Archive | August, 2019

Off Topic Thursday: I am a (Half) Ironman

29 Aug

Last month I wrote about how nervous I was to do my Half Ironman. The race was just after the post went up so I’m almost a month out now and I’m so excited to share how it went! The day was unforgettable.

My husband and I drove down on Friday night. We got in late and went straight to sleep. In the morning, I got in my last workout: a 20-minute bike ride. Our hotel was right across the street from a Metro Park so I was happy to ride through the paved hilly roads there and enjoy the scenery. After a quick shower, we stopped at Meijer to pick up the things I had forgotten (because you always forget something): hand towels and nail polish. I needed the towels to dry my feet off after the swim. I need the nail polish for moral support. It’s a race tradition I have.

We went to Athlete Village, the check-in and staging area. I went through check-in and even ended up buying a bike jersey at the shop. They put the names of all registered athletes on the jersey and I found my name three times! I also bought the IronMan Ohio sticker which I would put on my car if I finished successfully.

I had time before the mandatory athlete briefing so I headed a few miles north to the beach where we would swim and where Transition 1 (T1) was set up. We had to check our bikes in on Saturday and leave them overnight. I got my bike racked successfully and was shocked how few people had done so. I was the only one on my rack which would end up holding 50 bikes. I covered my handlebars with a bag and a cover on my seat. I wouldn’t leave the towels, helmet, and spare glasses overnight so it was just my bike and I headed back to Athlete Village.

Transition 2 (T2) and the finish line were right with Athlete Village so I got T2 ready to go. I wouldn’t be back here before race time so I had to leave everything: shoes, visor, food, and race number. These all went in a bag which I tied to the bar that would hold my bike when I finished up and left it there.

The Athlete Briefing was 45 minutes of information and all of it was so necessary! I only tuned out when they talked about qualifying for World Championships. That wasn’t going to be me! I loved looking around at all the athletes and families at the meeting. We are all different ages, backgrounds, and experiences and we were all there for one goal. I was cheering for every single one of them.

We left the Village and met my parents and cousin for lunch. After church, we had dinner and I went to bed early. Or, I tried to. My nerves got the better of me and it was a rough night. I had to be up and at it early and I got in about six hours of sleep (which is good for me).

I’m the one smiling like an idiot.

The next morning, husband and parents and I headed to the T1 site. I pumped my tires, laid out my towel, snack, helmet, and glasses. The water was too warm for wetsuits to be legal so I raced in just my tri kit. I seeded myself for about a 30-minute swim. I wanted to go slower, but my husband and a friend running the race convinced me to go for it. The race start was what’s called a ‘time trial start.’ This means that every five seconds, four athletes left. You’re supposed to get in order from faster to slower athletes so that, in theory, you don’t get passed or pass anyone. One guess how well that works. There was a ton of passing and being passed. I will say that the athletes near me were good about keeping their elbows in and swimmings straight so I didn’t have a lot of trouble with getting elbowed or kicked. I finished the swim in 34:30, a bit slower than I wanted to but still a good time. I ran up the beach and had to delicately step through the parking lot so my feet didn’t get cut up by gravel. I got to my bike and started getting ready to ride. My friend Jamie had told me she had fun at her race a month earlier because she made it fun so I took that advice and started dancing. I’d treated the swim like a warm-up, the race was about to really start. My rack was only one row over from the barrier so my husband and dad were standing there watching me dance my way into my bike shoes and asked me if I was OK. Clearly, I was fine.

Biking is my least favorite. It takes forever and it makes my back hurt. I picked this race because it’s flat because the hills make everything worse. It was still a 56-mile bike ride. I’d given myself four hours to make it happen and meet my goal time of 7 hours. I started off killing it. The north-bound stretch was on a state route protected by cones and it felt easy. I could tell from my bike computer that I was going too fast, but it felt easy so I went with it. When we turned south, I figured it out. We’d had a tailwind for the first 20 miles. It was time to pay my dues. I ate a Lara Bar every 20 miles as planned but I had to play games with myself to keep focused in between. I said my morning prayers every five miles, I repeated movie monologues to myself in between, and I chatted with other riders as much as possible. They were all passing me pretty quickly so there wasn’t a ton of opportunity for that. Before I knew it, I was at mile 40 and I realized I was going to crush my 4-hour goal. I was going to come in closer to 3:10. Knowing this, I was able to relax the last ten miles or so, knowing I was doing great and I didn’t need to worry about the droves of people passing me. I wrapped up with a 3:08.11 and was beyond pleased. I got into T2 and I honestly thought to myself “Just a Half Marathon to go.” I will never think that again. My family had positioned itself so they saw me come in on my bike and I ran past them on the run. I shouted to them, “Never let me do this again!” and they agreed.

