Tuesday, January 31, 2012

recollections outfit #2

Continuing yesterday's post about my recent purchases from historical clothing website  Recollections, I will now feature the second (and my favorite of the two dresses I ordered-  the Silk Ensemble:

Just two questions for you readers:
  • Which one do you like best?
  • Should I be smiling more in these photos?  I swear I am not normally so serious!  Just... camera-shy.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

recollections outfit #1

At the end of November the Victorian historical clothing business Recollections had a sale.  Your blogger hemmed and hawed for literally hours over whether I should spend my hard-earned money on items as frivolous as Victorian dresses.  Just ask Scott- I was whining so much about wanting the dresses and yet not having enough money for them that he turned to me several times and told me that if I wanted them that badly he'd buy them for me- probably just to get me to shut up.  

While I didn't take him up on the offer, I did end up caving in and purchasing two dresses.  They arrived last week.  While normal circumstances dictate that most of Recollections' dresses are made and shipped three weeks from purchase, their Christmas rush obviously delayed my merchandise from arriving sooner.  But the quality of the material and the craftsmanship on these outfits are just amazing.  They both don't quite fit- I was between sizes, so I ended up going for the next size up on each.  As a result the dresses fit just fine in length, but are too big around the torso area.  So now I just need to figure out if I want to take them to my grandmother for altering or attempt it myself.  

The first dress to be featured on this blog is the Josephine:

Friday, January 27, 2012

impulsive victorian house-buying

Have any of you dear readers ever had an "impulse buy"- something that either you knew you had to have at the moment of purchase despite having no idea what you would do with it, or purchased only because it was cheap?

A few weeks ago I was hunting around JoAnn.com. I had a 50% off coupon that expired that evening and, seeing as it was 10:30 of the night of the coupon's expiration date, I was eager to use it.  Unfortunately the coupon could only be used on one full-priced item, and all of the fabrics or larger sewing accessories were on sale.  Since it wasn't worth me using the coupon on smaller accessories as the shipping costs would cost more than the savings I would accrue with the coupons, I began to accept the fact that the coupon would go to waste.

Then I saw this Greenleaf Dollhouse Kit.

With a few quick second thoughts I put it in my virtual shopping cart and proceeded to checkout.

As to this day I have no idea why.  Impulsive buying isn't something I'm known to do, but I guess I just wanted a dollhouse and saw an opportunity to get one for relatively cheap.  It's not like I've ever had a real wood dollhouse or had a real desire for one; sisters or cousins young enough to enjoy such an item; or any nieces to give it to. My youngest sister, who inherited a rowhouse styled dollhouse from a deceased aunt, used to build dollhouse accessories for fun until she was 12 or 13.  But she's 18 now and has no need for another dollhouse to sit and collect dust in my parents' basement.

I think my rationalization of this purchase was as follows:

  • It's for my mom for Mother's Day! (This was under the assumption that the house was already painted, which it's not.  Besides, despite her love of Victorian houses and furniture, I am not sure she would actually appreciate this gift as much as I wanted to believe when I first purchased it.)
  • It might make a cool decoration for our apartment (Reader, it does not.  We have an ugly apartment that is already choking under the mixed styles of: a mismatch of furniture from my grandparents' house, plastic patio chairs used as kitchen table chairs, and the array of appliances, cleaning supplies, and other miscellaneous items hanging out on our mantelpiece because our apartment has zero closet space; my flea market Victorianesque knickknacks; two prints depicting American military warfare ranging from 1750-1815; and nearly a dozen framed 8x10 black and white movie star photos from the 1930s-1960s.)
  • It could always be used in a raffle for an event with the Steel City Steam Society (This has been the only realistic notion thus far).
But as soon as the package arrived bearing my new mini Victorian cottage, I realized that the project was much more extensive than I at first guessed.  So now I have a disassembled plywood dollhouse sitting in my apartment and no idea what to do with it.  

I did chat with my youngest sister about it though.  Even though she thinks it's incredibly bizarre of me to just randomly purchase a dollhouse, she is willing to help me construct it, as she will be attending college at one of the nearby universities next year.  I would like to make it into a steampunk-style dollhouse.  She would rather make it into a normal Victorian-style house.  We will see if this project comes to fruition.

