Fine and Bitter Snow

Stabenow, Dana. A fine and Bitter Snow.  New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the sequel started in January in honor of the month Alaska became a state.

Kate is back. It’s been awhile since we last caught up with the feisty private investigating crime solver. In A Cold-Blooded Business she and single dad, Jack, were hot and heavy. Now several books later Jack is dead and Kate is sort of looking after his son from a previous marriage. As an FYI – Kate’s grandmother has also passed. In time, this detail will become important to the plot. For now, Kate needs a distraction from the grief these dual deaths have caused and, oddly enough, it comes in the form of oil drilling in southeast Alaska. Drilling in general has been a sensitive subject to all involved but when longtime friend and park ranger, Dan O’Brien, is deemed too environmentally friendly and is forced into early retirement, it becomes Kate’s mission to save his job. It becomes even more personal when a good friend of her grandmother’s is found murdered just days after agreeing to help Dan keep his job. Is the drilling in the wildlife preserve connected to this most recent death? State trooper, Jim Chopin, is on the case and he asks Kate to help…in more ways than one.

Confessional – I that this was the perfect pairing with Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior which is also an environmental drama.

Like I liked, “The moose might kick your ass and the grizzly might rip it off and the wolf might eat it, but they wouldn’t talk you to deal while they got on with the job” (p 232). This is Dana’s way of saying yeah, I know the woman is holding shotgun to Kate’s face and talking way too much, but I need to explain some motives here before she pulls the trigger.

Author fact: Stabenow also writes science fiction.

Book trivia: A Fine and Bitter Snow is Stabenow’s twelfth story.

Nancy said: nothing specific about A Fine and Bitter Snow.

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


Take This Man

Busch, Frederick. Take This Man. New York: Ballantine Books, 1983.

Reason read: February is Busch’s death month. Read in his memory.

This is a love story in its purest form. Simple plot: Ellen LaRue Spencer is on her way to California to see her soldier fiance who hasn’t shipped out to war yet. Her car breaks down in a barren midwest town where she meets hapless Tony Prioleau. Despite his unsuccessful business ventures and his thing for television (he wants to harness the power of television to assist in the war effort), Ellen is attracted to him and ends up in his bed..but she still leaves him for her fiance. Ten years later, a son shows up on Tony’s doorstep and the love Tony buried all those years ago comes bubbling back up. He accepts the boy as his own, no questions asked.
I don’t think it is a spoiler alert to say that Ellen herself comes back to Tony. But not without complications. She is still married and still confused about the depth of her attraction to Tony.
Confessional: the last twenty pages are heartbreaking.

Vivid lines, “…poured an unfresh breath into Prioleau’s face to say…” (p 46). I just love that image.
Other lines I liked, “And you cook like a mass murderer” (p 55). I don’t know what that would taste like. I’m guessing not good. And. And! And, “Twenty years later, and she was still in transit, collecting men at the edge of the sea (p 156) and “…but he was frightened as he stepped up onto the side porch to get hugged home” (p 192).

Author fact: Take This Man is Busch’s eighth book.

Book trivia: The cover of Take This Man is intriguing. Two people are adrift in a rowboat. In my mind it symbolized Tony and Ellen’s relationship. It was never solidified or tethered to reality.

Nancy said: absolutely nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Frederick Busch: Too Good To Miss” (p 48).


Beekeeper’s Apprentice

King, Laurie R. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: On the Segregation of the Queen. Read by Jenny Sterlin. Recorded Books, 1995.
King, Laurie R. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: On the Segregation of the Queen. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.

Reason read: January is Female Mystery month. Take that anyway you want.

