Summer Tree

Kay, Guy Gavriel. Summer Tree: The Fionavar Tapestry: Book One. New York: Roc Trade, 2001.

Expect the typical push and pull of good versus evil; light versus dark. Five typical college students are attending a lecture at the University of Toronto. This normal behavior grounds the lesser fan of fantasy and urges them to keep reading as the students are summoned by a dwarf and a mage to return to the world of Fionavar for a celebration. It’s High King Ailell of Brennin’s fiftieth year of rein and these five students are very important guests…or at least one of them seems to be. Being able to relate is the name of the game when trying to hook someone who isn’t a hard core fanatic of the fantasy genre. Summer Tree draws from Nordic and Celtic mythology as another way to insert familiarity into the plot. The characters are straight out of stereotyping (leave it to a burly man who has to avenge his humiliation with violence). The theme is definitely medieval, even in fashion with doublet and hose. The mystery of why these five students are important is dangled in front of the reader like a carrot on a stick. Another mystery is the sleeping danger that lurks beneath the mountain. This danger is hidden away and the possibility of its exposure is intriguing. All told, it is the dangerous Summer Tree that is the star of the show. The Summer Tree has blood magic and is sacred to Mornir of the Thunder. It is the place where people hang naked until the ultimate sacrifice of death.

The players:
Kevin, the musician.
Dave, the law student. He has a bad feeling about going to this new world and tries to bail at the last minute. He instead goes missing.
Kim Ford, studying to be a doctor. She becomes a seer early in the plot.
Paul Shafer, not well and grieving for a dead girlfriend.
Jennifer Lowell, a target for the prince’s affections.
Loren, the mage. Also known as Silvercloak.
Diamuid, the prince who has a thing for Jennifer.

One complaint is the implausible emotion brought on by unrealistic dialogue. Case in point: if a friend told me a dog “wanted” him I would have a hard time leaving the statement to hang in the air without so much as a raised eyebrow. I would be quizzically asking what he meant, or at the very least exclaiming the less intelligent, “whaa?!?”
A writing tactic I appreciated was the different perspectives of the same situation. It was reminiscent of Michael Dorris’s Yellow Raft in Blue Water, which I loved.

Expect a little sexism. Leave it to a man who has to avenge his humiliation. Case in point, most annoying quote: “She was growing too undisciplined; it was time to have her married.”

Author fact: Kay has been compared to Tolkien a bunch of times.

Book trivia: Summer Tree is Book One of the Fionavar Tapestry. There are two other books in the series.

Nancy said: Summer Tree was included in Pearl’s list of contemporary critically acclaimed fantasy.

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


Eye of the Leopard

Mankell, Henning. The Eye of the Leopard. Translated by Steven T. Murray. New York: Random House, 2009.

Reason read: Read in honor of Levy Mwanawasa Day in Zambia.

Jumping between Hans Olofson’s Swedish childhood in Norrland and adult life in Mutshatsha, Africa, Eye of the Leopard depresses its reader with hopelessness and failure. Hans tries to escape memories of a father driven to drink out of loneliness and a series of personal tragedies by embarking on the quest that once belonged to a now deceased girlfriend. Janine wanted to see the mission station and grave of a legendary missionary, but as a 25 year old white European, Hans is confronted with grim realities. Janine’s dream is not his to obtain. Not only is he sorely out of place due to ignorance, his skin color is monumentally hated. A series of abandonments haunt him: his father left him for the bottle, Janine died, his best friend disowned him, and his mother just plain vanished when he was a small child. Sweden was a mediocre existence; an ultimate dead end. Even Africa is not what he envisioned for himself. Despite being ready to leave as soon as he arrives, Olofson takes a job on an egg farm. His own actions confound him. While Africa gives him a clean slate from everyone who deserted him and every failure he experienced in Norrland, he can’t imagine calling a place like Africa home.
The title of the novel comes from Olofson’s obsessive hallucination of a leopard in the African bush. The leopard comes to be symbolic of everything Olofson can’t escape.

Quotes that got me, “It is a constant reminder of a sailor who wound up in the utterly wrong place, who managed to make landfall where there wasn’t any sea,” “In every person’s life there are ill-considered actions, trips that never needed to be taken,” and “He feels like a conman who has grown tired of not being unmasked.”

Author fact: Mankell traveled to Africa. Many suspect parts of Eye of the Leopard to be autobiographical.

Book trivia: Eye of the Leopard is a departure from Mankell’s Swedish mysteries. Incidentally, there was a National Geographic documentary of the same name produced in 2006. Completely unrelated to the book, though.

