Deadwood

Dexter, Pete. Deadwood. Random House, 1986.

Reason read: the Dakotas were issued into statehood in the month of November.

Things you need to know about Deadwood: most of the characters are real. Some of the events are real. Pete Dexter is funny AF in Deadwood, but take caution because there are just as many of disturbing scenes to match. Taking place in mid 1870s, readers plop themselves down in the middle of the Dakotas during the Gold Rush era. Violence and prostitution rule the plot. This should not be a surprise as Wild Bill Hickok, Charley Utter, Calamity Jane, China Doll, and Bill’s wife, Agnes, all get a chapter in Deadwood. Confessional: I didn’t see much of a point to Deadwood. I never connected with any of the characters and I got weary of all the gunslinging.

Is it a spoiler to say I was surprised Wild Bill died as early as he did in the story?

Lines I liked, “The war didn’t leave anybody the same” (p 30). Isn’t that true of any war?

Author fact: Dexter wrote The Paperboy, which I read in 2007 and Train, which I plan to read in November of 2031. Yes, I plan that far out.

Book trivia: There is a television series of the same name, as well as a movie. Neither are connected to Pete Dexter’s novel.

Playlist: “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, “I Know My Redeemer Liveth”, “The Days of the Forty-Nine”, and “Beautiful Dreamer”.

Nancy said: Pearl called Deadwood well written and funny. Agreed.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Great Plains: the Dakotas” (p 105).

Anthills of the Savannah

Achebe, Chinua. Anthills of the Savannah.Anchor Press, 1988.

Reason read: Achebe was born in the month of November. I also needed a book written by a Nigerian author for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge 2022.

The entire time I was reading Anthills of the Savannah I was suspicious of every single character. I knew going into it there was going to be a betrayal of some kind and that put me on edge. I was always questioning who would be the one to fall from grace. A friendship can be detroyed by a single misconception or a rumor born out of paranoia. All it takes is for one slight and lovers become enemies in an instant.
Reading Anthills of the Savannah was like being a vulture, soaring over the fictional African state of Kangan, hungry for the kill. From drought to political tribal disputes with city villages, the themes of love, friendship, and loyalty weave a complicated story. What with the Commissioner for Information, Commissioner for Education, Commissioner for Justice, Commissioner for Words, Commissioner for Works, Inspector General of Police, Chief Secretary, Master of Ceremonies, Superintendent of Traffic, and His Excellency all being introduced at once I felt like governance was a farse.

Author fact: Achebe also wrote Things Fall Apart which I read in 2006. Such a long time ago, but it has stuck with me ever since.

Book trivia: Anthills of the Savannah includes the legend of Idemili.

Quotes to quote: “For Cliche is but pauperized ecstasy” (p 11), “Worshipping a dictator is such a pain in the ass” (p 41), and “May you put that your useless story for inside your pocket” (p 214).

Nancy said: Pearl was including Things Fall Apart for her chapter on Nigeria, but said to check out Anthills of the Savannah as well.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Nigeria” (p 156).

Fury

Ford, G.M. Fury. Avon Books, 2001.

Reason read: Washington became a state in November. I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge for the categories of book with a one-word title and title with an emotion in it.

Meet former journalist and perpetual liar Frank Corso. He resembles Stephen Segal as a big man with a black ponytail. Meet Leanne Samples, another liar; only her lies occured under oath as a witness in a death row case. Together, with the fellow outcast and heavily tattooed photographer Meg Dougherty, they try to prove the innocence of a criminal on death row. What a bizarre group of characters. I had to ask myself if I would like any of them. We meet them six days before the execution of Walter Leroy Hines. He was convicted of murdering eight women based on the testimony of one woman who survived…you guessed it, liar Leanne Samples. Fury is a hour by hour, play by play of the unfolding drama. Can they save Hines or did he actually do it because Leanne recanted her recant. The only complaint I have about Fury is the fact that the twist at the end wasn’t a twist at all. As soon as the timeline started to count back up you know there is more to the story. Totally predictable.
One of the best things about Fury is the introduction to Washington state: the Elliott Bay, the Bainbridge Island ferry, Myrtle Edwards Park, Puget Sound, the spring rains that last until August. Is King County Jail on the corner of 5th and James?

