Chronicle of Death Foretold

Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. A Chronicle of a Death Foretold. New York: Vintage, 2020.

Reason read: needed for the Portland Public Library 2020 Reading Challenge for a book that takes place in one day. I would say since this is a journalistic interview that takes place in one day, this qualifies…even though the story he is recounting takes place over a span of time.

Whenever there is an unidentified narrator I always think of the Great and Terrible Oz, hiding behind his curtain. In Chronicle of a Death Foretold our narrator is not a Baum-inspired little man, but rather an unnamed friend of the murder victim, years after the fact recounting the downfall of Santiago Nasar. As the title of the novella indicates, everyone knew Santiago Nasar’s life was in danger, but no one did anything about it. “There had never been a death more foretold” (p 50). As an aside, this could be a commentary on our society today. Everyone feels outrage – yet no one is stepping up to do something (anything!) about it. Distraction dictates the assumption someone else will take care of it. Or they are hoping so.
On the eve of Angela Vicaro’s wedding her new husband discovers she did not come to their marriage bed a virgin. Oh the shame! Outraged and humiliated, he drags her back to her mother who beats her severely until she confesses. When Santiago Nasar is named responsible for Angela’s deflowering, her twin brothers speak of revenge. They speak long and loud before they actually seek it. Woven throughout the entire story is the theme of foreshadowing. Even Santiago missed the signs of his own demise illustrated by his ominous dreams. He even misses the note slipped under his door. Then there is the obvious. The twins brag openly about how they are going to kill Santiago. A shopkeeper tells the murderers to wait until later out of respect for the bishop. The drunkards talk of the upcoming murder. Police officers ignore everyone. The church ignores, too. The entire community ignores the talk. Was it the distraction of the arrival of a bishop? Was it communal judgment that Santiago was getting what he deserved?

Quotes to quote, “The smallest, touched by the breath of tragedy, began to weep” (p 23), and “Furthermore, the priest had pulled out the sliced-up intestines by the roots, but in the end he didn’t know what to do with them, and he gave them an angry blessing and threw them into the garbage pail” (p 76).

Author fact: Marquez was a journalist before becoming a prize winning author.

Book trivia: Chronicle of Death Foretold is based on true events with a few changes.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Chronicle, but Marquez was omitted from the index.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lines that Linger; Sentences that Stick” (p 140).


Reptile Room

Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events #2: The Reptile Room. Harper Perennial, 2004.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Halloween and all things spooky.

The Reptile Room starts with a small recap of the first unfortunate event because it is important for the reader to know that Mr. Poe, a family friend from the bank, is still in charge of finding the Baudelaire orphans a suitable place to live. It is even more important to be reminded that Count Olaf escaped in the first Unfortunate book. When we meet back up with the children they have been shuffled off to their even more distance relative, Uncle Monty. Montgomery Montgomery is a world renowned herpetologist with a roomful of, you guessed it, snakes (hence the title of Book Number Two of the Series of Unfortunate Events). Of course, the snakes turn out to be the Baudelaire children’s downfall. I won’t say anymore than that.
True to form, the stylistic pattern for Lemony’s books is to constantly remind you to slam the book closed and not read another word; to go read another book if you want a happy ending. Dear reader, you also need to accept Lemony is going to define words every now and then. It’s all part of the schtick. It just is.

Lines I actually liked, “It is plenty difficult to wait for Halloween when the tedious month of September is still ahead of you” (p 27). Agreed. “You couldn’t tell how the Incredibly Deadly Viper looked, because the facial expressions of a snake are difficult to read” (p 67). Again, agreed.

Author fact: Last time I told you Lemony’s real name. This time I can tell you he was born in February.

Book trivia: I am reading an electronic version without illustrations so it’s only 78 pages long.

Nancy said: Pearl called the series “wonderful.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Only For Kids: Fantasies For Grown-Ups” (p 174).


Mindfulness in Plain English

Gunaratana, Bhante Henepola. Mindfulness in Plain English. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2002.

Reason read: During these crazy times I need to remember to breath; to be still. Read for me, myself, and moi.

