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).
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).
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.
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).
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:
- Chivas Regal
- Nitrous Oxide
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).
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).
Peek, Merle. Roll Over! A Counting Song. New York: Clarion Books, 1981.
Reason read: Interestingly enough, I had this as an October book because I read somewhere that Peek died in the month of October.
Picture a little boy, all settled under the bedcovers, tossing and turning because he doesn’t have enough room in his bed. There are nine animals in his little bed! Every time he rolls over he kicks out another creature until finally he is alone. Now he can finally get some sleep! The final illustration is delightful.
It’s funny how one picture or a single phrase can untie a bag of memories from a lifetime ago. Like escaping marbles on a hard wood floor, the images come fast and furious. I remember reading this book to a kid I used to babysit. The repetition so crucial for this two year old was maddening at the time.
Author fact: I found out very little about Merle Peek, the individual. He has a FaceBook page that hasn’t been updated since 2016. It has a delightful video of him dancing, though.
Book trivia: Peek illustrated the lyrics from a song called “Sally Go Round the Sun” by Elizabeth Fowler (1969). If you ever get the chance, please find Nicholas Hoare reading Roll Over! on YouTube. It’s monumentally cute. You’re welcome.
Nancy said: Pearl said she would buy this for a one year old.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 114).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
Larsson, Stieg. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Translated by Reg Keeland. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.
Reason read: to finish the Millennium trilogy started in July.
As with all the other “Girl Who…” books in the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is “chaptered” by dates and picks up pretty much where The Girl Who Played with Fire left off. Authorities are still looking for Lisbeth Salander as a murderer, even though she has been brought to a hospital with three gunshot wounds, including one to the head. Her admittance into the hospital is the opening scene to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, allowing Larsson to begin this final installment in a full sprint. This is no dainty dip-a-toe-in-the-pool beginning. Larsson cannonballs right into the action without fanfare. Meanwhile, Lisbeth’s half brother has killed a bunch of people, stolen a police cruiser and escaped into the unknown. All the while Salander’s murderous, revenge-seeking father is in the same hospital…only two doors down.
Larsson is long winded in some places and could have used a little more editing in others, but the last installment in the Millennium series does not disappoint. Lisbeth Salander gets more and more interesting with every chapter. You never want her story to end. Her trial is riveting.
The only element to The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest I didn’t care for was the side story of Erika Berger and her stalker. For someone who calls Berger his best friend of twenty five years, Mikael Blomkvist was strangely missing from her drama.
Lines I liked, “History is reticent about women who were common soldiers, who bore arms, belonged to regiments, and took part in battles on the same terms a smen, though hardly a war has been waged without women soldiers in the ranks” (p 6).
As an aside, I sort of have an issue with the title of the book. As a rule, hornets are not solitary creatures. In a group they are called a “bike” so I would think the nest the girl kicked belongs to more than one hornet. Hornets, plural.
As an another aside, I just finished reading The Eye of the Leopard by Henning Mankell. Part of his story takes place in Sweden (Norrland, to be exact) so it was cool to see the same least populated region come up in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
Confessional: I don’t know why, because Larsson doesn’t go into great detail about the landscape, but I really would like to visit Sweden someday. I am more intrigued by the country by reading the Millennium trilogy than ever before. I wonder if iFit has a series in Sweden…?
Author fact: who knows how many other “girl who” stories Larsson could have come up with! He was only fifty when he died and he never saw the success of any of his Millennium books.
Book trivia: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was made into a movie in Sweden.
Nancy said: Pearl said it was a sad day when Larsson died just after finishing the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).
Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy. New York: Harper Collins, 1964.
Reason read: I have a friend named Harriet, born in the month of September.
Harriet M. Welsch is an eleven year old kid who ultimately wants to be a famous writer. She has been told in order to be an accomplished author, she needs to write a lot; she needs to write about anything and everything she sees. As a result, she is a spying, nosy, snotty, opinionated little brat with harsh criticisms about everyone she stalks. Maybe this is the adult in me being annoyed, but I found Harriet to be mean spirited to the point of shocking, and she gets worse before she gets better! I almost drew the line when she would spy on people from inside their own home. She comes from money (she has a cook and a nanny; cake and milk everyday) while her friend Sport, of the same age, has to be the one to manage the family finances and make his own lunch, among other things. We cannot forget creepy mad scientist friend June who wants to blow up things.
And. Speaking of blowing up things. All hell breaks loose when Harriet’s classmates get ahold of her beloved “work,” a notebook where she has been keeping very detailed notes on everyone she spies upon. The only problem is she never writes anything nice or complimentary. Like I said, it’s all super mean. Here is a quote to illustrate what I mean, “She saw the drunk old man and felt such a hatred for him that she almost fell off the bed” (p 195).
Author fact: Fitzhugh herself illustrated Harriet the Spy. The drawings are really interesting because the character of Harriet is drawn completely different than the other characters.
Book trivia: Harriet mentions a movie starring Paul Newman and Shirley MacLaine. I too went down the rabbit hole to see if this Apollo movie really did exist. I don’t think so.
Nancy said: Pearl said Harriet the Spy was appropriate for girls and boys alike.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the super simple chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 22).
Leon, Donna. Death at La Fenice. New York: HarperPerennial, 2004.
Reason read: Donna Leon was born in September. Read in her honor.
Death at La Fenice is a super fast read. You could probably finish it in a couple of days if you didn’t have anything else going on in your life…
This is Donna Leon’s first novel featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. When a world famous orchestral conductor dies of an apparent poisoning, Brunetti enters a world of snobbish culture of music and celebrity.
The best part of Death at La Fenice is Brunetti’s personality. The balance he must practice between home life, being a father and husband, with trying to solve a mystery without any real leads or suspects. Who would want to kill Helmut Wellauer; this esteemed man of music; so beloved in the music world? Another great reason to read Leon’s series is her descriptions of Venice. You will get to know this watery world in beautiful detail.
Quotes to quote, “Why was it that the word with which we confronted death always sounded so inadequate, so blatantly false?” (p 80), “To be a servant for twenty years is certainly to win the right not to be treated like a servant” (p 170).
Author fact: it is rumored that Leon wrote Death at La Fenice as a joke.
Book trivia: Death at La Fenice is the first in a series of mysteries to feature Commissario Guido Brunetti.
Nancy said: Pearl included Death at La Fenice in her list of books to read before traveling to Venice (More Book Lust). In Book Lust To Go, she reiterated that “no plans for a trip to Venice would be complete without reading the series of mysteries by American Donna Leon” (p 242).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the typical chapter called “Ciao, Italia” (p 46) and again in Book Lust To Go in the more clever chapter called “Veni, Vidi, Venice” (p 240).