Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (4/5)

18 Apr

It seemed like this book was everywhere for a while. And, as is my custom, I added it to my TBR with the knowledge that I wouldn’t read it for years. And that’s exactly what happened. Better late than never.

Cover image via Goodreads

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Summary from Goodreads:

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Parts of this book I really liked. I enjoyed the Chimaera and their backstory. It was interesting to hear how they endured the fight with the Seraphs but I liked learning about them through Karou’s eyes when they were family to her. I disliked the insta-love. It’s something that always takes me right out of a book and there were two cases of it in this book that made it hard for me to keep on believing the characters and story. I’ll get into both of these later. In the end, I’m iffy on if I want to continue on with the series. I feel like this book was a big build-up but that there wasn’t any resolution. This is another thing that frustrates me with series. I felt like there needed to be something more definitive to end this book before the second one began. I’m left really on the fence.

Character credibility is hard to judge in a fantasy book like this one. Karou seemed credible as a human as far as she could be considered a normal human. But her world was so warped and different that anything she did that was unusual or inhuman could be contributed to that. The same can be said for Akiva. It was the insta-love that did me in. Unless it’s a part of the fantasy, that two beings can tell if they’ll be compatible by seeing each other, I don’t buy it. Especially because in both cases, they were mortal enemies. I can’t imagine any circumstances where someone attacked me and I fell in love or where I was dying on a battlefield and a medic from the other side gave me some small assistance and I risked my life to find that person. Maybe the second is more probable, but it was still too much for me to process. It stopped me caring about the characters for the last third of the book.

Zuzana was my favorite character. She was fierce and a great friend. I’m sad to think she won’t be as involved in the later books as Karou heads to Eretz. I liked her (not instant) relationship with Mik and the puppet show she put on. It was fun to think of a character so small and strong spending the day with Karou and Akiva on a prolonged double date.

There wasn’t a lot I could relate to in this story. The best would be the opening scenes where Karou is putting up with Kaz. I had a high school boyfriend who was equally cocky and flippant and unrelenting and I wish I had wishes to make him itchy and uncomfortable. That would have been awesome. Other than that, I didn’t have much to relate to and it didn’t bother me much. I don’t look for a lot of relatable life experiences in fantasy. It’s escapist for a reason.

I liked the richness of the Chimaera world best. It was well described inside Brimstone’s shop and the details that were presented throughout the story were wonderful. Taylor did an amazing job of building a very unique fantasy race and giving it regional variations within the race. It was really a joy to read.

I’m going to insta-love bash again. It was just too much for me. Call me unromantic if you like, but I think two characters need more than instant attraction to build the kind of relationships that you risk your life for or go to battle for. Romeo and Juliet was unrealistic to me and this wasn’t much better. Madrigal and Akiva shared a moment. And that moment led to a year-long mission and a life-risking decision. It was too much. And I’m a bit afraid to keep reading this series and see how much was risked over a shared moment.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Khristine Hvam. For the most part, I enjoyed her narration but there was one notable exception. The voice she used for Razgut had me pulling my earbuds out and almost falling off of my bike. It was so grating and terrible and I understand why she chose to do such an altered voice, but it was way too much for me to handle. I wish she’d gone with something a bit quieter at least.

Unfortunately, I think the major theme in this book was love. It scares me a little when I can only find that theme in a YA novel. Karou does want to save her family, but that desire was pushed aside. I’m being hopeful that a desire to reconnect with the Chimaera will continue to drive her forward but the end of the novel isn’t giving me a lot of hope. Honestly, I’m surprised she didn’t give up and decide to stay human.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’ve not been brave enough to attempt a trilogy or to even give serious thought to doing so. I believe a well-written trilogy needs to have two mini-endings before there’s an overall ending to the series. Harry Potter accomplished this with school years, the Hunger Games did it with subsequent games. I often grow frustrated when there’s no discernible ending between books and it feels like a long chapter break. That’s how I feel about this series now. Using the last third of the book for a prolonged flashback and then ending abruptly left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

Because of a lackluster ending and a bit too much insta-love, I had to go with Four out of Five Stars for this one. And I have to know, should I continue the series? Will it get better?

