Archive | March, 2021

WWW Wednesday, 31-March-2021 (My Birthday!)

31 Mar

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. 


Lateral

It’s my birthday! I hope to find some time to read more today (and eat cake).

Currently reading: I got through a chapter or two of Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono while waiting at my doctor’s office this week. It was great to get through a chunk of it. I think I’m getting close to the end but the page count is making me think I’m only half way done. I think there’s a lot of images toward the end that will go quickly.
Still nothing with Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All the Way Down) by John Green but I think I’ll be back to it soon!
I can’t wait to get back to The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee. I need a fun read and I’m sure this will be one!
The Overstory by Richard Powers is starting to feel like a bit of a slough. It’s well written, but it’s a bit preachy and really long. I’ll be happy when I’m done with it, honestly.
I’ve made good progress Expecting Better by Emily Oster and really enjoying it. I love the research Oster did about conventional pregnancy rules and myths and how well she explains what she’s found. It’s helping me feel more comfortable with my pregnancy and making decisions about it.

HalfRecently finished: I flew through The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett after my last meeting with my reading buddy. We were both chomping at the bit to get through it! Great read and I was able to post my review on Monday. I gave the book a full Five out of Five Stars.

Reading next: I’m going to leave this blank one more week and give myself time to catch up on the double-duty reading I’m doing before I think about what could be next 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!

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 Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (5/5)

29 Mar

I’m not sure how my reading buddy and I are so consistently lucky to find amazing books. We found a real gem with this one. I shouldn’t be so surprised with the press this one has gathered and that it was the top seller of 2020 at my local bookstore. What an engrossing read.

Half

Cover image via Amazon

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Summary from Amazon:

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

The characters Bennett created in this one are really remarkable and made me fall in love with the book early. It’s tough to decide how you feel about Desiree or Jude from the beginning, but I loved Early almost immediately. Then you learn about Jude as an adult and her amazing relationship with Reece and by then, I was head over heels with these people. I’m never sure how I feel about Stella and Desiree but the supporting characters were easy enough to love that you wanted to keep reading about everyone. The story became a lot less about Desiree by the end and I didn’t even mind.

The characters in this book felt very real to me. Especially Desiree and Jude. I felt that the struggles they had were very grounded in the reality I’m familiar with. The things Reece and Stella went through were a little more niche but the story was told in such a way that you cared and sympathized with them. I thought it was really incredible what Bennett was able to do with this story and a situation that seems so otherworldly at times. I really applaud her storytelling skills.

Reece ended up being my favorite character. He was so loving and devoted to Jude that it broke my heart. I think his struggle to love himself was one of the best arcs of the novel and I loved how he let Jude in and let her help him in the end. I was always rooting for them and when I thought things weren’t going to work out, I was devastated. I think Reece was a great character to parallel Stella and talk about a chosen identity in another way that worked well.

I found myself relating best to Jude. Maybe it’s because I feel like I knew Kennedy growing up, or because I went off to college on my own or because she was a determined woman. She was a great character and I liked her arc of finding a place she fit in and learning to love who she is no matter what others think of her skin. Her relationship with Barry was great and I think a big part of how she came to be as confident as she was.

Bennett

Brit Bennett Image via Wikipedia

Jude’s time in California was my favorite. I liked how she developed relationships with Reece and Barry while she was in school. How hard she worked to balance school, track, and job was amazing and I respected her so much and fully believed she’d crush med school with that work ethic.

Stella’s story was a bit hard to read at times. You want to feel bad for her because she’s clearly depressed, but something held me back from sympathizing with her. I think it was because I felt like she abandoned her family and I didn’t understand how a person could do that. I also didn’t understand how she could bite her tongue and lie to Kennedy the way she did. It started to upset me by the end.

So much of Stella and Desiree’s lives hinged on how they were perceived. This started to branch out to the people around them. Jude was viewed unfavorably by her classmates because her skin was dark. Kennedy and Reece struggled with how they saw themselves and it affected relationships they had for much of their lives. There were a lot of parallels in this book. Most obvious was Stella and Desiree but Reece and Stella were very similar. Early and Jude had a lot in common as well.

Writer’s Takeaway: Bennett didn’t hesitate to write about things that can be hard to talk about. She wrote about race, gender identity, and abuse without holding back. As a white woman, this book helped me empathize and realize the choices some people make to change how I perceive them and how influential that can be. I think hearing more stores from people who have different experiences than me helps me realize what can and should change in our world.

This book really took me for a ride and I enjoyed it a lot. 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.

Related Posts:
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett | The Geeky Bibliophile
The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett | A Bookish Type
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett | Of Books and Reading

WWW Wednesday, 24-March-2021

24 Mar

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: Not much with Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono this week. Swimming’s been put on hold because of a pregnancy complication that will hopefully resolve soon and will let me get back in the water. Fingers crossed!
Paused with Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All the Way Down) by John Green. Hang on.
Regrettably also on hold with The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee. I wanted to get back to this sooner but my book club audiobook is taking a lot longer than anticipated. Grumble grumble.
The aforementioned book club pick is The Overstory by Richard Powers. This book is epically long and I feel like my baby might be born before I finish this book. (Seeing as I’m only at 20 weeks, this is still a possibility.)
I’m loving and rushing throubh The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett with my reading buddy. We met over the weekend to discuss the first half and I’m already closing in on our next chunk. I had a lot of rest time this weekend to read and it helped me get ahead a bit.
I started Expecting Better by Emily Oster and it’s going faster than I thought which is a welcome surprise. Oster is very funny and clearly well researched which is making for a fun read. I’m not as nervous about trying a sip of my husband’s beers on our upcoming babymoon now!

Recently finished: With all the books I’m in the middle of, it should be no surprise I haven’t finished anything. I’d be ecstatic to finish anything this next week but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Reading next: I’ll try to finish something before I make any plans for the future. That all seems too far away at this point.

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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WWW Wednesday, 17-March-2021

17 Mar

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 another chapter of Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono on an unlucky Friday morning when I had to wait fifteen minutes for a lane. Oh well, there was an upside so it’s all fine.
An even longer pause on Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All the Way Down) by John Green is coming. Stay tuned.
Also on hold with The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee but I’m really hoping to return to it soon because I was really enjoying it.
I’m still working on The Overstory by Richard Powers and I feel like I will be forever. This is taking a long time to get into so I’m slogging a bit. I hope it turns around soon and I can push forward.
I’m focusing on The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett just now, hoping to get to the next stopping point that my Reading Buddy and I have agreed on. I’m enjoying this, though it took a turn different from what I expected. I can’t wait to see where it goes.

Recently finished: I finally wrapped up Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson! The review went up yesterday so you can all see my thoughts. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars. Parts of it were amazing, Five Star territory, but there were some elements that dragged a bit and brought it down for me. You can’t win them all.

Reading next: I still think I’ll grab Expecting Better by Emily Oster before I return to Green. It’s a good time to be reading this and Green can wait until after baby arrives and still be relevant.

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: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson (3/5)

16 Mar

After having so much success with Writing Fiction for Dummies, I wanted to see what other knowledge I could flush out of the series and kept this Dummies book on my radar. I’m glad I did because there was some good insight here into how the YA market is different. Halverson also focuses on some other parts of the life of a writer that Ingermanson and Economy didn’t touch upon which I found helpful.

Cover image via Amazon

Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson

Summary from Amazon:

With young adult book sales rising, and bestselling authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer exploding onto the scene, aspiring YA writers are more numerous than ever. Are you interested in writing a young adult novel, but aren’t sure how to fit the style that appeals to young readers?

Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies gives you tricks of the trade and proven tips on all the steps to write a YA book, from developing an idea to publication.

  • Unique writing exercises to help you find your own authentic teen voice
  • Tips to avoid when submitting manuscripts
  • How to break into the flourishing young adult market

With the help of this step-by-step guide, you’ll have all the skills to write an inspiring and marketable young adult novel.

Some of this book was great and really helpful while others seemed to be a bit too much of a personal experience to be really helpful. Halverson’s opening chapters about finding motivation and time to write were very generic. I would have appreciated them more if this had been my first book on writing and not my third. I was really looking for YA-specific advice and this wasn’t filling that need. When she started talking about MG and YA differences and how to get past a gatekeeper, I was intrigued. Halverson gives a lot of solid advice about the submission process as well which I don’t remember other books giving as much detail about and I appreciated that.

Deborah Halverson
Image via LinkedIn

Halverson had some good advice about things to add or exclude from a YA novel to help not only appeal to young adults but to be a book that adults will want young adults to read. I don’t remember hearing a lot of advice with this bend before and I liked it. For example, don’t avoid romance but don’t include anything sexually graphic. While teens might be intrigued, no librarian is going to hand a fifteen-year-old a book with that content. She breaks down the YA market into understandable age groups as well and will talk about when different topics are more or less appropriate.

