2021 Year In Review

I read and listened to a lot of books this year. 70 and counting – well beyond my goal of 57 which I put for myself on Goodreads at the beginning of the year. 2021 dragged and went by so fast I can’t believe it.

Our kids are not living in the same states that they were when we started 2021 – two of the three are in new jobs. The third just had covid and is still looking. We’ve been decluttering the house, or trying to; I’ve been making way for some of the things that were my mother’s that I have received since her death earlier this year.

When looking over the list of books that I read last year, I am struck with the variety – that had a lot to do with my Literati Book Club. It’s almost overwhelming to look at 70 titles and process that I read and listened to all that this year. I have never read/listened to that many titles in one year in my life. I always struggled with reading as a child, so it makes me proud that I have been able to become a “reader” after all these years after all .

I try to rate most every book that I finish and for the most part I am about 95% successful in that endeavor. In looking back the books I reviewed in 2021, I rated 6- 2 Stars, 14 – 3 Stars, 31- 4 stars and 13- 5 Stars.

Here’s my top fourteen in no particular order:

Most Quotable in my opinion

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow! This is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read and listened to. I loved this and will revisit it again and again. So beautiful, so profound. So simple. A must read and listen!

Incredible True Story

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow! I found this to be a fascinating book. Remarkable. I was on the edge of my seat plenty of times throughout the story. I highly recommend this read to anyone who is interested in history and adventures.


Must Read for Everyone

Animal Farm by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This classic withstands the test of time. Orwell is such a master of words and conveys so much in such a short succinct story. 101 pages which everyone should read.


One of her best!

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Masterful Mystery
Agatha Christie is the master of mystery and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is another piece of evidence in proving that case. The narrator, Hugh Fraser is the perfect storyteller for this story. If you are a fan of a good mystery – check this one out!


Beautifully written – I’ll read again, it’s just that type of story.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this book and I can see myself picking up and rereading it again and again. The relationship between the grandmother and Sophia is priceless. This book is beautifully written and the descriptions of their island will transport you to their world and put you right next to them, smelling the salty air and seeing the amazing beauty which surrounds Sophia and her grandmother. Tove Jansson’s reflections about people, relationships, and connections to nature, are ageless. There is so many levels to this book – it’s a must-read. 5 stars!

Short but sweet and powerful



Fox 8 by George Saunders

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I love when I laugh out loud when I read or listen to a book. It’s a gift and I am thankful to George Saunders who had me smiling and laughing while I listened to this witty and charming story. Like the star of the story, Fox 8, Saunders is clever in presenting a humorous story with a powerful underlying message. I highly recommend this short but powerful book/listen.


Love! Another to read and reread throughout your life.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I absolutely fell in love with this book! Ray Bradbury is master storyteller and he wrapped me up in his words and took me back to the summer of 1928, a time before I was born but a time I could imagine, thanks to his illustrative style.
If you only know Ray Bradbury through Fahrenheit 451, you should read this wonderful story about sumer, being being young, growing old and everything in between.
I can see rereading this again some summer in the future.


As always, the book is so much better than tells a much bigger story.

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow, wow, wow – How did I not read this in high-school? or college?!
EVERYBODY should read this book – required life reading. Forget the Hollywood version of this book and the “Monster”. So deep, Mary Shelley is amazing and the themes that she dives deep into – family, isolation, society, ambition, revenge, prejudice…nevermind that this was first published in 1818, EVERYTHING still holds up in the 21st century.

Adored this book!

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I jut finished listening to this book and I can barely see through my tears and my nose is running and I’m a mess. I’m a sucker for a good dog story and this is a great one! Garth Stein wrote an incredible character in Enzo – what a great dog, so deep, just what I see when I look at some of my dogs – but not all of them.
Dog person or not – it’s a great story about a family – told by the dog. LOVED IT.

The one criticism I have about the audiobook version I listened to had so dramatic music every so often which I found to be weird and out of place with this production. But the narrator, Christopher Evan Welch was really good.


I want ducks and mules and goats of course now.

