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

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.

My Audiobook Club – August/September

The last days of summer were crazy busy for me. We’ve been getting all the wood cut, split and stacked for our wood furnace which we use primarily for our winter heat. Later this morning we will go out and do four more gator loads which we estimate will complete filling our woodshed, the last remaining space we have for wood stacking.

While I’m out there doing a lot this work and some of my other gardening work, I have my headphones on all the while listening to one of my audiobooks. Since my last My Audiobook Club post I have listened to and completed 8 more books. That brings my total this year to 27 books and counting.

I started the month with a recommendation from my 22 year old niece and goddaughter, The Guest List by Lucy Foley. The audiobook is narrated by a cast of voices and runs 9 hours and 54 minutes. A fun mystery in the style of a good Agatha Christie thriller, I give this a four star rating. I hate to say too much about a book, always fearing that I may inadvertently give away too much. 3.75 stars

In my experience, those who have the greatest respect for the rules also take the most enjoyment in breaking them.

Lucy Foley, The Guest List

I followed up this audiobook with another recommendation from my goddaughter since she’d steered me well the last time. Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid is also narrated by a cast of voices and runs 9 hours and 3 minutes. This was another fun listen which reminded me of hanging out and listening to old friends, if I had hung out with a bunch of rock musicians that is. Taylor Jenkins Reid weaves a tale about a fictional band into a musical world that was the soundtrack of my generation’s lifetime. I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook and give it 4 stars.

You can’t control another person. It doesn’t matter how much you love them. You can’t love someone back to health and you can’t hate someone back to health and no matter how right you are about something, it doesn’t mean they will change their mind.

Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel

I followed up this book with Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng narration by Jennifer Lim with a run time of 11 hours, 27 minutes. This is a book with lots of different storylines going on at once which sometimes can be difficult to follow. I enjoyed this book though, there was something about the family which I found relatable – probably the dysfunctionality. I can see how this was made into a television miniseries. 3.5 Stars

Sometimes you have to scorch everything to the ground and start over. After the burning, the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that too. They start over. They find a way.

Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere

I dove into an oldie but a goodie, a book I read in high-school, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut narrated by James Franco for 5 hours and 13 minutes. I liked this book in high school and 35 years later I enjoyed listening to the audiobook. Vonnegut has a way of creating interesting characters that you come to care about, some you may have met in another of his books. Slaughterhouse Five is an intense book about Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW and his experience at Dresden. It’s a timeless book which reminds us of a moment in history form a very personal point of view. If you have never read Slaughterhouse Five, you should. 5 Stars. Must read/listen.

That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones.

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

After such an intense book, I decided to completely switch gears and check out something completely different. Tomorrow by Damian Dibben, narration by George Blagden at 10 hours and 42 minutes was a fantastical story of a dog and his master. Most of the story is set in one of my favorite cities in the world, Venice, Italy which is described time and gain throughout the story. Having visited Venice many times I found it easy to put myself right there in the action. I love dog stories and particularly stories which remind you of the incredibly strong bond between a dog and their human. I highly recommend this book or audiobook for any dog enthusiast, it’s a certainly a must read/listen. 4 Stars.

Humans possess a fascination for our species, and an innate kindness that they do not always have for each other.

Damian Dibben, Tomorrow

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout was narrated by Kimberly Farr and was a long 12 hours and 2 minutes. I was underwhelmed by this story. I had all sorts of expectations considering it is a Pulitzer Prize Winner and was named best book of the year by a bunch of different media organizations. But that right there should have been my tip off. The media has been a less than reliable source in recent years. So what would they know about a good book. The book is about the title character and her family and I kept thinking at some point things would come together but they didn’t. There are more Olive books which is why things felt a little unfinished. There were a few poignant quotes I took from the book though. This one in particular made me chuckle: “She didn’t like being alone. Even more, she didn’t like being with people.” 2 Stars

Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most like not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.

Kimberly Farr, Olive Kitteridge

I went back to another classic, not wanting to be disappointed and I wasn’t. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury narrated by Tim Robbins was poignant to me today as it was back when I read it for the first time in high school. Time and again I kept going back over certain lines which stood out to me where I was astounded by the timelessness of Bradbury’s ideas. It’s a story which demonstrates how important it is to have books and art, know your history and remember the facts. It’s a story about how facts and how history can be distorted and falsified. This is a must read/listen – 5 Stars.

Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitch the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

We need not be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Finally, I circled back to an audiobook I had started a few months earlier but stopped because it just wasn’t into it initially. The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward and narrated by Theresa Plummer ran 8 hours and 3 minutes. Recently I made a commitment to myself to finish projects that I started and walked away from, so I gave this book another try.

The story was a lot deeper than it initially appeared to be and perhaps I was more in the right frame of mind to listen to this type of story. Another dysfunctional family’s story is always something I can relate to. Overall, the book was better than I thought it would be in the beginning. A Reese’s Book Club X Hello Sunshine Book Club pick, so I had big expectations and I can see Witherspoon producing this story in movie or something one day. 3.5 stars.