Heartburn

Ephron, Nora. Heartburn. Pocketbooks, 1983.

Reason read: a Christmas gift to myself.

What do you do when you are seven months pregnant and you discover your second husband is having an affair? To make matters worse, you already have a handful in the form of a two year old named Sam. It’s complicated to say the least. Heartburn is fiction but it could be all true. Ephron based this fictional falling apart of a marriage on her own experiences with love gone awry. Told from the perspective of Rachel, a cookbook author who has discovered her husband is having an affair with someone in their social circle. Like all good gossips, everyone knows Thelma is having a fling with someone’s husband. They all take turns guessing until Rachel discovers it’s her Mark Thelma has been seeing. Heartburn is at once heartbreaking and hilarious. Rachel’s revenge is sweet and swift.

Lines I liked, He said it with the animation of a tree sloth” (p 87) and “Second of all, it means even a simple flat inquiry like “How’s Helen?” is taken amiss, since your friend always thinks that what you hope he’s going to say is “Dead.” ” (p 138).

Author fact: Ephron was better known for her romantic comedies, but she was also a journalist and novelist.

Book trivia: Heartburn contains fifteen recipes.

Playlist: Irving Berlin’s “Always”.

Nancy said: Pearl said Nora is best known for Heartburn.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “All in the Family: Writer Dynasties” (p 5).

Clockers

Price, Richard. Clockers. Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

Reason read: New Jersey became a state in December and I needed a book with a one-word title for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.

Dig down. Dig beneath the slang and bravado and you will find a gritty story about two very different human beings trying to survive the poverty stricken streets of New Jersey and New York. Rocco Klein has been a homicide detective for too long. He has seen it all and maybe he is too jaded because, as of late, the drug deaths he encounters inch him closer and closer to a yawning apathy. It might be time to retire. That is, until he meets young, barely out of his teens, Victor Dunham. Victor seems to be too innocent to be readily and eagerly confessing to a murder. Klein knows better. Who is Vincent covering for? Could it be his always in trouble drug-dealing brother? The cat and mouse game cops and crook play makes for an adventure (albeit a little long).
As an aside: Clockers is code for drug runners. Cocaine dealers, to be more specific.

Great lines, “At least with enemies, you knew what they were right up front” (p 8),”But the coffee didn’t pour itself, so nothing had come of it” (p 40). Yup. I’ve had those days, too.

Author fact: Richard Price wrote the screenplay for The Color of Money.

Book trivia: Clockers was made into a movie in 1995 and directed by Spike Lee. Of course I have not seen it.

Playlist: Wilson Pickett’s “International Playboy”, the Impressions’ “It’s All Right”, Kool and the Gang, “Ninety-Nine and a Half Just Won’t Do”, “I Found a Love”, the Rolling Stones, James Brown, and “One Love”.

Nancy said: Pearl said Price’s novels are hard to define.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jersey Guys and Gals” (p 129).

Salt

Kurlansky, Mark. Salt: a World History. Penguin Books, 2003.

Reason read: Mark Kurlansky was born in the month of December. Read in his honor.

Salt. Everyone loves salt. Some people even crave salt. After reading Kurlansky’s book on the subject I am better versed on all things salt. I am ready for a trivia game about salt. I now know salt is associated with fertility in some cultures and that Egyptians salted their mummies before burial. I know almost no geological area is without salt. Salt has been used as a currency. There is salt in gun powder. Salt is responsible for soy sauce’s humble beginnings. The difference between creating alcohol and a pickle is salt. I never thought about how salt is the only rock people willing eat in great quantities or how every fluid in the body contains some percentage of salt. I could go on and on. Kurlansky takes his readers on a historical journey through epic wars like the American Revolution, the Civil War and beyond, all the while keeping salt as the main ingredient. You will never look at a shaker of salt the same way again.

Author fact: I have six Kurlansky titles on my Challenge List. Salt is the penultimate book left to read.

Book trivia: Salt is a best seller and chock full of photographs and illustrations. There is one photograph of bamboo piping used to carry brine. At first glance the structure looked like a rickety old wooden roller coaster ride at Coney Island.

