Archive | April, 2019

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda by Becky Albertalli (5/5)

30 Apr

I put off reading this book for FAR too long. I knew about it, knew it was well reviewed and knew about the movie and the hit that it was. But I kept putting it off! I feel like I have to apologize to the book for this. I could have been telling other people to read it well before now and I wasn’t. I’ll always have that on my heart. Sigh.

Cover image via Goodreads

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

I just adored this book. Loved it. The dialogue was my favorite part. It sounded very natural and reminded me vividly of being in high school. Albertalli nailed the sarcasm and discomfort of being a teenager and now knowing who you are. I adored it. I envied it, even. It was brilliant.

The characters were spot on and I loved it. Leah’s anger at being left out, Nick’s obsession with playing his guitar and girls obsession with Nick playing guitar was spot on. I really adored Simon’s relationship with his older sister, Alice. I thought it was really realistic how they changed when she moved away, but how much they still loved each other. It reminded me of when I left for college and how my relationship with my brother has never been the same. Everything about these characters enchanted me. It was great.

Abbey ended up being one of my favorite characters. And as much as I liked her, I saw why Leah disliked her and I think that made her more real to me. Not everyone is infinitely likable. I liked that she did sports and drama and was a real friend. I understood why Martin liked her and why Nick did. And I understood why Simon opened up to her. It was a nice touch having a character who was new to school and I liked the dimension she added to the story.

Simon was so easy to relate to. While I didn’t have to come out as gay in high school, I still felt like I had to hide part of who I was and I think most high school students feel the same way. You hide who you have a crush on or things you enjoy or what you do outside of school, anything that you fear may make you ‘uncool’ or your friends doubt you. It’s not always something as big as sexuality, but his struggle is universal to growing up.

Becky Albertalli
Image via Atlanta Magazine

I loved the emails back and forth with Blue. The flirting was adorable and I blushed at it constantly. I remember flirting over AIM and texts so it gave me flashbacks. I was sad when Blue stopped emailing back, though he had very valid reasons. It was a really sweet way for them to grow their romance and I had a blast guessing who Blue was. For the record, he dropped a really major hint that I picked up on and I TOTALLY got it right. Win.

I thought the talent show was really anti-climactic. It resolved the sibling’s plotline a bit, but not really for me. It just felt like a little too much and a weak excuse to get Simon’s parents out of the house for a bit. I think something else could have been used to keep that complication out of the plot.

My audiobook was narrated by Michael Crouch. He was absolutely amazing and I adored him. He read with the right amount of teenage angst to be authentic without being trying. He nailed Simon’s voice and those of his friends and family. It was the kind of performance that would make me seek out other narrations he’s done.

Simon is rightly scared to be open about his sexuality. When he is, he’s mocked and people say and do hurtful things. But his friends and family don’t. They love him and support him and fight for him. What I got from this book is that we have a right to be scared of things that could hurt us. But we will also be supported by our friends and family when we are scared and it will all be OK in the end.

Writer’s Takeaway: The dialogue here was just amazing. I can’t say enough good things about Albertalli’s insight into the teenage mind. It honestly made me doubt my own writing and that it’s any good. I worry that I don’t remember what it’s like to be a teenager as well as other writers do so maybe my writing for them will be irrelevant. It’s always good when a book is so great it makes you doubt your own writing, right?

This book blew me away and I adored it. 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!

Related Posts:
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (SPOILER FREE) | Sid’s Take On Books
Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli | Udayology
Review: Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli | Let the Pages Reign

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‘The Hate U Give’ Movie Review

29 Apr

Movie poster via Amazon

I’d hoped that I would be able to watch the movie for The Hate U Give closer to when I finished reading it, but life didn’t agree. I was able to watch it two weeks ago when I had a house guest I didn’t know how to entertain. He and I were both swimming in the state meet and we needed something calm to do. What better than a politically charged teen movie about murder?

