2022 Best Books Read in Review

Despite 2022 being a bit of a tough year for me, it had its highlights too. The high for me was publishing my memoir – Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others, and having my father read the book. The lows – there were a few, including two deaths. My ex-husband and father of my two children died suddenly of a massive heart attack in June. And for a good part of the year, my father was battling congestive heart disease and was in and out of the hospital, having stent procedures and mitral valve clips inserted…He spent most of December in the hospital and was released into home hospice six days before passing away peacefully on Jan. 2, 2023. It was not a great way to end or start a year.

I put many of my books in the Marleywood little library for which I am the steward.

Throughout last year, I was able to rely on books to help take my mind off my troubles and escape into some other world and someone else’s life. A few years ago, I decided to turn off the TV and read and listen to books more. Since then, I have increased my reading goals, expanded my interests in topics and genres, and achieved my reading goals. I read an increasing number of physical books, eighteen books last year which made up 24% of the total number of books I read. Have really enjoyed my physical book selections which many were suggested by my Literati Book Club which sadly is no longer operating and my Book of the Month Club membership. Both clubs have introduced me to wonderful author and stories. Many of the books I read were based off recommendations from friends and family, including my Dad. I read The Rose Code because I saw that he was reading it. I’ll miss being able to talk about books with Dad.

I also read faster than I used to, proving that my English teachers were correct and that my reading would improve with practice. Too bad it took me so long to listen to them. Better late than never; you are never too old to start something new. I love curling up on the couch with the dogs, bookending me as I lose myself in a book. I’ve also started to read more on my Kindle again this year.

I love statistics – I think it may be a family thing. This is one of the reasons I love using the Goodreads website and joining their annual Reading Challenge since they tell you how many pages you read and all sorts of stats about the books you read during the year. For instance, I surpassed my goal of 57 books by reading 75 books – 129% of my goal! The shortest book was Lying at 47 pages, and the longest was The Rose Code at 624 pages. You can visit my author profile by following this link.

When I started on the Goodreads website a few years ago, I would rate a book simply by assigning a star rating. But I realized as I aged and read more and more that I would sometimes forget why I liked or disliked a particular book. So, I decided to start writing book reviews as a writing exercise and a memory one.

My average rating for 2022 was 3.5 
13 books rated 5 stars   (17%)
33 books rated 4 stars   (33%)
12 books rated 3 stars   (16%)
15 books rated 2 stars   (20%)
  3 books rated 1 star      (4%)

My 2022 Five Star list (in the order read during the year)

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is a moving story about family and the power of the names we give our children.

Unleashed: Poems by Writers’ Dogs by Amy Hempel and Jim Shepard – a humorous and heartwarming poetry collection dedicated to our dogs.

A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas – A powerful memoir that blew me away

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe – Classic collection of stories

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut – Another classic that still holds the test of time.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – fascinating historical fiction rich with character

The Power of Neuroplasticity by Shad Helmstetter – Scientific stuff broken down to easily understand

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite– powerful novella packs a punch!

Verity by Colleen Hoover – Late to the game in getting to know Colleen Hoover – I became an instant fan after this book!

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams – I loved this so much about this book.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn – Awesome historical fiction about Bletchley Park masterfully told.

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams  – An unforgettable story about family, community, and grief

Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions by Ogunyemi Omolola Ijeoma

I realized that I have never explained my criteria for rating books, so I have separated my Rating Criteria into a post describing how I arrive at my star rating, which I include in my Goodreads and Amazon reviews of books and audiobooks.

Overall, I read a bunch of books which I really enjoyed. Learned about some authors that I was unfamiliar with, became a big fan and look forward to read more from them. Our lives are inundated with reading this, that and the other thing in quick snippets everyday thanks to the internet and social media. attention spans are shortening. Which is why disconnecting from all that noise and diving into a book feels so good.

Enjoy your reading!

My Star Ratings Explained

Over the last two years, I have been reading and writing book reviews, and I realized that I have never explained my criteria for rating books, so here we go.

Books that receive a 1 Star rating are books that I thought have several issues:

  • They are predictably dull and full of cliches
  • The writing style is challenging to get through- no flow
  • The characters have no depth
  • The overall unenjoyable reading experience
  • Poor narration – making it difficult to listen
  • I would NOT recommend

Books that receive a 2 Star rating are books that I thought were just okay.

