Tag Archives: This Beautiful Life

Challenge Update, December 2017

4 Jan

I’m going to call this a strong finish. With how hectic December was, I’m proud I finished four books. I ended my class, got through the holidays unscathed, and hosted a party at my house that lasted all day. With all that, four books seem like a big accomplishment. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in December:

This Beautiful Life // Helen Schulman (4/5)
Singing My Him Song // Malachy McCourt (3/5)
Persona Non Grata // Ruth Downie (4/5)
The Professor and the Madman // Simon Winchester (3/5)

All reviews written! I like heading into 2018 without a backlog. Though it will probably begin piling up quite soon.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

12/12
DONE! I’m doing this again in 2018 so please consider joining me and taking part. It’s a fun time.

Goodreads Challenge

54/50
DONE! I surprised myself this year and I’m going to push myself to read 55 in 2018. Fingers crossed.

Book of the Month

It’s going to be This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman. This book blew me away and I added it to my Top 10 Books of 2017 list. It’s short and powerful and I really recommend it to anyone looking for a strong read.

Added to my TBR

I’m up to 107! I was so optimistic after being at 106 last month I guess getting below 100 is going to be harder than I thought. I added a lot of sequels this month and I’m really excited for all of them.

  • Sarah’s Quilt by Nancy E. Turner. This has unofficially been on my list for a long time. I read the first book in the series a few years ago and really liked it. I can’t wait to read the next installment.
  • Caveat Emptor by Ruth Downie. I’m clearly in love with this series and I will move on and find out what happens to Ruso and Tilla!
  • A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. I’m feeing a GoT draught while the show is in the intermission and I figure I’ll get back to the books and start where I left off.
  • Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard. This is a book my husband got me for Christmas. He knows I’ve really enjoyed running books lately and the cute dog on the cover won me over immediately.
  • The Invisible Guardian by Dolores Redonado. My future sister-in-law has started a wonderful tradition of buying me a book every year. She picked this one up because it takes place in Spain and she didn’t even know my thesis was on the Basques! A+ to her.

Personal Challenge

I mentioned in my challenge announcement post that I had some non-reading goals set for myself in 2017. I figured this would be a good place to keep myself accountable to those as well. Here goes!

  • Keep my 4.0 GPA: DONE! I got my grade back and managed to make an A so I’m still sitting at 4.0 going into my last year.
  • Knit blankets:  I’m down two from the stockpile I like to keep but I’m working on it! I’m half done with a pink, purple, and white blanket. It’s a new pattern I’m kind of enjoying. I gave a gender-neutral blanket to my cousin so I’ll knit another to backfill that one.
  • One race per month: My December race was a nice, easy 5K. I ran with a friend who’s working through knee problems and went her pace. It was freezing cold but a lot of fun!
  • Get my novel out to beta readers: Sigh. This is one part of my life I wish I’d done more with in 2017. I got the novel out, but I haven’t been able to do a lot of editing this year. I’m not sure I’ll be able to concentrate on this in 2018 because of school but I’ll try!

How were your challenges? I hope you made it. 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!

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WWW Wednesday, 20-December-2017

20 Dec

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 much time to read The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I usually read my ebooks during lunch at work but with the holidays coming up, we’ve been having a lot of office lunches or lunches out so I haven’t read much.
I’m really enjoying The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester but, again, my reading has slowed down a bit. I’ve been so tired before bed that I spent four days on a single chapter. I’ll keep pushing on and I hope this is finished before the new year.
I have made some good progress on The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I’ve been baking a lot and wrapping presents and there’s nothing better than having a book in your ear to make those things feel like they’re flying by.

Recently finished: Little surprise, but nothing finished this week. After finishing three last week, I didn’t expect much from myself.
On the bright side, I got all three book reviews written! Last Thursday was This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman. I really enjoyed this one and gave it Four out of Five Stars. Pick it up if you can, it’s short and poignant.
This week I wrote about Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie on Monday. I really enjoy the series and I plan to continue on with the fourth one. I gave this one Four out of Five Stars
Yesterday I posted about Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt. It wasn’t my favorite, but I still liked it. Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: My plan is still to read Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. I’ll be starting as soon as I finish Madman.
I also picked out a book for my road trip to Ohio with my husband Christmas morning. We’re going to listen to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. I’ve seen really good things about this one and with a movie coming out soon, I want to read/listen to it before I see the film.


