Friday, May 1, 2015

Crichton Celebration

Shocking as it may seem that an Anglophile and bibliophile became this way because of one of the most popular bestselling authors of thrillers and science fiction it is still true. Michael Crichton made me who I am. My formative years were all television shows and movies, with the occasional novelization of said television show or movie as my reading for the year. I'd sometimes daringly branch out to such books as Timothy Zahn's continuation of the Star Wars saga; but reading for fun was something I rarely did. Thanks to a biology teacher who knew some kids weren't cut out for science I found a love of one author and a love of reading that would change my life.

It was my sophomore year in high school and I was finally taking biology. The previous year I was able to convince my parents that if they made me take science my first year I'd be more likely to skip school... seeing as how much I already skipped it's surprising that this ploy worked. But I really lucked out in my biology teacher. I got to build a model of a plant cell, which my teacher liked so much that he asked to keep it. In later years in high school I would use my artistic talents in as many classes as I could to my benefit, even doing a painting for my history class of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, but this was the first time I realized that I could use my skill set outside of art classes. One of these optional assignments in biology was reading Jurassic Park.

Jurassic Park was the very first Michael Crichton book that I read and over the next few years I would devour everything he had ever written. Because I still had such a love of movies whenever a Crichton book was adapted for the screen this became a big deal. The mid nineties was the perfect time to be a Crichton fanatic in this regard. Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, Disclosure, Congo, The Lost World, Sphere, and The 13th Warrior were all made into films! I remember the sheer excitement of getting to go to an advance screening of The Lost World at Point Cinema with my friends. Yes, the movie was awful, but I can still remember that anticipation. That anticipatory excitement is once again running through me, I mean have you seen the trailer for Jurassic World yet? This got me to thinking of all the Crichton books that I haven't read in years and all the movies I only saw in the theaters and I thought, it's time to revisit my roots. And thus my Crichton Celebration was born. I hope you'll join me the next two months counting down to Jurassic World with a look back at Crichton's and my shared past.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review - Mary Robinette Kowal's Of Noble Family

Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 579 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

After their ordeals in Italy, Jane and Vincent are enjoying their time in Vienna. They are catching up with Vincent's old mentor, Herr Scholes, as well as enjoying becoming acquainted with Jane's new nephew, Tom, who is the pride and joy of the combined Vincent, Ellsworth and O'Brien families. But the Vincents don't know where they will go next after Vienna. The death of Princess Charlotte has plunged England into a yearlong state of mourning, therefore glamourists are without commissions. A shocking letter from Vincent's older brother Richard might give their immediate future purpose. Vincent's hateful father has finally died on his West Indian plantation Greycroft after fleeing England and charges of treason. But even more shocking is the death of Lord Verbury's son and heir, Garland. Garland was killed in a carriage accident that also crippled Richard, the new Lord Verbury. Richard calls on Vincent's compassion, though he knows their family doesn't deserve the consideration, to go to Antigua and settle the estate for him.

Vincent has only started to heal from the abuse handed out by his father because of Jane's love. To travel to Antigua might undo all the good she has done for him. But Jane has a sneaking suspicion that until Vincent sees his father in his grave he will never be truly at rest. They decide to travel to Antigua and see what fate has in store for them. Fate is a cruel mistress. Richard wouldn't have sent Vincent to the West Indies if he had known the truth of things. Lies, betrayal, hatred, manipulation, in other words, a typical Hamilton family get-together is in store for the happy couple, who foresee another addition to their family in the near future. Though to get back to England and the happy arrival of their child they might just have to walk through hell without knowing who their allies are.

This series, which started out as an homage to Austen with a magical bent has, over the past five years, evolved into a series that, despite it's fantastical alternate history, captures the complexity of the world better then Austen ever did. Each volume helped to create this ever expanding world view that touched on everything from warfare to basic human rights, with a pirate or two thrown in. While Jane Austen's novels are classics that defy comparison, there is something about the cloistered world that they reside in that gives you a very focused and therefore skewed view of the world. While yes, her drawing room dramas can be seen as a microcosm of the world at large, anything beyond the pale, from duels to fallen women to what exactly Sir Thomas Bertram was up to in Antigua are glossed over with just a line because it wouldn't be proper to dwell on them. Modern interpretations of Austen have tried to flesh out these omissions, what with Harold Pinter's portrayal of Sir Thomas Bertram as a reprehensible plantation owner in the unwatchable 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park, but they leave something to be desired.

