Review: The Three of Us: A Novel by Ore Agbaje-Williams


My Interest

This is another great find at a time when I trolled the library e-audios in desperation for something to listen to on my car trip. Newly published, this is her first novel by this author, though she has written for online sources. It sounded it interesting and was short (4.5 hours/ 188 pages). Although just over the 150 pages, I will call this a novella.

The Story

“…he sees what I see but from the other side. A woman in between two selfs undecided as to which she could remain loyal…”

[Quotes are written down from the audio so the punctuation may be off a little].

Two well-off Nigerian-British girls meet in school and become best friends. In college [University] they decide to live their lives a certain way and forgo marriage, family, etc, in favor of living for themselves. Temi is the driving force in the relationship. Her friend is more of a follower. But then the friend marries and not only does she no longer work, but she agrees to try for a baby. One child. Temi cannot take this–she sees it as betrayal. Meanwhile, the husband cannot stand Temi. The husband and wife are well suited to each other–they share a common vision of their life. But, Temi does not like this vision–there is not enough room in it for her and her influence on her friend. Each of the three chapters is told in the voice of first the wife, then the husband, and then Temi.

My Thoughts

Wow! Like Lee Cole’s Groundskeeping, the animosity–no, hatred, I felt for Temi is a testament to the excellent writing of Ms. Agbaje-Williams. Temi, the friend from hell. Exactly what I imagine it is like to be friends with the wife of the author of WAAAH! of South Park fame. And this woman was friends with the husband’s sister? Amazing. I’ve thought a lot lately about how sick I am of the “I’m gonna f with you because I can” culture. Temi is the fictional post child of the movement. That’s how real she is in the book. Like the aforementioned Mrs. WAAAH!, you have to do the math to figure out if it’s better having her in the family or out. I was so unsettled by this character that I had to go for a walk afterwords. I can hear her asking “But, did you die? Did anyone die?” Wow. Wow. Wow.

“[Temi] is probably the only person in my life who has never wanted something from me–only for me.”

The wife believes this! Yet it is so obvious that Temi only wants to keep her trapped in their friendship because she is so unhappy. I kept wondering why the wife didn’t tell her friend to stop belittling her husband or to not come over, but WOW, I get it now. You’d have a full time job keeping this monster happy. “I’m staying forever” Temi said to the husband once. Won’t she just!

I sincerely hope Ms Agbaje-Williams writes more books! This had the impact of Muriel Sparks’ The Driver’s Seat and then some. Previously that was the most unsettling story for me (of the ones I went on to finish). That is high praise.

My Verdict


The Three of Us: A Novel by Ore Agbaje-Williams

R.I.P. Tina Turner

Tina and Elton–The Bitch is Back, the perfect song for this book!

Review: The Hebridean Baker by Coinneach MacLeod


My Interest

Had I not just the day before sat listening to the Mc Ian Duo at my tiny rural Ohio library, I might have overlooked this little gem of a book. But suddenly, my eye is drawn immediately to anyone in a kilt! A nonfiction novella in length, this was just what I needed when I was too tired to start another novel on my drive home from a roadtrip. Who knew he was a TikTok sensation? Not me, that’s for sure!

The Book

Part growing up memoir, part geography and history lesson, part folklore, and part cookbook, this “wee” book packs a lot of fun between very few pages. I was concerned about staying awake on the road as he read out long recipes, but thankfully he was aiming this at today’s cooks! (A Tik Tok star would do that, wouldn’t he?) What’s not to like about Whiskey Ice Cream or a Smoked Salmon Cornish Pasty? LOL. (Thankfully, all the recipes were not read out).

My Thoughts

The audio was about 2 hours–novella length and since I listened to it I’m “counting” it as a novella. The actual book was 321 pages, so more than a novella. Who cares–it was fun! He even tells you to go listen to a certain Celtic singer! My kind of “cookbook.” And, with a degree in Icelandic sagas, he’s a great storyteller.

I borrowed the e-book as well and hope to try a couple of recipes soon.

