Monday, October 31, 2016

The Determined Heart: The Tale of Mary Shelley and Her Frankenstein by Antoinette May

From Goodreads:

The Determined Heart reveals the life of Mary Shelley in a story of love and obsession, betrayal and redemption.

The daughter of political philosopher William Godwin and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley had an unconventional childhood populated with the most talented and eccentric personalities of the time. After losing her mother at an early age, she finds herself in constant conflict with a resentful stepmother and a jealous stepsister. When she meets the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, she falls deeply in love, and they elope with disastrous consequences. Soon she finds herself destitute and embroiled in a torturous love triangle as Percy takes Mary’s stepsister as a lover. Over the next several years, Mary struggles to write while she and Percy face ostracism, constant debt, and the heartbreaking deaths of three children. Ultimately, she achieves great acclaim for Frankenstein, but at what cost?


Frankenstein is so much more than a monster story, as anyone who has read it, or watched the play or movies, knows. This is a novelization of Mary Shelley's life, in which we can see the seeds of the now famous story planted early in her life.  It started as a contest between friends, another fairly well known fact, but I was interested to learn more about this woman, who created such a terrible and complex monster, and the doctor who brought him to life, just to see if he could, ending in the complete destruction of his own existence.  What kind of life did Mary have to have inspired such a story?

I got much more than I was expecting.  Mary seemed to be constantly get used and taken advantage of in her father's and husband's seeking of an intellectual and eccentric lives.  It seems that she put up with so much, for love of those who in my opinion didn't reciprocate in kind.  So many hardships and difficulties, I know I would have packed it in and gone back home early on, but Mary never did, and finally in the end, was able to be her own woman, despite all the men (and women) in her life that tried to use her or push her to the side for their own ideas to take precedence, though often accused of being selfish herself.  She did make some bad choices, but was also not the only one involved in those, so I personally don't feel the blame rests solely, or even mostly on her for any of them.

I was deeply drawn in to the story of her life, and decided to make a whole month of Frankenstein, reading the actual novel on Serial Reader (an app than delivers classics to your device in small bits each day) and then seeing the encore presentation of Benedict Cumberbatch playing the creature in the National Theater live production last week.  Cumberbatch was amazing, as expected, and was really able to bring to life this creature who awakens with the body of a man, but with no idea how to use it, and no concept of society except the fear and hatred he encounters early on, as much as he would like to be gentle and loved. 

While most consider Frankenstein to be a horror story, it was one of, if not the, first science fiction novels every written.  This was an interesting look at the life of a highly intelligent woman in a time where that was just not accepted, and I often wondered what else could possibly go wrong for her!  I gave it a 4/5 and would definitely recommend it to those interested in Frankenstein's creation and historical fiction.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin


From Goodreads:

A chilling, mesmerizing novel that combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the detail and drama of historical fiction.

In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town's Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress.

King Henry II is no friend of the Jews-or anyone, really-but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily-whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe-and asks for his finest "master of the art of death," an early version of the medical examiner.

The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia-the king has been sent a "mistress" of the art of death. Adelia and her companions-Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor-travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on Crusade with the king.

In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king's tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend, or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia's investigation takes her into Cambridge's shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again . .

Mistress of the Art of Death was chosen as my TBR List read for October. I was interested in the historical and forensics aspects of this story, I was not expecting wry humor and to be drawn to the characters the way I was.  While the crimes being investigated are too terrible to think on for long, the personalities of Adelia and her companions, and the new friends she makes invested me in their lives and the outcome.  Even Henry II, in the story for very little, quickly gained a place in my affections. 

They are an unlikely trio, the atheist woman, Jew and Moor who are sent to investigate this crime.  Right away before they ever even make it to town, Adelia's secret of being a female doctor is out to some, but they try to maintain a fiction that Mansur is the doctor, which he attempts to play to the hilt. Adelia herself comes to care for the people more than she would have expected, even some of those she suspects of being a potential criminal. 

