“Spoon Children”

Paine, Tom. “The Spoon Children.” Scar Vegas and Other Stories.New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2000.

Reason read: June is Short Story Month

Tom Paine has this ability to climb inside a character and absorb its persona so well you could swear he’s writing based on an intimate memory of his own. The people you meet in “The Spoon Children” are so believable and memorable you want to know what happens to them long after the story ends. You also have to wonder if the story isn’t a little autobiographical in the process. No wonder critics call him a ventriloquist.

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


Spiderweb For Two

Enright, Elizabeth. Spiderweb for Two: a Melendy Maze. New York: Listen & Live Audio, 2004.

Reason read: this is the last book in the series to celebrate Enright’s birth month (started in September). I have grown to really like this family. I will miss them.

Here were are, back with the Melendy family. Only inĀ Spiderweb for Two they are less than half the family they are used to being. Father is still traveling the university circuit as a guest lecturer and Mark, Mona and Rush are away at various schools. Left behind are Randy and her brother, Oliver, with the help, Cuffy and Willy. The rest of the family hasn’t been gone a day before Randy is beside herself with boredom. She doesn’t want to play with Oliver. He’s always been the baby of the family and therefore not worth her time…until she discovers a mystery. It starts with a message in the mailbox that takes them on a winter adventure. Each message is a clue to finding another message until they have received fourteen messages and all and it is summer once again.
It’s a cute story. Oliver getting stuck in the chimney was one of my favorite parts.

Profound quote, “Vigorously running bath water always caused Randy, as it does nearly everyone, to wish to sing” (p 80). This quote made me think of Natalie Merchant’s song, “Verdi Cries” and the lyric, “I fill the bath and climb inside, singing.” Maybe there is some truth to Enright’s words.

Author fact: Oliver was the name of Enright’s youngest boy, as it was in the Melendy series.

Book trivia: the e-audio version spells “Cuffy” as “Kaffi”.

Nancy said: absolutely nothing; just listed the title.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 21).


Freedom at Midnight

Collins, Larry and Dominique Lapierre. Freedom at Midnight. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975.

Reason read: November is the best time to visit India…or so they say.

I have to admit I had a love-hate relationship with Freedom at Midnight. At times I found it incredibly interesting while other times it was as boring as taupe. This is the kind of book a historian could really drool over. Often times it reads like a novel in its detail.
My takeaways: It is profound to think that the age old antagonism between the millions of Hindus and millions of Moslems is seemingly irreconcilable and Freedom at Midnight provides a wonderful, if abbreviated, biography of Gandhi.

Author fact(s): Larry Collins was born in Hartford, CT and Dominique Lapierre was born in France.

Book trivia: Freedom at Midnight include some pretty interesting photographs as well as one or two disturbing ones.

Nancy said: Reading Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie led Pearl to read Freedom at Midnight (from the Book Lust introduction). She also said Freedom at Midnight was “required reading for those interested in understanding colonial and postcolonial India from a non-Indian point of view” (p 125-126).

Confessional: I started to read Freedom at Midnight five (yes, five) years ago. The start of this blog has been hanging out since 2011.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust and More Book Lust. In Book Lust in the introduction (p xi) and in More Book Lust in the chapter called “India: A Reader’s Itinerary” (p 125).


River of Doubt

Millard, Candice. River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey. Read by Paul Michael. Westminster, MD: Books on Tape, 2005.

Reason: Theodore Roosevelt was the first American to win a Nobel Prize.

Millard paints Roosevelt’s biography in broad strokes, reviewing his fragile health as a child, the loss of his mother and wife in the same 24 hours (Valentine’s Day of all days), and his need to push his physical limits when faced with tragedies or failures. It is this need that sets the stage for Millard’s true focus: Roosevelt’s South American expedition to an uncharted tributary of the Amazon. He refused to go where everyone else had trod and yet, he expected the excursion to be ho-hum and without incident. Silly man. Millard’s account of the expedition has it all, excitement, adventure, violence, death and madness.

As an aside, can I just say I loved the fact that packed among Roosevelt’s supplies was a bottle of Tabasco? Not just hot sauce, but Tabasco by name.

Author fact: Millard used to be the editor for National Geographic Magazine.

Book trivia: My favorite photograph in River of Doubt is one of Kermit. His piercing stare says it all.

Audio trivia: Paul Michael’s accents are great.

