Evanovich, Janet. To the Nines. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003.
Reason read: I started the Stephanie Plum series in January in honor of Female Mystery Month. I am now on #9. To the Nines is the penultimate Plum book on my Challenge List.
The best thing about Evanovich’s Plum series is the consistency of characters and timeline. With every book, Stephanie’s life progresses with little backtracking or inconsistency. Evanovich does a great job catching the reader up, especially if someone is jumping into the series in midstream and hasn’t read books one through eight. Reading the entire series is helpful, but not necessary.
Even though I am irked about Stephanie’s relationships with Morelli and Ranger (more on that later), I appreciate the growth in them. I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say that at the end of To the Nines Stephanie drops calling Morelli by his last name and moves onto calling him Joe. Is that a subtle hint that she is ready to get more serious? She did just move back in with him and gave up her apartment to her sister. Speaking of Valerie, she just had a baby (out of wedlock) and that definitely has Stephanie’s biological clock ticking a little louder. Enough of that. Onto the plot:
The bounty hunting part of Stephanie’s life takes more of a back seat in To the Nines. This time around, she is more on the side of the hunted. Someone is sending her creepy messages coupled with a calling card of one rose and one carnation. It’s the same message sent to several other victims. Could she be next on this serial killer’s list? This time Ranger and Joe make a concerted effort to protect Stephanie as she tries to figure out who is capable of getting so close to her they can take a lock of her hair?
Spoiler alert: for those interested in Stephanie’s vehicular destruction, her new sunshine yellow Ford Escape survives the entire story.
Things that irked me: what in the world is so special about Stephanie Plum? Why does she have not one, but two very hot men giving her all the attention in the world? What makes them stay around even though she can’t chose between them? In all actuality, Ranger probably isn’t a choice. He’s probably just a plaything, but still…Hmm. I have to admit, I liked Stephanie as a hypocrite. She can flirt with Ranger but still get jealous when she thinks Morelli is up to no good with another girl.
Another thing that irked me was less of an appearance by Rex. He barely factored into To the Nines at all.
Lines I liked, “I know emotion covers a lot of ground, but I couldn’t hang a better name on my feelings” (p 84), “There’s a difference between being trusting and stupid” (p 294).
Author fact: Evanovich has won the John Creasy Memorial Last Laugh and Silver Dagger awards.
Book trivia: To the Nines features pineapple upside-down cake, as usual.
Playlist: Eminem and Tom Jones.
Nancy said: To the Nines is not exactly a murder mystery according to Pearl. She did say you will laugh all the way through the series.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Perrotta, Tom. Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies. New York: Berkey Books, 1994.
Reason read: June is short story month.
Comprised of ten short stories:
- The Wiener Man – Your past is never far behind you. A mother connects with an old friend.
- Thirteen – Coming of age is terrible when trying to help a best friend get the girl.
- Race Riot – Which side are you on? Racial tensions and peer pressure and a bad combination.
- Snowman – revenge is not as sweet as you think.
- Forgiveness – standing for the flag is a choice.
- A Bill Floyd Christmas – Bill loses his wife and latches on to another family to fill the void.
- You Start to Live – take chances in life.
- The Jane Pasco Fan Club – Dating in high school can be dangerous.
- Just the Way We Were – prom memories.
- Wild Kingdom – sometimes people can be animals.
Lines I liked: “The world was a still as a photograph” (p 61) and “She had that voice special tone of voice that she only used when she had company,” (p 119).
Author fact: Perrotta is from New Jersey.
Book trivia: all of the short stories are linked and are in chronological order.
Setlist: “We May Never Pass This Way Again,” Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” The Carpenters, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Donny Osmond, Aerosmith, Grateful Dead, a couple of Jim Croce songs, “I’ve got a Name” and “Operator.”
Nancy said: Pearl called Bad Haircut “heartfelt yet unsentimental.”
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Near Novels: Linked Short Stories” (p 175).
Evanovich, Janet. Four to Score. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery Month.
Five months ago we last left Stephanie “in a clinch” on her couch with Joe Morelli. Now, five months have passed and Stephanie Plum is still trying to be a bail bondsman (or is it bondswoman?) for her cousin Vinnie. She doesn’t quite have her technique honed in, but she’s getting there. She’s the type of girl who can’t pass up a home-cooked meal or the chance to make promises while crossing her fingers behind her back. It should be said, Stephanie is a walking disaster. Dead bodies pile up in her wake. So much so she is starting to get a reputation. Her vehicles are continuously getting destroyed (at least one per book). this time it’s a Honda CRX. Luckily for her, her family’s baby blue boat of a Buick is always available.
