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Book Review: Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols (3/5)

26 Sep

I forget where I heard about this book, but I’ve been wanting to read it for a while. I’ve had good luck with space travel stories so it seemed like a good fit for my interest. I liked the story and the characters just fine, but I never got as into this book as I wanted to. I was able to put it down easily and I was never overly committed to the characters. I’ve been looking forward to writing this review and having time to sort through my feelings on it.

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Cover image via Amazon

Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols

Summary from Amazon:

After Catherine Wells’ ship experiences a deadly incident in deep space and loses contact with NASA, the entire world believes her dead. Miraculously – and mysteriously – she survived, but with little memory of what happened.

Her reentry after a decade away is a turbulent one: Her husband has moved on with another woman, and the young daughter she left behind has grown into a teenager she barely recognizes. Catherine, too, is different. The long years alone changed her, and as she readjusts to being home, sometimes she feels disconnected and even, at times, deep rage toward her family and colleagues. There are periods of time she can’t account for, too, and she begins waking up in increasingly strange and worrisome locations, like restricted areas of NASA.

Suddenly, she’s questioning everything that happened up in space: how her crewmates died, how she survived, and now, what’s happening to her back on Earth.

I liked the premise of this story and the storytelling was done well. I really can’t put my finger on what part of it just fell flat for me. Katherine and David were a very realistic pair and Amy was a great character to be Katherine’s daughter. The space travel was well explained for a non-scientific reader though I cannot attest at all to it’s accuracy. Overall, I just wasn’t blown away by it and I think I expected to be.

I’m not sure how realistic I thought Katherine was. She was relatable at times, and other times she was so hard to understand. It’s hard to empathize with someone who’s explored another planet and was affected the way she was. I think that’s part of what kept me from getting more into this novel. I wanted to connect with her, but I couldn’t. That made Cal the other obvious character to connect with, but he seemed like a jerk for a lot of the story and I didn’t want to empathize with a jerk!

Amy was a really complex character and I liked her. She was really considerate of Katherine’s feelings and at the same time was a believable teenager. She was smart without being unbelievably intelligent. I thought her relationship with Katherine was one of the most complicated ones in the book and Nichols navigated the ups and downs of it well.

I think I’m lucky that I couldn’t relate to any of the characters in this book. I’ve not had a long-term relationship problem like Katherine and David and I think that’s the most relatable part of this SciFi book. Most of the other experiences were pretty unique to the fictionalized situation. Katherine’s problems with alcohol were fueled by the issues she was having with the trip she took so a lot of that didn’t seem relatable to me. This is an issue I know I’ve had with fantasy and SciFi before and I wish I was able to ‘get over it’ but it does keep me from enjoying some of the genre.

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Lisa A. Nichols Image via Goodreads

I thought the inclusion of Iris was done really well. She was brought up as a cautionary story throughout the book in a very subtle way and I just knew she was going to play a role later in the book. I thought the role she played was very appropriate and I liked how she was included. It was a fun little Easter Egg to track.

There wasn’t a part of the book I particularly disliked. That’s what makes giving this book a rating so difficult. It was enjoyable, I didn’t find myself avoiding it in any way. It just didn’t win me over. I thought it was well researched (my non-scientist brain didn’t see any issues at least) and well paced.

The audiobook was narrated by Lisa Flanagan and George Newbern. Flanagan did the majority of the narrating since Katherine had a lot more to say than Cal. I think it could have been done with just a female narrator, but I did like that there were two voices to tell the story. Both did well and didn’t detract from the story in any way. Flanagan did well and helping me feel Katherine’s panic at certain points of her story and helped give the story the sense of anxiety that it needed based on the subject.

Space exploration is a touchy subject. On one hand, many would agree that we’re not acting in the best interest of our planet and it’s not unheard of that we’ll get to a point in the future where it’s not inhabitable here. So looking for another world to inhabit makes sense as a way of future-proofing our race. But doing so is complicated. I believe that it’s probable that we’re not the only beings in the universe (statistically, this seems likely). But what makes us think we can inhabit another planet, especially if someone else is already there? There are countless movies about alien invasion of Earth. What if other species fear us as much as we fear them?

Writer’s Takeaway: Nichols set up a fun story with some interesting characters. I like how this book felt like it was set in a modern time, even though it mentions decades of deep space exploration that doesn’t align with our world. It didn’t seem like a far future and helped me feel more grounded in the story. For me, looking at writing historical fiction, this can be more challenging, but I think it’s a good goal.

Overall, it didn’t excite me but didn’t bore or bother me. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Book Review: Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa (3/5)

6 Sep

I read my first Ogawa book in 2014 and a year later decided I wanted to read another. I enjoyed the shorter format and the way Ogawa wrote. Little did I know the one I picked would be harder to find than I thought. I ended up doing an Interlibrary Loan to get this title. Luckily, it was shorter and I was able to read it quickly and return it before I had to renew. It only took me seven years to get to it.

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Cover image via Amazon

Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa

Other books by Ogawa reviewed on this blog:

The Housekeeper and the Professor (and Book Club Reflection)

Summary from Amazon:

In a crumbling seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother tends to the off-season customers. When one night they are forced to expel a middle-aged man and a prostitute from their room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man’s voice, in what will become the first gesture of a single long seduction. In spite of her provincial surroundings, and her cool but controlling mother, Mari is a sophisticated observer of human desire, and she sees in this man something she has long been looking for.

The man is a proud if threadbare translator living on an island off the coast. A widower, there are whispers around town that he may have murdered his wife. Mari begins to visit him on his island, and he soon initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure, a place in which she finds herself more at ease even than the translator. As Mari’s mother begins to close in on the affair, Mari’s sense of what is suitable and what is desirable are recklessly engaged.