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Eye of the Leopard except to say it takes place in Zambia, just after it achieved independence.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the penultimate chapter simply called “Zambia” (p 266).


My Fence is Electric: and Other Stories

Newman, Mark. My Fence is Electric: and Other Stories. Australia: Odyssey Books, 2020.

Reason read: as part of the Early Review program for LibraryThing I was selected to read and review My Fence is Electric.

It would have been great If Newman had called his book, My Fence is Electric: and Other Eclectic Stories because the stories are both electric and eclectic. Twenty seven in all; ranging from a single paragraph to several pages long, they run the gamut of plot, theme, character, voice and emotional impact. Newman’s talent as a writing chameleon is apparent in every paragraph. The very first story reminded me of Lovely Bones while another had me thinking of the Daley twins. Despite the entire volume being extremely short, take your time with this one. Savor the stories as if you would an elaborate charcuterie. Each bite is a different adventure.

Author fact: Newman has a a website here.


Nemesis

Christie, Agatha. Nemesis. New York: Signet, 2000.

Reason read: Christie’s birth month is in September. Read in her honor even though I already read her Murder on the Orient Express this summer.

Nemesis is a breath of fresh air. When seemingly ordinary people: dentists, librarians, park guides (what have you) get caught up in murders again and again and again I get annoyed by the coincidence…especially if it is an unexplained phenomenon. Miss Jane Marple addresses crime’s ability to find her time and time again, acknowledging how odd it is for this elderly women to be an accidental investigator. I found that refreshing.
On to the plot: Jason Rafiel, an extremely wealthy man dies. Seeing his name in the obituary section of the newspaper sends Miss Marple down memory lane. She immediately beings to reminisce about the deceased even though she only met him once on a trip in the Caribbean West Indies. Oddly enough, they were thrown together to solve a mystery. Imagine that! What a coincidence when she receives a letter from the dead man asking her to take on an investigation without any information. If she can, she stands to earn 20,000. Is she to solve a crime or just a conundrum? Miss Jane Marple, elderly and nosy, is up to the task despite not knowing a single detail. Dear readers, this will be the final case of her investigative career. Back to the drama: Mysterious Mr. Rafiel sends her on a garden tour lasting two to three weeks and prearranges every detail for Miss Marple, right down to the people she needs to meet.
A warning to those sensitive to a time before political correctness: there is a lot of ageism and sexism. I have a high tolerance for the days before being polite…except for when they say a woman is asking to be raped. “Girls, you must remember, are far more ready to be raped nowadays than they used to be.” Whatever that means. I also took offense to the line, “Accuracy is more of a male quality than a female one.” Again, whatever.

Confessional: I have always wanted to read a Miss Marple mystery.

Lines I did like, “Well, she hadn’t wished to get mixed up in any murders, but it just happened” (p 8) and “Miss Marple lost herself in a train of thoughts that arose from her thoughts” (p 53).

Author fact: Besides the character of Miss Jane Marple, Christie is responsible for the creation of Inspector Hercule Poirot.

Book trivia: Nemesis is a Miss Marple mystery. The interesting thing is this is the only Miss Marple I am reading for the Lust Challenge, and it is well down the list in the series, meaning it was written late in Christie’s life. I have no idea why Pearl chose this particular title.

Nancy said: Pearl said Nemesis was “written quite late in Christie’s career, but up to her high standards” (Book Lust p 118).

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


Holes

Sachar, Louis. Holes. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998.

Reason read: September would have been Back to School month for most children. Now it’s the back to school month for some children, thanks to COVID-19.

This is one of the more imaginative books for kids I have read in a long time. Stanley Yelnats stands accused of stealing the shoes of a major league baseball legend nicknamed Sweet Feet. He claimed they mysteriously fell from the sky and hit him on the head. In lieu of jail, Stanley’s punishment of choice is 180 days at Camp Green Lake, a correctional facility for delinquent boys (“this isn’t Girl Scouts”). Once Stanley arrives he quickly learns every boy has to dig a 5’x5′ hole once a day in a desert full of scorpions, rattle snakes, and yellow lizards. Every boy has a nickname and every boy had a place in the pecking order. Stanley, soon renamed Caveman, is in the back of the line; ruled by X-Ray, Armpit, and the others. Interspersed in Stanley’s story is the legend of his family’s curse and how it follows Stanley to drought-ridden Camp Green Lake. I could go on and on about how clever Holes is, but it will take you a day to read it for yourself.

