So at first this looks like a simple fairy-tale retelling - another "self-rescuing princess" story with the added bit of an Old West setting layered oSo at first this looks like a simple fairy-tale retelling - another "self-rescuing princess" story with the added bit of an Old West setting layered over the pseudo-medieval towers, princes, giants, and dwarves. As with many such stories it also has an admirable move to a more diverse cast with a range of skin-tones and cultures also representative of the Old West. Deepening that combination is the conflation of Rapunzel with Annie Oakley (although I have some reservations about the "spit-fire redhead" trope).
But after some thought I think there is a deeper story here than either the original ladder-locks moral (what was the moral of that one again? Don't steal from witches?), or the spunky strong-female fairy-tale princess, or even the rescue-my-family-and-revenge noted in the title. The deeper story is about poverty.
The most obvious part of this story is Jack's goose, Goldie. "Killing the goose that laid the golden egg" is an idiom for stupidly taking an immediate benefit from (and destroying) a system that can sustainably support you for the long-term. But being able to look past the immediate is a privilege that not everyone has. Jack is constantly defending Goldie against all comers who see the bird as noting but a quick meal. This is reflected in the harsh world that Mother Gothel has made within her Reach. The residents of Pig Gulch have given up on moving to more fertile land because the fertility will just be stolen from them again. The Duggers eke by fishing with pick-axes because they just don't have the spare energy to fight a sea-serpent and fish better waters. Everyone in this world is focused on their next meal. In game theory, everyone is assuming they are in the last round, so there is no reason not to defect from the group and grab as much benefit as possible - there is no future (or rather, no dependable future). Early on Jack laments his "investment" having been stolen by bandits.
The only 3 characters who seem to plan for the future are Mother Gothel (who is raising Rapunzel to be as brutal a tyrant as possible to replace her), Jack (clinging to Goldie as his only life-line), and Rapunzel (who is able to think only as far as rescuing her mother and getting her out of the Gothel's Reach).
So I'm not sure what the moral here is. Perhaps a) don't judge so harshly those who see no hope in the future - if you are just trying to get through today, then values look different. Or maybe b) if you want a better tomorrow, you need to work for tomorrow and stand up to those who are trying to take it away....more
Oh my was this fun! I enjoyed the heck out of this book. My daughter is enjoyed the heck out of this book. It's clear the author enjoyed the heck outOh my was this fun! I enjoyed the heck out of this book. My daughter is enjoyed the heck out of this book. It's clear the author enjoyed the heck out of this book.
So the book starts with a historical account of Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, and the Difference Engine (and it's progeny the Analytical Engine) - presented in an entertaining storytelling style, complete with footnotes and endnotes - (akin to the Cartoon History of the Universe I, Vol. 1-7: From the Big Bang to Alexander the Great). So far, so good. But this section ends quickly and on a down-note with Lovelace dead of cancer and Babbage unable to get over himself to actually build any of his designs.
But as we have seen in so much alternate history from The Difference Engine to Fiddlehead, the idea of a Victorian-era steam-and-cogs computer is just too good to let facts reign and history to have the last say. So Sydney Padua transports us to a pocket universe where the laws of physics are set to maximize entertainment value and the book roars onward, now looking increasingly like Girl Genius, Vol. 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank only with a historically accurate cast of characters instead of a fictional one (well except for Minion the Footman).
Oh, and the footnotes continue. Almost every statement uttered by Lovelace, Babbage, or various supporting characters in the book is straight from their own writings or supported with primary documents. And the supporting cast is broad from the Duke of Wellington, to Islambard Kingdom Brunel, to George Eliot, to Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson, to Queen Victoria herself. Eventually the footnotes themselves become a character in a Wonderland-inspired investigation into the truth of Ada Lovelace's character and contribution to the Analytical Engine and computer science as a field.
And throughout this all, as we watch these absurd Victorian characters and learn about the design of the Analytical Engine and the logic of computing, there's another story being told. The author is able to show us so much about Babbage and Lovelace's personalities and victories because of the triumph of computing. The Google Books project and others like it have opened the world of historical primary sources to interested amateurs like Padua in a way that really has never been possible before. The author is able to wade into decades-old debates with a sharp pen and over-looked sources because of the work of Babbage and Lovelace's intellectual progeny who have continued the drive to organize, collate, and analyze the world's knowledge.
This review covers books 1-5 because I kinda-sort binge-read them all at once.
