Friday, December 31, 2010

End of 2010

Thanks to my friend Kristen at Bookworming in the 21st Century I was led to the Perpetual Page-Turners Blog which had a really cool end of the year in books survey. Well, I really don't think there's a better way to encapsulate my life and year then through the books that shape it. So here I go...

1. Best book of 2010?
I'm going to have to go with Terry Pratchett's I Shall Wear Midnight. Not only was it Terry Pratchett at his absolute best, but he provided a wonderful and sweet ending for my favorite witch ever, Tiffany Aching. But of course, this is a really sadistic question, because there are so many other favorites I had this year, from Lauren Willig to Gail Carriger there are so many books worthy of "THE BEST."
2. Worst book of 2010?
Shannon Hale's Calamity Jack. I'm sorry, it just failed on many levels, most of which dealt the forcing of steampunk into the wild west and ending up more crappy Will Smith Wild Wild West than Firefly awesomeness. Plus it lacked the witty banter of the previous book.

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010?
Hands down, Mockingjay. Now, I know many of you out there loved this ending, I was not one of them. It felt different and disjointed from the rest of the books with all the characters being annoying a petulant. It's like once Suzanne Collins had no actual "Hunger Games" she lost the structure and therefore the narrative thread of the book.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010?
Patricia Briggs' Blood Bound. I read Moon Called last year and was not too trilled with it, but I did have the omnibus edition, so I figured, what the hey... and guess what? I loved the second and third book just devouring them in a matter of days. I was surprised by how much fun I had.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010?
This is a hard one... I'm always shoving copies of Lauren Willig, Gail Carriger and Elizabeth Peters on people... so I'm guessing that it was either The Mischief of the Mistletoe or Changeless that was the most recommended... but it would be really hard to determine. Oh, and I totally forgot Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey, cause I've been peddling that book as well!

6. Best series you discovered in 2010?
Carola Dunn's Dasiy Dalrymple. Just sheer mystery fluff fun. Reminiscent of Agatha Christie, but a little more modern in sensibilities.

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010?
I had never read anything by Jessica Mitford, Nancy yes, Jessica no. I can't be live how wonderful her biography was and can't wait to read more of her journalism, yes, I just bought it with some of my Christmas money. But I also discovered Carola Dunn, Jennifer Lee Carrell and numerous others that would take many, many posts to give them their due.

8. Most hilarious read of 2010?
No doubt, Lauren Willig's The Mischief of the Mistletoe. Laugh out loud wonderful! Also a great re-read.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?
Haunt Me Still by Jennifer Lee Carrell. So good that I actually tried ignoring the air raid sirens for a tornado to keep reading... luckily I came to the happy conclusion that yes, I could read in the basement as well.

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010?
I Shall Wear Midnight. YEARS! I have been waiting YEARS for this book. Thankfully there was no disappointment following, just contentment.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?
Sisters Red, which the addendum that the book is a piece of trash. I was fooled once again by the gorgeous cover... damn those cunning graphic designers... oh wait, I'm a cunning graphic designer.

12. Most memorable character in 2010?
Wallace Wells. He is what made the Scott Pilgrim books work. In fact, his notable absence in volumes 4-6 is what I think led to a crappy and unsatisfying ending.

13. Most beautifully written book in 2010?
While I love classics and beautiful writing, they aren't ever really choices in why I read a book. I read for escapism and the lure of storytelling. But I will say that Daphne Du Maurier's Jamaica Inn was wonderfully written, it did not feel dated, and has filled me with her own longing for Cornwall.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010?
Sarah Waters's The Little Stranger. Mainly because I disliked it completely and yet it will not leave my mind and it's taking up valuable real estate that another book could take.

15. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read?
Daphne Du Maurier's Jamaica Inn... this book screams "MISS ELIZA." This book is so a book that has everything I love in good storytelling and has been sitting on my shelf since High School, yet... not picked up till this year. Shame on me. Daphne, I will rectify this by reading all your other books in a more timely fashion, look I already finished another one this year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

165 Eaton Place

For those of us colonials who got to catch the new version of Upstairs, Downstairs that aired over the past few nights in England, we had a special treat indeed. All worries that the show would just bank all its credibility on nostalgia and star names was forgotten once the old theme music started playing. But it wasn't all veneer. We get the thrill of the old sets newly built and repainted in a blue that would have made the Beeb producers proud back in the 70s but coupled with story lines that did a credible job creating a new generation for 165 Eaton Place. Sure the comparisons are to be drawn between the current and the past inhabitants, but this reinvention was obviously done with a reverence and a love for the old series. The production also embraced the ideals of the old show to portray current events and politics in a real and human way.

Sir Hallam Holland and his wife, Lady Agnes, have just inherited 165 Eaton Place, which has remained empty since the tragic end of the original series, 35 years ago in our world, a mere 8 in theirs. Hallam's father inherited the house from James Bellamy but never set his foot through the door. Sadly for Hallam, that doesn't stop his mother, Lady Holland, her secretary Mr. Amanjit, and her pet monkey from invading the house and making over one of the rooms as a study for which to write her memoirs of her life abroad, much like a bohemian M.M. Kaye. There is also Lady Agnes' younger sister, Persie, who is brought under the wing of her sister, only to develop radical ideals and ties to the Nazis. Because as ever, Eaton Place is a battleground of politics and intrigue, with Wallace Simpson walking through the doors with her lover, the one who isn't the King. To Cecil Beaton, to the future King of England himself, what happens in Eaton Place is a microcosm of the outside world. There's life and death and acceptance and forgiveness, and humor and tears.

But life above stairs would never be what it is without those below. As ever, we have Rose Buck... who you can barely believe is 35 years older. Jean Marsh looked as stalwart and true as she ever has. Running a household she lived in for 40 years, she is finally back in her element and not in Bucks of Belgravia. We have a new cook, much the perfectionist that Mrs. Bates ever was, and a butler, who warms the cockles of your heart just in the way Hudson did, even if Hudson never had a letter of recommendation from Errol Flynn! We have discontented housemaids who are a little saucy, and a tempting chauffeur, as it seems all chauffeurs must be, radical and just the little extra dash of sex appeal.

