Off Topic Thursday: Cross-Stitching

28 May

One of the things I’ve found a lot more time for with the lockdown has been cross-stitching. It’s something I’ve found relaxing for a long time and I wanted to share it with you all. Mostly it’s because it makes pretty pictures which I think we’ll all enjoy.

I don’t have pictures of my first cross-stitches but they’re coasters with hummingbirds on them. My mom had gotten four as a set and asked if I’d be interested in making one or two. My husband and I still have these on our bedside tables. I remember learning about backstitching (outlining) and messing up by using two strands to outline instead of one. It’s a much thicker line and not as good looking in the end, but you probably wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t say anything. I made a few small samplers after this that made for good ornaments but I gave those all away.

I’m not sure when I started it, but this is the oldest cross-stitch I could find and I think it’s the first full-sized one I did. I believe I did this in the summer between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college. I loved all of the purples in this pattern and I remember working with mixed colors, half stitches and the dreaded french knots. I think I almost gave up on it when it came to decorative knots even though I was almost done. This fit simply in a frame from the craft store. I had it displayed in my first apartment but I packed it so well when we moved that I didn’t find it until years later. It’s displayed in our office now.

These two are hanging on the wall in my living room. I believe the top one of the butterflies was the next one I did. It’s a nice, small size and I was able to do it pretty quickly. I stopped for a while in the middle and came back to it much later but I think it turned out okay. I learned that cross-stitch patterns are odd shapes and it can be hard to find a frame that will fit them well! I believed I ordered this one on Amazon from China. The one below it was a pattern my brother picked out. I think it’s supposed to be a Christmas angle but I hang it up year-round. This one was the most involved technically. There are beads and sequins that decorate this one and make it shine. She’s holding up a charm on a chain which meant I had to learn a few new techniques. I had to make the chain that involved my husband holding one end of a string and lots of twisting. I then had to do some couching which means having the long string lay on top of the fabric and then tacking it into place. I’m not happy with how this one is framed. It’s not pulled very tight and you can see the wrinkles in the fabric.  Part of that I could fix. The other part of it is because I left the hoop that I used to keep the fabric taught on it when I wasn’t using it and it left lasting kinks in the fabric. That was a hard lesson.

This was a gift from my Italian Mother in Law (very appropriate) that I have hung in my kitchen (even more appropriate). Nothing too special about this one but it was really fun to do. I like all of the lettering and how it used different fonts, colors, and thicknesses of floss to create such different effects. I was able to finish this one rather quickly.

I don’t have a lot of pictures of the next few I want to talk about. I have two nieces and a nephew, all through my husband’s sister. We weren’t dating when their first daughter was born. But for the second daughter and their son, I made birth announcements. The first one was pretty small and the second was a bit larger. The picture I have is from when it’s unfinished. During quarantine, I wanted to get a head start on a forthcoming niece or nephew so I’m working on another one which I’ll leave blank and add a name, date, and weight when I know one. That’s nice and quick to do! I might start another one soon.

View this post on Instagram

Making progress!! #100happydays #day83

A post shared by Sam Ann Elizabeth (@samannelizabeth) on

What I’m most excited about is a project I’ve been working on for years. I ordered these Harry Potter Hogwarts House Crests patterns off Etsy. I’ve finished the Slytherin one (my husband’s house) and I haven’t started the Hufflepuff one (my house). That’s probably my next project. I plan to hang these above our beds and I’ll make a small one that says Sam & Jay to hang between them. It’s a really fun project but I’m not a fan of the patterns that I bought, I wish I’d looked into them more.

It’s a nice thing to do to pass the time. I tend to watch TV or movies while I work on this. It’s hours of work but I love the feeling of making good progress with 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!

WWW Wednesday, 27-May-2020

27 May

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I’m making my way through Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich but it’s a slow go. I’m feeling a little more motivated to write, but not a lot like I’d hoped. I’ll see about picking up with my editing or maybe start something new. Something new might be freeing.
I’m making good progress with The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and really enjoying it. It’s a long audiobook, but it’s nice to have a story last a while instead of flying through it. The plot has been great and I’m looking forward to getting further into this one.
I started an ebook of The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue. Our book club made a switch and this is our new book for June. I’m not very excited about it if I’m being honest. I don’t like short story collections very much. I’ll probably finish it without issue, but I’m not sure how much we can talk about.