I'm trying and failing to rememebr where Manda and I saw a review of theThis review covers books 1-5 because I kinda-sort binge-read them all at once.
I'm trying and failing to rememebr where Manda and I saw a review of the Amulet series and decided to add these book's to May's reading (Anyone reading this can add the article as a comment).
Amulet has a very Hayao Miyazaki feel to it with a brother and sister as main characters (mainly the sister) and fantasy land with magic, robots, VTOL planes, airships, mecha, furries, wise talking trees, flying cities, walking houses, and evil elves. The art is quite beautiful and the characters have complex motivations and deep interior lives. The plot is complex with the goals suffering from major scope-creep and allegances shifting over time.
If I had any complaints, they mostly seem to focus around pacing. Having binge-read 5 books, I feel like I wanted more time to settle into some of these settings and set-piece problems. The narrative has a tendency to jump (especially in flashbacks), and I found myself wishing for a long pause among these beautiful places to really build a sense-of-place - just the skill that Miyazaki is the master of in his films. The splash pages just didn't quite have the heft of one of Miyazaki's wind-swept fields of grass or ran-dappled cobblestone streets. But maybe that failure is ultimately mine and I didn't pause where I should have paused....more
Partway through this book I had to stop and check the copyright date. This definitely felt like a 1970s, second-wave feminist fantasy from the same pePartway through this book I had to stop and check the copyright date. This definitely felt like a 1970s, second-wave feminist fantasy from the same period as The Mists of Avalon but seems to be a bit later than I thought.
I've got no huge problem with second-wave, recover women's magic, look-witches-were-good stories per se. It's pretty much what I grew up with. But it does lead to a question; if the dorans have magic and are so calm nd happy and can heal people, then why did anyone ever convert to Christianity? What did the common people get out of it?
With that in mind, I feel like this would be a better book if the (admittedly already muted) magic further reduced. To a child's eyes, the power of Juniper's herbalism and her personal spirtuality may have appeared magical and been enough to move the whole plot. However, the magic is made explicit and I feel like the story a bit poorer for the loss of that ambiguity.
On a final note, I do have one big complaint. I think it is inappropriate to bring a person, child or no, into a religous/magical ritual without explaining the mysteries of the ritual. I understand that the scene of Wise Child reciting the Language and seeing the sacrificial deer is more powerful for her lack of understanding of what is going on. However I think it's just bad parenting and bad spirit-guiding. Magical/religous mysteries are powerful things and likely to be misinterpreted by the uninitiated. To a child, this is scary. From a spritial perspective, it is wrong to have someone give of thier own spirit to a collective without understanding what is going on. Either explain what this all means or don't have the kid (or newby) there....more
Like the last Harry Potter book, this a re-read for me and a lot of independent read for May.
We were thinking about having May use this as her 2nd booLike the last Harry Potter book, this a re-read for me and a lot of independent read for May.
We were thinking about having May use this as her 2nd book report assignment for summer reading (as opposed to suggested books like Stellaluna or Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping), however, a bunch was read to her, not read by her.
Alright now for complaints. As with much YA, there is an adults problem with this book. Adults insist on keeping secrets from the kids who are the ones at immediate risk. They also insist on keeping secrets from their fellow adults (I'm looking at you Prof. Lupin). But they aren't very good at keeping secrets. The operational security at the Ministry of Magic is appalling (seriously, Death Eaters wouldn't even need to dumpster dive to get passwords if the Ministry used computers... people would just recite thier passwords in local bars).
I know, I know. Because: plot.
Don't EVEN get me started on the power inherent in the Time Turner. I think HISHE handled that as well as can be....more
Read-to-May is not quite the right category for this. More like "May read to herself, talked about, and liked so I read before it went back to the libRead-to-May is not quite the right category for this. More like "May read to herself, talked about, and liked so I read before it went back to the library".
I honestly had no idea that both Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey were protogees of Louis Leakey. I always had the tendency to mix them up. And I had not heard of Birute Galdikas before. It was very interesting to see Leakey acting as patron to these three brilliant and commited women scientists. I just wish he wasn't so patronizing about his patronage. His assertions about women being better at field work are just ignorant reflections of Victorian mores.