This time Stephanie is on the hunt for Maxine Nowicki, wanted for theft and extortion. Only, Steph has unwanted company. Vinnie has hired nemesis Joyce Barnhardt, the woman who lured Stephanie’s husband to cheat. Stephanie and Joyce have known each other since high school. Maxine shouldn’t be hard to find. She has been leaving demented clues for her ex to follow like some kind of vicious scavenger hunt. At the same time, Stephanie is dealing with her own jealous girlfriend – someone insane enough to torch her Honda CRX and firebomb her apartment.
As an aside, in Three to Get Deadly I was very much aware of how many cousins Stephanie seems to have: everyone is a cousin. Eddie Gazarra married Stephanie’s cousin, Shirley. Cousin Maureen works at the button factory. Cousin Jeanine works at the post office. In Four to Score I learned Cousin Marion works at the bank. Let’s still not forget cousin Vinny!
Lines I liked, “This book is rated PG35 for licentious wit and libidinous cohabitation” and “I slunk back to my car and decided my deductive reasoning would be vastly improved if I ate a doughnut” (p 16). I think that way, too.
Playlist: Metallica, Savage Garden, Buddy Holly,
Author fact: some of Evanovich’s stories have ended up in Reader’s Digest.
Book trivia: One of my all time favorite Jersey hangouts is featuring in Four to Score. I absolutely adore Point Pleasant.
Nancy said: Pearl said you can’t label Evanovich’s books as mysteries but they are hilarious and you will laugh all the way through the series.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Perrotta, Tom. The Wishbones. New York: Berkely Books, 1998.
Reason read: The movie starring Adam Sandler, “the Wedding Singer” was released in February.
Dave Raymond is thirty-one years old and still living with his parents in suburban New Jersey, but then again, so is his on and off girlfriend of fifteen years, Julie. They find living with their parents a drag, especially when they need to sneak around to have sex but given the circumstances, who wouldn’t at that age? For Julie, living with the ‘rents is a matter of convenience but for Dave it is a necessity in order to be a New York City courier by day and a wedding band musician on the weekends. The courier job is just to get him by. Playing guitar with the Wishbones is all he has ever known. So what is it that makes him upset this whole little world by announcing to Julie one night “let’s get married”? Immediately he wants to stuff the words back in his mouth and pretend no such pronouncement passed his lips. Maybe that’s why he starts an affair with an edgy Brooklyn poet named Gretchen. As the wedding draws near Dave is at a crossroad in his life and for the first time ever, he needs to make a mature decision.
As an aside, I found it curious that the band didn’t have a lead guitar player. Bass, sax, drummer, accordion, keyboards… I guess Dave was supposed to act as lead along with backing vocals?
Silly humor to quote, “Margaret was a formally pleasant person whose personality had been ruined by constant dieting” (p 61).
Author fact: Perrotta knows his music. I loved all the references to different bands. Especially this one, “You couldn’t really imagine Chrissie Hynde or Natalie Merchant dancing around in twelve different hats” (p 34).
Book trivia: this could have been a movie.
Nancy said: Pearl lists The Wishbones as a first novel she was delighted to have read (Book Lust p 88) and she just describes the plot in More Book Lust.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “First Novels” (p 88). Also, in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jersey Guys and Gals” (p 130).
A new year deserves new things; new ways of thinking and new ways of doing. Here is the list I promised in December. Instead of separating the list into “finished” and “still to go”, I thought for this go-round I would just cross off the titles I finished. This system will force me to stay on top of the books I add, but we’ll see…Just testing something…
As an aside, I gave up completely on Robert Jordan. Sorry.
Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan(DNF) In a Strange City by Laura Lippman
- By a Spider’s Thread by Laura Lippman (AB)
Recognitions by William Gaddis(DNF) Maus by Art Spiegelman Lady Franklin’s Revenge by Ken McGoogan Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao* by Junot Diaz (AB)
Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan ADDED: A Good Doctor’s Son by Steven Schwartz ADDED: Drinking: a Love Story by Caroline Knapp ADDED: Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak ADDED: Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout ADDED: Treasure Hunter by W. Jameson (ER)
- Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Jan)
- Wild Blue by Stephen Ambrose (Jan)
- Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore (Jan)
- Greater Nowheres by David Finkelstein/Jack London (Jan)
- ADDED: Alma Mater by P.F Kluge (Jan)
- Good Life by Ben Bradlee (Feb)
- Underworld by Don DeLillo (Feb)
- Her Name Was Lola by Russell Hoban (Feb)
- Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton ((Feb)
Fires From Heaven by Robert Jordan(Feb)
- Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce (Feb)
- At Home with the Glynns by Eric Kraft (Feb)
- Polish Officer by Alan Furst (Feb)
Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan(Mar)
- Chasing Monarchs by Robert Pyle (Mar)
- Murder on a Kibbutz by Batya Gur (Mar)
- Bebe’s By Golly Wow by Yolanda Joe (Mar)
- Lives of the Muse by Francine Prose (Mar)
- Broom of the System (David Wallace (Mar)
Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan(Apr)
- Two Gardeners by Emily Wilson (Apr)
- Royal Flash by George Fraser (Apr)
- Fifties by David Halberstam (Apr)
- Binding Spell by Elizabeth Arthur (Apr)
Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan(Apr) Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan(May)
- Flash for Freedom! by George Fraser (May)
- Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma (May)
- Petra: lost city by Christian Auge (May)
- From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman (May)
- Jordan by E. Borgia (May)
- Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill (May)
- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (May)
- Flash at the Charge by George MacDonald Fraser (May)
- Castles in the Air by Judt Corbett (Jun)
- Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (Jun)
- Thirty-three Teeth by Colin Cotterill (Jun)
- Millstone by Margaret Drabble (Jun)
Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan(Jun) Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan(Jul)
- Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill (Jul)
- Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme (Jul)
- New Physics and Cosmology by Arthur Zajonc (Jul)
- Grifters by Jim Thompson (Jul)
- Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (Jul)
- Snow Angels by James Thompson (Jul)
- Ararchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill (Aug)
- Flashman’s Lady by George MacDonald Fraser (Aug)
- Possession by AS Byatt (Aug)
- In the Footsteps of Ghanghis Khan by John DeFrancis (Aug)
- What Just Happened by James Gleick (Aug)
- Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett (Aug)
- Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill (Sep)
- Flashman and the Redskins by George MacDonald Fraser (Sep)
- Queens’ Play by Dorothy Dunnett (Sep)
- Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood (Sep)
- Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Sep)
- Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Sep)
- Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman (Oct)
- Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill (Oct)
- Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett (Oct)
- Flashman and the Dragon by George MacDonald Fraser (Oct)
- Dark Hills Divide by Patrick Carman (Nov)
- Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Collin Cotterill (Nov)
- Flashman and the Mountain of Light by George MacDonald Fraser (Nov)
- Pawn in Frankincense by Dorothy Dunnett (Nov)
- Andorra by Peter Cameron (Nov)
DNF = Did Not Finish;AB = Audio Book; ER = Early Review
So, right off the bat I see something I don’t like. When I add new books they don’t get their “day in the sun” so to speak. I add them to the list and then cross them off immediately. That doesn’t seem fair.
Roth, Philip. Novels, 1967-1972. New York: The Library of America, 2005.
I always garnered eyebrow raises and smirking lips whenever I mentioned reading Philip Roth. What I didn’t realize at the time was whenever I mentioned Philip Roth everyone’s minds immediately went to “Portnoy’s Complaint.” Having never read this particular novel I didn’t get the joke. Okay. I get it now.
To put it quite simply, Portnoy’s Complaint is the monologue of Alex Portnoy, a psychoanalyst’s patient, as he recounts his childhood, coming of age years and his insatiable appetite for sex (starting with masturbation) that has dominated all his life. The setting of a therapist’s office is brilliant. Where else are you allowed to be candid to the point of shocking? Where else are you encouraged to reveal your deepest and darkest, most vile desires without judgement or arrest? Roth couldn’t have his character admit these activities in any other setting without the admissions becoming pornographic and the one doing the admitting, ridiculously perverted. Alex doesn’t just admit sexual desires, though. He rants about religion, culture, World War II, education, parenting, relationships – all with comic and sarcastic ability.
