Burning Blue

Cook, Kevin. The Burning Blue: the Untold Story of Christa McAuliffe and NASA’s Challenger Disaster. New York: Henry Holt, 2021.

Reason read: as a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I occasionally win books to read and review.

If someone asked, you probably couldn’t remember where you were on January 28th, 1986, but if the question was phrased a little differently I know you can: “Where were you when NASA’s space shuttle Challenger exploded?” Say the name Christa McAuliffe and everyone knows her name. Personally, I know exactly where I was when the tragedy occurred: high school, in the Vortex, cozying up to a guy named Jim. I remember hiding my face when the plumes of white smoke arced across the sky. No escaping the tragedy.
As outsiders witness to the unforgettable horror, we all have preconceived notions of what really happened that day. Cook takes the Challenger tragedy and puts a face to all who were impacted. Christa and her fellow space travelers were not the only souls lost on 1986’s twenty-eighth day. It is obvious from the level of personal detail, Cook researched the entire event and those leading up to it very carefully and was extremely thorough with every detail. All in all, it is a well-told tale. In truth, as the pages went by I had a hard time reading it. Just knowing every chapter would take me closer to the time of McAuliffe’s demise made it hard to continue. As an aside, I felt the same way about reading Anne Frank’s diary. This is a story that doesn’t have a Hollywood ending. It is strange how NASA provided some resistance to the Challenger accident investigation and even stranger that simple 0-ring problems were reported for years and no one listened when Sally Ride leaked the information.
Here’s what I fully believe: Rumor has it Reagan was going to cut funding if the shuttle didn’t launch on January 28th, 1986.
An added eeriness to McAuliffe’s story is just how often people alluded to the dangers as she trained for the event. It was if there were signs trying to tell her not to join the launch.

Playlist: Jefferson Airplane, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Queen, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, U2, “A Time for Us,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Rocky Mountain High,” Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” “We are The World, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “God Bless America,” “Flying for Me” by John Denver, and “God Bless the USA.”

Author fact: Kevin Cook has written for the New York Times, Men’s Journal, GQ, etc., but the coolest fact is that he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. That’s just up the road from me.

Book trivia: The Burning Blue was scheduled to go on sale in June and should have 16 pages of photographs.


Infinite Jest

Wallace, David Foster. Infinite Jest. New york: Back Bay Books, 2009.

Reason read: I picked this up in honor of Wallace’s birth month. Take note of the date.

To be honest, the sheer size of this book was daunting even before I cracked it open. Add to its heft four complicated subplots, over 380 footnotes, corporate sponsorships, and a futuristic timeline and I waved the white flag. I didn’t feel bad about my decision after I came across a YouTube video of Bill Gates explaining why he couldn’t be bothered either. the one element of Infinite Jest I thought I was missing out on was all of the references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. I think I would have enjoyed teasing out those details.
Plot One concerns a group of radicals from Quebec who plan a violent geopolitical coup.
Plot Two centers on a group of students in Boston all suffering or coping with substance addiction.
Plot three takes place at a tennis Academy in Connecticut.
Fourth plot is the history of the Incandenza family. All plots are connected by the movie “Infinite Jest” by James Incandenza, but are not in chronological order.

As an aside, when Bill Gates says he can’t be bothered to read Infinite Jest it makes you wonder why you’re reading it.

Author fact: Wallace attended Amherst College just down the road from me. The fact he committed suicide is a tragedy.

Book trivia: Infinite Jest has made an impact on pop culture with references in television and music.

Nancy said: Pearl called Infinite Jest an “excellent pomo book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in one of my least favorite chapters called “The Postmodern Condition” (p 190).


The Photographer

Guibert, Emmanuel, Didier Lefleve, and Frederic Lemercier. The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders. New York: First Second, 2009.

Reason read: Afghanistan gained its independence from British rule in July 1919.

