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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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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.

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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

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

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

Book Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows (4/5)

28 Nov

I decided to read this book to help me fulfill a time period in my When Are You Reading? Challenge. I’d seen it on other people’s blogs through the years but never been too tempted by it before. It looked fun, but how much could there be to say about a woman who ruled for nine days. Well, a lot. And with some magic and a tons and tons of sarcasm. This book ended up being a really fun read that I enjoyed a lot.

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Cover image via Amazon

My Lady Jane (The Lady Janies #1) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Summary from Amazon:

At 16, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be queen of England.

Like that could go wrong.

I immediately loved the 3rd wall breaking and the sarcastic comments and the very honest internal dialogue. This book was fun from the beginning. While Jane meets the almost required ‘modern girl in a historical setting’ trope that all good YA historical novels seem to have, I still liked her. I wasn’t ready for the magical elements to this plot but they did make things fun. I would have liked a better explanation of the curse, but it’s something I can live without and I wonder if it’s better explained in the next book.

The characters were a little too comical to be credible. There were things they did and said that seemed genuine, but then there were moments that were too over-the-top and I could really believe. It helped the tone of the book and made it fun to read as I was being entertained. You don’t expect a comedy to be filled with the most realistic people.

I was always cheering for Gifford. I wanted good things for him. I felt like he got a bad deal, being the second son, but his father and brother did all they could to make his life even harder. The way he cared for and protected Jane were very sweet and I was glad the way things ended up for the two of them.

Edward was raised to be king and was always told he was a great king. I thought it was really relatable when he started to question that, and wondered how much he wanted to be king. I’ve been thinking a lot about what we teach our children and what we encourage them to chase and how much that’s in their best interest so this struck home with me. I was glad when Edward thought about things for himself and realized his sister would make a strong ruler. (I’m not calling this a spoiler because it’s basic history. Sorry if you didn’t know.)

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Cynthia Hand Image via Goodreads

There isn’t a single part of this story I would say I liked more than others. It was well paced with highlight moments coming at fairly regular intervals that kept me interested and excited for what would come next. I loved how Jane would become a thesaurus when she was angry, listing synonyms. I thought it was very sweet and it was consistently employed through the book.

Gracie’s character seemed unnecessary to me. I’m hoping she comes up in a later book, or else what was the point of her? Edward’s attraction to her didn’t motivate him much and her tie to the Pack could have been skipped. I have to assume she’ll play a larger role later in the series or I would think she’d have been cut.

The audiobook was narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Oh. My. Gosh. She was incredible. Her narration made this book for me. I’m sure I would have liked it if I’d read the text, but her sarcasm, her dramatics, and her variety of voices were incredible. I couldn’t wait to start this again and have Kellgren read to me. I would pick out other books she’s narrated in a heartbeat.

The Ethian/Verities opinions are a softened version of the Catholic/Protestant differences that dominated this period of history. The distaste for Ethians by Verities or the tolerance of them defined the reigns of King Henry VIII, Kind Edward, Lady Jane, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth I much in the same way their changing opinions of Catholics and Protestants defined the time period. I liked this way of talking about it without the story being about religion.

Writer’s Takeaway: The sarcastic style and internal dialogue of the characters was great for a YA audience. I’m not sure it would go over as well for a younger or older audience, but it seemed perfect for this spot in between. It felt realistic and I’m sure I’m not the only one who was full of sass in my teen years. Some of the things these characters thought or said were things I would be embarrassed to admit I thought or said, but that made it more fun to read.

Overall, a fun read that I enjoyed. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1500-1699 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge 2022.

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:
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows | The Book Corps
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodie Meadows | Leaf’s Reviews
Book Review – ‘My Lady Jane’ by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows | Casey Carlisle
My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows | The Mermaid Behind the Books

Book Review: Powering Up by Anne Doyle (3/5)

14 Nov

When I was in grad school, I went to a woman’s networking conference and heard Anne Doyle speak. All attendees got a copy of her book and I’m a bit embarrassed it took me so long to get to it. (The days of me being years behind on my TBR are almost behind me!) I think this was a good time in my life for me to read this, so maybe it’s fate intervening.

Powering Up Book Cover

Powering Up! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders by Anne Doyle

Summary from Goodreads:

Powering Up: How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders is a call to leadership heeding women to step up, realize their full potential, and become the leaders they are meant to be. Individual leadership, however, isn’t enough. Every woman for herself is losing strategy. A few lone women, no matter how exceptional they are, have little impact on the conversation of a nearly all-male group, let alone its decisions. It takes critical mass to shift group dynamic. Powering Up will require women to get beyond their differences and recognize how interdependent they are.

