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WWW Wednesday, 13-December-2017

13 Dec

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: What a week! I started three new books this week! The first was The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This book was recommended to me a while back and I was excited to grab a copy as an ebook and start reading it. This is a short one and those seem to make better ebooks for me because I read them so slowly. We’ll see how long this one takes.
The second was The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. I’m really enjoying this one so far! It’s been a while since I read some non-fiction that read like fiction. This one is keeping me up at night already and I think I’ll finish it quickly.
My next audiobook is The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I really enjoyed Middlesex and I hope this one is equally engaging. It will help if it’s also set in Michigan! So far, that’s not looking likely, but I’ll press on.

Recently finished: Three new reads and three books finished! The first was This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman which I finished while waiting at the chiropractor’s office. I enjoyed this one a lot and I thought it was a really great angle on a big problem. Plus, the ending wasn’t predictable which was a huge plus! Look for my review tomorrow.
The second was Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt. I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Schulman’s book but it was still a good read. I had some problems with the pacing and change in topics. My review will be up next week so take a look then at my reasoning.
I also finished Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie! That’s right, I finished all my books from last week. This is my mini celebration of finishing my class and it feels wonderful. I really liked this historical fiction book and I plan to continue with the series.

Reading Next: The next physical book will be Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. I wish I could start it sooner but I can’t find an ebook or audiobook of this one so it will have to wait.


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

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Book Club Reflection: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

12 Dec

A few weeks ago, my book club met to discuss Our Souls at Night. I ended up liking this book a lot more when I reflected on it after finishing. It was a great little book and there was a lot more to it the more I reflected on it and talked about it.

Most of our group enjoyed the book. Many recommended his other book, Plainsong, and said it was even better than this one. Our Souls at Night was the last book Kent Haruf wrote before he died and he knew he was sick while he was writing it. All his books take place in the same fictional Colorado town, Holt.

We had some good debate over the meaning of the title. I thought it referred to them spending time together at night. The things they talked about required them to really bare their souls and be open about the topics they picked. Another reader interpreted ‘night’ to refer to them doing this at the end of their lives. I like this analogy more.

The first word in the book is ‘and.’ We could think of many reasons Haruf chose to start like this. It’s a very conversational way to start a story, which made the writing very engaging. It also implies there was something before. It’s as if he’s skipped the exposition and started right in with the interesting part. We also skip over Addie thinking about a way to be less lonely and considering the men she knows who she could ask.

We wondered why there was so much protest to Louis and Addie. They were both single, but everyone seemed to protest. Gene’s protest was the easiest to figure out. He was jealous of Louis for bonding with Jamie in a way he struggled to do. He also worried about Addie’s money. He was strapped for cash at the time and was likely thinking of borrowing from his mother. If Louis gained control of Addie’s money, he’d be in a tough situation, even worse than he already was.

We wondered what motivated Addie. She was clearly lonely, but why did she want to share her bed and talk? It was clear her marriage changed a lot when Connie died. Her relationship after that was never as strong as it had been. We suspected that on some level, she was hoping to find what she’d had before her daughter’s death.

One thing Addie mentioned didn’t make sense to us. She said she used to go to Denver by herself. How did she explain that? Did her husband even care that she was disappearing for a weekend? He might not even have cared. She needed the escape, to let her live in a fantasy world for just a bit, to keep her happy.

One of the objections to Louis was that he’d cheated on his wife. We wondered if Louis would have been attractive to Addie if he’d been divorced. She didn’t seem to care too much what people thought of the two of them, but it might have been different if Louis had a negative image around town. The two were loyal to each other after they started, shaking off their children’s disapproval. Addie only broke up with Louis because gene forced her to, threatening to take away her grandson. It was odd how Gene started acting like the parent to Addie, forbidding her to see her boyfriend. I think a lot of teenagers could relate. Addie was looking out for Jamie. We think she felt bad for how Gene’s childhood turned out and was looking for a second chance at raising a boy.

The book gave a few good insights on aging as well. As they got older, Addie and Louis stopped caring so much what everyone thought of them. They wanted to be happy in their own rights.

We won’t meet in December so it will be January before we’re ready for our next book. That will give me plenty of reading time! 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!

‘Our Souls at Night’ Movie Review

11 Dec

Movie poster via IMDb.

