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).


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).


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).


Bad Haircut

Perrotta, Tom. Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies. New York: Berkey Books, 1994.

Reason read: June is short story month.

Comprised of ten short stories:

  • The Wiener Man – Your past is never far behind you. A mother connects with an old friend.
  • Thirteen – Coming of age is terrible when trying to help a best friend get the girl.
  • Race Riot – Which side are you on? Racial tensions and peer pressure and a bad combination.
  • Snowman – revenge is not as sweet as you think.
  • Forgiveness – standing for the flag is a choice.
  • A Bill Floyd Christmas – Bill loses his wife and latches on to another family to fill the void.
  • You Start to Live – take chances in life.
  • The Jane Pasco Fan Club – Dating in high school can be dangerous.
  • Just the Way We Were – prom memories.
  • Wild Kingdom – sometimes people can be animals.

Lines I liked: “The world was a still as a photograph” (p 61) and “She had that voice special tone of voice that she only used when she had company,” (p 119).

Author fact: Perrotta is from New Jersey.

Book trivia: all of the short stories are linked and are in chronological order.

Setlist: “We May Never Pass This Way Again,” Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” The Carpenters, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Donny Osmond, Aerosmith, Grateful Dead, a couple of Jim Croce songs, “I’ve got a Name” and “Operator.”

Nancy said: Pearl called Bad Haircut “heartfelt yet unsentimental.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Near Novels: Linked Short Stories” (p 175).


Feed

Anderson, M.T. Feed. Read by David Aaron Baker. New York: Random House Listening Library, 2002.

Reason read: May is considered Birds and Bees month and since teenagers have raging hormones I thought I would combine the two and read Feed.

Confessional: I am not a big fan of futuristic, dystopian novels. Feed is Anderson’s commentary of big corporation greed and its power over society in the form of extreme consumerism. Additionally, information technology and data mining are taken further by the invention of a brain-implanted feed network capable of scanning and collecting people’s thoughts and feelings and regurgitated back as commercials. Told from the first person perspective of Titus, we meet Linc (cloned after Abraham Lincoln), Marty (the guy with the Nike speech tattoo which causes him to insert the word Nike into every sentence), Loga (ex-girlfriend of Titus), Calista (the first girl to get lesions as a fashion statement) and Violet (Titus’s new girlfriend and the one to reveal the dangers of the feed). Violet is the most interesting of the group. As an underprivileged teen, she did not get a feed insert until she was older. This causes malfunctioning and Violet’s ability to “fight” the feed. Although it is a predictable ending, I appreciated Anderson’s reality of the situation.

As an aside, definitely find the audio book read by David Aaron Baker. It is a spectacular performance.

The popularity of having lesions to the point of creating them reminded me of the Seuss book, Gertrude McFuzz, the story about the bird who wanted glorious tail feathers and got so greedy collecting them she could no longer fly.

Author fact: Anderson also write Thirsty which is on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Feed was a National Book Award finalist and winner of the Boston Globe Horn Book Award and the Golden Duck Award (Hal Clement).

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Feed except to include it in the list of sure teen-pleasers.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 23).


Testament of Youth

Brittain, Vera. Testament of Youth: the Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900 – 1925. New York: MacMillan Company, 1937.

Reason read: The United States entered World War I on April 6th, 1917. Additionally, I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of historical event.

Confessional: this took me a long time to finish.

The world can thank Vera Brittain for keeping a detailed diary during World War I. Through her writings, Brittain is able to not only give a personal account of how the war changed her life, but the impact the conflict had on the world at large around her. When she says the war “smashed her youth” and “interrupted her personal plans” you get the sense of the level of personal destruction the violence left in its wake. She led a sheltered life in England, never leaving the country until she was twenty-one. She had both a brother and a fiancé serve in the war. Through their letters and poems, how they were affected by the conflict represents how a good majority of the soldiers coped with battle. In order to feel closer to her brother and fiancé, Vera volunteered to darn socks, but as the war dragged on, the desire to “do something more” led her to sign up as a probationer in a hospital. There she had an up close and personal view of war’s terrible price. There is a growing sense of dread when Brittain describes reading the list of casualties and not having a single word from loved ones. The war matures Brittain. At the start of the conflict she naively hoped Roland would suffer a war wound so they could see each other. After some time changing the dressings of the amputees Brittain realizes she couldn’t wish that kind of horror on anyone.
Brittain’s autobiography continues after the war has ended and the struggle to return to civilian life becomes a reality. She has lost everyone she loved, friends and family alike.

