April Reads and Listens

April was a full month where I was able to add four more books to the Read category getting closer to my goal of 58 books for the year. I am currently at 27 books completed. This month I read two fantastic books and two lesser so. I started the month off listening to The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. I saw the title on my Goodreads feed because a friend of mine had read and liked it; so I thought I would give it a try.

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked this book and thought that it was a touching story about a catholic family and their ‘extraordinary” son, Sam. From the moment I started listening to the book, I was absorbed in the world of Sam, his parents, and his friends, Ernie and Mickey. Each character is well-developed and well-rounded and adds their own spark to the story.
This book is the story of a boy who spends his life being judged by appearance. Unfortunately, our society continues to look too much at the shell and not remember it’s what’s inside that makes us who we really are.
“Our skin, our hair, and our eyes are simply the shell that surrounds our soul, and our soul is who we are. What counts is on the inside.”
I highly recommend this book – it’s a great story that the author also narrates wonderfully as well.

I always find it difficult to follow up on a book that I have really liked. I tend to switch genres completely and often I will fall back on short stories. I decided to to go this route after having finished The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. I turned to a collection by one of my all-time favorite authors, Neil Gaiman.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook version, which was only available through my audiobooks.com account, and it did not allow me to view the chapters at all if I wanted. The book starts with a long foreward by Gaiman, where he gives a little background about each story. To his credit, he mentions that the listener may want to jump ahead, but I decided to listen anyway. I’m not sure how far into the foreward I was when I started to think about jumping ahead to the stories, realizing that I would only be able to jump away in small 15-second increments. So I continued to listen.

The short stories in this collection range from chilling and scary to sad and sentimental, many of which had been published before. There are several homages to some literary influences of Gaiman’s from Sherlock Holmes in ‘The Case of Death and Honey’ to ‘The Man who forgot Ray Bradbury.’ Then there is the tribute to Doctor Who in the story ‘Nothing O’Clock,’ which I enjoyed despite never having seen any Doctor Who before. There is also a nob to David Bowie in ‘Kether and Malkuth’. The collection wraps up with a short story called ‘Black Dog,’ which features Shadow Moon, the protagonist from Gaiman’s American Gods novel.

‘The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains’
‘Nothing O’Clock’
‘Kether to Malkuth’
‘Orange’
‘A Calendar of Tales’
‘The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury’
‘An Invocation of Incuriosity’
‘The Case of Death and Honey’
‘Pearls’
‘Black Dog’

Overall, I liked this collection, but it was not one of my favorites, so I was also disappointed. I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s and a big fan of short stories, so I felt this collection fell short.

A good book for a long drive

I found myself wondering where to turn my attention next. I had a long 8-hour plus drive that I would have to contend with and I really needed to pick a good book for the drive. As I looked over my TBR list, I came across a book that I put on the list after having seen the book on my father’s coffee table last summer, The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. I thought this might be a good pick since I could possibly talk about the book with my dad when I was visiting with him that weekend. The long drive down to Connecticut was to see my father and celebrate Greek Easter with my family whom I hadn’t seen since last July.

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the moment I started listening to this book, I was sucked down the rabbit hole! This is the first book I have read of Kate Quinn’s and it will not be the last. The Rose Code is a masterful piece of historical fiction based around the real men and women Enigma code-breakers who worked at Bletchley Park in the English countryside during World War II.


The story revolves around three young women from different backgrounds called to Bletchley Park to serve their country by cracking codes and keeping secrets. Quinn didn’t write just one heroine but she wrote about three of them. Three strong women who I came to care very deeply about their story.


The narrator, Saskia Maarleveld, does a fantastic job of bringing to life all of the characters of which there are quite a few.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mystery, and espionage stories.

How Do You Follow Up a 5 Star Book?

Twice in one month, I found myself having to figure out how to follow up a great book. So I pivoted to a book that I knew one of my nieces had read and thought from the cover it might be a good change of pace.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I did not enjoy this book and only managed to finish it because it was short, and I was waiting to see if there was a point or climax – which never came. The depression that the main character is dealing with is conveyed in the writing style, but the main character wasn’t someone you come to care about. I don’t enjoy books where the protagonist is a narcissist. I felt bad for and cared more about her friend, Reva. The only good thing about the book was the narrator, Julia Whelan, does a good job bringing the characters to life.