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:
Daughter of Some & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1): Review | Books, Tea, and Insanity
Daughter of Smoke & Bone- Laini Taylor (Review) | Teacher of YA
Daughter of Smoke & Bone | Leslie D.
25 Reads: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor | Story and Somnomancy

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WWW Wednesday, 17-April-2019

17 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: It’s still steady-going with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. It’s not engrossing me as much as I would like and I keep waiting to be swept into it, but I’m almost halfway through and it’s not happening. I’ll keep pressing forward!
I’m obsessed with Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Simon’s voice is so perfect, I’m loving it. Honestly, it’s making me feel like my YA novel is never going to get published if this is the standard I have to stand up to. I’m finding excuses to drive around so I can listen to this.
I’m getting toward the end of The Power by Naomi Alderman and finally starting to see where it’s going. There are jumps forward and backward in time and they slowly merge into a big event. I’m getting close to it now. I think it’s safe to say this one will be finished next week.
I started reading Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton. Hinton is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, The Outsiders so I’m excited to pick up something new by her. This one is relatively short so I hope it doesn’t stay on this list very long.

Recently finished: I’m happy to say I finished Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. This one had me staying up late to read just a few more pages each night and I think I frustrated my husband by keeping the light on later and later. There’s a movie of this one and I can’t wait to see it. What a complicated issue Bohjalian created. I think it will play out well on screen.

I was able to post one review this week, Dodgers by Bill Beverly. My book club met this past week to discuss it as well so I’ll have another post about this one coming up soon. I enjoyed the book but the discussion actually brought up a few issues I hadn’t thought of before so I’m really glad for this group of people who have challenged me to think more about books.

Reading Next: I still plan to pick up Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi as a physical book, I’ve just pushed it back one. I’ll get to this when Hawkes Harbor is done.
My next eaudiobook will be The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob. This book was hyped a lot a few years ago and I haven’t heard much about it since but it’s lingered on my TBR all the same.
I think it may finally be time. I tend to listen to ‘bad summer books’ in the summer. I’m going to start on A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This will be a long endeavor to be sure, but I’m ready for it. I’ll be caught up to my husband finally. And it will be good to be catching up on the books as the show ends.


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!

Meeting Author Adriana Trigiani

16 Apr

You probably noticed all of my posts about Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani. In addition to my book review, there were two book club discussions. That’s because Trigiani was scheduled to come to speak in our area about her book and last week, my mom and I went to hear her speak.

I found out the morning of the event that Trigiani had done some comedy writing. I wish I’d known that earlier because I would have been more excited about the event. It was obvious that she was a comedian from her first sentence. She was very personable and spoke with no script in mind. She used comments from the audience to move her speech forward and made off the cuff jokes constantly. It was really fun to hear.

She talked about writing historical novels and how often the people who come up as movers of history are men. You have to dig to find the women, and that’s something Trigiani enjoyed. She picked the cover photo in part because the model was historically significant to the era. She included real women like Gloria, the producer of Nicky’s show (I can’t find a citation for this, though). Trigiani is also a big fan of Shakespeare so she paralleled the Palazzini families like the brothers in Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Trigiani spent a large chunk of time talking about the four steps to writing. To her, it’s a simple solution. First, find the time. Wake up earlier in the mornings, start with 30 minutes, and set aside that time to write. Second, get the tools to tell your story. She prefers pen and paper. If you’re going to do this, get a notebook that’s just for your writing, that won’t be filled with grocery lists and doctors’ appointments. If you’re going to write a memoir, start with ‘What I remember’ and start with a person or a day that’s hard for you to forget. Third, think of what you want to write about before you fall asleep. Doing this, you let your subconscious mull it over for a bit before you have to write it down. Fourth, pick your subject and just start writing!

A man came with a copy of his non-fiction book and asked her for some advice on promoting his book. Firstly, she said to get an agent. Agents will help with promotion and publication of future books. With a non-fiction title, she recommended reaching out to cable news networks. They like to have debates and material that can spark debates and non-fiction is good for this. She also recommended using a social media platform to speak about social issues related to the book and use that as a form of promotion.

Trigiani was very generous with her time and spoke to my mom and me for a few minutes in the signing line about my writing aspirations. She was very supportive and my mom took a great picture of us. I’ll have to get to her YA title soon.

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Club Reflection: The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

15 Apr The Gilded Hour Cover

After much delay, my book club was finally able to meet and discuss The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati. I finished reading this book back in December and we were supposed to meet in January to discuss it. However, Mother Nature had other plans and we pushed the book back to March to accommodate. So here we are, finally.

We found out the sequel to this book comes out in September. We’ll finally figure out who the murderer was! (The ambulance driver? One of the doctors in the inquest?) There was so much content in this first novel that we must imagine the second and third books will be bloated with content as well.

We asked ourselves if a situation like the one presented in this book, of dangerous abortions, could happen in the US if Roe v Wade was repealed and abortion was criminalized again. Anthony Comstock was a real person and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice was real. Could we see these again? Many felt it was likely. With the availability of oral contraceptives, it might not be as prevalent, but it could still happen. With the way US law works, the decision to criminalize would go to the states and its likely some more liberal states would decriminalize it while more conservative ones would outlaw. It would be like recreational marijuana is now.

The majority of our discussion revolved around Ana. She was a very modern woman for her time, something that bothered me a bit while reading. Though every time period must have some progressives, some modern women. Ana was a women’s lib fighter before there was women’s lib! She was not the common woman of her time because she was rich and educated but that doesn’t mean she’s unbelievable. Even still, we were surprised she continued to work after she got married. She was a bit of an odd duck, but she was protected by her aunt’s wealth and status, it was OK for her to be a bit different.

Ana and Jack’s relationship was a little surprising because of how outspoken Ana was. Jack was also very progressive and accepted her easily. He was hard to surprise because of his profession, seeing things that were unusual. He made her vulnerable, which was hard for her to deal with at first, but he wore her down and then she couldn’t resist him.

Her dedication to the Russo children was a bit hard for all of us to wrap our minds around. One reader explained it as Ana seeing herself in Rosa and being reminded of losing her brother. She never felt she got him back, but she wanted to help Rosa get her brothers back as best she could.

I may be the only one in my group who goes on to read the second book. I adored the writing and how intricate the world was, even if it did seem a bit long-winded. Maybe I can talk them into it.

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: Dodgers by Bill Beverly (3/5)

11 Apr

Based on the title of this one, I had no idea what to expect. Draft Dodgers? That had been my best guess. I never expected LA Dodgers, nor why that city would be significant. It was a joy to discover this book as it happened instead of reading the blurb. I had no idea what was coming.

Dodgers by Bill Beverly

Summary from Goodreads:

Dodgers is a dark, unforgettable coming-of-age journey that recalls the very best of Richard Price, Denis Johnson, and J.D. Salinger. It is the story of a young LA gang member named East, who is sent by his uncle along with some other teenage boys—including East’s hothead younger brother—to kill a key witness hiding out in Wisconsin. The journey takes East out of a city he’s never left and into an America that is entirely alien to him, ultimately forcing him to grapple with his place in the world and decide what kind of man he wants to become.

There were multiple times in this book where I was shocked at the decisions the characters made. Not because they were out of character, but because they reinforced how different the characters were from me. East surprised me at every turn and I wanted to wrap him into a hug and tell him it would be OK, even though it probably wouldn’t be. He was very strong and resilient and I rooted for him the whole time.

I liked how different each of the boys was. Ty and East were dichotomies but adding in Michael Wilson and Walter rounded out the team. I believed all of them, though it was hard to believe they were all so young. It’s crazy to think a boy Ty’s age was part of a crime mob.

Besides Easy, Walter was my favorite character. I thought he was smart but also realistic. He seemed to hold the team together to me and I liked how he tried to help East when he could. He seemed to realize Ty and East had a very strange relationship and didn’t try to get in the middle of it but also didn’t assume they were close because they were blood.

These characters were so different from myself that I couldn’t relate to them and that made the story more fun for me. I’ve never been sent across state lines to kill someone and I’ve never walked across Ohio until I found a job that didn’t do a background check. Hearing about the measures East took to survive amazed me. The places he slept, things he stole, and what he ate were amazing to me. It’s hard to imagine certain levels of poverty if you don’t see them first hand.

Bill Beverly
Image via Twitter

East’s time in Ohio was my favorite. He was doing a lot of self-reflecting but the work he was doing was also similar to his old life. The guns just didn’t kill people. It was reassuring to see he was good at something besides being a gangster if he just tried. I started to believe in him and was glad he saw he wasn’t a lost cause. Maybe it’s my aversion to violence that made me like this part of the book.

The time in Wisconsin was my least favorite. I hated Ty’s character and that section was a lot about Ty. I couldn’t understand Ty nor his motivation so he frustrated me. I was glad when he was left, to be honest. It wasn’t the best of circumstances (trying to be spoiler free…) but I was relieved that the edge was gone. Walter and East could relax a little.

