Master and Commander

O’Brian, Patrick. Master and Commander. Read by John Lee. Santa Ana, CA: Books on Tape, Inc., 1991.

Reason read: for my dad. He was born in the month of May and he loved stories about sea adventures.

For starters, Master and Commander is an excellent lesson in naval warships. The dense nautical terminology will make your eyes go dry if you let it. There are many areas where the plot and dialogue altogether cease making it an arid read. Amidst the didactic seagoing vessel lesson 19th century Britain is at war with France’s brash Napoleon. Young Jack Aubrey has been promoted to commander of the sloop Sophie. Along as his right hand man is Doctor Stephen Maturin. He acts as ship medic and surgeon and together they fight enemies on the high seas. Aubrey and Maturin are as different as they come but they balance each other out and truly need one another. Their relationship is the cornerstone of the whole series.
For every adventurer Master and Commander is a must read. Every battle is played out in stunning detail. Life on a man-of-war could not be any more vivid.

Author fact: Patrick O’Brian was born Richard Patrick Russ.

Book trivia: Master and Commander is first in the series and definitely should be read before any of the others in the series.

Nancy said: Pearl called Master and Commander an “archetypal oceangoing adventure…[one] that [is] well loved by both men and women, and by those readers who have spent time on boats as well as those who have never set foot in a seagoing vessal on even stepped into a rowboat, kayak , or canoe.” She also mentioned O’Brian’s “reliable historical detail and evocative writing” (Book Lust p 217).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Sea Stories” (p 217).


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!


Flashback

Barr, Nevada. Flashback. Read by Joyce Bean. Grand Haven. MI: Brilliance Audio, 2003.

Reason read: Barr’s birth month is in March.

Anna Pigeon is back. This time as a park ranger on one of the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park off the coast of Florida. She’s there to fill in temporarily for another ranger who has fallen ill and run from a marriage proposal she doesn’t know what to do about. While there she takes to reading old Civil War era letters written by a great-great-aunt that play an integral part in a mystery surrounding a missing woman. When a mysterious boat explosion yields unidentified body parts Anna is in the thick of the crime; as usual getting herself into sticky situations. If you remember from earlier Pigeon mysteries, she is extremely claustrophobic. To give you an idea, the scene where she is diving under an engine to recover parts of a dead man…
In typical fashion Barr describes this national park in such a way you want to book a flight to it immediately. She captures the culture, the atmosphere with vivid detail.

Confessional: I don’t know that much about diving. I’ve only done the “snubing” version (half diving, half snorkeling where instead of wearing your air tank, it floats in a raft on the surface of the ocean). Having said that, I have to ask: is it possible to puke underwater? Can you remove your mouthpiece and spew, as a result giving the fish something new to feed on?

As an aside, I feel that Barr tries a little too hard to be funny. A reference to John Wayne Bobbit has the potential to be funny but only to a limit number of people.

Audio info: Joyce Bean’s accents are a little wonky to my untrained ear and don’t fast forward to the next track. Each track starts in mid-sentence. Really odd. The music at the end of the disc is nice, though.

Author fact: Barr also wrote Blind Descent (already read) and Hunting Season (next on my list).

Book trivia: Flashback is book number eleven in the Anna Pigeon series. I read Blind Descent (number six in the series) way back in 2011.

Nancy said: Pearl listed Flashback as one of her favorite occupation-centric mysteries.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 118).


Calypso

Sedaris, David. Calypso. Read by David Sedaris. New York: Hatchett Audio, 2018.

Reason read: I am participating in the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge again this year. One of the categories is “A book nominated for an award” and Calypso by David Sedaris was nominated for an Audie Award for Audiobook of the Year for 2019.

If you are not familiar with David Sedaris’s writing, please do me a favor and stop reading this review. Do yourself a favor and run out and buy yourself a copy of any one of his books. Really. Any book Sedaris has written would be good. It really doesn’t matter with which one you start your introduction.
But probably the best way to experience Sedaris is to hear him read his own work. He has a comedic timing that is impeccably smart. Coupled this with his sarcastic wit and he will have you laughing and crying at the same time. I don’t know how he makes feeding a defrosted human tumor (his own) to a snapping turtle funny, or his mother’s alcoholism, or his sister’s suicide but really truly, he does. You find yourself in awe of how he chooses to see each situation. That viewpoint translates into a keen sense of the bigger picture and the world around him. From fashion from Japan to trash picking in England, Sedaris invites you to never see life the same way again.

Line I wish I had written, “…We stayed until our fingerprints were on everything” (from The Perfect Fit).


Foundation

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation. Read by Scott Brick. Santa Ana, CA: Book on Tape, 2004.

Reason read: Asimov’s birth month is in January.

The premise of Foundation is thus: Hari Seldon is a psychohistorian (a person who uses a scientific way of predicting the future through history). His mathematical sociology tells him the Dark Ages are fast approaching. In order to curate humanity’s integrity he establishes two foundations, one at either end of the universe. Each foundation is comprised of creative and engineering people capable of preserving the characteristics of the current universe.

As an aside, Fred Pohl saved the Foundation series. Because of conversations with him, Asimov worked on the series for the next decade. It was only supposed to be a trilogy. Thirty years passed between the trilogy and subsequent novels. Asimov, according to his introduction to Foundation, said he needed to reread the series to really remember where he left off.

Author fact:  “The Mule” is Asimov’s favorite part of the series (according to the introduction).

Book trivia: Foundation went up against The Lord of the Rings Trilogy for the Hugo award for best three connected novels and won.

Nancy said: Besides describing the plot, Pearl said the only “must-read” is Foundation (Book Lust p 214).

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


Subtle Knife

Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. Scholastic UK, 2007.
Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. New York: Listening Library, 2000.

Reason read: to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month.

In The Golden Compass Pullman introduced his readers to the possibility of more than one universe. He hinted there were actually three – the one we were in currently, a completely different universe and a third being a combination of the two. In The Subtle Knife we experience those different worlds first hand as Lyra and her new friend, Will Parry, move between them to escape their enemies. In The Golden Compass readers were also introduced to daemons. Now, we learn that people without daemons are without free will. They lack fear and imagination so they make perfect soldiers for the evil Mrs. Coulter. In addition to Mrs. Coulter, the otherworld of Cittagazze hides other enemies. Soul-eating Specters haunt the streets while children run wild without daemons or parents and rule Lord-of-the-Flies style. 
As Lyra and Will travel from world to world they discover the Subtle Knife, a blade that can cut through anything. It’s power has yet to be fully understood.

Author fact: Pullman helped perform the audio version of The Subtle Knife.

Book Audio trivia: The Subtle Knife won an Audie Award in 2000. 

Nancy said: The Subtle Knife is an “epic battle btween good and evil” (Book Lust p 209).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 209).


November New

What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:

Fiction:

  • Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
  • Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
  • Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
  • Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.

Nonfiction:

  • Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
  • The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.

Series continuation:

  • Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.

Fun: nothing decided yet.

Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.