I Capture the Castle

Thoughts ictcbyds by Dodie Smith, Audible Studios 2006 (orig 1948), 12 hours 20 minutes

Narrated by Jenny Agutter – fabulous narration. A new favorite.

Challenge: Classics Club SPIN!
Genre: Classics, Romance, YA, Coming of Age
Type/Source: Audiobook, Audible
 Why I read this now: classicsclub1Spin Time …

MOTIVATION for READING:  Lucky for me, this was my spin number.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A writer’s family takes up residence in an English castle but finances have dwindled while the writer no longer writes and his now ‘of age’ daughters desperately need options – and food and clothes and basic necessities of life. Whatever do you know! but a couple of eligible (and rich) young men happen to drop by.

Mayhem ensues. Sort of:  this phrase implies madcap hilarity and that doesn’t quite happen, but certainly the plot moves and spins and hops along nicely.

WHAT’s GOOD: Cassandra Mortmain is a dear.

What’s NOT so good: Not a damn thing.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Truly unequivocally charming.

I must warn you that if you are to read most synopsisesses (how do you plural synopsis?!) you might roll your eyes and respond with a weary “really?”. I know, I did. I have had this on my tbr forever and only put it there because other wonderful astute wise and worthy readers said I should read it. They said I would love it. Yea, yea, whatever. It took a LOOOONG time for me to really wonder if I truly would enjoy this sappy little kid romance. That’s what I thought it might be. But she’s NOT a little kid anymore! Cassandra is wonderful!! READ it.

And how did I not realize that Dodie Smith wrote other wonderful things? I had never heard of her and thought this was her one-trick. Stupid silly me. It’s a shame this book is obscured by a silly sounding premise. I don’t even know why I think the premise sounds so silly but it does and it’s a crying shame. Great read. Most enjoyable. I want to read it again. And I never re-read books. So I’ll content myself to watch the movie and watch it again, and again. And again.

RATING: Five slices of pie.

Ms. Jakes had sent up stew and apple pie. “Oh good. Stew is so comforting on a rainy day.” (and so is pie!)





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Orphan Train

Thoughts opbycbk by Christina Baker Kline, William Morrow Paperbacks 2013, 278 pages

Challenge:  Newcomers Book Club
Genre: Contemporary Lit? Historical Fiction?
Type/Source: Tradeback/Library (and then I received it as a gift! THEN, I sent it to my MIL.)
 Why I read this now: Club is Thursday May 5

Vivian is an elderly lady living in a big house all alone in Maine when, through the efforts of her housekeeper, she meets a High School foster kid named Molly who needs to do some service hours or be sent to juvie. Molly had attempted to steal a beat up copy of Pride and Prejudice from the library.

Molly is hard and bitter but she and Vivian find they have much to talk about as they go through Vivian’s boxes and trunks in the attic. Vivian finds a confidant and begins to tell Molly the stories of her life – stories she hadn’t had a chance or desire to ever share before.

Vivian was an Irish immigrant to NYC when a tragedy occurs and she is separated from her family. She ends up on a train to Minnesota with other orphans. The story is based on historical facts of the “Orphan Train” which shipped kids west to families that could support or use child labor and thus ‘save’ them from horrible fates of living on the streets and slums.

It’s a short book that offers a glimpse into how hard life was for everyone at the turn of the 20th century up through the Depression era. I wouldn’t call it a sentimental book but I did cry. I thought it ended rather abruptly and wanted to know more about the fate of Molly and Vivian in the present time line.

This was the second book I’ve read by Christina Baker Kline, the first being The Way Life Should Be. I might be a sucker for books set in Maine.


RATING: Four slices of pie. Lots of pie references!  ‘Baking pies’ on one page, Sausage Pie on another page and then Rhubarb Tart…

“In places I have to crunch through the top layer of snow, [sic] as pie crust.”•
  • I don’t have the book and I think I typed the quote incorrectly. Is it THICK as PIE CRUST or was it SLICK as pie crust? Anyone have the book to verify? page 153…



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The Story of My Teeth

Thoughts tsomtbyvl The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, Coffee House Press 2015 (orig 2013), 184 pages

Translated from Spanish to English by Christina MacSweeney.

