Penny in PLAGUE, a GONE novel

These characters — a whole slew of them — are as vivid and realized as can be. They talk like teenagers, they drink like teenagers, they swear like teenagers.

p. 220:

“You okay?” Caine asked Diana.

“She’s perfect,” Penny said. “Perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect skin. Plus she has legs that work, which is really cool.”

“I’m out of here,” Caine said.

“No,” Diana said. “Help me lift her back out.”

“Yeah, Caine, don’t you want to see me naked? I’m still kind of hot. If you don’t mind my legs. Just don’t look at them. Because they’ll kind of make you sick.”

Both of Penny’s ankles are broken. And because all the adults have disappeared, and that includes doctors and nurses, “there was no way to fix her legs . . . and nothing to treat the pain but Tylenol and Motrin.” All that’s holding Penny’s ankles together are “two pairs of socks.”

How did both of Penny’s ankles get broken? Caine broke them. But Penny still has to live with Caine and his girlfriend, Diana. She doesn’t wash or go to the bathroom, which is why Diana finally decides to take matters into her own hands, and drags Penny to the tub (at least there is running water).

Diana maneuvered to bear most of Penny’s weight and lower her bottom first into the hot water. Her twisted pipe-cleaner legs dragged, then followed their owner into the tub. Penny screamed. “Sorry,” Diana said.

“Oh God, it hurts, it hurts, it hurts!”

Did self mention that these books are listed as YA? But there is nothing YA about these characters. She can’t believe she never heard about these novels until she saw a stack of them on Charles’s desk on the lower floor of the London Review Bookshop, a month ago (There are nine books in the series). To her great surprise, the author turned out to be American. And the characters were American teenagers in self’s own home state of California. To think she had to go all the way to London — to the London Review Bookshop — to find out about them.

Pretty good reading, this one. And the horror — the horror — is stellar.

Stay tuned.

LOL Louise Penny!

Self loves a writer with a good sense of humor.

The following conversation made her laugh out loud:

Setting: a Parisian parfumerie

Reine-Marie, Inspector Armand Gamache’s wife, is trying to help her husband find a murderer. Since this is Paris, the men wear cologne. (Although, if you were a murderer, wouldn’t you prefer to skip this step. Just sayin’)

“May I help you, madame?” a young man asked.

“I’m trying to find a cologne. I smelled it recently but don’t know the name,” Reine-Marie said.

Young Man: “Not to worry. I love this sort of thing. Now, are you sure it was a man’s cologne and not a woman’s?”

Reine-Marie: “Absolutely.”

Young Man: “Bon. That helps . . . Can you describe it? Was it earthy? Did it smell like moss or bark? Lots of men’s fragrances do. They think it’s masculine.”

Reine-Marie: “No. It was lighter than that.”

Young Man: “Fruity?”

Reine-Marie: “Non.”

Young Man: “Citrusy?”

Reine-Marie: “Yes.”

Young Man: “Good.”

Reine-Marie: “Maybe a little woody.”

Young Man: “Okay.”

Reine-Marie: “With a kind of chemical-y smell?”

Young Man: “Are you asking me?”

Reine-Marie: “Telling?”

Young Man: “It seems we’re looking for a lemon tree made out of plastic. It’s a good thing you’re not trying to sell fragrances, madame.”

From Grimdark to Louise Penny

Is quite a leap, self is sure dear blog readers will agree.

Just this morning, we were in bloody Valbeck, but now we are in oh-so-refined Paris, in a gracious building in the Seventh Arrondissement . . .

Hello, Book # 16 of the Inspector Armand Gamache series, All the Devils Are Here.

Post-dinner, self curls up in bed with two books. One of these will be her next read. She’s indecisive like that.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

April 6 BRIGHT SQUARES

Every day this April, a BRIGHT SQUARE.

Learn more about the challenge here.

Self took the pictures below in Afterwards, a vintage clothing and furniture store in Menlo Park. She was on her way to the Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford, but her attention was caught by the big globe hanging in the window. So she decided to investigate.

