The Numbers

DATE: 9/11/18 – I know, I know. I’m super late

Titles Finished (Totals To Date):

  • Books: 1,207
  • Poetry: 78
  • Short stories: 55
  • Plays: 2

Titles Finished Totals for 2018:

  • Books: 87
  • Poetry: 3
  • Short stories: 3
  • Plays: 2
  • Early Reviews: 7

All titles left to go for Challenge: 4,366

Next count: 10/1/2018


Life and Times of Miami Beach

Armbruster, Ann. The Life and Times of Miami Beach. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

Reason read: Hurricane Irma blew into town on September 10th, 2017.

The Life and Times of Miami Beach would make a good coffee table book; one of those gorgeous to look at and flip through (even if you don’t have the time to read) books. The photography (in both black and white and color) is spectacular.
We begin in 1900. Miami Beach was nothing but spits of sand and swamp. By 1915 keen-eyed entrepreneur Carl Fisher looked at the bug and alligator infested mangroves and said resolutely why not? Why not create a vacation hot spot out of an uninhabited peninsula? In the beginning business was slow. Marjory Stoneman Douglas wasn’t impressed with a tourist season that was only two months long.
By the 1920s Miami Beach was a real estate developer’s dream. Hotel growth exploded with expensive, over-the-top, grandiose places to stay. Prohibition was a joke as rum runners smuggled alcohol in disguised as fish and shipped it inland marketed as grapefruits or tomatoes. Swim suits could be rented for twenty five cents.
In the 1930s the big names wanted to be seen in Miami Beach. Names like Firestone, Ford, Maytag, Honeywell, Florsheim, Hoover, and Hertz. Eleanor Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh came to visit.
In the 1940s Miami became a haven for military men.
By the late ’50s and early ’60s Miami Beach’s identity was changing again with visits from tourists from all over. Over two million people were flocking to the Beach paradise. Jackie Gleason, the Beatles, Debbie Reynolds and Desi Arnaz (to name a few) added to the publicity.
Armbruster ends her coffee table book with the wrap up “1970s to present” present means the ’80s). The last chapter is a quick four pages dedicated to Miami Beach’s flagging economy and reputation and its rebirth and redevelopment.

As an aside, Phish had a New Year’s Eve run in Miami Beach a few years ago. I didn’t attend but I heard the show was epic.

Author fact: Armbruster has no outward connection to Miami. According to her bio she was born in Michigan, raised in Ohio, and studied in New York. My guess is that someone she is related to has the connection to Miami.

Book trivia: The Life and Times of Miami Beach can be called a gorgeous book with over 200 photographs and illustrations.

Nancy said: Nancy didn’t say anything specific about Armbruster’s book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the obvious chapter called “Miami and Environs” (p 145).


Babylon Rolling

Boyden, Amanda. Babylon Rolling. New York: Pantheon Books, 2008.

Reason read: Hurricane Ivan roared through the eastern seaboard in September 2004. I should know because it disrupted my wedding.

Five very different New Orleans families on Orchid Street are under a microscope in Boyden’s second book, Babylon Rolling. A careless accident will initially bring these neighbors into focus, but it’s the threat of intolerance that tightens their connections to one another.
Ed and Ariel with their two children (impossibly named Miles and Ella), are newly transplanted from Minneapolis, Minnesota. He’s a stay at home dad while she is a GM for a hotel. There is trouble in the marriage. Sharon Harris has all she can handle with her two trouble-making boys, Daniel aka “Fearious” and Michael aka “Muzzy.” Both are druglord wannabes. Cerise and Roy Brown are trying to live in peace with their grown daughter Maria. Racist Philomenia Beargard de Bruges keeps an eye on the street while her husband, Joe battles colon cancer. Then there are the Guptas who have moved into the largest house on the block. Their presence is barely felt in the plot.

One of the least liked elements of Boyden’s writing is her character stereotypes. The voice of each community member vibrates with an exaggerated edge, especially the “thugs” and African Americans. Dialogues sound forced and even comical at times. Confessional: the only character I liked was Cerise. She was the only normal one of the bunch.

Quotes I liked enough to mention, “Ed needed to work on his acceptance of overweight humans” (p 14) and “Her duties at this point in the marriage are very clearly defined, such that she has to do next to nothing for him should she not want to” (p 187).

Author fact: Boyden’s first novel was Pretty Little Dirty which is not on my Challenge list but sounds like it was a success.

Nancy said: Babylon Rolling features “a large cast of exquisitely drawn characters” (Book Lust To Go p 155).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “News From N’Orleans” (p 155).


Case of the Man Who Died Laughing

Hall, Tarquin. The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing. Read by Sam Dastor.

Reason read: to finish the series started in August in honor of Rajiv Ratna Gandgi being born in August.

Vish Puri is India’s most Private Investigator. Confidentiality is his watchword. His bread and butter cases mostly consist of background and character checks for betrothed couples. In a culture where prearranged marriages are the norm it is critical for parents to know they have chosen wisely for their offspring. Other cases involve revealing hoaxes or frauds, but every once in awhile a case with more significance comes along. Such is the case of the man who died laughing. A prominent scientist while in a laughing class was seemingly murdered by the Hindu goddess Kali. She appeared to be floating above the crowd brandishing a huge sword. Many thought it was a supernatural occurrence because Kali was devoid of strings or wires. She really seemed to be hovering above the crowd. Lucky for India that Puri retained a kernel of skepticism. Along with his trusty team, Facecream, Tubelight and Flush, Puri is on the case.

Author fact: I love with when people or places connect. One of the most influential books I read earlier this year was by Emmanuel Jal who was mentored by Emma McCune. Tarquin Hall did a profile on Emma when he was a news reporter.

Book trivia: Hall started writing the Puri series in 2008. There are two others after The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, but I’m not reading them.

Lines I liked: none enough to quote this time.

Nancy said: nothing special.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Sojourns in South Asia” (p 212). Here’s what happens when the title of a book is incorrectly indexed in Book Lust To Go: Somehow The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing was indexed as The Man Who Died Laughing. Alphabetically under M instead of C which meant that I had to change four different spreadsheets.


Fuzz

McBain, Ed. Fuzz. New York: Warner Books, 2000.

Reason read: to finish the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.

McBain is a master of character development and dialogue detail.

The 87th Precinct has met its match in Fuzz. After a prominent citizen of a fictitious New York City is gunned down witnesses can only say they saw a man wearing a hearing aid. Dubbed the Deaf Man, it isn’t long before he strikes again. His modus operandi is to call the precinct to extort a sum of money or else someone is going to die. In the case of Parks Commissioner Cowper, it was $5,000. The next threat was aimed at the deputy mayor for $50,000. Finally, it was the mayor’s turn to die. Meanwhile on a different assignment, Steve Carella tries to figure out who is setting homeless people on fire. Dressed as a derelict Carella puts himself in danger and isn’t fast enough to get out of harm’s way…

Quotes I liked, “In a city notorious for its indifference, the citizens were obviously withdrawn now, hurrying past each other without so much as eyes meeting, insulating themselves, becoming tight private cocoons that defied the cold” (p 23),

Author fact: So, here’s a really odd one. McBain can describe the weather so well the heat detailed on the page can send trickles of sweat down your back or the lack of it can freeze your fingertips. Impressive, considering all the while you are in the comfort of your own temperature controlled home.

Book trivia: Fuzz was made into a movie in  starring Burt Reynolds.

Nancy said: I read Fuzz and Big Bad City out of order because Pearl listed Big Bad City before Fuzz. I should have known better than to trust Pearl to put the series in the order in which they should be read. It’s an attention to detail I would have appreciated.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust  in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 120).


Holding the Dream

Roberts, Nora. Holding the Dream. New York: Berkeley Books, 2012.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.

The “Dream” series sets you up to meet the Templeton family one by one. In Daring to Dream Margo Sullivan (now Templeton after marrying Josh) dared to give up a life of glamour to own her own second hand shop. In Holding the Dream, it’s Kate Powell who takes center stage. If Margo is the sexy one, Kate is the outwardly dowdy accountant, the sexy-behind-the-scenes-but-good-with-numbers one. Orphaned by a childhood tragedy, she joins the Templeton household as the ugly and odd duck; she grows up to be the ambitious accountant striving to pull her weight and forever indebted to the Templetons for their generosity. She is no nonsense and serious and to the letter with everything she does so how it that Kate is accused of embezzling from the firm she wants to make partner? Of course it’s a Templeton connection who swoops in to save the day.

