Tag Archives: Weike Wang

Challenge Update, August 2017

5 Sep

This month was a rush! School started, I took a trip to New Orleans, and my reading slowed down. Yes, it’s sad to say but it did. And, unfortunately, it probably won’t pick up again until December. You can look at my progress at any time on my challenge page.

Books finished in August:

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You // Courtney Maum (3/5)
Empire Falls // Richard Russo (4/5)
Chemistry // Weike Want (5/5)

Yikes, a slow month. I gave up on an audiobook part-way through which slowed me down a lot. I’m proud I got through two physical books, though. I’m not usually so good at that. We’ll see if I can keep it up for a while.

When Are You Reading? Challenge

9/12
Oh, wow. Still nothing new. It’s about that time for me to start picking reads that will fill my remaining categories. That might mean it’s time to read some dystopian YA and Tudor era books. I’ve got some time coming up so I’ll try to squeeze them in soon.

Goodreads Challenge

36/50
I’m still three books ahead. I think I can make it now. I know my reading will slow down but I’m in a great position to be sitting pretty with this one come December. I’ve just got to keep listening to audio while I run and I’ll be all set.

Book of the Month

Easily, this goes to Chemistry by Weike Wang. This was a super fun, quick read and my only complaint is that it wasn’t longer. It was what I needed while on a plane to be sure.

Added to my TBR

I’m still at 111! It might not be shrinking, but at least it’s not growing. Vacations always add to my TBR so I’m glad to stay neutral.

  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. I’ve been told a lot that I need to read this book. I enjoyed Patchett’s Commonwealth so I figured it was finally time to put it on the list. We’ll see how long it takes me to get to it, though!
  • Soldier’s Pay by William Faulkner. This was my purchase at the Faulkner House Book Store in New Orleans. It was written on the property so it seemed an obvious choice.
  • Cuando era puertorriqueña by Esmeralda Santiago. I found this in another New Orleans book store and decided it would be another Spanish read when I’m ready for a new one.
  • Still Life by Louise Penny. This is my next book club selection. I’ll get to it very soon.

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: Class just started and there are no grades in so far. I guess I’m good to go on this one!
  • Knit blankets:  No new friends having babies so no new blankets for me. I’m working on other knitting projects while I wait for news to come along.
  • One race per month: Only one triathlon, thank God! It was great after having such a crazy July. I did OK despite feeling sick. It was my second-best time on that course and only off by 9 seconds! I got 5th in the 3-race series which felt great.
  • Get my novel out to beta readers: I’ve sent it to a few more friends, none of which have sent me any feedback yet. I really wanted to work on this over the summer and made embarrassingly little progress. I’m not sure when I’ll really work on it again, sadly.

How were your challenges? I hope you made it. If you love historical fiction, give some thought to my challenge for 2017, 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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Q&A with Chemistry Author Weike Wang

29 Aug

If you’ve been following, you’ve read about my great amazement to find a friend from high school swimming had written a book. Weike Wang’s first novel, Chemistry, is garnering more and more press since its release in May. I came across it while exploring Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle and I’m so glad I did. After reconnecting with Weike, she agreed to do a Q&A with me here on the blog. Thank you again to Weike for her time!

Questions I Wrote Before Reading

SAM: Can you tell me about the process of getting this book to a publisher? How long did it take and how much rejection did you have to face?
WEIKE: It was an idealistic situation.  I faced no rejection because this novel was my MFA thesis and my advisor did me a great deed by introducing me to his editor.  Then the fairy tale unfolded from there.  I am quite aware that this is not the normal pace of things.  But my advice to young writers is to always, always respect your teachers and listen to what they have to say.

SAM: What attracted you to the novel format?
WEIKE: It’s a commitment.  But you also have to be restrained.  A novel is not just a place to expand in every direction.  Also, practically, novels sell and short stories do not.

SAM: How much of this book is autobiographical?
WEIKE: I would say a bit but not much.  With the first novel, you are writing about all the experiences you have ever heard of.  Sometimes they are your own experiences, sometimes not.

SAM: Do you see another novel in your future?
WEIKE: Of course! I love the form.  Especially the form of a short novel. Currently something is in the works.  Fingers crossed!

SAM: Reading your author bio, you seem to have changed career paths. What prompted you to do that?
WEIKE: Mostly I was trying to figure out what I want to do.  I don’t mean to sound like a jerk here, but I was competent at a lot of things.  Some of those things were stable careers and careers that I think anyone could have been happy with.  Medicine.  Research. Etc.  I really wanted to DO something that would forward a field.  That required looking at different avenues of my own interests.

SAM: Can you comment on appearances, interviews, etc. you’ve done since this book was released?
WEIKE: They were all fun.  I have enjoyed getting to meet readers and rekindling with old friends (like you!).

