The Numbers

DATE: 9/23/14
Titles Finished

  • Books: 812
  • Poetry: 74
  • Short stories: 32

Titles left to go (all combined): 4800
Next count: 11/24/2014


Biodegradable Soap

Ephron, Amy. Biodegradable Soap. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1991.

This is such a short, snarky little story about a community in suburban Los Angeles. Claudia Weiss is becoming more and more obsessed with recycling and the environment while her husband leaves her for a younger, more self-centered actress. Claudia’s friends gossip and have affairs of their own. One friend starts up an affair with her personal trainer and gets caught. Interspersed in the story are different current events: the Soviet invasion of Lithuania, the war in Iraq, the Exxon-Valdez spill… It’s truly an odd book.

Quote worth quoting, “That was what he liked about Lara – she was completely self-obsessed and he didn’t think she’d ever had an altruistic thought in her life” (p 45).

Reason read: Ehpron’s birth month is in October.

Author fact: Ephron has her own website here.

Book trivia: This is a quick, quick, quick read. 159 pages…but not really. Each “chapter” is short and choppy; only 1-2 pages long. If you were to squish the pages it’s only — pages long.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “All in the Family: Writer Dynasties” (p 6).


Half Magic

Eager, Edward. Half Magic. Performed by The Worlds Take Wing Repertory Company. New York: Listening Library, 1999.

I read a whole bunch of reviews of Half Magic that began with the sentence, “I loved this book as a child…” and it got me thinking, do the reviewers love it now, as adults? And, if they do, do they love it for purely nostalgic reasons? I know there are songs I could never like or listen to if they weren’t intrinsically entangled with my memories of past great times (like the song “Rain Maker”).

Anyway – Half Magic is about four siblings, three sisters and a brother, who stumble upon a magic talisman. This talisman, much like a nickel in size and shape, grants wishes…sort of. Every wish is exactly halved. “Desert isle” becomes just “desert” which is how the children end up in the Sahara rather than on a deserted island like they had originally wished. A talking cat becomes a mumbling cat, a barely understood cat. The more the children learn about the talisman’s capabilities, the more trouble they get into even though they vow their wishes are to be used for good intentions. If you want to listen to the audio version it would be in your best interest to get the “Worlds Take Wing Repertory Company” version. Instead of having one actor read the story, an entire cast of characters each take a part. The children are adorable.

Phrase I like, “terrible good intentions.”

Reason read: Eager died in October and it’s Halloween time – another reason to read about magic.

Author fact: Eager died young – in his 50s.

Book trivia: Half Magic was originally written in 1954 and remains Eager’s most popular book.

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


Eyre Affair

Fforde, Jasper. The Eyre Affair. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.

Reason read: Reason #1 – I was home-home and had finished the two books I brought with me. I was thinking Robert Jordan’s 800+ page behemoth would take much longer, but obviously I forgot I would be in the backseat for 5.5 hours, then on a boat for another hour, and then stuck in a very relaxing vacation on a very relaxing island with lots of time to read…
Reason #2 – October is Crime Prevention Month and since Thursday is a cop, more or less, I thought this would be appropriate. More or less.

