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WWW Wednesday, 13-November-2019

13 Nov

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 think Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine will be done by next week. I really enjoyed the first half of the novel but it’s slowed down for me a lot and I’m dragging a bit through the last 100 pages. I thought it would be done sooner but oh well.
I made a great surge with My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart. I had a slow conference with a lot of downtime to read a silly cookbook and this was perfect because the frequent interruptions weren’t a problem. I’m optimistic about getting this one finished this month.
With just one audiobook, I’m moving through The Mortifications by Derek Palacio pretty quickly. The audiobook is well done. I’m noticing a lot of subtle magical realism elements that are often found in Hispanic literature. It’s not a favorite of mine, but I’m still enjoying it and learning a lot about Cuban culture from it, too.

Recently finished: I loved Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie and I’m so glad there are more books in this series. I recommend this book series a lot because I think it deserves more attention than it’s gotten. It’s funny and well-plotted. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

I’ve only posted once since last week and thankfully it was a book review (as I’m growing behind on those). I posted my review of When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan on Thursday. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’m still reeling from all the free time I have to read what I want! I need to be ready with an audiobook and a physical book soon. For my audiobook, I think I’m going to listen to The Maximum Security Book Club by Mikita Brottman. I saw this one at Powell’s and talked myself out of buying it but still wanted to enjoy it eventually. It seems like now is a great time.
I’m also going to get ready with a physical book from the library. The next on my list is Not Without my Daughter by Betty Mahmoody. I’ve heard this is a crazy-true story and I look forward to enjoying it!


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: When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullen (3/5)

7 Nov

McMullen taught creative writing at my university and I never took a class outside my major to learn from her. I figured that reading her book now might teach me something. That makes sense, right?

Cover image via Goodreads

When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullen

Summary from Goodreads:

Life as an O’Donnell is all twelve-year-old Addy knows, and life as an O’Donnell means trouble.
Tucked away in a gray patch of woods called No-Bob, the O’Donnell clan has nothing but a bad reputation. So when Addy’s mama abandons her on the afternoon of Mr. Frank Russell’s wedding celebration, nobody is very surprised. A reluctant Mr. Frank and his new wife take Addy in, and Addy does everything she can to prove that at least one O’Donnell has promise. But one day, Addy witnesses a terrible event that brings her old world crashing into the new.
As she finds herself being pulled back into No-Bob and the grips of her O’Donnell kin, Addy is faced with the biggest decision of her life. Can she somehow find the courage to do what’s right, even if it means betraying one of her own?

I haven’t read a middle-grade book in a while and it took me a little bit to get used to the writing in this category. It’s simplified from what you’d find in YA and there’s nothing wrong with that, just something to adjust to. I heard that this was the second book in a series and I think I may have missed out on some exposition because I read it first. I was a bit confused at the beginning about No-Bob and why the O’Donnell’s were so dispised. I was also a little confused about the relationships between the kids because they seemed to be fighting in one scene and friends in the next, but that’s very true of childhood in general so I shouldn’t have been so off-put. I thought the story touched on a lot of issues at the time and did it well. Overall, I didn’t have many complaints and it was a nice book to read during lunches because it moved quickly and was easy to jump in and out of.

There wasn’t a whole lot of character development in this one. Most of the characters were very one-sided with the exception of Addy. I didn’t have a problem with this because of the age target. Addy is a good character to show development. She becomes very strong over the course of the book and would be a good role model for girls reading this. She’s exposed to a lot of different opinions and types of people and learns for herself who is admirable and who isn’t. I thought this was well done over the course of the book and it got the slow burn it deserved.

Frank was a great character. He seemed a bit naive but he was a good husband and surrogate father. He was industrious and smart and showed Addy a lot of love she’d never had from a man before. She needed a father when she was taken in and there’s not a better man who could have done it.

Addy had to recognize racism and decide how she felt about it. I think that’s relatable for a lot of children growing up. I had a somewhat diverse community that I grew up in, but I was still part of a white majority. I remember learning about different races and recognizing that in my peers. Addy had a more abrupt lesson than I did but it’s a lesson everyone has to go through when growing up.

Margaret McMullen
Image via the University of Evansville

I liked the beginning of the book best; when Addy was learning from Frank about how to be more civilized. It was very sweet and the way she was acted around her new father made her grow on me. It made her a very likable character despite being very rough around the edges.

The time she spent living in the woods didn’t work for me. It felt skipped over and unimportant to the overall plot. I think there was a lot of good material in there and the book was strong enough without it.

Addy has to face a harsh decision between protecting her father and doing what’s right. She has been told how important blood and family are, but she doesn’t see that she’s being respected in the same way she’s being asked to respect others. It’s a tough call for her to make and I like that McMullen recognizes the struggle she has to make that decision. While blood is thicker than water, it’s still a liquid and sometimes needs to be washed away.

Writer’s Takeaway: Characters have to deal with tough issues. I’m glad I read this when I did because I’m writing about a character dealing with racism in my latest project. It’s interesting to see how McMullen handled it and think about what parts of that I’d like to emulate and which I want to be different from.

Overall, a solid book, but not a style I’m a huge fan of. 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:
Spotlight On: Margaret McMullan- University of Evansville Professor, Author | Women’s Connections at Bamberger

WWW Wednesday, 6-November-2019

6 Nov

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 happy with how far I’ve come int Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine. The story is a little slow for me, but I’m still enjoying it. I like that Simon is living in Detroit during the 20s, definitely a setting for me!
I’ve slowed down a bit with My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart because I’m making work friends that I eat lunch with. It’s a balance between having people to talk to in the office and getting some reading done. I can go back to being anti-social once I have friends to talk to other times in the day.
I’m devouring Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie with my longer commute. I love this series and I’m looking forward to seeing how this one ends. I have a feeling there’s going to be a big twist! I’m counting on it actually.

Recently finished: Nothing new finished this week. I started doing NaNoWriMo on Friday so that’s taking up quite a bit of time. Reviews may be delayed as well, but WWW Wednesday will not falter! I love hosting this meme too much to let it drop.

Reading Next: I need to make a decision on this one. I think I’ll wait a little bit before pushing to finish my Historical Fiction challenge. I realized I’m done with book club meetings until January and I’ll take this time to tackle some that have been on my TBR for a while. My next audiobook will be The Mortifications by Derek Palacio. I met Palacio at the Midwest Literary Walk in 2017 so this has been here for a while.


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, October 2019

4 Nov

I’m really happy to have continued to make good progress. I didn’t know how the new job and a focus on swimming were going to go but I can’t complain about the amount of reading I’ve still been able to do. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in October:

The King’s Curse // Philippa Gregory (3/5)
A Conjuring of Light // V.E. Schwab (4/5)
We Sold Our Souls // Grady Hendrix (4/5)
When I Crossed No-Bob // Margaret McMullan (3/5)
The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy (3/5)
Beautiful Ruins // Jess Walter (4/5)

A pretty good mix here and a lot of different genres covered. I’m overall happy with it.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

10/12
I was able to tick off the 1500-1699 time period with The King’s Curse. The Tudors are almost always a good bet for a book in that time period and they never seem to disappoint. I’m working on one more time period and it’s just the final one that I’ve still got to figure out.

Goodreads Challenge

53/52
WOOO! I finished up this last month and I have to admit it feels great to have one challenge completed. I’m still not sure if I’ll keep this level for next year or up it a bit but it was a good challenge as is so I’m tempted to keep it.

Book of the Month

The honor this month goes to a very satisfying end to a series, A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. I enjoyed the ending to this series and I’m really excited to hear Schwab is returning to the world with some more books. I’m OK with meeting some new characters, but the world of magic she created is way too fun to abandon.

Added to my TBR

I’m down only one more to 66 this month. A little bit is still progress, right? I’d like to think I’ve added for good reasons.

Personal Challenge

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

  • Finish 70.3 Half Ironman: DONE!
  • Attend six weddings: DONE! The last two were back to back weekends and it was utterly exhausting but absolutely amazing. I’m ready for a ‘calm’ year in 2020 with only two.
  • Finish a weather blanket: I’m behind and working to catch up again. I’m afraid I’m going to run out of one yarn so I went out and bought a bunch more but now I might not need it after all. Sigh.
  • Write: I’m taking an extreme measure here and doing NaNo! I got nervous before I submitted my last manuscript and I’m giving myself a kick in the pants to get moving and write if I’m too nervous to submit! I need to get over it eventually, granted, but maybe this will make me brave?
  • See my friends more: This is going so well. My husband and I hosted a party on Saturday and had at least 25 people come! In our apartment, that’s a lot of people! I’ve made a big effort to see my swimming friends more, too. It’s been really fun to talk about swimming with other swim nerds so often!

