Challenge Titles Finished (Totals To Date):
- Books: 1,577
- Poetry: 79
- Short stories: 84
- Plays: 4
Titles Finished: Totals for 2021:
- Books: 99
- Poetry: 1
- Short stories: 0
- Plays: 0
- Early Reviews: 11
All titles left to go for Challenge: 4,010
Next count: 12/1/2021
Petterson, Per. Out Stealing Horses. New York: Picador, 2003.
Reason read: Petterson is a Norwegian writer. An old friend of mine lives in Norway and was born in October. Read in her honor even though we haven’t spoken in a long time.
Trond Sander, at 67 years old, is a simple man living alone with his dog, Lyra, deep in the Norwegian woods. He likes the quiet. He loves the solitude. It’s as if he has run away from memories. In reality, he has done just that. Trond lost his sister and wife in one month three years prior. That was when he stopped talking to people. His silence is profound until he meets a stranger in the woods near his cabin. Only this stranger carries the very memories Trond has been trying to escape. Lars is a member of a family with entangled deep tragedies and Trond knows them well. Petterson is able to move Trond from past to present with remarkable grace. Trond as a teenager versus Trond, the aging adult in Norway’s breathtaking landscape. Like any good drama, there is violence, illicit love, abandonment, and atonement with surprises along the way. I hope the movie is as spectacular as the book.
Lines I liked, “When the record ends I will go to bed and sleep as heavily as possible without being dead, and awake to a new millennium and not let it mean a thing” (p 5) and “A shipwrecked man without an anchor in the world except in his own liquid thoughts where time has lost its sequence” (p 195).
Author fact: I am reading three of Per Petterson’s novels: In the Wake, In Siberia, and Out Stealing Horses.
Book trivia: Out Stealing Horses was made into a movie Just last year in 2020. It looks really good.
Playlist: Billie Holliday
Nancy said: Pearl had a lot to say about Out Stealing Horses. Along with the general plot she said the writing is spare and restrained. The plot emerges slowly and should not to be missed. She also mentioned the translation as being beautiful and the cover as evocative.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Norway: the Land of the Midnight Sun” (p 162).
King, Stephen. Carrie. New York: Doubleday, 1974.
King, Stephen. Carrie. Read by Sissy Spacek. New York: Recorded Books, 2005.
Reason read: Halloween is in October. Not much is scarier than Stephen King. Read in his honor.
The absolute scariest thing about most Stephen King novels is that they are only slightly out of the realm of impossible. With a little twist of science and magic any of his stories could be reality. Take Carrie: could a girl with telekinesis powers; one who is bullied relentlessly at home and school, be pushed to the point of a colossal psychotic break; one which causes her to go more than a little berserk? Well, sure. Especially if this same said girl has an overly devout yet highly paranoid mother who loves her to the point of fanatic torture. Most definitely.
Carietta “Carrie” White was bullied and tortured all through grade, middle, and high school. For her schoolmates she was an easy target with her abundance of acne, weird ill-fitting clothes, severe lack of hygiene, and apparently absent communication skills. Her uncomprehending grunts and blank stares only fueled their taunts. Unfortunately, there is one classmate who wants to make it up to Carrie.
What makes Carrie so scary is how King intersperses the story with snippets from psychological papers regarding Carrie and her telekinesis. These interruptions give a sense of reality to the horror.
Author fact: Carrie was King’s first novel and it launched him into stardom.
Book trivia: Carrie was made into a movie in 1976 and are you ready for this, I actually saw it. There was another remake in 2013 which, you guessed it, I didn’t see.
Playlist: “Hey Jude,” “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Just Like a Woman,” and Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning.”
Nancy said: in general Pearl said horror was her least favorite genre and she mentioned Carrie.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
Crichton, Michael. Jurassic Park. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.
Reason read: October is National Dinosaur Month. What better book to read than something that combines dinosaurs with a little Halloween scariness?
It is hard to imagine that in Jurassic Park only 24 hours pass on a remote Costa Rican island. Deep in the jungle lies a high-tech amusement park built by greed and commercialized genetic bioengineered DNA. The main attraction? Living, breathing dinosaurs supposedly super safe behind huge moats, tall electric fences, and concrete walls so thick they rival World War II fortresses. What could possibly go wrong with fifteen species of cloned, female dinosaurs? The engineers supposedly thought of everything. They thought wrong. Everyone knows the rest of the story, either through reading the novel or watching the movie. I will say that one reviewer called Jurassic Park “tornado-paced.” They were not wrong.
