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

Queen Victoria

Strachey, Lytton. Queen Victoria. Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1921.

Reason read: Queen Victoria was born on May 24th, 1819. Read in her honor.

The biography of Queen Victoria opens with the unhappy life of Princess Charlotte who is in the care of her father. She is betrothed to a man of her father’s choosing but has fallen in love with a married man. O the scandal! As a result Charlotte is exiled to Windsor Park. When all the other suitors fall away due to her absence she ends up marrying Prince Leopold and having a baby girl. Thus begins Victoria’s royal lineage. Victoria became queen in 1837 at the age of eighteen. Much like any new political leader, there were high hopes for Queen Victoria’s honest and scrupulous rule: the abolishment of slavery, the elimination of crime, and the improvement of education. Funny how some things never change.
This was a time when impulsive marriages could be made void with the stroke of a pen and uncles could fancy their nieces for matrimony. All marriages were open political and economical strategies. Marriage could alter friendships between entire nations. With arranged marriages it is usually the bride who feels trapped. Not so with the wedding of Albert and Victoria. It is the groom who does not want to go through with it. Too bad Victoria ended up marrying someone who wasn’t all that popular. She had to deal with a “foreign” husband who could not be accepted by her ruling nation. After Albert’s death, widowed at forty-two years old, she tried to bolster Albert’s reputation posthumously. What she succeeds in accomplishing is a nation in love with her. She becomes one of the most adored royalty of all time.

As an aside, Queen Victoria’s reaction to her husband’s death reminded me of my mother in the years after my father’s passing. Victoria puts Albert on a pedestal and worships his memory with grandiose gestures. My mother did the same thing. Saint and savior, my father could do no wrong once he was gone. Here is an example of Victoria’s “loyalty” – “Within those precincts everything remained as it had been at the Prince’s death; but the mysterious preoccupation of Victoria had commanded that her husband’s clothing should be laid out afresh, each evening, upon the bed, and that, each evening, the water should be set ready in the basin, as if he were still alive, and this incredible rite was performed with scrupulous regularity for nearly forty years” (p 404). Interestingly enough, this tidbit of information does not have a source. It comes from “private information” whatever that means.

Quotes to quote, “Cold and formal in manner, collected in speech, careful in action, he soon dominated the wild, impetuous, generous creature by his side” (p 3) and “…the dragon of his dissatisfaction devoured with dark relish that ever-growing tribute of laborious days and nights; but it was hungry still” (p 285)..

Author fact: Strachey also wrote Eminent Victorians which is on my Challenge list. Strachey’s full name is Giles Lytton Strachey.

Book trivia: Queen Victoria is dedicated to Virginia Woolf and also includes some black and white portraits of Victoria. The first portrait of Victoria is when she was seventeen years old. The final portrait is of Victoria at seventy-eight. Confessional: unfamiliar with British fashion, I never knew what was on Victoria’s head. It blended in with her hair so well that I always thought she had a mohawk hairstyle.

Playlist: “God Save the Queen”, “Come Holy Ghost”, “Hallelujah Chorus”, Hayden, Mendelssohn, “Rock of Ages”, and the National Anthem.

Nancy said: Pearl said Strachey produced one of the better biographies of Queen Victoria.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Queen Victoria and Her Times” (p 191).

Brothers Karamazov

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Reason read: I no longer remember why this was chosen for May.

The question of nature versus nurture has always been a topic for debate. Who are we? Why are we here? Do we have a divine reason for being on this planet? In short, Dostoevsky is asking for the meaning of life. Sort of. This is the story of a patricide when any of Fyodor’s children could have been his killer because no one has a good relationship with him. Not to mention the competition between father and son over Agrafena (Grushenka). Here is a brief overview of The Brothers Karamazov:

  • Book One sets up the family dynamic
  • Book Two introduces the dispute over the family inheritance
  • Book Three is about the love triangle between Fyodor, Dmitri, and Grushenka
  • Book Four – you can skip. It’s a side story
  • Book Five is pros and contra, the Grand Inquisition & Jesus (reason and blind faith)
  • Book Six is about the Russian monk; the life and history of Elder Zosima, dying in his cell
  • Book Seven introduces Alyosha and the death and decay of Zosima
  • Book Eight illustrates Dmitri’s greed in order to run away with Grushenka
  • Book Nine is Fyodor’s murder (finally)
  • Book Ten is another side story
  • Book eleven is about Brother Ivan and his quest to find his father’s killer
  • Book Twelve is the trial of Dimitri

Author fact: Dostoevsky died shortly after finishing The Brothers Karamazov.