What I found most wonderful is how, for the first time, I got the politics. I saw Upstairs, Downstairs originally long ago... long before I had evolved into the Anglophile I am today, in fact I still suspect that Christmas present all those years ago was more of an excuse for my parents to get their hands on the show again. The show had so much more depth knowing who Walter Mosley was when they started to discuss him, so I could see the looming storm clouds of what was to come. He was a fascist who, eventually, married Nancy Mitford's older sister Charlotte, of which Jessica Mitford gives a great account of in Hons and Rebels. Also the waiting with baited breath for the King to abdicate the throne for Wallace Simpson in December of 1936, which was captured very well in the tv movie, Wallace and Edward. But as always I must say that I hate those two selfish people and am grateful for his abdication because Hitler probably would have won the war with Edward's appeasement and buddyy buddy attitude. Because any "fairy tale" that ends with dinner parties with The Hitlers is no happily ever after to me.

Stateside the new miniseries won't air till April, when they will painfully draw it out over three long weeks. My advice. DVR them all and marathon it, it's the only way to watch it. But thankfully there's Downton Abbey in the meantime... but more on that gem later... but until then, a little something to tide you over.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Ghouls, Ghouls, Ghouls (Ghost Hunter Mysteries, No. 5) by Victoria Laurie
Published by: Penguin
Publication Date: December 28th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"When M.J. Holliday and the crew of her cable TV show, Ghoul Getters, venture to the haunted ruins of Dunlow Castle in Ireland, drawn by the legend of hidden treasure, they hope the road will rise up to meet them, that the wind will always be at their backs-and that the resident phantom won't push them off a cliff. If they treasure their lives, M.J. and her ghost busters need to get the drop on the menacing phantom..."

Yeah new Ghosthunter book! And yeah for Murder by the Book holding the book launch!

Tempest's Legacy by Nicole Peeler
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: December 28th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 368 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"After a peaceful hiatus at home in Rockabill, Jane True thinks that her worst problem is that she still throws like a girl - at least while throwing fireballs. Her peace of mind ends, however, when Anyan arrives one night with terrible news . . . news that will rock Jane's world to its very core.

After demanding to help investigate a series of gruesome attacks on females — supernatural, halfling, and human — Jane quickly finds herself forced to confront her darkest nightmares as well as her deepest desires.

And she's not sure which she finds more frightening."

A fun new Jane True book yeah!

Deadly Little Games by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Published by: Hyperion
Publication Date: December 28th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Camelia and Ben have discovered a powerful bond: They both possess the power of psychometry, the ability to sense things through touch. For Ben, the gift is a frightening liability. When he senses a strong threat or betrayal, he risks losing control and hurting people. Camelia's gift is more mysterious. When she works with clay, her hands sculpt messages her mind doesn't yet comprehend.

Before either teen has a chance to fully grasp these abilities, an unresolved family tragedy resurfaces in Camelia's life, irrevocably changing everything she cares about..."

I've been wanting to pick up the first in the Touch Series... how time flies, she's already one book three!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Book Review- Lilian and Russell Hoban's Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas by Lillian and Russell Hoban
Published by: Parent's Magazine Press
Publication Date: 1971
Format: Hardcover
Rating: ★★★★★
Out of Print

Emmet and his Ma are having a tough time of it scrapping by in Frogtown Hollow. With his Dad's trusty toolbox Emmet tries to earn as much money as he can to supplement his Ma's income from taking in wash. But they both want nothing more then to make the coming Christmas special for the other. In a refashioning of the O. Henry story, "The Gift of the Magi", Emmet turns his Ma's washbasin into a bass while his Ma sells his tool box, both not knowing what the other is up to, so that they can enter to win the talent contest in Waterville with a $50 grand prize. Needless to say they don't win but they still have each other and things have never looked brighter.

If you don't know about Emmet Otter's Jud-Band Christmas you must have had a sad deprived childhood indeed. The long out of print book was immortalized by the late Jim Henson into one of the best Christmas stories ever created. I knew, due to my freakish Jim Henson knowledge, that they went to great lengths to re-create the world the Hoban's had written. But it was nice finally getting to see this for myself, the emulation of Lillian's drawing style and creating in three dimensions the little river community of these lovely otters. You can see why Henson went to such lengths to capture these little critters from the pen of the authors most famous for the creation of Francis. They exude cuteness and warmth and compassion. But what the book lacks is that extra spark that Henson brought, mainly the singing. For a book so centered on the musical it's sad that the medium is what hinders it... but Henson had no such obstacle. With Paul Williams bringing to life the hymn like music you get the perfect little movie that is sure to lighten any ones heart and bring them back the true spirit of Christmas and what it is to be a kid again. The fact that the book is out of print is a similar travesty to Kermit the Frog being excised from the DVDs due to copyright.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bookworm Present Proposition - Lauren Willig's The Mischief of the Mistletoe

The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas by Lauren Willig
Published by: Dutton
ARC Provided by Dutton
Publication Date: October 28th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages
Challenge: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★
Recommended for: Anglophiles, Janeites, Knee Breech Buffs, Pudding Praisers, Regency Reverers, Pimpernel Paramours and Turnip Treasurers
To Buy
Arabella Dempsey has been thrown back onto the bosom of her family. Her Aunt has made a bit of a to-do, marrying a man closer in age to her niece, who might have been a little too close to her niece's heart. Arabella's years being raised as her Aunt's companion and nominal heiress have been brushed aside with one wedding vow. She must now return to her family, whom she barely knows, and be a burden on their already strained income. But Arabella is determined to make her way in the world and not go back to be her Aunt's lapdog while the man she loves can never be hers. She is for teaching. Which, according to her old family friend Jane, should really be reconsidered. Has she ever even seen the inside of an all girls school? But she is hired by Miss Climpson, of Miss Climpson's Select Seminary for Young Ladies, and promptly bowled over by one Mr. Reginald Fitzhugh, Turnip to his friends. Turnip has been at the school visiting his sister Sally and her new very "peculiar" particular friends, Lizzy Reid and Agnes Wooliston, who replace the now shunned Catherine Carruthers, she did take Sally's most favorite ribbons after all. Turnip quickly realizes that being in a small room with three very rambunctious teenagers is the last place he wants to be, let alone in a building full of them. Taking the proffered Christmas Pudding, he walks out the door and straight into Miss Dempsey. Despite having met her many a time on the dance floors of the ton, Turnip has no memory of this slightly bruised girl. But then again, Arabella and him never quite occupied the same side of the dance floor, she being more their to wait on her aunt and balance out the numbers. Turnip, always the cheerful gentleman, profusely apologizes and takes his leave of her and his Christmas Pudding. Arabella rushes after Mr. Fitzhugh with his forgotten Pudding only to be attacked by a man outside the school desperate for the pudding. After Mr. Fitzhugh once again picks Miss Demspey out of the gutter, she does have a talent for falling at his feet, they find the deuced oddest thing. A secret message in the pudding! Well, written on the pudding's muslin wrapper to be precise. The message says to meet at Farley Castle, where there is to be a Frost Fair the next day. In a time of spies and the terrors in France, secret messages in puddings are not to be taken lightly, even in all girls schools. Especially if those messages are written in French!

