Farming of Bones

Danticat, Edwidge. The Farming of Bones. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.

Reason read: Danticat’s birth month is in January. I may have mentioned this before, but she is barely a month older than me.

Danticat has one of those voices that just spills over you in a warm ooze. Be warned, though. She does not shy away from the harsh realities of extreme violence spurred on by dictatorial blind hatred. It begins slowly and subtly; almost a foreshadowing. A Haitian man, walking down the side of the road, is struck and killed by an automobile driven by a man rushing to get to the birth of his grandson. Consider this – the Haitian’s corpse is unceremoniously thrown into a deep and dark ravine to cover up the accident. The Dominican Republican man continues his hurried journey home without a second glance. Days later said-same grandson dies in his sleep and is given an elaborate vigil, an orchid painted casket, and ceremonial burial of grandeur. These two families, the hit and run victim and the newborn babe, share the same level of shock and grief but only one is allowed to fully demonstrate their pain. The Haitian man doesn’t even get a pine casket.
This is just the beginning of Danticat’s tale as we follow Haitian servant Amabelle Desir as she works in a wealthy Dominican Republic household. Life seems to be perfect considering the circumstances and her position in life. She is passionately in love with a cane worker she plans to marry and her employer was once a childhood playmate. They get along and Amabelle is treated well. Enter Domincan Republican dictator Rafael Trujillo and his plan to wipe out the entire Haitian population by mass genocide. Those who can not flee fast enough are subject to horrific torture before being hacked or burned to death. Amabelle’s world is turned upside down when she is separated from her love as she tries to escape the massacre.
The ending was perfect. I won’t give it away, but in order for this book to mean something there was no other ending possible.

Quotes I just have to quote, “Wherever I go, I will always be standing over her body” (p 205), “But some sorrows were simply too individual to share” (p 252), and “You may be surprised what we use our dreams to do, how we drape them over our sight and carry them like amulets to protect us from evil spells” (p 265).

Author fact: Danticat won the American Book Award for The Farming of Bones.

Book trivia: The Farming of Bones is Danticat’s second novel.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Farming of Bones “very political.” Because of the nonfiction elements to the story I would definitely agree.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Contrary Caribbean: Paradise and Pain” (p 55).


Sanctuary

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).


Beekeeper’s Apprentice

King, Laurie R. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: On the Segregation of the Queen. Read by Jenny Sterlin. Recorded Books, 1995.
King, Laurie R. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice: On the Segregation of the Queen. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.

Reason read: January is Female Mystery month. Take that anyway you want.

Such a clever plot. Take an established character like Sherlock Holmes and re-imagine him after retirement, living in the country and tending his beloved bees. Although he is only in his late 50s Holmes wants nothing more to do with solving crimes and revealing the truth behind mysteries…until he meets Mary Russell. She is ever bit the investigator he had been in his heyday and then some. He cannot help but be drawn to her keen sense of observation, her energized brain and her innate talent as an investigator.
Despite being nearly three times her age, it is interesting to watch Homes get closer to Mary emotionally and how she reacts to it. When there is physical contact between them Mary is clutched by sudden awareness of his physicality. There is a subtle shift to their relationship and what each wants from it.
The final mystery in The Beekeeper’s Apprentice threatens the lives of both Mary and Holmes. They are in so much danger people around them start paying the consequences. It takes everything in Sherlock and Russell’s combined powers of investigation to stay alive.

Quotes to quote: ” I refuse to accept gallant stupidity in place of rational necessity” (p 165) and “When in ignorance, consult a library” (p 301)..

Author fact: King is a native to San Francisco, California.

Book trivia: The Beekeeper’s Apprentice is the first of a series of books about Sherlock and Russell.

Nancy said: Pearl says she loves King’s series involving Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the great chapter called “Ms Mystery” (p 169).


Freedom in Meditation

Carrington, Patricia. Freedom in Meditation. New York: Anchor Press, 1977.

Reason read: January is traditionally the month everyone tries to hit the reset button. Yoga and meditation are high on resolution lists. I’m reading Freedom in Meditation in honor of good intentions.

The very first thing I learned about meditation while reading Carrington’s book is that meditation is not just meditating on a mat in a near-dark room. It is not sitting quietly and emptying the mind while incense swirls about your ears. Consider the clinically standardized meditation taught in two sessions. Or the Benson method which has supposed health benefits like lowering blood pressure and even a lowering of metabolism. In truth, meditation success depends on the personality. But also true to every kind of meditation locale and atmosphere (vibe, if you will) are important. Every technique recommends having plants nearby, the burning of incense and candles, maybe even bell ringing, but above all else, calm and quiet. Meditation can be seen as a rebirth, a companion to hypnosis even. Carrington goes on to to talk about the science of meditation, the therapist’s opinion of meditation, and even the misuse of the practice which I found interesting.

Author fact: At the time of publication, Dr. Carrington was a clinical psychologist who taught at Princeton.

Book trivia: There are only two illustrations in Freedom in Meditation. Both are showing you what to do with your hands during meditation.

