Moore, Lisa. Alligator. New York: Black Cat Publishing, 2005.
Reason read: In Newfoundland they celebrate Orangemen’s Day and the Battle of the Boyne in July, specifically on the 12th.
Alligator’s strength as a first novel lies in its character development. Each chapter is dedicated to a different person loosely connected to the one before. Beverly and Madeleine are sisters. Colleen is Beverly’s daughter. Isobel is Madeleine’s friend. You get the point. Every character is flawed and vulnerable in their own way.
My favorite element to the book was how sharply Moore brought grief specifically into focus. When Beverly loses David to a sudden brain aneurysm her numb emptiness is palpable. These simple lines illustrate the heaviness of loss, “More than once she noticed orange peels next to her lawn chair and realized she was already eaten the orange” (p 49) and “David was dead but she would apply mascara” (p 54).
My least favorite aspect to the plot was the unexpected brutality of some of the characters. This was a much darker novel than I expected.
Quotes to quote, “Somehow Beverly has raised a daughter whose voice can be shrill as a fire alarm” (p 22), “Flexibility meant a prismatic comprehension of all aspect of experience” (p 68), and “You store your saddest memories in your feet, she said” (p 186).
Author fact: Moore also wrote February. I will be reading that one in a few years.
Book trivia: Alligator is Lisa Moore’s first novel.
Nancy said: Pearl was actually gushing about Moore’s other novel, February, and only mentioned Alligator as an aside.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the super obvious chapter called “Newfoundland” (p 153).
Meyer, Deon. Blood Safari. Translated by K.L. Seegers. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2009.
Reason read: Deon Meyer was born in the month of July. Read in his honor.
Young and beautiful Emma Le Roux thought she needed a body guard after at least two masked men broke into her South African home and tried to kill her. How does she know they wanted to kill her? They weren’t looking to steal anything and they weren’t typical vandals, so who were they exactly? What was their motive to harm her, someone with seemingly no known enemies? Was it a coincidence the violence arrived on her doorstep only after she starting asking questions about seeing her dead brother on television? In her mind she had a right to question what she saw for all she knew he had been dead for twenty years. According to to news program he was wanted for murder. Did Emma’s brother really brutally gun down four poachers? To find out the truth she enlists the help of Martin Lemmer, employed by the protection agency, Body Armor.
Lemmer, as he prefers to be called, is your typical strong, silent-type bodyguard. He has rules he refers to as “Lemmer Laws” that supposedly cannot be broken and yet he has a way of breaking them. The first Lemmer law is Don’t Get Involved with a client. He breaks that one almost immediately when he doesn’t believe Emma’s story and he lets his body guard down. Emma is nearly killed on his watch. Someone out there wants her dead in the worst way. Now Lemmer has gone from protecting Emma to seeking revenge on whoever hurt her.
As an aside, I couldn’t help but think of the viral honey badger video whenever a honey badger was mentioned. I couldn’t get the narrator’s voice out of my head!
Simple truth I had to quote, “The barrel of a gun changes everything” (p 19). Yes. Yes, it does.
Author fact: Meyer’s author picture on the back cover is interesting. He looks like he is dressed in a black turtleneck or high collared coat and yet he’s lying in the sand?
Book trivia: Blood Safari was translated from the Africaans.
Nancy said: Pearl said she couldn’t imagine Meyer’s Blood Safari taking place anywhere but South Africa because of the history of old wounds never healing. She also called Blood Safari “fast-paced and emotionally nuanced” (Book Lust To Go p 216)
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “South Africa (Fiction)” (p 215).
Larsson, Asa. Blood Spilt. Translated by Marlaine Delargy. New York: Viking, 2004.
Reason read: to continue the series started in June in honor of Larsson’s birth month.
Rebecka Martinsson returns after killing three people in The Sun Storm. That seems pretty incredible when you consider Rebecka is a tax lawyer. But, she had a good reason. (In other words, read the book.) When we catch up with Martinsson in The Blood Spilt she has been on sick leave and struggling with post traumatic stress.
Police woman Anna-Maria Mella and her partner, Inspector Sven-Erik Stalnacke are also back in Blood Spilt. They are dealing with the murder of Mildred Nilsson, a controversial and strongly disliked and equally liked priest who was found murdered. To catch you up on Anna-Maria, she was pregnant during Sun Storm and is now on maternity leave a year and a half later after giving birth to her son, Gustav.
Back to the plot.
Anna – Maria and Sven-Erik have their work cut out for them. Any number of people could have killed Mildred. Husbands in particular had the strongest motive. Mildred’s life work was rescuing battered women from abusive spouses. She was responsible for households torn apart leaving the menfolk left to care for the children left behind and the upkeep of their homes. Additionally, Mildred was on a crusade to save the grey wolf which put her at odds with farmers and hunters alike. Personally, I could have done without the Yellow Legs subplot. I think the story would have held up just fine without it.
Rebecka inevitably gets caught up in the murder when she befriends a mentally challenged boy who might have witnessed the crime.
As an aside, if you are an animal lover this book will be really hard to read. Just saying!
Lines I liked, “And at the same time: loneliness had her on its hook, a barb through her heart, reeling her in” (p 176. “The hardness of the heart is a remarkable thing” (p 229), and “There’s no room for him among the grieving” (p 293).
Author fact: Larsson was a tax lawyer just like Rebecka Martinsson.
Book trivia: You can read The Blood Spilt without tackling The Sun Storm but if you are going to read both it is recommended to read the books in order, Sun Storm before Blood Spilt.
