Archive | July, 2019

WWW Wednesday, 31-July-2019

31 Jul

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: Well, I read some of Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. That’s a start, right? I’ll keep moving forward with this but it feels like it’s never-ending. But it has to at some point. I just feel like I’ve stalled.
I’m really enjoying The Map of Time by Félix Palma. I’m moving through it as fast as my schedule allows but I’ve already had to renew it once at the library. I’ll make it through eventually but I know this thick book is a long haul. I’m hanging on tight for the ride!
I’m at a lull with A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. Now that my race is over, I’m taking a short break from running and biking to concentrate on a 2-mile swim I’m doing this weekend. It’s hard to listen while I swim so I’ll get back to this soon. I’m really liking it so I can’t wait to dive back in.
I’ve enjoyed Burial Rites by Hannah Kent so far. I’m amazed at the narrator attempting (successfully?) to pronounce all the Icelandic names and locations in this book. They sound impossible to pronounce. When we were in Iceland, I didn’t even try.

Recently finished: In a weird twist, the library e-copy of Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton my husband and I had been listening to is no longer available. I guess we were the only ones using it and it was removed from the collection. I dug out my physical copy and we took turns reading it out loud to each other on the drive home from Ohio. We had one chapter left when we got home and finished it that night! Review to come.

I posted my review of A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin yesterday. It feels so good to have finally finished that book! Please go check it out. I hope I don’t wait as long before I start the fourth book. I gave it Five out of Five Stars, my highest rating in the series so far!

Reading Next: The plan is still to get an e-copy of An American Marriage by Tayari Jones next. While I’m taking a break from running, I’m still doing a half marathon in the fall so I’ll be back at it soon enough and I’ll get to this after Schwab.


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!

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Book Review: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

30 Jul

It took me three months to listen to this audiobook. For context, it’s 39 disks long. A normal book is around 10, long books are 15. This was 39. I believe it was over 50 hours of audio. I had to get a librarian to change my due date twice because I’d run out of holds. It felt so good to finally finish this book!

Cover image via Goodreads

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George R.R. Martin

Other books by Martin reviewed on this blog:

A Game of Thrones (#1)
A Clash of Kings (#2)

Summary from Goodreads:

Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of the sorceress who holds him in her thrall. Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. And as opposing forces manoeuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords.

This book really took off. I looked at my ratings of the first two books (4 and 3 stars) and I’m surprised because this one was such a winner and I don’t remember disliking the first two. Maybe I’m going nuts. I was swept away with the story in book three. A lot of my favorite moments from several seasons of the show ended up in this book and the clash of them all together was very enjoyable. Each character is killing it and I’m liking the pacing a lot. Overall, I can’t wait to read book four. I’ve just got to carve out the time.

Martin builds amazing characters. As before, Tyrion is a favorite and I adore how he’s evolved in this book. Sansa is starting to become more likable and Arya is starting to feel less whiney. Most importantly, I’m starting to like Jaime. This book shows Martin’s amazing ability to build characters and I’m loving where it’s going.

Tyrion is again my favorite. I love how he appears to be evil and mean but it’s clearly a result of how his sister and father have treated him his entire life. I think his relationship with Jaime really shows a lot about him and in this book in particular. Jaime’s loyalty is very divided between the woman he loves and his brother when the two of them are at each other’s throats for most of the book. I think the brothers’ bond will be explored more as this goes forward, more so than the show did. I also loved the development of Tyrion’s first wife that we don’t get in the show. I won’t spoil it here, but I felt it showed a lot about Jaime that he told Tyrion the truth.

I can’t say I’ve been in situations like many of the characters in the story and that’s part of what makes it such a wonderful escapist pastime. The way they react in situations makes me think ‘I’d never do that’ or ‘I can see where they’re coming from,’ but their situations are not at all familiar to me.

George RR Martin
Image via GeorgeRRMartin.com

Arya and the Hound’s time together was my favorite of the book. I enjoyed the relationship they developed and being inside Arya’s head and hearing how she felt about Sandor and how that changed was really fun for me. She hated him but relied on him. She wanted to kill him but also wanted him to stay alive. I liked how she dealt with those mixed emotions and I think she grew a lot because of it.

There wasn’t a part of this book I disliked. I think it was all amazingly done and I really look forward to the next one now that Martin has kicked it into high gear.

