Friday, August 31, 2012

TV Review - Jack of All Trades

Jack of All Trades
Release Date: January 17th, 2000 – December 2nd, 2000
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Angela Dotchin, Stuart Devenie, Stephen Papps and Verne Troyer
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

At the end of the Revolutionary War, secret agent Jack Stiles is sent by Jefferson to the island of Pulau-Pulau, a French Colonial outpost in the East Indies. There he meets his British counterpart, Emilia Rothschild. Together they must thwart Napoleon's plans for world domination, as well as the island's Govenor Croque and Captain Brogard. Assuming the identity of a local folk hero, the Daring Dragoon, in order to protect their covers, Jack is able to foil any plan the Frenchies send their way. From rescuing Benjamin Franklin to stolen American gold shipments, getting hold of the Louisiana purchase documents, having a run in with Lewis and Clark, avoiding Blackbeard and the Marquis de Sade, Pulau-Pulau seems to be the hub of the French Empire, despite being a several months sea voyage from Paris.

This short run series staring Bruce Campbell was in the same campy vein as Xena and Hercules, which makes sense because it's the same production team as well as several of the actors. Bruce portrayed Jack as part Errol Flynn, part Three Stooges. Witty, sometimes bawdy, sometimes cringeworthy ripostes and sword play where the flavor of the day. A favorite among Steampunk aficionados for the wacky gadgets that Amelia was always cobbling together in her laboratory, from submarines to love potions, as well as the alt history. Yet the show goes beyond this cult fan base, I'm not just talking Steampunk here, but also Bruce's fan base, to be a broad historical comedy where everything is fair game from Napoleon being portrayed by the diminutive Verne Troyer, to a parrot, Jean Claude, being a secret agent, to Indiana Jones parodies involving the secret tribe of the WallaWalla Bing Bangs.

While it doesn't really surprise me that the show was cancelled half way through the second season, because I'm sure the premise didn't sound that fun to people. But I dare you to put anyone down in front of the tv, even the most sceptical, ie, my Dad for example, and by the end of an episode they will be loving it, and also apologizing for doubting you if you're lucky, after a few, they'll probably be singing the theme song along with you.

What drew me to the series, aside from Bruce Campbell, really, how can anyone not love Bruce Campbell*, was the historical aspect. I have always loved the time of the French Revolution, which had strong ties with the American Revolution, seeing as the French monarchy was bankrolling it. Yet, the idea that this little island in the East Indies, which is easily a few months journey from anywhere, has people coming and going like a French Farce just tickles me. Also, the nudge nudge, wink wink mentality of Bruce and his anachronistic references along with the blatant distortion of history just makes me giggle with glee. The fact that American History was formed by Bruce Campbell... now that's a show worth watching!

*Side not, I love Bruce Campbell so much that despite having pneumonia, which actually wasn't diagnosed till two days later, I bundled myself up against a cold Wisconsin winter and trudged forth to my local art cinema. The reason? Because after months and months of harassing them, My Name is Bruce was coming to the theatre with at least three sold out performances. While a Bruce Campbell movie is all well and good, the fact that the man himself was there made it so worth it. He just has a way with his fans. You can see he respects them, but there's also a slight snark there, especially when criticizing someone for not whisking the fake blood recipe in his book enough, that makes you love him all the more. Also, the movie was quite funny, but that could be the cough medicine talking.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The End is Nigh

I know I've used this picture before to signal the start of school, but this is what school feels like to me, the determined focus, yet there's still that fanatic hurry. If all things go to plan, this is my last semester of school... if I don't lose my mind and decide to go to grad school. I have been going to school on and off for basically my whole life, there was a one year gap from 1996 to 1997 wherein I refused to go to college, followed promptly by going to school after a year of seeing what a lack of education would have in store for me. I also had some time off from 2001 to 2002, but seeing as that was because of family members dying, I really don't think that should count. When I graduated with my BS in 2004 I said "no more school" followed quickly by me looking into grad schools and the like. I even took that blasted GRE.

I've been going to my current school since 2007, taking about a class a semester, so as I can still work and do my blog. It's going to be weird to be done... So, this semester I'm in Portfolio, which means, at the end I'll have a kick ass Portfolio of about twelve pieces to schlep around to get a job. But I know what you're all thinking, if she's so busy with school what about us? What about the blog posts? Don't worry gentle readers, I have prepared for this eventuality. I have been warned in advance that at the beginning of this class to say good bye to my friends and my family. You are that, but, so as I won't have to say good bye, only see you soon, I have been diligently working on making sure that I have blog posts ready all through December! That's right, I've been planning that far ahead!