The title of this book does not lie. Gunaratana offers a how-to for insight mindfulness in a straight-forward and easy-to-understand language. This is not the deeply didactic philosophy of mindfulness, but rather a deep dive into South and Southeast Asian Buddhism. The first order of business is to dispel the misconceptions surrounding mindfulness and meditation. For example, there is no magic to this vipassana style medication. You won’t levitate. Instead, you become grounded in morality, concentration, and wisdom. Speaking of concentration, you learn the concept of shallow concentration which seems contrary to successful mindfulness. In other words, you won’t lose yourself in mindfulness. Instead, you will train your mind to concentrate on a mental object, the breath being more convenient and ever-present. I am reminded of one of my favorite Natalie Merchant lyric from ‘Not in This Life,’ “Lately I’ve been satisfied by simple things like breathing in and breathing out.” Despite the easy language and thin volume, Mindfulness is a treasure trove of information.

As an aside, I have to laugh when Gunaratana advised not to sit in any one position for more than twenty minutes. Please! I can’t sit comfortably in any position for more than five, maybe ten minutes tops.

Quotes I loved, “Life seems a perpetual struggle, an enormous effort against staggering odds” (p 9), “What we face every day is unpredictable” (p 53), “Distraction cannot be seen as distraction unless there is some central focus to be distracted from” ( 77), and “Somewhere in the process, you will come face to face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy” (p 82). Amen.

Author fact: Gunaratana was ordained as a monk at the age of twelve. Twelve! I shudder to think what I was doing at the age of twelve.

Book trivia: I can tell this book helped many people. My copy was dog-eared and heavily underlined.

Nancy said: Pearl said there was useful information in Mindfulness in Plain English. She goes on to say “Gunaratana’s book is much less theoretical, vis-a-vis Buddhist philosophy and psychology…but more practical and systematic in its presentation of technique” (Book Lust p 255).

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


Rifles for Watie

Keith, Harold. Rifles for Watie. New York: Harper Collins, 1987.

Reason read: Veteran’s Day is November 11th, 2020. Read in honor of Civil War veterans long dead and gone but never forgotten.

One of the most interesting aspects of Rifles for Watie is that it is told from the perspective of multiple groups in and around the American civil war of April 1861 – April 1865. Keith visited actual battle locations to get a sense of the varying conflicts and not just the well known ones related to violent battle. Poverty, wealth, prejudice, pride, religion, gender, tribal feuding, slavery, freedom. Right or wrong, all of these issues collide.
Keith used diaries, journals, and personal letters to give Rifles for Watie first person authenticity. To personalize it even further, he used interviews conducted for his thesis. Between the years of 1940 and 1941 he visited with twenty two veterans and listened to their nostalgic reminiscing. These oral histories captured the large and small personal sacrifices of war. Ever in their debt, Keith was careful to give all twenty two individuals credit saying, “my obligation to all their memories is very deep” (Introduction, Rifles for Watie p 12). While General Watie and James G. Blunt were a real-life historical figures, the character of Jeffrey and the other soldiers in Rifles for Watie are Keith’s imagination; I would like to think of them as a creative combination of all the men Harold Keith interviewed.
My favorite segment was when Jefferey was having a passionate argument with Lucy. Every side of the conflict is laid bare; because there are more than two sides to every truth. Good guys aren’t necessarily all that good. Bad guys aren’t that bad. Dogs are just dogs.

An aside: My sticking point. Early on in Rifles for Watie Jeffrey’s family is violently attacked by rebel bushwhackers. The family manages to fend off the raiders, but not before the bushwhackers threaten a much more violent return. I was confused as to why Jeffrey would leave his family knowing they barely survived the first vicious attack. Yes, it gave Jefferey the impetus to join the war to fight the rebels, but what about his defenseless family back in Kansas? No matter. When he is home on furlough all seems fine and there is no mention of bushwhackers ever returning.

Author fact: Keith was dedicated to the state of Oklahoma where he was born, raised, lived, and died.

