Historical Fiction

Something Old, Something New…

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , |

No, I’m not getting married. Phew! That’s a relief, right? And to finish, there is something borrowed but not something blue. Something Green, yes, but blue? No.

So let’s do the run-through. Of late, I’ve been trying to read as many books as possible before I travel back to China. It’s going to be interesting to see if I can finish the one I’m reading now, given that it’s more than 800 pages long, but I’m trucking along. I’ve been reading it while doing the free step exercise on Wii Fit Plus.

As far as the something Green goes, you probably already guessed that I finally read Ted Dekker’s book, Green, from his original Circle Trilogy. Granted, that has now become four books, and there’s no cool name for four books, so we’ll call it a series.

After reading it, though, I was completely lost and confused, mostly cause it’s been so long since I read the original three books. So I had to go back and start rereading the series from Black. I got halfway through Red before moving on to another book. So I suppose that also answers my something old question as well.

I loved Thomas Hunter’s story. The way Dekker wove the history of earth with the history of Hunter’s dream-world-turned-reality was amazing, and the fact that the two worlds were colliding through one man and his connection to both blew me away when I read it originally. Dekker’s originality and creativity made me really appreciate his series.

However, I think I’m with the people who have critiqued the latest release. Instead of answering questions, it left me with more questions. Instead of wrapping up what was already a phenomenal trilogy, it gave me another book with plot twists that only got more and more confusing and led to a cliffhanger that was unsatisfactory. In short, it left me feeling disappointed, and it definitely fell flat in my opinion.

So what else? Oh, yes, that leaves me with my something new. And that would be a book totally outside my normal authors and genres. Actually, I’m not sure where this book would fit. It’s a romance, to be sure, but it’s kind of a fantasy mixed with historical fiction as well. I haven’t looked at the official classification, but I assume it typically falls under romance.

I picked it up because so many people in the NaNoWriMo forums are always recommending this author as one of the greats. I wanted to read some things that I’ve heard people talk about as I tend to read authors who are either less well-known or more obscure (which is really the same thing, I suppose) than the many readers on the NaNo forums. I often find myself feeling as if I’m not well-read at all when I peruse the forums, so I decided to do something about it by choosing a few authors and books that sounded interesting and reading them this year.

The result? I picked up Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, an 800+ behemoth that is the first in a series of at least seven books.

Boy, was I stupid.

Now, before you start thinking that I say that because I was hoodwinked into picking up what is the first in a series of huge books instead of just some one-off, stop. That’s not what I meant. My problem is that I have, so far, really enjoyed the story Gabaldon weaves. It’s actually somewhat plausible to me, and given her protagonist, I can see how the woman’s placement in the time period she’s in would give her opportunities to use her knowledge of history for good while simultaneously avoiding being singled out as a witch and killed.

That said, I don’t have the money to buy the rest of the books in the series. I’m a little sad about that.

But the great thing is that I’ve never read anything by Diana Gabaldon before, and so far, she’s really impressed me. I’m loving the story, even though I’m not even halfway through the behemoth, and I can’t wait to see what other twists and turns it takes before it reaches its end.

So now I’ll end this by asking if you’ve done the same: taken someone’s suggestion of a book or author only to come across someone you really enjoy. Got any other suggestions for me? I don’t read many mainstream books because I tend to gravitate towards others, but I’m always open to suggestions, especially if I’m going to read 50 books this year.

I’ll update you on my progress towards 50 soon, and I look forward to hearing from you!


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Enter Manhattan 1899

Posted on May 8, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, Reviews, Romance, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Let’s talk books, let’s talk stories, let’s talk what works and what doesn’t! Because I’m lazy and not in the mood to write the official review I’ll put on my PC, I’m going to write a second review of two books I’ve read for my research.

Anna Godbersen’s The Luxe series has four novels in it total. They are: The Luxe, Rumors, Envy, and Splendor. I’ve read the first two books of the series and finished reading the second one today. Because I’m enjoying it, I picked up the third at Borders after I got off work at Book Gallery (don’t tell my boss!) and started reading it over dinner.

The Luxe

The Luxe introduces readers to Manhattan’s top society members in rollicking good style. Swathed in multiple, juicy tidbits straight from the columns of only the best newspapers that harken the beginning of each new chapter, the book tells the story of the Holland sisters.

Elizabeth Holland is the oldest daughter of the Holland family and has just returned from an extended trip abroad. The trip was one of the means she used to forget the horrible details of her father’s recent death. Now that she’s back, though, things are beginning to fall apart. Her family is in financial trouble, and all her mother’s hopes are resting on Elizabeth… and a wedding that could change everything.

In the meantime, the youngest of the Holland’s, Diana, is enjoying finding her kicks where she will, in the dark coatrooms where clandestine meetings for kisses are not so easily noticed and in servant hallways that are infrequently traveled. The more risque of the sisters, Diana sees no need to appear with decorum when her older and more accomplished sister can do so for her, but in a strange twist of fate, the younger sister finds that love can come from unexpected places and at horribly wrong times. Now she has only one problem: telling her family.

