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Book Review: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton (4/5)

18 Mar

I’ve had this book on my TBR for ages. A family friend heard me talking about my old writing group and said I should read this book since it reminded her of the group I was talking about. I had it on my TBR and ended up buying a copy at a book store in Chicago in 2015. I’m embarrassed to say I waited so long to finally read it. Rightfully, I started it in Chicago.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

Summary from Goodreads:

When five young mothers—Frankie, Linda, Kath, Ally, and Brett—first meet in a neighborhood park in the late 1960s, their conversations center on marriage, raising children, and a shared love of books. Then one evening, as they gather to watch the Miss America Pageant, Linda admits that she aspires to write a novel herself, and the Wednesday Sisters Writing Society is born. The five women slowly, and often reluctantly, start filling journals, sliding pages into typewriters, and sharing their work. In the process, they explore the changing world around them: the Vietnam War, the race to the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they believe about themselves. At the same time, the friends carry one another through more personal changes—ones brought about by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success. With one another’s support and encouragement, the Wednesday Sisters begin to embrace who they are and what they hope to become, welcoming readers to experience, along with them, the power of dreaming big.

This was a slow novel but I couldn’t put it down. All of the women were wonderfully unique and universal. I cared deeply about each of them and the things in their lives that made them different and loveable. Frankie was a good narrator because she was honestly the blandest of the women. Her story was interesting, but it was more about her husband and outside the focus of the book. My image of Kath, Brett, Linda, and Ally changed dramatically throughout the book and I loved that. I, like Frankie, had ideas about them at the beginning but loved them for different reasons later. Clayton did an amazing job of making me love these women.

Each woman was well-developed. Reading the interview with Clayton in the back, she talks about making each unique and it stands out as one of the novel’s strongest points. I identified with Linda and her athletic ambitions. I’ve read a lot about the women’s running movement that she is so interested in so it was fun to see a character who latched on to that.

Kath was my favorite character. In the beginning, I felt she was passive and a little naive. But the way she dealt with Lee’s infidelity was amazing. Her strength in confronting him and the strong face she showed her children was amazing. I respected her so much for the job she was able to take and how she found success and was able to help Brett. She really became the best version of herself without Lee and it was so great to see.

Linda’s athleticism was relatable to me. I didn’t expect that from a book set in this time period. I also related to Ally a bit, but not personally. I have a really close friend whose husband is non-white while she is. She’s mentioned to me the way people look at them and reading about Ally and Jim made me think of her. I can’t imagine how much worse it would have been in this time period but it made me consider how we really haven’t come that far.

Meg Waite Clayton Image via Wikipedia

It sounds weird, but I loved when they got in a fight. It was so true to life, how friends say something stupid and upset each other but can be too proud to say they’re sorry and wait until you’re all sick of not being friends and apologize and then everything is back to the way it was. It was reassuring to see characters in a book put their feet in their mouths as well.

I wasn’t a fan of how quickly the book wrapped up. I wanted more, and that’s really a testament to how good this book was. Everything was wrapped up, but just a bit faster than I would have liked. I see there’s a sequel, but it switches to their children and it just wouldn’t be the same.

Female friendships can be very powerful and are often featured in books. I liked that this book covered the rest of the women’s lives with their families and how they could support each other through those troubles. It looked at each person as an individual supported by the team rather than as only a unit.

Writer’s Takeaway: In the back of the book, Clayton talked about her process and how she was told Ally and Brett were too similar and how she was able to separate them better by giving Ally’s mother-in-law a voice and an opinion about her. It helped Ally stand out by seeing her through someone else’s eyes. That’s a great trick when dealing with a lot of different characters.

This book was warm and fun and introduced me to five wonderful women. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1960-1979 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:
Guest Post: The Wednesday Sisters Book Group by Meg Waite Clayton | Books on the Brain
Review: The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton | I’m Booking It

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Book Review: Books for Living by Will Schwalbe (3/5)

14 Mar

A few years ago, my book club introduced me to WIll Schwalbe and his love for books. I was excited to see that Schwalbe was going to be at the Midwest Literary Walk in 2018 and I had a chance to hear him talk about books and how they can change lives. I got a copy of his newest book, Books for Living, signed. I told him honestly that I was a little afraid to read his book because it would make my TBR so long. He responded, “That makes me very happy.”

