Archive | May, 2019

Book Review: Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi (4/5)

30 May

I read Night and The Diary of a Young Girl very close to each other a few years back and it got me to add this book to my list as well. I received it as a Christmas gift a few years ago but it lingered on my shelf for a while. A trip to Las Vegas seemed like as good a time as any to dive into it.

Cover image via Goodreads

Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi

Summary from Goodreads:

In 1943, Primo Levi, a twenty-five-year-old chemist and “Italian citizen of Jewish race,” was arrested by Italian fascists and deported from his native Turin to Auschwitz. Survival in Auschwitz is Levi’s classic account of his ten months in the German death camp, a harrowing story of systematic cruelty and miraculous endurance. Remarkable for its simplicity, restraint, compassion, and even wit, Survival in Auschwitz remains a lasting testament to the indestructibility of the human spirit.

This is a survival story, no question about it. Levi focuses on how he lived in the camp and how he survived when so many around him didn’t make it. He talks about the right amount of work to do, the good jobs to get, the ways to pass examinations. He details how the trading system worked and what tools were essential and how to get them, how to make them. It felt like a survival story more than a Holocaust story to me. The Nazi officers were not consistent characters but Levi’s bunk-mates and trading partners were.

Levi painted vivid pictures of other prisoners. He gave us details about ones who were like him, ones that were unlucky, and ones that couldn’t survive. I felt he pained a vivid picture of himself, too. For me, the most impactful part was when he detailed the other men in the quarantined room with him before liberation. The teamwork they demonstrated was incredible. Finally, it was about the survivability of the group and not the individual and that really shone through.

Levi was the only major character in the story and I liked how he portrayed himself. He was smart and was able to use that intelligence to get him a good position. But a good position didn’t mean comfort, it meant more opportunities. He stole and traded and schemed to get more food. He used that job to survive and to help his friend survive. There was no enduring, you had to find a way to make things better for yourself.

It was hard to relate to Levi and the characters in the story because his story is so extreme. I think that’s why it’s important. It’s important to remember that humans did this to other humans because they thought some were less than others. It highlights what happens to us when we do this to each other and why we can never let this happen again. It’s the un-relatability of his story that’s so important.

Primo Levi
Author photo courtesy of the Paris Review

The final scenes in the infirmary spoke to me most. In history, I’d heard that those who were ill were left behind and liberated soon after. The days-long delay and the horror it brought was never mentioned before. The number of men who died waiting for freedom astounded me and I was so sad to hear about them.

The book was non-chronological and that confused me at times. I would question what job Levi was doing or how long he had been in the camp when something happened and I’d be confused for a few pages before I found a landmark. I understand that this book was not written in chronological order on purpose; it’s written to detail the different steps taken to survive. It’s a small gripe, but it’s really the biggest one I have.

We should not have to survive the treatment of other humans. Abused women and children, prisoners, and Holocaust victims have survived things that no person should have to. We have the ability to take away the freedom of others. But we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t have to be ‘survived’ by others in the way Levi had to survive.

Writer’s Takeaway: Levi told a story with impact. He didn’t sugar-coat anything or leave out any detail that might be embarrassing. His candid telling is why this is so powerful and wonderful and scary and tragic. I think memoir should always be like this. Otherwise, we might not learn something essential.

The book was impactful, though I did find myself confused and tuning out at times because of the time jumps. 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:
Primo Levi Blog- Survival in Auschwitz through a Christian Perspective
Primo Levi’s reflection on humanity in crisis: Survival in Auschwitz (If This is a man) | Literaturesalon’s Blog
An Encapsulating Analysis of Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz | Vivid Incandescence
Survival in Auschwitz | Posthegemony

WWW Wednesday, 29-May-2019

29 May

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 made an effort to keep moving through Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min again. Eventually, this will pay off and I’ll have it finished. But I’m enjoying the ride as I go. It’s not a bad book, just a slow read for me.
I’m on my final renewal of A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. There’s no way I’ll finish it in time, but I’ll make a grand effort. I’m hoping I can go in and show them I still have it and get it renewed again a few more times before I have to give it up.
I was really enjoying A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers but I’m going to have to put it aside for a bit. I’ve got some books with deadlines that are pressing on my time and I know I’ll come back to this one when I can.
My new audiobook is Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray, the second installment of the Diviners series. I read the first in this series a while back so it’s a bit of a struggle to remember what happened and keep up. It’s a fun story, though, and I’m enjoying it.
I picked up Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson on Friday and decided to jump in so I can finish well before the due date. There’s no renewal on this one since it’s part of the Interlibrary Loan system. So far, it’s a nice review but I haven’t picked up on anything that’s going to make me stop and fix my own novel. I guess that’s a good thing?