With an intriguing cast of characters, I have to give Godbersen credit. I fell in love with the Holland sisters and felt nothing but disgust for some of the more important side characters, such as the indomitable Penelope Hayes, the sneaky Lina Broud, and the irritating Isabella Schoonmaker. Godbersen’s characterization is fabulous, and I am enjoying getting to know her characters and hoping I’ll find something good and worthwhile in some of the more cruel of the women.

Her plots are elaborate and twisted. I’ve been impressed by the intrigue behind the movements of the Holland sisters and the plots of Penelope Hayes. And even little Lina Broud strikes me as much more intense and devious than I would have expected given her characterization in the first book. And with the winding, often snakelike paths the story takes, I expect I’ll be just as surprised in the third and fourth novels as I was in the first two, a definite plus in my book.

So what makes this series so intriguing, especially to the teen readers? Well, let’s start by examining the cover. Most women I know have a fascination for the fashions from the past, especially those ball gowns that are featured so heavily on Godbersen’s covers. Second the titles are ripe with intrigue. They offer visions of brightly lit ballrooms, women wearing precious gems and delicate outfits, men in smoking rooms, and any number of rich debaucheries. It’s the stuff of legend and the stuff we simply can’t get enough of.

Now I’ll admit, I was angry at the end of the first book. I was also furious at the end of the second book because, quite frankly, I didn’t want it to end the way it did. I hate it when authors don’t offer me a happy ending. However I have two more books to read, and unfortunately the fourth book hasn’t been released in paperback yet. Once I finish the third one, I’m afraid I’m a bit up a creek until the paperback fourth book gets released.

The big problem for me is that I’m a sucker for fairy tale, happily ever after endings. And as such, I’m determined to read to the end of the series and hopefully find that Godbersen has offered both happy endings to the characters I like and trials to the ones I don’t like. If she doesn’t do that, I might be a little miffed.

So far, the series has been solidly developed, excellently written, and hard to put down. I think that makes it a good series to use in my YA research, don’t you?

If you’re looking for a new read and don’t mind something that’s technically written for a younger audience, check it out. Godbersen’s style is subtle and well-played in the scenes she writes. The characters are deliciously entertaining. The settings are the perfect foils for the antics of her main characters. It’s simply a fascinating series of (somewhat) unfortunate events.

Let me know if you pick it up. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. And while we’re at it, feel free to let me know what books you’re reading now. I love hearing about new books, you know. πŸ˜‰


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On Research

Posted on April 17, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, Teen Fiction | Tags: , , , , |

I’m reading a few books recently that I picked up for the sole purpose of doing research. I’ll be honest. These are books that interest me on a simple reading level, but they’re also books that are apparently by authors who do very well in the Young Adult audience.

So what books am I reading? Well I’ll tell you.

I’ve finished reading two of the four that I have. The first book I picked up was titled The Luxe by Anna Godbersen. I have plans to do a separate post about this book because I want to analyze it a little more thoroughly. Godbersen’s series has four books, all of which detail life in early 20th century, rich Manhattan. Her characters are mainly young women whose lives seem charmed on the surface, but of course, there are facets to these women that can only be explored by reading the rest of the story.

Godbersen is touted as being on the New York Times bestseller list for her works, so I was looking forward to a treat. I wasn’t disappointed. With my love of historical fiction, hers was a perfect YA series to get into.

The second author I looked into was Sarah Dessen, another popular YA writer. I picked up two of her books and finished reading Just Listen a few days ago. Dessen writes contemporary fiction about girls who have problems. Simple enough, but Dessen’s writing style and the stories she weaves are full of controversy and intrigue enough to make even the youngest of readers sink their teeth into the novels.

I’ve actually really enjoyed Dessen’s stories even if I’m not in the target audience for them. She’s an excellent author.

So why do I tell you this?

Because I’m doing research for my own story. No, I didn’t pick up my genre. No, I’m not planning to find a good fantasy story for young adults to read anytime soon. The reason I’m not doing that is because I want to get a feel for my audience and not my genre.

I know it sounds weird, but bear with me. My purpose is simply to find out what it is young adults are reading. I want to see how writers to this audience change their tones or POVs to appeal to their readers. I want to read between the lines of the story and see the development of plot, the style, and the language that makes these books bestsellers.

If I were to pick up a YA fantasy novel, I know I’d end up focusing on the fantasy aspects and not on the language and other items that brand the story as targeted to younger readers. So I thought this would be a step in the right direction for me. I also picked up a how-to book on writing young adult fiction that sells.

What do you think? Overkill or heading in the right direction? I’m actually learning quite a bit as I enjoy these stories. It’s been an interesting journey in research.