As an aside, I found Lex to be the most annoying creature on earth. Maybe that’s why I don’t have kids. She watches a dinosaur attack a man and she whines she is hungry. She nearly dies herself and whines that she is hungry. Give the kid some fries!
Author fact: Crichton is a powerhouse of a writer in the literary world. I am only reading Jurassic Park for the Challenge but he has written best sellers like Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man, Great Train Robbery, Congo, and Sphere as well as some nonfiction.
Book trivia: Jurassic Park made its way to the big screen in 1993 where it was an instant success. The sequel came four years later. Thus a franchise was born with four more Jurassic movies produced between 2001 and 2019. A fifth Jurassic is promised for 2022.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Jurassic Park. She only mentioned Crichton as a horror writer.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
Evanovich, Janet. Ten Big Ones.
Reason read: this finishes the Stephanie Plum series for me. The list goes on and one, but I’m done.
It is three months later and Stephanie has broken up with Morelli again. Same old, same old. Grandma Mazur is still attending funerals as a dating ploy. Stephanie’s mom is still plying people with baked goods. Valerie is very pregnant. Lula and Stephanie are still trying to bring in the bad guys. There is always something dangerous and something goofy going on with Stephanie’s collars. For the goofy, this time she needs to bring in a woman addicted to potato chips and other snack items. For the serious, Stephanie and Lula are witness to a deli being robbed then firebombed. The culprit is a member of an increasingly violent gang, the “Red Devils.” Because Stephanie can identify the Red Devil she is a target and must go into hiding…in Ranger’s high-tech posh apartment. How convenient. Speaking of same old, the sexual tension between Ranger and Plum has not diminished. Rex still lives in a soup can (now at Ranger’s) and Bob the Dog still lives with Morelli…
I should mention the title of Ten Big Ones refers to the reward that the city of Trenton was putting out for the capture of cop-killer, Junkman.
If you are keeping track of the vehicles Stephanie destroys: her canary yellow Ford Escape survived book nine. It wasn’t so lucky in book ten. It gets firebombed pretty early in Ten Big Ones.
As an aside, can I just say I love Point Pleasant showing up in Plum novels? I just love that place.
Author fact: Janet Evanovich is onto the 28th installment of the Stephanie Plum series. Is that insane or what?
Book trivia: I think I mentioned this already but it bears repeating because I am sad about it, but this is my last Stephanie Plum mystery.
Playlist: Black Sabbath
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Ten Big Ones
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Kumin, Maxine. Inside the Halo and Beyond. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2000.
Reason read: Portland Public Library Reading Challenge has a category “Prose by Poets.” This was perfect.
During a horse and carriage accident Kumin fractured her neck in two places (C1 and C2). She shouldn’t have survived the accident. 95% of the population with similar injuries do not. Doctors went on to tell her that 95% percent of the people who do survive that kind of Type II break are irreparably damaged; paralyzed for life. Kumin defied the odds and not only survived but gained nearly 100% percent mobility. Inside the Halo is a memoir about that journal back to near-normalcy. It is a story of courage and acceptance. Kumin’s courage to fight through a long and agonizing period of recovery and acceptance that some scars, mental and physical, remain.
Lines I liked, “There is a lot to be said for the continuity of a long marriage” (p 103), “I am still lying on the examining table and I am perfectly positioned to kick this man in the groin” (p 148). This, after he commented that horses belong in cans of dogfood. I need to play devil’s advocate for a minute. Maybe his comment comes from years of seeing people horribly maimed by horses. Maybe what he meant to say is horses weren’t meant to be ridden and driven like slaves.
Author fact: Kumin wrote a book of essays called Women, Animals, Vegetables which I haven’t read but reminds me of Kingsolver’s book of a similar title.
Book trivia: Inside the Halo is a very short book with minimal photographs.
Playlist: “Abide with Me.”
Nancy said: other than plot, Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Inside the Halo.
Book Lust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Prose by Poets” (p 194).
Sones, Sonya. One of those hideous books where the mother dies. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004.
Reason read: I needed a book in verse for the Portland Public Library Challenge.
Ruby Milliken’s whole world has been turned upside down. First her mother dies of an illness. Then her aunt ships her off to a celebrity father in Hollywood. Ruby is forced to leave behind a boyfriend, a best friend, Boston’s varying weather, everything she has ever known in exchange for a strange school, palm trees, sunny skies, and a man she barely knows who calls himself Ruby’s dad. Whip Logan divorced Ruby’s mom before Ruby was born and not once did he try to meet his daughter. Now Ruby has to live in his world? Not fair. Ruby’s story is told in blank verse with emails to her boyfriend, best friend, and deceased mother thrown in. A cute story that is highly believable. My favorite parts were when Ruby was flying to Los Angeles and noting the differences between coach and first class as they started the descent and when she was at the beach and swimming with the dolphins. She allowed herself to have a good time.
Author fact: Sones has written a bunch of young adult books but this is the only one I am reading for the Challenge. She said it is similar to her life.
Book trivia: People have said there is a sequel to one of those hideous books where the mother dies but it’s not on my list.
Playlist: Eminem, Jimi Hendrix, and Streisand.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about one of those hideous books except to say it is a good book for teens.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 25).
Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.
Reason read: I started reading this in September but I can’t remember why. I learned that the paperback version was released in the month of October so I’ll go with that.
This is the anti-war anthem of baby boomers. Army Air Corps Captain John Yossarian can’t stand flying missions even though he’s a trained bombardier. As a pacifist, he will do anything to avoid combat missions. Most of Catch-22 is Yossarian constantly getting caught up in red tape and dealing with crazy people in even crazier situations. The combination of multiple points of view and no sense of chronology drove me crazy. Admittedly, I did not finish Catch-22 even though it’s a pretty short and easy to read book. I got caught up in how disorganized it all seemed to be. As an aside, I was talking to the president of my institution and was pleasantly surprised to learn he didn’t care for Catch-22 either. He was as lost with the absurdity of it all as I was. To me, it was the repetition. I am not a fan of hearing something a thousand times ten different ways.
Quotes to quote, “Men went mad and were rewarded with medals,” and “Hungry Joe was a throbbing, ragged mass of mobile irritability.”
Author fact: Joseph Heller’s first novel was Catch-22.
Book trivia: Catch-22 was made into a movie in 1970 starring Art Garfunkel, Orson Welles, and John Voight. Of course, I haven’t seen it. Is anyone surprised? It would drive my husband absolutely crazy to know this is on my list. He loves war crap.
Playlist: “The Star Spangled Banner”
Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Catch-22 because the plot is similar to Kafka’s The Good Soldier Svejk and His Fortunes in the World War. They are both black comedies about an unwilling soldier dealing with bizarre military bureaucracy.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Czech it Out” (p 70). Since Catch-22 has nothing to do with the Czech Republic, it shouldn’t be in the chapter.
Pirsig, Robert M. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. New York: William Morrow & Company, 1974.
Reason read: Pirsig’s birth month is in the month of September.
When you are traveling across the country on a motorcycle, you have more than enough time to analyze the world around you in ways you wouldn’t if you chose to passively ride in a car or fly by plane. Pirsig takes his love of motorcycle maintenance and equates it to examining the way we live. If you excuse the didactic moments that seem holier than thou, he even shares opinions on how to live that life a little better. These philosophical monologues are referred to as Chautauquas. Under the guise of a summer trip across America with an unknown protagonist (common knowledge it is Pirsig himself), his son, Chris, and two companions, Pirsig delves into the life of Phaedrus (his past self), meditation, and philosophy. He uses his friend, John, to illustrate the difference between the mindful exploration and ignorant bliss. While the unnamed narrator (Pirsig) constantly tunes his machine, John prefers to not know anything about how his engine runs. This equates to the two men seeing the world differently. The author learns to care deeply for anything that involves his life while John prefers to let a mechanic do all the maintenance in life. The narrator is anxious to teach John his ways and patiently waits for his motorcycle to break down so he can be the hero and enlighten him. For me, the book gets interesting when John and his wife go they separate way. The narrator and his son are left to travel the rest of the journey alone. The reasoning of temperate reason versus dark passion is fascinating.