On Animals by Susan Orlean

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed reading this book. I love animals and anyone who enjoys animals will find this to be such an interesting read. On Animals is compilation of a number of essays by Susan Orleans and her experiences with various animals she’s encountered. I can relate to her lifestyle as it is very similar to my own and now my previous desires on one day having ducks and goats with our chickens has been solidified. Add a pair of mules to the list too and perhaps some turkeys.
The writing is humorous and even if your more inclined to live in the concrete jungle- reading this book is a fun, lighthearted experience which may give you the desire to perhaps adopt a pet from a shelter.
Well done. 5 stars.


Blew my mind by taking me out of the box.

What It Is by Lynda Barry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is an incredible book, but not for everyone. I only say that since the no-traditional format and the layout of the book can be difficult for some people to get through.
I read this book as part of my Literati Book Club. I’m currently in the Austin Kleon Read Like An Artist club and this was the December Pick and I am so happy it was. At first when it arrived in the mail before opening the box, I knew something was different about the book. The size of the package was bigger than usual and when I opened it I was hit with a chaotic cover with the words WHAT IT IS on the top. What? As I turned the pages to take a look, I was hit with a myriad of the images. Collages mixed with words. I closed it and decided I needed to be able to focus on that and while opening the mail wasn’t the right time.
Later as I started the book, I immediately was hit with the impression that I was slipping down a rabbit hole where the pages reminded me of devouring books from Richard Scarry and later on I SPY – except this book is like those book on acid and with a purpose of helping to unlock your creativity whether it me visual or the written words or both.
I felt at times as if I had opened someone’s scrapbook journal and what I was reading was very private. Lynda Barry tells stories throughout which many people and it’s no matter if you are an artist or a writer. There are stories about being in school, teachers that made a huge impression on her, all of which are very relatable. Hand drawings, photographic images from magazines and newspapers and handwritten notes adorn the pages.
Surprisingly, I discovered it’s also a good resource for creative writing exercises which I plan on carrying one further and adapt to a visual medium as well. I highly recommend this book and it’s a book that I will keep on my shelf and revisit from time to time.
*But again – I will note that there were a couple of people who couldn’t finish the book in the book club, claiming it was too chaotic in presentation. It’s definitely a non-traditional format


I’m still thinking about Rocky – Love! Love! Love!

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


There are very few authors who are good at throwing you straight into chaotic action and not have the reader completely lost or frustrated. Andy Weir seems to clip a tether onto you and take you for the ride of your life!
I love this book. I loved the action, I loved the characters – but most of all I loved Rocky. What a fabulous character. All of the characters are multi-dimensional and believable which considering the cast of characters is crucial. Grace is the protagonist of the story and he’s someone we all can identify and sympathize with.
There’s a lot of technical stuff in the book but Weir presents it in a way that you aren’t confused or bored with it and if it were excluded wouldn’t be right since it is so much a part of who Grace is as a person. The book also includes a lot of humor. I found myself chuckling or cracking a smile several times throughout.
The narrator, Ray Porter, is excellent! The perfect choice as he handled the tricky narration of the different characters masterfully. There isa quality to his voice which reminded me of Tom Hanks.
I’m a big fan now of Andy Weir’s. I haven’t read or listened to any of his other books yet but I certainly plan to. I have seen the movie The Martian which of course is another of his popular books. Project Hail Mary was a brilliant work – fun to be aboard the Hail Mary and certainly recommend this book to fans of science fiction and anyone else who is interested in reading a book with great characters what stay with you well past when you finished the book and likes action and adventure.

2021 was quite a year and I look forward to what the new year may bring and will be curious to see what books grab my attention and which books don’t. I haven’t set my new goals for 2022 yet, but will soon. I like to set realistic exceptions. -last year I chose to try to read a book for every year of my life. So perhaps next year’s goal will be 58.

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December Reads and Listens

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always a busy time of year. I was busy with the usual shopping without catching Covid, aka online shopping and venturing down to the Newfound Country Store which for me is a one stop shopping mecca for all things local. Candles, soaps, wooden spoodles and sand tongs; you name it, Holly has it there. I love the Newfound Country Store – a true gem of a store.We are so lucky to live so close.

This left me with time to listen to a number of books this month and somehow I have even found time to read or finish reading a few books too! I am actually really surprised how much I did this month and once again, my Literati Book Club struck gold for me all month long. I started the month having already started this selection by Susan Orlean, On Animals. It was another one of my Literati Book Club selections.

