Archive | February, 2016

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Ally

29 Feb

Here’s part two of my vacation wrap-up/guide to visiting the Universal Orlando parks. I spent two days at Universal Studios two weeks ago and I want to share my experience as it pertains to Harry and give you all some advice about how to make the most of your experience.

2016-02-15 09.14.38We rushed back to Escape from Gringotts on our first day at Studios. As predicted, the line was better than later in the day, but many people had the same thought. I had to stop on the way to take a picture with 12 Grimmauld Place. There were people lining up to number 14 (come on, people!) so I jumped right up to 12. The ride line wove through a bunch of switchbacks and then into Gringotts, very similar to the set from Deathly Hallows Part II. The goblins even looked the same! We went through some vault rooms and into the offices. Again, we could have kept our phones with us but I didn’t know! A nice fellow Potterhead took my picture and emailed it to me so I’d have at least one memento. The ride itself was fun. It featured Bill Weasley rather prominently and I believe he had more lines in the ride than he did in all the movies combined. It was a 3D ride which isn’t my favorite because glasses don’t layer. Overall, I enjoyed it a lot.

2016-02-15 10.58.53We walked through a lot of the shops for a while. I fell in love with a pair of knee socks that said ‘Hogwarts’ on them that I ended up buying but I kept my spending to that. I did have fun walking through Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and Borgin and Burkes. We stopped at the purple Night Bus parked outside the entry wall and I had a great conversation with Simon (not Stan) the conductor and his talking head. We had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron which was again delicious. I had the Toad in the Hole and really enjoyed it with some Pumpkin Juice. The rest of our day we spent seeing most of the rest of the park and indulging my husband’s big fandom, the Simpsons.

2016-02-16 11.42.09And then the second day. We went back to Escape from Gringotts in the afternoon and I brought my camera this time! It was great to snap some pictures and know what was coming up in the line as we went through. I had such a good time and I’m glad we went twice though of course the thrill was a bit reduced the second time through.

2016-02-16 12.35.29We walked through the stores again for a bit and explored Knockturn Ally. There was nothing like that at Islands and I liked getting to see the darker objects that were available. We were able to catch a puppet show of the Tale of the Three Brothers which I thought was wonderfully done. The puppets were gorgeous and the actors superb. I was pleasantly surprised because I didn’t think the Islands entertainment was of this caliber and I was really impressed. If you’re at Studios, I highly recommend stopping by this one. Another fun side note, the dragon on top of Gringotts breaths fire every ten minutes! Stick around and watch. You’ll know it’s coming because there’s a lot of rumbling and growling before hand.

2016-02-16 12.59.41We had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron again on the second day and, this time, I got the Banger Sandwich which was, again, really good. I can’t reiterate enough how impressed I was with the food and dining in WWHP. Even if you’re going as a non-Harry fan, it’s a great place to eat.

That about wraps it up! We had a great trip and the memories and pictures will last me for years to come. I do hope to make a pilgrimage to the forthcoming WWHP park near Los Angeles, CA at some point soon. My brother-in-law and his wife live close by and it’s always fun to make a Muggle pilgrimage.

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!

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade

25 Feb

As many of you know, I spent last week in Orlando, Florida going to the Universal and Disney parks. As much as I’d love to talk about my trips and show you pictures of me and Buzz Lightyear (see my Instagram), I wanted to talk about some things more relevant to books, specifically my experiences in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter sections of the park.

 My husband and I spent our first full day at the Islands of Adventure Park (to the left when you walk in). We did not do a park-hopper so I didn’t ride the Hogwarts Express so that will be out of this discussion. I wanted to talk about the rides and experiences and share my pictures. If you had a different experience, please share it in the comments.

