Thoughts by Yiyun Li, Macmillan Audio 2022, 9 hours 2 minutes, narrated by Caroline Hewitt
Challenge: for TOB 2023
Genre/Theme: Adult Literature / Childhood friendship
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible
“SOMETIMES YOU HEAR PEOPLE say so-and-so has lived well, and so-and-so has had a dull life. They are missing a key point when they say that. Any experience is experience, any life a life. A day in a cloister can be as dramatic and fatal as a day on a battlefield.”
What It’s About: A French woman who married an American and moved to the US, never had children, tended to her garden and her geese… receives a letter that drops news from the old village that her childhood Fabienne died in childbirth. She reminisces and shares the story of her relationship and adventures with Fabienne. I probably missed some things because I wasn’t captivated by it at all.
Thoughts: I decided about half way that I didn’t care for the characters and I didn’t care what happened to them, as I wondered really where the story was going. So I skipped through the chapters and sampled some words, connected a few dots along the way, listened to the end and said FINIE!
Rating: Two slices of pie. No pie mentioned. I’m sure this went over my head and I failed to give it proper due. I was not in the mood for a meandering mean girl tale. Many reviews compare this to My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I wasn’t enamored by that one, either. It’s me.
Thoughts by R.F.Kuang, Harper Audio 2022, 545 pages/ 21 hours 46 minutes, narrated by Narrated by Chris Lew Kum Hoi, Billie Fulford-Brown – fabulous!
Challenge: TOB2023, #ReadICT: FULL TITLE: Babel, Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution — one that would be an excellent fulfillment to the long title category, but also works for the Secret Society category…
Genre/Theme: Historical Fantasy
Type/Source: audiobook / Audible
What It’s About: A young Chinese orphan boy is taken from Canton and becomes the ward of a noted Oxford professor of languages at the revered Translation department aka Babel. Mayhem ensues. OK, not really — Well, it takes a few years; eventually, young Robin begins his studies in the heralded translation school and makes friends, finds truths, and learns the ways of the world. This book is dense, transportative [boo – I’m being warned that this isn’t actually a word but I say it IS], linguistically-entrancing, at times comic and at times a teensy-weensy melodramatic. But hey! it is Victorian England. I’m keeping transportative. AND melodramatic. It works.
“This is how colonialism works. It convinces us that the fallout from resistance is entirely our fault, that the immoral choice is resistance itself rather than the circumstances that demanded it.”
Thoughts: This is an ambitious, carefully crafted, clever work of Historical Fantasy – showing how colonial capitalism is oppressive, but also exploring the concepts of language itself from beginning to its ever-always updating-changing & morphing into a slippery power struggle for those who attempt to own it all.
Word nerds should love it. I am finding my appreciation for it growing as I attempt to write this and yet… it does has its flaws. It is long. I grew tiresome of the main character’s inner doubts and confusion that contrasts with his daring-do only a page or minute before. Still, I never skipped! (I may have zoned out or paid more attention to traffic in a necessary safety moment or two since I was audio-driving most of it.)
“How strange,’ said Ramy. ‘To love the stuff and the language, but to hate the country.’
‘Not as odd as you’d think,’ said Victoire. ‘There are people, after all, and then there are things.”
But I loved the ending. I loved that this ends with the struggle continuing! OF COURSE! Being set in the 1830s, addressing most of the world’s ills, and knowing history since,…. of course the struggle continues. Shall we suspect a setup for a sequel? One I just might read. If you notice that I don’t even mention the fantasy portion [silver bars magically powered by words], it was not a heavy feature but a significant metaphor perhaps. Am I right or wrong to consider it as such? Don’t know. I’ll just say it worked for me and it didn’t distract nor take up all the oxygen in the book.
Rating: Four and a half slices of pie.
“something something something…. caught with his thumb in a pie… something something”
HEY. I was driving! I can’t capture quotes when I’m driving! audible should make this easier… it shouldn’t be this hard to capture a note and have it become a goodreads update somehow…
I learned about the word STRIKE. I learned about the word NICE. I learned and geeked out on a lot of the language-y things. And the audio had footnotes in a different WONDERFUL voice offering the updates/history/pronunciation/etc. The main narrator was AMAZING, too. Well done. I would, if I had had the time to make this a project, done the eBook with audio to get the full of everything.
Thoughts by Katherine Faulkner, Gallery Books 2022, 378 pages
Challenge: for Book Club and #ReadICT: Color category (perhaps also Villain category?)
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.”
Thoughts by Anna Quindlen, Random House Trade 2012, 205 pages
Challenge: What’s in a Name: Celebration category
Genre/Theme:Essays, Family and Motherhood, Aging, Feminism
Type/Source: Tradeback / Second Hand Bookstore Purchase
What It’s About: Anna shares her thoughts on aging. She is so insightful and hopeful.
“At age 60 I find myself poised between the inevitable and the possible, the things I know and understand and the things I hope to learn and perhaps unravel. But it’s still a bit of a mystery, the yet to come, with that greatest of all mysteries, mortality, at its very end.”
