September Sorrows

I don’t post a lot of personal stuff on this side of the writing. Not usually. Typically, I leave all that other blathering on JustCauseICan. I may write about the run or the island, a brief sentence here or there, but of little else…except for today. When you lose someone you adore it is hard to focus. That is precisely my problem today. I am shattered by grief and only put back together again by words. So, I must read. Here are the books planned for September. I hope they heal:

Fiction:

  • Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden – to remember Hurricane Ivan as it wreaked havoc on my 2004 September wedding.

Nonfiction:

  • The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life by Judith M. Heinmann – in honor of Harrisson’s birth month being in September.
  • Life and Times of Miami Beach by Ann Armbruster – in honor of Hurricane Irma.
  • Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories, Recollections, and Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth Century American Literature edited by Tom Grimes – in honor of Grimes’ birth month being in September.

 

Series Continuations:

  • Fuzz by Ed McBain – to end the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.
  • Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall – to end the series started in August in honor of Rajiv Ratna Ganghi, India’s youngest Prime Minister’s birth month.
  • Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month (August).
  • Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.
  • Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to end the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

Confessional: I am still reading Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford.


An August Attempt

So. I’ve done a few short runs here and there. Nothing crazy, but at least I’m back in it somewhat. Spent more time with the books. Speaking of which, here they are:

Fiction:

  • Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman (EB/print)
  • The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
  • The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (AB)
  • Crazy Jack by Donna Jo Napoli (EB)
  • Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (EB)
  • Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print)
  • Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts (EB)

Nonfiction:

  • A Season in Red: My Great Leap Forward into the New China by Kirsty Needham
  • A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird
  • Eurydice Street by Sofka Zinovieff

Series continuation:

  • Arctic Chill by Arnuldur Indridason (EB/print) – which I forgot to mention when I was plotting the month. It’s the last book of the series -that I’m reading. (There are others.)
  • Big Bad City by Ed McBain

LibraryThing Early Review:

  • Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford (EB) – which came after I plotted the month of reading so it wasn’t mentioned before.

 


Big, Bad City

McBain, Ed. Big Bad City. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Reason read: to continue the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing (2005). Confessional: I don’t know how I continue to do this, but I read Big Bad City out of order. Big Bad City was published in 1999.

As with Cop Hater, the locale in Big Bad City bears a strong resemblance to gritty real-life New York City. While McBain never writes the words “New” or “York” together readers can imagine a 1990s version of the Big Apple. The three different story lines weave around each other like a Celtic knot in The Big Bad City: first, a young nun with breast implants is discovered murdered on a park bench. Unbeknownst to Carella, the man who murdered his father has been stalking him, waiting for the right time to gun him down survival-of-the-fittest style; and speaking of guns, how did notorious Cookie Boy the burglar go from petty theft to two counts of murder in fell swoop? Precinct 87 has their hands full with these seemingly unrelated crimes.

Quotes I liked enough to mention here, “Do it. do it, but he had not done it, he had not killed the man who’d killed his father because he’d felt somewhere deep inside him that becoming a beast of prey was tantamount to having been that beast all along” (p 54), and “…and he drew his own nine at once, so there were three nines on this bright September morning, all facing each other with nowhere to go but murder” (p 270).

Author fact: Have you seen the number of things McBain has written? The list goes on and on and on. Most surprising was the screenplay for “The Birds.”

Book trivia: This was the first time I had seen COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) referenced in a mystery novel.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Big Bad City.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p ).


Under the Snow

Ekman, Kirsten. Under the Snow. Translated by Joan Tate. New York: Picador. 1999.

Reason read: August is Ekman’s birth month; read in her honor.

I love it when someone calls a book “moody.” It’s even better when I agree with them.
There are tensions in an isolated village near the Lapland border where everyone knows your name, wants your secrets, and suffers together through a winter that is “5,064 hours long” (p 4). Even Police Constable Torsson has an attitude when he learns he has to travel 25 miles over the ice and snow to investigate the death of a young teacher. When a man is found frozen to death in a snowbank and the entire community won’t talk about the details, for all appearances it looks like an accident. This much is true – after getting into a fight after a mah-jongg game Matti Olsen collapsed and died of exposure. Case closed. Or is it? A friend of Matti’s arrives the next summer and convinces Torsson it isn’t really over; the case deserves a second look. Is it connected to a woman with a piece of bloody rope in a backpack?
For most of the story it bounces from perspective to perspective as different characters share what they want you to know. Most effectively, Ekman reserves the first person narrative for the murderer’s detailed confession.