All right, well, I’ve got to get ready for work now, so I’ll have to end this. I hope you’re all doing well, and I have news to report before I finish: I didn’t get the Target job. I’m still up in the air on Amazon, and I heard back about a South Korean ESL teaching position that would, in theory, begin on May 10. I’m not entirely sure how that’s going to work, but I’ll keep you updated!

I hope you all have wonderful Saturdays, and I am going to go out tonight and enjoy some well-deserved sushi with a coworker. What are your weekend plans?


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The Hepburn Look

Posted on March 27, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, Musings, Teen Fiction | Tags: , , , |

I know it’s not very writing related, but I thought I’d share two pictures from today. As I mentioned yesterday, I went out with my mother and her friends today. It was, as usual, inspired. Everything my mother and her friends do is enough to make me laugh.

But let me say that my dress wasn’t quite the same as Audrey Hepburn’s. Hers was the famous boatneck, floor-length gown that made the little black dress a household item for women of all ages. My hair also wasn’t quite the same as dear Audrey’s either. Though I did try.

For what it’s worth, I made do with what I had. I’ll let you decide if the outfit made me Hepburn-esque enough to pass muster or not.

The Real Audrey Hepburn

My Version of Audrey Hepburn

She was beautiful, wasn’t she? I love the little touches, from the diamond tiara to the extravagant necklace to the cigarette holder. It’s the height of class, elegance, and grace.

Perhaps one of the best parts of her attire was her ability to accentuate the right assets. I know I’ve ranted about modesty before, but I have to admit that Audrey Hepburn puts most of the mavens of today’s underdressed, anorexic society to shame. And she exudes mystery to boot.

I’m biased, but I think she’s beautiful.

So in comparison, we have my version of the Hepburn do. I had my mother help with my hair, and while it has the annoying tendency of not staying in place, today it did quite well.

You’ll notice I even got the black elbow-length gloves and the classic large sunglasses; though I already had that pair.

I had a lot of fun putting together my Audrey Hepburn look, and Lucille was thrilled with the effect. I did get told that I was only hanging out with my mother’s friends because they made me look good, but it was all in good fun.

My Hepburn Impression

So what do you think? Do I make a passable imitation of the classic?

Ah, and I also wanted to mention that I’m doing research for my novel. (This does tie-in, I promise.) I picked my way through Borders the other evening and found myself in the YA section. It’s a little appalling how many vampire fiction stories are out there now. I blame Stephenie Meyer.

Even so, I did find a bit of historical fiction that was too much to resist. It’s a series by an author I haven’t heard of, and it starts with the novel The Luxe. Anna Godbersen’s first novel is a tale of 1899 high society ladies and the intrigue their affairs spark. I’d seen it before but didn’t think much of it till I started to look at it again the other day. My love of historical fiction is simply too much to resist sometimes, so I purchased the first novel.

I love high society even if I’m not a part of it. And The Luxe is full of all the things I’ve always been fascinated by: high class women marrying for money and prestige, young girls finding their way into shady situations with even seedier men, old biddies gossiping about the young whipper-snappers, and of course, the affairs these ladies have with men of all ages, classes, and backgrounds. So far it’s been an enjoyable read, and I’m already embroiled in the conflict of the main characters.

I said there was a tie-in. It’s vague, but it’s there. Audrey Hepburn is my definition of high class. She would have easily fit in as one of New York’s old-school debutantes. Perhaps she really was one; I don’t know.

Either way, that’s the post for the day. Let me know what you think about my Hepburn looks. I had a lot of fun today. What did you do for your Saturday?


P.S. If you want to see the full-size images of my Hepburn looks, click on the photos and then click on them again when the link pops up.

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History of the Author Part 4 – I think

Posted on March 23, 2010. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, My Writing | Tags: , , , |

It’s been a good day so far. Things are finally winding down a bit, and I am happy to say my mom is definitely on the road to recovery. It’s a good feeling, and my family is happy she doesn’t look nearly as pale or in pain as she did.

That said, I’m going through some weird stuff. I’ve been having three headaches a week on average and been extremely queasy and dizzy lately. Not to mention tired. I’m not sure what to make of it besides the fact I need more sleep. Ah well, that’s life, isn’t it?

Onto more exciting things!

History of an Author:

I figured today I’d talk a little about how I decided writing long fiction was for me. And that begins with a wonderful trip down memory lane. Full steam ahead from high school newspaper work, take a left at the manga, follow the s-curve to the little camouflaged sign reading “Fan Fiction” and hang a right. See it?

Yep, I started writing fan fiction. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I started writing fanfics in high school. For anyone who doesn’t know the term, fan fiction refers to stories written about published, licensed, copyrighted, or other works of fiction, such as plays, movies, TV shows, novels, anime, and manga.

Guess where I started…

That’s right: I started writing fanfics for one of my favorite animes. It’s called Rurouni Kenshin, and I wrote several fanfics for the series before attempting my first big fic. It was probably around 30,000 words long all told, and I had fun writing it.

