Archive | July, 2015

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (5/5)

14 Jul

I’m always hesitant of books about books. Among the uber-bibliophiles, these seem to be popular and I think we’re being duped into liking them. But when I heard Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is a mystery, I was interested. It would be the perfect book for my husband and I to listen to while we drove to Southern Indiana for a wedding. He agrees, great choice.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Summary from Goodreads:

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.

Wow. Wowwowwowwow. I don’t give out 5 stars very often. The last time I did was for J.K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives and before that, Louise Erdrich’s The Round House. I’m proud to list this book among their ranks. With the bookstore title, I thought this book would be a bit old-timey. And while Mr. Penumbra was, Clay and Kat were not. The merge of modern and antiquated was really great and helped move the plot along really well. I cannot recommend this one enough. I even recommended it to someone three disks in.

Clay was a bit flat, but I thought the other characters were very realistic. Kat reminded me of a lot of techie friends I have (and a bit of the guys from The Big Bang Theory) and I loved how much she knew about computer resources. I’ve known people who undertake big projects like Matt and I loved how detailed his project was. Neil was every dream’s nerd of their future and I thought he was very well-developed. The cast of characters was awesome.

Kat was easily my favorite. Though I didn’t appreciate her little tantrum after the Google effort. Anyway. I liked that she was a strong and smart woman and that she wasn’t embarrassed by that.  She’s very independent. I see myself in a similar way and she reminded me of what I would want to be like if I were a computer engineer.

Besides the fact we’ve both worked in bookstores, I didn’t find myself relating to Clay very much. He was on a quest and I’ve never been lucky enough to be a part of one. I’m not in contact with my childhood friends any more and I’ve never flow across the country to learn about a secret cult. I wish my life could be more like Clay’s, but I’ll keep it for now.

Robin Sloan Image via BookRiot

Robin Sloan
Image via BookRiot

The scenes at Google were my favorite. The setting was very well described and I could visualize it really well. I liked all the little things that were different from an office I’ve worked in and how passionate people, especially Kat, were about their jobs there. Google has created really new ideas of an office with their headquarters and I’m interested to see what catches on for non-tech companies.

There wasn’t a part of the book I particularly disliked, but I’ll say that I thought the relationship between Matt and Ashley wasn’t relevant to the plot. Actually, I think Ashley could have been taken out completely because Matt was the important person in the plot. That kind of bothered me.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Ari Fliakos. He did a good job with it and brought Clay’s sarcasm to light well. His voices for the other characters were distinct enough for me to keep them apart and he did a good job with Kat’s voice. It always seems hard for male narrators to do a woman’s voice, but he was fine. I really liked that Sloan narrated the audiobook-withing-the-audiobook portion. That was really cool.

The broken spine was persistent. Clay had to be persistent to figure out the code. Kat gave up. The characters taught me a lot about persistence in this book and the benefits of hard work. Clay kept at computers and programming even while working at a book store. The broken spine believed for hundreds of years that a book could crack a secret to immortality. Matt got the cute, hyper-organized girl to like him despite being a bit of a pack-rat. The characters who kept trying got what they were after.

Writer’s Takeaway: The point of view and tense of this book were unusual. The majority of adult fiction is written in third person, though there are many exceptions. Though, most of those exceptions are written in past tense. Not this book! First person present is more often found in young adult, middle grade, and children’s fiction. It stuck out to me from the beginning, but not in a bad way. I really enjoyed the refreshing point of view. What was more interesting about it was that the epilogue was written in future tense. I really loved that. Sloan did something unusual with this book and I think it paid off well.

I want to add an extra love for Sloan that he grew up in Troy, Michigan which is my husband’s hometown and right next to my own. He also went to Michigan State, which is my husband’s alma mater. Go Green!

Really great read. I can’t recommend this one enough. Five 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: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan | prettybooks
Book Review: MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOK STORE by Robin Sloan | Educating a Teacher and Coach

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Ann Arbor Book Festival Book Crawl

13 Jul

I’m lucky to live close to one of the Greatest American Cities for Writers as named by Flavorwire: Ann Arbor, MI. Home of the University of Michigan, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and birthplace of Borders, this city is super book friendly. A2 (what we Michiganders call it) was never somewhere I visited when I was younger. It was an hour drive and full of college hippies from a school I didn’t want to attend. But now, in my literary phase, I’m there a few times a month.

My librarian friend Amy asked me if I wanted to go to a book crawl that was a part of the Ann Arbor Book Festival. How many ways could I say yes? The day that worked best for us was a Thursday evening so I drove over after work and met Amy for dinner downtown. She told me about her new job at a library in a wealthy suburb and all the types of people who came to that. She told me about a program she hopes to run that’s similar to a community read, but it focuses on taking action around an environmental issue. The book she’d chosen was Moby-Duck by Donovan Hohn. The book touches on water pollution among many other topics and she thought it would be a great program. I hope to participate when it comes about.

After dinner we went to the first location, Nicola’s Books. I could live forever in this bookstore and it made me really happy. There were three non-fiction writers there: Daryl Hafter (Woman and Work in Eighteenth Century France), Scott Ellsworth (The Secret Game), and Juan Cole (The New Arabs). Personally, I was most interested in Ellsworth book which focuses on racial integration in basketball. He was a very engaging speaker. We left after the event, stealing a few cookies on our way out.

Donovan Hohn reading from Moby-Duck at Seva in Ann Arbor, MI.

Donovan Hohn reading from Moby-Duck at Seva in Ann Arbor, MI.

The second stop was Seva, a local restaurant chain. We had three authors at this location: E.D.E. Bell (Spireseeker), Donovan Hohn, and Ava Chin (Eating Wildly). So if you were paying attention, you’ll notice that Hohn is the author of the Moby-Duck book Amy and I were talking about at dinner. Yeah, didn’t know that was going to happen! It was a really cool surprise. It turns out he teaches creative writing at Wayne State University (GO WARRIORS!) in Detroit. I bought a copy of his book and had it signed. It seemed like a signal from the book shelves that I needed to read this book.

The Moby-Turtle.

The Moby-Turtle.

He also had plastic turtles (relatives of the Moby Duck) that he’d collected during his research. All the authors did a reading from their book. Chin’s memoir intrigued me and if it ever comes up again, I think I would read it. She has a really cool hobby of urban foraging that blows my mind.

The final destination was at the Quarter Bistro. Amy and I got there late after talking to Hohn and seeing if he would speak at Amy’s library (a very firm probably). I was standing in the back and a woman at a table in front of me offered me the last seat at her table. It seemed like a family so reluctantly I accepted. The writers at this location were Susan Hutton, Michael Byers, and Callie McKee. Hutton is a poet which is not my forte and I can’t comment on. Byers writes short stories and I really enjoyed the selection he read. McKee is an actress and performed some performance pieces. Oh, and she was sitting right next to me! She’d invited me to sit at the table with her family who were all there to support her. It felt like sitting at the head table after crashing a wedding. I enjoyed her pieces and it reminded me of the poetry slam I went to a while ago. I thanked her for the seat after her performance.

All in all, it was a great night. I enjoyed every minute of it. I hope to participate in more days of the festival next year when my schedule will (hopefully) be more open to it. I hope you have the opportunity to participate in literary festivals and all things books near you. I love the opportunities I have.

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: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin (4/5)

9 Jul

I always believe in ‘read it before you watch it.’ Sometimes it’s hard to keep true to that. This is one of those cases. My mom is a huge fan of Martin and has read the whole ASoIaF series and is a big fan of the series. A good friend of mine, Alex, has frequently talked about how good they are. So I wanted to read it. But…. long book. So we turn to my frequent answer to long books: audio!

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Summary from Goodreads:

Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun.

As Warden of the north, Lord Eddard Stark counts it a curse when King Robert bestows on him the office of the Hand. His honour weighs him down at court where a true man does what he will, not what he must … and a dead enemy is a thing of beauty.

