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Why do they make abridged versions?!

6 Feb

As a warning, this post is being written in a flourish of anger. Be warned.

I just finished listening to a beautiful and haunting story that I loved. Between a long run and a long car ride, I finished the six hours of audio in four days and it was partially because I loved the story and was always anxious to hear what happened next. I had 15 minutes left and decided to sit down and just finish the darn thing. And I did. And the ending was great and the character arc was wonderful and I was floating on cloud nine. Before I could stop it, the credits read and it mentioned the name of the individual who abridged the book.

WHAT?!

Are you telling me that I just spent 6 hours listening to PART of a book? A book that won me over completely? What if they took out all the bad parts and the book is actually terrible? How would I ever know? I looked and it seems there is no unabridged version of this book on audio. The famous person who read it must not have been willing to give that much time.

So what am I to do? I feel seriously cheated to be sure. I want to know the whole story because, for once, there is more to a book I enjoyed! I want to know all the details someone didn’t think were worth making it to the end. The parts that seemed rushed will slow down and that excites me.

So, do I wait or read it soon? I own a copy so I could grab it next and read it, looking for the small or large changes. Or I could wait, maybe a few years, until I don’t remember the details and I can be surprised by them again instead of knowing what’s coming for the characters and not being surprised by twists. I’m at a loss. All I know is I feel cheated and I’ve never felt shortchanged by literature before.

Grrr.

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!

You know you want another challenge… The 2017 When Are You Reading? Challenge

20 Jan

There’s still time to join the 4th annual When Are You Reading? Challenge!

when-are-you-reading-2017-final

If you want to join in, let me know! I’ll add a link to your blog or tracker page in the event details. If you choose not to join, I promise not to get mad as long as you enjoy your books in 2017 and stop back often to share with me how it’s all going.

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!

Bookstore Destinations for Travelers

19 Jan

I’ve got a couple great trips looming ahead of me this year and I’m really excited to for two staples of my travels: beautiful churches and books. Every time I travel over the weekend, I try to go to a local church (preferably the cathedral) and see the architecture of a different part of the country. Northern Michigan versus Arizona versus Florida, etc. I love to compare them and see beautiful buildings. The other part of my trips is going to bookstores. I love local and usually used bookstores. They reflect a great character of the area and often have tons of people excited to talk about books with you.

It seems I’m not the only person who does this. My friend Sue sent me an article before Christmas that shares some favorites of author Ann Patchett (see book review for Truth and Beauty). If you have some travels planned for this summer, take a look at this list for some suggestions and things to fill your itinerary. It’s always a welcome add to a trip.

This may be a bit early (except for those of you in Australia), but happy travels for this year! Bring a good book with you and see if you can find another one along the way.

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: Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

17 Jan Cover image via Goodreads

My book club had very split opinions about Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon a River. I was a huge fan. Others disliked Margo and by default, didn’t like the book. With such a strong narrator, it didn’t surprise me we were polarized.

Bonnie Jo Campbell is a Michigan-born author from the West side of the state. She was born in Kalamazoo in 1962 and for those out of Michigan, yes, a lot of our cities have awesomely fun Native American names. She got her Bachelors’ in Chicago, the closest big city to that side of the state. Her Masters’ is in Mathematics and her MFA is from KZoo’s own Western Michigan University (undefeated in the regular season this year!). She’s married but our moderator couldn’t find if she had children or not. Her other books, which have been well received, are primarily short story collections. We were able to find that her first book is about a girl born on the river with a mother named Margo. Um….! I might have to read that.

Being a Michigan-based author, we felt Campbell did a great job creating rural Michigan. The East side, where I’m from, is very different from the Michigan Campbell describes, but it reminds me of the parts of Northern Michigan I visit, where my parents own a cottage. It’s fun to remember how diverse a single state can be.

Though the Stark River and Murrayville, the settings Campbell created, are fictional, they were great representations of the state. The water is very important to the story and it’s used in a lot of ways. Margo is cleaned in it, eats from it, and recognizes that on it, she can be cleansed of her past. It’s also lethal (spoiler ahead). Smoke is literally dragged down into the river and couldn’t be saved. The river is always moving and changing. When Margo needs to run away, she can follow the flow downriver or make her way upriver to find a change and that’s what she likes about the river. Lakes are different. Her mother lived on a lake and Margo didn’t like the feel of it. She craved a river.

One thing we noticed is that while rape and sex were present in this book, they weren’t focal points. Especially when Cal raped her, it didn’t feel terrifying and victimizing. It was confusing and uncomfortable which we felt was likely more life-like. Margo used sex with various men as a survival tactic. She wasn’t looking to have a good time, she was trying to find her next meal and some shelter. I really enjoyed her character and strength.

