In the Middle of 2020 Tournament of Books

It’s my favorite time of the year!  Tournament of Books…

Welp. I began this post the first week of March with the title “So Begins the TOB” and since that was over two weeks ago, I wish I could say only that Time Sure Flies By.  Wish I could say that I only got distracted.

But then the world turned upside down.

Sure, we can be grateful that the Tournament continues! No need to cancel any online gatherings for this joyful reading event. And it has been lovely, that the discussion has mostly focused on the books. I likely bet that the diversion has been most welcome.

So, why not? let’s talk books.

Q: Care, what are your favorites going in to this event? How are your brackets holding up?

A: Thank you for asking, but to be honest, I didn’t even fill out a bracket. I fill in a blank one as the decisions are cast.  But that is neither here nor there. My favorites from this year’s slate are:

Mary Toft; or, the Rabbit Queen by Dexter Palmer

 Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson


So the Mary is out and so is Your House. Hopes all hinge on the fire children now. Nothing to See Here zombies back to life; or rather has a chance. We have a few more rounds to get through before we see if NtSH truly makes it to the semi-finals.

I truly do NOT think I could stomach the stress and anxiety of being a judge!  Yikes.  I have really admired the thoughtful decisions this year (I probably say this every year).

Ok, let’s talk GWO and LCA:  the latest round of heavyweights. I did not have a preference, having abandoned Lost Children Archive at the change of perspective because it was due back at the library. (And sadly, was not compelled* to try again at a later date.) I skimmed the last third of Girl, Woman, Other because I couldn’t keep anyone straight and was getting severely impatient wondering what and how it was coming together.

OK,  here’s what I want to talk about and also an example of what a coward I am:  a friend tweeted at me that they didn’t read GWO because, and I quote, “whooooooboy the author has problematic views on nonbinary people.” And I was dumbstruck. I did not know how to ask more or challenge or invite explanation. I could not and still don’t find any evidence that Everisto presented anything disrespectful or problematic, in fact, someone -only one! – praised the author for the representation.

I myself, do not have opinion/knowledge how nonbinary “should be or not” but hope to have an openness and discovery to learning more – and that’s where I don’t know what is or is NOT problematic, I mean, I can sense disrespect, of course, but I personally thought GWO was fabulous at presenting individuals living lives their own truthful way. Applause to that.

Whew. I wanted to bring it up in the TOB commentary but I’m not brave. (and am refraining from comments spurred by liquid courage.) Anyway.

Help me be a better ally and reader.

I love the TOB! NOW, let’s talk about Jade Chang, our judge from yesterday and her list of how to decide the worthy book:

  1. Is it a FAST read?
  2. Is it SURPRISING?
  3. Are the characters INTERESTING?
  4. Is it COZY (“…can just sail forward, knowing that I will reach an exciting port”)
  5. Is it about the WORLD RIGHT NOW?
  6. Did it make me FEEL SOMETHING LASTING?

Friends, this post must come to an end. Thanks for spending a few minutes with my words, questions and thoughts. Be safe out there, be kind; let’s get through this with calm resolve.





*   Having read all the debate discussion from Summer TOB, I felt I got enough of the second half to need not read it myself. #shrug

Poetry 2020 Edition 3

Poetry Goal 2020:  to read a poem* every day.


Collection #5 by Ted Kooser, Copper Canyon Press 2004, 87 pages


. . .

You asked me if I would be sad when it happened

and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.

+ .  .  .

Memory is another poem that I wanted to share but it is longer than appropriate for a post, and yes! it features pie but I couldn’t get that portion to be meaningful without also sharing every stanza.

Basic and powerful, simple images yet evocative of place and time. With “three kinds of pie”!

I hinted for this to be a lovely gift to me to those who might be so inclined to need a suggestion.


Collection #6 by Susana Gardner, Black Radish Books 2011, 115 pages


perhaps there is only gray  in what we

must name experience — in what we

site as meaning or wayward curiology —

yet before this time I only saw  black

as black or   white   as white   though

gray might certainly and often overtake

me — much more often was caught on

the edge of what is so easily nicked —

.  .  .

mere lapsed

feathery happenstance




*Or more. I’m not tracking, I’m just reading. I’m not limiting this experience to one poem a day – that is only the minimum.


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“I Should Be Reading” – January 2020 Update

I am suffering from “too-many-books-started” paralysis right now so let’s update my January stats, shall we? I combined the results of the poll from previous post. Thanks for playing.

The first book I started to read on January 1, 2020 was Villette. I’m not yet done; put aside for TOB. Gulp. Go ahead and place bets whether or not I ever finish!?

The first book I completed in the new year was Mercy by Toni Morrison – this was part of my Super Rooster catch up. You can read my post here or by clicking on the book cover image. I gave it 4 slices of pie.

