Archive | September, 2020

WWW Wednesday, 30-September-2020

30 Sep

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 tried to read Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald. Does anyone even believe me anymore? I’m horrible at picking up physical books, even ones I’m enjoying like this. I really hope to get back to it soon. I need to stick to short ebooks, haha.
I’ve made steady progress on Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni but the physical exhaustion of moving has kept me from reading a lot before bed this past week. It’s going to be a long move so this might keep up for a while. I hope it doesn’t slow me down too much.
I started listening to The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo and I’m trying to figure out how much of a ghost story this really is. I’m not far in yet so that’s still TBD but I’m enjoying the fantastical elements so far.

Recently finished: I wrapped up Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan and posted my review of it yesterday. Sheridan has created a very unique and positive culture in his company. It would be amazing to see that culture in some other industries but I don’t think there’s a solid idea of how it would translate to less technical industries, like manufacturing or even medical. I’d love to see it at my office, but I’m not sure that’s realistic. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading next: I still plan to pick up The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer as soon as I can. I think a thriller with short chapters will be good for me when I’m exhausted before bed.


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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletter 

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: Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan (4/5)

29 Sep

I went to an HR conference last winter where Sheridan was the keynote speaker. His company, Menlo Industries, is located about 30 minutes from me in Ann Arbor, MI. I really liked what he had to say about making work joyful and as much as his speech was geared toward the HR community, his book was geared toward any leader and talked about how to implement his success in other organizations. I listened to this one as an audiobook even though I bought a copy at the conference. I didn’t get the chance to have him sign it, though.

Cover image via Amazon

Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan

Summary from Amazon:

Every year, thousands of visitors come from around the world to visit Menlo Innovations, a small software company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They make the trek not to learn about technology but to witness a radically different approach to company culture.

CEO Rich Sheridan removed the fear and ambiguity that typically make a workplace miserable. With joy as the explicit goal, he and his team changed everything about how the company was run. The results blew away all expectations. Menlo has won numerous growth awards and was named an Inc. magazine “audacious small company.”

Joy, Inc. offers an inside look at how Menlo created its culture, and shows how any organization can follow their methods for a more passionate team and sustainable, profitable results.

Sheridan’s approach really boils down to letting people’s lives not be overrun by work and getting rid of the fear of failure at work. One of the most memorable things Sheridan talked about in his presentation was parents being able to bring their babies into the office if they had childcare problems. This blew me away. It started when an employee was ready to come back to work after maternity leave and her childcare fell through. Since then, other parents have been able to have their babies ‘work’ at Melo as well. As far as eliminating fear, Sheridan has found ways to let his teammates be honest about the problems they are running into so they’re not afraid to say something’s behind or more difficult than anticipated. This creates better feedback for customers and a better understanding of their timelines and gives the teams adequate time to work on their work.

Sheridan was the only real ‘character’ in the book. If I hadn’t heard him speak, I might not have believed he really was as open as he describes himself in the book. He is a curious person and always eager to improve and try new things. He really believes in letting people be more than just employees and finding ways to integrate life with work without work taking over. He recognizes that he’s employing people, not robots.

I understood a lot of the concerns that his employees shared during the book. One of the more memorable moments was when the company sold a venture capital investment and was able to distribute the earnings amongst employees. Rich asked an employee how much the money meant to her and she was honestly not very moved by it but was enjoying the fact that she’d recently received a peer-supported promotion. She was so happy with this promotion that she wasn’t able to really articulate the impact of the money because it was minimal compared to the promotion.

Richard Sheridan
Image via Twitter

I liked how Sheridan described the ways his team overcame difficulties and how there were problems he was still working to solve. It started to seem like his company was nearly perfect. At the end, he addressed this and talked about how the company overcomes them methodically and in a way that lets them not be afraid when something new comes up.

Sheridan talked about how other companies would visit Menlo and how they can implement their ways in other industries. However, the only example he gave of this being affectivly done was in the IT group of an insurance company. I wish he’d given more examples of how parts of his model had been adopted for other industries and types of work. How would it work in manufacturing, where I am?

The audiobook was ready by Tim Andres Pabon and I felt he captured Sheridan’s tone well. He got excited at things Sheridan would get excited about and had a similarlly upbeat attitude about any issue that came about. Honestly, I’m putting Pabon’s voice to Sheridan’s face and it’s lining up well for me, I think he was a good pick.

