Archive | July, 2020

Off Topic Thursday: Buying a House

30 Jul

I took a week off earlier this month, something I’ve only done before if I was traveling. But I needed it. I’ve been very stressed in my personal life and my weekends weren’t a time to relax like they normally are. They were spent looking at houses.

My husband and I decided about a year ago that this would be the time we bought a house. Our lease on our apartment ends at the end of October so we started looking in June and started looking at houses two weeks ago. In our area, there are not many houses and there are a lot of buyers so the process moved a lot faster than I would have liked. We looked at over 20 houses in a week and by Sunday night, we had an offer accepted on our new home! The inspection is over and our mortgage is being processed. We’ll close at the end of August and should take possession at the beginning of October.

This process has been extremely stressful for me. I tend to freak out over money and this exacerbated that more than I thought it would. I kept worrying we wouldn’t have the money for closing costs or the inspection or a million other things. It would keep me up at night. I stopped buying anything that wasn’t critical just to save a few dollars. I think I was driving my husband crazy. I had a few sleepless nights wishing I had studied something different in college so our income would be higher and we could afford a bigger home.

I’m still struggling with this, but I’m also getting excited. We’re figuring out where bookshelves go and if we can get our recliner into the basement by ourselves. I’m finding running routes and bike paths. I’m ready for somewhere else to feel like home. We hope this is our forever house and we’re excited to get into it.

This is our porch in front of our house on our street. I know we’ll grow it into the home we want. I just need to get over my anxiety and enjoy where life has taken us.

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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 29-July-2020

29 Jul

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I’m back to In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner full time as my print book. It’s picking up and I’m becoming more interested now so I’m hoping to fly through the rest of this one rather quickly.
I should finish Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray very soon! This one has been a complete joy and I’m really enjoying the character development Bray gave the Diviners in this book. I’m already looking forward to the end of the series because I think it will knock my socks off.
I began a new ebook, though not what I expected due to availability. I started Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald. I like Jill’s perspective on racing and I think after having so much time away from sport, it’s a good spin that I’ll need going forward.

Recently finished: I finished up The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. Honestly, I wasn’t in love with the ending and I waited several days before I decided on a rating for this one. I’m going with Four out of Five Stars. I’ll be writing a review to go up next week with more thoughts. I think meeting with my reading buddy will be helpful as well.

I posted my review of Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides yesterday. I watched a lot of swim races while writing the review and it was so encouraging. I need to watch those races more often. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I need to start another book club pick soon. We’re reading Old Baggage by Lissa Evans. We had planned to read this before but had a change of heart. I’m glad we’re going back to it and finally reading it because I’ve heard good things.


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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Book Review: Chasing Water by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides

28 Jul

I’ve had this book on my shelves for a long time. I’ve talked about it before, but I’m a big fan of my local bookstore, Literati, and I’m even more excited that one of the owners used to write for a swimming magazine and has a lot of famous swimmers visit the store to promote their books. Anthony Ervin was the first swimmer I met in this capacity back in 2016. He was doing a press tour for his book, co-written with Constantine Markides, and had just won the gold medal for the 50 freestyle at the Rio games. It was one of the coolest M&Gs of my life.

Cover image via Amazon

Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides

Summary from Amazon:

Ervin won a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games at the age of nineteen. He is an athlete branded with a slew of titles including being the first US Olympic swimmer of African American descent, along with Jewish heritage, who also grew up with Tourette’s syndrome. He shocked the sporting world by retiring soon after claiming two world titles following the 2000 Olympics. Auctioning off his gold medal for charity, he set off on a part spiritual quest, part self-destructive bender that involved Zen temples, fast motorcycles, tattoo parlors, and rock ‘n’ roll bands. Then Ervin resurfaced in 2012 to not only make the US Olympic team twelve years after his first appearance, but to continue his career by swimming faster than ever before.

I’ve been swimming since 1999 and I’ve always loved following the sport. The 2000 Olympics are the first I remember vividly watching. While I don’t remember Ervin’s race in particular, I remember falling in love with my swimming icons and I’ve been following them ever since. Ervin was a big name at the 2012 games in London, talking about a come-back 12 years in the making. (I embedded the race below, they mention it when he walks out. Spoiler, he comes in 5th.) He was an old man by pro swimming standards and even making the finals was crazy. Flash forward to 2016 and the Rio games and his feat seemed even more amazing. But this book focuses on what happens outside of the pool more than inside it. (I’ve embedded that one, too. It makes me cry every time. Especially after reading this book.)

