in the film. Book Aimee is drinking to excess and getting sick from it while movie Aimee is having a few drinks to have fun but seems to be encouraging Sutter more than anything else. I think the change in Aimee was a big part of the book ending. With the ending change (see below), it makes a bit more sense the way the movie went.

Things That Changed Too Much

The ending. I didn’t like it. (Major spoilers for the rest of this paragraph.) In the book, Sutter had Aimee leave because it was best for her. He didn’t have his own things sorted out but knew she was in a good place and was set up to succeed in life. He recognized that he was a boost she needed to reach her goals. In the movie, he just abandons her and she almost stays for him but at the last minute, she goes anyway. I thought this was really against the book’s idea of pushing her out of the nest. Especially when he shows up in Philly to see her! That really rubbed me the wrong way. Book Sutter realized she needed him for a time and that time was over. Movie Sutter wanted to fix his own mistake and get back with her. I didn’t like the change, it made me lose some respect for Sutter.

Cassidy and Krystal. Small, but a Hollywood change I didn’t like. Cassidy and Krystal were fat! It was in the book, multiple times in Cassidy’s case. But in the movie, because Hollywood and women, they’re rail thin. I would have loved a curvaceous Cassidy and I was really hoping it would happen, but no dice. Drats.

This was a fun book and a good movie. Except for the ending, I thought the two were rather comparable. Reader, have you seen The Spectacular Now movie? What did you think?

Until next time, write on.

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

‘The Circle’ Movie Review

16 Apr

Movie poster via Book My Show

FINALLY! I had The Circle on my TBR before the movie was announced but when it came out, I tried to read the book so I could see the movie in theaters and compare them but life (and book clubs) happened and I’m only just now reading and watching. I’m so behind the times. At least I’m trying to catch up!

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Mercer. I know Ellar Coltrane doesn’t look a thing like the Mercer described in the book, but I almost liked him better. Mae seemed really superficial when she started making fun of how Mercer looked so having an attractive guy play him made more sense to me. He still came off as ‘outdoors-y’ and hands-on without an out for teasing him on vanity reasons.

Chasing Mercer. This scene was hard to read and understand in the book but seeing it played out made me really appreciate how he felt chased. It’s easy to see why, after getting death threats from strangers, he wanted to hide and being chased made him flee like an animal.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Taking out Francis. He didn’t add much to the story in my mind. He did give us a baseline for Mae’s ideas of privacy at the beginning of the book and how they changed by the end. But really, he just made me sad most of the time. Better not to have a sad character.

Reducing the feedback systems. There was so much as far as the surveys, PartiRank, influencer scores, ah! It was too much, and that was the point of it all, but it was still overwhelming to read and would have been overwhelming to see in the movie. Better off without it.

Taking out the fish tank. That was a heavy-handed metaphor if I’ve ever read one. It added nothing to the plot and only served to show the three founders as aquatic creatures and see, in a very disturbing feeding practice, how a society can destroy itself.

Cover image via Goodreads

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

Mae’s relationship with Ty/Kalden. I felt this was pretty integral to their teamwork at the end (which I’ll get to later). Without the relationship between them, I felt there wasn’t much for the trust they shared to be based on. I would have argued for the relationship to be left in, especially with Francis being taken out.

Transparency. Mae’s transparency was a big deal, but the number of other people going transparent was really glossed over. There was the one senator, but that didn’t scrape the surface of the number of people in the book who became transparent. I wish it was shown that Mae wasn’t such an anomaly.

Things That Changed Too Much

Warning: all of these are spoilers for the book and the movie. You’ve been warned.

Annie. I thought the way Annie’s story ended in the book was appropriate. There had to be a victim who’d been swept up in the Circle and it was Annie. She was necessary to show the evil in a system like the Circle and without her collapse, the ending seemed almost happy. As much as I hate to say it, Annie needed to end up in that coma.

Ty at the end. I don’t get this one. Why would he want to share Stenton and Eamon’s secrets but not bring down the company? It didn’t make sense to me what he was trying to accomplish. He’d already said that the reason he created TruYou had been twisted and he wasn’t happy with it. Why would he be happy with the Circle’s path and want it to continue? I feel like there’s a deleted scene here that makes this all make sense and makes Mae look like the bad one.

Eamon at the end. I didn’t like him ending up the bad guy after all. I pinned him as the guy who genuinely thought he was doing something for the good of the world and seeing him entrenched in secrets and getting ready to face legal battles ruined his character for me. I wish they’d left him out of it, maybe thrown Stenton under the bus alone. Or, you know, kept the ending from the book. Just saying.

