Book Review: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (4/5)

5 Jun

When my book club picked this title, I immediately looked to see if the audiobook was available. It makes my life a lot easier to have an audiobook than to squeeze a physical book in. I thought it was a mistake to see that it was only 2:30 long. But it’s true! This little gem is a slim book but it’s also really short, written more in verse than in prose. I knocked it out in under a week.

Cover image via Goodreads

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Summary from Goodreads:

Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

This was my first Jacqueline Woodson book so I wasn’t sure what to expect with the writing style. I was surprised that the audiobook was only 2.5 hours and when I heard how lyrical the writing was, it made more sense to me. I loved listening to this book and getting to enjoy the sound of it as much as I enjoyed the story. I don’t know how typical August’s story was for the time and place or if she had a unique story from her childhood, but it felt like a story of the city, not just of four girls. I think Woodson did a wonderful job of winding these three girls stories together and showing how the world could rip them apart.

The characters felt very real to me. I remember as a girl feeling unstoppable and powerful like August and her friends. I remembering wanting boys to leave us alone because being a girl was too much fun to confuse with boys and feelings. I enjoyed seeing how life tore the girls apart. Sometimes it feels like that happens so slowly that you can’t pinpoint why it happens and I felt Woodson gave us reasons but also showed the slow degradation of friendships.

August was my favorite character. This is probably biased because she narrated. It felt safe to pick her as a favorite because we know from the beginning that she goes on to have a good life. I’m always sad when my favorite character has a bad fate in the end but August is an educated world traveler. I wished there was a little more about her brother because his life seemed to parallel his sister’s in the end, being what she would have if she’d stayed in Brooklyn. I thought he helped to emphasize that she’d taken control of her life and made a point of making it different from the path that was set for her.

I related to the characters sense of youthful invincibility. I remember feeling like I could do anything and the world would bend to my will. It didn’t last long and in retrospect, it seems stupid, but at the time, nothing could stop me. I’d forgotten that feeling before I read this book. It’s great that Woodson is able to remember it.

Jacqueline Woodson
Image via NPR

I enjoyed how Woodson slowly revealed the truth about August’s mother. I had suspicions, but I was afraid to guess for sure. The ways she and her brother reacted to her father’s girlfriends was very moving for me considering August’s memories of her mother and how close she kept her to her heart. I had to go back and reference my physical copy because I tuned out for one second to the audiobook and missed it and knew it had been something big.

Hearing about the girls drifting apart was hard. The life choices and happenings that drew them apart were hard to process. Some of them were happy, others sad, but the grief of losing a friend always overshadowed it. Though you couldn’t focus on that, because something bigger was going on. Losing a friend was just a side effect.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Robin Miles. I loved how she read the lyrical words of this book and I felt she gave the story the weight it needed. It was an emotional read and Miles felt the words and shared the story in a wonderful way.

The world changes forever when we’re young and have to grow up. It can be a very trying time for young girls who have to realize not only that the world is cruel, but that it is inherently unfair. These girls learned that hard message, each in their own way. Boys change into men and you never look at them quite the same. You change into a woman and you start to see yourself the way others do.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book had some of the lyricism I normally associate with poetry but it was clearly a novel. Woodson did a great job of combining what I’m assuming is an inclination toward poetry with a long-form novel. Though the result is short, it’s very impactful and a ton of fun to read. Poetic prose is great for an emotional book and really helps pack a punch.

This was a fun, quick read and I’m looking forward to talking with my book club about it. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1960-1979 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!

Related Posts:
Review of “Another Brooklyn” by Jacqueline Woodson | Rhapsody in Books Weblog
Book of the Week: Another Brooklyn- Jacqueline Woodson | Advanced Readers Edition
REVIEW: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson | Introspective Yarns

 

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Challenge Update, May 2018

4 Jun

School is in full swing and life has slowed down. Reading has slowed down even more. However, it doesn’t show much in the list below which I’m really happy with considering my workload in school. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in May:

An Abundance of Katherines // John Green (3/5)
What I Know Now // Ellyn Spragins (3/5)
Mister Monkey // Francine Prose (3/5)
The World’s Strongest Librarian // Josh Hanagarne (4/5)
Another Brooklyn // Jacqueline Woodson (4/5)
The Sellout // Paul Beatty (2/5)

I guess I followed my own advice and started reading shorter books! I’m also only two reviews behind and I plan on catching up on those this week. I’m really pleased with this!

