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Challenge Update, June 2020

2 Jul

This month wasn’t a fruitful as last month, but I’m still happy with it! I’ve been trying to bike outside more so that’s less listening time. I’ve also started watching Netflix while I ride, so I really should say that time for listening is gone. Oh well. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in June:

It’s All Relative // A.J. Jacobs (4/5)
The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits // Emma Donoghue (3/5)
Stories of Elders // Veronica Kirin (4/5)
Fiction Writer’s Workshop // Josip Novakovich (3/5)
Semper Fidelis // Ruth Downie (4/5)
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes // Suzanne Collins (4/5)

And caught up on reviews! Killing it!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

9/12
Without even trying, this was a great month for the challenge! I knocked off the two extremes, Pre-1300 and the Future. Downie’s Ruso novels are always good for the earliest time periods with her Roman Empire setting. Traveling to Panem in the future with Collins knocks that one off, too. I’m feeling good about this challenge without having to do much planning!

Goodreads Challenge

35/55
Nine ahead! This is so crazy to me. I don’t think I’ve ever been this far ahead in my Goodreads challenge. Maybe I need to start a George R.R. Martin book to slow me down.

Book of the Month

Always a winner with me, this month has to go to Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie. I love Ruso and Tilla and I’m always looking forward to what they’ll get up to next. I’ve got the sixth book on my TBR now and I don’t know what I’ll do with myself when I catch up.

Added to my TBR

So I’ve gone up, I’m at 47 now. It’s only one higher than last month but I thought I’d be going down with so many books finished. I’ve gotten into a YA audiobook trap as my library has a summer listening program that I’m stocking up on for later.

  • Into White by Randi Pink. The first of my YA audiobooks. I’m going to make an effort to read more about race and challenge any prejudice I might hold. Most of these books were selected for that reason.
  • Like No Other by Una LaMarche. Same as above. Thank you, libraries!
  • Easy Prey by Catherine Lo. Ditto above.
  • Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Pena. Rounding it out. This summer program has stocked me up!
  • Tabula Rasa by Ruth Downie. The next in the series. I’m excited to keep this one going!
  • The Book Women of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. This is my next book club selection so I expect to start this soon.

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. This is a great way to keep me accountable and to tell you about me outside the wide world of books.

  • Triathlon Age Group National Championships: Not sure what to say here. The race was officially canceled a few weeks ago. I put up a post about it if you want to read my thoughts. I’m a bit bothered by this and don’t like thinking about it so I might remove or change this goal for next month.
  • Submit my novel: Wow, I was so far off base when I wrote my goals for this year. I haven’t touched my manuscript since COVID hit. There have been other priorities. I might look at editing this one as well. Priorities changed a lot and I want to have goals that reflect the new ones.

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for this year, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

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

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, 1-July-2020

1 Jul

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: One chapter a day of Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides is still my goal but it’s not happening as I planned. I’m getting about two a week, so I’m still moving through just a bit slower. The narrative is covering Ervin’s return to the sport and I’m enjoying this journey a lot.
I’m back to reading The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. My buddy and discussed Part 1 and we’re on to Part 2. I’ll probably zip through this soon so we can meet and talk again. I’m really loving Mandel’s plot here.
I’ll probably wrap up These Women by Ivy Pochoda today, I’m so close to finishing it! This is a really dark book but I’m making a lot of connections to current cultural issues and it’s been fascinating to hear the stories from the women who are so often overlooked.

Recently finished: I stayed up way too late Saturday night to finish The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. My swim the next morning was a bit of a struggle. I enjoyed it well enough, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending and it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I’m glad I read it, but I probably won’t reread it any time soon. I posted my review yesterday if you want to read more of my thoughts. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’ll grab my copy of How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland as soon as I finish the second section of Mandel. It shouldn’t take more than a day or two.
I’ll start another book club pick on audio soon. We’re reading The Book Women of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. I don’t know anything about this one but I’ve felt that books about books haven’t been going well for me lately so I’m a bit weary. Fingers crossed.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

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

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (4/5)

30 Jun

Of course, I couldn’t wait to go back to Panem. I adored the original trilogy and remember staying in bed until 2PM one day to read as much as I could from this series before returning to the real world. This one had me staying up well past when I needed to be asleep. It was a rough swim the next morning but I think it was worth it.

