Rage of the Vulture

Unsworth, Barry. Rage of the Vulture. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1982.

Reason read: March is (or was) a good time to visit Turkey. I thought I had gotten rid of all the “good time to visit” reasons, but I guess there was one straggler. Oh well.

As an aside, I am always daunted by books with lists of characters. It’s as if the author is warning the reader, “I have included so many people you won’t be able to keep up.” One character I could not wrap my empathy around was Captain Robert Markham. He’s not very lovable as the main protagonist. He doesn’t connect with his ten year old son except to see him as a rival for his wife’s affections. It’s as if he doesn’t know what to do with his boy, Henry. This fact is not lost on the kid. Meanwhile, Robert treats his wife as an ornamental yet extremely fragile vase he parades out and places front and center during social occasions. His saves his sexual appetite for Henry’s governess. He all but rapes this poor girl because he has told her his truth; his Armenian fiance was raped and murdered twelve years earlier at their engagement party. What happens when all these secrets are revealed and Markham’s world starts to unravel? It’s an interesting dilemma.

Lines that got me (and there were a lot of them so I will try to keep this to a minimum), “He seemed to live behind some contrived fence, as ill or afflicted people do” (p 22), and “He would silence this voice of consolation which sought to make his apostasy trivial” (p 231).

Author fact: Unsworth also wrote Sacred Hunger which is also on my list.

Book trivia: I could picture this as a movie.

Nancy said: In Book Lust To Go Pearl recommended Rage of the Vulture as a book written by a non-Turkish writer. In More Book Lust Pearl mentions Rage of the Vulture as a historical novel and describes the plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Turkish Delights: Fiction” (p 239). Also in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up the Past Through Fiction (p 79).

Bastard of Istanbul

Shafak, Elif. The Bastard of Istanbul. Read by Laural Merlington. Old Saybrook, CT: Tantor Audio, 2007.

Reason read: I needed a book by an author with my initials for the Portland Public Library 2019 Reading Challenge.

This is an example of getting so caught up in a book that you forget to take notes while reading. I finished this a week ago and never wrote a single note. Which means I didn’t capture favorite lines either. Bummer.

Two teenage girls with more in common than they think. Asya, born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey is surrounded by an eclectic family of overbearing, opinionated women with not a man in sight. Asya rages against her current life and past history because she thinks she doesn’t have an identity she can believe in. Nothing is of permanence. She has never known her birth father, she cleaves herself to a relationship with a married man, and calls her mother auntie, like the other three of five women in her household. Two grandmothers round out the chaotic family household.
Meanwhile, Armanoush is of Armenian descent, living in Tuscon, Arizona. She, too, is struggling to make sense of her roots as her stepfather is Turkish. There is no avoiding the historical significance of having an Armenian father and Turkish stepfather. This stepfather happens to be Asya’s uncle as well.
When Armanoush decides to visit Asya and her family for answers, the past rolls back in like a tsunami, taking down everything in its path. As I mentioned before, this is a captivating story and it will sweep you away with its twists and turns.

Author fact: Shafak also wrote The Forty Rules of Love which is on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: This should be a movie.

Nancy said: Pearl said The Bastard of Istanbul is one of three novels of note. Specifically, BoI is “engrossing.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Turkish Delights” (p 240). I don’t know if anyone else was reminded of this when they read the title of this chapter, but I immediately thought of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion the Witch, and the Wardrobe. If I ever meet Pearl again, I will have to ask! Because if she meant the reference as I thought it, it is subtle and clever and I love it.

Amazing Mrs. Pollifax

Gilman, Dorothy. The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970.

Reason read: to continue the series started in September in honor of Grandparents Day.

Once you get beyond Mrs. Pollifax’s naivete: her willingness to go anywhere on a moment’s notice, for example, you can’t help but fall in love with the retired widow. Never mind the fact that the last time she agreed to go somewhere (spur of the moment) on such an unknown trip she almost died several times over. When you catch up with Miss Emily Pollifax in The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax you learn she is now taking karate lessons. Small reveal (and big bummer for me), Mrs. Pollifax doesn’t use her newfound martial arts skills but she does fly a helicopter! See what I mean? Most of Mrs. Pollifax’s feats in Turkey are nothing short of incredible, but the overall story is fun. Can’t wait for the next one!

Confessional: there is a small part of me that thinks Gilman is poking fun at the CIA. More than once, the agency is two steps behind the enemy and seem more concerned with trivial things like how did Mrs. Pollifax lose her garden hat?

One of the best lines comes from Colin when he says, “…these men stole my uncle’s jeep, dumped a dead man in our garage and kidnapped your friend” as if it’s the most normal day in his young life (p 72).
Another funny quote, “But we must stay alive a little longer to annoy him, yes?” By all means, survive long enough to annoy someone!

Author fact: Gilman was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey same as her heroine, Mrs. Pollifax.

Book trivia: I am reading five of the Mrs. Pollifax series. There are fourteen total.

Nancy said: The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax is just the ticket if you are “looking for something a lot lighter in tone and mood that still gives you a sense of Turkish life and customs” (p 240).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Turkish Delights: Fiction” (p 239).

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)

Belshazzar’s Daughter

Nadel, Barbara. Belshazzar’s Daughter. New York: Felony & Mayhem, 2006.

The pronouncement, “The Donna Leon of Istanbul” meant nothing to me, I am sorry to say. It didn’t make me like to book any better. Nor did the curious “icon” information. According to the publisher the icon of a gun meant I was holding a book from the “Hard Boiled” category, meaning the language was going to be stronger, the bad guys a little badder, the violence a little more graphic. An “R” rating, if you will – only I would give this book an “X” rating for the weird sex scenes. Natalia seems to like her sex with a gun and rough…and that’s all I’ll say about that.

The overall story of Belshazzar’s Daughter was a little tedious. Technically, there is no daughter of Belshazzar in the story. It’s the story of Englishman Robert Cornelius and his obsession with Natalia Gulcu. It is also about Inspector Ikmen and his quest to solve the brutal murder of an elderly Jew. Robert Cornelius happens to be in the area when the crime is committed and becomes a suspect due to his prejudice-laced past. The crime scene is overly horrific and obviously hate-driven with addition of a giant swastika, but Inspector Ikmen isn’t convinced. Using historical profiling, Ikmen starts to unravel the mystery of who killed Leonid Meyer. At the same time Natalia’s family history is revealed. Their history is stranger than even the murder.

With the addition of several smaller plots Belshazzar’s Daughter is a drawn-out thriller-mystery. The sex scenes are over the top while the characters are watered down to the point of stereotyping. First, I found myself annoyed with just the character of Robert and his blinded obsession with the heaving bosoms of Natalia, but by the end I didn’t care for any of them.

BTW: I didn’t find any quotes that jumped out at me.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “Crime is a Globetrotter: Turkey” (p 61).

April ’10 Is…

April is all about getting the garage ready for gardening. April is the confidence to pack winter clothes and get the snow tires off the car. April is leaving the heat off and taking off the sweater; driving with the windows down. The birds are getting louder and the mornings are coming earlier. I’m hoping to spend some time outside reading. Here are the books I hope to conquer:

  • Affliction by Russell Banks~ In honor of two different times: March (Banks’s birth month) and April (National Sibling Week is in April).
  • Truth and Bright Water by Thomas King ~ In honor of National Dog Month
  • Downcanyon: a Naturalist Explores the Colorado River Through the Grand Canyon by Ann Haymond Zwinger ~ in honor of Earth Day and nature writing
  • Belshazzar’s Daughter by Barbara Nadel ~ April (believe or not) is the best time to visit Turkey (weather-wise, political ramifications aside).
  • South Wind Through the Kitchen by Elizabeth David ~ April is National Food Month

If there is time:

  • Last Amateurs: Playing for Glory by John Feinstein ~ April is Youth Sports Safety Month

And of course, April is National Poetry Month so as usual I am trying to read as much poetry during this time frame as I can. I can’t go without saying Natalie Merchant is releasing “Leave Your Sleep” this month – a collection of poetry centered around children and childhood. Natalie once said it was poetry written for, about, and by children. I guess that sums it up nicely. One poem she included on her album was one I already read for the Book Lust Challenge: “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child” by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

For LibraryThing and the Early Review Program I have an interesting (and well-timed) nonfiction: Fundamental Weight Training by David Sandler. I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m hoping it will be user-friendly and very informative.