Fine and Bitter Snow

Stabenow, Dana. A fine and Bitter Snow.  New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the sequel started in January in honor of the month Alaska became a state.

Kate is back. It’s been awhile since we last caught up with the feisty private investigating crime solver. In A Cold-Blooded Business she and single dad, Jack, were hot and heavy. Now several books later Jack is dead and Kate is sort of looking after his son from a previous marriage. As an FYI – Kate’s grandmother has also passed. In time, this detail will become important to the plot. For now, Kate needs a distraction from the grief these dual deaths have caused and, oddly enough, it comes in the form of oil drilling in southeast Alaska. Drilling in general has been a sensitive subject to all involved but when longtime friend and park ranger, Dan O’Brien, is deemed too environmentally friendly and is forced into early retirement, it becomes Kate’s mission to save his job. It becomes even more personal when a good friend of her grandmother’s is found murdered just days after agreeing to help Dan keep his job. Is the drilling in the wildlife preserve connected to this most recent death? State trooper, Jim Chopin, is on the case and he asks Kate to help…in more ways than one.

Confessional – I that this was the perfect pairing with Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior which is also an environmental drama.

Like I liked, “The moose might kick your ass and the grizzly might rip it off and the wolf might eat it, but they wouldn’t talk you to deal while they got on with the job” (p 232). This is Dana’s way of saying yeah, I know the woman is holding shotgun to Kate’s face and talking way too much, but I need to explain some motives here before she pulls the trigger.

Author fact: Stabenow also writes science fiction.

Book trivia: A Fine and Bitter Snow is Stabenow’s twelfth story.

Nancy said: nothing specific about A Fine and Bitter Snow.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).


How to be a Patient

Goldberg, Sana. How to be a Patient: the Essential Guide to Navigating the World of Modern Medicine. New York: Harper Wave, 2019.

Reason read: as part of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, this is the selection for the month of December.

The highest compliment I can pay any uncorrected proof is the desire to buy the book when it is finally published. I will be buying How To be a Patient in March. Despite the myriad of typos and less than stellar editing, the rest of the book is a worthwhile read even without the index and graphics. The very first thing Dr. Goldberg wrote that struck a chord with me is the fact no one is taught how to be a patient. You take classes to learn a skill, but no one ever walks you through how to be when you are sitting in the examination room of any medical facility. It’s eye-opening to think here is a medical professional who wants you to get it right the first time you meet anyone in health care. Hell, she wants you to have the right health care professional to begin with. Be warned though, her advice isn’t always practical. In theory it would be great to bring a “health advocate” like a friend or family member to every appointment, but who has time for that?
Goldberg’s language is approachable (to the point where she writes the word “dude” and uses profanity ). She doesn’t talk medical speak where every sentence is laden with technical jargon. Her advice is so down to earth I’m reminded of the commercial when a woman is urging herself to speak up, to tell her provider about the pain she is really feeling instead of downplaying or ignoring certain symptoms.

Disclaimer: like any medical advice, this book should not be seen as the end all, be all bible of personal health management. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. I am just a woman urging you to take Goldberg’s information with a grain of salt, a healthy amount of skepticism, or whatever it takes for you to think rationally about taking care of yourself.

Author fact: once I read that Dr. Goldberg liaises between academia and clinical practice, her stance on teaching someone how to navigate the medical world made sense. I have yet to see her Tedx Talk.

Book trivia: my uncorrected proof indicated there would be an index. This is slated to be published in March 2019.


Take This Man

Busch, Frederick. Take This Man. New York: Ballantine Books, 1983.

Reason read: February is Busch’s death month. Read in his memory.

This is a love story in its purest form. Simple plot: Ellen LaRue Spencer is on her way to California to see her soldier fiance who hasn’t shipped out to war yet. Her car breaks down in a barren midwest town where she meets hapless Tony Prioleau. Despite his unsuccessful business ventures and his thing for television (he wants to harness the power of television to assist in the war effort), Ellen is attracted to him and ends up in his bed..but she still leaves him for her fiance. Ten years later, a son shows up on Tony’s doorstep and the love Tony buried all those years ago comes bubbling back up. He accepts the boy as his own, no questions asked.
I don’t think it is a spoiler alert to say that Ellen herself comes back to Tony. But not without complications. She is still married and still confused about the depth of her attraction to Tony.
Confessional: the last twenty pages are heartbreaking.

Vivid lines, “…poured an unfresh breath into Prioleau’s face to say…” (p 46). I just love that image.
Other lines I liked, “And you cook like a mass murderer” (p 55). I don’t know what that would taste like. I’m guessing not good. And. And! And, “Twenty years later, and she was still in transit, collecting men at the edge of the sea (p 156) and “…but he was frightened as he stepped up onto the side porch to get hugged home” (p 192).

Author fact: Take This Man is Busch’s eighth book.

Book trivia: The cover of Take This Man is intriguing. Two people are adrift in a rowboat. In my mind it symbolized Tony and Ellen’s relationship. It was never solidified or tethered to reality.

Nancy said: absolutely nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Frederick Busch: Too Good To Miss” (p 48).


Beyond Euphrates

Stark, Freya. Beyond Euphrates: autobiography 1928 – 1933. London: John Murray, 1951.

Reason read: Stark was born in January. Reading Beyond Euphrates to continue the series.

