Archive | August, 2020

Book Review: In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddy Ratner (3/5)

31 Aug

I picked this book up at a library used book sale years ago. I’m surprised I finally got to it, if I’m being honest. But there’s the silver lining to quarantine.

Cover image via Amazon

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Summary from Amazon:

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

This was not a book I was able to dive into and finish quickly. The subject matter was so dark that I had trouble reading even a chapter at night before I slept, which is my primary reading time. I also struggled with the book initially because it was written from the point of view of a young child and books in this style often rub me the wrong way. I can’t completely explain why but it has been consistent for a few years. It was hard for me to start immersing myself in the book once I got past Raami’s style because the death of the book was so pointless. I wanted to have some closure to it, but that wouldn’t have been real. What happened to the people of Cambodia as so horrible that it would have been wrong to have a hopeful or happy ending.

Ratner admits in the author’s note that Raami’s story is more or less her own. I think her descriptions of the people she knew along the way are so distinct because she’s drawing from memory. Her mother, father, uncle, and grandmother were the most distinct to me and I thought they were wonderful.

Raami herself was my favorite character. We see her change quickly from an innocent young girl to a girl who’s learned the reality of life far too quickly and who is trying to make sense of senseless violence. She sees people killed, betrayed, and broken in a way no child should. Her Polio shields her from some things, but not enough for her to remain unchanged.

It was hard to relate to these characters. I’ve never lived through anything as terrible as the Khmer Rouge regime and I hope I never do. This is part of what was so hard for me about reading this book. I wanted to connect with these characters but the atrocities they lived through were too hard to imagine.

Vaddey Ratner
Image via the author’s website

The time Raami and her family spent living in the Buddhist temple was my favorite in retrospect. They knew something worse was coming, but they were able to be together as a family and love each other. There was a sense of foreboding and this was when Raami started to realize that their situation wasn’t temporary and it wasn’t going to go back to normal. Her voice started being less childlike and more mature which helped me enjoy the story more.

A lot of the book was hard to read because it was so dark. I didn’t dislike it because it was bad or inconsistent, I just couldn’t read it because of the content. The time spent building the riverbank was horrible. It was like reading a Holocaust memoir to hear about the conditions the people lived in and what they were forced to endure. Every page, I expected another tragedy and became less surprised when they came.

This is a book about survival. By merit of it being about a child, you assume that Raami will survive. But what she will endure and if anyone will make it through with her are the key questions. The lengths her mother goes to are extreme but necessary in their world. It made me think about what it means to be a mother and love someone the way Aana loved Raami.

Writer’s Takeaway: The one thing I didn’t like about the book was the childish point of view at the beginning. It kept me distant from Raami and her concerns for longer than the author intended and made the book one I struggled to sit down with initially. I can’t blame Ratner for my inability to read such about such horrible conditions. If they’re true and that’s what happened, I’m glad she wrote it the way she did.

Overall, an important book but not one I’m going to rush to recommend. 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.

Related Posts: 
In the Shadow of the Banyan – Novel | Jack Rice 
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratnery: | Z Wonderland 
Book Review:”in the Shadow of the Banyan” Vaddey Ratner | Writing and Travel 

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Off Topic Thursday: Side Hustle

27 Aug

With all the stresses of buying a home, I’ve become more interested in a side hustle to earn a little extra money on the side. Without kids, I don’t have a lot going on in the evenings now that my tri training is not a priority and with most social engagements canceled. It would be nice to have a little extra money, I’m just not sure where to turn to find it.

In normal circumstances, I’d probably look at picking up a retail job twice a week but with COIVD raging, I don’t feel safe doing that. I’ve enjoyed working retail when I was younger and I think it could be a fun, low-stress way to make a little extra. I loved my job at an ice cream parlor when I was in high school and I could see myself doing that. Just maybe not now, when I’m spending entire days in my house so I don’t have to interact with people.

I’ve always considered doing resume critiques. I work in recruiting so I see a lot of resumes and I always wished I could say a few things to people to help them improve their resumes. I looked at a few other people who do this service online and the specifics turned me off to it a bit. Their prices are nice and high, but they’re doing unlimited re-writes and 24-hour turnaround. I’m not sure I could comply with that level of service if I’m doing this as a second job. I might try a word-of-mouth service for now because I don’t have the time to make this a full-time gig and be able to compete with those professionals.