We got to the park just after it opened and raced back to Hogsmeade. The line for Dragon Challenge was short so we jumped in… to be immediately kicked out and told to put our backpack and belongings in one of the free lockers. It’s worth noting that Dragon Challenge is one of two rides we encountered in the park (along with Rockit Rollercoaster) where you couldn’t have your backpack or anything in your pockets. That means no cell phone and no pictures! Once we got through the metal detector (yep, no joke), we zipped through the line. There were a lot of cool things to see in the line including the Goblet of Fire and the Triwizard Cup but again, no pictures of those. The ride itself was well designed and a good high-level thrill ride that I recommend.

Right after that, we jumped in the hour-long line for Flight of the Hippogriff. The line was really slow and we realized it was because there was only one car running and that was because the ride was so short they couldn’t put a second one on. I was a little disappointed by how short the ride was and that there wasn’t much to see while waiting in line. There was a replica of Hagrid’s hut, but that was it. You could see the Buckbeak animatronic a bit, but it was meant to be viewed from the ride. Overall, not my favorite.

 We took a break to have some Butterbeer and see the rest of the park. The line for the Butterbeer cart was long but it moved fast. It was $6 for a standard cup ($7 for frozen) and honestly, I didn’t like it very much. It tasted like cream soda with whipped cream on it. My lactose intolerance was instantly on high alert! It was good, but we didn’t purchase it again. It was nice to see the Wizard and Frog choir perform while we waited in line, though!

 

 

 

For lunch, we stopped in The Three Broomsticks. I had fun with the employee regulating the line. I told him I wasn’t a Muggle, I was a Half-Blood. He scoffed and said he wasn’t a Slytherin so he didn’t care about my blood status. It was great.

The food was well priced and pretty good. It was some standard pub fare and I enjoyed the Rotisserie Smoked Chicken platter. The most memorable for me was the Pumpkin Juice. It was really good and I recommend it over butterbeer. Imagine a pumpkin spice latte met with some apple juice. It was really good. We stopped in the Hogs Head and we had the Hogs Head Brew, which I really liked!

The rest of the day was spent in other parts of the park. One thing I noticed is that it was hard to walk through Hogsmeade when going to different ‘lands.’ It was really crowded all the time and the bridge to get around it wasn’t on the map (though we found it later). I read that it’s better to go in the morning and I believe it.

 Our last stop of the day was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey inside Hogwarts castle. It was AMAZING! This was everything I wanted from my WWHP experience. We had to lock our backpack up but we could have kept our phones! I didn’t know this so I don’t have any pictures of it and it’s the only thing I regret from the experience. You first wind through the greenhouses and see little mandrakes there. Then you go through Dumbledore’s office, DADA classroom, and corridors until you get into the car. The ride is great and I can’t recommend it enough. The best part is that I didn’t have to wear 3D glasses!

I ended up buying a Slytherin scarf in the gift shop. In Michigan, a scarf is a necessity in the winter and I’ll wear mine a lot. Plus, it’s the same colors as my husband’s alma mater so I’ll wear it when we go to tail gates and pretend it doesn’t have a snake on it.

I’ll be back next week with some tips about Diagon Ally at Universal Studios. 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, 24-February-2016

24 Feb

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?


PrincipeCurrently reading: I’ve put Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling on hold for a minute while I work on my book club selection. I’m hoping to jump back on it soon, though. I miss the story in light of the Cursed Child news!
Not sure what’s going on with Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I wasn’t expecting aliens, to be honest with you. Are they going to be here the whole time?
I was able to listen to a bit of A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin while on vacation. It was something to listen to while I did my workouts and my husband slept. It’s still enjoyable, but I feel a build to a war that I wish I could jump to because it sounds like a good plot point.
I’m really enjoying Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. This was a good book to bring with me on vacation and I got through about 200 pages of it while I was gone which is really impressive with how tired I was most of the time we were there. I think 95% of that reading was done on the planes. I passed out from exhaustion at night.

Recently finished: Again, nothing. I’m hoping Shanghai Girls will be here next week. Fingers crossed!

I did manage to get a review up for you all. Many of you were interested in Bellwether so go check out my review to see how much I liked it (4 out of 5 stars).

