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.

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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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September Reads & Listens

I am amazed how quickly summer came and went and yet still parts crawled by. As I am still dealing with things which started earlier this summer, I can’t help but think that all the reading and listening I have been doing has helped time to march along. Certainly my book club selections have opened whole new worlds to me for which I am grateful to escape into as do my audiobook selections. September was a month filled with some wonderful selections, all very different from the next!

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The influences of H.G. Wells, Agatha Christie, and the writers of Groundhog Day, Harold Ramis and Danny Rubin, can be seen throughout Stuart Turton’s debut novel, The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. The English countryside setting is straight out of a Hercule Poirot mystery. Blackheath is the remote country estate of the wealthy Hardcastle family, who are throwing a party for their daughter, Evelyn, on the anniversary of their son’s murder. Family can be so twisted. The guests that have all been summoned were also present all those years ago, the night of the murder, except one. One guest, the narrator/protagonist, decided to come to Blackheath because he wanted to be there. This complex novel is further complicated by deliberately confusing the protagonist from the beginning.

Are people whom they appear to be? A question for the ages, and it’s presented rather cleverly. There is a large cast of characters to keep straight as we figure out the mystery. This gets tricky since we learn about many of them as the protagonist jumps from body to body, day by day. Each time he jumps, he has no recollection of who he is and what he learned about the murder when he was in the other bodies. So, there is a lot to keep straight.

Can people change given a chance to relive their mistakes? Would they repeat them, ever learn from them? Like the classic 1983 comedy Groundhog Day, Turton has turned this question into a darker story at Blackheath. An essential element of the story which some might find triggering is suicide.
Overall, I liked the book; but being so confused for so long throughout made following along challenging. The audiobook is 17 hours and 4 minutes long and narrated by James Cameron Stewart.

Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir by Kat Chow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect when my August Literati book from Cheryl Stray’s Wild Reads arrived last month. Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir by Kat Chow sounded like a potentially scary memoir. In ways, Chow was haunted by images of her mother’s “taxidermic self,” picturing what her mother would be doing in situations after her death from cancer. They shared a fascination with death – a subject that many find uncomfortable to discuss, but Chow discussed freely with her mother. Like many memoirs, she talks about family, loss, love, and grief, but the book goes far beyond exploring the process of her loss and grief. The mother-daughter initial focus of the story is just part of the larger story.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this book to be an intimate and poignant narrative about three generations of Chow’s Chinese American family and how we are not just affected by death but how we can grow from it. Chow delves into her family’s history through her father’s plight to reunite the remains of his parents. Her extensive research of political and historical events shows how they directly altered the lives of her ancestors and millions of Chinese. She touches upon her struggle with trying to learn Cantonese, the language of her ancestors and mother, and how essential pieces are lost in assimilating with the American culture. She shares the rituals she learned from her mother as a child, not realizing their importance until later in life(like many of us). She uses humor effectively in demonstrating the absurdities life will throw at you in the worst of times. Her story is raw in places, making you feel as if you are reading her diary, as Chow processes her grief as she writes.

A great read and relatable in many ways, which surprised me a bit. I am a second-generation Greek American struggling to learn Greek via an app. I know and have seen how as time ticks by, cultural traditions are lost or fade and how the yearning to be able to speak the language of your grandparents makes you feel closer to them. Even if you never met them. Chow’s memoir Seeing Ghosts pays homage to her ancestors and her culture. At the very core, this book is about family and the relationships within a family, a story that almost everyone can relate to on some level.

Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started listening to the Random House Audio version of Carrie Soto is Back on the last day of the 2022 US Open. Serena William, age 40, had played and lost her final match before retiring, and 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz from Spain had just won the men’s singles title. I had forgotten how thrilling it is to witness athletes play at such a high and admirable level of physical skill and mental acuity.

Taylor Jenkins Reid captures the excitement of the rhythm of the game, the highs, the lows, the give and take. She shows how the best players can defeat themselves on the court if they get too much into their own heads. But Carrie Soto is Back goes well beyond being a story about tennis or the mindset of an aging athlete coming out of retirement. It’s a story about commitment, love, grief, and personal growth.

As I stated earlier, I listened to the audiobook, which had a cast of narrators – twelve exactly. Several narrators are the tennis commentators discussing the matches, which helps move the narration along. I couldn’t help but think about the 2004 film Wimbledon with Kirstin Dunst and Paul Bettany – which I loved – and the first part of the book Carrie Soto reminded me of. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a tennis fan for sure, but you don’t have to know or understand tennis to enjoy a great story about a family.

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you enjoy historical fiction, read The Dictionary of Lost Words.
If you enjoy words and are interested in their history, read The Dictionary of Lost Words.
If you enjoy reading stories with good character development, read The Dictionary of Lost Words.
If you enjoy reading stories about family, read The Dictionary of Lost Words.
And if you enjoy reading stories about love, I highly recommend reading The Dictionary of Lost Words.
Pip William wrote a masterpiece. Her thorough research about the times surrounding the period in which the words were compiled and published in the first edition of the Oxford-English Dictionary allowed Williams to create a vivid and accurate historical backdrop for the reader to follow Esme grow up in an ever-changing world. I enjoyed every moment of this book and was delighted with how Williams focused on certain provocative words to make a point about how words can be ‘lost’ depending on who oversees the editing. Narrator Pippa Bennett-Warner does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life.


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I am currently 51 books into my goal of 58 books for this reads Goodreads Reading Challenge. Now that I have completed 88% of my goal with still ninety-one days left of 2022, I am excited to have the luxury of some time in case I opt to pick one of the longer books on my TBR list. There are some of the classics which I would like to listen to such as Les Miserables by Victor Hugo or The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. But at 57 hours and 48 minutes and 52 hours, 41 minutes respectively these selections make Dicken’s David Copperfield or Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina at 36 hours, 30 minutes and 35 hours, 35 minutes look more doable. The longest book I have listened to so far is A Little Life by  Hanya Yanagihara at 32 hours, 51 minutes; so I know I could get through something so long, as long as it’s a good story.

Happy reading and listening everyone!


“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” 

― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

August Reads & Listens

I can’t believe it’s September 1st already. I am in awe of how quickly this summer has whizzed by, as it seems like minutes ago we were discussing possibilities for the summer while planting the garden.

As August started, I was ready for a classic summer beach read and picked Summer of ’69 since someone had donated to the little library that I run and it looked interesting. This was the second of her novels that I have read, I read Winter Street two winters ago when I was looking for a book to match the season. Hilderbran seems to be good for that as she as many other seasonal titles. Besides my first brush with Summer of ’69 in the little free library, I enjoy reading historical fiction which is also something else that drew me to this title.