Not a great book to end the month, but not all books can be winners. The important thing is to keep on reading. Currently, I am reading Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl. I’ve been bad about reading my physical books lately because I have been painting, drawing, driving, and listening to my audiobooks. My Literati club books are piling up, with the latest one coming in There, There by Tommy Orange, which I am only 10 pages into. I didn’t mean to start it, but I began to peruse upon opening the box, which led me to read a bit.

There is also a stack 3 feet high ( I am not exaggerating) sitting on my file cabinet of books waiting to be read. I can’t help myself around books sometimes. I just love books. I remember the old days of hanging out in bookstores. I would spend hours in the stacks of books, particularly if they had cozy chairs and spaces for you to hang out and check out the selections more thoroughly. Those were the old days, though. Today I purchase books via my Literati book club or the Book of the Month Club or Amazon. There was a small independent bookstore in my old hometown that I would frequent, but there isn’t one near me where I live now. Now I share the books I have read with my community via the Marleywood Little Free Library, where I am the steward.

If you have any book recommendations, please leave me a comment. I am always looking for new book ideas. Happy reading.

February Reads & Listens

For such a short month, I packed in quite a few reads and listens. I started the month finally finishing the January Literati Club selection, We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider. There are a scattering of his signature cartoons throughout the book which is a collection of essays.

We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I struggled reading this book at first, perhaps it was just the first couple of stories that I didn’t find interesting or relatable or just juvenile in a way. However, as I kept on read, that changed when I read the line,”What dooms our best efforts to cultivate empathy and compassion is always, of course, other people.” Okay, maybe I can relate to Tim Kreider more than I thought. Then I read “you’d think that given our shared loathing for the Wall/K Street oligarchy that’s running this country like a Ponzi scheme we’d be able to put aside our brand loyalties…” I saw someone put into words so spot on describing how our government runs our country.


I enjoyed reading this book , overall, some essays more than others but it’s a good read which is sad, honest, sometimes brutally so, but truly funny. 228 pages.

I stated the month off with a selection from my historical fiction section f my TBR List and dove into What The Wind Knows by Amy Harmon.

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I think fans of historical fiction with a time travel twist will enjoy this as much as I did. It’s a skilled author who can write a tale that transports not only the main character but the reader into believing they have been transported back in time and Amy Harmon does just that.

I was fascinated by the Irish history which I admit to knowing little about the country’s struggle for independence, but knew of some of the names. I found myself looking up some of the Easter Rising and some of the key players mentioned in between listening to the book and can see reading more. Although I was never one for poetry the way that W.B. Yeats’ poetry is woven into the text lowered the bar in my understanding his words which set alone, I would be more effective translating a language I have never seen before. But it adds and was so fitting to include.

This is a romantic novel and I am not one to be drawn to romance, but this book is neither too saturated in sex, although there is some, nor is it to sappy in it’s love story but just the right balance to make you see the love. I also found many times to be laughing or smiling to myself in listening to the story, particularly in the parts where Anne compares our modern day luxuries that she no longer has in 1916.

The narrators Saskia Maarleveld, Will Damron do a fantastic job.
All is in all, I highly recommend this book and now I want to read more of Amy Harmon’s books. The Audible Audiobook is 12 hours, 24 minutes long.

Having been intrigued by the mythology within What They Wind Knows I decided to check out Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology next.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing and I am an a mythology enthusiasts, so I really enjoyed listening to Norse Mythology. Gaiman’s writing is so clever and humorous and he is such a great storyteller infusing new life into these old myths. The only thing that makes this better is that Neil Gaiman is the narrator which makes the illusion of him telling you a story all the more real! The Audible Audiobook is 6 hours, 29 minutes.

With everything going on in the world today and the younger generation having no attention span whatsoever. I decided that this month I was ready to tackle the Ready Player One Series. I had a bedroom to paint and wanted something that would keep me focused while I painted. I had seen the movie Ready Player One a long time ago but since the second book came out in 2021, I decided I wanted to read the first book and then read the new book.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I loved this book! But I grew up in the 80s, so listening to this book was like reminiscing about my teen years. Ernest Cline creates a fantastic world of the future 2044 and reality is a nasty place to live so many escape to the Oasis, a virtual reality world where you can be any avatar you choose and experience things in augmented reality.

