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!


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).


Warding of Witch World

Norton, Andre. The Warding of Witch World. New York: Warner Books, 1996.

Reason read: to continue the series started in April to honor Norton’s memory. She passed in the month of April.

From everything that I can tell, The Warding of Witch World is the final entry in the Witch World series. It is Book Six of the Turning Series. The premise is pretty simple, all the witches come together, future allies and past enemies must bond together to face impending doom. All of the gates of their Witch World are open and evil is about to descend upon them. The title of the book comes from the warding and watching of these gates. A robust cast of creatures, including a giant, come together for the battle of their lives.

I pretty much gave up on this book before it even began.

Author fact: Andre Norton is the pseudonym for Alice Mary Norton.

Book trivia: The Warding of Witch World is a hefty read, totaling 560 pages.

Nancy said: nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy” (p 216).


Evolution of Useful Things

Petroski, Henry. The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts – From Forks and Pins To Paper Clips and Zippers – Came To Be As They Are. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.

Reason read: April is Math, Science and Technology Month.

Did you ever stop to think that the four-tined fork which brings food to your mouth and the two-tined fork you use to hold meat while carving it came from the same food necessity and that they are siblings separated at birth? Probably not, but Petroski did. He goes on to explore to evolution of all sorts of everyday items, like cans and can openers, zippers, and to name a few. His book is filled with interesting facts and even a little humor. The photographs are great, too!

Confessional: to those of you who follow along it should come as no surprise that I get a certain thrill from making a Natalie connection in seemingly unrelated books. Here’s the Natalie connection with The Evolution of Useful Things: Natalie released a 4-song CD called “Songs To Color By” in 2002. Song #3 was called “Paper of Pins” and even though I had know idea what the title meant I was content to be ignorant and just sing along. Sixteen years alter, enter Henry Petroski and his paper of pins. Thanks to a photograph I now know what a paper of pins looks like, too.

Author fact: It should come as no surprise, Henry Petroski was a Civil Engineering professor at Duke University. Obviously, the man knows what he’s talking about.

Book trivia: the illustrations and photographs in The Evolution of Useful Things is pretty cool.

Nancy said: Pearl said Henry Petroski was a professor of civil engineering and that The Evolution of Useful Things is “a good book” (p 232).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Techno-Thrillers” (p 231).


Thousand Hills

Kinzer, Stephen. A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. Read by Paul Boehmer. Tantor Audio, 2008.
Kinzer, Stephen. A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2008.

Reason read: April 22, 2000 Paul Kagame became President of Rwanada. He is credited for bringing an end to the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

Kinzer had one simple motive for writing Thousand Hills. It is an amazing untold story that needed to be shared. One the one hand, it is the condense biography of a remarkable man who, born into poverty and nearly killed when he was only two years old, rose in military rank to single-handedly lead a rebel force that ended the largest genocide in Rwanda. On the other hand, it is the telling of a nation struggling with a metamorphosis of epic proportions. After the holocaust, Paul Kagame insisted on bringing Tutsi and Hutu together, demanding that murderer and victim work as one to repair relations.

Author fact: In 2008 Kinzer went on C-Span BookTV to talk about Thousand Hills. The video is over an hour long and still available for viewing on the C-Span site.

Nancy said: nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 8).


Corner

Simon, David and Edward Burns. The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood. New York: Broadway Books, 1997.

Reason read: Maryland become a state in April.

The Corner is very similar to Simon’s other best selling book, Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets. As a freelance writer he has been allowed access to the darkest and grittiest corners of West Baltimore. With Edward Burns as coauthor, Simon takes the reader on a cruel and complicated journey. Together they illustrate what junkies will and won’t do to score the next hit or blast; what crimes or capers they will commit or won’t…because even full blown addicts have their limits. West Baltimore is a shooting gallery where the drug war rearranges police priorities. It’s a harsh reality. The operative word is “real” because even though the plot line reads like a movie and the people you meet could be actors, they are all real. As readers, you get to know people and care about them. Be forewarned. It’s no fairy tale. It grips you as only a never ending nightmare could.

Quotes I need to repeat, “The corner is rooted in human desire – crude and certain and immediate” (p 57), and a couple of pages later, “For those of us riding the wave, the world spins on an axis of technological prowess in an orbit of ever-expanding information” (p 59). Here are two more, “Even heroine no longer suffices to obscure the daily insult that her life has become” (p 179), and “He knows what he likes and to some extent, he knows how to get what he likes, if God is in the details, when DeAndre’s view of the sexual world is decidedly agnostic” (p 225).

