Nerve

Francis, Dick. Nerve. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.

Reason read: the Kentucky Derby takes place in May. Read in honor of the horses.

Robert “Rob” Finn is an up and coming steeplechase rider with a passion for the competition. His passion turns to self doubt after a series of events threaten his confidence. First Arthur Mathews, a fellow jockey and friend, takes his own life in front of everyone. Then Rob starts to lose race after race after race. A fall from a horse has the whole steeplechase community convinced Rob has finally lost his nerve. And everyone knows a rider without nerve is a useless rider. It isn’t until Rob discovers a carefully orchestrated trap and uncovers proof of sabotage that he starts to formulate his revenge.

As an aside, I would like to know people who are “as cheering as rum punch in a snow storm” (p 8). I think that would be a good thing.

Favorite lines, “Stifling hope is a hopeless business” (p 46) and “Who wouldn’t love a girl who thought of hot soup at a time like that” (p 127).

Author fact: Francis was a jockey himself and you know what they say, people should write what they know.

Book trivia: Nerve is short, not even 200 pages long. This is Francis’s second mystery.

Nancy said: Nerve is simply a “treasure” and “ought not to go unread” (p 165).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “My Own Private Dui” in Nancy’s category “ought not go unread” (p 165). I know, I said that already.


All the Pretty Horses

McCarthy, Cormac. The Border Trilogy. New York: Everyman’s Library, 1999.

All the Pretty Horses is the first book in a series called The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy. For the sake of the Book Lust Challenge I am only reading the first book, All the Pretty Horses. When All the Pretty Horses was first published I shied away from it thinking it would be too violent for me. At the time I wasn’t really reading fiction as it was deemed “lazier” then nonfiction. Somehow I must have been sleeping when it was made into a movie. At any rate, I missed everything about this book and I’m sorry for that. All the Pretty Horses is violent, but no more so than other books I have read for this challenge.
The plot is really quite simple. After his Texas family farm is sold John Grady Cole sets out with friend Lacey Rawlins for Mexico. As teenagers they are quite mature in their knowledge of the landscape and how to survive the elements. Along their journey they meet a young boy with a horse and gun too mature to belong to him. This boy, Jimmy Blevins, only brings Cole and Rawlins trouble. I can see why All the Pretty Horses was made into a movie. It would appeal to animal lovers – Cole is an experienced horseman. He understands even the wildest beast. There will be sex – it isn’t long before he falls in love with a rancher’s older daughter and seduces her. And violence – Cole and Rawlins are thrown into prison accused of stealing horses. Americans in a Mexican prison. Nothing good can come from that. I’m sure the sweeping vistas of the southwest afforded the film some amazing scenery as well. McCarthy does such a beautiful job with description and dialog you won’t need to see the movie, just read the book. Seriously.

Quotes that throttled me: “Something imperfect and malformed lodged in the heart of being. A Thing smirking deep in the eyes of grace itself like a gorgon in an autumn pool” (p 71), “Sweeter for the larceny of time and flesh, sweeter for the betrayal” (p 141), and “There is no greater monster than reason” (p 146).

Book Trivia – All the Pretty Horses won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.

Author Fact: Cormac McCarthy is a private person and doesn’t give interviews that often.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust more than once. First from the chapter called “Boys Coming of Age” (p 45), and again in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade by Decade (1990)” (p 179).


May 2011 was…

May was a month of deja vu. The Just Cause walk. Wanting to go home. Same old, same old. Nearly everything I read this month reminded me of something else I have already read. Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann reminded me of The Defiant Hero by the same author was the most obvious because the plot and characters were very similar. Almost too similar. To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite reminded me of Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell. They had similar plot lines: taking on a difficult classroom of students as a new teacher. Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham reminded me of Where the Pavement Ends by Erika Warmbrunn. Two stories about traveling through difficult, foreign terrain by bicycle.

