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WWW Wednesday, 17-July-2019

17 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: Still going slow with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. I keep pecking away. Slowly but surely. I’ll get there.
I think I’ll finish A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin this week. I’ve made some really good forward progress and I’m prioritizing it when I’m in my car. Maybe wishful thinking, but I’ll stay positive.
I really wanted to say that I’d finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I guess the style has started to grate on me and I’m not reading it as quickly as I’d like to. At this point, I just want to finish it so I can move on.
We haven’t had a chance to listen to more of Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It might be a few weeks before we have a substantial car ride together again. We’ll be driving to Ohio at the end of the month for my Half Ironman so I know we’ll have some time then.
I’ve been listening to The Golden Rules by Bob Bowman while I workout. I’m not sure if anyone outside of the competitive swimming world is familiar with Bowman, Michael Phelps’ and Allison Schmidt’s coach, also named head coach of the Olympic Men’s USA Swim Team. This book seems like it’s trying to appeal to non-swimmers, but swimming is a huge focus of it just due to Bowman’s job. I’m enjoying it, though.

Recently finished: I finished Being Mortal by Atul Gawande quickly after I got back to running and biking. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected and was able to post my review on Monday. Please go check it out! I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars.
It’s more of a short story than a book, but I listened to Ajax Penumbra, 1969 by Robin Sloan. This is a short prequel to Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and it was really fun to revisit the world Sloan created for that one. The review for this one posted yesterday and I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Not a bad week for reading!

Reading Next: I can’t wait to start The Map of Time by Félix Palma. It’s taunting me from my bedside table and intimidating me with its length. I really want to start soon!
I’ve decided on my next eaudiobook since I’ve been flying through them so fast. I want it to be A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. It’s been more than three years since I read the first one but I think I remember it pretty well and I can’t wait to jump into the world again!


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!

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Book Review: Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan (4/5)

16 Jul

This is really more of a short story, but it deserves a review. My husband and I loved Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and when I found out there was a prequel, no matter how short, I wanted to read it. I found an audio edition and on a day with a run and indoor bike, I finished the whole thing.

Cover image via Goodreads

Ajax Penumbra 1969

Other books by Sloan reviewed on this blog:

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (5/5)

Summary from Goodreads:

August 1969 San Francisco. Ajax Penumbra seeks a book–the single surviving copy of the Techne Tycheon, a mysterious volume that has brought and lost great fortune for anyone who has owned it. Late one night, after another day of dispiriting dead ends, he stumbles across a 24-hour bookstore, and the possibilities before him expand exponentially.

Maybe my memories of Ajax Penumbra from the full novel are a bit off because this character seemed a little stiff. But my memory of the 24-hour bookstore and the magic that it held were spot on. I loved coming back to the store and the mysteries within it. Mo was great and the friendships with Corvina and Claude were so fun to see develop.

The characters in this one weren’t really credible, but I wasn’t expecting them to be. Penumbra was a very eccentric character in the original novel, so I expected his origins to be equally eccentric and fun and I wasn’t disappointed. They were what I expected them to be.

Mo was my favorite character. It’s as if owning the bookstore makes you into an energetic and haphazard person and I loved that in Mo. He was very passionate about the store and what was inside it and his customers and I found that very endearing. He was also very smart. In many ways, he’s like the Mr. Penumbra we come to love but he’s very unique at the same time and I liked how Sloan built his character.

I thought Ajax going to Claude when he had a problem was a very realistic solution. There are a lot of times that someone very far from a topic or problem can provide a solution that helps more than the experts or team working on it can. Claude had a local’s perspective and I liked how he was able to help.

Robin Sloan
Image via BookRiot

I loved the story of the William Gray. I hope that’s true and that the city is really built on scuttled ships. Even if it’s not true, I still liked the story and I wish it were true because now I’m thinking about all the treasure that could be buried underground.

