Topper Takes a Trip

Smith, Thorne. Topper Takes a Trip. New York: Modern Library, 2000.

Reason read: to finish the series started in March in honor of Thorne Smith’s birth month.

When we pick up with Mr. Topper and his wife, Mary Topper, they are in the South of France enjoying a holiday on the Riviera. After his adventure frolicking with ghosts and nearly becoming one himself in the last installment Cosmos Topper decides to take his wife on a vacation to the beaches of the French Riviera. He is hoping to rekindle his marriage and make up for his previous shenanigans. Mr. and Mrs. Kirby and their companions have been left far behind…or have they? While taking a bath Mr. Topper washes someone else’s foot. And so it begin again. Only this time Mr. Topper’s ghostly girlfriend decides he would be more fun as one of them. The only problem? Mr. Topper is still alive.
I have to admit there were some scenes so outrageous I was embarrassed to read them. I don’t think I am spoiling the plot any by saying this, but when Mrs. Topper takes Marion’s leg and swings it around like a weapon I cringed throughout the entire scene. It was beyond ridiculous. I can only imagine what the movie version was like.
But back to the plot. As I was saying, this time Topper’s friends have missed him so much they want to make him one of them. Sound familiar? It’s a repeat of the end of Topper when he crashes into the infamous tree. I couldn’t help feel sorry for Mrs. Topper the whole time.

The best line I liked, “A cat had to get used to so many disagreeable facts of life” (p 121).

Author fact: Thorne Smith was a huge fan of Dorothy Parker’s.

Book trivia: my copy of Topper Takes a Trip has an introduction by Carolyn See. Very cool.

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Topper Takes a Trip.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 101).


Summer at Fairacre

Read, Miss. Summer at Fairacre. Boston: Houghton, 2001.

Reason read: Miss Read’s birth month is in April.

After a long winter the folks of Fairacre cannot wait for sunshine and roses. No one is more anxious for warmer weather than schoolteacher Miss Read. She is looking forward to a long list of many projects. They do not include the unwanted attentions of Henry Mawne while his wife is out of town. Any woman could relate. If a married man brought another woman flowers, or brought her books, invited her to lectures or a sherry party, or mailed her postcards signed with love, all while his wife was away for whatever reason, people would talk. But Henry Mawne isn’t Miss Read’s only problem. She has issues with the woman who cleans the school and her house. Miss Read spends most of the book fretting about who will clean these places while Mrs. Pringle is ill. I have to admit it is a little curious how Mrs. Pringle can string Miss Read along.
One of the best things about Miss Read is how real her character was throughout the story. How fiercely protective she was of her private time. The episode when she had a twitch in her eye that led her to wonder if she was going blind was so apropos. How many of us have felt a pang and instantly wondered if we had an incurable disease? Despite Miss Read’s wonderful personality, I loved friend Amy even more. She was hysterical.

Quote I liked, “What would happen if we all spoke the unvarnished truth?” (p 14) and “Sometimes life seems as contrary as a cat” (p 201).

Author fact: Miss Read’s real name was Dora Jessie Saint.

Book trivia: Summer at Fairacre is number sixteen in a series. My only other book on the Challenge list was Thrush Green.

Nancy said: Scenes of British village life can be found in the novels of Miss Read.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Barchester and Beyond” (p 15). As an aside, I have no idea how I ended up reading two books from the same chapter in the same month.


From Red Earth

Uwimana, Denise. From Red Earth: a Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness. New York: Plough Publishing House, 2019

Reason read: and Early Review book for LibraryThing.

I began reading this book review on the 25th anniversary of the start of Uwimana’s story. April 7th, 1994 began a hundred-day nightmare as nearly one million Rwandan Tutsi were brutally slaughtered by neighboring Hutus. Uwimana’s suffering began as more of an inconvenience three years earlier when her village had an innocuous curfew and her husband was forced to leave his family. Prejudices abounded but they were manageable. At the time Uwimana would practice small acts of defiance such as combing her hair in Tutsi fashion or having clandestine visits with her husband, but as mentioned before, life was bearable. Everything came to a head when President Habyarimana was assassinated on April 6th, 1994. Then the real nightmare began. Tutsi were blamed for the death and a campaign to wipe out there tribe ensured.
While Uwimana writes in a crystalline clear voice I took in her words slowly and with great thoughtfulness. There is a subtle grace to the things she says. First she survived. Remarkable. Then she healed. Incredible. Finally, she forgave. Indescribable strength.


Secret Knowledge of Water

Childs, Craig. The Secret Knowledge of Water: Discovering the Essence of the American Desert. Seattle: Sasquatch, 2000.

Reason read: I’m reading this for several reasons. The original reason was since this is a nature book and John Muir’s birth month is in April I wanted to read this in his honor. Second reason is Earth Day being in April. Duh. Third (and probably most important reason…) I am headed to Arizona in the next month!

I just finished a harrowing tale that involved desperate illegal immigrants trying to brave the scorching harsh desert to make it to the promised land of the United States. Images of Mexican refugees left to die of thirst, roasting in the arid desert played through my mind as I read Craig Childs’s Secret Knowledge of Water. Childs willingly and eagerly traverses this seemingly barren landscape; bringing his readers through ravines and canyons; vast wastelands that look like the epitome of nothingness. But, pay attention to Childs’s lyrical language and a new desert starts to form before our eyes. Dripping caverns create pools of water rich with organisms.
There is an egotistical slant to my interest in a subject or rather, my attention to reading about it. Secret Knowledge of Water was interesting enough but it became more fascinating when Child talked of specific areas I plan to visit in May.