Author fact: Sachar has his own website here.

Book trivia: Holes was made into a movie in 2003 starring Shia LaBeouf and Sigourney Weaver. Of course I haven’t seen it, but it looks cute. Update: by the time I turned the very last page of the book I had the movie queued up.

Nancy said: Pearl said Holes was appropriate for boys and girls alike.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls”


Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Doyle, Arthur Conan. The Complete Sherlock Holmes: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. New York: Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003.

Reason read: Doyle died in July. Read in his memory.

If you were to read the Complete Sherlock Holmes in chronological order, you would not start with the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The short stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, twelve in all, start after Holmes and Watson have gone their separate ways and are no longer sharing rooms of a flat together. Watson is by this time married with a house of his own while Holmes is still on Baker Street. One constant that remains throughout all the stories is Holmes’s ability to confuse people with his keen sense of observation. “How could you know that?” is a constant refrain. Another constant is that all of the stories are told in first person from Watson’s point of view.

Short stories:

  • “Scandal in Bohemia” – a Duke and heir King is blackmailed by an actress. Sherlock, with the help of Holmes, attempts to end the threat but the woman outsmarts them.
  • “Red-Headed League” – what do you get when you mix a redhead, an Encyclopedia, a bank, and a scam? Answer: a Sherlock Holmes mystery, of course!
  • “A Case of Identity” – How far will a man go to keep his stepdaughter from marrying?
  • “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” – Did a man really murder his father or is there more going on?
  • “The Five Orange Pips” – a curse has come down through the generations, terrorizing a family.
  • “The Man with the Twisted Lip” – This was my favorite. A man goes missing and is believed to be dead while his wife has faith he is alive.
  • “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” – Who stole this precious jewel?
  • “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” – another crazy story about a father not wanting his daughters to marry because of losing the inheritance.
  • “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb” – is it a spoiler to say this is one story where the criminals get away?
  • “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” – Just what the title says, a guy does the right thing.
  • “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet” – family devotion illustrated with a coronet.
  • “The Adventure of the Copper Beaches” – a really interesting story about trying to thwart a wedding (another common theme for Sherlock).

Author fact: rumor has it, Sherlock Holmes is somewhat modeled after Dr. Joseph Bell, a professor of Dolye’s at Edinburgh University.

Book trivia: Despite publishing two novels previously, Doyle’s career didn’t take off until he started writing short stories. The twelve listed above were published together in 1892.

Nancy said: Pearl included the Complete Sherlock Holmes in a list of private-eye mysteries.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the really long chapter called “I love a Mystery” (p 117).


The Girl Who Played with Fire

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl Who Played with Fire. New York: Vintage, 2011.

Reason read: to continue the series started in July in honor of the Swedish festivals.

Here is the great thing about the continuation of Larsson’s “The Girl…” series. He doesn’t spend a lot of time recounting what happened in the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is as if he depends on you to immediately pick up the next book in the series order to keep the drama going at breakneck speed. Larsson does fill you in wherever necessary for the sake of plot flow; and to catch you up in case you have forgotten some small detail. How he knows that. I don’t know. For the most part, The Girl Who Played with Fire is its own story in and of itself.
Lisbeth Salander is “growing up” before our eyes. You cannot help but like this tough, odd woman-child. She starts removing tattoos and piercings, not because she wants to change her identity (although those simple changes and breast implants alter her previously recognizable look considerably), but rather because she is changing internally. She is starting to feel things which may or may not be a good thing. After being away from Sweden from a year she comes home which definitely is not a good thing. I won’t go into the details, but Lisbeth finds herself accused of a triple murder which is a brilliant move on Larsson’s part. This allows for Lisbeth’s past to be revealed under intense scrutiny. Many questions about Lisbeth’s character come to light.
Meanwhile, Salander’s former flame, Mikael Blomkrist, is busy as editor back at Millennium. Mikael continues to be the ladies’s man, this time starting a relationship with the very woman he was asked to find in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Considering how that book ended, this may or not be a good thing as well.

Author fact: Stieg’s given first name is Karl.

Book trivia: The Girl Who Played with Fire was made into a Swedish film (2009) and a television miniseries (2010).

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about The Girl Who Played with Fire.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It.” (p 222).


Lisey’s Story

King, Stephen. Lisey’s Story: a Novel. New York: Scribner, 2006.

Reason read: in honor of going to Maine for two weeks I decided to read a Maine author. Everyone knows Stephen King.

