The Numbers

DATE: 10/12/19 I have only one thing to say. No update since May? What the hell happened?

Challenge Titles Finished (Totals To Date):

  • Books: 1,365
  • Poetry: 78
  • Short stories: 63
  • Plays: 4

Titles Finished: Totals for 2019:

  • Books: 99
  • Poetry: 0
  • Short stories: 9
  • Plays: 0
  • Early Reviews: 7

All titles left to go for Challenge: 4,223

Next count: 11/1/2018


Isabel’s Bed

Lipman, Elinor. Isabel’s Bed. New York: Washington Square Press, 1995.

Reason read: Lipman’s birth month is in October. Read in her honor.

Harriet Mahoney gave twelve years of her life to a man who just left her to marry a woman he’s only known for a few months. Adding insult to injury, he kicks Harriet out of the house she has shared with him as his common law wife for all those years. Dejected but determined to land on her feet, (without her parents’s help…she is over forty, after all!) Harriet takes a job in the seaside town of Truro, Cape Cod, to ghost write celebrity Isabel Krug’s tabloid story. Everyone knows Isabel was the femme fatale using a vibrator in a married man’s bed. Everyone knows the married guy’s wife stormed into the bedroom and shot him dead. Everyone knows because the trial was a sensation full of titillating details, but Isabel wants the world to know her side of the story (it’s even more sordid) and because she isn’t shy, she’s willing to tell all. Harriet is in for the ride of her life working with feisty Isabel…until the not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity widow comes knocking.
This is a fun read but a bit silly at times.

Line I really liked, “My taste buds strained in their direction” (p 276).

Author fact: Lipman is from Lowell, Massachusetts. Same as Hey Jack Kerouac.

Book trivia: So. This story is supposed to take place in Cape Cod. One character is supposed to have a wicked Boston accent. He does…for the most part. It comes and goes.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Isabel’s Bed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Elinor Lipman: Too Good to Miss” (p 146).


Running Blind

Child, Lee. Running Blind. New York: Berkley, 2000.

Reason read: to continue the series started in July (the month New York became a state) because Lee Child lives there…or did at the time of publication. Confessional: I thought I was supposed to read Echo Burning next. I am glad I was wrong.

There are so many twists to Running Blind that it might feel a little like walking through a haunted house. You never know when something is going to pop out at you, but because stuff does pop out at you, and with alarming frequency, you come to expect the surprises. They might not even shock you over time. The premise of Running Blind is former military women are being murdered all over the country. The cause of death is a mystery. There are no fatal wounds, no signs of a struggle, none of the women defending themselves, there wasn’t even forced entry into their homes. The commonality between each murdered victim besides military connections is Jack Reacher. Of course. What makes this story like all the others is that government officials keep trying to pin the murders on Reacher. He’s always guilty in every book. What makes this story slightly different from the rest is this time Reacher has a serious girlfriend, a lawyer to help bail him out.

Author fact: Child calls himself an “insatiable reader” (from an interview). Indeed, his website’s homepage has him reading on a couch. It’s a great photo.

Book trivia: confessional: the end of this book is a little hokey. I had a hard time swallowing the “whodunit” at the grand finale. Yes, pun totally intended. Once you read the book you will get it. I promise. Another book trivia: Running Blind was published as The Visitor in the United Kingdom.

Nancy said: Pearl said to read child in order. Luckily for me I didn’t pay attention to her order. She places Echo Burning before Running Blind. According to Wikipedia and Child’s own site, Echo was published the year after Running.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lee Child: Too Good To Miss” (p 41).


Jamesland

Huneven, Michelle. Jamesland. New York: Random House, 2003.

Reason read: October is Mental Health Awareness month.