My Verdict


The Hebridean Baker by Coinneach MacLeod

I listened to the audio version.

It Happened One Christmas Eve by Jenn McKinlay


My Interest

I was in the mood for a “put your brains under the seat and don’t ask too many questions” sort of Christmas book. [That quote, by the way, originated long ago with a Bond movie–The Spy Who Loved Me, iirc].

The Story

Heiress and museum director, Claire MacIntosh (fyi, I’ve never met a woman named Claire–nor Tess…most popular names in novels) plays Runaway Bride by seizing Santa’s “sleigh” and making a run for it when her society husband-to-be plans a cheesy Pinterest/Instagram-worthy proposal. Trey may have money and be an up-and-coming partner in her father’s environmental law firm, but he’s not at all what Claire dreams of. Her society mother Hildy pushes Trey at her like an exceptional hors d’oeuvres. Claire sees him as wheat grass. Happily, Santa’s sleigh has been hijacked by Sam, a well known investigative journalist.  Yep, you guessed it…..[No spoilers here].

My Verdict

This little book was just what I needed. I laughed, I “awed-d” and I just plain had a fun time listening to it.


It Happened One Christmas Eve by Jenn McKinlay

I don’t have the page total but it was only 3 hours and 22 minutes on audio

November Reading Events Tally

November has too many great reading events! Thankfully, I started a new job this month, so my participation was curtailed by the exhaustion of all day in new surroundings, all day surrounded by people, and all day learning new things. So, my goals were a little too lofty this year!


Sorry, German Literature, but you were the one that got lost in the crowd this time. No worries–I’d already read one German book in translation this year.


My Nevile Shute reading put me in good stead this year. I finished my second book by the Australian author at the start of the month. I reviewed What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute (Also titled The Ordeal) and the newer Jane Harper novel Lost Man.



Nonfiction November is an event I look forward to each year. This year I did “ok,” not great, but “ok.” I finished two audio books–Christmas Far From Home about Christmas in the Korean War and The Women of Rothschild, a biography of the women of that famous family.



I had big hopes for little books this year! But Novellas in November just didn’t go very far this time. A few “double dips”–books that worked for this and some other reading challenge or event. I reviewed A Christmas Escape by Anne Perry which “doubled” with 20 Books of Christmas, and What Happened to the Corbetts which doubled with Aus Reading Month.



20 Books for Christmas is still on going, so I’m not done. I’m trying to just use Christmas themed books–fiction or nonfiction. So, I reviewed Christmas Far From Home (nonfiction), The Christmas Escape,   The Christmas Bookshop, Mistletoe and Magic for the Cornish Midwife, and another book I’m reviewing on Monday.

I also read two other books, too long for NovNov and not Christmas Themed Meredith, Alone and The Blue Castle.

Have you done a November reading round-up type post? Have you read any of these books? Read anything else you think I’d want to know about? Leave me a comment or a link to your post!

#NovNov22 Review: A Christmas Escape by Anne Perry


My Interest

I’ve read the first 16 of Anne Perry’s William Monk books and one of her World War I series. I love Monk and Hester and their friends. Perry’s Christmas books usually center on a lesser character from one of her series. I like that.

The Story

Charles Latterly, brother of Hester, is recently widowed. He goes off to Italy to the island of Stromboli for a Christmas-time holiday. A volcano on the island is part of the interest. He meets up with friends and a friend’s young “ward”–a feisty young woman with a real “spark” in her eye. Along the way, naturally, there is a murder. Plus, how about a fictional character that’s a little too lifelike? How does it all come together? What happens to the friends? No spoilers on this blog!

My Thoughts

Anne Perry can get too sexually gruesome for me, but that was not the case this time (ok that is sort of a spoiler). I loved the setting of the story. I didn’t really love the “me-talka-not-so-good-a-Englisha” accent given to the Italian guy. Oh well, that’s me. Another good Christmas time story from Perry. I took off for the silly accent.

