Appealing to April

I have a ridiculous number of books planned for this month. I have no idea what I was thinking.

Fiction:

  • The Warden by Anthony Trollope – in honor of Trollope’s birth month being in April.
  • City and the House by Natalie Ginsberg – in honor of April being Letter Writing month.
  • All Souls by Javier Marias – in honor of Oxford Jazz Festival traditionally being in April.
  • All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor – in honor of April being Sibling month and in honor of Library Week.

Nonfiction:

  • The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs – in honor of John Muir’s birth month (and the fact we are visiting Arizona soon).
  • Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins – in honor of Library Week.

Series continuations:

  • Hunting Season by Nevada Barr to finish the series read out of order.
  • The Game by Laurie R. King – to finish the series started in honor of Female Mystery month.
  • Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith – to finish the series started in honor of Smith’s birth month.
  • The Council of the Cursed by Peter Tremayne – to continue the series started in honor of Tremayne’s birth month.
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • From Red Earth: a Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness by Denise Uwiemana.

White Sky, Black Ice

Jones, Stan. White Sky, Black Ice. New York: Soho Press, 1999.

Reason read: Alaska’s Seward Day takes place in March.

The first book in Stan Jones’s Nathan Active series has the task of painting a picture of who Nathan Active is. The character development is slow in regards to Active’s personality. Jones spends a lot of time building the backstory of Active’s adoption after his fifteen year old Inupiat mother gave him up. He was raised by a white couple in Anchorage and grew up to be a state trooper. Here’s the rub: he has been posted back in his little birth village of Chukchi where he feels torn between the cultures of his upbringing and the traditions in his blood. He’s an obvious outsider, being raised in the big city. But when atypical suicides start happening one right after the other Active decides to listen to his ancestral roots and dig in.

Confessional: because White Sky, Black Ice takes an environmental spin I kept thinking of Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. She also tackles the theory that our planet is going to hell.

Author fact: Stan Jones launched the Kotzubue newspaper. He was also an editor for a couple of other newspapers.

Book trivia: White Sky, Black Ice is the first in the Nathan Active series.

Nancy said: Pear said nothing specific except to say White Sky, Black Ice is the first in a series.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the interesting chapter “All Set For Alaska” (p 14).


Monkey’s Raincoat

Crais, Robert. The Monkey’s Raincoat. New York: Perfect Crime Book, 1987.

Reason read: I needed another category for March and decided to throw this one in the mix because March is a rainy month. Get it? Sigh.

It’s really too bad I don’t have a lot more of Robert Crais on my reading list. I fell in love with wisecracking private investigator, Elvis Cole, immediately. (My only other Crais is a Joe Pike mystery.) But, back to Elvis Cole. With Cole’s affinity for Disney characters, yoga, and a cat named nothing, he is a bundle of personality and then some. He’s thirty five years old, former military and security, likes to look at the ladies and isn’t above saying something outrageous just to see someone’s reaction. What’s not to love? I took to his sarcastic kindness right away.
When we first meet Elvis, he is about to launch into a new investigation involving a weepy woman’s missing husband and son. All clues lead to Mr. Missing taking off with a sexy young girlfriend until he is found shot to death in the Hollywood Hills. What starts off as a simple missing case has now evolved into a murderous mystery involving high stakes drug deals gone wrong and bad ass thugs who will stop at nothing to regain the upper hand. It is up to Elvis and his silent (in more ways than one) partner, Joe Pike, to find Ellen’s missing son and bring him back, dead or alive. The details are a little dated (these are the days of calling from street corner payphones and Wang Chung hits), but still a good read.
Mousy mom Ellen Lang was a mystery to me. She didn’t get Cole’s joke about the humor of paramedics (keeping one “in stitches”) yet she understood that two years at the “University of Southeast Asia” meant a stint in Vietnam. Throughout the entire book she wasn’t consistent to me. Someone who was consistent and I wanted more of was Joe Pike. The inside flap described him as an enigma and that just scratches the surface of Pike’s personality. Can’t wait to read more about him later.

Quote I liked, “Everything always goes wrong whent the cameras turned away” (p 27).

Author fact: If you ever get the chance to check out the author photo on the back of The Monkey’s Raincoat, please do. Robert Crais could not look any cooler in his over-sized sunglasses, Batman tee-shirt and glowing white kicks. The pose is pretty bad ass, too.

Book trivia: The Monkey’s Raincoat won the Anthony and Macavity Awards.

Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Monkey’s Raincoat except to include it in a list she called “private eye novels.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 116).


Blackout

Garcia-Roza, Luiz Alfredo. Blackout: an Inspector Espinosa Mystery. Translated by Benjamin Moser. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008.

Reason read: to finish the series started in February in honor of Brazil’s Carnival.

When a crippled and seemingly homeless man is found shot to death in a cul-de-sac in a wealthy neighborhood Espinosa knew from childhood personal intrigue is added to his professional duty to find the killer. The secluded neighborhood is up a very steep hill so why would a vagrant man with only one leg be there, especially late at night in a torrential downpour? Espinosa likes two men for the crime. Both were collecting their cars in the same cul-de-sac after a dinner party. Both men initially lie to Espinosa but one man in particular holds his attention longer. There is something about Aldo. Espinosa and his team slowly turn up the pressure on their prime suspect, showing up at Aldo’s work, following him around town, and repeatedly interviewing his therapist wife. Such scrutiny finally reveals Aldo is having an affair with a coworker. Even after Aldo’s wife is found murdered Espinosa refuses to consider he has an open and shut case. He shows considerable restraint when he does not eagerly arrest the obvious suspect.
Character development is subtle and substantial all at once. The character of Camilla Bruno was intriguing. Was she seducing patients or not? I wish I had more Garcia-Rozas on my Challenge list. I would have liked to see how Espinoza’s personality evolves. His love of books, for example.
One of the best part’s of Garcia-Roza’s writing is his elegant descriptions of the Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods (Copacabana and Ipanema specifically). I found myself playing around with Google Earth just to see how close he came to matching the true landscapes.

