Tag Archives: The End of Your Life Book Club

WWW Wednesday, 13-August-2014

13 Aug

I’m proud to say I made the progress I promised for MizB’s WWW meme. All the books are progressing nicely; hopefully there will be progress next week, too.

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading:  I’m still making slow progress on  The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I’m really not surprised, because I keep this to be my ‘slowly yet surely’ book. It’s living up to its name. I promised to say I made progress on it yesterday because Katherine takes forever to try on clothes at H&M! My carpool buddy and I are almost done with Looking for Alaska by John Green. He’s already ‘John Greened’ us and I’m curious to see how this will end. While I wait for my next audiobook to get in, I’m listening to Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. I thought I’d put this aside soon, but the audiobooks I have on hold are taking forever to get in! I’ve only got a few minutes left, so this should be off the list soon. I started reading Canada by Richard Ford. It’s been on the top of my TBR pile for a long time, so it’s good to get this one off. The way it was on my shelf, the huge picture of the author on the back looked like he was watching you while you watched TV on the couch. I think my husband’s glad it moved.

Recently finished: Just one finished this week: Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. I stayed up late to finish this one but it was sooo worth it!

I’ve been trying to get through my backlog of reviews, so go check out my review The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe.

Reading Next:  Same as last week because nothing came in at the library: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett on audio, Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors, and Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan. Keep your fingers crossed that something turns up soon!

I’m hoping to finish ‘Alaska’ and ‘Leonard Peacock’ this week.’ How is your WWW? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

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: The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe (3/5). You already know how this ends.

11 Aug

My book club has been on a memoir kick the past two months. I’m not complaining, I love a good memoir, but I’ve been craving fiction! That might have influenced how I felt about this book.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe

Mary Anne Schwalbe was never one to sit still. She was darting around the world, trying to bring aid to orphans in Oceania or building a school in Afghanistan. Being sick was never an issue; until that illness was Pancreatic cancer, but even then, it was just a slow-down. Will uses the time when she must slow down and sit for chemotherapy to talk to his mother about their shared love of books. Throughout the year and more that his mother fought cancer, Will and Mary Ann bond over books and characters; talking about ones that inspired them and ones they’ve been meaning to read for ages and ages.

“We’re all in the end-of-your-life book-club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”

-Will Schwalbe

This was one of those books where on page one, you know how it’s going to end. The more I read (or listened to), the less I wanted it to end. I was in love with Mary Anne. She reminded me of my mother, mixed with my aunt and my mother-in-law with a dash of spunk. I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the books they read, but her character and the loving way Will portrayed her kept me going forward.

Schwalbe gave his family and friends very realistic portrayals. Even the characters with smaller roles, such as his partner, David, had distinct personalities which leapt right off the page. I think his mother’s portrayal was an act of love because she was darling.

Mary Anne was definitely my favorite character. Her spunk and vigor were contagious and it got me thinking about what I would want to do with the limited time left to a pancreatic cancer patient. Strangely enough (or maybe appropriately), I would want to read, too. I have a long list of books I want to read before I die and I think I’d take the time to do it. Mary Anne wanted her legacy to be the Afghan Library but I think she’ll be equally remembered for how Will portrayed her in this book and her love of books.

I found the characters (it feels strange to call people in a memoir a character, doesn’t it?) hard to relate to. I think this is why I didn’t like the book more. I found a lot of their book choices unappealing to me and it almost made me feel like I like ‘lesser’ literature. Besides the children’s books, I’d read (only) the following:

  • Dave Eggers, What is the What?
  • William Golding, Lord of the Flies
  • Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
  • Steig Larsson, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father
  • Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

I used the appendix of the book but can’t recall exactly the ones they read together and those only mentioned. I’ve tried to include here the ones actually read. Considering that the appendix is six pages of entries, you can understand how my list of seven seems weak. I’ve never lived on the East Coast and I wonder if the culture of that side of the country is what kept me from the characters, but I felt a separation from their ‘normal’ that kept me from loving the book.

Will Schwalbe Image from the book's website.

Will Schwalbe
Image from the book’s website.

I loved the flashbacks Will took to his childhood. It was interesting what moments he remembered and left him questioning so many years later. My love of turtles attached me to the story about his large stuffed turtle. I also loved the anecdotes about his mom forgetting to read to him one night and how she reacted when the siblings broke out laughing during the Christmas story on Christmas Eve. I hope that I can think of moments in my childhood like this and remember to ask my mom what they meant before it’s too late.

It was hard to read about Mary Anne’s final days. Toward the end, I kept pausing the audiobook because I didn’t want to hear it and my husband said, “You know what’s coming, just finish it.” So I did. And it was rough and gritty, but it was real. There was nothing sugar-coated about her final days and I really appreciated that in Schwalbe’s writing.

The overall message I got was to follow my passions. Mary Anne didn’t let cancer get in the way of her passions; family, charity, and books. In fact, she let those guide her in her final days and helped her block out everything else. Maybe we all need a reminder to focus on our passions before it’s too late.