When Are You Reading? Challenge

7/12
Nothing new this month. I’m doing OK on this one but I’ll have to start purposefully picking some books to get me into the time periods I’m missing. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem if I start now and am proactive about it.

Goodreads Challenge

23/55
Ahead of schedule! That’s not something I expected of myself when I went into this month. I’m pleased as punch to have gotten so much reading done. I think driving to school has helped me get ahead on audiobooks but honestly, only three of these are audiobooks.

Book of the Month

It’s pretty easy for me this month to pick The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne. I adored this memoir and how open Josh was about his life and his struggles to remain in control of his life. The audiobook was great as well and a joy to listen to.

Added to my TBR

I’m failing at this again. I thought I could keep it down but after a book fair and a book sale, I added to this list on two separate occasions. However, I’m still going down and I’m at 96 currently.

  • Books for Living by Will Schwalbe. Schwalbe was the only writer I was familiar with at this year’s Midwest Literary Walk and I decided to buy his latest book. I had read his first book, The End of Your Life Book Club for my own book club a few years ago and enjoyed it.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Schwalbe recommended this as part of his speech at the book fair and my sister-in-law positively reviewed it so I decided it was time to add it here.
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio. This is another Schwalbe recommendation and one I feel has been too pervasive to ignore any longer.
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. A man in my book club was recommending this one so it might show up on our list in the near future. If not, I’ll probably read it anyway because I always seem to enjoy some solid non-fiction.
  • The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory. This one should be finished before the end of the year as it would be a good fit for my When Are You Reading? Challenge. Gregory is always a good one for that.

Personal Challenge

I used these monthly posts to keep myself accountable to my personal goals for 2017 and I’m excited to do that again this year. You all were so supportive before.

  • Graduate and keep my 4.0- I was able to keep an A in my winter class despite a poor final paper so I’ll take it! I’m over half-way through my current class and I’m hoping I can keep it up!
  • Travel to Europe with my husband- I booked the puffin and whale tour and a bike tour in Amsterdam. I’ve still got to reserve the Anne Frank House tour, Park Guell, and La Sagrada Familia. Everything else is good to go!
  • Complete a race per month- I did a 5K early this month. I was running with a friend to support her so no PR for me but she got one! It was a terribly rainy day so I’m sure she’ll do even better in nice weather later this summer.
  • Complete a 2018 Weather Blanket- I’ve made some good progress but I’m still a month behind. I finished a baby blanket so this is now my main knitting project and I’m sure I’ll catch up.

How are your challenges going so far? I hope you’re off to a good start If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for 2018, it’s fun!

Until next time, write on.

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

Off Topic Thursdays: Running

31 May

It’s time for another Off-Topic Thursday! With the last two months being swimming and biking, I bet you’re not surprised that this month is running! I bet you can guess what next month will focus on. I’ll have to get creative at some point.

I never liked running. In high school, I was a swimmer because it meant you didn’t have to run. Well, it was minimized compared to other sports at least. I felt winded when I ran and it always felt uncomfortable. After I got married and settled into a desk job, I needed something to keep me moving so I started biking and realized that with the swimming I’d done since I was a child, I was 2/3 of the way to a triathlon. The final hurdle was running and I finally had the motivation to do it.

My running started small as my triathlon dreams were small (sprint distances end in a 5K). I was running 1-3 miles 3-5 times a week and feeling good about it. Then I fell. It wasn’t a bad fall and I’m not sure it caused my knee pain but it was there when I started running again at longer distances. I went through a round of physical therapy and came out the other side no better. It was time to try something new.

I found a virtual triathlon coach. He lives about 15 miles from me but we rarely see each other and he trained me for two years all via text and an app called TrainingPeaks. With this coach, I started doing strength exercises and building up my support muscles. Then I started running. I remember the joy of my first 4-mile run. The first year, I topped out at 7 miles in a run. The second year, he coached me to a half marathon.

Husband and I after the Detroit International Half Marathon.

My goal for next year is a Half Ironman Triathlon which ends in a half marathon so we’ve signed up for another one later this summer. I like to do a race per month and that’s involved a few 5Ks so far, mostly fun ones with friends but one race where I ran my PR. I’ve got a few 10Ks and a 5-mile race lined up through the rest of the year, too.

I’ve learned to really enjoy running and racing. I’ve learned that I don’t have to be super fast to still have fun, though it is great to place in your age group. There will always be people faster than me but there are usually people slower than me, too. I have fun right in the middle. I have a lot of friends in the same boat and we enjoy doing these events together. It’s also a great bonding moment for my husband and I. We run together at least twice a week and he always pushes me. I love and hate that.

Survived the snow and both broke an hour! Triple crown winners.

A post shared by Sam Ann Elizabeth (@samannelizabeth) on

I think I’ll scale back to 5Ks and 10Ks once I do my Half Ironman. I love this community and the support I’ve felt from it since I started running. One of my goals is to do an event in every county in Michigan’s lower peninsula. Fun little 5Ks will be a great way to accomplish this. I’ve filled in a few more since then, but I’m tracking on a map in my bedroom.

Even if you’re not a runner or have no aspiration to be 5K events are a great way to get out, be active, and enjoy the weather. I sometimes think the people walking with strollers and dogs are having much more fun than me. Even on a rainy day, you can still have a good run. I’m hoping to get out tomorrow for a good one myself.

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!

WWW Wednesday, 30-May-2018

30 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I got a few pages through The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver during my lunch break but not too much. I’m through chapter 1 now and I already had to renew it. This will be a long, slow haul.
I’m really enjoying A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson and with all the driving I’m doing for school, I’m going through it pretty quickly. I may even finish it in the next two weeks, pretty fast for me!
I hadn’t gotten far in Critical Chain so I switched audiobooks when one I’ve been anticipating more became available. I started Dreams of Joy by Lisa See. I enjoyed the first book in the series, Shanghai Girls, and I remember it well enough that I’m picking up right where I left off.
I started a new physical book as well. My book club’s next selection is The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. It’s not something I ever would have picked up otherwise and so far, I’m enjoying it. I’m early on but I’m hoping to get through this quickly because I’ve got some other books I want to read.

Recently finished: I finished The Sellout by Paul Beatty last week. It was a day after my book club meeting but the ending wasn’t startling enough that anything was ruined for me by listening to the discussion. I liked it well enough, but the satirical tone wasn’t something I got into.

I also posted my review for The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne. I love a good memoir and this book hit the spot for me. It was a great mix of emotional and funny and I recommend it. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I forgot about my book club selection so I have a physical book on my bedside table and I’m afraid it will be a while before I get to it. It’s the library copy of Brainiac by Ken Jennings which happens to be large print. It was the only copy the library had so I feel a bit weird about it, but it’s my only option. On the bright side, I’ll get through it much faster than I would another book with the same number of pages.


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

500 Books!

29 May

I’m at 501 now, but I wanted to have a post to recognize that I’d hit 500 books read on Goodreads! It feels like a major mark so I’m celebrating.

Now, this isn’t that I’ve read 500 books since I started this blog or that I’ve read 500 books total in my life. The number is likely much higher than that. When I got Goodreads, I went back and added some books I’d read long ago to my read shelf and rated them when my memory was sufficient. Other times I didn’t rate them but added them anyway. So this 500 is somewhat of an arbitrary number if you really think about it. But hey, it’s still a landmark!

I’ve been using Goodreads for almost six years and in that time I’ve read 334. It will be some time before I hit 500 books read while I’m a Goodreads user but I’ll look forward to that date.

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!

Holiday!

28 May

For those of us State Side, today is a Federal holiday and there’s no work or school. I’m spending today getting ready for my midterm exam tomorrow and tidying up around the house the things I’ve neglected a bit while I’ve been so busy with school and work. I wish I could say today was set aside for some great reading, but I might be lying to you.

I hope you all have a great holiday and get to squeeze in extra reading. I’m jealous.

