Archive | August, 2019

Book Review: 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (4/5)

22 Aug

I can’t remember where I heard about this book. I think it may have been after I read Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn and I had a brief fascination with epistolary novels. This one is wonderful, quick and cutting to the soul. It was a great pool-side read for my recent vacation.

Cover image via Goodreads

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Summary from Goodreads:

This charming classic, first published in 1970, brings together twenty years of correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used-book dealer in London. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship, captured so acutely in these letters, is one that will grab your heart and not let go.

I didn’t expect such a short book to have so much of an impact on me. Hanff has an amazing way with words. You can feel her implied tone in her letters and you get a great sense of her personality. When the correspondence expands to include other employees of the shop and Frank’s family, you can feel the impact this relationship has had on their community. Hanff’s generosity was so unexpected in their post-war London and it went a long way to winning their affection.

Hanff had the most personality in her letters and I adored reading one from her. The others were a bit harder to distinguish and I had to look at who signed the letter when I started reading it so I would know who was speaking. Hanff’s sarcasm, manor, and energy screamed from the page, it was wonderful.

Nora was my favorite character. She didn’t have the personality of Hanff, but she had a deep appreciation for the relationship Hanff and Frank shared. She wasn’t jealous and was very appreciative of what Hanff could do for her family and friends. I’d like to hope that the relationship continued on after the book ended.

The love of books the characters shared was mesmerizing for a book lover. I also loved the idea of a store always on the lookout for a beautiful edition of a rare book and I kept picturing myself combing through a second-hand store or a personal library looking for a buried gem. It sounds like such a fun and exciting job. Funny enough, this book was a bit hard for me to find a copy of and I ended up locating it in a second-hand shop a year after I started looking for it.

Helene Hanff
Image via Hogglestock

The food that Hanff sent to her friends was so incredibly described. I can’t imagine living in a city with such strict food rations and how great of a gift an egg could be. The selflessness of her gifts and the frequency of them showed her nature and it made me want to be friends with someone who could so generously give of herself. I think the British members of this story were a little lost on how they could repay such generosity.

It was clear there were a good number of missing letters. Large stretches of time would pass and there would be references to letters we didn’t read or books that were never requested. I’m unsure if this is due to lost letters or selection. I hope it’s loss and Hanff isn’t holding back on us!

The friendship these virtual strangers formed is beautiful. They bonded over a love of books and stayed together over a genuine desire to care for other human beings. Hanff is a beautiful soul and is lucky to have found kindred spirits through a love of writing. Friendships formed over a deep love for something can be very strong. I think we can all think of a similarly deep relationship.

Writer’s Takeaway: The letters Hanff shares are beautiful and personal. I loved that she shared getting permission to publish them at the end of the book. The journey doesn’t end until publication. The relationship Helene and Frank shared and the way it expanded to those around them was beautiful and I loved how she showed it’s growth. I think Hanff realized she had something special. I’m glad she published it for others to enjoy.

A beautiful picture of friendship and a love of books. 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:
84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff | Fill Your Bookshelf
Recent Reads: 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff | Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings
Books Ordered by Helene Hanff, from 84 Charing Cross Road | The Point-Claire Public Library Blog
84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff | The Compulsive Overreader
84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff | From Isi

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WWW Wednesday, 21-August-2019

21 Aug

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: Despite good goals, I got through very little of Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min while on vacation. I’m going to happily blame it on having too much fun! Maybe this week will bode better for me.
I’m very excited to get back to The Map of Time by Félix Palma. I picked it up as soon as I got home and I’m hoping to power through and have it finished in the next week or so. The story is really fun.
I finally started An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and I’m focusing on it as much as possible. I realized the book club meeting for this one is Monday and it’s a nine-hour audiobook. That’s doable, but will require a lot of concentration!

Recently finished: I wrapped up A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab while I was getting ready for the formal dinner at my conference! It was great timing and now I’m super excited about getting to the final book in the series. Talk about a cliffhanger. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.
I decided to take a book with me for the trip and picked the slim volume of 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. It was a perfect light read while I was on the pool deck and I had some purchased books and magazines to tide me over when I finished it. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars as well.