I have to ask. Is it possible to tattoo someone from head to toe in 36 hours? I guess it is if the artist is crap…

Author fact: Ford died in 2021. He was 75 years old.

Book trivia: Fury starts a new series for Ford.

Playlist: Billy Preston’s “Nothin’ From Nothin'”, Doobie Brothers, Lynryrd Skynard’s “Sweet Home Alabama”, Del Shannon’s “Runnaway”, Rob Thomas and Carlos Santana’s “Smooth”, Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff’s “The Glory of Love”,

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Fury.

BookLust twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living High in Cascadia” (p 148).

Oryx and Crake

Atwood, Margaret. Oryx and Crake. Read by Campbell Scott.

Reason read: Atwood was born in the month of November. Also, I needed a book for the Portland Public Library reading challenge for the categories of speculative fiction and a book I have read before.

I need to condense the plot of Oryx and Crake for simplicity’s sake. There is a lot going on in this dystopia drama. Here is the shortest recap ever: Snowman was once a boy named Jimmy. He lived in a world dominated by bioengineering companies capable of creating new species of nonhuman lifeforms and genetic modifications for future humanoids. Jimmy befriends a boy named Glenn (who becomes Crake). During their pubescent years Jimmy and Crake spend an inordinate amount of time doing drugs, playing over the top violent video games, and watching live videos of murder, beastiality, and child pornography. This shapes Crake’s future invention of a health and happiness pill with an unadvertisized side effect of sterilization. Another result of this happiness pill is a lethal and extremely contagious global pandemic. When Jimmy goes to work for Crake he discovers a woman he recognizes from the porn videos he and Crake used to watch. Crake introduces her as Oryx and Jimmy becomes smitten. Does he dance with the devil? Yes, yes he does.

Confessional: I had completely forgotten how disturbing Oryx and Crake is.
Second confessional: I read Oryx and Crake while our world is still struggling with Covid-19. I couldn’t help but make comparisons to O&C.

Lines I liked, the phrase “turn memory into white noise” was the best.

Author fact: Atwood has called Oryx and Crake as romance. She is both brilliant and twisted.

Book trivia: Oryx and Crake is the first book in a trilogy. While this is a reread for me, I have not read the other two books in the series.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anthing specific about Oryx and Crake except to include it in the list of other dark and stormy novels.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “It was a Dark and Stormy Novel” (p 129).

God of Small Things

Roy, Arundhati. God of Small Things. Random House, 1997.

Reason read: God of Small Things won the Booker Prize, a prize that is normally awarded in October.

The God of Small Things opens with a lush description of the monsoon season of Ayemenem and the statement, “Baby Kochamma was still alive” (p 4). The simple statement hooks your breath back into your lungs while your mind jumps the rail, “what do you mean still alive?” Still? As in to imply not supposed to be of this earth? As reader, be prepared to bounce between time and space. In one chapter we will cremate a woman, in the next she will be alive and flirting.
Rahel and Estha, twins who are separated after tragedy. Death is a tragedy. Divorce is one, too. But lack of social standing is the most tragic of them all. Like a pervasive black and choking smoke, the ancient Indian caste system hangs dark and poisonous in the air. The ongoing separation of Paravan and Brahmin, touchable and untouchable, inhaled through nostrils and accepted as common as air to breathe. I was reminded of Dr. Seuss and his star bellied Sneetches. But like all unfair systems, the order of life doesn’t always work when there is a tilt, an upset in the balance. Especially when opposites attract. I don’t know how to review this book without giving too much away so I speak in circles. Jusr read it.

Quotes to quote, “On their shoulders they carried a keg of ancient anger, lit with a recent fuse” (p 67). I love it when writers take the intangible, like anger, and make it something touchable. Here’s another, “Shadows gathered like bats in the steep hollows near her collarbone” (p 154). One more: “They were not arresting a man, they were exorcising fear” (p 293). If that doesn’t say it all about racism…

Author fact: Roy studied to be an architect. she decided to write a book. God of Small Things is her first novel and wouldn’t you know it? she wins the Booker Prize.