The actual discovery of the Techne Tycheon was my least favorite part. I liked the puzzle and the research so doing the physical work to find the book ended up being a bit of a disappointment to me. Maybe a puzzle on the lock would have been better. But now I’m stretching.

Ari Fliakos narrated the audiobook, the same man who did Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. I’m glad Ari came back for this short story. He already had a flair for Penumbra and the fun cast of characters that surrounded him and was able to bring that back.

Penumbra is determined to solve the mystery, much like Clay was in the full novel. I liked seeing the dedication to books that Penumbra and his coworkers at Galvanic had. It was really encouraging to see how books had come to influence life and how much people cared for them. It was very similar to the love of books that was expressed in the full novel.

Writer’s Takeaway: I feel writers are often asked to continue with characters in the form of a sequel or companion novel because publishers know it will sell. I think this is one of those instances but I think Sloan handled it well and in a different way from what was expected. He gave his readers a short insight into Ajax Penumbra without muddling the main novel’s plotline and by giving us just a taste of the mysterious character we’d grown to love in the novel.

A really enjoyable short jaunt down memory lane. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
Ajax Penumbra 1969 by Robin Sloan | One Book Two
Ajax Penumbra 1969 | Raging Bibliohlism
Ajax Penumbra, 1969- Robin Sloan | Track of Words

Book Review: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (4/5)

15 Jul

It’s been a while since one of my book clubs picked a non-memoir non-fiction. I hadn’t heard of this choice before it came up on the list but, as so often happens, I’m so glad we picked it because I ended up really enjoying it.

Cover image via Goodreads

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Summary from Goodreads:

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.

Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them.

In his bestselling books, Gawande has fearlessly revealed the struggles of his profession. Now he examines its ultimate limitations and failures–in his own practices as well as others’–as life draws to a close. Riveting, honest, and humane, Being Mortal shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life–all the way to the very end.

This book hit me harder than I thought it would. I recently lost my grandfather who had been living in an assisted living facility for a few years and eventually succumbed to pneumonia. Both of my grandmothers are still alive and both are in assisted living. I’m sure most people have experienced death and dying in their lives, either friends or family. This book made me start thinking already about how I’ll react when my parents start to age. As the oldest daughter, care will likely fall to me. We’re fortunate that my husband has other siblings so we won’t likely have to deal with both sets of parents. I’ve started thinking about what’s important to my parents and what a quality life might mean to them and how I could provide that. But I also know that I need to ask when the time comes. This also made me think about what I would want to do if I had a terminal disease. How far would I go to fight it and how important are comfort and quality of life in the end.

Gawande portrays a lot of different people he’s met and it’s clear that they have different priorities and personalities. Some of them want to live as long as possible while some value independence and others comfort. I liked that he chose a wide variety of people at various stages of their lives to comment in this book. It started off feeling like a book on elder care but he brought it to a place where I realized it could affect me as well.

Providing the details of his father’s illness grounded the second half of the book for me. Gawande isn’t just preaching best practices. He’s had to live through the tough conversations he talks about and live with the consequences of them. I thought it gave a lot of weight to what he was saying. I liked how he showed that he applied what he learned to his patients and the difference he felt it made in their final days.

While I was reading this book, I went to a friend’s wedding. We had breakfast at her family home on the morning of the wedding. It’s a home that her great-great-grandfather built and which has passed down through the generations. When we sat down to breakfast, I noticed an elderly woman sitting in an armchair in the corner of the room. Assuming correctly that this was her grandmother, I walked over and introduced myself. The woman jumped and I was afraid she was going to spill her coffee. She apologized for her reaction, she is mostly blind and hadn’t seen me approach. The smile on her face when I squeezed her hand and when each of our friends followed me over to her and introduced themselves melted my heart. She appreciated being recognized. We were in her home, after all. I’m not sure if I would have done that if I hadn’t been reading this book. She was quiet and seemed perfectly happy with her coffee and the conversation she was having with her daughter. But she really appreciated meeting her granddaughter’s friends who she would see later that day at the wedding. This book has made me think more about what I would want when I’m grandmother-aged and I’ve started treating people differently. I hope it sticks.

