Archive | December, 2016

Announcing the 2017 When Are You Reading? Challenge

29 Dec

 

when-are-you-reading-2017-finalIf you’re picking out your 2017 reading challenges, add this to your list! I’m hosting the 4th annual When Are You Reading? Challenge! It’s a short challenge, only 12 books, which challenges you to read books set or published in different time periods. Those periods are:

  • Pre 1500
  • 1500-1599
  • 1600-1699
  • 1700-1799
  • 1800-1899
  • 1900-1919
  • 1920-1939
  • 1940-1959
  • 1960-1979
  • 1980-1999
  • 2000-Present
  • The Future

At only one book a month, this one has always been fast and fun. Often I find the books I was going to read anyway fit into the time periods. There are very few ‘rules’ associated with the challenge. I put it in quotations because you’re free to do what you want with it.

‘Rules’

  • Determination of what year a book belongs in is the decision of the participant. On the whole, choose a year where the largest part of the action occurs or the most important event.
  • I will compile a list of those participating on this page but you must link back to this page to be added to the list so that other participants can find us!

It works best if you dedicate a page or post to tracking your books so I can link to it. I had thirteen participants last year and I’m hoping a bunch of you are interested again this year! It’s a fun time for me especially and I love sharing historical fiction with all of you.

If you’re interested, let me know and grab the graphic my fabulous husband designed (amazing, right?) to let others know you’re participating. I can’t wait for you to join!

Pages for the 2017 challenge will be up soon. Check back for updates and further announcements.

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, 28-December-2016

28 Dec

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.


frankieprattCurrently reading: It’s going slower but I’m making my way through World Without End by Ken Follett. The case holding the audiobook is huge! I feel bad for anyone who tries to sit in my passenger seat for the next month or so. I’m really glad to be finishing this one.
Two days of lunch-reading The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge as given me moderate progress. I wasn’t expecting the narration to change between shipmates and I can’t decide if I like it yet.
I’m enjoying  South of Broad by Pat Conroy a lot. It’s making me look forward to my runs, actually. The narrator is excellent which really helps.
While I waited for my ILL to come in, I picked up another ‘available at the library’ book off my list, which is The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time because of the images of the 1920s and its unusual format.

onceuponRecently finished: I finished Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell on Friday. The ending was a bit of a let down after the amazing book but it was still enjoyable. I’m thinking of reading more by this author because I enjoyed the main character, Margo, so much.

Only one book review since last week which is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I really enjoyed Maass’s book and I thought his suggestions were great because they can apply to so many different genres. I’m still planning on going through the workbook one of these days. I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars.

Hanging OutReading Next: I have a loan request out for States of Confusion by Paul Jury but I’m not sure how long that will take to come in. If I finish Frankie Pratt before the end of the year, I’ll pick up Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling from my shelf. If I finish after the new year, I’ll start my customary ‘book in Spanish’ for the year which will be Misterio de la Guia de Ferrocarriles by Agatha Christie, a Poirot mystery. It would be my first Christie book.


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 Gems in Phoenix, Arizona For the Traveling Bibliophile

27 Dec

No vacation for me is complete without a visit to a bookstore. I was in Phoenix a few weeks ago and was able to check out two of them. Woop!

img_3479The first was Book Gallery. I’ve never seen a used bookstore with so many categories and so well-organized! For the first time (I think I can say ‘ever’ here), I found a section on writing AND one on collecting rare books. It was defined down to books about alligators and books about birds and birds in Arizona. I spent an hour looking around and did settle on a book I wanted (an old John Irving that’s out of print). I could have spent even more time looking around, but I wanted to get back to the apartment we were staying in. However, the checkout counter was a glass case filled with old books and the owner was at the register when I walked up and balked at some early editions of Hemingway and Fitzgerald in the case. They were from the early 30s! We had a great conversation and he seemed to know I was a huge book nerd when he mentioned The Great Gatsby wasn’t the best selling of Fitzgerald’s novels during his lifetime and I said, “No, This Side of Paradise was.” (I’m 90% sure of this but can’t find it anywhere.) We then had a long talk about his favorite book, The Kill a Mockingbird and the controversial companion novel, Go Set a Watchman. In the end, I stayed about a half hour after the store closed, his other employee had to close the register out before I made my purchase, and I had a great time. He even showed me his autographed version of To Kill a Mockingbird!!!! It was awesome.