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Those were the days!
Want to spend part of your summer on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket without having to spend a fortune? Reading Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand is just the ticket – no lines, no delays, no cancellations, no reservations, and a lot cheaper. The story is about a family on Nantucket, and one of the daughters has taken a summer job on neighboring Martha’s Vineyard. Hilderbrand’s intimate knowledge and experience from her time on Nantucket made it easy for her to set such a vivid scene. She weaves personal details of the time that authenticate the period and demonstrate how much times have changed. Summer of ’69 is an interesting historical fiction novel but an equally terrific beach read. Hilderbrand covers all the hot points from the civil and women’s rights movements to the war in Vietnam, the moon launch, Woodstock, and Chappaquiddick. It’s a multi-generational story told by multiple family members – a great way to see how the times affected everybody and let the reader know each character. I loved how Hilderbrand used the names of classic songs from sixties bands like Buffalo Springfield and Jefferson Airplane. Great book, and if they ever make a movie, the soundtrack will be fantastic! Now I am curious and think I will put her other book, Summer of ’79, on my TBR list.
I listened to the audiobook and Erin Bennett does a great job with the narration. 13 hours, 34 minutes


One of the things that I have been doing as I go through my Goodreads challenges is to read books that I have been meaning to read ever since I was in high school or college. There are tons of books I may have started and not finished or meant to get to but never did. I believe The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of those books that I wanted to read but life got in the way until now.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Cross the hilarity of Monty Python’s Flying Circus with Kurt Vonnegut’s dry wit, and you have Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It is a whimsical science fiction classic, but the humor may not be for everyone. The book has a cultish following, as fellow hitchhikers love to quote from it. Try asking your Alexa what the answer to life is. I recommend the book to those who enjoy British humor. Stephen Fry does an excellent job narrating.


I love my Literati Book Club, it has exposed me to so many authors and genres, I particularly like the fact that you can change the club you are in if you don’t like the upcoming book, you just have to switch clubs by the 17th of the month. I’ve been in a bunch of clubs at this point, I am currently in Cheryl Strayed’s Wild Reads club and reading Kat Chow’s Seeing Ghosts. Last month I was in Brynn Elliott’s The Art of Philosophy club. That club’s aim is ” to empower readers with the tools to seek out philosophical insight and creative inspiration in their daily lives.” I decided to take a chance with reading the August selection since it was a book of poetry. I don’t generally read poetry but have been trying to broaden my horizons. Plus the way this summer has been going for me, I thought I should give it a chance.

All Along You Were Blooming: Thoughts for Boundless Living by Morgan Harper Nichols

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I have never been a huge fan of poetry, but I enjoyed reading this book. I read this as part of my Literati book club selection in The Art of Philosophy club. The proems of beautifully written and uplifting. My biggest complaint about the book however would be the use of too small of a font size for a number of poems which made reading them extremely difficult. Also the use of white type also sometimes too small on a light colored background. I would have given the book a higher rating however these things took away from my overall reading experience.


So far I am 47 books into my Goodreads challenge which is 81% of my goal of 58 books. I spent a lot of time this summer working on my own book which is set to be released any day now. I will write a separate post regarding that book once it has been officially released. Needless say I am extremely excited about it since I have physically been working on this project for over two years, although the seed was initially planted almost 30 years ago!


View all my reviews on Goodreads. Happy reading everyone!

July Reads & Listens

It’s been an incredibly stressful summer. So much so that I just realized half way through August that I didn’t post my July Reads & Listens. Thankfully I had plenty of things to listen to and read to take my mind off of some of the stress this summer has brought forth.

I started the month with a title that had been on my TBR list since July 2019.

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I’ll preface this review by stating I was distracted by some awful family matters when I listened, most of which was when I was in the car driving back and forth. So that may or may not have anything to do with how I felt about this book. I was not captivated by it. Shreve’s thorough research of the period is evident in the vivid descriptions of mill life in New England during the Great Depression. However, the characters weren’t engaging to me. There was just something so plain vanilla about the entire story. I like vanilla, usually, and some of the best things in life are the simplest things. However, this story fell short for me.

Maybe that one should have staying on my TBR List until I was in a better frame of mind. To get myself in a better frame of mind I decided to listen to something short and sweet. The sweetness of learning about hummingbirds. I have three hummingbird feeders around our yard and I can watch the hummingbirds visit the feeders all day long from my desk where I work. We have animal fencing around the perimeter of our deck so that our dogs don’t slip out and get loose in the front yard which in not fenced in. The thin wire fencing is the perfect perch for the hummingbirds to sit and rest and look our at the view in-between sips at the feeder. As you can see I love hummingbirds, which is why I selected The Hummingbird’s Gift as my next listen for the month.

The Hummingbirds’ Gift: Wonder, Beauty, and Renewal on Wings by Sy Montgomery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


If you are someone who enjoys watching your hummingbird feeders then you will enjoy this book. I listened to the audiobook version with the author Sy Montgomery narrating. It was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours learning some new things and hearing some old things about hummingbirds.
I highly recommend this to anyone who loves watching their bird feeders in particular their hummingbird feeders. 2 hours, 5 minutes listen time.

Last summer one of the Literati clubs read the book The Salt Path by Raynor Wynn. I remember reading the description and being intrigued by the idea of walking hundreds of miles along the coast of England, so I bought a copy and put it up on the TBR shelf. I figured it would make for a good summer read and planned on reading it this summer.

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Like a wave that crashed onto the shore and pulled me out to sea, I was swept away by Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path in the first 20 pages and deeply immersed in their story. The book reads raw and rough, much like their 630-mile walk. Winn’s descriptions of the southwest coast path in England make me want to experience the natural, wild beauty for myself. But then I remember what it’s like to go camping for long periods and think better of it. Wild camping may sound exciting, but as Ray explains, it has many drawbacks. She does not romanticize their situation; instead, she captures the realism of it, which can make some people uncomfortable. They had a home, their health, and the security of being able to make a living – all gone in the blink of an eye. It’s a story about life and how not paying attention to the little details can make all the difference in the world. However, it’s also about demonstrating that no matter how hard you get knocked down that it’s best to get back up and keep on moving. It’s a unique story about homelessness and how a couple of people who had everything going against them managed to keep going despite the odds.
Great adventure read.


