WWW Wednesday, 13-January-2021

13 Jan

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 managed to read a few pages of Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono while I was waiting for a lane at the pool over the weekend. Nothing major, but I’m getting more into what lateral thinking means which is interesting.
I missed finishing Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie before my book club meeting but I’m still going to finish it. I’m enjoying the book a lot so there’s no reason to stop.
I grabbed the library’s copy of The Bear by Andrew Krivak and started it over the weekend. I think this is going to be a really quick read so I’m not expecting this to stay on this list for long.

Recently finished: I finished A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro pretty quickly. The ending threw me for a loop and I’m still puzzling through it. I was hoping to have a review up this week but some stomach pain has kept me sidelined a bit more than I’d like so it might be next week before it gets posted.

My review of Hum if You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais went up on Thursday last week. I liked the book and gave it Four out of Five Stars. I’m looking forward to discussing with my book club at the end of the month!

Reading next: It’s almost time to start my next Buddy Read! We decided to go in a different direction this time and we’re trying our first graphic novel. We’ll be reading an adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred by Damian Duffy and John Jennings. I’m excited to get started on this and enjoy a new format of story.


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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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Top 5 of 2020

11 Jan

Though not a lot of good things came out of 2020, one of them was that I had more time for reading than I otherwise would have. I was able to read some amazing books this year and I wanted to take a few minutes to reflect on them and celebrate the books that brought me joy during such a difficult year.

5. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. The only non-fiction book to grace my list this year, Brown renewed my love for historical sportsbooks. I was fascinated with how he interlaced the story of the Washington crew team and Nazi Germany. His writing was engaging and he found a unique topic that might not have been something I researched without prompting but which I was fully engaged in by the end. My book club really enjoyed this one as well.

4. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides. This one was a bit of a surprise to me. I’ve read a few Eugenides books before and loved some, hated others. So I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into this one. I was completely swept away by the voice and the storytelling. The girls are fascinating and with the title, you knew something horrible was going to happen eventually and the sense of dread overhung the entire story in a fascinating way. I was also touched that it took place in Metro Detroit, my hometown. I just had to watch the movie soon after and felt it was a very faithful and well-done adaptation.

3. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. This was my first Buddy Read with my reading buddy and we both really enjoyed it. Patchett has become one of my favorite authors after I’ve enjoyed the last few books of hers that I’ve read. I loved the sibling relationship in this one and Maeve was an amazing character. I thought Patchett did an amazing job of following the siblings for a lot of their life and unraveling how twisted their lives had been as children. This book started an awesome reading partnership that I’ve really valued through the lockdown.

2. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. I picked this book off from a ‘Recommended’ shelf at a bookstore in Atlanta over a year ago. I read the first chapter while I was there and then changed gears to something else before returning to it on audio this year. The story was engaging and had a lot of layers to it that blended into a really touching story. I loved Yale and his friends were some of the better-developed characters I read about this year. I love when I get to learn about a historical event through fiction and the AIDS crisis is something I don’t know too much about. This was a really powerful novel.

1. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I met Lee before I read her book so I was excited about the signed copy I already had when my book club picked this title. I was completely blown away by this book. I fell in love with the characters and sympathized with them through their lives and hardships. The writing was beautiful and graceful. I feared at first that the number of characters would keep me from being able to enjoy the novel as I tried to keep them straight but I didn’t struggle with it like I thought I would. They were each unique and really enjoyable. My book club read this one and really enjoyed it as well.

It was a wonderful year for books, even if it wasn’t the year we expected. I hope you all enjoyed some great books this year, too. 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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Book Review: Hum If You Don’t Now the Words by Bianca Marais (4/5)

7 Jan

This was a book club pick I wasn’t happy about because there was no audiobook available. With how slow I’ve been on audiobooks, I should have been more excited. When I found out my library didn’t have a copy and I’d have to do an ILL, I wasn’t pleased, but I made due. I’m glad I stuck with this title despite the difficulty of getting my hands on it. It was a gem.

Cover image via Amazon

Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais

Summary from Amazon:

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a ten-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband’s death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred…until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing.

