Die Trying

Child, Lee. Die Trying. Read by Jonathan McClain. New York: Penguin Audio, 2012.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of New York becoming a state…I know, it doesn’t make any sense.

Once again, Jack Reacher is in the wrong place at the wrong time. In an effort to help a disabled woman wrangle her week’s worth of dry cleaning Reacher is held at gun point and kidnapped along with the woman on crutches. Only she is no ordinary woman. She is Holly Johnson, daughter to the chairman of the joint chief of staff, only the highest ranking military post in the United States. Now it’s a race against…what? No one has taken credit for the kidnapping. There hasn’t been a ransom note. No demands for her safe return whatsoever. Why was Holly taken?
I enjoyed Child’s “peep show” storytelling. He would show a glimpse of what the bad guys were up to (obviously always no good) for only a few pages and then return to Holly’s FBI rescuers and their efforts to figure out where she had gone.
Additionally, Child’s knowledge of guns and their inner workings seemed didactic at times, but in truth it was fascinating. I reread the description of exactly what happens scientifically when a gun is fired several times.

Author fact: Child is a former television producer.

Book trivia: The scary thing is, this could be in our headlines today. Our nation has become so polarized and we are so numb to violence it wouldn’t take much for “this tinderbox to blow in your face” as Natalie says.

Nancy said: When reviewing Killing Floor I mentioned Pearl had previously avoided Child’s novels because she thought they would be too violent. She goes on to say, “Be forewarned: the books do indeed contain some intense violence (some I had to read with my eyes closed, really)” (from More Book Lust on page 42).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the super obvious chapter, Lee Child: Too Good To Miss” (p 41).


Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object

Colwin, Laurie. Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object. New York: Viking Press, 2001.

Reason read: August is Grief Awareness month and there is oh so much grief in this book.

How do you love an individual who constantly flirts with the potential for death? How do you behave in a relationship or a partnership with someone who has a history of self destructive behavior such as this: breaking his collarbone after being thrown by a horse, snapping his leg after skiing, or gouging his shoulder after rock climbing (more like rock falling)? How does a marriage survive such reckless disregard for staying together? The answer is it really doesn’t. But Elizabeth Bax is attracted to James Dean. She likes the bad boys.
She knew she had every right to worry when Sam, her daredevil husband of five years, went for “one last” sail before an autumn squall picked up. Sam’s brother Patrick was already calling the coast guard knowing full well something bad was about to happen or more likely, already had. It is not a spoiler to tell you Sam died. What follows is an in depth examination of the human heart and how it tries to put itself together after being shattered. Shine On is a short book that asks the question is grief coupled with love a betrayal?

Lines I liked, “He had squashed his recklessness down to an ironic sort of caution that was a slap in his own face” (p 3), “You have to commit experience to your heart and let it change you..” (p 178).

Author fact: Colwin died at the very young age of forty-eight after suffering a heart attack.

Book trivia: This is a super short book. You could read it in a weekend.

Nancy said: Pearl said not to miss Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object even though the chapter was about Colwin’s books on food.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the interesting chapter called “Food for Thought” (p 91)…except Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object has absolutely nothing to do with food.


Beauty

McKinley, Robin. Beauty: the Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast. New York: HarperCollins, 1978.

Reason read: August is Fairy Tale month.

Here’s a question for you. Do you enjoy an adaptation or a retelling more or less if you don’t remember the details of the original? For me, I don’t remember the details of Beauty and the Beast except to say the Disney version was centered around Belle, her sickly woodsman father, the Beast, and the talking tea kettle. I remember it also had singing furniture and, of course, a droopy rose was at the center of the story. McKinley’s version has three daughters, Gracie, Hope and Honour. Honour, nicknamed Beauty, is the protagonist of the story and ironically, is not at all beautiful like her sisters. Instead she is homely, unromantic, and scholarly; the bravest and strongest of the bunch. Honour’s father has fallen on hard times as a shipping merchant and the family must move to the country. Enter the proximity of an enchanted/haunted forest. We first learn about these mysterious woods when Ger becomes angry with Beauty about being in the woods of Blue Hill.
To speed up the telling up the story you know so well: father runs into trouble in the enchanted forest, has a dust up with the Beast, and promises to send a daughter to the Beast to save his own hide. Beauty, being the bravest and most admirable, is the logical choice. Beauty falls in love with Beast despite his appearance and by turns becomes a looker herself. When she promises to marry Beast, the spell is broken. The end.

Author fact: McKinley and I went to the same high school. I can remember teachers mentioning her in English class.

Book trivia: Beauty is McKinley’s first novel.

Nancy said: Pearl included Beauty in a list of books that are sure to be “teen pleasers…great choices for teenage girls as well as their mothers” said this about McKinley, “McKinley is another major contributor…” (More Book Lust). The inside flap promises Beauty is appropriate for ages ten and up.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in two different chapters. First, in “Best for Teens” (p 23) and again in “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 93).


Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews

Fielding, Henry. An Apology for the Life of Mrs Shamela Andrews. Cambridge: Gordon Fraser at St. John’s College, 1930.

Reason read: This was supposed to be read way back in April with Pamela by Samuel Richardson. It sort of didn’t happen that way.

Everyone loves a good cat fight…but a fair one. An Apology… was Fielding’s direct satirical attack on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, however Fielding was a coward. He first published An Apology…under the false name of Conny Keyber. It was supposed to be the true events or what really happened with Pamela in a mere sixty pages. According to Fielding, Pamela is not a chaste and sweet girl. Instead she is wicked and full of lust. Instead of being seduced by her former employer’s son, Fielding thinks she entrapped him into marrying her.
I have to admit I can’t speak to the steadfast morality of a teenager, but I agreed with Fielding in that I found it completely unbelievable that a fifteen year old girl would continue her diaries through all the chaos and upheaval.