Quotes to quote even if they are a little abstract, “Waves of small talk were now lapping over the place where he had sunk” (p 12) and “The headwaiter decided not to love him, a delusion requiring no great spiritual struggle” (p 45).

Author fact: Ekman also wrote Black Water which is also on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Under the Snow was first published in 1961. For some reason that took me by surprise. It wasn’t translated by Joan Tate until 1996.

Nancy said: Nancy didn’t say anything specific about Under the Snow.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the cute chapter called “Swede(n) Isn’t It?” (p 223).


Eurydice Street

Zinovieff, Sofka. Eurydice Street: a Place in Athens. London: Granta Books, 2005.

Reason read: Domition of the Holy Mother Virgin occurs on August 15th.

British-born Sofka Zinovieff travels back to Athens, Greece with her Greek husband and children. In Eurydice Street she recounts the first year of her efforts to “become” Greek. Embracing culture, politics and customs, Zinovieff vividly describes the swirling life around her. Because of her unbridled enthusiasm, friends comment she is more Greek than her husband. Eurydice Street is an interesting blend of history, travelogue, memoir, and political commentary on all things Athens.

Author fact: Eurydice Street is Zinovieff’s first book.

Book trivia: Eurydice Street includes two hand drawn maps.

Nancy said: Eurydice Street was an “excellent choice” for reading about Greece.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Just So Much Greek To Me” (p 120).


Case of the Missing Servant

Hall, Tarquin. The Case of the Missing Servant. Read by Sam Dastor. North Kingston, RI: BBC Audiobooks America, 2009.
Hall, Tarquin. The Case of the Missing Servant. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2009.

Reason read: Rajir Ratna Ganghi, the youngest Indian Prime Minister was born in August.

Vish Puri is India’s Most Private Investigator. Confidentiality is his game. His bread and butter cases consist mostly of scoping out potential partners in a culture where prearranged marriages are the norm. Fathers consider the services Puri and his team provides a deeper background check of eligible mates for their daughters.  Then one day a servant girl goes missing. Rumor has it, her own employer (a wealthy lawyer) murdered her. All the evidence points to him so this should be an easy case…
Interesting tidbit – Puri doesn’t like being compared to Sherlock Holmes. “Sherlock is a fictional character” he sniffs.

As an aside, I loved the nicknames of Puri’s Most Private investigation team. Tubelight and Facecream were my favorites.

Book trivia: The Case of the Missing Servant is the first in a series featuring Vish Puri. But, as a reader you feel as though you were dropped in the middle of Vish’s life as he remembers other, earlier cases.

Author fact: The Case of the Missing Servant is Hall’s first book.

Nancy said: nothing specific about The Case of the Missing Servant.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Sojourns in South Asia: India” (p 212).


Season in Red

Needham, Kirsty. A Season in Red: My Great Leap Forward into the New China. NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2006.

Reason read: the Double 7 Festival takes place in August.

Kirsty Needham traveled to Beijing, China in 2004 to immerse herself in the the culture. She wanted to see how China was modernizing at that time. As a journalist she arrived with a suitcase full of preconceived notions of how her time will be spent. She soon learns nothing is as it seems in a world full of constantly changing communist propaganda and government bureaucracy. As she says, “But there is a difference between knowing what you are letting yourself in for, and how you actually react when you find yourself there” (p 94). SARS, Saint Bernard dogs, controversial bicycles, progressive fashion and techno-night clubs are all the rage.

While I didn’t find any lines I wanted to quote, I did find some pop culture I wanted to look up after reading A Season in Red: the Taiwanese mandopop all girl-band, SHE and the kind-of-sexy singer, Jay Chou.

Author fact: Needham was able to work in Beijing thanks to an Australia-China Council exchange program.

Book trivia: there are no maps, photographs or significant illustrations in A Season in Red.

Nancy said: Nancy said she needed to be “very picky” about the books she included about the Middle Kingdom. A Season in Red made the cut. (Book Lust To Go p 60).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “China: the Middle Kingdom” (p 60).