Archive | December, 2018

Bottom Five Books of 2018

31 Dec

After having fun picking out my top five books, I liked the idea of picking out my bottom five as well. These are ones I don’t recommend based on my experience, and I’ll explain why that was as best I can.

#5: The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert

Like my Top Five, this list also features a lot of Book Club selections. This was one we universally did not appreciate. There was some allegory in the story, I’m sure, but none of us got it. We ended up confused and unsure about what we were supposed to think. There were elements to the book that were fun, but most of them were creepy and confusing. I think this book was over-edited to the point where only those who read earlier drafts understood what happened in the final one.

#4: The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Unpopular opinion here, but I really disliked this one. A lot of my book club felt the same but obviously, there were some who felt another way with this one winning the Man Booker Prize. There were funny parts to be sure, but on the whole, the satire was too much for me and I couldn’t let myself enjoy the story as a whole.

#3: The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

I don’t think many of you are surprised to see this one here. It rambled and was very confusing and it took me months to finish it because I kept finding excuses to focus on something else. When something struggles that much to keep my attention, I know there’s a real issue.

#2: Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire

I’d almost forgotten about this one before I went back through my books to get this post together. It’s my only One Star read this year. However, the fact that I forgot about it is why it’s not #1. Again, this one rambled without a real semblance of heading to a point. I felt that I could have skipped the entire story and moved to the third in the series without issue. I was really disappointed after liking the first book so much, though maybe I don’t want to reread it now.

#1: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan

This was the biggest struggle I had all year. It had a good message and a lot to say, but it felt too dated to me. If I’d read it in the context of a book with historical significance, maybe I would have enjoyed it more. Maybe I would have recognized that it was there to teach something once and that the lesson had been heard. But I read it for a book club meeting and tried my darndest to finish it before the meeting without success. This book reflected the age in which it was written and with myself being born 30 years after that age, it didn’t speak to me at all.

Well, there you have it. It felt right to do the bottom after praising the top. Everything else fell somewhere in the middle. Not a bad place to be.

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!

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When Are You Reading?: Challenge Insight 2

27 Dec

For the 2019 When Are You Reading? Challenge, I’ve moved the time periods around a bit. One of the reasons is that I was finding it more and more difficult to find books for the 1600s time period. If you’re thinking of doing the challenge in 2019, you’ll have more leeway with 1500-1699. However, if you want to read a 1600s book, here are a few suggestions.

I’ve still got a few days to finish my Shakespeare of the year. I should still manage.

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, 26-December-2018

26 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. 


Currently reading: I’m out of lunch breaks for the year and I really have to finish Henry VIII by William Shakespeare! This is my last book for the When Are You Reading? Challenge 2018. If this isn’t finished before the end of the year, I’m going to be very mad at myself.
I’m enjoying Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott but the holidays have kept me busy and away from it more than I’d like. I’m sure I’ll get it wrapped up, it may just be in January.
I started two new audiobooks! I finished my physical audiobook in my car and decided to start on another whopper, The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan. It’s a whopping 21 disks long (though I swear the book doesn’t look that long!) so I’ll be on this one for quite a while.
I started a new eaudiobook as well, Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. I read Lawson’s first book for a book club a few years ago and loved it. My brother gave me a signed copy of this book for Christmas a few years ago and I’m finally listening to it because I’m paranoid about a signed book being damaged.

Recently finished: I was able to finish up The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati while baking Christmas cookies, which was a wonderful way to finish a book. I was really disappointed in the ending despite great writing and good characters. I debated my rating for a while but ultimately ended on Three out of Five Stars. I’ll be reviewing more books in the new year.
I wrapped up People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks over the weekend as well. I liked the ending of this one more, but there was one flaw in the main character that really peeved me right at the end. Another Three out of Five Stars rating.

Reading Next: I’ll start Before the Fall by Noah Hawley later today as my husband and I head to Ohio for family Christmas. I’m getting excited!


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!

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec

In lieu of a post today, I just want to say Merry Christmas to those celebrating, and a Happy Tuesday to everyone else. I’ll be back tomorrow with WWW so we can keep reading until the new year.

Until next time, write on.

When Are You Reading?: Challenge Insight 1

24 Dec

I want to focus on and feature the When Are You Reading? 2019 Challenge this week. And I want to give myself a break over the holiday. Double win.

I’ve moved some of the time periods over the past few years but there are always a few eras I enjoy more than most. 1500-1699 is great for European history and always seems to delight. The future gives me fun ideas of how our world could change.

But far and away, my favorite is 1920-1939. I think this is a great period for US history, involving Prohibition and the Great Depression. For the rest of the world, Depressions and pre-World War II events were happening as well. With so much of our world involved in WWII, it’s interesting to see what built up to it. I’m also a little sick of the WWII novels out now (just too many to count!) and can appreciate the change an inter-war era book brings.

What’s your favorite time period? Let me know in the comments and consider joining in this challenge to push yourself to read others.