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img_3518The other store I went to was much smaller and shared a building with (of all things) a head shop. (In the picture, you can see the ‘BOOKS’ sign above the ‘GLASS JOINT’ sign. There’s also a sign to the right. I almost walked by it three times.) Lawn Gnome Publishing is a zine publisher operating in Roosevelt Row, the artist district of Phoenix. There were a number of used books, a surprising amount of them children’s and YA. In the back, there were some zines that were published in-house. I ended up buying an anniversary card that was handmade (I think) locally and trying to convince the bookseller to go to Ann Arbor for a bookish-vacation.

It was a great trip for me and it was SO NICE to enjoy the warm weather! I hope to do it again 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 Review: Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (4/5)

26 Dec

I can’t even remember how long ago it was that someone told me I should read this book. She had just finished an online class and said reading the book would be as useful as this professor and a lot cheaper so I asked for the book and workbook for Christmas. The book was the easy part of this adventure. The workbook will be my real struggle.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Summary from Goodreads:

Maybe you’re a first-time novelist looking for practical guidance. Maybe you’ve already been published, but your latest effort is stuck in mid-list limbo. Whatever the case may be, author and literary agent Donald Maass can show you how to take your prose to the next level and write a breakout novel – one that rises out of obscurity and hits the best-seller lists.

Maass details the elements that all breakout novels share – regardless of genre – then shows you writing techniques that can make your own books stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace.

You’ll learn to:
establish a powerful and sweeping sense of time and place
weave subplots into the main action for a complex, engrossing story
create larger-than-life characters that step right off the page
explore universal themes that will interest a broad audience of readers
sustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finish
develop an inspired premise that sets your novel apart from the competition

Then, using examples from the recent works of several best-selling authors – including novelist Anne Perry – Maass illustrates methods for upping the ante in every aspect of your novel writing. You’ll capture the eye of an agent, generate publisher interest and lay the foundation for a promising career.

I was afraid this was going to be a book about how to follow a cookie-cutter pattern to write a book that will sell well. I’m so glad it was not. Maass’s advice is specific yet very general. Raise the stakes. There are many ways to do this. Make your setting well-defined. This is more important for some genres than others. It gave me a lot of ideas for my book without telling me what to do and I liked that.

I liked Maass’s advice about subplots. I realized my subplot grows very weak in the second part of the novel when my main plot is going through a lot of changes. I really need to be sure both plots stay active and interesting throughout the story. Maass’s advice about effective subplots was really good and this was one of my favorite parts of the book.

Donald Maass Image via Writer's Digest

Donald Maass
Image via Writer’s Digest

I thought the final section on theme was a bit repetitive. When Maass talked about picking a premise at the beginning, I felt he implied a lot of this information. Hitting on it again at the end was a down way to end the book to me. I guess my thought process is that if I have an idea for a story, I should know what I’m trying to say with that story. It should be woven into the entire book, not something I think about later. But maybe that’s how I plan a book and some people needed to hear it more than I do.

Maass’s advice seems to be mostly for published authors. I was a bit taken aback at how dismissive he was of writers who have not been published. I figured the book would be about writing a first novel that’s a best seller but I guess Maass recognizes that this rarely happens. Your breakout novel is more likely the second, third, or even later one you write. His point is that the book that is well written will end up selling the most copies so you should strive to be sure every book is well written, not squeezed out to meet a deadline. You have to love what you’ve written.

Writer’s Takeaway: Jeez, this whole book is a Writer’s Takeaway! I guess the notes I made about how I need to improve my characters and plot are my takeaways, but I don’t want to share those here. I really do hope to publish one day and you can hear about that journey when I get there.

A truly helpful book on writing. 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!

Book Club Reflection: The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante

22 Dec Cover Image via Goodreads

I’m not alone in my dislike of the characters in this novel but it seems a lot of my fellow readers didn’t dislike the whole book because of it. I was surprised at the mixed reactions of our group when we got together to discuss The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante. We wanted to read this one because Time Magazine lists Ferrante as one of the most influential people. She’s also called the ‘best known least known’ writer in Italy. Despite her popularity, no one knows who she is, only that she lives in Naples. She’s credited with linking the old Italian writing style with a new style. I’m going to have to give her writing another try.

One of the women who attended our group was a guest to us. She’s active in other groups in the area but hadn’t been to one of our meetings before. She decided to come because she lived in Italy for a part of her childhood before moving to the US and had wanted to read one of Ferrante’s books. She read a few more after this one before our group met and loved them all. She said she wanted to know what American-born readers thought. Listening to her talk about her experience with the book made me like it more, to be honest. There was a lot about modern Italian culture that I didn’t pick up on because I’ve never lived there. We couldn’t picture the people and setting very well because it wasn’t something familiar to those of us who didn’t grow up in Italy. We didn’t understand the class and regional differences in the writing. Leda was brutally honest, but the focus of her wrath was not always very apparent to us.

