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.

View all my reviews

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!

My Audiobook Club- Sept/Oct

October was a month filled with all sorts of wonderful listens for me. I spent a time listening to my audiobooks while working on my drawings and photographs. Other times I am literally on the floor filing. Many times I have put my headphones on and gone outside to weed or stack wood while listening to my audiobooks. I have enjoyed listening to so many books this year – here are some of the audiobooks I listened to in October and the very beginning of November.

I started the month off with A Book by Desi Arnaz. I really enjoyed listening to this memoir. One of my older brothers, Harry had mentioned he was reading it during a family zoom call and recommended it. We used to watch I Love Lucy together as kids and Lucy and Ricky Riccardo were like old friends.

Before listening to this book, I knew very little about Desi Arnaz. He led an amazing life from his early days in Cuba to his success in the United States. I found this was a fun book to listen to, I enjoyed hearing his stories very much. It was fun and interesting to learn some of the behind the scenes details. I highly recommend this reading or listening to this book!

Recently, I started to follow the Instagram page Bitesbythepage – “Sharing delicious recipes inspired by our favorite books each week’. A few weeks ago they posted an interview with the author, Deborah Goodrich Royce about her book Finding Mrs. Ford. I really enjoyed this book, sucked in by the vividly described setting of Watch Hill, Rhode Island, which immediately placed me in the world Mrs. Ford lived. The story grabbed me immediately and took me places I’ve lived or visited from NYC to Rhode Island and Warren, Michigan. The characters are believable and multi-dimensional. I highly recommend this book. I listened to the audiobook , narrated by Saska Maarleveld and it ran 9 hours and 35 minutes. 4 Stars!

My son had asked me to read the book, Dune before the new movie comes out. I’ve always loved science fiction/fantasy and over the years when he was a child read to him many books like the entire series of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings series. So when he asked me to read Dune, I was open to the idea but decided to listen to the audiobook. At 21 hours and 2 minutes, the book was narrated by Scott, Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, Simon Vance and Ilyana Kadushin.

The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.

Frank Herbert

Dune is a complex book with multiple themes including water, religion, politics and racism. Listening to the book and recognizing these themes, I was struck by the fact that the book was originally published in June 1965 and I was 7 months old. I have read a lot of books at this stage of my life that are part of a big series. I had the feeling throughout the whole book that this was just the beginning of something meatier that we would read a few books in. There are 6 books in the original Dune series that Frank Herbert wrote between the years 1965 to 1985, and there are a few other books that he co-authored after that with Kevin J. Anderson.

My biggest criticism of the book would be that I didn’t feel very attached to the characters and the book as a whole was okay. 3 Stars.

I dove back into memoirs and biographies with Face It, Debbie Harry’s memoir. The audiobook was narrated by Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Clem Burke, Alannah Currie and Gary Valentine. I love listening to memoirs that are narrated by the author. Listening to Debbie tell the stories and tales of her rise to fame was like sitting down with an old friend and hearing their stories.

I was a huge Blondie fan growing up in New York City in the 1980s. I saw Blondie at multiple venues during my teenage years, so listening to her tell her stories about the band was fun. Debbie narrates most of the audiobook which comes with a PDF file so you can see the fan artwork she includes in the book. Debbie kept thousands of drawings that were mailed to her throughout the years and seeing that she kept it was pretty incredible.

If you enjoyed Blondie’s music, I think you will enjoy this book or audiobook which runs 8 hours and 57 minutes. 3-1/2 stars

Next I switched up to a Cold War spy thriller by John Le Carré. Call For The Dead introduces us to one of Le Carré’s favorite protagonist, George Smiley. I like to read books in order so I decided to read this book first which is also John Le Carré’s first published book. The audiobook was a quick listen at 4 hour and 44 minutes and is narrated by Michael Jayston. I don’t read or listen to a lot of spy thrillers but I enjoyed this one. George Smiley is a likeable character that you come to have interest in and care about. I look forward to listening to more of Le Carré’s books especially the George Smiley series.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett was the next book I listened to and I absolutely loved this book! It’s s story about a family and a house and Patchett makes you really involved and interested in the characters. Her vivid descriptions of the Dutch House place you right there. Tom Hanks narrates the novel which is 9 hours and 53 minutes, the story is well paced. I highly recommend this book or audiobook – I looked Tom Hanks as the narrator and thought he was perfect! 5 Stars.

You need to serve those who need to be served, not just the ones who make you feel good about yourself.

Ann Patchett – The Dutch House

Since it was October , I thought it only fitting to listen to a classic Agatha Christie Who-Dun-It and listened to Hallowe’en Party narrated by Hugh Fraser at 6 hours, 27 minutes. This was a fun book to listen to and Agatha Christie is the master of mystery. Hercule Poirot is called upon to solve the mystery revolving around a Halloween Party. Christie’s characters are charming and this story is engaging. Hugh Fraser is a wonderful narrator and adds to the experience. I highly recommend, particularly a good one for a cozy night by the fire in October. 4 Stars

I dove into this Stephen King book called Different Seasons. This is actually a compilation of four gripping novellas. The first one “Rita Hayworth & The Shawshank Redemption” was made into the well known movie, Shawshank Redemption which I never watched. The second story is called the “Apt Pupil’ and this turned out to be one of my favorites of all four stories. The third one is “The Body” which was made into the movie, Stand By Me – another great story. The last story was my least favorite, titled “The Breathing Method”. Frank Muller is the narrator and he is an excellent narrator, adding much to the experience. 4 stars.

It always comes down to two choices. Get busy living or get busy dying.

Rita Hayworth & The Shawshank Redemption- Stephen King

You can see something for the first time, and right away you know you have found your great interest. It’s like turning a key in a lock. Or falling in love for the first time.

Apt Pupil – Stephen King

The important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you are ashamed of, because words make them smaller. When they were in your head, they were limitless, but when they come out, they seem no bigger than normal things.’

The Body – Stephen King

Homesickness is a real sickness – the ache of the uprooted plant.

The Breathing Method – Stephen King

I was still in the mood for mystery and continued by jumping back to a classic Agatha Christie mystery with And Then There Were None. This is one of my all time favorites – a masterpiece in suspense! The audiobook is 6 hours 2 minutes and narrated by Dan Stevens. I ghly recommend this book! 5 Stars.

I ended the month out with another recommendation by one of my favorite instagrammers Bites By The Page and listened to The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, narrated by Jack Hawkins and Louise Breasley at 8 hours, 43 minutes. I loved this book! There were so many twists and turns and the story is so interesting. The narration was quite good and added to the experience. 5 stars.

Sometimes it takes courage, you know, and a long time, to be honest.

The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides