Kristen Blythe

Book Review: Life After Life

I’m a little late to the party with this book, but let’s be real, I’m the worst at reading books as soon as they come out.  I wish I had the time to stay life after lifecurrent but I’m lucky I find time to read and write at all some days.  I was so excited to read this book, I had read Kate Atkinson’s interview on Goodreads a while ago and though this book sounded really intriguing.  It also got a lot of great reviews and I was anxious to see what all the hype was about.  After having read it I’m baffled that there was any hype about it at all.

The book follows the life of Ursula Todd as she dies over and over again and is reborn each time.  In the prologue Ursula shoots Hitler.  The build up to that has to be fantastic right?  Not even a little bit.  The first quarter of the book is spent depicting Ursula’s childhood which was even more boring than it sounds.  When I’m reading a book I want that ‘I can’t wait to pick this up again’ feeling each time I have to set it down.  “Life After Life” gives you that ‘The only reason I am picking this book up is because it has to get better, right?’ feeling.  The time period was good for me, most the story is set in England from 1910-1945.  However the characters were lacking in…well pretty much everything.  There is nothing about Ursula that makes you connect with her or feel anything for her period.  Her siblings should have been much better fleshed out considering the large amount of time the book spends focusing on her childhood.  Her mother Sylvie seems bipolar at times, I can’t figure out when she’s going to care about the children and when she’s not. The father, Hugh, was the most likable character in the book for me, showing genuine and consistent emotion throughout.  There are a handful of secondary characters that I enjoyed but they don’t carry the book.

After her childhood we are shown what Ursula’s alternate adulthoods are like which range from marrying an abusive husband who ends up killing her, to marrying and having a child with a German who ends up being one of the higher ups in Hitler’s Third Reich.  Her life when she was in Germany was by far the best part of the book for me, aside from the prologue.  I thought Kate Atkinson did a nice job of communicating what it may have been like to live in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich, the fear that people must have felt and how things spiraled so far out of control.  Ursula and her daughter spent time with Eva Braun at Hitler’s mountain retreat and I loved the glimpse into what that day to day life could have been there.  None of Ursula’s relationships made me feel anything.  I never really connected with her, perhaps because I felt like she had so few meaningful attachments or connections in her life.  The book ended rather abruptly, on the night of Ursula’s birth yet again right after she shot Hitler and found out her brother survived his plane going down during the war.  Was I suppose to pick which one of the lives I thought she should follow?  Since she was born again does that mean that killing Hitler wasn’t what she was supposed to do with her life?  I have no idea and I don’t care in the slightest.  I hate that I didn’t like it but it is what it is.  On to my next adventure.


The writer’s high


Some days I don’t feel like a writer at all.  Surely in order to be a writer someone has to actually read your writing.  I’ve written for dozens of classes but the journey of writing my novel is unlike any I’ve ever experienced.  It is an entirely different animal than short stories which is all I’ve attempted before now.  There are days when writing isn’t fun.  I don’t know which direction to take the story in next, I don’t think anything I’ve written is any good, I wanted to eek out 1,000 words and I only got 87, I got rejected by another agent,etc.  I wanted to write this post to remind us that despite all the bad times, the great times are out there and they make the bad ones pale in comparison.  Writing is kind of like parenting that way.

It never ceases to amaze me or excite me when the story starts writing itself and goes in a completely different direction than I intended.  I had read about this happening to other writers but didn’t really believe in it until it happened to me for the first time.  My protagonist was attending a family dinner and she shows up and there is the guy she just had a one night stand with. Don’t even go there, he’s not one of the relatives!  I wasn’t planning on him being there he just showed up, there’s no other way to describe it.  The following scenes wrote themselves, it was incredible.  I felt like I had lifted a car over my head.  I knew that I had done something right and since a writer spends much of their time thinking that everything they are doing is total crap, it makes that writer’s high all that more sweet.

I also get the writer’s high when one of the characters or scenes makes me cry.  I know that may sound counterintuitive but I’m not a cryer.  It’s not that I don’t have feelings they just hardly every spill out my eyes.  If something that I’ve written moves me to the point of tears I know that something amazing happened and the high that comes with it makes all the bad stuff worth it.  I will write 5,000 words of drivel and edit it all out later (which really happens, fyi) just to get that pot of gold at the end of my word rainbow.  I want all of you out there struggling to remind yourselves you’re not alone and that we do this for a very good reason.  Happy writing everyone.

Unleash your fury, I can take it

My Clark Kent job is front desk at a dental office.  It’s not what I dreamed of doing with my life but it allows me to work 3 days a week, it pays my bills and gives me the opportunity to babysit my nephews, keeping my sister and I from getting raped by the childcare system.  As part of my job I ask patients to update certain forms.  I don’t do it because I have a paper fetish or a sick desire to steal 30 seconds out of your day or because it gives me some unexplainable joy.  I do it because it’s part of my job and I have to.  So, when someone yells at me or looks at me like they want to stab me with a prison shank when I ask them to fill one out I take that personally.  I don’t want to ruin your day with my form, I just want to not get bitched at by my boss.  I don’t want to get fired because we got fined by the State Dental Board since I didn’t have you fill out your form.  I just want to get paid and go home.

