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).


Bruised Hibiscus

Nunez, Elizabeth. Bruised Hibiscus. Seattle: Seal Press, 2000.

Reason read: There is a steel drum festival called the Pan Ramajay festival that sometimes takes place in May.

Lean into the narrative of Bruised Hibiscus lest you might miss something important or more likely, something sensuous. The lyrical language is like two songs being sung at the same time. Two love songs in different languages. First, there is the language of the Trinidad village of Otahiti, abuzz with the news of a mysterious white woman pulled from the sea, her eyes and lips eaten away by sea life. An evil has come into their community. Then there is the culture of sexuality, both good and bad, which circles two marriages. Two women share a dark secret from childhood; forever linked after witnessing the brutal violation of a young girl. Zuela is the mother of ten children and runs a grocery shop with her husband in Port-of-Spain. Rosa lives on the other side of town in a two-story house in Taccarigua. As adults Zuela and Rosa are mired in loveless and cruel marriages. When the body of the white woman was first discovered, each woman reacted differently but both shared the sensation of memories of the young girl’s violation flooding back.

Examples of the lyrical language, “She, too, had removed the boulder damming her memory” (p 43), and “Then the Chinaman insisted, and forced her lips to shape his words” (p 63).

As an aside, my mother used to play an album by a Calypso band called The Merrymen. They had a song about the Yankee dollar. This book reminded me of them.

Author fact: Nunez was born in Trinidad but lives in New York.

Book trivia: I found Bruised Hibiscus to be somewhat repetitive. Be prepared to feel like you are reading whole passages four or five times.

Nancy said: Nancy said she enjoyed the novels of Nunez (p 58).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean: Trinidad and Tobago” (p 58).


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 ).


Landfall

Shute, Nevil. Landfall: a Channel Story. London: Heron, 1969.

Reason read: the movie version of Landfall was released in May of 1949.

Roderick “Jerry” Chambers is a young and ambitious officer in the Royal Air Force. The story opens with Jerry meeting sweet Mona Stevens at a dance. This chance encounter proves to be a blessing in disguise for Jerry later in the story.
The early stages of World War II serves as the backdrop for Landfall. Jerry has been conducting air patrols off the southern coast of England. He’s a good pilot and on one mission he skillfully sinks what he thinks to be a German submarine, only to find all evidence points to it actually being British. While Chambers ultimately escapes disciplinary action, he shamefully retreats to a post as far away as possible from the disaster in northern England. Meanwhile, Mona has been eavesdropping on officers in the snack bar where she works. Despite the black mark on Jerry’s career Mona has stuck by him. Pretty soon she is able to discern what really happened with Jerry regarding the British submarine business. Only, it might be too late to clear his name. Jerry has been seriously wounded in an bombing experiment and rumor has it he may not make it through the night.

As an aside, all of Shute’s women (So far On the Beach and Landfall) are easy going and thoughtful with a keen sense of humor.

Best quote, “So let them pass, small people of no great significance, caught up and swept together like dead leaves in the great whirlwind of the war” (p 499).

Author fact: Shute had a stammer that hindered him from joining the Royal Flying Corps.

Book trivia: My borrowed copy had illustrations by Charles Keeping. They were cool.

Nancy said: nothing.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the obvious chapter called, “Nevil Shute: Too Good To Miss” (p 199).


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).