Tag Archives: O Africa!

WWW Wednesday, 9-July-2014

9 Jul

Progress, progress, progress! At least, it feels like it. Consider joining in MizB’s WWW meme if you haven’t before!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading:  I’m about halfway through The Coward by Kyle R Bullock. This is the last ARC off my shelf and I’m enjoying it so far. It’s strange to be reading this at the same time as The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I’ve got to keep World War II and Vietnam separate in my mind! On audio, I just started is reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, my next book club selection. It’s too early to tell how I’ll feel about this one.

Recently finished: I finally finished The Maze Runner by James Dashner Monday night. I wanted to throw the book at the wall. I get frustrated when a series doesn’t have good stopping points between books and this one sure didn’t! I can’t decide if I want to read the sequels or not. I also finished Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser on Monday (a big day for me). It was informative, well written, but not as captivating as I’d hoped for.

A big week for reviews as well! I covered O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn as well as The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

Reading Next:  Still a good number. Looking for Alaska by John Green has yet to come in at the library so I hope to get that soon. And I want to start The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen soon. This will fulfill the 1500s time period of my When Are You Reading? Challenge. We’ll see after that.

The hubby and I are doing a massive bike tour this weekend so I hope to get something read before then! What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

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

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Book Review: O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn (2/5). It wasn’t for me, unfortunately.

8 Jul

A while ago, I cut myself from registering for First Reads. I decided I had enough books to read that I didn’t need to get another. But then, of course, I had some spare time at work and decided to browse. What’s the harm, right? Well, let me tell you because I won one. It’s set in the late 1920s and if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for anything 20s. The worst part was that I really, really couldn’t get into it. I just couldn’t. I’ll elaborate later.

I received this book for free on Goodreads in exchange for a fair review.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

O, Africa! by Andre Lewis Conn

Brothers Micah and Izzy Grand are having the time of their lives making movies in the late 1920s. Their comedies have audiences in stitches and their star actor doesn’t seem to be fading any time soon. However, their production company as a whole is on its way down. Their boss has an idea; go to Africa and get stock footage which they can sell to other companies and while they’re there, film another movie. Two birds with one stone, right? Well, in theory anyway.

In reality, Micah is in debt to a gangster who’s convinced him to pay off his debt by filming a second movie during their time in the DR Congo (Belgian Congo in the 20s). The natives of the village the boys visit are used as extras in their film and Izzy grows close to the prince.  [SPOILER ALERT!] In a twist, the prince kills one of the crew members and the team returns to New York with nothing to show. Izzy, distraught over the loss of his lover, returns to Africa, desperate to make things right and restore order to the village. Micah must traipse across the ocean after his brother, squandering the last dollars he has in hopes of helping his brother home.

This book really didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t sure how big of a release it would entail but I saw the book on the shelves of Barnes and Nobel last week so Conn must have made bank on this one. I didn’t find the humor that funny and it seemed a bit forced. I liked the plot for the first half, but the second half fell apart for me. Izzy was the only character I liked and he became my least favorite character: someone I couldn’t relate to. By the end, I liked Micah only because he was the only character who hadn’t gone off the deep end. Well, maybe Rose, Micah’s mistress, but she still didn’t do it for me.

I don’t think the characters were meant to be believable. As part of the Roaring Twenties, everyone was bigger than life and that goes double for the movie business. People had the disposable income to spend on movies and the men in the field were taking it to the bank. I think Micah ended up being the most believable throughout. At first, my attraction to Izzy was that I could relate to him because he was logical and even-headed. Then he went crazy at the end and I couldn’t figure out why. The secondary characters were a little easier to believe; Henry the silent film star and Rose, Micah’s black mistress (talk about a scandal in the 20s!).

If forced to pick, I’d say Rose ended up being my favorite of these two. I don’t agree with her morally, (having a relationship with a married man when she herself is married) but she was looking out for herself. When she wanted a baby to take care of, she knew where to go. When she needed protection, she had her brother to turn to and knew where to find a husband who would take care of her. She saw the bright and flashy life that Micah had and knew she wanted something less gaudy. She had an even head on her shoulders.

Andrew Lewis Conn. Image from RandomHouse.com

Andrew Lewis Conn. Image from RandomHouse.com

I related to Micah at the end. He knew he had to throw away his last dollars to go see his brother and bring him home. This is a very raw human emotion of love and family ties and it resonated with me on a primitive level. If my brother were in trouble, I would want to go help him, even if he was in primitive Africa. To me, this was the most ‘real’ thing Micah did.

