Bath Tangle – Georgette Heyer

d2e1e9dc5d9445c597769635a67434f414f4141I’m only going to attempt a vague outline of this story, because if I tried to sketch the high level of the plots that actually culminate at the end, I’d both take too long, and end up being confusing.

Lord Spenborough was on his second wife, as his first marriage resulted only in a daughter – Lady Serena. The new Lady Spenborough is actually younger than her step-daughter, but they get along well, which is fortunate when Lord Spenborough dies, and the two of them are thrown together. Rather than spend time in the Dower House near the well meaning but irritating cousin who’s inherited the title (well, really, his wife, who’s a little too fond of her new title), they decide to take up residence in Bath.

Oh, and Serena was once engaged to the Marquis of Rotherham, a particular friend of her father’s, but called it all off once she realized they’d spend all their time arguing. So who does her father list as the guardian of her fortune? Rotherham, of course. You can obviously see where this is going, despite a whole bunch of other plot twists I am not even going to attempt to catalog. I’ve called some of Heyer’s book madcap before. This one brings new definition to the term.

The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder – Marta McDowell

b06xppyh47-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_I distinctly remember my mother reading the Little House books to my sister and me before bed, over a longish period of time, as we got them from the library. It was before fourth grade, because it was in our original Portland house. There are only a few books I remember from that bedtime reading series- they had to have something fairly special about them to stick in my mind.

This book talks about Wilder’s connection to the natural world, and how she’d portrayed it in her books. I’d never thought very much about it, but that was definitely one of the things I loved so much about those books – the incredible sense of place she conveys throughout them. I’ve never been to a prairie – but I feel like I’ve experienced it through her eyes in her books.

McDowell breaks down the different landscapes covered by the books, and even certain intervals in the real Ingalls family life that didn’t make it into the more fictionalized version of their life in the book series. (If you want to see the difference – I highly recommend the annotated Pioneer Girl.) She talks about the actual plants and animals Wilder may have encountered, and gives ideas for doing a modern day pilgrimage to those sites. (You can visit the historic sites, but accurate representations of the landscapes are harder to find.) It’s a great book – very interesting for fans of the Little House series, but also an interesting tracing of the natural landscape over the life of a single person, and the wide variety of places she saw, and how much has changed since then. The book ships out at the end of August – I definitely recommend it.

A Sampler of Wayside Herbs – Barbara Pond

d031e9ef1d0afbf59374a616151434f414f4141This book was published out of Connecticut in 1974. I tend not to go for reference books that old, but when I saw this in a used bookstore on Cape Cod, I had to pick it up, since the name of my wildflower blog is Wayside Flowers. The serendipity was a little bit too much in evidence for me not to snag it.

The book has lovely plates of a number of flowers I’m constantly running into, that we now consider weeds, but were by and large brought over by the original New England colonists because they were useful. It’s a nice to see those old uses acknowledged.

It’s also somewhat of a hoot to see easy evidence of how much plant classifications change – probably half of the family names listed here are completely obsolete. (Actually, the general conventions are obsolete – family names now end in –aceae. In the book, they’re using the –itae format for a number of the families, though there are some –aceae’s.) I do get a kick out of seeing how much things are constantly changing.

Grail – Stephen R. Lawhead

9b72e2a25801009596a4a636e41434f414f4141The last two books in this series are a little out of sequence, since Arthur did die and was taken off to Avalon in the third book. So here in the fifth book, we have the story of the grail, in the middle of one of the times not covered in Arthur.

After the battles covered in Pendragon, Arthur almost died, but Merlin brought him to King Avallach’s palace, where Avallach used the Grail to heal Arthur. At that point, taken over by pride, Arthur decides to build a shrine to the Grail nearby, and naturally, Morgain gets involved to ruin his plans.

She’s had a daughter by her step-son Lot, named Morgaws, and she sends Morgaws in to corrupt the fellowship. She manages to ensnare Llenlleawg (the closest thing to Lancelot in these stories) to her side, and the grail is stolen, along with the Queen. (Again, this the closest you get in this series to Lancelot and Guinevere running off together – in this case, it’s against Gwenhwyvar and the champion’s actual will.) The Cymbrogi must journey into Llyonesse to get the Grail back. It’s a harrowing journey.

This is an interesting way to bring Morgaws/Morgause into the story – it’s always interesting to see how different people interpret Morgan and Morgause – sometimes they’re the same person, or they can be different, but with various relationships to each other. This was a good way to bring the two as separate entities into the story.

It was an interesting interlude, but somewhat short – I think it would have worked better as a section of Arthur.

The Blue Girl – Charles de Lint

ecf562906d3af1959724a656777434f414f4141When Imogene’s mother moves their family into Newford, Imogene is determined to make the most of things. She quickly makes friends with Maxine – who doesn’t seem to have any friends at school, but is the most interesting person Imogene sees. And at the same time, she manages to come to the attention of Adrian, the school’s resident ghost.

Adrian was also a loner in life, until he caught the attention of the school’s brownies. The problem with brownies is that when they’re taken for granted, they get a bit feral, and the school’s brownies are definitely feeling neglected. They think they’re being kind to Adrian, but in a moment of fun, he dies. He’s been hanging around the school ever since, unable to cross over.

This is a definite young adult book, so even though there are some pretty heavy themes in this book (bullying gets some extensive treatment), they’re lighter than the more adult Newford books would be. There is some cross over with some of the other adult Newford characters, but this book easily stands alone. Imogene, Maxine and Adrian are interesting characters, and this is a fun high school story, with a much more realistic feel to it than other YA. (Funny to say about a fundamentally fantasy story, but it’s true.) This is also a great introduction to the larger world of Newford, and would probably work as well for adults as young adults in that way.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley

038adf31df89783596f2b2b6a77434f414f4141In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton finds a gold pocket watch on his pillow. Six months later, it saves his life by raising an alarm that causes him to leave the scene of a massive bomb explosion moments before it happens. After the bomb, Thaniel goes in search of the watchmaker, who turns out to be a Japanese man named Kieta Mori. Mori’s workshop is a place of wonder, but since the bomb was clockwork, he’s a suspect in the bombing.

Sounds straightforward, right? Well, there’s a subplot with an Oxford trained physicist (a woman), and Mori’s some kind of clairvoyant, and then things just get weird. I read this mostly to get to the end so I could see what happens. It’s not bad, but I can’t say it’s good either. I’m actually having trouble trying to talk about it. I don’t feel like there was any sort of real resolution, though I suppose you could argue there was. I think this book just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Magic Bites – Ilona Andrews

7cd76e2e7f5e941597035776a41434f414f4141Kate Davies lives in an Atlanta where magic and technology switch back and forth in waves – you never know which one will be working at any given time (people have come up with great adaptations to make sure they can function in either kind of wave). Kate’s a mercenary, even though it’s clear she has some heavy magic powers, and could be more, if she chose.

When her foster father dies, she offers her services to find the killer, and finds herself in the middle of a potential war between the local Pack of Shapeshifters, and the People (who control vampires).

I liked this world’s versions of both were-creatures and vampires- both are different than your typical take, though the vampires are much different than usual. I also like Kate – she clearly has history, but it’s only explored when it’s relevant, so there’s plenty of time to find out more about her. That said, I’m really interested to know exactly where her magic comes from.