Category Archives: Debut Novel

Greenwich Park

Thoughts by Katherine Faulkner,  Gallery Books 2022, 378 pages

Challenge: for Book Club and #ReadICT: Color category (perhaps also Villain category?)

Genre/Theme: Mystery/Thriller

Type/Source: eBook / Libby

What It’s About: Synopsis from the top result of googling:

GREENWICH PARK centers around two women, Helen and Rachel, who find their lives entangled when they meet at a prenatal class. Helen, our protagonist, is an instantly-sympathetic and relatable character: when we meet her, we immediately feel a sense of protectiveness towards her.

Thoughts: No, we didn’t. We did not feel any sense of protectiveness and not immediately. Um… The very first page had me confused and annoyed at adjectives and word choice. Then I saw that Laila didn’t like the main character and then my mother (also in my book club) said it failed to capture her interest in the first few pages. I started to read other 1 and 2 star reviews on goodreads — the kiss of death of whether or not I will like a book!

Someone called the protag “gormless”, other reviews said it was dry. Some praised the writing but I wasn’t impressed.

Back to the ebook (after searching for the word “pie”…), I decided to skip around and jump pages, and then read the ending. Blech. I have no desire to catch up what I might have missed. I really am not a good reader of mystery/thrillers. If they are mostly literary, I might like it but usually, I just can’t get interested!

Rating: Two slices of pie. Apricot tart means pie!

“There are no lines, so I take my time choosing serrano ham, hard cheeses, a glistening apricot tart.”


Copyright © 2007-2023. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


The Rabbit Hutch

Thoughts by Tess Gunty, Alfred A Knopf 2022, 338 pages, National Book Award 2022

Challenge: for March 2023 Tournament of Books

Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction; decaying town

Type/Source: Hardcover, library

What It’s About: A decaying town, lack of industry, climate change effects such as flooding, lost people trying to survive, kids in the system, contrasts between poverty and privilege, mystics, and weird pie.

Thoughts: I didn’t really enjoy reading it and I was luckily enough to have time to make myself sit with the book and READ. “Just keep reading.” I was both repelled by the behaviors and attracted to any scraps of redemption. Some really great passages, and terrific turns of phrase.

And, OH. The last line. Good, really good.

Rating: Four slices of pie. A pie shop, sour cream pie with black licorice, butterscotch cream pie. Possibly a contender for Care’s 2022 Pie in Literature Award!

“Home is a pie in the oven, live saxophone downtown, and a backyard of fireflies.”




Update March 2022 in Review with Note on #TOB2022

 Monthly Recap Time!

  • 10 books; 32 for the year
  • 2759 pages, ~31.5 hours | 8 597 total pages, 92.5 hours for the year so far
    • By Type:
      Hardcover – 0
      Tradeback 3
      eBooks 3
      Audiobooks 4

My favorite was … Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore, followed by the delightful Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley, a classic novella from 1917.


Locations and travels:

  • Odessa TX in the 70s (Valentine)
  • San Francisco, also in the 70s (We Run the Tides, for #readICT)
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks links to WRtT because both were set in exclusive high schools, this one in Massachusetts (#readICT)
  • Parnassus on Wheels traveled New England in the early 1900s
  • London both now and 1700s in The Lost Apothecary (book club)
  • Puerto Rico and Brooklyn NY in Olga Dies Dreaming
  • The Stand-In took me to Toronto
  • Wintering took place in England (WiaN)
  • The Alchemy of Us covered history across many maps


UPDATE on #TOB2022

  • My least favorite Klara and the Sun took the Rooster in March’s Tournament of Books
  • I can confidently state the The Trees captured the hearts for favorite of the Commentariat so that is the book I’m most recommending as “THE BEST”; my personal favorite is The Sentence
  • I read ALL THE BOOKS! and you can see my rankings in my February recap.
  • Am inspired to read a new translation of Beowulf by Maria Dahvana Headley, one of the judges this year. MANY if not most of the judgments were excellent.

Pie was mentioned in four of this month’s reads. A history of PYREX mentions pie, all kinds of pie and multiple paragraphs cover a summer expedition to eat pie across the country, squash pie in Parnassus on Wheels and this from WRtT:

piroshkis are meat pie

April 3 is Chocolate Mousse Pie Day, April 5 is Empanada Day, April 28 is Blueberry Pie Day! I don’t think I made any pie in March. I just wasn’t feelin’ it.


What was YOUR favorite book of March?

Copyright © 2007-2022. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Thoughts by Susanna Clarke, Macmillan Audio 2005 (orig 2004), 32 hours 29 minutes

Narrated by Simon Prebble

Challenge: TOB Faves Long List

Genre/Theme: Historical Lit, Alternative History, Fantasy / Magic

Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible + eBook, Libby via Kindle

What It’s About: Two magicians bring magic back to England. The years is 1810 or so. One is a hoarder of all books on magic – about magic — with magic and the other is one of those guys who is just clueless, finds something he can do and so he does it. The first is miserly and mean and insecure but arrogant. The second is also arrogant. Both are oblivious.

Thoughts: Some readers love the richness of detail and the amazing adventures in this long long book. I get it, but it wasn’t for me. Much to admire but I honestly got to the 3/4 mark, listening to over 20 hours and then couldn’t take it anymore. I was thrilled to see that I could access the eBook from my library so I could skim to the end and find out what happened. I did need that closure but I just couldn’t carve out the 10 hours needed to do it through my ears.

That said, Simon Prebble did a great job. The audiobook was well done and for a book that has many footnotes, many that are stories in themselves, the audio was a great way to digest. Somehow, they didn’t really interrupt the flow. (When I switched to the eBook, I realized I was skipping right over them without even noticing — THAT very much interrupted the flow!)

Clarke must have had much fun writing this and I’m happy for her that it thrilled most of those who managed to read it all the way through. It just bugged me that the magicians would not realize that magic was happening right in front of them and just brush it off without nary a ‘”Huh, that’s weird.” Yay for Stephen – I liked him, the poor guy. And I liked Childemas and Vinculus. Though I did wonder why Childemas put up with Norrell for as long as he did.

And my final thought is best wishes for the fictional Arabella and Miss Flora – may they ever be happy together.

Rating: Two to three slices of pie. Pork pie.

“Pork pies dropped on the heads of the French!”


Copyright © 2007-2022. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Update August 2021 in Review with Note on #20BooksofSummer

 Monthly Recap Time!

  • 10 books; 87 for the year (1 book cover not included above – a pie cookbook)
  • 1548 pages, ~14 hours | 19333 total pages, 186 hours
  • Hardcovers – 1, 5 Tradebacks, 0 eBooks, 4 Audiobooks (though 3 would likely be the equivalent of a magazine article?!)
  • 3 from the Library, 2 purchased from an Indie Bookstore, 1 Audible Credit and 3 more Included with Audible Membership, 1 gift

My favorite was … I don’t have a favorite this month! I can tell you that I voted for Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch for my TOB Summer Camp favorite. And I really did like Housekeeping – it was SO unique! and I really enjoyed Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets… Black Gold, too, was a pleasant listen.

I gave 2 slices to The Orphan Collector but left the rating blank on goodreads because I just can’t figure out what didn’t work. I only know that I experienced that “blech, I don’t want to read this” feeling. Maybe it is a coconut book.


Locations and travels:

  • early 1600s Germany EKYMiaW
  • the Pacific Northwest (specifics unknown, 2 books: TFLotP and Housekeeping)
  • Georgia and the Olympics (basketball, Black Gold)
  • the future I,Autohouse
  • early 1900s Philadelphia TOC
  • 1970s NYC IBSCT
  • on tour with Sting, but mostly England

“If you look steadily into that unblinking blue, into that pinpoint at the center of the eye, you discover a bottomless cruelty, a viciousness, cold and icy.

… if you do exist in the unbelievably frozen winter which lives behind that eye, you are marked, marked, marked.”

If beale street could talk

UPDATE on #20BooksofSummer:

  • I finished a total of 27 book-books (kicked out the kids books, short audiobooks, and the cookbook)
  • I read 18 of the original 20 books I wanted to read June/July/Aug
  • The two from my original list I did not get to:
    • Up in the Air by Walter Kirn
    • Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Pie was mentioned in four of this month’s reads. Sweetie pie, a pie seller thrown in jail, all sorts of good fond pie mentions in Housekeeping, and a shop that sold pie and sandwiches. YUM.

August 20 is Chocolate Pecan Pie Day, August 24 is Peach Pie Day; I don’t know if Plum Tart has a day but I had plums on hand so… I made a mini Plum Tart.


What was YOUR favorite book of August?

Copyright © 2007-2022. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Detransition, Baby

Thoughts by Torrey Peters, One World / Random House 2021, 340 pages

Challenge: TOB Summer Camp, Women’s Lit Prize Long List

Genre/Theme: Contemporary Lit, Trans Women, Motherhood

Type/Source: Hardcover / Library 14 day loan

What It’s About: A well-told well-organized humorous and sympathetic no-holds-barred look at a triad-parenting question. We meet Reese, a trans woman who desperately wants to be a mother, her ex-lover — originally James then Amy now Ames, and Ames’ boss/lover Katrina who in discovering herself pregnant, considers much more than just her future as a parent. What does it mean to be a family? What does it mean to want to be a mother? It’s all quite complicated.

Thoughts: A fascinating look at sex and gender and transsexuality and the human condition. The writing is vivid, it’s very readable – meaning that I didn’t want to put it down. Reese is a very unique multi-faceted character; prickly, wise, troubled and tender.

I only had one quibble about “women” wanting to be mothers or not and saw my own experience briskly dismissed – it’s not worthy mentioning. Of course, we tend to believe things that present as absolute and just are not. Tendencies to make grand statements and quip stereotypes; but that is probably just a reflection of society and reminder that we just can’t make grand statements about what certain people might think and believe. It’s damn complicated.

Rating: Four slices of pie. Lots of pie.

“When they moved to New York from Seattle, they did this thing where they invited other married couples over to watch Cheers and eat pie.”

page 21



Copyright © 2007-2022. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

TOB Update 2021 March Week 1


Let’s talk Tournament of Books.

The first week is complete. I submitted a bracket to the #LitsyToB21 group but I’m not participating in the goodreads group because I can’t make heads-nor-tails of how the forums work there. [I comment occasionally.] WHOA! to that spreadsheet upon first glance and though I admire to the hills and valleys the person who prepped and is tracking that… WOW! Wow, very much wow.

Much fun! Let’s see if I can recap my thoughts…

oooooo! My newest TOB tee should arrive tomorrow.

Back to the TOB: Round 1 was the Play-In round and I was cheering for The Resisters. (they are in contention for the 2021 Lit Pie Award) but I also enjoyed The Down Days more than I expected. I was slowly agonizingly reluctantly easily-distracted-from reading Red Pill on Sunday, the day before #TOB21 started and thus I only read about 10% in.

Red Pill won. Of course it did. BUT! the good news is that I’m much more motivated to read it rather than rush through it just to finish before March 8.

First Round: Deacon King Kong was the first of the short list I read. I sit and think about that. I really rushed through these books! And wow. WOW. I did love it. I love McBride as an author. The challenger in this round was the most controversial: Tender is the Flesh. I gave it 3 stars to DKK’s 5. THANK GOD that DKK had pie, of course it would. But TY that TitF did NOT. A book about cannibalism with its message of humans against humanity and humans against climate and humans being horrid was not going to win against a book about the goodness of community and realizing that with flaws, humans *CAN* have some redeeming qualities. I loved Deacon. (Whew.)

Second Round: A Children’s Bible vs Memorial. I liked ACB. It had flaws, but I like the style and confidence that the author writes with. I did not like Memorial but I will give a hat tip to the qualities it is said to exemplify. I think the author did a disservice being the narrator for the first half. It felt staccato and unmoored. (I was bored listening to Memorial.) I am embarrassed how much of the biblical references of ACB – of which there were so many – -I must have been oblivious to rain in a thunderstorm, I just didn’t think about. I think I read this too fast? I am OK with M being advanced.

Third Round: TK (Transcendent Kingdom) vs. WRUS (We Ride Upon Sticks) – Holy Salem Witchcraft WRUS wins! I did not expect. And so, I’m set a bit adrift. Huh. I agreed with all the fans of TK that is worthy. May it ever be so zombie-able. But the love for WRUS had me cheering for that one all over again. I admired TK. I laughed with WRUS. I could, upon reflection, consider TK to be transcendent (yea yea) and thus “serious”. I seriously expected TK to win. I do not expect WRUS to move far. WRUS was too long. I loved the SAT essay.

Fourth Round: Interior Chinatown (IC) vs Luster. I gave Luster 5 stars. It took me some time to get used to the font of IC’s screenplay but I enjoyed it enough and see what is admirable. I did not have any sense which might prevail. I think, after reading through all day’s commentary, that I’m more a fan of Luster. It made me laugh. It made me laugh in shock and uncomfortableness, but what struck me the most, was that the MC never was whiny and never wallowed in self-pity and THAT was made me feel astonishment. Tim and I exchanged a quote-off. I highlighted a few and wanted to share.

So much goodness in the Commentariat. Judgments have been thoughtful and well-received.

My favorite time of the year.


