Dubliners

Joyce, James. Dubliners. New York: Signet, 1991.

When I was in high school I fell in love with James Joyce’s style of writing. We share the same birthday. The Dead, a short story from Dubliners was my all time favorite. Gabriel became my favorite name; a long lost child.

Dubliners is comprised of 15 short  and simple stories all centered around the people of Dublin. To sum up the collection it is a portrait of a city as seen from the eyes of the people living there. The very first story, The Sisters, is nothing more than a family’s reaction to a priest’s death. While the characters are not connected, their stories are. Life and death, love and loss, youth and aging, poverty and wealth. Joyce does a remarkable job capturing the spirit of the Irish while revealing universal truths about mankind as a whole. It is as if we, as readers, get to peek into the character’s lives and are witness to moments of our own circumstances.

What I find so remarkable about Dubliners is that Joyce originally had great trouble getting it published. And even after he finally did it didn’t sell that well.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Irish Fiction” (p 125). Where else? Edited to add: I’ll tell you where else…Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Ireland: Beyond Joyce, Behan, Beckett, and Synge” (p 110). I guess you could say Dubliners shouldn’t be included in this chapter because it’s supposed to be about “beyond Joyce.” Something to think about.


Cask of Amontillado

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Cask of Amontillado. Mahwah: Troll Publications, 1982.

Okay, okay. I admit it. The version I read of Edgar Allan Poe’s Cask of Amontillado was from my library’s Education Curriculum Library – a kids version. Only 32 pages long and brightly illustrated, it was a pleasure to read… in about five minutes. But, that’s not to say I haven’t read it before in it’s original text. And…I reread it online again thanks to the Gutenberg project.

The Cask of Amontillado is a psychological, creepy thriller. Perfect for October. Montressor has had his ego wounded badly by Fortunato. Looking for revenge Montressor waits until Fortunato is well in the drink and can be lured away to his death. The entire story is a study in human failings.
Montressor is able to convince Fortunato to come with him because Fortunato cannot bear the idea of another man playing the expert in identifying Montressor’s Amontillado wine. Montressor uses this jealousy to spur Fortunato deeper into the catacombs. At the same time Montressor showers Fortunato with concerns for his health in an effort to steer Fortunato away from suspicion. For Fortunato cannot suspect a trap if he is the one insistent on continuing deeper into Montressor’s underground chambers.
The reader never does find out what insults Montressor has suffered at the hands of Fortunato. The wrong doing is certainly not as important as the revenge.

Favorite scene: Fortunato questions Montressor’s membership as a brother, a mason. Montressor unveils his trowel as a sign but Fortunato never questions why he would have such a thing with him at that moment.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Horror for Sissies” (p 119).


Crime Novels

Polito, Robert. Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s & 40s. New York: Library of America, 1997.

Something scary for Halloween. Six different stories about crime. Three of them are novels already on my list. Go figure.

  1. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
  2. They Shoot Horses Don’t They? by Horace McCoy
  3. The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing

and three others:

  • Thieves Like Us by Edward Anderson
  • Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham
  • I Married a Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich

From The Postman Always Rings Twice~ I have always wanted to know what this story was all about. Written in 1934 it tells the sexy, gritty tale of Frank Chambers, a drifter who finds himself grounded by Cora Papadakis, a married woman. Cora’s beauty and instant mutual attraction leads to Frank’s uncharacteristic staying put. Soon the adulterous couple is contemplating murder. The plot is timeless. Desire has led them to the devil’s doorstep.
Favorite lines: “I kissed her. Her eyes were shining up at me like two blue stars. It was like being in church” (p13).
“Then the devil went to bed with us, and believe you me, kid, he sleeps pretty good” (p 70).
What Nancy had to say about : “…filled with desperate, scheming men and women…” (Pearl, Nancy. Book Lust, p66).