Author(s) fact: David Simon writes for the show “The Wire” and Edward Burns was a cop turned teacher.

Book trivia: The Corner has a few photographs of some of the main characters.

Nancy said: Nancy said she couldn’t go to Baltimore without first watching The Wire which was based on The Corner (p 34).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go  in the chapter called simply “Baltimore” (p 34).


Bogey Man

Plimpton, George. The Bogey Man: A Month on the PGA Tour.

Reason read: the Professional Golf Association tour usually ends in April. This year it ended on April 1st but there are other tournaments still going.

George Plimton was a journalist who liked to get into the thick of things when writing about his subjects. When composing articles for Sports Illustrated he played tennis, boxed with, and swam with professionals. Later he found himself pitching with the Yankees and throwing the football with the Detroit Lions. His involvement with professional golfers was no different when writing Bogey Man. He played as a participating amateur in the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, the Lucky International, and the Bob Hope Desert Classic for a month. During that time he absorbed stories about the professional golf circuit, from the caddies to the fans and, the professional golfers and the game, of course.

Author fact: The perception I have of George Plimpton is that he had quite the ego. For starter, many of the photographs in Bogey Man are of Plimpton. Then, there is the author information. Most authors chose a short paragraph to be inserted on the back flap of a book. Plimpton’s takes up the entire back cover.

Book trivia: There are a smattering of photographs in Bogey Man mostly of Plimpton looking wistfully after an ill-struck ball.

Nancy said: Pearl said she would buy Bogey Man for “David” who eats, sleeps, and dreams golf (p 117).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the catch-all chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 115).


Venus Thow

Saylor, Steven. The Venus Throw. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Reason read: to continue the series started in March, in honor of Saylor’s birth month.

At this point in Gordianus the Finder’s life he is a 54 years old farmer in Etruria just outside Ancient Rome. He has married his Egyptian slave, Bethesda, and she has given him a daughter, Gordiana, who is thirteen years old and goes by the name Diana. Rounding out the household are two adopted sons, Meto and Eco, and Gordianus’s house slave, Belbo.
In the year 56 B.C., Gordianus is trying to live the quiet life when philosopher and former teacher Dio of Alexandria arrives at his door dressed as a woman, desperately looking for help. Because Egyptian enoys have been assassinated, he has reason to believe someone is trying to kill him next. Despite their history, the strong desire to not get involved led Gordianus to turn Dio away, a decision he would later regret when Dio is indeed found stabbed to death. Gordianus, being the finder of the truth, seeks to uncover the mystery of who killed Dio and why. Despite every indication this is a straightforward political assassination Gordianus soon realizes nothing is ever that simple.

Confessional: Because there are eight other books before The Venus Throw there so much more to this series than what I am reading for the challenge. I feel as though I am missing out on key pieces of Gordianus’s life.

Author fact: at the time of publication, Saylor was living in California.

Book trivia: I mentioned this before. Out of sixteen titles, Venus Throw is the ninth book of the Roma Sub Rosa series. I am only reading three from this series. I have one more to go.

Nancy said: Maybe it is because there are sixteen Roma Sub Rosa titles, but Pearl lists the three I am reading out of chronological order. Venus Throw is listed first when it should be second.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Classical World” (p 59).


Jargoon Pard

Norton, Andre. The Jargoon Pard. New York: Ballantine Books, 1974.

Reason read: to continue the series started in March in honor of Norton’s birth month.

The Jargoon Pard is the companion piece to Crystal Gryphon
and the prequel to The Year of the Unicorn.
A science fiction story with a fantasy twist. Kethan is the chosen one. From the moment of his birth he was destined to lead his family. With the help of a magic belt, his fate is solidified, despite the jealousies of an evil woman, his mother’s Wise Woman.
Full confession: I didn’t really get into The Jargoon Pard. To be honest, I didn’t get more than fifty pages before I called it quits. Fantasy and I just don’t like each other, I guess. A whole bunch of fantasy words were thrown around that essentially equated to mumbo jumbo. Arvon. The Seven Lords. The Four Clans: Redmantle, Goldmantle, Bluemantle, and Silvermantle. House of the Car Do Prawn. What? What the what? I have no idea. It’s the year of the Red Boar. The month of the Snowbird. Whatever that means.

Author fact: Andre Norton was a librarian in Cleveland, Ohio.

Book trivia: Even though The Jargoon Pard is part of the Witch World Series it has nothing to do with the first book.

Nancy said: nothing beyond mentioning The Jargoon Pard is part of the Witch series.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (p 213).