Archive | February, 2019

Off Topic Thursday: Volunteering

28 Feb

I heard somewhere that the Millennial generation volunteers more than any generation before us. I’ve also heard this is because we have no money because of student loans, but I’m going to focus on the good side of this. I have two groups that I volunteer my time with that I’d like to share.

The idea for this post came to me while I was on the train to Chicago for a conference. When I was in college, I joined a co-ed business fraternity, Delta Sigma Pi. The group provided me with amazing leadership opportunities, scholarship money, and recognition for the work I did. I enjoyed it a lot and upon graduating and moving to Detroit, I got involved with the alumni chapter as well as serving as a mentor for a local university. Each chapter has a designated mentor and I’ve been in the role for four years and have enjoyed my time doing so. It allows me to stay in touch with the collegiate members and help them develop themselves as leaders and professionals the way I was able to do in school. I was heading to Chicago to represent our alumni chapter in a voting session and visit my friends from my collegiate days, including an old roommate. It’s a perk that I get to see great friends while I do this.

The second position is with my local Friends of the Library board. I’ve been a board member for six years and have slowly taken on more responsibilities as time allows and as I move toward holding a position. I’m the unofficial ‘bookie’ right now, securing entertainment for our annual Gala event in the summer and helping to put on our fundraiser event in the winter. Most recently, I booked a barbershop quartette to sing show tunes. I like being able to advocate for the library in my community and help direct funds to new programs to serve the patrons. It really aligns with my passions and it’s been a great position for me.

I’m sure there are a ton of other ways I could volunteer and share my time, but these are my big two now. Who else out there volunteers? Anything you particularly enjoy? Anything that lines up with your passions?

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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WWW Wednesday, 27-February-2019

27 Feb

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 moving steadily through Origin by Dan Brown. I haven’t had a lot of lunch reading time to move through it, but I’m finding as much time as I can. It’s nice to have this to turn to when a little time presents itself.
I began listening to  Books for Living by Will Schwalbe in my car. Since I’ve heard him speak, I keep hoping he’ll suddenly start narrating the book, but no luck with that so far. I’m glad this one is short after the last Amy Tan odyssey I was on.
I grabbed the next book off my TBR shelf and started The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. It was serendipitous because I grabbed the next book off my shelf to take on a train trip to Chicago and when I looked at what it was, realized I bought it in Chicago the last time I was there in 2015. Too funny!
I started a new eaudiobook. With all the riding I’m doing, they’re going fast. I found a copy of Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, which has been on my TBR for ages. I guess with one of her books being made into a movie, more copies of her past books are available. Fine by me!

Recently finished: I finished The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan late Wednesday last week. It was a bit of a relief to be done with it, I wasn’t enjoying the middle of the book even after I enjoyed the beginning. The end was good, but I wish it had been more consistent throughout. I posted my review yesterday.
I finished Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson over the weekend while traveling back and forth to Chicago for a conference. I think I may take a break from YA for a bit, I feel a bit ‘teenaged out’ after a few YAs in a row. I also have to decide if I’ll finish the series, but I’m honestly thinking of not doing so. My review will be up next week.
I was able to finish You Are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg with all of the bike time I had. This book was perfect for me to read right now and I’m so glad I was able to enjoy it while training for my 70.3. It was the perfect thing to keep me motivated during the first few hard weeks while my body was adjusting.

Reading Next: Since I’ve been flying through audiobooks on my phone, I have another one on hold: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. I love Larson’s writing and it will be fun to have one of his histories to enchant me while I am riding for hours on end.


Leave a comment with your link and 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: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan (3/5)

26 Feb

I picked up a copy of this book when it was clearanced at the local big box store. At the time, I hadn’t read anything by Tan. This past summer, I read her for the first time and I was excited to read this one. I guess I thought it would be similar to her other book. Boy, was I wrong.

Cover Image via Goodreads

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

Other books by Tan reviewed on this blog:

The Joy Luck Club (and movie review)

Summary from Goodreads:

A sweeping, evocative epic of two women’s intertwined fates and their search for identity, that moves from the lavish parlors of Shanghai courtesans to the fog-shrouded mountains of a remote Chinese village.

Spanning more than forty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement resurrects pivotal episodes in history: from the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty, to the rise of the Republic, the explosive growth of lucrative foreign trade and anti-foreign sentiment, to the inner workings of courtesan houses and the lives of the foreign “Shanghailanders” living in the International Settlement, both erased by World War II.

