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:


  • 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


  • 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.

No Villain Need Be

Fisher, Vardis. No Villain Need Be. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran, & Company, Inc., 1936.

Reason read: to finish the series started in August in memory of Butch Cassidy robbing a bank in Idaho in August 1896.

Confessional: I could not wait for this series to be over and done with! I found Vridar a very selfish and troubled man throughout the earlier books. He pushes his wife to suicide at the end of We Are Betrayed and then spends more of No Villain Need Be trying to sort out his guilt. Another trait of Mr. Hunter’s that I could quite reconcile is his lack of parenting. True, those were different times but when he moved to Baltimore all I could ask was, what about his sons? This does not get any better in No Villain Need Be. His common law wife at one point asks him if he is going to see his children and he replies that he is “not ready yet” to face them. In case, you are wondering – his parents have his two sons back in Idaho.
But, back to the plot. Vridar is now a so=called grown up. He keeps gin in the bathroom, has written more than half a dozen books and is teaching at a college. He has obtained his doctorate in philosophy and even has a common law wife, Athene (whom I’ve already mentioned). Athene is an admirable character. She seems the most honest, being above the game playing. She helps Vridar behave as a more mature adult. Despite all the drama in the earlier installments, the series ends without much fanfare.
A curiosity: Vridar teaches philosophy while his brother, Mertyl, teaches Psychology. Even more curious, Mertyl lives and teaches wherever Vridar happens to end up.

Spoken by Vridar, these statements have some truth to them – “Love sets out to lick the world and ends up by pushing a baby-buggy to Mobile (p 40) and “I don’t believe in legislating people into heaven” (p 93). Amen, brother. Earlier in the tetralogy I agreed with Vridar’s opinion of Greek life. Now in No Villain Need Be I applaud his stance on academic commencement ceremonies. We both think they are silly.

Another quote I liked, “Pleasure as a manic depressive, asylumed in Manhattan” (p 210).
Finally, I want to thank the University of Massachusetts (Amherst campus) for sharing Vardis Fisher’s tetralogy with me.

Author fact: so far I have told you this about Mr. Fisher: he was born and raised in Idaho and that he was married three times. Last fact: Mr. Fisher wrote a great deal more beyond the life of Vardis Hunter. Sadly, I’m not reading any of it.

Book trivia: No Villain Need Be‘s title came from George Meredith: “Tis morning: but no morning can restore what we have forfeited. I see no sin: The wrong is mixed. In tragic life, God wot, No villain need Be! Passions spin the plot: We are betrayed by what is false within.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Idaho: and Nary a Potato to be Seen” (p 121).

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:


  • 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


  • 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:


  • 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


  • 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).

We Are Betrayed

Fisher, Vardis. We Are Betrayed. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1935.

Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Idaho.

We started the story of Vridar (Vreed) Hunter as a young boy in In Tragic Life. In Passions Spin the Plot Vreed is college age and still obsessed with his childhood love, Neloa. By the time we catch up with him in We Are Betrayed Vreed has married Neloa and she has given him a child without fanfare. Much was made of his virginity and his preoccupation with sex in the previous installments, so it was a surprise fatherhood was treated so nonchalantly. New also to Vridar’s character is his commitment to fight in the war. He develops a new sense of courage at the thought of fighting for his country in France. His desire to be a writer and scholar also takes hold. Fisher does a great job of maturing Vridar before our eyes. His attitude towards fraternities was the first admirable demonstration for me, but there is no doubt Vridar is a tortured  and obsessed soul. The terrible games he played to test Neloa’s love for him are despicable. In fact, it’s Neloa and Vridar’s relationship I found the most disturbing. I won’t give away the ending, but I found myself not wanting to finish the series because of it.

My personal gripe has been how depressing Fisher is with Vridar’s life. True to form, Fisher starts We Are Betrayed with, the sentence “When Vridar married Neloa Doole he was ashamed of her…” (p 5). Vreed can’t be happy about anything.

As an aside, there was one section which confused me the most. Vridar and Neloa have their first child and Vridar leaves for war shortly thereafter. In a letter to Vridar, Neloa talks about Agnes singing about daddy being somewhere in France and she tells Vreed, “your daddy has been preaching to Agnes…trying to make a Mormon of her” (p 93). Who is Agnes? Lincoln is Vreed and Neloa’s first child, a boy. Did I miss something?

Author fact: Fisher was married three times. Will Vridar marry three times?

