Tandia

Courtenay, Bryce. Tandia. London: William Heinmann, Ltd., 1991.

Reason read: to finish the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.

This starts off as the story of Tandia Patel. Like Peekay in The Power of One, Tandia’s life begins with violence, prejudice and corruption. Her father, a famous Indian boxing referee, fathered her with his African American mistress. A racially mixed offspring in hyper color-sensitive South Africa is only asking for trouble. While Patel was alive, Tandia’s identity was one of confusion – going to school as Indian but coming home to be a black servant to her father’s household. After his heart attack and subsequent death, Tandia is predictably banished from his household and must rely on the kindness of strangers, much like Peekay did when he was a child. And speaking of Peekay, his life story continues in Tandia. Fans of Peekay’s character will not be disappointed. He only grows more and more admirable as he moves from boxing champion to lawyer, champion to the black community.
Other Power of One similarities include the kindness of an obese and jolly woman, the loyalty of a devoted and deformed servant, and the hatred of a powerful bigot and bully.

It is not a spoiler alert to warn readers of the horrific violence Tandia suffers at the hands of white policemen. I had a hard time reading those early scenes.
As an aside,like some other reviewers, I was disappointed by Courtenay’s ending. It was almost as if he didn’t know how to end it and I have to wonder if he was leaving himself room for another sequel.

Author fact: Courtenay died in November of 2012.

Book trivia: settle in to read Tandia as it is a healthy 900 pages long.

Nancy said: Nancy said Tandia as the sequel to The Power of One is, “just as good” (More Book Lust p 3).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Africa: a Reader’s Itinerary (p 2).


The Chronoliths

Wilson, Robert C. The Chronoliths. New York: Tor, 2001.

Reason read: October is “Star Man” month and The Chronoliths is sort of about time travel…

Scott Warden as an old man is writing his memoirs about his involvement with the Chronoliths. When he begins his story the year is 21st century. The place is Thailand. Scott and his family are hanging out in a beach side town “busy doing something close to nothing” when a huge 200 foot structure in the form of monument appears in the jungled interior. This is no ordinary monument. Its arrival changed the climate, destroyed acres worth of trees and spewed ionizing radiation. But even more curious is the inscription, commemorating a victorious battle sixteen years into the future. Then, another monument appears in downtown Bangkok, killing thousands. Again it commemorates a victory years into the future. Because Scott and a friend the first ones to arrive on the scene of the original monument, they are irrevocably linked to the phenomenon. A scientist from Scott’s past recruits him to study the structures in an effort to thwart a future warlord from destroying society.

The Chronoliths is futuristic enough to acknowledge the world had progressed but not so much that it wasn’t recognizable to the reader. Some examples: Scott lived in a society where smokers needed to hold an “addict’s” license. Wilson makes some interesting predictions about human behavior and advances in technologies. Portable communication technologies are very similar to what we have today but were virtually unheard of in 2001.
But interestingly enough, the world had also regressed (the draft was introduced in 2029).

As an aside – I wish the editor had done a little better job of catching inconsistencies. Adam on page 146 was eighteen but by page 149 he was seventeen.

Quotes to quote: “But what the hard admits isn’t always what the heart allows” (p 60) and “Adulthood is the art of deceit” (p 153).

Author fact: Wilson is an American-born science fiction writer living in Canada. Given the climate of today, lucky him.

Book trivia: the disclaimer reads, “This is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this novel are either fictitious or used fictitiously.”

Nancy said: The Chronoliths is included in a list of other books about time travel that might be enjoyed.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Time Travel” (p 220). As an aside, I should note, humans do not time travel but monuments celebrating military victories twenty years into the future randomly appear, at first across Asia and then North America.


Spring of the Ram

Dunnett, Dorothy. The Spring of the Ram: Book Two of the House of Niccolo. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

Reason read: to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.

