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Book Review: The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom (4/5)

20 Feb

Mitch Albom is from Detroit and he does a lot of book signings in my area as a result. A good friend of mine and I went to hear him speak a few years ago and I got a copy of his latest (at the time) signed. I hate taking signed books out of my apartment, so using an audio version of this book made the most sense to me. It was a nice, quick read.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

My past post on Meeting Mitch Albom

Summary from Goodreads:

The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief–and a page-turner that will touch your soul–Albom’s masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.

I’ve read and listened to a few of Albom’s books before and this seems right in line with his style. He’s going to talk about Christianity without hitting you over the head with it and he’s also going to talk about doubting religion and that strengthening belief. This book was hard to read only because my Christian side wanted to believe and my reader side wanted to think ‘Magical Realism’ but following a character who doubted so strongly made me doubt, too. I wasn’t sure what to think until the end, which I’ll avoid talking about. I liked the ride, though. The breadth of characters covered the topic well and gave me someone to commiserate with each step of the way.

I liked that there were characters who were strong believers, skeptics, and people who went through all stages of belief and disbelief along the way. I think that’s a fair representation of how humanity would respond to such a miracle. I’ve often wondered if a great prophet came to Earth, would we believe him or her? Would we discredit this person or recognize that he/she is the one we’ve been waiting for? I think Albom must have wondered something similar when he wrote this book. Some believed it immediately, dropping everything and moving to Coldwater while the miracle was happening. Others came out of anger and a lot kept at arms distance and waited for proof that the whole thing was real. I liked how the people of Coldwater went through this as well, even those receiving the calls. It seemed real and made me wonder where I would fall if calls like that really happened.

Jack was my favorite character. I thought the way he dealt with his son’s calls was really believable. At first he wants to keep them to himself and not call attention to himself, which I could see a police officer wanting to do. I liked seeing his internal struggle to tell his ex-wife and how he told Tess to commiserate with her. I think he really struggled with believing Robby was really talking to him and thought that if he said it out loud, he would have to believe it.

I think I would have trouble believing something as wondrous as phone calls from Heaven at first. I think I would be like Elias or Jack and think it was someone trying to trick me for a while, testing the miracle to see if it stood on its own two feet before I could buy in completely. Even Pastor Warren was skeptical and Father Carole called in his boss to make a decision. This helped me feel like it was OK to doubt but to question and not discredit something that could be a miracle.

Me and Mitch

Me and Mitch Albom, 2013.

I love Sully’s story. It was so moving and complicated and I thought Albom did a great job of balancing all of the conflicting feelings inside Sully. I was scared for a second that he was going to give him a romantic relationship with Liz but I think the way that ended was for the best. Sully was looking out for his son most of all and on his journey to protect the boy, he ended up neglecting him a bit. He needed to refocus his priorities and Liz helped him do this.

I didn’t’ like Amy’s character very much. She was really self-focused and I felt like she was taking advantage of Katherine the whole book. Even when she was taken off the story, she stayed with Katherine because she had no where else she wanted to be. She didn’t even seem to care when her fiance left her and didn’t try to hard to contact him. She seemed unimportant to the plot and just fulfilled Albom’s desire to have a reporter character in the story.

Albom narrated the audiobook himself which I really liked. He gave the characters the voices he wrote them with. There were a few instances of him using audio effects like knocking and thumping to enhance the story which I really liked. He narrated well but that can be expected from a radioman. I hope he does his other audiobooks as well.

All of the characters struggled with belief. Even Catherine, who believed immediately and spread the word, struggled with others not believing her and how to handle those who doubted her. The characters were very representative of Christians that I’ve met. Some believe with all of their hearts and struggle to see how others can live without the faith they have. Others used to believe but have fallen away from God for one reason or another. Others don’t believe and many are somewhere in the middle. The book brought up something incredible that effected people’s faith in different ways and showed how no one Christian is exactly like another and how things can shake or build faith depending on how they’re perceived.

Writer’s Takeaway: I thought Albom had almost too many characters. I struggled a bit to keep Jack and Jeff straight and I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the TV people besides Amy. I’m glad he didn’t include all of the people receiving phone calls but I thought he could have focused on just a few less to help the reader keep more of them straight.

This was a solid book that helped me see how strong my faith is. 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:
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom | Words Are My Craft
The first phone call from heaven by Mitch Albom ~ Book Review | Ebaarat
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom | Reading_Rexy
Warner Brothers Lands Mitch Albom Novel ‘The First Phone Call from Heaven’ | Deadline

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (3/5)

16 Feb

I love comedian memoirs. That might be kind of niche, but there are enough books in this genre that I feel it’s safe to make that blanket statement. I’ve read many I enjoyed and about the time I read Bossypants by Tina Fey, I was also binge-watching The Office on Netflix. Logically, enjoying both, I wanted to read Mindy’s book. I found it a few months later at a massive book sale and I’ve been waiting to read it for a while.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Summary from Goodreads:

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka

Having read in this genre before, I knew this book could go one of two ways: 1) memoir of her life up until the point of writing or 2) sporadic, jumping around commentary on life. This book was oddly a mix of the two. Mindy followed her life pretty steadily until she broke into writing and then skipped around with parts that sounded like bits she had no show to write them into. I enjoyed the first part more than the second half. I would have liked to hear more about Mindy on The Office. She devoted one chapter to it and while it was the longest of her chapters, it was still short in comparison to the length of the book.

Mindy portrays herself in a very relatable light. She seems like your average everyday young woman and I think many people have a friend who is reminiscent of Mindy. It was refreshing to read that someone who is invited to awards shows also sits at home in her pajamas or cries over TV shows or calls their mom when something weird happens with her eye. She did seem to focus a lot on how she looked and fret about it, which was something I hadn’t read in a memoir before but I can most certainly understand.

There weren’t any major characters in Mindy’s story. Her parents showed up from time to time, as did her brother, and then a few roommates from college but no one who was a major part of Mindy’s story through the whole thing. I noticed this in a few other memoirs I read about celebrities and I wonder if there’s some celebrity editor who recommends this. How do I get that job?

Mindy Kaling Image via Paste Magazine

Mindy Kaling
Image via Paste Magazine

Mindy made a few predictions in the book which have wound up being true. First was a female Ghostbusters and the second was an Oceans 5 but which will actually be Oceans 8 but close enough. There were some things that dated the book as well. Most notably the Blackberry references and talking about how Amy Poehler and Will Arnett are a great couple that all couples should strive to be like. While funny and grounding, these made the book feel ‘old’ six years after publication.

I think this book would have been better as an audiobook. I know Kaling’s style only as far as Kelly is a reflection of how she really talks. If Kelly is nothing like her, I have no idea how some of her jokes were supposed to come off. I might have missed a few that fell flat without her inflection. I couldn’t tell if she was actually at odds with Rainn Wilson or if they were the kind of super-close friends who rag on each other all the time. Audiobook could have helped there.

 

Mindy stresses her body image a lot. As a woman in Hollywood, she’s pressured to fit into a certain body style and she just doesn’t do that. She says she’s the average American woman and I would argue she’s probably a little smaller than average. Anyway, she’s constantly forced to dress in a way that stylists think is appropriate for her body type instead of what she wants. She talks about the pushback she’s gotten from this and I think it’s her main message. She’s trying her best to be comfortable in her own skin but she’s pushed back on a lot. I think Kaling is a good role model for girls. She’s a minority, a woman, and not a size 0 but she’s still funny. That’s a great combination.

Writer’s Takeaway: The second half of the book seemed thrown together to me. Her stories would bounce back to college or The Office and there wasn’t a strong sense of a timeline like there had been in the first half. I would have liked a little more structure to it.

A fun and quick read by a funny woman. 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:
Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling | Book Spoils
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling | Literary and Lovely

WWW Wednesday, 15-February-2017

15 Feb

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.


phone-callCurrently reading: My husband and I were finally able to listen to some of Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. We had four hours in the car and got through some of it. This is a really long book so we might be at this one for a while. We have next weekend to get through a bit more.
I’ve been making steady progress on The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler during lunch and doctor’s appointments. I’ll keep it up at this pace as much as I can. Lunch has also transformed itself into a study time for me which might take over a bit.
I started reading Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling. It’s great reading this now because it’s moving super fast and I can pick it up and put it down easily as school makes other demands on my time. I should finish it soon.
I also started The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom on audio. Albom narrates the story which is a fun twist. He loves basing his books here in Michigan (where he’s also from) which makes fun reading for me!

awayRecently finished: I knocked out Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling really fast. Celebrity memoirs tend to be fast reads and I enjoyed getting through this one fast. My review will come up tomorrow so look out for that.
My review of Away by Amy Bloom posted yesterday. I liked the book but was disappointed by the ending. I thought it seemed like the main character gave up at the end and that disappointed me.

