Archive | February, 2019

Book Review: Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani (3/5)

12 Feb

I’ll be honest and say that I was less than thrilled when this title was selected for this year’s ‘Everyone’s Reading’ event. This is a bi-annual event where several Detroit-area libraries get together and bring in an author. Leading up to it, the libraries host programs focused around the book. And, of course, our book clubs all read it. The cover and title of this one threw me off. I was expecting a romance novel complete with a heroine in a ball gown like the cover. Of course, I didn’t read the blurb. So I was hesitant going in and for the first 100 pages, I kept expecting it to change to something more romance-y. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Cover image via Goodreads

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s 1949 and South Philadelphia bursts with opportunity during the post-war boom. The Palazzini Cab Company & Western Union Telegraph Office, owned and operated by Dominic Palazzini and his three sons, is flourishing: business is good, they’re surrounded by sympathetic wives and daughters-in-law, with grandchildren on the way. But a decades-long feud that split Dominic and his brother Mike and their once-close families sets the stage for a re-match.

Amidst the hoopla, the arrival of an urgent telegram from Italy upends the life of Nicky Castone (Dominic and his wife’s orphaned nephew) who lives and works with his Uncle Dom and his family. Nicky decides, at 30, that he wants more—more than just a job driving Car #4 and more than his longtime fiancée Peachy DePino, a bookkeeper, can offer. When he admits to his fiancée that he’s been secretly moonlighting at the local Shakespeare theater company, Nicky finds himself drawn to the stage, its colorful players and to the determined Calla Borelli, who inherited the enterprise from her father, Nicky must choose between the conventional life his family expects of him or chart a new course and risk losing everything he cherishes.

From the dreamy mountaintop village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, to the vibrant streets of South Philly, to the close-knit enclave of Roseto, Pennsylvania, to New York City during the birth of the golden age of television, Kiss Carlo is a powerful, inter-generational story that celebrates the ties that bind, while staying true to oneself when all hope seems lost.

Well, that is quite a summary! This book had a lot going on and it took me a while to figure out where I should focus my interest. Nicky was a great character but with everything else to focus on, it took me a while to focus on him. When the story finally settled on him, I let myself get invested. I forgot about the family rivalries and the Borelli financial problems and Hortense’s relationship and focused on Nicky. When those things came up, I gave them their moment, but I focused on Nicky. There was a lot to distract from him in this book and there is where it fell away for me a bit. I wanted a bit more of a focus on one character instead of splitting my interest so much. I also wished for a less miss-leading title and cover, but that’s something completely different.

The characters all felt real to me. While I had trouble keeping Nicky’s character’s straight, there was a lot of truth in his big family. It was wonderful how much they cared for each other and looked out for each other. I adored Calla and her father’s interactions and how she wanted to keep his dream alive despite how much it hurt her. It was encouraging to see her press on. The town of Roseto was a great setting and I could picture the families there and the jubilee that brought everyone together.

Calla was my favorite character. I wanted to say Nicky, but he seemed lost to me for a lot of the book and Calla never did. She’s stubborn and wouldn’t give up on her father’s dream and saw it become her dream. She was strong and stood up for herself even when it may have robbed her of her happiness. I was skeptical of Frank and I’m glad she was, too. It was good to see her stay strong for what she believed in against him.

I related to Nicky and his desire to do something that made him happy. I think we all chase something that delights us and makes us happy. For him, it was acting. He had to work a job he hated to have the chance to do something he loved. I don’t hate my job but I don’t live for it, either. My passions lie elsewhere and that’s fine for me. I was happy for him when his passion became his job, but I know not everyone is as lucky. And it was good that he recognized his fortunate situation and could step away from it when someone else needed him.

Adriana Trigiani
Image via We The Italians

I liked the time in Roseto best. I knew what the focus of the book was, I liked the rush of the ruse, and I liked the people of Roseto and how unique they all were. It was a nice escape from South Philly for a bit.