What does the rest of the year hold in store? For me, stress and anxiety, for you, the conclusion of Steampunk Summer with many more awesome guests, including some original material from George Mann. Magrs Month for all of October, where I will review a portion of Paul Magrs' oeuvre, which is quite extensive, as well as having a giveaway and time with the man himself! The end of the year will be devoted to Charles Dickens, because you really didn't think I'd overlook 200 years of Dickens did you? So sit back and enjoy, I'll be here... just not here here. Oh, who am I kidding, I'll always be here responding to your posts!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

Bones Are Forever by Katy Reichs
Published by: Scribner
Publication Date: August 28th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Kathy Reichs, #1 New York Times bestselling author and producer of the FOX televison hit Bones, is at her brilliant best in a riveting novel featuring forensic anthropologist Tempe Brennan—a story of infanticide, murder, and corruption, set in the high-stakes, high-danger world of diamond mining.
A woman calling herself Amy Roberts checks into a Montreal hospital complaining of uncontrolled bleeding. Doctors see evidence of a recent birth, but before they can act, Roberts disappears. Dispatched to the address she gave at the hospital, police discover bloody towels outside in a Dumpster. Fearing the worst, they call Temperance Brennan to investigate.

In a run-down apartment Tempe makes a ghastly discovery: the decomposing bodies of three infants. According to the landlord, a woman named Alma Rogers lives there. Then a man shows up looking for Alva Rodriguez. Are Amy Roberts, Alma Rogers, and Alva Rodriguez the same person? Did she kill her own babies? And where is she now?

Heading up the investigation is Tempe’s old flame, homicide detective Andrew Ryan. His counterpart from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is sergeant Ollie Hasty, who happens to have a little history with Tempe himself, which she regrets. This unlikely trio follows the woman’s trail, first to Edmonton and then to Yellowknife, a remote diamond-mining city deep in the Northwest Territories. What they find in Yellowknife is more sinister than they ever could have imagined.

Crackling with sexual tension, whip-smart dialogue, and the startling plot twists Reichs delivers so well, Bones Are Forever is the fifteenth thrilling novel in Reichs’s “cleverly plotted and expertly maintained series” (The New York Times Book Review). With the FOX series Bones in its eighth season and her popularity at its broadest ever, Kathy Reichs has reached new heights in suspenseful storytelling."

You can NEVER have enough of Bones!

Foretold by Carrie Ryan
Published by: Delacorte
Publication Date: August 28th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 368 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Richelle Mead, Lisa McMann, Michael Grant, Meg Cabot, Laini Taylor, and nine more of the hottest YA authors to hit the shelves explore the concepts of prophecy and prediction in this story collection edited by NYT bestselling author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan.

Have you ever been tempted to look into the future? To challenge predictions? To question fate? It's human nature to wonder about life's twists and turns. But is the future already written—or do you have the power to alter it?

From fantastical prophecies to predictions of how the future will transpire, Foretold is a collection of stories about our universal fascination with life's unknowns and of what is yet to come as interpreted by 14 of young adult fiction's brightest stars."

A to die for selection of some of the best YA authors out there today writing stories about prophecy and prediction edited by Carrie Ryan, who is just the sweetest. Can. Not. Wait.

Endgame by Anne Aguirre
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: August 28th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Regret Nothing.

Sirantha Jax has the J-gene, which permits her to “jump” faster-than-light ships through grimspace. She loves nothing more than that rush, but the star roads have to wait…

Her final mission takes her to La’heng, a planet subjugated during first contact. Since then, the La’hengrin homeworld has been occupied by foreign conquerors.

All that’s about to change.

Now, as part of a grass-roots resistance, Jax means to liberate the La’hengrin. Political intrigue and guerrilla warfare are new to her; this will be the most dangerous game she’s ever played—spies and conspiracies, a war of weapons and hearts, and everyone might not make it out alive…"

The end of the Sirantha Jax books, wail, sob.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sartorial Sundays

Ok, so finally you're getting this post on time, and not a few weeks late. All Sartorial Sundays are up-to-date, if you feel like reading the older posts. So, I have never really done tea dyeing. I mean, I helped my mother do some "ageing" on cotton batting years and years ago, but never on clothing. I knew that there was many ways I could mess this up, but luckily bleach could always restore my cheap skirt back to it's original downy whiteness, and I could start all over... sigh, like I'd want to do that right? The first thing I did was research! I had read Gail Carriger's blog on tea dyeing, so I had that as a starting off point. I then starting trolling the interwebs, and found this really helpful blog with all the does and don'ts nicely broken down, including reminders not to burn yourself, so yeah, I knew this was the blog for me, because obviously, if I wasn't warned, I would burn myself. Therefore, if you want the more detailed step by step, head on over to Lotus Out Loud for the full details, otherwise, you'll get just a vague step by step here, but with PICTURES!

Here is the skirt, originally and holey.

