Archive | June, 2016

HOMEWORK BREAK: Day off

14 Jun

Sorry to do this to you all, but I’m taking a day off. I’m playing catch-up in school after being gone all weekend. I’ll be back tomorrow with WWW Wednesday and I’ll try to have a book club reflection on Thursday.

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!

Off Topic: Road Cycling

13 Jun

I don’t think I’ve gotten this far off topic before, but I’m short of things to talk about and there’s something that’s been on my mind.

Earlier this week, five cyclists were killed and four seriously injured when a pickup truck plowed into their Tuesday night riding group (CNN Article). There hasn’t been confirmation on what caused him to do it (road rage, alcohol, drugs, etc.) but the fact remains that this group was riding on the shoulder of the road and obeying the laws. As a road cyclist, this affected me.

The event took place in Kalamazoo, MI, my home state. I live on the east side of the state and Kalamazoo is on the western side, about 2.5 hours away by car. This past weekend, my husband and I traveled to Holland, MI for a charity bike ride. We spent Saturday and Sunday with 350 fellow cyclists raising money for MS research. As I’m sure the Kalamazoo cyclists were, we obeyed the traffic laws and were careful at intersections, conscientious of passing cars and sure to use hand signals. I was honked at, yelled at, and some fellow riders had curses hurled at them. I watched a near collision and was involved in one myself.

My husband and me enjoying the end of Bike MS Day 1.

My husband and me enjoying the end of Bike MS Day 1.

No matter where you live, please be aware of cyclists. It is legal for us to ride on roads (at least it is in the States) so please give us the same rights you would a slow car. Pass with care and give a wide margin whenever possible. If you’re going to wave us through an intersection, do it visibly and know we might be ensuring other cars have the same generosity. Don’t honk and scare us. Know that many cyclists can’t stop quickly because our feet are clipped in.

Cycling is a wonderful sport that makes me push my comfort zone and lets me see the beauty of my home state and area. I’m not trying to ruin your day. Please don’t ruin mine.

If you’re interested in the charity ride I did, you can click over to my page here. It was a great experience and I’m already signed up for next year.

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 Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose (5/5)

9 Jun

A few years ago, I went through this phase when I was really interested in books about Christianity practices that differed from mine. I’ve never doubted my faith but was curious about what other people believed. Rather than ask a friend and actually face another human, I turned to books. Roose’s book attracted me because he had the same questions I did. And he trained under my favorite non-fiction writer, A.J. Jacobs. I was hooked and recently found an audiobook copy through my library’s Hoopla service.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose

Summary from Goodreads:

As a sophomore at Brown University, Kevin Roose didn’t have much contact with the Religious Right. Raised in a secular home by staunchly liberal parents, he fit right in with Brown’s sweatshop-protesting, fair-trade coffee-drinking, God-ambivalent student body. So when he had a chance encounter with a group of students from Liberty University, a conservative Baptist university in Lynchburg, Virginia, he found himself staring across a massive culture gap. But rather than brush the Liberty students off, Roose decided to do something much bolder: he became one of them.

Liberty University is the late Rev. Jerry Falwell’s proudest accomplishment – a 10,000-student conservative Christian training ground. At Liberty, students (who call themselves “Champions for Christ”) take classes like Introduction to Youth Ministry and Evangelism 101. They hear from guest speakers like Mike Huckabee and Karl Rove, they pray before every class, and they follow a 46-page code of conduct called “The Liberty Way” that prohibits drinking, smoking, R-rated movies, contact with the opposite sex, and witchcraft. Armed with an open mind and a reporter’s notebook, Roose dives into life at Bible Boot Camp with the goal of connecting with his evangelical peers by experiencing their world first-hand.