The old gods have no power in the south, Stark’s family is split and there is treachery at court. Worse, the vengeance-mad heir of the deposed Dragon King has grown to maturity in exile in the Free Cities. He claims the Iron Throne.

Epic fantasy seems to be an understatement. This book is so vast that some of the characters have never even talked about each other. I have to look up the Wikipedia page to help me remember all the people. But am I invested in their stories? You bet I am! Martin is a great story-teller and while the books are notably long, there’s nothing I would have taken out. I loved every twist and turn and betrayal and reveal.

I’d heard before I started reading that Martin writes strong female characters and I think it’s better to say he writes believable female characters. Catelyn is strong because she’s protecting her family. Dany is strong because she can’t trust anyone to have her best interest in mind. Arya is strong because she’s alone and has to be. They’re all great. Nothing against the men. I really enjoy a lot of the male characters, especially Jon Snow and Tyrion. (Side note, looking at family trees just ruined a surprise for me. Don’t do it!) All of the characters seemed to be really well motivated and realistic. I think this is going to be my favorite thing about Martin.

Dany’s story was my favorite because it confused me the least, but Jon was my favorite character. I think his life is a beautiful tragedy. He lives just on the edge of royalty and privileged yet recognizes he is entitled to nothing and has to work for every scrap he earns in life. And man, does he work hard. I have a lot of respect for him and I love how giving he is. He’s a more doting brother to Arya than Robb and the only friend Samwell has. He’s got a great heart.

I related to Tyrion more than I thought I would. I think he handles his condition with pride and grace and I think he’s a good example for anyone facing adversity of any kind. He’s short, but that doesn’t mean he can’t kill and ride and fight for his life. Scrappy doesn’t seem a good word for him because he’s trained, disciplined, and wickedly smart. It’s a good example of how you can use your brains to outsmart anything and come out on top. I might have bad knees, but I can still train my legs to be strong. Tyrion would appreciate that.

George RR Martin (Is that a turtle on his hat?!) Image via GeorgeRRMartin.com

George RR Martin
(Is that a turtle on his hat?!)
Image via GeorgeRRMartin.com

It’s hard to pick a favorite part of the book. There were scenes I enjoyed more than others, but I can’t say a particular one stands out as my favorite. I did like Martin’s descriptions of the landscapes. He’s created so many unique places and landscapes and his descriptions of them really helped pull me into the world in a way I wouldn’t have been without them. With something so fantastical, it’s good he’s able to use words so effectively.

OK, spoiler here for my least favorite part. So if you haven’t read the books, skip to the next. I was so shocked by Ned’s death that it made me angry. In a way, I saw it coming. But having a narrating character die that early in the story blew me away! I felt betrayed. Ned knew Cersei’s secret and now who is going to reveal the truth about that terrible woman? Ugh, so angry!

My audiobook was narrated by Roy Dotrice. I have never heard such a good narrator before. Dotrice immediately drew me into the story by adding laughs, coughs, and stammers to the characters, something I can’t recall in other narrators. He had distinct voices for the characters and it kept me interested the whole time. I can’t wait to hear him narrated the next book in the series (I looked it up to make sure he does them all!).

Are there positive themes in this book? The characters I thought tried to do the right thing were punished more than those who cheated and stole what they wanted. The Lannisters are on top for most of the book and the Starks are punished for trying to be noble. I will say, the characters are perseverant. No matter the things going on around them, most stick to their guns and continue to believe in what they believe is right and just. Even if I as the reader don’t think Jamie Lannister is worthy of praise, Tyrian does and stands up for him. So I guess the theme is standing up for what you believe is right?

Writer’s Takeaway: The first thing that sticks out to me is length. As a writer, we’re always told to cut things down, make them shorter so they’ll sell. Look at how successful this series is! (Side note, JK Rowling was told the same thing.) Some people want to hear a long story and that’s not bad. The other lesson I’d point out is character development and motivation. Martin gives us narrators from all parts of this web and all seem justified in their cause in their own way. Every villain is the hero of their own story and Martin doesn’t fail to follow this rule.