Of course, as always, I didn’t read the book summary. And reading it now, even if I had, I don’t think I would have realized it focused so much on courtesans as it did. Violet grew up living in one, worked in one, and almost owned one at a point. This didn’t bother me too much at first, but it got to be a bit much and it felt grating and tiresome after a while. I felt there were a lot of side plots unnecessary parts of the book. Violet’s marriage to Perpetual is a major one and I grew frustrated during that part of the book. The story was very long and in the end, I felt it could have been shortened.

For the most part, I felt the characters were credible. However, there were times I found them a bit hard to stomach. When Lucretia and Violet lost their children, they seemed very resigned to this fact. I couldn’t buy that. I couldn’t believe that a mother would have her child taken from her and lay in bed for three days and then be OK. It seemed a stretch and not one I was inclined to forgive twice. Other than that, I liked the characters and how they were developed.

Magic Gourd was a great character. I liked her sarcasm and wit and her fragile image of herself and how Violet had to speak to her to keep things going between the two of them. I marveled at her dedication to Violet and the way she was quickly made into a family member wherever Violet went. I was glad she got to tell her story a bit, too, and share how she came to be a courtesan.

These characters weren’t ones I related to well. Their living situation was very different from anything I’ve experienced and the things that motivated them weren’t things I’ve ever experienced or been motivated by. I think this is part of why this book felt like a chore for the majority of the middle. I lost interest in the character’s lives.

Amy Tan
Image via Harper Collins

The flashback to Lucretia’s childhood through the end of the book interested me most. Finding out how much the women’s’ lives parallelled each other was interesting and I liked how we found out about Flora’s life and how things had turned out for her. She was such a major character who we also knew so little about. It was a really interesting way to see a character and I liked her a lot.

I disliked the long advice that Magic Gourd gave Violet about being a courtesan. I feel bad saying this because I think Amy Tan narrated this part and I wonder why she felt that part was what she wanted to narrate. I didn’t feel it was necessary information beyond Magic Gourd’s background and story. It felt like filler, background information that had been found and that was added into the story because it was too painful to cut.

The audiobook had three narrators: Nancy Wu, Joyce Bean, and Amy Tan. I’m not sure between Wu and Bean who narrated Violet and who did Lucretia but both did a great job. I liked how they read with sarcasm and emotion. These were very emotional stories and their emphasis and emotion were well deserved. As I mentioned, Tan read Magic Gourd’s chapter and it was a segment I didn’t particularly like. I’m fairly certain it was her because the part wasn’t as well performed as the professionals, which didn’t surprise me. This isn’t to say it was poorly done, just that she’s not a professional. It’s always nice to hear an author read their own words.

The mother-daughter relationships in this book took center stage. Lucretia and Violet took many years to repair their relationship but were able to repair the damage between them eventually and find a way to connect and be friends. One hopes that Violet and Flora are able to do the same thing given time. Magic Gourd was a strong mother figure for Violet and it was good to see that she was loved and respected throughout the novel. Even with Lucretia off in America, there was someone looking out for Violet and helping her the way a mother would.

Writer’s Takeaway: When I’m writing, I try to be conscious of when I’m writing and when I’m rambling. I try to think about how what I’m writing will affect the story and if it’s important. It seemed to me that Tan didn’t always do this, especially with Perpetual. I wonder if there was a major change to the plot, to which Perpetual was originally important. The amount of sex and time spent in the courtesan houses seemed a bit unnecessary as well. It took away from the mother/daughter stories.

Overall, well written but a bit of a drag in places. Three out of Five Stars

This book fulfills the 1900-1919 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

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 Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan | FictionFan’s Book Reviews
The Valley of Amazement- Amy Tan | The Home Book Club
The Valley of Amazement and Shifting Identities | American Literature in the World
Book Review: The Valley of Amazement | For the Someday Book
The Valley of Amazement | whatsannereading

Writers’ Group: Short Stories and Metaphors

25 Feb

I almost skipped my writers’ group meeting, I’ll be honest. I wasn’t feeling great, I worked late, and I thought I needed a break. But I picked myself up and went and I’m so glad I did. And yes, having something to write about here was a part of my motivation. Blogging to stay honest with my writing goals. I counted this meeting as my hour of writing for the week, too. Double dipping?