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Starr. Seriously, Amandla Stenberg. Amazing. She was exactly how I pictured Starr. She was sassy when she needed to be, sweet, and strong. She was just the character I’d pictured in my head and her emotions and attitude changes throughout were great. It’s hard to imagine what it is like to experience the trauma Starr did, but Stenberg brought it to life.

Maverick. I could summarize this and say casting, but each deserves its own credit. Russell Hornsby was great. I keep picturing the scene where he lined his kids up and made them repeat the Black Panthers’ Points. He was strong, moving and believable. Great performance.

King. When I read the book, I pictured King as a big, imposing figure. Not Anthony Mackie at all. So I struggled with his portrayal at first because it was so different from my mental picture. But Mackie won me over. His quiet, tough character was even more intimidating than what I’d originally pictured and I was terrified of him by the end!

Hailey. I struggled with Sabrina Carpenter in this role because I’m familiar with her playing a character named Maya in Girl Meets World so the names threw me off at first, but I got over it. I’d had trouble picturing a character who was a good friend and turned so negative so quickly. I thought the way Carpenter pulled it off was great.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Taking out DeVante. I think this was a logical removal. DeVante had the options Maverick always wished he had, but the story wasn’t about Maverick, it was about Starr. Taking him out helped focus on Starr’s story.

Cover image via Goodreads

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

Hailey’s comments about Maya. Hearing Maya mention Hailey’s comments about her race made me dislike Hailey even more in the book. It was something little, but it helped explain why Starr and Maya banded together and how misguided Hailey was. I think it would have been something quick to keep in that would have helped the story.

Things That Changed Too Much

Sekani at the end. Yeah, this one got me mad. Sekani taking Mav’s gun and aiming at King with Starr walking between him and a police officer was too much. I’m not crazy, right? This was totally different from the end of the book, right? Don’t get me wrong, it was very impactful. But it was too much.

Staying in Garden Heights. This really bothered me. Lisa and Mav’s fights about leaving or staying were a big part of the book and they surfaced in the movie, too. But when they decided to stay because King was gone instead of moving because it was the right move long-term, I was disappointed. The message of the book was that moving out wasn’t giving up. And I think the movie could have included that.

Overall, an amazing movie adaptation. I’m sad it took me so long to watch it, but I’m really glad I saw it. Reader, have you seen the movie for The Hate U Give? What did you think?

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!

Off Topic Thursday: Adult Friendships

25 Apr

Growing up, I never thought of ‘making friends’ as a skill I was taught in school. It just happened. You made friends with your classmates and maybe with people from outside activities. You were always surrounded by other people your age and there was always something fun and new to try where you could meet people.

College was the same and I left college with beautiful friendships I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. I’m still in contact with most of them and I care for them deeply.

But then I moved back home. I was living in a town different from (but near) where I grew up and I had lost contact with all but a few friends from high school. None of my college friends were in the same state. It was just me and my husband and his friends. And I realized how hard it could be to make friends as an adult.

I’ve always had an aversion to being friends with someone from work. I’ll do an occasional thing outside of the office like a run or a large group family get together, but I’ve never thought of making friends with my coworkers. Even though I shared an office with another woman about my age at my first job, I never considered befriending her. Work is work, and life happens outside of it.

It took me a few months to start finding friends. The first success I had was through the website Meetup.com. I joined a writers’ group and even though it was a bit of a drive, I made three really good friends from that group. It took a few months before I had the confidence to invite them over to dinner and start building friendships, but I’m so glad I did. That gave me the confidence to know I could make friends on my own.

Unfortunately, two of those girls moved away and the other one and I don’t talk anymore. More miraculously, I have another group of three women from that group I’m now friends with. And I’m the youngest by about five years. But the eldest is older than my mother. This was another good lesson for me, learning that my friends weren’t always going to be my age. Some people give me a weird look when I mention my friend’s grandchild but I’ve gotten over it. We’re not bound to our age-peers once we’re out of school.

