Sunday Salon: Shark Infested Waters?

The Sunday

I have a “thing” for sharks, so when the weather stayed in the triple-digits for yet another week, I was already thinking about rereading The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks by Susan Casey.

On Saturday, I came inside from swimming feeling too hot, strangely exhausted, and dehydrated to the point that my skin felt like chalk. I drank a bottle of water, and went to bed, sleeping away the late afternoon and early evening. When I got up, I grabbed Devil’s Teeth from my studio shelves, and took it with me into a warm bath laced with pleasantly fragrant moisturizers, and sipped more water while I soaked and read.

After my bath, I took the book with me to bed, losing myself in this story of a woman who, like me, is obsessed with the elegance and power of great white sharks – to the point where she was willing to spend several days on an island, and later on a sailboat, where not only was the water not flowing from a Grohe faucet, but on some days, not flowing at all – and certainly never hot!

The first time I read this book, two years ago, it was in March, and the weather was much cooler. Reading it in the heat of summer, I felt myself imagining waves rocking me to sleep, about spending a day surrounded by fog and water, and about being close enough to see white sharks swimming in the wild.

I’ve always loved the sea – it’s in my blood, and my heart – and I’ve liked sharks for years, but rereading this not only kept me sane all weekend, but also cemented my desire to cage dive with great whites…someday.

Booking through Thursday: Hot


On Thursday, June 25th, Booking through Thursday asked:

Now that summer is here (in the northern hemisphere, anyway), what is the most “Summery” book you can think of? The one that captures the essence of summer for you?

(I’m not asking for you to list your ideal “beach reading,” you understand, but the book that you can read at any time of year but that evokes “summer.”)

For me, it’s not just one book, but the works of one author, Anne Rivers Siddons, that give me that summery feeling. I consider her a “guilty pleasure” author at times, but I love her books because she’s an excellent storyteller who writes great women characters, and blends enough detail about things like clothing, jewelry, and room decor, with plot, setting, and subtext.

While I’ve enjoyed all of Siddon’s work, my favorites are the novels that take place at the coast – either in the Carolinas (Low Country, Up Island), or New England (Colony, Off Season) that draw me most, at least in part because I miss the shore so much.

Review: Lulu in Marrakech, by Diane Johnson

Lulu in Marrakech
Diane Johnson
Get it at Amazon >>

I had just finished re-reading The Eight. which had some lovely scenes set in Tangier, and wanted something similarly exotic. I was standing in Barnes and Noble, talking to my friend Deb on the phone, and I saw the lovely red cover with Lulu in Marrakech, across the center, and thought, “Ah, just what I was looking for!”

While I’ve read and enjoyed many of author Diane Johnson’s other novels, those involving an out-of-place American trying to navigate Parisian society, this novel seemed to be penned by a completely different woman. Sure the cover was pretty, and the concept – an American spy called Lulu is sent to Morocco to observe and report because she has a well-connected lover – was intriguing, but the book lived up to neither.

Instead of a bold heroine, Lulu (not her real name) was a meek, constrained, self-deprecating young woman, who wouldn’t even confront her lover when she suspected an affair. The supporting characters could have been cut from stock cloth, and while her observations of local life and culture were interesting, there was no sense of BEING in Morocco.

I don’t like to give bad reviews, and I always try to find something nice to say, but the best I can do about Lulu in Marrakech is this: it’s made me appreciate Johnson’s other works, like Le Divorce all the more.

Teaser Tuesday: How the Other Half Hamptons

On Teaser Tuesdays readers are asked to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between 7 and 12 lines.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given.

My teaser this week is from an ARC of last summer’s How the Other Half Hamptons, by Jasmin Rosemberg, page 158:

“You are so beautiful,” he whispered, touching her face like if he pressed too hard, it might break.

This was a compliment Jamie was accustomed to hearing, almost to the point that she wondered if it was something guys learned to say in Hooking Up 101. Though hearing it at that moment, from this guy, was pretty much the icing on the cake.

Review: The Language of Bees, by Laurie R. King

The Language of Bees
Laurie R. King
Get it at >>

In the latest installment of the Holmes and Russell series, The Language of Bees the bees Holmes is raising in Sussex serve as both metaphor and counterpoint to the action-packed mystery. One of his hives is swarming, something bees apparently do when they suspect their keeper is not returning, and Mary is left alone with that problem, as Holmes as followed their latest client into London.

