the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘historical fiction

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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long hidden anthology

Welcome to the third and final part of my review of Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older. With over two dozen pieces of fiction, I would have been cheating everyone if I tried to talk about all of my favorite stories in just one post. If you like what you read here, check out part one, and part two.

 

To unpack the subtitle of the anthology just a little bit, what are “the margins of history”?  Among other things, it’s the edges, the background, the stories that haven’t been told, the viewpoints that were pushed aside. We’ve all heard the phrase “history is written by the winners”, and those “winners” often only tell their side of the story, their interpretation. The margins are what the writers of the history books left out, most often women and minorities. the writers of the history books may call themselves the winners, but look at what they’ve lost! By pushing people and cultures and religions and stories into the margins, we get such a narrow view of the world. And isn’t this exactly what speculative fiction is supposed to be about? Widening our horizons, seeing everything that’s out there?

 

While you are chewing on that I’ll give you some thoughts on some of my favorite stories that were in the final third of the anthology:

(Knotting Grass, Holding Ring), by Ken Liu – Easily one of my favorites in the collection, as I am a huge Ken Liu fan. in the mid 1600s, in Yangzhou China, two women are on the way to their client. Half porter, half assistant, Sparrow’s job includes carrying instruments and parcels, and making sure the client pays up. Green Siskin on the other hand, is the beautiful entertainer, carried through the city on a palanquin, as walking with bound feet is very difficult. Green Siskin offers the military men she has been hired to entertain a Tanci story, one of a prince who decided to save his father’s favorite concubine. Sparrow burns with jealousy, but even she’s got to admin that Green Siskin knows a thing or two about how to flatter men, how to get them to do exactly what she wants. The men flatter her back, but they see her as a lowly whore. The Manchus are on the march, and soon the city is under siege. With the subtle elgance of a tanci song, Green Siskin quietly saves all the women she is able. She knows what she’s capable of, she knows how to get men to do what she wants.  As always, Liu’s prose is as gorgeous as blossoms falling from a tree on a perfect day.  Green Siskin knows exactly what people think when they look at her. She knows the women in the prison courtyard want her to feel ashamed of herself, to be disgusted by what she does. She never complains, never brags, never asks for pity, never even asks to be seen as anything more than a whore with bound feet.  She just saves as many people as she can from death and violence.

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long hidden anthology

The Long Hidden anthology edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older is diverse, globe spanning, fascinating, inspiring, and gloriously long. so long in fact, that it would be impossible to talk about my favorite stories in just one blog post. So I’ve split it into three.  This is part two, click here for part one.

 

If you’re just joining us, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History includes over two dozen stories that aren’t usually told, or at least don’t typically make it to the mainstream. If you’re looking for some variety in your reading, and looking to support a worthy project of one of the smaller publishing houses, this is the anthology for you. Global points of view, characters of all genders and preferences, characters who maintain their dignity in front of the worst humanity has to offer, people who were brutalized and/or executed for standing up for people who couldn’t stand up for themselves.  These are the stories of people who stood up and were heard, when surrounded by people who told them to shut up and sit down, if they deigned to speak to them at all.

As I mentioned in the first article on Long Hidden, many of the stories had me doing web searches to learn more about what really happened. To that end, I have included some weblinks in the hopes that you too will be interested in learning more about the contexts in which these stories swim. Some of the characters might be fictionalized, but none of their circumstances are.

 

Here are some thoughts on my favorites of the middle of Long Hidden:

“The Witch of Tarup” by Claire Humphrey (Denmark 1886)  – Dagny has just recently come to the hamlet of Tarup, and a few weeks after she wed Bjorn Moller, he suffered an apoplexy (perhaps a stroke?) that rendered him unable to speak. The wind has stopped blowing, the windmill has stopped moving, and with no way to grind it the wheat will rot. Dagny is desperate for the assistance of the village’s local witch, and visiting the local wives for information. On a lyrically repetitive wild goose chase they send her, offering hints and suggestions, of who to get a scarf from, and who to have coffee with, and the like. A method of communication with her husband is finally suggested, and she learns who the witch is. This is one of the more light hearted stories in the collection, and quite fun to read.

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mendoza in hollywoodMendoza in Hollywood, by Kage Baker

published in 2000

where i got it: purchased used

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This is the third book in the company series, and it’s my third favorite.   Some quick non-spoilery background on the The Company for those of you that don’t know: 350 years from now, time travel is possible.  But you can only go back in time, you  can’t bring anything back to your “home”  time, and history can’t be changed. Ok, so how to get rich quick if artifacts can’t be brought back? Easy.  Send some crews and technology into the past, have them build safehouses and a staff of employees who will set aside your artifacts, and wait, patiently, nearly forever. Company operatives are cybernetically immortal, given an education about everything that will happen, ever (because this is the past for their instructors and doctors, who are from the future), and programmed to be fanatically loyal to the company.

 

Thus, we get science fiction/historical fiction. Which, if you ask me, is one of the best genre combos EVER.

 

Anyways, in the first the book in the series, we met Mendoza, who is rescued from the Spanish inquisition by a company operative. She’s raised and educated within the Company, and completely bombs her first assignment. The second book follows different characters with Mendoza as a very minor character, and in this third book, we are back with Mendoza.  She’s gotten over the raw, raging anger of what happened all those years, but she’s far from healed.

 

Mendoza has been by herself for a very, very long time, and I get it, she hates people, I’m ok with that (some days I hate people too).  So she’s used to very quiet days, very little interactions, not much going on, just being one with nature. Introvert, indeed. Her new assignment is to a post in the Cahuenga Pass in Southern California in 1862, with the mission of collection valuable plant specimens before the drought (and grazing animals) kills (and eats) everything.  Mostly unaffected by the Civil War, it’s an interesting time to be in Hollywood’s backyard.  Mendoza has no choice but to take the assignment, and besides, maybe some conversation would be good for her.

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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.