I’ve since found friends through my church and athletic groups that I’m very close with as well, but that writing group was a great first step for me. And friendships build on friendships. I’m friends with people I met through acquaintances I don’t speak with anymore and those friendships are incredible. I wish someone had told me making friends was a skill when I was in school. Maybe I would have practiced a little more.

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, 24-April-2019

24 Apr

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 moving forward with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min but it’s starting to drag. It feels like nothing has happened in a while and I’m starting to get a little bored of this one. I hope something major happens soon, it feels like it’s due.
I’ve made decent progress on Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton despite being so busy the past week. I try to read a chapter before bed each night, but I keep falling asleep too quickly to finish. I think I can have this one finished next week, though.
I started The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob over the weekend. I’m having flashbacks to Lahiri’s The Lowland so far but I’m not sure if it will continue that way. It’s just something about brothers fighting in India that’s got me comparing them.
I started the long journey that is A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This monster is 36 disks long and I’m on disk 3. And I’m happy with that. It will be on here a while longer, I’m sure. This is going to be fun.

Recently finished: I finished Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and absolutely loved it. I can’t wait to see the movie as soon as I find a copy. I adored Simon’s voice and I’m not sure how that will translate to film, but I can’t wait to see them try.
I finished The Power by Naomi Alderman over the weekend. I’m still feeling out how I feel about this book. I liked the idea and how it played out, but I’m not sure how I felt about the characters. Sometimes, it was just a little too much for me.

I’ve got two book reviews posted as well. The first was my review of Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. I’m still vacillating about reading the rest of the series. I have an opinion poll on the review page so please check that out.
I also posted my review of News of the World by Paulette Jiles. My book club will be meeting next Monday to discuss this so I’m glad I was able to review it before then. I’ve been falling so far behind that’s become a problem.

Reading Next: I’ll read Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi as my next physical book. It’s been sitting on my shelf for so long. I’m glad to finally get it off.


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 Club Reflection: Dodgers by Bill Beverly

23 Apr

My book club met a few weeks ago to discuss Dodgers by Bill Beverly. I’m so behind in posts (so many books to talk about!) that I’m getting to this a bit late. That’s why I take notes.

One of the biggest surprises to me was that the author was a white man from Michigan. Those who read the physical books saw the picture of Beverly on the back cover, so they weren’t surprised once the book was over like I was. We wondered how much he knew about his subject matter and what authority he had about it. Beverly now lives in DC and he lives and teaches in an area where he interacts with primarily black people. He’s also written a non-fiction book on criminal fugitives, so he does have some background on the subject. It still doesn’t seem like a fit, but I honestly wouldn’t have guessed he didn’t match East’s background until I looked up his photo. I wonder if someone from that background would feel the same way.

Some readers pointed out that the difference between the beautiful descriptions in East’s head and the eloquent way he thought was a rough contrast to the rough and rude dialogue of the boys. It made the words feel like they didn’t fit.

The shoot out at the beginning had a lasting impact on East and what he felt through the rest of the novel. It was a small team of boys, like the team in the van and something didn’t happen that should have, making the whole thing fall apart. One reader likened it to a school project where one person doesn’t do their part and the whole thing comes crashing down.

We all enjoyed the scene where the boys are buying guns. It emphasized how young they all are and how out-of-place they are in that world. They were trying to get out of a tough situation and felt they were finally making progress when they ditched Michael just to fall into an even tougher situation.

We find out during the novel that the boys didn’t necessarily need to kill the judge, they just needed to be out-of-town for a while. We wondered if Ty might have known. East was a rule-follower and he wasn’t going to deviate from the task, so he would never have suspected. Ty might have. Finn knew he couldn’t tell the boys just to leave town for a while, he had to give them a reason to be out-of-town and killing the judge seemed like a legit reason.

The characters in this book gave us a lot to talk about. Michael Wilson was the idiot of the group. He was impulsive, and it got him in trouble quickly. We wondered why he was referred to by his first and last name. Were there a lot of other Michaels? Or did it give him a level of authority, like his age, to be in charge? He wasn’t much of a leader.

