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:
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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).
Gruber, Michael. The Good Son. Read by Neil Shah. Blackstone Audio, 2010.
Reason read: The history of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan begins in March.
From the very beginning you cannot help but root for Theo. He is an ex-Delta soldier trying to be the sensitive tough guy while is mother is being held captive. But, he is only part of the story. Let’s talk about the mother, Sonia Laghari, for a moment. She, along with eight other members of a symposium on peace, have been kidnapped by armed terrorists. Being a deeply religious Jungian psychologist, Sonia becomes the leader of the abducted group. Using her knowledge of the kidnapper’s language and religion she uses her Jungian psychology to interpret their dreams if only to get in their heads. She wants to instill the premise that you can simultaneously hate the war but love the soldier. Despite her own life being in danger, she attempts to generate harmony to “protect” her fellow captives. A sort of reverse Stockholm syndrome. Meanwhile, in Washington there is a Vietnamese National Security translator listening in…The Good Son combines psychology, sociology, religion, and relationships into a thriller well worth the read.
Quotes to quote, “It is easier to tell the truth to the world than to people you love” (p 125) and “Hope and some slight relief from the worst are the best weapons of any tormentor; the torturer smiles and offers a a cigarette” (p 158).
Author fact: Gruber used to be a marine biologist, a restaurant cook and a federal government official. A man of many varying hats. He could be called one of the most interesting men in the world…
Narrator fact: Shah has appeared on the television series, Law & Order.
Book trivia: Due to the nature of Sonia’s character, be prepared for a few didactic moments as Sonia interprets the dreams of her captors and recites poetry.
Nancy said: Nancy called The Good Son a “riveting thriller” (p 214).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Sojourns in South Asia: Pakistan” (p 212).
The only run I have planned for March is St. Patrick’s Day. No surprise there. Here are the books planned for March:
- 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.
- All the Way Home by David Giffels – in honor of Ohio becoming a state in March.
- 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.
- Infinite Hope by Anthony Graves
- 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.
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).
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).
Here’s the singular thing I love, love, love about March: the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race in Holyoke, MA. I adore running this race. Runner’s World magazine has mentioned it more than once, calling it the mini Boston Marathon for it’s toughness. I PR’ed this year! But what I am more excited about is that this time I was only five seconds away from breaking an hour. Unlike last year (1:07:and something seconds) I was 1 hour and a measly four seconds. But, enough about running! Here are the books finished for March, 2017:
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (AB +EB)*
- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (AB + print)
- Falling Angels by Barbara Gowdy*
- Treachery in the Yard by Adimchinma Ibe*
- Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam (DNF)
- Big Empty edited by Ladette Randolph and Nina Shevchuk-Murray (EB)
- No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (AB)
- Red Bones by Ann Cleeves
- Hall of a Thousand Columns by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (DNF)
- Endymion by Dan Simmons
Early Review “won”:
- Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leone (received and finished)
- My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul (This has arrived & I have started it)
*Short enough to read in one day.