Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Brashares, Ann. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. New York: Dell Laurel-Leaf, 2001.

Reason read: school is wrapping up; Portland Public Library Book challenge. Also, May is “Birds and Bees” month.

This is the story of a pair of blue jeans found in a thrift shop. Just kidding. The magic word for this bestseller is friendship. Four girls from four incredibly different backgrounds have been friends since the womb; ever since their pregnant mothers became friends in an aerobics class. Even though their mothers’s friendships died and withered away, the daughters remained close. All four girls were born within seventeen days of one another but that is the only characteristic they have in common (besides living in Bethesda, Maryland):
Carmen. Her parents are divorced and in the beginning of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Carmen is headed to South Carolina to spend the summer with her dad, someone she doesn’t get to see very often. She feels lucky to have him to herself for once. They haven’t spent any real time since she was ten.
Tibby. Her has a huge family and she is the only one not traveling for the summer. Left behind in Maryland, she befriends a young girl with cancer.
Bridget. She is the athlete in the bunch. As a soccer star, she is headed to Baja, Mexico to camp to improve her skills. There, she falls in love with a counselor.
Lena. She gets to spend the summer in Greece with her grandparents who barely speak English. Think lots of situations lost in translation.

Author fact: Brashares has won an Indies Choice Book Award.

Book trivia: Sisterhood is the first book of five in the “pants” series. I am only reading the first two for the Book Lust Challenge.

Nancy said: Pearl included Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants as best for teenage girls, but said any teen or adult might like it.

BookTwist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 23). I said that already.


March Same As It Ever Was

This March will mark my eighth time running the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race. When I lived in town I would watch the runners race by, seemingly effortlessly. I could spy on them from my third floor apartment; while I sipped coffee I wondered what it would be like to able to run six miles knowing believing I couldn’t run a single one. Look at me now, Dad.

Here are the books I’m reading for the month of March:

Fiction:

  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear – in honor of International Women’s month and to check off a category from the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge list (a cozy mystery).
  • Miss Mole by E.H. Young – in honor of Young’s birth month.
  • The Calligrapher by Edward Docx – in honor of March is Action Hero month.
  • On the Night Plain by J. Robert Lennon – in honor of Yellowstone National Park.
  • Pandora’s Star by Peter Hamilton – in honor of sci-fi month.

Nonfiction:

  • All Elevations Unknown: an Adventure into the Heart of Borneo by Sam Lightner, Jr. – in honor of the first time Mount Kinabu was ascended (March 1851).
  • Baghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia by Tony Horwitz – in memory of the March 2003 bombing of Baghdad.

Series Continuations:

  • Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland – to continue the series started in January in honor something I can’t remember.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • The 21: A Journey into the Land of the Coptic Martyrs by Martin Mosebach (started in February).

Graced Land

Kalpakian, Laura. Graced Land. New York: Grove Press, 1992.

Reason read: Elvis Presley was born in the month of January and if you couldn’t tell by the title of the book, Graced Land has an Elvis slant…big time. Read in his honor.

Emily Shaw, fresh out of college with a degree in social work, thinks she can heal the world Candy Striper style with her notes from her final Sociology class. Elvis has died five years prior and Emily’s first welfare client, Joyce Jackson of St. Elmo, California, is obsessed-obsessed-obsessed with the fallen idol. Joyce doesn’t need a Candy Striper. She needs to spread the work of Elvis. As she sits on her porch-turned-shrine to the king with her two daughters, Priscilla and Lisa Marie (of course), Joyce tells anyone who will listen how Elvis’s job was to sing, entertain, and look pretty, but his life’s work was to spread love, charity, and compassion. To make the world see Elvis as a humanitarian is a tall order considering many see his final years as a drug-addled, overweight has-been. Emily, instead of spending the prerequisite twenty minutes with Joyce on the first visit, ends up listening to Joyce and drinking the tea for three hours.
Later we learn how Joyce came to be such an Elvis fanatic. We leave Emily’s little life and follow Cilla’s childhood, describing how her mom was obsessed with Elvis since forever. I think the story would have held up better if Kalpakian had stuck with the story from Emily’s point of view, rather than brief first person narratives from Cilla. They didn’t serve much purpose other than to fill out Joyce’s personality as a mother. There is one critical scene that Cilla had to narrate, but I think Kalpakian could have found a different way.
But, back to the plot. Along the way, Emily learns Joyce is scamming the government by making money on the side. As a new social worker she needs to make a decision, turn Joyce in or give in to Elvis.