So, what I first did actually was to see if my skirt, while wet, would fit in the pot I had (yeah it did) and then I left it to soak in the bathroom sink. Look at my olde tyme sink, you can either burn or freeze your hand, no nice lukewarm water for you! Also, wet fabric takes dye better, which I remember from my days in the theatre (say it fake posh please). I had to help bulk die fabric, which had the coolness of being in a giant vat, so I felt like a witch!

Here is me waiting for my pot to slowly boil... yeah, 16 cups of water takes some time. Time I should have spent cleaning that other burner, but, whatever, I'm really lazy at heart, though you wouldn't know it.

So here are all my calculations. I gauged the skirt at about three yards of fabric, but water for four yards covered the skirt better, so that would mean... 32 tea bags! Oh my! Luckily I had this new box of 50 tea bags, black tea as recommended, and what was nice about this brand is that they don't have a string or a tag, so just throw them in the pot! Although, as some have said (Gail), what a waste of all that tea... but it actually has a longer life as part of a skirt, because usually tea just passes right through you (oh, don't look at me like that, you know it's true).

So the brave little bags did jump to steep in the giant pot of boiling water. Side note, my whole house now smells of strong bergamot tea. I think it's kind of nice, I mean, I don't like my tea strong, but the smell is nice. Other members of the household have been more vocal, I think brunt fruit loops and piss have been mentioned more than once this day...

So, as recommended, I didn't try to squeeze the bags by hand, but used a slotted spoon and a wooden spoon in tandem, and it worked quite well. Though my slotted spoon now has a brown tinge... hopefully it will all come out in the dishwasher...

So, I wrung out the skirt and shook it out, so as to get an even color, and into the vat it went! I steeped the tea a long time (about twelve minutes) because I wanted a darker color, so I was also planning on keeping the skirt in there for awhile. Perhaps if I do it again I will leave a lid on the pot so that the vocal member of my house will shut his yap. I left it in for about 90 minutes.

After pouring out the tea you can see that it's not quite as dark as you think it is, but I was forewarned, so I knew it would be lighter.

A close-up of the fabric post rinse pre-wash, because I am going to use the cold water washing machine method and maybe a few minutes in the dryer as well to be safe.

Here it is all washed and dried! It has a wonderful peachy tone that I just adore. Also, whew, it looks good with the top and my over skirt! The skirt has amazing uniformity of color, so I must have done something right! Only near the waistband is there a little splotchiness, but it's under the over skirt, and even if it was, character right? The skirt is now definitely darked than the shirt. Now that they dying is done, time to get me some yarn on!

Friday, August 24, 2012

~Questions and Answers with Cherie Priest~

Cherie Priest is the author of a dozen novels, including the steampunk pulp adventures Ganymede, Dreadnought, Clementine, and Boneshaker. Boneshaker was nominated for both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award; it was a PNBA Award winner, and winner of the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. But what really matters is that she's a cat person, is totally into Steampunk (including video games!), and was the guest of honor at the first Teslacon!

Question: What is the definitive Steampunk book for you?

Answer: I haven't read it yet. Steampunk comes in too many flavors for me to pick one and hold it up, saying, "THIS AND NONE OTHER." That having been said, when I talk about steampunk being a spectrum, and not a binary, I tend to put The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen* comics at #10. It's hard to get too much more steampunk than that, but that's not the only way to go about it.

*Which you could win a copy of in the Steampunk Summer Giveaway!

Question: What drew you to this genre?

Answer: I slid into it sideways, as an old goth with a fondness for Tim Burton.

Question: How do you take your tea?

Answer: Iced, sweet, and usually flavored.

Question: Must have sartorial accessory?

Answer: A well fitting waistcoat and a fluffy skirt. I love corsets, but I have back problems - and I don't wear them nearly so often anymore.

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

Answer: Depends on my mood. I've done all of those, and others too.

Question: Top hat or bowler hat?

Answer: I have a good wool version of each, actually.

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

Answer: How about SteamGoth? I like SteamGoth.

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

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

Answer: I can think of a number of overused tropes, but I'm as guilty of them as anyone. I'll not cast stones.

Question: Favorite movie or television series with Steampunk elements?

Answer: Oh, I don't know. A few off the top of my head: Dark City, Labyrinth, Sleepy Hollow ... lovely movies, all. TV shows - Firefly, obviously, and Jack of All Trades*, which was wonderful. And video games, God - Bioshock, Silent Hill (some of them, anyway). Batman: Arkham City and Arkham Asylum, both. It's hard to pick just one of anything. I'm sure that the moment I hit "send" on this email, I'll think of fifty different things I'll wish I'd included.

*Awesome, everyone should watch and we'll then have a group sing-a-long with the opening credits!

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

Answer: Terra firma. I'm sick to death of flying, and I get a little seasick.

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

Answer: Victoria, all the way.

Question: Victorian or Wild West?

