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).


Topper

Smith, Thorne. Topper: a Ribald Adventure. New York: Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, 1926.

Reason read: Thorne Smith’s birth month was in March.

Cosmo Topper is an odd duck and his story is an even goofier one. After hearing about a young couple tragically killed in a car accident he sets out to buy their automobile from a mechanic. He has never driven a car and so obviously he doesn’t have a license. Despite all that, something prompts him to hide the purchase of the car from Mrs. Topper as well as keep secret the subsequent driving lessons he needs in order to operate the motor vehicle. But the trouble really begins when the ghosts of George and Marion Kirby, the couple killed in the accident, start haunting Mr. Topper and their old vehicle. For lack of a better word they are troublemakers, materializing at will and causing general mayhem. Things turn scandalous when Mr. Kirby leaves his wife. Vixen Marion is left to haunt Mr. Topper by her playful self.

Quotes I actually smiled at: “Mr. topper could excuse nature and the Republican Party, but not man” (p 9), “Nearing forty and acquiring flesh” (p 17), and “Mrs. Kirby’s smile had caused Mr. Topper to feel much less married” (p 25).

Confessional: is it terrible that my favorite character was Scollops, the cat?

Author fact: Thorne lived from 1893 to 1934 and died at age forty one years of age.

Book trivia: Topper was made into a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl said “not to miss out on discovering or reacquainting yourself with Topper.” (Book Lust p 101). She then goes on to explain the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ghost Stories” (p 99).


Monkey’s Raincoat

Crais, Robert. The Monkey’s Raincoat. New York: Perfect Crime Book, 1987.

Reason read: I needed another category for March and decided to throw this one in the mix because March is a rainy month. Get it? Sigh.

It’s really too bad I don’t have a lot more of Robert Crais on my reading list. I fell in love with wisecracking private investigator, Elvis Cole, immediately. (My only other Crais is a Joe Pike mystery.) But, back to Elvis Cole. With Cole’s affinity for Disney characters, yoga, and a cat named nothing, he is a bundle of personality and then some. He’s thirty five years old, former military and security, likes to look at the ladies and isn’t above saying something outrageous just to see someone’s reaction. What’s not to love? I took to his sarcastic kindness right away.
When we first meet Elvis, he is about to launch into a new investigation involving a weepy woman’s missing husband and son. All clues lead to Mr. Missing taking off with a sexy young girlfriend until he is found shot to death in the Hollywood Hills. What starts off as a simple missing case has now evolved into a murderous mystery involving high stakes drug deals gone wrong and bad ass thugs who will stop at nothing to regain the upper hand. It is up to Elvis and his silent (in more ways than one) partner, Joe Pike, to find Ellen’s missing son and bring him back, dead or alive. The details are a little dated (these are the days of calling from street corner payphones and Wang Chung hits), but still a good read.
Mousy mom Ellen Lang was a mystery to me. She didn’t get Cole’s joke about the humor of paramedics (keeping one “in stitches”) yet she understood that two years at the “University of Southeast Asia” meant a stint in Vietnam. Throughout the entire book she wasn’t consistent to me. Someone who was consistent and I wanted more of was Joe Pike. The inside flap described him as an enigma and that just scratches the surface of Pike’s personality. Can’t wait to read more about him later.

Quote I liked, “Everything always goes wrong whent the cameras turned away” (p 27).

Author fact: If you ever get the chance to check out the author photo on the back of The Monkey’s Raincoat, please do. Robert Crais could not look any cooler in his over-sized sunglasses, Batman tee-shirt and glowing white kicks. The pose is pretty bad ass, too.

Book trivia: The Monkey’s Raincoat won the Anthony and Macavity Awards.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Monkey’s Raincoat except to include it in a list she called “private eye novels.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 116).


Foundation and Empire

Asimov, Isaac. Foundation and Empire. New York: Bantam Books,

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

I am going to write the blah blah review because, after all, I only need to prove I read the thing. I never said I would enjoy it.
Part I of Foundation and Empire focuses on General Bel Riose and his attempt to take over the empire. He needs to be able to make metals (tungsten out of aluminum and iridium out of iron). When Riose launches a plan to attack the Foundation a trader by the name of Lathan intercepts the plot. Lathan runs to the Emporor of Trantor to squeal on Riose.
Part II of Foundation and Empire takes place 100 years later. A strange mutant called “the Mule” is terrorizing the land with his ability to manipulate the emotions of those around him. He changes the course of the empire in a myriad of ways.
Confessional: I hate it when I get confused by details. On page 120 Bayta sends the clown out of the room (…and the clown left without a sound”). Yet, a few paragraphs later the Captain turns to the clown to ask him a question (“The captain faced the trembling Magnifico, who obviously distrusted this huge, hard man who faced him” p 22). What the what? The clown would have to have left the room and then immediately come right back in according to the narrative but nowhere does it indicate Magnifico does that.

Can I be truthful? If these Foundations were not as short as they are, I wouldn’t be reading them.

Quotes I liked, “All was arranged in such a way that the future as foreseen by the unalterable mathematics of psychohistory would involve their early isolation from the main body of Imperial civilization and their gradual growth intho the germs of the Second Galactic Empire- cutting an inevitable barbarian interregnum from thirty thousand years to scarcely a thousand” (p 22).

