Roman Blood

Saylor, Stephen. Roman Blood.  New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.

Reason read: Saylor’s birth month is in March. Read in his honor.

It’s Rome in the year 80 B.C., and Gordianus the Finder has been summoned to the house of Cicero. Only twenty six years old, Cicero needs help defending a client in court. A wealthy farmer has been accused of patricide, the most heinous crime of Roman times. Cicero needs evidence to support his case and Gordianus is just the man to find it. Only, this is ancient Rome where slaves and masters practice deceit and betrayal on a daily basis. Who is telling the truth and who is behind the lies? As Gordianus’s investigation takes him closer and closer to dictator Sulla himself he knows he is in trouble. How far will he go to help Cicero uncover the truth? And is that truth worth uncovering?

As an aside, I want to know if Rome still has streets as described on page 23, “It was a street never touched by sun, never dried by its heat, or never purified by its light – filled with steam at high summer, coated with ice in winter, eternally damp.” I don’t know why, but that sounds magical.

Quotes to quote, “Romans love the strong man who can laugh at himself, and despise the weak man who cannot” (p 249), and “Some people are not at their best when roused from bed in the middle of the night” (p 268).

Author fact: taken from the book jacket, “Saylor’s fascination with ancient Rome began at the age of eight when he saw a censored print of Cleopatra at a drive-in theater theater…”

Book trivia: Roman Blood is Saylor’s first novel.

Nancy said: Nancy said Saylor writes “superior historical mysteries” (p 60).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Classical World” (p 60). Pearl includes other Saylor mysteries: Venus Throw, Last Seen in Massilia and A Twist at the End but she doesn’t indicate Roman Blood and the next two are part of a mystery series. If she had, I am pretty sure she would have listed them in order as Roman Blood should be read before Venus Throw and A Twist at the End is not part of the Sub Rosa series.


Full Steam Ahead

Blumberg, Rhoda. Full Steam Ahead: the Race to Build a Transcontinental Railroad. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 1996.

Reason read: February is Train Month.

The greed of gold brought out the best and worst in businessmen. Entrepreneurs saw an opportunity to cash in on the craze. For Theodore Judah he saw the need for a transcontinental railroad, not to transport passengers but supplies to the miners and merchants who supported them. Abraham Lincoln climbed aboard the idea of a transcontinental railroad because he envisioned the transportation of troops and supplies. Central Pacific Railroad started laying tracks west. Union Pacific starting laying tracks west. And the race was on.
Blumberg paints the historical picture of the birth of the transcontinental railroad in broad strokes. Written for young adults, she steamrolls through the Chinese labor used to build the railroad, the blasting of the mountains that stood in their way, conquering the arid desert, the conflict with the “wild” Indians, even the slaughter of buffalo, until she reaches the grand conclusion of the last spike celebration.

Author fact: Blumberg has written several books on historical events, but Full Steam Ahead is the only one I am reading.

Book trivia: Full Steam Ahead is meant for young adults so there are plenty of amazing photographs and illustrations. I appreciated the portraits and the political cartoon.

Nancy said: Pearl said a great way to learn about most things is to “read a really great children’s book on the subject” (p 200) and she listed Blumberg for learning about the transcontinental railroad.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Riding the Rails: Railroad History” (p 200).


O Jerusalem!

Collins, Larry and Dominique Lapierre. O Jerusalem! New York: Simon and Schuster, 1972.

Reason read: Read in honor of Collins’s birth month being in September.

Critics have called O Jerusalem! “massive” and “epic” in regards to its number of pages, but the scope of its topic O Jerusalem is singular: the year 1948. The year in which British rule ceased in Jerusalem and Arabs and Jews picked up their generations-long battle over the region. Written in four parts beginning with November 29th, 1947 to December 20th, 1947, O Jerusalem opens with the General Assembly of the United Nations voting in favor of partitioning Palestine. Joy and dismay alike reverberate through the ancient land. For this is a fate Jewish Jerusalem had prayed for for over two thousand years. That fact alone is staggering. Think of how many generations have lived through this struggle! Their joy reminded me of the Red Sox winning the pennant after 84 years, “Uri Cohen, a biology student at Hebrew University, happily kissed his way from his home to the city center” (p 42).
This reads like a adventure novel. You get to know people (Uri Cohen will come back again, not as happily).  As a reader, you will crawl into their lives and almost get inside their heads. This may be massive and epic but you’ll hang on every word.

Author fact: Larry Collins was born and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut – just down the road from where I work.
Author fact: Dominique Lapierre was friends with Collins before they coauthored Is Paris Burning?

Book trivia: O Jerusalem! includes a section of photographs.

Nancy said: O Jerusalem! is included in a list of books Nancy says are all “certain to broaden your knowledge, increase your understanding of this part of the world, and be enjoyable (if sometimes uncomfortable) reads” (p 143).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “A Mention of the Middle East” (p 142).