There were a few plot lines I thought were too much for the book. The family rivalry didn’t add anything to me and I thought it could have been taken out. The number of characters was a bit too much for me, too. I’m still confused about all the Palazzini cousins and who married who and had which kids. I’m not sure I’ll ever map it out. I think this book could have been edited down a bit, but there wasn’t any particular part that I disliked.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Edoardo Ballerini. The fact that it was narrated by a man should have been my first indication that the cover was misleading. Ballerini was a great choice for this book. Clearly, he speaks Italian (or fakes it well) based on the scenes where he reads Carlo’s Italian dialogue. He did great accents for the Palazzini family and all the other immigrant families. I found he did different enough voices for everyone that I could keep the huge host of characters separated in my mind. I also didn’t find his female voices condescending at all. Overall, it was a nice balance.

Family was very important to all the characters in this book. Even though Nicky didn’t have a nuclear family in the traditional sense. However, he was raised by extended family and the friends he surrounded himself with. He had a non-traditional family that loved him and looked after him. Even though he was an orphan, he didn’t face to face the world alone.

Writer’s Takeaway: With so many characters, Trigiani still gave them real and compelling back stories. Hortense is a great example of this. She wasn’t just an employee at the company. She had a history with Nicky’s mom, her own marital problems, and a drive in life that pushed her. Peachy, Frank and many of the actors had less-developed but still unique stories driving them along. She created a very rich world, even if it was a bit much for a stand-alone book.

An enjoyable book, if a bit much for my tastes. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1940-1959 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:
Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani | Bookfan
Book Review: Kiss Carlo | Life by Kristen

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Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (4/5)

11 Feb

Every year, I challenge myself to read a book in Spanish. It’s a good way of keeping up the skill and learning new vocabulary words. When I was at Powell’s last summer, I grabbed a copy of Will Grayson, Will Grayson in Spanish so I could read it this year. I’ll have to keep reading YA books for this personal challenge because I flew through the book faster than I’ve gotten through my Spanish reads in the past.

Cover image via Goodreads

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (translated by Noemí Sobregués)

Other books by Green reviewed on this blog:

An Abundance of Katherine’s
Looking for Alaska
Paper Towns

Summary from Goodreads:

Will Grayson meets Will Grayson. One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers are about to cross paths. From that moment on, their world will collide and lives intertwine.

It’s not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and Will Grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old – including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire – Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most awesome high school musical.

I’ve never read Levithan before, but I’m familiar enough with Green’s work. It was obvious quickly that one Will Grayson was the work of Green (who I’ll call Will 1 because he speaks first) and the other of Levithan (Will 2). I liked the paralleled nature of the story and how they overlapped for much of the story and how the Will’s came together. Tiny was a wonderful character to unite them and he was bigger than life in the book. He was someone I’d want as a best friend and someone I’d avoid at school. I understood Will 1 and his complicated friendship and why Will 2 would be attracted to him. It was a very heart-warming story and I think I’m down to one John Green book until I’ve read them all.

Will 1 and Will 2 were very believable, but I felt Tiny was a bit much at times. I wanted to like him and believe he was real, but he would be a bad friend to Will 1 and not apologize for it and it made it hard for me to want good things to happen to him. I wanted some more people to interact with him and see their reactions. It seemed like no one outside of the GSA talked to him yet he was on the football team and a ton of people wanted to be in his musical. I wondered how he got along with other students and how they liked him. I would have liked a bit more of this so I could see Tiny through another lens.

Will 1 was my favorite character. I thought it was because I met him first, but I liked him more and more as the book went on. He was a good friend, for the most part. He loved and hated Tiny all along but he recognized that they needed each other and were good for each other. He grew a lot during the book, coming out of purposeful isolation to put his heart on the line for Jane and help Tiny even when he didn’t want to. Will 2’s transformation was a little more obvious so I enjoyed the subtlety of it as well.

I related to parts of all the character’s stories. I related to Will 2’s fight with Maura. There are always fights in high school and they’re never any fun. I related to Will 1’s feelings of being an outcast and not really fitting in and feeling like he didn’t deserve happiness of friendship when it was available to him. I related to Tiny’s love of the theater and his desire to tell a story on stage. I did musical theater for years growing up and I loved the magic of it. These felt like real high schoolers with real problems and I loved it.