A really great story though a bit out of my comfort zone. 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:
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin Review 5/5 | Becky’s Blog
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin |  Review | Bookish Unicorn

WWW Wednesday, 8-July-2015

8 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading 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?


MockingjayCurrently reading:  Stil a hold on Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Wait and see.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai is going pretty well. With my big trip over the weekend, I didn’t get a lot of ereading time on my phone. Not much of a need for it in the middle of the woods. Hopefully this can pick up soon.
I’m really enjoying Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Henry is a really great character and I’m enjoying his story mixed between flashbacks and the 1980s.
Two new audiobooks this week. The first is Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins which is a re-read for me. I wanted a refresher of the story before I see the film. I’m curious how much had to change because of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death and how accurate they could keep the story.
The second new audiobook is The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. I don’t remember how this fell onto my radar but I think it might have been a recommendation? We’ll have to see how it is because I’ve only just begun. With my shorter commute to my new job, I’m not sure how fast I’ll get through this 22 disk audio.

HollowRecently finished: Two finished! Both audio. Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli was really good and it reminded me of all the awesomeness that is Harry Potter and being a Potterhead while the books were being released. Great read.
My husband and I flew through the audio for Hollow City by Ransom Riggs. I didn’t like this one as much as the first. I’ll have to write the review to put my thoughts together.

WidowReading Next: No changes to my plans. It will be a physical book that I read next. Either A Widow for One Year by John Irving or Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge. Depends on when I get a copy of ‘Widow’ from my work book club girls. Sounds like I might get it soon!


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!

Allergic to the Letter E Challenge

7 Jul

Most of us know that E is the most common letter in the English language. In that first sentence, I used it 5 times. When I read he book Ella Minnow Pea, author Mark Dunn wasn’t brave enough to take E out of the language. But now I must face this daunting task.

I was challenged by Kyrosmagica to write a whole paragraph without using the letter E. I was supposed to do this in 24 hours, but as I was in my car on the way to a wedding seven hours away, I’ve failed that part. Still! I want to participate. Here are the rules:

  1. Write a whole paragraph (A WHOLE PARAGRAPH??) without any words containing the letter “e” (still easy?)
  2. By reading this, you are already signed up.
  3. Challenge at least five bloggers to do the challenge. They must do it within 24 hours or it is considered as failure.
  4. If you fail or pass, suffer in the Page of Lame.
  5. If you win, wallow in the Page of Fame.

I’m going to pass on challenging anyone else so I’m really earning my place on the Page of Lame in this one. But here goes! I’ve got to pick some names with no Es in them. Hm.

 

John and Matt go for a walk.

“Hi John,” says Matt with a grin

“Hi, Matt. Glad you can join in this walk.” John is happy to visit his pal.

“I’m glad, too. Want to walk past a park?”

Walking down a road, both pass a patch of grass. “Want to play catch?” Both boys brought mitts and can play. John throws hard but Matt has a good catch. Matt throws too hard and can’t find his ball in a patch of shrubs. John is guilty and wants to cry but Matt finds a gray ball.

“This will work for us,” says Matt. “I’m sorry about your ball.”

“It’s okay,” John says. “Gray is a good color for a ball.”

Matt and John play until shadows grow long and walk back hand in hand.

 

Yay! It’s not a paragraph, but a short story is good, too.

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!

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge: I’m IN!

6 Jul

This will be a short post, I apologize. As you read this, I hope to be hiking in the Smokey Mountains with my husband but I didn’t want to ignore my blog while I’m on vacation.

Fellow writing blogger Jen at Jen’s Pen Den has posted previously about her participation in the NYC Midnight writing challenges. I first saw her posts on this about a year ago and thought “I don’t have the time to do that.” Truly, I don’t have the time to do anything. I don’t have the time to knit all my friends baby blankets, train for triathlons, go back to school, or run a book blog. OH WAIT. When you decide something is important, you make time for it. So I decided to make time for writing. I’m signed up!

