Day Off

2 Oct

I do hate to do these, but I need a day off. Between school and my charity bike ride this weekend, I’m a bit worn out. I’ll be back tomorrow for WWW Wednesday, don’t you worry! I’ll have something Thursday, too. I just need one day to snooze and recover. I hope to finish some books and have something great to post.

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!

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Challenge Update, September 2018

1 Oct

It’s not been a great month for reading, that’s to be sure. But it hasn’t been bad, either. I think I’m setting myself up for a good October. There’s some positive thinking. It’s a rebuilding month. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in September:

The Hate U Give // Angie Thomas
The World We Found // Thrity Umrigar
The Lowland // Jhumpa Lahiri
The Children’s Home // Charles Lambert

It’s been a bad spell of slow months of reading. I have a few half-read books now and I’ll be happy if I can get to them soon and consider them finished. Like I said, I’m building to an awesome October. It’s been a bit too slow, though. I’m worried about making my reading goal for the year.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

7/12
I hate having to say I’ve made no progress again. I’m in the middle of two books that will count toward this challenge. I’ve got the last two picked out, too. I really do feel I’m making progress on this one even though the numbers don’t show it.

Goodreads Challenge

35/55
Six books behind. I’m starting to feel like I’m drowning in this one! Finishing more than a book a week is a tall order and I’m not living up to it. I think shorter books are in order but I really like long-winded writers.

Book of the Month

Another win for a book club selection. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was amazing and is a clear winner for Book of the Month for September.

Added to my TBR

Down one is still down so I’ll take it. I’m at 88 for this month. Safely under 100 and inching down. It’s slow, but it’s happening. And I only added one this month, but it was one I had to add.

  • Lethal White (Cormoran Strike #4) by Robert Galbraith. If anyone thought I wouldn’t add this, you’re silly. I’m a huge Rowling fan, even when she’s Galbraith. I’ll probably do the audiobook of this again as the rest of the series has been incredible.

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- So far so good in class. I’ve gotten a few grades back and I’ve only lost one point so far. Woo!
  • Travel to Europe with my husband- Not only done but my photo frame is up as well. Check it out!

View this post on Instagram

Photo frame done! #europetravel

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

  • Complete a 2018 Weather Blanket- Falling behind again so I can make an epic comeback when it gets cold and knitting is a bigger comfort.

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 Thursday: Turtles

27 Sep

When I told my boyfriend (now husband) that I was allergic to cats and dogs, I thought he was going to break up with me. He grew up with both in the house and thought it was a given that any home would have at least one free-range furry friend living in it. He spent the two years we were engaged talking about hypo-allergenic cats and dogs and even looked up the price of a pure-bred Siberian cat.

For the six months leading up to our wedding, he was finishing up at school and I was living alone and was very lonely. Following what had always worked for him, he decided to get me a pet for my birthday. I’d had an Eastern Box Turtle growing up and he decided it was time for me to have another turtle in my life. That’s how we came to have Jane.

Jane is a really sweet-manored girl and we’ve bee so lucky to have her in our lives. She has only bit me once, the first day we had her! I picked her up wrong and have never made that mistake again! She’s not cat, but my husband has grown to really love her and enjoy taking care of a reptile. They have a lot more of a personality than one might think!

We’d moved to a bigger apartment and had purchased a bigger tank when a co-worker approached me about a friend who needed to re-home his turtle. Apparently, his wife was not a bit fan and he was told the turtle would not be moving with them to their new house. We were asked if we could provide a home for a 15-year-old male, Marty. Fortunately, we were able to oblige.

Marty was very different right from the start. He’s much more aggressive and even bit Jane when we tried to put them in the same tank. He has a bad habit of begging for food by splashing loudly when we’re in the kitchen. Jane has started to pick it up so we’re not pleased. He’s also a little escape artist and we’ve twice had to track him down around the apartment when we realized he wasn’t in his tank. For reference, the lid of his tank is about 5 feet off the ground. He’s a tough little thing.

So I don’t have cute little furry friends but I do have cute little scaley cold-blooded friends. My husband and I love being turtle parents, mostly because it’s so relaxed and we can leave them for the weekend without worry. If you’re in the same allergy-boat as me, consider reptiles! They make great pets. I secretly want a lizard but I don’t want to buy live crickets.

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, 26-September-2018

26 Sep

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’m making slow progress on Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I’ve tried to pull this out of my pocket every moment I can but it’s still a slow go. I’ll have to be a bit better at dedicating time to it in the next few weeks to wrap up before it returns again.
I decided to put The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl on hold for a bit to move forward with some book club picks. I’m afraid those are starting to pile up quite a bit!
I’m in love with A Column of Fire by Ken Follett and am finding excuses to run errands so I can listen to it. I’m almost halfway already. I hope I can renew this one a few more times to finish it up. Driving to and from school so often is helping a lot!
I decided to pick up The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert and try to knock it out quickly so I can get back to Poe. It’s a short book and I’m about a quarter of the way in so far. With luck, this will be finished next week.
I began a new eaudiobook as well and I’m so excited to say that it’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz. I wasn’t sure how to feel about this one when it came out, but my mom liked it so I thought I’d try to go into it impartial. So far, so good.

