Thoughts by Bryan Washington, 2020, 8 hours 20 minutes

Narrated by the author and Akie Kotabe

Challenge: TOB Short List
Genre: Contemporary Lit, Queer Lit
Type/Source: Audiobook, Audible
 Why I read this now:  I wanted a shorter one from the possibles. This sounded like it might be suitable in audio form? 


WHAT’s it ABOUT:  The love affair? living arrangement? of Ben and Mike. They meet, they have sex, they curse, they move in together, Mike flies off to Japan to “be there” for his dad’s last days as he dies of cancer just as his mom flies from Japan to stay with him. Thus, Ben and Mike’s mom are now cohabitating and cooking together. Ben and Mike wonder about their relationship with few attempts to talk it out.  Oh yea, Ben’s father is an alcoholic and Ben is wrestling with that relationship, too.

THOUGHTS:  Aside from the delicate topic of dying parents and the care required to work through the grief, especially when the relationship is strained, I thought this was rather boring. Maybe all the sex and cursing. Which I’m not sure I would have been hyper-aware of the cursing if Ruthiella hadn’t called it out!  LOL.  See? I shouldn’t be laughing at these guys worrying about their fathers.

RATING:  Three slices of pie.   Salted Caramel Pecan Chocolate Pie, perhaps?!  Would have been a 2 slicer if I hadn’t encountered the caramel and pecan pie…

When Mary brought a pie to the table, double-layered in caramel and pecans, she said her daughter and I should share it,…”


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Transcendent Kingdom

Thoughts by Yaa Gyasi, 2020, 8 hours 40 minutes

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!

Quote lifted from a review in The Dartmouth, America’s Oldest College Newspaper:

Grappling with Gifty’s experiences growing up “sticking out like a sore thumb” in her predominantly-white town and “as Ghanaian as apple pie,” the novel is both accessible and urgent. 




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2020 in Review

I read 102 books. 

 Total pages 14,320. Hours ~124

Female/Male:  51/49 

Fiction/Non: 78/24 

New to Me Authors: 91 /  Repeat Authors: 11 

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 finished the What’s in a Name 2020 Challenge earlier than usual. All good.

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. 

Finally, PIE:                               

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 


Review 2019

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We Ride Upon Sticks

Thoughts by Quan Barry, Random House Audio 2020, 14 hours 44 minutes

Narrated by Isabel Keating

Challenge: Possible TOB Long List to Short (Gamble)
Genre: YA
Type/Source: Audiobook/Library
 Why I read this now:  Available at Library 

MOTIVATION for READING: Tournament of Books 2021 Hopeful

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  A Girls HS Field Hockey Team who make a pact with the darkside in order to win State. This takes place and draws heavily on the Salem Witch Trials history.

THOUGHTS: This was a fun listen. Humor was delightful and I was often chortling or laughing or exclaiming, “oh my!” Good stuff.

However, it was a bit too long. I was invested but ready for it to be done.

The poetry collection I opened when almost finished with this audiobook references the Salem Witch Trials. [The Thin Wall by Martha Rhodes]

RATING:  Four slices of pie.

Pie actually had a few mentions – a mother of a team member enters a pie in the county fair, is one.


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Deacon King Kong

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?”

“Pie-eyed and feeling addled and murky…”

*Could this be a hint as to McBride’s next book?!


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A Gentleman in Moscow

Thoughts by Amor Towles,  Penguin Books 2016, 462 pages

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


“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…

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The Haunting of Hill House

Thoughts by Shirley Jackson, Blackstone Audio 2010 (orig 1959), 7 hour 36 minutes

Bernadette Dunne (Narrator)

“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?
Type/Source: Audio
 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.

Only survived…

“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.

RATING:  Four slices of pie.




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I’ve Hit My Yearly Reading Goal! Already?!

Well. Lookie here. I completed a goal with 3 months remaining in my year. Huh.

What do I do now?!   YES!  We go for it – we attempt to read 25 more books in the next 91 days. Who’s with me?  What 25 things can you do in 91 days? (Insert bright big smile emoji here.)

While we’re here, let’s look at the book I just finished to complete my goal.

Audiobook by Wallace Stegner, Blackstone Audio 2010 (orig 1976), 7 hours 51 minutes

Narrated by Edward Herrman

Rating: FIVE slices of pie.

I want to talk about this book. But I don’t know how. I loved it. Old irascible cantankerous ponderous old Joe. Actually he isn’t any of those words.

Such sadness, some regrets, some true dedicated endearing enduring love.

I guess this book just stirs up the ol’ vocabulary. I loved it.

and WOWZA! I think this would be a really cool book club book!  I do. Cuz it’s got some zinging wild stuff. Lots of good stuff, lots of OMG stuff.

Did I realize Mr. Herrman was reading this book? Nope. (huh) and it was OK. It really is a good thing I didn’t realize until I was already a few hours in. He did a fabulous job, of course. (I could NOT listen to him read The Boys in the Boat for some reason! I was so totally distracted on that…)

And with this, Stegner moves into a lofty spot in my top tier of favorite authors. He inspires me to read more Kent Haruf and to get back to my Marilynne Robinson. And Tracy Kidder. I have a few more of his books to read before I’ve read everything.

Next up, either a post on A Gentleman in Moscow, one on The Haunting of Hill House or one big September Summary.

My last pie was making the Rhode Island Coffee Milk Pie again.  YUM.