Book trivia: The Brothers Karamazov was originally published as a serial.

Nancy said: Pearl said “A good part of reading life can be spent most productively with the great (and well-known) Russian books…” (Book Lust p 210). She said more but you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Russian Heavies” (p 210).

Let Me In

Lindqvist, John Ajvide. Let Me In. Translated by Ebba Segerberg. Thomas Dunne Books, 2007.

Reason read: Mr. Nash

Admittedly, it took me a few pages to get into Let Me In. Once I fell in love with Oskar and Eli I couldn’t get enough of their story. Being a twelve year old sensitive boy, Oskar is the subject of daily bullying at school. He dreams of murderous revenge far beyond his sad and lonely years. At night he takes a hunting knife into the woods and repeatedly stabs trees, imagining the soft and penetrable flesh of his school yard enemies. Meanwhile, Eli is a mystery. With a strange way of speaking and no history to speak of, Eli fascinates Oskar to the point of obsession. He finds himself in love with a strange girl who only comes out at night, repeatedly says she neither a girl nor boy, and can solve puzzles she has never seen before in the blink of an eye. Who is she? Then the murders begin. Gruesome and strange, victims are drained of blood. Is Eli to blame?
A running theme through Let Me In is the absence of father figures. Eli has a fake father. Tommy has a fake step-father. Oskar’s dad has divorced his mom and is living an alcohol-soaked life outside of town. I wanted to pay attention to the mothers for I hoped they would be the unspoken heroes of Let Me In.
Not so much.
As an aside, I appreciated the literary references of Plato, Dante, Pyramus, Thisbe, and King Minos.

As another aside, I’ve never really paid attention to the traits of vampires, so Let Me In taught me a lot. The manner of speech, how quickly they can solve puzzles, the aversion to light and potential for spontaneous combustion, their physical strength and dexterity, the need to be invited to enter a residence, how they can be killed with a stake through the heart, and of course, the constant need for “food”, for blood. As yet another aside, I never considered the quality of the blood a vampire must consume. Someone on drugs could cause an overdose and “Blood from the dead was worthless, harmful even” (p 126).

Quotes to quote, “But Eli was a terrible monster who ate beautiful maidens for lunch and she was the one he would have to fight” (p 211).

Author fact: Lindqvist has been called Sweden’s Stephen King.

Book trivia: Let Me In was also a movie in 2010. All the characters have different names, but the story is essentially the same. Guess what? I haven’t seen it yet. Let Me In was also published under the title Let the Right One In.

Playlist: Alice Tegner, Kiss, Iron Maiden, Gene Simmons, “The Internationale”, “We Come Unto Jerusalem”, Morrissey’s “The Last of the Famous International Playboys”, “Beth”, “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, Blessed Be”, Hallelujah”, “Joy to the World”,

Crack in the Edge of the World

Winchester, Simon. Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906. Narrated by Simon Winchester. Harper Collins, 2005.

Reason read: San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge opened on May 27th, 1937.

From soup to nuts, Simon Winchester’s Crack in the Edge of the World tells the complete story of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 with humor, intelligence, and clarity. He begins with the humble birth of the city coupled with the scientific explanation for earth’s volatile nature.
Curiously, when talking about other disasters which have wiped out entire regions Winchester mentions Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but only hints at the destruction of a large portion of Manhattan after the attacks of 9/11. And speaking of the attacks on the World Trade Center, I imagine that witnessing the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake was similar to east coast residents watching the events of 9/11 unfold on their smartphones and television sets. If you were not suffering personal tragedy and your barometer for compassion was at an all-time low, you looked upon the destruction with awe and a strange but removed fascination.
My favorite post-disaster response. The post office was the hero of my childhood, keeping me connected to friends and family miles away. San Francisco’s post office employees made and all-out effort to save their building. As a result they were able to resume service two days after the earthquake. The postmaster understood the importance of communicating with loved ones; an early version of “marked safe.”