There were probably over a dozen different sentences that were evocative and startling, but here are two of my favorites involving eating:
“You could even eat off her bathroom floor, if that should ever become necessary” (p 285), “But I don’t want the food from her mouth. I don’t even want the food from my plate – that is the point” (p 287).
BookLust Twist: First, from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Jewish-American Experience” (p 132), and again in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jersey Guys and Dolls” (p 130).
Where the hell did December go? I really can’t believe the month went by so freakin’ fast. It’s as if I slept through most of it. In a nightmare state. Of course, work had a lot to do with missing the month. Staff reviews while trying to hire and trying not to fire while trying to work on my own resume was really surreal. Then there are the three family illnesses that have worried to distraction. Not to mention having two new very unpredictable cats!
Here’s what it was for books:
- Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress ~ in honor of Alabama becoming a state in December. I can’t imagine what kind of movie this would make. One side of the story is so serious while the other is so silly!
- Made in America by Bill Bryson ~ in honor of Bryson’s birth month. This was a little tedious after a little while.
- The Comedians by Graham Greene ~ in honor of December being the best time to visit the Caribbean (fiction). This was also a movie, I think.
- Apology by Plato ~ in honor of the first Chief Justice being appointed in December. A classic I clearly don’t remember reading!
- Best Nightmare on Earth: a Life in Haiti by Herbert Gold ~ in honor of December being the best time to visit the Caribbean (nonfiction). I am really glad I read this with The Comedians because they went really, really well together.
- Night Before Christmas aka A Visit From St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore~ in honor of, well, Christmas! I have to wonder just how many variations of this story/poem are out there!
- The Palace Thief by Ethan Canin ~ in honor of Iowa becoming a state in December. The Palace Thief has nothing to do with Iowa but Canin is a member of the Iowa Writers Workshop.
- Goodbye Columbus by Philip Roth ~ in honor of New Jersey becoming a state and Philip Roth knows New Jersey oh so well.
- In the Gloaming: Stories by Alice Elliott Dark ~ in honor of Dark’s birth month. This was a little dour for the last book of 2010. Oh well.
For LibraryThing and the Early Review Program: I thoroughly thought I would enjoy My Nine Lives by Leon Fleisher and Anne Midgette. Instead I only tolerated it. Oh well.
Roth, Philip. “Goodbye, Columbus.” Novels and Stories. 1959 – 1962. Ed. Ross Miller. New York: The Library of America, 2005. 7 – 108.
Neil Klugman is a 23 year old man living with his self martyred aunt and uncle in Newark, New Jersey while his asthmatic parents convalesce in Arizona. “Goodbye, Columbus” is told from his point of view and could be seen as a Jewish American coming-of-age story about Neil’s summer romance with wealthy, snobbish Brenda Patimkins. It is closer to the truth to say “Goodbye, Columbus” is a commentary on class. Neil and Brenda’s socioeconomic differences create subtle tensions between the couple until they discover their relationship is built on lust rather than love. This is most apparent when Neil says, “Actually we did not have the feelings we said we had until we spoke them – at least I didn’t, to phrase them was to invent them and own them” (p 19). I have to admit it took me a while to figure out where the title of the story came from. Turns out, Brenda’s brother would listen to what Neil referred to as the “Columbus record” before bed – a recording of his Ohio State sports career. Neil could hear a moaning of the words, “Goodbye, Columbus” over and over again.
Favorite lines: “…it was disturbing to Aunt Gladys to think that anything she served might pass through a gullet, stomach, and bowel just for the pleasure of the trip” (p 9)., and “Ther proposed toasts…Brenda smiled at them with her eyeteeth and I brought up a cheery look from some fraudulent auricle of my heart” (p 88).
Author fact: Philip Roth is so popular that in Texas there is an organization called the Philip Roth Society and it for the scholarly study and general appreciation of Roth’s work.
Book Trivia: Goodbye Columbus was made into a movie starring Richard Benjamin and Ali MacGraw. I was stunned by how many different actresses turned down the role of Brenda before Ali came along. Yet again, another movie I haven’t seen.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in two different chapters. First, in the chapter called “Jersey Guys and Dolls” (p 130), then in the chapter called “You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover” (p 238). This last admission cracks me up because MY cover of “Goodbye, Columbus” is a photograph of Philip Roth’s face!