The Numbers

DATE: 7/8/22

Challenge Titles Finished (Totals To Date):

  • Books: 1,665
  • Poetry: 79
  • Short stories: 84
  • Plays: 4

Titles Finished: Totals for 2022:

  • Books: 63
  • Poetry: 0
  • Short stories: 0
  • Plays: 0
  • Early Reviews: 6

All titles left to go for Challenge: 3,931

Next count: 8/1/22

Posted in Uncategorized

Blue Diary

Hoffman, Alice. Blue Diary. Berkley Trade, 2002.

Reason read: in honor of Alice Hoffman’s birth month I chose Blue Diary.

Ethan and Jorie are the perfect couple. From the outside looking in they have everything. Ethan Ford. Let us start with him. What’s not to love about Ethan? He’s a first-rate carpenter, a volunteer fireman who has saved many people from various burning buildings, an excellent little league coach, he’s extremely good looking, generous and kind, married to Jorie and father to sixth grader, Collie. This is a tight knot community in Massachusetts. Everyone knows everyone. Jorie, Charlotte, Trisha, Mark, Barney and Dave all went to high school together. Ethan is the odd man out. That’s the way he likes it.
Blue Diary bounces from third person perspective to the first person narrative of Kat, Collie Ford’s best friend. They will share devastation in common. Kat lost her father to suicide, Collie will lose his to incarceration. This is a story about perception.
Interestingly, everyone seems to be pining for someone else. Jorie’s best friend, Charlotte, has a deep crush on Ethan (but then again, who doesn’t?). Barney has the hots for Charlotte. Confessional: I didn’t like many of the characters so I had a hard time rooting for anyone.
As an aside, Hoffman likes to write in color so when I started reading Blue Diary I started to take note of everything described as blue: blue air, brilliant and blue, blue eyes, shimmering blue, blue ice, blue shadows (2), blue images, blue ponds, blue shapes, blue jays (several), blue blur, blue, blue skies, still blue, pinched and blue, blue flickering, Blue tint, blue silk, written in blue, China blue, blue frock, inkberry blue, blue skies, blue circles, blue dress, blue dusk, blue binding, blueberry, blue leatherette, wash blue, bluer still, frozen and blue, sweet blue, bluebirds, blue diary, milky blue, now blue, and the variations of blue, indigo and cobalt.

As an another aside. Usually, when an event as big as the arrest of a neighborhood’s favorite man, reporters are on the front lawn of the accused before it’s even on the evening news. In Blue diary it’s backwards.

Author fact: Hoffman is a New Yorker.

Book trivia: This is not a spoiler alert. While the title of the book is Blue Diary you never get to read the diary. The little key to the diary is literally the key to everything.

Playlist: “All You Need Is Love”

Nancy said: Pearl said something along the lines of if you want to see the evolution of Hoffman’s writing, read Blue Diary.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A…is for Alice” (p 1).

Blue Plate

Christensen, Kate. Blue Plate Special: an Autobiography of My Appetites. Anchor Books, 2013.

Reason read: this was a gift from my sister. I think I have said it before, but I will say it again. I read everything she sends my way.

Truth. The tongue can hold memories longer than the heart; sometimes even longer than the mind. Childhood delicacies like soft boiled eggs and Tapioca pudding could bring author Kate Christensen back to six years old, much the same way a steaming hot bowl of Cream of Wheat with melting swirls of butter and sparkling brown sugar still can for me in my middle age. The thread of food is woven in and out of Christensen’s story, sometimes as a integral character and other times as supporting cast, pivotal moments are remembered as meals.
I have a lot in common with Kate. I can remember feeling exactly like her when, at seven years old, the best present in the world was to have a space, separate from the house, in which to hide from the world; a place to call my own. Another similarity was when she shared that she salivated at the thought of the breakfasts in Little House on the Prairie. I, too, had food envy.
There were a lot of unexpected aha moments while reading Blue Plate. It is strange how the trauma of events in childhood can inform decisions in adulthood without us knowing how or why.

Quote I really liked, “Now and again he paused, a venerable, wheezing monument, and the audience could not have told whether he was in pain, asleep, swimming, about to spawn, or merely taking a breath” (p 49).

