Book Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs (2/5)

11 Apr

I know many of my readers follow my WWW posts and if you do, you’ll know how long I’ve been reading this book. I started it in December as a car-trip read with my husband. We took only a few long car trips since then and pecked away at the 15 hour recording. Our last one was 8 hours in on day two weeks ago and at the end of that, we had 1.5 hours left and decided to finish it up on our own. I’ll summarize my feelings by saying I’m so glad it’s over.

Cover image via Goodreads

Library of Souls (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #3) by Ransom Riggs

Other books by Ransom Riggs reviewed on this blog:

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1) 3/5
Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #2) 2/5

Summary from Goodreads:

As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all.

All of the things I disliked about the second book just continued into this one. Besides the ymbrynes, none of the adults in this book are even respectable, especially Jacob’s parents. The love story between Jacob and Emma is completely superficial and forced. There are inconsistencies in the book just to work in the pictures Riggs loves so much. Things happen so conveniently that it’s very obvious these books were not well planned and Riggs is making up ways for things to work out. Jacob and Emma are constantly yelling before they even think about what they’re saying. My two stars are for Riggs’s creativity but this book really failed me.

Jacobs and Emma reacted like hormonal teenagers so in that respect, I’d say they were believable. In the sense that they didn’t really sleep for two weeks, it was completely unbelievable. Jacob recognizes in himself that he’s changed and fights between his need to be his past and present self, which is a very realistic outcome of his journey, but very introspective for a teenage boy. He acted like he was much older than a teenager and it really bothered me.

Sharon was one of my favorite characters and really redeemed the book for me. I’m still not sure why he helped Jacob, Emily, and Addison (another inconsistency and character flaw) but he was a redeemable character with flaws and advantages to him. I found it believable that he had been an Ambro addict and was in debt to Bentham for helping him recover. I found it believable that his family was gallows builders and I understood why he helped in the end. He was a great image in my head and I’m really glad he was involved.

The characters situation was unrelatable to me. Jacob kept discovering things about himself like a person going through puberty, but other than that, his experiences were extreme and I didn’t find his reactions to anything relatable. Many times, my husband and I would pause the audio and say, “Why don’t they just …?” and point out a much easier way to solve the current problem. I couldn’t sympathize with someone I thought made dumb decisions.

Image via Wikipedia

Exploring Devil’s Acre was one of the few parts I really enjoyed. Riggs’s imagination was in full force and he set up a great dark Victorian London that was reminiscent of Sweeney Todd and just great. Too much time was spent in some aspects, like the Peculiars for sale, but other parts, like Smoking Street, were great.

The ending felt so contrived. I was so upset with it. I wanted Jacob to suffer more, I really did. He had so many close calls that ended up working out for him that seeing him really suffer and fail would have felt good as a reader. I won’t say it now, but the way it played out was too happy for the set-up we’d had. I was very put out.

Kirby Heyborne narrated this final installment like he did the first two. There were a few times I was upset with his choices to have the characters scream or whine when the dialogue tags didn’t call for it. I find his British accent grating and for a book set in London, this can be a real issue. He does build tension well, which is important in a book like this, but I think his slow narrating style is part of what stretched this out to 15 hours.

I felt luck played too much of a role in Jacob’s success for there to be a strong lesson in this book. Just at the moment when something bad would happen to him, another character showed up or someone was distracted or he was protected from anything bad happening. I guess the lesson would have to be to have friends who can see into the future and who make loud entrances and have impeccable timing.

Writer’s Takeaway: I think the visual aspect of a book is very important. However, it feels like Riggs sacrificed plot and character development to give us a visual book. We don’t have dynamic characters besides Jacob, who doesn’t change much anyway. But we do have multiple characters who have great images and styles. We have a meandering plot with a lot of asides that add nothing to the main plot. But the setting for each can be shown in an antique picture. The visual elements of a book should enhance it, not be the only driving force behind it.

I’m honestly glad this series is over. I won’t feel obligated to listen to another one. Two out of Five stars.

This book fulfills the 1800-1899 time period for 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!