I think this was the right time in my life for me to read this book. I’m at a point that Doyle addresses where I have a young family and I have to decide if I want to stay on the fast track, heading upward in my career, or switch to the ‘Mommy Track’ where my career stays steady for a few years while I give my family more attention. That idea seems so sexist and antiquated the more I think about it. What about my partner? Why am I incapable of doing both? I think this book was a good kick in the pants that helped me see a bit more of myself and I’m very thankful for that. I know it’s working because I stood up for myself when a man tried to steal my lane at the pool, rather than just grumbling and dealing with it. Not bad for an introvert!

Doyle uses her own experiences a lot in the book. While it was helpful, it did feel a little odd to be learning so much about someone in a book empowering women to leadership. She used interviews with other women as well and it felt like a lot of them were focused in the Metro Detroit area, where Doyle and I both live. I’m not sure how much impact some of these interviews might have for readers from other parts of the country. 

I thought it was brave of Doyle to share some of the things she did about herself and her journey. She admits to struggles she had with her marriage, her family, and her career. It’s refreshing to see someone who has served in high-power positions share their low points. It can help you see to the other end of your own low points.

There were some things about Doyle’s story that resonated with me. She talked a lot about her job in the auto industry, which is where I work (bet you never guessed this living in Detroit). Despite the time difference between Doyle’s tenure and my own, it’s still a male-dominated industry and a lot of the communication styles can be aggressive and not very welcoming for a young woman who wants to get into the field. It’s something my company and many in the industry are working to combat but it’s not an overnight change. This book got me thinking more about what I can do to help women feel more welcome at my company and what I can ask my company to do so women feel a sense of belonging and want to stay.

Anne-Doyle
Anne Doyle Image via the author’s website

One thing Doyle addressed that resonated with me was how different generations of women often come to resent one another in professional settings. The women who blazed trails and made big impacts in the 50s and 60s can be resentful of women my age who never had to push back against sexist policies and take for granted that we won’t lose out on the job to a man who ‘needs to support his family.’ I thought it was really insightful, especially since I’ve become a mother and I see the parent/not a parent divide amongst women. I’ve found myself talking more to those who have children and understand the balance we’re trying to straddle. Before my child was born, I didn’t really understand the balances of childcare and hungry toddlers and I think I was less sympathetic than I should have been.

There wasn’t a part of this book that I particularly disliked in any way. However, there wasn’t a part that grabbed me in and pushed me to read more and more. It was steady, but never overly exciting for me. I had no trouble putting it down, but I didn’t hesitate to pick it up. I find this more often with non-fiction so I think it’s part of my preference for fiction.

Women are slowly getting more and more equal footing with men in professional settings. Doyle’s book was published in 2011 and since then we’ve seen a woman get a presidential nomination and a woman vice president. I know if Doyle had published this later, she would have talked at length about Mary Barra being named CEO of General Motors. To this day, I think that’s one of the biggest achievements for women in the auto industry and Barra is well respected. I’ve heard before that it’s about time for women to step into positions of power and Doyle lays out well how to do that and what obstacles a woman will face. 

Writer’s Takeaway: I can’t see myself ever writing a non-fiction book. If I did, I’d want to be very aware of how much of myself I was pouring into the book. I think there’s a balance before you start bleeding into memoir and Doyle was playing a game with that line here. I think it might have been helpful to put all of her personal anecdotes into a section by itself which would have read as more of a memoir. Without knowing her, I found her stories a bit confusing because I didn’t understand the timeline of when in her career they happened to her.

An enjoyable and empowering read. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

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

Book Review: Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe (3/5)

31 Oct

This is another book I got a free audiobook of from my library’s summer program. I moved it up my TBR a bit because it fit a time period I needed to wrap up my When Are You Reading? Challenge. I’ve still got my fingers crossed I finish that.

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Cover image via Amazon.

Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe

Summary from Amazon:

At first Hiram is excited to visit his hometown in Mississippi. But soon after he arrives, he crosses paths with Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago who is also visiting for the summer. Hiram sees firsthand how the local whites mistreat blacks who refuse to “know their place.” When Emmett’s tortured dead body is found floating in a river, Hiram is determined to find out who could do such a thing. But what will it cost him to know?

