Happy Thanksgiving!

23 Nov

To my fellow Americans, Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is a day to spend with friends and family. I encourage everyone to put down their books just long enough to enjoy some pecan pie. Yum!

And if I can be a little opinionated for a second, please don’t go Black Friday shopping until normal business hours. Let those employees spend the holiday with their families by not supporting the sales.

I’ll jump off my soapbox now. Enjoy the turkey!

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!

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WWW Wednesday, 22-November-2017

22 Nov

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 readingI’m still going strong with The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer. The story is really intense right now and I’m looking forward to some runs over the holiday weekend when I can listen to this. I’m guessing I need at least another week to finish it.
I was able to start Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf Friday night. It’s a really fast read! If all goes well, I’ll finish it today and take a new book with me on my Thanksgiving travels tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
I started a new ebook as well, This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman. I think this book is in the same strain as We Need to Talk About Kevin or Defending Jacob, both of which are really dark but have very thought-provoking plots that I really enjoyed.

Recently finishedTwo this week! When it rains, it pours. The first was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. This was an ebook and I think reading it in that format was not the best way to enjoy it because I lost some consistency (I read ebooks when I’m waiting at the doctor’s office and during lunch so they take me a while). I wrote a review and published it on Monday. I gave it Three out of Five stars. Please go check it out!
I also finished My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen. I really enjoy religious memoirs (yes, a very niche category) and this one was no exception. It was fun to read about a Jew learning about my religion, Christianity, through a year-long immersion experience. It’s interesting to see how you’re perceived from the outside! My review went up Tuesday and I gave it Four out of Five stars.

Reading Next: I’m going to take Singing Him My Song by Malachy McCourt with me to Texas on my Thanksgiving trip. I read the first few pages of this right when I got it and I was intrigued so I’m excited to keep going with the plot. I always love a good memoir.


Leave a comment with your link and a 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: My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen (4/5)

21 Nov

I got sucked into a genre I’m calling religious memoirs. If there’s a better name for these books, I haven’t heard it. The first I read was A.J. Jacob’s book The Year of Living Biblically. From there, I read The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose. This one was next on my list and I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. I love memoirs because they let you look through someone else’s eyes for a bit. A chance to look at Christianity through the eyes of a Jew sold me and I’m glad I found a copy of this book on the sale shelf at the library.

Cover image via Goodreads

My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen

Summary from Goodreads:

One day a Georgia-born son of an Orthodox rabbi discovers that his enthusiasm for Judaism is flagging. He observes the Sabbath, he goes to synagogue, and he even flies to New York on weekends for a series of “speed dates” with nice, eligible Jewish girls. But, something is missing. Looking out of his window and across the street at one of the hundreds of churches in Atlanta, he asks, “What would it be like to be a Christian?”

So begins Benyamin Cohen’s hilarious journey that is My Jesus Year—part memoir, part spiritual quest, and part anthropologist’s mission. Among Cohen’s many adventures (and misadventures), he finds himself in some rather unlikely places: jumping into the mosh-pit at a Christian rock concert, seeing his face projected on the giant JumboTron of an African-American megachurch, visiting a potential convert with two young Mormon missionaries, attending a Christian “professional wrestling” match, and waking up early for a sunrise Easter service on top of Stone Mountain—a Confederate memorial and former base of operations for the KKK.

During his year-long exploration, Cohen sees the best and the worst of Christianity—from megachurches to storefront churches; from crass commercialization of religion to the simple, moving faith of the humble believer; from the profound to the profane to the just plain laughable. Throughout, he keeps an open heart and mind, a good sense of humor, and takes what he learns from Christianity to reflect on his own faith and relationship to God. By year’s end, to Cohen’s surprise, his search for universal answers and truths in the Bible Belt actually make him a better Jew.

Cohen has a great writing voice that really helped me enjoy this book. He doesn’t assume a Jewish or Christian audience for this book which is good because he explains almost everything where needed. He often refers to laws in Judaism and he gives both the Hebrew and English words while explaining the tradition or law. He also doesn’t assume the reader knows about Christianity which I found helpful when he explored denominations different from my own. He was funny without being demeaning, which was a good touch.