Recently finished: I pushed to finish The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel so I could start my new ebook. It was a good story but I wasn’t as excited about it as I should have been. Stretching it out over so long dulled how I felt about it. I’ll plan to review it next week.

I posted my review for White Oleander by Janet Fitch on Thursday. I’m glad I read this again, it was a beautiful story. I’m hoping to find the movie soon and see if it’s similar and as enjoyable. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell and posted that review yesterday. This was fun and I’m so glad I read it. I’m excited for the third book and I hope the release date hasn’t been delayed.

Reading Next: I recently checked for an update to what’s available on my audiobook services and was excited to see that there’s a copy of It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs is one of my favorite non-fiction writers so I’m excited to read about this project. He narrates the audiobook himself so I’m getting excited about that, too.


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: Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell (4/5)

26 May

I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day! I took the day off to pretend holidays are meaningful during the quarantine. I’m hoping that having finished this book will get the Kansas song out of my head. I’ve been listening to it daily and my husband is getting really sick of me.

Cover image via Goodreads

Wayward Son (Simon Snow #2) by Rainbow Rowell

Other books by Rowell reviewed on this blog:

Attachments (and Book Club Reflection)
Carry On (Simon Snow #1)
Eleanor & Park
Fangirl
Landline

Summary from Goodreads:

The story is supposed to be over.

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.

They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…

This was pure fun. I’m a little wary of this series just because we dove into the final installment but this book took a great turn with it that I’m 100% on board for. The ‘final battle’ is done and all the things we don’t know about Simon’s history don’t matter as much anymore. Now we’ve got characters we like in a fun adventure. Even better, they’re in the Midwest to start so it’s like your favorite fantasy characters visiting your hometown (ish).

The variety of personality types amongst Penny, Baz, and Simon was fun. Penny’s very take-charge and pushy, Simon flies by the seat of his pants, and Baz won’t speak up unless he has to. They make a great team. I think Penny is a bit unbelievable, though. Which is funny to say since she’s the only non-vampire non-winged character. Her personality is so pushy that I’ve never met someone anywhere near her level and I took honors classes in college. If you’re going to meet a pushy personality, it’s there. And no one was anywhere close to her. So I think it’s ironic that the human character is the one I don’t believe in.

Baz was my favorite character. He is most like me so I could understand him better than the other characters with narrations. He and I approach life in similar ways and my husband is as impulsive as Simon sometimes so I related to having to reign someone in a bit. I thought he handled his vampirism well and it was always fun to read about how he fought the urges to bite Penny or Simon and things that affected him differently because of it.

I probably related best with Baz and Simon in regards to their relationship. I’m not a ‘touchy’ person (it’s my least strong love language) but my husband loves to snuggle and hold hands and put his arm around me. The way Simon always hesitated to touch Baz and Baz was afraid Simon didn’t like him because he pushed off any physical intimacy resonated with me. I’m like Simon: I can like someone a lot and not even think of holding hands or walking arm in arm. I can see how it was frustrating to Baz, it’s a conversation I’ve been a part of.

Rainbow Rowell
Image via Goodreads

The time in Las Vegas was so fun. I adored the idea that the city is run by vampires. It makes so much sense! Learning about the vampire culture was really fun and I enjoyed Lamb a lot. I hope he appears in future novels though it seems we’re leaving him behind in LV and heading back to England.

Tying Micah into the story seemed unnecessary except to make Penny single. But with Simon and Baz being together, I don’t understand why that was important. Is Shephard going to be a new love interest? As much as Penny is broken up about it initially, he isn’t mentioned after two days so it’s a bit of a flash in the pan. It only served to put them on an epic road trip to California. I do laugh about how non-Americans can’t fathom how big our country is.

The audiobook was narrated by Euan Morton. I think his overdramatization of Penny was part of why I didn’t like her very much. Simon seemed a bit giddy, too. I liked how he did Baz and his American accent for Shepard wasn’t bad. Agatha sounded a bit like a Valley Girl which was finally appropriate because of where she was living but was still irritating.