As an aside, it is unclear if Vera was agnostic before the war or if the tragedies in France solidified an already growing idea idea.

Quotes to quote, “Someone is getting hell, but it isn’t you – yet,” (p 150), “Truly war had made masochists of us all” (p 154), “Too angry and miserable to be shy any more, we clung together and kissed in forlorn desperation” (p 189), “The world was mad and we were all victims, that was the only way to look at it” (p 376) and “I was not the culprit, for I was still too deeply and romantically in love with a memory to have any appetite for sexual unorthodoxies, but I am not sure that I should have owned up if I had been” (p 328).
Here is the sentence that had the most profound effect on me, “I entirely failed to notice the assassination on the previous morning, of a European potentate whose name was unknown to me, in a Balkan town of which I had never heard” (p 85).

Author fact: Even though Brittain is best known for her autobiographies she was also an accomplished poet.

Book trivia: Brittain includes a great deal of poetry from several different poets. Testament of Youth was a Masterpiece Theater dramatic series present on PBS by WGBH in Boston.

Playlist: “Elizabeth’s Prayer,” “Jewel Song,” “Clair de Lune,” “Te Deum Patreum Colimus,” “L’Envoi,” “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” “If You Were the Only Girl in the World,” “We are Soldiers of the Queen, Me Lads,” “Good-bye Dolly, I Must Leave You,” “When the Heart is Young,” “Whisper and I Shall Hear,” “Distant Shore,” “Robert the Devil,” “Dreaming,” “The Vision of Salome,” “Elgar’s Lament for the Fallen,” Beethoven’s 7th Sonata, Verdi’s Requiem, Bram’s Requiem, “Sweet Early Violets,” “Down in the Forest,” “Auld Lang Syne,” “O Hel-, O Hel-“

Nancy said: Pearl called Testament of Youth “moving.” She also called it “One of the finest accounts ever written of World War I” (More Book Lust p 155).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War I Nonfiction” (p 251). Again in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living Through War” (p 154).


The Town

Richter, Conrad. The Town. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970.

Reason read: to finish the series started in March in honor of Ohio becoming a state.

When we rejoin Sayward she is in her late forties and has given birth to ten children. Nine have survived. She is witness to the transformation of the wilderness into a civilized community but she can remember when she started her young life in the deep woods of Ohio with trees all around. In awe she watches as the necessities of a communal existence blossom into a church, school, meeting house, and grist mill. The canal becomes a focal point as brick structures replace wooden ones. She can remember when it all started – her family looking to stave off hunger by pushing west in the hopes of cultivating richer soils into bountiful gardens. The Trees told of isolation while The Fields saw settlements encroaching on the family’s privacy until finally they realized the need for one another was a good thing and the Town is born.
Even though most of Sayward’s children are grown with families of their own, in The Town the reader spends the majority of time with Sayward’s youngest child, Chancey. He is a strange child, afraid of everything; paranoid and preferring to be alone. He is so dissimilar to his siblings he strongly believes he is adopted. His failure to understand any member of his family is borderline obsessive. When meeting strangers he even gives them a false name. His claims his weak heart doesn’t allow him to walk very far. Soon a dark family secret turns out to be his greatest heartbreak. Honestly, I found him to be a difficult character to like.
Interesting to note: Portius is initially overlooked for a position as judge because of his agnostic views.
I don’t think it is a spoiler to say the mysterious disappearance of Sulie in The Trees is finally resolved in The Town.

Quote I liked, “She seemed to be writing on the night” (p 305).

Setlist: “Fly Up,” “The Lady of Loti Polka,” “On Nesbo’s Lovely Mount,” “Moses’s Funeral March,” and “The River Between.”

Author fact: Richter was born in Pennsylvania but moved to New Mexico.

Book trivia: The Town received a Pulitzer Prize.

Nancy said: Pearl said Richter’s stories have to be read in order.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest (Ohio)” (p 30).


Hot Six

Evanovich, Janet. Hot Six. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001.