Now I want to make and eat stromboli!! My recipe is below!

My Verdict



1 batch of pizza dough (can use frozen)

6 slices of ham of your choice from the deli

6 or more slices of salami (depends on the size)

6 or sandwich size slices of pepperoni–or more of pizza sized

Mezztta Chicago Style Sandwich Giardinera Mix (hot or mild–I use what I can find)

Parmesan cheese (in the can is fine)

6-8 Slices Provolone (or Mozzarella) cheese

Pat or roll out the pizza dough into a rectangle. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan and some Italian Seasoning (or oregano or basil or whatever). Sprinkle the Parm heavy where the meat will go (helps with grease). Spread the meat across the dough. Top with the next type etc. Sprinkle a little more Parm on top of the meat. Now top with the Giardinera Relish (use a slotted spoon and drain it pretty well). Top with the sliced cheese. Fold and seal the dough around everything making a sort of loaf. If desired, brush with a little olive oil or Italian dressing and some coarse salt, if desired. Move to cornmeal scattered pizza pan or baking sheet. Bake till done in a hot over–425, about 15 to 25 minutes. If your family likes sauce, serve it with pizza or pasta sauce. We eat this plain. The Stromboli at Nick’s Bar at Indiana University is covered in sauce. I prefer this!


Aus Reads Month & NovNov Review: What Happened to the Corbett’s (aka The Ordeal) by Nevil Shute


My Interest

I have enjoyed each Nevil Shute book I’ve tried. So, why not another? Plus, he’s an Aussie author and this one was really short (my kindle version was 221 pages–barley over the 200 page limit suggested for Novellas in November, so I am counting it). This book was written in 1938 and published in 1939. It is fiction, but foretells what would happen in the Blitz.

The Story

“‘Home’s where your people are,’ he muttered to himself. “That’s about it.”

Peter and Joan Corbett are in their early 30s, with three young children. Peter is a lawyer in a partnership with one other lawyer. Both he and Joan were privately educated–he at Repton, she at an unnamed boarding school. The live in a newish home, next door to a contractor. They have a live-in nurse for their children and two maids who live out. Like the parents of young children everywhere, they are a bit distracted and not paying as much heed to the news as they should. Peter isn’t even sure which nation they are now at war with–so like today if happened, I’m sure. When war starts with a bombing raid, the Cobetts must deal with their lack of preparation–and the lack of preparation made by others around them.

With the calls from every corner for men to enlist, Peter decides he must see his family to safety first. They endure a few nights in the slit trench he painfully digs, covered by their car. As they sit in the rain on chairs in the mud, Peter hatches a plan to take his family to their yacht moored not too far from their Southampton home [a lot of boats are called “yachts” in the UK–not just the type Aristotle Onassis had] They will stay on it until things are calmer. Now, this is a fairly ordinary boat with one cabin–the baby’s “bed” hangs, if you can imagine, over the toilet! Imagine living one room, on water, during a war with bombs! In the end the family help in a very small scale Dunkirk-like operation.

My Thoughts

Shute uses contrived friendships (oh so convenient to have a builder/contractor next door, a doctor friend in the neighborhood, a friend in the RAF, etc.) to educate Peter and Joan, and hence the readers, on life in wartime. On taking seriously the government’s warnings and preparedness tips. It was a bit heavy handed for today, but it is largely a propaganda piece, albeit one I couldn’t put down.

Tiny Spoiler

“…you leave a mark behind you. A sort of impression. I’d like to think so, because I think we must have left a good one. We’re not famous people, and we’ve not done much. Nobody knows anything about us. But we’ve been so happy. We’ve lived quietly and decently, and done our job. We’ve had kids, too–and good ones.”

At the end, Peter and Joan both reflect and plan for the future. “This is the end of our young married life, Peter. We’ll be middle aged [when the war ends].” But it isn’t all doom and gloom ahead. Joan says “I do want a decent radio. The children are getting old enough to listen to good music now–just a little bit, now and again. I’d like to have a piano.”  Peter thinks that a piano could be out of reach. Joan returns to the radio: “We could have the radio, couldn’t we? Even if we had to put ion the Never-Never?” [payment plan]. I loved this! A man with his “yacht” thinking a piano out of reach for them! I bet after the war, Joan got the radio and Peter got a new boat.