The nature of this story makes it impossible to review without minor spoilers. The client is question Holmes’ son, we are told, from an affair he had with Irene Adler during the years in which he was supposed to be dead. The mystery: the location of this grown son’s wife and small daughter.

Obviously there are tramps across wet moors, nights spent in boltholes with amenities (or a lack thereof) that are a far cry from the scale of a Riviera hotel – in fact, over the entire series both Holmes and Mary Russell have spent an inordinate amount of time being wet, dirty, cold, or hungry – conditions I normally object to reading about, but don’t mind in these stories in the slightest.

There is also familial angst (what if Holmes’ son murdered is family, what if Holmes’ loyalty is to the son he barely knows rather than Mary?) and a wild aeroplane flight to enhance the mystery.

Sadly, while the mystery is solved, at the end of the novel we are confronted with three words that the author says were meant to offer hope of another story, but which I always find frustrating: To be continued.

Goes well with hot tea and scones or crumpets followed by a hot bubble bath.

Bookish Meme

Whether you’re in the waiting room for your Manhattan Psychologist, Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon or Plano Cosmetic Dentist, chances are at least some of your wait time will be spent completing forms. Paperwork in the “real world” is annoying, but in a blog paperwork becomes a meme – a form we fill in for fun.

I found this meme at Boston Bibliophile‘s blog, and it seemed like a good way to kill some time between book reviews:

  1. Hardback, trade paperback or mass market paperback? I like them all. Hard cover books from favorite authors, mass market for books I plan to pass on or leave behind (on airplanes, for example), and trade paperbacks for reading almost anywhere.
  2. Barnes & Noble or Borders? Barnes & Noble, always, since my town doesn’t have an independent bookseller that isn’t a Christian bookstore. I’ve been to Borders, and I don’t like their pricing, their sales staff, or their cafe as well as B&N’s, though they sometimes have great events.
  3. Bookmark or dog-ear? With my own books? I am terrible out dog-earing pages, or using the flyleaf to mark a spot. I use bookmarks with books that don’t belong to me, though.
  4. Amazon or brick and mortar? Brick and mortar can’t be beat, even by Amazon’s convenience.
  5. Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random? By author, unless there are multi-authors in a series. Certain books are filed in special places…writing how-tos and reference books, for example.
  6. Keep, throw away, or sell? Keep, give away, lend.
  7. Keep dust jacket or toss it? Keep.
  8. Read with dust jacket or remove it? Oh, on, definitely. See my bookmark entry.
  9. Short story or novel? Both, but I prefer novels.
  10. Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket? Harry Potter.
  11. Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks? Wherever, but I usually read books in one sitting whenever possible.
  12. “It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”? It was a dark and stormy night – my favorite kind!
  13. Buy or borrow? Buy, mainly. Or get them for free from publishers, but I don’t borrow that often.
  14. New or used? New is preferred, but not always possible.
  15. Buying choice: book reviews, recommendations, or browse? All of the above, with an emphasis on browsing. I know what I like.
  16. Tidy ending or cliffhanger? Tidy ending, but it doesn’t have to be happy.
  17. Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading? I have to choose? I read all the time.
  18. Stand-alone or series? I like both, equally, really.
  19. Favorite series? Holmes and Russell mysteries by Laurie R. King, but I’m a sucker for Nero Wolfe, too.
  20. Favorite children’s book? Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst
  21. Favorite YA book? The President’s Daughter, by Ellen Emerson White
  22. Favorite book of which nobody else has heard? Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebi
  23. Favorite books read last year? The Zookeeper’s Wife, by Diane Ackerman, Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen, and The Jane Austen Book Club, by Karen Joy Fowler, and The Fire, by Katherine Neville
  24. Favorite books of all time? Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, Certain Women, by Madeleine L’Engle, A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman, The Eight, by Katherine Neville, and so many more.
  25. What are you reading right now? Lulu in Marrakech
  26. What are you reading next? By Bread Alone
  27. Favorite book to recommend to an eleven-year-old? Harriet the Spy
  28. Favorite book to reread?The Eight
  29. Do you ever smell books? Not intentionally.
  30. Do you ever read Primary source documents? Rarely.