I’m glad I didn’t read the summary of this one. I knew what was coming the second I heard Emmett’s name. His case is so infamous that it immediately told me what was happening in the rest of the story. At least without the summary I had a bit of time with some unknown. What bothered me most is that it felt like this wasn’t a story that should have come from a white narrator. It felt wrong to me that Hiram was telling the story and not one of Emmett’s family members. We meet his cousins and find out that Ruth Anne is somehow related, but it’s still Hiram telling the story. Toward the end we find out more about his connection to the case, but I think it still seemed off.

I think it’s worth noting that this story is coming to movie theatres soon. And told from his mother’s perspective.

Hiram seemed just slightly unbelievable to me. It seemed odd to me that he wasn’t aware of how racist his grandfather was after living with him for so long. We had to suspend disbelief that he would have picked that up. What really got me was that his father would never had said anything about it to Hiram, especially before he went back to spend the summer with his grandfather. The feud between his father and grandfather was that his father disliked how his grandfather treated black people. I’d have to assume Hiram would have picked up on the ideas of one of these men and had the other challenge him before his late teenage years. Children seem to parrot ideas they hear so easily. How could this strongly held belief not be parroted from either man?

I wanted to like Naomi but she fell flat for me at the end. She was a victim of circumstances and did the best she could with a drunk father and an angry brother. The fact that she was still sweet is a miracle. We hear her desires to go to school and make something of herself, but Hiram doesn’t seem to believe she’ll really do it and I was confused why. What is it about her that’s given him this impression? The narrator doubting her made me doubt her. I was hoping there would be a bit more resolution with their relationship, too.

I’ve had moments in my life where I realized someone I loved or respected held ideas that I could not align with, much like Hiram and his grandfather. It’s jarring. It makes you rethink things about your relationship. I understood when Hiram had to shift his opinion of his grandfather and how it continued to happen as time went on. I think it makes you appreciate those who did shape your mind a lot more.

I like Hiram’s relationship with Naomi until the end. I thought it was a very sweet and genuine thing and I was hoping it would turn into something more than it did. Other than that, there wasn’t that stood out to me about this book. It fell really flat.

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Chris Crowe. Image via Goodreads

R.C. really bothered me as a character. I understand he embodied the ideas that many Southern whites held at the time but I think this would have been more powerful if seen through Hiram’s grandfather. He seemed like an unnecessary add just to address white poverty, which wasn’t relevant to the story.

The audiobook was narrated by Victor Bevine. I liked how he read the story and felt he gave weight to the things that needed it. I think he was a good choice for this book as it would have been odd to have someone without a Southern drawl read the story.

Emmett Till’s lynching is a well known catalyst in the Civil Rights movement. I think it’s important that its talked about and shared. I think we should challenge the assumptions and prejudices of older generations as we continue to advance our culture to be more inclusive of those with diverse backgrounds. It’s good that this story is being told, even if I don’t agree this was the best way to tell it.

Writer’s Takeaway: One of the faults I find in historical fiction is often that the characters seem terribly modern for the time period they’re living in. This suffered from that to me. Hiram was easier to relate to because his ideas were very modern and his approach to people of diverse ethnicities was in line with a lot of us today. That doesn’t make him realistic for his time. I would have liked better if his father talked about a reason he opposed his father or an event that showed him the error of his father’s thinking. Maybe fighting side-by-side with a Black man in the war, or an encounter in Greenwood that challenged what his father had taught him. I think the story suffered without this.

Overall a good story but not the one I wanted. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1940-1959 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.

Book Review: Easy Pray by Catherine Lo (2/5)

24 Oct

I’m continuing through the audiobooks I got through my library’s Summer Listening program, finally catching up from a few summers ago. While a few of these have been fun, I haven’t been won over with a lot of them and this is no exception. I wanted to like this book, but the ending just ruined what was probably a Three or Four Star read for me, bringing it down significantly.

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Cover image via Amazon

Easy Prey by Catherine Lo

Summary from Amazon:

Only three students had access to a teacher’s racy photos before they went viral. There’s Mouse, a brainy overachiever so desperate to escape his father and go to MIT that he would do almost anything, legal or not. Then there’s Drew, the star athlete who can get any girl’s number – and private photos – with his charm but has a history of passing those photos around. And finally, there’s Jenna, a good-girl-turned-rebel after her own shocking photos made the rounds at school last year, who is still waiting for justice.