Atul Gawande
Image via Wikipedia

The section on end-of-life decisions and quality of life stuck with me. We go through a lot to help add months to a person’s life. Too often, I don’t think a lot of thought has been given to how that additional month is in reality for the sick. It’s likely a month of recovery and pain. Talking about what a person wants and needs for their final time is critical. I started to think about what I would want if I had to make hard decisions and I think being to read and comprehend would be very important to me. I have a huge TBR to get through after all!

There wasn’t a part of this book I particularly disliked. It was all very informative and I think it helped change my perspective on aging and dying. We have to accept our mortality and respect our lives when it comes to the end. None of us can escape death as much as we try. We have to know when the race is over.

My audiobook was narrated by Robert Petkoff. I liked how he narrated the book, giving weight to a serious subject. He didn’t try to use voices for the women or men that Gawande profiled. He was straightforward and clear about the subject. I thought that was a good way to deliver the message.

Gawande has to face death a lot in his job. He does surgeries with the point of curing, healing, and granting longer life. I think he’s well positioned to lecture on the subject of mortality. He has seen first hand when he can help and when he’s only kicking the can down the road. Bringing in his father’s illness shed a lot of light on the book as well. It’s not just what he does with patients, but what he really believes as well.

Writer’s Takeaway: I don’t know how much I learned about writing from this book. The non-fiction subject Gawande chose deserves some different approaches than the fiction I aim to write. It did highlight for me how adding a personal touch to a topic can make it seem so much more real. I’m likening this to the ‘write what you know’ mantra and how that can make a story stronger.

I enjoyed this book, the perspective, and what it’s left me with. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
Being Mortal | Timestafford’s Blog
Review: Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal- Medicine and What Matters in the End | The Healthcare Marketer
“No Risky Chances” by Atul Gawande (Excerpt from Being Mortal) | Lunch Break Reader
Book Review: Being Mortal | The World of Pastoral and Spiritual Care

WWW Wednesday, 10-July-2019

10 Jul

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I moved forward a bit in Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. I had a lot of coworkers in the office who aren’t normally there and that meant a lot of catching up. Usually, that happens during lunch, unfortunately. Still slow going but the book’s made a big shift in a positive direction.
I’m being positive about finishing A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin before I have to renew it again. I’m on disk 32! I can do it. Only a normal length book to go!
I had all the intentions of reading a lot of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers this weekend, but that didn’t pay off as much as I’d like. I think I’ll finish it this week, but that might be wishful thinking again. It’s just hit a slow point for me and I’m having trouble moving forward.
I’ll be finishing up Being Mortal by Atul Gawande soon. I’m mostly recovered from my injury which means I’m ready to start biking indoors and running again which means more time listening to eaudio. I’m optimistic that this one will be done next week.
My husband and I made more progress on Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton over the weekend. It could have been better, but I kept falling asleep. Fail. We’ll keep pecking away at it while we do a lot of driving vacations this summer.

Recently finished: Nothing for a second week. Big bummer here, I thought I’d have something to report.

I did manage to post my review of Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens. Having one thing done still feels good! It went up on Monday.

Reading Next: I picked up The Map of Time by Félix Palma from the library and I’m a bit overwhelmed. It’s over 600 pages! It’s quite hefty and I’m excited about the premise, but now also nervous about finding time to read the whole thing. Wowza!


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!

Book Club Reflection: Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens

9 Jul

My book club met to discuss Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens a few weeks ago. I’m behind on getting this up and I apologize but it works out nicely that this is going up the day after I posted my review, right? I totally planned that.

Smolens is based in Marquette, one of the largest cities in Northern Michigan and the location of Northern Michigan University, which I believe is the largest school in the Upper Peninsula. Smolens teaches English at NMU.