I don’t think I was ready for how sexual this book would be. That would be a huge trigger warning for readers. I thought the seduction would be gentler for some reason so I was a bit shocked at the ways the two were intimate and also the detail about it. Mari is very much an observer so when her role in the story switches to a very active part, I was taken back at first. I think I was surprised more than anything. I was more interested in her relationship with her mother and the maid than the details of their intimacy and I was a little turned off at the switch.

Mari and the translator are very different from myself and the relationships I’ve been in so it’s hard for me to say how accurate they are. I did understand the relationship Mari had with her mother more. Mari is on the cusp of adulthood and wants to be her own person in some ways, but understands she still lives with her mother and is under her control for a little whiles longer. She is passive to preserve the peace but really wants to strike out on her own. I think most teenagers can relate to that.

The nephew was a fun character. Most of the characters weren’t sympathetic or likeable so he might be my favorite by default. His relationship with the translator changed what Mari thought of her lover and it helped humanize him. I loved the unique descriptions of how he would communicate and how in the end, that was how they got caught. It seemed appropriate that he was an artist and it was really easy to picture him painting on the rocks. I was only sad he never returned.

Besides Mari’s relationship with her mother, it was hard for me to relate to the characters in this book. I think that’s why it didn’t resonate with me very well. The feelings the translator and Mari had for each other were very foreign to me, and I don’t think it was cultural differences. It was just very different from my romantic relationships. Mari felt very closed off emotionally and it was hard to relate to her or get into her head. I think it staunched my enjoyment of her character and the book overall.

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Yoko Ogawa Image via Numero Cinq Magazine

I enjoyed the scenes with the nephew toward the end. Having another person come between Mari and the translator shone a light on their relationship that changed how I viewed it as a reader and I think how the two of them viewed it as participants. They had to see each other in a different light. Mari saw the translator as part of a family and as loving and caring in a way that was different from how he treated her. He was forced to see her youth, realizing that she was younger than his nephew seemed to change things for him.

The ending was a bit upsetting and rather abrupt. I’m going to spoil it here so please skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid that. I couldn’t tell if the translator’s anger was real or an act. Did he realize what Mari and his nephew had done together? If so, was he actually angry about it and punishing her or was it all part of their sexual relationship? It seemed really unclear to me and the author didn’t explain it well. His sudden death was both understandable based on their situation and also very unresolved and upsetting as a reader. It felt like Mari betrayed him by not coming to his defense about their relationship. It almost seemed too clean of an ending to explain the damage to her hair and the photos with a clear circle back to a conversation they’d had before about dead bodies. Overall, it was fitting but really rubbed me the wrong way.

The translator is a very interesting character. He’s reclusive and because of that, seen as an outsider and ‘othered’ by his community. That he would chose to live alone, that he works a solitary job make him an easy target for ridicule and judgement. Ultimately, this is hugely to his disadvantage as he’s rumored to be a criminal which hangs over him. Rumors and gossip can ruin lives and we see that plainly with the translator.

Writer’s Takeaway: I appreciate a book that’s concise and short. Ogawa’s ability to get a complete story into a short novel is commendable. She has drawn some wonderful characters in the translator, the maid, Mari’s mother, and the nephew. Though I wished there was more of Mari, I did enjoy her as an observer whose eyes I could see through. Ogawa didn’t spend time with descriptions that weren’t pertinent to the plot and I appreciated that. I liked being able to imagine most things without being told what they looked like.

Overall, not a book I greatly enjoyed but one I still read quickly. 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa | areaderofliterature
Reading the World: ‘Hotel Iris’ by Yoko Ogawa **** | theliterarysisters
Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa | JoV’s Book Pyramid
Hotel Iris, by Yoko Ogawa | Novel Insights
Hotel Iris (1996)- Yoko Ogawa | A Novel Approach

Book Review: Rebeldes (The Outsiders) by S.E. Hinton (5/5)

29 Aug

The Outsiders is one of my all time favorite novels. I never had to read it for school, but I picked it up on my own and I fell in love with Poneyboy, Soda, Darry, Dally, Johnny, Two-Bit, and everyone else. For Christmas last year, I asked my husband to get me a book in Spanish so I could do my annual Spanish read and he very thoughtfully got me a translation of my favorite greaser story.

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Cover image via Amazon

Rebeldes (The Outsiders) by S.E. Hinton

Other books by Hinton reviewed on this blog:

Hawkes Harbor
Some of Tim’s Stories

Summary from Amazon:

No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends—true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. But not on much else besides trouble with the Socs, a vicious gang of rich kids whose idea of a good time is beating up on “greasers” like Ponyboy. At least he knows what to expect—until the night someone takes things too far.

It’s probably been ten years since I read this book so I went in with a little bit of memory loss. I’ve also seen the movie more recently so that version was in the back of my head, too. I enjoy this story every time. There are a few defining moments that I anticipate and then I’m sad or excited when they happen, even when I know what’s coming. To me, this story is almost perfect. Revisiting it in a Spanish translation was so fun.

I love Hinton’s greasers and socs. She makes an effort to show that no one is one dimensional. Cherry and Randy have depth to them that Pony might not have guessed and we see the depth of the greaser characters. They seem a little simplistic because of the young first person narrator, but she’s created some wonderful characters in this book.

Dally is my favorite character, and I have to tribute some of that to Matt Dillon. I don’t know if I understood Dally’s character fully when I read the book the first time. The way Dillon plays him in the movie helped him jump off the page to me. He’s a much more complex character than I gave him credit for the first time. The ways he helps Johnny break my heart now that I recognize them better.

The fact that the characters are so relatable is part of what makes this story so amazing. I’m not a greaser or a soc and I’m not in high school any more, but I can empathize with a lot of what the gang was going through. I’ve had to see people beyond the way they look and how much money they have. I’ve been surprised by people for doing things I never should have doubted them capable of. Few things are black and white but we’re usually surprised at the number of shades of grey.