Ervin is very honest and real about his life. It wasn’t the typical athlete’s journey. He always seemed to resent his talent growing up and after Sydney, he fell into sex, drugs, and rock and roll. That’s not the person you expect to come back and win Olympic gold. His story had a lot of soul searching and it was sometimes hard to read. As a swimmer, I’m absolutely repulsed by smoking, a habit Ervin had for both marijuana and tobacco. As an athlete, I avoid risks that could end in injuries like motorcycles, which Ervin rode hard and crashed. He seems hard to believe. His journal entries and writing from the times show his state of mind and how confused he seemed to be. Markides’s journalistic narration was a great way to connect these writings and show how Ervin morphed with time.

Me, my friend Evan, Ervin, and Markides. Evan and I are wearing Ervin’s Gold Medals from the 2016 games.

I loved hearing about Ervin’s mother. I thought she was such an interesting character. She was very controlling, as some mothers are, and pushed her boys to be great. I thought she gave Ervin a good structure and the ability to be disciplined. Perhaps he rebelled against her. But in the end, he still found the structure and discipline she’d equipped him with to be an Olympic champion.

I related to the athletics and training Ervin went through. I was shocked at how many practices he missed in college and that he could stay on the team with that track record. When he buckled down and swam, I could relate. That’s how I train for swimming and triathlon. It’s long, grueling, and wonderful. It’ leaves you hungry enough to eat an entire casserole by yourself. I related to the grind and how when you’re in it, it’s the best thing ever.

Ervin’s return to swimming was so inspiring. It’s something that doesn’t happen in swimming, a sport that favors young athletes. The first swimmer I remember making epic comebacks was Dara Torres, who swam her 6th and final Olympics in Beijing at the age of 41 (yeah, crazy). I embedded the relay she anchored and won Silver below. I bet you didn’t think this book review would also be a swimming history lesson, did you? Comebacks like Torres and Ervin are rare, but they’re so inspiring. Our bodies atrophy as we age, but we can keep them working and performing, even at a world-class level, when we try. Achievement isn’t just for the young.

Hearing how Ervin wondered for years was difficult. He moved across the country, swimming and playing music, doing drugs, and doing nothing. It was hard to read about someone who clearly felt lost and had no direction. If someone had told him during that time that he had another Olympic gold in him, he never would have believed it.

Ervin’s story is one of redemption and persistence. He was forgiven from the time he spent away from the sport and the people who helped him when he was lost continued to support him and help him find direction. He came back to school to study English, something he loved. Eventually, he returned to the pool where he could chase his dream again. Unlike in 2000, it didn’t come easy. He had to come in 5th in 2012 to win gold in 2016.

Writer’s Takeaway: This is a book with two authors. Ervin’s part makes up about 20% of the story. He uses his writings from the time and his memories to write. I’d call it a narrative non-fiction style. It contrasted well with Markides’ journalistic writing. He connected the dots where there was missing information and brought in other people from Ervin’s life to share a different perspective. It was a great combination of two voices to create a story.

A strong story about a legendary athlete. 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Book Club Reflection: These Women by Ivy Pochoda

27 Jul

I’m back! I took a week off due to some craziness in life, but it’s given me a chance to read more and get excited about blogging again. I’m glad to be with you all again.

Our book club had another successful Zoom meeting to talk about our latest book, These Women by Ivy Pochoda. We learned a lot about the author that I wouldn’t have guessed. Her other novels are more gritty crime novels, which wasn’t too much of a surprise. I was a bit surprised to hear she’d been a collegiate squash player and very successful. She was also working with Kobe Bryant before his death on a YA series called Epoca. She uses the pseudonym Ivy Claire for these books. The first was released in November 2019.

Pochoda lives in LA and has been there since 2009 but she wasn’t raised there. Her portrayal of the city felt very real to us like she’s been there even longer. A lot of the description reminded us of Detroit; a city run down and trying to revive itself but having a hard time of it.

Pochoda’s women are empowered and have the ability to change their futures and the outcomes of what they do. We never get inside the male killer’s head. He’s not the focus of the stories. One reader figured out the killer quickly since he was the only man in the book and she figured it had to be a man. It seems obvious to me now, but I didn’t see that at the time. The time jumps threw off a few readers who were reading digitally or on audio for the first time and weren’t used to the new formats.

