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On Vacation Again!

17 Aug

I’m happy to say I’m on vacation again! I’ll be back next week but I left Tuesday night so I’m skipping today’s post. I’ll be exploring the streets of New Orleans!

If you’re from New Orleans, let me know some local places to hit up. I’ll be at a conference for most of this trip but I’ll try to sneak away. I plan to hit up at least one bookstore, too. Look forward to that.

Hello from the Big Easy and I’ll see you all next week.

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Gem in Portland, OR for the Traveling Bookworm

14 Aug

I can’t even pretend I stumbled across this one. I practically planned my vacation around this. Guys, I WENT TO POWELL’S!

If you’re not familiar with Powell’s, it’s the largest independent bookstore in the world. It takes up an entire city block in downtown Portland and has three floors of books. It sells new and used books and I can’t tell you how close to crying I was when I finally walked in.

I wanted to see EVERYTHING and I think I was pretty darn close! We started in the lobby which featured a ton of well-curated tables and best-seller walls. There was a bunch of souvenirs as well and I picked up a postcard to add to my collection. From there, we hit the fiction shelves. Eek! I’m a total sucker for staff recommendations so while I looked through many of the books there, I knew I’d end up getting a staff recommendation and I did. I picked up Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. It sounds like a cross between Station Eleven and The Martian and honestly, that sounds too amazing for words. It might be a while before I get to this on my TBR, but it will be a good time when I do.

Because I’m an Instagram nerd, I knew Powell’s had an autograph pillar and we found it! I saw Neil Gaiman’s autograph and got really excited. A lot of the names I didn’t recognize but this one sure stood out!

We spent some time in SciFi looking at the games collection but my husband wouldn’t bite and buy one. We kind of skipped through a lot of non-fiction and children’s, too. I know myself and I know I’m going to buy fiction, but it was still fun to explore.

I did stop myself in the language section. One advantage of a lot of floor space is having a great collection of foreign language books! I know I’m running low on books in Spanish and my husband recommended picking another one up here. I still have the 7th Harry Potter book to read next year, but nothing after that. Powell’s to the rescue! I picked up Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. YA is a good reading level for my Spanish skills and I’m super excited knowing that I’ll get to this one in 2019.

An awesome addition to this store is the Espresso Book Machine. I’ve read about these machines before but this was the first time I saw one. These machines can print books, either hard-to-find books or copies for aspiring writers. Powell’s sells a few by local authors in the store. We wandered around for a while, hoping they would print one while we were there. Luckily, I found the world’s best Nalgene while we waited. This is my new favorite thing in the world. And we did wander around long enough! It was great to see the machine in action, printing a local author’s book (I believe it was on bike routes but I was too focused on watching the process). It printed, bound, and trimmed the book before it slid out the slot on the bottom center you can see in the picture. I thought this would be great for anyone printing out a proof copy for Beta readers. I wonder if there’s one near me…

The last stop was something we were told not to miss, the Rare Book Room! There were some signed first-editions, most notably the A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) and some Dan Browns. There were also some old books from the settlement of the US and some presidential books, too. My favorite was a few large illustrated editions of classics. I was allowed to touch them which made me really excited to look through the pages.

Me in the Rare Book Room with my Rare Book Room pass.

My husband talked me into leaving due to hunger. He did agree to let me come back for a while later that day and I found a book for him! It’s called DC Trip by Sara Benincasa and is about a teacher chaperoning the annual Washington DC trip at her school. My husband has done this two years in a row now for the middle school where he teaches so it seemed too perfect. I hope he laughs when he reads it.

So that was my trip to the amazing Powell’s. I’ll leave you with a picture of the pillar out front. There are four sides that have the Latin phrases “buy the book, read the book, enjoy the book, sell the book.” I didn’t plan it, but this is the “read the book” side.

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Gem in Vancouver, BC For the Traveling Bookworm

8 Aug

I hadn’t picked out a bookstore in Vancouver to visit but it was recommended to me that I check out MacLeod’s Books. I would normally link to the site here, but they don’t really have a website. I’m sad to say this was my least favorite of the three bookstores I visited, but it’s hard to compete with the other two!

MacLeod’s is a used bookstore located downtown. Because of its location, it’s not that large and as a used bookstore, it’s in a state of disarray. Now, this is nothing unusual for those of us who like to wander through used bookstores but after running across a number that were impeccably organized lately, it’s a bit of a disappointment.

I walked in and tried to sell my copy of A Son of the Circus to the man behind the counter but was informed that the buy-back person wasn’t in but would be back shortly. I decided to take a look around while I waited and see what I could find.