We first talked about the differences between short stories and novels. Short stories are sometimes seen as a warm-up for a novel when they’re very different writing formats and success in one may not mean success in the other. Novels have a lot more room to explore a character or story. A novel is not a collection of short stories and a good short story should not read like part of a novel. Novels utilize the familiar three-act structure while a short story only has room for the third act. In a novel, the subplots often make the book enjoyable and added exciting depth. In a short story, they muddy the message so it’s recommended you have one or none. While a short story may not have the real estate to be deep, that doesn’t mean it lacks meaning. A short story can be very impactful and have a lot of meaning though it is often more implied than a novel on a similar topic may leave it. A short story is usually confined to one location while the majority of novels utilize many settings to tell their story.

The second focus was on metaphors. Metaphors are a great way to emphasize an important concept or object. While often done, not all metaphors are well done and writing a good one can be a big challenge. There are two parts to a metaphor, the tenor and the vehicle. To give an example, in Shakespeare’s famous metaphor “All the world’s a stage,” the tenor is world, the subject of the metaphor, and stage is the vehicle, the comparison. Metaphors are most impactful when they are simple, thematic, original, relevant, and important. Putting the focus on an important concept is, again, key. However, metaphors are most impactful when used sparingly. Consider if it’s a good time to add a metaphor each time and realize that the answer may sometimes be ‘no.’

We had some open discussion after these two topics. One of the items that stuck with me was when talking about introducing characters. It’s important to give a snapshot of the character when they’re introduced. It helps readers visualize your character, see them in the movie playing in their head. If you fail to give a brief snapshot of them, you may be fighting an image in their heads when you add more detail later. This struck a chord with me because I’m revising the beginning of my novel now and I can think of a few characters who aren’t described well in their opening scene.

That’s all for this month. I’m really glad to have learned so much from my fellow writers! 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!

What’s the Most Disturbing Book You’ve Read?

21 Feb

I found this post on The Guardian about books that have shocked readers and (thankfully?) there were none on the list that I recognized. Well, just one, The Lovely Bones but it’s been so long since I read that I’ve (thankfully) forgotten the really odd twist, though I remember that it had one.

There are times in a book that I’ve been horrified by something. The starvation in Lisa See’s Dreams of Joy comes to mind. But I can’t think of a book that was overall so horrifying or disturbing that I had to put it down and walk away.

I did something no one should ever do and read the comments. One post brought up Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love which was the first book I read for one of my book clubs. It’s a wonder I kept going to that group. I didn’t find the book disturbing, however, just weird and I didn’t like it. I’ve read other books like that (The Children’s House) but I still don’t think I’d describe them as disturbing.

What disturbs one person might not disturb another. A commenter mentioned Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go which is a favorite of mine. Maybe it’s a matter of how you view the book. I saw this one as fantasy so it didn’t bother me. Other commenters mentioned true crime books as disturbing. It’s never done too much for me.

Now I’m trying to find a disturbing book and read it just to see how emotionally dead I am. Does anyone have a particularly disturbing book to wish upon me? Maybe something that would be best in October when it’s time for spooky/creepy reads?

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, 20-February-2019

20 Feb

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 getting really close to finishing The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan. I think it will be off this list next week and I’m so excited! This one feels like it’s been dragging a bit and I’m excited to start something new.
I keep making steady progress on Origin by Dan Brown. Right now, they’re in Barcelona and it’s bringing up memories of my trip there this summer and it’s helping draw me in more!
I keep moving forward with Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson but I’m feeling more and more that this isn’t a book for me. I might be YA-ed out after reading Green and Levithan. Maybe I should have taken a break before starting this one.
I began listening to You Are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg and it’s been wonderful while running and biking. I think I’ll get through it pretty fast. The narrator isn’t my favorite (I’ve listened to him before) but the story is great.

Recently finished: I was able to finish Hunger by Roxane Gay and post my review on Monday. I liked the book a lot and I think it will make for a great discussion at my club’s next meeting. It made me a little uncomfortable and I think that was the intention. It’s hard to have your privilege called out and that’s what Gay did. It was eye-opening and I hope I can retain the lessons she taught. I was also excited to learn that she’d studied at Michigan Technological University in my home state. I talk more about this school in my review but if you’re interested and have five minutes, Google it. It’s very different (because of its location) than most schools I know about.