I’ve looked into transcription a bit and I think that’s a path I might follow. I’ve got to finish reading the style guide and take an ‘entrance test’ but this seems like a good side gig for me. The clips I’d transcribe are short and I could fit in one or two a night and longer times on the weekend. After a long training session, it might be nice to sit down and still feel productive. I could see fitting this in around other things when COVID starts to lift. The nice thing is that there’s no minimum so I can stop if there’s something big going on in my life and pick up if I don’t have a lot going on.

The most obvious answer seemed to be monetizing this blog. I spent a good chunk of time every week writing content and responding to my readers. I wondered if there was a way I could make a little money from the work I’m already putting in. I became an Amazon affiliate, but that’s paid a whopping $1.50 and I have to reach $10 before I’d even see that money so I doubt I become rich off of it. If any of my readers have found a way to monetize their blog, I’d love to hear your stories. I’m not looking to quit my day job, but I’d like to pay for dinner once a month with the money.

Any other thoughts on good side hustles during COVID? How have you been able to keep a little side money coming in while locked down?

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.

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WWW Wednesday, 26-August-2020

26 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 so close to finishing In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. I’m confident I’ll wrap it up this week. It will feel good to finally finish it. The subject is really dark and I think anything else will feel like a warm breeze by comparison.
I tried to be better about reading Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald but I can’t say that was a success. Work has been tough lately and at the end of the day, I have no desire to look at a screen anymore. I have a feeling this will linger a bit.
I’ve gotten myself into two audiobooks. I started listening to The Tory by T.J. London but had some issues with the ARC file and stopped. Luckily, the PR rep I was working with was able to help me resolve my issues so I’m back to listening to this as my primary audiobook. It’s done with multiple narrators and I’m excited to explore the variety of characters involved. It’s still early days and this one is quite long so expect this to be on the list for a while.
To entertain myself on a long run while the audio problems were ongoing, I started listening to Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan. I don’t listen to business books often but it’s always enjoyable to find one that speaks to me. I’d love to be able to help build a culture like the one Sheridan has achieved. I’m not sure if it’s completely possible in my current role, but it’s given me a lot of ideas for any managing I might get to do in the future. This one is on pause while I finish The Tory but I’m looking forward to returning to it.

Recently finished: I was able to wrap up The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian and posted a review of it on Monday. It’s fun to read a book set in your hometown and know all the references to locations and companies. There was a business mogul referred to by a fictionalized name and I was laughing to myself because I was so easily able to figure out who the real-life person was. I gave the book Four out of Five stars and I’m looking forward to my book club discussion of it.

Reading Next: I’m eager to start The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides since the book is staring at me from my bedside table. I really should be able to start it this week. I don’t want to put it off any longer!


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.

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Book Review: The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian (4/5)

24 Aug

I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of Zadoorian before we read another of his books about a year ago. He’s a Detroit-based author and his books have been well received. With our book club selections limited to those available on the Hoopla platform, our previous selections went out the window and our leader chose this book for our August meeting.

Cover image via Amazon

The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian

Other books by Zadoorian reviewed on this blog:

Beautiful Music (and Book Club Reflection)

Summary from Amazon:

Joe Keen and Ana Urbanek have been a couple for a long time, with all the requisite lulls and temptations, yet they remain unmarried and without children, contrary to their Midwestern values (and parents’ wishes). Now on the cusp of forty, they are both working at jobs that they’re not even sure they believe in anymore, but with significantly varying returns. Ana is successful, Joe is floundering–both in limbo, caught somewhere between mainstream and alternative culture, sincerity and irony, achievement and arrested development.

Set against the backdrop of bottomed-out 2009 Detroit, a once-great American city now in transition, part decaying and part striving to be reborn, The Narcissism of Small Differences is the story of an aging creative class, doomed to ask the questions: Is it possible to outgrow irony? Does not having children make you one? Is there even such a thing as selling out anymore?