Review: Locked Rooms, by Laurie R. King

Locked Rooms
Laurie R. King
Get it from Amazon >>

Just when you thought it was safe to revisit this blog, I’ve got yet another Holmes/Russell novel to review. Of the nine books in the series, so far, I have to confess that this one is my favorite because it delves into Mary’s past in San Francisco.

Locked Rooms picks up exactly where The Game left off, with Holmes and Russell on a ship en route to California, with a sojourn in Japan we don’t hear much about. This time there are no shipboard masquerades where we see Mary donning the 1920’s-equivalent of a hot school girl costume, because Mary is having nightmares. Nightmares about her childhood in San Francisco, circa the 1906 earthquake. The problem, of course, is that Mary doesn’t think she lived in SFO at that time.

It was surreal reading about Sherlock Holmes walking the streets with which I’m so familiar, and the murder mystery part of the novel was intriguing, as always. What I found so much more compelling, however, was the internal struggle Mary Russell had, between what she thinks she remembers, and the cold hard facts.

A word of caution: While many of the Holmes/Russell novels can be read out of sequence, this one really requires a working familiarity with the previous books in the series.

Sunday Salon: Escapism

The Sunday

For my first Sunday Salon, it seems appropriate that I talk about the escapist reading I’ve done in the past few days, for what is Sunday but an escape from the endless errands of Saturday and the tedium of the work-week? Forgive me if my account is a bit vague. Money doesn’t grow on trees or buy memory capacity for the human brain, but it can buy lovely, lovely muscle relaxants.

I’m currently about half-way through a novel set in Marrakech, called Lulu in Marrakech, it’s a bit lighter and a lot less organized than I’d hoped, but I’m finding the exotic setting rather engaging.

I’ve also just begun reading By Bread Alone, which takes place in a house built inside a water tower in a funky little English town. I’m only a few pages in, but so far it’s quirky and charming.

Booking Through Thursday: Niche


On Thursday, June 11th, Booking through Thursday asked:

There are certain types of books that I more or less assume all readers read. (Novels, for example.)

But then there are books that only YOU read. Instructional manuals for fly-fishing. How-to books for spinning yarn. How to cook the perfect souffle. Rebuilding car engines in three easy steps. Dog training for dummies. Rewiring your house without electrocuting yourself. Tips on how to build a NASCAR course in your backyard. Stuff like that.

What niche books do YOU read?

I don’t think I read any niches that no one else reads. One niche I do have, however, is that I love boat stories.

I’m not referring to Horatio Hornblower adventures, or pirate-themed bodice rippers, but books like Tania Aebi’s Maiden Voyage which I first encountered soon after its release in 1989, and which tells the story of the then-eighteen-year-old author’s solo circumnavigation of the world via sailboat.

Linda Greenlaw’s books are not all boat stories, but even those that take place entirely on dry land have the same sort of feeling as those which recount her oceanic adventures.

I’m not sure why I like these tales – maybe it’s because the ocean pulses in my blood even when I’m as far inland as possible – but I love having a free block of time to spend on the high seas, even if it is only vicariously.

Review: The Game, by Laurie R. King

The Game
Laurie R. King
Get it at Amazon >>

When I first realized that The Game was the name of the seventh Holmes and Russell mystery, I thought it referred to a literal game. I knew it didn’t mean XBox, of course, since these novels take place in the twenties. Chess, I thought, might be the game that was…afoot.

I was wrong, and pleasantly so. The game in the title is a double entendre, referring both to the game of observation and spying, and on literal game (wild boar), or, make that a triple entendre, because it also refers to the roles people play when shifting among different social circles.

This novel sees Sherlock Holmes and wife/partner Mary Russell heading to India, where they are to locate one Kimball O’Hara, aka Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. I confess, I never read that Kipling story – though I’ve read others – and I wonder if I’d have appreciated this novel more if I had, but even without that background information, I quite enjoyed this adventure which had Holmes and Russell on a ship, a donkey cart and even, at the end an aeroplane.

As always, King has given us a rollicking good time, and Holmes’ voice rings true.