Hanging OutReading Next: I’ve got a while before another book club selection grabs me so I’m going to get back to Harry. Then I’ve got a Mindy Kaling book on my shelf I think will be a quick read, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? Then I’ll try some of my TBR books that I have to get from the library. I skip over those a lot but I want to read them, too!


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 Nerd News 23-Feb-16

23 Feb

As many of you know, I took last week off from blogging. There were two things that happened while I was ‘off’ that I think are worth discussing with  you like-minded folk here in the blogosphere. My opinions are below.

Amazing News: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be released as a book on July 31.

AHH! It’s real, the magic is continuing. J.K. Rowling worked with other writers to put together a two-part stage play of an eighth book in the Harry Potter universe which begins after Harry sends Albus Severus off on the train to Hogwarts. The play opens on July 30th and the screenplay will be available on July 31st.

Honestly, I think I’m going to go into work late on the 31st. There’s a midnight release party at a bookstore in Ann Arbor that I want to go to. Honestly, I love that Rowling is still invested in her characters and thinking about them so long after the book ended. Things keep happening for Potter fans and the magic hasn’t ended. Now I’ve got to find a way to make it to London to see this show on stage!

(News source)

Sad News: Harper Lee passed away.

I heard about this while at Disney World. Not the best place to hear such downer news. This makes me really sad and really angry at the same time. Lee’s book Go Set a Watchman was published late last year to mixed reviews (including my own). The circumstances surrounding its publication were a little hazy and in my opinion, a bit shady. It seemed like a cash grab by some greedy lawyers and publishers. It makes me sad that the last thing people will remember about Harper Lee is this mediocre book which never should have seen the printing press. We should remember her for the amazing book that many of us read in high school and gave us a great message about race and what it means to be human. RIP, Ms. Lee.

 

Reader, I’d love your thoughts on these two huge pieces of news. I’ve been dying to have some good literary conversations. Leave me a comment and let me know.

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: Bellwether by Connie Willis (4/5)

22 Feb

When I wrote my review for another of Willis’s books, Debbie at Moon in Gemini recommended Willi’s ‘short novella’ Bellwether if I wanted something more modern by the same author. It took me a year, but I got to it. It helped that the library had it on audio.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Bellwether by Connie Willis

Other Connie Willis books reviewed on this blog:
The Doomsday Book (4/5)

Summary from Goodreads:

Sandra Foster studies fads and their meanings for the HiTek corporation. Bennet O’Reilly works with monkey group behavior and chaos theory for the same company. When the two are thrust together due to a misdelivered package and a run of seemingly bad luck, they find a joint project in a flock of sheep. But series of setbacks and disappointments arise before they are able to find answers to their questions.

This was so fun and cute and I really enjoyed it. Yes, it was a romance and yes it was fun, but it wasn’t full of too-good-to-be-true characters who were attractive and perfect. I liked them all. Though, I’m not sure if I would define something of this length as a ‘novella.’ It was 250 pages which I would call a novel but I guess when her other books are 500-ish pages, this does feel short in comparison. I had one beef with the book that kept it from a full 5 stars for me, which I’ll get to later but the characters and science in the book were fun and had me laughing out loud a lot.

Sandy and Bennet were remarkably normal characters who were well aware of their normalcy while everyone else had, at least, one quirk. Flip is hard to ignore as an over-the-top character, but it was a very real portrayal of those who are fashion forward and always up on the latest trend. The other scientists and Billy Ray seemed to be oblivious to the influences they had in their lives and I liked that Sandy could see them all. A great cast of characters to bring this story together.

Flip was both my favorite and least favorite character. She was fun to read about and could always be counted on for a fun like to brighten the story and make me laugh. But she was also irritating. She combined everyone you’d been forced to work with and hated into one person. She was also the person you think it staring at your outfit and judging it all the time and the person who you run into when you don’t want to. All in one. It created a love-hate relationship.

