Archive | Steampunk RSS feed for this section

Fantasy Romances Inspired by Classic Literature: Without a Summer and Defy or Defend

4 Nov

Although mashups of classic literature with monsters such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Emma and the Vampires had a moment, some authors rather than simply splicing in elements of fantasy, instead take the source material as a place for inspiration, weaving in their own unique characters. In her afterword for Without a Summer, Mary Robinette Kowal thanks Jane Austen from who she says, she “stole three sentences and the essential character arc of Emma.”  In her Author Afterthoughts, Gail Carriger notes, “Before you ask, Defy or Defend is indeed an ode to the fantastic Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons.”  Both stories may have been inspired by classic works, but they have their own unique twists and I highly recommend them.

Without A Summer
I was intrigued by Without a Summer first because of its setting during an unusually cold year in 1815 during which crops failed worldwide and snow even fell in New York in June.  This was notable for keeping Mary Shelly inside during a house party when she wrote her novel Frankenstein.  The cause is suspected to have been from the eruption of Mount Tambora in April in what is now Indonesia and another smaller eruption that had happened the year before in the Philippines. 

In Without A Summer though Cold Mongers who can use ether to provide cooling breezes and sometimes even make ice are suspected of a nefarious plot which is causing the climate change.  A match making sister, Jane, who along with her husband have been hired to create a Glamural in a ballroom for a wealthy family becomes caught up in this political intrigue.  Unlike regular murals a glamural is not simple painted, but magically comes to life.  I thought the fantasy elements were well integrated into the historic setting.  The book is third in The Glamourist Histories.  You can check it and the first novel in the series Shades of Milk and Honey out from eBCCLS.

Defy or Defend  
Gail Carriger is one of my favorite authors and I’d say this rates amongst the whimsical best of hers that I have read.  Defy or Defend is the second novella in her Delightfully Deadly Series set in the 1860s, which are a spinoff of her Finishing School Series, all of which takes place in the Parasolverse an whimsical gaslight fantasy look at the past that merges humor, romance, and often a bit of mystery. The Finishing School Series unlike the rest of her work was written for Young Adults and was set at school for spies.  Although Defy or Defend follows up with an adult version of Dimity, it is not necessary to have read The Finishing School Series beforehand (though you should read them since they are enjoyable for adults as well as teens). 

In Defy or Defend Dimity’s mission is to find out why a vampire hive has gone “Goth” and to see if she can turn things around before it is necessary to exterminate the problem.  The romance between Dimity and Crispin is sweet. Dmity’s efforts to bring some color in to the lives of the dark and gloomy vampires is a fun romp and if you enjoyed the book or terrific film version of Cold Comfort Farm as I did, you will want to check this out. 

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

40 Years of Favorite Part Three: My Favorites From My Thirties

14 Feb

In honor of my milestone 40th birthday I created lists of books I loved as a child/teen and 20 something.  I’m finishing out my 40th year with a look at favorite books in my thirties.

31. Little, Big by John Crowley

little-big

One of the member of the library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club, recently brought up this work and I remember how much I enjoyed reading it as an enjoyable escape while stuck in bed while recovering from the flu. Little, Big features a charming extended family living in a 19th Century mansion surrounded by a fairy filled forest. The enchanting novel is told from multiple family members perspectives.

32. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

stardust.jpg
I’ve talked in previous posts about my love of Neil Gaiman.  Another of his novels besides American Gods and Neverwhere that I have enjoyed is Stardust, which was adapted as a film in 2007 starring Claire Danes. The novel has a charming fairy tale like quality, with its story about a young man’s search for a fallen star to give to his beloved and is surprised to learn that star has a human form.  You have the option with the novel of the illustrated version or an updated version without illustrations.

33. Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair and 34. Shades of Grey

eyre-affair.jpgshades-grey

Jasper Fforde is one of my favorite authors. His work is uniquely quirky, which I love. His Thursday Next series beginning with The Eyre Affair, is about a literary detective who can literally jump into books and interact with the character there.  She has a pet dodo bird and a relative who travels through time.  For teens and adults who enjoy YA fiction, check out his Last Dragonslayer series.  I am eagerly awaiting the next in the Shades of Grey series, the original book of that name is now subtitled in later editions The Road to High Saffron, imagines a dystopian reality where everyone’s social class is determined by the specific colors they can see.

35. Fantasy Works of Kage Baker

house-stag

I had previously written in another post about one of my favorite Science Fiction series, The Company by Kage Baker, about immortelle cyborg who live forward perpetually in time. Besides that series, Baker also wrote several novels set in a fantasy world including The House of the Stag, The Anvil of the World, and The Bird of the River which can be checked out from BCCLS libraries. Like her science fiction works, the characters in her fantasy novels are complex and the stories thought provoking.

36. Donna Andrew’s Meg Langslow Mystery Series

gone-gull

I love Meg Langslow’s quirky mysteries. Like many in the cozy genre they all have a theme, in this case all in some way involve birds, which is unexpected considering that Meg isn’t an ornithologist, but a blacksmith. I discovered Andrews, after she had written several books in the series and I remember spending one summer reading one book after another.  Andrews had two new books out last year Gone Gull at the beginning of August and How the Finch Stole Christmas at the end of October, both of which I highly enjoyed.

37. Kerry Greenwood’s Mysteries

kerry-greenwood.jpg

Kerry Greenwood is my favorite mystery author so though I have written about her previously, I can’t resist mentioning her again.  Check out her fabulous Phryne Fisher series about a flapper in Australia or her contemporary series about baker Corrina Chapman.  Quirky characters are found throughout both.  Greenwood went on a bit of a writing hiatus, but she is currently working on her next Corrina mystery and fellow Phryne fans can check out her short story “Taking the Waters” in her American Publisher Poisoned Pen Presses 20th anniversary collection Bound by Mystery published last year.

38. Gail Carriger’s Steampunk Series

imprudence.jpg

I’ve probably written more about Gail Carriger’s works than any other author for this blog. I love the humor that infuses her cool supernatural steampunk, which also features a dash of romance. Check out her Parasol Protectorate series, Custard Protocol series, and Finishing School series and see if you agree!  The latest in the Custard Protocol series Competence is scheduled to be released in July.

39. Robin Paige’s Victorian/Edwardian Mystery Series

darling-dahlias

Robin Paige is the pen name of William and Susan Albert Wittig. In one of my first blog posts back in 2013, I discussed Susan Albert Witting’s Darling Dahilia series which is set in the 1930’s. I had discovered the Victorian-Edwardian Mysteries after the series had been completed and was re-released in paperback.  Although it can be sad when you learn there won’t be any more of something you love, it can also be delightful getting to binge on a series that has been completed.  I found the couple at the center of the mysteries charming and there is something sweet about knowing they were brought to life by a married duo of writers.  Part of the reason the series was ended was the amount of research it took the authors to achieve the authenticity of the books and you will come away with interesting knowledge of different aspects of the eras.

40. Jennifer Arena’s 100 Snowmen

100-snowmen

To end this list I decided to pick a recent favorite picture book read that I enjoy sharing with my son, since I know my love of books started early with my mom reading to me as a child and my dad passing on worn copies of his favorite speculative fiction when I was a teenager. My son loves math so much he is even fond of doing addition problems before bed along with me reading to him. Jennifer Arena’s 100 Snowmen combines his love of math with my love of reading as on each page there are simple addition problems to add up the Snowmen doing fun activities from snowball fights to hide and seek.  A fun read to checkout this winter with the kids in your life.

Tell us about some of your favorite reads from the various decades of your life in our comment section!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

%d bloggers like this: