McBain, Ed. Fuzz. New York: Warner Books, 2000.

Reason read: to finish the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.

McBain is a master of character development and dialogue detail.

The 87th Precinct has met its match in Fuzz. After a prominent citizen of a fictitious New York City is gunned down witnesses can only say they saw a man wearing a hearing aid. Dubbed the Deaf Man, it isn’t long before he strikes again. His modus operandi is to call the precinct to extort a sum of money or else someone is going to die. In the case of Parks Commissioner Cowper, it was $5,000. The next threat was aimed at the deputy mayor for $50,000. Finally, it was the mayor’s turn to die. Meanwhile on a different assignment, Steve Carella tries to figure out who is setting homeless people on fire. Dressed as a derelict Carella puts himself in danger and isn’t fast enough to get out of harm’s way…

Quotes I liked, “In a city notorious for its indifference, the citizens were obviously withdrawn now, hurrying past each other without so much as eyes meeting, insulating themselves, becoming tight private cocoons that defied the cold” (p 23),

Author fact: So, here’s a really odd one. McBain can describe the weather so well the heat detailed on the page can send trickles of sweat down your back or the lack of it can freeze your fingertips. Impressive, considering all the while you are in the comfort of your own temperature controlled home.

Book trivia: Fuzz was made into a movie in  starring Burt Reynolds.

Nancy said: I read Fuzz and Big Bad City out of order because Pearl listed Big Bad City before Fuzz. I should have known better than to trust Pearl to put the series in the order in which they should be read. It’s an attention to detail I would have appreciated.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust  in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 120).

Holding the Dream

Roberts, Nora. Holding the Dream. New York: Berkeley Books, 2012.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.

The “Dream” series sets you up to meet the Templeton family one by one. In Daring to Dream Margo Sullivan (now Templeton after marrying Josh) dared to give up a life of glamour to own her own second hand shop. In Holding the Dream, it’s Kate Powell who takes center stage. If Margo is the sexy one, Kate is the outwardly dowdy accountant, the sexy-behind-the-scenes-but-good-with-numbers one. Orphaned by a childhood tragedy, she joins the Templeton household as the ugly and odd duck; she grows up to be the ambitious accountant striving to pull her weight and forever indebted to the Templetons for their generosity. She is no nonsense and serious and to the letter with everything she does so how it that Kate is accused of embezzling from the firm she wants to make partner? Of course it’s a Templeton connection who swoops in to save the day.

Spoiler: It’s a little gimicky, but you meet Roger Thornhill briefly. Roger is someone Kate dated briefly within the firm. As a coworker he used her to get at her client list and snag her largest account. Frustratingly enough, I knew he was behind the embezzlement because he doesn’t factor into the story again until the very end. The scene between him and Kate early on is a vehicle only to introduce his character so that later on his guilt will make sense.

Book trivia: As with every Roberts romance, the fight scenes are a little cheesy. The “I’m in love with you but I hate you” push-pull is totally in play.

Nancy said: Holding the Dream is an example of a romance novel in which “the answer is always yes” according to Jayne Ann Krentz (Book Lust p 204).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our Love is Here to Stay” (p 203).

Riot Days

Alyokhina, Maria. Riot Days. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2017.

Reason read: This is the August book for the Early Review program for LibraryThing. Riot Days is to be published on September 26th, according to Amazon’s website.

A word of caution before reading this blog or Alyokhina’s Riot Days: we both use strong language. Case in point: Alyokhina uses the see-you-next-Tuesday word not even ten words into Riot Days. Forgive me, but I draw the line at the c-word. No clue why.

Riot Days is sharp, choppy and biting. Words fly off the page like the staccato of machine gun fire. Even the illustrations are crude and unpolished; but all are perfect for the message Alyokhina wants to relay. The facts are such – in February of 2012 members of an all-girl punk band smuggled an electric guitar into an Orthodox church in Moscow to perform a “Punk Prayer” in protest to Putin’s regime. Alyokhina and another member of the band were finally arrested and sentenced to two years in a penal colony. Alyokhina’s side of the story is interspersed with the court proceedings as if to say,  “look how reality can get twisted; this is what happens when you have convictions; you get convicted.” This is a quick but extremely worthwhile read. I don’t know how it will look when it is published, but my copy ends abruptly…with her freedom.

As an aside, I had a chance to check out Pussy Riot’s videos on YouTube. All I can say is wow.

Quote I hope stays in the book, “Right after our ‘Punk Prayer’ performance, I took the metro to my son’s kindergarten – it was noon” (p 29).

Everybody Was So Young

Vaill, Amanda. Everybody Was So Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy – a Lost Generation Love Story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.

Reason read: F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in September. His novel Tender is the Night is based on Gerald and Sara Murphy.

I am trying to wrap my brain around just how special Sara and Gerald Murphy’s reputation was between post World War I and pre World War II. Just the who’s who name dropping when describing their inner circle alone is spectacular. Even at an early age, both Sara and Gerald hobnobbed with notables (Sara was warned not to wear a long scarf while flying with the Wright brothers and Gerald was schoolmates with Dorothy (Rothschild) Parker). The Murphys vacation spot of choice was a rocky beach in the south of France. It was easy to rub elbows with the big names for Paris was a hotbed for creativity during the 1920s. Artists, photographers, writers, poets and fashionistas alike flocked to the city center and soon made their way to the French Riviera. Gerald and Sara knew how to entertain all ages. Their children were treated to elaborate parties including a scavenger hunt that took them by sailboat across the Mediterranean. It was a charmed life…until it wasn’t. Interspersed with the good times are episodes of tragedy – illnesses, death, Fitzgerald’s drinking and subsequent estrangements from longtime friends. But, it was probably the tragic deaths of their two sons, Baoth and Patrick that were the most devastating and marked the end of an era for Sara and Gerald.

Pet peeve about Vaill’s book: many of the photographs Vaill refers to are not included in her book. The Fitzgeralds frolicking in the ocean; Sara with pearl looping down her bare back. Even the Pamploma photograph, which Vaill describes in great detail is not the same one included in the book. Hadley does not look at Gerald and Pauline does not look at her lap. Instead, all are looking straight into the camera. This might be why Pearl recommends reading Everybody was so Young with Living Well is the Best Revenge because Living Well includes more photographs and a section on Gerald’s art.

As an aside, I cannot help but think of my paternal grandparents while reading Everybody Was So Young. Their wealth and society was a mirror image of Gerald and Sara’s. To top it off, Sara’s family was well rooted on Long Island, just a short distance from where my Grandmother lived for many, many years in Quogue.

Favorite trivia: Gerald named his boat after a Louis Armstrong album, “The Weatherbird.” When having the boat built he had a copy of the record sealed in its hull. How cool is that?

Author fact: Everybody Was So Young is Amanda Vaill’s first book.

Book trivia: Everybody Was So Young includes two sections of 84 interesting photographs.

Nancy said: Nancy suggested reading Everybody Was So Young at the same time as Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Living Well is the Best Revenge. by Calvin Tomkins.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the interesting chapter called “Companion Reads” (p 62).

O Jerusalem!

Collins, Larry and Dominique Lapierre. O Jerusalem! New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.

Reason read: Read in honor of Collins’s birth month being in September.

Critics have called O Jerusalem! “massive” and “epic” in regards to its number of pages, but the scope of its topic O Jerusalem is singular: the year 1948. The year in which British rule ceased in Jerusalem and Arabs and Jews picked up their generations-long battle over the region. Written in four parts beginning with November 29th, 1947 to December 20th, 1947, O Jerusalem opens with the General Assembly of the United Nations voting in favor of partitioning Palestine. Joy and dismay alike reverberate through the ancient land. For this is a fate Jewish Jerusalem had prayed for for over two thousand years. That fact alone is staggering. Think of how many generations have lived through this struggle! Their joy reminded me of the Red Sox winning the pennant after 84 years, “Uri Cohen, a biology student at Hebrew University, happily kissed his way from his home to the city center” (p 42).
This reads like a adventure novel. You get to know people (Uri Cohen will come back again, not as happily).  As a reader, you will crawl into their lives and almost get inside their heads. This may be massive and epic but you’ll hang on every word.

Author fact: Larry Collins was born and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut – just down the road from where I work.
Author fact: Dominique Lapierre was friends with Collins before they coauthored Is Paris Burning?

Book trivia: O Jerusalem! includes a section of photographs.

Nancy said: O Jerusalem! is included in a list of books Nancy says are all “certain to broaden your knowledge, increase your understanding of this part of the world, and be enjoyable (if sometimes uncomfortable) reads” (p 143).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “A Mention of the Middle East” (p 142).

