I've just finished two excellent books with a fun Alt-History flair to them, and then those two reminded me of a third favorite, so now you get three reviews for the price of one. (Three! Three reviews! Ah! Ah! Ah!)
I read the first book several years ago, and so didn't remember too many details going in to the second. Fortunately the author did a nice job catching me up, though, and I quickly remembered why Flora was one of my few 5-star's over on Goodreads back in the day.
The setting of Flora is a fantastical alternate world inhabited by some of the most colorful characters you're ever likely to meet - in every sense of the world. Men and women alike wear kilts and bright makeup, dye their hair crazy colors, and go to punk concerts where the speaker system is a captured amplification demon. If that sounds futuristic or cyberpunk, it's not. If anything, there's an old world sensibility here, where automobiles and indoor plumbing are still novelties, women wear stays (corsets), and magic and monsters are a routine part of life.
Flora lives in Califa - an alternate California - which has been conquered by "the Birdies," an Aztec-inspired culture peopled with terrifying flayed priests and animal-human hybrids. I found the politics a little confusing in the first book, since you're thrown into the story with little-to-no background, but it's gradually explained in bits as you carry on into Flora's Dare.
The language of Flora Segunda (and Flora's Dare) sets it apart, and really adds to the other-worldliness of it all. There are lots of unfamiliar terms that you pick up through the context - things like "maquillage" for makeup or "weskits" for waistcoats. (Both of those are real words, btw. [singing] The more you know...!)
Like I said, it's been a while since I read and loved the first one, but I think Flora's Dare was even better than the first. It's refreshingly original, surprisingly funny, and Flora has just the right amount of pluck to make her admirable, but with enough weakness to still make her relatable. I'm really looking forward to the third in the series, Flora's Fury - and I desperately, desperately, want to see them all made into movies, if only so I can see her best friend in his top knot, kilt, and blue lipstick. :)
I just finished this the other night, since, like all good books, it refused to let me put it down. Shadow has the familiar fantasy setup of an ordinary-girl-discovering-her-extraordinary-power, along with a surprisingly effective love triangle, but what really gives it flair is the Russian influence on everything from the characters (there's a sinister Rasputin-type priest) to the language and dress. Like Flora, many of the words you'll have to pick up through context, but here the geographical influence is a bit subtler. In essence you get a great fantasy story spiced up with a bit of Kvas - great for flavor, but not quite so integral to the story.
The last third of Shadow and Bone packs a real emotional punch, and while there is some slight resolution, it mostly leaves you hanging, metaphorical loose ends flapping all OVER the place. That's a big pet peeve of mine - the whole string-you-along-to-force-you-to-buy-the-sequel thing, but I'm going to give Shadow a pass because it's such an excellent story. (Not to mention its stellar cosplay options. Again, I'd love to see a movie with these characters!)
As you might expect, Shadow is part of a trilogy. Siege and Storm is next, but just came out a few months ago, so I'm not sure when we can expect the third title.
Which brings me to my final review today, which is yet another series:
Two covers, same book.
When I first read this it was titled Monster Blood Tattoo, but since then the publisher decided book series aren't nearly confusing enough and changed the title to Foundling. Add to that the fact that the series has had covers calling it the Lamplighter series, the Foundling's Tale, AND the Monster Blood Books, and I don't know how anyone keeps it straight. >.<
Whatever you call it, though, you should definitely read these books. There are three total: Foundling
/Monster Blood Tattoo, Lamplighter, and Factotum. They follow a young orphan (or "foundling") named Rossamünd as he sets out in the terrifying world of the Half Continent. Here there be monsters - literally - and all of civilization is based around waging war against them. Monster hunters are celebrated heroes, branding themselves with tattoos of their conquests' blood and undergoing bizarre surgeries that give them supernatural powers.
