Die Trying

Child, Lee. Die Trying. Read by Jonathan McClain. New York: Penguin Audio, 2012.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of New York becoming a state…I know, it doesn’t make any sense.

Once again, Jack Reacher is in the wrong place at the wrong time. In an effort to help a disabled woman wrangle her week’s worth of dry cleaning Reacher is held at gun point and kidnapped along with the woman on crutches. Only she is no ordinary woman. She is Holly Johnson, daughter to the chairman of the joint chief of staff, only the highest ranking military post in the United States. Now it’s a race against…what? No one has taken credit for the kidnapping. There hasn’t been a ransom note. No demands for her safe return whatsoever. Why was Holly taken?
I enjoyed Child’s “peep show” storytelling. He would show a glimpse of what the bad guys were up to (obviously always no good) for only a few pages and then return to Holly’s FBI rescuers and their efforts to figure out where she had gone.
Additionally, Child’s knowledge of guns and their inner workings seemed didactic at times, but in truth it was fascinating. I reread the description of exactly what happens scientifically when a gun is fired several times.

Author fact: Child is a former television producer.

Book trivia: The scary thing is, this could be in our headlines today. Our nation has become so polarized and we are so numb to violence it wouldn’t take much for “this tinderbox to blow in your face” as Natalie says.

Nancy said: When reviewing Killing Floor I mentioned Pearl had previously avoided Child’s novels because she thought they would be too violent. She goes on to say, “Be forewarned: the books do indeed contain some intense violence (some I had to read with my eyes closed, really)” (from More Book Lust on page 42).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the super obvious chapter, Lee Child: Too Good To Miss” (p 41).


Killing Floor

Child, Lee. Killing Floor. New York: Berkley, 1997.

Reason read: New York became a state in July. Lee Child resides in New York. It’s a stretch, I know.

The best part about Killing Floor is without a doubt the character of Jack Reacher. Child definitely planned it that way. He sets up the series with an introduction to a man who is ex-military, ex-law enforcement, and 100% loner with a secret soft heart. Reacher doesn’t like to be tied down to any one place or person, but he can be swayed to stick around for a bit if the cause is good or the woman is pretty.
And now for the plot. Jack has wandered into a murder and ends up being the prime suspect because an eye witness put him at the scene of the crime. Seriously. Less than an hour after Jack arrives in town he is picked up for a violent, over the top murder. He knows he hasn’t killed anyone in Georgia. When the dead man turns out to be Reacher’s brother the plot thickens. How does Reacher clear his name, seek vengeance for his brother and manage to not fall in love with a cop? You have to read the story to find out.

A moment of disappointment: there were several points in the story that were predictable. I won’t mention the biggest predictable moment because it would ruin the whole plot. Let’s just say a guy you think you know turns out to be someone you don’t know until you know.

The sad thing about a book review is that probably everyone knows the name Jack Reacher, thanks to Tom Cruise’s movies. A tale more sorrowful than that? I didn’t know Mr. Reacher until I met him in the pages of Lee Child’s first novel, Killing Floor. Yes, I have been living under a rock.
Killing Floor is fast paced and quick with the action. If the rest of the series is anything like it, I can see why they made one of the stories into a movie. The choice to use an actor who stands 5’7″ for a character described as 6’5″ is a bit of a head scratcher, though.

Author fact: Child hit the ground running with Killing Floor. He has been getting great reviews ever since.

Book trivia: My copy of Killing Floor has a new introduction by the author. In it he explains the birth of Jack Reacher. Pretty cool.

Nancy said: Pearl admitted she previously avoided Mr. Child’s books because she thought they would be too violent. Indeed when I read the praise for Killing Floor descriptions like “the violence is brutal” “nightmarish images,” and “battered corpses.” In truth, some of the murders are over the top.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lee child: Too Good To Miss ” (p 41).


“Life and Times of Estelle…”

Alexie, Sherman. “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above.” Ten Little Indians. New York: Open Road, 2003.

Reason read: June is Short Story Month

A man looks back at his childhood to paint a picture of his mother, Estelle. As a member of the Spokane Indian tribe and a force to be reckoned with, Estelle was by turns someone to admire and someone to avoid. Sounds like practically every mother I know. She spent most of her lift as a spiritual guru to white women as she adores their culture over her own.