Recently finished: I finished the audiobook for Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and absolutely loved it. I learned a lot about growing up in South Africa and how people interact there. It’s not a country I’d ever given much thought to outside of Mandela so I’m really glad I read this. Not to mention Noah’s amazing narration and humor shine through.

I did get one review posted (yes, I’m very behind on them). I posted my review of Exit West by Mohsin Hamid on Thursday. Please check it out when you can. I enjoyed the book a lot and my book club has since met to discuss it so I’m excited to continue the conversation.

Reading Next: My next book club selection is Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens. I was sad to be unable to find this one on audio so it will be my next physical read and means I’m keeping Genius on the backburner for just a bit longer.


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: The Power by Naomi Alderman

28 May

My book club met last week to talk about a book I didn’t particularly like, The Power by Naomi Alderman. It was very OK for me, nothing outstanding and nothing terrible. It seems we were all a mixed bag on this one.

Despite having so many American characters, the writer is British. She mainly writes science fiction and is friends with Margaret Atwood. She won the Baily’s Women’s Prize for Fiction for this book.

The letters that began and ended the novel were a bit out of place and confusing. We thought they may have been more effective if they’d been scattered throughout the novel instead of only at the beginning and end. Naomi seemed very critical and heavy-handed, but we wondered if this was criticism because she’s a woman or because she was honestly heavy-handed.

The other structural thing that we talked about was the artifacts. They seemed a bit out of place in the book and one reader noticed an inconsistency. One of the artifacts was an Apple device (bitten fruit) and how it was unknown what that thing was. Yet at another point in the book, someone was using an iPad. It just didn’t seem to jive.

The story was quite violent and brutal. Some of our readers felt this was just what one should expect with war and such radical change in a country.

We pointed out that Alderman did address transgender people as it applies to this new world. Jocelyn’s boyfriend at one point has some small power in a skein and he’s ostracized and criticized by both men and women; for not belonging and for thinking he could belong. It was a nice touch for her to include this.

Each of the different speakers gave us a unique perspective on the changes. Roxy was very powerful but she still had the ‘feminine’ quality of mercy. She had mercy on her father when we suspected he would not have had the same. That ended up being her downfall.

Ally raised a lot of questions for us. Some wondered if the voice she heard was a coping mechanism, a way of dealing with the trauma she faced in foster care. If it was divine intervention, did Ally really believe in what she was doing? Or was she enjoying a way to manipulate the system and grow into her power?

Tunde’s classic observer view was great and a lot of us liked him. He was so used to male privilege that he assumed he would be OK and evade the rules. He stayed longer than he should have, as happens to journalists today. We all had to shrug when he said he felt unsafe walking down the street. We’d all felt that way at one time or another. It was just funny coming from a man.

The part that shared the comments section from the UrbanDox site was chilling because of how real it felt. It could have been the comments section of almost any news article today. When someone in power feels threatened, they lash out at a minority or a group that is gaining power. It’s this reason that changes can take so many centuries to happen: the powerful don’t want to give up their power. It’s why we still struggle with racism today in a world that is ‘equal.’

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!

Happy Memorial Day!

27 May

Here in the States, today is Memorial Day. It’s a day to celebrate those who sacrificed their lives for our country and our freedom and to thank them and their families for that sacrifice.

It’s also one of six paid holidays I get a year, so I’m going to spend time with my family instead of on my blog. I’ll be back tomorrow, not to worry, and we’ll catch up then.

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: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (4/5)

23 May

I guess I thought this book would be longer, but I was through it in a week. Maybe the physical book had wide margins or large print because the audiobook was just over four and a half hours. I’m not complaining, don’t get me wrong, but I thought this would be a longer haul than it ended up being.

Cover image via Goodreads

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Summary from Goodreads:

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

This book is very timely. Most of the world is struggling with the ‘problem’ of refugees. I think Hamid put everything in perspective well. Why do the receiving countries think they are struggling when it’s the refugees themselves who are the ones struggling. These are not people who are rejected by society in their home countries. Many of them are well educated and ambitious people whose worlds have crashed around them. Saeed and Nadia were doing fine in their hometown until everything around them changed and suddenly they weren’t. Given the chance, they’d love to be back to being ambitious and continue their education. They just need that chance and continue to travel further and further west trying to find it.

