Call It Sleep

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).


April is Over

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:

Fiction:

  • Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell

Nonfiction:

  • 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

Series continuations:

  • Charmed by Nora Roberts
  • The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor

Poetry:

  • “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

Early Review:

  • Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe

Entranced

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.


February Progress

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:

Fiction:

  • 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.

Nonfiction:

  • 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.

Series continuations:

  • Beyond Euphrates by Freya Stark ~ in honor of Freya’s birthday in January.

For fun:

  • 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…


March of the Books

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*

Nonfiction:

  • 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)

Series continuations:

  • 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.


Sign of the Four

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.


Castle in the Backyard

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).