We all agreed that we liked Walter better. He knew more than anyone else in the van except maybe Ty. He knew how they got the IDs and seemed to understand Finn’s operation a bit more than East and Michael Wilson.

As I said, Easy was a rule follower. He sometimes followed his own rules, but he followed them. He was meticulous about the things he decided were important. We have many examples of him keeping himself clean and showering while on the road. He kept the range clean after Perry died because that was his habit. The book ends with him not following a rule for once and running East.

We all felt there was something more to Ty that needed to be explained. Something must have made him the way he was, but we don’t know. He’s clearly a sociopath with no empathy and no possessions. A boy who stops coming home at nine and is moved out by eleven needs help and his family didn’t have the means to get it for him. From early in the book, when we first meet Ty, it’s clear he’s going to be the one to pull the trigger.

Martha Jefferson was a great character. Her plotline came up only because Walter was there. East never would have been able to charm her or been quick enough to join her on his own. We think Martha instantly felt bad for the boys. She understood how lonely it could be as a black person in rural Iowa. She may have known something bad was going on right away but went with it because she felt bad for the boys. We think she must have realized something was wrong by the time they got to the airport. She probably kept moving forward to avoid something worse happening to her.

There were a lot of parallels between East’s life at the beginning of the book and his time at the paintball range. There was a gang in town, the Christian Wolves. It was a white gang, but gangs are born of poverty and it was there in Ohio. The men who come are described as addicted at times, spending their whole paychecks on paintball and ignoring their families to be at the range.

In the end, East heads east. We talked about how historically, people struck west in the US to seek their fortunes. That wasn’t East’s way.

Our next book is The Power by Naomi Alderman. I’ve already finished it and I think it will be an amazing discussion. 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: News of the World by Paulette Jiles (4/5)

22 Apr

Yet another book club selection I knew nothing about and ended up enjoying. Seriously, I should let my book club pick everything I read. I’d have no idea what I’m getting into and I’d enjoy every minute of it.

Cover image via Goodreads

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Summary from Goodreads:

In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself.

For such a short book, that summary covers a lot! I’m glad I didn’t read it before I started the book. I enjoyed the style of this book, with rather sparse writing, a very Hemingway-esque feel. It felt appropriate for Captain Kidd. He was a basic man who didn’t need much to be happy and he didn’t need a lot of words either. I’m not sure what I expected to happen to Johanna. I knew she had a sad story and I wasn’t sure how it would get better. While I liked her bonding with Captain Kidd, I knew they’d be separated in the end so I tried not to be too emotionally attached to the two of them. But it was hard not to.

I really believed these characters traveled Texas. It was easy to picture Captain Kidd, an aged war veteran who’s disenchanted with what’s happened in the land he fought for. Johanna was a spunky little kid, not too sure why some things are happening, but she adapts and moves on.

Captain Kidd was a great character. He was very open-minded for someone of his time and I like how that was explained by his marriage. I liked how he stuck to his commitments and morals, even to the point of paying for the chickens Johanna had killed. I thought he was very resourceful to read the news as a form of income. He was very smart about it as well, making sure to keep the peace in his readings and not stir up trouble. I think he’d find a way to make it in today’s gig economy as well.

The Captain’s sense of morality was something I related to. I would have paid for the chickens the same way he had. His dedication to Johanna was very admirable and I liked how much he ended up caring for her. I easily get sucked into small commitments as well so I could see how that would happen.

Paulette Jiles
Image via Texas Monthly

The shootout was my favorite scene. I liked seeing Johanna and the Captain fight together and I loved how inventive Johanna was with the shells. It made me wonder about her a bit, and what she’d seen when she was living with the Kiowa. It was the first bit of mystery we got from her. I also liked how it showed she was dedicated to him in the same way he was to her.