Related Posts:
Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs | Just Simplydelete It
Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs | Reading with Jenna
Book Review: Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs (Final Book in Miss Peregrine’s Trilogy) | Alice in Wonderbookland

Book Review: Once in a Great City by David Maraniss (4/5)

10 Apr

My library brings in an author each year and every few years, it’s a non-fiction writer and when that happens, the discussion usually focuses on Detroit and Michigan. David Maraniss’s ballad to the once-great (and now recovering) Detroit was this year’s selection. My book club discussion on it isn’t for a while, but I figured I’d get a head start on the audiobook so I didn’t have to rush it.

Cover image via Goodreads

Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story by David Maraniss

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s 1963 and Detroit is on top of the world. The city’s leaders are among the most visionary in America: Grandson of the first Ford; Henry Ford II; influential labor leader Walter Reuther; Motown’s founder Berry Gordy; the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his daughter, the amazing Aretha; Governor George Romney, Mormon and Civil Rights advocate; super car salesman Lee Iacocca; Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, a Kennedy acolyte; Police Commissioner George Edwards; Martin Luther King. It was the American auto makers’ best year; the revolution in music and politics was underway. Reuther’s UAW had helped lift the middle class.

The time was full of promise. The auto industry was selling more cars than ever before and inventing the Mustang. Motown was capturing the world with its amazing artists. The progressive labor movement was rooted in Detroit with the UAW. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech there two months before he made it famous in the Washington march.

Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Before the devastating riot. Before the decades of civic corruption and neglect, and white flight. Before people trotted out the grab bag of rust belt infirmities—from harsh weather to high labor costs—and competition from abroad to explain Detroit’s collapse.

I’ve lived in Metro Detroit my whole life. Growing up in the 90s and 2000s, we didn’t go into the city. It was dangerous and there was nothing worth doing there unless you were going to a Tigers game and even then, you went straight to the game and straight home. Now that I’m in my 20s and the city is rebounding, I go a lot more. It’s great to see the city rebounding and I can see how it strives to be the city it was in the 60s (less some obvious racial problems). Maraniss has an obvious love for the city and it’s portrayed in this book and touches on all aspects of city life ranging from Motown to politics to automotive. I listened to this book while driving and hearing about the Mustang concept car kept at World HQ while driving on the Southfield past the Glass Castle (local name for that building) gave me shivers. Going to Wayne State for an event while hearing about students from campus was awesome. I felt like I was walking through this book while I read it. I felt like Woodward Ave would be closed as I approached it for the Walk to Freedom despite it happening over 50 years ago. Maraniss brought the city to a life I hope it can see again soon.

I loved how Maraniss portrayed the figures in this book. Reuther was probably my favorite. My parents were GM engineers and I grew up thinking of the UAW as devils so seeing their infamous leader portrayed so positively made me think a lot. Hearing about George Romney, whose son Mitt would run for President in 2012, seemed like a strange precursor to that election. It was really cool to hear about these people via interviews Maraniss conducted and get a feel for how they lived and what they saw.

 

I could feel Maraniss’s pride for his city in this book. Wherever I travel, I say I’m from Detroit and I get looks like I’m going to whip a pistol out of my back pocket and shoot the person in the face. It’s not like that! Detroit has a rough reputation and it’s fought that for years. Maraniss notes how it was fighting that during the time period he selected, a great time period for the city. It got worse after that and is only now starting to get better.

David Maraniss
Image via Simon and Schuster

I’d never heard about the Walk to Freedom and I really enjoyed that part of the story. Hearing about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Cobo Hall was really moving and hearing the positive things he said about the city gave me chills. I wish the city had been able to make more progress for racial equality without the violence that broke out a few years after the book ended. It seems the city was open to it, but also resisted the change that was really needed.

I wasn’t as interested in some of the plot lines, the Motown one for example. The Motown plotline didn’t seem to connect to the others the same way the rest of them intertwined and it made me lose interest in it very quickly. The civil rights one connected slightly, but it wasn’t strong enough to feel like it was all part of a cohesive story.

Having Maraniss narrated the story was great. He pronounced everything right! I’ve found that non-native narrators don’t always say local names correctly and as a Detroiter, this could have been very distracting. It was great to have a man who knew all the right names say them.