I didn’t get a lot of strong themes from this book. The growing tenderness between Simon and Baz was touching, but I don’t think it qualifies as a theme. I’m wondering if it’s something like, “It takes all types”? That might be the best fit I can think of. Shepard ended up being very helpful even after he was written off initially. And without his magic, Simon is still useful in fights. Baz being a vampire ended up being an asset instead of a detriment like he seems to think it normally is.

Writer’s Takeaway: Not every book needs to take itself seriously or have a strong message. This book was fun. It dealt with friendships and relationships and long, fun journeys in multiple stolen vehicles. Simon and Baz’s relationship was strengthened but nothing decisive happened to the characters. It was fun, it was an adventure, and it has me anxious to come back for more. Nothing wrong with that.

I enjoyed the book overall. 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:
Carry On + Wayward Son, there’ll be angst when you are done | inkandplasma
Book Review: Carry On & Wayward Son By: Rainbow Rowell | Bookcave
Review: Rainbow Rowell- Wayward Son | Anniek’s Library

Book Review: White Oleander by Janet Fitch (4/5)

21 May

I have an odd odyssey with this book. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Oprah a few years ago. I found out only after I’d finished it that the audiobook was an abridged edition and I was livid. I stuck this book at the end of my TBR and waited until I’d forgotten a lot of it to start it again. I think I’d forgotten enough of it or enough had been cut out that this felt like a new experience for me. I started this as an ebook but had issues with the hold and the book returning so I finished it in print.

Cover image via Goodreads

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Summary from Goodreads:

Everywhere hailed as a novel of rare beauty and power, White Oleander tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes–each its own universe, with its own laws, its own dangers, its own hard lessons to be learned–becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery.

Astrid’s story is beautiful and ugly at the same time. Her life with her mother is minimal but happy but when she’s ripped away, things change. She lands in foster homes that are rough in one way or another. They force her to learn independence and how to navigate life on her own. It’s interesting to see how Astrid hardens from Starr’s house to Rena’s. The Astrid who’s forced to sell her dress wouldn’t convert to Christianity like she did at Starr’s.

The variety of characters in this was wonderful. Each of the houses Astrid lived in was its own little worlds and they were created with great care. Marvel’s home was the most interesting to me since it’s what I’m afraid of suburban life becoming: brainwashed by a big TV and caring about my grey roots and my husband noticing I’m not 29 anymore. Claire’s world was the most mesmerizing, with its high-culture art and the allure of acting and producing. The differences between these houses were amazing and showcased Fitch’s ability to create new and interesting characters easily.

Starr was my favorite character. She was a horrible person, but she was entertaining to watch. She changed so much because of her jealousy and seeing her revert before Astrid’s eyes was incredible. She lost her religion, her man, and her family in such short succession that I wondered how much of it could be realistic but I think it all was. She was an addict and one little stumble led to freefall back to square one.

There wasn’t a lot I related to in this story. Most of the characters were very different from me and my family. Even the ones that were in similar housing situations were composed very differently on the inside. Astrid’s story itself was too unique for me to relate to. I think the escapism of it was part of the appeal.

Janet Fitch
Image via the author’s website

I enjoyed it when Astrid was at Claire’s house. It was too good to believe that life had finally become simple for Astrid. Her story was meant to be a tragedy. It was just a matter of finding out what made Claire’s life imperfect. No one’s life is perfect. I think things would have turned out differently if Ingrid had never been involved; I agree with Astrid on that number. Ingrid had a way of getting under everyone’s skill and she exploited this ability to undermine Astrid’s life with Claire. It made me hate her as much as Astrid did in the end.

Life with Amelia was hard to read about. It was horrible to think someone could starve children the way she did and deny people food. The measures the girls had to take to survive were understandable. I don’t know how much that section of the book helped develop Astrid’s character and it’s the only section I would have cut.

No one’s life is easy, Astrid’s especially. The homes she lived in helped her see that no one has it easy and everyone suffers in one way or another. Even what we think is ideal, the beauty we seek isn’t perfect and it doesn’t last. The beauty Olivia shows her doesn’t last and it isn’t real love. Things fall apart around Astrid like they do to the people in the homes she lives in. She learns that she’s not unique and no one is going to take pity on her and make her life easier. And she learns to make a life for herself the way she wants it to be.

Writer’s Takeaway: The writing in this book is beautiful. There’s no way to learn that except by practice so it’s clear Fitch writes a lot. She describes things with amazing beauty that I’d be lucky to imitate even 30% of the time. It’s like anything else: practice, practice, practice.

