The Electricity Fairy

The Electricity Fairy
by Alex Mar

The inspiring true story of Loïe Fuller, a radical nineteenth-century art nouveau icon who turned artificial light into performance art and became the incandescent inventor of modern dance.

In a new era lit by Edison bulbs, Loïe Fuller was the quicksilver that connected scientific and artistic inspiration. In a flurry of shifting lights and serpentine spins, she inspired the earliest films of Georges Méliès and held Jean Cocteau spellbound. She even sought out the Curies for a radioactive showstopper. In this transportive and hypnotic historical narrative, the uninhibited Folies Bergère superstar la fée lumière is finally restored to her shimmering, glorious place in modern history.

The Electricity Fairy is part of Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era, a collection of incredible true stories from the belle epoque, an age of innovation, daring, bluster, and beauty when anything seemed possible. Each piece can be read, listened to, and marveled at in a single sitting.

Amazon’s Inventions: Untold Stories of the Beautiful Era collection may be my favorite discovery of 2019. It consists of three nonfiction novellas covering the inventions and discoveries of the early 1900s. I listened to the audiobook versions which were an interesting mix of audiobook and podcast. Actually, I often felt as if I was listening to a radio broadcast of the events. I enjoyed the format as a nonfiction lover and I feel it will make nonfiction more accessible for those new to the genre.

I started with listening to The Electricity Fairy, and am not ashamed to say I picked it because I thought it would be about the electricity wars between Edison and Tesla. (Nope…didn’t even bother to read the story summary.) I was pleasantly surprised to find myself learning about the life of Loie Fuller, dancer and harnesser of light. This was a historic figure/story that I knew NOTHING about…I GET TO LEARN SOMETHING NEW! That is why we read nonfiction right?

Loie Fuller, the Electricity Fairy, was a dancer who combined flowing fabric and colored lights to create mesmerizing performances. She was driven by the effects of light and motion, and was innovative in her use of extensive moving light rigs to produce her desired illusions. But The Electricity Fairy covers more than just dance and fancy lighting. This story introduces readers to Marie Currie’s research on radium and Edison’s push towards moving pictures through our artist’s personal association with the scientists. Readers are also provided a detailed description of period artistic movements, with Fuller’s activities highlighting how art mixed with industrial innovation to influence the society growing around the advancements.

The information presented in The Electricity Fairy was well researched and presented in an easy to read format. It is a wonderfully engaging mix of light, dance, and science.

Let me know if you have listened to the Inventions collection and happy reading!

Lindsay

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

by E.L. Konigsburg

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When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere — to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it?

Claudia is determined to find out. Her quest leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue, and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

Today’s review is over what some may consider the solving of the most important mystery ever uncovered: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

I actually do not remember reading From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in school. But I vaguely knew the story and would catch myself thinking of it during daydreams, so I must have read it. Thankfully, I was reintroduced to the mystery while birthday shopping for my godson. I stumbled across it on the ‘Back-To-School’ book table at Barnes and Noble and walked out that day with a copy for each of us!

I am not going to share a summary of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The synopsis does a great job and I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun for new readers. I am; however, going to start with the one negative thought I have (might as well just get the pesky bugger out of the way). I can understand why some parents would hesitate to share this story with their kids thanks to the whole running away from home thing. I don’t have any advice for parents. I’m sure there is a way to share the brilliance of this story while also ensuring kids understand that it’s not ok to runaway from home. I’ll just leave it at that. Phew…not that that’s out of the way.

I LOVE From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Love it. I love the interactions between Claudia and Jamie. I I adored Jamie’s penny pinching and sympathized with Claudia’s search for something more. I recognize so much of myself in Claudia Kincaid. We share the same need for a good plan, the want of something unique out of life, and a deep love for the mysterious! I found myself desperate to discover the truth about Angel, and was honestly sad when I had to put the book down and deal with life things.

But there is so much more to From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler than my connection to Claudia. Konigsburg’s brilliance is found in the details of the mundane tasks of bathing, eating regular meals, and washing clothes. She took a fanciful adventure and made it realistic as the children go about ordinary lives in an extraordinary local. And the setting makes you feel as is you are wondering the museum halls hand in hand with the Kincaids. Her story teaches readers that dealing with mundane chores does not mean one has to live a mundane life and that constantly seeking knowledge is essential for a good adventure.

Museums, mystery…what’s not to love?!? From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is a story worth revisiting year after year, for as Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler observed, you are never too young to experience and learn something new! And this story is the perfect way to remind yourself of that simple truth!

Please share your thoughts on From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler! I look forward to hearing them.

Lindsay

A Cast-off Coven

A Cast-off Coven

by Juliet Blackwell

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Students are spooked at the San Francisco School of Fine Arts, and Lily is called in to search for possible paranormal activity. In return she’s been promised a trunkful of Victorian-era clothes recently discovered in a school storage closet.

But Lily finds something else: the body of a wealthy patron of the school. In between running the store and seeing her new boyfriend, Max—a “mythbuster” who is uncomfortable with her witchcraft—she uses her sleuthing skills to try to solve the murder. Soon Lily senses something from the school’s vintage clothes, but it’s not the smell of mothballs—it’s the unmistakable aura of evil intent.

Lily banished La Llorona and life at Aunt Cora’s Closet has returned to normal. But Maya’s art school is haunted and Lily agrees to check it out in exchange for some antique dresses. She soon learns there is more than ghosts haunting the school and Lily is, once again, determined to banish dark spirits.

I always enjoy A Cast-off Coven because of the art school setting. Blackwell’s descriptions have me enthralled with the school and I wish the place was real! The building is gorgeous and historic, plus I like how the students are free to move around the campus and interact with a variety of mediums. The mystery is interesting as Lily must deal with a suicidal ghost and a lusty demon which takes her outside of her witchy brewing comforts. I love the dancing dresses inspired by Lily’s sex magic and the mysterious closet full of clothing. And I am a sucker for the creepy music box. I did craved more on the history of the clothes and the women who owned them. I’m a historian so I know that you rarely find those details in real life, but this is a cozy mystery. I want to know more! 

Readers are also introduced to a number of new interesting characters. There are a handful of artists but I quickly tired of the broody students and teachers. I did, however, enjoy Luc who is the gorgeous sculpture instructor and also happens to be the brother of hunky Max Carmichael, Lily’s crush. Her association with Luc causes some hard feelings between Lily and Max. We finally meet Sailor, a moody reluctant psychic who is my favorite character of the series! He is in debt to Aidan and is loaned out to help Lily in the battle. Plus we get to spend time with the Maya, Bronwyn, and Herve from Secondhand Spirits

The main men have not improved since Secondhand Spirits. In fact they have only gotten worse. Aidan is still annoyingly mysterious and demanding. It’s just hard for me to like a guy who tries to control everyone he meets. And I was sick of Max by the end of the book. He gets all aggressive and demanding with Lily after learning she was at the art school the night of the murder. He’s territorial when any other man is around her. He beats up Sailor but won’t say why. Lily has to find out about his past from other people and then has to push Max to open up at the end of the book. Plus, he refuses to accept Lily’s witchiness despite witnessing her bind the demon. I’m ok with the sexual tension between the two of them but it just seems like a failed relationship from the beginning. They do not have enough in common to keep them together.

I still enjoyed A Cast-off Coven and recommend it for paranormal cozy-mystery readers not wanting a fun steamy romance. I enjoyed it! Let me know what you think!

Lindsay