My favorite part of the book was the opening scenes where the brothers are filming a movie with Henry Till and Babe Ruth. It was great to see a historical figure as memorable as Ruth make an appearance in the book. The writer pulled in some other well-known figures of the day later in, Charlie Chaplin being the one I remember. It helped root the book in the 20s.

Izzy’s return to Africa was my least favorite part. The things he was doing over there were too much for me to process: talking to a dead body, making movies out of clips of the dead king, not eating, living in a junk field. It was too much. I thought Izzy was a well-developed character until this point. I wish the book had ended sooner so I didn’t have to see him like that.

I felt a lot of the book was about the fragility of man. Micah’s comfortable life in New York is fragile and his relationships came to a head many times in the book. Izzy’s sanity is fragile and he deteriorates quickly. The villagers are easily influenced by their contact with the Western film-makers and it skewed their perception of reality. Ultimately there was a way to put each of these back together, but it was a lot of work and effort by all those involved.

Writer’s Takeaway: Oh boy. I think my lesson from this book was about how to incorporate humor into my work. I like when there is one character that can make me laugh consistently or when appropriate, but I felt Conn was using all of his characters as comic relief all too frequently and not in the appropriate times. It made all the characters seem like jokes and belittled their problems.

Not my favorite. 2 out of 5 stars.

This book fulfills ‘Foreign Country: DR Congo’ for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

Like this review? Let me know on Goodreads!

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:
O, Africa by Andrew Lewis Conn | 52 books or bust

WWW Wednesday, 18-June-2014

18 Jun

Thanks to MizB’s WWW, I’ve been motivated to power through some books!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading: I’m slowly continuing The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Still not sure if I’ll finish it before it’s due, but I’m at 70% now and making decent progress forward. I finished the next section of The Maze Runner by James Dashner so no new progress there. On audiobook I started Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. I’ve been told it will make me never eat fast food again. Yay? My carpool buddy is back so we’re still working on  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I started a new book last night; A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. I enjoyed the other Eggers book I read and this one sounds really interesting. It’s for my book club that doesn’t meet again until August so I’ll have some time to take it leisurely.

Recently finished: Two! I finished two! The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian was an audiobook and I really enjoyed it. I met Bohjalian a few weeks ago and found him inspiring. I’m glad I got to read this gem so soon. I also just finished O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn which was an ARC I won on First Reads. I wasn’t a huge fan, to be honest, but enjoyed the setting. I’ll work on a review in the next week or so. Also, I posted a review for The Language of Flowers which I’m sure will have a Book Club Reflection coming soon!

Reading Next:  I have one more ARC on my shelf to clear off which is The Coward by Kyle R Bullock. Kyle contacted me on my Facebook Fan Page and I’m so honored that he was the first to do so! I’ll be glad to get his book read this summer.

I’m hoping there will be some progress next week, too! What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

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!

WWW Wednesday, 11-June-2014

11 Jun

One down! But know I’m working on each of the other books; just not enough to finish any of them. I wish there was more to report for MizB’s WWW .

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading: The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson came in and I’ve been able to make more progress on it. I don’t think I’ll finish it again before it’s due, but I’ve made a lot of progress. I finished the next section of The Maze Runner by James Dashner and I’m not sure how I picked such a cliffhanger of a stopping point but DANG. I can’t wait to keep going.  On audiobook I’m listening to The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. My carpool buddy is on vacation so I’m plowing through this on my commute. I think I’m a little over half way and I’m loving it. Since carpool buddy is on vacation,  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is on hold this week. My physical book at the moment is an ARC; O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn. I’m only reading it at lunch so I’m making slow progress but I’ll take it on vacation this weekend and see what I can do. Yes, that’s right, I’m going on vacation! We’re taking the bus so I’ll have plenty of time to read.

Recently finished: With the push of having to make this update, I stayed up and finished reading my NaNo last night! Woooo. Nothing to add to my Goodreads challenge, but hey! I did review The Geography of Memory by Jeanne Murray Walker but that’s all.

Reading Next:  As my book club doesn’t meet until August, I might have time for something in between. I want to concentrate on finishing O, Africa! next, but there could be one more ARC in line. On audio, I have Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser on reserve at the library. Stay tuned!

Let’s see if I can finish my audiobook by next week. What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

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!

WWW Wednesday, 4-June-2014

4 Jun

SO MUCH PROGRESS!!! It feels good to participate in MizB’s WWW and be able to brag about it.