Part of what I didn’t like about the book was that Leda was so selfish and unlikable. Yes, she was honest, but to most of us, that could only go so far. She seemed damaged by her own childhood with a mother who continually threatened to leave her. Leda had the nerve to do what her mom always talked about and actually left. We found it odd that she made a point of being meticulous in her pregnancy (page 122) but once her daughters were born, seemed to neglect them. It was hard to read (listen) to her talk about not comforting her children when they cried. She wanted people to like her and understand why she did what she did, which was hard to do. She wanted Gino to like her and think she was right and she grew so mad when he didn’t agree. It was like when she flirted with her daughter’s boyfriends and was mad when they didn’t return her affection. She was so selfish.

The doll said a lot about Leda. She wanted to be the hero to the Neapolitans on the beach, the lower class people who Leda thought should look up to someone educated like herself. She seemed jealous of Elena and Nina. They were close like her family never was and was likely to never be again. She wanted to make them suffer, to be as unhappy as she was. Once she had the doll, she kept trying to fix it, to make it pretty, but what was inside it was so dark and dirty, coming out over and over unendingly. We felt she inserted herself into their story so she could be a part of it just to feel important.

There was something I caught that some didn’t so I wanted to see if anyone else caught it. Nina’s family was part of the Camorra, the Italian mafia based in Naples. It’s implied when Gino talks about them being bad people. Did anyone else catch that? Only some of our group did.

A few people pointed out that if you reread the first few pages after finishing the book, you can see that the whole thing is told in flashback after Leda gets into a car accident. She has a pain in her side and wakes up in a hospital seeing her family around her. The pain is a reference to her stab wound but we couldn’t decide if we thought her family had come from Canada to see her or if she was hallucinating. My vote was for hallucinating. Thoughts?

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, 21-December-2016

21 Dec

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.


southofbroadCurrently reading: I have good news about World Without End by Ken Follett. I lost my eaudio hold on it (sad face) BUT it turns out my library has an unabridged copy on CD! I swear when I looked before it was only an abridged copy but I asked and was pointed to an unabridged version. I’ll continue with it on CD but it will take a bit longer to finish this way.
Minimal progress on The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge, mostly during my lunch breaks once or twice per week. The good thing is that this is a shorter book so it won’t take long to finish it even at my slow pace.
I’m still in love with Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell and I wanted to have it finished before now. I’m hoping I won’t drag it out longer than next week.
I needed a new eaudiobook so I started  South of Broad by Pat Conroy. Despite its length, it seems short compared to World Without End because it’s half the length!

Recently finished: Nothing finished this week. (Insert sad face here.)

However, I got a few reviews up. The first was for The Tempest by William Shakespeare which I posted on Monday. I think I need to see the play live to really appreciate and understand it. The audiobook was a little much to follow. 3 out of 5 Stars.
The second was Only the Paranoid Survive by Andrew S. Grove which I posted yesterday. The book felt very dated to me and it was hard to think how Grove’s advice would apply to me. 2 out of 5 Stars.

statesofconfusionReading Next: Gosh, I really don’t know. I guess it’s time to turn to another library book which would leave me with States of Confusion by Paul Jury. I saw a funny video Jury made about his travels that got me interested in this book. It requires an interlibrary loan so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it comes in. If it takes some time, I’m sure I can grab something off my shelf to fill the time.


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: Only the Paranoid Survive by Andrew S. Grove (2/5)

20 Dec

I hadn’t had a Goodreads account very long when my boss mentioned this book as one ‘everyone should read.’ I’m not sure under what context he read it, but it was instantly added to my TBR where it lingered for 3.5 years. I now have a little break from my book clubs and I’m determined to read books from my shelves and from the library to cut down my TBR. It’s going slowly, but it’s happening.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Only the Paranoid Survive: How to exploit the crisis points that challenge every business by Andrew S. Grove

Summary from Goodreads:

Under Andy Grove’s leadership, Intel has become the world’s largest chip maker and one of the most admired companies in the world. In Only the Paranoid Survive, Grove reveals his strategy of focusing on a new way of measuring the nightmare moment every leader dreads–when massive change occurs and a company must, virtually overnight, adapt or fall by the wayside.
Grove calls such a moment a Strategic Inflection Point, which can be set off by almost anything: mega-competition, a change in regulations, or a seemingly modest change in technology. When a Strategic Inflection Point hits, the ordinary rules of business go out the window. Yet, managed right, a Strategic Inflection Point can be an opportunity to win in the marketplace and emerge stronger than ever.
Grove underscores his message by examining his own record of success and failure, including how he navigated the events of the Pentium flaw, which threatened Intel’s reputation in 1994, and how he has dealt with the explosions in growth of the Internet.