Copyright © 2007-2022. Care’s Books and Pie also known as and originally created as Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Down Days

Thoughts by Ilze Hugo, 2020, 368 pages

Challenge: TOB

Genre/Theme: Contemporary Lit, South African Lit, Pandemic Dystopia

Type/Source: eBook/Kindle (on sale)

What It’s About: Based on a what-if expounded from a true tale of a unique contagion, this story follows a ragtag group of characters through parallel search and rescues, backdropped against growing angst and society mayhem.

The virus’ main symptom is laughter. Yes, you die from laughing. Thus, laughter is outlawed and comedy clubs are driven underground. This may sound flippant and I don’t mean to be – I think the author did a fabulous job balancing the ridiculous with the sensitivity of this being a deathly disease. She had a deft touch in style and tone. The more I try to describe what I liked about this book, the more I appreciate it.

I was immediately captured by the characters and was instantly rooting for them. Well most of them; I’m not on team-Piper but she comes around, too. Dare I say that this is “fun pandemic adventure?” Sure, people are dying and the government is attempting super control what with scheduled medical check stations around town and requiring a medpass. I enjoyed the mystery and the capers, the race against time, the icky ooey descriptions and especially the words that were explained in the glossary.

Rating: Four slices of pie:

He’s also got fingers in other pies, not always steak and kidney.

and why doesn’t my end quote copyright show up in the tiny print I want??

who to create space?


Thoughts by Raven Leilani, 2020, 240 pages

Challenge:  TOB Shortlist
Genre: Contemporary Lit
Type/Source: eBook/Kindle
 Why I read this now:  These TOB books just fall into some order without real thought. In other words, I don’t recall why exactly this was next. (WHY do I even ask this question? or: Why do I think I must answer?)


A sunlit dream where I do better.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  I’m trying to figure out how to answer this…  Shall I just do the blurb from gr or should I pretend nobody reads this and I only need to write something that will remind “future-self” what I read way back in January 2021?  Let’s do both.

Goodreads: “Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender, Raven Leilani’s debut novel, Luster, sees a young black woman fall into art and someone else’s open marriage.

Edie is stumbling her way through her twenties—sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She’s also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage—with rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric’s family life, his home. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.

Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.”

My turn:  (pretending I didn’t just read what I dropped in above.)  The MC is a young black woman trying to figure out her life and her motivations. She seems to be a sex addict, seems to be rather ambivalent and apathetic about this fact and also that she knows she is the token black woman and should want to do the be-better-to-look-better crap requirements that white corporate America foists upon token blacks in the workplace but she’s just trying to pay rent. This book is FUNNY. Shock value funny. Uncomfortable funny. Reminded me of The Sellout by Paul Beatty.

“I am good, but not good enough, which is worse than simply being bad. It is almost. The difference between being there when it happens and stepping out just in time to see it on the news.”

Our MC wants to be an artist. She confronts her motivations and her ideas that she must be in pain to produce good work. (I made up that – she never really contemplates that out loud, does she?) I really admired her ability NOT to get depressed and give up!  But she really doesn’t have the energy or rather most likely recognizes that ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ fix-your-life bullshit is truly bullshit for most people without the means and support system of family, privilege, circumstance. So she finds herself in a family with privilege and explores the circumstance. She wrestles with do the right thing or just ride the waves with what she can get away with. Does she really have choices?

“I remember when my parents tried to tell me this, the only time in their miserable marriage they were ever united. It must be strange for every black kid, when their principal authority figures break the news that authorities lie.”

THOUGHTS: There is no whining, no debilitating frustration. She is fascinating.

Yes to these words: Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender.

I think I was blown away by this book. In my top 3 for TOB so far.

RATING:  Four slices of pie, with sneaked forkful on another. With lots and lots of bourbon whipped cream. Ok, just give me that fifth piece already.

“a highly designed editorial nightmare from a boutique imprint experimenting with pomo cookbooks, formerly an imprint that specialized in Crock-Pot tips and a series on pies that employed the authority of a titular Presbyterian Grandma.”

“…slave narrative about a tragic mulatto who raises the dead with her magic chitlin pies;”



VOCAB:  Saditty (comparative more saditty, superlative most saditty) (US, dated, slang, chiefly African-American Vernacular) Acting snobbish, arrogant, or superior; uppity; perceived to be trying to associate with a higher social class.

Capoeira (Portuguese pronunciation: [kapuˈejɾɐ] or [kaˈpwɐjɾɐ]) is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. … It is known for its acrobatic and complex maneuvers, often involving hands on the ground and inverted kicks.


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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.”


Copyright © 2007-2019. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.