the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction

It’s been a good week for reading!  A little too good, actually, as I keep wanting to start new books even though I’m enjoying what I’m currently reading.

I finished Pilot X by Tom Merritt, and need to write a review of it.  If you like Doctor Who, you’ll like Pilot X.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been on and off reading The Physician, by Noah Gordon, and can you believe I’m reading a book that is not a scifi or fantasy book!!  Straight up historical fiction, it’s like an Edward Rutherford only way more focused and far more enjoyable to read.  My mom lent me the paperback, and it sat unread until I saw the movie version on Netflix. The movie of The Physician is very good, and they completely smashed up the plot and characters to jam what is a ten year story into a 3 hour movie.  Also? the movie got me interested in reading the book, so mission accomplished. I’m about halfway through the book, and while I am enjoying myself and the book is very readable, I am losing steam.

Peter Watts’ Blindsight is one of my favorite hard scifi novels, and I’ve had a copy of Echopraxia for at least 2 years and I haven’t picked it up until now. What is wrong with me?  Anyways, Echopraxia is a sort of companion novel to Blindsight. Same universe, same time period, but one is not the sequel or prequel of the other.  Now that I’m about 2/3 of the way through Echopraxia,  wow the paranoia and visceral terror is just ramped all the way up!! If like me, you are still trying to get the terrible taste of the movie Prometheus out of your mouth, read some Watts.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, this unassuming volume came into the house by way of loan:

A Requiem for Astounding is part history of the magazine, part love letter to the golden age, and part pure nostalgia.  I come across all these “classic” short stories all over the place, in raggedy “best of” volumes, as reprints, but I have no context for any of it. Here’s hoping this book of essays will give me some much needed context.  I enjoy non-fiction scifi related stuff like this, these older ones are getting near impossible to find!

 

And in the department of new ARCs that have arrived, we have these:

Emerald Circus is a collection of re-imagined fairy tales and includes Yolen’s famous short story “Sister Emily’s Lightship”.  I’m excited for this one, and as it is all short stories that means I can read it a little at a time and not be asking myself “who are these characters again? What were these people doing?”

Like Yolen, Ann Leckie needs no introduction.  Provenance is Leckie’s new novel, out in September. I was not a fan of her famous awards sweeping Ancillary trilogy, but I like what she says on twitter, I respect her editing philosophy, and I’m interested to try Provenance, if only to see how much range her writing has.

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brides story vol 3

who better to review a manga about getting married than a romantic married couple?  We reviewed volumes 1 and 2 earlier this year, and we’re finally getting to volumes 3 and 4 (with volumes 5 and 6 forthcoming).  What started out as the story of Amir and her young husband Karluk has veered off into unexpected directions….  hey, is this story really all about Smith??

This time I made Michael come up with most of the questions. But I shot some his way too!

Michael: How did you feel about the change of character from Amir and Karluk to Smith and then the twins? Many people were surprised when Mori-sensei did not stay with Amir for the entire run of Bride Story.

Andrea: I miss Amir! But it’s Mori’s story, so she can do whatever she wants. If we stayed with Amir and Karluk, we’d learn all about them, and their families, and nothing else. By following other characters we get to learn more about the varied cultures and families in the area. Yeah, I know people are mad that this story isn’t all about Amir… because you’ve just been introduced to a really interesting and compelling character, but get over yourself. If it was all Amir, all the time, we’d never meet Talas. Speaking of Talas….
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Michael: How did you feel about the change of feel? In the first two novels it is drama, with light action and suspense but there is not much peril or adult darkness. Three and four change that with three being very adult dark, and four being the introduction of the twins with a more lighthearted whimsical point of view.

Andrea: Vol 3 is mostly about Smith and Talas, and then Vol 4 is about the twins. Vol 3 gets surprisingly dark. Smith journeys to wherever he’s going (Michael: Ankara!), and is helped by Talas, a young widow. He ends up spending a few days with her and her mother in law, and learns her tragic story. Talas and her Mother in law are basically in a bleak and shitty situation. Both ladies see Smith as an honorable and gentle man, and it is suggested that he take Talas as a wife. She’s offended that Smith has to think about the offer. He likes her, but his western sensibilities require a long courtship, saying yes to a wedding isn’t something he can do quickly.

