Midsummer has always been celebrated at Loeanneth with a grand gala. The lake house is strewn with lanterns and gondolas float on the river with fireworks dazzling the night sky above the great bonfire. While the Edevane family might enjoy their solitude in Cornwall, they still keep this tradition alive. It is 1933 and this will be the last year the family holds this celebration. Soon the house will be shuttered and it will be a time capsule of that night; the night everything changed. Young Alice Edevane would usually be reveling in these festivities, but this year is different. She no longer has time for Mr. Llewellyn, artist in resident and family friend, or her mother who wants her to help with preparations. She only has time for two things, plotting her first mystery novel and Ben. Ben is the gardener and she fancies herself in love with him. He listens raptly when she tells him about her book and talks to her like an equal. But could her book be what destroyed everything? Because in the wee hours of the night her baby brother Theo was taken from his crib. Seventy years later the case remains unsolved. Alice is now a successful mystery writer but she has never resolved what happened to her baby brother. Enter Sadie Sparrow. She's on leave from the MET with a forced vacation in Cornwall at her grandfather's house. Yet she can't sit still. Sadie stumbles on Loeanneth and the cold case consumes her. Will a fresh set of eyes find the truth of that long ago midsummer night?
There are times in your life when you just need to get away from reality and hide in a book. Sometimes it works and you fall into the story and it consumes you. Other times it backfires on you and all the troubles you were trying to escape are reflected back at you through this medium. Not only is the book too close for comfort, but once you put it down you'll be faced with reality again. Which is the situation I found myself in with Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, leading to me not being one of the worshipful majority. But that's another story for another time. When I finally picked up The Lake House it was precisely the book I needed at just the right time. It had just enough mystery with just the right level of predictability that I wanted to stay there as long as possible. I usually devour a book in a matter of days, but here I spent a week, taking my time and having a well deserved respite from reality. I languished at Loeanneth. The book became so much a part of me that I dreamt of Cornwall. I remember quite vividly being in the half-dream state where I wasn't quite fully awake but I had already started to leave my dream behind and hearing the garbage trucks making their morning rounds. The beeps were confusing and incongruous to me. There was still a part of me that knew they were garbage trucks, but my thoughts were consumed with the fact they didn't belong. The technology didn't exist yet and they would never spoil the idyll that was the lake house, because that is where I was. I haven't had this kind of dream disassociation since years ago when I thought some crop dusters were Messerschmidt's, again another story for another time.
Kate Morton's books aren't for everyone. In fact they only occasionally work for me. They spend loving detail on atmosphere and if you are more interested in narrative, well you can feel like you are languishing in a story with no forward momentum. The mysteries Morton concocts are very pedestrian. Her own creation, Alice Edevane, would weep for their simplicity. In fact the only thing that didn't ring true to me in The Lake House is that Alice Edevane is this grand dame of mystery writers the likes of P.D. James and Ruth Rendell yet she was never able to solve this mystery in her own life. Yes, you could say it's because she didn't want to know the truth, but that seems cliched. But the truth you need to remember in Morton's book is the mystery is always secondary. Yes, she did a better job this time of spacing out the clues so just when you thought nothing would progress, bam, new evidence showed up on the scene. That doesn't mean I didn't figure it out hundreds of pages earlier, but I liked the pacing. I also liked the characters, I felt like they were more fleshed out in this tale. Morton likes to have the old lady with these wonderful stories and secrets that must be passed on or solved by younger generations. It's her thing, it's her trope. But here Alice was so alive. She was the spark that kept things together. She's a spunky old lady who plays her cards close to her chest, and I just loved that. Instead of a dead aunt, a mother on her deathbed, or an old lady in a nursing home, the elderly lady this time around was active not passive and it made a huge difference.
While having the disappearance of the one Edevane son as the fulcrum this book is really about women. Particularly the bond between mothers and daughters and all the shapes and forms these bonds come in. I liked that we had mothers who knew the best thing for their child was to let them go, while also having mothers so selfish they pushed their daughter away for the sake of their own appearance. It really cast a light on the fact that there's not just one single and simple way that mothers and daughters interact. People are so different and to assume that their relationships are all the same is folly. What is also interesting is to see how the mother daughter relationship is formed by experience and also by society's conventions and how those conventions have changed over time. The relationship between Alice's mother and grandmother, women of the previous century, was more staid and reserved, because of the time and also a tragedy Alice's grandmother endured. Going forward Alice's mother wants to have a better relationship with her own daughters but realizes that her husband stands in the way of her being the "fun" parent and therefore sadly accepts her fate. Then we look to Sadie and how her own mother threw her out because Sadie got pregnant and opted to give the baby up for adoption. Just a few women, and yet their relationships are so complex and we are given insight into each one, we get to understand if not empathize with how they lived and loved.
But if I'm honest what really intrigued me with The Lake House was the real life parallels. Theo's disappearance has parallels to the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, which the book doesn't shy away from pointing out. There's something about these unsolved crimes that echo down the generations and draw us in and therefore make for great inclusions in fiction. As for my Lindbergh baby obsession, it's not as bad as my Jack the Ripper obsession, though both make me wish I could time travel just to solve unsolved crime. The thing is Lindbergh went to the same university as me and I can actually see the house where he lived from my office window. As for the kidnapping, I saw a riveting one person play on the convicted kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann that has always stuck with me. Though it wasn't just the Lindbergh allusions that I loved. Mr. Llewellyn and his children's book based on Alice's mother had so much Lewis Carroll in it I could sqwee for joy. Plus Morton played with our preconceptions based on this real life connection. She threw suspicion on Mr. Llewellyn but also called into question his relationship with the family, much as Carroll's was with the Liddells. Oh, and to hark back to those great dames of detection, there's more than a little Anne Perry in Alice Edevane. Of course Anne Perry's childhood crime of murdering her best friend's mother prior to becoming a bestselling crime writer was immortalized in the wonderful film Heavenly Creatures. This crime occurred in New Zealand, a stone throws from Morton's Australia. The idea that Alice might somehow be guilty and therefore an unreliable narrator, I can't tell you how much I loved this. Also the Mitford parallels, with Deborah, Alice, and Clemmie Edevane mirroring Diana, Nancy, and Jessica Mitford respectively was just the cherry on top of the sundae.
The only real problem I had with the entire book was Sadie Sparrow. While you might think it's a hatred of her pigheadedness and her just not really listening to people, it has nothing to do with that, I could overlook that as character flaws. My problem is her name: Sadie Sparrow. I'm sure when everyone first saw the Doctor Who episode "Blink" written by Steven Moffat they all thought that Sally Sparrow was the coolest name ever and were wishing that they had thought of it first. I know I did and I'm a reviewer not a writer! In fact my handle on my knitting site actually is Sally Sparrow, I am unashamed of my geekiness and I fully admit it. It's such a unique and distinctive name that once you hear it you can't ever forget it. Now here we have Sadie Sparrow. She's like a weak imitation, a bad knock off, a wannabe Sally but alwaysbe Sadie. Why would you EVER choose this as your characters name? Why would an editor ever let you do it? Yes the name might seem perfectly acceptable to you, the author, but it's not. This name wasn't your invention. To make matters worse Sally and her friend Kathy joke about being investigators, Sparrow and Nightingale! A bit ITV, but I'd still watch it. And here's "Sadie" being all investigative and then a PI! I'm sorry. This is just unacceptable. You could argue it's coincidence, that Kate Morton has never even seen Doctor Who. Guess what? I don't care. Yes her book has lots of real life connections and allusions, but she makes them her own. If it was a original thought or Sally just became Sadie, it's too close and MUST be changed. This isn't Moffat, it's Morton. And the last thing any writer wants to be is Moffat....more
Penelope feels that she not only let her twin sister down but her heroine Queen Victoria as well. Sure, she was there when Victoria was saved, but the special commendation belongs to her twin Persy and Persy alone. Pen feels like a fraud. And that is why she's in Ireland. It wasn't just that she felt like a third wheel at home with her sister in a constant state of connubial bliss with her new husband. It's that Pen has neglected her magical studies and now is the time to fix this shortfall. If she had tried harder before perhaps she could have actually helped Persy when she needed her help and deserved the commendation bestowed on her by Victoria. So Pen has followed her governess Ally to Ireland and Ally's new home in Cork with her husband. Only Ally is experiencing a common result of getting married and her horrific morning sickness, which seems to last all day, has led to Ally's father-in-law, Doctor Carrighar, taking over Pen's education. Despite how much she wants to better herself, being locked up all day studying, at times with four male students of Doctor Carrighar's who don't appreciate the presence of a female, can be tiring.
But Cork isn't London and Pen convinces Ally to let her run errands. Alone. When she's out one day she fatefully and almost fatally runs into Lady Keating. Lady Keating takes Pen under her wing and soon becomes the female role model Pen is so desperately missing with Ally being laid up and Persy a country away. It doesn't hurt that Lady Keating's son, Niall, isn't hard on the eyes. But then again, Niall is rumored to be the illegitimate son of Queen Victoria's uncle, the Duke of Cumberland. The Duke might not be liked, but he does have the looks, the looks of Niall. The Duke is also at the heart of a plan being concocted by Lady Keating, who just happens to be a sorceress. Due to unforeseen circumstances Lady Keating's plan to get ride of Queen Victoria and install the Duke on the throne has a hitch. She needs a third witch, preferably family, to help invoke the power of the Triple Goddess to get her spell to work. To this end Lady Keating orders Niall to court Pen, whose magical abilities she has recognized. But when does duty to his mother become true love for Penelope? With secrets upon secrets and broken allegiances can anyone get a happy ending? And more importantly, can Pen earn the commendation Queen Victoria gave her?