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 2020, 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, 30-October-2019

30 Oct

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’ve made good progress with Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine. The character just moved to Detroit so I’m excited to see my home town represented in a book. Obviously, I wasn’t alive and living in the same area at the time but it’s still fun to see.
I’m enjoying My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart during my lunches though I don’t think I’d classify it at all as a cookbook. Her recipes are simplified versions of the things she’s made on her channel and I’m enjoying the parts about her life and how she grew her fame with the channel and her show more. I can see her humor in this part more.
I’m listening to Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie on audio and enjoying it as I knew I would. I’ve loved this series so far and I’m looking forward to seeing what else Russo gets up to in this one now that he’s back in Britannia.

Recently finished: I finished Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter and I really enjoyed it. I’m glad Walter wrapped it up as well as she did. The story was well crafted and the writing was good. I liked certain characters more than others, but there were enough that I liked that I could still enjoy each plotline.

I posted my review of We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix on Friday. It was an enjoyable fall book, though I’m still pretty sure horror isn’t a good genre for me. I still gave it Four out of Five stars.

Reading Next: I haven’t decided what I’ll read next. I need one more book for a reading challenge and I’m thinking of doing a buddy read and there are a few other considerations I have that are keeping me from making a decision. Maybe I’ll have an idea come next week.


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!

Author Ann Pathcett

28 Oct

It’s been a long time since I went to an author event so big that I didn’t get to meet the author. Tickets for this event were $35 and included a signed book and a seat. It was $80 for a chance to meet her and have books signed individually. That seemed like a bit much so I decided hearing Patchett talk was enough. I was supposed to go with a friend of mine but I had the date wrong and when we figured it out, it was too late for her to change plans. Luckily, my mom was free that night so we went together and had a grand old time.

I’m often surprised by how funny authors can be and Patchett was no exception. She had us laughing constantly and I adored her dramatic pauses and quips. She set up her presentation in three parts. The first was to talk ‘around’ (not about) her novel, The Dutch House, which this was part of the tour for. She was on a deadline for this book and ended up having to write it quickly. When she read it over for revisions, she realized she didn’t like it. She was so frustrated, she did what all authors are told never to do, she deleted all the files and copies she had of it and started over. She wrote the first thirty pages twice more and realized it still wasn’t working. Being a famous author, she has many famous author friends and was able to talk through some of her issues with amazing women like Barbara Kingsolver and Donna Tartt. She was able to meet her extended deadline and is happy with the results but recognizes it was a bit rushed to finish in time with something she’s proud of. Patchett recommended always being specific about what goes on the cover of a book. She did not want a house on her cover and reached out to a friend to paint the cover she ended up with and is very happy with the result. She also was brave enough to ask Tom Hanks to do the audiobook and was surprised and elated when he agreed.

The second thing Ptchett talked about was interviewing other writers. As the owner of a bookstore, she’s expected to interview authors when they’re on a book tour in her city. Her store has been open for eight years so she’s done this a few times. On top of that, she’s asked to do interviews with other authors who are putting out major book releases. She joked that every book published in America seems to make its way to her store or her house. She even received J.K. Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy as a manuscript so she could do an interview with her. Unlike me, she loved it. She agreed to interview Melinda Gates when her book, The Moment of Lift, came out. She wasn’t going to but heard that for their wedding anniversary, Bill and Melinda had read Patchett’s book This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage out loud to each other. She said her favorite interview was Harlan Coben. She’s not a big reader of his genre but agreed to interview him because she’d dated two guys who lived on his floor at Amhurst but hadn’t met him.

The third thing Patchett wanted to do was recommend books. Luckily, she lists all of the ones in her book tour presentation on her website and you can see the link here.

Patchett was wonderful and mom and I really enjoyed getting to hear her talk. I’m hoping to do a buddy read of The Dutch House with the friend I was supposed to see her with. I bought a signed copy as an ‘I’m sorry I’m terrible at dates’ present.

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix (4/5)

24 Oct

When my book club leader picked this, she said she’d read another book by the author and thought it might be a comedic horror. I’m not sure if it delivered on the funny, but it was not one I wanted to listen to when I was home alone or running alone. I’m not a big fan of horror but this one was still enjoyable.

Cover image via Goodreads

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

Summary from Goodreads:

In the 1990s, heavy metal band Dürt Würk was poised for breakout success — but then lead singer Terry Hunt embarked on a solo career and rocketed to stardom as Koffin, leaving his fellow bandmates to rot in rural Pennsylvania.

Two decades later, former guitarist Kris Pulaski works as the night manager of a Best Western – she’s tired, broke, and unhappy. Everything changes when she discovers a shocking secret from her heavy metal past: Turns out that Terry’s meteoric rise to success may have come at the price of Kris’s very soul.