Mary has built a far better basis for the discussion of race and slavery then Austen ever intended in her books. As someone I was close to said about the aforementioned adaptation of Mansfield Park, it helped if you didn't view it as Austen. That is the key. To get to these new conversations, to approach the world at large you have to think beyond Austen, evolve into something more. Mary has made that something more in this series. With Of Noble Family she is continuing the race discussion that was begun with the coldmongers in Without a Summer and single-handedly blasting away the whitewashing of this time period. All too often we see the world as we want to see it and are scared of tackling the big issues. Sad to say, I don't think I'd ever pick up a book that dealt slavery in Antigua and the running of plantations in the early 1800s. It's not in my wheelhouse. But by taking characters I love and putting them as the voice of reason in this sadly all too common situation my knowledge expanded and my empathetic nature was touched.

With Jane and Vincent's arrival in Antigua the whole series feels as if it has moved drastically forward in time, though I don't believe more then three years has elapsed chronologically for them. Charlotte Bronte, despite always dissing Jane Austen, is the natural evolution of female writing in the 19th century. We go from a constricted world with true yet not as emotional love to a world with Mr. Rochester. Think about it, he brings the passion, the fire (quite literally), and the loose morals. He is a man of the world while Jane Eyre is more out of Austen. Of Noble Family is rightly permeated with this more modern Jane Eyre vibe, even more so if you've read Wide Sargasso Sea. The one month journey across the sea has literally opened up a whole new world for Jane and Vincent and because of this we can have all these new conversations. We can talk about race and servant versus slave. I've loved this series from the beginning, but this volume goes out with a bang at almost double the length but without feeling burdened by it's more divisive topics.

What appealed to me as an artist is this idea of different ways for glamour to be looked at and taught. Jane has a very strict view of the proper way to do her art. She was taught in the greatest European traditions. But I love that through Nkiruka she learns that black Africans, in particular Igbo, have an entirely different way of creating glamour. I adore Nkiruka and that she's always admonishing Jane because Jane is constrained by what a certain glamour is called. Jane's knowledge of glamour comes from borrowing heavily on words and phrases derived from textile and weaving. But this is a hindrance. As Nkiruka points out, by naming something after something else you are limiting what you are able to do. This literally just blew my mind. There was an opening up in me and I was reminded of that quote "what would attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?" Working within constraints is often the bane of artists. Jane is giving herself impositions without even knowing she's doing it. With Nkiruka we have someone who has had a harsh life and doesn't have as much to lose and therefore she has been able to accomplish more in her art, to do things that those traditionally trained would think inconceivable.

Combining the craft of Nkiruka and exploration of race within Of Noble Family, there's a line that Mrs. Pridemore says that hits directly on something that you still see in the art world; and that is artists of color are viewed more as "folk art" then as just artists. While yes, there is a folk art tradition, how would you feel if all the art you made was labelled as such? Black artists are continually fighting an uphill battle to be taken seriously and not classified by their cultural history. We might like to blind ourselves to the world around us, to cocoon ourselves in an Austen drawing room, but seriously, look around yourself. This book might have been written about a time when slavery was still the norm, but it's not like race relations are doing that well at the moment. We need to have books like this that are able to connect and resonant with us on an emotional level with our love of the characters but are also able to open up our minds and start conversations. Start the healing.

