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Reviews, Opinions, and More

The Biblio Blogazine - Reviews, Opinions, and More

Review: Fiddlehead

Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest Fiddlehead by Cherie Priest
a Novel of the Clockwork Century
Steampunk/Fantasy/Alternative History
ISBN: 9780765334077
A Tor Paperback

 

FTC Disclosure: Oh, it’s mine. ALL MINE.

 

One of Steampunk’s better series comes to an end. For now.

How bittersweet it was turning that last page. Luckily, Cherie Priest has written other books and stories that I hope to get my hands on — SOON..

This is one of those series that you want to re-read almost as soon as you put down the last book. The development of the story and all its characters are what made this so good, not to mention so hard to say good-bye to.

Priest has always been an author I love to recommend as an introduction to Steampunk along with Gail Carriger and Scott Westerfeld. The Clockwork Century books aren’t as traditional as some being set during an alternative version of the Civil War, but that difference is what, I think, helps American readers connect to the genre.

What I love about Steampunk is that I’ve found it not to be heavily gender based, at least not in the series I’ve read. Yes there are definite male and female protagonists, but I never feel I am reading something girly or over the top masculine. In the Clockwork Century books, storylines are divvied up nicely regardless of gender, color, and/or social background. Also every book, including Fiddlehead, remains true to the Steampunk world and an accuracy to history even though it’s been tweaked in order to fit well into an alternate rendition.

Fiddlehead is the name given to an extraordinary calculating machine, so called because it is so quick and smart, it’s function could “fiddle with a fellow’s head”. It’s inventor, a freed slave and genius Dr. Gideon Bardsley, constructed Fiddlehead to help end the war. Unfortunately war is expensive and profitable. There are those that don’t want Fiddlehead to survive. Or Dr. Bardsley for that matter.

Enter ex-spy and current Pinkerton operative by the name of Maria “Belle” Boyd. Formerly working for the Confederacy, now for the Union, she just wants to move on with her life and help end the war. Trusting her when few do, Allan Pinkerton sends her to Abraham Lincoln when he asks for help in protecting Dr. Bardsley, who happens to be one of the people who trust Belle the least based upon her past. Oh the tangled webs.

It’s just one of the many challenges she, as well as those who support Lincoln and Fiddlehead’s information, will face in order to end the war when there are those more powerful who don’t. More than just the United States is facing a world-ending catastrophe and it takes all of Dr. Bardsley genius, Belle’s cleverness, and Lincoln’s power to prove this potential for Armageddon and get the war to end.

It’s a wild ride from start to finish, so be sure to set enough time aside to enjoy it.

I’m sad to have to say farewell to them all, but I know it’s not a final good-bye. Cherie Priest has other books and just came out with one (Maplecroft) that from what I can see, will have me falling even more in love with her writing.

Love this book. Love the series.

You will too.

JCa.jpg

 

 

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Cherie Priest is the author of several books, including Boneshaker, the first Clockwork Century book, which won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and was nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and keeps a popular blog a www.cheriepriest.com.

Review: An Unwilling Accomplice

AnUnwillingAccompliceTodd8259_f An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd
Mystery/Historical Fiction
ISBN: 9780062237194 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062326447 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062237217 (digital)
William Morrow an imprint of HarperCollins

FTC Disclosure: Advanced review copy provided by publisher

 

I can never get enough of historical fiction, especially mysteries. I guess this was born from reading a bit of Agatha Christie, although hers are only “historical” because of how much time has passed since initial publication. Nowadays, whenever I want a reliable read, I don’t look much further than Charles Todd and his Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford mysteries. Although it must be noted, Charles Todd is actually a mother and son writing team who work so well together, that determining who contributed what in any of their books is impossible.

An Unwilling Accomplice is one of the latest installments of the Bess Crawford mystery series. Set toward the end of World War I, this particular story finds Bess on a short leave looking forward to some much needed rest. However, she’s been requested to accompany a wounded soldier to Buckingham Palace where the man is to receive a medal.