We were all interested to hear that there were really five POW camps in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP). Au Train was the largest and considered the least violent and had the least security. It’s a remote location! There were a total of 400,000 POWs located throughout the US. We appreciated the perspective of this book, how it was about an Italian soldier in an US-based POW camp. I’d never read a book about this before. It was also fun hearing the misinformation that the Axis powers had spread about the US.

The phrase in the opening pages that led to the title, Wolf’s Mouth, is from an Italian phrase whose equivalent is ‘Break a Leg.’ It was wishing luck to Frank when he had to be brave and face something intimidating, whether that be the woods of Northern Michigan or Vogel. There was a lot of humor in the book about misunderstood colloquialisms. I liked that this was one I misunderstood as an English speaker.

We spoke a lot about Vogel in our discussion. We wondered if he was protecting himself and what he’d done in the camp, or if he really felt he was protecting the Reich. Having his son working for him was an odd situation as well. We wondered how much of his father’s story Anton believed. And we wondered if his beliefs changed when he went through the trial or visited Munising. It was hard for everyone in our group to believe that there would be groups in the US carrying out the Nazi’s war. Especially with the war over for so many years.

We were asked to describe the book in one word. Troubling came up, as readers were troubled by the Nazi’s running the training camps and how the Axis powers mistreated each other. Forgiving came up since Frank was asked to forgive so much through the course of the book. And nostalgia as many of our members have fond memories of Detroit in the 50s when Frank was living there.

We had very few complaints about the book. One was that there were too many characters introduced during the Detroit section. We lost track of them and they didn’t come into play in the book again. There was one specific complaint where it was mentioned that in 1956, buses in Detroit were segregated. Our members didn’t remember that at all. There was no true segregation on the buses, though there were buses that stayed north of 8 Mile Road, the border road between the city and the suburbs (is anyone else singing Eminem now? Just me?). This was brought up again when Leon got on the Greyhound and seemed to sit at the front.

Overall, we enjoyed the book and the memories of Michigan that it brought up. It was fun to read a book in our home state. Maybe we’ll be able to again soon.

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!

Book Review: Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens (3/5)

8 Jul

I was a little nervous when my book club picked this one. I’d never heard of the author and it was published with a small press. The last time we had a book like this, we didn’t know who had picked it and none of us ended up liking the book. I found out early on that one of our readers had recommended it so I was reassured. I put myself in a rough place, though, because I didn’t start it until the week before our meeting and I needed a bit more time than that to finish. I made it, but with just one day to spare.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens

Summary from Goodreads:

In 1944 Italian officer Captain Francesco Verdi is captured by Allied forces in North Africa and shipped to a POW camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where the senior POW, the ruthless Kommandant Vogel, demands that all prisoners adhere to his Nazi dictates. His life threatened, Verdi escapes from the camp and meets up with an American woman, Chiara Frangiapani, who helps him elude capture as they flee to the Lower Peninsula. By 1956 they have become Frank and Claire Green, a young married couple building a new life in postwar Detroit. When INS agent James Giannopoulos tracks them down, Frank learns that Vogel is executing men like Frank for their wartime transgressions. As a series of brutal murders rivets Detroit, Frank is caught between American justice and Nazi vengeance. In Wolf ’s Mouth, the recollections of Francesco Verdi/Frank Green give voice to the hopes, fears, and hard choices of a survivor as he strives to escape the ghosts of history.