Another piece of trivia: Larsson includes a few references to cultural icons such as Astrid Lindgren (Swedish author who wrote Pippi Longstocking among others), Abba and Niklas Stromstedt. As an aside, the latter reminds me of Dennis Quaid in some pictures.
Confessional: I had to look up “Modesty Blaise” to see what Rebecka’s colleague was referring to when she said Rebecka was the firm’s very own Modesty Blaise.
Second confessional: I am always wary of “death seems to follow me” characters, especially when they have no business getting caught up in murder (like park rangers and lawyers).
Nancy said: nothing specific about The Blood Spilt.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).
Kramer, Joel P. “A Harrowing Journey” The Greatest Adventure Stories Ever Told. Edited by Lamar Underwood. Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2002.
Reason read: June is short story month.
By the time you finish reading “A Harrowing Journey” you are breathless and stunned, wondering how anyone could survive the adventure Kramer and his companion, Aaron Lippard, experienced for 120 days in the wilds of New Guinea. Human-eating crocodiles. Near drowning. Cannibal tribes in the deep interior of New Guinea. The loss of supplies. The goals was to be the first to cross New Guinea without engine power but they were lucky just to survive.
Author fact: Kramer is an adventure photographer.
Book trivia: Kramer has written a full book on the adventure called Beyond Fear.
Nancy said: Pearl mentioned “A Harrowing Journey” from The Greatest Adventure Stories Ever Told because it was a story she found so “desperately foolhardy” she found herself “wincing in sympathetic pain” while she read it (Book Lust To Go p 3).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the very first chapter called “A Is For Adventure” (p 1).
Carroll, Michael. From a Persian Tea House. London: Tauris Parke, 2007.
Reason read: Khomeini died in the month of June.
One of the best reasons to read From a Persian Tea House is for the cultural aspects to a society some of us will never see. Carroll humanizes the middle east in such a way we can picture dancing with the happy couple at a wedding, striving to understand how common corporal punishment and corruption can be, and of course taking tea with the locals. Having said that, it is important to keep in mind when reading From a Persian Tea House that is was written from a mid 1950s perspective, when old Iran was romanticized and equally mysterious and evocative. Carroll and his traveling companion represent a British born curiosity. They traveled in relative safety, making friends with bemused locals while making keen observations about the culture and society. My favorite parts are the descriptions of a wedding, bartering for rugs, and retrieving their own stolen items.
Author fact: Carroll (not be confused with the lottery winner who blew his millions on naked women) was born in England but spent a lot of time in India.
Book trivia: From a Persian Tea House has fantastic photographs.
Nancy said: Absolutely nada.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple chapter called “Iran” (p 108).
Larsson, Asa. Sun Storm. Translated by Marlaine Delargy. Read by Hillary Huber. New York: Bantam Dell, 2003.
Reason read: June is Larsson’s birth month.
Rebecka Martinsson had fled her small town of Kiruna many years ago to become a successful tax attorney in Stockholm. She attempted to escape scandal involving sex and the church and hasn’t been back since. You can fill in details between the lines, but readers will not know the exact reason why she disappeared all those years ago until much later in the book. They only know Rebecka reluctantly returns only after being called by an old friend needing legal advice and emotional support. Sanna has been accused of murdering her much beloved evangelical brother, Viktor Strandgard. When all of the obvious evidence, including motive, points to Sanna as the killer Rebecka must dig deep to uncover the truth.
Probably the best part of Larsson’s writing is how descriptive she is with people and places. I especially liked how flawed and broken most of her characters were.
Author fact: Sun Storm is Larsson’s first novel.
Narrator fact: Huber does a great job with the different character’s voices. Rebecka Martinsson as a lawyer is strong and direct while Sanna Strandgard, whose brother has just been found murdered, is weak and frightened. Even the male voices are well done.
Book trivia: Sun Storm won an award for Best First Crime Novel.
Nancy said: just that Sun Storm won the Swedish award for Best First Crime Novel, which I already mentioned.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).
Proulx, Annie. Brokeback Mountain. New York: Scribner, 1997.
Reason read: June is Short Story Month and LGBTQ Pride month.
Confessional: I saw the movie before I even started the Book Challenge. As a a rule, I would rather read the book first so my imagination is not tainted by images of the movie. I can only compare this avoidance to a hearing a song and how you sometimes lose the interpretation after you see the accompanying music video.
Having said all that, I was surprised at how the written story moved so fast. In a mere sixty-four pages Proulx tells the devastating story of Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar. Both young men find themselves on the same job as ranchers guarding sheep on Brokeback Mountain in beautiful Montana. One accepted amorous advance leads to a deep connection that time and space cannot sever or erase. The love they have for one another remains strong despite the fact they put distance between them and move on to have relationships with women.
Line that moved me the most, “In a disquieting way everything seemed mixed up” (p 16).
Oddly enough, I didn’t take notice of the movie’s most famous line “I wish I knew how to quit you.” It is an original line from the book but there were others I liked better.
Author fact: E. Annie Proulx has ties to Connecticut.
Book trivia: Everyone knows of the 2005 movie starring Jake Gellenhaal and Heath Ledger. It won an MTV award for best kiss…or something like that.
Nancy said: Pearl called “Brokeback Mountain” Proulx’s “most famous story” (Book Lust To Go p 264), but that surprised me. In regards to the written word I would have figured Postcards or Shipping News to be more well known. Maybe the movie is the reason “Brokeback” is more widely known. Pearl calls the movie “superb.”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “WY Ever Not?” (p 264).