“At the Rialto”

Willis, Connie. “At the Rialto.” Impossible Things. New York: Bantam Books, 1993.

Reason read: June is Short Story month.

Dr. Ruth Baringer, a quantum physicist, runs into obstacles everywhere she turns trying to attend a conference in America’s playground, Hollywood, California. She can’t even check into her room without it becoming a major event. Trying to attend different events at the conference become confused and convoluted. Even trying to connect with her roommate is impossible. Everything is insane. Meanwhile, a colleague wants her to go to the movies instead…after all, they are in Hollywood.

Story trivia: “At the Rialto” won a Nebula Award for best novelette.

Author fact: Willis was given the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 2012.

Nancy said: Pearl said Willis also wrote “wonderful” short stories and mention “At the Rialto” as one not to be missed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: To Good To Miss” (p 246).


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).


Soldiers of God

Kaplan, Robert D. Soldiers of God: with Islamic Warriors on Afghanistan and Pakistan. New York: Random House, 2001.

Reason read: Khomeini died in the month of June.

Soldiers of God provides the historical context for the emergence of the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network. Given the devastation of September 11th, 2001 the republishing of this book was timely and smart on Kaplan’s part. Robert Kaplan first traveled to Afghanistan and lived among the mujahidin (soldiers of God) back in the mid 1980s. It was on this journey that Kaplan came to witness the rise of the Taliban. More than that, he acquired the colors to paint a vivid picture of a society few Americans see: refugee camps, harsh drought, pervasive illiteracy, militant indoctrination, fierce piety, and ethnic battle lines. In the unity of prayer was practically the only form of democracy; all whispering the name of God one hundred times.
Kaplan digs deep to uncover the hidden side effects of the Soviet invasion – malaria outbreaks, for example. Thanks to stagnant pools of mosquito infested water caused by pervasive destruction of irrigation systems.

Quotes to quote, “The idea of fighting for political freedom is an easy one to grasp until you see in the flesh what the cost is” (p 143) and “After twenty four hours in Querta, my instinct told me that if a man possessed no furniture, he also possessed no useful information” (p 200).

Author fact: According to the back cover of his book, Kaplan is a “world affairs expert.”

Book trivia: Soldiers of God was first published in 1990. Pearl mentioned a newer edition with a updated introduction and final chapter.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Soldiers of God as a good book about militant Islam.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Islamic World” (p 126).


Sacrificial June

June was all about giving up various elements of my life for the sake of family. I’ll go off the book review protocol to say one nice gesture threw off a myriad of plans. Because of one nice gesture I:

  • sacrificed a camping trip,
  • postponed my first trip of the season to Monhegan,
  • cancelled plans with my mother,
  • lost four training days,
  • lost hours of sleep but gained a kink in my back due to sleeping on an air mattress,
  • got behind on reading and writing end of year reports,
  • spent more money than I budgeted due to a cancelled flight,
  • missed a day of work, and
  • have no idea if I actually helped or not.

Anyway. Enough of that. On with the books:

Fiction:

  • Book of Reuben by Tabitha King
  • Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • Sun Storm by Asa Larsson

Nonfiction:

  • Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan
  • From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll

Series continuations:

  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling
  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian
  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

Short Stories:

  • “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above”
    by Sherman Alexie
  • “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis
  • “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
  • “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “What You Pawn I will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
  • “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx
  • “Harrowing Journey” by Joel P. Kramer
  • “Ado” by Connie Willis

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).


Prelude to Foundation

Asimov, Isaac. Prelude to Foundation. New York: Spectra, 1989.

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

Prelude to Foundation begins the entire Foundation series chronologically. On the planet Tranton Hari Seldon is alive and well. He has just given a speech on mathematical formulas that could potentially predict the future of mankind. That’s when the trouble starts. The last galactic emperor has gotten wind of this phenomenon and he wants in. Seldon’s advance predictions could potential stabilize his dynasty. Seldon needs to go into exile in order to escape Emperor Cleon’s clutches. As Seldon puts it, “if a psychohistorical analysis is made and the results are then given to the public, the various emotions and reactions of humanity would at once be distorted” (p 17). He needs time to develop his notions further and perfect his psychohistorical technique so that it becomes mathematically valid predictions. With the help of mysterious Mr. Hummin Hari is spirited far away with Historian Professor Dors Venabili. Together they travel to different lands of intolerance like Mycogen where they discover a society that despises hair on adults. Another carries a severe prejudice against women which is ironic since Dors has the responsibility of protecting Seldon.

Best quote, “What is important is what people will or will not believe can be done” (p 497).

Author fact: I’ve already told you twice that Asimov was a professor of biochemistry. The “new” fact is Asimov supposedly coined the word “robotics” in his story, Liar!

Book trivia: Chronologically, Prelude to Foundation is the first book in the series.

Nancy said: nothing specific.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


“Brokeback Mountain”

Proulx, Annie. Brokeback Mountain. New York: Scribner, 1997.

Reason read: June is Short Story Month and LGBTQ Pride month.

Confessional: I saw the movie before I even started the Book Challenge. As a a rule, I would rather read the book first so my imagination is not tainted by images of the movie. I can only compare this avoidance to a hearing a song and how you sometimes lose the interpretation after you see the accompanying music video.
Having said all that, I was surprised at how the written story moved so fast. In a mere sixty-four pages Proulx tells the devastating story of Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. Both young men find themselves on the same job as ranchers guarding sheep on Brokeback Mountain in beautiful Montana. One accepted amorous advance leads to a deep connection that time and space cannot sever or erase. The love they have for one another remains strong despite the fact they put distance between them and move on to have relationships with women.

Line that moved me the most, “In a disquieting way everything seemed mixed up” (p 16).
Oddly enough, I didn’t take notice of the movie’s most famous line “I wish I knew how to quit you.” It is an original line from the book but there were others I liked better.

Author fact: E. Annie Proulx has ties to Connecticut.

Book trivia: Everyone knows of the 2005 movie starring Jake Gellenhaal and Heath Ledger. It won an MTV award for best kiss…or something like that.

Nancy said: Pearl called “Brokeback Mountain” Proulx’s “most famous story” (Book Lust To Go p 264), but that surprised me. In regards to the written word I would have figured Postcards or Shipping News to be more well known. Maybe the movie is the reason “Brokeback” is more widely known. Pearl calls the movie “superb.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “WY Ever Not?” (p 264).