Bennett, Ronan. The Catastrophist: a Novel. New york: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
Reason read: Bennett celebrates a birthday in January.
The underlying theme of this political thriller is the mistiming of love. One is already more ready than the other to give into the insecurities of love…until they are not. Compared over and over to Graham Greene, Bennett’s Catastrophist is character driven and full of political intrigue. Irish novelist James Gillespie tells the story of his journey to the Belgian Congo to follow his Italian girlfriend, Ines. As an ambitious journalist, she is covering the Congolese struggle for independence. Once the passion of her life, now she has little time or patience for James. Meanwhile, his romantic pendulum has swung in the other direction, clinging to a newfound
adoration obsession for Ines. I found their relationship to be shallow and self-serving. But, no matter. James gets caught up in the politics and befriends all the wrong people, pushing Ines further away. When she takes up with another man, it appears all hope is lost for reconciliation with James…and yet, James is blindly willing to go to unbelievably remarkable lengths to show his devotion.
Line I really, really liked and just had to quote, “The apartment reeked of our estrangement” (p 160). One more, “He was too absorbed in disguising his own failure, from me, from himself” (p 206).
Author fact: Bennett has written a plethora of other books, but I am only reading The Catastrophist for the Challenge. Additionally, I read somewhere that Bennett had trouble with the law throughout his life, including accusations of murder, armed robbery, and conspiracy.
Book trivia: this should be a movie. There is certainly enough sex and violence to make it a thriller. There was talk of making a movie, but I’m not sure it ever got off the ground.
Nancy said: Pearl called The Catastrophist a “political thriller” and suggested it should be read with Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African Colonialism (fiction)” (p 15).
Llosa, Mario Vargas. Aunt Julia and the Script Writer. Translated by Helen R. Lane. New York: Avon, 1982.
Reason read: July is the busiest time to visit Peru.
As a struggling writer, eighteen year old Marito (Mario) makes ends meet by writing news stories for a local Peruvian radio station while in law school. He welcomes two new distractions into his life and uses them to spice up his storytelling: his beautiful aunt (by marriage only), Julia, and the brilliant but crazy radio scriptwriter, Pedro Comancho. Thirteen years his senior, Aunt Julia begins a clandestine romance with Mario and at the same time Comancho takes Marito under his wing as his ever-growing confused confidant.
It is the differing point of view narratives that keep the story interesting as the reader bounces between the first person account of Marito and Comancho’s soap opera dramas told in the third person.
As an aside, when Aunt Julia says she’s old enough to be Marito’s mother I just had to do the math. Julia is only thirteen or fourteen years older than Mario. Yes, fourteen year olds have babies. It is possible, but it made me shudder all the same.
Lines I liked, “He was a creature given to short-lived, contradictory, but invariably sincere enthusiasms” (p 10), and “In the span of just a few seconds I went from hating her with all my heart to missing her with all my soul (p 157).
Author fact: Aunt Julia and the Script Writer is autobiographical. Also, Llosa has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Book trivia: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter was made into a 1990 movie called “Tune in Tomorrow.”
Nancy said: Pearl called Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter her favorite Llosa novel.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Latin American Fiction” (p 144).
Asimov, Isaac. Prelude to Foundation. New York: Spectra, 1989.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
Prelude to Foundation begins the entire Foundation series chronologically. On the planet Tranton Hari Seldon is alive and well. He has just given a speech on mathematical formulas that could potentially predict the future of mankind. That’s when the trouble starts. The last galactic emperor has gotten wind of this phenomenon and he wants in. Seldon’s advance predictions could potential stabilize his dynasty. Seldon needs to go into exile in order to escape Emperor Cleon’s clutches. As Seldon puts it, “if a psychohistorical analysis is made and the results are then given to the public, the various emotions and reactions of humanity would at once be distorted” (p 17). He needs time to develop his notions further and perfect his psychohistorical technique so that it becomes mathematically valid predictions. With the help of mysterious Mr. Hummin Hari is spirited far away with Historian Professor Dors Venabili. Together they travel to different lands of intolerance like Mycogen where they discover a society that despises hair on adults. Another carries a severe prejudice against women which is ironic since Dors has the responsibility of protecting Seldon.
Best quote, “What is important is what people will or will not believe can be done” (p 497).
Author fact: I’ve already told you twice that Asimov was a professor of biochemistry. The “new” fact is Asimov supposedly coined the word “robotics” in his story, Liar!
Book trivia: Chronologically, Prelude to Foundation is the first book in the series.
Nancy said: nothing specific.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
Trollope, Anthony. Barchester Towers. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2005.
Reason read: to continue the series started in April in honor of Trollope’s birth month.