Reading Next: I’m ready for another audiobook in my car (finally) and have decided that it’s going to be Books for Living by Will Schwalbe. I read Schwalbe’s first book, The End of Your Life Book Club, for my book club (ha) and I got to meet him at the Midwest Literary Walk last year where I bought this book. I know it’s going to add to my TBR. I’m bracing myself.


Leave a comment with your link and 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!

A Night with Author Veronica Kirin

19 Feb

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine surprised me with a message to our group of friends.

My sister wrote a book! If anyone wants to grab dinner in Ann Arbor then see her

This was accompanied by a link to an event that I was unable to attend. Thanks to the extreme cold, the event was rescheduled, and my husband and I were able to go!

Veronica is an anthropologist by training and explained that her involvement in her tech company made her think about how people of different generations connected with technology. And what people of older generations thought about that technology. She began interviewing people of the Greatest Generation (we can talk later about who names the generations) about technology and how they feel about it. She’d interviewed thirty people in our metro area and wanted to meet more, up to 100. She turned to Kickstarter with her idea and the proposal for this book and raised the money to travel America and meet and interview these people. She’d networked to get the names of the people she’d meet and she took off, ready to learn. The result was her book, Stories of Elders.

Veronica, me, and Gerrie

Veronica taped her interviews and began the evening (hosted at the amazing Nicola’s Books) by showing a documentary with highlights from those interviews. The elders shared their stories and opinions on technology today in a quick 15-minute summary. From there, we had a group discussion on what she’d found. Veronica shared stories that hadn’t made the documentary and gave us some background on the people we had met. We were fortunate that one of the women interviewed for the book, Gerrie, was in attendance. She shared some stories outside of what was in the book and her daughter was able to chime in as well.

It was a very different author event than I’ve attended in the past. Primarily because of the nature of the book. Fiction and non-fiction authors have a very different path to their books and very different goals with publication. Veronica is sharing the stories of these elders and the analysis she’s able to put together by having spoken to all of them. She’s trying to entertain, but in a different way than I would if I published my book. Having someone involved in the book appearing as well changes the nature of the event. It was much more of a communal experience than I’ve had at most other readings. We all felt encouraged to speak, ask questions, and share our own experiences.

Veronica has several more events in the area pending. She told me she’ll soon be recording a TEDtalk about her findings (so expect that post soon) and may be releasing the documentary we watched. There is another book in the works as well and I’m excited to see where she takes this idea and how she can create another book with it.

She ended the night by signing her books and Gerrie signed as well. Apparently, there is a Pokèmon-esque element to this book where you can try to get all the elders interviewed to sign by their name in the back. I’ve got 99 to go!

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: Hunger by Roxane Gay (4/5)

18 Feb

Of course, I’d heard of Roxane Gay. She’s very vocal about woman’s rights and each of her books has been well received. But I hadn’t read anything of her’s yet. Maybe a memoir isn’t the best place to start, but it was still a great pick. I’m very far ahead of my book club reads now so it was a delight to dive into this one with time to spare. I also knew my training has given me a lot of listening time on the bike trainer so I’d get through it faster than planned. I finished it in four days.

Cover image via Goodreads

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Summary from Goodreads:

In her phenomenally popular essays and long-running Tumblr blog, Roxane Gay has written with intimacy and sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our shared anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care. In Hunger, she explores her own past—including the devastating act of violence that acted as a turning point in her young life—and brings readers along on her journey to understand and ultimately save herself.

With the bracing candor, vulnerability, and power that have made her one of the most admired writers of her generation, Roxane explores what it means to learn to take care of yourself: how to feed your hungers for delicious and satisfying food, a smaller and safer body, and a body that can love and be loved—in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.

More than anything, this book made me think. As an athlete, I tend to have a smaller body. I’m not model-thin in size 00 pants, but the last time someone else called me fat was middle school. As Gay described some of the ways people reacted to her body, I realized I was guilty of reacting in that way from time to time. The embarrassment that others have subjected Gay to because of her size is unacceptable. Seeing her side of it and how small things, unintentionally cruel comments, could be so hurtful made me really conscious of how I spoke to everyone this past week. I hope I continue to be like that going forward. More than food, Gay hungered for love and that’s a universal hunger. She dealt with a terrible trauma when she was young and her way of coping with it and finding a way to continue in the world may not have been the best choice, but it’s helped her be an incredible writer and a very successful person. Who’s to say it’s wrong?

