Thoughts by James Baldwin, Vintage Books/div of Random House 2013 (orig) 1956, 169 pages
Challenge: Classics Club 50, part 2 & #BookSpin for January
Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction / Americans in Paris
Type/Source:Tradeback / Purchased Indiebookstore
What It’s About: Wow.
Since I have no idea how to approach a review, I’m going to provide the Jhumpa Lahiri quote on the back of the book:
A novel of unique emotional intensity and exceptional beauty, hypnotic intimate, harrowing. A portrait of a man torn between a woman and another man, groundbreaking for its time, it remains a transcendent novel.”
Thoughts by Lauren Groff, Penguin Audio 2021, 8 hours 52 minutes, Narrated by Adjoa Andoh
Genre/Theme: Historical Fiction
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
What It’s About: Oh, Marie. Marie is a force! Lauren Groff is a FORCE for fiercely imagining a life for Marie that is BOLD. Marie is a bastard ugly child of nobility in a family fraught with fighting for control of countries in the 12th century. Poor Marie is never going to be given her due and is banished to a nunnery but she is cunning, she is extremely bright and proud, and she will want. She will never get quite what she thinks she must have but OMG does she ACCOMPLISH. She is always one step ahead and almost there.
She arrives to her post a mere child with nuns dying of starvation and disease. Over her lifetime, she builds the Abbey to be many females strong and to have much wealth garnered by strategy and stealth.
The narration was excellent.
The entire book features female characters. (By which I mean there are NO male ones.)
Thoughts: Marie is actually hard to like, as any megalomaniac can tend to be. But the more I read reviews and think about what this book does, I think it is delicious! I have read criticisms that there’s too much sex. Well, HUH. Deal. And another asked, “what was the POINT of this?” ok, well I think THAT is too much thinking. LG has an imagination of WHAT IF and she went for it. I’ve read that some people don’t like Groff’s writing — now, ok, personal preference can certainly apply, I’m all for that. But I am a fan. I like her. I liked Fates and Furies, and I’m stating now that I hope to read her backlist and everything she writes next. She is FIERCE.
Rating: Four slices of pie. I noticed at least three mentions of pie: maybe even Figgy Pudding Pie?! Definitely Buttery Leek Pie. My Audible account is not showing my notes (?!) so I can’ give the exact quote so I’ve decided to pair in a link to a recipe!
Today, January 23, is National Pie Day, so let’s share what I found for Leek Pie. This one from Smitten Kitchen looks fabulous! click the image to go to Leek & Swiss Chard Tart:
Ten years ago, about this time, I discovered a PROJECT that aligned nicely with that year’s goal of writing a letter every day. I succeeded on that project and I’m excited to share that I will be participating in this February’s Month of Letters aka/hashtag #LetterMo again. TEN YEARS! So this year is actually my 11th year. WOW.
Volunteers keep the website going; it’s changed some over the decade. Author Mary Robinette Kowal (Twitter link) started it all and since abdicated it to the universe. I’ve read 2 of her books:
I reviewed Shades of Milk & Honey in a roundup post 2014 and never got around to writing many reviews at all of books read in 2018, such as Calculating Stars.
Rules to #LetterMo are simple – I actually do the deluxe version and write every single day, but I think the stated guidelines suggest sending something in the mail every day the mail runs. Thus, if in the US, this means only Monday thru Saturday. The website community awards badges for certain challenges and has virtual stickers, buttons and more.
OH yea! Another rule is to reply to any letter received in February… which takew me into March.
So… if I have your address, I will probably drop you a snailmail note next month. If you would like me to send a postcard or letter, please tell me your address in an email to BkClubCare [at] Gmail.
Thoughts by Anne Garrétta, Deep Vellum 2021, 185 pages
Translated by Emma Ramadan, co-owner of one of my favorite indie bookstores: RiffRaff in PVD
Genre/Theme: I have no idea!
Type/Source:Tradeback / Personal purchase from Watermark Books
What It’s About: Two precocious French girls adore their tinkering big-idea whacky fix-it father and help him pour concrete to fix up the summer house amongst other things/places/etc. They defend the honor of neighbors and attempt to ditch school (well, our narrator does) and she tells her little sister stories of the escapades while waiting for rescue when said sister becomes encased in a cement mixing & pouring mishap. FULL of amusing wordplay and punny turns of phrase.
Thoughts: A fun book — if you aren’t trying to rush through it to get it done. Alas!
I really had to force myself to slow down and not rush this. I became enthralled with curiosity for HOW the translator managed to capture and play with the words in English, only assuming the jokes must have been different in the French. My questions were answered; the book includes notes from the translator. Fascinating stuff.