Halverson’s advice on the process of writing seemed very vague and personal at the same time. She had descriptions of what worked for her and how she finished her novels. However, she was also somewhat vague about the process of outlining, how to do revisions and character motivations. I might be making unfair comparisons because Ingermanson and Economy did this so well that anything else was doomed to feel like it fell short.

Halverson is a professional writer and her advice is for those looking to make writing a full-time job. I’m not sure that’s for me, but she does give some good time management and work-life balance advice. I think one of my latent fears of publishing is that I won’t have time to do it justice. But that seems like a fear to realize a long way off, not something to stop me from trying.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book has inspired me to start some revisions for my WIP and I’m excited to share that I have started another round of revisions. Many readers have said that my male protagonist was strong but the female needed a bit better motivation at the beginning. Let’s see what motivation and advice from Halverson can do to get me pushing forward.

A helpful book, but some parts were more helpful than others. 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:
Author Spotlight: Deborah Halverson | Writing on the Sidewalk
Writing Young Adult Fiction by Deborah Halverson | Samantha Clark
Young Love | Joseph’s Reviews

Book Club Reflection: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

15 Mar

I’ve been waiting to have time to chat with my book club about Keefe’s Say Nothing since I finished it and absolutely loved it. Luckily, that time finally came last week!

We started with a little background about the author. Keefe is a staff writer for the New Yorker based in Boston. He has Irish roots but his interest in the Troubles steamed from the obituary of Dolours Price he read. When he started researching the Troubles and speaking with the people involved, he found that being an American branded him as an outsider and gave him more access to the players because he wasn’t considered British or Irish and thus wasn’t trying to get information for the other side. We felt he portrayed the characters in a very fair way without taking strong sides. It was to a point that you felt almost OK with the actions both sides took and it took a minute to step back and realize those actions were murder or imprisonment. You were able to reconcile the IRA’s crimes because the British were doing equally horrible things. Since the British were representing the government, they had power and those with power get to narrate what is good and bad. Being an outsider lets Keefe tell this story with less of an agenda. We did feel that he felt a bit upset that Gerry Adams wouldn’t speak with him. He seemed to share this sentiment with IRA members who felt that Adams had turned his back on everyone when he denied his part in the IRA. I’m secretly hoping for a Gerry Adams Belfast Project tape but I know it’s a long shot.

One of the reasons cited for the betrayal of Adams is that he went against the sense of absolutism that the IRA had. The only solution they would accept was their independence from Britain and joining the Republic. Adam’s role in the Good Friday Agreement was a concession and thus he went against the IRA. Other ideas permeated the story, especially silence when lent itself to the title as well. Keeping quiet about something traumatic comes up often in references to Irish culture. One reader had read from an anthropologist that this sense of secrecy stems from large families living in small spaces. Household peace was easier to maintain if certain things weren’t discussed. This prevalence made it a part of the national culture. I’m not sure how true I think that is, but it’s an interesting idea and it’s easy to see it played out in the book, especially in the case of Jean McConville. Many of us were confused why McConville’s story was used to bookend the book. While a dark part of the IRA’s operations, they didn’t disappear a large number of people. We had various reasons for thinking Keefe did this. Partially it might have been because of the role her murder played in the release of the Boston College tapes. It seemed odd at first how willing some of the confessors were to tell their stories, knowing that they had families who were going to have to live with the truth after they were gone. That’s how badly they needed healing from what they’d lived through.

We had some personal anecdotes to share as well. One reader grew up in a strongly Irish family and remembers praying for the hunger strikers at Thanksgiving dinner. The book touched on the IRA support in America but I hadn’t thought of it being in my area so that was eye-opening. Someone recommended a movie about Bobby Sands called Hunger starring Michael Fassbender. Another shared a YouTube video of Seamus Heaney reading a poem he wrote about the Troubles which inspired Keefe’s title.

As always, it was a great discussion. I only hope I finish the book for our next meeting before the date. Until then, 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, 10-March-2021

10 Mar

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’ve been lucky to not have a lot of waiting time this past week so I haven’t made progress on Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono. I’m in no rush so I’ll keep on keeping on with this one.
Still nothing on Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All the Way Down) by John Green. I may have to start this over when I’m ready to return to it.
Since I renewed Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson I’ve slowed down on it a bit. I know I’ll finish, but I’m not as stressed about it as I was two weeks ago.
I have paused The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee to prioritize book club books. Boo! This was so fun and I can’t wait to return to it.
I’m still getting into The Overstory by Richard Powers. There are so many stories that I’m having trouble keeping everything straight. I’m getting a lot of Cloud Atlas vibes from it so far, which isn’t really a good thing for me.
Just to make this list longer, I started The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. over the weekend. My reading buddy and I are going through the first three chapters so it’s not a lot and I’ll get a break to get back to my Dummies book once I finish the section. I’m enjoying it so far, still getting into the story a lot.

Recently finished: Nothing new this week, but I’m not surprised with all the books I’m in the middle of! I hope I can add one here next week, but that seems a long way off with how early I am in many of these books.

Reading next: I just can’t add any more here. I’d drown in books if I did. I have one idea, though. My husband bought me a book when we found out I was pregnant called Expecting Better by Emily Oster. I’d like to read it while I’m still preggo! I might pick this up after Dummies and make Mil veces wait even 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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WWW Wednesday, 3-March-2021

3 Mar

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 a few pages of Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono so this is still moving, though at a snail’s pace.
On hold with Mil veces hasta siempre (Turtles All the Way Down) by John Green. Stand by.
I’ve been able to renew Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson so I’m not as stressed about finishing this one. I have a little bit of time that I can enjoy starting my Buddy Read soon!
I started a for-fun audiobook in The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee but I had to put this on hold because I realized my next book club audio is 22 hours! I’m really enjoying this so far, just trying to meet the deadlines I have.
So I started The Overstory by Richard Powers. I hadn’t heard of this one before and all I really know going in is that it has a natural world bend and it’s super long. Here’s hoping I can finish it in time for the book club meeting!

Recently finished: I stayed up late to finish Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe before the file returned. Totally worth it. This was one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in a while and I really enjoyed it. I wish I’d read this book before my husband and I visited Belfast in 2018. We decided not to do a Black Taxi tour because of our short time, opting for the Titanic Museum and the Giant’s Causeway instead. I’m wishing now we’d scheduled another day there to see more about the city’s history.

Reading next: I’ll be starting The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett soon. I think I need some fiction with so much non-fiction going on and I have a feeling I’ll fly through this one to our stopping points. It will be a nice change of pace and I’m looking forward to diving in.

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: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

2 Mar

I didn’t know how much I was going to enjoy this story until I was already engrossed in it. I visited Belfast in 2018, mostly to see the Titanic Museum. I didn’t know much about The Troubles. I knew about the IRA only from the parallels drawn between it and ETA, which I did my undergraduate thesis on. This research gave me the perspective that the IRA is a terrorist organization. But this book rarely uses that word. It’s more often referred to as a paramilitary group. I think that different perspective is what made this book so fascinating to me.

Cover via Amazon

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe

Summary from Amazon:

In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress–with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes.

Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland, and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders. From radical and impetuous I.R.A. terrorists such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution, to the ferocious I.R.A. mastermind known as The Dark, to the spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army, to Gerry Adams, who negotiated the peace but betrayed his hardcore comrades by denying his I.R.A. past–Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish.

Some of this was so crazy that you wanted it to be fiction instead of a bitter true history. The murders and deaths were terrible and hearing about the dangers of daily life in Belfast during this time made me wonder why my mother didn’t stop me from visiting because of old headline fears. This book took decades worth of headlines and developments and told a story. While it starts and ends with Jean McConville, the story seems to spend a lot of time with Dolours Price. Price’s story is an extreme example of the IRA’s brutality but it highlighted much of the organization’s history without bringing in too many other people. I found it fascinating to hear about an armed struggle from the side I’d always been told was the enemy. I won’t say this changed my opinion of the IRA; more that it helped me understand why someone would be drawn to the other side.

Keefe did an amazing amount of research for this and it showed. Most of the major players in the story are now dead and his stories of and about them come from news articles and interviews that he poured over for years. Dolours and Brendan Hughes seemed more well rounded in the book than Dolours’s sister Marian or Gerry Adams. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the later are still alive.

I had a love/hate relationship with Price through the book. She had ideals I could never sympathize with and she went to lengths I would never consider. But I had to admire her determination. I think, directed in a different direction, she could have been famous for very different reasons. It’s a result of location that she turned into a bomber and criminal. I think she could have done great things if she’d directed her attentions and focus in other directions.