Couldn't the spies have picked anywhere other than the Frost Fair? The place where Arabella is most likely to run into her Aunt and her new Uncle? But she has to admit, showing up with Mr. Fitzhugh, root vegetable though he may be, he's a root vegetable with 30,000. So with Jane in tow they all head to the castle despite bovine interruptions. Once there they discover yet another pudding! Turnip is all for further investigations, but Arabella puts her foot down. Tomorrow she is for the real world of teaching and papers to grade and ink and not very fashionable grey dresses with pockets. This "spy" business might have been fun but it is over. Good luck telling that to the mischievous pudding thief. Beset by students and mysterious mustachioed men in the night, things look to be getting more and more out of hand, as are Arabella's feelings towards Mr. Fitzhugh. But when she finally puts her foot down, when she finally says enough is enough and they must never see each other again, little does she know they are to spend all of the twelve days of Christmas together at a house party in Norfolk. Twelve days of pudding and long glances, and physical assaults. Because the culprits haven't contained themselves to the hallowed halls of a girls school in Bath, they are now lurking the grand passages of Girdings House. But hopefully with an earnest and loving root vegetable all will turn out just as it should, with a kiss under the mistletoe.

Rarely has a book made me smile from ear to ear and laugh aloud as I have reading The Mischief of the Mistletoe, twice now I must add. Loosely based on the skeleton of the story The Watsons, by Jane Austen, Lauren has taken Austen and amped it up to farce level in the best possible of ways. She has taken Austen, and dare I say, improved it for a modern audience. Austen, while humorous, has a staid and classical voice to her narration, while Willig lets her characters loose, losing hair pins and perhaps their reputations in the process in a hilarious page turner that isn't above adding in a few modern references with Blackadder references. The hero of the hour, while, according to Willig, is based on Bertie Wooster, is perhaps the most lovable root vegetable hero in history, even if this means you start confusing Hugh Laurie in Jeeves and Wooster with Hugh Laurie as the Prince Regent, I can't but help love Turnip more than Bertie and Hugh Laurie has to beat off my Nicholas Rowe with a stick for the part. He may not be smart, he doesn't over think things, but he has the biggest heart to match his big smile, that you will find yourself sporting as your race towards his happy ending.

While fans of Willig will love that Turnip is finally getting the girl, despite his overly florid taste in waistcoats, I have to say, that I think this novel could easily stand alone. While we do have repeating characters, and overlapping plots, there is enough of a distance and enough new characters, that this is literally the perfect Christmas gift for the literary minded who like a little bit of Regency. One reason being that this book is a very clever idea on Lauren and Dutton's part to do a more giftable book, hence the smaller size, which I kind of opine... and here I'm not talking length, but actual book dimensions, I want my books to have the same height dammit! But also the modern interludes of Colin and Eloise, the scholar and the descendant of the spy, The Purple Gentian, have been excised. I agree with Lauren in many regards to their not being present. She could not have done justice to them in a smaller book. The book wouldn't have been as easily read by those unfamiliar with the previous six installments. But more importantly, it made me have an epiphany, a new realization when I read this book and then proceeded to re-read all her previous books. Colin and Eloise are great, and I love their story, but they have become extraneous. I, who have been the most vocal on their staying, can now see that perhaps, their story has run its course... of course I thought this before reading the next installment, The Orchid Affair, which throws a serious wrench into things, and now I'm desperate for their story line again. In the final analysis, I can't get enough of the world Lauren has created. I want to have young adult novels of the three little sisters. I want to know if Turnip and Arabella ever decided to try some Strawberry jam to replace the standard Raspberry. And I need to know why Sally is scared of chickens. And her ribbons! Are they tying a certain Christmas Pudding? Austen created a memorable world, but each of her six novels are in a rarefied and finite world, whereas, the world is messy. Love has complications and pudding and torn sleeves and missed moments and kisses that could have been. All of this needs mess with the tears and the joy, and Austen might not be messy enough to reflect how life is. Not that we still don't get the fairy tale ending, as Austen was wont to do, but the ride is a little more boisterous.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bookworm Present Proposition - Gail Carriger's Blameless

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Book 3) by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: August 31st, 2010
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
Challenge: Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★
Recommended for: Anglophiles, Janeites, Buffy Buffs, Steampunk Supporters and Parasol Paramours
To Buy
Alexia Maccon has left her husband due to his stupidity and ended back in the "loving" bosom of her family. She has been fired from the Shadow Council and has a very infant inconvenience, but at least her family throws her out, so things are looking a bit brighter. If only she had someplace to go and didn't have mechanical ladybugs attacking her. There are so many unanswered questions, the most obvious being, how could this happen, followed by, who can give me answers. The Vampires seem the logical ones for knowing the secrets of the Soulless, but seeing as it's probably them trying to kill her, best not to ask. Her one counselor to turn too in regard to all things, cravats to conspiracies, Lord Akeldama, is MIA. Alexia calls on those still close to her who trust she is not an unfaithful wife, but one wronged by lack of knowledge. Madame Lefoux, a milliner to be reckoned with, Tunstall, an ex werewolf groupy and now famous actor, Floote, a butler through thick and thin, and her husband's Beta, Professor Lyall. Leave it to the logical werewolf to believe her and not drown his spirits in formaldehyde... A plan is formed. To Italy and the Templars they will go. Of course they are pursued by night by Vampires and by day by drones. They seek refuge with Madam LeFoux's inventor friends, one is quite helpful, the other, Mr. Lange-Wilsdorf, a scientist with a murky past, is a bit over excited to study "the female specimen" but soon throws them onto the mercy of the world once learning of Alexia's condition. Barely making it to the "safety" of Italy. The Templars are a strange bunch, viewing Alexia as a taint on the world, a necessary evil. She is the perfect weapon in their fight against the supernatural, yet she is all that they abhor. If she could just find some answers it will all be worth it so that she can crow her innocence at her husband, Conall. She just hopes that the Templars don't figure out her real reason for visiting, who knows what their reaction would be to a pregnant Soulless. But if worse comes to worst, at least coming to Italy made her discover the most wonderful thing she has ever encountered, pesto!