I posted my review for Burial Rites by Hannah Kent on Monday. I’m back to blogging this week after taking last week off. It feels good to be back and I’m feeling confident I can keep up going forward. I’m glad this busy summer is starting to wind down.

Reading Next: I have another book club pick that’s going to be ‘all hands on deck.’ Assuming I finish Jones on time, I’ll jump right into Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian. All I know about this one is it has a Detroit connection. I look forward to learning more about 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 Gems in Atlanta, GA for the Traveling Bookworm

20 Aug

 

It was time for my bi-annual trip with my college friends and this time we headed to Atlanta! I can’t understand why we get two Southern states in a row (it was New Orleans in 2017) because August is NOT the best time to travel in the Southern US. But we get Cleveland in 2021 so I’ll look forward to that.

Atlanta is not known for being a book-centric city like some of the places I’ve been visiting so I went in with no expectations. I found a lot of book stores but many of them were far away from the downtown area we are staying and over an hour on a bus to get there. I opted for three that were moderately walkable from my hotel.

The first one I tried was For Keeps Bookstore. This was poor planning on my behalf because it was closed when I got there! I tried opening the door about 10:40 and they opened at 11:00. I decided not to wait because I was on a tight time schedule so I, unfortunately, do not have anything good or bad to say about this place. I had a great walk through the Georgia State campus to get there, though!

Next, I jumped on the train and wandered into A Capella Books. This was listed on two different ‘Best of’ lists that I looked into. I have to be honest, it wasn’t what I was expecting. I guess I had some ideas of amazing small Indy bookstores and this was just physically smaller than I’d hoped for. It was two rooms and to get to the second you had to walk behind the register. There was a mix of new and used books and most books only had one copy. There were a few that were outward-facing with multiple copies and I looked at those options more extensively. What eventually drew me in was their book club display. There seem to be at least fifteen book clubs that meet at the store and their current and past selections were on display. I grabbed one of these, The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai, which is part of their Best Lit Book Club. The cashier said she’d heard great things about it.

The second backroom held mostly poetry and some second-hand fiction. There was a group of three employees (I’m assuming) talking about books and I believe they were picking new orders. I poked around and was excited to find a signed first edition of Gone With the Wind! It was a ‘look but don’t touch’ situation, but it was still really cool to see.

I took a long walk along the Beltway to the next store, stopping for lunch along the way. It was HOT! I got a bit lost, too. I was heading to Posman Books which is located in Ponce City Market. This is an outdoor mall setting with multiple levels and access points. When I eventually made it, I was unfortunately short on time! This store was more what I was looking for. There are five locations for Posman, two in New York, one in Boston, and another in an Atlanta suburb. It was a good-sized store with good fiction selection and some kids interactive toys as well. There was a really friendly employee who was walking around and answering questions. I found a small foreign language section and was BEYOND EXCITED to find the Spanish translation of John Green’s Turtles All The Way Down, Mil veces hasta siempre. YA is a great reading level for me in Spanish and after the success of Will Grayson, Will Grayson earlier this year, I’m excited to have another translated Green for future Spanish reading. I grabbed an Atlanta postcard to go with my purchase and had to rush to catch a bus back to the hotel. I got to my meeting with one minute to spare! Go me.

I’m not sure when I’ll be traveling again but I’ll be sure to take tons of pictures and let you all know what I find. Until next time, write on.

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: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (4/5)

19 Aug

I learned about this book when I was getting ready for my trip to Iceland. I would have loved for it to be available as audio for me to listen to during the trip but no such luck. I was able to finally get through the CD audio recently and I wish I’d been able to experience it while in Iceland but now I just want to go back.

Cover image via Goodreads

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Summary from Goodreads:

Set against Iceland’s stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, Burial Rites evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book but the characters were really well-drawn and the plot was well-paced. I started caring for Agnes and the family almost immediately. I knew there was something sketchy about the story from how Agnes responded to her sentence and how quiet she was. The pace of finding out was great and I was drawn in by Kent’s storytelling. I really enjoyed the setting as this is the first book I’ve read set in Iceland. Having visited, it was even more vivid for me.