Questions I Wrote After Reading

SAM: You end with a very hopeful tone. Should we be hopeful for the narrator?
WEIKE: Sure, I think that’s fair.  A good ending, I have always believed, is an ending where the story continues in the reader’s mind.  There is a little bit of hope but also some qualification of that hope.  It’s life, no?

SAM: You leave all characters in the book unnamed except Eric. Is he focal to the narrator’s transformation?
WEIKE: I named Eric because I think his relationship to her is the most ambiguous.  He is her boyfriend sure, but they’re also in the middle of a long break up. Everyone else in the novel has an explicit relationship to her that doesn’t change.

SAM: Your format jumps from the plot to memories and back again. Why did you choose to write this way? Do you see yourself writing future novels in this format? (Assuming there will be some, of course!)
WEIKE: When I read novels, I find that I skim over a lot of the ‘fat’.  Descriptions, dialogues, scenes that drag.  I was trained in the short story field and I have always felt that a novelist could benefit from being lean.  That is giving the reader just enough but not SO much that the reader doesn’t have to work for it, doesn’t have to think.  The jumping back and forth is just a style I like.  It’s called collage.  It’s one of the most forgiving styles of writing for a writer.

Thanks yet again to Weike for responding to a Facebook message from an old swimming friend. I’m hoping for more books of hers in the future.

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: Chemistry by Weike Wang

28 Aug

If you didn’t read my post about my visit to Elliott Bay Book Company, you probably missed my connection to this book. To summarize, I swam with Weike in high school. We went to different schools but her school did not have a swim team and she swam at my school instead. I came across this book randomly while on vacation and have been able to reconnect with her online and I’m so excited to start talking about the book!

Cover image via Goodreads

Chemistry by Weike Wang

Summary from Goodreads:

Three years into her graduate studies at a demanding Boston university, the unnamed narrator of this nimbly wry, concise debut finds her one-time love for chemistry is more hypothesis than reality. She’s tormented by her failed research–and reminded of her delays by her peers, her advisor, and most of all by her Chinese parents, who have always expected nothing short of excellence from her throughout her life. But there’s another, nonscientific question looming: the marriage proposal from her devoted boyfriend, a fellow scientist, whose path through academia has been relatively free of obstacles, and with whom she can’t make a life before finding success on her own.

Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that she must leave everything she thought she knew about her future, and herself, behind. And for the first time, she’s confronted with a question she won’t find the answer to in a textbook: What do I really want? Over the next two years, this winningly flawed, disarmingly insightful heroine learns the formulas and equations for a different kind of chemistry–one in which the reactions can’t be quantified, measured, and analyzed; one that can be studied only in the mysterious language of the heart. Taking us deep inside her scattered, searching mind, here is a brilliant new literary voice that astutely juxtaposes the elegance of science, the anxieties of finding a place in the world, and the sacrifices made for love and family.

It was hard for me not to picture Weike as the narrator of this book. I knew her as the smart and funny girl on the team who made us all laugh and would never give up. I kept picturing the narrator as a girl with hair up in a sloppy, wet bun with goggle rings around her eyes. If asked, that’s the narrator I pictured, fresh out of the pool. But in reality, I know the narrator of this book isn’t the Weike I knew in high school. Her story, whatever it may be, is not in these pages. That was the biggest struggle I had. Having not spoken to her since 2006, this could be her for all I know. But then it would be an autobiography and real life doesn’t tie up nicely at the end.

I love the plotline that was created for the narrator. Like so many, she thinks she knows her path to happiness and is following it, only to have something change that path. What it is, we’re a bit unsure in this novel. She has a breakdown and everything that made her feel safe falls away. I like how her family background played into this. She has to hide her disappointment and her desire for a change. Really, it’s only her best friend who 100% supports her. I liked this character a lot. I liked that she was sarcastic and loving and hurt. It made the narrator’s reactions seem almost intensified. She’s going through something that started one day in the lab while the best friend had a traumatic thing happen in her life and the two women have to help each other out of ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is.

I liked the narrator. The way she told her story jumped around but I enjoyed hearing about the things she was reminded of as she went through life. She thought back to her mother, the things her father said to her growing up, and sayings and advice she’d heard. I think it’s really realistic of how my brain works and I was relieved that there might be someone out there who feels the same way I do.

There are times I’ve wanted to give up like the narrator did. I’ve had times when something, even something I excel in, seems to overwhelm me and makes me want to give it all up and crawl into a hole. I completely understood the narrator’s break and desire to get away from chemistry. I wanted to do the same during my education and seriously considered how much I could leverage 2.5 years of a business and Spanish degree. I had my mother and (now) husband talk me back into school a few times.

