Archive | October, 2016

WWW Wednesday, 12-October-2016

12 Oct

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.


stillaliceCurrently reading: I read just a little bit of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. I was hoping it would be more, but I think it was two chapters. Not too impressive.
Still on hold with World Without End by Ken Follett. I now have two people in front of me in line. I hope none of them end up checking it out!
I ended up carpooling to my conference over the weekend so I didn’t listen to much of The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer this week. I try to have it on in the car as much as possible but I’ll probably struggle to get through it. I have it on eaudio as well so if I finish my other book, I’ll pick this one up in that format.
I’ve made moderate progress with Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck, mostly from my runs. It’s not my favorite so far but I’m enjoying it enough. We’ll see how this goes.
I started  Still Alice by Lisa Genova on Sunday night. It seems like it will be a fast read so I’m hoping to get through it well before my book club meets.

Phew! What a list.

slade-houseRecently finished:I got through Slade House by David Mitchell on Friday and my review went up on Monday. I liked it more than I thought I would and it actually makes me want to read more Mitchell! I know, shock! After Cloud Atlas, I never thought that would happen. My book review went up on Monday so go check it out!

My book review of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz went up last Thursday. I enjoyed the book a lot so go check out my review. It got 4 out of 5 Stars from me.

stiffReading Next: My book club’s next pick is Stiff by Mary Roach. I’ll see if I can eaudio this one and maybe read a ‘for fun’ book from my TBR! It’s been a while since I knocked one of those out!


I have a class after work Wednesdays through November so please be patient with me due to delayed responses. I’m checking as often as I can.

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!

My 2016 NaNoWriMo Plans

11 Oct

November is creeping up on me! Yet again, I’m in class and have a final on November 16th. Because of this, I’m going to be waiting until after finals to start NaNoing. And, yet again, I’m going to edit. So my NaNoWriMo is NaNoEdHaMo (National Novel Editing Half Month).

I’m going to try to spend 30 minutes a day editing, but I’m also going to make the stretch goal of finishing editing the second half of my novel! I think I can do it, but this is slightly optimistic.

What are your NaNo plans? Anyone else out there editing? Let me know what you’ll be up to and we can cheer each other on!

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: Slade House by David Mitchell (4/5)

10 Oct

I was very skeptical of this book. After my bad experience with Cloud Atlas, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this (thankfully) shorter novel. But, a shorter length is encouraging this time of year with me so busy with school so I jumped in. I have a lot of thoughts so keep reading!

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

Slade House by David Mitchell

Other books by David Mitchell:

Cloud Atlas (and movie review)

Summary from Goodreads:

Down the road from a working-class British pub, along the brick wall of a narrow alley, if the conditions are exactly right, you’ll find the entrance to Slade House. A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t. Every nine years, the house’s residents—an odd brother and sister—extend a unique invitation to someone who’s different or lonely: a precocious teenager, a recently divorced policeman, a shy college student. But what really goes on inside Slade House? For those who find out, it’s already too late. . . .

Spanning five decades, from the last days of the 1970s to the present, leaping genres, and barreling toward an astonishing conclusion, this intricately woven novel will pull you into a reality-warping new vision of the haunted house story—as only David Mitchell could imagine it.

There were parts of this book I wasn’t ready for. I didn’t realize Mitchell wove his books together so having elements of Cloud Atlas (Spyglass magazine in particular) were weird to me at first. I’ve read elsewhere that this book takes place in the same universe as The Bone Clocks so I’m going to push for that to be my group’s creepy read next year. Like Cloud Atlas, this book was several stories that wove together to create a novel and I thought the transitions were much more fluid and connected in this title than they were in Cloud Atlas. I liked how the characters were all connected to each other and how we slowly learned what was going on with the house. I was super creeped out reading this before bed at the beginning but by the end of the novel, when I better understood what was happening, I was less nervous about having nightmares.