This revelation prompts Kris to hit the road, reunite with the rest of her bandmates, and confront the man who ruined her life. It’s a journey that will take her from the Pennsylvania rust belt to a Satanic rehab center and finally to a Las Vegas music festival that’s darker than any Mordor Tolkien could imagine. A furious power ballad about never giving up, even in the face of overwhelming odds, We Sold Our Souls is an epic journey into the heart of a conspiracy-crazed, paranoid country that seems to have lost its very soul…where only a girl with a guitar can save us all.

Based on the description of this book, I was really unsure what to expect. Parts of it were very realistic and parts of it had strong fantasy elements. I thought Hendrix combined them well into a compelling story. The things I was afraid of while listening alone were fantastical and that made it easier to deal with. I’m more afraid of something that seems realistic than invented. The scariest part for me was when the general public seemed to be acting as one, a hive mind, trying to defeat Kris. Those moments were truly scary because I could see it happening.

Of course, a lot of the characterization wasn’t credible, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Kris, Terry, and Miranda were the only characters I thought I should believe in and I did. Kris’s determination came over time and her paranoia grew appropriately. Terry was a great character because he was mostly developed without appearing in person and I thought that was really well done. He was built up in our minds by those around him more than himself. He was almost a disappointment when he finally appeared on the pages. Miranda was a great foil. I liked that she’d bought into Koffin, but not as much as other characters and she seemed more real because of it.

Kris was easy to like and was my favorite character. You felt bad for her because it felt like she couldn’t catch a break. But then you realize how much things were actively working against her and you start to cheer for her. She was easy to get behind and I think made a novel that was somewhat unbelievable more believable and very engrossing.

I related to Kris at the beginning when I thought she was down on her luck. As things started to get supernatural, I stopped feeling like I could relate to her much and just enjoyed the story. Starting off in a relatable way was a good technique for Hendrix to use because it drew me in well.

Grady Hendrix
Image via Wikipedia

Kris’s escape from the rehab facility was my favorite part. It made me so uncomfortable to hear about her squeezing through tunnels and crawling through mud. I was driving in the dark when I listened to that part and I was squeeming the whole time and kept thinking that the writing was just superb. It was so vivid that it made me uncomfortable to hear about. Absolutely amazing.

There wasn’t a single part of this book I disliked, but the evil creatures throughout took away a lot of it for me. I liked the idea that humans are inherently bad or there’s a devil that makes them bad. The idea that there is a creature that drives this was a bit too much for me and I struggled with imagining them and honestly ignored them.

The audiobook narration by Carol Monda was superb. She gave Kris an amazingly determined voice and also came across as an underdog fighting for every chance she got. Her voices for other characters were very similar, but her voice was so perfect for Kris that it didn’t matter.

The story makes us question the cost of fame or whatever other desire we have. Kris struggles to understand what she’s lost and what she’s gained and it feels like there’s no easy answer. Is the truth she’s living with easier than the ignorance her bandmates have chosen? Is what Terry has worth what he’s lost?

Writer’s Takeaway: Hendrix wasn’t afraid to make me squirm. There were a lot of uncomfortable parts of this book, especially when Miranda was almost raped and when JD is killed. Those stuck with me for a long time after reading the book and could be trigger points for some readers. However, the point Hendrix was making about those acts being unjustly motivated and being done by people who had sold out made a point. These are not things decent humans do and they show the true evil of the world.

A solid read though not a genre I love. 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:
Hallowreads ’18, Part 6! Grady Hendrix’s We Sold Our Souls | Dial H For Houston
SF: We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix | Hillbilly Highways
We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix (ARC Review) | Spine Cracker
Behrg Reviews: “We Sold Our Souls” by Grady Hendrix | The Behrg

WWW Wednesday, 23-October-2019

23 Oct

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: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter has been a good listen over the past week. I’m enjoying the multiple plot lines and multiple timelines and waiting to hear them come together. The blend of history and modern is really fun and I’m enjoying the variety of characters.
I started Eastbound from Flagstaff by Annette Valentine over the weekend. I’m so glad to finally have this one going after having it on my bedside table for so long. Not too far into it yet so I’ll have a better report next week.
I needed a new ebook and decided to jump into My Drunk Kitchen by Hannah Hart. I enjoyed her YouTube series a lot and I’m interested to see how her comedy translates to a book.