Such a clever plot. Take an established character like Sherlock Holmes and re-imagine him after retirement, living in the country and tending his beloved bees. Although he is only in his late 50s Holmes wants nothing more to do with solving crimes and revealing the truth behind mysteries…until he meets Mary Russell. She is ever bit the investigator he had been in his heyday and then some. He cannot help but be drawn to her keen sense of observation, her energized brain and her innate talent as an investigator.
Despite being nearly three times her age, it is interesting to watch Homes get closer to Mary emotionally and how she reacts to it. When there is physical contact between them Mary is clutched by sudden awareness of his physicality. There is a subtle shift to their relationship and what each wants from it.
The final mystery in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice threatens the lives of both Mary and Holmes. They are in so much danger people around them start paying the consequences. It takes everything in Sherlock and Russell’s combined powers of investigation to stay alive.

Quotes to quote: ” I refuse to accept gallant stupidity in place of rational necessity” (p 165) and “When in ignorance, consult a library” (p 301)..

Author fact: King is a native to San Francisco, California.

Book trivia: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is the first of a series of books about Sherlock and Russell.

Nancy said: Pearl says she loves King’s series involving Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the great chapter called “Ms Mystery” (p 169).


Freedom in Meditation

Carrington, Patricia. Freedom in Meditation. New York: Anchor Press, 1977.

Reason read: January is traditionally the month everyone tries to hit the reset button. Yoga and meditation are high on resolution lists. I’m reading Freedom in Meditation in honor of good intentions.

The very first thing I learned about meditation while reading Carrington’s book is that meditation is not just meditating on a mat in a near-dark room. It is not sitting quietly and emptying the mind while incense swirls about your ears. Consider the clinically standardized meditation taught in two sessions. Or the Benson method which has supposed health benefits like lowering blood pressure and even a lowering of metabolism. In truth, meditation success depends on the personality. But also true to every kind of meditation locale and atmosphere (vibe, if you will) are important. Every technique recommends having plants nearby, the burning of incense and candles, maybe even bell ringing, but above all else, calm and quiet. Meditation can be seen as a rebirth, a companion to hypnosis even. Carrington goes on to to talk about the science of meditation, the therapist’s opinion of meditation, and even the misuse of the practice which I found interesting.

Author fact: At the time of publication, Dr. Carrington was a clinical psychologist who taught at Princeton.

Book trivia: There are only two illustrations in Freedom in Meditation. Both are showing you what to do with your hands during meditation.

Nancy said: Pearl mentions Freedom in Meditation first in her list of zen books. She says it is “probably the best book written about meditation” for beginners (Book Lust p 255).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Zen Buddhism and Meditation” (p 255).


Amber Spyglass

Pullman, Philip. The Amber Spyglass. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Reason read: to end the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).

In Amber Spyglass, the last installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra, who started off as an ordinary kid in The Golden Compass, is seen as the most important child who has ever lived according to the church. Their fate depends on Lyra’s journey into womanhood. She may be important but she is also seen as a threat as she is in the position of biblical Eve as the temptress of man’s downfall. Heavy, right? Remarkably, young Lyra is on the cusp of introducing the concept of sin (Dust) to the world. She must be stopped before the Dust (sin=evil) takes over. When we first catch up with Lyra in The Amber Spyglass, she has been hidden away and kept drugged and sleeping in a cave by her mother (remember Mrs Coulter?). But. But! But, is Mrs Coulter all that evil? She acts the grieving mother as she recounts how she almost killed Lyra earlier.
This is an epic battle between good and evil with lots of fight scenes and dying declarations (just wait until you get to the land of the dead). The references to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden are laid on pretty thick, but Lyra is coming into her own as a young woman and she has an equally adulting young man as her companion…
The good news is that many of your favorite characters are back even if they died in an earlier installment. Iorek Byrnison the armored bear is back with his army! I was excited to see the bears and the witches but there are plenty of new creatures like harpies and ghosts. Probably my favorite characters to imagine are Gallivespians. They are small, slender spies able to ride hawks and dragonflies.

As an aside, Pullman is a huge fan of the word anbaric. As far as I can tell it is derived from the Greek and refers to the electrostatic properties of amber. Yup.

