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The Coffee Book Tag – Dieselpunk Style

It’s been a lifetime since last I did a book tag. Recently, I came across a book tag on Book Amino, the Coffee Book Tag, and since I’m a reader and a coffee drinker, I couldn’t resist!

So, here’s my take at it. Welcome to the Coffee Book Tag – Dieselpunk Style

Black Coffee

(Name a series that’s tough to get into but has hardcore fans)

Gereon Rath Krimi Series
Volker Kutscher

I wish my German would allow me to read the series in the language it was written, but at the moment I have to content myself with an English translation, though only the first book of the series (Babylon Berlin) is currently available in English. 

This is a mystery series set in Berlin in 1929, involving the central Alexanderplatz police station, the Homicide Division in particular. The first book started reeeeeealy slow. I was quite disappointed, for the pace, sure, but especially for the setting. True, this is set in 1929… but there is very little ‘historical’ about it. I’m sorry to say I had the clear feeling that this is actually a contemporary story slapped down in 1929 Berlin without any concern for historical accuracy. 

So you’ll understand why I was disappointed, and I was wondering how it was that in Germany this series was so popular that it will soon become a tv series, when things turned interesting. Granted, the historical setting didn’t get any better, but the story truly turned into a page-turner. There is an idea at the heart of the story that I didn’t expect and made things so much more interesting. 

Would I recommend it? Well, it depends. If you like mysteries, this is sure a good read. If you like historical novels… ehhh, maybe not. 

Peppermint Mocha

(Name a book that gets more popular during the winter or a festive time of year)

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club
Genevieve Valentine

Now I’ll admit I haven’t read the book yet, though I’ve bought it recently, but it does sound like something for the festive season. First of all, it is a fairy tale retelling, specifically of the Twelve Dancing Princesses… and it is set in 1920s New York. How could I ever resist this?

The book has been out for some time and I actually read quite good reviews about it. So I’m really curious to read it.

From award-winning author Genevieve Valentine, a “gorgeous and bewitching” (Scott Westerfeld) reimagining of the fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses as flappers during the Roaring Twenties in Manhattan.

Jo, the firstborn, “The General” to her eleven sisters, is the only thing the Hamilton girls have in place of a mother. She is the one who taught them how to dance, the one who gives the signal each night, as they slip out of the confines of their father’s townhouse to await the cabs that will take them to the speakeasy. Together they elude their distant and controlling father, until the day he decides to marry them all off.

Hot Chocolate

(What is your favourite children book?)

The Diviners
Libba Bray


I’ll have to cheat again. When I was a child, I’ve never read a novel that may fall into the dieselpunk/diesel era genre (though I watched my share of films from the diesel era). So I thought to mention The Diviner because this is a very popular book for YA. Set in 1920s New York, involving spirits and magic… it is the right fare.

I did read the first few chapters of the book, you know, the ones that come with a book preview, and while the writing is really captivating, I can’t say I appreciated the historical setting too much. Inaccurate for the sake of making it politically correct, which is possibly the worst reason for being inaccurate – but it’s just my opinion.

There’s a sequel to The DivinersLair of Dreams, which apparently wasn’t quite as popular.

Double Shot of Expresso

(Name a book that kept you on the edge of you seat from start to finish)

The Wise Man Says
Bard Constantine

The Wise Man Says is actually a prequel, in the form of a novella, to Bard Constantine’s dieselpunk series The Troubleshooter. I read the first book in the series before I read the novella, and really the novella sounds a lot more mature than the first book. There is a definite noir sense to it, a more ominous atmosphere and where New Heaven’s Blues sounds like a fun adventure, The Wise Man Says is more of a mystery, truly noir story.
I really really liked it.


(Name a book you see everywhere)

Charles A. Cornell

The thing with dieselpunk books is that there aren’t a lot of them – at the moment. But if I had to mention the one that comes up more frequently in the community, I’d say Charles Cornell’s Dragonfly. Cornell is very popular in the dieselpunk community. He is very active too and is considered one of the leading author in the retrofuturistic subgenre.

This is an odd dieselpunk story. Some elements are undoubtedly characteristic of the genre: WWII setting, aerial fights (the best part of the book, in my opinion), secrets, the Nazis as the evil enemy. But there are also a few different ideas that really sounds unique: alchemy and the mix in of Celtic legends are the most notable.

I didn’t feel they worked perfectly together, but it is indeed a different take at the genre.

In 1942 an unlikely heroine changes the course of history. Twenty-two year old RAF pilot Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Somerset is determined to overcome every obstacle to become Britain’s first female combat pilot. When ‘Ronnie’ is assigned to Enysfarne, a mysterious Royal Navy base off the coast of Cornwall, fate places her inside the cockpit of a revolutionary new aircraft powered by quadra-hydrogen, the DragonFly, a plane that carries the hopes of Britain on its blue and silver wings.

The Hipster Coffee Shop

(Give a book by an indie author a shout out)

Broken Time Blues
Edited by Jaym Gates & Erika Holt

When I first got into dieselpunk, this is one of the first books I read. It was a good idea since this is still the dieselpunk anthology. It gathers many voices of the community, writing very different subjects, with very different moods and intents, but all falling neatly into the dieselpunk genre. It certainly displays the diversity of this genre, that sometimes is narrowed down too much even by dieselpunks themselves.

Not all the authors in the anthology are indies, but most of them are.