Cover image via Amazon

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (Hunger Games #0) by Suzanne Collins

Summary from Amazon:

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

With the length of this book, I was really unsure what to expect. At over 500 pages, it’s much longer than the other Hunger Games novels. Early in the Hunger Games, the memories of the war would be much rawer and the capital hadn’t recovered yet. I wasn’t ready for the image of President Snow that we get. He’s poor and floundering, taking every chance he can. I didn’t like him, but I didn’t want to. A few times, I felt bad for him. This did add a dimension to Snow’s character, but I’m not sure what it added to the original stories.

The characters seemed pretty grounded in reality to me. It’s hard to know how people would act in such a dystopian world, but their actions seemed warranted and logical. I’ll talk about this more later, but Snow’s change at the end seemed off to me. Other than that, I loved the Grandma’am and Tigris and Sejanus and Ma. They were a wonderful cast of characters, each unique and loveable in different ways.

Sejanus was my favorite and looking at other reviews, I might be alone here. He had a very complicated past and alliances and I thought he was fascinating. No one feels bad for the rich boy normally, but this is an extreme case. Sejanus is told to deny his identity and is forced into a new world where no one accepts him. He’s desperate to fit in and but is too true to himself to succumb to peer pressure. It makes him crack and it’s almost heartbreaking to watch. He puts Snow in a difficult place in the end and I’m not sure what I would have done if I were Snow, to be honest.

I related most to Lucy Gray and I’m trying to figure out why. I think I see her relationship with Snow as him taking advantage of her and I think most women have felt taken advantage of by a man at some point. Not to the same degree, of course. She was in a dangerous situation and counted on him to ger her out and when he did, she felt grateful to a point where she stopped looking out for herself again. She put her trust in him completely and was taken advantage of. I liked not having a solid idea of what happened to her in the end. It’s almost better that way. I’m usually one for concrete endings, but this one was perfect for me.

Suzanne Collins
Image via IMDb

Part I was my favorite, seeing Coriolanus mentor Lucy Gray and become more involved in the games was interesting. I was rewatching the movies as I read and had fun making parallels between how tributes were treated in the 74th games and the 10th. The things that were new had been developed and improved for the 74th games. I think the change from Capitol students to past winners makes sense for the mentors. Those who have been in the area understand how different it is and can give advice better. The Capitol students aren’t invested in the same way.

Spoiler alert so skip to the next paragraph if you want to avoid it. The ending really bothered me. The book rushed through the end in my opinion and after 500 pages, I didn’t think there was a need to rush. Coriolanus was driven by greed and power for a lot of the book, but he was still compassionate. It wasn’t until the very end where he lost his compassion. He turned Sejanus in to save himself. Even that was to save himself from execution. But it devolved quickly into killing Lucy Gray for a chance of a comfortable life. I thought that was a big step to take. It was page 498 when he started contemplating this. I felt a little cheated that the first 498 pages were building to a moment that went so quickly.

The first line of the description on the back says it all: “Ambition will fuel him.” Snow’s ambition outshines everything else he does. He can’t love because his ambition is too high. He can’t have friends. He can’t be human. This is the reason I felt a little bit bad for him. But I remembered who he became and that he tossed his own cousin aside (Tigris!) for image’s sake later in life. After his fear inside the area, he continued to send children to their deaths there. Ambition killed his humanity.

Writer’s Takeaway: I think this fell into the dangerous trap many prequels stumble upon: the need to explain everything. We didn’t need to know the origin of mentors or gifts or interviews or the Flickerman family. A lot of the book was spent explaining Mutts when it should have been focused on Snow and his origin. Instead of cramming so much character development into the last twenty pages, it could have been spread out. The game’s development wasn’t what was interesting about this book but it became the focus. I’ve heard this criticism of many of the Star Wars spin-offs and it stuck out to me a lot here.

