January with the King’s Men

January started with my first official appointment to a chiropractor. I mentioned elsewhere that he wasn’t really confident he could put me back together, but that’s there and not here. Not being able to run has given me more time to read…much more than I realized. You can get a lot done with an extra 4-5 hours a week! With that being said, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright. This story stayed with me for a really long time.
  • Tea From an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan. I think I was most disappointed by this one because I saw the ending a mile away.
  • On the Beach by Nevil Shute. I listened to this on audio and I still can’t stop thinking about it.
  • Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich. I read this one in a day.
  • Wake Up, Darlin’ Corey by M.K. Wren. Another really short book.
  • What Did It Mean? by Angela Thirkell. I gave up on this one after 120 pages. Boring!

Nonfiction:

  • Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals by David Laskin.
  • War Child by Emmanuel Jal. Probably the most raw and captivating story of the month. Read in a weekend.
  • Traveller’s Prelude by Freya Stark
  • Practicing History by Barbara Tuchman. No one does history like Barbara. (AB/print)
  • Last Cheater’s Waltz by Ellen Meloy. She has a wicked sense of humor.

Series continuations:

  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle by Dorothy Gilman. The last Pollifax mystery I will read.  Read in a day.

Early Reviews:

  • Brain Food: the Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Health by Lisa Mosconi. This took me a really long time to read. You may have seen it on other lists. There was just a lot to it.

 


Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle

Gilman, Dorothy. Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle. New York: Doubleday, 1988.

Reason read: I started the Mrs. Pollifax series in September 2017 in honor of Grandparents Day. This is the last book I am reading for the series.

The one word for Mrs. Polllifax: gullible. Either that or the one word for the CIA is inept. Not sure which is more accurate. Emily and her new husband Cyrus are headed to Thailand for a little rest & relaxation; a real vacation without an ulterior motive. After their fiasco in China, they needed a break from all things dark and dangerous. They are all set to head out the door when who should catch wind of their trip, but old friend Bishop, and who should need a favor, but the old CIA. It sounds simple enough – all Bishop needs is for Emily to drop off a package for an informant and in exchange, receive some top secret information too important to send in a letter. What could possibly go wrong? If you have been paying attention to Emily Pollifax’s adventure you already know…a lot. This time, it’s Cyrus who goes missing. Never mess with a feisty woman when her man is kidnapped!

One quote to mention, “Like a toy flower dropped into a glass of water, Mrs. Pollifax felt herself expanding and flowering” (p 19).
Here’s one more, “…one could never know the traumas that such people; everyone carried around with them their own particular defenses, antagonisms, secrets and uncertainties…” (p 136). Very true.

Author fact: So far, I have told you this about Dorothy Gilman: She was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey and she lived in Maine at some point in her life. Since this is my last Mrs. Pollifax book it’s only fitting to tell you Dorothy Gilman died in 2012 on my birthday.

Book trivia: The Golden Triangle is short, short, short. Doesn’t even make it to 190 pages long.

Nancy said: nothing worth mentioning.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called Thai Tales (p 226). Here is the interesting thing about how Pearl included several books in the Mrs. Pollifax series. Each book is listed independently in a chapter about a foreign country. You would never know each book is connected in a series.


January’s Time

This year, more than ever, I am struck by time’s marching; the relentless footfalls of days and weeks passing by. I know that is mortality speaking, but it rings eerie in my mind nonetheless. Not helping the doom and gloom is the first book on my list, On The Beach by Nevil Shute. I wanted a different book from Shute but there isn’t a library local enough to loan it to me.

Here are the planned books for January 2018:

Fiction:

  • On The Beach (AB) by Nevil Shute (previously mentioned) – in honor of Shute’s birth month.
  • Clara Callan by Richard Wright – in honor of Sisters Week being in January.
  • Tea From an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan – in honor of January being Science Fiction Month.

Nonfiction:

  • Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals by David Laskin – in honor of January 26th being Spouses’s Day.
  • War Child: a Child Soldier’s Story by Emmanuel Jal – in honor of the end of the Sudan civil war.
  • Travellers’ Prelude: Autobiography 1893-1927 by Freya Stark – in honor of Freya Stark’s birth month.
  • Practicing History by Barbara Tuchman (AB) – in honor of Tuchman’s birth month.