I disliked the ending only because it felt rushed. After so much time getting to San Antonio, it was a bit of a let down to be there and for so much to happen right at the end. Between his kidnapping and Johanna’s wedding was only a page or two. It seemed far too fast after such a slow book. I thought the ending was appropriate for the characters, though, and I was glad of that.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Grover Gardner. He was a great selection for reading this book. His voice was exactly what I wanted Captain Kidd to sound like. With his narration, the short sentences and narration were brought to life and it didn’t feel choppy. I liked how he read Johanna’s words and her learning English. It felt very real to me and I can always appreciate a male narrator who does a good female voice.

Captain Kidd’s story was about dedication. Sometimes our dedication is tested and tempted but Captain Kidd stayed strong throughout. It seemed out-of-place for a girl to test an older man in such a way but I liked that it seemed so unusual. I think it would take something unusual to make such a change in a man like Captain Kidd.

Writer’s Takeaway: As much as I enjoyed this book, one of my major takeaways is the pacing. I felt the story was very front-loaded and most of the activities of the novel took place in the early part of the journey to San Antonio. I knew that in such a short book, things would be rushed at the end after such a leisurely first half. It felt like the writer ran out of ideas, time, or energy when the end started to come so fast. I don’t think any of those are the case, but it felt a little off that way.

An overall enjoyable book and one I look forward to discussing with my group. Four out of Five Stars

This book fulfills the 1800-1899 time period of my 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:
Review: News of the World by Paulette Jiles | Thoughts on Papyrus
News of the World, by Paulette Jiles | Bob’s Books
News of the World, by Paulette Jiles | A Bookish Type
News of the World by Paulette Jiles | Book Snob

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor (4/5)

18 Apr

It seemed like this book was everywhere for a while. And, as is my custom, I added it to my TBR with the knowledge that I wouldn’t read it for years. And that’s exactly what happened. Better late than never.

Cover image via Goodreads

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Summary from Goodreads:

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Parts of this book I really liked. I enjoyed the Chimaera and their backstory. It was interesting to hear how they endured the fight with the Seraphs but I liked learning about them through Karou’s eyes when they were family to her. I disliked the insta-love. It’s something that always takes me right out of a book and there were two cases of it in this book that made it hard for me to keep on believing the characters and story. I’ll get into both of these later. In the end, I’m iffy on if I want to continue on with the series. I feel like this book was a big build-up but that there wasn’t any resolution. This is another thing that frustrates me with series. I felt like there needed to be something more definitive to end this book before the second one began. I’m left really on the fence.

Character credibility is hard to judge in a fantasy book like this one. Karou seemed credible as a human as far as she could be considered a normal human. But her world was so warped and different that anything she did that was unusual or inhuman could be contributed to that. The same can be said for Akiva. It was the insta-love that did me in. Unless it’s a part of the fantasy, that two beings can tell if they’ll be compatible by seeing each other, I don’t buy it. Especially because in both cases, they were mortal enemies. I can’t imagine any circumstances where someone attacked me and I fell in love or where I was dying on a battlefield and a medic from the other side gave me some small assistance and I risked my life to find that person. Maybe the second is more probable, but it was still too much for me to process. It stopped me caring about the characters for the last third of the book.

Zuzana was my favorite character. She was fierce and a great friend. I’m sad to think she won’t be as involved in the later books as Karou heads to Eretz. I liked her (not instant) relationship with Mik and the puppet show she put on. It was fun to think of a character so small and strong spending the day with Karou and Akiva on a prolonged double date.

There wasn’t a lot I could relate to in this story. The best would be the opening scenes where Karou is putting up with Kaz. I had a high school boyfriend who was equally cocky and flippant and unrelenting and I wish I had wishes to make him itchy and uncomfortable. That would have been awesome. Other than that, I didn’t have much to relate to and it didn’t bother me much. I don’t look for a lot of relatable life experiences in fantasy. It’s escapist for a reason.

I liked the richness of the Chimaera world best. It was well described inside Brimstone’s shop and the details that were presented throughout the story were wonderful. Taylor did an amazing job of building a very unique fantasy race and giving it regional variations within the race. It was really a joy to read.