I didn’t know what to expect when I read a review of The Photographer, calling it a “photographic graphic novel.” It is quite unique and simply put, amazing. In three parts, The Photographer tells the story of how the aid workers of Medecins Sans Frontieres, smuggled across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan disguised as women in chadri, provided medical support to small communities during conflict. Didier Lefleve, a French photojournalist, traveled with the group to Zaragandara during the Afghan-Soviet War of 1986. In this district of Yaftali Sufla MSF establishes a field hospital while staffing a second one. The final part is Didier Lefleve’s nearly disastrous solo departure from Afghanistan. As the tagline for MSF reads, “We go where we are needed most,” The photographs and journal of Lefleve tell the entire story in intimate detail. It is a powerful print documentary.
It seems impossible for there to be humor in The Photographer, especially when you read of children with their eyes apparently glued shut and paralyzed by shrapnel, but it exists. One word: peaches. I confess. I giggled. That’s all I can say about that.
Most amazing fact: despite the reality they are fighting the Russians, Afghan doctors are able to obtain x-rays for patients, disguised as English speaking colleagues. they send men who are too old to be conscripted. No one suspects the men of being part of the resistance.

As an aside, I have supported MWF (known by the American subsidiary as Doctors Without Borders), for years. I first learned of the organization when Natalie would invite members to speak about their work during a set break in her concerts. I shared Natalie’s pride when they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. I appreciated learning about Juliette Fournot, the woman who started the US arm of Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Author facts: Emmanuel Guibert is an accomplished graphic novelist. I am only reading one of his works. Didier Lefleve died way too young at only 49 years of age. Frederic Lemercier was the mastermind behind the layout and coloring of The Photographer.

Book trivia: The English translation of The Photographer was publisher in 2009. Lefleve didn’t live long enough to see it. He passed from a heart attack in 2007.

Playlist: Michel Jonasz

Nancy said: Pearl called The Photographer “one of the best books” she read in 2009.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires” (p 3).


Testament of Experience

Brittain, Vera. Testament of Experience: An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1925 -1950. Wide View Books, 1981.

Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. As an aside, Vera watched the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

At the start of Testament of Experience Vera is newly married and trying to juggle a relationship with a man she has only known for two years and a career as a writer and journalist. From her style of writing the reader can find evidence of Brittain maturing her focus since Testament of Youth. She no longer speaks of an entire generation experiencing war. On the brink of World War II and focusing on herself personally, she repeatedly feels the strain of inequality as she watches her husband enjoy a balance of employment and home life while she is expected to chose between relationships, motherhood, and a career. This only fuels her feminist fire as she hungers for a life she can put into words. She needs to experience life in order to have something to convey to the world. What does she write about if she cannot experience extraordinary things? As time goes by the threat of war becomes reality and as Brittain starts traveling, her life grows increasingly imbalanced. Living more often apart than together, her marriage to “G.” is a series of rendezvous when their careers allow. As an author she experiences the threat of rejection at the same time as the thrill of success as Testament of Youth becomes a best seller. Motherhood is a confusing conflict with her pacifist endeavors lecturing around the globe. As an aside, Vera’s advocacy for peace through her fortnightly Peace Letters attracts the attention of the Gestapo and as a result Testament of Youth was banned in Germany.

Author fact: Brittain wrote a fourth “Testament” book called Testament of a Generation which is not on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Testament of Experience is the sequel to Testament of Youth even though Testament of Friendship was published in between Youth and Experience.

Playlist: “Old Man Noah,” “The Bells of Hell,” and “Sweet Adeline,”

Nancy said: Pearl only called Testament of Experience a continuation of Testament of Youth. Nothing more specific.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living Through War” (p 054).


The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles of Narnia: Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Reason read: July is Kids Month. Read in honor of being a kid at heart. I still love this series.

