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



January 2022 Reads and Listens

At the start the year, I pledged on my Goodreads Reading Challenge 58 books, one more than last year and I am turning 58 later this year. I have to admit, I hated seeing the 0 books Read This Year on the first day of January. Then just few days in to the new year, the Goodreads site not only said I had read 0 books for the year so far but I was behind! WTF?! I was no even a full week into 2022 and I am behind already?! Ugh, well after quickly doing the math in my head 52 weeks in a year and here I shot away the first week and I hadn’t finished a book yet.

The first book that I started 2022 was based off a recommendation by my other half, Mark. He knows that I love books about dogs, fantasy and mystery – so he recommended Devoted by Dean Koontz. I knew of Koontz, seen his name many times and he was one of the author’s recommended in one of my Masterclass’s on writing – although I don’t recall which class specifically. If I had to guess it was the writing class with Robert Patterson, but it could have been Atwood’s or Gaiman’s class too or also.

Devoted by Dean Koontz

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


So this was the first Dean Koontz book I have ever read or listened to. That said I am a big fan of books that incorporate dogs and are about dogs, as I am a big fan of dogs and have had and have many dogs in my life.


This book felt a little too cookie cutter for me. The characters all seemed a little too cliche in many ways and weren’t as well developed – with the exception of Kip, the dog. There are a supernatural aspect to the story with the dogs and the “wire” which I found to be more believable than some of the other things in the book, which I won’t mention since I don’t want to give anything away.


It’s a light sort of book, so if you are interested in something like that it’s entertaining enough, particularly if you are a fan of dogs; but not necessarily Dean Koontz’s other books, as I have seen from other reviews, his fans were disappointed in this book.

After being a bit disappointed with my start to the new year and already being a bit behind but not as much, I decided to listen to a quickie. A quickie being a book or story that is under 2 hours long. I went with Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk.

I’ve been getting into to story stories and novellas more recently – finding they balance some of the longer books out nicely. I took Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass a few years ago and I enjoy his books and stories very much. I find he is a great storyteller, which is quite a skill. I didn’t write a review on Goodreads when I finished it – not sure why, but I quickly gave it 3 stars out of 5 – the Goodreads rating for I liked it.

I next decided to dive into a novel which has been sitting on my TBR list for a number of years. One of the suggestions in the PopSugar 2022 Challenge and many other reading challenges is to read a book that has been sitting on your list for a long time. In my case, the book was The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri – it had been on my list since 2016.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have tears in my eyes as I have just finished listening this incredibly beautiful book. Names are powerful – and this book captures the power that comes with your name. What a terrific story – so many depths to this story and very well executed. Very touching writing, I cried a few times during this book – I will miss spending time with the Ganguli family. Jhumpa Lahrai wrote such wonderful characters in Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli, telling their story as much as the story of Gogol their son. The reader is transported from Calcutta, India to Cambridge, MA and back again. I enjoyed, as I said earlier spending time with Ganguli family – Lahiri’s descriptions of their family life painted such a vivid picture that I felt like I was one of their guests at times. You could just smell Ashram’s cooking!


The narrator, Sarita Choudhury, has a beautiful voice – I would listen to her read a grocery list and it be soothing! I absolutely loved this book and am very sad that it over.

I always find it so hard to follow up a book that I loved and enjoyed so much. It can be a tough act to follow, so I decided to go back to short stories and started Selected Shorts; New American Stories, mainly picking this particular collection since I saw that Jhumpa Lahiri had a story in the collection.

Selected Shorts: New American Stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to tackle this collection after having read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri which I loved, I wanted to hear a little more from her and was thrilled that she had a story within this collection. This is a terrific collection of short stories by four amazing writers of today. Each with their own perspective of life in America. All the stories were so interesting – humorous mixed with some heavy topics as well – finely balanced making the stories stage out all the more.I am looking forward to reading more from all of these authors.

I love finding out about authors that I was previously unaware of through these collections of short stories – I highly recommend this to anyone who interested in a quick listen to solid collection of stories.

Chap 1. Good Living by Aleksandar Hemon
Chap 2. Hell Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri
Chap 3. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngoni Adiche
Chap 4.Breaking & Entering by Sherman Alexie


Three weeks into the new year and I had already listened to a some wonderful and not so wonderful books and stories. I decided to go back to novels that had been on my TBR list a long time and settled on one by Sue Monk Kidd.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This isn’t the first book of Sue Monk Kidd’s that I have read and it won’t be my last. She is so thorough in her research of a subject that she is able to capture its essence and deliver it on the paper in the form of well crafted characters and plots.


