Roberts, Nora. Daring to Dream. New York: Berkeley Books, 2012.
Reason read: August is Beach Read month.
To understand Margo Sullivan you first have to meet the super wealthy Templeton family. Margo grew up living in the Templeton household because her mother has been the family’s housekeeper forever and the Templetons treat their help like family. I cannot mention family enough! But, even though the super perfect Templetons have always treated Margot like family, she never felt she belonged to them or with them. While every other member of the family stayed close to home, involved with the family’s multi-million dollar hotelier business, Margo always needed more, more, more. Like every character in a Nora Roberts novel, Margo sports a beyond beautiful face and impossibly perfect body. As a teenager she left her mother and the Templeton household in search of fame and fortune as an aspiring model. Jet setting around the world, Margo has been gone for years. She has been seen only in pictures as the face of a well known cosmetics company. At that time nothing could stop her, nothing until a scandal involving drugs, her manager and the bus he threw her under. Suddenly knocked her off her pedestal, Margot has to come crawling back to her mother…and the Templeton clan.
Every good N.R. romance has a beautiful someone fighting off his or her passionate urges towards a seemingly unwilling beautiful someone else. Daring to Dream is no different. When Margo arrives home with her tail between her legs, she alternates between hating and needing heir to the family business, Josh Templeton.
Author fact: Nora Roberts has written over 250 novels.
Book trivia: Daring to Dream is the first book in the “Dream” trilogy.
Nancy said: Daring to Dream is in the category of “contemporary” romance (Book Lust, p 204).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).
Napoli, Donna Jo. Crazy Jack. New York: Random House, 1999.
Reason read: August is Fairy Tale month.
Everyone knows the traditional English story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack sells the family cow for some worthless beans. Said beans grow into a magical beanstalk that reaches up into the clouds. When Jack climbs the stalk he comes to find the home of an ugly and mean giant. Escaping the giant’s cannibalistic wrath, Jack is able to steal away with a goose that lays golden eggs, a pot of gold, and a magical singing harp.
However, Donna Jo Napoli’s version has more substance in that you meet Jack when he is nine years old and living on a farm with his mother and father. Next door is beautiful Flora and life is perfect. But, Jack’s dad, being a gambler, ends up losing the farm. Literally. In his guilt and shame he commits suicide and Jack goes crazy with grief. Over time Jack’s life is turned upside down. As he grows up, he and his mother become poorer and poorer until finally, they are down to their last cow. To make matters worse, lovely Flora announces her engagement to another (sane) man. True to the original telling, Jack sells the family cow for some seemingly worthless beans that end up growing into a huge beanstalk that reaches the heavens. And like the original story, Jack climbs the beanstalk and discovers that giant and his riches. But, Napoli adds a sex scene and in the end has a powerful message for her readers. Jack may be crazy but he also has a heart. His ending is a happily ever after despite the heartache.
Line I really liked, “I’ll share my bed with whatever dreams come” (p 60).
Author fact: Napoli dedicated Crazy Jack to Barry. I guess he “always stands by his crazy woman.” That made me laugh. She also thanked the librarians at Swathmore College. Napoli sounds like someone with whom I could hang out.
Book trivia: Crazy Jack is so short it can be read in a day, but I wouldn’t recommend that. Take your time with Jack and the Giant. You won’t regret it.
Nancy said: Napoli’s reinterpretations of classic tales are good for teenage girls (More Book Lust, p 94).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 93).
Niven, Jennifer. Ada Blackjack: a True Story of Survival in the Arctic. New York: Hyperion, 2003.
Reason read: Ear-marking the reindeer is an Arctic tradition that takes place in the summer.
Jennifer Niven calls Ada Blackjack a hero. I don’t think I would go that far. She didn’t save anyone’s life and her heroic deeds were limited to having the courage and resourcefulness to survive her unlikely predicament physically unscathed. I say unlikely because what would a impoverished and divorced 23 year old Inuit woman (a rumored prostitute) be doing on a potentially illegal expedition in the wilds of an Arctic island with four young white men and a cat? Desperate to find a husband and to make enough money to care for her oft-ill son, Ada signs on a seamstress with explorer Vilhjamur Stefansson’s mission to colonize barren Wrangel Island off the coast of Siberia. Using the theory of squatters’ rights, Stafansson sent four young men and six months worth of supplies to plant the British flag on what he thought was unclaimed land. He only sent them with six months of supplies because he was sure they could survive off the land once they had exhausted their stores. What could possibly go wrong in the “friendly” Arctic?
It’s not a plot spoiler to say that Ada was the only human to make it out alive (and yes, the cat survives, too). But, here’s where the story gets interesting. Stefansson vacillates between wanting to take all the credit for Ada’s survival and pretending he’s never heard of the woman. It’s what happens after the rescue that becomes the bigger story.
As an aside, I love the process of discovery. While Niven was researching her first book, The Ice Master she discovered Nome, Alaska native Ada Blackjack. Ada’s adventure intrigued Niven enough to prompt her to dig into Blackjack’s life story and ultimately, write a memoir about her expedition with four white men (and a cat) to Wrangel Island. To carry that idea of discovery a step further, after reading Ada Blackjack I found a documentary on her. I got caught up in her mystique, too.