Lines I liked because I am in love with the night sky, “hysterical swarming of stars” (p 14), and “Then the stars took everything” (p 41).
Other lines I liked, “The world changed color when you think you might doe soon” (p 235), and “The entire Grand Canyon is thus a machine devised to capture and drive flash floods” (p 242).

Author fact: Childs also wrote The Animal Dialogues which is on my Challenge list. At the time of Secret’s publication he was a river guide.

Book trivia: The Secret Knowledge of Water does not contain photographs but it does have illustrations.

Nancy said: Pearl wanted to mention another book by Childs but since it was not specifically about Arizona she settled on Secret Knowledge.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “AZ You Like It” (p 30).


Council of the Cursed

Tremayne, Peter. The Council of the Cursed. New York: Minotaur Books, 2008.

Reason read: to “finish” the series started last month in honor of St. Patrick’s Day being in the month of March.

The year is 670 AD and wise Fidelma of Cashel has been called to the city of french city Autun to act as advisor to the Irish delegation to a Christian council normally hostile to the Celtic Church. This council decided the religious rule of Saint Benedict to be of Roman church practices. Like Absolution for Murder, Fidelma and her now husband Eadulf encounter a murder upon their arrival to Autun. Because of her reputation as a “crime solver” Bishop Leodegar asks Fidelma to investigate the death, giving her full access to investigate despite the fact a year earlier Leogedar ordered a full segregation of the sexes. Male members of the church were ordered to be celibate or, if already married, give up their families and divorce their wives. Women were simply forbidden in almost all areas. Some women disappeared altogether. Additional to this stumbling block, the death occurred a full week before Fidelma and Eadulf’s arrival. They have no chance to examine the body of Abbot Dabhoc or seek clues from the crime scene in real time. No one seems to want the couple to solve this crime. Is it because Fidelma is a woman? Witnesses are hostile, other individuals mysteriously disappear or are found dead outside the gates of the city. It is only after Fidelma and Eadulf experience near-death “accidents” that they begin to wonder if they are uncovering a much larger scandal.
Also like Absolution for Murder readers are treated to a little lesson on religion. One example among many Tremayne outlined: God is either the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost or he is the Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Both mean the same thing so which is right?
Since Absolution for Murder Fidelma and Eadulf have gotten married and have a son. This makes sense because Council of the Cursed is eighteen books later.

Quote I liked, “Truth is never found through a game of chance” (p 77).
Best word I liked, “scriptorium” (the library).

Author fact: Tremayne also writes as Peter MacAlan.

Book trivia: All of Tremayne’s books seem a little heavy on the religious lectures. Council of the Cursed is no different.

Nancy said: Pearl said she has enjoyed Tremayne’s series over the years and recommended The Council of the Cursed as a good place to start.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Ireland: Beyond Joyce, Behan, Beckett, and Synge” (p 110).


The Game

King, Laurie R. The Game. New York: Bantam Books, 2001.

Reason read: to finish the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery Month.

In the last installment of the Mary Russell series, King included real life character, Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (who dies early in The Game). This time King takes a well-known character from a fictional story and gives him a larger than life persona. From Rudyard Kipling’s Kim Kimball O’Hara comes alive as a player in the Great Game of espionage in India as a spy for the Crown. After three years of being missing Holmes’s brother Mycroft announces it is up to Holmes and Russell to find him. What follows is a wild adventure through India. Holmes goes undercover as a magician while Mary bends the roles of gender…all for the sake of the Game.
One of the best elements of The Game is Mary’s connection to Holmes. Her keen sense of observation coupled with her intimate familiarity with his personality extends to his habits so that she is able to discern mood and energy levels. Never is this more apparent than in The Game.
Another added bonus of The Game is the education on India’s extensive caste system and colorful history.

Author fact: King has written a plethora of other books, including one titled, Beekeeping for Beginners. Too bad it isn’t on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: The Game is the last Mary Russell mystery I am reading. I move on to one Kate Martinelli book but not for a few years.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Mary and Sherlock being man and wife in The Game. In reality, they were married much earlier in the series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 170).


All-of-a-Kind Family

Taylor, Sydney. All-of-a-Kind Family. Read by Suzanne Toren. New York: Dell Publishing, 1951.

Reason read: April is the month for Sibling Recognition but I could have read it for Library Week since the first scene is Sarah losing a library book and having to work out a repayment system with the kindhearted librarian.

There are five children to keep track of in All-of-a-Kind Family: Gerdie, Sarah, Henny, Ella, and Charlotte. Each child has a wonderfully illustrated distinct personality. Together they make their way through turn-of-the-century New York City and all it has to offer whether it be a trip to the carnival atmosphere of Coney Island or around the corner to Papa’s shop.
Taylor does a wonderful job including a primer of Jewish customs around the holidays. It does not come across as didactic or religiously heavy. Instead, there is a heartfelt pride in the rituals. It’s not a spoiler to say the children have two surprises at the end of the book.

As an aside, I was transported back to my childhood when two of the sisters were standing before the great candy counter, peering through the glass, trying to decide what to buy with just a penny. I can remember similar days, my nose pressed against the glass, trying to decide how my precious money could be stretched to buy both Swedish fish and Red Hots. Zimmie, with his long folded downy white hair covered arms would stand patiently behind the counter waiting and waiting for me to decide. Probably cursing me all the while.

Author fact: Taylor has written a whole series on the All-of-a-Kind-Family. I wish I had more of them on my list.

Book trivia: my edition was illustrated by Helen John.

Nancy said: Pearl said All-of-a-Kind Family includes a “lovely chapter” on what happens when Sarah loses a library book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Libraries and Librarians” (p 138). To be fair, the library is hardly in the book and the librarian rarely makes an appearance, but her character is essential to the story!