Ysabel

Kay, Guy Gavriel. Ysabel. New York: ROC, 2007.

Reason read: Kay was born in November. Read in his honor.

This was a quick read once I settled into the fantasy aspect of it. I have to admit, the historical side was a little easier to cozy up to at first. The premise is an interesting one. Ned Marriner is traveling with his father in Aix-en-Provence, France on a photography assignment. Edward Marriner has made a name for himself as a professional photographer specializing in coffee table books of unusual landscapes and architecture. Ned’s mom is a doctor with Medicine Sans Frontiers and a source of angst for her family as she insists on being sent to treat people in warring regions like Dafur and Bosnia. While in Provence Ned befriends sarcastic and bold Kate and together they uncover an ancient mystery that borders on the supernatural. It seems like a great fantasy until Edward’s super assistant Melanie goes missing, sucked into that fantasy world.

As an aside, there are a lot of commercial references: iPod, Nike, Starbucks, Doc Martens, Coke…to name a few.

Quotes: sorry, there were none that stood out to me.

Author fact: Kay is a well known fantasy writer. I am reading six additional books for the Challenge (the Fionavar Tapestry series and a few others).

Book trivia: Cool factor – Ned likes music. Led Zep, U2, Pearl Jam, Alanis Morissette, Eminem…and it’s Coldplay who help get through one of his most difficult challenges.

Nancy said: Nancy said not to miss Ysabel. There was “enough history and adventure to satisfy even non-fantasy fans” (p 187). I would agree.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Provence and the South of France” (p 186).


Provence

Ford, Madox Ford. Provence: From Minstrels to the Machine. New York: Ecco Press, 1979.

Reason read: Ford died in the month of June in 1939.

Provence should be considered a travel book which follows the Great Trade Route “from China…to the Scilly Isles.” Aside from that, Provence is Ford’s love letter to the region. He and his travel companion will introduce you to the way to find good food in the south of France…even a good haircut.
In truth, I found Provence a bit on the didactic side. Short of being downright boring I thought it was a slow read. In the end, I ended up not finishing it.

Line that got to me the most, “But when the period of depression has been long and anxieties seem to be becoming too much for me, I make a bolt for Provence” (p 40). I get that. I’m like that about Monhegan.

Author fact: Ford had an interesting point of view concerning repeating material in different books. He felt you should have all new content in each book. So, the story he told in a previous book should not be repeated in consideration of “commercial morality” (p 14). A more trivial author fact is that Ford changed his name. That was a disappointment to learn. I liked the symmetry of Ford Madox Ford.

Book trivia: According to Ecco Press Provence in one of the neglected books of the 20th century. Another piece of trivia: illustrations in Provence were credited to someone named “Biala.” “Biala” is Mrs. Janice “Biala” Brustlein who, according to Nancy Pearl, was Ford’s lover…as they were both married to other people.

Nancy said: Nancy called Provence a “lovingly written account” (p 186).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Provence and the South of France” (p 186).


June Jitterbugs

May was a month of real struggle. Suicides, known and unknown, sucked the life out of my psyche and I had a hard time staying afloat myself. I became obsessed with the sinking of the Lusitania and devoured every documentary I could find. Yet, I was unsure of my own mind’s footing; enough so I couldn’t trust me or myself to stand at Monhegan’s cliff edge. A first for me. Upon returning home I found myself amazed to be so relieved at being landlocked once again.

