Monday, July 30, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields
Published by: Pamela Dorman
Publication Date: July 31st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"For fans of The Paris Wife, a sparkling glimpse into the life of Edith Wharton and the scandalous love affair that threatened her closest friendship

They say behind every great man is a woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann—her governess turned literary secretary, and her mothering, nurturing friend.

When at the age of forty-five, Edith falls passionately in love with a dashing younger journalist, Morton Fullerton, and is at last opened to the world of the sensual, it threatens everything certain in her life but especially her abiding friendship with Anna. As Edith’s marriage crumbles and Anna’s disapproval threatens to shatter their lifelong bond, the women must face the fragility at the heart of all friendships.

Told through the points of view of both women, The Age of Desire takes us on a vivid journey through Wharton’s early Gilded Age world: Paris with its glamorous literary salons and dark secret cafés, the Whartons’ elegant house in Lenox, Massachusetts, and Henry James’s manse in Rye, England.

Edith’s real letters and intimate diary entries are woven throughout the book. The Age of Desire brings to life one of literature’s most beloved writers, whose own story was as complex and nuanced as that of any of the heroines she created."

Oh, that lush cover and a real life age of innocence... sigh.

The Far West by Patricia C. Wrede
Published by: Scholastic
Publication Date: July 31st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"From #1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia C. Wrede, the fantastic conclusion to her tale of magic on the western frontier.

Eff is an unlucky thirteenth child...but also the seventh daughter in her family. Her twin brother, Lan, is a powerful double seventh son. Her life at the edge of the Great Barrier Spell is different from anyone else's that she knows.

When the government forms an expedition to map the Far West, Eff has the opportunity to travel farther than anyone in the world. With Lan, William, Professor Torgeson, Wash, and Professor Ochiba, Eff finds that nothing on the wild frontier is as they expected. There are strange findings in their research, a long prarie winter spent in too-close quarters, and more new species, magical and otherwise, dangerous and benign, than they ever expected to find. And then spring comes, and the explorers realize how tenuous life near the Great Barrier Spell may be if they don't find a way to stop a magical flood in a hurry. Eff's unique way of viewing magic has saved the settlers time and again, but this time all of Columbia is at stake if she should fail."

And the trilogy conclues, yeah!

The Brontes by Juliet Barker
Published by: Pegasus
Publication Date: July 31st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 1184 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"n a revised and updated edition, the real story of the Brontë sisters, by distinguished scholar and historian Juliet Barker.

The story of the tragic Brontë family is familiar to everyone: we all know about the half-mad, repressive father, the drunken, drug-addicted wastrel of a brother, wildly romantic Emily, unrequited Anne, and “poor Charlotte.” Or do we? These stereotypes of the popular imagination are precisely that—imaginary—created by amateur biographers from Mrs. Gaskell who were primarily novelists and were attracted by the tale of an apparently doomed family of genius.

Juliet Barker’s landmark book is the first definitive history of the Brontës. It demolishes the myths, yet provides startling new information that is just as compelling—but true. Based on first hand research among all the Brontë manuscripts and among contemporary historical documents never before used by Brontë biographers, this book is both scholarly and compulsively readable.

The Brontës is a revolutionary picture of the world’s favorite literary family."

Updated bio of the Brontes, I am sold completely, even if I already own this book, it's not updated!

Fifty Shames of Grey by Fanny Merkin
Published by: Da Capo Press
Publication Date: July 31st, 2012
Format: Paperback, 224 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Young, arrogant tycoon Earl Grey seduces the naïve coed Anna Steal with his overpowering good looks and staggering amounts of money, but will she be able to get past his fifty shames, including shopping at Walmart on Saturdays, bondage with handcuffs, and his love of BDSM (Bards, Dragons, Sorcery, and Magick)? Or will his dark secrets and constant smirking drive her over the edge?"

Fifty Shades of Grey has been CRYING out for a parody, enter this book... which just the PERFECT cover.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sartorial Sundays

This years inspiration was a more Victorian urchin/lower classes look. While I had reveled in last year's explorer, I actually wanted something, dare I say, more girly? Again, not being one for a corset, though I promise, I will one day try, I started looking at people who might not have the nice corsets, mainly, the working class or field laborers. This actually was one of the reasons I decided to re-watch all of Lark Rise to Candleford. Not that I needed an excuse, but it is fun watching a show and claiming it's "research." Also, I thought it would be fun to bring back some of my other skill sets for this year, aka, knitting!

Here is Emma Timmins. What I love about her look is the blouse, minus the stiff collar and the earthy cream color of it with the voluminous skirts.

Here is what I have always wanted when watching period dramas! Until recently I always referred to it as the knitted wrappy thingy that farm women wear. Yeah, as you can tell, real technical. So after about an hour online once I decided I wanted to make one, I found out it's called a Sontag. It's basically a shawl that is designed to wrap around the body and then connect. The one pictured here is the pattern I plan on using. So here's hoping it doesn't take too long. But of course, I must establish my color palette before going yarn shopping, and here's hoping I might have something in the house that will work... I do have a yarn hording habit...

Now this right here is THE DRESS that always makes me associate Lark Rise with Steampunk. How much more Steampunk could Dorcas's outfit be? While, yes, in a magical ideal world, this right her would be my costume, what I am taking to use is what I call the "cloth gauntlets." Women who where working and doing menial chores, like cleaning out fireplaces, would wear these so that they wouldn't get their shirts dirty. While here it is more fashion versus function, I felt that I would incorporate that into my look.

Yet, of course, I would go knitted, same yarn as the Sontag, with a little Steampunky design.

Finally for the skirt, I wanted something a little more modern, a little more space agey, but could still be mistaken for Victorian in the right setting, so an over skirt similar in style to this one.

While, I was originally thinking a split layering, the over skirt above wouldn't work so well, but I do want the layering with a lacier underskirt, preferably tea-stained, and the over skirt a little shorter, so as to see the two layers clearly.