Book trivia: I watched a short Ted video on why one should read God of Small Things. I don’t know if the makers of the video had this intention but I thought it was cute.

Nancy said: Pearl said God of Small Things was “simply glorious.”

Playlist: Elvis Presley, Handel’s Water Music, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, “The Sound of Music”, “Baby Elephany Walk”, “Colonel Bogey’s March”, Little Richard, “Ruby Tuesday”, “My Favorite Things”, “So Long Farewell”,

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “India: a Reader’s Itinerary” (p 125). Also from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Scenes from Sri Lanka” (p 197).

Dune

Herbert, Frank. Dune. Ace Trade, 2005.

Reason read: Herbert began his career as a novelist in November 1955. I also needed a book with a one-word title for the Portland Public Library’s Reading Challenge.

At the center of Dune is a drug known to be a truth seeker called Melange. It acts as an extension of human youth and has the ability to produce multidimensional awareness, the foresight ncessary for space navigation, increased mental abilities, and vitality in the form of being able to diagnose illnesses and treat them accordingly. Quite the wonder drug and in obvious high demand. It is the proverbial fountain of youth and very addictive, as one might suspect. It is mined on the planet of Arrakis, otherwise known as “Dune” the desert planet. As mentioned earlier, Melange gives people the ability to change metabolism with each wound or injury, making survival that much easier when faced with a poisoned blade which makes an appearance frequently.
When it comes to the subject of breeding, I was reminded of The Handmaid’s Tale. Jessica, Paul’s mother, was “ordered” to give birth to a girl but ultimately disobeyed to give her husband a son. Mothers can chose the gender of her child. Imagine that. Another simularity to Handmaid is the idea of a strict caste system society.
Dune is the kind of book that drives me crazy. Suspensor lamps and glowglobes abound. WTF are they? Despite the “otherworldly” details, there is a fundamental truth within Dune. Water is precious in the desert. After the drought we just endured last summer, I can relate. In Dune people can be killed for the fluid in their bodies.

Confessional: how hated would I be if I said I never had the desire to read Dune? Everyone knows how I feel about science fiction in general, but there was something detracting about the vibe I got from the movie and (I say this with one eye open, cringing), I’ve never been a fan of self-centered Sting. There. I’ve said it. Sand worms aside, I wasn’t looking forward to Dune. I wasn’t even sure I would get through the requisite 50 pages. I opted for the audio version which was fantastic. I now want to see the movie. Imagine that!

Lines I connected with, “Dreams were predictions” (p 4). I believe that as well. Here is another phrase I liked, “sift people to find the humans.” I feel like I do that on a daily basis.

Author fact: Herbert based everything in Dune on magic mushrooms.

Book trivia: my audio version included a whole cast of characters. Instead of just one person reading the story, it was acted out by a bunch of people. In addition to that, sound effects were fantastic.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything in particular about Dune.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 215).

Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

Reason read: It’s Sherlock.

Here are the short stories that make up The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes:

  • “Silver Blaze” – who killed a jockey and where is the famous horse, Silver Blaze?
  • “Yellow Face” – this was my favorite mystery of the book.
  • “Stock-broker’s Clerk” – What is a true connection and how can it be bought?
  • “The Gloria Scott” – a glimpse into Holmes’s past. We learn of a friendship that comes from a dog bite.
  • “Musgrave Ritual” – my favorite line came from this story, “Pistol practice should be an open air pasttime.” Amen to that.
  • “Reigate Puzzle” – holmes is supposed to be resting after an illness but cannot help getting involved with a murder mystery.
  • “Crooked Man”- it was at this point that I decided it would be exhausting to have a conversation with Shelock Holmes; to have all of his observations and elementary deductions punctuating his every sentence.
  • “Resident Patient” – Watson picks up on Sherlock’s method of deducation.
  • “Greek Interpreter” – it is revealed Sherlock Holmes has a brother, Mycroft. The two brothers share the same powers of deduction so a conversation with them would be twice as annoying.
  • “Naval Treaty” – we meet a college friend of Watson’s.
  • “Final Problem” – the story that makes everyone think Homes has died.