Parts of this book felt so real that it hurt. Living in Metro Detroit like Joe and Anna, I felt the setting very intimately. I also felt the workplace setting Ana inhabited and the stresses of a job that she didn’t love. I also related to Joe and his desire to make a living from his creative endeavors. I’d love to be able to do that but I feel I’m more accurately caught between Joe and Ana, being Ana while wishing to be Joe. This book was only hard to read because it felt so real and captured the hardships of modern living so vividly. It was well written and had me pulling up the file whenever I had a chance.

Joe and Ana were very realistic. I could see how they’d get caught in their ways from their 20s, finding that 15 years later, they hadn’t made a transition that most of their peers had and wondering if it was too late. Is there an expiration on getting married and having kids? Should there be? I just hit 30 myself and I can see a lot of my peers struggling with this and trying to decide if/how/when to make these same decisions. Ana’s coworkers are well-drawn as well. I loved Adrian and wondered if I could be friends with her. I think we’ve all known a Bruce in our work history. I’m thinking of a man from my first job and it helped Bruce come to life having that reference point.

Ana was my favorite and I really related to her. Maybe it’s a same-gender bias, but I felt her story more than I did Joe’s. I hated that people assumed she was having a relationship with a coworker because they spent time together. I’m someone who tends to have more male friends than female and I hate when that assumption is made about me. I work hard, like Ana, and the frustrations she had from people who seemed hell-bent on making work a nightmare rang true to me, too. Zadoorian captured the corporate world very well in his story.

Michael Zadoorian
Image via Amazon

I enjoyed Ana’s work life and her experiences with Woman Lyfe. They were just so corporately horrible that it was fun to read. I’m sure most working people have had an experience with a coworker or client who was difficult, but not to the extent of these women. Also, I loved that the horribly-privileged-white-woman character was actually named Karen. It was a bit cliche, but also so perfect.

Ana’s secret-keeping from Joe really bothered me. I’ll avoid saying what that secret was to avoid spoilers, but let’s just say there’s a big secret. I was frustrated that she wasn’t open and honest with him and then even more frustrated when Adriane told her to keep the secret from Joe. I’m a big advocate for not lying in a relationship about anything or keeping any secrets. It tends to become a bigger issue like happened with Ana and Joe. I think they’re very lucky their relationship was saved.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Patrick Lawlor. I think he was a good choice for this book. His voice for Ana wasn’t my favorite, it seemed a little too diminutive, but not enough that it took away from the book. He did great reading the big moments of the book and dramatizing the things that were dramatic.

The question I asked of this book is if Ana and Joe needed to grow up. They’re adults by merit of their age, but some of their tendencies are more often associated with someone in their early 20s. If they need to grow up, what are things grown-ups do? Does Joe need a real job, does Ana need to lie about her age and act younger to get ahead at work, and do they need to get married? In the end, I think the answer was ‘no.’ These two are perfectly functional and making a life together in their own way. If they decided to make changes, it was because they wanted to, not because anyone was making them do it. They were happy with the life they’d built and didn’t need anyone telling them what to change about it to make it ‘better.’

Writer’s Takeaway: This book was a great description of contemporary romance. Today, relationships aren’t as linear as they once were. There’s no pre-defined time to date before getting married and the stigma around cohabitation has lessened. But this does bring with it problems of defining what a relationship looks like and where it’s going. Zadoorian captured this is such a real way and I really appreciated a book depicting an experience I see a lot of my peers going through.

A great book that swept me away, though in the world I live in now. 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.

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WWW Wednesday, 19-August-2020

19 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 forcing myself to read a chapter of In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner each night and I think it’s helping. I’m a bit more engrossed in the story now and it may have been a lack of attention that was keeping me from enjoying this before. I’m optimistic that I can finish it this week.
I’ve been bad about reading my ebook so Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald has been neglected. I’ll try to find time to read it this week but I’ve failed to fulfill that promise before.
I’m enjoying but not enthralled with The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian. It feels very true to life which is almost a bad thing in this case because it captures the struggles of everyday life really well. This should be finished next week.

Recently finished: Nothing. This slump is really getting to me. Yikes.