Roy Dotrice was an amazing narrator yet again. I’m going to miss his voice when we finally get to books he couldn’t narrate. He does an incredible job with the mix of characters and the delivery of certain lines with deep emotion. He’s so talented and deserves the recognition he’s gotten for his performances.

There was a lot of loss and revenge in this book. Loss mostly from death but also other ways. Jaime’s loss comes to mind. Sansa is dealing with a loss of freedom. Revenge from Theon and Tyrion are prominent and the way the Northmen and outlaws are rebelling plays a large role in the balance of power in the realm. Revenge is often dark but we see how it can be so sweet in some of these cases.

Writer’s Takeaway: You rarely get a book as long as this one and it doesn’t drag at all. There wasn’t a down moment in this book, it kept rocketing ahead and I loved it. Martin does a good job of building to high points before switching to another character. This is something I’m trying to work into my re-write on my book which also uses multiple points of view. It’s great to see how it can be done well.

A great job and a middle book with no lag! A full Five out of Five stars.

This book counts toward the 1300-1499 period (assuming it parallels the War of the Roses) for 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:
Review: A Storm of Swords | literaryelephant
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin | Lighthearted Librarian’s Website
A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George RR Martin | loudbookishtype

Off Topic Thursday: It’s Time

25 Jul

I’ve been talking about it for a long time and now it’s here! Well, it’s coming. My Half Ironman, Half Ironman Ohio 70.3, is on Sunday, July 28th. I’m. Freaking. Out!

I feel ready. I’ve trained according to my plan, making small adjustments for personal obligations and larger adjustments for injuries that I’ve learned to manage and help heal. And now it’s time to see if it was enough. It’s time to see if my bike (I’ve named her Bike) will hold up and if Bike and I will ever want to look at each other again after 56 miles in rural Ohio. And we’ll see if my knees still work after a half marathon to end the day. My husband and my parents will be there to support me and I’ll probably cry when I see them coming through the shoot. I’m almost crying thinking about it.

This has been a pretty major life goal of mine for some time. I’m glad to finally be staring it down and ready to check it off the list. I don’t ever want to do one of these again! So many of my friends from my tri club told me I’d get addicted. I have back and knee pain and a terrible hankering to just run a darn 5K and stop. I’m nowhere near addicted and I have no intention of doing a full Ironman ever in my life. I plan to focus on Sprint and Olympic distance races (about a quarter and half the distance I’ll do on Sunday) and swim more. I love swimming. I miss doing it as much as I used to.

If you’re terribly bored on Sunday, you can look me up. I’m number 446 and you can Google the race (Ironman Ohio) after it starts Sunday morning and track me throughout the day. I hope to finish in under seven hours. I should be in the water by about 7:30 EST (it’s a rolling start so no guarantee on a start time). It will be a long day and you can bet that my August post will be a reflection of how it went.

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-July-2019

24 Jul

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 been even slower with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. I’ve been having lunch with a friend a lot the past few weeks since it’s nice out. We can’t do this as much come winter so we’re enjoying the sun and I’m reading less. Oh well.
My husband and I haven’t moved forward with Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. We have a drive coming up this weekend (more on that tomorrow) so we’ll get a bit more in then. This one might be a long time running.
I was finally able to start The Map of Time by Félix Palma! It’s been really interesting so far, though I’m not far into it. The narration style is reminding me a bit of Marcus Zusak. We’ll see if that continues.
I’ve already made great progress with A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab due to some longer training sessions last week. I’m optimistic that I’ll finish this in two weeks, but we’ll see. Optimism!
I start Burial Rites by Hannah Kent in my car. Not too far into it yet, so no real opinion. I added this to my TBR when I planned my trip to Iceland but I’m a year late on reading it. Oh well, better late than never!

Recently finished: Finally, there is so much to report! I wrapped up The Golden Rules by Bob Bowman which was a great one to listen to while training for a Half Ironman. It was really inspiring to push toward your goals. It helps that I’m an avid swimmer and swim fan and this focused on Bowman’s most famous athlete, Michael Phelps. My review went up last Thursday and I gave it Three out of Five Stars.
I was glad to finish A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers late last week. It was dragging on more than I wanted and I was eager to start something new. My review went up yesterday so you can check that out. I gave it Two out of Five Stars.
I finally finished A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin! 39 disks and over 47 hours completed. It feels amazing to be done. I’ll have a review up next week I expect. I hope I can remember it all.