From They Shoot Horses Don’t They?: This was a bizarre, psychological tale about two kids with very different dreams. Robert is looking to be a film producer and Gloria wants to be an actress. They pair up and enter a Hollywood dance contest knowing Hollywood bigwigs would be in attendance. The contest is all about making money, working the contestants like racehorses, making bigger and better stunts to attract sponsors and a bigger audience. Analogies to horse racing are abundant. From the title of the book it is obvious what happens in the end, but it’s a fascinating read just the same.
What Nancy had to say, “…wonderfully grungy dance-marathon nightmare novel” (Book Lust p 67).

From Thieves Like Us ~ : I found this to be a very slow moving, almost methodical story. Written in 1937 it tells the tale of three bank robbers: Elmo Mobley, T.W. Masefeld and Bowie A. Bowers. While the story of these thieves as fugitives on the run is interesting, what makes the entire piece come alive is the vivid imagery used to describe the landscape these men hide in. Across Texas and Oklahoma’s back country there are many farmhouses and hideaways to keep the story moving. Favorite lines: Oddly enough, the dedication caught my eye: “To my cousin and my wife, because there I was with an empty gun and you, Roy, supplied the ammunition and you, Anne, directed my aim” (p 216). Here’s where my sick mind went with this: Roy (the cousin) had an affair with Anne (the wife). Don’t mind me.
Second favorite line: “The moon hung in the heavens like a shred of fingernail” (p 224). There have been a lot of interesting moon descriptions, but I liked this one a lot.

The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing started out slow. George Stroud works for a conglomerate of magazines in their Crimeways department. He is a simple family man with a wife and daughter, but his dreams and ambitious are big. When he has an affair with his boss’s girlfriend and she winds up bludgeoned to death things get a little tricky. It’s a story of conspiracy and cat and mouse. George must prove his innocence when everything points to the contrary. Once it gets going it’s fascinating!
From The Big Clock: “The eye saw nothing but innocence, to the instincts she was undiluted sex, the brain said here was a perfect hell” (p 383), “He said how nice Georgette was looking which was true, how she always reminded him of carnivals and Hallowe’en” (p 385) and “I could feel the laborious steps her reasoning took before she reached a tentative, spoken conclusion” (p 393).
What Nancy Pearl had to say, “…edgy corporate-as-hell thriller” (Book Lust p 66).

Nightmare Alley was intriguing on many different levels. It was the ultimate “what goes around comes around” story. The lives of carnival entertainers serves as the backdrop for Stanton Carlise’s rise and fall. He joins the carnival and soon picks of the tricks of Zeena, the Seer. Once Stan the Great learns the craft (an inadvertently commits murder) he leaves the carny and sets out on his own as a Mentalist, becoming greedier and greedier for taking the sucker’s buck. Soon he passes himself off as a priest with the capability of bringing loved ones back from the dead. Constantly running from troubles in his own life Stan gets himself deeper and deeper until no one is trustworthy.

I Married a Dead Man by Cornell Woolrich was probably my favorite. You don’t know much about Helen Georgesson before she assumes the identity of Patrice Hazzard. The facts are Helen is a pregnant girl, riding the rails with 17 cents to her name. A chance encounter and a terrible accident leave Helen with a case of mistaken identity. For the opportunity to start life anew and give her baby a better life Helen accepts Patrice’s identity as her own. Living the life of luxury doesn’t come easy when Helen’s past comes to town and threatens to unveil her true self.

BookLust Twist: Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s & 40s can be found in Book Lust in the chapter, “Les Crimes Noir” (p 65).


Artemis Fowl

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Colfer, Eion. Artemis Fowl. New York: Talk Miramax Books, 2001.

Another book that I finished in a day. I suppose it helped that it’s a book for young adults so it was a breeze to read. The real reason was it was a fun read.

Meet Artemis Fowl. Only 12 years old but already a millionaire – a criminally brilliant millionaire. When we first meet Artemis we learn he is out to kidnap a fairy. Let the games begin! From the very beginning Artemis Fowl is full of folklore. Besides fairies there are goblins, dwarfs, gnomes, a centaur, trolls and the ever tantalizing hoard of gold. Artemis, though only 12, has devised a plan to rid the fairies of their riches by using their own powers against them. For being a childrens’ book it is pretty fast paced and violent.