The mystery begins subtly as she doesn’t recognize the name and with her memory of wounds, she’s sure she would have remembered him. Regardless, she does her duty only to be repaid by the man up and disappearing. The next time she hears about him, he is suspected of committing murder and is on the run.

Bess is yet again caught up with intrigue during a tumultuous time in England which quickly mirrors itself in Bess’ life as she strives to right a wrong. This time the situation nearly causes her to lose her place in the nursing service, as well as the respect of her superiors she’s worked so hard to earn on her own, not as her father’s daughter.

The story is engaging and keeps your attention through every chapter. In the past, she’s received some help from her family, but this particular adventure is primarily her and Simon Brandon working to find the truth before their suspect kills again. Another difference is that most of the book is set in England while Bess is on leave, giving those familiar with the series a break from the war just like their heroine Bess.

At 352 pages, you won’t feel the need to skip along, because the story never drags. There is little predictability and the plot is complex enough but not over the top. Highly, highly recommended!

Fans of Maisie Dobbs and Maggie Hope will love Bess and once Todd has you hooked, you have to check out the Ian Rutledge mysteries. The first book in that series is called A Test of Wills.

The official author website is www.charlestodd.com and they can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CharlesToddNovels.

Find more of Charles Todd books on Amazon. They can also be found at Powell’s Books.

JC

 

 

Flashback Friday: Middlesex

Enough of Throw Back Thursdays. How about strolling through memory lane in Reviewland? Here is a good one originally posted July 18, 2009.

Considering I started blogging late 2007, it should be interesting to see what I can find in the vaults. It’s pretty interesting to dig up these reviews. Gives me a chance to see if I feel the same way of if a book needs a re-read and a re-think.

 

middlesex Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Fiction, 529 pages
Picador (USA) Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK)

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize 2003

FTC Disclosure: Purchased (by me)

 

Middlesex is the story of Calliope Helen Stephanides, later known as Cal, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family. Calliope is not like other girls. As she writes:

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of l974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver’s license…records my first name simply as Cal.

This is so much more than a coming-of-age novel. Hard enough for most kids to deal with growing up as it is, but (and this isn’t a spoiler, trust me) to approach this milestone as a hermaphrodite, brings a whole new dynamic to the experience.

Arrayed in their regiments, my genes carry out their orders. All except two, a pair of miscreants – or revolutionaries, depending on your view – hiding out on chromosome number 5. Together, they siphon off an enzyme, which stops the production of a certain hormone, which complicates my life.

Eugenides narrative surpasses any expectations I had regarding how he would handle such a subject. I constantly had to stop, and think, how he was able to so deftly write in a voice I firmly believed was Cal’s. The author disappears completely, as he should, and leaves the reader feeling they are reading a memoir. I love the objectiveness of Cal’s tone. Far enough away that most of the emotion has softened, yet not so much that the reader ever feels held at a distance. On the contrary, the honesty and humor of the narrator is what kept me turning pages.

How did we get used to things? What happened to our memories? Did Calliope have to die in order to make room for Cal? To all these questions I ffer the same truism: it’s amazing what you can get used to.

Calliope does not die because she is an integral part of Cal. This story is how she, and he, come to terms with this reality. The only reason I did not read it in one sitting is that this is a book that deserves one’s full attention. However, I could not restrain myself as I got closer to the end. In fact, I stayed up to four in the morning finishing the book as I simply could not put it down. Obviously, this novel is highly recommended. Not knowing I would like it so much I bought a very, well-loved used copy. I definitely will be on the lookout for a newer version, if not just going out and buying one off the shelf. Which I should do as this a book that deserves a forever home. Like mine. JCa

 

 

Jeffrey Eugenides first novel The Virgin Suicides, was published in 1993. In 2003, he received the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Middlesex, which was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and France’s Prix Medicis.

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