Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown (4/5)

25 Mar

I’ve read all of Dan Brown’s books so it seemed a shame to stop. Especially with the amazing (if a bit unreal) Robert Langdon coming back to star in another adventure. At least he didn’t leave this one with another female heroine on his arm. Maybe he’s losing his touch.

Cover image via Goodreads

Origin (Robert Langdon #5) by Dan Brown

Summary from Goodreads:

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself… and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery… and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

This book was exactly what I was looking for: fun without being too deep. I read ebooks slowly and a plot that’s too deep or involved can be hard for me to keep track of. I loved the racing plot, short chapters, and seemingly clear bad-guys. I loved the setting, too. And yes, I’m very biased. I’ve been to Spain twice and love the country. Most recently, my husband and I were in Barcelona and enjoyed the Gaudí architecture of the city including its gem, La Sagrada Familia. My mom said I should have read this book before visiting, but reading it after brought back the awe I felt when seeing it and I think this order may have been best.

I never read a Brown book for the characters. Langdon seems to be an idealized version of Brown, a middle-aged man who isn’t slowed down by age and seems to look better as he gets older. Not everyone is George Clooney. Vidal seems too perfect, too. Her one flaw is something beyond her control and doesn’t affect her actions in this story. Prince Julian and Bishop Valdespino are the most flawed characters in this book and they still come away on top. Not a lot of people suffered during the story except the ‘bad guys.’

Father Beña was an amazing character and it’s a testament to him that a small side character stuck out so much. His grasp of religion, the church, and its place in our world was very modern and promoted a moderation that I feel many Catholics would be on board with. I also have to mention Winston as a favorite character though I’m not sure a computer technically counts as a character.

There was no particular character I really related and I find that’s par for the course in an action story. There’s not a lot of emotional attachment to characters in a fast-paced plot like this, it’s more about the story. I still enjoyed the plot without having a character I could see myself in.

Dan Brown Image via the author’s website

The time in La Sagrada Familia was my favorite because of the powerful images it evoked for me. The way light streams into the large space and the feeling of being small yet a part of something big that the church delivers is amazing and Brown portrayed it well. It was clear he’d been in that space to research this book.

I felt like Monica Martín’s character deserved a bit more closure than she got. For a while, she was central to the plot and all of the confusion that occupied the middle of the book. When she simply disappeared toward the end without explaining much about how she was changing the story of the palace, I was frustrated. I guess I wished she was on Avila’s side or something.

Science and religion have been at odds for thousands of years. I doubt very much that one person could change that, even with the findings that Edmund presented. There will be debates and infighting and wars as there always have been and as there will likely continue to be. I don’t think the religious can all fight that science and belief starkly contradict at times. Some people can’t change what they see as true.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book is a great example of pacing. With an adventure book, you have to be going from page one and Brown did an amazing job of that. The varied chapter lengths helped this as well. Some were short, just a quick press release, while others took up as many pages as they needed to in order to get their point across. I’d love to be able to use the pacing of an adventure writer in anything I do.

Overall, the book was fun and exciting but not very deep, though that was to be expected. 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:
ORIGINal Sin: Dan Brown’s Origin | 52 Books 52
Origin by Dan Brown | Book Nation by Jen
Dan Brown Visual Companion
Book Review: “ORIGIN” by Dan Brown | Written by James Allder
Book Review- Origin by Dan Brown | Reading Between the Pages

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Book Club Reflection: Hunger by Roxane Gay

21 Mar

My book club met to discuss Roxane Gay’s Hunger last week. It was a very emotional book and it made very a very emotional discussion!

I wasn’t the only person who listened to the audiobook. There were a range of opinions about the narration. Gay spoke slowly and some readers listened at a faster speed. She read it in a very monotone voice and some felt it didn’t give the subject matter the right amount of gravitas that a professional reader may have given it.

Many felt the book itself was a bit long and repetitive. By the end, some described it as whiny. Interestingly, there were not many professional reviews that had anything negative to say about the book. I guess it’s hard to criticize someone’s raw pain. No matter how many times she repeated it, though, someone who’s never been her size will never understand what it’s like for her. I can’t get it, even after reading this book. The subject matter was very personal and it felt like the reader was almost too involved in her life to the point of being obtrusive.