Author fact: Henry Fielding also wrote the novel, Tom Jones which is not on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: According to the introduction to Shamela, written by Brian Downs, it is necessary to be familiar with Pamela in order to understand Shamela. Of course.

Nancy said: Pearl said Shamela is a portion of the novel Joseph Andrews. In actuality, Shamela was published before Joseph and if they are one and the same I completely missed it..

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Epistolary Novels: Take a Letter” (p 79).


Accidental Man

Murdoch, Iris. An Accidental Man. New York: Viking Press, 1971.

Reason read: Murdoch was born in July. Read in her honor.

While the story of An Accidental Man opens with American Ludwig Leferrier and his British girlfriend, Gracie Tisbourne, getting engaged, the “accidental man” is actually middle aged Austin Gibson Grey. He is a hapless man followed by trouble with a mentally unstable wife.
As an FYI, the thing about Murdoch’s writing is that there are a lot of other characters to keep track of and the plot is dark and convoluted, but after a while the characters become old friends which makes the plot easier to follow. Kind of like when you are stuck in an elevator and everyone becomes familiar by the time the doors open and you are freed.
There are a lot of tragic moments in An Accidental Man so it’s surprising to think of it as a comedy. Take, for example, the scene of Gracie’s wealthy grandmother dying. Her children are desperate for the doctor to speed up the process because they just want it to be over or do they want her money? the sooner the better. The doctor tries and tries to leave but the family keeps finding excuses to make him stay.
Or, when Austin, driving Matthew’s car while drunk, hits and kills a child. Matthew helps cover up the crime because it was his automobile that struck the child. How they avoid detection from the police, I don’t know.
Or when Mitzi and Charlotte attempt suicide…see what I mean? Dark, dark, dark! However, one of the best things about Murdoch’s writing was how descriptive she could be with her characters. Grace Tisbourne is described as small calm radiant unsmiling. Just like that. It’s the “radiant unsmiling” that grabs you.
One of the worst things about Murdoch’s writing is how disjointed the story line could be. Because of the multitude of characters the plot jumps around a lot.
The message of the story is we all have to determine our moral obligation towards one another.

Lines I liked, “Crushed close together, two hearts battered in their cages” (p 4), “His parents were grateful to America, and the glow of that gratitude was shed over his childhood” (p 10), “The terrible solipsism of youth can offend the old” (p 26) and last one, “A police car kerb-crawled him and then drove away leaving the scene empty” (103). Brilliant.

As a trivial aside, I found a Natalie connection to Accidental Man. The cover is a man with puppet strings. All I could think was, “You Happy Puppet” when I saw it.

Author fact: Murdoch was also a philosopher.

Book trivia: Accidental Man is Murdoch’s fourteenth book.

Nancy said: One of Pearls all time favorite quotes is from An Accidental Man. She also indicated this was one of her very favorite Mudoch books.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very obvious chapter called “Iris Murdoch: Too Good To Miss” (p 161).


Alligator

Moore, Lisa. Alligator. New York: Black Cat Publishing, 2005.

Reason read: In Newfoundland they celebrate Orangemen’s Day and the Battle of the Boyne in July, specifically on the 12th.

Alligator’s strength as a first novel lies in its character development. Each chapter is dedicated to a different person loosely connected to the one before. Beverly and Madeleine are sisters. Colleen is Beverly’s daughter. Isobel is Madeleine’s friend. You get the point. Every character is flawed and vulnerable in their own way.
My favorite element to the book was how sharply Moore brought grief specifically into focus. When Beverly loses David to a sudden brain aneurysm her numb emptiness is palpable. These simple lines illustrate the heaviness of loss, “More than once she noticed orange peels next to her lawn chair and realized she was already eaten the orange” (p 49) and “David was dead but she would apply mascara” (p 54).
My least favorite aspect to the plot was the unexpected brutality of some of the characters. This was a much darker novel than I expected.

Quotes to quote, “Somehow Beverly has raised a daughter whose voice can be shrill as a fire alarm” (p 22), “Flexibility meant a prismatic comprehension of all aspect of experience” (p 68), and “You store your saddest memories in your feet, she said” (p 186).

Author fact: Moore also wrote February. I will be reading that one in a few years.

Book trivia: Alligator is Lisa Moore’s first novel.

Nancy said: Pearl was actually gushing about Moore’s other novel, February, and only mentioned Alligator as an aside.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the super obvious chapter called “Newfoundland” (p 153).


By the River Piedra…

Coelho, Paulo. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept: a Novel of Forgiveness. Translated by Al;an R. Clarke. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006.

Reason read: July is the month of summer romances…or returning to one. One of the most romantic places on earth, in my opinion, is Monhegan Island, Maine. Ten miles out to sea there is something about the smell of the salty ocean, the cries of gulls and crashing surf amidst summer wildflowers and dusky fireflies. Boats rock in the harbor shrouded by early morning fog. I was able to read the novella By the River… in two nights amidst all this on said island.
By the River Piedra romances its reader from start to finish. Protagonist Pilar is twenty eight years old and making her way through life as an independent and capable young woman in Spain. By coincidence she reunites with her boyfriend from eleven years ago. He has turned into a handsome spiritual guru who happens to be a much trusted healer. Together they rekindle their romance while on a journey to the French Pyrenees. Age and time have given them a fresh perspective on love, forgiveness, and spirituality.

Author fact: Coelho also wrote the more famous novel, The Alchemist, which is not on my list for whatever reason.

Book trivia: By the River Piedra… was an international best seller.

Nancy said: absolutely nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Latin American Fiction” (p 144).