Sadly this author has already left us, but I do have several more of the series to look forward to.  Her storytelling style was easy to get involved in, and was not at all dry or tedious which can sometimes happen in a historical, even to those of us who like them!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon - October 22, 2016



It's time for another Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon and I couldn't be more excited! I really look forward to these, I love read-a-thons of all kinds, but Dewey's is just extra special.  There are so many people taking part together, it was really one of my very first experiences with online read-a-thons and it opened up a whole new community to me. Reading was no longer a solitary activity, it was now a game, a race, a party, a celebration of books! I've lost count of how many Dewey's I've taken part in. If you're interested in learning more, there's the Dewey's Website which talks about how this Read-a-thon got started, and it is where you sign up, and there is Facebook Group and a Goodreads Group. I will probably update my blog, but also post on the Facebook group as that is the easiest for me to do from my phone.

I hope you decide to join us!  Here is my stack of possibilities, which is always subject to change!




Updates:

7 am on a fine Saturday and all is well!  I'm starting off with Blameless and also a Doctor Who 50th anniversary short story: The Ripple Effect by Malorie Blackman. I just loved the box edition where each story cover is the Doctor's signature outfit!  See you in awhile!



7 pm - halfway through! I have gotten halfway through Blameless, finished The Ripple Effect, and also The Rat Queens, which was a lot of fun!  Thinking about some dinner now, and getting back into Blameless, which is also a lot of fun!  Maybe pizza... or BBQ... but leaning towards pizza! 393 total pages so far 8 hours and 45 minutes of attempting to read, which makes my average per hour 44 pages, yay for graphic novels and short stories! lol!

10:30 pm - less than 100 pages to go in Blameless, I can do this!  Time for some cake!

Finished:




Sunday, October 09, 2016

Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis



From Goodreads:

For Jeff Johnston, a young historical researcher for a Civil War novelist, reality is redefined on a bitter cold night near the close of a lingering winter. He meets Annie, an intense and lovely young woman suffering from vivid, intense nightmares. Haunted by the dreamer and her unrelenting dreams, Jeff leads Annie on an emotional odyssey through the heartland of the Civil War in search of a cure. On long-silenced battlefields their relationship blossoms-two obsessed lovers linked by unbreakable chains of history, torn by a duty that could destroy them both.

Awards:
Locus Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Novel (1988)
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee (1988)
John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (1988)


I didn't realize this was Connie Willis' first novel until I read the afterward! It is immediately clear that a lot of research went into this novel.  The mystery of the dreams bleeding through and trying to decide what they meant was very interesting, interwoven as it was with the events of Robert E. Lee's life during the Civil War and after.  That's right, Robert E. Lee.  To me the Lincoln's Dream part was a little misleading, as it was really a lesser part of the story and to me felt like it was included because it would seem more sensational as a draw?  The blurb also exaggerates the relationship of our two main characters, which is the weakest part of the story, but I suppose the mechanism needed to draw us through the dreams.

At any rate, while there are some definite flaws or lack of development in the characters themselves, the basic premise of the story, and the setting of the Civil War were the main draws for me, and did not disappoint. This is the second novel I have read by Willis (whom I didn't quite get to meet at Worldcon, but I did see her speak in the Grand Master's panel, yay!), the first being Doomsday Book, which was really good, but very affecting.  Lincoln's Dreams also is very affecting and its emphasis the horrors of the Civil War, along with the allure of dreams and their meanings, made it a solid and satisfying read for me.  I look forward to more of Willis' work, and expect just as much depth. 4/5 stars.

My first read of my own hosted Award Winning Science Fiction and Fantasy Challenge, and fulfills a
"Any Novel by a Grand Master" Square on the Bingo card, as she was the Grand Master for 2011, presented in 2012.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

October My TBR List Winner - Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin



 And the winner is...



I've heard good things about this series, so I'm looking forward to an interesting read!  I'll let you know what I think at the end of the month!


4 votes12 votes14 votes

Saturday, October 01, 2016

My TBR List - October 2016



Welcome to my October 2016 edition of My To Be Read List, hosted by Michelle @ Because Reading. This is a monthly meme where we offer up 3 choices from our TBR pile for our readers to pick from to help us make the super hard decision of "what do I read next?" a little easier and to whittle away at the ever growing TBR Mountain! 

Theme: Monsters, Death, you know. I bet you're surprised, aren't you, it being October and all? I knew it! Feel free to leave me a comment and tell me which you chose and why.