A friend from my book club alerted me that there was a made-for-Netflix movie version of the book we were reading for discussion, Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. I had a flight home from Texas after Thanksgiving and my husband and I downloaded it and streamed it for the last part of our flight. It ended up being a relaxing way to end the trip.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Redford and Fonda. I was told later that Redford approached Fonda about making this movie together, reminiscent of when they did Barefoot in the Park together fifty years earlier. I thought the casting was good and I was glad to see two well-known and respected actors take on the roles.

Addie. I wasn’t a big fan of her in the book but the movie made her very sympathetic. She seemed less pushy on-screen and I enjoyed seeing her vulnerable when the book made her seem unbreakable emotionally.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Jamie at Ruth’s funeral. The book made a point of not having Jamie at Ruth’s funeral. This seemed odd to me because he was old enough to understand death and you’d think he’d notice Ruth not being around anymore. I understand they were protecting him for even more loss during a hard part of his life, but I thought it was a bit too much.

Cover image via Goodreads

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

Louis gardening. This is honestly the only thing I can think of that was taken out of the movie. It meant that the mice were out as well but the train replacement was good, in my book. I think the gardening could have been nice visually, though.

Things That Changed Too Much

Gene’s drinking problem. This one made me mad. Yes, Gene was a bad father but taking it to the point that he’s leaving Jamie home alone for hours while he goes out drinking was too much. It made Addie’s motivation to leave Holt strong, but it didn’t make as much sense considering her plotline with Louis. It really got to me.

Gene and Beverly’s relationship. This is really an extension of the one above. With Jamie losing his mother, Addie had very different motivation to want to move in with him. Rather than being injured and almost forced to go, she is 100% making the decision to leave. I felt the whole end of the story was different with these changes.

It was a slow movie, probably not the best for watching on a plane to keep you awake, but also a nice way to wind down at the end of a long vacation. Reader, have you seen the Our Souls at Night movie? What did you think?

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: The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer (3/5)

7 Dec

When I met Brad Meltzer last year, I bought several of his books to have them signed. Since then, I’ve slowly started going through the large stack which is being made faster by audiobooks. This one was a doozy! It’s just over 500 pages in the hardcover I have and sixteen hours of audio. On the upside, this was my 50th book of the year and helped me wrap up my reading goal for the year!

Cover image via Goodreads

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer

Other books by Brad Meltzer reviewed on this blog:

The Inner Circle (Book Club Reflection)
The Book of Lies

Summary from Goodreads:

“Six minutes from now, one of us would be dead. None of us knew it was coming.”

So says Wes Holloway, a young presidential aide, about the day he put Ron Boyle, the chief executive’s oldest friend, into the president’s limousine. By the trip’s end, a crazed assassin would permanently disfigure Wes and kill Boyle. Now, eight years later, Boyle has been spotted alive. Trying to figure out what really happened takes Wes back into disturbing secrets buried in Freemason history, a decade-old presidential crossword puzzle, and a two-hundred-year-old code invented by Thomas Jefferson that conceals secrets worth dying for.

This book was what I expected it to be. There were presidential secrets, a lot of traveling around, fights, deaths, and enough twists to keep me guessing. If you’re a political thriller fan, this is a good book for you. Unfortunately, this isn’t my favorite genre and some of the things I look for in a book were missing. There wasn’t much of an arc for Wes. (He slightly overcame his fears but it was so forced it didn’t feel like growth.) There weren’t any relationships that developed between the characters in a meaningful way. (I felt the relationship with Lisbeth was a bit sudden.) I enjoyed the book, to be sure, in the same way I’d enjoy watching an action movie. It can be well done but not what I’d really want to be watching.

It’s hard to say the characters were credible because they were put into situations where it’s hard to know how any person would react. These people led very public lives as well. Dreidel is a sleazebag, to be sure, and I don’t know if that makes him more believable. It does seem true to modern politics, though.

Rogo was my favorite character. I thought the loyalty he had to Wes was admirable and he had a distinct personality which helped him stand out from so many of the government-employed characters. (A lot of them were really flat.) I wish his intelligence and law knowledge had come into play more, though. Even if he’s fighting traffic tickets, he still had to pass the bar exam! He was comedic, which was nice, but his job didn’t have to be a lawyer if it wasn’t going to be utilized.

