TTT: Time Periods

For more information on Top Ten Tuesday, click here

I was sitting here contemplating on whether I should write a formal blog review of the last book I read, but then it hit me that I’m mostly on a time crunch, and I was better off looking at a Top Ten Tuesday topic.

Now, it took a while to figure out what I wanted to write about, and eventually I thought: hey, well, I know WHAT time periods I’d rather not read about for the foreseeable future, but what about the time periods I’d love to read more about?

And thus the birth of this wibbly wobbly timey wimey take on this week’s topic.

Top Eight Time Periods I’d Love To Read About

The Jazz Age – Make no mistake, I love the era for its glitz and glamour, and the fact that it comes right after the Industrial Age makes this an even more interesting time period, what with the technology and the Prohibition and the booze and the jazz. Especially the booze and the jazz. And how.
Some notable books: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Diviners by Libba Bray, Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood

The ’50s – Baby Boomin’ 1950! This is mostly because I’ve watched too much Mad Men and at some point I wanted to read more stories taking place here. Also, I mean…this was more or less along the years of the Golden Age of Hollywood (well, 1940s, but we’ll count the ’50s along with it). More fiction there, plsthx!
Some notable books: Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote, England Expects by Sara Sheridan, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Feudal Japan – Honestly, I’d love many fantastical spins that take place in this country, provided they’re done right. Which makes me picky, because I tend to avoid fictional books of Japan unless they’re manga. All the same, I’d love to read more books set during feudal Japan, with all the samurai and the shogunate and all the lovely pre-samurai killing, technological advancements.
Some notable books: The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, InuYasha manga series by Rumiko Takahashi, Shogun by James Clavell

The Salem Witch Trials – There was a time where I’d been obsessed with this time period. I don’t know why, considering the witch hunts were scary and psychotic, but I always found my fascination ran on the morbid side of things when it comes to witches and Salem. I have found this time period kind of lacking in good fiction books, but that could just be me not looking hard enough.
Some notable books: The Crucible by Arthur Miller, The Witch of Blackbeard Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Ancient Ireland – Honestly, I should probably just say “Ancient Celtic” time periods, but that limited the amount of books I’ve already read to maybe one or two. Anyway, I love Ancient Celtic myths just as much as I love other stories, and the Celts were always rich with tales of magic and ritual. Also, faeries. Loads of faeries.
Some notable books: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, Hounded by Kevin HearneDaggerspell by Katherine Kerr

British Regency – Honestly, why wouldn’t I want to traipse down the English countryside and visit Pemberley Manor? I’m actually reading The Jane Austen Handbook at the moment, and I just couldn’t resist adding the British Regency time period onto this list. OF COURSE it was being added onto this list.
Some notable books: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermere, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Victorian London – Well, honestly, Victorian ANYTHING suits just fine. I wouldn’t necessarily limit myself to reading just Victorian England tales. Victoriana refers to a time period within England, but I’m personally referring to the time period for around the world. Most of the books I’ve read are steampunky in nature (which is FABULOUS).
Some notable books: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, Soulless by Gail Carriger, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Historical Russia – For a time I’d been obsessed by the Romanov dynasty, and on some days, I still am! I’d love to read more fiction taking place in the past Russia. I might even slug through authors like Tolstoy. That said, I love the fiction that pulls from Slavic mythology the best, which explains why I’ve always got a soft spot for Russian fantasy.
Some notable books: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, The Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo

I’ll cap it at 8 because my brain is now turning to mush.

What about you? What time period do you normally like reading about?

Mini Reviews: The Little Prince, Jane Steele

A few minis here! I meant to write a full review of Jane Steele after finishing, but realized I didn’t have much to say after the second half of the book. Which is a shame, because I actually liked the first half! As for The Little Prince, my best friend let me borrow her copy after she’d said how much she loved it. A few other of my book-friends have been telling me to read it, and I did! It took a commute and a lunch break to finish it.

littleprince

janesteele

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Hooch and Jazz Babies || The Diviners Review

diviners-review

Initial Thoughts: 

A 1920s romp in supernatural New York City, with an ensemble of uniquely gifted characters. Seriously. This is my kind of book.


THE DIVINERS

by Libba Bray
Little, Brown Books, 2013
YA paranormal, historical fantasy
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

divinersDo you believe there are ghosts and demons and Diviners among us?

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfurl in the city that never sleeps. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened…

I meant to read this book for October, because Halloween-ness and supernatural murder mysteries. But I may have gotten distracted somewhere along the line and only just managed to finish the book a few days after Halloween. Oops? Anyway, doesn’t matter, because I enjoyed my journey in the least?

What I Loved

“Oh, law, law, law,” Blind Bill said, patting his chest. “Ain’t that the way of the world, now? Good luck turns bad. Bad luck turns good. Just a big rolling craps game played between this world and the next, and we the dice getting tossed around. You go on home now, Mr. Campbell. Get you some rest. Live to fight another day. Plenty of time for regrettin’. Go out and have you some good times while you still young.”