I related to Sandy and Ben in different ways. I related to Ben because a frequently feel my style is, at least, three years behind the time and I don’t even notice. I started wearing skinny jeans way too late and I’m still suck on them. I’m refusing to give into the ‘workout clothes in public’ trend that I’ve noticed a lot lately. Running tights are for running. I also related to Sandy because I’ll notice trends going on around me (like running tights) and feel like I’ behind because I just don’t get it. Honestly, what am I missing? How are comfortable clothes now a trend when it hasn’t been like that since the 80s and we all now agree that was a terrible trend. I’m missing something.

"ConnieWillisCW98 wb". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“ConnieWillisCW98 wb”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The subplot with Billy Ray was my favorite of the book. He was a trendy guy from a subculture you wouldn’t think of as trendy. It was fun to see which trends affected his character and how he was similar to Flip in a lot of different ways. I also enjoyed the nod to cell phones in the 90s when this was published. It dated the book for sure, but it was fun to remember them.

For the first 80% of the book, I couldn’t figure out what the goal of the characters was. I felt that ‘finding the source of hair bobbing’ was too vague to be the main purpose of a novella. That’s what I would expect to find in a non-fiction book. It made the book seem very lost to me for a long time. I enjoyed the jabs at management and hearing how Flip can ruin everything, but I failed to see an end point until very close to the end.

My audiobook was narrated by Kate Reading and I absolutely loved her. She kept Sandy light and airy, gave believable voices to the male characters. She did great voices for Flip and the other waiters and waitresses Sandy ran into who were rude and eye-rolling to customers. It was fun all around and Reading kept Sandy light-hearted and sarcastic which was great.

It wasn’t a problem that the characters were following fads. It wasn’t even their fault. The clothes that are available and the restaurants that stay open are often because of fads and trends. Sandy had to live with wearing PoMo Pink and drinking Cafe Lattes because that was available. But it was good to be aware that certain things were trends. The anti-smoking fad for example. It caused everyone to be mean to Cheryl when she was the most important person at HiTek. Sandy’s ability to identify fads made her resilient to them to a degree, but she still had to follow some of them.

Writer’s Takeaway: Reading Willis’ Goodreads Author page, it points out that her protagonists often come up against minor characters single-mindedly pursuing a goal that seems irrational or illogical. This is a great source of humor in a book. Flip’s goal is to do as little as possible and her other coworker needs to find Romantic Bride Barbie. These goals affect the main character ways that can be humorous and provide the time for the protagonist to discover something about the goal. I want to try this technique.

A super fun read that cleansed my palate for some longer fantasy ahead. Four out of Five stars.

This book fulfilled 1980-1999 for my 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:
Bellwether | Shelf Love
What your professor never told you about science: a review of Bellwether | Scientific Gems
Following The Leader – Bellwether, by Connie Willis | Serendipity

WWW Wednesday, 17-February-2016

17 Feb

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!

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The Three Ws are:

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


This week only: I am on vacation and will not be visiting every blog as I normally do. I will respond to comments here as I’m able and will return to my visits next week. Enjoy!

ShanghaiCurrently reading: I made good progress with Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling but put it down on Friday. It’s a bit bulky to bring on a plane when my space is so limited. I hope to return to it soon.
I’m still lost in Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. Will we ever return to the original narrator? He was a lot easier to understand.
I got through the fifth file of A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. Running time has been much more fun with Arya and Tirion along and I find myself enjoying this book a lot.
I just started Shanghai Girls by Lisa See on Saturday. It’s the book I’m taking on vacation because it will fit in my carry on with my massive textbook. Size is key!

Recently finished: Nothing this week. The books I’m in are a bit long so I might not finish anything for a while. I hope that’s not the case, though! I hate these long stretches without finishing anything. And no reviews either! You can tell I’m on vacation.

Reading Next: No plans right now. I want to pick Potter back up when I finish Shanghai Girls so I don’t want to psych myself up over anything new. 🙂 Geez, what a boring week for me!