The poll will stay open through Friday 10/7 , and I'll update this post with the winning book on Saturday 10/8, then post a review on the last Saturday of the month, 10/29.

If you think this sounds fun and would like to join (the more the merrier, because we love voting!) please head on over to Because Reading where Michelle lays out the rules for us!

And the choices are...

From Goodreads:

There were many staff at Kensington Palace, fulfilling many roles; a man who was employed to catch rats, another whose job it was to sweep the chimneys. That there was someone expected to hunt Demons did not shock the new Queen; that it was to be her was something of a surprise.

London, 1838. Queen Victoria is crowned; she receives the orb, the scepter, and an arsenal of blood-stained weaponry. Because if Britain is about to become the greatest power of the age, there's the small matter of the demons to take care of first... But rather than dreaming of demon hunting, it is Prince Albert who occupies her thoughts. Can she dedicate her life to saving her country when her heart belongs elsewhere?

With lashings of glistening entrails, decapitations, and foul demons, this masterly new portrait will give a fresh understanding of a remarkable woman, a legendary monarch, and quite possibly the best Demon Hunter the world has ever seen...
From Goodreads:

A chilling, mesmerizing novel that combines the best of modern forensic thrillers with the detail and drama of historical fiction. In medieval Cambridge, England, four children have been murdered. The crimes are immediately blamed on the town's Jewish community, taken as evidence that Jews sacrifice Christian children in blasphemous ceremonies. To save them from the rioting mob, the king places the Cambridge Jews under his protection and hides them in a castle fortress. King Henry II is no friend of the Jews-or anyone, really-but he is invested in their fate. Without the taxes received from Jewish merchants, his treasuries would go bankrupt. Hoping scientific investigation will exonerate the Jews, Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily-whose subjects include the best medical experts in Europe-and asks for his finest "master of the art of death," an early version of the medical examiner. The Italian doctor chosen for the task is a young prodigy from the University of Salerno. But her name is Adelia-the king has been sent a "mistress" of the art of death. Adelia and her companions-Simon, a Jew, and Mansur, a Moor-travel to England to unravel the mystery of the Cambridge murders, which turn out to be the work of a serial killer, most likely one who has been on Crusade with the king. In a backward and superstitious country like England, Adelia must conceal her true identity as a doctor in order to avoid accusations of witchcraft. Along the way, she is assisted by Sir Rowley Picot, one of the king's tax collectors, a man with a personal stake in the investigation. Rowley may be a needed friend, or the fiend for whom they are searching. As Adelia's investigation takes her into Cambridge's shadowy river paths and behind the closed doors of its churches and nunneries, the hunt intensifies and the killer prepares to strike again . .
From Goodreads:

Those stories you hear? The ones about things that only come out at night? Things that feed on blood, feed on us? Got news for you: they’re true. Only it’s not like the movies or old man Stoker’s storybook. It’s worse. Especially if you happen to be one of them. Just ask Joe Pitt.
There’s a shambler on the loose. Some fool who got himself infected with a flesh-eating bacteria is lurching around, trying to munch on folks’ brains. Joe hates shamblers, but he’s still the one who has to deal with them. That’s just the kind of life he has. Except afterlife might be better word.

From the Battery to the Bronx, and from river to river, Manhattan is crawling with Vampyres. Joe is one of them, and he’s not happy about it. Yeah, he gets to be stronger and faster than you, and he’s tough as nails and hard to kill. But spending his nights trying to score a pint of blood to feed the Vyrus that’s eating at him isn’t his idea of a good time. And Joe doesn’t make it any easier on himself. Going his own way, refusing to ally with the Clans that run the undead underside of Manhattan–it ain’t easy. It’s worse once he gets mixed up with the Coalition–the city’s most powerful Clan–and finds himself searching for a poor little rich girl who’s gone missing in Alphabet City.

Now the Coalition and the girl’s high-society parents are breathing down his neck, anarchist Vampyres are pushing him around, and a crazy Vampyre cult is stalking him. No time to complain, though. Got to find that girl and kill that shambler before the whip comes down . . . and before the sun comes up.


Poll
Which of these three should I read? results
0 total votes · comments and details · invite friends Voting starts on: Sep 30, 2016 10:00PM PDT


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