Challenge: TOB Short List
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Audiobook, Audible
Why I read this now: It was next up in the queue.
MOTIVATION for READING: I enjoyed Gyasi’s debut and this one is getting great reviews. Plus, you know, the T. O. B.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Gifty is a scientist, a daughter of immigrants from Ghana, reflecting on her childhood as the little sister to a brother who died of a heroine overdose, her religious upbringing and how her mother suffers from mental illness, while conducting research on addiction so she can understand her own pain.
THOUGHTS: This was a time/place of being in Gifty’s head as she explains and sorts through her thoughts and reactions and movement through many years, many relationships. Lots of religion and philosophy, but mostly religion and God and understanding and reconciling faith with science, science versus faith. It was really quite beautiful. NOT pushy at all. I think this could be a valuable reference for any religious study.
I liked Gifty. She was so well presented and fleshed out – her wants, needs, goals, dreams. Was there even a plot?
RATING: Four slices of pie. Apple pie mention and a bit about a friend who offers baked goods, including pie. YAY!
Challenge: TOB Long List, Theta Friends Book Read
Type/Source: Hardcover, purchased from an Indie
Why I read this now: First Book of 2020 Selection
MOTIVATION for READING: I really like Liz Moore.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Mickey is a cop, a beat cop on the streets of a poor neighborhood in Philly. She comes from impoverished family circumstances. Her sister, same genes + same environment, takes the other turn in life and is a drug addict prostitute.
Young prostitute drug-addicted women start turning up dead and Mickey’s sister goes missing. Mickey is compelled to find out what is happening but gets involved in things beyond her scope and support system. A support system that is questionable, at best.
THOUGHTS: The “something elusive” that makes me really fall hard for a story didn’t happen with this one. But as I now have a few days away to ponder my reactions, I wonder if that is the point of it. Our MC is shyly prickly and doesn’t want to need people. She has no friends and doesn’t even realize it! THAT is what is weird to me, I think? She is heads-down, do the job, do right and don’t call attention. But humans can’t operate well being so alone – we need other people. When she realizes this, she is caught up in her confusion and fear of trust and what it all means, to have any good sense on what to do. It comes across as naiveté and it just seemed so out of sorts for her career as a police officer. Again, it takes all kinds and this is a story that confronts many biases.
This year, I read my 6th Shirley Jackson. I read a 5th book by Elizabeth Strout. Four authors, I read for the 3rd time: James McBride, Wallace Stegner, Drew Rozell, and Toni Morrison. The rereads included an author that was both a first for the year and then read it with my ears for its second intake: Becoming Duchess Goldblatt. I reread The Sellout for the TOB Super Rooster and I read two poetry collections by Billy Collins. I read 4 authors for the second time: read another by Ta-Nehisi Coates but the second was fiction. I read the next in a series to catch my second by Hilary Mantel. Michael Pollan’s Caffeine was my second of his.
Classics: didn’t have the patience to figure this out; oldest book The Picture of Dorian Gray 1890. Only 2 books published before 1900. Books published in 2019 = 20, in 2020 = 23.
Shortest book: Not figuring this out because I read so many poetry collections that were < 100 pages and plenty of novellas, and I couldn’t decide how to handle exceptions to not. Plus I read a lot of kids books.
Longest book: Ducks, Newburyport at 1020 pages. Took me months.
Longest Audiobook: Ok, here’s where I admit that I didn’t keep track this year. And more truth is that last year, I created my track sheet in December! So, it is just not going to happen where I present all the stats and show pretty pie graphs. Maybe 2021. Maybe.
The longest audiobook was likely We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry, at 14 hours and 44 minutes. And it was too long. Fun! but too long. Not typical that I didn’t have any chunkster audiobooks! You might suggest it would be lack of a commute and thus no listening while driving time? But I rarely listened to my audiobooks on commute to work. Not sure…
LIke last year, I took advantage of Audible’s monthly freebies quite often.
This is last year’s pie chart just because this post needs some color. LOL
Comparing… THIS YEAR, I upped my 5 star givings to 34%! Four stars were given to 33 %, three stars to 38%, and 4% got 2 stars. No ratings of 1 star.
Which is interesting… Because I don’t feel like I had a really tremendous feel-good reading year. Maybe this actually supports that I can’t quickly think of my top reads? Too many?
Favorite poetry: Mad With Yellow by Lisa J. Starr
I didn’t do any readalongs. I didn’t do any reading projects. (Tho, @Bybee might think different?)
