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Book Review: Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell (3/5)

6 Feb

This is the first in a run of middling book reviews for me. I haven’t found anything that’s blown me away for a while and I’m in a run of ‘Meh, I guess 3 Stars.’ This is the only one that’s in a series so the only one I can consider is based on my expectation and enjoyment of the first two. The others will have to speak for themselves.

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Cover image via Amazon

Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow #3) by Rainbow Rowell

Other books by Rowell reviewed on this blog:

Carry On (Simon Snow #1)
Wayward Son (Simon Snow #2)
Attachments (and Book Club Reflection)
Eleanor & Park
Fangirl
Landline

Summary from Amazon:

In Carry On, Simon Snow and his friends realized that everything they thought they understood about the world might be wrong. And in Wayward Son, they wondered whether everything they understood about themselves might be wrong.

In Any Way the Wind Blows, Simon and Baz and Penelope and Agatha have to decide how to move forward.

For Simon, that means deciding whether he still wants to be part of the World of Mages — and if he doesn’t, what does that mean for his relationship with Baz? Meanwhile Baz is bouncing between two family crises and not finding any time to talk to anyone about his newfound vampire knowledge. Penelope would love to help, but she’s smuggled an American Normal into London, and now she isn’t sure what to do with him. And Agatha? Well, Agatha Wellbelove has had enough.

Any Way the Wind Blows takes the gang back to England, back to Watford, and back to their families for their longest and most emotionally wrenching adventure yet.

I wasn’t really taken in by this story. It seemed to really float around for the first third or so, not much direction going on and the characters didn’t seem to have any direction. Smith wasn’t even introduced for ages and ended up being a major character. It was a long time to define the problems the characters were going to be facing without really bringing them to the forefront. When the main problem did come to light, it seemed far too easy for the characters to overcome it. This book was more about relationships than anything else, but seemed to want to have a central ‘villain’ for the characters to rally around defeating. Compared to the second book (which I remember best), it seemed really forced.

I love Rowell’s characters and they will forever be my favorites. Baz stands out to me. I love the conflict he faces in this series and how he deals with it. He has a life at home that’s challenging and rich. You almost feel like Simon didn’t realize his roommate was two dimensional until the first book and then this series has been a great character development story for Baz. Penny still seems a bit unbelievable to me, but she’s so fun that I can still enjoy her plot line.

Baz had to deal with a lot in this book and I think he handled it well. His relationship with Simon is new so they’re still figuring things out. I loved how patient he was with Simon and how he was able to deal with some of his own insecurities without having them affect his relationship with Simon. I also thought he was really sweet in helping so much in his family crisis. With his age difference to his half siblings and step-mom, it might have been easy for him to go back to London and focus on school and his relationships instead of staying with his father and helping to find Daphne. The layers to his character in this book were great.

I related most to Simon in this book. When I’ve started new relationships, I’m always so unsure of myself. This applies to romantic, platonic, and professional relationships. I’m always unsure of how everything I do will be perceived and if I’ve overstepped any boundaries or forgotten to do something, etc. Simon’s insecurities and questioning in his relationship with Baz resonated with me a lot and I empathized with him.

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Rainbow Rowell Image via Goodreads

The last third of the book, where there was the most action, was my favorite part. I think the characters are best when they’re interacting with each other so when they were all off on their own, dealing with their own subplots, I wasn’t as invested. This group make a great team and when they came together, it was fun and hard to pause.

The beginning, when everyone was apart, was really dull to me. I wasn’t too invested in Penny or Agatha’s plotlines and I felt these were focused on more in the beginning. Agatha’s personality has always seemed flat to me and Penny seems like a caricature. I enjoyed the parts where Simon and Baz came together and talked about their problems. But with each character on their own, without the chemistry, I couldn’t get into it.

Euan Morton narrated this audiobook and wow. Just wow. He was amazing. I’m glad he’s been consistently narrating this series because his take on each character is part of my mental picture of them now. His differences in tone between Simon and Baz are great and made it easy to remember who was narrating when I’d pick the audiobook back up. If there are more in this series and if I decide to listen to them, I hope Morton is the narrator.

