Archive | May, 2020

Book Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (4/5)

11 May

I added this to my TBR after it was released because I loved The Night Circus so much. My Reading Buddy and I were looking for our next book to read together and I compiled a shortlist of books I wanted to read and let her choose from it. Thankfully, she chose this title and I couldn’t wait to dig in. I ordered us both copies and put sticky notes at stopping points about every 100 pages which were five sections. I’m a fast reader and she takes her time but we were always able to meet and talk about the book after each section. Somethings she understood, some I understood. Together, I think we got a lot more out of this book than we would have individually. I bet we do one of these again.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Summary from Goodreads:

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.

A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

OK, I’ll say it. This book was a little too much. There were a lot of layers and subplots and characters that kept me guessing but that also felt extra and unresolved in the end. And this was a book where you really had to think, which isn’t what I was ready for. I found myself flipping back 100+ pages often to reference something and often thinking, “That seems familiar” and not knowing where to look for another appearance. Some things were unclear and I felt like I missed something important. This is especially true in the end, the last 60 pages. By then, I was so close to the end and kind of anxious for it to be over so I didn’t bother to go back and look very often.

Zachary, Dorian, and Kat felt real. Since they’re the only major characters who are from our ‘universe,’ it didn’t bother me that most of the other people felt like a stretch. They weren’t supposed to feel real. Zachary’s head is the one we get into the most and he felt the most fleshed out because of it. The things he did made sense and I often found myself making connections that he would make one or two paragraphs later. Dorian confused me a bit because I was unsure how old he was and a lot of his backstory isn’t told well. He states at one point that Allegra raised him, but nothing else is said about this. Kat comes into play more at the end and her fate is a little unclear to me which was frustrating but I do like imagining what it entailed.

Zachary was my favorite character. I connected with him immediately and his love for books was something I related to. My senior year of college was the first time I was taking less than 15 credits and I rewarded myself by getting a library card for the local system and reading fiction again. The ways he reacted to what happened to him were logical and he never made a jump that I couldn’t understand or relate to.

Many of the characters were so shrouded in mystery that they were hard to connect to. Maribel is a perfect example. You think you understand her a bit and have a guess at where she came from, but the story of Simon & Eleanor makes it nearly impossible to think she’s normal anymore, and then she starts getting more and more far fetched.

Erin Morgenstern
Image via Goodreads

Zachary’s initial investigation of the Harbor was my favorite part. Everything is so new and magical that you can’t help falling in love and feeling the same sense of wonder that Zachary is overwhelmed with. It’s wonderfully drawn and the picture in my head was amazing. It’s like the library that I’m sure most bibliophiles wish they could live in.

The end was a bit much for me. From when the Heart fractures to the end. I felt like there was too much to wrap up from there with how many pages were left and I don’t think I’m satisfied with how the book ended and the story we get for many of the characters. For some, I wanted more. For some, less. It felt like a bit of a left turn at the last minute. I’m not sure how I would have ended it, though.

The book deals a lot with fate and changing what you’re fated to do, but I’m not sure we get a strong sense that Zachary was able to change his fate. From what I can figure, he was a pawn used to change someone else’s fate. I think it would have been more telling to know what Allegra foresaw because it’s unclear how much changed from what she saw and how much stayed the same. I get the impression something changed but it’s unclear what and how much of an impact that made.

Writer’s Takeaway: Morgenstern’s ability to create magic is amazing. For the second time, I’m wrapped up in her world and what she’s imagined and I’m not sure I entirely want to leave. Combining the nerd-fantasy elements of our world with the magic of the Starless Sea was great and making me feel like I could end up there somehow; like there was a door waiting for me to open it.

A great ride but a little flat at the end. 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 Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern | Frost Bit Sky
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (5-Star Book Review) | Bookish Heights
The Starless Sea | Bionic Book Worm
INT’L BLOG TOUR: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern | Dexterous_Totalus
The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern | A Bookish Type

Book Review: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz (3/5)

7 May

After Lagercrantz took over this series, I decided to keep reading. I liked the first one, The Girl in the Spider’s Web well enough and decided to keep going. After this one, though, I’m not sure if I’ll soldier on.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Girl Who Take an Eye for an Eye (Millennium #5) by David Lagercrantz (Created by Stieg Larsson and translated by George Goulding)

Other books by Lagercrantz reviewed on this blog:

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Millennium #4)

Summary from Goodreads:

Lisbeth Salander – the girl with the dragon tattoo, the brilliant hacker, the obstinate outsider, the volatile seeker of justice for herself and others – has never been able to uncover the most telling facts of her traumatic childhood, the secrets that might finally, fully explain her to herself. Now, when she sees a chance to uncover them once and for all, she enlists the help of Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of the muckraking, investigative journal Millennium. And nothing will stop her – not the anti-Muslim gang she enrages by rescuing a young woman from their brutality; not the deadly reach from inside the Russian mafia of her long-lost twin sister, Camilla; and not the people who will do anything to keep buried knowledge of a sinister pseudo-scientific experiment known only as The Registry. Once again, Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, together, are the fierce heart of a thrilling full-tilt novel that takes on some of the most insidious problems facing the world at this very moment.