Let me preface this with, I love the Parasol Protectorate and all things Alexia. But this was not my favorite book in the series so far. It seemed to lack a certain spark that the other two contained. Perhaps it's that Alexia was more contemplative while being a woman of action and lacked a pragmatism that she previously possessed, she did versus dwelled. The pregnancy has changed her. She's so focused on proving herself right that in order to come to an explanation as to how that happened things get a little too technical mumbo jumbo. The thing that was a barrier to overcome in reading the first book was the steampunky technology of the day, which you were used to by book two, but now there's all this new stuff being thrown at you and it gets confusing. It felt like the technology was a crutch to the wonderful back story and mythology of the Soulless. Aether this and that, when I feel it could have been simpler. Plus the lack of Akeldama, while key to the denouement, made this book lack his sheer wonderful presence. Also the separation of Conall and Alexia made their verbal sparring rather hard. Plus, in the end, we didn't really learn that much. We know what might be, but not what is. So more than anything, this felt like a bridge book and now I need the next book desperately. That could be, in the end, why I feel dissatisfied. There's so much I want to know NOW, that having to wait, having to have patience to learn the back story of Floote, more on the Soulless breeding program, more on what their child could be, is excruciating. Maybe I'm greedy, but I want more answers, less techno fluff.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication Date: December 21st, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
""I don't love Sonny Flannery."

That's the lie Kelley Winslow told to protect the boy she loves from a power he doesn't know he possesses. Devastated, Sonny retreats—to a haven for Lost Fae that's hidden deep underneath New York City.

But Kelley's not about to let things end in heartbreak. To get Sonny back, she's got to find out who's after his magick—and how to use her own. She's got to uncover who's recruiting Janus Guards to murderously hunt innocent Faerie. She's got to help rebuild the shattered theater company she called family. And she's got to do it all without getting dangerously distracted by the Fennrys Wolf, whose legendary heart of stone seems to melt whenever he's around Kelley.

The intrigue and romance that began with Wondrous Strange and Darklight come to a stormy head in Tempestuous, the breathtaking conclusion to Lesley Livingston's ravishing urban Faerie trilogy."

I knew there was a reason I set the first book asside. It was so I could read them all at once!

Angel: Crown Prince Syndrome by Joss Whedon
Published by: IDW
Publication Date: December 21st, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 152 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Now that Angel's back in charge, he struggles to keep his relationship with Connor from getting messy and discovers weird new things about Illyria as she tries to woo the prodigal son. Meanwhile, Spike gets into the prophecy business, Laura Kay Weathermill has some strange ideas, and a demon army of warrior women tries to "fix" L.A. You know, just another day for Angel and crew."

If you're craving Buffy, just skip the muddled Season 7 and pick up Angel Season 6!

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Published by: Random House
Publication Date: December 21st, 2010
Format: Paperback, 400 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Part love story, part literary mystery, Melanie Benjamin’s spellbinding historical novel leads readers on an unforgettable journey down the rabbit hole, to tell the story of a woman whose own life became the stuff of legend. Her name is Alice Liddell Hargreaves, but to the world she’ll always be known simply as “Alice,” the girl who followed the White Rabbit into a wonderland of Mad Hatters, Queens of Hearts, and Cheshire Cats. Now, nearing her eighty-first birthday, she looks back on a life of intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. First as a young woman, then as a wife, mother, and widow, she’ll experience adventures the likes of which not even her fictional counterpart could have imagined. Yet from glittering balls and royal romances to a world plunged into war, she’ll always be the same determined, undaunted Alice who, at ten years old, urged a shy, stuttering Oxford professor to write down one of his fanciful stories, thus changing her life forever."

Though I adored the hardcover cover, this one might more directly sell it as Alice in Wonderland...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Bookworm Present Proposition - Gail Carriger's Changeless

Changeless, The Parasol Protectorate Book 2 by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: March 30th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
Recommended for: Anglophiles, Janeites, Buffy Buffs, Steampunk Supporters and Parasol Paramours
To Buy

Marital bliss can't last long when a surly regiment of werewolves shows up on your doorstep, your husband disappears to the wilds of Scotland and a bizarre plague of humanization strikes London, making werewolves and vampires alike mortal, and shuffling off the ghosties. But Alexia would not be Alexia if she didn't set right to figuring out what's up. After stopping off at a milliner's, always a trying experience with Ivy in tow, Alexia makes the acquaintance of Madame Lefoux, a dashing haberdasher prone to wearing male attire who happens to be a great inventor on the side. In fact, she's invented the parasol to beat all other parasols, making this umbrella indispensable to Alexia. After an explosive attack while leaving Madame Lefoux's establishment, and rumors that the humanization proceeded her husband to Scotland, Alexia decides that the safety of the supernaturals as well as her husband are at stake and to Scotland she must go. Of course, if she must go by dirigible, her long held wish, well then she must. She didn't count on the entourage of a love sick claviger, an engaged Ivy, one of her sisters and Madame Lefoux.

Attempted poisonings and dangerous dirigible daring do lead to a welcome return to Terra Firma. But if Alexia thought the troubles before where anything to the troubles to come she was mistaken. Her husbands old pack are not all that welcoming, and they seem to have collected a lot of Egyptian antiquities on their way home for being stationed in India. But if it's the last thing she does Alexia will get to the bottom of everything, little knowing of the shock in store.

Gail Carriger has outdone herself in creating a rollicking good read, with a tighter more thrilling mystery and even more memorable characters than in her first book, Soulless. From creating a proto telegraph telephone to dirigibles riding on aether, she has not bogged down her book with too much unintelligible speculative steampunk gadgetry. She has made an accessible world that you never want to leave and makes the wait for Blameless excruciating. Plus, delving deeper into the mysteries of what exactly a preternatural is, and unearthing Egyptian myths, sheer perfection. There's nothing I love more than Egypt, and while, throwing Egypt in delights me, I find it truly satisfying when it works so well with the plot and advances the narrative. Egypt for Egypt is all well and good, Egypt for a purpose, all the better. If there was one complaint I could make, aside from the cliffhanger, it is not enough Lord Akeldama. But I can't in good conscious make this complaint with the arrival of Madame Lefoux. She is so mysterious and kind of glamorous, and her openly defining the stereotypes of the day is just wonderful. I hope she continues to play in important part in the story. Also, am I the only one who instantly saw Emma Fielding as Miss Galindo from Cranford as Madame Lefoux? Maybe it's the hat thing, maybe it's the cravat thing, but I think she would be perfect.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bookworm Present Proposition - Gail Carriger's Soulless

Soulless: The Parasol Protectorate Book 1 by Gail Carriger
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: September 29th, 2009
Format: Paperback, 382 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
Recommended for: Anglophiles, Janeites, Buffy Buffs, Steampunk Supporters and Parasol Paramours
To Buy