There was a lot of romance and romantic relationships in this story. A lot of them were unlikely pairings. Simon and Baz are a known ‘enemies to lovers’ entity, but there are two more romances in this story that are new and I’d argue also very unlikely. I was a little frustrated at Agatha’s romance because it seemed a lot like Simon’s and I think that cheapened it. It was something she didn’t see coming until it smacked her in the face and then she took to it without question. I think that’s rare and seeing it happen to two main characters in a series was a bit too much for me. I liked Penny’s romance better. I thought it had a nice build and seemed to fit her personality well. Early 20s is a time I know most of my peers were seeking companionship so this didn’t seem forced to me. It was nice to see people finding someone they could share a part of their lives with. Though I’m not sure I liked the pivot from previously action-driven plots.

Writer’s Takeaway: What made these characters work for me was how they balanced each other. When they weren’t together, it seemed ‘off.’ Agatha was apathetic, Penny was neurotic, Simon was self-defeating, and Baz was stressed. When they’re together, Penny’s energy lifts Simon and Baz’s stress is calmed by Agatha. Having characters feed off each other and create a community is part of the story and keeping them apart affected that for me.

My least favorite of this series, unfortunately. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 200-Present time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge 2023.

Until next time, write on.

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

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

Related Posts:
Any Way the Wind Blows by Rainbow Rowell | Bickering Book Reviews
Any Way the Wind Blows Review | Fangirl Fury
Book Review: Any Way the Wind Blows | Lil’V AKA Viv Lu

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WWW Wednesday, 1-February-2023

1 Feb

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

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The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I read a chapter in Why We Swim by Bonnis Tsui but not much more than that. I’ve been trying to get as much time away from screens as possible while work is crazy so I’ve prioritized physical books. And the kiddo has a bundle of energy and is keeping me on my toes so I’m struggling to find a few spare minutes to squeeze it in.
I started Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Peña but I’m not too far into it. The beginning has been alright, nothing too exciting, so I’m hoping it picks up a little bit for me as I get more into it.
It’s about time I knocked some of my own books off of my shelf. I’m grabbing The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redondo. My sister in law gave this to me for Christmas a few years ago and I’ve been waiting for a good time to pick it up.

Recently finished: Can you believe it? I finished Sophie’s Choice by William Styron! I was so close on Friday that I decided to push through during the weekend and was able to wrap it up! I’ll be watching the movie soon but I hope to write my review first.
I also finished Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow #3) by Rainbow Rowell! What a good week. I have some mixed feelings on this one and I’m a bit conflicted about how to rate it. I’m also not sure if I want there to be a fourth book in this series, or if I’m okay leaving these characters behind and hoping Rowell will start something new. Probably the later, honestly.

I was able to post my review of Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline! Please check it out and let me know what you thought of the book. Do we want to see this one on the big screen, too?

Reading next: It’s likely I’ll need an ebook next. I think I’ll try and grab Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson. I’ve loved Lawson’s funny books in the past and the short-story format of these will be easy to digest in my short reading bursts.

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

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

Book Review: Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline (4/5)

30 Jan

I was skeptical of this one. I often find the sequel to fun stand-alone books are huge disappointments. In my mind, the bar was set low for this one. And it didn’t change my skeptical mind, but it still delighted me. When I needed a book for my vacation, this seemed like a good one to pick up and I’m glad I did.

Cover image via Amazon

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Other books by Cline reviewed on this blog:

Ready Player One (5/5)
Armada (3/5)

Summary from Amazon:

Days after winning OASIS founder James Halliday’s contest, Wade Watts makes a discovery that changes everything.
Hidden within Halliday’s vaults, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the OASIS a thousand times more wondrous—and addictive—than even Wade dreamed possible.
With it comes a new riddle, and a new quest—a last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize.
And an unexpected, impossibly powerful, and dangerous new rival awaits, one who’ll kill millions to get what he wants.
Wade’s life and the future of the OASIS are again at stake, but this time the fate of humanity also hangs in the balance.

Part of the magic of the first book was learning about the OASIS. Now that we know it and how it works, there wasn’t that element of surprise with this book and I knew that lack would make this one feel a little hollow. I wasn’t wrong. As much as Cline tried to inject new elements into the OASIS and Wade with the ONI, it wasn’t the same. There were new worlds and a new adventure, but it was also the same thing all over again.

Wade and Samantha’s relationship seemed really forced. I thought the breakup they spoke about (not a spoiler, it’s in the first chapter) seemed realistic, but the ways they interacted as the book went on seemed more and more forced. Wade himself seemed hollow this time around. He didn’t have the same motivations we saw in the first book and he seemed to be [ironically] more of a static videogame character than a dynamic person. His feelings were lacking and his emotions were minimal. Aech, Soto, and Samantha seemed more real to me this time around while Wade felt like a mouthpiece to describe the changes that had happened since the first book.