Most of the time I watch a horror movie, I think ‘Why would you do that?’ of the characters. I felt that the guests at Slade House acted in a logical way about 95% of the time. When Gordon went to the room at the top of the stairs, he lost me. Before that and after it, I thought everyone was pretty logical. It was refreshing and somewhat terrifying. If they acted logically and still fell into the trap, would this snare any logical person?

Sally was my favorite. I thought her story seemed really likely. She had a crush on a boy who liked her back and got sucked into something while chasing something that made her feel good. She got a lot of crap from the other ParaSoc members but she seemed to have her head on her shoulders. Plus, she stabbed Jonah, which was awesome.

I felt Freya was really determined and I related to her on that front. Nine years after her sister passed, she’s back in England chasing down a man who might know something and is determined to find out what happened. She was dedicated and curious, too. It was a good combination in a protective older sister.

David Mitchell Image via YouTube

David Mitchell
Image via YouTube

I liked Sally’s story best. By that point, I had a slightly better idea of what was happening but could still enjoy the mystery of what was happening. Nathan and Gordon’s stories were confusing to me and Freya’s explained too much and I didn’t like the POV switch at the end.

I disliked Nathan’s story most. It was so confusing knowing nothing about Slade House and having it through the eyes of an autistic child. I was scared I wouldn’t like the book after that first chapter but I ended up enjoying the rest of it a lot more.

I’m not sure if there is a good theme to talk about for this book. Don’t trust strangers seems the most likely, but I don’t like that as a theme so I’m going to refuse to use it. I think the book was meant to frighten me and it did that. I’m not really sure it had much of a message, only entertainment value.

Writer’s Takeaway: I had minor quibbles with this book overall. Though Mitchell avoided an info dump at the beginning, the one in Freya’s chapter was almost unreadable to me. It was really long and, I thought, overly detailed. I also didn’t like the POV switch at the end, it seemed like a cheat to give a twist ending when I think the twist could have been done another way. Mitchell seems to like the short-story novel format and I’m not a fan, but it works for him. I don’t know if I could write it, but maybe that’s why I’m not famous.

Enjoyable despite minor complaints. 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:
Not a Review of David Mitchell’s New Novel *Slade House* | University of Wisconsin Press
‘It’s a good place to start with this author’ – Slade House by David Mitchell | Bookmunch
Review: Slade House by David Mitchell | William Shaw
Book Review | In Which David Mitchell’s Slade House Teaches Me Something About Myself | One More Page…

Book Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (4/5)

6 Oct

This is one of those books I felt every WWW Wednesday person had read so I decided to pick it up when I had a break while waiting for World Without End to come back to me. (Maybe I’ll actually get it soon? Maybe?) It had been a long time since I read YA and it was long overdue. I don’t think I can write this entire review without any spoilers so be warned! I’ll try to make note of the biggest ones.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Summary from Goodreads:

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

This book was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was deep but still relatable and the characters felt real. I know there’s been a bit trend toward LGBT YA lit lately and I’m glad this was my first major foray into the genre. I have hope for the rest of the books! Both were well developed and I have one criticism that I’ll save for later that took this book from a Five to a Four for me but overall, I really liked it. The setting in Texas was extra appealing to me. In addition to a coming of age story, the boys were also battling the dual identities they felt as Mexican Americans and first-generation immigrants which added a great layer to the story.

Both boys felt very real to me. I thought their teenage problems and concerns were on par with what I felt at their ages. I thought their character progression made sense and wasn’t forced, especially with the length of time the book covered. The parents were very real to me, too. I liked that Jaime and Sam could be friends even though they were so different.

Dante was my favorite character. If the book was narrated by Dante, Ari would probably be my favorite. I find first person narration to feel a bit whiny so I’m inclined not to like the narrator. Dante was dynamic and unashamed and I liked that about him. I loved that he wasn’t afraid of what anyone would think except his parents. I could relate to that. He was very confident and that made him easy to like, too.