But I ended up wiping out all the information on my FanFiction.net account and going away for a long time. When I came back, I started writing for a new series. It started out small and simple. I began writing a story for the manga Ouran High School Host Club. That quickly grew into several different stories that went from only a few thousand words to more than 80,000 words.

The one that I like the most? It’s a story I titled “Htelobbihs: Can You Say It?” The story is all about a kidnapping, and it’s not just any kidnapping. By the end of the second chapter, it’s revealed that the kidnappers have managed to nab 7 people total, and our unlikely heroes are forced to follow the clues to find the people one by one, in a particular order.

One slip up, and the last person on the list goes missing forever. Of course, this just happens to be the most important person to our group of heroes. In addition, the kidnapper isn’t exactly the sanest person in the world.

What I like about fanfics is the ability of the author to gain feedback. You can learn a lot about your writing style and how it will be received by posting fanfics. Develop a solid fan base, and they’ll give you tips, catch grammatical errors, and cheer you on as your write more of the stories they fall in love with.

I think “Htelobbihs” had over 100 reviews by the time I posted the last chapter. And it was a joy to see how people reacted when I revealed the clues that led to the conclusion. I also tend to be a bit of a devious author, too; I like to write things that leave you wanting more. Cliffhangers are my friends.

In any event, I developed a lot of story ideas from my fanfic days that never finished. One of my favorite ideas is one I had for a fandom practically everyone will know something about: Harry Potter.

Did you feel cheated at Sirius’s death? I know I did. So I came up with an idea that would meld the Harry Potter world with a bit of fancy and classical writing.

The story, which I began writing but did not finish, followed Harry, Ron, and Hermione through their sixth year. Sirius, of course, is dead, and Harry is grieving as it’s still summer at Number 12 Grimmauld Place. Hermione is reading every book she can get her hands on, including a fascinating classic titled The Picture of Dorian Gray. But this book leads her on a whirlwind adventure that she never expected.

Tucked behind a large book in the bookshelves, Hermione finds the diary of one Lord Henry Wotton, who, she comes to find out, was a wizard. Lord Henry’s diary tells the story of his encounter with a muggle named Dorian Gray and how he chanced to create a spell that went awry, changing Dorian’s portrait to age while allowing Dorian to stay forever young.

The results of Henry’s research? Grief, murder, pain, betrayal, and loss. But not all is hopeless, as Hermione discovers. Lord Henry and his friends were researching potions and spells to return the dead to life, but there are several catches.

Can you guess where the story’s going? I actually did a lot of research on it, and I wrote about 7 chapters before I stopped writing. It was quite fun if I do say so myself.

In any event, my experience writing fanfics was positive enough that I grew confident enough to venture into the murky depths of original fiction. And that is where I’ll continue next week!

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks? Let me know!


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The Melancholy of Alice

Posted on March 20, 2010. Filed under: Books, Children's, Historical Fiction | Tags: , , , , |

I keep posting later and later, but it’s only because things have been busy taking care of the house and my mother. In any event, I won’t harp on it. Today I wanted to review Alice I Have Been as I finished reading it last night.

Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been is a haunting book. Perhaps my view on it won’t be the same as those who have read it, but it just seemed a very tragic story. I read the author’s notes on the book, and Benjamin explains that while it is only a novel she did use as much of the remaining documented materials of Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life to reconstruct this tale.

Looking at it from that point of view, I almost pity poor Alice.

That’s not to say, however, that the story was poorly written. Benjamin’s book is a delight to read, full of witty repartee and turns of phrase common to the Victorian era when Alice was born. The pacing is excellent, and the story draws the reader in with little effort and keeps you gripped in the questions it presents throughout.

The tale starts with a portrait of an aged Alice, famous for her experience in Wonderland and virtually unknown for her more scandalous exploits. At 81, she’s growing older and tired of being known as Alice in Wonderland. It’s been years since she has spoken to anyone who was even familiar with Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the man the rest of the world knows as Lewis Carroll. And no one even remembers the circumstances under which 11-year-old Alice was forced to part with Charles Dodgson. Even Alice herself is quite fuzzy on the scandal.

As she rereads a particular letter from her deceased older sister Ina, Alice’s memories flood her mind–and the book’s pages–as she begins to relive those formative younger years. What’s so fascinating is not the story of Alice in Wonderland as so many believe but rather the background of this woman who survived many of her family to live out her days, widowed with only one, somewhat irresponsible, son for comfort.

But Alice I Have Been reveals the shocking and scandalous events of Alice Liddell’s life in a splash of vibrant fiction. From the recollection of Dodgson’s photo of her as a ‘gypsy girl’ clothed in rags to the events leading to a dangerous kiss on a train, Alice retraces her childhood, recalling how boldly she took what she wanted–from Ina, her mother, and Mr. Dodgson himself.

The book is divided into three parts, and the story of Alice and Dodgson ends with the first part. In the second, we read of her romance with Prince Leopold, son to Queen Victoria. Leopold, or Leo as we know Alice addresses him, is infatuated with the Alice from Lewis Carroll’s tales, which by now have sold well in Britain. Pursuing the second daughter of the Liddell family, he wins her heart and brings in help in the form of old Liddell family friends to try and persuade the queen to approve the match.

When the queen receives word of the scandal with Mr. Dodgson, however, she’s most displeased. In one of the greatest tragedies of her life, Alice loses the two people closest to her. Concluding the second portion of the novel, we read in the third about her marriage to Reginald Hargreaves, who, according to Alice, has plucked her after she ripened too much and fell off the tree. It’s a poor description to be sure, and Alice spares little love for the husband she wouldn’t have chosen for herself.

What I find most interesting in this novel is how Alice is portrayed. Certainly there are other authors out there who have documented her life, and Benjamin’s work is only fiction after all. But the Alice in the story is such a dramatic contrast from the Alice in Carroll’s work. Instead of being the constant, logical, happy-go-lucky child, Alice is a tired, broken-hearted, depressed woman whose life has simply passed her by.

It’s truly haunting because of the opportunities she seemed to miss, either through her own doing or by the actions and interference of others. I both sympathized with and chastised Alice as she made decisions and tried to accomplish things that were beyond her reach. I wonder if Benjamin’s tale is accurate enough to fill in the blanks of this remarkable woman’s life.

Overall, this is definitely a keeper. I really enjoyed the story. Alice enthralled and entertained me, but she also challenged and intrigued me. I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be a joy to sit down with her (were that possible) and hear her story from her own lips.

But the intriguing thing about Alice? Of those few possessions remaining, none truly tell her story. What remains, then? Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And as Benjamin suggests in the end of the book: that might be exactly as Alice Liddell Hargreaves intended it.

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The Alice Craze

Posted on March 13, 2010. Filed under: Books, Classics, Fairy Tales, Historical Fiction | Tags: , , , , , |

Yes, I’m adding to it, but I haven’t seen the movie. I’m still debating on it. A friend asked me to go with him, and I’m thinking of saying yes if I can convince him to pay for my ticket. πŸ˜‰ Poor unemployed girl needs someone else to help her out. Haha.

Image Credit: The Victorian Web

I know everyone’s all up in arms over Burton’s adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but I’ve never been a huge Burton fan. Sure, he’s a great director, but I’m not one of the people who makes plans to see his next hit movie each time it rolls into theaters.

So all that is to say: I’m not writing this because of the movie.

I am writing this because of Stacy and Alice I Have Been. Like a lot of people, I’ve seen the Disney adaptation that pulls elements of Wonderland and its sort-of sequel Through the Looking-Glass and then twists them in the way only Disney can. I didn’t really like the movie as a kid, so I never bothered to read the book.

Well, I’m here to admit it. I should have read the books before. After reading Wonderland and Looking-Glass, I wanted to kick myself for not getting a perspective on this world as a child. What would my opinion have been reading this book when I was 7?

Would I have, like with so many other tales–both book and film,–fallen into my own rabbit hole of fantasy and adventure? I was disappointed when I found no wardrobes to peek in after Narnia. I pretended to be whisked off to an English manor home from India where all manner of mysteries and secrets waited to be uncovered after The Secret Garden. Would I have searched out holes in the ground to fall into after Wonderland or attempted to press through mirrors after Looking-Glass?

It’s really a pity I’ll never know.

However, I do know that I enjoy Lewis Carroll’s tales, especially now that I’ve read them in preparation for Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been. I’m reading Benjamin’s book now, and it’s already fascinating after one chapter. But I’m here to speak to my take on Carroll. It’s one classic I really, truly, thoroughly enjoyed.

Aside from reading the notes in the Modern Library Classics edition of the book I got, I also read every footnote and the poems and letter thrown in at beginning and end for more perspective on Carroll. It’s intriguing because many scholars speculate that Carroll was some sort of Victorian pedophile with his collection of child friends whom he took on boat rides and told fantastical stories to. I think that’s a shame.

Carroll was a don at Christ Church, Oxford, where he taught mathematics. During his years at the school, he met the new Dean, a Mr. Liddell whose three daughters became Carroll’s young friends. The middle daughter was Alice Liddell, and as most of us can guess: the rest is history.

I love speculation as much as the next person, but really? I have no idea whether Carroll was attempting to court Alice in her early days at Oxford. It makes for a great story, though, especially considering he was 30 to her 7 years old, and he was required to remain celibate as a don.

I can hear the old gossips of Victorian Oxford now.

“Where is that young man headed?”

“Why, don’t you know? That’s Mr. Dodgson. Of course, he’s off to the Deanery to see the Liddell girls.”

“You don’t say! But truly he couldn’t be off to see them, could he? Surely you mean he’s off to counsel with the Dean. I hear he teaches mathematics, and you know those young men can grow boisterous–”

“No, I’m certain he goes to see the Liddell girls. Louisa was telling me yesterday he actually takes them to the field and plays with them, of all the–”

Well, you can see where that conversation was headed. πŸ˜‰ I do believe we haven’t deviated much from those old hens and their tales of impropriety.