I decided to listen to this book, originally published in 2011 since Cline just came out with the sequel in 2021 so I wanted to listen to the two books back to back. I enjoyed the movie a long time ago produced by Spielberg so I wanted to check out the book.

I’m not a gamer, nor am I a programmer but thought that Cline captured the essence of someone who can become so absorbed in the gaming and computer programming world. It’s a dystopian view of the future having seen what social networking has done to some people coupled with recent announcements about the Metaverse being developed by tech giants Facebook, excuse me, META, Microsoft, Nvidia, and others, Cline’s OASIS doesn’t seem so far off from reality these days.

The protagonist is an atheist and that may bother some people, however, it did not bother me. I read some reviews where people were really put off by this. I also read so reviews that some people purchased this book for their children to listen to, probably because they simply were naive enough to think its a book about a bunch of nerds and gamers. This is not a book for 9 year olds but it is a great book for high school aged kids and above.

Ultimately I believe this book is about the importance of human interaction – face to face interaction and how important that is to have in our world. I liked Will Wheaton as the narrator, he seemed a perfect choice to me. I give this book a 4.5 rating. The Audible Audiobook is 15 hours, 40 minutes.

My next selection was based off of a recommendation by my sister, Daphne. She raved about The Power of Neuroplasticity by Shad Helmstetter. She said it had helped her “have the power to change [her] program (how [she] think[s]) from negative/ catastrophizing to positivity and productivity.  So I had to check it out for myself. I actually listened to this book at the same time – not actually at the same time but during the same time period that I was listening to Ready Player Two.

The Power of Neuroplasticity by Shad Helmstetter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a must listen to for everyone! Shad Helmstetter breaks down some pretty scientific stuff in an easy and understandable way – uncomplicating the complex. He gives the listener/reader the keys which they always held to unlock the endless possibilities to change their lives.

Helmstetter reinforces the evidence that how and what we think and tell ourselves matters greatly. I highly recommend to those who feel like they are stuck in a rut or have no ability to change their daily lives for the better. The Audible audiobook is 6 hours and 18 minutes long and narrated by Douglas Martin

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I was disappointed in this book overall. I was a huge fan of Ready Player One but all the originality that was in that book – was missing from this book. There are some themes in the book which are worthy of exploring like man’s obsession with immortality and man playing God but they seemed to get lost. I was also particularly disappointed to see that much of the story had been ripped from a popular Japanese novel series called Sword Art Online. So much so that the author admits to this within the novel. I also found there is a lot of virtue signaling in this book.

Fans of Prince may have fun going down that rabbit hole. I have to wonder whether Prince’s Estate has already authorized usage of his music and likeness since it would be impossible to make the movie version of this book without it.
Although I am a fan of Tolkien – I haven’t read The Silmarillion and thought a lot of the references so obscure they were difficult to follow.

Wil Wheaton was the narrator and I didn’t really feel like he added much to the performance, he’s a a little monotone but I since the main character Wade is the narrator of the story, I imagine Wade to be a little monotone too. The Audible Audiobook is 13 hours, 46 minutes.

Once I I had emerged from the cyberspace rabbit hole of the OASIS and the world Ernest Cline foresees, I did an about face. I wanted something short and I also wanted to continue to work on my ever growing TBR list. I started this book actually initially in 2016 on my Kindle.

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I found this book to be interesting more as a writer who would potentially be writing stories which strong female characters, but many women look it as a helpful guide in their own personal lives. Perhaps I am one of the wild woman since a lot of what I thought she said was simple common sense.


I found listening to most of this reminiscent of listening to a professor lecture in college – just going on and on because they like the sound of their own voice. The only part I really enjoyed was listening to the old fairy tales and myths – then it was a treat to listen to the soothing and skilled story-telling voice of author, Clarissa Estés.


I was surprised by all the very high ratings and reviews for this book. I think it really depend on the type of person you are which will dictate how much you like the book or consider it ground-breaking and life changing. I found it to be neither.
The Audible Audiobook is 2 hours, 18 minutes.