The store is huge! And full of one-of-a-kind pieces. So much more fun than shopping in a department store.

Self and the woman there had a nice conversation about Louise Penny.

Squares in Picture # 1: the McDonald’s awning? The shape of the building?

Squares in Picture # 2: The chair back is sort of — squar-ish?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Quote of the Day: 44

A Promised Land, p. 190:

  • I’m not by nature a superstitious person. As a kid, I didn’t have a lucky number or own a rabbit’s foot. I didn’t believe in ghosts or leprechauns, and while I might have made a wish when blowing out birthday candles or tossing a penny into a fountain, my mother had always been quick to remind me that there’s a direct link between doing your work and having your wishes come true.

A mere two paragraphs later:

  • My assortment of charms grew steadily: a miniature Buddha, an Ohio buckeye, a laminated four-leaf clover, a tiny bronze likeness of Hanuman the monkey god, all manner of angels, rosary beads, crystals, and rocks. Each morning I made a habit of choosing five or six of them and putting them in my pocket, half consciously keeping track of which ones I had with me on a particularly good day.

LOL

Voice: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Blazed through The Bone Ships in the wee hours. Whoa, self did not realize there was actual intimacy between two characters? Anyhoo, she’s just begun The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow, a writer she has never read before.

All the books she’s read so far this year are by writers she’s never read before. Except for Louise Penny. Self has read an early Inspector Gamache, but had no memory of Jean-Guy Beauvoir, go figure!

At seven, I’d spent considerably more time with Mr. Locke than with my own biological father, and insofar as it was possible to love someone so naturally comfortable in three-piece suits, I loved him.

As was his custom, Mr. Locke had taken rooms for us in the nicest establishment available; in Kentucky, that translated to a sprawling pinewood hotel on the edge of the Mississippi, clearly built by someone who wanted to open a grand hotel but hadn’t ever met one in real life.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow, p. 5

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

TTWP Part VI

Big battle scene coming!

“No plan survives contact with the enemy.” — Helmuth von Moltke

The Trouble with Peace, p. 353

Self has the rest of the day to read. She might be able to finish TTWP as early as tonight.

Next on her reading list: All the Devils are Here, by Louise Penny.

Exciting. Self has never read a Chief Inspector Armand Ganache mystery before. Of course it is set in Paris. There is a picture of the Eiffel Tower right on the cover, that’s how she knows.

Self memorably spent Christmas 2017 in Paris. And shared the hotel with a Filipino family (with three small kids) on their way to spend the holidays in Iceland. (Self will never get over this, but Filipinos have a real hankering for extreme cold. It’s a THING) Because self was all surly and anti-holiday, she never spoke to this family, not even when she and they were the only ones in the hotel restaurant for breakfast. She pretended she was Chinese, couldn’t understand Tagalog, didn’t want to know why they were going to Iceland, or where they were staying.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Wild Chase Scene, The Chalk Pit

Self knows these Ruth Galloway posts of hers are much less popular than her posts of flowers. Nevertheless.

Every Ruth Galloway book ends with a chase scene. Self should know, this is her ninth.

Why does she keep reading? Why?

Who knows? Maybe it’s those goodreads reviews that said there was a hook-up between the two Mains, that ends on a cliff-y.

What? Another cliff-y? She can’t believe it. For the nth time, a cliff-y? But here she is.

Also, if she had a penny for every time Ruth calls Nelson (although Ruth, mind you, always always always feels such trepidation for doing so, he being married to someone else after all) and he answers, “Ruth? What’s wrong? Is it Katie?” — ! She’s becoming quite fond of this way of answering the phone, though. (Where is that promised hook-up? There’s only 50 pages left!) In fact, if Nelson were ever to answer the phone without saying, “What’s wrong? Is it Katie?” self would be very disappointed.

He has just said it again, unfortunately this time Ruth isn’t alone, she’s in the middle of a wild car chase with Nelson’s boss at the wheel, and they’re on speakerphone. To her credit, Nelson’s boss is very poker-faced. Or maybe she’s just British. Who knows.