I went back to my TBR list and looked again – perhaps one of the stories that was one of last summers big hits. Many of my friends had read The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. My sister really liked it, although are tastes in novels doesn’t always line up.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I had high hopes for The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave from all the initial high ratings and rave reviews. Owen disappears in the blink of an eye, leaving his wife, Hannah, and his daughter Bailey to find their lives turned upside down. Bad things happen quickly in life. Laura Dave sets the stage for a terrific mystery, but I couldn’t believe the story she delivered. I was annoyed by the main character, Hannah, or perhaps it was more in how Dave repeated things which I found annoying. Repetition can be an effective writing tool, but when it is overused the way it is in this story – I fear it is more distracting and irritating than anything else. I was disappointed, considering all the rave reviews and buzz about the book when it first came out. The performance of the narrator Rebecca Lowman was outstanding, though, and I would listen to more books that she narrates.


It’s been a hit or miss sort of summer for me in my selections, but it’s’ sort of mimicked the roller coaster of a summer I have been on with some personal matters. We had a string of incredibly hot days with temperatures in the low to mid 90ºs but the humidity was off the hook making the real feel over 100ºF for three of four days! Right now we are back to our comfortable 69ºF up here on the mountain with a beautiful breeze that is whipping through the house – nothing better than natural air conditioning. I am hoping that my selections going forward are better. Currently, I am halfway through listening to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams narrated by Stephan Fry. I hope you all have some interesting reading to enjoy as the summer ends. Happy reading!

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” – 
Lemony Snicket









June Reads & Listens

I did a lot of reading in June. I found myself making an effort to walk away from the computer and electronics to find a comfortable corner to curl up with one of my book club books. I managed to finish two of them this month! A form of my mindfulness at work. I listened to a lot of books too. The dogs, chickens and I listening to my books over the outdoor speakers as I weeded and planted the garden. It makes weeding much more enjoyable that’s for certain.

June was a mixed bag of titles ranging from historical fiction, a favorite genre of mine to supernatural mystery, a new genre I have started to explore. I read two really good memoirs. I read some authors that are new to me: Colleen Hoover and Simone St. James and continued to reread an old favorite, Kurt Vonnegut. One day I will have to explore why I am so drawn to his works.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Hamnet is a story of a multigenerational family and their domestic life in late 16th century England, around the time of the Plague. Grief is a central theme explored. The story revolves around how the individual family members deal with their grief and how that grief affects their relationships within the family.

The narrator, Ell Potter, does a beautiful job with the lyrical prose of Maggie O’Farrell. I was somewhat disappointed in this book. I was expecting more after reading some of the initial reviews, which caused me to put it on my TBR list. I found myself initially very confused; knowing I was reading a fictional account of the marriage of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway; it was hard to recognize them. Anne is only referred to as Agnes, and William is barely mentioned by name. The title character, Hamnet and Hamlet, were interchangeable at that time. This, coupled with the multiple viewpoints which make up the narration, made things even more unclear.

However, somewhere three-quarters of the way in, maybe sooner, I became more invested in the characters and what they were experiencing. Hamnet is a story of a marriage and a family who endure life in a time when survival was at its most challenging; sacrificing themselves for others, surviving separation when it is necessary, and finding love can bring about the greatest heartbreak of all. This isn’t my favorite piece of historical fiction, but it was a good story in the end. 2.5 Stars

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This is the first book I have read or listened to by Simone St. James, but I had read good reviews of this and other books of hers at some point and added this and a few others of hers to my TBR list. The Sun Down Motel seemed to have all the right makings for a great supernatural crime story with a perfect setting of fictional Fell, NY, and the creepy old Sun Down Motel. I’ve traveled upstate New York, and Simone St. James successfully delivers by setting the stage. St. James’ use of telling the story using alternating voices worked very well, but I would the problem was that I didn’t care about the storytellers. I didn’t find Vivian or Carly particularly likable or any other supporting characters.

Narrators Brittany Pressley and Kirsten Potter do a good job of bringing the story to life. I was disappointed overall, considering the possibilities of a multigenerational tale with unresolved family conflict, the perfect setting for an unsolved crime, and the potential for strong female characters. The story fell short and didn’t deliver for me.


Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Smile: The Story of A Face is a memoir of Sarah Ruhl’s journey through a slow recovery from Bell’s Palsy. Ruhl is a playwriter and mother of three children who winds up Bell’s Palsy after delivering her twins. It took me longer to finish this book than it should have. In the down moments I did have in my busy schedule – the book wasn’t begging me to come back to it to check in to see how Sarah was doing in her progress. I read this book as part of my Literati Book club – it was the book chosen for February’s read. It’s June now.

I decided I was tired of having the book sit around, so I forced myself to finish it. I was 50% into the book when I picked it up again. It’s an easy read; despite not being able to hold my attention. I was interested in her journey into Buddhism and meditation, mainly since I have recently found myself on a similar path. There are many quotes from others she admires in the book. I love a good quote and added a few from this book into my quote collection. However, there may have been too much reliance on this which I felt detracted from the book.

I am glad I finished the book, as it proves to be an excellent reminder to never give up on yourself and your health. Ruhl shows how faith, whether in God, Buddha, or in ourselves, can take us far and bring us some peace.


Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Cat’s Cradle is one of those books that you can read more than once. I first read it in 1985, twenty-two years from when it was first published in 1963. This time, I listened to the audiobook. Almost 60 years later, it still holds up. It’s not outdated and seems even more poignant; Vonnegut’s commentary on humanity is more relevant than ever. It’s a tremendous chaotic, weird, wild story.

I love Vonnegut’s style of writing and his dry humor. His books are easy to read, and I find myself thinking, wow was he spot on in his observations about issues that continue to plague us today: family, nation, religion, science, and technology. Cat’s Cradle focuses on humanity’s insatiable craving for knowledge and understanding of the world around us at any cost. Vonnegut recognizes the benefits of the advancements in modern science and technology but is distrustful of the destructive potential that goes hand in hand with those advancements.

The story follows the narrator, writing a book about what Felix Hoenikker was doing the day the United States dropped the atom bomb. Hoenikker was one of the scientists whose work led to the atom bomb creation. Vonnegut has a way of writing characters that, without being verbose, can tell us so much about who that character really is and what they are all about.

One of my favorite things about the audiobook was, at the very end, there is the interview with Kurt Vonnegut. It’s always so interesting to listen to him speak. I learn so much about him and what’s behind his writing every time.