After listening to that lecture-like book, I wanted something that I could depend on. My last couple of books were rather disappointing. I always find that turning to the short story collections can be a good way to turn things around and once again I was not disappointed.

Selected Shorts: American Classics by Amy Tan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a fantastic collection of short stories by some of America’s greatest writers. The Audible Audiobook is 3 hours, 45 minutes.

Amy Tan’s “Rules of the Game”, performed by Freda Foh Shen. 4.5 stars – I loved this story about a young Chinese girl who becomes a chess prodigy. The relationship which Amy Tan depicts between the strict mother and her young daughter is priceless!

Donald Barthelme’s “Game”, performed by David Strathairn. 4.5 – Wow! A humorous look at what would happen when two people are left in the nuclear bunker for too long.

Eudora Welty’s “Why I Live at the P.O.”, performed by Stockard Channing. 4 – Funny story about family and getting away from them

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat” performed by René Auberjonois. 4.5 – Classic Poe masterpiece.

Joyce Carol Oates’ “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” performed by Christine Baranski. 4
-Creepy and disturbing – really well written – 4.5

John Sayles’ “At the Anarchists’ Convention”, performed by Jerry Stiller. – Humorous 4

Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use”, performed by Carmen de Lavallade. 4
-A glimpse of how siblings look at family treasures differently

John Cheever’s “Christmas Is a Sad Season for the Poor”, performed by Malachy McCourt. 4
-Funny story about the kindness people have towards each other at Christmas.

February Wrap Up

Besides these eight books which I seemed to have plowed through this month. I also listened to the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu – A New English Version read by its translator Stephen Mitchell. I have been meditating every day now for almost a year. In that time, I have also been listening to different lectures and talks about Buddhism, Taoism and Christianity. I have been listening to The Bible in A Year podcast since I never read the Bible fully and thought it would be interesting to do. I started on that journey in 2021 actually, so for me it will most likely be The Bible in Two Years, possibly Three. Listening to the Tao Te Ching for me was simply an exercise in learning the teachings of Lao Tzu. At the time I was listening I was also drawing zentangle patterns. In short, drawing zentangles a form of artistic meditation so it was the perfect companion to listen to as I drew. I purposely chose not to rate or review the Tao Te Ching, nor the Taming The Tiger Within by Thich Nhat Hanh which I also listened to shortly learning of his death. Except that I will say that it was enough to spark a curiosity to further read more of his writing in the future.

February may have been the shortest month of the year but I managed to make it a productive one bringing my total books read this year so far up to 19. My ultimate goal on Goodreads is 58, so I am 33% of the way to my ultimate goal. I am backlogged with actual physical hard copies of my Literati book club books right now. Currently still reading Smile: The Story of A Face by Sarah Ruhl and then there is the next book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman. That one could come in handy as far as being able to make time for actual reading.

The problem is I get tired at night when I usually read which makes finishing impossible. I have been writing, actually editing the book I have been working on writing and hoping to get it to the stage of actually submitting to a publisher. I also was painting my bedroom last month which is why I was able to go down the rabbit hole of the Ready Player One Series (One and Two) and stay down there while I painted away the old paint which was on the walls since before I moved here 6 years ago! Yes, I have been living in the previous owners paint and carpets until last month. I always had plans to change things but other things were more important and it wasn’t that horrible until after the last two years which everyone – my kids, that is – back in my house for more months than we have lived together in 8 years. I needed a clean slate. It took 6 months from the time I ordered them – not a special order or anything – to the time they were installed. Currently I am painting another room in the house which had terra cotta colored walls. I put the first coat of primer down yesterday while listening to my current audiobook, Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. I’m only a few hours into this epic 21 hour and 43 minute book, so perhaps I’ll be able to complete the room and the book around the same time.

Until next month, I hope you enjoyed my review. View all my reviews.

Happy Reading!

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.

Charles W. Eliot



January 2022 Reads and Listens

At the start the year, I pledged on my Goodreads Reading Challenge 58 books, one more than last year and I am turning 58 later this year. I have to admit, I hated seeing the 0 books Read This Year on the first day of January. Then just few days in to the new year, the Goodreads site not only said I had read 0 books for the year so far but I was behind! WTF?! I was no even a full week into 2022 and I am behind already?! Ugh, well after quickly doing the math in my head 52 weeks in a year and here I shot away the first week and I hadn’t finished a book yet.