Playlist: Artie Shaw, Anita O’Day, Alison Krauss, Anne Murray, Blood Sweat and Tears, the Beatles, Benny Goodman, Bach, Bee Gees, Bob Marley, Chicago, Cat Stevens, the Clash, Carole King’s “Tapestry”, the Dead, Donna Summer, Elton John, Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Costello, the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, Flying Cowboys, “I am Woman” by Helen Reddy, “Home in Oasadena”, Jayhawks, Joan Baez, Joan Armatrading, Led Zeppelin, “A Love Supreme”, Mingus, Monk, “Moonshiner”, Mozart’s “Requiem Mass” and “Laudate Dominum”, the O’ Jays, Olivia Newton-John, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky”, Rickie Lee Jones, Rolling Stones, Supertramp, the Specials, Sly & the Family Stone, Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”, Schubert’s “C Major Quartet”, “Star of the County Down”, “Top of the World”, Talking Heads, Vassar Clements, Wings, and War.

Author fact: Christensen has written a bunch of stuff and here is the really cool part. I was introduced to her writing thanks to my sister. What I have come to realize is that I have two other novels on my Challenge list. I will be reading In the Drink and Jeremy Thrane. Because I am a geek about schedules, I am reading both books in the month of July (in honor of New York becoming a state).

True Crime Solved

Moore, M. True Crime Solved: 27 Solved Cold Cases That Bring Closure to Disturbing Crimes. True Crime Seven, 2023.

Reason read: As part of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I occasionally review books…duh. This book was a February choice.

Why are people so fascinated with crime? with serial killers? with unsolved cases? It must be a thing because there is a whole television network dedicated to people doing really bad things to other people and we love it. I’m no different. I requested this book out of curiosity.
Twenty-seven chapters for twenty seven crimes. Most of the time, the chapters are named for the victims, but every once in a while they showcase either the location of the death (Bear Brook) or the killer(s) like the Duval brothers or the killer clown.
Small piece of advice – parse the reading of these stories out over time. I read True Crime Solved in its entirety on a flight back to New England from Mexico. Each short chapter falls into a repetitive pattern: the crime, the policework at the time, the advent of technology revealing the name of the murderer, conviction and verdict of the trial. Every once in a while some unique or interesting piece of information would be introduced, like the teenage genealogist who helped authorities with a case or the fact that NY laws did not allow local authorities to test DNA against databases like Ancestrydotcom. Not all cases had closure like the title of the book suggests (like Butterfield was charged with the murder but chapter doesn’t mention if he was actually convicted). Other than small typos like weird capitalization or spelling issues, this was a fun read. My only wish was that it was not so formulaic.

As an aside, I had a difficult time adding this to my catalog. There are dozens of crime books on the publisher website but none really matched this particular title. Meh.

Little Bee

Cleave, Chris. Little Bee. Narrated by Anne Flosnik. Tantor Media, 2009.

Reason read: Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s outgoing president was elected in March of 2015. Read in his honor.

Oh, the decisions we make. Have you ever been in a situation where you make a blunder and in an hurried attempt to remedy the situation you make more mistakes? I think of it as stepping in dog sh-t. You are so panicked and embarrassed by the smell emanating from your foot that you don’t think about the most efficient way to clean it off and instead track it around and around looking for a suitable way to wipe it off. This is Sarah’s plight. Upon making a huge marital mistake Sarah tries to remedy it with a quick and careless solution: run away from the problem by taking a free holiday. The trouble only multiplies and multiples until Sarah is faced with dead ends and deep regret. Told from the perspective of Sarah and a Nigerian girl Sarah meets on holiday named Little Bee. Little Bee’s story of trauma will wrap around Sarah until they are forever melded together.

I cannot get over the imagery of Cleve’s writing. Take this combination of words, for example: “butterflies drowning in honey”. What the what?

Author fact: While Cleave has written other books, I am only reading Little Bee for the Challenge. This is his second novel.

Book trivia: Little Bee is published elsewhere as The Other Hand.

Playlist: “One” by U2 and “We Are the Champions” by Queen.

Nancy said: Pearl said a great deal about Little Bee. She called it unforgettable and perfect for book groups. I completely agree because there are so many different themes to ponder and argue about.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Nigeria” (p 156).