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

I was a little thrown off at first by Robin’s narration. She was at the same time well-spoken and also naive which I wasn’t ready for. I realize it was Marais’s way of writing a young girl’s voice for an adult audience and once I adjusted to it, I found the humor and enjoyed it. This was a complicated and wonderful story. I know a little about apartheid in South Africa so I had a basic understanding of the setting. Marais did a wonderful job of bringing 1970s Johannesburg to life for someone who’s never been and didn’t live through the time. I wasn’t aware how much the media controlled information to and from the country which struck me the most.

Marais’s characters are exceptions to their time and I think that’s what makes them interesting. I don’t, however, believe they’re giving me a good representation of the time period. We know that Maggie and Wilhemina are exceptional. We know that Edith has seen more of the world and has a broader view of right and wrong than most South Africans. We know that Beauty is more educated than most Black women of the time. Victor’s sexuality makes him a target and makes him want to rise against the oppressive system that keeps him down. They are joined in a fight against the overwhelming majority keeping them underground. While I believe people like them existed and I’m glad they did, I think the book could have been stronger if there were bigoted major characters, not just neighbors and nameless passers-by.

I hope there were people like Beauty in the world at that time. I hope smart, intelligent women were fighting for their families like Beauty did. I hope more women were able to show the whites that they were wrong and that their ideas could be challenged. Her patience was incredible and the way she helped change Robin’s way of thinking with action and truth was incredible. I’d like to hope she wasn’t fiction because she amazed me.

I think Robin’s ways of thinking were challenged much like ideas in America are being challenged today. The BLM movement and the political division in our country are making me wonder why some people think the way they do and questioning the way I think as well. Do I think I’m right because of the media I consume? Have I considered other sides? Robin faced these hard questions at a young age with remarkable grace. I hope we as a nation can do the same.

Bianca Marais
Image via Amazon

Robin’s relationship with Cat was my favorite part of the story. This is a bit of a spoiler so skip this paragraph to avoid that. I had imaginary friends growing up, so I related to Robin here. Mine weren’t as corporal as Cat, but they existed to me all the same. I thought it was interesting how much she insisted on Cat and how aware she was that Cat was imaginary. Her letting go of Cat was very significant. My mom says I sent my imaginary friends home with my Grandparents one day and never mentioned them again. I feel like Robin was more aware of what Cat meant to her and how she had to give her up to grow.

I felt that the ending was a little too perfect. Robin’s ability to show she was ‘woke’ (as we’d say now) seemed to draw just a little bit too perfectly on what Beauty had taught her. Beauty’s illness was timed so perfectly that she and Robin could have a conversation before she became unresponsive. And King George was willing to take an enormous risk for a young girl because she talked to him. All of it was a bit too much for me when it all came together. 

Family has a lot of different meanings. Robin’s family changes in a second and then continues to evolve. The people who come to make up her family care about her and she learns to care about people she never would have considered before. It sounds like a bad joke when you list them by the characteristics that make them unusual in 1970s South Africa (a Jew, a gay man, a Black woman, a young girl). But what makes them different becomes what binds them together. Alone they are scared, but together they are powerful. The title is what Edith says to Robin when she doesn’t know the words to a hymn. It’s about blending in when you’re alone and becoming part of something bigger.

Writer’s Takeaway: The alternating viewpoints worked wonderfully in this book. Robin may see something through a child’s eye but Beauty could ground it in something more serious and vice versa. Their two ways of seeing things didn’t often clash but they would round out the other to really lift the story.

An enjoyable story that I sped through. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1960-1979 time period for the 2021 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts: 
Author Interview: Bianca Marais, author of Hum If You Don’t Know the Words | Life Between Pages 
Hum if you don’t know the words by Bianca Marais | A Haven for Book Lovers 
Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais | Reading Ladies Book Club 
Wednesdays With Writers: A Smashing Debut from Bianca Marais Explores the Apartheid, Racism, the Soweto Uprising, Motherhood, and So Much More in Hum If You Don’t Know the Words | Leslie A. Lindsay 

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WWW Wednesday, 6-January-2021

6 Jan

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: Again, nothing new with Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono. This will be here a while and I’m really okay with that, no big rush.
I’ve just started Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and am liking it a lot so far! My book club meets next week to talk about it so I don’t think I’ll finish in time, but I’ll get as far as I can and still plan to attend the discussion.
I’ve just begun A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro as well. This is a shorter book so I’m hoping to get through it pretty quickly. I’ve loved and hated Ishiguro books before so I don’t know how this one will go.