With such high profiles and such extreme circumstances, it’s hard for me to relate to any of these characters. In particular, I didn’t relate to Lisbeth. I felt her involvement in the case was a huge risk to herself and there was a very little reward in it for her. If I had to pick someone, I’d say I related to Wes. He was almost married to his job and I’ve felt that way sometimes with work. Though I can’t say I’d go to the life-threatening extremes Wes did to understand what was happening around the office!

Brad Meltzer and me

I thought the ending in the graveyard was great. It was fast-paced, had a great twist (that I want to say but won’t) and gave a satisfactory ending. I also appreciate (‘like’ seems to be the wrong word) when characters are actually hurt in a fight. I think too often heroes walk away from a fight without a scratch when they really would not have been able to do so. Lisbeth got hurt and I think that if she hadn’t, the scene would have been very unrealistic.

Boyle’s son bothered me a lot. What happened to him?! I might have missed it, but I don’t think we ever find out. If we do, let me know, I’m dying here trying to find it in the book. I thought the wrap-up with his character was really weak and I wish the last few chapters had focused on him just a little bit more.

The audiobok was narrated by Scott Brick. I think he did an amazing job. Flipping through the book now, I see how many ‘sound’ words Meltzer included and looking through the pages, it’s almost distracting. I never noticed that with Brick’s narration. He also did well differentiating voices with such a heavily-male cast. It must have been a stretch to find different ways to represent so many voices!

Appearances were never what they seemed in this book. President Manning looked cowardly in the picture taken of him at the racetrack when he was in fact trying to help. I think there were many instances of that in the book. Dreidel looked like an upstanding person but had some personal baggage. Boyle appeared to be dead but wasn’t. And the person who ended up being key in the whole thing (again, holding my tongue), was someone you never would have expected. Wes could trust Rogo, but there were few others who deserved that trust.

Writer’s Takeaway: I always admire in trhrillers that the author has the ability to surprise me up to the end. Meltzer is great at that and I’ve seen it in several of his books. I hope that I can surprise my readers even on the last page in books I write.

This was a good book, and well written, though not a genre I’m particularly fond 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:
The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer | The Book Pedler

WWW Wednesday, 6-December-2017

6 Dec

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.


CurrentlyreadingI made slower progress in This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman this week. I got to read some during lunch at work but nothing like the great progress I made the last week. I think this will be two weeks or so for me to finish it. It’s really good now so it’s hard to think it could be that long.
I’m so close to finishing Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt! I won’t be surprised if I finish this one today. I’m still enjoying it, but I’m also looking forward to reading something new. I think my review will explain that a bit better than this rambling.
I’ve gotten into the mystery of Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie. I like these characters a lot so I’m enjoying the back-and-forth and seeing Russo struggle to figure out what’s going on. I think I’ve got a week or two left on this one, too.

Recently finished: Nothing this week. After two last week, I’m not sad about this at all, it’s how things work. I was able to write a review, though. My review for Our Souls at Night by Ken Haruf was posted yesterday. Please go check it out. I have two more posts coming about this book next week, a movie review and a book club reflection.

Reading Next: I nabbed my copy of The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester from the library over the weekend. It looks like a shorter read than I was anticipating so I’m hopeful of getting it started and finished before the new year. My book club meets in early January and I’m excited to see that group again, I’ve missed the meetings in six months of this year!
I’ll start Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin as soon as I finish Madman. Unfortunately, neither of these were available as audiobooks through my library so I’ll be reading both in print and it will probably take me right up until the meeting to finish them!


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (3/5)

5 Dec

Haruf is an author whose work I always see other reading or in shops or in some WWW Wednesday posts and I wonder if I’d enjoy his books. When my book club picked this title, I was excited because it would give me a chance to finally try him out and, even better, talk to others about the book. I was also surprised to find out he has a very sparse writing style so I flew through this book in just a few days.

Cover image via Goodreads

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Summary from Goodreads:

In the familiar setting of Holt, Colorado, home to all of Kent Haruf’s inimitable fiction, Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with.

I liked how this book dove right into the plot. There wasn’t much exposition and Haruf made that work well. It was a slow novel. There wasn’t much action and only one or two dramatic moments which seemed played down with Haruf’s short sentences and a lack of details. He reminds me of Hemingway in that sense. I liked Addie and I liked Louis even more. Jamie was a great character to introduce as a way of changing the course of their relationships. I think the style is the only thing holding me back from rating this book higher. It was a bit too light of detail for me.