Because of my old boss’s praise, I was expecting a lot out of this book. I’m wondering now if it was a letdown because I had an older edition that did not include a chapter on how to apply the lessons to your personal career. Hm. The book felt very dated to me and to be fair, Grove wrote it in 1996 with different editions coming out periodically. The stories felt old and the ‘scary times’ he describes are from a time when I wasn’t paying attention to the news let alone the microprocessor industry. It didn’t strike a chord with me. The most distracting thing was how Grove frequently talked about the internet like it wouldn’t revolutionize computing. The dated feel was hard to shake. Another thing I didn’t like was how even though Grove tried to relate to other industries, those examples were very short of details and it all came back to Intel. The book would have been better marketed as a book about running Intel because it didn’t seem to translate well to other industries. Instead of helping to identify a strategic inflection point (Grove’s name for a time when change is needed), he tells you how it felt to him at Intel. This is a little too soft to be helpful.

Grove comes off as the hero of his story but I believe he is a hero at Intel. If he wasn’t, I don’t think he’d get a book about him published. He doesn’t name others in his story so he’s the only person we can see the transformation through and, as he’s written the book on it (literally), he is great at finding the inflection points he talks about.

I’m a bit confused about where the title came from. Grove never mentioned being very paranoid or why being paranoid is a good thing specifically in the book, though it’s implied a paranoid person would be better at identifying strategic inflection points because he or she would be paying attention to the signs that they’re coming. I think Grove should have been a bit more straightforward about this.

I feel like I’m a paranoid person sometimes. I did like that Grove gave me a few things worth being paranoid over, though I’m not sure how helpful they will be unless I’m a CEO. I think this book could be good for small business owners, too. Anyway. I thought ‘listening to Cassandra’s’ was a fun lesson but I’m worried I’m more likely to be a Cassandra than be in a position to listen to one. I guess it’s letting me know to speak up?

Andrew Grove Image via The Seattle Times

Andrew Grove
Image via The Seattle Times

The best and worst part of the book (at least my edition) was the final chapter on the internet. With about 20 years of ‘seeing what will happen,’ the advice and predictions were laughable. Grove’s inclusion of this topic made the book seem dated more than it should have. It was funny to read the things that were wrong and insightful to see what a doomsday approach many were taking know what’s happened from this side of time. I wonder what we’re blowing out of proportion now that others will laugh about in 20 years.

 

The overarching theme I got from this book was to always be on your toes and not to be afraid of making big changes. The change Grove took Intel through changed their core business and was risky. Grove realized, though, that the risk of not moving was greater. Look at the number of companies that we’ve lost who didn’t adapt including, the greatest loss to me, Borders. Barnes & Noble developed the Nook and ebooks where Borders failed to adapt. Kodak fell in a similar way. Sticking to your guns can be the most dangerous in a technologically advanced world.

Writer’s Takeaway: Books don’t always age well. Technology will change and things that seemed futuristic in the 50s seem outdated or ridiculous now. Reading dystopias such as Huxley’s Brave New World now can seem silly. At the same time, it’s easy to read old books and think ‘that would be solved with smart phones.’ It’s hard to write a book that won’t feel dated, but I think the less technology involved, the better. One of my WIPs is a contemporary book and while texting and phones play a big part in the plot, I try to limit references to them to keep the content slightly more timeless.

Enjoyable book but not very applicable to the average businessperson in the 21st century. Two 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:
Andy Grove: Only the paranoid survive | Quite a Quote!
Book Review: “Only the paranoid survive” – Andy Grove | value and opportunity

Book Review: The Tempest by William Shakespeare (3/5)

19 Dec

This might not have been the best book to ‘read’ as an audiobook. It was a bit hard to follow aloud and I’m not sure how well I would have followed it on stage, to be honest. I’d like to see it on stage and see if I follow better, though. This book did help me complete a reading challenge and entertain me on my first ever 10K run!