Edited to add: I had to come back in here to add this! How could I forget that Winchester quoted Natalie Merchant! She wrote about the San Andreas fault on her first solo album, Tigerlily.

Quote to quote, “But generally speaking, so far as their respective quiddities are concerned, great cities always recover” (p 313).

Author fact: I have a total of eight Winchester books on my Challenge list. I have read three of them so far. Crack in the Edge of the World is my favorite at present.

Nancy said: Pearl said Crack in the Edge of the World was one of the best – if not the best – books about the great earthquake.

Book trivia: Winchesters description of German photographer Genthe sparked an interest in his work.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “San Francisco” (p 196).

Princes of Ireland

Rutherfurd, Edward. The Princes of Ireland. Narrated by Richard Matthews. Books on Tape, 2004.
Rutherfurd, Edward. The Princes of Ireland. Doubleday, 2004.

Reason read: in honor of the Cat Laugh Comedy Festival in Ireland.

Rutherfurd’s Princes of Ireland opens with a lesson in geography, anthropology, and history. I am always learning something new with historical fiction, like the difference between overlords and feudal lords. Did you know that Celtic warriors rode their horses naked? Kissing each other’s nipples is a show of forgiveness? Clans buried their warriors standing up, facing their enemies camp, to keep an eye on them? So many customs and traditions and that is not even getting into the politics of the country!
Although I kept making comparisons to Thomas Flanagan’s Irish series, Rutherfurd’s Ireland is much rowdier than Flanagan’s epic tale. People stealing horses for animalistic (pun intended) pleasures was a head scratcher for me. I have heard the rumors of men with sheep, but horses? Mythology and rituals abound. As an example, the success of the season’s harvest is dependent on the druid’s blessing. All of these details are a vehicle for the clever entanglement of fact and fiction – details so interwoven it is hard to tease them apart.
My favorite part of the story was Rutherfurd’s mastermind of the relationship between Margaret and Joan. Margaret’s misconceptions and prejudices of Joan were skillful and plausible. It was like a medieval gossip rag. Here is another drama: the king’s wish to divorce his Spanish wife for the love of another. The townspeople quarrel about who is in the right.

Edited to add a quote I liked, “Marriage is like religion, in a way, it requires an act of faith” (said by Dame Doyle, p 740).

Author fact: beyond the Ireland saga, Rutherford has also written London, Sarum, and The Forest which are all on my Challenge list. I am not reading the novel about New York.

Book trivia: Princes of Ireland is epic. It spans seventeen centuries of Irish history and is only part one of the saga. The Rebels of Ireland continues the journey.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Princes of Ireland.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Ireland: Beyond Joyce, Behan, Beckett, and Synge” (p 110).

Stones into Schools

Mortenson, Greg. Stones into Schools: Promoting Pease with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Viking, 2009.

Reason read: to finish the series started with Three Cups of Tea.

Whether you know Stones into Schools because of the phenomenon that was Three Cups of Tea or because Stones into Schools became a best seller in its own right, there is no denying its impact. The fast paced we-must-build-schools story picks up right where Three Cups of Tea left off. Mortenson has established himself as humanitarian extraordinaire, but he wants to do more, more, more. He makes a solemn promise to a band of Kirghiz horsemen to build schools in a remote area of Afghanistan called Bozai Gumbaz. This is the dramatic retelling (and lots of humble bragging) of how he barely kept that promise.
If you read beyond the endless list of accomplishments and focus on the efforts of the people around Mortenson, inspiration can be easily found. Especially after the events of October 8th, 2005 in northern Pakistan when an earthquake rocked the landscape into rubble.
Confessional: I got a little weary of all of the “I talk” Mortenson did throughout both Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools. I understand that everywhere he spoke everyone clamored to hear him. He sold out venues everywhere. Fine. But, I grew weary of his I did this, I did that rhetoric. I am this. I am all that. I couldn’t get the image of him riding around on a camel wearing a cape and mask out of my head. But, for all of his avarice I appreciated the exposure to the culture, operations, and obsessions of the Taliban. When you are held hostage by American news organizations you only get one side of the story and as they always say, there are three sides: your, mine, and the truth.