In a time when technology is having people work what seems like 24/7, Sheridan’s message is a breath of fresh air. People are dreading work time and long hours to meet deadlines, especially in tech industries. Sheridan shows how small changes can make people happier and how to experiment and try new things to see how they go. Bringing Joy to work seems like a crazy concept until he explains in this book.

Writer’s Takeaway: Sheridan knew he had something great with his company and he knew he wanted to share it in a book. He writes how he planned to write three books before he finished his first. I think knowing when you have something worthwhile to say is important and Sheridan sure did. He was straightforward about what worked in his book and how he implemented it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be someone with something to say about business and a book to write, but I liked his determination and conviction that he had something unique to share.

A solid book and a great example of work culture. 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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletters 

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: 
Book Review: Joy, Inc. | Lily Snyder 
Meno Innovations’ Business Value of Joy Workshop | Michigan Tech 

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‘The Virgin Suicides’ Movie Review

28 Sep

Movie Poster Image via Amazon

I realize it’s been over a year since a did a page-to-screen review and I feel like I need to apologize. I’ve been bad at following up my books with the movie, even when I fully intend to watch the film. This case will hopefully change my motivation going forward. I absolutely loved Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. I was pumped to watch the movie and requested it from the library almost immediately after finishing the book.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Homecoming. The dance was a really critical turning point in the book and I thought it was well translated to the movie. Lux and Trip were electric together and I could understand why the night was so pivotal for her. I did feel like the other girls were a bit more glossed over than they were in the book but it was a small change.

Kirsten Dunst. OK, I didn’t believe she was 14, but I would have believed 16. She did great at the emotional highs and lows that Lux felt. She was rebellious and in love, scared and confident all at the same time and I thought she was wonderful.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

The tree coming down. I’m not even really sure about this one. My husband was watching with me and thought the tree came down, I didn’t think so but noticed in a later shot that it was down. I didn’t think this was a strong plot point anyway so I’m really fine with whatever happened to the tree.

Cover image via Amazon

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

Mary’s suicide. In the book, Mary’s first attempt wasn’t successful but she tried again later and did kill herself. I thought it was an important touch that Mary, like Cecilia, didn’t succeed but made a second attempt. Lux’s pregnancy scare. They speak very briefly about her trists on the roof but there’s a lot more made of them in the book. She really broke from her parents and her history when she was doing that and I thought her pregnancy scare was the last time she could have gotten help. Plus, the ambulance visiting the house was a huge build of tension that I think was missed.

Things That Changed Too Much

The collective narrator. In the book, it was much less clear who the boys are who are narrating the book. I’m not sure this could have been done any differently in the movie, where a visual group needs to be shown. I liked the idea that the ‘we’ narrator was a larger group, not boiled down to five like the film decided to do. It seemed a little too personal instead of a collective group recognizing how the girls were separate and different from themselves. I think this was a great adaptation and I see why so many of you have pushed me to watch it as soon as I could.

Reader, have you seen the movie for The Virgin Suicides? What did you think?

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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletters

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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Off Topic Thursday: Triathlon Season 2020

24 Sep

Well, there wasn’t much of a triathlon season to 2020 but it did happen. I was originally signed up for five triathlons this season along with two road races and two swim meets. Of all that, I did one triathlon.

The race that did happen is a favorite of mine. It’s in Northern Michigan near my parent’s lake house, so it feels like a hometown race while it’s in a destination setting. This is my fifth year participating in the event. It’s always the week after Labor Day which is the beginning of the slow season for Northern Michigan. The weather can be a bit unpredictable.

My husband and I spent the week before the race at the lake house which afforded me the opportunity to swim on the course on Thursday. It was the most ideal weather swim I can ever remember. Lake Huron can be unpredictable, though, and the glass-like water I experienced on Thursday was not the 3 foot waves I saw on Saturday morning. Fortunately, the water temperature stayed above 60. They’ve canceled the swim in past years because of cold water temperatures mixing with cold air temps. This year, they kept the swim but shortened it from 1500m to only 500m. I was crushed. The swim is my strongest discipline and I usually gain 5-8 minutes on my competitors in the water. With a shortened swim, I knew my chances of finishing on top of the podium again were slipping away.