I felt the characters and the way they interacted was incredibly realistic. The gossiping reminded me of high school and the relationship Addie and Louis formed was really sweet. I think that was a strong point of the book because I felt like I could drive to Holt and find Louis in his garden. It was all so easy to picture.

Louis was easily my favorite character. With the way the book ends, it’s easy to blame Addie (though Gene is really to blame!). Louis has some bad light cast on him in town because of his affair years before but I found him remorseful and easy to forgive. His wife probably didn’t think he was as easy to forgive, but looking at him from Addie’s perspective, he had shown true remorse. Besides, Addie was never looking to marry him. Louis’s slow and methodical approach to life was very admirable, too. He reminded me of summers in the country and the freedom of a pre-iPhone world.

There were small parts of each character I related to but I think my age difference between these characters is one of the things that kept me from enjoying the book more. It’s hard for me to think forty years into the future and imagine how I would feel if my husband had passed and how lonely that would feel. Not having children distanced me from the characters as well. I could understand loneliness, but not on the same scale as Louis and Addie.

Image via the New York Times

I loved all the activities they got Jamie interested in to help him deal with his parent’s fighting. I thought the camping trip sounded wonderful and I could imagine the wonder Jamie felt at watching the baby mice grow up. I liked that they got him off of his phone and experiencing the world. I think children are naturally curious and television and devices are a learned action. It’s great that Addie and Louis were able to teach him something else.

I felt the ending was very sudden and it was a bit of a let down for me. I wanted to see Addie as a stronger character but I felt she was manipulated by her son and it made me sad. In the end, her decision was the best one, but it was hard to watch what happened between her and Louis because of it.

There are many themes Haruf worked into the book. The idea that being older doesn’t mean you have to stop living is the most obvious. It seems like Addie and Louis gave up on having anything new in their lives but they were able to really enjoy each other and what they found together.

Writer’s Takeaway: The sparse detail and simple sentence structure are very distinct in this book. I’m going to assume Haruf’s books all follow this style. Personally, it’s not a way I could write a book. I think leaving some things up to the imagination of the reader is important but Haruf took it a step farther than I would have. I felt he also paced the book equally throughout, not slowing down to spend more time on important events or to speed up through unimportant things such as what was eaten for dinner. I think changing the pacing of a book helps emphasize key moments in a story.

I liked the book though I didn’t connect with it well and the style threw me a bit. 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:
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf | Bookconscious
Our Souls at Night / Kent Haruf | Robert Up At Dawn
Our Souls at Night the Movie | Maurice on Books
“Our Souls at Night” by Kent Haruf | Reviews
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf Reviewed | Word Herding

Challenge Update, November 2017

4 Dec

This has been a surprisingly good month for reading! With school wrapping up and Thanksgiving stuck at the end, I wasn’t anticipating finishing so many books. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in November:

The Bluest Eye // Toni Morrison (3/5)
My Jesus Year // Benyamin Cohen (4/5)
Our Souls at Night // Ken Haruf (3/5)
The Book of Fate // Brad Meltzer (3/5)

I still owe you reviews for those last two but I’m expecting those to come later this week. I’m excited that I finished four books, I thought I was going to be slowing down toward the end of the year but I’m picking up steam!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

12/12
DONE! Look for more information soon on the 2018 Challenge.

Goodreads Challenge

50/50
DONE! Done done done! I finished this on Thanksgiving when I wrapped up The Book of Fate during a pre-dinner run. It was a great way to enjoy the holiday in a book-ish way.

Book of the Month

I have to say Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. I’m thinking of changing my initial rating, the first time I’ve ever thought of doing that! I went to the book club meeting last week and I was speaking so highly of the book I began questioning why I rated it Three instead of Four stars. This was a great quick read and I really recommend it.

Added to my TBR

I’m now at 106, no progress toward 100. Four came off but I added another five to the list. Yikes!

  • Origin by Dan Brown. I’m already four books into the Robert Langdon series, I might as well keep going!
  • It’s All Relative by A.J. Jacobs. Jacobs is one of my favorite non-fiction writers and I knew he was working on this project a few years ago. I’m excited the book is finally out!
  • Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. This is a book club selection for January that I’ll try to start soon.
  • The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. Another book club pick and I think this will be my next book.
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I saw that a movie of this one is coming out soon and I’ve seen so many positive reviews that I want to read it before I see the film.

