“What You Pawn…”

Alexie, Sherman. “What You Pawn I Will Redeem.” Ten Little Indians. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Reason read: June is National Short Story month.

If the idea of countdowns or running of out time makes you anxious, this short story might make the sweat bead on your brow just a little. The main protagonist, Jackson Jackson, spots his grandmother Agnes’s stolen powwow regalia in a pawnshop window. She had lost her battle with breast cancer so the regalia is all that the grandson would have left of her…if he can get it back. The shop owner makes a deal to sell back the regalia for $1,000. There is only one problem. No one Jackson Jackson knows has $1,000. As an additional gesture of kindness, the pawnshop owner gives the grandson twenty bucks and twenty-four hours to come up with the rest of the cash. The clock is ticking, however the twenty immediately vanishes in the form of “three bottles of imagination.” It might infuriate the reader but subsequently every time Jackson comes into money it is frittered away on something else. Hamburgers vomited back up. Losing lottery tickets. A cigar that will only burn away to nothing. Drinks with strangers. A round for everyone at the bar. But it is the kindness of strangers that gives our hero a break.

Line that stayed with me for obvious reasons, “Indian alcoholics are either sprinters or marathon runners” (98).

Author fact: Alexie has lived on the Spokane Indian Reservation.

Book Story trivia: “What You Pawn…” was first published in the New Yorker Magazine in 2003.

Nancy said: nothing specific.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102). The reading of this story marks the completion of this chapter.


Barchester Towers

Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2005.

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

I will be 100% honest. I couldn’t get into Barchester Towers despite the fact it’s supposed to be Trollope’s most popular novel and many organizations have it on their “Top 1000 books to read.” Yes, it is satirical and it has it humorous parts. I just couldn’t get into any of the characters. I suspect my lack of enthusiasm centers around the fact the novel is focused on religion and the war between the high and low churches. The bishop has died and a new one needs to be appointed. There’s a lot of infighting about how that will be resolved.
The best element of Barchester Towers is the return of Septimus Harding. His daughter, Eleanor, is now a widow and eligible to remarry. The second best character was Mr. Stanhope, a member of the clergy. He has been in Italy for twelve years “recovering” from a sore throat and catching butterflies.

Quote I liked, “They had never, therefore, poured into each others ears their hopes and loves…” (p 252).

Author fact: According to Pearl, Trollope was a postman by day and an author in his spare time. He wrote whenever he could.

Book trivia: My copy contained both The Warden and Barchester Towers.

Nancy said: Pearl’s favorite Trollope is the entire Barchester series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 15).


Morbid Taste for Bones

Peters, Ellis. Morbid Taste for Bones. New York: Warner Books, 1994.

Reason read: the first Thursday in May is the start of Prayer Week.

Morbid Taste for Bones is the first book in the Cadfael Chronicles. In a nutshell: Prior Robert is looking a saint for his abbey. The abbey is in dire need of some reputable relics and not finding anything within his region Prior Robert has the idea to branch out to Wales. He has heard of a saint buried in Gwytherin where her ghost claimed in a dream mistreatment and neglect of her grave. She requests a burial elsewhere. Of course there is drama when Robert and a crew of support show up to exhume her. Words are exchanged but because of the late hour both parties agree to take up the argument the next day. The new day brings a fresh murder. Only Cadfael recognizes the death for what is truly was, a framing of an innocent man. This always happens when there is a love triangle. Read the book for more…

Author fact: Ellis Peters is the pen name of Edith Mary Pargeter.

Book trivia: The Cadfael Chronicles were adapted for television in 1996.

Nancy said: Pearl calls Morbid Taste for Bones one of her favorites. She includes it in the Book Lust section of amateur detectives (when the true occupation is something else). In More Book Lust she says Morbid Taste for Bones is “a pleasurable way to learn about British history” and that the best “pure mysteries featuring a member of the clergy are those by Ellis Peters (More Book Lust p 87).

BookLust Twist: from both Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117) and More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: the Family of the Clergy” (p 86). As an aside, this last chapter always reminds me of Natalie’s Tiny Desk Concert with NPR when she teaches the staff to sing “Weeping Pilgrim.”


Summer at Fairacre

Read, Miss. Summer at Fairacre. Boston: Houghton, 2001.

Reason read: Miss Read’s birth month is in April.

After a long winter the folks of Fairacre cannot wait for sunshine and roses. No one is more anxious for warmer weather than schoolteacher Miss Read. She is looking forward to a long list of many projects. They do not include the unwanted attentions of Henry Mawne while his wife is out of town. Any woman could relate. If a married man brought another woman flowers, or brought her books, invited her to lectures or a sherry party, or mailed her postcards signed with love, all while his wife was away for whatever reason, people would talk. But Henry Mawne isn’t Miss Read’s only problem. She has issues with the woman who cleans the school and her house. Miss Read spends most of the book fretting about who will clean these places while Mrs. Pringle is ill. I have to admit it is a little curious how Mrs. Pringle can string Miss Read along.
One of the best things about Miss Read is how real her character was throughout the story. How fiercely protective she was of her private time. The episode when she had a twitch in her eye that led her to wonder if she was going blind was so apropos. How many of us have felt a pang and instantly wondered if we had an incurable disease? Despite Miss Read’s wonderful personality, I loved friend Amy even more. She was hysterical.