  • I won’t reread 
  • It wasn’t good, wasn’t bad 
  • The writing style is hard to get through
  • The characters weren’t anything special – they lacked depth
  • It has an interesting premise but disappointing execution
  • I probably wouldn’t recommend

Books that receive a 3 Star rating are books I thought were good.

  • They have an exciting premise, but the execution could have been better
  • The characters lack depth and complexity
  • The plot is superficial
  • The themes could have been handled better
  • There is some momentum – slow in parts but overall good
  • It is not a particularly memorable story
  • I would probably recommend it with caveats

Books that receive a 4 Star rating are books that I like, and thought were very good.

  • I enjoyed the book from start to finish
  • The writing style flowed well – great momentum
  • The characters were solid and had depth
  • There are deeper themes -thought-provoking
  • But it is missing the cherry on top – it didn’t blow my socks off entirely.

Books that receive a 5 Star rating are books that I absolutely LOVED and thought they were great.

  • I can’t stop thinking about the book and the characters. I thought about them when I wasn’t reading them and continued to think about them afterward.
  • The story filled me with emotion, making me think about things, laugh, cry, or both.
  • There are memorable, multifaceted characters with distinct voices – I would be sad my time ended with them when the story was over.
  • A great writing style that brings everything to life in multisensorial ways.
  • It is a unique or exciting plot or story that’s well executed
  • The ending is satisfying, yet it makes me want more time with the characters.
  • The story transcends its genre.

December Reads & Listens

It’s a few days before the end of January and I am posting December’s Reads & Listens as a way of trying to move closer to a routine. December was a difficult month with my father being in the hospital for many weeks. The family on edge, not sure which way things would turn out. My father died on January 2, 2023. So has January been a struggle.

In December I was looking for books to read that would distract me. That plan didn’t work as well as I had hoped. The book of poetry was a year long project book for me. I was determined to introduce more poetry into my life and when I first saw the book, A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year , I thought that was a dose of poetry I could probably stand. Most of the time I didn’t read one a day – it was more like five or six poems at a time –poems for a week seemed to be more my speed.

I started the month with a great read – so good I devoured it over a weekend. I love when I fall into books like that since I consider myself a slow reader still.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I read Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus because it had been nominated in two categories for the 2022 Goodreads Awards for debut novel and historical fiction. I’ve been led down false paths before based on similar criteria, but upon finishing Lessons In Chemistry, I voted for it in both categories. I devoured this easy-to-read, entertaining story about a single woman, Elizabeth Zott, trying to make a living in a man’s world during the late 1950 and early 60s. The more things change, the more they stay the same, which is why this book may resonate with many. Despite the intense themes that are integral to the storyline, Garmus balances this with wit and humor, particularly her descriptions of life with a newborn are hysterical and spot on! I was captivated by this story and was sad at the end because I really enjoyed my time with Elizabeth, Mad, Harriet, and the rest of their “family,” and now it is over. 4.5 Stars

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Small Things Like These takes place in 1985 in Ireland, where the Magdalene laundries are still operating. The Magdalene Laundries, aka the asylums, are a dark stain on the Roman Catholic Church in Irish history; which they ran from the 18th century to the late 20th century to help “fallen” girls and women.
It’s a potentially powerful short story about a man who finds himself having to make a choice about whether to do something to help a yound girl or look the other way as so many others had done before. Unfortunately, the story fell short for me. For a story that is less than two hours long, it took me a week to finish it. I wasn’t grabbed by what potentially is a very interesting story. But I was not captivated like so many others who have reviewed it. I don’t blame the narration; I felt Aidan Kelly did a superb job bringing to life these sad characters. So it had to be something else. In the end, I was even more disappointed as the ending left me wondering too many things.

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Is there a part of your life you’d like to go back to relive? Go back in time to do or say something different than the first time. Emma Straus’s novel, This Time Tomorrow, explores this idea. It’s a touching portrait of a father-daughter bond and what lengths people will go – even travel back in time – to set things “right.” This was my first time reading one of Emma Straus’s novels, so I had no expectations of what to expect.

For some, the theme of time travel may not be to their liking, but that is not the case with me, so that’s not where this story was weak for me. I had to go back to the text to look up the main character, Alice’s name – she wasn’t a very memorable character to me. I didn’t like her very much. Whereas her best friend Sam, her father Leonard, and a few others were powerful supporting characters, I found them more interesting and the entire reason I could finish the book.