My review of El misterio de la guia de  ferrocarriles by Agatha Christie posted last Thursday. Thanks again to those who commented on it, I’m really excited about having finished it so quickly!

nightsoldiersReading Next: Night Soldiers by Alan Furst is in transit! I should be able to pick it up from the library soon and get started on it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!


Leave a comment with your link and a 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: Away by Amy Bloom (3/5)

14 Feb

The page-a-day book themed calendar I had in 2013 has struck again! This calendar filled my Goodreads shelves when I fist started using the software and there are many on there to this day that I have yet to read. (Actually 6, I just checked.) It won me over saying only that it was set in the 1920s. It doesn’t take much prodding to get me to read if that’s the setting.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Away by Amy Bloom

Summary from Goodreads:

Panoramic in scope, Away is the epic and intimate story of young Lillian Leyb, a dangerous innocent, an accidental heroine. When her family is destroyed in a Russian pogrom, Lillian comes to America alone, determined to make her way in a new land. When word comes that her daughter, Sophie, might still be alive, Lillian embarks on an odyssey that takes her from the world of the Yiddish theater on New York’s Lower East Side, to Seattle’s Jazz District, and up to Alaska, along the fabled Telegraph Trail toward Siberia.

Lillian’s story was epic, to say the least. What started as a young immigrant trying to make a living in New York turned to the story of a mistress and from there to a murderer to a convict and finally to a frontierswoman. She endured the hardships of every place she went to an extent that bordered on unbelievable. Each part of her journey could have been a short story that, strung together, was Lillian’s journey from Russia to New York to Alaska.

I enjoyed the side characters in this story and I think Bloom knew she created some great ones. Lillian endures and while that’s admirable, she’s very fluid, adapting to what’s around her at the time. It’s the people she’s adapting to that make the story interesting. The Burstein men are hiding secrets left and right and Lillian becomes an accomplice. Gumdrop wants to redefine her life and sees Lillian as a kindred spirit though they are so different. John Bishop is quiet and introspective and his fierce loyalty has already caused him one heartbreak. Each of these characters (and others I haven’t mentioned) were very different from each other and from Lillian. They marked her journey to Alaska and are what made it memorable.

Gumdrop was a favorite of mine. She seemed very bland at first and desperate. But as she reveals her story to Lillian, talking about her mother and child, she becomes a much deeper character. I loved the scene with her, Lillian, and Snooky. It was dark but really showed Gumdrop’s strength and all Lillian would do for Sophie. I adored that Bloom gave us short stories about what happened to the strongest side characters after Lillian leaves their lives. Gumdrop has the best story, in my opinion, and lives out the dream she always wanted.

I related best to Lillian when she was living in New York. While she wanted to work, she was also forced to act the perfect wife which I think a lot of modern women can relate to. She felt cooped up in the apartment waiting for Meyer and she would get upset when he’d come later than expected. She wanted to be respected and valued and I’m sure every woman has wanted this from someone in their life, either a father, boss, friend, teacher or romantic partner. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where some men want women in traditional roles and more and more women are finding them unfulfilling.

Amy Bloom Image via the author's website

Amy Bloom
Image via the author’s website

I found Lillian’s walk to Dawson most intriguing and a bit unbelievable. Maybe I didn’t catch it, but how could she have survived with no shelter in the cold in that part of Canada? Were there cabins each a day’s walk from each other? They weren’t all mentioned, to be sure, but there had to have been something to keep her going. Her food was explained and with snow around, water wouldn’t have been an issue, it’s the shelter that gets me. Anyway, it was sill my favorite part of the book. Her determination is evident and so strong. Each step, she knows it’s to find Sophie that she continues and while she’s excited, she also seems scared and rightfully so. I saw how strong Lillian was in this part.