John Green and David Levithan
Image via BookPage

Tiny’s show was a great part of the book. I loved hearing about the choir and all the other actors and how the audience reacted to the show. It was great to have Will 1 in the wings narrating the show and Will 2 in the audience to give another perspective.

The time Tiny and Will 2 were dating was the least interesting to me. They were very obsessive in their feelings, which is realistic, but it dominated the plot too much. Will 1 was pushed aside and it seemed like Tiny’s obsession with his show was put on the back burner while he was with Will 2 and that seemed unrealistic to me. It was the only time Tiny seemed to lose focus.

Tiny tells us that the story is about love. It’s about being worthy of love and it’s about more than just romantic love. Will 1 loves Tiny in a different way than Will 2. Will 2’s mom loves him in a different way than Tiny does. It’s all beautiful and Tiny’s show gives us snippets of what’s in the rest of the book. Those who love us love us when we are difficult and when we have trouble loving ourselves. Love isn’t always easy, but it always finds a way.

Writer’s Takeaway: I liked the shared authorship of this book. I have to imagine it would take a lot of planning and communication to write a book like this. For a dual-protagonist book, it worked well to have to distinctly different styles. It was easy for me to tell what parts Green had written. I wonder if a Levithan fan would be able to tell his part as easily.

I enjoyed the characters and the plot of this book. It was fun, even if it felt a bit ‘surface’ about some tough issues. 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:
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan | Young Adult Controversial Titles
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan | Begining of a Novelist
will grayson will grayson | Green Live Blue Water
#25: Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan | the roth project
Review: WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON | Kate Brauning

Book Club v. Polar Vortex

7 Feb

If you weren’t aware the American Midwest (where I live) got blasted with a polar vortex last week that had temperatures below zero with wind chills that took us to about -20 here in Michigan. It was -60 in other places. (This is all in Fahrenheit, by the way. Yeah, we’re shocked, too.) With such extreme weather, some things had to step aside.

One of them was my book club. Monday night, we got about six inches of snow starting at noon and going until midnight. We needed it so the roads would be super icy come the freezing weather. Anyway, with such poor road conditions, the library closed early. Which made it hard for my book club to meet.

We were supposed to discuss The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati. I was already nervous about this meeting because I read the book so long ago, wrapping it up in late December. I wasn’t sure how much I would remember in late January.

Our discussion leader and our librarian contact discussed some options for us. The book that we are set to discuss in February, Kiss Carlo, is part of a program at our library and if we push it back, other groups won’t have access to our copies and won’t be able to read it before the author comes to speak. So we must push ahead with Carlo. But what to do with The Gilded Hour?

It was decided that we’ll push The Gilded Hour to March and bump all out future books back a month to compensate. I’m even more nervous about remembering the details of Donati’s book now, with three months between finishing it and discussing it. I bet I’m not the only one who forgets a lot.

I’d like to think there’s not a lot that can come between me and reading. But I guess sub-zero freezing temperatures can.

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, 6-February-2019

6 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 readingThe Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan is still plodding along. I’m not a huge fan of this one, honestly. I’m kind of waiting for it to be over. It’s nothing like The Joy Luck Club like I hoped. I’ll keep pushing through.
I barely read any of Origin by Dan Brown last week. Maybe I’ll have more time this week? Lunch at work should be a bit slower so I hope to grab a few minutes to make some headway with this one.
I should finish Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan today or tomorrow, which I’m delighted to share! It’s been a while since my annual Spanish read finished up this quickly.
I didn’t realize how long I’d waited to start Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani. I must have it finished by Monday! I’m listening as much as I can during the day, hoping to knock out another seven hours before the end of the weekend. Wish me luck!

Recently finished: Nothing new this week. I hope there are two here next week, though!