Enjoyable and engaging but not a great ending. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the ‘Future’ time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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

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

Related Posts:
Book Review: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES by Suzanne Collins | Katherine Valdez
Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes By: Suzanne Collins | Bookcave
Book Review- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins | Reading Between the Pages
Book Review- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins | Nightmares, Day Dreams, and Imagined Conversations
some thoughts on ‘the ballad of songbirds and snakes’ | coffee, classics, and craziness

WWW Wednesday, 24-June-2020

24 Jun

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 keep trying to read one chapter of Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides every day but I’m often failing. I’m still reading some, though, so I’ll continue moving through this one. I’m over halfway so far but this will probably be here another few weeks.
My buddy and I are meeting to talk about the first section of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel tomorrow. I sped through Part I and I’m looking forward to moving deeper into it. There’s a lot to unpack with these characters and I think we’ll have a lot to talk about with the book, too.
I started The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins! Finally. I want to rewatch the movies for the original trilogy now. I’m not sure I have the time to re-read them. And Jennifer Lawrence does such a great job that the movies are a joy. This might move off of here quickly, I’m picking it up at every opportunity.
I started a new audiobook for my book club. We’re reading These Women by Ivy Pochoda. I’m not sure what to expect from this one. All I know is that it’s a mystery and I’m in the mood for one right now, so bring it on!

Recently finished: I sped through Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie and wrapped it up Saturday morning. I posted my review yesterday so you can see my full thoughts there. This one wasn’t my favorite of the series, but I liked it and will continue reading the series. It looks like there are currently eight so I still have some time before I catch up. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

I posted my review of Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich last Thursday. This book was very mediocre for me. There were a few helpful nuggets, but for the most part it fell a bit flat in my eyes. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I think it will be time for a little non-fiction soon. I have a signed copy of How to Speak Midwestern by Edward McClelland on my shelf and I’m probably running out of quarantine time to get through my signed books. I heard McClelland speak at the library a few years ago. My language degree got me really interested in dialect and this seems like a fascinating look at my own accent and dialect. I’m excited to dig 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.

Book Review: Semper Fidelis (Medicus Investigation #5) by Ruth Downie (4/5)

23 Jun

I’ve always enjoyed this series. I came up on the first one very randomly while browsing at Boarders (yes, that’s how long ago I picked it up) and I’ve been happy to keep reading them on and off since. I’m happy to always find one when I need a pick-me-up.

Cover image via Amazon

Semper Fidelis (Medicus Investigation #5) by Ruth Downie

Other books by Downie reviewed on this blog:

Terra Incognita (Medicus Investigation #2)
Persona Non Grata (Medicus Investigation #3)
Caveat Emptor (Medicus Investigation #4)

Summary from Goodreads;

Back at his post as a doctor in the Twentieth legion in Roman-occupied Britain, Ruso uncovers a new danger even closer to home than the neighboring barbarians. As mysterious injuries, and even deaths, begin to appear in the medical ledgers, it’s clear that all is not well amongst the native recruits to Britannia’s imperial army. Is the much- decorated Centurion Geminus preying on his weaker soldiers? And could this be related to the appearance of Emperor Hadrian? Bound by his sense of duty and ill-advised curiosity, Ruso begins to ask questions nobody wants to hear. Meanwhile his barbarian wife, Tilla, is finding out some of the answers-and marked as a security risk by the very officers Ruso is interrogating. With Hadrian’s visit looming large, the fates of the legion, Tilla, and Ruso himself hang in the balance.

Ruso’s wit has always been enjoyable. It’s one of the things I like most about these books. And Tilla is getting more and more time to narrate. That being said, this one didn’t stand out as much as the past ones had in my mind. Ruso being accused early on took away a lot of the joy that his character often gave. And Tilla’s investigation took away from a lot of the character development she had commanded in recent books. It was just enough out of step for me to enjoy the book a bit less. Also, the reveal of the killers was just subtle enough that I didn’t get it right away and I had to re-listen to the final ten minutes before I understood what had happened.

The characters in these books are always credible to me. The characters do the best they can with the world they’re living in; the dangers of the Roman period, the medicines known to them, and the average intelligence and education of the people. Ruso is a privileged person and he knows this and has always done as much as he can for the others. It’s what makes him admirable and flawed. He’s a wonderful narrator for this series.

Ruso was the standout character in this book to me. Normally, I lean toward Tilla, but her story fell flat to me this time around. Her concerns about fertility didn’t come through and she was more of a helper than anything this time and didn’t give me much to like. Ruso was himself though in a much more perilous situation than normal. He and Tilla, usually a wonderful pair, were separated for a lot of the story and it was hard to see them without their support system. I’m hoping they’ll be more of a pair again in the next book.