Many view this work of Stephen King’s as a “different” kind of horror story, and while I found that to be true, it didn’t hook me the way other King stories have. There was a great deal of terminology repetition that should have kept me questioning what it all meant, but really didn’t (constant reference to blood-bools, smucking, smuckup, strapping it on, SOWISA, to name a few…).
Widow Lisey Landon has a stalker who is after her dead husband’s papers. As a well known and prize winning author, his unpublished manuscripts could be worth a fortune. We don’t know how Scott died, but we do know he survived an assassination attempt and Lisey has other memories too terrible to recall. Her horrible thoughts are repeatedly cut off in mid-sentence, a tactic designed to keep the reader in suspense, but ultimately ended up annoying this particular reader. In the winter of 1996 something happened; something that was too terrible to conjure completely. Lisey stops herself from thinking through her memory.
It is true that damaged people seek out other damaged people to form a warped kind of kinship. It is only natural that Scott, a product of unspeakable abuse and horror, should gravitate towards Lisey whose own sister practices self-mutilation (and ultimately falls into a catatonic state). Lisey sees all the warning signs before marrying Scott but decides to ignore them. The good moments far outweigh the bad. Isn’t that always the way in abusive relationships?
King is an expert at hinting at danger to come. There is always something ominous lurking around the corner, just out of sight. Hints, whispers, winking in the dark like strands of smoke from an arson’s fire…

Author fact: King said this is one of his favorites and always pictured it as a television series. Rumor has it, a network is doing just that.

Book trivia: King always wanted to make Lisey’s Story into a serial television show. It was made into a mimi series starring Julianne Moore.

Nancy said: Pearl says she “frequently suggest[s]” Lisey’s Story as a horror book that isn’t too horrible. She also claims it is a good book for book groups, as well (Book Lust To Go p 136).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).


Moby Dick

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Illustrated by Joseph Ciardiello. New York: Reader’s Digest, 1989.

Reason read: August is the month to be by the sea.

Who doesn’t know the story of Captain Ahab and his obsessive hunt for the albino whale he calls Moby Dick?
What makes Moby Dick such an iconic story is Ishmael and his keen observations, not just of monomaniacal Captain Ahab, but of the entire crew of the Peaquod and the everlasting mythology surrounding whales. While his voice changes throughout the narrative, he remains the iconic character driving the story. There is a rage in Ahab that is mirrored in Ishmael. There is also a lack of faith in Ishmael that is mirrored in Ahab. While there is an adventure plot, Moby Dick also has a mix of religion (sermon of Jonah and the Whale); the study of the color white as it relates to mountains, architecture, and of course, inhabitants of the ocean, whales and sharks; a lecture of the different types of whales, including the narwhal. Additionally, Moby Dick offers didactic lectures on a variety of subjects: art, food, religion, slavery. [As an aside, although it is a realistic exchange between the cook, Fleece, and sailor Stubb, it made me uncomfortable.]

Quotes to quote, “It’s only his outside; a man can be honest in any sort of skin (p 38), “Yes, as anyone knows, meditation and water are wedding forever” (p 24), and “All our arguing with him would not avail; let him be, I say: and Heaven may have mercy on us all…for we are somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending” (p 89).

Author fact: it is sad to think that Herman Melville did not find success as a writer until after death.

Book trivia: The illustrations by Joseph Ciardiello are pretty cool.

Nancy said: Pearl said the opening line to Moby Dick slipped her mind and that is why it wasn’t included in her first book, Book Lust.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Lines that Linger, Sentences that Stick” (p 140). As an aside, the title is hyphenated as Moby-Dick in the index while my copies (print and audio) are not. As another aside, I have to argue with the inclusion of Moby Dick in this chapter. If another lesser book started off “Call me Harold” would it have been included? Probably not. What makes “Call me Ishmael” is not the opening line itself, but the epic story that follows. Those three words are only the gateway to an unforgettable and insane adventure.


Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society

Shaffer, Mary Ann and Annie Barrows. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. New York: Dial Press, 2008.

Reason read: Poland usually celebrates a music festival in August. Probably not this year. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society does not take place in Poland, nor has anything to do with Poland.