Recently finished: I finished A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger at 7:30PM on New Year’s Eve to finish my 2020 When Are You Reading? Challenge! It was a close one to be sure. I’m telling myself it won’t be as close in 2021. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars and posted my review yesterday if you want to check it out.
I started trying to re-normalize my sleep schedule before going back to work and would wake up and lie in bed reading Hum if You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais until my husband woke up. It helped me finish it pretty quickly! I plan to post a review soon. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading next: I should be better about my book club selections so I’m sure I’ll start one of those next. My next read is The Bear by Andrew Krivak. I read just the first sentence of the summary and this one sounds great. I’m excited to get into 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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Book Review: A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger (3/5)

5 Jan

I needed a final book to wrap up my historical fiction reading challenge. I thought I left myself enough time to read this by starting just after Thanksgiving. Little did I know stomach issues were going to keep me from running or driving to the gym for a few weeks and my progress would slow to a crawl. I just managed to finish this book on New Year’s Eve. And it was mostly thanks to my loving husband not taking failure for an option and forcing me on an hour-long walk where we both listened to books. Thanks, hubs.

Cover image via Amazon

A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

Summary from Amazon:

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s artful mistress, Katherine Swynford—England’s young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings—and among the book’s predictions is Richard’s assassination.

Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low. Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews—and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.

The book seemed to be a bit too long for me. It dragged near the beginning, which is a bad place to drag. I didn’t get invested in the action until it picked up and by then, my time was diminishing and I just had to race through the book. I feel like as much of the plot development I remember from the last two days reading this book was in the rest of the book. That’s not very well-weighted. With a thriller, you expect a fast-paced ending, but I wasn’t expecting the slow beginning.

Holsinger had characters from a variety of social classes in Medieval England. His knowledge of the era shone well. I liked the maudlin a lot, they had a lot of character and I thought it was funny how integrated they were with the other levels of society. It was a good way to bring together such a wide variety of people in the mystery.

Milicent was my favorite for her ability to move between groups of people and how she was able to blend in. She was refined from her time as a mistress but when she was distressed and her low-born accent and way of speaking came out, I laughed because it showed how much she’d learned to put on airs. She was very smart and she loved her sister very much. She really had a heart of gold.

No single character was particularly relatable to me, but I liked a lot of them because I could see admirable traits in them. Maybe that was why I thought this book read slowly. It’s hard for me to pinpoint why.

Bruce Holsinger
Image via Goodreads

The ending of the book, from St. Dunston’s Day to the end, was the most exciting. Most of the book built to St. Dunston’s Day and I thought the scene was handled well and the way it wrapped up was exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat. I just wish there could have been some similar moments in the middle.

The middle, from Agnes and Milicent going on the run until St. Dunston’s Day, was a big drag for me. I felt like I was floundering with the characters, jerking the book around but learning nothing new. It felt like it was dragging just to reach the celebration when I think it would have been better if the story started closer to the climax date. It just dragged and dragged for me and couldn’t pick up.

Simon Vance read the audiobook and he’s a narrator I’ve liked a lot in the past. I thought he did well with this story, keeping me involved and using a lot of subtle voice work to bring the characters to life. I hope to be listening to another work of his in the near future since I do enjoy his readings.

In the end, the book seemed to boil down to twisting someone’s words and how powerful words could be. The book was altered several times in several copies that eventually made it so John could solve the mystery and trace back to the culprit. It’s not surprising to read a book about the power of words. Writers, myself included, have a powerful love for words and like to explore what that power can do and how it can affect others. 

Writer’s Takeaway: Writing a mystery is incredibly complicated, something I haven’t been brave enough to take on. The mystery part of this book was well done and enjoyable. During the large reveals, I was saying aloud “Oh, that makes so much sense!” and smacking my forehead for not connecting dots earlier. While I didn’t like the pacing of the mystery in this case, the web itself was well woven.