But, if I have Leakey to thank for donating his shoulders to be the stepping stool for Goodall, Fossey & Gladikas' visions, then I don't mind. The women scientists who will follow these three women and move forward into the future will be well worth the cost Leakey's problems. I hope that my daughter has the same oppotunities without so much baggage....more
At some point I have to decide when to drop these books that I am only part-reading to May as she reads more and more of them herself. Luckily in thisAt some point I have to decide when to drop these books that I am only part-reading to May as she reads more and more of them herself. Luckily in this case I read this book myself many years ago, so I can kinda fill in the gaps.
Or maybe I can't.
Really, it's amazing to me that I really don't remember much of anything that jumped out at me about this re-read. I know my attempts at doing voices started to wander all over the place. Amanda asked when Hagrid morphed from Scottish to just thug. Snape is my one fall-back voice [thank you for you pitch-perfect performance Mr. Rickman].
I guess this is the start of the weird attempts by the author to meld or separate muggle technology and magic. The flying car is a classic example of how both can be combined and yet we don't see much of it in the rest of the books. Why does the Ministry of Magic ban enchanting Muggle items? Why are wizards so clueless about the Muggle world that they really spend alot of time in?
There are are miraid related questions, like why not smuggle a cell-phone into Hoqwarts [because: plot] or wouldn't an AK47 make a better weapon than a wand [because: atmospherics... and PLOT!]....more
**spoiler alert** Reading to May has shifted this summer. Instead of having to read the whole of a book, my nightly reading has become selected chapte**spoiler alert** Reading to May has shifted this summer. Instead of having to read the whole of a book, my nightly reading has become selected chapters or portions of chapters as May covers chuncks on the book herself. This was fine for this book since I had read it myself (and seen the movie), but has caused some confusion in reading both Into the Wild and Pegasus and the Flame.
Now, for the book itself. The whole Harry Potter series has multiple problems, but the biggest has to be "Why doesn't Dumbledore just fess-up what's really going on?" So much of the plot is driven by bad information and incorrect assumptions. Amanda and I have often commented that if Dumbledore just told hermione what was up, they could have gotten the whole 7 book series settled by mid0-way through the first year.
Poor Hermione. The boys make fun of her, but she has to become their friend after they locker her in the bathroom with a troll (and save her from said troll). Her line about how loyalty and courage are needed for a hero so Harry should go face Voldemort while she exits stage right for the climax is just so annoying. I feel like there should have been a Plan C here. Oh , and we're all OK with Harry basically killing Quirell? Yes, Quirell/Voldemort attacked first, and he's a powerful wizard and Harry's a kid, but when Quirell is writhing in pain, Harry decides to just pour-on the hurt. This is our hero with the power of Love?
Anyway. Props as always to J. K. Rowling for the accessibility and catchiness of this book. May was pretty devoted once she picked it up and is now working on #2. This is very different from the 2 books noted above that were finished in dribs and drabs or are still in half-read states. Even her beloved Percy Jackson books weren't getting her to read them herself....more
Amanda, May, and I listened to this as an audiobook on a roadtrip back from a wedding in Delaware. The audiobook idea for a long car ride worked amaziAmanda, May, and I listened to this as an audiobook on a roadtrip back from a wedding in Delaware. The audiobook idea for a long car ride worked amazingly well. This story took us from outside of Philadelphia to the MassPike.
I understand that Tamora Pierce made a series of four books about four characters and so each book is tagged to a particular character. That said, I'm not really sure what makes this Sandry's book more than anyone else's. For all her recent horrific history, Sandry felt very Anne-of-Green-Gables, everything-will-work-out, sunshiny - enough that she sometime set my nerves on end. In my childhood I would have kept my distance from her, sure she was unstable or running a long-con. Briar, Daja, and Tris felt much more real to me.
Amanda really loves the idea of Winding Circle, a pagan community seeking self-sufficiency and unity by respect for productive craft. It is an interesting idea reflective of medieval monasteries and more recent utopian experiments....more
I'm going to chalk this one up as abandonded in mid-read. May was really interested in the concept of getting into the lives of cats in an epic-fantasI'm going to chalk this one up as abandonded in mid-read. May was really interested in the concept of getting into the lives of cats in an epic-fantasy-style world. It would seem to fit with her love of Mouse Guard: Fall 1152.
However, this series is more grounded in the real world (no little cloaks, swpords, or castles). But at the same time, it fails to represent how feral cats really live. There are no feral cat medicine cats and the concept of differening cat castes within a clan and the caln being dominated by (male) warriors just doesn't match what May knows about cats.