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

This time, Ranger is the one being hunted. A rookie cop arrested Ranger for carrying a concealed weapon without a license. Everyone knows to let Ranger do his own thing only the rookie didn’t get the memo. Ranger gets into further trouble when he is seen on surveillance camera entering a building with a man who is later found with a bullet hole in his head and partially burned. Looks like an open and shut case because everyone knows Ranger is not above killing people.
Every time we meet up with Stephanie Plum you can bet a destroyed vehicle or two or three will be in her wake. This time the nest one is a Rollswagon, part old fashioned Volkswagen Beetle and part Rolls Royce. One hundred percent vintage. Never heard of one. Stephanie doesn’t have it for more than an hour before she’s attacked by someone driving a Crown Vic. What else is new? She bumbles her way through cases, same as ever or as she says, “Then you have to pee and you miss a double homicide” (p 77).
All the usual characters are still around: Vinnie, Lula, Connie, Joe, even Grandmas Mazur who still frequents wakes and funerals for kicks and is now going for her own driver’s license. The bad guys are still ransacking Stephanie’s apartment while her hamster, Rex, runs frantically on his exercise wheel.
The problem with reading the Stephanie Plum series back to back to back is that the plot formula becomes a schtick. Stephanie is a food motivated, bumbling beginner bounty hunter, who always gets her man. Plot twist: Stephanie inherits a dog and things heat up with Morelli and Ranger.

Let’s do a cousin count: We know Stephanie’s cousin Shirley is married to Gazarra. Cousin Maureen works at the button factory. Cousin Janine works at the post office. Cousin Marion works at the bank. In Hot Six we learn Shirley is a whiner and Stephanie has a cousin Bunny who works at the credit union. There’s another cousin named Evelyn. Let’s not forget cousin Vinny!

Best line, “Getting shot, no matter how minor the wound, is not conducive to clear thinking” (p 403).

Author fact: Janet has used the pen name Steffie Hall.

Book trivia: to count there are twenty-five Stephanie Plum mysteries. Hot Six is well…number six. Duh.

Nancy said: Pearl said Evanovich’s books couldn’t be called mysteries because they were too funny.

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


The Amateurs

Halberstam, David. The Amateurs: the Story of Four Young Men and Their Quest for an Olympic Gold Medal. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1985.

Reason read: Halberstam’s birth month is in April. Additionally, the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge has the category of a group working towards a goal. This time it’s a team of amateur rowers trying to qualify for the 1984 Olympics.

An interesting look at a little-known sport. Even though Halberstam’s story centers around the mid-1980s not much has changed with the popularity of rowing. People can name basketball stars, football greats, even Olympic marathon runners and sprinters, but not many can name one let alone all of the members of the last Olympic crew team. I never thought about crew being a faceless sport; a sport that is not very camera friendly. Think about it – to photograph the action accurately you cannot focus on any one particular face. I never thought about it that way. As an aside, I was doing an iFit hike with a trainer named Alex Gregory. He casually mentioned he was a rower on the U.S. Olympic team and retired in 2016. See? I had no idea who he was. Additionally, I recently finished a different iFit walk around Boston and the Charles River. The trainer talked about Harvard, rowing, and competition. Sure enough, a team of eight rowed by. It was cool to see the sport I had been reading about as I worked out.
Halberstam digs deep into this relatively unknown sport to reveal how for athletes like Tiff Wood, the seeds of a competitive spirit were planted in childhood by these rowers’ families: emulating older brothers or spurred on by critical fathers wanting to win, win, win. Encouragement was expressed by failure, (“better luck next time”), and compliments were reserved for the fastest times and first place wins. Reverse psychology at play. The Amateurs is a veritable who’s who of the 1980s rowing world. The dozens of names bogged down the writing and made it difficult to remember who was supposed to be in which boat. I catalogued all the names of the rowers and coaches but I am sure I missed a few:

