Book Review: Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni (3/5)

22 Oct

This book was part of a major book haul I did years ago at a used book sale. It lingered on my shelf so long that I wondered when I’d ever read it. Yay for quarantine providing the time to get to long-neglected books.

Cover image via Amazon

Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran by Azadeh Moaveni

Summary from Amazon: 

As far back as she can remember, Azadeh Moaveni has felt at odds with her tangled identity as an Iranian-American. In suburban America, Azadeh lived in two worlds. At home, she was the daughter of the Iranian exile community, serving tea, clinging to tradition, and dreaming of Tehran. Outside, she was a California girl who practiced yoga and listened to Madonna. For years, she ignored the tense standoff between her two cultures. But college magnified the clash between Iran and America, and after graduating, she moved to Iran as a journalist. This is the story of her search for identity, between two cultures cleaved apart by a violent history. It is also the story of Iran, a restive land lost in the twilight of its revolution.

Moaveni’s homecoming falls in the heady days of the country’s reform movement, when young people demonstrated in the streets and shouted for the Islamic regime to end. In these tumultuous times, she struggles to build a life in a dark country, wholly unlike the luminous, saffron and turquoise-tinted Iran of her imagination. As she leads us through the drug-soaked, underground parties of Tehran, into the hedonistic lives of young people desperate for change, Moaveni paints a rare portrait of Iran’s rebellious next generation. The landscape of her Tehran — ski slopes, fashion shows, malls and cafes — is populated by a cast of young people whose exuberance and despair brings the modern reality of Iran to vivid life.

While I think this book would have hit home harder closer to its publication date, I still found it insightful and moving fifteen years after its publication date. Moaveni was in Iran during a very volatile time in its history and she was in a difficult position because of her childhood. She felt Iranian. Her whole childhood was living in America, pining for Iran and the motherland she was taught to miss. But when she arrived, she was ostracized for her Western ideology and ways of living. There was no happy median, no middle country she could find peace in. Her job as a journalist put her in even more of a precarious position as she reported for the Western media from inside the Middle East.

Moaveni tells us about a wide variety of people in her story. There are those who believe in the regime, those who openly subvert it, and the majority who secretly enjoy elements of Western culture, but put on a face of piety to avoid trouble in society. I think Moaveni gives us a fair account of these people and I felt like I had a good understanding of how people ‘got around’ the restrictions of the culture and how they embraced it at the same time.

There wasn’t a character that I attached to more than the others. The people surrounding Moaveni seemed to come and go, as people do from our lives. Her family was a big part of her life in Iran early on. But once she moved out, they weren’t as prominent. There were times her coworkers seemed to be a bigger part of her story and then they’d fade away. Besides Moaveni herself, there didn’t seem to be a lot of consistency in the characters.

When I was in college, I was an International Orientation Leader (IOL). We would pick up international students from the airport and lead them through a week of ‘American Orientation’ before they’d go through the University’s Orientation. I remember students from the Middle East who were surprised I wore shorts, could drive them around, and had a boyfriend (who is, funny enough, now my husband). They both expected me to be like the stereotypical blond bimbo in movies and to act with the same modesty expected of a woman in their country. When Moaveni experienced this same resistance and expectation, I remembered that time well and I understood the uneasiness that she felt at not wanting to shock and surprise but also wanting to fit in. However, I had it in a bit of reverse than Moaveni did.

Azadeh Moaveni
Image via the International Crisis Group

The end of the book hit me. Moaveni’s perspective of her safety changed after 9/11 and I think any American can say the same to some degree. The knowledge that there were people who hated us just because of where we lived and would go to such violent extremes because it was profoundly shaking. Her fear and unease seemed much more grounded than mine in the Midwest.

This book dragged for me a bit and I’m having a lot of trouble putting my finger on why. It was a bit too much of a history lesson at times, but that seems necessary given the region Moaveni was covering and the impact of history on what was happening around her. I think I was hoping for a faster read at the time and just didn’t get what I was hoping for. It wasn’t bad by any means and there was no single part that I didn’t enjoy, but there’s a reason I picked up a thriller after this.

