Following February

What to say about this month? It was epic in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, I turned half a century old. I don’t mind the number; I am not bothered by the age. Never the less, friends and family gathered for a party to remember. And. And! And, I re-upped my commitment to running. It’s been slow but I have to admit something here – my breathing has been effed up. I have a scheduled appointment for early March so…I continue to read.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Take This Man by Frederick Busch. (EB & print)
  • Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker. (EB)
  • Crossers by Philip Caputo. (EB and print)
  • Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. (EB and print)

Nonfiction:

  • Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey. (print only)
  • Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. (AB, EB and print)

Series Continuations:

  • A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King. (EB and print)
  • Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett. (print)
  • Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. (EB)
  • A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow. (EB and print)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg.
  • Corregidora by Gayl Jones (reread).

For fun:

  • Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne.
  • Calypso by David Sedaris (started).
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean (continuing)
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (continuing)

Caprice and Rondo

Dunnett, Dorothy. Caprice and Rondo. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.

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

It is now the winter of 1474 and Nicholas de Fluery is still married to Gelis. While they are still somewhat estranged they still partner to raise their son, Jordan. Their biggest problem is Nicholas keeps wracking up the enemies, making it difficult to protect his wife and son. He’s off in Poland questioning his next moves while Gelis is digging up the dirt on Nicholas’s past. Does this new information hurt or help her marriage?
In this particular installment of the House of Nicollo series, puzzles are the underlying theme.
I have to admit, I am getting a little sick of Nicholas. He has switched allegiances so many times even his friends do not trust him. His relationship with women is getting tiresome as well. The good news is that someone within his circle betrays him badly enough that it leads to the reconciliation with Gelis. By the end of Caprice and Rondo they have joined forces to support one another.

Author fact: Dunnett was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Library of Scotland.

Book trivia: this is the penultimate book in the series and sets up the final act of identity for Nicholas as he believes he is a surviving twin.

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Caprice and Rondo.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Though Fiction” (p 79).


Monstrous Regiment of Women

King, Laurie R. A Monstrous Regiment of Women. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Mystery month.

When we last left Mary Russell, she was a young woman on the verge of partnering with the incomparable Sherlock Holmes. She had a razor sharp wit, blistering fast powers of observation and deduction which rivaled those of Holmes.
Now in A Monstrous Regiment of Women Mary’s adventures as Holmes’s sidekick continue. She progressively hones her skills as a super sleuth while advancing her academic studies in Oxford. A chance encounter with an old friend leads Mary to Margery Childe, a enthusiastic leader of an organization called the New Temple of God, a bizarre combination of post World War I suffrage activities and feminist Christianity. Childe’s approach to feminism and religion draws Mary into the membership but when a series of murders claim the lives of wealthy female volunteers, Mary cannot help but wonder if she has stepped into a trap. She more than fits the profile of the previous victims: wealthy young woman dedicated with their minds, hearts and purses to the cause.

Best line to quotes, “I knew every movement and gesture of the man, the lines and muscles of his face that were more familiar than my own, the mind that had moulded mine, and I knew that when his thoughts returned from the contemplation of that particular gaze and with a few deft words unearth the topic I’d been trying so desperately to divert him from” (p 71), and “It is very difficult to think with the end of a revolver in one’s face” (p 243).

Author fact: King is still writing about Mary and Sherlock. You can check out her page here.

Book trivia: A Monstrous Regiment of Women covers a little over one month of Mary’s life with Sherlock.

Nancy said: Pearl lets readers know Mary Russell becomes Holmes’s partner in A Monstrous Regiment of Women.

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


Good Night Willie Lee

Walker, Alice. Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning. SanDiego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.

Reason read: Walker’s birth month is in February.

Here’s how I read Good Night Willie Lee. I inhaled a poem, held my breath to ponder the collection of words within it, and exhaled my understanding of the connection to life. One poem at a time. Like rhythmic yoga breaths; like steady waves upon the shore, I took my time with each one of them. Each poem deserved to be fully digested as such. For when you read Walker’s poetry you get the sense she died a little with each offering. A small offering of her soul mixed with the words.

Favorite line – from the poem called Confession: “through cracks in the conversation.” What a beautiful image.

Author fact: Walker also wrote Meridian and Possessing the Secret of Joy, two novels also on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: the last poem in the book explains the title. I picture her father’s funeral.

Nancy said: Pearl said that Walker is best known for her award winning novel, The Color Purple, but “readers shouldn’t miss her poetry” (Book Lust p 2).

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


Wishbones

Perrotta, Tom. The Wishbones. New York: Berkely Books, 1998.

Reason read: The movie starring Adam Sandler, “the Wedding Singer” was released in February.

Dave Raymond is thirty-one years old and still living with his parents in suburban New Jersey, but then again, so is his on and off girlfriend of fifteen years, Julie. They find living with their parents a drag, especially when they need to sneak around to have sex but given the circumstances, who wouldn’t at that age? For Julie, living with the ‘rents is a matter of convenience but for Dave it is a necessity in order to be a New York City courier by day and a wedding band musician on the weekends. The courier job is just to get him by. Playing guitar with the Wishbones is all he has ever known. So what is it that makes him upset this whole little world by announcing to Julie one night “let’s get married”? Immediately he wants to stuff the words back in his mouth and pretend no such pronouncement passed his lips. Maybe that’s why he starts an affair with an edgy Brooklyn poet named Gretchen. As the wedding draws near Dave is at a crossroad in his life and for the first time ever, he needs to make a mature decision.

As an aside, I found it curious that the band didn’t have a lead guitar player. Bass, sax, drummer, accordion, keyboards… I guess Dave was supposed to act as lead along with backing vocals?

Silly humor to quote, “Margaret was a formally pleasant person whose personality had been ruined by constant dieting” (p 61).

Author fact: Perrotta knows his music. I loved all the references to different bands. Especially this one, “You couldn’t really imagine Chrissie Hynde or Natalie Merchant dancing around in twelve different hats” (p 34).

Book trivia: this could have been a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl lists The Wishbones as a first novel she was delighted to have read (Book Lust p 88) and she just describes the plot in More Book Lust.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “First Novels” (p 88). Also, in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jersey Guys and Gals” (p 130).


Alone in the Crowd

Garcia-Roza, Luis Alfredo. Alone in the Crowd. Translated by Benjamin Moser. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2007.

Reason read: Brazil’s Carnival takes place in February.

Espinosa, the book worm police chief in Rio de Janeiro has a problem. An elderly woman in his district was struck dead by a bus. Despite this happening in a crowd of people, no one can say for sure what really happened. Had she been pushed or not? She could have slipped off the curb and fallen into the path of the bus. Given her age this was the likely scenario. Dozens of witnesses and no one saw a thing. Ordinarily, a police chief with dozens of other more pressing cases would call this an accident and move on, but Espinosa can’t for some reason. This same elderly woman tried to visit him earlier in the day. She had something to say to him and him alone. That one detail has Chief Inspector Espinosa thinking and the more he thinks the more his past haunts him.

Lines I liked, “The chief didn’t much believe in coincidences, especially when they resulted in death” (p 67).

Confessional: once again, I am reading books in a series out of order. Luckily, this time I only have two. Not a big deal.

Author fact: Garcia-Roza’s first claim to fame was writing textbooks for philosophy and psychology.

Book trivia: Alone in the Crowd was super short. You could read this in a weekend, which is a good thing because you will want to jump to the next book in the series immediately.

Nancy said: Pearl said mystery fans “can rejoice in reading Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza’s complex novels” (Book Lust To Go p 45).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the straightforward chapter “Brazil” (p 43).


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).