  • Andy Fisher
  • Andy Sudden
  • Al Shealy
  • Bill Hobbs
  • Bill Purdy
  • Blair Brooks
  • Bob Ernest (C)
  • Bobby Pearce
  • Brad Lewis
  • Bruce Ibbetson
  • Buzz Congram (C)
  • Charley Altekruse
  • Charley Bracken
  • Chris Allsopp
  • Cleve Livingston
  • Dan Goldberg
  • Dave Potter
  • Dick Cashin
  • Ed Chandler
  • Eric Stevens
  • Frank Cunningham (C)
  • Fritz Hobbs
  • Fritz Hageman
  • George Pocock
  • Gordie Gardiner
  • Greg Montessi
  • Gregg Stone
  • Hans Svensson
  • Harry Burk (C)
  • Harry Parker (C)
  • Jim Dietz
  • Joe Biglow
  • Joe Bouscaren
  • Joe Burk (C)
  • Joe Ratzenburg (C)
  • John (Jack) Frackleton
  • John Kelly, Jr.
  • John Von Blon
  • Karl Adam (C)
  • Kris Korzeniowski
  • Larry Klecatsky
  • Mad Dog Loggins
  • Mike Ives
  • Mike Livingston (C)
  • Pat Walker
  • Paul Enquist
  • Paul Most
  • Pertti Kappinen
  • Peter Raymond (C)
  • Peter-Michael Kolbe
  • Ricardo Ibarra
  • Richard Davis (C)
  • Ridgley Johnson
  • Rudiger Reiche
  • Sean Colgan
  • Steve Klesing
  • Stuart McKenzie
  • Sy Cromwell
  • Ted Nash (C)
  • Ted Washburn (C)
  • Tiff Wood
  • Tony Johnson (C)
  • Uwe Mund
  • Uyacheslav Ivanov
  • Vasily Yakusha


As another aside, I was too young to remember Jimmy Carter boycotting the United States’ participation in the 1980 Olympics. What a disappointment to all those athletes!
A third aside,

Author fact: Halberstam has written a good many books. Nancy Pearl has dedicated a whole chapter to his work. I think I am reading twenty for the Book Lust Challenge.

Book trivia: there are a few black and white photographs in the book.

Nancy said: Pearl said she noted her favorite Halberstam books with an asterisk. The Amateurs did not have an asterisk. Oh well. Overall, she said, she has never read a dull book by Halberstam. That’s good.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112).


The Fields

Richter, Conrad. The Fields. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964.

Reason read: to continue the series started in March in honor of Ohio becoming a state.

When we rejoin Sayward Wheeler (nee Luckett), she has given birth to a baby boy she names Resolve. What a cool name for a kid! Sayward is a lonely woman because she has married a hesitant man. Portius ran out on Sayward when it came time to get married. He disappeared when she gave birth to their first son and it took Portius a long time to even acknowledge his first born son, Resolve. Portius was not even part of the baptism ceremony for Resolve. Sayward’s sister Genny is the only family she has left in the region. Everyone else has scattered to the wind. Her father left when Jary died and Wyitt only returns from time to time. Sulie is still missing, presumed either dead or held captive by the regional natives. Betrayal follows Sayward but she is a resilient woman. She knows how to fight adversity fair and square.
Fast fast forward and now Sayward has had seven children; eight if you could little Sulie who died in a fire. With her brood of children Sayward watches her southern Ohio woodland home stretch into fields of openness with more and more people populating the area. Statehood has been declared and soon there is a need for a meeting house, school, boat launch, grist mill; times are changing. As the trees and animals are cleared out Sayward knows nothing will be the same. A competition grows between the newly established Tateville and Sayward’s Moonshine Settlement. With Portius spending more time in town Sayward must chose between society’s growing expansion and the comfort of all she has ever known.
As an aside, I have always wondered about churches with a graveyard attached. Why the two always seem to go together. It was interesting when the townspeople approached Sayward for her land. The fields are growing into towns and people need a church. Sayward has the most land to offer.
As another aside, I found the gluttonous hunting scene a little much: in total the men slaughtered at one time nineteen wolves, twenty-one bears, three panthers ,two hundred and ninety seven deer, and too many raccoon, fox, squirrel, and turkey to count. Richter summed it up well when he wrote of Sayward’s brother Wyitt, “He was drunk, that’s what he was, drunk on blood and gunpowder” (p 78).

Soundtrack: “Farewell of a Minister”

Author fact: Richter was born and died in Pennsylvania.

Book trivia: The Fields is the only book in the trilogy to not receive some kind of award.

Nancy said: Pearl said all three Richter books should be read in order.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (Ohio)” (p 30).


Orchid Fever

Hansen, Eric. Orchid Fever: a Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.

Reason read: April is when everyone starts thinking about their gardens. Probably not orchids, though…I also needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of a true non-violent crime. Groundskeepers at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, call the exhibits the largest collection of horticultural loot and with words like racket, exploitation, trafficking, plundering, smuggling, and pirating I think I found the right book..

