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.


Alice Springs

Gemmell, Nikki. Alice Springs. New York: Viking, 1999.

If you have ever read The Bean Trees or Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver you might be reminded of Taylor Greer when you read Nikki Gemmell’s Alice Springs. There are definite similarities between Taylor Greer and Phillipa “Snip” Freeman, the heroine of Alice Springs. For starters, both characters are fiercely independent; both have a wanderer spirit and a devil-may-care attitude about what anyone thinks of them. Neither of them can commit to a love interest. But, Snip is older, and takes more risks with relationships and sex than Taylor does. Snip rules her world with her body. She is used to loving and leaving the men she meets.

It is after her grandmother’s death that we first meet Snip. She has been given an inheritance check with the three word  instruction “hunt him down.” Snip knows the him is her father and hunting him down will be the easy part, for he isn’t hiding. It’s the why that has Snip puzzled. What is she supposed to do once the hunted has been successfully hunted? To get to her father, Bud, Snip travels to the Aboriginal  outback. Along the way Snip takes a traveling companion who gets under her skin more than she expects.Then, a surprising thing happens. The longer Snip stays rooted in one place the more she is exposed to the powers of belonging somewhere.

Gemmell writes like the ocean. The words flow with rhythmic intensity, pounding with violence, soothing with consistency. The storyline is liquid and slippery; it washes over you again and again.

Favorite lines (and there were a few): “No-one gets under her skin like her mother does, no-one hits on half-truths like her” (p 70) and “Some kids vanish from their parents’ lives , to rattle them into noticing” (p 120).

Author Fact: Gemmell anonymously wrote the erotic book The Bride Stripped Bare but claimed it as her own right before publication.

Book Trivia: On Gemmell’s website Alice Springs is explained as a novel that was born not with character or plot in mind, but with a place. I like that imagery a lot. In Australia Alice Springs was published under the name Cleve.

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


April ’11 is…

April marks the start of new ideas, new ways of thinking. Actually, the ideas sprouted in March but April is the month for seriously taking action. Idea #1 – probably the one I am the most conflicted about – A U D I O books. Yes, audio books. After nearly five years I am breaking my own rule. I must have known it would come to this because if you note, I say in this rule I will try to read the book rather than listen to audio or watch a video interpretation…It’s like I knew it would come to this. I guess I would like to think for the month of April I am breaking down and trying something new. This doesn’t come about because I didn’t try. Try, I did. Walking and reading don’t necessarily go together, especially on a treadmill. I know, ‘cuz I’ve tried. Since I can’t give up the training and I refuse to give up the reading I needed to find a compromise. I have. In the form of someone reading to me. So, without further delay, here is the list for April:

  • Flint’s Law by Paul Eddy. Finishing the series I started last month.
  • “At Marlborough House” by Michael Swift ~ in honor of April being poetry month I plan to read a poem in between each book.
  • Bear Went Over the Mountain by William Kotzwinkle ~ in honor of April Fools Day
  • “Two Tramps in Mud Time” by Robert Frost ~ in honor of poetry month.
  • A Drinking Life by Pete Hamill ~ in honor of April being Alcohol Awareness month. This is the book I will try to listen to instead of read…
  • “The Discovery of Daily Experience” by William Stafford ~ in honor of poetry month
  • Great Fortune: the Epic of Rockefeller Center by Daniel Okrent ~ in honor of National Architect month. What better way to celebrate architecture than with a book about one of the best known structures out there?
  • “Blue Garden” by Dean Young ~ in honor of poetry month
  • Alice Springs by Nikki Gemmell ~ in honor of April being the best time to visit Australia

For Librarything and the Early Review program I have The Good Daughter: a Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life by Jasmin Darznik. It (finally) came in the middle of last month.


The Road From Coorain

Road from Coorain
Conway, Jill Kerr. The Road From Coorain. New York: Vintage Books, 1989.

First and foremost for the record: Jill Kerr Conway was the very first woman president of Smith College. Just had to get that out there since we’re in the area and I thought that was a pretty interesting fact.
According to several different travel websites, April is the start of the best season to visit Australia. Taking that as my cue I decided Road From Coorain would be my very first April book.
My LibraryThing Review:
Jill Conway’s memoir is about her unusual childhood in Australia. Raised until she was 11 on a sheep farm in Coorain, Australia, Conway grows up without other children for companionship. All she knows are her family, (her only playmates being her older brothers), the hard work associated with raising sheep, and the cruelty of mother nature when she doesn’t bring the rains. She doesn’t have social graces, competitive edges or the typical angsts associated with coming-of age girls. Things like sports, fashion and friendships are lost on her when she finally reaches the big city of Sydney. I can certainly relate to all of it coming from an island life that lacked much of the same things.
One of my favorite parts of the book was when Jill goes back to Coorain to help with shearing season. She’s teetering on the edge of adulthood so she sees everything with a different eye and intellect. Comparing her life as it was she notices her mother’s gardens are all dead and gone. The house doesn’t have the luster of cleanliness. It’s decidedly more rundown than she remembered. She allows that the farm is no place for a young person. I see this moment as pivotal in Conway’s life. It helps her reach for loftier goals and makes her examine her own future.
My only disappointment? I wished Conway included pictures. I know, I know. Not all memoirs need mementos like photographs, but she described her personal landscape in such a way that I wanted more. Her house, her sheep, her family. I realize Conway painted adequate pictures of all of it, but it would have been nice to have more.
Favorite quotes:
“Had she known how to tell directions she would have walked her way to human voices” (p 25).
“Being Australian, we exchanged no deep confidences” (p 142).
“I was angry at myself for being so upset by receiving the treatment I ought to have expected anyway” (p 194).

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Girls Growing Up” (p 101).


Beyond the Black Stump

Shute, Nevil. Beyond the Black Stump. New York: William Morrow, 1956.

Nancy Pearl likes Nevil Shute. There is a whole chapter on him in More Book Lust. This being my first “Shute book” I was enchanted. Beyond the Black Stump is about an American geologist, Stanton Laird, who is assigned to dig for oil in Australia. Stanton is a stand-up guy with a secret in his past, but when he meets and falls in love with Mollie Regan in the Australian outback, he realizes can’t compete with her past. This is the story of two people too different to make it work. It goes beyond race or religion. Prejudices and historical resentments run deep for both families. Despite the plot being predictable I enjoyed getting to the conclusion no matter how obvious it would be.

“It’s the greed for the gold, the curse of the modern age. Avarice kills more men than any physical disease, I am afraid. These men will not make old bones” (p 136).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust and the chapter “Nevil Shute: Too Good To Miss” (p 199).