There were a lot of COVID procedures for this race but they were well communicated and people were good about following them. One was that we wouldn’t have volunteers to write our race numbers on our arms and calves so we had to do it ourselves. This ended up with racer #6 trying to left-handed draw a six on his right bicep which was fun to watch and he was a good sport about how bad it looked. We also had more spacing in transition, wore masks, had our temperatures checked, and had no awards ceremony after the event. All perfectly reasonable and safe steps to bring us back to racing.

We were lined up in the order we registered which made me #3 because I signed up the first day. It seems the first 10 of us signed up that day. We were released three seconds apart and I easily overtook the first two swimmers before the first turn. The swim was a bit difficult because the waves made it hard to sight the buoys but I made it in pretty fast time. The KayaTri (kayak, bike, run) athletes got mixed up with us so the worst part was almost being hit by a kayak near the end of the swim.

The 24.8 mile bike went pretty well. I didn’t get as much bike training in this year as I did last year and I still averaged 17 mph which is good for me. I had two other woman in my race pass me on the bike but I kept pushing and I’m happy with how it went overall. It was colder air temperature than I’d hoped for so the day before I went and bought a quarter-zip pullover at WalMart that ended up being a saving grace on the bike course.

The run felt off from the beginning. I was passed early on by a woman who I knew from the previous year was an amazing runner. I ended up walking a little bit every mile because my body was exhausted. I had some men pass me but no more women. About 1.5 miles from the end, I saw an athlete in front of me. I asked a volunteer if it was a man or a woman and he looked at them as they were walking through a water station and said, “That’s a man.” I was relived that I didn’t need to feel pressured to pass! However, the volunteer must have thought I was asking about the people manning the water station because as I got closer, I realized the athlete was a woman and she was fading fast. It was one of the women who passed me on the bike! I was able to move ahead of her with about a mile to go and a kick in the pants not to stop again before crossing the finish line.

The end of the race was odd because we immediately picked up our bikes, gear, and finisher plaque and left. They were going to do drive-by awards where you told a volunteer your age, race, and number so they could hand you an award. I was surprised to see I’d finished in 3rd overall! One woman who beat me was the strong runner. I’d beat her last year only because of the longer swim. The woman who won was new to the race and had a fantastic finish. The woman I passed in the run was an amazing biker who came in 3rd last year.

I have no idea when I’ll race again but I’m really glad to have had the opportunity to do so this year. If nothing else, I hope to do this race next year as it’s a favorite course for me. I’ve just got to work on that bike speed.

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, 23-September-2020

23 Sep

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 minuscule progress on Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald. I’d hoped that with my triathlon season over, I’d find more time to read but I haven’t gotten there just yet. I’ll keep looking.
I’ve almost finished Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan now that I’m back in it. I’m enjoying the book a lot and wondering if there’s a way his company could use my skillset. It’s less than 30 minutes from my new house! I should easily have this finished next week.
I’m steadily moving through Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni but I’m finding it hard to binge this one. There’s a lot of information to unpack in Moaveni’s story. It’s well researched and clearly a personal story for her. I’m enjoying it but I’m looking forward to a fast, fun book after this.

Recently finished: I posted my review of In the Distance by Hernán Díaz yesterday. This book was a rare miss for me. My book club met before I’d finished it but I pushed through to the end and I don’t think knowing the ending ruined much for me. There wasn’t much anticipation to be ruined. I gave the book Two out of Five Stars. I think this might be the first time I’ve posted a book club reflection before a book review! That went up on Monday.

Reading next: I’ve packed a lot of my books but I’m leaving The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer on top of the pile so I can grab it and start soon. I’m looking forward to a thriller!
My next audiobook will be for my book club. We’ve picked The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. Usually, we read a horror book in October, but I don’t think that’s what this one will be about. It sounds like an interesting read, though.


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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletter 

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: In the Distance by Hernán Díaz (2/5)

22 Sep

I had no idea what to expect out of this book because, as usual, I didn’t read anything about it before picking it up. I liked to do that with book club books because I like being surprised. Maybe I wouldn’t have been waiting for something to happen for so long if I’d known that this was a journey novel and that there wasn’t going to be a central action story. Maybe, for once, this worked against me.

