We Interrupt This Book

I’m not sure how to say this so I’m just going to come right out and say it. I fukced up. Somehow, in some way, I screwed up my Challenge list. I don’t even know how I figured out something had gone horribly awry. All I know is this- dozens of books from Book Lust To Go didn’t make it onto my lists, and believe me, there are a few. I am the queen of lists. I have a double no, triple no, quadruple no, quintuple-check system for keeping my books in order. Behold:

  1. First there is the excel spreadsheet called “Twist List.” It has every single title from all three Lust books. This spreadsheet is alphabetically tabbed and each title is color coded for which Book Lust it came from (white for Book Lust, light green for More Book Lust, light turquoise for Book Lust To Go, dark green for both Book Lust and another Lust book, brown for More Book Lust and another Lust book, dark turquoise for Book Lust To Go and another Lust book, and purple for when I finish the title).
  2. Then, there is a spreadsheet called “Lust To Go List.” It’s the same alphabetically tabbed list as Twist only it’s not color coded and when I finish a book it simply gets deleted from the list. It’s literally a list what I have left to read.
  3. The third spreadsheet is called “Schedule Calendar” and it is all the titles from all three Lust books organized by the month I plan to read them in. Each month gets its own tab: Jan, Feb, Mar and so on.
  4. The fourth and penultimate check system is the “Chapter List.” Each Lust book has its own spreadsheet broken out by chapter. Think of it this way: it’s the index of Book Lust et al in excel spreadsheets. Example: Once I finish a book in the chapter “Montana: the Big Sky Country” (Book Lust p 156), for example, I color code the title. At a glance I cen see I read three titles and there are ten more left to read.
  5. The fifth and final check is not a spreadsheet. It’s actually my LibraryThing account. Every book I have to read is in my “catalog” and tagged “accomplished” when I have read it.

I know, I know. It’s complicated. But, it works. So. Back to my dilemma. Somehow I realized that whole chapters of Book Lust To Go didn’t make it onto the first two lists. I’m not sure how that happened. It kills me to say my comprehensive reading list is not so comprehensive. How to fix this mess? Right now I am systematically (read=painfully) going through Book Lust To Go‘s index and checking the titles against Twist and Lust To Go. I’m up to ‘M’ and I’m adding titles where necessary (and that’s the part that REALLY kills me). Sometimes I only need to add a title to Twist and not To Go. Not sure what happened there, but whatever. Occasionally, I have been checking LibraryThing to see if I included the missing title in my catalog. Nine times out of ten the title is there, so I’m not going to worry too much about that. The lists I haven’t checked (yet) are the Schedule Calendar and the Chapter list. I’ll cross those bridges later. For now, I have enough titles mapped out that I won’t miss the missing…if that makes sense. Watch – I’ll probably end up reading nothing but books on Hong Kong at the bitter end because that’s one of the chapters I completely missed. Oh well.

Soul of All Living Creatures

Virga, Vint. The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human. New York: Crown, 2013.

Don’t think of The Soul of All Living Creatures as something with a plot. It doesn’t have a start, middle or end. Instead, think of it as a series of essays, each with its own theme. Unfortunately, because there was never that “what happens next?” element, I found it easy to put Soul of All Living Creatures down from time to time and not pick it back up for weeks. The premise of Virga’s book is simple. He chooses a behavior or an attitude and applies it to an experience he has had with an animal in his care as a veterinary behaviorist. He then takes that same trait and applies it to the human element, tying the animal world with human thinking. His theory is, by making the animal-human connection, our lives will be enriched.

Reason read: I am always suspicious when I review a book that has been published more than a year earlier. It’s not an “early” review when someone reviewed it 15 months earlier and the book has even won awards. Nevertheless, here am I reviewing Soul of All Living Creatures for LibraryThing.

Author fact: Virga has his own website here.

Book trivia: There should be photographs. That would be cool.

Bluebird Canyon

McCall, Dan. Bluebird Canyon. New York: Congdon & Weed, 1983.