This book didn’t hit a mark for me. I felt like there wasn’t very little about the main characters in this one and that was part of what I’d liked about the original series and the first follow up. Lisbeth is in jail for a lot of the book so she’s restricted. Mikael stars but his relationships with Erika and Lisbeth are almost nonexistent so we don’t get much development from him. Major characters like Leo and Faria never appeared in earlier books and will likely never appear again so I didn’t bother to form any attachment to them. Whereas the first three books (and to a degree the fourth) felt like they were part of a series, this felt like it was part of a serial that Lagercrantz could continue indefinitely so we can’t have an ending for characters who need to perpetuate forever.

Blomkvist felt the most believable to me through the book. Lisbeth didn’t feel like her true self and the other characters weren’t well fleshed out until the end. It was hard to form an attachment to anyone. I love the relationship between Lisbeth and Mikael but it just wasn’t there for me this time and everything felt flat.

Faria was my favorite character and I’m sad she’ll be a one-shot character. Her role in this book and her attachment to Lisbeth were great. I loved flashing to her story and what had happened to her and Jamal; it was just as interesting as the mystery with Leo. I kept hoping for a happy ending for her and I guess what she got was the best I could have asked for.

None of these characters were very relatable which is why I didn’t attach too much to any of them. None of them felt fleshed out enough to be real people besides the two we already knew: Lisbeth and Mikael. I find I feel this way often with thriller or mystery novels. Connecting with the characters isn’t really the point, but it’s something I notice.

David Lagercrantz
Image via Facebook

Finding out the truth about Jamal’s murder was my favorite bit. Lisbeth is finally out of jail and gets to play a role in figuring out the mystery again which is where I think she really shines. She also uses her computer network which is one of her ‘superpowers’ in my mind. It was a throwback to the action of previous books that I enjoyed so much.

Leo’s entire plotline fell flat for me. Especially because I felt the end was a disappointment. (Spoiler here.) I was even more angry that the answer was identical twins separated at birth. It seems like a cheap way of ending something. I was watching Sherlock last night and he even said, “It’s not twins! It’s never twins.” I had to roll my eyes because Lagercrantz didn’t get that memo. I thought we’d done enough with twins because of Lisbeth and Camilla, I didn’t think it needed to come up again.

Simon Vance narrated this audiobook. I can’t find another book he’s narrated when I search for him on this blog but his voice seemed familiar. I thought he did well giving the characters distinct voices, especially older characters like Holgar, and his voices for women didn’t come off as rude or offensive.

This book seemed to lack an overall theme or message. If anything, it was having sympathy for others. No one did much for Faria except Lisbeth and no one felt bad for Leo because they knew he was rich. I don’t think this was a strong theme, though. That’s part of what made this book fall short for me. With no theme or character development, it was a quick mystery and not what I expect from the series.

Writer’s Takeaway: Series need some level of consistency. What I feel happened here is that after replicating Larsson’s style well in his first attempt, Lagercrantz went a bit in his own direction. I wonder if the subsequent novels will be less and less like the original series. I feel this is a bit alienating to readers. People who liked Larsson might not like Lagercrantz, a category I feel I fall in. And those who like Lagercrantz might not have enjoyed the original Larsson. You’d have to be a fan of both to continue with this series.

Not a book I overly enjoyed and not one that makes me want to continue with the series. 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 of “The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye” by David Lagercrantz | Rhapsody in Books Weblog
Book Talk: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz (Millennium #5) | The Punk Theory
Book Review: The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz (Millennium #5) | Keeper of Pages

WWW Wednesday, 6-May-2020

6 May

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 over halfway through White Oleander by Janet Fitch now that it’s in print next to my bed. Crazy demands from work have kept me from reading quite as much as I’d like but I’m making good progress with it and hope to be finished in a few weeks.
It’s been slower with The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel since work picked up. I need to be away from a screen when I’m not working so an ebook isn’t as appealing as print. I’ll keep moving forward with it, I’m sure, but it might slow down to my usual ebook pace.
I started The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson as an audiobook. This isn’t quite the ‘book about books’ I thought it was going to be. Honestly, the titled bookseller could have any other job and it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the plot. I’m a bit up in the air about this one, still. We’ll see.

