Duncan, David James. The Brothers K. Read by Robertson Dean. New York: Dial Press, 1996.
Reason read: April is National Sibling month. April is Easter. April is spring training month for baseball. April is Humor month. The Brothers K has all these elements and more.
To say this is the saga of one family in the Pacific Northwest state of Washington would be only somewhat accurate. To call The Brothers K a book about baseball and religion would also be somewhat accurate. Papa Hugh “Smoke” Chance was a talented enough pitcher to be drafted into the minor leagues and was on his way to the majors. Mama Chance was an extremely devout Seven Day Adventist. Baseball and religion. As with any parents of influence, their themes are the backbone of The Brothers K. Arguably, there is a great deal of sports play by play and religious fervor, as other reviewers have pointed out. What saves The Brothers K from being long winded and tedious is narrator and youngest son, Kincade Chance. His humor and sharp wit keep the plot from getting too bogged down. Interspersed with his story is older brother, Everett’s school essay and biography about the family patriarch.
Despite there being six children in the Chance household, only eldest Everett, middle brother Peter, and next to youngest brother Irwin have significant stories. Kincade doesn’t share very many details about himself and even less about his science obsessed twin sisters, Winnifred and Beatrice. Everett grows up to be an outspoken politician against the Vietnam War. Peter becomes the perpetual student; first studying at Harvard, then Buddhism in India. Irwin’s tragic story is that he sent to Vietnam and forever changed.
As an aside, I have a friend who always says “darn tootin'” whenever he is absolutely sure of something. Until The Brothers K I had never heard anyone else say that.
Author fact: Duncan also wrote River Why and My Story as Told by Water, both on my Challenge list.
Book Audio trivia: Robertson Dean’s reading of The Brothers K is fantastic.
Nancy said: Pearl called Brothers K “engrossing” (“Brothers and Sisters”),
“well-written and interesting” (“Families in Trouble”), and a novel “complicated by the whole Oedipal shtick” (“Mothers and Sons”).
BookLust Twist: You can always tell when Pearl likes a book. It will show up in a bunch of different places. For Brothers K it is indexed in Book Lust in three different chapters, “Brothers and Sisters” (p 46), “Families in Trouble” (p 82), and “Mothers and Sons” (p 160).
Winspear, Jacqueline. Maisie Dobbs. Narrated by Rita Barrington. Hampton, NH: BBC Audiobooks America, 2005.
Reason read: March is International Women’s Month. I am also reading this for the Portland Public Library 2020 Reading Challenge. The category is “a cozy mystery.” I took “cozy” to mean a mystery without violence; no bombs exploding or crazy gun fights. Nothing fast paced; no cars screaming around corners on two wheels. Maybe “cozy” includes a sleeping cat or a steaming cup of tea.
Nancy Pearl should have included Maisie Dobbs in her list of characters she would like to befriend because I would like to hang out with Ms Dobbs myself. Maisie is one of those can’t-do-wrong girls that everyone, men and women alike, fall in love with. She is smart, pretty, loyal, and keenly perceptive.
We first meet Maisie Dobbs in 1910. After her mother dies, Maisie, at the age of thirteen, takes a job as a maid for Lady Rowan Compton. Living in the Compton mansion is a far cry from her father’s humble costermonger home and inquisitive Maisie can’t help but explore every richly decorated room, especially the well stocked library. Night after night she is drawn to sneaking down the stairs and taking advantage of the massive collection. When discovered, Lady Rowan does not seek punishment. Rather, recognizing a talent for learning, rewards Maisie with extensive tutoring from family friend, Maurice Blanche. Blanche is a private investigator who uses psychology and acute observation to solve mysteries. Maisie becomes his apprentice and subsequently takes over the business after Blanche’s retirement. One case takes Maisie back to her days as a volunteer nurse during the Great War. The plot takes a turn down memory lane as Maisie’s wartime ghosts are revealed. A second mystery concerning the love of Maisie’s life emerges.
War is a constant character throughout Maisie Dobbs, whether the reader is looking back to Maisie’s volunteer work as a nurse in France, or looking ahead to the mysterious retreat for disfigured veterans. The psychology of war is ever present.
Favorite line, “Dawn is a home when soft veils are draped across reality, creating illusion and cheating truth” (p 249).
Author fact: Winspear wrote a ton of books but I am only reading Maisie Dobbs for the Book Lust Challenge.
Book trivia: Maisie Dobbs is Winspear’s first novel and won an Edgar Award.
