Squelched

Beard, Terry. Squelched. Hybrid Global Publishing, 2018.

Reason read: as a member of LibraryThing’s Early Review program, this is the pick for September.

Terry Beard’s Squelched spends a great deal of time explaining how his voice was silenced (squelched) during his formative years. Grade by grade, he cites examples of all the times he had been a victim of domestic violence. From his grandmother telling him he shouldn’t be a lawyer to his parents not buying him the newest and fashionable of clothes. It gets a little tiresome to hear about the kids who had it better than he because, according to Beard, rich kids didn’t have the traits of compassion and kindness. Every time he was put down he never tried to prove anyone wrong. He lived down to their low expectations of him, describing his attitude as “rock and roll.”

A smaller issue was Beard’s timeline. It moved around a lot. For example, in the fifth grade chapter he talks about getting married, flying to Mexico City as a 12 year old, and driving a car even though he felt like a clown driving around in his parent’s station wagon. 

Pet peeve: Beard’s pity-me childish attitude during Part One. He was constantly talking about his economic need. He sniveled about not being first string on the baseball field. He was a “bad boy” for being benched, but never mentioned if he had any talent. He bellyached when he didn’t have his grandmother to do his laundry or access to grandpa’s liquor hidden in the garage. His first mother-in-law’s one redeeming quality was that she smoked like President Roosevelt. His detailing of the formative years inched along while ten years of married were barely mentioned, probably because he subsequently got a divorce. He spent 84 pages on examples of how his was voice “squelched” and only 52 on how he found his voice. But, those 52 pages were the most entertaining.

One last comment is out of confusion. The last section of Squelched is titled “Speeches: A Sampling of Speeches Delivered at a Variety of Venues” and yet, the first, “Wet ‘n Wild” does not seem like a speech he would deliver. Would Beard really tell an audience Miss D.’s butt is bigger than the state of New York? I was a little confused.

Book trivia: Do not think of this book as a self-help, instructional guide to becoming a better public speaker. There is very little universal advice worth sharing to make this a guide for the masses. Even through the subtitle is directed at you, this is more of a memoir than anything else.

Bottom line: I had a hard time reading Squelched. Where Beard saw negativity I saw tough love. When people questioned him about his business ventures (“How will you make this work?”) the queries were not negative or positive. But Beard chose to see the questions as criticisms.


Golden Compass

Pullman, Philip. His Dark Materials Book One: The Golden Compass New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.

Reason read: November is National Writers Month and this month we are celebrating a writer of fantasy.

The Golden Compass seemingly takes place in Oxford, England, but there is an alternate universe at play. Young wild child Lyra Belacourt isn’t afraid of much, especially an alternate universe. But in the beginning of The Golden Compass all Lyra cares about is getting into the Retiring Room of Jordan College, a room where, if women are not allowed, then children definitely are not. Tell Lyra she can’t do something and of course, that’s all she wants to do. She lives in a world where shape-shifting spirit animals called daemon familiars are the norm. Every person has a daemon and when they die their daemon fades away like a wisp of smoke. Lyra’s daemon familiar is Pantalaimon, a fiercely protective companion who can be a moth, bird, mouse,  ermine…whatever the situation requires. Pantalaimon won’t fix on a permanent shape until Lyra is older, closer to adulthood. But, I digress. Back to Lyra and the Retiring Room. She and Pantalaimon find a way to sneak into the room and eavesdrop on a secret meeting between her uncle and college officials. Uncle Asriel tells a tale of danger and mystique involving Dust in the North. Soon Lyra finds herself more than eavesdropping. Because of unknown talents she is pulled into a terrible world of evil scientists, kidnapped children, witch clans, and armored fighting bears. In The Golden Compass you will meet Gobblers, Tartars, Windsuckers, Breathless Ones, gyptians, Nalkainers, and many others, but it is Lyra and her daemon who will captivate you.

Author fact: Pullmann graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English. This is the third book in less than thirty days that mentions Oxford University.

Book trivia: Pullman took “His Dark Materials” from John Milton’s Paradise Lost in Book II. Also, The Golden Compass is the first book in a three volume set. The other two books are also on my list.

Nancy said: Nancy describes the overarching theme of Pullman’s His Dark Materials. She then goes on to say Pullman’s “finest invention was the daemon” (Book Lust p 209).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208).


Scales of Gold

Dunnett, Dorothy. Scales of Gold. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.

It is now the fifteenth century. We are in the Age of Discovery. Nicholas vander Poele is in need of restoring order and fortune to his banking business. He and former slave, Loppe travel to Africa in search of gold. Also traveling along with him is Gelis van Borselen. If you remember the name from Race of the Scorpions,  she is on board, secretly seeking revenge. (As an aside, there is always a beautiful woman who has a love-hate relationship with Nicholas and seeking some kind of revenge.) Gelis van Borselen’s sister, Katelina, was killed in The Race of the Scorpions. It was mentioned earlier that whenever Nicholas is ill and feverish he spills secrets. This time, struggling with a swamp-induced illness Nicholas tells Gelis he is the father of her sister’s child. This changes the course of their relationship. Of course it does.

Underlying all the adventure and violence is Dunnett’s sly humor. She gives this comedy to Scales of Gold in the form of witty repartee. When Nicholas asks Gregorio if anyone has tried to kill him lately, Gregorio replies, “I suffer from overwork and neglect but apart from that, no” (p 8).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction” (p 79).


Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love

Malone, Michael. Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991.

Reason read: Malone celebrates his birthday in November. Read in his honor.