This book was spellbinding in its tragedy and triumph. 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:
White Oleander | Annotation Nation
Book Review: White Oleander, by Janet Fitch | Thought Process
Book Review | ‘White Oleander’ by Janet Fitch | Wordly Obsessions

WWW Wednesday, 20-May-2020

20 May

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I made some decent progress with The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel this week. I’m still a ways from finishing it, but I’m happy with still moving forward with it.
I started Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich and I suspect this one will be a bit slow for me. It’s nonfiction and right before bed, that can put me to sleep pretty fast. I’m hoping to feel motivated to do some of the exercises and get to writing again. It would be great to feel like I accomplished that during this lockdown.
I began the audiobook for The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. I picked this one up as a physical book when I was visiting Atlanta but it seems I’ll get to the audiobook first. A lot of my books have fallen this way and I’m okay with that.

Recently finished: I was able to finish up White Oleander by Janet Fitch on Thursday. Finally! I liked the ending to this one, though it was pretty sad. It was a very different mother/daughter relationship than is usually portrayed in fiction and I liked that it was different, but it was still sad. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I flew through Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell and finished it on Saturday. It was a really fun ride and I enjoyed hearing about Simon and Baz and I’m looking forward to book three soon! I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

I posted my review of Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani on Thursday. It was a light, fun ride and I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
After getting through The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee in one day, I posted a review on Monday and gave this one Four out of Five Stars. What a fun ride!

Reading Next: I’m going to pick up my book club selection next: Old Baggage by Lissa Evans. This one has some length to it so even with tri training, I probably will take at least a week to get through 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 Club Reflection: A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

19 May

I read the book so long ago that A Mother’s Reckoning felt like this meeting was never going to happen. We have had some disruptions at our library so that it even got canceled for a few days but then was back on. I ended up volunteering to lead the discussion. This was an emotional discussion for us because of the nature of Sue’s tragedy but I think we still had a good discussion.

It was hard for Klebold to grieve the loss of her son because outside of her immediate family, no one was grieving with her. They were angry at what Dylan had done and unable to see that she’d lost a child, too. One of our readers felt it was amazing Tom and Sue could get up every morning. Not only did they lose Dylan, but they also lost the child they thought Dylan was. Their Sunshine Boy ended up doing something unforgivable and they had to reconcile that. Sue did well writing this book and acknowledges she had help to do so. One thing we found throughout her writing is how much she blamed Eric for the tragedy. She says she recognizes that Dylan was a part of it, but she still seems to point a finger toward Eric.

There are a few parents in our group and we talked about the secrets that are kept between parents and children. Some readers shared stories of things they found out their children had done as teenagers that didn’t come out into the open until their 30s. Almost all of us admit to doing something our parents didn’t know about or lying to our parents about what we did. Some felt sorry for the parents of this generation. Growing up, there was a house phone and you knew who your kids were talking to and you had a chance to talk to their friends. Now, parents need to check their children’s phones for text and social media. Still, kids can hide a lot by deleting texts and creating second social media pages. Kids will always find a way if they want to.

Eric and Dylan were both early releases from their diversion program even though that was rare. They were able to put up a good front, similar to Ted Bundy and other unsavory people who knew how to win people over. Dylan lied about how he was feeling and the depression he was suffering from during his intake for the program. One reader pointed out that many times depressed individuals will lie about how they’re feeling because they don’t want to feel like a burden and talking about their depression can feel like burdening others.

The Columbine tragedy caused a lot of changes to our society. It was one of the early indicators of the problems associated with bullying. The teachers in the school are accused of not stopping a toxic culture of bullying that fueled the anger Dylan and Eric felt. They saw it so often that they thought it was normal and didn’t think it was worth speaking out against. This showed how dangerous it can be to normalize that behavior. There were two other readers on our call that were around my age and shared what they remembered changing in school after Columbine. We didn’t remember active shooter drills. I think those became more common after Sandy Hook. There’s been research that the drills are traumatizing for children. What we do remember is the number of bomb threats that were made in our schools afterward. One girl remembered monthly threats before a girl’s friends finally turned her in for making them. We recalled people who were known to do them to get out of tests. I remember one that was in the middle of my AP Spanish exam.