Tony Roberts, the narrator, wasn’t my favorite. A bit too monotone for my liking; dry doesn’t mean monotone. Harper Audio: 7 hours, 11 minutes.



A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I just finished reading one of the most powerful memoirs, A Three Dog Life. I’m mad at myself that this raw, gut-punching, yet beautiful book sat on my bookshelf for so long – for years, I am ashamed to admit. Then it sat on my desk for months after I used it as a sizing reference for my memoir that I am working on. I thought this one had been on the TBR list way too long. It was published in 2006. I knew it was a memoir about dogs; the title gives that away immediately. That’s why I bought the book in the first place – I love dogs and stories about dogs. Plus, the cover has a picture of the author, Abigail Thomas sitting on the couch with her three dogs was something I can relate to – I do that all the time. It looked like a nice story.

Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down, and I finished it in two days. It’s an amazing story about a period in the author’s life. So much more than a dog story. The dogs are important characters, but they are more supporting roles, as dogs can be incredibly supportive. No, this is a story about a woman and her husband and how their lives took a dramatic turn in the blink of an eye. You don’t have to be a dog person to find this book as powerful as I did. You don’t have to like dogs to get something out of this book. Her story is about love, life, and how to live a reconfigured life. Read it; just have some tissue nearby.



Buy Yourself the Fcking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I did not like Tara Schuster’s Buy Yourself the Fcking Lilies. I stopped listening to it about 35% as there was no way I could waste more time listening to this woman. I hate giving bad reviews, but I wouldn’t want others like me to waste their time. Better self-help books are available if that’s what you’re looking for. This is a memoir/self-help book for maybe a younger audience. I’m 57 years old, and so far, what I’ve listened to was not in lightning. She had already started to repeat things so many times I couldn’t imagine nor care to find out what she possibly could have to say for another 7 1/2 hours. I found her style of giving help to be very condescending and childish. She assigns homework and says things that are supposed to be affirming, but from her, they sound trite. She has some good suggestions, such as journaling, using positive affirmations, and, yes, not feeling guilty about doing small niceties for yourself. Still, her delivery is terrible, particularly when she starts talking to the audience like she knows you and what you are going through. I am shocked that this has received as high a rating. This was just not my cup of tea. Next.

Verity by Colleen Hoover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow! Colleen Hoover’s Verity is incredible. From the moment I started to listen to the Audible audiobook, narrated by Vanessa Johansson and Amy Langdon, I was hooked on the story. The story’s action is told in two voices: the voice of the young writer who is called to take over writing another author’s series, who has been in an incapacitating accident, and the author who has been incapacitated. It is a thrilling ride of lies, manipulation, and some very effed-up stuff. There’s a lot of sex in this book – so if that’s not your thing – this won’t be either, but you’d be missing out on some incredible, masterful storytelling. I don’t want to say too much about this book, other than I highly recommend it. It’s the first book of Colleen Hoover’s that I have read, and I am an instant fan. Bravo!


The Puzzler by A.J. Jacobs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The Puzzler by A.J. Jacobs is a wonderful book if you are into puzzles. I read the book as part of my Literati book club selection, and since I enjoy puzzles, I enjoyed reading this book and liked the book. Jacobs covers many puzzles – anagrams, crosswords, cryptics, puzzles, puzzle boxes, chess, riddles, and more. The book can take some time to go through since it includes a bunch of historical crosswords and other puzzles for the reader to try out, plus a slew of original puzzles made for the book by Greg Pliska. You end up getting sidetracked trying to solve the puzzle and putting down the book.
Jacobs includes many excellent references for puzzler fanatics which is a great resource and threatens to kick up any addiction to puzzles up a few notches.
I read the hardback copy, which includes all sorts of visuals besides the puzzles and a color insert of photographs of puzzles, Rubik cubes, etc……… I photocopied the puzzles from the book to work on so I didn’t mess up my copy of the book for someone else in the future. I saw the audiobook includes a .pdf of all the puzzles.
You will enjoy going down this rabbit hole. Just have some pencils ready.

Once finishing The Puzzler, I picked a book from my ever growing TBR list that I added to the pile last summer called The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. It looks like the perfect book to curl up with on the deck. Happy summer reading everyone!

May Reads & Listens

This month I listened to six books and continued to make snail-like progress in the physical books I chose to read. Thirty-three books at the half-year mark isn’t a bad situation, considering I am 57% towards finishing my yearly goal of 58 books. I find that I continue to either choose home runs only to follow it up with a strike or a foul ball. Ok, maybe they are base hits and just feel like strikes after hitting homers.

I began the month coming off of a strike last month with My Year of Rest and Relaxation and choose Brood to begin the month with. I figured I could relate to another chicken tender.

Brood by Jackie Polzin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed listening to Brood by Jackie Polzin and narrated by Rebecca Lowman. Brood is more than a story about a woman’s experience with her four chickens. At the core, this is a book about loss and grief. So from that perspective, the book has a depth that some may not be able to fully relate to.

Despite the sadness that the reader can hear in the author’s voice, there is humor in the story. Where there are chickens, there is usually something to laugh and smile about. I have four chickens of my own just like the author, so I can relate to her experiences with them. I learned a few new things too which as a chicken owner is always helpful. Much like parenthood, I had no idea what to expect from raising chickens, so also like parenthood, it’s helpful to see how others do things.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has chickens, loves animals, or is interested in a quick good read.


I decided that I would like to read/listen my way through the entire Agatha Christie collection. As a young girl who struggled reading, I found I was always interested in reading an Agatha Christie mystery. I have read And Then There Were None many times. So to begin my journey through the Christie Collection I thought I would start at the beginning.

The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I aim to read/listen to all of Agatha Christie’s books, starting with this early work (1925), The Secret of Chimneys. This story is filled with a large cast of characters, some of who pop up in later works of Christie’s. Superintendent Battle is introduced, although he plays a more supporting role.

A lot is going on in this book, so I found myself confused for a good portion of the story and not in the good murder-mystery way. Upon doing some reading afterward, I discovered Agatha Christie admitted that when it came to ‘Chimneys,’ she made the mistake that many young authors do by trying to put “far too much plot into one book.” This explains my confusion. Overall, this wasn’t a favorite of mine and it was just okay.


I was disappointed that one of my favorite go-to authors let me down. But to keep it in perspective, it was her first novel and there was plenty of room for improvement which we know she achieves throughout her career. We can’t always hit home runs, particularly early in our career.