When we left Freya at the end of Traveller’s Prelude Freya had just gained her independence as an adult and the travel bug had bitten hard. She takes her first journey in 1928 to Damascus. As a woman, traveling without an escort was unheard of in 1928. To make matters worse, because Freya could speak several different languages, she was believed to be a Russian spy when she reached Baghdad. The more Freya travels, the more her independent spirit grows. She scoffs at using escorts and chaperones. At one point she fears being tied to a job because it might keep her rooted in one place and yet she needed to earn a living in order to keep traveling. It was at this point that she started writing articles and her first book, Baghdad Sketches was published. Stark ends Beyond Euphrates in hopes of traveling to Yemen next. Amusingly enough, in her last letter to her mother she rejoices to find a good face cream.

Quotes to quote. An example of bravery: “I don’t mind the chance at being shot at, but did not want to be held up by police and kept all night in one of their solitary little towers for safety…” (p 270). An example of humor: “Darling B, I am busy with prostitutes” (p 267).

Author fact: Stark had a sense of humor. Case in point: “Captain Holt told me I had better go home from North Persia by way of Moscow (where he is to be): and I had to remind him that I am a Bolshevic spy” (p 127).

Book trivia: Beyond Euphrates also has great photographs. Not as many of Freya, though. Second book trivia – I am reading a first edition of Beyond Euphrates.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Lady Travellers” (p 142).


Full Steam Ahead

Blumberg, Rhoda. Full Steam Ahead: the Race to Build a Transcontinental Railroad. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 1996.

Reason read: February is Train Month.

The greed of gold brought out the best and worst in businessmen. Entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to cash in on the craze. For Theodore Judah he saw the need for a transcontinental railroad, not to transport passengers but supplies to the miners and merchants who supported them. Abraham Lincoln climbed aboard the idea of a transcontinental railroad because he envisioned the transportation of troops and supplies. Central Pacific Railroad started laying tracks west. Union Pacific starting laying tracks west. And the race was on.
Blumberg paints the historical picture of the birth of the transcontinental railroad in broad strokes. Written for young adults, she steamrolls through the Chinese labor used to build the railroad, the blasting of the mountains that stood in their way, conquering the arid desert, the conflict with the “wild” Indians, even the slaughter of buffalo, until she reaches the grand conclusion of the last spike celebration.

Author fact: Blumberg has written several books on historical events, but Full Steam Ahead is the only one I am reading.

Book trivia: Full Steam Ahead is meant for young adults so there are plenty of amazing photographs and illustrations. I appreciated the portraits and the political cartoon.

Nancy said: Pearl said a great way to learn about most things is to “read a really great children’s book on the subject” (p 200) and she listed Blumberg for learning about the transcontinental railroad.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Riding the Rails: Railroad History” (p 200).


Color of Money

Tevis, Walter. The Color of Money. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1984.

Reason read: Tevis was born in February. Read in his honor.

“Fast” Eddie Felson was a pool shark twenty years ago. He dominated the underground pool circuit as a hustler for big bucks. Now he is playing exhibition competitions against his former rival Minnesota Fats in shopping malls for cheap prizes. His future looks bleak as he sips his Manhattans. Thanks to a failed marriage Eddie has lost his pool hall business and he has no other real world skills to make a living. He has never had a 9 to 5 job that he liked. All he can do is what he has known since high school, shooting pool, playing the shark. He needs to reenter the world of competitive pool for money. But, how? He is an old man playing a young man’s game. The rules have changed along with the style of play. He has a lot to learn and Minnesota Fats can only take him so far.

As an aside, when The Color of Money was made into a movie I didn’t care for it. I had this opinion that Tom Cruise only starred in movies where the protagonist had to lose something big in order to shape up and fly straight (think Risky Business, Top Gun & Cocktail). This was one of those plots.

Author fact: Tevis was known for his short stories. He often wrote for Playboy magazine.

Book trivia: The Color of Money is the last novel Tevis wrote. Second book trivia – I did not know the Hustler should have been read first. “Fast” Eddie Felson is the protagonist in both stories. Once again, I have read them backwards. Sigh.

Nancy said: Nothing about The Color of Money.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Child Prodigies” (p 43). For the sake of argument I must say I don’t think The Color of Money belongs in this chapter. No one in this book is a child or a prodigy.


City of Falling Angels

Berendt, John. The City of Falling Angels. Read by Holter Graham. New York: RandomHouse Audio, 2005.

Reason read: Read in honor of Venice Carnivale, which takes place in February.

Author fact: You might recognize John’s name as the author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which was a best seller and made into a movie.

When one thinks of Venice, the imagery of gondolas and waterways and brightly colored carnival masks usually come to mind. Venice itself is a complicated city and lends itself to an air of old world intrigue. John Berendt fell in love with the city the first time he visited. Upon a subsequent visit, Berendt arrived three days after a devastating fire has ravaged the grand a historic La Fenice Opera House. Rumors of arson swirl among the community prompting Berendt to put on his investigative persona and dig in the ashes of history. Eventually, through meeting a cast of colorful characters, he uncovers the truths and fictions surrounding La Fenice Opera House and Venice.
Special note: if you want to read City of Falling Angels, do yourself a favor and listen to it on CD and make sure to get the version with Berendt’s interview at the end. His explanation for the title of the book is eyeopening.

Narrator trivia: Holter Graham is also an actor for the big screen but I haven’t seen any of his movies.

Book trivia: The first thing that Berendt tells you about City of Falling Angels is that it is true. None of the names have been changed. It is truly a work of nonfiction.

Nancy said: Berendt’s book “explores contemporary Venice” and that he makes the city sound beautiful “despite its bureaucratic nightmares and dangers” (p 241). She even includes a quote she found especially evocative.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Veni, Vedi, Venice” (p 240).