The Numbers

DATE: 6/30/16 – doing this a little early since I’ll be on vaca next week! That means NO computers:)

Titles Finished Totals:

  • Books: 996
  • Poetry: 75
  • Short stories: 50

Total for 2016 so far: 78 titles (including Early Review and fun books).

All titles left to go: 4,612

Next count: 8/3/2016


Glass Palace

Ghosh, Amitav. The Glass Palace. New York: Random House, 2001.

Reason read: Ghosh was born in July.

There is much love for Ghosh’s The Glass Palace. This was the right balance of historical fiction, love story, and political commentary within a sweeping saga. Dolly is a woman who has been in the service of the Queen for as long as she can remember. Rajkumar is an orphan boy taken in by a teak logger and taught the trade. Glass Palace follows them through childhood, their storybook romance, growing families and the inevitable, old age. Intertwined are the stories of their children, their children’s children, war, economics, society, politics, fashion, feminism, and life. The way it was written the story could have been without end.

Quote to quote, “This is how power is eclipsed” (p 36). Don’t hate me but I thought of a John Mayer line, “Power is made by power being taken.” Same thing.

Book trivia: This should have been a movie. It has all the right components: war, beautiful women, explosions, death, romance, cars…Speaking of the cars, Ghosh was especially detailed with the automobiles.

Author fact: Ghosh also wrote Sea of Poppies which is on my Challenge list.

BookLust Twist: Two twists – from Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction From Around the World” (p 47) and again in Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Burmese Days” (p 47).


Last Battle

Ryan, Cornelius. The Last Battle. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966.

Reason read: to finished the series started in honor of D-Day. To be fair, this wasn’t part of a “series” but it made sense to read next since historically, the last battle came after the events in A Bridge Too Far.

I’ve said this before, but one of the best things about reading a Cornelius Ryan book is that it is never ever boring. His books read like a movie (as been said before by many reviewers), complete with characters you root for and villains you love to hate. The very first people you meet in The Last Battle are Richard Poganowska, a 39 year old milk man and Carl Johann Wiberg, “a man more German than Germany” who happens to be an Allied spy. Ryan introduces you to the lesser known elements of war – passionate people who try to save entire orchestras and animals from a war demolished zoo. As an aside, it was heartbreaking to meet Schwartz and his beloved Abu Markub. I’m glad Ryan circled back to their story at the end.
And speaking of the end, this truly is a depiction of the last battles fought in World War II. Ryan circles all the players, leaving no one out: the defenders, the attackers and of course, the civilians. The race to conquer Berlin and the subsequent divvying up of Germany was fascinating.

As an aside, someone went through The Last Battle and sadly, marked it up with a RED pen. How annoying.

Quote that stopped me, “How do you tell sixty nuns and lay sisters that they are in danger of being raped?” (p 26). That was the reality of German Berliners if the Russians took over their city.

Book trivia: The Last Battle is chock full of interesting photographs, including one of the author with one of his subjects.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter (for obvious reasons) called “World War II Nonfiction” (p 254).


Cranford

Gaskell, Elizabeth. Cranford. Read by Davina Porter. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2008.

Reason read: Cranford takes place in a fictional town in England. In July England celebrates a day called Swan Upping. Swan Upping is the practice of catching mute swans and marking them. As I understand the tradition, any unmarked muted swan belongs to the Monarchy.

This is a weird little book. Picture a society made up mostly of women. In the fictional town of Cranford women run the show. If a new couple arrives in Cranford to settle down sooner or later the man of the house vanishes. This society simply doesn’t need a man…until Captain Brown and his two daughters arrive on the scene. There is no central plot as this was originally published as a satirical serial. However, the entire story is told first person through the eyes of a visitor and most of the story centers on one particular character, Miss Matty (Matilda).

Quotes that caught me, “Things that many would despise, and actions which it seemed scarcely worthwhile to perform, were all attended to in Cranford” (p 32),

Author fact: Mrs. Gasket publish the first biography of Charlotte Bronte.

Book trivia: Cranford was first published as a serial in 1851 and was edited by Charles Dickens.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135), although Cranford doesn’t take place in Maine. Has nothing to do with Maine in any way, as a matter of fact. Pearl was just making a comparison, as usual.


Disco for the Departed

Cotterill, Colin. Disco for the Departed New York: Soho Press, 2006.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Rocket Day (May).

Dr. Siri is back! We are in the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos and the year is 1977. In this third installment of our reluctant yet humorous coroner we learn more about his life as a shaman, hosting the spirit of Hmong Yeh Ming and how, despite being 73 years of age, Siri grows younger everyday. This time Dr. Siri is called to a small mountain town to solve the mystery of a Cuban buried alive in concrete. While there he is inhabited by a spirit who loves to dance and keeps taking Siri to a disco (hence the title). Nurse Dtui accompanies Siri into the mountains and has her own little romance. We also learn more about Siri’s assistant, Geung Watajak. Interestingly enough, Disco backs up and explains Geung’s arrival into Dr. Siri’s life as morgue assistant which was a nice surprise. I appreciate the building of supporting characters.

Quotes I’d like to quote, “She became renown for wild solo rantings and spontaneous acts of flashing” (p 13), “Socialism was having a negative effect on the weather” (p 79) and one more, “Siri sat alone in the guesthouse restaurant and stared into a mug of coffee so thick you could lose an anchor in it” (p 150).

