Murder with Puffins

Andrews, Donna. Murder with Puffins. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000.

Reason read: a book that takes place on Monhegan Island? How could I resist?

I will be 100% honest. I couldn’t finish this book. I couldn’t suspend reality high enough to believe anything about Murder with Puffins. It’s not the author’s fault in the least. I just know too much about Monhegan Island. I know for a fact no one would make the trek out to this remote island without making sure they have a place to stay, especially in the off-season. Everything is extremely limited so it’s not like you can pivot easily if your original plans don’t work out. It’s not as simple as hopping back on the boat either. Meg and Michael are looking for a romantic hideaway and they chose Meg’s aunt’s cabin on Monhegan. It is supposed to stand empty at this dismal, rainy time of year. Except this time Meg parents, brother, neighbor and aunt are all in residence. How could Meg not know that? The island is crawling with birders so there isn’t a single room available elsewhere… Then there is the islander who scares people off with shotguns and winds up dead. Someone Meg’s father is accused of murder and it’s up to Meg to clear his name. It’s a fun story. I couldn’t concentrate on the entertainment of it all because reality kept getting in the way. Oh well.

Author fact: Andrews wrote an apparently better book called Murder with Peacocks. Obviously, not on my Challenge list since Murder with Puffins is not either.

Book trivia: an additional hangup I had about this book ended up being the chapter titles. They are really corny. Here are a few: “They Shoot Puffins, Don’t They?” or “Round Up the Usual Puffins.”


September Summer

It feels like it’s still summer. Never mind the nights are getting somewhat cooler. Never mind that we are back in school. Never mind there is a seasonal hurricane ripping its way up the eastern seaboard. Never mind all that. I’m still in summer mode. I started the month off by a good 3.24 run. Yes!
Here are the books planned for the month:

Fiction:

  • The Shining by Stephen King – in honor of King’s birth month.
  • In the City of Fear by Ward Just – in honor of Just’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • Thank You and OK!: an American Zen Failure in Japan by David Chadwick – in honor of September being Respect for the Aged month.
  • Foreign Correspondence: a Pen Pal’s Journey From Down Under to All Over by Geraldine Brooks – in honor of International Reading Day.
  • The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: the Paradox of Modern Iran by Hooman Majd – in memory of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980.

Series continuation:

  • Tripwire by Lee Child – to continue the series started in July
  • Foundation and Earth by Isaac Asimov – to continue finish the series started in January.

Early Review:

  • My Life on the Line: How the NFL Damn Near Killed Me and Ended Up Saving My Life by Ryan O’Callaghan. If you have been keeping score, I started this last month.

For fun:

  • The Miracle on Monhegan Island by Elizabeth Kelly – because of the title.

Island Voices II

Various. Island Voices II: Poetry of Monhegan. Stone Island Press, 2014.

Reason read: a Christmas gift from my mother.

It is hard for me to read anything Monhegan related from a critical point of view. My mind instantly goes to what I know and love about the island, and if the poetry captured even a smidgen of that memory, I am instantly biased. Biased and definitely devoted. I have to wonder how someone completely ignorant of Monhegan would read these poems. Where would be his or her focus? What would stick in their minds as relevant or real?
Further complicating my review are my varying relationships with the poets themselves. True, Catherine Morocco and Marilyn Ringer are complete strangers, although I am sure I would recognize them by sight. Kate Chappell, Iris Miller, and Frances Vaughn I only know by long standing history and name. While I am more acquainted with Jan Bailey, Mary Kordak, Jan Kornbluth, & Joanne Scott, in truth K.K. Iannicelli and Judith Ponturo are island mothers. They could be my island mothers.

So. To review Island Voice II. I simply can’t. When I read about the ocean’s melodic drumming, I also hear Kathi’s wheelbarrow coming up the hard packed dirt road. When I see words about the salt, salt air I also see Judy humming in Winter Works. On the page the gulls may laugh overhear but I see Jan’s secret smile as another tourist tries on a wrestling mask. Queen Anne’s Lace blown bent backwards in Mary’s garden but all I see is her radiant smile. I admit it, I read the words but see the home.


January’s New Reads

A little something about the new year. I have absolutely no expectations of the year to come. No list of things I must pretend to accomplish. No run numbers, real or imagined. There has been an end to so many things. As a result I’m in day-by-day mode. Or, in the case of this entry, book-by-book. Here’s what I finished:

Fiction:

  • Captain of the Sleepers by Mayra Montero
  • Any Human Heart: a novel by William Boyd (AB + print)

Nonfiction:

  • Italy and the Grand Tour by Jeremy Black
  • Another Life by Michael Korda
  • Book of Puka-Puka by Robert Dean Frisbie. (I am now reading An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale as a continuation to Puka.)