I’ll be taking part in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. The first round is July 31 – August 2 and I already know I’ll be sleeping in late on August 1 because I have plans with my mom. But I’ll make the time! I’m going to make writing a priority. The challenge is to write a story under 1000 words with the given genre, location, and object in the challenge. I think I’m up for it. Everyone participates in the first two rounds and will receive feedback from the judges. That’s the part I’m nervous about! But, to be honest, they’re not seeing my best-best work. They’re seeing 48 hours of blood, sweat, and finger cramps. My best is yet to come.

So what do you say: ARE YOU WITH ME?

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!

Challenge Update, June 2015

2 Jul

I’m overly confident of my reading speed at this point in the year. I’m kicking books to the ‘Read’ shelf as fast as I can. And that’s pretty darn fast. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in June:

La Sombra del Viento//Carlos Ruiz Zafon (4)
On the Okey Dokey Trail//I. Leigh Private (3)
A Game of Thrones//George R.R. Martin (4)
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore//Robin Sloan (5)
Wuthering Bites//Sarah Gray (3)

Reviews for the final ones are forthcoming. My posts at this point are planned out very far ahead because I’ve had so much to say!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

9/13
This is my challenge to read a book from 13 different time periods. You can read about it here. My timeline will track all of my books and show which time period they fall into. Wuthering Bites filled in the 1700s for me (yay) so there’s progress! I’ve got plans for the rest of the time periods (yay planning). I’ll fill them in between book club reads and I should be fine finishing by the end of the year.

Goodreads Challenge

27/50

Three books ahead! I’m doing great and with the half-way point of the year past, I feel confident. Plus, I already finished my Spanish book for the year so I’m hoping my pace picks up. Let’s do this!

Book of the Month

I thought it would be fun to pick my favorite book for each month reading and feature it. For June, it has to be Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. It was a great read and I really recommend it to everyone!

Added to my TBR

I’ve stopped posting about books I add but I thought it would be fun to wrap these up once a month and talk about them.What a perfect time! I realize this list gets longer faster than I read so we can see the perpetual problem I have.  All links lead to Goodreads.

How are your challenges going? I hope you’re doing better than me! If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

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

WWW Wednesday, 1-July-2015

1 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading 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?


MalalaCurrently reading:  No progress on Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. Hoping the hold comes through soon!
My audiobook is Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli and it’s going well. I find myself insanely jealous of Anelli’s life every time I open it up.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai is going pretty well. I wish there was more about her. Right now it seems like a history lesson about her region of Pakistan. I know it’s setting up the political situation that led to her getting shot, but it’s still not as interesting as I was hoping for.
I started Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford earlier this week. Our book club has chosen it as our selection to discuss in July. No shame to say this was my recommendation! I hope it’s a good one, I’ve heard good things.
I technically haven’t started it by the time this post goes up, but my husband and I are leaving for a trip to the Smokey Mountains and of course we had to have an audiobook to supplement the nine-hour trip (each way!). We choose Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which we listened to last year. I hope it’s good!

BitesRecently finished: I fought my way through Wuthering Bites by Sarah Gray. It’s not that the book’s bad, but that I wanted to finish it by Monday. Wuthering Heights isn’t a book you rush through and this one is the say way. I kept wondering how much longer this was because of the vampire plotline.

And two book reviews! The first was for La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It feels good to have this one behind me because it was a long journey, but wrong because I enjoyed it so much.
The other is On the Okey Dokey Trail by I. Leigh Private. I enjoyed it but thought it lacked a little depth. Check out the reviews to know more!

ManforHimselfReading Next: There are two possibilities. The first is that my work book club gets me a copy of A Widow for One Year by John Irving before I finish Hotel.
If that doesn’t happen, I’m going to continue my fight to finish the When Are You Reading? Challenge. Next up is Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge. I was introduced to Bainbridge a few years ago when I read The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress for my book club. The author has a really cool style. I saw that she had a book about my favorite event in history, the sinking of the Titanic. I was lucky enough to find it at a used bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI and I’ve been waiting for a reason to read it ever since. So pumped!


As I’ve said, I’m in a car on my way to Tennessee so please forgive me if responses are delayed. It all depends on how good the audiobooks are and how good the phone reception is!

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!