“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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The Woodlanders, A Clockwork Orange, and A Handful of Dust

Mini Reviews

Challenge:  Classic Club 50 and Back to the Classics



This grouping of Brit classics comes to you as part of my effort to post on books that fit the challenge requirements for the 2019 Back to the Classics Challenge.

Audiobook, narrated by Samuel West, orig 1887, 14 hr 16 min

I read The Woodlanders and loved it. Gave it 5 slices of pie. And since it is British, of course it has pie. (I really need to make some meat pies to celebrate Brit pies!!!!)

So FIVE slices of Apple Pie for this lovely twisty crazy tale of infidelity and nutty triangles of DRAMA.  Published in 1887 — I swear, Hardy in now times would be a reality show writer but be sad about it.

Here’s what I wrote on gr:

I loved the language, I agree with others that Hardy delivers suspense and certainly drama, and he is a master at language. Oh, I said that already. He is becoming a favorite and I wouldn’t have guessed I would have said that since Tess about killed me. I adored Far from the Madding Crowd and that is still my favorite, but I delighted in this crazy tale of love gone wrong and twisty. (not THAT kind of ‘twisty’! get minds out of the gutter. No sordid descriptions of the dirty deeds in this tale, puhlease.) But this did have turns and unexpected conflicts and resolutions and just a ton of bad decision-making, as humans are wont to do. Such vexation!
I’m really not sure as to the ending, what really happened there. Was it a happy ending? If I hadn’t realized that the end was near, I might have been disappointed; but I knew the audiobook had only minutes to go and then = it stopped. Actually, I admire the framing that Tom did there with Marty at the beginning and at the end. Well done, Mr. Hardy! Huzzah

(the rating also reflects the comparison impact of the book I started immediately after which is Naked Lunch. These two stories couldn’t be more different…)

And for a pie quote:

Winterborne was standing before the brick oven in his shirt-sleeves, tossing in thorn sprays, and stirring about the blazing mass with a long-handled, three-pronged Beelzebub kind of fork, the heat shining out upon his streaming face and making his eyes like furnaces, the thorns crackling and sputtering; while Creedle, having ranged the pastry dishes in a row on the table till the oven should be ready, was pressing out the crust of a final apple-pie with a rolling-pin.

Back to Classics Category Fulfilled:  Classic Tragic Novel.  For an almost romance; no one has their HEA.


A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, orig 1962, 240 pages

Back to Classics Category Fulfilled:  uh…. none?

Whatever, let’s tell you what pies it had anyway.

It was like some frozen pie that she ‘d unfroze and then warmed up and it looked not so very appetitish.

“Still, I drank and ate growling, being more hungry than I thought at first, and I got fruit-pie from the larder and tore chunks off it to stuff into my greedy rot.”

This took some getting into; the language guide is a MUST!  Then, once realizing that the author created an entire new language, it became fun. While also being demoralizing, frightening, scary, and sad. I like it much more now when I don’t remember all that much.


Audiobook, narrated by Andrew Sachs, orig 1934, 6 hrs 43 min

I like the book cover of the edition because it does suggest the comedy. This is SATIRE people and it’s brutal. The divorce machinations are unwieldy and just off the top but what happens to poor Tony… yikes.

Satisfies the Classic Comic Novel category. √

And because it was audio, I failed to do my due diligence and record the pie quotes. It’s British. It had meat pie.

Rating 3 to 4 slices of pie.





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Now in November

Thoughts   by Josephine Johnson, Simon and Schuster 1934, 231 pages

Challenge:  Classic Club
Back to the Classics Challenge PLACES I HAVE LIVED (Missouri)

BTCC Berlin Booksclassicsclub1

**AND** What’s in a Name 
Challenge 2019Month/Day Category
Genre: Depression Era, Pulitzer Winners
Type/Source: Library
 Why I read this now:  I was trying to find something for this WiaN category – come to end up reading 3 books to satisfy. #whatever #shrug

MOTIVATION for READING: I saw this on my tbr and it fit the category and the library had a copy – possibly a first edition copy? (I was having a hard time finding a copy of One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes which IS in my cc50. This just happens to be a classic; NOT on my cc50…)

Page 144: “When everything was finally dead, I thought that relief from hope would come, but hope’s an obsession that never dies.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  A family trying to eke a living out of the ground in the midst of the depression. Older sister is a fish out of water, the youngest sister and mother are inspirations, Dad is wearily lost and angry about it all and our narrator just aches with  feelings and thoughts that only confound.

What gr says: “Brilliant, evocative, poetic, savage, this Pulitzer Prize-winning first novel (1934) written when Josephine Winslow Johnson was only 24, depicts a white, middle-class urban family that is turned into dirt-poor farmers by the Depression and the great drought of the thirties. The novel moves through a single year and, at the same time, a decade of years, from the spring arrival of the family at their mortgaged farm to the winter 10 years later, when the ravages of drought, fire, and personal anguish have led to the deaths of two of the five. Like Ethan Frome, the relatively brief, intense story evokes the torment possible among people isolated and driven by strong feelings of love and hate that, unexpressed, lead inevitably to doom. Reviewers in the thirties praised the novel, calling its prose “profoundly moving music,” expressing incredulity “that this mature style and this mature point of view are those of a young women in her twenties,” comparing the book to “the luminous work of Willa Cather,” and, with prescience, suggesting that it “has that rare quality of timelessness which is the mark of first-rate fiction.””

THOUGHTS:  I would NEVER have compared this to Ethan Frome, but yea. I guess I could go there. (I shudder.)

Such pain. Such loss. I worry about our world now and how much we use and discard, in our disposable society. If I had to live simply and off the land, giving every extra penny to my mortgage, thinking of it as a terrifying weight that could drag me to my death with any next scratch of a pen; … Anyway, it is a sobering look at how people managed, or didn’t, in that awful time.

The descriptions of nature offer some glimmer of love and sunshine. But even the sun gets cursed in this one.

Brilliant, evocative, poetic, savage.

Four slices of pie.

Page 28: “He cut us big slices, firm and wedge-shaped like the tall pieces of a pie, and a bigger one for mother, and then we thought it was time for the presents to be given.”

Page 115: “He did it because he liked pies, he said, and was fearful that M would fall asleep and put away God knows what in the jars.”


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