Cover image via Goodreads

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Other books by Schwalbe reviewed on this blog:

The End of Your Life Book Club (and Book Club Reflection)

Summary from Goodreads:

“I’ve always believed that everything you need to know you can find in a book,” writes Will Schwalbe in his introduction to this thought-provoking, heartfelt, and inspiring new book about books.

In each chapter he makes clear the ways in which a particular book has helped to shape how he leads his own life and the ways in which it might help to shape ours. He talks about what brought him to each book – or vice versa; the people in his life he associates each book with; how each has led him to other books; how each is part of his understanding of himself in the world. And he relates each book to a question of our daily lives, for example: Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener speaks to quitting; 1984 to disconnecting from our electronics; James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room to the power of finding ourselves and connecting with one another; Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea to taking time to recharge; Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird to being sensitive to the surrounding world; The Little Prince to making friends; Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train to trusting.

Here, too, are books by Dickens, Daphne du Maurier, Haruki Murakami, Edna Lewis, E. B. White, and Hanya Yanagihara, among many others. A treasure of a book for everyone who loves books, loves reading, and loves to hear the answer to the question: “What are you reading?”

This book reads like a list of book recommendations and Schwalbe does include an appendix of all books mentioned in the book. It’s an amazing ode to books that we love and that have changed us. I didn’t look at the list of books in advance and I got really excited when a book I’d read was mentioned. Of the 26 Schwalbe talked about, I’d read five and I’m in the process of reading another. There were countless references to other books I’ve read and loved and ones I’ve never heard of. And, surprisingly, I only added one book to my TBR. I know, I’m shocked.

My copy.

Schwalbe is very open and honest about himself and how these books have changed him. He talks about his life when he encountered the book and how it changed his view of the world and the trajectory of his life. He doesn’t sugar coat parts of his life and his faults. I felt like I knew him a bit after his first book, even more after hearing him speak, and now well enough to have a conversation because of this one. I wish he’d read the book, but nothing is perfect.

When I read the sections on books I’d read, I could relate to how they’d affected me and how they’d affected Schwalbe. Reading Lolita in Tehran y Azar Nafisi was a very emotional book and Schwalbe talks about the emotional impact it made on him. I remember I bought the book as part of a bartering agreement at a garage sale. I really wanted an end table and I’d pay the slightly higher price they wanted if they threw in a book. I read the book a few months later and I wasn’t ready for the emotional roller coaster that would come with it. Schwalbe is relatable in his reaction to books and how emotional he becomes when experiencing them. I’ve always been moved by books and it was wonderful to find out I’m not alone.

The one book Schwalbe encouraged me to add to my TBR was Lateral Thinking by Edward De Bono. I was intrigued by the stories Schwalbe imparted about this book and how it helped him see the world differently. Sometimes, I’d like to come up with the magical option ‘e’ and find another solution where I didn’t think one existed before. Who knows, maybe it will help me in fiction writing.

Will Schwalbe at the Midwest Literary Walk on 10-March-18

I felt there were a few more recent selections than I would have liked. Of course, the book you just read has the largest impact on you for a time, but it’s not always lasting. I was a bit disappointed by this and tuned out a bit when he spoke about these titles. I’m sure this book would have some different selections if Schwalbe wrote it ten years from now. I guess I was looking for a bit more lasting impact.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Jeff Harding. I got over my disappointment that Schwalbe didn’t narrate very quickly because Harding was a great narrator. There were no characters to portray in this book, but Harding kept things interesting and kept me entertained throughout the book.

Books about books are for readers. This isn’t a book for someone who casually picks up four books per year. This one was for someone who can’t seem to live without a book in their hands and shelves full of stories.  People who love books are changed by them. Schwalbe isn’t’ unusual in this respect and that’s part of what made his story strong. I’m just like him and I could write a list of 26 books that impacted me. It would be completely different and if we had any overlapping books, they would be for completely different reasons. And that’s totally fine. We can all love books and disagree on which ones or why. That’s part of being a reader.

