Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ashes on the Waves

It does not take much to get me to pick up a book (I will admit I have an awful habit of picking a book based on whether or not their covers look interesting), but when I first heard about Mary Lindsey's Ashes on the Waves I didn't need the cover to know that this was my soft of book. I absolutely love gothic romance, horror novels, and Irish culture and this book beautifully and artfully combines all three elements. Ashes on the Waves is inspired by Edgar Allen Poe's poem "Annabelle Lee," and while Lindsey captures more joyous moments between her characters Poe's presence is felt throughout the book.

The book's protagonist, Liam McGreggor, is a refreshing change of pace from the typical male characters in YA romance.  Liam is a lonely, soft-spoken, alienated young orphan who finds himself trapped, both figuratively and literally, by his home and its inhabitants. As one of the residents on the island of Dochas Liam grew up hearing the stories of the Otherworlders, the mythical beings of Irish folklore, that the other residents of Dochas believe cursed Liam, leaving him crippled. This is yet another aspect that sets Liam apart from males in other YA stories, though he learns to live and cope with the impairment and with the treatment he receives on Dochas.

The bright spot in Liam's life is Annabelle Leighton, a young socialite who Liam first met as a child and one of two people in his life who has every looked on him with kindness. When Anna returns to Dochas after a long absence Liam's feelings intensify and the young couple must work through both the Otherworldly and societal challenges posed to their relationship. It is also up to Liam and Anna to bring justice to her uncle who was believed to have died on Dochas 18 years previously.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a YA romance that does not follow the typical pattern. While the romance between Liam and Anna may be a bit rushed, the challenges they face, especially the ones posed by society, have a ring of truth that is both compelling and endearing. In addition, anyone who has an interest in Celtic folklore should pick up Ashes and Waves for a quick read. Mary Lindsey treats creatures such as selkies, the Na Fir Gohrm, and the bean sidhe with great respect.

Ashes on the Waves book trailer

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Across Time and Across the Pond... Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

So, for as much as I've been reading for the past year or so I haven't blogged about any of it. I'll blame school and all the crap that went down there (don't ask), but I've also sort of been floating and not really finding a book that holds my interest. That doesn't happen for me very often, but when it does it tends to last for a while. However, recently I've been interested in royalty and the history of the great heads of Europe.

My first princess that wasn't an animated Disney character was Princess Diana. I was six when Diana was killed in Paris, and while I don't remember much about it, I can remember how devastated people were when she passed away. It would seem fitting, in some morbid way, then that the fist princess I took interest in was Grace Kelly. Rear Window remains not only my favorite Grace Kelly film, but one of my favorite Hitchcock films of all time, right up there with North By Northwest. Grace Kelly's was a real life fairytale, the girl from Philadelphia staring some of the biggest movies of her day before meeting her real life prince. There are many interesting stories surrounding Grace Kelly, from her controversial death, to her relationship with her co-stars and Alfred Hitchcock, to the banning of her movies in Monaco, but she wasn't the only royal by any means to have an interesting life.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey is the story of Almina, the 5th Countess of Canarvon. The Carnavron family lives at Highclear Castle, the set of the British television series Downton Abbey written by Julian Fellows. Much like her fictional counterpart, Cora, Almina was an heiress, though Cora was American while Almina was British, whose money was used to rescue Highcleare from difficult financial times. The biographical account of Almina's life was compiled using Highcleare achieves and societal coverage from the late 1800s through WWI. The most interesting part of Almina's story for many comes with her financial support for an excavation led by her husband and Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, an excavation that would lead to the discovery of King Tut's tomb. Almina's husband George was one of the fist victims of the Curse of King Tut, and the description of his passing is heart breaking.

Almina's passion for her husband and her country is touching, but what is missing from the account is a sense of person connection. The book does an admirable job of exploring Almina's contributions to Highcleare, but not much is said about her personal feelings about Highcleare. As a mother her past is almost overlooked, expect for a few sentences describing and ill-fated garden party with her son or the passion for fashion she passed on to her daughter. 

Overall, the book is an interesting history of the 5th Countess of Canarvon and a tumultuous time in both British and world history. If reading about garden parties and turn of the century coming out parties is of interest I would recommend reading this book. It is very well put together and the pieces from the Highcleare achieve included in the book are fascinating.