I have had a fascination with Empress Elisabeth--or Sisi, or, indeed, Erszebet, as I first heard her called--since I traveled to Budapest and found thI have had a fascination with Empress Elisabeth--or Sisi, or, indeed, Erszebet, as I first heard her called--since I traveled to Budapest and found the hotel, street, bridge, et cetera all named after her. And when I found her omnipresent in Vienna as well, I needed to know about the woman who had inspired such adoration. What a fascinating and incredible woman she was, and what a tragic story she had!
The "diary" part of this book is short and not at all deep--but this is a young adult, or possibly children's book, so that is to be expected, I suppose. The epilogue, historical notes, family tree, and pictures are where the value of this book lies, but they do not tell us nearly enough about this fascinating woman.
In her life she was famous and admired mostly for her incredible beauty (which caused her eating disorder and her perfectionism regarding her appearance), but she had so many more important and valuable qualities. Most notable is that she was and is adored as a champion of the people and the country of Hungary. She was a self-studied anti-monarchist, pro-republic liberal, a poet, and an animal lover. After being pushed into marriage and the responsibilities of being an empress at the age of sixteen, she survived a very difficult, pressure-filled, and lonely life in the Viennese Habsburg court for many years with little support until she was finally able to stand up for herself and take a modicum of control over her own life. Although she left Vienna, she remained unhappy, and she endured further tragedy in the Mayerling Affair, which she never got over.
The story of her death is not told in great detail here, but it is fascinating: presumably due to her tight-laced corset and layers of black clothing, she was not aware of having been stabbed until much later; she felt pain but thought she'd merely been punched, and there was no gushing blood to tell her otherwise. After the attack she had boarded a boat and it was there on the water that she found she'd been stabbed, and there she died.
She was a modern woman trapped in an old-fashioned and stifling world, and she and her story are worth your time....more
Without a doubt, this book lives up to its name. Inside the unbelievably beautiful cover--it lacks only the gilt-edged pages many bibles have--is an eWithout a doubt, this book lives up to its name. Inside the unbelievably beautiful cover--it lacks only the gilt-edged pages many bibles have--is an excellent overview of Steampunk, in its incarnations as a literary and film genre, a clothing aesthetic, and a sub-culture, from its roots and origins to its possible future. In addition, there are special sections and closer looks at certain topics written by well-known contributors, including a project you can do yourself. And as if that isn't enough, the book is also chock full of more beautiful pictures (some of them are even of beautiful book covers themselves). There are contraptions and costumes galore, in full color--or sepia-tones, as the case may be!
This is a pretty quick and easy read even if you do actually read all the words, which I recommend, but it's very quick and definitely still worth it if all you want to do is look at the pretty pictures. I was looking forward to this book so much (on a boring day at work, I got an email from Amazon that it had shipped and I whispered "Steampunk Bible" over and over again to myself for probably five minutes...or maybe more) that it would have been nearly impossible for it to live up to my expectations--and yet, apart from the afore-mentioned lack of gilt-edged pages, it did! I loved it. I kind of hope it will soon be outdated by a huge influx of new Steampunk and Steampunk-related materials into our culture and our bookstores (and maybe clothing stores), but for now, this book is a must have. Comment...more
The story continues in the wonderful alternate universe created in the first book, with many of the same characters and plenty of new ones as well. Richard Burton is assigned another case to investigate: that of the Tichborne Claimant. This is an interesting bit of history even in our universe, but it becomes more exciting in the Albertian England where technology is advancing faster than even the tech-savvy can keep up with it and the supernatural is actually possible. Always entertaining, at times hilarious, and with multiple intriguing mysteries going at once, this book is a fantastic read. There are ingenious inventions and innovations, fascinating differences between this universe and ours, and wonderful characters anyone would love to read about. And since the story is full of actual historical figures and events, this book might possibly be even more fun for those who know a lot about the time period.
The writing is just as strong and funny in this second book book as it was in the first, although since the story takes place over a much longer stretch of time, there are periods and events that are skipped over in the telling, which was a bit disconcerting. Even so, I truly enjoyed every page of this book, and desperately hope there will be more in the series. I picked up the first one because the cover looked cool on the front and beautiful on the back--and I ended up with a new favorite author and a new favorite series! I can't say how excited these books make me without sounding like a teenage girl, but I genuinely do love this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who's read the first book.
Here are some of my favorite bits: The zombie rakes very politely trying to eat people (sadly, I didn't copy any of my favorite lines from this part, and I'm moving soon and have already packed the book away). Parakeet message:
"'Message from that dung-squeezer, Detective Inspector Trounce. Message begins. Word has reached me that you're back on your feet, you dirty shunt-knobbler. I'll call round at eight this evening. Message ends.'"
There are of course plenty of Oscar Wilde quotes:
"'Ah, well now, whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.'"
"'It seems to me that the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.'"
"'Have you seen the news yourself, sir?' 'Not yet. I've had my nose in books.' 'Then you must be the exception that proves the rule, for I have it in mind that the difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read!'"
Herbert Spencer's philosophizing:
"There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance--that principle is contempt prior to investigation; contempt carved from the immovable rock of faith."
"'It isn't possible to know if the reality you perceive is all there is. You can only deal with what you are cognizant of.'...'Knowledge is phenomenal?'...'We might only be aware of a small portion of reality, but it is reality nevertheless, so however we apprehend it, that apprehension has validity. Existence is, then, I posit, a continuous adjustment of internal relations to external relations.'"
"Resistance to aggression is not simply justified, but imperative."
"In fact, I contend not only that anyone can do it, but that we all do! Destiny is not fixed. It is the ever-changing consequence of uncountable actions--actions undertaken by every single person of the face of the planet...even the most obscure, uneducated, unimaginative nobody can, and does, make a difference."
And one more parakeet:
"'I think I can safely predict that this attempt will be a great deal less traumatic than the last!' Pox let loose a terrific shriek: 'Bollocks!'"