Writer’s Takeaway: Readers talk about books. If someone is a reader, it’s unlikely that they’ll go through their day without mentioning something they are reading or have read. Schwalbe is a character in his own book. Characters that read need to talk about it. This applies to fiction, too.

Overall enjoyable but lacking great depth because of its format. 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:
Will Schwalbe Finds Books for Living: What Are You Reading? | Narrative Species
BOOKS FOR LIVING by Will Schwalbe: A Review (Subtitled “Some Thoughts on Reading, Reflecting, and Embracing Life”) | powerfulwomanreaders
I Feel the Need, the Need to Read | Borden’s Blog

WWW Wednesday, 13-March-2019

13 Mar

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I’m getting so close to finishing Origin by Dan Brown! The story picked up and I’ve been reading it really fast to keep going. I’m excited to know this will likely be on my ‘finished’ list next week.
I started Thunderstruck by Erik Larson and made a decent dent in it with some long bike rides this week. I’m honestly thinking this could be finished in a week because of the amount of riding I’m doing. This progress will have to slow down when the weather gets better and I can ride outside.
I grabbed a new audiobook for my car due to some amazing progress reading (see below). I decided to pick up Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I was reminded that I wanted to explore this book by reading Will Schwalbe. When I heard him speak, he mentioned being part of a book club for adults that read children’s and YA books and how much his group enjoyed this one. So far, I have to agree!
I picked up a library copy of Demetri Martin’s This Is a Book. I’m a big fan of Martin’s comedy and I saw him live (gosh, was that ten years ago?) so I’m excited to see what he can do with a book of essays.

Recently finished: A big week for finishing books! First was Books for Living by Will Schwalbe which I finished because of a surprise trip to Ann Arbor (45 minutes for me) to see some friends. The drive gave me time to finish this one and get excited about my book on hold. Look for a review tomorrow!
I also wrapped up The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton which was a surprise and a huge hit for me. I loved the characters and their passion for writing reminded me of some close friends I used to write with. It was a feel-good piece for me, though there wasn’t a lot of feeling good for the characters. Review coming next week.
I was so eager to finish Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys but now I miss it! This was a wonderfully fun book and I’m so glad I added it to my TBR and was introduced to a new and amazing author. I’m looking forward to reading more by Sepetys in the future.

And reviews! The first one I posted was last Thursday where I reviewed Shannon A. Thompson’s Minutes Before Sunset. I don’t think I was the ideal reader for this one, but I read it quickly and enjoyed one of the characters a lot. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg. I read this book at just the right time in my life and it really resonated with me and gave me something to enjoy while riding. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I feel it’s too soon to think of anything except an ebook. My next one will be Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. This is one of the last Book Calendar recommendations I have left and I’m getting excited about finishing the long list that amazing (and awful?) calendar created.


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: You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg (4/5)

11 Mar

I found this book at a library used book sale and immediately knew I needed to read it. This was before I signed up for my 70.3 race but that race was always in the back of my head. I was ecstatic to find it on audio and it was an amazing motivator for the long bike rides I’ve been putting myself through. I think that if there’s a perfect time to read a book, I nailed it with this one.

Cover image via Goodreads

You Are An Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dreams of Finishing the World’s Toughest Triathlon by Jacques Steinberg

Summary from Goodreads:

As he did so masterfully in his New York Times bestseller, The Gatekeepers, Jacques Steinberg creates a compelling portrait of people obsessed with reaching a life-defining goal. In this instance, the target is an Ironman triathlon-a 2.4-mile open-water swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, then finally a 26-mile marathon run, all of which must be completed in no more than seventeen hours.

Steinberg focuses not on the professionals who live off the prize money and sponsorships but on a handful of triathletes who regard the sport as a hobby. Vividly capturing the grueling preparation, the suspense of completing each event of the triathlon, and the spectacular feats of human endurance, Steinberg plumbs the physical and emotional toll as well as the psychological payoff on the participants of the Ford Ironman Arizona 2009. His You Are an Ironman is both a riveting sports narrative and a fascinating, behind-the scenes study of what makes these athletes keep going.

I think I’m the ideal audience for this book. I am a weekend warrior, though for half the distance these athletes trained for. Triathlon has been part of my life since 2014 and I love it. Some things in this book were over-explained for someone with my background, but a lot of it was relatable and welcome. I could commiserate with being tired from work and training. I could understand not seeing friends and family who were not part of your triathlon community. I shared fears of illness, crashes, and injuries. I rejoiced with the athletes when they had breakthroughs and cried with them over setbacks and cheered with them as they succeeded. Steinberg picked a great group of athletes to follow for this race and I loved cheering for all of them.

I’m glad Steinberg chose athletes from such different backgrounds for this book. It kept everything interesting and made it so I had someone to relate to in all aspects. I struggle with the run so Laura wasn’t relatable in that sense but Bryan was. These people reminded me of those in my tri club and sometimes of myself. I got a great sense of them from Steinberg’s writing. Using their own training logs and blogs was a great tool to give them their own voices as well.

Tracey was my favorite athlete and I’m totally going to spoil how the race went for her so skip this paragraph if you don’t want that. I’m actually glad Steinberg profiled someone who didn’t make it to race day. Injury is a very real part of training for any athletic event and Tracey injuring herself was very real to me. It was how she dealt with that injury that made her my favorite. She didn’t let it stop her! Not one bit. I was glad that the book ended with her and knowing that she finished the race in 2010. I would have been shocked if she hadn’t. Her attitude along the way, that all of this was fun and a good reason to see her friends, made me happy. That’s how I’ve tried to view my training, too. It makes it fun instead of a chore and I was glad to see someone had successfully done that.

Jacques Steinberg Image via The New York Times

I was looking forward to race day from the start. I like how Steinberg told the story of that day and how he paced it, giving each athlete their due time. No matter how much you prepare, there’s nothing like a race day to make you doubt everything you’ve done to get there. The jitters were spot on, the doubts and performance and perseverance to just KEEP GOING when everything was rough. It was well done.

There wasn’t a part I particularly disliked. I sometimes worried that these people weren’t ready enough for their race but I’m assuming there were some workouts and dietary details taken out. I’m training 10 hours a week for a 70.3 and it seemed like these people were at about the same load for double the distance. I’m glad no more of them were injured!

The audiobook was narrated by Kirby Heyborne. I listened to him previously narrate the Miss Peregrine series and it took a few hours for me to stop associating this book with those because of his voice. I liked Heyborne better for this book. He didn’t have characters to voice or accents to do, just more of his normal voice. He sounds a little menacing but in this case, with such a daunting day hanging over the participant’s heads, it was very appropriate.

Setting a big goal can be scary. I can’t think of a goal bigger than Ironman. For many, it’s a lifetime achievement that they will remember for the rest of their lives. I think this book helps explain why being deemed an Ironman is such an accomplishment. It’s not about winning the race, it’s about finish it. No matter how long you’re on the course, finishing it is what’s important.

Writer’s Takeaway: Using the training blogs of the athletes was a great way to bring their voices to the book while having the author’s voice bind the book together. I’m thinking of how that could be used in fiction as well and it’s mostly applicable to dialogue. Not all characters should talk in the style the book is narrated. Making a character’s manner of speaking different helps the character stand out and feel original.

This book was highly enjoyable and I’m so glad I read it when I did. 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:
Friday Reads – You Are An Ironman | Reading, Running, Cycling
Audiobook Review- You Are An Ironman- Jacques Steinberg | Dee’s Book Blog

Book Review: Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson (3/5)

7 Mar

I’ve been holding on to this book for far too long. I won it in a giveaway on the author’s blog but haven’t found time to read it for years. My recent push to read my TBR has been working and I finally grabbed it and gave it a go.

Cover image via Goodreads

Minutes Before Sunset (The Timely Death Trilogy #1) by Shannon A. Thompson

Summary from Goodreads:

Eric Welborn isn’t completely human, but he isn’t the only shade in the small Midwest town of Hayworth. With one year left before his eighteenth birthday, Eric is destined to win a long-raging war for his kind. But then she happens. In the middle of the night, Eric meets a nameless shade, and she’s powerful—too powerful—and his beliefs are altered. The Dark has lied to him, and he’s determined to figure out exactly what lies were told, even if the secrets protect his survival.

Jessica Taylor moves to Hayworth, and her only goal is to find more information on her deceased biological family. Her adoptive parents agree to help on one condition: perfect grades. And Jessica is distraught when she’s assigned as Eric’s class partner. He won’t help, let alone talk to her, but she’s determined to change him—even if it means revealing everything he’s strived to hide.

Disclaimer: My copy is one of the original 2013 publications. I’m not sure what changes were made between the 2013 publication and the re-release in 2015. Some of the content of my review may not be relevant to the most recent release.

I feel like I need to preface this review by saying I never read Twilight. I was never interested in the paranormal romance field. The closest I ever got was The Diviners and I read that because of the 1920s setting (though I enjoyed it a lot!). This isn’t a genre I have a lot of interest in and I’m not the target audience by far. I found the world confusing. I was often confused by the characters with two names (they have a human and a shade name) and it took me a while to know who was who and when. I was confused about how their shade powers worked and who had what abilities and what happened when things went wrong. It wasn’t clear to me why the light were so much more powerful or if that was just my perspective. Overall, I think there could have been a lot more backstory to make this story easier to digest.

Some of the characters were more believable than others. Jessica seemed to be very simple with low motivation and her emotions were predictable. Eric, on the other hand, was much more complex and seemed to be grappling with a lot of emotions and motivations simultaneously. I didn’t see what attracted them to each other because their relationship was filled with secrets yet they claimed to trust each other. I think a few more scenes could have made this stronger and more believable.

I wanted to know more about Pierce. His transformation between shade and human was very stark and I felt like it would have affected his personality in one or both forms. It would have been cool to explore that more and get to know him better.

I went to college in a town I didn’t know without knowing anyone so I could understand Jessica’s instant attraction to the first people who talked to her. I remained friends with those people for four years. I didn’t understand what Robb and Crystal really wanted out of their friendship, but I felt like there was something more behind why they roped Jessica into their group. Maybe that’s to be revealed in later installments in the series.

Shannon A. Thompson
Image via Amazon

I thought the descriptions of Prom were very true to my memories. It was always made into such a bit deal and it was such a superficial moment that was never what you wanted it to be. Jessica’s experience seemed pretty typical of what I recall. Maybe a little more ‘Prince Charming’ than I had, though.

The final battle seemed to end really quickly, to the point where I re-read a few pages because I thought I missed something. I understand that it was a small battle as the plot progresses toward its finale in book three, but the abruptness of its end was unsatisfying and I was confused about what had happened.

There wasn’t a clear theme to me in this book. Love was clearly something important to Jessica and Eric but it was unclear to me if this love was genuine or if it was the result of a prophecy that involved the two of them. Were they in love because the prophecy said they would be? With how quickly it developed, I really questioned how it would survive the action that’s sure to come in the next two books. I wish it had been parallelled in another couple, parents or allies in the fight because the theme wasn’t well emphasized.

Writer’s Takeaway: I thought a lot about my book while I was reading this one. I also have a teenage romance that builds. It helped me see where I thought there were strengths or weaknesses in this book and think about how I could use that to improve my own book. One of the big criticisms I had was that the romance between my two characters is implied for too long before it’s brought to the forefront of the book. Reading this, I thought where the romance could have been built more and it helped me see how I could build my own better.