Nancy said: Pearl said “After reading Salt you’ll never take that not-so-simple condiment for granted again” (Book Lust p 141). She’s not wrong. Pearl says a bit more, but I’ll let you discover her humor on your own.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mark Kurlansky: Too Good To Miss” (p 141). This is the penultimate book on my Challenge list.

Black River

Ford, G.M. Black River. William Morris, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the series started last month in honor of New Jersey becoming a state.

This mystery continues to feature hard nosed Frank Corso. He’s a stoic reporter who happens to be a imposing tough guy. This time he is the only writer allowed into the courtroom during the murder trial of Nicholas Balagula, alleged gangster accused of killing 63 people. It’s the crime of the century in the form of faulty architecture of a hospital. At the same time, a murdered man is discovered buried in his truck by the side of a river. Is this murder related to Balagula’s trial and if so, how? The dead man was paying for his son’s expensive medical school on a blue collar salary. How? Was he on Balagula’s payroll? Corso only gets involved when his former lover, Meg Dougherty, has an accident so life threatening Corso doubts it was an accident at all. Someone wants Meg dead. All clues lead Corso back to Balagula in round about ways.

Author fact: the G. M. stands for Gerald Moody. I have to wonder if he is related to the Moody family in Maine. You know, the ones with famous diner?

Book trivia: You could walk around Corso’s world just by taking note of the real-life landmarks Ford uses: Elliott Bay, Bainbridge, 7th Madison, Portage Bay, Montlake Cut, Union Bay, Lake Washington

Playlist: Chopin, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”, Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, Ricky Martin, Sarah McLachlan, Heart, and Barry Manilow.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Black River.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Living High in Cascadia” (p 148).

Midwives

Bohjalian, Chris. Midwives. Vintage Contemporaries, 1997.

Reason read: Chief Justice John Jay was born in the month of December.

Imagine anything and everything that can go wrong when trying to midwife a birth: there are complications with an at-home pregnancy in rural Vermont; a storm rages; phones go out and roads are impossibly icy; the midwife’s assistant is inexperienced and immature. The husband freezes, struck and stuck immobile with fear. These are the days before cell phones and computer communications. No VoIP, no texting, no Googling how to perform a cesarean or how to stop a woman with high blood pressure from having a cerebral hemorrhage. There is no way to go for help when this same exhausted woman starts bleeding to death after hours and hours of trying to give birth to a second child. A desperate situation calls for desperate measures and seasoned veteran midwife Sibyl Danforth makes a decision to perform an emergency cesarean on this mother. Months later, at her trial for manslaughter, she will tell the court she believed the mother had died. Was it a necessary action or did Sibyl commit callous unthinkable murder? As with all suspicious deaths, Sibyl must be tried in front of a jury of her peers, all the while battling traditional medical opinions and an overzealous community ripe for justice. The midwife culture is one of hippies, people who buck the system and thumb their noses at modern medicine. Midwives give off the vibe they lounge around buck naked while smoking pot. Told from the perspective of Sibyl’s daughter, thirty year old Connie Danforth looks back on her mother’s horrific choice and the subsequent trial that followed.

As an aside, I found myself gritting my teeth through the more difficult sections.

Author fact: Bohjalian also wrote Water Witches. I read that back on April 2010.

Book trivia: Each chapter is introduced with an entry from Sibyl Danforth’s journal.

Playlist: Abba, the Shirelles, Joni Michell, and Janis Joplin,

Nancy said: Pearl called Midwives a remarkable mother-daughter novel, yet it is not included in the “Mothers and Daughters” chapter of Book Lust on page 159.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “What a Trial That Was!” (p 243).

Remake

Willis, Connie. Remake. Bantam Books, 1995.

Reason read: Willis was born in the month of December. Read in her honor.