I then finished Treasure Island on audio. Again, an so on, click the cover Four slices.

Followed by The Day the World Ends poems (3 slices) and Heartland (3 1/2 slices). Click the book covers to see my posts.

Now for the non-reviewed and my favorites.  Jumping from poetry and nonfiction, I enjoyed Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous on eBook. Four slices. It was beautifully evocative. Such imagery! And enjoyed less Normal People by Sally Rooney. Three slices. The characters annoyed me and I just didn’t grasp what everyone seemed to love about this one. I can appreciate the writing but I couldn’t invest in the story. (Book covers do not link…)

I was captivated by the audiobook The Water Dancer  by Ta-Nahisi Coates – four slices and was even more enthusiastic for ebook Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha. This was my favorite fiction read and earned 5 slices of pie.

My last read of January was the poetry collection Debt to the Bone-Eating Snotflower because it was whimsical and science-y. The title comes from a celebration of a deep ocean worm called by its Latin name Osedax mucofloris and if you have even less than middling knowledge of Latin you might see the translation, yes?

Nine books – 1 nonfiction, 2 poetry, 6 fiction

3 Audiobooks, 3 Tradebacks, 2 eBooks, 1 Hardcover

27 hours 3 minutes

1393 pages

Only two with PIE:   

I made black bean and sweet potato empanadas:






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A Mercy

Thoughts by Toni Morrison, Random House Audio 2008, 6 hours 26 minutes

Narrated by the author.

Challenge: For the Tournament of Winners  : Tournament of Books
Genre: African-American Lit
Type/Source: Audiobook/Audible 

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  A stream of consciousness by many women and few peripheral characters and the lives they lead. The ‘main’ characters are all connected to Jacob, a Dutch self-made man in the style of the American continent in the 1700s. It explores all variations of “institutions” – slavery, indentured servitude, marriage, religion.

WHAT’s GOOD: It’s powerful, evocative, tragic. Eye-opening to a period of history. Morrison does make it very real, truly makes it come alive.

 What’s NOT so good:  I had first thought that Morrison was an excellent narrator but as I continued to come back to ‘the listen’, I decided she does have a staccato style that might be irritating. I really didn’t notice it through most of the narrative. However, in story — I got lost a lot. Characters would switch and it was very unsteadying, distracting. The characters blurred together. By the time my mind switched accordingly as to who was talking, I was switched to another. And I would get stuck on who the person was talking TO; mother to child, girl to twin, young woman to lover.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  I am very glad to have had this book be presented to me. I wish I had co-listened and read and fortunately, the library had an ebook I could borrow and it helped a lot. I could almost count this as two reads because I practically started at the beginning and scanned to the last part. Read that and then listened. Ended with Morrison’s interview which was very helpful to my appreciation. Recommended.

RATING:  Four slices

No pie mentions noted. Unless you consider this, ~10%:

D’Ortega’s wife was a chatterin magpie, asking pointless questions —



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First Book 2020

For Sheila’s Book Journey New Year Reads Initiative. #FirstBook2020




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2019 in Review

I read 73 books. 

 Total pages 13,568. Hours 240

Female/Male:  40/33

Fiction/Non: 59/14

New to Me Authors: 59 /  Repeat Authors: 14 

This year, I read my 7th Ann Patchett. Two authors, I read for the 3rd time:  Thomas Hardy and Matt Haig. I read 11 authors for the second time. The only reread was Milkman, by Anna Burns, both this year – one by eBook and one by audio. I also read Say Nothing, a nonfiction view into the times and setting of Milkman. A themed combination that created a great reading experience.

Classics: 14; oldest book Candide 1759. Only 3 books published before 1900. Books published in 2019 = 20, in 2018 = 23.

Shortest book: No Small Gift, 110 pages. Poetry

Longest book: The Golden Notebook, 640 pages

Longest Audiobook: Wolf Hall (and the only series book?)  24+ hours

I took advantage of Audible’s monthly freebies quite often.


I completed the Classics Club 50 in 5 years!!!!!  

I also completed – for the VERY FIRST TIME – the Back to the Classics Challenge at the 9 book level.

I already mentioned my Milkman twice + Say Nothing “Reading Experience”. Wonderful. 

A renewed focus to blog and write reviews. Lots of Business/Leadership books = 5.  Three books with the word GOLDEN in it. Another year of no readalongs. And no Stephen King. Anyone up for The Green Mile in 2020?

I did a fair job of reading books for the March Tournament of Books – always a wonderful time of year. 

My top favorites to share are:

Finally, PIE.

and, drumroll please for the 2019 Pie in Literature Award, the WINNER of my best book with pie is  The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J.Ryan Stradal!

