Book Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch (4/5)

10 May

This was for sure my pick for a buddy read. I loved Courch’s first book, Dark Matter. I was curious to see what else he had up his sleeve. My reading buddy was up for a bit of a thriller so this seemed like a good pick for us both. Man, did we speed through this one. I think we met twice in a week at one point because we were both so eager to keep reading.

Recursion

Cover image via Amazon

Recrusion by Blake Crouch

Other books by Crouch reviewed on this blog:

Dark Matter (and Book Club Reflection)

Summary from Amazon:

Reality is broken.
 
At first, it looks like a disease. An epidemic that spreads through no known means, driving its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. But the force that’s sweeping the world is no pathogen. It’s just the first shock wave, unleashed by a stunning discovery—and what’s in jeopardy is not our minds but the very fabric of time itself.
 
In New York City, Detective Barry Sutton is closing in on the truth—and in a remote laboratory, neuroscientist Helena Smith is unaware that she alone holds the key to this mystery . . . and the tools for fighting back.
 
Together, Barry and Helena will have to confront their enemy—before they, and the world, are trapped in a loop of ever-growing chaos.

Having not read the summary, I thought this was going to be about a contagious disease early on and I wondered what I’d stumbled into. Maybe the later half of a global pandemic wasn’t the best time for this? But the more we got into it and realized what FMS was and what was really going on, the more we were sucked in. The first half of the book is told from two view points, Helena and Barry. They’re not in the same place or in the same year but we quickly discovered how interlinked their stories would be. Crouch’s exploration of reality and what would realistically happen with new technology is really well done. I thought the reactions of many people were completely justified and Crouch’s ideas about the impact of a broken reality on the human psyche was great.

I adored Helena. She was so strong and brave and I respected her so much throughout this book. She was a great hero to be cheering for throughout. Her intelligence was forefront but usually understand which let her personality shine through. Barry seemed a little flat, but in a thriller I’m not usually looking for strong personalities in characters.

Helena was my favorite character. Her motivations, at least early on, were very noble and were always to help her mother. Her motivations changed to be for a greater good and she really expressed that when working for DARPA. She recognized ramifications and how what she was dealing with was so much larger than herself. She was a voice of reason and good when everything was going badly.

Barry was the most relatable character in the book. I’m sure most of us have something in our pasts that we wish we could fix or redo. Barry’s desires to have a different life were very understandable and I thought back to decisions in my own life that I might like a ‘do-over’ for.

Crouch

Blake Crouch Image via Goodreads

These next two paragraphs are going to be some major spoilers so please skip down to avoid them. I adored the time Helena spent working with DARPA. I thought it was really great how she fought to use the chair for good. She was backed against a wall but found the best way to make use of her position. Fighting to let major atrocities happen, pushing not to let large passages of time occur, these things made a difference. I was so sad when the project got hijacked by the military. It really seemed to ruin everything.

The ending was a bit anti-climactic for me. Slade telling Barry that Helena had found a way to travel to dead memories once and then Barry instantly figuring it out was a little too convenient. It was hard to believe that in 200 years, Helena had never tried visiting a dead memory again. Especially since she could jump back an hour and ‘fix’ the problem the same way Slide did with Reed on the oil rig. Such a simple solution to a very complex problem made the ending seem cheap.

Humans are starting to experience reality in different ways because of technology. We’ve developed virtual reality, online worlds that can fulfill social needs and desires. The idea that we may someday master time enough to change that aspect of our reality is jarring but not entirely out of the question. If we did get to this technology, what would we do with it? Would it be weaponized like Helena and Barry experienced? Would it be used for good the way Helena tried to do with her mother’s memories? It’s a hard question to answer. Humans do seem to be inclined to selfishly using every advancement our world has made so as much as we’d love to say it would be the latter, the former seems likely.

Writer’s Takeaway: Crouch put his foot on the throttle and never let it go. The pace in this book was astounding and kept me guessing and turning pages well past my bed time. Thriller writers have an amazing capacity to pace a book and I feel like I’m getting schooled each time I read one.