Roxane has the conflicting desires to be larger and unattractive to men but to receive the rewards that she sees as coming with weight loss and being small. She’s scared to be small because she thinks that if she is, she could be raped again. This contradiction carries through the book.

One thing that stood out to us was her not being able to tell her family about the rape until years later. We think they would have been more than understanding and helped her get the justice and guidance she needed. For a family that was so accepting of her bisexuality, surely they could accept something that she suffered so terribly.

Reading this book opened many of our eyes to how someone who is overweight feels about being looked at. Our society is very critical of someone who overindulges in food rather than something less visible such as alcohol, drugs, or sex. It’s because it’s something we can so readily see. Saying someone is obese is an accusation of something that is wrong with a person. It’s something medical personnel want to treat and which they get paid to correct. Gay’s problem was compounded by her gender. We all felt it was easier for a man to be overweight than a woman. They’re less likely to be stared at in the same manner.

We wondered if writing this book helped her cope with anything. We felt she firmly cemented that she is always going to be big and that she’s OK with it. We speculated that if Gay did lose the weight, people would comment on it and those comments would likely upset her because she wouldn’t lose weight to gain anyone’s approval. If she ever did it, it would be for herself.

I’ve only just started our next book, Dodgers by Bill Beverly. I’m hoping that one won’t be so emotional, we need a break!

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, 20-March-2019

20 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’ve been really enjoying Wonder by R.J. Palacio. The way the plot is told is really engaging and I like how each character reveals a bit more about the plot. It’s making me want to drive around just to listen more.
I began a new ebook and decided on Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. This was one that was recommended by my page-a-day book calendar in 2013. I’m still working that calendar off. Maybe once every ten years will be good for another one.
My book club’s next pick is Dodgers by Bill Beverly and I’ve grabbed it on audio. I don’t know anything about it, really, I’m just going in blind like I normally do. I’m so early into this one that I’m not ready to form an opinion yet. More to come.
I’m making a great effort to tear down my TBR mountain and I’ve started another one from the list, Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I’ve been reading Bohjalian for a few years now and my copy of this one is actually autographed. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but I’ve got a feeling this break-out hit will be a win with me.

Recently finished: I finally finished Origin by Dan Brown while I was waiting for my computer to update on Friday. I didn’t realize how close I was to finishing it. I’m glad to be caught up on the series and I’m excited to see what else comes next from Langdon. I’m sure there’s more to tell. I gave the book Four out of Five stars. A review will be up next week.
I was able to finish This Is a Book by Demetri Martin quickly. It was a fun book of essays, drawings, and lists. Not much substance to it but fun all the same. I gave it Three out of Five stars.
I think I’ll have finished Thunderstruck by Erik Larson by next week. I’m getting through it pretty quick with my long bike rides. It’s not my favorite thing to listen to while riding because it’s so technical, but I can tell the plots are about to intersect and I’m excited to see how.

And so many reviews as well! I was first able to review Books for Living by Will Schwalbe. This one was really touching and a great book for book lovers. The post went up last Thursday, please go check it out.
I also reviewed The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. This was a surprise winner for me and I’m so glad I finally gave it time. I wish I’d gotten to it earlier. Four out of Five Stars.
I also wrote a review yesterday for Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. Yes, that is a review every day since my last WWW Wednesday! I’ve had so many good books to review. This book blew me away and I think I may soon have a new favorite YA author. I gave the book Five out of Five stars, changing my rating when I started reviewing it and realized I had nothing bad to say about it.

Reading Next: I’ll need a new car audiobook soon and the next up is one I’m very excited about, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while and I’m getting giddy about starting it soon.