I could identify with Ruso at the end, though at a much smaller scale. This is a bit of a spoiler, so skip ahead to avoid it. The next paragraph will be safe again. I understood why Ruso would confess to a crime he hadn’t done to keep the peace of the empire. I’d be willing to lie about something I hadn’t done to keep peace in my family. I’ll take the fall for something my husband did to save face in front of his family. I’m not sure I’d take it so far as the face death, though.

Ruth Downie
Image via Audible

Sabina was a great side character in this book and Tilla’s interactions with her were fun. Her opinion of the empire and her time in Britain was fun and it was fun to see her feel powerful for once. I can’t imagine the marriage she was in and how that would feel for her, but seeing her play her part was fun. I can see how she garnered such loyalty.

The ending was a bit quick and vague for me. Like I said, I had to re-listen to the final 15 minutes to understand what had happened because I missed it the first time around. It’s not a huge criticism, but it was frustrating, especially listening to the audiobook which makes it much harder to go back and revisit the text.

Simon Vance is an amazing narrator for this series. I hope he’s able to do the whole thing because I’ve come to define his voice and Ruso’s as one. His voices for women aren’t amazing, but I get over it because of the amazing accents he has for Romans and Britons. His inflections for Ruso’s vapid family members always have me giggling.

There is usually something larger than oneself that you would give up everything for. Semper Fidelis is well known in the US as the moto for the US Marines (usually shortened to SemperFi). It carries a lot of weight in US culture. It meant a lot to Ruso, too. He is a cog in the machine, a medicus in an empirical army, but he recognizes the importance of his role and the larger empire he’s representing and holding together. Sometimes, things are bigger than us.

Writer’s Takeaway: Downie’s humor has always been my favorite. Even in a murder mystery, she’s making me smile and laugh. I enjoy the banter between her characters and her balance of serious and humorous characters that keep the book moving with a lighter tone between somber bits. It’s a balance that’s well-executed and I’m not sure it would work in less practiced hands. It could easily be farcical but here it’s wonderful.

A wonderful mystery and a great story in this series. I’ll plan to continue onward. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the Pre-1300 time period in the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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

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

Related Posts:
“Semper Fidelis” by Ruth Downie – Always Faithful | Tony’s Book World
Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie | For winter nights- A bookish blog

Book Review: The Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich (3/5)

18 Jun

I’m embarrassed to say how long I’ve had this book. It was a gift from a writing friend years and years ago for Christmas. I’ve been terrible about reading my own books before COVID so I’m glad I’m finally getting to the books I’ve been putting off for so long. My TBR is tumbling during quarantine!

Cover image via Amazon

Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich

Summary from Amazon:

The great paradox of the writing life is that to be a good writer, you must be both interested in the world around you and comfortable working in solitude for hours on end. Fiction Writer’s Workshop is designed to help you foster a strong sense of independence–of being and thinking on your own, of becoming self-evaluative without being self-critical–in order to accomplish what others seek in classroom groups.

In this comprehensive guide, award-winning writer and teacher Josip Novakovich explores every aspect of the art of fiction and provides all the tools and techniques you’ll need to develop day-to-day discipline as well as a personal writing style, such as:

• More than 100 writing exercises, including dozens that are new to this edition, that challenge you to experiment with diverse writing styles
• Specific statements of purpose for each exercise, to help guide you and instruct you at every step of the creative process
• Self-critique questions to help you assess your work and identify strengths and weaknesses before moving on to the next lesson
• The full text of eight acclaimed short stories, with analysis and exercises, to provide models for your own writing and help reinforce the lessons you’ve learned

The practical, insightful methods offered in this workshop will clarify your voice, broaden your perspective, and strengthen your fiction

I feel like I’m getting diminishing returns on the writing books I read recently. Writing Fiction for Dummies was great but it covered so much that subsequent books have repeated a lot and not given me much more to work with. The YA specific books have been good and helped me think about YA themes and characters. This book, however, seemed really focused on the short story format and it didn’t give me as much to work with and kind of let me know. It also seemed to be geared toward adult literature and literary fiction, both of which aren’t exactly my focus. Some of the advice was good for writing fiction in general, but I’d already read a lot of it before. The exercises might be helpful but they’d take a lot of time and energy that I just don’t feel like devoting to writing right now.

Josip Novakovich
Image via Concordia University

The section on revision had some good advice in it. I don’ think it would be great for a novel but it would be great for revising a short story. I liked the idea of outlining the first draft and then completely rewriting it. I think it would be interesting to see what was kept and what changed. I think I’d surprise myself with what I decided to keep.