Detroit was a great city. It makes me sad to say that, but Maraniss is right. It was a great city that fell off the tracks and is trying to get back on. The years in this book were boom years for the Motor City and show what Detroit could be again. On a personal note, I heard a speech from the current mayor, Mike Duggan, on Friday and his hopes and dreams for Detroit reminded me of this book. I hope we will be there again soon.

Writer’s Takeaway: When choosing several plot lines, it’s important that they alight. The political landscape of Detroit and far-reaching connections of the auto executives helped most plot lines interact with similar characters and events but the Motown plot seemed forced. It’s a defining sound of Detroit and that era, but the Gordy’s weren’t political and the Jim Crow laws that touched the performers wasn’t touching them in Detroit. I think the book could have been stronger without it but it’s a good note for a writer.

I enjoyed this book and it made me optimistic about what my city can become again. Four out of Five stars.

This book fulfills the 1960-1979 time period in 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!

Related Post:
Review: Once in a Great City- A Detroit Story | Da Tech Guy Blog

Taking a Book Off My TBR

6 Apr

This winter, I’ve made some serious progress knocking books off of the physical TBR shelf in my house. The more I take off, the more those remaining stick out to me. There’s one I’m tempted to take off.

This book was a giveaway win that’s been languishing for a long time. To be honest, I forgot I entered to win it when I was contacted and notified. It took another few months for the book to get to me and when it did, I didn’t have time to pick it up so it got put on the shelf and ignored. Since then, I’ve looked up reviews on Goodreads and haven’t been too excited about what I saw. The book is long and a lot of the reviews said it had a meandering plot and was hard to follow.

I talked to my husband about this on our last road trip. He offered to read the first chapter for me when he finishes his current book and let me know what he thinks. I’m tempted to ditch it without asking him to read it simply because I don’t think it will maintain my interest.

I have to know, what do you think, Reader?

I’ll let you know as this unfolds. This is a bookie version of a thriller. 🙂

Until next time, write on.

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

WWW Wednesday, 5-April-2017

5 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community.


Currently reading: My husband and I made some major progress on Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs this weekend! We have about 2:30 left on it and we might just finish it separately because we don’t have another road trip coming up soon. Yay for progress!
I read a few pages of The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler when I forgot my textbook for lunch reading. I’m still really enjoying this book, but it’s slow going for sure.
I think I’ll finish Once In a Great City by David Maraniss  this week. It’s a good one to listen to during my long runs and it’s fun listening to it while I drive because more than once, I’ve been on the freeways or in sight of the buildings he mentions and it’s really exhilarating.
I started a new physical book, A Son of the Circus by John Irving. Many of you know how much I love Irving and I’m also a big fan of circus books so this is one I’m really looking forward to! It’s a long one so I expect it to be here a while.

Recently finished: I finished Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano Saturday night. It was a lot faster of a read than I thought and I was glad to get through it. The images in it were beautiful and the story was a big puzzle to solve which was a cool structure. My review is already up so please go check it out. I gave it 4 out of 5 Stars.

Reading Next: The plan is still to listen to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See on audio, though I may power through Library of Souls before I pick it up, just depending on what the hubby and I decide to do with that one. I’m looking forward to See’s book, though!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano (4/5)

4 Apr

I bought this book years ago. My friends and I were on a ‘book crawl’ of Ann Arbor and I was in Literati, telling myself I wasn’t going to buy any more books, but then I saw this one. The cover is gorgeous and the blend of Spanish in the text interested me. I was hooked and bought it. Unfortunately, due to the number of books I buy, it was a while before I picked it up but I wanted to treat myself after a long book to something that looked fun.

