Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 3)

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 3)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2010
A steampunk historical romance review

GermanBlameless

On her own, Alexia finds herself facing down epic scandal, betrayal, and assassins wielding homicidal ladybugs. Needless to say, she responds by gathering loyal companions and traveling across Europe to find answers, be it from scientists, murderous vampires, or even the Holy Templars.

An involving, quick read, Blameless amps up the action and world-building. The supernatural machinations behind this plot lead to more twists and consequences for the Maccons’ set. From devious schemes and werewolf drunkenness on the home front to the strange and sinister philosophies of Europe, Carriger puts her characters through the wringer. The expansion of French and Italian culture continues to expand this fascinating paranormal world with Alexia’s spirited tourism and unexpected transports to lead the way.

The middle book, Blameless proves the least light-hearted, but brings a passion and a flawed reality to these characters that enhances them through the rest of the series. Like tea, a sip of the unsweetened stuff will make the properly served version taste even better.

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 2)

Changeless (The Parasol Protectorate Series 2)
By: Gail Carriger
(http://gailcarriger.com)
Orbit Books 2010

A steampunk historical romance review

GermanChangeless

Changeless sees the intrepid Alexia Tarabotti settled into a position of power, both as muhjah to the queen and Alpha of the Woolsey pack. So when immortals of all kinds suddenly begin to lose their powers on a wide scale, Conall Maccon runs off to tend to his old Scottish pack, and suspicious activity begins to follow Alexia around, she is naturally up to the task.

This sequel considerably broadens Carriger’s world in several directions, by introducing the rest of Conall’s werewolf pack, delving into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the Alpha’s move to London, taking readers to Scotland, and uncovering more details about this world’s intriguing rules and wherefores. The new characters are introduced and expanded without taking away from the original characters’ growth, the numerous mysteries facing Alexia keep the plot steaming along full-speed ahead, and this heroine performs her antics with such aplomb that I didn’t mind that some questions don’t get wrapped up until later books. Amazingly, the clothing details of bizarre hats and edgy attire attain even greater heights of distinction in this work.

In short, this is the vindicated and indomitable Alexia Maccon as everyone loves to see her, and the plot has enough going on to keep her busy and readers highly entertained. However, unlike Soulless, this book ends on an abrupt note that requires swift continuation into Blameless, so have it at the ready.

Top Ten Books for a Beginner to Historical Fiction

This is a rendition of Top Ten Tuesday (and a Day…or Three) by the thebrokeandthebookish.wordpress.com. This week’s prompt was the top ten books you’d give someone to introduce them to your choice of a genre. I chose historical fiction because I feel there’s many wonderful books that are sadly overlooked.

Top Ten Books for a Beginner to Historical Fiction (many of which are just my top ten historical fiction books)

1. “Scaramouche” by Raphael Sabatini
-I know I mention this a lot and there’s an abundance of reasons for it! This book is set in the French Revolution and is good for drama nerds, lovers of wit, and people who like “The Princess Bride.”

2. “Mistress Wilding,” also by Raphael Sabatini
-This has one of my favorite first sentences: “‘Then drink it thus,’ cried the rash young fool, and splashed the contents of his cup full into the face of Mr. Wilding even as that gentleman, on his feet, was proposing to drink to the eyes of the young fool’s sister.” As you can see, it is high on passions, as well as British history and romance, in both senses of the word.

3. “The Borgia Bride” by Jeanne Kalogridis
Borgia_Bride
-This novel focuses on Sancha, bride of the youngest Borgia son and notorious in several tales. For fans of the Borgias, Italian history, “Game of Thrones,” scheming, and strong female leads.

4. “Master of Verona” by David Blixt
(Full review here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/the-master-of-verona/)
-This is another Italian history tale, that focuses on Dante’s son and explains the feud behind “Romeo and Juliet.” Obviously, for fans of Shakespeare, Italian history, and those who like to discuss philosophy.

5. “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Tracy Chevalier
-This tale of a girl’s entanglement with Dutch painter Vermeer provides excellent insight into a historical mindset in a lovely succinct, brief manner for such intense themes.

6. “The Second Duchess” by Elizabeth Loupas
-Another Italian setting, Barbars marries the Duke of Ferrara in 1565. This is another literary crossover tale as it’s based on Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess.” For fans of poetry, murdery mysteries, and paranormal works.

7. “The Grand Sophy” by Georgette Heyer
(Full review here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/04/24/the-grand-sophy/)
-This regency romance with a shockingly in-control heroine is a hilarious, quick read for fans of romance, Regency Britain, and humor.

8. “Her Royal Spyness” by Rhys Bowen
(Full review here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/her-royal-spyness/)
Her Royal Spyness
-This murder mystery set in 1930s England showcases a witty, practical, and engaging heroine who leads us on a light, quick read for fans of mystery, humor, British history, and reliable narrators.

9. “Lion of Ireland” by Morgan Llywelyn
lionofireland
-This history of Brian Boru brings early Ireland to vibrant, detailed life. For fans of Ireland, “Game of Thrones,” military tales, scheming, and “Vikings.”