I was nervous because I know some people like wolves and want to write a lot about them. I do not like wolves and do not want to read about them. Because I don’t read book summaries, I didn’t know how the wolf would come into play with this book. Lucky for me, it was minimal and this book highlighted a part of my state’s history I knew very little about. I had no idea there were POW camps in northern Michigan! I went on a trip through the UP (Upper Penninsula) right after reading this and the way Smolens describes it is very accurate. I can’t imagine how much more remote it must have been in the 1940s. You’d be hard pressed to escape. I found some parts of this book hard to believe, such as Vogel’s prolonged vendetta. Frank was a very flat character, too. He had to adapt to what happened around him and as such, he didn’t have too much of a personality of his own. The people around him were well drawn and likable, but I wasn’t sure what to think of him. I also had some issues with how the book was paced. It was a slow start, and then once the action started going, there was no breath. We jumped through time to get to the high action and then had to relive a lot of the skipped time in flashbacks through the beginning of the time jump. I was looking for a little more high-and-low in this one.

Besides Frank’s blank personality, the characters around him were very believable. I adored Chiara and I thought she was very brave. She was smart, too, and creative in how she made sure Frank would be safe while they were traveling. I adored the reunification with Adino at the end. It was a very well written and emotional scene, one that brought an actual tear to my eye. You don’t find friendships like that every day.

Claire was my favorite character in the story. I thought the way Frank cared for her was really sweet and I liked how strong she was when faced with such great odds. I cheered for her a lot and I was sad she didn’t make it the whole book. I think she would have been an amazing character for Frank to be growing old with.

There wasn’t much relatable in the plot to me, but the setting was very relatable. My parents have a second house in Northern Michigan and I thought about that place a lot while reading this. I also got to think of Detroit in an earlier era when it was in its heyday and overall had really positive feelings about this book’s setting. It’s clear Smolens is a native, he’s very sweet on the state and portrays it well.

John Smolens.
Image via Amazon

I thought the end was very fitting and I’m going to talk about it now so please skip ahead if you’re not interested. Anton was left with the same things Frank had when he started his life again. He was abandoned outside of Munising and had to keep away from the wild and elements in order to move on with his life. It seemed a bit odd at first, but more and more appropriate as I thought about it and in the end, I was really pleased with it.

The time jumps were disruptive to me. A lot of things were explained that I think could have been left alone. The jump skipped a lot of boring time but then that time was covered so as to avoid leaving a gap. It wasn’t a good solution to what Smolens was trying to accomplish by skipping ahead in time.

Frank has to forgive himself and be forgiven. It was easier for him to forgive himself for putting Claire in danger, for not protecting Adino, and for escaping. He struggled with being forgiven even when he asked for it because he didn’t think he’d done anything needing forgiveness. I think his inability to sympathize with Vogel in any way was a big part of his problem in this book. Vogel was drawn as so clearly evil that you couldn’t find a way to forgive him. And so Frank struggled with it his whole life.

Writer’s Takeaway: Flashbacks are very hard and I have a rather major one in my book that I’m contemplating taking out. I think I will now that I’ve read this book and seen how disruptive it can be. The flow of the story was really thrown off and I wish less had to be explained.

An enjoyable read but a few things about it really kept me from enjoying it. 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!

Related Posts:
Q&A with John Smolens | A Rally of Writers
“Wolf’s Mouth” by John Smolens | Book Nook Book Reviews

WWW Wednesday, 3-July-2019

3 Jul

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I made more progress than expected with Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min during lunches. This week will be even better because it’s going to be so quiet around the office and I’m only working two days anyway. Maybe I’ll get even more in.
I’m trying to have all positive thoughts about finishing A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This book is packed with some of my favorite moments from the show and I’m loving the small differences. I always think I know what’s coming but am always a little surprised as well.
I’m so glad to be reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers again. I adore his humor and I think his story is really fascinating. Thought I wonder how much of it is real and how much is exaggerated.
I didn’t get through as much of Being Mortal by Atul Gawande as I would have liked. I’ve had to take some time off of biking and running due to knee pain. I can’t wait to get back to it and fly through the second half of this book!
My husband and I started Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton during our epic drive this past weekend. We’re almost halfway through it and, unfortunately, it’s not doing much for us. The slow start was ok, but it’s past the start and we’re getting restless. I’m hoping we can listen to a little more this weekend and it picks up.

