April is Over

One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.

Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:

Fiction:

  • Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell

Nonfiction:

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
  • The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
  • Bogey Man by George Plimpton
  • To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame

Series continuations:

  • Charmed by Nora Roberts
  • The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor

Poetry:

  • “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz

Early Review:

  • Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe

Corner

Simon, David and Edward Burns. The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood. New York: Broadway Books, 1997.

Reason read: Maryland become a state in April.

The Corner is very similar to Simon’s other best selling book, Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets. As a freelance writer he has been allowed access to the darkest and grittiest corners of West Baltimore. With Edward Burns as coauthor, Simon takes the reader on a cruel and complicated journey. Together they illustrate what junkies will and won’t do to score the next hit or blast; what crimes or capers they will commit or won’t…because even full blown addicts have their limits. West Baltimore is a shooting gallery where the drug war rearranges police priorities. It’s a harsh reality. The operative word is “real” because even though the plot line reads like a movie and the people you meet could be actors, they are all real. As readers, you get to know people and care about them. Be forewarned. It’s no fairy tale. It grips you as only a never ending nightmare could.

Quotes I need to repeat, “The corner is rooted in human desire – crude and certain and immediate” (p 57), and a couple of pages later, “For those of us riding the wave, the world spins on an axis of technological prowess in an orbit of ever-expanding information” (p 59). Here are two more, “Even heroine no longer suffices to obscure the daily insult that her life has become” (p 179), and “He knows what he likes and to some extent, he knows how to get what he likes, if God is in the details, when DeAndre’s view of the sexual world is decidedly agnostic” (p 225).

Author(s) fact: David Simon writes for the show “The Wire” and Edward Burns was a cop turned teacher.

Book trivia: The Corner has a few photographs of some of the main characters.

Nancy said: Nancy said she couldn’t go to Baltimore without first watching The Wire which was based on The Corner (p 34).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go  in the chapter called simply “Baltimore” (p 34).


Library Week and the April Reads

Yes, it is now April 4th and I am just getting to this. April is slowly becoming one of those coulda, woulda months. I was supposed to run nine miles on Sunday. Instead, I had Easter dinner with the family and chilled out. I could have run on Monday but it snowed and I had Cairo. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn’t. April is supposed to he a half marathon (and you can see how well the training is going) and a 10k one week later. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell – in honor of Lowell’s birth month being in April.

Nonfiction:

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers – in honor of April being the month Louisiana was founded.
  • Bogey Man by George Plimpton – in honor of the PGA tour.
  • Corner by David Simon – in honor of Maryland becoming a state in April.
  • Evolution of Useful Things by Henry Petroski – in honor of April being Math, Science, and Technology month.

Series continuations:

  • Venus Throw by Steven Saylor – to continue the series started in March for Saylor’s birth month.
  • Charmed by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in February for Valentine’s Day.

Poetry:

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz – to continue honoring Poetry Month
  • A Few Figs From Thistles by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.
  • “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay – see above.

If there is time:

  • To the Is-Land by Janet Frame – in honor of Anzac Day in New Zealand.
  • Jargoon Pard by Andre Norton (I had to request this one through interlibrary loan so I’m not sure it will be read in time to be in the April category.

Homicide

Simon, David. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991.

Reason read: There is a book festival held in Baltimore every September.

Question: What happens when a reporter, already on the Baltimore police beat, is allowed to have unlimited access to the city’s homicide unit for a full year? Answer: Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets, a 600 page play by play of what it is like to work a murder from start to finish. From the first report of a cold body to (sometimes) solving the case, Simon was there to witness and document every little moment. He followed various detectives as they got the call, examined the victim for cause of death, poured over the crime scene for clues, canvassed the neighborhoods for reluctant witnesses, stood over autopsies waiting for more evidence, paced the halls in hospital emergency rooms impatient for first-hand accounts from survivors, went on death notifications, stared at their murder boards trying to put the pieces together…These police officers portray the grim reality of crime but they also share moments of humor, sarcasm and a genuine love of the job. I found myself liking Detective McLarney and thinking it would be cool to have a beer with him.

Probably the hardest cases to read about were young Latonya Wallace and police officer Gene Cassidy.

Line I liked, “A heavily armed nation prone to violence finds it only reasonable to give law officers weapons and the authority to use them” (p 108).

Book trivia: This is an informal reporting on crime in Baltimore. No index, photographs or footnoted references.

Author fact: At the time of publication David Simon was a reporter with the Baltimore Sun. He took a leave of absence to write this book. In the time he took him to write Homicide 567 additional murders occurred.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the obvious chapter called, you guessed it, “Baltimore” (p 34).


In a Strange City

Lippman, Laura. In a Strange City. Read by Barbara Rosenblat. New York: Recorded Books, 2009.