I choose The Henna Artist next, as it had been on my TBR list for some time and in following along with exploring authors from other countries and cultures, I picked this novel next.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Henna Artist submerses the reader/listener into a colorful world of saffrons and cinnamons, her words making you smell the curry and cumin wafting in the air as you learn about Lakshmi and her world. Alka Joshi’s debut novel paints a vivid picture of 1950s India and the challenge for women, particularly in a world controlled by men.

The story focuses on the life of Lakshmi, a woman who has fled an abusive husband and reinvents herself to gain her independence. Life becomes more challenging for Lakshmi as her past catches up to her and threatens to unravel all she has worked so hard for.

Trigger warning: two themes that may disturb readers/listeners are abortion and infidelity

I like this book and highly recommend it to readers and listeners. Sneha Mathan does a magnificent job narrating the book and giving life to various characters.


I felt it was time to switch things up and I discovered that Audible has a fantastic series out called Words + Music. I actually listened to one of the first in the series with the James Taylor: Break Shot two years ago. Each one is about 90 minutes long and narrated by the musician. The Who is touring this summer and I have never seen them. I don’t plan to, my concert days are behind me. But I do enjoying sitting down and listening to the artist tell their stories about the music and their lives.

Somebody Saved Me by Pete Townshend

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed listening to Pete Townshend’s Somebody Saved Me; it felt like you were sitting in a room with Pete as some instruments surrounded him while he talked about his career. I have always liked The Who’s music so learning a bit about the man behind the music and some of the songs that I grew up with is always a treat. Fans of The Who will appreciate spending a couple of hours with Pete. Well done, Audible Originals – I hope there will be more memoirs like this produced where the musician can play their music as they are talking about it. I realize ASCAP/BMI prohibits that a lot, but it adds to the overall experience of listening to the tunes, like in this wonderful Audible Original with Pete Townshend.



I decided from there to revisit a genre that I hadn’t in a while – the world of fantasy. I am a fan of fantasy books and so going back to my trusty TBR list, I checked out the Fantasy collection and selected Piranesi which had been on my list since 2020.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Suzanna Clarke’s Piranesi is a story centered around the title character, a likable man in harmony with nature and his surroundings. I was struck by the feeling of having gone through the wardrobe ala C.S. Lewis and ending up in a world like the Eagle’s Hotel California. “Such a lovely place…There’s plenty of room at the Hotel California…You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”
In the fantastical world in which Piranesi inhabits, the House is an ever-expanding one, filled with endless halls and marble statues, the ocean floods its basement, and the clouds engulf its top floors. The narration is mainly through Piranesi’s journals which he meticulously keeps, so we discover and untangle the mystery along with him. He is an engaging character whom I came to care about as I saw his patience and fortitude. I also keep journals, so I was amused at his indexing system and thought it somewhat clever. The few characters in the book add to the isolation of Piranesi’s world. The story is not just one of fantasy though but also one of dark mystery challenging the reader/listener.
Clarke borrows the name from the 18th-century artist, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, known for his etchings Carceri d’Invenzione, (Imaginary Prisons). It’s not essential to know this upon reading the story; however, it helps in being able to interpret the larger picture. There are multiple layers to this book, rich in imagery and symbolism; you’d probably see something you missed the first time in each reading.
I listened to the unabridged version from Bloomsbury Publishing on Audible which was wonderfully narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor. It’s a quick listen at 6 hours and 58 minutes. 4.5 stars

So far it had been a good month of listening. My dog needed surgery so I was stuck at the house for a couple of weeks since we were literally tethered to one another via a 6-foot leash the entire time. I made some headway reading Smile by Sarah Ruhl. I haven’t even touched There, There by Tommy Orange all month, as I was trying to finish Smile before moving on to another physical book. This month for my Literati club, I switched to the Atlas Obscura club and have added to the TBR List The Puzzler by A.J. Jacobs. I love puzzles and games, so I could not miss the opportunity to read this book. Which I will – hopefully soon.

To close the month I went to another book which had been on my TBR list for about a year – Hamnet.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Hamnet is a story of a multigenerational family and their domestic life in late 16th century England, around the time of the Plague. Grief is a central theme explored. The story revolves around how the individual family members deal with their grief and how that grief affects their relationships within the family.

The narrator, Ell Potter, does a beautiful job with the lyrical prose of Maggie O’Farrell. I was somewhat disappointed in this book. I was expecting more after reading some of the initial reviews, which caused me to put it on my TBR list. I found myself initially very confused; knowing I was reading a fictional account of the marriage of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway; it was hard to recognize them. Anne is only referred to as Agnes, and William is barely mentioned by name. The title character, Hamnet and Hamlet, were interchangeable at that time. This, coupled with the multiple viewpoints which make up the narration, made things even more unclear.

However, somewhere three-quarters of the way in, maybe sooner, I became more invested in the characters and what they were experiencing. Hamnet is a story of a marriage and a family who endure life in a time when survival was at its most challenging; sacrificing themselves for others, surviving separation when it is necessary, and finding love can bring about the greatest heartbreak of all. This isn’t my favorite piece of historical fiction, but it was a good story in the end. 2.5 Stars

Oh, well – we can’t always pick winners. So where now will I turn my attention? I have a lot of things going on here. I am working on having my book published which is very exciting and a huge undertaking. I have my garden to finish planting and seeding for this season. There will also be plenty of weeding to do since it’s been raining here for the last few days and things are getting lush. I’ll need a good book to listen to as I weed, it makes that chore so much more enjoyable! I wish I had a wheel I could spin that contained all the names of the books on my TBR list that at a push of a button would spin and reveal the title of my next book to read or listen to. Sometimes I find selecting a book to be the biggest challenge of all.

Let me know what you are reading or listening to this summer. I am always looking for new titles to add to my ever-growing TBR list. Until next month, happy reading and listening, everyone!

April Reads and Listens

April was a full month where I was able to add four more books to the Read category getting closer to my goal of 58 books for the year. I am currently at 27 books completed. This month I read two fantastic books and two lesser so. I started the month off listening to The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. I saw the title on my Goodreads feed because a friend of mine had read and liked it; so I thought I would give it a try.

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this book and thought that it was a touching story about a catholic family and their ‘extraordinary” son, Sam. From the moment I started listening to the book, I was absorbed in the world of Sam, his parents, and his friends, Ernie and Mickey. Each character is well-developed and well-rounded and adds their own spark to the story.
This book is the story of a boy who spends his life being judged by appearance. Unfortunately, our society continues to look too much at the shell and not remember it’s what’s inside that makes us who we really are.
“Our skin, our hair, and our eyes are simply the shell that surrounds our soul, and our soul is who we are. What counts is on the inside.”
I highly recommend this book – it’s a great story that the author also narrates wonderfully as well.