Leave a comment with your link and 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: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (5/5)

19 Mar

This book was wonderful. It took me on an adventure to somewhere I’d never dreamed of and I loved every second of it. I was rooting for Jo the whole time and I loved all the side characters in her story that were along for the ride. I initially gave this a 4/5 rating but when I started writing this review, I couldn’t think of a single thing I disliked about it. So get ready for some high praise.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

I wasn’t fully prepared for the well-orchestrated adventure I was going to be on when I started this book. I wish I’d read it closer to my trip to New Orleans, but that’s two years behind me now. When I think of the 1950s, I’m too often overwhelmed with images of poodle skirts and flashy cars (thank you Grease) but this was a very different picture. Jesse was a bit of the greaser, but the New Orleans setting took over the story and dominated the pages. Jo was a good choice of narrator to see the underbelly of the city while staying above the really terrible parts, but the city itself overpowered her and is the most memorable thing in this book.

While I’d like to believe there’s no one as terrible as Louise, sweet as Jesse, or pitiable as Charlie, I know that’s not true and all of these characters were wonderfully crafted. I developed feelings for all of them and cared deeply about their outcomes. Even the unlikable characters were believable and I could understand their motivations. I think characterization, plot, and setting all tied together wonderfully in this book.

Patrick was my favorite character. Until his big secret is revealed (no spoilers!) I was pulling for him and Jo to be together. I thought he was really sweet and loved how he looked out for his father. I liked how he was responsible for his business and his father and that he asked for help when he needed it. And I adored how much he cared about Jo.

I wanted to get out of my hometown when I was Jo’s age. Not for the same reasons, but I wanted to go somewhere and start over. I’d been in the same school since I was in Kindergarten and I wanted to go to college with people I didn’t know and start fresh. I related to her desire to get out but her reluctance to leave the people she loved behind. It was liberating, yet lonely, to leave home and I think Jo senses the same thing coming her way.

Ruta Sepetys
Image via the Between Shades of Gray website

The setting was just so good that I’m going to talk about it again. I was in New Orleans for a conference two years ago and was able to spend some time alone walking around the French Quarter. It still has the vibe that Sepetys describes. I can only imagine it 60 years ago with fewer tourists and different laws. It took me back to wandering around in the heat of summer looking at bookshops and I loved it.

Spoilers here so skip down to avoid them! The only part of the book I disliked was Willie’s death. It seemed to come too fast. I think it was built to very subtly, but it was too subtle. If Willie was ill, it should have been more obvious. It seemed too convenient and wrapped up the plot too quickly. I guess I didn’t buy it being grown into the plot.

The audiobook I listened to was read by Lauren Fortgang. She did an amazing job with this book. The characters’ accents seemed to jive with where they were from and her intonations for the different genders, ages, and lifestyles was perfect. I actually searched for other titles read by Fortgang and I’m thinking of listening to them just to enjoy her again.

Jo didn’t have a traditional family. The one blood relative she did have didn’t support her in any way and hurt her at every opportunity to further her own agenda. Willie was more like a mother, Cokie and Charlie fathers, and Patrick a brother. These people took care of each other. They were a community of people who looked out for one another and I loved that. I think it’s something we’re missing today in a lot of the country and I’d love to see this kind of community come back.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m going to talk about the setting again. It’s very obvious that Sepetys did a lot of research into New Orleans in the 1950s. As a historical fiction writer, I know that can be hard and I think she’s done an amazing job. She brought it to life and the city was almost a character that could help or hurt a person and I think that’s amazing.

This book blew me away. 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!

Related Posts:
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys- Review by Emma Williams | Nerdy Book Club
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys | Book Review | Bookish Things and Tea
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, 9/10 | readerscornerblog
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys | Librarina
[review] Out of the Easy- Ruta Sepetys | Mermaid Vision Books

Book Review: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton (4/5)

18 Mar

I’ve had this book on my TBR for ages. A family friend heard me talking about my old writing group and said I should read this book since it reminded her of the group I was talking about. I had it on my TBR and ended up buying a copy at a book store in Chicago in 2015. I’m embarrassed to say I waited so long to finally read it. Rightfully, I started it in Chicago.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

Summary from Goodreads:

When five young mothers—Frankie, Linda, Kath, Ally, and Brett—first meet in a neighborhood park in the late 1960s, their conversations center on marriage, raising children, and a shared love of books. Then one evening, as they gather to watch the Miss America Pageant, Linda admits that she aspires to write a novel herself, and the Wednesday Sisters Writing Society is born. The five women slowly, and often reluctantly, start filling journals, sliding pages into typewriters, and sharing their work. In the process, they explore the changing world around them: the Vietnam War, the race to the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they believe about themselves. At the same time, the friends carry one another through more personal changes—ones brought about by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success. With one another’s support and encouragement, the Wednesday Sisters begin to embrace who they are and what they hope to become, welcoming readers to experience, along with them, the power of dreaming big.