Author fact: Niven also wrote The Ice Master which is on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: Ada Blackjack includes two wonderful sections of photographs. A handful of comments about the photos: the expedition cat, Vic, is fantastic. Milton Galle is a man’s man and my favorite photo is of Vic and Milton. They were all good looking people.
Nancy said: If you like Krakauer or Junger, you will like Niven.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “To the Ends of the Earth: North and South” (p 231).
Halberstam, David. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War. New York: Hyperion, 2007.
Reason read: the Korean War officially ended in July.
The interesting thing about the Korean War is that most were reluctant to call it an actual war. Those that admitted to it being a conflict were convinced it would be over in no time. What started in June of 1950 as a “clash” between North Korea and South Korea turned into a war of attrition when China and the Soviet Union came to the aid of North Korea and the UN and United States joined the South. Despite a treaty being signed in July of 1953, to this day, technically the conflict has not been recognized as over.
While Halberstam portrays the well-researched historical events with accuracy and thorough detail, his portrayals of key U.S. figures such as Generals MacArthur and Bradley, Secretary of State Dean Acheson, and President Truman read like a fast paced political thriller. The larger than life personalities practically jump off the page.
As an aside: I suppose it would make sense if I thought about it more, but the Korean War was the first time air-to-air combat was conducted. Before then planes were mostly used to drop bombs and transport men and supplies.
Best line to quote, “Sometimes it is the fate of a given unit to get in that way of something so large it seems to have stepped into history’s own path” (p 258).
Author fact: Halberstam was born in April and died in April.
Book trivia: The Coldest Winter was published after Halberstam’s death.
Nancy said: Pearl called Coldest Winter the “best book for the nonhistorian on the Korean War” (Book Lust To Go p 127).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Korea – North and South” (p 125). I am willing to bet Coldest Winter would have been in More Book Lust’s chapter “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112) if it had been published in time. MBL was published in 2005 and Coldest Winter came two years later in 2007. It would appear Pearl is a fan and has read everything Halberstam has ever written.
Since the Run for Nancy was only a few days ago I am still on a high from not only running four miles, but running four miles without pain. No pain whatsoever. The pain is so gone it’s as if I imagined the whole thing. Weird. Weird. Weird. As for books, since I don’t have any other running plans in the near future:
- The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe – in honor of August being Chick Lit month.
- The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – in honor of Courtenay’s birth month being in August.
- Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts – in honor of August being Dream Month (hey, I read it somewhere).
- Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett – in honor of Dunnett’s birth month being in August.
- The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall – in honor of Rajir Ratna Gandhi’s birth in August.
- A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird – in honor of Colorado becoming a state in August.
- Eurydice Street: a Place in Athens by Sofka Zinovieff – in honor of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin.
- A Season in Red by Kirsty Needham – in honor of the Double Seven festival in China.
- The Big Bad City by Ed McBain – to continue the series started in July.
If there is time:
- Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman – in honor of Ekman’s birth month.
- Crazy Jack by Donna Jo Napoli – in honor of Fairy Tale Month.
July was jamming. Guess what! I ran a few times this month. Even participated in a charity run for an aunt-in-law (is that a thing?). I am feeling much, much better! And. And! And, I was able to read a ton:
- Jackie by Josie by Caroline Preston – in honor of Jacqueline O. Kennedy’s birth month.
- Cop Hater by Ed McBain – in memory of McBain’s passing in the month of July.
- Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterthwait – in honor of Lizzie Borden’s birth month.
- Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken – in honor of July being Kids Month.
- Gardens of Kyoko by Kate Walbert – in honor of Japan’s Tanabata Festival.
- Animals by Alice Mattison – in honor of Mattison’s birth month.
- The Coldest Day: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam – in honor of July being the month the Korean War ended.
- The Book of Mediterranean Cooking by Elizabeth David – in honor of July being picnic month.
- Den of Thieves by James Stewart – in honor of July being Job Fair month (odd choice, I know).
- The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason – to continue the series started in June.
- Midnight in Ruby Bayou by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Into the Storm: Two Ships, a Deadly Hurricane, and an Epic Battle for Survival by Tristam Koten.
Stewart, James B. Den of Thieves. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.
Reason read: July is typically Job Fair month (although this is not the job most would want to have…).
In a nutshell, Den of Thieves recounts the largest insider-trading scandal in the all-about-me 1980s. It is what happens when all-out avarice collides with above-the-law arrogance. Everyone has a hazy remembrance of Milken, Siegel and Freeman (to name a few) but with thorough research Stewart’s book keeps the details in sharp focus.
Confessional: in this criminal climate we currently live in, I had a hard time reading about a group of individuals who had a blatant disregard for the law. Some things never change. I couldn’t finish this book.
Author fact: Stewart likes going after big time dirty deeds. He has written other books on big time falls from grace.
Book trivia: Stewart includes a great selection of photographs.
Nancy said: Nancy called Den of Thieves “frightening” (Book Lust, p 34).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “BBB: Best Business Books” (p 33). How it is considered a “best business book” I’ll never know.