One interesting thing:

Baby Joan (yes, the same name as her mother) was always referred to as “baby”–not “Baby” as in a cute nickname, but “baby” a noun and nearly always given the pronoun “it” which today would shock people. I know in old movies and books we often her Nanny saying that, but today it sounds really awful. Joan does sometimes say “the baby” as in “It’ll be good when things get settled down and we can get some maids again….I’m sick of washing nappies for the baby.” Nonetheless, the Corbett’s were good, loving, caring parents. Peter even cooks! They do go a bit far “afield” getting milk for “baby” [no spoilers]. And while he hides it very well, “[Peter] very much disliked looking after the children” which I thought was hilariously honest. They also just offer random kitchen workers a few coins to watch their children for an hour knowing nothing about the people! Imagine today?

Once again, Shute leaves me desperate for a sequel. I want to know someone took that boat to Dunkirk? Did Peter live through the war? Does their marriage survive? After the war, does Joan get that “one more boy” she mused she’d like to have had to complete their little family? Is there anything left of their nice house in Southampton? Or of Peter’s law office?

This was my second book by Shute in which the main male character’s name was Peter. I wonder if there is a reason for the repetition?

My Verdict


What Happened to the Corbetts by Nevil Shute (aka The Ordeal ) is $0.99

You can also read this book free on Project Gutenberg’s Canadian site where it is titled The Ordeal

My Reviews of Other Books by Nevil Shute

  1. Pastoral
  2. The Far Country

I’ve also read A Town Like Alice, which is one of my favorite books of all time, but I read it before blogging was invented. It is currently $1.99 for Kindle and worth much, much more!

Novellas in November 2022

Last week I posted my plans for Nonfiction November (as much as I ever plan), so today I’m brainstorming for Novellas in November. I even kept a list this year! Better yet, I FOUND this list! Victory! Remember, November has the mother lode of reading events: Novellas in November, Nonfiction November, German Literature Month, and Aussie Reading Month as well as many others.

Each Week’s Theme from hostesses, Cathy at 746 Books and Bookish Beck:

They’ll both put up an opening post on 1 November where you can leave your links throughout the month, to be rounded up on the 30th, and we’ll take turns introducing a theme each Tuesday.

1 – 7 November: Short Classics (Rebecca)

8 – 14 November: Novellas in Translation (Cathy)

15 – 21 November: Short Non-Fiction (Rebecca)

22 – 28 November: Contemporary Novellas (Cathy)

29/30 November: My Month in Novellas/ New to my TBR

(As a reminder, we suggest 150–200 pages as the upper limit for a novella, and post-1980 as a definition of “contemporary.”) This year’s buddy read will be: Foster by Clare Keegan. It will be released in the USA on November 1–the link has pre-order details.

What I May Read


My Hygge Home , a short nonfiction book, isn’t released until November 15th, so that may be a problem if I am still unemployed. Plus, I loved listening to his voice! I hope the audio is announced soon. The President’s Hat I have already requested from the library. The Diary (I love diaries!) is super cheap on kindle–The Diary of a 100 Year Old Amused Senior. If I decide it is a “must” I’ll splurge. I’m hoping either the German Lit or Aussie Reads selection will be a novella–no telling though since I’m still researching those.

Novellas Read So Far in 2022

I’ve read/listened to many novellas this year. My post-Covid, unemployed (twice in one year) brain seems to do best with this length right now. A few are translations, so if you are doing Novellas in November and want suggestions for that week, see The Ardent Swarm, Loop, Portrait of an Unknown Lady, The Cat Who Saved Books, and Tales from the Cafe. [Volume I, Before the Coffee Gets Cold review is here].