In Marissa Doyle's first book in this series, Bewitching Season, I felt such a strong connection to Persy and her bookish ways that I quite honestly didn't think I would be able to connect to Pen. Through the filter of Persy's story Pen seemed the epitome of the girly girl of the time, more concerned with couture and a debutante's lifestyle than education and books. Cutting Pen off from her delightful family, and in particular her little brother Charles, seemed a sure way to get me to tune out. Of course I was totally wrong. Pen didn't so much change throughout her sister's adventure as had her eyes opened and Betraying Season is the result of this new knowledge. Yes, I could say that it's because the sisters did a "Parent Trap" and switched situations, with Pen becoming the bookish one, but that isn't it at all. What it is is that we get to see Pen's struggle as she tries to change, as she tries to do better, to be better, and this is a struggle which we can all relate to. And her change isn't overnight, while she does buckle down and commit to studying, she still longs for and misses society and the season she gave up to improve herself. This is what works so well, we constantly see Pen struggling to balance this new life of the mind with her old life of leisure that Lady Keating seems to initially represent; and it's in this struggle that we finally relate to Pen.
The love story is also of a different ilk. Persy quite literally fell for the boy next door in Lochinvar. Their romance was sweet and destined and full of misunderstandings, but was always a given. We, as the readers, weren't there on this journey from the beginning, we came in once it was already set in stone. Bewitching Season was more about the consummation than the journey. Which is where Pen and Niall come in. We get to follow their budding romance every step of the way, from initial attraction to happily ever after. There's a different kind of magic finding someone when you least expect it and connecting and building a bond and overcoming obstacles. By seeing their entire romance unfold we can never be certain that the HEA is guaranteed. There's more fluidity to the outcome by not having it so fated as Persy and Lochinvar were. Plus, there's wonderful misunderstandings that crop up because these two people haven't known each other their whole life. I think this is best exemplified by Niall's hair-brained scheme to "save" Pen from his mother's machinations. The entire time you're thinking, why didn't Niall just tell Pen what was going on? But that's the fun of this book. They're new to each other so they will misstep, and sometimes those missteps are hilarious in their absurdity.
As for Lady Keating being the big bad... I kind of seriously adored her. Persy was facing a foe who was all about his power hungry machinations, whereas Lady Keating is actually far more complex. She's not just evil, but she's definitely not good. She seriously wants what is best for her son, but doesn't bother to ask him. She assumes that her desires for power and fame are aligned with her sons. But Niall isn't that way inclined. In this way I view her as a very Norma Bates character, because she's trying to do what's best for her son but in the only way she knows how. And of course that way is entirely the wrong way to do it. But underneath this veneer she has created she's far more complex than you'd think. She is obviously a woman who is looking for someone to connect to. She doesn't care about her husband or her daughter, because one was a convenience, the other wasn't skilled enough in magic to provide any interest. She "loves" Niall because he is a link to the one person she did connect with, the Duke of Cumberland. But it is in her relationship with Pen that we see all her different layers. She obviously has longed for someone magical to connect with and one wonders, if she had had this in her life earlier, would she be the villain? I honestly don't think she would be, and that human side is what makes her so deliciously complicated.
What I really sunk my teeth into here was the expansion of the magical system that Marissa Doyle had previously set up. Ireland has an entirely different feel, magically speaking, and this contrast helps Pen become as adept as her sister, but in a unique way. There are many methods of teaching these varying magics, and I think it really shows how people, even twins, learn differently and connect to subjects in distinctive ways. This "Other" magic very much ties into the very fiber of what it is to be Irish and their myths and legends. The Fairy realm, the Triple Goddess, all of it ties into what makes Ireland so distinctive. I can't help but think of the Irish Fest I used to attend every summer in Milwaukee. Even though it was many many miles away from the homeland, there was a magic to the storytelling and the music and the community. There's just something inherent to the culture of Ireland that encourages this belief in the possibility of magic and Marissa Doyle has tapped into it in this volume. She has made magic even more believable and that's why I, and perhaps even Pen, were able to make this connection that we didn't think was possible.
The magic just doesn't stop at enchantments, but goes further into the bestiary, the "creatures" of Ireland and the magical world. Adding magical creatures into a series that previously had no mention of them is a tricky thing. The main problem that us readers face is the suspension of disbelief. This suspension is often hampered by making the creatures too comical. A funny creature doesn't lend itself to credulity, most of the time. Yet once again Marissa Doyle comes out on top. She introduces the creatures, in particular Corkwobble the clurichaun, which for some reason my spell check actually recognizes as a form of leprechaun, in a very matter of fact way. And this is what makes it work. My paternal grandmother was 100% Irish, though not born there, and she talked about ghosts and creatures, in particular Pookas, as totally existing. I grew up believing in these creatures and nothing will ever shake my belief because when a little old lady sits you down and says it's just the way of the world and sure, you'll see ghosts, there's something so matter of fact that you just accept it. And that is what this book does, it's the way of the world for Pen and Pen just goes with it. And what better way to have an adventure then to be at Pen's side?...more
Miss Penelope Lumley is eager to embrace her first job as a governess. She has just graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females and iMiss Penelope Lumley is eager to embrace her first job as a governess. She has just graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females and is ready to put the sayings of the school's founder, the redoubtable Agatha Swanburne, into action. Though her plans to teach her pupils Latin declensions might have to be put on hold for awhile at least. The thing is, when she arrives at Ashton Place she learns the truth, her three charges were found in the woods where it is presumed they were raised by wolves. Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia Incorrigible were discovered by Lord Fredrick Ashton when he was out hunting, and as everyone knows, finders keepers! Miss Lumley first encounters her charges out in the barn quite literally howling. Now she sees why the advertisement for the job requested "experience with animals." But growing up at the Swanburne Academy Penelope's favorite books were the Giddy-Yap, Rainbow! books about the adventures of a pony named Rainbow and her young mistress, Edith-Anne Pevington. The volume Silky Mischief, wherein Rainbow saved an ill-tempered pony, left an indelible mark on Penelope and she knows that if Rainbow could save Silky she can save these three young children. It isn't long before she has them indoors and properly attired, though squirrels continue to be a problem. Miss Lumley is confident and bold with her unique lessons, but she worries about an ultimatum laid down that the children be ready to be presented at Lord Fredrick's new wife's holiday soiree. Could it undo all the progress she has made? And what if a squirrel were to appear?
While a series of books written about a group of children raised by wolves sounds almost too gimmicky to be enjoyable, there is something so endearing about the Incorrigibles that you can't help but fall in love with them. In fact there's many things about this book that in any other book I would have been annoyed and aggravated with, but somehow I just found it all so charming. For example, anachronisms usually drive me batty, yet for a book set around 1850, these interruptions from a modern narrator which introduce the anachronisms somehow work. Like Lemony Snicket explaining words within his narrative, this gimmick becomes stylistically part of the story and just works. And yes, I know saying something "just works" is a very imprecise way of describing something and seems as if I'm trying to get out of more explanation, but knowing when something works and when something doesn't work is an ineffable quality. It's easier to describe something when it doesn't work. You can point to a specific passage or event and go, there it is, that's where it failed. To point at something and go, now that's where it works, well, that's harder. The book is a cohesive whole, it flows and doesn't jar or annoy. Everything follows in a logical and well written pattern and at the end there's nothing that displeased you except coming to the end. I had an ineffably good time with a smile on my face the entire time I read this book, and if you need more convincing, I'm not sure how I could convince you. But let me give it a good old Swanburne try!
One aspect of the book that would normally be a stumbling block for me was Miss Lumely's love of the Giddy-Yap, Rainbow! books. See, the thing is, I'm not a horse girl. I wasn't the girl at school longing for the weekend when they could go visit their pony or go ride somewhere for lessons, and yes, I did know a few. I think the fact that I was never the girl screaming for a pony for her birthday pleased my mother, who grew up on a farm surrounded by horse girls. Yet, unlike other authors who would play to this horse loving crowd, Wood doesn't write just for them, thus alienating her non-horse readers. Yes, the horse lovers might get something more out of The Mysterious Howling, but the book lovers who can't pass up a good series, and the animal lovers are also part of this book's audience. In fact, the Giddy-Yap, Rainbow! books reminded me of the Serendipity book series by Stephen Cosgrove and Robin James. When I was growing up these kitschy illustrated books about all kids of animals from cats to unicorns were all the rage. Sure there was a moral to the tale, but it was the love of animals and the illustrations that drew me to these books. So while I can't relate to the horse aspect here, I can relate to the animal aspect and in extension the animal book series aspect. I can relate to the love and care that animals show humans and vice-versa and how this love for all living creatures helped Miss Lumley forge a bond with her charges that other governesses wouldn't have been able to do.
Going further into the "animal" nature of the children, I think what makes this series stand out is the children's use of language. Everyone who has ever loved or cared for animals knows that they speak in their own language. Cats have a certain way of speaking, as do dogs, and as do the aforementioned horses. Therefore it makes sense that these three Incorrigibles being raised as they were would have their own language as well. Now this is a very fine line that Wood is walking. Like books that use vernacular there's the danger of being incomprehensible on one end of the spectrum, and on the other is the danger of being too cutesy. But the truth is, their language usage isn't precocious or twee, it's simply enchanting and addictive. From Lumawoo, their affectionate name for Miss Lumley, to various ahwoos punctuated with barks and growls, their language is adorable and you instantly want to adopt it as your own. Much like how little children sometimes can't quite say certain words or letters growing up and nicknames for people and things develop, so does the Incorrigible language form. Yet you aren't on the outside looking in like someone mildly revolted by a couples overly cutesy nicknames for each other, you're on the inside, instantly seeing how cute it all is. You're in on the joke, so that makes all the difference. Your perspective is key.
Where I took the greatest joy though was in all the literary allusions and references that add a level for the adult readers. There is no doubt that Miss Lumley is of the Jane Eyre type, a sensible governess in early Victorian times. Therefore there is all that Gothic goodness to sink your teeth into. But what I took most fun with was trying to pinpoint the year the book takes place. With all the modern references peaking in, you'd think the book might be slightly timeless, but you'd be wrong. I mentioned earlier 1850, and that wasn't arbitrary, in fact, to be more specific, let's say 1851. Leaving aside the fact that at the author talk I went to Maryrose Wood also said 1851. Because while in the audience I did a little hope of joy because I had already reached that conclusion by the allusions in the text. The two key pieces of evidence for the literary sleuths are the publication of Moby Dick, and the reference to the new fashion of "the cage" which Elizabeth Gaskell wrote a short story about. These two mentions place the book firmly in 1851. I love to think of kids years from now going back to these books, which have hopefully become favorites, and seeing all that they missed before. Not the cutesy Rainbow books, that are the type of books we love as children, but other, more adult things, like the tableaux of Longfellow's work. These are books that you can read on many levels and grow into, and that makes them so good.
But the literary allusions, while all well and good, bring me to the fact that, for me, it's the time period that makes The Mysterious Howling. Yes, because of the time period, the literary allusions add to it, but it's the time period itself that I love. I love the mid 19th century. Dickens, the Brontes, Gaskell, Eliot, all these amazing writers creating a sense of place. If I had to describe this book in one sentence it would be Victorian Addams Family with a Lemony Snicket vibe. And really, there couldn't be higher praise from me than this. I devoured the A Series of Unfortunate Event books, and as for the Addams Family, they are a way of life for me. Combining the two around a Gothic center, well, I felt like these books were written just for me. In fact the second I finished The Mysterious Howling I wanted to dive right into The Hidden Gallery. But I didn't. I didn't because I knew that I'd then have to read them all right away and there's nothing that hurts a review more than getting muddled in a series and not being able to do each individual book justice. Plus I had some Sherlock Holmes to read... But you can be confident that now that I have finally written this review that the next volume by Maryrose Wood will quickly be making it's way to the top of my to be read pile, because I literally can't wait....more
He came for the funeral, but on his way to the wake he wanders the lanes of his childhood. He doesn't know where he's going until he is there, at theHe came for the funeral, but on his way to the wake he wanders the lanes of his childhood. He doesn't know where he's going until he is there, at the Hempstock's farm. There he remembers his friend Lettie, who lived there with her mother and grandmother, until she left for Australia. But his memories are coming back. She didn't go to Australia, she disappeared in the little pond behind her house that she insisted on calling the ocean. He would have never met the Hempstocks if not for the opal miner. The miner came into their house as a boarder and took the family car down to the end of the lane and ended his life. That was the day he first met the three women. Weird things started to happen after the suicide. Money started randomly appearing and he learned that an otherworldly being used the death of the miner to access our world. Lettie tried to stop this threat, but she made a mistake they all will pay for. The being manifests in our world as Ursula Monkton, a new nanny for the boy and his sister. He needed Lettie's help to get her back to where she came from, but that might be very dangerous indeed. They might need help from more otherworldly beings, and their arrival might be more dangerous than Ursula's. The struggle will be fierce, and in the end innocence might not be it's only victim.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an odd little book. It's too long to be a short story, yet too short to really be a novel, instead it's a little meditation on what it is to look back on your childhood. All the muddled memories and half forgotten things that went into shaping who we are. Is this a perfect book? Far from it. Is this Gaiman's best work? No, it's not. But does it connect to something deep within you? Yes it does. It's like a fever dream of your childhood where something triggers a memory and all that emotion floods back into you. All the fears of our childhood. That one nightmare you had where Doctor Octopus killed your parents and no matter how many times they told you that it was nothing but a dream it somehow still feels real. In some reality somewhere your parents died and you were alone. The memory sneaks up on you and for a short time you remember every vivid detail, but over time it fades until you stumble upon it again. When you learn that the narrator has gone back and had his past revealed to him more than once only to forget, you realize the truth at what Gaiman is hinting at. Time, memory, it's mutable. Emotions even change. That which we felt so important as a child is somehow small, but at the same time is still important. As we grow older things disappear and we forget. To regain those memories only to lose them again is bittersweet, much how you will struggle to remember this book.
Neil writes best when writing for children. He has some magical connection to his own inner child that speaks to that within us all. While this book isn't for children, it's about them. The Ocean at the End of the Lane feels like a snapshot of Neil's own childhood, but it has a universality to all reader's childhoods. There's a nostalgia with the time period. Even if you aren't of his generation, there is still that feeling of looking back, when your imagination ran riot and a clearing in the woods was a home you built and the rocks a fireplace, or when the roots of a tree were a vast city for people to live in, or even when a pond was an ocean. So while the book relies heavily on the fantastical, there's another reading of the text. That the fantastical is nothing more then a way for a child to process ideas they don't quite yet understand. This can be seen most with the relationship between the father and Ursula. They are obviously attracted to each other and the younger sister even hints later in life that perhaps their father had an affair. So even if you find the evil that is Ursula a little fantastical, with her otherworldly attributes, look at it another way. She is an outsider with the power to break up the family by her relationship with the father. Everything "other" can have a more mundane explanation. And that is what I really connected to re-reading this book. That the text has these multiple layers, that it isn't just the supernatural, but the natural hidden underneath.
The problem with the book is that it overstays it's welcome. When Ursula has been vanquished and the hunger birds remain you can't help but feel that the story should have ended. The hunger birds are varmints that serve no real purpose in the story and lack the originality of everything that has come before. The narrative seems to have gotten away from Neil and we are just biding our time. This is where you realize that the "book" might have been better served as a short story. Or even interlinked short stories that completely skipped over the hunger birds. This lackluster ending more than anything else makes the book very forgettable. You have an immediate connection, but that connection is slowly severed as you care less and less for what is happening. But in a way, it works. Because you are left with the same problem as our unknown protagonist. You have vague impressions of what you have read, but no real memory. This, of course, doesn't aid in the writing of a review. Trying to catch your feelings for this book is like trying to bottle lightning. The words are running through your hands like water and you're not sure if you have anything to say. After reading this book twice I feel like I have a better grasp on it, but still, it's floating away even as I type this.
Neil wrote this book for his wife Amanda. To dig deep and create not just his typical story, but something different, something brimming with emotion. What I find interesting is that his end result reminds me very much of Terry Pratchett. Seeing as Terry and Neil have been friends for years and years and wrote Good Omens together, there is an overlap in their writing style. But whereas Neil has always struck a more solid narrative line, Terry has always had looser narratives that flow with emotion, that are very dreamlike and profound in their way. Good Omens is an odd little book because I'm not sure it feels very collaborative, with Terry's voice being more prominent, much like his later writing with Stephen Baxter. Prior to picking up The Ocean at the End of the Lane for a second time I was immersing myself in Terry's Tiffany Aching books. Going from those specific stories to The Ocean at the End of the Lane and the Hempstocks, one can't help but feel the similarities between the Hempstocks and the witches, though they are anything but. Therefore I was left with this interesting feeling. By having Neil dig deep and write a book more rooted in painful truth and emotion he has created a book that is, in my mind, the most true collaboration between the two writers, though it's all Gaiman. Terry somehow helped him see another way to write and his wife made him open up and you get this book that cuts to the quick like Terry, but is a wonderful new kind of story.
Though what I connected to most was the sense of loss in the book. Not just the loss of innocence and memory and our childhood, but true devastating loss. When the little kitten is killed by the cap driver the day the opal miner arrives my heart broke as well. This I think, more than the opal miner's death, is when this little boy's life starts to change. Everyone has some time in their life when the happy dream of childhood is shattered forever. It could be the death of a friend or family member, your parent's divorce, a friend moving away, something comes into your perfect golden bubble and shatters your world and you have to start to face the reality of the harshness of existence. For me I had to face reality young, like the narrator, with my mother getting sick. Yet I still look back on my childhood as sunny days playing with my dolls and making up adventures. Though loss has changed me, I'm not the same person I was. This book was like a mainline to all those feels. Things I hadn't thought of in years came back, but nothing hurt more than that little kitten's demise. My best friend was a little black and white cat. We had twenty-two years together and it still hurts everyday that he is gone, and I know that perhaps I can never move on. Neil got straight to the heart of the matter, "the ball of dark fur pressed itself into my chest, and I wished she was my kitten, and knew that she was not." I will never see his like again. Like my childhood it is gone forever.
Manfred has settled into Midnight, Texas quite well. He feels like it's home. He's still furiously working away telling fortunes and giving advice psyManfred has settled into Midnight, Texas quite well. He feels like it's home. He's still furiously working away telling fortunes and giving advice psychically, but he's one with his life. The small community has welcomed him with open arms and they are his friends. The biggest gossip around town is that the old hotel is going to be refurbished and reopened as a short term residence for older people waiting for a place at a nursing home and for employees of the Internet company Magic Portal. Now that Manfred has settled in he has decided that he will once again do in-person readings for select clients. He has a weekend booked in Dallas to do just that when one of his favorite clients, Rachel, unexpectedly dies on him during the reading. She had recently been ill, so it wasn't that shocking she died, but when Rachel's unhinged son Lewis accuses Manfred of stealing his mother's jewels as well as being a false psychic, things start heating up for Manfred. But what really worries him is that this unpleasant incident has brought unwelcome light on his small town and all the people living their with their secrets. Manfred's problem is now the town's problem, and they have the ruthless Olivia to help. But can they resolve this fiasco before their secrets are revealed? At least Manfred knows why he's been so determined in his work lately; it's to pay for his high priced lawyer.
Charlaine Harris is an author I love flaws and all. When she is on, her books are delightful fun. Though she's not always on. She is an uneven writer who I am always ready to give a second chance to. Was the entirety of the Sookie Stackhouse series amazing? No. Seeing as it lasted thirteen books that would have been a miracle. I was very excited to see her going back to her mystery style epitomized by the amazing Harper Connelly series with the Midnight, Texas series that started last year. I felt disappointed in the first installment, Midnight Crossroad, which I felt was using the supernatural elements more as a crutch to bridge the worlds of Sookie and Harper. But upon picking up Day Shift all the failings of Midnight Crossroads are now forgiven. While there are similarities to the two known worlds she has built, I see now that Midnight Crossroads was needed in order to set up this new world. It took awhile to settle in and get to know these outcasts, and now that we do? Oh my, the action starts almost on the first page and doesn't let up till the last moment creating a fun escapist read that I actually didn't want to end.
The key to Day Shift's success lies in the mystery. Yes, you could say that most of the town and it's inhabitants are a mystery, but the disappearance of Bobo's girlfriend was laughably pedestrian in scope in the first book. But again, the first book isn't about the mystery, it's about the people. Now that we know the people, well, to a certain extent, they do like to keep their secrets, the "mystery" can take a front row seat. The death of Manfred's wealthy client Rachel isn't a shock. If you'd read the book's blurb you knew she'd be down for the count. It's the way she died coupled with the familial complications that make the mystery intriguing. It is also the way in which Manfred experiences her death, with her dead husband's spirit literally spiriting her away through their connection that adds a spine tingling frisson of spookiness. It was a rare moment in Charlaine's writing that felt so real and so deliciously "other" that I smiled to myself knowing that I was going to enjoy the ride. The fact that in trying to solve Rachel's murder we get light shed on that most mysterious of Midnight's inhabitants, Olivia, that the book develops some real depth. Olivia's story also helps to take the edge off my hatred of her vampire lover.
It's this slow reveal of all these characters having hidden depths that is what makes this book work. They are all there for a reason, and slowly, we're going to learn those reasons. With Charlaine's Sookie Stackhouse books, despite how much they tried to book them as "Southern Vampire" or even as an ensemble like with True Blood, the truth is there was one heroine and it was her series. In Midnight Crossroad it seemed very much like Manfred was going to step up and take on the mantle of "star" but as I read this book I realized that he's not the star, he was just our avatar to enter this little community. Now that the town is established, he's just one of the denizens and each and every one of them is a star. I was OK with this shift, in fact it lends itself to the series's longevity going forward. We won't see the world just from Manfred's POV. Here we got quite a lot of Olivia, but who knows who will be next? Personally, I want to know all the stories hidden in this town so I don't care who takes center stage in the next installment. It really is becoming a great ensemble in this wacky little southern Twin Peaksy town.
I do want to know though why Charlaine feels it necessary to keep having these Sookie cross-overs. Yes, I can see that her publishers might have foisted this on her in order to lure in the readers from her most successful series, but how much longer will it go on? I can see it as useful in the beginning, to an extent. But the truth is that there wasn't really any connection in the first book other then vampires and werewolves. Did the first book do so badly that she was ordered to put someone, anyone, from the Sookie-verse into Day Shift to pump up the sales? Thankfully she minimally used Barry the telepath and Quinn the were-tiger. But I don't want this to continue. Yes, the supernatural community is small and they probably do all know each other, but perhaps I want something new? The small town of Midnight is very closed and secretive so I wonder how realistic it is that they would let these strangers show up and not run them out of town? Or do they have some special sensor that makes them know if the people are "one of us"? Only time will tell, but I do hope that this series is given a chance to stand on it's own versus being some sort of spin-off of Sookie Stackhouse. This book was great and it deserves to grow beyond the obvious comparisons.
Though I did find one aspect of these cameos interesting. And that's that it appears there has been a shift of some kind in the supernatural world. Something has changed and it appears that the supes are going underground. Texas no longer as a thriving vampire population, it seems that all vampires are congregated now in Louisiana. So what happened? Was there a big backlash from the were reveal? Did the non-supernatural world say enough is enough? Olivia references vampire hunters, which makes it seem that perhaps they are more common than they once were. I find it interesting that with just a few little mentions here and there that Charlaine was able to permeate her book with a sense of unease for the supernatural community. This also makes me wonder what future refugees might turn up in Midnight. Who will take over the gas station? Why was the Midnight Hotel really rebuilt at all that cost for almost no return? There's a shift coming to this world, and I can't wait to read what happens next. ...more
Jane and Vincent have been recuperating at Long Parkmeade after the trials and tribulations they faced in France. Though spending so much time with Jane's family is hard on her, she can see it's excessively wearying for her husband. Luckily a commission in London means they are not long for the city. Jane though feels a tug of pity for her sister. Here is Melody, trapped far away from eligible bachelors and aging more and more with every passing season. Jane impulsively decides to help Melody by taking her with them to London. Jane and Vincent can work during the day and throw parties and go to receptions in their spare time so that Melody gets a chance at the happiness her sister has attained.
London though is in a state of upheaval. The unnaturally cold weather means that crops are failing and people are looking for someone to blame, and they focus on the Coldmongers, a subgroup within glamourists that dangerously use glamour outside the visible spectrum and therefore have a short life expectancy. There is also the Irish Question and lingering hostilities towards the French. Because of Jane and Vincent's notoriety as the Prince Regent's Glamourists as well as Vincent being the son of Lord Vebury, they soon are dragged into the world of politics and their entire life is on show for the world. Will they be able to save their marriage, England, and get Melody married? That might take a little magic to pull off.
Re-reading Without a Summer I think that I might have maligned the book too much previously. I felt like it was such a departure for the final forth of the book from everything that came before that it was a square peg in a round hole. It was waving at sharks and thinking of perhaps jumping over them. I was so focused on what annoyed me that I was over-analyzing everything and almost searching for faults when I should have been enjoying the narrative shift. Each of the five books in this series has embraced a different genre, so to speak. We started with the traditional Austenesque book, Shades of Milk and Honey, moved onto espionage and war with Glamour in Glass, later Valour and Vanity would embrace the heist genre, while here we have politics and all that entails, from court to courting if you will. While I'm not the biggest fan of courtroom dramas, always liking the first half-hour of Law and Order over the second, knowing that it was coming I was able to look at the book more objectively and realize that I loved it just as much as the others. See, I have learned to admit when I'm wrong, and that's a big step for me.
But I think my opinions on Regency court procedure were very much formed by my hatred of Death Comes to Pemberley. I know she's dead, but I can not ever forgive P.D. James for this book hinging on old obscure British laws and courtroom antics. This one book did more harm then anything previously to make me come to revile courtroom drama. The tropes of surprise witnesses, the fainting of women in the gallery, please. While the narrative of Without a Summer did naturally lead itself to court, did it really have to bring forward all the problems of Jane and Vincent's marriage into public view? Hinting at the lewdness of Jane occasionally wearing men's garb, and perhaps that was because of Vincent's sexual proclivities that made his father hire the prostitute for him that was the center of their earlier fight? Blah blah blah. While I know great worldbuilding takes everything and every aspect of society into consideration, I could have done with a little more magic and a lot less mundane martial law.
Moving on from what nagged me let's embrace that which delights me. The true history being magically woven into this alternate history was staggeringly good. It's not just the bigger changes that captured my imagination, but the little ones, the fact that the battle of Waterloo never happened so that Waterloo Bridge is now Quatre Bras Bridge was a nice little touch, and all down to the Vincents in their previous adventure. But I really loved how Kowal tied in the frigid temperatures of 1816, known as "The Year Without a Summer," into not just the politics of the book, but into people's belief systems. Just think, snow in summer? You'd be more then a little concerned with this now wouldn't you?
The average person doesn't grasp that weather can not be controlled by glamour. Therefore people look for a scapegoat to explain away this problem, and the Coldmongers make a perfect target. They are specialized glamourists who deal with temperature. Even other glamourists don't know much about what they do, only knowing how dangerous it is to mess with the elements of hot and cold. They are poor, they are not understood, and they make a far more logical scapegoat then a volcano half a world away, which was actually the true reason for these bizarre meteorological conditions. Plus, this generally accepted belief of their culpability means that Vincent's father is able to politically exploit the situation to his own gain. Just sheer genius. Or should I say evil genius if I'm talking about Lord Verbury?
Though what I think I didn't really get the first time I read this book is that it's heroine isn't Jane, it's Melody. I just thought that Jane had had a brain transplant and that Melody was awesome. It never dawned on me that this was on purpose. Jane comes across as a little bit of a naive bigot. I know Jane had a sheltered life and was a bit oblivious to things before the arrival of Vincent in her life... but there's naive and then there's ignorance. All her opinions seemed to be based on "wild supposition instead of fact." She jumps to conclusions, has an obvious wariness of anyone Irish, despite the fact that she's working for them, and expresses astonishment at people of different skin colors. But what this does is gives Melody room to shine. Because while she has always been "the pretty one" somehow Jane hijacked her story.