Moaveni drives at national pride throughout her book and this seemed very relevant to me today in a divided America. She was proud of being Iranian when she was in America. But when she got to Iran and wasn’t accepted, it was harder to be proud because she was told time and time again that she wasn’t Iranian. How can she be proud of a country that’s rejecting her? How much should she fight for a country that doesn’t want her? I feel a lot of these feelings right now with a leader I don’t feel respects women and seeing neighbors get into fighting matches masks and teachers.

Writer’s Takeaway: Writing is a great way to speak out when no one around you will listen. Your words carry further than your voice. Moaveni’s audience wasn’t the people surrounding her in Iran. And it probably took her time to find the words to express the myriad of emotions she was feeling. I think stories like this, from people who don’t fit in the world they’re living in, are the most impactful. They can see holes in something that no one else can.

An impactful book, but not what I was looking for at the time. 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: 
Review of “Lipstick Jihad” by Azadeh Moavei | Rhapsody in Books Weblog 
Lipstick Jihad | Fizzy Thoughts 
Lipstick Jihad | Ruined by Reading 
Toe to Toe: Funny in Farsi versus Lipstick Jihad | Welcome to Pedagogy and American Literary Studies 

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, 21-October-2020

21 Oct

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: With all the moving craziness of last week, I haven’t touched Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald. I hope to get a bit more in, but it may be a bit before I find the time. I’m liking this one a lot and I hope to finish it this month but I’m not holding myself too that too strongly.
I’m enjoying having The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer to turn to for some escapism. The fast pace is wonderful for my short attention span right now.
I started a new audiobook and had a ton of time to listen to it while driving back and forth on moving day! It’s my next book club pick, The Rise of Wolf 8 by Rick McIntyre. It’s been a while since we did some non-fiction so it’s a nice change of pace. I’ll have this one finished up by next week easily.

Recently finished: Nothing this week but after having two last week, I’m not worried. I did write a review for The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo which posted on Monday so please check that out!

Reading next: I need to start focusing on my reading challenge so I’m going to try and get a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. It’s been a while since I read a MG/YA book and this time period setting is perfect for my 1500-1699 slot in the historical fiction challenge!


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 Club Reflection: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Cho

20 Oct

My book club met via Zoom again for our last meeting, a discussion of Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride. I had finished the book earlier that day so I was excited to get a chance to discuss it so soon after finishing it.

Choo is 4th from the fourth generation of Chinese to live in Malaysia. She traveled a lot in her life and went to Harvard in the US. She now lives in San Francisco. It’s easy to see how her birth influenced this book. Many of us enjoyed the exposure to Chinese funeral customs and understanding how a different culture looks at the afterlife. Many of us compared the Plains of the Dead to Purgatory but they’re very different, which we realized when we started talking about them. There was a good deal of superstition in the novel. It manifested more in the older, less educated characters like Amah and Old Wong. Tian Bai and Li Lan’s father, for example, were less tolerant of old superstitions.

We had some conflicting opinions on the plot of the novel. Some felt like the plot went along well and didn’t get bogged down with side characters and side plots. Others of us felt it was very slow at times and a bit predictable. We did feel like Li Lan didn’t grow much during her story. It started to feel like a YA novel at times because she was so head-over-heels in insta-love with Tian Bai and was do repulsed by Lim Tian Ching that it felt oversimplified. We discussed the corruption side plot and didn’t feel it was a very strong plot. Most of us were surprised by Fan’s betrayal; no one saw that one coming!

We spent a lot of time talking about the ending. Li Lan seems to change her mind about Tian Bai very quickly and that was part of my frustration with the end. One reader pointed out that she seemed to lose her favor for him as she saw him like the things in Fan she despised. She seemed to think that if he couldn’t tell the difference between them and believed that she valued jewels and gifts, he didn’t really know her and wasn’t the love match she expected. She projecting her dislike for Fan onto Tian Bai. A lot of us felt like it was a cheap reason for her to end up with Er Lang, though. After so much time pining after Tian Bai, it felt weird to have her change her goal.