Favorite lines: “…A ragged apron does not a waiter make” (p 4), and “Holly unhooked a set of wings from their bracket. They were double ovals, with a clunky motor. She moaned. Dragonflies. She hated that model….now the Hummingbird Z&, that was transport” (p50). Can you just see it? Fairies don’t have wings! They have strap-ons! The idea that Holly was “stuck” with Dragonflies rather than her preferred Hummingbirds cracked me up.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, ”

ps~ From what I understand Artemis Fowl was made into a movie. This is one to put on the NetFlix list!

Special thank youuuuu to Kisa Too Cool for posting…


Big If

Costello, Mark. Big If: a Novel. New York: W. W. Norton, 2002.

I love it when everything about a book comes together. Meaning, when the plot is exciting and moves along like a river after a good hard rain and characters are detailed and dynamic and even the small stuff is interesting. When all these things come together I can’t put a book down. I read this over the weekend. that should tell you something.

Jens and Vi Asplund are adult siblings with very different lives. Jens lives in New Hampshire with his real estate wife and toddler son. He spends his days as a computer programmer writing programs for violent video games his patriotic father never approved of. His sister, Violet is Secret Service bodyguard sworn to protect the life of the Vice President of the United States during an election campaign. She has nothing that resembles a social life, a love life, or even a home life. If she is lonely she would never admit it.

Big If  takes you inside the creative and neurotic genius of software programmers. Simultaneously, you are drawn into every potential threat made to high powered public officials, as well as reliving old threats-come-true like the assassination attempt on President Reagan. Jens and Vi couldn’t have different lives and seem worlds apart…until they collide.

Favorite line: “This was another Rocky trick, fukc this legalistic sh!t, talk to crazy people in the crazy people language” (p36).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “New England Novels” (p 177).

Special thanks to the Hot One for posting…


Accidental Tourist ~with spoiler

Tyler, Anne. The Accidental Tourist. New York: Berkley, 1985.

This was a reread. I couldn’t remember anything about it and rules are rules: if I don’t remember the plot, I don’t remember the main characters or, I don’t remember how it ended I read it again. This one was a cinch. I reread it in a day.

Macon Leary is a man stuck in his ways. He’s so eccentric I almost disliked him in the beginning…until I met his family. They’re all the same way. Macon is the author of unique travel books centered around business travel. The problem is Macon doesn’t like to travel, doesn’t like meeting new people, doesn’t like being in unfamiliar places. Upon separating from his wife Macon’s whole life turns upside down. He learns how to feel emotions, to see the world as if through the eyes of a completely different person. The Accidental Tourist takes you on a journey of awakening and growth.

Lines that hooked me: “Could you really drive a car without reversing?” (p 18). Okay, not the most poetic of lines, but here’s the story: Kisa has a coworker who consistently parks in the turn around instead of using the lot – the huge lot. We used to complain about it until we found out his car couldn’t reverse!
“”She always seemed about to fall over the brink of something” (p 63). Love the imagery!
“Macon got out Miss MacIntosh just for something to pin his mind to” (318). It was at this moment that I knew Macon loved Muriel and would return to her. Don’t ask me why.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter, “Real Characters” (p 197). Incidentally, The Accidental Tourist was made into a movie. I’m thinking if Nancy Pearl ever writes another Lust book she should include books made into movies (worth seeing). I’m betting she would include this one.


Carry On, Jeeves

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Wodehouse, P.G. Carry On, Jeeves. New York: A.L. Burt, 1927.

This book just feels good in my hands. Published 10 years before my father was even born, it even looks its age. I guess I just like old books.

Carry on, Jeeves is a series of stories about how Jeeves acts as man-servant while repeatedly saving the day for Bertram Wooster. Each chapter sets up a different dilemma “Bertie” and/or his friends face and how Jeeves cleverly resolves every one of those dilemmas. There is a formula to these moments of crisis: someone is usually misleading a family member (usually an aunt) to think he is wealthy, in another part of the country, worth marrying, not worth marrying, etc. Jeeves’s solution is to mislead the “aunt” with a lie or two.  The lie is the smallest of gestures and usually something humorous happens – like the plan backfiring. While the general plot seems repetitious, Wodehouse’s style of writing is very funny. Side note: Bertie and Jeeves always seem to get into curious arguments about fashion.