Og was a great character in this book. He didn’t appear much, but when he did, his voice of reason was welcome and he was just what Wade and the others needed. He was the ‘wise and trusted advisor’ to the team- like Gandalf. I wished he got more screen time, but I think given his condition, what we saw of him was appropriate.

Wade was a bit robotic in this book and it made it hard to sympathize with him. Add on top of that how often it felt like he was explaining technology to us and it made him feel more and more like a mouthpiece. Soto, Aech, and Samantha felt a bit more human to me, but I think that was really in comparison. The characters were not a focus in this book; it was much more about the plot. As someone who likes character development, that wasn’t great. However, the fast paced plot did help me enjoy it more despite this.

Cline

Ernest Cline Image via G4TV.com

The fast paced nature of this book was fun. There was a time limit and that pushed the characters to act and it kept me feeling like I was on the edge of my seat. The beginning felt like too much backstory to me. But once the clock started, I loved the pace the book moved.

The ending was a bit odd to me. This might be a little spoiler-y so please skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to hear about it. I wasn’t ready for such a hard shift to artificial intelligence. I thought the focus on the ONI was a final step in virtual reality was cool, but I wasn’t ready for brain copying. These books are a fun Sci-Fi to me with a lot of nostalgic throwbacks. This was a little more Altered Carbon than I was ready for and it took me out of the fun nature of the book. It wasn’t a bad ending, per say, but it seemed out of line with the other parts of the book to me.

Very often with technologies, we don’t know exactly what the consequences can be. I don’t think anyone ever thought social media would become the political and reporting tool it has today. Similarly, Wade didn’t know what the ONI could do for people, either positive or negative. The book showed a good balance of both, but I think the focus was on the intended consequences and risks of a new technology. The ONI required users to give up a lot of themselves to use it and one glitch put a lot of people in danger.

Writer’s Takeaway: Parts of this book fell into a major ‘telling’ spell to me. Cline was describing what the new technologies could do and how they worked to a point where it sometimes felt like reading a news article on a new discovery. It was very heavy at the front of the novel, catching the reader up since the first installment. This is a hard balance when you’re writing a different time period or different reality and I would have preferred to see it woven in more through Wade’s eyes.

An enjoyable read, but nothing like the first book. Four out of Five Stars.

This book, my first of 2023, fulfills the Future 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!

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

Related Posts:
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline | Pages Unbound Reviews
*Spoiler Free Review* Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline | The Bookish Kirra
Ready Player Two, by Ernest Cline | Bibliotropic
Book Review: Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline | Reading with My Eyes
Ready Player Two. Ernest Cline’s Sequel to Ready Player One | Cherylcan’s Blog

WWW Wednesday, 25-January-2023

25 Jan

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

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The Three Ws are:

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

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


REAL QUICK! If you haven’t heard, I’m running the When Are You Reading? Challenge for the tenth year! Please consider joining in for this landmark year!

Currently reading: I’ve kept moving in Sophie’s Choice by William Styron now that we’re back. I’m noticing significant improvements in my sleep reading on paper before bed instead of a screen so I’m pushing myself to read a few pages each night. I’ll get through this eventually!
I’ve been grabbing all the time I can to listen to Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow #3) by Rainbow Rowell. This is a fun book, though I’m not sure I’m enjoying it as much as the first two. I like Rowell’s writing but I think I’m ready for some different characters.
I haven’t made much progress in Why We Swim by Bonnis Tsui this week. I’ve not been spending as much time on my phone. Catching up at work has me exhausted and wanting away from a screen as soon as it hits 5pm.

Recently finished: Nothing finished this week. Maybe next week, but I’m in the middle of all of my books right now. I was able to post a review of Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner. It was my last book of 2022 so I’ve finally wrapped that year up! I gave the book Two out of Five Stars.

Reading next: I think an audiobook will be my next need and I’m sticking with Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Peña for that. I’ll start planning for future ebooks and physical books next week if I make some good progress in my reading. Fingers crossed!