The theme for this book is crazy. Seriously. Every character has their own special brand of crazy. Alice Black think she’s going crazy after confronting a deer in her living room in the middle of the night. Former crazy talented head chef Pete Ross knows he’s going crazy after attempting suicide a few times for no apparent reason. Unitarian minister Helen Harland has her own brand of crazy dealing with a mean-spirited church administration who gave her a lukewarm performance evaluation. How these three meet and deal with their separate brands of crazy is the heart and soul of the story. They are completely different people and yet. Yet! Yet, they bond over the insanities (my word) in their lives.
Alice Black is trying to get over a breakup with a married man. As she struggles to make sense of the lies (“For sure I’m going to leave my famous-actress wife…”) she befriends Helen in the hopes of understanding the meaning of a frightened deer in her living room. Helen is desperate for any kind of friends and has a habit of pulling anyone and everyone, including the wife of Alice’s affair, into her orbit. She hopes they help her make sense of her life. Then there is divorced and messy Pete who still lives with his mother, who still lives under the thumb of his mother. Helen insists on keeping him in her crazy circle of friends.
At the center of all this drama is Alice’s great-great grandfather, William James, Henry James’s lesser known brother. He is the key to spiritual awakening, with the help of a crazy medium, of all three.

Quotes to quote, “Walking in such public areas made him feel more acutely the lunatic at large” (p 257) and “It counts as an honor to cut up a euthanized hippopotamus” (p 379).

Author fact: Huneven also wrote Round Rock, which is not on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: I could see this as a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Jamesland but in the intro to the chapter she said some of the books “have unexpected depth” I think she was talking about Jamesland.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Just Too Good To Miss” (p 132).


Long Day Monday

Turnbull, Peter. Long Day Monday. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992.

Reason read: October is Mystery Month.

An abandoned car. A dead woman buried in a field. A discarded child’s toy. A missing boy. Are these things connected or merely coincidences? Observations made in quick succession? Such is the mystery presented to the investigators of the renowned P Division in Glasgow, Scotland on a bright Thursday afternoon. First called to the scene of an abandoned vehicle, neatly parked by the side of a rural road, the plot thickens when the plates come back belonging to a stolen car. Upon further investigation of the area a body has been buried in a shallow grave. The young woman shows signs of starvation and previous restraint around her wrists and ankles. Is she a murder victim or a woman with an eating disorder who liked a little bondage with her sex life? How did she end up in the middle of nowhere buried under topsoil? What about the presence of a toy rabbit carelessly discarded nearby? Is it a coincidence that there is a ten year old boy missing? Are all of these clues connected? The police realize they will need to work through the weekend in order to make sense of it all. As a result, it’s going to be a long day Monday.
My favorite part was when the science of reconstructing a three dimensional face was employed. The technology was new at the time of Turnbull’s writing and it was considered cutting edge to use the details of sex, age, and ethnicity to rebuild someone’s likeness when the only physical evidence was the victim’s skull.

Author fact: Peter Turnbull worked as a steelworker and a crematorium assistant. I don’t know which is worse.

Book trivia: Long Day Monday is super short, under 200 pages.

Nancy said: Pearl called Long Day Monday “stark and dark” (p 121) and suggested it as a “taste of [Turnbull’s] brews” (p 121).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 121).


Obsession with Butterflies

Russell, Sharman Apt. An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing, 2003.

Reason read: there is a place in Western Massachusetts called Magic Wings. It opened in the month of October. Originally, this was the reason I chose to read Obsession in the month of October. Joyously, I have a new yet fleeting new reason. Monhegan has been inundated with monarch butterflies since September, resting before their journey to Mexico and beyond. We haven’t seen such a migration in years so it is nice to have them back.

This was a fun read. Right off the bat it was interesting to learn about string theory and the idea that there are ten dimensions, butterflies being one of them. But, Russell goes on from there. Recounting mythologies, symbolisms, scientific studies, pop cultures, history, evolution, obsessions, butterflies play an enormous role in our lives, sometimes in the center of it, sometimes on the periphery. Russell has a way with words that is pure magic.
And. And! And, who doesn’t love an author who can compare the antics of caterpillars to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, with the line, “This is a sprint, the ultimate chase scene” (p 25). There is such a witty humor to Russell’s writing.