I thought the section on beginnings and endings was a bit bland. There are so many ways to start a book that it felt weird to try to list them. Ending a book is really a matter of choice as long as the story arc is complete. So I think this could have been covered better under the section on plot structure. It all felt a little repetitive.

Novakovich gave a lot of examples. I think this speaks to a very basic and true lesson: learn by reading. You can’t learn to cook by watching TV the same way you can’t learn to swim online (sorry Big Bang Theory friends). If you want to learn to write, you have to read and you have to write. Reading and recognizing plot devices and distinct voices is a great way to experience it and see what others have done. Then, there’s nothing to it but the writing.

Writer’s Takeaway: This is a difficult subject to tackle. There are so many different stories to tell and so many ways to tell them that it seems odd to try to define them in a book. And each time a rule is developed, it’s already been broken and will be broken hundreds of times more. There are guidelines but anything too formulaic will be boring. There’s good advice but you have to be vague because there’s only so much direction you can give someone in a creative art.

Overall, helpful but not the motivation I wanted or much advice that I hadn’t heard. 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 Post:
Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich: a Review | TAwrites

WWW Wednesday, 17-June-2020

17 Jun

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 in love with Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian by Anthony Ervin and Constantine Markides. The style jumps between Ervin’s memories and sports journalist Constantine Markides’ narration of his swimming career. Now that I’m swimming again, this is pumping me up and I’m ready to get back to racing.
A lot of new books for the list this week! I began a new audiobook, Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie. This is the fifth book in the Medicus Investigation series. I lent the first three to my mother at the beginning of COVID and she’s loving them as well. I recommend this series a lot, it’s well deserved.
I began my Buddy Read of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. We split the book into four sections and this first one is the longest. I should wrap it up very soon and be able to move on to another book until my buddy is ready to meet and we can move forward.

Recently finished: I was able to push through and finish Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich over the weekend. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. I’d hoped it would inspire me to write but I found it geared toward short stories more than toward novels and that didn’t help me. I’ll have a full review up tomorrow.
I finished the audiobook of Stories of Elders by Veronica Kirin and was able to post a review yesterday. It was really fun hearing Kirin read her own story, especially knowing her and having heard her speak about this project. I’ve done an email interview with her and will be posting that next week so stay tuned for even more!

I posted my review of The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue last Thursday. Our book club met and I posted my book club reflection on Monday. It seems this collection has been taking over the blog this week!

Reading Next: I’m so close to starting The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins! It’s been here longer than I’d like but it will be what I escape to between sections of my Buddy Read so it’s coming soon!


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

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: Stories of Elders by Veronica Kirin (4/5)

16 Jun

I came across Kirin in a very unusual way. I’m friends with her younger brother. He sent a message to a group of us that his sister was having a book signing and I was all in. I had no idea that his sister was a writer and I was excited to dive in. We drove out to Ann Arbor to visit Nicola’s Books and hear Veronica speak about her book. I’m only embarrassed that it took me so long to finally read the book.

Cover image via Amazon

Stories of Elders: What the Greatest Generation Knows about Technology that You Don’t by Veronica Kirin

Summary from Amazon:

America’s Greatest Generation (born before 1945) witnessed incredible changes in technology and social progress. From simple improvements in entertainment to life-changing medical advances, technology changed the way they live, work, and identify. Sadly, with each passing year, fewer members of the Greatest Generation remain alive to share their wisdom as the last Americans to grow up before the digital revolution.

In 2015, Millennial author and cultural anthropologist Veronica Kirin drove 12,000 miles across more than 40 states to interview the last living members of the Greatest Generation. Stories of Elders is the result of her years of work to capture and share their perspective for generations to come.

Stories of Elders preserves the wisdom, thoughts, humor, knowledge, and advice of the people who make up one of America’s finest generations, including the Silent Generation. Their stories include the devastation that came from major events in U.S. history like World War I, the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, and World War II.

This book raised a lot of conflicting feelings in me. It made me think about my grandmothers a lot and how much the world has changed for them. My grandmothers are 100 and 87 and both fall into the Greatest Generation so I was able to think about some of the topics and how they would have affected them. It made me think about how I interact with my grandmothers and how life changed with the advent of technology. My one grandmother just got an iPad to video chat with her family. At 87, she’s having to learn something completely new. But during her life, she learned to use a washing machine, television, and dishwasher. I think she can handle it.