Like many used bookstores, the history sections were huge! I took a walk through because I feel the non-fiction in a store talks a lot about the area it’s located. This store focused heavily on First Nation (that’s Native American to us Americans) and war history. Sometimes this reflects the owner so that might be a part of it, too.

I was very happy to find a book that had been on my ‘going to have to buy it’ list on Goodreads! I picked up Singing Him My Song by Malachy McCourt. I added this to my list after reading Angela’s Ashes because Malachy is Frank McCourt’s younger brother! Malachy has a few books out but this was one I could never find. It felt like finding buried treasure!

My husband wanted to leave and I was about done with my explorations so I headed to the counter and was lucky that the buy-back guy (I think he was the owner) was there. I handed him my copy of A Son of the Circus and told him I wanted to sell it. He told me that they don’t move that title well in hardcover and that it wasn’t a popular one so he could only give me $5 CAD for it. I was kind of impressed he knew all of this without looking anything up! On the other hand, he could have been making it up and I wouldn’t have known, haha. The book I wanted was $15 CAD so I was happy to get out for $10 CAD.

It was a quick visit and not my favorite place, but I still came out with a book I’ve been searching for ages so I think that’s a win. Especially when you see how many books were packed into this place! And I was happy to lighten my load back, swapping a 600 page hardcover for a 300 page one.

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!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

20 Jul

By the time this post goes up, I’ll be on my way to Seattle! I’m taking time off to go on vacation with my husband. We’re spending a few days in Seattle visiting his college roommate and I plan on hitting up the used bookstore down the street from his apartment. Space Needle and Pike Place Fish Market are of course on the docket as well!

Then we take a bus up to Vancouver where we plan to climb Grouse Moutain. Honestly, I don’t have much else planned for this leg of the trip besides exploring the beautiful city.

Lastly, we’ll take another plan to Portland where my friend’s sister has graciously agreed to put us up. Of course, Powell’s is in the plans! I hope to spend a whole day there, haha. I’ve been dreaming of visiting this places for ages so look forward to a post on it! Voodoo Doughnuts is a must for us while there, too. I’m beyond excited.

So I’m out all next week. Check out my Instagram to follow all the fun things we get to see.

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!

My Big Book Dilema

18 Jul

My big West Coast trip is coming up fast! I’m beyond excited and starting to put together my baggage. I’m having some serious bookish struggles, though. I need your help, Readers!

I posted this on Instagram yesterday and I’m still struggling with what to do. I have about 150 pages left in this book and I’ve been reading it forever because it’s quite the chunk! I love Irving and I’m finally into the book and enjoying it so I hate to put it aside for a trip, but it’s so big! It’s going to take up a lot of precious space! Especially for only 150 more pages, I’m wondering if it’s worth it.

The other side to this is that I plan on selling the books I finish to a used book store while I’m on my trip. I’ll then buy some more so it’s kind of like recycling, right? So, if I take this book, I won’t bring it home. This makes me sad because I love John Irving and I won’t be able to add this one to my collection (which is a measly 4 right now despite how many of his titles I’ve read). Not bringing it home is making me teary.

I’m so lost and having some serious bookworm problems, Reader. What should I do? Help a girl out.

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!

Recovery Day

27 Jun

Hi, all.

I try not to do this often, but I need a recovery day. I did two triathlons last week (Wednesday and Sunday) and turned in my final project on Sunday night. It’s been really busy and I need to sleep! I’m taking the day off but will be back tomorrow for WWW Wednesday.

Happy reading!

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

Book Club Reflection: Tigerman by Nick Harkaway

19 Jun

I finished reading Nick Harkaway’s Tigerman right before the book club meeting, something I normally don’t do! I’m usually really good about having a book read well in advance, but I pushed it this time. I’m not sure if I think it helped me be more prepared for the meeting or if it didn’t give me time to reflect on the book properly. We’ll see how I feel about doing it at the end of the month, too!

Harkaway’s father is John le Carré, an author I didn’t recognize by name but whose titles include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Constant Gardener. Le Carré worked for MI6 before becoming a writer and it’s hard to imagine this didn’t influence Harkaway’s writing.

Thought I was one of few who disliked the book outright, many agreed that the first half dragged quite a bit. I’m glad other noticed this, too! There was a lot of setup for the book and some action earlier on would have been appreciated.

