The Numbers

DATE: 8/26/15

Titles Finished Total

  • Books: 911
  • Poetry: 75
  • Short stories: 36

Total for 2015: 69 titles

All titles left to go: 4,674 (This includes alternate titles and series titles. Case in point – The Berlin Stories is actually indexed as three different titles. However The Complete Sherlock Holmes is actually 4 novels and 56 short stories totaling 60 different titles.)

Next count: 9/24/2015


Families & Survivors

Adams, Alice. Families & Survivors. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1975.

Reason read: Alice Adams was born in the month of August. Yes, a completely boring reason to read Adams. I know.

This is the story of Louise from 1941 to 1971. We first meet Louise as a precocious teenager poolside with her best friend, Kate. As her story moves languidly through the years we watch Louise get married, have a child, have affairs, struggle with self-image and artistry and of course, grow older. Along the way we see both sides of wealth, both sides of ambition, both sides of a Southern versus Yankee culture.
Something to get used to – Adams includes a lot of parenthetic information. I found it to be a little distracting at first. And oddly enough, for the first ten years the perspective is third person about Louise then there is a switch to first person Maude, Louise’s daughter. Coming to that point was like unexpectedly hitting a speed bump in the center of town.

As an aside, another thing I was distracted by was the number of times Adams mentions the out-of-date shape of Louise’s pool.

Book trivia: Families and Survivors is Nancy Pearl’s favorite book from Adams. I found an interesting enough book but I can’t say it was my favorite. All in all I thought it was a book about growing older from the perspective of different couples. Once they all got divorced and remarried I found the characters little confusing to keep track of.

Author fact: Families and Survivors was, and still is, Adams’s first novel.

BookLust Twist: from the very first chapter in Book Lust, “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1). As an aside, because of the show Major Crimes, whenever I hear the name “Alice” I think of Rusty’s quest to find a Jane Doe they called Alice.


Flashman’s Lady

Fraser, George MacDonald. Flashman’s Lady. New York: Penguin, 1988.

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

If you are keeping track we are now ten years into the biography of Harry Flashman. This is the sixth packet of papers and introduces events between 1842 – 1845 which were previously missing in earlier manuscripts. Like an earlier packet, this installment was edited by Flashman’s sister-in-law, Grizel de Rothschild and includes journal entries from Fashman’s wife Elspeth. I think it’s hysterical that Grizel cleaned up his “rough” language but left in his exploits with other women (because Flashman always gets his girl, whether she be an African queen or his own lovely wife). And speaking of Elspeth, Flashman has to turn his attention to her (more than normal) when she is kidnapped by a pirate who wants her for himself. Along the way (by way of Madagascar), Flashman is held captive by the ruthless Queen Ranavalona and forced to be her love slave (but of course).

Laugh out loud lines (warning: they are both a little crude): “…her udders were almost in her soup” (p 51) and “For a moment I wondered if having his love-muscle shot off had affected his brain…” (p 144).

Author fact: at the time of publication Fraser was living on the Isle of Man.

Book trivia: the footnotes are not as annoying this time around and there is a great deal of attention paid to the game of cricket.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “George MacDonald Fraser: Too Good To Miss” (p 93).


Game of Kings

Dunnett, Dorothy. The Game of Kings.New York: Random house, 1997.

Reason read: Dunnett’s birth month is in August. How boring of a reason is that?

16th century Edinburgh, Scotland (1547). The Game of Kings sets the stage for the subsequent five additional volumes in the Lymond series. Master Francis Crawford of Lymond is the anti-hero with “elastic morals.” He is smart, funny, sarcastic and knows how to steal, kill, and charm. I’m sure he’s handsome, too. That is, if you like blondes. Dunnett refers to Lymond’s golden or yellow head quite frequently. Crawford has a chip on his shoulder. His reputation is shot and everyone is after him, friend and foe alike. He’s a scapegoat with a band of misfits (some not to be trusted) who traverse the countryside trying to clear his name. There are enough characters and subplots to make your head spin, but stick with Lymond! He’ll cheer you up.
If you read Game of Kings make sure you pick up the Vintage publication. Dunnett wrote her own foreword and confesses that the text has been “freshened.” Having not read other versions I have no idea what has been “freshened.”