Quotes I liked, “Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive” (p 187), “The real purpose of scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you don’t actually know” (p 256), “The dog has a certain relationship to the wolf the shepherd may have forgotten” (p 412), and “I’m hanging onto my temper now” (p 497).
Author fact: Pirsig also wrote Lila: an Inquiry into Morals. I am not reading it for the Challenge even though it is the sequel to Zen. Zen is the only book I am reading.
Another author fact: Pirsig wrote instruction manuals for a living, but went home every night to work on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This reminded me of Joan Didion and how she would work at Vogue during the day but come home at night to work on her own novels.
Book trivia: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a work of fictionalized autobiography.
Nancy said: Pearl called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance a classic; highly readable and indispensable.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Beckoning Road” (p 19).
Raphael, Amy. A Seat at the Table. London: Virago, 2020.
Reason read: I wanted to read this when it was first published in Great Britain in 2019 because I heard the interview with Natalie Merchant was pretty interesting. I ordered it on Amazon. Two years later, it finally showed up.
You hear stories by the hundreds about women in the music industry having a difficult time “making it.” This could be said for almost every male-dominated industry but it seems music has the hardest stereotypes to break. Musicians in general are supposed to be larger than life superstars. Sex symbols. Unobtainable idols high up on that stage. This was a role for men while women demurely sang backup or tapped a tambourine against a swiveling hip. Women as lead singers, guitarists, drummers, producers, DJs, and song writers were not to be taken seriously. Amy Raphael returns with a second book of interviews, tackling these subjects and more.
As an aside, I can remember a musician friend telling me she couldn’t let the fans know she was married to her bassist because it would “ruin the fantasy” for some followers (his and hers). Gulp. Natalie Merchant was badgered during her younger years in 10,000 Maniacs to wear tighter, sexier clothes. Nowadays, she’s getting grief about letting her hair go gray.
- Jessica Curry
- Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
- Maggie Rogers
- Emmy the Great
- First Love
- Second Love
- Three Cities
- Dream Wife
- Natalie Merchant
- What’s The Matter Here?
- Lauren Mayberry
- The Bones of What You Believe
- Love is Dead
- Poppy Ajudha
- Love Falls Down
- Spilling Into You
- Tepid Soul
- She is the Sum
- Kalie Shorr (from Portland, Maine)
- Fight Like a Girl
- He’s Just Not into You
- Two Hands,
- Tracey Thorn
- A Distant Shore
- Walking Wounded
- Mitski – who had the best quote, “In a way I am always in translation” (p 234).
- Bag of Bones
- Retired from Sad, New Career in Business
- Bury Me at Makeout Creek
- Puberty 2
- Be the Cowboy
- Catherine Marks
- Clara Amfo
- Alison Moyet:
- Winter Kills
- Nobody’s Diary
- Don’t Go
- Miss World
- Softer Softest
- Debbie Harry:
- Heart of Glass
- Christine and the Queens:
- Be Freaky
- Mama Says
- No Man is Big Enough for My Arms
- Nadine Shah:
- Love Your Dum
- Fast Food
- Stealing Cars
- Holiday Destination
- Kate Tempest:
- Everybody Down
- Other (my apologies if I missed someone):
- 10,000 Maniacs
- A – Anita Mui, Archie Marsh, Annie Lennox, Ani DiFranco, Anna Calri, Adele, Aztec Camera, Alanis Morrissette, Al Jarreau, Al Green, Amy Winehouse