Here are the books I have planned for June:

Fiction:

  • Under the Gypsy Moon by Lawrence Thornton
  • Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett
  • American Pastoral by Philip Roth (AB)

Nonfiction:

  • Provence: by Ford Madox Ford
  • Another Lousy Day in Paradise by John Gierach ~ June is Fishing Month

Short Stories (June is Short Story Month):

  • “Artie Glick in a Family Way” by Joseph Epstein
  • “The Executor” by Joseph Epstein
  • “Mendocino” by Ann Packer
  • “Babies” by Ann Packer
  • “The Spoon Children” by Tom Paine
  • “Gentleman Markman’s Last Stand” by Tom Paine

Series Continuations:

  • Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
  • Henry James: the Middle Years by Leon Edel

Early Review for LibraryThing (maybe – I haven’t received it yet):

  • Upstream by Langdon Cook

Spring Sprung Titles

What to say about April? I ran my fastest 10k while ill (go figure). I met two new runners and may have convinced someone to at least try. I don’t know where this acceptance to run with others is coming from. To share a conversation I had with someone: I asked where she runs. She replied she doesn’t have my pace, “nowhere near it” were her exact words. I answered I don’t have that pace all the time either. Me & my pace visit from time to time but we don’t make it a thing. She laughed and I saw myself ten years ago talking to someone who face-times with friends while running. I worried about her relationship with pace. But, this blog is turning into a thing different from reading.

So, without further ado, here are the finished books:

Fiction:

  • Diplomatic Lover by Elsie Lee – read in one day
  • Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez – read in two days
  • Celibate Season by Carol Shields and Blanche Howard – read in four days (this book annoyed me and I kept having to put it down)

Nonfiction:

  • Lost Upland: stories of the Dordogne Region by W.S. Merwin – confessional: DNF (bored, bored, bored)
  • Coming into the Country by John McPhee
  • Henry James: the Untried Years by Leon Edel
  • Another Part of the Wood by Kenneth Clark – this was cheeky!

Series continuations:

  • “F” is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton (I’m calling this a continuation even though I read “A” a long time ago.)
  • Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons (AB + print so I could finish on time – today!)
  • Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves – another quick read (finished in four days)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul

Lost Upland

Merwin, W.S., The Lost Upland: Stories of Southwest France.New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Reason read: Who doesn’t remember the song, “April in Paris”?

Merwin has combined three stories about the Dordogne/Languedoc region of southern France and combined them in a book called The Lost Upland. I use the term “stories” loosely as there no definitive plot to speak of in any one of them. Instead, readers will find a lyrical portrait of place and people. Merwin is a poet, after all. Community members like Fatty and Blackbird may dominate the pages but it’s the landscape itself that takes center stage. Be prepared to be transported to a place time forgot where magic is in the weather.

Confessional: this just wasn’t my cup of tea or coffee or anything. I tried to read it last year (in July) and failed then, too. Oh well.

Author fact: the list of works published by Merwin is extensive but I am only reading The Lost Upland.

Book trivia: As mentioned before, The Lost Upland is separated into three stories: “Foie Gras”, “Shepherds”, and “Blackbird’s Summer”.

Nancy said: she was “quite taken” with Merwin’s story. Which one?

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Provence and the South of France” (p 188).


April Snow Job

As we move into April I am not confident we won’t get another 26″ snow storm. If we ever joked in the past about not being able to predict the weather, now it is impossible. It’s no laughing matter. My rose bushes, right now struggling under the weight of frozen water, could tell you that. But never mind the weather. Let’s talk about the month of April. April is another 10k for cancer. I’m hoping to break the hour time since I was five seconds away in March. April is also Easter. April is my sister’s birth month. April is also books, books and more books…of course:

Fiction:

  • ‘F’ is For Fugitive by Sue Grafton ~ in honor of Grafton’s birth month. Technically, I should have read all the “alphabet” books by Grafton one right after the other, but I didn’t have that system when I read “A” is for Alibi. I think it goes without saying I do now.
  • The Diplomatic Lover by Elsie Lee ~ in honor of Lee’s birth month. I am not looking forward to this one even though it looks like a quick read.
  • A Celibate Season by Carol Shields ~ in honor of April being Letter Writing Month. This is so short I should be able to read it in one sitting.

Nonfiction:

  • Henry James: the Untried Years (1843 – 1870) by Leon Edel ~ in honor of James’s birth month. This first volume chronicles James’s childhood and youth.
  • Coming into the Country by John McPhee ~ in honor of the Alaska trip I’m taking in August.

Series continuations:

  • The Rise of Endymion by Dan Simmons ~ this is to finish the series started in January, in honor of Science Fiction month. I liked Endymion the best so I have high hopes for The Rise of Endymion. I am listening to this on audio and reading the print because I know I will never finish the 575+ pages by April 30th.
  • Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves ~ this is to finish the series started in January, in honor of Shetland’s fire festival, Up Helly Aa. This is another one I should be able to finish in a day or two.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul

Extra (for fun):

  • Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara- ~ my sister sent this in my belated birthday package. Whatever she recommends I usually end up liking whether it be music or books. For those of you who really know me – I know what you’re thinking. Yes, my birthday was in February. I got the birthday package over a month later. It’s what we do.

If there is time (since three books are really, really short):

  • Another Part of the Wood by Kenneth Clark ~ in honor of National Library Week
  • The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez ~ in honor of April’s Mathematics, Science and Technology Week
  • Lost Upland by WS Merwin ~ in honor of well, you know the song…April in Paris. Cheesy, I know.

Two Towns in Provence

Fisher, MFK. Two Towns in Provence: Map of Another Town. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.

Reason read: to finish the collection started in April in honor of Paris.

Two Towns in Provence contains two shorter geographical portraits, Map of Another Town and A Considerable Town. Confessional: I read them backwards: I thought Considerable Town was first until I received Two Towns in Provence.
There is no doubt a love-hate story within the pages of Two Towns. Fisher’s connection to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille couldn’t be clearer. In Map of Another Town Fisher focuses on Aix-en-Provence, France’s capital. Her stories weave around her time bringing up two small daughters, renting an apartment, and observing people and their culture. She spends a fair amount of time having imaginary exchanges with the locals. Most striking were the lessons on society and class: no matter the level of distress a person should not accept help from someone of a lower class and getting a child vaccinated was a process.

Quotes I’d like to quote, “It pressed upon my skin like the cold body of someone unloved” (p 17), “I wrapped myself in my innocence” (p 125), and “He was a man of the same indescribably malnourished twisted non-age of all such physical jetsam being helped by government benevolence…” (p 200).

Author fact: Once I am attuned to a language I seem to latch onto it. Words like evil, dangerous, hell, shabby, grotesque, dirty, desolate…Fisher complains for a lot of Map of another Town. I don’t know what it was about her tone, but she came across as bitchy to me. Fisher seems uncomfortable with the sick or elderly, always hurrying away from the dying. She seems easily annoyed by those around her.

Book trivia: Map of Another Town has wonderful illustrations by Barbara Westman. In the midst of this coloring craze, I could see someone filling in the black and white drawings with a little color.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Provence and the South of France” (p 187).


Considerable Town

Fisher, M.F.K. A Considerable Town. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1978.

Reason read: Dual reasons: April is food month and Fisher is a food writer. Also, does anyone know the song, April in Paris? Need I say more?

The first thing you need to know about A Considerable Town is that it is not a travel or guide book. The first time Fisher visited Marseille the year was 1929. She is back again…only it’s 1976 (yes, you read that right). A Considerable Town was published in the same year but is full of observations of a city Fisher had obviously fallen in love with. Reading this in 2016, some sixty years later, felt a little dated and left me wondering how much, or how little, Marseille had changed in all that time. Fisher noted changes between her 1929 and 1976 visits.
The other thing you need to know about A Considerable Town is that Fisher takes you on a journey that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Her observations of people, places and events bring Marseille alive so much so that she accomplishes the opposite of a tour/guide book. Instead of preparing the reader to visit the region, she makes the reader feel as though he or she has already been there.
Probably the most touching part of A Considerable Town was towards the end when Fisher is trying to make her two young daughters feel at “home” in Marseille at Christmas time. Decorating the tree was especially poignant.