Have you ever made a random or impulsive purchase?  If so, did you regret it, or did you put it to good use?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

fascinator fashion

So I was feeling rather adventurous fashion-wise this past Tuesday and decided to declare it fascinator outfit day.  I based an entire outfit around this fascinator I purchased last November at a steampunk Chinese auction:

Why? Just a spontaneous fashion urge- one that makes one declare: "I will wear whatever I want today!... as long as it's mostly work appropriate...."

Not that I usually have a problem with dressing appropriately for work.  I have had a few fails here and there (too-tight, low-cut lacy corset-influenced top wasn't a win as I didn't realize how bad it was until I tried moving around in it all day, and neither was my purple hair after my part-time job coworkers recovered from the initial first week's shock enough to politely ask me when it was going back to normal) but my full-time boss doesn't give a damn what I wear as long as I don't come to work naked.  And even then it might take him a good long while to notice, as he is usually in a head-bent-down-toward-his-iPhone sort of position whenever he first comes into the office. 

But he certainly noticed when he ran into me as we were crossing the path between his office door and my office door wearing this:

Which is amazing, because once it took two hours of waiting for him to comment on a women's shirt imported from his native India that I had inherited from another Indian friend before I finally broke down and asked him if he had noticed it.

Not that I was planning on wearing the fascinator in the office.  I wore it on my walk to work, but I took it off as soon as I entered the office, as I do with all of my hats.  I just happened to be getting ready to make a quick run to Staples when he came in for the first time that day, and so put it on for going out.

The full outfit:

The boots were ordered from DSW- gray-colored heels with a sexy lacing down the back.  The rose-patterned gray fishnets are from Target.  The sweater is an old blue one with ribbon decoration on the left side of the chest from Forever 21, while the skirt is a fishtail design from Anthropologie that I have previously featured here.  Since the weather was unseasonably warm on Tuesday, I wore the same plum-colored wrap I purchased at the Carlow flea market just a week and a half ago instead of my typical puffy winter coat.  Now THAT also impressed my boss, especially when I told him I had snagged the wrap for only $1.  

We sometimes speculate in our office whether he isn't actually one of those fashionably gay men that hides his sexual preferences due to some sort of Indian cultural taboo against homosexuality, as he is one of the best dressed men I know.  We do clash in some ways- he loves expensive brands, while I am a notorious penny pincher on both his business expenses and my clothing purchases.

But he does appreciate my fashion sense.  When I came back from Staples he was surprised and, dare I say it? even disappointed that I had taken my fascinator off, demanding to know why I hadn't kept it on.  I've also heard him brag to some of his sales reps about the uniqueness of my style.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

men's neo-victorian fall fashions 2012

Kudos to Julia Rose from the Steel City Steam Society for alerting our steampunk group to Prada's Fall/Winter 2012 men's line, which borrowed quite a bit of inspiration from the age of steel and steam and Queen Victoria.

All images taken from The Sartorialist:

Now the only question is: How do I convince Scott that it would be totally awesome for him to attire himself in this sort of garb?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

end of an era- 'poe toaster' is nevermore

I meant to comment on this sad current event earlier, but work and life got in the way.

Every year since 1949 a treasured tradition occurred where a mysterious man in a wide-brimmed hat and white scarf left three roses and a bottle of cognac on the grave of 19th century author Edgar Allan Poe on the date of his birth- January 19.  Dubbed the "Poe Toaster," this personage was never stopped and few attempts were made to reveal his identity.  The "Toaster" himself did not remain the same- in the 1990s the tradition was passed to a younger individual, with a note being left that the original Toaster had died the year before.

image source: RAVEN-OUS!

But in 2010, the Poe Toaster failed to show up.  In 2011 several imposters showed up.  How do we know that?  Poe House and Museum curator Jeff Jerome says that he and the Toaster have worked out a signal to determine if the "Toaster" was the real one- something the Toaster did at the grave every year why leaving his offerings.

This year a crowd kept vigilant and waited for the iconic figure to show up until nearly dawn.  More imposters showed up, but the real Toaster did not stand up. The tradition was declared "over" by Jerome.

So what happened to the Toaster?  Did he die suddenly?  Did he not take his duties as seriously as the first Toaster?  Or did he find 2009, the 200th anniversary of Poe's birth, an appropriate year the end the tradition?

What do you think happened?  Do you think the tradition is better left over and done with, or do you think a new "Toaster" should step up and continue the tradition?

News articles relating to this event:

Washington Post- "Edgar Allen Poe 'toaster' tradition is no more"
Los Angeles Times- "Sorrow for the lost 'Poe Toaster': no cognac, roses left at grave"
Gainesville Sun- "Edgar Allan Poe fans call an end to 'Toaster' tradition"
United Press International- "'Poe Toaster' a no-show at author's grave"

Friday, January 20, 2012

"gotham by gaslight" and batfit #3 progress update

image source: Comics Alliance

In an intriguing article entitled "'Gotham by Gaslight' and the Steampunk Batman Game That Never Was" on Comics Alliance, writer Chris Sims tells the tale of a 19th century themed Dark Knight video game.  The pitch?

The idea of Batman jumping across Victorian rooftps in Gotham City circa 1889 to slug it out with muttonchopped thugs, tracking trails of blood through shadowy streets, and having an epic confrontation with the real Jack the Ripper in a gothic graveyard on the graves of his own parents?

The article never offers up a reason why this delightfully dark Victorian adventure never made it to a gaming console near us in the 1990s.  But it does give one the opportunity to wonder: what if?

You can read the article in its entirety here.

image source: Comics Alliance
In other news...

So far my BatFit Challenge #3 has had mixed results.  Not enough impatience or perfectionism issues to note writing down.  Regarding my waking up challenge, however...

I utterly failed on Monday, but on Tuesday and Wednesday managed to surprise myself by only laying in bed a few minutes after my alarm went off before neglecting the warmth of my fleece sheets for the frigid winter air of a run-down Pittsburgh apartment bedroom.  It was nice on Wednesday especially as I ended up going to work super early to make up for time spent at my counseling appointment later that morning- thus getting rid of the necessity to stay longer to make up for the missed hour.  Thursday morning I failed again- I never heard my alarm and didn't awaken until one of my roommates woke me up an hour and a half later.

But I am not disheartened.  I am still striving to make this waking-up-on-time-on-a-regular-basis thing a reality. Even if I have to do this:


Thursday, January 19, 2012

picks from picard: health

This blog post on Liza Picard's Victorian London: The Tale of a City 1840-1870 will focus on Victorian health, medicine, and all such related topics.

image source: Musee McCord Museum

There were general hospitals, hospitals specializing in certain ailments (such as consumption) and even children's hospitals.  Hospitals were "voluntary"- this means that they depended on voluntary contributions to operate.  No state-run medical centers here.  As a result admittance to a hospital was very difficult for non-emergency cases.  One had to submit a petition and a properly filled out form to have their case examined and decided whether they would gain admittance to a hospital.  Money and influence helped "applicants" get their foot in the door during the Weekly General Admittance Day.

Medical schools connected to hospitals rose during the nineteenth century.  Before that a system of apprenticeship to a doctor was the more common method, although it still was used in the 19th century to produce doctors and other medical professionals in place of formal schooling.

Nursing training, however, was rather poor until the mid-19th century, when Florence Nightingale hit the nursing scene. At this time nurses were either members of some religious order, well-meaning but sadly untrained society ladies, or a secular individual who, more often than not, tended to have a reputation for ignorance in their trade and the habit of drinking, especially while on the job.  At the time there were differing opinions on the purpose of nurses:
What was a nurse supposed to do?  Should she look to the religious orders, and offer the patients spiritual consolation, ignoring their need for a bed-pan?  Or was she there to look after their verminous, stinking, diseased bodies and follow the doctor's...instructions?  Was she to be a lady or a ward maid? (p.185)
Florence Nightingale, a reclusive upper class woman disinterested in the normal female pursuits of marriage and family, worked tirelessly and obsessively to solve the problem, opening up a School of Nursing in 1860, to create sober, educated, quiet, clean, organized angels of the hospital wards.

Scientific methods of examining sick patients was replacing the leechings of the 18th century.  Stethoscopes, clinical thermometers, antiseptics, and improvements in microscopy were coming to the forefront.  It was beginning to be suggested that bandages not be used more than once, especially on gangrenous patients, and that operating rooms and surgical implements be disinfected with carbolic after each use.  There were old fuddy-duddy holdouts who wanted to do things as they had always done them, of course, but the connection between cleanliness and infection was beginning to be understood by the younger generation and applied.