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

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

Book Review: Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner (2/5)

23 Jan

I was in New Orleans for a conference a few years ago and found a bookshop that used to be home to William Faulkner. (I did a post about that trip and the bookstores I visited where you can read more.) It seemed only appropriate to get a Faulkner book there. I picked the one he wrote while living in that house. Five years later, I picked it up as an ebook to help me finish a reading challenge.

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Cover image via Amazon

Soldiers’ Pay by William Faulkner

Summary from Amazon:

After the end of World War I, a group of soldiers traveling by train across the United States are on their way home. One is horribly scarred, blind, and almost entirely mute. Moved by his condition, a few civilian fellow travelers decided to see him safely home to Georgia, to a family that believes him dead—and a fiancée who grew tired of waiting.

This book rubbed me the wrong way at the beginning, but then grew on me. I didn’t like the introduction to the characters in the first two chapters. It seemed really abrupt and I was confused about what was happening, what the relationships were between people, and why names kept changing. Once we got to town and things were easier to understand, I settled in and could focus on the story. It ended up being a touching story about the affects of war and how we grieve as individuals and as a society in the wake of such an event. I wasn’t a big fan of how women were portrayed in this book, but I may be confusing that with how much I disliked Cecily. It felt like a chore to read this, which is why I’ve given it such a low rating.

Faulkner’s characters had good variety in their involvement with the war and their temperament in the wake of it. Not having lived through a war the same magnitude as WWI, it’s hard for me to say how credible I think they were because of their time period. I did think they were very caricature-like and that was a part of what I disliked. All of the women were weak and weepy or completely heartless. The men were either abrupt or distant. There wasn’t a lot of nuance to most of them and it because a little annoying for me to read their conversations and interactions.

Gilligan was my favorite character in the book because he always seemed to be the comic relief. That seems odd when I reflect on it, but it was my impression. He was kind and caring and was often able to diffuse any tension that arose between the characters, especially as it had to do with Donald. He was the kind of guy you would want on your side. He was also quite pitiful. He had no where to return to up on coming home, nothing that he wanted to do again. I felt bad for him as much as I liked him.

I couldn’t relate to any of these characters which made it hard to like this story. Cecily, the main female, is horribly vane and selfish. I’m not going to be mad at her that she didn’t want to marry someone she thought was dead, but she was so indecisive about it and I think it made life very emotional for a lot of people when it didn’t need to be. None of the other women are particularly likeable. Ms. Powers might be, but she comes across as scheming and heartless in the end and that made it hard for me to relate to her. Without a woman to relate to and without having lived through the war, this book wasn’t one where I ever got emotionally invested.

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William Faulkner. Image via Wikipedia

I finally got invested in this book after Donald returned home and I could see how all of the characters were going to interact. Up until then, I honestly thought I was reading a collection of short stories. After that, I wasn’t a fan of the writing style, but I was able to follow what was happening much better and could start to get into the story and start to enjoy it.

The first chapter was infuriating for me. It took me a few weeks to read it because I kept getting frustrated and putting it down. I understand that the characters are drunk so it’s not supposed to be completely logical, but it was so scattered that I couldn’t follow. Jumping from there to Jones, I was about ready to quit. Jones remained my least favorite character throughout the book and every time he would show up, I’d just get angry. Once we had some other characters (who were more sober) and a plot, I was much better off.

PTSD and mental health for soldiers is a big topic today. It wasn’t when Faulkner was writing. He brings up a lot of issues that returning combatants see still today. Spending time away from family and loved ones is hard. It’s harder when during that time away, you’re enduring something so stressful and unique that those back home can’t understand what it was like. Jones, Gilligan, and Donald have dealt with it differently. Mrs. Powers has had to deal with her husband not returning home. Those that were waiting have to deal with how their loved ones changed. Emmy struggles the most, seeing how Donald is not at all how he was when he left. There is a lot of this book that’s still very relevant today.

Writer’s Takeaway: More than anything, this book taught me some things not to do. I felt like Jones had no reason to be in the book. He should have been cut. I felt like there was a lot of back-and-forth in the book that gave it a murky middle. That should have been cleaned up. The opening scene did not grab my attention. These are a lot of things writers are warned about and Faulkner fell into them. However, he ended up with a powerful message. He did enough things right in this book, but there were many things that could have been improved.

Overall, not one I’ll reread or recommend. Two out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1900-1919 time period of the 2022 When Are You Reading? Challenge. It was the final book in this 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!