I didn’t realize until the end that the characters were drawn from historical figures. I liked the author’s note describing how Kent chose to interpret them and I appreciated the explanation about other ways these people have been viewed. I thought the Agnes presented was wonderfully deep and the way the story unfolded around her was very real and compelling. The other characters added to the world, but Agnes was a wonderful leading figure.

I liked Tóti a lot. He was much more like a modern priest than the priests of his time and it was interesting to see him in contrast to his father and the district commissioner. I liked his approach to Agnes and I think she responded to it so well because it was different. She didn’t need more people yelling at her about how she was a sinner and how she needed to repent. She needed someone to listen to her story. It seemed very natural for her to tell the story and I’m glad she was able to eventually finish it, even if it wasn’t with Tóti.

I’ve had my opinion of people changed by meeting them like Tóti and the family did. I appreciated that Agnes could change their minds about her by being herself and sharing her story. The rumors about here were terrible but the truth she shared was beautiful. It showed the power of the truth and how the ‘media’ can warp it. In this case, the district commissioner and a court. I wonder what she said in the courtroom because it sounds like her story wasn’t shared.

Hannah Kent
Image via the New York Times

I thought the book picked up after Agnes started talking about her life and the time she was with Natan. Natan was a complicated character and at first, you’re so sad he’s died but then you start to question if he was a good person. Of course, death is always sad but it’s sadder when a person is innocent of any wrongdoing. As the truth about Natan comes out, you start to wonder if his death is extra-sad or normal-sad and your feelings started to change. It was very well written.

The beginning dragged for me a bit. There was a lot of description and development of the relationship between the two daughters and I felt like that didn’t really go anywhere. I wish there’d been a little more about their relationship and the different ways they felt about Agnes but it seemed that the author wanted to focus on something else and left a lot out there that could have been great.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Morven Christie. She was amazing. I don’t speak Icelandic except for ‘tak’ (thanks) but I know it’s an incredibly hard language to learn. I tried learning a few phrases before visiting and didn’t get past ‘hello’ before I gave up. It has a certain sound to it, a cadence that I can’t replicate but do recognize. Christie clearly knows (or is great at faking) Icelandic because her pronunciation of names, places, and poems was amazing. I was really impressed and found her performance impressive and beautiful. She gave great weight to Agnes’s sorrow and pain. I’d love to hear her read again.

Guilt is an odd thing. While Agnes was involved in Natan’s death, was she to blame for it? Could she have stopped it and was her role in it worthy of the punishment she was dealt? Agnes wasn’t innocent, but was she guilty? I thought this book played with that grey area well and it took the whole book for me to make a decision about her and be swayed.

Writer’s Takeaway: The location in this book shines. Kent did an amazing job of making me aware of the geography and weather of Iceland and how a family in the 1820s could deal with that harsh environment. I adored the way she described the small valley and traveling around it. I could picture it so vividly. I was so impressed.

I really enjoyed this book and I look forward to more from Kent in the future. 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:
Burial Rites – Hannah Kent | Savidge Reads
Haunting, Devastating and Really Beautiful: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent | Inside My Library Mind
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent | Caught Between the Pages
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent | Books Are My Favorite and Best
Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent | Meanwhile the World Goes On

WWW Wednesday, 14-August-2019

14 Aug

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 have some time on an airplane and a long trip coming up where I can read some of Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. I’m really hoping that this means I can finish it soon!
I made the hard decision not to take The Map of Time by Félix Palma on my trip with me. I was super tight on space and it’s a very long book! I’ll pick it up when I get back home and hope I can power through next week.
I should be finishing A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab any day now. I’m very close to the end and excited to see what the final book holds! Hopefully, I don’t take as long to get to the final book. I’m going to make this my main audiobook, even if I’m still listening when I get home from my trip. I need to get through it so I can start some book club selections.

Recently finished: I was able to wrap up Burial Rites by Hannah Kent on the day I left! I’m glad I was able to finish something eventually. The story was really well written and I’m glad I read it. I wish I’d gotten to it before I visited Iceland, but I think after was still OK. I wish I’d gotten out of the capital a bit more, now. I would love to see the countryside described in this book.