Another advance was in anesthesia.  Before the anesthetics available were opium and alcohol.  By the 1840s chloroform had been  found to be very useful for knocking out a patient for surgeries, and was even used by Queen Victoria and other Victorian women to lessen the pain during several of their childbirths.

Many people were afraid to go to hospitals out of fear that their bodies would be taken away for dissection, which happened quite often to the poorer classes.  Deathbeds were watched closely, but if a person had no relatives or friends to take their body away from a workhouse or flat then the body usually ended up on the dissecting table.

Quack medicines were rampant, as were morphine and laudanum.  People easily overdosed on laudanum, a derivative of opium, but no restrictions were placed on the sale of these chemicals.  Only the sale of arsenic was regulated due to its common use in poisonings.

Epidemics were common- smallpox (despite the availability of a vaccine), typhus, cholera, and influenza to name a few.  The smallpox vaccine was enforced in both 1833 (not strongly) and 1867, reducing the cases of that disease.  The causes of these diseases were not always understood- some people believed in the miasma theory, where a bad smell directly caused people to be ill.  But during the Great Stink of 1858, in which parts of the Houses of Parliament became too smelly to use, no epidemic of any disease occurred.

For home nursing, the following "medicines" were commonly used for various ailments, although were by no means the only methods:

  • wine and gin
  • exercise- walking combined with the use of dumbells
  • reading aloud
  • willow bark for the ague
  • arsenic (for what diseases it doesn't say)
  • cold-baths and sea-bathing for consumption (or tuberculosis)
  • apply a bellows or the "kiss of life" (a.k.a. basic rescue breathing) for those who have appeared to died from drowning
  • a warm bath and laxatives for chickenpox
  • wine and "even" spirits for typhus
  • laxatives and leeches, along with "keeping up a state of nausea and vomiting" for the whooping cough

Florence Nightingale also wrote on the care of a sick person in the home, advising such small helpful comforts as: placing the sickbed near the window so the sick person could look outside; keeping the patient informed of developments so they are not apprehensive about the state of their condition; visits from babies; pet animals in the sickroom; sunny and open rooms; outdoor exercise; plenty of amusement and play; less schooling; and good meals.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

flea market finds

Despite hibernating most of this past weekend due to the below freezing temperatures that descended on the great Steel City itself, I managed to get out on Sunday morning to an advertised flea market at Carlow University.  After parking illegally in a deserted permit-parking only lot, I found the Antonian theater and had an enjoyable look around.

I ended up purchasing the following items:

Three candlesticks.  The tapers were purchased separately.
A velveteen wrap.  It appears to be plum-colored, although it also looks brown and black in the light.
A doorknob.  This purchase was mostly made to complete a walking stick accessory I have been planning for some time now.
The flea market will be going on all month, so if you are in the Pittsburgh area stop by Carlow for antique goods and junk.  There is a "decorative: cast-iron stove there, as well as a nice tea set and a bunch of drug store bottles and candlesticks.

Monday, January 16, 2012

adventures in sewing

Note regarding yesterday's post:  Le Professeur Gothique reminded me that I need to replace the negatives with positives.  So here they are:

  1. Replace oversleeping with using that time that I would have slept to either write or exercise before I go to work in the morning.
  2. Replace perfectionism and impatience with more "me" time, or asking for more "me" time from my friends and boyfriend.
Now on to today's planned post.

The sewing machine that Scott got me for Christmas has already seen much use.  Besides leaving the apartment weekly for the steampunk Stitch 'n Bitches that I regularly attend, I have also been using much of the little spare time I have in trying out new projects.

Oddly enough, I never seem to work on my Stitch 'n Bitch project- a brown Victorian skirt- in my own apartment.  Instead I've made a pair of completely useless transparent curtains for three windows in our apartment and a pre-measured apron sewing "kit" from Wal-Mart that just needed to be sewn together and assembled.  The apron, a gift for my twin sister who is currently residing in Germany, is pictured below:

The model is yours truly in fully unfashionable work clothes.
All I have to do is add real buttons to the stupid fabric "buttons"  printed on the actual apron.

There are a ton of mistakes on these projects, but I have only seam ripped items when I know I didn't follow the directions right, not when I actually made some sort of thoughtless stitching blunder.   Otherwise I would have to do both the unevenly cut curtains and somewhat oddly cinched apron over again. 