Hansen knows how to get the reader’s attention. Orchid Fever opens with a human body falling through a rain forest canopy. His guide, Tiong, seemingly fell out of the sky. Hansen was on the island of Borneo to see help build an upriver plant nursery for the Penan people. How is this for a cryptic meeting time and place: “The message was for them to meet us at the junction of the Limbang and Medalam rivers on the full moon of the fourth month of 1993” (p 8)?
He approaches his subject of orchid crime with a sense of skepticism at first. He calls these orchid-obsessed horticulturalists, “orchid people” as if they are some kind of alien race and yet, he travels the globe to meet them and start using words like racket, exploitation, trafficking, plunder, pirating, and smuggling to describe their behavior. Soon Hansen realizes these “orchid people” are so passionate about their orchids some can be driven to actual violence if provoked. It also seems that every time a legitimate researcher gets a shipment of orchids no matter how lawfully or innocently, that’s when the trouble starts. But orchids are not just for flower shows and smuggling. Hansen travels to Turkey and learns about how orchid ice cream is made from the tubers of a specific orchid. A flour made from the dried tubers creates a chewy, almost elastic texture. He also learns of the medicinal properties of orchids with such claims as the ability to heal a damaged spleen, prevent cholera and tuberculosis, facilitate childbirth, and improve sex life. Orchis in Greek does mean testicle…Along those lines, you will be introduced to the term ‘phyto-necrophilia.’ It is the “abnormal fascination or love of a dead plant material. Yes, it’s a thing. Hansen also travels to Minnesota, an area you don’t readily think of for orchids, to meet a man who tries to save orchids from being bulldozed in developing areas.

As an aside, I thought about Rex Stout’s Nero Wolf a lot while reading Orchid Fever.

Quotes to quote, “It was about this time that I got into the habit of taping my comp disks to the backs of cereal boxes in the kitchen cabinets” (p 68).
A sense of Hansen’s dry sense of humor, “We also called on Kemal Kucukonderuzunkoluk (pronounced Kucukonderuzunkkoluk), who operates one of the oldest ice creams stores in Maras” (p 97) and “Sitting at the table, an uneasy feeling came over me as I realized it was quite possible that I was the strange one” (p 234).

Soundtrack: Rockin’ Dopsie and the Cajun Twisters.

Author fact: Hansen also wrote The Bird Man and the Lap Dancer, Motoring with Mohammed and Stranger in the Forest. All three books are on my Challenge list and I am looking forward to reading them.

Book trivia: Each chapter is punctuated with a beautiful black and white illustration of an orchid.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Orchid Fever other than to explain the plot and say Orchid Fever compliments Susan Orlean’s book of the same subject, The Orchid Thief.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 300s” (p 62).


The Plague and I

MacDonald, Betty. The Plague and I. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1948.

Reason read: April is Humor Month.

I don’t know how someone can find humor in having tuberculosis, but then again, I’m not Betty MacDonald. She can find the funny in just about everything. This serious illness has come late to Betty. She is almost thirty, already married and divorced and a mother to two small children. Everything about tuberculosis is a mystery to her. The Pine’s list of treatments includes a long list of rules for new patients: no reading, no writing, no talking, no singing, no laughing, no plants, no flowers, no outside medications, no talking to other patients’ visitors, no personal clothes, and most damning of all, no hot water bottles. The goal is rest, rest, rest. When Betty first arrives at the sanitarium she doesn’t know if being cold all the time is a sign her disease is worse than others. Then she realizes it is cold all the time…for everyone. There is a great deal made of analyzing one’s sputum – determine color and measuring exactly how much is expelled. Betty wishes she had a more ladylike disease such as a brain tumor or a hot climate disease like jungle rot.
Despite the rules, the constant cold, and the overbearing Charge nurse, Betty makes friends and finds something to laugh at the entire time. How she leaves The Pines was a bit of a surprise to me but I’ll leave that for you to read.

As an aside, even though she doesn’t figure into the plot extensively, Gammy is a hoot.

Quotes I loved, “I was sure that I could be more intelligently cooperative if I knew what I was doing” (p 71).
Most realist quote, “I am neither Christian enough nor charitable enough to like anybody just because he is alive and breathing” (p 89 – 90) and “This simple pleasure was denied me, however, for I had been advised by the authorities that wandering in the grounds before breakfast meant just one thing – S.E.X.” (p 237).
Quote that distressed me, “He laughed, punched me in the stomach and ordered a sedative (p 111). What?