Here’s what is nice about In a Strange City: if you have skipped other books in the Tess Monaghan series, you can get caught up pretty quickly without repetitiveness in this book. When I last left Miss Monaghan in Butchers Hill, her best friend was in Japan, she was kind of seeing Crow, her aunt was jumping from man to man searching for the right relationship and Tess was in business with someone else. Now, Whitney is back from Tokyo, Crow and Tess practically live together (Tess is out of her Aunt’s place and in a real house now), her aunt is now dating Tyner and Tess has her own private investigation business (and she still has her greyhound. Yay!). Because Lippman is so smooth at bringing the reader up to speed, I feel like I just stepped out of the room for a minute. My only question – there was no mention of Tess rowing or working out at all. Did the fitness buff drop all that completely?

As a private detective, Tess Monaghan is back and this time she has taken on a case quite by accident. A man claiming to have been scammed in an antiques deal wants Tess to take his case. Although Tess refuses, Crow convinces her to check out the man’s claims. Through this interaction, Tess ends up witnessing a murder, finding out the would-be client doesn’t exist, and then she starts receiving strange gifts and messages at work and then at home. Somehow, she knows, the all of this is connected. She knows someone wants her on the case. She couldn’t stay out of it if she tried. Out of sheer curiosity she starts working the case…without a real client to speak of. It all hinges on the mysteriously “Poe Toaster”, a unknown man who symbolically has a drink with the ghost of famed author, Edgar Allan Poe, every January 19th.

Confession: I really liked the prologue, from the killer’s point of view. The descriptive writing was magical.

Reason read: to continue the series started with Baltimore Blues in September to honor Baltimore’s Book Festival.

Author fact: I am surprised Lippman hasn’t been voted Baltimore’s best voice. She crams more facts about Charm City into her books than anyone else I have ever read.

Reader fact: Narrator Barbara Rosenblat was deemed the “golden voice of the 20th century” by AudioFile magazine.

Book trivia: In a Strange City made the New York Times “most notable” list.

Audio trivia: So, I was checking out the info on the audio case and was very surprised to read, “In a Strange City is Lippman’s second Monaghan mystery.” My first thought was, “Oh crap! I’m reading this series out of order…again!” Leave it to me to blame myself first and foremost. I went to Lippman’s site and clicked on the Tess Monaghan tab and read In a Strange City is actually number six on the list. Number two is Charm City, which I skipped, thanks to Pearl. I’m going to trust the author is correct and say, with confidence, I am reading the Monaghan series in order. Lippman, of all people, should know the order of her series. Right?

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Baltimore” (p). Simple and to the point.


Baltimore Blues

Lippman, Laura. Baltimore Blues. Read by Deborah Hazlett. North Kingston, RI: BBC Audiobooks America, 1997.

Tess Monaghan is an out of work reporter trying to make ends meet with little odd jobs. The only stable consistencies in her life are rowing and her friendship with fellow rower, “the Rock.” She manages to stay out of trouble until Rock “hires” her to do some private investigating of his near perfect fiancee. She has been acting so weird as of late so Rock wants to know why. Tess’s tactics to tease out the truth are less than desirable, so when she uncovers an affair and the other man, who happens to be the fiancee’s boss, winds up dead,  all fingers are pointed at Rock. Of course they do. Now Tess has even more incentive to uncover the truth. Along the way Tess uncovers a whole slew of shady dealings involving a rape support group, unpaid settlements for victims of asbestos related ailments, and a sexual predator of children on death row. What makes Baltimore Blues a likeable story is a combination of things. Tess is far from perfect as a private investigator. Her antics are downright funny. The city of Baltimore is like another character in the book. Places around Baltimore play a significant role in the plot which is a treat for readers who really know the area.

My only irritant? Tess doesn’t know the difference between an attempt on her life and a hit and run. Even though her friend Jonathan is killed in the process, it is deemed an accident and dismissed. Tess isn’t the least bit suspicious until there is a second attempt to kill her.

Reason read: Baltimore, Maryland has a book festival in September. What better way to celebrate than a book called Baltimore Blues?

Author fact: Laura Lippman lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Big surprise, right?

Book Audio trivia: This is one of the few audio books I have listened to where the narrator is American and doesn’t have some sort of accent. Although her Baltimore accent is funny.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Baltimore” (p 35).


Beautiful Swimmers

Warner, William W. Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay. New York: Penguin Books, 1988.

This book is everything you have ever wanted to know about crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay. Seriously. It’s an extensive look at the watermen who make their living hauling up blue crabs. More than a science tutorial on the quick and aggressive critters, it is also a lesson in personality – the type of individual who makes a living hauling in crabs. The illustrations by Consuelo Hanks are phenomenal.

Here’s the thing. This book completely reminded me of the men and women who fish off of the coast of Monhegan Island. They love their life on the water just as much and love their way of life even more.

Funny line, “Getting up at two o’clock is unnatural for city folk” (p 151).

Reason read: William W. Warner passed away on April 18th 2008 from complications related to Alzheimer’s. I know it sounds gruesome but as soon as I learned this I thought of my uncle and wondered if Warner choked to death.

Author fact: William W. Warner won a Pulitzer for Beautiful Swimmers.

Book trivia: Beautiful Swimmers has gorgeous illustrations by Consuelo Hanks. Definitely worth checking out…as I mentioned before.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter simply called “Chesapeake Bay” (p 59).