The first book that I started 2022 was based off a recommendation by my other half, Mark. He knows that I love books about dogs, fantasy and mystery – so he recommended Devoted by Dean Koontz. I knew of Koontz, seen his name many times and he was one of the author’s recommended in one of my Masterclass’s on writing – although I don’t recall which class specifically. If I had to guess it was the writing class with Robert Patterson, but it could have been Atwood’s or Gaiman’s class too or also.

Devoted by Dean Koontz

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


So this was the first Dean Koontz book I have ever read or listened to. That said I am a big fan of books that incorporate dogs and are about dogs, as I am a big fan of dogs and have had and have many dogs in my life.


This book felt a little too cookie cutter for me. The characters all seemed a little too cliche in many ways and weren’t as well developed – with the exception of Kip, the dog. There are a supernatural aspect to the story with the dogs and the “wire” which I found to be more believable than some of the other things in the book, which I won’t mention since I don’t want to give anything away.


It’s a light sort of book, so if you are interested in something like that it’s entertaining enough, particularly if you are a fan of dogs; but not necessarily Dean Koontz’s other books, as I have seen from other reviews, his fans were disappointed in this book.

After being a bit disappointed with my start to the new year and already being a bit behind but not as much, I decided to listen to a quickie. A quickie being a book or story that is under 2 hours long. I went with Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk.

I’ve been getting into to story stories and novellas more recently – finding they balance some of the longer books out nicely. I took Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass a few years ago and I enjoy his books and stories very much. I find he is a great storyteller, which is quite a skill. I didn’t write a review on Goodreads when I finished it – not sure why, but I quickly gave it 3 stars out of 5 – the Goodreads rating for I liked it.

I next decided to dive into a novel which has been sitting on my TBR list for a number of years. One of the suggestions in the PopSugar 2022 Challenge and many other reading challenges is to read a book that has been sitting on your list for a long time. In my case, the book was The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri – it had been on my list since 2016.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have tears in my eyes as I have just finished listening this incredibly beautiful book. Names are powerful – and this book captures the power that comes with your name. What a terrific story – so many depths to this story and very well executed. Very touching writing, I cried a few times during this book – I will miss spending time with the Ganguli family. Jhumpa Lahrai wrote such wonderful characters in Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli, telling their story as much as the story of Gogol their son. The reader is transported from Calcutta, India to Cambridge, MA and back again. I enjoyed, as I said earlier spending time with Ganguli family – Lahiri’s descriptions of their family life painted such a vivid picture that I felt like I was one of their guests at times. You could just smell Ashram’s cooking!


The narrator, Sarita Choudhury, has a beautiful voice – I would listen to her read a grocery list and it be soothing! I absolutely loved this book and am very sad that it over.

I always find it so hard to follow up a book that I loved and enjoyed so much. It can be a tough act to follow, so I decided to go back to short stories and started Selected Shorts; New American Stories, mainly picking this particular collection since I saw that Jhumpa Lahiri had a story in the collection.

Selected Shorts: New American Stories by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to tackle this collection after having read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri which I loved, I wanted to hear a little more from her and was thrilled that she had a story within this collection. This is a terrific collection of short stories by four amazing writers of today. Each with their own perspective of life in America. All the stories were so interesting – humorous mixed with some heavy topics as well – finely balanced making the stories stage out all the more.I am looking forward to reading more from all of these authors.

I love finding out about authors that I was previously unaware of through these collections of short stories – I highly recommend this to anyone who interested in a quick listen to solid collection of stories.

Chap 1. Good Living by Aleksandar Hemon
Chap 2. Hell Heaven by Jhumpa Lahiri
Chap 3. The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngoni Adiche
Chap 4.Breaking & Entering by Sherman Alexie


Three weeks into the new year and I had already listened to a some wonderful and not so wonderful books and stories. I decided to go back to novels that had been on my TBR list a long time and settled on one by Sue Monk Kidd.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This isn’t the first book of Sue Monk Kidd’s that I have read and it won’t be my last. She is so thorough in her research of a subject that she is able to capture its essence and deliver it on the paper in the form of well crafted characters and plots.