Playlist: “Hills of Home,” “Sonny Boy,” “My Buddy,” “Boy of Mine,” “Wind Through the Olive Tree,” “Tea for Two,” “Night and Day,” “Body and Soul,” “Judy,”
Christmas setlist: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World,” ” Silent Night,” “Adeste Fideles,” “We three Kings of Orient Are,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Once in Royal David’s City,” “O Holy Night,” “Away in a Manger.”

Author fact: MacDonald also wrote Onions in the Stew and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Both are on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: The Plague and I follows The Egg and I but can be read separately. Onions in the Stew is the third book in the memoir vein.

Nancy said: Pearl included The Plague and I in her list of books she considers so funny they will having you falling off your chair, but didn’t say anything specific about the book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Tickle Your Funny Bone” (p 217).


Four to Score

Evanovich, Janet. Four to Score. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.

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

Five months ago we last left Stephanie “in a clinch” on her couch with Joe Morelli. Now, five months have passed and Stephanie Plum is still trying to be a bail bondsman (or is it bondswoman?) for her cousin Vinnie. She doesn’t quite have her technique honed in, but she’s getting there. She’s the type of girl who can’t pass up a home-cooked meal or the chance to make promises while crossing her fingers behind her back. It should be said, Stephanie is a walking disaster. Dead bodies pile up in her wake. So much so she is starting to get a reputation. Her vehicles are continuously getting destroyed (at least one per book). this time it’s a Honda CRX. Luckily for her, her family’s baby blue boat of a Buick is always available.
This time Stephanie is on the hunt for Maxine Nowicki, wanted for theft and extortion. Only, Steph has unwanted company. Vinnie has hired nemesis Joyce Barnhardt, the woman who lured Stephanie’s husband to cheat. Stephanie and Joyce have known each other since high school. Maxine shouldn’t be hard to find. She has been leaving demented clues for her ex to follow like some kind of vicious scavenger hunt. At the same time, Stephanie is dealing with her own jealous girlfriend – someone insane enough to torch her Honda CRX and firebomb her apartment.

As an aside, in Three to Get Deadly I was very much aware of how many cousins Stephanie seems to have: everyone is a cousin. Eddie Gazarra married Stephanie’s cousin, Shirley. Cousin Maureen works at the button factory. Cousin Jeanine works at the post office. In Four to Score I learned Cousin Marion works at the bank. Let’s still not forget cousin Vinny!

Lines I liked, “This book is rated PG35 for licentious wit and libidinous cohabitation” and “I slunk back to my car and decided my deductive reasoning would be vastly improved if I ate a doughnut” (p 16). I think that way, too.

Playlist: Metallica, Savage Garden, Buddy Holly,

Author fact: some of Evanovich’s stories have ended up in Reader’s Digest.

Book trivia: One of my all time favorite Jersey hangouts is featuring in Four to Score. I absolutely adore Point Pleasant.

Nancy said: Pearl said you can’t label Evanovich’s books as mysteries but they are hilarious and you will laugh all the way through the series.

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


The Trees

Richter, Conrad. The Awakening Land Trilogy: the Trees. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1991.

Reason read: Ohio became a state in the month of March. Additionally, The Trees was published on March 1, 1940. Finally, I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of a group working towards a common goal. This is a family working towards surviving and establishing a homestead in the wilds of Ohio.

The Luckett family: Father Worth, Mother Jary, and children Sayward, Genny, Achsa, Wyitt, Sulie, and hound Sarge, find their way to the deep woods of Ohio after being driven out of Pennsylvania by famine in 1795. Hoping for a new life, they discover they are in a foreign land of multiple misunderstandings. The family has trouble cultivating the soil so food is scarce. Hunting even the smallest of animals keeps them fed. Worth values this lifestyle and admires the “woodsy” people. Illness hovers over them constantly until finally mother Jary is taken by consumption. The Luckett family misunderstands the neighboring native tribes and as a result, distrust and fear them in equal measure. [As an aside, I had to admit it broke my heart when Wyitt spies on them violently skin a wolf alive for his pelt. When they let the poor creature flee into the woods it was difficult to read of such cruelty.] Other tragedies befall the family but somehow Sayward, the main character, shows true grit and that “woodsy” spirit her father so admired.

Author fact: in his forward Richter thanks “scores of helpful librarians” for helping him research his book. Yay for my profession!

Book trivia: The Trees is the first book in a trilogy called Awakening Land Trilogy.

Nancy said: Richter’s series needs to be read in order, starting with The Trees.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest, Ohio” (p 25).