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading: I’m making more steady progress on my NaNo. I’m about 3/4 of the way done with it and I’ve realized there’s a lot of filler I need to cut out. It will be an interesting revision process. I’m still on hold for The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson but I am next on the list. I’ll start on The Maze Runner by James Dashner again this weekend. I bet I’m done with the next section by the time I report back.. On audiobook I’m listening to The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. It was the first book on my long list that the library had in non-CD-but-still-audio form. Go figure. My carpool buddy and I are still working on Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I’m not sure how I feel about it still and we go long times without listening to it so I’m not sure how long this will take! My physical book at the moment is an ARC; O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn. I’m still trying to figure out the voice of the narrator and it’s making it hard for me to get into, but I’m excited about something rooted in the 1920s!

Recently finished: Two! I finished two books! The first is The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is for my informal work book club and I was the first to read it so I could pass it on. We’ll meet to discuss when the third woman has finished it. I also finished  Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan on audio. This was for one of my book clubs as well and I liked it a lot. The writing was a good mix of scientific fact and memoir. Look for reviews soon.

I’ve posted a review for I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak yesterday. Enjoy!

Reading Next:  It’s going to be A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers for my ‘edgy’ book club. This book sounds really cool so I’m excited to get started on it!

My goal is to finish reading my NaNo in the next week. What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

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!

WWW Wednesday, 21-May-2014

21 May

I’m so glad to have progress to report for MizB’s WWW after having so little last week. I think this spurred me into action.

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading: I’m finally reading my own book! It’s the really really rough draft of the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo. It’s in rough shape, believe me. Hopefully I can gain some semblance of a structure and consistent characters when I do a re-write.

I’m on hold with The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Someone put a hold on it and I didn’t know, so I have to wait three weeks to start back on it. Those bastards. I finished the second part of The Maze Runner by James Dashner. My first Read-Along post went up on Thursday last week. If you’re interested in joining, let me know soon before we get too far along! We’re just starting chapters 10-19 and will be done with them by 26-May. On audiobook I’m listening to Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. It’s a true story about a reporter who was almost institutionalized while suffering from a rare disease. This is my book club selection for June. In a lovely turn of events, my carpool buddy agreed to try some audiobooks! After day one, she’s fallen asleep and I’m pleased. We settled on Brave New World by Aldous Huxley which she’s read and enjoyed and I’ll be reading for the first time.

Recently finished: Two books finished!  The Geography of Memory by Jeanne Murray Walker is an ARC I’ve been wanting to read for months. I’m glad I finally did. The memoir focuses on Walker’s mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s; a similar battle to the one my protagonist faces in my NaNo. I also finished I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak on audio. The narrator was great, but I’m confused about the ending. I’m not sure I really understood it.

Reading Next:  I’m going to take a jump on these ARCs. Next up is O, Africa by Andrew Lewis Conn. It’s set in the 1920s, so you can judge my excitement from that.

I’m feeling better about books moving forward. I see a bright light full of words and libraries. What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and also check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

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!

Recently Added to my To-Read List 7-Mar

7 Mar

I realized the posts I do where I update you on what I’m planning to (eventually) read are a lot like the Friday Finds on MizB’s blog, so I’ll try to time them up with those. Let’s cut to it, shall we?

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I could swear that my husband told me about this book, but he’s never heard of it. I saw it on someone else’s WWW Wednesday post. The story follows a boy who has received messages from a classmate about the 13 reasons why she committed suicide.
  2. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. This one had been in my periphery for a while, but after a coworker praised it to me one day, I knew I had to bite the bullet and add it to the list. The main character is perpetually reincarnated and tries to make the most of each of her short lives.
  3. O, Africa! by Andrew Louis Conn. This was a Goodreads First Reads win, my first in a while. Two brothers trying to make it in Hollywood try to stay ahead of the curve by going to get the next big thing: footage of Africa. Did I mention this was 1920s? I’m a bit excited.
  4. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. With all the Rowell buzz going around today, this shouldn’t surprise anyone. I saw a book blogger review it positively and it jumped on the list, aided because Nicole has a copy I can borrow! The main character falls in love with a woman whose conversation he’s monitoring for security reasons. (I suspect in true Rowell fashion that this will be a lot better than it sounds.)
  5. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. I’ve seen this play before and really enjoyed it. When I asked for suggestions on a book to read for the 1890-1909 period for When Are You Reading?, Katherine suggested this title. A classic farce of mistaken identities and Wilde’s wit.

So there they are! The next five books to be added to the never-ending ‘To Read’ pile.  What have you added to your list? Anything on my list strike your fancy? Please leave a comment and let me know!

Until next time, write on.