Epistolary novels are always fun to read. The trick for the author is to make each letter-writer’s voice different. I would like to imagine Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece, Annie Barrows writing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by writing back and forth to each other because the exchanges are very well done. However, I know that Shaffer asked Barrows to assist in finishing the book when she became ill.
So, for the plot: Imagine it is January 1946. The Second Great War has come to a close and everyone is dealing with the aftermath, especially England. London writer and biographer Juliet Ashton receives a letter out of the blue from a man in the Channel Islands. He is a complete stranger but has read Ashton’s article on Charles Lamb. Of course Ashton writes back as soon as she hears the gentleman is a member of the curious society called the Guernsey and Potato Peel on the island of Guernsey. Soon Ashton gets the idea to write a piece about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. It all started with an illegal roast pig supper…What follows is not your typical romance or even your typical historical novel about the German occupation during World War II, but a strange and wonderful combination of the two.

Best quote to quote, “Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books” (p 53).

Author(s) facts: Mary Ann Shaffer was a librarian and an editor who died in 2008. Annie Barrows is Shaffer’s niece.

Book trivia: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was a New York Times Bestseller.

Nancy said: In the chapter “Guernsey: History in Fiction” Pearl called Shaffer’s book “excellent” (p 90), but in “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 181), Pearl compared another book to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

BookLust Twist: a double mention in Book Lust To Go. First, in the chapter called simply “Guernsey: History in Fiction” (p 90), and then in the chapter called “Polish Up Your Polish” (p 181). Disclaimer: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society has nothing to do with Poland and should not be mentioned in “Polish Your Polish.” It’s another one of those “if you like this book, then you will love this book” mentions.


Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Translated by Reg Keeland. New York: Random House, 2008.

Reason read: Sweden festival of Trastock occurs in July.

Mikael Blomkrist put his tail between his legs when he lost a libel suit brought against him by multimillionaire Hans-Erik Wennestrom. Unlike the United States where if you are convicted of a crime you immediately start serving your sentence, in Sweden Blomkrist is allowed to travel to the coastal town of Hedestad to help an old man solve the case of his missing niece under the guise of writing Henrik Vanger’s storied biography. Beware, it’s a huge family tree so study it well.
Meanwhile, back in Stockholm Croatian born Dragan Armansky, financial director, CEO and COO of Milton Security, and expert in financial fraud is investigating Blomkrist. He knows there is more to the story than what was exposed in court. How can a top notch journalist screw up so badly? He puts his best researcher on the case. If anyone can dig up the dirt it’s Lisbeth Sander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Known only as Wasp in certain circles, Lisbeth could pass for a child if it weren’t for a bunch of punk face piercings, a really bad attitude, and a steel trap memory.
It goes without saying Sander and Blomkrist team up. Together, they uncover corporate corruption and a horror that runs far deeper than the mystery of a missing niece.

Confessional: when I stand over a tombstone, the first thing I do after reading the deceased’s name is to do the math to figure out how old they were when they died. Is that horrible of me? In the beginning of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo there is a family tree. I was surprised to see at least four people died at a young age and immediately knew that would be part of the mystery.

Author fact: Larsson died in 2004 after delivering the manuscripts for his “Girl with…” series.

Book trivia: I think everyone knows The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was made into a movie. I also think everyone has seen it but me.

Nancy said: Pearl called Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an immediate best seller.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the odd chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).


The Country of the Pointed Firs

Jewett, Sarah Orne. The Country of the Pointed Firs. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1994.

Reason read: July marked the first time I have spent more than ten days on Monhegan since 1992. I wanted to celebrate Maine with a simple book.

It could take you a day to read The Country of the Painted Firs. A mere 88 pages in length, you could spend just an afternoon with Ms. Jewett’s novel. That being said, I urge you to take more time with this sweet little book. This is portrait of turn of the century coastal Maine living at its simplest and most honest. Jewett illustrates a time when hospitality, good manners, friendship and community mattered most. While there is not much of a plot, the characters are carefully crafted. Today, the people you meet throughout all of Maine are just as colorful and hard working as they were in Jewett’s fictional town of Dunnet Landing. The statement, “One trade helps another” as one character says, is as true today as it was in 1896 when Country of the Pointed Firs was first published.

Author fact: Jewett was from South Berwick, Maine. Her full name was Theodora Sarah Orne Jewett, named for her father, Theodore.

Book trivia: Henry James and Ursula K. LeGuin both reviewed The Country of the Pointed Firs and declared it a masterpiece.

Nancy said: Pearl said Country of the Pointed Firs “is the perfect choice when you are feeling overwhelmed with the weight of the contemporary world” (More Book Lust p 57), and “a classic that has kept its charm” in Book Lust To Go (p 135).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Cozies” (p 57), and from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).


Shadow of the Wind

Zafron, Carlos Ruiz. Shadow of the Wind. Translated by Lucia Greives.

