Alligator

Moore, Lisa. Alligator. New York: Black Cat Publishing, 2005.

Reason read: In Newfoundland they celebrate Orangemen’s Day and the Battle of the Boyne in July, specifically on the 12th.

Alligator’s strength as a first novel lies in its character development. Each chapter is dedicated to a different person loosely connected to the one before. Beverly and Madeleine are sisters. Colleen is Beverly’s daughter. Isobel is Madeleine’s friend. You get the point. Every character is flawed and vulnerable in their own way.
My favorite element to the book was how sharply Moore brought grief specifically into focus. When Beverly loses David to a sudden brain aneurysm her numb emptiness is palpable. These simple lines illustrate the heaviness of loss, “More than once she noticed orange peels next to her lawn chair and realized she was already eaten the orange” (p 49) and “David was dead but she would apply mascara” (p 54).
My least favorite aspect to the plot was the unexpected brutality of some of the characters. This was a much darker novel than I expected.

Quotes to quote, “Somehow Beverly has raised a daughter whose voice can be shrill as a fire alarm” (p 22), “Flexibility meant a prismatic comprehension of all aspect of experience” (p 68), and “You store your saddest memories in your feet, she said” (p 186).

Author fact: Moore also wrote February. I will be reading that one in a few years.

Book trivia: Alligator is Lisa Moore’s first novel.

Nancy said: Pearl was actually gushing about Moore’s other novel, February, and only mentioned Alligator as an aside.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the super obvious chapter called “Newfoundland” (p 153).


By the River Piedra…

Coelho, Paulo. By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept: a Novel of Forgiveness. Translated by Al;an R. Clarke. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006.

Reason read: July is the month of summer romances…or returning to one. One of the most romantic places on earth, in my opinion, is Monhegan Island, Maine. Ten miles out to sea there is something about the smell of the salty ocean, the cries of gulls and crashing surf amidst summer wildflowers and dusky fireflies. Boats rock in the harbor shrouded by early morning fog. I was able to read the novella By the River… in two nights amidst all this on said island.
By the River Piedra romances its reader from start to finish. Protagonist Pilar is twenty eight years old and making her way through life as an independent and capable young woman in Spain. By coincidence she reunites with her boyfriend from eleven years ago. He has turned into a handsome spiritual guru who happens to be a much trusted healer. Together they rekindle their romance while on a journey to the French Pyrenees. Age and time have given them a fresh perspective on love, forgiveness, and spirituality.

Author fact: Coelho also wrote the more famous novel, The Alchemist, which is not on my list for whatever reason.

Book trivia: By the River Piedra… was an international best seller.

Nancy said: absolutely nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Latin American Fiction” (p 144).


Framley Parsonage

Trollope, Anthony. Framley Parsonage. New York: Penguin, 1993.

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

As usual Trollope’s fourth novel in the Barsetshire Chronicle is laden with characters. One of the first people readers meet is Mark Robarts, a vicar with ambitions to further his career. The gist of the story is that Robarts loans Nathaniel Sowerby money even though Robarts realizes Sowerby is an unsavory character, always gambling and up to no good. Of course there is some good old fashioned courting of the ladies going on that complicates the story.
Trollope explores human emotions such as humiliation (Robarts not being able to afford to give a loan but does it anyway), romance (between Mark’s sister, Lucy, and Lord Lufton), greed (inappropriate relationships because of lower class status) and affection (bailing a friend out of a sticky situation). The subplot of Lucy and Lord Lufton is my favorite. Lady Lufton doesn’t think Lucy is good enough for her son (what mother does?).

Author fact: Trollope wanted to be a political figure at one point in his life.

Book trivia: At the end of Framley Parsonage Doctor Thorne gets married. Remember him?

Nancy said: Pearl said nothing specific about Framley Parsonage but she did say that Trollope is one of her favorite writers.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 15).


