Archive | August, 2018

WWW Wednesday, 15-August-2018

15 Aug

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. 


Currently reading: Still on hold with Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I’ll have to see about finding this in another format so I can wrap it up soon.
I’ve made slight progress in The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar. I’m reading it slowly during lunches but while the weather is nice, I’m eating outside with my mom a few times a week which takes away at my reading time. I’m enjoying the story and I hope to get back into it soon.
I was able to start Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger and I’m loving it so far. The writing is lyrical and fun and I’m very interested in the focus family!
I’m so fortunate that I’m the first person at the library to get the audiobook copy of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I’ve had my eye on this one for a while and it was recently picked as my book club selection for September and I’m beyond excited to start reading it.
I started a new book on my phone and this time around it’s The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. I read another of Lahiri’s novels a few years ago and adored it so I’m excited to see what else she’s got!

Recently finished: I finished The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan on Thursday. I’m really excited to have finished another book, especially one I was working on for a while. I enjoyed this in both audio and print forms so that I could keep it up while on vacation. My review went up yesterday. I gave it Three out of Five Stars and I’ll be reviewing the movie tomorrow!
I wrapped up Dreams of Joy by Lisa See on Monday. I’ll tell you a secret. I usually write these the Sunday before just to make sure I have it scheduled and I’m usually 99% correct. This week, I was so far off that I had to re-write this Monday night! It changed so fast. I didn’t think I’d finish this one but I powered through because the end was so good. I’ll have a review up next week. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

My review for The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver went up on Thursday. This was a big winner for me and I gave it Four out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan on Monday. Many of you saw this on my list for weeks and weeks but it’s thankfully wrapped up and I’m so excited to have moved on! I gave the book Two out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’ve just started so many books that I’m really not sure. I think it will be a physical book and I’m leaning toward starting something to help me finish my historical fiction challenge. I’m getting a bit anxious about finishing that. I have the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s to go. I’ve got to start some planning!


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!

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Book Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (3/5)

14 Aug

I ran across this book at a used book sale a few years ago and realized it was a shame I’d never read Amy Tan before. It seemed about the right time to fix that problem. I didn’t get to it for another three years. I started this book on audio but I had to return it to the library before I left on vacation. At the urging o some readers, I decided to take a physical book on my trip to read before bed and avoid looking at my screen before sleep. Being the packing minimalist I am, I took my physical copy and cut it in half, taking only the half I hadn’t read. Hate me if you must! I’m keeping the second half of the book. It’s a fun memory.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Summary from Goodreads:

In 1949, four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. With wit and wisdom, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between these four women and their American-born daughters. As each reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined…

I think I did myself a disservice reading this at the same time as a book by Lisa See that also focused on the hardships of living in China. I would sometimes mix up the plots and think I had been reading something in one book that was in the other. The vignette style of this book was really fun. I enjoyed getting to know the women and their daughters, how their lives interacted and affected one another. I would sometimes get confused about who was related to who and without the first half of the book, it was a bit hard to reference sometimes. I liked how the book resolved in the end. I have the DVD ready to watch as soon as I finish this review and I’m excited to dive into it.

I loved how Tan gave us so many representations of the Chinese immigrant and first-generation experience. Her characters were all very unique individuals and their daughters were even more unique. I thought she built a strong community of women who had their own heartbreaks that they’d suffered and were going through the immigrant experience together as best they could. It seemed a logical group to share such stories with and I loved the candid sharing they did.

Waverly stuck in my head best. Her story of being a young chess champion and how she selfishly threw it away came back in other stories that shared how selfish she was later in life and how the rest of the community felt about her. She stuck out to me because her mentality was so different from the rest of the women. I’m not sure she was my favorite character, but she was the most memorable.

I didn’t personally relate to many of the women but their stories reminded me of friends from school who were first-generation children. A good friend of mine from high school was first-generation from Taiwan and the stories of many of the daughters reminded me of her stories. The distance she would sometimes feel from her parents who didn’t ‘understand’ American culture in the same way she did and who disliked a lot of the music and entertainment we enjoyed were similar to the impressions I got from the daughters in this book. It’s obvious that Tan herself is a first-generation immigrant child.

Amy Tan
Image via Harper Collins

I liked the beginning and ending stories that surrounded the book. Using the idea of a daughter returning to China and teaching her about China and how life in America is different was a great way to frame the novel and introduce the characters. I was excited when I got to the end and could hear the rest of Jing-Mei’s story. It gave a solid ending to a series of short stories which can be very hard to do.

I can’t name particulars, but there were some stories that didn’t interest me as much as others. That’s to be expected in a series of short stories so I’m not surprised. I can’t think of any that I really disliked or wouldn’t read again. Most of them were just a bit slower than others, nothing really negative. I gave this book the rating I did mostly because of the short story format. It’s not a favorite of mine.