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Summary from Goodreads:

In The Tempest, long considered one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays, Prospero—a magician on an enchanted island—punishes his enemies, brings happiness to his daughter, and comes to terms with human use of supernatural power. The Tempest embodies both seemingly timeless romance and the historically specific moment in which Europe begins to explore and conquer the New World.

Its complexity of thought, its range of characters—from the spirit Ariel and the monster Caliban to the beautiful Miranda and her prince Ferdinand -its poetic beauty, and its exploration of difficult questions that still haunt us today make this play wonderfully compelling.

The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place, using illusion and skilful manipulation. The eponymous tempest brings to the island Prospero’s usurping brother Antonio and the complicit Alonso, King of Naples. There, his machinations bring about the revelation of Antonio’s low nature, the redemption of Alonso, and the marriage of Miranda to Alonso’s son, Ferdinand.

I got really confused about the characters. Listening to the play, I would get Alonso and Antonio confused and forget which was Prospero’s brother. I think that would be easier watching it on stage and be able to follow actors instead of the litany of names that I was given before the narrator started reading the play. Truth right now, I just read the SparkNotes summary and I’m not surprised I had trouble following the plot. It’s a Shakespearean comedy to be sure and I love the twists and turns the Bard takes. Prospero changes his mind about things very quickly, though. which makes him frustrating. Though after being Kind of an island for 12 years, I might not be the most agreeable person either.

Of course, Shakespeare’s comedic characters are only just believable enough to keep reading. They do silly and ridiculous things all through the play but the things they pine after (women, power, freedom) are universal. I understood why Ferdinand didn’t mind working for Miranda’s sake or why Sebastian and Antonio might consider killing their King to gain status themselves or why Ariel appeases Prospero’s every wish to hopefully gain his freedom. Their motivations are enough to make their absurd actions justified.

I liked Ariel. He seemed reluctant but he was also having fun in how he tricked the sailors. He didn’t like being forced to serve Prospero (because let’s face it, Prospero was kind of a huge jerk) but he was thankful to be free of the tree where he was trapped and he liked the degree of freedom he was given to do what Prospero bid him. Causing chaos is always fun, right?

Miranda reminded me of myself in middle school. There’s a boy interested in me?! Let’s get married! It was endearing to see her young and sudden love with Ferdinand and I thought it was cute. I was a little surprised Ferdinand returned her affections so quickly but if she is as beautiful as described, I guess he can fall in ‘love’ in the same quick moment.

William Shakespeare Image via Wikipedia

William Shakespeare
Image via Wikipedia

Ferdinand and Miranda made my favorite scenes of the book. I think that the young Romeo and Juliet style of love is so fun to see on stage and it’s something I love about Shakespeare. I’m glad that things worked out for them, though! I don’t know if I could have taken a sad ending between the two.

The relationship between Ariel and Prospero bothered me most. Prospero, who I take as the hero of the story, is very rude and demeaning toward Ariel and it made it hard for me to like him. Ariel did everything Prospero asked and Prospero still kept him a slave, stretching out his servitude a bit each time. It was like he was reneging every scene!

Oddly, the name of the narrator for this audiobook isn’t listed in the file information and I couldn’t tell you what he said! It’s from Saddleback Educational Publishing. I wish the narrator had used more voices for the different characters. This would have been hard with the many characters but the only voice that was at all different was Miranda, which took on a more feminine tone. I think I got many of the characters confused because of this. Even though their names were said before each line, I would get the names confused without them having their own voice.

Prospero is power-hungry and wants to be the puppet master of the island but the task is too much for him and he has to rely on Ariel and Caliban for a lot of the work. I think Shakespeare was writing a comedy about what happens to those that try to control everything. It never works out exactly as planned. I know I can be like this in my life and I’m sure many of you can think of examples. I don’t even have magic to make it easier!

Writer’s Takeaway: Though I usually like Shakespeare’s twists and turns, I felt like this one was a little too complicated for my liking. Simple plots are easier most of the time and while a little twist is good, making things too complicated can confuse readers (such as myself). I’ve tried to keep my plot and subplots as simple and straightforward as I can but it’s something to revisit, especially considering my audience.

The format brought this book down for me. Three out of Five Stars

This book fulfills the 1600-1699 time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge and just like that, I’m done! Woo!

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
The Tempest is Coming | Bell Shakespeare
Works Inspired by The Tempest | The Tempest UCM
Chicago Theater Review: ‘The Tempest,’ with Magic by Teller | Variety

Book Club Reflection: Stiff by Mary Roach

15 Dec stiff

I was apprehensive when our book club picked Stiff for our November selection but I could get the audiobook and I decided not to complain. The audiobook turned out to be amazing and I really loved the book. I was wondering what my fellow book-lovers would say. This is a book that’s hard to talk to people about unless they’re reading it too!