Not everyone liked Margo as much as I did. We all agreed she was mature for her age and was very resourceful. A lot of people saw her as a misfit who didn’t fit in. I felt she fit in on the river but there were several references to her not fitting in amongst her peers. She was trying to get herself in order and have her life together and as a reader with a much different lifestyle, it was hard for us to recognize at first, but she had her life in order by the end of the book. She had what she wanted as far as a boat and a place to hunt and she was ready to start a family and settle down. Margo didn’t talk much. She was alone a lot so there weren’t a lot of people to talk to. There were some people who wondered if she was mentally impaired. A reporter asked Campbell if Margo had Autism. Campbell didn’t purposefully create a character with Autism but has said it’s possible Margo does. It wasn’t her intention.

A lot of Margo’s luck seemed to come to her because she was beautiful. She never says this about herself, but the men in the story and her mother say she is. She might not have been able to find shelter with men if she wasn’t, but it seemed incongruent with her rugged lifestyle. If she’d spent as much time looking good as her mother did, she would have been a knock-out.

Each of the men who loved her had a different name for Margo. It was a nod to how she recreated herself each time she was with another guy. All the time, she was trying to recreate the best relationship she’d had with a man until then, the relationship she had with her grandfather. In this respect, Smoke was the closest she found. He and Fishbone were the only ones who didn’t try to have sex with her and some of us think it’s because they’re gay. It’s implied in the story that the two loved each other but Fishbone wouldn’t admit to it. It reminded me of Brokeback Mountain. It’s hard to admit to a different lifestyle if there’s a lot to lose and Fishbone stood to lose his family and didn’t want to risk it.

Paul and Margo’s father were both shot in the book. In the case of Paul, Margo was in control instead of her cousin. We wondered if she noticed this. Michael was at risk and she stepped in the way her cousin did to save someone she loved. The difference was that she pulled the trigger instead of watching.

The Indian was the most confusing character for many of us. He was a personification of the river, something Margo loved. He gave her money and a ride, much like the river. With him, she leaves the river for the first time and maybe she needed someone who reminded her of the river to get away from it. We found it funny that he was trying to find his culture and, though Margo was in no way a Native American, she was living the culture he was looking for better than anyone else he’d found.

I’ll be missing my book club for a few months due to my class falling on the same night until May. I’m sad about this, to be sure, but I’m sure they’ll be fine without me. I’ll miss writing these for a few months but they’ll be back! 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!

Let me tempt you… into joining the 2017 When Are You Reading? Challenge

13 Jan

There’s still plenty of time to join the 4th annual When Are You Reading? Challenge!

when-are-you-reading-2017-final

If you want to join in, let me know! I’ll add a link to your blog or tracker page in the event details. If you choose not to join, I promise not to get mad as long as you enjoy your books in 2017 and stop back often to share with me how it’s all going.

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!

My 2017 Reading Challenges

9 Jan

2017 is going to be a big year for me! In addition to reading, I have a few other goals I’m going to reach for. These including getting through 3 more semesters of grad school and keeping my 4.0 GPA, continuing to knit blankets for my relatives and friends as they welcome babies into the world, running/racing in one event each month (triathlons, running, and open water swimming (new to me)), and getting my novel out to some generous friends who agreed to beta read for me. Whew! I think I can squeeze in a few reading challenges, don’t you?

Challenge #1: When Are You Reading?

Maybe this is unfair because I host this challenge so, of course, I’m going to participate! The challenge is to read books that fit into each of 12 time periods. The book can be written during or take place in the time periods. It’s my fourth year doing this challenge and I’m pumped. Let me know if you want to join in!

Challenge #2: Goodreads Challenge of 50 Books

I lowered my goal last year to 45 books. I wasn’t sure if my shorter commute would hinder my reading (only a bit) and I wanted to tackle some long books (I did). This year, I’m going back up to 50. I managed 52 in 2016 and I think I can do it again for 2017. Besides, with my running goals, I’ll be listening to a lot of audiobooks this coming year.

How about you? What are your reading goals for 2017? Are you doing any challenges?

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!

Are You In? The 2017 When Are You Reading? Challenge

6 Jan

There’s still plenty of time to sign up for the 4th annual When Are You Reading? Challenge!

when-are-you-reading-2017-final

If you want to join in, let me know! I’ll add a link to your blog or tracker page in the event details. If you choose not to join, I promise not to get mad as long as you enjoy your books in 2017 and stop back often to share with me how it’s all going.

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!

Happy New Year! Challenge Time!

1 Jan

Happy New Year and welcome to 2017! Today is the first day of the 4th annual When Are You Reading? Challenge!

when-are-you-reading-2017-final

If you want to join in, let me know! I’ll add a link to your blog or tracker page in the event details. If you choose not to join, I promise not to get mad as long as you enjoy your books in 2017 and stop back often to share with me how it’s all going.

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: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

7 Nov Cover image via Goodreads

Our group met to talk about Still Alice on Halloween so it as a bit shorter of a discussion than we usually have. We also picked our next set of books which ate up a lot of time. It was bittersweet for me because due to my classes next semester, I’ll be missing the February, March, and April meetings! Sad puppy face.

