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).


September Sorrows

I don’t post a lot of personal stuff on this side of the writing. Not usually. Typically, I leave all that other blathering on JustCauseICan. I may write about the run or the island, a brief sentence here or there, but of little else…except for today. When you lose someone you adore it is hard to focus. That is precisely my problem today. I am shattered by grief and only put back together again by words. So, I must read. Here are the books planned for September. I hope they heal:

Fiction:

  • Babylon Rolling by Amanda Boyden – to remember Hurricane Ivan as it wreaked havoc on my 2004 September wedding.

Nonfiction:

  • The Most Offending Soul Alive: Tom Harrisson and His Remarkable Life by Judith M. Heinmann – in honor of Harrisson’s birth month being in September.
  • Life and Times of Miami Beach by Ann Armbruster – in honor of Hurricane Irma.
  • Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories, Recollections, and Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth Century American Literature edited by Tom Grimes – in honor of Grimes’ birth month being in September.

 

Series Continuations:

  • Fuzz by Ed McBain – to end the series started in July in memory of McBain’s passing.
  • Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall – to end the series started in August in honor of Rajiv Ratna Ganghi, India’s youngest Prime Minister’s birth month.
  • Spring of the Ram by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month (August).
  • Holding the Dream by Nora Roberts – to continue the series started in honor of August being Dream Month.
  • Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to end the series started in August in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

Confessional: I am still reading Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford.


An August Attempt

So. I’ve done a few short runs here and there. Nothing crazy, but at least I’m back in it somewhat. Spent more time with the books. Speaking of which, here they are:

Fiction:

  • Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman (EB/print)
  • The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
  • The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (AB)
  • Crazy Jack by Donna Jo Napoli (EB)
  • Power of One by Bryce Courtenay (EB)
  • Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print)
  • Daring to Dream by Nora Roberts (EB)

Nonfiction:

  • A Season in Red: My Great Leap Forward into the New China by Kirsty Needham
  • A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella L. Bird
  • Eurydice Street by Sofka Zinovieff

Series continuation:

  • Arctic Chill by Arnuldur Indridason (EB/print) – which I forgot to mention when I was plotting the month. It’s the last book of the series -that I’m reading. (There are others.)
  • Big Bad City by Ed McBain

LibraryThing Early Review:

  • Where Eagles Dare Not Perch by Peter Bridgford (EB) – which came after I plotted the month of reading so it wasn’t mentioned before.

 


Checkmate

Dunnett, Dorothy. Checkmate. New York: Vintage Books, 1975.

Reason read: I started the Lymond Chronicles in August to celebrate Dorothy Dunnett’s birth month.

If you have been keeping track, by the end of The Ringed Castle Francis Crawford of Lymond had returned to Scotland from Russia and it had been revealed he might have killed his own son. Also at the end of Ringed Castle Lymond was trying to return to Russia while still married to Philippa, but by the end of Ringed Castle it was obvious (at least to me) the relationship between them was changing. There were even hints of romance blossoming for Philippa. Maybe that was a spoiler alert for Checkmate?
Anyway, when we begin Checkmate the year is 1557. Francis Crawford of Lymond is back in France, now as the M. comte de Sevigny, leading an army against England. Despite his best efforts to divorce Philippa, their marriage continues to used as political leverage and controls his inability to return to Russia. He is ordered to fight for the French for one year before his marriage can be annulled. Imagine if we lived in that kind of society today! Philippa’s feelings for her husband continue to evolve slowly as she is still insistent on learning the truth of his parentage and lineage. It’s this dark secret that introduces the character of astrologer (“yon pisse-pot prophet”) Nostradamus to the plot. Note: Each chapter starts with a prophesy of Nostradamus in old French. It isn’t necessary to have them translated to enjoy the story. Because this is the last book in the series, Dunnett tries to put a bow on the conclusion to Checkmate. I don’t think it is giving too much away to say that one can leave the Lymond series feeling good about Francis’s future.

One detail that carried through the Lymond series was the issue of Francis’s come and go headaches and resulting blindness. I never could wrap my brain around the real cause of these debilitating migraines, especially when his mother says he doesn’t “need” them anymore.

Quotes I liked, “But the days are evil: iniquity aboundeth, and charity waxeth cold” (p 146), “The session ended when Mr. Pigault, full of his own beer, slid comfortably under the table” (p 153), and “Realization drew from him the power of movement” (p 158).

Author fact: Dunnett is also the author of the House of Niccolo series, also on my Challenge list; probably to be started a year from this August.

Book trivia: This is the sixth and final book in the Lymond Chronicles. I have to admit, I will miss Francis!