Quote to quote, “I wasn’t a vegetarian by choice, I was a vegetarian by economic circumstance” (p 42).

Author fact: Alexie has won a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Book trivia: Ten Little Indians actually only has nine stories.

Nancy said: Pearl included Alexie in her list of short stories she most enjoyed.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Good Things Come in Small Packages” (p 102).


Doctor Thorne

Trollope, Anthony. Doctor Thorne. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

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

To set the stage: Mary Thorne, at the age of twelve, comes to live with her uncle, Doctor Thorne. She is sent to him when Dr Thorne’s sister (Mary’s mother) runs away to Australia and Mary’s father (Dr. Thorne’s brother) is murdered by Roger Scatcherd, Mary’s mother’s brother. Did you get all that? To complicate things, Dr. Thorne is also the financial advisor to Mary’s mother’s brother, Roger. Essentially Mary has two uncles. But this is a big secret for most of the book.
On with the plot – As Mary grows up she attracts the attention of Frank Gresham but unfortunately for Frank, Mary is not marriage material. She doesn’t come from money so his family opposes a proposal. His mother prefers Martha Dunstable as a suitable wife. The only problem is Miss Dunstable and Frank become great friends and mutually agree romance is not in the cards. As an aside, their friendship is wonderful. As Roger Scatcherd’s financial advisor, Dr. Thorne knows how much money Roger leaves to his son after drinking himself to death. When Roger’s son is nearing the same fate, Dr. Thorne has to spill the genealogy beans in order to make sure Mary is in the will and gets her fair share of Roger’s original inheritance.

Line that caught my attention, “I know he’s rich, and a rich man I suppose can buy anything except a woman that is worth having” (p 99).

Book trivia: Doctor Thorne is the third book in the Barsetshire series but to be fair, each book could be read independently of one another. However, going by book sales Trollope felt Doctor Thorne was his most popular story. Doctor Thorne connects back to Barchester Towers by family.

Author fact: Trollope published Doctor Thorne just one year after Barchester Towers.

Nancy said: nothing specific except that the whole series is her favorite Trollope to read.

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


Book of Reuben

King, Tabitha. The Book of Reuben. New York: Dutton Books, 1994.

Reason read: June is the month most people get married and Book of Reuben is a study in relationships of all kinds, marriage and beyond.

Within the pages of The Book of Reuben twenty five years of a life unfold. We meet Reuben Styles as a typical hot headed teenager and follow his tumultuous life into adulthood. The natural progression of life: marriage, kids, work and looking after aging elders. Reuben meets Laura in high school and loves her from afar until finally she gives him a lukewarm chance at romance. At the same time Reuben learns the language of passion from an older woman.
It is not a spoiler alert to share that Reuben eventually convinces Laura to marry him, but truth be know, their relationship never really heats up and soon they are headed for divorce. When it comes to Laura’s character, I sincerely doubt King could have made Reuben’s wife more vile. At the height of her hatred of Reuben she is violent towards him, steals his money, has an open affair for the whole community to see, and tries to block Reuben from seeing his three children. Short of killing his mother or the family dog, there was little else she could do to him.

One of the even more most surprising elements to Book of Reuben is the extensive list of music references. Reuben is a walking jukebox of great songs. I wanted to make a soundtrack of what was playing on his radio.

As an aside, I read one review where someone said they didn’t understand the purpose of the widow and her children as a characters. Come again? I felt each one set the groundwork for Reuben’s personality. The widow taught Reuben the benefits of great sex, being a good lover, and what it felt like to have that fiery passion reciprocated. She cultivated a hot blooded male which made Laura’s frostiness all the more frustrating. With the widow’s troubled and strange son Reuben displayed an acceptance and kindness that solidified his reputation as a good guy…at least with this reader. I felt the purpose of the widow and her children were not for the plot, but rather for the character development of Reuben.

Author fact: Tabitha King is the wife of well-known horror author, Stephen King. They met at the University of Maine in the library.

Book trivia: The Book of Reuben was received with mixed reviews.

Nancy said: Pearl just described the plot a little.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Marriage Blues” (p 161).


“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).