Nancy said: Pearl said Winspear does a outstanding job of conveying post-World War I English society. I would also add Winspear does an outstanding job of conveying post traumatic stress and other debilitating effects of war.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Forster, E.M. Passage to India. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Janovich, 1924.
Reason read: Forster was born and died in January, the first and seventh, respectively.
Much has been written about Passage to India. Hundreds of writers had offered up their opinion on the classic. I won’t bore you with the plot except to say India is at odds with British rule in every sense. It clouds judgement beyond reason, as most prejudices do. Indian-born Aziz is curious about the English and offers to take two British women to see the infamous caves of Marabar. My comment is Aziz acts oddly enough for me to question what exactly did happen in those isolated and mysterious caves?…which is exactly what Mr. Forster wanted me to do.
Every relationship in Passage to India suffers from the affects of rumor, doubt, ulterior motive, class, and racism. Friends become enemies and back again as stories and perceptions change and change again.
Quotes to quote, “One tip can buy too much as well as too little; indeed the coin that buys the exact truth has not yet been minted” (p 10), “Any man can travel light until he has a wife and children” (p 106), and “The racist problem can take subtle forms” (p 141).
Author fact: E. M. stands for Edward Morgan. Everyone knows that. But, did you know E.M. spent six months in India?
Book trivia: Passage to India was made into a movie starring Alec Guinness in 1984. It won two Oscars. Passage to India was also adapted to the stage twice and to television for the BBC.
Nancy said: Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade” (p 176).
Child, Lee. Persuader. Read by Dick Hill. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio, 2003.
Reason read: to finish the series started in July in honor of New York becoming a state…
I think this has to be my favorite Reacher story simply because it takes place, for the most part, outside of Portland, Maine. The ocean is always present so right away you can bet Reacher has to tangle with it at some point in the story. Of course he does. [As an aside, my favorite section of Dick Hill’s narrative is when Jack struggles with the ocean for a second time, not learning his lesson the first time around.] But, back to the plot. Reacher gets sucked into a compromising position, this time by his own accord. Ten years ago, a critical investigation went sideways and someone under Reacher’s military command was horrifically murder. Up until present day Reacher had thought the killer was dead by his own hand. He witnessed a demise he thought no one could survive..and yet ten years later here is proof the nemesis not only survived, but is thriving. Revenge is Jack’s motive.
Of course, Reacher wouldn’t be Reacher without an eye-roll inducing romance. This time it’s with a federal agent and I agree with other reviewers when they say it feels like Child threw in the relationship with Duffy because it is simply part of the formula for Reacher’s modus operandi. It was short lived and kind of silly.
As an aside, exactly how is Reacher running around with an Anaconda firearm in his pants? Pun intended?
My other gripe? Lee child has obviously never tried to tie his hair back with a rubber band. If he had, he would know it hurts like hell to take it out! No self respecting woman (or man-bunned hipster) would reach for a rubber band. If a real hair tie wasn’t available, a bread tie or a pencil or even a piece of string would do.
Last gripe. For the most part Child has stayed away from cheesy lines but he let this one slip by, “Gravity had no effect on her perfection.” Gag.
Favorite line – I have to include this line because it’s the first one in the book, “The cop climbed out of his car exactly four minutes before he got shot” (p 1). If that doesn’t grab your attention!
Author fact: Rumor has it, Child spent a lot of money on the publicity campaign for this book.
Book trivia: This is the seventh Reacher book in the series and the last one on my Challenge list. A more specific to the book piece of trivia – the Persuader is a type of firearm and not a reference to Reacher’s personality.
Nancy said: Pearl suggested finishing the Reacher series with Persuader.
Actually, Pearl had more to say about Persuader than any other book. She admits, with nothing else to read, she picked it up out of boredom, but by the first line she was hooked.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lee Child: Too Good To Miss” (p 41).
de Botton, Alain. The Art of Travel. Narrated by Steven Crossley. Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2002.
Reason read: Alin de Botton was born in December. Read in his honor.
Travel isn’t always what it is cracked up to be. There is something about planning a trip that is inherently more delicious than actually taking the journey. Then afterwards when you get home, you find the time away did not live up to the expectation of all the planning. Alain de Botton invites you to travel in a way you have never considered before. When you finally arrive at your destination, he welcomes you to closely inspect your surroundings in ways you didn’t know you could or should; to see beyond merely looking. Upon reading Art of Travel he makes you want to stand in the spot where van Gogh’s little yellow house used to stand in Arles, France; where you’ll find yourself a little sad it was destroyed in World War II. I could go on and on with other examples, but I think it’s best to read the book.