A few readers had watched the Netflix mini-series for this book but I wasn’t aware it existed! I’m excited to give it a try soon. I hear it’s well done so I have high hopes.

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: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (3/5)

19 Oct

When I started this book, I understood the concept of a Ghost Bride to be someone who marries a dead man. I didn’t think it would be a ghost story. I was thinking of pure historical fiction and that I’d learn about the cultural beliefs of Foreign-Born Chinese in Malaysia. So when Li Lan entered the world of the dead, I was surprised and excited to go on the adventure with her.

Cover image via Amazon

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Summary from Amazon:

Li Lan, the daughter of a respectable Chinese family in colonial Malaysia, hopes for a favorable marriage, but her father has lost his fortune, and she has few suitors. Instead, the wealthy Lim family urges her to become a “ghost bride” for their son, who has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at what price?

Night after night, Li Lan is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family.

This is what I get for not reading summaries before starting a book. I really enjoyed Li Lan’s story and learning more about the Planes of the Dead. However, I got frustrated with the book and felt like it was dragging a bit too much in places. It seemed like Lim Tien Ching’s deception at the hands of his family was unnecessary and Fan’s betrayal didn’t seem to do a lot. These things complicated the plot. And I was disappointed in the ending. I think the story would have been stronger without Li Lan’s change of heart.

I thought the characters were well-drawn and believable until the very end when Li Lan seemed to go against everything she’d worked for the entire book. I’m going to try and stay vague to remain spoiler-free, but I got really frustrated with her and mostly lost my respect for her and her character. The remaining characters were strong and consistent. Fan was a favorite, even though I thought her character could have left the story a little sooner. Amah was another favorite. I liked how well she knew Li Lan and cared for her and her mother.

Throughout the whole book, I felt like a lot of the characters changed which is a testament to Choo’s writing and how well crafted the story was. I can’t think of a character I liked for the entire novel besides Er Lang. He began caring for Li Lan and was there for her when she needed him. Despite my frustration with the ending, I have to admit he’s a great character and someone I would have liked to have by my side if I were going through what Li Lan experienced.

I really liked Tian Bai’s character and I felt connected to him more than most of the characters. I liked that he was humble and didn’t seem too proud; very unlike his cousin. He seemed like a kind person and I think he would have been a good partner for any woman, especially Li Lan.

Yangsze Choo
Image via the author’s website

I enjoyed Li Lan’s initial time as a spirit when she was walking around her town. I thought it was fun to see her explore other people’s homes and learn what it meant to be a spirit and how to function. It was a fun time for her to learn about the dead and how the spirits of those she’d lost were sometimes still around her.

I felt Li Lan’s time in the Planes of the Dead dragged on for far too long. I was curious about the place, but the amount of time she was there and the things that happened to her seemed too drawn out. I kept getting frustrated and wanted to see what happened when she returned more than I wanted to know what was happening with a secret plot in hell that turned out to be almost nothing.

Choo narrated her own audiobook. This often makes me nervous because I’m unsure how well someone whose talent is in writing will be able to voice act. Especially for fiction where it’s necessary to do accents, voices, and read dramatically. Choo did very well and I was impressed with her. I wasn’t expecting so much inflection in her voice and distinct voices for the characters but that’s what we got. Huge kudos to her for all her talents!

I don’t know if I felt like there was too much of a theme to this book. I felt like it was a fun exploration of the funeral beliefs of the culture but the plot of the book wasn’t a win for me. Li Lan didn’t like the man she was supposed to marry and when that was resolved, left her family uncared-for to chase a dream. (It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but this is what I felt fell flat at the ending.) I didn’t feel there was a theme of woman’s liberation or chasing a dream or anything much which frustrated me.