I wasn’t the only one who felt this book wasn’t very well written. It seemed jerky which, while more appropriate at the end, didn’t make sense at the beginning. It was nice to be inside Alice’s head, though. We could see things happening to her that she sometimes couldn’t see herself.

Alice’s three children finding out if they were carriers was a sticking point for a lot of us. Would Tom have had ‘survivor’s guilt’ for not being a carrier when he knows Anna is and that Lydia might be? He seemed to disappear from the book a bit so it’s hard to tell but we felt it would be hard for him. Genetic testing like the children went has been around for years, some of our members remembering it back to the 1970s. We wondered about the impact of the testing on Anna and Lydia’s insurance rates. Would they have trouble getting coverage? Would it be different for Anna who knows or Lydia who doesn’t? I wondered if knowing she was a carrier affected Anna’s dedication to starting a family. She knows that her children will have to go through what she’s going through with Alice and how hard it will be. Is it better to have children who can help take care of her? I thought that would be hard for her and her husband.

John kept trying to fix everything. He wanted to do what he knew, study and research and was determined it would fix his wife. A few in our group suspected he was having an affair at the beginning with how dedicated he was to be out of the house and how much he avoided Alice. I still think he might have been. But he was a bit underdeveloped so we don’t know much for sure.

When Alice’s Blackberry stopped working, she cried as if on some level she knew what she was losing. She was so close to the level where she couldn’t answer the questions and in reality had gotten some of them wrong already. She seemed to know she was losing something about herself. We noticed that John seemed to have found the questions because on page 266 (our copy), he asks her the questions. If he got her phone working or if he found the Butterfly file, we’re not sure, but he seemed really concerned about Alice not wanting to be around anymore. What would he have done if she said she didn’t want to be there?

One of our members recommended The 36-Hour Day by Nancy Mace as a non-fiction account of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient. This book was unique in sharing from the side of the patient instead of the caregiver and that novelty was appreciated.

Our next meeting is in December and we’ll be discussing The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante. I’m about 1/4 through it now so I’ll be done well in time for the discussion.

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 Discussion: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

4 Oct

I’d finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks just in time for my book club meeting! It could not have turned out better and I was primed and ready to discuss with the women in my group.

I wasn’t the only one who’d never heard of HeLa before we read this book. Only one person in my book club had heard of HeLa cells or knew anything about Henrietta. I had seen the book countless times but never bothered to turn it over and read what it was about.

Skloot was a very active character in her own book. We were fascinated that she could remember something a community college professor said to her in high school and be so driven by it later in life. What an impactful educator! Skloot had a great relationship with the Lacks family, especially Deborah. I think I would have lost my patience more than the one time Skloot did! They really appreciated that she taught them what they didn’t understand and that she was patient when it came to answers. Her style of writing the book was great for a topic that could be so dense. She kept the ‘science-y’ parts moving and flowed well between times and places so that we didn’t get bored or lost as readers.

Race was obviously a big part of the story. What we wondered is if the modern part of the story would have been any different if Skloot was black. We think the family might have talked to her sooner. They said a few times that white people only came poking around when they wanted something and they were all very distrustful of Rebecca at first. We don’t know if she would have been as successful with the hospitals and getting information there. Being so starkly different from the family made her seem more like a researcher.

It was hard to hear about Henrietta’s upbringing and life. She lost her mother when she was so young, it mimicked Deborah’s distraught feelings about her mother. But it wasn’t just Henrietta, but her whole family that suffered so much. We wondered how Henrietta’s experience in the hospital would have been different if she was white. If she was the same socioeconomic status, we don’t think her experience would have been much different. She still wouldn’t have had the money to pay for a lot of treatments and would have been viewed as a charity case. If she’d been middle class, her treatment would have been the same (it was all they knew), but we think she would have been better educated about what was happening to her and her family would have been more involved in the treatment steps.

We all loved Deborah’s dedication to her mother. Unlike her father and brothers, she wasn’t worried about the money she could get from her mother’s legacy, she just wanted people to know what Henrietta had done. I was particularly moved by the explanation of why the family thought Henrietta was an angle. It was a really beautifully drawn comparison.

The scene where Zakariyya and Deborah seen their mother’s cells was really moving to all of us. To anyone, it would be a moving experience, but for these two, who didn’t understand well what cells were and only knew what they saw was a part of their mother, it effected them in a different way. It was so great that they were able to have a positive experience at Johns Hopkins.

Of course, we had to talk about the ethics of selling human samples. We agreed with one of the proposed solutions, which was a part of the profits going back to disease research. If there’s so much money to be had from selling these cellular samples and always a need for research money, why not shade the ethically grey area with using the money earned to fund the disease research? It seems like a win-win situation.

Our next book will be another disease-focused read with Still Alice by Lisa Genova. We need a happy read eventually!

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!