I will be 100% honest. I couldn’t get into Barchester Towers despite the fact it’s supposed to be Trollope’s most popular novel and many organizations have it on their “Top 1000 books to read.” Yes, it is satirical and it has it humorous parts. I just couldn’t get into any of the characters. I suspect my lack of enthusiasm centers around the fact the novel is focused on religion and the war between the high and low churches. The bishop has died and a new one needs to be appointed. There’s a lot of infighting about how that will be resolved.
The best element of Barchester Towers is the return of Septimus Harding. His daughter, Eleanor, is now a widow and eligible to remarry. The second best character was Mr. Stanhope, a member of the clergy. He has been in Italy for twelve years “recovering” from a sore throat and catching butterflies.
Quote I liked, “They had never, therefore, poured into each others ears their hopes and loves…” (p 252).
Author fact: According to Pearl, Trollope was a postman by day and an author in his spare time. He wrote whenever he could.
Book trivia: My copy contained both The Warden and Barchester Towers.
Nancy said: Pearl’s favorite Trollope is the entire Barchester series.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 15).
King, Laurie R. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: On the Segregation of the Queen. Read by Jenny Sterlin. Recorded Books, 1995.
King, Laurie R. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: On the Segregation of the Queen. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.
Reason read: January is Female Mystery month. Take that anyway you want.
Such a clever plot. Take an established character like Sherlock Holmes and re-imagine him after retirement, living in the country and tending his beloved bees. Although he is only in his late 50s Holmes wants nothing more to do with solving crimes and revealing the truth behind mysteries…until he meets Mary Russell. She is ever bit the investigator he had been in his heyday and then some. He cannot help but be drawn to her keen sense of observation, her energized brain and her innate talent as an investigator.
Despite being nearly three times her age, it is interesting to watch Homes get closer to Mary emotionally and how she reacts to it. When there is physical contact between them Mary is clutched by sudden awareness of his physicality. There is a subtle shift to their relationship and what each wants from it.
The final mystery in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice threatens the lives of both Mary and Holmes. They are in so much danger people around them start paying the consequences. It takes everything in Sherlock and Russell’s combined powers of investigation to stay alive.
Quotes to quote: ” I refuse to accept gallant stupidity in place of rational necessity” (p 165) and “When in ignorance, consult a library” (p 301)..
Author fact: King is a native to San Francisco, California.
Book trivia: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is the first of a series of books about Sherlock and Russell.
Nancy said: Pearl says she loves King’s series involving Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the great chapter called “Ms Mystery” (p 169).
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).
One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.
Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:
- Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell
- Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
- The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
- The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
- Bogey Man by George Plimpton
- To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame
- Charmed by Nora Roberts
- The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor
- “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz
- Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe
Roberts, Nora. Entranced: Donovan Legacy Book Two. New York: Silhouette, 2004.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Valentine’s Day.
Mary Ellen “Mel” Sutherland is a no nonsense private investigator who is more comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt than high heels and a slinky dress. She runs three miles a day and prefers to be alone. Her tomboy ways don’t allow her to enjoy pink toenails or frilly outfits or even the searing looks from admiring men.
Sebastian Donovan just happens to be one of those admiring men. He is a wealthy psychic hired to help Mel find a missing child. Mel is less than thrilled to need the help of a kook she doesn’t believe in, but she has no choice. The missing child is her friend’s infant son, David. As you might have guessed, Sebastian is one of the Donovans, related to Morgana (from book one of the Donvan Legacy) as cousins. He is also a witch and, did I mention devastatingly handsome? Of course Mel cannot help but be drawn to him. It’s cliche, but she is annoyed with him until she isn’t.
Author fact: Nora Roberts has five different pseudonyms.
Book trivia: Morgana, Nash and even Luna the cat make an appearance in Entranced. Morgana and Nash are expecting their first child and throughout the entire story I worried their newborn would be stolen as part of the adoption scam.
Nancy said: absolutely nothing.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust not in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 207). I am super annoyed with The Donovan Legacy being the title of the book I was supposed to read. Here’s what I want to know: were the Donovan books published together as one book and then sold separately later? Or were the books published one at a time first and then sold as a package? Which came first, because that is what really matters to me. If I had more time I would research this further. My guess is the latter.
I have been seeing a chiropractor for over a month and have all but stopped running. At first, I admit, this bothered me to no end. Now, I’m okay with it for all the books I have been reading. And speaking of books, here is February’s plan for The Books:
- The Almond Picker by Simonetta Agnello ~ in honor of Almond Blossom festival in Sicily.
- The Color of Money by Walter Tevis ~ in honor of Tevis’s birth month.
- Dead Room Farce by Simon Brett ~ in honor of February being Theater month.
- City of Falling Angels by John Berendt~ in honor of February being the month of the Venice Carnival (AB/print).
- Full Steam Ahead: the Race to Build a Transcontinental Railroad by Rhoda Blumberg~ in honor of February being Train Month.
- Beyond Euphrates by Freya Stark ~ in honor of Freya’s birthday in January.
- Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline ~ because a friend recommended it (E-book).
There might be room for more titles, considering Dead Room Farce and Full Steam Ahead are barely 200 pages apiece. We’ll see…
Here’s the singular thing I love, love, love about March: the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race in Holyoke, MA. I adore running this race. Runner’s World magazine has mentioned it more than once, calling it the mini Boston Marathon for it’s toughness. I PR’ed this year! But what I am more excited about is that this time I was only five seconds away from breaking an hour. Unlike last year (1:07:and something seconds) I was 1 hour and a measly four seconds. But, enough about running! Here are the books finished for March, 2017:
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (AB +EB)*
- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (AB + print)
- Falling Angels by Barbara Gowdy*
- Treachery in the Yard by Adimchinma Ibe*
- Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam (DNF)
- Big Empty edited by Ladette Randolph and Nina Shevchuk-Murray (EB)
- No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (AB)
- Red Bones by Ann Cleeves
- Hall of a Thousand Columns by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (DNF)
- Endymion by Dan Simmons
Early Review “won”:
- Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leone (received and finished)
- My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul (This has arrived & I have started it)
*Short enough to read in one day.
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. Sign of the Four: The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Vol. 1. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1930.
Reason read: in memory of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who died in July (1930).
Originally published in 1889, this is the second Sherlock Holmes mystery. We meet Dr. Watson’s future bride-to-be, Mary Morstan.
One of the most prominent characteristics of Sherlock Holmes’s personality is his cheeky hubris, especially when he makes comments like, “Yes, I have been guilty of several monographs” (p 4), or “I cannot live without brainwork” (p 8). Aside from his ego, Holmes carries a sharp sense of reasoning and deduction and of course, the acute ability to draw unsuspecting witnesses out of their privacy, getting them to spill the beans by pretending to know everything they do already. An age-old police tactic.
To sum up the complicated mystery: it involves a secret pact between four criminals, a treasure and Mary Morstan. Mary’s father has been missing for ten years. He disappeared without a trace. Four years after his disappearance Mary started received a pearl a year from an unknown benefactor. Where’s rumor of a hidden treasure.
As an aside, it’s the sign of the times when I am shocked to read the details of Sherlock Holmes’s drug use – he’s shooting up cocaine on the opening page.
Author fact: Doyle’s full name is Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle.
Book trivia: This is the second Holmes mystery in the series.
BookLust Twist: sort of from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 123), but not really. Pearl lists The Complete Sherlock Holmes but tCSH is made up of four novels and 56 short stories. In all fairness I wanted to list them separately.
Draine, Betsy, and Michael Hinden. Castle in the Backyard: the Dream of a House in France. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) Web 7-30 April 2015.
Before my husband and I bought our house in 2009 we spent a lot of time watching first-time home-buying shows on HGTV and the DYI network. True, we were fascinated with the process but truthfully, we were more than a little scared we would look like idiots when it came our turn to make an offer someone couldn’t refuse. Realtor aside, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We had every reason to be afraid. Buying your first home is not a simple process by any stretch of the imagination even with the careful guidance of books and an expert real estate agent by your side. So, having said all that, I can only imagine what Draine and Hinden were feeling when they decided to buy a summer home in rural southern France. As a couple who got married later in life they didn’t have the opportunity to do a lot of those typical “first-time” things together, like buying a home (she moved into his). Castle in the Backyard is the romantic story of how one vacation turned into an adventure in buying French real estate. Draine and Hinden took almost a year and looked at 40 different properties before stumbling on the perfect “birdcage” of a home in Sarlat in the shadow of a castle, of course. Their retelling of the process is nothing less than perfect; dare I say cute? Even the sex (yes, there is sex) between them is sweetly implied. I loved the layers of humor (the Pepto Bismol was one of my favorites) and the seamless way Draine and Hinden took turns telling the tale.
As an aside, closing a house for the winter in Sarlat sounds not unlike closing a house on Monhegan. Lots of steps!
Biggest trivial take-aways: there is a “giant” Ikea near the Bordeaux airport, Sarlat was the foie-gras capital of France in 1995 and Draine and Hinden lived in “walnut country”.
Reason(s) read: First, there is the fact that April is a great time to visit France. Second, one of my favorite songs is “April in Paris” and my favorite version was sung by Billie Holiday (who was born on April 7th).