Book trivia: Rifles for Watie won a Newbery Award in 1958.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Rifles for Watie except that it explores one of the least well-known aspects of the Civil War.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction for Kids of All Ages” (p 114).


Hannah Coulter

Berry, Wendell. Hannah Coulter. New York: Shoemaker and Hoard, 2005.

Reason read: Stick with me for a second because this will seem strange. I put Hannah Coulter in the November transgender category for the simple reason Keith does an amazing job writing in a woman’s voice.

There is a simple grace to the plot of Hannah Coulter. There is a simple grace to the character of Hannah Coulter, as well. You won’t find major conflict. You won’t tremendous disaster or upheaval. No crazy mood swings or dramatic tantrums. Hannah is simply an elderly Kentucky farmer nearing the end of her life, sharing her life story with an unknown audience. She has survived two husbands and the changing of her community, but really what she truly wants to talk about is love. Love as a parent, grandparent, farmer, Port William resident, and, most importantly, the wife of a tormented veteran. It is this last love that brings a change of tone to Hannah Coulter. It’s as if the entire book was written to support the chapter of Okinawa. Hannah tries to make sense of the war; to put it into a context she can understand. “You were living, it seemed, inside a dark cloud filled with lightning and thunder; thousands of tons of explosives, bombs and shells, machine gun and rifle fire” (p 169). Hannah puts it into a perspective the reader can understand. It is easy to forgot about the involuntary reactions of the body during fear and pain. Based on the animated and passionate voice, Berry seems to be the veteran in the two pages describing the Battle of Okinawa. He is that puzzle piece that completes the picture but doesn’t quite fit the space; as if the jigsaw didn’t cut the angles correctly.
Much like a yoga instructor asking practitioners to “breathe through their heart’s center,” I am asking readers of Hannah Coulter to read with heartfelt intention; to inhale the words gently and with a deliberate pace. It is well worth the effort.

As an aside, the imagery of the landscape and the people reminded me of a Josh Ritter song.

I could have quoted lines from Hannah Coulter for days upon days. The writing is that beautiful. Here are a few of my favorites, “You can’t give yourself over to love for somebody without giving yourself over to suffering” (p 171), “It was a time between times, almost a no time” (p 172), and “It was not a look a woman would want to look back at unless she was ready to take off her clothes” (p 219). I love how the subdued passion just smolders with that one sentence.

Author fact: Berry is able to channel Hannah’s voice in part because he is a Kentucky farmer.

Book trivia: Hannah Coulter is not the only book to feature the Kentucky town of Port William.

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Hannah Coulter.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust from the chapter called “Men Channeling Women” (p 166).


Diving Pool

Ogawa, Yoko. The Diving Pool: Three Novellas. New York: Picador, 2008.

Reason read: Japan celebrates a national Cultural Day on November 3rd.

Comprised of three novellas:

  • The Diving Pool
  • The Pregnancy Diary
  • The Dormitory

Here is what you need to know before you dive into Ogawa’s work. At the height of tension the story ends. Period. If you don’t care for cliffhangers you should make up your own endings or just don’t read Diving Pool at all. It’s that simple. Ogawa’s writing is like a subtle psycho-killer movie. Instead of the monster being front and center, there is absolutely nothing tangible to confront. The hairs on the back of your neck stand up, not because a blood-dripping ghoul is staring you down, but because there is nothing to see. The darkness is a wisp of toxic smoke, a hint of danger darting in the corners of your periphery. In Ogawa’s stories it is what isn’t being said that is far scarier than the certainty. In the title story Jun admits he is aware of the protagonist’s cruelty. Then what? You don’t know what happens next. In “The Pregnancy Diary” a sister gives birth to a child who may, or may not, have a birth defect. In the last story, “The Dormitory” a cousin hasn’t been seen for days and the manager of his dormitory always has an excuse for his absence. After you have read these stories you are left without resolution and without resolution your imagination questions the reality.