A Short nonfiction book or nonfiction “novella” is Did Ye Hear Mammy Died?

The others below are fiction. The first four are new: Swimmers, Small Things Like These, Love & Saffron, and Border Less. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, and The Finishing School are much older.

Two that are slightly longer, but still under 250 pages (the limit is really 200). These are two of my favorite books read this year, so I’m including them for those who don’t mind a little bit longer book.

Are you participating in Novellas in November this year? Have you recently read and reviewed a good novella? Leave me a comment or a link to your post.

Spanish/Portuguese Lit Month Review: Portrait of an Unknown Lady by Maria Gainza translated by Thomas Bunstead

My Interest

In the last few years, I’ve enjoyed participating each July in Spanish and Portuguese Literature challenges hosted by blogger Winston’s Dad, so this year I kept a look out for new books to for this challenge.  The NY Times list of new translated books caught my attention. This book was in it and, happily, was novella length, and (best of all) was about 4 1/2 hours on audio. Perfect for my current attention span!


The Story

What caught my eye about the story, beyond being set in Argentina (a country I have not “read” before) and being translated into Spanish, was that it concerned the art world–especially high-priced forgeries–those who create them and those who track them down and expose them. Instead the story is a rambling, disjointed mess of thoughts, text, and occasionally happenings.

My Thoughts

I think the world “surreal” was thrown in there somewhere in what I read about this book and I should have headed it. Like theatre of the absurd that one word says it all–surreal. Or, to my mind, ridiculous. Much of the book was a boring recital of the descriptions of pieces of art in a gallery or sale catalog. Interspersed between these entries were seemingly random about the art work such as: “The swollen mouths anticipate the rash of Botox use in the city 50 years later.”  Ok…. Then there was the need to intrude–no force into our brains the image that one piece of art was rumored to be used by its owner as a mastra—–y aid. ICK to the nth degree. This line told all I needed to know about this book–it was published because of who the author is and not because it is at all creative. It is just a mess. I finished it so you don’t have to.

My Verdict

2 stars

Portrait of an Unknown Lady: A Novel by Maria Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead

Review: The Ardent Swarm: A Novel by Yamen Manai, translated by Lara Vergnaud

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My Interest

I was trolling thru my Kindle looking for something different and landed on this short novel. I’m counting it in my Reading the World project as “Tunisia” because the author is Tunisian, it draws on the culture of that country and though set in am unnamed country, the story could be set there. CIA World Fact Book–Tunisia.


The Story

(Don’t be put off by the first chapter). Sidi is a beekeeper who keeps to himself, takes good care of his bees and his donkey and minds his own business. He lives outside a small village in an undeveloped (“backward”) part of a poor North African country. The country is ruled by “the Handsome One.” One day everything starts to change in ways Sidi and his rural neighbors could not imagine. Largely illiterate they are faced with a new challenge–electing their own leader. Religious leaders arrive in the village and teach them to vote for their party by it’s symbol. To reinforce their voters’ learning they bring crates of food, clothing, blankets, and other necessities to the very poor villagers. A voting booth is put up. A village with no electricity or running water, no school, now had a voting booth. A voting booth where they could vote for the pigeon symbol instead of learning to read and think for themselves.

Soon after Sidi’s bees are violently attacked by a strange black hornet the likes of which no one has ever seen before. Society changes as rapidly as the life in the beehives. Suddenly women are covered head-to-toe, men dress differently too, and many carry rifles or even semi-automatics. The religious leaders make pronouncements. The professor Sidi goes to see about his bees suffers greatly from this new regime (trying to avoid spoilers). What will become of the bees and the people?

My Thoughts

This novel (novella in length), told in the style of a parable shows what can happen when people don’t pay attention to what is going on around them. Sidi, shows the difference one man (my “one” vote that people refuse to cast because it is “useless”) can make. 