Next week, some sketches! Or, really, as soon as I get them up because I am two weeks behind on this post (sorry, sorry, my computer crashed and got a nasty virus and I got a new OS and had to basically rebuild my computer, but now it has more RAM, not so exciting to you, very exciting to me, and I don't have a scanner attached now and I don't have the drivers updated for my Wacom yet... chaos did ensue.)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review - The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences: Tales from the Archives

Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences: Tales from the Archives by Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris et al.
Published by: ImagineThat! Studios
Publication Date: August 23rd, 2011-June 17th, 2012
Format: Kindle
Rating: ★★★
To Buy Collection 1
To Buy Collection 2
To Buy Collection 3
To Buy Collection 4

Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris have been more willing than most authors to embrace the possibilities of new media. Not surprising when you look at their bios and realize how much they have done with podcasts, facebook, twitter, all of which Tee has spoken on. So short e-pub stories don't seem much of a stretch. Yet most authors don't bother to embrace something that could so easily get you new readers and make the returning ones giggle with glee. To find that in the dark hours while you are desperately waiting for the next installment of your favorite new book series that there's a short story to tide you over is a wondrous discovery. The world of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences also lends itself to this expansion of its universe. While there are Books and Braun, who we love dearly, there are not only peripheral characters to be explored, but also characters that have never been mentioned. The Ministry is a world wide organization that has been around for quite a few years, their archives are easily full to bursting with stories to tell. Telling some of the stories themselves, or relying on other authors, the world that Pip and Tee have created is becoming more and more rich.

At last count there are sixteen short stories set within their world. You can buy them individually or in collections of four for your reading pleasure. As with any collection of stories written by a variety of authors, the quality varies from some of the best short stories I have ever read to ones that I just desperately wanted to end. Yet, they do a very good job of showing the scope of The Ministry's power, as they take place from South America to New Zealand, India to remotest Africa, Siam to the American West, and scary houses just over the road in Islington. We get old questions answered, like why did Eliza really leave New Zealand, what happened on the river in Paris between her and Harry, how hard was it to get all those seven vases that lead to El Dorado, before Eliza broke the last one, to how bad is the situation between Books and his father. We get back stories and side stories and the Ministry Seven, the Ministry's own Baker Street Irregulars, before they where the Ministry Seven. Tons of new questions to have answered, that one can only hope for in an upcoming tale.

The first collection seems to be centered on all the evil jewels can bring. You never want to get a cursed ruby or bauble... bad luck will surely befall you! While the second collection seems to be more action, adventure, daring-do, with men being men in far off places and saving the world for Queen and Country! Rider Haggard, eat your heart out! The third collection contains my very favorite stories of all. Some of the best ones I've read. If you have a desire to read some of the best spine tingling stories, this is where to find them. Collection four is a hodgepodge of stories that didn't really catch me due to tropes of Terracotta Warriors and masturbatory jokes that seemed to key into this year's movie Hysteria. I just think the jokes fell flat and I felt sorry for Books.

Yet of all these stories, there are two that I must single out as being sheer perfection. The first is Dust on the Davenport by O.M. Grey and the second is Hanuman's Gift by Helen E. H. Madden. It does not surprise me that Dust on the Davenport won the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice Award for Best Short Story. This little ghost story about a junior agent investigating what the other agents think is just another haunting false alarm starts out as a sweet little story about a grieving widow leaning on a green agent and slowly evolves into full on heebie-jeebies land. I don't think I've had this much spine tingling since the first time I watched The Legend of Hell House, which still gives me nightmares! Pure Victorian Ghost Story perfection! While I think Hanuman's Gift will easily be a contender for this year's Reader's Choice Award. Told by Eliza's old partner Harry to the sceptical and inept archivist before Books, it shows the horrors that face agents out in the field and that local myths and legends might best be followed or you could get some zombie monkey action going on that has overtones of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. Also, we learn a lesson that is best repeated, be careful what you wish for! World peace might mean a world devoid of humanity and spending you days relaxing in your pajamas, might just indicate Bedlam.

I look forward to more of the promised stories. I'll need them if I'm to be patient till the next book comes out!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review - Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris' Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: April 26th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Agent Eliza Braun lives for field work. Agent Wellington Books lives for his archives. Both working within The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, a secret agency within Queen Victoria's government, they never have had much time for each other. Eliza was always off on some dangerous mission, hopefully involving dynamite, while Books had his files and artifacts and tea, deep within the bowels of  "Miggins Antiquities." That all changed when one day, Books was Eliza's mission. He had been kidnapped by the enemy and whisked away to a secret base in Antarctica. Eliza arrived guns a blazing and rescued Books, returning the two of them to jolly old England. Only, she didn't follow directions, per se.  Doctor Sound had ordered Wellington to be decommissioned, in the most final way possible, in case he had let any secrets be spilled. Yet Eliza knew that Wellington hadn't been compromised, deep in her bones.

Her penance for such belief in Wellington? Being demoted from field agent to assist him in the archives. Both of them view this as the worst kind of hell imaginable. Wellington doesn't like interlopers in "his" archives. Early morning hours and the complete tedium of filing isn't what Eliza thinks of as a good time either. Though the archives do hold some interest for her... deep within the darkest reaches there are unsolved cases. One of those cases involves her ex partner, Harry. They had been investigating a series of gruesome murders together when Doctor Sound told them to abandon the case. Yet the files indicate that Harry kept working the case secretly, until his disappearance and subsequent reappearance in Bedlam.

Eliza will not let this rest. Slowly she convinces Books that it's in their best interest to continue Harry's investigation. She'll investigate it with or without him, so Books might as well come along. Soon there's buildings blowing up, high speed carriage chases, fights during the opera and secret societies. Working side by side, Books and Braun have to learn to trust each other and believe in their new partner. Yet for Eliza, relying on an agent, untrained in field ops, while being deep undercover could be the riskiest decision she ever made. For Books, leaving the archives was his riskiest decision.