It was very timely of this book to include BLM protests. You have to think Pochoda knew to include these before they became front-page news. She was tuned in to what was happening and put them in her book, making it feel like she could tell the future. The book felt less escapist than crime novels normally do because it felt so real and connected to the headlines we’re reading now.

Pochoda created some very memorable characters. Feelia’s section was raw and had a lot of course language in it. Those of us who listened to it enjoyed it more. Her language was coarse, but she was describing some beautiful things. Most of us liked Essie. She had some great quirks, like her gum chewing. We’d love to see her as the detective in more books. Her backstory felt a little rushed so more books would give us more into her character. We wanted to know more about the car accident since it didn’t seem fleshed out enough. We also wanted to know more about her former partner, Debbie. That seemed like a good story, too. All of the narrators ere the victims of something; Dorian of her murdered daughter, Jujubee of murder, Marella of a broken home life, Anneke of a bad marriage. Essie needed to be the victim of something, so maybe that misunderstanding is what made her compelling in this book.

Most of us felt Dorian was the least compelling of the narrators. It didn’t help that she started the story. We weren’t sure why we were hearing her story because it didn’t seem to connect to the larger narrative until much further into the story. She might have been more sympathetic if she’d been second or third. We started to care more about the characters as the chapters went on. They became deeper. Juliana is a dancer, but she wants to be an artist like Morella. Morella is an artist, but she’s having an identity crisis and ends up using someone else’s photos in her show. A few said they cared about Morella less at the end of her section. I think she lost the intrigue she had when she was nude and covered in blue paint.

Women are viewed as sexual beings in Western culture and those in power are disrespected and brought low so they can be objectified and seen as sexual beings. They’re not listened to; Dorian keeps the dead birds to show people so she can be believed. Feelia reports her stalker for years without anyone taking her seriously. Anneke, unfortunately, buys into this view of women as sexual beings. She says that the women are at fault for their deaths, causing the killer to want them and kill them. She blames them for what happens.

We’ve got at least one more virtual meeting in us before we can meet again. We’ll see how soon that comes about. 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 22-July-2020

22 Jul

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I’m charging through the home stretch of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. My reading buddy and I are excited to finish this one and see how a few elements are revisited and come back into the story to tie it up. I’m excited to finish this one and get a review up for you all.
I didn’t read much of In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. This week has been crazy busy and I haven’t had time to read before bed. I’ll look forward to getting more of this read in the next week once life slows down.
I’m loving Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray so much. This series is a ton of fun and we’re getting more into the characters and seeing how they work as a team, which is wonderful. I can’t wait to finish this series soon!

Recently finished: I didn’t think it would happen, but I finally finished Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides! I realized I was really close when I started a few section before work one morning. I enjoyed a thunderstorm on my porch and finished reading this. I miss swimming a lot right now and reading this was a bit cathartic because I got to relive the joys of competition and teammates. I’ll post my review soon. I’m giving it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I haven’t started yet, but I still hope I can grab Dollface by Renee Rosen as my next ebook. Maybe it’s an overload of 1920s, but I’m not sure that’s really possible. I love flapper books!


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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Taking it Easy

16 Jul

I try not to take days off from the blog. I try to post for you all Monday through Thursday. With COVID, it’s been a bit harder to find things to post about! I’m reading as fast as I can, but I still struggle to come up with enough posts for the week.

This week, I’m going to take today off rather than give you a lame post. I could have stayed up late last night to write something, but none of us want to read that.

Are there posts you would like to read from me? Any topics I could cover, or bookish news I could reflect on? It would be great to give you what you want to read, so let me know.

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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

WWW Wednesday, 15-July-2020

15 Jul

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I made a little bit of progress through Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides. I’m trying to be conscious about reading this a bit more. I enjoy it when I remember, but I often forgot to read it when I should.
My reading buddy and I met so I read our third section of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. We had a lot of predictions about what will happen in the back half of the book and I’m starting to see which of our guesses were right and which were a bit off. I’ll be excited to finish it soon!
I’m very early with In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. It feels so good to pull books off my shelf that have been sitting there for so long!
I also started a new audiobook, which I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do this week but I’m happy I could. I was able to find Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray as an eaudiobook. My library had made it unavailable at one point but it seems it’s there again! I’m glad to be able to read this one and continue on with the series.