Nelson’s boss drives a Porsche. Wow, self did not realize that police superintendents made that much money! Also, this woman wears skinny jeans but can rugby-tackle like nobody’s business.

Onward.

The Very Posh Randolph Smith and His Mum

Still avidly reading A Room Full of Bones, #4 in Elly Griffiths’ smashing Ruth Galloway mysteries. Self brought it with her to read on the train to London today. DCI Nelson’s become deathly ill after a trip to Brighton with his wife, the beautiful and saintly Michelle. Whitcliffe, Nelson’s boss, is not that dumb: he makes Judy Johnson the SIO. This earns her the resentment of David Clough, who thought he should have been named SIO.

Anyhoo, self loves the case: all to do with a lord who owns a stable of race horses and a museum, and his dysfunctional family: eldest daughter Tamsin, a London yuppie; only son Randolph, a handsome wastrel who reminds Judy of Robert Pattinson; and good-looking yet lost youngest child Caroline (who may or may not be appearing in future books; self thinks Caroline makes a good partner for Cathbad).

Judy gets Clough to go with her when she pays a visit to the family, where they are entertained by Randolph (who surprisingly seems a lot less wan after SPOILER his illustrious father’s untimely death). What really kills is the conversation between Randolph and his mum Romilly (a noblewoman with the heart of a bleeding liberal, who would have thought) after Judy and Clough leave:

“They’ve gone,” he says.

“Was it Nelson? He was quite bright, I thought. Not your usual policeman.”

“No, the woman. Judy something. And another man. Rather an oaf but good-looking, if you like that sort of thing.”

A Room Full of Bones, pp. 232 – 233

Up to this point in the series, David Clough has been distinguished for three things: being a little thick, being utterly loyal to his boss Nelson, and being a junk food addict. Self imagined Clough as looking like John C. Reilly, that curly-haired actor who is in a lot of indie movies and has a vague resemblance to Will Ferrell. Now, Randolph the Robert Pattinson look-alike declares Clough is “good-looking”? So he is a bit like the Armand Gamache sidekick in the Louise Penny mysteries, Jean-Guy Beauvoir? Who IS an oaf, but is also handsome.

Stay tuned.

The Reading Year (So Far, 2021)

From wsj’s Best Books of 2020/Science Fiction:

  • The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal – So far, one of the best novels she’s read in 2021
  • Ballistic Kiss, by Richard Kadrey – wildly inventive, self wasn’t so taken with the he/she/they gender politics of a major character

In a category by itself:

  • Dark, Salt, Clear, by Lamorna Ash — A first book by a 22-year-old, E.S.A.D.

Kick-Ass Discovery of the Year:

  • Eddie’s Boy, by Thomas Perry, the sequel to a 1982 novel, The Butcher’s Boy – That’s chutzpah, coming up with a sequel 40 years later. Kudos! Self added The Butcher’s Boy to her reading list.

from wsj’s Best Books of 2020/Mysteries:

  • All the Devils Are Here, by Louise Penny — Self adored Jean-Guy Beauvoir and of course Paris.
  • One Fatal Flaw, by Anne Perry — All hail the May-December almost-romance between 25-year-old Daniel Pitt and 40-year-old Miriam Crofft, daughter of his employer.

from The Economist’s Books of the Year 2020/Memoir

  • A Promised Land, by Barack Obama — Beautifully written, can’t believe 45 was succeeded by Drumpf.

from The Economist’s Books of the Year 2020/Fiction

  • SHUGGIE BAIN, by Douglas Stuart — an absolutely immersive experience, though her favorite character was not the title character but his unheralded older brother, Leek

from The Economist’s Books of the Year 2020/Business and Economics

  • No Rules Rules — This one was a disappointment.

from wsj’s Books of the Year 2020/Travels in the New North

  • Ice Walker, by James Raffan — another absolutely immersive experience, the ending almost broke self.

from Jonathan Strahan’s Notes from a Year Spent Indoors (Locus Magazine)

  • the first two books in Joe Abercrombie’s (smashing) Age of Madness trilogy and her first Grimdark: A Little Hatred and The Trouble with Peace

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