Archive | October, 2019

WWW Wednesday, 16-October-2019

16 Oct

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 thought I’d finish When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan this week, but no such luck. I had a lot of rushed lunches where I wasn’t able to get some reading in so I’ll be optimistic and say one more week on there before I finish it.
I really need to push through and finish The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli. I know the book has to be returned soon but I’m almost afraid to look up when because I know it’s coming fast and I don’t think I’m ready for it.
I’m glad to have a book I’m not afraid to listen to while running in the dark! I started Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter on audio and I’ll push to get through this one quickly as the book club meeting for it is coming up at the end of the month. I don’t think it will be too much of a struggle, though. I’ve seen a lot of good reviews.

Recently finished: I wrapped up We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix on Friday which means I got through this one in less than a week! I didn’t realize how close I was to the book club meeting for it and I’m glad I rushed through to finish because we met on Monday to talk about it!

I’d planned on a few book reviews to be posted before this went up but I’ve been so busy with things in my personal life the past two weeks that I’m taking a week to regroup. I plan to be back at it on Monday with some delayed reviews so look forward to that. Of course, I’m not going to miss a WWW Wednesday!

Reading Next: I really want to start Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine as soon as I can! I hope book club books don’t get in the way because I’m looking forward to one of my first review books in over a year and I’d like to dive in soon.


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 Club Reflection: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

10 Oct

I was beyond excited to talk to my book club about Hillbilly Elegy. I enjoyed the book a lot and I thought that living in the Midwest, a lot of people would have some personal connections with the story and Hillbilly culture. There were some, but not as many as I’d hoped. It was still a good discussion.

This book was released in 2016 and many early reviews said it would help explain the phenomenon of Trump winning the election. A lot of us weren’t sure that it helped us understand that at all. It was a mix of a memoir and a policy book. He didn’t have specific recommendations for policy and how to fix the problems he pointed out many times. Vance had a lot of description and didn’t let the reader’s mind picture something the way a fiction writer would. He told his story and some of our readers felt his story was very specific to him while others felt the story could be generalized for the region and people.

The Hillbilly culture Vance describes goes back to the Scotch/Irish immigrants. Those groups left their homeland to escape poverty, the same reason that Vance points out they’re now leaving Kentucky and the hills. One of our members felt that the break-up of the Hillbilly people wasn’t the only small ethnic group being broken up. She saw parallels with the Jewish communities she grew up with and how they had begun to fracture with the next generation.

Vance points out a lot of positive values in the Hillbilly culture that we felt were a little double-sided. Loyalty was stressed a lot and family was very important. Mamaw was a strong character and applauded for pouring gasoline on her husband and lighting him on fire though she could easily have been a murderer for that. We wondered if her strong character made it hard for Vance’s mother to form an identity and become her own person.

Many of us admitted that we have a very one-sided view of poverty and people on welfare. Vance provided us another side to the story and reasons why people end up taking the payments. He could have so easily ended up on welfare we well. He was lucky and admits that if any one element of his upbringing had been different, he would have ended up somewhere completely different and not have had the success he does.

J.D.’s mother’s addiction was a big part of his childhood. We talked a lot about the biological reasons she could be addicted, but also about the social and cultural reasons that could have led her to addiction. We speculated, but there wasn’t a ton of background that explained her addiction well.

Vance was very aware of his culture and the poverty associated with it from a young age. He started reading about it in high school. He seemed very critical of those taking food stamps but when the government was offering him something for free (college) or his grandmother (social security), he wasn’t critical at all. For his GI Bill, he seemed to feel that it was OK to get government assistance when he’d earned it with his service. What the difference was between those on food stamps and his grandmother’s Social Security checks, we didn’t really understand.

There were a few key elements to J.D.’s life that made him successful. He always knew he had someone who would be there for him. His grandmother and later his wife were huge supporters for him and gave him something to fall back on. His aunt was another constant in his life that he relied on. He was also able to figure out what he didn’t know and was open to asking for help when he needed it. Not everyone can do that and not everyone has someone to ask so Vance was very fortunate. He was told about the Marines and that seemed to force him to grow up a lot and he has his cousin to thank for telling him about that. He was also very intelligent and got to where he is because of that intelligence. But without one of the other elements, it might not have been enough.

This book was great for discussion and I’m really glad we finally read it. I wonder if book clubs in other parts of the country would have connected with it so well.

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, 9-October-2019

9 Oct

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 think I’ll finish When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan soon. Unless it’s Wednesday and I’m responding to comments on this post, I usually get through a few pages during my lunch and there’s not much left. I think this will come off next week!
I continue to move through The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli but no faster than I have been. I’m enjoying it, but it’s a bit dense and not gripping enough to keep me reading when I get tired. I was able to extend my time with it until the end of the month and I feel confident I’ll finish it by then.
I was able to start We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix on Saturday. So far, I like it but I’m not really feeling the horror element to it yet. I think I’ll get through this pretty quickly since I’m listening to it in my car and when I’m running/cooking/doing chores on my phone. I have a few to get through so I want to speed this one up.

Recently finished: I was happy to finish The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory the day of my Friend of the Library meeting so I could return it in the evening! I enjoyed the story and the ending was a bit of a shock to me which was a nice twist. This book will fulfill a new time period in my When Are You Reading? Challenge so I’m super excited to add it to my list!
I was able to finish A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab Saturday during a road trip! So excited to wrap up this series. I liked how it ended though I think there’s more to the story that I’d like to hear. But I always feel that way with good books. I hope more V.E. Schwab comes across my path soon, it’s been a joy.

I also posted my review of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. I’m always a sucker for a good memoir and this was no exception. I’ll be posting my book club reflection of the book tomorrow so more to come on this one!

Reading Next: I will start Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine as soon as I finish Travels. It will be good to have some historical fiction to motivate me as I do NaNo prep.
I already have another audiobook lined up thanks to book club commitments. I’ll be starting Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter as soon as I finish Souls. I’m really hoping to have a lot of audio time and get through these quickly! I hate feeling rushed for book club.


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- October

8 Oct

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!

I delayed writing this post a while so I could have something to report. I didn’t get a lot of writing done in September. It’s a very busy fall for me, more so than I can remember before, even without school. My goal of making time to write was washed away with a new job and figuring out a new schedule. I’m adjusting well enough, I think. It will take a bit more time.

I haven’t done any writing but I made some small adjustments to the new ending of my novel and I’m satisfied with it. I’m going to start submitting! I picked an agent I want to submit to and I’m working on the submission requirements she has. It will take me a little time but I’ll have less to prepare next time (hopefully). I want an agent to take me seriously so I’m being sure to meet all the requirements each has. After I finish with this one, I’ll submit to two more and then wait for feedback before I move forward.

I’m also seriously considering doing NaNo this year. I need to get moving with my next book, whatever that is, and NaNo is a great time to do that. 2015 was the last time I did NaNo and it feels like a good time to get back into it. I need to do some research about the period I hope to write in and start developing some characters. I have a few ideas, but nothing that could be a fully formed story yet.

So there are my minor steps forward. I’m always optimistic about making more progress than I do, but at least it pushes me forward.

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!

Writers Group: To NaNo or Not To NaNo?

7 Oct

As the writing community approaches November, talk always turns to NaNo. National Novel Writing Month (NaNo to the idiots who compete) is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I’ve done it once and I’ve doing editing efforts in other months since. I’ve been saying I need to get started on another novel for a while now, so I’m thinking of doing it? I’m still unsure? I wonder if anyone here will try to talk me into it?

We talked briefly about blogs and I’ll mention here one thing that some found useful. When you’re blogging, recognize that you’re putting out content for free. If your writing is available for free, publishers have to have a really good reason to want to publish that same content and ask people to pay for it. Why buy when it’s free? Be wary of publishing anything on a blog that you want people to pay for later.

We spoke about signatures. If you’re publishing under your real name, you may want to change your handwriting or signature to sign books. It’s probably not a great idea to have your legal signature floating around on copies of your book! Practice changes for a signature repeatedly, practice handwriting changes by writing slowly and using pangrams to practice every letter.