Lines I liked: “I strained the old bean to meet this emergency” (p 47).
“I’m never much of a lad till I’ve engulfed an egg or two and a beaker of coffee (p 89).
“If this was going to be a fish-story, I needed stimulants” (p 167).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “P.G. Wodehouse: Too Good To Miss” (p 235). What I find hysterical about Pearl’s entry is her first sentence: “If you can ignore his somewhat rummy behavior…” (p 235). “Rummy” is a word Wodehouse uses over and over and over in Carry On, Jeeves.


Good Enough Parent

Bettelheim, Bruno. A Good Enough Parent. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987.

It’s funny that this was written in the year I graduated from high school and went onto college. I consider 1987 one of the biggest “brink” years – standing on the brink of something bigger. However, reading this 21 years later reminds me of something else: homework!

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids (and the fact I’ll never have kids) that I didn’t find A Good Enough Parent all that interesting. Instead it was rather dry and psychological. Nancy Pearl says this book is a must for any new parent. I honestly do not know when any new parent would have the time! Pearl also goes on to say, “Be forewarned: Bettelheim’s perspective is very psychoanalytical” (Book Lust p 30). He does make the text a little easier (interesting) by including personal anecdotes and compelling stories to punctuate his point.

Lines I like: “None of this holds true for what happens between a parent and child. Anything that occurs in their relationship is heir to a long and complicated history” (p 5).
“I feel that a parent’s most important task is to get a feeling for what things may mean to his child” (p 14).
“Parental anxiety makes life very difficult for parent and child, since the child responds to the anxiety of the parents with even more severe anxiety” (p 41).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Babies: A Readers Guide” (p 30).


Far Side of Paradise

Mizener, Arthur. The Far Side of Paradise: a Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951.

This was my third nonfiction read for the month of September. I don’t know what got me on this reality kick (as opposed to fiction). But, I’m glad I did. Far Side of Paradise was a very interesting read.

Originally written in 1941, Mizener takes great care to weave an analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work into the details of his life. The result is a well balanced biography, bringing “Scott” as he is referred to throughout the book, alive on many different levels. Mizener put a great deal of research into writing Far Side but his style is not dry, nor overly academic. The entire biography is peppered with humor and an easy conversational style. “Meanwhile he [Fitzgerald] had begun to write and had become St. Paul Academy’s star debater (no one had found means to shut him up)” (p 18) is just an example of the humor embedded in Mizener’s biography. The only thing I really found missing were pictures. I would have enjoyed seeing the styles of the 1920s and 30s. The stories of the parties the Fitzgeralds used to have are hysterical.

Another favorite line (a quote from Zelda, Fitzgerald’s own wife): “‘It seems to me that on one page I recognize a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters which…sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr Fitzgerald – I believe that is how he spells his name – seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home” (p 125).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Literary Lives: The Americans” (p 145). Pearl calls Mizener’s biography of Fitzgerald “one of the best” and while I haven’t read that many, I definitely agree this was a great book.


Nowhere city


Lurie, Alison. The Nowhere City. New York: Coward-McCain, 1966.

I just literally put this book down minutes ago. All during the reading I stressed aboult what to say about it. It’s not that I hated it. It’s really enjoyable – a short, fun read. What I didn’t care for were the main characters.

New Englanders Paul and Katherine move to Los Angeles so that Paul can write the history of a rather large (and secretive) corporation. Paul has been hired by them (as a historian) to write this book for them, yet there are all sorts of confidentiality issues. Katherine hates LA. From the moment she arrives her sinuses have been acting up and she hates everything and nearly everyone around her…including her husband. Paul is the polar opposite and in his exuberance for the city and culture, finds himself involved with a local bohemian artist/waitress. Soon, Paul’s new life spins out of control while Katherine has a more gradual, precise metamorphosis. It’s no surprise that in the end it’s Katherine who loves L.A. and Paul who can’t wait to leave. It is hard to drum up sympathy for either character. Right from the start Katherine comes across as overly whiny and Paul is eager to have his first Californication affair. Of course there are movie stars and counter-culture characters that make the rest of the plot lively.