Author fact: Alain de Botton is a philosopher so of course his book, The Art of Travel is going to get deep. If you ever get a chance, look Alain up on YouTube. His Day III video on the art of travel is hysterical in a panic-attack kind of way.
Book trivia: The illustrations and photographs in Art of Travel are stunning.
Nancy said: Pearl said The Art of Travel is an example of “delightful writing with lots of observations to mull over” (Book Lust To Go p 260).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Where in the World Do These Books Belong?” (p 260).
Shafak, Elif. The Bastard of Istanbul. Read by Laural Merlington. Old Saybrook, CT: Tantor Audio, 2007.
Reason read: I needed a book by an author with my initials for the Portland Public Library 2019 Reading Challenge.
This is an example of getting so caught up in a book that you forget to take notes while reading. I finished this a week ago and never wrote a single note. Which means I didn’t capture favorite lines either. Bummer.
Two teenage girls with more in common than they think. Asya, born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey is surrounded by an eclectic family of overbearing, opinionated women with not a man in sight. Asya rages against her current life and past history because she thinks she doesn’t have an identity she can believe in. Nothing is of permanence. She has never known her birth father, she cleaves herself to a relationship with a married man, and calls her mother auntie, like the other three of five women in her household. Two grandmothers round out the chaotic family household.
Meanwhile, Armanoush is of Armenian descent, living in Tuscon, Arizona. She, too, is struggling to make sense of her roots as her stepfather is Turkish. There is no avoiding the historical significance of having an Armenian father and Turkish stepfather. This stepfather happens to be Asya’s uncle as well.
When Armanoush decides to visit Asya and her family for answers, the past rolls back in like a tsunami, taking down everything in its path. As I mentioned before, this is a captivating story and it will sweep you away with its twists and turns.
Author fact: Shafak also wrote The Forty Rules of Love which is on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: This should be a movie.
Nancy said: Pearl said The Bastard of Istanbul is one of three novels of note. Specifically, BoI is “engrossing.”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Turkish Delights” (p 240). I don’t know if anyone else was reminded of this when they read the title of this chapter, but I immediately thought of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion the Witch, and the Wardrobe. If I ever meet Pearl again, I will have to ask! Because if she meant the reference as I thought it, it is subtle and clever and I love it.
Child, Lee. Die Trying. Read by Jonathan McClain. New York: Penguin Audio, 2012.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of New York becoming a state…I know, it doesn’t make any sense.
Once again, Jack Reacher is in the wrong place at the wrong time. In an effort to help a disabled woman wrangle her week’s worth of dry cleaning Reacher is held at gun point and kidnapped along with the woman on crutches. Only she is no ordinary woman. She is Holly Johnson, daughter to the chairman of the joint chief of staff, only the highest ranking military post in the United States. Now it’s a race against…what? No one has taken credit for the kidnapping. There hasn’t been a ransom note. No demands for her safe return whatsoever. Why was Holly taken?
I enjoyed Child’s “peep show” storytelling. He would show a glimpse of what the bad guys were up to (obviously always no good) for only a few pages and then return to Holly’s FBI rescuers and their efforts to figure out where she had gone.
Additionally, Child’s knowledge of guns and their inner workings seemed didactic at times, but in truth it was fascinating. I reread the description of exactly what happens scientifically when a gun is fired several times.
Author fact: Child is a former television producer.
Book trivia: The scary thing is, this could be in our headlines today. Our nation has become so polarized and we are so numb to violence it wouldn’t take much for “this tinderbox to blow in your face” as Natalie says.
Nancy said: When reviewing Killing Floor I mentioned Pearl had previously avoided Child’s novels because she thought they would be too violent. She goes on to say, “Be forewarned: the books do indeed contain some intense violence (some I had to read with my eyes closed, really)” (from More Book Lust on page 42).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the super obvious chapter, Lee Child: Too Good To Miss” (p 41).
Last month (okay, yesterday!) I whined about how I have been feeling uninspired writing this blog. I think it’s because I haven’t really been in touch with what I’ve been reading. None of the books in July jump started my heart into beating just a little faster. “Dull torpor” as Natalie would say in the Maniacs song, Like the Weather. Maybe it comes down to wanting more oomph in my I’mNotSureWhat; meaning I don’t know if what I need or what would fire me up enough to burn down my yesterdays; at least so that they aren’t repeated tomorrow. I’m just not sure.
Hopefully, these books will do something for me:
- African Queen by Cecil Forester – in honor of the movie. Can I be honest? I’ve never seen the movie!
- Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas (EB/print) – in honor of August being Friendship month.
- Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object (EB/print) by Laurie Colwin – in honor of August being National Grief Month.
- Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen (EB/print) – in honor of August being Frazen’s birth month.
- Beauty: the Retelling of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (EB/print) – in honor of August being Fairy Tale month.
- Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge (EB/print) – in memory of Florence Nightingale. August is her death month.
- American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood by Maria Arana (EB/print) – a memoir in honor of August being “Selfish Month.”
- If there is time: What Just Happened by James Gleick – in honor of Back to School month.
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov (EB/print) – the penultimate book in the Foundation series.
- Die Trying by Lee child (AB/EB/print) – the second book in the Jack Reacher series.
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm (started in July).
- Open Water by Mikael Sturm.
O’Brian, Patrick. Master and Commander. Read by John Lee. Santa Ana, CA: Books on Tape, Inc., 1991.
Reason read: for my dad. He was born in the month of May and he loved stories about sea adventures.
For starters, Master and Commander is an excellent lesson in naval warships. The dense nautical terminology will make your eyes go dry if you let it. There are many areas where the plot and dialogue altogether cease making it an arid read. Amidst the didactic seagoing vessel lesson 19th century Britain is at war with France’s brash Napoleon. Young Jack Aubrey has been promoted to commander of the sloop Sophie. Along as his right hand man is Doctor Stephen Maturin. He acts as ship medic and surgeon and together they fight enemies on the high seas. Aubrey and Maturin are as different as they come but they balance each other out and truly need one another. Their relationship is the cornerstone of the whole series.
For every adventurer Master and Commander is a must read. Every battle is played out in stunning detail. Life on a man-of-war could not be any more vivid.
Author fact: Patrick O’Brian was born Richard Patrick Russ.
Book trivia: Master and Commander is first in the series and definitely should be read before any of the others in the series.
Nancy said: Pearl called Master and Commander an “archetypal oceangoing adventure…[one] that [is] well loved by both men and women, and by those readers who have spent time on boats as well as those who have never set foot in a seagoing vessal on even stepped into a rowboat, kayak , or canoe.” She also mentioned O’Brian’s “reliable historical detail and evocative writing” (Book Lust p 217).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Sea Stories” (p 217).
Taylor, Sydney. All-of-a-Kind Family. Read by Suzanne Toren. New York: Dell Publishing, 1951.
Reason read: April is the month for Sibling Recognition but I could have read it for Library Week since the first scene is Sarah losing a library book and having to work out a repayment system with the kindhearted librarian.
There are five children to keep track of in All-of-a-Kind Family: Gerdie, Sarah, Henny, Ella, and Charlotte. Each child has a wonderfully illustrated distinct personality. Together they make their way through turn-of-the-century New York City and all it has to offer whether it be a trip to the carnival atmosphere of Coney Island or around the corner to Papa’s shop.
Taylor does a wonderful job including a primer of Jewish customs around the holidays. It does not come across as didactic or religiously heavy. Instead, there is a heartfelt pride in the rituals. It’s not a spoiler to say the children have two surprises at the end of the book.
As an aside, I was transported back to my childhood when two of the sisters were standing before the great candy counter, peering through the glass, trying to decide what to buy with just a penny. I can remember similar days, my nose pressed against the glass, trying to decide how my precious money could be stretched to buy both Swedish fish and Red Hots. Zimmie, with his long folded downy white hair covered arms would stand patiently behind the counter waiting and waiting for me to decide. Probably cursing me all the while.
Author fact: Taylor has written a whole series on the All-of-a-Kind-Family. I wish I had more of them on my list.
Book trivia: my edition was illustrated by Helen John.
Nancy said: Pearl said All-of-a-Kind Family includes a “lovely chapter” on what happens when Sarah loses a library book.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 138). To be fair, the library is hardly in the book and the librarian rarely makes an appearance, but her character is essential to the story!
Barr, Nevada. Flashback. Read by Joyce Bean. Grand Haven. MI: Brilliance Audio, 2003.
Reason read: Barr’s birth month is in March.
Anna Pigeon is back. This time as a park ranger on one of the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park off the coast of Florida. She’s there to fill in temporarily for another ranger who has fallen ill and run from a marriage proposal she doesn’t know what to do about. While there she takes to reading old Civil War era letters written by a great-great-aunt that play an integral part in a mystery surrounding a missing woman. When a mysterious boat explosion yields unidentified body parts Anna is in the thick of the crime; as usual getting herself into sticky situations. If you remember from earlier Pigeon mysteries, she is extremely claustrophobic. To give you an idea, the scene where she is diving under an engine to recover parts of a dead man…
In typical fashion Barr describes this national park in such a way you want to book a flight to it immediately. She captures the culture, the atmosphere with vivid detail.