Reading Next: I changed my mind a bit about my next audiobook. I think I have time for a for-fun book before I start my next book club read. I was gifted a review copy of The Tory by T.J. London on audio. I used to be in a writers group with London so I’m excited to read her book and get some more insight into the characters I heard her talk about for so long.
I picked up my copy of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides from my library. This is pushing me to keep reading Ratner!


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.

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Book Club Reflection: Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

17 Aug

OK, I have a confession to make. I got the start time of my book club meeting wrong. For some reason, I thought it started at 7:30 even though I had it on my calendar as 7. Well, my calendar was right and I ended up missing the first half of the meeting. So I apologize for a slightly shorter summary. I’m kicking myself for missing this discussion!

I was the only person in our group who didn’t really enjoy the book. A lot liked its humor and Mattie’s character. Many enjoyed Mattie’s journey to finding a way to make an impact on the world at middle-age with a change of direction. Many found a link between the militant suffragettes and the current BLM protests. Both have a lack of trust in the police and what they do for the sake of ‘order.’ When women or Black Americans are oppressed, society’s potential is wasted because there’s so much more that could be achieved if everyone had a chance to contribute.

Mattie was the focus of our discussion. Her focus on Ines was so intense that it took over the book. She forgot about the rest of the girls in the Amazons because she was so concerned about developing Ines and watching out for her. She realizes at the end of the book that Ines’s parents care deeply about her. Her father was very caring, even knowing that Ines was not his biological daughter. Her character was hard to like and didn’t seem to relate well to people. She was a teenage girl, though, and like most teenage girls, she was a work in progress. Mattie saw this and wanted to be the one to push her along the way. Ines didn’t need pushing since her parents were there for her. Ida was the one who ended up needing guidance and Mattie’s failure there came back to haunt her later.

The relationship between Mattie and the Flea was complicated. We feel confident that the Flea was in love with Mattie but that it was unrequited. It was heartbreaking how the Flea hid jer sexuality and her feelings from Mattie because of her experience with homosexuality earlier in her life. We speculated about Mattie’s feelings toward the Flea. We never seem to get a feel for this. She never showed attraction toward anyone so she might have been gay and she might not have.

My apologies for missing more insight into this book. I’ll try not to be forgetful again. We’re going to continue to meet online for at least the next month. This might continue for the rest of the year; our library is still at curbside-pickup only.

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, 12-August-2020

12 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 haven’t made much progress with In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. I’m still not gripped and am really struggling to dedicate time to reading it. At this point, I think I’ll just have to push through.
I went over a week without touching Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald just because I’d been so busy. It’s got a great tone and I enjoy Grunenwald’s writing, but I’m just lacking time to read it. I miss my lunches where I’d read ebooks. That’s the only thing I miss about office life.
I started a new audiobook, The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian. This was a book club pick and it takes place in my hometown of Detroit, which is always fun to read about.

Recently finished: I was able to wrap up Old Baggage by Lissa Evans just in time for my book club meeting. Nothing like finishing a book on Sunday for a Monday meeting! I liked it more than I thought I would when I started it, but it still didn’t grip me very much. I gave it Three out of Five Stars and posted a review yesterday.

I also reviewed Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray on Monday. I adored this book and I can’t wait to continue with the series and listen to book four. I might push it up my TBR because I’m looking forward to it so much. Five out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’ll probably need another audiobook before anything else. I’m going to go in a completely different direction than my recent reads and go with Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan. It’s a business book and the business featured is about 30 minutes from my new house. I heard Sheridan speak at a recent HR conferences and I’m interested to hear his full story.
I’ll optimistically think I need a physical book soon as well. I’ve requested The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides from my library. I might bail on this because it’s a possible next read for me and my reading buddy. But I’ve suggested it twice and she hasn’t picked it, so I figure I might as well get to it myself.


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: Old Baggage by Lissa Evans (2/5)

11 Aug

I’m not sure if life’s getting me down or if I’ve had a bad run of books but I’m feeling a reading rut at the moment. This book didn’t help. I usually fly through audio and counted on flying through this one to finish in a week. I only just made it, finishing Sunday before my Monday book club meeting. And it was a bit more of a struggle than I would like.