As an aside, what constitutes a fabulous forehead?

Author fact: Doyle studied medicine. I think that education helped his writing.

Book trivia: Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes is odd in the sense that it was published in 1893 with a ’94 date.

Nancy said: Memoirs of Sherlock Homes was so under the radar or Pearl since she only indexed The Complete Sherlock Holmes.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 123). Confessional: when I realized I would be reading more than one title within a single book, I started listing out the individual titles. For example, Remembrance of Things Passed has seven volumes (seven titles). I am listing each title separately because there is no way I can read Remembrance in its entirety in one month. So. Same with the Complete Sherlock Holmes. Pearl doesn’t mention each compilation of short stories or novel within but since that’s how I’m reading them, I decided to list them that way. My true confessional is that I have started to list out the short stories and this is where I have gotten myself confused. I haven’t been listing out the short stories in other collections, so why now?

Forty Words for Sorrow

Blunt, Giles. Forty Words for Sorrow. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001.

Reason read: Stories about serial killers scare me. Maybe it is the thought that once a person kills it can become easier and easier for them to do. Maybe Sting was onto something when he sang, “murder by numbers, it’s as easy as one, two, three.” For Halloween, I chose to read Forty Words for Sorrow. In addition, I needed a book with an emotion in the title for the Portland Public Library Reading challenge.

The title comes from a comparison to the Eskimo language. If there are forty words for snow, surely somewhere out there there are forty words that mean sorrow. John Cardinal is a flawed small town Canadian cop fixated on solving the mystery of the disappearance of a teenager girl. Maybe it was the thought of his own daughter that originally drove him, but Cardinal’s obsession to solve the case depleted department resources and ultimately got him transferred out of homicide and into the burglary and petty crimes division. Meanwhile, another teenager goes missing. Then another. Suddenly, Cardinal’s obsession, thirteen year old Katie Pine’s remains are found. Maybe he was onto something after all? Is this the work of a serial killer? This time John is back on the case with a rookie for a partner (is it Lise or Lisa?) who might be investigating him.
This all would be a typical story of a dedicated office with an I-told-you-so attitude but Cardinal is a cop with a complicated life and a dirty secret his partner is determined to uncover. Can he solve the crime(s) before his personal life crashes down around him? His daughter is attending Yale on illegal funds, his wife’s mental instability has landed her in an expensive in-patient hospital, and yet another individual has been found murdered. John asks again, is there a serial killer operating out of the tiny town of Algonquin Bay? Can Cardinal close the case before his colleagues close in on him?
Not a spoiler alert: I appreciate that Blunt leaves the ending open. Cardinal’s crimes are not wrapped up in an all-is-forgiven-because-you-are-a-hero bow. There is room for Cardinal to make a comeback and face his demons.

Author fact: Giles Blunt and I share a birthday.

Book trivia: this could have been a movie.

Playlist: Backstreet Boys, Tupac Shakur, Puff Daddy, Aerosmith, Madonna, Pretenders, Bryan Adams, Neil Young, “Good Morning Little School Girl”, Bach, Pearl Jam, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, “Abide with Me”, Rolling Stones, Anne Murray, and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”.

Nancy said: Pearl said Blunt’s writing is gripping and that Forty Words for Sorrow was one of her favorites.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Canada, O Canada” (p 51).

Halfway to Schist

Bridgford, Peter. Halfway to Schist. Black Rose Writing, 2022.

Reason read: As a reviewer for the Early Review Program for LibraryThing I occassionally get to review books from people I like.

