The Numbers

DATE: 1/25/16

Titles Finished Totals:

  • Books: 946
  • Poetry: 75
  • Short stories: 36

Total for 2015: 121 titles (including “fun” running books while training for a marathon).

All titles left to go: 4,660 (This number went up because I found several more titles that are actually the title of the SERIES and not the individual books. Case in point – Proust. Remembrance of Things Past is actually 12 different titles. The Complete Sherlock Holmes is actually 4 novels and 56 short stories totaling 60 different titles. With just those two examples I went from two titles to 72 titles.)

Next count: 2/29/2016

And I Shall Sleep…

Llewellyn, Richard. And I Shall Sleep…Down Where the Moon Was Small. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1966.

Reason read: to finish the series incorrectly started in December in honor of Patagonia.

Like Llewellyn’s first two novels, And I Shall Sleep… starts off with Huw and his mother’s little blue cloth, the one she “wore about her hair when cleaning” (p 1). This will become significant later, as you might have guessed.
And I Shall Sleep is the third and final book in the Huw Morgan series. When we join back up with Huw, he and his small group of Patagonians have made a new settlement in the Andes mountains. Previously Huw’s love, Lal, had decided to stay behind but early in And I Shall Sleep she changes her mind and joins Huw in the mountains. While this may seem like a good thing for Huw (since he was so infatuated with her in Up, Into the Singing Mountain), his attraction to an evasive Indio girl complicates the relationship. It doesn’t help that Huw is becoming more and more sympathetic to the Indio plight (“they were denied a land where their fathers had ridden” p 122), Interestingly enough, this new girl, Liliutro, is half sister to Lal. [Semi-spoiler alert: the inside flap reveals that mysterious Lili is able to lure Huw away from Lal so the whole time Huw and Lal are seemingly happy together I wondered when his betrayal would begin…and then when it did I regretted waiting for it.]
On the professional side, Huw’s trading company is getting bigger and bigger. He is able to travel to America and meet Henry Ford. As a businessman he grows more and more successful.

As an aside: towards the end of And I Shall Sleep I was starting to dislike Huw a great deal. There is this one curious scene where Huw has just slept with a married woman and she announces she is going to tell her husband. The next day the husband comes to Huw to inform him I know what you did and oh, by the way, you should call the police because I put my hands around her neck….”Heard it go. Told you. I’m finished” (p 308).
And then there’s the scene with the puma…and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Quote I like: right from the beginning, the very first sentence grabbed me, “Dearly touched a heart can be with proof of love from an absent one” (p 1). This set the whole stage for me.
Other quote I liked, “A pity it takes so long to reach good sense” (p 99).

Book trivia: And I Shall Sleep… is sometimes called simply Down Where the Moon Was Small.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply and predictably called “Patagonia” (p 174). Note: both titles are indexed in Book Lust To Go.

Thirty Nine Steps

Buchan, John. The Thirty-Nine Steps. New York: Buccaneer Books, 1996.

Reason read: in honor of my birthday I wanted to read something fast and fun.

It’s May 1914 in London, England. Scottish expatriate Richard Hannay has a troublesome visitor. That’s the first thing I would say about The Thirty Nine Steps. An American stranger has come to him with a wild tale of espionage and knowledge of a planned assassination. Because he was in the know, according to this stranger, Mr. Scudder, he had to fake his own death. He has come to Hannay to hide himself and his little coded book of secrets. However, imagine Hannay’s surprise when that same man is found with a knife so thoroughly through the heart it skewered him to the floor! Needless to say, Hannay is now on the run…with the cipher of secrets. With Mr. Scudder dead on his floor, surely he will be the number one suspect. The rest of the short book is Hannay’s attempts to hide out in Scotland, a place he hasn’t seen since he was six years old, thirty one years ago. The key to the whole mystery is a reference to “39 steps” in Scudder’s little book.

Head scratching quotes, “He had about as much gift of gab as a hippopotamus and was not a great hand at valeting, but I knew I could count on his loyalty” (p 22)

Author fact: Buchan was a member of Parliament and Governor-General of Canada.

Book trivia: This is another super short book, only 126 pages long. Originally published in 1915 and made into a movie several times.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade by Decade: 1910s” (p 174). But wait! There’s more! From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Oxford – nonfiction” (p 171). It should be noted that Thirty-Nine Steps does not take place in Oxford, nor is it nonfiction.

As She Climbed Across the Table

Lethem, Jonathan. As She Climbed Across the Table. Read by David Aaron Baker. Maryland: Books on Tape, 2007.