**** My attempt to learn the new (cough, cough HATED) WordPress block editor to link this recipe as a page.


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Ducks, Newburyport

Thoughts by Lucy Ellman, Biblioasis 2019, 1001 pages

Challenge: Personal
Genre: Literary Fiction
Type/Source: Purchased Online, probably from Amazon :/  Made up for that by buying one from RiffRaff in PVD.
 Why I read this now:  It had to be read.

MOTIVATION for READING: The Main Character – referred to going forward as “MC” (I don’t even know if we get her name) – bakes pies to sell to local restaurants to help the family finances. Her signature dish is Apple Tarte Tatin – something I have yet to attempt. Apparently they can be tricky.

, according to Stephen Hawking the human world will end within 1000 years, but I think it could be a lot sooner, and my response to this is to make more pies and read recipe books,

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  This book is the streaming consciousness of MC, a mother of 4 who has had some serious health challenges and misses her mother who died when her own daughter, her oldest, was a toddler. Her husband is a professor of structural engineering and is a bridge expert. He is the father to the 3 youngest kids, step to the oldest — of course the first husband is not ideal, though she would never speak ill of him in front of their daughter. MC rambles in her head about her memories of which she constantly claims she cannot remember, her siblings, her upbringing, tragedies that happen in the world, her pies, her mothering challenges, politics, her doubts and fears, her grocery lists, the old movies she watches while she bakes, her chickens, her childhood pets, her childhood travels – all the houses and places she lived in. She hates Trump, is anti-gun, is polite to a fault and is shy around people; cripplingly-shy. She loves her husband dearly – he’s a good man. All the kids are cute as a button and have their own wants, needs, interests which she enumerates for pages at a time. That’s a fact! It’s her day to day to day to day in her head ramblings.

Every so often, the story shifts to a mountain lion momma of three and her travels around the state of Ohio. Lots of geography, topography and history of Ohio. Their paths intersect of course and it was tense, I tell ya!  of exactly HOW that might play out!  oh, it’s a thriller, truly. It was maddening trying to imagine where the book was going.

THOUGHTS: This is not a book I would recommend to just anyone. I only know a few people who would like it, love it, as much as I did. I am pretty sure, my IRL friends now know that I’m a really strange reader when I would LOVINGLY describe the book and how long it was taking me to read. They would back up slowly, wide-eyed, quietly muttering, “hmmm, ok, sounds interesting. not.”  I started it in April. I finished near the end of August. I sometimes would let weeks go by without turning a page. Sometimes, I would read one or two pages a day. Then conquer over 100+ in a weekend.

,the fact that I think a lot of people think all I think about is pie, when really it’s my spinal brain doing most of the peeling and caramelizing and baking and flipping, while I just stand there spiraling into a panic about my mom and animal extinctions and the Second Amendment just like everybody else,

RATING:  So why am I only giving this four slices of pie? I fear that sometimes, I give 5 stars to a book as a reward for getting me to read it. I think we (by which I mean “ME”) get brainwashed that we must actually be loving the experience of submerging so much time and energy into a chunkster that we MUST justify it with a high glowing review.

But I had some issues. I had an issue with the dog and probably should research if this is based in fact. (The fact is…) and I had issue that they – the stupid zoo people – that they didn’t realize or WATCH the     (SPOILER ALERT!!!!  hover over to reveal the white colored text so as not to spoil anything: Really?!  they didn’t realize that this momma was the 3 kittens mother and they didn’t watch the reunion? I don’t believe and if I ever read about a review from a big cat zookeeper reading this book – if you do! please share….)

So four stars for a quibble but I did love it. I will never not associate Ducks, Newburyport with the pandemic. That is reason enough not to give it 5 stars. Or maybe that is reason, actually, to anoint it 5 stars? Whatever.

So much pie. So much wonderful pie! so many terrific pie mentions!!! I probably should give Ellman the coveted Pie in Literature award for 2020 and call it done.

I would HATE it if they ever attempt to make a movie from this book. OMG, I would see it day one if they do. It’s a deceptively simple book in plot but wowza finding it! (Are they making movies yet?!)

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, …

I really hope I reread this book someday.




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July 2020 Mini-Reviews of Pie & Books


I read 11 books in July. I adored my reading month of books and audios. Blissful, book-filled July…

With some pie, too. Though not in my books – only Duchess Goldblatt delivered pie. NO, that’s not quite true! Kate Atkinson’s When Will There Be Good News had pie. Which is good news to me.

And of course, Pie As Art cookbook – LOTS of pie, yes. The winner of my giveaway is….   by randomly assigned sequential numbers to those who commented on posts and then running an online random number generator . . .  TA DA!  Jeanne of Nonnecromancer wins!  Will be sent off next week. Glad I have her address already.

“and those little pork pies they have in Marks and Spencer.” She was very specific about which shops you bought things in. Reggie thought that a person at death’s door shouldn’t really be too fussy about where her pork pies came from.

Get ready for August Pie!  Actually we have already missed Aug 1 being Raspberry Cream Pie Day. (and my “days” source told me that August First is also Homemade Pie Day. I hadn’t had that one on my radar.)

Aug 15 is Lemon Meringue Pie Day. I’m hoping to construct something tasty to celebrate.

Aug 18 – Ice Cream Pie Day

Aug 24 – Peach Pie Day

Plan accordingly.



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