I think it’s fair to say school shootings are a curable disease in American culture. There’s a lot that can be done to limit them besides gun control measures: education around adolescent brain illness, anti-bullying campaigns, and encouraging students to speak up when their peers need help. Klebold is fighting for treatments for brain illness and we all commend her for her effort.

Our next meeting will be virtual as well, but the hope is that we’ll return to meeting in person soon. I just want to order some duck nuggets while we meet. 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: The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee (4/5)

18 May

I heard about this little novella after I’d finished the first in the series, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I wasn’t sure if it was fully necessary to read it before the second in the series, but I thought I’d give it a try. With my long training sessions, I finished it in less than a day.

Cover Image via Goodreads

The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky (Montague Siblings #1.5) by Mackenzi Lee

Other books by Lee reviewed on this blog:

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1)

Summary from Goodreads:

Monty’s epic grand tour may be over, but now that he and Percy are finally a couple, he realizes there is something more nerve-wracking than being chased across Europe: getting together with the person you love.

Will the romantic allure of Santorini make his first time with Percy magical, or will all the anticipation and build-up completely spoil the mood?

I knew I was going to love this book from the dedication. “To all the fan fiction that gave me the sex education I never got in school.” That hit home for me. I started on fanfiction.net when I was about twelve and ran into things that school never talked about. School was sterile; fan fiction was like lively. I connected to Lee instantly and loved how much this novella read like a good smut fic. It was cute and talked about the things that were left out of the first novel. Monty still can’t take himself seriously and Felicity is still meddlesome and it was just lovely. Also, I forgot that they ended the last book on Santorini in Oia and I was in Oia two months ago! So I was super excited for that, too. I have a picture of the bell tower on the cover, see?!

I thought it was very realistic that Monty couldn’t get out of his own head. He’d built something up so much in his mind that he was afraid of having it finally happen because he didn’t think it could be everything he’d imagined or promised. I thought it was so sweet that he was afraid of disappointing Percy more than anything.

Monty was my favorite in this book. Percy took a bit of a backseat because the story focused on Monty getting through his own reservations which was fine by me. It was fun to get into his head and see how someone so confident can be brought to his knees with genuine love. I love how he always insists things are ‘fine’ when they’re clearly not, like when his head is bleeding and he needs stitches.

I think everyone builds something up in their head to be intimidating. Maybe not sex with a new partner, but traveling to a new city or seeing a new show or even eating at a new restaurant.  Or meeting a hero; that can be dangerous. My wedding day had me almost paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t walk down the aisle until my dad dragged me and I choked on my vows until my husband got me to focus on him and ignore the crowd in the pews. I love weddings but my own was terrifying. I finally calmed down at the reception when I got to talk to my friends and family and remembered I didn’t have to be scared of them; they loved me! It took Monty time to find this out, too.

Mackenzi Lee
Image via HarperCollins

All of Monty’s missteps were hilarious and had me giggling throughout the book. He had good intentions but kept fumbling around like he wasn’t really sure what he was doing because he wasn’t in his right mind. His narration was great because he was able to describe his frustrations really well and still make me laugh.

I didn’t like Felicity getting involved. It seemed odd to me that Monty would be so desperate to seek out her help on something so personal. Though they became closer through the first novel, it still seemed like a bit too much for her to be involved and for Monty to trust her on matters of romance when we get from the first book (not sure what’s in the second) that she’s never had a romantic inclination before. With something he’s so worried about, I wondered why he would leave it to someone else.

The audiobook was narrated by Christian Coulson who also narrated the first novel. I’m glad he came back to be the voice of Monty again because I don’t think it would have seemed right to have anyone else. Coulson does a great voice for Monty and gets his sarcasm perfectly. Especially with such a short novella, it would have been odd to have anyone else narrate.

This book makes a good point between the emotional and physical parts of a relationship and how one is not indicative of another. Monty and Percy have a strong emotional connection and their relationship is strengthened by this. Their lack of a physical relationship doesn’t diminish their emotional one. Also, just because their emotional relationship is solid doesn’t mean that either is ready for a physical relationship. It emphasized how an emotional relationship is the real basis of a strong relationship and a physical one is secondary.

