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!


All Souls

Marias, Javier. All Souls. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992.

Reason read: Oxford Jazz festival is in April.

I don’t exactly know how to explain All Souls except to say it is the first person narrative of a professor at Oxford with a two year contract. He remembers not having a heavy teaching load, but instead had heavy opinions of his colleagues. Most of his narrative is remembering his struggle to carry on a more then superficial affair with a married woman and the hurt he felt when she snubbed him for a month when her child was ill. He was a hard character to feel sorry for.
Confessional: I don’t think I much like the narrator of All Souls. He is an opinionated, standoffish, snarly man. On the other hand, I was fascinated with Will the porter. At ninety years old he lives in his head and those around him never know what era he thinks he is in but they accommodate him nicely.

Quote to quote, “Mrs. Alabaster was a smiling, authoritarian woman, with one of those very English smiles that you see adorning the faces of those famous strangers in films as they’re about to chose their next victim” (p 75).
Here’s another odd one, “We always condemn ourselves by what we say, not by what we do, but what we say or what we say we do, not by that others say or by what we actually have done” (p 31).

Author fact: Marias also wrote the Your Face Tomorrow series which is also on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: All Souls was the first fiction of Marias to be translated by Margaret Jull Costa in 1992.

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing special about All Souls except to quote a line from it.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Oxford” in the section “Literary Fiction” (p 171).


City and the House

Ginzberg, Natalia. The City and the House. New York: Seaver, 1987.

Reason read: April is Letter Writing Month. The City and the House is epistolary.

Giuseppe leaves Italy for Princeton, New Jersey where his newlywed brother has promised him a teacher of Biology position. Cousin Roberta keeps him up to date on what has happened to his apartment since the new neighbors moved in. She also supplies very gossipy reports on the doings of Giuseppe’s movie-maker son, Alberico and exlover, Lucrezia. But, Giuseppe and Roberta are not the only ones in communication. Letters confirming and denying gossip and truth fly back and forth between various friends, lovers, and family. The different perspectives remind me of Michael Dorris’s Yellow Raft in Blue Water.
Confessional: In the beginning I had to keep a notebook of all the characters writing back and forth to one another; the correspondence of family members referencing other family members, neighbors, and friends all flowed back and forth like a storm-tossed tide. But like any written correspondence there are gaps in information and speculation fills those gaps. Is Lucrezia in love with Ignazio Fegiz? She can barely stand to write his name. Hints becomes reality. It was interesting to see the cycle of relationships, people moving back to one another while others move on entirely.

Quotes to quote, “Two people can get along very well without having anything to talk about (p 36) and “Once you’ve reached a certain age you realize that either you stand on your own two feet or you’ve had it” (p 70).

Author fact: Ginzburg was an Italian Communist.

Book trivia: The City and the House is Ginzburg’s last novel.

Nancy said: Pearl said if the literary technique of tales told in letters The City and the House is a good one.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Epistolary Novels: Take a Letter” (p 79).


The Warden

Trollope, Anthony. The Warden. New York: Book League of America, 1956.

Reason read: Anthony Trollope’s birth month is April. Read in his honor.

Reverend Septimus Harding, at fifty years old, became Precentor of the Cathedral as well as the Warden of Hiram’s Hospital. Because of his dual employment he makes a significantly higher wage than others. This
inequality of salary is a modern conflict and no one is more bothered by this than John Bold. But Mr. bold has a conflict of interest. While he is against Mr. Harding’s significant salary and starts a petition to challenge it, he is also attracted and betrothed to Harding’s twenty four year old daughter, Eleanor. When he realizes the heartache he has caused the Harding family he tries to retract his complaint..but of course it is too late. The wheels of justice have been set in motion. The lesson for John Bold is you made your bed, now you have to lie in it.
The lesson for the Warden is one of morality. Eventually, the suit is abandoned but Harding is still wracked with guilt. He resigns despite everyone’s urging to reconsider.

Line that still holds true today, “What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?”

Author fact: Trollope designed his Barsetshire series to be read as modern novels.

Book trivia: the entire Barsetshire series was made into a popular television show.

Nancy said: Pearl’s “favorite Trollope novels are the whole Barsetshire sereis

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 15).


Sixpence House

Collins, Paul. Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books. New York:
Bloomsbury, 2003.

Reason read: April is the month for National Library Week.

Wales’s little town of Hay-on-Wye, or just “Hay,” is known as the “Town of Books.” With 1,500 residences and forty bookstores, what better place for a writer to move from Manhattan? Collins writes about his time in the village as a writer, as a house hunter, and as a new father in a whimsical manner; lacing the prose with mini lectures on long-dead writers, dust jackets not doing their one job, and what it means when an author’s color photograph occupies the entire cover of a book. Collins has a sense of humor that is self-deprecating (just try not to giggle when he shares the story of inadvertently peeing on his manuscript of Banvard’s Folly). You find yourself wanting to have a cup of coffee with him just to hear more. My only complaint? No photographs.
Confessional: I love a book that makes mention of Wallace and Gromit!

Right away I knew I was going to have a hard time decided on what to quote. There were so many good ones from which to chose! Here are just a couple, “If you grew up in a rural area, you have seen how farmhouses come and go, but the dent left by the cellar is permanent” (p 2) and this is the quote that gave me the most stop and pause: “It is hard to know just how many times we have been exposed to a word, a face, an idea, before we have it” (p 8).

Author fact: Collins first wrote Banvard’s Folly (also on my Challenge list).

Book trivia: The Sixpence House is the title of the book but the Collins family doesn’t discover it until nearly 150 pages in. Paul and his wife don’t decide to make an offer for another ten ages. In the end they decide it needs too much work and abandon the purchase. I was expecting the book to be more about the trials and tribulations of two Americans trying to restore a long neglected and dilapidated house in Wales. Just another example of Don’t-Judge-A-Book-By-Its-Title!

Nancy said: Pearl called Sixpence a “loving memoir” and a “captivating account of books.” Note: what Pearl says about Sixpence House in More Book Lust is word for word what she says in Book Lust To Go.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Cozies” (p 57).
Edited to add: Sixpence House is also included in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Wales Welcomes You” (p 248).