Picture southern California. Now picture the star of a soap opera star named Rex Hooker with a penchant for self-destructiveness. The two go together in a stereotypical way, don’t you think? What isn’t so typical is Bluebird Canyon’s narrator, Oliver Bodley. Better known as “Triphammer” or “Trip”, Detective Bodley is a not so ordinary city police officer who gets caught up in Rex’s struggle to keep from losing it all. Interestingly enough, Rex and Trip go way back, as in high school way back. As the story unfolds, we find that Trip and Rex had been through quite a bit together back in their younger days. Just to give you an example. Rex and Trip are accused of partaking in the gang rape of a drunk girl. The victim’s brother and five of his friends proceed to kick the crap out of Trip and Rex…in detail. There’s more where that came from. Fast forward 20 years. Trip has been called to the Hooker estate for an apparent suicide attempt. Trip hasn’t seen his friend in those 20 years and Rex was rumored to be the victim. Be prepared. It gets nutty from there. Turns out, Rex is fine but 45 pages later his girlfriend’s sister accomplishes what he didn’t. Rex still lives with his parents but has a son, an ex-wife and a girlfriend. Meanwhile, at 37 years old, Triphammer is adrift. He doesn’t have a steady relationship, hates his exwife, in fact; he lives in a trailer on the beach (think Chris the DJ on Northern Exposure), he’s constantly losing his hat, and he doesn’t have a problem doing drugs in uniform (minus the hat). What he does mind, however, is being spit on.

All in all, some of Dan McCall’s plot was a little annoying. As I mentioned before, Trip is called to Summer Snow because Rex Hooker is trying to commit suicide. 45 pages later, another character hangs herself. It is mentioned the Hooker family is petrified of fire. 51 pages later Summer Snow is burning, thanks to an arsonist. I never grew to like Trip at all and I thought the writing was rambling and disconnected. At times the behavior of all the characters were exaggerated and ridiculous. Other times their actions were too sedate for the scene: two dogs were murdered on two separate occasions, two different houses were set on fire, two different suicides occurred…it all seemed a bit much. If McCall was trying to bring Rex’s soap opera to life in Bluebird Canyon he succeeded.

Quotes to make you sit up, “The world is full of assholes, and eventually they all turn up at the beach” (p 65), “My hole couldn’t handle a Q-tip” (Yes, he’s talking about what you think he’s talking about on p 72), “Chemists do not liven up a conference” (p 111), and “I wish my mind was a dog and I could train it to go sit” (p 244)

Reason read: California became a state on September 9th, 1850.

Author fact: Dan McCall passed away on June 17th, 2012. The Cornell Chronicle posted a really nice obituary about their former colleague.

Book trivia: I could see this as a movie, but to my knowledge one has never been made.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “California, Here We Come” (p 49).

Information Officer

Mills, Mark. The Information Officer. Detroit: Gale Cengage Learning, 2010.

The Information Officer takes place over eight days in the summer of 1942. World War II is raging all around the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta. The bombings are relentless and devastating. Max Chadwick is a British officer responsible for keeping the Maltese morale and promoting British policy. He does this by manipulating the news about the gritty details of the war’s progress (or lack thereof). The reality is Malta is being blown to shreds, but he needs the Maltese people to continue to believe in the British troops despite the German occupation and incessant Italian air strikes. What complicates this delicate arrangement are the deaths of several local women. Made to look like casualties of recent enemy attacks, autopsies prove otherwise. Further evidence causes Max to suspect a British officer is behind the serial killings. It’s only a matter of time before there is a full blown revolt.
Woven into this story is the quiet unfurling of a subplot. Told from the point of view of the rapist/killer, the reader is witness to the birth of a sexual predator. From the very beginning the juxtaposition of the two plots is intriguing. It’s very much like the crime shows you see on television. For the most part, they show the good guys, hard at work trying to solve the crimes. Every so often the scene switches to the bad guy, plotting his next attack.

The first quote to send shivers down my spine, “His breathing was strangely calm and measured, and there was something in the sound of it that suggested he was smiling” (p 20).