Benyamin has only one other consistent character in the book, his wife Elizabeth. He speaks about his father occasionally and touches on his siblings from time to time, but Elizabeth is the only other person who appears regularly. Even so, he doesn’t go into a lot of detail about her, leaving the impression we get one of a loving wife who is tolerating her husband’s travels through Christianity. She’s not discouraging him, but not encouraging either. As someone who’s been a Christian and decided on Orthodox Judaism, she doesn’t’ see the point; she’s already done the reverse journey.

Benyamin made himself very likable. I wondered how much of this was really his personality and how much was good editing. He was observant, polite, and questioning without ever seeming condescending. He seemed open-minded, which someone on his journey would need to be. He seemed to doubt himself a lot, though. He needed someone’s approval, his rabbi, his wife, or God’s, to do almost anything. I felt a bit bad for him. OK, a lot bad for him in parts.

I’m not afraid to say I’ve doubted my faith for a time in the same way Benyamin did. I never considered leaving it, but I wasn’t as strong and convicted as I’ve been at other points. While I didn’t explore other religions, I could relate to the lost feeling Benyamin had. He was looking for the fire and vigor he saw in others and wanted to get it back. I think he had it again before the year was over, but I’m glad he finished his journey.

Benyamin Cohen
Image via From the Grapevine

The story of him dating before he began the journey was one of my favorites. I found it hilarious that he’d fly to New York to look for a wife. That just seemed ridiculous to me and I had to tell my husband so we could shake our heads together. I also liked the Christian Wrestling show. It seemed like such an odd concept but as Benyamin experienced it, I saw how it could be used to call others to God. It wasn’t a traditional ministry, but sometimes the unusual gets people.

I waited the whole book for Cohen to get to my denomination, Catholicism. I guess as a Catholic, I should be offended that he went to confession and didn’t tell the priest he was Jewish. Honestly, I’m not. I think he got more from the experience than many Catholics do. I wish he’d gone into a little more detail about the mass, though. He went into a lot of details about the Baptist and Evangelical services he went to that it was a bit of a let down for me. It was still nice to feel represented, thought!

 

Cohen says several times that he wants to explore Christianity to make him a better Jew. I feel the same way about reading religious memoirs and books on religious understanding. It helps me to have my faith convictions when I can see why other people have theirs. I understand why what I believe is different from what a coworker or friend believes. Rather than tempting me to convert, it helps reinforce my own beliefs. I don’t know what I’d do if I ran into another religion that made sense to me, the way Elizabeth did. I haven’t come into that situation yet so I don’t know.

I love memoirs that read like a conversation with the author and Cohen did an excellent job of that. I admired how conversational he was about a topic that divides so many people.

This was a really enjoyable book about a topic that I find fascinating. 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 Post:
My Jesus Year, by Benyamin Cohen (LentBooks #15) | Compulsive Overreader

Book Review: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (3/5)

20 Nov

I find I usually give ebooks lower-than-normal ratings. I think it’s because I read them so slowly that some of the connections to the beginning of the text are lost on me. I think this is one of those cases. The heartbreaking story of Pecole Breedlove was tear-worthy in small steps but if I’d sat down and binge-read this book, I probably would have cried the latter half of the book. I won a physical copy of this book through a giveaway on Uncharted Parent. I’m sad to say that was over a year ago and I finally picked up the ebook so I could get to it sooner. Thank you, Tracy!

Cover image via Goodreads

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Summary from Goodreads:

Pecola Breedlove, a young black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in.Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife.

I don’t read book summaries before I start a book so I expected the two girls, Frieda and Claudia, to be bigger characters in the book. I kept waiting for the narrative to come back to them. I was also thinking that the blue eye would become a big part of the plot earlier in the storyline. Overall, this book took me by surprise. I didn’t expect the rotating narrators and I found it unpredictable who would speak next. Because I read it in chunks, I struggled to remember who was talking, what the time period was, and how the person was connected to the main plot with Pecola.

It’s hard for me to say how credible the characters were. I’ve never been in Pecola’s situation before nor known anyone who was. I thought Frieda and Claudia were wonderful. Their innocence and perception of the world are what I remember from my time at their age. I found it hard to put myself in Pauline or Cholly’s shoes, either, because they had very different lives than I did. Cholly, in particular, was hard to relate to. Maybe it was the gender difference but I found him do deplorable that I wanted to skip his chapters.