A great, fast, read that made me think. 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!

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: 
Recrusion, by Blake Crouch | A Bookish Type 
RECRUSION – Blake Crouch | Weighing a Pig Doesn’t Fatten It 
Recursion: book plot and timelines explained | Starvind 
Review: Recursion by Blake Crouch | Creature from the Book Lagoon 
Review of HARDBACK edition of Recrusion by Blake Crouch | Brainfluff 

Book Review: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (4/5)

6 May

My husband saw the title for this book on my book club calendar and had to laugh at me. I can’t blame him. Out of context, the title seems odd. But when I started reading this book, I realize that the stories are a small part while they’re also the focus of the novel. It’s not about the stories, but the writers and how they change. This book took me happily by surprise.

PunjabiErotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Summary from Amazon:

Nikki lives in cosmopolitan West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community.

Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind.

As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s “moral police.” But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.

I did not expect there to be a mystery to this book and I loved it! That added a layer that was a complete surprise to me an allowed me to enjoy the book even more. What the book had to say about culture was really important, too. Nikki straddled her Punjabi roots and her London location better than some, but never seemed to completely fit in either location. Many times, it was comments from non-Punjabi’s who made her feel like she didn’t fit in and these microaggressions are so quick and might be forgettable to the errant speaker but are so painful to the victim. I thought Jaswal gave the reader a lot to think about with this book and I think I’ll seek her out for more in the future.

The characters rang true to me. I can’t comment too much about their authenticity since a lot of their identities circled around being part of a minority group that I’m not part of. However, I felt their humanity in their conversation and interactions. The community they had was wonderful and it made me hope that I can find such a community if I ever find myself a window.

Kulwinder ended up being my favorite character in the end. I think she may have been the most dynamic person in the book. The way her relationship with her husband heals was really great to see. I liked how she admitted that she misjudged Nikki and worked to right that mistake. She was brave in the way she stood up to her male coworkers and fought for woman’s classes. She didn’t seem to realize how much she’d influenced Maya with her ideas.

Nikki was really relatable as a daughter. There are times I’m afraid I’m disappointing my parents or have disappointed them in the past and I felt the same guilt that Nikki shared. I think most children feel this. Mine has never been to the same degree as what Nikki shouldered with her father’s death, but I think Jaswal gave a lot of different examples of ways that Nikki felt she could or should have done something different for her parents.

Jaswal

Balli Kaur Jaswal Image via the author’s Facebook page

I liked how Jaswal revealed Maya’s death. In some communities, there are things people just don’t talk about and it felt real that this community wouldn’t talk about Maya’s death. I liked how it kept coming up and we slowly learned more about her and her life with Jaggy and what she was like. It gave her a lot of layers and the more we got, the more obvious it was that something was wrong in what we’d learned early on. I won’t give any more away here, but it was very well paced.

I thought Nikki’s romance with Jason seemed forced. I don’t think she needed a romance to feel completed in this story so I was a little upset that it was added in. I think Nikki’s growth would have been as meaningful and stark without Jason in the mix.

The audiobook was narrated by Meera Syal and I think she did a wonderful job of telling the story. She did a great variety of voices for the widows and Nikki (I wasn’t a huge fan of her Jason American voice, but I can get over that). With so many woman talking over each other at times, it was a big task and I think she carried it out well.

Nikki is very stuck between two cultures and this story is a great exploration of that. She begins by rejecting a lot of the elements of her parents culture and trying to completely embrace her location’s culture. By the end, she seems to have found a happy middle ground where her understanding of her parents culture has increased and she feels more comfortable and accepted. She gains a level of understanding with her mother and sister that she wasn’t going to find without this acceptance and it’s helped her repair a stressed relationship with her late father in the process.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book reminds me why stories by minority writers are so needed and should be celebrated. I don’t live in the UK and I knew nothing about the Southall minority population! My city has similar enclaves and I now want to see if there are books celebrating their cultures and amplify those amazing voices. I’m so glad Jaswal wrote about this group so their vibrance can be shared.