So. Picture this: the year is 1985. The Crimean War is still raging and Great Britain is in a reverse time warp. Instead of being behind the times they are way ahead of them. England is a futuristic place where time travel is an everyday occurrence, the most common thing to clone is the resurrected Dodo bird (everyone has them as pets), and visitations to the pages of literature is child’s play. Thursday Next is a Special Operative in literary detection where not much is supposed to happen (it’s supposed to be a desk job after all). Most crimes in involve Byronic forgeries and protests over Shakespeare’s authenticity. That is until a minor character from a Dickens novel is found murdered outside the novel, changing the plot forever. That’s just for starters. When Jane Eyre herself is plucked from Bronte’s original manuscript and the kidnapper threatens to alter Great Britain’s most beloved story, Thursday rises to the challenge to rescue Jane. It’s no small task for the kidnapper is a former professor who once tried to seduce Thursday and seems to have godlike powers. To make matters worse, Thursday’s mind is not 100% on the case as she is distracted by a heartbreaking secret in the form of an ex-lover she can neither escape nor forget.
Fforde writes with cunning intention. Every chapter is riddled with wordplay, puns, literary allusions and trivia. With a names like Thursday Next, Hades Acheron, and Jack Schitt, you can just imagine the possibilities. Even the twins Jeff and Geoff got a giggle out of me. Because I am not up on pop culture I am sure some references went over my head.
One of my favorite scenes is when Thursday and the before mentioned ex-lover attend a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Only this adaptation is more like The Rocky Horror Picture Show than serious theater in the round. The audience participation is hilarious. Another great moment is when Thursday’s uncle is showing Thursday his latest inventions. The bookworms are the best.
My only gripe is when Thursday is first asked to join the hunt to stop her former professor from destroying an original manuscript. Rule #1 is to never think or say the professor’s real name. If you do he can detect your whereabouts, your whole game plan right down to your very next move. After the first attempt to capture him goes horrible awry Rule #1 is abandoned and no one abides by it anymore. It doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Odd.

Favorite line, “The worms were busy reading a copy of Mansfield Park and were discussing where Sir Thomas got his name from” (p 152).

Author fact: Fforde has one of the most entertaining websites I have seen in a long time. Visit it here.

Book trivia: This is Fforde’s first novel.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapters called “Action Heroines” (p 6), “Companion Reads” (p 64), and “First Novels” (p 88). Also, from More Book Lust only in the chapter called “Brontes Forever” (p 35). As an aside, Pearl suggested reading The Eyre Affair with Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (for obvious reasons), but I already read Jane Eyre and The Eyre Affair for different reasons so it was pointless to read them again with Wide Sargasso Sea.

I have to say, one of the drawbacks to reading anything in Book Lust is that it is going to be old news. I always feel late to the party when I see a best seller with over 500 reviews on LibraryThing. It makes me wonder what I could possibly say that hasn’t already been said.


Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton

Rice, Edward. Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: the Secret Agent Who Made the Pilgrimage to Mecca, Discovered the Kama Sutra, and Brought the Arabian Nights to the West. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1990.

Doesn’t the subtitle of this book just about rope you in? If the subtitle doesn’t do it for you, how about the man himself? Explorer, scientist, secret agent man? Capable of speaking 29 different languages, supposedly most of them in their proper dialect. Thought to be a Gypsy. If anything, Burton should have the title of Most Interesting Man. He inherited his father’s wanderlust and would often move his family without reason. And, what about that Kama Sutra? Come again? In all fairness, I couldn’t finish the book. Interesting man or not, the writing just wasn’t. This is a classic case of “Did Not Finish.”

Reason read: Burton died in the month of October

Book trivia: There are a few photographs in Sir Richard Burton. Pity there weren’t more – Burton was an interesting looking fellow.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Star Trekkers” (p 222).


Partisan

Cheever, Benjamin. The Partisan. New York: Atheneum, 1993.

Right away Cheever wants you to laugh out loud. How could you not with an opening like this? “That was the summer I worked for the Westchester Commons. I was in love with Amy Snodgrass Rose. Amy was in love with David Hitchens. David was in love with Gloria Thomas. I was in Westchester. Amy was in Washington State. David was in Montreal. Gloria had gone to Paris. The sex was very safe” (p 1). I know I was thinking, “oh the poor schmuck” until I got to last sentence. At least the guy has a sense of humor. It’s even funnier when you find out the person speaking, the main protagonist Nelson, is a virgin.
So the gist of the story is this: Nelson narrates the story about his life with “Uncle”, “Aunt” and sister Narcissus in Westchester, New York. Nelson is 20 years old, and as I mentioned, in love obsessed with Amy. “Uncle” really isn’t Nelson and Nar’s uncle. Jonas Collingwood and his wife Elspeth, took over raising Nelson and Nar after their adoptive father died. Jonas is a revered author on the verge stardom when a newspaper article hints his last book was a thinly veiled autobiography of his time in wartime Italy. He receives a huge advance to write a real memoir but what ensues is a comedy of errors and tragedies. Cheever has a dark side to him and while most of the story is relatively funny (Nelson is someone I would love to hang out with), there are moments is subtle uncomfortableness. My favorite scenes involve the car.

