Hipster Ariel's Literary Grotto

I read all kinds of books (one of my friends jokes that I will read anything that holds still long enough), but sci fi/fantasy is my favorite. I also love books on anthropology and archaeology and other sciences.

So Much Better Than the Show

Witches of East End - Melissa  de la Cruz

I started off watching the show when it became available on Netflix, and it wasn't bad, but it definitely wasn't great either. I picked up the book, thinking it couldn't be any worse than the show and was rather surprised.

 

First, the whole genre itself was changed to adapt it for television. The book is pretty solidly a mystery with a dash of romance and fantasy elements, while the show focuses more on romance than anything else. Second, the main characters' powers are far more pronounced than they are in the show. This makes them far more interesting than in the show.

 

One thing that really surprised me was how badly dumbed down the book was during the adaptation process. There is so much to the plot based in history and mythology that is largely glossed over. Considering that other shows have focused on Norse mythology and been relatively successful, it wouldn't really be much of a stretch to say that the Norse mythology elements could easily have stayed in and been successful. It's almost like the networks assume anything geared toward women has to be vapid and shallow because our little minds can't handle anything smart.

 

In short, I recommend skipping the show and picking up this book instead. You'll enjoy yourself far more than binging the series.

A Fun Ethnography of British People at the Turn of the First Century

The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium, An Englishman's World - Robert Lacey, Danny Danziger

As I said above, this book was quite fun to read. It was an interesting angle to use archaeological evidence and historic documentation to extrapolate an ethnography of the early English people. The division of the chapters to reflect aspect of culture based on what the common man of the day would have relied on, the Julian work calendar, was quite excellent, and aided in driving the point home. Due to the main focus of archaeology on elites, this work's focus on the common man was that much more impressive. The dearth of information that is sadly given to the common person invariably made the research that much more arduous, yet the sheer wealth of information covered betrays this dearth, and makes the information displayed that much more impressive.

 

My only complaint is that, in a couple of chapters, it dragged a little bit, disrupting the overall flow of the book. Had that not occurred, it would easily have been a five star work.

A Unique Perspective on the Classic Tale

Beastly - Alex Flinn

I really liked the idea of looking at the story of Beauty and the Beast from a male perspective. I always have thought of the story as more of the transformation of a man from an unkind human being to one who understands and appreciates the world around him, especially with iterations such as the Disney version.

 

The fact that some of the traditional stories were utilized in this retelling was a great homage to the original iterations of the tale. The ways of modernizing the tale by using issues such as bad home lives to me makes it a better story than the original because our heroine has more of a happily ever after situation than women in the original tales, who more often than not had great home lives with loving fathers. To me, this made the story more powerful.

 

The fact that the protagonist was able to connect to other fairy tale characters through a chat room was also pretty cool. I like thinking that, as these stories occur in a generally ambiguous setting, it's possible that they occur within the same fantastical setting.

Well Written, Fun Brain Candy

1632 - Eric Flint

This book had a great deal going for it; Eric Flint clearly did a lot of research on military strategy, history, and both early modern and modern weapons. This is evident throughout the novel, and helped make his novel a superior and interesting work of fiction. However, his research was not the only thing that made this book wonderful.

 

One problem I have with a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels written by men is a lack of credible female characters. Throughout the story, there were several wonderful female characters, none of whom were the same. One woman was a nurse, another a polyglot and diplomat, and another was an olympic biathlon participant who became one hell of a sniper. They were respected by their male peers as equals, even those who were non-Americans from the past.

 

Overall, I would recommend this novel, as it is well worth the necessary time to read it. It does drag in a couple places, but that is a pretty small complaint in the grand scheme of things.

 

 

Well Written and Well Researched, Although a Few Things Bothered Me

The Blessing Way - Tony Hillerman

I was recommended to read this series from a gentleman while I was visiting the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff during my archaeological field school. I wish I'd gotten the guy's name, because I would love to thank him for introducing me to this series.

 

One reason I never read books about Native Americans written by a white person is the fact that it is really easy to screw up important details about the overall culture. Hillerman clearly spent a lot of time on the Diné reservation, and also appears to have mostly done oral research. I say this because some of the spellings for Diné Bisaad words are a little funky. The word that struck me as being particularly odd is the word "Diné" itself; in this book, the word is spelled "Dinee," a spelling which I have never seen in any other publication. 

 

While the plot itself dragged in some places, the overall story was highly engaging and interesting. I highly recommend people read this book and hope it encourages people to visit Native American reservations and learn more about the beautiful cultures that may soon be lost due to hegemonic influences.

An Absolute Cluster Fuck of a Book

Festival of Death - Jonathan Morris

How can I write the ways this novel sucked? First, the characterization was wrong; the author specifically wrote that it was Romana II in the book, but wrote her so that she sounded more like Romana I.

 

Second, it didn't read like a Doctor Who story; the author jumped on the zombie craze bandwagon and used that as the villain. It led to some serious disappointment, as they really made no sense in the context of a Who novel.

 

Finally, it really needed a strong editor. The book jumped around to narrate what various characters were doing quite abruptly; most of the time there wasn't even a page break. It dragged badly in several places and so could have been shored up quite a bit.

 

Overall, this was not a strong addition at all, and I cannot recommend that anyone read it.

A Complete Loss in Translation

Doctor Who: Dead of Winter - James Goss

This would have been better as an episode as opposed to a novel. There were certain plot points which just did not work on the page; however, it did have the trappings of a good episode.