In Shades of Milk and Honey Melody didn't get a HEA, she got stuck in the country with her parents while her sister got freedom and love. Melody has only ever been valued for her looks. It's nice to have our preconceptions turned on their heads. Melody has developed in other ways, she knows about current events and politics. She doesn't care that glasses will mare her beautiful face so long as she can see. She has taken her inability to excel at certain things, like glamour, and developed her mind to compensate. Melody has evolved into this strong independent woman and if Jane looks a little bad in comparison, well, think how Melody has felt all these years being valued only for her beauty? Just another stereotype exploded in artful fashion by Mary Robinette Kowal. ...more
Jane and Vincent have become quite the powerful couple. Working side by side they have elevated Vincent's art, their art, to a new level. The Vincents are the toast of London, with the Prince Regent throwing a dinner in their honor in recognition of the magnificent grotto they have created for his opulent New Years festivities. Yet being a woman Jane is confined to societal expectations, and the lack of recognition that goes with it. Even newspapers articles praising the work done for the Prince Regent omit her entirely. Jane doesn't want to be easily pushed aside after dinner when the men sit and talk and the women "retire." Jane has no desire to retire! She wants to be next to Vincent discussing magic and politics and all the things that matter in the world, not shut up in some parlor till the men deign to come to them! These after dinner traditions make her realize more then anything how lucky she is to have found Vincent, who views her as his equal.
The question of how to follow up their success leads them to consider a different path. They have some freedom at the moment and they never did have a honeymoon... With the continent recently open for travel with the exile of Napoleon, Vincent suggests a visit to his fellow glamourist, M. Chastain in Belgium. Not only has M. Chastain created a school for glamourists, but he has created a new technique that Vincent longs to see for himself. To travel with her husband and be surrounded by others able to work their craft and to perhaps learn more than she was able to learn herself is a dream come true to Jane. Though the journey there is not without peril. The continent is not as safe as they had hoped. Troops are rallying for Napoleon and it is rumored that he shall escape Elba and make an attempt on reclaiming his throne.
Being surrounded by glamour is inspirational to Jane and she stumbles upon an idea while playing with M. Chastain's daughter on the steps inside the house. What if you could capture a glamour in glass, thus making it portable? In particular, what if they tried it with Vincent's Sphere Obscurcie, which makes a person invisible, but only in a fixed location. The Vincents don't see this revelation as anything that could be used as a tactical benefit in armed combat, but others do. This discovery could mean defeat or victory at the hands of Napoleon. A discovery the Bonapartists would gladly kill for. Though the return of Napoleon isn't the only hitch that has been thrown into Jane's world. She has discovered she has a condition that will not allow her to work glamour. She is with child. Will Vincent still love her if they are no loner able to work side by side and she where to become a more traditional wife? As she quickly sees, Vincent is already keeping secrets from her and not confiding as much as he used to now that she is no longer with him at all times. Yet, when Vincent is threatened Jane might be the only one able to save him.
The declaration of my adoration of Glamour in Glass that started the first review I wrote of this book almost three years back now hasn't changed. As I return to this series I am even more enamoured of the world these books have created. Each installment in this series just finds me more and more enthralled. Instead of just continuing on the trajectory she created in Shades of Milk and Honey, making more Austenesque books, Mary instead delves deeper into the time creating a richer tapestry then Jane Austen ever did. While the mix of magic and the Regency world was what captured me initially, Mary has added in a level of French history that I am always drawn to, ie, the despotic wacko, Napoleon. How could you not love magic and deceit and Napoleonic spies? Napoleon and his hundred days, sigh. It is literally in my blood to be drawn to his time period. My great great great however many greats needs to be there, relative was a high muckety-muck for Napoleon, François Joseph Lefebvre, the Duc de Danzig. Family legend always had it that he had actually abandoned Napoleon during the hundred days, turns out, that wasn't quite the case... but, well, would you like to say you rallied to him? At least François's portrait is still at Versailles...
But the history is just a richness and plot contrivance that aids the deeper themes of the book; that of love and passion. As Vincent has shown to Jane, the most wonderful, the most true art is seated in our passions. The true artist thrives on their emotions and is driven by them. This passion makes us artists capable of things we didn't even think we could do, and I'm not just saying pulling a week of all-nighters sewing beads on a David Bowie puppet, though I have done that. Glamour in Glass pointedly shows how much our passions are able to push us beyond what we thought we could endure and achieve. Being driven by their passions leads to Jane and Vincent's new discoveries and new techniques, such as literally incising glamour into glass to create a portable invisibility field. But the heart of the matter is in their connection, their passion for each other. Because of this Jane is able to save her husband's life, quite literally. She is driven to create an elaborate and ultimately successful rescue attempt for Vincent all by herself because her ingenuity and drive is powered by her passion.
It is this love and passion that is so achingly perfect. When I think of what true love means, the marriage of true minds, it is the love embodied by Jane and Vincent. Jane is chaffed by the restrictions of her sex, she is a modern and amazingly capable woman who is not of her time. Vincent sees this and loves this in her. They are a modern couple who defy the expectations and mores of the time they live in. Vincent is even willing to buck the Prince Regent so that Jane can partake in after-dinner conversation instead of retiring to her designated seat in the parlor with the other women. They rely on and support each other in a way that makes the heart ache to have something so precious. Their love is so strong that they aren't shoved into the stereotypical romance tropes where the damsel in distress is rescued by the knight on a white steed in shining armor. Their love allows Jane to be the rescuer.
It is this love and passion that is what will last of their legacy. Because what interests me about their chosen art form is it's transient nature. A Glamoural is almost performance art. It is pulled from the ether and will one day return. It is fixed, it cannot move, and is meant to be an adornment that can easily be changed, almost as easy as redecorating. I can't help but think of the three months that Vincent and Jane spent creating the grotto for the Prince Regent's ball. It is a one night spectacle. Created for a single event and then it will be torn asunder. Gone in a flash to be replaced by the next sensation. The thing that always drew me to sculpt and build and paint was that after you were done you had something physically left over. Some tangible proof of your exertions. But then I started doing theatre, and in theatre you build something, you sweat and toil and in the end, after the run, you tear it all down. This was so hard for me to accept. To willingly destroy what you had made because the time limit was done. So while I ponder the inevitability and the end of all things, at least the love of Jane and Vincent lives on in Mary's "Histories". Their love is one for the ages. ...more
Jane and Melody Ellsworth are as different as two sisters can be. Jane is starting to accept the inevitability of her spinsterhood. At 28, there is no hope of finding a husband, particularly when Mr. Dunkirk, the man who holds a special place in her heart, is also the object of Melody's affections. Jane knows her beauty is no match to Melody's. Even if Jane is adept in the magical arts and can make the most fabulous glamours and illusions, she herself knows that men prefer beauty over brains. But more importantly, she would never stand in the way of Melody's happiness. Soon the small group of friends in Dorchester receives a few additions to their ranks. Mr. Dunkirk's younger sister Beth arrives, but the withdrawn and sallow young girl with a mysterious past is nothing to what is happening at the Viscountess's. Not only is her favorite, and need it be said, dashing, nephew, Captain Livingston, is arriving after years away, but she has also hired the famous Glamourist Mr. Vincent to make a wooded wonderland of her dining hall.
Soon everyone is coming and going between the homes with dinners and strawberry picnics, and all manner of enjoyments. Jane starts to hope that perhaps her sisters affections for Mr. Dunkirk are waning, as Jane befriends his sister and starts to hope that he might indeed have feelings for her, not Melody. The course of love never runs smooth though, neither does felicity between sisters. Melody and Jane have a falling out because Melody is willing to do anything to ensnare her man, even fain injury. Can talent and brains when out over conniving beauty? Or will the answer to true happiness be something and someone different than Jane ever thought.
Shades of Milk and Honey is like the best possible Jane Austen mash-up, drawing threads from her entire oeuvre. It's like if Elinor and Marianne had a major falling out with secret engagements to multiple parties. Then on top of everything, throw in some magic! The book is very much a slow burn. For a long time you just enjoy the routine of the characters very much pulled from the pages of Austen. The domesticity of everyday life is here on the pages for us to fall into. But instead of just painting or working on embroidery, the characters are using magic to enhance the world around them. There are the dances, there are the grand diners, and there are the arguments over fabrics at the modiste. Yet under the guise of Jane Austen fanfiction, like the threads of ether invisible to the naked eye used in a glamour, Mary Robinette Kowal is not only building an ending that packs a punch with the sheer number of Austenian endings happening simultaneously, but a deeper story about art and passion and love.
The magical element has this book being categorized as in the vein of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. While I can see the connections, one couldn't with two books both set in Regency England and employing the use of magic, but I think they are truly very different.Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell has a far more faerie aspect. But more then that, for all the comparisons to Austen, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a far more masculine book with female undercurrents. Whereas Shades of Milk and Honey is derived more directly from Austen and stays within the female sphere. In fact, I will assert that, despite being of the same subset genre of the other Regency Magic books out there, Shades of Milk and Honey is so uniquely its own that it sets itself apart by the cunning deviations of magical usage.