Saeed and Nadia were good characters to tell this story. I felt the story was a bit more of a general story of refugees and refugee flight. The relationship between them wasn’t really important to what Hamid wanted to say. I felt their journey was rather typical from what I’d heard and I liked how it was portrayed, especially their time in London and how contentious their presence became.

Nadia was my favorite character. Maybe it was just because she was a woman, but I was able to relate to her well. She was strong and I liked how independent she was before the fighting started in her hometown. She didn’t need Zaid, but she wanted him so was happy to have him around. I’d like to think I’m that independent.

However, their story, the migrant experience, was one that was completely new to me. It’s being shared more and more with the current state of the world, and I thought this was a great way to share it. It seemed familiar because I’ve heard it in the news and with the refugees I’ve met, but it was very far from my own story. I think that, along with the small bit of magical realism, is what made it feel so escapist.

Mohsin Hamid
Image via PRH Speaker’s Bureau

Their story while in London was my favorite part. I felt they hit a lot of the issues the Western world has with immigrants and refugees. The degradation of the home they lived in felt very real to me and probably upset the people who lived there before. The riots that came as a result of the police intervention were very impactful to me. It seemed believable that the ‘riots’ we see are often only a result of ‘peaceful requests’ for people to abandon the one thing that’s constant in their lives. Giving the refugees a way to work for a home was a must more productive way of having them move and still respect them.

A bit of a spoiler ahead, so skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it. The ending was sad to me, but it was very real. Just because they had escaped danger together and survived hardship together didn’t mean that the two were meant to be together. It was clear early on that Nadia didn’t like being dependent on Saeed and that Saeed wanted to be with someone who shared his religious convictions more than Nadia did. I didn’t see them falling apart as much as they did, but it wasn’t a surprise.

Hamid narrated the audiobook. I seem to be on a streak of this, or it’s a new trend. I thought he did a fine job. There was very little dialogue so I didn’t have any concerns about how he did female voices and he gave the story the weight it deserved. I’m not sure I’d want to hear him read other books, but he was great for this one.

There are a lot of people in Saeed and Nadia’s positions. It’s sadly common for people to be internally displaced or refugees, escaping violence somewhere they used to call home. I think books like this are important, putting faces and stories behind the large groups of people who many feel are an invasion. Why is asking for help taking anything away from us? Why can’t we help or share or make laws to help? People like Saeed and Nadia can add to a country and an economy but our governments are people don’t always see that. These stories can help.

Writer’s Takeaway: I think the minimal dialogue in this book increased its impact. It helped the story focus on Saeed and Nadia as refugees instead of their interpersonal relationships. We heard about their struggles to find a way out of Greece and didn’t focus so much on the girl who helped them. The focus was on the tenement and less on how Nadia felt about her neighbors. There was enough character development and plot to move the story along, but it was also a general story that Saeed and Nadia share with thousands, if not millions, of other refugees.

A great and timely read. I think it will do well for book club. 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:
Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid | drizzle review
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid | The Desert Bookworm
Exit West – Best Novel of 2017? | CambridgeEditors Blog
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid | BookConscious
REVIEW: EXIT WEST, BY MOHSIN HAMID (2017) | Strange Bookfellows

WWW Wednesday, 22-May-2019

22 May

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 struggled to read some of Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min this week. It’s not uninteresting, it’s just my lunch book and slow going because of that. I’ll get through it, no worries.
I’m about a third of the way through A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. With the show now over, I’m getting ravenous to get more out of the world. I want to be caught up when Martin finally releases the next book. I guess I’m hoping for a different ending.
I got through a chunk of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers on a flight this past weekend. Yes, I’m traveling again. I’m going to use it to my advantage and get through as many books as possible!
I’m making good progress on Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. He’s a great storyteller and I’m loving all the stories of his childhood and growing up in South Africa. I guess my education is seriously lacking when it comes to apartheid so I’m learning a lot.

Recently finished: Nothing new finished this week. It was a slow week of progress, I guess. I’m optimistic Noah will be here next week.

I had two reviews go up this week! The first was for Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton. It wasn’t one I particularly enjoyed if I’m being honest. I really wanted to like it, but I couldn’t. I gave it Two out of Five Stars.
The second was The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob. This one was really fun and I enjoyed the story a lot more than I thought I would. The story was sufficiently complicated to keep me going and I liked the dual timelines. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’m still waiting on Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson to come in from the library. I’m sure it will be here just when I’m not ready for it. Life always happens that way, doesn’t it? I should expect it by now.