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land of love and drowningThe Land of Love and Drowning, by Tiphanie Yanique

published in 2014

where i got it: purchased new

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A cross hatching of mythology and consequence, Land of Love and Drowning is a family drama on the surface. Scratch away just a few layers and you find a family whose legacy is based on shattering secrets, children who know they are capable of doing horrible things, and a culture forced to a precipice. On the Caribbean island of St. Thomas lives the Bradshaw family, and their unmaking will becoming their making.

 

The Danish West Indies have just become the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Bradshaw family of St. Thomas is about to suffer two tragedies. Mrs. Bradshaw will give birth to a second daughter, and Mr. Bradshaw will drown when his ship goes down.  Raised in luxury, older daughter Eeona attended finishing school, and knows how to walk, talk and pour tea like a proper lady.  her beauty is known throughout the islands, and at first the suitors were quite literally lined up down the block. Hers is a beauty that can sink ships. The man she loves will never, and can never marry her, and when her father drowns, the suitors see a desperate fatherless daughter instead of the daughter of a shipping magnate.  Offered a chance to finally make her own living, Mrs. Bradshaw takes her fashionable wares to America, to get her own contracts. She comes home ill and dying. Within the year, the sisters are orphaned and destitute.  Eeona wants only what her father promised her, and baby Anette is too young to want anything at all.

 

Just as much as the story follows the family drama of the Bradshaw family, it follows the history of the island of St. Thomas of the Virgin Islands. In the early 1900s, the islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John were literally sold to the United States, ceased to be the Danish West Indies and became the U.S. Virgin Islands. What could America bring to the islands, besides citizenship? How about Prohobition, a war, racism, sleazy movies, and capitalism, just to start.

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BRIDE story volume _1bride's story vol 2
A Bride’s Story, volumes 1 and 2, by Kaoru Mori

published in 2011

where I got it: purchased first volume, received review copy of Volume 2 from the publisher (Thanks Orbit and Yen Press!)

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Back in December, I interviewed my husband about one of his new favorite manga series, A Bride’s Story, by Kaoru Mori.  Now that I’ve read the first two volumes (of six currently available), we decided to do a joint review of the series. Two volumes at a time, we’ll be talking about what the series is about, the different directions it goes in, we like about the series (so far, everything), and what we don’t like.

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Don’t you just love her clothing?? Even the scarf helping support the tray is beautiful.

 

Andrea: This is a historical fiction story of a family in a Central Asian village on the Silk Road. Amir Halgal is twenty years old, and has just married into the Eihon family. She comes from a nomadic tribe, so she knows how to put up and take down a yurt, how to hunt with a bow and arrow, how to track animals, and how to read the landscape. Her and her husband Karluk use their wedding gifts of wall hangings and fabric to make their new home colorful and vibrant. About Karluk – he’s only twelve. Yes, a twenty year old girl just married a twelve year old boy. But wait a minute before you freak out! Marriages back then were more family alliances than anything else. Yes, this marriage will have to eventually be consummated, but not until Karluk is older. For the time being, they live together more as siblings than as a married couple. And OMG, the artwork is just freaking amazing. Mike, what have I missed about the premise? What are your thoughts on the pacing and how the story is told?

Michael: The pacing is non-traditional, this is not either slow or quick in a western fashion. This series is fairly fast paced but change comes slowly and action, while quick, there is really only one action sequence in these two volumes. I guess I would add to the premise that this is a story about the brides more than any other characters.

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The Eihon family. Amir sits in front, to the right.

 

Andrea: So this story focuses mostly on young women who live on the Silk Road? Why would this make for an interesting story that people would want to read?