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne (4/5)

24 May

My husband and I did a long weekend trip to Cleveland a few years back and we couldn’t help but notice a bookstore down the street from our hostel. Horizontal Books drew us in immediately with its pricing structure. But 1- 50% Discount. Buy 2- 60% Discount. Buy 3 or more- 70% Discount. Clearly, we needed to buy at least three books. This was one I picked after we’d both selected one and someone had to split the middle. It seemed like stealing at those prices! I guess I was intrigued by the title (granted, the cover I have doesn’t seem to be the final and the subtitle has changed). Mine is subtitled ‘A Book Lover’s Adventures’ but the final subtitle seems to be apter.

Cover image via Goodreads

The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne

Summary from Goodreads:

Josh Hanagarne couldn’t be invisible if he tried. Although he wouldn’t officially be diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome until his freshman year of high school, Josh was six years old and onstage in a school Thanksgiving play when he first began exhibiting symptoms. By the time he was twenty, the young Mormon had reached his towering adult height of 6’7″ when — while serving on a mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints — his Tourette’s tics escalated to nightmarish levels.

Determined to conquer his affliction, Josh underwent everything from quack remedies to lethargy-inducing drug regimes to Botox injections that paralyzed his vocal cords and left him voiceless for three years. Undeterred, Josh persevered to marry and earn a degree in Library Science. At last, an eccentric, autistic strongman — and former Air Force Tech Sergeant and guard at an Iraqi prison — taught Josh how to “throttle” his tics into submission through strength-training.

Today, Josh is a librarian in the main branch of Salt Lake City’s public library and founder of a popular blog about books and weight lifting—and the proud father of four-year-old Max, who has already started to show his own symptoms of Tourette’s.

The World’s Strongest Librarian illuminates the mysteries of this little-understood disorder, as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. With humor and candor, this unlikely hero traces his journey to overcome his disability — and navigate his wavering Mormon faith — to find love and create a life worth living.

I love a good memoir and I’d gone through a dearth before this book. And religious memoirs are even more my speed. This was a great combination of a book lover’s story, a fitness journey, and a religious memoir. It hit all my buttons. Plus, the super sarcastic voice and great narration helped. I liked how the chapters started with Dewey Decimal numbers to tease what was coming. I liked his honesty and the way he talked about his Tourette’s. I just liked this book.

Hanagarne is very truthful about his flaws. He talks about being unable to hold down a job, his wavering faith in the LDS church, and his ticks. I’m not sure how realistic the other people in his life are portrayed. His mother, father, siblings, and wife all seem to be pretty perfect and I’m sure they’re great, but everyone has flaws. In a memoir, the focus is on the writer and having perfect side character’s isn’t as important so I can forgive Josh that one. Though Adam seemed really well-developed and I hope his characterization was right on.

Janette was one of my favorite side characters. The amount of patience that woman has is amazing! First, her patience to wait for the right man to show up in her life, her patience for Josh to find a career, for them to start a family, and for Josh’s ticks. When things went well for Josh, she was able to celebrate. When things went poorly, she still supported him and helped him find answers. She was an amazingly supportive spouse and a great mother.

While it’s nothing like Tourette’s, Josh’s struggles to find answers to his condition reminded me of a year in my life when I was struggling to get a diagnosis and treatment for a hip injury. I remember the frustration when I went through different treatments and as my diagnosis changed. Medical conditions with no easy solution are frustrating. There’s something wrong and you just want to know how to make it go away but you have to go through rounds of treatments before you find what works for you. I understood Josh’s frustration and I’m glad he was able to find something to help control his symptoms.

Image via the Oregon ALA

The story of their struggles to conceive really struck me. Their desire to have a child was so strong as they overcame miscarriages, adoption, and their final pregnancy and parenthood. Josh was very honest about the process he and Janette went through and I appreciated his honesty about a period of time that must have been clearly stressful.

There wasn’t a part of the book I disliked, per say. Josh did a great job of keeping the focus of his book on the three things he set out to cover; faith, family, and Tourette’s. I felt he blended these well together and never lost focus. There were parts I was slightly less interested in, but nothing I disliked.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Stephen Thorne. I thought he did an amazing job of voicing the sarcastic undertones of Hanagarne’s writing. He also gave proper tenderness to the parts of Josh’s story that were emotional and hard. I also adored how he read Adam. Overall, it was a great performance.

