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WWW Wednesday, 23-September-2020

23 Sep

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


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

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

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


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletter 

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

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

22 Sep

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

Cover image via Amazon

In the Distance by Hernán Díaz

Summary from Amazon:

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

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

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

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

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

Hernan Diaz
Image via the book website

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

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

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

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

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

Not a hit for me. Two out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletters 

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

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

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Book Club Reflection: In the Distance by Hernán Díaz

21 Sep

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletters 

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

WWW Wednesday, 16-September-2020

16 Sep

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


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

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

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


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletter 

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

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

14 Sep

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

Cover image via Amazon

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Other books by Eugenides reviewed on this blog:

Middlesex (and Book Club Reflection)
The Marriage Plot

Summary from Amazon:

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

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

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

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

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

Jeffrey Eugenides
Image via Harvard

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, write on.

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

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletters 

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

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

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Book Review: The Tory by T.J. London (4/5)

10 Sep

I heard about getting an ARC of the audiobook for this one almost too late. It was the last day to sign up and I’m glad I got in under the wire. London was in a writers group with me back in 2013-2014 time frame and I’ve seen her a few times since through a mutual friend we both made in the group. It’s been a few years since I saw her and workshopped with her and I know she’s been busy writing in the meantime. We workshopped a scene from her series at one point, but I can’t recall the details so I’m not sure if it was from this book or one later in the series. Anyway, it was fun to read something written by an author I know!

Cover image via the author

The Tory (Rebels and Redcoats Saga #1) by T.J. London

Summary:

His King or His Conscience…which will he choose?

It is the winter of 1776, and Captain John Carlisle, one of His Majesty’s not-so-finest, has gone back to the scene of the crime to right a wrong so dark it left a permanent stain on what was once an illustrious career and left a man broken, defeated, in search of justice…

In an effort to win back his commission, he must discover the true nature of the relationship between the Six Nations of the Iroquois and the Colonial Army. Undercover as a war profiteer, John travels to the treacherous Mohawk River Valley and infiltrates local society, making friends with those he’s come to betray. But a chance meeting with a beautiful half Oneida innkeeper, whose tragic history is integrally linked to his own, will provide him with the intelligence he needs to complete his mission—and devastate her people.

Now, as the flames of war threaten to consume the Mohawk Valley, John has the chance to not only serve King and country, but to clear his name. When the truth he uncovers ties his own secrets to those in the highest positions of the British military and threatens the very life of the woman he’s come to love, he will be forced to make a choice…

I’m a big fan of historical fiction but not a huge romance fan so I was iffy going into this book. I thought it started off strong and I liked the historical background for John’s character and the integration of the natives and Dellis’s plotline. Overall, the book set up well for a longer series. I had some minor quibbles with the relationship building between John and Dellis but I think the arc overall is strong. I enjoyed the political arc to the story a bit more, though. That’s just a preference.

I liked John’s character a lot. His back-and-forth loyalty between his duty and his heart was really interesting and I liked how it led him in two directions and how he reconciled that. I also liked that he wasn’t immune to injury. I didn’t get a sick pleasure from seeing him injured, but I get frustrated when the main character seems to come out of every situation unscathed so I was glad he bled. I didn’t find Dellis as believable. She seemed a little hot/cold at times without much logic for why she switched between the two. It made me feel a little lost during her arguments with John and I was always a bit confused about why she was triggered one way or the other.

John was my favorite character and I feel like the series will overall be more of a character study of his situation and I look forward to that. He has a strong backstory and I think he’s leading toward a strong final showdown in the final book.

These weren’t characters I really sympathized with or related to. I find that often in historical novels. The concerns of people 250 years ago are quite different from mine today. I understood their desires and needs, though, so I still enjoyed the novel and seeing if they’d get what they wanted.

T.J. London
Image via the author

I thought John and his men were the most entertaining part of the book. I liked that they were able to maintain an upbeat attitude and that they stuck together when things got tough. They’re the team I’d want to be on in a war or an undercover situation.

I thought the fights between Dellis and John were a little too frequent. They seemed to end very badly but resolve when John got hurt or Dellis is in danger without the object of their fight being discussed too much. I didn’t feel her reasons for being angry with him were merited much of the time. Though when she got mad at him for being with Celeste, I was all for it.

I haven’t listened to an audiobook with four narrators in a long time and that was quite a treat. This book was narrated by Shane East (John), Tara Langella (Dellis), Marnye Young (Celeste), and Patrick Zeller (Rodger). I thought East sounded a lot like Sean Bean and I really enjoyed his narration. Langella was great as well. I couldn’t strongly distinguish between Langella and Young but Celeste wasn’t a huge player in this book so she didn’t have much. I have a suspicion she and Rodger will be larger players in later books so their voices will be more apparent as the series goes on.