The interviews seemed very faithfully transcribed. There were times that it was clear Kirin had cleaned a few things up so it was easier to read but for the most part, I felt it was truthful. The quotes read differently, clearly as if it was a conversation and not formal writing. I think Kirin asked great questions to get these answers from the elders. It’s such a wide variety of topics that were covered by so few questions. It made me wonder how much time she spent with each one to get to so many topics.

A lot of the comments made resonated with me more than I thought they would. I think everyone is drawn back by new advances in technology, even someone my age who has less of a marked difference from conscious memory to present. I think the speed of technological change is going to only accelerate so that Generation X will have even more of an issue with emerging technology than the Greatest Generation has. I can’t imagine how things will have changed by the time I’m an octogenarian.

Me, Veronica Kirin, and featured elder Gerrie Powell

There were some areas of the book that surprised me because I didn’t think of them as very technological. Food and poverty are two examples. I work for a greenhouse and I hadn’t thought about how much technology had changed our access to food. The changing definition of poverty was a new concept to me, too. In my job, I hire a lot of people who live below the poverty line. Yet each of them has a smartphone because access to the internet is so crucial today. Making one’s own clothes is such an odd concept that we see it as a hobby and not a necessity for the poor. Amenities and war are other topics that surprised me.

There were times when Kirin would interject some of her own stories and it threw me off. Some of them connected the elders’ stories to my generation, but others seemed to distract from their stories. It took me out of the story a bit and didn’t seem to gel with the rest of the book.

Kirin narrated her own audiobook which I really enjoyed. Since she’d done the interviews with the elders, she was able to replicate their tone, pacing, and intonation during quoted sections. I think that would have been lost by someone who didn’t have the original experience. The only downside to the audiobook is that a few times, I would be confused if what I was hearing was a quote or commentary. The print makes this obvious but it wasn’t as clear when hearing it read aloud.

There’s always a perception that elders don’t adopt technology well. They struggle to use smartphones and can’t troubleshoot a simple computer error. But when we think about technology as a broader thing, more than computer technology, our elders have adopted a huge range of technologies in their lives. It made me feel bad for joking about my grandma’s struggles to use her iPad or how often my other grandmother plays Solitare on her Kindle. They figured so many other things out and changed their lives with them along the way.

Writer’s Takeaway: I did a similar project (on a much smaller scale) in high school where we were asked to interview our grandparents or elder relatives about their lives during WWII. My maternal grandfather had passed but I was able to interview my paternal grandparents and maternal grandmother while collecting photos that were assembled into a scrapbook. I transcribed the three interviews and included quotes about different aspects of everyday life that my grandparents remembered. It was a lot of work for a 15-year-old to handle. I can’t imagine the time and effort that went into Kirin’s work and I have so much respect for her and the project she completed. She’s back at it again, currently doing interviews for Stories of COIVID.

An enjoyable read and one that made me think. Four out of Five Stars.

I’ll be sharing an interview with Veronica next week so stay tuned for more! 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: The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue

15 Jun

My book club met via Zoom to talk about our last book, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue. If you read my review, you’ll know I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book, but I find those books make for the best book discussions.

Donoghue was born in Dublin and moved to England before settling in Ontario, Canada. Her stories settings reflect her Irish and English periods. Many of her other work has a strong subtext of LGBT characters in history, discussing how they lived and how their sexuality was repressed by society. We see this in the short story, How a Lady Dies, in this collection. We also wondered if the sisters in Salvage may have been lesbians.

Most of us liked the story Dido. I don’t think it’s by chance that it was one of the longer stories! There’s a 2013 movie based on the same historical figure called Belle. We all felt like Dido’s story could have been a full novel and it looks like a screenwriter agreed in their own way. We felt it spoke to us a bit more in light of the current #BlackLivesMatter movement in the USA. It was one of Donoghue’s stories that spoke to us a lot about current events despite the historical setting. Her uncle knew the discrimination and racism she would face outside their home but Dido was unaware.

Another story that seemed to speak to our times was Ballad, about the Black Plague. The way the people acted to prevent them from getting the plague reminded us of the current COVID crisis. The woman who boiled coins before she’d touch them spoke to us specifically. We may have thought that was overkill before, but it seems very logical now.