The run was a lolly-pop style with two looks of the circle. As I was running up the stem, the lead male was coming into the finish. I screamed and cheered for him and was really hoping to see the lead female, but I had to turn onto the circle before she came through. The run was not fun and I don’t know another way to say it. The course was a little hilly but mostly flat. There were fun signs along the side of it. There were plenty of stops that were well stocked with water and ice and snacks. But it was over 90 degrees that day. And by this time, it was noon and the sun was getting to me. I drank water and Gatorade at every stop and even had some potato chips for the salt content. I kept ice in my shirt the whole time to keep my core cool and to snack on between stops. I have to thank the spectators who had signs and who cheered for every athlete even if they didn’t know who I was. The run went way better than I expected. This was my third Half Marathon distance and it was my second best time, 2:17.39. When I run ‘just’ a Half Marathon next month, I hope it feels easy.

The finish of this race was really cool. T2 was set out in the middle of the football field and this field was surrounded by a track. We finished through the tunnel under the stands and then did a half-lap on the track so that the finish chute was right in front of the stands. My husband and parents were there cheering for me and I got to hear the official say my name as I sprinted across the finish line. My official time was 6:09.28, a whole 50 minutes faster than my goal time. I’m so glad it was better than I wanted because I didn’t feel like I had to try again. I got my medal and finishers’ hat while they found me. I haven’t been that tired in a long while but I couldn’t think of sitting down just yet. I found a good friend who had finished 30-minutes in front of me and congratulated him on his race. There was food for athletes of which I ate way too much before we headed home. I needed a shower and air conditioning very badly.

Official time of 6:09.28. The clock doesn’t match because I wasn’t the first athlete to start.

I’m very happy to check that goal off of my Bucket List. It’s one I’ve been thinking about for a long time and the icing on the cake is how well it went. I still plan to do triathlons, just shorter distances. I love this sport and the support of the community has been amazing.

Thanks for reading this far (if you have). What big goals have you accomplished this summer?

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, 28-August-2019

28 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’m probably going to slow down on Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min for a few weeks. I’m sad because I’m finally getting close to finishing it, but there’s not a lot of good time to work on reading it without work lunches to keep my structured. I’m sure I’ll find my groove again soon.
Time for a lot of new books! I picked up a new physical book, Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going. I’m really pushing myself to finish my edits and it seemed like a good time to have a craft book fresh in my mind. I’m hoping this is a pretty fast read and that I can learn from it.
I started in on Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian on Monday so I’m still at the early stages. I have two weeks to finish it so I’m not worried and I think I’ll be able to take my time and enjoy it.
Because I’m not in such a rush to finish my eaduiobook, I picked up a CD audiobook for the car. I’ll be reading The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory, a favorite author. Gregory is also helpful when trying to fill in rogue time periods from the When Are You Reading? Challenge. I’m excited for more Tudor England.

Recently finished: I was desperate to finish The Map of Time by Félix Palma and lugged it to a wedding weekend with me only to not finish it until I got home. Oh well, I tried. I adored this book but I’m wondering about the other two in the series. There wasn’t much left that needed to be wrapped up. Right now, I’m not sure I’ll keep reading the series. I did love the writing, though, so that has me tempted. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.
I sped through An American Marriage by Tayari Jones and finished it the morning of my book club meeting! I really liked it which made the speed-listening no trouble at all. I’ve read Jones before so I knew the emotional journey I was about to jump in on and I adored it. The narration was great, all of it. I’ll have a full review coming soon. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

I posted two reviews this week. The first was for 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. This was a delightful little book and I’m so glad I read it. It was the perfect vacation book, too. Four out of Five Stars.
The second went up yesterday. I reviewed A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab and I can’t describe how excited I am to finish this series soon. This was a great second novel in the trilogy. I also gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: It seems odd to talk about my next books when I’ve just started so many. I do expect to get to A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab soon. I so often leave series unfinished and it would feel really good to wrap this one up.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Meeting Kaitlin Sandeno and Dan D’Addona (Golden Glow)

27 Aug

Combining my love of swimming with my reading habit is always a wonderful moment. I was able to do that a few years ago when I met Anthony Ervin and just over a week ago I did it again when I met Kaitlin Sandeno. Sandeno is an Olympic medalist and former world record holder. She partnered with sports journalist Dan D’Addona to publish her memoir and one of her book tour stops was in Ann Arbor, MI, a short drive from home. I’m very lucky that there’s another swimmer/reader, Mike Gustafson, who, along with his wife, opened Literati Bookstore back in 2013. Mike is a college swimmer and former writer for USA swimming so he’s able to get big names like Ervin and Sandeno into his store when they’ve published their own books. Honestly, I don’t know how I got so lucky.

Sandeno and D’Addona

My good friend Sarah joined me for this event and we were lucky/brave enough to get front row seats! The event was set up like a conversation between Sandeno and D’Addona. D’Addona is from the greater Ann Arbor area and Sandeno formerly trained at the University of Michigan so both knew the area well. They’d spent time in Ann Arbor when researching the book. D’Addona had interviewed many people who were influential in Sandeno’s life and the book is largely a collection of these interviews. One thing that shocked me most is that Sandeno wasn’t committed to swimming until high school. She was still playing soccer in 8th grade! That’s crazy to think she’d be in the Olympics before college started.