John has a lot on his conscious throughout the book. He’s battling with something he regrets from his past, trying to do his job and follow orders, and also finds himself romantically entangled. He has to face his past soon because there doesn’t seem to be a way forward with Dellis unless he does. And his mission seems to be in jeopardy because of it as well. Facing his demons is sure to be a big theme for the remainder of the series.

Writer’s Takeaway: Historical fiction is hard. You have to know your time period well and know the culture of the place you’re writing, too. I think London has done this well. When I was in a writing group with her, I know she traveled to the parts of New York she’s writing about and I think that would be really helpful to learn as much as possible about the area and understand the geography of it well.

An enjoyable read and a well-read audiobook. Four out of Five Stars

BEFORE YOU GO! I took place in the media blitz for this audiobook and posted about it yesterday. Please check that out and find an opportunity to win a Tory Prize Pack. It’s free, go look!

Until next time, write on.

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

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletters 

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

Related Posts: 
#MotownWriters Author Spotlight- T.J.London Historical Fiction Writer | Motown Writers Network 
The Tory + Giveaway! | Pursuing Stacie 

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WWW Wednesday, 9-September-2020

9 Sep

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I made a little progress through Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald but, again, not as much as I’d hoped to. I like this book, I just don’t spend too much time reading on my phone so it goes slowly. I know I’ll get through it eventually.
I’m still on hold with Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan but plan to return to it really soon!
I started In the Distance by Hernán Díaz which is my next audiobook pick. It’s not what I expected but I’m enjoying it so far. I hope to finish this one quickly before my book club meets Monday so keep your fingers crossed that this is off the list by next week!
Quarantine has helped me work through my TBR immensely and next up is Lipstick Jihad by Azadeh Moaveni. It’s been a while since I got into a good memoir and I’m hoping this one can whisk me away.

 

Recently finished: I was able to finish off The Tory by T.J. London on Saturday which was the silver lining of a very bad run for me. The book ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, which isn’t my favorite, but it’s made me want to continue forward with the series for sure. I’ll post my review tomorrow. In more fun news with this book, I’m part of the media blitz and I’ll have a second post for that up today by 11am EST so please check back for more on The Tory!
I flew through The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. This was the book I needed to get me out of my reading slump and I’m really glad I finally read it. This is the third Eugenides book I’ve read and he’s 2/3 for me now. I hope I’ll find some more to read soon. My review will be up next week.

Reading next: I’m on a small vacation at my parent’s Lake House right now and I brought along The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer if I get into a reading slump and need something fast-paced to keep me going. I’m hoping I need to pick it up before I return home.


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletter 

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

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Aside

WWW Wednesday, 2-September-2020

2 Sep

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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Currently reading: I was a bit better about reading Running with a Police Escort by Jill Grunenwald this week. I had a bit more time in the mornings and would sit down to read a few pages. It’s helping me stay motivated for triathlon despite this rough season. I’m remembering that I do love to just run and that races will happen again, someday.
I dedicated a lot of my listening time this week to The Tory by T.J. London. I’m enjoying the story a lot and I’m over halfway through it, though I may have to take a break to get through a book club pick (see my Next list). I’m confident I’ll finish it quickly when I return to it. I should have more car-time coming up where audiobooks will be welcome.
On hold with Joy, Inc. by Richard Sheridan until I finish other audiobooks. I’m sure I’ll return to it soon, though!
I was finally able to start The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides and I’m loving it! I forgot how much I adored Eugenides writing. I think I’ll finish this one within a week. I keep making time to read so I can keep hearing more.

Recently finished: I finally wrapped up In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner and posted my review on Monday. This book was hard to read only because it was very dark and haunting. I cried at the end upon realizing how much of it was Ratner’s memories. Knowing that these horrible things happened to her made it difficult for me to view the book as just a story. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.

I posted my review of The Narcissism of Small Differences by Michael Zadoorian on Thursday of last week. My book club met Monday to talk about it so expect a summary of that discussion next week. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading next: I’ve got another book club pick on my horizon that I need to get started on soon. This time, it’s In the Distance by Hernán Díaz. No idea what to expect and I’m excited to get started.


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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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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Challenge Update, August 2020

1 Sep

I slowed down reading this month but I’m optimistic that my slump is over and I’ll be reading more again the rest of this year. I knew a quarantine slump would happen and I’m honestly surprised it took this long. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page. I’m also starting a monthly mailing list. You can sign up at the bottom of this post.