An enjoyable read that taught me a lot. 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!

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:
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows: dazzling | A Hindu’s View 
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal | The Silver Pen 
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows | Just One More Page 

WWW Wednesday, 5-May-2021

5 May

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. 


LateralCurrently reading: I didn’t move through Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono this week. I’m really not too worried about it, but I’m hoping I can return to it fairly soon and make some more progress!
I was able to get back to The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee and I’m flying. I love the narrator for this one. While I’m not as enamored as I was with Lee’s first book, I’m still enjoying this and I think I can finish it within the week!
Reading Buddy and I are just about finished with Recursion by Blake Crouch. We met Monday and I’m now reading the last section so we can have our final meeting! Expect a review soon and this should easily be off here next week.
I’m reading The Hangman’s Replacement: Sprout of Disruption by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko between sections of the Crouch. I’m not too far yet and still unsure what to think of it. The style is very different but still enjoyable enough that I’ll keep going.

PunjabiRecently finished: I wrapped up Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal as expected last week. I liked this one more than I expected from the title. It’s a very timely book about culture and understanding and I really liked what Jaswal had to say. I think it will be a good discussion with my book club. I was able to post my review yesterday if you want to read more. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

UndergroundReading next: I’m sold on Dollface by Renee Rosen being my next ebook. I just need to get to a point where I’m ready to start one!
I think I’ll need a new audiobook soon, too. Next up will be The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. This was supposed to be a book club pick but got delayed due to COVID and seems to be permanently on hold. I’d still like to enjoy it and if we do eventually read it, I’ll be ahead of the curve.

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.

Book Club Reflection: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

4 May

One of my book clubs recently elected to read a book I read and enjoyed about a year ago, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. I was delighted to talk more about this wonderful book. I’m usually a bit quieter during discussions of books I read so long ago, but as this was the first book my ready buddy and I discussed, I have a lot of recollection of the details of this book and was able to be a bigger part of the discussion.

The titular house has a lot of personality. It’s always described as a house, never a home to Danny or Maeve. The house seems very out of place in Pennsylvania. Some readers described it as a house in one of those village museums where houses are moved there and many rooms blocked off to stay frozen in time. Parts of it never advanced and it seemed odd that there were belongings of the previous owners. When Cyril and Elna moved in, they didn’t bring their own things. Andrea and her girls didn’t either. The house was a bit out of place in that it was made of stucco, like many houses in California, and had a clear passage from front to back like homes in the south before air conditioning.

Siblings with an age gap like Danny and Maeve sometimes feel like they grew up in different families because the people who raised them have changed so much in that time. Maeve never had kids of her own and since she had a mother and Danny did not, she was more of Danny’s mother. She grew up before her time and lost a lot of her childhood to raise Danny. Between Maeve, Jocelyn, Sandy, and Fluffy, Danny almost had a complete mother. We wondered if Elna felt she was leaving her children with a better mother figure in the staff than she could provide herself. Many of our readers wanted to learn more about Elna than what was in the book. They wanted to see how she grew up and how she could become someone who would abandon her children. Many felt that nothing about her was relatable. While Andrea was the complete opposite of her in many ways, her disruptive actions and spitefulness were just as hard to understand.

One reader described this as a glum book with a lot of unhappy people. Another said that there were a lot of fairy-tale-like elements to it. Andrea was a wicked stepmother, there was the expected missing parent in Elna as well. In many ways, Cyril must have felt like a knight in shining armor when he ‘rescued’ Elna from the convent before she took her vows. Maybe Elna didn’t want to be rescued.

It seems this group has picked another book I already ready for the next title so I’m excited to sit in and listen again. It’s fun to revisit old reads with a book club. 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.