The beginning of the adventure in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe begins innocently enough. To avoid the bombings of World War II in London, four siblings are taken to Professor Digory Kirke’s expansive mansion in the countryside for safekeeping. On their first rainy day they decide to explore the many rooms of their new home in a rousing game of hide-and-go-seek. Lucy, the youngest, stumbles upon a room where the only piece of furniture in it is an old wardrobe. She decides it would make a marvelous hiding spot until she discovers, just beyond the fur coats, a whole new world. From here, the tale turns fantastical with a land under an evil spell of constant winter that never reaches Christmas, fauns and centaurs and giants, talking animals, and good and evil magic all around. Now that I have sufficiently reminded you of the story, you know the rest.
As a child, I can remember the scene with Aslan and the Queen scaring the beejeezus out of me. My eyes would skim that scene as if reading it faster would make it easier.

Author fact: Clive Staple Lewis has a website here. I especially appreciate the timeline of his life.

Book trivia: Everyone knows The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia. However, it is Lewis’s preference readers start with The Magician’s Nephew as the true beginning of the tale.

Nancy said: Pearl aid she could remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the Introduction (p x).


Bruno’s Dream

Murdoch, Iris. Bruno’s Dream. New York: Dell Publishing, Co., 1969.

Reason read: Murdoch was born in the month of July (7/15/1919); read Bruno’s Dream in her honor.

Someone once said Murdoch’s books are full of passion and disaster. Exactly! At the center of Bruno’s Dream is the complication of family and all the confusing dynamics that can happen between members. The lust and the hate and everything in between spill out of Murdoch’s stories. The relationships surrounding protagonist Bruno are sticky, web-like, and ensnaring (pun totally intended as Bruno is a philatelist and arachnologist of sorts). Much like a spider in a web, he lays bedridden and dying, waiting for people to come to him. Most loyal to Bruno is Nigel. Of all the characters Nigel is the simplest. Throughout the story he remains uncoupled despite his best attempts. Knowing Bruno doesn’t have long to live, he urges Bruno’s estranged son, Miles, to visit his dying father. Son and father have been apart since Miles married an Indian woman much to Bruno’s disapproval. After the death of his first wife Miles remarries but his father has never met the second wife, Diana, due to the prejudicial falling out. Diana’s sister, Lisa, complicates Miles’s household when she arrives and Miles can’t help but seduce her. When it comes to women, Miles is a very busy man. More loyal to Bruno than his own son is son-in-law Danby, once married to Bruno’s daughter, Gwen. Gwen died before the reader picks up the story. As an aside, if you would like to keep track, three wives have died: Bruno’s wife, Miles’s first wife, and Danby’s wife. Danby at some point carried on a secret affair with Adelaide, Bruno’s nurse, but doesn’t stay faithful to her. Adelaide and Nigel’s twin brother also have an affair. Lots and lots of partner switching.
As an aside, I felt that nearly everyone in Bruno’s Dream was crazy. I didn’t really care for any of them.

Interesting lines, “The television had been banished with its false sadness and its images of war” (p 5), and “The flake of rust, the speck of dust, the invisible slit in the skin through which it all sinks down and runs away” (p 27). I’m not even sure I know what Iris is talking about here.

Author fact: Iris is not Murdoch’s true first name. It’s Jean. Like myself, she chose to go by her middle name.

Book trivia: Bruno’s Dream is Murdoch’s twelfth book and was short listed for the Booker Prize.

Nancy said: Pearl placed an asterisk by Bruno’s Dream to indicate it’s one of her favorites.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Iris Murdoch: Too Good To Miss” (p 161).


Day Hikes in Washington State

Scarmuzzi, Don J. Day Hikes in Washington State: 90 Favorite Trails, Loops and Summit Scrambles.

Reason read: I am a member of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.