In all the books I've read over the past few months set during this time and dealing with magic, the magic itself has practical applications. The magic is used for defeating foes, vanquishing Napoleon, this is, after all, the prime time to vanquish him, and other active endeavors. Now I'm not saying that the magic system here won't try to embrace this down the road, I have after all read this series before, but in this first volume the magic doesn't have many practical uses, magic is just art. Magic, or, as I should say, glamour, is just another womanly art, to be lumped in with embroidery, painting, and playing the piano. In fact glamour can enhance these already existing arts with subtle touches. Glamour is a home art, and is a skill that is recommended for a good wife to have. A way to add those special touches that make a house a home. The fact that it is womanly, finally giving a legitimate reason for women to swoon, is also why Mr. Vincent's chosen profession as Glamourist causes consternation to his family.
But Mr. Vincent understands the heights to which glamour can reach, and it's Jane's embracing of this revolutionary knowledge, to her, that calls out to the artist in me. The truth is anyone, given time, can become proficient in art or music. They can be technically wonderful, but that is all there is. Every key may be hit, every brushstroke executed to perfection, and yet there is something missing. This is what Mr. Vincent sees in Jane's art. Her studying and her interest in dissecting Vincent's work has given her technical perfection. But without the passion, without the raw emotions channeled into the art, then it can never be moving, it can never take a good artist and make them great. That passion inside you is what makes you strive, makes you see something and be inspired. Makes you always trying, learning, doing. There's a reason the greatest artists are caricatured as being passionate and emotional people, because deep down, if you don't have this, you won't make it.
The love and passion of art that the character of Mr. Vincent embodies is what pulls you into the story. It's as if Darcy and Elizabeth where dueling artists where their passion was expounded upon more, a Regency Zelda and F. Scott if you will. Jane's development from a retiring spinster to passionate artist because of the revelations gleaned from Mr. Vincent's journal literally took my breath away with it's beauty, simplicity, and passion. The scene where Jane gives way to all those bottled up emotions and creates the grove of trees in her room, it brought tears to my eyes. Taking an art form that during this time period was just an accomplishment for a young lady to possess as she is made the prefect meek wife and channeling that into a way to express all those bottled up and repressed emotions makes passionate glamour perhaps the most magical discovery of all. ...more
Charlotte has been waiting at Girdings for her knight in shining armour to come, just like those glorious murals depicting her ancestors bravely battlCharlotte has been waiting at Girdings for her knight in shining armour to come, just like those glorious murals depicting her ancestors bravely battling their foes on long gone battlefields or the books she consumes copiously. She even has her own dragon with her grandmother, the Dowager Duchess of Dovedale. Then on Christmas Eve, out of the snow, Robert returns. Fleeing the family home for India all those years ago, the Duke of Dovedale returns like a knight returning from a long crusade in the Holy Land. Charlotte instantly starts framing her world in her rose tinted way with a happy ending of hunting unicorns with jam tarts and kissing Robert in the sun, never mind it's bleak midwinter and her grandmother has surrounded her with rogues and dimwits in a final attempt to marry her off. The worst of the lot being Francis Medmenham, descendant of the nefarious founder of the Hellfire Club. But why did Robert return? Is he here to court fair maiden? Or does he have darker designs... he has taken to Medmenham rather fast. But of course it is all a misunderstanding wherein Robert is out for revenge but he can't let the fair maiden know of his deceit. Breaking her heart for her own good, Robert sinks deeper into Medmenham's world while Charlotte is bustled off to court to wait on the Queen. But following a startling discovery and evidence that the King is going mad once again, Charlotte takes on her own causes for King and Country. Could it be that Robert's nemesis and the men behind Charlotte's uncovered plot are connected? If only through libraries and boat rides and dark tunnels used for darker purposes Charlotte and Robert could work together and not fret about what if's, might have beens and almost kisses, maybe they could save England.
Oddly enough both times I've read this book I've set it down for sometime and then come back to it. I can't really explain why I do this, but I just do. More than any character Lauren has written I identify with Charlotte, and maybe that's why I set this book down, I know what I'd do, so Charlotte would do the same. While the relatablity is strong, there's too much of a closeness, I find I enjoy characters who are less like me. For example Pen, I am nothing like Pen, but give me more Pen please! The characters are flawed, but they're nobly flawed. For a book with the Hellfire Club there is a noticeable lack of dirtiness. I love Medmenham and wish he had just taken over the book and been lewd and crude and maybe slaughtered a few unicorns. Wow... that went to a dark place. Maybe I just haven't been in the fairy tale frame of mind when I think of spies and can't handle the goody goody and want me some Mary and Vaughn. Snark and evil, that's what this book needed a little bit of to balance the good. Everyone needs balance....more
Things aren't going very well for Mary Alsworthy. Her midnight elopement ended with a married younger sister and herself still on the shelf. Not thatThings aren't going very well for Mary Alsworthy. Her midnight elopement ended with a married younger sister and herself still on the shelf. Not that she really loved Geoff or anything, but the title and the houses were just the thing. Now she's stuck rusticating with the new couple who are sickeningly in love and oversolicitous of her. She might just be able to stomach it if they weren't so apologetic about the whole situation. But when she hears that they are going to pay for her next London season she can't take their kindness anymore. Lord Vaughn, at the urging of the Pink Carnation, has made Mary an offer. With her coloring and her bearing she appears to be just the type of girl a certain Black Tulip might hire as one of his assassins. After his recent foray in Ireland he is short a few petals. Mary agrees to play the game in exchange for one last chance at a suitable match. With Vaughn as her escort and entree to some of the more radical groups, she tries to establish herself as just the type of girl a famous French spy might seek out. From Vauxhall to Vaughn House, she tries to work her way in the world, all while trading barbs with the king of cynicism and insult, Lord Sebastian Vaughn himself. Mary does meet one eligible prospect, a Mr. St. George. But an earnest lord who spends much time rusticating looks less and less appealing next to the unattainable Vaughn. Mary would rather trade insults with Vaughn than words of endearment with St. George. Could it be that the ice maiden, who has always viewed her marriage as a commodity, where the best bank account wins, be falling for a man who turns out to be unattainable after the reappearance of his long dead wife? But matters of the heart might not signify if one of the hearts is no longer beating, because the Black Tulip doesn't hesitate to spill blood. Someone will die and a happy ending might not be in the cards. And while Eloise looks into Vaughn's past, could her present collide with Serena Selwick's heart breaker?
This is the book that made me fall irrevocably in love with this series. Mary and Vaughn are the perfect sparring partners. They duel with words in a way that is sheer entertainment and hasn't been seen since Elizabeth and Darcy. No saccharine and sweetness, we have barbed and witty repartee that just keeps the pages flying long through the night. They are what this series needed more than ever, a balance. Not all heroes are virtuous and good, not all are in it for the good of the country. Some heroes are just in it for themselves. If this book had one flaw, it's that once they start to fall for each other, their bark is worse than their bite. Their claws retract a little and it's never more enjoyable than when they are at each other full force. There are also no misunderstandings between the two. They have their obstacles, that's for sure, but they always know where the other one stands. They are a perfectly matched pair. I just hope that married life doesn't sweeten them one bit. But aside from the titular hero and heroine, we finally get a satisfactory conclusion to the identity of the Black Tulip, who is far more deranged, deluded and demented that we thought. With motivations that work for and against France, he was a nice surprise and not a simplistic ending to a plot device that has been going strong for three books. A satisfactory ending all around, even if just the tiniest bit of sweetness sneaks in at the end, but who can fault a happy ending? ...more
Letty and Mary Alsworty are as different as two sisters can be. At a frizzy haired five foot, Letty will never be like her statuesque sister. And sheLetty and Mary Alsworty are as different as two sisters can be. At a frizzy haired five foot, Letty will never be like her statuesque sister. And she would NEVER run off in the middle of the night for a midnight elopement with Geoffry Pinchingdale-Snipe. She might try to stop the elopement with all good intentions, but never elope herself. Until fate intervenes and she's the one being spirited away in the night to a rendezvous with a certain member of the peerage. Geoff, being Geoff, marries the sister whose reputation he inadvertently ruined. He might see her as a conniving and manipulative upstart who took her chance when the opportunity afforded itself, but at least his obligations to the Pink Carnation mean that he can hare off to Ireland and put some space between his broken heart and his unwanted bride. Practical Letty for once doesn't know what to do. She's been the one who has always taken care of her family and has never had a spot of bother. Now she's married to a man who has vanished and he hasn't let her explain what really happened. A little drunk, she gets the first packet out of London to follow Geoff to Ireland. But an unwanted wife in England is a completely different situation to an unwanted wife in Ireland interfering with his mission and the threat of a French and Irish alliance. Begrudgingly taking Letty into his confidences with one Pink Carnation named Jane Wolliston and one parasol wielding pyromaniac in the making, Miss Gwen, they all try to muddle through for the good of England. But add a dangerous cousin on the prowl for Geoff's title, Lord Vaughn, who's every word has double and triple entendres, and evidence that the Black Tulip is at it again, things might be trickier than anyone thought. Can this all be untangled and England saved? Because maybe fate intervened for a reason and Letty is the sister Geoff should have been wooing all along. But back in the present Eloise has an even more pressing problem. Can she get a certain Colin Selwick to call her and set up a date?