Reading Next: I’ve got one more book club pick coming up soon that I need to start so I’ll be listening to Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage next. I’ve read Jones before and liked her and this one has had a lot of good press so I’m looking forward to it.


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: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (2/5)

23 Jul

I’ve read a fair number of Eggers works and each one seems to be distinctly different from all the others. As such, they’re a bit hit and miss with me. There are some I really enjoy and others that are just ‘bleh’ but very few that I don’t enjoy. I guess there’s a first time for everything because this one just wasn’t a winner with me. It’s sad that it’s the author’s memoir.

Cover image via Goodreads

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

Other books by Eggers reviewed on this blog:

A Hologram for the King (and Movie Review)
The Circle (and Movie Review)
Zeitoun (and Book Club Reflection)

Summary from Book Rags:

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a memoir by magazine editor Dave Eggers. The book tells the story of how Dave’s parents died of cancer within five weeks of each other and left Dave and his siblings custody of their seven year old brother, Toph. Dave tells his story with his trademark satire dripping from every word, allowing the reader to follow him on the ride from total irresponsibility to maturity and acceptance. This memoir is memorable and indeed heartbreaking, leaving the reader touched and yet strangely amused.

I loved parts of this book and there were other parts I struggled to get through. I thought the stories of being a father/brother and trying to be a 20-something while being in charge of his brother were great. I thought that was going to be the focus of the book, really. But there were parts where the way Eggers told the story drove me crazy. The extended (and fake) interview with The Real World for example. I’ll go into detail more but the back-and-forth nature of the storytelling made it hard for me to enjoy as a whole and led me to rate it lower than I felt parts of it deserved.

The life Eggers portrayed seemed very realistic to me. People do their best and sometimes that best doesn’t seem great from the outside or looks like failure to some people. Eggers dealt with his criticism in a weird way sometimes, lying about Toph to make himself laugh at the expense of his friends. But it was how he needed to cope. It was how he could keep doing his best. It was right for him. People need to be selfish sometimes and do what’s best for them to keep moving forward and I saw that in Eggers portrayal of himself and his family from time to time.

I liked Toph best and I wish we’d gotten a little more about him in the story. He was in a very difficult position for the majority of the story. He was likely raised like an only child, with his next oldest sibling being 13 years his elder. When Toph was forming a lot of his memories, Beth and Bill would have been out of the house and Dave would have been in high school. I’m going to guess their mother doted on him based on her personality and the one scene we have where they interact. I think the death of his parents would have been much harder on Toph than we’re led to see in this story. I wish we’d been able to see that and his coping more.

I think the way Dave felt when parenthood was thrust on him was very relatable. He didn’t know what to do but he was going to do his best to do it. It reminds me of when you start a new job and have to jump in with both feet and find your footing before you slip. Dave tried really hard and was clearly worried about Toph very often. Granted, my brother is two years younger than me, but I never worried about him that much though I didn’t have to take as much responsibility for him. I felt it was really admirable.

Dave Eggers
Image via Amazon.com

Dave doesn’t tell us how he felt about his father at first. It comes throughout the book in chunks and I liked how he did it that way. I thought it revealed a lot about his family and how they projected themselves that he wouldn’t talk about this earlier in the book. You learned about the siblings and how they got along well before you know how their parents’ relationship was tested. I felt this added a layer to the book because it was something you might not know about the Eggers even if you were a friend, something you’d have to come to learn the way I did as a reader.

There were parts of the book that got ‘too meta’ for me. The biggest being the Real World interview which we find out while reading it is not anything like the real interview but a way for Dave to tell us more about his family. That felt cheap and unlike a lot of the times that Dave’s humor made me laugh, this made me angry. I wanted to get through that section fast but it took me longer and longer the more frustrated I got.

Memoirs tend to focus on a pivotal part of someone’s life and I think Dave picked a very change-fraught part of his life and the lives of his siblings to cover. Toph had to learn to take his brother serious as a parent figure while Dave had to learn to be a father and still be a 20-something single guy. He was a friend and a brother and a parent. They had to figure out their roles and how they could work together to still be a family and support each other.