The audiobook that I listened to for the first half of the book was narrated by Gwendoline Yeo. I loved hearing Yeo’s narration because she gave great voices to the daughters and mothers. Her inflection was right in line with Tan’s writing (which I found out when picking up the print). I think she was a good choice. The sound quality of the item I picked up wasn’t the best but that’s nothing against Yeo.

Mothers and daughters have very complicated relationships. Children tend to not think of their mothers before they became mothers. Many of the mothers in this book compared their daughters to their young selves. When the daughter doesn’t know what she’s being compared to, reactions can be hard to read. I can see this a bit in my relationship with my mother though we don’t have the cultural differences these women did. Just generational differences.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m not a huge fan of the vignette style but I think Tan made it work. It’s not something I’m brave enough to try, though. Developing so many small plots and having them work into an overarching story is incredibly difficult. Tan crafted it beautifully and it’s hard to believe this is her first novel.

A great story just not told the way I wanted to read it. Three 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:
The Joy Luck Club | The Rise of Asian Americans from 1970 to 1989
Book Review: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan | The Blog of Litwits
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan | Reading Post-Colonial Literature

 

Book Review: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (2/5)

13 Aug

I had hoped to go to the book club discussion of this book but I didn’t finish it in time. I was also a bit time-pressed before my trip so I decided I’d skip the meeting but still finish the book. I think it’s taken me longer to finish the book than it should have, but I persevered and finally finished it up when I got back from vacation. This review may be a bit scrambled as I try to remember what I read it in over a month ago when I started.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

Summary from Goodreads:

Landmark, groundbreaking, classic—these adjectives barely do justice to the pioneering vision and lasting impact of The Feminine Mystique. Published in 1963, it gave a pitch-perfect description of “the problem that has no name”: the insidious beliefs and institutions that undermined women’s confidence in their intellectual capabilities and kept them in the home. Writing in a time when the average woman first married in her teens and 60 percent of women students dropped out of college to marry, Betty Friedan captured the frustrations and thwarted ambitions of a generation and showed women how they could reclaim their lives. Part social chronicle, part manifesto, The Feminine Mystique is filled with fascinating anecdotes and interviews as well as insights that continue to inspire.

The fact that this was published in 1963 was glaringly obvious. The idyllic ‘Leave it to Beaver’ perception of women and the housewife mentality is something I have no personal connection to and that my mother had no personal connection too. I’m very removed from the generation that suffered under the mystique which made this book seem antiquated while reading it. I can see how reading it in the 1960s would be eye-opening and life-changing, but I didn’t find it relevant anymore and had to look at it as a historical piece more than anything. More than anything, it made me want to talk to my grandmother who was born in 1932 and was raising my mother and her other six children during the 1960s. I can see studying this book in the context of US history or the course of the feminist movement but as a ‘for fun’ read, it was quite a struggle to get through.

Betty Friedan
Image via Harvard University

Friedan did a lot of interviews and research while trying to find the source of the problem with no name that she eventually labeled the mystique. These interviews were my favorite part. I enjoyed hearing how the mystique manifested itself in real women’s lives. Even in some that seemed happy, there was a river of sadness that they couldn’t overlook. I think there are women who can be happy as housewives, but I don’t think there are many. In my job, I see a fair number of women returning to work after their children have grown up and they’re always really excited to work again. I think having a purpose outside the house gives you a sense of value if you can’t find it at home and I’m glad Friedan was able to communicate that.

I felt that the book was a bit repetitive. The mystique was well described and established by the end of the second chapter, about 100 pages in. The book is over 500 pages long! I felt Friedan tried to explain the mystique for far too long before she talked about how it affected women and how to solve it. I think the book should have focused more on those topics and less on describing the phenomenon.

There was clearly a backsliding in women’s liberation during the 1950s and 60s. I think it’s great that Friedan could identify it and trace its origins. It’s important to know how the backsliding came about and what could be done to regain the footing women had in society before WWII. I think most of it has been resolved, though we’re not yet equal. I feel there are other groups that have lost some ground in equal rights that could learn from Friedan’s research though I’m not sure if the source will be as easily identified.

Writer’s Takeaway: Though interesting, I think this book went on far too long and provided more history than it should have while lacking in solutions. I think having some proposed solutions taking up the second half of the book would have been more interesting. Her call to action was a bit weak I felt so rather than motivate me to act on behalf of women, I was more intrigued by researching the problem.