Challenge Update, April 2021

3 May

Well, April wasn’t exactly the windfall I wanted, but it was better. I’m in a good place and if I can keep this pace going for the rest of the year, I’ll be fine. Not a strong possibility, but I can hope. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in April:

Expecting Better by Emily Oster
The Overstory by Richard Powers
Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All The Way Down) by John Green
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

This was a pretty good mix and I’m happy with that. Two print, two audio. I’ll be caught up on reviews by the end of the week, too, which is a great feeling. Overall, April has been pretty good for reading.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

6/12
Nothing new again which I’m still fine with. For being only 1/3 of the way through the year, having half the time periods finished is pretty great. I plan on starting a book to finish one more off soon. The earlier time periods can be a bit more of a challenge, but I feel up to it.

Goodreads Challenge

12/45
I’m still two books behind but feeling a bit better. I have a few books I’m close to finishing already in early May so May should be a steady reading month for me. One a week will get me through the end of the challenge. Let’s just hope Baby doesn’t mess that up too much. But I can’t count on anything with a baby coming, can I?

Book of the Month

mil veces

Cover image via Amazon

It’s a hard pick this month, but I’m going to go with Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All The Way Down) by John Green. I sped through this book and loved how the main character was portrayed. It was my favorite Green, but it was still a solid read.

Added to my TBR

It had to come eventually but I’ve added a few titles this month. I’m at 41 currently, which isn’t overwhelming and I’ll say I’m still happy with that length TBR versus where I’ve been.

  • How To Find Your Way in the Dark by Derek B. Miller. When one of your favorite authors drops a new title, it goes on our TBR. Seems pretty straight forward to me.
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. One of my new coworkers recommended this one and I’ve seen it around enough that I put it on my TBR. Sounds like a solid SciFi read and I haven’t had many of those lately so I’m game.
  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Strangely, Towles came up while reading Recursion and it got me thinking about how much I liked my first Towles read. I’ve convinced my reading buddy that we should read this one next so here it is on the TBR for a short time before we pick it up.

How are your challenges going? I hope your year is starting off 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!

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.

WWW Wednesday, 28-April-2021

28 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

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

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


HangmanCurrently reading: I got through another chapter of Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono while I was waiting for a lane. I’m sure I’ll make my way through this soon, but I’m not minding the slow pace.
I think I’ll return to  The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee later this week! I’m having a lot of success with time to listen to my other audio so this is coming up sooner and sooner.
The other audio I’m talking about is Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal. I like this one a lot and I’m flying through it quickly. I’m optimistic about finishing today! Fingers crossed.
My reading buddy and I are both in love with Recursion by Blake Crouch. We met twice last week and are already more than half way through it! We haven’t read one this quickly before so I’m really excited to have found something we both enjoy so much.
I started The Hangman’s Replacement: Sprout of Disruption by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko and I’m iffy on it so far. It’s not written in a way I would write, but it’s not poorly written. I’m pushing forward with it between bouts with Recursion and even though it’s a long haul, I think I’ll make it through.

Recently finished: Nothing new this week. I’m sure I’ll have at least one thing here next week, though. Two if I’m lucky.

I posted my review for Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All the Way Down) by John Green on Thursday. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars. I really liked the ending, more than I thought I would early on. I liked how Green tackled mental health and I thought telling the book from Aza’s point of view was really powerful.

DollfaceReading next: It might seem premature, but I think I’m getting toward the end of Lateral Thinking so I’ll need an ebook next. It sill probably be Dollface by Renee Rosen. It will be nice to get back to some fiction with my ebook. I wonder if that will help me read a bit faster.

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.

Midwest Literary Walk 2021

27 Apr

In 2020, COVID hit right before the Midwest Literary Walk and it was one of the many things I had to cross of my calendar and was, of course, crushed about. I was so relieved to see that the 2021 event would go virtual and that I’d be able to attend. To make it even better, they had the two authors I most wanted to hear signed up to come back! Since I’m not a huge poetry fan, I was able to do some chores during the middle speaker and made the day a bit more focused on my interests, which felt really nice, too.