Reason read: Malta gained its independence from Britain on September 21, 1964, twenty years after World War II.

Author fact: I don’t think it will come as any huge surprise that Mark Mills has his own website here.

Book trivia: while I didn’t mean to, I read the large print version.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Messing Around On Malta” (p 144).

A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband

Weaver, Louise Bennett and Helen Cowles LeCron. A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband with Bettina’s Best Recipes: a Romance of Cookery and Housekeeping. New York: A L Burt Company, 1917.

How to describe this book? I want to avoid calling it a how-to for newly married women who want to keep their husbands satisfied because, given the date of publication, this would not fly in the 21st century. Hell, it shouldn’t have flown in any century, but there’s no getting around historical inequality!

But, anyway…in this book you will find there is only one way to please a husband – through his stomach. Bettina is a newlywed, eager to feed her husband, Bob. Every chapter focuses on an opportunity for Betty to take care of Bob and it usually includes food and the preparation there of. The recipes and preparation instructions are included in detail. But, to be fair, A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband… isn’t just about feeding hubby Bob. Bettina is teaching the local neighborhood wives how to feed their men and keep house as well. It could be a luncheon where Betty teaches the attending ladies how to prepare the meal and how to serve it properly as well. Betty is very proud of her meal plans (and seems to have an obsession with white sauce). She also likes to display her frugality and creativity. She is forever mentioning how she had to plan a meal with very little funds or advanced notice. Each chapter is a variation of the same theme of showcasing Betty’s ingenuity so, be prepared, it gets a little repetitious. Even though housekeeping is in the title, there is very little said about cleaning, doing laundry, or the like at 1107 Carberry Avenue. Bettina does mention getting out a stain or two.
Please note this book was published in 1917 and everything about it screams turn of the century. Even some of the ingredients are head scratchers (Like, what is a chocolate cream? One recipe calls for a dozen of them). What’s funny is that I read a review somewhere describing this book as “creepy and kitschy.” I would have to agree. Some of the language is a little strange. I was taken aback when Betty tells her husband and his adult male friend to “run and play” while she prepares the picnic. At one point her friends made reference to a man as a well known “woman-hater.” Come again?

I keep thinking about how interesting this book  could have been. Take Bob, for example. At Christmas he struggles over what kind of gift to get for Betty. He decides on giving her a kitten but the actual delivery is skipped over entirely. One minute Bob is discussing picking up the kitten and the next minute “Fluff” is quietly sleeping in an armchair. The reader never gets to see Betty’s reaction to the gift. This is just one example of where the plot could have been developed more.

Quotes to make you think, “Love at first sight? Bob introduced us…and I thought – well – I thought Harry was the most disagreeably serious man I’d ever had the misfortune to meet! And he thought me the most disagreeably frivolous girl he has ever seen. So our feud began, and of course we had to see each other to fight it out” (p 195), “Feeling, it must be admitted, a little out of harmony with a world that allowed weary and hungry husbands to come home to dark and empty houses when the clock said plainly that it was a quarter after six, Bob made his way to the kitchen” (p 238) and “Goodness gracious sakes alive, but thinking is hot work” (p 296).

Reason read: Oddly enough, I thought this would be a great book to read in honor of my tenth wedding anniversary on September 18th. I am happy to say my husband comes home each night and not just because of a home cooked meal! *wink*wink*

Author(s) fact: Weaver and LeCron have also written other “Bettina books” such as Bettina’s Best Salads, Bettina’s Best Desserts, and even When Sue Began to Cook with Bettina’s Best Recipes.

Book trivia: Charming illustrations (or decorations as they were called back then) were done by Elizabeth Colbourne. Another detail – this book is available as an E-book through the Gutenberg Project (Release date: 6/4/13 EBook #42865).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 600s” (p 73).

Raw Silk

Burroway, Janet. Raw Silk. Boston: Little , Brown & Company, 1976.