I always find it difficult to follow up on a book that I have really liked. I tend to switch genres completely and often I will fall back on short stories. I decided to to go this route after having finished The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. I turned to a collection by one of my all-time favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook version, which was only available through my audiobooks.com account, and it did not allow me to view the chapters at all if I wanted. The book starts with a long foreward by Gaiman, where he gives a little background about each story. To his credit, he mentions that the listener may want to jump ahead, but I decided to listen anyway. I’m not sure how far into the foreward I was when I started to think about jumping ahead to the stories, realizing that I would only be able to jump away in small 15-second increments. So I continued to listen.

The short stories in this collection range from chilling and scary to sad and sentimental, many of which had been published before. There are several homages to some literary influences of Gaiman’s from Sherlock Holmes in ‘The Case of Death and Honey’ to ‘The Man who forgot Ray Bradbury.’ Then there is the tribute to Doctor Who in the story ‘Nothing O’Clock,’ which I enjoyed despite never having seen any Doctor Who before. There is also a nob to David Bowie in ‘Kether and Malkuth’. The collection wraps up with a short story called ‘Black Dog,’ which features Shadow Moon, the protagonist from Gaiman’s American Gods novel.

‘The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains’
‘Nothing O’Clock’
‘Kether to Malkuth’
‘Orange’
‘A Calendar of Tales’
‘The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury’
‘An Invocation of Incuriosity’
‘The Case of Death and Honey’
‘Pearls’
‘Black Dog’

Overall, I liked this collection, but it was not one of my favorites, so I was also disappointed. I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s and a big fan of short stories, so I felt this collection fell short.

A good book for a long drive

I found myself wondering where to turn my attention next. I had a long 8-hour plus drive that I would have to contend with and I really needed to pick a good book for the drive. As I looked over my TBR list, I came across a book that I put on the list after having seen the book on my father’s coffee table last summer, The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. I thought this might be a good pick since I could possibly talk about the book with my dad when I was visiting with him that weekend. The long drive down to Connecticut was to see my father and celebrate Greek Easter with my family whom I hadn’t seen since last July.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the moment I started listening to this book, I was sucked down the rabbit hole! This is the first book I have read of Kate Quinn’s and it will not be the last. The Rose Code is a masterful piece of historical fiction based around the real men and women Enigma code-breakers who worked at Bletchley Park in the English countryside during World War II.


The story revolves around three young women from different backgrounds called to Bletchley Park to serve their country by cracking codes and keeping secrets. Quinn didn’t write just one heroine but she wrote about three of them. Three strong women who I came to care very deeply about their story.


The narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, does a fantastic job of bringing to life all of the characters of which there are quite a few.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mystery, and espionage stories.

How Do You Follow Up a 5 Star Book?

Twice in one month, I found myself having to figure out how to follow up a great book. So I pivoted to a book that I knew one of my nieces had read and thought from the cover it might be a good change of pace.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I did not enjoy this book and only managed to finish it because it was short, and I was waiting to see if there was a point or climax – which never came. The depression that the main character is dealing with is conveyed in the writing style, but the main character wasn’t someone you come to care about. I don’t enjoy books where the protagonist is a narcissist. I felt bad for and cared more about her friend, Reva. The only good thing about the book was the narrator, Julia Whelan, does a good job bringing the characters to life.

Not a great book to end the month, but not all books can be winners. The important thing is to keep on reading. Currently, I am reading Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl. I’ve been bad about reading my physical books lately because I have been painting, drawing, driving, and listening to my audiobooks. My Literati club books are piling up, with the latest one coming in There, There by Tommy Orange, which I am only 10 pages into. I didn’t mean to start it, but I began to peruse upon opening the box, which led me to read a bit.

There is also a stack 3 feet high ( I am not exaggerating) sitting on my file cabinet of books waiting to be read. I can’t help myself around books sometimes. I just love books. I remember the old days of hanging out in bookstores. I would spend hours in the stacks of books, particularly if they had cozy chairs and spaces for you to hang out and check out the selections more thoroughly. Those were the old days, though. Today I purchase books via my Literati book club or the Book of the Month Club or Amazon. There was a small independent bookstore in my old hometown that I would frequent, but there isn’t one near me where I live now. Now I share the books I have read with my community via the Marleywood Little Free Library, where I am the steward.

If you have any book recommendations, please leave me a comment. I am always looking for new book ideas. Happy reading.

March Reads and Listens

This month I took a small break from listening to audiobooks for a few days. I needed to step back for a bit since I had been on such a roll. I tried to make more headway in the physical reading of my Literati book club books: Smile by Sarah Ruhl and Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. I’m on page 60 of Smile, unfortunately. I need to schedule my reading time better – I always leave it until bedtime, which only allows me a few minutes before my eyelids are too heavy to feel open. Luckily the chapters are short, so I have been able to knock off one or two at a time. Four Thousand Weeks – the title alone intimidating.

When I returned to listening to my audiobook library, I decided to one of the longest titles that had been on my TBR List – The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, which was 21 hours and 43 minutes.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Signature of All Things explores the mysteries and wonders of the world through its rich characters, Henry and Alma Whittaker, both figuratively and literally. Elizabeth Gilbert’s epic story spans 80 years, two generations and takes the reader on adventures around the world.
Henry Whittaker’s rags-to-riches story starts in the orchards of Kew Gardens and leads the reader along for his adventure aboard the HMS Resolution with Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore. I was intrigued by all the history woven into this fantastic story and want to read more. The characters are full of depth. Henry is a force to be reckoned with, and I believe it was necessary to share as much about Henry and his story as Gilbert did to get the full scope of Alma’s character.

The bulk of the story is all Alma’s story, Henry’s firstborn and only biological child. Seeing Alma through Henry’s eyes gives the reader an intimate familial perspective of our heroine. Born in January 1800, the reader follows Alma through 8 decades of her lifetime. We are with her for the peaks and valleys, the unexpected detours, and the most intimate moments of her life. We learn about Alma slowly and closely, mimicking the way Alma learns about and studies her mosses. Alma is a fictional amalgamation of real-life women that Gilbert researched thoroughly for her story. Women such as Mary Treat, an expert on carnivorous plants who corresponded with Darwin, and Elizabeth Knight Britton, a respected moss expert who founded the New York Botanical Gardens with her husband. And Marianne North, who was a beautiful illustrator and botanist. These are just some of the 19th-century women whom Elizabeth Gilbert researched and used as such a solid foundation for building into her character in Alma.