And healing is needed for many things; for pain and emotional turmoil can happen to anyone, slave or not. Just look to Vincent. With his family and his past coming to the fore he is dealing with reopening his wounds so that they can finally heal properly. If you think about it the fight for freedom, the fight against slavery, the fight against family, all of it is about finding your place in the world. Finding a place to call home where you are safe and cherished and loved. Vincent fights great demons in this book, it is at times hard to read of his suffering, as hard as it is to read of the whippings, but it's all about moving forward. Vincent has always felt awkward around Jane's family because she grew up in a world of love. With the birth of their child he now has a place in that family, as well as a larger family found through strife and turmoil. The world would be a better place if everyone could find this solace somewhere. For me it is in the pages of this book.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Tuesday Tomorrow

Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 579 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Jane and Vincent have finally gotten some much-needed rest after their adventures in Italy when Vincent receives word that his estranged father has passed away on one of his properties in the West Indies. His brother, who manages the estate, is overwhelmed, and no one else in his family can go. Grudgingly, out of filial duty the couple decide to go.

The sea voyage is long and Jane spends enough time unable to perform glamour that towards the end of the trip she discovers that she is with child. They are overjoyed, but when they finally arrive at the estate to complete what they expect to be routine legal tasks, they realize that nearly everything they came expecting to find had been a lie. Also, the entire estate is in disarray, with horrifying conditions and tensions with the local slave population so high that they are close to revolt.

Jane and Vincent's sense of peril is screaming out for them to flee, but Vincent cannot stand to leave an estate connected with his family in such a condition. They have survived many grand and terrifying adventures in their time, but this one will test their skills and wits more than any they have ever encountered before, this time with a new life hanging in the balance. Mary Robinette Kowal's Of Noble Family is the final book of the acclaimed Glamourist Histories."

While not the ONLY reason for Regency Magic, it did play a strong part in shaping the idea in my head and then when I would do it during the year. Also, it's bloody marvelous! 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pink Carnation Spotlight - Dominic West (André Jaouen)

André Jaouen's dream casting has been a thorn in my side now for several years. I just couldn't alight on just the right actor who had the looks, the brains, and the chops to take on this role. Then, after mistakenly thinking I had found my André I started my re-read of The Orchid Affair and Dominic West showed up hijacking my planned casting and doing a fabulous job of it I might add. So here's to an actor that showed up when I least expected it.

Name: Dominic West

"Dream" Character Casting for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: André Jaouen

First Impression: I remember the new adaptation of Richard III was really hot when I was taking Shakespeare in High School (yes, it's been awhile). What everyone was talking about though was a young actor who was stealing the movie, that young actor was Dominic West. He was fine, but overall the adaptation felt flat to me, like it was trying too hard to reinvent the wheel. Dominic's next Shakespearean appearance would be more successful in my mind. It was A Midsummer Night's Dream if you must know. 

Why they'd be the perfect actor for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Because my subconscious obviously thinks he's the one. But more then that, he is an actor that excels at whatever he's cast in so there's no doubt he'd be an amazing Jaouen. There's also an elegance to him while still not being upper crust, which wouldn't do for our favorite lawyer cum Royalist. Also, I just can so viscerally see him backstage performing in that absurd Commedia dell'arte costume pulling off his eyebrows to rush to his son's aid, it's not even funny how real it is to me.

Lasting Impression: If, like me, you knew Dominic's work and respected it but are still not wowed by him, check out The Hour. He seriously blew me away with his performance of Hector Madden and how he could be arrogant and vulnerable and sexy all at the same time. The house party where he seduces Romala Garai's character Bel Rowley, just wow. Why did they cancel this show again? Seriously. I want it back.

What else you've seen them in: Seeing as he's been acting since I was in High School, Dominic has amassed a seriously impressive filmography. For the BBC addicts there are the Shakespeare adaptations, the Dickens adaptations, the miniseries The Devil's Whore, the spooky movie The Awakening. For the chick flick fan there's Mona Lisa Smile, Spice World, Burton and Taylor. For the action adventure type, how about 300? There is literally a movie or show or miniseries to fit every mood from musical, Chicago, to drama, The Affair. Though, when in doubt, he's in one of the most highly regarded television series of all time, The Wire! Also, how could I let the chance to have a picture of Chalky White, aka the actor Michael Kenneth Williams, pass on my website?

Can't believe it's them: He was in Star Wars - The Phantom Menace? Seriously, I can't stop laughing. Make it stop, the tears, the pain in my side. Look at that outfit. Hahahahaha.