This was a slow novel but I couldn’t put it down. All of the women were wonderfully unique and universal. I cared deeply about each of them and the things in their lives that made them different and loveable. Frankie was a good narrator because she was honestly the blandest of the women. Her story was interesting, but it was more about her husband and outside the focus of the book. My image of Kath, Brett, Linda, and Ally changed dramatically throughout the book and I loved that. I, like Frankie, had ideas about them at the beginning but loved them for different reasons later. Clayton did an amazing job of making me love these women.

Each woman was well-developed. Reading the interview with Clayton in the back, she talks about making each unique and it stands out as one of the novel’s strongest points. I identified with Linda and her athletic ambitions. I’ve read a lot about the women’s running movement that she is so interested in so it was fun to see a character who latched on to that.

Kath was my favorite character. In the beginning, I felt she was passive and a little naive. But the way she dealt with Lee’s infidelity was amazing. Her strength in confronting him and the strong face she showed her children was amazing. I respected her so much for the job she was able to take and how she found success and was able to help Brett. She really became the best version of herself without Lee and it was so great to see.

Linda’s athleticism was relatable to me. I didn’t expect that from a book set in this time period. I also related to Ally a bit, but not personally. I have a really close friend whose husband is non-white while she is. She’s mentioned to me the way people look at them and reading about Ally and Jim made me think of her. I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been in this time period but it made me consider how we really haven’t come that far.

Meg Waite Clayton Image via Wikipedia

It sounds weird, but I loved when they got in a fight. It was so true to life, how friends say something stupid and upset each other but can be too proud to say they’re sorry and wait until you’re all sick of not being friends and apologize and then everything is back to the way it was. It was reassuring to see characters in a book put their feet in their mouths as well.

I wasn’t a fan of how quickly the book wrapped up. I wanted more, and that’s really a testament to how good this book was. Everything was wrapped up, but just a bit faster than I would have liked. I see there’s a sequel, but it switches to their children and it just wouldn’t be the same.

Female friendships can be very powerful and are often featured in books. I liked that this book covered the rest of the women’s lives with their families and how they could support each other through those troubles. It looked at each person as an individual supported by the team rather than as only a unit.

Writer’s Takeaway: In the back of the book, Clayton talked about her process and how she was told Ally and Brett were too similar and how she was able to separate them better by giving Ally’s mother-in-law a voice and an opinion about her. It helped Ally stand out by seeing her through someone else’s eyes. That’s a great trick when dealing with a lot of different characters.

This book was warm and fun and introduced me to five wonderful women. Four out of Five Stars.

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

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
Guest Post: The Wednesday Sisters Book Group by Meg Waite Clayton | Books on the Brain
Review: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton | I’m Booking It

Book Review: Books for Living by Will Schwalbe (3/5)

14 Mar

A few years ago, my book club introduced me to WIll Schwalbe and his love for books. I was excited to see that Schwalbe was going to be at the Midwest Literary Walk in 2018 and I had a chance to hear him talk about books and how they can change lives. I got a copy of his newest book, Books for Living, signed. I told him honestly that I was a little afraid to read his book because it would make my TBR so long. He responded, “That makes me very happy.”

Cover image via Goodreads

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Other books by Schwalbe reviewed on this blog:

The End of Your Life Book Club (and Book Club Reflection)

Summary from Goodreads:

“I’ve always believed that everything you need to know you can find in a book,” writes Will Schwalbe in his introduction to this thought-provoking, heartfelt, and inspiring new book about books.

In each chapter he makes clear the ways in which a particular book has helped to shape how he leads his own life and the ways in which it might help to shape ours. He talks about what brought him to each book – or vice versa; the people in his life he associates each book with; how each has led him to other books; how each is part of his understanding of himself in the world. And he relates each book to a question of our daily lives, for example: Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener speaks to quitting; 1984 to disconnecting from our electronics; James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room to the power of finding ourselves and connecting with one another; Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea to taking time to recharge; Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to being sensitive to the surrounding world; The Little Prince to making friends; Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train to trusting.