Using an escape to a remote Point au Baril fishing lodge as a means for recovery for a recent widower and his only teenage daughter, Bridgford sets the stage for exploration into how a mother’s suicide, an uprooted existence, and various difficult relationships impact a young girl’s life. Opal Ethelred “Red” Rogers has her whole life shaken time and time again. I agree with another reviewer that some “adult” reactions to Red’s experiences are unexpected, but the narrative rings true even if it is a little repetitious. The best part of Bridgford’s writing is the descriptive imagery. The use of scientific geologic terminology juxtaposed with gorgeous narrative was stunning. The deliberate placement of words was like carefully laying beautiful stones for an ornate patio. The end result is not only solid as rock, but beautiful as well.Told from the perspective teenage girl. Like how A Great and Terrible Beauty was about a girl who lost her mother at an any early, so does the first person protagonist, Red in Halfway to Schist; only, their widowed fathers take different paths when trying to decide how to care for their coming of age daughters. One father sends his daughter off to boarding school while Halfway to Schist’s father takes Red to a remote island to rebuild a derelict camp. Like all girls in a similar situation, Red dreams of her mother and tries to make the best of her post-mom life. That is where the similarities end. The father in A Great and Terrible Beauty disconnects from his daughter and the story turns into a fantasy. In Halfway to Schist Red and her father are emotionally synched and grounded in a very real universe. Father and daughter sigh at the same time, they hold their collective breath at the same time. Despite this closeness, the summer of 1955 brings an end to innocence and childhood. Serious events occur in Red’s young teenage life; too serious for someone so young. As an adult looking back, she is able to tell the story of a near rape, racial prejudice, and a murder with near unemotional stoicism.

As an aside, Bridgford was so specific about a pair of shoes I had to look them up: Converse Blue Lapel Bosey boots. They are actually pretty cool.

Neuromancer

Gibson, William, Neuromancer. Read by Robertson Dean. Penguin Audio, 2011.

Reason read: October was once dubbed Computer Learning Month. I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge under the category of speculative fiction. This also served as a book for the category of book with a one-word title.

I was pleasantly surprised by Neuromancer. I think it is fair to say, and I’ll say it again for the cheap seats, people know I dislike science fiction. This one was different. Very different. Gibson writes with such color and texture. There is brilliance in every fast-paced sentence and word. Combined with a razor-sharp eye for descriptive detail, I was hooked. Take Gibson’s phrase “insect-calm” as an example. Think about it. Insects do not have readable facial expressions. Everything an insect does is without so-called emotion. [As an aside, right after I wrote that sentence someone dropped a dead praying mantis on my desk.] Example number two: consider Gibson’s ability to take the absolute absurd and make it so commonplace it becomes believable. Learn his lexicon and a whole new world will reveal itself to you. Holographs abound. People run around with vaginas on their wrists. Aftershave does smell metallic. Really.
Our hero, Henry Dorsett Case, is a typical down-and-out character driven by guilt and addiction. He used to be the best data thief out there until ex-employers sabotaged and nearly destroyed his nervous system. Nowadays he’s broken beyond belief and mourning the fact the bad guys killed his girlfriend for revenge. He connection to life is only through his work. Sounds like a Hollywood movie. One that has tried but failed to get off the ground. Case has become literally a thing for hire. Paired with Molly Millions (aka Rose Kolodny, Cat Mother, and Steppin’ Razor), Case is blackmailed into working for an ex-military mercenary in need of a ROM module. I’m going to stop there.

Author fact: gibson has written a ton of other stuff but I am only reading Neuromancer and Pattern Recognition for the Challenge. I find it amazing that Neuromancer was Gibson’s debut novel.

Book trivia: Neuromancer has a huge impact on society. It became a movie (of course) as well as a video game and inspited hundred of science fiction “cyberpunk” writers. It is rumored the word “cyberspace” was coined by Gibson.

Nancy said: Pearl said to read Neuromancer as the book that started cyberpunk.

BookLust Twist: for all of the high praise, I am surprised Neuromancer is in only one Lust book, Book Lust in the sole chapter called “Cyberspace.com” (p 69). After some thought, I have decided Pearl was right to only include Neuromancer once. If you read the wiki page about the novel, you will see many, many people were interested in bringing Gibson’s book to the stage in the form of an opera or to the big screen as a movie. None of these endeavors panned out for one reason or another.

Left Hand of Darkness

Le Guin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness. Ace Books, 1969.

Reason read: October is Fantasy month. Also, I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge for the category of book published in the year you were born.