It is the reign of Queen Victoria and the British Empire is vast and ever expanding, thanks in part to the Werewolves and Vampires. The supernatural are acknowledged the world over, but only England has truly accepted them into their daylight world and even into Victoria's government. They even have their own watchdog agency, BUR, the Bureau of Unnatural Registry. This revelation has resulted in technology exploding in the industrial era to harness the power of steam and create a veritable Wellsian world. Now Alexia Tarabotti enters into our story. Alexia deftly straddles these two worlds, not supernatural and not fully human, she is preternatural, soulless, and can cancel out supernatural powers. Preternatural's being used for centuries, particularly by the Templars, to hunt and kill supernaturals. But these are not Alexia's concerns...she's more worried about finding a nice cup of tea and a little something to eat...if a party says that there is to be food, food there should be! What else is a spinster who tragically takes after her dead Italian father in looks and is extremely outspoken to do at parties specifically designed to marry off her two step sisters? But her peace, and the treacle tart, are destroyed by a surprisingly ignorant vampire. She prevailes with her trusty parasol and BUR, in particular, Alpha Lord Maccon and Beta Professor Lyall, arrive on the scene to tidy up the loose ends.

The next day dawns surprisingly normal, till out on a walk with her best friend, and fashion victim, Ivy Hisselpenny, Alexia is invited to the hive of the Vampire Queen, Countess Nadasdy. From there everything goes pear shaped and it's up to Alexia to sort it out, despite Lord Maccon's interference, in more ways then one, some of them surprisingly intimate. There are disappearing rogue vampires and werewolves, and not even her trusty go to gossip, the vampire dandy Lord Akeldama knows what to make of it. With the full moon fast approaching will Alexia be able to keep her overly large nose out of this supernatural business? Or will she storm into the fray, trusting parasol (made to her specifications) in hand And will she get the man even though she has been a resigned spinster since the age of 15?

Soulless is the author Gail Carriger's first published work. I have to say I'm surprised and impressed. Surprised in that it is such a well written polished piece with great Victorian vernacular and lots of wit. Plus as an aside, I only found maybe two typos, it's unheard of for a book to be that well copy edited! But what impressed me was the author's world creation. The England of dirigibles and dandys is wonderful. I found the science and the history she created to be easy to understand, despite it's complexities, and I can't wait till the next book to re-immerse myself in this world...too bad I have to wait till March! The interaction of science with the supernatural was also so well done and logical, you never once felt that she was trying to force one or the other on a preexisting history of the British Empire, but was explaining the oddities of the British Empire itself with the world she created. If only Prince Albert were still alive...I can picture him with Professor Lyall, both equipped with Glassicals and studying the latest scientific aspects of chloroform while waiting to give a presentation to The Royal Society.

Overall the book was able to work on many levels, one of which was to overcome typical romance genre stereotypes. I don't think I'll ever really like Ivy Hisselpenny, she is too, wide-eyed innocent best friend who Alexia will endeavor to find a good match for in subsequent books. Also the throwing together of the heroine with the gruff hero so early in the novel was surprising to me, usually they wait till the very last moment. But Carriger made this work in the end with not the least bit of diluted suspense and the conclusion made me wish I hand Changeless right away to dive into to read of Maccon and Alxia's further adventures. Alexia herself is so wonderfully abrasive and forthright and knowledgeable with such a love of food you can't help embracing her instantly. Who cares that she's the typical spinster stereotype, because when you get down to it, there is nothing stereotypical about her. She is a woman who takes after Victoria herself, not those insipid heroines always needing a man to save them.

But now I must get to my favorite character, Lord Akeldama. He's a dandy to be sure, and a rogue vampire due to a mysterious disagreement over waistcoats, but he's so much more. He's a complex little spy who loves Alexia because she makes him feel human. But his spy network is really where it's at. His trusty Drones, led by Biffy. These dandy's are everywhere and hear everything, but at the same time are so stereotypical and a product of their time that they are a part of the scenery. They are perfectly calculated by Akeldama to be his eyes and ears lending him the appearance of omniscience. Also lets not forget they are great little helpers, in every sense of the word. Do to their cackling dandy herd mentality and the name of Drones and knowing that the author is a fan of P.G. Wodehouse, I can't help myself envisioning a whole different take on the Drones Club. This one would be more stylish, with lots more purple silk and more overt Wildean overtones. I would pay to read about that...really I would. Perhaps in an upcoming sequel by Gail Carriger...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Gift (Witch and Wizard Series #2) by James Patterson
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: December 13th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 133 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"When Whit and Wisty were imprisoned by the wicked forces of the totalitarian regime known as the New Order, they were barely able to escape with their lives. Now part of a hidden community of teens like themselves, Whit and Wisty have established themselves as leaders of the Resistance, willing to sacrifice anything to save kids kidnapped and brutally imprisoned by the New Order.

But the One has other plans in store for them: He needs Wisty, for she is "The One Who Has the Gift." While trying to figure out what that means, Whit and Wisty's suspenseful adventures through Overworld and Shadowland lead to a jaw-dropping climax and conclusion: the highly-anticipated fulfillment of the heart-pounding opening prologue of book one..."

The first one looked fairly interesting, so I'm still fairly interested in checking out this series.

Vixen (The Flappers) by Jillian Larkin
Published by: Random House Children's Books
Publication Date: December 13th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 432 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Jazz . . . Booze . . . Boys . . . It’s a dangerous combination.

Every girl wants what she can’t have. Seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody wants the flapper lifestyle—and the bobbed hair, cigarettes, and music-filled nights that go with it. Now that she’s engaged to Sebastian Grey, scion of one of Chicago’s most powerful families, Gloria’s party days are over before they’ve even begun . . . or are they?

Clara Knowles, Gloria’s goody-two-shoes cousin, has arrived to make sure the high-society wedding comes off without a hitch—but Clara isn’t as lily-white as she appears. Seems she has some dirty little secrets of her own that she’ll do anything to keep hidden. . . .

Lorraine Dyer, Gloria’s social-climbing best friend, is tired of living in Gloria’s shadow. When Lorraine’s envy spills over into desperate spite, no one is safe. And someone’s going to be very sorry. . . .

From debut author Jillian Larkin, VIXEN is the first novel in the sexy, dangerous, and ridiculously romantic new series set in the Roaring Twenties . . . when anything goes."

It's flappers, I'm sold.

Hide My Eyes (Albert Campion Series #16) by Margery Allingham
Published by: Felony & Mayhem
Publication Date: December 13th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 242 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"Returning to the darker themes of Tiger in the Smoke, Allingham introduces a serial killer who is haunting London's Theatreland. The sparring between Sergeant Luke (who thinks he's got the case sewn up) and Albert Campion (who wonders what the old couple on the bus saw) is sparkling as ever, but readers will note that Allingham was shifting toward psychological themes that put her in the company of Ruth Rendell and Patricia Highsmith."