Michael: I am an anthropologist at heart so I love any stories regarding a culture or society that is not my own. Also, I think that the United States lack of culture and our fear of knowing other people is something that contributes to much of our violence.

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My husband reads a lot of manga, and lately he’s really been talking up A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori. I kept bugging him to write me a guest post about it, but he wasn’t sure what to say or how to say it.  To help him out, I gave him some guided questions to get the conversation and the review going. (and don’t tell anyone, but this is an exercise I do with myself any time I’m stuck on how to review something!)

BRIDE story volume _1

Andrea: What is the plot of A Bride’s Story?

Michael: A Bride’s Story is a manga about the lives and marriages of several women along the Silk Road in the late 19th century. Amir Halgal is the first ‘bride’ and is interesting as she comes from a semi-nomadic clan but marries into a settled clan living in a relatively modern town.

bride's story vol 2

Andrea: How did A Bride’s Story come to your attention? What made you interested in reading this?

Michael: A Bride’s Story was recommended by a reviewer I follow. I am a historian so anything about a past time and in an unusual place will catch my attention. I had heard of Kaoru Mori’s earlier manga Emma so I new the author was interested in detailed, accurate historical fiction.

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datlow-yarbro

 

The World Fantasy Convention was held earlier this month, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.  Her name will be familiar to fans of historical fiction, as she’s the author behind the famous Saint-Germain Cycle. The first novel in the Cycle, Hotel Transylvania, was published in 1978, and there are now over 25 volumes.   She’s written over 80 books, and over 70 works of short fiction. No stranger to awards either, she’s received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, the Grand Master award from the World Horror Association, and she was the first woman to be enrolled as a Living Legend of the International Horror Guild.

Quinn3J

 

Chelsea was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her busy day to answer a few of my questions on her famous series, music, and the occult.  Wanna learn more about this amazing author? I do! let’s go!

LRR: Your bio briefly mentions you are also a musical composer. Could you tell us a little more about this? Personally, I believe there are a lot of connections between music and other means of communication. Have you found any similarities between writing music and writing fiction?

CQY: There are many things that cannot be said with words, and it seems to me that’s where music comes in. When I get worded – out, I do music to deal with all the things that words cannot express. Words and music are powerful communicators, but they communicate different kinds of things. So while composition and writing are at the opposite end of the communication scale, they serve the same basic purpose. At least that’s my opinion.

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The story follows three generations of an African American family in Florida over the course of about 30 thirty years. While I was very satisfied with the complexity of the characterizations and the historically accurate details put into the narrative, the story itself seemed oddly lacking in speculative elements.

 

Starting in 1937, we  meet Mayola, who at fifteen is interested in attending Texas A&M, she reads all summer and saves her nickels so she can reach her dream.  She gets a job as a maid at an all white resort at Wakulla Springs.  It pays so well, she’ll have her college funding in no time. The springs are natural, obviously, but since it’s private property, only white people are allowed to swim there. They are filming a Tarzan movie, and Mayola inadvertently spies on the movie folks while sitting at her favorite shady lunch spot. she knows all about Tarzan, she’s already read all the books. The star, Johnny Weissmuller, had been an olympic swimmer. This acting crap pays the bills, but he’d rather be swimming. On a moonlit night, Mayola and Johnny go swimming together. She’s terrified of losing her job, he’s desperate to go swimming with someone who can keep up with him. He doesn’t care that she’s a stranger, or a girl, or an employee of the hotel, or black. He’s only interested that she’s interested in swimming.

 

The next section follows Mayola’s teen aged son, Levi. It’s 1953. Mayola never made it to college, she’s still working at the hotel and trying to keep her son interested in his studies, so he can go to college. Another movie crew is at Wakulla Springs, this time filming The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Levi soon befriends the actor who plays the creature, Ricou Browning, who is more than a little impressed with Levi’s ability to swim underwater for minutes at a time.  Levi becomes Ricou’s apprentice, of sorts. It’s better than sitting at home listening to Mayola go on about her boyfriend, Jimmy Lee, who has just returned from Korea.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.