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S.E. Hinton Image via The Oakland Press

It may sound dark, but the time while Johnny is in the hospital is my favorite part of the book. The gang comes together and I find it very touching. There is a lot of raw emotion and these tough-looking boys have real feelings that are difficult for them to share. The Curtis boys come together in a beautiful way and show a lot of compassion for each other. I absolutely love it.

There isn’t much about this book I dislike. Hinton kept it brief so nothing stuck out to me as unnecessary or redundant. Every once in a while, there would be small details I kind of ignored, like how much the Curtis boys love eggs, but those didn’t distract from the story but they’re the only thing I can think of that I didn’t love.

Unconscious bias awareness is a huge part of how our society is evolving right now. We’ve become aware that there are things we don’t know or understand about how our brain works and they can affect people negatively. Once we’re aware of this and can act to mitigate it, we might be ready to start becoming a more just society. This isn’t a new concept and Hinton is exploring it in her novel. The greasers hate the socs for being socs and vice versa. They have to look past appearances and get beyond their differences to understand the humanity in the other group.

Writer’s Takeaway: Hinton was very young when she wrote this novel and it works in her favor. Her young voice is shared with Pony. Her phrasing and way of expressing things is in line with the young narrator we have. It shouldn’t be a detriment to a young writer that they’re young. She learned how to tell a story and share her feelings and experiences and it worked out wonderfully. We shouldn’t feel we need to hide our voices inside a character.

This book has stood the test of time for a reason. It’s absolutely wonderful. Five out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1960-1979 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton | The Literary Flâneur
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton | Fill Your Bookshelf
Book Review: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton | JenJenReviews

Book Review: Dollface by Renée Rosen (3/5)

22 Aug

When you have a manuscript for a 1920s novel, you read a lot of other 1920s novels. I had this one my list for a while and I picked up a copy years ago but never got around to reading it. I had Google Playstore credit that was going to expire so I bought a copy on audio. You get to it when you can, am I right?

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Cover Image via Amazon

Dollface by Renée Rosen

Summary from Amazon:

Vera Abramowitz is determined to leave her gritty childhood behind and live a more exciting life, one that her mother never dreamed of. Bobbing her hair and showing her knees, the lipsticked beauty dazzles, doing the Charleston in nightclubs and earning the nickname “Dollface.”

As the ultimate flapper, Vera captures the attention of two high rollers, a handsome nightclub owner and a sexy gambler. On their arms, she gains entrée into a world filled with bootleg bourbon, wailing jazz, and money to burn.  She thinks her biggest problem is choosing between them until the truth comes out. Her two lovers are really mobsters from rival gangs during Chicago’s infamous Beer Wars, a battle Al Capone refuses to lose.

The heady life she’s living is an illusion resting on a bedrock of crime and violence unlike anything the country has ever seen before. When the good times come to an end, Vera becomes entangled in everything from bootlegging to murder. And as men from both gangs fall around her, Vera must put together the pieces of her shattered life, as Chicago hurtles toward one of the most infamous days in its history, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

This book felt to me like it contained just a little bit too much. There were elements that were there just to fit history in my mind, rather than adding to the story. I wished Evelyn’s character was simplified. I wished Basha and Dora were combined into one character. I wished there weren’t so many nick names for the gangsters. It felt like the story covered far too much time but it was also so compacted that I was surprised at how young Vera was in the end. It felt like Hannah’s age and antics at any age were just to fit the story and not really reflective of a child at that age. But here I’m complaining. Overall, I liked the story and liked Vera’s character. She seemed like a girl caught up in the whirlwind of being young and excited with just enough reality to bring her back down.

Vera was a fun character to follow. Her attitude reminded me of myself in my early 20s, but her daughter brought her closer to my current state of motherhood. I think she was caught up in glitz and glamor and realized very quickly how fast that could go away. She did seem rather weak willed at times, and that frustrated me in a heroine. In many ways, she was strong and independent, but then she’d do something silly for a man and I’d throw my hands up.

Shep was my favorite character to follow. I felt he was the most consistent throughout and we also had some fun little details of his personality that I loved. Putting his clothes under the mattress so he didn’t have to iron them was hilarious. I felt like he really loved Vera and I felt bad for him being two timed when she was with Tony. I kept wanting him to come back when he ‘went away’ because I felt like he always added something fun.

Some of Vera’s comments about motherhood hit me hard. I would find myself thinking “YASSS” when she mentioned feeding or sleep deprivation or just needing to get out for a minute. This is one of the first books I’ve read since my baby was born that had a new mother in it as well. It was refreshing and it helped me connect more with Vera.

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Renee Rosen Image via the author’s website

I liked the beginning and end of the book, but I felt like the middle had a lot of bits that could have been cut or trimmed. Vera’s relationships with Shep and Tony were fun to watch develop and the way that they wrapped up was a great rollercoaster. I enjoyed seeing the decisions Vera had to make and how she navigated them.

There were parts in the middle that seemed more like padding than story. Vera bootlegging, joining the Jewish Women’s group, and Evelyn’s relationship with Izzy were all, ultimately, not very influential in the overall plot and I think they could have been cut.

My audiobook was narrated by Rebekkah Ross. I thought she did well at giving Vera a voice. I could feel her pain and her joy at different times. Vera started the story very young and a bit naïve which I think Ross addressed well. As she experienced more loss, violence, and danger, her attitude changed and Ross developed this well.

Vera was living a dream until that dream crashed around her. She’d glamourized a lifestyle that many have idealized and longed for, ignoring the dirty sides of it. Gangsters are very iconic of the 1920s but many forget that their lives were accompanied by violence and danger. Being a Gangster Moll made you an icon, but it wasn’t sustainable. We often idealize a lifestyle of someone who is rich or famous. But those lives don’t last and they’re not always as happy as they might appear.