No grout about it!
Very clever, a lot of fun. Their POOR MOTHER! The entire family is quite endearing. I get how some thought it a bit overdone, perhaps; but I decided to relax and go with it and feel rewarded for my effort.
Rating: Four slices of pie. Easy as pie? no way.
“Once little sis and I had unblocked our glands, it was easy as pie.”
Thoughts by Louise Erdrich, Harper 2021, 387 pages
Genre/Theme: Adult Literature
Type/Source:eBook / Library
What It’s About: This is the story of Tookie, a Chippewa woman in Minnesota who works in a bookstore. The book starts with how she came to commit a crime, be sentenced and serve time in prison. A former teacher sends her a dictionary and so begins a love of reading. This same teacher helps her get the job at the bookstore once she is released from prison. This is also the story of how one of the bookstore’s most loyal customers dies and begins to haunt Tookie when she is at work. The story is timely; we see the dates approach March 2020 — the start of the pandemic. And June, when George Floyd is murdered at the hands of the cops. And the subsequent protests.
Thoughts: As I attempt the above paragraph, I find my appreciation growing for how Erdrich accomplished all of the personal and broad storylines, as well as weaving in the love of reading. There is a grappling of balancing political issues and getting involved and this was successfully done (to me) — effectively paced with empathy, love, and respect; everything I love in my literature. I would even say she manages a balanced lightness with heavy topics and was able to bring some humor to the humanity.
I found that I could not read just any book. It had gotten so I could see through books—the little ruses, the hooks, the setup in the beginning, the looming weight of a tragic ending, the way at the last page the author could whisk out the carpet of sorrow and restore a favorite character. I needed the writing to have a certain mineral density. It had to feel naturally meant, but not cynically contrived.
Rating: She even included pie! Rounding up to 5 slices of pie. A book lover’s book: the author provides a list of all the books mentioned in the text.
I grew up in Rondo and that was a warm neighborhood, full of kindness, pie, elderly folks, kids, craziness, and sorrow. It was a place to belong. All my life I’ve missed it, but never understood until now.
Thoughts by Lily King, Blackstone 2021, 6 hours 10 minutes
Narrated by: Bronson Pinchot, Mark Bramhall, Stacey Glemboski, Cassandra Campbell, Christa Lewis
Challenge: What’s in a Name: Season category
Genre/Theme: Short Story, Adult Lit
Type/Source:Audiobook / Audible
What It’s About: If you have Audible, this is an included special gift. I don’t even recall who alerted me, but I ran to my account and sure enough, I was able to download without losing a credit. SCORE!
Ten short stories, some longer than others, all marvelous. I enjoyed the entire collection. Looking at the list now, some come back to me with a force of characterization and suspense, some I don’t even remember what they were about or am hazy about how they ended already but that’s just me. Many are about wistful misunderstandings or memories of relationships now unfixable. Perhaps some get fixed. All are delightful! Heartily recommended.
Thoughts: I think my favorites are the title story, “Five Tuesdays in Winter” – a shy widower bookseller with a teenage daughter has a crush on one of his staff, “When in the Dordogne” – two college kids get to house sit for a wealthy couple traveling abroad and they also get to watch their 14 yo boy, and “The Man at the Door” – a young mother desperate for time alone so she can write her novel struggles with her realities, her past and her present. All of the stories shine, all are provoking, just real good. Audio is well done.
“She was the type who could not take a compliment. If he told her she looked nice, she’d give the reason instead of saying thank you. But he was the type who could not give a compliment, so he just said hello and let her in.”
“Five tuesdays in Winter”
Rating: Five slices of blueberry pie.
Grant had heated up a Sara Lee pie, blueberry.
When he pulled it out, he started to cut into it and Ed said, “I know how you’re going to do this: miserly wedges, one at a time. When you know for a fact we’re going to eat the whole thing. Give me that.”
Ed took the knife from him and cut the pie into thirds, and put a mound of ice cream on each of the enormous pieces. We ate on the porch. It was a warm humid night, the hot pie and the cold ice cream were perfect together.
Thoughts by Sally Rooney, Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2021, 356 pages or 10 hours 3 minutes
Narrated by Aoife McMahon.
Challenge: TOB 2022
Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction
Type/Source:eBook AND Audiobook from Libby
What It’s About: I’m going to be lazy and share the blurb from goodreads which I might assume is from the publisher? [Yes, I think so?]
Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?
Thoughts: Do I think they are standing in the last lighted room before darkness? No. Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world. Yes. Yes, I am thinking positive.