 

Recently finished: Nothing new this week. It was a busy week so I’m not surprised, but I’m hopeful I’ll have one, maybe two, books here next week. A girl can dream, right?

Reading Next: I think I need a little fiction with all of the non-fiction I’ve been going through. I’m planning on grabbing The Map of Time by Félix Palma. This was a recommended book on a page-a-day book calendar I had a few years ago. I’m still going through them but I’m almost ready for another calendar like that.


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!

Challenge Update, June 2019

1 Jul

Not great progress, but I’m still moving forward! June has been a crazy busy month and I think it will continue through the summer. We’ve got a lot to pack into these warm months and we’re not wasting a minute of it. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in June:

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy (4/5)
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (4/5)
Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens (3/5)

I’m trucking through a long audiobook in my car so I’m not surprised to see two physical books on here, but it makes me happy to make some progress with printed books!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

8/12
I was excited to see that Lair of Dreams would fill in the 1920-1939 time period for me! I love that time period and being able to fill it with such a fun book was a great way to explore my favorite decade.

Goodreads Challenge

31/52
I’m slowing down, but I’m still moving forward. I don’t think I’ll have trouble finishing this one in time. I’ll start flying through audiobooks again soon, too.

Book of the Month

Because of how helpful it was, I have to pick Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy. I learned a lot about developing characters and how to structure my novel.

Added to my TBR

I’m up again for the second month in a row and it hurts. I’m up a total of three to 77.

  • Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian. This is a book club selection for the fall. The author is local to our area!
  • Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray. I need to keep moving forward with this series! Just two to go.
  • Liam and Heidi by Jason Alpert. One of my writers’ group members published his book! We’re all so excited.
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. After her first book, I have to see what else Morgenstern has up her sleeve!

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.

  • Finish 70.3 Half Ironman: Going OK. I’ve had some knee pain that’s stopped me from most running and biking. I did a sprint triathlon last week and it went well but it set me back a bit in my recovery. The race will happen before my next post so we’ll see!
  • Attend six weddings: Two down four to go! Another this coming weekend and then a break until August.
  • Finish a weather blanket: I haven’t touched this in a while but I’m not too far behind. I have the data, I just need to do the knitting!
  • Write: This got redirected. After reading Writing Fiction for Dummies, I realized I needed a bit more of a re-write than I thought. I’m working through that now and will have to reconsider sending it to agents after that.
  • See my friends more: The weddings are helping with this. I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the triathlon tunnel when I can be really good at this.

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 2019, 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!

WWW Wednesday, 26-June-2019

26 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?

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Currently reading: We had a lot of work lunches over the past week so progress on Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min has been almost non-existent. But, as always, I’m still moving forward!
I’m optimistic about A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin but my renewal will end again next week. I think one more should do it, I have about ten disks left.
I’m able to return to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers! This one has been really fun so I’m glad to be able to devote some time to it again.
I started listening to Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. It’s not exactly exhilarating listening for workouts, but it’s making me appreciate my health and youth more than any other book I’ve listened to. It’s very humbling and makes me look at my parents and grandparents in a new light.

Recently finished: I was able to wrap up Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray and posted my review earlier this week. I think the book was going well but seemed to have a bit of middle book syndrome kick in at the end. I want to keep moving forward with the series, though. Here’s to hoping it doesn’t take me four years to get to the next book this time. I gave it Four out of Five Stars
A marathon reading session on Saturday means I finished Wolf’s Mouth by John Smolens before my Monday book club meeting. I don’t usually cut these so close but I had a hold up with another book with a deadline. I hate deadlines for reading. I hope not to have one again for a while. I’ll be posting my review in the next week or so.

Reading Next: Hubby and I have a long car trip this weekend. The audiobook we have picked out for the drive is Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. This is a title I found at Powell’s when we went two years ago. We’ve tried to start it a few times and failed. I’m hoping these two ten-hour drives will push us to listen this time!


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!