Recently finished: I finished up The Book Women of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson after some long runs and drives. It wasn’t one I really enjoyed, but I didn’t dislike it either. I had some issues with the structure of the book, not the plot or characters. I wrote a review of it yesterday if you want to hear more. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.
I finished off How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland, as I expected. This book was a small let down as well, being more about regional vocabulary and food than it was about pronunciation and accents. Oh well. I still liked it and gave the book Four out of Five Stars. My review went up on Monday.

I posted my review of These Women by Ivy Pochoda on Thursday. Check it out if you want to hear more. This book got Three out of Five Stars from me.

Reading Next: Maybe I’m optimistic, but I think I need to pick out an ebook to read soon. I’m hoping to snag a copy of Dollface by Renee Rosen. I love 1920s flappers so this is right up my ally!


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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson (4/5)

14 Jul

Our book club is still meeting virtually so all of our selections need to be available digitally. This means we’ve completely scrapped the schedule we had planned out in January and we’re going month-to-month as the selection from our digital library changes. This was a last-minute pick but one a few of our readers had heard of and that one was in the middle of. I hadn’t heard anything about it but began it as soon as I could.

Cover image via Amazon

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Summary from Amazon:

The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt’s Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome’s got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.

Cussy’s not only a book woman, however, she’s also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy’s family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she’s going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.

Inspired by the true blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the brave and dedicated Kentucky Pack Horse library service of the 1930s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman’s belief that books can carry us anywhere—even back home.

I have a very mixed reaction to this book. I liked Cussy. I liked Jackson. I liked the characters I was supposed to and disliked the ones I should dislike. I thought everyone’s motivation made sense. I thought the setting was good. However, I struggled with the story. More than half the book seemed directionless to me. Cussy was visiting her patrons and being hunted, unsuccessfully, because of her skin color. Her first marriage ends (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s in the first few chapters). I couldn’t understand if this was a love story, a survival story, or a story about loving your skin no matter what. It felt directionless and I lost interest when I couldn’t find a character goal halfway through. I wanted to like this book more, but I just couldn’t.

I hadn’t read the summary before I read the book, so I was a bit surprised when Cussy was introduced. I’d never heard of the Kentucky Blue People. (It’s a crazy Google search if you have five minutes to spare.) I liked how Queenie and Cussy became partners against racism in their town. Colored meant anyone who wasn’t white so Cussy faced the same discrimination and hatred as her Black coworker. Jackson was a great character, though a bit shallow. I think his time away from Troublesome should have been explored more to understand how he became so open-minded, but he was a very good man.

Harriet was my favorite character. I didn’t like her, but she was my favorite. The petty little things she did to be mean to Cussy made me laugh and I knew that every time she came into the story, there would be a smile on my face. It’s easy to write a character who’s so dislikeable and have them seem comic. Harriet never did. She always felt what she was doing was for the good of her community and that she was following her religious convictions. She didn’t think she was being mean, just fair. Cussy knew how to handle her and never let her mean words bother her which made me happy every time. But I understood how people like Harriet can exist, and how they still exist today and how racism is racism, no matter what race. Harriet highlighted how ugly racism is.

I’ve never experienced racial discrimination the way Cussy did; the closest I can come is sexism. In athletics, I’ve had men underestimate me because I’m a woman and then get mad when I’m faster than them. It’s ugly when it happens and uncomfortable. Cussy had to face that head-on so often. She was very brave.

Kim Michele Richardson Image via Amazon

I can’t think of a part of the book that I really enjoyed. I kept waiting for a plot to emerge and was frustrated when I couldn’t find one for so much of the book. This is part of why I can’t give this book five stars. Nothing really stuck out.

The details about almost all of Cussy’s patrons bored me. I was waiting for all of them to come back into the story in some meaningful way, but only Angeline and Willie did. Everyone else was part of a crowd and was mostly unnecessary to the climax scene where they appeared. Meeting the patrons felt like half the book so this really started to wear on me.

The audiobook was narrated by Katie Schorr and I thought she did an amazing job. I have family from Kentucky and her accent, pronunciations, and inflections were spot on to how my family speaks. Part of this could be how well the author wrote the dialogue and speech, but Schorr did an amazing job bringing it to life.

This book seemed to be more about themes than a plot. The strongest one to me was being comfortable in your own skin. When Cussy fines a ‘cure’ for her skin color, she’s still not accepted. She has to find a way to be comfortable as herself and realize she’s fine just the way she is. She can have everything she wants and needs without changing. Some of it was a little too convenient, but it was still a good message.