The Roaring Twenties. The time period itself already had this book going for it, and you could tell Bray did her research on the ’20s, because whenever I read the descriptions in her book, I felt like I was being transported into the middle of the scene. I was sitting at the Hotsy Totsy Club listening to the jazz and sipping on some hooch or sitting on the piano while Henry DuBois played his catchy jingles. It was lovely, and the best part is that Bray added much of what made the time period alive: the good stuff and the bad stuff as well.

The monsters are real. It’s really disturbing how a bunch of the societies and cults in the ’20s are based off of real people. I think I was more horrified over the old-fashioned, backwards thinking that some of the people in the book had as opposed to the actual supernatural murders happening (though admittedly, those were super-gruesome, too). At some point, the stuff in Brethren pretty much just made me want to chuck the book out, or, you know, yell at stupid people. Because I got emotional like that.

Me every time someone from the cults opened their mouths.

Me every time someone from the cults opened their mouths.

The Diviners themselves. Can I just say how many awesome super-powered teens there are running around in New York City? Like, seriously, I don’t think I disliked any of the Diviners that were mentioned in the book. Henry was adorable, Theta is loooooove, and Memphis. Memphis’ storyline kind of became my favorite, and I totally dig his romance with another Diviner. There were even more minor characters that were mentioned (for instance, a Chinese girl in a restaurant) that I really wanted to know about.

The Pentacle Killer plot. Just…yikes. I admit I mostly read the book in the cover of morning light, because trying to read the thing at night was a little creepy. Especially with the Naughty John scenes. Those get super-scary really quickly. There was one point where I sat on the couch getting really anxious over whether one of my favorite characters would die or not, and eventually I had to stop right beforehand because I didn’t want to know quite yet. YEAH, I GOT TO POINTS OF HYPERVENTILATION, DAMMIT.

The overarching story. Aside from the Pentacle Killer plot (which was the main story), there were a lot of storylines that were leading up to some kind of catastrophic event in the near future. I want to know more, and it sucked that we only got glimpses of it in The Diviners. Like, give me MORE please?

Love/Hate Relationships

A pair of Blue Noses on the next bench glared their disapproval at Evie’s knee-length dress. Evie decided to give them a real show. She hiked her skirt and, humming jauntily, rolled down her stockings, exposing her legs. It had the desired effect on the Blue Noses, who moved down the platform, clucking about the “disgrace of the young.” She would not miss this place.

Evie O’Neill. What to say about Evie. Evie’s a hoot and a half, but sometimes she is over-the-top. She knows she’s over-the-top. She does it on purpose, because she likes the attention. Which could make her a polarizing character, because honestly, somebody who tries to hog the limelight gets really tedious to read about, and I will admit that at times, I had to roll my eyes with Evie. By the end, I liked her better when she was focused more on the Pentacle Killer case than when she was striving for the dramatic. Maybe in the next book she’s less of a highlight and someone else will get to be the main attraction, because as much as I actually like Evie, I think I could only handle her in small doses.

There are a ton of characters. Not gonna lie, I adored the characters, and honestly, I would have loved to have seen more character stories highlighted in the book. But I also felt like trying to include that many characters–and subplots (most of which weren’t even resolved)–slowed the story down a bit. There was an entire scene with Mabel and her pro-political parents that didn’t really add to any other plot than her own. It might not have helped that Mabel is probably my least favorite of the secondary characters, but hey, there had to be ONE person, right?

What I Didn’t Like

“Hey,” the cabbie yelled. “How’s about a tip?”

“You bet-ski,” Evie said, heading toward the old Victorian mansion, her long silk scarf trailing behind her. “Don’t kiss strange men in Penn Station.”

That random romantic turning point. Honestly, I didn’t think Sam Lloyd was going to get very far with Evie, even if he is a smooth-talking–and certainly attractive (according to several descriptive accounts)–lad. But there was a development between Evie and another that left me scratching my head. It just sort of happened with Evie, really. One minute she shares a Ferris wheel ride with the guy and suddenly she’s thinking about wanting to snog him. I mean, I suppose it fits with Evie’s character, because she does seem like a fly-on-the-moment type of person, but I just wasn’t feeling it. Honestly, I could have been fine if she hadn’t hooked up with anyone.

4 out of 5 cookies! I read the book jacket summary for Lair of Dreams and it looks like a Henry-centric book! (Well, Henry and the Chinese girl I’d mentioned wanting to know about.) Would totally pick up the next one.


diviners-thetaknight

Did you read this book? What did you think?