Writer’s Takeaway: It felt to me at times like Rosen was trying to hard to put historical events into her novel that she didn’t focus on the core story. Knowing that the story would end in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre didn’t leave a lot of mystery about how it would all wrap up. If she’d been able to invent an event or had used imagined gangsters, it would have felt less predictable. I have to imagine she’d learned so much about these historical figures and wanted to include all she could. It’s something I’ve been really aware of in my 1920s novel as I edit it and want to make sure I’m focusing on the story more than the history.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it didn’t blow me away at all. 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
Worth the Wait! Author Renee Rosen’s DOLLFACE Took a Ten Year Road to Publication | Women’s Fiction Writers
Mob Wives Chicago: Renee Rosen’s Dollface | Books on the Table

Book Review: Malorie by Josh Malerman (4/5)

8 Aug

I made no secret of my love for Bird Box. Malerman is local to the Detroit area and I found a virtual event last year to hear him speak about his books and discovered that he was publishing a sequel, Malorie. I was pumped! I’ve made good progress in ebooks lately so I was excited to pick this one up and surprised myself with how fast I sped through it.

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Cover image via Amazon

Malorie (Bird Box #2) by Josh Malerman

Other books by Malerman reviewed on this blog:

Bird Box (and Book Club Reflection and Movie Review)
A House at the Bottom of a Lake

Summary from Amazon:

Twelve years after Malorie and her children rowed up the river to safety, a blindfold is still the only thing that stands between sanity and madness. One glimpse of the creatures that stalk the world will drive a person to unspeakable violence.

There remains no explanation. No solution.

All Malorie can do is survive – and impart her fierce will to do so on her children. Don’t get lazy, she tells them. Don’t take off your blindfold. And don’t look.

But then comes what feels like impossible news. And with it, the first time Malorie has allowed herself to hope.

Someone very dear to her, someone she believed dead, may be alive.

Malorie has already lost so much: her sister, a house full of people who meant everything, and any chance at an ordinary life. But getting her life back means returning to a world full of unknowable horrors – and risking the lives of her children again.

Because the creatures are not the only thing Malorie fears: There are the people who claim to have caught and experimented on the creatures. Murmerings of monstrous inventions and dangerous new ideas. And rumors that the creatures themselves have changed into something even more frightening.

Malorie has a harrowing choice to make: to live by the rules of survival that have served her so well, or to venture into the darkness and reach for hope once more.

It was so hard not to picture Sandra Bullock when reading this. She was an amazing Malorie in the movie. I felt like this story was very consistent with the first book. It takes place only a short time after the first book ends and pushes the characters into another tense situation. The world they were in was so dangerous that it was hard to think there was a happy ending to the first book. The characters had hope, but it was so fragile. I liked where this one went. I thought it was a realistic way for the world to develop. The division between those who were surviving, thriving, and rebelling was stark and felt real to me.

Reading this one as a mother, I can see why Malorie is as nervous and conservative as she is. The people who we see portrayed as rebels don’t have children from what we know. The burden of keeping another person alive has crushed Malorie into being a different person than she was before the Creatures showed up. She’s lost her identity because she can’t relax and get it back. Her survival mode instincts are strong.

I grew to love Olympia. She’s torn between her deep love for her mother and her connection with her brother. One wants to hold close and the other push away. The revelations about her at the end were heartbreaking and made her my favorite character. I was able to think back through the story and trace times that I could have figured out her secrets, but they were artfully subtle and made for a great reveal.

I related to Malorie’s protective nature over her kids. I would do anything for my Baby and I know who I’ve been since they were born is different than the person I was before. Having a Baby during COVID is different than Malorie’s situation, but I was able to draw some parallels in the precautions I had to take and my distrust of strangers who might inadvertently harm my baby. Mama Bear instincts are strong.

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Josh Malerman Image via Nelson Literary Agency

The train was an amazing part of the story. The details of how it got going were really fun and knowing Michigan geography as well as I do, I could picture it so easily. I loved the visual and the appeal of a blind train. It was so original and so fun to read.

Some spoilers here about my least favorite part so skip to the next paragraph to avoid those. I thought the ending was a bit too clean. Tom’s invention working right away and Malorie’s father being in Indian River seemed to clean up the story a little too fast. I felt it would be more realistic if the glasses didn’t work for everyone or they left and were able to find her father further on the rail line.

Parent-child relationships are complicated at best. In the world Malorie lives in, they’re insane. She’s had to sacrifice so much of herself to keep Tom and Olympia alive that she doesn’t recognize herself anymore. Tom is so resentful of how protective Malorie is that he doesn’t recognize the safety she provides. Now that I have a kiddo, I can see how they’ve changed me and how I’m not the version of myself I was when I got pregnant. I can also see their little personality flourishing and how, even now, they don’t want me being around and helping or keeping them safe when they want to explore and learn. And we don’t have creatures to worry about.

Writer’s Takeaway: I think Malerman was smart to revisit Malorie. It might seem like a cash grab, I know. I did listen to a talk he gave during the lockdown where he said he wrote this book because he couldn’t get Malorie out of his head and wanted to tell more of her story. Bird Box ended with a happier state than it began, but it was still not a goods state of the world. This book wrapped that up better, even if I did have some issues with it as stated above. I think he’d be hard pressed for a third book, but this second was a nice way of ending things.

