The Double Helix: Annotated and Illustrated

Thoughts dhbyjw by Dr. James Watson, Simon and Schuster 2012 (orig 1968), 368 pages [Edited by Alexander Gann and Jan Witkowski]

Challenge: Classics Club 50
Genre: Science History
Type/Source: Hardback / Library

MOTIVATION for READING: I love science.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: How Watson and Crick used models to figure out how DNA was structured.

WHAT’s GOOD: I did not expect the breezy style. It is very readable.

What’s NOT so good:  Well, you may or may not like Dr. Watson at the end but he does tell a fun story, even if bits are regrettable. He was young and determined. He shares more than just the science, but also other activities these youthful scientists were up to – where and what they ate (gooseberry pie has a mention!), the girls they tried to meet, the famous people they encountered and traveled to visit. He talks about his troubles with the sponsor for his time abroad and quite a bit about the personalities of everyone he works with.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I am so glad to have read this. The big question:  did Rosalind Franklin get screwed out of the discovery and subsequent Nobel Prize. Question Mark. Let’s just say, it’s complicated and that I could say yes, but. It very much feels like facts happened and one’s viewpoint is X and the other is Y. This and that. Perspectives. And when you start to get snarky, it gets very ugly fast. Did circumstances make it difficult and thus makes it a helluva story? Oh yes.

She deserved more accolades and unfortunately she is getting it now and not in her lifetime. It is sad that she died so young. Was Watson a _____ (insert whatever nasty/relevant word you want here, but my answer is “he was a man”.)

And NOW:  I get to read more about Rosalind Franklin:


RATING: Four slices of gooseberry pie. If you are going to read this, I suggest the annotated illustrated edition.



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Brighton Rock


Thoughts brbygg by Graham Greene, Blackstone Audiobook 2011 (orig 1938), 9 hours 48 minutes.

Narrated by Richard Brown.

BAILED. I just found myself avoiding it. And when I did have it on – usually while driving – I didn’t pay a bleep of attention to it.

Guess not the right time for this and I suspect the right time won’t come around in my lifetime. Sorry Mr. Greene – will have to try something else you’ve written; hope that’s OK.

The narration was only so-so for me.

No Rating. DNF.

IMG_1668 BristolHorse IMG_1665 IMG_1672





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Thoughts amsterdambyim by Ian McEwan, Anchor 1999 (orig 1998), 193 pages

My “Pick” Review on Litsy offered THREE points:

  1. I love how Ian McEwan strings words together. I fall into his books like fluffy pillows and fleece blankets by a fire.
  2. The women in this book  are minor characters yet they seem to hold all the power. (I still need to think about this. Still thinking… a few days later.)
  3. The descriptions of the music were captivating.

What the Washington Post said:

A sharp contemporary morality tale, cleverly disguised as a comic novel, Amsterdam is “as sheerly enjoyable a book as one is likely to pick up this year.”

What’s it ABOUTWARNING! I am going to tell a lot more about the plot than I usually do. I always feel like I’m spoilering so read on at your own risk. Two friends, ex-lovers of an extraordinary woman named Molly, meet up at her funeral. Clive is a composer who is not ‘attached’ and Vernon is a newspaper editor; they eventually make a pact that in the event IF one ever becomes seriously ill and incapacitated, the other agrees to assist in facilitating a dignified end-of-life situation, something they don’t believe their friend Molly was accorded. Clive is busy and stressed with writing a grand symphony for the year 2000 and Vernon is desperately trying to save his newspaper – circulation is falling and they need a scoop. Well, Clive arrives at a cross-roads literally while hiking to free his mind up for inspiration and Vernon is given his juicy tabloid fodder opportunity — photos of a high-level politician who was also a lover of Molly. HOWEVER, things happen, plots are plotted, disagreements are both blown out of proportion or thoughtlessly disregarded depending on the viewpoint and it all becomes a major clusterfuck for almost everyone involved.

What’s good?  No one could complain that nothing happens in this book. For a slim book, it has a ton of pivotal bit characters and interesting events. I love IMcE’s writing. I just will follow wherever his sentences lead me.

What’s NOT so good: Well, it was almost too neatly wrapped up and not really all that convincing even as I keep contemplating what happened! How could all these momentous things happen and yet not one really gets the importance? And all the conniving and clever and circumstantial happenings seem oh so convenient. Seriously, some of these steps could have slipped this way or that and a whole ‘nother story would have had to have been chased down. I might need to go back and reread – I don’t think I recall the WHYs. Why did Clive decide to ___ and also Vernon decide to carry out ____?! Were they that cruel? Yep, almost a bit TOO convenient. I am starting not to buy it as I keep going over and over it…

And then the cover art of Brona‘s copy has me thinking about something else all over again!

I loved the sidestepping move by Rose Garmony. YOWZA, was she interesting.