Quotes to quote, “During the market hours there, men sold their catches too, but it was the women who dominated, at least in decibels” (p 67), “Sobriety is a rare and dubious virtue, if that at all, with people under heavy stress like cabbies, cooks, and even politicians” (p 115) and “Every kitchen and winery has its own share of idiots, rascals and wretches” (p 120).

Author fact: Fisher spent some time at the University of Dijon in France.

Book trivia: A Considerable Town and Map of Another Town make up Two Towns in Provence. Don’t be disappointed but there are no pictures of Marseille in A Considerable Town.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Florence and the South of France” (p 187).


April Comes Quickly

I don’t know where March went. I’ve looked under calendars and in date books and I still can’t figure it out. The month went by so fast! Here are the books finished for March:

  • Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
  • The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
  • Family Man by Jayne Krentz
  • Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (AB)
  • The Brontes by Juliet Barker (DNF)
  • Means of Ascent by Robert Caro (DNF)
  • Center of the World by Jacqueline Sheehan (Fun)
  • In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White (would have been an Early Review book a long time ago)

On tap for April (besides a little Noodle 5k run):

  • A Considerable Town by MFK Fisher ~ in honor of April being the best time to visit France
  • The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman ~ for fun
  • Green Thoughts by Eleanor Perenyi ~ in honor of gardening month
  • Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot ~ in honor of April Fools
  • Don’t Eat This Book by Morgan Spurlock ~ in honor of April being Food Month (AB)
  • The Grand Tour by Tim Moore ~ in honor of Harvey Ball passing in April

Castle in the Backyard

Draine, Betsy, and Michael Hinden. Castle in the Backyard: the Dream of a House in France. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) Web 7-30 April 2015.

Before my husband and I bought our house in 2009 we spent a lot of time watching first-time home-buying shows on HGTV and the DYI network. True, we were fascinated with the process but truthfully, we were more than a little scared we would look like idiots when it came our turn to make an offer someone couldn’t refuse. Realtor aside, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We had every reason to be afraid. Buying your first home is not a simple process by any stretch of the imagination even with the careful guidance of books and an expert real estate agent by your side. So, having said all that, I can only imagine what Draine and Hinden were feeling when they decided to buy a summer home in rural southern France. As a couple who got married later in life they didn’t have the opportunity to do a lot of those typical “first-time” things together, like buying a home (she moved into his). Castle in the Backyard is the romantic story of how one vacation turned into an adventure in buying French real estate. Draine and Hinden took almost a year and looked at 40 different properties before stumbling on the perfect “birdcage” of a home in Sarlat in the shadow of a castle, of course. Their retelling of the process is nothing less than perfect; dare I say cute? Even the sex (yes, there is sex) between them is sweetly implied. I loved the layers of humor (the Pepto Bismol was one of my favorites) and the seamless way Draine and Hinden took turns telling the tale.

As an aside, closing a house for the winter in Sarlat sounds not unlike closing a house on Monhegan. Lots of steps!
Biggest trivial take-aways: there is a “giant” Ikea near the Bordeaux airport, Sarlat was the foie-gras capital of France in 1995 and Draine and Hinden lived in “walnut country”.

Reason(s) read: First, there is the fact that April is a great time to visit France. Second, one of my favorite songs is “April in Paris” and my favorite version was sung by Billie Holiday (who was born on April 7th).

Author(s) fact: Draine and Hinden lived in the shadow of the castle for nearly 20 years. That must have been a beautiful time.

Book trivia: I read this an an e-book. I hope I didn’t miss out on much by not having the print and paper book in hand.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the oddly named chapter “So We/I Bought (or Built) a House In…” (p 211).


Rose Cafe

Mitchell, John Hanson. The Rose Cafe: Love and War in Corsica. Emeryville, CA: Shoemaker & Hoard, 2007.