Here, too, are books by Dickens, Daphne du Maurier, Haruki Murakami, Edna Lewis, E. B. White, and Hanya Yanagihara, among many others. A treasure of a book for everyone who loves books, loves reading, and loves to hear the answer to the question: “What are you reading?”

This book reads like a list of book recommendations and Schwalbe does include an appendix of all books mentioned in the book. It’s an amazing ode to books that we love and that have changed us. I didn’t look at the list of books in advance and I got really excited when a book I’d read was mentioned. Of the 26 Schwalbe talked about, I’d read five and I’m in the process of reading another. There were countless references to other books I’ve read and loved and ones I’ve never heard of. And, surprisingly, I only added one book to my TBR. I know, I’m shocked.

My copy.

Schwalbe is very open and honest about himself and how these books have changed him. He talks about his life when he encountered the book and how it changed his view of the world and the trajectory of his life. He doesn’t sugar coat parts of his life and his faults. I felt like I knew him a bit after his first book, even more after hearing him speak, and now well enough to have a conversation because of this one. I wish he’d read the book, but nothing is perfect.

When I read the sections on books I’d read, I could relate to how they’d affected me and how they’d affected Schwalbe. Reading Lolita in Tehran y Azar Nafisi was a very emotional book and Schwalbe talks about the emotional impact it made on him. I remember I bought the book as part of a bartering agreement at a garage sale. I really wanted an end table and I’d pay the slightly higher price they wanted if they threw in a book. I read the book a few months later and I wasn’t ready for the emotional roller coaster that would come with it. Schwalbe is relatable in his reaction to books and how emotional he becomes when experiencing them. I’ve always been moved by books and it was wonderful to find out I’m not alone.

The one book Schwalbe encouraged me to add to my TBR was Lateral Thinking by Edward De Bono. I was intrigued by the stories Schwalbe imparted about this book and how it helped him see the world differently. Sometimes, I’d like to come up with the magical option ‘e’ and find another solution where I didn’t think one existed before. Who knows, maybe it will help me in fiction writing.

Will Schwalbe at the Midwest Literary Walk on 10-March-18

I felt there were a few more recent selections than I would have liked. Of course, the book you just read has the largest impact on you for a time, but it’s not always lasting. I was a bit disappointed by this and tuned out a bit when he spoke about these titles. I’m sure this book would have some different selections if Schwalbe wrote it ten years from now. I guess I was looking for a bit more lasting impact.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Jeff Harding. I got over my disappointment that Schwalbe didn’t narrate very quickly because Harding was a great narrator. There were no characters to portray in this book, but Harding kept things interesting and kept me entertained throughout the book.

Books about books are for readers. This isn’t a book for someone who casually picks up four books per year. This one was for someone who can’t seem to live without a book in their hands and shelves full of stories.  People who love books are changed by them. Schwalbe isn’t’ unusual in this respect and that’s part of what made his story strong. I’m just like him and I could write a list of 26 books that impacted me. It would be completely different and if we had any overlapping books, they would be for completely different reasons. And that’s totally fine. We can all love books and disagree on which ones or why. That’s part of being a reader.

Writer’s Takeaway: Readers talk about books. If someone is a reader, it’s unlikely that they’ll go through their day without mentioning something they are reading or have read. Schwalbe is a character in his own book. Characters that read need to talk about it. This applies to fiction, too.