The ending was my least favorite part and I’m going to talk about it here so skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want it spoiled. I thought Lillian gave up too easily. It wasn’t like her to give up. She was so determined and spent so much time trying to get to Siberia just to give up, especially when someone who wanted to help her showed up. I get that she had almost no chance of finding Sophie, but she was so sure it could happen. Maybe they were both better off with the way things turned out, but I think Lillian would have kept pushing forward.

The audiobook was narrated by Barbara Rosenblat and I thought she did an amazing job. She gave Lillian an appropriate accent and portrayed the numerous side characters in great ways. Her voice was good for a sweeping narrative of America and Canada which follows a Russian Jewish immigrant. That’s got to be a niche market.

Lillian is driven by love for her daughter. That’s a very powerful force. She comes to respect her late husband less and less which is sad, but her love for Sophie never wavers. The things she did to get to Sophie from letting men take advantage of her to murder to unimaginable physical pain are incredible. That love drove this novel.

Writer’s Takeaway: As a reader, I hate when characters are dropped and I’m left wondering what happened to them. I felt Bloom gave her side characters good closure without dwelling on them. Gumdrop or Chinky or the Bursteins are wrapped up nicely, with just enough information to keep my wandering mind at bay. I liked this technique a lot.

A good read but a bit unbelievable and a bit disappointing in the end. 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 Post:
Just my final thoughts on the ending of Amy Bloom’s ‘Away’ | The Northshore Book Club

‘Z’ TV Series- I hate hating F. Scott Fitzgerald

13 Feb

Poster via Amazon

Poster via Amazon

Normally, the targeted ads I see online are random things I Googled once and I can ignore them. But from time to time, they’re something I’m head-over-heels excited about and this is one of those times. Amazon did a 10-episode series about Zelda Fitzgerald based on Therese Anne Fowler’s novel Z which I read last year. I was super excited and got to watching it right away.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Zelda. Wow, Christina Ricci was amazing in this series. Her accent, her dress, her reactions, it was all great. I could see Zelda in Montgomery and she was a rebel when she wanted to be and a southern lady when she wanted to be. And then in New York, she was almost the same. She was an icon when she wanted to be and a wife when she wanted to be. Her character is very adaptable but at the same time, has a strong personality and sense of who she is. I loved it.

Montgomery. I’ve considered going to Montgomery now that I’ve seen this. It could be a great winter-time vacation when I’m sick of the snow. It was beautiful and it gave off a great feeling of home that helps me understand why Zelda wants to go back.

The Flapper look. The look Zelda creates developed slowly through the show and I thought it was wonderful. She has all of her frills and lace that she loves so much but doesn’t fit in with New York women. When she tries to blend in with their clothes, she realizes it isn’t for her and the way she finds her own median is wonderful. The show does a great job of showing her settle into her own style.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Visiting Princeton. I don’t remember this from the book but I could be wrong. It gave a really good sense of Scott’s personality. He had kept from Zelda that he never finished school like he’s kept many other things from her. He made the whole thing so about himself that it ruined things for everyone else. He signed books that weren’t his and that he couldn’t pay for. He threw a fit and insulted people who supported him. He got drunk to avoid confrontation and put himself in a terrible situation. It was very telling of how their life would continue forward.

Cover Image via Goodreads

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

Zelda’s birthday party. The party he puts on for her was a turning point in the book when Zelda started taking him seriously as a suitor. I think it would have played out wonderfully on-screen, but it was for some reason overlooked.

Zelda’s awareness of their financial troubles. She is more aware in the book early on of his excessive spending and reins herself back. She rejects some of his extravagant gifts (again, not in the show) and encourages him to not celebrate as much. All of this was missing.

Things That Changed Too Much

Scott. I didn’t like the Scott in the book much, but the one in the show made me angry. He was so full of himself that he was completely unlikable and I felt the actor was terrible. He never seemed serious, only joking or angry. He didn’t spoil Zelda at all and when she complained, wrote her off completely. This show has made me hate Scott so much.

I hope there will be more seasons of this show. Scottie hasn’t even been born yet and Fowler has so much more of Zelda’s story to share. The very opening implied that the show would go through the entire novel and I hope I get to see that. Reader, have you seen the TV show? What did you think?

Until next time, write on.