Writer’s Takeaway: Dave is clearly a guy who likes to have fun, as he shows us in his interactions with Toph and his friends. I didn’t always agree with his sense of humor and the things he found funny. That was fine with me when it was him telling jokes about Might, but it was something different when it was him pulling a fast one on me as his reader. I didn’t like the dream/reality jumbles that weren’t explained, the meta-discussion with John, or (again) the Real World interview. I felt like I was the butt of his jokes and it annoyed me.

I’m sad to make this my lowest Eggers rating. 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:
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius | Ester’s Book Blog
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers | EatSleepRead
‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’ by Dave Eggers- Review by Tathushan Subenthiran | Wilson’s School: Student Book Reviews
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and the Modern Memoir | No Pun Intended
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers | Sea of Shelves

Writers’ Group: Writing Longhand and Book Promotion

22 Jul

My writers’ group met last week and we covered some very different topics. The first was software that takes written words and translates them to digital words in a word processing software. This is good for those that prefer to write longhand or who (like me) do not have power or an internet connection. (We lost power during a heatwave. I’m writing this from the air-conditioned library.)  This technology is called Optical Character Recognition. For those of us with MS Office, OneNote has this capability (more on how to do it here) so no need to buy new software! Another option for those without MS Office is an app called Pen to Print. To use this software, the written words must be on lined paper.

I’ve mentioned before that one of our writers recently self-published his book. I asked how it’s been going and got some good details I’ll keep in mind if I ever self publish. We talked about a Goodreads Giveaway Jason ran. The writer gets to select the amount of time the giveaway will run for and how many copies he or she wants to give away. When the time runs out, Goodreads gives you the names and addresses that you will be sending the copies to. It falls on the writer to pay to ship the copies. There’s an option to give away Kindle copies if the book is in that format and this avoids shipping costs. We had another writer at the meeting whose book was available through Barnes & Noble though it wasn’t carried in any store. It could be ordered to a store or ordered on their website. He said that he’d gone into a store and talked to an employee about this though I’m sure there’s a way to do it online. Another writer pointed out that the book would qualify for the Michigan Notable Books program that our state library runs. For those who are Michiganders, you can read more here. It’s worth looking into other states and countries to see if these opportunities exist in other areas.

It was a quick meeting so that’s all I’ve got this month. I’m sure I’ll have something to contribute once I start writing again. And that should be next week! Should be.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Golden Rules by Bob Bowman (3/5)

18 Jul

If you’ve been here for some time, you know I love swimming. I grew up swimming competitively since the age of nine and I still compete as an adult. Needless to say, I watch the Olympics religiously and Michael Phelps was a big icon of my childhood. Behind every athlete is a coach and Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, is a legend. He coached at the University of Michigan while Michael was in college so he almost feels local, too. When I heard Bowman had a book, I knew I wanted to read it and unfortunately it took me a few years to finally get around to it.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Golden Rules: 10 Steps to World-Class Excellence in Your Life and Work by Bob Bowman and Charles Butler

Summary from Goodreads:

Bob Bowman, best known as the coach for the record-breaking run of Michael Phelps, is one of the most successful coaches in sports history. He is lauded for his intense personality, incredible dedication to his athletes, and his ability to nurture talent in athletes who have the heart and drive to win. This is his motivational book about winning in all walks of life and what you have to do to get there. He presents ten key concepts that all people should live by. Illuminating his lessons with spirited anecdotes, Bowman will teach you how to get gold out of every day by setting goals and getting motivated to achieve them. He will explain that taking risks is the key to success in any pursuit, and coach you on how you can become more risk-tolerant.

By following The Golden Rules, you will learn to visualize in order to achieve your goals, and that above all else, dedication to your training, your job, or whatever area it is you are seeking to triumph in is paramount for success.

As much as Bowman kept talking about how his rules could be applied to any job and pursuit, it was very focused on swimming. He uses examples of how he applied the rules with his swimmers and their preparation for meets. He talks extensively about Michael and his accomplishments following the rules. I would recommend this book for swimmers, but I’m not sure if I would recommend it outside that community. I also like Bowman less after reading this book. He talks about how hard he is on his swimmers and while I know that’s an effective coaching style for some, it’s not a system that would work on me. I guess I’m lucky I was never an elite caliber athlete who had to decide if Bob would coach me!