My audiobook was narrated by J.D. Jackson. I thought he did a really good job. His voices were subtly different so it wasn’t distracting. He also gave the right amount of gravitas to scenes that deserved it. His narration wasn’t distracting which made it enjoyable for me.

East was given an identity because of his relation to Fin. He was a yard boy and he did what Fin asked. But he got to learn that he could be something more. That he could forge his own path, find other people who would care about him, and make something of himself. He grew to believe in himself and what he could do. He grew to respect himself and have others respect him.

Writer’s Takeaway: Beverly created a very realistic view of poverty that was beyond anything I’ve ever imagined. I see those who are struggling in my city, but that doesn’t mean I understand the desperation that they might face. I don’t see the reasons why someone might get into drugs or why they might kill someone. It’s hard to picture what drives someone as young as Ty and East to be part of something so dangerous. But this book helped. It’s clear Beverly has some contact with this level of poverty or exposed himself to it for this book. Kudos to him.

I enjoyed this book but at the same time, the second half of it was a little flat for me. 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:
Q & A #62- Bill Beverly, “Dodgers” | Don’t Need a Diagram
Book Review: Dodgers- Bill Beverly (Guest Review) | Beverly Has Read
Review: Dodgers by Bill Beverly | Baking Thad Books
Review of Dodgers by Bill Beverly | Stephanie

WWW Wednesday, 10-April-2019

10 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: It’s still steady-going with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. I only had two lunches last week to read and this week isn’t looking better. I’ll keep making my way through, though. No rush on this one.
I’m really enjoying Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I squeezed a little extra reading time this weekend even though I couldn’t afford it. I hope to finish this one soon and not have it linger on this list for more than one more week.
I got my hold on Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and was finally able to start it! I hope I have some long drives to get through this one quickly because I’ve been waiting for it forever!
I started reading The Power by Naomi Alderman on Sunday. Not too far into this one yet. I’m excited to stay one step ahead of my book club, though! We didn’t get our copies of this until Monday. Staying ahead is letting me focus on books I want to read, not just those for groups.

Recently finished: I was able to finish up News of the World by Paulette Jiles which was a lovely little book. I hope I remember it well enough for our next meeting because it seems so far away. I’ll get around to a review at some point. I feel so behind in reviews that it could be a week or two before I finally get to it! Better this than struggling for content, though.
I finished Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor Sunday morning. I enjoyed the story but it’s clear this is the first of a series. It was very unfinished and I was a bit disappointed. I hoped there was something more I would get before the book ended, but it was a set-up for the next books. I’m still debating if I’ll finish the series.

I posted two reviews this week. The first was for Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. Not a favorite read, but a solid one. I enjoy Larson’s style but this topic didn’t grab me as much as earlier ones have. I’ll have to try again soon. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed Wonder by R.J. Palacio. This book was a joy for me and I hope I can see the movie soon and experience it all over again! I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’ll grab another book off of my shelves next. I’m feeling great about getting through so many! Next up is Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. I added a number of concentration camp memoirs to my TBR after listening to Anne Frank’s diary a few years ago. This one was a little harder to come by but I have a copy and I look forward to reading it!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (4/5)

9 Apr

This was a book I heard about but didn’t really intend to read. It was for people who had biases, and I didn’t have a bias, right? Right?! I finally decided to go ahead and read it when it was recommended by Will Schwalbe during his appearance at the Midwest Literary Walk last year. The book also appears in his book, Books for Living, which I read recently and was reminded that I needed to read this one.

Cover image via Goodreads

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Summary from Goodreads:

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Overall, I have to say I liked this book. Auggie was well portrayed, a normal kid with an abnormal face. I liked how the book focused on those who loved him and cared about him, too, and how they were affected and dealt with Auggie’s deformity. I think his classmates were the best characters, though Via and Justin may have topped them. It was reassuring to read from Auggie’s point of view and see how he saw the world and how he coped with the reactions of those around him. He was very smart and resourceful.

I found the characters credible though someone closer to a family like the Pullman’s might feel differently. Not being a part of a family like that, I appreciated the insight to difficulties they faced as well as the normality of their lives. No matter what you look like, you have to deal with siblings fighting and parents disagreeing. Those are unavoidable. Miranda and Justin were great side characters to include. They believed in Auggie and stuck up for him when they weren’t obligated and you wouldn’t guess that they would. Auggie had people fighting for him all around him.