Challenge: The last of my Rooster reading attempts… til I try anticipating what might make the short list of NEXT year!
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Tradeback/Library 14 day loan, extended (since no one was waiting for it.)
 Why I read this now: it’s March! It’s TOB!! It’s the ROOSTER!!!

MOTIVATION for READING: Upon first hearing of this book, I didn’t think I was interested but as the TOB commentary remarked on its novelty AND that the character is one of an elderly persuasion (I love the cranky old geezer and lady who wears purple), I put it on hold at the library. I really do think I might have placed ALL the short list on hold at the library but I am wondering if some weren’t available at the initial time frame of “short list”. I don’t make very accurate records on such.

ALSO, there are aspects about this book that are beyond the story of the book. Will explain soon.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: It’s funny and sad. Our protagonist is an auctioneer who has perfected — nay, made an art form — of the STORY that goes along with an item that is auctioned. Indeed, believes the story attached to the item makes the item more valuable. This book is about art, the value of art and the value of stories. Highway (nickname for our auctioneer protag) has a son and a long life travel story, and an interesting ‘collection’ from his travels over those years… He is given one last auction opportunity to test his story-value-makes-the-item theory. His collection, his ultimate collection, is teeth of famous people.

This book is tremendously artful and creative. It will appeal to an artful creative kind of reader.

WHAT’s GOOD: It’s funny and sad. Highway is a believer.

What’s NOT so good: It’s funny and sad. Highway has to deal with life. It is, yes, so very odd. It is cerebral, it is creative, it is confusing and fascinating.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I can’t quite tell which of you are the right reader to recommend this to and yet I truly believe many just might find it oddly charming as I did. I know a few of you would eat this up and think it brilliant. I also think more of you will find it odd and missing of something concrete. It’s artsy. It really reiterates that the power of words strung together IS art. Construct. Creative. Especially when you hear about the story of how this story came to be…

Please do consider that this work of art, this story, was commissioned AS art and thus it has that metaphysical element of enchantment. Yep, I did say that; I said it.

RATING: Four slices of pie. (no noted mention of pie…)




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The Sympathizer

Thoughts tsbyvtn by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Audible Audio 2015, 13 hours 53 minutes

Narrated by François Chau – excellent!

Challenge: for my personal challenge to read as many of the Rooster short list as possible.
Genre: Pulitzer Prize Winner!  (though this is a recent distinction – very exciting!)
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible Credit
 Why I read this now: Stars aligned, I guess. I do believe that the Rooster commentary mentions this as a good audio so when it was time for me to use a credit, this is what got selected.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  The fictionalized first-person account of a North Vietnamese communist spy who works for the South Vietnamese military, trained by the CIA, educated in America, son of a French priest and his South Vietnamese housekeeper? or paramour? (I forget; both?) at the time of the Fall of Saigon and after. It is set in Vietnam, America/California and has a brief interlude in the Philippines.

WHAT’s GOOD:  It is historical fiction with all the cool things that push my buttons – lush descriptions, witty repertoire, cutting insights into human nature, philosophy, action and thrilling suspense, conflict of conscience, love of sorts and falling in love or not, HISTORY, etc. I really wouldn’t call myself a spy-novel reader but I thought this quite fascinating.

What’s NOT so good: At times, I wonder if it had all the stereotypical elements a spy novel should have but I haven’t read very many and maybe a spy-novel is supposed to. Truly, I didn’t know what to expect but this delivers well on things I like in a story. ON THE OTHER HAND, I thought at times that it was too long and needed to get on with but I’m sure that was my mood and what was going on in ‘real life’ conflicting with time and interest to keep invested. But I pushed through and ended up liking the book overall.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is often stated to be satire and of course, I can only recognize this from being told and not really of my own recognition. But I find that I am a big fan of satire even when I don’t quite get it. 