So, here’s the list:

  • To Sir, With Love by E.R. Braithwaite ~ in honor of National Education Month. This was a really quick (but good) read. Read in one day.
  • Catfish and Mandala: a Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham ~ in honor of May’s Memorial Day. This was probably my favorite book on the list.
  • Out of Control by Suzanne Brockmann ~ in honor of Brockmann’s birth month. I have mixed feelings about this book (as my review pointed out). Read in one day.
  • A Child’s Life and Other Stories by Phoebe Gloeckner ~ in honor of May being Graphic Novel month. This was super hard to “read.” Read in one day.
  • Antigone the play by Sophocles ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Greece. I keep forgetting this plot so it was good to read it again. Read in one day.
  • Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong ~ in honor of Asian-American Heritage month. Read over a weekend. This was one of my favorites.
  • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery ~ in honor of Eeyore’s birth month. This was an audio book and very different than everything else I have listened to so far.
  • Seabiscuit: an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand ~ in honor of the Kentucky Derby.
  • The Dean’s List by Jon Hassler ~ in honor of Minnesota becoming a state in May. This reminded me a little too much of my own work place!
  • A Bintel Brief: Sixty Years of Letters From the Lower East Side to the Jewish Daily Forward edited by Isaac Metzker. Read in two days.
  • City of Light by Lauren Belfer ~ in honor of history month. Interesting story about Niagara Falls and the advancement of electricity at the turn of the century.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi ~ in honor of May being the best time to visit Iran. This was amazing. Can’t wait for part II. 
  • Friday the Rabbi Slept Late by Harry Kemelman ~ in honor of Prayer Day being the first Thursday in May. This was a fun murder mystery. Read in one car ride home.

I didn’t get to three books on my orginal list: China, To Me, House on the Lagoon, and, Art and Madness. I forgot to pack them and ended up finding Persepolis and Friday the Rabbi Slept Late at home.

May was also the month for crazy travel. I slept no more than two nights at a time in Bolton, Concord, Boston, Chicopee, Peaks Island, Rockland and Monhegan all in eleven days time. I took two boats, one bus and three different cars. Walked over 75 miles. Saw family. Saw friends. Breathed in the woods. Inhaled the ocean. I enjoyed every second of it.


Seabiscuit

Hillenbrand, Laura. Seabiscuit: an American Legend.New York: Ballantine Books, 2001.

I love underdog stories (or, is it underhorse in this situation?). Seabiscuit is a head-scratcher of a racehorse. “Red” Pollard, his jockey, is a head-scratcher of a jockey. Their humble beginnings make them perfect partners for anything but success. But, succeed they did, as everyone who has seen the movie knows. Hillenbrand carefully reconstructs the era surrounding Seabiscuit’s unlikely “pony” start. The 1930s come alive as the fascinating characters of Seabiscuit’s entourage are introduced; his owner Charles Howard, trainer Tom Smith, jockey Johnny “Red” Pollard, the hungry-for-more media and of course, the fans who followed Seabiscuit’s every race. Hillenbrand writes with such clarity that every competition is pulse-pounding excitement. One can hear the roar of the crowd, taste the anticipation, see the pop of flash bulbs, and practically smell the winnings.
I admit I learned a few things about horse racing from this book. Who knew that the stakes were so high that before certain races there was the threat of horses being sponged and riders being kidnapped. Horses and riders required bodyguards!

Favorite lines: “The horse’s name was Seabiscuit, and for a bent-backed trainer on the other side of the backstretch, the brief exchange of glances between the horse and Tom Smith was the beginning of the end of a long, pounding headache” (p 34), “then, like a mighty shit Godzilla, it slid out to sea and vanished” (p 88).

Book Trivia: Seabiscuit was one hot read in 2001. Every media source from The New York Times to NPR and People Magazine acknowledged it as the best book of some sort.

Author Fact: Laura Hillenbrand graced the cover of “Natural Solutions” (March 2011, issue 132) to speak out about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called ” Sports and Games” (p 225). I read Seabiscuit in honor of the Kentucky Derby always being held in May (May 7th this year).