I think I have quite probably found my new favorite series. The mystery, the chemistry, the humor are all perfectly balanced to create one of the best reads out there, Steampunk or otherwise. The polar opposites of toffy, British to the bone, Books and trigger happy, dynamite loving New Zealander Braun can easily go down as one of the best pairings since Mrs. Peel and Steed, Maddy and David, Sam and Diane, Castle and Beckett. They just fuel each other to new levels of ingenuity and snarky, witty banter. They are the chemical equivalent of dynamite, a comparison I know full well Eliza would love. There's a part of me that spent the entire book just hoping they'd get together, and another part of me just loving this long tease... I trust in the writers that everything will be worth my wait and the payoff will be sublime.

Almost a Victorian version of The Avengers, I find that with the artifact nature of many of the investigations, that the book can be favorably compared to one of my favorite series, Warehouse 13. I would not be surprised if at any moment HG Wells popped up and asked for a little help from Books and Braun, creating the best fan fic mash-up of the Victorian Era. Everything about the book just worked. The mystery changes directions many times throughout the lengthy story, yet I enjoyed every minute of the ride and the denouement brought everything back together. The Steampunk elements fit in the story and never once felt out of place or forced, which is a hard thing to do with techno babble. Just wonderful worldbuilding on the parts of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.

The authors where even able to take a trope that I've come to hate and make it fresh. The Hellfire Club. Anything Victorian or Regency, or really, any time they can in anything slightly period or historical in a British setting, or British Coloney, the Hellfire Club will rear it's head. Heck, they even did it in The Avengers. Yet the Phoenix Society, while having the debauchery of said predecessor, goes beyond just the wanton lust of what came before. They have a secondary agenda too, yet that isn't what made it work. What made the society work was that the way the authors set up the weekend of loose morals was by creating the perfect British Country House weekend and then skewing it. Like a very dark Gosford Park. Personally, I adore mysteries in a Country House setting. Therefore by adding this level of aristocratic sheen and typical behaviour over the atypical club, I never once was raising my fist going, "Damn you Francis Dashwood and your Monks! Damn you to a real, not intentional hell. Devils poking you... oh wait, you'd probably like that."

Also, as is my way, sometimes when reading a book I totally see one actor in my head immediately. Obviously, the agent Bruce Campbell, would be played by Bruce Campbell, that isn't up for negotiation. For Books I was trying to think of someone stuffy, but who could kick ass and be menacing when need be. The obvious choice is Alexis Denisof as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and later Angel. Can't you just picture his stammering and lecturing of Eliza? I sure can!

Here is "Books" in lecture mode, disgruntled lecture mode, hence the tie being loose, when he has had one too many problems with Eliza. Once again trying to explain the taxonomy of the filing and how work starts not near lunch or in the afternoon but in the morning.

Yet, he can totally bring the "dapper" for a night out at the opera to enjoy some Macbeth or to infiltrate a Country House Party that has nefarious undertones.

For Eliza, I wanted someone young and plucky, who looks like they are a little cherubic, until they pull a gun on you. While she is The Doctor's next companion, it was Jenna Louise Coleman's performance in the Titanic miniseries by Julian Fellowes that shows she has Eliza's competence, quick wit and sharp tongue.

Also, she can bring the glam, but that reinforced corset might need some adjustments...

Moste Importante Steampunkery:
While there are many great Steampunk inventions in the book, many designed by Books himself, the prize has to go the Mad McTighe's coin-operated Combobula Bar. Lord McTighe was a gallant nutter who disliked women having to be bar maids because "women shouldna be pawed by drunk patrons!" So he invented the Combobula Bar where you can listen to "Onward Christian Soldiers" while waiting for the machine to mix and serve you drink. Yet what makes this shiny brass-and-wooden bar stand out is that it can somehow sense a bar fight and close in on itself, protecting the machinery, but, more importantly, the booze.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Thing About Thugs by Tabush Khair
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: July 24th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 256 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A subversive, macabre novel of a young Indian man’s misadventures in Victorian London as the city is racked by a series of murders

In a small Bihari village, Captain William T. Meadows finds just the man to further his phrenological research back home: Amir Ali, confessed member of the infamous Thugee cult. With tales of a murderous youth redeemed, Ali gains passage to England, his villainously shaped skull there to be studied. Only Ali knows just how embroidered his story is, so when a killer begins depriving London’s underclass of their heads, suspicion naturally falls on the “thug.” With help from fellow immigrants led by a shrewd Punjabi woman, Ali journeys deep into a hostile city in an attempt to save himself and end the gruesome murders.

Ranging from skull-lined mansions to underground tunnels a ghostly people call home, The Thing about Thugs is a feat of imagination to rival Wilkie Collins or Michael Chabon. Short-listed for the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize, this sly Victorian role reversal marks the arrival of a compelling new Indian novelist to North America."

Comparisons to Wilkie Collins and that glorious cover have me sold on this new book! Plus, Victorian London, I can't miss that!

Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong
Published by: Doutton Adult
Publication Date: July 24th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The #1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong delivers the novel her fans have been clamoring for: The epic finale of the Otherworld series.

It’s been more than ten years, a dozen installments, and hundreds of thousands of copies since Kelley Armstrong introduced readers to the all-too-real denizens of the Otherworld: witches, werewolves, necromancers, vampires, and half-demons, among others. And it’s all been leading to Thirteen, the final installment, the novel that brings all of these stories to a stunning conclusion.

A war is brewing—the first battle has been waged and Savannah Levine is left standing, albeit battered and bruised. She has rescued her half brother from supernatural medical testing, but he’s fighting to stay alive. The Supernatural Liberation Movement took him hostage, and they have a maniacal plan to expose the supernatural world to the unknowing.

Savannah has called upon her inner energy to summon spells with frightening strength, a strength she never knew she had, as she fights to keep her world from shattering. But it’s more than a matter of supernaturals against one another—both heaven and hell have entered the war; hellhounds, genetically modified werewolves, and all forces of good and evil have joined the fray.

Uniting Savannah with Adam, Paige, Lucas, Jaime, Hope, and other lost-but-notforgotten characters in one epic battle, Thirteen is a grand, crowd-pleasing closer for Armstrong’s legions of fans."