Those who did like the book liked that it was unpredictable. The next step in the plot wasn’t usually easy to find and a few things made for quick changes in direction. Shola, Jack, and the Fleet come to mind. There was also a lot of layers of meaning and commentary in the book. The environment was one that stuck out most to me and others point out war, father-son relationships, and a sense of duty. Many also liked the understated humor of the book. I guess I didn’t find this enough to make up for what I felt was an overwhelming amount of detail.

Of the major characters in the book, most were foreigners on the island. The Wwitch, Lester, NatProMan, the Fleet, and most others were visiting the island, getting something from their time there. Shola, the Boy, and White Raoul are the biggest exceptions. There was a lot of outside influence on Mancreau.

The rest of this will discuss some spoilers so end here if you want to skip them! We wondered by White Raoul didn’t act like more of a parent to the Boy. He seemed to know he was not being cared for at home. We wondered if his physical deformity kept him from being a caretaker. White Raoul seemed to know the Boy was Jack and was likely Jack himself before, maybe passing it on. Maybe the Boy’s mother was Jack before her accident?

The Boy was very smart. He manipulated Lester into becoming the Tigerman. The Boy was influenced by comic books and in the end, he influenced Lester to become a character in one. Lester often reflected on all the bad things he’d seen while serving in Afghanistan and how powerless he had been to stop those things. Becoming Tigerman gave him a way to influence the bad things around him and finally help create a better world.

The Boy’s mother was an odd twist. We saw her accident and subsequent mental illness somewhat like Uncle Ben in Spiderman. Losing his mother made the Boy become Jack the same way Uncle Ben’s death helps Peter Parker become Spiderman. It was just another tie-in to the comic book world. This book had a few of these we felt were well placed and gave it a comic book feel.

We’re taking a month off before this group meets again in August. Maybe I’ll have time to finish some other reads?! We’ll see.

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Club Reflection: Stiff by Mary Roach

6 Jun

I read this book about six months ago but my second book club decided to read it and I thought I’d go without a refresher. It was my first meeting back after school ended so I was just glad for an easy transition. Much of the conversation was like my other book club’s discussion but I thought I’d share some of our thoughts with you all here.

Again, the main question we pondered was if the book was offensive. Some people found the humor to be too much. But we reasoned that the humor is how people can deal with working so close to death. The same way I can be light about a person not getting a job (I’m in recruiting), people have to make light of a heavy situation to deal with sad facts.

We discussed donating our bodies to science. Many in our group had living wills or insurance policies covering what would happen to them after they pass. We talked about how it’s the family, commonly the children of the deceased who have to live with the body donation. Could a child deal with what’s happening to their parent’s body? After reading the book, many of us were turned off to embalming or cremation so donating seemed like a better option. Many liked the idea of being composted into a tree.

We’ve all been to funerals and one thing the book cleared up for us is why sometimes the person doesn’t look the way you remember. If there was an illness especially, modern mortuary science can make the person look more like his or her healthy self than like they did before death.

Roach was very fearless in her pursuit of this book. We were impressed with how much information she was able to gather considering when the book was written. One of our members did question her facts, especially about automotive crash safety. She mentioned on page 92 that you can survive a 60mph crash into a wall. He didn’t believe this was a repeatable statistic from a crash lab, it seemed too unbelievable. It might have happened once, but cars are not designed for that.

This is a really fun book to discuss with a group and I’m glad I had a second go at it. We’re reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance next. I haven’t started yet but I’m looking forward to it!.

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!

Meeting Author David Maraniss

30 May

My community chose David Maraniss’s book Once in a Great City for our Everyone’s Reading book this year. I’ve already posted my book review and my book club reflection on the book and last week, I heard the author himself speak.

Maraniss was born in Detroit but spent much of his childhood in Wisconsin. He spoke about watching the Superbowl in 2011 and when this ad came on, he felt a pull to the city.

I really connected with this. I was living in Southern Indiana in 2011 and was watching the Superbowl with a bunch of other friends from the business school. As nerdy business students, we were more focused on the half-time commercials than on the game. It went completely silent in the room while that 2-minute ad went on and then when it was over, the whole room looked at me like I was the ambassador for the whole city. I just said, “Heck yes!” and grabbed more guac. It seems I wasn’t the only one with an experience like this, but Maraniss wrote a book because of it.