Day Hikes in Washington State is a follow up to Day Hikes in the Pacific Northwest. Having not read the Pacific Northwest guide I had no idea what to expect from the Washington State guide. Even more so, since I am on the East Coast and have never been to Washington State, this seems like an odd book to request as an Early Review. I am an avid hiker and wanted to review a book based solely on its information. I feel I would review a guide differently if I was intimately familiar with the area.
In truth, I can only find one thing to criticize. Scarmuzzi is uber current by talking about social distancing. Hopefully we won’t always be in this Covid predicament and that information will become obsolete. The good news is I can imagine this book dog-eared, sun-faded, and well-read in the back of some car’s back window. There is a good deal of valuable information and all of it is incredibly organized. The photography is gorgeous. The maps are clear. What is unique about Scarmuzzi’s book is each trail is intimately detailed all along the route. He includes more turn by turn descriptions than your standard guide book, going beyond just stating level of difficulty and elevation.
I enjoyed this guide so much I may have to make a trip to Washington just to hike the trails, loops and summit scrambles Scarmuzzi recommends. In the meantime, I urge him to visit Monhegan Island and write a book about their coastal trails. It would be fantastic!

Book trivia: This book is a little oversized to be carried in one’s day pack. It would have be awesome if it had smaller dimensions to allow for portability.

Author fact: Scarmuzzi has three books to his name according to LibraryThing’s catalog.


Spoilt City

Manning, Olivia. The Balkan Trilogy: the Spoilt City. New York: Viking Penguin, 1960.

Reason read: to continue the series started in June.

When we catch up with Guy and Harriet Pringle in the next installment of the Balkan Trilogy, the English newlyweds have been in Bucharest for ten months. Harriet is making friends despite being the newcomer to the region. Guy is as busier as ever trying to hold together his post as lecturer at University. Despite the German advancement, the Pringles refuse to show fear or flee the city; not even under the guise of a holiday. The presence of the Iron Guard puts the entire city on edge yet people are in denial, claiming Rumania is neutral and will never be affected by war. Even when Guy makes it onto a suspected terrorist list and the Gestapo roll into town, he is not worried. His bravado continues despite the fact others named on the terrorist list are either beaten or murdered one by one.
As an aside, now that Manning had set the stage in the first installment of the Balkan Trilogy, The Spoilt City‘s plot moved along much faster. Reading it didn’t feel as much of a slog.

Quotes to quote, “Freedom, after all, was not a basic concept of marriage” (p 351), “And yet, she thought, they were the only people in this spoilt city whose ideals rose above money, food, and sex” (p 390), and “Reflecting on the process of involvement and disenchantment which was marriage, she thought that one entered it unsuspecting and, unsuspecting, found one was trapped by it” (p 526).

Author fact: Manning was a striking person. Her eyes are simply haunting.

Book trivia: The Spoilt City is the second book in the Fortunes of War: the Balkan Trilogy.

Playlist: “The Swan of Tuonela,” “Capitanul,” “We’re Gonna Hang Out the Washing on the Siegfried Line,” and Beethoven’s fifth Pianoforte Concerto.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Spoilt City (or The Balkan Trilogy for that matter). It bears noting that The Spoilt City was not included in the index.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade: 1960s” (p 175).


Over the Edge

Brockmann, Suzanne. Over the Edge. New York: Ivy Books, 2001.

Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Brockmann’s birth month.

If you have read any of Brockmann’s other Troubleshooter books you will know she has a formula for her plots. They all include Navy SEALs who are blindingly, devastatingly, glaringly, or outrageously handsome and the women they lust after, deeply love, or obsessively desire are all undeniably gorgeous, remarkably good looking, or intensely (or sinfully) attractive. Everyone, male and female, has exotic eyes or cheekbones, lush, full, or bee-stung lips, and they always, always, always a hard body to die for. No one seems to have an ounce of fat or ugliness or plainness anywhere. Despite everyone being impossibly beautiful that wasn’t what really bothered me. What irked me is the amount of sex on the brain. Someone could be talking about the abuse they suffered as a child but thinking lustfully about the person across from them. A murder could happen right in front of someone’s face and within minutes he or she has forgotten the death because they’re too busy trying to unzip their pants. Every couple seemed to be either arguing, miscommunicating, making assumptions, or having blistering hot sex. Seriously, there were so many sex scenes I started to skip them to the detriment of the plot. I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say the hijack rescue, despite taking the whole book to set up, was over in a matter of minutes. Oh yeah, back to the plot:
In Over the Edge the plot alternates between a present day plane hijacking and a forbidden love during the early days of World War II. Terrorists land a plane in Kazbekistan in hopes of trading hostages. The Navy SEALs are brought in to negotiate a rescue of an American Senator’s wayward daughter. The most interesting character who tied present day with the past was Helga Schuler, a journalist and Holocaust survivor who is losing her memory.