Author fact: Pullman also wrote another trilogy of thrillers featuring Sally Lockhart.

Book trivia: Amber Spyglass wraps up the His Dark Materials trilogy.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Amber Spyglass.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208).


Fire Watch

Willis, Connie. Fire Watch. New York: Bluejay International, 1985.

Reason read: to make up for the missed short story in Time Machine, the anthology edited by Bill Adler, Jr.

Fire Watch is made up of twelve short stories. It is her first short story collection. The stories are as follows:

  • Fire Watch – favorite line, “The past is beyond saving” (p 35).
  • Service for the Burial of the Dead – imagine attending your own funeral. This is a dark story and probably one of my favorites.
  • Lost and Found – line I liked, “What else had he missed because he wasn’t looking for it?” (p 76).
  • All My Darling Daughters – probably the most disturbing short story in the entire book.
  • The Father of the Bride – the other side of a fairy tale.
  • A Letter from the Clearys – read this one two or three times!
  • And Come from Miles Around – everyone gathers for the eclipse of the century.
  • The Sidon in the Mirror – a creepy tale about copying someone to the point of being twins.
  • Daisy, in the Sun – a family copes of post-nuclear war.
  • Mail-Order Clone – you know the saying, “if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything”? Well, this is the blind leading the blind.
  • Samaritan – can you baptize an orangutan? The church treats him like a human so why not?
  • Blued Moon – a comedy of error after error about coincidences.

Author fact: Connie Willis went to the University of Northern Colorado.

Book trivia: There is a scene in the movie American President (starring Annette Bening and Michael Douglas) when Douglas wants to send Bening flowers; specifically the state flower of Virginia where Bening’s character is from. He ends up sending a dogwood which is reported to be a tree and a bush (“sir”). I was reminded of that scene when I found out there are two Fire Watch publications. It’s a book and a short story. I was supposed to read the shorter version in December, but the book is also on my list so what the hey.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Fire Watch.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246).


The Good Times are Killing Me

Barry, Lynda. The Good Times are Killing Me. New York: Harper Perennial, 1988.
Barry, Lynda. The Good Times Are Killing Me. Canada: Drawn & Quarterly, 2017.

Reason read: January is Barry’s birth month. Read in her honor.

This is a unique book that took me all of two days to read. When it ended so abruptly I thought there was some kind of scanning mistake (I was reading it as an ebook). I was startled. So much so that I borrowed a print version just to make sure I didn’t miss out on something. Then I read it again. And again.
Edna Arkins is a child is trying to grow up in the tumultuous 1960s. Her white neighbors are fleeing her urban Seattle neighborhood as other ethnic groups take up residence. She herself is white and doesn’t understand their prejudice. Told from the first person and using music as her Polaris, Edna struggles to work out her rapidly changing adolescence. In response to confusing and callous adult racism Edna forges a taboo relationship with a Black girl named Bonna. She thinks Bonna is beautiful. What is most captivating about Edna is her awkwardness and honesty as she navigates through changing relationships. I wanted Bonna and Edna to conquer the world together. I wanted them to break down just one barrier; to get one adult to accept and understand their friendship. My fervent hope for a happy ending made the truth that much more difficult to swallow.

Lines I liked, “I could always tell the difference between God and a streetlight” (p 11), and “Like all it was was any black girl slapping any white girl who had mouthed off to her, something that happened every single day and would just keep on happening, world without end” (p 139).

Author fact: Barry in known for her graphic novels.

Book trivia: The last section of The Good Times are Killing Me includes a thirty-four page “music notebook” full of biographies of famous and not-so famous musicians and styles of music. The illustrations are fantastic.

Nancy said: Pearl said Good Times are Killing Me touches on the themes of childhood and adolescence.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Graphic Novels” (p 103). Confessional: I deleted Good Times are Killing Me from my list because it is not a graphic novel. Pearl could have included it in the previous “Girls Growing Up” (p 101).