I am thrilled that this won the Pulitzer for Fiction 2016 only because 1) I just read it (validation?), 2) I somehow have unknowingly embarked on a Personal Pulitzer Challenge, and 3) the surprise and timing made it fun.

RATING: Four slices of pie. Pie actually was mentioned a lot – there is an entire sequence about eating humble pie that because in audio, I will either have to go hunt or skip…





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Quick Monday Update


I’m still subbing.

I’m still listening to The Sympathizer on audio. Less than an hour left so maybe I will have a review post this week.

Still reading The Story of My Teeth.

Just picked up The Orphan Train from the library for bookclub. One of my book clubs… The other I need to request from the library soon or buy? It’s Paula by Isabel Allende.

I really need to get to the manuscript a friend asked me to read that I totally forgot about. BAD FRIEND.

I am walking a 5K this coming Saturday to support a great cause:  CASA aka Guardian ad Litem – child advocacy. If interested in sponsoring me, let me know and I will shoot you the link.

That’s it. I am teaching Statistics – scatter plots today! and factoring quadratic equations with the Seniors.

Oh! I made pie yesterday. Strawberry Rhubarb. Felt good.

See ya later,




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The Nest

Thoughts tnbycda by Cynthia D’Aprx Sweeney, ecco An Imprint of HarperCollins 2016, 353 pages

Challenge: to keep up with newly published books
Genre: Dysfunctional Family Lit
Type/Source: Hardcover, Library 14-day Loan
 Why I read this now: not sure

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  The father of four kids sets up a fund that will only be accessible when the youngest turns 40. Typically, all the siblings are eagerly awaiting and counting on this cash to bail them out of questionable financial circumstances.

Unfortunately (oh how true IS that word here!), the horrible mother decides to access the money to bail out the oldest child who commits a royal screw-up. So the next three kids are hoping/demanding that their big brother fix it.

WHAT’s GOOD: It’s quite readable and paced well and has many interesting asides and commentary on New York, marriage, solitude, babies, the literary and art worlds… There are characters to like, be charmed by and not quite trust. I love a horrible mother so I enjoyed the matriarch. I was impressed I didn’t get all the characters confused.

What’s NOT so good:  A few characters were only foils of perfection to contrast the neurotics of the main characters but this is a minor quibble.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  Here’s what I wrote in goodreads: Overall, a good solid book of the type I like to read, whatever that is. It helped that I was given a few big blocks of time to read when I thought I had to do something else. Yay for plans that change in my favor! Will this be Rooster worthy? I kind of doubt this will make the shortlist… But I could be wrong.

RATING:  Four slices of pie. No mention of pie noted.




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The Sellout

ETA:  The Sellout WINS the ROOSTER! Lots of great thoughts on BOTH finalists at today’s finals… Congratulations to The Turner House for 2nd place. I would recommend both books.

Thoughts tsbypb by Paul Beatty, 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 304 pages

Challenge: TOB Shortlist
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Hardcover, Library

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Blurb from goodreads:

Born in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens–on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles–the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians: “I’d die in the same bedroom I’d grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that’ve been there since ’68 quake.” Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family’s financial woes, but when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that’s left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral.

Fueled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident–the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins–he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

WHAT’s GOOD:  Everything. Some say the plot is thin or ridiculous but I ask “What’s your point?”

What’s NOT so good:  The pace is relentless. Just a warning rather than a criticism. It is a physical sensation to read such pointed sentences one right after the other and be laughing and in shock and all wide-eyed at the crazy – so good.

Beatty is masterful and amazing. I’ve read nothing like it. I want to read it again.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  Read Celeste Ng’s TOB verdict here.

You can then click on all the other contests commentary if you can’t get enough…


RATING:  4 slices of apple pie.