Books finished in August:

Before the Devil Breaks You // Libba Bray (5/5)
Old Baggage // Lissa Evans (2/5)
The Narcissism of Small Differences // Michael Zadoorian (4/5)
In the Shadow of the Banyan // Vaddey Ratner (3/5)

With such a short list, I’m glad I’m also caught up on reviews.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

10/12
Nothing new this month. With only two to go, I’m still feeling comfortable with this one. I think I can manage to find some good books to fill in the missing time periods. Now I just have to carve out the time to do it.

Goodreads Challenge

44/55
Eight ahead is nothing to sneeze at! I’m happy with this and I think the cushion I gave myself earlier this year will carry me through to the end of the year. Not a lot that I’m nervous about at this point.

Cover image via Amazon

Book of the Month

I’m enamored with this series and it was easy to pick Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray for this month. I don’t give a full 5 Stars often and this book deserved it. I’m excited to keep moving on with the series though I know I’ll be sad when it ends.

Added to my TBR

I’m down one, to 44 this month. I consider it an overall win to be down even a little bit. If I dip below 40, I’ll be shocked.

  • The King of Crows by Libba Bray. Obviously, I have to finish this series. It’s so fun and I’m sure this last book will be a wild ride. I have my fingers crossed for a satisfying end.
  • In the Distance by Hernán Díaz. This is a book club pick and I’ll probably grab it and start very soon. I know nothing about it, which is how I like to go into books. Fingers crossed it’s one I enjoy.

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!

Sign Up for Monthly Newsletters

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

Book Review: In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddy Ratner (3/5)

31 Aug

I picked this book up at a library used book sale years ago. I’m surprised I finally got to it, if I’m being honest. But there’s the silver lining to quarantine.

Cover image via Amazon

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Summary from Amazon:

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

This was not a book I was able to dive into and finish quickly. The subject matter was so dark that I had trouble reading even a chapter at night before I slept, which is my primary reading time. I also struggled with the book initially because it was written from the point of view of a young child and books in this style often rub me the wrong way. I can’t completely explain why but it has been consistent for a few years. It was hard for me to start immersing myself in the book once I got past Raami’s style because the death of the book was so pointless. I wanted to have some closure to it, but that wouldn’t have been real. What happened to the people of Cambodia as so horrible that it would have been wrong to have a hopeful or happy ending.

Ratner admits in the author’s note that Raami’s story is more or less her own. I think her descriptions of the people she knew along the way are so distinct because she’s drawing from memory. Her mother, father, uncle, and grandmother were the most distinct to me and I thought they were wonderful.

Raami herself was my favorite character. We see her change quickly from an innocent young girl to a girl who’s learned the reality of life far too quickly and who is trying to make sense of senseless violence. She sees people killed, betrayed, and broken in a way no child should. Her Polio shields her from some things, but not enough for her to remain unchanged.

It was hard to relate to these characters. I’ve never lived through anything as terrible as the Khmer Rouge regime and I hope I never do. This is part of what was so hard for me about reading this book. I wanted to connect with these characters but the atrocities they lived through were too hard to imagine.

Vaddey Ratner
Image via the author’s website

The time Raami and her family spent living in the Buddhist temple was my favorite in retrospect. They knew something worse was coming, but they were able to be together as a family and love each other. There was a sense of foreboding and this was when Raami started to realize that their situation wasn’t temporary and it wasn’t going to go back to normal. Her voice started being less childlike and more mature which helped me enjoy the story more.

A lot of the book was hard to read because it was so dark. I didn’t dislike it because it was bad or inconsistent, I just couldn’t read it because of the content. The time spent building the riverbank was horrible. It was like reading a Holocaust memoir to hear about the conditions the people lived in and what they were forced to endure. Every page, I expected another tragedy and became less surprised when they came.

This is a book about survival. By merit of it being about a child, you assume that Raami will survive. But what she will endure and if anyone will make it through with her are the key questions. The lengths her mother goes to are extreme but necessary in their world. It made me think about what it means to be a mother and love someone the way Aana loved Raami.

Writer’s Takeaway: The one thing I didn’t like about the book was the childish point of view at the beginning. It kept me distant from Raami and her concerns for longer than the author intended and made the book one I struggled to sit down with initially. I can’t blame Ratner for my inability to read such about such horrible conditions. If they’re true and that’s what happened, I’m glad she wrote it the way she did.

Overall, an important book but not one I’m going to rush to recommend. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

 

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

Related Posts: 
In the Shadow of the Banyan – Novel | Jack Rice 
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratnery: | Z Wonderland 
Book Review:”in the Shadow of the Banyan” Vaddey Ratner | Writing and Travel 

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