As Sue Monk Kidd explains in her author’s note that it was her desire to write a story revolving around two sisters and the universe lead her to learn about Sarah Grimke and her younger sister, Angelina and what a story she wrote! The first of the two narrators, Sarah Grimke, is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and judge. Sarah is not fictional and was one of the early abolitionists and women’s right activists.


The stories of Charlotte and Handful are a gut-wrenching reminder of a very ugly part of our history and are told by Handful, a young slave girl given to Sarah as a birthday gift on her 11th birthday. The story spans 35 years of their lives from childhood well into their adulthood. Kidd includes the good, the bad and the ugly, other its in the situation or in her characters – making the reader care deeply for them.
I highly recommend 4.5

As I said earlier, it is so hard to follow a fantastic story – so I pivoted in my listening pleasures and listening to another quickie.

Lying by Sam Harris

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Although I find the subject very interesting – I found this book – although it’s really an essay to be dry. Sam Harris didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know but much of what he says in the book is common sense. Unfortunately society has gotten to a point where there are so many lies that it’s hard to figure out the truth. I wish the book could have been more in depth in some ways.
A super quick read or listen on an interesting subject.

Time to pivot again. Cue Ross and his couch.

I was worried to go into another novel since I had been so fortunate to have already listened to two awesome books this month with The Namesake and The Invention of Wings. Now what? So I looked to my gallery of musician’s memoirs and decided to listen to Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller.

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed listening to Dave Grohl talk about how he got to where he is. Dave is a natural storyteller and he tells the stories behind how he found himself in bands such as Scream, Nirvana, Foo Fighters as if he were sitting in your living room smoking a joint, tossing back a few drinks and reminiscing. You could tell he would love to have included the music as well, when he discussed certain things – but due to the expense they would have to pay for the licensing, so that didn’t happen.
It’s something that would add so much to the musicians’ memoirs, so I found myself pausing and going over to Apple Music or YouTube to listen to the song or video Dave was referring. I have always been a fan of both Nirvana and Foo Fighters and so when I saw this book, I was curious enough to listen and I am glad I did.
I love learning more about the stories behind the musicians who I love to listen to. Learning about who influenced them directly from them. If you enjoy the music, you will enjoy listening to The Storyteller.

And since I started this next book in January and just finished it earlier today – I’ll include it in the January Reads & Listens. Again, in my attempts to chip away at my TBR list and I opted to pick one of the newer names on the list – This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I had no idea what this book was about when I started and I am glad that I went in so blind, I may not have read it otherwise. Laurie Frankel tells a story about a family who is faced with navigating the deep and dangerous waters of having a son who struggles with gender-identity. A difficult and complex issue for any family to deal with and something any family could find themselves faced with, is something that I thing Frankel conveys in her portrait of the Rosie and Penn’s family.

What I didn’t find myself buying was the fairytale aspect of the story which somewhat mimics the fairytale that Penn tells his children . The story wrapped up a little too neatly and fairy tale-like, which seems contrary to the way I imagine the real story for families that are struggling with this issue.

What I feel Frankel does well is show you how a family holding one family members secret affects the entire family’s lives, siblings, parents and of course the individual whose secret the family is protecting.


In reviewing the month’s selection of books I am struck by a few themes that came up in a good many of the selections: The importance of a name and what comes along with a name. I saw this obviously in The Namesake, but also in Dave Grohl’s The Story Teller, and Laurie Frankel’s This Is How It Always Is. It’s even seen in The Invention of Wings. Storytelling seems to also be a common theme – Dave Grohl’s book of course, but the stories that are told and passed down with the quilts in The Invention of Wings and the fairy tale within This is How It Always Is. And of course, Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk is a story being told by the narrator to his children. Lastly, there is the common thread of stories about family which most, including some of the short stories.

View all my reviews

For my January Literati Club book, I am reading We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider. I am currently on page 131. I also read – sort of – Zentangle PRIMER Vol. 1 by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. I plan to write a review but will do so in a separate post.

As the new month begins, I am 9 books into the new year and 4 ahead of schedule. I like being ahead of schedule and considering I am over 60% in to Tim Kreider’s We Learn Nothing, I’m feeling really good about where I am in my reading goals. Now just to figure out what to read next.