Recently finished: I was able to wrap up The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri thanks to all my running in the past weeks. I’m revving up for a half marathon so I expect my eaudiobooks to fall faster and faster! It was interesting that I was reading two books at the same time about characters born in India. Thankfully, this did not run together with Umrigar’s book at all. I enjoyed The Lowland, though not as much as I enjoyed Lahiri’s first novel. I’ll read a third if she decides to write it. I posted my review Monday so please check that out. I gave it four out of five stars.

Reading Next:  Artemis by Andy Weir is still my top choice. I hope I can get to it soon but I can feel another book club selection baring down on me soon. I’m trying not to think about it. We’ll see how I do with all these pressures!


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!

Magazines

25 Sep

This may seem like an odd topic but I’m running short on things to post about this week.

I’m a member of several groups and as a result, I get magazines from them once a quarter. It’s only four total and all with topics I’m very interested in. My problem is that I don’t read them.

I think I’m so driven by this blog and Goodreads that I neglect them. I want to finish a book and post a review. I’m not going to post anything about a really interesting article in Swimmer magazine about correcting my backstroke head position (seriously, great article). I could have spent those 10 minutes reading more of Bel Canto and finishing the book so I can move on to a book club pick.

Does anyone else have a pile of magazines built up? How do you decide on the time you’ll spend reading them versus a book? Should I work on correcting my backstroke head position?

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 Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (4/5)

24 Sep

After my book club read another Lahiri book, I knew I needed to pick up her other full-length novel, The Lowland. I picked up a used copy though I can’t remember where. I finally got to this book on audio, making time to squeeze it into a busy summer. It was great for long runs in the beautiful weather.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Other books by Lahiri reviewed on this blog:

The Namesake (and book club reflection and movie review)

Summary from Goodreads:

From Subhash’s earliest memories, at every point, his brother was there. In the suburban streets of Calcutta where they wandered before dusk and in the hyacinth-strewn ponds where they played for hours on end, Udayan was always in his older brother’s sight. So close in age, they were inseparable in childhood and yet, as the years pass – as U.S tanks roll into Vietnam and riots sweep across India – their brotherly bond can do nothing to forestall the tragedy that will upend their lives.

Udayan- charismatic and impulsive- finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty. He will give everything, risk all, for what he believes, and in doing so will transform the futures of those dearest to him: his newly married, pregnant wife, his brother and their parents. For all of them, the repercussions of his actions will reverberate across continents and seep through the generations that follow.

For me, this book was at its best in the middle. I got dragged down at the beginning by all of the politics. It was a lot to take in for a short time and I could tell it was important to the plot but that it wasn’t going to be crucial. I was more focused on the relationship between the brothers. From my other Lahiri reading, I knew she was great at describing relationships between people and making you care about her characters. I could see that part of the book coming and, for me, it didn’t come fast enough at the beginning. I also disliked the very end, revisiting Udayan. I saw him as a past part of the book that was no longer the unifying thread of the book. To me, that had become Bela. It could have been cut and given the book a stronger ending.

I thought Subhash and Gauri were great characters. They were strong enough to hold up the book even when I felt Udayan and Bela failed. Subhash was motivated by duty and he felt a duty to serve many people in his life. Gauri wasn’t given a lot of decisions in her life and tried to make the best of situations she disliked and was uncomfortable in. Eventually, it was too much and it’s up to the reader to decide if they agree with her decision or not. I think the ambiguity of it proves that this book was well written.

Subhash was my favorite character. He was reliable when everyone around him was fleeting and unsure. He was a rock in the book that the plot could focus on and the readers could count on to tell the story. Even before you find out how emotionally driven the other characters are, Subhash presents himself as the one to watch, even when he’s a small kid.

There weren’t characters in this book I related to well but I was still able to enjoy it. One of the things I enjoyed was reading about Indian characters and how they felt in America and how American culture was different for them. It helped me learn about what some of my Indian-born coworkers might be going through.

Image via The Telegraph

Bela’s adulthood was really interesting to read about. It seemed like such a drastic change at first, for her to go from the only child of a single father to a nomad but Lahiri built into it well and reinforced the decision as she became a mother herself. I didn’t like the direction of the character at first but I grew to really like Bela’s character toward the end.

Gauri was really hard to like. Visiting her after she’d been in California several years made me angry. I didn’t agree with her decision and what she did to Bela so I was secretly hoping she was unsuccessful and unhappy. Oh well. I actively tried not to be happy for her and her success. I was very bitter.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Sunil Malhotra. He was amazing. I really enjoyed his accents and voices for the various characters and the solemn approach he took to a very serious book. I hope he continues to narrate books by Indian-American or Indian-British writers because I’d love to hear more from him.