Bowman portrayed himself and his swimmers in a very real way. He talked about his shortcomings and the times when his swimmers stumbled. I’m a big fan of one of Bowman’s other swimmers, Allison Schmidt, and the way he described her was in line with the athlete I’ve watched for years. (As a side note, Schmidt went to high school 30 minutes from me and is about the same age as me.) I’m glad he talked about the times Michael stumbled because those were very public and large mistakes, and I’m glad he talked about himself in a very truthful way as well. I didn’t feel like he was showing only the best of himself.

I liked the message Bowman had and the method he shared. The stages he has made sense to me and I can see how I’ve applied some of them in my life and the adventures I’ve undergone. I can apply them to my triathlon endeavors, sure, but I can also apply them to planning my trip to Europe last summer or the career change I’m thinking of making now. Going all-in is helpful, having a team support individual success makes everything better, and overcoming adversity makes success even sweeter. I liked how Bowman detailed how his athletes had overcome this and it helped me see it in my life.

Bob Bowman
Image via ASU Website

Bowman talked a lot about a swimmer I wasn’t familiar with, Jessica Long. Her story stuck with me more than any other athlete Bowman mentioned. I was very inspired by her goal of making the qualifying time for the standard Olympic trials despite being a decorated Paralympian. Her story of meeting her birth parents had me tearing up, too!

I disliked when Bowman talked about motivating his athletes by telling them they weren’t trying hard enough and that their effort level was unacceptable. Maybe it’s because I’ve never gone into practice and just gone through the motions. I’ve never done just enough when I was first asked to do as much as I could. I’m very internally motivated so a coach who relies on external motivation to push a swimmer forward was an odd concept for me and it made me feel like he didn’t tailor his style of coaching to fit what his athletes needed.

My audiobook was narrated by Peter Berkrot. Bowman mentions several times being from South Carolina and Berkrot’s southern accent seemed to go perfectly with Bowman’s energy and hometown. He seemed to channel the Bob Bowman I’ve seen on interviews and fit the personality I’ve heard of from his swimmers. He really nailed it in my opinion.

Bowman focuses on excellence in whatever you do and achieving goals. He talks about how goals are often based on meeting a target and not on beating another person. Instead of setting a goal of Michael winning a medal, they would figure out what time he would likely need to win the medal and focus on swimming that time. Similarly, I’ve set a goal of finishing my Half IronMan in a certain time (though I’m being flexible with it) and have certain criteria for my next career move that I’m focusing on. Excellence can come in many forms, but Bowman’s advice of setting large and small goals to get there and how to go toward chasing those goals resonated well.

Writer’s Takeaway:  Bowman shared his message mostly through anecdotes which were helpful. I could see the point he was trying to make illustrated. What was hard about it was that the timeline was a bit messy. He jumped backward and forward in time, skipped from one swimmer to the next, and I wondered if I followed only because of my personal interest in the sport. If I was going to write an inspirational book, I would try (and probably fail) to tell a story in order and talk about how the process worked sequentially instead of in spurts.

This book was enjoyable but I’m not sure it had the universal appeal it was meant to. It also fell short for me in a few ways. I’m giving it three 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:
Bob Bowman’s Golden Rules for World-Class Excellence in Your Life and Work | The Tao of Wealth
Bob Bowman discusses ‘The Golden Rules’ on TODAY | NBC Sports

WWW Wednesday, 17-July-2019

17 Jul

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: Still going slow with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. I keep pecking away. Slowly but surely. I’ll get there.
I think I’ll finish A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin this week. I’ve made some really good forward progress and I’m prioritizing it when I’m in my car. Maybe wishful thinking, but I’ll stay positive.
I really wanted to say that I’d finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I guess the style has started to grate on me and I’m not reading it as quickly as I’d like to. At this point, I just want to finish it so I can move on.
We haven’t had a chance to listen to more of Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It might be a few weeks before we have a substantial car ride together again. We’ll be driving to Ohio at the end of the month for my Half Ironman so I know we’ll have some time then.
I’ve been listening to The Golden Rules by Bob Bowman while I workout. I’m not sure if anyone outside of the competitive swimming world is familiar with Bowman, Michael Phelps’ and Allison Schmidt’s coach, also named head coach of the Olympic Men’s USA Swim Team. This book seems like it’s trying to appeal to non-swimmers, but swimming is a huge focus of it just due to Bowman’s job. I’m enjoying it, though.