Nancy said: “fast paced, well written and difficult to put down” (p 17). I would definitely agree.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the obvious chapter called “Amazonia” (p 17).


Yoga for Athletes

Cunningham, Ryanne. Yoga for Athletes. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2017.

Reason read: Early review program for LibraryThing.

Disclaimer: I had to use this book for a few weeks before I could review it. I am a firm believer in yoga to supplement all sports activity.

  • Likes: Pose finder index was very helpful.
  • Photographs of people with different body types was great (instead of photographs all of the same model).
  • Testimonies from professional and nonprofessional athletes add character to the book.
  • Sections on specific sports to target key areas for those who want “quick” routines. I’m a runner so I jumped right to “my” section a few times.
  • Directional language is very straightforward.

Dislikes:

  • some poses have modifications while others do not. All poses can be modified.
  • Some redundancy – some poses are shown more than once (cat cow, spine rolling, boat pose to name a few). The duplication implies filler, like there was no enough content for a complete book.
  • Some sections out of sequence; warming up poses before the “warming up” chapter, for example.
  • No warning on the more dangerous poses (like wheel); I would have liked to see the modification illustrated.
  • Awful outfits for most of the models (especially the men). What’s with the Wednesday tights?

Conquest of the Incas

Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Inc., 1970.

Reason read: December is supposedly the best time to visit Peru. Who knew?

Hemming explains his book as such, “Here I have tried to penetrate the clouds of conflicting hyperbole in contemporary reports and treatises” (p 17).

It is always difficult to read histories such as this because when it comes right down to it, this is a conquest of a people who were indigenous to the land; in other words, people who were “there” first. I found myself holding my breath when I read the sentence, “the moment had finally come when the first Spaniards were to confront the ruler of Peru” (page 33) because you just knew they were going to execute him at some point (and they did). All that aside, Hemming does a thorough job detailing the Spanish conquest of Peru. It is a worthy read, especially if you are planning to visit the region.

As an aside, Francisco Pizarro’s fanatical determination reminded me not a little of Percy Fawcett and his expedition into the Amazon. Which then reminded me of River of Doubt by Candice Millard, which I am reading now.

Author fact: Hemming is an expert on the Incas.

Book trivia: Conquest includes six pages of maps.

Nancy said: Conquest is one of three major histories of the Spanish Conquest of Peru.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Peru(sing) Peru” (p 177).


Paul Revere and the World He Lived In

Forbes, Esther. Paul Revere & the World He Lived In. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942.

Reason read: Paul Revere was baptized on January 1st, 1735. But. But! But, back in those days the child was usually baptized the day after birth… so I’m thinking he was actually born on 12/31. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

In the beginning Apollos Rivoire came to Boston with an American dream…

Esther Forbes wrote Paul Revere with a good natured, almost folksy tone. I could almost see the twinkle in her eye by her choice of words. Here are some quotes to illustrate my point, “Like so many men of his years and period, Mr. Coney was enjoying his third wife – ‘Prudent Mary,’ Judge Sewall calls her” (p 8), “Boston had not yet run out of either rum or religion fervor” (p 13), and “Only once did she save labor by twinning” (p 21). I could go on and on.
But, just because Ms. Forbes wasn’t didactic in her tone doesn’t mean she wasn’t informative. Her narrative paints a thoroughly detailed and informative account of Paul Revere’s life and times. As an added bonus, the city of Boston also is biographied. One such fun detail is about Boston’s streets: If the present day street is straight it probably used to be sea bottom. “Wherever the streets are snarled up, you are standing in the ancient town itself” (p 49). The next time I am there, I’m going to check that out for myself.

As an aside, I am so glad Revere didn’t teach himself dentistry.

Author fact: Esther Forbes also wrote Johnny Tremaine, a book my sister still has on her bookshelf.

Book trivia: Paul Revere includes photographs. That’s the boring trivia. The more interesting one is that the table of contents includes an abstract of each chapter. I have never seen that before.

Nancy said: Forbes used the information collected for Paul Revere to write Johnny Tremaine.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction for Kids of all Ages” (p 114).


Rainbow’s End

St. John, Lauren. rainbow’s end: A Memoir of Childhood, War and an African Farm. New York: Scribner, 2007.

Reason read: December 4th used to be Shangani Day in Rhodesia.