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

Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (4/5)

19 Jan

I was trying to finish my reading challenge and thought to myself, “Maybe pick a book published in the time period rather than set in it.” I’ve let myself use this interpretation before and this seemed like a fun time to try it out again. I never read The Alchemist in school like I know some have. So this seemed like a good opportunity to pick it up.

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Cover image via Amazon

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Summary from Amazon:

Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

This was a lovely little book. I really didn’t know what to expect and I enjoyed this story much more than I thought I would. I’m iffy on anything that calls itself a fable so I had a lot of skepticism going into it. The young shepherd was a great character and I loved how often he had to steel his resolve to keep going in the direction he needed and the amazing riches that finally came from it, monetary and otherwise. The people he met along the way were memorable and I appreciated how much each was able to direct him.

I never expect fable characters to be realistic but these were more realistic than I expected. The Englishman stands out to me as one who was so self absorbed and determined to cheat his way to wealth that he doesn’t see the good things right in his path. The crystal merchant was great and I loved seeing someone so stuck in his ways that he was more comfortable with failure than change. These qualities were very real and we see them in those around us daily.

The shepherd was my favorite character. He was brought low so many times and always found a way to believe and could think that things were going to get better and he wasn’t going to meet failure when it all seemed impossible. He was a good ‘every man’ for this journey.

It can often feel like we’re not heading in the right direction or that we’ve taking a detour. The shepherd had this many times and almost abandoned his mission more often than he wanted to admit. But he was able to keep pushing forward. No matter how much he thought he strayed, it always landed him exactly where he needed to be. When I sometimes feel stuck, it can be hard to remember that the moments of turmoil make us ready to excel when we need to.

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Paulo Coelho Image via Wikipedia

When the shepherd finally reached the pyramids, his encounter with the thieves was my favorite. Skip the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want the ending spoiled! It was the final irony, that the riches he was seeking were back in the land he came from and that he’d traveled all that way just to learn that he needed to go back. I thought it was a beautiful ending to the story and played into it so well. A very fitting end.

I zoned out a bit when the shepherd and the alchemist were talking to the wind and the moon and whatever other elements of nature they communed with in the desert. I know the book is magical and there’s a major suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy this story, but that bit seemed to go too far for me and I found myself waiting for it to be over.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Jeremy Irons. He did a fantastic job. I loved the different voices he was able to use for the characters and the light, innocent tone he struck for the shepherd. There weren’t too many women in this story for me to have an opinion on how he did feminine voices so that’s the one area where I can’t comment.

The book focuses so much on chasing your dreams, something I think very few people really do. I was struck by this while I was on vacation recently. My partner and I made friends with a couple from Italy who shared with us that they’d lived abroad together and were working jobs they really liked and loved to travel to explore history. I thought to myself, “How many other people have those same passions but don’t pursue them?” Living abroad can be challenging. Searching for a job that you enjoy can take time. Traveling to excite a passion takes a lot of planning. Sometimes it’s easier to keep your head down and push forward on the same path you’ve been on. But when you don’t, that’s when life really happens.

Writer’s Takeaway: Coelho’s biggest lesson for me is brevity. He was able to tell an amazingly complex and deep story in a very limited number of words. There was nothing extraneous in these pages- everything kept pushing the shepherd toward his treasure. This is something I know I’ve struggled with and many writers do. Longer books are not always better books- they’re often worse.

This was a great little book and I could see myself rereading it years from now. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1980-1999 time period of the 2022 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!

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

Related Posts:
The Alchemist | The Misanthropologist
THE ALCHEMIST – A Review | House of Living Stone
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Spoilers!) | Pages Unbound Reviews

WWW Wednesday, 18-January-2023

18 Jan

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.


REAL QUICK! If you haven’t heard, I’m running the When Are You Reading? Challenge for the tenth year! Please consider joining in for this landmark year!

Currently reading: I made a decent dent in Sophie’s Choice by William Styron on vacation! I’m over half way through it now. I can’t say I’m absorbed by any means, but I’m slightly more invested than I was and I’m hoping that carries me through to finishing it.
There wasn’t a lot of time for audio so I haven’t done too much with Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow #3) by Rainbow Rowell. I’m still liking this one a lot and I know I’ll push through and finish it soon.
I had a change of plans with my ebook. I’d put in a bunch of holds and way too many of them came through at once! I ended up going with Why We Swim by Bonnis Tsui. I love swimming so when this one came out in 2020, it was on my radar. Reading it on the beach with waves crashing was wonderful. I’m already half way through and hope to keep pushing on.