Author fact: Mortenson was investigated for the mismanagement of Central Asia Institute’s funds and agreed to pay back one million dollars. It’s best to read Stones into Schools as a glorious adventure that happens to be mostly fiction.

Book trivia: Stones into Schools is a first person narrative which makes me wonder what happened to David Oliver Relin.

Audio trivia: there is one section of the audio that was left out of the print. A reporter was asking Greg about his closeness with his partners. He admitted to sharing lots of things (toothbrushes and clothes along those things). Mortenson took this opportunity to tell his audience that he does not wear underwear so this item he is unable to share. But the part about sharing wives does not appear in the book.

Playlist: Willie Nelson

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Sojourns into South Asia” (p 212).

Posted in Uncategorized

The Prisoner

Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past. Translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff. Modern Library, 1956.

Reason read: to continue the series started in November in honor of Proust.

Whatever you want to call this volume of Remembrance of Things Past, whether it be “The Prisoner” or “The Captive”, it is also for obvious reasons called “The Albertine Novel.” In the beginning of “The Captive/Prisoner” Albertine is the narrator’s mistress. As soon as she wants to visit friends he (as narrator finally named Marcel at times) bribes Albertine with furs and jewels to make her stay in his family’s Paris apartment. There he keeps a close eye on her. Despite this possessive nature, he (Marcel) soon grows tired of Albertine but cannot completely let her go, hence the title of prisoner or captive. He becomes progressively more jealous, possessive, obsessive to the point of borderline psychotic worrying and wondering about who Albertine is with, male or female. Her confession of a friendship with lesbians forces Marcel to stoop to spying to see if she has relationships with other women. As usual, Proust has his finger squarely on the pulse of human nature. Albertine is the epitome of freedom while Marcel embodies jealousy and rage.
Sadly, because I had to switch to another publication, this version does not have the beautiful and whimsical illustrations of the other volumes.

Lines to like, “People who learn some accurate detail of another person’s life at once deduce consequences which are not accurate, and see in the newly discovered fact an explanation of things that have no connexion with it whatsoever” (p 2).

Book trivia: The Prisoner was published posthumously. The next book to read is The Past Recaptured.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about “The Captive” or “The Prisoner.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208).

Brunetti’s Venice

Sepeda, Toni. Brunetti’s Venice: Walks with the City’s Best-Loved Detective. Grove Press, 2008.

Reason read: prepping for a grand trip to Italy. Venice is on the list. I cannot wait to walk the same streets as Lord Byron, Wagner, Goethe, and Proust. They all went to the San Marco district of Venice for inspiration. I must see the equestrian statue of Colleoni.

Brunetti’s Venice is a very clever book. Part travel guide to Venice and part homage to Donna Leon’s character, Guido Brunetti, Brunetti’s Venice is one hundred percent entertainment. Using direct quotes from each of Leon’s mysteries a reader can tour Venice through the eyes of Brunetti. Places like Murano become more vivid. Quoting from all Leon’s mysteries was a bonus for me. I am afforded glimpses of passages from books not on my Challenge list. It also gave me a chance to get to know Guido Brunetti better, as Sepeda writes just as equally about Commissario Brunetti the person as she does the island city of Venice.
As a travel book, the most appreciated information was the time it should take to walk each route using the detailed map. I have to wonder if the information has held up. Information like when restaurants are closed, how to visit a basilica, how to avoid the seedy parts of town. When Brunetti’s Venice went to press Sepeda said, “…today only three exist until the new bridge linking Piazzale Roma and the train station designed by the Spanish architect Calatrava is finished” (p 143). Well, is it finished? Are Venetians still suspicious of Sicilians?
Aside from wondering how current the information, I loved the idea of the great authors who have wandered around Venice: Charles Dickens, George Sand, Balzac, and Cocteau to name a few. Imagine Othello in Venice…
Confessional: I fell in love with Guido from the very first book. He is passionate, sensitive, and predictable. I loved that as a member of the law he lived in an illegal apartment; a structure without permits, blueprints, or statement of intent.