Book trivia: this is the penultimate book in the Vridar series.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Idaho: and Nary a Potato to be Seen” (p 121).

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:


  • 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.


  • 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:


  • 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)


  • 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!)

Passions Spin the Plot

Fisher, Vardis. Passions Spin the Plot. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ldt., 1934.

Reason read: to continue the series started in August.

From the very first sentence of Passions Spin the Plot I had a certain dread about reading this. As you may recall, I got sick of how whiny Vridar was in In Tragic Life. (Although I should have known better from the title!) So, when I read the very first sentence, “Vridar felt sick and lost” (page 13) I knew I was in for more of the same. Every thing about Vridar is very dramatic. He has bouts of hot grief, he is insecure, he feels very sheltered, guilty and lonely. The one connection I felt early on with Vridar was his love for libraries. Like me, Vridar found sanctuary amidst the books.
But, anyway! About the plot: Passions Spin the Plot continue the Vridar story. At the end of In Tragic Life Vridar was about to set off to college. Passions Spin the Plot picks up with Vridar at college in Salt Lake City. He finally makes a friend who becomes a partner in crime, so to speak. Vridar demonstrates he has a lot to learn especially about fashion and women in the “real” world so this new friend tries to guide him in the ways of dating. But, all in all Vridar is an odd duck. His childhood love for Neloa continues to be obsessive and yet his high morals cause him angst when he hears she sees other men. He hates her. He loves her. He hates her. He loves her. He comes across as high and mighty, very self-righteous but he himself is not all that pure during these college days.

Favorite lines, “She was as chaste as a June morning and as unapproachable as the philosophy of Kant” (p 47) and “A lot of men wasted themselves on love” (p 154). A favorite phrase was “vomit of rage”. I think I’ll use that the next time I am mad enough to spit nails.

Author fact: Since Vardis’s passion for Neloa is the focus for this book the author fact is that Fisher married three times. His first marriage only lasted seven years.

Book trivia: Passions Spin the Plot is the second book in a four-book series.

Nancy said: nothing specific about Passions.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Idaho: and Nary a Potato To Be Seen” (p 121).

Back to School September

September starts out with sunny skies and a promise of a return to normalcy. What is “normal” anyway? I’m hoping to run without pain (have a whopping 72 miles scheduled). I’m also hoping to get back on track with the reading:


  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald –  in honor of F Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month.


  • O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
  • Burton and Speke by William Harrison – in honor of September being Curiosity Month (and isn’t that what exploring as all about, being curious?)
  • Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins – in honor of F Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month (& the reading of Tender is the Night)
  • Everybody was So Young by Amanda Vaill – in honor of F Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month (& the reading of Tender is the Night)

Series Continuation:

  • Passion Spins the Plot by Vardis Fisher – to continue the series started in August in honor of the day Butch Cassidy robbed a bank in Idaho.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy (the first fiction I have received in a long time!)

August Awakenings

What can I tell you about August? I still have moments of wanting to hurl myself off a cliff. But, but. But! The good news is, by default, that recklessness has made me shed my fear of flying, ants, and flying ants. I went zip lining in Alaska and found myself the first to volunteer; literally throwing myself off every platform.
I was forced to dedicate more time to the run while I punished myself with late-read books from July. As a result of all that, August’s mileage was decent considering 10 days were spent traveling (25 – the most since April) while the reading list was a little lackluster:


  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (AB left over from July)
  • In Tragic Life by Vardis Fisher – such a sad book!


  • Hawthorne: a Life by Brenda Wineapple (left over from July)
  • Miami by Joan Didion

Series Continuations:

  • The Eagle Has Flown by Jack Higgins
  • Henry James: the Middle Years by Leon Edel (left over from JUNE)

Early Review:

  • Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie

For Fun:

  • Pharos Gate by Nick Bantock – I know, I know. I shouldn’t be reading anything for fun while I had so many July books still on my plate. This took me all over an hour to read and besides, Bantock is one of my favorites. How could I not?

In Tragic Life

Fisher, Vardis. In Tragic Life. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1932.

Reason read: Originally, I chose it for July for when Idaho became a state. However, the book took so long in getting to me that I decided to still read it even though July is long gone. I found a new reason to read In Tragic Life: Butch Cassidy robbed an Idaho bank in August 1896. In Tragic Life starts roughly around that same time.