Writer’s Takeaway: Lee gave us a great glimpse into her characters after we’d left them. Monty won me over quickly in his book and it was great to revisit them. I’m thankful that recent trends in epublishing have made companion novellas more common. This did feel a bit like fan fiction because of the short nature and how the plot had no effect on the overall arc of the series. Honestly, that didn’t bother me much. It was short and fun and I enjoyed it.

A great way to connect with Percy and Monty again after we’ve left them. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1700-1799 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky, Mackenzie Lee (#1.5) | The Beauty and Her Reads
Audiobook Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee | YA On My Mind
Review: “The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky” by Mackenzi Lee | Punk-Ass Book Jockey
Book Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky | Prose & Pancakes
The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee- A Review | Read Yourself Happy

Book Review: Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani (3/5)

14 May

I picked this up when I went to meet Adriana Trigiani as part of the last installment of the Everyone’s Reading program in Metro Detroit. I was lucky enough to live within walking distance of the event and went with my mom. I didn’t know much about her books beside her latest release so I was excited to see a YA title and decided to pick it up. She was wonderful I absolutely adored hearing her speak. With my exercise increase, I was in need of some audiobooks and this one was available and I was able to fly through it in three days.

Cover image via Goodreads

Viola in Reel Life (Viola #1) by Adriana Trigiani

Other books by Trigiani reviewed on this blog:

Kiss Carlo (and book club discussion and another book club discussion and an author event)

Summary from Goodreads:

Viola doesn’t want to go to boarding school, but somehow she ends up at an all-girls school in South Bend, Indiana, far, far away from her home in Brooklyn, New York. Now Viola is stuck for a whole year in the sherbet-colored sweater capital of the world.

Ick.

There’s no way Viola’s going to survive the year—especially since she has to replace her best friend Andrew with three new roommates who, disturbingly, actually seem to like it there. She resorts to viewing the world (and hiding) behind the lens of her video camera.

Boarding school, though, and her roommates and even the Midwest are nothing like she thought they would be, and soon Viola realizes she may be in for the most incredible year of her life.

But first she has to put the camera down and let the world in.

This was a pretty standard high school story for me. Viola being in an all-girls boarding school added a slight element, but it felt like freshman year of college instead of high school in a few ways. The biggest thing that made this stand out for me was the artistic careers of her family members. Her parents putting her in school while they filmed a documentary in Afghanistan and a grandmother who is still a working actress were really different. It was refreshing to see someone who felt of art as a career instead of a hobby. Having met Trigiani, I think she had similar feelings while she grew up. There was a good mix of characters in Viola’s world and I appreciated the things that were left unexplained so they could be part of a sequel. This did a good job of checking the boxes about becoming independent and developing a sense of community during the teenage years. My biggest complaint is that it might have been a bit too clean.

My book inscription

Viola and her roommates were well crafted. There was a good mix of diversity amongst the girls and still a believable line that they are all wealthy enough to be at boarding school in the Midwest. I think Suzanne was my favorite of the roommates. There was a hint that she was hiding something early on and I thought that the reveal was well done and I understood why she was quiet about it at first. Romy was probably the least developed of the roommates and I’d hope she gets more of a starring role in a sequel.

Gran was my favorite character. I like the idea of grandmothers who text and send cookies. I got cookies from my grandma in the mail in college but she was a little too old to figure out texting (88 at the time). I see my mother-in-law interact with my nieces using technology that my grandparents never used and it makes me really excited about how we’ll continue to connect with family using technology even when we’re far apart. Back to Gran, though. Her over-the-top personality and dramatics were wonderful and made her even more fun. I’d love to meet her.

I went to college in southern Indiana and the feelings Viola had when her parents dropped her off were a lot like how I felt when my dad dropped me off at school. I didn’t want him to leave because I felt like I was left in a strange (and very warm by comparison) place where I was expected to thrive and I wasn’t sure I could do it. I didn’t know anyone from my high school who went to the same college and I was scared. Viola’s reactions were really relatable to me and I felt like this story was almost written for me with how much that aspect of her experience resonated with me.

Me and Adriana Trigiani, April 2019

I had a very similar experience to Viola when she went home with Suzanne for Thanksgiving. I went home with a friend in a group for Spring Break. We drove to Maryland and stayed with his parents and sister. We went into DC for a day and the Baltimore Aquarium and had an amazing time. It’s still one of my fondest memories from my Freshman year of school. And this friend also had a cute older brother. It brought back some really fond memories that I haven’t explored in a while.