In other words, it caught in the uncanny valley - too close to real to suspend disbelief, but too far away to be trusted....more
So, should there be a trigger warning for torture on a YA book?
This looks like a classic escapist story, girl with a special bond with mystical flyingSo, should there be a trigger warning for torture on a YA book?
This looks like a classic escapist story, girl with a special bond with mystical flying horse. Oh Emily, you are so special, only you can nurse Pegasus back to health!
But we need more tension. Bad guy monsters. That's a start. But they're brutal, inscutable critters who cannot be reasoned with. We need a more subtle enemy. The evil Men-In-Black (MIB) - called CRU here. These guys are like the worst of the X-Files bureaucrats. Except they are incompetant and resort to torturing tween girls for information. Nice.
Oh, and big ol' deus ex brazier at the end....more
So are Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone knock-off's their own gengre at this point? Pre-teen kids with amazing powers whisked-off from thier homeSo are Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone knock-off's their own gengre at this point? Pre-teen kids with amazing powers whisked-off from thier homes to amazing castles where wise old men teach them of their powers and inform them of their dangerous family history!
From a technical standpoint I have issues with this book. The writing just cannot seem to settle on a POV. Some pulpy tropes are tossed-out so quickly that you end up assuming the details (of course, if Zach can hear Em in his head, then they will be boud as Guardian and Animare forever - it'll be true love! at age twelve, ech!). The world-building in particular seems under-baked. It seems Anime are essentially Green Lanterns with sketch pads. Ask DC comics how easy it is to keep powers like that in a reasonable storyline.
But I think I'm most annoyed at the title. There already is a massive (and crazy) mythology of the Hollow Earth that leads to mercury-powered spaceships and Antarctic Space-Nazis! And this book is going to swipe that name and say its some kind of artistic demon purgatory imagined by a crazy Scotsman? No, I don't think so....more
Whoops. Missed doing a review of this at the time May and I read it...
This volume is a big dose of backstory. We learn the geopolitics of the valley,Whoops. Missed doing a review of this at the time May and I read it...
This volume is a big dose of backstory. We learn the geopolitics of the valley, why it's a big deal the rat creatures are on the rise, what Thorn's dreams of dragons mean, and bit of why Granma Rose is so buff.
I can understand why Fone Bone doesn't know this stuff, but I'm more than a little annoyed at Thorn that she has grown up in this place and culture and seems to be willfully ignorant of history that is less than a generation ago....more
**spoiler alert** I think this book has just too many characters. Riordan limited his POV to just 4 of the 7 demigods on board the Argo II (Hazel, Fra**spoiler alert** I think this book has just too many characters. Riordan limited his POV to just 4 of the 7 demigods on board the Argo II (Hazel, Frank, and Jason get left out), but the head-jumping still feels like too much. The team splits-up in several places and some whole scenes are condensed down to after-action briefings or reminiscences.
I'm glad to have Annabeth get her own plot line instead of just being Percy's spunky sidekick. That said, the Athena-quest feels like an add-on. There's no particular reason that the Mark of Athena starts apearing to Annabeth now, while she's in the midst of quest to save the world. I'm hoping the next book will show that this side-quest was actually important - heck maybe the image of the Athena Parthenos putting the hurt on some giants will make up for the lack of Lady-Liberty-as-magical-automaton in the climax of the first series....more
While the valley is still a very strange place, the world of this book is much less existancially weird that in Volume 1. We have more human backgrounWhile the valley is still a very strange place, the world of this book is much less existancially weird that in Volume 1. We have more human background characters and a more normal msetting of a psuedo-medieval tavern and fair. The mystery as to who or what the Bone cousins are deepens a bit as Boneville seems to be essentially a modern world.
The main slapstick plot of Phoney and Smiley trying to scam the Cow Race is fun if predictable. The romantic storyline between Fone Bone and Thorn is boring and predictable (althought the giant bee still cracked me up). The deeper, ominous, coming war between the rat creatures and the valley is suitably obscure with portentious dreams and cryptic secrets. But the ultimate winner is, inevtably the laughably incompetant rat creatures themselves.
It takes a deft hand to make your villan mooks comic relief and yet still threatening. Children's entertainment is littered with villanous henchmen who are too incompetant to scare (io9 receantly published a list of 'em). The rat creatures manage to still be threatening while comic....more