I was intrigued by so many parts of this incredible story. I listened to this masterful piece of literature, and the narrator, Juliet Stevenson, is excellent. I understand the print edition includes beautiful illustrations, which I was sorry to learn were not included as a separate .pdf file for audiobook listeners.

However, I can see how this book may not be everybody’s cup of tea. It’s long, and some people aren’t capable of taking the time to share someone else’s story in such detail. I enjoyed every little detail and don’t think that Gilbert could have taken any part of this story out and been able to tell the whole story. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction.

I wrapped up the month with a short listen after having come off of my previous long listen. My son had asked me to check out The Doors of Perception a few years ago and I was finally in the right mood for it.

The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Doors of Perception, initially published in 1954, is a day in the life memoir of Aldous Huxley recounting his first experience with a psychodelic drug, mescaline, aka peyote.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
– William Blake

Heavily influenced by Blake, Huxley borrows the phrase ‘doors of perception’ for the title of his book.


I laughed along with Huxley during certain parts of his trip as memories of my own experiences on psychedelics were brought to mind. What’s impressive is that those memories are as vivid today as 40 years ago. Since I am familiar with psychedelics, I thought Huxley’s initial encounter with mescaline gives the reader a decent impression of what it is like to have a psychedelic experience.

He reflects on his experience recognizing that “for the moment the interfering neurotic who, in waking hours, tries to run the show, was blessedly out of the way.” His observations into his experiences on that day gave him a different perspective of the intimate world around him, the everyday objects such as a vase of flowers or the folds in his trousers.

Humankind’s search for enlightenment or transcendence to some spiritual awakening has been entwined with our beings for centuries. H.G Well’s called this The Door In the Wall, which Huxley refers to many times in the text.

I found this to be an interesting book and recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Huxley’s or psychedelic fiction or anyone curious to experience what someone could be experiencing under a psychedelic drug.

I listened to the Audible version narrated by Rudolph Schirmer and was a quick listen at 2 hours, 16 minutes.



View all my reviews

February Reads & Listens

For such a short month, I packed in quite a few reads and listens. I started the month finally finishing the January Literati Club selection, We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider. There are a scattering of his signature cartoons throughout the book which is a collection of essays.

We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I struggled reading this book at first, perhaps it was just the first couple of stories that I didn’t find interesting or relatable or just juvenile in a way. However, as I kept on read, that changed when I read the line,”What dooms our best efforts to cultivate empathy and compassion is always, of course, other people.” Okay, maybe I can relate to Tim Kreider more than I thought. Then I read “you’d think that given our shared loathing for the Wall/K Street oligarchy that’s running this country like a Ponzi scheme we’d be able to put aside our brand loyalties…” I saw someone put into words so spot on describing how our government runs our country.


I enjoyed reading this book , overall, some essays more than others but it’s a good read which is sad, honest, sometimes brutally so, but truly funny. 228 pages.

I stated the month off with a selection from my historical fiction section f my TBR List and dove into What The Wind Knows by Amy Harmon.

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I think fans of historical fiction with a time travel twist will enjoy this as much as I did. It’s a skilled author who can write a tale that transports not only the main character but the reader into believing they have been transported back in time and Amy Harmon does just that.

I was fascinated by the Irish history which I admit to knowing little about the country’s struggle for independence, but knew of some of the names. I found myself looking up some of the Easter Rising and some of the key players mentioned in between listening to the book and can see reading more. Although I was never one for poetry the way that W.B. Yeats’ poetry is woven into the text lowered the bar in my understanding his words which set alone, I would be more effective translating a language I have never seen before. But it adds and was so fitting to include.

This is a romantic novel and I am not one to be drawn to romance, but this book is neither too saturated in sex, although there is some, nor is it to sappy in it’s love story but just the right balance to make you see the love. I also found many times to be laughing or smiling to myself in listening to the story, particularly in the parts where Anne compares our modern day luxuries that she no longer has in 1916.

The narrators Saskia Maarleveld, Will Damron do a fantastic job.
All is in all, I highly recommend this book and now I want to read more of Amy Harmon’s books. The Audible Audiobook is 12 hours, 24 minutes long.

Having been intrigued by the mythology within What They Wind Knows I decided to check out Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology next.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing and I am an a mythology enthusiasts, so I really enjoyed listening to Norse Mythology. Gaiman’s writing is so clever and humorous and he is such a great storyteller infusing new life into these old myths. The only thing that makes this better is that Neil Gaiman is the narrator which makes the illusion of him telling you a story all the more real! The Audible Audiobook is 6 hours, 29 minutes.

With everything going on in the world today and the younger generation having no attention span whatsoever. I decided that this month I was ready to tackle the Ready Player One Series. I had a bedroom to paint and wanted something that would keep me focused while I painted. I had seen the movie Ready Player One a long time ago but since the second book came out in 2021, I decided I wanted to read the first book and then read the new book.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I loved this book! But I grew up in the 80s, so listening to this book was like reminiscing about my teen years. Ernest Cline creates a fantastic world of the future 2044 and reality is a nasty place to live so many escape to the Oasis, a virtual reality world where you can be any avatar you choose and experience things in augmented reality.

I decided to listen to this book, originally published in 2011 since Cline just came out with the sequel in 2021 so I wanted to listen to the two books back to back. I enjoyed the movie a long time ago produced by Spielberg so I wanted to check out the book.

I’m not a gamer, nor am I a programmer but thought that Cline captured the essence of someone who can become so absorbed in the gaming and computer programming world. It’s a dystopian view of the future having seen what social networking has done to some people coupled with recent announcements about the Metaverse being developed by tech giants Facebook, excuse me, META, Microsoft, Nvidia, and others, Cline’s OASIS doesn’t seem so far off from reality these days.

The protagonist is an atheist and that may bother some people, however, it did not bother me. I read some reviews where people were really put off by this. I also read so reviews that some people purchased this book for their children to listen to, probably because they simply were naive enough to think its a book about a bunch of nerds and gamers. This is not a book for 9 year olds but it is a great book for high school aged kids and above.

Ultimately I believe this book is about the importance of human interaction – face to face interaction and how important that is to have in our world. I liked Will Wheaton as the narrator, he seemed a perfect choice to me. I give this book a 4.5 rating. The Audible Audiobook is 15 hours, 40 minutes.