There wasn’t anything I particularly disliked about this book. I thought it was odd that Viola couldn’t think that Andrew had a crush on her because it seemed very obvious to me. That was the only frustration I had. I think my rating is mostly because it didn’t seem like there was much unusual about Viola’s story that made it particularly different from most Freshman Year stories.

My audiobook was narrated by Emily Eiden. I liked the sass she gave to Viola which was very appropriate for her attitude and age. She gave good voices to the other characters as well, especially Grand. This probably contributed to how much I liked her.

High school is a time for a lot of change. Viola was pushed to experience this a little faster than a lot of 14-year-olds because of the boarding school experience but it made for a good focus for her freshman year. I wonder how much she has changed from her St. Anne’s life and if she’ll want to return to school in New York or return to South Bend for another year at PA.

Writer’s Takeaway: Characters need something to make them unique and memorable. I think Viola’s love for film was very different from most YA heroines I’ve met. I did feel like the inter-school competition was a bit cliched, but it made for good development in her romantic relationship. It can be hard to avoid cliches in YA literature because so much has been written already. Boarding school will always make me think of Harry Potter and all-girls schools will make me think of Louise Rennison. I think it’s hard to find something to make a book or character stand out in today’s market.

A fun and quick read but nothing that stuck out too much. 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:
Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani- Review by Michelle Haseltine | Nerdy Book Club
Viola in Reel Live, Adrianna Trigiani | Class Bookworm
Review: Viola in Reel Life, by Adriana Trigiani | Purely Olivia
Viola in Reel Life | myliterarylearnings
Review: Viola in Reel Life | BermudaOnion’s Weblog

WWW Wednesday, 13-May-2020

13 May

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I’m getting really close to finishing White Oleander by Janet Fitch! This book is taking me much longer than I would like so I’m really excited to finish it off. It’s a very sad story but very intriguing at the same time so I’m engrossed.
I made an effort to make more progress with The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel. I like this one, but the mystery is still a bit too shrouded for me to be completely engaged. I’m hoping to get more into it soon, though.
I’m loving some fun YA right now so I decided to keep it going and picked up Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell on audio. It’s been a while since I read the first in this series (Carry On) so it might take me a minute to pick up on the plot and characters again. However, the parallels to Harry Potter make it a bit easier to pick up on.

Recently finished: I sped through The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson. It wasn’t what I expected and it came across as a disappointment because of that. I wanted more about books and bookselling but that wasn’t the focus. It felt like a bait and switch so I ended up frustrated. I posted my review yesterday if you want to check that out. I gave it Three out of Five Stars, though I contemplated Two.
I got through Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani much faster than I expected to. It was a fun YA read and I enjoyed it well enough. It didn’t have much for me that was really a standout, though. I gave it Three out of Five Stars and I’ll have a review up tomorrow.
I had way too much fun listening to the short novella The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee. This is installment 1.5 in the Montegue Siblings series and I wanted to read it before I picked up the second which I’m sure I’ll do this summer.

I posted my review of The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David LagercrantzThanks for those who have commented about their opinion of Lagercrantz taking over the series. I’m still unsure if I think it was the best move but I’m glad I’m not the only one who has marked the difference.  I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I posted my review of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern on Monday and my final meeting with my reading buddy is tonight! I’m excited to see what she thought of the ending of the book. I finished it over a week ago so I hope my memory is sharp enough and my notes detailed enough to have a good discussion.

Reading Next: I’ll pick up Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich as a physical book very soon. I hope this can give me a little inspiration to read.
I’ll need another audiobook soon and I requested Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray but I’m not sure how quickly it will come in. Fingers crossed.
If that fails, I’ll likely start my next book club selection, Old Baggage by Lissa Evans. I don’t know anything about this one but I see that it’s pretty long so it will be a nice one to settle in with during my long training hours.


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: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson (3/5)

12 May

This book got a lot of hype when it first came out. I thought it was going to be a book about books, bookstores, and booksellers so I was happy to add it to my TBR. Thanks to triathlon training, this is the time of year when I fly through audiobooks and it finally had found its way to the top of the list.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

Summary from Goodreads:

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?