Cover image via Goodreads

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

Summary from Amazon:

Riffling through a cupboard, Matilda Simpkin comes across a small wooden club—an old possession that she hasn’t seen for more than a decade. Immediately, memories come flooding back to Mattie—memories of a thrilling past, which only further serve to remind her of her chafingly uneventful present. During the Women’s Suffrage Campaign, she was a militant who was jailed five times and never missed an opportunity to return to the fray. Now in middle age, the closest she gets to the excitement of her old life is the occasional lecture on the legacy of the militant movement.

After running into an old suffragette comrade who has committed herself to the wave of Fascism, Mattie realizes there is a new cause she needs to fight for and turns her focus to a new generation of women. Thus the Amazons are formed, a group created to give girls a place to not only exercise their bodies but their minds, and ignite in young women a much-needed interest in the world around them. But when a new girl joins the group, sending Mattie’s past crashing into her present, every principle Mattie has ever stood for is threatened.

This book fell very flat for me. I didn’t connect with Mattie from the beginning and the Flea’s description had me off base the entire time so I failed to enjoy the characters from the go. I liked Ida and her character was strong but that wasn’t enough to carry the book for me. The main plot, with a battle between Mattie’s Amazons and Jacko’s Empire Youth League, seemed silly to me. It was a proxy war between two women who never had their own words. I felt the ending was very rushed after such a detailed start and it fell flat.

The characters seemed well described, I just didn’t like them. Ines was very hard to like and I think that’s what made the whole book feel forced. Mattie’s efforts to get Ines engaged in the world around her were a lot to stomach and seeing how much she hurt Ida in the process was hard. It made me lose respect for Mattie. After looking out for Ida so much, it seemed hard to believe she’d cast her aside so quickly.

Ida was my favorite character. She worked hard and was very smart. When the book started, I didn’t realize how prophetic it was that she was fired for correcting a client. She learned fast and proves how capable she is through her education and commitment to the Amazons. You want good things for her and when she falls on hard times, you want to sympathize with her. I thought she carried the story.

The Amazons reminded me of the Girl Scouts of America so I was engaged in the idea of the group Mattie was putting together. I enjoyed the Girl Scouts. My brother was a Boy Scout and I liked that I got to camp and do archery like him. It was a fun and memorable part of my childhood. I understood the attraction for the girls but I don’t understand the comparison to the Empire Youth League. The two groups seemed to have very different aims and I can’t imagine they’d attract people who were looking for the same things.

Lissa Evans
Image via the NY Times

The field day was a great scene. I thought the scavenger hunt was well done and the tension Evans created in it was good. I hated how the whole thing went down, but I think that was the point. It was supposed to upset me and it clearly upset so many of the characters.

The ending bothered me a lot. It felt very rushed. Most of the book covered about a year, but the final two chapters covered five. It seemed like a bit too much to me with a lot of time crammed into the book. It felt like Evans wanted to end the book with the women’s vote, but it was a bit contrived at the same time. The ending just didn’t seem to fit the story to me.

The audiobook was narrated by Jane Copeland. I thought she gave a good voice for Mattie, but she didn’t blow me away. Her reading of the other characters were very similar, except for Ines. It was a bit bland and I wondered if it contributed to how I felt about the book as a whole. It felt like she was trying to affect a period-specific way of speaking which I’m not convinced was accurate.

Mattie feels like she’s getting old. She’s no longer the militant suffragette she was and is unsure how to keep up the vigor she once felt for the movement. She thinks the Amazons will make her proud and help her continue to feel like she’s making progress toward a better future for women. Her failure there shuts her down and it’s not until years later that she’s revitalized. We all feel like we’re getting older and losing our energy. I feel like I’ve lost energy during COVID. It’s a natural process and we can only fight it so much as Mattie eventually learns.

Writer’s Takeaway: My biggest complaint about this book is the beginning. Introducing Mattie and the Flea during a lecture was not engaging. I especially did not like meeting the Flea like this. The way she was described made me picture her as old and frail instead of young and healthy. I couldn’t picture her and it was a struggle for me the entire book. The ending wasn’t for me either and disliking those parts made it hard to enjoy the middle.
(Note: It was pointed out to me after this review was posted that we meet Mattie and the Flea before the lecture scene, which starts around 24 pages into the book. I was working off of memory and apologize for my mistake.)