As an aside, I just finished watching two documentaries about how an innocent man spent considerable time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit because the state wanted to close their high profile case. Police became fixed on the wrong man and made the evidence fit the guilt instead of looking at every viable suspect out there. Espinosa would have been good on both of these cases. He certainly wouldn’t have rushed to judgement.

Author fact: Garcia-Roza is an academic and has written at least five other books which are not on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: this is the sixth book in the Espinosa series.

Nancy said: Pearl said “mystery fans can rejoice in reading Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza’s complex novels” (Book Lust To Go p 45).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the very simple chapter called “Brazil” (p 43).


Following February

What to say about this month? It was epic in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, I turned half a century old. I don’t mind the number; I am not bothered by the age. Never the less, friends and family gathered for a party to remember. And. And! And, I re-upped my commitment to running. It’s been slow but I have to admit something here – my breathing has been effed up. I have a scheduled appointment for early March so…I continue to read.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Take This Man by Frederick Busch. (EB & print)
  • Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker. (EB)
  • Crossers by Philip Caputo. (EB and print)
  • Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. (EB and print)

Nonfiction:

  • Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey. (print only)
  • Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. (AB, EB and print)

Series Continuations:

  • A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King. (EB and print)
  • Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett. (print)
  • Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. (EB)
  • A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow. (EB and print)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg.
  • Corregidora by Gayl Jones (reread).

For fun:

  • Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne.
  • Calypso by David Sedaris (started).
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean (continuing)
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (continuing)

Fine and Bitter Snow

Stabenow, Dana. A fine and Bitter Snow.  New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2002.

Reason read: to continue the sequel started in January in honor of the month Alaska became a state.

Kate is back. It’s been awhile since we last caught up with the feisty private investigating crime solver. In A Cold-Blooded Business she and single dad, Jack, were hot and heavy. Now several books later Jack is dead and Kate is sort of looking after his son from a previous marriage. As an FYI – Kate’s grandmother has also passed. In time, this detail will become important to the plot. For now, Kate needs a distraction from the grief these dual deaths have caused and, oddly enough, it comes in the form of oil drilling in southeast Alaska. Drilling in general has been a sensitive subject to all involved but when longtime friend and park ranger, Dan O’Brien, is deemed too environmentally friendly and is forced into early retirement, it becomes Kate’s mission to save his job. It becomes even more personal when a good friend of her grandmother’s is found murdered just days after agreeing to help Dan keep his job. Is the drilling in the wildlife preserve connected to this most recent death? State trooper, Jim Chopin, is on the case and he asks Kate to help…in more ways than one.

Confessional – I that this was the perfect pairing with Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior which is also an environmental drama.

Like I liked, “The moose might kick your ass and the grizzly might rip it off and the wolf might eat it, but they wouldn’t talk you to deal while they got on with the job” (p 232). This is Dana’s way of saying yeah, I know the woman is holding shotgun to Kate’s face and talking way too much, but I need to explain some motives here before she pulls the trigger.

Author fact: Stabenow also writes science fiction.

Book trivia: A Fine and Bitter Snow is Stabenow’s twelfth story.

Nancy said: nothing specific about A Fine and Bitter Snow.

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


Cold-Blooded Business

Stabenow, Dana. A Cold-Blooded Business. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 1994.

Reason read: Alaska became a state in January.

Disclaimer: A Cold-Blooded Business is part of a series and since this is my first Kate Shugak mystery I feel like I jumped into it blind.

Kate Shugak is a private investigator for the Anchorage District Attorney’s office. In A Cold-Blooded Business her assignment is to go undercover at RPetCo, short for Royal Petroleum Company based in Prudhoe Bay up in the Arctic Circle. John King, CEO of RPetCo wants to know who has been dealing cocaine to his employees on company time. His main concern is overdoses are on the rise. There has even been a death by drowning linked to drug use. “Get that dope off my slope” he urges poetically.

Small pet peeve. Teeny tiny, really. On page 142 Kate is yearning for peace and quiet since her boyfriend’s young son, Johnny, “had the television on from the time he woke up till the time he went to bed.” However, not even eleven pages later Kate’s exposure to television is described as limited to Bernie’s television at the Roadhouse “eternally tuned into a basketball game” or Bobby’s set which existed “solely to be hooked up to a VCR” (p 152 – 153). I probably wouldn’t have squawked if the contradictory details weren’t so close together.

As an aside, what irked me from the beginning is that Kate is supposed to go undercover as a roustabout on the slope but within her first week on the job she meets a former medic/acquaintance from another job and a trooper who knows her name. She has to lie and say she’s no longer an investigator. Later she rushes to the first overdose on the job. Bursting into the room she encounters the victim is her cousin and he’s just as surprised to see her as she is him. Finally, Cindy Sovaluk, a woman she meets in the sauna turns out to know her grandmother. So much for undercover when four different people know your name or are related to you!
As another aside, are yearling bears really harmless enough to tug on their tails?

Author fact: Stabenow lives in Alaska and definitely knows the culture. That’s the obvious. What isn’t as obvious is just how many books Ms Stabenow has written. Check out her website here.

Book trivia: A Cold-Blooded Business is part of a series. I counted nineteen Shugak mysteries and I’m only reading two.

Nancy said: Pearl said Cold-Blooded Business is “her favorite Shugak mystery” (Book Lust p 18).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the unimaginative chapter called “Alaska” (p 17). I would have riffed off a Phish tune and called it “Alaska? I’ll Ask Her”.