As an aside: Donna Leon admits to getting lost in Venice. Tommy Puzey guaranteed we would get lost during his Walk Italy series on iFit (so far we haven’t).

Quote to quote, “One of the secrets Paolo and Brunetti never revealed to anyone was their decades-long search for the ugliest Christ child in western art” (p 127). Can you just see them whispering to each other, rating the artwork across Venice?

Author fact: I heard a rumor that Sepeda has given guided tours of Brunetti’s Venice. She must really love Donna Leon’s books.

Book trivia: Sepeda uses arrows to indicate when it is time for walkers to move on. I felt it was unnecessary.

Playlist: Vivaldi

Nancy said: Pearl said it would be fun to recreate strolls described in Brunetti’s Venice.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter “Veni, Vidi, Venice” (p 240).

Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast Pillow Book

Richardson, Bill. Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast Pillow Book. St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Reason read: to continue the series started in April.

Hector and Virgil are back! Their charming bed and breakfast is still a safe haven for bibliophiles, although this time there are not as many “bookish” moments. There is a list of must-read cookbooks, books for a baby’s first five years (I loved seeing Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne on the list), and another list of books specific for bathroom reading. The focus of book number two (pun intended) is the discovery of local controversial poet Solomon Solomon’s manuscript in the B&B safe. The town decides to celebrate his works with a festival involving a poetry contest, food, and a ball of foil.
Cutest moment in the book? When asked by their schoolteacher each twin said he wanted to be a bachelor when he grew up. Neither had no idea what that meant. My one complaint? The brothers do not narrate as much of the sequel as they did in Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast.
As an aside, Nancy Pearl has a chapter in one of her Lust books about characters you would like to meet. I would like to meet mother. She practiced chemistry, built model planes, played football, studied anatomy, collected road kill, and raised twins all on her own. She sounds like a hell raiser. Natalie Merchant has a song called “Sister Tilly” and I could see mother as a Miss Tilly as someone who would stand at the barricades; a girl in the fray.

Line I liked, “I flashed her a pertinent finger and stooped to conquer” (p 130).

As another aside, I find it strange that Hector celebrates learning how to hula hoop on the same morning I wake from a dream that involved carrying a hula hoop onto a plane. I have no idea from where that came.

Author fact: I did a what the what when I found out Richardson is also a radio broadcaster. That is beyond cool.

Book trivia: As with the first Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast there is a very cute illustration of a cat.

Playlist: Albinoni Adagio, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”, Bach, Baker, “Blowin’ in the Wind”, Callas, Corelli, “Do You Know the Way To San Jose?”, “Donkey Serenade”, “E Luceran le Stelle”, Elvis, Flagstad, Gigli, “Holly and the Ivy”, “I Saw Three Ships”, John Coltrane, “Like a Virgin”, “Little Drummer Boy,” “Lullaby of Broadway”, Madame Butterfly, Madonna, “Material Girl”, Mio Babbino Caro, Mitch Miller, Mozart, O Holy Night”, Pachabel Canon, Piaf, Puccini, “Red Rover Valley”, “Silver Bells”, Stratas, Village People, Vivaldi, Wayne Newton, and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

Nancy said: Pearl called Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast Pillow Book “light-as-air.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Gallivanting in the Graveyard” (p 96) and again in the simple chapter called “Parrots” (p 183). There are no ghosts in Bachelor Brothers’ Bed and Breakfast Pillow Book. Although, to be fair, there is a scene when Caedmon is dusting in mother’s room and he has a hint of a spirit with him. Does that count?

We Need To Talk

Headlee, Celeste. We Need To Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter. Harper, 2017.

Reason read: a colleague came back from a conference with a bunch of books. What’s better than free books?