Writer’s Takeaway: It’s fun to explore the beliefs of a culture, historically or in a modern setting, through story. I felt like the Disney movie Coco did something similar and was a great way of explaining the Mexican traditions around The Day of the Dead. Of course, one has to be very well aquainted with a culture to use it as the plot of a story. Anyone who’s lucky enough to do that can create a beautiful narrative.

A fun setting, but not the story I wanted. 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:
The Ghost Bride – Yangsze Choo | Fiction Matters 
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo – A Review | The Lady Sam’s Story Space 
Book Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo | Untitled 
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo | Twelve Pale Roses 
BOOK REVIEW: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo | GraceLWrites 

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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, 14-October-2020

14 Oct

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 actually made progress in Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald! I had some time on a lazy Sunday morning to read a chapter or two and I know I’m getting close to the end so I’m going to try to stick with that progress for a while. Fingers crossed.
I finally started The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer! I’m relieved to be able to start another book after feeling like I was stalled for so long. A thriller is a welcome escape right now, too.
Surprisingly, I’m between audiobooks at the moment. I’ll start another one, soon!

Recently finished: I finally wrapped up the final chapter of Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni this week and I’m relieved to have finished. The book was great and really well written but I moved through it slowly because it was one I had to pay a lot of attention to. I’ll have a review up next week.
I finished The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo just in time for my book club. My patience for the book started to wane as I got close to the end. It felt like it was starting to drag on a bit but I was also impatient to finish so I could be ready for our meeting.

Reading next: I’ll pick another audiobook soon, but for now, I have no plan and I’m kind of glad. It’s nice to not plan so far in advance every second. Right now, I can concentrate on my move.


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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WWW Wednesday, 7-October-2020

7 Oct

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 won’t lie, I haven’t touched Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald. Work has been crazy and I’ve been logging in early rather than taking time to read in the morning. My logic is that I’m getting more done and reducing my stress, but that’s crap.
I keep moving through Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni but I’m not sure I’ll finish it this week. I’ve just not been reading as much. I’m liking this book a lot, though. If I can find more time, I think I’d finish it quickly but it’s been a matter of being able to dedicate time to read.
I’m trying to finish The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo this week so I’ll be ready for my book club discussion on Monday. I don’t want two months in a row of not finishing the book before we meet!

Recently finished: If you hadn’t guessed by my slow progress in my current books and my lack of posts this week, I didn’t finish anything. I’m slightly optimistic about something being here next week, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Reading next: I have The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer on the top of a moving box of books so I can pick it up as soon as I’m ready. It will be fun to have something that moves quickly! And the short chapters will be good for when I’m exhausted before bed.


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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletter 

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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Challenge Update, September 2020

1 Oct

I picked my pace up again this month but I’ve run into another slow down: moving. Some days, I’m just so exhausted I can’t pick up a book before my eyes are shut! Thankfully, this won’t last long but it will go through October. 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 September:

The Tory // T.J. London (4/5)
The Virgin Suicides // Jeffrey Eugenides (5/5)
In the Distance // Hernan Diaz (2/5)
Joy, Inc. // Richard Sheridan (4/5)

And all caught up on reviews! Man, does that feel good.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

10/12
Nothing new again. With only two spots to go, I’m feeling good about finishing but I need to start getting picky with my reads so I can be sure to finish it off.

Goodreads Challenge

48/55
Still eight books ahead! I’m feeling great about this now even after being a bit worried early on in the year. This should be easy to wrap up.

Cover image via Amazon

Book of the Month

It was easy this month to pick The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. This book swept me away and had me reading much later than I should have been. I loved the tension in it and how Eugenides used a collective narrator to follow the girls. The movie wasn’t too bad, either.

Added to my TBR

I’m still at 44 this month. I wondered where I’d average out and this might be it. We’ll see if I’m able to dip much below this. I added a lot of sequels this month!