Quote I liked, “What would happen if we all spoke the unvarnished truth?” (p 14) and “Sometimes life seems as contrary as a cat” (p 201).

Author fact: Miss Read’s real name was Dora Jessie Saint.

Book trivia: Summer at Fairacre is number sixteen in a series. My only other book on the Challenge list was Thrush Green.

Nancy said: Scenes of British village life can be found in the novels of Miss Read.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Barchester and Beyond” (p 15). As an aside, I have no idea how I ended up reading two books from the same chapter in the same month.


Five Children and It

Nesbit, E. Five Children and It. New York: Dover Publications, 2002.

Reason read: Nesbit was born in the month of May.

The Psammead or Sammyad is a strange looking sand fairy capable of granting wishes. I loved the description of “it” as having eyes on long horns like a snail, ears like a bat, body like a spider, hands and feet like a monkey, and whiskers like a rat. And. And! And, the thing talks! When five children named Cyril (Squirrel), Roberts (Bobs), Anthea (Panther), Hilary (the Lamb), and Jane, digging in the sand discover the Psammead can grant wishes they immediately embark on making choices that always seem to backfire on them: wealth, becoming physically bigger than an opponent, living in a castle, growing angel wings, fighting wild Indians, to name a few. Even after they decide to be more thoughtful with their wishes they still run into disaster. Luckily, their parents are away dealing with an ailing grandmother so they have plenty of opportunities to get it right…and wrong. The best part of Five Children and It is the relationship between the siblings. It rings true no matter what drama they face.

Sometimes the language of the turn of the century really comes through. “Smell their fists” is a euphemism for fighting, for example.

Weird quotes to quote, “It is easy if you love the Baby as much as you ought to” (p 42) and “That lot’s all long hair, drink and rude women” (p 65).

Author fact: E. Nesbit is actually Edith Nesbit.

Book trivia: Five Children and It was originally published in 1902. My 2002 edition was illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.

Nancy said: Pearl said Nesbit influenced writers before and after her.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fantasy for Old and Young” (p 83).


The Game

King, Laurie R. The Game. New York: Bantam Books, 2001.

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

In the last installment of the Mary Russell series, King included real life character, Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (who dies early in The Game). This time King takes a well-known character from a fictional story and gives him a larger than life persona. From Rudyard Kipling’s Kim Kimball O’Hara comes alive as a player in the Great Game of espionage in India as a spy for the Crown. After three years of being missing Holmes’s brother Mycroft announces it is up to Holmes and Russell to find him. What follows is a wild adventure through India. Holmes goes undercover as a magician while Mary bends the roles of gender…all for the sake of the Game.
One of the best elements of The Game is Mary’s connection to Holmes. Her keen sense of observation coupled with her intimate familiarity with his personality extends to his habits so that she is able to discern mood and energy levels. Never is this more apparent than in The Game.
Another added bonus of The Game is the education on India’s extensive caste system and colorful history.

Author fact: King has written a plethora of other books, including one titled, Beekeeping for Beginners. Too bad it isn’t on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: The Game is the last Mary Russell mystery I am reading. I move on to one Kate Martinelli book but not for a few years.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Mary and Sherlock being man and wife in The Game. In reality, they were married much earlier in the series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 170).


All-of-a-Kind Family

Taylor, Sydney. All-of-a-Kind Family. Read by Suzanne Toren. New York: Dell Publishing, 1951.

Reason read: April is the month for Sibling Recognition but I could have read it for Library Week since the first scene is Sarah losing a library book and having to work out a repayment system with the kindhearted librarian.

There are five children to keep track of in All-of-a-Kind Family: Gerdie, Sarah, Henny, Ella, and Charlotte. Each child has a wonderfully illustrated distinct personality. Together they make their way through turn-of-the-century New York City and all it has to offer whether it be a trip to the carnival atmosphere of Coney Island or around the corner to Papa’s shop.
Taylor does a wonderful job including a primer of Jewish customs around the holidays. It does not come across as didactic or religiously heavy. Instead, there is a heartfelt pride in the rituals. It’s not a spoiler to say the children have two surprises at the end of the book.

As an aside, I was transported back to my childhood when two of the sisters were standing before the great candy counter, peering through the glass, trying to decide what to buy with just a penny. I can remember similar days, my nose pressed against the glass, trying to decide how my precious money could be stretched to buy both Swedish fish and Red Hots. Zimmie, with his long folded downy white hair covered arms would stand patiently behind the counter waiting and waiting for me to decide. Probably cursing me all the while.

Author fact: Taylor has written a whole series on the All-of-a-Kind-Family. I wish I had more of them on my list.

Book trivia: my edition was illustrated by Helen John.

Nancy said: Pearl said All-of-a-Kind Family includes a “lovely chapter” on what happens when Sarah loses a library book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 138). To be fair, the library is hardly in the book and the librarian rarely makes an appearance, but her character is essential to the story!