No blind tigers or coffin varnish here. Broken Time Blues may be poorly lit, and not in the best part of town, but it’s classy joint, see? The cat’s meow. So toss on your glad rags and get a move on. Make sure no one follows you, then take a right down the alley and knock three times on the brown door. There won’t be a sig.. Code word’s “applesauce.” It’s okay to get your friends hip to the jive, but hush. Speakeasy, Bulls and Mrs. Grundys might be listening. Inside you’ll be amazed by twelve outlandish tales. An alien burlesque dancer; a monstrous, people eating goddess; a buried city of automatons; Picasso as a villainous, flesh-sculpting wizard; a fae detective; a bootlegging chicken; and more. Broken Time Blues: the 1920s as you’ve never seen them…but always wanted to.

Ooops! I Accidently Got Decaf

(Name a book you were expecting more of)

Time and Regret
M.K. Todds

Not that I didn’t like it, but I was certainly expecting different things from this book. It presents a dual timeline, and this is where I probably got mixed up. A part of the story is set during WWI, while the other is set in the early 1990s. I was expecting the WWI section to have a lot more weight in the story, which turned out to be mostly a romance happening in 1991. My problem was that I was much more involved in the WWI section, so I wanted to get more of that rather than the romance.

But of course, this is entirely just me. Other readers will appreciate the book for the very same reason it partially let me down.

When Grace Hansen finds a box belonging to her beloved grandfather, she has no idea it holds the key to his past—and to long-buried family secrets. In the box are his World War I diaries and a cryptic note addressed to her. Determined to solve her grandfather’s puzzle, Grace follows his diary entries across towns and battle sites in northern France, where she becomes increasingly drawn to a charming French man—and suddenly aware that someone is following her…

The Perfect Blend

(Name a book or series that was both bitter and sweet but ultimately satisfying)

Father and Son
Langston Hughes

This is not a dieselpunk story, but since it’s set in the very early XX century and it was written during the Harlem Renaissance, I’d say it falls nicely into the diesel era.
I should also say this leans more on the bitter side, eventually turning into true tragedy. I won’t hide I cried in the end, and still this is one of my favourite stories by Hughes.

It tells the story of a plantation owner and his near-white son, who he had from his black governess, who was the owner’s lover over many years and gave him many children. The relationship between these three characters (father, son and mother) is so extremely complex and still so extremely believable. These are all human beings trapped in a social reality they must cope with and which they don’t totally accept, though they fight it back in very different ways.

Absolutely mind-blowing and told with master storytelling skills.

Green Tea

(Name a book or series that is quietly beautiful)

The Wolf in the Attic
Paul Kearney

The Wolf in the Attic is set in Oxford at the end of the 1920s. The historical setting is beautiful and involving. You truly feel like you are there. But there’s magic in this world, and you still feel like you might step into some such spots, where magic and history meet and merge.

The author is a fan of JRR Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who both appear in the story as characters and whose ideas and plot elements are merged into the story. Kearney did this with such skilful mastery that, should you not know where the original ideas come from, you’d probably think he came up with it for this specific story.

There is no adventure here, although there is indeed suspense and even a murder, but the core of the story is a girl’s journey to adulthood, which happens by steps and by choices.

One of the best books I’ve read recently.

1920s Oxford: home to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien… and Anna Francis, a young Greek refugee looking to escape the grim reality of her new life. The night they cross paths, none suspect the fantastic world at work around them.

Chai Tea

(Name a book or series that makes you dream of far off places)

Reservation Blues
Sherman Alexie

Yes, yes, I know this doesn’t have anything to do with dieselpunk, but you didn’t think I would leave out my favourite author, did you? Besides, if Reservation Blues isn’t historically set, it does have a strong character of magic realism just like The Wolf in the Attic.

I know as well that an Indian reservation is no place to dream about, but the way Alexie presents his own reservation has something truly magical about it. It is indeed a place of poverty and even brutality, but underneath there is magic and power, buried into storytelling and remembrance. A connection with the past and with the Earth that can never be quenched and that may save lives.

Despite the realistic, unflinching depiction of life in the reservation, at the end of this novel, you’re not really sure that’s a place you’d never set foot.

The life of Spokane Indian Thomas Builds-the-Fire irrevocably changes when blues legend Robert Johnson miraculously appears on his reservation and passes the misfit storyteller his enchanted guitar. Inspired by this gift, Thomas forms Coyote Springs, an all-Indian band who find themselves on a magical tour that leads from reservation bars to Seattle and New York–and deep within their own souls.

Early Grey

(Name your favourite classic)

Thea von Harbou

I read the book Metropolis a long time ago, before ever watching the film, and let me tell you, I loved it! I didn’t know what to expect from 1920s SF. It did sounds very different from what we’re accustomed to today, but I really really like the characters, their struggle, the dystopian setting, the twists and turns of the plot. It is indeed a fantastic story in its own right.

I know everybody knows the film (which is also fantastic), but if you get a chance, do try the book too.

The dystopian tale of class struggle, passion, faith, and ruination in the living city of Metropolis. Written Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang’s wife at the time, this is the original book upon which Fritz Lang’s now infamous movie was based.

So, this is it. I hope you’ve found something of interest in here, maybe even your next read. And if you decide to do the Tag as well, don’t forget to let me know!

Have you read any of these books? Is there anything that hooked you? Tell me everything!


  • Margot Kinberg
    Posted December 12, 2016 at 01:17

    This is such a great meme! I love the names, too. The one that made me especially chuckle was the Starbucks one – you see it everywhere. Very, very clever 🙂 . I liked your answers, too. Many of them were authors or books I’m not familiar with, so there’s a lot there to explore, and I like that. Thanks for sharing. Oh, and by the way, I love Langston Hughes’ work.

    • Post Author
      Posted December 14, 2016 at 12:21

      Isn’t it a great one, Margot? As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to partecipate 🙂

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

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