Roose’s semester at Liberty takes him to church, class, and choir practice at Rev. Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church. He visits a support group for recovering masturbation addicts, goes to an evangelical hip-hop concert, and participates in a spring break mission trip to Daytona Beach, where he learns how to convert bar-hopping co-eds to Christianity. Roose struggles with his own faith throughout, and in a twist that could only have been engineered by a higher power, he conducts what would turn out to be the last in-depth interview of Rev. Falwell’s life. Hilarious and heartwarming, respectful and thought-provoking, Roose’s embedded report from the front lines of the culture war will inspire and entertain believers and non-believers alike.

I was fascinated by this book. Roose has a great style, writing in a very removed way of his encounters at Liberty but also letting the reader know how he feels about the people he meets. He peppers his story with studies and back story that added to my understanding. I liked how he detailed his struggle to fit into the culture at Liberty and how his encounter made a lasting impact on him. The book reminded me a bit of Jacobs and I’m glad he can teach Roose to be a good immersion journalist. I think it must have been hard for Roose to write about his friends like they were test subjects rather than his real friends, which I have no doubt they were. I thought it was very professionally done and I’m really glad I listened to this book.

The characters Roose presented reminded me a lot of every Evangelical Christian I’ve met- certifiably not crazy, open, and friendly. The only character that seemed odd to me was his roommate, Henry. I’ve never met someone so angry and aggressive before and I had trouble picturing him. It helped that all of the hallmates seemed to have a similar problem with Henry and his anger. The God I know is loving and forgiving, like many of the Liberty students Roose met. It was refreshing to see that across sects that sentiment was still there.

Jersey Joey was my favorite of Kevin’s friends. He struggled to be the Christian he wanted to be, it wasn’t easy for him, and that was refreshing. He indulged in some vices but at the end of the day, he was a really good guy and I liked him a lot. I think Joey was what Laura thought Kevin needed, an easing into Liberty culture. Going from Brown to Liberty must have been a shock. It would have been easier to go to a less stringent school first and I think Joey gave Kevin a bit of that experience. Maybe it was hard to relate to Zipper, but knowing Joey and Zipper both had the same love for Jesus helped Kevin see that not everyone will be Zipper.

I’ve had lesser experiences to what Kevin experienced. My dad’s family is Methodist but I was raised Catholic, like my mom’s family. Every time I spend a long period of time with my dad’s family, I have to ‘act Methodist’ a bit. I went to a (loosely) Methodist college so this has never been hard for me, but I say the wrong prayers before dinner to say ‘mass’ instead of ‘service’ or ‘priest’ for ‘reverend’ all the time. I don’t talk about being Catholic around my paternal grandparents. It’s not as extreme of an example as what Kevin puts himself through, but mine isn’t journalism.

Kevin Roose Image via NPR

Kevin Roose
Image via NPR

I wanted Kevin and Anna to date so badly. I’m still hoping it somehow happened even though in the interview at the end he said it wasn’t happening. She was so sweet and he had a major crush on her. I’m glad he finally told her what was going on and I wonder if she’s not ok with them dating because he’s not Saved. This was the one part of the book where I would have liked more.

Kevin stated many times that the casual homophobia at Liberty really bothered him. It was the most troubling part of the book for me, too. A good friend of my husband is gay and a devout Catholic. I would never want to create an environment at our church where he didn’t feel welcomed by using words like ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ amongst our friends. It was sad to me. Christian doctrine is that everyone is a sinner so why would they call out one group of sinners more than others? It seemed counter-productive to me.

Kevin narrated the book, which I didn’t realize until the end. He did a good job narrating and even used a fun voice for Jersey Joey that I liked. I don’t see him narrating anyone else’s book in the future, but he did a good job with his own and if he ever has another piece out, I’d hope he does the narration again.

Kevin pointed out several times that even though he was able to humanize Falwell, that didn’t mean he agreed with him. You can like someone and not agree with their political or religious views. You can also agree with someone’s religious views and not like them. These things don’t have to be exclusive. I can have friends that are from different political parties and there are people I go to church with that I don’t like. Kevin’s book is a strong lesson in tolerance.