Writer’s Takeaway: Schwalbe’s characterization of his mother was excellent. I felt like I knew her, or at least knew ten different people she reminded me of. He wrote with love and I think that’s something fiction writers need to do as well; we need to love our characters like they’re our mothers. I can think of one character of mine that needs some love now; I have to find something lovable about her so she can jump off the page like Mary Anne did.

For the record, Will is pretty active on Twitter. I got this tweet from him when doing my customary #FF. I got a few more I’ll share in my Book Club Reflection.

I loved the character, but found it hard to connect with the lifestyle of the players. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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

Related Posts:
The End of Your Life Book Club – Will Schwalbe | Savidge Reads
The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe | Something More
Will Schwalbe: The End of Your Life Book Club (2012) A Memoir | Beauty is a Sleeping Cat

WWW Wednesday, 30-July-2014

30 Jul

Some progress for MizB’s WWW meme. I’m reading too much. More accurately; I’m reading too much at once.

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading:  I’ve slowed a bit on  The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. Mostly because the eBook had to be returned so I’m waiting for it to come back. This is a slow torture.. My carpool buddy and I are getting a slow start Looking for Alaska by John Green. We only drove together once last week because I was so busy so hopefully we can make some big progress this week. I’m speeding through  The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen. This past weekend I went camping with my husband and got to do the one thing I wanted to do more than anything else; read on the beach. It was glorious. While I wait for my next audiobook to get in, I’m listening to Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. Soon this one will go on the back burner. My husband and I are listening to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs on audiobook during our recent car trips. We should finish it this weekend when we go on (another) camping trip.

Recently finished: Just one; The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. I finished it on Saturday and had a book club meeting over it on Monday. It was meh. Review coming soon.

Speaking of reviews, I wrote some this past week! Check out Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser.

Reading Next:  I’ve put two things on hold at the library: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett on audio and Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors. The Follett is a personal challenge and the Shors is for my When Are You Reading? Challenge.

I hope to finish at least one more this week. Probably the Cullen and the Riggs. How is your WWW? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

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, 23-July-2014

23 Jul

I was so determined to finish a book for MizB’s WWW meme. I’m going on an audio binge for the next week or so, so I was glad to finish a physical book!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading:  I’m making steady progress through  The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien on my phone. I’ve had a lot more time to read eBooks this past week than I thought I would. On audio, I started The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe and I’ve made decent progress over the last week, which means I’m spending a lot of time alone in my car even though it was an Ozone Day on Monday (but I carpool so often!) Speaking of, my carpool buddy and I started Looking for Alaska by John Green and she is loving it, as am I. I hope we can finish it before it’s due back at the library! I started  The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen as I’d hoped to. I’m really loving it and forgot how much I enjoy books about royal courts. Yes, I do love Philippa Gregory. And because I love having more stories going than I can keep straight, I started an audiobook on my phone, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. I’ll listed to this while I’m cleaning and cooking around the house. I think that’s enough books to be in at once!

Recently finished: I finished The Coward by Kyle R Bullock over the weekend. I enjoyed it and I’ll have a review up soon, as I promised Kyle I would by the end of the summer, which sadly is fast approaching! I posted a review for The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson if you want to check that out.

Reading Next:  My husband and I are road tripping to New York this weekend, so I’ve got Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs on audio for us to enjoy. We’ll likely finish it on the way home, but if not we’re going camping the weekend after and will have another two hours in the car each way. I’m so lucky my husband loves stories as much as I do!

Does anyone else get really excited over road trips because of the audiobook potential? Or is it just me? What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

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, 16-July-2014

16 Jul

Almost in reaction to last week’s progress, I’ve got almost nothing to report for MizB’s WWW meme. I guess that’s what happens when you do a 120 mile bike tour over the weekend. So there is that, right?!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading:  I’m about halfway through The Coward by Kyle R Bullock. I’ve taken a bit of a break from it to work through the huge pile of Cosmo magazine on my bedside table but I’ll start it again tonight.  I’m making slow progress through  The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien on my phone. It seems so familiar I think I’ve read it, but i don’t remember it enough to stop. On audio, I just started is reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, but I’m embarrassingly still on the first disk! I haven’t been doing a lot of driving besides to and from work and I need to step up my game. My carpool buddy and I started Looking for Alaska by John Green and she is loving it, as am I. We’re almost through the first disk and I think we’ll keep moving well on it.

Recently finished: Nothing finished, unfortunately. Not even much progress on the books I’m reading, really. I did write a review for A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers, so you can check that out.

Reading Next:  I’m still hoping to start The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen soon. This will fulfill the 1500s time period of my When Are You Reading? Challenge. We’ll see after that.

I’ve got a bit more time at home this weekend so I can do some reading. I’m making ‘The Coward’ my goal for the week. What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

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, 9-July-2014

9 Jul

Progress, progress, progress! At least, it feels like it. Consider joining in MizB’s WWW meme if you haven’t before!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading:  I’m about halfway through The Coward by Kyle R Bullock. This is the last ARC off my shelf and I’m enjoying it so far. It’s strange to be reading this at the same time as The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I’ve got to keep World War II and Vietnam separate in my mind! On audio, I just started is reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, my next book club selection. It’s too early to tell how I’ll feel about this one.

