Die Trying

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).


Beauty

McKinley, Robin. Beauty: the Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. New York: HarperCollins, 1978.

Reason read: August is Fairy Tale month.

Here’s a question for you. Do you enjoy an adaptation or a retelling more or less if you don’t remember the details of the original? For me, I don’t remember the details of Beauty and the Beast except to say the Disney version was centered around Belle, her sickly woodsman father, the Beast, and the talking tea kettle. I remember it also had singing furniture and, of course, a droopy rose was at the center of the story. McKinley’s version has three daughters, Gracie, Hope and Honour. Honour, nicknamed Beauty, is the protagonist of the story and ironically, is not at all beautiful like her sisters. Instead she is homely, unromantic, and scholarly; the bravest and strongest of the bunch. Honour’s father has fallen on hard times as a shipping merchant and the family must move to the country. Enter the proximity of an enchanted/haunted forest. We first learn about these mysterious woods when Ger becomes angry with Beauty about being in the woods of Blue Hill.
To speed up the telling up the story you know so well: father runs into trouble in the enchanted forest, has a dust up with the Beast, and promises to send a daughter to the Beast to save his own hide. Beauty, being the bravest and most admirable, is the logical choice. Beauty falls in love with Beast despite his appearance and by turns becomes a looker herself. When she promises to marry Beast, the spell is broken. The end.

Author fact: McKinley and I went to the same high school. I can remember teachers mentioning her in English class.

Book trivia: Beauty is McKinley’s first novel.

Nancy said: Pearl included Beauty in a list of books that are sure to be “teen pleasers…great choices for teenage girls as well as their mothers” said this about McKinley, “McKinley is another major contributor…” (More Book Lust). The inside flap promises Beauty is appropriate for ages ten and up.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in two different chapters. First, in “Best for Teens” (p 23) and again in “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 93).


Framley Parsonage

Trollope, Anthony. Framley Parsonage. New York: Penguin, 1993.

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

As usual Trollope’s fourth novel in the Barsetshire Chronicle is laden with characters. One of the first people readers meet is Mark Robarts, a vicar with ambitions to further his career. The gist of the story is that Robarts loans Nathaniel Sowerby money even though Robarts realizes Sowerby is an unsavory character, always gambling and up to no good. Of course there is some good old fashioned courting of the ladies going on that complicates the story.
Trollope explores human emotions such as humiliation (Robarts not being able to afford to give a loan but does it anyway), romance (between Mark’s sister, Lucy, and Lord Lufton), greed (inappropriate relationships because of lower class status) and affection (bailing a friend out of a sticky situation). The subplot of Lucy and Lord Lufton is my favorite. Lady Lufton doesn’t think Lucy is good enough for her son (what mother does?).

Author fact: Trollope wanted to be a political figure at one point in his life.

Book trivia: At the end of Framley Parsonage Doctor Thorne gets married. Remember him?

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Framley Parsonage but she did say that Trollope is one of her favorite writers.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 15).


Killing Floor

Child, Lee. Killing Floor. New York: Berkley, 1997.

Reason read: New York became a state in July. Lee Child resides in New York. It’s a stretch, I know.

The best part about Killing Floor is without a doubt the character of Jack Reacher. Child definitely planned it that way. He sets up the series with an introduction to a man who is ex-military, ex-law enforcement, and 100% loner with a secret soft heart. Reacher doesn’t like to be tied down to any one place or person, but he can be swayed to stick around for a bit if the cause is good or the woman is pretty.
And now for the plot. Jack has wandered into a murder and ends up being the prime suspect because an eye witness put him at the scene of the crime. Seriously. Less than an hour after Jack arrives in town he is picked up for a violent, over the top murder. He knows he hasn’t killed anyone in Georgia. When the dead man turns out to be Reacher’s brother the plot thickens. How does Reacher clear his name, seek vengeance for his brother and manage to not fall in love with a cop? You have to read the story to find out.

A moment of disappointment: there were several points in the story that were predictable. I won’t mention the biggest predictable moment because it would ruin the whole plot. Let’s just say a guy you think you know turns out to be someone you don’t know until you know.

The sad thing about a book review is that probably everyone knows the name Jack Reacher, thanks to Tom Cruise’s movies. A tale more sorrowful than that? I didn’t know Mr. Reacher until I met him in the pages of Lee Child’s first novel, Killing Floor. Yes, I have been living under a rock.
Killing Floor is fast paced and quick with the action. If the rest of the series is anything like it, I can see why they made one of the stories into a movie. The choice to use an actor who stands 5’7″ for a character described as 6’5″ is a bit of a head scratcher, though.

Author fact: Child hit the ground running with Killing Floor. He has been getting great reviews ever since.

Book trivia: My copy of Killing Floor has a new introduction by the author. In it he explains the birth of Jack Reacher. Pretty cool.

Nancy said: Pearl admitted she previously avoided Mr. Child’s books because she thought they would be too violent. Indeed when I read the praise for Killing Floor descriptions like “the violence is brutal” “nightmarish images,” and “battered corpses.” In truth, some of the murders are over the top.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lee child: Too Good To Miss ” (p 41).


“Life and Times of Estelle…”

Alexie, Sherman. “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above.” Ten Little Indians. New York: Open Road, 2003.

Reason read: June is Short Story Month

A man looks back at his childhood to paint a picture of his mother, Estelle. As a member of the Spokane Indian tribe and a force to be reckoned with, Estelle was by turns someone to admire and someone to avoid. Sounds like practically every mother I know. She spent most of her lift as a spiritual guru to white women as she adores their culture over her own.

Quote to quote, “I wasn’t a vegetarian by choice, I was a vegetarian by economic circumstance” (p 42).

Author fact: Alexie has won a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

Book trivia: Ten Little Indians actually only has nine stories.

Nancy said: Pearl included Alexie in her list of short stories she most enjoyed.

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


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).


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).