Overall enjoyable but lacking great depth because of its format. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
Will Schwalbe Finds Books for Living: What Are You Reading? | Narrative Species
BOOKS FOR LIVING by Will Schwalbe: A Review (Subtitled “Some Thoughts on Reading, Reflecting, and Embracing Life”) | powerfulwomanreaders
I Feel the Need, the Need to Read | Borden’s Blog

WWW Wednesday, 13-March-2019

13 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’m getting so close to finishing Origin by Dan Brown! The story picked up and I’ve been reading it really fast to keep going. I’m excited to know this will likely be on my ‘finished’ list next week.
I started Thunderstruck by Erik Larson and made a decent dent in it with some long bike rides this week. I’m honestly thinking this could be finished in a week because of the amount of riding I’m doing. This progress will have to slow down when the weather gets better and I can ride outside.
I grabbed a new audiobook for my car due to some amazing progress reading (see below). I decided to pick up Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I was reminded that I wanted to explore this book by reading Will Schwalbe. When I heard him speak, he mentioned being part of a book club for adults that read children’s and YA books and how much his group enjoyed this one. So far, I have to agree!
I picked up a library copy of Demetri Martin’s This Is a Book. I’m a big fan of Martin’s comedy and I saw him live (gosh, was that ten years ago?) so I’m excited to see what he can do with a book of essays.

Recently finished: A big week for finishing books! First was Books for Living by Will Schwalbe which I finished because of a surprise trip to Ann Arbor (45 minutes for me) to see some friends. The drive gave me time to finish this one and get excited about my book on hold. Look for a review tomorrow!
I also wrapped up The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton which was a surprise and a huge hit for me. I loved the characters and their passion for writing reminded me of some close friends I used to write with. It was a feel-good piece for me, though there wasn’t a lot of feeling good for the characters. Review coming next week.
I was so eager to finish Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys but now I miss it! This was a wonderfully fun book and I’m so glad I added it to my TBR and was introduced to a new and amazing author. I’m looking forward to reading more by Sepetys in the future.

And reviews! The first one I posted was last Thursday where I reviewed Shannon A. Thompson’s Minutes Before Sunset. I don’t think I was the ideal reader for this one, but I read it quickly and enjoyed one of the characters a lot. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg. I read this book at just the right time in my life and it really resonated with me and gave me something to enjoy while riding. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I feel it’s too soon to think of anything except an ebook. My next one will be Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. This is one of the last Book Calendar recommendations I have left and I’m getting excited about finishing the long list that amazing (and awful?) calendar created.


Leave a comment with your link and 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 Club Reflection: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani (Part 2)

12 Mar

Since Trigiani is visiting our area, both of my book clubs read her book, Kiss Carlo, over the past few months. My second book club met to talk about it and we didn’t have too much to say about it. We spent the majority of the meeting picking books for our next season of reading. So this will be short.

I aired the complaints my other group shared about extraneous plot lines and many agreed. We did have a member who just adored this book and I can see how someone would. This reader is from an Italian family and she adored Trigiani’s depiction of an Italian-American family. I married into one and I could appreciate it as well (and commiserate with the sisters-in-law!). It’s clear Trigiani knows what she’s writing about in that respect. Some of our readers come from a Jewish background and they identified with the strong family ties as well. It was well written and relatable. We talked about how her writing, the words on the page, were enjoyable. However, a lot of people agreed that there were some things that were hard to believe and that the book could have been edited nearly in half.

One reader described the book by saying “It was like eating Cool Whip expecting a turkey dinner.” It was nice, light, and enjoyable, but it didn’t have the meat to it that we’d hoped for and it didn’t leave us satisfied.

Most of us have already read our book for next month, The Gilded Hour by Sarah Donati. We’re making up for a snow day in January where we missed a meeting.

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 Review: You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg (4/5)

11 Mar

I found this book at a library used book sale and immediately knew I needed to read it. This was before I signed up for my 70.3 race but that race was always in the back of my head. I was ecstatic to find it on audio and it was an amazing motivator for the long bike rides I’ve been putting myself through. I think that if there’s a perfect time to read a book, I nailed it with this one.

Cover image via Goodreads

You Are An Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dreams of Finishing the World’s Toughest Triathlon by Jacques Steinberg

Summary from Goodreads:

As he did so masterfully in his New York Times bestseller, The Gatekeepers, Jacques Steinberg creates a compelling portrait of people obsessed with reaching a life-defining goal. In this instance, the target is an Ironman triathlon-a 2.4-mile open-water swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, then finally a 26-mile marathon run, all of which must be completed in no more than seventeen hours.