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: This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman (4/5)

14 Dec

It was right after I read We Need to Talk About Kevin and Defending Jacob that I decided I wanted to read this book. I think the relationship between parent and child when something goes terribly wrong is a unique look at familial relationships.

Cover image via Goodreads

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

Summary from Goodreads:

The events of a single night shatter one family’s sense of security and identity in this provocative and deeply affecting domestic drama from Helen Schulman, the acclaimed author of A Day at the Beach and Out of Time. In the tradition of Lionel Shriver, Sue Miller, and Laura Moriarty, Schulman crafts a brilliantly observed portrait of parenting and modern life, cunningly exploring our most deeply-held convictions and revealing the enduring strengths that emerge in the face of crisis.

It sounds weird to say I really enjoyed this book, but I did. I didn’t enjoy what happened to them because it was terrible, but the way it was writing about was really engaging for me. I liked how Schulman explored each character, letting Jake, Liz, and Richard all share how they were dealing with their tragedy. I liked all the bad, dirty details about how Liz felt drawn to a stranger more than her family, how Richard took solace in running, and how Jake was betrayed by friends and family.

I thought the reactions were very credible. I’ve never been in a similar situation or known someone who was (thankfully) but I have to imagine it would be a different experience for each person. I thought the ways they each dealt with the pain and loneliness of the situation was realistic and I thought the situation itself was very believable. I could see it happening in my hometown.

Jake was my favorite character. Probably because I’ve been a teenager in a petty school, I could understand what was happening to him. High school always blows the smallest things out of proportion so that people do dumb things. Being perceived as older was always important, feeling that being sexually active was important, all of these things were part of high school and, in retrospect, are so stupid. I understood why it happened, I understood why he did what he did, and I could feel his pain.

Helen Schulman
Image via the New York Times

I thought the final chapter was very telling. I don’t think this ruins the book much, so if you plan to read it, this paragraph should still be safe. Daisy’s reaction was missing from most of this book so ending with her seemed appropriate. I thought it was so perfect how little she seemed to care about the privilege she was currently living and how much she wrote off genuine care from another person. She was so self-centered. The reader got a peek at that when she was signing autographs, but the fact that it stuck with her until she was in college, the fact that she didn’t see anything wrong with her behavior, that was so telling.

Liz’s downward spiral was the hardest for me to read and understand. She felt like she’d failed as a parent and at her goals, I get that. Why she fixated on an ex-boyfriend and why she neglected Coco, that I don’t understand. She tried to turn things around at the end of the book, but it was a bit too late then and something was going to give.

Everyone responds differently when faced with challenges. This book talked about the different ways we deal with grief and how much a small decision can affect so many lives. Daisy wasn’t really affected but Jake and his family were devastated. Maybe Coco would escape, but Jake, Richard, and Liz’s lives were changed forever.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m not normally a fan of jumping between characters but I loved it in this book. I thought it was a lot more impactful that we got to see inside so many people’s heads. I’m glad Schulman waited until the end to have Daisy speak, though. That would have been a bit much. I’m glad she kept it to the core family, the consistency helped and didn’t make this tactic overwhelming.

This was a great book and I’m so glad I read it. 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 Review: This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman | Leeswammes’ Blog
Helen Schulman on This Beautiful Life | InTheMoment
Book Review: This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman | Overflowing Heart Reviews
Book Review: This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman | Of Books and Reading

WWW Wednesday, 13-December-2017

13 Dec

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: What a week! I started three new books this week! The first was The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This book was recommended to me a while back and I was excited to grab a copy as an ebook and start reading it. This is a short one and those seem to make better ebooks for me because I read them so slowly. We’ll see how long this one takes.
The second was The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. I’m really enjoying this one so far! It’s been a while since I read some non-fiction that read like fiction. This one is keeping me up at night already and I think I’ll finish it quickly.
My next audiobook is The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I really enjoyed Middlesex and I hope this one is equally engaging. It will help if it’s also set in Michigan! So far, that’s not looking likely, but I’ll press on.

Recently finished: Three new reads and three books finished! The first was This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman which I finished while waiting at the chiropractor’s office. I enjoyed this one a lot and I thought it was a really great angle on a big problem. Plus, the ending wasn’t predictable which was a huge plus! Look for my review tomorrow.
The second was Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt. I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as Schulman’s book but it was still a good read. I had some problems with the pacing and change in topics. My review will be up next week so take a look then at my reasoning.
I also finished Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie! That’s right, I finished all my books from last week. This is my mini celebration of finishing my class and it feels wonderful. I really liked this historical fiction book and I plan to continue with the series.