Burton and Speke

Harrison, William. Burton and Speke. New York: St. Martin’s, 1982.

Reason read: September is National Curiosity Month. What better way to satisfy curiosity than to go exploring the source of the Nile?

Richard Francis Burton was a legendary adventurer who also had a reputation for being a great lover. John Hanning Speke also had a reputation for being an adventurer and a lover, albeit of a different kind. When they first met, Speke needed Burton in order to get to Africa. Luckily, Burton was already going that way. Burton’s mission in Somaliland was in four parts:

  1. Discourage slavery
  2. Establish a camp for later use
  3. Search for gold
  4. “Examine” the women to study their sexual practices

As with any expedition into the unknown, Burton and Speke encounter many trials and tribulations. More often than not, their equipment and supplies were either being broken or getting lost. Crews and guides were constantly deserting them. It didn’t help that Burton and Speke couldn’t be more different from one another when it came down to leading the expeditions. Burton prided himself on his intellect, especially when it came to native languages across the regions. (He would go on to translate Arabian Nights and  The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana.) He had an understanding of the necessity of breaking down language barriers. Instead of brains, Speke valued his brawn, his hunting capabilities and his sheer physical strength. While Burton sought the company of many different beautiful women, Speke wouldn’t turn away a pretty boy. Their differences soon drove them apart and made them fierce rivals. In the end, it was Speke who discovered the source of the Nile but because he lacked the scientific evidence to explain how this came to be he was ridiculed and almost discredited. Richard Burton became faithful to one woman and became an anthropologist.

As an aside, I liked manservant End of Time’s name. That’s it – End of Time.
A cringe worthy moment – when the beetle crawled deep inside Speke’s ear and he went mad trying to dig it out with a knife.

Quote I liked, “Aloofness was a bore – especially when practiced amidst life’s frailties” (p 133).

Author fact: Harrison has written a bunch of other works, but this is the only one I am reading.

Book trivia: Confessional: I thought this was a nonfiction before I received the book.
It’s actually a historical novel.

Nancy said: Burton and Speke tries to solve an age-old debate of who found the source of the Nile.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Explorers” (p 85). Pretty straightforward.

My Dream of You

O’Faolain, Nuala. My Dream of You. Read by Dearbhla Molloy. Hampton, NH: BBC Audiobooks America, 2002.

Reason read: September is supposedly the best month to visit Ireland.

Irish born Kathleen De Burca has arrived at a crossroads in her life. Nearing fifty she loses her best friend and coworker to a heart attack. As a travel writer, Kathleen has lived in London for nearly thirty years and has never married or had children. Jimmy was the closest person she could call family. But, when she is presented with the lifetime achievement award she was supposed to share with her best friend she realizes there is more to life than travel miles and exotic venues. Why not go home to Ireland? Why not research a century old crime that has long fascinated her?
So begins Kathleen’s story. Her past is as complicated as her future is a blank slate. Giving up everything, she lays herself bare to the tragedies of the past; remembrances of long ago transgressions; all the cringe-worthy scars of yesterday. But, as she says on page 408, “Tragedies end.” And so they do. Kathleen learns to pick up the pieces and face the black slate of tomorrow with a different kind of courage than it took in order to come home.
As an aside, I felt the ending gave O’Faolain room for a sequel. Just saying.

Quotes I fell in love with, “I envied her both the Alzheimer’s and the caring husband until I realized that if she had the one she didn’t know she had the other” (p 410), “Happiness keeps you poised, and you do the right thing without effort, whereas you get things wrong when you’re struggling with lack of life” (p 438), and “Either take account of other people from now on, or go back to the bad old days” (p 484). On a personal note, I took a lot from Kathleen’s words. I, too, am a woman who has repeatedly shunned the thrum of humanity, preferring my own seclusions. I, too, need to embrace and take stock of others around me.

Author fact: O’Faolain also wrote a best selling memoir about her life as an Irish woman.

Book trivia: My Dream of You is O’Faolain’s first novel.

Narrator fact: Dearbhla Molloy won an Audio Award for the abridged narration of My Dream of You.

Nancy said: My Dream of You is “a good novel set in Ireland” (p 126). She also said it is a first novel she was “delighted to have read” (p 89).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “First Novels” (p 88) and again in “Irish Fiction” (p 125). Also, in Book Lust To Go in the chapter appropriately called “Ireland: Beyond Joyce, Behan, Beckett and Synge” (p 111).