Series Continuations:

  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Triangle by Dorothy Gilman – started in September in honor of Grandparents’ Day.

For the Early Review program for LibraryThing:

  • Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power by Lisa Mosconi, PhD (finishing).
  • Pep Talk for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo by Grant Faulkner (also finishing).

December Books

I opted out of the cutesy title for this blog because…well…I simply wasn’t in the mood to come up with anything clever. What was December all about? For the run it was a 5k that I finished in “about 30 minutes” as my running partner put it. I also ran a mile every day (from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day). I think I’m satisfied with that accomplishment the most because I ran even when we were traveling, even when we were completely swamped with other things going on, even when I didn’t feel like lifting a finger. Despite it all, I still ran at least one mile.

Enough of that. In addition to running I read. Here are the books finished in the month of December. For some reason I surrounded myself with some of the most depressing books imaginable:

Fiction:

    • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild – read in two lazy afternoons
    • Fay by Larry Brown – devoured in a week (super sad).
    • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (AB/print) – confessional: I started this the last week of November fearing I wouldn’t conquer all 600 pages before 12/31/17 but I did. (again, super sad book).
    • Wanting by Richard Flanagan (really, really sad when you consider Mathinna’s fate).
    • Between the Assassinations by Avarind Adiga (sad).
    • The Beach by Alex Garland (again, sad in a weird way).
    • God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories by Tom Bissell (the last of the sad books).
    • Nero Wolf of West Thirty-fifth Street: the Life and Times of America’s Largest Detective by William Stuart Baring-Gould.

Nonfiction:

  • Iron & Silk by Mark Salzman – read in three days. The only real funny book read this month.

Series continuations:

  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha by Dorothy Gilman – read in the same weekend as Ballet Shoes.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Brain Food: the Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power by Lisa Mosconi (started).

For fun:

  • Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes by Erin Taylor.

Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha

Gilman, Dorothy. Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1985.

Reason read: to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents’ Day.

When we left Mrs. Pollifax after her African safari she and Cyrus Reed had just started a new romance. Now ten months later they are newlyweds living in a house they bought together. He’s off in upstate Vermont somewhere on a bird-counting expedition and Emily is overseeing renovations on their house when who should stop by for a visit, but old friend (and CIA man), Bishop. Of course, he needs Mrs. Pollifax for a delicate assignment and, but of course, there is no time to waste. If she agrees to take the case she doesn’t even have time to contact the hubby or pack properly (although she does remember to grab a snazzy hat). In an era when you could leave strangers in your house, Emily pops off a note to Cyrus and leaves the handymen to work unsupervised. Mrs. Pollifax’s new mission is a trip to Hong Kong to find missing agent Sheng Ti (a character from a previous story I didn’t read). Here’s the thing about Mrs. Pollifax – she will talk to just about anyone so the characters she meets run the gamut. She blithely shares information with double agents, gangsters and psychics alike. You could call this an adventure with just the right amount of silliness boiled in. There is death and violence and the threat of terrorism but take, for examples, the agents’s “secret” language, “…should be arriving you-know-where in fifteen minutes…” (p 128). I’m surprised the statement wasn’t followed by a wink-wink.
Mrs. Pollifax gets herself in a pickle but now she has a secret weapon to help save the day, her lovable husband, Cyrus!
Author fact: According to the back flap of Mrs. Pollifax and the Hong Kong Buddha, Dorothy Gilman lived in New Mexico and Nova Scotia. That sounds like the best of both worlds.

Book trivia: My copy of Mrs. Pollifax was peppered with highlighting. It was if someone had been using it as a vocabulary primer for words like shrubbery and ensconced were marked.

Nancy said: Nancy called Emily Pollifax a “dithery elderly woman with a penchant for unusual hats” (p 98). I would agree with that.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the simple and to the point chapter, “Hong Kong” (p 97).