10. “Catherine called Birdy” by Karen Cushman
-A fit introduction for younger readers, this daily diary book is set in 1200s England from a teenage girl who discusses holy days, marriage prospects, and daily concerns like food, animals, and who can fart at will.

Yes, indeed, if we switch out “Catherine Called Birdy” for “Baudolino” by Umberto Eco, this would basically be a list of my top ten historical novels of the moment. But “Baudolino” is not for beginners…So, if you aren’t one, I highly recommend it to you. What historical novels do you like?

The Puppeteer’s Apprentice

The Puppeteer’s Apprentice
By: D. Anne Love
Aladdin Paperbacks 2003
A middle grade historical fiction review

There seems to be no place in the world for orphan girl Mouse, abandoned as a baby on the steps of a medieval manor house. When things go from bad to worse, can a little courage and determination enable Mouse to choose her own way, to become…The Puppeteer’s Apprentice?
The book read like a sponge cake to me as the main character and her story seem a very solid base for a dessert, but a plain one. Love kept things simple and easy to grasp. From scullery maid to vagabond, Mouse comes across interesting people and curious customs that will engage young imaginations, in spite of lacking a bit of development for older readers. Most importantly, Mouse endures severe ups and downs, caused by both forces outside of her control and of her own making. This gives the story a warmth and believability. Most of Mouse’s journey covers only the important days, as if dipping the sponge in different flavors of frosting as Love went along. The mystery Mouse encounters becomes clear rather too easily, but she is easy to relate to and it’s a fun, quick read to follow along and see where she winds up. In short, I wish there had been a bit more depth, a little more flavor, but it was a solid, light read for the right age group.

If murder be the food of love, slay on

I am extremely choosey about my mysteries.  I am often extremely wary of them failing me as the plot goes on, particularly if they boast a more intricate storyline.  And yet, I still feel complete confidence that the book I am currently reading will not disappoint me.  This is even more odd considering I’m a good way into it and not that much about the actual mystery plot has been revealed.  What hath wrought this miracle???

 

Thirteenth Night by Alan Gordon.  It boasts (spoiler-free):
-A JESTER in the role of detective.

-A Guild of Fools who secretly run the world via influencing politics, economics, etc.  Is that not just everything you’ve ever wanted?

-This Guild of Fools is a secret branch of the Catholic church! In other words, they are like Division in Nikita, only with motley!  This is a show that I need to see, some day.

-Shakespeare is involved.

-Random other folks like Francis of Assisi wander through.

-Depictions of medieval saint day observations are always fascinating and usually hilarious.

 

Hence, I already know that no matter what happens with the actual murder mystery, I will be happy reading the rest of this book, as well as the others in Alan Gordon’s Fool’s Guild series.

 

Note: This book has quotes atop every new chapter.  I have yet to come across a book that does that which I have not enjoyed.  Correction-I have yet to come across a book that uses real quotes atop each new chapter that I didn’t like.  There was one that had clearly made up sayings from people like Attila the Hun on them that…was a bit like popcorn with too much salt.  It still served its purpose as snack food and tasted fine for awhile, but then left you feeling thirsty with dissatisfaction and the knowledge that you have had much better.

 

John Crabbe (The John Swale Chronicles)

John Crabbe (The John Swale Chronicles #9)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review

 

John Crabbe returns the chronicles to tempestuous Scotland, with pirates at the helm.  Notorious pirate John Crabbe finds himself facing defiant nobility on and off the water.

Pilling deploys his excellent introductory skills to meld excitement and tension into the debut of his first sea bandit.  The pace whips everything along so briskly that this short work feels even shorter than it really is.  The variety of conflicts, both internal and external, keeps John Crabbe in choppy emotional waters while the action keeps it salty.  It’s a harsh voyage to read, but one that offers all the expected thrills of piracy within the darker context of Scotland’s impending warfare.

The Wild Hunt (The John Swale Chronicles)

The Wild Hunt (The John Swale Chronicles #8)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review

 

Finally on his way towards revenge, Swale’s anticipation to engage Folville drives The Wild Hunt.  However, encountering Folville’s relatives proves far easier than meeting the bandit leader himself.

Another brief segment of The John Swale Chronicles, The Wild Hunt breaks into the real action of the feud.  From opening tactics to the first battle, Swale and Folville keep this work tight, dark, and harsh.  Unlike previous installments to this story, no other character is allowed to broaden the story.  This simpler structure and use of only established characters makes the story sharper, with a more direct message.  On the other hand, it’s missing Pilling’s usual doses of nuance and clever whole-world-building.  As part of a larger work, The Wild Hunt would make a compelling sequence.  Published on its own its success is narrowed to those who appreciate military tales or are highly invested in Folville and Eustace, as opposed to other players in this series.

In short, this is the part of a fight where expectations are still building and resolution is not yet in sight.  Time to place your bets.

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