Two writers brought forward writing contests that we should be aware of. The first was the Write Michigan Short Story Contest. The second, with some broader appeal, is the Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Both have deadlines in November so there’s plenty of time to enter!

The last thing we touched on was a computer program, Outlining Your Novel Workbook. It’s based on a book by the same title and goes for $40. It follows a three-act structure recommendation. No one in our group has used it so I have no personal testimonials.

I’ll be missing this group in October but will be back at it in November so I guess I’ll have to decide if I’m NaNo-ing before then.

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (4/5)

3 Oct

My book club has been talking about reading this book for over a year so I’m glad we finally got to it. I bought a copy at a used book sale well before it appeared on our schedule and despite there being an audio available, I did read this one in print.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

Summary from Goodreads:

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.

The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother, struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, and were never able to fully escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. Vance piercingly shows how he himself still carries around the demons of their chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.

I was reading this at my parents’ cottage and my mom wanted to talk about it despite me being on chapter two. She was born in Kentucky and raised in Ohio so Vance’s story was one familiar to her, her family, and a lot of her friends growing up. So in a way, this book isn’t far removed from me. She recalled a large number of friends and neighbors who would go back to Kentucky every weekend to see family and fulfill their obligation to return home and share the prosperity they’d found. I don’t think this phenomenon is limited to central Ohio. A lot of Michigan has similar groups. There’s a suburb of Detroit that’s sometimes referred to as ‘Taylor-tucky’ and we’ll joke about how the further north you go in Michigan, the more you’d think you’re in the South. There was work in Detroit and the mines and farms of Northern Michigan that attracted people from Appalachia so I feel this is a problem throughout the Midwest.

I think Vance drew a very great picture of his family members, especially his grandma. It can be hard to show the true nature of a loved one and make sure the reader knows you love that person. Mamaw was the perfect blend. She was tough and strong but she showed her love clearly. She was a good focal point for the story. Vance’s mother was hard to love and I think he even struggled with his feelings around her so I wasn’t surprised when I ended the book disliking her.

Mamaw was my favorite person in this book. She really showed the struggles Vance was talking about while being a fierce advocate for her grandson and a big reason for his success. I loved how involved she was in her grandchildren’s lives and how she loved them. I wondered how she felt about her daughter messing up as often as she did and if she felt, as Papaw did, that she’d failed her. We never really hear.

Being from the Midwest, I know these people. I know the people who feel that they are at a disadvantage and the ‘man’ is out to get them though they never work. I know people who believe in Hillbilly Justice. I know the working towns with a major employer who leaves and devastates the town. This book was very close to home, more so for other members of my family than my own, but still close. I think Vance has pointed out a very real problem the Midwest is dealing with and speaks well to the true roots of the problem.

J.D. Vance
Image via Mondavi Center

It was eye-opening how Vance reflected on the people he’d grown up with and how they did not fare the same as him. When you hear a success story like his, you don’t always think about the people who didn’t make it, who weren’t as lucky. I’m glad he addressed this and talked about how his contemporaries could have been better assisted and helped to deal with the lot in life that they’d been given.

Nothing in this book dragged for me or was disinteresting. I wished there was more about Vance’s time in the military, but it wouldn’t have contributed to his storyline in any way so I understand why it was glossed over.

It’s becoming clearer that the US is in the midst of several crises that are culminating and not being addressed. In addition to racism, the Me Too movement, health care costs, opioids, and student debt, we’re seeing people incapable of achieving the American Dream as it’s been taught to us. No single leader will be able to tackle these issues, especially with the bipartisan design of American politics. We’re seeing business tackle these issues more and more. To be honest, I support this. It allows me to ‘vote’ for companies I believe in with my purchases when I feel like my political vote isn’t doing enough.

Writer’s Takeaway: Vance does a great job of combining personal experience with research and historical fact. The book reads more like a memoir than a sociology book about the Hillbillies. I liked the combination and how his story helps you connect with the issues. He uses his experience and that of his family to show how the problems perpetuate and why they exist. It was a very powerful combination.