An enjoyable read that I sped through. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the ‘Future’ time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.When Are You Reading? 2022 Progress

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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
Malorie by Josh Malerman | Bookworktopia
Malorie by Josh Malerman | Book Review | Callum McLaughlin
Review: Malorie by Josh Malerman | Obsessed with Fairy Tales
[REVIEW] Malorie- by Josh Malerman | Aiden Merchant
Malorie: A Review of the Bird Box Sequel | The Kate at Night

Book Review: Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince (Vol 1-3) by V.E. Schwab (3/5)

28 Jul

After reading the Shades of Magic series, I was intrigued by another story set in the same universe. I’m not great with graphic novels because I tend to skim the pictures and just read the words, but I thought I’d give this a try. It was a good thing to pick up and ready while Baby was falling asleep, even if it was hard to read on my phone at times. I got faster at it and ended up blowing through the first volume in two days. I thought I’d finish the collection before reviewing it here.

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Cover image via Amazon

Shades of Magic: The Steel Prince Volumes 1-3 by V.E. Schwab

Other books by Schwab reviewed on this blog:
A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)
A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)

Summary from Amazon:

Delve into the thrilling, epic tale of the young and arrogant Prince Maxim Maresh, long before he became the King of Red London and adoptive father to Kell, the lead of A Darker Shade of Magic.

The youthful Maresh is sent to a violent and unmanageable port city on the Blood Coast of Verose, on strict orders from his father, King Nokil Maresh, to cut his military teeth in this lawless landscape.

It’s been about three years since I finished this series so I didn’t remember a lot of detail about King Maxim. This book didn’t require that I knew a lot since it was a backstory and I enjoyed a relatively fresh slate in a very rich world that I knew well. It was nice not to have to set up the magic that existed and be able to jump right to the story. The stories were a little more surface than I’d hoped for, but appropriate to the graphic novel format. The artwork was also superb. I enjoyed these, but I didn’t fall in love like I did with the original trilogy.

Maxim was so confident and cocky that it was hard for me to believe he was real. But the character I remember from the original series was also cold and distant so this version of him, a boy who had to be hardened, made some sense. He became a little less likeable and believable in Volume 2 but I liked him by Volume 3. His relationship with Isra was really great to develop and I liked that character a lot.

Isra was a great character, but she didn’t get quite the amount of ‘screen time’ I would have liked. She was very much a side kick and a great source of backstory. She was most involved in Volume 1 and I would have liked to see more of her in the other volumes since we know she and Maxim become very good friends. It felt like she was planned into the first story, but was almost forgotten about after that.

I could empathize with Maxim in the second volume when he felt he had to prove himself to earn respect. I’ve felt that way when I come into a new situation, whether it be a job, a social group, or a community. I’ve never put my life at risk the way he did, but I could understand why he felt compelled to do so.

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V.E. Schwab Image via EW

The Night of Knives, Volume 2, was my favorite. I liked the idea of a magical tool to test yourself. It reminded me a bit of the Divergent series when the characters would take a serum to test their fears. I liked the magical take on it instead of future science.

I was expecting a little more of the Rebel Army in volume 3. Rowan is built to be such a big villain and he’s able to cause so much destruction. It seemed to be rather easy to defeat them. I wish it was a little more of a struggle which I think would have been realistic.

Rather than talk about the narrator as I do for audiobooks, I want to talk about the illustrator. Andrea Olimpieri was the main illustrator and I liked the art for the most part. There were times I struggled to determine who the character was became some scenes were very dark and a few of the characters looked alike. I think he did a great job with the color scheme and the clothing for the characters. Sometimes the clothing was more helpful at figuring out who someone was than the faces!

King Nokil sent Maxim to Verose to teach him to lead and I think that was accomplished across these three stories. I’m not sure if there’s need for a fourth volume or if one is in the works. Maxim starts as arrogant and it doesn’t serve him well. He learns to lead and earn respect and is tested in the end. The story has a nice arc overall and I did enjoy revisiting the world of the Shades of Magic.

Writer’s Takeaway: I read that Schwab wrote these plots from one line of dialogue in the original trilogy and the idea of that is amazing to me. She thought so much about her characters and what made them the way they are that she could write a comic series about it. I think it’s wonderful to see her still living in the Shades of Magic world and exploring it so deeply. It can seem like a bit of a ‘cash grab’ to publish prequels and sequels to a series as successful as hers was, but I like that she took a very different approach by switching to comics for this release.

I enjoyed this overall but I’m going to stand by saying that comics aren’t my thing. Three out of Five Stars.

This book/comic series fulfills the 1700-1799 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
Review | The Steel Prince by V.E. Schwab & Andrea Olimpieri (Shades of Magic Vol. 1) | Servillas Speaks
Graphic Novel Book Review: THE SHADES OF MAGIC COMICS by V.E. Schwab | Sifa Elizabeth Reads
V.E. Schwab and Andrea Olimpieri – The Steel Prince | SFF Book Reviews
The Steel Prince by VE Schwab | the words gremlin

Book Review: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) (5/5)

25 Jul

I was a little hesitant to get into this because I’d heard there was some controversy about it being anti-trans. I also didn’t want to stop reading a series I’ve become so heavily vested in, so I pushed forward with caution. While I listened to audiobooks of the first four, I decided to do this one as an ebook while I nursed or rocked Baby to sleep. I haven’t looked forward to rocking them down so much in their life. I couldn’t wait to read a few pages of this book. I stayed up way too late one night to figure out the culprit and regretted the loss of sleep the next day. But it was sooooo good.

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Cover image via Amazon

Troubled Blood (Cormoran Strike #5) by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Other books by Rowling reviewed on this blog:

The Cuckoo’s Calling (Cormoran Strike #1) by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by J.K. Rowling
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
Harry Potter y las reliquias de muerte by J.K. Rowling
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling

Summary from Amazon:

Private Detective Cormoran Strike is visiting his family in Cornwall when he is approached by a woman asking for help finding her mother, Margot Bamborough – who went missing in mysterious circumstances in 1974.