Oh, let's hope this epic conclusion, as they're booking it, is truly epic!

Endlessly by Kiersten White
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication Date: July 24th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Evie's paranormal past keeps coming back to haunt her. A new director at the International Paranormal Containment Agency wants to drag her back to headquarters. The Dark Faerie Queen is torturing humans in her poisonous realm. And supernatural creatures keep insisting that Evie is the only one who can save them from a mysterious, perilous fate.

The clock is ticking on the entire paranormal world. And its fate rests solely in Evie's hands.

So much for normal. "

The newest installment of the Paranormalcy series that everyone I know raves about.

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Published by: HarperTeen
Publication Date: July 24th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she's just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she'll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance. "

A luxirous cover and zombies, who else is thinking perfect summer reading?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sartorial Sundays

So, after all that work, what would I do differently? Personally, I don't think there's much sartorially speaking that I would change, except one aesthetic and one practical. Esthetically I would pimp my glasses. You can get so many clip on lenses and gadgets and seeing as I have to wear my glasses to see and contacts are right out (the idea of something touching my eyeball freaks me out beyond belief, and I can read without glasses, so that a plus) it would up my game. But pimping my glasses would have been fun, and believe me I will be doing it this year!

The other issue was that of comfort and my goggles. So, sometime during the second day of the convention I noticed I had this horrid headache right along the crown of my head. I didn't think much of it. Headaches come with being in loud environments with tons of people. So, again, I didn't think much about it till I started to rub my head. There was a dent in my head. At this point I was not calm, I was a little freaked out, there was an unexplained dent in my head. After more investigation, there was a second dent in my head, both somewhat semicircular. It was the goggles! Once I figured out what it was every time I slide them into place on my head I could feel them boring into my skull. I asked my friend Janice if she had the same problem, to which she said a resounding yes. The last day of the con we where carrying our goggles, our heads couldn't take it anymore.

So how would I fix this goggle problem? Well, I could pad them... but I think the more logical way is to have them around your neck or as part of a hat. Because the hat takes the indents, not your head! In fact, there was a little Steampunk event I went to back in February at the Children's Museum in town and I bought myself a black costume bowler hat... not bowlery enough for me, but it would do, and I placed my goggles on it. Sure enough, no pain for me, but it even left dents on the hat! Those are some nasty goggles...

Next week I'll start the discussion of this years Teslacon costume... there might even be more than one made! So costumes perchance!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Peculiar Occurrences Starting Next Week...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Californian Cub Corespondent on Carriger

As I walked in, having arrived early for the Gail Carriger author reading event at the Sunnyvale Public Library, already I knew I was in the right place with several people decked out in full Steampunk regalia. Mostly, however, it was a subtlety of Steampunk; an octopus necklace here, a gear pin there. There was a particular irony in that nearly everyone waiting was playing on the modern technology of their smart phones. I, however, was standing, pen and pad in hand, in a vintage look which tends to be my regular attire, but was also intended as an homage to what I understood to also be the author’s every day style.

When the doors finally opened, I sat quite literally front and center. Hey, I’ve never been accused of being shy, and I wanted to absorb as much as I could from this lovely and talented lady. She appeared in an elegant 50’s ensemble, and lit up the room from the moment she entered, starting with some basics of introductions for the odd few that perhaps merely wandered in after the crowd trying to comprehend the “interesting” clothing of several of the other attendees.

Ms. Carriger then delighted us by reading excerpts from her new book Etiquette and Espionage, the first in her upcoming young adult series set some twenty or so years previous to her famous Parasol Protectorate, though set in the same alternate Victorian Era Steampunk universe. The book starts with the protagonist in the midst of quite a kerfuffle. Yet again the reader (or listener) is drawn in by humor, calamity, and gloriously independent and interesting characters. She, of course, left us hanging, and most definitely wanting more. We did eventually find out that there will be some repeat characters from the afore mentioned series! I must interject here that, guaranteed, the majority of the audience contemplated absconding with that single copy of Etiquette and Espionage as it will sadly not be released until February 2013. Such is the nature of the publishing industry.

Soon enough, Ms. Carriger entranced us with her effervescent, gracious, and mannerly comportment. What followed was an afternoon of what seemed an intimate conversation among new friends, but which masqueraded as a Q and A session. A bevy of topics were covered – would that I could convey them all in a timely manner in this article. Instead, I will give a few highlights and hope that, should the occasion occur for you to attend such an event, that you will indulge and attend to discover for yourself Ms. Carriger’s grace and wit.

She waxed about her beginnings in a small artist/beat poet community where she went in the very different direction of archeology, so that I began to think of her as a young Mary Cassatt (or Diane di Prima) - Indiana Jones hybrid, but with panache. Ms. Carriger had a friend who, at 15 years of age, had a short story published. Describing herself as someone who was constantly writing, Ms. Carriger realized at that moment that SHE could be published as well. And she did have short stories published here and there. So she continued to write, branching into novels… and be rejected for nearly 10 years. At some point she noticed what would get published was her humor, whereas her novels generally followed another style. When she sussed out how to stretch comedy, which she defined as creating “the opposite of expectation,” into a tale the length of a book, she was finally an author.

So that’s the road she took to get here, a very successful Steampunk author. How she writes is equally interesting. Ms. Carriger says for every hour she writes, there is an hour of research that goes into it. She is a “social writer,” preferring to write with an author friend sitting across from her. Both being comedy writers, she says they will be doing their own thing and one will start snickering a devilish little laugh at something they just did to one of their characters, and the other must, of course, be told what is funny. Or one will be stumped with how to phrase a particular idea, or trying to come up with that word that is eluding them at that moment, and enlist the other’s aid. Personally, I think this would be the ideal writing environment, though both Ms. Carriger and I are aware it isn’t suited to everyone’s style.

One of the things Ms. Carriger delights in is the naming of characters. She says that they are often “cookies” (in the gaming sense) to the nature of the characters. A little Google here and there will lend considerable insight. When this question came up, she commented on how much fun she has with it, and mentioned how she didn’t understand authors who used names like John… or EDWARD. I must say, this brought the best laugh of the day. I’ll take an Akeldama or a Hisselpenny, a Featherstonehaugh or a Tarabotti over the prosaic, common names every time. I might add, for me, a favorite of her names, purely for the humor of it, is Major Channing Channing of the Chesterfield Channings… and boy-howdy, does he live up to it!

So many interesting things were covered, far too many to put down here, but what I most came away with was the knowledge that the author actually outshines her fantastic books. This was underscored at the end of the event when she took the time to talk with anyone who stood in line to meet her or get an autograph or photo. Also, I’m so glad she wears vintage 50’s white gloves, too… I thought I was the only one.

This is your Cub Reporter*, signing off.

*Thanks to my bestie Moxie aka, my Californian Cub Reporter, for covering Gail's Sunnyvale event for Steampunk Summer. I think it was fate that she was supposed to attend, do you notice how amazingly their outfits complement each other! A perfect ending for the Gail Carriger portion of Steampunk Summer, make sure to stop by Friday to see which author or authors will be next! Also, be sure to enter my giveaway to win Steampunk Swag, one of which is Gail's favorite book! Moxie will hopefully be back later in the summer to discuss Warehouse 13 with me (that's if I can get the article rolling). She also claims she will be my dedicated photographer for Teslacon III, though I'm sure her outfits will knock it out of the park compared to mine, so that you'll get a few more high quality photos of my costume, which I'll be discussing as per usual in my Sartorial Sundays post.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review - Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Published by: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: June 16th, 2011
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

The only reason I ever found out who Caitlin Moran is is because of a good book cover. Yes, we've all been lured into picking up a book because of a fabulous cover, sometimes to our detriment, but for me it was really all about that hand lettering. For about six months straight How to Be a Woman was featured almost daily in my Waterstones email and I seriously clicked the link every time to admire the lettering. What I wouldn't give to be able to do hand lettering, but sadly it's not in my wheelhouse. Despite my insane case of cover lust I didn't feel compelled to buy the book. I'm not into nonfiction, I'm not into books that explore feminism, so I wrote off this book as not for me. Then all of a sudden within the last few weeks Caitlin Moran got on my radar again. One of my friends was reading another of her books, Moranthology, I have an e-galley of How to Build a Girl languishing on my Kindle, and Caitlin and her sister Caroline wrote a show based loosely on their childhood, Raised by Wolves, which has been airing on the BBC. It was really this last one that got me interested in reading more of her work. In twenty minutes I was able to gauge her humor and realize, that while uneven, it might just be for me.

How to Be a Woman was a great companion piece to Raised by Wolves, I got deeper insight into what might be a funny throw away line on the show by hearing the full story. It was like spending a little holiday in Caitlin's brain, which was oddly restful, relatable, and fun; and like all holidays, had it's crappy moments too. While I've seen many reviews saying how she is the British Tina Fey, I'd actually compare her writing style, and also her upbringing, more to David Sedaris. I had the same feelings reading this book as I did when I first read Me Talk Pretty One Day. The insights are something I've thought of but never really been able to verbalize. Their writing style makes me wish that I was more polished, that I could write like this. Because the truth of the matter is, while yes, I might have a book in me, I know in my heart of hearts that it would never be fiction. My book would be more memoir or a Roman à clef, and I would hope it would be like this. More even... but still, like this. 

What I admire most about this book is how she simplifies the definition of feminism. Feminism has almost become a loaded word. Even women like me think of the strident feminist burning bras, not half the population just looking to be treated equally. So to simplify, here are Caitlin's instructions. "Put you hand in your underpants. a. Do you have a vagina? and b. Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said "yes" to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist." So simple and so true. I think Caitlin would probably now encourage me to stand on my hair and shout it, but due to wobbly chair and lack of coordination, this could end badly, so I will just say it here I AM A FEMINIST! But what saddens me is to look at this hopefulness in this book, this idea that we are all humans living together and hopefully we'll be bros and be just one of the guys and pal around in a world of equality and to see the reality of what has happened in the few short years since Caitlin wrote this book.

The truth is that this book is sadly dated. There's hope and progressive thought and in just four years so much progress has been undone. Rights of women are flowing out of our hands faster then water. How can we women be "one of the guys" when not only the government is turning against us but more and more vitriol is being spewed on the web against us? Look to Gamergate and all that has wrought! Gamergate is the newest horror in the ongoing culture war of men and women. What started as backlash for supposed preferment for a woman game designer has descended into sheer madness. Death threats, doxing, hate mail, threats of physical violence, in particular rape. This has created a culture of fear and hate, where even me writing about it gives me pause, because anyone who takes a stand and speaks out against Gamergate could be their next target. Caitlin Moran has even tweeted about this, but sadly the movement hasn't failed and is just as strong as ever, so maybe it's time to switch the conversation? I can't do it on a global scale, but I can in this review.

How to Be a Woman is the best when it's relatable, when Caitlin's experiences are shared by her fellow women, obviously me included. Her tackling what it's like to get your first period, which for me also happened on my thirteenth birthday, to dealing with the emergence of hair all over our bodies, I wanted to scream YES, but from my comfy chair (remember, bad balance, so no standing up on said chair here). Though I haven't experienced everything she has, no marriage and kids for me, these are such universally feminine issues that as a woman you get it, you understand. But the truth is Caitlin had a very interesting foray out of Wolverhampton and into the greater world at large, writing for Melody Maker at the age of sixteen. It's when she starts to dwell on specific events that happened to her that couldn't ever in a million years happen to you when the book loses that relatablity and starts to lose your interest. In particular I am thinking about Caitlin going to a very German bar with Lady Gaga. Yes, Caitlin's extrapolation of Gaga as a feminist icon works, but it's almost too specific and too much relating to her sitting in a banquette with Gaga falling asleep in her lap. Yes, it's an interesting if odd story, but I don't think it works in the context of the book.