Like Flora and Bone, Foundling borrows artistic influence from our history books; this time from Georgian England. Take a look at Rossamund's uniform on the cover of Lamplighter, and you'll see what I mean:
If you like long reads as much as I do, then you're going to love this series. It's brimming with rich detail and a glossary that stretches over 100 pages - a glossary which you'll find yourself consulting over and over, I might add. The constant barrage of unfamiliar language and names might be a little off-putting for some, but I found it added a whole new dimension to the story, and forced me to pay that much more attention. (Unlike Flora and Shadow this language is completely made up, so there's little chance of your recognizing the words.)
Foundling is dark and action packed, but it also wrestles with a morality that forces Rossamünd to question who his enemies really are. It's fascinating, compelling, and like nothing I've ever read. And if that's not high enough praise for you: I also just ordered the hardcovers online, since I like to surround myself with only my favorite books. So, yeah, give it a try!
Here's hoping at least one of these was new for you guys - but if not, you can find more of my recommendations on my book reviews page! (The starred entries are my favorites.)
And as always, please share your own recommendations in the comments! (I've made a list from your comments on previous posts, and I'm working my way through it - but the ones that get recommended more get bumped higher on the list. :))
John and I are in the final stage of our bedroom redo: the dreaded "knick-knack" stage. Don't get me wrong, I love creating little table top vignettes - they just take me forever and an ice age to do. I have to switch things out, stare for a few minutes, try a few different things, shift them all an inch to the right, go fetch that bowl from the closet I remember packing up last Christmas, stare a few more minutes, try another combination, and then go to ask John for his opinion - only to find him passed out on the couch, snoring.
It's a process.
Anyway, I decided my nightstand needed a picture frame, and I found the perfect one stashed in my closet:
It still had the $2.99 price tag on it. Gotta love Old Time Pottery.
Trouble was, I couldn't find anything in my art stash that would work. I wanted something simple and dramatic, but with a minimum of color.
So instead, I did this:
That's one of the largest "statement" necklaces I own, and it's one of my new absolute favorites. (It's by Friston, the steampunk jewelry genius.) I'm always a fan of getting jewelry out where you can see it more, so this is perfect for me!
And the best part? It's ridiculously easy to do. RIDICULOUSLY, I say. You'll be finished in 20 minutes, tops, using stuff you probably already have at home.
You'll need a table top frame with a smaller inset on the back, like this:
You'll also need a pretty necklace - preferably on the larger side, a small piece of black velvet or felt, and a utility knife.
Open up your frame, remove the glass and backer board, and then center your necklace on the board:
(Are you distracted by my necklace's steamy goodness? ME, TOO.)
Put the chain where you like, and then mark those spots with pencil or a bit of chalk.
Now, using your utility knife, cut a tiny slit at each of your marks for the chain to rest in. (The slits will hold your necklace in place and keep it from slipping down.) If your chain is thicker, like mine, then you'll have to carve larger divots, like so:
Next cut out a square of fabric the same size as your backer board. Black velvet is ideal, but since I didn't have any I used black felt. You could use any fabric, though, so go nuts with it!
Now glue your fabric down (spray adhesive is perfect, if you have it), and you're ready to rock n' roll!
Pop that pretty necklace in place, and stand back to admire your new art!
Hang on - that one's a little blurry.
And there you get ANOTHER peek at our antiqued mirrors. Eh? EH? So sparkly, you guys. Spaaaaarkly. Oh, and those blue gems on the silver candle stick are another necklace. And the silver flower is a pin. Told ya I like getting my jewelry out!
Getting back to your frame: for the excess chain hanging out the back, just
loop that around the frame's easel, so it doesn't drag. You
could also tape it up, I suppose, but that would make it harder to
remove when you want to wear it. So don't. :)
[Update: Amelia in the comments has an even better idea: tape a small plastic jewelry bag to the easel, and stick the excess chain in that! Think I'm going to do that, Amelia - thanks!]
Now, who wants to fill an entire wall with small fancy frames filled with all your favorite jewelry? Anyone? Or just me?
Have you missed cheering on our latest batch of Exemplars as much as I have? Then let's get to it, peeps!