Strike has never tackled a cold case before, let alone one 40 years old. But despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on; adding to the long list of cases that he and his partner in the agency, Robin Ellacott, are currently working on. And Robin herself is also juggling a messy divorce and unwanted male attention, as well as battling her own feelings about Strike.

As Strike and Robin investigate Margot’s disappearance, they come up against a fiendishly complex case with leads that include tarot cards, a psychopathic serial killer, and witnesses who cannot all be trusted. And they learn that even cases decades old can prove to be deadly…

OK, wow. This one had me on the edge of my seat. I can’t remember the last time I read a book this long this quickly. The character building was great, the pacing was amazing, and the mystery was complex and enjoyable. I thought I might not enjoy this as much as an ebook as I did an audiobook, but I might have enjoyed it more. Though I had a narrator’s voice in my head the whole time.

I wanted to address the anti-trans opinions in this book. From what I read online, those who were upset were upset because of a character who is a serial killer and would dress in woman’s clothing to lure his victims into his van or home. This character himself is not transgender. I can understand why this is upsetting to some readers. I do want to share my opinion on the portrayal in this book only. This was a very minor part of the killer’s backstory and he himself is not transgendered. I barley noticed the few times this was referenced. It had minor impacts on the plot or even that character. I don’t feel there was a purposeful attempt to shame or slander the transgender community with the inclusion of this character and backstory. However, I know I’m speaking from the position of a cisgender woman and those with a different background might see it differently.

One of my favorite things about this series is how real Robin and Strike feel to me. I can see them being people I’d run into on the street. Robin has always felt very relatable and I often think “Yep, that’s what I would do” while we’re in her head. The cast of side characters are equally enjoyable and distinct in their own right.

Irene was one of my favorite side characters because she was so well drawn. I could picture someone just like her (and she reminded me of someone in my family at times). I didn’t think she was purposefully malicious, but she struck me as untrustworthy more than once. Well, we find out why but I won’t dive into that. Rowling/Galbraith has a way of describing people that are so real it’s almost hard to read about them. I was laughing through most of her interview.

I haven’t shared many experiences with the characters in this book, but I always seem to feel for Robin. Matthew always felt like a combination of all my horrible ex-boyfriends and her exasperation when dealing with him felt very real to me. In earlier books, we were around the same age and a lot of the familial pressures she shared were similar to ones I’d felt. My job is just less exciting.

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J.K. Rowling Image via Biography

The reveal at the end was wonderfully done. (No spoilers, I promise.) The way it was revealed, you got some answers you didn’t expect before you got the answer to the ‘Who’ part of the mystery. The pacing was just excellent. I stayed up WAY later than I should have one night to finish the chapter where everything was explained. It was a masterful display and I adored it.

The sub-plot with Saul Morris bothered me the most. He felt so icky and I don’t have better words to describe that. It seemed a bit out of place in the book and I have to imagine it’s a set-up for a future book, but it left me feeling put off. I almost hope he doesn’t turn up again.

A lot of people in this book were not listed to or believed. No one believed Brian Tucker’s theories about his daughter’s disappearance. No one believed many of the eye witnesses about what they’d seen on the night Margot disappeared. Few people believed Roy when he gave his account of the day. And no one believed the Athorn family and what they said. Many of the frustrations in this book seem to be from people who spent years not being listened to and they’re so happy Strike is finally taking them seriously.

Writer’s Takeaway: As with the other Strike books I’ve read, I wasn’t able to figure them out before everything was revealed. Honestly, I’m OK with that. I enjoyed the ride and when everything was presented, I remembered all of the evidence being readily available and in front of my eyes if I’d cared to look at it the way Strike did. I don’t write mysteries and I’m not sure I could. The way Galbraith/Rowling has layered them together is wonderful and enjoyable and I can only aspire to that level of nuance and subtlety.

A wonderfully fun book to read. Five out of Five Stars. This kickstarted my reading again.

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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Post:
Book Review: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith | Richard Fox’s blog

Book Review: Into White by Randi Pink (3/5)

11 Jul

This is an audiobook I got for free as part of a summer reading/listening program at my library. I’ve liked some of these books but none have hit it out of the park for me so I was skeptical going in. I probably didn’t give it the fair assessment it deserved. But I still think I’m right in saying this book has some issues that could have easily been fixed and made the book more enjoyable.

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Cover image via Amazon

Into White by Randi Pink

Summary from Amazon:

LaToya Williams lives in Montgomery, Alabama, and attends a mostly white high school. It seems as if her only friend is her older brother, Alex. Toya doesn’t know where she fits in, but after a run-in with another student, she wonders if life would be different if she were . . . different. And then a higher power answers her prayer: to be “anything but black.”

Toya is suddenly white, blond, and popular. Now what?

This book had a lot going for it. It had some strong points to make about race, class, and gender. There were points in this book that gave me bad flashbacks to high school because they felt accurate. However, there were some points that were too much for me. I felt the way Pink worked Jesus into the story as a character was inconsistent. Toya goes from disbelief to acceptance to a very casual and angry attitude very quickly and that upset me. I thought the book tried to put almost too much into such a short story and I felt a bit overwhelmed at times, too. Let me get into this more.

The characters here felt well drawn and credible. Toya and her family were great. I loved her parents and Alex. A lot of YA books either ignore or villainize parents and Pink did neither of those. Her mother and father were very distinct characters and I liked seeing the development of their characters and how they interacted with their children. Alex was a great character and I thought his progression seemed logical. The other students were great, too, and their catty attitudes reminded me of high school. Deante bothered me just a little because I don’t like the idea of ‘Boys are mean to you because they like you.’ I don’t want to teach a girl to think that. If a boy is mean, don’t be friends with him. If you’re a boy who likes a girl, be nice to her. Why can’t we push that narrative?