This was a great read and I think it will make for a powerful book club discussion. 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:
Nonfiction: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance | Hillbilly Highways
hillbilly elegy by j.d. vance | Ardent Reader
Hillbilly Eleby by J.D. Vance | The Help Desk Book Blog
If you liked Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance… | Ink Drinker Society
Hillbilly Eleby | The Daily Context

WWW Wednesday, 2-October-2019

2 Oct

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 really close to finishing The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory, I was hoping I’d be done by now! I’ve got a slug of eaudio to finish up and I’m going to take a break from physical audio once I finish this one. Maybe it will be today?
A half marathon wasn’t enough to finish A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. This is longer than I thought it would be! I’m wondering if there’s a bit too much fluff in here but it’s keeping me engaged so far. We’ll see how I feel as it gets closer to the end.
I’m excited to be over halfway through When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan. It’s getting a little darker now and I’m not sure where this is headed. I didn’t expect some of these elements from an MG book!
I’m still enjoying The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli but I’ll have to see about picking it up a bit and reading faster. I’m approaching my initial due date and because it’s an interlibrary loan, I only get one more renewal. I’m not sure I’ll finish at my current pace.

Recently finished: Nothing new this week! And no new reviews. I’ve got some coming again eventually. I am mostly caught up at this point and it feels really good to be able to say that!

Reading Next: I can’t wait to start the eaudio for We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix. It’s teasing me on my bedside table and I really want to pick it up soon.
I almost never do this, but I accepted an ARC! Though the book is out already so I guess it’s not very ‘advanced.’ Maybe Early Reader Copy? Anyway, the book is Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine. I was won over by the 1920s setting and decided I needed to have more giveaway books on my list this year. This seems like the best place to start.


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!

Challenge Update, September 2019

1 Oct

The new job and longer commute are giving me hope for getting through audiobooks in a timely manner when half marathon training is over. I’m trying to look on the bright side of having a longer commute. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in September:

Writing and Selling the YA Novel // K.L. Going (3/5)
Beautiful Music // Michael Zadoorian (3/5)
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir // Josephine Leslie (3/5)
Becoming Madame Mao // Anchee Min (2/5)
Hillbilly Elegy // J.D. Vance (4/5)

This month was a bit lackluster after an amazing crop of books last month. Maybe I’m due for a more neutral month in October.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

9/12
Again, nothing new. It’s about time I start handpicking books to finish this one up. I’m in the middle of one now that will check off one of the remaining periods, but that still leaves me with two wide open. I think this will be a focus for October and I’ll see if I can wrap it up in November.

Goodreads Challenge

47/52
I’m still nine books ahead of schedule! This seems unreal but I’m loving it. I’ll have to consider a higher goal for next year, especially if I train as hard as I did this year. Though I’m not sure I could do that again. Maybe stay with 52? Thoughts?

Book of the Month

Nothing was really amazing this month but I’ll have to say Hillbilly Elegy was my favorite of the month. I’m looking forward to sharing my book club’s thoughts on this one because we’re from the region that Vance talks about and I have a feeling a lot of us will have ties to Kentucky as I know I do.

Added to my TBR

It’s hard for me to believe this list is down to 67! I’m so glad to see it finally shrink to a number that seems achievable in a year or two. I’m finally moving forward.

  • The Chocolate War // Robert Cormier. This was referenced so often in the writing books I read as an iconic YA book that I felt bad I hadn’t read it and had to add it to this list.
  • Wayward Son // Rainbow Rowell. I adored Carry On, more than I thought I would, so it was easy to add this one to my TBR. I’ve loved most of Rowell’s books so I’m excited to see what I think of a new one.

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!
  • Attend six weddings: The last two are in October and it’s looking good for both of them! I can’t believe we’re finally through wedding season!
  • Finish a weather blanket: I caught up but let myself fall off again while I work on some more baby blankets. I have some very fertile friends!
  • Write: I used my time off to finish another draft. I’ve been letting it sit and I hope to re-read the new ending and edit it soon. I’ll have a full post about this coming in the next week with some more insight.
  • See my friends more: I’ve been much better at this! I utilized my two weeks off between jobs to see a lot of people and I’ve been packing my weekends with friendly outings which have been super fun. I’m training alone a bit more often but I’m being more social outside of fitness. Wins and losses, right?

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!