Writer’s Takeaway: I don’t think I’ll ever write non-fiction but if I do, I want to write like Kevin. He weaves facts and studies with his experiences very flawlessly. He jumps around a bit but keeps the focus on a portion of his experience at a time. He reminds me a lot of A.J. Jacobs, who he interned for and who I’m a big fan of. I hope he writes more books though he’s been successful in journalism as of late.

I learned a lot from this book that I think will stick with me for a long time. A full 5 out of 5 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:
Seeking Liberty, Looking Within: The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose | quiteirregular
The Unlikely Disciple: Kevin Roose | Amanda Jarvis
The Unlikely Disciple – Kevin Roose | The Captive Reader
the unlikely disciple | No Power In the ‘Verse

WWW Wednesday, 8-June-2016

8 Jun

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!

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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?

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.


IceCreamCurrently reading: Nothing with In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. There hasn’t been much time when I’m just sitting around lately. My semester is getting crazy and it will be a while before I have any calmness again.
I’m about 2/3 of the way through 27 Days to Midnight by Kristine Kruppa, I wanted to finish it over the weekend but this was a busy one for me. I’ll try to get through it before my post next week.
I started a new audiobook, The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman. I forget who recommended this one to me but I have no doubt it’s because I love historical fiction. I was hesitant when I heard the author narrated it herself, but she’s been doing a great job.

DiscipleRecently finished: I finished The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose late last Wednesday. I really enjoyed this book and Roose’s style. He reminds me of A.J. Jacobs, who he trained under and who is one of my favorite writers. It was a treat of a book. My review will be up tomorrow.

I posted my review of Harry Potter y el misterio del principe on Monday. There’s not a lot to be said about this book that hasn’t been said already but pop on over and let me know how much you love it. The sixth book is my favorite of the movies and I watch it a lot but I think this is only my second time through the book.

DanteReading Next: I’ve changed my mind again. I went to another bookstore in West Michigan and found another book that I’ve been waiting to read for ages so now I plan to pick up In the Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches which has been on my list since October 2012! I went through a phase when I was obsessed with Dante’s Inferno and this intrigued me because of that. It reminded me of Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club so I wanted to grab this one.


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 Gem in South Haven (MI) for the Traveling Bibliophile

7 Jun

 

Yet another traveling bibliophile moment for me! Over Memorial Day weekend, I was in South Haven, MI for a wedding. This small town is a popular summer travel destination for Chicago residents looking to get out of the big city for the weekend. The ceremony was late on Sunday so after church, my husband and I headed into town for lunch and some book shopping. Our target was Black River Books, a beautiful store.

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img_3021As I told the owners while I was in there, it was one of the cleanest and best organized used book stores I’ve ever seen! This place was crazy organized as far as subject matter and the fiction books, and there were TONS of those, were all alphabetized. I was happy to find the biography and business sections alphabetized by author instead of subject which made things infinitely easier for me to find. The great isle headers were super great, too. In addition to telling you what was in the isle, there were labels on each shelf so you knew exactly where to look. I was in nerdy heaven!

I was able to find one book for myself, In The Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches. This has been on my TBR for what feels like years (and in actuality is coming up on 4 years). I could have gotten it from the library, but it popped out to me and I felt like it was a sign! My husband found a comic book about reading comic books. (Trippy, right?) While he was exploring the store, he found this awesome first edition shelf that I had to nerd out over.

How cool is that?! The owners were super nice and the place was really clean. Their two dogs roam the store and I was worried my bad pet allergies would kick in but I had no issues. I would go back again in a heartbeat!