I liked Alex best as a character. Toya was a bit of a yoyo at times with her emotional state and it seemed overexaggerated. Alex was more level headed, even when he was being a rebellious teenager. I was a little thrown off by his desire to be popular and fit in at the beginning because it seemed to fade pretty quickly. After finishing the book, that seemed more like an out-of-place blip compared to his character the rest of the book.

While I didn’t relate to Toya’s feelings of rejection based on race, I experienced feelings of rejection in high school because of how I looked and dressed. I know I’m probably not the first woman who was teased for being pudgy, having glasses and braces and dressing in ‘uncool’ clothes but that doesn’t make it hurt less. I was never one of the twins or in that social circle by any means. Like Toya, I wondered what it would be like to be a ‘popular kid’ for a few days. If this any indication, maybe it’s best I never found out.

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Randi Pink Image via Goodreads

I was on a run when I listed to the part about Alex fighting Josh and that honestly pumped me up for the rest of my run. Alex was such a good older brother and the fact that he got in a fight to defend her made me like her more. I don’t encourage violence, don’t get me wrong. I probably wouldn’t have done with Alex did. But I respected him for that being his only fight.

Please read this whole paragraph before jumping on my back. I didn’t like that Jesus was a character in this book. When he first appeared, I was weary because I thought it would make the lesson feel a little heavy handed which is something I feel a good YA book avoids. In the end, it did feel heavy handed so my fears were founded. The second reason I didn’t like it was that Toya’s attitude toward him fluctuated wildly and it felt inconsistent. If it was a less divine character, it would have felt even more odd. I felt that her change could have either been unexplained or Jesus could have been a voice instead of a physical character. Especially if that character is going to borrow stranger’s cars to go joy riding and talk about the virtues of the Twilight series.

The audiobook was narrated by Adenrele Ojo. I liked how she voiced Toya and her family. She let silly elements of them feel like caricatures without it feeling belittling. I loved how serious the family got about Unsolved Mysteries. There was a wide cast in this book and I felt Ojo gave them all a good voice.

Toya longed to be someone different and felt her life would be improved if she changed. Though a bit heavy handed, she saw that. She saw how beautiful her life was as is and how cosmetic changes don’t change who you are as a person. And, as always, the grass wasn’t greener on the other side. I thought the lessons in this were a bit run-of-the-mill but Pink did have a unique approach to it.

Writer’s Takeaway: I think Pink wanted to do too much with this book. Throwing in racial-based ideas of beauty with rape and social cliques and religion started to feel overwhelming. I wish she’d focused a little more so she could dive into one or two of these topics instead of feeling like I was drinking from a firehose a few times.

Overall, an enjoyable book but nothing that blew me away. 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
REVIEW: Into White by Randi Pink | The Neverending TBR
The Debut Club: An Interview with Randi Pink | The 2017 Debuts

Book Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald by J.K. Rowling (3/5)

7 Jul

I went into this with mixed feelings. I saw the movie on opening night because I was so excited for a new Wizarding World story. I left highly disappointed. I got the screenplay thinking that maybe reading it would help me understand it better. I’m not sure it did. I don’t have plans to see the third movie at this time and I’m thinking I’ll wait until I can stream it.

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Cover image via Amazon

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (Fantastic Beasts #2) 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
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
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
Harry Potter y las reliquias de muerte 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)
Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Summary from Amazon:

At the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald was captured in New York with the help of Newt Scamander. But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escapes custody and sets about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore enlists Newt, his former Hogwarts student, who agrees to help once again, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world. This second original screenplay from J.K. Rowling, illustrated with stunning line art from MinaLima, expands on earlier events that helped shape the wizarding world, with some surprising nods to the Harry Potter stories that will delight fans of both the books and films.

It’s been a few years since I saw this movie but I don’t think I’d forgotten much. This story feel very flat for me. There was almost no character development and what we do get seems a bit too far from what we learned in the first film. Queenie’s logic makes almost no sense, Newt and Tina’s relationship doesn’t develop at all, and Jacob adds no humor to the story. Maybe it’s Middle Book Syndrome. Or maybe the writing just wasn’t that great this time around.

Queenie sticks out in this book for seeming inconsistent with her previous self. Jacob has somehow overcome a spell that was not reversible in the original series and now Queenie is willing to do morally questionable things to marry Jacob. Where did this person come from? Her decision at the end is even more illogical as she thinks Grindelwald will somehow make it so she and Jacob can be together after he explicitly calls Muggles ‘other’ from Wizards. How she sees this playing out, I can’t understand.

Honestly, Grindelwald was my favorite character in this book. He was the only one who got some real character development. While he’s a total jerk and a big ol’ baddie, we’re introduced to him and what he wants and how he plans to get it. Maybe I’ll see the next movie when it goes to streaming just to see what happens to him.

None of the characters were very relatable. Credence might be to some, but I didn’t relate to him much. Newt’s odd crush on his brother’s fiancée was a bit odd and gave some relatable feelings of pining after someone you can’t have, but the relationship between he and Leta was very poorly defined and it wasn’t clear if there had ever been anything between them and how she came to be engaged to Theseus.

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J.K. Rowling Image via Biography

There wasn’t a part of this story that stuck out to me and that I enjoyed. In the movie, the circus was fun visually, but that fell flat in the screen play. I also got frustrated at Nagini’s character so that wasn’t helping anything. Again, might be Middle Book Syndrome, but I was a bit bored.

The ending of this one frustrated me for two reasons. One was Queenie deciding to join Grindelwald. The logic the story used to make this seem plausible was paper thin to me. After knowing Queenie from the first book, it was very out of character. It might have worked if it was earlier in our acquaintance with her, but at this point it took me out of the story. The second was revealing that Credence is a Dumbledore. I’m not sure what to think of this at all. Part of me wonders if it’s true and part of me thinks it’s one of Grindelwald’s lies. Either way, it upset a lot of fans of the original series who are already upset about the original timeline being ignored completely. I’ll have to see how it plays out in the next books, but I don’t know if this will ever be recoverable to me.