“That omnipresent guilt that’s as black as fast food apple pie and prison basketball game is finally gone, and it feels almost white to be unburdened from the racial shame that makes a bespectacled college freshman dread fried chicken Fridays at the dining hall.”


Why not five slices? Why not five slices… I don’t know why not five slices but I still have to say the Tsar of Love and Techno was my favorite of the tourney. AND that I am hoping The Turner House gets much love, too. I have gained much appreciation for Turner since reading – helped by the commentariat.

Today concludes the 2016 The Morning News book contest called The Rooster. It has been a wonderful one and I am so thrilled and impressed with myself for how many of the books I managed to read!  Such fun. I hope to be more ready for next year but realize how difficult it is when I am not much of a “Published-Current-Year” reader. We will see…




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The New World #Weirdathon

Thoughts tnwbycaehrq by Chris Adrian Eli Horowitz & Russell Quinn, Atavist Books 2014 (or 2015?), unknown # of pages


Challenge: To read all of the TOB Shortlist? AND because it sounded weird enough for #Weirdathon.
Genre: . . . Sci Fi?
Type/Source:  eBook, App Store
 Why I read this now: I blame Ti. (Her review here.)

MOTIVATION for READING:  In chatting about TOB books, this one was mentioned and somehow Ti and I decided to read it, not quite together, but an almost-readalong.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: Jane and Jim are married. Jim dies and his pre-arranged ‘funeral’ arrangements involve signing up with what Jane accuses as being a cult. She wants no part of this company’s ‘arrangements’ and fights them. She wants her husband’s head back, please. While all of Jane’s stuff in the ‘after-Jim’ timeline is being told, we meet Jim as he enters the ‘future’ via various stages of imagination and, I guess you could call it purgatory? It’s rather confusing. It goes back and forth between Jane and Jim but mostly it becomes memories and reflection on their marriage. Jim was required to forget everything about his life so that he could effectively choose his best-self future. I think. Truly, the more I attempt to write this, I am getting more and more confused about what happens/happened!

WHAT’s GOOD: The style seems very matter of fact and offers a humorous look at the after-death business. The idea that Jim was a non-Christian chaplain tending to the lonely and dying of the hospital struck me funny, too, though that is me confronting my bias’s and things that make me uncomfortable tend to make me laugh inappropriately. I rather liked Jim much more than I liked Jane.

What’s NOT so good:  The confusion, obviously, but then it really didn’t bother me either.

And who was Millicent!??!  I’m reading along and can’t recall one of the characters. I surely failed to appreciate this story…

FINAL THOUGHTS: The takeaway for me was that Jane couldn’t commit nor communicate and some actions on both parties had consequences that made both good and bad things happen. It was a bit of a mind-boggle. Now I don’t remember what it was exactly and certainly can’t describe it. This assumes I blame Jane more than Jim and I don’t think I should. See? brain fog.

An interesting counter-point book comparison within the TOB would be with Fates and Furies…  (The having kids or not issue.)


AND now, the technology/gimmick:  I purchased the eBook app for my iPhone via the AppStore. I had to scroll down in each of Jane and Jim’s viewpoints and then swipe left for the other’s page. Though it had an ongoing bar of progress, there were no page numbers, no ability to look up a word or even copy an interesting sentence or phrase. Eventually, I hit a screen with the Polaris (that was the company arranging for Jim’s afterlife) logo and the swipes reversed. I hit the Polaris logo again – though it was added to, so it was a different logo – and reversed swipes once more but the narrative time line got confusing where I wasn’t sure if I was in the past or the future. And then it just fades away as it repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and repeats and
repeats and repeats and repeats and

As far as experimental novels go, it didn’t suck, I guess.

RATING: Three slices of pie. No pie was mentioned that I noticed.

