Midnight in Ruby Bayou

Lowell, Elizabeth. Midnight in Ruby Bayou. New York: William Morrow, 2000.

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

If you are keeping up with the formula, the next Donovan sibling who needs to be (begrudgingly) paired with an unwilling (but incredibly attractive) partner is Faith Donovan. While she is not the last Donovan sibling to have a story line (we have yet to meet the male set of twins, Lawe and Justin), Faith is the last sibling readers have actually met thus far. Faith is the jewelry maker in the family. She takes the contraband gems and turns them into works of art. And yes, the FBI is still trying to catch the Donovans as they smuggle precious gems. This time, it’s rubies. What complicates Faith’s story is that she has an ex-fiance who won’t take goodbye as for good.
Faith’s unwilling, but incredibly attractive, partner is Donovan employee, Owen Walker, a good ole southern boy who knows his way around the Bayou. He’s been tasked with sticking close to Faith while she delivers a priceless ruby necklace to her best friend’s future father-in-law. Of course, thieves are hot on her tail. The rubies are theirs and they want them back, but there is a problem. They are mafia…Of course, the FBI isn’t far behind. Of course, Walker has to save Faith’s life a few times. The Lowell formula is hard at work, “I’m wildly attracted to you but for personal reasons I can’t allow myself to get involved with you…”

Author fact: At last count, Lowell has written over seventy novels.

Book trivia: Midnight in Ruby Bayou is the final book in the Donovan series. I guess readers don’t get to meet Justin and Lawe after all.

Nancy said: Pearl said absolutely nothing about this particular book. What she did say about the entire Donovan series is that it is categorized as “Action-Suspense” (Book Lust, p 204).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here To Stay” (p 203).


Six Days of War

Oren, Michael B. Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Reason read: the Six Day War took place in June.

Oren’s challenge was to weave together an accurate account of the Six Day War that covered many different perspectives from a myriad of sources. All sides of the conflict needed to be represented and not just from the perspective of battles and conflict. He needed to produce an account that was not only balanced and unbiased, but thorough in its investigation and analysis. This was accomplished through meticulous and extensive research.

Author fact: Oren is a former ambassador to the United States

Book trivia: Six Days of War includes a fair collection of black and white photographs as well as maps to orientate you.

Nancy said: Six Days of War is “massively thorough and equally readable” (Book Lust, p 154).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Middle East” (p 154).


Stories of Alice Adams

Adams, Alice. The Stories of Alice Adams. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.

Reason read: June is Short Story Month.

The first time I read a collection of Alice Adams’s short stories (After You’ve Gone) I noticed similarities that soon became redundancies throughout the stories. The same is true of The Stories of Alice Adams. Virginia, San Francisco, Maine,the Carolinas, and Mexico are popular places for her characters to either live or vacation. Lawyers, artists, and writers are popular occupations for her characters. Old wealth is especially favored. Adultery, money issues, and other marital woes always seem to be in the mix from story to story. In other words, a word of caution: these stories are best consumed intermittently. Like After You’ve Gone I could not read more than one story at a time.

Lots of quotes to quote but here are two I liked, “She was simply enraged at the sea for knocking her down” (p 54) and “Adolescent memories are not only the most recent and thus the most available. They are also the least subtle, the simplest” (p 75).

Author fact: Adams was born in Virginia, raised in North Carolina, and lived in San Francisco. Sound familiar? Proof you write about what you know.

Book trivia: There are a total of 53 short stories in The Stories of Alice Adams. Two stories are mentioned more than once in the Book Lust Challenge and there are eight that I can skip because I already read them in After You’ve Gone.

Nancy said: Nancy said there was an “excellent cross section of her short works in Stories. (Book Lust, p 1).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very first chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1).


I Dreamed of Africa

Gallman, Kuki. I Dreamed of Africa. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Reason read: Read in honor of Gallman’s birth month.

This has got to be one of the most heart wrenching yet uplifting books I have ever read about one woman’s life experiences in Africa. After divorcing her first husband Kuki marries the widower of a friend (Kuki survives the same car accident that her friend did not). Paolo convinces Kuki and her young son to move to Kenya, a far cry from the life of privilege in Italy. There, Kuki and her son, Emanuele Pirri-Gallman, fall in love with the land, the animals, and the people of Ol Ari Nyiro. Even after Paolo is killed in a tragic accident, Kuki is determined to stay in Africa. Pregnant with his child, Kuki buries Paolo at the ranch and continues to carry out their dreams. Three years later, even after her seventeen year old son dies of a lethal snake bite, Kuki is even more determined to stay on the ranch. She buries Ema next to Paolo and slowly, through grief and time, finds new purpose to her life.