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 Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob (4/5)

21 May

I can’t remember how exactly I heard about this one. I think it was in a ‘new releases’ pamphlet a few years ago. Anyway, I wanted to add it to my TBR and it took me almost five years, but I finally got around to it.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob

Summary from Goodreads:

When brain surgeon Thomas Eapen decides to cut short a visit to his mother’s home in India in 1979, he sets into motion a series of events that will forever haunt him and his wife, Kamala; their intellectually precocious son, Akhil; and their watchful daughter, Amina. Now, twenty years later, in the heat of a New Mexican summer, Thomas has begun having bizarre conversations with his dead relatives and it’s up to Amina-a photographer in the midst of her own career crisis-to figure out what is really going on. But getting to the truth is far harder than it seems. From Thomas’s unwillingness to talk, to Kamala’s Born Again convictions, to run-ins with a hospital staff that seems to know much more than they let on, Amina finds herself at the center of a mystery so thick with disasters that to make any headway at all, she has to unravel the family’s painful past.

I liked the back-and-forth style Jacob used to move through time. We see Amina as a girl growing up with Akhil and then we see her as an adult visiting her parents. Both stories lead us to find out how Akhil died (this isn’t really a spoiler, it’s pretty clear from early in the book). The theme of sleepwalking, or sleeping in general, is pretty prominent. Her uncle (whose name completely escapes me) is a sleepwalker and his sleepwalking ends up causing a major and deadly accident. Akhil suffers from a sleeping disorder, and her father ends up developing one. But ultimately, the sleepwalking motif is also a theme about enjoying the time you have. For a lot of Amina’s life, she’s gone through the motions without enjoying or really taking in what is happening around her. She’s sleepwalking through life when she could be dancing through it and enjoying it to the fullest.

I adored Amina’s parents. Thomas and Kamala reminded me a bit of my parents and of my friends’ parents as well. Their speech patterns were great, like how Thomas repeated someone’s name three times when greeting them. The way they cared about their kids was very real to me. Kamala was fierce when it came to Amina and Akhil and I adored her love for them. I also liked how they’d changed when they became empty-nesters. They were more relaxed with their kids and able to enjoy being a couple again. I see that in my parents and my in-laws and I’m glad Jacob was able to capture it.

Kamala was my favorite character. She was well drawn and she had a great attitude about life. Her religious convictions were fun to read about and the way she spoke to and cared about her kids was very loving. She called them dummies all the time, but you knew she was the most kind-hearted character in the story. The way she treated Thomas through his illness was heartbreakingly beautiful. She was a woman who was kind and loving on the outside but could yell and push to get what she needed for her family. I loved the way she was drawn.

Because I’m a similar age to Amina, she was easy to relate to. I liked that we got a character around 30 who isn’t settled and happy in her career. I feel that, all too often, characters in books are wildly successful by age 30 and that seems so unrealistic. She felt more real to me because of this and I was glad to have a character I could relate to.

Mira Jacob
Image via India Today

The flashbacks to Akhil in high school were my favorite parts of the book. Seeing a boy becoming a man so quickly and seeing it through his sister’s eyes was a great way to develop his character. I enjoyed hearing about his political dealings because it felt reminiscent of high school for me; when we were 17 and out to change the world. He was full of optimism and hope. Amina watching him change was paralleled with herself at 30, who has not yet come into herself in the same way and needs a kick in the pants to be comfortable with herself.

Dimple was my least favorite character and the parts of the book with her in it disappointed me. She felt very flat to me and I didn’t think she added much to the book. She seemed like a terrible friend if I’m being honest. She pushed Amina into doing a lot of things she didn’t want to do and wasn’t very supportive when big things were happening in Amina’s life. She also kept secrets and seemed to demand a lot of attention when they were together.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Jacob. At first, I was nervous because some authors are not meant to be narrators. But Jacob really impressed me. She did great accents for her Indian characters and gave each a distinct voice and inflection so they were easy to tell apart. I hope she continues to narrate her books going forward as she has a great gift for it.

Writer’s Takeaway: It was clear to me that Jacob had some personal knowledge of being Indian in America. The story was reminiscent to me of a Jhumpa Lahiri novel and I thought the immigrant story was well done. This is a great example of ‘write what you know’ and it really shone for me.