Writer’s Takeaway: Plot! I struggled to find a plot in this book. The exposition took half the book, the rising action was confusing because there wasn’t a clear goal or central event. And the climax was a little drawn out and it became a bit muddled which part of it was supposed to wrap up the undefined central conflict. This is something I had to work on a lot with my novel so it frustrated me when it seemed so lost in this book.

Overall enjoyable and entertaining, but it left me feeling a bit jumbled. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1920-1939 time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Related Posts:
Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson | Hopewell’s Public Library of Life
The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson | Words with Rach
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, Katie Schorr (Narrator) #FFRC2020 | Carla Loves to Read
ARC REVIEW: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek- by Kim Michele Richardson | It’s All About Books

Book Review: How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland (4/5)

13 Jul

One of my undergraduate degrees is in Spanish which involved quite a few classes on linguistics and phonology. And I loved it! I wish it was common to find a job in linguistics but without a PhD, it wasn’t practical. When I saw that my library was hosting Edward McClelland a few years ago, I was excited to hear him talk about accents throughout the Midwest where I’ve lived my entire life. I was curious to know: Do I have an accent? (Spoiler, yes)

Cover image via Amazon

How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland

Summary from Amazon:

Pittsburgh toilet, squeaky cheese, city chicken, shampoo banana, and Chevy in the Hole are all phrases that are familiar to Midwesterners but sound foreign to anyone living outside the region. This book explains not only what Midwesterners say but also how and why they say it and covers such topics as: the causes of the Northern cities vowel shift, why the accents in Fargo miss the nasality that’s a hallmark of Minnesota speech, and why Chicagoans talk more like people from Buffalo than their next-door neighbors in Wisconsin. Readers from the Midwest will have a better understanding of why they talk the way they do, and readers who are not from the Midwest will know exactly what to say the next time someone ends a sentence with “eh?”.

This book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I was looking for a bit more when it came to pronunciation, which part of this book offered. The first half of it takes you through the three dialectal regions of the Midwest and talks about how vowel pronunciation shifted through the regions as they were populated by different immigrant groups. It talks about the effects of mass media, migration, and industrialization. However, half the book was a glossary of regional terms heard in different cities, states, and areas, that had nothing to do with pronunciation. A lot of it had to do with local cuisine. Granted, I laughed a lot and found it amusing, but it wasn’t what I was looking for in the book and it left me a little disappointed.

Edward McClelland
Image via Amazon

I was happy to be able to laugh at myself while reading this. I’m a life-long Michigander and reading about McClelland’s Yooper roommate (someone from Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, UP) and how the opposite of ‘Up North’ is ‘Down State’ had me giggling. I laughed even more at the mentions of Cincinnati, where a lot of my family lives. I had my husband realizing that my Grandma’s ‘funny’ habit of saying ‘Please?’ when she didn’t understand someone and wants them to repeat themself is due to the translation of the German word ‘bitte’ used in this context and the area’s heavy German population.

I was much more interested in the vowel shifts and movements of pronunciations around the Midwest than I was in the glossary. I studied regional dialects in Spanish and I was hoping for a bit more of a linguistic evaluation of the speech patterns, but I was still intrigued. It was interesting to hear how roadways and waterways played such a strong role in the development of regional speech

As I’ve said, the glossary was a bit of a disappointment. It was a lot longer than I was anticipating, over half the book. While it was amusing, I haven’t spent a long time in many of the areas covered or speaking with people from them so I didn’t really have an interest in any of the terms being explained to me.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book had a good mix of history, research, and personal stories. I liked when McClelland would introduce sentences he heard from people he met. His Yooper roommate, for example, saying “So, ah, I gotta take a shore and then I’ll be over to your hoase in about an oar, eh.” He recognizes in the Acknowledgements how many people he spoke to from these regions to nail down the glossary and hear examples of the different accents. I thought that was a great touch.

This book was enjoyable if not quite the researched phonetics book I was hoping for. 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!

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Book Review: These Women by Ivy Pochoda (3/5)

9 Jul

This was a bit of a last-minute book club pick. With COVID, we’ve been limited to books that are available on a platform that allows multiple downloads from different users at the same time. A lot of our selections were tossed into the air and this one landed. I didn’t hate it, but it wasn’t a book I really enjoyed either. I’m happily neutral on this one.