Born to Run

McDougall, Christopher. Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

Reason read: A trip to Mexico deserves a book about something that takes place in Mexico.

Ann Trason. The Tarahumara runners. Caballo Blanco. Scott Jurek. These names spark my running imagination. Then there is Mexico and the allure of a different country’s culture. Christopher McDougall writes as if he has stepped beside you in the middle of a twenty mile run and launches into telling you of his adventures in the jungles of Mexico chasing the mythology of Gordy Ainsleigh. His tone is casual, conversational, and warm. The reporting reporter has been left behind for the moment, but he has an ulterior motive. Yes, he will tell you about a race you have probably never heard of, and he’ll talk about people you are vaguely familiar with, but what he really wants to do is tell you about barefoot running. As a long-distance runner he was always injured. He learned of the Tarahumara runners and how they ran with only thin sandals, but they never knew a single injury.
As an aside, I was taken aback by the information in Chapter 25: expensive, high-tech running shoes do not save runners from injuries; in fact, they may be the cause of them. Is there truth to the theory that foot control is king, so the thinner the sole, the better? That would make sense if your foot strike changes with every shoe. It’s the reason why I rotate four pair of shoes.

As an aside, I have always been curious about the Leadville 100 so it was nice to learn a little of the history behind this historic race.

On a personal note, I could relate to Christopher when Dr. Torg told him to take up cycling instead of running. Dr. John told me to take up swimming instead of running when I hurt my knee.

Author fact: McDougall has his own website here. You can find videos about Born to Run.

Book trivia: There is a Born to Run 2 book out there somewhere. I think it supposed to be a training guide.

Playlist: the Beatles, Valentin Elizalde, Zayda Pena of “Zayda y Los Cupables”, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”, Christina Aguilera, Charlie Parker, and “Strangelove”,

Nancy said: Pearl said Born to Run is a must-read for runners.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go on the chapter called “Postcards From Mexico” (p 184).

Fear Itself

Mosely, Walter. Fear Itself. Read by Don Cheadle. Hachett Book Group, 2003.

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

Fearless Jones is at it again, getting his friend Paris Minton in trouble. Since we last saw Minton he was trying to rebuild his life after his bookstore was burned to the ground and he was beaten and shot at in Fearless Jones. Now, in Fear Itself Minton has been able to rebuild his bookstore and get back to a quiet life, thanks to a settlement from the last book. He still doesn’t want trouble, but yet Fearless soon finds a way to get Paris in the thick of it. This time, the wealthiest woman in Los Angeles is missing her nephew. She tricks Fearless into looking for him and Fearless pulls Minton into the mystery. You will meet a whole host of strange characters in Fear Itself. There are so many plot twists I almost needed a flow chart to keep everything straight.
Confessional: I want to sit across from Paris Minton and have him tell me stories about his collection of books.

Line I liked, “When you come right down to it, there’s nothing like a fire for putting the spunk back into a body” (p 41).

Author fact: I think Mosely’s other series featuring Easy Rawlins is more popular.

Playlist: Beethoven’s 5th.

Book trivia: This is actually trivia about the audio version – audio not only includes music, but the characters belch like a real performance.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about the Fearless series other than to say is was something Mosely wrote.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Walter Mosely: Too Good To Miss” (p 168).

Lungfish

Gillis, Meghan. Lungfish. Catapult, 2022.

Reason read: This was a Christmas gift from my sister. I read everything she sends my way.

Have you ever seen a race horse struggle to restrain its awesome power? Or a runner who can easily put the pedal to the metal, but has hold back in an effort to race smart? This is the way I felt reading Lungfish. Deceptively simple passages in incredibly short chapters made me want to speed-read; to buzz through the sentences at a hundred pages a minute. To do that would be to miss the scenery of gorgeous language flashing by. To not slow down and savor the smart language would be to deprive myself of one of the best books of the year. Yes, I know it’s only early 2023. But. But! But, that’s my prediction and I’m sticking with it.
Lungfish oozes mystery. There is a hinting of things. What is wrong with Paul? The use of the word “better” implies there is something worse. You shouldn’t think of the word ‘trickery’ that could at play, yet you do. You do. Is the narrator asking Paul to improve a behavior? Be a better person? Or is it his health? The possibility he could be better at something hangs heavy. Especially when a word like perfunctory is used to describe a kiss between two people in a relationship. Then consider the act of hiding from the law. Questioning what happens when the executor arrives. What is that all about? The narrative does not speak in linear terms, only winding and twisting innuendo, slippery as seaweed newly exposed by the outgoing tide. Early on there is an unexplained sadness that permeates the entire story, the way a thick fog will dampen a wool sweater to a newfound heaviness. You want the fog to lift, the sunshine to come streaming in, and loud laughter to break the silence.
Instead, we as readers circle the plot in a strange swaying dance, like a slow moving game of musical chairs. Only when the song comes to an abrupt halt, we grab for the final sentence and wait for the silence to end so we can read on. Careful not to slip on the seaweed of secrets.

