January is a month of great indecision. I can’t decide if I want to say more…
If there is one thing I can say for the January books, it is that most all of the fiction made mention of great music. Some musicians I knew, some I didn’t. Some songs I knew, some I didn’t. I had fun looking it all up though.
- Sanctuary by Ken Bruen (EB & print). Music: Philip Fogarty, Anne Lardi, Rolling Stones, Snow Patrol, Johnny Duhan.
- The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (EB & print).
- Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland (EB & print). Music: Lucinda Williams, Slim Dusty, Nick Cave, The Warumpi Band, Ry Cooder.
- The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett (EB & print). Music: Charles Tenet.
- Graced Land by Laura Kalpakian (EB & print). Music: Elvis, Elvis, and more Elvis.
- The Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel (print). Music: Leonard Cohen, Beethoven, and the fictional heavy metal band, Panda Bear Soup.
- The Passage to India by E.M. Forster (EB & print).
- Barcardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten (EB & print).
- Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset (EB & print).
- The Persuader by Lee Child (EB & AB).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Fine, Thanks by Mary Dunnewold (EB). Music: Ella Fitzgerald, Dave Brubeck, Mose Allison, Talking Heads, Aaron Copeland (can you tell, Dunnewold really likes music!).
Bruen, Ken. Sanctuary. New York: Minotaur Books, 2009.
Reason read: Bruen’s birth month is in January. Read in his honor.
Warning! This is the kind of book you can read in one sitting. It is less than 200 pages with a very fast paced, tight plot. That isn’t a bad thing. It only means you can reread it a second or third time. You may need to.
The first time I met Jack Taylor I wasn’t sure I liked him. Like his creator, he carries a massive amount of surly anger inside him. Everything Jack Taylor mutters is dripping with sarcasm. Because I met him mid series (Sanctuary is the seventh book), I was hoping Bruen would bring me up to speed on exactly what makes Taylor tick. I wasn’t too disappointed. He is ex-police, booted from the force for his excessive drinking; walks with a pronounced limp and wears a hearing aid. He has stayed “friends” with a former partner, Ridge, and often discusses unsolved crimes with her. In this case, Taylor has received a check list of future murders: two guards, a nun, a judge, and a child. Ridge, recovering from breast cancer surgery doesn’t think much of the list, but when a guard, a nun, and a judge all die, it is hard for Taylor to ignore the list.
Taylor also has a priest for a nemesis. Who gets on the wrong side of the church in Ireland? Apparently Jack Taylor.
Here’s another detail to Sanctuary that I loved: Bruen’s inclusion of music. I could have compiled a “Sanctuary Playlist” from the music he mentions. To name a few: Snow Patrol, Philip Fogerty, Rolling Stones, and Johnny Duhan.
Line I loved, “Books had brought me through so many hangovers, not that I could read them then, but they were a lifeline to some semblance of sanity” (p 65).
Author fact: There are a bunch of YouTube videos of Ken Bruen talking about his writing process and how he got started. Like reading his book, once I started watching, I couldn’t stop. He is a fascinating person.
Book trivia: Sanctuary is book seven of the Jack Taylor mystery series and the only one I am reading for the Challenge.
Nancy said: Pearl called Bruen’s mystery “gritty.” She goes on to say, if you are going to read more of the series you do not need to read them in order because the story lines are contained. As I mentioned earlier, I am not reading any other Bruen mystery for the Challenge.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Ireland: Beyond Joyce, Behan, Beckett, and Synge” (p 110).
Believe it or not, I’m kind of happy with the way January is shaping up already, five days in. After the disappointments of December I am definitely ready for change. I’m running more these days. I convinced a friend to see sirsy with me. I’m not sure what she thought, but I am still in love with the lyrics. Anyway, enough of that. Here are the books:
- The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett – in honor of Bennett’s birthday being on the 14th of January. (EB)
- Sanctuary by Ken Bruen – in honor of Bruen’s birthday also being in January. Confessional: I read this book in one day. (EB)
- The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat – in honor of Danticat’s birthday also being in January. (EB)
- Graced Land by Laura Kalapakian – in honor of Elvis’s birth month also being in January.
- Passage to India by E.M. Forster – in honor of Forster’s birth month also being in January. Yes, celebrating a lot of birthdays this month!
- Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten – in honor of a Cuban Read Day held in January.
- Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel – in honor of China’s spring festival.
- Persuader by Lee Child – the last one in the series, read in honor of New York becoming a state in July (and where Child lived at the time I made this whole thing up). (AB)
- The Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset – this is another series I am wrapping up. I started it in October in honor of a pen pal I used to know in Norway.
- I am supposed to receive an Early Review from November’s list, but it hasn’t arrived so I can’t mention it. For the first time in a long, long time (perhaps ever, I’ll have to look), I did not request a book for the month of December.
Tremayne, Peter. Absolution By Murder. New York: New American Library, 1997.