Author fact: Brockmann has written over fifty novels.

Book trivia: I got nothing.

Playlist: “Like a Virgin” by Madonna, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, Wynton Marsalis,

Nancy said: I like what Pearl said about Brockmann’s novels. She said Brockmann gives a “female slant to the James Bond ethos.” The characters are “sharply drawn” and the reading of her work is “interesting.” Too bad I didn’t agree when reading Over the Edge.

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


Homecoming

Voigt, Cynthia. Homecoming. New York: Aladdin Press, 1981.

Reason read: July is National Kids Book month. Reading Voigt in honor of the month.

Picture yourself as a teenager with three younger siblings. What would you do if your mother left all of you in a car in a mall parking lot to never came back? Dicey Tillerman faces that dilemma after she realizes her mother has been “shopping” way too long. A full night and day too long. Looking back on the events leading up to this abandonment, Dicey understands her mother had been planning this escape from her children carefully, almost deliberately. Making them memorize the address to their great-aunt’s house; packing them bag lunches. The days before her departure were full of signs Dicey somehow missed or didn’t want to believe. Now, armed with bag lunches and a few dollars, she must protect her little family of siblings. Shepherding them along country backroads, hiding in bushes, camping on deserted beaches, and scrimping and saving only to buy the bare necessities, Dicey navigates her way down the coast of Connecticut from Peewauket, Massachusetts to their great-aunt’s house, hoping mother will be there. This is an all-too-real tale of a mother overwhelmed by life. Her children are fighters, though. Each child will warm your heart with their various personalities.

Quotes to quote, “A lot of people had little bits of her life now, and they were tied to her now, or she was tied to them” (p 306).

Author fact: Voigt went to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Book trivia: Homecoming is the first book in a series about the Tillerman family. I am only reading Homecoming and Dicey’s Song for the Challenge. Homecoming was also made into a movie in 1996.

Playlist: “Peggy-O,” “Water is Wide” by the Indigo Girls, “Greensleeves,” and “Who Will Sing for Me?” by the Stanley brothers.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Homecoming except to notate is is a good read for both boys and girls.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 22).


Rivergods

Bangs, Richard and Christian Kallen. Rivergods: Exploring the World’s Great Wild Rivers. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1985.

Reason read: June is National River Cleanup Month.

Rivergods balances adventurous text from Bangs and Kallen with gorgeous photography. Christian Kallen and Richard Bangs bring many of the most powerful, yet mostly unheard of, rivers to life as they describe trying to raft or kayak each one. By traveling all corners of the globe, they are able to meet indigenous peoples in South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia. By studying their anthropologies, they learn a little about each culture including head hunting and cannibalism. Each river teaches them about the power of Mother Nature and the real dangers of trying to tame her.
As an aside, when I started running with Dr. Tommy Rivs, one of the things he taught me early on was about Islamic religion. In accordance with the beliefs of Islam, no humans or animals can be portrayed or duplicated by man. All art such as tile work, tapestries, and carpets must be of geometric shapes and flowers. It was cool to see Bangs and Kallen talk about it in Rivergods.

Lines to like, “It was like trying to admire a beautiful painting after having been mugged” (p 108). I wish I could quote all of the reviews from the back cover of Rivergods. Admiration, humor, and maybe a little envy are evident in the reviewer’s words.

Author fact: Richard Bangs has a pretty cool website here. Christian Kallen coauthored another book with Bangs called Riding the Dragon’s Back.

Book trivia: Rivergods is oversized and full of gorgeous photography.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Rivergods.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Water, Water Everywhere” (p 252).