This book didn’t really entice me to give paranormal romance a try. I’ll stick with what I’ve enjoyed before. 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:
Cover Reveal: Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson | Note to Selph
Review: Minutes Before Sunset (The Timely Death Trilogy #1) | Real Rad Reads
Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson | The Modest Verge
Book Review: Minutes Before Sunset (The Timely Death Trilogy #1) by Shannon A Thompson | Press Pause Fast Forward

WWW Wednesday, 6-March-2019

6 Mar

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

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I haven’t had as much time to read Origin by Dan Brown as I would like. Work has been crazy and lunches have been short to help squeeze in more training time before and after work. I feel like I’m coming close to a climax, but I have a lot to go still, too.
I’m enjoying Books for Living by Will Schwalbe and am moving through it faster than I thought I would. I’ll probably finish it this weekend so I’ll have a review soon! So far it’s only added one book to my TBR so I’ll consider that a win.
I’ve been flying through The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton and hope to finish it this week, too. It was recommended to me when I told a family friend about my old writing group. It’s giving me flashbacks to that group and I really miss my Novel Girls!
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys has been a really fun eaudiobook while I’m training. It’s a very escapist plot and when I’m suffering on the bike, it’s very needed! I still have a while to go on this one, but I’m being optimistic I can finish it this week, too! Wouldn’t that be amazing if I finished three?!

Recently finished: No surprise to me that after finishing three last week, I don’t have anything on here this week. Though next week it should be stacked!

Reading Next: My hold on Thunderstruck by Erik Larson came in so I’ll start it as soon as I finish Sepetys. I’m excited to hear another Larson story because he always keeps me so entertained!


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, January 2019

4 Mar

I’m very pleased with how this year is progressing. I’m voracious with audiobooks because of my training time and I’ve had decent progress with print books as well. It may be early to say this, but it looks like 2019 will be a great reading year! You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in February:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson // John Green and David Levithan (4/5)
Kiss Carlo // Adriana Trigiani (3/5)
Hunger // Roxane Gay (4/5)
The Valley of Amazement // Amy Tan (3/5)
Minutes Before Sunset // Shannon A. Thompson (3/5)
You Are An Ironman // Jacques Steinberg (4/5)

A very good month! And a lot of them are late finishes. I owe you a few reviews in the next few weeks be rest easy, they are coming!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

4/12
Still going well! That’s another two this month with Kiss Carlo and The Valley of Amazement knocking down the list. I’m not sure when I’ll get to another one to take it down further, but it’s a bit early to start planning so I’ll rest easy for now and just keep reading what I want before I pick and choose.

Goodreads Challenge

9/52
I’m just ahead! Just a little. I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. I guess the month wasn’t quite as successful as I thought. Whatever, I still had fun with the books I chose!

Book of the Month

Partially because it was a fun book and partially because it was a quick Spanish read, I have to pick Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan as my book of the month. I’m thinking of reading most of my YA in Spanish now after such a good experience with this.

Added to my TBR

Still knocking down Mt. TBR! I only added one this month!

  • Stories of Elders by Veronica Kirin. I went to an event where Kirin spoke (she’s a friend’s sister) and, of course, bought the book. You can read more about it here.

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. I love connecting with some of you over non-book related things. I posted about my goals last week but in case you missed it, here’s a summary and status.

  • Finish 70.3 Half Ironman: Four weeks into it! So far, so good. I hope I can keep it up. I’m tired a lot and having to squeeze everything in around longer and longer amounts of time on the bike and treadmill. I hope this gets easier when it warms up.
  • Attend six weddings: Well, the one I was on the fence about finally pushed me to commit and I did. I booked the hotel room and requested the time off. On track so far!
  • Finish a weather blanket: I’ve got all the yarn now, but haven’t started knitting yet. I haven’t spent a lot of time on the couch, my normal knitting time so it might be a bit of a delay this time around.
  • Write: Great so far! My husband leaves the apartment when I put ‘Write’ on the calendar. One week I counted my writers’ group time, but I’ve gotten a few solid hour blocks of editing done and I’m feeling great about it.
  • See my friends more: Going reasonably well here. I’m seeing them more, but not as much as I’d like. I blame the training. I wish more of them were endurance cyclist so we could ride together!

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, 27-February-2019

27 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. 