Mary Roach has written several books about unusual topics though Stiff was her first. She’s lived most of her adult life in California and her background is in magazine writing. She stuck mostly to travel writing and light science before Stiff.

A lot of the things covered in the book were things we hadn’t considered. The decay studies stuck with us all. I will say that the Wayne State Universities studies lasted the longest with me. I actually went to Wayne State for a work trip and got it all set up to see their crash barrier before my appointment. Unfortunately, the professor didn’t want to take me into the cadaver prep area. I’m actually kind of glad. The book seemed to oddly focus on my area of Detroit because the McCabe Funeral Home mentioned in the book is less than a mile from my library and I drive by it every time I go there. For anyone else who is interested, a librarian called them to ask about their new cremation techniques. It turns out the state shut them down before it could ever get off the ground. They objected to human remains going into the water supply.

The ethical distinctions between if the soul resided in the brain or heart were really interesting to us. Roach did a good job of explaining why it mattered so much. Another thing she made very clear was that decisions on what happens to a cadaver ultimately should be left up to the family. The living are the ones who have to live with either respecting or going against the desires the deceased had about what to be done with his body. We also discussed where a person is buried and if it’s done in the manner he or she asked for. The deceased won’t have to live with the decisions, but the family does.

A lot of our members felt there were parts of the book that were hard to read. The black box chapter was hardest for a lot. Roach tried to use humor in a lot of the book and sometimes it wasn’t enough to distract from the gruesome topic, the black box being one of those times. Most of the time, the disrespect seemed to be more about what was being done to the cadavers, not in Roach’s writing. She did keep a very detached style which must have helped her deal with her topic. One reader complained that in addition to being detached, the writing seemed to jump subjects a lot and felt a bit disjointed. We wondered if that was how Roach’s brain worked.

Hearing about grave robbing made it easy to see where Mary Shelly came up with Frankenstein. We thought the chapter on cellular memory had the same creepy feel to it. It was almost a disappointment to hear that those who claimed they had characteristics of their donors did not have corresponding claims. We wondered what someone with an animal donor might claim!

A few of our members had personal connections to the book. One reader had done a cadaver lab in college. She found it was hard to cut the body ad disassociate it from a living person. She recalls that not all of the students were as respectful as she had been or had wanted everyone to be. The procedures described in the book sounded different from her memories and she thinks protocols have changed since her time in the lab.

Another member had a family member who had been a breathing cadaver. She remembers that the staff had been very respectful of her family member, talking to him while they were waiting for all the doctors who would be receiving the donations to arrive at the hospital. Like Mary describes, the donor is treated more like a patient than a cadaver.

We’re not meeting in December but we’ll reconvene in January to talk about Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. I’ll be starting it 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!

WWW Wednesday, 14-December-2016

14 Dec

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.


onceuponCurrently reading: A lot of my progress with World Without End by Ken Follett came to a halt while I was on vacation. There wasn’t a good time to listen to the audiobook between enjoying the weather and hanging out with my traveling companion. I lose the hold tomorrow and I’m afraid it’s going to be another small eternity until I get it bad. Sad face.
I didn’t make much progress The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge. Her books are easy to get back to so I’m looking forward to it when I find the time.
I am devouring Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. I’m completely in love with Margo and her terrible life that she’s managing to not only survive but thrive in. I can’t wait to keep reading this one!

breakoutRecently finished: I finished Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass the morning I left Phoenix and I enjoyed it a lot. I got some great ideas for things to change in my book. I’ll be starting on the workbook as soon as I get those changes incorporated into the story and I’m excited to get it out to beta readers!

And reviews! This tidal wave will keep coming, I promise. First was Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler which I really enjoyed. It had the flapper view of Zelda I missed in an earlier book. 4/5 Stars
The second was In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, a long-awaited one for those who have been with WWW for some time. It was worth the wait and, as it happens, I ran into a man at the airport on Sunday who was reading it! He had wonderful things to say about the book as well. 4/5 Stars.
Finally, The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante. This book was not my favorite but I’m still determined to read another of Ferrante’s books that’s on my shelf. 2/5 Stars

southofbroadReading Next: I have another book club selection on my shelf, South of Broad by Pat Conroy. This one is a chunkster so I’m hoping to get started on it with plenty of time to read it before the book club meets at the end of January.


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!