December Whatnot

Here’s something of a shocker. I am running a 5k during the first week of December! Actually, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise because I mentioned signing up for it in the last post…just yesterday. But. But! But, enough about the first week of December. Let’s talk about the last week of December! I am looking forward to a week off from work with nothing to do except read, read, read. Another opportunity to gorge on books is a six hour car ride when I won’t be driving. A perfect opportunity to finished a shorter book! And speaking of books, Here is the list:

Fiction:

  • God Lives in St. Petersburg and Other Stories by Tom Bissell ~ in honor of a day in December as being one of the coldest days in Russian history.
  • Fay by  Larry Brown ~ in honor of December being Southern Literature Month.
  • Fearless Treasure by Noel Streatfeild in honor of Streatfeild’s birth month. Actually, no library would lend Fearless Treasure without charging an ILL fee so I am reading Ballet Shoes instead. Good thing I wasn’t looking forward to reading fantasy!
  • Wanting by Richard Flanagan ~ in honor of Tasmania’s taste fest which happens in December. To be honest, I don’t know how I made this connection.
  • The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis ~ in honor of Willis being born in December. Confessional: this is a huge book so I started it a little early (AB & print).
  • The Beach by Alex Garland in honor of Thailand’s Constitution Day observance in December.

Nonfiction:

  • Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman ~ in honor of Mark Salzman’s birth month being in December.
  • Nero Wolf at West Thirty Fourth Street: the life and times of America’s Largest Private Detective by William S. Baring-Gold ~ in honor of Rex Stout’s birth month.

Series continuations:

  • Mrs. Pollifax and the Golden Buddha by Dorothy Gilman ~ to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents’ month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • I was supposed to receive Jam Today by Tod Davies last month but hasn’t arrived yet. Maybe I’ll get it this month.
  • I am also suppose to receive Pep Talk for Writers by Grant Faulkner by Dec 29th, 2017. We’ll see about that!

For fun:

  • Hit Reset: Revolutionary Yoga for Athletes by Erin Taylor ~ because I’m still trying keep running.

If there is time:

  • Between the Assassinations by Avavind Adiga ~in honor of Vivah Panchami
  • Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich ~ in honor of Woolrich’s birth month

Nod to November

What happened in November? I finished physical therapy. But really, PT is not finished with me. I signed up for a 5k in order to keep the running alive. As soon as I did that I needed x-rays for the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my hip and groin. Like stabbing, electrocuting pains. Diagnosis? More sclerosis and fusing. Yay, me! In defiance of that diagnosis I then signed up for a 21k. I am officially crazy.
Here are the books finished for the month of November:

Fiction:

  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (AB/print)
  • The Edge of the Crazies by Jamie Harrison
  • Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Beaufort by Ron Leshem

Nonfiction:

  • Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

Series continuations:

  • No Villain Need Be by Vardis Fisher (finally finished!)
  • Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman
  • Henry James: the Master by Leon Edel
  • I Will Bear Witness: the Nazi Years, 1942 – 1945 by Victor Klemperer

Early Review for LibraryThing: nothing. I jinxed myself by mentioning the book I was supposed to receive. Needless to say, it never arrived. So I never finished it. Ugh.


Mrs. Pollifax on Safari

Gilman, Dorothy. Mrs. Pollifax on Safari. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1977.

Reason read: to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents’ Day.

Note: This may be my third Pollifax book but I’m actually skipping the next two in the series, The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax (#3) and A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax (#4). Mrs. Pollifax on Safari is actually #5.

Lovable Mrs. Pollifax is back! This time she has traveled to Africa to go on safari. Her mission is to take lots and lots of pictures and oh by the way, find an infamous assassin. Acting as the CIA’s voluntary grandma spy, Emily Pollifax, albeit with bumbling charm, befriends every strange character she meets in the hopes one of them is the elusive and deadly Aristotle. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Gilman mystery if something didn’t go according to plan. This is a quick read, but highly enjoyable.

As an aside, this is not a spoiler but, but. But! Gilman gives Pollifax an umbrella to carry throughout her journey through Africa. Because the umbrella/parasol is mentioned a dozen times I thought for sure it would be used as a weapon, contain a secret clue or something significant. In the end, Pollifax gives the umbrella away without incident. Oh well.

Laugh out loud lines, “If I can find someone to water my geraniums, yes I could go to Africa for the weekend” (p 8). Who does that?

Author fact: Here’s what I got from the back flap of Safari: at the time of publication Ms. Gilman lived in Maine! How cool is that?

As an aside, in 1977 the clothing store “Abercrombie’s” was a good place to go for outfitting an African safari wardrobe.