Favorite lines, “Perhaps it’s because he’s falling through time, to a place there words can never reach,” “When we grow up, we find ways ti hide our anxieties, our loneliness, our fear and sorrow,” and “The baby haunted the shadows that fell between us.” Can’t you just feel the ominous chill between the lines?

Author fact: Ogawa also wrote Hotel Iris (on my Challenge list) as well as The Housekeeper and the Professor (finished).

Nancy said: Pearl had a couple of mistakes on this title. She called it “Divining Pool” (both in the chapter and the index), and she referred to Yoko Ogawa as a male.
About The Diving Pool she said it was like The Housekeeper and the Professor, “delicate and retrained” (Book Lust To Go p 117).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Japanese Journeys” (p 116).


The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Lofting, Hugh. The Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts Never Before Printed. New York: Duke Classics, 2012.

Reason read: Confessional! This was a complete and utter mistake! Pearl said any of the Doctor Dolittle books would be good to read and the only one she specifically mentioned (twice) was The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. But! It was indexed as the title Doctor Dolittle. Oh well. This was a fun little read which ultimately introduced me to the good doctor.

I would like to have known a real Doctor Dolittle. I can just imagine his house with its goldfish, dogs, rabbits, cats, mice, squirrels, hedgehog, cows, chickens, pidgins, horse, lambs, duck, pig, parrot, and owl…to name a few. You would think all of these animals would get in the way of Doctor Dolittle taking care of human patients when in reality, he preferred the animals to the people. When he learned to communicate with his furry and feathered friends it was game over. He gave up trying to cure the two-legged folks and concentrated on his true friends.
It is pretty high praise to be compared to Lewis Carroll. Hugh Walpole does just that to Hugh Lofting in his introduction to The Story of Doctor Dolittle.

As an aside, I would like to think Hugh Lofting influenced twentieth century pop culture. Dave Matthews sings about a “monkey on a string” and Shel Silverstein told of a crocodile with a toothache. Can you see Dave and Shel sitting down with Doctor Dolittle? I can.

Line I liked a lot, “Dogs nearly always use their noses for asking questions” (p 23).

Author fact: Lofting wrote the Dolittle stories for his children while he was stationed overseas in the form of illustrated letters. He dedicated Dolittle to “all Children. Children in Years and Children in Heart.” Very sweet.

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing at all since she didn’t specifically put this book on her list.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Do in the chapter called “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” (p 190). Since “Doctor Dolittle” was in the index not as a proper title, I corrected it to read The Story of Doctor Dolittle.


Bad Beginning

Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: the Bad Beginning. New York: Scholastic, 2000.

Reason read: Halloween is October 31st. Same as it ever was. Read in honor of spooky stories.

This is a pretty horrible story, even if it is for older children. Unfortunate event #1: The parents of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire die in a terrible fire. In accordance with their parents’ last wishes, the children are to live with any next of kin. No one else will do. The judge happens to find distant relative, Count Olaf (unfortunate event #2). Olaf turns out to be a greedy son of a b!tch who will stop at nothing to get at the children’s rather large inheritance. I almost drew the line at incestual nuptials but was determined to finish the less than seventy page book. You can live through seventy pages of anything. What kept The Bad Beginning interesting was the frequent didactic definitions of words and phrases and the air of Victorian gothic mystery kept the story chilled. Truthfully, the all-out creepiness kept me engaged. Like a train wreck, I couldn’t look away. It’s no wonder there were sequels. No wonder most of the series were made into movies. It has even been a series on NetFlix.

Line I happened to like, “Sometimes, just saying that you hate something, and having someone agree with you, can make you feel better about a terrible situation” (p 15).

Confessional: When these books were all the rage (and then again when the movie came out) I wasn’t tempted to read them. Not in the least tempted. The same way I wasn’t drawn in by Harry Potter or the Twilight series, I had no desire to read Lemony Snicket.

Author fact: Lemony Snicket is the pen name of Daniel Handler.

Book trivia: Everyone knows the Unfortunate Events series was made into a 2004 movie. (One I have yet to see. Big surprise there.)