2021 Year In Review

I read and listened to a lot of books this year. 70 and counting – well beyond my goal of 57 which I put for myself on Goodreads at the beginning of the year. 2021 dragged and went by so fast I can’t believe it.

Our kids are not living in the same states that they were when we started 2021 – two of the three are in new jobs. The third just had covid and is still looking. We’ve been decluttering the house, or trying to; I’ve been making way for some of the things that were my mother’s that I have received since her death earlier this year.

When looking over the list of books that I read last year, I am struck with the variety – that had a lot to do with my Literati Book Club. It’s almost overwhelming to look at 70 titles and process that I read and listened to all that this year. I have never read/listened to that many titles in one year in my life. I always struggled with reading as a child, so it makes me proud that I have been able to become a “reader” after all these years after all .

I try to rate most every book that I finish and for the most part I am about 95% successful in that endeavor. In looking back the books I reviewed in 2021, I rated 6- 2 Stars, 14 – 3 Stars, 31- 4 stars and 13- 5 Stars.

Here’s my top fourteen in no particular order:

Most Quotable in my opinion

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow! This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read and listened to. I loved this and will revisit it again and again. So beautiful, so profound. So simple. A must read and listen!

Incredible True Story

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow! I found this to be a fascinating book. Remarkable. I was on the edge of my seat plenty of times throughout the story. I highly recommend this read to anyone who is interested in history and adventures.


Must Read for Everyone

Animal Farm by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This classic withstands the test of time. Orwell is such a master of words and conveys so much in such a short succinct story. 101 pages which everyone should read.


One of her best!

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Masterful Mystery
Agatha Christie is the master of mystery and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is another piece of evidence in proving that case. The narrator, Hugh Fraser is the perfect storyteller for this story. If you are a fan of a good mystery – check this one out!


Beautifully written – I’ll read again, it’s just that type of story.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this book and I can see myself picking up and rereading it again and again. The relationship between the grandmother and Sophia is priceless. This book is beautifully written and the descriptions of their island will transport you to their world and put you right next to them, smelling the salty air and seeing the amazing beauty which surrounds Sophia and her grandmother. Tove Jansson’s reflections about people, relationships, and connections to nature, are ageless. There is so many levels to this book – it’s a must-read. 5 stars!

Short but sweet and powerful



Fox 8 by George Saunders

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I love when I laugh out loud when I read or listen to a book. It’s a gift and I am thankful to George Saunders who had me smiling and laughing while I listened to this witty and charming story. Like the star of the story, Fox 8, Saunders is clever in presenting a humorous story with a powerful underlying message. I highly recommend this short but powerful book/listen.


Love! Another to read and reread throughout your life.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I absolutely fell in love with this book! Ray Bradbury is master storyteller and he wrapped me up in his words and took me back to the summer of 1928, a time before I was born but a time I could imagine, thanks to his illustrative style.
If you only know Ray Bradbury through Fahrenheit 451, you should read this wonderful story about sumer, being being young, growing old and everything in between.
I can see rereading this again some summer in the future.


As always, the book is so much better than tells a much bigger story.

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow, wow, wow – How did I not read this in high-school? or college?!
EVERYBODY should read this book – required life reading. Forget the Hollywood version of this book and the “Monster”. So deep, Mary Shelley is amazing and the themes that she dives deep into – family, isolation, society, ambition, revenge, prejudice…nevermind that this was first published in 1818, EVERYTHING still holds up in the 21st century.

Adored this book!

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I jut finished listening to this book and I can barely see through my tears and my nose is running and I’m a mess. I’m a sucker for a good dog story and this is a great one! Garth Stein wrote an incredible character in Enzo – what a great dog, so deep, just what I see when I look at some of my dogs – but not all of them.
Dog person or not – it’s a great story about a family – told by the dog. LOVED IT.

The one criticism I have about the audiobook version I listened to had so dramatic music every so often which I found to be weird and out of place with this production. But the narrator, Christopher Evan Welch was really good.


I want ducks and mules and goats of course now.