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!

Top Five Books of 2018

20 Dec

This will be my last ‘real’ post of the year so I thought I’d end with a bit of a summary. I went through the books I’ve read this year and pulled out five that seemed to stand out to me. I’ll count backwards to my best book of the year.

#5: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

I didn’t expect to put a YA on this list as I read so few, but this one grabbed me. I liked the voice once I got used to it and even if I didn’t agree with the character, the book explained how he became the man he was. I liked that.

#4: Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs

I love a good memoir and to me, Jacobs is the king of memoirs. He’s funny and informative all at once and I adored every second of this book. I’m excited to have one of his in the wings to read should I ever need a pick-me-up.

#3: Ordinary Grace by William Ken Krueger

This book was just wonderful. I loved the writing and the story captured me early on. I was sucked in and never let go and I wish I could read it again for the first time.

#2: That Night by Chevy Stevens

It may be the novelty of finding a good mystery but I really enjoyed this book. It was well paced and kept me guessing right until the end. It was wonderful for long falls runs, too!

#1: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Yay for a book club pick! Two made this list which shows the power of book clubs. This novel was fast paced and kept me reading well past the time I should have shut off the light. It was twisted and logical at the same time and I both cared about and hated the main character. It was a great mystery.

And there we have it! I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for me and what books I’ll have on the list then. Any thoughts on these winners?

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, 19-December-2018

19 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. 


Currently reading: I have been utilizing my baking time to listen to The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati. I felt like I was absorbing the story well, but there’s a new character and I can’t remember where she came from. Maybe I’m not as great at audiobooks as I thought.
I’m still making progress with People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks though it has slowed down. I think I’ll finish by the end of the year. I think.
There have been a lot of lunches where I don’t read Henry VIII by William Shakespeare which has slowed me down a bit. I’m determined to finish this one so I can wrap up my reading challenge, so I’m still confident I’ll finish it!
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott has been enjoyable so far. She’s very funny and I like her simple writing advice. It makes me feel like I can still be a writer!

Recently finished: Nothing this week. I’m feeling good about next week, though! I think I’ll have a fair number to put here, at least one with a goal of up to three!

I was able to post my review of Brainiac by Ken Jennings on Thursday. It was a really fun read, great for vacation. I gave it Four out of Five stars.

Reading Next: I found a copy of Before the Fall by Noah Hawley and convinced him it will be an awesome one to listen to in the car. Honestly, it didn’t take a lot of convincing, he’s pretty relaxed and trusts my book recommendations. Smart man.


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!

Giving Books for Christmas

18 Dec

This year, I came into a situation that should be a bibliophile’s dream. My brother-in-law and his girlfriend both asked for books for Christmas! However, I panicked and am getting them socks instead (sorry if they somehow read this!). But I had to wonder, why was I panicking?

I honestly don’t like getting a lot of books for Christmas. I feel an obligation to read them and sometimes they’re books I wouldn’t have picked out and don’t want to read. Sometimes, they’re amazing. But I’m feeling pessimistic because it’s the holidays so I’m going to focus on the negative.

I still have books for Christmas three years ago on my TBR. I have some from last year, too. I’m in no rush to get to them and that’s fine with me. However, every time I see those people (and one is my husband so it is quite often), I feel like I have to explain why I haven’t read their gift yet. It’s a bit overwhelming.

So I don’t want to give them stress for Christmas. Even more, I don’t want to get them books they already own. Or books they don’t want to read at all or have no interest in reading. I’m trying to help them live a zero-waste and zero-stress life. They live in Colorado, so I figure that’s what they’re after all the time.

So I’ve devised a plan. I’m going to put recommended reading lists in their stockings. That way, they can look at the book summary online and decide if it’s one they want to read. They can ignore my suggestions and I won’t be hurt. They can find the book at the library and not be stuck with it if they hate it. Best of all, they can ‘lose’ my list in the trip back west! It’s foolproof. Right?

Help me out, readers. What lists would you recommend to 25-year-olds who like fiction? I have a few in mind but I need to fill up these lists. The more, the merrier.

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!

Get Ready: 2019 When Are You Reading? Challenge

17 Dec

I’ll post about this weekly for the next month or so. I’m excited to kick it off today! Look at this amazing image my loving husband put together for us this year. Isn’t it great?

I’ve decided on one small change this year. I’ve struggled to find books set in the 1600s for two years. It’s just not a very exciting time in world history! So I’ve decided to make 1500-1699 one category, 1300-1499 another, and make the earliest Pre-1300. We’ll see how this helps this year. So, here are the time periods:

  • Pre 1300
  • 1300-1499
  • 1500-1699
  • 1700-1799
  • 1800-1899
  • 1900-1919
  • 1920-1939
  • 1940-1959
  • 1960-1979
  • 1980-1999
  • 2000-Present
  • The Future

Quick and simple! It averages to one book per month, a cinch for readers like you! I usually find I fill up 2/3 of the time periods without trying and then find myself searching to fill the last few around October. It’s really a joy and I’ve loved doing it the past few years. I’ve created a homepage for the challenge and I’ve got my progress page all set up. If you want to join in, let me know! I’ll add a link to your progress page/post or blog to the list of participants.

