Tag Archives: Ruta Sepetys

Challenge Update, March 2019

1 Apr

I feel like I killed it this month! I’m flying through audiobooks and I’m fairly up to date on reviews. I’ve got my posts scheduled ahead of time and I’m feeling great about meeting my challenges. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in March:

The Wednesday Sisters // Meg Waite Clayton (4/5)
Books for Living // Will Schwalbe (3/5)
Out of the Easy // Ruta Sepetys (5/5)
Origin // Dan Brown (4/5)
This Is A Book // Demetri Martin (3/5)
Thunderstruck // Erik Larson (3/5)
Wonder // R.J. Palacio (4/5)
Dodgers // Bill Beverly (3/5)

KILLING IT! Five of these are audiobooks and I’m going to attribute that to massive amounts of tri training and now I’m feeling doubly productive. I’m working on the reviews that are missing and you should see those in the next week or two as I catch up.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

5/12
One more done! The Wednesday Sisters knocked down another time period for me. I was hoping Out of the Easy would get another, but I already read a book for the 1940-1959 period. Still, forward progress! I’m hoping I can tackle some more without trying before October, which is when I start to read a little more strategically.

Goodreads Challenge

18/52
I just doubled my books for the year in March. That’s how good of a month I had. Killing it! Very happy with this progress. I’m now about six books ahead and feeling a lot more comfortable. I might have to tackle some longer books now that I’m feeling good about it. I’m looking at you, George R.R. Martin!

Book of the Month

An easy choice this month, I have to go with Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. The book blew me away and had me wanting to ride my bike trainer so I could listen to more. That’s really saying something.

Added to my TBR

I’m still amazed at how my TBR is coming down. I’m at 76 books now! After being over 100 for so long, this feels really liberating. I even added two this month and I’m still impressed with myself.

  • Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono. This is the only add as a result of Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living. I thought I’d end up adding millions to my list, but this one caught my attention more than any of the others he mentioned. I hope it works for me!
  • The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib. The summary of this one caught my attention and I can’t stop thinking about it. Eating disorders are so tragic and unfortunately common. I can’t wait to dive into the heads of these women and follow the help they’re given.

Personal Challenge

I’m gearing up again to track personal goals here. This is a great way to keep me accountable and to tell you about me outside the wide world of books.

  • Finish 70.3 Half Ironman: I keep praying the weather breaks and I can take this training outside. I love the swimming and the running has been fun but I’m still lacking some love for the bike. Maybe once it’s outside more I can appreciate it and look forward to it more. I’m eating more and trying to sleep better. This training is hard but I love the challenge.
  • Attend six weddings: So far, so good! We’ve got two formal invitations now and have RSVPed to both. I’m in one, so that’s a no-brainer. Especially because my brother is the groom!
  • Finish a weather blanket: I finally started! After two re-starts to get the gage right, I’m on track. I always think these things are so ugly for the first month or two until the pattern starts to emerge. So now, I’m only in January and I think it’s hideous. I’ll let you know more when I catch up and get to April.
  • Write: This is my favorite goal so far. I’m making great progress in my book and had a mini break-through (more on that in my Writing Check-In post tomorrow!). I’m glad I pushed myself to do this.
  • See my friends more: I’ll still say this one is OK. Training is keeping me away a bit, but I’m hoping that once the weather breaks, I can work seeing my friends into training and enjoy it even more.

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 2019, 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!

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Book Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (5/5)

19 Mar

This book was wonderful. It took me on an adventure to somewhere I’d never dreamed of and I loved every second of it. I was rooting for Jo the whole time and I loved all the side characters in her story that were along for the ride. I initially gave this a 4/5 rating but when I started writing this review, I couldn’t think of a single thing I disliked about it. So get ready for some high praise.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

I wasn’t fully prepared for the well-orchestrated adventure I was going to be on when I started this book. I wish I’d read it closer to my trip to New Orleans, but that’s two years behind me now. When I think of the 1950s, I’m too often overwhelmed with images of poodle skirts and flashy cars (thank you Grease) but this was a very different picture. Jesse was a bit of the greaser, but the New Orleans setting took over the story and dominated the pages. Jo was a good choice of narrator to see the underbelly of the city while staying above the really terrible parts, but the city itself overpowered her and is the most memorable thing in this book.