Cover image via Goodreads

Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano

Summary from Goodreads:

In Loteria, the spellbinding literary debut by Mario Alberto Zambrano, a young girl tells the story of her family’s tragic demise using a deck of cards of the eponymous Latin American game of chance. With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, she retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of loteria cards. Each of the cards’ colorful images–mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars–sparks a random memory. Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl’s life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

This book was a lot less ‘fun’ than I hoped for, but that’s not to say it wasn’t good. I don’t read summaries before I read books because if I’d read that one, I would have known how sad this book was going to be. Young Luz has had a rough life and her lotería cards are one of the happy memories she has. She likes to use the cards to remind her of her life because they’ve become such an intricate part, a weekly ritual formed when her family was happy and whole. Zambrano reveals the story slowly and I enjoyed learning about Luz’s story a bit at a time. She would flash from a happy memory to a moving one and back, using the cards to tell her tale.

Writing a child is hard and I think Zambrano did it well. There were one or two times when she seemed older than her age and there as a few mentions of how she was very mature, more so than the teenagers sometimes. I thought this was a bit unbelievable, but made writing her easier for Zambrano. I thought the other characters were very believable, especially Tencha.

I think Mama was my favorite character. This sounds terrible because she’s not really a hero in the book. The way Zambrano writes her, you feel bad for her but you also know she’s not doing the right things all the time. I felt bad for her more than anything. I saw her as someone who’s hurt, has no one to turn to, and who loves her children. It’s hard to see, but that’s what stuck out to me. Not knowing a lot about her made her really intriguing.

There weren’t any life experiences I shared with these characters. The thing I related to most was when they described spending time with the Silva’s after mass. When I was studying in Mexico, we would go to Abuela’s house a few times a week just to be with the family and hang out in her courtyard to eat and be with the family. We would cook and eat and sleep there because it’s where the family was and everyone was comfortable there. It was so much fun and I really miss that.

Mario Alberto Zambrano
Image via The Village Voice

I liked finally finding out what happened to Estrella. I’m not saying it was a good thing, but my opinion of Papi was very tainted by things I thought he did and clearing the air of that made the rest of the book easier to enjoy. It sounds like a weird favorite part, I’ll admit.

I didn’t enjoy the end of this story. It didn’t seem to really move anywhere. I think it’s supposed to be hopeful, like Luz and her father might reconnect, but I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as her giving up on her mother and staying put. The past had been cleared up, we knew how Luz got to where she was, but I didn’t know where she was going.

 

I think family had a very different meaning for Luz than it would for most people. For a time, the Silva’s were like family. Then she couldn’t trust her cousins in Mexico. Her immediate family was loud and yelled and, after a time, began to shrink. She had to find who she would trust and she’s placed that trust in her father. She was tested a lot and had to continue to decide how to justify her love for her father, the only family she has left.

Writer’s Takeaway: In the interview with Zambrano at the end, he talks about how the architecture of books fascinate him and I love the architecture of this story. The short stories made it easy to read many at a time and fly through the story. I liked basing the story on the lotería cards. I wondered if there was an order or if Zambrano put them in an order to drive his story. I really want to play the game now.

I enjoyed this book a lot and it was a fun, quick read. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

 

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

Related Posts:
Lotería: A Novel – Mario Alberto Zambrano | Una Vita Vagabonda
Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano | Read More
An Interview with Mario Alberto Zambrano | Read to Write Stories

Challenge Update, March 2017

3 Apr

This was a rough month for reading. I went through a bit of a dry spell and had a few long books I was hoping to make progress that that will likely show up next month. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in March:

The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way // Bill Bryson (4/5)
Night Soldiers // Alan Furst (3/5)

Yikes! I honestly didn’t think it was that bad! Night Soldiers really slowed me down and I’ve been going for some longer audiobooks lately that are making all of my progress a bit sluggish. Oh boy.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

6/12
Despite so few books, I did fulfill another time period. Night Soldiers filled the 1940-1959 period very well. I’m half way there now and only three months into the year. This feels good but I see a lot of earlier time periods I need to fill, which can be tricky.

Goodreads Challenge

14/50
Thankfully, I had enough read in the past few months that I’m still ahead of schedule here. I hope this doesn’t turn into a push at the end to keep up! I have one finished for April already so I’m feeling optimistic but this could still go poorly. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Book of the Month

I’m going to give it to The Mother Tongue. The book was really interesting and audio was a great way to experience it. If anything can make early morning running less terrible, a good audiobook can and this filled that need.