Josh set out to talk about three things and I think he covered them wonderfully. We see his progression from a boy with Tourette’s to a man living with it to a man controlling it and growing into a father. He talked about his faith, growing up with a mother and father who encouraged him to grow in his faith to a man who went out to preach and convert. His illness seemed to deter him from his belief and I appreciated his honesty about how he struggled with his faith. His family took leading roles in both of these other aspects, having a great influence over his faith and supporting him through his treatments. It was a great combination of topics.

Writer’s Takeaway: Being able to laugh at yourself is so important when you face hardships. Making light of a tough situation, when appropriate, can help reduce stress and help you enjoy life. Josh had some very tough times in his life and he didn’t make light of all of them. Misty’s return late in his life and the struggles he and Janette faced to have children were never made into jokes. But he was able to make light of living with Misty and his struggles with faith; things still very important but ones he’d deal with for a long time to come. I appreciated his way of looking at himself and the world, it made for a good read.

I enjoyed this memoir a lot. Four out of Five Stars and a high recommendation.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
The World’s Strongest Librarian, by Josh Hanagarne | Blogging for a Good Book
The World’s Strongest Librarian | When I Couldn’t Get Crab Apples I Used Horse Chestnuts
The World’s Strongest Librarian | Beck’s Books

WWW Wednesday, 23-May-2018

23 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

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

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


Currently reading: I haven’t made much progress with The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. I’ve been getting my school reading done during lunch at work so I’m not falling behind in that, but I’m not getting ahead in reading. I expect this will be on this list for a while.
I sped through The Sellout by Paul Beatty but didn’t quite finish it in time for my book club meeting. I’m still going to finish it but it’s a little bittersweet knowing more about the ending than I otherwise would. Oh well.
I’ve had some good movement with audiobooks! I wasn’t able to get The Joy Luck Club as fast as I wanted to so I started A Walk In the Woods by Bill Bryson instead. This is making me excited for summer and thinking about getting the gear so I can be a backpacker soon! I’ve wanted to do some longer hikes for a while but I don’t have the gear… yet.
I also started another eaudiobook. I picked up Critical Chain by Eliyahu Goldratt. I read his critically acclaimed The Goal in college and I’m excited to see what else this business master has to share.

Recently finished: I wrapped up The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne last Wednesday right before bed. I really adored this book and I’m surprised how few reviews of it I found after posting. It seems it wasn’t widely distributed even though it was well received. My review will be up tomorrow.
I plowed through Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson on my errands and drive to school. This was a great, albeit short book and it’s making me curious about what else Woodson has written. Does anyone have recommendations for more by her?

I posted my review of Mister Monkey by Francine Prose on Thursday last week and my book club reflection of it went up yesterday. The book was good but it didn’t blow me away. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’m set on audiobooks for a while so it looks like I’ll get to pick a physical book next. I keep knocking down my towering TBR from the top and next up is Brainiac by Ken Jennings. My mom raised me on Jeopardy! so I watched Jennings in his legendary run on the show. I’m interested to see what he has to say about the world of competitive trivia and learn a little more about a person who can pack so many facts into his head!


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Club Reflection: Mister Monkey by Francine Prose

22 May

My book club got together last week to discuss a fun book, Mister Monkey by Francine Prose. Many of us found the book light and fun, but that was after finishing it with hindsight. While reading it, the piece felt somewhat heavy. All the characters have some rather serious flaws and they struggle. But in the end, it ended happily for most of them. Well, mostly.

There was an interview with Prose that our group shared (link here). In it, she talked about the number of things in the book that were pulled from her experiences. The first was her granddaughter asking her during a show if she was interested in what was going on during a quiet moment in the plot. The second was observing a really bad date, though the one she witnessed involved a man calling his friend to complain about his blind date while she was in the bathroom. The final was a dinner party she went to with her granddaughter’s classmates’ parents. She felt like any question she asked about something non-school related was treated as ludicrous and that the parents talked down to her the same way they did her granddaughter. I love that all these things were brought together in one book.