Favorite lines: “She had forgotten handbags, suitcases, packages, contracts, and every imaginable  and unimaginable piece of clothing, in every imaginable and unimaginable place. She had also, at one time or another, misplaced a pregnant police dog, a pink Edsel automobile, and two husbands” (p 24).

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


Diaries of Jane Somers

Lessing, Doris. The Diaries of Jane Somers: The Diary of a Good Neighbour and If the Old Could… New York: Vintage, 1984.

Here’s what I find fascinating about Doris Lessing – she wanted to publish something pseudonymously. She chose the name Jane Somers, wrote in a completely different voice and then submitted  The Diaries of a Good Neighbour. Her own publishers turned her down. One publisher (who accepted the Somers work) was reminded of Doris Lessing! Can you imagine writing with such personal style that its recognizable without an author name attached? Even after you try to hide your true voice? That, to me, is real fame in the world of writing!

The Diaries of Jane Somers is comprised of two emotional, very telling, sad novels, The Diary of a Good Neighbour and If the Old Could…. In The Diary of a Good Neighbour Jane befriends an elderly woman. What I find fascinating about this story is Jane herself. She is middle-aged, has no children, and is a highly successful, fashionable editor of a woman’s magazine. She comes across as unfeeling and snobbish. She barely mourns the loss of her husband to cancer, is decidedly cold about the death of her mother by the same disease, and is completely disconnected from her sister. With no real friends of her own she even shuns her elderly neighbor desperate for companionship. Oddly enough, Jane meets Maudie, a dirty, ferociously proud woman in her 90’s and instantly feels a connection. The Diary of a Good Neighbour not only details the two women and their remarkable friendship but voices what it means to be vulnerable, to have shame, and, to grow old in a society that prides itself on youthful appearances, vitality and independence.
If the Old Could…is a continuation of Jane’s story. Told several years after the death of Maudie (sorry, but you knew she couldn’t live forever, right?) Jane falls in love with a married man. This time her selflessness is poured into helping her nieces as well as finding what it means to truly hurt over another person.

Favorite lines: “She was literally inarticulate with anger” (p 59). This scene is like a chapter out of my own life. Not that my sister and I have ever had the conversation tied to this statement, but I could picture us having it.
“…I don’t know what children are, and I’m not entitled to say a word, because of my selfish childishness…” (p 62).
“Meanwhile I rage with sorrow” (79). Isn’t this just great? Some people imagine sorrow being this quiet, slow-moving, thick and heavy emotion yet Lessing turns it into this live-wire, powerfully explosive, loud and in your face emotion with one word, rage.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Aging” (p 17). Very appropriate.


Code Book

Singh, Simon. The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography. New York: Anchor Books, 1999.

My first September book and I started it a little late. I think it got to me by September 8th.

Much like how Mark Kurlansky makes a subject like salt interesting, Simon Singh makes all things code fascinating. From the very beginning The Code Book was informative and interesting. Peppered with photographs and diagrams, The Code Bookrecounted the events in history where the ability to break a code (or not) meant life or death. Beginning with Queen Mary of Scot’s attempted plot to murder Queen Elizabeth on through the first and second World Wars. The only time I really got bogged down was, of course, when Singh would get a little too detailed with mathematical explanations of more difficult codes and ciphers.

Love love love this line (from the introduction): “The only people who are in a position to point out my errors are also those who are not at liberty to reveal them” (p xvii). Brilliant!
Another good line: “This was clearly a period of history that tolerated a certain lack of urgency” (p 5). This sentence doesn’t make such sense as is. What I need to explain is that during the period of 480 B.C. secret messages were written on the shaved scalps of messengers. To disguise the message there was a waiting period while the messenger’s hair grew back in. I wish I could have told my nephew this story! He would have loved the idea of being a spy (see below)!

