February 7th, 2017


Book Report: Fun with History

It’s amazing how much more I accomplish when I just get up a bit earlier in the morning. I got up one hour earlier than normal this morning, and I’m at about where I normally am every morning, except I’m not only dressed, but my bed is made, I got the oil changed in my car and a state inspection done, and the scrubbing bubbles are at work in the bathroom. Oh, and I have a grocery list made and coupons pulled for tomorrow’s planned shopping expedition. And I feel a bit more alert. It helps that I decided to try the kind of behavior modification tricks I use on my kindergarteners on myself. I’m giving myself points for various behaviors I want to change. Supposedly, I’ll let myself redeem those points later on something, but I know from experience that this doesn’t really matter. Just the fact of getting points will motivate me, because I’m apparently a child at heart. I should give myself stickers throughout the day when I do something on my list.

I’ve been doing some reading recently, so I have a book report.

First, a book recommended here, Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica. It’s a “portal” fantasy about a person from our world visiting a fantasy world. When our heroine gets zapped into a strange world, she learns a lot more about her own origins and her role in that world’s politics. Plus, she gets intrigued by the biology of that world and how similar and different it is to earth. The fun thing about this story that I don’t think we see in a lot of portal fantasy is that the heroine is an adventurer and explorer. She goes to exotic places to study wildlife, is into diving and climbing, and all that, so she takes to this new world quite easily. She also makes sure to get all the equipment she’ll need when she gets to come back home. I’m hoping there’s a sequel, because I got the impression that the author is going somewhere with the origins of this world.

Then another book recommended here, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. My library had this shelved in children’s fiction, but I think it’s closer to YA, and is very adult-friendly YA. Basically, it’s almost like my Fairy Tale series set in Tudor England. Queen Mary exiles a young noblewoman to a mysterious manor that may be the last gateway to the fairy realm in England, where she finds that the caretakers of this manor have been working with the fairy queen, and this has led to tragedy for the family that owns it now. This is a very spooky and atmospheric read laced with bits of the Tam Lin legend and with a rather nice romantic subplot.

I guess I was on a Tudor kick (possibly because of Secrets of the Six Wives on PBS), because my next read was My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. This is a very difficult book to describe. It’s an alternate history fantasy with a very quirky touch. It tells the story of Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for nine days after the death of Edward Tudor but who was then ousted by Mary (aka Bloody Mary) and then executed. Except in this version, there’s magic — some people have the magical ability to change into animals — and this, rather than Protestantism and Catholicism, is the cause of the divide in the land. People like Mary and her supporters think this is evil. Jane is a scholarly girl who’d really rather be left alone with her books, but her cousin the king is persuaded to name her as his heir, and she finds herself in an arranged marriage with a young man who spends his days as a horse, and then suddenly she’s queen in very fishy circumstances. And then history gets thrown right out the window because it works out very differently. It’s all told with a very modern tone that incorporates lines and references from Shakespeare, Monty Python, and The Princess Bride. I have to say that I found this a very satisfying read because the story of Lady Jane has always struck me as so tragic and unfair. I loved the movie about her starring a very, very young Helena Bonham Carter and Cary Elwes, and I was traumatized when the History Channel (back when they had history-related content) did a thing where they’d show a history-based movie and then have a panel of historians discuss it. The movie is romantic and moving, and then the historians talked about how fake it was and how they actually hated each other (though further reading on the subject indicates that the historians weren’t entirely correct about this). Anyway, it’s a fun read if you’re into history and think it would be better with magic and jokes.