Recently finished: I finally finished The Maze Runner by James Dashner Monday night. I wanted to throw the book at the wall. I get frustrated when a series doesn’t have good stopping points between books and this one sure didn’t! I can’t decide if I want to read the sequels or not. I also finished Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser on Monday (a big day for me). It was informative, well written, but not as captivating as I’d hoped for.

A big week for reviews as well! I covered O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn as well as The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

Reading Next:  Still a good number. Looking for Alaska by John Green has yet to come in at the library so I hope to get that soon. And I want to start The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen soon. This will fulfill the 1500s time period of my When Are You Reading? Challenge. We’ll see after that.

The hubby and I are doing a massive bike tour this weekend so I hope to get something read before then! What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

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, 2-July-2014

2 Jul

A bit of progress for MizB’s WWW. Enough that it’s respectable.

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

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

Currently reading:  I’m at the final stopping point of The Maze Runner by James Dashner and I plan on plowing through it come July 5th. I’m so excited to finish this one. On audiobook I’m half way through Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and I’m hoping to make more progress soon. I’ve been driving a lot this week (vacation!) and getting through it well. I picked the final ARC off my shelf, The Coward by Kyle R Bullock. I just finished Part I but I’ve slowed down a bit to finish ‘Orphan Master.’

Recently finished: I soared through A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. I can’t put my finger on what was so awesome about it, but I really really loved this book. I’m excited to discuss it with my book club in August. Last night I finished off The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. This had a solid ending, I really enjoyed it.

Reading Next:  There are a few. My book club is reading The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe which I have on hold for audio. Hopefully I can start that soon. I put Looking for Alaska by John Green on hold for my carpool buddy and I to listen to so that should be started soon. And I want to start The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen soon. This will fulfill the 1500s time period of my When Are You Reading? Challenge. I’ve also put the eBook for The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien on hold to fulfill the 1950-1969 time period.

I hope to finish at least one for next week but I’ll be out-of-town for the 4th. My cousin is getting married! What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

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

4 Apr

Having realized that my ‘Recently Added’ feature is very similar to MizB’s Friday Finds, I’m trying to time my posts up with hers. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, so let’s delve in!

  1. Stonehenge by Bernard Cornwell. My mom is the first person to recommend a book to me on Goodreads and I can’t deny my first recommendation! We’re both fans of historical fiction and I expect the highest quality from her recommendations. The book covers ritual sacrifice and the building of Stonehenge.
  2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. This came out of my post about Amazon’s Book list. I was told if I’m going to write Young Adult literature, I should read it’s classics. Touche. I’m excited to read about young Mr. Caulfield’s journeys.
  3. The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Is it bad I’m reading this because I want to see the movie? Maybe? I’m still reading. My husband purchased this for a YA Lit class in college and then devoured the entire series on our honeymoon. The stories follow Thomas and the other teens that are living inside a terrifying maze. Watch the trailer:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64-iSYVmMVY
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood. This is another off of the Amazon list. I didn’t realize this was a dystopian book and now that I know I’m excited to read it! The women in a world of declining birth rates are only valued if they can have children. Yikes!
  5. Minutes Before Sunset by Shannon A. Thompson. Shannon is another WordPress blogger I’ve been following since I started here. I attended her virtual release party (even though I didn’t think I could!) and was lucky enough to win a copy of one of her titles. I chose the first in the trilogy she’s publishing now and I’m super excited to read about Eric and Jess’s journey!
  6. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. We got our next round of books for one of my book clubs. This is the true story of Will and his mother and the books they read as she battles cancer.
  7. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. Another book club selection and another memoir. Cahalan was unfortunate enough to develop a rare autoimmune that had her almost declared insane. She wakes up a month after her last memory without knowing what’s happened to her.
  8. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. The co-worker who recommended Life After Life recommended this book to me as well. She said it was one of her favorites in the past fives years, years in which I missed a lot of good literature being a college student. It’s about two women growing up in 19th century China.
  9. Midwives by Chris Bohjalian. The local libraries pulled together to bring Bohjalian to the area for some speaking engagements. This is the same program that brought Bruce Feiler to town last year. In an effort to save money, Nicole and I went to a used book store on Tuesday and I bought Midwives to have him sign when we hear him speak later this month. So financially sound.
  10. Terra Incognita by Ruth Downie. I lent my friend the first in this series (Medicus) and she enjoyed it so much she went out and bought the next three! To celebrate my birthday (which was Monday if you want to say something…) she gave me the second installment in the series. I love that these books cover Roman England, which is something I think is frequently overlooked in historical fiction.

That’s it! Yes, it’s a big haul but it’s been about a month since I’ve done this for you all so it makes (a little) sense. Do I have any duds? Any winners? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Until next time, write on.