Personal Challenge

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

  • Keep my 4.0 GPA: My midterm came back with a good score so yay! Most of my remaining assignments are due Thursday this week so I’m keeping my fingers crossed and I’ll know more soon.
  • Knit blankets:  I sent a purple blanket off to my friends who are expecting a little girl early next year. I started a new project to keep the stockpile in check because another friend announced her pregnancy! I’ll be sending another off soon enough so I best keep knitting.
  • One race per month: I did one race in November, a 10K. My goal was to finish in under one hour and I clocked in at 59:35 so that’s a win!
  • Get my novel out to beta readers: I haven’t sent it out any more but I think December is going to finally give me some time to edit! That’s way more exciting to me. Get ready for some writing-related posts next month.

How were your challenges? I hope you made it. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for 2018, 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, 29-November-2017

29 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 readingI read a lot of This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman while I was on vacation. My in-laws watch a lot of football and I did a lot of reading on my phone while they yelled at the TV. I’m over halfway through this now and really enjoying it.
I’m over halfway through Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt as well. This one is OK, not my favorite but for sure entertaining. I’m hoping to have it finished next week.
I finished my audiobook on Thanksgiving so I started a new one right away. I’m listening to Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie. This is the third book in her Medicus series and I’m loving it as much as the last.

Recently finishedTwo finished! Here’s the progress I’ve been waiting for. The first was Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf which I finished Wednesday night right before my flight. This book was really good and I have a lot to post about it. Look for a review, a movie review, and a book club reflection in the next two weeks! I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I also finished The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer on Thanksgiving. My husband and I went on a run so we’d have room for all the yummy food and I finished this as we turned back on my sister-in-law’s street. Perfect timing! I also gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’ve got two book club selections to read by January so I’ll likely tackle one of those next. The first is The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. I haven’t read a non-fiction book in a while so I’m a bit excited about this one.
The second is Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. I have a feeling this one is going to pull at my heartstrings so I’ll be sure to keep a box of tissues nearby!


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

WWW Wednesday, 22-November-2017

22 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 readingI’m still going strong with The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer. The story is really intense right now and I’m looking forward to some runs over the holiday weekend when I can listen to this. I’m guessing I need at least another week to finish it.
I was able to start Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf Friday night. It’s a really fast read! If all goes well, I’ll finish it today and take a new book with me on my Thanksgiving travels tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
I started a new ebook as well, This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman. I think this book is in the same strain as We Need to Talk About Kevin or Defending Jacob, both of which are really dark but have very thought-provoking plots that I really enjoyed.

Recently finishedTwo this week! When it rains, it pours. The first was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. This was an ebook and I think reading it in that format was not the best way to enjoy it because I lost some consistency (I read ebooks when I’m waiting at the doctor’s office and during lunch so they take me a while). I wrote a review and published it on Monday. I gave it Three out of Five stars. Please go check it out!
I also finished My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen. I really enjoy religious memoirs (yes, a very niche category) and this one was no exception. It was fun to read about a Jew learning about my religion, Christianity, through a year-long immersion experience. It’s interesting to see how you’re perceived from the outside! My review went up Tuesday and I gave it Four out of Five stars.

Reading Next: I’m going to take Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt with me to Texas on my Thanksgiving trip. I read the first few pages of this right when I got it and I was intrigued so I’m excited to keep going with the plot. I always love a good memoir.


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen (4/5)

21 Nov

I got sucked into a genre I’m calling religious memoirs. If there’s a better name for these books, I haven’t heard it. The first I read was A.J. Jacob’s book The Year of Living Biblically. From there, I read The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose. This one was next on my list and I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. I love memoirs because they let you look through someone else’s eyes for a bit. A chance to look at Christianity through the eyes of a Jew sold me and I’m glad I found a copy of this book on the sale shelf at the library.

Cover image via Goodreads

My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith by Benyamin Cohen

Summary from Goodreads:

One day a Georgia-born son of an Orthodox rabbi discovers that his enthusiasm for Judaism is flagging. He observes the Sabbath, he goes to synagogue, and he even flies to New York on weekends for a series of “speed dates” with nice, eligible Jewish girls. But, something is missing. Looking out of his window and across the street at one of the hundreds of churches in Atlanta, he asks, “What would it be like to be a Christian?”

