The Numbers

DATE: 3/1/19 – Well, what do you know? I’m on time…again.

Challenge Titles Finished (Totals To Date):

  • Books: 1,276
  • Poetry: 78
  • Short stories: 55
  • Plays: 2

Titles Finished: Totals for 2019:

  • Books: 23
  • Poetry: 0
  • Short stories: 0
  • Plays: 0
  • Early Reviews: 1

All titles left to go for Challenge: 4,306

Next count: 4/1/2018


Topper

Smith, Thorne. Topper: a Ribald Adventure. New York: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, 1926.

Reason read: Thorne Smith’s birth month was in March.

Cosmo Topper is an odd duck and his story is an even goofier one. After hearing about a young couple tragically killed in a car accident he sets out to buy their automobile from a mechanic. He has never driven a car and so obviously he doesn’t have a license. Despite all that, something prompts him to hide the purchase of the car from Mrs. Topper as well as keep secret the subsequent driving lessons he needs in order to operate the motor vehicle. But the trouble really begins when the ghosts of George and Marion Kirby, the couple killed in the accident, start haunting Mr. Topper and their old vehicle. For lack of a better word they are troublemakers, materializing at will and causing general mayhem. Things turn scandalous when Mr. Kirby leaves his wife. Vixen Marion is left to haunt Mr. Topper by her playful self.

Quotes I actually smiled at: “Mr. topper could excuse nature and the Republican Party, but not man” (p 9), “Nearing forty and acquiring flesh” (p 17), and “Mrs. Kirby’s smile had caused Mr. Topper to feel much less married” (p 25).

Confessional: is it terrible that my favorite character was Scollops, the cat?

Author fact: Thorne lived from 1893 to 1934 and died at age forty one years of age.

Book trivia: Topper was made into a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl said “not to miss out on discovering or reacquainting yourself with Topper.” (Book Lust p 101). She then goes on to explain the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 99).


White Sky, Black Ice

Jones, Stan. White Sky, Black Ice. New York: Soho Press, 1999.

Reason read: Alaska’s Seward Day takes place in March.

The first book in Stan Jones’s Nathan Active series has the task of painting a picture of who Nathan Active is. The character development is slow in regards to Active’s personality. Jones spends a lot of time building the backstory of Active’s adoption after his fifteen year old Inupiat mother gave him up. He was raised by a white couple in Anchorage and grew up to be a state trooper. Here’s the rub: he has been posted back in his little birth village of Chukchi where he feels torn between the cultures of his upbringing and the traditions in his blood. He’s an obvious outsider, being raised in the big city. But when atypical suicides start happening one right after the other Active decides to listen to his ancestral roots and dig in.

Confessional: because White Sky, Black Ice takes an environmental spin I kept thinking of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. She also tackles the theory that our planet is going to hell.

Author fact: Stan Jones launched the Kotzubue newspaper. He was also an editor for a couple of other newspapers.

Book trivia: White Sky, Black Ice is the first in the Nathan Active series.

Nancy said: Pear said nothing specific except to say White Sky, Black Ice is the first in a series.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the interesting chapter “All Set For Alaska” (p 14).


Calypso

Sedaris, David. Calypso. Read by David Sedaris. New York: Hatchett Audio, 2018.

Reason read: I am participating in the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge again this year. One of the categories is “A book nominated for an award” and Calypso by David Sedaris was nominated for an Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year for 2019.

If you are not familiar with David Sedaris’s writing, please do me a favor and stop reading this review. Do yourself a favor and run out and buy yourself a copy of any one of his books. Really. Any book Sedaris has written would be good. It really doesn’t matter with which one you start your introduction.
But probably the best way to experience Sedaris is to hear him read his own work. He has a comedic timing that is impeccably smart. Coupled this with his sarcastic wit and he will have you laughing and crying at the same time. I don’t know how he makes feeding a defrosted human tumor (his own) to a snapping turtle funny, or his mother’s alcoholism, or his sister’s suicide but really truly, he does. You find yourself in awe of how he chooses to see each situation. That viewpoint translates into a keen sense of the bigger picture and the world around him. From fashion from Japan to trash picking in England, Sedaris invites you to never see life the same way again.

Line I wish I had written, “…We stayed until our fingerprints were on everything” (from The Perfect Fit).


Monkey’s Raincoat

Crais, Robert. The Monkey’s Raincoat. New York: Perfect Crime Book, 1987.

Reason read: I needed another category for March and decided to throw this one in the mix because March is a rainy month. Get it? Sigh.

It’s really too bad I don’t have a lot more of Robert Crais on my reading list. I fell in love with wisecracking private investigator, Elvis Cole, immediately. (My only other Crais is a Joe Pike mystery.) But, back to Elvis Cole. With Cole’s affinity for Disney characters, yoga, and a cat named nothing, he is a bundle of personality and then some. He’s thirty five years old, former military and security, likes to look at the ladies and isn’t above saying something outrageous just to see someone’s reaction. What’s not to love? I took to his sarcastic kindness right away.
When we first meet Elvis, he is about to launch into a new investigation involving a weepy woman’s missing husband and son. All clues lead to Mr. Missing taking off with a sexy young girlfriend until he is found shot to death in the Hollywood Hills. What starts off as a simple missing case has now evolved into a murderous mystery involving high stakes drug deals gone wrong and bad ass thugs who will stop at nothing to regain the upper hand. It is up to Elvis and his silent (in more ways than one) partner, Joe Pike, to find Ellen’s missing son and bring him back, dead or alive. The details are a little dated (these are the days of calling from street corner payphones and Wang Chung hits), but still a good read.
Mousy mom Ellen Lang was a mystery to me. She didn’t get Cole’s joke about the humor of paramedics (keeping one “in stitches”) yet she understood that two years at the “University of Southeast Asia” meant a stint in Vietnam. Throughout the entire book she wasn’t consistent to me. Someone who was consistent and I wanted more of was Joe Pike. The inside flap described him as an enigma and that just scratches the surface of Pike’s personality. Can’t wait to read more about him later.