Wish they hadn't: I'm sure when he signed onto Star Wars - The Phantom Menace it was a good job, not the joke it is today, but still. Could we expunge this from his rather stellar record?

Bio: Oh, posh, Dominic went to Eton before going to Trinity College in Dublin, and then going to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where my choice for his Miss Grey also went, coincidence? I think not! Despite starting on stage at the young age of nine he spent some time in Argentina as a cattle herder! Because, why not. He has rarely been out of work and is always well regarded, but his recent performance opposite Ruth Wilson in The Affair has once again put him in the spotlight garnering many award nominations and laurels. Catch the laurels Dominic! He is also known for turning down a role in Game of Thrones! Of course while he might have been a better Mance Rayder, he is the definitive Noah Solloway.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Pink Carnation Spotlight - Michelle Dockery (Laura Grey)

From the moment I first delved into Laura Grey's story in The Orchid Affair there was only one actress in my mind who could bring this character to life. Someone with the looks, the attitude, and the acting chops.

Name: Michelle Dockery

"Dream" Character Casting for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Laura Grey

First Impression: The first thing I ever saw Michelle in was her second ever screen credit in the adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather. She literally killed it as Susan, DEATH's granddaughter and a governess, and by it I mean the monsters under the bed disturbing her charges with a poker. Quite literally the definition of stoic and unshakable governess.

Why they'd be the perfect actor for the Lauren Willig Miniseries: Well, aside from the whole governess angle, she has this ability to appear perfectly calm and collected, like she's wearing a mask or armor, but when she starts to soften, you realize all the emotions that mask was hiding. I can't think of anyone who can portray that stoic resolve that melts when she finds love. Plus, she's good with a poker.

Lasting Impression: Seriously, Hogfather people. There was no way it was anything but memorable and awesome, even if Going Postal is still the best Pratchett adaptation out there.

What else you've seen them in: Um Downton Abbey anyone? Most popular British import show to the US ever? Michelle has also been in a few crime shows like Waking the Dead, Heatbeat, and Dalziel and Pascoe, but for those of the Masterpiece Theatre fandom, you've most likely seen her in The Hollow Crown, Anna Karenina, Return to Cranford, or The Turn of the Screw. Only some of those I'd recommend... but at least The Turn of the Screw was a little more inventive then most adaptations and didn't tease you with Colin Firth.

Can't believe it's them: Michelle has a little role in Fingersmith, which isn't the best adaptation of the book, but it was fun to see her first role on screen.

Wish they hadn't: Seriously, this is a hard choice between Red Riding and Return to Cranford. Red Riding was just all around bleak with almost indecipherable accents loosely following events around the Yorkshire Ripper. But I think the crown goes to Return to Cranford, which was just atrocious. All the characters had personality transplants from the first series and the book, and then both Michelle AND Tom Hiddleston were underused, both with ridiculous haircuts to boot, see the picture above.

Bio: Michelle seems to have been made for the stage, starting young and then going to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, getting her first television job the year after she graduated in the adaptation of Sarah Waters's Fingersmith. But she's never fully left the stage, appearing in such wide ranging productions as His Dark Materials, Pygmalion, and Hamlet. She is often on stage for singing as well, being a jazz singer who has performed and collaborated with her Downton Abbey co-star, Elizabeth McGovern and her band, Sadie and the Hotheads. But it's was truly her role as Lady Mary in Downton Abbey that launched her to fame in 2010. At least fame hasn't damped her sense of humor, as you can see in this fabulous Lady Mary spoof, Tough Justice.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Review - Mary Robinette Kowal's Valour and Vanity

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal
ARC Provided by the Author
Published by: Tor Books
Publication Date: April 29th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Jane and Vincent have been accompanying Melody and her new husband on their wedding tour of the continent. Leaving the newlyweds at Trieste, Jane and Vincent take ship to Murano. Lord Byron has given the Vincents an open invitation to visit him in Venice, which is a nice cover for what they plan to do in Murano. They have long wanted to visit the famed glassmakers there after their discovery about weaving magic into glass to make it portable and not tethered to the earth in a fixed locale. The couple hope that with improved techniques and materials they can get reliable results. Yet as Napoleon rallied and invaded Belgium when they were first experimenting with this idea, they are once again derailed by outside influences.