Recently finished: I finished a book! I was loving Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline and sped through it on my vacation. It was really fun, though not as much as the first book. I didn’t expect to as I find the sequels to hugely popular books are rarely as good at the first. I’m very behind on reviews right now though I’m trying to catch up! I’m giving this one Four out of Five Stars for now. Cline is a fun writer and so imaginative. I’ll look forward to other books he writes in the future.

I also (finally) wrote a review! Please check out my thoughts on The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading next: I still plan on Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Peña being my next eaudiobook. I’m looking forward to getting through many of these Summer Reading Downloads I have. I’m not sure about my next ebook at the moment so I’ll refrain from guessing here just yet.

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

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

Book Review: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (3/5)

17 Jan

I grabbed this book because I needed something in the 1300-1499 time period for my 2022 When Are You Reading? Challenge. This time period is usually one of the most challenging for me to find a book so I was happy to find anything. I might have to stick with this author because it looks like she’s written a number of books set during the Renaissance.

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Cover image via Amazon

The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant

Summary from Amazon:

Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities.

But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra’s married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.

There wasn’t a lot in this book that really blew me away. I think it was a bit long for the story it told. The mystery around the painter was a bit drawn out. I felt the story was very back-half heavy. A lot of the set up at the beginning didn’t pay off for me. I did enjoy insights on life in Renaissance Florence and how quickly the city changed. I visited the city once and it was easy to picture Alessandra walking those streets and the churches she visited.

There were two characters that seemed unreal to me. The first was Luca, her brother. I didn’t gather from their banter before just how deep seeded his dislike for his sister was. Once she was married, it seemed to grow out of nowhere and it left me feeling like I’d missed something. The second was the painter. I’ve never encountered someone so reclusive so it was hard for me to picture him. It was made even more difficult when he returns at the end and is so socially adjusted, seemingly out of no where after years and years of being a hermit. The swing just seemed like too much.

Aurelia was a great add to this story. Because she was Black, her experiences were very different from Alessandra and it gave a great layer to the book that it would have lacked without her. She is a fierce woman and helped move the plot forward more than once. I’m glad she stayed in the story until the very end.

Alessandra’s independence and desire to be a painter made her more relatable to a modern audience. A lot of the other aspects of her life, like marriage at a young age and her high-class life, would have made her seen untouchable by today’s women. Her older sister carried this role out for the reader. For me, that was emphasized when she sent her child off with a wet nurse for a year at a time. Without Alessandra’s desire to fight the constraints of her time period, she would have been very difficult to like.

Sarah Dunant Image via the author’s website

I felt the first half of the book was unbearably slow and the second half was paced much better. There was a lot done to lay the groundwork for the Painter and Alessandra’s changes of fortune and I think it was a bit overdone. Once she got married, the action took off quickly. The changes to the city were well explained and how that affected the main characters was interesting and kept my attention.

There were two parts of this book that I disliked. One was the relationship between Alessandra and her brother, Tomaso. I thought they were just having a sibling rivalry, nothing major or spiteful, just not getting along. And then after Alessandra’s marriage, I thought I must have missed something. His ribbing turned rude and mean and the secrets he kept from here were horrible. It seemed that things were not well explained at first or that his malice grew with her marriage in a way I didn’t really comprehend. The second thing that I disliked was the change in the painter when he returned at the end. It was such a stark change, into an accomplished gentleman, that I got mad. His quirks were part of what made him interesting so having him return as a very well-adjusted and accomplished man was really out of place and took me away from the story.

My audiobook was narrated by Kathe Mazur. I thought she did well with Alessandra’s blossoming voice. She balanced Aurelia’s voice as that of an older and more mature woman, giving them slightly different timbres. She didn’t do much for males voices in this story, but it didn’t bother me.

We learn a lot about Alessandra’s mother as the book goes on. There are three generations of women in this book who are swayed by their hearts and follow their passions. We see how it changes for each of them. Alessandra’s mother kept quiet and seemed to think her daughter’s willfulness was a reflection of her sins. I think it was a reflection of her, sharing the same desire to stand out. Alessandra’s daughter shares her talents, though it’s too early to know if she’ll be as stubborn as her mother. I liked seeing the traits mothers passed to daughters in this story and I thought it was well done.

