Tag Archives: gail carriger

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

HPL Patrons Can Borrow These LGBTQ Fiction Ebooks Right Now!

22 Mar

At the end of February the miniseries When We Rise premiered, which chronicled the evolution and trials of the LGBT Civil Rights movement.  It is poignant to think back on all that has occurred in the last few decades.  I can remember when it was groundbreaking that Ellen came out back in the 90’s; fast forward to today when there are gay characters in many of shows I watch.  Recently I read three ebooks set during different time periods and I was struck by how the lives of different characters varied with the time of the books’ settings.  Two of these ebooks you can click over and borrow right now on Hoopla Digital if you are a HPL or other BCCLS library card holder and another is available on the tablets and ereaders for loan to Hoboken Resident Library Card Holders.

The Death of a Much-Travelled Woman and Other Adventures with Cassandra Reilly by Barbara Wilson

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The Death of a Much-Travelled Woman is the third in Wilson’s Cassandra Reilly series, which were written and set in the 1990’s.  Cassandra is a translator of Spanish Fiction and her work brings her to many different locations around the world.  Unlike the other three books in the collection, which are novels, this is a collection of short stories.  Wilson often weaves issues of the day into her fiction and it frequently has a feminist perspective, which was refreshing since many of the cozy mysteries I read seem to exist in a reality outside of our contemporary issues.  Cassandra travels all over the world in the stories including Mexico, the English Moors, and Iceland.  My favorites of the stories are one that is set in Maui which revolves around artwork Georgia O’Keefe created while visiting the island, and the other is the last story in the collection which has a very meta twist.  The first Cassandra Reilly novel Gaudi Afternoon was adapted into a movie by the same name starring Judy Davis, Marcia Gay Harden, Lili Taylor, and Juliette Lewis; it can be borrowed from BCCLS libraries.  Barbara Wilson is the pen name of Barbara Sjoholm, who besides translating works in Norwegian and Danish has also written a memoir and several travel books.

Looking for Group by Alexis Hall

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You may remember I previously wrote about Alexis Hall’s terrific Kate Kane mystery series which had been previously available on Hoopla.  Unlike that series which was in the paranormal mystery genre, Looking for Group would be best described as Contemporary New Adult Fiction.  In the story Drew, a college student in England, begins playing an online game (which Hall admits is an homage to World of Warcraft) with a new group of players and feels drawn to one of them who lives nearby.  When he learns that Kit is male and not female like he expected it causes him to do some soul searching about his attraction, but in a way which reflects the fluidity that sexuality is often accepted with today.  The novel also deals with the very modern issue of friends that you spend time with in person versus online friends and the validity of both.  One of my husband’s friends from high school met his girlfriend of 10 years playing World of Warcraft but people who don’t participate in online gaming or take part in online communities can often not understand the dynamics so I liked seeing Hall handled this situation in fiction.  Even being married to a gamer, I found some of the gaming jargon a little confusing at first, but there is a glossary at the back of the story you can jump to if you need help.

Romancing the Inventor: A Supernatural Society Novella by Gail Carriger

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Image via Amazon

I am a huge fan of Carriger’s work and have written about some of her novels in previous posts.  Romancing the Inventor is part of a series of standalone LGBTQ romance novellas that she is self-publishing that are set in the same Steampunk universe as the Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School series.  The first of these, Romancing the Inventor features fan favorite cross dressing inventor Genevieve Lefoux.  However the protagonist in the novel is not Genevieve, but her love interest Imogene who leaves her home to become a maid for a household of vampires, the only place Imogene believes her lesbianism might be accepted.  Too often Steampunk takes the trappings of the Victorian era like corsets and airships but has the social milieu be that of our own era.  Part of what I enjoyed about this work was that despite the inclusion of vampires and werewolves it looked at some of the class issues that were experienced during that time in history in a way that seemed more compelling and authentic than other Steampunk fiction.  Hoboken resident library card holders can check out the story on one of our ereaders or tablets we have to lend at the reference desk.  If you have never experienced an ebook before this a great opportunity to check out some different styles of ereaders and to see if the device is something you’d be interested in investing in.

Read any great LGBTQ fiction recently?  Let us know in the comment section.

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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