Author fact: So. I was poking around the internet and found out just last year Kuki had been shot twice while trying to defend her land. What the what???

Book trivia: Gallman includes a bevy of beautiful photographs, mostly in color, of her world. Some of the pictures are drop dead gorgeous. Some of the pictures are drop dead tragic, as well.

Nancy said: Nancy included Kuki’s I Dreamed of Africa because it was one example of a writer writing about her life in Africa following World War II (p 76) although the war is never part of Kuki’s story.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Dreaming of Africa” (p 76).


So Long a Letter

Ba, Mariama. So Long a Letter. Translated by Modupe Bode-Thomas. Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2008.

Reason read: June is considered a wedding month. Read in honor of marriages of all kinds.

What does it mean to be a Senegalese woman living in a society dominated by male attitudes? Where does self worth and fulfillment fit in? Just because a society condones polygamy doesn’t mean every individual expects it, embraces it, or even wants to practice it. When Ramatoulaye’s husband of thirty plus years takes a new (much younger) wife  her emotions run the gamut. Baffled (Wasn’t she a good wife?). Stunned (They have twelve children together. Wasn’t she a good mother?). Embarrassed (What will the community think of her being replaced?). Insecure (Exactly what is her place in society now?). When Madou leaves her a widow, in a long letter to her friend Aissatou, Ramatoulaye recounts her life with Madou. She is, at times, reminiscent and even wistful for a life gone by. In the end, it is a new tragedy that sets Ramatoulaye on a new path of acceptance.

Lines that stayed with me, “My loins beat to the rhythm of childbirth” (p 2), “To warp a soul is an much a sacrilege as murder” (p 23), and “To overcome distress when it sits upon you demands strong will” (p 43).

Author fact: So Long a Letter was Mariama Ba’s first novel. It goes without saying it is semi-autobiographical.

Book trivia: So Long a Letter was the first African novel to win the Noma Award in 1980.

Nancy said: Not much. Pearl just describes the plot in one sentence.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the early chapter called “African Literature in English” (p 16).


Mindfulness Meditation

Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Mindfulness Meditation: Cultivating the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind. Read by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1995

Reason read: Jon Kabat-Zinn was born in the month of June. Read in his honor.

Maybe this doesn’t come out when reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work. Maybe one needs to listen to his books on audio because before now I never realized Jon Kabat-Zinn is really funny. Everything he talks about in Mindfulness Meditation makes perfect sense but it’s laced with humor I hadn’t noticed before. The other benefit to listening to Mindfulness Meditation is being able to hear the bells he rings during the practice.

Mindfulness Meditation is all about playing attention to world around you in minute detail. His prime example is to focus on eating just one raisin but don’t just throw it into your mouth. Really look at it. Get all five senses involved in looking at it, feeling it, smelling it, and even putting it in your ear to hear it crackle (I kid you not). Finally, when you put it in your mouth to taste it you savor it slowly, again paying attention to how it feels while you chew. Kabat-Zinn goes beyond the raisin and explains that meditation is not about emptying your mind to alleviate stress. It’s all about focusing the mind to transform the way you think and deal with life.

So, time for some truth. I listened to this in the car on the way up to Maine. It is only two cds long so it took me no time at all.

Author fact: Maybe I have already mentioned this, but JKZ is associated with the University of Massachusetts.

Nancy said: Nancy includes Kabat-Zinn because “he advocates the techniques of Vipnassana meditation to help lower stress, reduce anxiety, and deal less frantically with the everyday world” (Book Lust p 110).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Help Yourself” (p 109).


Afterlife

Monette, Paul. Afterlife. New York: Avon Books, 1990.

Reason read: June is Gay Pride month in some states. In other places it is in May, so I started this early in honor of both months.

The very first word that comes to mind when trying to describe Afterlife is heartbreaking. Taking place at the “start” of the AIDs epidemic in the heart of United State’s “ground zero” in San Francisco, it tells the story of a group of gay men trying to make sense of the horrific disease while coping with personal loss. Facing their own mortality, each man has lost a partner to AIDs but display very different coping mechanisms as they have very different support systems. They form a Saturday night support group of survivors, each asking themselves, but for how long? This is a story of courage; the willingness to live and love in the face of death.

Quotes to quote, “There were enough coffins to come” (p 224) and “This worthy man, terminally unctuous but otherwise bland as a serial killer, insisted on driving them up to the North Garden in his own Cadillac” (p 256).

Author fact: Monette was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Book trivia: this should have been a movie.

Nancy said: This was included in Book Lust because it fit in the category of “Books with characters who are gay or lesbian” (p 95).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Gay and Lesbian Fiction: Our of the Closet” (p 93).