75 Books in 52 Weeks – Feb & March 2011


Came across a word I was unsure of  in a novel today  lumpenproletariat –  this is surprising, not because I found an unfamiliar word,  but because I did Economics in high school where I’m pretty sure we covered Marxian theories.    How could I forget such a cool sounding word?

Well, for two years I had the same male Economics teacher and we female students were convinced he’d drop his pen deliberately so he’d be able to bend down and look up our skirts (either that or he was incredibly un-coordinated!).  You could hear the distracting sound of knees clapping together whenever he started pacing in-front of the class with a pen in his hand.

Now that I’ve found this word I’m looking forward to casually throwing it into a sentence as Kate Atkinson has done in “Started Early, Took my Dog”   Tracy liked getting up close and personal with the puntersShe strolled past Morrisons, the Gap, where Woolworths used to be, Poundstretcher – the retail preferences of the lumpenproletariat.” 

Because the first two weeks of March were taken up with my quick trip to Australia I totally forgot about posting my February reads – so I’m adding them to March here.   So far towards this year’s goal of 75 I’ve finished 15 books.

****** FEBRUARY:

Discovered Denise Mina a Scottish writer (born in Glasgow moved about a lot and now residing back in Glasgow).  Her first book Garnethill won the Crime Writers’ Association John Creasy Dagger for the Best First Crime novel.

Garnethill  –  Denise Mina (Published 1998).                           Set in Glasgow the unlikely heroine is Maureen O’Donnell, a member of an “unsavoury family”   –  a family that is seriously dysfunctional.   Maureen works in a ticket booth, enjoys a really good “piss up” and is pretty rough around the edges.   After one of these really good piss ups Maureen wakes to find the body of her married lover in her flat and the book delves into Maureen’s past and ongoing mental health issues as she goes about determining who killed him.    Lots of Aye, Auch, Fukt  – I loved this book, the first in a Trilogy it was dark but compelling.

Exile –  Denise Mina –    the second book in the Garnethill Trilogy.    The same self destructive characters again provide a powerful, gripping read.   Maureen is now working in a women’s shelter when she gets involved in the disappearance and murder of one of the women.   Maureen travels to London trying to pierce together what happened to this woman at the same time attempting to escape from her own demons.

Resolution  – Denise Mina – by this, the last book in the trilogy Maureen is unkempt and often drunk by noon, and  having to deal with the aftermath of Exile. This book is disturbing at the same time as being a terrific read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this Trilogy  – while I was reading the books I would go to bed with Maureen in my head.   There was  so much more to the books than the actual stories.    Once I’ve got my “to read” pile down a little I will be looking for more Denise Mina books.

Whiskey Sour  –   J.A.  Konrath This book introduces Jacqueline Daniels of the Chicago PD.   It was a good train-ride book –  the overworked, caffeine-addicted Jack Daniels and her food-addicted partner investigate a series of gruesome serial murders.     Not a stand out book but it was an easy read and I did laugh out loud a few times.   I like the titles Konrath has used for this series:  after Whiskey Sour there is  Bloody Mary,  Rusty Nail, Dirty Martini,  Fuzzy Navel……

Lay Down my Sword –  James Lee Burke (published 1971).     This book introduces Hackberry Holland a Korean War vet, running for Congress but driven to alcoholic, self destructive behaviour by his POW memories.  It was a good read as we follow Hack through some self discovery and a degree of self redemption.   James Lee Burke is fabulous at describing a landscape in my head.


****** MARCH

Gateway Drug  – Scott Nicholson,  Tim Lebbon & Shane Jiraiya Cummings
A book of ten short stories – a mix of murder, magic and strangeness.     These were quite short stories and I could usually get through one on a commute.   The best story was the first one,  Timing Chains of the Heart by Nicholson about a young man and his car and what happens when he hits a young lady at the side of the road.   “Night hid the rest of the world, and that was fine with J.D.  The world was nothing but litter along the highway, as far as he was concerned” …

“Doors Open”  Ian Rankin. This book was quite disappointing.    I was a huge fan of Rankin’s  Rebus series and this is definitely not Rebus  – the characters don’t come close.    I found it hard to finish this because I really didn’t care what happened to the characters.   Involves an underworld criminal,  some art thief novices and a plodding policeman.

Hume’s Fork  – Ron Cooper. This was a fantastic read!   The manservant and I read it at the same time so it was fun to discuss – a wide open glimpse into the South;  most of us have a bit of this “family”  in our backgrounds.    I laughed out loud many times at the situations in this book and occasionally blinked back tears.     It’s a weird comic-drama involving family, religion and philosophy and set in the wilds of South Carolina. Legare Hume and his friend, Saul Grossman take a road trip to a convention and end up staying with Legare’s family when Grossman fails to make a hotel reservation. This is a family that Legare has spent most of his life being embarrassed by and ignoring.    There is terrific word play throughout this intelligent and satirical book  –  I loved it.

Ron Cooper was born in South Carolina; he earnt a BA in philosophy from the College of Charleston, an MA from the University of South Carolina, and a PhD from Rutgers University.  His next book is Purple Jesus which I already have in my to-read pile.