Spoiler: It’s a little gimicky, but you meet Roger Thornhill briefly. Roger is someone Kate dated briefly within the firm. As a coworker he used her to get at her client list and snag her largest account. Frustratingly enough, I knew he was behind the embezzlement because he doesn’t factor into the story again until the very end. The scene between him and Kate early on is a vehicle only to introduce his character so that later on his guilt will make sense.

Book trivia: As with every Roberts romance, the fight scenes are a little cheesy. The “I’m in love with you but I hate you” push-pull is totally in play.

Nancy said: Holding the Dream is an example of a romance novel in which “the answer is always yes” according to Jayne Ann Krentz (Book Lust p 204).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).


Power of One

Courtenay, Bryce. The Power of One. New York: Ballantine Books, 1989.

Reason read: Courtenay’s birth month is in August.

Confessional One: I accidentally ordered the childrens’ book version of The Power of One. Before I realized my mistake I was already half way through it.
Confessional Two: the version for children needed to be returned before I was finished so I jumped over the the adult full length story. I’m glad I did.

Confessional Three: The Power of One started a little slow for me. Maybe because I started with a book for children? At times I thought it contained magical realism. Once the story picked up I was thoroughly engrossed.

Known only by the derogatory name of Pisskop, a child is born in South Africa and in the shadow of Hitler’s rise to cruel power. In 1939 Pisskop seems destined for demise. He was born of the wrong color, white. He spoke the wrong language, English. He was raised by a woman of the wrong color, black. His own mother all but nonexistent. Pisskop knew fear, cruelty, humiliation and abandonment all before he turned six years old. Through a series of unremarkable events Pisskop is led to the people and opportunities that would bestow courage and grit on the young boy. Harry Crown, who renames Pisskop, Peekay. Hoppie Groenewald, who offers Peekay a green sucker at their first fateful meeting (a gesture Peekay will always remember). Doc, who becomes a mentor and a father figure for Peekay. Geel Peet, who takes Peekay’s boxing skills to another level. Because of these early relationships, Peekay gains confidence and courage, vowing to overcome his color, his speech, his pitiful upbringing. In his dreams he survives to become the welterweight champion of the world.

Lines I liked: “Man brutalized thinks only of his survival” (p 215), “The indigo night was pricked with sharp cold stars” (p 257), “The photograph captured the exact moment when I understood with conviction that racism is a primary force of evil designed to destroy good men” (p 265), and one more, “You either disappear into a plebian background or move forward to where most others fear to follow” (p 472).

Author fact: Courtenay was born in South Africa.

Nancy said: nothing specific, besides plot, about Power of One.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Africa: A Reader’s Itinerary” (p 3).


Niccolo Rising

Dunnett, Dorothy. Niccolo Rising. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.

Reason read: Dunnett’s birth month is in August.

When Dunnett finished the Francis Crawford of Lymond series she felt there was more to Francis Crawford’s story that needed to be detailed. By way of explanation she went back to the 15th century. Niccolo Rising is the first in the House of Niccolo series and features Nicholas de Fluery, three generations before Francis Crawford of Lymond’s birth. For reference, the 1459 Queen of Scots is thirteen years old.
Be prepared for high drama! Nicholas (or Niccolo or Nicholas vander Poele or Claes, as he is first called) only wants what every young man craves – acceptance, recognition, and love from his elders. When we first meet him, he is known as Claes, an eighteen year old dyer’s apprentice. Clumsy as a puppy and equally annoying, the people in his life spend most of their time babysitting his actions and cleaning up his messes. It is hard to imagine Claes’s transformation into a good-with-numbers, savvy businessman who capture the heart of one of the most prestigious women in the country. Much like 15th century Bruges’s commerce and trade, Claes undergoes a spiritual and intellectual growth. By the end of Niccolo Rising he is practically unrecognizable. And that’s when the fun starts…

As an aside, the list of characters, both real and fictional, is daunting. Read and reread this book extremely carefully. You might miss something if you don’t.

Author fact: Dunnett also wrote about Macbeth.

Book trivia: Niccolo Rising is the first book in the Niccolo House series and since they tie into the House of Lymond series Dunnett suggested reading them in the order they were written and not in chronological order. Yay! I’m actually reading them in the right order…for once.

Nancy said: Pearl said it would be a shame to miss out on the House of Niccolo series  (More Book Lust p 80).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging up the Past Through Fiction” (p 79).