I felt the title of this book was just a bit misleading. It refers to a place where Subhash and Udayan would play together in childhood. It takes on a deep significance for them both when they’re adults (trying not to spoil everything!) and the book returns there for its conclusion. However, the majority of the book takes place in Rhode Island. It felt weird to tie the book to a location in India which had only passing appearances in the book. I felt there could have been something else that would have been less miss-leading that Lahiri could have chosen for a title.

The book focused on the relationship and sense of duty shared by Subhash, Gauri, and Udayan and the ways their lives intersected. I loved how I was always thinking about the three of them and all of the ‘what if’ situations through the whole book. It was well tied in and you never forgot the ones that were not present.

Writer’s Takeaway: Lahiri’s not afraid to make her characters suffer. There always seemed to be something going wrong in their lives, yet they’re very resilient. I sickly enjoy the melancholy and the beautiful moments of clarity and happiness that the characters get. It contrasted well.

I liked this book and I’ll read another Lahiri novel if she decides to give another to the world. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri | Cloud & Leaf Bookstore
Book Review: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri | Queery the Catalog
“The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri | Belper Book Chat

The Book Club Dilemma

20 Sep

I seem to have this problem fairly often and I’m wondering if I’m the only one. Reading book club selections on a deadline can be a killer!

It happens every time. I think I have a week free to squeeze in a book I want to read. I’ll get started, I’ll get into the book, and then it happens. This time, it was an audiobook hold coming in that I’ve been waiting two months for. That threw my idea of listening to the audiobook of our selection. Another time, it was losing the hold on the ebook I was reading for fun, starting the book club selection, only to have the ebook become available again a few days later. Almost every time, something comes up.

I try to make it work. I balance ebooks, audiobooks, eaudiobooks, and print books as best I can to enjoy some of my own picks while getting through a book club pick as well. But sometimes it’s a real struggle. I don’t want to put a book on hold or I’m SO CLOSE to finishing it and could be done in four days but I need to get to that book club selection because I only have a week to read it and I’m supposed to be leading the discussion. Something always comes up.

I can’t be the only person who has problems with reading on a deadline. I know many of you read for book clubs and for blog tours. How do you deal with the time pressures and squeezing books in that have no deadline but make you happy? I need some tips.

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, 19-September-2018

19 Sep

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: Breaking News! I got my hold on Bel Canto by Ann Patchett back! The timing could not be better and I’m ecstatic to get back to reading this book.
I’ve made great progress on The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri during runs. I expect this one two be wrapped up next week. It’s turned into one I’m really enjoying and reminds me what I loved about my previous Lahiri read.
The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl is moving forward well and I’m enjoying the mystery now. It seems like a complete dead end but what better time for something ridiculous to happen!
The plot of A Column of Fire by Ken Follett is building fast and I’m excited to see what ends up happening with these characters. Follett is living up to my expectations so far and I know he will continue to amaze me.

Recently finished: I wrapped up The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar during my lunch last week. It perfectly took me the 30 minutes I allow myself to finish. I felt it ended a bit quick, but if it had kept going, it would have been twice as long. I understand why Umrigar ended it when she did but I wish I knew what happened to these ladies I’ve grown so close to. I wrote up a review and posted it yesterday. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I still plan to pick up The Children’s Home by Charles Lambert next. It’s a short one and I have the audiobook on hold. Maybe I’ll get lucky and have that to follow The Lowland.
I got suckered into another book club. I don’t think I’ll join this one every quarterly meeting, but their next book is one I’ve had on my list and needed a kick in the pants to get to. I’ll be reading Artemis by Andy Weir. After how much I loved The Martian, I have unrealistically high expectations. Let’s see if I’m let down.


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Book Review: The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar (4/5)

18 Sep

I read Umrigar’s memoir for my book club and followed that up with the oft-recommended The Space Between Us. When I found another Umrigar book on clearance at B&N, it was an easy decision for me to snatch it up.

Cover image via Goodreads

The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar

Other books by Umrigar reviewed on this blog:

The Space Between Us

Summary from the author’s website:

As university students in late 1970s Bombay, Armaiti, Laleh, Kavita, and Nishta were inseparable. Spirited and unconventional, they challenged authority and fought for a better world. But over the past thirty years, the quartet has drifted apart, the day-to-day demands of work and family tempering the revolutionary fervor they once shared.

Then comes devastating news: Armaiti, who moved to America, is gravely ill and wants to see the old friends she left behind. For Laleh, reunion is a bittersweet reminder of unfulfilled dreams and unspoken guilt. For Kavita, it is an admission of forbidden passion. For Nishta, it is the promise of freedom from a bitter, fundamentalist husband. And for Armaiti, it is an act of acceptance, of letting go on her own terms.