This is a great little book full of common sense advice about how to be a better conversationalist. It is not necessarily geared towards getting ahead in the corporate world, but it is helpful. Written by a “human nature expert” Headlee offers practical tips for listening and speaking with meaning. I appreciated the reminders about repeating oneself and using negative language. Even though she did not provide much information I haven’t heard before I would like to check out her TED talk. Out of all of the self help books on communication I’ve read, We Need to Talk was the most enjoyable.

Author fact: Headlee is cohost of a PBS television show called Retro Report.

Book trivia: Headless includes some tips on meditation.

Playlist: Barenaked Ladies, Michael Jackson, Verdi, Pucci, Mozart, and Wagner.


Bolton, S. J. Sacrifice. Minotaur Books, 2009.

Reason read: This is awful, but I don’t remember why this is an April book.

It all starts when obstetrician Tora Hamilton finds a human body buried on her land. She is new to the Shetland islands off the coast of Scotland, but her husband’s people have lived here for generations. To think she was trying to bury a horse! What she finds instead is the body of a young woman who used to have red hair and appears to have given birth. Who is this woman and why is she on Tora’s land? To dig into the mystery of the buried woman is to reveal a scandal much bigger than a simple death. To dig into history of Shetland is to uncover an ancient secret that is better left for dead. Despite the danger, Tora cannot let the mystery be. The more she uncovers the more she questions her marriage of five years, her job, and her future. Why has her husband stayed away from his homeland for twenty years and does her boss look so much like her father-in-law?
While Tora had questions I had questions for her. What kind of person can shrug off a pig’s heart left on her kitchen table in the dead of night? What about crushed strawberries in the basement? Are those normal occurrences in Shetland? Wouldn’t it drive her crazy that her keys go missing for days? As more strange events start to pile up I questioned Tora’s judgement. That was exactly what Bolton wanted me to do.

Line I liked, “At the end of the day, if you believe something deeply enough, it becomes a kind of truth” (p 313). Amen to that.

Book trivia: because Sacrifice is translated into English some of the sentences are quirky. Case in point: “why the hell was me going back to Shetland?” (p 210).

Nancy said: Pearl caught my attention when she called Sacrifice “creepy and riveting.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Sheltering in the Shetlands” (p 204).

Tenants of Time

Flanagan, Thomas. Tenants of Time. Warner Books, 1989.

Reason read: to continue the series started in March in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

This is the account of the Fenian Rising of 1867 in the time of the Parnell Special Commission. All of Ireland rises up and greets war with bravery and stern determination. The chief storytellers are Patrick Prentiss and Hugh MacMahon, but you’ll also meet Robert Delaney, a shopkeeper and Ned Nolan, a terrorist. Like Katherine by Anya Seton Tenants of Time walks a tightrope between fact and fiction – a beautiful balance of great storytelling.

As an aside, I have a pang of nostalgia reading about Waterford crystal. I dated someone who lived in Waterford. He was my first “exotic” love.

Quotes to quote, “It was in a different world that he tended his roses, not the world of the white March morning” (p 174), and “It was a moment hinged upon silence, upon dreadful expectation” ( 201).

Playlist: “A Nation Once Again”, “The West’s Lake”, and “God Save Ireland”.

Nancy said: Pearl called the entire trilogy “magnificent.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction for Kids of All Ages” (p 114).

Hong Kong

Morris, Jan. Hong Kong. Vintage, 1997.

Reason read: for the Portland Public Reading Challenge I needed a book about a region that interests me. Hong Kong is a place I know little about.

Hong Kong is densely factual. Someone else described it this way and that was my ah-ha moment. I couldn’t put my finger on why it was such a slog to read. Morris spends an inordinate amount of time describing one of Hong Kong’s first modern structures but fails incite any passion about it. Her detached voice left me wondering what is the fascination with the area? She spent a long time describing a photograph of a building I wanted her to include it in the book. This, you will see, is a reoccurring pet peeve of mine. Morris’s photographs are uninspiring and grainy.
A word of warning. Hong Kong is outdated. I found myself wondering about the Hong Kong of today. Are there still more Rolls-Royces per head in the city?
At first I wasn’t sure I would enjoy Hong Kong. Aside from dated material, in the early pages, Morris jumps from pleasures of the flesh to pleasure of the palette to playing mah-jongg and the mythology of disturbing the spirits in the earth within several seemingly unrelated pages.
My take-aways: honey was a euphemism for sex for hire. Opium was a legally smoked drug until 1940. A deeper understanding of the art and logic of feng shui. At least I learned something.