No reviews this week. I’ve been busier than I can describe and I’m hoping to take this week ‘off’ and then get back to blogging next week when life has calmed down.

Reading Next: I hope to have downloaded An American Marriage by Tayari Jones before I get home from my trip and have it going ASAP. I can’t wait to listen to this one and get to a few others as soon as I can! I don’t like feeling behind with reading.


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: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton (3/5)

8 Aug

I bought this book when I visited Powells in 2017 because it was compared to Station Eleven. I was excited to see it was offered as an audiobook from my library so my husband and I started listening to it during a long car trip. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish it and when we went to check it out for the next car trip, the file was no longer available! We finished it reading out-loud to each other in the car and then in bed to finish it up. One way or another, we were going to finish it.

Cover image via Goodreads

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

Summary from Goodreads:

Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, is consumed by the stars. For years he has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists are forced to evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes the airwaves have gone silent. They are alone.

At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. So far the journey has been a success, but when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crew mates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home.

As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion. In crystalline prose, Good Morning, Midnight poses the most important questions: What endures at the end of the world? How do we make sense of our lives?

The premise of this book sounds interesting but in reality, it’s really boring to be alone. It’s also boring to read about being alone. The first half of the book had this problem. As we did flashbacks and set up the story to come, it was dull. Not much happened and the small things that did happen were mostly in flashback. It was frustrating not knowing what had caused the catastrophe. I hope this isn’t a spoiler, but we never find out what it was. I wanted to know so badly because it felt like Brooks-Dalton wrote half of a story. It felt like the build-up to a great adventure but it ended before it started. There was some good plotting, don’t get me wrong. However, my husband and I saw the two big twists coming well before they were revealed. The good characters didn’t redeem the problems I had with the plotting of the book.

I liked the characterization of the people on Aether and how they dealt with the uncertainty on Earth. With the number of people on board, they were able to portray a lot of different ways that someone might deal with possible death and loss. They were all at different stages of grief and I liked being in Sully’s head and hearing how she was dealing with it.

Harper was my favorite character. He was very ‘captain-like.’ He was easily in charge and very confident which came across well in the story. He also came across as a strong, silent type and extremely attractive. But he was very professional and it wasn’t until the very end that it seemed like he and Sully might have a romantic relationship. I liked that about him. It seemed like he realized when it was OK to cross the professional boundary.

I’ve never been as alone as these characters and it’s hard to think of any situation where I would have had a similar mentality. I’ve felt that alone but it’s all in my head and never lasted as long. I’ve probably been as retrospective as them, though.

Lily Brooks-Dalton
Image via The Independent

I liked the parts of the book Sully narrated best. I think it was because she had more people to interact with and it didn’t feel as remote despite them being in space. Auggie’s story seemed really flat to me and his backstory was pretty dull. Iris barely talked so she didn’t add much to it.

The end of the book frustrated me and I’m going to spoil it so skip ahead if you don’t want to know. I felt like the end of the book was the first half of a book I wanted to read more. I would have loved the adventure of exploring a world that had been devastated by something. You’re either the only ones or there was some communication knock-out that left everyone isolated that you have to deal with. I felt frustrated with the book when the big reveal on the final page wasn’t much of a reveal and then it ended earlier than I wanted.

The audiobook I listened to had two narrators, John H. Mayer and Hillary Huber. I liked having two people narrate the two leads in this book. It would have felt odd to have a man reading for Sully or a woman for Auggie. Both had good voices for this and gave the story the gravity it was due.

Both characters were searching for what gave them meaning when there wasn’t much left. That was a good thing for me to think about. When Auggie had nothing left, he wanted to reconnect with his daughter. When Sully had nothing left, she regretted the time she didn’t spend with her ex-husband and daughter. It’s spending time with family that we’ll regret, not working.

Writer’s Takeaway: Brooks-Dalton had two big twists planned but I honestly saw them coming. The one Auggie figured out was a little more obvious to me, but I liked how she threaded the other one in. (Trying not to give anything away.) It was interesting to see how slowly the connection was revealed and how it took until the very end for it to come full circle. I liked that element of the plotting even if the rest of it wasn’t for me.