Spoilers over!

Overall, it was a fair representation of the book though, of course, a lot was cut out for time. It was such a long book, I knew a lot had to go. Reader, have you seen The Circle movie? What did you think?

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 Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (4/5)

12 Apr

I hadn’t heard of this book until I saw a short preview of the movie. I think I only saw the one preview but Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley together were enough for me to want to see it. And finding a copy at a used book sale made me determined to read the book first. I finally got to this book as an ebook but I finished it up on paper since I was sick of swiping so fast!

Cover image via Goodreads

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Summary from Goodreads:

So, my girlfriend, Cassidy, is threatening to kick me to the curb again, my best friend suddenly wants to put the brakes on our lives of fabulous fun, my mom and big sister are plotting a future in which I turn into an atomic vampire, and my dad, well, my dad is a big fat question mark that I’m not sure I want the answer to.

Some people would let a senior year like this get them down. Not me. I’m Sutter Keely, master of the party. But don’t mistake a midnight philosopher like me for nothing more than a shallow party boy. Just ask Aimee, the new girl in my life. She saw the depth in the Sutterman from that first moment when she found me passed out on the front lawn. Okay, so she’s a social disaster, but that’s where I come in.

Yes, life is weird, but I embrace the weird. Let everyone else go marching off into their great shining futures if they want. Me, I’ve always been more than content to tip my whisky bottle and take a ride straight into the heart of the spectacular now.

The first thing you notice about this book is the strong narrative voice that Tharp gave Sutter. It took me a while to get used to it. He’s pompous, a bit arrogant, and drunk. Like, he’s always drunk. Which for a high school aged character was a bit concerning. I think Tharp tried to address this as a problem but Sutter is so smooth and confident that it came off like anyone could manage what he was doing, no problems. Once I got past the voice, I really started to like Sutter and the character grew on me. Aimee was sweet and it was interesting to see how she changed through the book. Once the two started dating, I had trouble putting the book down and powered through to the end.

I think the relationships between the characters was very telling of high school. Sutter reminded me of some of the kids from my school and I think everyone knew an Aimee. This made me think Tharp must have some kind of connection to this age group, either through work or his own children. He really seemed to understand the dynamics that kids that age experience but his writing shows great maturity.

As much as I hated him at times, Sutter was my favorite character. He had so many changes to be a deplorable human being and he almost never took them. He would make stupid decisions, but he didn’t do anything I would label as ‘bad.’ He usually had someone else’s best interests at heart when he needed to and he was honest about his faults. If you could get past the loud, abrasive outer shell, he was really sweet inside.

I think I was more like Aimee in high school. Early Aimee, not Aimee toward the end. I did have to learn to speak up for myself, but it didn’t involve the course Aimee had to take. I was shy and I thought more about the future than the present moment. I still do that. I don’t think it’s wrong, per say, but I understand that sometimes, you have to enjoy the moment you’re in. Aimee wasn’t able to enjoy being a high school Senior because she was worried about being a 35-year-old scientist. She needed someone like Sutter to give her some perspective on how to enjoy her life one day at a time.

Tim Tharp
Image via Rose State College

The first party Sutter and Aimee go to together was my favorite. I thought it showed both of their personalities really well and it showed how two people who are so different could still find something in common.

I didn’t like seeing some of the bigger changes that happened to Aimee after she started dating Sutter. Standing up for herself was one thing, but the amount of drinking she was doing was a bit frightening. Especially with her and Sutter driving around after having drinks or drinking while driving around. I thought this was a bit reckless for her and that part of her change really bothered me.

 

Sutter seemed to realize he was in Aimee’s life for a short time but he was going to make a big change in her life while he was there. She needed what he taught her, but he realized she didn’t need him long-term. I thought that was very big of him and I gained a lot of respect for him toward the end of the book. She was good for him, too. She pushed him to do things he was uncomfortable with and appreciate what he had. They were a great couple despite how different they were.

Writer’s Takeaway: As much as it took me some adjusting to get used to it, the narrative voice for this book was incredible. Sutter’s way of talking, word choice, and thoughts added to his character in ways Tharp couldn’t do otherwise. I’ve written a piece with a strong voice and it’s really challenging. I did it for a short story. I’m not sure I could do it for a novel. I wonder if Tharp’s other books are written like this and if so how similar they are. I’m really impressed.

This was an unexpected surprise for me and I’m so glad I read it. 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!

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