Cover image via Amazon

These Women by Ivy Pochoda

Summary from Amazon:

In West Adams, a rapidly changing part of South Los Angeles, they’re referred to as “these women.” These women on the corner … These women in the club … These women who won’t stop asking questions … These women who got what they deserved …

In her masterful new novel, Ivy Pochoda creates a kaleidoscope of loss, power, and hope featuring five very different women whose lives are steeped in danger and anguish. They’re connected by one man and his deadly obsession, though not all of them know that yet. There’s Dorian, still adrift after her daughter’s murder remains unsolved; Julianna, a young dancer nicknamed Jujubee, who lives hard and fast, resisting anyone trying to slow her down; Essie, a brilliant vice cop who sees a crime pattern emerging where no one else does; Marella, a daring performance artist whose work has long pushed boundaries but now puts her in peril; and Anneke, a quiet woman who has turned a willfully blind eye to those around her for far too long. The careful existence they have built for themselves starts to crumble when two murders rock their neighborhood.

I liked the storytelling of this novel and the topics it addressed, but it missed with me overall. It’s hard to pinpoint what didn’t jive for me, but it was a bit off. I liked the multiple points of view. I liked the women the book focused on. I liked the setting and the mystery. But it just wasn’t what I enjoyed.

Juliana and Marella seemed the most real to me. Maybe because I’m closer in age and life to them, but they resonated with me more. Dorian was too bitter to enjoy, Essie seemed to have more problems than we were able to explore in her section, and Anneke was too hard to understand. I liked Juliana. I wanted better things for her and I wanted to believe her that things were going to get better when she wanted them to. Marella was trying to find her own voice and found that she couldn’t; it was always going to be tainted with someone else’s words but that didn’t make it less impactful. Their troubles seemed real to me and their struggle spoke to me more than the others did.

Juliana was my favorite character. The life she had made for good fiction, even if it wasn’t pretty. She was interesting and the people she was around were people you wanted to hear more about and see into their lives. She was interesting even if she wasn’t good. She was the one you cheered for in the book.

Marella was easy to relate to in some ways. Her mother wanted what was best for her and went through a lot of grief to get it. Marella rebelled against this in her way and that was relatable. Parents usually do what they think is best for their children even if children don’t see it that way.

Ivy Pochoda
Image via Amazon

I sound like a broken record, but Juliana’s section was my favorite of the book. I liked how she showed the beautiful side of a life that’s often overlooked and frowned at. She saw the beauty in her friends in a different way than the men who paid them did. Her section really spoke to how woman can be overlooked and seen as property in our society. While some women profit from this, it’s not safe. Our society sees sex workers as at fault for any violence against them because of their line of work instead of seeing the perpetrators as vile men. It’s ‘these women’ who keep doing things to get themselves killed. Feelia’s story emphasizes how little faith is put in this group of women.

I didn’t like Anneke’s section. It wasn’t just because the mystery was almost immediately given away, but I felt Anneke was very unlikeable. From the first time we meet her, in Dorian’s narration, she’s hostile and rude. It never gets better and by the time she gets a voice, the reader is set against her. Nothing she did helped change my perception of her and I wanted the book to end so I didn’t have to listen to her excuses any longer. I was sick of her very quickly.

The audiobook was dually narrated by Bahni Turpin and Frankie Corzo. Corzo read the majority of the book and I enjoyed her narration. Nothing in it stuck out too much to me. What did stand out a lot was Turpin’s reading. She did the chapters with Feelia’s voice and those stood out a lot. They were written in a very different style, just Feelia’s voice without any other characters or descriptions. The way Turpin read them was amazing, full of passion and anger that the character felt to her bones. I looked forward to these sections because of Turpin.

This book discusses sexism and racism and seemed very appropriate to read in 2020. Feelia and Juliana feel society overlooks them not just for their skin color, but their gender as well. They have problems they can’t take to the police because the police won’t listen. When Essie does listen, Feelia is shocked and reasons it’s because she’s a Latina woman; white men had ignored her for years. It helped highlight privilege without that being the main theme. Maybe I was reading it that way because of the #BLM movement, but I think the message was purposeful.

Writer’s Takeaway: The multiple points of view were very well done. I learned more about the crimes with each person’s voice added to the collage and it came down to the end when I figured out who was responsible. I think it was revealed in a very natural way and hearing from all of the women in this book helped draw that picture.

An enjoyable read (very well narrated) that somehow missed for me. 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!

Some of the links on this post may be affiliate links. Taking on a World of Words is a participant in affiliate programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to products. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, your cost will be the same but Sam will automatically receive a small commission. Your support is greatly appreciated.

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