Second Foundation

Asimov, Isaac. Second Foundation. New York: Gnome Press, 1953.

Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month. For the record, this is the last Foundation book I will read in order of printing. After Second Foundation, I will switch to the chronology.

Second Foundation, the third Foundation book to be published, but fifth in order of chronology, finds everyone looking for the Second Foundation. Hari Seldon, the last great scientist of the First Empire, has developed the science of human behavior to be distilled into a complicated mathematical equation. This science has the capability of predicting the future through human thought and emotion. Colonies of such scientists are camped out in Foundations, one at either end of the universe. In Part One The Mule, calling himself First Citizen of the Union, and his Regime are desperate to find the Second Foundation. Does it even exist? He enlists the help of Bail Channis, the one individual not afraid of him or influenced by his power.
The fascinating thing is Channis is not the plant but rather his knowledge is the true decoy.

Oddball quote, “At not quite thirty he was in marvelous good odor with the company” (p 6). How’s this for a description of a man “angularly animated toothpick” (p 10)?

Author fact: Asimov was a professor of biochemistry. Of course he was.

Book trivia: Second Foundation is also referred to as “Foundation 3” because it is the third true book of the series first published in 1953.

Nancy said: absolutely nothing.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 214).


Hunting Season

Barr, Nevada. Hunting Season. Read by Barbara Rosenblat. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2002.

Reason read: to finish the series started in honor of Barr’s birth month in March.

The premise of the series is main character Anna Pigeon is a ranger assigned to different American parklands. Every time Pigeon shows up somewhere she’s confronted with a mystery (most of the time with a murder or two or three attached). You have to wonder how she doesn’t develop a stigma from all these coincidental deaths wherever she goes. She never seems to find littering her biggest problem.
This time Pigeon is stationed at Mt. Locust, a historic inn located on Mississippi’s Natchez Trace Parkway. Two different crimes have her attention, the murder of Doyce Barnette and suspected poaching activity. Are the two related? All clues point toward Doyce being the apparent victim of a sex game gone wrong but true to mystery, nothing is adding up. Anna, as a woman and new to the area, has a difficult time being the boss of male rangers, some who have been around longer than she has.
Confessional: I knew who the killer was within the first 100 pages. It took me a few more to make absolutely sure but the clues Barr left were glaringly obvious. I was hoping she would pull a fast one and make the suspect Anna’s biggest ally. That I wouldn’t have seen coming.
Idiot move: Once again, I am reading a series out of order. Last month I read Flashback and at the end Pigeon agreed to marry her newly divorced boyfriend. Now, in Hunting Season Pigeon is lamenting the death of her first husband while silently cursing her married boyfriend.
Author fact: Barr does a great job keeping Anna Pigeon’s personality and life history accurate. Anna’s family life, love interests, personality, and even acquired scars stay consistent.

Book Audio trivia: Barbara Rosenblat isn’t half bad with the accents, although her Mississippi drawl could be called just “southern.”

Nancy said: nada; nothing specific about Hunting Season.

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


Best and the Brightest

Halberstam, David. The Best and the Brightest. New York: Random House, 1972.

Reason read: the United States pulled out of Vietnam in the month of March.

Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest is a deep dive into the origins of the Vietnam War. It is a scrutiny of the policies and procedures crafted during the Kennedy administration that led to the consequences in Vietnam. The meat of the book takes place between the years of 1960 and 1965 but flows back and forth to earlier and later times to give substance to the timeline. What really helps the narrative is that Halberstam was a reporter during this time. He was at the heart of the perfect storm: the fall of China, the rise of McCarthy and the outbreak of the Korean War. This trifecta of events had a profound and lasting effect on the White House and domestic politics of the time.

A single line I really liked, “In government it is always easier to go forward with a program that doesn’t work than to stop it all together and admit failure” (p 212). Isn’t that human nature in a nutshell?

Author fact: I cannot help but wonder what books Halberstam would have written had he not been killed in a car accident at the age of 73.

Book trivia: I always love the photographs Halberstam chooses for his books. The photos in The Best and the Brightest are no different.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Best and the Brightest “hefty, riveting and definitive” (p 238). Agreed, agreed, and agreed.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust and More Book Lust. In Book Lust in the chapter called “Vietnam” (p 238) and in More Book Lust in the super obvious chapter called “David Halberstam: Too Good To Miss” (p 112).


Absolution By Murder

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).


Giant

Ferber, Edna. Giant. Garden City, New York: International Collectors Library, 1952.

Reason read: Texas became a state in the month of March. Read in honor of that little event.