As a young adult, John Hanson Mitchell found himself on the island of Corsica with absolutely no agenda other than to work in a cafe in order to watch and listen to the people around him. As a dishwasher in the Rose Cafe he had the opportunity to mingle with the guests and learn their life stories. Forty years later he writes about his experiences, describing Corsica as otherworldly and mysterious; hinting at zombies and shadowy characters. While there isn’t a standard plot to Rose Cafe, Mitchell does an amazing job not only describing the people he met, but bringing the island’s history to life. Because he was on the island in the early 60s, World War II was still fresh in a lot of people’s minds. Mitchell himself was “in hiding” to avoid the draft.

Lines I liked, “In the end, I fell into a strange, perhaps unhealthy, lethargy at the Rose Cafe” (p 5). That pretty much sums up how Mitchell ended up working (illegally) at the Rose Cafe as a pot washer/fish cleaner.
Another line I could relate to on several levels, “The wind undid people, it was said” (p 21). Amen to that.

Reason read: April is National Food Month. I thought reading about a cafe on the island of Corsica would involve some food. Not really. Mitchell was a fish cleaner, but that’s about it.

Author fact: John has his own website here. I don’t know what I was expecting when I found it (because I just knew he would have a site) but that wasn’t it. It hasn’t been updated in a few years.

Book trivia: Rose Cafe doesn’t contain any pictures. Mitchell describes the landscape beautifully but I would have loved seeing his views, especially his view from the cottage he stayed in.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Corsica” (p 72). Yup. Simple as that.


Year in Provence

Mayle, Peter. A Year in Provence. Read by David Case. Books on Tape, 1992.

I love stories about people who jump out in front of life and are not afraid to be hit with the adventure of a lifetime. I can only imagine this is what happened to Peter Mayle and his wife when they decided to buy a farmhouse in Provence, in the south of France. Mayle’s book, A Year in Provence is exactly that, one calendar year of living and fixing up a place to call their own in the country. Everything about this book is delightful. I love the description of a fifteen course meal that seems to go on and on. I love the stone mason who walks them through all of the different stone they are going to need all over the house.
I am pleased I chose the audio version of this book if for nothing else than David Case’s accent.
Note: This is the first time I heard *all* parts of the book read including the publication info, dedication and dust jacket.

Reason read: Peter Mayle was born in June.

Author fact: Peter Mayle has written a bunch of travel books. I have a few more of them on my list.

Book trivia: A Year in Provence prompted a television mini-series. Very cool!

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Provence and the South of France” (p 186).


Good Thief’s Guide to Paris

Ewan, Chris. The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris. New york: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2008.

Right off the bat The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris opens with a head-scratcher. Writer and petty thief Charles Howard is teaching someone how to break into an apartment in Paris, France. After a successful book reading and too many glasses of red wine Howard has offered a fan a one on one tutorial in how to pull off the standard B&E. If you have read The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam you would think Howard is too smart to pull off anything that dumb. But he does and of course this B&E leads to more trouble, including a dead woman in his apartment.
In addition to being involved in the typical bungled burglar caper Howard’s relationship with unmet editor, Victoria, gets more complicated. She wants to see him face to face. This poses a myriad of problems for Howard, the least of all being he has lied about his looks.
the biggest improvement over the Amsterdam book is that Ewan sums up the mystery in a more realistic, less movie caper-ish way in Paris.
Pet peeve: The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris was published in 2008 and yet Charlie Howard is still slinking around using payphones and phone books. Even I had a cellphone before 2008.

Lines that made me laugh: “I felt my eyebrows switch places. I fumbled for an answer” (p 250). I just love the image of Howard’s eyebrows dancing around.

Reason read: A continuation of the Good Thief series I started last month. Only I didn’t need to. Good Thief…Paris stands on its own with barely a mention of Good Thief…Amsterdam. However, if you want to keep the advancement of the relationship with Victoria, Howard’s editor, in chronological order it is best to read Amsterdam first.