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: Harry Potter y el misterio del principe by J.K. Rowling (5/5)

6 Jun

It’s hard to write a book review for a re-read, especially a re-read of a Potter book. Oh well, I’ll try my best. I read this book over the past five months so my memories of it will be a little spotty and my comments will likely lean toward the later part of the book, which is freshest in my mind. And I want to talk here about reading in another language because, in the end, that was my purpose.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Harry Potter y el misterio del princie by J.K. Rowling, translated by Gemma Rovira Ortega

Other books by J.K. Rowling reviewed on my blog:

The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Harry Potter y la Orden del Fenix
Very Good Lives
The Cuckoo’s Calling (under pseudonym Robert Galbraith)
The Silkworm (under pseudonym Robert Galbraith)

English Summary from Goodreads:

It is the middle of the summer, but there is an unseasonal mist pressing against the windowpanes. Harry Potter is waiting nervously in his bedroom at the Dursleys’ house in Privet Drive for a visit from Professor Dumbledore himself. One of the last times he saw the Headmaster was in a fierce one-to-one duel with Lord Voldemort, and Harry can’t quite believe that Professor Dumbledore will actually appear at the Dursleys’ of all places. Why is the Professor coming to visit him now? What is it that cannot wait until Harry returns to Hogwarts in a few weeks’ time? Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts has already got off to an unusual start, as the worlds of Muggle and magic start to intertwine…

I’ve thought about it, and I’m not sure I’ve read this book a second time since devouring it the week after it was published. I know I’ve reread books 1-4, but I’m not sure about 5-7. That makes this Spanish reread of the series even more fun for me. HBP is my favorite of the movies so I’ve watched it dozens of times but knowing that aspect of the story made me forget the details in the book that made it even more incredible. I loved Crabbe and Goyle as first-year girls, the reason Snape called himself the Half-Blood Prince, the details of Ginny and Harry, Quidditch politics, and even more Slughorn.

After seeing Harry act like an emotional teenager in the fifth book where just reading the all-caps freak-outs he has will give you 70% of the plot, HBP is a nice break and a chance to see Harry mature. Hermione is her strong self as always and Ron’s growing and fading relationship with Lavender is always good for a laugh. Rowling’s characters are very believable teens and I remember reading this when it was published, the year I was 16, and thinking the same thing. It was so great to grow up with Harry.

For once, Harry was my favorite character. Though, when Malfoy is in the astronomy tower, he breaks my heart. That’s one of my single favorite character development scenes in all of literature. I’ve literally written a book about it. Harry was much more level-headed this time around. I also liked his drive and determination when it came to the Horocruxes. It was good to get some internal thoughts from him about Ginny and his friends. Much of Rowling’s writing is 3rd person narration but it’s a treat to get into Harry’s head.

Part of what makes this book one of my favorites is that Rowling makes Malfoy sympathetic, something we never expected in Sorcerer’s Stone. We’ve all struggled with something we didn’t want to do but were told to. It’s a terrible inner turmoil, trying to reconcile morality, duty, and compliance. I related to Malfoy and my mother would argue it was my fascination with everything she hated in my teen years, but I loved his character. What great writing.

J.K. Rowling Image via The Telegraph

J.K. Rowling
Image via The Telegraph

It should be easy to tell by now that the astronomy tower scene is my favorite (and least favorite) in the book. I think it’s something Potter fans can still discuss to this day. Was he really lowering his wand? In the movie, Malfoy shows a Dark Mark but not in the book. Did he have one? Was Snape reading Dumbledore’s thoughts? Did Dumbledore really want to die? Such a great scene!

It’s hard to find a part of this book I didn’t like. From the opening scene with the Muggle Prime Minister to the ominous tone at the end, I loved the whole thing. Maybe it’s how long it took me to read this, but I really enjoyed every word.

To me, the last two books deal with sacrifice and love. This book focused a lot on sacrifice, especially at the end. Harry is reeling from losing Sirius at the beginning but quickly has to focus on the real problem, Voldemort. He is willing to sacrifice his time and later his safety to stop the Dark Lord and at the end, sees the downfall of his mentor. However, he quickly realizes that this had to happen for him to find his own strength. Gah, I love it!