As an aside, I don’t know if Kalpakian did it on purpose, but a lot of the characters have alliterate names: Penny Pitzer, Marge Mason, Joyce Jackson…

Confessional: I had never heard of the Old Maid’s prayer before this book.

Author fact: Kalpakian also wrote Educating Waverly, also on my challenge list.

Book trivia: Real people and events from Kalpakian’s life make cameo appearances in Graced Land. Another interesting tidbit is that Graced Land was also published under the title Graceland.

Nancy said: Pearl said Graced Land is an example of a novelist using the facts of Elvis’s life to “explore themes of love, family, relationships, and even religious and socioeconomic issues” (Book Lust p 79).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Elvis On My Mind” (p 78).


October Okay

Fiction:

  • The Master of Hestviken: the Axe by Sigrid Undset.
  • October Light by John Gardner.
  • Jamesland by Michelle Huneven.
  • The Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows by Patrick Chamoiseau.
  • Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman.

Nonfiction:

  • Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara.
  • Obsession with Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell.

Series continuation:

  • Running Blind by Lee Child.

Early Review for LibraryThing

  • Lou Reed: Notes From the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes.

Isabel’s Bed

Lipman, Elinor. Isabel’s Bed. New York: Washington Square Press, 1995.

Reason read: Lipman’s birth month is in October. Read in her honor.

Harriet Mahoney gave twelve years of her life to a man who just left her to marry a woman he’s only known for a few months. Adding insult to injury, he kicks Harriet out of the house she has shared with him as his common law wife for all those years. Dejected but determined to land on her feet, (without her parents’s help…she is over forty, after all!) Harriet takes a job in the seaside town of Truro, Cape Cod, to ghost write celebrity Isabel Krug’s tabloid story. Everyone knows Isabel was the femme fatale using a vibrator in a married man’s bed. Everyone knows the married guy’s wife stormed into the bedroom and shot him dead. Everyone knows because the trial was a sensation full of titillating details, but Isabel wants the world to know her side of the story (it’s even more sordid) and because she isn’t shy, she’s willing to tell all. Harriet is in for the ride of her life working with feisty Isabel…until the not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity widow comes knocking.
This is a fun read but a bit silly at times.

Line I really liked, “My taste buds strained in their direction” (p 276).

Author fact: Lipman is from Lowell, Massachusetts. Same as Hey Jack Kerouac.

Book trivia: So. This story is supposed to take place in Cape Cod. One character is supposed to have a wicked Boston accent. He does…for the most part. It comes and goes.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Isabel’s Bed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Elinor Lipman: Too Good to Miss” (p 146).


October Late

I am so frigging late with this it’s not even funny. Here are my excuses: I was home-home the first weekend in October. I am hosting an art show. I’m trying to hire a new librarian. And. And! And, I have been running. Only 13.25 miles so far but it’s a start, right? I’m thrilled to be putting one foot in front of the other. But, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • October Light by John Gardner – in honor of October being in the the title of the book and the fact that it takes place in Vermont, a place that is simply gorgeous in the fall.
  • Jamesland by Michelle Huneven – in honor of October being Mental Health Awareness month.
  • Long Day Monday by Peter Turnbull – in honor of police proceedurals.
  • The Axe by Sigrid Undset – in honor of the fact I needed a translated book by a woman for the Portland Public Library challenge. Weak, I know.
  • Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman – in honor of Lipman’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara – in memory of O’Hara dying in October.
  • An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair by Sharman Apt Russell – in honor of Magic Wings opening in October and the fact that Monhegan was inundated with monarch butterflies for the month of September. We even saw a few while we were home.

Series Continuation:

  • Running Blind by Lee Child – started in honor of New York becoming a state in July (where Lee Child lives). However, big confessional: I am reading this out of order. My own fault completely.

LibraryThing Early Review:

  • Notes from the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes

Crazy Days of October

I don’t know where to begin with trying to explain October. From the beginning, I guess. It started with a trip home; a lovely week off with lots of reading accomplished. Then it was a New England Patriots football game followed by two Phish shows and a political rally for a state in which I do not live. If that wasn’t weird enough, I hung out with a person who could have raped or killed or loved me to death. Take your pick. Any one of those scenarios was more than possible. It was a truly bizarre month.
But, enough of that. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Quick but cute read.
  • Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB/print). Sad.
  • The Chronoliths by Robert C. Wilson. Interesting.
  • Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB). Boring.

Nonfiction:

  • Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris (EB/print). Only slightly less boring than Bridge.
  • Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth. Really interesting.
  • African Laughter by Doris Lessing. Okay.

Series continuations:

  • The Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print). Detailed.
  • Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB). Cute but glad the series is over.

Fun:

  • We Inspire Me by Andrea Pippins. Cute.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Gardening Under Lights by Leslie F. Halleck. When I set up the reads for October I didn’t include this because it hadn’t arrived yet.

I should add that October was a really frustrating month for books. I never really liked anything I was reading.


An August Attempt

So. I’ve done a few short runs here and there. Nothing crazy, but at least I’m back in it somewhat. Spent more time with the books. Speaking of which, here they are:

Fiction:

  • Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman (EB/print)
  • The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
  • The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (AB)
  • Crazy Jack by Donna Jo Napoli (EB)
  • Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (EB)
  • Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print)
  • Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts (EB)

Nonfiction:

  • A Season in Red: My Great Leap Forward into the New China by Kirsty Needham
  • A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird
  • Eurydice Street by Sofka Zinovieff

Series continuation:

  • Arctic Chill by Arnuldur Indridason (EB/print) – which I forgot to mention when I was plotting the month. It’s the last book of the series -that I’m reading. (There are others.)
  • Big Bad City by Ed McBain

LibraryThing Early Review:

  • Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford (EB) – which came after I plotted the month of reading so it wasn’t mentioned before.

 


Best of Everything

Jaffe, Rona. The Best of Everything. New York: Penguin Books, 1958.

Reason read: August is the best time to read Chick Lit.

The year is 1952 and women in the workplace are finding their collective ambitious voice. In The Best of Everything five young women seemingly only have the employment of a New York publishing company in common. Caroline wants to climb the corporate ladder; to go from typist to editor. April is as naive as they come but learns the timeless power of sex appeal. Gregg has the life of a jet setting actress, but secretly wants to settle down and be a housewife. Barbara is a single mother with a young daughter and Mary Agnes is mousy; too shy for words.

One central theme to The Best of Everything is the need women feel to protect themselves from predatory men. They are always defending themselves against the less than admirable advances of the amorous kind. There is a great deal of strategic purse shuffling and genius body blocking at parties and at the office. Yet, they all want to be married to respectable men.

A few quotes (out of hundred) to quote, “It’s like holding hands and jumping off the top of a building; did we think it was going to be any easier because we were holding hands?” (p 95), “It was like trying to categorize something in order to make it exist” (p 118), “The hard mechanical palm he had extended to her in his handshake had not been a unique phenomenon, it had simply been an uncovered part of the entire unyielding whole” (p 164), and probably the most tragic quote ever, “She leaned out the window and all of a sudden the mile long limousine with the two of them in it and the liveried chauffeur and the armful of rises and the soft music and the hip flask if bourbon wasn’t glamorous anymore; it was ridiculous; they were two frantic stupid people speeding through an ugly-smelling countryside to attend the murder of love” (p 194).

Author fact: In 2005 Jaffe wrote a foreword to The Best of Everything. In it she admitted her rise to success happened before she had even published the book. Who she knew helped a great deal.

Book trivia: The Best of Everything is Rona Jaffe’s first novel and it became a New York Times Best Seller and a movie.

Nancy said:  The Best of Everything is a given when thinking about the category of fiction that primarily explores the lives of young, single women.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Chick Lit” (p 53).


Travels of August

Since the Run for Nancy was only a few days ago I am still on a high from not only running four miles, but running four miles without pain. No pain whatsoever. The pain is so gone it’s as if I imagined the whole thing. Weird. Weird. Weird. As for books, since I don’t have any other running plans in the near future:

Fiction:

  • The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe – in honor of August being Chick Lit month.
  • The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – in honor of Courtenay’s birth month being in August.
  • Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts – in honor of August being Dream Month (hey, I read it somewhere).
  • Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett – in honor of Dunnett’s birth month being in August.
  • The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall – in honor of Rajir Ratna Gandhi’s birth in August.

Nonfiction:

  • A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird – in honor of Colorado becoming a state in August.
  • Eurydice Street: a Place in Athens by Sofka Zinovieff – in honor of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin.
  • A Season in Red by Kirsty Needham – in honor of the Double Seven festival in China.

Series continuations:

  • The Big Bad City by Ed McBain – to continue the series started in July.

If there is time:

Fiction:

  • Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman – in honor of Ekman’s birth month.
  • Crazy Jack by Donna Jo Napoli – in honor of Fairy Tale Month.

 


July’s Jam

July was jamming. Guess what! I ran a few times this month. Even participated in a charity run for an aunt-in-law (is that a thing?). I am feeling much, much better! And. And! And, I was able to read a ton:

Fiction:

  • Jackie by Josie by Caroline Preston – in honor of Jacqueline O. Kennedy’s birth month.
  • Cop Hater by Ed McBain – in memory of McBain’s passing in the month of July.
  • Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterthwait – in honor of Lizzie Borden’s birth month.
  • Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken – in honor of July being Kids Month.
  • Gardens of Kyoko by Kate Walbert – in honor of Japan’s Tanabata Festival.
  • Animals by Alice Mattison – in honor of Mattison’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • The Coldest Day: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam – in honor of July being the month the Korean War ended.
  • The Book of Mediterranean Cooking by Elizabeth David – in honor of July being picnic month.
  • Den of Thieves by James Stewart – in honor of July being Job Fair month (odd choice, I know).

Series Continuation:

  • The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason – to continue the series started in June.
  • Midnight in Ruby Bayou by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Into the Storm: Two Ships, a Deadly Hurricane, and an Epic Battle for Survival by Tristam Koten.

 


Jackie By Josie

Preston, Caroline. Jackie By Josie. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Reason read: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was born in July; read in honor of her birth month.

Josie Trask is one neurotic woman…but she has a lot of heart. Hired to research the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for a less-than-serious biographer, Josie moves back in her childhood Massachusetts home for the summer in order to be close to her source’s personal history. It’s right after Jackie O’s death and digging up the most private of Jackie’s dirt takes time. This means moving back in with an overbearing and alcoholic mother while contending with a typical three year old son, all on her own. Husband Peter has headed to California for a teaching job, carpooling with college friend, Monica. While Josie is trying to satisfy a constantly demanding employer and worrying about her absent husband, she is convinced her mother is dating a criminal and her husband is having an affair. As Josie digs deeper into Jackie’s life she can’t help but notice the similarities. What lessons can she learn from the life of a former First Lady?

Author fact: While Preston has written a bunch of books, Jackie by Josie is the only one I am readng for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Jackie by Josie is Preston’s first book.

Nancy said: Jackie By Josie was “wonderful reading, each in its own way” (More Book Lust, p 132). She goes on to say some books have more depth than others. I would think Jackie By Josie is one such book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Just Too Good To Miss” (p 132). I keep wanting to add the word “Period” to it. As an aside, this could also have been listed in Pearl’s Maiden Voyages chapter.


July’s Pages Upon Pages

I have a prediction for July. I will read a crap load of books. Actually, I am cheating. It’s not a prediction because I already know I will. Case in point – yesterday my husband and I spent seven hours on the water. He fished. I read. Yesterday was July 1st so I was already knee-deep in the July Challenge list and thanks to an iPad I had five books with me. I made a decent dent in the “Boat” books:

Fiction:

  • Jackie by Josie by Caroline Preston – in honor of Jacqueline O. Kennedy’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • The Coldest Day: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam – in honor of July being the month the Korean War ended.
  • The Book of Mediterranean Cooking by Elizabeth David – in honor of July being picnic month.

Series Continuation:

  • The Draining Lake by Arnaldur Indridason – to continue the series started in June.
  • Midnight in Ruby Bayou by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April.

Others on the list:

Fiction:

  • Black Hearts in Battersea by Joan Aiken – in honor of July being Kids Month.

Nonfiction:

  • Den of Thieves by James B. Stewart – in honor of July being Job Fair month (odd choice, I know).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Into the Storm: Two Ships, a Deadly Hurricane, and an Epic Battle for Survival by Tristam Koten.

If there is time:

  • Gardens of Kyoko by Kate Walbert – in honor of Japan’s Tanabata Festival.
  • Animals by Alice Mattison – in honor of Mattison’s birth month.
  • Miss Lizzie by Walter Satterthwait – in honor of Lizzie Borden’s birth month.
  • Cop Hater by Ed McBain – to honor McBain’s passing in the month of July.

 

 


May is a Month

What about May? May was a month of personal disappointments and private pain. I weathered all without much fanfare. Running was nonexistent but I can’t say the same for books:

Fiction:

  • Landfall: a Channel Story by Nevil Shute (EB)
  • Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (AB, EB & print)
  • Martin Sloane by Michael Redhill (EB & print)
  • Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez (EB & print)
  • Adrian mole: the Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend (EB & print)

Nonfiction:

  • Into Thin Air: a Personal Account … by Jon Krakauer

Series continuations:

  • Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
  • Last Seen in Massilia by Steven Saylor (EB & print)
  • Angel at My Table by Janet Frame (EB & print)

Early Review from LibraryThing:

  • 1968: — edited by — Aronson

Added – Plays:

  • Medea by Euripides ~ in honor of the best time to go to Greece.

 


Jade Island

Lowell, Elizabeth. Jade Island. New York: Avon Books, 1998.

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

Jade Island is the second book in the Donovan series but it doesn’t follow Amber Beach’s plot line all that much. When we left the Donovan clan in Amber Beach, Kyle Donovan had been rescued from near death after his amber hungry girlfriend sold him down the river and nearly had him killed. Now, Kyle is chasing jade and an impossibly beautiful Asian-American named Lianne Blakely. Kyle certainly knows how to pick ’em. Lianne is the illegitimate child of Chinese Johnny Tang and all American Anna Blakeley. Lianne wants nothing more than to belong to the Tang clan and is more than happy to appraise and evaluate jade trades for them. But what happens when Tang jade starts to disappear and Lianne is the prime suspect? Kyle must decide between his head and another piece of his anatomy. Is Lianne innocent or is he falling in love with a criminal? What I appreciated with Jade Island was there was none of the coy games played between the two impossibly beautiful protagonists. Lianne enjoyed Kyle’s company and they got along really well despite the sexual tension.

It is not necessary to read Amber Beach to understand Jade Island. Lowell makes references to details from the previous book but the plot is not dependent on it.
Author fact: Lowell writes with her husband. It’s funny I should learn this after reading Jade Island because I had written myself a note that Lowell sometimes writes like a woman (fashion, appearances, emotions) and other times she writes like a man (sexual appetites, violence, lust).

Book trivia: Jade Island is the second book in the Donovan Series. There are two more.

Nancy said: nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here To Stay” (p ).