Author fact: I have an astounding twelve books by Jan Morris on my Challenge list. She has written many more.

Book trivia: I don’t know why but I find it selfish when an author describes a photograph that they took but don’t share the image in the book. They would rather go through great lengths to describe it. As it was, the clump of pictures Morris chose to include were grainy, somewhat irrelevant and completely uninteresting. I am repeating myself.

Playlist: “One Stolen Kiss”, and “Deep in My Heart, Dear”.

Nancy said: Pearl said Hong Kong is filled with evocative writing.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Hong Kong Holidays” (p 118).


Otting, Laura Gassner. Limitless: How to Ignore Everybody, Carve Yor Own Path and Live

Reason read: work

The emphasis of Limitless is this: do not be afraid to start your own business; do not be scared to leave the rat race of working for someone else; learn how to want to be your own boss. Most of the examples in Limitless are of high powered executives and/or people who can afford (literally) to take big risks. You never hear about the McDonald’s burger flipper who cashes it all in to open a soap store. Case in point – the lawyer who took an 80% pay cut to do something she loved. The other lawyer who quit her thriving practice to start a chocolate company in her kitchen (guess it wasn’t a galley kitchen with a one-burner stove). How many of us are called to lead an expedition to Mount Everest while working at Goldman Sachs? The example of the veterinarian who went from in-clinic appointments to home visits was the first real down-to-earth example with which I connected. That was a career adjustment I could get behind. Another observation: I would argue that gig-economy only works if a), you stored up enough reserves to see you through while you are trying to find your calling and b), you have a family network willing to support you during the paycheck gaps or c), you cobble together enough jobs to pay the bills without interruption.
The mantra is finding purpose. What if you don’t know your purpose so you wouldn’t recognize it if you saw it? The trick is to harness ambition. What if you have no idea how to do that? Of course the book ends with a bonus quiz, but in order to see the results or learn anything from them, you have to log into a website.

Book trivia: Limitless includes a list of books to read.

Why Read?

Edmundson, Mark. Why Read? Bloomsbury, 2004.

Reason read: April is National Library Month. Plus, I needed a short book for the Portland Public Library reading challenge. This fit the bill.

Why Read? is a compilation of the clever thoughts of others. Edmundson is constantly direct quoting, recalling or paraphrasing the intelligent works of Arthur Schoppenhauer, Ann Marlowe, Camille Paglia, David Denby, David Rieff, de Man, Edmund Burke, Friedrich Schiller, Foucault, Frye, George Orwell, Henry James, Harold Bloom, Heidegger, Herman Melville, James Edwards, Keats, Kierkegaard, Karen Armstrong, Jacques Derrida, JH van den Burg, Lionel Trilling, Marcel Proust, Marilyn Butler, Matthew Arnold, Martha Nussbaum, Milan Kundera, Oscar Wilde, the Marquis de Sade, Nietche, Paul Cantor, Paul Ricoeur, Sir Philip Sidney, Richard Rorty, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, Robert McKee, Simon Frith, Stanley Fish, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Walter Jackson Bate, William B. Yeats, Wordsworth (among others), without a single footnote or bibliography, works cited page, or what have you. Sections on the connections to God, questioning God, and delving into the importance of critical thinking had me yawning. Is it deliberate that Edmundson’s examples of his students are mostly female? Just curious.
My favorite sections are when Edmundson was drawing connections to humanism – finding the deep parallels between individual reality and literary imagination. Can we identify with Hamlet’s situation? How does this relate to the here and now?

Author fact: Edmundson likes to start his book titles with the word why.

Book trivia: Why Read? is a very short book, but should not be read in one sitting.

Playlist: Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, and Britney Spears.

Nancy said: Pearl called Why Read? stimulating,

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed 800s” (p 76).