Becoming Mr. Brooking (The Mad Hatterlys)

Becoming Mr. Brooking (The Mad Hatterlys 2)

By: Marguerite Butler

(http://www.amazon.com/Marguerite-Butler/e/B004SUR0FG/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1)

Musa Publishing 2011

A regency romance novel review

 

When Graham Hatterly decides to consider sponsoring Horace Tolliver’s botany expedition, it seems like a simple business arrangement.  Then his secretary Mr. Brooking takes ill and light-spirited Mr. Hatterly decides to travel in his stead.  Undercover, of course.  Hard-pressed to provide for any guest, Edwina Tolliver finds herself saddled with housing and entertaining “Mr. Brooking” throughout a flood.  As Graham learns more about the Tollivers, his own expedition grows into much more than Becoming Mr. Brooking.

This book is like strawberry cheesecake.  It fulfills all the sweet, cheesy expectations of this type of story, yet somehow makes it seem fruity-fresh and organic.  I believe it’s the inherent likability of the two leads.  They are charismatic characters with chemistry who transcend their roles.  Yes, Graham Hatterly is the gadabout playboy, but his issues are treated as real faults, not dramatic allure.  Edwina Tolliver’s different-from-society behavior highlights a character I’d like to befriend, rather than a stereotype or the folly of normal society.  Her temper is particularly admirable.  Their interactions include everything you’d want in awkwardly-close-environment encounters, while progressing in natural ways and for good reasons.

Basically, this is a light, quick read that made me laugh, while the characters made me smile.  I’d like to read it again.  Plus, we spend more time with people from Compromising Prudence (https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/compromising-prudence-the-mad-hatterlys/) in a way that builds on the family dynamics of the “Mad Hatterlys” rather than being simple cameos.  So far, this is a fun family to discover.

New Year’s Literary Resolutions

The New Year approaches and many people are attempting to choose their New Year’s resolutions.  To help with this important choice, I have compiled a list of advice about resolutions from several British Literary Greats.  Choose to implement this advice with sense and sensibility, or dismiss them as merely sound and fury, signifying nothing at your own peril.

 

British Literary Greats’ Guide to New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Do not: make resolutions based on anything said by weird sisters, or any trio of strange females.

2. Do not: make resolutions based on what you heard from the ghost of a family member.

3. Do: make resolutions based on what you heard from ghosts of time periods.

4. Do not: make resolutions about avoiding the opposite sex. It never works out.

5. Do: make resolutions based on telepathic communications from exes.

6. Do: make your resolutions without reference to any person wholly unconnected with you, particularly if they are cantankerous old women who have not been accustomed to language such as yours.

7. Do not: make resolutions based on one dance request.

8. Do: make resolutions based on letters from scorned lovers.

9. Do not: resolve to keep trophies from Dark Lords, even when they are vanquished.

10. Do not: make resolutions based on Turkish Delight.

 

15 points for every author you can name.  25 points for every title and author.  50 points for any new literary advice.

 

Enjoy your holidays and may the new year bring you good things, whether your resolution helps or hinders you.

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.

 

Happy National Hobbit Day!

I have been reliably informed by hallmark that today is National Hobbit Day!  Therefore, I did my humble best to pay tribute to this momentous work (as well as attempting to act more Hobbitably).

 

Bilbo Baggins meets Thorin at his home of Bagend:

 

Bilbo’s Trolls:

 

The goblin king stands over his hoarde:

 

Riddles in the Dark:

 

Invisible!Bilbo sneaks inside Lonely Mountain:

 

Smaug emerges from Lonely Mountain:

 

(Special guest appearances by Silast as Smaug and Rattafin as Invisible!Bilbo.)

 

 

 

Colossus: Stone and Steel-Quarrying Queries

In my review of David Blixt’s Colossus: Stone and Steel here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/colossus-stone-and-steel/ I say that it “invites intellectual debate.”  Now I’m going to follow through on that by going through the cumbersome quarries of material within this book to chisel out some interesting queries.  (I’m sorry, I had to.)

 

I present to you, Colossus: Stone and Steel Discussion Questions! 

(Expect spoilers).