I related to Ari because I remember feeling lost when I was in high school. Granted, I wasn’t battling quite the level of self discovery he was, but there were things about myself I was discovering. Unlike Ari, I fought my parents and I was glad that he and his mother had a good relationship and his relationship with his father improved. He felt lost with women and uncomfortable with his body and undecided on how he felt about breaking the rules. I appreciated that in him.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz Image via Latinopia.com

Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Image via Latinopia.com

I like how Alire Sáenz handled the year the boys spent apart. They both grew so much in that time apart and it was great for their character development. Dante discovered himself and Ari found things that made him happy and that made him able to connect with his father. I thought the time moved quickly enough without being slow and the character change didn’t seem rushed which was great.

OK, this will be my major spoiler paragraph so skip if you don’t want the end completely ruined. Are you gone? How about now? Good. I thought Ari’s coming out felt really forced. Granted, I’ve never come out, but as a writer, I try to drop more hints about a character’s feelings before a big reveal like that. There were small hints about Ari’s sexuality but never enough that I felt his parents would have guessed he was gay before he did. I think that’s what bothered me most, that his parents more or less told him he was gay. I felt Dante should have if it needed to happen that way.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Yes, the Hamilton guy. I don’t know too much about Miranda or Hamilton, but he did a great job of narrating the audiobook. The voices he used for Ari and Dante were different enough to follow a conversation but not so different that either was annoying. The Spanish was, of course, not forced and it worked really well.

Above all, I think this book was about love and self-acceptance. Ari had to learn to love his parents and accept that he wasn’t going to be his brother. Dante realized that he was gay and that he was already in love and I thought that was beautiful. Ari’s parents had to learn to love Ari without concerning themselves with their elder son all the time. Ari was always compared to Bernardo and once they could stop doing that, their relationship improved dramatically.

Writer’s Takeaway: The best part of this book for me was how relatable it was. It was amazing to read a book that made me think of my childhood growing up as a white Midwestern straight girl when the characters were so different from me. There’s a universality in the coming-of-age experience and Alire Sáenz captured that wonderfully. Now I’m scared for my future books and if I’ll be as relatable.

A great book with some unforgetable characters. 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:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe- Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Kelly’s Book Space
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Songs Wrote My Story
[Book Review #52] Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz | Book Freak Revelations

WWW Wednesday, 5-October-2016

5 Oct

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.


Before I start, know my mid-term is this evening after work so I probably won’t get to you all until tomorrow! So sorry.

bookofliesCurrently reading: I think I read one page of In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. Yeah, it’s been a slow week for that. We’ll see what the next few weeks hold but I’m not too hopeful this will be a quick one.
Still on hold with World Without End by Ken Follett.
I still haven’t read much of Slade House by David Mitchell. It’s a little creepy so far which is always good for a fall book. It’s not reminding me of Cloud Atlas at all which is a good sign!
I started a new audiobook in the car which is The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer. This is a book where I own a signed copy and I’m very strict about my signed books leaving the house, so I thought it might be better to listen to it rather than limit myself traveling with it so much. I have a long car ride coming this weekend so I hope to get through a lot of it then.
But I still needed an audiobook on my phone so I started Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck. I feel weird about this one because I own the physical book but my shelf is so big that I feel like I’m never going to tackle it without resorting to audio on a few of these. It still feels weird.

aristotleRecently finished:I really enjoyed Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It was just the YA break I needed from the serious literature and non-fiction I’ve been reading. It was fun and I really enjoyed it! Review coming soon.

My review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot went up last Thursday. I enjoyed the book a lot and was already able to discuss it with my book club. That post went up yesterday. I gave it Four out of Five stars.

stillaliceReading Next: The plan is still for Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I might squeeze another audiobook or two in before I start it. Or maybe I’ll listen to it on audio! I’ll figure something out.


I have a class after work Wednesdays through November so please be patient with me due to delayed responses. I’m checking as often as I can.

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 Club Discussion: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

4 Oct

I’d finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks just in time for my book club meeting! It could not have turned out better and I was primed and ready to discuss with the women in my group.

I wasn’t the only one who’d never heard of HeLa before we read this book. Only one person in my book club had heard of HeLa cells or knew anything about Henrietta. I had seen the book countless times but never bothered to turn it over and read what it was about.