All three deny leaking the photos, but someone has to take the fall. This edgy whodunit tackles hot-button issues of sexting and gossip, and will have listeners eagerly awaiting the final reveal.

I liked this story for the majority of the plot. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was how Ms. Bailey was portrayed. She’s around the same age as me and it was implied she’s angry and short with students because she’s single and lonely. I don’t know a single peer of mine who has that mindset and I thought it was an instance of the writer wanting to make adults seem very ‘othered’ and it bugged me. But other than that, it was a good plot. Drew and Mouse were good characters, I liked Jenna’s arc, there were a lot of good things going here. I’ll talk more about the ending later on but it was a big crash for me.

Lo has a great ability to write teenagers. I knew people like Drew and Jenna. Drew was the jock everyone hated and loved. Jenna is an explosive ball of teenage angst that I know I felt while I was that age. Mouse was believable, even if I couldn’t relate to him as much. I admired his drive and I understood his desperation. These main three were great even if I wasn’t a fan of Ms. Bailey.

Until the end, I would have said Jenna was my favorite character. I’m not sure if I still feel the same way. Ultimately, I think Mouse was my favorite through the book. He was complicated and his motivations stretched his moral character in a way I found believable and compelling. I’m not saying I like what he did or how he did it, but I could see why he was pushed in the ways he was.

Jenna resonated with me. We had a lot in common. I worked at a FoYo place, I wore a lot of black, I tried to act like I didn’t care what people though. So I felt like I understood her and her story in some ways. There were things I couldn’t relate to at all, like her photo leak, but I could empathize with how embarrassing that would be and how angry she would be. However, her decisions at the end really bothered me.

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Catherine Lo Image via Twitter

I liked the structure of the book. Starting with the ‘day of reckoning’ and working backwards to how it happened and watching the puzzle pieces fall into place was awesome. I like a non-linear structure if done well and I thought this was great. Lo crafted a lot of suspense into the novel in a way that kept me reading and engaged, trying to see how we got to that day and see the motivations that get every character there as well.

OK, I’m going to talk about the end of the book so skip to the next paragraph to avoid spoilers. I thought the book wrapped up way too quickly and neatly for how messy of a situation they were in. There are so many ways Jenna could get caught in the end, so thinking she got away without a scratch is nearly impossible. I can understand her anger at Mouse to an extent, but I don’t think it warranted him suffering so much legal action and ruining his chances of MIT. She took things into her own hands when it seems like she had the evidence she needed to get them pined for their original crimes instead of taking them down in a mess she created. It was way too ‘perfect’ in the end for something that was far from it. I left the book frustrated and angry.

There were three narrators for this book: Nick Mondelli, Elizabeth Cottle, and Jack Meloche. I thought it was appropriate to have multiple narrators because of the multiple first person points of view in the book. It would have been odd to have a male voice reading Jenna’s sections. I thought all narrators did well and I liked that Drew and Mouse got their own voices. Cottle did well at conveying Jenna’s angst and anger. I’m not sure which person did Drew, but I really liked the smugness that was in his voice and how it came across. All three did really great.

Internet privacy is a tricky thing. If something exists digitally, it can be around forever and it’s hard to remove it. What happened to Jenna is horrible but so hard to prosecute. How can we protect ourselves and children in this digital age? I think Lo did a good job of exploring this topic, but I think Jenna’s answer came up short. The laws in these areas need to be reconsidered and revamped As a parent, I’ve considered that I’ll need to be more aware of these in a few years so I’m trying not to live under a rock. There’s only so much we can teach our children and have to trust they’ll believe us and listen to us and do the right thing. And even if they do, those around them might not. So let’s do what we can to create a system that helps protect children.

Writer’s Takeaway: It’s hard to end a book. I think this is an example of one that didn’t do it for me and fell flat. I wanted a lot more from this than I got in the end. There was some good intention, but it didn’t feel like everything was thought through. I wanted more. I wanted another chapter that either confirmed that things went the way it was implied or that things blew up. The ending was cut too short and seemed too clean for such a messy situation.

Overall, a disappointing end brought this one down. Two out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

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

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Book Review: Like No Other by Una LaMarche (4/5)

10 Oct

I wasn’t sure what I was going to get with this book. The audiobooks I’ve gotten through my library’s YA summer reading have been hit or miss for me but this one was thankfully a great hit. It wasn’t predictable, which I was afraid it would be. It was a very welcome surprise.