Cover image via Amazon

In the Distance by Hernán Díaz

Summary from Amazon:

A young Swedish immigrant finds himself penniless and alone in California. The boy travels East in search of his brother, moving on foot against the great current of emigrants pushing West. Driven back again and again, he meets naturalists, criminals, religious fanatics, swindlers, Indians, and lawmen, and his exploits turn him into a legend. Diaz defies the conventions of historical fiction and genre, offering a probing look at the stereotypes that populate our past and a portrait of radical foreignness.

This book just didn’t work for me. I kept thinking something would change and I’d start to appreciate something I’d missed or I’d become interested in a new character, but it never happened. Håkan didn’t even make a strong impression on me. This book was very episodic and that’s not a structure that I usually like. I wanted more closure from the people he met along the way or for someone to come back into play late in the story to complete a storyline. I felt perpetually let down.

There were very few of these characters that I felt were realistic. Lorimer and Asa are the only people I liked and didn’t seem like they stepped out of a movie. The corrupt sheriff was probably similar to other men in the era, but he still came across as cartoonish. Håkan didn’t seem realistic at all and I felt he lived up to and deserved his legendary notoriety.  This is part of what made it so hard to like the book.

Lorimer was my favorite character. He was likable and smart. Even though he did some dumb things and put himself and others at risk, he had a vision he was trying to achieve and he went for it. He cared about other people, which was rare for someone in this book. I gained a lot of respect for him when he helped the native people who had been attached and learned from their elder. 

Asa was the most relatable character to me, but some of his character development was a bit unbelievable. He had a soft heart and I liked that about him. He was able to see the good in Håkan and was angry about him being mistreated. However, I didn’t understand why he had such a soft spot for Håkan. Håkan never denied the brutal things he was accused of because they were true. What made him fall for a man who never spoke and was known to commit murder? He put a lot on the line to free Håkan and I didn’t see his motivation.

Hernan Diaz
Image via the book website

The storyline with Asa and Håkan’s time in the desert were my favorite parts of the book. I liked Håkan alone and how he described his life at that time. I also liked to see him happy, even if it was fleeting, with Asa.

The time Håkan spent with the woman bothered me the most. I didn’t understand the motivation for taking him prisoner and what her larger issue was. She was angry but how she used Håkan was inexcusable to me. The fact that this plotline ended so quickly and violently made me dislike it even more. It probably didn’t help that this was early in the book and put a bitter taste in my mouth for the remainder of the story.

The audiobook was narrated by Peter Berkrot. While listening, I didn’t notice anything that bothered me about his performance. His pace was slow and he expressed Håkan’s sense of wonder of America well. It wasn’t until someone pointed out at our book club meeting that Berkrot’s voice wasn’t a good fit for the story that I realized I agreed. It was just a bit off.

Part of what turns me off to episodic stories is that they seem to lack an overarching theme. In this book, Håkan is trying to find his place in a new country. He tries working, following someone else, and striking out on his own. None of them seem to work for him. In the end, America isn’t for him and he decides that rather than try a different part of the country, he’s going to head home. I was a little lost about the theme here and the relevance of a lot of Håkan’s stops along the way.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book was widely well-received, so maybe I’m missing something. The lack of return to previous themes, characters, and events is what frustrated me with this book. It’s the old adage that if you introduce a gun in act one, it better go off before the play ends. I didn’t think this book delivered on that promise to the reader and I was frustrated for much of the book.

Not a hit for me. 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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletters 

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 Distance by Hernan Diaz | North of Oxford 
Book rev. of Hernan Diaz’s In the Distance | Blog on the Hyphen 
In the Distance (Diaz) | BookReviewsbyCharles 

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Book Club Reflection: In the Distance by Hernán Díaz

21 Sep

It is rare for me to not finish a book before our book club meets, but that’s what happened this past week. I couldn’t manage to finish In the Distance by Hernán Díaz in time for our meeting. I had less than two hours left of the audio when we met.

