Sones, Sonya. One of those hideous books where the mother dies. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004.
Reason read: I needed a book in verse for the Portland Public Library Challenge.
Ruby Milliken’s whole world has been turned upside down. First her mother dies of an illness. Then her aunt ships her off to a celebrity father in Hollywood. Ruby is forced to leave behind a boyfriend, a best friend, Boston’s varying weather, everything she has ever known in exchange for a strange school, palm trees, sunny skies, and a man she barely knows who calls himself Ruby’s dad. Whip Logan divorced Ruby’s mom before Ruby was born and not once did he try to meet his daughter. Now Ruby has to live in his world? Not fair. Ruby’s story is told in blank verse with emails to her boyfriend, best friend, and deceased mother thrown in. A cute story that is highly believable. My favorite parts were when Ruby was flying to Los Angeles and noting the differences between coach and first class as they started the descent and when she was at the beach and swimming with the dolphins. She allowed herself to have a good time.
Author fact: Sones has written a bunch of young adult books but this is the only one I am reading for the Challenge. She said it is similar to her life.
Book trivia: People have said there is a sequel to one of those hideous books where the mother dies but it’s not on my list.
Playlist: Eminem, Jimi Hendrix, and Streisand.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about one of those hideous books except to say it is a good book for teens.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 25).
Pirsig, Robert M. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. New York: William Morrow & Company, 1974.
Reason read: Pirsig’s birth month is in the month of September.
When you are traveling across the country on a motorcycle, you have more than enough time to analyze the world around you in ways you wouldn’t if you chose to passively ride in a car or fly by plane. Pirsig takes his love of motorcycle maintenance and equates it to examining the way we live. If you excuse the didactic moments that seem holier than thou, he even shares opinions on how to live that life a little better. These philosophical monologues are referred to as Chautauquas. Under the guise of a summer trip across America with an unknown protagonist (common knowledge it is Pirsig himself), his son, Chris, and two companions, Pirsig delves into the life of Phaedrus (his past self), meditation, and philosophy. He uses his friend, John, to illustrate the difference between the mindful exploration and ignorant bliss. While the unnamed narrator (Pirsig) constantly tunes his machine, John prefers to not know anything about how his engine runs. This equates to the two men seeing the world differently. The author learns to care deeply for anything that involves his life while John prefers to let a mechanic do all the maintenance in life. The narrator is anxious to teach John his ways and patiently waits for his motorcycle to break down so he can be the hero and enlighten him. For me, the book gets interesting when John and his wife go they separate way. The narrator and his son are left to travel the rest of the journey alone. The reasoning of temperate reason versus dark passion is fascinating.
Quotes I liked, “Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arrive” (p 187), “The real purpose of scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn’t misled you into thinking you know something you don’t actually know” (p 256), “The dog has a certain relationship to the wolf the shepherd may have forgotten” (p 412), and “I’m hanging onto my temper now” (p 497).
Author fact: Pirsig also wrote Lila: an Inquiry into Morals. I am not reading it for the Challenge even though it is the sequel to Zen. Zen is the only book I am reading.
Another author fact: Pirsig wrote instruction manuals for a living, but went home every night to work on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This reminded me of Joan Didion and how she would work at Vogue during the day but come home at night to work on her own novels.
Book trivia: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a work of fictionalized autobiography.
Nancy said: Pearl called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance a classic; highly readable and indispensable.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Beckoning Road” (p 19).
Christie, Agatha. Why didn’t They Ask Evans? New York: William Morrow, 1934.
Reason read: September is Christie’s birth month. Read in her honor.
Bobby Jones cannot play golf to save his life and yet he insists on trying. While out on the links he loses his ball over a fog-shrouded cliff. While searching for it Bobby is shocked to find instead a mangled and dying man. Had he fallen off the cliff in the fog? Was he pushed? Bobby has stumbled onto a mystery. Of course he has! This is an Agatha Christie murder mystery, after all. When the man opens his eyes and with all lucidity asks Bobby, “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” Bobby is haunted by the question. Exactly who is Evans and what was the question that should have been asked? Bobby shares this strange incident with his friend, Lady Francis Derwent, and together they decide there is more to the story. Their suspicions deepen when Bobby learns a photograph the dead man had been carrying was swapped to hide his true identity. Alex Pritchard is actually Alan Carstairs. Soon there after and out of the blue, Bobby is offered a job in Buenos Ares. When he doesn’t leave England someone tries to poison his beer. It is obvious someone wants Bobby off the case, but who and why? Like a good Scooby mystery, the villain wraps up all the clues.
As an aside, there were details in the story that didn’t make sense. If I found a dying man I wouldn’t ask someone else to stay with the body while I left to go play an organ at my father’s church. I think my father would understand my absence given I had just witnessed a man die in front of me. Also, Frankie gained entry into the suspected murderer’s home by faking a car accident. Under the guise of having a concussion a doctor in on the ruse tells the Bassington-ffrench family Frankie “cannot be moved.” She is to stay with them until she is well. However, in no time at all she is making friends with Mrs. Bassington-ffrench and playing tennis. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable story.
Line I liked, “Ignoring Mrs. Rivington’s treatment of doctors as though they were library Books, Bobby returned to the point” (p123).
Author fact: Christie is touted as one of the best selling authors of all time.
Book trivia: Why didn’t They Ask Evans? was originally published as The Boomerang Clue.
Nancy said: Pearl said Why Didn‘t They Ask Evans? was on her bedside table, waiting to be read.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the introduction (p ix).
Evanovich, Janet. To the Nines. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003.
Reason read: I started the Stephanie Plum series in January in honor of Female Mystery Month. I am now on #9. To the Nines is the penultimate Plum book on my Challenge List.
The best thing about Evanovich’s Plum series is the consistency of characters and timeline. With every book, Stephanie’s life progresses with little backtracking or inconsistency. Evanovich does a great job catching the reader up, especially if someone is jumping into the series in midstream and hasn’t read books one through eight. Reading the entire series is helpful, but not necessary.
Even though I am irked about Stephanie’s relationships with Morelli and Ranger (more on that later), I appreciate the growth in them. I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say that at the end of To the Nines Stephanie drops calling Morelli by his last name and moves onto calling him Joe. Is that a subtle hint that she is ready to get more serious? She did just move back in with him and gave up her apartment to her sister. Speaking of Valerie, she just had a baby (out of wedlock) and that definitely has Stephanie’s biological clock ticking a little louder. Enough of that. Onto the plot:
The bounty hunting part of Stephanie’s life takes more of a back seat in To the Nines. This time around, she is more on the side of the hunted. Someone is sending her creepy messages coupled with a calling card of one rose and one carnation. It’s the same message sent to several other victims. Could she be next on this serial killer’s list? This time Ranger and Joe make a concerted effort to protect Stephanie as she tries to figure out who is capable of getting so close to her they can take a lock of her hair?
Spoiler alert: for those interested in Stephanie’s vehicular destruction, her new sunshine yellow Ford Escape survives the entire story.
Things that irked me: what in the world is so special about Stephanie Plum? Why does she have not one, but two very hot men giving her all the attention in the world? What makes them stay around even though she can’t chose between them? In all actuality, Ranger probably isn’t a choice. He’s probably just a plaything, but still…Hmm. I have to admit, I liked Stephanie as a hypocrite. She can flirt with Ranger but still get jealous when she thinks Morelli is up to no good with another girl.
Another thing that irked me was less of an appearance by Rex. He barely factored into To the Nines at all.
Lines I liked, “I know emotion covers a lot of ground, but I couldn’t hang a better name on my feelings” (p 84), “There’s a difference between being trusting and stupid” (p 294).
Author fact: Evanovich has won the John Creasy Memorial Last Laugh and Silver Dagger awards.
Book trivia: To the Nines features pineapple upside-down cake, as usual.
Playlist: Eminem and Tom Jones.
Nancy said: To the Nines is not exactly a murder mystery according to Pearl. She did say you will laugh all the way through the series.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Evanovitch, Janet. Hard Eight. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery month.
It is hard for me to dislike Stephanie Plum. No matter how bumbling she is when she tries to catch a fugitive, I have to laugh at her antics. No matter how conflicted she is about the attentions from two different men, I root for her. No matter how food motivated she can be, I like her. I can’t help but bond with a girl who likes peanut butter, potato chip, and pickle sandwiches as I do. But. But! But, as a bounty hunter, she sucks. She still sucks eight books later. Much like trying to collar Eddie DeChooch in Seven Up, Stephanie can’t seem to capture Andy Bender. She goes through four sets of handcuffs trying to bring him in.
A more serious second “job” involves a child custody case. Hired by her neighbor to find a missing granddaughter and great granddaughter, Stephanie inadvertently gets herself caught up in a dangerous battle with a psychopath. She isn’t a detective, but doesn’t dare say no to the family who has lived next door to her parents for years. Even if it means finding snakes in her apartment, tarantulas in her Honda, or a dead man on her couch, Stephanie (and sidekick Lula) go on the hunt for a woman running from a nasty divorce. She even gets her two love interests, Morelli and Ranger, involved in the adventure.
Here are the consistent details: Rex the hamster is still alive and kicking. He has to move to Stephanie’s parent’s house when her apartment becomes a crime scene (again). Grandma Mazur is also alive and kicking. She doesn’t frequent the funeral homes looking for a date as much in Hard Eight, but she’s still feisty. Ranger is still a mystery but Stephanie is slowly cracking that nut. She had sex in the bat cave.
Lines that made me laugh, “”Home is supposed to be the safe place, I said to Morelli. Where do you go when your home doesn’t feel safe anymore?” (p 163). I laughed because Stephanie’s worry is so ironic. Her apartment gets broken into on a regular basis and only now she isn’t feeling safe?
Author fact: I just found out Evanovich has the same birthday as my sister. Interesting.
Book trivia: Hard Eight sets up the relationship between Stephanie’s sister, Valerie, and divorce lawyer Albert Kloughn.
Nancy said: Pearl said Evanovitch’s series couldn’t be called mysteries. You’ll laugh too much.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Voigt, Cynthia. Dicey’s Song. New York: Ballantine Books, 1982.
Reason read: to finish the series started in July in honor of Kids month.
When we catch up to the Tillerman family (after reading Homecoming) they are in Maryland living with the grandmother they never knew they had. Dicey is a teenager starting to come of age with homework and budding, albeit reluctant, friendships. Her two younger brothers, James and Sammy, are in thriving in school. Her only sister Maybeth is a musical prodigy. Her family is becoming self-sufficient. Everything should be great for Dicey as the eldest sibling. Her family is not on the run. They have a roof over their heads every night. They have food on the table at every meal. They have someone to look after them. They are all in school. But, for Dicey something is intrinsically wrong. For the longest time she had control over her family. Keeping them together and safe was all she knew. It is what she did best. When her siblings start exercising independence Dicey isn’t sure how to feel about it. Throughout the story she struggles to learn to let them go their own ways, together but apart. At the same time Dicey deals with the internal confusion of becoming a young woman without her mother’s guidance. My favorite moments were whenever Gram’s hardened exterior softened as each child reached for her love.
Author fact: Voigt has written over a dozen young adult novels.
Book trivia: Dicey’s Song is a Newbery Award winner.
Playlist: “I Gave My Love a Cherry,” “Amazing Grace,” “Who Will Sing for Me?” “The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly,” “Pretty Polly,” “Amazing Grace,” Beethoven, and even though they didn’t name the song, I recognized the story of “Matty Groves” (thanks to Natalie Merchant).
Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Dicey’s Song.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 169).
Brittain, Vera. Testament of Experience: An Autobiographical Story of the Years 1925 -1950. Wide View Books, 1981.
Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. As an aside, Vera watched the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
At the start of Testament of Experience Vera is newly married and trying to juggle a relationship with a man she has only known for two years and a career as a writer and journalist. From her style of writing the reader can find evidence of Brittain maturing her focus since Testament of Youth. She no longer speaks of an entire generation experiencing war. On the brink of World War II and focusing on herself personally, she repeatedly feels the strain of inequality as she watches her husband enjoy a balance of employment and home life while she is expected to chose between relationships, motherhood, and a career. This only fuels her feminist fire as she hungers for a life she can put into words. She needs to experience life in order to have something to convey to the world. What does she write about if she cannot experience extraordinary things? As time goes by the threat of war becomes reality and as Brittain starts traveling, her life grows increasingly imbalanced. Living more often apart than together, her marriage to “G.” is a series of rendezvous when their careers allow. As an author she experiences the threat of rejection at the same time as the thrill of success as Testament of Youth becomes a best seller. Motherhood is a confusing conflict with her pacifist endeavors lecturing around the globe. As an aside, Vera’s advocacy for peace through her fortnightly Peace Letters attracts the attention of the Gestapo and as a result Testament of Youth was banned in Germany.
Author fact: Brittain wrote a fourth “Testament” book called Testament of a Generation which is not on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: Testament of Experience is the sequel to Testament of Youth even though Testament of Friendship was published in between Youth and Experience.
Playlist: “Old Man Noah,” “The Bells of Hell,” and “Sweet Adeline,”
Nancy said: Pearl only called Testament of Experience a continuation of Testament of Youth. Nothing more specific.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living Through War” (p 054).
Voigt, Cynthia. Homecoming. New York: Aladdin Press, 1981.
Reason read: July is National Kids Book month. Reading Voigt in honor of the month.
Picture yourself as a teenager with three younger siblings. What would you do if your mother left all of you in a car in a mall parking lot to never came back? Dicey Tillerman faces that dilemma after she realizes her mother has been “shopping” way too long. A full night and day too long. Looking back on the events leading up to this abandonment, Dicey understands her mother had been planning this escape from her children carefully, almost deliberately. Making them memorize the address to their great-aunt’s house; packing them bag lunches. The days before her departure were full of signs Dicey somehow missed or didn’t want to believe. Now, armed with bag lunches and a few dollars, she must protect her little family of siblings. Shepherding them along country backroads, hiding in bushes, camping on deserted beaches, and scrimping and saving only to buy the bare necessities, Dicey navigates her way down the coast of Connecticut from Peewauket, Massachusetts to their great-aunt’s house, hoping mother will be there. This is an all-too-real tale of a mother overwhelmed by life. Her children are fighters, though. Each child will warm your heart with their various personalities.
Quotes to quote, “A lot of people had little bits of her life now, and they were tied to her now, or she was tied to them” (p 306).
Author fact: Voigt went to Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Book trivia: Homecoming is the first book in a series about the Tillerman family. I am only reading Homecoming and Dicey’s Song for the Challenge. Homecoming was also made into a movie in 1996.
Playlist: “Peggy-O,” “Water is Wide” by the Indigo Girls, “Greensleeves,” and “Who Will Sing for Me?” by the Stanley brothers.
Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Homecoming except to notate is is a good read for both boys and girls.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 22).
Evanovich, Janet. Seven Up. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery Month.
Has this ever happen to you – you read a book so fast with as little thought as possible and by the time you finish it, you have no idea what you read? Unfortunately, this is what happened to me at the end of Seven Up. Suddenly, I was on the last page and Stephanie Plum was about to sleep with the wrong guy. What? Here’s what I remember: Stephanie’s newest collar is a retired old mobster in his seventies who has a hard time getting an erection. Pun totally intended. Despite Eddie DeChooch’s advanced age, Stephanie can’t bring him in no matter how easy it seems to be. DeChooch is elusive even when she has help. He is only wanted for stealing cigarettes but something seems amiss. Two members of the mafia are also looking for him. Here’s where the plot takes a twist: when Stephanie tries to apprehend DeChooch, she finds a dead body in his shed. Of course she does. Stephanie is notorious for finding dead bodies all over Trenton. As a side plot, Stephanie’s friend Mooner goes missing, and when his roommate also disappears, Stephanie can’t help but think they are involved in the mafia hunt for DeChooch. Of course all of the usual suspects are in the plot: grandmother Mazur, Lula, Ranger, Joe Morelli, and Rex, the hamster. New to the scene is Stephanie’s sister, Valerie. She comes to visit Trenton with her two kids after her husband left her for the babysitter. If you are keeping track of Stephanie’s relationship with Joe, they are engaged and she has “bought” a wedding dress. If you are keeping track of the cars Stephanie kills, two: a Honda and a Cadillac.
Consistencies: Plum still keeps her .38 in a cookie jar, Grandmother Mazur still finds dates by attending funerals, People are still breaking into Plum’s apartment no matter what kind of lock system she has in place, her mother still calls with that night’s dinner menu, and pineapple upside down cake is still her favorite.
Lines to like, “No matter if you are suffering depression or wanted for murder, you still pay your respects in the Burg” (p 33) and “I might be a stay-at-home mother someday, but I’ll always be trying to fly off the garage roof” (p 269).
Author fact: This is the seventh book I have read by Ms. Evanovich. What have I not told you about the author? Did I tell you in some photographs she reminds me of Reba McEntire? It mush be the red hair and perky smile.
Book trivia: Evanovich is up to twenty six Plum books. this is only number seven, obviously.
Playlist: Godsmack and Coolio.
Nancy said: Pearl doesn’t consider Seven Up a mystery. She does think it is hilarious.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Perry, Paul. On the Bus: the complete guide to the legendary trip of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and the birth of the counterculture. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1990.
Reason read: Allen Ginsberg’s birthday is in June. He was not a bus rider with the Merry Pranksters, but he was on the scene and subsequently interviewed for the book. Additionally, the famed bus trip started on June 14th, 1964.
Written in 1990, twenty-five years after the famed Kool-aid acid trips, Paul Perry pulls together interviews from the most influential mindbenders of the day: Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Ram Dass, and of course, Neal Cassady…to name a few. They look back on the time when a total of thirteen free spirits (fourteen, if you count the teenaged neighbor) called themselves the Merry Pranksters, boarded a psychedelically painted school bus, and hit the road in search of the ultimate trip. What started as acid parties in Neal Cassady’s San Francisco home soon became experimentations on the road in the converted bus they christened, “Furthur.” Traveling through Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, New York, and Calgary before heading home to Big Sur, California, they conducted their LSD tests, made new friends, connected with musicians like Wavy Gravy and Jerry Garcia, and rode the wave of the psychedelic revolution. By the time the Merry Pranksters got home they were never the same again.
What I am constantly wondering about is how much of the tapes and recordings of the trip survived?
Line to linger over, “Arvin Brown, who drank several [cupfuls] of the green stuff, tells me what he didn’t recover full consciousness for 24 hours” (29). Good times. Here are a few more, “Mercy and goodness were swallowed by cannons and bombs” (p 84), “I live in a world where there is no error, so that is what was meant to happen” (p 102). Last one, “Speed was the thing keeping him awake” (p 190).
Author fact: Paul Perry was once the editor of a running magazine. Cool.
Book trivia: my copy of On the Bus was so weird. There wasn’t any publishing information anywhere within the book. I could only find the last name of the author on the spine and I needed to look at the marc record from the library I borrow the book to find more information.
Playlist: “Love Portion Number Nine,” Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane, Wavy Gravy, Country Joe and the Fish, Rolling Stones, “Turn on Your Love Light,” and “The Flower.”
Nancy said: Pearl included On the Bus in a list of books she said “no discussion of books about the 1960s would be complete without” (More Book Lust p 179).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The 1960s in Fact and Fiction” (p 178).
Perrotta, Tom. Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies. New York: Berkey Books, 1994.
Reason read: June is short story month.
Comprised of ten short stories:
- The Wiener Man – Your past is never far behind you. A mother connects with an old friend.
- Thirteen – Coming of age is terrible when trying to help a best friend get the girl.
- Race Riot – Which side are you on? Racial tensions and peer pressure and a bad combination.
- Snowman – revenge is not as sweet as you think.
- Forgiveness – standing for the flag is a choice.
- A Bill Floyd Christmas – Bill loses his wife and latches on to another family to fill the void.
- You Start to Live – take chances in life.
- The Jane Pasco Fan Club – Dating in high school can be dangerous.
- Just the Way We Were – prom memories.
- Wild Kingdom – sometimes people can be animals.
Lines I liked: “The world was a still as a photograph” (p 61) and “She had that voice special tone of voice that she only used when she had company,” (p 119).
Author fact: Perrotta is from New Jersey.
Book trivia: all of the short stories are linked and are in chronological order.
Setlist: “We May Never Pass This Way Again,” Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” The Carpenters, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Donny Osmond, Aerosmith, Grateful Dead, a couple of Jim Croce songs, “I’ve got a Name” and “Operator.”
Nancy said: Pearl called Bad Haircut “heartfelt yet unsentimental.”
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Near Novels: Linked Short Stories” (p 175).
Anderson, M.T. Feed. Read by David Aaron Baker. New York: Random House Listening Library, 2002.
Reason read: May is considered Birds and Bees month and since teenagers have raging hormones I thought I would combine the two and read Feed.
Confessional: I am not a big fan of futuristic, dystopian novels. Feed is Anderson’s commentary of big corporation greed and its power over society in the form of extreme consumerism. Additionally, information technology and data mining are taken further by the invention of a brain-implanted feed network capable of scanning and collecting people’s thoughts and feelings and regurgitated back as commercials. Told from the first person perspective of Titus, we meet Linc (cloned after Abraham Lincoln), Marty (the guy with the Nike speech tattoo which causes him to insert the word Nike into every sentence), Loga (ex-girlfriend of Titus), Calista (the first girl to get lesions as a fashion statement) and Violet (Titus’s new girlfriend and the one to reveal the dangers of the feed). Violet is the most interesting of the group. As an underprivileged teen, she did not get a feed insert until she was older. This causes malfunctioning and Violet’s ability to “fight” the feed. Although it is a predictable ending, I appreciated Anderson’s reality of the situation.
As an aside, definitely find the audio book read by David Aaron Baker. It is a spectacular performance.
The popularity of having lesions to the point of creating them reminded me of the Seuss book, Gertrude McFuzz, the story about the bird who wanted glorious tail feathers and got so greedy collecting them she could no longer fly.
Author fact: Anderson also write Thirsty which is on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: Feed was a National Book Award finalist and winner of the Boston Globe Horn Book Award and the Golden Duck Award (Hal Clement).
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Feed except to include it in the list of sure teen-pleasers.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 23).
Brittain, Vera. Testament of Youth: the Autobiographical Study of the Years 1900 – 1925. New York: MacMillan Company, 1937.
Reason read: The United States entered World War I on April 6th, 1917. Additionally, I needed a book for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge in the category of historical event.
Confessional: this took me a long time to finish.
The world can thank Vera Brittain for keeping a detailed diary during World War I. Through her writings, Brittain is able to not only give a personal account of how the war changed her life, but the impact the conflict had on the world at large around her. When she says the war “smashed her youth” and “interrupted her personal plans” you get the sense of the level of personal destruction the violence left in its wake. She led a sheltered life in England, never leaving the country until she was twenty-one. She had both a brother and a fiancé serve in the war. Through their letters and poems, how they were affected by the conflict represents how a good majority of the soldiers coped with battle. In order to feel closer to her brother and fiancé, Vera volunteered to darn socks, but as the war dragged on, the desire to “do something more” led her to sign up as a probationer in a hospital. There she had an up close and personal view of war’s terrible price. There is a growing sense of dread when Brittain describes reading the list of casualties and not having a single word from loved ones. The war matures Brittain. At the start of the conflict she naively hoped Roland would suffer a war wound so they could see each other. After some time changing the dressings of the amputees Brittain realizes she couldn’t wish that kind of horror on anyone.
Brittain’s autobiography continues after the war has ended and the struggle to return to civilian life becomes a reality. She has lost everyone she loved, friends and family alike.
As an aside, it is unclear if Vera was agnostic before the war or if the tragedies in France solidified an already growing idea idea.
Quotes to quote, “Someone is getting hell, but it isn’t you – yet,” (p 150), “Truly war had made masochists of us all” (p 154), “Too angry and miserable to be shy any more, we clung together and kissed in forlorn desperation” (p 189), “The world was mad and we were all victims, that was the only way to look at it” (p 376) and “I was not the culprit, for I was still too deeply and romantically in love with a memory to have any appetite for sexual unorthodoxies, but I am not sure that I should have owned up if I had been” (p 328).
Here is the sentence that had the most profound effect on me, “I entirely failed to notice the assassination on the previous morning, of a European potentate whose name was unknown to me, in a Balkan town of which I had never heard” (p 85).
Author fact: Even though Brittain is best known for her autobiographies she was also an accomplished poet.
Book trivia: Brittain includes a great deal of poetry from several different poets. Testament of Youth was a Masterpiece Theater dramatic series present on PBS by WGBH in Boston.
Playlist: “Elizabeth’s Prayer,” “Jewel Song,” “Clair de Lune,” “Te Deum Patreum Colimus,” “L’Envoi,” “When Irish Eyes are Smiling,” “If You Were the Only Girl in the World,” “We are Soldiers of the Queen, Me Lads,” “Good-bye Dolly, I Must Leave You,” “When the Heart is Young,” “Whisper and I Shall Hear,” “Distant Shore,” “Robert the Devil,” “Dreaming,” “The Vision of Salome,” “Elgar’s Lament for the Fallen,” Beethoven’s 7th Sonata, Verdi’s Requiem, Bram’s Requiem, “Sweet Early Violets,” “Down in the Forest,” “Auld Lang Syne,” “O Hel-, O Hel-“
Nancy said: Pearl called Testament of Youth “moving.” She also called it “One of the finest accounts ever written of World War I” (More Book Lust p 155).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War I Nonfiction” (p 251). Again in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living Through War” (p 154).
Richter, Conrad. The Town. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970.
Reason read: to finish the series started in March in honor of Ohio becoming a state.
When we rejoin Sayward she is in her late forties and has given birth to ten children. Nine have survived. She is witness to the transformation of the wilderness into a civilized community but she can remember when she started her young life in the deep woods of Ohio with trees all around. In awe she watches as the necessities of a communal existence blossom into a church, school, meeting house, and grist mill. The canal becomes a focal point as brick structures replace wooden ones. She can remember when it all started – her family looking to stave off hunger by pushing west in the hopes of cultivating richer soils into bountiful gardens. The Trees told of isolation while The Fields saw settlements encroaching on the family’s privacy until finally they realized the need for one another was a good thing and the Town is born.
Even though most of Sayward’s children are grown with families of their own, in The Town the reader spends the majority of time with Sayward’s youngest child, Chancey. He is a strange child, afraid of everything; paranoid and preferring to be alone. He is so dissimilar to his siblings he strongly believes he is adopted. His failure to understand any member of his family is borderline obsessive. When meeting strangers he even gives them a false name. His claims his weak heart doesn’t allow him to walk very far. Soon a dark family secret turns out to be his greatest heartbreak. Honestly, I found him to be a difficult character to like.
Interesting to note: Portius is initially overlooked for a position as judge because of his agnostic views.
I don’t think it is a spoiler to say the mysterious disappearance of Sulie in The Trees is finally resolved in The Town.
Quote I liked, “She seemed to be writing on the night” (p 305).
Setlist: “Fly Up,” “The Lady of Loti Polka,” “On Nesbo’s Lovely Mount,” “Moses’s Funeral March,” and “The River Between.”
Author fact: Richter was born in Pennsylvania but moved to New Mexico.
Book trivia: The Town received a Pulitzer Prize.
Nancy said: Pearl said Richter’s stories have to be read in order.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest (Ohio)” (p 30).
Evanovich, Janet. Hot Six. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery Month.
This time, Ranger is the one being hunted. A rookie cop arrested Ranger for carrying a concealed weapon without a license. Everyone knows to let Ranger do his own thing only the rookie didn’t get the memo. Ranger gets into further trouble when he is seen on surveillance camera entering a building with a man who is later found with a bullet hole in his head and partially burned. Looks like an open and shut case because everyone knows Ranger is not above killing people.
Every time we meet up with Stephanie Plum you can bet a destroyed vehicle or two or three will be in her wake. This time the nest one is a Rollswagon, part old fashioned Volkswagen Beetle and part Rolls Royce. One hundred percent vintage. Never heard of one. Stephanie doesn’t have it for more than an hour before she’s attacked by someone driving a Crown Vic. What else is new? She bumbles her way through cases, same as ever or as she says, “Then you have to pee and you miss a double homicide” (p 77).
All the usual characters are still around: Vinnie, Lula, Connie, Joe, even Grandmas Mazur who still frequents wakes and funerals for kicks and is now going for her own driver’s license. The bad guys are still ransacking Stephanie’s apartment while her hamster, Rex, runs frantically on his exercise wheel.
The problem with reading the Stephanie Plum series back to back to back is that the plot formula becomes a schtick. Stephanie is a food motivated, bumbling beginner bounty hunter, who always gets her man. Plot twist: Stephanie inherits a dog and things heat up with Morelli and Ranger.
Let’s do a cousin count: We know Stephanie’s cousin Shirley is married to Gazarra. Cousin Maureen works at the button factory. Cousin Janine works at the post office. Cousin Marion works at the bank. In Hot Six we learn Shirley is a whiner and Stephanie has a cousin Bunny who works at the credit union. There’s another cousin named Evelyn. Let’s not forget cousin Vinny!
Best line, “Getting shot, no matter how minor the wound, is not conducive to clear thinking” (p 403).
Author fact: Janet has used the pen name Steffie Hall.
Book trivia: to count there are twenty-five Stephanie Plum mysteries. Hot Six is well…number six. Duh.
Nancy said: Pearl said Evanovich’s books couldn’t be called mysteries because they were too funny.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).