Nancy said: Pearl mentions Freedom in Meditation first in her list of zen books. She says it is “probably the best book written about meditation” for beginners (Book Lust p 255).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Zen Buddhism and Meditation” (p 255).


To Lie with Lions

Dunnett, Dorothy. To Lie with Lions. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.

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

We are now deeper into the fifteenth century. The year is 1471 and Nicholas de Fluery is insistent on climbing to the top of the mercantile empire but as usual he has competition with the other “lions” of industry and he has bigger and more personal problems closer to home.
Niccolo kidnaps the child he believes is his flesh and blood away from his estranged wife, Gelis. This becomes a 15th century “war of the roses” when Nicholas and Gelis spar back and forth for control over their son. They have been at odds since their wedding night so both are skilled at harming each other and take great pleasure in it.
The title of the book comes from Nicholas’s skillful ability to play both sides of the game. For a while he literally serves two different kings at the same time.

My only gripe about this installment? Nicholas’s kid at times seems like a toddler and at other times seems older or younger. His motor skills and speech were not consistent.

Author fact: I believe I skipped an author fact last month. I’m going to skip it again since I have a couple more times to talk about Dunnett in later blogs.

Book trivia: as with other installments of the Nicholas de Fluery saga, To Lie with Lions includes a map of the region, an extensive list of characters, a genealogy chart, and an overview of previous plots in the story.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about To Lie with Lions since it is part of a huge series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the same old chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction” (p 79).


Amber Spyglass

Pullman, Philip. The Amber Spyglass. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Reason read: to end the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).

In Amber Spyglass, the last installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra, who started off as an ordinary kid in The Golden Compass, is seen as the most important child who has ever lived according to the church. Their fate depends on Lyra’s journey into womanhood. She may be important but she is also seen as a threat as she is in the position of biblical Eve as the temptress of man’s downfall. Heavy, right? Remarkably, young Lyra is on the cusp of introducing the concept of sin (Dust) to the world. She must be stopped before the Dust (sin=evil) takes over. When we first catch up with Lyra in The Amber Spyglass, she has been hidden away and kept drugged and sleeping in a cave by her mother (remember Mrs Coulter?). But. But! But, is Mrs Coulter all that evil? She acts the grieving mother as she recounts how she almost killed Lyra earlier.
This is an epic battle between good and evil with lots of fight scenes and dying declarations (just wait until you get to the land of the dead). The references to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden are laid on pretty thick, but Lyra is coming into her own as a young woman and she has an equally adulting young man as her companion…
The good news is that many of your favorite characters are back even if they died in an earlier installment. Iorek Byrnison the armored bear is back with his army! I was excited to see the bears and the witches but there are plenty of new creatures like harpies and ghosts. Probably my favorite characters to imagine are Gallivespians. They are small, slender spies able to ride hawks and dragonflies.

As an aside, Pullman is a huge fan of the word anbaric. As far as I can tell it is derived from the Greek and refers to the electrostatic properties of amber. Yup.

Author fact: Pullman also wrote another trilogy of thrillers featuring Sally Lockhart.

Book trivia: Amber Spyglass wraps up the His Dark Materials trilogy.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Amber Spyglass.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208).


Fire Watch

Willis, Connie. Fire Watch. New York: Bluejay International, 1985.

Reason read: to make up for the missed short story in Time Machine, the anthology edited by Bill Adler, Jr.

Fire Watch is made up of twelve short stories. It is her first short story collection. The stories are as follows:

  • Fire Watch – favorite line, “The past is beyond saving” (p 35).
  • Service for the Burial of the Dead – imagine attending your own funeral. This is a dark story and probably one of my favorites.
  • Lost and Found – line I liked, “What else had he missed because he wasn’t looking for it?” (p 76).
  • All My Darling Daughters – probably the most disturbing short story in the entire book.
  • The Father of the Bride – the other side of a fairy tale.
  • A Letter from the Clearys – read this one two or three times!
  • And Come from Miles Around – everyone gathers for the eclipse of the century.
  • The Sidon in the Mirror – a creepy tale about copying someone to the point of being twins.
  • Daisy, in the Sun – a family copes of post-nuclear war.
  • Mail-Order Clone – you know the saying, “if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything”? Well, this is the blind leading the blind.
  • Samaritan – can you baptize an orangutan? The church treats him like a human so why not?
  • Blued Moon – a comedy of error after error about coincidences.

Author fact: Connie Willis went to the University of Northern Colorado.

Book trivia: There is a scene in the movie American President (starring Annette Bening and Michael Douglas) when Douglas wants to send Bening flowers; specifically the state flower of Virginia where Bening’s character is from. He ends up sending a dogwood which is reported to be a tree and a bush (“sir”). I was reminded of that scene when I found out there are two Fire Watch publications. It’s a book and a short story. I was supposed to read the shorter version in December, but the book is also on my list so what the hey.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Fire Watch.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Connie Willis: Too Good To Miss” (p 246).