If you’re like me and you read the Alice tales, you’ll be enthralled by the vivid world of Carroll’s creation. But more than that I found myself immersed in a world where sense doesn’t have to make sense and nonsense more often than not has a thread of sense in it. Logic is illogic, and if I’m not careful, I’ll begin to sound like Big Brother and make mathematical errors that Carroll would have most likely corrected in his classes.

The lack of plot in both Alice books would normally make me shudder and run in the opposite direction, but it doesn’t. Instead, I embraced the Wonderland and Looking-Glass worlds with arms wide open, not expecting any sense to be found. And I was delighted because Carroll changed my opinion, perhaps not as intended but certainly in a good way, through his Alice.

As I watched Alice make her way through this zany new world, I noticed something intriguing. Originally I cheered the little girl in her white pinafore on because I felt she was the only one making sense in a strange land. But my opinion flip-flopped. I still cheered her on, but it was towards finding the peculiar formula of illogic that made the Looking-Glass world go round rather than towards finding her way back home again. And the other characters with their obvious misinterpretations and ridiculous rules became more and more sensible to me.

I may be the only one who feels that way, but it truly is what endeared the Alice tales to me. By changing my perspective in a world so far from normal, Carroll challenged me. And I always love a challenge.

I could go on and on. I gained quite a bit of insight from this simple children’s tale. But I’m already overdoing it. So what’s your take on the Alice craze? Enlighten me!


P.S. Sorry for the gigantic photo – for some reason it didn’t want to edit!

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Shameless About A Few Of My Favorite Things

Posted on March 8, 2010. Filed under: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I have a wee bit of news before I get into the meat of my post for the day.

First, I have to thank Stacy of The Cat’s Meow for sending me Alice I Have Been. I follow Stacy’s blog, and through that, I won a copy of this book by Melanie Benjamin. Benjamin’s debut novel tells the story of Alice Liddell Hargreaves, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and he shows up as a character in Benjamin’s book. Ironically enough, Melanie Benjamin is also a pseudonym for author Melanie Hauser, who has written two contemporary novels.

Because I’ve never actually read Carroll’s classic, I went out and bought it today. So now I own my own copy of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. I plan to begin reading it tonight.

That said, I finished reading Kathy Tyers’ Crown of Fire tonight, so I’m officially done with that particular series. It’s lovely and well done, but I believe I’ve had my fill of sci-fi for a while. Although I have learned that I tend to increase my book list by two books for each book I finish reading. That, of course, means I won’t be finishing my book list anytime soon. I believe it’s numbering upwards of 40 books now. Granted, I’ve read some, but still–it’s a little excessive to have that many books piled up against the wall of your bedroom.

All right, onto something more interesting!

A Few Of My Favorite Things:

I’m a romance fan. I have been ever since I read my first romance novel back in middle school. Not that I was really emotionally ready for an actual romance novel back then, but my hormones being what they were, I felt like I could take on the world. So I ditched my childish stories that wouldn’t even classify as YA or teen novels in today’s bookstores and began searching for something more along my reading level.

I found Lori Wick. To elaborate, I was searching through my church’s library for some new material because the church library doubled as a school library for the private Christian academy I attended. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to be writing a book report (those were the days!) on a book of my choice, so I began looking through the library for something interesting to read. It might have been seventh or eighth grade, but I was attracted to the adult books.

The book I picked was a standalone book of Wick’s titled The Princess, a heartwarming tale of a couple set in a country very much like the United States or England but very much a made-up country. Let me clarify that by saying that this was not anything like sci-fi or fantasy. Wick just chose to create her own country that could have been an island nation set off from the Western United States. In fact, her character mentions visiting New York on a school trip, so perhaps it’s set to the east. Either way, it’s a ‘what-if’ type of story.

Pendaran is a humble kingdom where the prince or princess is required to marry before he or she can assume the throne. There is, of course, a cut-off date for marriage; in this particular story, Prince Nikolai is a widower, having lost his wife two years after marrying her. He mourns her several years after her death.

Unfortunately for Nikolai, the time is rapidly approaching for the fated birthday by which he must be married. Unwilling to go searching for a princess of his own, Nikolai entrusts the task of finding a suitable woman to his parents. They make a request of a good friend to send out feelers among his own web of friends, and lo and behold, they find Shelby Parker.

The daughter of a deaf father and a very capable mother, Shelby knows sign language and regularly translates for her father, who gives motivational speeches about disabilities. Shelby has one brother who is in college, graduated with a nursing degree, leads a ladies’ Bible study, and is an all-around sweetheart.

Running out of time and unable to pursue the topic under any normal circumstances, the king and queen make a decision to approach Shelby directly. After a bit of time and a few letters pass between Shelby and Nikolai, Shelby decides to accept this unusual proposal of marriage. In a very quiet ceremony, the two wed, and Shelby begins a totally new life as princess of Pendaran.