Added to my TBR

I did add one, but my overall TBR is down one to 112! I can’t remember it ever being this low and I’m ecstatic!

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. I heard there’s a new movie of it coming out this year and after enjoying another Poirot, I want to dig into the most famous one!

Personal Challenge

I mentioned in my challenge announcement post that I had some non-reading goals set for myself in 2017. I figured this would be a good place to keep myself accountable to those as well. Here goes!

  • Keep my 4.0 GPA: It will be close! I’m struggling a little with this class and I think my participation and quiz grades are keeping me afloat. He’s supposed to post grade updates soon so I will see!
  • Knit blankets:  I’m caught up for the moment. My cousin’s wife hasn’t told us yet if she’s finding out the gender and if so, what it is. I’ll have to finish another blanket up once I send one to them which could be any time!
  • One race per month: I ran the 10K race in the Ann Arbor Marathon races and got a personal best time! 58:36! My husband and a friend ran it as well and we all got PBs. This is a good start for the season.
  • Get my novel out to beta readers: No update here. I’m still hoping to get to the changes one of my Beta’s got back to me but I haven’t had the time with school going on. I hope to this summer, though!

How were your challenges? I hope you made it. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for 2017, 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!

Last Lines- The Answers!

30 Mar

Last week, I challenged you all to a last-lines test to see if you could guess the book by the last line. I was really excited that a few of you participated and thanks to Kourtni, Deanna, and Faith for providing answers for five of the ten! I’ve copied them below if you want to give it one last look-over before you see the answers below for the ones no one has guessed yet.

  1. He likes the thought of ships moving over the water, toward another world just out of sight.
  2. There are much worse games to play.
  3. And I finally began like this: When I stepped into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home…
  4. It was not until they had examined the rings that they recognized who it was.
  5. He was soon borne away by the waves, and lost in darkness and distance.
  6. All was well.
  7. Being tired isn’t the same as being rich, but most times it’s close enough.
  8. Isn’t this a great country altogether? ‘Tis.
  9. For now, he starts to read.
  10. She opened the door wide and let him into her life again. (NOTE: Not technically the last in the series)

And now, the answers!

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. This one was a hard one to start off with! I thought if you knew the subplot of the Station Eleven comic, someone might get it, but oh well.
  2. Kourtni knew it was The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.
  3. Deanna knew it was The Outsiders
  4. Faith knew it was The Picture of Dorian Gray
  5. Faith knew it was Frankenstein
  6. Kourtni knew it was Harry Potter: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  7. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. I was hoping this might be iconic for someone. It was OK for me but I was grasping at straws, haha.
  8. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. If you know that his second memoir is titled ‘Tis, this becomes slightly easier.
  9. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. If you know the plot, this makes sense. This is mostly me loving this book.
  10. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson. Like I said, not technically the last book in the Millennium series because of the sequel by another author, but still the final in the original trilogy. I was hoping my clue might help.

Thank you again to those who participated. This was fun, I might have to do it with first lines next time I have a reading slump.

Until next time, write on.

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

WWW Wednesday, 29-March-2017

29 Mar

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 decided not to take Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs off of this list. Hubby and I are going on a road trip for a friend’s baby shower this weekend so we’ll have six hours in the car and I hope we can make some decent progress on this book!
I’ve been picking up The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler as much as possible because I’m really enjoying the story and I don’t want to forget what I’ve read each time I pick it up. I think I’m getting close to some major action and I can’t wait!
I’ve made steady progress on Once In a Great City by David Maraniss because of long runs and time spent cooking so I’m happy with how this one is going. I think I’ll have it finished next week!
I started  Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano! I’m so excited to finally be reading this one. I bought it two years ago because I thought it was pretty, haha. I don’t normally pick books out by their covers so this was a fun treat for myself.

Recently finished: I finally finished Night Soldiers by Alan Furst! It was a mad scramble to finish it over the weekend before I had to return it on Tuesday but I managed and I’m so proud, woo! The review went up yesterday so go check it out!