Confessional: I don’t know that much about diving. I’ve only done the “snubing” version (half diving, half snorkeling where instead of wearing your air tank, it floats in a raft on the surface of the ocean). Having said that, I have to ask: is it possible to puke underwater? Can you remove your mouthpiece and spew, as a result giving the fish something new to feed on?
As an aside, I feel that Barr tries a little too hard to be funny. A reference to John Wayne Bobbit has the potential to be funny but only to a limit number of people.
Audio info: Joyce Bean’s accents are a little wonky to my untrained ear and don’t fast forward to the next track. Each track starts in mid-sentence. Really odd. The music at the end of the disc is nice, though.
Author fact: Barr also wrote Blind Descent (already read) and Hunting Season (next on my list).
Book trivia: Flashback is book number eleven in the Anna Pigeon series. I read Blind Descent (number six in the series) way back in 2011.
Nancy said: Pearl listed Flashback as one of her favorite occupation-centric mysteries.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 118).
Sedaris, David. Calypso. Read by David Sedaris. New York: Hatchett Audio, 2018.
Reason read: I am participating in the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge again this year. One of the categories is “A book nominated for an award” and Calypso by David Sedaris was nominated for an Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year for 2019.
If you are not familiar with David Sedaris’s writing, please do me a favor and stop reading this review. Do yourself a favor and run out and buy yourself a copy of any one of his books. Really. Any book Sedaris has written would be good. It really doesn’t matter with which one you start your introduction.
But probably the best way to experience Sedaris is to hear him read his own work. He has a comedic timing that is impeccably smart. Coupled this with his sarcastic wit and he will have you laughing and crying at the same time. I don’t know how he makes feeding a defrosted human tumor (his own) to a snapping turtle funny, or his mother’s alcoholism, or his sister’s suicide but really truly, he does. You find yourself in awe of how he chooses to see each situation. That viewpoint translates into a keen sense of the bigger picture and the world around him. From fashion from Japan to trash picking in England, Sedaris invites you to never see life the same way again.
Line I wish I had written, “…We stayed until our fingerprints were on everything” (from The Perfect Fit).
Asimov, Isaac. Foundation. Read by Scott Brick. Santa Ana, CA: Book on Tape, 2004.
Reason read: Asimov’s birth month is in January.
The premise of Foundation is thus: Hari Seldon is a psychohistorian (a person who uses a scientific way of predicting the future through history). His mathematical sociology tells him the Dark Ages are fast approaching. In order to curate humanity’s integrity he establishes two foundations, one at either end of the universe. Each foundation is comprised of creative and engineering people capable of preserving the characteristics of the current universe.
As an aside, Fred Pohl saved the Foundation series. Because of conversations with him, Asimov worked on the series for the next decade. It was only supposed to be a trilogy. Thirty years passed between the trilogy and subsequent novels. Asimov, according to his introduction to Foundation, said he needed to reread the series to really remember where he left off.
Author fact: “The Mule” is Asimov’s favorite part of the series (according to the introduction).
Book trivia: Foundation went up against The Lord of the Rings Trilogy for the Hugo award for best three connected novels and won.
Nancy said: Besides describing the plot, Pearl said the only “must-read” is Foundation (Book Lust p 214).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. Scholastic UK, 2007.
Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. New York: Listening Library, 2000.
Reason read: to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month.
In The Golden Compass Pullman introduced his readers to the possibility of more than one universe. He hinted there were actually three – the one we were in currently, a completely different universe and a third being a combination of the two. In The Subtle Knife we experience those different worlds first hand as Lyra and her new friend, Will Parry, move between them to escape their enemies. In The Golden Compass readers were also introduced to daemons. Now, we learn that people without daemons are without free will. They lack fear and imagination so they make perfect soldiers for the evil Mrs. Coulter. In addition to Mrs. Coulter, the otherworld of Cittagazze hides other enemies. Soul-eating Specters haunt the streets while children run wild without daemons or parents and rule Lord-of-the-Flies style.
As Lyra and Will travel from world to world they discover the Subtle Knife, a blade that can cut through anything. It’s power has yet to be fully understood.
Author fact: Pullman helped perform the audio version of The Subtle Knife.
Book Audio trivia: The Subtle Knife won an Audie Award in 2000.
Nancy said: The Subtle Knife is an “epic battle btween good and evil” (Book Lust p 209).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 209).
What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
- Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.
- Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.
Fun: nothing decided yet.
Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.