  • The Traitor (Redcoats and Rebels #2) by T.J. London. The sequel to The Tory, I’m hoping to get my hands on this one soon and continue the story. Maybe it will even be on audio soon? One can only hope.
  • Troubled Blood (Cormoran Strike #5) by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling). I’m a bit torn on this one. I know JKR has some controversial opinions and from what I’ve heard, she expresses them in this book. My desire to know what happens to Robin is really balanced with the distaste I have for what JKR has done with this. I have it on the list for now, but I’ll see what I think when I have time to get around to it.
  • Malorie (Bird Box #2) by Josh Malerman. How did I not know there was a sequel?! I’m excited to learn more about Malorie and see more into Malerman’s universe. I hope this one doesn’t scare me as much!

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for this year, it’s fun!

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.

WWW Wednesday, 30-September-2020

30 Sep

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 tried to read Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald. Does anyone even believe me anymore? I’m horrible at picking up physical books, even ones I’m enjoying like this. I really hope to get back to it soon. I need to stick to short ebooks, haha.
I’ve made steady progress on Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni but the physical exhaustion of moving has kept me from reading a lot before bed this past week. It’s going to be a long move so this might keep up for a while. I hope it doesn’t slow me down too much.
I started listening to The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo and I’m trying to figure out how much of a ghost story this really is. I’m not far in yet so that’s still TBD but I’m enjoying the fantastical elements so far.

Recently finished: I wrapped up Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan and posted my review of it yesterday. Sheridan has created a very unique and positive culture in his company. It would be amazing to see that culture in some other industries but I don’t think there’s a solid idea of how it would translate to less technical industries, like manufacturing or even medical. I’d love to see it at my office, but I’m not sure that’s realistic. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading next: I still plan to pick up The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer as soon as I can. I think a thriller with short chapters will be good for me when I’m exhausted before bed.


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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletter 

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: Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan (4/5)

29 Sep

I went to an HR conference last winter where Sheridan was the keynote speaker. His company, Menlo Industries, is located about 30 minutes from me in Ann Arbor, MI. I really liked what he had to say about making work joyful and as much as his speech was geared toward the HR community, his book was geared toward any leader and talked about how to implement his success in other organizations. I listened to this one as an audiobook even though I bought a copy at the conference. I didn’t get the chance to have him sign it, though.

Cover image via Amazon

Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan

Summary from Amazon:

Every year, thousands of visitors come from around the world to visit Menlo Innovations, a small software company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They make the trek not to learn about technology but to witness a radically different approach to company culture.

CEO Rich Sheridan removed the fear and ambiguity that typically make a workplace miserable. With joy as the explicit goal, he and his team changed everything about how the company was run. The results blew away all expectations. Menlo has won numerous growth awards and was named an Inc. magazine “audacious small company.”

Joy, Inc. offers an inside look at how Menlo created its culture, and shows how any organization can follow their methods for a more passionate team and sustainable, profitable results.

Sheridan’s approach really boils down to letting people’s lives not be overrun by work and getting rid of the fear of failure at work. One of the most memorable things Sheridan talked about in his presentation was parents being able to bring their babies into the office if they had childcare problems. This blew me away. It started when an employee was ready to come back to work after maternity leave and her childcare fell through. Since then, other parents have been able to have their babies ‘work’ at Melo as well. As far as eliminating fear, Sheridan has found ways to let his teammates be honest about the problems they are running into so they’re not afraid to say something’s behind or more difficult than anticipated. This creates better feedback for customers and a better understanding of their timelines and gives the teams adequate time to work on their work.

Sheridan was the only real ‘character’ in the book. If I hadn’t heard him speak, I might not have believed he really was as open as he describes himself in the book. He is a curious person and always eager to improve and try new things. He really believes in letting people be more than just employees and finding ways to integrate life with work without work taking over. He recognizes that he’s employing people, not robots.

I understood a lot of the concerns that his employees shared during the book. One of the more memorable moments was when the company sold a venture capital investment and was able to distribute the earnings amongst employees. Rich asked an employee how much the money meant to her and she was honestly not very moved by it but was enjoying the fact that she’d recently received a peer-supported promotion. She was so happy with this promotion that she wasn’t able to really articulate the impact of the money because it was minimal compared to the promotion.