Selected Shorts: Even More Laughs by Symphony Space

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I love the Selected Series – I find I learn about authors that I have never heard of before and end up enjoying.

3.5 – “The Lie” by TC Boyle read by Stephen Colbert
4.5 – “The Swim Team” by Miranda July and read by Parker Posey
4.0 – “The Schartz-Metterklume Method” by Saki, was read by Marian Seldes
3..0 -“Country Cooking from Central France: Roast Boned Rolled Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb (Farce Double)” by Harry Matthews
and read by Isaiah Sheffer
4.5 – “YMA Dream” by Thomas Mathews and read by Christine Baranski (who does an incredible job with this story)
4.0 -“Covered” by Julia Slavin and read by Alec Baldwin
4.0 -“The Conversation of Jews” by Philip Roth read by Jerry Zachs


A Nature Poem for Every Night of the Year by Jane McMorland Hunter

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I was never a fan of poetry growing up, so when I discovered this book of poetry presenting a nature poem for evan excellentght, I thought that this would be a good way to introduce a little poetry into my life. I am very glad I did too. I enjoyed reading this book, as it was not intimidating to me. It introduced me to many poets and poems of various styles – some of which I enjoyed more than others. 3.5 stars

p.s. I think that I will reread this book again next year –– maybe.

Overall I finished my year with surpassing my goal of 57 books, by finishing 75 books! I will write a separate year in review which I will post soon.


November Reads & Listens

In November I reached my 2022 Goodreads goal of 58 books for the year and actually finished the month at 70 books. Of the seven books completed this month, I read five and listened to two. I was struck by a few things in my reading this month, hit with some themes that I did not expect, some were pleasant surprises others were not. Grief was definitely a reoccurring theme, I seem not to be able to escape.

My Literati Club is why I read Signal Fires and There, There. I circled back to There, There because November is Indigenous People’s month and when it was first suggested by one of my Literati Clubs, I had a hard time getting into it and shelved it for a while. Indigenous People’s month is also why I listened to the Wisdom of the Native Americans. I choose Lucy By The Sea and Mad Honey since they were both nominated for Goodreads awards and had high ratings. As for There’s a Word for That and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Clear, I don’t recall exactly how they ended up on my TBR List, I believe they were mentioned in articles in either the Wall Street Journal or The New Yorker. Either way, they were welcome additions to this month’s reading.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars


I haven’t read any of Dani Shapiro’s previous books, but after reading this one, I plan on it since I like her writing style. Shapiro quotes Carl Jung’s thought of “secrets as a psychic poison,” taking it further and using it as the foundation of her novel Signal Fires. Shapiro’s thought-provoking book is about two families, seemingly very different, yet tied together by more than just the neighborhood. A universal thread binds them, binds everyone. There is much to absorb and learn from the beautifully written characters, particularly Waldo and Dr. Wilf. This story deeply moved me; it is a perfect weekend read! 4.5 Stars

There There by Tommy Orange

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars


There, There by Tommy Orange is a glimpse into the challenges and struggles urban natives face in the modern world. He gives voice to the struggles through the twelve main characters. They range from a fourteen-year-old boy eager to learn about his Cheyanne hereditary, a young man raised by his white mother who never met his Native father, a Lakota Vietnam veteran, a drug dealer and his crew, and two half-sisters of Cheyanne descent – to name a few. I never became attached to any characters – too many to develop fully. I had to occasionally flip back to the cast of characters to remember who they were and their connection to each other. The story’s timeline skips around, making it challenging to stay connected to each person’s individual story.
I struggled with getting into the flow of this book, initially trying to read it six months earlier before shelving it. All the rave reviews and high praise made me think I was just in the wrong mindset about something, and I wanted that to be the case. Since November is Indigenous Peoples month in America, the book came up again in my recommendations, so I gave it another chance. I finished it, saddened by its picture of the Native community and its prospects. I wished that I had loved it, though; however, the story fell short for me. I should have been in tears upon finishing the book and would have been had I cared more for the characters.
I found it to be educational, which is why I recommend it. Orange’s powerful prologue details America’s history of brutal treatment and genocide of its Indigenous peoples. That section alone with worth reading. 2.5 Stars


There’s a Word for That by Sloane Tanen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There’s A Word For That by Sloane Tanen has all the drama of a Thanksgiving weekend with your family and in-laws without the turkey but with a pinch of celebrity mixed with sibling rivalries, ex-wives, want-to-be-wives, and girlfriends. I was captivated by this 373-page novel devouring it over a weekend. I loved how Tanen cleverly used the definitions of German words to frame her chapters. Schnapsidee is one of my new favorite words, having been personally guilty of it a few times. There are some serious themes tackled in this story about adult children of addiction and their aging parents, families affected by suicide, and children affected by inheritance – but Tanen’s use of humor helps to highlight some of the absurdities that families sometimes deal with when the shit hits the fan. 4 Stars


The Wisdom of the Native Americans by Kent Nerburn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I did not review this book, other than to assign it a rating on Goodreads. This was an interesting compilation that I found to be a nice change of pace in my listening library.


Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Everyone experiences grief at the same point in their life. Some sooner than others. Some may lose their loved ones in a significant international incident, accident, illness, or old age. Death is death – it’s final and hard for the ones left behind to process. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close captures the rawness and intensity that people feel when people grieve.

Jonathan Safrin Foer‘s unique coming-of-age story is about nine-year-old Oskar Schell and his quest for closure following his father’s death on 9/11. The story is told through the narration of three characters, Oskar, his grandmother, and his grandfather, and includes photographic images and unconventional typesetting. It’s a hauntingly sad story about people’s need to grieve and the yearning for closure. The problem is that closure isn’t something we can attain if we look for it in the wrong places. Foer’s use of Oskar’s hunt metaphorically points that out. Some images could be triggering initially; their inclusion put me off. By the end, it was clear their importance in telling this story.

Foer’s novel differs from most in that its inclusion of visuals helps tell the story, not simply illustrate the action. It’s not a graphic novel but is not a traditional novel about a family drama, either. I recommend this touching family story for readers who are up for the heartbreak. 4 Stars

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I am uncomfortable writing reviews about books I don’t like. Especially when my opinion is going against the grain. However, sometimes it’s necessary, and even though it may not be the popular opinion, others may be interested in reading a contrarian view. So here it goes. I read Lucy By The Sea, Elizabeth Strout’s latest book because it was nominated for the 2022 Goodreads Choice Award, and I was looking for a fall family drama to get me in the Thanksgiving mood. I am shocked this book is nominated for any award. Strout has a grasp on writing about loneliness, isolation, fearfulness, and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic; however, anyone with a pulse these last couple of years could write about that. Strout is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author – I expected more than the dull recap of what we all collectively lived through and still contending with at this point. Nothing that any of us want to repeat, even in literary fiction right now.
I don’t think it mattered that I read the fourth book in the Amgash series without reading the previous ones since I find Lucy Barton, the story’s narrator, to be an annoying, wishy-washy, whiny woman, and her daughters even worse. So I couldn’t imagine reading more about them in other books would be any better. I couldn’t wait for this book to end. I was tremendously underwhelmed and didn’t agree with all the rave reviews this book is garnishing. I think I am not a fan of Elizabeth Strout’s work.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Meditations was not a book that Marcus Aurelius, the Roman Emporer AD 161-180, ever meant to publish. Meditations is a compilation of his notes about how to live a good life. It is a collection of his observations and beliefs about life, human nature, and philosophy. He writes about what he has learned from his teachers and his conclusions about Stoicism.
I was struck by so many things, particularly how little we have paid attention to history and learned from it. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. I recommend reading this book, but don’t expect to be learning meditations that you can repeat while you sit down on the cushion.


Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Mad Honey, co-authored by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan, is the second of Picoult’s books I’ve read and the first of Boylan’s. And I’m not sure if I will end up reading anymore. Sprinkled throughout this predictable plot and courtroom drama are some interesting facts about bees and beekeeping. Still, I’m a gardener and naturalist, and not everyone would find the factoids interesting and, therefore, not pay close attention and miss the analogies being made. The two-person narrative written primarily by each author – Olivia/Picoult and Lily/Boylon worked well enough to reveal the story. There are a multitude of controversial themes – so many of them that it stops being entertaining. I felt bombarded and ambushed by the pushy controversial narratives. I read books for several reasons, to escape into a good story and be entertained. When I read to be educated, I seek out particular sources to learn more about the topic I decided to learn more about. The problem with Mad Honey is that it is a fictional story that seeks to educate readers and normalize certain things that are very hot issues of our day.
I don’t wish to spoil the book for someone else; however, it could be very triggering for some people with themes including abuse and suicide. I read it knowing absolutely nothing about it other than it had been nominated for a 2022 Goodreads Award and had high ratings. It may be loved by many, but for me, it was the second Picoult book I’ve read, and I think I may not be a fan.