To read the classic Left Hand of Darkness is to discover a completely different way of thinking. To understand just how advanced Le Guin’s vision was in 1969 you need to consider at that time, in 1969, where society stood in regards to technology, human sexuality, and cultural constraints. When she describes electric vehicles with their super quiet hum and the gender fluid planet of Winter/Gethen, it feels very 21st century. Interestingly enough, the role of “pervert” on Gethen is assigned to what we would consider normal (assigned) gender today. I find that extremely interesting. As an aside, is it still true that Earth is freewheeling and without tact? I think so.
Mr. Ai (artificial intelligence?) is on a mission to bring an alliance between Gethen and Ekumen. The only thing I have in common with misogynist Ai in that I also like sour beer. His “friendships” are based on need and slim tolerance.
The message of Left Hand of Darkness is the tiny spark of hope despite all the darkness that surrounds us. It is worth rereading over and over again. As both authors of the foreword and afterword of the anniversary edition mention, there is something new to discover each time.

Author fact: Le Guin died in 2018.

Book trivia: this is a reread for me. I read it in high school as well as grade school.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Left Hand of Darkness.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 215).

Kindred

Butler, Octavia, E. Kindred. Read by Kim Staunton. Audio Books, 2007.

Reason read: The audio book for Kindred was released on September 12th, 2007. Read in honor of that event. I also needed a book with a one word title for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

This was a hard read. I know what Butler was trying to do and it worked almost too well. Even just reading the fact that nigger was not a derogatory term in southern Maryland in 1815 was painful. I didn’t know how I would get through the much, much, much harsher treatment of slaves, but I did. Dana, a modern woman from the 1970s, finds herself time-traveling back to pre-Civil War Maryland. At first it seems as if Dana is going back in time to protect the future of her very existence. It’s much deeper than that. There were many themes introduced in Kindred. Probably the most profound theme surrounded literacy. The ability to read was controversial in the mid 1800s. Seen as a threat to whites, cherished as a secret communication for slaves, the ability to read symbolized power and a different form of freedom. Confessional: after Dana’s first jump I was disturbed by her early acceptance of time travel. She wasn’t as freaked out about time jumping between present day Los Angeles and slave era Maryland as I thought realistic. Add in the fact she accidentally took her white husband with her and a whole other dynamic gets introduced. Another confessional: I read this so fast I can barely remember the details except to say the violence stayed with me for a very long time, even if the entire plot didn’t.

Author fact: Butler passed away in 2006.

Book trivia: I could picture this being a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl only includes Kindred in a list of books about time travel one might enjoy.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Time Travel” (p 221).

Farmer Giles of Ham

Tolkien, J.R.R. Farmer Giles of Ham: The Rise and Wonderful Adventures of Farmer Giles, Lord Tame Count of Worminghall and Knight of the Little Kingdom. Embelished by Pauline Baynes. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976.

Reason read: October is Fantasy Month. I also needed a book for the category of “Book I wish I had read as a child” for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

Farmer Giles (aka Aegidius Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola De Hammo) lives in a kingdom where giants and dragons occasionally terrorize the community. Normally one to mind his own business and not get involved, Farmer Giles is seen as a hero after he chases off a giant terrorizing the village and squashing livestock. After such accidental bravado, it is only natural that the village appoint Farmer Giles as the one to slay a greedy dragon (worm) when it comes calling on Ham. With a talking dog and an overworked mare, Giles accepts the challenge. The result is as humorous as it is childish. This is a book for children of all ages, after all.

Quote I liked, “It ran through the realm like fire and lost nothing in the telling” (p 40). That’s the sign of a good rumor. Note to self: beyond being a hero, it is good to be a darling.

Author fact: Everyone knows Tolkien for his Lord of the Rings series. I have to admit, I had never heard of Farmer Giles of Ham until Book Lust.

Book trivia: Farmer Giles of Ham is hailed as a book for children but I have to agree with one reviewer that it is a book for all ages. At only 64 pages it is a quick read.

Nancy said: Pearl said Tolkien’s Farmer Giles of Ham has one of her favorite quotes about the possibilities of fantasy.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213). As an aside, I am really putting a dent in this chapter this year.