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!

On Vacation

15 Feb

I’m taking a week off this week, February 15-18 2016. My husband and I are in Orlando, Florida visiting Universal Studios and Disney World and I’m going to enjoy it by not checking my phone constantly. I will still be posting on WWW Wednesday, but please forgive me for not going to check out everyone’s posts.

I’ll be back on the 22nd! I’ve already got a book review scheduled that I think you’ll all enjoy. Follow me on Instagram to see how my vacation’s going. See you back soon!

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Club Reflection: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

11 Feb 100 years

I wasn’t the only one who found this novel hard to get through. I was the one who wanted the book club to read this title, but I ended up not being a fan and neither were the members of our club (with the exception of two). Their complaints were similar to mine which is reassuring. Many others never felt anything for the characters and weren’t moved by the massive deaths and wars in the book. With all the magical realism, many of us were exhausted of thinking ‘What does this mean?’ while reading and wanted things to just be somewhat normal. Though it was pointed out everything that happened was plausible in a way and Marquez made sure it was. He wanted an element of realism in the book.

We found a parallel that described the book as the ‘Bible of Macondo.’ It’s true that some Biblical stories can share elements with fairy tales the same way the stories of Macondo seemed fantastical. The ascension of Remedios seems to be a good parallel as well. The deluge is similar to the storm Noah survived and there were characters who lived unnaturally long lives like Biblical characters. Macondo was like the Garden of Eden, a paradise for those who lived there that should have been a safe haven for the inhabitants. Every time people left Macondo, they came back or couldn’t find their way out. Things that were brought to Macondo, like knowledge, brought destruction. The train brought the banana plantation and the airmail took away Gaston and invited a final generation of inter-breeding.

I found it odd that Marquez would include a character in his story named Gerineldo Marquez. It seems odd to include a character with your name in your book. Gerineldo was a voice of reason in the book, as Marquez likely saw himself and his commentary about life in South America. Gerineldo was predicting the end was coming and was ready to die as Marquez (the author) could have predicted the end of his own novel. It seemed an odd insert to me and I thought another name would have been better.

Many others had the same complaint about the book as I did: all of the names are the same. We noticed that all of the Aurelianos were violent with the exception of Aureliano Segundo. The comment about his death that Aureliano Segundo and Jose Arcadio Segundo looked the same made us think they really had been switched at birth and that if their coffins were buried in the wrong graves, they had been switched back and really buried in the ‘right’ tombs. And that’s kind of awesome.

Many of the women in the book blended together. They lacked a personality and sense of being important outside of childrearing. The two exceptions were Fernanda and Ursula. Fernanda was a great sense of comic relief in the book. We all enjoyed her struggling through life after Santa Sofia de la Piedad passed away. Many of the men in the story went crazy, obsessing over one thing or another. Ursula stayed sane and kept her family together and loving each other while the men fell apart around her. She developed a numbness to deal with the chaos around her and survive her own family.

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, 10-February-2016

10 Feb

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?


ClashofKingsCurrently reading: It feels like I’m making good progress with Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling but I’m not even 100 pages in yet. It’s a chunk of a book and I wish I could report more progress with it. It will come in time, I’m sure. Let’s see how much I can get through before I have to pick up my next book club selection.
Only a few lunches reading Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and I’m over 30% of the way through it. This is flying by! It will probably be the next book I finish because of how long these other selections are.
Speaking of long, I started the audiobook of A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin. This will be on here a while because it’s almost 40 hours of audio! It’s the only one I’m listening to so I hope it will move quickly between car rides and listening around the house. Fingers crossed!

BellwetherRecently finished: I finished Bellwether by Connie Willis which I really enjoyed. My review will be coming up after my vacation so you’ll have to wait for a little to read it but be assured it’s positive. It’s science fiction, but only in the sense that it’s fiction writing about science. It’s rather modern in my opinion.