Coming up next month

Currently, I am reading Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Camus, another book which has been nominated for multiple Goodreads Awards this year, one for debut novel the other in Historical Fiction. I’m only 34% the way through but I am enjoying it very much so far. On my kindle, I am reading Finding The Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard. I’m only 16% in and it’s fascinating! I can’t wait to head out to the woods with my new found knowledge. I hovel started my next book to listen to yet. I wish Audible had a magic spinning wheel with your library books and would help you randomly select something. I really enjoy Kate Quinn and The Diamond Eye is another book that is up for a nomination in the 2022 Goodreads Awards, so I may choose that one.

Lastly, I am running a Goodreads Giveaway for my book, Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others – A Memoir. The deadline to sign up for a chance is December 14th. If you are interested in winning a chance to receive a free copy follow this link to my Goodreads Giveaway.

View all my reviews

Check out my Goodreads Giveaway

To celebrate my recent birthday, I decided to giveaway ten (10) copies of my new book Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others – A Memoir on Goodreads!

Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others is about how much I have learned about being human from dogs. They have taught me how to live, love and laugh.

Click on the link to enter the Goodreads Giveaway – bit.ly/3AQZSeG

In the Blink of an Eye

[Note to the reader: This is a post that I update from time to time. The original post was started in 2013]

In the blink of an eye…it’s November 2022…We just celebrated 7 years living here on the mountain. So much has gone on in these last four years. I sold the house in Connecticut when Covid turned the housing market around two year ago. The last few years have been unsettling for more reasons than just having to quarantine. We all have caught Covid despite being immunized and careful. Everyone’s lives have changed one way or another. Our lives have been turned upside down these last couple of years, beginning with my mom’s death twenty-one months ago. Then there was my DBXH’s fatal heart attack four months ago. I wouldn’t care so much but he was the father of my children. Both children have relocated to new cities and states working at jobs they enjoy. It’s been a rough year for them, so it fills my heart with joy that they are happy in their new environments and beginning to make their ways in the world. In this brave new world, Mark and I have been caring for chickens, we have three beautiful Rhode Island Red Hens. Plenty of fresh eggs daily. Until there weren’t. But production has resumed it seems for the time being. In May, we celebrated 11 years together. These last few years , we have given up some old habits and started a few new ones. We have been been living more mindfully and mediate every morning together for 20 -30 minutes. And with all this stuff going on, I managed to write and publish a book, Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others – A Memoir. It’s been a busy bunch of years.

Cover Artwork that I did for my memoir.
All the shadows used are silhouettes of my dogs in the book.

In the blink of a eye…it’s 2019…We have been living in New Hampshire on the side of a mountain 1500 feet up with a spectacular view for a little over three years.  A simpler life, yet we work all the time, trying to build our two businesses. Our puppy Marley is now 5 years old and all our beautiful Brittanys have passed away – God bless their souls. They all lived long and wonderful lives, Winston and Artemis being able to come and enjoy our new home in the mountains. Now our two mini-goldendoodle brothers, Boomer and Gunner are going to be turning 2 in May! Where did the time go?!  


Left to right:
Gunner, Boomer, Kona and Marley


Yesterday I hugged my 25 year old son and his 3 year old goldendoodle before they left to head down to the Connecticut house. He has been living there for the last 15 months after leaving college in Vermont. It wasn’t working out for him – he is still struggling to get on the right track.

Baby Blue on his way to his new home


In the blink of an eye…it’s 2018…yesterday I watched my daughter receive her college diploma and make the Dean’s list. It seems like yesterday I dropped her off for her first day of school and drove her to endless hours of tutoring.  Now she’s living with her one-year old puppy in Portland, Maine and trying to find that first foothold in her graphic design career.

There is no waving the Mommy magic wand and making things all better for them – they are in the big, bad, world now and I can’t protect the from everything like I once was able to. I tried my hardest to give them the skills to fly on their own – I pray I did enough. I probably did too much – coddling to make up for the divorce. I hope I didn’t do too much. That would be a disservice to them ultimately. It’s a fine line we have to walk as parents.


Baby Kona



In the blink of an eye…it’s 2016…yesterday I hugged my son and his new puppy goodbye after setting the up their new apartment in Burlington. I pray he is able to move forward from the tragedy and get his life back on track in this new environment. 