- B – Backstreet Boys, Blondie, Best Coast, Billy Bragg, the Beach Boys, Bjork, Bob Dylan, Britney, Belle & Sebastian, Bon Iver, Bright Eyes, The Beatles, Blak Twang, Bahamadía, Bikini Kill, Beck, Billy Boy Arnold, Beyoncé, Buzzcocks, Brian Eno, Buju Banton, Biggie Smalls, Blur, Breeders, Beethoven, Bridget St. John, Buena Vista Social Club, Bob Marley, Bauhaus, Boomtown Rats, Britney Spears, Big Star, Bonnie Tyler
- C – Cardi B., Connie Traverse, Carly Rae Jepson, the Cure, Cocteau Twins, the Clash, Cole Porter, Christina Aguilera, Confucius MC, Chester P., Cream, the Cranberries, Cat Stevens, CHVRCHES, Crowded House, the Carpenters
- D – Dixie Chicks, Diane Cluck, Dr. Feelgood, D’Angelo, Depeche Mode, David Bowie, DELS, Damon Albam, Diana Ross, Daft Punk, Debbie Harry, Daniel Johnston
- E – Elastica, Elephant Man, Ella Fitzgerald, Erykah Badu, Elvis Costello, Elton John, Edie Piaf, Everything but the Girl
- F – Faces, Foals, the Fureys, Ferry Lawrenson, Fairport Convention, Feminist Frequency, Florence Welch, Fungazi, Faye Wong, Fiona Apple, Faith Hill, the Frames
- G – Guns ‘N Roses, Ghostface Killah, Green Day, Gustav Holst, Gravediggaz, Genesis, Glen Hansard, Gang of Four
- H – Harlocks, Hot Chocolate
- I – Ian Drury
- J – Jeff Buckley, John Bonham, Jarvis Crocker, Jack the Lad, Jah Shaka, Jack White, Jimi Hendrix, Jaco Pastorius, Joni Mitchell, Jill Scott, Jacques Brel, Joanna Newson, Jesus and Mary Chain, Janis Joplin, Jimmy Cliff, Joy Division, Joan Jett
- K – Karen Dalton, the Killers, Karen O, Kimya Dawson, Keith Jarrett, Kate Bush, the Kinks, Kathleen Hanna, Kelly Rowland, Kanye West, Kwes, Kelela
- L – Laura Branigan, the Lettermen, Leftfield, Lauryn Hill, Leslie Cheung, Leonard Cohen, Liam Gallagher, Led Zeppelin, Lily Allen, Le Tigre, Luther Vandross
- M – Missy Elliot, My Bloody Valentine, M.I.A., Marine Girls, Metallica, Mary J Blige, Mo Def, Moldy Peaches, Mariah Carey, Miles Davis, Michael Jackson, Meshell Ndegocell, Madonna, Mirah, Mos Def, Melanie, Michael Stipe, Meg White, The Microphones, Marvin Gaye, Marvelettes, Massive Attack, Micachu, Martin Gore, Mozart
- N – N.E.R.D., Nick Cave, Nirvana, Nadine Shah, Nina Simone, New Order, New Christy Minstrels, Nick Drake
- O – Orange Juice, Organized Konfusion, Outkast
- P – Paramour, Pussycat Dolls, the Pretenders, Peter Tosh, the Police, Paul Simon, Peter, Paul and Mary, the Platters, Pharoahe Monch, Pantera, Poly Styrene, Prince, Pharrell Williams, Patti Smith, Pixies, P!nk, Pussycat Dolls, PJ Harvey, Paul Weller, Pig Bag
- R – Reba McEntire, Ringo Starr, Rebecca Black, Rolling Stones, Radio Head, Ryan Adams, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Robbie Williams
- S – Slipknot, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Solange, Shania Twain, St. Vincent, Sound of Rum, Stone Roses, Spice Girls, Selena Gomez, Smashing Pumpkins, Sleepers, Skinnyman, the Supremes, Style Council, the Shirells, Sade, Sandy Denny, Sleater-Kinney, Steely Dan, the Shangri-Las, Sujan Stevens, Sonic Youth, Status Quo, the Smiths, Sugababies, the Saturdays, Spear of Destiny, the Slits, Solange Knowles, Serg Gainsbourgh, Sigrid
- T – Tom Robinson Band, Tallest Man on Earth, Talking Heads, Taylor Swift, Tina Turner Tchaikovsky, Tracy Chapman, Take That, T-Rex, Tegan and Sara
- U – U2
- V – Vince Clark, Vampire Weekend, Vivaldi, Velvet Underground
- W – White Stripes, Wilko Johnson, Wolf Alice, Weezer, Whitney Houston, the Who
- X – X-Ray Specs, XTC
- Y – the Young Marble Giants, Yazoo, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs
Bahrampour, Tara. To See and See Again: a Life in Iran and America. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1999.
Reason read: The Portland Public Library Reading Challenge has a category called “a book by an Iranian or Iranian American author.”
