Last Seen in Massilia

Saylor, Steven. Last Seen in Massilia. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

Reason read: the last book I need to read for the Sub Rosa series. I started the series in March in honor of Saylor’s birth month.

When we catch up to Gordianus the Finder in 49 B.C. he is on a quest to find his missing adopted son, rumored to have been murdered. It’s a tricky situation. Meto was caught betraying Caesar, or so the story goes.
Gordianus has taken Darus, his son-in-law, for companionship to the besieged port city of Massilia. (Massilia is modern day Marseille, by the way.) Once there, he encounters more mystery than he knows what to do with. In the middle of a bloody civil war between Caesar and Pompey a smaller, quieter war is underway. A beautiful woman is missing. Gordianus may or may not have witnessed her death. Was it a suicide? Did she jump or was she pushed. Different eyes see different things. An innocent man is doomed to death; a scapegoat by the priests of Artemis, for the sins of his family. Nothing is as it seems. All the while Gordianus is a guest or prisoner of Massilia, seeking the truth of his son.

Author fact: Saylor has appeared on the History Channel.

Book trivia: this is the eighth book in the Sub Rosa series.

Nancy said: nothing worth mentioning.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Classical World” (p 59).


Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years

Townsend, Sue. Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years. New York: Soho, 1999.

Reason read: Mother’s Day is May 13th and Pearl included this in her chapter about “Mothers and Sons.”

Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years could be seen as a cautionary tale for men in their 30s: do not get too dependent on mama. Adrian, at this stage in his life, is divorced, lusting after a former flame while being the father (a decent one, I might add) to two boys, and yes, still living with mother. As he tells his journal, he is frequently constipated and suffers from bad breath and ill penis health.
This was a silly read. I almost gave up on it a few times, especially when it became over the top ridiculous. Case in point, Townsend seemed to be poking fun at the Food Network with the creation of “Ping with Singh,” a cooking show aimed at microwave users. The show becomes popular enough to create a stage adaptation to satisfy the masses. Adrian’s own show “Offally Good” produces a book deal (which his mother ultimately ends up ghost writing, go figure).
The best parts were the current events of the times: Tony Blair’s election, Lady Di’s love affair with Dodi and Bill Clinton’s Monica scandal. The latter got a chuckle out of me.

The one line I laughed at, “‘Your money, Mr Mole, is an abstraction wafting in the air between financial institutions, at the mercy of inflation and interest rates, dependent on the health of the global economy'” (p 151). That, sadly, is banking in a nutshell.

Author fact: Townsend wrote a whole series of Adrian Mole books. I felt a little lost jumping in when Adrian is thirty years old. I imagine it’s like coming in late to a really wild party. Everyone is too drunk to talk to you and you can’t get drunk fast enough to catch up.

Book trivia: The entire story is Adrian’s journal.

Nancy said: Nothing. It is listed as a “Mothers and Sons” book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mothers and Sons” (p 160).


Martin Sloane

Redhill, Michael. Martin Sloane. Back Bay Books, 2002. http://archive.org/martinsloanenove00redh

Redhill, Michael. Martin Sloane. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2001.

Reason read: May is known as missing child month in some parts of the world. Choosing this book for recognition of missing child month was a little tongue in cheek because it’s actually an adult who goes missing, but his childhood plays a big part of the story. In a way, he has been missing since childhood.

Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself. I love that song.) I had to feel sorry for Jolene. At the tender age of 19 she becomes a pen pal to a man 35 years her senior. At 21 she becomes his lover and loses her virginity to him. Think about that for a second. He’s old enough to be her father. She dedicates her young life to a man 35 years older than her, teaching him how to drive and caring for him like a husband, all because she fell in love with his artistry at first sight. Little object-filled boxes of life. His life. They intrigued her, then captivated her.
Irish born artist, Martin Samuel Joseph Sloane is a conundrum. When he suddenly leaves his and Jolene’s home in the middle of the night, Jolene is left with his little boxes and a million questions. What follows is a quest for love. The themes of loss and forgiveness are unmistakable but what bubbles to the surface in the end is maturation and grace.

Quotes to catch my attention (and there were a lot of them to chose from), “I’d had my share of exquisite humiliations before, but never with someone I actually liked (p 27), “And we continued to learn the other like explorers expanding their maps of the known world” (p 34), “I learned to live with this spectacle of concealment” (p 52), and my favorite, “Love provokes all kinds of behaviour and in retrospect it all seems warranted: you have to allow for passions” (p 93).

As an aside: I think I have said it before, but I like it when a book introduces me to new music. This time it’s new old music, “When Day is Done.” I found a really sultry version sung by Clint Walker on YouTube.
Another aside: I had never been to Watkin’s Glen, New York before meeting my husband. Redhill inserts a minor character from Watkin’s Glen living in Ireland.

Author fact: Redhill wrote many other novels, some under the pseudonym Inger Ash Wolfe, but I only read Martin Sloane for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Martin Sloane is Redhill’s first novel and it nominated for the Giller Prize.

Nancy said: Pearl called Redhill’s book Michael Sloane instead of Martin Sloane. It’s indexed that way as well.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Maiden Voyages” (p ).


Jade Island

Lowell, Elizabeth. Jade Island. New York: Avon Books, 1998.