Meet Theo Ryan, the product of the union between a famous actor and singer. Despite his parents’s lime lights, all he wants to do is quietly teach Renaissance drama at a North Carolina university and write in his spare time. All that goes out the window when he agrees to write the authorized biography for Joshua “Ford” Rexford, an insanely popular playwright, womanizer and drunk. Nothing about Theo Ryan’s life will ever be the same after Rexford infiltrates his quiet existence. Suddenly, Theo is an actor, a singer, and he’s about to unleash his own work of art on the world, a fantastic play he’s kept private for years…
Quote I liked, “Atop the Coolidge Building Dean Buddy Tupper, Jr. stood at his post by the huge window, watching his enemies below” (p 94).

A digression: Winifred Throckmorton is a retired Oxford don. I just finished reading The Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris. Interestingly enough, my opinion of Ms. Throckmorton was slightly tainted by this fact.
Another aside, Malone has a character who raps his overly large ring on his desk to emphasize a point. I have to wonder if the writers from “House of Cards” stole that.

Author fact: Over and over I have read that Malone writes a completely different book every time. what you loved in a previous book might not show up in the next book, but somehow you end up loving the next book just the same.

Nancy said: Nancy did not say anything specific about Foolscap in Book Lust. In More Book Lust Pearl describes the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Southern Fiction” (p 222). Also, from More Book Lust in the chapter “Michael Malone: Too Good To Miss” (p 160).


David and the Phoenix

Ormondroyd, Edward. David and the Phoenix. Floyd, VA: SMK Books, 2014.
Ormondroyd, Edward. David and the Phoenix. Read by Edward Ormondroyd. Syracuse, NY: Full Cast Audio, 2002.

Reason read: November is Fantasy Month. This was a quick one to finish the month.

This is a really fun book. David has moved into a new house and is enthralled with the mountain in his backyard. Eager to climb it, he discovers this isn’t any ordinary mountain. For living on one of its ledges hides a curious talking bird who calls himself Phoenix. The Phoenix is a delightful character who promises David all sorts of adventures: some good, some bad. Insert some other mythical creatures and an evil scientist hell bent on catching the Phoenix for the purpose of nasty experiments and David and the Phoenix is fantastic story for young and old. Word of advice, listen to this on audio!

Author fact: Ormondroyd, in addition to being a writer, was also a librarian.

Book trivia: First the obvious, David and the Phoenix is Ormondroyd’s best known book. Second, the illustrations in David and the Phoenix by Joan Raysor are fantastic.

Nancy said: Pearl read David and the Phoenix in 1957 when it was first published. She doesn’t consider it “high fantasy” but rather a “charming adventure” for children (More Book Lust p 84).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fantasy for Young and Old” (p 83).


Pinballs

Byars, Betsy, The Pinballs. New York: HarperTrophy, 1977.

Reason read: November is National Adoption Month and even though The Pinballs is about fostering, the spirit of taking care of children is what it is important.

Even though this was written with children in mind, I found myself getting emotional reading this story about three children in foster care. One child had been raised by elderly twins and doesn’t even know his real birth date or age. The second child had both of his legs broken when his dad in a drunken rage “accidentally” ran over them. The third child, the one with the most personality, was abandoned by her parents and comes across as very jaded about the whole system. She is the one who came up with the nickname “pinballs” because they were bounced around the system exactly like pinballs, with no control over their destinies. It takes some time and some hard lessons learned before each child realizes they are not pinballs.

Author fact: Byars won both the Newbery Award (1971) and the National Book Award (1981).

Book trivia: Pinballs was made into an ABC-TV Afterschool Special back when those things were The Thing.

Nancy said: Girls would enjoy The Pinballs better than the boys.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 21).


Martin Dressler

Millhauser, Steven. Martin Dressler. New York: Random House, 1996.

Reason read: November is a fascinating time to be in New York City.

Martin Dressler, the ambitious son of a cigar maker, has big dreams even as a young child. He starts by delivering cigars for his father and finds an ingenious  way to make profits soar. As a teenager, he starts his career employed as a young hotel bellhop. He catches the eye of the hotel owner and soon becomes his secretary and mentor. As a young man he falls under the spell of a mother and her two grown daughters while building hotels of his own. One daughter becomes his business partner when he delves into opening a chain of diners while the other daughter, Caroline, mystifies him with her silent, elusive personality. She reminds him of a girl he used to know…Strangely enough, he ends up marrying this shadowy, ghostly woman.
This is not a coming of age story. Readers watch as Martin goes through childhood and teenage years to adulthood without exposing friendships; it’s as if he doesn’t have any, puberty, or any other angst-y growing up tribulation. His personality is firmly grounded in business. There is a moment when Martin decides it is time for him to lose his virginity and almost without ceremony or fanfare, he visits a brothel. This becomes a matter of fact, once a week habit he continues into adulthood. Not much is made of sex either way. However, his wedding night is particularly uncomfortable.

What is especially fun to watch is late nineteenth century New York City growing up along side Martin. The street names change over the years. Buildings grow taller. Oil lamps are crowded out by electricity one by one. The Manhattan we know today competes with Martin’s metropolis of his dreams until they are both so large there isn’t room enough for the both of them. But, which New York lives on?

Quotes I found interesting, “She looked like a new painting, all wet and shiny, but already she was fading into the darkness between lamps” (p 138) and “Here in the other world, here in the world beyond the world, anything was possible” (p 292).

Author fact: at the time of publication, Millhauser taught at Skidmore College.

Book trivia: Martin Dressler won a Pulitzer Prize.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Martin Dressler in Book Lust, but in Book Lust To Go she hinted the book takes place in New York, but it’s not the Manhattan we know (Book Lust To Go p 236).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust from the chapter called “New York, New York” (p 170). Also from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travel To Imaginary Places” (p 236).