Overall enjoyable though some parts could have been edited down significantly. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the (final) 1300-1499 time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge 2020.

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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts: 
A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger | Read the World 
Entry 5: A Burnable Book (John Gower #1) | Sweaters and Raindrops 

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Challenge Update, December 2020

4 Jan

I’m so thankful that 2020 is over. Let’s hope that 2021 doesn’t have similar surprises in store for us. At least it was a good year for reading. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page. I’m also starting a monthly mailing list. You can sign up at the bottom of this post.

Books finished in December:

Golden Glow // Kaitlin Sandeno and Dan D’Addona (3/5)
The Cather in the Rye // J.D. Salinger (3/5)
A Burnable Book // Bruce Holsinger (3/5)

Not a lot, but it was enough. I cut it really close, too. Only starting the year one review behind.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

12/12
I finished the final book at 7:30pm on New Year’s Eve. Nothing like cutting it close, right? I was cooking dinner and wrapped up A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger to fill the 1300-1499 time period, my last one remaining for the year. I’ll have to be a bit more diligent next year, I don’t want to cut it this close again!

Goodreads Challenge

59/55
I’d finished last month, so this was just extra icing on a delicious cake.

Book of the Month

Yikes, all three of the books got 3 Stars from me this month. I guess I’d pick A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger. I waffled between Three and Four Stars for this one, so it could really be 3.5 if I did halves. It wasn’t bad, I think it just dragged more than I’d hoped it would.

Added to my TBR

I’m down again to 43 and I didn’t add any this time! I’m shocked with myself.

How did your challenges go? I hope you finished the year well. If you’re interested in the When Are You Reading? Challenge for 2021, I’m hosting again so you can click here to learn more and let me know if you want in.

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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletters

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Announcing the 2021 When Are You Reading? Challenge

31 Dec

It’s back again! I’ll be running the When Are You Reading? Challenge yet again in 2021. Hopefully, I’m not scrambling to finish it on New Year’s Eve next year (less than two hours left in the final audiobook as I type this!). I think the set up worked well last year so I’m going to run with it again.

The premise of the challenge is to read one book from each of twelve time periods. It’s up to the reader where a book lies. You can do it based on publication date or setting, whatever you want. Feel free to switch it up, too.

The challenge page will be set up today. If you’d like to participate, leave me a comment somewhere on the blog letting me know and giving me a link to your challenge page or post. I’ll add a link to my challenge page so other readers can visit you and see what you’ve been reading. 

The time periods are:

  • Pre 1300
  • 1300-1499
  • 1500-1699
  • 1700-1799
  • 1800-1899
  • 1900-1919
  • 1920-1939
  • 1940-1959
  • 1960-1979
  • 1980-1999
  • 2000-Present
  • The Future

I do hope you’ll consider joining me. I’ve had a lot of fun with this challenge over the past several years and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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WWW Wednesday, 30-December-2020

30 Dec

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: Nothing new with Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono. Perseverance. 
I really hope I finish A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger before midnight tomorrow. It’s the last book I need to finish my 2020 When Are You Reading? Challenge and I don’t want to come up so close!
I’m getting into Hum if You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais more and more and I’m finally vested in the characters. It took a few lazy mornings ready to get into it but I don’t feel much like stopping anymore.

Recently finished: I wrapped up The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. My reading buddy and I had our final meeting about it yesterday. It’s nice to finish the year up and finish a book, too. I’m sure we’ll start on another one soon enough. I posted my review yesterday. I didn’t love this one and ended up giving it Three out of Five Stars. Hate me if you want. I think I would have liked it better if I read it as a teenager.

Reading next: I’m still planning on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie next, I just need to get to it! I’m going to run out of time to finish it, I’m afraid.
I hope to start A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro after I finish Hum. Not in a big rush but I am looking forward to this one.


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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger (3/5)

29 Dec

I never read this book in high school. I had a cousin say I should read it a few years ago but kept putting it off. I was shocked there wasn’t an audiobook easy to pick up for it so it didn’t come up sooner. I mentioned to my reading buddy that I hadn’t read it and she remembered liking it in high school and was game for a re-read. And so we started.