Book trivia: Like the other Cotterill books before it, Disco for the Departed was a quick read. I read it in one day.

BookLust Twist: obviously from Book Lust to Go in the chapter simply called “Laos” (p 128).


Milk in My Coffee

Dickey, Eric Jerome. Milk in My Coffee. New York: New American Library, 1998.

Reason read: Cow Appreciation Day is tomorrow – 7/14/16. I kid you not.

The premise is Jordan and Kimberly are supposed to each take turns telling their side of their seemingly doomed romance. While I tagged this “chick lit” it isn’t. Not really. It’s the story of two people trying to overcome the color of their skin and their deep rooted opinions. I appreciated Jordan’s ingrained racism that spoke to a long standing tradition of passing prejudice through history. He continually referred to the South unapologetically, as if that’s just the way it will always be, like it or not. His perceptions of Kimberley as a white woman are generations old. There was more drama in this story expected but that didn’t take away from the story.

Milk in My Coffee is broken into four parts. The first eleven chapters are from Jordan Green’s point of view. Every chapter is titled “Jordan Greene” before it switches to Kimberley Chambers (for one chapter). Wouldn’t it have been simpler (and I would have preferred this) to have one giant section of Jordan Greene narrative?
This isn’t a huge deal, but Milk in My Coffee contains references that date the plot. I didn’t know Erica Kane or Nurse Rachid so I didn’t get the jokes referencing them. Luckily, I know Barney, Vanna White, and Eartha Kitt so they were not a great mystery.

Everyone knows I am nit picky when it comes to dialogue. I want the characters to talk to one another as if they really know each other and are authentic with one another. It bothers me when conversations don’t make sense. To be honest, that only happened once in Milk. Jordan asked what Kimberly was doing for the holidays. She explains about how holidays and her birthday bring her down. They then go off on a mini tangent about birthdays. After that, without missing a beat Jordan asks again about the holidays as if he never asked and she answers in a completely different way.

Dickey is full of cheesy analogies:

  • “More purple than Barney”
  • “More tracks than a Hot Wheels set”
  • “Like microwave popcorn”

Quote I liked (yes, there was only one), “I didn’t know her well enough to earn any heartbreak, but I felt it anyway” (p 14).

Author fact: Dickey’s bio reads like Superman: engineer, stand up comic, able to develop software, best selling author…

Book trivia: Milk in My Coffee is a best seller. Did I mention that?

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “African American: He Say” (p 12).


Black Faces, White Faces

Gardam, Jane. Black Faces, White Faces. New York: Abacus, 1975.

Reason read: Gardam’s birth month is July.

Black Faces, White Faces loosely links together ten short stories, all taking place in Jamaica; all involving vacationing Brits completely out of their comfort zones. What is special about Black Faces is that Gardam interlocks details as well as characters. For example, a character in one story leaves behind a toy. Another character from another story finds it.
“Babe Jude” – encountering crude vacationers & a language barrier.
“Missus Moon” – foreigners witnessing a funeral.
“Best Day of My Easter Holidays” – a boy’s essay about meeting crazy man Jolly Jackson.
“The Pool Boy” – Lady Fletcher doesn’t want to be so prim and proper.
“The Weeping Child” – Mrs. Ingram tells the story of the ghost of someone who is still alive.
The House Above Newcastle” -Newlyweds Boofey and Pussy are unrecognizable to each other on their honeymoon.
“Saul Alone” – a sad story about a stroke victim observing the people around him.
“The First Declension” – a wife suspects her husband of having an affair while he visits Jamaica.
“Something To tell the Girls” – two teachers on holiday in the mountains of Jamaica.
“Monique” – a woman mourning the loss of her lover.

Quotes I liked: from “Babe Jude” – “He foresaw an agitated lunch and felt depressed” (p 6), from “Best Day of My Easter Holidays” – “We seemed somehow after a very long time to get back to the same place, I don’t know how” (p 19), and from “The Weeping Child” – “Imagination was her rarest occupation” (p 34).

Author fact: Gardam is a Fellow of the Royal British Society of Literature and an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Book trivia: Black Faces was a little harder to get from a library. I requested my copy from the Boston Public Library.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jane Gardam: Too Good To Miss” (p 96).


Where the Road Ends

Hicks, Meghan M. and Bryon Powell. Where the Road Ends: a Guide to Trail Running. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2016.

Reason read: for the Early Review program for LibraryThing. Perfect, isn’t it?

The first time I laid eyes on the cover of Where the Road Ends I instantly thought “cheesy” and when I glanced through the pages I was reminded a little of a middle/grade school textbook, all glossy and full of pictures. But, that is where the fluff ends. As far as content goes, Where the Road Ends is chock full of great information. Most of it might be second nature to the more experience ultra runner but for beginners this book is a perfect must-have. The layout of information chapter by chapter is intuitive, starting with just learning and ending with full-out racing. In between is a plethora of everything you need to know: how trail running differs from the road, how to navigate the terrain, what equipment to use, how to stay fueled and hydrated (especially on the long desert runs), and so on and so on. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover (or lack thereof). This is a well organized informative book.


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