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

Jade Island is the second book in the Donovan series but it doesn’t follow Amber Beach’s plot line all that much. When we left the Donovan clan in Amber Beach, Kyle Donovan had been rescued from near death after his amber hungry girlfriend sold him down the river and nearly had him killed. Now, Kyle is chasing jade and an impossibly beautiful Asian-American named Lianne Blakely. Kyle certainly knows how to pick ’em. Lianne is the illegitimate child of Chinese Johnny Tang and all American Anna Blakeley. Lianne wants nothing more than to belong to the Tang clan and is more than happy to appraise and evaluate jade trades for them. But what happens when Tang jade starts to disappear and Lianne is the prime suspect? Kyle must decide between his head and another piece of his anatomy. Is Lianne innocent or is he falling in love with a criminal? What I appreciated with Jade Island was there was none of the coy games played between the two impossibly beautiful protagonists. Lianne enjoyed Kyle’s company and they got along really well despite the sexual tension.

It is not necessary to read Amber Beach to understand Jade Island. Lowell makes references to details from the previous book but the plot is not dependent on it.
Author fact: Lowell writes with her husband. It’s funny I should learn this after reading Jade Island because I had written myself a note that Lowell sometimes writes like a woman (fashion, appearances, emotions) and other times she writes like a man (sexual appetites, violence, lust).

Book trivia: Jade Island is the second book in the Donovan Series. There are two more.

Nancy said: nothing.

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


Into Thin Air

Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster. New York: Anchor Books, 1997.

Reason read: the Mount Everest disaster occurred on May 10th 1996.

Jon Krakauer was given an assignment by Outside Magazine to join a climbing expedition ultimately going to the top of Mount Everest. Being an avid mountaineer he thrilled at the chance to join a professional team to reach the highest summit in the world. What he didn’t anticipate was being witness to one of the worst Everest disasters in the mountain’s history.
As Karakuer takes us to higher elevations he not only gives the reader a play by play of the events unfolding at each camp, he also details the physical and psychological effects wreaking havoc on the climbers, adventurer and Sherpa alike. It’s a grueling quest and Krakauer never lets you forget the danger.
It has been said that the mountaineering community is unique unto themselves. Never before was this more apparent than when Kraukauer described climbers so hellbent on reaching the top that they would push on past half dead individuals lying in the snow, slowly freezing to death. Or step casually over the legs of a half buried dead man…
Despite the dangers of climbing such high elevations, the challenge continues to draw thousands to Everest. It is an industry unto itself, making millions for guides, the sports corporations looking to sponsor them, and the Sherpas looking to lead the way.

I devoured this book. I found it was very easy to lose track of time and read 70-80 pages in one sitting.

Quotes I liked, “I thrilled in the fresh perspective that came from tipping the ordinary plane of existence on end” (p 23) and “Problem was, my inner voice resembled Chicken Little; it was screaming that I was about to die, but it did that almost every time I laced up my climbing boots” (p 101).

Author fact: I think Krakauer is best known for Into the Wild, but I am reading two others, Iceland and Where Men Win Glory.

Book trivia: There are the obligatory black and white photographs of the victims and a few of the mountain. Unlike a book a read recently where every photo was of the author, Jon Krakauer isn’t in a single one.

Nancy said: Krakauer’s book “sets the standard for personal adventure books” (p 8).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Adventure By the Book: Nonfiction” (p 8).


Warding of Witch World

Norton, Andre. The Warding of Witch World. New York: Warner Books, 1996.

Reason read: to continue the series started in April to honor Norton’s memory. She passed in the month of April.

From everything that I can tell, The Warding of Witch World is the final entry in the Witch World series. It is Book Six of the Turning Series. The premise is pretty simple, all the witches come together, future allies and past enemies must bond together to face impending doom. All of the gates of their Witch World are open and evil is about to descend upon them. The title of the book comes from the warding and watching of these gates. A robust cast of creatures, including a giant, come together for the battle of their lives.

I pretty much gave up on this book before it even began.

Author fact: Andre Norton is the pseudonym for Alice Mary Norton.

Book trivia: The Warding of Witch World is a hefty read, totaling 560 pages.

Nancy said: nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy” (p 216).


Evolution of Useful Things

Petroski, Henry. The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts – From Forks and Pins To Paper Clips and Zippers – Came To Be As They Are. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.

Reason read: April is Math, Science and Technology Month.

Did you ever stop to think that the four-tined fork which brings food to your mouth and the two-tined fork you use to hold meat while carving it came from the same food necessity and that they are siblings separated at birth? Probably not, but Petroski did. He goes on to explore to evolution of all sorts of everyday items, like cans and can openers, zippers, and to name a few. His book is filled with interesting facts and even a little humor. The photographs are great, too!

Confessional: to those of you who follow along it should come as no surprise that I get a certain thrill from making a Natalie connection in seemingly unrelated books. Here’s the Natalie connection with The Evolution of Useful Things: Natalie released a 4-song CD called “Songs To Color By” in 2002. Song #3 was called “Paper of Pins” and even though I had know idea what the title meant I was content to be ignorant and just sing along. Sixteen years alter, enter Henry Petroski and his paper of pins. Thanks to a photograph I now know what a paper of pins looks like, too.

Author fact: It should come as no surprise, Henry Petroski was a Civil Engineering professor at Duke University. Obviously, the man knows what he’s talking about.

Book trivia: the illustrations and photographs in The Evolution of Useful Things is pretty cool.

Nancy said: Pearl said Henry Petroski was a professor of civil engineering and that The Evolution of Useful Things is “a good book” (p 232).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Techno-Thrillers” (p 231).