Archive | September, 2018

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (5/5)

11 Sep

I first heard of this book because of its incredible run at the top of the NYT list. Then my sister-in-law posted about it. She lives in Katy, TX which has banned the book in its schools. She got a copy of it and read it and loved it. (Seems a good soul was buying copies and filling the Free Little Libraries with them.) That was enough to get it on my TBR. Then my book club picked it and I had no excuse but to pick it up and read it. I’m so glad I got through it before the movie and while there are so many people to talk about it with.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

I was really blown away by this book. Starr’s life is complicated and Thomas doesn’t narrow it down to just one plot line. She recognizes that there are a lot of things going on in Starr’s life and they’re all impacted by Khalil’s death. I liked how everything ran together and impacted one another though it did mean that a lot was left unfinished when the main plotline wrapped up. The characters were great and I loved how fleshed out the majority of the side characters were. Thomas set a high standard with this as a first novel. I can’t wait to see what she does in the future.

I loved all the characters in this book. Starr is brave but we see that it’s hard for her to be that way all the time. Her family loves her a lot and recognize that they’ve gone through a lot to get to where they are. Their struggles are very real and the people around them are very real. Small details like Lisa’s mother being a retired drama teacher made them all come to life even more and I adored it.

Maya and Seven were my favorite characters. I honestly can’t pick one. Maya was a great balance to Starr. She came from privilege but still dealt with people like Hailey say, the micro-aggressions that end up being very uncomfortable and rude to a minority. I liked that her perspective was worked in. Seven was a really interesting character because of his relationship to Starr, Lisa, Maverick, Kenya, and King. I loved how he protected his sisters and how he had a back-and-forth relationship with Iesha. I adored how much Lisa cared for him and took him into her family. I also loved how strong he was and how smart he was and how the utilized that to stay strong. I had a lot of respect for him and what kind of character it took to be himself.

I felt Chris was the easiest character for me to relate to. He understood the impact of what was happening around him and wanted to help but he didn’t physically fit into the group that was protesting. He was comfortable but uncomfortable at the same time. He experienced the cultural clash that Starr had lived on a daily basis. His perspective amplified how much the Carter kids had to deal with and how bicultural they had become.

Angie Thomas
Image via the National Book Foundation

I thought the opening chapters were really well written, probably the best in the book. I have to imagine that Thomas re-wrote them a number of times and I think she hit gold. Being introduced to Starr and Kenya and learning about Khalil the way we did was great and it delivered a strong punch when he died even though I’d just met his character. I thought it was impactful that we spend a lot of time with Starr in Garden Heights before seeing her in Williamson.

I felt DeVante’s storyline was a bit more than the book needed. I think someone else could have ratted on King without pulling in another character who shadowed Maverick’s path out of the King Lords. It wasn’t that I disliked DaVante’s story, I just thought it was repetitive.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Bahni Turpin. She was incredible. She had a voice or inflection for each character so it was easy to figure out who was talking. The only one I didn’t like was Hailey but I ended up disliking that character so it seemed to fit in the end. I adored the emotion she put into Starr because there were some very emotional scenes for her character. Overall, I think it was one of the better narrations I’ve heard.

This book is very timely and addresses a lot of issues going on in the US now. It made me question the way I look at minorities and challenged me to overcome the stereotypes I hold and question where they come from. Showing how unconscious bias can be deadly and how that can impact a community was really powerful. I think this should be taught in schools and I think the movie that’s about to come out will help spread this powerful message.

Writer’s Takeaway: Thomas did a great job of getting into the head of a 16-year-old girl and making it relatable to someone of a different generation and race. It was great to get her personality with her reactions to her mother and father using colloquialisms that mirror my own thoughts. I think Thomas has an amazing career ahead of her and I’m so excited to see what else she can deliver.

This was an amazing book and one I highly recommend to anyone who’s reading this. Five 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!

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas | Reviewing Shelf

Book Club Reflection: Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

10 Sep

My book club met recently to talk about a book I adored, Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger. Thankfully I’m not completely out on my own and almost everyone in our group really liked the book.