Recently finished: I finished When I Crossed No-Bob by Margaret McMullan finally. I’d hoped to finish it earlier but work got really crazy and ate into my lunch reading a bit. It’s going to be a while before I get to my review, though. I’m got quite the backlog.|
I work up early on Saturday to finish The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli before I left for a road trip. I didn’t want to bring it along with me again! And I need to get it back to the library so I don’t lose my ILL privileges.

I finally got some reviews up! So glad to say that. Monday I reviewed The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory. I liked this one well enough, but it wasn’t a favorite for me at all. There are other Gregory books I like much more. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. I was happy with the final book in this series and how it wrapped up the character progression through the series. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I haven’t thought a lot about books I’ll read next. I’m just trying to make it to NaNoWriMo. However, I’m looking forward to getting some historical fiction in and I think Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie will be my next audiobook. I need a book from that time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge and I adore the characters in this series.


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: A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (4/5)

22 Oct

After a pitifully long amount of time between books one and two, I decided to plow ahead with book three in this trilogy. I was glad to find the audiobook but a bit shocked by how long it was. It got me through half marathon training, the half itself, and then some. I was glad to finally wrap this one up on a car trip so I can move on. However, I can’t stop thinking about the world Schwab created.

Cover image via Goodreads

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab

Other books by Schwab reviewed on this blog:

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1)
A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2)

Summary from Goodreads:

THE BALANCE OF POWER HAS FINALLY TIPPED…
The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

WHO WILL CRUMBLE?
Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

WHO WILL RISE?
Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

WHO WILL TAKE CONTROL?
And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

This book took up right where the second one left off which was one reason I wanted to jump right into it. While book one to book two had a time lag, this had none at all and could have easily been a single (very long) novel. It made me realize that the second book was a lot of character development and not a lot that was essential to the plot. Anyway, moving back to this one. This book was all action from chapter one and I appreciated that while I was running and listening. It did become a bit exhausting at times, but I enjoyed it overall. The character development here was great, especially Alucard. I felt the plot was a bit more drawn out than it needed to be, but it was still exciting so I didn’t care much.

Kell and Lila were well developed in this book. Their established personalities weren’t taken off course but we saw Kell grow and Lila soften which were needed. Rhy grew a lot, too. Arguably, he grew the most and I really liked his character progression. While some characters plateau in later books in a series, these didn’t and I liked how Schwab handled them.

Rhy was my favorite character. He’d been very immature in earlier books and it was great to see him mature so much without it feeling forced. He grew in his ‘career’ and in his relationships. Of any character, he was one who started to change in book two while the others stayed static and this book really brought him into his character.

While it was a very fantastical world with overly action-packed plots, the emotions in this book rang true to modern life. Kell and Lila are struggling with feelings they’ve never had before and dealing with changes they hadn’t anticipated seeing. Alucard is dealing with his past and trying to reconcile mixed emotions. Schwab did an amazing job of drawing relatable characters in her fictional world and I really enjoyed being a part of their story.

V.E. Schwab
Image via EW

Rhy’s plotline when he stayed back in Arnes was my favorite part of the book. He showed his bravery and maturity and dealt with very mixed emotions which must have been a huge challenge. While exploring the seas was fun, having someone stay in the castle where so much of the series had taken place kept the book rooted and I think it made it feel more consistent with the rest of the series.

As fun as it was, the adventure to the floating market wasn’t a part I particularly enjoyed. It gave the characters a way to get the items they needed to defeat their enemy, but it was a lot of time that I didn’t feel was particularly necessary for a book that was already long. I’m not sure how it could have been shortened, but I think it could have been.

The audiobook was narrated by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer, the same narrators as the previous book. I thought they did a fabulous job yet again, especially Kramer who had so many characters to narrate. He gave the appropriate weight to the heavy parts of the book and was fun during the playful times. Granted, there weren’t many of those in this dark novel.

Forgiveness was a big theme in this novel. Especially for Alucard. He literally sacrifices some of his life to tell Rhy he’s sorry and explain to him why he left. He didn’t feel an apology was enough but Rhy was ready to forgive him. I think this dovetails with Rhy growing up. I’m not sure he would have been able to forgive in the second book and he wouldn’t have been able to at all in the first. I think their relationship shows the character development in this book wonderfully.

Writer’s Takeaway: The world-building Schwab did for these books is incredible and deserved to be explored in three books. I’m told there is another trilogy coming in this world and I’m so excited to see what else happens in it. The intricacies that Schwab developed about the way people in different worlds/countries look, talk, carry themselves, and act was amazingly well done and I really appreciated how deep into it the reader was able to go. I have a lot of respect for fantasy writers who are able to do this.