The structure of this book was very unique. It allowed us to see how the characters saw each other. Rather than just Margo’s opinion of herself as a washed-up aging actress, we see Mario admiring her and Leonard’s impression that her costume is ridiculous. Sonya tries to rationalize her date and thinks that maybe Greg isn’t terrible but Ray and Mario can both clearly see that it is awful. The cast thinks Eleanor is a terribly brusque person but she’s staying in character and is very polite. The character’s stories are resolved, but not in their own plot line. Roger resolves Lakshmi and Eleanor resolves Edward and Leonard. We felt like we could reread the book and get something else out of the nuances we missed the first time. A good comparison to the structure would be Lakshmi’s play where we learn about one character through the stories of the others. Talking about this made us all a bit worried about how others see us.

The Chekhov quote that is sent to Margo at the beginning of the book sums the whole plot up. It’s on page 20 in my copy and reads, “Failures and disappointments make time go by so fast that you fail to notice your real life, and the past when I was so free seems to belong to someone else, not myself.” Many of the characters are wrapped up in their own lives so much that they don’t notice what’s going on around them.

There were two stories we talked about at length. The first was Ray. The story he wanted to write about his experience in Vietnam was so twisted that it bears no resemblance to the story in the play. His experiences are lost and he feels happy at his success but also a bit disappointed with what has become of the book. He seems to regret having been so successful.

Eleanor struck us as the only person in the book who was happy with her life. She wasn’t looking for her next unhappy love affair and she wasn’t trying to be at a different stage in her life. Everyone else wanted to be older or younger, in love or out of it, but Eleanor was happy.

There were some themes in the book we hoped would be flushed out a bit more. The monkey theme was obvious but seemed unfinished. With how much Darwinism and evolution were brought up, we thought they’d play a bigger role in the book and were a bit let down when they didn’t.

I left with a ‘lighter’ impression of this book than when I’d finished it. I love being able to flesh out the book with the other readers in my group! We have one more meeting before our summer break and I’m looking forward to it.

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!

A Reader’s Opinion

21 May

Something came up in my book club the other day that I wanted to share and get some opinions on. If someone says to you, “This book is great! You totally have to read it!” do you always believe them? Personally, I don’t.

A book being ‘great’ by one reader’s opinion isn’t a guarantee that I will love it. I’ve had a number of books recommended to me that I just hated. I usually wait for at least five people to recommend a book to me before I consider putting it on my TBR. Seeing one positive review is rarely enough to encourage me to jump on board.

But when does a single reviewer convince me to read a book? Well, if they’re a big reader, I’m going to take their recommendation much more seriously. If a reader consumes only four books a year and says one of them is ‘great,’ that’s not a lot to compare the book against. If it’s the first book you read in years and it was wonderful, maybe you just forgot how awesome books are and this was a happy reminder. I consider someone a reader if they’re reading over 10 books per year. I’m usually in the 40-50 range myself but I’m a bit overzealous.

One of the women in my club laughed when I said this. She said it was years before she read Harry Potter because the friend who was telling her “she had to read it” was someone who had read nothing but Harry Potter since college.

Even if someone is a heavy reader, I can still be skeptical of their book recommendations. Are they a heavy thriller fan and they like a thriller because it’s good in the genre? I’m not a thriller fan so will I still enjoy the book? If someone is a YA fan but they recommend a woman’s fiction novel to me, I’m not sure how they’ve formed that opinion so I’m going to be a little skeptical there, too.

The people I tend to trust are those who’ve read similar books to me, even if our opinions on them differ sometimes. There are people in my book clubs that I trust and librarians I’m friends with who know what I read. If they read similar books or if the suggestion is tailored for what I like to read, I’m much more inclined to believe them.

Unfortunately, this means I need to see a book on many blogs before I’ll even think about putting it on my TBR shelf. This is a huge disadvantage for new authors and I understand that. As someone who hopes to write a book someday, I’m trying to overcome this bias but I trust the opinions of other readers a lot. Maybe I’m just nervous to try something new for myself.

Do any of you struggle with this? Whose opinion do you trust when they tell you about a book you just have to read?

Until next time, write on.

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