On Animals by Susan Orlean

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed reading this book. I love animals and anyone who enjoys animals will find this to be such an interesting read. On Animals is compilation of a number of essays by Susan Orleans and her experiences with various animals she’s encountered. I can relate to her lifestyle as it is very similar to my own and now my previous desires on one day having ducks and goats with our chickens has been solidified. Add a pair of mules to the list too and perhaps some turkeys.
The writing is humorous and even if your more inclined to live in the concrete jungle- reading this book is a fun, lighthearted experience which may give you the desire to perhaps adopt a pet from a shelter.
Well done. 5 stars.


Blew my mind by taking me out of the box.

What It Is by Lynda Barry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is an incredible book, but not for everyone. I only say that since the no-traditional format and the layout of the book can be difficult for some people to get through.
I read this book as part of my Literati Book Club. I’m currently in the Austin Kleon Read Like An Artist club and this was the December Pick and I am so happy it was. At first when it arrived in the mail before opening the box, I knew something was different about the book. The size of the package was bigger than usual and when I opened it I was hit with a chaotic cover with the words WHAT IT IS on the top. What? As I turned the pages to take a look, I was hit with a myriad of the images. Collages mixed with words. I closed it and decided I needed to be able to focus on that and while opening the mail wasn’t the right time.
Later as I started the book, I immediately was hit with the impression that I was slipping down a rabbit hole where the pages reminded me of devouring books from Richard Scarry and later on I SPY – except this book is like those book on acid and with a purpose of helping to unlock your creativity whether it me visual or the written words or both.
I felt at times as if I had opened someone’s scrapbook journal and what I was reading was very private. Lynda Barry tells stories throughout which many people and it’s no matter if you are an artist or a writer. There are stories about being in school, teachers that made a huge impression on her, all of which are very relatable. Hand drawings, photographic images from magazines and newspapers and handwritten notes adorn the pages.
Surprisingly, I discovered it’s also a good resource for creative writing exercises which I plan on carrying one further and adapt to a visual medium as well. I highly recommend this book and it’s a book that I will keep on my shelf and revisit from time to time.
*But again – I will note that there were a couple of people who couldn’t finish the book in the book club, claiming it was too chaotic in presentation. It’s definitely a non-traditional format


I’m still thinking about Rocky – Love! Love! Love!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


There are very few authors who are good at throwing you straight into chaotic action and not have the reader completely lost or frustrated. Andy Weir seems to clip a tether onto you and take you for the ride of your life!
I love this book. I loved the action, I loved the characters – but most of all I loved Rocky. What a fabulous character. All of the characters are multi-dimensional and believable which considering the cast of characters is crucial. Grace is the protagonist of the story and he’s someone we all can identify and sympathize with.
There’s a lot of technical stuff in the book but Weir presents it in a way that you aren’t confused or bored with it and if it were excluded wouldn’t be right since it is so much a part of who Grace is as a person. The book also includes a lot of humor. I found myself chuckling or cracking a smile several times throughout.
The narrator, Ray Porter, is excellent! The perfect choice as he handled the tricky narration of the different characters masterfully. There isa quality to his voice which reminded me of Tom Hanks.
I’m a big fan now of Andy Weir’s. I haven’t read or listened to any of his other books yet but I certainly plan to. I have seen the movie The Martian which of course is another of his popular books. Project Hail Mary was a brilliant work – fun to be aboard the Hail Mary and certainly recommend this book to fans of science fiction and anyone else who is interested in reading a book with great characters what stay with you well past when you finished the book and likes action and adventure.

2021 was quite a year and I look forward to what the new year may bring and will be curious to see what books grab my attention and which books don’t. I haven’t set my new goals for 2022 yet, but will soon. I like to set realistic exceptions. -last year I chose to try to read a book for every year of my life. So perhaps next year’s goal will be 58.

View all my reviews

December Reads and Listens

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always a busy time of year. I was busy with the usual shopping without catching Covid, aka online shopping and venturing down to the Newfound Country Store which for me is a one stop shopping mecca for all things local. Candles, soaps, wooden spoodles and sand tongs; you name it, Holly has it there. I love the Newfound Country Store – a true gem of a store.We are so lucky to live so close.

This left me with time to listen to a number of books this month and somehow I have even found time to read or finish reading a few books too! I am actually really surprised how much I did this month and once again, my Literati Book Club struck gold for me all month long. I started the month having already started this selection by Susan Orlean, On Animals. It was another one of my Literati Book Club selections.