Currently reading: Still moving steadily through Origin by Dan Brown. I haven’t had a lot of lunch reading time to move through it, but I’m finding as much time as I can. It’s nice to have this to turn to when a little time presents itself.
I began listening to  Books for Living by Will Schwalbe in my car. Since I’ve heard him speak, I keep hoping he’ll suddenly start narrating the book, but no luck with that so far. I’m glad this one is short after the last Amy Tan odyssey I was on.
I grabbed the next book off my TBR shelf and started The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. It was serendipitous because I grabbed the next book off my shelf to take on a train trip to Chicago and when I looked at what it was, realized I bought it in Chicago the last time I was there in 2015. Too funny!
I started a new eaudiobook. With all the riding I’m doing, they’re going fast. I found a copy of Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, which has been on my TBR for ages. I guess with one of her books being made into a movie, more copies of her past books are available. Fine by me!

Recently finished: I finished The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan late Wednesday last week. It was a bit of a relief to be done with it, I wasn’t enjoying the middle of the book even after I enjoyed the beginning. The end was good, but I wish it had been more consistent throughout. I posted my review yesterday.
I finished Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson over the weekend while traveling back and forth to Chicago for a conference. I think I may take a break from YA for a bit, I feel a bit ‘teenaged out’ after a few YAs in a row. I also have to decide if I’ll finish the series, but I’m honestly thinking of not doing so. My review will be up next week.
I was able to finish You Are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg with all of the bike time I had. This book was perfect for me to read right now and I’m so glad I was able to enjoy it while training for my 70.3. It was the perfect thing to keep me motivated during the first few hard weeks while my body was adjusting.

Reading Next: Since I’ve been flying through audiobooks on my phone, I have another one on hold: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. I love Larson’s writing and it will be fun to have one of his histories to enchant me while I am riding for hours on end.


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: The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan (3/5)

26 Feb

I picked up a copy of this book when it was clearanced at the local big box store. At the time, I hadn’t read anything by Tan. This past summer, I read her for the first time and I was excited to read this one. I guess I thought it would be similar to her other book. Boy, was I wrong.

Cover Image via Goodreads

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan

Other books by Tan reviewed on this blog:

The Joy Luck Club (and movie review)

Summary from Goodreads:

A sweeping, evocative epic of two women’s intertwined fates and their search for identity, that moves from the lavish parlors of Shanghai courtesans to the fog-shrouded mountains of a remote Chinese village.

Spanning more than forty years and two continents, The Valley of Amazement resurrects pivotal episodes in history: from the collapse of China’s last imperial dynasty, to the rise of the Republic, the explosive growth of lucrative foreign trade and anti-foreign sentiment, to the inner workings of courtesan houses and the lives of the foreign “Shanghailanders” living in the International Settlement, both erased by World War II.

Of course, as always, I didn’t read the book summary. And reading it now, even if I had, I don’t think I would have realized it focused so much on courtesans as it did. Violet grew up living in one, worked in one, and almost owned one at a point. This didn’t bother me too much at first, but it got to be a bit much and it felt grating and tiresome after a while. I felt there were a lot of side plots unnecessary parts of the book. Violet’s marriage to Perpetual is a major one and I grew frustrated during that part of the book. The story was very long and in the end, I felt it could have been shortened.

For the most part, I felt the characters were credible. However, there were times I found them a bit hard to stomach. When Lucretia and Violet lost their children, they seemed very resigned to this fact. I couldn’t buy that. I couldn’t believe that a mother would have her child taken from her and lay in bed for three days and then be OK. It seemed a stretch and not one I was inclined to forgive twice. Other than that, I liked the characters and how they were developed.

Magic Gourd was a great character. I liked her sarcasm and wit and her fragile image of herself and how Violet had to speak to her to keep things going between the two of them. I marveled at her dedication to Violet and the way she was quickly made into a family member wherever Violet went. I was glad she got to tell her story a bit, too, and share how she came to be a courtesan.

These characters weren’t ones I related to well. Their living situation was very different from anything I’ve experienced and the things that motivated them weren’t things I’ve ever experienced or been motivated by. I think this is part of why this book felt like a chore for the majority of the middle. I lost interest in the character’s lives.