Tara Bahrampour was eleven years old at the height of the Islamic Revolution. As the bullets flew over garden walls, she and her family escaped Iran to the Pacific Northwest with one suitcase each. Old enough to remember her Iranian culture, but young enough to embrace America’s freedoms, Bahrampour balanced two very different lifestyles in her heart and mind. Having an Iranian father and American mother partially helped Bahrampour navigate the divide while she was young. When Bahrampour returns to Iran for a wedding, she is the first in her family after fifteen years to do so. The perspective from a twenty-six year old woman blossoms from remembered street games and childhood toys into the realities of the treatment of women, ceremony surrounding meals, and the strict regime after the Islamic Revolution. She is understandably nostalgic for the Tehran of her youth but fiercely protective of her Americanized viewpoints and attitudes. At first Bahrampour is naïve to the changes of her homeland’s rule and is shocked when she has trouble repossessing her American passport or when she hears stories of people escaping the military by wearing sheepskin and crawling over the border with a herd of sheep. Reality sets in when she is detained for talking to two blond tourists. As a Moslem Iranian woman officials fear her morality could be in danger. In the end, aside from rebuffing marriage proposal after marriage proposal, Bahrampour comes to an understanding about where she belongs. The Iran of her youth has left an indelible mark on her memory. At the core, it is who she is no matter where she goes.
Quotes to quote, “Everyone was so dazzled with what they wanted Iran to be that they missed seeing what it was” (p 248) and “…if that is how it is with loss – that you never really let go of the thing you are missing” (p 356).
Author fact: Bahrampour has written for predominantly New York-based publications. To See and See Again is her first memoir.
Book trivia: Each chapter is introduced with a black and white photograph. Nothing more, nothing less.
Playlist: “Love Story,” “Grease is the Word,” “You’re in My Heart” by Rod Stewart, “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys, “Take a Chance on Me” by ABBA, “Slip-Slidin’ Away” by Paul Simon Iron Maiden, Slayer, Boney M., Supertramp, REO Speedwagon, the Bee Gees, “Carry on Wayward Son,” “I am a Woman in Love,” Chris Isaak, Michael Jackson’s Thriller,” “Tavern in the Town,” “Cider Through a Straw,” Ace of Base, Metallica, Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, and of course, Bahrampour’s mother, Karen Alexander.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about To See and See Again except to describe the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Iran” (p 107).
O’Connor, Flannery. Everything That Rises Must Converge. New York: The Library of America, 1988.
Reason read: September is Southern Writers Month.
Flannery O’Connor’s short stories are like the crack of the whip dangerously close to your head. Sometimes humorous, sometimes peculiar, often times violent, but always breathtakingly true. Imagine the nervous laughter that bubbles up when you realize that whip has missed your face. You laugh because you want it to be a skillful miss as opposed to a clumsy mistake. Imagine the quirkiness of characters who are dangerously misunderstood. There is always something a little sinister about O’Connor. She enjoys the abrupt turn of events that take her readers by surprise. She holds us witness to the good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity.
Everything That Rises Must Converge is a compilation of nine short stories:
- “Everything That Rises Must Converge” – we start with the discomfort of a mother’s obvious prejudice.
- “Greenleaf” – a fight over property and propriety.
- “A View of the Woods” – a punch to the gut when you least expect it.
- “The Enduring Chill” – another tale about an overbearing mother.
- “The Comforts of Home” – mother and son disagree about taking a brash girl into their home.
- “The Lame Shall Enter First” – a widower tried to take in a second son with horrible results.
- “Revelation” – another story heavy on the racism.
- “Parker’s Back” – a man obsessed with tattoos
- “Judgement Day” – an elderly and racist father is terrified of dying in New York City.
Quotes I liked, “There was a continuous thud in the back of Asbury’s head as if his heart and got trapped in it and was fighting to get out” (p 565), and “Behind the newspaper Julian was withdrawing into the inner compartment of his mind where he spent most of his time” (p 603), and “In addition to her other bad qualities, she was forever sniffing up sin” (p 655).
Author fact: Flannery O’Connor died too young at the age of thirty-nine. Imagine the books and stories she could have written had she lived to a hundred!
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Everything That Rises Must Converge in “Growing Writers” or “Southern Fiction” but she did mention O’Connor as a great fiction-writer and a classic.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. Once in the chapter called “Growing Writers” (p 107), and again in the chapter called “Southern Fiction” (p 222).
Christie, Agatha. Why didn’t They Ask Evans? New York: William Morrow, 1934.
