Subtle Knife

Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. Scholastic UK, 2007.
Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. New York: Listening Library, 2000.

Reason read: to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month.

In The Golden Compass Pullman introduced his readers to the possibility of more than one universe. He hinted there were actually three – the one we were in currently, a completely different universe and a third being a combination of the two. In The Subtle Knife we experience those different worlds first hand as Lyra and her new friend, Will Parry, move between them to escape their enemies. In The Golden Compass readers were also introduced to daemons. Now, we learn that people without daemons are without free will. They lack fear and imagination so they make perfect soldiers for the evil Mrs. Coulter. In addition to Mrs. Coulter, the otherworld of Cittagazze hides other enemies. Soul-eating Specters haunt the streets while children run wild without daemons or parents and rule Lord-of-the-Flies style. 
As Lyra and Will travel from world to world they discover the Subtle Knife, a blade that can cut through anything. It’s power has yet to be fully understood.

Author fact: Pullman helped perform the audio version of The Subtle Knife.

Book Audio trivia: The Subtle Knife won an Audie Award in 2000. 

Nancy said: The Subtle Knife is an “epic battle btween good and evil” (Book Lust p 209).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 209).


Scales of Gold

Dunnett, Dorothy. Scales of Gold. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

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

It is now the fifteenth century. We are in the Age of Discovery. Nicholas vander Poele is in need of restoring order and fortune to his banking business. He and former slave, Loppe travel to Africa in search of gold. Also traveling along with him is Gelis van Borselen. If you remember the name from Race of the Scorpions,  she is on board, secretly seeking revenge. (As an aside, there is always a beautiful woman who has a love-hate relationship with Nicholas and seeking some kind of revenge.) Gelis van Borselen’s sister, Katelina, was killed in The Race of the Scorpions. It was mentioned earlier that whenever Nicholas is ill and feverish he spills secrets. This time, struggling with a swamp-induced illness Nicholas tells Gelis he is the father of her sister’s child. This changes the course of their relationship. Of course it does.

Underlying all the adventure and violence is Dunnett’s sly humor. She gives this comedy to Scales of Gold in the form of witty repartee. When Nicholas asks Gregorio if anyone has tried to kill him lately, Gregorio replies, “I suffer from overwork and neglect but apart from that, no” (p 8).

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


December Updates

So, by the end of November I was a blathering mess, wasn’t I? I know I was. Mea culpa. Three xrays, five vials of blood taken, one CT scan, and two therapy sessions later, here are the updates. The protruding ribs are being blamed on chiropractic appointments even though I felt the rib cage move before I started see Dr. Jim. The nerve pain is being controlled by medication. The spot on the lung and possibly tumor…no results as of today. White blood cell count still elevated. Possibility of cancer…still a possibility.
But. But! But, enough of all that. Here are the books: I have a week off at the end of the month so I am anticipating it will be a good reading month. Here are the books planned:

Fiction:

  • Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess (EB) – in memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
  • The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin – in memory of Le Guin passing in 2018.
  • Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund – to honor Alabama becoming a state in December.

Nonfiction:

  • The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer – to honor women’s suffrage law.
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB) – to honor the wedding anniversary of Mark and Delia.
  • Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger – in honor of the moon landing.
  • Stet: an Editor’s Life by Diana Athill (EB) – in honor of Athill being born in December.

Series continuation:

  • The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (AB) – to continue the series His Dark Materials, started in November in honor of National Writing Month.
  • The Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series Niccolo House, started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Squelched by Terry Beard.

If there is time:

  • Black Tents of Arabia by Carl Raswan – in honor of Lawrence of Arabia.
  • This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun – in honor of Jelloun’s birth month.

Race of the Scorpions

Dunnett, Dorothy. Race of the Scorpions. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.

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

Race of the Scorpions is the third installment in the House of Niccolo series. Nicholas vander Poele is a mere twenty-one years old and already a widower. His stepdaughters want nothing to do with him and summarily locked him out of house and business.
Of course there are interesting character maneuvers as well. Niccolo has a new enemy in Katelina van Borsten. She seduced Claes into taking her virginity and after their second tryst became pregnant. She ended up marrying Simon who’s first wife gave birth to Claes. Ultimately, Kate married Claes’s stepfather and together they are raising Kate and Claes’s child, unbeknownst to Simon. All the while, Nicholas is growing in power. His business sense is blossoming which further irritates his enemies.

Dunnett continues to masterfully weave fictional story-lines around real people, places and events. It’s what could have happened and probably did.
As an aside, her sex scenes are only hints of trysts and conquests, tastefully done.

Quotes to quote, “She long ago concluded that the world would be a more efficient place if managed by women” (p 9), “He assumed the face of an owl” (p 137), “No matter what you did, no matter what you planned, the unexpected happened” (p 203), and my favorite, “You don’t inherit three hundred years of scorpion blood and end up a buttercup” (p 265).

Author fact: Taking a break from author facts for this one. I will have several opportunities to say more as I am reading lots of Dunnett in the future!

Book trivia: the introduction to Race of the Scorpions spells out exactly what has happened in Niccolo Rising (Vol. One) and Spring of the Ram (Vol. Two).

Nancy said: Nancy 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 Though Fiction” (p 79).


November New

What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:

Fiction:

  • Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
  • Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
  • Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
  • Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.

Nonfiction:

  • Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
  • The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.

Series continuation:

  • Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.

Fun: nothing decided yet.

Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.

 


Crazy Days of October

I don’t know where to begin with trying to explain October. From the beginning, I guess. It started with a trip home; a lovely week off with lots of reading accomplished. Then it was a New England Patriots football game followed by two Phish shows and a political rally for a state in which I do not live. If that wasn’t weird enough, I hung out with a person who could have raped or killed or loved me to death. Take your pick. Any one of those scenarios was more than possible. It was a truly bizarre month.
But, enough of that. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Quick but cute read.
  • Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB/print). Sad.
  • The Chronoliths by Robert C. Wilson. Interesting.
  • Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB). Boring.

Nonfiction:

  • Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris (EB/print). Only slightly less boring than Bridge.
  • Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth. Really interesting.
  • African Laughter by Doris Lessing. Okay.

Series continuations:

  • The Race of Scorpions by Dorothy Dunnett (EB/print). Detailed.
  • Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB). Cute but glad the series is over.

Fun:

  • We Inspire Me by Andrea Pippins. Cute.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Gardening Under Lights by Leslie F. Halleck. When I set up the reads for October I didn’t include this because it hadn’t arrived yet.

I should add that October was a really frustrating month for books. I never really liked anything I was reading.


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).