Lines I loved, “He puts his hands on my shoulders, from behind, and I sit like a stone” (p 123). Unmoving. Unfeeling, Cold, Hard. Colorless. These are the words of a stone. Here’s another, “The box contained three sets and I’d used them all, in part because I didn’t trust the way I peed on them” (p 165). O can relate to the permeation of doubt that becomes pervasive.

Playlist: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones.

James Brooke of Sarawak

Hahn, Emily. James Brooke of Sarawak: a Biography of Sir James Brooke. Arthur Baker, Ltd., 1953.

Reason read: I am reading this as a follow-up to by . had a whole section on James Brooke.

As a young age, James Brooke had a unique life. After he inherited a small fortune, he was interested in buying ships and starting new colonies. He imagined being able to save the souls of the Malays, but really he wanted an entire country to call his own. His confidence went out before him like a high school bully in na├»ve full swagger. From the beginning, Brooke was expecting Sultan Omar Ali to draw up papers – a deed of possession for Brooke to govern Sarawak, just like that. Once in charge Brooke was able to bring order to Sarawak. He established a council of state, an army, national flag, and a constitution. Twenty-four years after the fact he was finally recognized for his feats. He died four years after that. The end.
Hahn draws her biography of James Brooke from letters and journals that have survived time. A surprising tidbit of information was that Brooke was a mama’s boy. But after thinking about his spoiled attitude, I don’t know why I was so surprised by his letters home. Brooke never married, although there is the mystery of Ms. Angela Burdett-Coutts and the broken engagement…
I found it interesting that Hahn seemed to be, most of the time, sympathetic to Brooke. She writes with a conversational tone that is not dry or dull, but is more in defense of most of his actions and questionable character. She almost needs you to like Brooke as much as she apparently does. She uses words like “poor” and “unfortunate” to describe Brooke. She blames the reformers for having contradicting opinions about murder – almost calling them hypocrites for being against Brooke killing people of Borneo saying, “…we must try to understand how he could have acted as he did in various matters…” (p 223). Actually, if you must know, I questioned Hahn’s choice of words often. Consider this sentence, “the fate of the Middletons makes a horrible and somewhat embarrassing story” (p 213). Tell me. What is so embarrassing about absolute terror and the undeniable urge for self preservation? Mrs. Middleton remained hidden while her children were being murdered. I find the next scenario more of an “embarrassment” – a man was charged with guarding a plank but accidentally shot himself in the head. But I digress…

Quote I liked, “Strong men were proud of being able to weep like babies” (p 36). What kind of culture encouraged men to show emotion? That is practically unheard of in our society! Here’s another line I liked,

Author fact: Hahn also wrote China To Me, a Partial Autobiography. This was also on my Challenge list. I have already finished it.

Nancy said: Pearl said if you were interested in learning more about James Brooke, try reading his biography by Hahn. Pearl hints that Brooke is not a likeable character. Maybe she disapproves of him murdering Borneons.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very straightforward chapter called “Borneo and Sarawak” (p 38).

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

le Carre, John. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold. Ballantine Books, 1963.

Reason read: while The Spy Who Came In from the Cold didn’t win an Academy Award, Richard Burton was nominated for his role as Alec Leamas. The Oscars are usually presented in March.