I hope you’ll join me. Happy reading!

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: Brainiac by Ken Jennings (4/5)

13 Dec

I got this book for my mom years ago and I kept thinking that I’d like to read it at some point. I guess now is that point. I got a copy from the library (that just happened to be large print but whatever) and took it on vacation with me. It worked out perfectly that I finished it when I was waiting at the airport for my ride to pick me up and take me home.

Cover image via Goodreads

Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs by Ken Jennings

Summary from Goodreads:

One day back in 2003, Ken Jennings and his college buddy Earl did what hundreds of thousands of people had done before: they auditioned for Jeopardy! Two years, 75 games, 2,642 correct answers, and over $2.5 million in winnings later, Ken Jennings emerged as trivia’s undisputed king. Brainiac traces his rise from anonymous computer programmer to nerd folk icon. But along the way, it also explores his newly conquered kingdom: the world of trivia itself.

Jennings had always been minutiae-mad, poring over almanacs and TV Guide listings at an age when most kids are still watching Elmo and putting beans up their nose. But trivia, he has found, is centuries older than his childhood obsession with it. Whisking us from the coffeehouses of seventeenth-century London to the Internet age, Jennings chronicles the ups and downs of the trivia fad: the quiz book explosion of the Jazz Age; the rise, fall, and rise again of TV quiz shows; the nostalgic campus trivia of the 1960s; and the 1980s, when Trivial Pursuit® again made it fashionable to be a know-it-all.
Jennings also investigates the shadowy demimonde of today’s trivia subculture, guiding us on a tour of trivia hotspots across America. He goes head-to-head with the blowhards and diehards of the college quiz-bowl circuit, the slightly soused faithful of the Boston pub trivia scene, and the raucous participants in the annual Q&A marathon in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, “The World’s Largest Trivia Contest.” And, of course, he takes us behind the scenes of his improbable 75-game run on Jeopardy!

But above all, Brainiac is a love letter to the useless fact. What marsupial has fingerprints that are indistinguishable from human ones?* What planet has a crater on it named after Laura Ingalls Wilder?** What comedian had the misfortune to be born with the name “Albert Einstein”?*** Jennings also ponders questions that are a little more philosophical: What separates trivia from meaningless facts? Is being good at trivia a mark of intelligence? And is trivia just a waste of time, or does it serve some not-so-trivial purpose after all?

* The koala
** Venus
*** Albert Brooks

This book was fun to read. Jennings bounced back and forth between his journey on Jeopardy! and trivia about trivia. He gave you ten trivia questions in each chapter with the answers on the last page, much like the book summary. It was fun guessing the answers as I went through so that I looked forward to reading more.

I thought Jennings portrayed himself in a very realistic way. He admits that he’s good at memorizing facts but that he’s not great at his job. He is passionate about trivia, not computer programming. He’s realistic about his parenting and his son. It’s hard to know a lot about a person from watching them on a trivia show and reading their tweets, but I felt like the Ken in this book was the Ken I knew from Jeopardy!

I love collecting fun facts, though I’m no trivia wiz and only lasted one Quiz Bowl meeting. I related to his excitement at hearing something new for the first time. I got emailed 116 new fun facts today and it was the highlight of my morning. I understood the distinct difference between his passion and his job. I liked how he wasn’t afraid to let his ‘nerd flag fly,’ something I’ve been working on lately.

Ken Jennings
Image via the AV Club

I liked the narration of Ken’s time on Jeopardy! I think it’s interesting he focused most on his first and last games. I think those would stick in your mind best so it made sense to me. I liked how he wrote about Nancy, who beat him. It was very complimentary and not hostile. He wasn’t angry that he lost and recognized that he was simply bested.

I thought some parts about the history of trivia and the books that had been published about it were a bit dull. I enjoyed the anecdotes about Stevens’ Point Wisconsin and A.J. Jacobs better. One chapter on history would have been fine, but I think there were three and that was a bit much.

Jennings dove into a subject many people don’t think about. For many, Jeopardy! is something to watch after dinner while you have dessert or while you iron (my mother). For some, it’s a life goal and an obsession. I feel that I have a niche obsession sometimes (Harry Potter, Titanic, books) but when I go somewhere that attracts those same people (Universal, museums, libraries), I don’t feel as alone. I think this book would help those who might feel their trivia obsession isn’t as accepted as some others and I liked celebrating that with Ken.

Writer’s Takeaway: I loved the trivia questions in the back! It was so appropriate to bring trivia into a book about trivia. I know it’s not feasible to do this for every non-fiction topic, but it can be done. Swim workouts in a swimmer memoir, book recommendations when talking about publishing. It works sometimes!

I really enjoyed this fun read. 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!

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