Monthly Archives: May 2014

Eleanor Hoffmann, Mischief in Fez

(2014-04-25 003)Title: Mischief in Fez

Author: Eleanor Hoffmann; illustrated by Fritz Eichenberg

Publication Information: [No place]: Published by the heirs of Eleanor Hoffmann on createspace, [2013?], c1943.

Library of Congress Classification: PZ8.H67

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Sons—Juvenile fiction
Jinn—Juvenile fiction
Fathers—Juvenile fiction
Good and evil—Juvenile fiction
Fennec—Juvenile fiction
Fès (Morocco)—Juvenile fiction

Mischief in Fez is a wonderful children’s book. Published in 1943, the author travelled for many years before arthritis slowed her down. She then took up writing children’s books.

This story takes place in Fez, Morocco, while there was a sultan and there were no technological advancements. Mousa is an only child of the honored judge Mohammed Ali. Ali is known for his fairness and honesty. Loualou is his nurse from the Niger. All is well until his father decides to bring home a new wife. (Mousa’s mother died many years before.) She brings with her a beautiful gazelle.

Strange things begin to happen. There’s a plague of scorpions, then the orange tree in the courtyard is uprooted and moved. People see Mousa doing bad things, so everyone turns against him; no one no believes Mousa. Loualou sends Mousa to the market to find a holy man. Only a holy man can tell Mousa how to get rid of djinns, evil spirits from the desert who are in league with Satan and only wish to harm humans. From him Mousa learns how to contact good djinns to help his family and the household. And thus the adventure begins.

Jackie at the Silver Tips Tea Room loves this book. She read it as a child and wanted to get a copy of it. Unfortunately, it is out of print; copies now go for quite a bit of money. Here’s an example of “ask and ye shall receive.” Jackie emailed Amazon.com to see if the book could be released as an ebook. It was, and for $3 you can get the book with all the black and white illustrations.

The book is charming and will teach children about another culture. It was a fun read.

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Jamie Campbell, Cinderella is Evil

(2014-04-25 002)Title: Cinderella is Evil

Author: Jamie Campbell

Publication Information: [No place: no publisher], c2013.

Library of Congress Classification: PS3603.A993466

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Cinderella (Legendary character)—Fiction
Stepsisters—Fiction
Stepmothers—Fiction
Princes—Fiction
Balls (Parties)—Fiction

Okay, I don’t know if this take on Cinderella can be called a novel or not, since it’s such an easy read. This story is from the perspective not of the poor, abused child who grows into Cinderella, but one of her “ugly” stepsisters, Anna, narrates the tale. Anna admits that she is not good-looking, and that everyone knows how beautiful Cinderella is. When Cinderella’s father marries her mother and the girls come to live together, there is happiness. Only when the father gets sick and dies do things take a turn for the worse. The stepmother withdraws not only from Cinderella but also from her own daughters, whom she begins to order about to try and make them suitable matches for rich men; the family is heading for penury.

According to Anna, Cinderella withdraws completely from the stepmother and her stepsisters. Anna blames the death on the changes in her mother and in Cinderella. The mother she knew is gone, to be replaced by a task-master and a harpy. There’s no physical abuse of the step-sisters or Cinderella; Cinderella chooses to continue to do the worst tasks because, according to Anna, it is a way to take her mind off the pain she feels at the loss of her father.

One fun scene is when Charming shows up with the slipper to try on Anna and her sister. Anna admits to having the same shoe-size as Cinderella (they used to wear each other’s shoes), and she’s terrified that she’ll fit into the shoe. (She doesn’t like Charming.) And where is Cinderella? Anna wonders.

It’s a fun, breezy read as well as a nice twist on the fairy tale.

Rhys Bowen, Royal Blood

(2014-04-25 004)Title: Royal Blood

Author: Rhys Bowen

Series: Royal Spyness mystery

Publication Information: New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2011, c2010.

ISBN: 9780425243749

Library of Congress Classification: PR6052.O848

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Rannoch, Georgie (Fictitious character)–Fiction
Royal weddings–Romania–Fiction
Royal weddings–Bulgaria–Fiction
Castelul Bran (Bran, Brașov, Romania)–Fiction
Transylvania (Romania)–Fiction

Lady Georgiana–Georgie to her friends–is 38th in line for the British throne. Her father squandered away the family fortune and committed suicide, her mother took off when she was a child to become and actress–and a playgirl–and her brother, the latest lord of Rannoch, has married a woman who tries to be more royal than the royalty. She thinks that Georgie should marry and not continue to be a “burden” to her family. As a result, Georgie gets no allowance to live on, and this being the 1930s, she has not gone to college but to a finishing school that taught her how to land a husband and raise a family.