I had heard a lot of great things about John le Carre’s novels. Growing up, I can remember one or two titles floating around the house. I definitely think The Spy Who Came In from the Cold was one of them.
You know the story: someone is very close to retiring, getting out of the game, but there is one last job they need to do. After they complete this one final task, whatever it is, then they are out. Fini. Except, you know that’s not how it ends up. The job is always more complicated and/or dangerous. Something always goes sideways and the end is horribly wrong. The spy Who Came In from the Cold is no different. Alec Leamas is nearing the end of his career as a British agent. He wants out but die to a fabricated “problem” with his pension, he has one last mission in East Germany. All he has to do is spread rumors about an East German intelligence officer. After that, he can “get out of the cold” comfortably. Of course, nothing goes to plan. I knew this book was going to be trouble when, within 15 pages four people would die in quick succession.
Heads up: keep in mind this was written in a time when men were allowed to be sexist. It never occurs to Leamas that he might have to work for a woman.

As an aside, I love when books give me a connection to Monhegan however small. The Spy Who Came In from the Cold mentions the Morris Dancers. They performed on Monhegan every summer for years and years.

Line that made me think, “At first his colleagues treated him with indulgence, perhaps his decline served them in the same way as we are scared by cripples, beggars and invalids because we fear we could ourselves become them; but in the end his neglect, his brutal, unreasoning malice, isolated him” (p 23).

Author fact: le Carre died in 2020 and according to his Wiki page, his death was unrelated to Covid-19.

Book trivia: The Spy Who Came In from the Cold is the sequel to Call for the Dead and A Murder of Quality. I only have the former title on my Challenge list, but once again I have read these books out of order. Ugh.

Playlist: “On Ilkley Moor bat t’ at”

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned le Carre as someone to read if you are into spy novels. She also called The spy Who Came In from the Cold remarkable.

BookLust Twist: from a few places. First, Book Lust in the chapters called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1960” (p 175) and “Spies and Spymasters: the Really Real Unreal World of Intelligence” (p 223). Second, in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Berlin” (p 36).

Outlander

Gabaldon, Diana. Outlander. Read by Divina Porter. Recorded Books, 1997.

Reason read: Valentine’s Day is in February. Outlander is somewhat of a romance.

Modern day is 1945. War is afoot. Claire Randall is on holiday with her newly reunited husband, Frank. Both have been involved in the war, he as a soldier, she as a nurse. Scotland is a chance for them to reconnect, a second honeymoon of sorts. The couple finds useful ways to spend their time, him researching information on family ancestry and she looking for herbs and medicinal plants. While wandering around the Inverness countryside, Claire hears a tiny humming noise emanating from Scotland’s version of Stonehenge. Upon touching a buzzing stone, Claire faints then reawakens in 1743. So begins the journey of Claire Beauchamp that everyone knows so well. the burning question on everyone’s mind is how will she get back to modern day history professor and husband, Frank?
The real question to me is, after tangling with her husband’s ancestors, would she change her own present day life? On the heels of reading Kindred by Octavia Butler, I couldn’t help but make comparisons between the two time-travel novels. Butler’s Californian heroine, Dana, not only accepted her situation readily, but understood her purpose for being sent back to slave-era Maryland. Gabaldon’s English heroine, Claire, barely questions her jump back in time and seems to integrate herself into 1743 seamlessly. Dana finds a way to take her husband back in time with her while Claire not only leaves her modern day husband behind, but falls in love and marries a 1743 Scotsman. Claire’s main purpose, after some time, seemed to be her usefulness as a nurse and her knowledge of events in the future to save the clan who took her in. Neither Dana or Claire seem too anxious to return to their original place in time.

As an aside, when I mentioned to a friend that I had started Outlander her eyes lit up as if I had just handed her a million dollars. “Oh, I love that book” she gushed. I could tell she wanted to say more , but I hushed her with a “nope, nope. nope.”

Author fact: Gabaldon, at the time of publication, was also a professor. cool.

Book trivia: There is a certain craze surrounding Outlander. My husband cannot wait for me to watch the series. Even though there is a movie of the same name, they are not one and the same.

Playlist: “Up Among the Heather”.

Nancy said: Pearl classified Outlander as paranormal. She also calls it the best of the five (at the time) books in the series.

BookLust Twist: Pearl favored this one. From More Book Lust in the obvious chapter of “Time Travel” and again in Book Lust in the chapter “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203) and “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208).

