Marching Out

March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:

Fiction –

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber
  • Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis

Nonfiction –

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels
  • Slide Rule by Nevil Shute

Series Continuations –

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
  • Entranced by Nora Roberts

Early Review for Librarything –

  • Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
  • Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves

Poetry –

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)

Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.


Coast of Incense

Stark, Freya. The Coast of Incense: Autobiography 1933 – 1939. London: John Murray, 1953.

Reason read: to finish the autobiography of Freya Stark, started in January in honor of her birth month.

Freya Stark was born to travel. Unafraid. Unconcerned with custom, tradition or the assumed proper behavior of the single woman, Stark was a woman who did as she pleased. Long fascinated with maps she set out to be a lady “traveller” in the middle east. She thought it fun to be “a speck on the map of Arabia” (p 58). The only reoccurring obstacle in her way was illness, whether it be dysentery or the measles, or her heart, she was frequently bed ridden. Never the less she traveled throughout the Hadhramout of South Arabia. As with her other autobiographies, Stark introduces each chapter with a present day impression followed by alternating letters from the time frame. She is careful to weave memory with retrospection to build a compelling portrait of her life.

Personally, I loved her descriptions of Himyar, her pet lizard the best.

Best quotes, “…for no iron curtain yet discovered will stand against the pressure and persistence of life, and I still hope to live long enough to write about an opening door” (preface, p xiii), “..and again astonished me with the strangeness of being rewarded for what one likes to do – although it is, perhaps the best thing to be rewarded for” (p 15), and “A young Yemeni teacher comes three hours a week and Arabic is pouring back into my brain” (p 40).

Author fact: Stark was one feisty woman. Take these quotes for example, “I spent a long time the night before wondering whether I should take our little revolver and shoot the Duce as he came by” (p 6). Then there is this: “Little details one would never think of, such as one’s hostess stopping in the middle of dinner to see if there is vaseline on your knife, as it has just come out of someone’s waistband” (p 72) and “…”but I walked on, stolid and angry, with an occasional remark, on the wickedness of robbing travellers, thrown behind me” (p 246).

Book trivia: The Coast of Incense has a great collection of photographs. There is one of Freya looking like a model in Athens that I just love.

Nancy said: nothing that hasn’t already been said somewhere else.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Lady Travellers” (p 142).


Marching with Words

The only run I have planned for March is St. Patrick’s Day. No surprise there. Here are the books planned for March:

Fiction:

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber (AB) – in honor of the start of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling – In honor of Dooling’s birthplace (Nebraska) becoming a state in March.
  • Roman Blood by Stephen Saylor – in honor of Saylor’s birth month in March.

Nonfiction:

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels – in honor of Ohio becoming a state in March.

Series continuations:

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to continue the series started in January for Stark’s birth month. This will end the autobiography.
  • Entranced by Nora Roberts (EB) – to continue the Donovan Legacy started in February in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Early Review:

  • Infinite Hope by Anthony Graves

Poetry:

  • New and Collected Poems by Czeslaw Milosz – in honor of National Poetry Month.

If there is time:

  • Slide Rule: the Autobiography of an Engineer by Nevil Shute – in honor of the birth month of William Oughtred
  • Which Witch? by Andre Norton – to remember Norton (who died in the month of March).
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis in honor of Reading Month.

February Falling Up

I can only describe February as falling up because health-wise I am up on upswing. I’m still not really running yet (I’ve gone for four under-three-mile runs, but who’s counting?). I’m not really running but I haven’t fallen down either. Hence, falling up.

We had a snow day from work, I took a few days off for my birthday and we took a trip to New Jersey so I was able to get in a fair amount of reading. I spent President’s Day reading, too. Oh, and I almost forgot. I’m barely running so there’s that, too. Needless to say, I’ve been reading a lot. Weirdly enough, for all the reading I’ve done you would think there would be more books. Oh well. Speaking of the books, here they are:

Fiction:

  • Dead Room Farce by Simon Brett. Read in three days.
  • Captivated by Nora Roberts. Read on my iPad in four days.
  • Backup Men by Ross Thomas. Read in five days.
  • The Almond Picker by Simonetta Hornby.
  • Color of Money by Walter Tevis. Read in five days.

Nonfiction:

  • City of Falling Angels by John Berendt.
  • Full Steam Ahead by Rhoda Blumberg.

Series Continuation:

  • Beyond Euphrates by Freya Stark.

For Fun:

  • Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline.

Beyond Euphrates

Stark, Freya. Beyond Euphrates: autobiography 1928 – 1933. London: John Murray, 1951.