Reading Next: I still hope to grab Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson as my next physical read. I should be able to finish Grayson soon and pick this up quickly.
My next book club selection will start as soon as I finish Carlo. Next is Hunger by Roxane Gay which I will listen to. I can’t tell yet from the listing if Gay narrates, but I hope so. I love when memoirs are narrated by the author.


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!

2018 in Books

5 Feb

I can’t believe I didn’t post about this yet! It’s been a month already and I’m late to the recap. Well, better late than never. I was able to find my 2018 recap much easier this year than last year.

I read 51 books in 2018. My goal was 55 and I’m sad to have missed it. I’ve lowered my goal for next year to 52 and I think I’ll make that one.

I read 18,339 pages. That’s an increase for the third year in a row, even if it’s a book-number decrease from last year. I knew I was reading long books!

The shortest book I read was The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr and E. B. White. I should have guessed this one, it was such a short audiobook! The longest book I read (or listened to) was A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. Over the past five years, the longest book I’ve read each year was either Follett or George R.R. Martin. Man, can those guys write long books!

The most popular book I read (re-read, really) was Harry Potter y las Reliquias de la Muerte (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). Not a big surprise there! I’m glad to have finished my Spanish re-read of the series. Maybe I need an English one next! The least popular book I read was Critical Chain by Eliyahu Goldratt. I guess he’s more of a one-hit wonder.

My average rating was a 3.7, a tenth higher than last year. I must have had a lot more 5 Star reviews this year because I did, unfortunately, have one 1 Star review. Here’s how my ratings skewed this year:

5 Stars: 8
4 Stars: 24
3 Stars: 13
2 Stars: 5
1 Star: 1

No surprise to me that 4 Stars is my most common rating. To me, it means I liked a book a lot and that it was just shy of perfect.

Thanks for taking a look with me! If you’ve been here a while, you know I love numbers and book-related numbers are the best.

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, January 2019

4 Feb

The year has started off great! Or at least as great as it could have. I’ve read some great books so far this year and I hope it’s a harbinger of the year to come. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in January:

Furiously Happy // Jenny Lawson (4)
Bird by Bird // Anne Lamott (3)
Before the Fall // Noah Hawley (4)
Where’d You Go, Bernadette // Maria Semple (5)

A lot of audio here, which says a bit about my book-time versus my bike-time. Time inside in the winter is time with audio in my world. I think it’s start to show. And I think it’s bound to continue for a while.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

2/12
Starting off strong! I know it’s almost by default, since any book I read first will fill at least one time period. I’ve got two more lined up and ready to go so I’m doing much better than I thought I would this early on. Hopefully I make this with a bit more of a margin than I did last year.

Goodreads Challenge

4/52
After missing last year’s goal of 55 and ending with 51, I’m re-grouping this year and I’ve decided on 52, averaging one per week. I think this is very doable, especially with no school, but it also means less driving and fewer audiobooks. I’m on pace now; I’m just hoping I can stay there.

Book of the Month

I had a lot of good books this month so this is a hard decision. I think I’ll have to pick Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. Enjoying this book with my husband and my book club was a great experience and I enjoyed the story a lot. It may not be my highest rating, but it brought me the most joy in January.

Added to my TBR

None! I’m down to 85 and feeling great about it. I know I’ve got a season of book club reads to add soon, but for now I’ll do a happy dance and celebrate getting that TBR under control.

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. I love connecting with some of you over non-book related things. I posted about my goals last week but in case you missed it, here’s a summary and status.

  • Finish 70.3 Half Ironman: Today is the first day of my training plan! We’ll see how it’s going in a few weeks.
  • Attend six weddings: No update yet, which means no conflicts yet.
  • Finish a weather blanket: Still buying yarn, so not a lot of progress here. I’m hoping to start soon and I know I’ll catch up quickly.
  • Write: Still picking my day. I let myself take January off like I would have if school were still in session. February is time to buckle down and get started!
  • See my friends more: My husband has a very busy social life which is letting me pick more time to spend with my friends while he’s away. I had a great weekend last week where I saw three different friends and it was wonderful. I’ll try to keep it up going forward.

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 2019, 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!