Exemplars are geeks who know what they love, and show it with pride. I
keep it mostly girl-centric here at Epbot, but I always reserve the
right to feature anyone who helps inspire me to be a better me.
First up, here's 6-year-old Ainsley in her FANTABULOUS Sorceress outfit from He-Man:
I want one in my size! (Thanks to her Mom Nicole for sharing!)
Seven-year-old Annika already has a great history of costume choices:
(Not gonna lie; I am especially delighted by the Jedi, given her name.)
That's Annika's mom Bobbi-Lynn on the left as Professor McGonagall. She writes, "I remember when the boys would only let me play Star Wars as Princess
Leia, who always needed to be rescued. I never got a blaster or a light
saber! ... Hopefully you, along with others, helping smash through the geek girl barrier will make 'us' not so picked on while growing up for loving what we love."
She also sent along a "sneak peek" of Annika's costume for this year:
Say it with me, now: "SPOCK!" (I always hear that in Shatner's voice. ALWAYS.)
Of course, every little Vulcan has to break into an adorable grin SOMETIMES, right?
Here's Jenni S. and her family as the 4th, 5th, 10th, and 11th Doctors:
Guess which one's my favorite. ;)
Sometimes there's an unfair push-back against all things princessy and pink, but I say: love what you love. (And I DO love me some ruffly petticoats and tiaras from time to time.) The good news is, little girls already get that. Check out Mica H.'s four-year-old here, who has a crush on C3PO, knows every good princess dress should come with a sword...
...and asked her mom to make her a Hulk Dress so she could smash things daintily:
I think Mica says it best: "My girl likes robots and monsters and dinosaurs. She likes the color pink. She loves bugs, dresses and dirt. She likes long hair, swords and playing rough. …And I really really hope she stays that way."
And finally, Vivienne here tells me Epbot helped inspire her steampunked Zoe-from-Firefly cosplay for Calgary Expo, but I think you'll agree that her daughter stole the show:
... dressed as Captain Tightpants.
Oh, but it gets better:
BUT IT GETS BETTER:
"The best comment of the day, however, came from my daughter. We finally caught sight of Mr Fillion after waiting in line for very many minutes, and I squealed "Captain Tightpants!" My daughter said, very indignantly, "No! I'm Captain Tightpants. That's Captain Hammer."
Vivienne also writes that her little Mal-ette (Mallet? HA!) prefers cars to princesses, Spider-Man to Dora, and sleeps with a baby zombie - though maybe I should have asked for details on that last one. o.0
This batch was mostly younger Exemplars, but I also love featuring older kids, adults, and everyone in between. If you'd like to be considered, just send me a photo of yourself or your child being geeky - ie in costume, with a collection or creation, or at an event - along with a quick description. And don't forget to include names!
John and I caught the last few hours of Dapper Day out at Disney's Hollywood Studios yesterday, and WOW. So many folks dressed up! I'm told this is the biggest year yet, so you've got to give major props to everyone willing to brave the 90 degree heat and humidity in heels and Victory Rolls - or a full suit and tie, for the fellas.
In case you're not familiar, Dapper Day is a fan-run event that's all about dressing up for the parks. Most folks interpret that with a vintage flair, so you'll see bow ties, dainty gloves, and hats, hats, glorious HATS galore!
Everyone who wants to see guys dress like this all the time again, raise your hand.
[raises both hands]
I decided to play with my photos a bit - try to make them look retro, too. Of course, that means most of them look like I just put an Instagram filter on, so, you know, limited success there. Heh.
Here's my first shot of the day - I love the pastel shop buildings in the background:
Then we stumbled across these lovely ladies hula-hooping it up:
Bright poofy dresses and fabulous sunglasses. LOVE.
There was a Dapper meet-up at the Great Movie Ride at 5pm, which meant a great big crowd of well-dressed lovelies filling the plaza out front for over half an hour. I gleefully dove in with my camera:
I was delighted to see so much Disney Bounding combined with Dapper Day - here's one of several dapper Snow Whites, and I think the girl in pink might be Lottie from Princess and the Frog:
Oh, and given his apple necklace, I think the guy in black and purple is the Snow Queen. Fun!