Vocabulary:  thanatology





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The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Thoughts tsloajfbygz by Gabrielle Zevin, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2014, 258 pages

Genre: Dunno…   “Book Lover Lit”?
Type/Source: Tradeback, Purchased from local indie bookstore
 Why I read this now: Neighborhood Book Club

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  An owner of a bookstore on small New England island is grieving his dead wife when a stranger leaves a baby among the bookshelves. He somehow is allowed to adopt her and the little girl saves his life. He eventually marries and lives happily ever after. NOT! A sweet unlikely tale that actually brings up dark issues like suicide, infidelity, and cancer and yet all is just lovely because we get to “talk” books.

WHAT’s GOOD: OK, I loved it. I loved the New England setting and of course, I loved all the books. I had read most of the ones mentioned, I think.

What’s NOT so good: Full of cliches and could be accused of just being a checklist of what should be in a book about people who love books and yet SO WHAT!?

FINAL THOUGHTS: I enjoyed it. A fast read. Good palate changer when you need something light and quick. I really did not mind –SPOILER ALERT!– I did not mind that wham-bam the guy gets brain cancer and oh well, book over. [Wow, that doesn’t read quite right. What exactly am I trying to say?] That the author didn’t melodramatize anything even if throwing the guy into the situation could be considered melodramatic?

And I liked the police captain. He was cool.

RATING:  Four slices of cherry pie.

p.255 “The waitress asks if they want dessert. Ismay says she doesn’t want anything, but Lambiase knows she’ll always share a little of his. He orders a slice of cherry pie, two forks.”




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My Failed March Magics Post

I can’t finish this book. I’m so sad. OK, better truer words:  I won’t read this? I am “choosing to not continue” to read this. I just want to fall into a story and get swept away and this one is making me think too much about whether or not I should keep reading. I find myself carrying the book around and then never opening or maybe reading 2 pages slowly and not paying attention. OBVIOUSLY this book is not for me.

(I still might gift it to my niece. I hope she likes it. I trust my good reading friends who adore DWJ will find this to be a successful resolution to this problem.)

Fire and Hemlock fahbydwj  FIREBIRD / Penguin Group 2012 (orig 1985), 438 pages

DNF’d – could not abide the bad spelling even if it was supposed to be like that. Ugh! I can’t translate bad spelling into what the words are supposed to be and then SO DISTRACTED and bothered. Also, couldn’t figure out the two memory thing. DWJ is just not for me. I have not the DWJ-appreciation gene; NOT that I don’t admire and respect her talent and success. I will let others enjoy her work.

Attempted to read for #MarchMagics because so many lovely readers I admire love DWJ.

Will be gifting to my Middle-School-aged niece.

Also, bad parenting. UGH again. (in the book, not referring to my niece!)


So. I am substitute teaching mathematics to HS freshman in two classes and to HS seniors in another class. Plus I have a “home room” of 3o minutes with about 20 kids. Two weeks down, one week to survive til one week of totally glorious spring break and then 3-4 weeks after and then the teacher I am subbing for comes back. It’s fun, it’s exhausting, it’s overwhelming. I’m making mistakes, I’m beating myself up, I’m falling in love with the lil cherubs, I’m learning slang and other stuff, the staff is amazingly professional and inspiring, and I couldn’t have walked into anything better right now. I am trying to counter the “I’m so exhausted” thoughts with more energetic ones; but as they say, it takes 21 days to make a habit. I’m working on it!

I haven’t finished a book in what feels like forever and I am totally bonkers for the Tournament of Books. BONKERS, PEOPLE!!! I just started an audio of The Sympathizer and I think it will be a good one. I’ve also embarked on a readalong  with Book Chatter Ti of The New World to my surprise (what am I thinking trying to add something new now to my plate?) – but it is super-dooper intriguing because it is a phone app and I don’t know what to expect, really, but it’s a terrific book for #Weirdathon.

What else? I’m sorry I’m not visiting y’all’s blogs or responding to comments but thank you. And a big thank you to all those who have written me personal hand-written (and typed!) letters and postcards this past week! I got quite a bit of nice mail in that box at the end of the driveway and I love it. I’m so blessed.

Have a dynamite wonderful book-filled week!


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