Answer: Yes.

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

Answer: Nah. I'm too much of a control freak.

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

Answer: To Waffle House.

*Author Photo Credit: Libby Bulloff

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review - Cherie Priest's Boneshaker

Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century Book 1) by Cherie Priest
Published by: Tor
Publication Date: September 29th, 2009
Format: Paperback,  416 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Briar Wilkes lives in the shadow of a great wall and all that happened before it was erected. Within that wall she was married to a great inventor, Leviticus Blue. There he created The Boneshaker, a device to aid in the mining of Alaska, which instead devastated Seattle and released a blight gas that would turn people into the walking undead. Behind the wall Briar's father was sheriff and what he did brought further ridicule to Briar's name. The wall was built to keep the gas and the rotters in. On the day the last brick was laid, Briar gave birth to Levi's son, Zeke. Sixteen years later, life just keeps getting harder.

Zeke has questions, yet his mother would just like to leave the past behind. Learning of an entire population of people in the quarantined area, Zeke decides to go beyond the wall. There's two ways in, under or over, he uses the cities drainage system for a quick excursion to relieve his curiosity about his father and the life his parents lived in a quaint Victorian house, before his father destroyed the city. Upon finding Zeke missing, Briar decides that she must go and rescue her boy from his own stupidity. An earthquake stops her from going under, so she must go over the wall. Zeke searches for answers while Briar aligns herself with a rag tag group of folks who hold her father sacred as she looks for her son.

Going into the unknown, their lives are both constantly in danger, from rotters, blight and from a mysterious underworld boss, Minnericht, who it is rumored, might in fact be Leviticus Blue. Briar needs to find her son and face the past that she has been trying to hide from. If her and Zeke can survive this, maybe Zeke can handle the truth.

Being, in it's most basic form, a Zombie story, it does have the Zombie tropes. Small group of people, striving to survive, some will die, but hopefully some will survive. But Boneshaker overcomes this with the infusion of plucky characters and alt history and a purpose other than survival, with the underlying Minnericht mystery. Also, the trope of endangered child is thankfully not harped on, seeing as Zeke is quite capable in his own way. You could, in essence, say that the story is very much the movie Labyrinth, one of Cherie's favorite Steampunk movies. This weird land beyond a wall has taken Briar's child and she is in constant danger, but due to the friends she makes along the way she is able to have her final showdown and escape the Labyrinth. Though the blight is far scarier than the bog of eternal stench.

A story with a very condensed plot and limited characters, like most survival stories, are at the mercy of those characters. If they are not unique, interesting and believable, the whole house of cards would come falling in on you. Taking just the living characters, Cherie has given us unique people with flaws and foibles that makes you root for them. Briar Wilkes is one of those rare instances where I don't waffle about who she is and what she looks like, I just saw her there instantly in my minds eye. The rough life she's led, after being the bell of the ball, the way the blighted rain has streaked her hair and her clothes, and the introspective life she has become accustomed to living in a world where the only person she can rely on is her son, and he might not even do that if she opened up. Kick ass Western heroine alert here!

Zeke is also an interesting character, in that he's a teenager who puts himself in danger who I didn't spend the entire book hoping he'd die. Yeah, I don't really like those too stupid to live, but at least his decisions once beyond the wall, thankfully take him out of the I want him to die camp. But really, my heart belongs to Lucy O'Gunning, the barkeep who has lost both her arms but thankfully has one robotic one left, who is always upbeat and cheerful, I kind of picture her as Clara from The Guild, where she would love all "the clocky windy stuff" down in the blighted city.

Now the alt history really drew me in as well. Being the time of the civil war, but with obvious mechanical advances that didn't exist, I was interested in how things had changed but stayed the same. I have a feeling Cherie will cover it more in later books, this being a series, but I like how she incorporated elements of really history and how those elements would react to this blight. For example, the Chinese immigrant population was very high in the Pacific Northwest during this time period. From railways to mining, these men where imported to the US, leaving their families behind, to do the jobs no American would do, thank you weird literature class I took in college! Obviously, these people would be so used to adapting to changing situations, that the blight arriving and the wall's erection would actually be, in some respects, good for them. They are able to use their skill sets in order to create an empire under the blighted Seattle that rivals that of Minnericht. Just fascinating, I can't wait to see how else history has been altered!

The mystery of Minnericht to me is actually the driving force of the plot. While, yes, Briar is trying to reunite with her son, that's all well and good, and obviously they have to survive as well, mysteries is what makes books tick for me. Minnericht is an enigma. A man who may or may not be whom everyone thinks he is, though he couldn't possibly comment. Briar is a threat to him. She could confirm or deny the fact. Either way, she is a threat to his way of life. Also, the fact that he has so obviously built up, not just a power base, but an opulent little world, he's like the Lex Luthor or Seattle, because real estate underground is where it's at... yeah, so I just watched Superman again recently... maybe I should just read the next book instead of watching that movie yet again, because once that theme song gets in your head, it's their forever.