Book trivia: Foundation and Empire consist of two different stories and is considered the second book in the series.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Foundation and Empire.

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


Beak of the Finch

Weiner, Jonathan. The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. Read by John McDonough. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2017.

Weiner, Jonathan. The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Reason read: February is Feed the Birds Month.

Islands are the perfect laboratory for studying a species. In the case of the Galapagos archipelago, the islands are isolated like a fortress; no one can easily arrive or depart. Princeton University biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant, along with their daughters, take a small group of scientists to help them investigate Darwin’s finches. By the beak of the finch they are able to track an evolutionary journey through time. Beak of the Finch is an extraordinary account of survival of the fittest as it happened then; as it is happening right now. Our world is constantly evolving and adapting and we aren’t done yet.
Word to the wise – listen to this on audio. John McDonough does a fantastic job. Weiner’s writing may be approachable science, but McDonough’s reading makes it all the more enjoyable.
As an aside, I love books I like to describe as “rabbit holes.” They take me to knowledge I never would have learned otherwise. I think people describe the internet that way sometimes. In this case, I learned that when a finch is ready to mate its beak turns black. Who knew? Also, at one point Weiner was describing the weather and mentioned El Nino which in turn made me wonder about the name El Nino. I had never really thought about its origin before. Turns out, El Nino means “the child” in Spanish and the storms are named as such because they tended to arrive around Christmastime.

Author fact: Weiner also wrote Time, Love, Memory: a Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origin of Behavior (which I have already read) and His Brother’s Keeper: a Story from the Edge of Medicine, also on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Beak of the Finch won a Pulitzer. Another piece of trivia is that Beak of the Finch is full of great illustrations like the one of the iguana on page 104.

Nancy said: In Book Lust Pearl describes the plot to Beak of the Finch. In More Book Lust she has a whole chapter (of only three books) dedicated to Weiner and says specifically of Beak of the Finch, “about evolutionary biology as played out on an island in the Galapagos” (More Book Lust p 233). Finally, in Book Lust To Go Pearl says Beak of the Finch is “wonderfully written, extremely readable, and a superb example of the best kind of popular science writing” (Book Lust To Go p 88).

BookLust Twist: Nancy loves this book. It is indexed in all three Lust books: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Bird Brains” (p 39), in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jonathan Weiner: Too Good to Miss” (p 233) and again in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Galloping Through the Galapagos” (p 88).


Good Night Willie Lee

Walker, Alice. Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning. SanDiego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979.

Reason read: Walker’s birth month is in February.

Here’s how I read Good Night Willie Lee. I inhaled a poem, held my breath to ponder the collection of words within it, and exhaled my understanding of the connection to life. One poem at a time. Like rhythmic yoga breaths; like steady waves upon the shore, I took my time with each one of them. Each poem deserved to be fully digested as such. For when you read Walker’s poetry you get the sense she died a little with each offering. A small offering of her soul mixed with the words.

Favorite line – from the poem called Confession: “through cracks in the conversation.” What a beautiful image.

Author fact: Walker also wrote Meridian and Possessing the Secret of Joy, two novels also on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: the last poem in the book explains the title. I picture her father’s funeral.

Nancy said: Pearl said that Walker is best known for her award winning novel, The Color Purple, but “readers shouldn’t miss her poetry” (Book Lust p 2).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “A…My Name is Alice” (p 1).


Wishbones

Perrotta, Tom. The Wishbones. New York: Berkely Books, 1998.

Reason read: The movie starring Adam Sandler, “the Wedding Singer” was released in February.

Dave Raymond is thirty-one years old and still living with his parents in suburban New Jersey, but then again, so is his on and off girlfriend of fifteen years, Julie. They find living with their parents a drag, especially when they need to sneak around to have sex but given the circumstances, who wouldn’t at that age? For Julie, living with the ‘rents is a matter of convenience but for Dave it is a necessity in order to be a New York City courier by day and a wedding band musician on the weekends. The courier job is just to get him by. Playing guitar with the Wishbones is all he has ever known. So what is it that makes him upset this whole little world by announcing to Julie one night “let’s get married”? Immediately he wants to stuff the words back in his mouth and pretend no such pronouncement passed his lips. Maybe that’s why he starts an affair with an edgy Brooklyn poet named Gretchen. As the wedding draws near Dave is at a crossroad in his life and for the first time ever, he needs to make a mature decision.

As an aside, I found it curious that the band didn’t have a lead guitar player. Bass, sax, drummer, accordion, keyboards… I guess Dave was supposed to act as lead along with backing vocals?

Silly humor to quote, “Margaret was a formally pleasant person whose personality had been ruined by constant dieting” (p 61).

Author fact: Perrotta knows his music. I loved all the references to different bands. Especially this one, “You couldn’t really imagine Chrissie Hynde or Natalie Merchant dancing around in twelve different hats” (p 34).

Book trivia: this could have been a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl lists The Wishbones as a first novel she was delighted to have read (Book Lust p 88) and she just describes the plot in More Book Lust.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “First Novels” (p 88). Also, in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jersey Guys and Gals” (p 130).