Whenever I think of this series of books as a whole I've always thought that The Deception of the Emerald Ring was the weak point. Maybe it was that here we have another idealistic, King and Country couple who are good and sweet and pure, who have just some misunderstandings to overcome and then everything will be as right as rain. On re-reading the book I realized I couldn't have been more wrong. I loved it. This time, not reading it just for Colin and Eloise, I realized that this book had so much more. Not only do we get the fun of having Lord Vaughn around with his ambiguous alliances, but we get Miss Gwen and her formidable parasol. We also get to see the inner workings of one Jane Wooliston, alias, the Pink Carnation's organization. We see how she's able to morph into other people, other lives, so that she is a force to be reckoned with. Those Frenchies better watch out! But what I love most about this book is how it takes the unsatisfactory resolution as to who the Black Tulip is and gives a far more plausible explanation with more depth and more terror. To not have just one sadistic spy, but sadists working for a criminal mastermind makes more sense that the Marquise ever did. She mistook Turnip for the Pink Carnation! I'm sorry, but anyone who could think that doesn't deserve to be a criminal mastermind. A pawn though... totally suited for a pawn. ...more
Manfred Bernardo is continuing his grandmother's calling, eking out a living with his psychic powers. Though eking isn't quite what he's doing, he's aManfred Bernardo is continuing his grandmother's calling, eking out a living with his psychic powers. Though eking isn't quite what he's doing, he's actually doing pretty darn well. He just needed the perfect place to work where no one would ask too many questions and he could be left alone to do his job. Manfred thought he had found that place in Midnight, Texas. In fairness to the town, everyone does kept their secrets to themselves, but there's also a camaraderie among these outcasts. Shared meals at the diner, sitting back and enjoying a drink in the shade, together yet separate. While they strive to keep the outside world at bay a murder just might bring about the wrong kind of attention to this sleepy dried-up western town. Though it's nothing the inhabitants can't handle.
Despite coming to Charlaine Harris through her Sookie Stackhouse books, thank you Buffy the Vampire Slayer Magazine, it's her mysteries that I love above all others. They seem fresher and more vibrant instead of re-hashing the same old vampire tropes in new and slightly entertaining fashion. The Harper Connelly books in particular are quite possibly one of my favorite mystery quartet out there. This all led me to be excited about Charlaine's new "Midnight, Texas" series. Not only was she going back to her mystery roots, but one of my favorite characters from Harper's world, Manfred Bernardo, would be our conduit into this sleepy town. The book had theoretically everything going for it. Or at least everything going for it to appease me... but the execution left something to be desired.
My main gripe is what I will call paranormal versus supernatural. Yes, technically these words are interchangeable, but to me they aren't. Paranormal to me is phenomena like extrasensory perception, psychic powers, and ghosts, in other words, things that I believe might actually have happened in our world today. Paranormal is out of the ordinary, but still, well, plausible. As for supernatural, I view this as more creature based, ie, aliens, werewolves, and vampires. Supernatural is far less likely to be real. I will point out I'm not discounting it either as possible, just that it's less likely then paranormal. I know people will disagree with my classifications, but this is how I see it. The world Charlaine created with Sookie was supernatural, the world she created with Harper was paranormal, and now the twain shall meet. Sigh.
See I liked that Harper's worldbuilding was plausible to me. I believe in ghosts and weird psychic powers so Harper's ability to see the last minutes of the deceased, call it possible in my world. A little out of the ordinary, but it could happen. Sookie's world, well, now that's all about all the different creatures that either want to kill you or sleep with you, sometimes both. By having Manfred cross over to this new book series I was hoping to have a more grounded urban fantasy book along the lines of Harper with the mystery and intrigue and then in walks a vampire. No! By bringing in the vampire Charlaine just merged all her books into one big fat world which means that Harper's world now has vampires too and to that I strongly object. Yes I like the fantastical, but sometimes I need plausibility. So me and that vampire... well, he just took away all hopes I had for this book.
And maybe I should be grateful to that vampire because, well, he lowered my expectations, besides pissing me off. Oh how he pisses me off. Yep, two months later and that vampire is still the bane of this book. The truth at the heart of Midnight Crossroad is that not much happens and what does happen is so predictable you wonder why you're still reading the book after a while. I mean seriously, if you didn't catch who the the killer was within two seconds and just spent the rest of the book waiting for the reveal to come with a whimper not a bang, then we have some issues you and I. Yet I don't know if this lack of forward momentum and predictability was on purpose or not. Charlaine had a lot of new characters to introduce to us and we had to familiarize ourselves to this new world.
So perhaps the lack of plot was a way to ease us into this bizarre little town, the Texas version of Cicely, Alaska, where everyone knows your name but will keep quiet about your past and never ask any questions. Or Haven, because seriously, it's very Haven like. Sometimes you just need to have the author waiting for you in the corner of your room there to answer questions when you finish. Charlaine, did you plot it this slowly on purpose? Just nod yes or no so I don't need to remove the gag. Yet, despite it all, or in spite of it all I'm still kind of looking forward to the next volume. I know more what to expect. That vampire's appearance won't throw me, and as for the few werewolves and other creatures in town, well, I'm ready for them too. It might not have been what I thought it was or what I was even looking for but there's a part of me still looking forward to returning to this town. I don't know if this makes me a masochist, we'll just have to see what the next volume brings. ...more
Kate and her younger and far more eligible sister Georgiana are debuting in London this season under the watchful eye of their Aunt Charlotte. While back in Essex Kate's best friend and cousin Cecelia is stuck rusticating with her father, her brother Oliver, and her Aunt Elizabeth. Cecelia would give anything to be in London with Kate, while after a few days in London Kate would give anything to be back in the country. The only thing keeping each other sane is their voluminous correspondence with each other. Luckily both their lives soon become far more interesting, as do their letters. Their neighbor in Essex, Sir Hilary Bedrick, is invested into the College of Wizards in London and at the ceremony Kate stumbles on something and someone very magical and dangerous, a wizard named Miranda. Miranda soon appears in Essex where her stepdaughter Dorothea is making a splash as well as fast friends with Cecelia. There appears to be a plot afoot to marry Dorothea off to Thomas Schofield, the Mysterious Marquess of Essex, who also happens to be a wizard. Soon their are missing brothers, fake fiances, undiscovered magical abilities, gambling, dancing, horses, borrowed books, and one very interesting chocolate pot. Working in two different locations can the two cousins save the day and perhaps get a little happily ever after?
Epistolary novels were once all the rage. There's something voyeuristic to reading a book of correspondences that just makes you not want to put the book down. There's the immediacy of wanting to know what happens next that sometimes isn't their in more traditional books. Plus, because you are reading diaries, letters, innermost thoughts, you have this feeling that it's not just voyeuristic but wrong and the owner of these letters could arrive at any moment and take them away, giving a frisson of excitement to your reading. Jane Austen was raised on these books and it's no wonder then that she experimented with this format. Sense and Sensibility, when it was still Elinor and Marianne, was an epistolary novel. But Jane abandoned this approach because she didn't like having to keep her characters apart for the whole narrative, which is an aspect to this style that must be adhered to. The fact that Sorcery and Cecelia is able to convincingly keep to this style when Jane Austen herself wasn't I think deserves a tip of the hat for being that little bit magical and all the more Regency.
Wrede and Stevermer created this epistolary book by playing the letter game. The game is played when two (or more) participates exchange letters back and forth that are telling a story. The first writer sets up the characters and the basic story and why the characters corresponding need to be apart and then the next writer builds on it. The letters fly back and forth, with the authors trying to one-up each other all while never discussing plot or character outside of the letters. It's a fun game that can be used as a writing exercise, a way to do collaborative writing, or a way to just have fun. I think of it as that drawing exercise I remember doing in first grade where a sheet of paper would be divided into three sections and someone would draw the first section of an animal and then it was hidden, then the next child would draw the middle of the animal, while the final child finished off the animal having no idea what came before. Personally I was always annoyed because I wanted to do the drawing all by myself. When I was younger I hated working collaboratively, so the letter game sounds a bit of a nightmare to me; like doing those improve stories where you just go all out back and forth, sometimes through the alphabet. The key I think is to do this with someone you trust, and the end result of Sorcery and Cecelia is that you can tell Wrede and Stevermer trusted each other and had fun in the process.
One of the by products of having coauthors on a book that goes back and forth between two narrators is that you have two very distinct voices. If you were writing any book with more then one narrator, if the voices of these characters don't come across as two different people it does nothing but annoy and alienate your readers and makes me really pissed. You either go all out or go home. But one of the problems that arises is that perhaps you start to favor one voice, or in this case, one author over the other. You can't help but compare and contrast and even re-reading this book all these years later I couldn't help but want to smack Cecelia. Of the two authors I feel as if Wrede is trying to not only one-up Stevermer but to wrest complete control of the story while making everything a little too much a pantomime. I couldn't help but think of Heads You Lose once or twice and how the combative natures of the writers amusingly fueled the plot. But Wrede isn't trying to be combative, but she is too forceful in her sections and it makes me long for the Kate sections. Stevermer writing Kate has the right level of collaboration while also having a better written heroine. As for the writers kind of mirroring these characters when I met them... let's just say that also reinforced my opinions.
But going back to talking about the aspect of an epistolary novel adding an immediacy to the story I think that the letter game ups this. Because the two authors aren't collaborating outside the letters they are sending back and forth there is no plotting in advance. It's all cause and effect, with breathtaking fluidity. Wrede and Stevermer might each have an idea or where they want the story to go and how they want it to end, but they can easily throw a wrench in each others ideas knowingly or unknowingly. This makes you, as the reader, want to just keep reading in a headlong rush because you and the authors don't know what will happen next! The suspense is palpable. The suspense is real. It's like watching a game, you don't know how it's going to turn out so you can't look away. Usually it's only tightly plotted books that have the ah ha moments perfectly placed for revelations that make suspense last, but here it's just the letters of two girls living in a magical England, and that makes me smile. Anyone who thought Regency England was all staid conversation and glacial plots should be handed this book to knock their prejudices aside.