Author fact: Chris Ewan is a lawyer and while this puts him in the category of John Grisham, I enjoy Ewan more.

Book trivia: This is the second Good Thief book. Next is The Good Thief’s Guide to Las Vegas.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Las Vegas” (p 130). As with The Good Thief’s Guide to Amsterdam, The Good Thief’s Guide to Paris was mentioned as an “oh, by the way…Chris Ewan has also written these “Good Thief Guides” in addition to the one set in Vegas.” Obviously, Paris has nothing to do with Vegas.


Belly of Paris

Zola, Emile. The Belly of Paris. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1996.

The “Belly of Paris” is quite literally a giant receptacle of food merchants. It is a humungous food market brimming with a wide array of delicacies of all shapes and sizes. In the first 50 pages I counted no less than sixty different types of food described in colorful detail. The word ‘vegetable’ alone appears over twenty times. Everything from fruits to fish, vegetables to cheese is laid out before the reader. Like the true anatomy of a stomach, from this belly of bounty wastes, filth and toxins are dispelled. There is a clash of the glorious and the gory. All of this in incredible detail serves as the backdrop to the story of Florent.
Florent has escaped from exile to return to his beloved Paris. On the verge of starvation he finds himself in a sea of food in Les Halles Centrales. From there he makes his way to his half-brother’s butcher shop that specializes in pork products. At this point Florent must decide how to live as a fugitive and a man always on the run. As he re-establishes himself in the community he is caught up in jealousies and dramas and must constantly struggle to survive.
Above all else, Belly of Paris is a story of contrasts – the richness of the market’s abundance versus the poverty and fifth of the lower classes who shop there.

Line that best illustrates Florent being swallowed by the Belly of Paris, “And at last he came to a standstill, quite discouraged and scared at finding himself unable to escape from the infernal circle of vegetables, which now seemed to dance around him, twining clinging verdue about his legs” (p 42).

Book Trivia: The Belly of Paris is the third in a series of twenty books that make up Les Rougon-Macquart. The series analyzes the effects family relations and economic status have on one family.

I will be honest. I am a little irritated I didn’t do my homework concerning Belly of Paris. I should not have read Ernest Alfred Vizetelly’s translation. From what I have read his version is not a true or exact translation. Now I am wishing I read Mark Kurlansky’s version because it received better reviews. It bothers me to think I am not reading Le Ventre de Paris as it was written. Never mind. It’s my fault for not studying French beyond first year.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called “Dickens of a Tale” (p 73).


May (2009) was…

May was a combination of heaven and hell. May was a Mother’s Day without my mother. May was walking 60 miles and having my mother at the finish line. May was a trip homehome and almost too much time with my mother. The good and the bad. As much as we love each other there is only so much mother-daughter time we can bestow on one another.
My favorite moments of the month were learning gardening tips from mom (hello! I’m brand new to everything about it), and talking to strangers about the Just ‘Cause walk.  Here’s what I managed to read:

  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson ~ a touching, tragic story about one teenager’s horrible secret.
  • Off Keck Road by Mona Simpson ~ not my favorite – very bland.
  • Bordeaux by Soledad Puertolas ~ a really lonesome story based in Bordeaux, France.
  • Where the Pavement Ends: One Woman’s Bicycle Trip Through Mongolia, China and Vietnam by Erika Warmbrunn~ this was probably my favorite out of everything I read this month.
  • Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser ~ Fraser’s recollections of the war in Burma as a 19 year old.
  • Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurty ~ something I picked up completely by accident, a year early!

For LibraryThing and the Early Review Program:

  • Lucky Girl by Mei-Ling Hopgood ~ this was such a pleasure to read I plan to reread it once it has been published.

I didn’t get to The Victorians by A.N. Wilson. It sat on the desk in my office for the entire month. I think I looked at the pictures.