1. The question of Florus’s wife Cleopatra bothers me.  As the property of Florus, at the time of this novel it would’ve been seen as fitting that she share her husband’s fate.  Undoubtedly, as his wife, she shared in the spoils of his greed and mistreatment of the Judeans.  On the other hand, can any of the blame really fall on her?  The descriptions and inner thoughts of Florus hardly include Cleopatra, let alone giving any hint that he would have behaved differently if she wasn’t there.  None of the victims mention Cleopatra as having done anything offensive on her own.  Even Berenice speaks only of Florus, and surely she would have mentioned Cleopatra by name if this wife had also slighted her.  True, Cleopatra’s personality isn’t stellar-she’s obnoxious and selfish.  Still, is that any reason for her to share the tortuous end of Florus?  Shouldn’t someone have at least thought that Cleopatra might deserve a separate fate?

 

2. Speaking of Cleopatra, is there any way in which this portrayal of Queen Berenice is not reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra?

 

3. Colossus: Stone and Steel frequently refers to the worth of blood and ancestors.  One of the first ways this is set up is in the contrast between the businesses of Judah and Phannius.  While it’s natural to resent such differences now, particularly from the view of non-aristocrats like Judah, can all the blame really always be laid at the door of the “superior-blooded”?  Phannius is constantly described as a ‘lout’, largely because he doesn’t seem to work as hard to Judah and Asher.  He’s even indiscriminately punched in the face by Judah, for no immediate reason, only latent resentments against decisions that are not all, or even mostly, Phannius’ fault, but his mother’s.  Is it any easier for those on the upper side of the scale to overlook such attitudes concerning them?  Should it be?

-On that note, does the fact that Vespasian and Titus are allowed to flourish according to their military prowess in Rome, in spite of their lack of famous ancestors, demonstrate that Roman laws are more progressive than Judea’s?

 

4. Omens appear frequently in this book.  However, whereas Judean omens seem to derive from different interpretations of the same original texts or themes, Roman omens seem to leave more room for individuality.  Titus feels blessed because of something that happened when he was vowing over the Fifteenth’s eagle.  The eagle itself is an established historical symbol, but the wind event derives from the immediate stimulus of visual impact and shared feeling.  Titus does not need to recite other times this same event happened to other people to ensure its validity.    It is valid because he was there and it seemed propitious to those who saw it.  Nor does he need to become anything other than what he is.  Unlike Yosef, who tries to become the mahsiah, Titus’ omen is not so much about his place in society as about external events he will take part in.  Similarly, whereas Yosef’s new interpretation of Hebrew prophesies centers on Vespasian becoming an archetype in relation to others, the Roman prophesy about Vespasian’s family winning the war is purely about outside outside happenings.

-Are omens more powerful as foretellers of events or as declarations of a person’s destined place in the world?  Or more dangerous?  Titus and Vespasian may be less encumbered with deep thoughts about prophesies, but is that good or bad?  Is Yosef’s spiritual journey less genuine because it’s always tied to omens he wants to work himself into?  Or is that responsible for Yosef’s great power to adapt and therefore possibly a positive thing?

 

5. Sex appears over and over again as an underlying theme.  Yet, this too is represented very differently for the Romans and the Hebrews.  The potential for sex appears as something negative whenever the Judeans encounter it: the potential for shame if Judah and Deborah engage in it, the sexual threats to Perel, Edith, and Asher, derogatory comments about Queen Berenice, and the lesson that sexual activity removes the Lord’s presence.  On the other hand, sex is used to bolster the Roman egos-they will win the war like a seducer winning a fuck, they revel in the phallic nature of their weapons, individual men gain strength from their sexual partners.  What does this say about these culture’s views on sex?  Aside from that, which of these sexual attitudes is shown to lead to the healthiest attitudes about women?  Or is it all just foreshadowing of what side will win and which will be violated, and each character should be viewed as creating their own views on sexuality and women?

 

6. Was anyone else’s favorite scene Yosef’s mathematicide?  It was delightful in its inevitability, understated intensity, and flow!  What are some other favorite scenes and why?