Edith would just as soon take another woman’s husband as another woman’s pie recipe, and she had the best husband in the world, so there you go.


Honorable Mentions: Where the Crawdads Sing for a boat named The Cherry Pie, and The Psychology of Time Travel for frozen butter pies on a stick.

Which reminds me, I read a few time travel books this year, too.


One more thing:

I read 8 books in 2018 that were on the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die: The Accidental, Candide, A Clockwork Orange, The Woodlanders, Naked Lunch, The House of the Seven Gables, A Handful Dust, Love in a Cold Climate

Happy New Year! Read and enjoy a slice of pie – in real life or in a book.

Diana frowned. “We told you, we don’t want cake, we want pie.”


Review 2018

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The Dutch House

Thoughts by Ann Patchett, HarperAudio 2019, 9 hours 53 minutes

Narrated by Tom Hanks

Why I listened:  Time for me to choose another audiobook and I had just read JoAnn’s endorsement that Hanks does a fab job with this wonderful story. And she was right.

What’s it about: A pair of siblings are kicked out of the house by the evil stepmom when Dad dies. They obsess about their mother, their father, their upbringing, the house and all of it for most of the rest of their lives.

Questions:  I wanted to know about the book cover. Did AP find a painting and was thus inspired? or what. Well, I found her answer!

Favorite things:  That painting! the humor – so many laugh out loud of the kind of humor that delights me, Tom’s announcements of the chapters and parts, all of it.

Rating:  Five slices of cherry pie.

Future goals: I am hereby committing myself to reading all her books.

So far, I’ve read                                                                  Need to read
Bel Canto                                                                        Taft
State of Wonder                                                                Truth & Beauty
Commonwealth                                                                The Autobio of a Face
Run                                                                                  The Patron Saint of Liars
The Dutch House
The Magician’s Assistant
This is the Story of a Happy Marriage





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The Accidental #SuperRooster

Thoughts  by Ali Smith, Pantheon Books 2006, 306 pages

An English family rents a country home for the summer but it is far from the romantic and idyllic time they had expected and hoped for. The house is a let down and the village is dull not quaint nor charming. The adults try to put a positive spin on it but all are either disappointed, bored or wrapped up in their own stresses.

The mother is an author, stepdad is a lit professor, the HS-age boy is dealing and reeling and feeling too much with an event he was a part of that dealt tragic consequences and the 12 yo girl is wise, naive, bored.

Into this mix walks in an intruder — or a guest. No one really knows who she is yet assumes someone else must. Or why would she be there? She charms, seduces, shocks, or baffles all in turn. She is unexpected and so forceful, no one knows to question. She is a welcome diversion.

What good and bad she brings is a fascinating study in communications and expectations. Lives fall apart and get put back together, sort of; maybe. Wow, life is messy!

Smith is an artist with words and style. I may not have been convinced nor charmed with every chapter and experimentation, but I was impressed and will read another Smith book.

I get why some may find this work as something difficult to connect with – it offered some very weird sections that I felt confusing and odd. But I liked it overall anyway.

Rating: Four slices of pie.   No pie mentioned.


Happy Birthday Holly! img_0900


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The House of the Seven Gables

Thoughts by Nate Hawthorne, Kindle edition (orig 1851), 290 pages

Category  1. 19th Century Classic

I loved this!  The more I think about this wild tale, I fondly smile and reflect and think, “YEA!”

I had no idea. To be perfectly honest, (what a NUTTY turn of phrase is “perfectly honest…”), the first 20-25% should be considered an Introduction and read AFTER not before.

The story and the characters are quite endearing! Let’s see how much I recall from October . .  .

Old lady nearing the state of being house-rich + cash poor and …    tenuous at best. A dear sweet scary looking old lady who just needs a friend for pete’s sake!  (I know I would have LOVED her and could have made her a fast-friend) anyway…   Dear-sweet-old-lady opens a shop in her old house to sell crap and confectioneries to adorable little kids (ok, one kid – but what a lovely little rake, he is!) when “Distant Adorable Cousin” shows up to help and move in and get away from the country.

(This is obviously a condition of the times….  sweet cousin shows up and says “HI! can I stay here?” and they all say, “Sure, why not…”)

OH!  but drama.  And it was … cute!  fun! I don’t know…  not as scary as T-rumpville?!

Anyway, there’s a ghost, there’s family history, there’s house-history, there’s devious family members trying to usurp other poor family members and it was

a fun read.

But. WOW was that first quarter part a slog.

(Even if, in hindsight, it kinda sorta helped set up the fun of the rest of it…)


I rated this 4 stars.

“The wrongdoing of one generation lives into the successive ones and… becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief.”

This just might have been my favorite of the books I read that count for the Back to the Classics Challenge…   maybe


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