Dancing with Wrench

BookLust Twist: More Book Lust in the chapter, “Codes and Ciphers” (p 50), and in the introduction as an off-hand mention (p xi).


Devil in a Blue Dress

Mosley, Walter. Devil in a Blue Dress. New York: Pocket Books, 1990.

I have to admit I picked this book up by accident. I was vacationing and needed a quick book. Something to pick up while I waited for the pasta water came to a boil, or while the boys were still sleeping. I remembered this being part of the Challenge and decided to see if I could read it in less than 36 hours.

Devil in a Blue Dress is Walter Mosley’s first book and kicks off the Easy Rawlins series. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins is a black war WWII vet prone to violent flashbacks. In the beginning Devil in a Blue Dress he is fired from his defense plant job and doesn’t know how he’s going to pay the mortgage next month. By the second chapter Easy has been hired to locate a missing girlfriend, a devil in a blue dress, as they say. Throughout the next 200 pages Easy faces his share of violence, sex, racism and mystery but in the end, discovers a new found career – private investigations.

My favorite line: “He put up his hand as if he wanted me to bend down so he could whisper something but I didn’t think that anything he had to offer could improve my life” (p25). It’s that kind of sense of humor and sarcasm that carries Devil in a Blue Dress. You don’t realize that Mosley is telling you more than a story. He’s giving you a social commentary on what it meant to be a black man, riding the line of poverty in the 1940’s.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “Walter Mosley: Too Good To Miss” (p 169).


Postcards

Proulx, Annie E., Postcards. New York: Fourth Estate, 2004.

This was a hard book to read. Really dark and disconnected. I prefer books that have more flow to them. I haven’t read a lot of Proulx. I have to admit I don’t really even remember the title of the one I did read. How pathetic is that? I’m looking forward to the short stories because I think they will have less opportunity to be so disconnected and choppy.

I think what struck me about Postcards was how powerful the language was. While the plot was hard and gritty, the way it was told was strong and confident. Almost like someone yelling emphatically, if that makes sense. It’s the story of a farming family in New England. They are torn apart by the departure of the eldest son, Loyal. He has just killed his girlfriend and left her body under a pile of rocks in a nearby field. While the death was an accident, Loyal’s leaving and the slow disintegration of the farm was not. Tragedy follows the family wherever they go. The beauty of the saga is how each chapter is punctuated with a postcard. It’s these postcards that illustrate the changing times both for the nation and the family. Loyal often writes home, careful not to tell anyone where he really is. He continues to stay disconnected and this is apparent in what he shares with his family.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “It was a Dark and Stormy Novel” (p 128).


Dog Handling

Naylor, Clare. Dog Handling. New York: Ballentine Books, 2004.

When it comes to chick lit I think there has to be a trick to reading it. At least for me there are two tricks. Suspension of belief, first and foremost…and the ability to laugh out loud at some of the nonsense.

Dog Handling is the story (cute story!) of Liv Elliot, a soon-to-be married accountant in London’s Notting Hill district. When Liv’s fiance breaks off the engagement she flees to Australia to mend her not so broken heart. Australia brings new friendships, a new career opportunity, new men (of course), and a whole new way of dating them. Liv’s outlook on life changes once she learns the rules of “dog handling.”

Traditionally, I am not a big fan of mind games, overextended cliches and predictable sappy-happy endings and Dog Handling had all of the above. It took me sometime to stop making Bridget Jones comparisons and seeing Liv Elliot in her own bumbling, lovable, all’s well that ends well movie. Once I was able to get past all that I truly enjoyed the story. The characters were delightful and the plot, humorous. It was a great summer read.

Favorite lines: “After all, a foreign city is a foreign city, and until she knew the precise location of the nearest places to buy newspapers, tampons, and beer she wasn’t taking any chances” (p 40).
“Liv had been cutting split ends off her hair with a potato peeler” (p 232). What a great idea!

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter “Chick Lit” (p 54). Where else?