So, even if a bit bumpy and I question the plot, I enjoyed every minute of it. Let’s write some fanfiction to further delve into Molly and Rose, could we?

Rating: Four slices of pie. No pie (the pastry) mentioned but PIE CHARTS were found. I might suggest an almond torte as a pie alternative here. Almond torte sounds Dutch, no?fourpie

BIG thank you to JoAnn and Athira for allowing me to crash their readalong #damalong.




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Vineyard Seasons

What a gorgeous cookbook! vsbysbby Susan Branch, illustrated by Susan Branch, Little Brown & Company 1988, 160 pages

Not that many pie recipes but the SOUP section really has me intrigued and very ready for fall and football season. Yea, yea, I know it already IS football season but we need to start thinking about the playoffs and what soups will best represent the cities/teams that might vie for the Super SOUP-er Bowl.

My neighbor loaned this to me because of my idea to create a pie book that would include my favorites and also weave in a few literary samples featuring pie within the story. Many a book — as all of my readers here know — contain a pie reference or two but sometimes, the flavor isn’t identified and the pie doesn’t actually propel the plot in anyway. Sometimes, however, it does… (I can think of one off the top of my head; there MUST be more, surely.)

My neighbor, let’s call her Penelope. [Penelope is not her real name.] Penelope says this book came to mind when I talked about my spin on a pie book project so she loaned it to me. Yowza! Talk about intimidation. This book is too pretty! and though the author shares some sweet quotes and a few anecdotes, it really isn’t a good model for what I hope to accomplish. But that’s OK. It was very nice of Penelope to share and some of the recipes look amazing.

I made a few copies (the chocolate mousse and something else I’ve forgotten already.) It has a Boston Crème Pie recipe – which is cake. (Maybe I should invent a Boston Cream Cake and have it actually be pie?)

Haven’t cooked anything yet, but thought I would post the link to Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking Linkup despite that little issue. Click this button: wkendcooking (will open a new window.)

I’m glad to know of Susan Branch – her many cookbooks are highly regarded and I can see why – the pages are works of art! A very pretty book to savor.

Rating:  Four Slices of Boston Cream.



Question for any NanoWriMo-ers: do you think I can write 50000 words towards this project or should I write a story and not attempt nonfiction? I have less than 30 days to get some ideas!




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Eleanor and Park

Thoughts eapbyrr by Rainbow Rowell, St.Martin’s Press 2013, 335 pages

Genre: YA
Type/Source: ebook/Kindle
 Why I read this now: Needed some lighter fare.

MOTIVATION for READING: Everyone seems to be singing the praises of Rainbow Rowell and I had to find out why.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  A big redheaded girl wearing a style all her own enters the bus for the first day of school and no one will offer the spot next to them. She has nowhere to sit and the tension on the bus is agonizing. It is especially upsetting to Park, a kid who prefers not to have any attention directed his way but he also can’t stand to see anyone else humiliated, either. He gives up his half of the bench and allows her to share. They start a slow to build reluctant friendship, then a hot deep passionate love. It’s beautiful, really.

WHAT’s GOOD: Park is a dreamboat. Eleanor is complicated and her life is even more complicated. The way their relationship blossoms is very endearing.

What’s NOT so good: Oh… What can I say. I loved this but didn’t fall as head over heels as Park does for Eleanor. It was sweet. It was tragic. It was a lovely heart-breaking heart-soaring (can a heart soar? yes, I think so.) read. I liked it. Actually, having lived in Omaha, I both loved the setting references and was annoyed that I didn’t really get a sense of place til they went downtown and that is for a number of reasons:  I’ve been gone a long time and I didn’t get much knowledge of the poor areas of town when I lived there. My privilege shows.

And I couldn’t relate to many of the music and comic references. Shrug. So I wasn’t the best target audience for this; it’s still a great read.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This really captures that heightened tingling agonizing first-love sensations. Hats off to Rowell – obviously she is a writer of skill when it comes to making a reader FEEL something. (The following song, however, is not really like the book, other than the title. This song makes me cry every time.This book might make you cry.)

RATING: Three slices of pie. Pumpkin pie!

Risalamande is rice pudding.

“It’s a traditional Danish Christmas dessert, Eleanor thought. My grandmother made it, and her grandmother made it, and it’s better than pumpkin pie. It’s special.”