On Animals by Susan Orlean

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed reading this book. I love animals and anyone who enjoys animals will find this to be such an interesting read. On Animals is compilation of a number of essays by Susan Orleans and her experiences with various animals she’s encountered. I can relate to her lifestyle as it is very similar to my own and now my previous desires on one day having ducks and goats with our chickens has been solidified. Add a pair of mules to the list too and perhaps some turkeys.
The writing is humorous and even if your more inclined to live in the concrete jungle- reading this book is a fun, lighthearted experience which may give you the desire to perhaps adopt a pet from a shelter.
Well done. 5 stars.

What It Is by Lynda Barry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is an incredible book, but not for everyone. I only say that since the no-traditional format and the layout of the book can be difficult for some people to get through.
I read this book as part of my Literati Book Club. I’m currently in the Austin Kleon Read Like An Artist club and this was the December Pick and I am so happy it was. At first when it arrived in the mail before opening the box, I knew something was different about the book. The size of the package was bigger than usual and when I opened it I was hit with a chaotic cover with the words WHAT IT IS on the top. What? As I turned the pages to take a look, I was hit with a myriad of the images. Collages mixed with words. I closed it and decided I needed to be able to focus on that and while opening the mail wasn’t the right time.
Later as I started the book, I immediately was hit with the impression that I was slipping down a rabbit hole where the pages reminded me of devouring books from Richard Scarry and later on I SPY – except this book is like those book on acid and with a purpose of helping to unlock your creativity whether it me visual or the written words or both.
I felt at times as if I had opened someone’s scrapbook journal and what I was reading was very private. Lynda Barry tells stories throughout which many people and it’s no matter if you are an artist or a writer. There are stories about being in school, teachers that made a huge impression on her, all of which are very relatable. Hand drawings, photographic images from magazines and newspapers and handwritten notes adorn the pages.
Surprisingly, I discovered it’s also a good resource for creative writing exercises which I plan on carrying one further and adapt to a visual medium as well. I highly recommend this book and it’s a book that I will keep on my shelf and revisit from time to time.
*But again – I will note that there were a couple of people who couldn’t finish the book in the book club, claiming it was too chaotic in presentation. It’s definitely a non-traditional format


Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am so glad that I discovered this book. Another book that I discovered thanks to my Literati Book Club – I had been perusing through what the other “clubs” were reading this month and saw this book which immediately perked my interest. I decided to listen to the Audible version which I am glad I did. I liked the narration of the book very much, narrator Rebecca Lee does an excellent job.
I found that there were a number of things that I was able to relate to and have experienced for myself in regards to wintering. I was intrigued by some of the traditions by northern living cultures and the various ways they have learned to cope.
Written mostly as a memoir, the book contains some wonderful tidbits about a variety of topics, winter related, like ‘being in sauna” (something I now aspire to do) to facts about trees. I highly recommend this book – beautifully written and so interesting.

For a few months now, Mark, my other half, the funnier half who cooks better. He has been recommending to me the next book I listened to this month and it was an awesome recommendation!



Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


There are very few authors who are good at throwing you straight into chaotic action and not have the reader completely lost or frustrated. Andy Weir seems to clip a tether onto you and take you for the ride of your life!
I love this book. I loved the action, I loved the characters – but most of all I loved Rocky. What a fabulous character. All of the characters are multi-dimensional and believable which considering the cast of characters is crucial. Grace is the protagonist of the story and he’s someone we all can identify and sympathize with.
There’s a lot of technical stuff in the book but Weir presents it in a way that you aren’t confused or bored with it and if it were excluded wouldn’t be right since it is so much a part of who Grace is as a person. The book also includes a lot of humor. I found myself chuckling or cracking a smile several times throughout.
The narrator, Ray Porter, is excellent! The perfect choice as he handled the tricky narration of the different characters masterfully. There isa quality to his voice which reminded me of Tom Hanks.
I’m a big fan now of Andy Weir’s. I haven’t read or listened to any of his other books yet but I certainly plan to. I have seen the movie The Martian which of course is another of his popular books. Project Hail Mary was a brilliant work – fun to be aboard the Hail Mary and certainly recommend this book to fans of science fiction and anyone else who is interested in reading a book with great characters what stay with you well past when you finished the book and likes action and adventure.




So having finished Project Hail Mary, I was interested in what other things Andy Weir had written and discovered in my Audible library was a collection of his short stories.

The Egg and Other Stories by Andy Weir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The Egg and Other Stories is a great collection of short stories by Andy Weir demonstrating what a brilliant writer he is. Each story a bit out there and leave you thinking about them well after reading them. Those who have heavily influenced him fully reveal themselves in a few of the stories and brought a smile to my face – I don’t want to give anything away – sorry if I’m sounding cryptic.
Fans of Weir will really enjoy these and readers not as familiar with his work will certainly enjoy nd probably want to read more.


Selected Shorts: Timeless Classics by James Thurber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a terrific selection of short stories by some of the greatest writers of the 20th century.
James Thurber’s “The Night the Ghost Got In” read by Isiah Sheffer
Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever” read by Maria Tucci
Jack London’s “Make Westing” read by Steven Gilborn
D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking-horse Winner” read by John Shea
Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” read by Marian Seldes
Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” read by Charles Keating
Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” read by James Naughton

All of them offering such interesting perspectives! This is the perfect listen to jump in and out of story by story. Loved.

Seeing how it’s the end of the year and it can be so difficult coming off of a great book with really good characters that you get attached to. In this case I am referring to Project Hail Mary and the two main characters Grace and Rocky. So since I have been enjoying the short stories and getting exposed to some writers that I was previously unfamiliar with or just had herd of , I decided to stick with the short story collection as I end 2021.

Selected Shorts: Readers & Writers by Evelyn Waugh and others

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed listening to these short stories by some amazing writers. The theme of course of this collection is writers and readers and it’s a wonderful collection which introduced to me some authors I was unfamiliar with, i.e.. Molly Giles, Audrey Niffenegger and Adam Haslett.

One criticism I have though is for the publishers who do not include a list of the the authors and their short stories when you are listening to the the Audible version. Since there are only 7 chapters this doesn’t seem too difficult for Symphony Space to have done this for listeners. It’s annoying to go to the “Chapters” tab and simply see listed Chapters 1,2,3,4,5,6,7.

Ch. 1 Ed Has His Mind Improved by Walter R. Brooks
Ch. 2 The Adventure of a Reader by Italo Calvino
Ch.3 Notes to my Biographer by Adam Haslett
Ch. 4 The Man Who Liked Dickens by Evelyn Waugh
Ch. 5 The Writer’s Model by Molly Giles
Ch. 6 Exchange by Ray Bradbury
Ch. 7 The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

The collection, I found to be quite enjoyable and like most good short stories stick with you longer than it took to read or listen to the story. There are some wonderful narrators too – Tony Roberts, Leonard Nemoy, Christina Pickles, Blair Brown, John Shea and Isaiah Sheffer. I highly recommend to fans of this genre.

As I stated earlier, I am continuing to listen to more collections of short stories and currently am listening to Selected Shorts: Let Us Tell You A Story – Behaving Badly. I’ll start a new book in the new year but first I need to take a look back at 2021 and the 70+ books I read this year. Take a look at 2021 Year In Review.

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November Reads and Listens

By the start of November, I had already to reached my Goodreads Book Challenge goal of 57 this year and I was starting to feel a little burned out. My hardcopy books were becoming harder for me to get in reading, We had friends come visit for an overnight– we haven’t had people come visit in I-don’t-remember-how-long, then there was Thanksgiving and my birthday. So I was tired at night, more so than usual and I wasn’t able to read as much or for as long. This was one of my initial problems when it came to reading actual physical books.

I decided to listen to a short story by Alice Hoffman. I have enjoyed other books by her so I decided to give this one a listen. The title intrigued me and I have been thinking about my mother who died in February this year.

Everything My Mother Taught Me by Alice Hoffman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is a great example of how big messages can come in small packages. Everything My Mother Taught Me is a powerful quick listen – under an hour, packing a punch. A story about a young girl who learns the toughest lessons early on.

Mark, my other half and I have been meditating daily for the past 254 consecutive days. This year, we have set an intentional routine for ourselves which includes: morning coffee while listening to short lectures by meditation teachers on an app called Insight Timer which I highly recommend. I started using this app about 5 years ago when a very traumatic event occurred in my life. Since then I have mediated on and off a total 485 days, the last 254 consecutively for an overall total of 13.7k minutes. The lectures have covered topics such as learning about the the basics of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, learning about the sacred power of Shakti, the power of Tao and simply given more tools to mindfully managing stress and anxiety.