Book Review: El misterio de la guia de ferrocarriles by Agatha Christie (4/5)

9 Feb

At my old job, I made friends with a Mexican engineer who was in the US on a work assignment. Right before he left, he gave me this book as a gift so I could read it and practice my Spanish. I gave him Of Mice and Men in return and I feel it was a fair trade. It’s been a few years that I’ve been hanging onto it but I’m glad I could make it my Spanish read for 2017.

Cover image via Amazon

Cover image via Amazon

El misterio de la guía de ferrocarriles (The A.B.C. Murders) by Agatha Christie

Summary from Goodreads:

There’s a serial killer on the loose, bent on working his way through the alphabet. And as a macabre calling card, he leaves beside each victim’s corpse the ABC Railway Guide open at the name of the town where the murder has taken place. Having begun with Andover, Bexhill and then Churston, there seems little chance of the murderer being caught – until he makes the crucial and vain mistake of challenging Hercule Poirot to frustrate his plans.

This was my first Christie novel and reading it in Spanish was a fun twist! I really enjoyed Poirot and Hastings though I kept getting feelings of Holmes and Watson. I don’t know either very well so it’s likely from watching Sherlock over my husband’s shoulder. I kept paying close attention, hoping I would pick up on the answer to the mystery, but when Poirot explained how he figured it out in the end, I realized I never could have figured it out from what I read. I was a little disappointed in that. I made an effort to read very carefully and slowly so I could absorb all the details. Oh well.

I’m sure there are people with minds like Poirot who would figure out cases like this, but it seems extraordinary to me. I’m more like Hastings, thinking I’m investigating something and in the end having no idea what I’m doing. People with that extraordinary ability should be in law enforcement and I’m guessing they are and that’s why I don’t know them. It did seem a bit over the top. But then again, a murder-solving character should, right?

Cust was a fun character. I really believed he was guilty because of how suspicious he acted but Poirot’s explanation of what happened to him made me feel bad for him. I like when an author can change how I perceive a character as quickly as Christie did with Cust. All of his emotions took on a very different light quickly.

I sympathized with Thora Grey. I felt she had a lot of assumptions thrust on her and that’s something I think a lot of women face regardless of how they look. Thora did her job well and Franklin assumed she would marry his brother, assuming Carmichael would fall in love with her. None of this was through any fault of her own and she was dedicated to continuing her job after Carmichael died. I felt she was unjustly punished and if I were her, I would have been much more upset than she was.

Agatha Christie Image via Biography.com

Agatha Christie
Image via Biography.com

I enjoyed the murder scene investigations. I thought the way Japp and Poirot looked at the scene were very telling of who knew what was going on and who didn’t. I would have been inclined to look at things like Japp did but when Poirot started asking questions, I could see his logic and the genius behind what he asked, particularly of Megan Barnard.

I was really disappointed that some of the evidence Poirot used to identify the murderer wasn’t in the text. I began to suspect that Cust was a red herring but I wanted to find the clues myself and I couldn’t do that with what Poirot used to solve the case.

 

I’m going to talk blatantly about the murderer now so if you want to read this book for yourself, I recommend skipping to the next paragraph. Franklin was so greedy that he developed an elaborate scheme to get his brother’s money and I think it speaks volumes to greed at the time this was written. 1936 was a global recession and I can only imagine that Franklin felt he would be more secure with his brother’s money and avoid any kind of downfall that might happen to a poor man. It was sad to me that he would resort to that level and says that he wasn’t close with his brother growing up. I know my brother and I weren’t particularly close, but I would never thinking of murdering him for his money!

Writer’s Takeaway: I liked that Poirot was Belgian. It was good that Christie considered his nationality in parts of the story where it was worth noting that he was a foreigner in the UK. It made him stand out amongst the British police and I think his round-about way of thinking and great detective work was partially due to him wanting to excel against a group he felt outside of. It was a small but very well thought-out detail that enriched the story.

I enjoyed the story but wished I’d had a better chance of guessing the ending. 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:
El Misterio De La Guía de Ferrocarriles | El Príncipe De Las Mil Historias

WWW Wednesday, 8-February-2017

8 Feb

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.