On Animals by Susan Orlean

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed reading this book. I love animals and anyone who enjoys animals will find this to be such an interesting read. On Animals is compilation of a number of essays by Susan Orleans and her experiences with various animals she’s encountered. I can relate to her lifestyle as it is very similar to my own and now my previous desires on one day having ducks and goats with our chickens has been solidified. Add a pair of mules to the list too and perhaps some turkeys.
The writing is humorous and even if your more inclined to live in the concrete jungle- reading this book is a fun, lighthearted experience which may give you the desire to perhaps adopt a pet from a shelter.
Well done. 5 stars.

What It Is by Lynda Barry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is an incredible book, but not for everyone. I only say that since the no-traditional format and the layout of the book can be difficult for some people to get through.
I read this book as part of my Literati Book Club. I’m currently in the Austin Kleon Read Like An Artist club and this was the December Pick and I am so happy it was. At first when it arrived in the mail before opening the box, I knew something was different about the book. The size of the package was bigger than usual and when I opened it I was hit with a chaotic cover with the words WHAT IT IS on the top. What? As I turned the pages to take a look, I was hit with a myriad of the images. Collages mixed with words. I closed it and decided I needed to be able to focus on that and while opening the mail wasn’t the right time.
Later as I started the book, I immediately was hit with the impression that I was slipping down a rabbit hole where the pages reminded me of devouring books from Richard Scarry and later on I SPY – except this book is like those book on acid and with a purpose of helping to unlock your creativity whether it me visual or the written words or both.
I felt at times as if I had opened someone’s scrapbook journal and what I was reading was very private. Lynda Barry tells stories throughout which many people and it’s no matter if you are an artist or a writer. There are stories about being in school, teachers that made a huge impression on her, all of which are very relatable. Hand drawings, photographic images from magazines and newspapers and handwritten notes adorn the pages.
Surprisingly, I discovered it’s also a good resource for creative writing exercises which I plan on carrying one further and adapt to a visual medium as well. I highly recommend this book and it’s a book that I will keep on my shelf and revisit from time to time.
*But again – I will note that there were a couple of people who couldn’t finish the book in the book club, claiming it was too chaotic in presentation. It’s definitely a non-traditional format


Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am so glad that I discovered this book. Another book that I discovered thanks to my Literati Book Club – I had been perusing through what the other “clubs” were reading this month and saw this book which immediately perked my interest. I decided to listen to the Audible version which I am glad I did. I liked the narration of the book very much, narrator Rebecca Lee does an excellent job.
I found that there were a number of things that I was able to relate to and have experienced for myself in regards to wintering. I was intrigued by some of the traditions by northern living cultures and the various ways they have learned to cope.
Written mostly as a memoir, the book contains some wonderful tidbits about a variety of topics, winter related, like ‘being in sauna” (something I now aspire to do) to facts about trees. I highly recommend this book – beautifully written and so interesting.

For a few months now, Mark, my other half, the funnier half who cooks better. He has been recommending to me the next book I listened to this month and it was an awesome recommendation!



Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


There are very few authors who are good at throwing you straight into chaotic action and not have the reader completely lost or frustrated. Andy Weir seems to clip a tether onto you and take you for the ride of your life!
I love this book. I loved the action, I loved the characters – but most of all I loved Rocky. What a fabulous character. All of the characters are multi-dimensional and believable which considering the cast of characters is crucial. Grace is the protagonist of the story and he’s someone we all can identify and sympathize with.
There’s a lot of technical stuff in the book but Weir presents it in a way that you aren’t confused or bored with it and if it were excluded wouldn’t be right since it is so much a part of who Grace is as a person. The book also includes a lot of humor. I found myself chuckling or cracking a smile several times throughout.
The narrator, Ray Porter, is excellent! The perfect choice as he handled the tricky narration of the different characters masterfully. There isa quality to his voice which reminded me of Tom Hanks.
I’m a big fan now of Andy Weir’s. I haven’t read or listened to any of his other books yet but I certainly plan to. I have seen the movie The Martian which of course is another of his popular books. Project Hail Mary was a brilliant work – fun to be aboard the Hail Mary and certainly recommend this book to fans of science fiction and anyone else who is interested in reading a book with great characters what stay with you well past when you finished the book and likes action and adventure.




So having finished Project Hail Mary, I was interested in what other things Andy Weir had written and discovered in my Audible library was a collection of his short stories.