The first speaker was Laurie Hales Anderson. I don’t remember another year when MLW had a YA author so I was surprised and excited to hear her speak. Two of her books, Speak and Chains have been National Book Award Finalists. Her most recent book, Shout, is about her own experience with sexual violence. She was thirteen at the time but didn’t seek therapy to deal with her trauma until she had young children and realized her trauma was affecting her family. She first addressed sexual violence in Speak which is still often found on banned books lists. One of the reasons cited that always baffled her was that parents of boys say the book makes boys feel bad about themselves. Anderson listed several more books about sexual violence that are coming out with the topic being raised in the #MeToo movement. She hopes that these stories help people develop a vocabulary to talk about sexual violence so it becomes less hidden. Though it must be flattering to have a book so widely read so long after its publication, Anderson hopes that the book becomes less relatable as our society battles sexual violence and consent. She never talked to her mother about the book when it was published which speaks to the taboo nature of the topic. Recently, the book was turned into a graphic novel. Anderson said they chose the artist they did because she was known for drawing horror novels. One thing Anderson liked about the graphic novel format was how turning the page could be a moment of tension, since the reader is hit so forcefully with images when they’re revealed.

Anderson talked about her personal life and how it’s influenced her work. She grew up without wealth and worked on a dairy farm to make money to pay for her community college classes. She was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to Georgetown and received her degree in Linguistics, thinking she might become a translator. Her father was a poet and she said he was the single biggest influence on her life. Her latest book, Shout, is written in verse. She’s been fascinated with history and will read about it a lot. Anderson mentioned that when the COVID lockdown started, she was drawn to books about people during the Blitz in London because their lockdowns felt very relatable. Her book, Fever 1793 about the Yellow Fever saw a resurgence during COVID because readers seemed to connect with the relevance to our current lives. She mentioned that because of her two distinct genres, some of her fans aren’t even aware of her other genre books.

The second author I was excited to hear from was Azar Nafisi. I have a copy of Reading Lolita in Tehran on my shelves and would have loved to get it signed, but I’ll settle for having heard Nafisi speak. I don’t have a ton of notes from her interview because I was so enthralled with it so please forgive me for a short recap. She has a book coming out next March called Read Dangerously where she talks about books that can inspire. Her most recent publication was That Other World where she focuses on Nabokov. The book was first written in Persian and has been published in that language. It was translated and first published in the US in 2019. Nafisi talked about how powerful books can be and how dedicated to them people can feel. She mentioned how some American literature is felt more deeply in countries outside the US. Some people’s present is more like America’s past. You don’t have to be at an event to understand what happened if you can read about it and put yourself in a person’s place who was there. My favorite line from Nafisi’s talk was that good literature does not allow people to live in a world that is black and white. Good literature makes us explore the grey.

Thank you to the Chelsea District Library for putting on such a great virtual event! I hope we can be back on the streets of Chelsea in 2022 for another good year. 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.

Author Event with Bonnie Tsui featuring Des Linden

26 Apr

This event was on my radar for very non-reading related reasons. If you’ve ever heard of Des Linden, you might be as impressed with her as I am. Des won the 2018 Boston Marathon in the worst weather conditions recorded for the event. She’s run in the Olympics and is the first alternate for the US at Tokyo (she came in 4th at Olympic Trials). The week before this event, she broke the World Record for the 50K. To just elevate my fandom even more, she lives and trains in Michigan. So I heard about the event on her Instagram account.

Tsui’s book had been on my periphery for a while. As a swimmer, the title Why We Swim was instantly appealing. A swimmer friend of mine posted about wanting to read it and I had the book on my TBR already. So I thought I’d jump in.