I love Umrigar’s depiction of modern India. I’m not sure how true it is, but I love it. There’s a unique blend of old and new, combining modern and traditional culture that I find really well done and really engaging. The four women in this book represent completely different people. They were bound together once by ideology and their commitment to a cause. Life took them in completely different directions and ripped two of them away but the world has a way of bringing people back together as it’s done in this novel. The husbands and children take a back seat to the main women and they have a good lesson about how female friendships, true friendships, stand the test of time.

The characters felt very real to me. I have my 10-year high school reunion coming up and I think about how different my life is from those of my high school friends, even this short while later. I can’t imagine how different they will be when I’m the age of these women. I thought the paths they’d gone down and the lives they led were logical conclusions from their college days and each of them was very unique and fleshed out.

Thrity Umrigar
Image via Goodreads

Kavita was my favorite character. She was most like me in many ways. She was passionate about her career and loved it, she had found someone who was special to her, and she was still close to her family. Laleh was too reactionary for me to relate to well. I’ve never had a life-threatening illness like Armaiti or been close to someone living through one so she wasn’t a character I connected with, either. Nishta’s situation was very unique and engaging to follow, but it was so different from myself that it was hard to see through her eyes.

I thought Adish was easy to relate to as well. He liked to fix things and I think that’s very much how I am at times. I hate when someone is upset or mad or fighting and I want to fix it. I don’t have the same financial pull that Adish had or the optimism he had that everything will work out.

Nishta’s idea of freedom dominated this book for me. At a young age, it was the freedom to follow the man she loved and defying her parents to do that. As she got older, it was freedom from the religion her husband pushed onto her. She didn’t agree with the man he’d become and felt distanced from him. As such, she felt trapped and wanted to be free from his control. While Iqbal once meant freedom, later escaping him did. Realizing that this had changed took her a while but seeing her come around to find that the world was different (thus the title!) was beautifully done.

Writer’s Takeaway: I applaud Umrigar for taking four women who were once inseparable and probably indistinguishable from the outside and turning them into four very different and unique women. Sometimes with large groups as the main focus, characters can run together but Umrigar’s never did.

I enjoyed this book a lot and I’m glad I grabbed it from the clearance shelf! Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
Book View: The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar | The Blog of Litwits
Book Review: The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar | Of Books and Reading
The World We Found | Necromancy Never Pays

Book Club Reflection: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

17 Sep

It was a long summer without my book club but we had an amazing book to gather around last week as we discussed The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. We all liked the book and felt it was important, even when some people found fault in the characters and plot. For a YA novel, it was sophisticated and a bit dark. We pondered that if it had been any darker and if the ending hadn’t had its happy elements, it might have been too much for a YA audience. As it is, the book teaches good lessons to readers of any age. One member compared it to Sherman Alexie’s Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or the movie Lady Bird (which I’m still dying to see!).

One of the complaints from our group was that there was too much content. There were a lot of characters and some of them were very static and seemed more like a representative of a stereotype or ideology. They could have been cut out to simplify the plot a bit. However, it depends on how you view the book. If the book is about Khalil’s death, most characters are superfluous. However, if it’s a biography of Starr, many of the characters were needed because they affected her views and perspective. Still, some could have been combined or simplified.

Another complaint was that some things were too perfect. Starr’s parents were too perfect, busting King was too perfect, and Williamson was too perfect. The Carters may have had difficult pasts but their current situation as almost ideal. They were also nearly perfect parents and always did and said the right things. (This isn’t one I picked up on while reading.) Busting King and getting everyone to snitch at the same time seemed unreal. We felt that the individuals would have been worried about other King Lords trying to get revenge and it was too good for Starr’s story that her father’s store burning down pushed everyone over the edge. Williamson and the suburbs were idealized and almost too perfect while Garden Heights felt too stereotypical of a ‘ghetto’ neighborhood.

Our amazing group moderator found an NPR interview with Thomas. She talked about the inspiration for this book coming from her experience at a liberal arts college during the Oscar Grant shooting and how she felt like Starr does at Williamson. She spoke about the inspiration for Uncle Carlos as well. While the white officer, 115, is shown in a clearly bad light, Thomas wanted to make sure there was an officer in a positive light. She had a cousin that was a cop and he was the one to give her the talk about how to act around police officers.

She also addressed Chris. Thomas says she’s asked frequently why Starr is dating a white boy. Some of us thought his character was unnecessary in the story but Thomas wanted to show him as an ally. He contrasts well with Hailey. I found him very relatable at the end when he was uncomfortable at the protest even though he wanted to be there and believed in the cause.

This book made for a great discussion and I’m so glad our library supported us reading it! Talking about it helped me appreciate it even more.

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!