I found it chilling to read this book at a time when many (I am not divulging my political opinions) feel the USA is now going the way of Sidi’s country–to a theocracy. It also brings to mind the famous quote about the Nazi’s

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

(Martin Niemoller)

“After the revolution, the time had come for democracy and journalism, but what came was and endless media debate in which politicians blamed one another for all that ailed the country.” (p. 114)

Too often today people want to ignore politics, to live in their own “bubble.” New is skewed totally to the opinion of one party or the other. “Serious” journalists now take only a Liberal point of view. It is too easy to tune it all out and focus on a ridiculous prince and his horrible wife or on real housewives or sports or (fill in the blank). We must be awake in life. As anxiety-producing and anger-invoking as politics can be, we must not turn a blind eye to it. We must not let corrupt politicians drive our nations an internal cataclysm of “us” versus “them.” We must unite to save ourselves from those corrupt politicians of we, too, will have the fate of the professor Sidi consults. Wake up, America. Unite.

The Ardent Swarm The Ardent Swarm: A Novel by Yamen Manai, translated by Lara Vergnaud


Review: Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly

#DidYeHearMammyDiedAudio #NetGalley

My Interest

My constant search for audio books for my long commute led me to this memoir on Net Galley. I am fascinated by big families, so a widowed father with 11 kids–why not? The author is one of the kids.  Dad did well enough to provide a housekeeper even when his wife was alive. I liked the sound of it. Add to it that this is a novella-length memoir and you have the perfect book to finish the week that starts finishing a book on the wrong day. I like “week-length” audio books for my commute. Sometimes, though, I have to to take longer ones.

The Story

My parents were formidably, perhaps even recklessly Catholic.”

“To be one of eleven was…demented.… [and] It didn’t help that we were so close in age and traveled often singling in the kind of large, vaguely municipal transport vehicle usually reserved for separatist churches and volleyball teams made up of young offenders.”


I know that in Ireland “Mammy” means Mom. Here in the USA, however, the term is cringe-inducing and might get you banned from social media if you used it. (While reading this book, I watched a  Neil Sean YouTube video that included the Al Jolson film, “The Jazz Singer” and I cringed just thinking the word  “Ma….”].

Anyway, the book’s title comes from the fact that when the author was little, his mother died of breast cancer, and he in his kindergarten-aged-logic went around telling everyone at the wake, “Did ye hear Mammy [Mommy] died?” like it was news. Ouch! Recounting his life in a series of vignettes (columns?), O’Reilly tells about life as one of the “wee ones” of the family–those who rode at the back of the families airport shuttle bus. The little boy with the cereal box full of toy dinosaurs, whose engineer Dad, recorded on VHS (and catalogued) nearly everything broadcast in Northern Ireland in the Full House tv years grew up to tell the story of how little he remembers about the mother he knows was wonderful. He also tells about how his father coped by keeping busy.

It was the Dad I really liked. He did obsessive things like catalog everything he recorded on 3 to 4 VCRs, he kept a garage full of stuff as interesting as three chain saws, and how was a true Catholic–not just one who wasn’t successful with any birth control method. He gave of himself and his time to the church, his family, and his community. He thought his kids were best served living in nowhereville, having poor little entertainment aside from a house crammed with books, and did little or nothing to get involved at school. In spite of this–or maybe because of it, his kids did well. I wish I’d been more like Séamas’ dad. Maybe my kids would be readers today!

The O’Reilly kids sang at church events but didn’t get preachy–this is not the Irish Catholic Duggar family. At least Séamas (and I assume others) read every book in the house and followed his own rabbit trails of interests so that he came to know all kinds of weird facts about stuff like dinosaurs. Séamas, though, also came to a point where he did not sleep, constantly felt he deserved more attention but, guess what? He didn’t go off the rails. He did not become a drug addict or kill people or anything like that. Instead,  he had his appendix out and go back to life. And, he learned to tell his story with humor and grace. After all, if your dad was the kind of guy who had a pet name for his favorite step-ladder, how could you not turn out ok?

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly releases tomorrow, June 7, 2022, but is available now for pre-order.

My Verdict


A good, fun, memoir

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