Krueger is primarily a mystery writer and has a series focusing on the Ojibwas. He is a back-to-back Anthony Award winner, an award given to mystery writers. He wakes up at 5:30 AM and writes long-hand in wire-bound notebooks. Krueger did not finish his degree at Stanford after he was forced to leave due to some student protests he participated in. He currently lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The first thing to talk about was Bobby Cole’s death. We were all hoping Doyle was somehow involved and that there was a dark side to him after all. With all the sneaking around he was doing, we wanted something more to be afoot. We felt the explanation that Cole was just a spacy kid to be a bit vague and didn’t feel that mystery was completely solved.

Karl’s death was a surprise to us all, too. We debated if it was an accident or suicide. From what we know, both are plausible. We hoped Jake didn’t feel responsible for Karl’s death. He was trying to help Karl by explaining he wasn’t a murderer, he was simply a ‘faggot.’ Too bad he didn’t know what he was saying. He wanted to help so badly.

The Drum family took up most of our discussion. Frank was a great narrator. He was very understanding of people’s differences and gave us a rather unbiased view of people in town. He only briefly mentioned his sister’s harelip and his brother’s stuttering never seemed to phase him. Karl’s sexuality never made him think differently. A lot of people weren’t the person others thought they were and Frank helped the reader see through that. He and Jake were under a lot of pressure to be the perfect sons of a minister and they dealt with the pressure rather well.

Ruth dominated the second half of the book. She never wanted to be a pastor’s wife and felt she gave everything up for Nathan and his way of life. She thought of him as God and she was angry with God and took it out on Nathan. Nathan clearly cared more for his wife than she did for him. It was hard to see how much she pined for the life she could have had with Emil. She seemed to keep her smoking and drinking inside the house as much as possible until Ariel’s death but it seems some people still noticed and didn’t think that was appropriate for the minister’s wife. Ruth is the last one who would care.

In a way, we felt Emil was responsible for the whole book. If he’d never left Ruth, if he’d left Ariel well enough alone, all the tragedy could have been avoided.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough. We all gave it two thumbs up. Our next book has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, I’ve already read it and feel it’s a worthy follower. 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!

Writers’ Group: Scenes

6 Sep

It’s finally time for the long-awaited follow-up to last week’s post about my writers’ group meeting. OK, maybe I was the only one anticipating it. A girl can dream.

The last person to present at our meeting talked about scenes. I loved that this came after the discussion of chapters because it helped me understand the difference between the two. There can be multiple scenes in one chapter or a scene can span several chapters. The two do not have to be linked in any way.

A scene requires three things that advance the plot: a goal, a conflict, and a resolution. Sometimes the resolution is a disaster but it should still advance the plot. A scene is followed by a sequel. These are always done together and shouldn’t be split. This involves a reaction (usually emotional), a dilemma, and a decision.

So, here’s an example that happened to me before writing this. My husband is on his way to work (goal) and realizes he doesn’t have his name tag (conflict). He calls me and we realize it’s still on his dirty work shirt from yesterday (resolution). He’s frustrated (reaction) but knows that his boss will be more upset if he’s late (dilemma) so decides to forgo the name tag and be on time for work (decision). Simple but real. You can see how it would work out in a novel. One writer recommended highlighting all of these points in different colors if a scene feels like it’s missing something. Also, she recommended putting the dilemma and reaction right next to each other. They can be odd when spaced out.

The decision should bring bout the next goal. In my example, I’m dropping off his name tag before heading to a friend’s house (goal) at which point I have to decide if I’ll have a drink from the bar before leaving (conflict). TBD how this will resolve!

Much less frequently used are incidents and happenings. Incidents are when a character attempts a goal and accomplishes it with no resistance. This doesn’t make for very good reading but can advance a complicated plot. If my husband had found a spare name tag in his car, his problem would have been solved. A happening is when people are brought together or something for a later time is set up. A scene last week of him having another name tag made wouldn’t have had an immediate effect on his life then than but would have built well to today’s scene.