Reason read: Stark was born in January. Reading Beyond Euphrates to continue the series.

When we left Freya at the end of Traveller’s Prelude Freya had just gained her independence as an adult and the travel bug had bitten hard. She takes her first journey in 1928 to Damascus. As a woman, traveling without an escort was unheard of in 1928. To make matters worse, because Freya could speak several different languages, she was believed to be a Russian spy when she reached Baghdad. The more Freya travels, the more her independent spirit grows. She scoffs at using escorts and chaperones. At one point she fears being tied to a job because it might keep her rooted in one place and yet she needed to earn a living in order to keep traveling. It was at this point that she started writing articles and her first book, Baghdad Sketches was published. Stark ends Beyond Euphrates in hopes of traveling to Yemen next. Amusingly enough, in her last letter to her mother she rejoices to find a good face cream.

Quotes to quote. An example of bravery: “I don’t mind the chance at being shot at, but did not want to be held up by police and kept all night in one of their solitary little towers for safety…” (p 270). An example of humor: “Darling B, I am busy with prostitutes” (p 267).

Author fact: Stark had a sense of humor. Case in point: “Captain Holt told me I had better go home from North Persia by way of Moscow (where he is to be): and I had to remind him that I am a Bolshevic spy” (p 127).

Book trivia: Beyond Euphrates also has great photographs. Not as many of Freya, though. Second book trivia – I am reading a first edition of Beyond Euphrates.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Lady Travellers” (p 142).


Traveller’s Prelude

Stark, Freya. Traveller’s Prelude. London: John Murray, 1950.

Reason read: Freya Stark was born in January. Read in her honor.

This is first of Stark’s autobiographies (followed by Beyond the Euphrates and Coast of Incense.) Traveller’s Prelude starts at the very beginning with Stark’s grandparents (all with the surname Stark) in 1893. Stark’s parents were first cousins. From the very beginning Freya’s life was filled with adventure. At the age of two and a half. Freya’s parents took her and her sister over the Dolomites. Freya began “running away” when she was only four years old. Her mother recalls losing Freya on a train only to find the child in the smoky third class car, sitting on the knee of a sailor (p 34). As a young woman she volunteered medical services in the First Would War. After the war she bought a farm and made her own wine. While lonely for marriage, Freya didn’t while away her time pining for a man. She had friends and mountaineered often; she believed she was the first woman to climb the Rocca Provenzale. Traveller’s Prelude ends with the death of Freya’s sister, Vera and the very beginnings of Freya’s interest in the middle east.

Do you know that question, what famous person, living or dead, with whom you would most like to have dinner? My answers were always Natalie Merchant (living) or Edgar Allan Poe (deceased). After reading Traveller’s Prelude I change my second answer to Freya Stark. Sorry, Ed!

Favorite lines, “Running away is the wrong word for such adventures, that go notto escape but to seek” (p 37-38), “They might look like railway trains, streaking with swift bodies of lighted carriages and smoke, but I remember making myself think that they were dragons, and dragons to all intents there were” (p 48).

Author fact: Freya almost died when her hair got caught in some factory machinery when she was a teenager.

Book trivia: Traveller’s Prelude has the coolest photographs of Freya as a young child, beginning when she was only one year old. They are not clumped together in the center of the book, but interspersed throughout the narrative which makes the reading delightful. One of my favorites is of Freya, at age one, standing with a man I can only assume is her father, grasping his tie in her little hand. But, the one of her reading is delightful, too.

Nancy said: Freya Stark wrote “insightfully” about the Middle East (p 143).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Lady Travellers” (p 142).


February Progress

I have been seeing a chiropractor for over a month and have all but stopped running. At first, I admit, this bothered me to no end. Now, I’m okay with it for all the books I have been reading. And speaking of books, here is February’s plan for The Books:

Fiction:

  • The Almond Picker by Simonetta Agnello ~ in honor of Almond Blossom festival in Sicily.
  • The Color of Money by Walter Tevis ~ in honor of Tevis’s birth month.
  • Dead Room Farce by Simon Brett ~ in honor of February being Theater month.

Nonfiction:

  • City of Falling Angels by John Berendt~ in honor of February being the month of the Venice Carnival (AB/print).
  • Full Steam Ahead: the Race to Build a Transcontinental Railroad by Rhoda Blumberg~ in honor of February being Train Month.

Series continuations:

  • Beyond Euphrates by Freya Stark ~ in honor of Freya’s birthday in January.

For fun:

  • Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline ~ because a friend recommended it (E-book).

There might be room for more titles, considering Dead Room Farce and Full Steam Ahead are barely 200 pages apiece. We’ll see…