Brashares, Ann. The Second Summer of the Sisterhood. New York: Delacorte Press, 2003.
Reason read: to finish the series started in May in honor of Birds & Bees month.
Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bridget are back for another summer wearing “The Pants.” Carmen continues to be a brat. I think she is supposed to be seen as the fiery Puerto Rican. In The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants she threw a rock through a window because she was mad at her dad for having a girlfriend and starting a new family. In Second Summer of the Traveling Pants it’s her mom’s happiness she can’t bear to witness.
Tibby’s situation was a little more believable. Away at college and desperate forget a friend who died of leukemia, she shuns her old life and adopts the crappy attitudes of a couple of loner kids in her class. This, I know a little something about. Sadly, I am guilty of changing my personality to impress new people.
Bridget is away in Alabama, working for her estranged grandmother and trying to escape an unfortunate event in The sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Gram thinks Bridget is a lonely girl named Gilda and with Bridget’s weight gain and dyed hair Grandma is easily fooled.
Lena has the simplest yet most complicated story. After leaving Greece she couldn’t stand to be away from Kostos so she broke up with him. Doesn’t make sense, but that’s perfect teenage logic for you. Who hasn’t done something dramatic thinking it was the only choice? Kostos accepts the breakup until he sees Lena and professes his undying love for her…until something else happens.
All four girls have moments when The Pants don’t work for them. The magic just isn’t there and they have to rely on growing up to see the solution. the real magic happens when they begin to see their mothers as human beings.
Author fact: Brashares has also written nonfiction. None of it is on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: Second Summer did not do as well as Sisterhood. Sequels are a hard nut to crack.
Nancy said: Pearl included Second Summer of the Sisterhood in a list of “teen-pleasers.”
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 23).
Dangarembga, Tsitsi. Nervous Conditions. Oxford: Ayebia Clarke Publishing, 2004.
Reason read: March is African Writers Month.
Line I liked a lot, “She began to prepare me for disappointment long before I would have been forced to face up to it” (p 20).
As an adult recalling her childhood, Tambudzai remembers spending most of her formative years constantly questioning the right action to take, not only as a representative of her Rhodesian culture, but as a woman in a male dominated society. It is the 1960s and her missionary uncle has given her the opportunity to attend his school. He is the provider, the all-powerful headmaster, capable of shaping Tambu’s future or tearing it down on a whim. She recalls enduring endless lectures from him, nagging reminders of how lucky she was to be given the opportunity for mental emancipation. She wouldn’t have gotten the chance had his first choice, her brother, not died. Indeed, as soon as Tambu entered his household Tambu began to learn new things: how to hold a fork, the proper way to use a toilet, take a bath, or shut out a light. She endures a love-hate relationship with her cousin, a girl with the same restless desires to break free of societal trappings.
Favorite line, “Her seriousness changed from sweet, soft dove into something more like a wasp” (p 101).
Author fact: Dangarembga has written a great deal, but I am only reading Nervous Conditions for the Challenge. This is her first novel.
Book trivia: Nervous Conditions was Dangarembga’s first novel.
Nancy said: after Pearl wrote Book Lust people started to ask her about titles she had omitted. Nervous Conditions was one such title. Pearl called the opening line to Nervous Conditions “provocative.”
BookLust Twist: This is a popular one: from Book Lust in the chapter “African Literature in English” (p 16). Also in More Book Lust in two places, the introduction (p xi), and again in the chapter called “Lines that Linger, Sentences that Stick” (p 140).
I don’t even know where to begin with September. It was the month from hell in more ways than one. The only good news is that I was able to run twice as many miles as last month. That counts for something as it saves my sanity just a little bit more than if I didn’t do anything at all.
Here are the books:
- In the City of Fear by Ward Just
- Jim, The Boy by Tony Earley
- The Shining by Stephen King
- Thank You and OK! by David Chadwick
- Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
- Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Madj Hoomin
- Agony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone
- Tripwire by Lee Child
- Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- My Life on the Line by Ryan O’Callaghan
Earley, Tony. Jim the Boy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2000.
Reason read: September is back to school month for some.
There is a sweetness to the story of ten year old Jim Glass. In the prologue readers learn Jim was born a week after his father passed of a heart attack while working in the fields. Even though he never knew his father, young Jim is not without male guidance as he is surrounded by three protective uncles. His mother’s brothers keep an eye on Jim as well as their too-young-to-be-a-widow sister, Cissy.
