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:

Fiction:

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

Nonfiction:

  • 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?

Stranger in a Strange Land

Heinlein, Robert. Stranger in a Strange Land. Read by Christopher Hurt. Blackstone Audio, Inc., 1996.
Heinlein, Robert. Stranger in a Strange Land. New York: Ace Books, 2003.

Reason read: July is Heinlein’s birth month. Read and listened to in his honor.

Stranger in a Strange Land is everything you would expect from a 1960s cult classic written six years before the infamous Summer of Love. Originally published in 1961 Stranger’s main character, Valentine Michael Smith, is a far out dude; literally, as he is a man raised by the inhabitants of the planet Mars. His gifts of telekinesis, telepathy, and “grokking” make him a mystic, a guru, and finally a cult leader (once humans dismiss the notion of killing him for being a freak). Being born on Mars, like any good self-respecting alien, he has issues with language barriers and differing cultures once arriving on Earth. His first conflict is not understanding a money-grubbing reporter out to sell his story. His second is not comprehending the female species…two problems that exist for some humans in this day and age. The third and most confusing barrier is understanding his own sexuality. Let me back up. When “Mike Smith” was under the threat of media exploitation, Nurse Jill and a colleague “kidnapped” him to keep him safe. Smith ended up at the home of doctor/lawyer/writer Jubal Harshaw who lives a very Charlie’s Angels kind of existence with three bubbly, beautiful secretaries (one blonde, one brunette and one..you guessed it, redhead).  It is here, at Jubal’s estate in the Poconos mountains that Smith learns about women (after he tries to kiss Jubal and is immediately rebuffed).
A word of warning to those agnostic, atheist or otherwise unmoved by religion. After chapter part three Heinlein gets heavy with the Bible, church, the idea of sin and so forth. It’s a crucial part to the story as Mike starts his own church, becoming that cult leader I spoke of earlier.

As an aside, Jubal’s sarcasm and wit sort of reminded me of Francis Underwood in House of Cards. It didn’t help that Christopher Hurt reads with a slight southern accent.

Quote I liked (From Valentine Michael Smith), “I want to spit back at the camel and ask him what he’s so sour about” (p 383).

Author fact: Heinlein was a military man with the U.S. Navy.

Book trivia: Stranger in a Strange Land won Heinlein his second Hugo Award and is considered by most to be his “masterpiece.” Another piece of book trivia: Three years after Heinlein’s death his wife worked to get Stranger republished in its original, uncut version.

Nancy said: Heinlein is best known for Stranger in a Strange Land according to Pearl. She called it a “cult classic” (p 108).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Robert Heinlein: Too Good To Miss” (p 108).


August and Alaska

If I was California dreaming in July, then I will be Alaska cruising in August. Since there were a few books on the July list I didn’t finish I am punishing myself by not starting my August list until the July list is completely cleared. This is a first and totally off the Challenge protocol. Here’s how the reading should go:

To Finish:

  • Henry James: the Middle Years by Leon Edel (280 pages to go)
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (300 pages to go)

When those are finished I can tackle the AUGUST READS:

Fiction:

  • Possession by A.S. Byatt ~ in honor of Byatt’s birth month

Nonfiction:

  • Miami by Joan Didion ~ in honor of Castro’s birth month

Series Continuations:

  • Henry James: the Master the Treacherous Years by Leon Edel (will this series ever end? Apparently, I am eager for it to be over since I skipped a volume!)

Early Review:

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

July Unraveled

What can I tell you about July? What a crazy effed up month! For my state of mind it was better than the last simply because the Kisa and I ran all over California for a week. I was terribly distracted from the run and the books. Once you see the numbers you’ll understand. For the run I conquered only two runs in sunny CA and totaled 20.5 miles for the entire month. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Anna and Her Daughters by D.E. Stevenson
  • The Eagle Has Landed by Jack Higgins

Nonfiction:

  • Pacific Lady by Sharon S. Adams
  • Hawthorne: a Life by Brenda Wineapple

Series Continuations:

  • Moment of War by Laurie Lee

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • The World Broke in Two by Bill Goldstein

Did Not Finish (still reading):

  • Henry James: The Middle Years by Leon Edel -STILL! Since June!
  • Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Never Started (didn’t arrive in time):

  • In Tragic Life by Vandis Fisher

Star Beast

Heinlein, Robert. The Star Beast. Read by David Baker.  Full Cast Audio, 2007.

One could call The Star Beast a run of the mill story about a boy and his pet. Think Lassie and you have the classic relationship I’m referring to. If you don’t delve into the details John Thomas Stuart XI is an average teen with a typical attachment to the family pet. However, give the story a science fiction spin and all bets are off. Instead of an obedient and almost too intelligent collie this pet defies logic. Lummox or Lummy, as John calls him, is a 100 year old extraterrestrial (was once his grandfather’s pet), has eight legs, a sentry eye that stays awake when the beast sleeps, has a high pitched girly voice and he triples in size when he eats metal. And he’s always hungry. The trouble starts when Lummy goes wandering in the night and ends up eating some roses and destroying public property. John and Lummy are put on trial and Lummy is sentenced to death…only the authorities aren’t exactly sure how to kill him. Throw in a wannabe lawyer girlfriend and another planet that is convinced Lummy belongs to them and you have a story that appeals to kids and adults alike.

Reason read: Heinlein was born in July…reading Star Beast to honor the day.

Book Audio trivia: This is the first audio I have heard where many different people read each part.

Author fact: Robert Heinlein wrote under several different pen names although Robert Heinlein was his real name.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in two different sections. First, the introduction (p x) and then again in the chapter called “Robert Heinlein: Too Good To Miss” (p 109).