Once in a Great City is Maraniss’s 12th book. He uses the same research system for each book which he likens to digging an oil rig and getting as deep as he can to get all the information. The first step is to go to the place. When writing about Bill Clinton, he went to Hope, Arkansas. When writing about Vince Lombardi, he went to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Doing so has given him access to first-hand accounts and stories he wouldn’t have found otherwise. The second step is always to get the documents. For this book, it was letters from Mayor Cavanagh and Police Commissioner Edwards that were at the Wayne State University Reuther Library. He visited 11-12 other libraries and archives including an Olympic archive in Los Angeles and Duke University’s advertising archive for the documents about the Mustang. He found during his research that the Mustang tagline was originally Imported from Detroit. Well, at least it was finally used.

Maraniss’s third step is to talk to people. Being in the target area helps with this. Many of the major figures for the Detroit novel had passed but he was able to talk to a few including Berry Gordie Jr. and Martha Reeve. His final step is to look for what’s not there. For Maraniss, he saw the influence of the rest of the Gordie family, not just Berry. He saw the access to musical instruments, specifically pianos as a reason for the musical movement in the city at that time. He also saw the influence of public school music teachers and how that pushed many musicians to follow a musical career.

Maraniss expressed that the bittersweet tone of his book wasn’t intentional but grew as he wrote and edited the novel. He feels Detroit is still a great city but that the neighborhoods and schools need support to match earlier splendor. Due to length, there were other topics Maraniss chose to not cover including architects and other auto companies.  This book has been optioned into a 4-part documentary series on CNN with Anthony Bourdain that will likely release in early 2018. The makers are currently looking for home movies of that era to add to the series.

In answering questions from the audience, Maraniss revealed that on a recent trip, he went to see his childhood home and it had been knocked down the day before! He’d seen it other times on trips to the city for research but was really struck by the timing. He revealed that his next book will deal with the McCarthy era. Maraniss also said that there’s not really a set time it takes him to write a book and that the process is ongoing for him. He did say he often signs 2-book contracts and that it’s usually 8-12 months between book delivery to his editor and publication.

I decided not to buy a copy of this book because as much as I liked it, it’s not one I’ll read again and I’m trying to limit the books I own, even the signed ones, to ones I would want to lend out or read again. No pictures this time.

Until next time, write on!

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

PotterCon Detroit!

29 May

My amazing husband got me a great birthday present. I went to PotterCon! I didn’t even know about this event when I first opened the present but I got really excited all of April leading up to it.

In addition to my husband and I, another couple was coming with us. Here are our costumes. Can you guess who we are? The thing in my left hand is a book on a stick, that’s not part of the costume.

After waiting forever in line (very confusing which line to go in), we got inside the Masonic. This was the perfect location to have this event because it felt like Hogwarts. We were going up and down stairs, along passages and never really able to find our way from one room to another. If you look at the picture on the web link I included, it shows the room where they held Quidditch demonstrations and trivia. It was beautiful.

The first thing we did was get drinks! The event is 21+ so drinks were happening. I had a Butterbeer (picture below) which was scrumptious. Then we went to get sorted. Or we thought we’d get sorted. You put your name in a lottery and they drew names of people to sort. It was fun; they asked questions and the person answered and then the crowd shouted what house they thought the person should be in. None of my friends were picked, unfortunately.

We explored the castle, looking at wand making, the Diagon Alley stores, and Quidditch-pong. One of the things I really wanted to do was trivia! We ran into two more friends who joined our massive team. We decided to do intermediate trivia because a few of us are pretty knowledgeable. I think there was some kind of huge mistake. Husband and I caught the end of the novice trivia questions and some of them were WAY harder than the ones we got. We only got one question wrong and missed one bonus point. There was a grand suspicion that the questions had been mixed up. Needless to say, there was a massive tie for first and we were part of it! I was selected to represent my team and we went to the stage and were given a category. The category was Hogwarts Professors and we went down the line, each naming one until we couldn’t and were eliminated. I made it through two rounds, which only about eight people did. Not too bad!

After that, we went and got lunch, which was probably the least organized thing of the whole day. There were only 3 food trucks for 9,000 people! It took about an hour for us to eat burritos. After that, we were pretty tired and decided to go watch the costume contest finals before heading home. The finalists were amazing! I was so impressed with their costumes. My favorite was a woman dressed as Madame Pomfrey who had a freaking hoop skirt on! The woman who won was the Fat Lady, complete with frame and broken wine glass. It was really epic and well deserved.

It was a long, exhausting, amazing day. I hope there’s another event like this because it was well worth the ticket price. And I now have a cosplay costume! (Assuming at least two other people come with me.)

To my American readers, enjoy the Memorial Day holiday. I’m relaxing at the lake house.

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!