Reason read: February is Lethem’s birth month.

I love Jonathan Lethem’s voice. The style he writes in is so casual, so sly you feel like you need to reread the words to make sure you haven’t missed something important or at least clever. As She Climbed Across the Table is told from the perspective of Anthropology professor Philip. The story he tells you is at once heartbreaking and humorous. His girlfriend and colleague, particle physicist Alice Coombs has fallen in love with a void, a tiny black hole. The only problem with this? The void, named Lack for obvious reasons, has refused Alice’s attempts to lose herself in his depths. This “lack” of affection on Lack’s part only makes Alice desire him more. Why? Because it seems as if he (because it has to be a he for Alice to love) has a personality capable of rejection. He will devour car keys and other items of significance, but not Alice.

As an aside: When Alice repeatedly admits she loves Lack the way she used to love Philip, (but doesn’t anymore), I wanted Philip to be more rebellious. Here is he, allowing crazy, non-speaking, dopey Alice to live in the same apartment all the while refusing the advances of a beautiful and smart therapist who is practically throwing herself at him. Am I too cold blooded to think Philip should have developed more of a “screw you” spine?

Author Fact: This is not a fact per se…but, I ran into a photo of Jonathan Lethem and in it he looked sorta, kinda, somewhat like Mike Gordon from the band Phish. Not exactly like him, mind you. But, close enough to be his kid brother or something.

Audio trivia: David Aaron Baker does a great job with voice accents. The part when Philip is drunk is hilarious.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter “Jonathan Lethem: Too Good To Miss” (p 146).

If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now

Loh, Sandra Tsing. If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now. New York: riverhead books, 1997.

Reason read: Loh’s birth month is in February.

Confessional: I finished this in a day. Not because it was my favorite book but because I was home sick.

This is the story of Bronwyn Peters and her boyfriend, Paul, trying to make it in the glamorous city of Los Angeles. Be prepared. This is a very dated (1990s) story and there will be times when you want to maybe slap the sh!t out of Sandra Loh. I grew weary of the plenitude of brand-name dropping that went on (Guess?, Porche, Sanyo, Motorola, Kohler, BMW, Berber, Dolce & Gabbana, Wamsutta, Crate and Barrel…to name a few), as well as hot-now celebrity names like David Lynch, Frank Zappa, Malcolm Forbes, and Madonna…
Confessional: there were definitely times I wanted to slap Bronwyn Peters. Despite listening to NPR and identifying with a Bohemian lifestyle, Bronwyn hungers for the lifestyle of $200 haircuts and Corian counters. She even convinces her struggling writer boyfriend to buy a condo in downtown Los Angeles after they come into a modest amount of money (clearly not enough for L.A. standards). They settle on a place they obviously cannot afford for long. Bronwyn knows full well they are out of their league and yet continues to plays the game to the hilt. Bronwyn’s one redeeming quality is her steadfast love for Paul. She stands by him through temptation and failure. In the end, If you Lived Here… is Loh’s platform for bringing to the forefront L.A.’s socio-economic class structure. She uses the riots as a backdrop to her commentary on attitudes, prejudices and the simple act of just wanting more.

Lines I liked: “Feeling like Bruce Willis is some sort of Dead Something action picture, Bronwyn gripped her flashlight” (p176), and “and because there was nothing else to do, she rolled over and stole her arms around her fellow, such as he was, because his was the body that was still there” (p 221).

Author fact: If you Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now is Loh’s first novel.

Book trivia: short, short, short!

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

Forgetting February

Okay, so here it is, the first week of February and I never wrote a summary for January or looked ahead to February. What is this world coming to? I’ll tell you what the what. My life has been upside down lately. Between being sick and injured I haven’t been myself lately. Not working out has left me crank, crank, cranky! Not running has unhinged my balance. Being sick for the second time this winter doesn’t help.
So even though I blew it for January, here’s a redeemer for February. Without further ado, the books I will read (or have already read) for the month:

  1.  A.D.: After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld in honor of Mardi Gras
  2. Her First American by Lore Segal in honor of immigration month
  3. I Shall Sleep…Down Where the Moon is Small by Richard Llewellyn (to finish the series started in December)
  4. Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes (to finish the series started LAST April)
  5. Beautiful Place to Die by Philip Craig
  6. If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now by Sandra Loh in honor of Loh’s birth month
  7. Rocksburg Railroad Murders by K.C. Constantine (in finish the series started last month)
  8. As She Crawled Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem in honor of his birth month (an audio book)
  9. Liar by Rob Roberge (Early Review book)
  10. The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano (not on the challenge list; a recommendation by my sister)