I just adore this re-issues of the Albert Campion stories! Great Christmas gifts for lovers of mysteries... I have up to number nine, if anyone's interested...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bookworm Present Proposition - Alan Bradley's The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: March 9th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 384 Pages
Recommended for: Anglophiles, Mystery Mavens, Card Carrying Members of the Agatha Christie Fan Club, Those Particular Fans of Post War England, Fans of Precocious Heroines
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2★
To Buy

"Sanctified cyanide
Super-quick arsenic
Into the Soup.
Put out the mourning lamps
Call for coffin clamps
Teach them to trifle with
Flavia de Luce!"

A mile from Buckshaw in the graveyard of Saint Tancred's, Flavia stumbles on a crying woman. Bent over a grave and weeping prodigiously. She turns out to be the beaten and bruised assistant to the famous puppeteer, Rupert Porson, who's show The Magic Kingdom, with Snoddy the Squirrel, is a huge hit for the BBC, not that Flavia would know, her father trusting televisions less then telephones. Their travelling show has hit a hitch. Their van has broken down and they have no money to repair it. The Vicar, Canon Richardson, being a huge fan of the show, suggests that they put on a performance for the parish in exchange for the ticket sales fixing their vehicle. An agreement reached, the details are ironed out, two shows on Saturday of Jack and the Beanstalk. Flavia, in more an inquisitive nature then out of kindness, agrees to help. She gets all the inside scoop on this strange puppeteer, who suffered Polio in his youth and is now a twisted man, outside and in, and avoids all the negatives of home life, mainly Feely and Daphne. Things seem to be going well, the show gets set up, and it is a little magical world where Flavia imagines sitting in Jack's mullioned windowed cottage brewing poisons... but then Flavia gets home and her Aunt Felicity is arriving the next day. So now committed to be in two places at once, Flavia does the next logical thing... gets up at dawn to help the puppeteers so as she can then meet her Aunt's train at the station later in the day. Flavia helps relocate Rupert and Nialla to Culverhouse Farm, where it will be more seemly for them to pitch their tent at the bottom of Jubilee Field, then amongst the dead at Saint Tancred's. But Culverhouse Farm holds misery and darkness. The owner's son Robin died tragically five years earlier, being hanged in Gibbet Wood, where the weird Mad Meg wanders. The fields are tended by a German POW obsessed with the Brontes and a Land Girl obsessed with him. But amongst the other eccentrics of the village, they hardly stand out.

The day of the performance shins bright and Flavia, astride trusty Gladys, whizzes to the Parish Hall. Rupert shows her a little of the magic behind the scenes with Jack and the Giant he will kill. But nothing prepares Flavia for how magical the show really is. She, and the whole audience are transported by Rupert and his puppets... one of which bares a striking resemblance to the dead Robin.... That night Flavia can't wait to see the show again. This time with her entire family in tow, put the show starts off differently. Instead of Rupert's fantastical Mozart introduction, the two old spinster's of the village who run the tea rooms, do their obligatory musical revue and then Jack and the Beanstalk commences. But just as Jack is to slew the Giant, a very dead Rupert Porson falls to the stage. With the whole village as witnesses, they are held and questioned for hours. At the end, it's no doubt that it's murder. But be sure Flavia is convinced of the police's inability to solve this case without her, and she might just be right.

Flavia is back and even more wonderful then in her first installment, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. She still is up to chemical machinations... but it's her ability to unsettle people and ask the questions that need asking and being silent when you need to be silent, that makes her the best detective Bishop's Lacey has ever seen, sorry Inspector Hewitt, you are going to have to step up your game. More fast paced, the pages just flew under my hungry eyes, I just could not put this book down. From Flavia's newest revenge on her sisters, to the Bronte loving Dieter... this book just sprang to life off the pages and made me a participant of the goings on at Bishop's Lacey. But aside from all the layers of intrigue and subplots and mysteries, it was the puppeteer who kept this book strung together.

While most people of my generation think of the Muppets when they think of puppets, the British have a much more storied tradition of puppetry. I'm mainly talking about Punch and Judy, that terrifying duo that embraces violence and hatred for laughs. Until now, I didn't think that anything would capture the malevolence of them like the "Destroying Angel" episode of Midsomer Murders, but I was wrong. Alan Bradley has succeeded where even, in my mind, Neil Gaiman failed. The thread of those two malevolent puppets that strings it's way through this story is just brilliant. I think it has to be said, that only with the knowledge of writing for television and writing for children could anyone have captured the underlying menace and messy lives of those people involved with British Broadcasting. Haven't you ever thought that the people behind such "innocent" fare, like the writer's of Camberwick Green, had to really be mentally disturbed to write that kind of show? That's why people latched onto that parody Life on Mars did... because it's secretly what we've always believed to be true! Puppetry, whilst funny and light, also has a dark, ominous, evil side that ties into the Punch and Judy zeitgeist, that Alan Bradley has tapped into here.

If there's one wish for this book, it was that the ending was a little more... messy. It seemed to tie up a little too neatly. Things might not be as dark and foreboding as they look, and I kind of wanted them dark and foreboding. I am happy that Flavia did not get held hostage again, totally avoiding the cliche of damsel in distress, that brought the previous book down a star... but still, not quite perfect yet. I might have been willing to oversea the faults if Dieter had come in again at the end. You know... I think I might have fallen a little for that POW with the Bronte complex... I don't think I've even met a more fascinating man. Why does he have to be fictional?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bookworm Present Proposition - Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Published by: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: April 28th, 2009
Format: Hardcover, 374 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
Recommended for: Anglophiles, Mystery Mavens, Card Carrying Members of the Agatha Christie Fan Club, Those Particular Fans of Post War England, Fans of Precocious Heroines
To Buy

At Buckshaw, the ancestral home of the de Luce's, Flavia spends her time lovingly researching poisons and thinking up ways to exact revenge on her two older sisters, Ophelia and Daphne. What else can one do with a distant philatelist father interested only in stamps, a dead mother, and sisters more concerned with reading and makeup then their youngest sibling? Add Mrs. Mullet, a cook who keeps plying them with her unwanted custard pies, and Dogger, the shell shocked comrade in arms who saved the Colonel in the war and is now the houses general dogsbody, and you can see why Flavia likes the uncomplicated world of chemistry to that of her fellow man. Lucky for Flavia, the long dead Tarquin de Luce had a fervent love of chemistry equal to hers, and she has inherited his envy inducing laboratory high in the attics of Buckshaw. But their peace is soon to be disturbed, and not by the shrieks of Feely as her pearls are disintegrated by Flavia, or the muffled sounds of Flavia trying to extricate herself from the closest where her sisters imprisoned her... no. Murder is about to strike Buckshaw, foreshadowed by a dead jack snipe with a postage stamp in it's beak.

