An intriguing, and at times wry, set of gaslamp short stories

TITLE = WILFUL IMPROPRIETY

EDITOR = EKATERINA SEDIA

GENRE = VICTORIAN AGE, MAGIC, GASLAMP FICTION

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 10+

As Scott Westerfeld explains in his foreword, the Victorian era was an intriguing mix of decorum and chaos; decorum was evident in the strict social mores of the time whilst the development of the steam engine meant that the social barriers of the times were constantly being threatened. This wonderful collection of stories plays on this contrast. Many of the characters take a leaf from Shakespeare’s plays and have their heroes/heroines use cross-dressing camouflage  to explore the times (“At Will by Leanne Renee Hieber and “Resurrection” by Tiffany Trent are two fine examples). Popular NZ author, Karen Healey,   introduces a touch of magic to spice up the romance in “Mrs Beeton’s Book of Magikal Management”. Whilst others explore the romance and propriety of the Social Season in “The Language of Flowers” (Caroline Stevermer) and “”The Dancing Master” (Genevieve Valentine). This is a book to be dipped into with great pleasure to see how other young folk rebelled against the strictures of their times … to follow their hearts or simply to survive a Season.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****  

An exciting mix of gaslamp romance and steampunk adventure

TITLE = SONG OF THE SLUMS

AUTHOR = RICHARD HARLAND

GENRE = GASLIGHT ROMANCE, STEAMPUNK

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Astor Vance believes she is to marry Phillidas Swale, from the wealthy industrialist family of Swales. The marriage means she is to leave her mother and stepfather and move into the luxurious Swale residence but at least she has been able to bring along some of her favourite musical instruments. For Astor loves music, a love she shared with her beloved musician father, before he was killed by a bullet during street gang riots in London.

So imagine Astor’s surprise when she arrives at the Swale residence to find that her intended engagement is not entirely as expected. Alone in a new, enormous household, the only person she can turn to is the one servant her stepfather has left behind: the rather smug, Verrol, who she barely knows.

Astor is a strong young lady, determined to survive against whatever life throws at her, even if this means abandoning her beloved classical music for the newer style from the slums near her home: loud, brash and with an unmistakable beat, this music stirs the soul of all who hear it. Will Astor be won over to its rhythms and passion?? And will she find her feelings for Verrol go from friendship to something deeper…. despite his hidden past??

This is a thoroughly engaging story from Richard Harland; a gaslight romance that is full of action and adventure and set against a steampunk London in the mid 1850s. Readers will be eager to turn each page to follow Astor’s adventures as she battles the wealthy Swales, the streetgangs and her own heart!

Highly Recommended (dma) *****    

An exciting “gaslamp” novel

TITLE  = THE TRUTH ABOUT VERITY SPARKS

AUTHOR = SUSAN GREEN

GENRE = ADVENTURE, SUPERNATURAL, HISTORICAL FICTION, MYSTERY, DETECTIVE

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7 & 8

What a truly delightful book! When the novel opens in 1878, Verity Sparks (an orphan) happily works in a hat shop in London. However, due to circumstances beyond her control, Verity suddenly loses her job and finds herself wandering the streets of London, clutching her few possessions. Her three most prized treasures were given to her from her dying mother: a little quilt, a ring and an old coin. London isn’t a safe place for young girls on their own, so when Verity is saved fromthe local louts on the streets, she is thankful to be whisked away in a carriage .. but just a little hesitant, too …who is this kind stranger? Where is he taking her? And is she safe after all?

What soon becomes apparent is that there are even more mysteries in store for Verity: what is the “magical” power that enables her to find lost things? Can this ability be put to use for the good of others?? Or is it going to be a curse for young Verity? And why does someone seem to be chasing her? Perhaps the most important mystery of all involves Verity’s birth and those three treasures she has inherited from her mother.

Readers are sure to be caught up in the adventure of this story and be truly engaged by our spunky and determined heroine, Verity Sparks.

A worthy inclusion in the short list of the CBCA Book of the Year, YR (2012)

Read more about the book here.

Read more about the author here or check out her blog.

Read about some of Susan’s other books here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Read about Susan Green’s visit to Book Club and check out the video which records this exciting event here.