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.


Pretty Good

The Golden Braid - Melanie Dickerson

I found this story to be a little less formulaic than the other stories I have read by Dickerson. For one, instead of having a naive, literate, and independent woman, Rapunzel is, by contrast, illiterate for at least the first third of the book, naive, and completely dependent on her mother for most of the book.


What struck me as interesting was Rapunzel's dynamism in this book. As soon as she learns to read, she starts questioning almost everything her mother taught her, and even goes so far as to get a job about halfway through the book.


The religion in this book played a much larger role in this than in the other books I read by Dickerson, but again, it still makes sense. Because Rapunzel is illiterate to start out with, one of the easiest books to get in print at this time was the bible, so it makes sense that she would have memorized parts of the bible. When she's kidnapped, it basically needs a miracle for Garek, the knight who teaches her to read and ultimately befriends her, to find her, so it makes sense for him to experience divine intervention. Overall, it wasn't overly jarring to the plot of the story, but it was still there.


I really liked Garek's transformation from a guy who was only interested in proving himself better than his older brother to a man who was okay with not having huge tracts of land or many riches. It was really interesting listening to his inner monologue, which features much more strongly than in the other Dickersons I read. It was really quite interesting and lent a lot to the plot because we got to witness more of his transformation as a person.


Overall, I recommend this story to others. It is a really fun tale with quite a few good plot points.


Another Solid Book

The Beautiful Pretender (A Medieval Fairy Tale) - Melanie Dickerson

This was another book from that set I got on my Nook. I found this story, a fractured version of The Princess and the Pea, to be better written in some areas and not as well written in others.


I find the idea that the Margrave of Thornbeck would want a bride that would show compassion and interest in the plights of his people, and that he would orchestrate a series of tests to make an arranged marriage a bit more palatable. I also find the idea that the Earl of Plimmwald would send someone to disguise herself as his runaway daughter; however, I would have chosen someone who resembled his daughter more and would be better educated as an Earl's daughter.


I found Avelina, the main character, to be highly compelling. She was strong in much the same way as Odette was in the previous book, but also in different ways. As a servant, much of what she knows is from her skills to better serve her lady, such as braiding hair, picking locks to give her lady access to things her father didn't want her to get at, etc. i also found her to be highly headstrong and slightly less naive than Odette, which makes sense from the fact that she is a maidservant who has had to grow up very quickly. One thing I could not reconcile, however, is Avelina's knowledge of how to read Latin. I'm not sure a maidservant would be approved of being learned enough to read Latin, considering women reading at all was considered dangerous for centuries.


The overall mystery and political aspects of the story were very well written. It honestly had me guessing to the end as to what would happen. I like how the elements of the previous book, particularly the rumor that Margrave Reinhart had murdered his brother, really came to the forefront in this book.


Again, there were strong elements of Christianity in this book, but like before, it mostly involved praying and reading the Bible, both of which made sense in the context of 15th century Holy Roman Empire.

An Interesting Story

The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest - Melanie Dickerson

This was by and large an impulse buy in a set on my Nook because the plots of many of her books sounded interesting, and I'm a sucker for a good fractured fairy tale. While this one isn't a fractured fairy tale in the sense that the source material (Robin Hood) is not a fairy tale, it was still a solid story.


I liked the more feminist aspects of this story; a woman who is opinionated, educated, intelligent, and pretty independent in a historical setting is a pretty big deal to me. The setting was rich and very interesting, and the main character, Odette, was relatable in that she was well-meaning, but a lot of her actions had some pretty major consequences and she was pretty naive about much of the world.


I didn't realize this author was specifically a Christian fiction author, and normally I don't like the preachy nature the genre often features as an atheist, but I'll make an exception for her works, if they all follow this same pattern. The elements of Christianity in this story was pretty mild and actually made sense to me, since they are in the Holy Roman Empire pre-Reformation. The fact that Odette even studies the Bible under a local priest in secret makes it historically accurate, as does the occasionally sexist behavior exhibited by said priest.

Very Cute Story

A French Girl in New York - Anna  Adams

This is another book I got as part of Nook's Free Fridays program. Unlike the last Free Friday book I tried and failed to read, this one was actually decent.


First, having a non-white protagonist who was described rather ambiguously instead of using the classic, hit-you-over-the-head language to obviate a character's ethnicity was a breath of fresh air. Maude, the main character, was also written to where she was relatable even if I don't see much of myself in her image, proof positive that non-white characters have a certain relatability to those who do not share the character's ethnicity.


The grammar in it was pretty clearly marked by a non-native English speaker's pen. It wasn't overly distracting from the story, but it was obvious. The lack of commas in particular made for an occasional challenge in reading.


Finally, the plot was good. The standard rags to riches story was spliced with a coming of age story, a dash of mystery, and a bit of romance. All of this led to a highly unique story that only left me knowing the ending within the last 20 or so pages.

Dear God, Why?!

Doctor Who: Only Human - Gareth Roberts

I got this book as part of Barnes and Noble's Free Fridays program. Usually they're misses, but sometimes you get a great book. This was not one of those times.


I got about 20 pages in and could not handle it. It seemed to have no plot, and the characters just fell flat. I don't understand how this book got a publishing deal, as there is no actual merit to it. It doesn't seem to have much in the way of depth, and the trope of "super skinny pretty new girl at school is special" is becoming rather trite, to be honest.


If any writers are reading this, please remember to give your characters more depth and to avoid trite tropes such as the above. Your readers will thank you.


Not What I Expected

The Wisdom of Jane Austen (The Wisdom Series) - Philosophical Library

I was expecting more of an analysis of Austen's works and the literary value therein. Instead, I got a brief biography and collection of quotes. I'm glad this was free, as I would have been sorely upset at wasting money on this.

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.


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.

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