I recently had the pleasure of getting verbally bitch slapped by a patient who didn’t want to fill out a form.  I knew this particular patient was undergoing radiation therapy, he had changed so much since the last time I saw him that I didn’t recognize him when he came in.  So instead of taking offense and letting his tirade and icy glare upset me for half the day I let it go.  I know it seems like a simple concept but for everyone who has worked in customer service and been bitched at by random people for no reason they know it has a way to drag you down like no other.  There is something about a total stranger being mean to you that can cut deeper than someone you know because you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have done nothing to earn this person’t anger.  Not only did I let it go, I was ok with it and wished him well.  If yelling at me was what he needed to get himself through the day, if that made him feel better I was not going to begrudge him that.  I would open my arms and let him drive his word sword in my gut because other than a momentary flush of my cheeks I was ok.  Perhaps every rude person I encounter is in a similar situation.  Not likely, but if I could shift my context each time someone hurts my feelings I would save myself a ton of aggravation every day and ultimately improve my own life and maybe even someone else’s. Isn’t that what we’re all really after at the end of the day?  So go ahead, release your fury, I can take it.  If my accepting your death by eyeball is going to make you feel better because of whatever you’re going through right now I can take it and I will.

That being said, this post doesn’t apply to people who are mean to others on a regular basis.  I mean at some point enough is enough, stop being a drain on humanity and practice some freaking kindness.

Hello bright, shiny blog world

Hello!  My name is Kristen and if you’re reading this please take a moment to stop and give yourself a big hug from me.  I am so grateful that you’ve shared even a sliver of your very valuable time.  I am a writer and I wanted a place where I could share my love of literature with the world and that’s what you’ve happened upon.  However, since there is more to life than books and writing (sigh) there will be some of that stuff too.  I am the mom of three small boys so that tends to occupy a large amount of my time.  If you don’t enjoy a good penis story every now and then this may not be the right blog for you.


Now that you know a little bit about me let’s talk about the latest book I’ve read, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  I bought this book knowing very little about it.  Honestly the only thing that I knew was that I had heard it mentioned in several of my friends newsfeeds on Facebook and that Starz had made a series out of it.  I like entering into most things in life with very low expectations that way I don’t have sour feelings at then end of whatever it is I’ve tackled.  This book fell nicely into that category.Outlander-blue-cover-198x300

I am a huge historical fiction fan, and I have a fascination with any story set in Europe, so I was geeking out a bit with a glimpse into Scotland in 1743, which is where the majority of the book takes place.  Quick synopsis for those of you that haven’t read it – Claire, a 27 year old WWII combat nurse is on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank in Scotland when she encounters a magical stone circle and is transported back to 1743.  She is picked up by traveling Clansmen and is taking back to their castle.  She adapts to life their while trying to find a way back to her own time but meanwhile is forced into marrying 23 year old Scotsman Jamie, who she ends up falling for.  I won’t tell you anymore to keep from spoiling too much.

OK, so things that I loved.  The descriptions of every day life and the class system of the clan society of Scotland.  I love history and it’s clear that the author did a ton of research in prepping for this novel.  I walked away feeling like I know exactly what it was like to live during this time and grateful that I didn’t have to.  The unpredictability.  There were a few twists and turns that I didn’t see coming which made this a book I hated putting down.  The secondary characters.  There was a large number of supporting characters in this book and they each brought something interesting and unusual to the table and were endearing in their own ways.

Things I didn’t love.  The last bit of the book fell flat for me when Jamie gets raped by the villain, Black Jack Randall, and they take him to a monastery in France to recover.  I can tolerate rape in a book but the scenes in which Claire tried to recreate it to heal him didn’t work for me.  It was confusing, what she was doing and the reasoning for why she was doing it.  Perhaps I was just reading too fast and missed some key parts but it had to have been several things that I missed.

I read a lot of Goodreads reviews of this book and it surprised me how many people were so up in arms that Claire basically committed adultery with Jamie.  I had a hard time getting into this book before Claire went back in time because I wasn’t even a little bit invested in her relationship with Frank.  Something about it seemed off to me from the start so I didn’t give a rat’s ass that she left him for Jamie, I would have too if I’d been given the chance.

Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending the book is set well for the next installment in which Claire and Jamie try to rewrite history to keep the clans from being wiped out by the English.  I am a sucker for a love story and Claire and Jamie’s was no exception.  There are a lot of life and death moments that up the stakes of their relationship.  It’s hard not to fall for Jamie, he is written so sweet and outlandersincere, he’s by far my favorite character in the book.  I have watched a few of the episodes of the shows on Starz and I cannot rave enough about it, I thought they were amazing.  Please leave comments, I would love to hear what you thought


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