Second Foundation

Asimov, Isaac. Second Foundation. New York: Gnome Press, 1953.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month. For the record, this is the last Foundation book I will read in order of printing. After Second Foundation, I will switch to the chronology.

Second Foundation, the third Foundation book to be published, but fifth in order of chronology, finds everyone looking for the Second Foundation. Hari Seldon, the last great scientist of the First Empire, has developed the science of human behavior to be distilled into a complicated mathematical equation. This science has the capability of predicting the future through human thought and emotion. Colonies of such scientists are camped out in Foundations, one at either end of the universe. In Part One The Mule, calling himself First Citizen of the Union, and his Regime are desperate to find the Second Foundation. Does it even exist? He enlists the help of Bail Channis, the one individual not afraid of him or influenced by his power.
The fascinating thing is Channis is not the plant but rather his knowledge is the true decoy.

Oddball quote, “At not quite thirty he was in marvelous good odor with the company” (p 6). How’s this for a description of a man “angularly animated toothpick” (p 10)?

Author fact: Asimov was a professor of biochemistry. Of course he was.

Book trivia: Second Foundation is also referred to as “Foundation 3” because it is the third true book of the series first published in 1953.

Nancy said: absolutely nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 214).


Hunting Season

Barr, Nevada. Hunting Season. Read by Barbara Rosenblat. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2002.

Reason read: to finish the series started in honor of Barr’s birth month in March.

The premise of the series is main character Anna Pigeon is a ranger assigned to different American parklands. Every time Pigeon shows up somewhere she’s confronted with a mystery (most of the time with a murder or two or three attached). You have to wonder how she doesn’t develop a stigma from all these coincidental deaths wherever she goes. She never seems to find littering her biggest problem.
This time Pigeon is stationed at Mt. Locust, a historic inn located on Mississippi’s Natchez Trace Parkway. Two different crimes have her attention, the murder of Doyce Barnette and suspected poaching activity. Are the two related? All clues point toward Doyce being the apparent victim of a sex game gone wrong but true to mystery, nothing is adding up. Anna, as a woman and new to the area, has a difficult time being the boss of male rangers, some who have been around longer than she has.
Confessional: I knew who the killer was within the first 100 pages. It took me a few more to make absolutely sure but the clues Barr left were glaringly obvious. I was hoping she would pull a fast one and make the suspect Anna’s biggest ally. That I wouldn’t have seen coming.
Idiot move: Once again, I am reading a series out of order. Last month I read Flashback and at the end Pigeon agreed to marry her newly divorced boyfriend. Now, in Hunting Season Pigeon is lamenting the death of her first husband while silently cursing her married boyfriend.
Author fact: Barr does a great job keeping Anna Pigeon’s personality and life history accurate. Anna’s family life, love interests, personality, and even acquired scars stay consistent.

Book Audio trivia: Barbara Rosenblat isn’t half bad with the accents, although her Mississippi drawl could be called just “southern.”

Nancy said: nada; nothing specific about Hunting Season.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).


Best and the Brightest

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Reason read: the United States pulled out of Vietnam in the month of March.

Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest is a deep dive into the origins of the Vietnam War. It is a scrutiny of the policies and procedures crafted during the Kennedy administration that led to the consequences in Vietnam. The meat of the book takes place between the years of 1960 and 1965 but flows back and forth to earlier and later times to give substance to the timeline. What really helps the narrative is that Halberstam was a reporter during this time. He was at the heart of the perfect storm: the fall of China, the rise of McCarthy and the outbreak of the Korean War. This trifecta of events had a profound and lasting effect on the White House and domestic politics of the time.

A single line I really liked, “In government it is always easier to go forward with a program that doesn’t work than to stop it all together and admit failure” (p 212). Isn’t that human nature in a nutshell?

Author fact: I cannot help but wonder what books Halberstam would have written had he not been killed in a car accident at the age of 73.

Book trivia: I always love the photographs Halberstam chooses for his books. The photos in The Best and the Brightest are no different.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Best and the Brightest “hefty, riveting and definitive” (p 238). Agreed, agreed, and agreed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust and More Book Lust. In Book Lust in the chapter called “Vietnam” (p 238) and in More Book Lust in the super obvious chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112).