Recently finished: I finished Being Mortal by Atul Gawande quickly after I got back to running and biking. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected and was able to post my review on Monday. Please go check it out! I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars.
It’s more of a short story than a book, but I listened to Ajax Penumbra, 1969 by Robin Sloan. This is a short prequel to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and it was really fun to revisit the world Sloan created for that one. The review for this one posted yesterday and I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Not a bad week for reading!

Reading Next: I can’t wait to start The Map of Time by Félix Palma. It’s taunting me from my bedside table and intimidating me with its length. I really want to start soon!
I’ve decided on my next eaudiobook since I’ve been flying through them so fast. I want it to be A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. It’s been more than three years since I read the first one but I think I remember it pretty well and I can’t wait to jump into the world again!


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: Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan (4/5)

16 Jul

This is really more of a short story, but it deserves a review. My husband and I loved Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and when I found out there was a prequel, no matter how short, I wanted to read it. I found an audio edition and on a day with a run and indoor bike, I finished the whole thing.

Cover image via Goodreads

Ajax Penumbra 1969

Other books by Sloan reviewed on this blog:

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (5/5)

Summary from Goodreads:

August 1969 San Francisco. Ajax Penumbra seeks a book–the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. Late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles across a 24-hour bookstore, and the possibilities before him expand exponentially.

Maybe my memories of Ajax Penumbra from the full novel are a bit off because this character seemed a little stiff. But my memory of the 24-hour bookstore and the magic that it held were spot on. I loved coming back to the store and the mysteries within it. Mo was great and the friendships with Corvina and Claude were so fun to see develop.

The characters in this one weren’t really credible, but I wasn’t expecting them to be. Penumbra was a very eccentric character in the original novel, so I expected his origins to be equally eccentric and fun and I wasn’t disappointed. They were what I expected them to be.

Mo was my favorite character. It’s as if owning the bookstore makes you into an energetic and haphazard person and I loved that in Mo. He was very passionate about the store and what was inside it and his customers and I found that very endearing. He was also very smart. In many ways, he’s like the Mr. Penumbra we come to love but he’s very unique at the same time and I liked how Sloan built his character.

I thought Ajax going to Claude when he had a problem was a very realistic solution. There are a lot of times that someone very far from a topic or problem can provide a solution that helps more than the experts or team working on it can. Claude had a local’s perspective and I liked how he was able to help.

Robin Sloan
Image via BookRiot

I loved the story of the William Gray. I hope that’s true and that the city is really built on scuttled ships. Even if it’s not true, I still liked the story and I wish it were true because now I’m thinking about all the treasure that could be buried underground.

The actual discovery of the Techne Tycheon was my least favorite part. I liked the puzzle and the research so doing the physical work to find the book ended up being a bit of a disappointment to me. Maybe a puzzle on the lock would have been better. But now I’m stretching.

Ari Fliakos narrated the audiobook, the same man who did Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I’m glad Ari came back for this short story. He already had a flair for Penumbra and the fun cast of characters that surrounded him and was able to bring that back.

Penumbra is determined to solve the mystery, much like Clay was in the full novel. I liked seeing the dedication to books that Penumbra and his coworkers at Galvanic had. It was really encouraging to see how books had come to influence life and how much people cared for them. It was very similar to the love of books that was expressed in the full novel.

Writer’s Takeaway: I feel writers are often asked to continue with characters in the form of a sequel or companion novel because publishers know it will sell. I think this is one of those instances but I think Sloan handled it well and in a different way from what was expected. He gave his readers a short insight into Ajax Penumbra without muddling the main novel’s plotline and by giving us just a taste of the mysterious character we’d grown to love in the novel.

A really enjoyable short jaunt down memory lane. 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:
Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan | One Book Two
Ajax Penumbra 1969 | Raging Bibliohlism
Ajax Penumbra, 1969- Robin Sloan | Track of Words

Book Review: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (4/5)

15 Jul

It’s been a while since one of my book clubs picked a non-memoir non-fiction. I hadn’t heard of this choice before it came up on the list but, as so often happens, I’m so glad we picked it because I ended up really enjoying it.

Cover image via Goodreads

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Summary from Goodreads:

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.

Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them.