44 Scotland Street

Smith, Alexander McCall. 44 Scotland Street. New York: Anchor Books, 2005.

Reason read: The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is in June.

This is a delightful book if the characters do not drive you nuts. You will meet the community of 44 Scotland Street and the surrounding neighborhood: Tim, Jamie, Bertie, Irene, Stuart, Big Lou, Hugh, Angus, Ronnie, Mags, Pete, Christabel, Melanie, Domenica, Matthew, Bruce, Gordon, Raeburn, Todd, Sasha, Lizzie, and Pat. Twenty year old Pat is at the center of the story. Newly relocated to 44 Scotland Street, she rents a room from vain Bruce Anderson and finds a job in an art gallery with Matthew. She is sort of at a loss as to what to do with her life (she’s on her second gap year from university). It is only after a painting from the art gallery goes missing that the plot picks up, albeit a little predictably: Bruce is an exaggerated narcist who Pat can’t help but fall in love with, while Matthew, sweet and a little bumbling, falls in love with Pat. There are heroes and villains at 44 Scotland Street. They all have their moments of love and loss. At the center of it all is a painting that may or may not be worth some money.

Author fact: Smith has a new book coming out in October. Check it out here.

Book trivia: 44 Scotland Street started off as a daily in a newspaper so it was written as it was being published. Before that, it was an idea from a conversation with Armistead Maupin at an Amy Tan party.

Playlist: “As Time Goes By,” “The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen,” “Good-Night Irene,” “Play Misty for Me,” Red Hot Chili Peppers,

Nancy said: Pearl called 44 Scotland Street “entertaining.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Scotland: More Than Haggis, Kilts and Ian Rankin” (p 198). Interesting to note that Ian Rankin does appear in 44 Scotland Street as himself.


Seven Up

Evanovich, Janet. Seven Up. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery Month.

Has this ever happen to you – you read a book so fast with as little thought as possible and by the time you finish it, you have no idea what you read? Unfortunately, this is what happened to me at the end of Seven Up. Suddenly, I was on the last page and Stephanie Plum was about to sleep with the wrong guy. What? Here’s what I remember: Stephanie’s newest collar is a retired old mobster in his seventies who has a hard time getting an erection. Pun totally intended. Despite Eddie DeChooch’s advanced age, Stephanie can’t bring him in no matter how easy it seems to be. DeChooch is elusive even when she has help. He is only wanted for stealing cigarettes but something seems amiss. Two members of the mafia are also looking for him. Here’s where the plot takes a twist: when Stephanie tries to apprehend DeChooch, she finds a dead body in his shed. Of course she does. Stephanie is notorious for finding dead bodies all over Trenton. As a side plot, Stephanie’s friend Mooner goes missing, and when his roommate also disappears, Stephanie can’t help but think they are involved in the mafia hunt for DeChooch. Of course all of the usual suspects are in the plot: grandmother Mazur, Lula, Ranger, Joe Morelli, and Rex, the hamster. New to the scene is Stephanie’s sister, Valerie. She comes to visit Trenton with her two kids after her husband left her for the babysitter. If you are keeping track of Stephanie’s relationship with Joe, they are engaged and she has “bought” a wedding dress. If you are keeping track of the cars Stephanie kills, two: a Honda and a Cadillac.
Consistencies: Plum still keeps her .38 in a cookie jar, Grandmother Mazur still finds dates by attending funerals, People are still breaking into Plum’s apartment no matter what kind of lock system she has in place, her mother still calls with that night’s dinner menu, and pineapple upside down cake is still her favorite.

Lines to like, “No matter if you are suffering depression or wanted for murder, you still pay your respects in the Burg” (p 33) and “I might be a stay-at-home mother someday, but I’ll always be trying to fly off the garage roof” (p 269).

Author fact: This is the seventh book I have read by Ms. Evanovich. What have I not told you about the author? Did I tell you in some photographs she reminds me of Reba McEntire? It mush be the red hair and perky smile.