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Digging Up the Past Through History” (p 80).


December Missed

Woops! December left us without me writing about the reading. Not sure how that happened (other than to say “life”), but anyway – here’s what was accomplished for December:

  • Beth Shaw’s Yoga Fit by Beth Shaw (an Early Review book for LibraryThing)
  • Cod by Mark Kurlansky
  • Flashman and the Angel of the Lord by George MacDonald Fraser
  • How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  • The Man Who Was Taller Than God by Harold Adams
  • Ringed Castle by Dorothy Dunnett

Here’s a belated look at January 2016 (already started, as you will see):

  1. Flashman and the Tiger by George MacDonald Fraser (the LAST book in the series on my list)
  2. Always a Body to Trade by K.C. Constantine (already read in honor of January being National Mystery month. Read this in a day)
  3. Blue Light by Walter Mosley (already read in honor of Mosley’s birth month. Another quick read)
  4. Checkmate by Dorothy Dunnett (the LAST book in the Lymond Series). It bears noting I am also consulting The Prophecies by Nostradamus (translated by Richard Sieburth) while reading Checkmate.
  5. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (an audio book in honor of New Mexico becoming a state in January)
  6. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (in honor of Nabokov’s wife, Vera. Pale Fire is dedicated to her and her birthday is in January)
  7. Up, into the Singing Mountain by Richard Llewellyn (to continue the series started last month).

I have been chosen to review a book about the photography of Dickey Chapelle but since it hasn’t arrived yet I can’t put it on the list. I was also chosen to review Liar by Rob Roberge, but I don’t expect that one until February.

On a personal note: December ended with writing to 12 complete strangers. I am really hoping one or two of them become pen pals.


Ringed Castle

Dunnett, Dorothy. The Ringed Castle. New York: Vintage Books, 1971.

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

When we left Francis Crawford of Lymond he had just married Philippa Somerville and sent her home to England with his two year old son, Kuzum. Meanwhile, he hooked up with harem head, Kiaya Khatien, the former mistress of Dragus Rais. Because of her, his next adventure takes him to the crude and unforgiving lands of Russia where he becomes advisor to Tsar Ivan (later, Ivan the Terrible). It becomes Crawford’s mission to create, muster, train and equip a professional Russian army. Francis, now called the Voedoda Bolshoia, is becoming even calmer and more complicated but he remains just as cool and cruel as always. Typical, his motives are constantly questioned. I find his relationship with a golden eagle under his command is fascinating. I enjoyed best the scenes with this bird despite the cruel end.
Meanwhile, back in London, Philippa digs into her husband’s heritage and uncovers some troubling secrets, which by the way, sets up the final book, Checkmate, perfectly.

A line to make you sit up: right from the beginning, the opening sentence is “Not to every young girl is it given to enter the harem of the Sultan of Turkey and return to her homeland a virgin” (p 3). Hello. Another line I liked, “And because death was a friend, the one man who was made to receive, like a tuning fork, the whispering omens of fate did not recognize it, until too late” (p 312).

Author fact: I am uninspired to dig up anything new on Ms. Dunnett at this time.

Book trivia: this installment of the Lymond series doesn’t have a Cast of Characters list. I guess you’re supposed to know everyone by now. Also, Dunnett wrote the foreword admitting to “manicuring to repair the defects.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Digging Up the Past Through History” (p 73).


Disorderly Knights

Dunnett, Dorothy. The Disorderly Knights. New York: Vintage Books, 1997.

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

The year is now 1551. Francis Crawford of Lymond, the blond-haired, blue eyed rebel of Edinburgh Scotland has a new mission from the King of France: to come to the aid of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John in Malta as they battle the Turks to defend their island. It begins as a confusing battle, and as with all great stories in history, not everyone is who they first appear to be. There is a traitor among them. Who can it be? It’s up to Francis to figure it out and in doing so discovers his worst enemy. On a personal note, in this installment of the Lymond Chronicles I was pleasantly surprised to see a more personal side to the dashing and devastatingly cruel Francis. This time Dunnett didn’t have him constantly drinking to falling down drunk, and while I wasn’t always agreeing with Lymond’s actions, they shed light on the complexities of his personality.
On another note, I was sad to lose key characters.

Quotes I liked, “Hatred shackled by promises to the dead was the vilest of all” (p 218) and “But that’s just immaturity boggling at the sad face of failure” (p 322).

Author fact: According the back cover of Disorderly Knights Dunnett was, to critics at that time, the “world’s greatest living writer of historical fiction.”

Book trivia: this is the third installment of the Lymond series.

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