Rainbow’s End is a 1000 acre farm and game preserve in Rhodesia. In the fall of 1978 eleven year old Lauren St. John moves there with her family. This is during the dying, yet bloody, last stages of the Rhodesian Bush War. Rainbow’s End isn’t just a sprawling farm, it is also the scene of a bloody massacre less than a year earlier. The blood evidence still lingered.
Because Lauren’s coming of age years coincided with her time on the Rainbow’s End farm and the end of Rhodesia her memoir is part teenage angst biography and part commentary on the the war and its politics. Was it about Communism versus democracy or black against white? What makes Rainbow’s End so interesting is Lauren’s perception of being white in newly formed Zimbabwe after Independence and the realization she has been loving a war for all the wrong reasons.
There is no doubt of Rhodesia’s untamed beauty.

A line I liked, “Then I relocated to the sofa where I had my new books fanned around me like lives waiting to be lived” (p 48). As an aside, I can remember doing that same thing when I was a kid. I’d put the books in a row and pick one based on where I wanted to go next.

Author fact: St. John has also written a few sports books. None of them are on my list.

Book trivia: rainbow’s end includes a smattering of non-personal (if you don’t count the cover) photographs and a couple of maps. Interestingly enough, one of the maps includes “hippo pools.” Oh goody.

Nancy said: nada. She just listed it for the chapter.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Zipping Through Zambia/Roaming Rhodesia” (p 269).


Geometry of Love

Visser, Margaret. The Geometry of Love: Space, Time, Mystery, and Meaning in an Ordinary Church. New York: North Point Press, 2000.

Reason read: Saturnalia Solstice in Rome happens in December.

Author fact: Visser was born in South Africa.

The Sant’ Agnese fouri le Mura church is named for a twelve year old girl named Agnes who was murdered in 305 A.D. Her throat was cut after she refused to marry the son of a Roman prefect. The name literally means “Saint Agnes Outside the Walls”. In addition to a physical description of the church Visser supplies a mental and spiritual picture as well. She takes the reader on a journey back to the roots of Christianity with etymology lessons thrown in for good measure. My favorite part was the comparison of church to theater. Of audience and performance. Evocation of imagination and emotion in both arenas. Geometry of Love is for anyone with a good imagination and wants to “see” Sant’ Agnese fouri le Mura church for him or herself.

My one criticism is the etymology. Visser pauses to tease apart words to reveal their deeper meaning quite often. Words like remember, mind, theatre, nave, orientation, gospel, error, heresy, pilgrim, passion, orthodoxy (I could go on and on and on) are explained. It reminded me of trying to have a conversation in the woods with a good friend who happened to also be an avid birder. Every sentence was punctuated or interrupted with “Did you hear that? That was a female Hylocichla mustelina…adolescent, of course.” And then we would pause to listen to the bird that, to me, sounded like every other brown bird in the trees. Having a normal back and forth conversation was damn near impossible.

Quotes I liked, “…the sea is a major metaphor in Greek literature for fate and necessity, or circumstances otherwise beyond human control” (p 62), “Today, the lambs arrive at Sant’ Agnese’s by car” (p 120), and “For anyone who is not spiritually allergic to churches, to walk into a beautiful church is to encounter understanding, to hear echoes of the soul’s own experiences” (p 125).

Book trivia: Despite the fact this book focuses on a particular church there are no photographs of it in Geometry of Love. Bummer. I really would have liked to see the statue of Agnes since Visser describes it so lovingly.

Nancy said: Geometry of Love is “the study” of the Sant’ Agnese fouri le Mura church.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Roman Holiday” (p 189).


On the Ocean

Pytheas of Massalia. On the Ocean. Translated by Christina Horst Roseman. Chicago: Ares Publishers, Inc., 1994.

Reason read: December is a good time to visit Greece, if you are so inclined to travel this holiday season.

Probably the biggest take-away I got from Christina Horst Roseman’s translation of On the Ocean was that Pytheas did not intend it as a sailing guide. What is amazing is that despite eighteen known ancient writers making reference to Pytheas over an 850 year-span, his original writings do not exist at all. It is obvious that On the Ocean was an important document but what happened to it? How was it not preserved in some way? In addition, Roseman states, “special problems are also raised by the work of two authors who probably made use of Pytheas, but in whose surviving work he is not named” (p 18). Wouldn’t that be considered plagiarism…if they had such a thing back then? A great deal of Roseman’s text is comparing what Strabo, Polybios and Pliny wrote as they were considered rivals of Pytheas.

