Sunday, April 2, 2023

First Lines: March 2023 edition

Below are the first lines of the books I finished reading in March.   If there was a theme, it might be: women who were bold to fight for justice or break down barriers.



Book 1

The thing to know about me is this: if I’d been born just 10 years earlier and my parents hadn’t left Germany when they did, I would’ve been killed by Nazis. 



Book 2

Catalpa Tree

A catalpa can give two brown girls in western Kansas a green umbrella from the sun.


Book 3

Dear young girls, Home again from the deserts and oases of the Sheikdoms I find your enthusiastic letters on my desk. They have aroused in me the wish to tell you and many others who take an interest in our ancestors about these strange discoveries in Danish bogs.


Book 4

No one could have foretold how it was going to end.  Not even the murderer.



Book 5

I sometimes think of the Supreme Court oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt on March 2, 2016 as the last truly great day for women and the legal system in America. 


Book 6

I knew something was wrong as I turned the corner around the copse of black walnut trees where mourning doves roosted.  The stillness of the gray-breasted birds perched in a dull slash on a tree limb contrasted with the clamorous buzzing of thousands of bees.


Book 7

New York, 1887

“Miss Bly, you may leave.”

Did not finish - 

His cousin Freddie brought him on the heist one hot night in early June.

The titles and authors revealed:



Book 1

Rolling Warrior:  The incredible, sometimes awkward true story of a rebel girl on wheels who helped spark a revolution, by Judith Heumann with Kristen Joiner.  Audiobook, 4 hours, read by Allie Stroker,  Beacon Press Audio,   Published 2021.  215 pages in print form.

Memoir written for young adults.  Fascinating story of activism, well told.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, I downloaded this audiobook from the library on the day Judith Heumann died. She dedicated her life to improving life for all of us.


Book 2

World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks and Other Astonishments, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil.  Published 2020. 184 pages.

Memoir in essay form.  After each essay, I would declare to myself, that one was the most profound.  I recommend this book.


Book 3

Meet Me at the Museum, by Anne Youngson, Published 2018.  244 pages.

A second read, for book club this time.  I really enjoyed this book.  I found Tollund Man fascinating.


Book 4

Murder for Christmas, copyright 2017 by Francis Duncan.  Originally published in 1949 in the UK by John Long.  345 pages.  

A classic murder mystery with all of the suspects trapped in a big mansion during a snowstorm.  The detective’s name, Mordecai Tremaine, is pleasant to say.

The author’s identity is a mystery.  The author is listed as Francis Duncan and/or John Long.  But the notes at the beginning of the book say “Duncan’s daughter came forward to the publishers, revealing that Francis Duncan is actually a pseudonym for her own father, William Underhill, who was born in 1918.”  Where does the name John Long come from?  That is never explained.

Wikipedia says: Francis Duncan was the pen name of William Underhill (1918–1988), a British writer who published over twenty works of detective fiction between 1938 and 1959. Later in his career he also wrote five historical romances (as Hilary West) and children's fiction (as Robert Preston). 


Book 5

Lady Justice:  Women, the Law and the Battle to Save America, by Dahlia Lithwick.  Published 2022.  284 pages (text).  With endnotes 369 pages.  

Heartrending accounts of lawyers battling against the cruelties brought to us by the Trump presidency during and after that man and his cronies’ time in the highest office of the land.   What was most fascinating to me was how the author involved her son in some of the events. 

This book reminded me that  I would like to learn more about Pauli Murray and Constance Baker Motley.

Book 6

Death by a Honeybee: A Josiah Reynolds Mystery 1, by Abigail Keam.  Published 2014.  223 pages.  

I needed a light read, and this fit the bill.  This is by the same author as Murder Under a Blue Moon, which I read last month and liked a little better than this one.


Book 7

The Incredible Nellie Bly: Journalist, Investigator, Feminist, and Philanthropist.  Graphic biography. By Luciana Cimino, Illustrator Ergio Algozzino.  Translated by Laura Garofalo.  Originally published in Italian in 2019.  English translation 2021. 138 pages.

In the art work, I found it difficult to differentiate between the young Nellie Bly (late 1800s) and the young journalist (1922) interviewing the elderly Nellie Bly.  The story skipped around time frames a lot, which is not necessarily a problem, but there was no visible break that I could see.  That said, I did learn that: Nellie Bly got her start in Pittsburgh.  Nellie Bly was the pen name of Elizabeth Jane Cochran.  She did other groundbreaking journalism besides going undercover in the asylum for mentally ill women.   

Did not finish 

The Harlem Shuffle, by Colson Whitehead, Published 2020.  for book club.

Whitehead is an excellent writer, but the subject matter was too tense for me at the time.  I got about a quarter of the way through, but stopped in the part about Pepper during the war, where a violent act is described in detail.