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Classics Club Spin #14

And the SPIN NUMBER IS…  numone

Here are my 20 books in anticipation of the soon to be announced CLASSICS SPIN:

On Monday, the powers that run the Club will pick a number. I will read the book that falls at that number in this list:

1. West with the Night – Beryl

2. A Handful of Dust – Waugh

3. The World According to Garp – Irving!

4. The Ox-Bow Incident

5. Jude the Obscure – Hardy (have in house, hardback)

6. Candide – Voltaire

7. Stoner – John Wms

8. The Double Helix – Watson (currently in the house, from library)

9. The King Must Die – Mary Renault

10. One Fine Day – MPD

11. Charlotte Sometimes – Penelope Farmer

12. The Hunter – Parker

13. Cold Comfort Farm – Gibbons

14. Love in a Fallen City – Chang

15. Love in a Cold Climate – Mitford

16. The Dud Avocado – Dundy

17. Twelve Years a Slave – Northup

18. Gravity’s Rainbow – Pynchon

19. Orlando – Woolf (currently in my Audible tbl, and eBook!)

20. The Bird’s Nest – Shirley Jackson

Are you playing?


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Thoughts sbylwnbylw by Lindy West, Hachette Audiobook 2016, 6 hours 9 minutes

Narrated by the author.

Genre: Memoir, Feminism
Type/Source: Audiobook/Audible
 Why I read this now: I wanted a short ‘something-different’ to follow Germinal. It was a perfect choice.

MOTIVATION for READING:  I had heard this was a fabulous ‘author narration’ and I wanted to try it out.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: These are fantastic essays on some big issues in our culture. Ms. West is helping make the world a little better, by speaking her mind and doing it so eloquently and succinctly. She is doing it FOR other women and is bravely wading in through the murky nasty waters of where the trolls live:  the internet. Actually, that isn’t accurate. She is doing her work – the work she has a right to be working – and it seems to be that trolls really dislike it. She isn’t inviting it or showing up there on a purpose of being where the trolls are, I mean. Where ever ‘there’ is, if you understand. I admire her wit and her ability to put these powerful words together and daring to shout them out loud.

I admire her very very much.

If there is any one thing that was frustrating, it was that I just don’t know all the names she mentions. It’s not like she shows off who she knows, per se, but that I just don’t have a clue who some (cough, a LOT) of people she talks about, mostly comedians — that is all on me because I can be pretty clueless about celebrities. To be honest, I really didn’t know who ‘Lindy West’ was before seeing everyone chat this up in the bookterwebs. Interestingly, I *did* know about the writer who dealt with a troll for an npr segment but I just hadn’t remembered that writer was Lindy West. I know I will never forget her now.

RATING:  Five slices of pie. She mentions pie in her book, bless her heart.

For one of Shannon’s Read This Watch That pairings with this book, read her post at River City Reading.



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Thoughts gbyezby Émile Zola, eKindle Penguin Classics 2004 (orig 1885), 596 pages

Translation by Roger Pearson (and Notes and Introduction¹).

Audiobook gabnbylp Naxos Audio 2015, 19 hours 55 minutes, narrated by Leighton Pugh. (No translation information provided.)

Lots of good stuff on Twitter, see hashtag #GerminalAlong. Good times talking about horrible times in the mining regions of France in the 1860s.

I found three pie mentions:
p.89 “Just you wait, you dirty little scamp. I’ll teach you to make mud-pies indeed!”

p.127 “… so to he had come to recognize them, the way one recognizes amorous magpies disporting in the pear trees in the garden.”²

p.171 “…You know it’s all pie in the sky³…”

I also consider these a cousin of pie – it’s a pastry filled with goodness, so it counts.

volauvent<– a vol-au-vent.

Zola amazes me. I’ve read Thérèse Raquin and was blown away by the grit and darkness, the skill in the story-telling, the audacity to write it in the first place. [My review of that here.] It doesn’t do much to inspire a love for much of humanity – he skewers everyone; but it is a reminder that literature is art. Germinal solidifies my understanding of the ‘naturalism literary movement’. Oh I wish I had majored in literature in college. Maybe I’ll go back when I retire.

Germinal couldn’t sound more boring and yet it is so alive! He makes history touchable / “feel-able” / real and I see why he is and was held in high regard. Skip it if you aren’t in the least bit curious, definitely read it if you want to experience history in all its grittiness and be transported to another place and time. Zola manages to capture so many motivations and is incisive yet gentle with all. Brilliant.

Rating:  Five slices of pie.

BIG SHOUT OUT to all my readalongers!  Especially Top Host Melissa (here’s her review).



1 – I didn’t read the Notes and I read the Intro after, as recommended.

2 – Unverified internet research has told me that the word magpie came before ‘pie’ and may have influenced what we call these pastries. See here.

³ – I found a Slate magazine article explaining the phrase ‘pie in the sky’: … coined by a champion of the American proletariat. “Pie in the sky” comes from an early 20th-century folk song written by labor activist Joe Hill, aka Joe Hillstrom, a legendary member of the Industrial Workers of the World.