Weike Wang
Image via The New York Times

I liked the part about the math student. That felt very real to me. She was debating moving on and meeting someone who was also moving on seemed tempting. I liked that she experienced that and I think what she took away from it was really eye-opening. I think seeing something different can always make a person appreciate what he has.

There wasn’t anything major I disliked about this book. I was frustrated by the best friend’s situation but I didn’t dislike it. I guess not understanding what led the narrator to her breakdown in the first place was the most frustrating. I didn’t sympathize with her as much because there wasn’t a ton building to that point.

Sometimes we have to fall apart to begin again. The book ended with a lot of hope. I had hope that things would work out well for the narrator and that she had her life more together than she thought. I hoped that she would find something to make her happy again, something that would give her the drive and purpose she’d been lacking for so much of the book.

Writer’s Takeaway: I liked the format of this book. With no chapters, I kept telling myself I could read just a bit more and would end up stopping 10 pages later. It was engaging and even though the snapshots were short, they still gave me a lot in each one. I liked fast references to family advice as much as I liked the main plot. It was a fun style to read.

Overall, a short compelling read. I liked the first-generation experience in the book because it was something new to me. 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:
Chemistry by Weike Wang | Book Nation by Jen
Chemistry by Weike Wang | Tonstant Weader Reviews
Authors in Real Life: Lisa Ko and Weike Wang | musings

WWW Wednesday, 23-August-2017

23 Aug

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 still working on Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi. I checked yesterday and I’m on chapter 34 of 40 so I really do promise I’ll finish this book!
I started a new audiobook while on vacation, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I’m really enjoying it so far and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn how wondrous Oscar’s life is.
I have a new physical book as well, The Detroit Electric Scheme by D.E. Johnson. It’s fun to read a book set in your town, but I’m having some issues with this book already. It’s not enough to stop me from reading it, but it will make for a long review.

Recently finishedI was able to finish Chemistry by Weike Wang on the plane to New Orleans. I’m excited to put up a review next week and see if I can talk to Weike about the book a little and share with you all.

Two reviews to share! I posted a review of I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum on Monday. I enjoyed the book but it wasn’t what I was expecting and I think that threw it off for me. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I also posted a review of Empire Falls by Richard Russo yesterday. I understand why this book won the Pulitzer and now I want to see the HBO mini-series! Does aAnyone know if it’s easy to get a copy of that?

Reading Next: It turns out I am going to the conference I mentioned in my last post so I will not be reading for my upcoming book club. Instead, I’ll likely read My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen. It feels good to knock some of my own books off my TBR, especially as I build it up while traveling.


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, 16-August-2017

16 Aug

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.


**So, it’s worth noting that I am AGAIN out-of-town and writing this quite in advance. Hey, it’s the summer and I’m going to take my vacation while I can! I may be a bit slow in responding but I am around and in the country this time. Send me some love while I explore NEW ORLEANS! I’m going to try to hit up a few bookstores here to report back.

Currently reading: Moderate progress on Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi. Probably some of my best progress in months, actually. It’s nice having time to read during lunch again! I think I’m about 2/3 of the way through and I’ll keep pushing forward.
New books for this list! The first is a new audiobook, The Millionaires by Brad Meltzer. Before I met Meltzer a few years back, I was at a church used book sale and picked up a few of his books, including this one. I’m listening to the audio to get to it sooner than I would my paper copy. So far, he’s delivering on the fast-paced thriller!
I also got to start Chemistry by Weike Wang! I’m really hoping to do an author interview with this book as I knew Wang in high school. If you want to read more about that, check out this post.

Recently finishedI finished I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum while cooking last Wednesday and I’ve been waiting a week to tell you all. I enjoyed it, but not for the reasons I expected to. It was sad but I could have known that if I read book summaries. I’ll have a review up next week. I gave the book Three out of Five Stars.
I also finished
 Empire Falls by Richard Russo on Friday. I knew this book was going to come to a quick end and I kind-of saw it coming, but I still gasped out loud near the end! I think I woke my husband up from his nap. I gave the book Four out of Five Stars. I also plan to have this review up next week.

Many of you have commented on it, but I posted a review of Commonwealth by Ann Patchett last Thursday. Please go check it out if you haven’t yet and let me know what you think! I gave the book Four out of Five Stars.

Reading Next: As of writing, I think my next book will still be The Sellout by Paul Beatty. This might change just before I leave on my trip, though! I got invited to a conference that would interfere with me attending the book club meeting on this book. As much as I’m looking forward to it, I’ll skip the book if I can’t make the meeting and read something off my TBR instead. If that’s the case, I’ll probably pick My Jesus Year by Benyamin Cohen. It’s at the top of my TBR books that I own. Or I might grab something from the library before I leave. I’ll have to report back next week.