This was a great read and I’m glad I finally got around to it. 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:
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing | textingthecity
The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacobs | 52 Books or Bust
Mira Jacob’s “The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing” | A writer is a world trapped in a person
Book Review: The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob | ahouseofbooks

Book Review: Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton (2/5)

20 May

S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders is probably my favorite novel of all time. I adore it each time I read it and I love the movie adaptation. I have a ring with a quote from the book. Everything about it is amazing. So when I found out Hinton had published a novel more recently, I added it to my TBR. It took years, but I finally got to it. And I’m quickly trying to forget about it.

Cover image via Goodreads

Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton

Summary from Goodreads:

An orphan and a bastard, Jamie Sommers grew up knowing he had no hope of heaven. Conceived in adultery and born in sin, Jamie was destined to repeat the sins of his parents–or so the nuns told him. And he proved them right. Taking to sea, Jamie sought out danger and adventure in exotic ports all over the world as a smuggler, gunrunner–and murderer. Tough enough to handle anything, he’s survived foreign prisons, pirates, and a shark attack. But in a quiet seaside town in Delaware, Jamie discovered something that was enough to drive him insane-and change his life forever. For it was in Hawkes Harbor that Jamie came face to face with the ultimate evil…

The book started strong for me. Jamie had a rough childhood and grew up to be a bit of an outlaw but a happy guy until he sees a coworker killed for a cause he doesn’t support. The timeline jumps between his time in a mental ward and spiraling downward in New Orleans. I thought there was some connection between the drugs and alcohol abuse and his space in the ward. Then he moved to Deleware and things seemed to be OK for a while. And here’s where the book lost me. I’m going to spoil it completely so skip this review if you want to read this. There he’s attacked by a vampire and made to be his slave. Yep, no joke. A story that I thought was going to be about the perils of drug abuse and making the wrong friends is about not waking up vampires from their long slumbers. The rest of the book is Jamie trying to escape from the vampire’s grip and their almost friendship by the end. I was hoping for a while that the vampire was some kind of metaphor for Jamie’s state of mind but when I lost that hope, I stopped caring about this book. It was so far from what I loved about Hinton’s other novels, the gritty reality of growing up on the wrong side of town, that I couldn’t like it.

Before the vampire attack, Kell and Jamie seemed like very likable characters and I could picture them easily. I liked easy-going Jamie and too-smark Kell. The first half of the book was great. But when it turned Twilight-y, I was done. Jamie dissolved into a shell and Kell was killed for a quick drink.

I didn’t like any of the characters but the least likable was Louisa, the doctor treating Grenville. She was very cruel to Jamie and I didn’t understand her motivation. She was not his master and even Grenville didn’t treat him as cruelly as Louisa did. She appeared out of nowhere to be a lurking presence in the novel and I wish she’d been taken out, I don’t think she added anything to the book.

At the beginning of the book, Jamie was relatable. He had some rough times, he was a bit impulsive, but he had a good heart. Once he was bitten, I hated him. I think that change made this book kind of hard for me to read. It essentially killed off my favorite character.

S.E. Hinton Image via FixQuotes

Jamie’s stories about sailing with Kell were great. I would have read a book of just that. I liked the adventure and risk he faced. I love the water and I won’t lie, some of that life was really appealing to me. I’d love to be on the water all the time but I’m a little too settled to start now.

The ending of the book was rough for me as well. If Grenville’s curse was lifted, I would have thought he’d age. But I guess every author gets to re-write their vampire lore just a bit. I don’t like that Jamie ended up being a victim of Stockholm Syndrome. I would have thought he’d get out of there completely or never recover from it. I guess his character weakness was too much for me by then. I wanted him back to his former glory and it was never going to happen.

I can’t begin to think of what the theme for this book is. Don’t go sticking your nose somewhere a kid tells you is haunted? Tough luck if you’re attacked by a vampire? It doesn’t matter if your doctor has the best intentions? The book was so disjointed and felt like three different books so I’m not sure what to think of it or even how to critique it. It was just too much.

Writer’s Takeaway: At the beginning, Hinton was using flashbacks to build tension. We saw Jamie growing up and exploring the seas and would return to him in psychiatric care. Unsure what had landed him there, we followed him and heard him share his story with the doctors. Then he’s released and the story fell apart for me there. All the tension seemed unimportant. His adventuring had nothing to do with why he was there, he’d be bitten and had tried to save someone else but was accused of assault. The tension disintegrated and I stopped caring. If using a flashback structure, it’s important that the flashbacks are important.

This book was a huge let down for me, sad to say. Two 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:
#326 Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton | One-Eleven Books2
Hawkes Harbor | The Poisoned Martini
Hawkes Harbor – S.E. Hinton | The Lucid Reader

Book Club Reflection: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

16 May

My book club met a few weeks ago to discuss Paulette Jiles’ book News of the World. It was a short book, a nice break after some very long titles over the past few months. For the most part, we enjoyed it.