WAIT! not true. My poetry was a personal reading project and it was wonderful. I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams to read a poem every day. Did it change my life? Maybe. Maybe…
I did do the Super Rooster and am quite pleased with myself.
My blogging could be described as “fits of bursts”; I’m okay with what I managed to post.
I read 4 (2 to completion) books in 2020that were on the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die: Tender is the Night, Club Dumas, Cry the Beloved Country, Treasure Island.
My first time to read 100+ books but I feel like I cheated, to be honest. Yea, yea, I know that the book police ain’t out to get me or anything but the challenge to make it doesn’t sit right with me. I honestly have taken that last 3 weeks off. I can feel it in my brain that I’m not reading — yet I can’t seem to sit and READ. It’s such the weirdest thing.
Hoping the flip of the calendar page, will truly bring a renewed motivation and thrill with reading. But yowza, I hate to DNF.
and, drumroll please for the 2020 Pie in Literature Award, the WINNER of my best book with pie for this year is Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellman!
The fact that it’s important not to despair though when you’ve got pies in the oven, …, the fact that you have to have mercy on your pies, be there for your pies, and in return they will be good dutiful pies and serve you, …
Honorable Mentions: Oh, goodness. I read so many more pie-themed books this year! I read a pie cookbook (wait, I do that every year, don’t I?). I sought out pie-themed books, truth.
I hail Ladybird, Collected (and NO – not just because it mimics Ducks with that comma) but because I want everyone to read it and have it get picked up for national distribution. Please visit HERE or HERE to get your copy.
I bring to your attention to We Ride Upon Sticks – some good pie mentions; make me smile just to think on. And well, sure, of COURSE: Summer of a Thousand Pies, Enemy Pie, and Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe.
Finally, the pies I made yesterday and today!
Harvey Wallbanger Pie for Dad’s birthday and the Spinach Ham Gouda Quiche made today for Happy New Year!!
Be kind, be readin’, give me a book rec. Let’s chat this year, yes?
It’s no small thing, feeling that we matter, that we couldn’t just be any diner and it couldn’t just be any pie. – Ladybird, Collected
Pre-Review Thoughts by Liz Moore, Riverhead Books 2020, 482 pages
Challenge: PVD Theta Reading Circle
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Hardcover/ purchased TWICE!
Why I read this now: Why I am choosing for First Book 2021? It’s been on my gotta-get-to-soon and then I gave to a friend in a gift-exchange. I think it’s finally time.
MOTIVATION for READING: I would read this anyway because I life Liz Moore. It was on the TOB Long List but didn’t make the Short. I am looking forward to this very much.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: I really don’t know. Something about crime and sisters? I’ve read the intro/blurb a few times but just can’t access it. I do remember thinking how interesting that I also really want to get to The Vanishing Half which is also about sisters. I probably have mixed/morphed which book is about what.
Here’s to everyone having a healthy happy New Year.
Translated from Spanish by Sonia Soto, Narrated by David Warner
Genre: Literary Thriller
Type/Source: Audiobook, Audible
Why I read this now: A friend recommended at just the right time.
MOTIVATION for READING: As I explained right above this, I have a friend – one of those amazing friends who has that crazy skill to make everything you say or do to be acknowledged as just the right thing. Too good for my ego?! She’s one of those people who is uplifting to be around and talk with. So when she asked if I had read this one, I paid attention and almost immediately raced its place up my tbr to number one spot. Yea, I think I did do just that when I realized, “hey, I am not listening to an audiobook right now and I need to be listening to an audiobook and the ones I got, aren’t inspiring me.” Into my ears, it went.
WHAT’s it ABOUT: A mercenary book dealer is hired to find authenticity on a few rare manuscripts and discovers that the two tasks are related. Along the way, he meets interesting characters that resemble characters in famous stories – and are even named as famous characters in celebrated tales and behave likewise! One intertwined story line is about a chapter in Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. The other book is a possible survivor of a trio of banned books that commune with the devil. Maybe Dumas communed with the Devil?
Our protagonist is named Lucas Corso. Our narrator also tends to break the third veil [upon researching if I had this right, I did not. It’s the THIRD WALL] or whatever it is called when the narrator talks to the reader. [I could totally be misremembering.*] Corso meets one character who remains an enigma still.**
THOUGHTS: It was good. It was fun! It’s a literary literary thriller!! There are terrific quotes to start each chapter. There are music interludes for the audio version. I just found out while prepping this post that the book is on the 1001+ Books to Read Before I Die. LOVE when this happens without me orchestrating it.