Claudia was my favorite. She had her heart in the best of places and you could see her questioning the logic behind everyone being mean to Pecola. She knew she was poor and ugly, but she was still as nice as she could be. Her loss of innocence was a big part of the plot in my mind. By the end, she realized what was so pitiable about Pecola and she still wanted to do nice things for her.

I related to Claudia and Frieda a bit. I think I shared their generalized good spirit at their age (or at least I’m going to think I did). I remember bad things happening around me to people but in a very removed way. I didn’t know why people’s parents were getting divorced or what that really meant. It was a youthful disconnect from reality and I remember, like the girls, slowly piecing together that there were larger, sadder, things going on in the world.

Toni Morrison
Image via Goodreads

The scene where Pecola has her first period was one of my favorites. To an adult reader, it’s so obvious what’s happening. But the panic of the girls, their failures to communicate with their mother and with each other, made the scene funny and memorable. It was light-hearted, unlike most of the book, which made it stick out a lot in a good way. I was hoping that kind of humor might come up again later on, but no such luck.

I don’t want to ruin the ending of the book, but it was so sad that it was my least favorite part for that reason. What Cholly does and how Pecola deals with it are really sad. The part at the end where she sees her blue eyes was a bit confusing at first, but beyond sad when I figured out what was going on.

 

Pecola desires to be loved and feels that if she is pretty like a doll, someone will love her. Unfortunately, her dolls and her idea of beautiful is the caucasian idea of blue eyes. To become pretty, she’ll have to find a way to have blue eyes. The idea of a singular definition of beauty has been challenged a lot in recent years but wasn’t in the 1940s. Her singular push to that idea of beauty is sad when we see how unobtainable it is. Modern society has created surgeries, diets, and clothes to help women attain that idea of beauty, but how real is surface beauty? What if we’re the only ones who see it, the way Pecola sees her blue eyes?

Writer’s Takeaway: Morrison uses a sample from a reading primer to set up a stark difference between what the girls read and idealize as a perfect family and the world they live in. I understood why she did this, but it wasn’t a style I would imitate myself. It became tedious to read and, frankly, I started skipping those parts.

This book was good and it was sad, but it was a bit abstract in parts for my taste and jumped around a bit. 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 BluestEye by Toni Morrison | Book Maven’s Blog
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison | The Writerly Blog of Lane William Brown
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison | 100 Books in 100 Weeks

Do You Read Outside?

16 Nov

And now for the final installment about where we all pick up a book! A friend of mine recommended this one on Facebook and I can’t believe I hadn’t already thought of it. I do enjoy reading outside.

I have a porch in my apartment. I’ve got two lawn chairs and a table out there. It’s covered so no rain gets in and I’ve got two wind chimes hung up out there, too. I love spending Friday afternoon sitting out there and finishing a book. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the summer. Being in Michigan, I don’t get a very long window when the weather is conducive to this and I like to take advantage of it when I can. I’ll give up if it’s windy or gets chilly, but that porch chair is one of my favorite reading spots.

I’ve done a fair share of reading in other outdoor locations as well. I used to read outside during my lunch every day. I’ve read in parks and in college, I’d take a yoga mat outside and read there. Laying on my stomach at the beach is another favorite.

I can’t be the only one who likes to read outside. Do you read outside, Reader? What’s your favorite place?

Until next time, write on.

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

WWW Wednesday, 15-November-2017

15 Nov

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

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I’m 3/4 of the way done with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. With how short the book is, I’ll probably finish it up in the next week provided I get a few days to read during lunch. Three more days should do it.
I reached halfway in The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer. His books are really long so I’m not surprised this one is taking me so long. I’ve been easing off a bit with running, too, which is making this even slower. I’ll keep pushing on because it’s a really fun storyline.
I’ve been enjoying My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen a lot. I really enjoy these religious memoirs and I feel pretty certain I’ll finish this one up this week.

Recently finished: Nothing again! I’m going to blame starting them at the same time. And length. And me being a bit lazy lately.

Reading Next: It will still be Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. This is a slim book and I’m hoping it will be a fast read so I can knock it out before my next book club meeting! Fingers crossed.


Leave a comment with your link and a 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!

Do You Read On The Couch?