None of us had read Jiles before but she’s published about fifteen books including poetry, memoir, and children’s. If we hadn’t known the author’s name, many of us would have been surprised it was written by a woman. Captain Kidd was well drawn and the world he lived in felt rather ‘masculine.’ Johanna wasn’t a particularly feminine character either. Though, I do love being pleasantly surprised when an author can write another gender.

I listened to the book but those who read it said there was no quotation marks or other punctuation for dialogue. It took a while for the readers to get used to it. We wondered if she wrote all of her books this way. Maybe it was the influence of writing poetry.

A reader mentioned that the style reminded her of Mark Twain. The main character sounded a bit like Twain as well. He was also a printer in the West at the same time period. It was a flashback to a book we read a few years ago, The Bohemians.

Johanna’s time with the Kiowa made her resilient; she was strong and could endure a lot of hardships. If she’d been the young German girl she was born to be, she may not have been able to survive the trip to her relatives. We laughed when recalling the scene where Johanna wanted to scalp the men who tried to kill them and Captain Kidd deemed that ‘impolite.’

The relationship between the two was cemented late in the novel when Captain Kidd saw how Johanna was being used as slave labor by her aunt and uncle. We felt he may have left her if her relatives had been less cruel to her. We felt she began to trust him early on when they ran into soldiers and he didn’t hand her over to them. She knew he was trying to keep her safe. Though, we thought that Johanna leaving may make the aunt and uncle want their $50 back since they ‘paid’ for her in the first place.

We talked about the title quite a bit and had several interpretations. One was that the book gave us the news of the world of Texas in the 1870s. It told us how the world worked with slavery gone and a post-war economy in fluctuation. It was also how Kidd got news, from the people he ran into and how he saw them interact. He also chose what the news was going to be by selecting different stories for different crowds, deciding what they would know of the world.

The book focused on how different cultures come together to learn and accept each other. Johanna and Kidd were as different as could be as far as age, gender, language, and culture. But they still cared for each other and could be a good team together.

Even though the Civil War is over, it’s not really. There’s only one black character in the book, and he’s restricted his travel because of his race. As free as he is legally, he knows that society doesn’t see it the same way.

This book was great for a discussion. I do enjoy meeting with others to talk about the books I voraciously consume. I’m really looking forward to our next title, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

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, 15-May-2019

15 May

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?

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Currently reading: I made a point to read more of Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min during my lunches this week. I got through another chapter and then some so I’m happy with the progress. I knew this would be slow going so I’m not worried about it.
I’m taking small bites out of A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. I’m not yet a third done, but I’ll keep going steadily. I don’t mind drives right now and I’m taking the time to enjoy it as it comes.
I started on A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers and I’m hoping I can finish fast. I have a trip out of town next weekend and I don’t like to take signed books out of the house. I might just have to power through, though. I don’t think it will be much of a chore.
I’ve just started Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I adore Noah on The Daily Show and I’ve liked the stand-up I’ve seen from him. I even watched his documentary on getting started in comedy in South Africa and enjoyed that. I’m really excited about this, to say the least!

Recently finished: I wrapped up Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi this week. It was a short book but it hit me hard! I thought after reading several other accounts of survival in concentration camps, I knew what I was getting into. But Levi kept shocking me. He was in the camp for a long time and his memory is very vivid. I’m glad he wrote this haunting book, the world needs to remember the atrocities we are capable of.
I also finished Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. I should have guessed that I’d finish it in a week but it still came as a surprise to me. I liked this one a lot and the bit of magical realism didn’t bother me too much. I usually hate it, but this wasn’t too overwhelming. My book club meets in a few weeks to discuss so expect a few more posts on this going forward.

I only got one review up this week which means I’m slipping seriously behind. I posted my review of The Power by Naomi Alderman last Thursday. It was very OK to me, nothing that blew me away. My book club met earlier this week to discuss so I’ll be sharing some more thoughts soon.

Reading Next: It seems too early to pick another book to read. I guess I’ll have to pick. I’m working through books that will need an Interlibrary Loan when I can so I’ve put in a request for Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson. I’ve yet to be let down by the ‘Dummies’ series and it seems like a good time for this one. With my manuscript being wrapped up, I need to start another and I’m a bit lost on how to go about it this time. I’m hoping for a bit of inspiration.


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!