Nancy said: Pearl called the series “wonderful.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Only For Kids: Fantasies For Grown-Ups” (p 174).


Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: a Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. New York: Vintage, 1998.

Reason read: my cousin, Duane, lived and died in Vegas.

There isn’t much of a plot to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Raol Duke, aka Hunter Thompson, and his Samoan lawyer, Dr. Gonzo, travel to Las Vegas to cover a strange motorcycle race, but the real fun starts when they are asked to infiltrate a National District Attorney’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Oh, the irony as the two men are out of their minds in a drug-induced haze most all of the time. Crashing cars, trashing hotels rooms, scamming their way out of restaurant checks, and all out hallucinations…this is just the beginning for the pair.
The title of the book comes from a description of Las Vegas, “bad waves of paranoia, madness, fear and loathing – intolerable vibrations in this place” (p 72).

As an aside, Fear and Loathing made me want to look up Kesey’s Bible, The Far Side of Reality to see if it really exists. I only knew of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Another aside about the bars of clear Neutrogena soap. I used to use that specific soap all the time. I can picture the smell perfectly. How bizarre.

Quotes to quote, “Las Vegas is not the kind of town where you want to drive down main street aiming a black bazooka instrument at people” (29) and “The idea of entering a coffee shop without a newspaper in my hands made me nervous” (p 124).

If I had a dollar for every time a drug was mentioned in Fear and Loathing… I could buy myself an entire wardrobe from Title 9. I decided it would be fun to catalog them all:

  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Acid
  • Mescaline
  • Meth
  • Ether
  • Rum
  • Heroin
  • Beer
  • Speed
  • Opium
  • Tequila
  • Reds
  • Chivas Regal
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • PCP
  • LSD
  • Whiskey
  • Smack
  • Uppers

Author fact: Thompson really was a journalist.

Book trivia: Everyone and their brother knows Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was made into a movie starring Johnny Depp (perfect casting, I might add). If you know anything about me you also know I haven’t seen this masterpiece. Here is a piece of trivia more centered on the book. Fear and Loathing… was dedicated to Bob Dylan for his song “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man.”

Nancy said: Pearl said Fear and Loathing was a “drug hazed account of adventures in the city” (Book Lust To Go p 128). She also liked the opening sentence.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very obvious and simple chapter called “Las Vegas” (p 128). Also, from More Book Lust in the more interesting chapter called ” Lines That Linger, Sentences That Stick” (p 140).


Mansfield Park

Austen, Jane. Mansfield Park. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2004.

Reason read: Austen published her first work in the month of October. Read in honor of that accomplishment.

My copy of Mansfield Park contained a biography of Austen, a timeline of what was happening during Austen’s short life, and an introduction.
I have to admit, Mansfield Park is not my favorite Austen novel. All the characters seem sniveling and persnickety. Fanny Price is a victim, first of poverty; then a victim of her family’s snobbery as they take her in and abuse her for the sake of morality. Her cousin, Edmund, is the only decent chap. One could argue that Austen was only commenting on the life she keenly observed.

Author fact: Austen died way too young.

Book trivia: Mansfield Park was first published in three volumes and was her third novel.

Nancy said: Pearl said “much lighter in view and tone” when referring to the house Austen wrote Mansfield Park, but nothing specific about the novel.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “An Anglophile’s Literary Pilgrimage” (p 20).


A Noble Radiance

Leon, Donna. A Noble Radiance. New York: Penguin Classic, 2003.

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

Commissario Guido Brunetti is back. This time he takes on a case of a kidnapping turned murder.
What was once an abandoned field is now the final resting place of a young man buried in a shallow grave. Although badly decomposed investigators can see he was killed with a bullet to the back of the head. The crest ring found with the body suggests it is the only son of a wealthy Venetian count. This son, Robert Lorenzoni, had been kidnapped under suspicious circumstances two years prior and was never heard from again. Dental records confirm that the body is Count Lorenzoni’s only son, sending the family reeling with grief.
Confessional: I was a little disappointed with this one. I figured out who did it and why pretty early on. There was a final twist that should have been a shock but really wasn’t. The best part about A Noble Radiance was learning more about Brunetti’s home life. The scene where he must suffer his daughter’s salty cooking is hilarious. I could see that in a movie. I also enjoyed his intimidating dinner date with his father-in-law (also a count) who inadvertently helps Guido solve the mystery.