Hanging OutCurrently reading: So this weekend and next weekend I hope to make progress on Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. Hubby and I have a couple-hour drive both weekends and we usually listen to audiobooks to pass the time. Fingers crossed.
I got to read some of The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler during my lunches the past few days and I’ve really enjoyed it. I won’t finish this book anytime soon, but I’m going to enjoy the ride.
I finally started Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling and I’m already half way through! It’s so fun and light that it’s easy to sit down and read 30 pages before I realize my back is sore, haha. I think I’ll get through this one quickly.
I’m also half way through Away by Amy Bloom. A couple long runs and some business in the city has given me a lot of time to listen. It’s very dark but I’m enjoying the story a lot and loving the 1920s setting!

ferrocarrilesRecently finished: I finished Misterio de la Guia de Ferrocarriles by Agatha Christie on Saturday. It was a really good read! I’m excited to have finished my Spanish read so quickly this year. My full review will be up tomorrow. Is there a movie or TV episode about this one (The A.B.C. Murders)? I’d love to see Piorot on screen! Is it normal in Christie novels not to have all the information ou would need to solve the murder yourself? I was a bit let down by that in the end.

nightsoldiersReading Next: I requested my next physical book through ILL so who knows when it will come in, haha. I’m hoping to read Night Soldiers by Alan Furst. This was a recommendation on the book themed daily calendar I had in 2013 and I’ve been waiting for it ever since. I’ll have to pick something random if it doesn’t get in soon.


Leave a comment with your link and a 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: South of Broad by Pat Conroy

7 Feb Cover image via Goodreads

My book club met last week to discuss a book I loved, South of Broad by Pat Conroy. I was surprised to find most people who were big Conroy fans hated the book. Apparently, this one is considered one of his worst! Critics say it’s melodramatic and the prose is over the top at times. A favorite criticism our group read was from author Chris Bohjalian:

It’s possible that the sobbing and sniveling occasionally felt inauthentic to me because I am a priggish New Englander who is uncomfortable with what may be a Southern penchant for drama. But as a novelist, I know all too well that there are few easier ways to wrest sniffles from a reader than to have a couple of real men cry like babies in each other’s arms or a good woman stoically sniff back her tears. Been there, done that.

I’m a fan of Bohjalian and despite the negativity, I would say I’m not a fan of Conroy. As always, we started with a little background on the author. Conroy lives in San Francisco and went to Citadel. His father was in the military and he moved a lot as a child. His father was violent and abusive and Conroy wrote about this in his book, The Great Santini. The book was presented as evidence in his parents’ divorce case. Conroy taught English and was fired from one of his jobs for pointing out racial problems in the school. So much of this made it into the story of Leo King and I’m amazed one person could experience so much and turn it into a story, let alone the number of books Conroy has written that draw inspiration from his life.

It was hard to ignore all the terrible things Leo and his friends had to face in the book. All the bad parts of their high-school years and adulthood came up: AIDS, child abuse from the clergy, Hurricane Hugo, racial integration, and racism. Some people thought it was over the top that all of these things happened in the same novel, but I think leaving them out would have been an omission of the times.

The one thing that could have been left out might be Steve’s abuse at the hands of Monsignor Max. Steve was the perfect son to his parents and I think that put a lot of pressure on him to act perfectly. That almost set him up to fail. It’s hard to maintain that level of expectation. If Steve had told his parents, we’re not sure they would have believed him anyway.

Leo was a very kind person and unfortunately, some of the other characters took advantage of him. He was used by Molly, Starla, and Sheba most notably. Maybe it was him not willing to stand up to a woman. He would do things for people that were beyond what was asked of him, like making benne wafers for his new neighbors when it could have been simple chocolate chip cookies. He cleaned and washed Mr. Cannon’s feet in an obvious impersonation of Mary Magdalen and Cannon appreciated it so much he gave him a house.

Starla used Leo more than anyone else. No one wanted them to stay together, even his staunchly Catholic mother. Mrs. King might have preferred seeing him with Sheba! We thought he only stayed with Starla because of his strong Catholic beliefs. This was as much a criticism of marriage as it was of the church.

The group of friends was such a rag-tag bunch that it seemed strange. They had to overcome socioeconomic status (the twins and the Rutledge’s) and race (Ike) but it somehow worked. Fraser and Niles’ relationship was a big bond for the group and Chad was roped in because of football despite his racist father and upbringing.

The twins’ father’s death seemed almost a little convenient. Someone wondered if Niles knew he was in the shed and that’s why he locked him in there. I proposed that Charleston killed him. The city was brought to life so much in the book it was almost a character. Maybe this was the one thing Charleston could do for our human characters.

