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).

Cry of the Kalahari

Owens, Mark and Delia. Cry of the Kalahari: Seven Years in Africa’s Last Great Wilderness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Press, 1984.

Reason read: Mark and Delia Owens were married in the month of December. Read this in honor of their anniversary.

In 1974 Mark and Delia headed to Africa to start a research project just one year after their wedding day. Cry of the Kalahari is the story of their seven years in the Kalahari Desert. Taking turns, they share their experiences living with brown hyenas, lion prides, and unpredictable jackals, among many other animals. Because most of the animals have never seen humans before they are neither threatened or antagonized by Mark and Delia’s presence. At face value, Cry of the Kalahari is romantic and idealistic.

Admittedly, I have a few issues with Cry of the Kalahari, beginning with the trivial. One, how many times they mentioned the temperatures being 120 degrees in the shade. You are in the Kalahari desert! What did you expect?
Two, their so-called research. They went to Kalahari not really sure what they wanted to work on. When they discovered there was little known about the brown hyena they set about to learn all they could about the species, then they added jackals, and yet after Bones, a male lion, was murdered by hunters they changed their focus to protecting all wildlife of the Kalahari. By the end of the book their focus had widened to include wildebeest. How they received funding for such vague and vast research is beyond me. However, the couple is quick to point out Cry of the Kalahari is not detailed report of their research. That will show up elsewhere they promised.
My third issue is probably the most personal. They claimed over and over they didn’t want to interfere with the wildlife because it would change the validity of their research. They cried as animals starved to death outside their food-laden tent. Yet they had no problem performing a makeshift surgery on Bones, a lion who had broken his leg, or smearing motor oil on Blue, another lion who suffered from parasites. Most likely both of these animals would have died without human intervention. Essentially, the Owenes actions disrupted the circle of life in the Kalahari.

As an aside, the description of the cheetah hitting the wire fence at 70 miles an hour is heart breaking.

Author(s) fact(s): The Owenses are no strangers to the media spotlight. They have been on numerous talk shows. 

Book trivia: there is a generous selection of color photographs in Cry of the Kalahari, along with a smaller section of black and whites.

Nancy said: Pearl was actually talking about another book written by the Owenses when she mentioned Cry. Interestingly enough, in relation to Cry Pearl said Mark and Delia were “expelled from Botswana” because of this book (Book Lust To Go p 267).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Zambia” (p 266). Confessional: I deleted Cry Of the Kalahari from the true list of books I needed to read for the Challenge because Cry does not take place in Zambia.


December Updates

So, by the end of November I was a blathering mess, wasn’t I? I know I was. Mea culpa. Three xrays, five vials of blood taken, one CT scan, and two therapy sessions later, here are the updates. The protruding ribs are being blamed on chiropractic appointments even though I felt the rib cage move before I started see Dr. Jim. The nerve pain is being controlled by medication. The spot on the lung and possibly tumor…no results as of today. White blood cell count still elevated. Possibility of cancer…still a possibility.
But. But! But, enough of all that. Here are the books: I have a week off at the end of the month so I am anticipating it will be a good reading month. Here are the books planned:

Fiction:

  • Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess (EB) – in memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin – in memory of Le Guin passing in 2018.
  • Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund – to honor Alabama becoming a state in December.

Nonfiction:

  • The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer – to honor women’s suffrage law.
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB) – to honor the wedding anniversary of Mark and Delia.
  • Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger – in honor of the moon landing.
  • Stet: an Editor’s Life by Diana Athill (EB) – in honor of Athill being born in December.

Series continuation:

  • The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (AB) – to continue the series His Dark Materials, started in November in honor of National Writing Month.
  • The Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series Niccolo House, started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Squelched by Terry Beard.

If there is time:

  • Black Tents of Arabia by Carl Raswan – in honor of Lawrence of Arabia.
  • This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun – in honor of Jelloun’s birth month.