On the surface, Giant is twenty-five years in the life of a Texas family from 1925 to 1950. In reality, Giant is a social commentary on the wealthy. Ferber writes, “We know about champagne and caviar but we talk hog and hominy” (p 17). Ferber’s book was controversial because it revealed a stark truth about society in early twentieth century Texas. Take for example, Vashti Hake. As a daughter to a wealthy rancher, Vashti was shunned because she married a lowly cowhand, Pinky Snyth. There was class and there was Class.
The story opens with a group of wealthy and influential people coming together for the celebration of Jett Rink’s new airport. This is a bitter pill to swallow for cattle owner Jordan “Bick” Benedict. Bick sold Jett a seemingly worthless sliver of land on his sprawling Reata Ranch. The meager land just happened to sit on an untapped oil field. Suddenly, there is competition. Who is the richest? But, the competition runs much deeper. In order to understand these important characters and their significance the story needs to first take a detour. We go twenty five years in the past to explain how Leslie the society girl from Virginia ended up marrying ruggedly handsome Bick, moving to big ole Texas, and creating drama with Mr. Rink. Using the differences between Leslie and Bick Ferber does a good job laying out the different conflicts within Giant:
Geographically – the west versus the northeast. Texas being sprawling, dry and much hotter than lush and green Virginia.
Racially – the treatment of people of color. Virginia’s inclusion of African Americans while Mexicans in Texas are treated as invisible slaves.
Gender – a woman’s role in the household. For example, Leslie doesn’t understand why Bick wants his sister, Luz, to run the household while Leslie thinks, as woman of the house, she should assume the responsibility.
Economically – with the border of Mexico so close the socio-economic borders were bound to clash and blur.

As an aside, I really liked Leslie. She’s smart, funny, and adventurous. In all aspects she truly is a fish out of water but she perseveres.

Lines I needed to quote, “In the Texas the women talked a lot, they chattered on and on about little inconsequential things calculated to please but not strain the masculine mind” (p 73), and “You can’t judge a man by his hat” (p 85).

Author fact: Ferber wrote many, many other books including So Big (which won a Pulitzer in 1924), Show Boat (the 1926 musical), Cimarron (the 1929 movie), and Ice Palace in 1958. None of these titles are on my list. The only other Ferber I am reading is Saratoga Trunk.

Book trivia: Giant was made into a 1956 movie starring some pretty big names you might recognize: Rock Hudson, James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor.

Nancy said: Pearl said Edna Ferber’s Texas is “an oldie-but-goodie” (p 233).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter “Texas: a Lone Star State of Mind” (p 233).


Cherry

Wheeler, Sara. Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard. New York: Random House, 2002.

Reason read: Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard was part of Robert Falcon Scott’s final trip to the Antarctic. Scott was born in March. Read in his honor.

This was the age when everyone wanted to get to a Pole. North Pole or South Pole, it didn’t matter. For Apsley Cherry-Garrard, his expedition was to the South Pole with Robert Falcon Scott (Scott’s second journey).
Antarctica fueled the competitive spirits of Robert Falcon Scott and his expedition as they constantly compared their experiences in the Antarctic to Shackleton’s and kept a close eye on reports of Amundsen’s progress a short distance away. I am not going to review the events of what happened during this particular expedition as everyone is well familiar with Scott’s demise. Let’s focus on Cherry.
After the expedition Cherry’s life was consumed by his experiences. His opinion of Scott changed several different times as the reality of what he lived through sharpened. The expedition gave him purpose in life (writing a book and lecturing about it) while haunting his sleep and stunting his ability to move on from it. He predicted that large government-funded science stations would pop up in the Antarctic. He specifically mentioned Ross Island as a location for such a station. Wheeler does a fantastic job painting a sympathetic portrait of a complicated man.
As an aside, I am trying to imagine the amount of gear one would take to the South Pole. It boggled my mind that Scott would ask Cherry to learn how to type and to bring two typewriters even though no one else knew how to use them.

As another aside, wouldn’t it be terrible to name your pony and then have to eat him later?

Quotes to quote, “If you have the desire for knowledge and the power to give it physical expression, go out and explore” (Cherry’s own words, p 218) and “They decided to marry before gas masks were permanently strapped to their faces” (p 259).

Author fact: Wheeler is an Arctic explorer in her own right. I have of her books on my Challenge list: Evia, Terra Incognita, Too Close to the Sun, and Travels in a Thin Country.

Book trivia: Wheeler includes a modest set of photographs not only of the expedition but of Cherry’s childhood and later years. My favorite was of Cherry at one of his typewriters.

Nancy said: Pearl called Cherry a “great” biography.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “To the Ends of the Earth: North and South (Antarctica)” (p 235).


Arizona, New Mexico & the Grand Canyon Trips

Blond, Becca and Aaron Anderson. Arizona, New Mexico & the Grand Canyon Trips: 58 Themed Itineraries, 1005 Local Places to See. Oakland, California: Lonely Planet, 2009.

Reason read: Planning a trip to the Southwest this spring.

This has got to be one of the coolest travel books I have seen in a long time. There are fifty-eight themed itineraries (as the title suggests), but it’s the unique theme of each itinerary that is the real showcase. This guidebook takes into consideration practically every lifestyle imaginable. Do you want to hike the Grand Canyon exclusively? There’s a rim to rim itinerary for such an excursion. Do you want to go on an epic art tour in New Mexico? Maybe you are into beer and wine tastings? There are trips for that and that and that. Maybe you want to specifically look at Arizona architecture or follow its music scene. Like I said, there is a tour for those interests as well.
That being said, as with any tour book you definitely want to double check that the hotels and restaurants mentioned in the book are still operational. Additionally, prices for anything are bound to be different ten years after publication, but the canyons, buttes, deserts, and mesas aren’t going anywhere.
Another nice feature of this tour book is the time it will take to do each tour (providing you stick to the mileage they have laid out and avoid lengthy detours). They also suggest the best time to go, where you start and end up, and if you want to link on trip to another, which ones work the best. It made me want to take a year off and try every itinerary back to back. Of course there are detailed maps to help you plan such a thing.

Final thought: the photography included is spectacular. Then again, I think all desert photography is gorgeous.