Suffice it to say, I devoured Raw Silk in four days. I probably would have finished it sooner if I didn’t have to take time out for essential things like eating, sleeping, and a little thing called going to work. I simply couldn’t put it down. Virginia Marbalestier is an American mother to a five year old, married to a Brit, and living in a big house outside of London. She has risen above her childhood of Californian poverty to become a successful textiles designer for a company where her domineering husband is second in command. She appears to have it all, but if anyone were to peep in their windows one would see an abusive relationship spiraling out of control. “Ginny” and husband, Oliver, fight constantly and the confusing thing is, not only does Ginny predict the abuse, she does nothing to avoid it. She welcomes it by deliberately differing and defying her husband on a regular basis. They fight over the welfare of their daughter and when Ginny gives in that is the first betrayal. The second is Frances. Oliver is all about appearances and when Ginny befriends Frances, a mentally unstable, nearly catatonic coworker, he seethes with anger. The angrier Oliver gets, the more “accidents” Ginny has. This downward spiral forces Ginny to examine her own life, her own betrayals, her own sacrifices.

Quotes I liked, “I want you to know I’ve finally got round to regretting what we missed” (p 33), “Do you know that I can still wake with the memory of your mouth?” (p 34), “I have no skill whatever at knowing what my sins are” (p 159), and “Very often I would like to take a plate of fried eggs and fling it full into the four-in-hand of Oliver’s miniature-motif embroidered tie, and this desire makes beads of sweat stand out along the hairline of my unbrushed hair, but even this is pleasurable” (p 164).

Reason read: Janet Burroway was born in the month of September.

Author fact: Ms. Burroway has her own website and the first thing I discovered when I went there is Raw Silk came out as an audio book for Open Road Media on February 4th, 2014.

Book trivia: Raw Silk was nominated for a National Book Award in 1977.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Writer’s Craft” (p 237).

History Man

Bradbury, Malcolm. The History Man. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976.

The Kirks are are an interesting couple. Howard Kirk is a professor of sociology with a “convenient” marriage. Both Howard and his wife, Barbara, take advantage of sexual relationships that further their causes and commitments. Right from the beginning you know they are bound for trouble. “So, sensing the climate, some people called the Kirks, a well-known couple, decide to have a party” (p 1). And this is how it begins. The History Man starts with a party and ends with a party, but a whole lot happens in between. Howard has liaisons with a colleague and a student while trying to seduce a third woman. Barbara spends her weekends running off to London for a “shopping” trip.

Howard Kirk starts a vicious buzz about campus about inviting Professor Mangel to give a lecture at the University of Watermouth. This creates an uproar as Mangel is seen as a racist, a sexist, a geneticist, and a fascist so no one can agree about his invitation.

There is a good dose of philosophy and psychology; a whole lot of explaining how people are and what makes them tick. I couldn’t decide if I really liked the Kirks. They reminded me of the Underwoods in House of Cards. They both seemed a little conniving. In the end I felt the most sorry for Barbara Kirk. She and her husband have an open relationship but, being a mother, she doesn’t have quite the same opportunities as Howard.

Reading History Man was a little tedious. For one, Bradbury likes to describe people’s actions step by step. Howard getting settled into his office. Barbara driving a car. Every movement is sometimes detailed creating pages and pages of one giant paragraph. Yet, at other times large moments in time are skipped all together. Howard could be talking to his wife at home one moment and the in the next moment he’s lying in bed with another woman.

As an aside, the author’s note is hysterical. It sets the tone for the entire story.

Line I liked: “Everywhere else the code is one of possibility, not denial” (p 71).

Reason read: Well, there are really two reasons: Malcolm Bradbury was born in September. History Man is about an academic and most schools start classes in September. My institution is the oddball who start classes the week before. No. I take that back. We have three days of classes, then have a long weekend, then the semester gets rolling.

Author fact: Malcolm Bradbury’s website is really cool. Everyone should check it out, if not for the information, for the photographs. But. The whole thing is great. Another article you should look up is one written by Tom Rosenthal back in 2006.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Academia: the joke” (p 4).


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