Travels of August

Since the Run for Nancy was only a few days ago I am still on a high from not only running four miles, but running four miles without pain. No pain whatsoever. The pain is so gone it’s as if I imagined the whole thing. Weird. Weird. Weird. As for books, since I don’t have any other running plans in the near future:

Fiction:

  • The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe – in honor of August being Chick Lit month.
  • The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay – in honor of Courtenay’s birth month being in August.
  • Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts – in honor of August being Dream Month (hey, I read it somewhere).
  • Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett – in honor of Dunnett’s birth month being in August.
  • The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall – in honor of Rajir Ratna Gandhi’s birth in August.

Nonfiction:

  • A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird – in honor of Colorado becoming a state in August.
  • Eurydice Street: a Place in Athens by Sofka Zinovieff – in honor of the Dormition of the Holy Virgin.
  • A Season in Red by Kirsty Needham – in honor of the Double Seven festival in China.

Series continuations:

  • The Big Bad City by Ed McBain – to continue the series started in July.

If there is time:

Fiction:

  • Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman – in honor of Ekman’s birth month.
  • Crazy Jack by Donna Jo Napoli – in honor of Fairy Tale Month.

 


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.

Between the Assassinations

Adiga, Aravind. Between the Assassinations. New York: Free Press, 2008.

Reason read: in celebration of the Vivah Panchami festival (usually takes place in November or December).

Between the Assassinations is a series of connected short stories that take place over the course of one week in Kittur, India. The stories focus mainly on the poor of Kittur, their perceptions of the caste system and how they survive their lot in life. Some face it with hatred and revenge, as  does Shankara in “Day Two (Afternoon): St. Alfonso’s Boys’  High School and Junior College” (49). Some recognize family and the act of sticking together as being the only option like Keshava and Vittal in the beginning of “Day Two (Evening: Market and Maidan” (p 107). Others are constantly scheming like George in “Day Five (Evening): The Cathedral of Our Lady of Valencia” ( p 243). Every character has a deep personality and even deeper desires. Be forewarned,  most of the stories are desperate and all leave a chill in the air.

Quotes I liked, “A man might be stabbed in daylight, but never at night, and never while sipping tea” (p 31) and “His caste seemed to be common knowledge to people who had no business knowing it” (p 63).

Author fact: Adiga also wrote The White Tiger which is on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: At the end of Between the Assassinations there is a chronology of events occuring in Kittur between October 31st,  1984 and May 21st, 1991. It begins and end with assassinations, hence the title of the book.

Nancy said: nothing in particular except to say it is Indian fiction to be included in the India chapter (p 214).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Sojourns in South Asia: India” (p 212).


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.


A Fine Balance

Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balance.New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.
Mistry, Rohinton. A Fine Balance. Read by John Lee. Santa Ana, CA: Books on Tape, Inc., 2001.

Reason read: in honor of India celebrating Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth month as Children’s Day in November. Okay, that’s not entirely true. Originally, I chose this book to read in November because supposedly November is a good month to visit India. Since I have never been to India in November or at any time, I couldn’t really say when is the best time to visit.

I could tell I was going to like A Fine Balance when I got to this line early in the the novel, “How much gratitude for a little sherbet…how starved they seemed for ordinary kindness” (p 8). The writing is so graceful and honest. This is the story of the daily lives of four people in an unnamed seaside town in India, thrown together by a housing shortage after the government has declared a state of emergency. At the center is Dina Dalal, a widowed seamstress. As a matter of pride she will not remarry just to be supported by a man. In order to stay self sufficient she takes in borders. One such border is Manek Kohlah, a student attending college in the city. He is studying refrigeration. Ishvar Darji and Omprakash, two other borders, are tailors fleeing caste-centric brutalities in their village. There is no doubt in my mind most people find this story incredibly tragic, considering its ending. I found it sad but with a thin thread of optimism. When a once bitter character can laugh by the end of it, you know the human spirit has not been broken.

The word that comes up time and time again when describing Mistry’s work is depth. Depth of characters, depth of plot, and of human emotion. That being said, pay attention to Dina. Her transformation is the best part of the book.

Author fact: Mistry also wrote Such a Long Journey in 1991. It’s also on my list.

Favorite line, “If there was an abundance of misery in the world, there was also sufficient joy, yes – as long as one knew where to look for it” (p 588.)

Book trivia: On November 30th, 2001 A Fine Balance was chosen as an “Oprah book” for her book club. As an aside, I went to her website to see how such a book is talked about, promoted, marketed, and so on. I was surprised to see her website would have such a crappy cover shot. The image is super blurry so my guess is the file is too big. I guess I expected Oprah’s website to be just like her magazine, big and glossy.

Nancy said: not much. Just described the plot, which is surprising considering Mistry’s masterful writing. I would have thought Pearl would want to say more.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade By Decade (1990)s” (p 179) and again in “Passage to India” (p 181).


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.

 


In the Valley of Mist

Hardy, Justine. In the Valley of Mist: Kashmir: One Family in a Changing World. New York: Free Press, 2009.

Reason read: the Kashmir earthquake of 2005 happened in October.

Just to orientate you: Kashmir separates India and Pakistan. Both areas had been warring over this beautiful area for decades. Meanwhile, a separatist insurgent group within Kashmir also sought independence. By 1989 rising tensions finally gave way to major conflict. Justine Hardy wanted to tell the story of the innocent families living within the conflict. With their blessing, via In the Valley of Mist, she attempts to expose the corruption and controversy caught between three very different worlds. Everything, from manner of dress to religious convictions, are examined.

As an aside, I tend to count things when I get annoyed by something. This time it was how often Hardy referred to the region’s beauty, calling it pretty or sweet or beautiful. I think she wanted to emphasize it’s attraction to starkly contrast it with the ugliness of war and the utter destruction after the 2005 earthquake.

Author fact: Hardy was a British journalist of over twenty years who has written six books. I am reading just this one.

Book trivia: In the Valley of Mist has a great collection of photographs, most of them include the author’s handsome face.

Nancy said: In the Valley of Mist “takes place against a backdrop of Calcutta and a sea voyage” (p 213). I think Pearl was reading an entirely different book. For starters, Calcutta is nowhere near Kashmir (Calcutta is south of Kashmir by nearly 1,700 kilometers) and I didn’t see any “sea voyage” as a focal point. The jihad, the insurgency, the oppression of women. Those were the main points of In the Valley of Mist in my mind. True, the family Hardy spent time with lived on houseboats, but they were on the Dal lake, not the ocean.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust to Go in the chapter called “Sojourns in South Asia: India” (p 213).