After our lecture, coffee and moving meal we will gather our Zafu Zabuton Set, light some candles and settle down with the dogs around us for a mediation session which will last on average 30 minutes, 20 minutes of which will be in silent mediation. This has helped both of us tremendously in calming our minds and nerves during these very unsettling times.

A number of times different philosophers were quoted or discussed a little and this is what brought me around to listening to Sophie’s World. I have the paperback version of this book but the text is small and I decided to listen to it instead, fearing that I would be battling the act of actually reading the text rather than absorbing what was being said. The book had been recommended to me almost ten years ago and now after having finished it, I wish I had read it sooner.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This was a great book – which I know I will come back to again – it’s the type of book I just feel I will read/listen to more than one time. Jostein Gaarder does a magnificent job sending us down the rabbit-hole where through the adventures of Sophie and her philosophy teacher, Alberto where we are given a nice light brief history of philosophy without going so deep that you drown in all that you could with each of the philosophers and philosophies that you cold possibly get lost in.

This book sets it up so that if there is something that you would like to explore further, you can made note and further delve into that in other books. Sophie’s World is written for middle school aged children, so that it would spark their curiosity and possibly open the door to further explorations into our existence.

The book is a lengthy 16 hours and 53 minutes but the narrator, Simon Vance does a fantastic job.
Highly recommend!

With the Christmas season upon us, I know I am slowing down a bit as we head into the end of this year. I have been hard at work on my illustrations which you can see on my art Instagram @segalascreatives. I am also in the editing stages of a book that I have been working on which once it has been tighten up I will hopefully preview with you, as I am working on getting it published. The book is about my dogs – I don’t have a title yet, I just keep referring to it as the dog book.

Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, despite the fact that the oil is still in the deep fryer in the garage and the turkey soup is frozen on the screened in porch. Christmas decorations are already up, gifts are almost all purchased and yesterday I remembered to order a few Christmas desserts and cookies so the meal will be complete. The rest of the month I will continue to work on my illustrations, book and end the year by reading and listening to some good books.


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October Reads & Listens

It’s fall and I have already reached my goal for the Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge. I started the year with hopes to read and or listen to 57 books since I will be turning 57 years old in a few weeks.

For October, I decided to continue checking some books off of my TBR list which has 900+ titles on it and the PopSugar 2021 Reading Challenge. October is the month in which we celebrate Indigenous Americans and with the encouragement of PopSugar’s Reading Challenge of selecting a book by an indigenous author, I decided to dive into The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M, Marshall III. I decided on listening to Frankenstein since it’s October and I once gave a Halloween party where I was the Bride of Frankenstein. My physical book read for the month was a selection from my Literati book club which continues to introduce me to some wonderful books and authors with a platform for discussion. The Art of Raining in the Rain was another book that had been sitting on my TBR list for way too long and now that I have checked that off, I’m dumbfounded I waited so long. I decided to close the month out with Dracula which unfortunately fell short of my expectations.

The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There are many sides to every story. This is an interesting book which shed light on the part of history, told from the side of the Lakotas, the tribe of Crazy Horse and his people. Crazy Horse was a man that we have heard all sorts of stories about – whether it be from Hollywood, or other books about the Battle of the Greasy Grass a.k.a. The battle of Little Bighorn, Custard’ Last Stand.
You can hear the passion in the telling of The Journey of Crazy Horse from narrator and author Joseph M. Marshall III, historian, writer, public speaker who was born and raised in a traditional Lakota household on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He recounts in the book many of the oral stories that were passed down to him through his grandparents and the other elders which is part of the Lakota tradition.
Crazy Horse was a man of great depth and this book shares some of the oral stories about him and his family. I found this to be a fascinating book and highly recommend it.
Now that I have read this, I am curious to read more by other indigenous authors to continue learning about the people, their traditions and the land that was once theirs.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Let The Great World Spin is a complex book about a complicated city. As someone who was born and raised in New York City and was there in 1974 when the tightrope walked walked the wire across the newly built Twin Towers, I can say with certainty that Colum McCann captured the essence of New York. I read this book as part of my Literati book club selection for September. It took me a while to get through the book since each chapter is written from the perspective of a different character in the book and McCann’s writing style changes as well. The genius in this book is how well McCann pulls all the threads of all the stories into one cohesive story.
I highly recommend reading this book – it’s a masterful portrait of New York City and if you like reading about the city, you will love this book!


Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Wow, wow, wow – How did I not read this in high-school? or college?!
EVERYBODY should read this book – required life reading. Forget the Hollywood version of this book and the “Monster”. So deep, Mary Shelley is amazing and the themes that she dives deep into – family, isolation, society, ambition, revenge, prejudice…nevermind that this was first published in 1818, EVERYTHING still holds up in the 21st century.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I jut finished listening to this book and I can barely see through my tears and my nose is running and I’m a mess. I’m a sucker for a good dog story and this is a great one! Garth Stein wrote an incredible character in Enzo – what a great dog, so deep, just what I see when I look at some of my dogs – but not all of them.
Dog person or not – it’s a great story about a family – told by the dog. LOVED IT.

The one criticism I have about the audiobook version I listened to had so dramatic music every so often which I found to be weird and out of place with this production. But the narrator, Christopher Evan Welch was really good.



The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle is a story about family – the good, the bad and the ugly of family and unfortunately in her case there was a lot of bad and ugly. It’s obvious though how much Jeanette Walls loves her family, her parents, in spite of themselves.
I came upon listening to the story this month after looking at a list of Banned Books for Banned Book Month which is observed in October. I wanted to see if any of my TBLs – To Be Listened to books were in my audio library and found The Glass Castle. After finishing the book, I was confused as to why anyone would consider this book something that should be banned and had to do an internet search.According to the website mvorgazing.org the book is banned from “many schools and some libraries due to its strong sexual scenes and situations dealing with alcoholism and abuse.” Really??!!! I’m dumbfounded that this is the reason. Alcoholism and abuse unfortunately happen and this is one woman’s experience growing up with it. I didn’t think that the way she addressed it was overly graphic unnecessarily. It’s her story and its a story of great courage and resilience – it’s a human story that many people could probably relate to on some levels- whether it be the family struggles or frustrations of being in situations that are beyond your control. I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want high school students and others to be able to read this amazing story. There are so many good lessons learned from her story , discussed and talked about.
I highly recommend this book. 4.5 stars

Dracula by Bram Stoker

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


So I decided to listen to this because I didn’t read it in high school or college, as I never had the chance. After listening to it now – thank god it wasn’t assigned in high school. BORING! Hollywood has taken the Dracula character and made him interesting. He’s barely in the book and is basically an elusive creature – much like a vampire would be. He’s certainly not scary. Nothing is scary in this book. The various points of view that the narrator pops around to made my head spin.
There are plenty of themes that could be discussed in a book group or classroom setting – the dangers of modernity, female sexuality in the Victorian era, fear of outsiders, christian salvation…I wanted to like this classic, but I found it to be just okay.



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August Reads & Listens

August was a month where I decided to tackle one of the longest books on my TBR List. I came across the 2021 PopSugar Reading Challenge – a great general reading list of ideas like ” a book with a family tree” , ” a book set mostly or entirely outdoors’. “the longest book on your TBR list”…

A Little Life — Hanya Yangihara

It took a bit more for me to tackle the longest book on my TBR list since it was a commitment of 32 hours and 51 minutes. The book, A Little Life by Hanya Yangihara was on my TBR List solely because my nieces had recommended it and raved about how much they like it. They were right, it was an excellent book.

Hanya Yangihara draws the reader into the world of four college friends, young men with different dreams for their future and their lifelong bonds. There are a number of themes: race, sexual abuse, suicide, trust, family, relationships. This by far was the longest book I have ever listened to and it only dragged for a little while which almost seemed purposeful – in that doesn’t everybody’s life drag at moments?

The narrator, Oliver Wyman does an excellent job with such a powerful piece of literature. A Little Life is one of the most intense books I have ever read or listened to. It is by far one that touched my heart and had me in tears on more than one occasion. I highly recommend reading or listening to this book. 4.5 Stars.

Fox 8– George Saunders

After reading such an intense and long book, I opted to then tackle another PopSugar Reading Challenge suggestion and read “the shortest book” on my TBR List. This happened to be Fox 8 by George Saunders. Fox 8 was 37 minutes of pure joy. I love when I laugh out loud while listening to a book and it was a much needed reprieve being so amused to laughter after having been on the intense journey of A Little Life. Saunders narrates this charming story and is as clever as a fox in presenting a humorous story with a powerful message. I highly recommend this short but impactful story.

Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury

I absolutely fell in love with this book. I choose this book based off some comments from my Literati Book Club from members who referred to Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury as a story that they read over and over again during the summer. I am a fan of Ray Bradbury and after reading Dandelion Wine I am more convinced than ever at what a master storyteller Bradbury is. He wrapped me up in his words and took back to the summer of 1928, a time before I was born but a time I could imagine , thanks to his illustrative style. If you only know Ray Bradbury from Fahrenheit 451 or The Martian Chronicles, you should read this wonderful story about summer, being young, being old and everything in between. I’ll read this one again some summer. 5 Stars. 8 hours 42 minutes

In The Woods – Tana French

I closed out August with listening to In The Woods by Tana French. This is my first time reading or listening to a Tana French book, but it won’t be the last. The story is a mystery wrapped up in a mystery. I enjoyed listening to this book , the narrator Steven Crossley has a beautiful and soothing voice which my dogs enjoyed as well. They would always settle right down when it was time to listen which we did for the 20 hour and 24 minute long book. There are some themes in the book which some readers may fine triggering since it deals with domestic violence and rape; but certainly not in an overtly graphic manner.

In The Woods takes place in a small Irish town and is the story of Adam and his two best friends in the summer of 1984, and about the people who live there in 1984 nd twenty years later. In The Woods is about the murder investigation of Katie Devlin, a young girl who had her life ahead of her. In The Woods is about Detectives Cassie Maddox and Rob Ryan. Tana French does an excellent job of making you care about the characters which is what pulled me in so much to this book and kept me there for the first of the Dublin Murder Series. I look forward to reading the next book in series.

As always you can see these reviews and more of my reviews on my Goodreads Profile.

Summer Book Clubs 2021

It’s been a very busy spring and start to the summer and admittedly my head has been in a book or listening to books. The more I listen to books, the more I want to read physical books, not just the ones on my Kindle. I like the feel of a hardback book on my lap, the feel of the pages as I turn them. Recently, I joined two book clubs that send you physical hardback books. I don’t live near a local bookstore – independent or otherwise, so I have found my recent membership into these two clubs to be helpful in introducing me to new books and authors.

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Book of the Month Club was my obvious first choice, since I am very old-school. This was the club that my Mom was a member of way-back-when. I remember the box showing up as a little girl – like a gift in the mail! I thought it was the coolest thing, still do. My first book sent to me was The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I wrote a review of the book in my post Reading & Listenings – May 2021.

The other book club I am a member of is Literati which I discovered through my Instagram. Literati has a number of different clubs within their website and the books are selected authors, celebrities and people of interest. I am currently in the Joy Collective hosted by Kelly McGonigal. The focus of this group is : ” Rousing page-turners steeped in the science of our human brain…The Joy Collective will help you to discover actionable strategies to bring more joy, compassion, and resilience into your life. Feel connected to something bigger than yourself with books that explore our capacity to find hope, courage, and belonging.”

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So far I have read the June pick of Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. I was sucked into the story from the moment I opened the book. Kazuo Ishiguro is a beautiful writer who masterfully brings us right into the world of artificial intelligence with introducing us to Klara, the main character and narrator. Klara provides an interesting and unique perspective. The book touches upon many themes: relationships between humans and relationships humans have with technology; grief; social inequality, just to name a few. I highly recommend this to anyone – it’s a beautifully written book and has such an interesting perspective on what the future could bring.

What I like about the Literati Club which I think BOMC could do a better job is Literati makes you feel like you are part of a book club complete with discussions and questions to think about. Both have websites and apps but again Literati’s seems to be more engaging, particularly the ability to post a question to the group or make a remark. where as BOMC is simply more about selling the books as opposed to building a community discussion around the books.