(As you've probably gathered, Disney Bounding is a form of closet cosplay - ie dressing as a character using non-costume clothing - and it's getting super popular in the parks now!)
Check out this fabulous Tower of Terror bellhop dress - complete with pillbox hat!
Victory rolls and sassy poses:
And again - the sunglasses! I need to score me some fun ones, stat.
(If you're wondering, no, John and I didn't dress dapper. Did I mention it was 90 degrees and about 5000% humidity? And that I'm lazy?)
This gal was standing there so sweetly by herself - I love her hat, and I love her face.
And while I'm spreading the love around, THESE DRESSES:
Especially the green one. And the pink one. And the two pink ties. (Tempted to wear a bow tie and suspenders to the next Dapper Day - with some killer wingtips. Aw yeah. Now I just need to acquire all those things...)
It's hard to see, but this glamorous girl had a vintage tapestry pillbox hat on - and check out that stole!
So many of the ladies had bang-on PERFECT makeup, just like this. Winged eyeliner and classic red lips.
Here's my favorite shot of the day:
The girl in brown looks like she stepped out of a vintage magazine ad! And I think this shot looks the most authentically vintage - but John pointed out that's probably because both girls look the part so well.
Here's a dapper Peter Pan, wearing a Tinker Bell necklace:
And Woody and Bo Peep!
Carl and Ellie from Up:
(Melody here is one of the several readers we met up with, and she's wearing little balloon earrings! She also made their grape soda pop pins.)
Despite the fact that I didn't announce we were going until we were on our way, John and I still had three or four groups of readers find us, which made the day extra fun. Somehow I didn't take a picture of them, but Tricia and Eric were first, and when I complimented Tricia's big floppy hat, she gave it to me! Ha! (Thanks again, guys!)
We stayed out front chatting with Allison and Jason here the longest, and when we realized the crowd had cleared, naturally John and I talked them into posing on the classic car out front:
Allison spray-painted her shoes to match, ladies, and they looked awesome. FASHION TIP. And don't these two look like they could be Dapper Day's cover models? I mean, she's holding the official Dapper Day fan and everything!
Some of the most fashionable gentlemen were sporting red lipstick smackeroos on their cheeks:
I've been mostly scared off of Dapper Day because I don't "do" heels, so I was thrilled to see so many cute flat options in the crowd:
I also saw several pairs of saddle shoes. Fun!
Once everyone had filed into the Great Movie Ride, I hit upon the idea of staking out the exit to grab more pics as they left. Worked pretty well, too!
The gal in the middle is a dapper Incredible - see her little pin?
Oh! And here's one of the best Disney Bound Rapunzel & Flynn I've seen:
He even has her tiara hanging out of his bag! Ack! I LOVE DIZGEEKS SO MUCH, you guys.
I also saw several Dapper Mary Poppins, but this was my favorite:
Checkout the little carpet bag.
One thing about taking pictures of people at Disney: it's not like conventions, where folks in costume are used to it, so it's fun to see all the surprised smiles when I ask. For example, these next two ladies were clearly having a ball, and dissolved into giggles when I complimented the one's sparkly Figment hat and asked for a photo:
My first shot of all the guys in suits was also fun, since they seemed so cool striding around in a pack, but broke into easy grins for the camera. I tell ya, sometimes I think carrying a camera is the easiest way to distribute compliments. I wish it was acceptable to ask for people's photos all the time. :)
And here's my final shot, snapped on our way out of the park:
Hope you enjoyed my Dapper Day! If you're local and want to get in on the bow-tied action, the next one is March 9th at the Magic Kingdom - and Disneyland has them twice a year, too, so check the Dapper Day website for those dates. (In fact, it started at Disneyland, so traditionally their events have been bigger and better - not to mention cooler. Not that I'm jealous. Ok, I'm jealous. WHY MUST IT BE SO HOT HERE?)