Best lines, “You are not being badgered; you are being invaded” (p 21). See, Francis Crawford of Lymond has a sense of humor! More great lines, “My brilliant devil, my imitation queen, my past, my future, my hope of heaven and my knowledge of hell” (p 237), “There’s nothing to stop you from associating with my servants if you want to, but I’d prefer not to have the younger ones reduced to a state of crapulence for your purposes” (p 397), and “Open your mouth too far and someone will fill it with rubbish” (p 502).

Author fact: Dunnett also wrote the House of Niccolo series (also on my list).

Book trivia: The Game of Kings is “First in the legendary Lymond Chronicles” according to the front cover. Additionally, The Game of Kings is a self-contained novel and doesn’t leave the reader hanging.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction” (p 80).


In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan

DeFrances, John. In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1993.

Reason read: DeFrancis was born in the month of August – read in his honor.

When I first cracked open In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan I thought DeFrancis was thumbing his nose at his readers. The first chapter of In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan is called “You can’t Do That Anymore” Here, DeFrances spends time listing all of the routes he was able to travel back in 1935 that are now closed to present-day (in 1993) travelers. But, that’s not bragging – it’s the simple truth. As it was, retracing the steps of Genghis Khan was not a simple affair, even back then. Just getting camels at that time of year (May) proved to be difficult because in the summer months the camels were traditionally “retired” and put to pasture to fatten up. When the travelers were presented with only female camels their journey was further slowed as females need to rest more often, get later starts in the day and their loads had to be much lighter than males. Typical women!

This was a fun read. Besides the fragility of female camels I also learned that lamas teach and can marry while monks don’t teach and shouldn’t marry (most do). There is very little about Genghis Khan, per se, until they reach Etsina.

As an aside: I am also reading a book about things in society “speeding up” for the sake of wanting everything faster. In In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan I learned that lamas of Tibet and Mongolia devised a way of speeding up their orisons by using prayer wheels of varying sizes. They could spin them in order to have the text read faster.

One last comment – I was shaken to read about the “voluntary” human trafficking that went on. Families would sell their children (by the pound) for labor and even prostitution in order to survive.

The best lines, “…ignorance of the past also impedes understanding of the human landscape” (p 7), “I had to admit it was a matter of historical record that Genghis Khan had conquered China without the benefit of Band-Aids” (p 96), “Rhubarb, however served, even in pies that others found delicious, always seemed to me not fit for consumption by humans and, I would now add, by animals as well” (p 185), and one more, “In recalling my early travels it is fascinating to see how often a minor jigsaw piece of the past acquires greater significance when fitted into a new mosaic of the present” (p 228).

Book trivia: In the Footsteps of Genghis Khan is filled with wonderful illustrations by Myra Taketa who is,  as DeFrances describes, a “multitalented secretary.”

Author fact: at the time of publication DeFrances was working on a “ground-breaking alphabetically based computerized Chinese-English dictionary” (p 285). He had since passed away. I don’t know if the dictionary was ever completed. I’ll have to look that up.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “In the Footsteps Of…” (p 102).


Faster!

Gleick, James. Faster: the Acceleration of Just About Everything. Read by John McDonough. Prince Frederick MD: Recorded Books, 2000.

Reason read: Gleick’s birth month is in August.

Funny. Funny. Funny. From the moment Gleick started talking about fast-working medication for a yeast infection (because only slackers have time for one of those) I knew I would be in for a fun ride. He may go on and on about a topic (the impatience one feels one when the elevator doors do not close fast enough, for example) but his points are valid. It’s as if he is holding up a huge mirror and asking us to really look at how we behave when impatience or boredom sets in. Exactly how long does it take before YOU push the “door close” button in an elevator? It’s an interesting test.