A Russian Historical Fairy Tale || Blood Red, Snow White Review

bloodred-review

Initial Thoughts: 

I will say that I enjoyed this book, though I find the marketing summaries for it are completely off-base. Yes, it says it’s a fairy tale, but it’s not based on anything recognizable, and it’s not exactly filled with fairy or fantasy-like elements. Yes, it’s a historical fiction previously published in 2007 (also, weirdly enough, as a YA children’s book), but it is not a young adult or children’s novel in any sense of the word. If I wasn’t as liberal-minded as I’d been in my NetGalley reads, I would probably be annoyed for being led astray by the description.

BLOOD RED, SNOW WHITE

by Marcus Sedgwick
Roaring Brook Press, October 2016
Adult historical fiction
Rated: 3 / 5 cookies
provided by NetGalley (thank you!)

bloodredWhen writer Arthur Ransome leaves his unhappy marriage in England and moves to Russia to work as a journalist, he has little idea of the violent revolution about to erupt. Unwittingly, he finds himself at its center, tapped by the British to report back on the Bolsheviks even as he becomes dangerously, romantically entangled with Trotsky’s personal secretary.

Both sides seek to use Arthur to gather and relay information for their own purposes . . . and both grow to suspect him of being a double agent. Arthur wants only to elope far from conflict with his beloved, but her Russian ties make leaving the country nearly impossible. And the more Arthur resists becoming a pawn, the more entrenched in the game he seems to become.

Three Arcs and One Russia

The book itself is divided into three parts, going from a wistful omniscient narration to a third person limited tone and finally to a first person account of the events taking place before and during the Russian Revolutions. Had the entire book been narrated like it was in the first part, I would have loved it. The narration alone in the beginning was enough to garner this book a higher rating than I gave it, purely because of its whimsical style. It also helped that the narration focused on the Romanovs and the “fairy tale” court of Tsarist Russia.

The second part had a bit of suspense added to it, though the counting up of time was a little confusing, since the narration kept going back and forth between “present” time and events that happened in the past. This was where Ransome was getting in over his head, and the plot definitely thickens!

By the third part, where Ransome himself was the first-person perspective, things start to get dull and a bit boring. The story is solely focused on Arthur Ransome. My problem with this isn’t that Ransome–a journalist who wrote a book about Russia–becomes a spy and falls head over heels in love with a Red Party member, I mostly tuned off at some point because Ransome spent most of the second part and all of the third part taking a mostly passive role in the plot. He was interesting in the beginning because of the company he kept, and he continued to be interesting with the amount of groups he’d managed to befriend, but then he kind of just…didn’t want to play the game anymore and wanted out when things got super-intriguing. In all honesty, it’s probably what the guy did in reality, but I was hoping for a more dramatic work of fiction.

The history was riveting, because it really was a tumultuous time period (which, frankly, puts the French Revolution to shame) and I had to look up various figures of the time period. For instance, I knew much about Lenin but not Trotsky, and I certainly didn’t know about Robert Lockhart and his British spy network within Russia. It’s certainly a great time period to immerse myself into, reading-wise, and I’m actually not sorry that I picked this copy up.

That said, I will say this: It is NOT a young adult or children’s book.

Adult vs. YA vs. Children’s

I don’t pretend to be an expert in characterizing any of these genres, but I’m of the camp where YA and children’s books are classified as such because their protagonists are primarily of the same demographic age. The themes themselves are also indicative of classification, and by all rights, I don’t think most children are interested in the inner workings of a post-Tsarist, revolution-riddled Russia, nor are young adults typically drawn to a journalist-turned-spy and his ethical dilemmas at being used by Whites, Reds, and his own British government.

Simply mentioning the Romanov children (and Ransome’s own Tabitha) does not make this a children’s novel. Simply tacking on the importance of a “love interest” and an “overall problem” to add to the romantic drama in the summary does NOT make this a YA novel. Not to mention the historical content given, the seemingly senseless deaths, the talk of Rasputin’s absolutely gruesome massacre, the tragic destruction of the Romanov line, the political ramifications of actions from three or four parties involved within Russia itself…it’s a shitton of things to keep track of, and as a grown woman, even my brain was trying hard to keep track of the events going on.

That is not to say that there are exceptionally precocious children and YA readers out there. Heck, this book could be exactly their cup of tea. If that’s the case, kudos to them. But IMO, the premise and the fact that the book is supposed to be a YA historical fiction threw me off.

3 out of 5 cookies!

Did you read this book? What did you think?

Mini-Reviews: The Help, Career of Evil

More lovely audiobooks! I really should get back to reading and reviewing straight up fantasy books, but then again, my current reading list is actually filled with two epic fantasies, so I should just stop talking now.

I read Career of Evil a couple weeks back, but realized I hadn’t actually written a mini-review on it. I finished The Help a few days ago and spent most of my time thereafter wanting to watch the movie. I probably will soon, when I have the time, haha.

Both were audiobooks.

thehelp

careerevil

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?