Giant

Ferber, Edna. Giant. Garden City, New York: International Collectors Library, 1952.

Reason read: Texas became a state in the month of March. Read in honor of that little event.

On the surface, Giant is twenty-five years in the life of a Texas family from 1925 to 1950. In reality, Giant is a social commentary on the wealthy. Ferber writes, “We know about champagne and caviar but we talk hog and hominy” (p 17). Ferber’s book was controversial because it revealed a stark truth about society in early twentieth century Texas. Take for example, Vashti Hake. As a daughter to a wealthy rancher, Vashti was shunned because she married a lowly cowhand, Pinky Snyth. There was class and there was Class.
The story opens with a group of wealthy and influential people coming together for the celebration of Jett Rink’s new airport. This is a bitter pill to swallow for cattle owner Jordan “Bick” Benedict. Bick sold Jett a seemingly worthless sliver of land on his sprawling Reata Ranch. The meager land just happened to sit on an untapped oil field. Suddenly, there is competition. Who is the richest? But, the competition runs much deeper. In order to understand these important characters and their significance the story needs to first take a detour. We go twenty five years in the past to explain how Leslie the society girl from Virginia ended up marrying ruggedly handsome Bick, moving to big ole Texas, and creating drama with Mr. Rink. Using the differences between Leslie and Bick Ferber does a good job laying out the different conflicts within Giant:
Geographically – the west versus the northeast. Texas being sprawling, dry and much hotter than lush and green Virginia.
Racially – the treatment of people of color. Virginia’s inclusion of African Americans while Mexicans in Texas are treated as invisible slaves.
Gender – a woman’s role in the household. For example, Leslie doesn’t understand why Bick wants his sister, Luz, to run the household while Leslie thinks, as woman of the house, she should assume the responsibility.
Economically – with the border of Mexico so close the socio-economic borders were bound to clash and blur.

As an aside, I really liked Leslie. She’s smart, funny, and adventurous. In all aspects she truly is a fish out of water but she perseveres.

Lines I needed to quote, “In the Texas the women talked a lot, they chattered on and on about little inconsequential things calculated to please but not strain the masculine mind” (p 73), and “You can’t judge a man by his hat” (p 85).

Author fact: Ferber wrote many, many other books including So Big (which won a Pulitzer in 1924), Show Boat (the 1926 musical), Cimarron (the 1929 movie), and Ice Palace in 1958. None of these titles are on my list. The only other Ferber I am reading is Saratoga Trunk.

Book trivia: Giant was made into a 1956 movie starring some pretty big names you might recognize: Rock Hudson, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor.

Nancy said: Pearl said Edna Ferber’s Texas is “an oldie-but-goodie” (p 233).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Texas: a Lone Star State of Mind” (p 233).


Flashback

Barr, Nevada. Flashback. Read by Joyce Bean. Grand Haven. MI: Brilliance Audio, 2003.

Reason read: Barr’s birth month is in March.

Anna Pigeon is back. This time as a park ranger on one of the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park off the coast of Florida. She’s there to fill in temporarily for another ranger who has fallen ill and run from a marriage proposal she doesn’t know what to do about. While there she takes to reading old Civil War era letters written by a great-great-aunt that play an integral part in a mystery surrounding a missing woman. When a mysterious boat explosion yields unidentified body parts Anna is in the thick of the crime; as usual getting herself into sticky situations. If you remember from earlier Pigeon mysteries, she is extremely claustrophobic. To give you an idea, the scene where she is diving under an engine to recover parts of a dead man…
In typical fashion Barr describes this national park in such a way you want to book a flight to it immediately. She captures the culture, the atmosphere with vivid detail.

Confessional: I don’t know that much about diving. I’ve only done the “snubing” version (half diving, half snorkeling where instead of wearing your air tank, it floats in a raft on the surface of the ocean). Having said that, I have to ask: is it possible to puke underwater? Can you remove your mouthpiece and spew, as a result giving the fish something new to feed on?

As an aside, I feel that Barr tries a little too hard to be funny. A reference to John Wayne Bobbit has the potential to be funny but only to a limit number of people.