Forward the Foundation

Asimov, Isaac. Forward the Foundation. New York: Bantam Spectrum, 1994.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month. If you are keeping track then you know I am off by a month or two.

In the beginning of Forward the Foundation Hari Seldon is forty years old and a professor at Streeling University. He is still trying to define psychohistory as something more than a mathematical way of analyzing society to predict the future. There are those who expect his predictions to save the Empire. Luckily, he is not alone in his efforts, but surrounded by key characters from the previous novel (Prelude to Foundation):
Dors Venabili, acting as guardian in Prelude to Foundation, is now Seldon’s wife but still insists on protecting him wherever he goes. When their granddaughter, Wanda, has reoccurring dreams of Seldon’s death it is reason enough Dors needs to be extra attentive to Seldon’s safety. We learn she has superhuman skills and never ages.
Raych is twenty years old at the beginning of Forward the Foundation and Seldon has adopted him as his son.
In Prelude to Foundation Yugo Amaryl had been a heatsinker in the Dahl Sector, the lowest rung on society’s ladder, but Seldon had seen something in him worth saving. In Forward the Foundation Yugo is now a respected mathematician, intellectual, and budding obsessive psychohistorian. For all intents and purposes he has become Seldon’s right hand man.
Eto Demerzel, Emperor Cleon’s First Minister and the “person” responsible for Seldon meeting his wife, steps aside to let Seldon take the position. After ten years as First Minister he grows sick of it and finds a way to retire. Fast forward twenty more years and Seldon is now seventy. As the empire dies Seldon finds himself struggling to keep up with the demands of researching psychohistory.
Asimov has a subtle and sly humor that threads its way through Forward the Foundation. One of my favorite moments was when Seldon was describing mathematical symbolism using water themes – rivers, rivulets, and currents. After listening to this Amaryl replies to Seldon “dryly.” Oh, the irony. My second favorite moment was when librarians were described as “the oldest Guild in the Empire.” Exactly.

Quotes I liked, “A paradox arises only out of an ambiguity that deceives either unwittingly or by design” (p 32) and “People tended to avoid the humiliation of failure by joining the obviously winning side even against their own opinions” (p 31).

Author fact: Asimov wrote or edited over 500 books.

Book trivia: The “Zeroth Law” comes up in Forward the Foundation. Instead of applying to the laws of thermodynamics it is in regards to robots and first appears in a different Asimov story called “Runaround.”

Nancy said: Pearl said the Foundation series should be read in order.

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


Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter

Llosa, Mario Vargas. Aunt Julia and the Script Writer. Translated by Helen R. Lane. New York: Avon, 1982.

Reason read: July is the busiest time to visit Peru.

As a struggling writer, eighteen year old Marito (Mario) makes ends meet by writing news stories for a local Peruvian radio station while in law school. He welcomes two new distractions into his life and uses them to spice up his storytelling: his beautiful aunt (by marriage only), Julia, and the brilliant but crazy radio scriptwriter, Pedro Comancho. Thirteen years his senior, Aunt Julia begins a clandestine romance with Mario and at the same time Comancho takes Marito under his wing as his ever-growing confused confidant.
It is the differing point of view narratives that keep the story interesting as the reader bounces between the first person account of Marito and Comancho’s soap opera dramas told in the third person.

As an aside, when Aunt Julia says she’s old enough to be Marito’s mother I just had to do the math. Julia is only thirteen or fourteen years older than Mario. Yes, fourteen year olds have babies. It is possible, but it made me shudder all the same.

Lines I liked, “He was a creature given to short-lived, contradictory, but invariably sincere enthusiasms” (p 10), and “In the span of just a few seconds I went from hating her with all my heart to missing her with all my soul (p 157).

Author fact: Aunt Julia and the Script Writer is autobiographical. Also, Llosa has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Book trivia: Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter was made into a 1990 movie called “Tune in Tomorrow.”

Nancy said: Pearl called Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter her favorite Llosa novel.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Latin American Fiction” (p 144).