This book was a slog for me and I wouldn’t recommend it as a ‘for fun’ read. 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:
The Feminine Mystique: “We’ve Become the Girls We Hate” | Half-Way to a Mid-Life Crisis
The Feminine Mystique & Helicopter Parents: Why We Still Need Betty Friedan | Dr. Christy Tidwell

Book Review: The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver (4/5)

9 Aug

I read another book by Shriver, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and found it terrifying and riveting at the same time. I found a copy of another title she wrote on the bargain shelf at Barnes and Noble and decided I needed to read it. I eventually grabbed it as an ebook that I took with me on vacation to Europe. I skipped a siesta in Spain to finish it and enjoyed the story structure immensely.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

Other books by Shriver reviewed on this blog:

We Need to Talk About Kevin (5/5)

Summary from Goodreads:

Children’s book illustrator Irina McGovern enjoys a quiet and settled life in London with her partner, fellow American expatriate Lawrence Trainer, a smart, loyal, disciplined intellectual at a prestigious think tank. To their small circle of friends, their relationship is rock solid. Until the night Irina unaccountably finds herself dying to kiss another man: their old friend from South London, the stylish, extravagant, passionate top-ranking snooker player Ramsey Acton. The decision to give in to temptation will have consequences for her career, her relationships with family and friends, and perhaps most importantly the texture of her daily life.

Hinging on a single kiss, this enchanting work of fiction depicts Irina’s alternating futures with two men temperamentally worlds apart yet equally honorable. With which true love Irina is better off is neither obvious nor easy to determine, but Shriver’s exploration of the two destinies is memorable and gripping.

I didn’t realize it was a parallel-universe structure until I was a few chapters in. I read this book very slowly at first during my lunches at work but I got into it a lot more when I realized what was happening with the structure and even more so on my travels in Europe. It was interesting to see how the same events in Irina’s life (Christmas with her mother, snooker tournaments, world events) played out depending on which path she was on. My only disappointment in the book is that I could see how it was going to end when I was 2/3 of the way through. It was a bit of a let down when it actually happened.

I loved all of these characters. Irina was a good mix of compliant and rebellious, selfish and selfless. Both fates worked for her character. Lawrence was both intolerable and lovable, as was Ramsey. It was easy to draw similarities and stark differences between the two. Irina’s mother was a great addition to round out the cast.

Ramsey was my favorite character just because you didn’t know what he’d do next. He was volatile but I really started to love how predictable he was at the same time. His chapters were more fun to read because you knew when he was going to blow up but you had to watch it happen, which was always a joy.

I had a boyfriend in high school who Ramsey reminded me of so I could sympathize with Irina. He was jealous and pushy like Ramsey but we didn’t have the same emotional connection that Irina and Ramsey shared. It reminded me of how unhappy I was in that relationship and how unhappy Irina was at times. I wanted her to leave him but I could see how she was really happy with him at the same time. It was a tough boat to be in.

Lionel Shriver
Image via The Times

I loved the two books Irina wrote, differing depending on which man influenced her work. It was cool to see how Irina and her motivation didn’t change, though the reasons she went for the project was different. I liked how the comparative quality of the books was slightly different as well, depending on who was around her. I don’t want to give away much more!

Because I could see the end coming, it was a bit of a let down for me. I wish I could say something different because the ending was so well done, but I said what I thought to my husband and when I finished it, I was waffling between Four and Five Stars. I only went with Four because I guessed the ending.

Irina’s life was very different in the two plots but also shared a lot of similar elements. She wasn’t going to escape certain heartaches and joys. Life went on in both stories, for better or for worse. No matter the decisions we make, we can’t see the far-off consequences and we can’t say if we’ve been right or wrong with them for years. In life, there may be some decisions that are definitively bad or good, but many fall somewhere in the middle.

Writer’s Takeaway: I really enjoyed the alternating chapters and alternative universes of this book structure. I was a little confused as to what was going on at first because I didn’t read the back cover of the book, but that’s a problem I bring upon myself. I would get excited when a chapter ended and I could jump into the other world. It kept the pace of the book going strong. I’m not sure I would recommend this format because I think it could go badly, but Shriver nailed it.

This was a great book and one I really enjoyed. 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:
The Post Birthday World | Charlotte’s Web
The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver | A Little Blog of Books
The Post Birthday World by Lionel Shriver | Honeywhitlock

WWW Wednesday, 8-August-2018

8 Aug

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. 


Currently reading: I’m still making my way through Dreams of Joy by Lisa See and I’m hoping I’ll have it finished by next week. I need to start running more which means more time to enjoy this book!
I decided to take The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan with me on vacation and read a paper copy before bed at night. I didn’t quite finish it but it’s my main focus now in print. I think this will easily be finished next week.
I started Bel Canto by Ann Patchett as an ebook while I was on vacation but the hold came due and I stopped about halfway through. I’m anxious to pick it up again but I’ll probably wait until the ebook is available rather than find it in another format.
When I lost Bel Canto, I picked up The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar. I’m not far into it at all but I’m hoping to make some steady progress. I’m not sure when, though. My ebook reading will likely drop off now that I’m back from vacation.