Author(s) fact: Draine and Hinden lived in the shadow of the castle for nearly 20 years. That must have been a beautiful time.
Book trivia: I read this an an e-book. I hope I didn’t miss out on much by not having the print and paper book in hand.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the oddly named chapter “So We/I Bought (or Built) a House In…” (p 211).
Chesterton, G.K. The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare. [Auckland]: The Floating Press, 2009. ebook collection (EBSCOhost). Web. February 3rd, 2015.
There are so many reviews which comment on the religious allegory of this book so I will refrain from doing that, except to say I enjoyed the “dueling with the devil” scene the most. There are also many reviews that mention how weird the story gets. Agreed. Completely. This is one of those situations in a story where purpose overshadows plot because the whole thing is really quite ridiculous. In a nutshell, Gabriel Symes is an undercover detective who infiltrates an anarchist group (Council of the Seven Days) only to find that the entire membership, with the exception of its leader, is made up of undercover New Detective Corps members. Each member goes by a day of the week for an alias, hence the Council of the Seven Days. Symes has just been nominated as “Thursday”. As a collective week they are all trying to get at the elusive leader, “Sunday”. Except, they are all in the dark as to each others true identities. What I find curious is that when Sunday sniffs out a spy his fears are confirmed when the undercover policeman reveals he is carrying his membership card to the anti-anarchist constabulary. Wouldn’t you remove that piece of evidence, especially if you bother to go through the trouble of wearing an elaborate disguise? Gogol posed as a hairy Pole, accent and all. The Professor posed as an invalid old man with a huge nose. Turns out, all six policemen are carrying the tell-tale blue identification card. Not one of them thought to leave it at home. But, I digress. For most of the story it is a cat and mouse game with the good guys chasing the bad guys (until one by one, they find out they are all good guys). The theme of “who can you trust” is ongoing.
I found a who bunch of lines and phrases I wanted to quote. Here are a few of them: “Many suitcases look a like” (p 2), “Boisterous rush of the narrative” (p 5), “The poet delights in disorder only” (p 15), “It is new for a nightmare to lead to a lobster” (p 29), and one more, “If you want to know what you are, you are a set of highly well-intentioned young jackasses” (p 263).
Reason read: Anarchy plays a huge part in Man Who Was Thursday and the Russian Revolution happened in February. You make the connection.
Author fact: Chesterton also wrote The Best of Father Brown which is also on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: The Man Who Was Thursday was first published in 1908. I cannot tell you how cool it is to be reading this an e-book 107 years later. As an aside, this is my first Challenge book from Ebsco. Another small piece of trivia: Chesterton had a thing for the sea. He mentions it no less than a dozen times throughout The Man Who Was Thursday.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade” (p 175).
Martin, Gerald. Gabriel Garcia Marquez: a Life. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2008.
This is going to sound horrible but I read the biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez before reading a single word written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have a bunch of different books by Garcia Marquez on my challenge list but his biography came up first. It’s sad to say I never read anything of his in high school or even college. You would think, I being a huge John Cusack fan, that I would have at least read Love in the Time of Cholera! (If you have no idea why I made that connection go rent Serendipity or High Fidelity.)
Surprisingly, this is one of my favorite biographies read so far. It has to be the subject matter. Like other biographies that spend an inordinate amount of time setting the stage (political and socially) or produce pages and pages of mini biographies of the subject’s great-great-great grandparents Martin does bog down with those details in the beginning. His focus is not primarily on Gabriel Garcia Marquez but rather the myriad of family members from both his mother’s and father’s sides of the family. I got lost trying to keep the just cousins straight. Forget about all the drama that went with them! But, aside from that reading about Marquez’s life was fascinating. Martin took 17 years to research his subject and it shows.
Probably my favorite aspect of the biography is the parallels Martin makes between Marquez’s life and his art. Martin doesn’t miss an opportunity to make note of people in Marquez’s life who eventually became characters in his books later. I have a deeper understanding of where the soul of One Hundred Years of Solitude came from.
Favorite quotes, “A whispy costeno moustache appeared on his adolescent lip and was left to wander where it would” (p 108), and “Acquaintances remember him always drumming his fingers on the table as we waited for his lunch , or on anything else to hand…music always wafting through him” (p 145). Guess my husband has something in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez…always drumming on something.
Reason read: Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in March.
Book trivia: Gabriel Garcia Marquez: a Life includes great photography. GGM’s first year picture was adorable.
Author fact: According to Martin’s Wiki page his biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez was the first full biography to be published in English. Interesting.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Hail, Columbia!” (p 91).