I loved this droll little line, “Birds don’t eat their own droppings” (p 21). Okay. Here is an example of Russell’s humor if butterflies posted personals, “Personal ad #24: M seeks F, no pets, no parasites, no kinky hobbies, must like kids and nectar” (p 85) and “Personal ad #189: M, forceful type, wants F any age, minor role-playing, must enjoy airplane rides” (p 88). Too funny.

As an aside, butterflies have long been thought to be the souls of children no longer with us. Indeed, my aunt got a tattoo of a butterfly on her forearm to mourn the loss of her only son.

Author fact: Russell taught writing at two different institutions at the time of publication.

Book trivia: Obsession with Butterflies was illustrated by Jennifer Clark.

Nancy said: Pearl said Obsession with Butterflies is “designed to introduce readers to the (brief) life and behavior of one of the most varied, fascinating, and graceful creatures in the world” (p 69). She goes on to say more but you’ll just have to read More Book Lust to be in the know!

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 500s” (p 69).


October Late

I am so frigging late with this it’s not even funny. Here are my excuses: I was home-home the first weekend in October. I am hosting an art show. I’m trying to hire a new librarian. And. And! And, I have been running. Only 13.25 miles so far but it’s a start, right? I’m thrilled to be putting one foot in front of the other. But, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • October Light by John Gardner – in honor of October being in the the title of the book and the fact that it takes place in Vermont, a place that is simply gorgeous in the fall.
  • Jamesland by Michelle Huneven – in honor of October being Mental Health Awareness month.
  • Long Day Monday by Peter Turnbull – in honor of police proceedurals.
  • The Axe by Sigrid Undset – in honor of the fact I needed a translated book by a woman for the Portland Public Library challenge. Weak, I know.
  • Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman – in honor of Lipman’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara – in memory of O’Hara dying in October.
  • An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair by Sharman Apt Russell – in honor of Magic Wings opening in October and the fact that Monhegan was inundated with monarch butterflies for the month of September. We even saw a few while we were home.

Series Continuation:

  • Running Blind by Lee Child – started in honor of New York becoming a state in July (where Lee Child lives). However, big confessional: I am reading this out of order. My own fault completely.

LibraryThing Early Review:

  • Notes from the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes

Agony and the Ecstasy

Stone, Irving. The Agony and the Ecstasy: the Biographical Novel of Michelangelo. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1961.

Reason read: September is the month of the Italian holiday Feast of St. Gennaro.

I enjoyed the biographical novel of Michelangelo very much. The great master became flesh and blood before my very eyes: from early childhood Michelangelo was audacious. He could get his master to pay for his apprenticeship when it should have been the other way around. He could connive the mortuary key from a priest so that he could do the unthinkable – dissect corpses; all to better understand the muscles and bones that make up human body. He steals another man’s mistress because he could. He count strand up to a Pope and not take no for an answer. His loves were passionate: while he loved three women dearly, his art meant more than anything. He believed he was freeing his subjects from their marble prisons. He battled Pope Julius II who insisted Michelangelo work in every medium except marble. He was capable of emotional outbursts of jealousy and despair like when his competition with Leonardo da Vinci became too much or when the woman of his dreams held him at arms length and never offered him more than a hand to kiss…
He was such a tragic figure, but I also enjoyed getting to know Michelangelo as a physical human being; learning that he was ambidextrous while chiseling his sculptures. When his right hand grew tired of driving the chisel he would simply switch hands to keep working. The fact he became an architect at age seventy was astonishing.

Quotes I liked, “Strange how his heart could stand empty because his hands were empty” (p 169), “I need my complete self-respect” (p 439), and “Michelangelo’s ears were plugged with the bubbling hot wax of anger” (p 369). Oh! And the countless times Michelangelo said, “I’ll put my hand in fire” when he was extremely confident he could accomplish something.

Author fact: Irving Stone also wrote The Origin, a biographical novel about Charles Darwin (also on my Challenge list).

Book trivia: at the end of The Agony and the Ecstasy Stone includes a bibliography, glossary, and the present locations of Michelangelo’s works (present for 1961).

Nancy said: Pearl called The Agony and the Ecstasy a “great biographical novel. I would have to agree!

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 48).