So many reviews! I posted about A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab last week. I gave it 4 stars and really liked it. I can’t wait for the sequel.
I also reviewed Carry On by Rainbow Rowell earlier this week. I adored the book and read it super fast. A full 5 stars.
Finally, I posted about Dead Wake by Erik Larson yesterday. He writes a great historical narrative and if you’re interested in that at all, you should check out his work.

ShanghaiReading Next: I’ll pick up Shanghai Girls by Lisa See on Sunday. I hope it’s good, but not so good I finish it before my vacation’s over. See is coming to my area this year and I’m really excited to meet her.


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: Dead Wake by Erik Larson (4/5)

9 Feb

My love for the Titanic and my adoration for Erik Larson almost overlapped. To his credit, the Titanic is a bit overdone and the Lusitania is a more unexplored ship with much more political sway. It was a great pick for Larson and another winner by him for sure.

DeadWakeDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Other books by Erik Lason reviewed on this blog:

The Devil and the White City

Summary from Goodreads:

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.

I knew the sinking of the Lusitania was a big reason the US got pulled into WWI, but I didn’t know much else about it. I wasn’t aware of the loss of life or that it was sunk by a U-Boat. The biggest shock to me was the time delay between the boat’s sinking and the US entering the war. As always, Larson did a great job of seeing the event from every angle. We had the British, German, American, passenger, crew, and politician sides of the story. He used as many first-person accounts as possible and helped us care about individuals on board who were saved and lost. Larson really is a master storyteller.

I liked hearing about Wilson best. I didn’t know much about Wilson except his starting the League of Nations. It was easy to like him as a person the way Larson described his courtship. It was all very relevant to know about the loss of his wife and his personal struggles which might have delayed US entry into WWI. He was feeling reluctant to cause anyone else the loss he was enduring and didn’t want to start a war. I wouldn’t have understood the delay if I didn’t have the whole story around Wilson.

It was hard to understand the anxiety the passengers must have been feeling. They had reason to suspect a torpedo attack but at the same time reason to suspect Germany wouldn’t dare. With no other means of transportation, what were they to do? The trip had to be made. Sinking passenger vessels wasn’t normal so it could be ignored. I have really bad anxiety and I can’t imagine myself on that ship. I would have been hyperventilating and wearing my life vest everywhere on board. I assume it has to be like flying after 9/11. It should be safe, you know that, but still…

Larson narrated the sinking very well. It took less than twenty minutes and he helped me understand the panic packed into that time and the fear the passengers experienced. There was so much going on at once. The Titanic took two hours to sink and the Lusitania went down in twenty minutes. That’s amazing and terrifying. The deaths due to incompetence were the saddest to read about to me. Crushes and capsizes were not the way these people thought they would go and it was wrenching to read.

There wasn’t a part of this book I didn’t enjoy. Larson is a really great writer who makes history come alive. I wish he wrote textbooks. Whoever says that history is boring has not read a good history. I highly recommend this book.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Scott Brick. I thought Brick did a good job. He maintained the ominous tone of the book when necessary, especially when talking about the happenings on U-20. I was never distracted by his words and he didn’t pronounce foreign words in such a weird way that it bugged me like some narrators do. He has a good voice for narrative non-fiction but I can’t say how he would be for a fiction work with more speakers.

Writer’s Takeaway: I think narrative non-fiction would be incredibly difficult to write and Larson does a beautiful job. He gives the people feelings and individuality like a real person would have. We hear about specific politicians and passengers and the reader grows to care about each one, hoping they survive the catastrophe. It was great to connect so well with the people in a book because much of history is very dry because the people in it seem so far removed.

A great narrative non-fiction book and recommended for fellow Titanic fans as well. Four out of Five stars.

This book fulfills the 1900-1919 time period for my When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Review: Dead Wake by Erik Larson | Ranty Runt of a Reader
BOOK: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson (2015) | Senceless Pie
Dead Wake by Erik Larson | Maurice on Books