The Spring of the Ram is book two in the House of Niccolo series. Judith Wilt, in her introduction recaps the first book, Niccolo Rising to orient those who have missed out. When we rejoin Nicholas de Fleury he is now nineteen years old and married to the owner of the dye shop for which he had apprenticed. As a budding entrepreneur this is a well played move. In terms of intelligence and cleverness, Nicholas is certainly showing his mettle. His business sense is growing; and as head of an army he is becoming well traveled and worldly. The is an era when trade and exploration are burgeoning. Art and politics are duplicitous, and sensuality and relationships are used as weapons against human emotion. In the opening chapter Nicolas’ eleven year old step-daughter, Catherine, is seduced by his arch rival. He chases Catherine only to find she is in love with her captor and is perfectly content to marry him “when she is a woman” which is after he first menstrual cycle.
Niccolo’s personality is as entertaining as they come. His bad boy ways earn him a reputation known far and wide as reckless and daring. Entering Florence, he aims to secure the Silk Road, the only accessible trade route to the East. That is his singular quest for the rest of The Spring of the Ram.

Quotes to quote: “She didn’t miss Noah; not at all; except when she needed someone to take out her dog” (p 145) and “Her features were build on the thigh bones of mice; her eyes lay fronded in fish pools, their lids upper and lower like mollusks” (p 168). Errr…okay.

Author fact: Dunnett passed away in 2001.

Book trivia: Even if you have read Niccolo Rising Judith Wilt’s recap is a nice setup to The Spring of the Ram and shouldn’t be skipped.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging Up History Through Fiction” (p 79).


Power of One

Courtenay, Bryce. The Power of One. New York: Ballantine Books, 1989.

Reason read: Courtenay’s birth month is in August.

Confessional One: I accidentally ordered the childrens’ book version of The Power of One. Before I realized my mistake I was already half way through it.
Confessional Two: the version for children needed to be returned before I was finished so I jumped over the the adult full length story. I’m glad I did.

Confessional Three: The Power of One started a little slow for me. Maybe because I started with a book for children? At times I thought it contained magical realism. Once the story picked up I was thoroughly engrossed.

Known only by the derogatory name of Pisskop, a child is born in South Africa and in the shadow of Hitler’s rise to cruel power. In 1939 Pisskop seems destined for demise. He was born of the wrong color, white. He spoke the wrong language, English. He was raised by a woman of the wrong color, black. His own mother all but nonexistent. Pisskop knew fear, cruelty, humiliation and abandonment all before he turned six years old. Through a series of unremarkable events Pisskop is led to the people and opportunities that would bestow courage and grit on the young boy. Harry Crown, who renames Pisskop, Peekay. Hoppie Groenewald, who offers Peekay a green sucker at their first fateful meeting (a gesture Peekay will always remember). Doc, who becomes a mentor and a father figure for Peekay. Geel Peet, who takes Peekay’s boxing skills to another level. Because of these early relationships, Peekay gains confidence and courage, vowing to overcome his color, his speech, his pitiful upbringing. In his dreams he survives to become the welterweight champion of the world.

Lines I liked: “Man brutalized thinks only of his survival” (p 215), “The indigo night was pricked with sharp cold stars” (p 257), “The photograph captured the exact moment when I understood with conviction that racism is a primary force of evil designed to destroy good men” (p 265), and one more, “You either disappear into a plebian background or move forward to where most others fear to follow” (p 472).

Author fact: Courtenay was born in South Africa.

Nancy said: nothing specific, besides plot, about Power of One.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Africa: A Reader’s Itinerary” (p 3).


Niccolo Rising

Dunnett, Dorothy. Niccolo Rising. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986.

Reason read: Dunnett’s birth month is in August.

When Dunnett finished the Francis Crawford of Lymond series she felt there was more to Francis Crawford’s story that needed to be detailed. By way of explanation she went back to the 15th century. Niccolo Rising is the first in the House of Niccolo series and features Nicholas de Fluery, three generations before Francis Crawford of Lymond’s birth. For reference, the 1459 Queen of Scots is thirteen years old.
Be prepared for high drama! Nicholas (or Niccolo or Nicholas vander Poele or Claes, as he is first called) only wants what every young man craves – acceptance, recognition, and love from his elders. When we first meet him, he is known as Claes, an eighteen year old dyer’s apprentice. Clumsy as a puppy and equally annoying, the people in his life spend most of their time babysitting his actions and cleaning up his messes. It is hard to imagine Claes’s transformation into a good-with-numbers, savvy businessman who capture the heart of one of the most prestigious women in the country. Much like 15th century Bruges’s commerce and trade, Claes undergoes a spiritual and intellectual growth. By the end of Niccolo Rising he is practically unrecognizable. And that’s when the fun starts…

As an aside, the list of characters, both real and fictional, is daunting. Read and reread this book extremely carefully. You might miss something if you don’t.

Author fact: Dunnett also wrote about Macbeth.

Book trivia: Niccolo Rising is the first book in the Niccolo House series and since they tie into the House of Lymond series Dunnett suggested reading them in the order they were written and not in chronological order. Yay! I’m actually reading them in the right order…for once.

Nancy said: Pearl said it would be a shame to miss out on the House of Niccolo series  (More Book Lust p 80).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Digging up the Past Through Fiction” (p 79).


Crazy Jack

Napoli, Donna Jo. Crazy Jack. New York: Random House, 1999.

Reason read: August is Fairy Tale month.

Everyone knows the traditional English story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Jack sells the family cow for some worthless beans. Said beans grow into a magical beanstalk that reaches up into the clouds. When Jack climbs the stalk he comes to find the home of an ugly and mean giant. Escaping the giant’s cannibalistic wrath, Jack is able to steal away with a goose that lays golden eggs, a pot of gold, and a magical singing harp.
However, Donna Jo Napoli’s version has more substance in that you meet Jack when he is nine years old and living on a farm with his mother and father. Next door is beautiful Flora and life is perfect. But, Jack’s dad, being a gambler, ends up losing the farm. Literally. In his guilt and shame he commits suicide and Jack goes crazy with grief. Over time Jack’s life is turned upside down. As he grows up, he and his mother become poorer and poorer until finally, they are down to their last cow. To make matters worse, lovely Flora announces her engagement to another (sane) man. True to the original telling, Jack sells the family cow for some seemingly worthless beans that end up growing into a huge beanstalk that reaches the heavens. And like the original story, Jack climbs the beanstalk and discovers that giant and his riches. But, Napoli adds a sex scene and in the end has a powerful message for her readers. Jack may be crazy but he also has a heart. His ending is a happily ever after despite the heartache.

Line I really liked, “I’ll share my bed with whatever dreams come” (p 60).

Author fact: Napoli dedicated Crazy Jack to Barry. I guess he “always stands by his crazy woman.” That made me laugh. She also thanked the librarians at Swathmore College. Napoli sounds like someone with whom I could hang out.

Book trivia: Crazy Jack is so short it can be read in a day, but I wouldn’t recommend that. Take your time with Jack and the Giant. You won’t regret it.

Nancy said: Napoli’s reinterpretations of classic tales are good for teenage girls (More Book Lust, p 94).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fractured Fairy Tales” (p 93).


Jackie By Josie

Preston, Caroline. Jackie By Josie. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Reason read: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was born in July; read in honor of her birth month.

Josie Trask is one neurotic woman…but she has a lot of heart. Hired to research the life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis for a less-than-serious biographer, Josie moves back in her childhood Massachusetts home for the summer in order to be close to her source’s personal history. It’s right after Jackie O’s death and digging up the most private of Jackie’s dirt takes time. This means moving back in with an overbearing and alcoholic mother while contending with a typical three year old son, all on her own. Husband Peter has headed to California for a teaching job, carpooling with college friend, Monica. While Josie is trying to satisfy a constantly demanding employer and worrying about her absent husband, she is convinced her mother is dating a criminal and her husband is having an affair. As Josie digs deeper into Jackie’s life she can’t help but notice the similarities. What lessons can she learn from the life of a former First Lady?

Author fact: While Preston has written a bunch of books, Jackie by Josie is the only one I am readng for the Challenge.

Book trivia: Jackie by Josie is Preston’s first book.

Nancy said: Jackie By Josie was “wonderful reading, each in its own way” (More Book Lust, p 132). She goes on to say some books have more depth than others. I would think Jackie By Josie is one such book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Just Too Good To Miss” (p 132). I keep wanting to add the word “Period” to it. As an aside, this could also have been listed in Pearl’s Maiden Voyages chapter.