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!

My Rock

Violet Vous

I was 13 years old when my family adopted my best friend. We rescued him from Ohio, where he was found with an 8lb chain around his neck in less than ideal conditions. He was a handsome, 9-month old, white lab-pit mix with a few brown spots, and a splash of black on his tail. He sported a lil brown spot on his right eyeball, which inspired his original name, Petey, after the dog in The Little Rascals.

After a couple weeks of “fostering” him, we were able to convince my dad to keep him for good. I was ecstatic to finally have a dog once again, after losing a couple of my first pups to tragic accidents. We decided to rename him Rocky, which was randomly inspired by the Rocky Balboa film series (we thought it would resonate well with my dad). Rocky had a heart-shaped nose, which inspired…

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Adjusting To the New Norm

My daughter just called, she returned to her home today and has safely arrived. She has been here with me at my house for the last two months. About 10 weeks ago she sustained a concussion which considering the quarantine, we thought it better for her to be home on the mountain. It was already difficult enough to get food for someone who could deal with masking up and possibly having to wait in lines outside the store because they only allow a certain amount of people in the supermarket. Plus all the anxiety that the quarantine initially caused made it an easy decision to bring her home. She needed to be in a dark room and completely shut down which she had not been able to do on her own in her curtainless house. It’s just that at the time we were all in a bit of denial as to how long this lockdown could actually be and what it ultimately would mean for all of us in the near term and medium term, let alone the long term.

I am anxious about her returning to her home two hours away. She’s anxious but excited. Thankfully she has her dog, Blue to keep her company. In a few weeks, she will be called back to work at the retail store that she had started about a month before the quarantine. There will be retraining and work to be done to change the store for the new norm. It will be good for her to see her co-workers again. Soon after that they will reopen the doors to the public. She’ll be exposed to people, strangers – something that I never considered the way I do right now before this pandemic: the total amount of people we come across in our normal daily lives. At this point in my life, I don’t come see a lot of people on a daily basis anymore. But that was my choice and it had nothing to do with the pandemic, more to do with the fact that I prefer dogs (and now chickens) to most people.

I was born and raised in New York City and lived there the first quarter of my life before easing myself out of the crowded city. When I think about the number of people that I used to see on a daily basis – in my building, on the bus and subway, at work, after work, hanging with my friends in crowded bars and clubs…The crowds I’ve been in at Grateful Dead shows…hugging everybody.

But leaving all that was my choice. But for my kids, they don’t get as much of a choice right now and this experience will change their future choices most likely. I love New York City but I just couldn’t live there anymore. and had left New York City before 9/11 but lived within commuting distance at the time. Although relieved not to be in the city on that tragic day, I remember thinking that ultimately I would need to move further away someday.

Last night, my son sent me an article about how ‘tidal wave’ of people from the city are frantically looking for houses in Connecticut now. Being in quarantine has made a lot people reassess where they really want to be when the shit hits the fan scenarios come up. I am exactly where I want to be and this pandemic has reinforced what I good decision I made four years ago in moving up here.

I am grateful for the time we have spent together these last eight weeks. Eight more weeks of waking up under the same roof together, being able to give my little girl a hug when the feeling struck. Fumbling around working together in the garden, watching our TV shows, making cookies together or playing a game together. Time I never imagined being alloted. Now I don’t know exactly when I will see her. She has a lot to do in getting back to where she lives, settling back in and into some sort of new routine in the place she has chosen to call home. There is one less in the pack at home now, two actually including Blue of course, her faithful mini Aussie companion.

It wasn’t easy the first time she left the nest and after such a long visit under these stressful conditions, it hasn’t gotten any easier. I just take comfort in knowing that she knows she has a place here at our home on the mountain where she and Blue are always welcome for however long — or short they want to stay.

Daily Word Prompt

No Timelike the Present

Recently, I’ve become more aware that I have a number of friends that have blogs. I have dabbled in blogging over the years under different names and for the most part life gets in the way and I haven’t kept up with it.

Odd for me too, after all, I’ve been journaling since I was a teenager beginning in 1980. I still have volumes of my diaries filled with the lusty descriptions of sex with my boyfriend and how much I loved, loved, loved having sex (and still do) to the countless angry passages about my relationship with my family. Occasionally a friend or boyfriend had scribbled a note or drawing on my pages after perhaps I had shared with them in a trusting moment. Only to have my diary read by my mother and sister countless times. The shocking clarity of those early diaries made my mother blush. She’d say I should find a job writing for a xxx magazine. I do have a great imagination but I was at the time simply writing about my new sexual experiences and feelings of first love. The simple act of writing is cathartic. It’s a way of processing information for me.

Recently a new friend of mine who also shares my love of writing and I were talking about being afraid of doing new things. Change is a difficult thing and trying new things out can be a scary thing. Fear of the unknown. It stops many of us from trying at all. This is my attempt at trying to overcome a little of that. Because in the end it doesn’t really matter if my writing sucks or my views are stupid. It doesn’t matter if no one reads this blog at all but me. Its the process in the end which will matter the most I think.
I look forward to blogging more …

“You are a king by your own fireside, as much as any monarch in his throne.”

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra quotes (Spanish writer, author of the masterwork ‘El quijote’, 1547-1616)