Our leader had some great information about Díaz. The book was sent int during an open call for manuscripts and is his first novel, which he’d been working on for years. Díaz lived in first Sweeden and then Argentina before moving to New York. He didn’t travel to the locations he mentioned to research the novel. It’s a bit of a travel novel and a Western. The story shows the chaos of the Wild West more than the heroic side that’s often portrayed in Westerns. The corrupt Shariff is an example of the American Dream of the West gone sour. It was pointed out that most Westerns set in the late 1800s like this one were not written during that time period. Most Westerns are about an idealized and mythological West that’s common in literature but isn’t necessarily true of history. (From this article from The Nation)

There were a few of us who listened to the audiobook for this one and we found that those of us who listened disliked the book more than those who read it. We didn’t feel the narrator’s voice matched the story. Those who read the book noticed something that passed me by. There was almost no dialogue in the first half of the books because Håkan didn’t speak English and didn’t understand what was being said. He’s a foreigner in the West, even though everyone there is not from the area. He’s the most foreign foreigner in the land.

During the book, Håkan has a lot of different companions and one reader counted nine in total. I wasn’t a fan of this episodic storytelling and a few of my fellow readers felt the same. We were disappointed when characters like the woman with black gums never showed up again. It made us question the purpose of certain parts of the book. Lorimer was one character we tended to like. Many of us felt he was comparable to Darwin.

Many of us were frustrated that Håkan never found his brother, but many people suspected it. Marking it to New York wasn’t part of his story. When he decided to return to Sweden, most weren’t surprised. A reader suggested that he’d lost touch with reality a bit in thinking he could walk across Russia, but others thought he’d honed his skills enough to be able to do it. One reader was very familiar with Sweedish immigration and told us that many Swedes who left for the US went back to Sweeden so it’s likely Lionus may have done that and they’d be reunited at home. So maybe there is a happy ending?

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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletters 

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, 16-September-2020

16 Sep

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 got through none of Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald last week. I was on vacation and didn’t want to look at a screen after my work day was over so I didn’t and this is very much paused. I hope I get back to it soon.
I should be back to Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan this week, but not yet just!
I’m finishing In the Distance by Hernán Díaz and should be able to wrap it up today. I didn’t finish it before my book club meeting which I’m disappointed about but I’m determined to wrap it up anyway.
I’m working through Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni and enjoying it pretty well. It’s a good mix of memoir and history which I’m enjoying.

Recently finished: I finished The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides while I was on vacation and just loved it. I have the movie on hold at the library now and I’m hoping I can watch it soon and see how well the story was translated to screen. My review went up on Monday and I know a lot of you were asking for it. I gave it a full Five out of Five Stars.

Reading next: I still plan to start The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer soon. I think a thriller will be good for my reading pace. And I finished almost all of my autographed books during quarantine which is a huge win for me!


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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletter 

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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Happy 7th Birthday to Taking on a World of Words!

15 Sep

Another year completed. I knew this one was coming up soon and I was really glad to see I’d hit seven years blogging. The past six months have been crazy and it’s nice to celebrate milestones for things that haven’t stopped. One of my rituals on my blogoversary is to think what my blog would be able to do if it were a child. This list is getting so comprehensive that I can picture little Blog going off to second grade. I hope she likes it.

  • Becoming thoughtful and reflective
  • Can tell time
  • Develop self-criticism
  • Can solve math problems by counting
  • Develop empathy
  • Write her own name

Yes, Blog is a girl. I’m not sure why, but that’s how I picture it. Yet again, here are some numbers to show my blog’s growth over the past year. Numbers are taken from 14-Sep, nine days after my blogoversary.

It seems the Bird Box craze from last year has simmered down a bit. A lot of my traffic is still focused around WWW Wednesday which I love. I’m seeing more to do with my book club reflections which I’m glad to see. It makes me happy to know I come up in searches for people who also want to discuss books and who want to see what others thought. And, still, I’m pretty sure I’m being used to finish book reports on Shakespeare. Oh well. Thank you all so much for reading along with my reading adventures. I love sharing a love of books with you all. You make finishing a book even more exciting! 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!

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Book Review: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (5/5)

14 Sep

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time. I really liked Eugenides’ Middlesex and wanted to read his entire backlog immediately. I read The Marriage Plot and found it was okay, but not what I had hoped for. I’d heard amazing things about this book and I’ve attempted to squeeze it in between other book obligations before but hadn’t been able to until now. I’m so glad I finally did and also got it to pull me out of a reading slump that was hard to shake.