SPOILER ALERT!

It Felt Like I Was Reading A Script For A Doctor Who Episode

Beautiful Chaos - Gary Russell

For the first time reading a Doctor Who novel, I felt like I was reading a script. This author really breathed life into the Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble. It would have made an incredible episode.

 

The idea of using someone ill to save the world was a breath of fresh air. It's something we don't see often enough, and I love the idea, especially as someone who lives with an invisible illness.

Holy Cliches, Batman!

Dark Angel Series Books 1-3: Angelfire, Angelstone, Angelsong - Hanna Peach

There are so many cliches in these books that it's scary. You have the petite, white heroine, the standard love triangle, and the mainy monochromatic cast of characters. This series could have been so much better, and the author completely lost it during the third book by throwing in the contrived love triangle. It was completely unnecessary and seemed to have been jammed in there to appeal to fans of other young adult novels.

 

This book series also was in desperate need of an editor. The misspellings were utterly ridiculous. There were also several instances of incorrect vocabulary. It would have been a little better had some of the misspelled words not been so central to the plot. I can't count the number of times the word "parkour" during the first book, and it was incredibly distracting to the plot of the story.

Needed an Editor, But Was a Good Fractured Fairy Tale

The Wronged Princess - Kae Elle Wheeler

First, let's start with the good. This was an excellent fractured fairy tale. I liked how the absurd idea that only one woman would be able to fit the shoe was played at least partly for laughs, and the relationship between the sisters was a nice touch.

 

Now for the bad. This book could really have used an editor. Holy misspellings, Batman were there mistakes! It really tore one from the otherwise good story. There was also one continuity error at the end which was also quite jarring and distracted me from the rest of the story.

One of the Worst Books I Have Ever Read

The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman (2009-06-01) - Aimee Friedman

The title pretty much says it all. The main character was completely unlikeable; she was selfish, judgmental, bitchy, and spoiled. As a matter of fact, not a single character had a redeeming quality. The plot went nowhere and did nothing.

Fun Light Reading

Yes Please - Amy Poehler

This book was a lot of fun to read. Some of the stories were a bit slow, but overall, they were enjoyable. I was surprised at how down to earth Poehler really is. I look forward to the possibility of reading more books by her, as they should be quite interesting.

Holy Indecision, Batman!

Alexander the Great - The Macedonian Who Conquered the World - Sean Patrick

This book could not determine whether it was  a self help book or a biography. This made it confusing and absolutely unpalatable.

Finally! A Young Adult Book Featuring A Possibly Non-White Character!

Sworn to Raise - Terah Edun

The first thing that excited me was the description of the main character, Ciardis. She is described as having darker skin with curly dark brown hair and golden eyes. To me, she sounds either non-white or of a mixed ethnicity, which is the first I have ever seen in young adult book.

 

I also appreciated that it took her much longer to learn how to do everything. As a person who struggles with coordination and knows how long it can take to learn a new dance or ride a horse, I can safely say that the timeline for this is pretty accurate.

 

In a similar vein, I appreciated the lack of the "remove something little and she's beautiful" trope. It was described repeatedly that Ciardis' mentor, Lady Serena, was disgusted by her lack of hygiene and how intensely her skin would have to be taken care of, to say the least.

 

The only thing I didn't like was that this could have used a read over for someone to check the spelling. It generally was good enough and the few spelling errors that did come up were mostly easily overlooked by the good story within.

Really Good

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation - Michael Pollan

I enjoyed reading this. It was pretty clear he did his research, especially when he was citing anthropological academic literature. I would have liked if he had continued using more academic papers because some of his statements seemed to require some major academic backing.

 

Reading about his culinary successes and blunders were quite enjoyable and made me realize my mistakes in cooking aren't so bad after all.

SPOILER ALERT!

Very Different From the Movie Version

Who Censored Roger Rabbit? - Gary K. Wolf

First off, this is the book that inspired the beloved Disney movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Despite this, the book and movie could not be any more different. Honestly, I was hoping for some nostalgia, but this book definitely appeals to the adult who likes a good mystery.

 

There are several differences that were done to make this book more palatable as a movie. First, we all know that in the movie, we see cartoons in the real world that cannot die and are impervious to injury. In the book, the cartoons in question are comic strip characters that even speak with thought bubbles and can die the same ways a person can, so the toons can make doppelgangers of themselves to do the stunt while the original is safe.

 

Other differences that were made by Disney to make a more family friendly story were more obvious. Valiant remains an alcoholic, the mob is involved, and pornographic strips are even mentioned as a major element of the book. I can see why these changes were made, but it was surprising to open the book and see the distinct lack of whimsy that Disney had imbued this story with in the first place.

 

Finally, Disney kind of changed the genre of this from a noir mystery set in the 1920s to a more modern comedy romp. Personally, I preferred the noir feel of the novel to the comedy of the movie, but again would have liked some of the more comedic elements to have been there.

Currently reading

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Aeschylus' Prometheus bound and The seven against Thebes
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Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate: The Essential Guide for Progressives
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Dance Hall of the Dead
Tony Hillerman
Zombie Impact: Series (Volume 1)
Craig Halloran
Jane Austen's England
Roy Adkins, Lesley Adkins
Doctor Who: Only Human
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Talking to the Enemy: Violent Extremism, Sacred Values, and What it Means to Be Human
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Warrior: En Garde (BattleTech, No. 37)
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