This time they are set upon by pirates who, while ransoming them and hence not enslaving them, take all their possessions and leave Vincent with a nasty concussion. Finding Byron away from home they are struck with the realization that they are destitute. A kind man from the infamous boat journey takes them in and gives them everything they could need till either Byron returns or they are able to alert their families. Only sometimes kind men have ulterior motives and the Vincents could be in far more trouble then they could even guess. In fact pirates might be a welcome relief. Just don't tell Jane's mother about the pirates, she'll never forgive Vincent.

There are few authors out there which I will drop everything for. Phone calls go unanswered, emails pile up, work deadlines get stretched to breaking point. If it wasn't for the fact that food keeps me going and therefore keeps me reading I don't think I would remember to eat. Even on a re-read of these books I have found myself reverting to these habits that are usually only employed when I first hold the book in my hands. My love of these books has grown and developed over time, much like the books themselves. They are no longer just Jane Austen fanfic with magic, they're so much more! The books are part history, part fantasy, part alternate reality, there's just so much to love about them that I really can't stress enough that you should go out right now and get yourself all the books, because the first won't be enough.

So what keeps me coming back to Mary's series, seeing as I have just devoured the first four books in quick succession yet again? Aside from the fact that I love anything Regency (ahem Regency Magic) and Mary captures the feeling of the time period by sprinkling in historic details without inundating us with information, she has created a world where the magic just works. I'm not talking about works as in you say a spell and wow a light goes on, or even that it's successful in that something magical happens, I'm saying in the way she has created how magic is done just makes sense. The way magic resides in the ether out of the visible range and is brought forth and woven into something visible, either temporary or lasting, just works, it makes sense. Add to that the manipulation of ether outside the visible spectrum, such as cold and hot, as being dangerous, and the system just clicks into place.

As an artist myself, the way you think creatively, the way work takes a toll on you physically and mentally, Mary just nails it. While Jane would blush if I went into specifics, the issue with her "flower" I totally get. There is such a simpatico going on between me and Jane with our feelings and our physical beings that I am right there with her every step of the way. While yes, there is this part of me going, Jane is me, there's a happier part of me going Jane is Jane. She is an amazing heroine, she doesn't just have a spine, she has spine enough for both her and Vincent, supporting them through their trials and hardships, making plans, taking names, befriending nuns, it's just perfect.

And those hardships. Mary perfectly captures the day to day struggle of someone who once didn't have to worry about where the next meal will come from. The shame of being less then you were and being indebted to others and having your name sullied. Wondering if there will be shelter, if there will be food, if you will be warm. Valour and Vanity shows the flip side of Regency life. It's not all ballrooms and magic, it can be working on the street in danger of fainting just hoping to bring money home for some food or wood for the fire. And the scene where Jane buys a bar of soap. The fact that a bar of soap can be such a luxury and such a source of contention. But I can say, there is something so amazing that something as small as a little bar of soap that can subtly change your outlook. But I do also look at Jane's life and think, I am glad I grew up knowing how to cook and clean. There can be something said for self-reliance.

Now speaking of those nuns... they are just one of the many aspects that made this book so awesome. The blurbs comparing this installment to Ocean's Eleven aren't wrong. Only I would personally choose Ocean's Twelve, having seen it twice in theatres it's a better movie for many reasons; it has an awesome soundtrack, has a part in Italy, I believe even in Venice, has an amazing Chachi joke, makes more fun of itself with meta humor, and has Eddie Izzard. Here we have glamourists, nuns, pirates, puppet shows, disguises, the Eleventh Doctor, breaking and entering, there is just so much awesome that it's hard to pinpoint what makes it work so well unless you count the fact that everything works so seamlessly together.