Reading Next: The next physical book will be Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. I wish I could start it sooner but I can’t find an ebook or audiobook of this one so it will have to wait.


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!

WWW Wednesday, 6-December-2017

6 Dec

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.


CurrentlyreadingI made slower progress in This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman this week. I got to read some during lunch at work but nothing like the great progress I made the last week. I think this will be two weeks or so for me to finish it. It’s really good now so it’s hard to think it could be that long.
I’m so close to finishing Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt! I won’t be surprised if I finish this one today. I’m still enjoying it, but I’m also looking forward to reading something new. I think my review will explain that a bit better than this rambling.
I’ve gotten into the mystery of Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie. I like these characters a lot so I’m enjoying the back-and-forth and seeing Russo struggle to figure out what’s going on. I think I’ve got a week or two left on this one, too.

Recently finished: Nothing this week. After two last week, I’m not sad about this at all, it’s how things work. I was able to write a review, though. My review for Our Souls at Night by Ken Haruf was posted yesterday. Please go check it out. I have two more posts coming about this book next week, a movie review and a book club reflection.

Reading Next: I nabbed my copy of The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester from the library over the weekend. It looks like a shorter read than I was anticipating so I’m hopeful of getting it started and finished before the new year. My book club meets in early January and I’m excited to see that group again, I’ve missed the meetings in six months of this year!
I’ll start Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin as soon as I finish Madman. Unfortunately, neither of these were available as audiobooks through my library so I’ll be reading both in print and it will probably take me right up until the meeting to finish them!


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!

WWW Wednesday, 29-November-2017

29 Nov

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 readingI read a lot of This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman while I was on vacation. My in-laws watch a lot of football and I did a lot of reading on my phone while they yelled at the TV. I’m over halfway through this now and really enjoying it.
I’m over halfway through Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt as well. This one is OK, not my favorite but for sure entertaining. I’m hoping to have it finished next week.
I finished my audiobook on Thanksgiving so I started a new one right away. I’m listening to Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie. This is the third book in her Medicus series and I’m loving it as much as the last.

Recently finishedTwo finished! Here’s the progress I’ve been waiting for. The first was Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf which I finished Wednesday night right before my flight. This book was really good and I have a lot to post about it. Look for a review, a movie review, and a book club reflection in the next two weeks! I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I also finished The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer on Thanksgiving. My husband and I went on a run so we’d have room for all the yummy food and I finished this as we turned back on my sister-in-law’s street. Perfect timing! I also gave it Three out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: I’ve got two book club selections to read by January so I’ll likely tackle one of those next. The first is The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. I haven’t read a non-fiction book in a while so I’m a bit excited about this one.
The second is Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. I have a feeling this one is going to pull at my heartstrings so I’ll be sure to keep a box of tissues nearby!


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!

WWW Wednesday, 22-November-2017

22 Nov

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 readingI’m still going strong with The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer. The story is really intense right now and I’m looking forward to some runs over the holiday weekend when I can listen to this. I’m guessing I need at least another week to finish it.
I was able to start Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf Friday night. It’s a really fast read! If all goes well, I’ll finish it today and take a new book with me on my Thanksgiving travels tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
I started a new ebook as well, This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman. I think this book is in the same strain as We Need to Talk About Kevin or Defending Jacob, both of which are really dark but have very thought-provoking plots that I really enjoyed.

Recently finishedTwo this week! When it rains, it pours. The first was The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. This was an ebook and I think reading it in that format was not the best way to enjoy it because I lost some consistency (I read ebooks when I’m waiting at the doctor’s office and during lunch so they take me a while). I wrote a review and published it on Monday. I gave it Three out of Five stars. Please go check it out!
I also finished My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen. I really enjoy religious memoirs (yes, a very niche category) and this one was no exception. It was fun to read about a Jew learning about my religion, Christianity, through a year-long immersion experience. It’s interesting to see how you’re perceived from the outside! My review went up Tuesday and I gave it Four out of Five stars.

Reading Next: I’m going to take Singing My Him Song by Malachy McCourt with me to Texas on my Thanksgiving trip. I read the first few pages of this right when I got it and I was intrigued so I’m excited to keep going with the plot. I always love a good memoir.


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!