RATING: Four slices of pie. No pie mentioned. I rarely catch or note if I do, when pie is mentioned in an audiobook. There might have been a tart…
I would be very pleased if Audible and Goodreads would collab and capture notes...
* Footnote #1 – It was an audiobook. I am usually yelling at Esther to stop eating acorns or goose poop or I am getting interrupted by my free walking app that tells me when I’m at half-mile + time per mile + calories burned. SHUT UP ALREADY. (I’ve since turned her off since she talks over my audiobooks. No more. Bitch.)
** Footnote #2 – I had first thought that ‘the girl’ aka Irene Adler (ahem) was Corso’s daughter. I think we (readers) are supposed to imagine she is The Devil.
Thoughts by Kawai Strong Washburn, MCD 2020, 376 pages
Challenge: Known entry for TOB 2021 due to winning Summer Camp 2020
Genre: Contemporary Lit, Hawaiian Lit
Type/Source: Hard Cover, Library 14 Day
Why I read this now: It’s time was now. Inspired by the TOB.
MOTIVATION for READING: TOB. For some reason, I don’t seem to find the motivation or timing to participate in Summer Camps. I want to! But the cards just don’t get dealt that way. I find that my reading has seasons and this just isn’t my kind of summer reading weather. But I’m glad to get a jump on it while we await the long list. Where IS that by the way? [Wrote this but hadn’t yet pub’d; which reminded me when TOB did send it out finally that this post was likely ready, too. So, HERE WE ARE. The long list!] My goodreads 2021-Rooster list is here
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Family. Legends. Destiny. The middle child is favored – favored by the gods, favored by mom and dad. The family struggles financially while encouraging all the gifts of skill and intelligence within the children. Unfortunately, all carry these burdens as too-much-burden, trapped in comparisons and never articulated, explored, brought to light but left to fester in the dark. Success and the subsequent trappings, wrapped up in ‘a ticket OUT’ betray the rewards of excelling on merits and opportunities. So. much. heartache and misunderstanding and allowing the aggravations and frustrations to get the better of them!
I yearned for Dean the eldest and he got lost, missed a step and couldn’t get his mojo back, he misunderstood what his mojo really was? Or did he find it… And baby sister had such a bright future! She was so freaking smart and kicking ass as an engineering student in college — but youth and distractions and the tilt-a-whirl of that youth, the constant obsessing “is this love? what IS this” kept getting in the way. The middle kid? Just fate or bad luck – such pain. So much pain.
Noa might be the main character but he was the star that they all rotated around and never quite connected to.
Yet, I felt for them all and tried to understand. The magical realism was an illusion just beyond reach. But love was there. Love couldn’t quite overcome but love was there and the ending offers hope.
THOUGHTS: Did I enjoy this or was I moved by, caught up in? the hope that love would win?
Thoughts by James McBride, Riverhead Books 2020, 370 pages
Challenge: Possible long/short listed for Tournament of Books 2021?
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: Hard Cover, purchased from Scuppernong’s in GSO NC
Why I read this now: It’s time was now. Inspired by the TOB.
MOTIVATION for READING: New release from a favorite author. Getting good reviews. A possible TOB selection. Lots of reasons
WHAT’s it ABOUT: What is a Deacon? Who is Deacon “King Kong”? Does everyone get a nickname?
The protagonist actually has the nickname “Sportcoat”. He is a deacon at his church in the projects of NYC. He drinks. A lot. He shuffles through his days and is quite committed to his responsibilities and is well-loved by his community. The year is 1969.
But one day, he takes his handgun and shots the main drug dealer in his neighborhood. Shoots the kid’s ear off! However, he has no recollection of doing this, almost immediately after the fact. He loves this kid! This kid has an amazing pitching arm, has the talent to make it in the Bigs and is wasting his life.
This event sets off so many little chains of events, pulling together all the characters impacted, weaving the past with the possible future, and resulting in a sweet story full of humanity, heartache, love and overcoming.
THOUGHTS: I loved it. I loved all the characters. I loved the little love stories and explorations of dreams contrasted with hard reality. The humor is endearing, the sass and grit is inspiring, and the piecing together of the puzzle is fun. Sure, there are some middling issues of how a few things are handled – like the cheese!? But it is significant in its own fun way so just get over it…
Loved the matriarch of the church! Love the pastor’s wife. Of course!
RATING: Five slices of pie. And PIE is in the story a few times, too, which is always a plus in my book. (Noticing the porkpie hat on the cover, yes?)