I think I was so intrigued by the people in this book because their lives were so different from mine. I’ve not had to deal with religious oppression, the driving force behind the IRA, or another form of surpression or opression that would have driven me to take a path similar to the IRA members highlighted in this book. I’ve never suffered political violence like the McConville family. It’s hard for me to fathom what it would have been like to be in their shoes. I think this is part of why I wish I knew this story better before visiting Belfast. I would have wanted to learn more about it and get a different feeling for a place that could give birth to the IRA.

Patrick Radden Keefe
Image via the author’s website

There were two parts of the story I found most interesting. The first was the 1970s, the hight of Dolours’s involvement in the IRA and a large part of the book. The activities undertaken and efforts of the group to gain political power were fascinating. The second was the Belfast Project. It’s amazing that the Boston College historians were able to get the interviews they did. I’m fascinated by the lack of legal protections the project provided and I’m a bit disappointed that the noble goal of the project fell apart so quickly. I’m interested to see who else did interviews and hope that as time passes, more information can come out of the project to provide peace of mind and closure to remaining victims.

For a long time, it didn’t seem like the stories in the book would come together. There was a long stretch in the middle when McConville wasn’t mentioned at all. It seemed like almost an afterthought to have added her kidnapping at the beginning and I wondered repeatedly how it would ever come together in the end. I was frustrated in the middle, waiting and waiting for things to be relevant again. While they eventually were, this was my only frustration with the book.

The audiobook was narrated by Matthew Blaney and the voice in my head took on his accent for hours after listening. I’m glad they got an Irish narrator for this book. It seemed a little out of place at the very end when Keefe mentions that he’s American born, but I think the book woul have lost a lot of it’s impact if the narrator had been American as well. Keefe’s Irish roots were what drew him to this story so it seems appropriate to have an Irish narrator.

It’s the memory of the IRA and what it did that stays with this book throughout. Dolours is warned once against speaking about what happened to McConville because she has children. It’s the McConville children who eventually identify their mother. The things that happened in the 70s still have strong impacts today. This is worth remembering for all major decisions made by a generation.

Writer’s Takeaway: Nonfiction is a fight I’m not sure I could win. The amount of research that’s evident in Keefe’s writing is amazing. It’s clear he poured over many primary sources, articles, and secondary histories that helped him weave this story. His ability to jump from person to person to tell a full story made this a joy to read and gave the reader a great perspective of the IRA as a whole and how it changed and eveolved. My hat is off to Keefe. I don’t think I would ever try to duplicate his amazing efforts.

This book was fascinating and a joy to read. A full Five out of Five Stars.

I’ve decided to give this book the 1980-1999 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge. It’s debatable, but it feels appropriate.

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: 
Patrick Radden Keefe, “Say Nothing” | Don’t Need a Diagram 
Book Review: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe | Karissa Reads Books 
Book Review: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe | What Kaitlyn Thinks 
Say Nothing: The True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe | Disco Demolition Night 

Challenge Update, February 2021

1 Mar

This month was a bit rough, but we’re coming through it with flying colors. And it’s even warm outside today! You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in February:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Two long audiobooks this time around. I’ve been slow in my physical reading. And I should be caught up with reviews by tomorrow!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

6/12
I’m on a roll here! Every book I’ve read this year has fulfilled a different time period. I know this luck can’t hold forever but I’m going to love it while I’m at it. The time periods I have left are a bit harder to land so I know this will slow down a bit but I’m in a good place to deal with it.

Goodreads Challenge

6/45
I’m a little bit behind here but I’m OK with this. I had some long audiobooks recently and a lot of non-fiction which tend to be slower reads for me. I’m about to get into some fiction that I think will flow a lot faster and it will be fun to see how soon I can catch up.

Book of the Month

Even with only two books, there was a clear winner. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in ages. I can’t wait to talk to my book club about it and see what they thought. I think this will be a good discussion piece.

Added to my TBR

I’m down overall to 39, but I did add a book this month.

  • The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. This is my next book with my reading buddy and I should be starting it soon. So many people have had good things to say that I’m stoked to get started and see if I agree.

How are your challenges going? I hope your year is starting off well. If you’re interested in the When Are You Reading? Challenge for 2021, I’m hosting again so you can click here to learn more and let me know if you want in.

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.