Simon kind of drove me up the wall. Alice was slightly intriguing. Eileen less so. Felix amused me but I am not sure he would be someone I would want to know personally. He does like dogs, so he has that going for him.
I found this very readable. I read it wondering more about why some love it and why some don’t. Lots of sex. Lots of philosophy on morals and how the world-is-going-to-pot. Explores art, the meaning of art and why beauty exists. And yet, it felt like watching someone have those conversations rather than being there experiencing the conversations. It wasn’t transportive. [Huh, I’m being told that isn’t a word.] What do I mean? I mean that it made me feel like an older person watching a different younger generation deal with things without giving me the feeling that I’m right there, too. I can have sympathies, but I wasn’t transported to feel the experience.
…a recondite joke requiring familiarity with several other internet jokes in order to be even vaguely comprehensible,…
Rating: Four slices of pie. No pie mentioned.
….compassionate attachment to purely fictional people—from whom we obviously can’t expect to derive any material satisfaction or advantage—is a way of understanding the deep complexities of the human condition, and thus the complexities of God’s love for us.
Like good stationery, heavy pens, unlined paper, they represented to her the possibility of imagination, a possibility so much finer in itself and more delicate than anything she had ever managed to imagine.
He stood in the doorway while she went searching in one of the presses. She looked around at him.
Challenge: What’s in a Name: Mythical Being or #ReadICT: Mythology (6)
Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction
Type/Source:Hardcover / Library Bag Sale 2021
What It’s About: — An empty-nester SAHM is unhappy. She finds her place in the world diminished and unsatisfied. In the process of rescuing her mom who is suffering from odd behaviors, she moves back to her hometown/island, has an odd affair with a monk, solves a mystery or two, and discovers the artist within. Ultimately, she rescues herself and her marriage.
Thoughts: In my quest to read everything by Sue Monk Kidd, because I really enjoyed her thoughts about how she came to write The Book of Longings (my review May2021), I set this book as my First Book this year. Mostly because I had just lifted it off the shelf to fit the WiaN category. It fits my other big challenge so Big YAY.
I couldn’t quite bring myself to go that far — all that paddling around in the alphabet soup of one’s childhood, scooping up letters, hoping to arrange them into enlightening sentences that would explain why things that turned out the way they had. Revoked a certain mutiny in me.”
(early in the book, when her husbands suggests she talk to a therapist.)
Knowing that the reviews on this book are mixed, I went into it with lower expectations, with a certain curiosity versus and hope-to-enjoy, if that makes sense? I did feel to me, that she set up her plot and then made it happen, but it misses that spark of something created out of nothing. It felt like a collection of thoughts and then-this-happened, etc. Plus, the main character is hard to like or feel anything for, unfortunately. Her assisting cast also felt stereotypical. However, it was readable and I didn’t mind my time in the story. I was curious about her mom and what really happened to her father. The spiritual questioning and awakening stuff wasn’t very convincing yet at the same time, I appreciated how she created her sentences. I won’t deny her writing skills.
This is a sophomore effort, coming off her best-selling debut, The Secret Life of Bees, which I read pre-blogging. She has kept at it and, as mentioned above, her latest is terrific and very brave, original. Now I will dive into her memoirs — I think I might enjoy these the best.
Total Books Read = 122 Average Books Read Per Month = 10 Best Reading Month = July 15 or April 14 Worst Reading Month = Jan or Nov
Total Pages Read = 29,419 Average Pages Per Book = 241 Average Pages Read Per Day = 81
Total Chunksters (400+ pages) Read = 14
Genres Total Adult Fiction Books Read = 36 Lighter Contemporary Fic = 5 Total YA Fiction Books Read = 6 Children’s = 4 Total Memoir Books Read = 12 Total Nonfiction Books Read = 24 Short Story Collection = 1 Poetry = 8 Mystery/Thriller = 2 Translated = 5 Fantasy = 5 SciFi = 9 Historical Fiction = 8 Cookbooks = 2 Adventure = 1 Business = 2 Graphical = 1
Formats Total Audio Books “Read” = 29 Total Ebooks Read = 28 Total Hardcover Books = 26 Tradeback/Paperback = 39
Ratings ★★★★★ = 37 ★★★★ = 57 ★★★ = 21 ★★ = 6 ★ =
Authors Total Books By Women = 77 Total Books By Men = 45 Total Books by New-to-Me Authors = 72 Repeat Authors = 26 Total Books by Authors of Color = 33
Miscellaneous Total Graphic Novels Read = 0 Total Books Reread = 0 Total “Classics” Read = 15 Total Books Read for Book Club = 6
Oldest book: The Epic Gilgamesh Longest book: 856 JS&MN Shortest book: 18 Pumpkin Pie
Longest book title: A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland
Shortest book title: Jack
Debuts: 17 On List of Books to Read Before You Die: 4 Book to Movie: 3, Book to Play: 1, Book to TV Miniseries: 1
Books with Pie: 58
Care’s 2021 Pie in Lit Award goes to…. The Resisters!