Keeping these mistakes is, I hope, something that will help me curb my tendency toward debilitating perfectionism that sometimes prevents me from finishing projects or works in progress. 

It certainly helps when I think of them as simply "learning tool projects" rather than actual gifts or useful items.  The apron I am sending to my sister as is only because she can only take so many items back with her when she leaves Germany, so if she wants to throw out my apron I have no problem with it.  The transparent curtains will be pitched or reused for another project when I move out of this apartment- whether that's in eight months or 5 years.

I have learned many things from just the apron alone- such as the uses of topstitching and what an overlocking stitch is.  It took me forever to discover how to actually do the latter, but the research I put into it gave me greater understanding of its function, which made me appreciate it all the more.

Yesterday I was shopping around JoAnn Fabrics when I discovered that Simplicity was having another sale on its patterns- this time $0.99 a pattern.  So I decided to buy the following Victorian-era patterns, even if it might be a good long while until I get to them:

While I am not a fan of Civil War fashion, I just loved this dress.
Hey, no one will notice gross mistakes on your historical undergarments.  Unless you'r wearing only these garments to an Emilie Autumn concert...
I really only bought this pattern for the Western dress on the lower left and the simple slutty skirt on the upper left.

For Scott!  What good is a boyfriend if he can't be a guinea pig?  
I am extremely excited to keep learning more about sewing various items.  So far I am spending more time and money than is actually profitable compared to buying something online, but hopefully that will change sometime in the not too distant future.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

batfit challenge #3: good and bad habits

While I have not posted one of Le Professeur Gothique's Bat Fit challenges before, I do know there is a lot I need to work on to get to a happier, healthier me overall.  No, I don't need to lose weight- but I need to exercise on a more regular basis.  No, my eating habits aren't terrible- but I've developed a sugar addiction that resulted in a drinking habit (because alcoholic drinks are sugary) which resulted in drinking too often which resulted in the depressant role of the alcohol kicking in and making my depression worse than it was.  I only kicked the drinking by eating more processed sugary food, so I've got a bigger sugar monster than I had previously to boot.  My social life is relatively healthy, but I still shut people out all too often.  And I am unhappy with my current job situation.

So in response to Le Professeur Gothique's Bat Fit Challenge #3:
For this Bat Fit Challenge you are to give up a bad habit, and in turn, replace it with a good habit.
I will strive to give up the following three bad habits:

  1. Oversleeping and not getting up to my alarm.  While this may be a symptom of my depression, I have always been terrible with waking up and getting out of bed since about junior high school.  Since I have a job that is extremely lax on when my actual working hours are as long as I put my hours in, I tend to not rush with waking up, sometimes getting to work as late as 11 a.m.  I also commonly sleep for ten hours straight.  Not a healthy habit.
  2. Impatience.  I am a NOW NOW NOW type of person and want immediate results.  Unfortunately the waiting game is part of getting a career-type job, and I too often jump straight to despair when my resumes are not responded to or interviews are not forthcoming.  
  3. Perfectionism.  This evil is the main reason I have not written many stories in the past six years.  I keep thinking everything has to be absolutely perfect before being sent to a publisher.  I am hoping that my new sewing hobby will kill that to an extent- I've already let small mistake remain that way, instead of ripping the seams out and starting all over again with a section of work.

Oddly enough, the first one will be the hardest.  I have actually managed to kick the habit and regain it numerous times already.  I just didn't kick it for long enough to make waking up with my alarm a habit in of itself.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

memorable vintage weddings a la steampunk

I am not really into big wedding ceremonies.  In fact, most of my friends and some of my family predict that if I finally decide to tie the knot I will simply just elope.  I've done nothing to convince them that such a assumption is erroneous.

That being said, I would certainly agree to a more traditional wedding if it looked more like this steampunk ceremony posted on Ruffled, a vintage wedding blog:

image source: Ruffled
image source: Ruffled
image source: Ruffled

image source: Ruffled
image source: Ruffled
The details are just amazing- from the clockwork on the tables and bouquet to the bales of hay as seating and the pearl-strung stick-crafted gazebo cover for the wedding altar.

image source: Ruffled

image source: Ruffled

image source: Ruffled

image source: Ruffled

image source: Ruffled

Thursday, January 12, 2012

future planning- cons

There may be a lack of posts for a while.  I've picked up a part-time job on top of my current full-time position that promises to turn into a more secure full-time job if I play my cards right.  While my current work situation is secure for now, its stability shakes or totters at certain moments, and money is becoming a worrying issue. Not getting paychecks on time on a regular basis and being lied to or having information withheld from one does frighten the average person in these trying economic times.  I am grateful to have a job, but it only becomes volunteer work if the money stops coming in- and I don't love what I do that much to work for free.