But even if it's uneven and occasionally meandering, it's a book that every woman and every man should read. Seriously, I think guys would understand us a lot more just from a few key scenes in this book. And she's not afraid to tackle the big issues, like abortion, and she's not afraid of making herself look bad, she tells it like it is. Sometimes it can be preachy, and it is definitely NOT for everyone, ie abortion, but I feel somehow more connected after reading How to Be a Woman. It's not about "Girl Power" or anything so trite. It's about knowing that what I feel is somehow universal. That even if we are totally different people, and that my and Caitlin's life are so different you can barely compare us, there is literally an ocean that divides us, but underneath everything we are the same. If nothing else, this book will truly make you think. And laugh. A lot. Out loud.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Published by: Doubleday
Publication Date: July 17th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 5320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Sandcastle Girls is a sweeping historical love story steeped in Chris Bohjalian's Armenian heritage.When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo and travels south into Egypt to join the British army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.

Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents' ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed "The Ottoman Annex," Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura's grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family's history that reveals love, loss - and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations."

Everything about this discription screams must read book to me!

Legends: The Wrath of Gods by Anthony Horowitz
Published by: Kingfisher
Publication Date: July 17th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 160 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Don't mess with the gods. And if they mess with you? Run like hell . . .

When it comes to mixing it up with the Gods, woe be to the man (or woman) who makes them angry. Here is a collection of five stories that demonstrates just how angry those Gods can get. From creative re-tellings of the Greek stories Pandora’s Box, The Judgment of Paris, and Narcissus and Echo, to less familiar but equally cautionary Viking story of The Stolen Hammer of Thor, and the Inuit legend of The Ten Fingers of Sedna, one thing is clear—it never pays to mess with the Gods!"

Feels a bit like Horowitz is trying to get his lost readership back from Riordan by doing the same thing... knowing Horowitz, he'll do it better than Riordan.

The Guild Volume Two by Felicia Day
Published by: Dark Horse
Publication Date: July 17th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 155 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Felicia Day returns her hysterical, award-winning web show about online gamers to comics, and this time she's brought along her real-life Guild! Joining Day in writing are Guild co-stars Jeff Lewis (Vork) and Sandeep Parikh (Zaboo), producer Kim Evey, and director Sean Becker, for five tales spotlighting the members of the Knights of Good. Set before the first season of the show, these hilarious stories delighted fans and newbs alike and introduced plots that influenced the show itself, including Season 5's backstory of Tink, originally hinted at in these pages. Featuring a huge variety of comics' best artists as well as many of the talents key to the web series, and leading directly to the moment Zaboo unexpectedly appears at a startled Codex's front door in Episode 1, this collection comprises a true "Season 0" of The Guild!"

I have been very bad about keeping up with the comics. I adored the first comics and the show, so I can't wait for this collection!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sartorial Sundays

So, after weeks of teasing you, now the final reveal! I personally think it turned out pretty decent. I mean, when I saw other costumes I was in awe, but then I know my limitations. It was very comfortable, everything was easily accessible, and I didn't have a panic attack cause I was wearing a corset... that being my main concern if I where to wear a corset, what with my panic issues.

Here is my "passport" photo. Because, obviously, a ship that goes around the world needs you to have a passport... I of course couldn't resist the opportunity to "grunge" up the picture. If I'm an explorer, my passport must be used a lot after all...

Here you can see my full costume and the glories of a sunset over the pyramids. They had a cool green screen room and by golly, I was going to have a picture with me and pyramids! I wish they had told me to look left not right, because you can't see my alt kit very well, but then I'm sure the camels would have gotten mad. Also, as you can see, the alt kit tended to loosen up through the day of sitting and walking, so it needed tightening every once in awhile. This being right after the final event I was going to that evening I didn't bother to cinch it up and I wish I had...

A closer shot, which doesn't show off my belt too well, and again, I wish I had cinched that alt kit. But you can kind of see the jewelry, which I like. This year I should have tons better images because my friend Moxie is coming along and she said she'll be my personal photographer, as I will be for her, so I'll have far better pictures later this year!

Here is me and the lovely Gail Carriger. Sorry it is slightly out of focus, the people behind me just didn't understand how to use my camera no matter how many times I showed them... you can really see the awesome detail of the rivets on the jacket here. Also, my goofy gap teeth. Also, isn't Gail's outfit just lovely. Now that woman knows how to wear a corset!

Final picture, not that you can really see me, but I got this off the official photographer's site and if you look closely, there's me sitting in the back of the section on the aisle examining my tickets for the mummy unwrapping... at least I hope it's my tickets and no one caught me playing with my phone. In the very front row is Gail Carriger, Paul Magrs and George Mann... so, proof exists that I hung with them, even if we didn't get a picture at the time I at least have proof of being in the same room!

Next week... what would I have done differently given the chance?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Movie Review - Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec

Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec
Based on the comic books by Jacques Tardi
Release Date: April 14th, 2010
Starring: Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche,Jean-Paul Rouve, Jacky Nercessian, Philippe Nahon, Nicolas Giraud
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

It is the Belle Époque, an age of new technology and discovery in Paris. The last thing anyone would expect to be flying overhead is a pterodactyl. They haven't flown on the Earth for 136 million years. Yet, clearly, there is a pterodactyl on the loose reigning terror from the skies. Adèle Blanc-Sec, a journalist and travel writer of some renown, is off in Egypt looking for a very specific mummy, instead of being on assignment in South America, blissfully unaware of what she has started back in Paris. It all started because of a stupid accident and now Adèle thinks she has found the best way to set it right. With the mummified remains of Ramesses II's doctor. The pterodactyl is an unexpected consequence.

Yet, she and Professor Espérandieu where hesitant to use the mummy right away because they only have one chance to bring him back. Hence, the dinosaur. The dinosaur which has landed Professor Espérandieu in prison. So now Adèle must not only break out the Professor, but she must also get that dinosaur under control. Working against the clock and against the police, as well as a big game hunter, she must locate the dinosaur and set everything to right, even that long ago stupid accident. With the help of her love-struck stalker, Andrej Zborowski, perhaps Paris will return to normal and Adèle can get a well deserved vacation.