Steinberg focuses not on the professionals who live off the prize money and sponsorships but on a handful of triathletes who regard the sport as a hobby. Vividly capturing the grueling preparation, the suspense of completing each event of the triathlon, and the spectacular feats of human endurance, Steinberg plumbs the physical and emotional toll as well as the psychological payoff on the participants of the Ford Ironman Arizona 2009. His You Are an Ironman is both a riveting sports narrative and a fascinating, behind-the scenes study of what makes these athletes keep going.

I think I’m the ideal audience for this book. I am a weekend warrior, though for half the distance these athletes trained for. Triathlon has been part of my life since 2014 and I love it. Some things in this book were over-explained for someone with my background, but a lot of it was relatable and welcome. I could commiserate with being tired from work and training. I could understand not seeing friends and family who were not part of your triathlon community. I shared fears of illness, crashes, and injuries. I rejoiced with the athletes when they had breakthroughs and cried with them over setbacks and cheered with them as they succeeded. Steinberg picked a great group of athletes to follow for this race and I loved cheering for all of them.

I’m glad Steinberg chose athletes from such different backgrounds for this book. It kept everything interesting and made it so I had someone to relate to in all aspects. I struggle with the run so Laura wasn’t relatable in that sense but Bryan was. These people reminded me of those in my tri club and sometimes of myself. I got a great sense of them from Steinberg’s writing. Using their own training logs and blogs was a great tool to give them their own voices as well.

Tracey was my favorite athlete and I’m totally going to spoil how the race went for her so skip this paragraph if you don’t want that. I’m actually glad Steinberg profiled someone who didn’t make it to race day. Injury is a very real part of training for any athletic event and Tracey injuring herself was very real to me. It was how she dealt with that injury that made her my favorite. She didn’t let it stop her! Not one bit. I was glad that the book ended with her and knowing that she finished the race in 2010. I would have been shocked if she hadn’t. Her attitude along the way, that all of this was fun and a good reason to see her friends, made me happy. That’s how I’ve tried to view my training, too. It makes it fun instead of a chore and I was glad to see someone had successfully done that.

Jacques Steinberg Image via The New York Times

I was looking forward to race day from the start. I like how Steinberg told the story of that day and how he paced it, giving each athlete their due time. No matter how much you prepare, there’s nothing like a race day to make you doubt everything you’ve done to get there. The jitters were spot on, the doubts and performance and perseverance to just KEEP GOING when everything was rough. It was well done.

There wasn’t a part I particularly disliked. I sometimes worried that these people weren’t ready enough for their race but I’m assuming there were some workouts and dietary details taken out. I’m training 10 hours a week for a 70.3 and it seemed like these people were at about the same load for double the distance. I’m glad no more of them were injured!

The audiobook was narrated by Kirby Heyborne. I listened to him previously narrate the Miss Peregrine series and it took a few hours for me to stop associating this book with those because of his voice. I liked Heyborne better for this book. He didn’t have characters to voice or accents to do, just more of his normal voice. He sounds a little menacing but in this case, with such a daunting day hanging over the participant’s heads, it was very appropriate.

Setting a big goal can be scary. I can’t think of a goal bigger than Ironman. For many, it’s a lifetime achievement that they will remember for the rest of their lives. I think this book helps explain why being deemed an Ironman is such an accomplishment. It’s not about winning the race, it’s about finish it. No matter how long you’re on the course, finishing it is what’s important.

Writer’s Takeaway: Using the training blogs of the athletes was a great way to bring their voices to the book while having the author’s voice bind the book together. I’m thinking of how that could be used in fiction as well and it’s mostly applicable to dialogue. Not all characters should talk in the style the book is narrated. Making a character’s manner of speaking different helps the character stand out and feel original.

This book was highly enjoyable and I’m so glad I read it when I did. 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:
Friday Reads – You Are An Ironman | Reading, Running, Cycling
Audiobook Review- You Are An Ironman- Jacques Steinberg | Dee’s Book Blog

Book Review: Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson (3/5)

7 Mar

I’ve been holding on to this book for far too long. I won it in a giveaway on the author’s blog but haven’t found time to read it for years. My recent push to read my TBR has been working and I finally grabbed it and gave it a go.