While I’d like to believe there’s no one as terrible as Louise, sweet as Jesse, or pitiable as Charlie, I know that’s not true and all of these characters were wonderfully crafted. I developed feelings for all of them and cared deeply about their outcomes. Even the unlikable characters were believable and I could understand their motivations. I think characterization, plot, and setting all tied together wonderfully in this book.

Patrick was my favorite character. Until his big secret is revealed (no spoilers!) I was pulling for him and Jo to be together. I thought he was really sweet and loved how he looked out for his father. I liked how he was responsible for his business and his father and that he asked for help when he needed it. And I adored how much he cared about Jo.

I wanted to get out of my hometown when I was Jo’s age. Not for the same reasons, but I wanted to go somewhere and start over. I’d been in the same school since I was in Kindergarten and I wanted to go to college with people I didn’t know and start fresh. I related to her desire to get out but her reluctance to leave the people she loved behind. It was liberating, yet lonely, to leave home and I think Jo senses the same thing coming her way.

Ruta Sepetys
Image via the Between Shades of Gray website

The setting was just so good that I’m going to talk about it again. I was in New Orleans for a conference two years ago and was able to spend some time alone walking around the French Quarter. It still has the vibe that Sepetys describes. I can only imagine it 60 years ago with fewer tourists and different laws. It took me back to wandering around in the heat of summer looking at bookshops and I loved it.

Spoilers here so skip down to avoid them! The only part of the book I disliked was Willie’s death. It seemed to come too fast. I think it was built to very subtly, but it was too subtle. If Willie was ill, it should have been more obvious. It seemed too convenient and wrapped up the plot too quickly. I guess I didn’t buy it being grown into the plot.

The audiobook I listened to was read by Lauren Fortgang. She did an amazing job with this book. The characters’ accents seemed to jive with where they were from and her intonations for the different genders, ages, and lifestyles was perfect. I actually searched for other titles read by Fortgang and I’m thinking of listening to them just to enjoy her again.

Jo didn’t have a traditional family. The one blood relative she did have didn’t support her in any way and hurt her at every opportunity to further her own agenda. Willie was more like a mother, Cokie and Charlie fathers, and Patrick a brother. These people took care of each other. They were a community of people who looked out for one another and I loved that. I think it’s something we’re missing today in a lot of the country and I’d love to see this kind of community come back.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m going to talk about the setting again. It’s very obvious that Sepetys did a lot of research into New Orleans in the 1950s. As a historical fiction writer, I know that can be hard and I think she’s done an amazing job. She brought it to life and the city was almost a character that could help or hurt a person and I think that’s amazing.

This book blew me away. Five 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:
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys- Review by Emma Williams | Nerdy Book Club
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys | Book Review | Bookish Things and Tea
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, 9/10 | readerscornerblog
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys | Librarina
[review] Out of the Easy- Ruta Sepetys | Mermaid Vision Books

WWW Wednesday, 13-March-2019

13 Mar

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 getting so close to finishing Origin by Dan Brown! The story picked up and I’ve been reading it really fast to keep going. I’m excited to know this will likely be on my ‘finished’ list next week.
I started Thunderstruck by Erik Larson and made a decent dent in it with some long bike rides this week. I’m honestly thinking this could be finished in a week because of the amount of riding I’m doing. This progress will have to slow down when the weather gets better and I can ride outside.
I grabbed a new audiobook for my car due to some amazing progress reading (see below). I decided to pick up Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I was reminded that I wanted to explore this book by reading Will Schwalbe. When I heard him speak, he mentioned being part of a book club for adults that read children’s and YA books and how much his group enjoyed this one. So far, I have to agree!
I picked up a library copy of Demetri Martin’s This Is a Book. I’m a big fan of Martin’s comedy and I saw him live (gosh, was that ten years ago?) so I’m excited to see what he can do with a book of essays.

