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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.