Credence wants to know who he is and wants to feel important. It’s similar to Harry at the beginning of the first book. There’s something about him that makes him believe he doesn’t fit in and wants to know what it is. As Harry learns about his wizarding family, Credence similarly looks for answers. Whereas the original series shows us how Harry can fight against Voldemort for what is right, this series shows us a contrast where Credence is taken under the wing of someone who wants to use him to fight. Harry and Credence are easily foils of each other.

Writer’s Takeaway: In an effort to bring in elements of the original series that readers enjoyed, this story suffers from having too much surface level elements that don’t get to the heart of the story. It’s fun to see Flamel as a character, but it would have been better to learn the backstory of Newt and Leta. Seeing Nagini as a woman is cool, but having an accurate timeline of when McGonagall was teaching would be better. This tries too hard to appease fans without trying to win new ones.

An overall disappointment but possibly setting up a great ending? 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – The Original Screenplay | Stephen Writes
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald | The Original Screenplay | Fantastic Beasts #2 | Lost in Fiction
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald | The Humpo Show

Book Review: True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Caray (3/5)

30 Jun

I bought this book so long ago that I’m not confident where I got it. Based on the bookmark I found inside, I’m guessing it was at Dawn Treader Bookshop in Ann Arbor, MI. That place is an amazing place to get lost in for a few hours. I don’t know why it was on my TBR but I think it was before I found a copy. In my COVID-fuled effort to read my owned books, I’m glad I’m finally getting to this one!

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Cover image via Amazon

True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Caray

Summary from Amazon:

This is Ned Kelly’s true confession, in his own words and written on the run for an infant daughter he has never seen. To the authorities, this son of dirt-poor Irish immigrants was a born thief and, ultimately, a cold-blooded murderer; to most other Australians, he was a scapegoat and patriot persecuted by “English” landlords and their agents.

With his brothers and two friends, Kelly eluded a massive police manhunt for twenty months, living by his wits and strong heart, supplementing his bushwhacking skills with ingenious bank robberies while enjoying the support of most everyone not in uniform. He declined to flee overseas when he could, bound to win his jailed mother’s freedom by any means possible, including his own surrender. In the end, however, she served out her sentence in the same Melbourne prison where, in 1880, her son was hanged.

Still his country’s most powerful legend, Ned Kelly is here chiefly a man in full: devoted son, loving husband, fretful father, and loyal friend, now speaking as if from the grave. With this mythic outlaw and the story of his mighty travails and exploits, and with all the force of a classic Western, Peter Carey has breathed life into a historical figure who transcends all borders and embodies tragedy, perseverance, and freedom.

I read this book slowly and that took away from my enjoyment to be sure. Something about raising a child just eats up your time, huh? It took me a while to get used to the formatting. Since Ned doesn’t have a formal education, he doesn’t know proper grammar. Paragraphs have no periods, capitalization is lacking, and there’s no punctuation surrounding dialogue. It took some time and when I was away from this book for any extended time, it was an adjustment to return to it.

Ned felt real to me. It was easy to see how he became who is was based on his upbringing. I understand why the citizens were behind him and against the police. He becomes very sympathetic. Instead of feeling like an outlaw, he feels like Robin Hood and you feel bad for him. Joe, Dan, and Steve don’t receive the same treatment because this is Ned’s story, but you do feel like you can love them as well.

Ned was easy to love. You see how passionately he cares about his family and community. He has a very reasonable idea of justice and the reader can agree with him and want the same things as him. It makes sense that Dan, Joe, and Steve want to follow him and that the populace helps hide him. It would be hard to flesh out any other character the way he is without writing an epic.

It was hard to relate to many of Ned’s experiences. He had a very unique home life and his experiences with his father, step fathers, and father figures was very different from anything I’ve experienced. His hometown felt very ‘Wild West’ to me which is what I pictured since I’m unfamiliar with the Australian brush. It came off as an adventure story to me, so unfamiliar with the history of that area.

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Peter Caray Image via NPR

The time Ned was chased by the police toward the end is my most vivid memory of this book. It’s hard to say with confidence if it’s because I enjoyed that the most or because it’s most recent in my memory. I loved how much they thought out their crimes and how they would get the town on their side. It made robbery feel like a fun adventure, though one I don’t care to ever be a part of!

Ned’s late teens were very tumultuous. It was hard to read about his time in jail and his fights with his step fathers. Just when there was a glimmer of happiness for him, things would turn south. It felt like nothing was moving forward and that’s the part of the book that dragged for me. It’s hard to say if it was me being unable to empathize with him, or a lull in the story.

There was little recourse to find justice for Ned. He was discriminated against for being Irish and poor. He was forced to resort to criminality to defend his family when the law failed to do so. He was a sympathetic character and it’s easy to see why he was the people’s hero and the law’s enemy.

Writer’s Takeaway: The stylistic choices in this book were bold. The lack of grammatical structure took me out of the book at times and immersed me in it at others. I could hear Ned’s voice better and got deeper into his head, but I had to reread some lines and struggled to learn who was talking sometimes. I’m not sure I would ever write from a first person point of view and need to worry about that but it is a quandary of what to do to best bring out a character’s voice. Overall, I think Caray did it well and I liked getting to know Ned so well.

I had very mixed feelings on this book. Overall, Three out of Five Stars. It would be 3.5 if I did halves as I found it very enjoyable but it dragged some.

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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
Book Review – True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Caray | Kevin Stephany’s Critique Compendium
True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Caray | The Chapteralist
True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Caray: Book Review | thebookybunhead