Earley colors Jim the Boy‘s characters with real life angst and everything that goes with it. For Jim it’s immature prejudices and naive hubris amidst competition and companionship with classmates. Growing up in depression era North Carolina, Jim assumes that his house in town is better than those of the mountain boys yet learns differently when he visits a friend with polio. Meanwhile, his mother Cissy struggle to do what is right by Jim. In her heart she wants to remain faithful to a man dead ten years despite needing to give Jim a true father from which she feels he should learn life’s harder lessons.
One of my favorite parts of the story was when the uncles wake Jim in the middle of the night to witness electricity coming to their little town. While light bulbs chased away the shadows. At first Jim was excited but then he felt the change made the world a little darker; an interesting perception for a boy so young.
Author fact: Earley is also an author of a collection of short stories not on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: Jim the Boy is the first in a series about North Carolina boy, Jim Glass.
Nancy said: Pearl called Jim the Boy a coming of age tale.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mothers and Sons” (p 160), and again the the chapter called “Southern Fiction” (p 222).
Plath, Sylvia. The Bell Jar. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2000.
Reason read: In June there are overnight Suicide Prevention Walks around the country.
Frances McCullough’s 1996 introduction to The Bell Jar calls it a twin to Catcher in the Rye as it was published on Rye’s twentieth anniversary.
I think it is safe to say The Bell Jar is a classic. Haunting and hurtful, you have to almost flinch away from the mental illness that descends on protagonist Esther Greenwood. Every time she fixates on a way to commit suicide you wonder, does she actually go through with it this time? Does she succeed? Then when you discover The Bell Jar is autobiographical it all makes sense and you think you know the answer.
There were so many different lines I wanted to quote. Because I connected to them so deeply, here are a few of my favorites, “There is something demoralizing about watching two people get more and more crazy about each other, especially when you are the only extra person in the room” (p 29), “There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends” (p 53), “I thought if only I had a keen, shapely bone structure to my face or could discuss politics shrewdly or was a famous writer Constantin might find me interesting enough to sleep with” (p 87) and “I tried to speak in a cool, calm way, but the zombie rose up in my throat and choked me off” (p 129).
Author fact: Plath died at the young age of 30 on February 11th, 1963. She used the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas from time to time. The Bell Jar was published under the name Lucas,
Book trivia: The Bell Jar was rejected as being too juvenile the first time it was submitted for publication.
Nancy said: Pearl called The Bell Jar “painful.” I would agree.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Girls Growing Up” (p 102).
This has become a morbid joke but I’m not going to the island so there is no chance of me jumping off anything this month. There is time for books, though. Here’s the list:
- Book of Reuben by Tabitha King – in honor of June being the month when a lot of people (my sister included) like to get married.
- Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – in honor of Suicide Prevention Day being in June in some states.
- Sun Storm by Asa Larsson – in honor of Larsson’s birth month being in June.
- Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan – in honor of Kaplan’s birth month being in June.
- From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll – in recognition of Khomeini’s death in the month of June.
- Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling – to continue the series started in May.
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the never-ending series started in January.
- Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in April.
- Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian – to continue the series started in May.
Short stories for National Short Story Month:
- “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
- “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
- “The Life and Times of Estelle…” by Sherman Alexie
- “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
- “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
- “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis
Barry, Lynda. The Good Times are Killing Me. New York: Harper Perennial, 1988.
Barry, Lynda. The Good Times Are Killing Me. Canada: Drawn & Quarterly, 2017.
Reason read: January is Barry’s birth month. Read in her honor.
This is a unique book that took me all of two days to read. When it ended so abruptly I thought there was some kind of scanning mistake (I was reading it as an ebook). I was startled. So much so that I borrowed a print version just to make sure I didn’t miss out on something. Then I read it again. And again.
Edna Arkins is a child is trying to grow up in the tumultuous 1960s. Her white neighbors are fleeing her urban Seattle neighborhood as other ethnic groups take up residence. She herself is white and doesn’t understand their prejudice. Told from the first person and using music as her Polaris, Edna struggles to work out her rapidly changing adolescence. In response to confusing and callous adult racism Edna forges a taboo relationship with a Black girl named Bonna. She thinks Bonna is beautiful. What is most captivating about Edna is her awkwardness and honesty as she navigates through changing relationships. I wanted Bonna and Edna to conquer the world together. I wanted them to break down just one barrier; to get one adult to accept and understand their friendship. My fervent hope for a happy ending made the truth that much more difficult to swallow.
Lines I liked, “I could always tell the difference between God and a streetlight” (p 11), and “Like all it was was any black girl slapping any white girl who had mouthed off to her, something that happened every single day and would just keep on happening, world without end” (p 139).
Author fact: Barry in known for her graphic novels.
Book trivia: The last section of The Good Times are Killing Me includes a thirty-four page “music notebook” full of biographies of famous and not-so famous musicians and styles of music. The illustrations are fantastic.
Nancy said: Pearl said Good Times are Killing Me touches on the themes of childhood and adolescence.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Graphic Novels” (p 103). Confessional: I deleted Good Times are Killing Me from my list because it is not a graphic novel. Pearl could have included it in the previous “Girls Growing Up” (p 101).
I try not to think about white rabbits running around with time pieces muttering about being late. Whenever I do I am reminded this is being written three days behind schedule. Nevertheless, here are the books:
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov – in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown – this is a stretch…All Creatures Great and Small first aired as a television show in January and there is a creature in the title.
- The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry – in honor of Barry’s birth month.
- A Cold Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow – in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January.
- Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn – in honor of Australia’s National Day on January 26th.
- The Turk by Tom Standage in honor of Wolfgang Von Klempelen’s birth month.
- Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington – in honor of January being National Yoga month.
- Sibley’s Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley – in honor of Adopt a Bird Month. I read that somewhere…
- To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
- Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – I know what you are thinking. I am neither black nor a girl. I am a middle-aged white woman who barely remembers being a girl. I requested this book because I work in an extremely diverse environment and let’s face it, I want to be known as well-read, regardless of color.
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – my sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.
Roth, Henry. Call It Sleep. New York: Penguin Classics, 2006.
Roth, Henry. Call It Sleep. Read by George Guidall. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1994.
Reason read: The Yom Kippur War in October.
[For my own state of mind I really should ban reading overly sad books with traumatic endings.] Told from the perspective of six year old David Schearl, Call It Sleep relates the hardships of immigrant life in turn of the century gritty New York City. In the prologue, David and his mother arrive from Austria to join her abusive and angry husband. This is the of the few times the narrative is outside little six year old David’s head. The majority of the story is a stream of consciousness, skillfully painting a portrait of inner city life from a child’s point of view.
As an aside, in the beginning I questioned why David’s father would abhor David to the point of criminal abuse. It took awhile to figure out why.
But, back to little David. His young life is filled with fear. He is overwhelmed by language differences between Yiddish and English, overly sensitive to the actions of his peers, clings to his mother with Freudian zeal. I found him to be a really hopeless child and my heart bled for him. While most of the story is bleak, there is the tiniest ray of hope at the end. The pessimists in the crowd might have a negative explanation for what David’s father does, but I saw it as a small gesture of asking for forgiveness.
As another aside, Roth’s interpretation of the Jewish Austrian dialect was, at times, difficult to hear in my hear. Listening to George Guidall was much easier.
Quotes I liked, “Go snarl up your own wits” (p 157), “David’s toes crawled back and forth upon a small space on the sole of his shoe” (p 186), and “…clacking like nine pins before a heavy bowl of mirth they tumbled about the sidewalk” (p 292).
Author fact: Henry Roth is often confused with Philip Roth. I’m guilty of doing it a few times. The real Author Fact is that Henry Roth didn’t write another novel after Call It Sleep until he was 88 years old, sixty years after Call It Sleep was first published.
Book trivia: Call It Sleep was Henry Roth’s first novel, written when he was under thirty.
Nancy said: Nancy simply explains a little of the plot of Call It Sleep.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Jewish American Experience” (p 133).
Courtenay, Bryce. The Power of One. New York: Ballantine Books, 1989.
Reason read: Courtenay’s birth month is in August.
Confessional One: I accidentally ordered the childrens’ book version of The Power of One. Before I realized my mistake I was already half way through it.
Confessional Two: the version for children needed to be returned before I was finished so I jumped over the the adult full length story. I’m glad I did.
Confessional Three: The Power of One started a little slow for me. Maybe because I started with a book for children? At times I thought it contained magical realism. Once the story picked up I was thoroughly engrossed.
Known only by the derogatory name of Pisskop, a child is born in South Africa and in the shadow of Hitler’s rise to cruel power. In 1939 Pisskop seems destined for demise. He was born of the wrong color, white. He spoke the wrong language, English. He was raised by a woman of the wrong color, black. His own mother all but nonexistent. Pisskop knew fear, cruelty, humiliation and abandonment all before he turned six years old. Through a series of unremarkable events Pisskop is led to the people and opportunities that would bestow courage and grit on the young boy. Harry Crown, who renames Pisskop, Peekay. Hoppie Groenewald, who offers Peekay a green sucker at their first fateful meeting (a gesture Peekay will always remember). Doc, who becomes a mentor and a father figure for Peekay. Geel Peet, who takes Peekay’s boxing skills to another level. Because of these early relationships, Peekay gains confidence and courage, vowing to overcome his color, his speech, his pitiful upbringing. In his dreams he survives to become the welterweight champion of the world.
Lines I liked: “Man brutalized thinks only of his survival” (p 215), “The indigo night was pricked with sharp cold stars” (p 257), “The photograph captured the exact moment when I understood with conviction that racism is a primary force of evil designed to destroy good men” (p 265), and one more, “You either disappear into a plebian background or move forward to where most others fear to follow” (p 472).
Author fact: Courtenay was born in South Africa.
Nancy said: nothing specific, besides plot, about Power of One.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Africa: A Reader’s Itinerary” (p 3).
I don’t post a lot of personal stuff on this side of the writing. Not usually. Typically, I leave all that other blathering on JustCauseICan. I may write about the run or the island, a brief sentence here or there, but of little else…except for today. When you lose someone you adore it is hard to focus. That is precisely my problem today. I am shattered by grief and only put back together again by words. So, I must read. Here are the books planned for September. I hope they heal:
- Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden – to remember Hurricane Ivan as it wreaked havoc on my 2004 September wedding.
- The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life by Judith M. Heinmann – in honor of Harrisson’s birth month being in September.
- Life and Times of Miami Beach by Ann Armbruster – in honor of Hurricane Irma.
- Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories, Recollections, and Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth Century American Literature edited by Tom Grimes – in honor of Grimes’ birth month being in September.
- Fuzz by Ed McBain – to end the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.
- Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall – to end the series started in August in honor of Rajiv Ratna Ganghi, India’s youngest Prime Minister’s birth month.
- Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month (August).
- Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.
- Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to end the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
Confessional: I am still reading Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford.
Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Gallery Books, 1999.
Reason read: May is considered “Birds and Bees Month” and oddly enough (or coincidentally?), some schools chose to teach their sex ed at this time. Spring is the time for renewal!
This is one of those books you can read cover to cover on a rainy afternoon but be forewarned, once you hit the last page you will flip back to page one and start all over again. At least I wanted to…Even though this was, “best for teens” as Nancy Pearl says, I loved it.
Charlie is a typical shy teenager on the eve of his first day as a freshman in high school. With a strong desire to unburden his life he’s writing letters, diary style, to an unknown person he has chosen out of the phone book. Why he writes these letters we’ll never know, but what emerges is a portrait of a sensitive kid just trying to make it in the world. Like a diary we are privy to his coming of age, his intellectual growth, his emerging personality. As I got to know Charlie better and better I found myself constantly sucking in my breath, willing him to not get hurt. I came to care about him that much. Even though the ending is a clear as an oncoming rain storm I didn’t want to believe in its terrible beauty.
Lines to mention, “Then, I turned and walked to my room and closed the door and put my head under my pillow and let the quiet put things where they are supposed to be” (p 26), “So I guess Zen is a day like this when you are part of the air and remember things” (p 43), and the sentence that sums up Charlie the best, “I was just quiet and I watched him” (p 60). Typical wallflower behavior.
As an aside: Every book that Bill asks Charlie to read is a favorite of mine and when Charlie makes Patrick the mixed tape I knew every song (except I though he could have added more. Who ever heard of a mixed tape with only 13 songs?)
Author fact: Chbosky also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of rent.
Book trivia: Perks was made into a movie which I haven’t seen…yet.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Teens” (p 23)
Schwartz, Steven. A Good Doctor’s Son. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1998.
First and foremost, I could not put this down. I came to care about David Nachman. Even worse, I really worried about him. I think I read this book in one week’s time. Told from the retrospective first person, David Nachman, at nine years old in 1960s Pennsylvania, wanted to become a doctor like his father. Stoic and gentle, Dr Nachman did not discriminate patient care at a time when crosses were burning on some front lawns and the whites were moving out to the suburbs. You get the point – he was a good doctor and a good man. David wanted to be just like him. However life had other plans for young David by the time he reached his teens. Desperate to fit in, David joined a group of fellow teenagers for nights of gambling and crude sex jokes. Inwardly shy, it really wasn’t his thing but he wanted to belong somewhere so he played along. One terrible mistake changed his course of history forever. At a time full of protest and war, David has his own inner conflict to contend with. Now in his forties, David recounts his coming of age years in a slow and careful cadence. While his remembrances are gentle, it is impossible to ignore the growing undercurrent of guilt.
Line that lingered, “Either way…we wouldn’t talk about what was right in front of us” (p 13). How many families live like that, ignoring what is blatantly obvious and impossible to ignore?
Reason read: Pennsylvania became a state on December 12th, 1787.
Author fact: Schwartz wrote another book called Therapy but sadly it isn’t on my list. Another sad fact, another reviewer reviewed Schwartz (said he was an ass) in addition to giving his/her opinion of the book. It’s always cool when author AND book are great, but that doesn’t always happen.
Book trivia: Is this a movie? Because this should be a movie. I don’t know who would play David, but I see Richard Dreyfus as dad.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Big Ten Country: the Literary Midwest: Pennsylvania” (p 140).
Lethem, Jonathan. Girl in Landscape. New York: Double Day, 1998
Girl in Landscape has been compared to Nabokov’s Lolita which I have never read. As a result of my ignorance I was able to read Girl in Landscape without preconceived notions of what it was about. I’m glad I did. This was great in an extremely strange way. When you first meet old-for-her-age thirteen year old Pella Marsh and her family they are getting ready to go to the beach in what you or I would consider ordinary Brooklyn Heights, New York. Only planet Earth has become a post-apoplectic wasteland where exposure to the sun has become too dangerous without complicated protective gear. It has been decided the Marsh family will leave Earth for the Planet of the Arch-builders. Before they can leave Pella’s mother is stricken with a brain tumor and quickly dies. Pella, her father and two brothers must travel to the Planet of the Arch-builders without her. This is where things go from odd to downright bizarre. The Planet of the Arch-builders is sparsely populated with a few earthlings, a smattering of Arch-builder aliens and an overabundance of a creature called household deer. Pella’s father, a failed politician, has hopes of creating a lawful society on the Planet of the Arch-builders but soon discovers there is an ominous rift between the humans and the aliens. The plot gets darker and darker the deeper into the story you go.
The very first line to strike a nerve with me was in the first few pages, “Pella decided not to laugh today” (p 3). Another fatalistic thought, “She imagined slashing the tires” (p 87).
Postscript~ This is one of those books that annoyed me and it wasn’t the author’s fault. I have a real pet peeve when it comes to glowing reviews on the back of a different book. It’s obnoxious. It’s as if to say, “fukc the book you are reading now. This one is much better.” Yes, I will be reading As She Crawled Across the Table. Glowing review or not it is on my list. I’ll get to it just not right now. I’m reading Girl in Landscape now. I’m holding it in my hands. What do you have to say about it?
Reason read: Lethem was born in February.
Author fact: Jonathan Lethem has a website here.
Book trivia: Many people have said Girl in Landscape is dark and dreary but more people have said “go read it.” I agree with the latter.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Jonathan Lethem: Too Good To Miss” (p 145).
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little Town on the Prairie. New York: Harper Trophy, 1971.
At this point in the “Little House” series Ma, Pa and the four daughters, Mary, Laura, Carrie and Grace, have moved to town so that Pa can finish the homestead. This is their second year in De Smet and the little homestead is growing. Pa’s farming abilities are increasing with the addition of chickens, corn, and a bigger garden. The town is growing as well. A church has been built and the community is getting together for Friday Literary nights at the school where games like spelling bees, charades and debates are held. At this time Mary is sent away to a college for the blind and Laura is nearly sixteen years old. She is on her way to becoming a school teacher. Her focus is on studying hard so that she will be ready for the career when she turns sixteen. Another step towards adulthood is the growing, albeit confused, attraction to Almanzo Wilder. His courtship is odd to her because she thinks of him as “old” and more of a friend of her father’s than hers.
Interesting quote: “A grown-up person must never let feelings be shown by voice or manner” (p 228).
When I was little I thought it would be amazing to live like Laura Ingalls. There was something so simple and so pure about her era. Although life during that time was harder, less convenient, there was more emphasis placed on doing the right thing, using resources to their fullest, not wasting a single thing. Another aspect of the time was the fashion. Everything was so structured around age! Carrie had to wear her hair in braids down her back (which caught on the buttons running down the back of her dress) while Laura, approaching adulthood could wear her braids on top of her head. She was proud of the weight on her head.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Great Plains (the Dakotas)” (p 107).