Since money is tight, I will have to forgo a European vacation this summer.  Instead I am going to spend my "vacation" time going to various steampunk conventions.  I am not sure exactly how many or which ones I want to attend, but I believe I have it narrowed down to the following:
I will have to calculate gas, hotel and food cost for these events.  The Cincinnati one can easily be a one-day trip for me, getting rid of the need for a hotel.  Fortunately I can also carpool with some steampunkers for some of these events, saving on gas and, potentially, hotel rooms.

I will probably do two or three.  It will also give me a reason to finish my steampunk sewing projects all the more quickly. 

Will any of you be attending any of these conventions?

Monday, January 9, 2012

filling the pantry- cheaper now than then

image source: Village of Second River Bellevield, NJ blog

While web surfing this afternoon I found yet another reason why I much prefer to be in the technologically-advanced 21st century of refrigeration and speed shipping rather than in the Victorian era.

According to the article "Groceries are 13 times cheaper than 150 years ago" by Michael Lloyd on the website Totally Money, we pay much less for groceries than the average Joe of the 19th century.

[The magazine The Grocer] calculated the increase in prices by applying an average earnings measure of inflation to the 1862 prices of a basket of commonly-bought goods. The study looked at 33 items such as a dozen eggs, bread, hot chocolate, grapes, a toothbrush and a litre of sherry.

The analysis found a Victorian shopper would need to spend a third of their monthly income on food. Today, modern consumers spend less than 10% of their income on groceries. The magazine, which carried out the research to help mark its 150th birthday, put the price disparity down to rising wages and the increase in cheaper foreign imports over the course of the last century and a half.
While the price differentials may be easier for my UK readers to understand, there is such a large number gap between the calculated costs that I doubt too many people should have difficulty understanding that food was more costly in 1862 than now.  Such examples include the following:

A pineapple would have cost an 1862-shopper the equivalent of £149 in today’s money, compared to the £1.72 the fruit was available for last week – a fall over the last century and a half of 8,553%. One kilogram of grapes was found to be 7,419% cheaper in today’s money than in 1862, while a melon is now 5,971% more affordable than 150 years ago, according to the calculations.

All of the above are non-native fruits that have fallen in price dramatically as foreign imports have become cheaper.

The cost of 250g of tea was 2,713% higher in 1862 than it is in real terms today, while our Victorian ancestors would have been forced to shell out and extra 1,138% and 451% respectively for their butter and bread, compared to the prices consumers can expect to pay today.

You can read the rest of the article here.

What do you appreciate about the 21st century that the 19th century either lacked or did differently?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"the electric jesus"

I apologize for being MIA the past few days.  This new year has been extremely busy workwise.  As a result I am not sure how much time I can dedicate to this blog.

Although I do not condone binge drinking, I thought it might be appropriate for this blog to give some attention to the hilarious series known as "Drunk History" on Funny or Die.  In this webseries, various narrators drink to excess and then discuss historic events while completely plastered.  I don't know what would possess anyone to destroy their bodies so much for the sake of "comedy," but I hypocritically enjoy their efforts nonetheless.

Such as the following skit on Nikola Tesla, that demi-god of the steampunk world (WARNING: There is explicit vomiting in this particular skit):

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

review: changeless

For Christmas I received Changeless, the second novel in Gail Carriger's steampunk paranormal sci-fi romance series, The Parasol Protectorate series.  My review on the first novel, Soulless, can be read here.

The second novel begins three months after the last novel ended.  A humanization weapon has touched down upon England, restoring immortals such as vampires and werewolves to a human form, and exorcising ghosts within a certain radius.  Former spinster Alexia Tarabotti, now Lady Maccon, muhjah to the British government and wife of the Earl of Woolsey, must find out what this weapon is and destroy evidence of it before evil scientists, supernaturals, and fearful daylight folk can use it to the greater harm of the global supernatural community.  The mission takes her from an eccentric hat shop in London to a dirigible in the aether to the Scottish Highlands, where much tea is consumed, fashion discussed, near-murders committed and relationships explored.