Meanwhile Nikolai, overwhelmed by his grief and the newness of another woman, retreats in the only way he knows how: by making himself unavailable and taking on added appointments to his already busy schedule. The result? A comic moment in the kitchen of the couple’s suite in the palace a few weeks after their marriage.

When he doesn’t even recognize his own wife dining in the kitchen, Nikolai realizes his own grief has driven him too far from someone he should be making an effort with. Thus, he begins attempting to court his lovely, red-headed wife, whose innocence is both touching and refreshing.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but Shelby and Nikolai suffer their fair share of heartache and tragedy before realizing that love can transcend loss and lack of trust.

After having read quite a few romances in my day, I’ll admit it’s the picture-perfect formulaic romance. It follows the regular pattern from a Christian point of view, but it was the first romance novel I ever read, and as such, I have a certain fondness for the book. I’ve read it multiple times over the years, and I’ll probably read it again.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I know this is the happy ending story, but I usually pick up The Princess when I’m feeling a little down and don’t want to read anything new. I crave the comfort of an old friend, and this is, indeed, an old friend.

What about you? Do you have any old friend books you return to time and time again for comfort or escape? Does it change depending on your mood? I know mine certainly does. Let me know what you think. And, of course, I don’t mind if you disagree with me on The Princess; it is, after all, targeted to a rather limited audience!

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Posted on February 24, 2010. Filed under: Historical Fiction, Musings, Romance | Tags: , , , , , |

I just finished watching the 1934 production of The Scarlet Pimpernel starring Leslie Howard. I only realized after watching it that Leslie Howard also starred in my favorite movie: Gone With The Wind. He played the role of Ashley Wilkes in that particular movie, which works well for his rather effeminate appearance and mild-mannered temperament. Those same attributes made him a dead ringer for Sir Percy in the Pimpernel film.

It strikes me as interesting that my favorite book would actually be a script. Technically speaking Orczy wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel as a play first before writing the novel. And if I’m recalling correctly, the play was produced on stage before it was set into the annals of classical novels.

But, of course, this isn’t the big point of the day. The title of this post is to refer to one of my favorite things. I tend to quote movies; it’s a habit I picked up as a kid, and since it was a simple thing for me to pick some lines from movies to use later, I developed the knack for it. Typically speaking, I’ll pick up at least one quote from any movie I see.

Oddly, enough, though I don’t generally pick up quotes from books. I’m not sure if it’s the difference between hearing and seeing or if there are just too many things I might want to pick out of books to quote at later dates. Either way, I generally don’t remember quotes from books.

That’s why I like The Scarlet Pimpernel.

The movie version incorporates my favorite quote from the book. I was reminded of it as I watched today. Sir Percy, dimwitted as he is, has a habit of being the most inane character you could meet. Due to the rising curiosity of Londoners towards discovering the elusive Pimpernel’s identity, Sir Percy has written a small ditty that he uses to both charm the ladies and annoy the French ambassador.

It goes a little something like this: “They seek him here, they seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in heaven? Is he in hell? That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.”

I always thought that a rather clever little line. It seems trite and silly just reading it in this context, but in the context of Sir Percy the Pimpernel using it to taunt the French? It’s quite brilliant.

As I was thinking about other quotes from movies and books, I was caught by one more book quote. It’s from one of my favorite authors, Lori Wick. Normally I’d remember plots and locations (not to mention names) from her stories. But this one took me off-guard.

It’s from her book Pretense, which is by far the longest book she’s written to date. It’s also one of the more interesting as it follows the love story of a mother and then those of her two daughters. I’ve always been attracted to this particular book and have read it several times now simply because of the two daughters.

Marrell Bishop has daughters that are a year apart in age. The oldest, Mackenzie Rose Bishop, grows up to join the Army. She’s rejected everything concerning God and wants nothing to do with the God her mother used to despise. Her younger sister, Delancey Joy Bishop, hasn’t got the same qualms as her older sister, but she doesn’t see a need for God and goes off to art school.

As this is probably at least 400 pages in length, I’ll shorten the plot and say that Mackenzie becomes an author, my biggest dream, while her sister becomes an illustrator. Together they write two different series of children’s books that become bestsellers. The sisters change and grow, and of course, they have their own set of romantic entanglements.

At one point, after various struggles and hardships, Mackenzie is visiting her step-father and his new wife for lunch one Sunday afternoon. She went to their church and wore a very nice blazer and met the son of her step-father’s wife. After being invited over for lunch, she runs home to change and shows up in jeans and a sweatshirt, curls up on the couch, and lounges with Jackson, her step-father, and Tucker, his step-son.

Without seeming to notice them near her, she mutters softly, “Roughing the kicker,” scuffing her foot against the couch.