Cover image via Amazon

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Other books by Eugenides reviewed on this blog:

Middlesex (and Book Club Reflection)
The Marriage Plot

Summary from Amazon:

In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters―beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighborhood boys―commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. As the boys observe them from afar, transfixed, they piece together the mystery of the family’s fatal melancholy, in this hypnotic and unforgettable novel of adolescent love, disquiet, and death. Jeffrey Eugenides evokes the emotions of youth with haunting sensitivity and dark humor and creates a coming-of-age story unlike any of our time.

It’s interesting to me that the summary says the book takes place in Detroit because I don’t remember it ever being stated but I recognized my city well enough from the description. Anyway. This book was one of my favorites this year. The suspense was amazing. You know from the beginning that all of the Lisbon girls die by suicide, so that’s not ruining anything. The question is why. I’m not sure we ever get an answer. The story is told from a collective point of view of the boys growing up in the same neighborhood who are attending school with the girls and see their lives from the outside. I thought this was a fascinating way to tell the story and I really enjoyed the investigative method the boys had of looking into the Lisbon suicides.

The only real characters in the story were the Lisbon girls. Because of the collective narrative voice, none of the neighborhood boys had much of a role. Since the girls didn’t narrate, we don’t know what they thought or how the felt about the boys outside of their conjecture. We don’t know what happened in their house when no one was there, either. There’s a lot we don’t know about the girls but we can gather that Cecilia likely suffered from mental health issues and the other girls should have seen therapists. I think the distance from the girls made them seem more mysterious and added to the sense of foreboding that lasted the entire book. I could picture girls like this in school and like my classmates, I didn’t know what happened at their houses when I wasn’t there.

Lux was my favorite character. I think we knew more about her than any of the other sisters. Her promiscuity made her more of a focus for many of the boys and it seemed fitting that her story occupied a large part of the story. She seemed really lost and confused and I could see why she acted the way she did. She seemed to want to be different after her sister’s death and didn’t know how to do that. I’m sure the other girls had a way of coping, but it wasn’t as obvious to the boys or as worthy of gossip.

It’s hard to say I related to the characters but I did on some level. I’ve felt like my parents were too strict or like life was too hard or that I had no one to reach out to. There were many times I felt like someone who knew me at school would have no idea what I was thinking about or what happened in my head or my house. I think we’re often surprised when we hear about the details of someone else’s home and the lives they have. When we’re young, we assume all other homes are like ours and I remember how shocked I was when I found out that wasn’t true.

Jeffrey Eugenides
Image via Harvard

After the initial suicide, I was in utter suspense. I thought they were going to come one after another, one per chapter, until the end of the book. I won’t give anything away here, but the suspense Eugenides created and the mystery surrounding the Lisbon home was amazing and kept me up a few late nights trying to see what would happen next.

There wasn’t a part of this book I particularly disliked. I think it showed how different people deal with grief and how we don’t know what’s going on in a person’s life, even when they live down the street. We can guess and we can try to intervene, but nothing is guaranteed to work. Everyone’s life is different and we may not ever understand why. I thought Eugenides approached this in a really good way. There’s never a solid answer for why the tragedy happened and the way he leaves it still feels like good closure to the Lisbon story.

There’s a lot we don’t know about other people. The boys in the neighborhood didn’t know what it was like to be a woman in the Lisbon household. They didn’t know how the girls interacted or how their parents treated them. They didn’t know the health of the girls or what they wanted in life. They knew a little about their likes and dislikes and the clothing they wore and the people they saw, but that was it. When they go to Homecoming, it’s the most the boys interact with the girls in the entire book. We never know about someone’s life or inner struggle and it’s impossible to guess.

Writer’s Takeaway: The suspense in this book was thrilling and I really enjoyed it. Knowing how it would end and waiting and waiting to see why it happened was really suspenseful and kept me turning pages and reading. I don’t think this format works for all books, but I can see how it works for some and is wonderfully effective in keeping a reader engaged.

A great book and the perfect one to get me out of a reading slump. 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!

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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: 
A Postmodern Adolescence: “The Virgin Suicides,” by Jeffrey Eugenides | almostauthorblog 
Review – The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides | Love, Literature, Art, and Reason 
The Virgin Suicides | Flowers Between Pages 
‘The Virgin Suicides’ by Jeffrey Eugenides | The Afterword 

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