Reason read: September is Christie’s birth month. Read in her honor.
Bobby Jones cannot play golf to save his life and yet he insists on trying. While out on the links he loses his ball over a fog-shrouded cliff. While searching for it Bobby is shocked to find instead a mangled and dying man. Had he fallen off the cliff in the fog? Was he pushed? Bobby has stumbled onto a mystery. Of course he has! This is an Agatha Christie murder mystery, after all. When the man opens his eyes and with all lucidity asks Bobby, “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” Bobby is haunted by the question. Exactly who is Evans and what was the question that should have been asked? Bobby shares this strange incident with his friend, Lady Francis Derwent, and together they decide there is more to the story. Their suspicions deepen when Bobby learns a photograph the dead man had been carrying was swapped to hide his true identity. Alex Pritchard is actually Alan Carstairs. Soon there after and out of the blue, Bobby is offered a job in Buenos Ares. When he doesn’t leave England someone tries to poison his beer. It is obvious someone wants Bobby off the case, but who and why? Like a good Scooby mystery, the villain wraps up all the clues.
As an aside, there were details in the story that didn’t make sense. If I found a dying man I wouldn’t ask someone else to stay with the body while I left to go play an organ at my father’s church. I think my father would understand my absence given I had just witnessed a man die in front of me. Also, Frankie gained entry into the suspected murderer’s home by faking a car accident. Under the guise of having a concussion a doctor in on the ruse tells the Bassington-ffrench family Frankie “cannot be moved.” She is to stay with them until she is well. However, in no time at all she is making friends with Mrs. Bassington-ffrench and playing tennis. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable story.
Line I liked, “Ignoring Mrs. Rivington’s treatment of doctors as though they were library Books, Bobby returned to the point” (p123).
Author fact: Christie is touted as one of the best selling authors of all time.
Book trivia: Why didn’t They Ask Evans? was originally published as The Boomerang Clue.
Nancy said: Pearl said Why Didn‘t They Ask Evans? was on her bedside table, waiting to be read.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the introduction (p ix).
Evanovich, Janet. To the Nines. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003.
Reason read: I started the Stephanie Plum series in January in honor of Female Mystery Month. I am now on #9. To the Nines is the penultimate Plum book on my Challenge List.
The best thing about Evanovich’s Plum series is the consistency of characters and timeline. With every book, Stephanie’s life progresses with little backtracking or inconsistency. Evanovich does a great job catching the reader up, especially if someone is jumping into the series in midstream and hasn’t read books one through eight. Reading the entire series is helpful, but not necessary.
Even though I am irked about Stephanie’s relationships with Morelli and Ranger (more on that later), I appreciate the growth in them. I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say that at the end of To the Nines Stephanie drops calling Morelli by his last name and moves onto calling him Joe. Is that a subtle hint that she is ready to get more serious? She did just move back in with him and gave up her apartment to her sister. Speaking of Valerie, she just had a baby (out of wedlock) and that definitely has Stephanie’s biological clock ticking a little louder. Enough of that. Onto the plot:
The bounty hunting part of Stephanie’s life takes more of a back seat in To the Nines. This time around, she is more on the side of the hunted. Someone is sending her creepy messages coupled with a calling card of one rose and one carnation. It’s the same message sent to several other victims. Could she be next on this serial killer’s list? This time Ranger and Joe make a concerted effort to protect Stephanie as she tries to figure out who is capable of getting so close to her they can take a lock of her hair?
Spoiler alert: for those interested in Stephanie’s vehicular destruction, her new sunshine yellow Ford Escape survives the entire story.
Things that irked me: what in the world is so special about Stephanie Plum? Why does she have not one, but two very hot men giving her all the attention in the world? What makes them stay around even though she can’t chose between them? In all actuality, Ranger probably isn’t a choice. He’s probably just a plaything, but still…Hmm. I have to admit, I liked Stephanie as a hypocrite. She can flirt with Ranger but still get jealous when she thinks Morelli is up to no good with another girl.
Another thing that irked me was less of an appearance by Rex. He barely factored into To the Nines at all.
Lines I liked, “I know emotion covers a lot of ground, but I couldn’t hang a better name on my feelings” (p 84), “There’s a difference between being trusting and stupid” (p 294).