“The top seller in the Brooklyn mosque number 34 sales division, having sold the most bean pies and newspapers and that mosque’s storied history. He was also wanted in Kansas for false imprisonment related to a domestic squabble and robbery, but that, he is assured the group, was a long story.”*
Miss Four Pie = “She had four hot blueberry pies in her oven first day I come on the job that whole house was stinking of blueberries.”
“He only knew that every Christmas since his guys pulled that lady out of the water, the church coloreds had dropped off two sweet potato pies and a cooked chicken outside his railroad boxcar. Why couldn’t more people get along that way?”
Challenge: Theta Book Club
Genre: Contemporary Lit, Historical Fiction?
Type/Source: Tradeback; purchased? I don’t recall how I got this.
Why I read this now: Selected Book for October’s Discussion
MOTIVATION for READING: Book Club!
“To what end, he wondered, had the Divine created the stars in heaven to fill a man with feelings of inspiration one day and insignificance the next?”
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Count Rostov, a member of Russian aristocracy, is designated a Non-Person, placed under house-arrest in 1928 and mostly forgotten by the Bolshevik powers that be. He adapts quite well to the decades and makes a new family of everyone he connects with.
“There’s a difference between being resigned to a situation and reconciled to it.”
THOUGHTS: One of my favorite things to do is to read reviews that vary from my personal reaction. Most reviews LOVE this story. However, a few readers found it ‘twee’. This word dismays me. I don’t quite have a definition set solid for what TWEE means. (Kind of like ska* music. I have NO IDEA.) If this was twee, it was smarter and more sharp-humor than I think of when something is called that descriptor. That could be my snobbery; Twee things aren’t smart, right?
I liked this story. I was caught up in how the Count was “making the best of it”. I was quite touched that he was all-in immediately to the surprise request of taking care of an 8 year old girl, “Sure, why not?” No protests, only a tiny touch of self-doubt or misunderstanding of what he (and the entire hotel staff, of course) was about to hide and handle.
And of course, she became a lovely accomplished young woman.
But what actually happens at the end? I’m not sure…
“The surest sign of wisdom is cheerfulness.? – Montaigne
I learned a lot or was given new things to think about on the history of Russia that was playing out on the streets outside of the hotel. It felt surreal, as do times now, actually. Is what is really going on in the US really happening?! How can the two sides’ perspective, the violence the anger the ‘fake news’ the accusations, be REAL?! Ugh, it is frightening and I wonder if we will survive to see the historical perspective on it in 20 years time.
RATING: I gave this 5 slices of pie. Because it was well written, I enjoyed it, I needed just this right now.
“I love your funny alphabet and those little pastries stuffed with meat.”
* Ska is unique because it really emphasizes the offbeats of the guitar; combines Jamaican drum sounds and jazz beats…
“It was a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope.”
Challenge: Readers in Peril XV
Genre: Doesn’t Shirley Jackson have her own genre?
Why I read this now: Only a coincidence that my reading this happened to be during RIP, to be honest. I needed an audiobook, this one was available. I’ve always wanted to read it. Because Shirley.F.Jackson.
MOTIVATION for READING: See sentence above.
“Don’t do it, Eleanor told the little girl; insist on your cup of stars; once they have trapped you into being like everyone else you will never see your cup of stars again; don’t do it; and the little girl glanced at her, and smiled a little subtle, dimpling, wholly comprehending smile, and shook her head stubbornly at the glass. Brave girl, Eleanor thought; wise, brave girl.”
WHAT’s it ABOUT: A professor attempting to find a big breakthrough for his research and to make his place in Academia, invites many possible apprentices to join him in a stay at a house of ill (horror) repute. Only a few take him up on it.
But they are ALL IN, Baby!
THOUGHTS: So, I’ve maybe seen the movie? maybe PIECEs of the movie? I seem to know enough about that movie with (Liam Neeson, Lili Taylor, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson) but not quite the same. Same enough! Minor creative differences, is all.
The house is actually COOL, in its off kilter slightly not-square way. And the buildup is great. The guy who built the place was obviously way off his rocker and nothing is explained.
“I like apple pie with sour cream.”
I enjoyed the telling, I enjoyed the descriptions and the sense of place – extremely well done. I did see Lili as Eleanor and I could see CZJ as Theo, too. Liam Neeson will never be the professor. Yes, Jackson is a master – so good. Not really that scary in print, methinks. I may never watch the movie again nor the miniseries recently. I’m just NOT a scary movie person.