Sandeno’s major event was the 400 IM and she’s best remembered for getting silver. Sandeno loves a good race and that was one with her being touched out by 0.12. She mentioned that she thinks intelligent swimmers are more likely to get into their own heads when they get to a race situation. I’m going to say that’s why I choke in races so often! She also revealed to us that the World Record-setting relay she was part of was her first international relay. She hadn’t been on the international scene long so the Olympics were a big jump for her.

I was able to ask a question and I asked for Sandeno’s opinion on the newly formed International Swim League (ISL) because she is the General Manager for the DC Trident. Her team is looking strong with swimmers like Natalie Coughlin, Cody Miller, and Katie Ledecky. Sandeno is the first American-born female GM in pro sports and she’s more than ready for the challenge. I’m so excited to see the first meet in October. She said she was most excited about the opportunity to give swimmers the ability to swim professionally and to have sponsors so they can concentrate on swimming and not worry about how they’ll earn a living. It’s an opportunity not many swimmers have.

Sandeno and D’Addona were generous to take time to sign our books and take pictures after the event. I’m so grateful to them for stopping in Ann Arbor and for Literati for hosting them. I hope we get more swimming memoirs soon so I can enjoy these events even more often.

 

My friend Sarah, D’Addona, Sandeno, and me

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: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab (4/5)

26 Aug

I’m embarrassed that it took me this long to get to this book. I liked the first one in the series, but a lot of other books squeezed their way in between and it’s been more than three years since I started this series. That’s far too long. I remembered most of the first book, but there were details I’d forgotten and I think it hurt my reading of this book a little bit. I hope I can get to the third in a more timely fashion.

Cover image via Goodreads

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V.E. Schwab

Other books by Schwab reviewed on this blog:

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)

Summary from Goodreads:

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London.

Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

The start of the book was a good mix between a review of the first and picking up right where it left off. Lila and Kell’s parting was one of the few details I’d forgotten so I struggled with that a bit before I could settle into this book. Once I did, the book picked up right away and took us on a completely different adventure and I was all in. I loved the idea of the Element Games. It seems like a logical step to take in international relations with the magic that exists in that world. I found it a little unsettling that Lila could get in so easily, but I was able to suspend my disbelief and still have fun with it. The cliffhanger ending was the only part I didn’t enjoy. I wish it had wrapped up a little cleaner before cutting to book three.

Lila and Kell are well developed and that’s part of what makes them so likable. I’m not going to claim I’m anything like either of them or that I could be friends with them, but I can understand why they are the way they are and their reactions seemed in line with their characters. The secondary characters in this one, particularly Rhy and Alucard, were great and rounded out the cast well.

Alucard was my favorite character and I hope he has a big role in the final book. His story was great and I liked how he fit into both Lila and Kell’s stories. I’d like to hear more about him and I think we will going forward.

There were elements of each character’s story that I could relate to, but the fantastical setting kept me from fully sympathizing with anyone for the whole book. Alucard wanted to be accepted by his family, Lila wanted to prove herself, and Kell wanted independence. They were all relatable in some way, but without being able to travel between parallel worlds or the ability to control water, I was a bit too distant from them.

V.E. Schwab
Image via EW

The Element Games battles were my favorite part. They reminded me of a mix between The Hunger Games, and The Triwizard Tournament but much less deadly. I liked hearing about the ways Kell and Lila came up with to use their elements and win the battles. I liked the idea of it being a spectator sport and the ways Lila twisted the games to work for her. IT was a fun structure to build the book around.

The ending was frustrating! It was a total cliffhanger and left me a bit angry. I do not like cliffhangers and to me, it’s a sign that the books should have been combined into a longer volume and a publisher nixed that to make more money. The first book wrapped up somewhat nicely with a big event but this one stopped right before it. I wonder if this was Schwab’s plan all along or if it’s due to a quick money grab. It frustrated me.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer. I liked the dual-narrator as it played well with the dual-POV of the book. It can sometimes feel odd when a male narrator reads a female part and vice versa. I liked the decision to use both for this. Kramer was great. He has a way of using his low voice to add weight to Kell’s voice while giving Rhy an airy demeanor. Reading was good as well, but I think Kramer overshadowed her.

Kell has to sacrifice a lot for Rhy and his adoptive family. Eventually, he was asked to sacrifice too much. This book seemed to focus on what Kell was asked to give up, for who, and by who. The things Rhy asked of him never seemed too much though they might have been hard. Lila never asked him for anything but he’d give up almost everything for her. What the King and Queen asked of him always seemed too much. Maybe it has something to do with who asks, but also what they asked.

Writer’s Takeaway: Schwab has created a rich world in Red London. It’s parallels to Grey London and differences with White London are wonderfully illustrated. Her world-building is really commendable and I think it’s something a historical fiction writer can learn from. That’s an element of my book I could probably work on and Schwab has given a good example. It’s not just about the physical geography of the place, but the smells and sounds as well; the people who exist around the main cast and the ones that only come into play briefly. It’s the whole thing.

I enjoyed the book, though the ending frustrated me. 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:
A gathering of shadows by V.E. Schwab //  in which I am quite DELIghted (i am so clever you see) | dragon waffles
Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | Alive and Narrating
Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | My Midnight Musing
Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | Story and Somnomancy
Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | Martin Cahill

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

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