Series:

  • Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright (finished the series)
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons (started the series). (I’m now reading Fall of Hyperion as a continuation.)

LibraryThing:

  • Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston. NOTE: I was supposed to receive this as an Early Review in 2014. When it didn’t arrive I borrowed it from a library two years later.
  • You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden (December 2016 batch)

For Fun:

  • Island Voices II by Poets of Monhegan Island ~ a gift from my mother.

October ’11 was…

What do you get when you add a vacation to two road trips and a freak snow storm in which I lose electricity for two days? Answer – a boat load of books read in one month; so many books that I haven’t been able to review them all.

In the first week of October I went home. As past posts can tell you I like nothing more than reading on an island, especially one on the tail end of a hurricane. There is something so book-worthy about a rain soaked afternoon or two by the raging ocean…
On Monhegan I was able to read:

  • Anil’s Ghost by Michael Onjaatje (e-book),
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (stolen from my childhood bookcase),
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (stolen from my sister’s childhood bookcase)
  • Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (another e-book) and part of
  • The Stand by Stephen King

On a road trip to New York (to see Natalie Merchant ~ more on that on the Other Side) I was able to finish

  • The Stand by Stephen King and
  • Spy Trap by Edward Packard and
  • Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I started reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann when I forgot Immortality by Milan Kundera at work. I finished both those books and Last to Die by James Grippando during the freak snow storm/power outage (and to think people wanted me to come out with them because they had cable!!). As long as I candles and blankets I was in heaven.
But, probably the hardest book to get through was Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (another e-book). I started Altered Carbon the first week of October and slogged through it until October 27th. Talk about a complicated story! I am struggling with the review because the plot was so intense.

So, there it is. Nearly a dozen books for the month of October. True, four of those books were for kids (Phantom Tollbooth, Johnny Tremain, Spy Trap and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) but Altered Carbon, Last To Die and Buddenbrooks were “adult” enough to offset the kiddie stuff.

What’s in store for November? Well, considering I have no trips to Monhegan (or anywhere for that matter), Thanksgiving is this month, and we have a power back, I have no idea. 🙂


“Two Tramps in Mud Time”

Frost, Robert. “Two Tramps in Mud Time.” Collected Poems, Prose, and Plays. New York: Library of America, 1984. pp 251-252.

Too many people have tried to analyze Frost’s poem, “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” giving me license to not even try.  Long, rambling, didactic essays have been written explaining Frost’s position on charity, society, and the psychological differences between need versus want. I will refrain. Instead I will look at the poem for what it meant to me. At first blush I took the poem personally. The words “mud time” in the title made me think of Monhegan. We have a whole season dedicated to muck and mire and mud – early spring when everything is thawing more quickly than the sun can dry up. This runoff of excessive, exuberant water creates deep, thick, oozing traps of mud. The kind of mud you sink 4-5″ inches in; strong enough to suck a man’s Bean boot right off his foot.
Then, there is Frost’s description of a fickle spring. I can relate. Here it is, a week into spring and we have a snow storm on our doorstep. April Fools we are for living in New England. If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute – as they say.

Another aspect of “Two Tramps in Mud Time” that I took to heart is the concept of loving your work so much that work is not the operative word to describe your actions. The narrator is chopping wood. Not because it is a necessity – winter is over. It is April and presumably he wouldn’t need to light another fire again until fall. No. He enjoys the physical labor of chopping wood. Love what you do. Do what you love. It’s something my father has (countless times) drummed into my head. But, along come two unemployed tramps, looking to take the narrator’s work away from him. They need the work whereas the narrator wants the work. Herein lies the psychological babble about questioning obligation, confronting humanity with charity.

BookLust Twist: Book Lust in the introduction (p xi).


July ’10 is…

Vacation! Vacation! Vacation! We have some crazy things planned. I simply cannot wait! Camping, hiking, music, craft fair, parade, family, friends, fireworks, boats, the ocean, mountains, swimming, lobster festival, Natalie, Monhegan, food, books and more books.

  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brien ~ taken off the list since I didn’t finish Master and Commander. Boo.
  • Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt ~ in honor of July being the most popular month to visit the ocean
  • Firewall by Henning Mankell ~ in honor of July being the best time to visit Sweden
  • Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes ~ in honor of the first test of the atomic bomb

I sincerely doubt I will get to the last book. For one, it’s over 800 pages long and for another, it’s at the end of the list. But, more importantly, it’s about the making of the atomic bomb. On vacation? I don’t think so!

I act like I’m going away for a month. Maybe that’s not a bad thing….

For the Early Review Program (LibraryThing) I have an interesting situation. A book I was supposed to receive over a year ago arrived June 23rd. So, for July I will be reviewing What’s a Mother (in-law) to Do? by Jane Angelich.