Crazy Days of October

I don’t know where to begin with trying to explain October. From the beginning, I guess. It started with a trip home; a lovely week off with lots of reading accomplished. Then it was a New England Patriots football game followed by two Phish shows and a political rally for a state in which I do not live. If that wasn’t weird enough, I hung out with a person who could have raped or killed or loved me to death. Take your pick. Any one of those scenarios was more than possible. It was a truly bizarre month.
But, enough of that. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Quick but cute read.
  • Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB/print). Sad.
  • The Chronoliths by Robert C. Wilson. Interesting.
  • Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB). Boring.

Nonfiction:

  • Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris (EB/print). Only slightly less boring than Bridge.
  • Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth. Really interesting.
  • African Laughter by Doris Lessing. Okay.

Series continuations:

  • The Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print). Detailed.
  • Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB). Cute but glad the series is over.

Fun:

  • We Inspire Me by Andrea Pippins. Cute.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Gardening Under Lights by Leslie F. Halleck. When I set up the reads for October I didn’t include this because it hadn’t arrived yet.

I should add that October was a really frustrating month for books. I never really liked anything I was reading.


African Laughter

Lessing, Doris. African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe.New York: Harper Collins, 1992.

Reason read: to celebrate Lessing’s birth month in October.

Even though Doris Lessing was born to British parents in Iran and didn’t move to Southern Rhodesia until she was six, Lessing called the African continent her homeland. She spent twenty-four years there until she moved to London, England. African Laughter is a very personal memoir about four trips back to Zimbabwe after being exiled for twenty-five years.
Interestingly enough, the title African Laughter comes from Lessing’s joy of hearing Africans laugh. “The marvelous African laughter born somewhere in the gut, seizing the whole body with good-humoured philosophy” (p 80).

Confessional: there were times when I got lost in Lessing’s chronology. An example: Lessing is visiting her brother and describing a scene languishing on the verandah. Her brother’s two Alsatians (popular dogs as pets in Africa) are lounging nearby. One dog in particular, Sheba, hungers for Lessing’s female attentions. Lessing then seamlessly goes on to describe how Sheba finally attached herself to her male owner only to be strangled to death in some loose wire at the end of a fence. Because she doesn’t reference two periods in time I wasn’t sure when this happened. Subsequent mentions of poor Sheba are depressing, knowing her sad demise.

Lines I liked, “All writers know the state of trying to remember what actually happened, rather than what was invented, or half invented, a meld of truth and fiction” (p 72) and “With a library and perhaps some sympathetic adult to advise them, there in nothing in the world they cannot study” ( p 206).

Author fact: Lessing was born in Iran in 1919.

Book trivia: African Laughter has some great insight into other books Lessing has written, like The Golden Notebook.

Nancy said: Nancy mentioned African Laughter as one of the books she found “engrossing” after she had written the “Dreaming of Africa” section in Book Lust.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Zipping Through Zimbabwe/Roaming Rhodesia” (p 268).


Tandia

Courtenay, Bryce. Tandia. London: William Heinmann, Ltd., 1991.

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

This starts off as the story of Tandia Patel. Like Peekay in The Power of One, Tandia’s life begins with violence, prejudice and corruption. Her father, a famous Indian boxing referee, fathered her with his African American mistress. A racially mixed offspring in hyper color-sensitive South Africa is only asking for trouble. While Patel was alive, Tandia’s identity was one of confusion – going to school as Indian but coming home to be a black servant to her father’s household. After his heart attack and subsequent death, Tandia is predictably banished from his household and must rely on the kindness of strangers, much like Peekay did when he was a child. And speaking of Peekay, his life story continues in Tandia. Fans of Peekay’s character will not be disappointed. He only grows more and more admirable as he moves from boxing champion to lawyer, champion to the black community.
Other Power of One similarities include the kindness of an obese and jolly woman, the loyalty of a devoted and deformed servant, and the hatred of a powerful bigot and bully.

It is not a spoiler alert to warn readers of the horrific violence Tandia suffers at the hands of white policemen. I had a hard time reading those early scenes.
As an aside,like some other reviewers, I was disappointed by Courtenay’s ending. It was almost as if he didn’t know how to end it and I have to wonder if he was leaving himself room for another sequel.

Author fact: Courtenay died in November of 2012.

Book trivia: settle in to read Tandia as it is a healthy 900 pages long.

Nancy said: Nancy said Tandia as the sequel to The Power of One is, “just as good” (More Book Lust p 3).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Africa: a Reader’s Itinerary (p 2).


Turn the Page October

Fiction:

  • The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson – in honor of October being Star Man month.
  • Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB) – in memory of Mehmed Pasa Sokollu’s passing. He designed the bridge over the Drina river.
  • Playing for Pizza by John Grisham (EB) – in honor of the Verdi Fest in Parma that takes place every October.
  • Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB) – to remember the Tom Kippur War.

Nonfiction:

  • Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris – in honor of Morris’s birth month.
  • African Laughter by Doris Lessing – in honor of Lessing’s birth month.
  • Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth – October is Library Friend Month & I had to borrow this from a distant library.

Series continuations:

  • Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to finish the series started in September in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.
  • The Race of the Scorpion by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB) – to finish the series started in August in honor of Dream Month.

Fun:

  • Joey Goes to Sea by Alan Villiers – a gift from my aunt Jennifer.

Early Review for LibraryThing: nada. I have the promise of three different books but they haven’t arrived yet.


September Sorrows

What can I say about September? It sucked. There. I did have something to say after all. It sucked because I didn’t diverge or divulge. I like epiphanies that flash like light bulbs and bring about great catapults of change. None of that happened. I barely did anything worth mentioning except a great trip to Colorado. Then Jones died. That really sucked. What else? I didn’t run at all. That also sucked. My uncle started hospice care and do I dare mention September is the anniversary month for my grandmother, father, and high school friend’s passings. An ugly and sucky month all the way around. Silver linings: my 14th wedding anniversary and two opportunities to hear Natalie Merchant sing. Then! And then there were the books. I can’t forget the books! Here they are:

Fiction:

  • Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden (EB & print)

Nonfiction:

  • Most Offending Soul Alive by Judith Heimann (EB & print)
  • Life and Times of Miami Beach by Amy Armbruster (print)
  • The Workshop: Seven Decades of ther Iowa Writers’ Workshop edited by Tom Grimes (print)

Series continuations:

  • Fuzz by Ed McBain (print and EB)
  • Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall (AB & print)
  • The Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett (print)
  • Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB)
  • Tandia by Bryce Courtenay (print & EB)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford (EB) – finally, finally finished it!

 


Power of One

Courtenay, Bryce. The Power of One. New York: Ballantine Books, 1989.

Reason read: Courtenay’s birth month is in August.

Confessional One: I accidentally ordered the childrens’ book version of The Power of One. Before I realized my mistake I was already half way through it.
Confessional Two: the version for children needed to be returned before I was finished so I jumped over the the adult full length story. I’m glad I did.

Confessional Three: The Power of One started a little slow for me. Maybe because I started with a book for children? At times I thought it contained magical realism. Once the story picked up I was thoroughly engrossed.

Known only by the derogatory name of Pisskop, a child is born in South Africa and in the shadow of Hitler’s rise to cruel power. In 1939 Pisskop seems destined for demise. He was born of the wrong color, white. He spoke the wrong language, English. He was raised by a woman of the wrong color, black. His own mother all but nonexistent. Pisskop knew fear, cruelty, humiliation and abandonment all before he turned six years old. Through a series of unremarkable events Pisskop is led to the people and opportunities that would bestow courage and grit on the young boy. Harry Crown, who renames Pisskop, Peekay. Hoppie Groenewald, who offers Peekay a green sucker at their first fateful meeting (a gesture Peekay will always remember). Doc, who becomes a mentor and a father figure for Peekay. Geel Peet, who takes Peekay’s boxing skills to another level. Because of these early relationships, Peekay gains confidence and courage, vowing to overcome his color, his speech, his pitiful upbringing. In his dreams he survives to become the welterweight champion of the world.

Lines I liked: “Man brutalized thinks only of his survival” (p 215), “The indigo night was pricked with sharp cold stars” (p 257), “The photograph captured the exact moment when I understood with conviction that racism is a primary force of evil designed to destroy good men” (p 265), and one more, “You either disappear into a plebian background or move forward to where most others fear to follow” (p 472).

Author fact: Courtenay was born in South Africa.

Nancy said: nothing specific, besides plot, about Power of One.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Africa: A Reader’s Itinerary” (p 3).


September Sorrows

I don’t post a lot of personal stuff on this side of the writing. Not usually. Typically, I leave all that other blathering on JustCauseICan. I may write about the run or the island, a brief sentence here or there, but of little else…except for today. When you lose someone you adore it is hard to focus. That is precisely my problem today. I am shattered by grief and only put back together again by words. So, I must read. Here are the books planned for September. I hope they heal:

Fiction:

  • Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden – to remember Hurricane Ivan as it wreaked havoc on my 2004 September wedding.

Nonfiction:

  • The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life by Judith M. Heinmann – in honor of Harrisson’s birth month being in September.
  • Life and Times of Miami Beach by Ann Armbruster – in honor of Hurricane Irma.
  • Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories, Recollections, and Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth Century American Literature edited by Tom Grimes – in honor of Grimes’ birth month being in September.

 

Series Continuations:

  • Fuzz by Ed McBain – to end the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.
  • Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall – to end the series started in August in honor of Rajiv Ratna Ganghi, India’s youngest Prime Minister’s birth month.
  • Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month (August).
  • Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.
  • Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to end the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

Confessional: I am still reading Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford.


An August Attempt

So. I’ve done a few short runs here and there. Nothing crazy, but at least I’m back in it somewhat. Spent more time with the books. Speaking of which, here they are:

Fiction:

  • Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman (EB/print)
  • The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
  • The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (AB)
  • Crazy Jack by Donna Jo Napoli (EB)
  • Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (EB)
  • Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print)
  • Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts (EB)

Nonfiction:

  • A Season in Red: My Great Leap Forward into the New China by Kirsty Needham
  • A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird
  • Eurydice Street by Sofka Zinovieff

Series continuation:

  • Arctic Chill by Arnuldur Indridason (EB/print) – which I forgot to mention when I was plotting the month. It’s the last book of the series -that I’m reading. (There are others.)
  • Big Bad City by Ed McBain

LibraryThing Early Review:

  • Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford (EB) – which came after I plotted the month of reading so it wasn’t mentioned before.

 


June Thunder

So June went by lightning fast, as I expected. Had good shows with Imagine Dragons and Dead and Company. Spent quality time with family and friends. Ran next to nothing for miles. But, the books! Thanks to not running (still) and all the travel I was able to get a lot of reading done…

Fiction:

  • Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson (EB & print)
  • Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams (EB & print)
  • Afterlife by Paul Monette (EB & print)
  • Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason (AB)

Nonfiction:

  • Six Days of War by Michael Oren (print) – confessional: did not finish
  • Cactus Eaters by Dan White (print)
  • I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman (print)
  • Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn (AB)

Series continuations:

  • Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell (EB & print)
  • Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame (EB & print)

Short Stories:

  • “Xingu” by Edith Wharton (EB)
  • “Verlie I Say Unto You” by Alice Adams (EB)
  • “Roses, Rhododendrons” by Alice Adams (EB)

For fun:

  • Choose to Matter: Being Courageously and Fabulously YOU by Julie Foudy

I Dreamed of Africa

Gallman, Kuki. I Dreamed of Africa. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Reason read: Read in honor of Gallman’s birth month.