 

7. The question of performance versus intention comes up a lot.  Is Deborah really who she seems to be around Judah, if she has to try to act this way?  Is Yosef really brave when fighting if he does it for the sake of those watching instead?  Are Judah and Asher really heroic for firing Roman weaponry, or is their deed tarnished by their desire to be seen as heroes like Atlas?

-Is the real difference between Yosef’s fighting and the twins’ that the twins were willing to die?  Yosef certainly believed he might die.  Was the difference that the twins truly believed it was worth it, while Yosef thought it was madness?  In that case, many of the zelotes’ deeds become noble because their doers truly thought they were needed.  Was it that Asher and Judah performed their fighting for the present moment, whereas Yosef is always thinking ahead?  If so, a lot of us are in trouble because it’s deemed wise and necessary to look ahead.  Is the difference that Asher and Judah respected the people who were watching them, while Yosef did not?

 

8. The question of whether death is greater than life offers a rich quarry, indeed.  Many people are remembered more for how they died than how they lived, the Romans believed that to die with honor was worth more than anything, is immortality granted by the living or by gods?  The side issue of whether suicide or homicide is better also plays a large role.  Is the willingness to die for a cause greater than themselves the true measure of honor?  Or is dying to prove something about yourself equally noble?  Or is either reason simply misguided?

 

9. Yosef gets a lot of flack for continually manipulating everything to try and prove who he thinks he should be.  Most notably, he kills people off to ensure he will live because he believes he’s a person who must.  However, Judah commits very similar acts.  Judah believes that his purpose in life is to be a warrior-that is who he is, the same way Yosef believes he’s a great priest.  Several times, Judah is willing to sacrifice everything and everyone else to partake in the feelings and actions of a warrior.  He rushes out of the shield wall, he wants to stay and die fighting, even if it dooms his twin and his friends, because a warrior’s who he believes he’s meant to be.  Does the fact that Judah is killing Romans instead of Judeans really excuse him from the same personality flaws as Yosef?  Judah’s actions are a more emotional response while Yosef’s are planned, but does that make them different?  Yosef’s belief can be as genuine as Judah’s and Judah’s lack of concern for others when opposed to his personal self-purpose is arguably equal to Yosef’s.  Is it just the end goal of dying (as a warrior) versus living (as a leader) that makes us more sympathetic to Judah?  If so, what does that say about current beliefs about death being greater than life?

 

10. Who betrayed Jotapata?  (Personally, I think the clues are quite clear, but it seems a fitting question to end on.)

 

 

Colossus: Stone and Steel

Colossus: Stone and Steel

By: David Blixt

(http://www.davidblixt.com/)

Sordelet Ink (April 23, 2012)

An historical fiction review

Filled with factions and smarting from insults, ancient Judea rebels against Nero’s Rome.  With both sides sporting an injury, the insurrection sparks a war complete with heroes, poetry, and slaughter.  Through the eyes of twin masons, Judah the warrior and Asher the scholar, and the opportunistic leader Yosef, Blixt builds Colossus: Stone and Steel into a story where perceptions are paramount.  Where do you come from?  Who is your god?  What is your history?  Do you truly know your real purpose in life?  And above all, what would you sacrifice to prove your chosen answers real?

With broad strokes of suspense and meticulous details of authenticity, this novel asks a lot of its readers.  Blixt taxes memories and asks for tithes of understanding by refusing to create a simple narrative or reduce the questions brought up by dissension.  The conflicts in this work are myriad: cultural, political, religious, moral.  Even asking these difficult questions, Blixt’s writing assaults the emotions.  The reader gets entangled in the confusing mixture of attempted reason and subjective response that the characters experience.  It’s an absorbing work, driven by characters as much as ideas.  Tied to the fortunes of Judah, Asher, or any other noteworthy player, Colossus: Stone and Steel offers joy, relief, and thrills.  The historical reasons and horrifying barbarities of the war provide a different kind of appeal.  As usual, Blixt’s novel invites intellectual debate.

Like a Roman legion, Colossus: Stone and Steel attacks its subject thoroughly, aggressively, and with the full weight of history, symbolism, and authority behind it.  Only under Blixt’s command, destruction becomes a lens to study the world, as well as a call to comprehend its peoples.