Overall, not one I enjoyed. Two out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

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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Old Baggage by Lissa Evans – A Review Revived in honour of the paperback edition! | The Northern Reader
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Old Baggage – Lissa Evans | The Book Jotter

Book Review: Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (5/5)

10 Aug

I have mixed feelings on slowly going through this series. On the one hand, it means that now that I’m ready for the final book, it’s out and I can dive in as soon as I want. On the other hand, I could have fallen in love with this characters years ago. This series has been so much fun and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I’m looking forward to writing this gushing review.

Cover image via Amazon

Before the Devil Breaks You (Diviners #3) by Libba Bray

Other books by Bray reviewed on this blog:

The Diviners (Diviners #1)
Lair of Dreams (Diviners #2)

Summary from Amazon:

After battling a supernatural sleeping sickness that early claimed two of their own, the Diviners have had enough of lies. They’re more determined than ever to uncover the mystery behind their extraordinary powers, even as they face off against an all-new terror. Out on Ward’s Island, far from the city’s bustle, sits a mental hospital haunted by the lost souls of people long forgotten–ghosts who have unusual and dangerous ties to the man in the stovepipe hat, also known as the King of Crows.

With terrible accounts of murder and possession flooding in from all over, and New York City on the verge of panic, the Diviners must band together and brave the sinister ghosts invading the asylum, a fight that will bring them fact-to-face with the King of Crows. But as the explosive secrets of the past come to light, loyalties and friendships will be tested, love will hang in the balance, and the Diviners will question all that they’ve ever known. All the while, malevolent forces gather from every corner in a battle for the very soul of a nation–a fight that could claim the Diviners themselves.

I’d forgotten that I was in love with Evie and Sam. I forgot how much I loved getting a chill up my back while I listened to this series. I’d forgotten how much fun super long books can be! This book was a pure joy from beginning to end. It could have easily suffered from some middle-book-syndrome, but I found it wonderful. It’s setting up for a major final battle and I’m excited about it.

The characters are amazingly diverse in this book and we dig into it even more. Either I’d forgotten or it was newly revealed that Ling is LGBTQIA+. I find her incredibly interesting, though I’ll admit I was skeptical of a character introduced in book 2 and how she’d fit into the group. I think Bray has done well and my skepticism is long gone and I’m back to admiration. All of the other characters are great because they seem so unique. I like that they’re all keeping something back, all of them not showing their full hand. It keeps them very dynamic and keeps me very interested in them and seeing how they develop.

Libba Bray
Image via Facebook

Theta was my favorite character this time around. She had a lot to deal with between Roy and Memphis and I could really feel her stress and anguish. She had a lot of different pressures weighing on her and I thought her behavior was very appropriate to the situation she found herself in. I wish she’d opened up to Henry a bit more, though. I think that the relationship was strong enough to take it.

These characters are just starting to push away from their childhood and into their adult lives more fully and I related to that. They’re pushing away adults who cared for them and venturing out on their own. It seems young, knowing many of these characters are around 18, but that’s also very appropriate for the 1920s. This isn’t exactly a coming-of-age story, but it’s a reminder of life after college for me. Well, except for the ghosts. I didn’t run into any ghosts.

Theta’s showdown with Memphis and Roy was my favorite part of the book. I loved how forgiving Memphis was able to be when faced with the truth and realization of what Theta did for him. I think her character will come into play in a big way in the final book and I really look forward to her future with Memphis.

Mabel’s story was the least compelling for me this time around. Her fight with Evie seemed unnecessary and I think it pushed her way too far toward radical than it should have, knowing her character. I knew something extreme was going to happen the more she broke away from Evie. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll stop here.

The audiobook was narrated by January LaVoy, who did the first two books. She’s incredible in this series. Honestly, the voices she does for Sam and Evie are so different that I’m amazed it’s the same person. She’s very talented and I look forward to hearing her bring the series to a conclusion and then searching out some other books she’s narrated.