It was clear Tsui is a fan of Des, like me, so they talked about running for quite a while to start off. Des had read the book and posted about how much she liked it on Twitter. Tsui was touched and responded which sparked a friendship. Though Tsui will run, Des is not a swimmer. She described herself as a ‘sinker’ which was part of what appealed to her to pick up the book. She associates the water with being injured because water jogging is where she’ll go for recovery. Her husband is a triathlete and rather than swim with him, she leads him in a kayak. (I had to laugh because my husband follows me in a kayak for many of my lake swims in a similar way.) The two of them will run together, however, along with their dog. Their dog can run a 6:30/mile pace, which just blows my mind!

Enough about Des, even though she was what drew me to the event. Tsui was an engaging speaker. She wanted to talk about swimming in a way that was tangible for people who don’t call themselves swimmers, like Des. As humans, we’re built to excel on land, to run well. But we’re drawn to water. Many animals have the natural inclination to swim, even ones you wouldn’t expect like eagles (whose swimming Tsui called a sort of butterfly stroke) and bats. She wrote the book to get a good understanding of what drives people to pursue water-related endeavors like epic swims and venturing into what could be dangerous waters. The open water is full of life and it makes the pool feel like an artificial environment. Yet we still find pools very comforting.

Tsui commented on how funny it felt to publish a book about swimming during lockdown (especially strict in her native California) when no one could swim. The open water was the only option for many. She wanted to talk about the relief water can give you when it wasn’t available to many people during lockdown. Tsui also mentioned that in her spare time, she reads a lot of fiction because her job as a journalist and non-fiction writer drives her to read so much non-fiction. She needs a little fun to escape work.

This was a fun event to join and thank you to Bookshop Santa Cruz for putting on such a great event! I hope to be able to travel and visit them in person one day.

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.

Book Review: Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All the Way Down) by John Green (4/5)

22 Apr

I’d been meaning to read this book since it came out but never got around to it. When I was visiting bookshops in Atlanta, I found this Spanish copy and thought it was perfect. John Green is about my reading level in Spanish and I’d enjoyed translations of his work before. This is the last Spanish read on my shelf so it looks like I’m going to have to go looking for more soon.

Cover image via Amazon

Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All the Way Down) by John Green

Other books by Green reviewed on this blog:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan)
Paper Towns
Looking for Alaska

Summary from Amazon:

Aza Holmes never intended to pursue the disappearance of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Pickett’s son Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

There were parts of this book that I wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting Aza’s illness to come into the story the way it did. From the summary, I thought the plot was going to focus on the Picketts more. I like that Green found a way to balance this. I also didn’t expect Daisy to play as big a role as she did. It seems like Green can have major-secondary characters and minor-secondary characters and I’d expected Daisy to land in the latter category at first. Again, I’m not angry at how it turned out, it was just different than I expected. I think a lot of these expectations came from reading the first two chapters and then putting the book on hold for a while. Both of these items become stronger later in the book and the first two chapters set my idea for the book before I was able to get into them.

A note about the translation: I haven’t read the English version but there weren’t a lot of times in this one where I could tell the translation had to be altered to deal with the language barrier. This happens a lot with colloquialisms or puns that don’t translate. However, the title is quite different. It roughly translates to ‘A thousand times until forever.’ I figured the turtle metaphor didn’t translate well, but when it came up in the book, it seemed fine to me. ‘Tortugas hasta el infinito’ or ‘turtles until infinity.’ I’m not sure why this wasn’t used for a title unless the selected title is a colloquialism or common phrase I’m not familiar with.

The portrayal of Aza was amazing. As someone who has anxiety from time to time, I related to the spiraling thoughts. I thought the way she talked about them and detailed her spirals were relatable and very real. I’ve spent sleepless nights Googling things and been disengaged from conversations because I can’t focus. I’ve never had it to a degree like Aza does but I could see how these things happen and how damaging they can be and how much they affected Aza. The scenes with her and her mother were the most difficult for me. I’ve tried to talk to my mother about how I feel as well and it’s hard to describe, the way Aza feels. As someone who’s about to become a mother, it’s heartbreaking to see a mother who can’t understand her child even as she tries very hard.

