September Psycho

I don’t even know where to begin with September. It was the month from hell in more ways than one. The only good news is that I was able to run twice as many miles as last month. That counts for something as it saves my sanity just a little bit more than if I didn’t do anything at all.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • In the City of Fear by Ward Just
  • Jim, The Boy by Tony Earley
  • The Shining by Stephen King

Nonfiction:

  • Thank You and OK! by David Chadwick
  • Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
  • Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Madj Hoomin
  • Agony and Ecstasy by Irving Stone

Series continuations:

  • Tripwire by Lee Child
  • Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • My Life on the Line by Ryan O’Callaghan

Foreign Correspondence

Brooks, Geraldine. Foreign Correspondence: a Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over. Thorndike, Maine: Thorndike Press, 1998.

Reason read: International Reading Day is on September 8th.

Brooks started writing to pen pals when she was ten years old. [As an aside, I think I was around the same age when I formed my letter-writing habit.] Finding all of Brooks’s pen pal letters prompted her to wonder if she could find their authors some thirty some odd years later. Where were these forty-something year olds? Who were they now as adults and what lives were they living? Before she launches on her journey to find lost relations, Brooks spends some time remembering her own childhood and how each pen pal played a part in it. As a kid she yearned to get away from boring Australia with its lack of culture and panache. As a good girl, she recalls her fear of her father’s lack of participation in Catholic worship and how it might send him to hell and yet she herself wanted to be a rebel; “to kiss boys, take drugs, be hauled by the hair into a police van at an antiwar protest” (p 78). She remembers wanting to expand her religious horizons with the letters she would write and receive. Those pen pals would bring Brooks full circle by reminding her of her roots and just how far she has come as an adult.

Quote I liked, “We have grown older together, trapped in the aspic of our age gap” (p 59) and “It’s unfortunate to arrive at an Arab summit in Casablanca only to find that your underwear is touring sub-Saharan Africa without you” (p 142).

Author fact: According to Brooks’s memoir, she had a budding acting career early in life.

Book trivia: Brooks includes touching photographs of her family as well as the pen pals who shaped her life.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned an interview with Brooks. I had to ask the Seattle Channel if they could rerelease the video because it was over ten years old. I am happy to say they consented and even though the interview didn’t mention Foreign Correspondence I enjoyed it very much. As an aside, the interview focused on People of the Book (not on my list).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Australia, the Land of Oz” (p 26).


Month for Women

I definitely didn’t do this on purpose because I never structure my reading this way, but January turned out to be a month of mostly woman authors (notated with a ‘w’). I am including the books I started in January but have not finished. Because they are not Challenge books they do not need to be finished in the same month. And. And! And, I have started running again. After a six month hiatus, I think I am back! Sort of.

Fiction:

  • A Cold-Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow (w & EB)
  • The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (w & AB)
  • Firewatch by Connie Willis (w & EB)
  • The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry (w)
  • Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown (w & EB)
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov (AB)
  • Take This Man by Frederick Busch
  • ADDED: The Renunciation by Edgardo Rodriguez Julia

Nonfiction:

  • Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn (w)
  • The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior edited by Chris Elphick, John Dunning & David Allen Sibley
  • The Turk by Tom Standage
  • ADDED: Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington (w)

Series continuations:

  • Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
  • To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett (w)

Early Review Program for LibraryThing:

  • Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim (w)
  • How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg (w) – not finished yet

For Fun:

  • Sharp by Michelle Dean (w) – not finished yet
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (w) – not finished yet

Daisy Bates in the Desert

Blackburn, Julia. Daisy Bates in the Desert: A Woman’s Life Among the Aborigines. New York: Vintage Departures, 1995.

Reason read: Australia Day is January 26th.

Julia Blackburn became fascinated by Daisy Bates quite by accident. In the beginning of her book Blackburn imagines Ms. Bates’s feelings and memories but by the middle of the book there is an odd shift in perspective and suddenly Blackburn assumes the role of Bates, talking in the first person as if she IS Daisy Bates. It was a little unsettling until I settled into the narrative…and then she switches back.
Through Blackburn’s words Daisy Bates became this larger than life figure; a woman trying to save the natives of Australia. At times it was difficult for me to understand her motives or her successes, but I learned to understand her passions. She truly cared for the people of the desert. 

Line I had to quote, “I suppose it would have been awkward to pack and easily broken and anyway the skull of a good friend would not provide much comfort when one was feeling lonely” (p 95). On a personal note, when my first cat was ailing I seriously considered taking her to a taxidermist for eternal preservation. I loved her that much.
Another line I liked, “The sky was breathing; I could feel the cavity of the night expanding and contracting around me as if I was in the belly of the universe” (p 122). I feel that way about Monhegan sometimes.