Freedom at Midnight

Collins, Larry and Dominique Lapierre. Freedom at Midnight. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975.

Reason read: November is the best time to visit India…or so they say.

I have to admit I had a love-hate relationship with Freedom at Midnight. At times I found it incredibly interesting while other times it was as boring as taupe. This is the kind of book a historian could really drool over. Often times it reads like a novel in its detail.
My takeaways: It is profound to think that the age old antagonism between the millions of Hindus and millions of Moslems is seemingly irreconcilable and Freedom at Midnight provides a wonderful, if abbreviated, biography of Gandhi.

Author fact(s): Larry Collins was born in Hartford, CT and Dominique Lapierre was born in France.

Book trivia: Freedom at Midnight include some pretty interesting photographs as well as one or two disturbing ones.

Nancy said: Reading Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie led Pearl to read Freedom at Midnight (from the Book Lust introduction). She also said Freedom at Midnight was “required reading for those interested in understanding colonial and postcolonial India from a non-Indian point of view” (p 125-126).

Confessional: I started to read Freedom at Midnight five (yes, five) years ago. The start of this blog has been hanging out since 2011.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust and More Book Lust. In Book Lust in the introduction (p xi) and in More Book Lust in the chapter called “India: A Reader’s Itinerary” (p 125).


December Did Not

December did not suck entirely. I was able to run 97 miles out of the 97 promised. The in-law holiday party was a lot of fun and I got to most of the books on my list:
Nonfiction:

  • Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming (DNF)
  • Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John
  • Paul Revere and the World He Lived in by Esther Forbes
  • On the Ocean by Pytheas (translated by Christina Horst Roseman)
  • Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser
  • Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre .
  • River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (AB)

Fiction:

  • Tu by Patricia Grace – I read this in four days because it was due back at a library that didn’t allow renewals.

Series:

  • Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright. I listened to this on audio on my lunch breaks. It was a good way to escape for a little while each day. Confessional: I didn’t finish the whole thing but since it is a continuation of the series it doesn’t matter.

Early Review:

  • Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham – this was an October book that took me a little time to review because I was too busy using it to run!
  • Disaster Falls: a family story by Stephane Gerson

Paul Revere and the World He Lived In

Forbes, Esther. Paul Revere & the World He Lived In. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942.

Reason read: Paul Revere was baptized on January 1st, 1735. But. But! But, back in those days the child was usually baptized the day after birth… so I’m thinking he was actually born on 12/31. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

In the beginning Apollos Rivoire came to Boston with an American dream…

Esther Forbes wrote Paul Revere with a good natured, almost folksy tone. I could almost see the twinkle in her eye by her choice of words. Here are some quotes to illustrate my point, “Like so many men of his years and period, Mr. Coney was enjoying his third wife – ‘Prudent Mary,’ Judge Sewall calls her” (p 8), “Boston had not yet run out of either rum or religion fervor” (p 13), and “Only once did she save labor by twinning” (p 21). I could go on and on.
But, just because Ms. Forbes wasn’t didactic in her tone doesn’t mean she wasn’t informative. Her narrative paints a thoroughly detailed and informative account of Paul Revere’s life and times. As an added bonus, the city of Boston also is biographied. One such fun detail is about Boston’s streets: If the present day street is straight it probably used to be sea bottom. “Wherever the streets are snarled up, you are standing in the ancient town itself” (p 49). The next time I am there, I’m going to check that out for myself.

As an aside, I am so glad Revere didn’t teach himself dentistry.

Author fact: Esther Forbes also wrote Johnny Tremaine, a book my sister still has on her bookshelf.

Book trivia: Paul Revere includes photographs. That’s the boring trivia. The more interesting one is that the table of contents includes an abstract of each chapter. I have never seen that before.

Nancy said: Forbes used the information collected for Paul Revere to write Johnny Tremaine.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction for Kids of all Ages” (p 114).


Jingle the Books

December is going to be a crazy month. I need to run 93  miles. I will be hosting my in-law’s Holiday party for the first time. I’m going to the Christmas Eve Patriots Game. What else? Oh. The books!

Nonfiction:

  • Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming ~ in honor of December being the best time to visit Peru
  • Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John ~ in honor of Shangani Day in Rhodesia.
  • Paul Revere and the World He Lived in by Esther Forbes ~ in honor of Revere’s birth month (I’m guessing since he was baptized on January first.)
  • On the Ocean by Pytheas (translated by Christina Horst Roseman) ~ in honor of finally finding a copy of this book!
  • Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser ~ in honor of Rome’s Saturnalia Solstice.
  • Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre ~ in honor of December being the best time to visit India.

Fiction:

  • Tu by Patricia Grace ~ in honor of New Zealand being discovered in December.

Series:

  • Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright ~ in honor of finishing the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month.

Early Review:

  • Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham ~ for LibraryThing