Moste Importante Steampunkery:
The technology itself is so amazing in this book. The way the characters have to wear masks to keep the blight out gives the book a claustrophobic air. The Boneshaker itself might be considered the moste Steampunk item, because, it is created and then destroys all the city... but personally, I'm going with Minnericht's invention used by Jeremiah Swakhammer, The Doctor Minnericht Doozy Dazer, called Daisy for short. Capable of emitting an extremely powerful auditory blast that renders the rotters immobile for about three minutes. Sadly, it can take up to fifteen minutes to be ready. But anything that can give a short respite from the rotters is good in my book! Go Daisy go!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale
Published by: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: August 21st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seem so sophisticated and exciting . . . until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she should help them. Soon Miri finds herself torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends’ ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city.

Picking up where Princess Academy left off, this incredible stand-alone story celebrates the joys of friendship, the delight of romance, and the fate of a beloved fairy tale kingdom."

Shannon Hale is one of my most favorite writers ever! The fact that she has finally written a sequel to Princess Academy fills my heart with glee. I think I'll go sqwee some more to myself in a corner!

The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication Date: August 21st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Until the day I met John Smith, Number Four, I'd been on the run alone, hiding and fighting to stay alive.

Together, we are much more powerful. But it could only last so long before we had to separate to find the others. . . .

I went to Spain to find Seven, and I found even more, including a tenth member of the Garde who escaped from Lorien alive. Ella is younger than the rest of us, but just as brave. Now we're looking for the others—including John.

But so are they.

They caught Number One in Malaysia.
Number Two in England.
And Number Three in Kenya.
They caught me in New York—but I escaped.
I am Number Six.
They want to finish what they started.

But they'll have to fight us first."

My Moxie friend has been telling me for awhile how much I'd love this series, so I think I'll finally have to check it out, because with the new book, I'm sure she'll start the barrage again (barrage in the best way possible)!

Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: August 21st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Devotion turns deadly in this second Gothic thriller from Kenneth Oppel.
When does obsession become madness? Tragedy has forced sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library. He vows he will never dabble in the dark sciences again—just as he vows he will no longer covet Elizabeth, his brother’s betrothed.

If only these things were not so tempting.

When he and Elizabeth discover a portal into the spirit world, they cannot resist. Together with Victor’s twin, Konrad, and their friend Henry, the four venture into a place of infinite possibilities where power and passion reign. But as they search for the knowledge to raise the dead, they unknowingly unlock a darkness from which they may never return."

Frankenstein is hot right now! This series is doing it's darnedest to help the trend. I just picked up the first one recently and am intrigued.

The Tweleve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: August 21st, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Before she became the nineteenth century’s greatest heroine, before he had written a word of Madame Bovary, Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert traveled down the Nile at the same time. In the imaginative leap taken by award-winning writer Enid Shomer’s The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, the two ignite a passionate friendship marked by intelligence, humor, and a ravishing tenderness that will alter both their destinies.

In 1850, Florence, daughter of a prominent English family, sets sail on the Nile chaperoned by longtime family friends and her maid, Trout. To her family’s chagrin—and in spite of her wealth, charm, and beauty—she is, at twenty-nine and of her own volition, well on her way to spinsterhood. Meanwhile, Gustave and his good friend Maxime Du Camp embark on an expedition to document the then largely unexplored monuments of ancient Egypt. Traumatized by the deaths of his father and sister, and plagued by mysterious seizures, Flaubert has dropped out of law school and writ-ten his first novel, an effort promptly deemed unpublishable by his closest friends. At twenty-eight, he is an unproven writer with a failing body.

Florence is a woman with radical ideas about society and God, naive in the ways of men. Gustave is a notorious womanizer and patron of innumerable prostitutes. But both burn with unfulfilled ambition, and in the deft hands of Shomer, whose writing The New York Times Book Review has praised as “beautifully cadenced, and surprising in its imaginative reach,” the unlikely soul mates come together to share their darkest torments and most fervent hopes. Brimming with adventure and the sparkling sensibilities of the two travelers, this mesmerizing novel offers a luminous combination of gorgeous prose and wild imagination, all of it colored by the opulent tapestry of mid-nineteenth-century Egypt."


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sartorial Sundays

So now that I have the proto-costume, ie, pieces but not as they will appear in the finished work, it's time to get going, right?

If you've forgotten, this here is the shirt I bought, all nice and creamy with it's inappropriate collar. Now, time for some fun!