For the second book in this series I have quite a lot of good things to say, as well as some unsatisfactory items of note.

image source: Fangs for the Fantasy
To start out, the transition from the previous book to the next is terrific.  One is instantly thrown into Alexia's new world as Alpha female of the Woolsey pack, with her still learning her new places as a wife and as a political figure while still using her razor sharp tongue and incomparable wit to keep her husband and combative supernaturals in place.  Several interesting new characters are introduced, while bits of Lord Maccon's past come out and one learns that a parasol can be a very useful technologically advanced weapon indeed.  The plot moves along swiftly and to an exciting conclusion of the mission in a logical but sometimes too-obvious way, the actual ending of the novel is leaves the reader with a revelation and a cliffhanger that is completely unexpected and completely Victorian.

As a result I have to read the next book in the series, Blameless, to find out what happens next.

While sequels often do not handle relationships between main characters whose romances blossom in the previous story very well, Changeless was a refreshing read.  Lord Maccon is just as in love (and in lust) with his wife as he was in the first story, and Alexia acts as her practical, less sex-driven self would behave.  Both characters are constantly verbally sparring with each other as well, in a more sarcastically loving way, and despite both being Alpha personalities, still assume aspects of their stereotypical Victorian gender roles as man and woman (with Alexia screaming about a "cockroach" while Lord Maccon calmly stomps it to death).

As I was promised by karen!  there were less romance scenes in this novel- very much appreciated by yours truly.

And kudos to Carriger for considering that Victorian dresses would be completely unsuitable on a windy dirigible- that is, unless they were weighted.  A nice little made-up fashion detail that has one thinking- "Oh yeah, airship travel would probably have that difficulty."

The cons were few but I believe need to be pointed out.  I must complain that Carriger's minor characters are way too flat.  Their motives are always obvious and one can almost nearly always guess what their next move is going to be.  Ivy Hisselpenny in particular was rather too stupid to be justifiable as more than a passing character in this novel.  Despite being stinking drunk, to comment on the inappropriateness of a friend's undergarments showing while she is hanging on for dear life on the side of a dirigible is just plain ridiculous.  And the villain of this story was just as thoughtless as the villain in the last- getting way too sloppy and not paying attention to details at the end.

Also, I am not sure if this is a flaw with the author's writing or I am just brilliant in picking up the clues, but I knew who the spy was and what the weapon was way before the other characters knew.  I'm pretty sure that it's not the latter though, so I guess that the clues dropped were too obvious.  I could discuss them here, but I would rather not spoil the story for someone else.  It's not like the foresight ruined my enjoyment of the story though.

The last complaint- for a character that apparently doesn't pay attention to fashion, Lady Maccon certainly thinks about it and comments on it way too much.  I would rather Carriger just admitted that Alexia is interested in fashion- even if it's considered to be to a lesser degree than other girls.

Overall I did thoroughly enjoy the story and am currently considering whether to find out if the cliffhanger resolves itself in the next book, Blameless, sooner rather than later.  I had planned to read Fydor Dostoevsky's The Idiot first, but that novel is at least 800 pages and may take me a good two-three months to get through.  Methinks that Changeless's dang cliffhanger is just too titillating for me to ignore for that long.

Monday, January 2, 2012

disney's just steaming!

Scott recently shared with me an interesting page he found on BuzzFeed that depicts DeviantArt artist Mecanique Fairy's digital drawings.  The best part about her creations is their unique takes of classic Disney animated characters in steampunk form.

Five of the eleven images are shown below:

Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty
(Everyone should own a clockwork raven)
Captain Hook from Peter Pan
(Finally, a Captain Hook who doesn't look like Charles II of England!)
Hades from Hercules
(He looks actually evil.  Love the boiler meter on his shoulder where his toga pin usually is)
The Beast from Beauty and the Beast
(steam-powered magical flower anyone?)
Clopin from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(It so fits, and I can't even explain how except to say that he's as wonderfully lanky as he was in his jester outfit... but I know there's a better way to describe it.)
Check out the rest of Mecanique Fairy's artwork on her DeviantArt account here.