Cover image via Goodreads

Minutes Before Sunset (The Timely Death Trilogy #1) by Shannon A. Thompson

Summary from Goodreads:

Eric Welborn isn’t completely human, but he isn’t the only shade in the small Midwest town of Hayworth. With one year left before his eighteenth birthday, Eric is destined to win a long-raging war for his kind. But then she happens. In the middle of the night, Eric meets a nameless shade, and she’s powerful—too powerful—and his beliefs are altered. The Dark has lied to him, and he’s determined to figure out exactly what lies were told, even if the secrets protect his survival.

Jessica Taylor moves to Hayworth, and her only goal is to find more information on her deceased biological family. Her adoptive parents agree to help on one condition: perfect grades. And Jessica is distraught when she’s assigned as Eric’s class partner. He won’t help, let alone talk to her, but she’s determined to change him—even if it means revealing everything he’s strived to hide.

Disclaimer: My copy is one of the original 2013 publications. I’m not sure what changes were made between the 2013 publication and the re-release in 2015. Some of the content of my review may not be relevant to the most recent release.

I feel like I need to preface this review by saying I never read Twilight. I was never interested in the paranormal romance field. The closest I ever got was The Diviners and I read that because of the 1920s setting (though I enjoyed it a lot!). This isn’t a genre I have a lot of interest in and I’m not the target audience by far. I found the world confusing. I was often confused by the characters with two names (they have a human and a shade name) and it took me a while to know who was who and when. I was confused about how their shade powers worked and who had what abilities and what happened when things went wrong. It wasn’t clear to me why the light were so much more powerful or if that was just my perspective. Overall, I think there could have been a lot more backstory to make this story easier to digest.

Some of the characters were more believable than others. Jessica seemed to be very simple with low motivation and her emotions were predictable. Eric, on the other hand, was much more complex and seemed to be grappling with a lot of emotions and motivations simultaneously. I didn’t see what attracted them to each other because their relationship was filled with secrets yet they claimed to trust each other. I think a few more scenes could have made this stronger and more believable.

I wanted to know more about Pierce. His transformation between shade and human was very stark and I felt like it would have affected his personality in one or both forms. It would have been cool to explore that more and get to know him better.

I went to college in a town I didn’t know without knowing anyone so I could understand Jessica’s instant attraction to the first people who talked to her. I remained friends with those people for four years. I didn’t understand what Robb and Crystal really wanted out of their friendship, but I felt like there was something more behind why they roped Jessica into their group. Maybe that’s to be revealed in later installments in the series.

Shannon A. Thompson
Image via Amazon

I thought the descriptions of Prom were very true to my memories. It was always made into such a bit deal and it was such a superficial moment that was never what you wanted it to be. Jessica’s experience seemed pretty typical of what I recall. Maybe a little more ‘Prince Charming’ than I had, though.

The final battle seemed to end really quickly, to the point where I re-read a few pages because I thought I missed something. I understand that it was a small battle as the plot progresses toward its finale in book three, but the abruptness of its end was unsatisfying and I was confused about what had happened.

There wasn’t a clear theme to me in this book. Love was clearly something important to Jessica and Eric but it was unclear to me if this love was genuine or if it was the result of a prophecy that involved the two of them. Were they in love because the prophecy said they would be? With how quickly it developed, I really questioned how it would survive the action that’s sure to come in the next two books. I wish it had been parallelled in another couple, parents or allies in the fight because the theme wasn’t well emphasized.

Writer’s Takeaway: I thought a lot about my book while I was reading this one. I also have a teenage romance that builds. It helped me see where I thought there were strengths or weaknesses in this book and think about how I could use that to improve my own book. One of the big criticisms I had was that the romance between my two characters is implied for too long before it’s brought to the forefront of the book. Reading this, I thought where the romance could have been built more and it helped me see how I could build my own better.

This book didn’t really entice me to give paranormal romance a try. I’ll stick with what I’ve enjoyed before. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
Cover Reveal: Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson | Note to Selph
Review: Minutes Before Sunset (The Timely Death Trilogy #1) | Real Rad Reads
Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson | The Modest Verge
Book Review: Minutes Before Sunset (The Timely Death Trilogy #1) by Shannon A Thompson | Press Pause Fast Forward