Gay portrayed herself in a very realistic way. She was very open about her past and the hardships she’s had to endure in her life. She doesn’t talk a lot about others because they’re not the focus of her book. We hear a little about her family and some of her past partners, but it’s mostly about her and her challenges. I appreciated her honesty because I can’t imagine it’s easy to bare so much of your past pain to the world and to let them judge you. I don’t think I’m that strong.

Gay’s struggles to recognize love were relatable to me. I had a high school boyfriend whose ideas of ‘love’ were spending as much time together as possible and not talking to other males. Where he got this idea (movies, his parents, friends, etc.) I’m not sure but it began to influence my understanding of love as well. You learn to see love through the eyes of someone you think you love. For a while after that, even into dating my now-husband, I thought this was love. When we weren’t together, I felt alone, abandoned, and unloved. It took time for me to see love expressed in other ways and recognize that blowing off friends and family to be with someone wasn’t love, it was an unhealthy obsession. Gay had to have her view of love recalibrated in a very different way, but I understood why she struggled with this and how she went through a long process to change her perception.

Roxane Gay
Image via St. Louis American

Maybe this is a bias, but it felt like Gay started to find her own voice and strength during her PhD program at Michigan Technological University (aka Michigan Tech). I’m going to assume most of you have never been to Houghton, MI and for good reasons. It’s very isolated from any major city because of its geographic location. From where I live in Detroit, it’s 10+ hours away, mostly through fields and hills with moose crossing signs on the side of the road. We drove through when we were on vacation a few years back just to see the town with one of the best engineering programs in the state and the Midwest was located. It’s very isolating and I was able to imagine it well from her description. Picturing her there, at one of the northernmost points in the continental US, I could see how she would find her strength.

I love to travel. It made it hard for me to hear about Gay’s struggles to travel because of her size. She has problems with airplanes and when going to unknown places. It made me really think about how the world is built for the majority and how those outside that box may have problems. The extremely large, tall, and small are going to view the world in a different way than someone who’s of a standard stature. I would never have thought about how difficult getting through life and getting around can be for someone like Roxane. That was very eye-opening.

Gay narrated the audiobook herself. She has a slight lisp but I was able to get over it really fast and it didn’t detract from the book in any way. It was great to have her read it, though I have to think it would have been a very emotional experience. She talks about things that upset her and times she was abused and degraded. Reliving that and writing about it would be hard, but reading those words again would be even harder. I applaud her performance. I hope she narrates her future books as well.

The way Gay punctuates her title places emphasis on her point. Many people feel like they have some kind of ownership or opinion on her body because of her size. Doctors think they can ‘cure’ her and strangers feel entitled to give an opinion or offer advice or say a snide comment. People wouldn’t do the same thing to others who stand out for other reasons, but her size seems to make people feel like they have that right. And we honestly don’t. I have no idea what has happened in a stranger’s past to turn them into the person they are. And I shouldn’t make assumptions about how they feel about themselves; ever.

Writer’s Takeaway: One of the biggest stylistic choices in this book is the extremely short chapter lengths. Some people like this but I don’t. I felt the book switched focuses too quickly and it kept me from engaging too much with any of Gay’s points. I wish she’d grouped the book together a bit more and connected her points.

I liked this book though it was a challenging read. I’m glad I read it and I think we’ll have a great discussion next month.

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:
“Hunger: A Memoir of My Body” by Roxane Gay | The Book Hole
REVIEW: ‘Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body’ by Roxane Gay | mayowa_reads
A Review of Roxane Gay’s Book, Hunger | Women’s Center

Book Club Reflection: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

14 Feb

My book club met this week to discuss Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani. I’m glad I got my review of the book finished before we talked because there were a long of strong opinions in the group!

We started with a little background about Trigiani. Her family is from Roseto Valfortore and her grandfather was the mayor at one point. They visited the town and had automotive trouble getting there because the road was so bad. This helped explain the random-ness that was the Italian road (more on this later). Strangely enough, her brother is named Carlo and her friends were teasing her about the title of her book.