Thoughts: She talks a lot about family and her place in the progression of time. Also her timing into the American workforce balanced with the progression of the women’s movement. And, considerate of being thankful that she lived past the age her mother died, and in the realization of how much her mother missed by dying young, and also the perspective of how her mother’s death impacted her appreciation of life ongoing. I was especially thankful and admiring of her essay on religion.
Rating: I don’t think I was cognizant of her use of the the title in the text, nor do I think she ever mentioned pie. Five slices of pie because I love her. And the cover makes me happy.
Thoughts Edited and with an introduction by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House Publishers 2001, 224 pages
Challenge: none, mistakenly thought this WAS the novel it discusses…
Genre/Theme: Critical Analysis / Essays (… other way around?!)
Type/Source: Hardcover / Library
What It’s About: This was Harold, being –what seems to me– a pompous ass. I don’t doubt that he is 3x, 4x, 5x smarter than I am, but his style is major “white man being pompous ass about knowing WAY more about literature…. no, sorry CAPITAL “L” Literature, than you do.” and that is OK. Let Harold, GRHS*, have his respect for his literary prowess. But EYE ROLL – the intro had me laughing! He says,
“After I discussed the Harry Potter fad in the Wall Street Journal, the Journal received eighty negative letters and no positive. JK Rowling, like Stephen King and Danielle Steele, will join the thousands of other writers in the “lumber of libraries” and the dustbin of the ages. Popularity is an index to popularity and to nothing more.”
PS – I almost bought Fairy Tales today… fad?!
Thoughts: First, an admission. I thought I had checked out the classic WW1 novel by EMR. Apparently, no. This was Harold’s collection of essays of critical analysis of the novel that was just not as good as Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, but the second most famous WW1 novel. I have NOT read FtA. And I likely will NOT. I will ONLY attempt, if ever, to read any more Ernie books, might read Moveable Feast. maybe.
I flipped through this, read the first few pages of most, some I read all the way through. I was fascinated by HOW LONG some of these essays were!
I had questions about how the author had “Maria” as a middle name, and why he was born with lastname Remark, but was known by Remarque… Then in the index, I saw Danielle Steele, –who is STILL publishing stories! I haven’t read her work in over 40 years.
I then started my googling and WIKI-ing and found out that EMR married Paulette Goddard! yikes and wowza. He dated some hot ladies before that, too. But that is the society pages… but still! INTERESTING (to me, don’t know why.)
I returned this to the library and picked up the actual novel. Reading it soon for the WiaN challenge of QZX.
Rating: Three slices of pie. No pie mentioned that I could find.
GRHS – God Rest His Soul, I don’t mean to be an HB hater but he seriously writes just to annoy me.
What It’s About: A sister talks to her dead sister, the few years prior, the immediate aftermath, and the years following.
Thoughts: I loved it. Sally was such a devoted little sister, adoring her older sibling. How she grieves and attempts to understand and work through her parents grief, as well as be totally besotted with her sister’s boyfriend. Her outlook on life, attempting to throw humor at everything, only makes her feel odd and empty; it was just heartbreaking and felt very real to me.
Rating: Five slices of pie. Apple pie mentions.
“Then it was over and all the people came to our house and ate apple pie and swirled around our mother at the kitchen table, who was catatonic in her chair.”
What It’s About: Rose accepts her sign from God to marry, but she prefers to drive.
Rose marries a fine man. She loves her mother. But she just cannot live the life as presented to her and she flees to a far corner and accepts where she lands. She is pregnant and accepts those terms, SORT OF. She finds a place for her in the midst of this somehow and . . .
SPOILER ahead –> just highlight to read it:
when the old life encroaches on the newly established, she drives off again. She leaves a daughter distraught with questions and confusions as to what comes next.
Thoughts: Patchett knows “people”, knows the ache of longing and frustration against the pull of responsibility. I love her.
Rating: Four slices of pie. LOTS of pie mentions! Lots of whipped cream.
“”In the hospital,” Rose said, pinching in the edges of a pie crust, or maybe it was a tart. Nothing was a plain old pie with her anymore.”
What It’s About: Two divers investigate a plane crash, looking for survivors. The pilot’s case and the black box are missing. The whole scene feels “off”. Later, they find out that one of the passengers is unaccounted for. One of the divers turns up dead, and the other is hunted by the law and has to go on the lam; reliving memories of his dead sister, grieving her fiercely and wandering around having conversations about physics, mathematics and other existential stuff.
Thoughts: This was just … odd. I felt it meandered, opened plot paths and then confused me if they got closed or not. Characters, too. Just pop up conversations and happenings and if/how they were related, I couldn’t quite figure it out. I’m sure it was me.
Rating: Three slices of pie. One pie mention:
“They went down to the cafeteria and had coffee and pie. They sat at a table by the window. Outside a few people were walking the grounds. The first warm days. The trees still bare. Her skin was like paper. Eyes so pale. She sat at his left and ate with her left hand. Her right hand still holding his. Her forearm drawn and thin and blue.”