I read more books than I ever have in one calendar year. Yet, I didn’t have any standout amazing reading experiences. BUT WAIT! I do NOT mean to say I didn’t have a great reading year because I did! I had many tremendous 4 & 5 star reads and if I were to really look at the list, some of those fives would drop to 4 and some of those 4s would elevate to a 5 and so I’m NOT going to look.
I’m going with what I set when I recorded in my spreadsheet and blog. I did pretty good on blogging reviews this year, though that last few months were a disappointment. That’s OK, it’ll be OK. Get back up if you fall down; no need to dither/dather over spilt milk and attempt to go back in time to fix. Nope.
♦ Classics — One True Thing by Anna Quindlen 1994 Historical Fiction — The Cold Millions by Jess Walter and Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch by Rivka Galchen Mystery — Swann -or- Long Bright River Literary Fiction — Top 3: The Promise by Damon Galgut, Luster by Raven Leilani, Oh William by Elizabeth Strout Nonfiction —These Precious Days by Ann Patchett Fantasy —The Spindle Splintered by Alix Harrow Poetry – It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful – Lia Purpura and Jeanne Griggs Postcard Poems! Science Fiction — Martha Wells Murderbot Series YA — Alone with the Stars by David Graham
♦ Books You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki, Skippy Dies/Paul Murray and Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
♦ Most surprising (in a good way) book you read? Stephen Florida. It is a DEBUT.
♦ Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read? n/a
♦ Best series you started in 2021? Murderbot
♦ Favorite new author you discovered in 2021? Anna Quindlen and Raven Leilani
♦ Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone? (I can’t think of anything to fit this…)
♦ Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? I can’t think of anything to fit this either. The most memorable “unputdownable” book that comes to mind is the opposite of action-packed! Whereabouts by Lahiri
♦ Book You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? Goodness, um NONE? Maybe These Precious Days. I rarely reread and certainly not so quick in time. (OK, that isn’t quite true… I read Milkman twice in the same year and I read Duchess Goldblatt, twice in the same year, too! #shrug)
♦ Favorite cover of a book you read in 2021? Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch or Euphoria by Lily King or The Resistors by Gish Jen
♦ Most memorable character of 2021? Narrator of My Year of Rest and Relaxation or Narrator in The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison or Konstance in Cloud Cuckoo Land .
♦ Most beautifully written book read in 2021? The Soul of Kindness by Elizabeth Taylor
♦ Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2021? Did That Just Happen?!
♦ Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2021 to finally read? Oranges are Not the Only Fruit (and Anne Frank and Housekeeping and Fun Home and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell) (And Alice in Wonderland.)
♦ Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2021?
♦ Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2021? You’re My Little Pumpkin Pie (18 pages) by Natalie Marshal and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (865 pages) by Susanna Clarke
♦ Book That Shocked You The Most? Effin Birds by Aaron Reynolds (LOL)
♦ Favorite Couple? Caroline & Tom Donohoe in The Radium Girls. True love.
♦ Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship of The Year? Murderbot and ART?
♦ Favorite Book You Read in 2021 From an Author You’ve Read Previously? The Green Mile by SK, These Precious Days by AP
♦ Best Book You Read In 2021 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else? Yoga Pant Nation maybe. Or… wait for it. Murderbot!
♦ Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2021? no idea. I can’t keep answering with Murderbot, can I?
♦ Best 2021 debut you read? Luster by Raven Leilani
♦ Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
♦ Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read? Murderbot
♦ Book That Made You Cry in 2021? These Precious Days
♦ Hidden Gem Of The Year? The Tenth Muse by Catherine Chung (probably the book that had the least chatter in my world…)
♦ Book That Crushed Your Soul? The Trees by Percival Everett
♦ Most Unique Book You Read In 2021? Several People Are Typing! by Calvin Kasulke
♦ Book That Made You the Maddest? Detransition, Baby (that so many people argued about Torrey Peters being eligible for the Womens Lit Prize)
♦ Best Audiobook? Cloud Cuckoo Land / Anthony Doerr and Black Gold by Theresa Edwards
♦ Best Book to Film Adaptation? One True Thing & Housekeeping