In the middle of the night, Flavia is woken by her father arguing with a man in his study. She is taken back to bed by Dogger and she blasts music to lull herself to sleep rather than stewing in her discontented and inquisitive mindset, but not before she heard her father say they had murdered a man by the name of Twining twenty years ago. In the early dawn hours she awakens and goes out into the garden to find the intruder dead in the cucumber patch. The authorities are called and the investigation begins. But Flavia has her own investigations to conduct, starting at the public library and the death of this man named Twining. To her trusty steed, her bike Gladys, she races and off she peddles to the library. Which is closed... but soon a librarian approaches. The retired Miss Mountjoy, the bane of the village, has returned to help the current librarian. But her arrival is felicitous, she happens to be the niece of the murdered Twining, who was a teacher at Greyminster, the school Colonel de Luce attended. Twining committed suicide in front of all the students by jumping off the top of the school after a prize Penny Black stamp was taken from the headmaster and destroyed in front of his eyes. Flavia, intrigued, then goes to the inn, assuming that the mystery man had to be staying there. In his room she finds the stamp that was supposedly destroyed... and it's twin! But back at Buckshaw it might be too late... her father has been arrested!

What follows goes back many years into the history of the postal service and the issuance of stamps and their connection to revolutionary factions. But also into the boyhood of Colonel de Luce and his friendship with two very forceful students, Horace Bonepenny and Bob Stanley. Also residing in the past at Greyminster was Twinging, the optimistic teacher who thought creating a conjuring society and a philately club would open the boys minds, never thinking that it would end in his death. There is also the author, Pemberton, whose interest in Buckshaw seems oddly timed. Can Flavia figure this out before Inspector Hewitt and the other detectives? Can she save the day and her dad, or will she herself need saving? Will see even live to see her twelfth birthday?

The only way to describe this book would be the Addams Family meets Eloise. With Flavia being very much like the precocious Eloise, but with a fondness for the macabre that could only be seen by a member of the Addams clan. Bradley has created a great little world with overtones of Christie and Du Maurier, which I'm sure he would gladly embrace, not the least of which is that they were both great storytellers in the cozy genre. He has given us a wonderful mystery that reads like the best of the British whodunits but with a unique narrator in the guise of Flavia. Her family and their estate remind one of a dysfunctional Larkin family, they all have their little quirks and obsessions. Whether it's Flavia and her chemical compounds or Daffy and her books or the Colonel and his stamps, Bradley has created a myriad of interesting folk and their foibles who you can't help but love. But their bizarre personality quirks aren't just their for the sake of creating a semblance of depth in these people, they are integral to the plot and to the solving of the mystery. Only those with the experiences and backgrounds that the de Luce's possess would be able to see the greater picture.

Despite the feelings of Rebecca and the other grand dames of British whodunits, there are times when I did feel a little bit put out. There is occasionally a repetitive and simplistic thought process that Flavia goes through that could have been omitted. This results in the reader sometimes getting ahead of her and sporadically hoping she'd "get on with it". But this is a tendency of cozies, and this is Bradley's first foray into detective fiction. Christie is Christie because of what she contributed as a whole, not just her first attempt. So, if we take that into consideration, the fact that at times the father's reminisces are overly long and seem like just the biggest waste of time in order to establish the exposition, Bradley has so much more to offer besides this exemplary though mildly flawed first attempt. I, as I'm sure many, wait with baited breath for Flavia's return in March! Hoping, of course, she's not to much more mature, but that the writing style is just a hair!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Best Dressed Men Wear Knee Breeches!

Seeing as I'm in the throws of final projects I've been needing short little bursts of entertainment. Can't take away from the work, but I need to refresh the brain. Today's entertainment comes from Barnes and Noble, where they were covering Lauren Willig on their "COver Stories."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tuesday Tomorrow

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
Published by: Razorbill
Publication Date: December 7th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"The epic finale in Richelle Mead's #1 international bestselling Vampire Academy series. "

The perfect time to really start this series! When they're all written and I don't have to wait.

Seer of Sevenwaters by Julliet Marillier
Published by: Roc
Publication Date: December 7th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 400 Pages
Seer of Sevenwaters

The official patter:
"The young seer Sibeal is visiting an island of elite warriors, prior to making her final pledge as a druid. It's there she finds Felix, a survivor of a Viking shipwreck, who's lost his memory. The scholarly Felix and Sibeal form a natural bond. He could even be her soul mate, but Sibeal's vocation is her true calling, and her heart must answer.

As Felix fully regains his memory, Sibeal has a runic divination showing her that Felix must go on a perilous mission-and that she will join him. The rough waters and the sea creatures they will face are no match for Sibeal's own inner turmoil. She must choose between the two things that tug at her soul-her spirituality and a chance at love... "

The John Jude Palencar cover calls to me!

Goddess of Legend by P.C.Cast
Published by: Berkley
Publication Date: December 7th, 2010
Format: Paperback, 320Pages
To Buy
The official patter:
"The new Goddess Summoning novel from the author of the multimillion- selling House of Night phenomenon.

After her car plummets off a bridge, Isabel, a world-weary photojournalist, struggles between life and death when she's saved by the Water Goddess-with one tiny caveat: Isabel must travel to another time to seduce the legendary Lancelot du Lac away from Queen Guinevere.

The handsome knight is a dream for any woman in any century. But Isabel is the one who's seduced by King Arthur. For Isabel, a deal is a deal. Now, the King watches as fate takes from him the mysterious beauty he has come to worship, knowing all too well that any interference on his part could destroy the kingdom he loves."

Looks pretty cool.

Threats at Three by Ann Purser
Published by: Penguin
Publication Date: December 7th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 352 Pages

The offcial patter:

"From the author of Tragedy at Two-the latest Lois Meade mystery in which timing is everything.

Lois Meade has worked through all the days of the week, turning up clues and scrubbing up both messes and murderers in the village of Long Farnden. But crime is a persistent stain...

When a dead body is found in a canal, Detective Cowgill believes the murder is connected to a suspicious fire and a heated dispute over saving the local village hall. Time to turn to the ever reliable Lois Meade to sort out the culprits and pick up the loose ends-before their village hall turns into a funeral hall..."