Travels of Jaimie McPheeters

Taylor, Robert Lewis. The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters. Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1958.

Reason read: February is national history month and Travels of Jaimie McPheeters is a historical fiction.

Although The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters is grounded in fiction its bibliography indicates Taylor made extensive use of letters, memorandums, maps, memoirs, guidebooks, journals, and sermons to give the novel sincere authenticity. In a nutshell, it is the adventures of young Jaimie McPheeters as he journeyed with his father to seek gold in the mid 1800s. [As an aside, I could not help but think of Natalie Merchant’s song “Gold Rush Brides” when I read The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters.] The story has everything: clashes with Indian tribes (including kidnapping, torture and murder), gambling, religion (Mormonism and the question of polygamy), humor, weather, and the hardships of the trail. This was the wild west; a time when at plate passing someone could offer a live rattlesnake in lieu of money. Confessional: I didn’t know if I liked audacious Jaimie McPheeters when I first met him. My favorite parts were the interactions he had with his father. The interesting conversation about Latin and who killed the dead language was one of my favorites. Taylor has an interesting way of using words. The words ‘pranced’ and ‘shotgun’ usually do not go together in the same sentence.
A word of warning: speaking of language, it is a bit dated with derogatory and racist words.

Line I liked, “When one set of sense lies down on the job, another reports in and takes over” (p 18). This quote hit a little too close to home, “It went along very much like a dentist trying to pry out a wisdom tooth that had got wrapped around the jawbone” (p 101). I have a wisdom tooth that is sitting too close to my jaw bone.

Author fact: Taylor was first a journalist before becoming a Pulitzer winning author.

Book trivia: It is my personal opinion that The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters would have benefitted from a few maps, but it won a Pulitzer without them.

Nancy said: Pearl said she would buy The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters for a history buff in her family.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “A Holiday List” (p 114).

Guermantes Way

Proust, Marcel. “The Guermantes Way.” Remembrance of Things Past: In Search of Lost Time. Vol. 5 Reanslated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. Illustrated by Philippe Jullian. Chatto & Windos, 1960.

Reason read: to continue the series started in November in memory of Proust’s death month. Obviously, I skipped a month.

As Proust’s narrator grows up his narrative becomes drier and less whimsical. There is a larger focus on French society and the titles within it. We move beyond intimate portraits of individuals, but Proust is careful to let his narrator grow through the people he meets and the obsessions he develops. TI was struck by the genius of lines well delivered. For example, “Perhaps another winter would level her with the dust” (p 275). In the end I found myself asking, how do you cope with a love that is held only by the games one plays? Is this a form of emotional hostage-taking? What will become of one so enamored with another?

Author fact: Proust spent a year in the army.

Book trivia: I have to admit even though I am three books into the Remembrance of Things Past series, I get confused about the different published titles. Someone said Guermantes Way is also called In Search of Lost Time: Finding Time Again. What the what?

Nancy said: Pearl did not mention Guermantes Way specifically.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208). In all fairness, the individual titles of Remembrance of Things Past were not mentioned at all.

36 Views of Mount Fuji

Davidson, Cathy N. 36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan. Plume Book, 1994.

Reason read: In January Japan celebrates Coming of Age. I also needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge for the category, “a nonfiction set in a country that interests me.”

Davidson spent a year with Japan with her husband, Ted. Together, they have jobs teaching English while trying to learn all things Japanese. They make friends who help them with their quest. During this time of total immersion, Davidson becomes intimate with Japanese customs, so much so that when she and Ted are faced with tragedy and their Japanese friends break with tradition for their sake, Davidson is embarrassed and uncomfortable for them. This break from normal protocol touched me. Davidson went back to Japan a total of four times with varying lengths of stay. She and Ted contemplated a move to Japan only to decide the language barrier was too great to conquer. This bothered Davidson. Her inability to learn the language bothered her and shattered her confidence so much so she had to put the books she had written in front of her to reaffirm she is a smart woman.
I promise you, you will walk away with a deepened appreciation for Japanese culture. I did not know Tokyo is chaotic and disorganized in purpose. Streets are unnamed to anonymize people’s addresses. How do things get delivered?