Reading Next: I think I’ll need an audiobook next and at the top of my list is Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I have a signed copy of this one but I’m making an effort to knock down my TBR through audio whenever possible so I’ll go for it. Besides, then I don’t have to worry about my signed copy getting battered at all!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: Night Soldiers by Alan Furst (3/5)

28 Mar

This book has been on my TBR forever. I thought I was going to have to buy a copy off of Amazon because my library didn’t have it, but I was able to do an inter-library loan and snagged a copy. With the limited number of renewals for an ILL, I had to rush a bit to finish it over the weekend but I was up for the challenge! I powered through the last 3/4 of the book.

Cover image via Goodreads

Night Soldiers by Alan Furst

Summary from Goodreads:

Bulgaria, 1934. A young man is murdered by the local fascists. His brother, Khristo Stoianev, is recruited into the NKVD, the Soviet secret intelligence service, and sent to Spain to serve in its civil war. Warned that he is about to become a victim of Stalin’s purges, Khristo flees to Paris. Night Soldiers masterfully re-creates the European world of 1934–45: the struggle between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia for Eastern Europe, the last desperate gaiety of the beau monde in 1937 Paris, and guerrilla operations with the French underground in 1944.

This book started out rough. I was really struggling to get into it. I didn’t connect or sympathize with the main character until well over 100 pages in so I didn’t want to read it. Once I started to be engaged in his story, the book read really fast. I was glad to reach the end, which was moderately satisfying, but I can’t forget the slow start. The author writes beautiful work, he just needs to jump into the plot a bit faster.

The characters seemed a little unbelievable, but I think they have to in a spy novel about Russia. Khristo was able to do things and know things that most men couldn’t and wouldn’t. His friends were the same way and while they were fun to read about, it’s crazy to think that all of this could happen anywhere in the world.

Khristo was a great character. He was dynamic and he also seemed human because of his vices and emotions. He wasn’t perfect and when he let up, people got hurt. When he hid in France, it tormented him that people were fighting and he wasn’t a part of it. When he let himself fall in love, it’s used against him. I liked that he had flaws and I liked that he suffered for them.

I could relate most to Faye. Besides her being an American living in a foreign country, I related to they way she thought about things and felt about things. She was genuinely scared at what happened, but she put up a brave face, which is how I tend to react. She was sad to be leaving France, even though living there had been pure misery for her. I get nostalgic a lot as well. I related to her desire to help make things better, too. She genuinely cared and I appreciated that.

I liked the story of Bob Eidenbaugh best. I liked that he was genuinely suited to fill the role of Lucien and I thought the way he was snatched up to be a spy seemed really genuine. His story was fast paced and really picked up the story for me. I liked how Khristo tied in as well. I wanted to know a bit more about Bob but the story of their escape from the trap had my heart racing a little more than was safe right before bed. Maybe it’s best that it ended there.

The training at Arbat Street really bored me. I thought this part dragged and I wasn’t sure what I was learning about Khristo while I read it. I wanted some action and this build-up was too much. I would have cut a lot of it out.

 

Khristo had to suffer but it’s not clear what he’s suffering for. Besides being Bulgarian, he doesn’t seem to have any flaws or history that people hold against him. For some reason, his nationality is always brought up, like it’s a bad place to be from, yet when he returns, it seems like one of the most peaceful places he’s lived. Again, for some reason going to America is the end of his suffering. I’m not sure how that works, either, to be honest. I wish Khristo’s motivations had been better explained. He got wrapped up in something and there was no way out for him, but he kept pushing forward and it’s unclear why.

Writer’s Takeaway: The pacing in this novel slowed it down a lot. I think it’s important to start with something big and while the death of his brother was a big moment for Khristo, it didn’t start the action. The action didn’t start until he had already served in Spain. Until then, he was following orders blindly. I wish a large section had been cut and we got to Khristo running sooner.

A fun novel that started out slow. Three out of Five stars.

This book fulfills the 1940-1959 time period for 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!

