Monette, Paul. Afterlife. New York: Avon Books, 1990.
Reason read: June is Gay Pride month in some states. In other places it is in May, so I started this early in honor of both months.
The very first word that comes to mind when trying to describe Afterlife is heartbreaking. Taking place at the “start” of the AIDs epidemic in the heart of United State’s “ground zero” in San Francisco, it tells the story of a group of gay men trying to make sense of the horrific disease while coping with personal loss. Facing their own mortality, each man has lost a partner to AIDs but display very different coping mechanisms as they have very different support systems. They form a Saturday night support group of survivors, each asking themselves, but for how long? This is a story of courage; the willingness to live and love in the face of death.
Quotes to quote, “There were enough coffins to come” (p 224) and “This worthy man, terminally unctuous but otherwise bland as a serial killer, insisted on driving them up to the North Garden in his own Cadillac” (p 256).
Author fact: Monette was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Book trivia: this should have been a movie.
Nancy said: This was included in Book Lust because it fit in the category of “Books with characters who are gay or lesbian” (p 95).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Our of the Closet” (p 93).
Brands, H.W. Age of Gold: the California Gold Rush and the New American Dream. New York: Doubleday, 2002.
Reason read: May is history month.
January 24th 1848 is considered the date of the birth of the gold rush.
Age of Gold takes a thorough look at a slice of American history. Beginning in 1848 Brands introduces the reader to people from all walks of life, uncovering every story from land and sea across several continents. Part One describes in detail the first adventurers to travel from every corner of the earth to seek gold. It is here John Fremont is introduced for the first time. Part Two is an introduction to the frenzied hunt for gold: panning, picking, cradling, digging, mining, sifting, sluicing. Part Three sees the birth of California’s borders and governing body. San Francisco becomes the first city in the state.
Confessional: When I first heard Natalie sing “Gold Rush Brides” I wondered what she used for inspiration to write a song about the gold rush from the point of view of the women on the trail. Some time later Natalie read a passage from Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey collected by Lillian Schlissel before performing the song. I can’t help but think of this book in comparison to Age of Gold.
Author fact: Brands also wrote bestseller The First American (also on my Challenge list).
Book trivia: Age of Gold includes a great group of photographs.
Nancy said: Nancy called Age of Gold “wide-ranging and engaging” (p 20).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “American History: nonfiction” (p 20).
I thought May was going to be a disaster. The first two and a half weeks were nothing but rain and way cooler temps. I worried about my garden. I didn’t feel like running. It felt like a downward spiral. I ended up running only 28 miles and running away to Monhegan for a week so it ended better than it began. But…it’s still raining.
“…when May is rushing over you with desire to be part of the miracles you see in every hour” ~ Natalie Merchant, These are Days.
“I wanted to be there by May, at the latest. April is over. Can you tell me how long before I can be there?” ~ Natalie Merchant, Painted Desert.
Here are the books:
- H by Elizabeth Shepard (read in one day)
- Nerve by Dick Francis (read in two days)
- A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller
- Good-Bye to All That by Robert Graves
- Age of Gold by HW Brands
- Lusitania: an epic tragedy by Diana Preston
- “Q” is for Quarry by Sue Grafton (finished the series)
- As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee (okay, so I didn’t know this was part of a trilogy).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- At the Broken Places by Mary and Donald Collins
Confessional: I don’t have any runs planned for May. I don’t have any travel planned for May (except going home-home). All I want to do is read, plant my gardens & master the grill. While the garden and the grill ambitions cannot be quantified, here are the books!
- Nerve by Dick Francis ~ in honor of the Kentucky Derby being in May
- A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller ~ in honor of Miller’s birth month. BTW – This is a behemoth (nearly 600 pages) so I am not confident I’ll finish it in time.
- H by Elizabeth Shepard ! in honor of mental health month. This is barely 160 pages & will probably finish on a lunch break or two.
- Age of Gold by H.W. Brands ~ in honor of History month being in May (confessional – this looks boring)
- Lusitania: an epic tragedy by Diana Preston ~ in honor of the month the Lusitania sank
- Goodbye to all That by Robert Graves ~ in honor of Memorial Day
- “Q” is for Quarry by Sue Grafton ~ to continue, and for me, finish the series started in April in honor of Grafton’s birth month (AB). Should be able to finish this in a weekend (AB + print)
- Henry James: the Conquest of London (1870 – 1881) by Leon Edel ~ to continue the series started in April in honor of James’s birth month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- At the Broken Places: —- by Mary and Donald Collins
Loh, Sandra Tsing. If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now. New York: riverhead books, 1997.
Reason read: Loh’s birth month is in February.
Confessional: I finished this in a day. Not because it was my favorite book but because I was home sick.
This is the story of Bronwyn Peters and her boyfriend, Paul, trying to make it in the glamorous city of Los Angeles. Be prepared. This is a very dated (1990s) story and there will be times when you want to maybe slap the sh!t out of Sandra Loh. I grew weary of the plenitude of brand-name dropping that went on (Guess?, Porche, Sanyo, Motorola, Kohler, BMW, Berber, Dolce & Gabbana, Wamsutta, Crate and Barrel…to name a few), as well as hot-now celebrity names like David Lynch, Frank Zappa, Malcolm Forbes, and Madonna…
Confessional: there were definitely times I wanted to slap Bronwyn Peters. Despite listening to NPR and identifying with a Bohemian lifestyle, Bronwyn hungers for the lifestyle of $200 haircuts and Corian counters. She even convinces her struggling writer boyfriend to buy a condo in downtown Los Angeles after they come into a modest amount of money (clearly not enough for L.A. standards). They settle on a place they obviously cannot afford for long. Bronwyn knows full well they are out of their league and yet continues to plays the game to the hilt. Bronwyn’s one redeeming quality is her steadfast love for Paul. She stands by him through temptation and failure. In the end, If you Lived Here… is Loh’s platform for bringing to the forefront L.A.’s socio-economic class structure. She uses the riots as a backdrop to her commentary on attitudes, prejudices and the simple act of just wanting more.
Lines I liked: “Feeling like Bruce Willis is some sort of Dead Something action picture, Bronwyn gripped her flashlight” (p176), and “and because there was nothing else to do, she rolled over and stole her arms around her fellow, such as he was, because his was the body that was still there” (p 221).
Author fact: If you Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now is Loh’s first novel.
Book trivia: short, short, short!
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “California, Here We Come” (p 49).
Ephron, Amy. Biodegradable Soap. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.
This is such a short, snarky little story about a community in suburban Los Angeles. Claudia Weiss is becoming more and more obsessed with recycling and the environment while her husband leaves her for a younger, more self-centered actress. Claudia’s friends gossip and have affairs of their own. One friend starts up an affair with her personal trainer and gets caught. Interspersed in the story are different current events: the Soviet invasion of Lithuania, the war in Iraq, the Exxon-Valdez spill… It’s truly an odd book.
Quote worth quoting, “That was what he liked about Lara – she was completely self-obsessed and he didn’t think she’d ever had an altruistic thought in her life” (p 45).
Reason read: Ehpron’s birth month is in October.
Author fact: Ephron has her own website here.
Book trivia: This is a quick, quick, quick read. 159 pages…but not really. Each “chapter” is short and choppy; only 1-2 pages long. If you were to squish the pages it’s only — pages long.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “All in the Family: Writer Dynasties” (p 6).
McCall, Dan. Bluebird Canyon. New York: Congdon & Weed, 1983.
Picture southern California. Now picture the star of a soap opera star named Rex Hooker with a penchant for self-destructiveness. The two go together in a stereotypical way, don’t you think? What isn’t so typical is Bluebird Canyon’s narrator, Oliver Bodley. Better known as “Triphammer” or “Trip”, Detective Bodley is a not so ordinary city police officer who gets caught up in Rex’s struggle to keep from losing it all. Interestingly enough, Rex and Trip go way back, as in high school way back. As the story unfolds, we find that Trip and Rex had been through quite a bit together back in their younger days. Just to give you an example. Rex and Trip are accused of partaking in the gang rape of a drunk girl. The victim’s brother and five of his friends proceed to kick the crap out of Trip and Rex…in detail. There’s more where that came from. Fast forward 20 years. Trip has been called to the Hooker estate for an apparent suicide attempt. Trip hasn’t seen his friend in those 20 years and Rex was rumored to be the victim. Be prepared. It gets nutty from there. Turns out, Rex is fine but 45 pages later his girlfriend’s sister accomplishes what he didn’t. Rex still lives with his parents but has a son, an ex-wife and a girlfriend. Meanwhile, at 37 years old, Triphammer is adrift. He doesn’t have a steady relationship, hates his exwife, in fact; he lives in a trailer on the beach (think Chris the DJ on Northern Exposure), he’s constantly losing his hat, and he doesn’t have a problem doing drugs in uniform (minus the hat). What he does mind, however, is being spit on.
All in all, some of Dan McCall’s plot was a little annoying. As I mentioned before, Trip is called to Summer Snow because Rex Hooker is trying to commit suicide. 45 pages later, another character hangs herself. It is mentioned the Hooker family is petrified of fire. 51 pages later Summer Snow is burning, thanks to an arsonist. I never grew to like Trip at all and I thought the writing was rambling and disconnected. At times the behavior of all the characters were exaggerated and ridiculous. Other times their actions were too sedate for the scene: two dogs were murdered on two separate occasions, two different houses were set on fire, two different suicides occurred…it all seemed a bit much. If McCall was trying to bring Rex’s soap opera to life in Bluebird Canyon he succeeded.
Quotes to make you sit up, “The world is full of assholes, and eventually they all turn up at the beach” (p 65), “My hole couldn’t handle a Q-tip” (Yes, he’s talking about what you think he’s talking about on p 72), “Chemists do not liven up a conference” (p 111), and “I wish my mind was a dog and I could train it to go sit” (p 244)
Reason read: California became a state on September 9th, 1850.
Author fact: Dan McCall passed away on June 17th, 2012. The Cornell Chronicle posted a really nice obituary about their former colleague.
Book trivia: I could see this as a movie, but to my knowledge one has never been made.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “California, Here We Come” (p 49).