Audio info: Joyce Bean’s accents are a little wonky to my untrained ear and don’t fast forward to the next track. Each track starts in mid-sentence. Really odd. The music at the end of the disc is nice, though.

Author fact: Barr also wrote Blind Descent (already read) and Hunting Season (next on my list).

Book trivia: Flashback is book number eleven in the Anna Pigeon series. I read Blind Descent (number six in the series) way back in 2011.

Nancy said: Pearl listed Flashback as one of her favorite occupation-centric mysteries.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 118).


Topper

Smith, Thorne. Topper: a Ribald Adventure. New York: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, 1926.

Reason read: Thorne Smith’s birth month was in March.

Cosmo Topper is an odd duck and his story is an even goofier one. After hearing about a young couple tragically killed in a car accident he sets out to buy their automobile from a mechanic. He has never driven a car and so obviously he doesn’t have a license. Despite all that, something prompts him to hide the purchase of the car from Mrs. Topper as well as keep secret the subsequent driving lessons he needs in order to operate the motor vehicle. But the trouble really begins when the ghosts of George and Marion Kirby, the couple killed in the accident, start haunting Mr. Topper and their old vehicle. For lack of a better word they are troublemakers, materializing at will and causing general mayhem. Things turn scandalous when Mr. Kirby leaves his wife. Vixen Marion is left to haunt Mr. Topper by her playful self.

Quotes I actually smiled at: “Mr. topper could excuse nature and the Republican Party, but not man” (p 9), “Nearing forty and acquiring flesh” (p 17), and “Mrs. Kirby’s smile had caused Mr. Topper to feel much less married” (p 25).

Confessional: is it terrible that my favorite character was Scollops, the cat?

Author fact: Thorne lived from 1893 to 1934 and died at age forty one years of age.

Book trivia: Topper was made into a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl said “not to miss out on discovering or reacquainting yourself with Topper.” (Book Lust p 101). She then goes on to explain the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 99).


Monkey’s Raincoat

Crais, Robert. The Monkey’s Raincoat. New York: Perfect Crime Book, 1987.

Reason read: I needed another category for March and decided to throw this one in the mix because March is a rainy month. Get it? Sigh.

It’s really too bad I don’t have a lot more of Robert Crais on my reading list. I fell in love with wisecracking private investigator, Elvis Cole, immediately. (My only other Crais is a Joe Pike mystery.) But, back to Elvis Cole. With Cole’s affinity for Disney characters, yoga, and a cat named nothing, he is a bundle of personality and then some. He’s thirty five years old, former military and security, likes to look at the ladies and isn’t above saying something outrageous just to see someone’s reaction. What’s not to love? I took to his sarcastic kindness right away.
When we first meet Elvis, he is about to launch into a new investigation involving a weepy woman’s missing husband and son. All clues lead to Mr. Missing taking off with a sexy young girlfriend until he is found shot to death in the Hollywood Hills. What starts off as a simple missing case has now evolved into a murderous mystery involving high stakes drug deals gone wrong and bad ass thugs who will stop at nothing to regain the upper hand. It is up to Elvis and his silent (in more ways than one) partner, Joe Pike, to find Ellen’s missing son and bring him back, dead or alive. The details are a little dated (these are the days of calling from street corner payphones and Wang Chung hits), but still a good read.
Mousy mom Ellen Lang was a mystery to me. She didn’t get Cole’s joke about the humor of paramedics (keeping one “in stitches”) yet she understood that two years at the “University of Southeast Asia” meant a stint in Vietnam. Throughout the entire book she wasn’t consistent to me. Someone who was consistent and I wanted more of was Joe Pike. The inside flap described him as an enigma and that just scratches the surface of Pike’s personality. Can’t wait to read more about him later.

Quote I liked, “Everything always goes wrong whent the cameras turned away” (p 27).

Author fact: If you ever get the chance to check out the author photo on the back of The Monkey’s Raincoat, please do. Robert Crais could not look any cooler in his over-sized sunglasses, Batman tee-shirt and glowing white kicks. The pose is pretty bad ass, too.

Book trivia: The Monkey’s Raincoat won the Anthony and Macavity Awards.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Monkey’s Raincoat except to include it in a list she called “private eye novels.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 116).