As Sue Monk Kidd explains in her author’s note that it was her desire to write a story revolving around two sisters and the universe lead her to learn about Sarah Grimke and her younger sister, Angelina and what a story she wrote! The first of the two narrators, Sarah Grimke, is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and judge. Sarah is not fictional and was one of the early abolitionists and women’s right activists.


The stories of Charlotte and Handful are a gut-wrenching reminder of a very ugly part of our history and are told by Handful, a young slave girl given to Sarah as a birthday gift on her 11th birthday. The story spans 35 years of their lives from childhood well into their adulthood. Kidd includes the good, the bad and the ugly, other its in the situation or in her characters – making the reader care deeply for them.
I highly recommend 4.5

As I said earlier, it is so hard to follow a fantastic story – so I pivoted in my listening pleasures and listening to another quickie.

Lying by Sam Harris

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Although I find the subject very interesting – I found this book – although it’s really an essay to be dry. Sam Harris didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know but much of what he says in the book is common sense. Unfortunately society has gotten to a point where there are so many lies that it’s hard to figure out the truth. I wish the book could have been more in depth in some ways.
A super quick read or listen on an interesting subject.

Time to pivot again. Cue Ross and his couch.

I was worried to go into another novel since I had been so fortunate to have already listened to two awesome books this month with The Namesake and The Invention of Wings. Now what? So I looked to my gallery of musician’s memoirs and decided to listen to Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller.

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed listening to Dave Grohl talk about how he got to where he is. Dave is a natural storyteller and he tells the stories behind how he found himself in bands such as Scream, Nirvana, Foo Fighters as if he were sitting in your living room smoking a joint, tossing back a few drinks and reminiscing. You could tell he would love to have included the music as well, when he discussed certain things – but due to the expense they would have to pay for the licensing, so that didn’t happen.
It’s something that would add so much to the musicians’ memoirs, so I found myself pausing and going over to Apple Music or YouTube to listen to the song or video Dave was referring. I have always been a fan of both Nirvana and Foo Fighters and so when I saw this book, I was curious enough to listen and I am glad I did.
I love learning more about the stories behind the musicians who I love to listen to. Learning about who influenced them directly from them. If you enjoy the music, you will enjoy listening to The Storyteller.

And since I started this next book in January and just finished it earlier today – I’ll include it in the January Reads & Listens. Again, in my attempts to chip away at my TBR list and I opted to pick one of the newer names on the list – This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I had no idea what this book was about when I started and I am glad that I went in so blind, I may not have read it otherwise. Laurie Frankel tells a story about a family who is faced with navigating the deep and dangerous waters of having a son who struggles with gender-identity. A difficult and complex issue for any family to deal with and something any family could find themselves faced with, is something that I thing Frankel conveys in her portrait of the Rosie and Penn’s family.

What I didn’t find myself buying was the fairytale aspect of the story which somewhat mimics the fairytale that Penn tells his children . The story wrapped up a little too neatly and fairy tale-like, which seems contrary to the way I imagine the real story for families that are struggling with this issue.

What I feel Frankel does well is show you how a family holding one family members secret affects the entire family’s lives, siblings, parents and of course the individual whose secret the family is protecting.


In reviewing the month’s selection of books I am struck by a few themes that came up in a good many of the selections: The importance of a name and what comes along with a name. I saw this obviously in The Namesake, but also in Dave Grohl’s The Story Teller, and Laurie Frankel’s This Is How It Always Is. It’s even seen in The Invention of Wings. Storytelling seems to also be a common theme – Dave Grohl’s book of course, but the stories that are told and passed down with the quilts in The Invention of Wings and the fairy tale within This is How It Always Is. And of course, Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk is a story being told by the narrator to his children. Lastly, there is the common thread of stories about family which most, including some of the short stories.

View all my reviews

For my January Literati Club book, I am reading We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider. I am currently on page 131. I also read – sort of – Zentangle PRIMER Vol. 1 by Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. I plan to write a review but will do so in a separate post.

As the new month begins, I am 9 books into the new year and 4 ahead of schedule. I like being ahead of schedule and considering I am over 60% in to Tim Kreider’s We Learn Nothing, I’m feeling really good about where I am in my reading goals. Now just to figure out what to read next.