Book trivia: Like the other Pollifax books, Safari is short. This one is barely 180 pages long.

Nancy said: Nancy calls Mrs. Pollifax on Safari “lighter fare” and describes the plot. She ends the chapter by saying the rest of the story is “pure fiction” (p 267).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the ever so simple (and obvious) chapter called “Zambia” (p 266).


November Pain

The running – oops – I mean the training is officially over. I don’t know where the run will go from here. I am toying with a 5k for Safe Passage next month. To hell with toys. I WILL run for Safe Passage next month! But really, I don’t even want to think about that right now since PT has ended. For now, I still have the books. The list is long because we aren’t going anywhere for Thanksgiving. Here’s to four days off with nothing to do but read, read, read. Here is what’s on tap for November:

Fiction:

  • A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (AB) ~ in honor of November being the best time (supposedly) to visit India (AB / print). Confessional: I think I would like to remove the category of “Best time to visit fill-in-the-blank.” How am I to know when is the best time to visit a country when I have never been there myself? I’m getting a little tired of saying “supposedly” the best time to visit.
  • Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay ~ in honor of Kay’s birth month
  • Beaufort by Ron Leshem ~ in honor of Lebanon gaining independence in November

Nonfiction:

  • Gastronomical Me by M.F.K.  Fisher ~ to recognize National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness month

Series Continuation:

  • No Villain Need Be by Vardis Fisher ~ to continue (and finally finish) the series started in August in honor of Idaho
  • Mrs. Pollifax on Safari by Dorothy Gilman ~ to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents month
  • I Will Bear Witness/To the Bitter End by Victor Klemperer ~ to continue the series started in October in honor of Klemperer’s birth month
  • Henry James: the Master by Leon Edel ~ yes, I am still reading this. Just tying up loose ends.

Early Review for LibraryThing IF it arrives (so far it hasn’t):

  • Jam Today: a Diary of Cooking with What You’ve Got by Tod Davies

If there is time:

  • Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love (fiction) by Michael Malone ~ in honor of Malone’s birth month
  • The Edge of the Crazies (fiction) by Jamie Harrison ~ in honor of Montana becoming a state in November.
  • The Caliph’s House (fiction) by Tahir Shah ~ in honor of November being the month Morocco gained independence.

 


What’s More Scary?

I have been in physical therapy for my hip for more than a month now and here’s the sad, sad thing. I don’t feel much different. I still have trouble sleeping a night (last night I woke up every two hours) and runs haven’t been that much easier. I managed over sixty miles for the month and finally finished the dreaded half (the one I have been babbling about for months now. Yeah, that one). I definitely made more time for the books. Here is the ginormous list:

Fiction:

  • Aristotle Detective by Margaret Anne Doody (finished in a week).
  • All Hallows’ Eve by Charles Williams.
  • Discarded Duke by Nancy Butler (finished in a week).
  • Beautiful Children by Charles Bock (AB / print). Word to the wise, don’t do it!
  • Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe

Nonfiction:

  • Whatever You Do, Don’t Run by Peter Allison (AB / print; finished in less than a week).
  • Sense of the World by Jason Roberts (AB / print).
  • I Will Bear Witness: a Diary of the Nazi Years (1933-1941) by Victor Klemperer ~ in honor of Mr. Klemperer’s birth month.
  • In the Valley of Mist by Justine Hardy

Series Continuations:

  • We are Betrayed by Vardis Fisher.
  • Amazing Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman ( finished in four days).
  • Henry James: the Treacherous Years by Leon Edel (Can you believe I actually finished this within the same month?).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina (read in four days).

Amazing Mrs. Pollifax

Gilman, Dorothy. The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970.

Reason read: to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents Day.

Once you get beyond Mrs. Pollifax’s naivete: her willingness to go anywhere on a moment’s notice, for example, you can’t help but fall in love with the retired widow. Never mind the fact that the last time she agreed to go somewhere (spur of the moment) on such an unknown trip she almost died several times over. When you catch up with Miss Emily Pollifax in The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax you learn she is now taking karate lessons. Small reveal (and big bummer for me), Mrs. Pollifax doesn’t use her newfound martial arts skills but she does fly a helicopter! See what I mean? Most of Mrs. Pollifax’s feats in Turkey are nothing short of incredible, but the overall story is fun. Can’t wait for the next one!