Book Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (4/5)

25 Jun

It’s been a few years since I read the first book in this series but I was able to pick up right where I left off. The first book was really memorable and I adored it. Unfortunately, we have a bit of middle book syndrome in this one.

Cover image via Goodreads

Lair of Dreams (Diviners #2) by Libba Bray

Other books by Bray reviewed on this blog:

The Diviners (Diviners #1)

Summary from Goodreads:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, earning the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl…everyone except the other Diviners.

Piano-playing Henry DuBois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret—for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City.

As Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess… As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

This started out really strong for me but ended bittersweet. We start with a new villain and a new Diviner. Adding one to the crew isn’t too much so I’m OK with this. We have some development, especially between Sam and Evie and of Henry’s character. At the very end, we get a bit of Theta. So, overall, good character development. And good buildup of the series villain, the King of Crows. But the defeat of the book villain, the Veiled Woman, fell flat to me. Once they figured out who she was, getting rid of her was too quick for me. It was like Bray realized she had too many pages and tried to end it quickly. I would have liked to see a little more struggle for her ghost to be put to rest. Maybe I’m in too much of an editing stage in my book to be reading.

Bray creates wonderful characters. Each has unique quirks and ticks and I thought their speech and worlds were unique and wonderful. She does a good job of having diverse characters: Ling and the Campbell brothers bring racial diversity while Sam has religious diversity and Henry has LGBTQI+ diversity. It doesn’t hit you over the head, but it’s there. Bray also ties in a lot of subtle hints at eugenics so I’m guessing this will come into play at some point.

I liked Henry the most, I think his character was the most dynamic in this book. He opened up about his sexuality and was vulnerable to Ling. He also made some headway in his career. And he made mistakes and got emotional. It was very real and I appreciated that. I think he’s set up to be a very strong character in the third book.

I think all the characters were relatable in some way. Henry had an emotional spell, which we all do. Evie is depressed but won’t talk about it and is drowning herself in fame and alcohol. Maybe I haven’t been there, but I can understand wanting to escape. Memphis and Theta had a serious rough patch and I think every relationship has been there. With a wide variety of characters, this book had a lot of relatable moments.

Libba Bray
Image via Barnes & Noble

Ling’s story was my favorite. She had a very rough life even though her family loved her and she was smart. She was dealing with her disability and the loss of her friend at the same time, not easy to do. She’s also in a weird place being half Irish and half Chinese. She doesn’t feel like she fits into either world but everyone sees her as Chinese. I can see how she’d be very lost and angry so thus defensive. I thought she was really well fleshed out.

The ending was too rushed. I would have liked to see our heroes hurt a little more as a result of defeating the ghost, but they seem ready and able to take on the next book and challenge. It just seemed like the ghost in this book was almost an afterthought.

The audiobook was narrated by January LaVoy and she was wonderful. She gave a unique voice to each character and nothing felt dumbed down or rude. She was also great at building tension through scary parts. I didn’t want to listen to this while I was running in the dark because it freaked me out!

These characters were often dealt bad hands. They’ve found each other to work through them. This is a non-traditional family of characters, especially Theta and Henry. Both had to leave home in a hurry and both are afraid to lose each other. I thought the reliance on each other and family was really sweet.

Writer’s Takeaway: It stuck out to me that Bray did a lot of head hopping. In a single scene, we’d know what Henry was thinking and what Ling was thinking. Both Sam and Evie would share their intentions and ambitions. Normally, it’s distracting. But, honestly, Bray killed it. I bought every world and loved it all. This is a great example of what an experienced writer can do that amateurs shouldn’t try.

A great build-up but a disappointing end. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1920-1939 time period of 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!

Related Posts:
Book Talk- Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray | Musings of a Book Nerd
Review: Lair of Dreams | Gun in Act One
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray Review 5/5 | Blogs of a Bookaholic
Book Review: Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) by Libba Bray | The Owl and the Reader