In his bestselling books, Gawande has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures–in his own practices as well as others’–as life draws to a close. Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life–all the way to the very end.

This book hit me harder than I thought it would. I recently lost my grandfather who had been living in an assisted living facility for a few years and eventually succumbed to pneumonia. Both of my grandmothers are still alive and both are in assisted living. I’m sure most people have experienced death and dying in their lives, either friends or family. This book made me start thinking already about how I’ll react when my parents start to age. As the oldest daughter, care will likely fall to me. We’re fortunate that my husband has other siblings so we won’t likely have to deal with both sets of parents. I’ve started thinking about what’s important to my parents and what a quality life might mean to them and how I could provide that. But I also know that I need to ask when the time comes. This also made me think about what I would want to do if I had a terminal disease. How far would I go to fight it and how important are comfort and quality of life in the end.

Gawande portrays a lot of different people he’s met and it’s clear that they have different priorities and personalities. Some of them want to live as long as possible while some value independence and others comfort. I liked that he chose a wide variety of people at various stages of their lives to comment in this book. It started off feeling like a book on elder care but he brought it to a place where I realized it could affect me as well.

Providing the details of his father’s illness grounded the second half of the book for me. Gawande isn’t just preaching best practices. He’s had to live through the tough conversations he talks about and live with the consequences of them. I thought it gave a lot of weight to what he was saying. I liked how he showed that he applied what he learned to his patients and the difference he felt it made in their final days.

While I was reading this book, I went to a friend’s wedding. We had breakfast at her family home on the morning of the wedding. It’s a home that her great-great-grandfather built and which has passed down through the generations. When we sat down to breakfast, I noticed an elderly woman sitting in an armchair in the corner of the room. Assuming correctly that this was her grandmother, I walked over and introduced myself. The woman jumped and I was afraid she was going to spill her coffee. She apologized for her reaction, she is mostly blind and hadn’t seen me approach. The smile on her face when I squeezed her hand and when each of our friends followed me over to her and introduced themselves melted my heart. She appreciated being recognized. We were in her home, after all. I’m not sure if I would have done that if I hadn’t been reading this book. She was quiet and seemed perfectly happy with her coffee and the conversation she was having with her daughter. But she really appreciated meeting her granddaughter’s friends who she would see later that day at the wedding. This book has made me think more about what I would want when I’m grandmother-aged and I’ve started treating people differently. I hope it sticks.

Atul Gawande
Image via Wikipedia

The section on end-of-life decisions and quality of life stuck with me. We go through a lot to help add months to a person’s life. Too often, I don’t think a lot of thought has been given to how that additional month is in reality for the sick. It’s likely a month of recovery and pain. Talking about what a person wants and needs for their final time is critical. I started to think about what I would want if I had to make hard decisions and I think being to read and comprehend would be very important to me. I have a huge TBR to get through after all!

There wasn’t a part of this book I particularly disliked. It was all very informative and I think it helped change my perspective on aging and dying. We have to accept our mortality and respect our lives when it comes to the end. None of us can escape death as much as we try. We have to know when the race is over.

My audiobook was narrated by Robert Petkoff. I liked how he narrated the book, giving weight to a serious subject. He didn’t try to use voices for the women or men that Gawande profiled. He was straightforward and clear about the subject. I thought that was a good way to deliver the message.

Gawande has to face death a lot in his job. He does surgeries with the point of curing, healing, and granting longer life. I think he’s well positioned to lecture on the subject of mortality. He has seen first hand when he can help and when he’s only kicking the can down the road. Bringing in his father’s illness shed a lot of light on the book as well. It’s not just what he does with patients, but what he really believes as well.

Writer’s Takeaway: I don’t know how much I learned about writing from this book. The non-fiction subject Gawande chose deserves some different approaches than the fiction I aim to write. It did highlight for me how adding a personal touch to a topic can make it seem so much more real. I’m likening this to the ‘write what you know’ mantra and how that can make a story stronger.

I enjoyed this book, the perspective, and what it’s left me with. 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:
Being Mortal | Timestafford’s Blog
Review: Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal- Medicine and What Matters in the End | The Healthcare Marketer
“No Risky Chances” by Atul Gawande (Excerpt from Being Mortal) | Lunch Break Reader
Book Review: Being Mortal | The World of Pastoral and Spiritual Care