Cover image via Amazon

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Summary from Goodreads:

The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

I’m not sure what I expected from this book. I knew that Holden would be an unreliable narrator, but that was about all I came into it with. I wasn’t a big fan of Holden and that held me back from liking the book. I felt bad for him at times, but not enough that he was endearing or sympathetic.

Holden seemed to be struggling with something and it was hard to put my finger on what it was. His issues seemed to be larger than adolescence. I wondered at times if he was bipolar, ADHD, or Autistic. It made me wonder about how he would be treated in 2020 when diagnostics and treatments for such conditions are more accessible. Maybe he wouldn’t have been kicked out of so many schools or living on his own in New York for three days. If nothing else, he would have a cell phone to call his sister. 

Phoebe was by far my favorite character. She was so kind and loving. She knew her brother was having problems at school and she still loved him because that didn’t matter to her. What mattered was that he loved her and she loved him. She was very kind and giving and it was easy to see why she was so special to Holden.

I related best to Mr. Spencer at the beginning of the book and I think that shows how little I related to most of the novel. I wanted to encourage Holden and it was hard to want to help him when he kept pushing away anyone who showed interest in him. He was rude to Sally and Mr. Antolini and everyone except Phoebe. I thought Mr. Spencer had wonderful intentions and wanted to help Holden more than most, but he was pushed aside and dismissed because of his age. I was so frustrated.

J.D. Salinger
Image via Amazon

I thought Holden’s time in the hotel was the most interesting. I realized how long he’d gone without sleep and was loving the crazy shenanigans he got into while he was doing everything he could to stay awake. Between the bars, the hooker, and setting up dates with Sally, he kept me entertained and I was wondering when he would finally crash.

The ending of the book was a big disappointment to me and I’m going to spoil it so please skip ahead if you want to avoid that. I felt the ending was far too abrupt. The nice afternoon with Phoebe was lovely. It’s clear something traumatic happened when Holden’s parents found out he’d been kicked out again. I’m wondering if the facility he’s in is a psychiatric treatment facility and he’s telling the story to a therapist. He seems to be in some sort of in-patient treatment but I couldn’t get a good sense of what from the short final chapter. It left me feeling frustrated. Maybe I needed an English teacher to explain it to me.

Our perceptions of ourselves and the way others perceive us is so different. Holden constantly complains about people being phony and then does the same things he complains about in others. He perceives his own actions as justified but can’t seem to justify the same actions in others. Several times, we see others say that he’s not aware of how he speaks or how his questions are received and doesn’t recognize that others are uncomfortable. We are all the heroes of our own stories.

Writer’s Takeaway: Salinger does a great job of creating a strong voice in Holden. We can get a better understanding of him and how he thinks from the internal dialogue (or storytelling) we get from him. It reminded me of Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now. It is a great way to tell about a character with a strong personality and sense of self. I think it gave the story an edge it could never have had. Holden’s story couldn’t have been told another way.

The characters annoyed me and the ending fell flat. 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts: 
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger | Eva Lucia 
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger | Bookishloom 
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: Review | Books and Readers 
TGRRL: The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger | Timewalkerauthor 
The Cather in the Rye | From the Parapet 

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WWW Wednesday, 23-December-2020

23 Dec

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 managed just a few pages of Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono. Meh, I’ll get through it eventually, right?
I’m just starting the final section of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I tend to read fast and I want to have a good memory of this book before discussing it with my reading buddy so I wanted a bit, but now it’s time to get through it.
I’m really close to finishing A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger. I didn’t think I’d be pushing this one so close to the end of the year!
My inter-library loan of Hum if You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais came in! I started it and I had my first big shock by page 60 so I’m excited to keep reading this one.

Recently finished: Nothing new this week. I did post my review of Golden Glow by Dan D’Addona and Kaitlin Sandeno so feel free to check that out if you want.

Reading next: I need to get moving on audiobooks so I can start Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. My group meets in January to read it and I’m afraid I won’t finish!
I’ll start A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro soon. I hope this one is gripping, I think I need that 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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