Amy Tan
Image via Harper Collins

The flashback to Lucretia’s childhood through the end of the book interested me most. Finding out how much the women’s’ lives parallelled each other was interesting and I liked how we found out about Flora’s life and how things had turned out for her. She was such a major character who we also knew so little about. It was a really interesting way to see a character and I liked her a lot.

I disliked the long advice that Magic Gourd gave Violet about being a courtesan. I feel bad saying this because I think Amy Tan narrated this part and I wonder why she felt that part was what she wanted to narrate. I didn’t feel it was necessary information beyond Magic Gourd’s background and story. It felt like filler, background information that had been found and that was added into the story because it was too painful to cut.

The audiobook had three narrators: Nancy Wu, Joyce Bean, and Amy Tan. I’m not sure between Wu and Bean who narrated Violet and who did Lucretia but both did a great job. I liked how they read with sarcasm and emotion. These were very emotional stories and their emphasis and emotion were well deserved. As I mentioned, Tan read Magic Gourd’s chapter and it was a segment I didn’t particularly like. I’m fairly certain it was her because the part wasn’t as well performed as the professionals, which didn’t surprise me. This isn’t to say it was poorly done, just that she’s not a professional. It’s always nice to hear an author read their own words.

The mother-daughter relationships in this book took center stage. Lucretia and Violet took many years to repair their relationship but were able to repair the damage between them eventually and find a way to connect and be friends. One hopes that Violet and Flora are able to do the same thing given time. Magic Gourd was a strong mother figure for Violet and it was good to see that she was loved and respected throughout the novel. Even with Lucretia off in America, there was someone looking out for Violet and helping her the way a mother would.

Writer’s Takeaway: When I’m writing, I try to be conscious of when I’m writing and when I’m rambling. I try to think about how what I’m writing will affect the story and if it’s important. It seemed to me that Tan didn’t always do this, especially with Perpetual. I wonder if there was a major change to the plot, to which Perpetual was originally important. The amount of sex and time spent in the courtesan houses seemed a bit unnecessary as well. It took away from the mother/daughter stories.

Overall, well written but a bit of a drag in places. Three out of Five Stars

This book fulfills the 1900-1919 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:
The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan | FictionFan’s Book Reviews
The Valley of Amazement- Amy Tan | The Home Book Club
The Valley of Amazement and Shifting Identities | American Literature in the World
Book Review: The Valley of Amazement | For the Someday Book
The Valley of Amazement | whatsannereading

WWW Wednesday, 20-February-2019

20 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. 


Currently reading: I’m getting really close to finishing The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan. I think it will be off this list next week and I’m so excited! This one feels like it’s been dragging a bit and I’m excited to start something new.
I keep making steady progress on Origin by Dan Brown. Right now, they’re in Barcelona and it’s bringing up memories of my trip there this summer and it’s helping draw me in more!
I keep moving forward with Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson but I’m feeling more and more that this isn’t a book for me. I might be YA-ed out after reading Green and Levithan. Maybe I should have taken a break before starting this one.
I began listening to You Are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg and it’s been wonderful while running and biking. I think I’ll get through it pretty fast. The narrator isn’t my favorite (I’ve listened to him before) but the story is great.

Recently finished: I was able to finish Hunger by Roxane Gay and post my review on Monday. I liked the book a lot and I think it will make for a great discussion at my club’s next meeting. It made me a little uncomfortable and I think that was the intention. It’s hard to have your privilege called out and that’s what Gay did. It was eye-opening and I hope I can retain the lessons she taught. I was also excited to learn that she’d studied at Michigan Technological University in my home state. I talk more about this school in my review but if you’re interested and have five minutes, Google it. It’s very different (because of its location) than most schools I know about.

Reading Next: I’m ready for another audiobook in my car (finally) and have decided that it’s going to be Books for Living by Will Schwalbe. I read Schwalbe’s first book, The End of Your Life Book Club, for my book club (ha) and I got to meet him at the Midwest Literary Walk last year where I bought this book. I know it’s going to add to my TBR. I’m bracing myself.


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!