Seam ripping can be one of the most fun or frustrating things out there. Firstly, I always lose my seam rippers. In my life I can not count how many I have lost. This was "logically" next to the PS3 remote... I know! I thought it would be either in my sewing box or somehow it had migrated to my mom's, but no, it was watching tv. What was interesting about this shirt, once I started deconstructing the collar, was that it had two seams I had to rip, where I thought there would be one. First, the collar was sew to the inside lip of the interior collar and then it was sewn shut... so more seam ripping for me! The exterior one went well, the interior went well and fast, but made a mess. That's the worst part, all the little bits of thread everywhere, that's why I try to pull and pluck it through as much as possible.

So here's the collar as I want it! Yeah! But I need to now sew it up nice and neat and make it look classy. Luckily I had the right color thread at home so I didn't have to go to the fabric store. It was also already threaded in my sewing machine, which I of course didn't look at at first, pulled it out, went, shit, and re-threaded the machine. Cause that's how I do things!

Took all of five seconds to sew it and viola, new Victorian shirt.

Here is a close up because, I'm quite proud that I didn't mess it up. look at those neat stitches yo!

Now the skirt, seen here in all it's glory!

Now to the problem of the skirt. Here is the torn section... an easy fix. I being lazy and not wanting to bust out the sewing machine for this one just whipped that wound closed by hand.

And viola... was there ever a hole? No, there wasn't, and you better remember that!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Movie Review - Young Sherlock Holmes

Young Sherlock Holmes
Inspired by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Release Date: December 4th, 1985
Starring: Nicholas Rowe, Alan Cox, Sophie Ward, Anthony Higgins, Susan Fleetwood, Freddie Jones, Nigel Stock, Roger Ashton-Griffiths and Earl Rhodes
Rating: ★★★★★
To Buy

A young John Watson is sent to Brompton Academy in London after his previous school is shut down. There, on the next bunk, trying to learn the violin, is a young Sherlock Holmes, who is put out because he should have mastered the violin in the three days he's had it. But at least he is able to quickly deduce all their is about Watson, the son of a Doctor from the north of England who is overly fond of custard tarts. Holmes takes Watson under his wing and shows him the ropes at the school. The real benefit of the school is that up in the rafters one of the retired teachers, Rupert T. Waxflatter has created a laboratory to rival anyone and spends most of his time working on a Da Vinci-esque flying machine, mentoring Holmes, and taking care of his orphaned niece Elizabeth, who is Holmes's love interest.

Yet things aren't as idyllic as they seem. There is an odd man hanging around the school looking to talk to Waxflatter. Also, there is an odd jingly sound heard on several occasions. Two distinguished men, Bentley Bobster and Reverend Duncan Nesbitt, have committed suicide. But if they committed suicide, why was Waxflatter interested in their deaths? Holmes takes his queries to a young police officer, Lestrade, who brushes Holmes aside. The trios investigation is put on hold when Holmes is expelled, despite his teacher Rathe speaking up for him. One of the other students has framed Holmes, very nicely indeed, for cheating. Holmes's perfect school record works against him because it is assumed by the board that only a cheater could reach that level of perfection. They just don't understand the brilliance of Holmes!

As Holmes is about to be sent away, Waxflatter kills himself... Holmes knows that what appears to be the case couldn't be, and with Waxflatter's dying words "Eh-tar" the game is afoot! Soon Elizabeth, Watson and Holmes are racing through the streets of London and uncovering an ancient Egyptian cult, the Rame Tep, who are worshippers of Osiris. They have revenge in mind and the diabolical genius behind the evil machinations might just changes Holmes's life forever.

There are movies that forever change you and help form the person you are. For me there where a few: Clue, The Princess Bride, The Wrong Box, The 'burbs, and, of course, Young Sherlock Holmes. This movie forever shaped my sensibilities and instilled a love of Victoriana and Egypt, not to mention mysteries, in me.  Though it also provided me with a great fear of Egyptian cults and mummification, which exists to this day in one form or another, but not to the extent that made me hide from King Tut in the stairwell when I went to the Tut exhibit as a small child at the Field Museum in Chicago. But I think that had more to do with the fact my Dad told me that the mummies all came alive at night and if I wasn't careful I would be locked in with them and they'd attack me. Yes, because I had a "normal" childhood.

Dispite the fear I still have whenever I hear the Rame Tep chanting, the music being played at last year's Teslacon during the mummy unwrapping sure didn't help any, I love Egyptian history and art. I adore poplar fiction set in Egypt from Elizabeth Peters to the Theodosia Throckmorton books by Robin LaFevers. I go to any Egyptian exhibit I can. I can tell you if an artifact is Mesopotamian or Egyptian just from a cursery look. Because of this movie my world view was expanded and therefore, being a book worm, I sought out knowledge and information. I have a brain bursting with facts just because of the little seeds planted by Spielberg years before. And yes, I still want to ask why there really wasn't any representation of Osiris in the pyramid set of a cult devoted to him, instead just his buddy Anubis hanging out.