Skloot was a very active character in her own book. We were fascinated that she could remember something a community college professor said to her in high school and be so driven by it later in life. What an impactful educator! Skloot had a great relationship with the Lacks family, especially Deborah. I think I would have lost my patience more than the one time Skloot did! They really appreciated that she taught them what they didn’t understand and that she was patient when it came to answers. Her style of writing the book was great for a topic that could be so dense. She kept the ‘science-y’ parts moving and flowed well between times and places so that we didn’t get bored or lost as readers.

Race was obviously a big part of the story. What we wondered is if the modern part of the story would have been any different if Skloot was black. We think the family might have talked to her sooner. They said a few times that white people only came poking around when they wanted something and they were all very distrustful of Rebecca at first. We don’t know if she would have been as successful with the hospitals and getting information there. Being so starkly different from the family made her seem more like a researcher.

It was hard to hear about Henrietta’s upbringing and life. She lost her mother when she was so young, it mimicked Deborah’s distraught feelings about her mother. But it wasn’t just Henrietta, but her whole family that suffered so much. We wondered how Henrietta’s experience in the hospital would have been different if she was white. If she was the same socioeconomic status, we don’t think her experience would have been much different. She still wouldn’t have had the money to pay for a lot of treatments and would have been viewed as a charity case. If she’d been middle class, her treatment would have been the same (it was all they knew), but we think she would have been better educated about what was happening to her and her family would have been more involved in the treatment steps.

We all loved Deborah’s dedication to her mother. Unlike her father and brothers, she wasn’t worried about the money she could get from her mother’s legacy, she just wanted people to know what Henrietta had done. I was particularly moved by the explanation of why the family thought Henrietta was an angle. It was a really beautifully drawn comparison.

The scene where Zakariyya and Deborah seen their mother’s cells was really moving to all of us. To anyone, it would be a moving experience, but for these two, who didn’t understand well what cells were and only knew what they saw was a part of their mother, it effected them in a different way. It was so great that they were able to have a positive experience at Johns Hopkins.

Of course, we had to talk about the ethics of selling human samples. We agreed with one of the proposed solutions, which was a part of the profits going back to disease research. If there’s so much money to be had from selling these cellular samples and always a need for research money, why not shade the ethically grey area with using the money earned to fund the disease research? It seems like a win-win situation.

Our next book will be another disease-focused read with Still Alice by Lisa Genova. We need a happy read eventually!

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, September 2016

3 Oct

This was a pretty good month for me. I was nervous when I had to take a break from my long audiobook but I think everything will be good in the end. I’m making progress toward my goals and I think I’ll be able to finish them all off. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in September:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up // Marie Kondo
Boy, Snow, Bird // Helen Oyeyemi
SuperFreakonomics // Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks // Rebecca Skloot
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe // Benjamin Alire Saenz (review to come)

A lot of audio this month. I’ve not had a lot of free time to read so this might continue until my semester is over. I’m looking forward to reading more in November and December!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

11/12
This is my challenge to read a book from 12 different time periods. You can read about it here. Still looking for a 1600s title to round out this one. Any suggestions from you all?

Goodreads Challenge

38/45
Bam! I was worried that with classes starting I would fail to keep up with this but so far, so good! It must be helping that it takes me 40 minutes to drive the 4 miles to campus during rush hour. Silver lining?

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Book of the Month

I’m going to have to pick SuperFreakonomics. It was so much fun to read and I can’t stop recommending it to people who need something or who might be scared that non-fiction isn’t ‘fun.’ The first book is better in my opinion, but this was a very close runner-up.

Added to my TBR

For the second month in a row, I only added one! Awesome. The beast is now down to 128. If I’m able to ever get it below 100, I’ll throw myself a party. Or at least a celebratory post here.

  • Chasing Water by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides. In case you missed it, I got to meet Anthony Ervin at a local bookstore and it was amazing. I’m looking forward to the book if I’m ever able to get to it!

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!