I’m going to be missing this group until May because of school and I’m very sad about that. I do look forward to reading some books of my choosing, but I’ll miss having someone to discuss them with.

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!

Challenge Update, January 2017

2 Feb

New year, new books! It was a good month for me as far as reading is concerned. I’m actually pretty proud of this and I know a lot is due to how much I was running this month. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in January:

Trap // Robert K. Tanenbaum
States of Confusion // Paul Jury
South of Broad // Pat Conroy
The Birthday Boys // Beryl Bainbridge
World Without End // Ken Follett
Mrs. Dalloway // Virginia Woolf

A few long ones this month and a few I’ve been working on for quite a while.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

5/12
This is my challenge to read a book from 12 different time periods. You can read about it here. With my historical fiction love, this is off to a great start. The five books already filled 4 time periods! I think I’ll continue to struggle with the 1600s this year, but that’s a problem for November (again).

Goodreads Challenge

6/50
Ahead of schedule already! This is a good start for me. I was nervous about the 50 goal but I’m feeling good about it now. I’m flying through audiobooks and I’m looking forward to knocking a few off of my TBR shelf.

WithoutEndBook of the Month

World Without End by Ken Follett is a clear choice for me. I adored this book and I just found out that there’s a sequel that I’m beyond pumped to read! If you’re up for super-long books, this series is highly recommended.

Added to my TBR

So, I added four but my TBR went down by one to 119! I guess that’s some kind of progress? A bit?

  • You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg. I was volunteering at the library sale and I told myself I wasn’t going to buy anything. I have enough books, I didn’t need anymore! Well, then I saw this one. Many of you know I’m a triathlete so it seemed like fate that this book was on top of the first box I moved. I caved, I bought it.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling. Does this need any explanation? I didn’t think so.
  • The Girl in Green by Derek B. Miller. I adored Miller’s first work, Norwegian by Night, and can’t wait to see what else he can cook up.
  • A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. The third in the series. As I said, I have to. I adore Follett’s books.

Personal Challenge

I mentioned in my challenge announcement post that I had some non-reading goals set for myself in 2017. I figured this would be a good place to keep myself accountable to those as well. Here goes!

  • Keep my 4.0 GPA: I don’t start classes until next week so we’ll see!
  • Knit blankets:  I finished two this month and already sent one out. My cousins’ wife is pregnant so I’ll be sending another out soon! I post pictures of my blankets on Instagram regularly so check there for updates.
  • One race per month: I did my first indoor triathlon in January with a friend. I tied for second amongst women!
  • Get my novel out to beta readers: Done! I sent it to four wonderful friends and asked for it back by May. That should give me time to get school out of the way for a bit.

How were your challenges? I hope you made it. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for 2017, 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, 1-February-2017

1 Feb

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!

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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.


libraryCurrently reading: I’m getting very close to the end of Misterio de la Guia de Ferrocarriles by Agatha Christie. It takes a lot of effort for me to read it, but I’m getting toward the end and can feel Poirot closing in on the murderer!
No move on Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs. It will likely be until my road trip later this month before we make any headway on this one.
I’m already on the third chapter of The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. I was fortunate to have a few lunches to read last week and I got into it. I like it so far but I’m curious to see where Swyler goes with it and why she chose to have a male narrator.

WithoutEndRecently finished: I finished World Without End by Ken Follett after my post went up last Wednesday. I loved it! My review went up Monday. A full 5 out of 5 stars.
I also finished Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf which was slightly less enjoyable. Many of you thought it might be because I listened to it and I think that’s probably right. Still, it wasn’t one I really enjoyed. 2 out of 5 stars. My review went up yesterday.

I also posted a review for The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge which went up last Thursday. Not my favorite of Bainbridge’s novels, but still enjoyable and very educational. 3 out of 5 stars.

awayReading Next: I’m so close to starting Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling! I can almost feel it haha. I see it on my shelf almost every day and I can’t wait to pull it down and dig in.
I’ll be starting a new audiobook today, Away by Amy Bloom. I put this one on my list because it’s a 1920s era book. I own a copy which I found at a book warehouse but in order to get through my TBR faster, I’m going to listen to it.


Leave a comment with your link and a 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!