On here for my mom, who just loves this series. Right up there with Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin.

The Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A. McKillip
Published by: Penguin
Publication Date: December 7th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 336Pages

The official patter:

"The newest novel from the World Fantasy Award-winning author of The Bell at Sealey Head.

With "her exquisite grasp of the fantasist's craft"* (Publishers Weekly) Patricia A. McKillip now invites readers to discover a place that may only exist in the mystical wisdom of poetry and music.

Scholar Phelan Cle is researching Bone Plain-which has been studied for the last 500 years, though no one has been able to locate it as a real place. Archaeologist Jonah Cle, Phelan's father, is also hunting through time, piecing history together from forgotten trinkets. His most eager disciple is Princess Beatrice, the king's youngest daughter. When they unearth a disk marked with ancient runes, Beatrice pursues the secrets of a lost language that she suddenly notices all around her, hidden in plain sight."


The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec: Pterror Over Paris / The Eiffel Tower Demon by Jacques Tardi
Published by: Fantagraphics Books
Publication Date: December 7th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 96 Pages

The official patter:

Popular in Europe, these historical adventures of a fearless female journalist in belle epoque Paris begins a new reprint series with a fresh English translation. In 1911 Paris, a pterodactyl has hatched and is terrorizing the city. We first meet Adele impersonating a woman she has kidnapped, working on engineering a jailbreak to find stolen funds. Somehow, these plot lines intertwine, along with a gentleman hunter, changing alliances, and various double-crosses. After battling the beast and the events that result, Adele and her circle of adversaries chase a mysterious Assyrian statue of a demon. Tardi's art well deserves the praise that he's a grandmaster of comics. It's detailed, expressive, authentic, and distinctive. His world-building is thorough, the setting established through both background art and scene selection. Frequent recaps keep the reader up to speed, while emphasizing how amusingly convoluted everything quickly becomes. Tardi knows the conventions of this kind of rollicking, complicated adventure, and the story points out how ridiculous they are at the same time it's engaging in them. This oversized volume contains two adventures, with two more due next year."

How did I not know of this series? There's a dinosaur on the loose in Paris! MUST READ!

The Guild by Felicia Day
Published by: Dark Horse
Publication Date: December 7th, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 96 Pages

The official patter:

Internet phenomenon The Guild comes to comics, courtesy of series creator, writer, and star Felicia Day (Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog)!
Chronicling the hilarious on- and offline lives of a group of Internet role-playing gamers, the Knights of Good, The Guild has become a cult hit, and is the winner of numerous awards from SXSW, YouTube, Yahoo, and the Streamys. Now, Day brings the wit and heart of the show to this graphic-novel prequel. In this origin tale of the Knights of Good, we learn about Cyd's life before joining the guild, how she became Codex, her awful breakup with boyfriend Trevor, and how she began to meet the other players who would eventually become her teammates."

If you read this blog you must have a love of The Guild as well. Go. Buy. COMIC!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Bookworm Present Proposition - Jessica Mitford's Hons and Rebels

Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford
Published by: NYRB Classics
Publication Date: 1960
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
Rating: ★★★★★
Recommended for: Anglophiles, Biography Buffs, Mitford Maniacs, Journalists and History Buffs
To Buy
Jessica Mitford was the "Ballroom Communist" of the engagingly eccentric Mitford Family. The second youngest daughter of the 2nd Baron Redesdalee, she had an unconventional upbringing where education was the bare minimum to make a good wife. Always wishing for an escape from her family, be it through schooling or politics or moving to another continent, she suffered through being a deb and presentation before the queen and watching her family come apart at the seems due to a divergence in beliefs. But at her first chance she ran off with her cousin, Esmond Rommilly, the nephew of Winston Churchill, to fight Franco in Spain. What with all of England trying to force her home, sending really big ships no less, even the courts of Chancery, it's surprising that she actually was able to succeed in her convictions and in marrying Esmond. The madcap and eccentric life that followed from Rotherhithe to the United States with Esmond equals that of her earlier life, but with herself being the master of her fate.

I rarely read biographies. I have to say, if more biographies were as fun and enjoyable as Jessica Mitford's I would read nothing but. The Mitford family has always been fascinating to me, what with the sisters paths being so divergent. Nancy was one of the "Bright Young Things" and a literary darling, with Love in a Cold Climate, which basically skewered her own family for her amusement. Pamela was horse obsessed and kind of out of the limelight. Diana married the heir to the Guinness fortune then divorced him to have an affair with the head of the British Facist party. When they eventually married, Hitler was at their wedding, which was held at the Goebbels' house. She also spent time in prison. Unity was Hitler's biggest fan and when war broke out between England and Germany she failed at committing suicide only to die of meningitis. And Debo... well she married the Duke of Devonshire and lives at Chatsworth, writes books about chickens and is the last remaining Mitford daughter. You could not make this stuff up! From her earliest days with family to her later life with Esmond, Jessica captures the love she had for these people while at the same time the exasperation of her situation. From hoarding money so she could run away, to the ultimate subterfuge that resulted in her being victorious, even if she had to chase the Spanish Consulate representative all over England and France. To the years scarping by in the States doing anything and everything to stay there, from selling stockings door to door to being a bouncer at a bar. That's right, Jessica, not her husband, was the bouncer.

Given the extreme fame of her family and the career Jessica later established as a journalist in her own right, if a muckracker at that, it's beyond enjoyable to see where it all began. The fact that a high born Hon would eschew her family and their beliefs to set out on her own crusade for right, for the poor and disadvantaged, is a noble crusade indeed. But what you also see is that with Esmond, this is a love story. From her first hearing mention of him, she was in love. From their similar backgrounds of trying to shed off what was their families hereditary hangups, she envied him for his actual escape and later he aided her escape as well. Whether he felt the same inevitability as her that they were meant to be is hinted at. But what is certain is that they were perfectly matched. It makes sense that the book ends with the outbreak of World War II. It's the event that, more than anything, shaped that generation, but more personally than that, embodied the division of this family. It was also the event that would claim Esmond's life. But at least in this book, we can see the love still remains.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas is Coming!

Which means my thoughts are turning towards wrapping paper and kitties, because obviously, the wrapping paper covers the books, but cats don't want to be wrapped, despite what that youtube video has shown us. Anyway, this leads to the ultimate Christmas dilemma... what to get that booklover in your life? As I said last year, you can never go wrong with a giftcard, but then again, a giftcard seems too impersonal to some. So what do I have in store for December? I'll give you my top books I've read this year which I think any biblomaniac would love to get this holiday season! So ready, set, get that Amazon cart loaded!

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