Overall, I had some issues but still enjoyed the book. 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:
‘Good Morning, Midnight’ Imagines a World Gone Dark | Chicago Review of Books
Book Review: Good Morning, Midnight, by Lily Brooks-Dalton | The Reviewer
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton | The Desert Bookworm
Review: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton | Mad Book Love
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton | For Winter Nights

WWW Wednesday, 7-August-2019

7 Aug

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 had a few lunch breaks to read Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min last week. I can feel I’m getting toward the end of it, but I still have a long way to go. I need to pick shorter ebooks.
I’m about halfway through The Map of Time by Félix Palma which is more than I’d hoped for. The plot is really engaging for this one and I’m liking the narrative style a lot. I keep reading it instead of doing other things I should.
I started running again and listening to A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. I hope I’m able to listen to the third in this series soon because I’d hate to forget all of the amazing details I’m hearing in this one. Schwab’s writing is amazing.
I’m over halfway through Burial Rites by Hannah Kent already and I’m really liking it. Agnes is becoming more developed and I’m looking forward to where her character will end up. I have an inkling of what will happen and I can’t wait to see it played out!

Recently finished: Nothing new this week. I did post my review of Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton yesterday so please check that out when you can. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I still hope to get a copy of An American Marriage by Tayari Jones next. It’s available as an eaudio so that shouldn’t be too hard. Though I have yet another audiobook to get to soon for my other book club so I hope I can power through this one!


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!

Writing Check In- August

6 Aug

One of my goals for this year was to write more. My husband had the suggestion of making a monthly feature to talk about my writing and how it’s going. It helps keep me honest(ish) and lets you all know when my masterpiece will be released to the world!

This was not a good month for writing and I had an idea it would play out that way. I had my Half IronMan at the end of July and the ramp-up to that was intense. But it’s over. I want to really focus again on writing. I got a little bit done on Friday, fixing the tone of a few scenes. My female lead was getting in a lot of screaming matches that made her a bit unlikeable. I think we’re on better fitting now.

I stopped before a major change I’m putting in. I realized my POV didn’t bounce back and forth very much through one section and that needed to change. It should be easy enough to implement, but I need to re-write a few scenes and switch the order of a few others. It will take some work and a chunk of dedicated time is the best way to go about it. I’m saving it for my next dedicated time.

When I was training, I put each of my workouts on my calendar. It let me move things around if needed and see where I had free time or busy days. I want to start doing that with writing now. I know what workouts I need to plan so I can plan my writing, too. I think it will be mostly after-work writing time and I’m OK with that. My husband has found plenty of ways to keep himself busy while I’m having ‘me’ time. We’ll just keep that moving forward.

I hope to have more progress to report next month and be closer to moving toward submission. I’m so excited to share this book with all of you and the rest of the world! It’s coming, I promise.

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: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

5 Aug

My book group met to discuss Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal last week. We got off the topic of the book a bit because a lot of us wanted to discuss the same topic more than what Gawande had to say about it. Many of us have had loved ones go through end-of-life care so we all had a lot to share.

We did talk a bit about Gawande before we began. He’s a very impressive person. He was born in Brooklyn and earned his MA from Oxford and his MD from Harvard. He served as a health care advisor under Clinton during his campaign. He’s currently working on developing a new kind of health care company with major players in the business world called Haven. I’d love to get coffee with this guy, but I doubt he has the time.

We had a new member join us this month who works as a social worker with older adults and she had a lot of personal insight to share. She revealed to us that many older adults are afraid of death and how they will die. Some members of our group were surprised. They talk about death and dying with their families and friends openly. Of course, these are trusted loved ones, but the topic still comes up.

The social worker mentioned that she met Bill Thomas, the man who brought birds and plants into his retirement community to bring life back to it. She said he’s a little crazy, but most people with radical ideas are a bit out there. The idea of it is to make people feel useful. Sometimes, this is accomplished by having residents wash a dish or peel carrots for dinner. Thomas’s way was to have them take care of animals. Often, you see these ideas implemented incorrectly. A birdcage in the lobby where the staff care for the animals is in the right vein but doesn’t put the responsibility on the residents and defeats the purpose.