Jolie Blon’s Bounce –  James Lee Burke Continuing on with my reading of the Dave Robicheaux series, this is the 12th book (published 2002).   Dave investigates the death of a pretty teenage girl and a prostitute which seem unrelated but both involve Tee Bobby Hulin a drug addicted Cajun blues singer (one of his songs is the title of the book).     Dave’s personal humiliation at the hands of an evil overseer named Legion bring out the old inner demons and Dave turns his addictive nature to pills and he comes very close to going back on the booze.   This book was a little slower reading than previous ones as Dave and his family deal with these issues but I enjoyed the dark historical theme in the background.


18 responses

  1. Hume’s Fork must be a hoot. I’m very interested.

    I haven’t read L ay Down My Sword & Shield and didn’t realize it was the first in the Hackberry Holland series.

    James Lee Burke is such a poet when it comes to describing a scene. It’s not easy to use adjectives so liberally and yet remained quietly restrained. He’s a master at this. I think because he does it in the voice of believable characters.

    • The first James Lee Burke book I read was “Rain Gods” which is the 2nd Hackberry Holland book 38 years after Lay Down My Sword …….. The other “Holland” books are Billy Bob Holland. I agree with you about the believable characters – I’m so glad I’ve gone back and started his books in the order he wrote them.

      • I’m just so glad to know someone who appreciates Burke’s writing.

        I remember there being a book that a book that didn’t rise to same level of tenseness (drama) as the others, but don’t give up on him. Just now I can’t remember the name of the book written about the hurricane and flood in New Orleans, but wow, did that one rise above.

  2. “Lumpenproletariat” was mentioned (I think) in Marx and Engel’s 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, which not many economists read but a lot of historians and left-swinging thinkers do. I remember this only because my son brought it up during a phone tutorial where I was trying to get him through the Marx-Engels Reader, without much success, lol! But it says more about the people who use the term that about the people they refer to—Marx was a snob sometimes! It sounds however like your economics teacher was lumpenproletariat in his behavior. Did he really think the women in his class didn’t notice what he was doing? I had an English teacher in high school who did the very same thing. I didn’t worry because I wore jeans all the time, but I noticed he seated all of the cute girls in the front row. :p

    I’m not familiar with any of the authors on your list, probably because I don’t read mysteries or crime thrillers very much. It sounds like I’m missing a lot, so I’ll check that section the next time I hit the bookstore.

    • 99.9% of Australian schools have a compulsory uniform policy – in the 70’s it was always a skirt for girls (a lot of schools now allow trousers for girls especially in winter). In the ’70s those skirts were also incredibly short, probably indecently so – I’m pretty sure that even with knees clamped tightly together there was a bit of a view.

      I think you would enjoy “Hume’s Fork” – it was more of a “thinking” book .

  3. LMAO!!! I haven’t heard that expression for ages. I didn’t even recognize it right away because I was pronouncing it in my head the English way. When I then read ‘Marx’ and ‘Economy’, I definitely missed the thread.
    Though right before clicking on the link to see what’s it about I kind of mentally started scratching my head, thinking that this sound awfully German.
    The greatest laugh I got from the pronunciation description. But I guess I am the weird one here, believing that if a word from a different language is taken on, then it should be pronounced the right way too. Mostly I think of that when Germans throw with English vocabulary. But I guess I found something in the English language now too. 😛

    • LOL about the pronunciation – I think the same about “Australian” words being pronounced by Americans – things like koala and city names like Melbourne don’t sound quite right. But then often on the phone I will correct someone’s pronunciation of a person’s name and when they repeat it back to me I hear them sort of imitating Aussie vowels in it and it’s really funny – and then I think that must be how Americans are hearing me say their names with these weird drawn out Aussie vowels and not quite right. LOL.

    • Yeah, I’m really enjoying it and yes, I laughed when he took the dog – and I did when Tracy bought the screaming child too. I’ve often felt like taking someone’s dog when they weren’t treating it well but I’ve never felt like handing cash over for a child.

      And when I was reading Denise Mina I kept thinking of you and what you said about having to read the accents in your head – occasionally I’d find myself doing that – it is a bit tiring! I think you’d like her though – perhaps you could find an audio version so you didn’t have to “translate”……

  4. Denise Mina is a fantastic crime writer. I discovered her early and read Garnethill Trilogy too. I have to admit I struggled through the first 30 pages of this until I learned to navigate the story. Did you know that she also writes comics? She was unknown in comics when she took over ‘Hellblazer’ for a year. Fantastic!!

    • I did see that Denise Mina was also involved with “Hellblazer” – she’s a pretty talented lady. I gave the Garnethill Trilogy to a lady at work and explained a few of things I thought she’d have problems with. She said she was glad I’d told her what we call a “jumper” is 🙂 Today she told me that she will have 3 Denise Mina books (Paddy Meehan ones) to give me at the end of the week – I’m looking forward to getting them.

  5. wow everytime so much…not only one for me last month….the geocaching things say : no books….LOL… and now it is bike time for me…but I swear I look for a book…..I love your new banner/header my friend 🙂

    • LOL Kerstin – you have way more exciting things to do then sit quietly with a book 🙂 Geocaching and hitting the road on your bike are what you love – I think you’d find it hard to sit still with a book for long 🙂 – unless it was those lovely architecture books.

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