Cover image via Amazon

Like no Other by Una LaMarche

Summary from Amazon:

Fate brought them together. Will life tear them apart? Devorah is a consummate good girl who has never challenged the ways of her strict Hasidic upbringing. Jaxon is a fun-loving, book-smart nerd who has never been comfortable around girls (unless you count his four younger sisters). They’ve spent their entire lives in Brooklyn on opposite sides of the same street. Their paths never crossed…until one day they did.

When a hurricane strikes the Northeast, the pair become stranded in an elevator together, where fate leaves them no choice but to make an otherwise risky connection. Though their relationship is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jaxon arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together. But how far can they go? Just how much are they willing to give up?

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I found Devorah and Jaxon both relatable and well rounded and I found their story believable and compelling. Overall, a good read with great characters! I loved that Devorah was Hasidic. It was really unique and different from other books I’ve read. I watched a Netflix documentary, One of Us, about some of the negative sides of the community so I appreciated this conflicting viewpoint. While Devorah found some elements of her community restrictive, she still loves it and sees the value which I thought was really beautiful.

I found Jaxon a good ‘every man’ for this story Devorah’s culture needed a lot of explaining so making Jax very relatable and giving him a background that’s more generally understood was a good contrast. Even though the focus seems to be on Devorah, Jaxon has a good character arc and I saw a lot of emotions in him that I remembered from high school. The supporting characters were well done, too. I especially loved Rose and I found Devorah’s mother really interesting.

Although she got no dialogue and only a brief appearance, I thought Ruchy Silverman was the most interesting addition to this book. She never appears in person but she has a profound affect on Devorah. It’s the first time she thinks about what happens to someone who goes against the community and is shunned. Seeing that it’s hard for her parents to break from their daughter, to ignore their grandson, really changes Devorah and empowers her to push back. I thought this was a really great way for the author to incorporate a character without giving her a voice.

I remember young love. I don’t think I was ever as ‘head over heels’ as Jax and Devorah, but friends might disagree. I will say I never took risks as big as them! I thought it was very real how Jaxon never thought about the consequences Devorah would suffer for things he thought were romantic or commonplace. No amount of Googling will ever put you in someone else’s shoes completely. That’s a hard lesson to learn and I think by the end of the book, he was starting to see it.

I’m going to spoil the ending here so skip to the next paragraph to ignore that. I liked how realistic the ending was. Devorah suffered consequences for some bold actions, she didn’t leave her family for Jaxon, and she stood up for herself. I thought it was the best ending she could have hoped for. The ending wasn’t great for Jaxon, but I think the relationship with Devorah helped him grow.

Una LaMarche
Image via Goodreads

Some of Jaxon’s actions really bothered me. He didn’t seem to respect Devorah’s boundaries at times and I thought she should have been more angry than she was. He thought he was being cute, but he was putting her safety at risk. Their relationship didn’t always seem healthy though both seemed to have good intentions.

The audiobook was narrated by Phoebe Strole and Leslie Odom Jr. I thought both did an incredible job with this story. I don’t speak Hebrew so I was glad Strole was pronouncing a lot of those words for me and I didn’t have to read them and butcher them in my head. Odom gave great weight to Jaxon’s anxiety and frustrations. I liked that this had two narrators for the two very different voices. I think it might have suffered from a single reader.

Sometimes, two people are too different. Sometimes, the best of intentions come at the wrong time. Sometimes, family is more powerful than anything else. Devorah seemed to know this but started to question it. Jaxon didn’t realize it. Both had to come to some harsh realizations about how we might live close together but our worlds are galaxies away. I liked this story and the culture clash it illustrated. Sometimes we don’t realize what we take for granted as normal and how someone else might view it as foreign. I liked how Devorah and Jaxon explored each other’s cultures. This could have easily been one sided with Devorah coming ‘into’ popular culture but I appreciated how Jaxon learned about Jewish laws as best he could and how he could respect them.

Writer’s Takeaway: Taking your reader into a very niche world, like the Hasidic community, can be a lot to pack into a fictional novel. Having a character like Jaxon who is exploring it with the reader, who has to learn and who makes mistakes, helps make it feel less like a lesson and more like a story. Contrasting Devorah and Jaxon was great. If Devorah’s story had been with another Hasidic boy, like the one she meets toward the end and whose name I can’t remember, there would have been countless times something either had to be explained or that the reader would have been frustrated with not understanding. I loved the two together.

Overall, a solid 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!

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

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