In the blink of an eye …it ‘s 2015…I hugged my son’s 21 year old girlfriend good-bye after seeing Dead & Company with them on Halloween night. She wasn’t feeling well and was coming down with an ear infection. A perfect storm of a bacterial and viral infection in her inner ear would cause sepsis.  In a blink of an eye – 11 days later – she was dead. 

In the blink of an eye…it was 2013….Yesterday was my son’s 20th birthday. It amazes me how certain things seem like they were yesterday but at the same time it was a lifetime ago.  Twenty years ago I lived in Rochester Hills, Michigan; I was married and a brand new parent to baby boy. I had a Shetland sheepdog and I was approaching 30.  Today, I live in Connecticut, I am divorced almost for 10 years, have two grown adults for children. I have four dogs, all Brittanys and I am approaching 50. I also live my boyfriend of three years. Yet it seems like yesterday I was in Michigan having my first born. 

“A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” Winnie the Pooh Peace – Xine S.

October Reads & Listens

What a month October turned out to be! Thanks to my book club suggestions, I listened to some great books and read some absolutely fantastic ones. I even started reading on my Kindle once again, which Mark is thankful for since we can turn the light off at bedtime earlier. I started the month off with a thriller – I love reading thrillers and suspense in October, which is why six of the nine books this month are either mystery or thriller/suspense. I also enjoy reading short stories for so many reasons; they can be a great change of pace when reading a lot of novels and a great way to discover authors with whom you aren’t familiar with their works. I was excited to read The Golden Couple since I enjoyed Hendricks & Pekkanen’s thriller, The Wife Between Us. This month included selections from my favorites like Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury, and Neil Gaiman. How can I not read these guys this month?!

What made this month particularly enjoyable was being introduced to the works of two wonderful Nigerian authors, Oyinkan Braithwaite and Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi. Mid-month, I took a detour to Greece for a nice break from the thrillers with a lovely book about friendship. I couldn’t resist turning back to the mysteries as the month rolled on and decided to check out the much-talked-about Daisy Darker. Finally, I broke out my Kindle earlier this month and dove into a book by Rob Walker, a Literati club suggestion from a while back suggested in Austen Kleon’s Read Like An Artist Club.

It was a great month of reading, as most of my picks were real winners, with only one book being disappointing. Considering that I was also trying to focus on promoting my book Xine’s Pack of Strays & Others – A Memoir was released at the beginning of the month, I was astonished at how much I read and reviewed. The more I read, the better I write, and I was happy to hear Lee Child reiterate such a sentiment in the BBC MaestroClass I am taking of his. I hope reading these reviews helps others find a new book of interest, perhaps one they would never have thought to pick up if they hadn’t seen a reader’s recommendation.

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

How well do we know the people we love? This is one of the compelling themes running throughout The Golden Couple. I read this book because I enjoyed Greer Hendrick’s and Sarah Pekkanen’s The Wife Between Us so much. Unfortunately, The Golden Couple lacked the suspense I expected in a psychological thriller. The story is told from a multi-point of view by Avery, an unconventional therapist who uses tactics more akin to a private detective, and Marisa, the unfaithful wife, and client. I found the characters shallow and somewhat annoying. The book is riddled with simple storylines and characters with the intent to confuse; however, I was able to reach my conclusion mid-way through, hoping that there would be a twist ahead I didn’t see coming. But that didn’t happen, and what did happen I found predictable. For me, The Golden Couple was all glitz and little substance.
Narration by Karissa Vacker and Marin Ireland
11 hours 3 minutes

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sisters have a bond like no other. Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, The Serial Killer is a dark and twisted tale of sisters, Korede, a nurse, and her younger and more attractive, charismatic sister, Ayoola. Their bond is so strong that they rely on each for everything and will do anything for the other. From the beginning, I was riveted by this story, filled with suspense and humor. This powerful novella packs a punch and is a testimony of Braithwaite’s storytelling to deliver such poignant prose in so few pages. Bravo, and thanks for all the cleaning tips! The audiobook I listened to has excellent narration by Adepero Oduye, who brought the characters to life. 4 hours 15 minutes



Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions: A Novel in Interlocking Stories by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Jollof Rice and Other Revolutions was my November Literati selection, a pick by Roxanne Gay’s Audacious Book Club. A great choice, too. The debut novel by Omolola Ijeoma Ogunyemi follows the lives of four childhood friends: Nonso, Remi, Aisha, and Solape. It’s a powerful and moving story with a unique structure; each chapter is a short story that drives the narrative from 1897 to 2050. Nigeria, Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Poland, and the United States provide different settings for the stories as the girls’ lives lead them in different directions. Ogunyemi’s use of language and her descriptions of food, clothing, and traditions weave into an intricate and illustrative tapestry that leaves you with a lasting impression. I will miss spending time with these complex women. Bravo!