And when Gleick says “the acceleration of just about everything” he means everything.
A cool element to Faster! is that each chapter is independent of each other and therefore do not need to be read in order. But, something to be aware of – the subject material is a little dated. If he thinks the conveniences of microwaves, television remote controls and synchronized watches are indications of our need-it-now society,what does he now think of what the 21st century has been up to with our texting, smart phones, Twitter accounts and 65 mph toll booths (because who needs to stop driving incessantly on those long road trips?). He mentions computer watches (a la Dick Tracy). Funny how Apple just released their version this past year. Gleick moves on to talk about computer chips embedded in the human body, and why not? We are already comfortable with metal piercing our bodies in the oh so most interesting of places. Why not a computer chip? Gleick brings up photography and the need to see our pictures within the hour. How about the ability to take a picture and share it with the world within seconds ala Instagram and FB? There are so many examples of our world getting faster. What about the need for speed for athletic competition? Doping. Amphetamines. And speaking of drugs, what’s that saying about liquor being quicker? It was interesting to think of hard liquor coming about because wine was too slow for the desired reaction to consumption. The list goes on. This was a great eye-opening read & I would love to know what Gleick would say about our need for speed these days.

Favorite line, “Language was not invented for improving the quality of introspection” (p 269).
Author fact: Of course James Gleick has a website.

Book trivia: John McDonough does a fabulous job with the narration. He made me laugh.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Science Books (For The Interested But Apprehensive Layperson)” (p 212).


Leaving Small’s Hotel

Kraft, Eric. Leaving Small’s Hotel: Ella’s Lunch Box Launch.

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

I have to get this off my chest. The inside flap of Leaving Small’s Hotel implies that Kraft’s other works (with the exception of Herb ‘n’ Lorna) are not popular and therefore are not worth reading. The negative spin made me sad.

Leaving Small’s Hotel is really fifty stories Peter Leroy reads to his hotel guests (one per night) leading up to his fiftieth birthday. These stories are supposed to be his memoirs but true to Leroy fashion they are a mix of the truth and imagination; how things were and how Leroy thought they could have, or should have been. The guests, who Leroy calls “inmates,” love them. The subplot for Leaving Small’s Hotel is the state of disrepair and debt Small’s Hotel is in. Peter and his wife, Albertine, are losing money on a daily basis on the money pit. The roof leaks, the boiler keeps breaking, the washing machines shred clothes in addition to cleaning them. They can’t catch a break and even when they decide to sell they can’t find a suitable buyer.
Be prepared if you are reading Kraft’s books sequentially – there are a few reoccurring themes: clamming, the threat of nuclear war, aliens, and inventions. Oh, and sex with older women.

Author fact: Book trivia: BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Eric Kraft: Too Good To Miss” (p 141).


Feed Zone

Thomas, Biju and Allen Lim. The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes. Boulder: Velo, 2011.

Confessional: I bought this book sight unseen because I had the credit with Amazon. I don’t regret it!

This is a gorgeous cookbook. I like its unique shape (8″x 6.5″) and feel (nubbly hardcover without a dust jacket). The photography is sublime and speaking of “lime,” the lime green ribbon bookmark is cool, too. But, these are all superficial reasons to love a cookbook. Let’s get to the meat of the matter (pun totally intended).
Even though the title insists this is food for “athletes” there is a little bias towards cycling. No. There is a large bias towards cycling. The language is more about riding and less about generic non-specific-sport tough workouts. Never mind that. The fact it is geared towards riding is a small detail that only I would harp on or maybe even notice. I just happen to like books that refer and cater to runners…
In truth, the recipes translate for any individual participating in an activity that burns many, many calories. And speaking of calories, this is not a weight-loss, get-thin cookbook. Calories are communicated as “energy units” and are unapologetically abundant. They didn’t skimp on the fat or carbs in an effort to slim an athlete down but instead, calories are pumped up to keep an athlete active & to avoid the bonk. Even in cycling there is the dreaded bonk. And – just in case you start to gain weight using this cookbook and get all upset there is a disclaimer right up front that states portion sizes are larger than normal. You’ve been warned.
Another truth to be prepared for is the tendency towards rice-based dishes. Born in the Philipines, Allan Lim honors his culture with many rice-cooker dishes. Most of the hand-held recipes have a sushi rice base. My advice is to experiment with different varieties of rice if a specific kind isn’t necessary. For many of the dishes a sticky rice is called for to hold the finished product together.

In truth, I have barely started to cook from this cookbook. I might have to write another review after I’ve cooked my way through it.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 705 other followers