It’s something I remember for a couple reasons. One: the first time I read it, I had no idea what she meant by that statement. You can imagine my confusion. Two: the whole scene is actually a very sweet portrait of the family Mackenzie’s been ignoring for years and comes home to. It’s one of my favorite scenes in that book. And three: it’s the beginning of Mac’s romance.

Why do I remember that particular quote? I have no idea. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with other book quotes, but all I have on recall are quotes from my favorite movies.

Either way, I’ve read quite a few quotable books. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the best quotes. But there’s something about a book that’s quotable that makes me want to reread it. Thus, things like Harry Potter, which I just glanced at and remembered a quote from the lovable Dumbledore, have become part of my rereads group.

(Said Dumbledore quote, that most people will know, is the following: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Granted, it’s also quoted in the movie, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I remember it more.)

Do you have any favorite book quotes? Honestly, probably some of the best books I have to quote are non-fiction, but like I said, there are quite a few fiction novels that could be quoted for various reasons.

Anyway, I thought that was an interesting concept: remembering movie quotes but not having recall for novel ones.

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know.


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How Things Change!

Posted on February 16, 2010. Filed under: Books, Historical Fiction, reading | Tags: , , , , , |

This morning I decided to be creative after finding a new recipe to try in my mother’s cast iron skillet cookbook. It was a breakfast recipe for a Savory Dutch Baby, something I’ve never heard of before. There are some variations of said recipe here if anyone is interested in trying them. It was good, but I’m pretty sure if I do it again I’ll make sure to add some different seasonings; my version (following the cookbook recipe) called for grated cheese and cubed ham, but I can imagine some more savory versions. It’s just a matter of being creative. Despite that, I was pleased with the results!

And, of course, I wanted to share that with the rest of you because it makes me happy.

Now onto more interesting turns of expression. One of my favorite aspects of historical fiction is something that was quite aptly penned today by the excellent Lauren Willig. I won’t go into too many details since I have a habit of talking about her; however, it reminded me of a number of historical fiction novels I’ve read and how enlightening they can be.

If you’re anything like me, seeing how things have changed over the years is somewhat irresistible.

For example, what I focused on this morning was just the picture of modesty as presented in Willig’s The Seduction of the Crimson Rose. Perhaps I should add that I looked at modesty both in terms of appearance and in terms of personality. It’s quite a fascinating study if you ask me.

Just consider this: women in the past were quite unafraid to bare their faces but shied violently away from allowing their skirts to be lifted past their ankles. Compare that to the ultra mini-skirts of today, and it’s a rather striking contrast. What I find surprisingly intriguing is that it wasn’t considered just a matter of appearance but a manner of behavior.

To be found alone with a man was pure ruin in the Victorian era. A woman made every effort not to allow herself to get caught by any rapacious rakes daring enough to try to entice her Β onto a balcony at one of the ton gatherings that took place. It wasn’t because she lacked the courage to step into such an assignation; it was more because she was concerned for her reputation.

Today reputations are barely marred by the news of a celebrity having an affair or a wardrobe malfunction resulting in partial nudity.

Is it just, as many have suggested, that we have matured and understood that these old-fashioned proprieties are no longer suitable for such an age as ours?

The fashion of the 1900s

I have to wonder about that sometimes. To me, there’s something incredibly seductive about the descriptions of gallant men in waistcoats waiting upon their equally charming ladies in their bustled dresses and whalebone corsets. The propriety of appearances being observed kept a certain order that was maintained even under the most absurd of circumstances, but this order played out in a different way than what you might expect.

Instead of limiting women by keeping them confined in tight-fitting layers of cloth, it gave them an allure that was more powerful. To have men wondering at the glimpses of skin beneath the surface made a woman that much more intriguing.

Just by reading this, I’m sure you can tell I’m not much of a feminist. I’d make most of the hardcore ones shake their heads in despair at my romantic notions of such antiquated mores, and I’m sure I’d be a prime candidate for a number of lectures concerning the liberties stolen from women by their male counterparts. Call me what you will, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about a world where things are hidden, masked, obscured.

To bare all is to remove the mystery, and that, I think, is something we’ve lost. Our modesty is simply following those lovely, droll rules about wearing shirts and shoes into restaurants, or maintaining the dress code set up by a society bent on finding the most creative ways to bend the rules. (They’re just guidelines anyway, right?)

So I may be alone in saying this, but I somehow doubt it. There’s simply something curious about a person who goes against the low neckline, cheek-baring skirt-wearing norms. It creates an enigma because you don’t know what lies beneath. Combine that with an equally alluring and mysterious personality, and you’ve got the makings of an adventure–all wrapped up in the prettily-wrapped package of someone different.

I’m sure my opinions being what they are aren’t being adequately explained, but it’s certainly something I’ve read about. I’ll break out the non-fiction tomorrow. I simply wanted to get in a post about the changes I’ve seen today.

Thoughts? Comments? Snide remarks? Want to send me to a feminist retreat? Let me know.


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