So begins Benyamin Cohen’s hilarious journey that is My Jesus Year—part memoir, part spiritual quest, and part anthropologist’s mission. Among Cohen’s many adventures (and misadventures), he finds himself in some rather unlikely places: jumping into the mosh-pit at a Christian rock concert, seeing his face projected on the giant JumboTron of an African-American megachurch, visiting a potential convert with two young Mormon missionaries, attending a Christian “professional wrestling” match, and waking up early for a sunrise Easter service on top of Stone Mountain—a Confederate memorial and former base of operations for the KKK.

During his year-long exploration, Cohen sees the best and the worst of Christianity—from megachurches to storefront churches; from crass commercialization of religion to the simple, moving faith of the humble believer; from the profound to the profane to the just plain laughable. Throughout, he keeps an open heart and mind, a good sense of humor, and takes what he learns from Christianity to reflect on his own faith and relationship to God. By year’s end, to Cohen’s surprise, his search for universal answers and truths in the Bible Belt actually make him a better Jew.

Cohen has a great writing voice that really helped me enjoy this book. He doesn’t assume a Jewish or Christian audience for this book which is good because he explains almost everything where needed. He often refers to laws in Judaism and he gives both the Hebrew and English words while explaining the tradition or law. He also doesn’t assume the reader knows about Christianity which I found helpful when he explored denominations different from my own. He was funny without being demeaning, which was a good touch.

Benyamin has only one other consistent character in the book, his wife Elizabeth. He speaks about his father occasionally and touches on his siblings from time to time, but Elizabeth is the only other person who appears regularly. Even so, he doesn’t go into a lot of detail about her, leaving the impression we get one of a loving wife who is tolerating her husband’s travels through Christianity. She’s not discouraging him, but not encouraging either. As someone who’s been a Christian and decided on Orthodox Judaism, she doesn’t’ see the point; she’s already done the reverse journey.

Benyamin made himself very likable. I wondered how much of this was really his personality and how much was good editing. He was observant, polite, and questioning without ever seeming condescending. He seemed open-minded, which someone on his journey would need to be. He seemed to doubt himself a lot, though. He needed someone’s approval, his rabbi, his wife, or God’s, to do almost anything. I felt a bit bad for him. OK, a lot bad for him in parts.

I’m not afraid to say I’ve doubted my faith for a time in the same way Benyamin did. I never considered leaving it, but I wasn’t as strong and convicted as I’ve been at other points. While I didn’t explore other religions, I could relate to the lost feeling Benyamin had. He was looking for the fire and vigor he saw in others and wanted to get it back. I think he had it again before the year was over, but I’m glad he finished his journey.

Benyamin Cohen
Image via From the Grapevine

The story of him dating before he began the journey was one of my favorites. I found it hilarious that he’d fly to New York to look for a wife. That just seemed ridiculous to me and I had to tell my husband so we could shake our heads together. I also liked the Christian Wrestling show. It seemed like such an odd concept but as Benyamin experienced it, I saw how it could be used to call others to God. It wasn’t a traditional ministry, but sometimes the unusual gets people.

I waited the whole book for Cohen to get to my denomination, Catholicism. I guess as a Catholic, I should be offended that he went to confession and didn’t tell the priest he was Jewish. Honestly, I’m not. I think he got more from the experience than many Catholics do. I wish he’d gone into a little more detail about the mass, though. He went into a lot of details about the Baptist and Evangelical services he went to that it was a bit of a let down for me. It was still nice to feel represented, thought!

 

Cohen says several times that he wants to explore Christianity to make him a better Jew. I feel the same way about reading religious memoirs and books on religious understanding. It helps me to have my faith convictions when I can see why other people have theirs. I understand why what I believe is different from what a coworker or friend believes. Rather than tempting me to convert, it helps reinforce my own beliefs. I don’t know what I’d do if I ran into another religion that made sense to me, the way Elizabeth did. I haven’t come into that situation yet so I don’t know.

I love memoirs that read like a conversation with the author and Cohen did an excellent job of that. I admired how conversational he was about a topic that divides so many people.

This was a really enjoyable book about a topic that I find fascinating. 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 Post:
My Jesus Year, by Benyamin Cohen (LentBooks #15) | Compulsive Overreader