I’m going to insta-love bash again. It was just too much for me. Call me unromantic if you like, but I think two characters need more than instant attraction to build the kind of relationships that you risk your life for or go to battle for. Romeo and Juliet was unrealistic to me and this wasn’t much better. Madrigal and Akiva shared a moment. And that moment led to a year-long mission and a life-risking decision. It was too much. And I’m a bit afraid to keep reading this series and see how much was risked over a shared moment.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Khristine Hvam. For the most part, I enjoyed her narration but there was one notable exception. The voice she used for Razgut had me pulling my earbuds out and almost falling off of my bike. It was so grating and terrible and I understand why she chose to do such an altered voice, but it was way too much for me to handle. I wish she’d gone with something a bit quieter at least.

Unfortunately, I think the major theme in this book was love. It scares me a little when I can only find that theme in a YA novel. Karou does want to save her family, but that desire was pushed aside. I’m being hopeful that a desire to reconnect with the Chimaera will continue to drive her forward but the end of the novel isn’t giving me a lot of hope. Honestly, I’m surprised she didn’t give up and decide to stay human.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’ve not been brave enough to attempt a trilogy or to even give serious thought to doing so. I believe a well-written trilogy needs to have two mini-endings before there’s an overall ending to the series. Harry Potter accomplished this with school years, the Hunger Games did it with subsequent games. I often grow frustrated when there’s no discernible ending between books and it feels like a long chapter break. That’s how I feel about this series now. Using the last third of the book for a prolonged flashback and then ending abruptly left me with a sour taste in my mouth.

Because of a lackluster ending and a bit too much insta-love, I had to go with Four out of Five Stars for this one. And I have to know, should I continue the series? Will it get better?

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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WWW Wednesday, 17-April-2019

17 Apr

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: It’s still steady-going with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. It’s not engrossing me as much as I would like and I keep waiting to be swept into it, but I’m almost halfway through and it’s not happening. I’ll keep pressing forward!
I’m obsessed with Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Simon’s voice is so perfect, I’m loving it. Honestly, it’s making me feel like my YA novel is never going to get published if this is the standard I have to stand up to. I’m finding excuses to drive around so I can listen to this.
I’m getting toward the end of The Power by Naomi Alderman and finally starting to see where it’s going. There are jumps forward and backward in time and they slowly merge into a big event. I’m getting close to it now. I think it’s safe to say this one will be finished next week.
I started reading Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton. Hinton is the author of one of my all-time favorite books, The Outsiders so I’m excited to pick up something new by her. This one is relatively short so I hope it doesn’t stay on this list very long.

Recently finished: I’m happy to say I finished Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. This one had me staying up late to read just a few more pages each night and I think I frustrated my husband by keeping the light on later and later. There’s a movie of this one and I can’t wait to see it. What a complicated issue Bohjalian created. I think it will play out well on screen.

I was able to post one review this week, Dodgers by Bill Beverly. My book club met this past week to discuss it as well so I’ll have another post about this one coming up soon. I enjoyed the book but the discussion actually brought up a few issues I hadn’t thought of before so I’m really glad for this group of people who have challenged me to think more about books.

Reading Next: I still plan to pick up Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi as a physical book, I’ve just pushed it back one. I’ll get to this when Hawkes Harbor is done.
My next eaudiobook will be The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob. This book was hyped a lot a few years ago and I haven’t heard much about it since but it’s lingered on my TBR all the same.
I think it may finally be time. I tend to listen to ‘bad summer books’ in the summer. I’m going to start on A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This will be a long endeavor to be sure, but I’m ready for it. I’ll be caught up to my husband finally. And it will be good to be catching up on the books as the show ends.


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!

Meeting Author Adriana Trigiani

16 Apr

You probably noticed all of my posts about Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani. In addition to my book review, there were two book club discussions. That’s because Trigiani was scheduled to come to speak in our area about her book and last week, my mom and I went to hear her speak.