My questions about the cover were shared. The flowers and the woman on the cover made us believe this was a uniquely ‘feminine’ book. We can’t imagine a man reading it! Apparently, the woman on the cover isn’t a specific character from the novel, but a fashion model from the 50s who’s supposed to give the book a period feel. We felt the title was misleading as well and gave the idea of a romantic plot. One reader pointed out that Trigiani is a well-known author and that she has an established audience. That audience is mostly female and she’s probably not trying too hard to create a male fan base.

Someone brought up how the fight between the Palazzini brothers felt like a Shakespearean feud. It was like Dom and Mike’s dad wanted there to be a fight between his boys and the way it split the family was reminiscent of a Romeo and Juliet style family fight. We felt the story could have paralleled a Shakespeare story better if this was the intention. Or it could have dropped the feud and been a little more focused. There were so many people involved because of it that we needed a family tree to figure out who was the child of who and if they got along with someone else. Ugh.

Hortense felt a bit contrived for some people. She kept to herself at work and had a solitary job, but she was very close to the family. It seemed like a little too much. Maybe if she’d worked in their home it would have been more believable, but with her job in the shop, we didn’t buy it. She also seemed very bicultural and working in that environment didn’t seem like enough to give her that level of fluency in Italian American culture.

Calla was very modern for the time period. She felt more like someone in our modern world than a girl of the 1950s. Cutting her own hair and wearing pants was one thing, there are always those rebelling against fashion. However, going to the bank and being in charge of her own finances and business seemed like a bit too much.

We spent a lot of our meeting time talking about parts of the story that seemed illogical or nonsensical as part of the book. Even though I enjoyed some of these parts, I had to admit they weren’t very logical and some didn’t move the plot well. I’ll bullet to save space.

  • Nicky going to Roseta. Why wouldn’t he just skip town and lay low? Why put himself in such a visible position?
  • Hortense and Minna becoming friends. She’s such a recluse she never leaves the house yet becomes life-long friends with a weekend border?
  • Peachy figuring out where Nicky was. What would make her think that the filer she finds in the trash at his apartment is where he is hiding? That’s a huge leap in logic and a long shot at best.
  • Elsa being Jewish. We wanted so much more out of this unlikely (and slightly unbelievable) marriage. She wanted to go to temple, but we never find out if she does or how the family feels about it.
  • Nicky’s jerk attitude toward Calla before they get together. It was so obvious they were going to wind up together, why was it dragged out in this way? And what was his motivation for being such a jerk? Based on his conversation with Hortense before leaving New York, it seemed clear he went home for Calla!
  • The man dying in Nicky’s cab. We didn’t see how that would be such a ‘wake up’ moment for him. We also didn’t see why it was such a big deal that the man had sullied the cab and they had to get another one. That scene felt like a little too much.

Overall, the book could have been a lot shorter and a lot more streamlined. I’m hesitant to read another book by this author, but I’ll be hearing her speak in April and would normally buy a book as a souvenir. I have some time to decide.

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, 13-February-2019

13 Feb

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 finally feel like I’m getting close to finishing The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan. There was just a huge change in narration and I’m not sure where it’s going but I’m optimistic that it will wrap up soon!
I got through a bit of Origin by Dan Brown and I’m returning to it as often as I can. I’m enjoying this one a lot and it’s a good one to have on my phone. I might have to stick to thrillers here.
I started Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson over the weekend. I’m not sure how I’m feeling about it yet. I never was a fan of the paranormal romance genre and I’m a bit put off by it already. We’ll see if it gets better.
I started listening to Hunger by Roxane Gay on Sunday and I’m already halfway done with it! I’ll probably have this finished up next week which means I’m way ahead for my book club instead of scraping by. I’ll get to pick something I want to listen to next! I’m way more excited than I should be for this.

Recently finished: I wrapped up Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan at the beginning of a stressful weekend. It was a fun read and while the ending was a bit much, I enjoyed it. It was a very successful Spanish read as well and I’m really glad I read it. I posted a review for it on Monday so please go take a look!
I was able to finish Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani over the weekend as well. I finished the review hours before my book club meeting on it and I was able to put some original thoughts down before my book club influenced me. Whew! The club discussion should be up tomorrow. My review was posted yesterday.

Reading Next: Oh boy, freedom to choose an audiobook! Next on my TBR is a very appropriate title, You Are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg. I think this will be particularly motivating as I’m sweating through long runs or bike sessions. I’m really looking forward to this one and seeing how it makes me feel about my own 70.3 in July.


Leave a comment with your link and 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!