The July pick for Literati’s Joy Collective which I have only just started yesterday The Beauty of Break by Michele Harper

Readings and Listenings- April 2021

It’s was a whirlwind of a spring for me and from the looks of it, I had my head in a book or audiobook most of the time. Not a bad place to be actually. I counted up 14 titles in April and May – averaging 7 titles per months sounds about right. I have started to read – yes, with my eyes – more. It seems all this listening to books is having a positive effect on my ability to read. There was a time not too long ago where I had a tough time staying awake when I tried to read. Reading before bedtime, for someone who traditionally always struggled as a reader, is not a good time to start trying to build a new habit. I think that’s why I gravitated to the audiobooks. I love the freedom they give me, allowing me to be drawing or outside weeding in the garden with headphones on. I have been able to listen to fantastic works which previously I was too intimidated to attempt because reading has been a lifelong struggle for me. I’m a slow reader, although I must admit I am finally picking up my pace — after 50 years! Slow and steady…

The mind forgets but the heart will always remember. And what is the heart’s memory but love itself?

The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

When I left off last post, I had already started The Gardens of Evening Mists as per the recommendation of my cousin who had learned about the book from her step-mom, also my Aunt. I am thankful the family grapevine brought me this book recommendation.

The Garden of Evening Mists is beautifully written by Tan Twan Eng and narrated by Anna Bentinck and runs 15 hours, 37 minutes. The descriptions of the Japanese garden of Yuguri will transport you to the Cameron Highlands of Malaya. But this book goes so much deeper than that. The characters are full of depth and each have their own individual stories which weave together in a story of love and survival during the Japanese occupation of Malaya. I highly recommend this book anyone interested in historical fiction or Asian culture. 4 Stars.

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Animal Farm- George Orwell

With everything going on in the United States of late, I had to re-read this great classic by Mr, George Orwell. I found Animal Farm to be as thought provoking today in 2021 as I did when I read it in high school in the early 1980s. I actually feel I have an even better understanding of what exactly George Orwell has been trying to warn us of through his illustrative tale.

I highly recommend either reading or re-reading or listening to Animal Farm. This classic withstands the test of time. Orwell is such a master of words and conveys so much in such a short succinct story. 101 pages which everyone should read or just over 3 hours to listen to – either way time well spent!

Words can be like x-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

I stayed on the theme of dystopia with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The title has come up as recommended reading by a couple of authors in my Masterclass courses: Atwood and Patterson, so I thought now was as good a time to revisit it. I listened to the free version which is offered with my Audible membership which is an 8 hour unabridged version but is narrated by Michael York. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really enjoy listening to Michael York read to me. As for Huxley’s story, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s good even though it’s disturbing how prophetic is seems Huxley has been. I think Brave New World is a book that may need to be read, digested, re-read, digested, and not given over to someone else’s interpretation whether it be visual or even auditorial. It’s all in the words which when you read, you are pierced. 4 Stars Story, 1 Star Narrator.

My father and I have been talking more about the books we are reading and he recommended Need To Know by Karen Cleveland. He raved about how good it was and how much he enjoyed reading it. The Audible version is unabridged and narrated by Mia Barron who was excellent and runs for 9 hours and 39 minutes. After finishing Need to Know for myself, I thought that I just listened to an episode of the television show The Americans. Not that that’s bad, I liked that show and thought my Dad would like it too, if he watched something other than sports. Need To Know ultimately is an entertaining spy-thriller that would appeal to readers of that genre. A perfectly good beach read at 3 stars.

Still in the mood for mystery, I decided to check in with one of the classics that was recommended to me in one of my Masterclass writing classes. Specifically, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie had been recommended by Margaret Atwood as an excellent example of a first person narrative. It was and is an magnificent recommendation too that I give 5 stars! Agatha Christie is the master of mystery and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is another piece of evidence in proving that case. The narrator, Hugh Fraser is the perfect storyteller for this story. If you are a fan of a good mystery – check this one out!

“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.”

― Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Changing gears completely, I switched over to something that held some history and adventure with The Republic of Pirates:Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and The Man Who Brought Them Down by Colin Woodard, narrated by Lewis Grenville.

I have always been intrigued by pirates since I was a young girl. However, other than what I had seen in movies and via Disney, I realized I knew nothing about them, Until now. I loved learning the true history and story behind the Caribbean Pirates. The book is well researched and the way Colin Woodard weaves in real dialogue with the factual stories is well done. 5 stars!

I have so many more books to discuss, but I think this is a good place to take a pause. So look for more book recommendations in my next post Readings and Listenings – May 2021. If you are on the website Goodreads you can follow my reviews on my Goodreads.

Happy reading and listening!

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