Jack was my favorite character. He messed up and admitted it, which was very brave. I understood why he felt he had to say that he did, but how he realized what he’d done, tried to atone for it, and confessed was very admirable. I liked how his friendship with Auggie grew through the year and how other kids came to accept Auggie in the same way.

I’m fortunate to come from a family unline Auggie’s, so I couldn’t relate to them because of his facial abnormality. It made that part of the story hard to relate to. But bullying is universal. There were people in my school who were bullied for any number of reasons. You were too smart, friends with the wrong people, wore the wrong clothes or talked the wrong way. The base story of how harmful bullying can be and how it can be stopped and turned around did speak to me. I work in an industry that is trying very hard to push beyond bias and hearing how it can be affected in young children was a great story.

R.J. Palacio
Image via the book’s website

I liked the chapters from Via, Justin, and Miranda. I was in high school more recently than middle school so I could relate to their stories better. I also did theater so that part of the story spoke to me, too. The four years between Via and Auggie was huge and the approach that her classmates had to Auggie was very different than his peers and I appreciated that other view.

As much as I appreciated them, I also disliked the chapters from Auggie’s point of view. I felt that it was written in a much more juvenile voice than any of the other characters, even Jack and Summer. Maybe it was from being homeschooled for so long, but he didn’t seem to catch on to things quickly and it was a bit frustrating. Those chapters read at a lower reading level than the rest in my mind.

This book was blessed with three narrators; Diana Steele, Nick Podehl, and Kate Rudd. I was glad for the multiple narrators when I realized there were chapters from a multitude of characters’ POVs. It was good to have Justin and Jack with a male voice while Summer and Miranda had female ones. I only disliked the voice of Auggie and I was glad the whole book wasn’t narrated in that voice. It seemed like one of the female narrators assumed the voice of someone who had trouble breathing properly. Maybe this was meant to mimic Auggie’s difficulties breathing and eating because of his deformity, but it seemed demeaning and it became annoying very quickly.

People’s appearances attract attention for a hundred different reasons. Auggie’s face is atypical so people stare. We might think someone like Auggie doesn’t notice but he clearly does. I read this right after finishing Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger and she talks about being stared at because of her size. Her sentiments were the same in regards to people looking at her. Maybe we can’t help looking, but we need to learn to not say anything. The words of Auggie’s classmates hurt him much more than anyone staring at him would have.

Writer’s Takeaway: The other character’s taught me more about Auggie than Auggie did. The way they viewed him and how they loved him said a lot about who he was and how he treated others. I liked seeing him through their eyes. With my novel, I have two points of view and I should consider how one character can show the reader more about the other.

I enjoyed this book and what it had to say with my only reservation being Auggie’s narration. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
Wonder, R. J. Palacio | GarabrandtReviews
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A Bookish Beans Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio | Smudged Thoughts

Writers’ Group: Traditional Publishing

8 Apr

My writers’ group got together recently! Jason spoke about his journey through traditional publishing and gave us some great insight into the process.

The first step in traditional publishing is to get an agent. Writers pitch to agents, agents pitch to publishers. Jason recommended a few places he was able to find agents listed. The first is a directory such as the Writers’ Market which can be found in print or online. He said he had success with the print version, available at our library. Other sources would include the acknowledgments section of a book similar to yours (where the writer thanks their agent) or referrals from other writers. When sending query letters, be sure you follow the submission guidelines to a T! Some agencies say a rejection from one agent is a rejection from the whole agency, others allow for multiple submissions. Most ask for no attachments in query emails so paste everything in the body of the email. If you do get an agent, this person is likely to take 15% of your royalties, so make sure it’s someone you like!

Gary shared some writing infographics and we spoke about topics for future meetings. We talked about dynamic characters and discussed the possibility that the main character doesn’t change. We recognize it’s possible but couldn’t think of a book we’d read where it happened.

It was a bit of a short meeting this month and I had to leave early, but I really appreciate this team and how much they convince me to keep writing as much as I can.

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (3/5)

4 Apr

I have a lot of love for Erik Larson. I’ve read a number of his books and enjoyed them. I like how he makes history feel like a story and how he intertwines science and invention into his stories. So naturally, I’m running through his backlist.

Cover image via Goodreads

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Other books by Larson reviewed on this blog:

Dead Wake (4/5)
In the Garden of Beasts (4/5)

Summary from Goodreads:

In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners, scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed, and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect crime.