We had surprising little to say about the title story, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits. We felt sorry for her. It was no wonder she got so sick with how the scheme was conducted. Having a rabbit shoved inside you is not the least bit sanitary! We found it odd as well that she’d give birth on command and for shows. That made it even more unbelievable.

The story Account was a fun one to read. It used a very unusual story format that we hadn’t seen before. Nonetheless, it built tension and had a complete arc to it. It was one of few we recommended to a reader who hadn’t finished the book.

Overall, these stories felt rather staccato. They would build tension and drama but didn’t always feel like a complete story. It wasn’t until you read the note that explained the broader context that the story made any sense. The librarian who sponsors our group said she could see the desire to write like this. In doing research as part of her job, she’d often come upon snippets of information and want to expand on it and learn more but didn’t have an outlet for it.

The collection did show a wide range of Donoghue. There was a large variety of stories she was able to tell and capture many different narrators’ voices well in the process. Many of her stories spoke about historical women and how they had no voice in history. Many had no power to change their stations but did what they could with the lot in life they’d been handed.

It looks like we’ll have one more Zoom meeting at least before we return to in-person meetings. I miss seeing these readers in person so I’ll look forward to the day we can all be together again.

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.

Book Review: The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue (3/5)

11 Jun

I’m not a big fan of short story collections. This was a switch from a novel for my book club that happened last minute because of availability. I don’t think it’s something I would have picked otherwise. I’m writing this review before our group meets. Maybe they’ll change my mind. Though I find it hard to discuss short story collections.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits by Emma Donoghue

Summary from Goodreads:

Emma Donoghue, celebrated author of Slammerskin, vividly animates hidden scraps of the past in this remarkable collection. An engraving of a woman giving birth to rabbits, a plague ballad, theological pamphlets, and an articulated skeleton are ingeniously fleshed out into rollicking tales. Whether she’s spinning the tale of a soldier tricked into marrying a dowdy spinster, or a Victorian surgeon’s attempts to “improve” women, Donoghue fills us with the sights and smells of the period as she summons the ghosts of ordinary people, bringing them to unforgettable life in fiction.

Some of these I enjoyed and others just frustrated me. Donoghue was inspired by odd bits of trivia she found while reading and some of the stories didn’t seem to have a plot, they just served to explain the odd thing Donoghue had read. Dido’s story had real depth to it. ‘Come, Gentle Night’ made no sense until you read the author’s note at the end. I didn’t like the stories where the note made the plot. In those cases, I felt like the note should have been at the beginning or the story should have been longer.

Donoghue drew rather believable people. None had too much of a story that I could sympathize with them or pass much judgment on how believable they were. There were a lot of women who suffered for their gender and the time period they lived in. This felt real to me. I think a lot of her focus is on how women were oppressed and she wanted to share a bit of their stories when history had ignored them.

Emma Donoghue
Image via Goodreads

‘Dido’ was my favorite story. Maybe it’s because of the racism discussions going on in my country, but this felt very relevant despite the setting. It reminded me of a movie I watched 10 years ago, Amazing Grace, about the abolition of the slave trade in England. I thought it was really powerful how Dido recognized her special status and used it to help someone else.

None of the characters was very relatable to me. Many of them were set in a very removed time period and I didn’t get enough to connect with them. The one that was more modern was an immortal witch, so that didn’t help.

None of the stories were disagreeable or I disliked them. Many just didn’t grab my attention and keep me interested for very long. The short story is not a format I enjoy and these seemed shorter than most. They shone a light on very overlooked parts of history and the notes at the end added a lot of depth and research to the stories. They just weren’t for me.

Women were written out of much of history. They’ve resigned themselves to footnotes in obscure texts like those Donoghue used to inspire her for many of these stories. The voices of women aren’t recorded, but logic would have you believe they were important. These women were written off, but they influenced many men and in some cases made a difference. I liked how Donoghue gave voices to the silenced. I think some could have been longer stories.

Writer’s Takeaway: This is not a genre for me and I’ve known that for quite a while. I don’t find short stories often give the reader enough about the subject to connect. Some of these stories felt like fragments of a larger story. Others felt complete. I think the difference was when Donoghue had more context than the reader. She had read some scrap of history that explained the split a little better. Without that context, the reader was lost. I think some of her history notes would have been better off at the beginning of the stories.

Enjoyable in small bursts, but not a genre for me. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

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