Recently finished: I finished two! First was The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver which I finished while I was in Spain. I really loved this one and enjoyed the plot structure more than I anticipated. It was a great one to pick up when I was traveling and I’m looking forward to writing a review to post tomorrow. I’m giving it Four out of Five Stars.
I finally finished The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan! I got home from vacation and decided to plop myself in the armchair until it was finished. It’s one I’m glad I’ve read but that I’ll never touch or be tempted by again. I’ll have a full review for next week but let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. I gave the book Two out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: My book club is meeting at the end of the month so I’ll next pick up Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. I don’t know anything about this one but grabbed a used copy at a fundraiser. We’ll see how it goes!


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!

How Does Your Writers Group Work?

7 Aug

Right before I left for vacation, my writers’ group met. To get my mind off how stressed I was about the trip, my husband insisted that I go. Normally, a member of the group volunteers to run the session and talk about an aspect of writing that they know about or have researched. This time, no one had volunteered.

This group used to have a library staff member assigned to it who would think of the topic. Since she left the library, we’ve taken turns running it. It’s become a bit tiresome with only a few members coming frequently and talking about topics they feel knowledgeable about. We’ve had to repeat topics and many people have dropped off because of the repetition.

This meeting, we talked more openly about how we come up with ideas for writing and how we structure our writing. It was a good discussion, but a lot more free-form than we’re used to. We tried to decide if we thought this was a good thing or not and decided that different isn’t bad and that we would try a different format for our next meeting.

Next month, every person is supposed to come with 5-10 minutes of material to talk about. It can be something you know or something you’ve just looked up but this should take pressure off of the people who are always presenting and get more people invested in running the group. We’ll see how it goes. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but it will be a nice change.

Does anyone else belong to a writers’ group that’s not a critique group? This is the first group I’ve been a part of that didn’t focus on what was already written. We’ve done some short critiques in the past but it’s never been a focus. I’m curious if there are any other groups who work like us.

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, July 2018

6 Aug

I’m back! After spending the last two weeks of July on vacation, this seems like the perfect way to dive back into blogging and catch up a bit on what I missed while I was gone. Probably not my best reading month since I was gone for so much of it, but I’m excited to report what I can. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in July:

Critical Chain // Eliyahu Goldratt
The Fifth Assassin // Brad Meltzer
The Post-Birthday World // Lionel Shriver

Honestly, I thought it would be worse. I knew I was going to fall a bit behind on books while I was gone but finishing three was better than I hoped for. I’ve finished one more so far in August and I think I’ll wrap up another two in short order. I can still do this!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

7/12
Again, no change. I’ll have to start targeting specific books soon so I can finish this with no major issues before the end of the year. I’ll have to look into a new audiobook for my car to fill some in.

Goodreads Challenge

27/55
Now I’m five books behind, yikes! Like I said, I’ve got a few that will finish up shortly but I’ve really got to start reading a bit more to make this challenge work. Is it cheating to read shorter books? I might read some shorter books to make this work out for me in a reasonable time.

Book of the Month

Easily, the winner is The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. This book kept me entertained while traveling and I loved the premise of it once I got a bit into it. The idea of one night that can change the course of your life so drastically is awesome. Shriver did great work with this one and I’ll have to look and see what else of her’s I can enjoy soon.

Added to my TBR

I’m down to 93! Nothing new was added this month which is incredible for me. I’ll keep chipping away at the pile. I’d be most comfortable with it below 50 but we’ll see what I can do.

Personal Challenge

I used these monthly posts to keep myself accountable to my personal goals for 2017 and I’m excited to do that again this year. You all were so supportive before.

  • Graduate and keep my 4.0- No change during the summer. My next (AND LAST) class starts at the beginning of September so we’ll see then.
  • Travel to Europe with my husband- DONE! It was an amazing adventure and I’d love to go again. I’ll be posting about it in my ‘Off Topic Thursday’ at the end of the month.
  • Complete a race per month- I thought we were doing a charity bike ride in July but I had the wrong dates and we’ve moved it to September. In a scramble, my husband found us a race a few hours away called the Swinging Bridge 5K. It was a really small but fun race and we both had pretty good times. Hopefully there’s no more scrambling like that for us again!
  • Complete a 2018 Weather Blanket- I haven’t touched it so I’ve got the whole summer to do. Maybe I’ll get started on that soon, it could take me a few days to catch up.

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for 2018, 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-August-2018

1 Aug

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. 


I’m on vacation! I’ll be back next week and will have a very full update of what I’ve been reading while I enjoy my European vacation. Today, we’re in Reykjavik doing a Whale and Puffin watching tour!

I’ll be checking the blog and reading comments as time allows. If I don’t get a chance to say it later, happy reading!


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!