As an aside, in this day of careful avoidance of cultural appropriation, how can someone be offended by Taco Tuesday and not see Davidson’s efforts to build an exact replica of a Japanese house in North Carolina as completely different. Is not that the same thing on a much grander scale?

Best lines I liked, “I was in Japan to see, to experience, to learn, to understand” (p 12) and
“This place was how my life felt: one breath away from disaster” (108).

Author fact: Davidson at the time of writing 36 Views of Mount Fuji was a professor of English at Duke University.

Playlist: “Singing in the Rain”, “One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying Purple People Eater”, “Weemaway”, Edith Piaf, “Leader of the Pack”, Red Sails at sunset”, Jo Stafford’s “Shrimp Boats Are a Coming”, and “Mashed Potato Time”.

Nancy said: Pearl included 36 Views of Mount Fuji as an example of “the best gaijin account.” She also called it “thoughtful” (Book Lust To Go p 117).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Japanese Journeys” (p 116).

Bay of Noon

Hazzard, Shirley. The Bay of Noon. Little, Brown and Company, 1970.

Reason read: the Battle of Oranges takes place in February.

There is a secret in Bay of Noon. My eyes did a double read when the words “I am in love with my brother” floated past my face. Did narrator Jenny mean what I think she meant? Is that the secret every reviewer alludes to when writing about Bay of Noon? Hazzard drops hints like pebbles disturbing tranquil waters.
In addition to being a story about a woman fleeing a dark secret, Bay of Noon is about the power of friendship. In the end, the reader is left with this question: do years of disconnection matter if the bonds of relationship are stronger than any prolonged length of time?
Confessional: None of the characters were likeable to me and maybe that was the point. I really did not care for Justin. His refusal of plain speak was annoying. Circumventing addressing matters of the heart the way he did would make me walk away. What I did love was the vivid descriptions of the Mediterranean. It made me hunger for all things Italy.
Bay of Noon has been called a romance novel and I guess in some ways it is, but I didn’t like any of the couples and I never really felt any of them were actually in love.

Author fact: Hazzard was Australian but wrote a great deal about Naples.

Book trivia: Bay of Noon was originally published in 1970 but found life again after being republished in 2003. It was shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker Prize in 2010.

Play list: Hazzard has many opportunities to mention songs of musicians by name through all of the dancing, signing, and listening to the radio, but she doesn’t.

Nancy said: Pearl called Bay of Noon “most likely autobiographical” (Book Lust To Go p 148).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the simple chapter called “Naples” (p 146).

The Wedding

West, Dorothy. The Wedding. Read by Robin Miles. Books on Tape, 2021.

Reason read: February was the month Massachusetts became a state. The Wedding takes place on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts.

Dorothy West is a master of character development. Every member of the Martha’s Vineyard Oval community is meticulously realized by their actions and reactions to events surrounding them and by the subservient relationships they keep: black and white, man and wife, neighbor and stranger, parent and child, landlord and tenant. Strangely enough, there is harmony in the contrasts.
It is the wedding of beautiful Shelby Coles. Her engagement to a white jazz musician from New York City has her family in turmoil. Lute McNeil would like nothing better than to steal Miss Coles for his own. He already has three young daughters by three different white women, but in his obsessive mind Shelby would make the perfect mother for his biracial children. Even though the Oval is comprised of black middle class residents, the question of belonging is pervasive. The standard assumption that blonde hair and blue eyes means white race. Everyone uses color to get what they want. Example: the preacher uses the image of white children in danger of hurting themselves around a derelict barn in order to get a white man to give him a horse that was of no use to him. The preacher is really after the barn wood.
Dorothy West forces her characters to face the question of identity. The end of The Wedding will leave you hanging. Would Shelby have given Lute a chance if tragedy had not intervened? Were Shelby’s sisters right in their warnings about misguided infatuation?

Author fact: Dorothy West was 85 years old when she wrote The Wedding.

Book trivia: West was known for her short stories. The Wedding is only one of two novels West wrote in her lifetime.

Playlist: “Swing Lo Sweet Chariot” and “Motherless Child”.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Wedding other than to indicate it takes place on Martha’s Vineyard.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very simple chapter called “Martha’s Vineyard” (p 141). No big stretch there.