Richard Sheridan
Image via Twitter

I liked how Sheridan described the ways his team overcame difficulties and how there were problems he was still working to solve. It started to seem like his company was nearly perfect. At the end, he addressed this and talked about how the company overcomes them methodically and in a way that lets them not be afraid when something new comes up.

Sheridan talked about how other companies would visit Menlo and how they can implement their ways in other industries. However, the only example he gave of this being affectivly done was in the IT group of an insurance company. I wish he’d given more examples of how parts of his model had been adopted for other industries and types of work. How would it work in manufacturing, where I am?

The audiobook was ready by Tim Andres Pabon and I felt he captured Sheridan’s tone well. He got excited at things Sheridan would get excited about and had a similarlly upbeat attitude about any issue that came about. Honestly, I’m putting Pabon’s voice to Sheridan’s face and it’s lining up well for me, I think he was a good pick.

In a time when technology is having people work what seems like 24/7, Sheridan’s message is a breath of fresh air. People are dreading work time and long hours to meet deadlines, especially in tech industries. Sheridan shows how small changes can make people happier and how to experiment and try new things to see how they go. Bringing Joy to work seems like a crazy concept until he explains in this book.

Writer’s Takeaway: Sheridan knew he had something great with his company and he knew he wanted to share it in a book. He writes how he planned to write three books before he finished his first. I think knowing when you have something worthwhile to say is important and Sheridan sure did. He was straightforward about what worked in his book and how he implemented it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be someone with something to say about business and a book to write, but I liked his determination and conviction that he had something unique to share.

A solid book and a great example of work culture. 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!

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Related Posts: 
Book Review: Joy, Inc. | Lily Snyder 
Meno Innovations’ Business Value of Joy Workshop | Michigan Tech 

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‘The Virgin Suicides’ Movie Review

28 Sep

Movie Poster Image via Amazon

I realize it’s been over a year since a did a page-to-screen review and I feel like I need to apologize. I’ve been bad at following up my books with the movie, even when I fully intend to watch the film. This case will hopefully change my motivation going forward. I absolutely loved Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. I was pumped to watch the movie and requested it from the library almost immediately after finishing the book.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Homecoming. The dance was a really critical turning point in the book and I thought it was well translated to the movie. Lux and Trip were electric together and I could understand why the night was so pivotal for her. I did feel like the other girls were a bit more glossed over than they were in the book but it was a small change.

Kirsten Dunst. OK, I didn’t believe she was 14, but I would have believed 16. She did great at the emotional highs and lows that Lux felt. She was rebellious and in love, scared and confident all at the same time and I thought she was wonderful.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

The tree coming down. I’m not even really sure about this one. My husband was watching with me and thought the tree came down, I didn’t think so but noticed in a later shot that it was down. I didn’t think this was a strong plot point anyway so I’m really fine with whatever happened to the tree.

Cover image via Amazon

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

Mary’s suicide. In the book, Mary’s first attempt wasn’t successful but she tried again later and did kill herself. I thought it was an important touch that Mary, like Cecilia, didn’t succeed but made a second attempt. Lux’s pregnancy scare. They speak very briefly about her trists on the roof but there’s a lot more made of them in the book. She really broke from her parents and her history when she was doing that and I thought her pregnancy scare was the last time she could have gotten help. Plus, the ambulance visiting the house was a huge build of tension that I think was missed.

Things That Changed Too Much

The collective narrator. In the book, it was much less clear who the boys are who are narrating the book. I’m not sure this could have been done any differently in the movie, where a visual group needs to be shown. I liked the idea that the ‘we’ narrator was a larger group, not boiled down to five like the film decided to do. It seemed a little too personal instead of a collective group recognizing how the girls were separate and different from themselves. I think this was a great adaptation and I see why so many of you have pushed me to watch it as soon as I could.

Reader, have you seen the movie for The Virgin Suicides? What did you think?

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!

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.

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