Author fact: Roseman admits that through the years, because not a shred of Pytheas’s original writings exist, “assumptions have been accepted” about On the Ocean. I think that would be true of anything without substantiated proof. Rumor becomes real after awhile.

Book trivia: On the Ocean has an index of Greek words but no dictionary. There are quite a few passages in Greek without translation so right away I found it inconvenient.

Nancy said: not much aside from the writings of Pytheas don’t exist anymore.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Here Be Dragons: the Great Explorers and Expeditions” (p 111).


Tu

Grace, Patricia. Tu. University of Hawaii Press, 2004.

Reason read: New Zealand was discovered in December

The novel Tu opens and closes with a letter. New Zealander Tu Hokowhitu-a-Tu owes an explanation to his niece and nephew, Rimini and Benedict. Sandwiched between the letters there are Tu’s journals interspersed with third person flashbacks. In his journals Tu tries to tackle the war in his own words. The war everyone is signing up for. World War II. In flashbacks we learn Big Brother Pita thought he should stay home to care for his family until the fighting pulls him in and seesm to be the only way out. Pita follows feisty Brother Rangi, already wild with battle. Left behind is little Te Hokowhitu-a-Tu. Too-young-to-go-to-war Tu, but there’s no place he would rather be. Maybe because of his brothers? He wants to be useful. He wants to get away. Through his journals he implies enlistment means freedom and despite being underage he signs up for the Maori Battalion.
When it is all said and done, and the war is over(sorry, accidental spoiler alert), there is a poignant moment when Tu asks himself who will he be now that the war is finished and there is no more fighting. Where is his place in life?

I found it interesting that all three brothers would want to go into battle after seeing what war did to their father. Coming back from World War I and wracked by post traumatic stress disorder, their father at times was a wild and raging man; given to fits of insanity and violence.

Interesting to note: New Zealand’s June had 31 days back in 1943.

A quote that got me, “…I’ve decided I’ll write only when there are enough words in my head to create a flow to paper through a warmed up pen” (p 23). How many times have I said that same thing? Another quote, “When you see a man fall you’re not sure whether or not it was your bullet or someone else’s that dropped him, so his death does not feel so real to you” (p 82). Two more: “Perhaps there’s an in-between state where ghosts walk in and out of you, or where you could be your own ghost coming and going” (p 180), and “Reading intrudes on thought and takes a man away from so much self-pity” (p 238).

Author fact: Grace is not Patricia’s given last name. But, that’s not the interesting fact. She was inspired to write Tu by her Maori father’s involvement in World War II. He went to fight for the very country that was trying to control his.

Book trivia: Tu won the Montana New Zealand Book Award.

Nancy said: “…beautifully written and depressing…” (p 125). I would have to agree.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Kwikis Forever!: New Zealand” (p 125).


Wherever You Go

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go, There You Are: mindfulness and meditation in everyday life. Read by Jon Kabat-Zinn. California: Renaissance Media, 1994.

Reason read: Mindfulness around the holidays is good to have! I’m starting early.

If you are reading Wherever You Go just to say you have read Wherever You Go (like I am) this will take you no time at all. Sometimes a page is as short as a paragraph or just a couple of sentences. But, if you are looking for mindfulness it is best to read this book slowly. Let each section sink in and be sure to savor each line. It is a basic introduction to Buddhist meditation without of mumbo jumbo.

As an aside, I thought this went well to follow MindValley creator Vishen Lakhiani’s book Code of the Extraordinary Mind.

Lines I really like, “best to meditate…” Whoops. Scratch that. No part of Wherever You Go may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever. No favorite quotes for this review.

Author fact: Kabat-Zinn is the founder and director or the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Book trivia: this didn’t come with my copy of Wherever You Go, but Zinn mentions a series of mindfulness meditation practice tapes that are to be used in conjunction with the book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Help Yourself” (p 110).


Advise and Consent

Drury, Allen. Advise and Consent. New York: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1959.

Reason read: Not to state the obvious but November is election month and unless you have been living under a rock you know we have to elect a new president.

Confessional: I just couldn’t finish this…maybe because of the election? I’m not sure. I just feel as if this country is broken – very, very broken and reading about politics, even fictional, at this time is not a good thing.