Remake is captivating. Imagine moviemaking of the future where technology allows you to alter endings to your favorite movies. Don’t like Johnny Depp starring in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Want to see Ryan Reynolds as the lead instead? With just a keystroke, you can change any detail you want. Live-action filming is a thing of the past. Every little detail can be turned upside-down with a little techno-photoshopping. Nothing is real anymore. Which is unfortunate for one na├»ve young woman named Alis. All she desires is a dance with Fred Astaire up on the silver screen. She knows all of Ginger’s moves and like Alice in Wonderland, believes the right combination of eat-me and drink-me drugs will get her there. Caught up in love with Alis, Tom muddles his way through fixing bad alterations, all the while offering Alis her face on all the great dancers who danced with Fred. Alis doesn’t want a photoshopped image of herself on Ginger’s body. She wants the real deal.
As an aside, I loved how Willis thought. Here’s a twist: when bona fide actors are maliciously altered into snuff films, litigation ensues. Either that, or the wronged actor becomes a popular porn star.

Author fact: Even though Connie Willis has written a ridiculous number of books, I only had ten on my Challenge list. I have read all but three, To Say Nothing of the Dog, Passage, and Unchartered Territory.

Book trivia: there is an insane number of movies mentioned in Remake. I don’t know if they are all real or not, but I took the liberty of listing them all. You’re welcome.

  • 3 Sailors and a Girl
  • 42nd Street
  • African Queen
  • Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • All About Eve
  • American in Paris
  • Anchors Aweigh
  • An Affair to Remember
  • Annie Get Your Gun
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • Athena
  • Babes on Broadway
  • Back to the Future
  • Bell, Book and the Candle
  • Belle of New York
  • Bells are Ringing
  • Ben-Hur
  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • The Birds and the Bees
  • The Blue Max
  • Born to Dance
  • The Boyfriend
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Brigadoon
  • Broadway Melody of 1940
  • Broken Blossoms
  • By the Light of the Silver Moon
  • Camelot
  • Camille
  • Can-Can
  • Carefree
  • Carousel
  • Casablanca
  • Cat Ballou
  • The China Syndrome
  • Chorus Line
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Collector
  • The Color Purple
  • Dance
  • Days of Wine and Roses
  • Death Wish
  • Double Indemnity
  • Dr. Zhivago
  • Dumbo
  • East of Eden
  • Educating Rita
  • Fantasia
  • Field of Dreams
  • Flying Down to Rio
  • Follow the Fleet
  • Fools
  • Footlight Parade
  • Footloose
  • For Love or Money
  • Frankenstein
  • Funny Face
  • Gaslight
  • Gay Divorcee
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • Giant
  • Gigi
  • Girl Crazy
  • Godfather
  • Godfather II
  • Gold Diggers of 1933
  • Good News
  • Goodbye Mr. Chips
  • Graduate
  • Great Expectations
  • Greed
  • Gunga Din
  • Guys and Dolls
  • Hallelujah Trail
  • Harvey Girls
  • Hats Off
  • Hello Dolly
  • High Road to China
  • High Society
  • House of Wax
  • How the West was Won
  • How to Marry a Millionaire
  • I Killed Wild Bill Hickok
  • I Love Melvin
  • In the Good Old Summertime
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Into the Woods
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • The Kid from Brooklyn
  • Let’s Dance
  • Little Miss Marker
  • Lost Horizon
  • Lost Weekend
  • Love Story
  • Magnificent Seven
  • Maltese Falcon
  • Mame
  • Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
  • Man with the Golden Arm
  • Meet Me in St. Louis
  • Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
  • Music Man
  • My Fair Lady
  • Ninotchka
  • Notorious
  • Now Voyager
  • An Officer and a Gentleman
  • Oklahoma
  • Oliver
  • On the Town
  • One Touch of Venus
  • Painting the Clouds with Sunshine
  • Palm Beach Story
  • Party
  • Pennies from Heaven
  • Phantom Foe
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Philadelphia Story
  • Pinocchio
  • Plainsman
  • Postcards from the Edge
  • Pretty Woman
  • Psycho
  • Public Enemy
  • Purple Rose of Cairo
  • Purple Taxi
  • Rear Window
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • Rio Bravo
  • Rising Sun
  • Risky Business
  • Saratoga Trunk
  • The Searchers
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Seven Year Itch
  • Shadowlands
  • Shall We Dance
  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
  • She’s Back on Broadway
  • Showboat
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Singing in the Rain
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Sleepless in Seattle
  • Small Town Girl
  • Snow White
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Somewhere in Time
  • Spellbound
  • Stagecoach
  • Stage Door
  • Starlift
  • Star is Born
  • Star Trek
  • Star Wars
  • Strike Up the Band
  • Summer Holiday
  • Swingtime
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Tea for Two
  • Ten Commandments
  • Terminator
  • Thief of Bagdad
  • There’s No Business Like Show Business
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • Three Little Girls in Blue
  • Three Little Words
  • Time After Time
  • Thin Man
  • Too Much Harmony
  • Top Hat
  • Topper
  • Towering Inferno
  • the Trouble with Angels
  • Two Weeks In Love
  • Valley of the Dolls
  • Vernon and Irene Castle
  • West Side Story
  • What’s New Pussycat
  • Where the Boys Are
  • White Christmas
  • Wings
  • Wizard of Oz
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Yankee doodle Dandy
  • You Can’t take It With You