The Diviners have to trust each other a lot, which can be hard to do. We see them grow into a ‘framily’ during this book and their reliance on each other is incredible. I think that reliance and trust are going to be very important in the end. Every paragraph I write is making me want to forget my other books and just dive into the end of this series!

Writer’s Takeaway: When writing, a writer is always advised not to ‘head hop,’ to go from one character’s thoughts to another’s within scenes. That’s Bray’s style and she makes it work. Within one scene, we might get two or even three characters’ thoughts, especially when the topic touches on something that they are keeping secret or something that makes them nervous. It’s so well done that I’m not sure I’d notice if I wasn’t looking for it.

A great book and one that’s got me excited for the series to continue. Five 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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Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3) | Belle of the Library
Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray | Review | ambsreads
Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners #3) Review (Audiobook) | bookloversblog

Book Club Reflection: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

6 Aug

Our book club met over Zoom again and this time we were able to discuss The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. We got a little background about Richardson to start us off, finding out that she’d grown up in a bad orphanage situation in Kentucky and struggled with homelessness for a time. There was a lot of disease and poverty in the book. Characters suffered from hunger, infections, and Pellagra (a disease none of us had heard of).

I wasn’t the only one who listened to the audiobook and some said they found the narrator to sound very authentic and liked her a lot. I’m inclined to agree.

Many of us didn’t know about the blue people of Kentucky. Some thought it was science fiction at first and most of us ended up Googling it. The way the people reacted to Cussy’s family showed how evil some people can be. We wondered how much of that evil is human nature and how much of it is taught prejudice. In the case of some characters, it seemed a taught behavior (Harriot) whereas others seemed mildly curious about something so unusual (the doctor). We wondered how much Angeline’s husband knew he was a blue. I thought he knew, but others thought he was an unknowing carrier. Angeline didn’t know she carried it. We were a bit surprised that her husband hung himself. With his anger, we thought he’d hurt the baby. But we were glad he didn’t.

There were some great historical aspects of this book that we enjoyed. The scrapbooks were a great community project for the dispersed people to participate in. It let the neighbors learn different ways of doing something or learn a new skill while they were spread out. It seemed a bit odd to us that so many people didn’t want to take WPA jobs, but we also understood the pride involved in not taking government handouts. I’m involved in hiring and I’ve talked to a lot of people struggling with taking government assistance with the COVID fallout because of pride.

We were surprised that Cussy’s father married her to her first husband. Her father seems to be so caring and fond of her, yet he seems to turn a blind eye to such a poor match. We figured that he probably knew he was sick and wanted her to be married to someone who could care for her before he died but still felt he was a bit too quick. It seemed odd that he turned Jackson down six times after that much desperation to marry her the first time. We also wondered about the inconsistency of her being able to marry. Her marriage to Jackson is illegal, but she could marry Frasier? Maybe the law changed, but we figured the most likely answer is that no one cared enough to report it the first time.

The women in town were unnaturally cruel to her. The scene where she took her medicine to appear white and was still so strongly rejected was especially difficult to read. She was pretty and smart and the women felt threatened by her if they couldn’t put her down and make her feel like an underdog. The people on her route were much more polite and open-minded. We wondered if they were honestly better people and more open-minded, or if their reliance on Cussy helped them forgive her skill color.

Cussy’s relationship with the doctor was very confusing. Many disliked him because he was an opportunist. He certainly knew he had an upper hand on Cussy and blackmailed her to get her to submit to his experiments. He treated her like she was sick and that she wouldn’t be well unless she was white. He’d been after her mother, too, trying to get samples and cure their blue skin. At the same time, he was grateful to Cussy for giving him something to publish that he gave her pills and food whenever he could. He was just looking for a way to make himself famous.

I expressed my frustration with the end and a few people agreed with me. The wrap-up seemed a bit hurried and less authentic than the rest of the book. It was a story with a lot of heartbreak and hard-won joy and the ending was just a little too neat and happy to jive with the rest of the story.

We’ll be meeting again next week for our next book, Old Baggage by Lissa Evans. I hope I finish the book. 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.