Reason read: read in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
To set the stage for Absolution by Murder: Sister Fidelma mysteries are set during the medieval mid-seventh century. At this time in history there is the well-known debate between the Celtic Christian and Roman churches in the Northumbria region. Its king stages a debate to determine the supreme authority and religious doctrine. The heroine of the series, Sister Fidelma, is an advocate of the ancient law courts of Ireland. But, when the Abbess of the Columban order is murdered Fidelma takes it upon herself to solve the mystery of who killed her friend.
Readers will get a lesson in the differences between blessings at the Trinity versus Columban church. Picture the sign of the cross: is it Celtic with the first, third and fifth fingers raised? Or is it Roman with only the thumb, fist and second fingers? The hand gestures are different yet both are valid forms of worship.
Lines I liked: I will not quoting anything because the author didn’t allow any part of the publication to be reproduced for any reason without the consent…blah blah blah. Instead, I will outline a scene I liked. Because of the time in history Tremayne needed to illustrate a world-is-flat kind of ignorance. Because the science of a solar eclipse was not widely understood in the seventh century, some took its occurrence as an omen something terrible was about to happen. In this case superstition rang true because soon after the eclipse people started to die.
Author fact: Peter Berresford Ellis is Peter Tremayne’s real name. He started his writing career as a reporter.
Book trivia: Absolution by Murder is the first Sister Fidelma mystery. Nearly thirty more follow.
Nancy said: Pearl said you have to be in certain mood to enjoy Tremayne mysteries and that “those committed to reading the series in order” should start with Absolution by Murder.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Ireland: Beyond Joyce, Behan, Beckett, and Synge” (p 112).
What about May? May was a month of personal disappointments and private pain. I weathered all without much fanfare. Running was nonexistent but I can’t say the same for books:
- Landfall: a Channel Story by Nevil Shute (EB)
- Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (AB, EB & print)
- Martin Sloane by Michael Redhill (EB & print)
- Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez (EB & print)
- Adrian mole: the Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend (EB & print)
- Into Thin Air: a Personal Account … by Jon Krakauer
- Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
- Last Seen in Massilia by Steven Saylor (EB & print)
- Angel at My Table by Janet Frame (EB & print)
Early Review from LibraryThing:
- 1968: — edited by — Aronson
Added – Plays:
- Medea by Euripides ~ in honor of the best time to go to Greece.
What an absolutely bonkers month. September was…How to describe September? The family had a reunion of sorts. The island suffered its fifth shock of the season with a quadruple murder. Running was another head-scratcher as I officially resumed physically therapy for my twisted hips. But. But, But! I was able to log over 30 miles. Nowhere near the 70+ I wanted, but it’s something. At least I haven’t stopped entirely. And the reading? Here are the books:
- Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (AB/print)
- The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
- Burton And Speke by William Harrison (fictionalized history/historical fiction…whatever)
- My Dream of You by Naola O’Faolain (AB/print)
- O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre – Confessional: didn’t quite get all the way through this)
- Everybody was so Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story by Amanda Vaill
- Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins
- Passions Spin the Plot by Vardis Fisher
- Henry James: the Treacherous Years (1895 – 1901) by Leon Edel
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Boat Runner by Devin Murphy (fiction!)
O’Faolain, Nuala. My Dream of You. Read by Dearbhla Molloy. Hampton, NH: BBC Audiobooks America, 2002.
Reason read: September is supposedly the best month to visit Ireland.
Irish born Kathleen De Burca has arrived at a crossroads in her life. Nearing fifty she loses her best friend and coworker to a heart attack. As a travel writer, Kathleen has lived in London for nearly thirty years and has never married or had children. Jimmy was the closest person she could call family. But, when she is presented with the lifetime achievement award she was supposed to share with her best friend she realizes there is more to life than travel miles and exotic venues. Why not go home to Ireland? Why not research a century old crime that has long fascinated her?
So begins Kathleen’s story. Her past is as complicated as her future is a blank slate. Giving up everything, she lays herself bare to the tragedies of the past; remembrances of long ago transgressions; all the cringe-worthy scars of yesterday. But, as she says on page 408, “Tragedies end.” And so they do. Kathleen learns to pick up the pieces and face the black slate of tomorrow with a different kind of courage than it took in order to come home.
As an aside, I felt the ending gave O’Faolain room for a sequel. Just saying.
Quotes I fell in love with, “I envied her both the Alzheimer’s and the caring husband until I realized that if she had the one she didn’t know she had the other” (p 410), “Happiness keeps you poised, and you do the right thing without effort, whereas you get things wrong when you’re struggling with lack of life” (p 438), and “Either take account of other people from now on, or go back to the bad old days” (p 484). On a personal note, I took a lot from Kathleen’s words. I, too, am a woman who has repeatedly shunned the thrum of humanity, preferring my own seclusions. I, too, need to embrace and take stock of others around me.
Author fact: O’Faolain also wrote a best selling memoir about her life as an Irish woman.