Vridar Hunter is a young boy growing up in rural Idaho. Wait, isn’t all of Idaho untamed wilderness? Just kidding. Anyway, In Tragic Life details young Vridar’s coming of age into his teenage years. Poverty, education, family & schoolboy crushes are the focus at this time. Confessional: I thought Vridar was a little whiny in the beginning. He was constantly in terror or frightened over something. He was afraid of nearly everything – the dark, his father’s hands, nature, night, himself. Vridar had paralyzing fear, blinding fear and was haunted or desperately afraid. All the time. But, in reality that fear was founded. The “tragic” in In Tragic Life is truly justified. If Vridar wasn’t watching animals die in horrific ways he was being verbally abused by his family. If that wasn’t enough, when he finally went to school he was bullied on a consistent and continual basis. He never has any close friends. His only companions seem to be his brother and the kids he beat up previously. Parts of In Tragic Life were very painful to read, especially the cruelty, particularly towards animals.

Author fact: Fisher was born, raised and died in Idaho.

Book trivia: In Tragic Life is the first in the tetralogy.

Nancy said: I shudder if this is true, but Pearl called In Tragic Life “sprawling autobiographical” (p 122).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Idaho: and Nary a Potato to be Seen” (p 121).

July ’10 was…

July was the great escape. I was able to go home twice. Each trip was for a very different purpose and as a result each was a very different experience, but I was homehome just the same. Got the tan I didn’t need. July was also a double shot of Natalie music. Again, two very different experience, but amazing nonetheless. Blogs about both shows coming soon. An absolutely fantastic Rebecca Correia show rounded out the month, musically. She performed with Jypsi at the Bennett Farm. A really great night.
All in all, July was so many different things and unfortunately, reading wasn’t a big part of it. I stole time where I could (often in cars driven by other people):

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald ~ something small and short to read on the cliffs of Monhegan
  • Firewall by Henning Mankell ~ a murder/police procedural mystery set in Sweden; something to read in the tent!
  • The Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt ~ a great book for kids about living by the ocean. Another great book to read on the cliffs of Monhegan.
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume ~ a blast from the past! Read this on the couch…
  • The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference ~ read in honor of job fair month & added because I gave up on the Richard Rhodes book (see below)
  • Love of a Good Woman: Stories by Alice Munro ~ read in honor of Munro’s birth month
  • In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country by Kim Barnes ~ in honor of July being the month Idaho became a state

If you notice I focused on stuff for young adults – kind of like easy listening for the brain.

Attempted, but did not finish:

  • The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes ~ see, I told you so! I added it back on the list for another time…

For LibraryThing and the Early Review Program:

  • My Formerly Hot Life by Stephanie Dolgoff ~ a really fun book.
  • What is a Mother (in-law) To Do by Jane Angelich ~ unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this very much.

I guess nine books is a decent “read quota” for the month. At least five of them were extremely easy to read, though…

In the Wilderness

Barnes, Kim. In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country. New York: Anchor Books, 1996.

In the Wilderness is Kim Barnes’s ode to her childhood. Within its pages she gives reason to what made her experiences growing up so different from yours or mine. Deep in the logging camps of Idaho Barnes is confronted with parents who sign on to a religion movement with such fervor that it feels like an overnight shift in ideals. Indeed, Barnes can remember her mother’s pierced ears – here today, gone tomorrow.
Kim Barnes writes with the fluidity of water. Her words flow and paint a seamless picture. Part of the reason why I liked In the Wilderness so much was because Barnes was able to portray her family and home life without compromise. She didn’t shy away from revealing short-comings and failures. She didn’t try to gloss over the hardness of her upbringing or surroundings. At the same time, despite the difficulties, the love and respect she has for her childhood is abundantly clear. Another aspect of the memoir that struck a chord with me was the naked truth about sex and the realities of coming of age. Barnes addresses her first preteen crush as openly as discussing what she wore to school. It is stark and unflinching. In some places I am reminded of  Ariel Moore (do you remember her? She was a Reverend’s daughter from the movie ‘Footloose’ in 1984), and in others I am reminded of myself. I too had a shaving incident very reminiscent of Barnes’s experience and I also hid under the covers later at night listening to rock and roll until the batteries dropped dead.

Favorite lines, “I felt around for grief or sadness to match my mother’s but all that I came to was the sense of something gone from the world” (p 60), and “Guilt had been replaced by a simple and practical aversion to consequences” (p 179).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “Idaho: And Nary a Potato to be Seen” (p 122).