Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Sunday, December 23rd , the present
12:40 a.m.

The bullet tore into Cotton Malone's left shoulder.

He fought to ignore the pain and focused on the plaza. People rushed in all directions. Horns blared. Tires squealed. Marines guarding the nearby American embassy reacted to the chaos, but were too far away to help. Bodies were strewn about. How many? Eight? Ten? No. More. A young man and woman lay at contorted angles on a nearby patch of oily asphalt, the man's eyes frozen open, alight with shock-the woman, face down, gushing blood. Malone had spotted two gunmen and immediately shot them both, but never saw the third, who'd clipped him with a single round and was now trying to flee, using panicked bystanders for cover.

Dammit, the wound hurt. Fear struck his face like a wave of fire. His legs went limp as he fought to raise his right arm. The Beretta seemed to weigh tons, not ounces.

Pain jarred his senses. He sucked deep breaths of sulfur-laced air and finally forced his finger to work the trigger, which only squeaked, and did not fire.


More squeaks could be heard as he tried to fire again.

Then the world dissolved to black.

Malone awoke, cleared the dream from his mind-one that had recurred many times over the past two years-and studied the bedside clock.

12:43 a.m.

He was lying atop the bed in his apartment, the night stand's lamp still on from when he'd plopped down two hours ago.

Something had roused him. A sound. Part of the dream from Mexico City, yet not.

He heard it again.

Three squeaks in quick succession.

His building was 17th century, completely remodeled a few months ago. From the second to the third floor the new wooden risers now announced themselves in a precise order, like keys on a piano.

Which meant someone was there.
The Paris Vendetta
Steve Berry

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Chapter 2: The Miracles of Art

My name is Renée. I am fifty-four years old. For twenty-seven years I have been the concierge at number 7, rue de Grenelle, a fine hôtel particulier with a courtyard and private gardens, divided into eight luxury apartments, all of which are inhabited, all of which are immense. I am a widow, I am short, ugly, and plump, I have bunions on my feet and, if I am to credit certain early mornings of selfinflicted disgust, the breath of a mammoth. I did not go to college, I have always been poor, discreet, and insignificant. I live alone with my cat, a big lazy tom who has no distinguishing features other than the fact that his paws smell bad when he is annoyed. Neither he nor I make any effort to take part in the social doings of our respective kindred species. Because I am rarely friendl—— though always polit—— I am not liked, but am tolerated nonetheless: I correspond so very well to what social prejudice has collectively construed to be a typical French concierge that I am one of the multiple cogs that make the great universal illusion turn, the illusion according to which life has a meaning that can be easily deciphered. And since it has been written somewhere that concierges are old, ugly and sour, so has it been branded in fiery letters on the pediment of that same imbecilic firmament that the aforementioned concierges have rather large dithering cats who sleep all day on cushions that have been covered with crocheted cases.

Similarly, it has been decreed that concierges watch television interminably while their rather large cats doze, and that the entrance to the building must smell of pot-au-feu, cabbage soup, or a country-style cassoulet. I have the extraordinary good fortune to be the concierge of a very high-class sort of building.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery

A delightful story--sweet and gritty; poignant. Redemption and romance. An especially good read when traveling in Paris.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


When summer comes to the North Woods, time slows down. And some days it stops altogether. The sky, gray and lowering for much of the year, becomes an ocean of blue, so vast and brilliant you can't help but stop what you're doing--pinning wet sheets to the line maybe, or shucking a bushel of corn on the back steps--to stare up at it. Locusts whir in the birches, coaxing you out of the sun and under the boughs, and the heat stills the air, heavy and sweet with the scent of balsam.

As I stand here on the porch of the Glenmore, the finest hotel on all of Big Moose Lake, I tell myself that today--Thursday, July 12, 1906--is such a day. Time has stopped, and the beauty and calm of this perfect afternoon will never end. The guests up from New York, all in their summer whites, will play croquet on the lawn forever. Old Mrs. Ellis will stay on the porch until the end of time, rapping her cane on the railing for more lemonade. The children of doctors and lawyers from Utica, Rome and Syracuse will always run through the woods, laughing and shrieking, giddy from too much ice cream.

I believe these things. With all my heart. For I am good at telling myself lies.
A Gathering Light
Jennifer Donnelly
British title for A Northern Light

Jennifer Donnelly is an exceptional writer, and I look forward to exploring her backlist and newer releases. As Dinah Hall, a reviewer for Sunday Telegraph so amusingly declared:

"Nobody got fed while I read A Gathering Light: if George Clooney had walked into the room I would have told him to come back later when I'd finished... Donelly captures period and place with almost supernatural skill, and even the most minor of characters are so vivid that you find yourself talking out loud to them."

Sunday, November 14, 2010


People never explain to you what they think and feel and how their thoughts and feelings work, do they? They don't have time. Or the right words. But that's what books do. It's as though your daily life is a film in the cinema. It can be fun, looking at those pictures. But if you want to know what lies behind the flat screen you have to read a book. That explains it all.

Even if people in the book are invented?

Sure. Because they're based on what's real but with the boring bits stripped out. In good books anyway. Of my total understanding of human beings, which is perhaps not very great... I'd say half of it is from just guessing that other people must feel much the same as I would in their place. But of the other half, ninety per cent of it has come from reading books. Less than ten per cent from reality--from watching and talking and listening--from living.

A Week in December
Sebastian Faulk
p. 197