Yet, it's not just Egypt that got me. The whole Gaslight Victorian romance aspect hooked me too. If you think about this film, you could quite easily remove the "Holmes" element and still have a corking good mystery and movie on your hand. The Holmesian elements just add another layer. People might argue with me as to why I love the romance aspect. Part of it is that I just want to hear Nicholas Rowe say my name over and over again. Holmes purists would decry the idea of lost love being the reason for Holmes's somewhat puritanical sex life. But to me, it comes down to that fact that, as Holmes says, he never wants to be alone. That is an astute observation, and a sad one, because isn't that what we all want? And an arch nemesis doesn't really fill that void.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

~Questions and Answers with Miss Eliza~

Well, for those who don't know me that well, or haven't been following me for that long, Monday was my birthday! Same as Alfred Hitchcock, yo. So, yeah me... I guess... seems weird to be applauding yourself, like at awards shows when nominees applaud themselves, you think, wow, now there's someone who thinks highly of themselves. So, whatever, yeah me, I'm a year older, yadda yadda. Also, this blog is very much, well, yes, me, but more, how other's works effect me. Literature filtered through a Miss Eliza shaped brain. Therefore, while I do talk about myself, I'm mainly talking about things that others have done or written. So for a change, the reason I'm talking about me, besides the whole birthday, is, I figured, I've made everyone else answer my silly Steampunk questions, it seems only right I answer them myself! Therefore, in honor of the day my mom gave birth in a horrible heatwave in the 70s, I present, my Steampunky brain, unfiltered.

Question: What is the definitive Steampunk book for you?

Answer: For me, it's Soulless by Gail Carriger. While there are books I've read since that I might love more, in fact, some of the ones I love more are by Gail Carriger, it was this book that made me more overtly aware of Steampunk, therefore, the definitive Steampunk book for me.

Question: What drew you to this genre?

Answer: While Soulless did draw me to the genre, I think that the reason I was ready for it was my love of the Young Sherlock Holmes. This movie influenced me at a very young age, instilling a love of Victoriana, flying contraptions, wacky inventors, sleuths, and evil Egyptian cults, the cult thing leading to nightmares to this day, damn you Lord Bobbins for playing the cult's music at Teslacon's mummy unwrapping last year! That, and Nicholas Rowe. Also, the romantic in me loves to think that because of a lose at an early age, Sherlock was never able to love again... even if it's totally against character, it made my adolescent heart ache.

Question: How do you take your tea?

Answer: Lots of milk and lots of sugar. What's the point of drinking tea any other way but the way you like it, which is the valuable lesson from Shaun of the Dead.

Question: Must have sartorial accessory?

Answer: Bomber jacket. Because it appeals to my golden age of travel/exploration fantasies... also, just an all round good coat.

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

Answer: Explorer... but that's I think because I lack the courage to try to pull off Aesthete. But I am a tinkerer at heart and I loved to dress up as an urchin as a child, it was that or Bat Girl, so, yes, Explorer overall, but really, I love them all.

Question: Top hat or bowler hat?

Answer: Both. Different occasions, outfits, social rankings, require different hats.

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

Answer: Gaslight Romance, because of the aforementioned Young Sherlock Holmes.

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

Answer: A super steam train. Seeing as I only travel over land, not high over land, a faster train is a must in my mind.

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

Answer: Nothing. Because, while there are tropes and situations that are played out, every once in awhile there's a book or author that is able to take that trope and reinvent it. If I was to censor something, I might be inadvertently stopping a work of genius.

Question: Favorite movie or television series with Steampunk elements?

Answer: Oh, just too too many. Doctor Who, The Avengers, Warehouse 13, Jack of All Trades, on and on and on. But if you can get Bruce Campbell in there, all the better!

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

Answer: Terra Firma. I like my feet to not leave the ground, or at least something connected to the ground, thank you!

Question: Victorian or Wild West?

Answer: Victorian. While younger, I did love the West, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, at some point, the Anglophile in me took over.

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

Answer: I'm lazy, and I don't like people touching my stuff, so logically, a robotic butler or ladies maid would be wonderful, but than I think of Cylons, and no way! I mean, did you read that article a few weeks back about a computer who didn't know what I cat was who was able to teach itself! Machines are starting to think. That day will be the day people look back on as the beginning of the robopocalypse.

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

Answer: I have always wanted to solve histories unsolved crimes. Jack the Ripper, what really happened with Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood? What did Agatha Christie really do when she disappeared? Black Dahlia, Zodiac Killer... you get the idea. Oh, and it'd be nice to meet Jane Austen. This, of course, is presuming I survived long enough on our first unexpected jaunt.