Total Books read: 100+ (and yes, I read all the short little ones to make it to this century mark!)
Pages read: 27,952 ………………………………2021: 29,419 Average pages per book: 274……………………………..241 Average pages per day: 77……………………………….81
Hours listened: ~240 Audiobooks count: 33
My TOP 22 in the year 2022:
Top Ten: City of Girls, Brown Girl Dreaming, Autumn, Lucy by the Sky, Lessons in Chemistry, Five Tuesdays in Winter, Dinosaurs, The Sentence, Trust, This Time Tomorrow
I’m so pleased that these hit many different genres and categories!
29 FIVE SLICES OF PIE
(These are spookily similar to last year!)
Books read that were over 400 pages: 13
REALLY ODD to me that I didn’t read any true chunksters (>500) this year. #Shrug
Female to Male Ratio: 72 / 26 (~12 of that 26 being US or Brit white dudes…) Total Books by New-to-Me Authors = 42 (compared to 72 last year) Repeat Authors = 34 Total Books by Authors of Color/LGTBQ+ = 26 (best guess estimate – didn’t do thorough research into backgrounds, assumptions might have been made)
Oldest Book: 1850 – Sonnets from the Portuguese by EBB
Number of Books Pub’d in 2022: 32 (and 27 pub’d in 2021!, 67% pub’d in the last 3 years!!!) Books over 25 years old = 10 – over 50 years old = 7
Hardcovers 22 eBooks 19 Audiobooks 33 Tradeback 26 paperback 1 . . . . . . . . also spookily similar to last year.
Genres Total Adult Fiction Books Read = 46 Total YA Fiction Books Read = 1 Children’s = 2 Total Memoir Books Read = 12 Total Nonfiction Books Read = 22 Short Story / Essays = 3 Poetry = 5 Mystery/Thriller = 2 Translated = 2 Fantasy = 1 SciFi = 1 Historical Fiction = 8 Cookbooks = 0 Adventure = 0 Business = 1 Graphical = 1
Number of debuts: 10 (best guess) Best debut: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Number of books read on the list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die: 2 The Optimist’s Daughter Giovanni’s Room (this is a very low count for me. eeeek)
Interesting Coincidences – How many time the word TOMORROW was in the book titles this year! This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub, Tomorrow Will Be Different by Sarah McBride, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Books that mentioned pie: 47
And… the Care’s Books & Pie 2022 Pie in Literature Award goes to:
Four books vie for the title this year, let me explain.
The Disreputable History of Frankie-Landau Banks by E.Lockhart. has considerable space devoted to a cross-country adventure eating at pie shoppes along the way. Who wouldn’t LOVE that? However, it wasn’t til I had completed the book that I realized that Lockhart was an author of a book I loathed. (We Were Liars. UGH)
True Biz by Sara Novic has a bit about a character wearing a Miss Sweet Potato Pie costume!
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek has multiple mentions of pie and also features a town dance where eligible young ladies bring a tempting pie to attract a future husband. Pivotal pie plot point, methinks.
The Rabbit Hutch features a diner that has a pie theme – but not any old pie theme: Avant Garde pie: new and unusual — which is ME! and how I came into my pie passion.
drum roll, please
And the winner goes to The Rabbit Hutch! weird pie wins hands down, all day every day. I only wish we could have had more descriptions.
Best Pie Quote:
“I left a slice of pie in my desk drawer,“ she said mournfully. “It’s probably halfway to the moon by now.”
Thoughts by Gabrielle Zevin, Alfred A Knopf 2022, 401 pages
Challenge: for March 2023 Tournament of Books
Genre/Theme: Adult Fiction; friendship, gaming industry
Type/Source: Hardcover, loaned to me by a friend (thanks SuzP!)
What It’s About: Sam, age 12, is a lonely boy in a hospital, recovering from a car accident with extreme long-time physical and emotional repercussions when he meets Sadie, age 11, and they become friends, bonding over games. They are both smart, both go to Boston from California to attend college, and both are ambitious to create their own game, together. They grow up in the process. It all reminds me of the motto of Kansas, “Ad Astra per Aspera” Latin for “to the stars through difficulties.” This is about the creative process, captures a particular time for a unique industry, but basically, it is about love and friendship.
Thoughts: I had that comfortable feeling of being in the hands of a talented writer. I believe that the thread-count of this one exceeds her prior novel that I read (and enjoyed but seemed, fluffier, rather than tight?, AJ Fikry – which, by the way, Zevin wrote the screenplay for and subsequent film has been adapted! Who has seen it?!)
A truly enjoyable read. Lots of lovely vocabulary words that were fun to look up. Trenchant, collogue, sere, nihilism, echt, ersatz…
Rating: Five slices of pie. One boring mention of (pizza) pie and that is good enough:
“Sadie hadn’t eaten since the plane that morning, and she ended up eating almost the whole pie.”
Finally, just want to share a fun link that a dear friend brought to my attention (Thanks Stef!)