I quite literally did not know what to expect with this movie. Most of the Steampunk world has lauded this movie and the comics, even having a viewing of the movie at last year's Teslacon. I was hesitant to watch the movie because I wasn't really a fan of the comics. Well, I should say the ones I was able to read, because only the first four tales are currently available translated to English. I greatly admired the art in the book, especially Adèle's style, her clothes alone are a reason to love her, yet all the male characters looked the same, adding to utter confusion on my part, while by the second collection, Tardi is breaking the forth wall and comically joking that it must be hard to follow, sorry Jacques, it was hard to follow so your joke not only fell flat, but pissed me off more than a little. The movie was based on elements from the first story, Adèle and the Beast and the fourth story, Mummies on Parade.

Within the first few minutes I was scared that the movie was going to be a total disaster, the Papyrus/Herculaneum opening credits font did nothing to dispel this fear. Not only was the spelling atrocious in the closed captioning (good is not spelled god, and it's the 20th century, not the 200th, and getting Adèle right only 50% of the time isn't god, oh, I mean good), and it was so fast I had to rewind a lot, and some of the make-up was so comical I thought I was watching Dick Tracy. Now comical makeup can work, but when you have normal looking people next to comical people, it doesn't look right. I don't count Madonna as "normal" looking if we are to stick with the Dick Tracy metaphor. Yet, somehow I was quickly pushing these problems aside and just having fun with it. I suspect it was the fact that Egypt quickly made an appearance, and more strongly suspect it was how Adèle handled a camel that brought the first real laugh to my mouth.

Yet really I have to thank Besson, he understands the concept of "based on." He streamlined the narrative from the comics. Made them intelligible and a fun romp, instead of a confusing read. Maybe, in truth, the comics just always needed a bigger venue to tell their story and a movie was exactly what was needed all along. Plus, daring rescues with dinosaurs don't look nearly as impressive in one of two frames of a comic, as they do on the big screen. I sincerely hope that they get the chance to continue this series, because it was funny and sweet and has a humdinger of a cliffhanger, which I would love to see Besson's interpretation of.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

~Questions and Answers with Gail Carriger~

Gail Carriger has the dubious honor of being the first author to be subjected to my "Steampunk Twenty Questions" (which turned out to be fifteen, because I wanted to make sure they where quality, funny and easy to answer, authors have busy lives, Gail more than most right now.) Gail holds the honor of being the first author to not only interest me in Steampunk, but to draw me fully into the world and search out more authors. Witty, tea-driven and corset wearing, Gail is not just a great satirical writer in her Parasol Protectorate books, she is an amazing world-builder, plot weaver and storyteller, not to mention fun to have tea with. Please join me as Gail answers fifteen mainly silly, but all Steampunky, questions.

Question: What is the definitive Steampunk book for you?

Answer: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Kevin O'Neill.

*Which, in honor of Gail, a copy of this comic has been added to my Steampunk Summer Giveaway, so be sure to enter!

Question: What drew you to this genre?

Answer: I came to Steampunk first as an aesthetic movement. I’m a longtime fan of vintage clothing and Goth style; Steampunk drew me in as a cheerful melding of the two. I also love seeing recycled technology used as jewelry, and other examples of how creative the maker community has become over the past few years.

Question: How do you take your tea?

Answer: Milky but strong with no sweetener. And I have a whole blog post on how to make the perfect cuppa.

*Gail dutifully doctoring her tea at Teslacon. That's George Mann next to her, Steampunk sqwee.

Question: Must have sartorial accessory?

Answer: Cup and saucer holster.

Question: Sartorial leaning: Street Urchin, Tinker, Explorer or Aesthete?

Answer: Carriger Pigeon as defined by the Steampunk Scholar for an article in Exhibition Hall on steampunk tribes:

"Like Gail Carriger, these steampunks make their own steampunk clothing, or at the very least do their own mods to it. They are up to date on the latest fashions, and despite the TruePunk value on being counter-consumerism, find themselves in apoplectic fits before a sale at Dark Garden corsets. Speaking of corsets, Carriger Pigeons can tell you when you aren't wearing yours properly, because many of you aren't (A BT Carriger Pigeon will do this with grace. A Jeterist of TruePunk Carriger Pigeon will simply mock you from afar.)"

~ Steampunk Scholar

Of course what I want as a result of this article is little pigeons that fly around and critique people's fashion choices. And, I really need a pigeon on a hat.

*Pigeon in a Top Hat by Alice Tams

Question: Top hat or bowler hat?

Answer: Teeny tiny topper.

Question: Subgenre you most identify with: Boilerpunk, Clockpunk, Dieselpunk, Gaslight Romance, Mannerspunk, Raygun Gothic or Stitchpunk?

Answer: Teapunk!

Question: If there was one thing that could truly exist from the world of Steampunk what would it be?

Answer: A kettle that is mounted on a moving transport and utilizes the wind to boil water. Tea anywhere on the go. Closely followed by Alexia's parasol dejour ~ kind of like a swiss army knife in parasol form.

Question: If there was one element in the Steampunk genre you could remove forever what would it be?

Answer: Petty commentary and "true steampunk" snobbery.

Question: Favorite movie or television series with Steampunk elements?

Answer: The Extraordinary Adventured of Adele Blanc Sec.

Question: Preferred mode of transport: celestial, aether, terra firma or aquatic?

Answer: Aquatic. I adore the ocean.

Question: Favorite Queen to have had a diamond jubilee, Victoria or Elizabeth?

Answer: Victoria.

Question: Victorian or Wild West?

Answer: Victorian.

Question: Would you like an automaton butler or ladies maid, considering that it might be the first step in the robotic apocalypse?

Answer: Ladies maid. But I do have a Roomba so I might be already on that downward spiral. His name is Beebo and I am very very nice to him.

Question: If The Doctor showed up at your door, where would you go?

Answer: Ancient Etruria.*

*Was a region of Central Italy, located in an area that covered part of what now are Tuscany, Latium, Emilia-Romagna, and Umbria. Where the Etruscans are from.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Book Review - Deborah Harkness' Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
Published by: Viking
ARC Provided by Viking
Publication Date: July 10th, 2012
Format: Kindle, 592 Pages
Rating: ★★★

To Buy

Diana and Matthew did it! They have successfully arrived in 1590 at Matthew's house in Woodstock. Diana thought that getting there would be the hard part, but that was easy compared to being thrown directly into the middle of the School of Night. The smartest and savviest and most renowned and infamous men of the age seem to view Matthew's house as their home... and they do not care for Diana, at first, or forever as the case may be with the lovestruck Marlowe. Soon it becomes apparent that maybe this wasn't the best idea. Matthew has drastically changed from the man he was then, not to mention the lack of a beard. And Diana... well, she obviously doesn't fit. From language to comportment to behaviour. She. Doesn't. Fit. Though as scary as being found out is, the summons from Matthew's father is even scarier. He could bring this world down around them in a flash.

Travelling to Sept Tours and living amongst Matthew's past is trying for Diana, as is the fact they have done nothing that they planned to do. She is still ignorant of her abilities and Ashmole 782 looks as if it is never to be found in the past. Matthew and Diana are buffeted around by all the people who have a claim on them, from Philippe to Queen Elizabeth to Emperor Rudolf II to the Congregation, from France to London to Prague, they try to fit there lives and their needs among the demands of these great people. As time goes on, there is more and more of a chance of effecting the past and there is more and more of a need for Diana to learn her craft and find her book and get home. Luckily, fate does seem to occasionally shine on them and sometimes their tragedies turn into greater joys.

Shadow of Night literally picks up right where A Discovery of Witches ended. While I enjoyed the first book, though didn't view it as a staggering piece of genius, but more as Twilight for the more educated adults out there, I found myself liking this book more. There were still times when I felt it was too Twilighty, what with the importance of Matthew's family, his desire for a wedding before coupling, the desire for Diana mixed in with feelings of blood lust, but at least it's obvious that Harkness knows this and she does parody it with a conversation about modern literature at Sept Tours. There where a few other mild annoyances I will mention here because they seem to fit this "Twilight" category versus any other. If Diana and Matthew had only been together for 40 days, how could her period be "off" when it barely had time to be on? Supposedly her torture changed her cycle... but only having your period different once doesn't indicate a trend of irregularity. Continuing in the vein of bodily functions, some of there sex scenes where veering towards the eww versus the aww.  "With my spine bowed, he was poised at the entrance to my womb." Icky, no thanks!

Now, let's discuss what really annoyed me, Diana's ignorance. For someone who is supposed to be a historian written by a historian, I might add, Diana is really dumb sometimes. Diana mistook a silver shaker, aka a Pounce Pot, for a salt shaker. Even if you don't know the technical term, anyone who has watched any period drama knows that there is a silver shaker that is on all writing desks that contains sand, or a similar substance, and it is an aid for absorbing excess ink in letter writing. Not one person I know would go, "oh look, salt" and then complain about it's grittiness. Grrr Diana. Also, how does a historian not know that at the time of Queen Elizabeth St. Paul's wasn't the St. Paul's by Christopher Wren, seeing as that wasn't for almost two hundred years and a great fire needed to happen. Then there's the use of the word tisane, which is an herbal tea. I can allow that Diana would use it, because she's from modern times, but the fact that others would understand it is impossible. It's from the 1930s! Then there's the quintain. I've known what a quintain was most of my life, probably because I have a younger brother who loved medieval jousting. Again, Diane must have seen a movie or a reference to the sandbags on pivots used to train in jousting. Even if she didn't know the name, she should at least know it's NOT a gibbit. The real shocker of ignorance though was when she asked a kindly Jewish man why he had a golden ring embroidered on his clothing. Facepalm Diana, facepalm. Even the Nazis used a similar method for the demarcation of being Jewish. Girl, you need to catch up on some history.

The School of Night was also another note of contention for me. Mainly because we are thrown, with Diana, head first into this group of intellectual men and have to spend the entire first part of the book listening to them bickering and sharing barbs and witticisms while desperately trying to remember who's who. These people are nothing to me. They are historical figures that are there to add to the mystique of Matthew's past, but instead just pissed me off. I liked Kit being a bitchy little boy, but other than that, I could take them or leave them. Which is much how I felt for many of the historical sections of the book... oh, who am I kidding, almost all of the historical sections. When I had an investment with Diana or Matthew or another character, than the history mattered and fascinated me. The characters she created of the young witch Annie and the street urchin Jack where lovely and broke my heart. When they where in Prague I couldn't put this book down. Yet previously I felt that we where being led on a tour of Elizabethan England. I was reading a travel guide for the time, not historical fiction. I quite literally cheered when Diana said it was "time to stop treating our sojourn here as an advanced seminar in Shakespeare's England." Because that was what the book was! Hundreds of pages of exposition, when they came to search for the Ashmole 782 and get Diana learned in the dark arts. I didn't need them playing Elizabethan house for the whole first half of the book!

Though the negatives, which I can pinpoint, while occasionally taking me out of the book (tisane, grummble grummble), didn't take away from the fact that this is a fun book. Once everything started to come together that is. When the magic started to be incorporated and we didn't dwell on the barbs and witticisms of the men, I felt the book finally became what Diana had set out to find. The way that spells are different than magic, at least for witches other than Diana. The familiars that would reside in you. Also, the way other religions magic was touched on, like the Jewish witch's Golem. A total aside, but golems are awesome, ever since I read Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay I have been a friend of the Golems! Though not Tolkien's Golem, just so we're clear, my preciouses. This was when the book became what I was hoping it would be. We went beyond the typical challenges of a girl and a vampire love story and Harkness brought something new and interesting. Of course, seeing as this is the second book in a trilogy, we where left hanging to some extent, but at least I was satisfied enough till the next book.

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