Davis was my favorite character. I liked how down-to-earth he was despite the immense privilege he came from. I think he always felt alone because he was very different from his peers due to the early loss he suffered. It felt real to me that he would reconnect with Aza so quickly because he felt she shared his background and very few others did. He was very understanding of Aza’s qualms about being intimate with him and I think it was a great demonstration of consent.

As I’ve said, I related to Aza and her spirals. I’ve had nights where I can’t sleep because of spiraling thoughts. It’s hard to articulate what that’s like and I think Green did a great job of illustrating how exhausting it can be and how much it can take over someone’s life.

John Green
Image via Twitter

Daisy’s story was one of my favorite parts of the book. I respected the work she did to earn enough money to pay for night school. And when she came into money, I respected her ultimate decision to save it and to help pay for her sister’s education, even if that’s not what she originally wanted. I thought it was really great to see a character who didn’t have a comfortable middle-class life and what that could look like. Most of Green’s characters before had been more well-off and Daisy was a great way to introduce someone who had some struggle.

Mixing in the disappearance case seemed like a bit of a stretch to me. Russell Pickett could have been in the book and very little would have changed. I think it muddled the message Green was trying to share and added parts to the plot that weren’t needed. It made me think the book was going in a completely different direction than where it ended up and I felt a little hoodwinked.

Aza has a hard time loving herself because of her illness and thus struggles to see how others could love her. She pushes her mother, Davis, and Daisy away when she’s in the hospital and doesn’t feel she’s worthy of forgiveness for what she’s done when all assure her she’s forgiven. It must be hard for someone battling with such a strong mental illness to find peace. I hope that Aza and people like her can find the help that they need like Aza did.

Writer’s Takeaway: Green found a way to write about a lot of diverse characters without making it seem forced or unnatural which I really liked. Davis seems to be the only one who doesn’t squarely fit in a minority, but he’s lost a mother and that’s affected him in ways that aren’t easy to define. When I write, it’s hard for me to imagine the lives of people who are really different from me and feel like I’m empowered to write about their lives so I really applaud him for bringing in so many diverse characters.

An enjoyable book but not a grand slam for me. 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!

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:
Turtles All the Way Down: My Last John Green Review if Everything Goes According to Plan | Emma Reads
‘Turtles All the Way Down’ by John Green: Book Review | Blogging for Dopamine
Turtles All The Way Down by John Green | Book Review | An Introverted World
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green | VickywhoReads

WWW Wednesday, 21-April-2021

21 Apr

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: Yet again, not much with Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono. I’m fine with this going on a while so I’m in no rush. I just feel bad letting it linger!
Nothing again with The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee but I’m making good progress with other audiobooks so I’ll stay optimistic that I’ll be back to this soon!
The other audiobook is Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal. I’m really enjoying this one so far! It’s funny and has some good points so it’s a win for me. I hope I can get through it quickly.
I started Recursion by Blake Crouch for my reading buddy book! I’m excited to get some SciFi and I hope the quick pace will help me read quickly. I’ve missed some solid fiction in my reading lately.

Recently finished: I was able to wrap up Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All the Way Down) by John Green on Thursday. It was a solid story and I enjoyed it a lot. I’ll be posting my review tomorrow. I always feel like my reviews for a Spanish read should be different, but then I realize that’s silly.

I posted my review of The Overstory by Richard Powers on Monday. This book wasn’t a good one for me. My book club met last week so I’ve posted a reflection of our conversation as well. I wasn’t alone in disliking it, but I was a minority.

Reading next: I don’t really have a good idea here. I think it will be a print book to pick up between chunks of the buddy read, though. There’s one book I’ve had on my TBR for years that I got as a Goodreads Giveaway and that’s The Hangman’s Replacement: Sprout of Disruption by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko. I won’t lie, I’ve debated taking this off of my list a few times due to what looked like polarized reviews, but looking again they seem pretty well spread if new in number. I’ll give it a try.

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.