February’s Finale

What to tell you? I spent February in a tailspin of old memories. To blame it on one singular event would be too simplistic. As they say, it’s complicated. Very. In other news I have been running! Successfully, I might add. February saw 40 miles conquered. Here are the books planned and completed:

Fiction:

  • Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez (EB & print).
  • Little Havana Blues edited by Julia Poey and Virgil Suarez (EB & print).
  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber (EB, AB & print).
  • The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley (EB & print).

Nonfiction:

  • All Deliberate Speed: reflections on the first half century of Brown v. Board of Education by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr (EB & print).
  • Barrow’s Boys by Fergus Fleming (EB & print).
  • Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark (EB & print).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • The 21: a journey into the land of the Coptic martyrs by Martin Mosebach (just started reading).

Leisure (print only):

  • Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders: The Power of Human Migration and the Way That Walls and Bans Are No Match for Bravery and Hope by ICPBS.
  • Pharos Gate by Nick Bantock.
  • Morning Star by Nick Bantock.
  • The Museum at Purgatory by Nick Bantock.
  • Alexandria by Nick Bantock.
  • The Gryphon by Nick Bantock.

Rome and a Villa

Clark, Eleanor. Rome and a Villa. New York: Atheneum, 1962.

Reason read: Eleanor Clark died in the month of February. Read in her memory.

Even though the last time Clark visited Rome the year was 1974, you cannot help but daydream of traveling to the ancient city when you read Rome and a Villa. I started a mental checklist of everything I hoped to see, should I get there myself: the 124 steps of Santa Mana Aracoeli beside the Campidoglio, feral cats scattering in the rain, the Piazza Vittorio, the famous Trevi Fountain which was funded with a second tax on wine, and capable of moving 80,000 cubic meters of water per day.
Clark even opened my eyes to the Roman influences here in the United States: Penn Station in New York City; how it was designed with the Baths of Caracalle in mind.
Beyond architecture and tourist draws, Clark paints pictures of influential individuals like Julius Caesar and Hadrian. She meanders with her narrative and is sometimes difficult to follow, but worth it if you can stick with her.

Author fact: Clark was a native of Connecticut, right down the road from me. Her dust jacket photograph reminds me of a great-aunt I used to know.

Book trivia: Rome and a Villa was illustrated by Eugene Berman. They’re pretty spectacular.

Nancy said: Pearl said Rome and a Villa is for the traveler. I think it would be interesting to reread Rome and a Villa after a trip to Rome, just to compare notes.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Roman Holiday” (p 188).


February Fixed

I am consistently running (yay). My head is finally screwed on straight – somewhat (yay). Things are not perfect but I can say February is mostly fixed.

Fiction:

  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber – in honor of Charles Dickens and his birthday being in February. Weird, I know.
  • Anna In-Between by Elizabeth Nunez – in honor of my childhood.
  • Little Havana Blues: A Cuban-American Literature Anthology edited by Virgil Suarez and Delia Poey – in honor of Cuba’s reformed constitution.
  • The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley – in honor of February being friendship month.

Nonfiction:

  • Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark – in honor of Clark’s birthday.
  • All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education by Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. – in honor of February being Civil Rights month.
  • Barrow’s Boys: A stirring Story of Daring, Fortitude, and Outright Lunacy by Fergus Fleming – in honor of Exploration month.

Leisure:

  • Making Tracks by Matt Weber – a Christmas gift from my sister.

Venus Thow

Saylor, Steven. The Venus Throw. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Reason read: to continue the series started in March, in honor of Saylor’s birth month.

At this point in Gordianus the Finder’s life he is a 54 years old farmer in Etruria just outside Ancient Rome. He has married his Egyptian slave, Bethesda, and she has given him a daughter, Gordiana, who is thirteen years old and goes by the name Diana. Rounding out the household are two adopted sons, Meto and Eco, and Gordianus’s house slave, Belbo.
In the year 56 B.C., Gordianus is trying to live the quiet life when philosopher and former teacher Dio of Alexandria arrives at his door dressed as a woman, desperately looking for help. Because Egyptian enoys have been assassinated, he has reason to believe someone is trying to kill him next. Despite their history, the strong desire to not get involved led Gordianus to turn Dio away, a decision he would later regret when Dio is indeed found stabbed to death. Gordianus, being the finder of the truth, seeks to uncover the mystery of who killed Dio and why. Despite every indication this is a straightforward political assassination Gordianus soon realizes nothing is ever that simple.

Confessional: Because there are eight other books before The Venus Throw there so much more to this series than what I am reading for the challenge. I feel as though I am missing out on key pieces of Gordianus’s life.

Author fact: at the time of publication, Saylor was living in California.

Book trivia: I mentioned this before. Out of sixteen titles, Venus Throw is the ninth book of the Roma Sub Rosa series. I am only reading three from this series. I have one more to go.

Nancy said: Maybe it is because there are sixteen Roma Sub Rosa titles, but Pearl lists the three I am reading out of chronological order. Venus Throw is listed first when it should be second.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “The Classical World” (p 59).


Marching Out

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:

Fiction –

  • 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

Nonfiction –

  • 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

Poetry –

  • 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.


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.


Marching with Words

The only run I have planned for March is St. Patrick’s Day. No surprise there. Here are the books planned for March:

Fiction:

  • 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.

Nonfiction:

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels – in honor of Ohio becoming a state in March.

Series continuations:

  • 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.

Early Review:

  • Infinite Hope by Anthony Graves

Poetry:

  • 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.

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

Ancient Rome on 5 Denarri a Day

Matyszak, Philip. Ancient Rome on 5 Denarri a Day: Your Guide to Sleeping, Shopping and Sightseeing in the City of the Caesars. London: Thames & Hudson, 2007.

If you have plans to get into your time machine and visit ancient Rome, this is the book for you. Just make sure you go in the time of the Caesars (200 AD). By reading this book you can learn how to don a new toga or tunic, attend the best circus, avoid drinking feces tainted water, visit a brothel, see the tomb of St. Peter and so much more. Read every word so you don’t miss the humor (especially in the section of useful phrases. My personal favorite: “Vel vinum mihi da, vel nummos mihi redde or I want my wine or my money back”). How’s this for tongue-in-cheek: “The oldest and largest of Rome’s sewers is the Cloca Maxima, which runs under the forum and is large enough to take a boat through, if that is your idea of fun” (p 34). See what I mean? It’s a small book but it’s packed with good fun!

Reason read: December is a good time to visit Rome, or so they say…

Book trivia: maps, photography, illustrations. Like any decent tour guide, this book has it all.

Author fact: Matyszak also wrote a book about visiting ancient Athens. I read that one two years ago.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Just So Much Greek To Me” (p 120). This is another one of those “in the wrong place” books. This has nothing to do with Greece.