Setlist: “Abba Dabba Honeymoon”, “Anything Goes, “Buckin’ the Wind”, “Crazy Rhythm”, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, “Moonlight Lullaby”, “Put On Your Sunday Clothes”, and “You are My Lucky Star”.

Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about Remake.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good to Miss” (p 247).

Cat Who Came for Christmas

Amory, Cleveland. The Cat Who Came for Christmas. Little, Brown and Company, 1987.

Reason read: December is the month for Christmas

Every December I look for a few books that are lighthearted and funny. The Cat Who Came for Christmas fit the bill for the most part, being both a memoir about a specific stray cat coming into Cleveland’s life and a didactic nonfiction containing interesting facts about cats. Here are a few examples: Cleveland delves into the theory of a cat having nine lives; he provides names of politicians and rulers who either loved or detested cats; he shares the dirty secrets of animals shelters, testing on animals (ouch), and price gouging of veterinarians. He shares stories of his work with animals rights organizations. It is not just a warm and fuzzy story about a cat named Polar Bear. But let’s be fair. Polar Bear is the star of the show. The full blown, complete sentence dialogues Cleveland would have with his cat are hysterical.
Cleveland is in good company of famous people who enjoyed cats: Mark Twain, Colette, Walter Cronkite, and Robert De Niro to name a few.

Quote to quote, “You do not, after all, have to walk a wife (p 6).

Author fact: Cleveland likes to drop names. He was good friends with Cary Grant and George C. Scott.

Book trivia: the advance praise for The Cat Who Came for Christmas is star-studded. Bea Arthur, Walter Cronkite, Norman Cousins, and even Doris Day all give a glowing review. See what I mean about the name dropping?

Nancy said: Pearl said many people enjoyed The Cat Who Came for Christmas.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Cat Crazy” (p 51).

Persuasion

Austen, Jane. Persuasion. Read by Michael Page. Blackstone Audio, 2016.

Reason read: Persuasion was published in December 1817. Jane Austen was born in December. I also needed a one-word title for the Portland Public Library 2022 Reading Challenge.

As you probably remember from your high school literature class, there is not a whole lot of excitement happening in Persuasion. This is a character driven story based on personality, dialogue and society. Austen’s keen sense of observation was not in what people did, but how they did them.
Confessional: sometimes the characters drove me crazy. Maybe it was a Victorian societal thing, but I was annoyed with one character who was disagreeable to be in the confidences of other residents, especially when they constantly bitched to her about others. Mary is annoying with her fashionable hysterics, ailments and imaginary agitations. I liked the more clever persuasions, like when Anne was persuaded to think the engagement an indiscreet and improper mistake. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Anne as isolated and unloved as she was.
Jane Austen had a tongue-in-cheek humor. My favorite line was something like, “He took out a gun but never killed. Such a gentleman.”