Folville’s Law (The John Swale Chronicles)

Folville’s Law (The John Swale Chronicles)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2011
an historical fiction review

Queen Isabella of England prepares to attack her husband Edward II with the aid of her lover, Mortimer.  England’s lords and law keepers scramble to make the most of the weak king’s corrupt reign.  Hugh Despenser the Younger, the king’s favorite, feels his world threatening to crumble.  Hugh’s one loyal night, Sir John Swale, sets out on a simple mission and finds himself caught amidst outlaws, family feuds, and increasingly lethal encounters.  It’s the year 1326 and the law of the land is simple: there is no law, only different masters.

            Folville’s Law takes readers through many different perspectives.  Everyone’s world is narrow, full of their own ambitions and motivations.  David Pilling does an excellent job at keeping his audience abreast of circumstances from the individual to the international while juggling storylines and his characters’ perceptions.  All of the voices Pilling uses to tell his tale are strong, consistent, and eminently human.  No one is concerned with an overarching history more than their own welfare; no one is outside their immediate surroundings and limited knowledge.  Royals, bandits, and widows all show glimpses into different lifestyles, giving Pilling’s book a more up-front and direct feeling of authenticity than many.

          Folville’s Law fights and schemes through its pages, maintaining a quick and exciting reading pace.  The ensemble cast and swiftly switching perspectives draw readers into the history and action of the plot, but also make it difficult to connect to any of the characters.  The many actors and subplots make Pilling’s debut novel engaging, an excellent lead work for a series (now in its seventh book).  Throughout, Pilling wields a distinctive tone, a knack for explaining complications with flair, and a strategically balanced sense of pacing.

In a nutshell, Folville’s Law is a gritty, well-researched adventure without a hero, just an array of humans.  If you’re looking for romance, this is not the book for you.  For historical interest, action, and intrigue, I recommend this work.  It’s always good when I’m left still wanting to know what happens next.

Voice of the Falconer

Voice of the Falconer (sequel to Master of Verona)

By: David Blixt

(http://www.davidblixt.com/)

Sordelet Inc. (April 23, 2012)

An historical adventure fiction review

 

Young Cesco is the hidden heir to Verona’s master, Cangrande della Scala, the foster child of Pietro Alaghieri and the rest of Dante’s family, and a mercurial eleven-year-old.  Voice of the Falconer brings Cesco to Verona with his entourage of protectors.  Through an onslaught of plots, surprises, and lessons, Cesco must make spectacular debuts, uncover secrets about his identity, and above all: survive.  Meanwhile, Pietro’s return finds him confronting both old friends and familiar demons.  With battles, intrigues, and references galore, this sequel retains all the momentum and excitement of its predecessor.

 

In Voice of the Falconer Blixt sets up all the players of “Romeo and Juliet,” enriching their characters and continuing to make them his own.  Entwining them with other Shakespearian tales like “Merchant of Venice” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” Blixt’s cleverness will delight fans and draw the Bard new ones.  Far from staying in Shakespeare’s shadow, these references spark seamlessly alongside history, prophecy, research, and philosophy.  Never less than an adventure, each aspect of Blixt’s novels carries multiple sides: passion, poetry, humor, mystery…Voice of the Falconer twists its cast through intriguing events without ever sacrificing depth of character.  This sequel’s ability to reintroduce readers to old friends after an eight year gap is impressive, but that pales to the achievement of showing such astute shifts in relationships and individuals through the novel.  Even laboring under the knowledge of many character’s deaths, Blixt’s portrayals give these people a marvelous wholeness and reality.

 

I’ve waited five years to read this sequel.  This book is worthy of that wait.  Its only problem is that I already care so deeply for many of these characters that remembering “Romeo and Juliet” grows painful.  Luckily, there is always one more quest for my heroes to follow, one more mystery needing to be solved, one more gorgeous sentence that I have to read twice.  Above all, there is so much of the plot left that I cannot foresee and that I absolutely need to know!

 

Blixt’s historical Italy was never a place for the faint of heart and this second book brings no relief, throwing readers through a gauntlet of anticipation, suspense, and wonder.  It’s a rough environment that not everyone will enjoy-definitely not a cozy, relaxing read.  For readers who thrive on challenging, intricate works, this is a gift for you.