Okay. So that’s a lot of books. But not really once you read my confessional: There were four that took a day apiece to read (Neufeld, Loh, Constantine, and Craig) and four more I have been reading for a while now (Llewellyn, Hughes, Roberge and Giordano). So, already a total of six are “in the can” so to speak even though it’s only early February. Clarification: I have a “new” rule for series. I’ll use the Constantine series to illustrate: I started Constantine’s series in honor of mystery month in January. When I finished the January book I didn’t wait until February 1st to start the second book in the series. True, I give myself a month to read a book but sometimes I don’t need that much time. If that makes sense.

I will be adding two more:

  1. The Path to Power by Robert Caro in honor of Presidents Day
  2. Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (audio book) in honor of February being the month we moved to Northampton (Kidder is a Northampton author).

the Solitude of Prime Numbers

Giordano, Paolo. The Solitude of Prime Numbers. New York: Penguin Books, 2009.

Reason read: for fun…because my sister said so.

I don’t know what it was about this book that made it so difficult to read. I must have picked it up and put it down a hundred times before I finally got to the last page. It wasn’t that it was a horribly written book. In fact, just the opposite. It was so beautiful in a haunting, painful way that I could only read it in short bursts.

Alice and Mattia are two misfit loners who accidentally find each other as teenagers at a birthday party. Despite the fact they are thrown together on a malicious dare, they develop a bond of solidarity. To quote Pink Floyd, they were “two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl” recognizing the loneliness in each other. Except, their friendship does not develop as one normally would. They remain just as singular (primary, as the title suggests) as if they had never met.

Quotes that moved me, “They lived the slow and invisible interpenetration of their universes, like two stars gravitating around a common axis, in ever tighter orbits, whose clear destiny it to coalesce at some point in time” (p 136). Someone else liked that line. It was marked in the book. And, “Every one of them had a love that had rotted alone in their hearts” (p 144).

A lot like Rob Roberge’s Liar, I found this book took me a really long time to read. As I said with Liar, it wasn’t that the story wasn’t interesting. Only that it was too lonely for words.

Author fact: Solitude is Paolo Giordano’s first book.

Book trivia: Solitude won Giordano the Premio Straga award.


Beautiful Place to Die

Craig, Philip A. A Beautiful Place to Die. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1989.

Reason read: February is the month in which Massachusetts became a state and Martha’s Vineyard is the “beautiful place to die”.

You can always tell when an author has either spent time or lived in the area where his or her book takes place. The details are sharper, the descriptions more lovingly told…if that makes sense. There is a care to the words. Philip R. Craig is no different. Because of the way he describes the island of Martha’s Vineyard early on in A Beautiful Place To Die, you can tell he calls it home.

Jefferson Washington Jackson is a retired Boston cop/Vietnam veteran living on the island of Martha’s Vineyard trying to forget about the bullet still lodged in his back. To keep himself occupied he is an avid fisherman, a successful gardener (does better with vegetables than flowers) and a decent cook. After a friend’s boat explodes and someone he knew was killed Jeff finds a new hobby as private investigator. Along with a suspicious boat explosion there are rumors of drug busts and murder. There are plenty of little twists and turns to A Beautiful Place to Die so even though it is a short (211 pages) read, it is entertaining.

Quotes I love (see confessional), “Librarians are wonderfully valuable people” (p 122), “Women are the gender of reality” (p 174), and “When I’m king of the world I’m going to ban pay toilets as an affront to civilization” (p 175).

Side note: When J.W. tells Zee how he came to live on M.V. it reminded me of Monhegan. Many islanders can’t afford to buy a place where they grew up. They rely on inheriting family property to stay on the island…

Confessional: I have a crush on Jefferson Washington Jackson. Consider the facts: he gardens, cooks, appreciates librarians, understands a Barbar kind of day, likes Sam Adams beer and a clean house, has a sense of humor, has the same opinion of pay toilets, and is able to survive getting shot twice in 48 hours! What’s not to love?

Author fact: According the to back flap, Philip Craig grew up on a small cattle ranch in Durango, Colorado. The Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard is quite a departure from the wild west.

Book trivia: This is book one is the Martha’s Vineyard series.

BookLust Twist: from <em>Book Lust To Go</em> in the chapter simply called “Martha’s Vineyard” (p 142). No twist there…


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