Author fact: Austen was only 41 years old when she died. One of her aunts was named Philadelphia. I have never heard of a person being named Philadelphia before. What a cool name!

Book trivia: Persuasion was unfinished at the time of Austen’s death. Her brother found the manuscript and was able to publish it as Austen’s last novel. I ended up reading an anniversay edition of Persuasion which included exhausting and exhaustive footnotes and some photography that was out of context or referred to other Austen stories. To compliment the anniversary edition I listened to an audio version by Blackstone Audio.

Nancy said: Pearl said Austen’s writing is lighter in tone.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “An Anglophile’s Literary Pilgrimage” (p 19) and again in “Lyme Regis” (p 134). True story: somehow I missed cataloging this entire chapter on my Challenge spreadsheet. Woops.

Black Path of Fear

Woolrich, Cornell. The Black Path of Fear. Ballantine Books, 1982.

Reason read: Woolrich was born in the month of December. Read in his honor.

To read a Woolrich mystery is to be pulled into a compelling, fast-paced drama that has you turning page after page after page to figure out what happens next. In Black Path of Fear, a chance meeting between a newly hired chauffeur and his mob boss’s beautiful wife sets the stage for a story of gangster vengeance and betrayal. Scotty steals Eva away from her marriage and together, they manage to escape to Havana, Cuba. They have escaped, but not undetected. Soon after their arrival, Eva is quietly and cleverly murdered. All evidence points to Scott. He bought the murder weapon hours earlier. Did he murder the gangster’s wife to avoid the jealous wrath of organized crime? Partnering with a mysterious woman primed for revenge herself, Scott is trapped in Havana. How to extricate himself from the crime is the mystery he and his new partner, Midnight, must solve. [As an aside, I loved the character of Midnight. She is the element of spice that makes the plot all that more delicious.]
Someone said the plot is fiendishly ingenious and I cannot help but agree. I read this in three sittings.
Details matter to me. There is a part of Woolrich’s narrative that did not make sense to me. Scott is chauffeuring Eva, Jordan and Roman to a nightclub. He observes how the three get into the car, saying, “they sat on each side of her.” Yet, when they arrive at their destination, he describes their exits as, “she had to alight before them, and they brought up the rear.” How is that possible? If she was in the middle, how did she get out before them? Would the men allow a woman in an evening gown to crawl over one of them? Unless they were in a limousine, which they were not…

Lines I liked, “It’s surprising how much easier it is to be ethical when you are well fed” (p 50) and “A change of opinion doesn’t make any noise” (p 57),

Author fact: I have six “Black” books of Woolrich’s on my Challenge list. I have only read two so far.

Book trivia: Black Path of Fear is a very short novel. Barely 160 pages, it is a quick read.

Playlist: “Jesus Loves Me”, “Amazing Grace”, and “Siboney”.

Nancy said: Pearl said all Woolrich’s stories are filled with “melodramatic plot twists, doom and dread” (Book Lust p 66).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Les Crimes Noir” (p 65). It also could have been included in the adjacent chapter called “Cuba Si!” (p 68). Just saying.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Narrated by Jeff Woodman. Blackstone Audio, 2003.

Reason read: Christmas Present to Myself.

Everyone needs a Christopher John Francis Boone in their life. He is smart, funny, truthful, and loyal to the core. It doesn’t matter that his behavioral problems cause him to be violent when touched or that he hates the color yellow to the point of obstinance. Chris is, at heart, a really good kid who has been dealt a rough hand in life. His mother died of a heart attack and his father is his only family. So when Chris is accused of killing a dog with a garden fork, you feel for him. He knows he is innocent, but he can’t articulate this fact well enough to keep from being arrested and locked up. Eventually the police let him go, but that isn’t good enough for Chris and so begins his crusade to clear his name. The only way to really prove his innocence is to become a detective like Sherlock Holmes and discover who actually stabbed his neighbor’s poodle with a garden fork. This leads Chris down a path of more than one mystery. His journey is both courageous and inspiring.
Everything about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is clever. The way Chris notices even the smallest detail to help him navigate his way through life. The way Chris uses the powers of deduction and reasoning to solve mysteries.
As an aside, it reminded me of Wonder by Palacio.

