Gunshot Road

Hyland, Adrian. Gunshot Road. New York: Soho Press, 2010.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of I have no idea what. I continue to have no idea.

In the last Emily Tempest installment, Emily had just returned to the Outback. When we catch up to her in Gunshot Road, she has settled in as a Aboriginal Community Police Officer (ACPO) for the Bluebush police department. Only half the uniform fits her and she is “allergic to authority.” Add her temperament as a hothead, not afraid of authority and you can imagine why the job isn’t sitting with her as comfortably as she (and others) would like. To top it off, her superior is a by-the-book replacement by the name of Bruce Cockburn. Cockburn is filling in for Emily’s old friend, Tom MacGillivray while Tom is hospitalized. Unfortunately, Bruce doesn’t get Emily at all. All the barriers are there; the biggest being gender. As a female investigator she isn’t taken seriously. Being biracial doesn’t help either. Her very first case is a murder investigation at the Green Swamp Well Roadhouse and she has very little support during the investigation. Par for the course, someone is covering up something much bigger.
As an aside, Emily is someone I could kick back with and enjoy a beer. I admire her smart, funny, and courageous attitude. I do not, however, believe she could fire a shotgun with her big toe while wrestling, with her hands tied, with a 200lb+ brute. As you can probably tell, there is a lot of violence in Hyland novels.
Best part of Gunshot Road: Emily’s best friend, Hazel, and boyfriend, Jojo, are back. Yes!

Quote to quote, “Rage and shame, deaf to reason, swept through me in storms that tore aware the flimsy tarps lashed above my soul” (p 241 – 242).

As another aside, I was bothered by the cruelty towards animals in both Hyland books. It seems as if the citizens of the Aboriginal bush like to take their revenge out on dogs. A dog in Moonlight Downs was punched a killing blow because it bit a trespasser. This time, in Gunshot Road, a dog was beaten with a hammer. I’m more of a cat person but geeze!

Author fact: I wish I was reading Hyland’s nonfiction, Kinglake-350. It won a few awards. As of Gunshot Road, I am officially done with this author.

Book trivia: the one thing I remember commenting on before is Hyland’s use of music in his books. Almost right away in Gunshot Road he quoted “Mother and Child Reunion.” He also introduced me to the Pigram Brothers, a band of seven brothers from Broome, WA in Australia. Coral Cowboys, Cold Chisel, and Buffalo Express are others.

Nancy said: Gunshot Road was included in the list of Australian fiction that shouldn’t be missed.

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


March Same As It Ever Was

This March will mark my eighth time running the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race. When I lived in town I would watch the runners race by, seemingly effortlessly. I could spy on them from my third floor apartment; while I sipped coffee I wondered what it would be like to able to run six miles knowing believing I couldn’t run a single one. Look at me now, Dad.

Here are the books I’m reading for the month of March:

Fiction:

  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear – in honor of International Women’s month and to check off a category from the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge list (a cozy mystery).
  • Miss Mole by E.H. Young – in honor of Young’s birth month.
  • The Calligrapher by Edward Docx – in honor of March is Action Hero month.
  • On the Night Plain by J. Robert Lennon – in honor of Yellowstone National Park.
  • Pandora’s Star by Peter Hamilton – in honor of sci-fi month.

Nonfiction:

  • All Elevations Unknown: an Adventure into the Heart of Borneo by Sam Lightner, Jr. – in honor of the first time Mount Kinabu was ascended (March 1851).
  • Baghdad without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia by Tony Horwitz – in memory of the March 2003 bombing of Baghdad.

Series Continuations:

  • Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland – to continue the series started in January in honor something I can’t remember.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • The 21: A Journey into the Land of the Coptic Martyrs by Martin Mosebach (started in February).

January Jinxed

January is a month of great indecision. I can’t decide if I want to say more…
If there is one thing I can say for the January books, it is that most all of the fiction made mention of great music. Some musicians I knew, some I didn’t. Some songs I knew, some I didn’t. I had fun looking it all up though.

Fiction:

  • Sanctuary by Ken Bruen (EB & print). Music: Philip Fogarty, Anne Lardi, Rolling Stones, Snow Patrol, Johnny Duhan.
  • The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (EB & print).
  • Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland (EB & print). Music: Lucinda Williams, Slim Dusty, Nick Cave, The Warumpi Band, Ry Cooder.
  • The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett (EB & print). Music: Charles Tenet.
  • Graced Land by Laura Kalpakian (EB & print). Music: Elvis, Elvis, and more Elvis.
  • The Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel (print). Music: Leonard Cohen, Beethoven, and the fictional heavy metal band, Panda Bear Soup.
  • The Passage to India by E.M. Forster (EB & print).

Nonfiction:

  • Barcardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten (EB & print).

Series continuations:

  • Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset (EB & print).
  • The Persuader by Lee Child (EB & AB).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Fine, Thanks by Mary Dunnewold (EB). Music: Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Mose Allison, Talking Heads, Aaron Copeland (can you tell, Dunnewold really likes music!).

Moonlight Downs

Hyland, Adrian. Moonlight Downs. New York: Soho Press, 2008.

Reason read: Believe it or not, I have no idea why I started reading this in January.

Emily Tempest is finally home after a long twelve-year absence. Half white and half Aboriginal, she must relearn her place in the landscape; to re-establish old relationships with the community and people she used to love. But, at the same time she is a pesky armchair detective, always poking her nose where it shouldn’t be. When a beloved member of the Moonlight Downs mob is murdered, Emily goes on the hunt to find his killer. It’s personal because Emily has an extra special relationship with the victim’s daughter.
Confessional: all throughout the book, when Emily was fearing for her life I thought it was an exaggeration until a few more people die. The amount of violence towards the end of the book was surprising.
Another confessional: you will appreciate Hyland’s glossary of Aboriginal words in the beginning of the book.

As an aside, I love it when there are little tiny overlaps in my books. I am reading about the Bacardi family in Cuba in another book. In Moonlight Downs a Cuban shows up in Australia.

Confessional: I kept a running list of all the characters I met in Moonlight Downs.

Best and only quote of the book, “As the fury subsided it made room for questions” (p 142).

Author fact: Hyland has lived and worked among the Indigenous people of Australia.

Book trivia: Moonlight Downs is the first Emily Tempest mystery in the series. It was published as Diamond Dove in Australia. As an aside, I am also reading Gunshot Road for the Challenge.

Nancy said: Pearl included Moonlight Downs in a list of more Australian fiction that “absolutely shouldn’t be missed” (Book Lust To Go p 30).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Australia, the Land of Oz: Fiction” (p 29).


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).


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).