Nonetheless, Georgie tries to find work so that she can eat. She has no intention of simply marrying anyone; she wants to marry for love. Watching the London house for her brother, Georgie hasn’t eaten in days because she has no money. Her sometimes penniless Irish lord boyfriend, Darcy, takes her out to dinner and they end up in Georgie’s bedroom–just in time for her brother and his imperious wife to catch them. Having come down from their castle in Scotland, the couple (in particular her sister-in-law) is scandalized at what she finds and banishes Darcy into the night.

And thus the book begins. The royal family has no problem asking Georgie to represent them or take care of relatives, but they do so without a stipend–except for the representation of the royal family at the wedding of the princess from Romania and the prince from Bulgaria. Only problem: she has no personal maid and must find one immediately.

These characters are fun. Georgie travels in the highest circles of society, and you meet all different personalities–some of them oddballs–in her class. The term “fairy” is tossed around several times in the book. In all cases the term is used to describe a gay man, particularly one who marries but who cannot satisfy his wife in bed. After using the term to Georgie, her mother explains that “fairies” are wonderful people to talk with, have fun, and befriend, but they cannot satisfy a woman in bed and would make a terrible marriage partner. (At least one royal character is gay.)

The young woman whom Georgie engages as her personal maid is a disaster. The head of the Romanian police is scary, and Georgie thinks that a vampire has visited her and her maid, who suddenly disappears in the middle of the book. And then Darcy suddenly appears, having been a “good friend” of the crown prince of Bulgaria.

And where does this wedding take place? Castle Bran, located in Transylvania. This castle is one that is associated with Vlad Țepeș Dracula, the prince of Wallachia, although Vlad never lived in Transylvania; he was, however,  imprisoned for two months in Castle Bran. Târgoviște was the capital of Wallachia, where Vlad ruled. It is believed that Bram Stoker, when creating the character Dracula, used an image of Castle Bran that he found in a book as the basis for his Castle Dracula.

Anyway, this is one of the first novels in the Royal Spyness mystery series. I just liked Georgie and thought the rest of the characters were a hoot.

Emma Daniels, Avion

(2013-11-15 002)TitleAvion

Author: Emma Daniels

Series: Crystal Rose chronicles (book 1)

Publication Information: Smashwords edtion. [No place: no publisher], 2011.

Library of Congress Classification: PS3604.A969267

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Princesses–Fiction
Knights and knighthood–Fiction
Pirates–Fiction
Wizards–Fiction
Imaginary places–Fiction
Adventure and adventurers–Fiction

I didn’t like this book when I started it, but I’m glad I stuck with it.

The first few chapters are about Krystos, the captain of the ship, the Crystal Rose. He’s fleeing from his homeland into the unknown. Exactly what Krystos has done isn’t revealed until nearly the end of the book; he killed someone, exactly who is not revealed.

It isn’t made clear for the first few chapters exactly who, other than Krystos, is a main character. There’s a young mage introduced who is hearing a voice in his head–the voice that is teaching him the secrets of magic. Only later do we learn that he is Leonado, the son of Lorenso, one of the last powerful mages left in Avion.

The Crystal Rose is wrecked, and the young cabin boy whom Krystos has abused for fun (and sex), is washed overboard and is about to die when two dolphins rescue him and take him to a cove where he begins his journey. This is Alecsis, the cabin boy who grows up to be one of the greatest knights in Avion.

There’s a beautiful princess, lots of magic, and a quest that begins at the end of the book. Also, people that are introduced and you think are going to be around for a while are killed. Nasty things happen to good people, but you nonetheless continue to root for the good, hoping the horrible things that are happening can be reversed or at least stopped.

The idea of someone being killed and their essence being able to simply take over another at will is what I had the problem with at the beginning. Krystos discovers that he has that power when his body is killed and he takes over the body of one of his crew. Leonado, who created the storm that wrecked the Crystal Rose, makes an alliance with Krystos who gains control over an evil, enchanted sword.

I’m not sure exactly what it is that Krystos is able to transfer to his new body–his consciousness, his soul? It’s never really explored as to how he simply pushes out the consciousness in the body he takes over. And take them over he does–except for Alecsis, who is able to push him away. There’s a special bond between Alecsis and Krystos, which can be guessed from the hints that are dropped towards the end of the book.

This was a surprisingly good book.