Author fact: Haddon won the Whitbread Book Award in 2003. He also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and a Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He has a low-pri website here.

Book trivia: the title of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is based on the 1892 short story by Arthur Conan Doyle and all the chapters are in prime numbers.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time “terrific” and “wonderful.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Maiden Voyages” (p 158) and again in the chapter called “Other People’s Shoes” (p 181).

All Over But the Shoutin’

Bragg, Rick. All Over But the Shoutin’ .Vintage Books, 1997.

Reason read: A friend sent this to me.

Rick Bragg needs you to understand three things about his life: One, he grew up with a strong mother. Two, his family was poorer than dirt. I don’t know what’s more poor than dirt, but Bragg will never let you forget he grew up less than dirt with words like white trash, ragged, welfare, slums, poverty, raggedy, and did I mention poor? Three, he’s southern to the core, despite moving to New York City. Maybe it’s this last point that makes it okay for him to use words like Eskimo. To be fair, we are a society becoming more and more sensitive to slights, real and perceived. But, I digress.
Bragg travels the world seeing atrocities far worse than growing up in poverty or having a delinquent dad or a drug-addled brother. His ability to tell stories from a compassionate point of view draws a great deal of attention and eventually, fame.
It is funny how when we are on the cusp of carrying on traditions from childhood we say we will do things differently than our parents. “I will not be my father. I will not be my mother.” Yet, at the same time we are just like them without trying. Bragg spent a lifetime trying not to be his father, but at the end of All Over But the Shoutin’ he is compelled to write his long-gone father a few words.

Author fact: Bragg won a Pulitzer as a reporter for the New York Times.

Book trivia: All Over But the Shoutin’ is a national best seller and has a few black and white photographs.

Playlist: Elvis, “Closer Walk with Thee”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “Boilin’ Cabbage Down”, Faron Young, Little Jimmy Dickens, Bill Monroe, Carlos Santana, Mother Maybell Carter, “Saturday in the Park”, Hank Williams, George Wallace, “Faded Love and Winter Roses”, “Dixie”, “Just As I Am”, “My Daddy’s War”, Beethoven, Johnny Horton, “Silent Night”, Eagle’s “The Long Run”, “Jesus Loves Me”, “Amazing Grace”, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and “Uncloudy Day”.

Fifteen

Cleary, Beverly. Fifteen. HarperCollins, 1956.

Reason read: a Christmas gift to myself (something I could read in a day without thinking).

If you know Cleary’s books you know they can be inhaled in one sitting. Written for children and young adults, Fifteen tackles, well, being fifteen. Jane Purdy is exactly that age and anxious to break free of stereotypical teenager dilemmas like mean girls and being boy crazy. She tires of babysitting brats, longs for a boyfriend she can call her own, and is sick of being the homely girl Marcy always teases. As it is, Jane is an easy target with her sensible shoes, no nonsense hairstyle and round collars. I found it distressing that Jane needed a boy to feel like she belonged at Woodmont High, but that’s fifteen for you. This is definitely one book best read as a young child or early teen.

Author fact: Cleary also write the Ramona series. I am only reading Fifteen for the Challenge.

Book trivia: I couldn’t remember reading this book until I saw a different cover of it. Interesting fact: the cover of that book had a boy putting an identification bracelet on a girl’s wrist as a sign they were going steady. I was disappointed in the cover because that’s not how it happened in the book. Spoiler alert.

Nancy said: Pearl included Fifteen as a book that is better remembered than reread. She actually said it was one book she couldn’t reread without feeling “disappointed, betrayed, and embarrassed” (Book Lust p 165).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “My Own Private Dui” (p 165).

Shtetl

Hoffman, Eva. Shtetl: the Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.

Reason read: in honor of Hannukah.