Suicide among the Baby Boomer generation is increasing (see this article). One of the reasons cited is the loss of power. We read a lot in Gawande’s book about how you lose your individualism as you grow older and the power to control what you do. This loss of power can fuel depression and it seems to be growing as the Baby Boomers age.

We talked at length about the difference between hospice and palliative care. I was still a bit unsure of the difference after reading the book. Palliative care is meant to keep someone who is ill out of the hospital and anticipate problems before they occur. It’s a bit of ‘comfort care,’ but it’s also on the preventative side as it mitigates side effects. Hospice means you are no longer being treated for the disease you are dying of. You won’t be rushed to the hospital for a symptom of your disease. This is the idea of ‘making every day as good as possible.’

These are hard topics for some people to talk about because they’re very personal. Our conversation got emotional but I’m proud of us and how much we trust each other to talk about these difficult issues. It was interesting how this book focused on keeping the elderly or sick person in control of their situation while the book we read about cadavers, Stiff by Mary Roach, focused on how what happens to our bodies after we die is completely out of our control. We can’t forget that the change should happen only at death and not before.

I can’t believe summer’s almost over but we’ll meet one more time in August before the fall picks up. Until next time, write on.

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

Challenge Update, July 2019

1 Aug

Another great month for audiobooks! I’m glad something good came out of my crazy fitness endeavors. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in July:

Being Mortal // Atul Gawande (4/5)
Ajax Penumbra 1969 // Robin Sloan (4/5)
The Golden Rules // Bob Bowman (3/5)
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius // Dave Eggers (2/5)
A Storm of Swords // George R.R. Martin (5/5)
Good Morning, Midnight // Lily Brooks-Dalton (3/5)

Eggers slowed down my physical book progress a bit. I really slugged through that one. And Martin was a big win for my car-audio. I’m glad to call that one ‘finished’ finally! Overall, a good haul for the month.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

9/12
Another one bites the dust! Since the A Song of Ice and Fire series is based on the factual War of the Roses, I decided to count the book in the time period that the war happened which means A Storm of Swords fulfills the 1300-1499 time period. If you want to, you can fight me. But it’s my challenge so I made up the rules so good luck. None of the books I’m reading now will fit the periods I have left so it might be time to start getting strategic.

Goodreads Challenge

37/52
Killing it! I’m feeling great on this one and I’m really far ahead of schedule. Even the long audiobook didn’t bring me down so I’m happy to be confident in this one. Maybe I can bring my goal back up next year. You never know.

 

Book of the Month

Limiting it to this month seems wrong because I worked on it for so long, but I’m giving the title to A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This was my favorite of the series so far and it feels like such an accomplishment just to have finished it.

Added to my TBR

It’s finally coming down again! I’m down a total of six books this month to 71. I know I’ll have a book club season role in here soon that will bring it back up, but I’ll enjoy this while it lasts. What’s even more amazing is that I didn’t add anything to my TBR this month. Yes, I am feeling alright, don’t worry!

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. This is a great way to keep me accountable and to tell you about me outside the wide world of books.

  • Finish 70.3 Half Ironman: DONE! I’ll do a full post on this at the end of the month but it went wonderfully, better than I could have expected. And no, it didn’t change my mind about doing another one. Never again.
  • Attend six weddings: We’re at the halfway point. Three down, three to go. One in August and two in October. I think we only have one more gift to buy so we’re well on our way!
  • Finish a weather blanket: I started getting caught up on this last week so I’ll be up to date pretty soon. I’m in mid-July right now, not too far off!
  • Write: I’m rededicating myself to this. With the time I’m not spending training, I can spend more writing. August is my rededication month so I’ll be beginning next week. My goal is a minimum of two hours a week and I hope for more.
  • See my friends more: Up and down. I had a friend reach out to me after my race so I got to see her and it was lovely. I have some fun adventures with friends happening soon that I’ve been planning for a while. So yes for planned trips/parties, but no a lot spontaneously. A mixed bag.

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for 2019, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

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