Related Posts:
Pan-European Lives: Night Soldiers by Alan Furst | Maphead’s Book Blog
Review: Alan Furst – Night Soldiers | Crimepieces

Movie Review: Slash

27 Mar

I know, another movie review! Yes, I’m sorry to have to resort to this. I think my reading slump is at an end, but I’m still not having much luck of finishing off books. I hope to not do this again for a while. When I was writing the review for ChickLit, I saw related movies and this one caught my eye. It had a lot of awards on it and after watching the preview, I realized it had Michael Ian Black (loved his memoir) so I decided I had to watch it. Plus, it talked about fanfic writing, which is how I got into writing in the first place.

Image via Imp Awards

Slash

Summary from IMDb

Freshman Neil’s Vanguard stories are all he cares about…until he meets the older Julia, who pushes him to put his own fan fic online. When the website’s moderator takes a special interest in Neil’s work, it opens up a whole new universe.

I found this movie highly relatable. Not so much the slash fanfiction (gay pornographic writing about a pop culture reference), but the nerd culture and growing up a fangirl (fanboy for Neil). Julia was easy to relate to because of her nerd obsession. I was a huge Lord of the Rings fan in middle school and many of you now know I’m a hardcore Harry Potter fan now. Honestly, I had a discussion about going to a con with my husband after we watched this movie. Nerd culture doesn’t get a lot of coverage in movies and I guess it takes a small movie like this one to flesh it out well. I thought it was really well done.

I loved Neil and thought he was spot on for someone going through the self-discovery he was. Julia was a little harder to believe. At sixteen, I found it hard to believe she had the sexual history with a guy out of high school that she had. With how much she wrote, she obviously cared some about her education and that’s demonstrated with her narrative writing class. Yet she’s skipping almost constantly and her friends have jobs during school hours (did this not make come up as an issue any other time?). She seemed 17 or 18, but sixteen seemed a stretch.

Neil was my favorite character. He was so shy but also very curious. He didn’t know what to think about himself or those around him and I felt he reacted in a very realistic way. I hope a bunch of nerdy fanboys saw this movie and thought, “Wow, it’s OK to feel the way I do about my interests and there are others who like the things I do!” Yes, there are. They might write weird slash fic about it, but they like it, too. Now, there are more productive things Neil could have done with his fandom, but at least he could find people to bond with.

I would say my fic writing was about on par with Julia’s. I wrote a lot in middle school and early high school, experimenting with plotting without having to develop characters. Like her, I could take elements of the plot I thought were underutilized or skipped and go into detail, making up some elements as I went and genuinely having fun. I found her desire for acceptance in writing relatable and her desire to be read. How do y’all think I got here today? 🙂

The relationship between Neil and Julia was wonderfully built. We see them find a camaraderie and become friends, see them build a tension, and see how that unfolds (I don’t want to give too much away!). The end of the movie leaves you feeling hopeful for them despite the conflict they go through because we see them go through conflict before. For such a movie, I thought the relationship had a lot of depth.

I didn’t like how Neil’s age became such a point of contention in the movie. It made him feel very limited. Yes, he’s 15 which means he’s a minor. If he was 17, would anything have been different? Making him 15 only served to have a girl older than him still be underage. The number of characters who mention his age is a bit astounding.

Everyone can find someone who’s just as obsessed with something as they are. That’s a wonderful thing about the internet. It brings together people who would never connect otherwise. Sometimes, like Dennis, they say things they would never voice without anonymity, which can be positive and negative. But being able to find these fellow fans can be a huge bonding activity for people. Look at the explosion of cons and cosplay in the past few years. The internet is wholly responsible.

Writer’s Takeaway: No one should put a limit on what you write. For Neil, it was slash fanfiction. For E.L. James, it’s erotica. For me, it’s 1920s YA fiction. When we try to label something as ‘wrong’ or ‘countercultural,’ that’s not going to stop it from existing. Just because I don’t read something doesn’t mean no one else can or will. We need to embrace that almost anything we can think of has been written and someone either enjoyed writing it or enjoyed reading it. I have to remember this about Jane Austen sometimes.

I really enjoyed this movie and any other nerd who thinks it sounds fun should watch it. Adult content is talked about, but the movie is not graphic in nature. Five 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!