As an aside, I am not sure what to do with the image of naked women with dingo puppies tied about their waists.

Author fact: Blackburn wrote several books which won awards. The most successful were Thin Paths and The Leper’s Companions. Neither are on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Disappointingly there are not a lot of pictures of Daisy Bates. The best one is of her on a swing.

Nancy said: Pearl called Daisy Bates in the Desert “fabulous” (Book Lust To Go p 28)

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Australia, the Land of Oz” (p 26).


January Come Lately

I try not to think about white rabbits running around with time pieces muttering about being late. Whenever I do I am reminded this is being written three days behind schedule. Nevertheless, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov – in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown – this is a stretch…All Creatures Great and Small first aired as a television show in January and there is a creature in the title.
  • The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry – in honor of Barry’s birth month.
  • A Cold Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow – in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January.

Nonfiction:

  • Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn – in honor of Australia’s National Day on January 26th.
  • The Turk by Tom Standage in honor of Wolfgang Von Klempelen’s birth month.
  • Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington – in honor of January being National Yoga month.
  • Sibley’s Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley – in honor of Adopt a Bird Month. I read that somewhere…

Series continuations:

  • To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – I know what you are thinking. I am neither black nor a girl. I am a middle-aged white woman who barely remembers being a girl. I requested this book because I work in an extremely diverse environment and let’s face it, I want to be known as well-read, regardless of color.

For fun:

  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – my sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.

Pearl Cove

Lowell, Elizabeth. Pearl Cove. New York: Harper Collins, 1999.

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

So the Donovan saga continues. If you haven’t guessed by now, the series focuses on one member of the Donovan clan at a time. The last book, Jade Island, introduced Kyle Donovan. In Pearl Cove it’s older brother Archer Donovan’s turn to take the spotlight. He has been called to the rescue of Australian Hannah McGarry for personal and professional reasons.
The back story: Hannah’s husband, Len, has just been found murdered with an oyster shell buried in his chest. The oyster shell is symbolic as Hannah and Len ran a business cultivating pearls. Before his death, Len had developed a technique of producing a unique rainbow black pearl. His process was so secret that not even Hannah knew how it was done.  Now a whole necklace of these rare pearls has gone missing. With Len dead and the pearl farm on the brink of bankruptcy, Hannah is in danger. She could lose the farm and her life if she doesn’t convince ruthless competitors that she doesn’t know the secret process to producing perfect black pearls. She is forced call in favor and ask for help from Len’s silent partner, Archer Donovan.

Two quotes I liked, “But a man who stopped asking questions never learned anything new” (p 14), and “Rage chased in the wake of pain, caught it, raced neck and neck in a headlong run towards destruction” (p 213).

Author fact: Lowell has written over fifty books.

Nancy said: Pearl Cove is an “action-suspense” romance novel.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).


Greater Nowheres

Finkelstein, Dave and Jack London. Greater Nowheres: a Journey Through the Australian Bush.New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.

The premise of Greater Nowheres is simple. Dave Finkelstein and Jack London are on the hunt for a mythical yet terrifying and elusive crocodile in the Australian bush. Despite their lackadaisical searching Finkelstein and London never really meet up with the famed creature (sorry to disappoint – Jack sees it but Dave doesn’t). Instead, Greater Nowheres becomes an eye opening account of a region in Western and Northern Australia few have traveled just for the fun of it. Finkelstein and London take turns writing chapters about their adventures and it is interesting to see their differing styles on the page (London is much more descriptive, in case you were wondering). One thing they both comment on is the inhospitable climate of the Australian Bush, a place where temperatures can soar and stay elevated (above 100 degrees) even at 10 o’clock at night. There are two seasons – the Wet and the Dry and both wreak havoc on travelers and residents alike. After awhile you sense a pattern, every place Jack and Dave visit is desolate but fiercely loved by the people who call it home.

As an aside, before I started reading Greater Nowheres I wondered if London’s drinking would play a part in the story. Neither Finkelstein or London shy away from mentioning London’s love of drink, even while in the arid deserts of the outback. Jack makes reference to his hangovers and the local pub being the only place he did his best verbal sparring.

Quotes that stuck with me, “Once again small athletes had come up short, but such narrow mindedness may soon be a prejudice of the past, at least in Australia, where the rapidly proliferating sport of dwarf-throwing is winning fans and enthusiastic devotees” (p 143), “To refer to Wyndham as a dead end is to make it sound a more appealing place than it actually is” (p 172), “We passed through a town called Kumarina without even realizing it” (p 192),

Reason read: Jack London’s birth month is in January.

Author facts: Finkelstein once was a Chinese interpreter and London once was an English professor.

Book trivia: there are no photographs to speak of in Greater Nowheres. Just illustrated maps.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Australia, the Land of Oz” (p 28).