I should add that it took me only three days to read this book. It would have taken only two had I been a little more serious about reading. Cheever packs a strong story in a tight little package.

Likes I liked (other than the beginning), “I want the kind of love you don’t have to hear” (p 3), (Don’t we all?) and “Really, there ought to be a law about facial expressions” (p 223).

Reason read: Ben Cheever’s birth month is in October.

Author fact: Benjamin Cheever is the same age as my mom, older by mere days.

Book trivia: I feel bad for The Partisan. Every decent review of it mentions Cheever’s first novel The Plagiarist. It’s another one of those situations where you think, “crap! I’m reading the wrong book!”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “All in the Family: Writer Dynasties” (p 5).


Culture of Disbelief

Carter, Stephen L. The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialized Religious Devotion. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

The simplest way to sum of The Culture of Disbelief is this, it is the argument that society forces religious devotion to be kept private and should not to be displayed openly. Society discourages us from voicing a religious choice. Right from the beginning you are hit with a sentence that brings it all to light: “More and more, our culture seems to take the position that believing deeply in the tenets of one’s faith represents a kind of mystical irrationality, something that thoughtful, public spirited American citizens would do better to avoid” (p 7).

Reason read: Carter was born in the month of October.

Author fact: Stephen Carter and Natalie Merchant share the same birthday.

Book trivia: Blood transfusions is a major topic in Culture of Disbelief.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American Fiction: He Say” (p 8). Here is yet another example of a title that shouldn’t have been included in this particular chapter. Yes, Stephen Carter is African American, but this particular work is not fiction.


Eye of the World

Jordan, Robert. Eye of the World: Book One of the Wheel of Time. New York: Tom Doherty Associations, 1990.

I will be the first to admit I am not a big fan of fantasy. I can’t suspend my belief for long enough, my kisa says. He also says I have a sense of humor, so really what does he know? Half the time I think fantasy is someone’s excuse to not make any sense. Everything from people’s names (Nynaeve al’Meara) to the places they live (Cairhien) are gobbledegook to me. Everything is so over the top grandiose. Elan Morin Tedronai is the Betrayer of Hope. See what I mean? Cue evil music. Then, there are the trillion difficult weird names to remember. In the first chapter alone there are 14 different such oddball names. The only normal one is Bela, and she’s a horse.
So, anyway – onto my review, such as it is. Eye of the World opens with a whole slew of firsts. Strangers come to the village of Two Rivers for the first time in five years. The entire town is on edge because the youth of the community are the only ones who get the feeling they are being watched. They are also the only ones to catch glimpses of an ominous figure on a black horse. Soon after, a pedlar and a gleeman both come to town with news of a war raging across a nearby land. Suddenly, their peaceful little village is ravaged by these half human, half animal creature looking for three young farmers. They are the chosen ones so of course, in order to protect their community they must leave. What follows is a journey through many different kinds of hell. Spoiler alert: they all survive every single ordeal. In the end, some fare better than others but Jordan definitely leaves the door open for his 13 subsequent sequels.
In the end, I enjoyed Eye of the World. You know how I can tell? I was thinking about the characters the next day and when I saw a fairy house in Cathedral Woods with at least six different rat skulls, I shivered.

Jordan draws from Tolkien in that his Two Rivers is a lot like the Shire in Middle Earth. I also see hints of Star Wars with Evil being after one particular boy, like Anikin Skywalker in Star Wars.
I think the first sentence sums up Eye of the World nicely, “The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend” (p 1). Other quotes I took a fancy to: “There must be a difference in what you saw…depending on whether you sought adventure or had it forced on you” (p 159), and “Keep your trust small” (p 196).

Reason read: October is National Fantasy Month.

Author fact: Robert Jordan is actually James Oliver Rigney and he passed away in 2007.

Book trivia: This is the first book in the Wheel of Time series – the massive Wheel of Time series. I have 11 on my list. Gawd help me. Another book trivia: Eye of the World was made into a comic book series.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror” (p 213).


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