Book trivia: Evanovich is up to twenty six Plum books. this is only number seven, obviously.

Playlist: Godsmack and Coolio.

Nancy said: Pearl doesn’t consider Seven Up a mystery. She does think it is hilarious.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).


On the Bus

Perry, Paul. On the Bus: the complete guide to the legendary trip of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and the birth of the counterculture. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1990.

Reason read: Allen Ginsberg’s birthday is in June. He was not a bus rider with the Merry Pranksters, but he was on the scene and subsequently interviewed for the book. Additionally, the famed bus trip started on June 14th, 1964.

Written in 1990, twenty-five years after the famed Kool-aid acid trips, Paul Perry pulls together interviews from the most influential mindbenders of the day: Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Ram Dass, and of course, Neal Cassady…to name a few. They look back on the time when a total of thirteen free spirits (fourteen, if you count the teenaged neighbor) called themselves the Merry Pranksters, boarded a psychedelically painted school bus, and hit the road in search of the ultimate trip. What started as acid parties in Neal Cassady’s San Francisco home soon became experimentations on the road in the converted bus they christened, “Furthur.” Traveling through Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, New York, and Calgary before heading home to Big Sur, California, they conducted their LSD tests, made new friends, connected with musicians like Wavy Gravy and Jerry Garcia, and rode the wave of the psychedelic revolution. By the time the Merry Pranksters got home they were never the same again.
What I am constantly wondering about is how much of the tapes and recordings of the trip survived?

Line to linger over, “Arvin Brown, who drank several [cupfuls] of the green stuff, tells me what he didn’t recover full consciousness for 24 hours” (29). Good times. Here are a few more, “Mercy and goodness were swallowed by cannons and bombs” (p 84), “I live in a world where there is no error, so that is what was meant to happen” (p 102). Last one, “Speed was the thing keeping him awake” (p 190).

Author fact: Paul Perry was once the editor of a running magazine. Cool.

Book trivia: my copy of On the Bus was so weird. There wasn’t any publishing information anywhere within the book. I could only find the last name of the author on the spine and I needed to look at the marc record from the library I borrow the book to find more information.

Playlist: “Love Portion Number Nine,” Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane, Wavy Gravy, Country Joe and the Fish, Rolling Stones, “Turn on Your Love Light,” and “The Flower.”

Nancy said: Pearl included On the Bus in a list of books she said “no discussion of books about the 1960s would be complete without” (More Book Lust p 179).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The 1960s in Fact and Fiction” (p 178).


Great Fortune

Manning, Olivia. The Balkan Trilogy: the Great Fortune. New York: Viking Penguin, 1960.

Reason read: the first Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s started in June.

The year is 1939 and Europe is seething with the threat of war. Germany has just invaded Poland and shows no signs of stopping. At the heart of The Great Fortune is newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle. Having just arrived in Bucharest, Harriet is shy and unknowing while her gregarious husband is back on old familiar stomping grounds. As an English professor and lecturer he knows multitudes of friends, students, colleagues, and old lovers alike. Driven by the political and military headlines of the day, The Great Fortune details civilian reactions: the chatter over coffee in cafes, the arguments behind bedroom doors, gossip in the streets. The blasé expatriate community regards the approaching Germans as a trifling that won’t affect them.
I am not sure why, but Manning’s first book of the Balkan Trilogy took me a long time to slog through. I didn’t connect with the characters; thought Yaki was downright annoying.
As an aside, the 1939 Hispano-Suiza was a sexy car. It looks like something Al Capone would have driven around in.

Author fact: Manning lived in Bucharest. Her experiences shaped the Balkan Trilogy.

Book trivia: The Balkan Trilogy and the Levant Trilogy form a single narrative called the Fortunes of War. I heard a rumor that the entire trilogy is autobiographical.

Playlist: Chopin, and Beethoven.

Nancy said: absolutely nothing about Great Fortune.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade by Decade: 1960” (p 175). Actually, to be fair, the individual books that make up the Balkan Trilogy were left out of Book Lust.