Author fact: Leon also wrote Suffer the Little Children. Not to be confused with the documentary of the same name, or Suffer the Children by John Saul, or the 1980s song by Tears for Fears.

Book trivia: A Noble Radiance is the seventh in the series.

Nancy said: Pearl said she enjoyed A Noble Radiance. That’s it.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).


Cathedral

Macaulay, David. Cathedral. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

Reason read: I just finished a walking tour on iFit. The trainer took me around Croatia and explained the architecture. It got me interested in learning more about the structure of cathedrals.

Originally published in black and white, Macaulay thought color might bring Cathedral to a new height. He was right. The story of how a cathedral is built is clear and concise. Even though the Chutreaux cathedral in Macaulay’s story is fictional, the meticulously detailed diagrams used to build the medieval structure, are not. This book will make you look at these impossibly beautiful buildings in a completely new way. Yes, everyone knows cathedrals were built as houses of the lord, to praise and thank a certain god, but the messages hidden in the architecture are wonderful. For example, every window tells a different specific story. What is most amazing is how long it took to build Macaulay’s fictional cathedral. It is easy to forget what a massive undertaking construction was during the thirteenth century. The roof alone wasn’t finished for nine years and in that time the original master builder and Bishop Chutreaux both die and are replaced approximately at the same time. They never see the fruits of their labor.

As an aside, I loved the illustrations. The cat on page 44 is great.

Author fact: Macaulay drew the illustrations for Cathedral.

Book trivia: Cathedral was written for children but is great for adults as well. I read somewhere that Cathedral was also made into a movie? I need to look that up!

Nancy said: Pearl calls Macaulay’s books “wonderful,” “useful,” “entertaining,” and goes on to say Macaulay is “particularly good at explaining various technical terms” (More Book Lust p 38).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Building Blocks” (p 38).


A Change in Altitude

Shreve, Anita. A Change in Altitude. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2009.

Reason read: Shreve’s birth month is in October. Read in her honor.

I love Shreve’s work. I love how at the end of every book she always leaves the reader slightly unsettled, as if there is more to the story. She refuses to wrap up the ending in a solid “Hollywood-happy” resolution.
Margaret and Patrick are newlyweds; only married for five months and yet I personally found their relationship flat and dispassionate. He, a doctor, travels around Kenya in exchange for research data on equatorial diseases. She, an out of work photographer, hopes to freelance around Nairobi and capture landscapes unfamiliar to her American eye. Together Patrick and Margaret join two other couples in an effort to climb Mount Kenya. Almost immediately, there is an imbalance to their chemistry. Margaret’s feminist sensibilities were threatened when she couldn’t earn her keep with a job and now she can’t keep up with the mountaineering climb. The others continuously leave her behind. Her companions have a much easier go at it. She is further insulted when the men in the group display subtle attitudes of sexism towards her. Arthur repeatedly claims he will take care of her while Wilfred casually refers to the women in the group as “girls.” Her climbing partners are snobbish; questioning the Masai tribe that has been around for centuries. All the while Margaret doesn’t fit in and stays quiet. She has something to prove but does little to promote her capabilities. Oddly, it is only after tragedy strikes is she then able to find her voice. This tragedy will carry consequences long into the future; long after Margaret finds a photography job with a controversial newspaper; long after Patrick and Margaret have new troubles in their marriage.
I couldn’t get a read on Margaret. It was weird, but I found her to be a bit unemotional. She was strangely calm when the couple’s only car is stolen or when she is attacked by fire ants. [The fire ant scene made me itch for days.]

As an aside, there were several things I needed to look up after reading A Change in Altitude. The breed of dog called “Rhodesian Ridgeback” for one. Mount Monadnock for another.