This has got to be one of the most heart wrenching yet uplifting books I have ever read about one woman’s life experiences in Africa. After divorcing her first husband Kuki marries the widower of a friend (Kuki survives the same car accident that her friend did not). Paolo convinces Kuki and her young son to move to Kenya, a far cry from the life of privilege in Italy. There, Kuki and her son, Emanuele Pirri-Gallman, fall in love with the land, the animals, and the people of Ol Ari Nyiro. Even after Paolo is killed in a tragic accident, Kuki is determined to stay in Africa. Pregnant with his child, Kuki buries Paolo at the ranch and continues to carry out their dreams. Three years later, even after her seventeen year old son dies of a lethal snake bite, Kuki is even more determined to stay on the ranch. She buries Ema next to Paolo and slowly, through grief and time, finds new purpose to her life.

Author fact: So. I was poking around the internet and found out just last year Kuki had been shot twice while trying to defend her land. What the what???

Book trivia: Gallman includes a bevy of beautiful photographs, mostly in color, of her world. Some of the pictures are drop dead gorgeous. Some of the pictures are drop dead tragic, as well.

Nancy said: Nancy included Kuki’s I Dreamed of Africa because it was one example of a writer writing about her life in Africa following World War II (p 76) although the war is never part of Kuki’s story.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Dreaming of Africa” (p 76).


So Long a Letter

Ba, Mariama. So Long a Letter. Translated by Modupe Bode-Thomas. Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2008.

Reason read: June is considered a wedding month. Read in honor of marriages of all kinds.

What does it mean to be a Senegalese woman living in a society dominated by male attitudes? Where does self worth and fulfillment fit in? Just because a society condones polygamy doesn’t mean every individual expects it, embraces it, or even wants to practice it. When Ramatoulaye’s husband of thirty plus years takes a new (much younger) wife  her emotions run the gamut. Baffled (Wasn’t she a good wife?). Stunned (They have twelve children together. Wasn’t she a good mother?). Embarrassed (What will the community think of her being replaced?). Insecure (Exactly what is her place in society now?). When Madou leaves her a widow, in a long letter to her friend Aissatou, Ramatoulaye recounts her life with Madou. She is, at times, reminiscent and even wistful for a life gone by. In the end, it is a new tragedy that sets Ramatoulaye on a new path of acceptance.

Lines that stayed with me, “My loins beat to the rhythm of childbirth” (p 2), “To warp a soul is an much a sacrilege as murder” (p 23), and “To overcome distress when it sits upon you demands strong will” (p 43).

Author fact: So Long a Letter was Mariama Ba’s first novel. It goes without saying it is semi-autobiographical.

Book trivia: So Long a Letter was the first African novel to win the Noma Award in 1980.

Nancy said: Not much. Pearl just describes the plot in one sentence.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the early chapter called “African Literature in English” (p 16).


June Lightning

June is going to go by lightning fast. For starters, there is a concert in Bangor, Maine that I cannot wait for! Then, a concert at home. After that, a week later, an art show reception for my talented sister’s work. Then, a vacation with my best friend (Maine for the third weekend in a row). I will have many opportunities to read. Hence, the huge list:

Fiction:

  • Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson – in honor of the first month of boating weather (EB & print).
  • Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams – June is short story month (EB & print).
  • Afterlife by Paul Monette – in honor of gay and lesbian pride month (EB & print).
  • Jar City by Arnaldur Andridason – National Icelandic Day is in June (AB).

Nonfiction:

  • Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Middle East by Michael B. Oren – the Six Day War started in June.
  • Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Almost Found Myself by Dan White – June is national hiking month.
  • I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman – in honor of Gallman’s birth month.
  • Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn – in honor of Zinn’s birth month.

Series continuations:

  • Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
  • Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame – to finish the series started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.