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).

When Blackbirds Sing

Boyd, Martin. When Blackbirds Sing, a Novel. London: Abelard-Schman, 1962.

When Blackbirds Sing is the last installment in the Langton quartet. We rejoin Dominic as he journeys back to war, re-enlisting at the start of World War I. Leaving his wife in Australia to tend to their sheep farm he heads back to England and reconnects with an old flame, Sylvia.
After killing a man and witnessing the atrocities of war Dominic has sobered of all immoral actions and indiscretions. He returns home to Australia a changed man inside and out.
I can honestly say I enjoyed this book much more than the last three (none of which I completely finished). Still, everything about Boyd’s quartet was old and stuffy. The series is supposed to depict the early 1900s but the writing seems older and more staid than that.

Reason read: to finish the series started in April – April being the best time to visit Australia.

Author fact: Boyd was better known for his book Lucinda Brayford.

Book trivia: The jacket cover for When Blackbirds Sing is hideous.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Australian Fiction” (p 29).

Outbreak of Love

Boyd, Martin. Outbreak of Love. New York: Penguin Books, 1984.

Throughout earlier Boyd books (Cardboard Crown, etc) we have been following the Langton family. In Outbreak of Love we focus on Diana. She has been married for twenty-three long years to egotistical and stuffy musician named “Wolfie.” Wolfie is an adulterer and it’s this unfaithful behavior that brings the drama to the book. Diana, of course, finds out and decides she needs an interesting relationship of her own. Of course there is the requisite high society blah, blah, blah such as who is going to invited to so and so’s ball and have to sit next to the bore.

Quotes that caught me, “Will we have a little love first, or will we go straight out to tea?” Wolfie’s mistress asks. Here’s another, “It shook my egoism, but I was not prepared to abandon reason” (p 53).

Oddly enough, I read this one better than the last two Boyd books. I don’t really know what I meant by that except to say my attention didn’t wander as much.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of the best time to go to Australia (March/April).

Author fact: Boyd was born in Switzerland.

Book trivia: This is the third book in the four-book series called The Langton Quartet.

BookLust Twist: Book Lust in the chapter called “Australian Fiction” (p 29). Here’s a laugh – Pearl lists all four books in the quartet but she mixes up the order in which they should be read. She lists When Blackbirds Sing before Outbreak of Love. According to the back cover of Outbreak of Love, When Blackbirds Sing is the last book of the quartet.

A Difficult Young Man

Boyd, Martin. A Difficult Young Man. New York: Penguin, 1984.

I have to admit this story lagged for me. It wasn’t as non-directional as The Cardboard Crown but it still couldn’t hold my attention for long periods of time. Shoot, I couldn’t get through ten pages without straying from the page. A fly crawling along a windowsill could capture my attention faster and hold it longer.
So, right from the start I need to tell you the “difficult young man” of the story is Dominic Langton, grandson of Alice (writer of the journal in The Cardboard Crown). Dominic’s story is being told by his younger brother, Guy. Dominic is indeed difficult and troubled and sort of a loose cannon. He kills a horse, after all. But, it’s also the story of a family who is discontent wherever they are. Bounding between England and Australia, the grass is always greener on the other side.

Interesting lines, “It was difficult to run a house that was being looted” (p 105). good point.

Reason read: to continue the Langton Quartet (in honor of April being a good time to visit Australia).

Author fact: According to Penguin books Boyd had a preoccupation with his family and out of that preoccupation rose the mostly autobiographical Langton Quartet.

Book trivia: This is the second book in the Langton Quartet. It should be read before Outbreak of Love.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Australian Fiction” (p 29).

Cardboard Crown

Boyd, Martin. The Cardboard Crown. New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1953.

This is the story of Alice Verso told through her grandson’s discovery of her diary. From its pages half written in French he is able to uncover generations of intricate and complicated relationships. Alice marries into the Langton family and brings the clan financial stability. But, despite this Alice discovers her husband is having an affair with a childhood friend named Hetty. Told across three generations and bouncing between Australia and England everything about this story was strange. As a reader, I couldn’t stay engaged with the story or the characters. There wasn’t a single person I connected with or cared about. It was the kind of story I often lost place with – meaning, when I put it down I couldn’t remember the last thing I read.

Favorite lines, “All history is a little false” (p 43), “If she could bring her prey to bed, she wouldn’t have cared if she had mutton fat in her hair and a smut on her nose” (p 46), and “We must accept that people do behave idiotically…” (p56). And the follow up to that quote, “Any idiot can reproduce himself” (p 112). Too true!

Reason read: April is the best time to take a trip to Australia.

Author fact: Boyd is one of Australia’s best loved authors. He was a talented poet as well.

Book trivia: The plot of The Cardboard Crown is “founded on fact” according to the author.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Australian Fiction” (p 37).

April ’11 was…

April was a gentle thaw in more ways than one. My grandfather finally passed away. I have to admit, the event was bittersweet. Saying goodbye was easier than I expected, if only because I knew, for him, life on this earth had ceased to be everything it could be. It was time. April was also the end of snow (although Maine still had giant piles of dirty, dripping snow in places). For books it was alot of really good stuff:

  • Flint’s Law by Paul Eddy ~ read in April to finish the series started last month (although there is a third Flint book that is NOT on the challenge list that I want to read…
  • “Two Tramps at Mud Time” by Robert Frost ~ in honor of April being poetry month and Monhegan’s mud season.
  • A Drinking Life: a Memoir by Peter Hamill ~ in honor of April being Alcohol Awareness Month. This was my first audio book for the BL Challenge and here’s the cool thing – I didn’t feel like I was cheating! Yay!
  • “The Exorcist of Notre-Dame” by David Kirby ~ in honor of Poetry month.
  • Alice Springs by Nikki Gemmell ~ in honor of Australia and April being the best time to visit. This was lyrical and brassy. Just the way I like ’em.
  • “The Bells are Ringing for Me and Chagall” by Terence Winch ~ in honor of poetry month. Sexy poem by the way!
  • Great Fortune: the Epic of Rockefeller Center by Daniel Okrent ~ in honor of April being Architecture Month. This was fun to read because it ended up being about more than a building.
  • “At Marlborough House” by Michael Swift ~ in honor of Poetry month.
  • Journey Beyond Selene: Remarkable Expeditions Past Our Moon and to the Ends of the Solar System by Jeffrey Kluger ~ in honor of April being the anniversary month of Apollo.
  • “Blue Garden” by Dean Young~ in honor of Poetry month.
  • Bear Went over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle ~ in honor of April Fool’s Day and something silly.
  • “Goodbye, Place I Lived Nearly 23 Years” by Dean Young ~ in honor of Poetry month
  • “Skin of Our Teeth” a play by Thornton Wilder ~ in honor of April being National Brothers Month.
  • “By a Swimming Pool Outside Siracusa” by Billy Collins ~ in honor of Poetry month
  • “Dear Derrida” and “Strip Poker” by David Kirby ~ in honor of Poetry Month

For the Early Review Program (LibraryThing) it was The Good Daughter: a Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life by Jasmin Darznik.