I liked the story and the way Larson wove the stories of Crippen and Marconi together, but I did feel like there was a large lull in the middle. Wireless was a fickle obsession for Marconi and it took him years to get it right. Reading about those years of trial and error was a bit redundant. Especially the many men who tried to undermine him and their varying degrees of success. I would have preferred a bit more about Crippen but I’m guessing there isn’t much more to be known. He seems to have lived a very quiet life.

Crippen doesn’t seem quite capable of what he’s accused of. While that’s part of what makes the story so unbelievable and captivating, it also makes it a bit confusing. It seems very little was asked of Crippen after he died and that he didn’t leave any clues behind. I’m a bit amazed that more wasn’t asked of him before his execution. You’d think with such a major chase going on, people would want to know how he committed the crime.

Crippen was my favorite character. I liked his up-and-down career and how he managed to have such an odd wife. Belle wanted everything for nothing and must have been very hard to live with. He seemed to be coping well right until the end. The fact that he snapped fascinates me and is part of why I want to know more about him and his motivation than history allows.

Marconi’s frustration with his invention was relatable in an abstract sense. There are things that I work on which frustrate me yet I continue to work on them. Training, writing, former school subjects, the list goes on. But Marconi was relentless and even seemed to make a living with his wireless system before he had figured out the operation of it completely. He was relentless in his trials and goal of figuring out wireless and that was admirable.

Erik Larson
Image via Twitter

The chase at the end was wonderfully written and exciting to read. I felt like someone reading about it in the newspaper while it was happening and my heart was jumping when it came to the ends. I wanted them caught so badly! I can see why the murder was so sensational at the time and why it drew so much attention. It also seems it was a good time for wireless to have made such a mark on the world and a great way for the technology to make it into popular use.

As I said, the book dragged for a bit when Marconi was the focus in the middle and it seemed he would never figure out wireless. There was a lot of trial and error, and it felt like the errors dominated. There were a lot of failures and competing companies and parties and none of it interested me much. I knew this would somehow tie to Crippen’s story and I felt it was a bit too much to remember all the names and places of failures and challenges.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Bob Balaban. I’ll be honest and say that the narration didn’t have a lasting effect on me. With a non-fiction book like this that doesn’t have speaking characters, per se, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Bob let the story be told without interfering or making it about his performance instead of the book. I’d say he was wonderfully absent.

I don’t think Larson was trying to get a theme across much in this book. I’d say he was more trying to tell a story. It’s a story of how technology can catch up with us and change the game. Wireless telegraphy was a means for ships to talk to each other and for North America and Europe to be able to converse. However, it also stepped in and changed what could have been a flawless crime by Crippen. It can be used in ways we don’t expect to do things we’d never anticipate.

Writer’s Takeaway: It wasn’t until I’d finished this book that I realized there was next to no dialogue. It flowed well, like I was being told a story, and not like a history textbook that it could have easily morphed into. Larson does a wonderful job of this in his books and it’s one of the things I most admire about him. He uses a multitude of sources to tell his stories and they come off flawlessly and effortless. Though I bet there’s a lot of effort. An awful lot.

This book was fun and entertaining but it dragged a bit for me in the second half before rushing to a conclusion. 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:
Erik Larson’s “Thunderstruck” | The Silk Moustache
Review Thunderstruck by Erik Larson | Care’s Books and Pie
Edwardian England: Erik Larson’s Thunderstruck | Author Susan Berry

WWW Wednesday, 3-April-2019

3 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: I made a little headway with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min but not much. I’ll be on this for a while, to be sure. I’m still getting used to the style, how it switches from first-person to third-person. I’m not sure I like it yet.
I’ve gotten to halfway through Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. I haven’t been reading as much before bed because I’m making sleep a priority and getting to bed earlier. It’s been great, but it is eating into reading a smidge.
I’m really liking Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor on audio. It’s getting really interesting and keeping me listening as long as possible through each workout. I might be on to a series I’ll finally finish!
Since  News of the World by Paulette Jiles is so short, I’m making great progress with it. I should have this one wrapped up later this week at the latest!

Recently finished: I knew it was coming so no big surprise here: nothing new finished this week. I killed it in March so I’m not surprised with a small slow down. Though I do expect more books finished next week! Also no reviews this week. I’ll be back at them next week so don’t worry!

Reading Next: I’m still waiting for Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I’m getting anxious since I’ll be ready to start it very soon. I’ve got my fingers crossed it comes in this week!


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!