Reason read: the pilgrimage to El Rocio occurs in July.

When we first meet Daniel Sempre he is ten years old and his father has just introduced him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Daniel has been granted the choice of one book as a birthday present. By chance, he chooses Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. So the mystery begins. Daniel is no ordinary boy. When he was very young he coveted a fountain pen reputed to once belong to Jules Verne. His father would accompany him weekly to “visit” this pen in a storefront window. [As an aside, what ten year old would utter, “all the evidence to the contrary”? Had he been reading Sherlock Holmes?] Moving on from the pen, Daniel becomes fascinated with writer Julian Carax and the mystery surrounding him. From there, the mystery deepens to the point of harrowing. Shadows become dangerous. Secrets become lethal. It’s a story within a story best savored slow.

Quotes I just had to quote, “A secret’s worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept” and “To truly hate is an art one learns with time.”

As an aside, when I read the quote, “Childhood devotions make unfaithful and fickle lovers” I was reminded of Charles Causely’s poem, “Rhyme of Innocence and Experience” when he wrote, “Where are all the other girls and boys and why have you brought me children’s toys?”

Author fact: Sadly, Carlos Ruiz Zafron just passed away, reportedly from colon cancer.

Book trivia: Shadow of the Wind was an international bestseller and translated into dozens of languages.

Nancy said: the only thing Pearl said about Shadow of the Wind is that it offered a “vivid picture” of Spain.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Spain.” (p 220). How simple can you get?


Beautiful Place To Die

Nunn, Malla. A Beautiful Place To Die. Read by Saul Reichlin. New York: Atria Books, 2009.

Reason read: South African began self-governing on July 11, 1931.

Detective Sargent Emmanuel Cooper makes his debut in A Beautiful Place To Die as the only officer put in charge of solving the murder of an important Afrikaner in the small South African town of Jacob’s Rest. This is no ordinary murder. This Afrikaner is Dutch-born Captain Pretorius and despite this being 1952 apartheid South Africa, Pretorius is liked and respected by everyone. Pretorius’s strapping four sons are out for blood while racial tensions clash with color blind desires.
An Englishman, Emmanuel Cooper comes to the case as a complete outsider. He also comes with personal baggage from his soldier days in World War II. He can’t shake daytime memories and haunting nightmares. He often hears voices and has an unfortunate deep addiction to pain medication; medication he feels is necessary to tame real and imagined injuries. To complicate matters, the Security Branch in charge of flushing out black communist radicals stand in Cooper’s way of solving the crime. National Party laws crack down on acts of immortality between blacks and whites and Copper has plenty of suspects on either side of the color divide.

Quotes, “The world is a cruel place for old soldiers” and ” His smile was a trench…”

Author fact: A Beautiful Place to Die is Malla Nunn’s first novel. She is an award winning filmmaker.

Book trivia: A Beautiful Place To Die won a 2009 Davitt Award.

Nancy said: Pearl includes A Beautiful Place to Die in the category of “Break Your Heart” books as a contemporary mystery.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Africa: the Greenest Continent” (p 7).


Bright Nights, Big City

McInerney, Jay. Bright Nights, Big City. New York: Vintage Books, 1984

Reason read: New York became a state in the month of July. I am also reading this for the Portland Public Library reading challenge for the category of novel written in second person.

While reading Bright Nights, Big City you want to call its protagonist a sucker. On the mean streets of New York City he buys fake Rolex watches, falls for fake schemes, follows around false friends, and believes a model could fake loving him enough to stay married until death do them part. You want to call this guy a loser because you know there isn’t a happy ending for him. There can’t be. Drugs constantly addle his mind and he never sleeps enough. His spiral becomes out of control when he loses his fact checking job for a publication, he loses his freak friends, and nearly loses his mind. What he doesn’t realize is that he has a lot to mourn. He had wanted to be a writer. He wanted to be married to a hot girl. He wanted his mother to survive cancer. He is literally drowning his deep seeded in a tsunami of cocaine and bright lights. The end comes when rock bottom is met and our friend has to have an awakening of sorts.

Author fact: McInerney also wrote the screenplay for the movie of the same name.

Book trivia: Bright Nights, Big City was made into a movie starring Michael J. Fox in 1988. You can tell I haven’t seen it because I kept getting it confused with the movie starring Robert Downey, Jr., Less Than Zero.

Nancy said: Pearl called Bright Nights, Big City a “wonderful” novel.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “New York, New York” (p 170).