Coming into the End Zone

Doris Grumbach


As I enter my seventies, I find myself looking for a guide on how to do it. So far, I’ve read May Sarton’s journals, and they helped a bit. She mentions Doris Grumback, so I tried hers, and I found it much more helpful. For one thing, Grumbach doesn’t seem so self-absorbed. She is still engaged, still traveling, still involved in other people’s lives.

I particularly enjoyed her descriptions of her travels and the acknowledgement that it is probably for the last time. My travelling days have also come to an end, and I enjoy looking back at my trips and the good memories they hold. Fortunately, I never took a camera, so my memories are not limited to the size of a view-finder. I also don’t have piles of photographs to dispose of.

Grumbach offers a good example of aging gracefully. I’d love to share a cup of coffee with her.



Historia Calamitatum

Peter Abelard

Historia Calamitatum: The Story of My Misfortunes (Illustrated) by [Peter Abelard]

I know how I’m supposed to feel about this great classic of medieval literature. There should be some sympathy for the sufferings of Abelard, as well as mooning over the great love of his life, Heloise. In fact, it’s just another case of a man who couldn’t keep it in his pants, or tunic as the case may be.

Ask Me About My Uterus

Abby Norman


In 2007 experiencing excruciating abdominal pain, Abby Norman started on a long journey to find relief. Fobbed off by doctors who didn’t believe her, she struggled to find a diagnosis and treatment. Finally years later, doing her own research, she discovered endometriosis as the cause of her pain.

Her search didn’t end there. Next she had to find a doctor who would believe her, take her seriously (without her boyfriend accompanying her to attest to her pain), and find an effective treatment.

Just to muddy the waters were her mental problems and instability. Doctor after doctor brushed her off as she proved a difficult patient to treat. When she didn’t respond to their treatment, she was labeled as resistant and mentally ill. Apparently, if you have mental problems, your pain will not be taken seriously. It’s all in your head.

Finally, after years of suffering, Ms. Norman found a doctor and treatment for her condition. Endometriosis is taken more seriously now, and treatment is available.

Her harrowing account of her attempts to find relief should be required reading in medical schools.



Son of the Shadows (Sevenwaters Book 2)

Juliet Marillier


It seems strange that this book is called *son* of the shadows when the main character is Liadan, daughter of Sorcha. It is she who carries the main action of the book. Perhaps the title refers to the Painted Man, who definitely lives in the shadows, outside of lawful society. Their paths cross when Liadan, a healer like her mother, is kidnapped to heal one of the Painted Man’s gang.

At first Liadan is angry and resentful at what happened to her, but she begins to see beneath the scars and tattoos of the Painted Man. Eventually their lives come together in an unexpected way.

This continuation of Sorcha’s story is every bit as satisfy at the first book in the series.


Daughter of the Forest

Juliet Marillier


This is the gateway drug to the Sevenwaters series, which I binge-read over a period of days. I was so enthralled by the series and so eager to find out what happened next, I’m sure I missed some of the subtleties of the series. I shall have to reread them soon to pick up what I missed.

This is basically a retelling of the fairy tale of the woman whose six brothers are turned into swans. Only she can reverse the curse by making them shirts, but must remain silent while she does it, or lose them forever.

Marillier has taken the bare bones of the fairy tale and woven a wonderful tale, full of love and pain. I recommend it highly.

The Countess Conspiracy

Courtney Milan


Just when I think a plot is a little farfetched, damn if NPR doesn’t do a segment on someone exactly like the heroine. This is the case with Violet, a brilliant plant scientist whose experiments with genetics reveals the idea of chromosomes carrying the genetic material that gives plants their characteristics. Unfortunately for Violet, she is stuck in a time period where women simply don’t do science, much less science studying the sex lives of plants. She is forced to hide behind a man to present her ideas as his.

Unfortunately, Sebastian, her life-long friend, is tired of the lying and posturing that being the public face of her discoveries requires. He has loved Violet since childhood and encourages her to step out of the shadows to take credit for her own brilliant work.

Another fact-based Milan novel with a strong heroine and a loving hero who values her for her strength.

Reading Heyer: The Black Moth

Rachel Hyland


I don’t remember my first Heyer. It was in high school, some 50+ years ago, and I have been a fan of her romances ever since. I’m reading one right now. Rachel Hyland, obviously another fan, turns a loving, albeit critical, eye on Heyer’s first novel, written when she was a teenager.

Chapter by chapter, she dissects the novel, exposing all its weaknesses as well as its strengths, revealing why it is so beloved by fans. Even Jenny the Wonder Horse comes under scrutiny.

This book is a delight and belongs in the library of every Heyer fan, whether a long-time reader or the first-time venturer into the wonderful world of Georgette Heyer.  More, please!

This Victorian Life

Sarah A. Chrisman


What started out as an interest in 19th-century living evolved  into a full-blown lifestyle. This couple live as completely as possible in the 19th century. The challenges and rewards make up the bulk of the book. Fortunately, the husband has a profession as a bicycle repairman that has changed little over the years. His job is much the same.

For Sarah keeping house is  a struggle at first, but she soon settles into a life without modern technology. I wouldn’t want to trade places with her, but it is interesting to read about her struggles and triumphs.

It is when she turns to long chapters about her and her husband’s bicycle trips that I tuned out and started skipping. They just aren’t very interesting to me. I’m glad that she and her husband are absorbed in minute details of bicycle travel using 19th-century bikes, but I found little of interest in them.


Rites of Passage

William Golding


I’m up to 1980 in my quest to read all the Booker Prize winners in order. I would not have read this book otherwise, and finished it only because of my commitment to myself. I confess to so skimming.

Set in the early days of the 19th century, this journal of a minor official on his way to Australia is mostly tedious posturing by a young man very pleased with himself. He writes of his superiority to the other passengers. One in particular is a Mr Colley, a clergyman. Only toward the end of the book do we find out that Mr Colley also kept a journal, and his account is very different from Mr Talbot’s.

Actually nothing much happens in the book, and I didn’t care very much about any of the characters.


The Forthright Lady Gillian

Amanda Scott


A competent romance. Lady Gillian is rescued from a high tide by the mysterious ‘Baron Hopgood.’ Annoyed because her family doesn’t believe her, Lady Gillian is determined to stick to her story. When her malicious sister places an ad in the local paper announcing the marriage of Lady Gillian and ‘Baron Hopgood,’ the story comes to that attention of the Duke, ‘Hopgood’s’ father. Apparently Baron Hopgood is one of her hero’s minor titles he uses when traveling incognito. He is actually the Marquess of Thorne, heir to the Duke’s title.

Determined to sort things out, he returns to Lady Gillian’s home, but instead of putting the lie to the story, he finds himself attracted to the outspoken, independent Lady Gillian.

Eventually, it all ends happily.