March to a Different Drummer

I will make a return to racing in two weeks. My last public run was in July. I’m not ready. Simply not. March is also two Natalie Merchant concerts. A return to my favorite voice. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais – in honor of March being a rainy month. Dumb, I know.
  • Topper by Thorne Smith – in honor of Smith’s birth month being in March.
  • Giant by Edna Ferber – in honor of Texas becoming a state in March.

Nonfiction

  • Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam – in honor of March being the month the U.S. finally pulled out of Vietnam.
  • Cherry: a Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard by Sara Wheeler in honor of March being the month Apsley ended his depot journey.

Series Continuation:

  • Gemini by Dorothy Dunnett – to finally finish the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza – to finish the series started in February in honor of the Carnival festival in Brazil.
  • Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • The Moor by Laurie R. King – to continue the series started in January in honor of Mystery Month.

For fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – still reading
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – still reading
  • Calypso by David Sedaris – needed for the Portland Public Library reading challenge.
  • Living with the Little Devil Man by Lina Lisetta – written by a faculty member.
  • Hidden Southwest edited by Ray Riegert – for my May trip.
  • 1,000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz – for my May trip…and the 2020 Italy trip.

Following February

What to say about this month? It was epic in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, I turned half a century old. I don’t mind the number; I am not bothered by the age. Never the less, friends and family gathered for a party to remember. And. And! And, I re-upped my commitment to running. It’s been slow but I have to admit something here – my breathing has been effed up. I have a scheduled appointment for early March so…I continue to read.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Take This Man by Frederick Busch. (EB & print)
  • Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker. (EB)
  • Crossers by Philip Caputo. (EB and print)
  • Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. (EB and print)

Nonfiction:

  • Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey. (print only)
  • Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. (AB, EB and print)

Series Continuations:

  • A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King. (EB and print)
  • Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett. (print)
  • Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. (EB)
  • A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow. (EB and print)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg.
  • Corregidora by Gayl Jones (reread).

For fun:

  • Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne.
  • Calypso by David Sedaris (started).
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean (continuing)
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (continuing)

Beak of the Finch

Weiner, Jonathan. The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. Read by John McDonough. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2017.

Weiner, Jonathan. The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Reason read: February is Feed the Birds Month.

Islands are the perfect laboratory for studying a species. In the case of the Galapagos archipelago, the islands are isolated like a fortress; no one can easily arrive or depart. Princeton University biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant, along with their daughters, take a small group of scientists to help them investigate Darwin’s finches. By the beak of the finch they are able to track an evolutionary journey through time. Beak of the Finch is an extraordinary account of survival of the fittest as it happened then; as it is happening right now. Our world is constantly evolving and adapting and we aren’t done yet.
Word to the wise – listen to this on audio. John McDonough does a fantastic job. Weiner’s writing may be approachable science, but McDonough’s reading makes it all the more enjoyable.
As an aside, I love books I like to describe as “rabbit holes.” They take me to knowledge I never would have learned otherwise. I think people describe the internet that way sometimes. In this case, I learned that when a finch is ready to mate its beak turns black. Who knew? Also, at one point Weiner was describing the weather and mentioned El Nino which in turn made me wonder about the name El Nino. I had never really thought about its origin before. Turns out, El Nino means “the child” in Spanish and the storms are named as such because they tended to arrive around Christmastime.

Author fact: Weiner also wrote Time, Love, Memory: a Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origin of Behavior (which I have already read) and His Brother’s Keeper: a Story from the Edge of Medicine, also on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Beak of the Finch won a Pulitzer. Another piece of trivia is that Beak of the Finch is full of great illustrations like the one of the iguana on page 104.

Nancy said: In Book Lust Pearl describes the plot to Beak of the Finch. In More Book Lust she has a whole chapter (of only three books) dedicated to Weiner and says specifically of Beak of the Finch, “about evolutionary biology as played out on an island in the Galapagos” (More Book Lust p 233). Finally, in Book Lust To Go Pearl says Beak of the Finch is “wonderfully written, extremely readable, and a superb example of the best kind of popular science writing” (Book Lust To Go p 88).

BookLust Twist: Nancy loves this book. It is indexed in all three Lust books: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Bird Brains” (p 39), in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jonathan Weiner: Too Good to Miss” (p 233) and again in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Galloping Through the Galapagos” (p 88).


Month for Women

I definitely didn’t do this on purpose because I never structure my reading this way, but January turned out to be a month of mostly woman authors (notated with a ‘w’). I am including the books I started in January but have not finished. Because they are not Challenge books they do not need to be finished in the same month. And. And! And, I have started running again. After a six month hiatus, I think I am back! Sort of.

Fiction:

  • A Cold-Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow (w & EB)
  • The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (w & AB)
  • Firewatch by Connie Willis (w & EB)
  • The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry (w)
  • Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown (w & EB)
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov (AB)
  • Take This Man by Frederick Busch
  • ADDED: The Renunciation by Edgardo Rodriguez Julia

Nonfiction:

  • Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn (w)
  • The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior edited by Chris Elphick, John Dunning & David Allen Sibley
  • The Turk by Tom Standage
  • ADDED: Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington (w)

Series continuations:

  • Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
  • To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett (w)

Early Review Program for LibraryThing:

  • Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim (w)
  • How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg (w) – not finished yet

For Fun:

  • Sharp by Michelle Dean (w) – not finished yet
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (w) – not finished yet

Cold-Blooded Business

Stabenow, Dana. A Cold-Blooded Business. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 1994.

Reason read: Alaska became a state in January.

Disclaimer: A Cold-Blooded Business is part of a series and since this is my first Kate Shugak mystery I feel like I jumped into it blind.

Kate Shugak is a private investigator for the Anchorage District Attorney’s office. In A Cold-Blooded Business her assignment is to go undercover at RPetCo, short for Royal Petroleum Company based in Prudhoe Bay up in the Arctic Circle. John King, CEO of RPetCo wants to know who has been dealing cocaine to his employees on company time. His main concern is overdoses are on the rise. There has even been a death by drowning linked to drug use. “Get that dope off my slope” he urges poetically.

Small pet peeve. Teeny tiny, really. On page 142 Kate is yearning for peace and quiet since her boyfriend’s young son, Johnny, “had the television on from the time he woke up till the time he went to bed.” However, not even eleven pages later Kate’s exposure to television is described as limited to Bernie’s television at the Roadhouse “eternally tuned into a basketball game” or Bobby’s set which existed “solely to be hooked up to a VCR” (p 152 – 153). I probably wouldn’t have squawked if the contradictory details weren’t so close together.

As an aside, what irked me from the beginning is that Kate is supposed to go undercover as a roustabout on the slope but within her first week on the job she meets a former medic/acquaintance from another job and a trooper who knows her name. She has to lie and say she’s no longer an investigator. Later she rushes to the first overdose on the job. Bursting into the room she encounters the victim is her cousin and he’s just as surprised to see her as she is him. Finally, Cindy Sovaluk, a woman she meets in the sauna turns out to know her grandmother. So much for undercover when four different people know your name or are related to you!
As another aside, are yearling bears really harmless enough to tug on their tails?

Author fact: Stabenow lives in Alaska and definitely knows the culture. That’s the obvious. What isn’t as obvious is just how many books Ms Stabenow has written. Check out her website here.

Book trivia: A Cold-Blooded Business is part of a series. I counted nineteen Shugak mysteries and I’m only reading two.

Nancy said: Pearl said Cold-Blooded Business is “her favorite Shugak mystery” (Book Lust p 18).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the unimaginative chapter called “Alaska” (p 17). I would have riffed off a Phish tune and called it “Alaska? I’ll Ask Her”.


December Didn’t Disappoint

I may not be happy with my personal life in regards to fitness, health, and so on, but I am definitely satisfied with the number of books I was able to check off my Challenge list for the month of December. Special thanks to my kisa who did all the driving up and back and around the great state of Maine.

Fiction:

  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (EB/print).
  • Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess.
  • Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund.
  • This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun.
  • Time Machines: the Best Time Travel Stories Ever Written edited by Bill Adler, Jr.

Nonfiction:

  • The Black Tents of Arabia: (My Life Among the Bedouins by Carl Raswan.
  • Lost Moon: the Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger.
  • The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer.
  • Stet: a Memoir by Diana Athill (EB and print).
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB and print).

Series continuations:

  • Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett. Confessional: I did not finish this.
  • The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (EB/print/AB).

Unicorn Hunt

Dunnett, Dorothy. The Unicorn Hunt. New York: Vintage Books, 1999.

Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month. 

If you are keeping track, it is now mid 15th century and the world, especially Europe, is standing on the doorstep of modernism. Our hero Nicholas has a new name. He is now Niccolo de Fleury. If you remember from Scales of Gold he married Gelis (the woman who had a love-hate relationship with him). She might have had a child with his archenemy, Simon de St. Pol. Gelis, instead of seeking revenge for Nicholas supposedly killing her sister, is now angry with him for having a child with her. You would think Nicholas would be used to this kind of incrimination from vengeful individuals, especially the women in his life! He believes that Gelis really had his child and like a fabled unicorn, he’s on the hunt to find this child. But, does it even exist?
Despite all this Nicholas tries to be all business. Instead of gold like in the last book, he is also on the hunt for silver in Tyrol. Upon hearing rumors of treasure in Alexandria Nicholas is off again on a feverish fast paced adventure. This time, he is not the fun-loving nice guy of past books. He has an edge to him that borders on asshole. He also has special powers to divine precious metals (?!). Many readers didn’t care for this new personality or the plot, as it is utterly strange and complex. Myself, I am getting tired of him being imprisoned and tortured in every book. The betrayals don’t phase him at all.

Quote to quote: “Henry had often thought of killing his grandfather, there was so much of him, and Henry disliked all of it” (p 3). This, coming from a seven year old.

Book trivia: This is book V of the House of Niccolo series and the list of characters in The Unicorn Hunt is amazingly long.

Nancy said: this is another of Dunnett’s books Pearl said “it would be a shame” to miss out on” (More Book Lust p 80).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction” (p ).