14 Nov

Welcome back to exploring where we all read! As I said before, I love reading in bed. On the couch, well, is a different story.

I almost never read on the couch. I find it puts a lot of strain on my neck to look down at my lap to read. When I lift the book up my arms get tired. I end up laying down on the couch, but at that point, I’d rather be in bed where I have all the pillows I need to make myself comfortable. Plus, there are no breaks in cushions on my bed. My butt doesn’t get stuck anywhere.

I will read on the couch for a short time. If I know it’s only going to be 20 minutes that I’m reading while I wait for something or someone, I’ll do it. I also read magazines on the couch. I usually read these in short installments rather than all at once so reading them on the couch is a good option. Plus, they’re so light that holding it up to my face isn’t as much of an issue for me.

I’m going to guess I’m in the minority here. Couch reading seems to be pretty popular, but I just can’t get comfortable. Am I the odd one out, reader? Do you read on the couch?

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!

Do You Read in Coffee Shops?

13 Nov

Wow, you all really responded to my ‘Do You Read in Bed?’ post! Thank you all so much. Due to a lack of finishing any books this week, I’ve decided to make a series out of it this week and talk about other places people tend to read. First stop, the coffee shop!

I know this one is usually more of a writer stereotype, but I wanted to explore it. I cannot read in coffee shops. As much as I love reading with a warm cup of tea at home, I can’t do it at a coffee shop. I’ve even tried sitting in the armchairs, it didn’t help. I have a lot of trouble tuning out voices and people talking around me while I read so most public places don’t work for me. Since coffee shops tend to be kind of quiet, the one person having a loud conversation on the other side of the room is very clear. If I was going to read at a coffee shop, I’d need to wear headphones and listen to music.

But then, I’d be too distracted to read. I get super distracted by people walking by me. This isn’t just when I read, it’s also at work on my computer or during a conversation, anytime really. If I was reading in a coffee shop, I’d look up any time a new person came in to order. I’d be a mess trying to keep to my spot in the book and looking up all the time.

I do enjoy writing at coffee shops, but reading is a completely different animal. I wonder if I’m weird or if this isn’t a popular reading spot. How about you, Reader? Do you read in coffee shops?

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!

Do You Read in Bed?

9 Nov

Reading before bed has been a ritual for me as long as I can remember. As a kid, I’d read until my mom told me to turn out the light. Now, I read while my husband brushes his teeth. Even in college, when I’d be up until after midnight and need to be up early again the next day, I would read at least two pages before turning out the light. It’s helped me to calm down before bed, even if a plot is ramping up.

I have to admit that in the past few years since smartphones have become a steady part of our lives, I’ve slipped a bit. I’ll check Instagram for cute baby pictures and Facebook to see new movie trailers. And then I won’t read as many pages because it’s later and I’m already so tired of reading status updates.

And it seems I’m not alone. I found this article which talks about what a fleeting experience reading in bed is. It’s an experience that hasn’t been around a long time and that looks to be going away quickly. And that makes me sad.

Having no screen-time before bed is supposed to promote healthier sleep. Books, real paper books, can do that. As easy as it is to watch a video or read an article, I continue to force myself to put my phone down and pick up some words printed on a page. I really hope this isn’t a fad. It’s a tradition I plan to pursue for the rest of my life.

Do you read in bed? Printed word or ebook? I’m curious if anyone else agrees with me on the health benefits of reading before bed.

Until next time, write on.

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

WWW Wednesday, 8-November-2017

8 Nov

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

IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I’m still pushing forward with The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. I’ve had really busy lunch periods lately so I haven’t had much of a chance to read it during lunch but I’m squeezing in a few pages here and there. I should finish it before the end of the year with no problem.
The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer is going to be a long haul. This is a long audiobook but I’m liking it so far. As with most thrillers, it’s very fast paced but I’m having fun trying to figure out who is involved in what and who knows what.
I’m trying to read My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen so I can start my next physical book. I really enjoy memoirs, especially religious memoirs, so this is really enjoyable for me and it’s a quick read anyway.

Recently finished: Nothing this week. I’ve made good progress in my books, but nothing new to share.

Reading Next: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf is sitting next to my bed, ready for me to finish Cohen’s book. I’m excited to read a new-to-me author and I’m hoping this goes well.


Leave a comment with your link and a 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!