Writer’s Takeaway: The pacing of this book didn’t work for me. The set up of Florence at the time was too much backstory for me. It had a massive affect on the plot, so some was necessary, but I felt a little buried in it early on. It’s hard when you’re unsure how much background the reader will have on the time period to assume anything. I think Dunant was right not to assume more than she did, but I think she went into too much detail about things that ended up not mattering.

I liked the book well enough but it didn’t blow me away. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1300-1499 time period of the 2022 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!

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

Related Posts:
Sarah Dunant, “The Birth of Venus” | Book Group of One
Sarah Dunant – The Birth of Venus | Fyrefly’s Book Blog
#94 The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant | One-Eleven Books2
loulamac’s #CBR5 review #31: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant | Cannonball Read 5
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant | She Reads Novels

WWW Wednesday, 11-January-2023

11 Jan

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

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The Three Ws are:

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

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


REAL QUICK! If you haven’t heard, I’m running the When Are You Reading? Challenge for the tenth year! Please consider joining in for this landmark year!

Currently reading: I’m on vacation this week and I brought Sophie’s Choice by William Styron with me, hoping I’d focus on it and can finally finish it out! On a related note, please forgive me for delayed responses due to limited internet access.
I”m hoping to find time to enjoy Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow #3) by Rainbow Rowell while we’re relaxing. I’m really liking this book and want to spend my time with it so I suspect I’ll find some pockets of time to plug in.
I’ve really enjoyed Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline so far. I think this will be another fast ebook for me. It’s not as good at the first one (is the sequel ever?) but it’s still a fun ride.

Recently finished: Nothing this week. I’m not surprised after how epic my final week of 2022 was. I’ve got three reviews in process that I’ll get to when I’m back home so be ready for a flood of my opinion!

Reading next: I downloaded Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Peña to my phone so I’ll have it on vacation if I finish my audiobook and need another.
I also added another ebook to my phone in anticipation of a lot of reading time on vacation. There were a lot of books I wanted with holds on them so I went a bit down my list and grabbed How to Find Your Way in the Dark by Derek B. Miller. I’ve loved some of Miller’s books and been less than impressed with others. I’m hoping this one is one I enjoy! (Also, love the similarities between this cover and Cline’s.)

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

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

Top 5 of 2022

9 Jan

I’m continuing on with trying to get back to the posts I did pre-baby. We’ll see how this goes. I used to do a Top 5 of the year and that sounds so fun right now so I’m excited to get back to it!

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5. Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols. In retrospect, maybe I should have rated this one higher. It was a fun story to get sucked into and I liked the sci-fi writing and understanding what was going on in the future world where we have visited other planets. Katherine was pretty relatable given everything she’d gone through. It was pretty dark at times, but I’m not sure there was another way to tell the story because her story isn’t one that could have a happy ending. Maybe three stars was a bit low.

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4. A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman. I’m surprising myself with this pick, but I can’t talk myself out of it. This was a fun, quick read and I enjoyed the tension Malerman had through the whole book. I’m not normally one for horror or suspense, but he got me to love his character and the unbelievable things they found at the bottom of the lake. Their teenage, summer romance interspersed on top of it made for a wonderfully layered short story.

445101813. Malorie by Josh Malterman. Wow, I guess I’m really toting Josh Malerman in this post. I was skeptical with the sequel to Bird Box because I loved the original so much. The movie was OK but a lot changed. I wondered how many of those changes would make their way into Malorie or if it would be more true to the book. All of my fears were brushed aside quickly and I was sucked into Malorie’s world. It started off with a great scene that just continued to get better and better. I loved the kids and how much they now had to take care of their mother. I felt it wrapped up a little too cleanly a little too quickly, but I still loved the rollercoaster this book took me on.

61khbbtpixl2. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. This was a fun ride. I really enjoyed the funny take on Tudor England and how much the authors wove history and fiction together. There were some great throw-away lines that referenced pop culture that had me laughing out loud while I listened. I might have to jump back into these books again in 2023, if only for the laughs.

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1. Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). This was far and away my favorite read of the year. I blew through it: over 900 pages in 10 days. I loved how intricate the mystery was and how it was unraveled. I’m hoping to read the next in this series soon because I really enjoyed it. This was one of my few Five Star reads this year and it’s well deserved.

Not my best year of books, but I’m optimistic about next year. 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!

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