Author fact: Evanovich has won the John Creasy Memorial Last Laugh and Silver Dagger awards.
Book trivia: To the Nines features pineapple upside-down cake, as usual.
Playlist: Eminem and Tom Jones.
Nancy said: To the Nines is not exactly a murder mystery according to Pearl. She did say you will laugh all the way through the series.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Toole, John. Kennedy. A Confederacy of Dunces. New York: Grove Press, 1980.
Reason read: Why was this book on my list? I completely forgot. Probably something having to do with Hurricane Katrina.
Confederacy of Dunces is like cilantro: either you love it and you want it on anything and everything, or you hate it and you think it tastes like soap; you can’t come within ten feet of it. Meet Ignatius J Reilly, the trumpet and lute playing, obese and unemployed, lazy and insolent video gamer still living with his mother at thirty years old. He truly is the master of the deadly sin of sloth.
Reading Confederacy of Dunces was like playing the Untangle Me Game. You know, the one you play with string. Take twenty extremely long pieces of string, tangle them all around a room and then have twenty people chose an end to each piece of string. They must try to crawl over and under one another in an effort to untangle the mess. There are usually prizes at the other end of each string. Trying to follow the plot of Confederacy of Dunces was like trying to crawl under someone with extremely bad body odor in the hopes your entanglement will wind its way far, far away from the offending smell. Except. There was no prize at the end. I didn’t get it. In addition, I have a low tolerance for repetition and Confederacy is redundant on multiple levels. I will say, the best part of Confederacy was the culture of New Orleans. It lived and breathed like an unintended character. The parts about New Orleans I laughed about.
Line I liked, “When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip” (p 6). Okay. Funny.
Author fact: John Kennedy Toole at thirty-one committed suicide in a remote field. Maybe he was too much like Ignatius and couldn’t find his way to success.
Book trivia: Many different people have tried to make A Confederacy of Dunces into a movie. I don’t think it has happened yet.
Nancy said: Pearl said that A Confederacy of Dunces is an example of “What Mothers Ought Not to Do” (p 160). She also called it a “raucous tragicomedy” (p 168).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mothers and Sons” (p 160) and again in the chapter called “New Orleans” (p 168).
Manning, Olivia. Friends and Heroes. New York: New York Review Books, 1966.
Reason read: to finish the series started in June in honor of the Bosnian War.
When we catch up with the newlyweds, Guy and Harriet Pringle, they have escaped the Balkans to Athens, Greece. World War II is ramping up. Mussolini is ever encroaching yet the Greeks refuse to believe the Italians could invade them. No! Not them! In the midst of a global conflict, the Pringle marriage is also at conflict. Harriet still hungers for Guy’s attention. It’s a little off-putting how needy she is. Having escaped Bucharest Harriet believes her husband will finally put her first. She is not the outsider in Greece as she was in the Balkans. However, Guy continuously lives for the undivided attention of his students no matter where he is relocated. As an unemployed lecturer, he fills his time putting on plays with his admiring students and friends. He is so preoccupied with their rapt attention he doesn’t notice or care that his wife slips away for long walks. In truth, he often encourages it. His continual pawning her off to other companions soon leads to her actively seeking out a new crush. The Pringle marriage is so trying that I wanted her to go with the man who seemed to love her back.
This being the third installment of the Balkan Trilogy, many characters remain. Yakimov and his greed end up in Greece. I found his character to be an exaggerated caricature: always hungry and riling people. But speaking of characters, Manning is able to make all of her characters give a political commentary on World War II without having the rely of detailed descriptions. It is all in their dialogue.
Quotes to quote, “He only had to arrive to take a step away from her” (p 654), “No one would dance while friends and brothers and lovers were at the war” (p 657), and “She told herself that animals were the only creatures that could be loved without any reservation at all” (p 962).
Author fact: Manning lived the life of Friends and Heroes. She and her husband spent the war years in Rumania before escaping to Greece and then Egypt.
Book trivia: Friends and Heroes could be a stand-alone novel, but is best read as the finale of the Balkan Trilogy.
Playlist: “Tipperary,” “Yalo, Yalo,” “Down By the Seaside,” “Clementine,” “Bells Rang Again,” and “Anathema,”
Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Friends and Heroes. It’s not mentioned at all.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Reads, Decade by Decade (1960s).