The Illegal Gardener by Sara Alexi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Listening to The Illegal Gardener by Sara Alexi was like a quick trip to Greece. I loved listening to how the village celebrated Easter; as a Greek Orthodox American, it brings up fond memories of my family’s celebrations. I just wished that Sara Alexi had included more of the native language. Suzanne Heathcote does an excellent job with the various accents and male and female voices. The story has a certain lightness, despite including childhood trauma, grief, prejudice, immigration, and racism themes. However, it’s also a story about perseverance and independence. A great beach read or listen about two people better off having met one another.
I am looking forward to reading more of the series.


The Graveyard Book: Full-Cast Production by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

October is a time to embrace all things macabre and spooky, so I queued up Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, excited to hear a good ghost story. What I got was so much more. Gaiman is a master storyteller spinning a yarn taking his audience on a captivating journey of unseen twists and turns with sinister undercurrents. At its core, a heart-warming tale about family, albeit unconventional, and about a boy who learns life lessons from the most unlikely sources. A touching narrative about death, living life, and letting go—a delightful story for readers and listeners of all ages, with plenty of layers to devour. I listened to the Full-Cast Production, which added some music between chapters, which I don’t usually like, but I felt it was appropriate in this production. Listening time: 8 hours 24 minutes


The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Stories by Edgar Allan Poe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


October and Edgar Allan Poe go together better than anything pumpkin spiced could add to your fall. This collection is quick and packed full of horrors – a great way to spend a little over an hour.
The narrator, Earl Hammond, is excellent. However, I would detract half a star, for the audio quality faltered in the last story.


Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I was immediately intrigued upon opening Alice Feeney’s Daisy Darker. A map sets the stage and brings to mind the game of Clue. Next, there is a tantalizing note from the Author’s Agent, which is just the first step down into this mysterious rabbit hole, and chapter one hasn’t begun. Fans of Agatha Christie will enjoy this book, as it is very much an homage to her book And Then There Were None. This is the first book I have read of Alice Feeney’s, and I look forward to reading more. Daisy Darker is a clever and sinister story that will keep the reader guessing. 4.5 stars

The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday by Rob Walker

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing. It’s a great source to help people become more in tune with the everyday things around us. I have spent the last few years actively trying to live a more mindful life and was happy to discover that I was already doing some of the recommended exercises and now have some new things to try. It’s a quick read and has some valuable suggestions on becoming more mindful and creative. 3.5 stars

The October Country by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my goals is to read or listen to everything Ray Bradbury has written, so I decided what better time than to listen to The October Country to celebrate the season. Although, this collection isn’t warm and fuzzy fall fodder to curl up in front of the fireplace with a hot cider. Bradbury wrote most of these short stories in the 1940s & 50s, post-war era, which were initially published in magazines and periodicals as diverse as Weird Tales, Beyond Fantasy,, and Mademoiselle and Harper’s . However, this dark and haunting collection of short stories is timeless, as are the themes of self-doubt, loneliness, and death Bradbury explores in these disturbing tales. A few stories stood out to me, including ‘The Next In Line,’ which was somewhat gruesome and terrifying. ‘The Small Assassin’ was particularly disturbing considering the subject matter. ‘The Emissary’ was a great one for Halloween! ‘The Wind’ and ‘The Homecoming’ struck me as sad stories.

David Aaron Baker does an excellent job with the narration. I listened to this collection over a few days, and one criticism is that the tone of the narration is too similar from one story to the other. 4.5 Stars


As I said, it was quite a month of reading! I completed my Goodreads Challenge goal of 58 books for the year this month. All of these selections brought my count up to 62 books read this year! Currently, I am reading Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro as part of my Literati November selection and Meditations by Marcus Aurelius on my Kindle. I have been debating about my next audiobook selection, perhaps attacking one of the really long titles, some as long as 52 hours. But I haven’t decided, length sometimes intimidates me, the same way the thickness of a book made me shy away from attempting such a feat. I’ll let you know what I decided on next month. Happy reading.


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