Quote I liked, “Everything always goes wrong whent the cameras turned away” (p 27).

Author fact: If you ever get the chance to check out the author photo on the back of The Monkey’s Raincoat, please do. Robert Crais could not look any cooler in his over-sized sunglasses, Batman tee-shirt and glowing white kicks. The pose is pretty bad ass, too.

Book trivia: The Monkey’s Raincoat won the Anthony and Macavity Awards.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Monkey’s Raincoat except to include it in a list she called “private eye novels.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 116).


Blackout

Garcia-Roza, Luiz Alfredo. Blackout: an Inspector Espinosa Mystery. Translated by Benjamin Moser. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008.

Reason read: to finish the series started in February in honor of Brazil’s Carnival.

When a crippled and seemingly homeless man is found shot to death in a cul-de-sac in a wealthy neighborhood Espinosa knew from childhood personal intrigue is added to his professional duty to find the killer. The secluded neighborhood is up a very steep hill so why would a vagrant man with only one leg be there, especially late at night in a torrential downpour? Espinosa likes two men for the crime. Both were collecting their cars in the same cul-de-sac after a dinner party. Both men initially lie to Espinosa but one man in particular holds his attention longer. There is something about Aldo. Espinosa and his team slowly turn up the pressure on their prime suspect, showing up at Aldo’s work, following him around town, and repeatedly interviewing his therapist wife. Such scrutiny finally reveals Aldo is having an affair with a coworker. Even after Aldo’s wife is found murdered Espinosa refuses to consider he has an open and shut case. He shows considerable restraint when he does not eagerly arrest the obvious suspect.
Character development is subtle and substantial all at once. The character of Camilla Bruno was intriguing. Was she seducing patients or not? I wish I had more Garcia-Rozas on my Challenge list. I would have liked to see how Espinoza’s personality evolves. His love of books, for example.
One of the best part’s of Garcia-Roza’s writing is his elegant descriptions of the Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods (Copacabana and Ipanema specifically). I found myself playing around with Google Earth just to see how close he came to matching the true landscapes.

As an aside, I just finished watching two documentaries about how an innocent man spent considerable time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit because the state wanted to close their high profile case. Police became fixed on the wrong man and made the evidence fit the guilt instead of looking at every viable suspect out there. Espinosa would have been good on both of these cases. He certainly wouldn’t have rushed to judgement.

Author fact: Garcia-Roza is an academic and has written at least five other books which are not on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: this is the sixth book in the Espinosa series.

Nancy said: Pearl said “mystery fans can rejoice in reading Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza’s complex novels” (Book Lust To Go p 45).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very simple chapter called “Brazil” (p 43).


Foundation and Empire

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation and Empire. New York: Bantam Books,

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.

I am going to write the blah blah review because, after all, I only need to prove I read the thing. I never said I would enjoy it.
Part I of Foundation and Empire focuses on General Bel Riose and his attempt to take over the empire. He needs to be able to make metals (tungsten out of aluminum and iridium out of iron). When Riose launches a plan to attack the Foundation a trader by the name of Lathan intercepts the plot. Lathan runs to the Emporor of Trantor to squeal on Riose.
Part II of Foundation and Empire takes place 100 years later. A strange mutant called “the Mule” is terrorizing the land with his ability to manipulate the emotions of those around him. He changes the course of the empire in a myriad of ways.
Confessional: I hate it when I get confused by details. On page 120 Bayta sends the clown out of the room (…and the clown left without a sound”). Yet, a few paragraphs later the Captain turns to the clown to ask him a question (“The captain faced the trembling Magnifico, who obviously distrusted this huge, hard man who faced him” p 22). What the what? The clown would have to have left the room and then immediately come right back in according to the narrative but nowhere does it indicate Magnifico does that.

Can I be truthful? If these Foundations were not as short as they are, I wouldn’t be reading them.

Quotes I liked, “All was arranged in such a way that the future as foreseen by the unalterable mathematics of psychohistory would involve their early isolation from the main body of Imperial civilization and their gradual growth intho the germs of the Second Galactic Empire- cutting an inevitable barbarian interregnum from thirty thousand years to scarcely a thousand” (p 22).

Book trivia: Foundation and Empire consist of two different stories and is considered the second book in the series.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Foundation and Empire.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Exploring the Southwest

Gagne, Tammy. Exploring the Southwest. North Mankato, Minnesota: Abdo Publishing, 2018.

Reason read: planning a trip to the Southwest for my birthday.

This may be a book written for young children but I found it to be a good starting place for planning my trip to the southwest region of the United States. For starters, it was nice to clear up what states were officially considered “southwest.” Oklahoma and Texas were not part of my travel plans despite being part of the region.
The second detail I appreciated was the variety of topics covered by Ms Gagne. According to the index, the major topics were: history, nature (plants, animals, landscape, weather), industry, and people. I focused primarily on plants (chitalpa, desert spoon, prickly pear, sagebrush and tumbleweeds).
The third and final detail I appreciated was the photography. The front cover is the most stunning.

Book trivia: this is part of the Exploring America’s Regions series.