Brooklyn

Toibin, Colm. Brooklyn. Scribner, 2009.

Reason read: October is festival month in Ireland. Time to celebrate the green isle. I also needed a book with a one-word title for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

Colm Toibin writes with such clear sincerity one can easily walk in young Eilis Lacey’s shoes as she navigates entry into adulthood. Unable to find decent employment in rural Ireland, she is taken under the wing of Father Flood, an Irish priest who has emigrated to the big city of Brooklyn, New York; the land of opportunity. Father Flood has seen Eilis’s talents and believes she will do well in America. Leaving behind her widowed and weak mother and vivacious sister, Eilis slowly makes a life for herself in her strange new city. Even though she is naive she finds work, starts college for a career in book keeping, and even finds a nice Italian boy with whom to fall in love. But, Brooklyn is not Ireland. It’s not even close to feeling like home. No one is her true family. When she is called back to Ireland following a family tragedy, it is no surprise that Eilis falls comfortably back into old routines. Only this time she is a different, more confident young woman. Both worlds feel right to her. Both worlds are home but which one will she chose?

I found myself identifying with Eilis in small insignificant ways. I wear makeup when I need a little extra courage. I think my sister is the coolest person on the planet.

As an aside, I found myself humming “My sister Rose” by 10,000 Manaics after every reading of Brooklyn. It could have been sung from the perspective of Eilis Lacey.

Author fact: Toilbin has written a bunch of other books. I am reading a total of four of them for the Book Challenge.

Book trivia: Brooklyn was made into a movie in November 2015.

Nancy said: Pearl explained that Brooklyn was in the Ireland chapter of Book Lust To Go because the first and last parts take place in a “beautifully evoked” small Irish town (p 111).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Ireland: Beyond Joyce, Behan, Beckett, and Synge” (p 110).

Haunting of Hill House

Jackson, Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House. Pengin Horror, 2013.

Reason read: October is the time for spooky stories. I also needed a story where the house is central to the plot for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge. This fit the bill.

Any story endorsed by Stephen King is going to be a thriller. At least, one would think. Such is the case with The Haunting of Hill House. I was thrilled with it. Jackson is masterful at making an old mansion come alive in subtle, yet ominous ways. For starters, the house is built all wrong. Jackson obviously understood that symmetry is the key to desired beauty, so to make something ugly it has to be confusing with uneven angles that defy logic. Sightlines would not make sense. Doors have to lead nowhere. Staircases turn inhabitants around to the point of dizzying confusion. Despite all this, a certain Dr. Montegue has heard all the rumors about Hill House and cannot wait to investigate the so-called haunted house. He has been waiting for a house like this all his life. His “guests” Eleanor Vance and Theodora (first name only Theodora) join him and the heir to Hill House, Luke Sanderson, in a quest to search out the ghosts and paranormal activity.
Rules of the house: try not to close any doors, keep lights on at all times, don’t try to leave the house at night, never get separated and/or try to do everything together. It goes wothout saying, they all fail at one or all of these commands at one time or another. Hill House starts to show its personality when it first drops the tempature. The colder the room, the closer the threat. Then it tries to get the group to break up by masterfully turning them against one another. Eleanor is the obvious weakest link. She feel empty before even coming to Hill House. The death of her mother weighs on her and guilt threatens to strangle her at every quiet moment. Guess who falls prey to the house?

As an aside, my father-in-law was not a fan of neither the book nor the movie. I’m not sure why. Since it’s October, I watched both versions of the remake. I can’t tell you which one I liked better. The 1963 version was more true to the novel, but the 1999 version was scarier (people actually die in the latter version).

Author fact: Jackson died in North Bennington, Vermont. Just up the road from me.

Book trivia: The Haunting of Hill House was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1959. It was also made into a kooky little movie in 1963.

Nancy said: Pearl had lots to say about The Haunting of Hill House. She said it cemented Jackson’s reputation (despite two bad movies). She called it a classic that has been “scaring people” since it was first written. She also said it was a “superb” example of the range horror fiction.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice, once in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 100) and again, in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 217). A little redundant.