Author fact: Shreve spent some time in Nairobi, Kenya and even climbed Mount Kenya. This definitely helped with her descriptions of the area, if not the characters.

Book trivia: A Change in Altitude is Shreve’s 16th book.

Nancy said: Pearl called A Change in Altitude one of her “favorite” Shreve books.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Kenya” (p 123).


Wandering Fire

Guy, Gavriel Kay. The Wandering Fire. New York: Arbor House, 1986.

Reason read: to continue the series started last month in honor of fantasy.

Although it isn’t readily obvious, Wandering Fire takes place six months after The Summer Tree. All of the humans are back. Kim is in desperate need of a dream to tell her the plan while Jennifer and Paul are chased by the wolf, Galadan. Paul is able to save them by pulling them back into Fionovar….and so begins the next installment of the Tapestry trilogy.
Like The Summer Tree before it, Wandering Fire, relies heavily on familiarity to keep non-fantasy readers engaged. This time the legends of King Arthur and Lancelot are front and center, with Jennifer as Guinevere from another lifetime. But, anyway…back to the plot. After hundreds of years of imprisonment, Rakoth Maugrim, the Unraveller, has finally escaped the confines of his mountain jail. To punish the inhabitants of Fionavar he subjects them to a never-ending winter (I was reminded of the holiday special for kids: A Year Without Santa). I digress. Again. Needless to say, the cold confuses the calendar. Midsummer’s Eve is upon the people of Fionavar, but they have lost track of time because the weather is anything but summer-like. It takes a great deal of back and forth magic that I can’t even get into in order to break the spell. Did I mention fantasy isn’t my thing?
Meanwhile, there is the birth of Darien, half human and half demigod. He was born of darkness and light; of good and evil…you get the point. The real question is where will he end up when he is old enough to chose a side? Much like that Skywalker kid…I digress again.
One of my favorite characters dies. Bummer.

Line to like, “Are you trying to earn my hate?” I think I want to use that one on a few people.

Author fact: did I mention Kay is Canadian? I think he should write a fantasy about the U.S. and the upcoming election. It promises to be fantastic.

Book trivia: Wandering Fire was awarded the Prix Aurora Award (Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy award).

Nancy said: Pearl included The Wandering Fire in a list of contemporary critically acclaimed fantasy, but said nothing specific about the book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).


Acqua Alta

Leon, Donna. Acqua Alta. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Leon’s birth month (in September).

Here is something I really enjoyed about Acqua Alta. The characters from Leon’s first Guido Brunetti mystery come back. First introduced in Death at La Fenice, talented opera singer Flavia Petrelli and her lover, archaeologist Brett Lynch, are back five books later, in Acqua Alta. Leon is strategic in how she reintroduces these characters and ties them back to Death at La Fenice. It’s as if she reassures the reader Acqua Alta will stand on its own. There is no need to go back and read previous mysteries.
Back to the plot. After Brett is brutally attacked in her apartment, Inspector Brunetti takes on her case. As an American in Venice, Brett seems an unlikely victim of a robbery and yet the attack on her was brutal. It can’t be her lifestyle; she and Flavia have been flaunting that for two years now. It can’t be her nationality; hundreds of foreigners run away to Venice on a daily basis. Brunetti focuses on her career as an archaeologist and soon a picture of corruption and scandal in the art world emerges.
As an aside, the title of the book comes from the phenomenon called acqua alta, the occasionally flooding of Venice. This happens when there is winter torrential rain, unusually high tides (during a full moon) and wind pushing water up from the Adriadic Sea into the Venetian Lagoon. It is important to understand this weather event because the acqua alta is truly another character in the book and crucial to the plot.

Best line, “‘Don’t joke, Guido,’ she said in that voice she used when humor was as welcome as the old boyfriend of the bride” (p 64).

Author fact: According to a wiki page, Leon is the recipient of the Corine Literature Prize.

Book trivia: Acqua Alta is also titled Death at High Tide.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Acqua Alta. She talked about another Leon book she liked and added Acqua Alta as another one to check out.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the cute chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46).