Quick reactions can help keep pacing fast. There are several different kinds of reactions. All or one of these can be included but they need to be done in this order if more than one is included.

  1. Visceral
  2. Physical/involuntary
  3. Voluntary

If you think about it, any other order wouldn’t make sense. I’d never considered this before but now I keep thinking about it every time I do anything!

Thank you to everyone who stuck with this through the prolonged name tag example! I think I’ll have that drink after all.

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, 5-September-2018

5 Sep

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 impatiently waiting for Bel Canto by Ann Patchett to come back to me. I’ll have to make a tough call about abandoning my current read for it, but I think it would be worth it. Right?
In the meantime, I’ll try to finish The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar so it won’t be abandoned. It’s a wonderful book but I’ve been enjoying these last warm days by eating outside when I can which means visiting with friends. It’s hard to think of it as a bad thing.
I’ve made some good progress with The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri and I’m enjoying it a lot more now. I’m going to be more focused on running in the coming months as I prepare for a fall half marathon so I should start to work through this one quickly soon.
I’m still early in The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl and it hasn’t quite grabbed me yet. I think it will pick up soon given how the last chapter went but I’m not completely invested just yet.
I started a new audiobook for my car that will stay on this list for quite a while. I decided to pick A Column of Fire by Ken Follett to fulfill the 1500s time period of my When Are You Reading? Challenge. It’s a long one, about 30 hours of audio. I think this will take me well over a month to finish. And that’s if I’m lucky!

Recently finished: I absolutely loved The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The audiobook was amazingly narrated and the book itself was well written and thought-provoking. I can’t wait to discuss it with my book club. I’m giving this a full Five out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: No plans again this week. I’m not close to finishing any of my current books and I don’t have any book club picks pressing at this time so I’m going to enjoy not knowing what’s going on.


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!

Challenge Update, August 2018

4 Sep

This was my chill month. It was supposed to be time to relax after my vacation before I start class tonight. I think I can say it was pretty chill. I can’t say reading was always a top priority but I got through a fair amount. I’m happy with it at least. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in August:

The Feminine Mystique // Betty Friedan
The Joy Luck Club // Amy Tan
Dreams of Joy // Lisa See
Ordinary Grace // William Kent Krueger

Well, it could be worse. I’ve had a few too many slow months in a row, though. I need to pick it up though this is not a good time for me to try reading more. This is when my reading usually slows down. I’m going to need a plan. Maybe a read-a-thon is in order?

When Are You Reading? Challenge

7/12
Nothing this month. The plan is underway to knock this out by the end of the year so I’m feeling confident that it will happen! Two more are in process now and the final two have been picked out.

Goodreads Challenge

31/55
I’m still five books behind! I’ve finished one more this month, so that should be four, but I’m still hurting in this department. I think it’s time to start picking short books on purpose to get myself in line with this goal!

Book of the Month

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger is a clear winner for me. The writing was incredible and it’s made me want to look into everything the author’s written. That’s a clear sign of a good book! My entire book club loved it as well, which I’ll be writing about next week.

Added to my TBR

89! This is incredible and I’m so happy to have brought it down so much. I only had one addition this month so I’m feeling pretty good.

  • The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson. This was recommended to me by another blogger when I gushed about how much I loved the plot structure of The Post Birthday World. It doesn’t hurt that it focuses around books!

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- My final class starts today. Wish me luck!
  • Travel to Europe with my husband- DONE! I talked about it last week with my Off Topic Thursday so check that out for details.
  • Complete a race per month- I didn’t plan well for this month. I had two races in the same weekend! Saturday was a 5-mile race. A friend of mine asked me to run it with her so we went her pace and I didn’t push myself. On Sunday, I had a 5K swim race I’ve been training hard for this summer. It went really well! This was only my second time doing the distance and I was 38 minutes faster! It was a completely different course with no current which I can attribute 20 minutes of that droppage to, but I’m blown away with the rest. Can’t wait for that one next year!
  • Complete a 2018 Weather Blanket- I caught up to August 18th. I’ll let myself get behind again before I 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!