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

Answer: I'm going to be the only one, but I'm going with Elizabeth. One, because no one has been showing her the love. Come on people! And two, how cool was the bit at the Olympics with her and Bond? Queen Victoria never jumped out of a helicopter to open the Olympic ceremonies!

James Bond escorts the Queen - London Olympics 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tuesday Tomorrow

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran
Published by: Crown
Publication Date: August 14th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"National bestselling author Michelle Moran returns to Paris, this time under the rule of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte as he casts aside his beautiful wife to marry a Hapsburg princess he hopes will bear him a royal heir

After the bloody French Revolution, Emperor Napoleon’s power is absolute. When Marie-Louise, the eighteen year old daughter of the King of Austria, is told that the Emperor has demanded her hand in marriage, her father presents her with a terrible choice: marry the cruel, capricious Napoleon, leaving the man she loves and her home forever, or say no, and plunge her country into war.

Marie-Louise knows what she must do, and she travels to France, determined to be a good wife despite Napoleon’s reputation. But lavish parties greet her in Paris, and at the extravagant French court, she finds many rivals for her husband’s affection, including Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine, and his sister Pauline, the only woman as ambitious as the emperor himself. Beloved by some and infamous to many, Pauline is fiercely loyal to her brother. She is also convinced that Napoleon is destined to become the modern Pharaoh of Egypt. Indeed, her greatest hope is to rule alongside him as his queen—a brother-sister marriage just as the ancient Egyptian royals practiced. Determined to see this dream come to pass, Pauline embarks on a campaign to undermine the new empress and convince Napoleon to divorce Marie-Louise.

As Pauline’s insightful Haitian servant, Paul, watches these two women clash, he is torn between his love for Pauline and his sympathy for Marie-Louise. But there are greater concerns than Pauline’s jealousy plaguing the court of France. While Napoleon becomes increasingly desperate for an heir, the empire’s peace looks increasingly unstable. When war once again sweeps the continent and bloodshed threatens Marie-Louise’s family in Austria, the second Empress is forced to make choices that will determine her place in history—and change the course of her life.

Based on primary resources from the time, The Second Empress takes readers back to Napoleon’s empire, where royals and servants alike live at the whim of one man, and two women vie to change their destinies."

I have been waiting so long to read this, ever since I finished Madame Tussaud, and realized she was going to write her next book about France too! How fortunate that it comes out the day after my birthday... so gift cards for me, anyone, anyone?

The Kingmaker's Daughter by Philippa Gregory
Published by: Touchstone
Publication Date: August 14th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 430 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Spies, poison, and curses surround her…. Is there anyone she can trust?

In The Kingmaker’s Daughter, #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory presents a novel of conspiracy and a fight to the death for love and power at the court of Edward IV of England.

The Kingmaker’s Daughter is the gripping story of the daughters of the man known as the “Kingmaker,” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick: the most powerful magnate in fifteenth-century England. Without a son and heir, he uses his daughters Anne and Isabel as pawns in his political games, and they grow up to be influential players in their own right. In this novel, her first sister story since The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory explores the lives of two fascinating young women.

At the court of Edward IV and his beautiful queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne grows from a delightful child to become ever more fearful and desperate when her father makes war on his former friends. Married at age fourteen, she is soon left widowed and fatherless, her mother in sanctuary and her sister married to the enemy. Anne manages her own escape by marrying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, but her choice will set her on a collision course with the overwhelming power of the royal family and will cost the lives of those she loves most in the world, including her precious only son, Prince Edward. Ultimately, the kingmaker’s daughter will achieve her father’s greatest ambition."

So, we went with a really ugly cover this time... interesting choice, considering Gregory's books usually have such nice and uniformity of design!

The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: August 14th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world."

More Steampunk books for Steampunk Summer, yeah yeah yeah!

More Baths, Less Talking by Nick Hornby
Published by: McSweeny's
Publication Date: August 14th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 135 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"“Read what you enjoy, not what bores you,” Nick Hornby tells us. That simple, liberating, and indispensable directive animates each installment of the celebrated critic and author’s monthly column in the Believer. In this delightful and never-musty tour of his reading life, Hornby tells us not just what to read, but how to read.

Whether tackling a dismayingly bulky biography of Dickens while his children destroy something in the next room, or getting sucked into a serious assessment of Celine Dion during an intensely fought soccer match featuring his beloved Arsenal, or devouring an entire series of children’s books while on vacation, Hornby’s reviews are rich, witty, and occasionally madcap. These essays capture the joy and ire, the despair and exhilaration of the book-lover’s life, and will appeal equally to both monocle-wearing salonnieres and people, like him, who spend a lot of time thinking about Miley Cyrus’s next role."

Another book I've been waiting a long time for... it's like the publishing world loves me and wanted to give me all these gifts for my birthday, they shouldn't have... we, they should, but still, so nice!

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