My next selection was based off of a recommendation by my sister, Daphne. She raved about The Power of Neuroplasticity by Shad Helmstetter. She said it had helped her “have the power to change [her] program (how [she] think[s]) from negative/ catastrophizing to positivity and productivity.  So I had to check it out for myself. I actually listened to this book at the same time – not actually at the same time but during the same time period that I was listening to Ready Player Two.

The Power of Neuroplasticity by Shad Helmstetter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a must listen to for everyone! Shad Helmstetter breaks down some pretty scientific stuff in an easy and understandable way – uncomplicating the complex. He gives the listener/reader the keys which they always held to unlock the endless possibilities to change their lives.

Helmstetter reinforces the evidence that how and what we think and tell ourselves matters greatly. I highly recommend to those who feel like they are stuck in a rut or have no ability to change their daily lives for the better. The Audible audiobook is 6 hours and 18 minutes long and narrated by Douglas Martin

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I was disappointed in this book overall. I was a huge fan of Ready Player One but all the originality that was in that book – was missing from this book. There are some themes in the book which are worthy of exploring like man’s obsession with immortality and man playing God but they seemed to get lost. I was also particularly disappointed to see that much of the story had been ripped from a popular Japanese novel series called Sword Art Online. So much so that the author admits to this within the novel. I also found there is a lot of virtue signaling in this book.

Fans of Prince may have fun going down that rabbit hole. I have to wonder whether Prince’s Estate has already authorized usage of his music and likeness since it would be impossible to make the movie version of this book without it.
Although I am a fan of Tolkien – I haven’t read The Silmarillion and thought a lot of the references so obscure they were difficult to follow.

Wil Wheaton was the narrator and I didn’t really feel like he added much to the performance, he’s a a little monotone but I since the main character Wade is the narrator of the story, I imagine Wade to be a little monotone too. The Audible Audiobook is 13 hours, 46 minutes.

Once I I had emerged from the cyberspace rabbit hole of the OASIS and the world Ernest Cline foresees, I did an about face. I wanted something short and I also wanted to continue to work on my ever growing TBR list. I started this book actually initially in 2016 on my Kindle.

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I found this book to be interesting more as a writer who would potentially be writing stories which strong female characters, but many women look it as a helpful guide in their own personal lives. Perhaps I am one of the wild woman since a lot of what I thought she said was simple common sense.


I found listening to most of this reminiscent of listening to a professor lecture in college – just going on and on because they like the sound of their own voice. The only part I really enjoyed was listening to the old fairy tales and myths – then it was a treat to listen to the soothing and skilled story-telling voice of author, Clarissa Estés.


I was surprised by all the very high ratings and reviews for this book. I think it really depend on the type of person you are which will dictate how much you like the book or consider it ground-breaking and life changing. I found it to be neither.
The Audible Audiobook is 2 hours, 18 minutes.

After listening to that lecture-like book, I wanted something that I could depend on. My last couple of books were rather disappointing. I always find that turning to the short story collections can be a good way to turn things around and once again I was not disappointed.

Selected Shorts: American Classics by Amy Tan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a fantastic collection of short stories by some of America’s greatest writers. The Audible Audiobook is 3 hours, 45 minutes.

Amy Tan’s “Rules of the Game”, performed by Freda Foh Shen. 4.5 stars – I loved this story about a young Chinese girl who becomes a chess prodigy. The relationship which Amy Tan depicts between the strict mother and her young daughter is priceless!

Donald Barthelme’s “Game”, performed by David Strathairn. 4.5 – Wow! A humorous look at what would happen when two people are left in the nuclear bunker for too long.

Eudora Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.”, performed by Stockard Channing. 4 – Funny story about family and getting away from them

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” performed by René Auberjonois. 4.5 – Classic Poe masterpiece.

Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” performed by Christine Baranski. 4
-Creepy and disturbing – really well written – 4.5

John Sayles’ “At the Anarchists’ Convention”, performed by Jerry Stiller. – Humorous 4

Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”, performed by Carmen de Lavallade. 4
-A glimpse of how siblings look at family treasures differently

John Cheever’s “Christmas Is a Sad Season for the Poor”, performed by Malachy McCourt. 4
-Funny story about the kindness people have towards each other at Christmas.

February Wrap Up

Besides these eight books which I seemed to have plowed through this month. I also listened to the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu – A New English Version read by its translator Stephen Mitchell. I have been meditating every day now for almost a year. In that time, I have also been listening to different lectures and talks about Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity. I have been listening to The Bible in A Year podcast since I never read the Bible fully and thought it would be interesting to do. I started on that journey in 2021 actually, so for me it will most likely be The Bible in Two Years, possibly Three. Listening to the Tao Te Ching for me was simply an exercise in learning the teachings of Lao Tzu. At the time I was listening I was also drawing zentangle patterns. In short, drawing zentangles a form of artistic meditation so it was the perfect companion to listen to as I drew. I purposely chose not to rate or review the Tao Te Ching, nor the Taming The Tiger Within by Thich Nhat Hanh which I also listened to shortly learning of his death. Except that I will say that it was enough to spark a curiosity to further read more of his writing in the future.

February may have been the shortest month of the year but I managed to make it a productive one bringing my total books read this year so far up to 19. My ultimate goal on Goodreads is 58, so I am 33% of the way to my ultimate goal. I am backlogged with actual physical hard copies of my Literati book club books right now. Currently still reading Smile: The Story of A Face by Sarah Ruhl and then there is the next book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. That one could come in handy as far as being able to make time for actual reading.

The problem is I get tired at night when I usually read which makes finishing impossible. I have been writing, actually editing the book I have been working on writing and hoping to get it to the stage of actually submitting to a publisher. I also was painting my bedroom last month which is why I was able to go down the rabbit hole of the Ready Player One Series (One and Two) and stay down there while I painted away the old paint which was on the walls since before I moved here 6 years ago! Yes, I have been living in the previous owners paint and carpets until last month. I always had plans to change things but other things were more important and it wasn’t that horrible until after the last two years which everyone – my kids, that is – back in my house for more months than we have lived together in 8 years. I needed a clean slate. It took 6 months from the time I ordered them – not a special order or anything – to the time they were installed. Currently I am painting another room in the house which had terra cotta colored walls. I put the first coat of primer down yesterday while listening to my current audiobook, Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. I’m only a few hours into this epic 21 hour and 43 minute book, so perhaps I’ll be able to complete the room and the book around the same time.

Until next month, I hope you enjoyed my review. View all my reviews.

Happy Reading!

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

Charles W. Eliot