Inspired by a documentary Hoffman saw on Frontline, this is the biography of Bransk, a Polish town that no longer exists thanks to the thoroughness of the Nazis under Russian rule. One of the most difficult segments to read was the recounting of young Bransk boys conscripted into the Russian army. They were religiously converted away from their birthright and upon returning home, shunned by their own people.
As an aside, I am afraid of cult figures and the power they can wield over seemingly intelligent people. I was surprised to learn of a man in the 1750s by the name of Jakub Frank who claimed he was the Messiah. He wanted to rule all of Poland and had a strong sexual appetite for young girls and orgies.

Quotes to quote, “I believe that if we are to understand what happened in Poland during the war, we must begin by acknowledging, from within each memory, the terrible complexity of everyone’s circumstances and behavior” (p 6).

Author fact: Hoffman grew up in Cracow, Poland.

Book trivia: Shtetl was written after Hoffman saw a documentary by the same name of Frontline in 1996.

Nancy said: Pearl admires Hoffman’s writing and reads everything she publishes, but for the Challenge I am only reading Shtetl. Pearl would have bought Shtetl for someone exploring Jewish roots.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 181) and from More Book Lust in the chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 114).

Lottery

Jackson, Shirley. The Lottery. Amereon Limited, 1976.

I don’t think I have to explain the plot to anyone. In one sentence: it is the short story of a community that annually choses someone to stone to death. I had so many questions as a teenager reading The Lottery in high school. Who was the third person narrator and why do they never express emotion or share the thoughts and feelings of other characters? It’s as if the scene they describe is too horrible for humanity and they purposely keep their distance by staying out of the other characters’ heads. As a result, the dialogue has to be heavy and masterful enough to carry the action. Otherwise, no one would understand what is truly going on. The other questions I had: Who was Mr. Summers and why does he get to conduct the lottery? Who came up with the black box in the first place? If everyone avoids the black box and keeps their distance from it, why have it around at all? No one wanted to help Mr. Summers even move it. Did this community continue using the box just because of tradition? Lastly, how does Jackson as a young mother come up with something like this?

Reason read: Shirley Jackson was born in December. Read in her honor.

Author fact: Jackson is bets known for her horror.

Book trivia: The Lottery first appeared in “The New Yorker in 1948. It was awarded the O Henry Award in 1963.

Nancy said: Pearl described The Lottery as “endlessly anthologized.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 100).

My Soul to Take

Sigurdardottir, Yrsa. My Soul to Take: a Novel of Iceland. New York: William Morrow, 2006.

Reason read: Denmark’s Parliament granted Iceland independence in December 1918.

The tiny Icelandic town of Snaefellsness is not known for a high crime rate, so when two people are murdered in a similar fashion, the whole town buzzes with alarmed alertness. Why would anyone torture both victims with pins in their feet before killing them? More questions: what does a dead fox have to do with one of the victims? Does the New Age health resort in an old farmhouse have anything to do with either victim? What secrets are hidden in this renovated farmhouse? Thora Gudmundsdottir, lawyer to the owner of the resort, must defend Jonas as the main suspect, but that’s not why she was initially called to Snaefellsness. Her client was planning to sue the previous owners of the farmhouse because they didn’t disclose it was haunted. The ghosts of children are said to moan and wail on the property.
Sigurdardottir is crafty. The introduction of World War II Nazi flags and swastikas gave the plot a darker (and unnecessary) tone. The themes of incest and rape are enough.

Confessional: because Icelandic names do not roll off the tongue so easily for me, and there a lot of them, I needed to keep notes on who was who for most of the story. I found myself asking, “will this person be important later?”

Author fact: Sigurdardottir also writes books for children.

Book trivia: My Soul to Take is book #2 in a series featuring lawyer/single mother, Thora Gudmundsdottir. True to form, I read Sigurdardottir’s books out of order. She also wrote Last Rituals which I should have read before My Soul to Take.

Playlist: “Eye of the Tiger” and “Final Countdown,”

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about My Soul to Take but I should note I missed the word “series.” Ugh.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Iceland” (p 99). Doesn’t get any simpler than that.