Confessional: there is a small part of me that thinks Gilman is poking fun at the CIA. More than once, the agency is two steps behind the enemy and seem more concerned with trivial things like how did Mrs. Pollifax lose her garden hat?

One of the best lines comes from Colin when he says, “…these men stole my uncle’s jeep, dumped a dead man in our garage and kidnapped your friend” as if it’s the most normal day in his young life (p 72).
Another funny quote, “But we must stay alive a little longer to annoy him, yes?” By all means, survive long enough to annoy someone!

Author fact: Gilman was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey same as her heroine, Mrs. Pollifax.

Book trivia: I am reading five of the Mrs. Pollifax series. There are fourteen total.

Nancy said: The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax is just the ticket if you are “looking for something a lot lighter in tone and mood that still gives you a sense of Turkish life and customs” (p 240).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Turkish Delights: Fiction” (p 239).


Boo to You October

The month had finally arrived for the half marathon, my first and only of 2017. Enough said about that.
Here are the books I have planned:

Fiction:

  • The Aristotle Detective by Margaret Anne Doody ~ in honor of Greece’s Ochi Day
  • All Hallows Eve by Charles Williams ~ in honor of what else? Halloween.

Nonfiction:

  • Whatever You Do, Don’t Run by Peter Allison ~ in honor of the first safari leader’s birth month (Major Sir William Wallace Cornwallis Harris born October 1848. How’s that for a name?) (AB / print)
  • Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveler by Jason Roberts ~ in honor of James Holman’s birth month (AB)

Series Continuations:

  • The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman ~ to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents Day.
  • Henry James: the Master by Leon Edel ~ to continue (and finish) the series started in April in honor of James’s birth month
  • We are Betrayed by Vardis Fisher ~ to continue the series started in August

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina ~ and we are back to nonfiction.

If there is time:

  • Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe (fiction)
  • The Discarded Duke by Nancy Butler (fiction)
  • In the Valley of Mist by Justine Hardy (nonfiction)
  • I Will Bear Witness (vol.1) by Victor Klemperer (nonfiction)

So Long September

What an absolutely bonkers month. September was…How to describe September? The family had a reunion of sorts. The island suffered its fifth shock of the season with a quadruple murder. Running was another head-scratcher as I officially resumed physically therapy for my twisted hips. But. But, But! I was able to log over 30 miles. Nowhere near the 70+ I wanted, but it’s something. At least I haven’t stopped entirely. And the reading? Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (AB/print)
  • The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
  • Burton And Speke by William Harrison (fictionalized history/historical fiction…whatever)
  • My Dream of You by Naola O’Faolain (AB/print)

Nonfiction:

  • O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre – Confessional: didn’t quite get all the way through this)
  • Everybody was so Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story by Amanda Vaill
  • Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins

Series continuations:

  • Passions Spin the Plot by Vardis Fisher
  • Henry James: the Treacherous Years (1895 – 1901) by Leon Edel

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Boat Runner by Devin Murphy (fiction!)

Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax

Gilman, Dorothy. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax. New York: Fawcett Books, 1966.

Reason read: September 10th is National Grandparents Day. In an odd twist of ironies, I am connected to someone who just killed his grandparents this weekend. I am in a state of shock.

Mrs. Pollifax is a bored, retired widow looking for excitement. So, what does she do? She takes a trip to Washington D.C. and inserts herself as a spy for the CIA. It’s really quite simple. They need an unassuming, nondescript individual to pick up a package in Mexico City and Mrs. Pollifax has nothing better to do but volunteer. What starts off as an innocent vacation turns dramatic when the package isn’t there and Mrs. Pollifax goes missing. It’s a hard-to-believe tale but one thing is for sure, Mrs. Pollifax is definitely unexpected. You will fall in love with her immediately.

Author fact: Gilman died on my birthday at the age of 88 years old.

Book trivia: Each installment of the The Mrs. Pollifax series takes place in a different foreign country. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax takes place in Mexico City, Mexico and an unknown location in Albania.

Nancy said: if you are planning a trip to Albania the perfect accompaniment for the trip is The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (p 12).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the ever so simple chapter called, what else? “Albania” (p 12).