Overall, a very enjoyable book. 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!

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Book Review: The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory (3/5)

21 Oct

I seem to grab a Philippa Gregory book every year just to knock one off of the When Are You Reading? Challenge. No shame. She’s one of my favorite writers and it gives me a good reason to revisit her at least annually.

Cover image via Goodreads

The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #7)

Other books by Gregory reviewed on this blog:

The Lady of the Rivers (3/5)
The Boleyn Inheritance (4/5)
The Other Queen (3/5)

Summary from Goodreads:

Regarded as yet another threat to the volatile King Henry VII’s claim to the throne, Margaret Pole, cousin to Elizabeth of York (known as the White Princess) and daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, is married off to a steady and kind Lancaster supporter—Sir Richard Pole. For his loyalty, Sir Richard is entrusted with the governorship of Wales, but Margaret’s contented daily life is changed forever with the arrival of Arthur, the young Prince of Wales, and his beautiful bride, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret soon becomes a trusted advisor and friend to the honeymooning couple, hiding her own royal connections in service to the Tudors.

After the sudden death of Prince Arthur, Katherine leaves for London a widow, and fulfills her deathbed promise to her husband by marrying his brother, Henry VIII. Margaret’s world is turned upside down by the surprising summons to court, where she becomes the chief lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. But this charmed life of the wealthiest and “holiest” woman in England lasts only until the rise of Anne Boleyn, and the dramatic deterioration of the Tudor court. Margaret has to choose whether her allegiance is to the increasingly tyrannical king, or to her beloved queen; to the religion she loves or the theology which serves the new masters. Caught between the old world and the new, Margaret Pole has to find her own way as she carries the knowledge of an old curse on all the Tudors.

Nothing’s short in a Gregory novel, even the description. That’s one of my chief complaints in this book. It was just too long and there was too much detail. It felt at times like Gregory didn’t want a single piece of her research to be missed from the book and at times it read more like a history text than a novel because of it. I’d love to see her go after something more fictional. Pole’s personality seems to be fabricated, but almost every move she makes seems straight out of history.

The people all seemed true to their historical selves and I appreciated that but it did feel like they were missing some level of life, the element that takes historical people off of a page and brings them to life. Jeffrey is the main exception, I thought he was very well drawn. I wish that the same vividness had been brought to all the characters.

Philippa Gregory
Image via Fantastic Fiction

Reginald was easily my favorite character early on but he faded away from the story a lot as it went on. He’s arguably the most historically important of Margaret’s children, but his major role in English history would come after her death and as this is her story, he doesn’t get his moment.

Margaret was not a character I related to. She felt entitled her entire life and dealt with setback after setback without moving forward which drove her to scheme and plot and plan. I’ve never felt the need to do anything similar. Her age was another reason I didn’t connect. Her children and their successes were so important to her and I had nothing to compare that to at this stage in my life.

The ending caught me off guard and I enjoyed the surprise it brought. It was a strong reminder of how surprising the reign of Henry VIII was for the whole country and for those who had grown up with his father. He’s so sensational and that’s why we know so much about him. Living with that sensational change probably wasn’t as exhilarating.

Many of Gregory’s books focus on similar people and I feel she’s portrayed them the same in each book. Anne Boleyn and Katherine of Aragon are two that come to mind. I’ve seen these women before and know how they’ll be portrayed and it takes a lot of fun out of the book. I think the unknown elements of history that could have given us insights into their personalities and secrets could have been changed and made the story more fun.

Bianca Amato narrated the audio and I think she was a fine choice. She gave Margaret the airs I assume she must have had with her position and birth. She seems a good age to have told the story as well. We meet Margaret in her late 20s and leave her in her 60s with a large focus on her 40s so Amato’s mature and serious voice was a good fit for the story.

I’m not sure what I’d say the theme for this book is. Loyalty seemed to be a good one until the last third of the novel. Margaret’s loyalty seemed to be her undoing at the end of her life. She lived in a very volatile time and dealt with it as best she could while being herself as much as she could. Maybe survival is the best theme, but it wasn’t as successful as you’d think by me picking it as a theme.

Writer’s Takeaway: There’s a balance between a story and it’s characters. I didn’t feel it was well struck here. The plot was far more central to the story than the people in it and I felt the book suffered because of it. I would have liked more of a personality out of Margaret and her family. This was too much of a history book for me.

Enjoyable but not her best work. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1500-1699 time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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

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