Recently finished: A big week for finishing books! First was Books for Living by Will Schwalbe which I finished because of a surprise trip to Ann Arbor (45 minutes for me) to see some friends. The drive gave me time to finish this one and get excited about my book on hold. Look for a review tomorrow!
I also wrapped up The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton which was a surprise and a huge hit for me. I loved the characters and their passion for writing reminded me of some close friends I used to write with. It was a feel-good piece for me, though there wasn’t a lot of feeling good for the characters. Review coming next week.
I was so eager to finish Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys but now I miss it! This was a wonderfully fun book and I’m so glad I added it to my TBR and was introduced to a new and amazing author. I’m looking forward to reading more by Sepetys in the future.

And reviews! The first one I posted was last Thursday where I reviewed Shannon A. Thompson’s Minutes Before Sunset. I don’t think I was the ideal reader for this one, but I read it quickly and enjoyed one of the characters a lot. I gave it Three out of Five Stars.
I also reviewed You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg. I read this book at just the right time in my life and it really resonated with me and gave me something to enjoy while riding. I gave it Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I feel it’s too soon to think of anything except an ebook. My next one will be Becoming Madame Mao by Anchee Min. This is one of the last Book Calendar recommendations I have left and I’m getting excited about finishing the long list that amazing (and awful?) calendar created.


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

WWW Wednesday, 6-March-2019

6 Mar

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 had as much time to read Origin by Dan Brown as I would like. Work has been crazy and lunches have been short to help squeeze in more training time before and after work. I feel like I’m coming close to a climax, but I have a lot to go still, too.
I’m enjoying Books for Living by Will Schwalbe and am moving through it faster than I thought I would. I’ll probably finish it this weekend so I’ll have a review soon! So far it’s only added one book to my TBR so I’ll consider that a win.
I’ve been flying through The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton and hope to finish it this week, too. It was recommended to me when I told a family friend about my old writing group. It’s giving me flashbacks to that group and I really miss my Novel Girls!
Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys has been a really fun eaudiobook while I’m training. It’s a very escapist plot and when I’m suffering on the bike, it’s very needed! I still have a while to go on this one, but I’m being optimistic I can finish it this week, too! Wouldn’t that be amazing if I finished three?!

Recently finished: No surprise to me that after finishing three last week, I don’t have anything on here this week. Though next week it should be stacked!

Reading Next: My hold on Thunderstruck by Erik Larson came in so I’ll start it as soon as I finish Sepetys. I’m excited to hear another Larson story because he always keeps me so entertained!


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

WWW Wednesday, 27-February-2019

27 Feb

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!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: Still moving steadily through Origin by Dan Brown. I haven’t had a lot of lunch reading time to move through it, but I’m finding as much time as I can. It’s nice to have this to turn to when a little time presents itself.
I began listening to  Books for Living by Will Schwalbe in my car. Since I’ve heard him speak, I keep hoping he’ll suddenly start narrating the book, but no luck with that so far. I’m glad this one is short after the last Amy Tan odyssey I was on.
I grabbed the next book off my TBR shelf and started The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton. It was serendipitous because I grabbed the next book off my shelf to take on a train trip to Chicago and when I looked at what it was, realized I bought it in Chicago the last time I was there in 2015. Too funny!
I started a new eaudiobook. With all the riding I’m doing, they’re going fast. I found a copy of Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, which has been on my TBR for ages. I guess with one of her books being made into a movie, more copies of her past books are available. Fine by me!