Writer’s Takeaway: It’s hard to say what it is about these books that I can’t get enough of. I’ll reread them time and again. This book showed a lot of character development and depth I’d been waiting a long time to see and it was refreshing. The series grew up with Harry and this book continued that trend and I really, really loved being a Harry Potter kid.

Amazing, amazing book. A full 5 out of 5 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:
Resena #9 { Harry Potter y el Misterio del Principe Mestizo } | Un Viaje por los Libros

Challenge Update, May 2016

2 Jun

My book giants have fallen this month! I got through two long titles I’ve been chipping away at for months and I’m finally going to start tearing through some summer books (I hope). You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in May:

A Clash of Kings // George R.R. Martin
The Virgin Blue // Tracy Chevalier
The Art of Asking // Amanda Palmer
Harry Potter y el misterio del principe // J.K. Rowling (review coming next week)

Only one behind on reviews is pretty good for me! I’ll have it up next Monday so look out for that. Though, if you’ve been here more than a week, you know how much I love Potter.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

9/12
This is my challenge to read a book from 13 different time periods. You can read about it here. Half of The Virgin Blue was set in the 1500s so I counted it and crossed that one off of my list. I think I’ll have some 1800s books come up soon, but I’m getting concerned about the 1600s book. I might have to take a look at my list for some options, that can be a hard time period. I’m sure I’ll find something for ‘the future.’ I’ve never struggled with that era before so no sweat there.

Goodreads Challenge

20/45
I’m still two ahead of pace. With the big two giants down, I’m feeling like this one will be no sweat at all. Yay!

Book of the Month

PrincipeNo question for me this month because Potter wins everything. It’s got to be Harry Potter y el misterio del principe by J.K. Rowling. I’d forgotten a lot of the details of the book, such as why Snape calls himself the Half-Blood Prince and how Harry and Ginny really dated for a few weeks. It was so fun to revisit.

Added to my TBR

OK, so I added three. I’m not taking the list down any faster with this, but two of them are for book club so they were coming one way or another.

  • Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins. Watkins was part of the Midwest Literary Walk that I went to with my friend Amy and I bought her book and had it signed. I’m so proud of myself for keeping this to one book!
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. When I worked at a bookstore in college, we had hundreds of copies of this book for a Freshman class at the local college. I didn’t read it then and it will be fun to go through it with the book club now.
  • Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Another book club pick, I’m excited to compare this one to the movie!

How are your challenges going? I hope you’re killing it. 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-June-2016

1 Jun

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!

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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?

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.


27 Days_HighResCurrently reading: I don’t think I’ve read a word of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. I might grab a little of it this afternoon, but I’m in no rush to read this one. I’ll savor Larson’s writing for a while.
I’m just about finished with The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose. This has been a great audiobook and is very thought provoking! I really recommend it. I’ve had Evangelical friends before, but I never knew very much about the culture.
I finally started  27 Days to Midnight by Kristine Kruppa over the weekend. I’m not too far into it yet but I’m so excited to read this one! Kristine is a personal friend of mine and I was at her book launch party a few weeks ago where I got my copy signed.

PrincipeRecently finished: I finished Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe (Half-Blood Prince) by J.K. Rowling! That’s a good speed for me to finish my Spanish read of the year so I’m really happy about this one. I won’t tell you how many times I cried, but it was more than five.

I posted my review of The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. Thank you so much to everyone who popped over and took a look at my thoughts! It really meant a lot to me to see you all over there for the day as well. Like I said, I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I would have read it if it weren’t for my book club. 4 out of 5 Stars.

Cat DancingReading Next: I’m going to have time to read off of my bookshelf for a while! This is so exciting, I’m not sure I know what to do with myself. Next on my shelf is The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing by Marilyn Durham. Yes, this is a very obscure title for me, but the author was educated at my university and it was turned into a movie so I’m super curious. I looked for years before finding a copy in a Grand Rapids bookstore. I think it was waiting 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!