I found out the morning of the event that Trigiani had done some comedy writing. I wish I’d known that earlier because I would have been more excited about the event. It was obvious that she was a comedian from her first sentence. She was very personable and spoke with no script in mind. She used comments from the audience to move her speech forward and made off the cuff jokes constantly. It was really fun to hear.

She talked about writing historical novels and how often the people who come up as movers of history are men. You have to dig to find the women, and that’s something Trigiani enjoyed. She picked the cover photo in part because the model was historically significant to the era. She included real women like Gloria, the producer of Nicky’s show (I can’t find a citation for this, though). Trigiani is also a big fan of Shakespeare so she paralleled the Palazzini families like the brothers in Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Trigiani spent a large chunk of time talking about the four steps to writing. To her, it’s a simple solution. First, find the time. Wake up earlier in the mornings, start with 30 minutes, and set aside that time to write. Second, get the tools to tell your story. She prefers pen and paper. If you’re going to do this, get a notebook that’s just for your writing, that won’t be filled with grocery lists and doctors’ appointments. If you’re going to write a memoir, start with ‘What I remember’ and start with a person or a day that’s hard for you to forget. Third, think of what you want to write about before you fall asleep. Doing this, you let your subconscious mull it over for a bit before you have to write it down. Fourth, pick your subject and just start writing!

A man came with a copy of his non-fiction book and asked her for some advice on promoting his book. Firstly, she said to get an agent. Agents will help with promotion and publication of future books. With a non-fiction title, she recommended reaching out to cable news networks. They like to have debates and material that can spark debates and non-fiction is good for this. She also recommended using a social media platform to speak about social issues related to the book and use that as a form of promotion.

Trigiani was very generous with her time and spoke to my mom and me for a few minutes in the signing line about my writing aspirations. She was very supportive and my mom took a great picture of us. I’ll have to get to her YA title soon.

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 Club Reflection: The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati

15 Apr The Gilded Hour Cover

After much delay, my book club was finally able to meet and discuss The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati. I finished reading this book back in December and we were supposed to meet in January to discuss it. However, Mother Nature had other plans and we pushed the book back to March to accommodate. So here we are, finally.

We found out the sequel to this book comes out in September. We’ll finally figure out who the murderer was! (The ambulance driver? One of the doctors in the inquest?) There was so much content in this first novel that we must imagine the second and third books will be bloated with content as well.

We asked ourselves if a situation like the one presented in this book, of dangerous abortions, could happen in the US if Roe v Wade was repealed and abortion was criminalized again. Anthony Comstock was a real person and the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice was real. Could we see these again? Many felt it was likely. With the availability of oral contraceptives, it might not be as prevalent, but it could still happen. With the way US law works, the decision to criminalize would go to the states and its likely some more liberal states would decriminalize it while more conservative ones would outlaw. It would be like recreational marijuana is now.

The majority of our discussion revolved around Ana. She was a very modern woman for her time, something that bothered me a bit while reading. Though every time period must have some progressives, some modern women. Ana was a women’s lib fighter before there was women’s lib! She was not the common woman of her time because she was rich and educated but that doesn’t mean she’s unbelievable. Even still, we were surprised she continued to work after she got married. She was a bit of an odd duck, but she was protected by her aunt’s wealth and status, it was OK for her to be a bit different.

Ana and Jack’s relationship was a little surprising because of how outspoken Ana was. Jack was also very progressive and accepted her easily. He was hard to surprise because of his profession, seeing things that were unusual. He made her vulnerable, which was hard for her to deal with at first, but he wore her down and then she couldn’t resist him.

Her dedication to the Russo children was a bit hard for all of us to wrap our minds around. One reader explained it as Ana seeing herself in Rosa and being reminded of losing her brother. She never felt she got him back, but she wanted to help Rosa get her brothers back as best she could.

I may be the only one in my group who goes on to read the second book. I adored the writing and how intricate the world was, even if it did seem a bit long-winded. Maybe I can talk them into it.

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!