Recently finished: I wrapped up The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz fairly quickly once it was on my phone. I’m a bit disappointed in this one and I’ll be posting my review tomorrow to detail why. I’m not sure if I’ll continue with the series. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I powered through to the end of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern once I met with my Reading Buddy. We’ll meet very soon to discuss it, I’m sure. I’m still thinking this one over and my review will be up next week. I don’t think I would have gotten nearly as much out of it without my Buddy Reader. There were a lot of references to pop culture and to earlier parts of the book that would have gone over my head.

Reading Next: I still plan to grab Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich as a physical book. I really hope it pushes me to do some writing or editing. That’s one thing this pandemic has stopped that I’d love to get a little motivation to continue.
With the speed I’m going through audiobooks, I have to plan for another one soon. Next up is Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani. This seems like the perfect time for a little YA.


Leave a comment with your link and 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!

Writing Check In- May 2020

5 May

I’ve been wanting to dedicate more time to writing. My husband had the suggestion of making a monthly feature to talk about my writing and how it’s going. It helps keep me honest(ish) and lets you all know when my masterpiece will be released to the world!

This will be short. No change since last month. I haven’t been motivated to write at all. I’ve started my triathlon training routine so I have even less time to put toward writing if I’d wanted to. It seems this goal is going to get pushed off for now at least.

I have to wonder, too, how much good submissions would do. Are agents still reviewing submissions? I know movies have been delayed and I have to imagine that some books have been delayed as well. Without the ability to do book tours, releases will likely not draw as many initial sales as they used to. So would agents clog their pipeline even more? Doubtful.

I’m going to try reading a book about writing soon and see if that helps push me forward. I’ve found that reading books about craft periodically will push me to write at times. I’m hoping it works. You’d think I have more time with quarantine but I’m finding the opposite.

Stay safe, everyone. And 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!

Challenge Update, April 2020

4 May

Another weird month of complete lockdown. It’s funny how much our lives have changed and I wonder when my reading will start to feel normal and less like an escape. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in April:

The Girl in Green // Derek B. Miller (3/5)
Cuando era puertorriqueña // Esmeralda Santiago (4/5)
Pope Francis Speaks to Our Hearts (3/5)
A Mother’s Reckoning // Sue Klebold (4/5)
Moby-Duck // Donovan Hohn (5/5)
The Alice Network // Kate Quinn (4/5)
The Girl Who Took an Eye for an Eye // David Lagercrantz (3/5)

My last review will be up later this week and then I’ll be all caught up. A lot of audiobooks but that’s my norm when I’m training a lot.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

6/12
Any forward progress is good, even if it’s one step. I used A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold to the 1980-1999 time period. The majority of the book focused on Dyland Klebold’s mental state leading up to Columbine that I feel was more prominent than the time after the event.

Goodreads Challenge

21/55
Three ahead! This is the biggest cushion I’ve had in a while. I hope I can keep it up through the summer and this quarantine. I’m finding a lot of comfort in reading, especially on the weekends and I’m enjoying my books a lot so I’m optimistic about this challenge.

Book of the Month

I just adored Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn. The author’s tone kept me interested and always surprised at how far I’d come in the book. The topics were interesting, too, and covered a lot of the implications of the spill and the factors that contributed to it. It was good to read some great non-fiction.

Added to my TBR

I’m at 53 and wondering what I do when the list gets too short. I might have to take recommendations or just browse shelves? Whatever will become of me.

  • Old Baggage by Lisa Evans. This is a book club pick, swapped out for another that our moderator decided sounded too dull.
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. My husband’s friend praised this book and I’m enjoying some Mandel now so it will be fun to enjoy more of her writing later on.
  • The Ghosts of Eden Park by Karen Abbott. A friend from college was recommending non-fiction and included a 1920s gangster book on her list. How could I not add it?
  • Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati. I enjoyed the first book in this series over a year ago and I look forward to continuing with the series!

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. This is a great way to keep me accountable and to tell you about me outside the wide world of books.

  • Triathlon Age Group National Championships: I started training at least. I’m doing two workouts per day six days per week. It’s hard not being able to swim but I’ve found some other exercises to substitute that are helping build core strength. So far, this event is still on. But I’m not optimistic that it will take place. All I can do is wait and see.
  • Submit my novel: I’ll do a whole post on this tomorrow. Suffice it to say, not happening, and may have to get scratched for this year’s goals.

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for this year, 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!