The thing I found interesting is you don't really think of heists starting before this past century. Sure there were pirates and brigands and all number of baddies who did all number of innumerable nasty things, but the heist feels like a more modern invention. In fact the definition of heist shows the word being an Americanism from the twenties and even references cars to define it. Aside from Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery, while being Victorian in conceit, but still very much a product of the seventies, I can't think of a successful book that combines a 19th century setting with an elaborate heist. For this alone Valour and Vanity should be held extraordinary and a must read, if not for every other reason I mentioned. Oh, and of course, me being a pusher for this series. Go on! You know you want to read it...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review - Mary Robinette Kowal's Without a Summer

Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
Published by: Tor
Publication Date: April 2nd, 2013
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

Jane and Vincent have been recuperating at Long Parkmeade after the trials and tribulations they faced in France. Though spending so much time with Jane's family is hard on her, she can see it's excessively wearying for her husband. Luckily a commission in London means they are not long for the city. Jane though feels a tug of pity for her sister. Here is Melody, trapped far away from eligible bachelors and aging more and more with every passing season. Jane impulsively decides to help Melody by taking her with them to London. Jane and Vincent can work during the day and throw parties and go to receptions in their spare time so that Melody gets a chance at the happiness her sister has attained.

London though is in a state of upheaval. The unnaturally cold weather means that crops are failing and people are looking for someone to blame, and they focus on the Coldmongers, a subgroup within glamourists that dangerously use glamour outside the visible spectrum and therefore have a short life expectancy. There is also the Irish Question and lingering hostilities towards the French. Because of Jane and Vincent's notoriety as the Prince Regent's Glamourists as well as Vincent being the son of Lord Vebury, they soon are dragged into the world of politics and their entire life is on show for the world. Will they be able to save their marriage, England, and get Melody married? That might take a little magic to pull off.

Re-reading Without a Summer I think that I might have maligned the book too much previously. I felt like it was such a departure for the final forth of the book from everything that came before that it was a square peg in a round hole. It was waving at sharks and thinking of perhaps jumping over them. I was so focused on what annoyed me that I was over-analyzing everything and almost searching for faults when I should have been enjoying the narrative shift. Each of the five books in this series has embraced a different genre, so to speak. We started with the traditional Austenesque book, Shades of Milk and Honey, moved onto espionage and war with Glamour in Glass, later Valour and Vanity would embrace the heist genre, while here we have politics and all that entails, from court to courting if you will. While I'm not the biggest fan of courtroom dramas, always liking the first half-hour of Law and Order over the second, knowing that it was coming I was able to look at the book more objectively and realize that I loved it just as much as the others. See, I have learned to admit when I'm wrong, and that's a big step for me.

But I think my opinions on Regency court procedure were very much formed by my hatred of Death Comes to Pemberley. I know she's dead, but I can not ever forgive P.D. James for this book hinging on old obscure British laws and courtroom antics. This one book did more harm then anything previously to make me come to revile courtroom drama. The tropes of surprise witnesses, the fainting of women in the gallery, please. While the narrative of Without a Summer did naturally lead itself to court, did it really have to bring forward all the problems of Jane and Vincent's marriage into public view? Hinting at the lewdness of Jane occasionally wearing men's garb, and perhaps that was because of Vincent's sexual proclivities that made his father hire the prostitute for him that was the center of their earlier fight? Blah blah blah. While I know great worldbuilding takes everything and every aspect of society into consideration, I could have done with a little more magic and a lot less mundane martial law.

Moving on from what nagged me let's embrace that which delights me. The true history being magically woven into this alternate history was staggeringly good. It's not just the bigger changes that captured my imagination, but the little ones, the fact that the battle of Waterloo never happened so that Waterloo Bridge is now Quatre Bras Bridge was a nice little touch, and all down to the Vincents in their previous adventure. But I really loved how Kowal tied in the frigid temperatures of 1816, known as "The Year Without a Summer," into not just the politics of the book, but into people's belief systems. Just think, snow in summer? You'd be more then a little concerned with this now wouldn't you?