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, 9-August-2017

9 Aug

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: Another slow week on Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi. I think I read a chapter? Maybe? Whatever it was, it’s not that impressive. If I have a big week with this one, you’ll all hear about it!
I had a lot of running time with I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum which I’ve enjoyed. I don’t always turn it on in the car if it’s a short drive so I’m sure I could get through more of this but my pace is working well for me!
I’m getting close to the end of Empire Falls by Richard Russo. I really hope I can add this one to my ‘finished’ list next week because I’m itching to pick up my next read!

Recently finished: Another week of not finishing anything for me. I think I’ll knock down two before next week, though!

I am making progress with reviews, though! You can check out my review of A Son of the Circus by John Irving which went up Monday. I have another review coming at y’all tomorrow!

 

Reading Next: I’m determined to pick up Chemistry by Weike Wang before I read my next book club selection,  The Sellout by Paul Beatty. I think I’ll have time due to the short book and my eagerness to get to it!


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 Gem in Seattle, Washington For the Traveling Bibliophile

3 Aug

I described this vacation as ‘Books, beer, and hiking.’ I think I delivered on all three! I want to spend a post talking about the shops I visited, one in each city. My first stop was Seattle and I visited Elliot Bay Book Company. This amazing store was located only three blocks from my host’s house. He’d never heard of it! Gosh, darn Computer Engineers not reading! If you work for Amazon, you should know about the stores you’re eradicating, haha. I had him meet us there after work and it was hard not to be blown away by this place.

The front door was beautiful and things only got better as I went further inside. I quickly found the store’s “Summer Booknotes 2017” which had a ton of books I’ve seen positively reviewed on other blogs, notable authors with new releases, and recommendations from their employees, all sorted by genre. I also found the July calendar of events including book clubs, story time for children, and author appearances. I just missed Jonathan Safran Foer! The groups and recommendations reminded me of my local indy bookstore, Literati, and I was so excited to continue exploring.

The shelves and display in this place were beautiful! The store was well-lit, well-organized, and had a lot of personal touches in terms of staff recommendations. I always love recommendations and they’ve directed me toward some amazing reads! The store had a coffee shop in the back (where my husband escaped to trying to chase off jet lag while I explored) and an upstairs section with travel and bargain non-fiction titles. But that fiction section, though! I was blown away.

I’ve added a few more pictures below and I want to call attention to one in particular. One of the featured books was Chemistry by Weike Wang. As I said, I’m always attracted to a recommendation. I saw this book facing outward with a staff recommendation below it. (I later realized it was featured in the Booknotes I’d already picked up.) I said to my husband, “Oh, wow! I knew a girl named Weike Want in high school. We were on the swim team together. She got a perfect score on her ACT and went on to Harvard to study some science or something.” I thought that there was no way the Weike I knew was the same person. There was no way she wrote a book that I then held in a bookstore across the country. Well, guess what? I opened to the back flap and was greeted with a picture that looked a lot like the girl I knew from my swim team and a blurb that mentioned the author had gone to Harvard to study (shock) Chemistry. I confirmed it later by contacting her on Facebook, but the author of this book swam with me in high school! She’s agreed to do an author Q&A with me and I plan to read her book right away so I can get it reviewed and get you all some more info about Weike and her book. I’m so excited!

 

The other two images featured here are the stained glass over the entry door and the book my husband decided to buy. He loves Shakespeare parodies.

I highly recommend this store to anyone visiting Seattle! It was a gem to be sure.

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, 2-August-2017

2 Aug

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 made a lot less progress with Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi than I’d hoped for. We didn’t have a lot of down time and I was always trying to save phone battery for navigating the public transportation systems! Oh well. I’m still steadily picking at this one and will be for a while.
I enjoyed the part of I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum that I’ve gotten through so far. I did a fair amount of running while I was on vacation (no pool or bike needed!) so this came along with me to keep me entertained.
You all picked my physical book and it ended up being Empire Falls by Richard Russo. This book is a nice, slow burn that I’m really liking so thank you, everyone, who voted for it and picked it. I’m about half way through but I’ll slow down now that I don’t have 5-hour plane rides to devote to it.

Recently finished: All of my projections from last week were correct (yay) but I didn’t finish anything else for this past week. Boo!

I did post a review for Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) on Monday which you can go check out. I’ve got two more I owe you all over the next week or so. Expect a steady stream of them going forward.

Reading Next: Hm, trick question. My book club meets in September to read The Sellout by Paul Beatty so I might pick that up. Alternatively, I’m thinking of reading Chemistry by Weike Wang next. I have a crazy story about this book I’ll be sharing tomorrow when I talk about the Elliot Bay Book Company so come back and check that out!


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!