Though for me the most important aspect of this book is that it kick-started a whole new generation of writers. It's amazing how many authors works who I love that list Sorcery and Cecelia as one of, if not the most favorite book of theirs. I kind of wish that I had found this book when it came out back in the eighties. At that age reading such a fun, madcap romp, with a little magic and romance, I can see why Gail Carriger and Stephanie Burgis point to this book and go yes, this book is inspirational. Who knows what might have happened with my reading habits if I had stumbled on this book earlier? Perhaps I would have found Jane Austen prior to senior year in high school. Maybe my book nerdiness would have onset earlier. But overall, I am grateful for the publishers that saw two writers having fun and realized that that joy was infectious and should be put out into the world, because it's magical. ...more
Cecelia and Kate are back in action, together not separate for this adventure, and they're bringing their new spouses along for the honeymoon. Though Kate doesn't think there's any chance she's going to get used to being called Lady Schofield, much as Cecelia is having a hard time remembering she is Mrs. Tarleton, nevertheless they are in wedded bliss. Heading to the continent with Kate's new mother-in-law, Lady Sylvia, in tow for the first leg to Paris, they have barely arrived in France when magical misdeeds are afoot. They are inexorably drawn into a possibly Bonapartist plot to use items of magical significance to legitimize Napoleon as ruler of Europe, or at least they assume it's the recently deposed despot. The magic adds supernatural significance to the appointed leader making their rule as close to divinity as is possible. Asked by Wellington himself to stop this atrocity from happening, the happy couples are able to move about the continent on their grand tour with the whim of newlyweds, when really their whims are strategic plans to catch a magical mastermind. Hopefully they won't be in too much danger and that there will be lots of operas for Kate.
As you can imagine, reading all these books centered during the Regency in England basically means that I've been living in the early 1800s now for a couple of months. What you might not be aware of unless you've noticed the link on my sidebar is that I'm participating in a year long re-read of all Lauren Willig's Pink Carnation, aka Napoleonic War Regency England, books. This month I'm moderating the discussion of the re-read of The Orchid Affair on my friend Ashely's blog, The Bubble Bath Reader. And no, I'm not mentioning this just to get you to go over to her blog, though that would be rather nice, I'm mentioning this because my re-reading of both The Orchid Affair and The Grand Tour was a nice confluence of events that made me appreciate the later more then I did initially.
The two books serve as complimentary volumes dealing with the loss of the monarchy in France because of the revolution. While The Orchid Affair was about restoring a prince of the blood during the reign of Napoleon prior to his self-proclaimed Empire, The Grand Tour dealt more with the aftereffects of the war and the desire to not repeat recent history. Because both books, while not exactly being for governance by a sovereign entity, show quite well the fact that there is a benefit to stability. In France the stability is no longer having a fear of the guillotine, in Italy, it is the unification of all of Italy into one nation. By having a better grounding in history due to The Orchid Affair, what was on my first read of The Grand Tour a rather dull trek through Europe following artifacts, became something more real, something that actually had importance and impact. A little perspective can easily change your opinion if you are willing to let it.
But what I really think is the strength of The Grand Tour is that it brings the actual tradition, the coming of age right of the grand tour of Europe into a more visceral experience. Mainly this has to deal with travel during the early 1800s. In so many books of the time, or written about the time, the grand tour was just mentioned as a right of passage, a way to expand your knowledge and tastes by traveling and seeing great works of art. You were expected to gain some culture and then return home with a broadened mind and some stories. So in fiction you usually have the character who mentions they are setting off on this trip or have just returned, but do they talk about the actual day to day travel? No, they talk about art and artifacts. But just wrap your head around the fact that this is before trains, before cars, and there are a lot of mountains in Europe.
The "Tour" was more of a trek. To get a sense of this one would be better off reading travel narratives of the day, not fiction, or just read The Grand Tour. What Stevermer and Wrede have done so expertly is capture the hardships and danger that was involved in traveling through Europe in the 1800s, masked gunmen aside. We think we have it bad when our plane is delayed or we are rerouted? Imagine having to take days in a carriage banging about just to get from one city to another? Not only that. How about crossing the Alps? Here's your donkey, don't look down. Seriously, we, as travelers, have NOTHING to gripe about. Nothing! Poor Kate seems to spend the entirety of the trip cold, wet, and rattled; and that's not even because of evil magicians set on creating an overlord, this is just because of drafty carriages, wet weather, wind, and badly maintained roads. It takes the glamor right out of the grand tour, but in it's place it leaves a truth that is universal but is usually glossed over by other writers.
As for Stevermer and Wrede's continuation of the letter game? It fell flat. The Grand Tour was written over fifteen years after Sorcery and Cecelia and during the interim both the authors have gained a maturity in their writing. While this does lead to a solid writing style, it loses the spontaneity and fun of the previous book. It's more refined, it's more polished, almost to the point where you can no longer hear the distinction between the author's voices. Plus, I know the fact that the characters are on the tour together means that the previous convention of writing letters back and forth isn't tenable, so we are into diary territory, but the whole gimmick of the letter game is that the characters aren't together. So Stevermer and Wrede thought it would be fun to break basically the only rule of the letter game. Maybe they should have realized the rule is there for a reason. Having the narrative shift back and forth between Kate and Cecelia while they are often in the same room led to a bad case of head-hopping and having us readers get whiplash. So the book might have a lot going for it, and it's a solid read, but it lacks that magical spark that makes Sorcery and Cecelia so memorable. ...more
Magic is more prevalent then Jonathan Strange cares to consider as he sees three women reveling in a spell successfully concluded. Mr. Norrell might think that it's only in the past that great magic was done and only in books that one might learn magic, but even the humblest tapestry might have a magical purpose. And love, well, love can make you do almost anything in it's pursuit, even destroy the most magical of enchantments. In these stories Susanna Clarke tells us a few tales of magic and imagination from the world of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. What happens when the Duke of Wellington's horse goes through a hole in a wall created by Neil Gaiman? What is the result when fairy magic finally brings a long delayed bridge to town? And what happens when the great Raven King, John Uskglass is felled by a simple charcoal burner? Anything might happen with just a touch of magic.
Sometimes we can be dazzled by an author and fail to see what should be apparent. We loved their previous work so this new work must be brilliant, it just must be, how could it be otherwise? We remember what is brilliant and forget the chaff. Never is this more apparent then in a collection of short stories where it's easy to forget the bad and only cling to the memorable. In the two years between reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and The Ladies of Grace Adieu Susanna Clarke had become my favorite author so I thought she could do no wrong. The stories I didn't like I assumed I just didn't understand. Plus, there could be no denying the gorgeous production value of the book with Charles Vess's illustrations, which add another level of distractive beauty. I have since come to realize the humanity and fallibility of authors more and realized just what a mixed bag The Ladies of Grace Adieu really is.
The problem is that sometimes these stories take themselves too seriously. Yet Clarke's work works when she doesn't take herself too seriously and seems to have an arched brow over even the most trifling of matters. In Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell anything that might be too serious is brought down a peg with a well placed wry footnote. Here her footnotes are few and far between. The subtle mockery of the academic is replaced at times with an earnestness that just doesn't work. Her stories become turgid and staid. Clarke needs to remember to not take herself too seriously.
If we compare the light and humorous "Antickes and Frets" with the abysmal "On Lickerish Hill" I think we can clearly see the two ends of the spectrum. "Antickes and Frets" dealing with Mary Queen of Scots and a new found obsession for embroidery is witty and droll in the many plots to bring down Queen Elizabeth, whereas "On Lickerish Hill" is a painful retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. Firstly, did we really need yet another retelling of this tale? Rumpelstiltskin, while important in fairy lore to point out the importance of names, is easily the most boring fairy tale I can think of. But more importantly did it really need to be written in faux olde tyme language with horrid spelling and vocabulary? No it did not!
What is interesting to the Clarke fanatic though is comparing the differing views of the same world as presented in The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. What one clearly sees is that, as one suspected all along, the two great magician's of the age are more ignorant then they would like us to believe. There is a lot more going on in the world then these two learned gentlemen know or would like to admit. Magic has always stayed around, it hasn't "disappeared" as they so ominously prophesied. Yes, they did bring it back into the more glaring public arena, but it has been subtly continuing all along in out of the way places and often by people who you would least expect, like women and the other "lower orders." It makes the aforementioned fanatic long for her next book that supposedly sees this world through the eyes of these lower orders. Ah, the stories they could tell and hopefully one day will.
As to these women... what is interesting about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is that, while there is a strong male presence, the book to me is subversively feminine. The narrator is female, and the power the men grasp for seems to have, in the past, been easily mastered by females, and probably still is if they'd bother to ask a female. If her first book is subversively feminine, The Ladies of Grace Adieu is overtly feminine. In only two of the eight stories are men the protagonists. Every other story revels in women and their powers. The stories even take great glee in repressed and oppressed women getting the better of their male counterparts. Magic still is strong in this domestic sphere. "The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse" and "Antickes and Frets" takes the magical power of women even further by showing a distinctly feminine art, that of embroidery, being used to magical purposes. So while it may be uneven, the message stays strong and provides a nice counterpoint to Clarke's previous work. ...more
Even better then the first book! A more cohesive look to all the drawings with a fun story. I especially loved The Life Aquatic" reference. Also I wouEven better then the first book! A more cohesive look to all the drawings with a fun story. I especially loved The Life Aquatic" reference. Also I would totally buy the Otto-ized ye olde thyme travel stickers!...more