Book trivia: My Dream of You is O’Faolain’s first novel.
Narrator fact: Dearbhla Molloy won an Audio Award for the abridged narration of My Dream of You.
Nancy said: My Dream of You is “a good novel set in Ireland” (p 126). She also said it is a first novel she was “delighted to have read” (p 89).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “First Novels” (p 88) and again in “Irish Fiction” (p 125). Also, in Book Lust To Go in the chapter appropriately called “Ireland: Beyond Joyce, Behan, Beckett and Synge” (p 111).
Madden, Deirdre. One By One in the Darkness. London: Faber and Faber, 2003.
Three sisters have gathered at their childhood home in Northern Ireland for a visit. Cate, a journalist for a home/fashion magazine in London, is early for her annual visit; a detail that is not lost on older sister, Helen. Helen, a solicitor in Belfast, comes home every weekend, and Sally, the youngest and a teacher, already lives at home with their mother. None of the sisters are married. The story bounces between present day and the three sisters’s childhood in alternating chapters. Madden uses clever clues like the spelling of Cate/Kate to indicate past or present. When Kate became an adult she changed her name to Cate. So for chapters in the past it is Kate while for present-day chapters it is Cate. [As an aside, it reminded me of the movie ‘Sliding Doors.’ In one scenario Helen has cut her hair short and dyed in blonde while in another she leaves it long and dark. The difference helps the viewer tell the difference between the two story lines involving the same character.] Cate, Helen and Sally grew up in the 1960s and 70s during the Troubles and it’s this historical background that drives the present day story of the mid 1990s and the IRA ceasefire. There isn’t a plot to speak of, just the coping of four women after the death of the head of the household during the troubles. The only present day drama worth noting is Cate’s pregnancy.
Line I liked, “But she gained a dark knowledge that night which would never leave her” (p 130).
Reason read: I have read it somewhere that October is the best time to visit Ireland.
Book trivia: One By One in the Darkness was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 1997.
Author fact: Madden won the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 1987. The conditions of the prize? Write Irish lit (obviously) and be under 40 years of age. Interesting.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter simply called “Irish Fiction” (p 126).
Llywelyn, Morgan. 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion. New York:Tom Doherty Assoc., Inc., 1998.
It should tell you something that I read this book in less than two weeks. What it should tell you I’m not exactly sure. I did enjoy myself, though. I think, for starters, it’s about a country I long to visit, a country I have heard much about. I also think this was a clever tale. The truth wrapped in fiction or is it fiction wrapped in the truth?
Right off the bat the story is intriguing. Our hero, Edward “Ned” Halloran survives the sinking of the Titanic. His survival is “lucky” because as a citizen of Clare County, Ireland he should have been in steerage with the other third-class Irish. The only reason why he and his family were in second class is because their passage was arranged by Ned’s sister’s fiancee, a White Star employee. The family was going to her wedding in New York City. After the tragedy, once back in Ireland, a series of events allows Ned to get involved with a group of men calling themselves the Irish Republic. It’s history from here on out. The struggle for Irish independence is painful and poetic.
I liked the characters well enough. Ned seemed to be a bit too good to be true, though. Easily liked, good looking, ambitious, intelligent, poetic, noble, a true gentleman, yadayadayada. I got sick of his self-righteousness off and on throughout the entire story. What was a pleasurable constant, however, was Llywelyn’s writing. Here’s a sampling of my favorite phrases:
“Life had scraped him to the bone.” (p 138)
“It’s the only place my skin fits me.” (p 201) My husband will tell you that sounds like Monhegan….
“An Irish solution for an Irish problem: pretend it does not exist.” (p 268)
Llywelyn also fits in other stories, but not as completely as I would have liked. The reader gets a glimpse into Ned’s sister, Kathleen’s life as a married woman living in America. You get sucked into enough to care about her when her husband gets abusive or when she begins an illicit affair with a priest. Sadly, Kathleen’s chapter is never closed. You get an indication that her true love will return to her but you don’t know if the reunion is successful. Alexander Campbell had a strong hold on his wife…
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust and the chapter called, “Digging up the past through literature.” (p 79)
Weber, Katharine. The Music Lesson.
I picked up Weber’s second novel after reading her debut novel Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear. In Objects I fell in love with the narration immediately. The writing was so fluid I hoped everything Weber wrote would read the same way.
I liken Music Lesson to that of a second kiss. It’s not as good as the very first one yet still highly enjoyable. When I found out it was part of the Book Lust Challenge I almost put it on my “must reread” list because I liked it so much.
It’s the story of Patricia. She guards a stolen painting in a cottage in Ireland. Alone. Alone with her troubled past and complicated future, Patricia has time to contemplate the crossroads. The stolen painting becomes more than just “art” to her. It guides her through a metamorphism and an awakening.
BookLust Twist: From Book Lust under the heading of “Irish Fiction” (p126).
To learn more about one of my favorite authors, Katharine Weber, go here.