The Egg and Other Stories by Andy Weir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Egg and Other Stories is a great collection of short stories by Andy Weir demonstrating what a brilliant writer he is. Each story a bit out there and leave you thinking about them well after reading them. Those who have heavily influenced him fully reveal themselves in a few of the stories and brought a smile to my face – I don’t want to give anything away – sorry if I’m sounding cryptic.
Fans of Weir will really enjoy these and readers not as familiar with his work will certainly enjoy nd probably want to read more.


Selected Shorts: Timeless Classics by James Thurber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a terrific selection of short stories by some of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
James Thurber’s “The Night the Ghost Got In” read by Isiah Sheffer
Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever” read by Maria Tucci
Jack London’s “Make Westing” read by Steven Gilborn
D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking-horse Winner” read by John Shea
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” read by Marian Seldes
Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” read by Charles Keating
Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” read by James Naughton

All of them offering such interesting perspectives! This is the perfect listen to jump in and out of story by story. Loved.

Seeing how it’s the end of the year and it can be so difficult coming off of a great book with really good characters that you get attached to. In this case I am referring to Project Hail Mary and the two main characters Grace and Rocky. So since I have been enjoying the short stories and getting exposed to some writers that I was previously unfamiliar with or just had herd of , I decided to stick with the short story collection as I end 2021.

Selected Shorts: Readers & Writers by Evelyn Waugh and others

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed listening to these short stories by some amazing writers. The theme of course of this collection is writers and readers and it’s a wonderful collection which introduced to me some authors I was unfamiliar with, i.e.. Molly Giles, Audrey Niffenegger and Adam Haslett.

One criticism I have though is for the publishers who do not include a list of the the authors and their short stories when you are listening to the the Audible version. Since there are only 7 chapters this doesn’t seem too difficult for Symphony Space to have done this for listeners. It’s annoying to go to the “Chapters” tab and simply see listed Chapters 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.

Ch. 1 Ed Has His Mind Improved by Walter R. Brooks
Ch. 2 The Adventure of a Reader by Italo Calvino
Ch.3 Notes to my Biographer by Adam Haslett
Ch. 4 The Man Who Liked Dickens by Evelyn Waugh
Ch. 5 The Writer’s Model by Molly Giles
Ch. 6 Exchange by Ray Bradbury
Ch. 7 The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

The collection, I found to be quite enjoyable and like most good short stories stick with you longer than it took to read or listen to the story. There are some wonderful narrators too – Tony Roberts, Leonard Nemoy, Christina Pickles, Blair Brown, John Shea and Isaiah Sheffer. I highly recommend to fans of this genre.

As I stated earlier, I am continuing to listen to more collections of short stories and currently am listening to Selected Shorts: Let Us Tell You A Story – Behaving Badly. I’ll start a new book in the new year but first I need to take a look back at 2021 and the 70+ books I read this year. Take a look at 2021 Year In Review.

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November Reads and Listens

By the start of November, I had already to reached my Goodreads Book Challenge goal of 57 this year and I was starting to feel a little burned out. My hardcopy books were becoming harder for me to get in reading, We had friends come visit for an overnight– we haven’t had people come visit in I-don’t-remember-how-long, then there was Thanksgiving and my birthday. So I was tired at night, more so than usual and I wasn’t able to read as much or for as long. This was one of my initial problems when it came to reading actual physical books.

I decided to listen to a short story by Alice Hoffman. I have enjoyed other books by her so I decided to give this one a listen. The title intrigued me and I have been thinking about my mother who died in February this year.

Everything My Mother Taught Me by Alice Hoffman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is a great example of how big messages can come in small packages. Everything My Mother Taught Me is a powerful quick listen – under an hour, packing a punch. A story about a young girl who learns the toughest lessons early on.

Mark, my other half and I have been meditating daily for the past 254 consecutive days. This year, we have set an intentional routine for ourselves which includes: morning coffee while listening to short lectures by meditation teachers on an app called Insight Timer which I highly recommend. I started using this app about 5 years ago when a very traumatic event occurred in my life. Since then I have mediated on and off a total 485 days, the last 254 consecutively for an overall total of 13.7k minutes. The lectures have covered topics such as learning about the the basics of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, learning about the sacred power of Shakti, the power of Tao and simply given more tools to mindfully managing stress and anxiety.

After our lecture, coffee and moving meal we will gather our Zafu Zabuton Set, light some candles and settle down with the dogs around us for a mediation session which will last on average 30 minutes, 20 minutes of which will be in silent mediation. This has helped both of us tremendously in calming our minds and nerves during these very unsettling times.

A number of times different philosophers were quoted or discussed a little and this is what brought me around to listening to Sophie’s World. I have the paperback version of this book but the text is small and I decided to listen to it instead, fearing that I would be battling the act of actually reading the text rather than absorbing what was being said. The book had been recommended to me almost ten years ago and now after having finished it, I wish I had read it sooner.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a great book – which I know I will come back to again – it’s the type of book I just feel I will read/listen to more than one time. Jostein Gaarder does a magnificent job sending us down the rabbit-hole where through the adventures of Sophie and her philosophy teacher, Alberto where we are given a nice light brief history of philosophy without going so deep that you drown in all that you could with each of the philosophers and philosophies that you cold possibly get lost in.

This book sets it up so that if there is something that you would like to explore further, you can made note and further delve into that in other books. Sophie’s World is written for middle school aged children, so that it would spark their curiosity and possibly open the door to further explorations into our existence.

The book is a lengthy 16 hours and 53 minutes but the narrator, Simon Vance does a fantastic job.
Highly recommend!

With the Christmas season upon us, I know I am slowing down a bit as we head into the end of this year. I have been hard at work on my illustrations which you can see on my art Instagram @segalascreatives. I am also in the editing stages of a book that I have been working on which once it has been tighten up I will hopefully preview with you, as I am working on getting it published. The book is about my dogs – I don’t have a title yet, I just keep referring to it as the dog book.

Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, despite the fact that the oil is still in the deep fryer in the garage and the turkey soup is frozen on the screened in porch. Christmas decorations are already up, gifts are almost all purchased and yesterday I remembered to order a few Christmas desserts and cookies so the meal will be complete. The rest of the month I will continue to work on my illustrations, book and end the year by reading and listening to some good books.


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October Reads & Listens

It’s fall and I have already reached my goal for the Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge. I started the year with hopes to read and or listen to 57 books since I will be turning 57 years old in a few weeks.

For October, I decided to continue checking some books off of my TBR list which has 900+ titles on it and the PopSugar 2021 Reading Challenge. October is the month in which we celebrate Indigenous Americans and with the encouragement of PopSugar’s Reading Challenge of selecting a book by an indigenous author, I decided to dive into The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M, Marshall III. I decided on listening to Frankenstein since it’s October and I once gave a Halloween party where I was the Bride of Frankenstein. My physical book read for the month was a selection from my Literati book club which continues to introduce me to some wonderful books and authors with a platform for discussion. The Art of Raining in the Rain was another book that had been sitting on my TBR list for way too long and now that I have checked that off, I’m dumbfounded I waited so long. I decided to close the month out with Dracula which unfortunately fell short of my expectations.

The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There are many sides to every story. This is an interesting book which shed light on the part of history, told from the side of the Lakotas, the tribe of Crazy Horse and his people. Crazy Horse was a man that we have heard all sorts of stories about – whether it be from Hollywood, or other books about the Battle of the Greasy Grass a.k.a. The battle of Little Bighorn, Custard’ Last Stand.
You can hear the passion in the telling of The Journey of Crazy Horse from narrator and author Joseph M. Marshall III, historian, writer, public speaker who was born and raised in a traditional Lakota household on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He recounts in the book many of the oral stories that were passed down to him through his grandparents and the other elders which is part of the Lakota tradition.
Crazy Horse was a man of great depth and this book shares some of the oral stories about him and his family. I found this to be a fascinating book and highly recommend it.
Now that I have read this, I am curious to read more by other indigenous authors to continue learning about the people, their traditions and the land that was once theirs.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Let The Great World Spin is a complex book about a complicated city. As someone who was born and raised in New York City and was there in 1974 when the tightrope walked walked the wire across the newly built Twin Towers, I can say with certainty that Colum McCann captured the essence of New York. I read this book as part of my Literati book club selection for September. It took me a while to get through the book since each chapter is written from the perspective of a different character in the book and McCann’s writing style changes as well. The genius in this book is how well McCann pulls all the threads of all the stories into one cohesive story.
I highly recommend reading this book – it’s a masterful portrait of New York City and if you like reading about the city, you will love this book!


Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow, wow, wow – How did I not read this in high-school? or college?!
EVERYBODY should read this book – required life reading. Forget the Hollywood version of this book and the “Monster”. So deep, Mary Shelley is amazing and the themes that she dives deep into – family, isolation, society, ambition, revenge, prejudice…nevermind that this was first published in 1818, EVERYTHING still holds up in the 21st century.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I jut finished listening to this book and I can barely see through my tears and my nose is running and I’m a mess. I’m a sucker for a good dog story and this is a great one! Garth Stein wrote an incredible character in Enzo – what a great dog, so deep, just what I see when I look at some of my dogs – but not all of them.
Dog person or not – it’s a great story about a family – told by the dog. LOVED IT.

The one criticism I have about the audiobook version I listened to had so dramatic music every so often which I found to be weird and out of place with this production. But the narrator, Christopher Evan Welch was really good.



The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle is a story about family – the good, the bad and the ugly of family and unfortunately in her case there was a lot of bad and ugly. It’s obvious though how much Jeanette Walls loves her family, her parents, in spite of themselves.
I came upon listening to the story this month after looking at a list of Banned Books for Banned Book Month which is observed in October. I wanted to see if any of my TBLs – To Be Listened to books were in my audio library and found The Glass Castle. After finishing the book, I was confused as to why anyone would consider this book something that should be banned and had to do an internet search.According to the website mvorgazing.org the book is banned from “many schools and some libraries due to its strong sexual scenes and situations dealing with alcoholism and abuse.” Really??!!! I’m dumbfounded that this is the reason. Alcoholism and abuse unfortunately happen and this is one woman’s experience growing up with it. I didn’t think that the way she addressed it was overly graphic unnecessarily. It’s her story and its a story of great courage and resilience – it’s a human story that many people could probably relate to on some levels- whether it be the family struggles or frustrations of being in situations that are beyond your control. I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want high school students and others to be able to read this amazing story. There are so many good lessons learned from her story , discussed and talked about.
I highly recommend this book. 4.5 stars

Dracula by Bram Stoker

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


So I decided to listen to this because I didn’t read it in high school or college, as I never had the chance. After listening to it now – thank god it wasn’t assigned in high school. BORING! Hollywood has taken the Dracula character and made him interesting. He’s barely in the book and is basically an elusive creature – much like a vampire would be. He’s certainly not scary. Nothing is scary in this book. The various points of view that the narrator pops around to made my head spin.
There are plenty of themes that could be discussed in a book group or classroom setting – the dangers of modernity, female sexuality in the Victorian era, fear of outsiders, christian salvation…I wanted to like this classic, but I found it to be just okay.



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September Reads & Listens

It’s been a very busy start to fall. We’ve been splitting and stacking our wood for our wood furnace. The weather has been beautiful and warm, making the work fun and enjoyable. But all that outdoor time made me more tired at night so my reading has slowed a bit. In September, I finished reading my BOMC club August selection which took me a month to read, as well as listening to three titles from my audiobook library.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I read this because this was one of my Book of the Month Club selections for August . It’s a good beach read about relationships, family and self-discovery. There are plenty of interesting characters and settings to escape to. I’m not a huge fan of adult romance books, but I found the unlikely chemistry between Alex and Poppy to be well portrayed and the style of of the story is told, kept me interested and engaged most of the time. It you are a fan of adult-romance or looking for a light and easy beach read, you’ll probably like People We Meet on Vacation. 3 stars.

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a beautifully written story which is based on the horrific events as recorded by ancient historian, Josephus. It is the story of how 2000 years ago, 900 Jews held off the Romans at Masada. It is the story of four women and how their lives each lead them to this mountain in the Judean desert.
Hoffman brings to this story to life through Yael, Revka, Azizah and Shirah, the dovekeepers, they are the secret-keepers. Four very complex, independent and resourceful women who fight for their survival.


Beginner’s Mind by Yo-Yo Ma

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a wonderful Audible original. Beautiful music and very interesting to listen to, this short memoir of Yo-Yo Ma’s Beginner’s Mind is a nice quick listen.


The Pact by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This is an intense book that includes topics of relationships, expectations, teenage depression, self-harm, sudden death. I didn’t love this book like many other reviewers seem to have. It’s the first book of Picoult’s I’ve ever read and she is good at creating an engrossing and suspenseful story which kept me engaged until the end. But I found that some of it was unbelievable and not everything added up. 2.5 stars



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