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A Land More Kind Than Home

Thoughts almkthbywc by Wiley Cash, William Morrow – Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 2012, 309 pages

Genre: Southern Lit
Type/Source: Tradeback / Library (Book Club Set)
 Why I read this now: Club discussion on Oct 6

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  Carson Chambliss is the leader of a church up in the sparsely populated Appalachian Mountain region of North Carolina. His ministry is focused on faith-signs; which means that he believes that if you have faith enough, you can withstand fire and poisonous snake bites. One of his congregants however, does not quite trust his methods and to compromise, she holds Sunday School classes for the children so that they don’t have to witness the insanity. She tells one side of the story, as does one of the children:  nine year old Jess. The third viewpoint is from the Sheriff. The plot focuses on an event involving Jess’ older brother who is mute and what happens when the church decides to hold a healing for him. It ends badly.

“The book is a thriller, but it’s so beautifully written that you’ll be torn about how fast to read it. This is great, gothic Southern fiction filled with whiskey, guns and snake-handling.” – NPR

The writing is spectacular. It felt so real. Even as I did question if Jess had a true balance of being naïve or wise (I’m still not sure), he was a great kid and I wanted to rush in and help him sort it all out but devastated knowing there was nothing I could do. I thought how the adults treated him was spot on. I really loved Adelaide’s back story but she frustrated me and I wanted to know much more about the Clem Barefield, the sheriff.

“A beautifully written morality tale.” – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

What’s NOT so good:  I wanted just a little more! A little more into Clem’s grief, perhaps, but also, I should recant and recognize that I think it might just be perfect. The holding back of just enough keeps the reader wondering and engaged.

FINAL THOUGHTS: What is revealed is subtle in that regard and yes, it might be almost perfect that we didn’t get the ‘more’. Pacing and plotting of what happens is SO GOOD and the switch in viewpoints was executed very well – the story was well structured. For such heavy stuff, the writer seemed to have a light touch. He is very talented and I will read his latest, This Dark Road to Mercy.

RATING:   Four moon pies. Can’t slice a moon pie, right!?

“I sat there in the car with the gravel dust blowing across the parking lot and saw the place for what was, not what it was right at that moment in the hot sunlight, but for what it had been maybe twelve or fifteen years before: a real general store with folks gathered around the lunch counter, a line of people at the soda fountain, little children ordering ice cream of just about every flavor you could think of hard candy by the quarter pound, moon pies and cracker jack and other things I hadn’t thought about tasting in years.”



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Murder Must Advertise

Thoughts mmabyds by Dorothy Sayers, Harper & Brothers 1933, 344 pages

Challenge: Classics Club 50
Genre: Murder Mystery
Type/Source: Hardback / Library
 Why I read this now:  I think because it felt like a good companion read to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. Maybe.

WHAT’s it ABOUT: I think I’ll share the official blurb from goodreads. Oh – do know if you don’t already, the book cover above links to…

When advertising executive Victor Dean dies from a fall down the stairs at Pym’s Publicity, Lord Peter Wimsey is asked to investigate. It seems that, before he died, Dean had begun a letter to Mr. Pym suggesting some very unethical dealings at the posh London ad agency. Wimsey goes undercover and discovers that Dean was part of the fast crowd at Pym’s, a group taken to partying and doing drugs. Wimsey and his brother-in-law, Chief-Inspector Parker, rush to discover who is running London’s cocaine trade and how Pym’s fits into the picture–all before Wimsey’s cover is blown.

WHAT’s GOOD:  The energy, the cleverness, the humor. The dashing always amiable and capable Lord Wimsey. The setting of London and the descriptions of what life was like after World War I but before the Great Depression. It’s quite daring and had much to reflect on for how times are now as well as consideration of what is different in law enforcement these days compared to then. But who knew ‘drugs’ were so ‘bad’ then – if felt very modern.

p.78 “Everybody is picking up the body and exclaiming over it, when in walks our friend, innocently, from the lav. It’s as simple as pie.”

What’s NOT so good: I do think this wasn’t the best book FOR ME to be introduced to Lord Wimsey – I knew nothing other than he is beloved. I wish I had more background to his ‘story’ and that is my fault because I generally eschew ‘knowing too much’. I also have trouble relating to the ‘charm’ if you will of the class system in England as humor. (I have trouble with PG Wodehouse, too – just don’t think his madcap hilarity is all that funny.)

FINAL THOUGHTS:  It was a fun read and I thought I knew whodunit but didn’t really, it was almost like the big reveal was a slow realization that you doubt than wonder why – it was all spelled out, really. I guess that means that I thought it fell flat at the end but really, I did enjoy my time with this book and could be talked into having a bit of a crush on Wimsey – he is a charmer.

RATING: Three slices of  GOOSEBERRY pie.

Another “simple as pie” and a humble pie; quite a few lobster mentions, too.

p.84 “She thinks I’m the world’s eighth wonder. Absolutely the lobster’s dress-shirt.”



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