The inside flap to Advise and Consent states it is “…a story so sweeping and complex in its conception that each segment alone would make an enthralling book.” Right. I’m sure that’s why the entire story is over 600 pages long. Drury has crafted five segments: Bob Munson’s book, Seab Cooley’s book, Brigham Anderson’s book, Orrin Knox’s book and Advise and Consent.
Advise and Consent opens with the announcement of the President of the United State’s controversial appointment of Bob Leffingwell as Secretary of State. Right away Drury’s language is witty and mischievous as if there is a twinkle in the eye of the storyteller. If you have ever watched “House of Cards” then you know how deviously politics can be played out. Advise and Consent is no different.

Author fact: Drury covered politics as a reporter for multiple publications including The New York Times.

Book trivia: Advise and Consent has a few drawings by Arthur Shilstone.

Other book trivia: Advise and Consent won a Pulitzer.

Other, other book trivia: Advise and Consent was made into a movie.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Politics of Fiction” (p 189)


The Fifties

Halberstam, David. The Fifties. New York: Villard Books, 1993.

Reason read: November is clean up month. The last month to finish books started during the year.

The 1950s. The greatest generation. To put it into perspective, Churchill announced America was poised to be the most powerful country in the world by 1950. The 1950s also gave birth to the microwave oven, Lucy and Desi, desegregation, Holiday Inns, the photocopier, McDonald’s restaurant, the credit card, the polio vaccination, hip=shaking Elvis, the discovery of DNA, the color TV…I could go on and on but Halberstam does that for me brilliantly in The Fifties. He covers everything from inventions to politics; from fads to phenomenons; from people to places.

One of the best things about The Fifties is the insight into personal lives. For example, who knew that General Douglas MacArthur was a mama’s boy? She “took up residence in a nearby hotel for four years” (p 80), while MacArthur was in school. Or that Lucille Ball was adamant about her real Cuban husband playing the role in I Love Lucy?

As an aside: you can’t launch into the 1950s without backing up and talking about the mid to late 1940s. Expect a little history lesson before the history lesson.

Author fact: Halberstam’s coming of age happened during the 50s. This era is “his” generation.

Book trivia: As one would expect, there are photographs. Just not enough of them.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p). Nancy Pearl mentioned this is one of her Halberstam favorites.


Neverwhere

Gaiman, Neil. Neverwhere. New York: Avon Books, 1997.

Reason read: Gaiman was born in the month of November.

Neverwhere opens with mousy nondescript Richard Mayhew on the eve of his departure for London. For some reason he needs his palm read by a mysterious old woman. Adding to the intrigue, she tells him he will go to London, but not any London she knows. And with that, she leaves him. Fast forward to London. Mayhew is a businessman with a flat & a pretty fiancee. All seems well and yet, one night after an argument with Jessica, Richard has the misfortune of rescuing a strange girl bleeding on the sidewalk. From then on nothing is the same. True to the fortune teller’s words, he no longer lives in any London he’s ever known. His world is now full of smoke and angels, monsters and sewers, talking rats and the girl he rescued, Door. There is a London Above and a London Below. All he wants to do is get back to his own world. All Door wants to do is find out why her entire family was slaughtered. Their missions couldn’t be any more different from one another but yet they need each other.

I am choosing one quote because I think it sums up Neverwhere perfectly. Richard is writing a diary post in his head, “On Friday I had a job, a fiancee, a home and a life that made sense…Then I found an injured girl bleeding on the pavement and I tried to be a Good Samaritan. Now I’ve got no fiancee, no home, no job and I’m walking around a couple of hundred feet under the streets of London with the projected life expectancy of a suicidal fruitfly” (p 120). After I was done laughing I realized this quote should be the book review. That is the entire story in a nutshell, thanks to the protagonist.

Confessional: whenever I thought about Neverwhere my mind slid to Mieville’s The City and the City. Both are fantasy. Both take place in overlapping societies. Both deal with murder and the ever persistent need to get “home”, wherever that may be.
As an aside, I was surprised by the amount of violence in Neverwhere. Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup are a couple of vicious, crazy characters.

Author fact: Gaiman is best known for his graphic novel series The Sandman. Not a one is on my list. Bummer.

Book trivia: Neverwhere is Gaiman’s first novel.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best For Teens” (p 24).