"I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing." ~ Dame Agatha Christie

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras!

I didn't live in New Orleans long enough to experience a Mardi Gras parade as an actual attendee, but I certainly got caught up in the feverish excitement along Canal Street and throughout the French Quarter.  When I started my novel, I was somewhat surprised to find out that there was seemingly no Mardi Gras celebration during the Civil War, since the first krewe, Mystick Krewe of Comus, was established in 1857.

The colors of Mardi Gras are Purple (for Justice), Gold (for Power), and Green (for Faith).

Other areas of the world acknowledge today as Shrove Tuesday and instead of king cake, the food of the day is pancakes...

Want more info on Mardi Gras in New Orleans?  I've no affiliation with this site, but Mardi Gras Unmasked has some wonderful info in an engaging fashion on a crisp, clean site ;-)

"Laissez les bons temps rouler!"  (Let the good times roll)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"I Fell Into a Burning Ring of Fire"

(all due props to Johnny Cash for the post title above--it's a great song)

I have seriously needed some escapism lately, and as much as I love studying the Civil War, I also needed a break from research, so I've time-traveled back to 1632-1634 courtesy of Eric Flint and his phenomenal Ring of Fire series of alternate history during the Thirty Years' War.

1632 starts the series (and many volumes are long enough for the Chunkster Challenge if you are looking for great, long reads).  Although I read this about a decade ago, when I decided to read other books in the series, I realized that the old memory was a bit faulty with some of the characters and I needed to start from scratch to really enjoy this alternate universe.  Basically--to prevent spoilers--a group of West Virginia miners end up in the German States in 1632, and boy howdy, do Americans have a different idea of how to treat people than the Europeans in the seventeenth century LOL.  It was a totally rollicking read this time around as well--I still give it 5 stars out of 5!  And since the book itself (not counting the author's afterword) is 592 pages, it definitely counts as a chunkster :-0

This is my second-favorite time travel series after the beloved Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, so when I finished 1632, I dove straight into 1633.  Eric co-wrote this book with David Weber, another wonderful sci-fi author, and before the afterword, 1633 is 665 pages of purely delightful escapism fiction for any reader who enjoys history, politics, war, adventure, fantasy and romance all smashed together into a fast-paced storyline (another 5 stars out of 5).  By this time, the setting is the United States of Europe (and no, that is not a typo)...

I'm still engrossed in the Ring of Fire universe, but once we get to the year of our Lord 1634, the universe breaks into multiple books in separate locations with concurrent stories.  The final book I'll list here for now is 1634: The Baltic War.  Somehow, I ended up kinda out-of-order on 1634 by publication date, I think, but since the timeline coincides with events occurring in 1634: The Galileo Affair, I suppose it matters not which of the two gets read first. 

Just a warning--from this point forward, the list of characters (both historical/factual and fictional) increases tremendously, as do the settings.  The maps and charts thoughtfully provided by Flint and his co-authors help, but the reading necessarily slows in order to fully absorb nuances.  I'm still enjoying the series--The Baltic War gets a solid 4.75 stars--but I do feel that this book was a bit wordier than possibly necessary; some scenes could possibly be edited a bit tighter.  On the other hand, it is another chunkster, weighing in at 718 pages (not counting maps, genealogical charts, and a character list).

Since I want these to count for the Chunkster Challenge, so far I'm reading the series in either paperback or hardcover (I already own these four and several more--this is a keeper series for me).

I'll be back soon with a review of The Galileo Affair...