The average person doesn't grasp that weather can not be controlled by glamour. Therefore people look for a scapegoat to explain away this problem, and the Coldmongers make a perfect target. They are specialized glamourists who deal with temperature. Even other glamourists don't know much about what they do, only knowing how dangerous it is to mess with the elements of hot and cold. They are poor, they are not understood, and they make a far more logical scapegoat then a volcano half a world away, which was actually the true reason for these bizarre meteorological conditions. Plus, this generally accepted belief of their culpability means that Vincent's father is able to politically exploit the situation to his own gain. Just sheer genius. Or should I say evil genius if I'm talking about Lord Verbury?

Though what I think I didn't really get the first time I read this book is that it's heroine isn't Jane, it's Melody. I just thought that Jane had had a brain transplant and that Melody was awesome. It never dawned on me that this was on purpose. Jane comes across as a little bit of a naive bigot. I know Jane had a sheltered life and was a bit oblivious to things before the arrival of Vincent in her life... but there's naive and then there's ignorance. All her opinions seemed to be based on "wild supposition instead of fact." She jumps to conclusions, has an obvious wariness of anyone Irish, despite the fact that she's working for them, and expresses astonishment at people of different skin colors. But what this does is gives Melody room to shine. Because while she has always been "the pretty one" somehow Jane hijacked her story.

In Shades of Milk and Honey Melody didn't get a HEA, she got stuck in the country with her parents while her sister got freedom and love. Melody has only ever been valued for her looks. It's nice to have our preconceptions turned on their heads. Melody has developed in other ways, she knows about current events and politics. She doesn't care that glasses will mare her beautiful face so long as she can see. She has taken her inability to excel at certain things, like glamour, and developed her mind to compensate. Melody has evolved into this strong independent woman and if Jane looks a little bad in comparison, well, think how Melody has felt all these years being valued only for her beauty? Just another stereotype exploded in artful fashion by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unmapped Sea by Maryrose Wood
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 21st, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"For fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society, here comes the fifth book in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, the acclaimed and hilarious Victorian mystery series by Maryrose Wood.

Lord Fredrick Ashton may not feel ready to be a father, but with a little Ashton on the way, he's sure about one thing: The wolfish curse on his family must end soon, before the child is born. Penelope willingly takes on the challenge; when Lady Constance's doctor prescribes a seaside holiday, Penelope jumps at the chance to take the three Incorrigible children to Brighton, where she hopes to persuade the old sailor Pudge to reveal what he knows about the Ashton curse.

But the Ashtons are not the only ones at the beach in January. The passionately temperamental Babushkinov family is also taking the winter waters. The Incorrigible children may have been raised by wolves, but the Babushkinov children are the wildest creatures they've ever seen. Is it more than mere coincidence that these untamed children have turned up in Brighton just as Penelope and the Incorrigibles arrive?"

The new cover art, it burns, it burns. I HATES IT! I HATES IT!

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
Published by: Pantheon
Publication Date: April 21st, 2015
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"THE THRILLING ADVENTURES OF LOVELACE AND BABBAGE . . . in which Sydney Padua transforms one of the most compelling scientific collaborations into a hilarious series of adventures.

Meet Victorian London’s most dynamic duo: Charles Babbage, the unrealized inventor of the computer, and his accomplice, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, the peculiar protoprogrammer and daughter of Lord Byron. When Lovelace translated a description of Babbage’s plans for an enormous mechanical calculating machine in 1842, she added annotations three times longer than the original work. Her footnotes contained the first appearance of the general computing theory, a hundred years before an actual computer was built. Sadly, Lovelace died of cancer a decade after publishing the paper, and Babbage never built any of his machines.

But do not despair! The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage presents a rollicking alternate reality in which Lovelace and Babbage do build the Difference Engine and then use it to build runaway economic models, battle the scourge of spelling errors, explore the wilder realms of mathematics, and, of course, fight crime—for the sake of both London and science. Complete with extensive footnotes that rival those penned by Lovelace herself, historical curiosities, and never-before-seen diagrams of Babbage’s mechanical, steam-powered computer, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is wonderfully whimsical, utterly unusual, and, above all, entirely irresistible."

Whereas this looks just delightfully fun and I have no cover issues at all. I might have interior art issues, but the book isn't out yet so I won't prejudge.

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