Blood Safari

Meyer, Deon. Blood Safari. Translated by K.L. Seegers. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2009.

Reason read: Deon Meyer was born in the month of July. Read in his honor.

Young and beautiful Emma Le Roux thought she needed a body guard after at least two masked men broke into her South African home and tried to kill her. How does she know they wanted to kill her? They weren’t looking to steal anything and they weren’t typical vandals, so who were they exactly? What was their motive to harm her, someone with seemingly no known enemies? Was it a coincidence the violence arrived on her doorstep only after she starting asking questions about seeing her dead brother on television? In her mind she had a right to question what she saw for all she knew he had been dead for twenty years. According to to news program he was wanted for murder. Did Emma’s brother really brutally gun down four poachers? To find out the truth she enlists the help of Martin Lemmer, employed by the protection agency, Body Armor.
Lemmer, as he prefers to be called, is your typical strong, silent-type bodyguard. He has rules he refers to as “Lemmer Laws” that supposedly cannot be broken and yet he has a way of breaking them. The first Lemmer law is Don’t Get Involved with a client. He breaks that one almost immediately when he doesn’t believe Emma’s story and he lets his body guard down. Emma is nearly killed on his watch. Someone out there wants her dead in the worst way. Now Lemmer has gone from protecting Emma to seeking revenge on whoever hurt her.

As an aside, I couldn’t help but think of the viral honey badger video whenever a honey badger was mentioned. I couldn’t get the narrator’s voice out of my head!

Simple truth I had to quote, “The barrel of a gun changes everything” (p 19). Yes. Yes, it does.

Author fact: Meyer’s author picture on the back cover is interesting. He looks like he is dressed in a black turtleneck or high collared coat and yet he’s lying in the sand?

Book trivia: Blood Safari was translated from the Africaans.

Nancy said: Pearl said she couldn’t imagine Meyer’s Blood Safari taking place anywhere but South Africa because of the history of old wounds never healing. She also called Blood Safari “fast-paced and emotionally nuanced” (Book Lust To Go p 216)

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “South Africa (Fiction)” (p 215).


Forrest Gump

Groom, Winston. Forrest Gump. New York: Pocket Books, 1986.

Reason read: the movie Forrest Gump was released in July of 1994.

It seems ridiculous to write a book review for a story everyone knows so well….or I should say they think they know. I must refrain from making the typical comparisons of what scenes were different in the book from the movie, what details were kept the same…You get the picture. I’m sure someone else has written that blog. Anyway, on to the plot:
Forrest Gump goes through life as an accidentally brilliant idiot who can say he attended Harvard, saved Chairman Mao from drowning, visited the White House twice, thwarted plans to be eaten by cannibals, and even took a trip to space with an orangutan courtesy of NASA. These are just some of the crazy adventures Gump experiences. He manages to be a part of history’s most significant moments, both good and bad. I particularly liked the scene with the president who said, “I am not a crook!”
It is not a spoiler to say I was annoyed with Jenny just as much in the book as I was the movie.
And speaking of comparisons, I will say this about comparing the book to the movie, though. Gump in the book is a far coarser character. Forrest in the movie is so sweet compared to the foul-mouthed man-child in the novel. That took a little getting used to. Meh.

Quotes to quote, “I outrunned him tho cause that is my specialty but let me say this: they aint no question in my mind that I am up the creek for sure” (p 50) and everybody’s favorite throughout the book, “…and that’s all I got to say about that” (p 65). Another, “There are just times when you can’t let the right thing stand in your way” (p 94).

Author fact: From also wrote A Storm in Flanders which was on my Challenge list (already completed).

Book trivia: the book is very different from the movie, but Gump’s lovable character shines through either way.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned Forrest Gump because it is the more well known of Groom’s work.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War I Nonfiction” (p 251). As an aside, I deleted Forrest Gump from my master list of Lust books because it didn’t belong in the chapter about World War I. Plus, Forrest Gump is not nonfiction.