Recently finished: I finished The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan late Wednesday last week. It was a bit of a relief to be done with it, I wasn’t enjoying the middle of the book even after I enjoyed the beginning. The end was good, but I wish it had been more consistent throughout. I posted my review yesterday.
I finished Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson over the weekend while traveling back and forth to Chicago for a conference. I think I may take a break from YA for a bit, I feel a bit ‘teenaged out’ after a few YAs in a row. I also have to decide if I’ll finish the series, but I’m honestly thinking of not doing so. My review will be up next week.
I was able to finish You Are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg with all of the bike time I had. This book was perfect for me to read right now and I’m so glad I was able to enjoy it while training for my 70.3. It was the perfect thing to keep me motivated during the first few hard weeks while my body was adjusting.

Reading Next: Since I’ve been flying through audiobooks on my phone, I have another one on hold: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. I love Larson’s writing and it will be fun to have one of his histories to enchant me while I am riding for hours on end.


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

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

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

Recently Added to my To-Read Shelf

9 Oct

My list has gotten out of control this past week!  Nine books added to it.  That brings me to a total of 95 and I don’t know how I’m ever going to make a dent in it.  Oh Reader, I’m begging you; let me know if any of these are terrible or not worth my time.  I can only read so much before I die.

  1. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell: After reading Fangirl, Nicole started on this one and assures me that it’s amazing.  Two teens who know falling in love won’t last, but can’t help doing it anyway.
  2. The Tilted World by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly: Here’s another book I won on First Reads!  And to make it even better, it’s set in the 20s and talks about bootleggers.  I couldn’t be more excited.  It’s the story of two detectives who go to investigate the disappearance of fellow agents and get mixed up with Miss Dixie Clay, the most notorious bootlegger in the south.
  3. Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson: On my previous post talking about the credentials a writer needs, Nicole send me a list of links and one was to Ingermanson’s blog.  I liked is writing style and advice so I think a read of his book might be in order.
  4. Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson: The logical following of a book on writing fiction is the more niche book on YA fiction.
  5. Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys: I have a theory that if you see a book twice, you should just scoop it up and read it.  I saw Sepetys book once on Bermuda Onion’s Weblog so when I saw it again (Lord knows where), it had to go on the list!  The daughter of a prostitute, Josie longs to get escape New Orleans but the thread tying her to a mysterious murder is strong.  It sounds like some solid YA fiction that I’m glad I found.
  6. Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox: After how much I disliked Jaycee Dugard’s memoir, I was hesitant to add Knox’s to my list.  When a friend from my Spanish group recommended it, I couldn’t resist and here it is!  If you’re unfamiliar with Amanda’s story, I’ll summarize.  She was 20 and studying abroad in Italy when her roommate was killed.  Amanda was tried and convicted of the murder, spending four years in Italian prison before new evidence brought the case back to trial and she was acquitted and allowed to move home to the US.  This is her story.
  7. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed: This is another book I’ve seen repeatedly and couldn’t keep off of the list.  This memoir traces a woman’s decision to escape from a crumbling life and hike alone on the West Coast trail with minimal experience.  I do love a good memoir and this one seems to have won many awards (hopefully for the right reasons).
  8. Wild Ink: Success Secrets to Writing and Publishing in the Young Adult Market by Victoria Hanley: I asked at my writer’s workshop if anyone had read any good books about YA publishing specifically and this one was recommended.  I hope to give it a go soon!
  9. Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going: This was another workshop recommendation and I’m not as sold on this one.  Any suggestions, reader?
  10. The Round House by Louise Erdich: Recommended by my supervisor who reads almost as much as I do!  When his mother is violently attacked, Joe is desperate to bring her back from the edge as she draws into herself.  His quest takes him and his friends to the Round House, a sacred place of worship of the Ojibwe.

Reader, I implore you for your help!  Which of these are keepers and which can I pitch?  Please help me prune down the ever-growing list to a manageable size!