I had two major problems with this book. The first is not a spoiler. With a book titled The Bookseller, I thought Kitty’s job would be more integral to the plot than it was. Honestly, Kitty could have owned any business and the story wouldn’t have been affected at all. This wasn’t a ‘book about books’ like I’d hoped. It was a book about a woman who happened to sell books for a living. That left me pretty disappointed. The second issue is a spoiler so skip the rest of this paragraph to avoid that. I didn’t feel like there was a strong enough event to make Kitty realize her life with Lars was her real life. I’m not sure I even believe it. It seemed like she had one dream and suddenly believed something she had been opposed to for months. It didn’t make sense to me and made me angry with the book right at the end. It was really frustrating.

Kitty and Katharyn were believable in the ways they were alike and in how they were different. The lives they had both built made sense based on when their lives differed. I liked Kitty and I related to her more. As a woman without children, it was hard to relate to Katharyn’s mother role. However, Katharyn’s sadness made her more relatable once you learned about it and I started to like her more and more as she moved out of the ‘perfect housewife’ role and became more real.

Freida is my favorite character. I like how direct she is and how businesslike. She would make a great entrepreneur and I’m glad she ends up doing that in both lives. I like how she pushes Kitty to be brave when things are rough. I like how she’s a real friend and doesn’t get mad when Kitty misses work. I also liked her in Katharyn’s world and how she was strong and stood up for herself. I can see why Kitty wanted to keep her close as a friend.

I think we’ve all wondered what single decisions might have changed our lives forever. It’s easy to dream and fantasize about it so it’s fun to step into Kitty’s alternative universe and explore it with her. I’ve wondered what would have happened if I had chosen a different school or stayed at a job that I left. There are a million ways our lives could end up differently than they are right now and this book was a fun way to explore that.

Cynthia Swanson
Image via HarperCollins Publishers

I enjoyed learning the reality of Katharyn’s life. Learning first about Michael and then about her parents and, finally, Freida made her very real to me and seem a lot less like a dream. It made you think about those who you may think have a perfect life and what it is that they are hiding behind smiles and pressed clothes. Most people are hiding something. Even someone whose life seems perfect probably has moments where they wish their life was very different. We might not see it, but it’s there.

The ending was a let down for me. This is a spoiler again, so skip to the next paragraph to avoid it. Katharyn’s realization seemed to come out of nowhere for me. I didn’t feel the dream she had that lead her to her decision was enough to sway her decisions. I understood her uncertainty and confusion until that point, but I lost her then and didn’t get why she felt compelled to settle her mind the way she did. I’d hoped she’d have to make a more conscious decision between her lives and it didn’t end up with that at all. I’m not sure it’s really possible to make a decision between the two, but I think a purposeful decision and evaluation of the two worlds would have been a more satisfying ending. I left thinking she had created Kitty to deal with the trauma of losing her parents and somehow realized that but I still don’t get how.

The audiobook was narrated by Kathe Mazur. I liked her narration. I was a bit annoyed by the way she pronounced Katharyn’s name but I didn’t realize there was an ‘a’ where there’s normally an ‘e’ and that was probably why she said it that way. The voices she gave to Lars and his sister were great; containing the faint traces of their Sweedish accent but accepting that they’d been in America long enough to lose most of it. I liked her portrayal of surprise and confusion that Kittie felt, too.

We all wonder how our lives could have worked out differently. Saying yes to something you turned down or changing the day of a trip or lingering just a second longer. Swanson portrays the effects of these little decisions well. I liked how many times she forced the reader to think about the decisions that change our lives and how there’s no best life or worst life. Everything is beautiful and flawed and we’re lucky to live through it all.

Writer’s Takeaway: It felt to me like a big part of this book hinged on Katharyn making a decision about which life was ‘real’ and which she wanted to live in. It was an interesting concept and I have my own theory about her decision, but it was almost too big of a question. Either way, she made both the right and wrong choice, there was no easy way to end it. And I didn’t follow her thoughts for the decision she made so I ended up frustrated. Maybe there are questions too big for a book to answer.

The book was entertaining but ultimately a letdown for me because of the ending. 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:
Book Review: The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson | Sass Hamiton
Write On, Wednesday: Cynthia Swanson on Identity, Grief, Motherhood, and So Much More From The Bookseller | Leslie A. Lindsay