Ugh, Warriors: The Prophecies Begin

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I am not a fan of this series.

If the young people in your life really like reading stories about cats fighting each other and hunting things in the woods, then I would strongly recommend this series. If you’ve been struggling to get them to read anything and they like this stuff, that’s great. I’m all for giving people things to read, especially when it turns someone who is not a habitual reader into a habitual reader.

But if you’re looking for high quality material, I think there are far better options. This feels like fodder, the kind of popcorn literature that fills your time and leaves you wondering what you just ate. I don’t find it exciting; it broadcasts its upcoming plot twists from a mile away and basically defines “formulaic and tropey.”

Were I younger, and not already familiar with the expectations of the relevant genre of coming of age adventure stories, I suspect that I would enjoy this. I would have loved the fact that there are huge piles of these books being churned out by a collaborative collective known as Erin Hunter. But, while I freely admit that my judgement is tinged by distance and nostalgia, I think the Animorphs series may have been higher quality.

So. I’m not a fan. I’m not really enjoying reading this series for homework: it’s solid but too simplistic for my tastes. Maybe I would enjoy breezing through them if they weren’t a requirement. But though I don’t like them, I can see that this series does meet some niche needs. You might have someone in your life who would fall head-over-heels in love with it. And if you think that’s the case, by all means share the series with them. Otherwise, I’d suggest that you move on.

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Moana, a new and improved Disney

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I saw a number of things at the theater when I went there on Wednesday: there was a trailer for a Beauty and the Beast remake (which looked about as uncomfortable and undesirable as possible), a trailer for Hidden Figures (which looks spectacular), and there was Moana.

Holy shit I really liked Moana. It somehow feels old (in a good way) despite the fact that I don’t think Disney has done anything like it anytime recently. In some ways, they’ve never done anything like it at all; a female main character who goes on a mythic quest and succeeds without being disempowered, sidelined, or told that she must be a man.

I also felt like the movie’s depictions of human beings was simply far better than many previous Disney movies’ had been. The characters felt believably human, honest to themselves and their own desires from the audience’s perspective (even if they weren’t really emotionally honest with themselves if you know what I mean). I have a hard time thinking of which other Disney movies are operating on the same level. If you like watching animated kids movies now, this one should be at the top of your list. If you have fond memories of animated kids movies but aren’t sure whether you’d still like them, watch this one. It’s worth it. Yeah, some of it seems like it’s an obvious product of modern sensibilities, but is that always so bad?

Speaking of which, why the hell are they remaking Beauty and the Beast? The trailer made it look like they were reprising basically everything from their 1991 version… but doing it in live action with huge heaps of CGI. Blatantly cashing in on nostalgia is hardly an admirable starting point, and doing that with a story that portrays creepy manipulative abusive behavior as not only normal but romantic without doing anything to comment on that is extremely objectionable. How about them modern sensibilities.

Oh, and as for Hidden Figures, it tells the story of three women of color working for NASA leading up to John Glenn’s orbit in 1962, with Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer, and Taraji Henson. Yes, that Janelle Monae. I’m very excited.

Dust Girl, by Sarah Zettel

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Fun! I admit, I was a little worried around sixty pages in that it would be a tropey retread of territory already covered by American Gods. The voice and perspective are significantly different, which helped, but it wasn’t until a bit later that I felt the story really found its stride (around the same time that it decided to double down on fairies). If I weren’t reading this for class and therefore about to rush into another wildly different book, I think I’d enjoy polishing off this series.

Speaking of which, the cover says The American Fairy Trilogy… which is too bad. Obviously, you want to mention that there are more books for your audience to buy; doing otherwise is bad marketing (shooting yourself in the foot, really). But it also shaped my experience of the story in a way that makes analyzing how I feel about the book as a whole more difficult. It’s very obviously not the end of the story, though I think Zettel sticks the landing for this section of it, and I wonder whether I would have preferred to read the whole thing in one go. Or what might have changed if it weren’t divided into parts. There’s a lot to be said for how my genre and story-length expectations shape my reading, and I think that may confound Zettel’s goal here to some extent.

That said, Sarah Zettel very clearly knows what she’s doing, and does it well. The book is catchy, fun to read, and really gets a move on once you get out of the very beginning. Future plot hooks are well established, I feel like I have a decent sense of the characters, and life is plenty complicated for the main character despite (or maybe especially because of) the presence of magic in her life. Well done. If you enjoy YA, fairies, Americana, and blues and swing, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Later note: with a little more time to reflect on this, I’m less certain that I like how it deals with race and Native American beliefs. I feel like it tries, and wants to do a good job, but I’m not certain whether or not it succeeds. Your mileage may vary.

Whoops: November Update

Sorry, I’ve been a little busy. I just submitted another three chapters of Barium Deep to my mentor for review (she’s awesome, by the way) and getting that material out the door has kept me occupied.

Another thing stealing my time, creeping in around the edges of my schedule? Tales of Maj’Eyal (ToME). It’s a roguelike (but actually like the game Rogue, not just part of the modern fad of calling your game roguelike because it’s cool), and I’ve been enjoying it a great deal. I grew up playing the significantly less noob-friendly ADOM, aka Ancient Domains of Mystery, so ToME feels a good deal more forgiving. At least, it’s forgiving when you can hide behind your magical golem while hurling explosive gems at your foes.

Oddly enough, like ToME, ADOM now sports optional fancy tiled graphics that look nothing like my memories. It may sound like I’m grumping, but I’m actually quite happy to see ADOM continue development. I should admit, I’m okay with the new tiles mostly because they’re optional. I just wish we could see more progress on JADE (which I guess is now called ADOM II), another roguelike by the creator of ADOM. I liked the open world with randomly generated stories more than ADOM’s (by now) familiar quests.

Oh, I guess this is the new site for ADOM? Whatever. It’s a cool game, worth checking out.

MICE: Lady Knights Comics Ride Forth

While I was at MICE (Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo) a little while ago I found two new comics about female knights, both of which seemed worth following and sharing. In the hopes that you too may enjoy these good things, check this out: Hannah Fisher’s Cosmoknights is a gorgeous webcomic and promises lady knights in space upending the patriarchy, and Alyssa Maynard has an excellent short piece called “I Am Not A Knight” which is intended as the opening of a much larger story.

These both look seriously good. I hope you can find and enjoy them. I’ll try to update this with a direct link to “I Am Not A Knight” when I can find one, but until then I suggest that you check out some of Alyssa Maynard’s other rad art.

Cider Lentils with Friends and Root Vegetables

This is not a story, game, or story game. I suppose that means it’s a little off topic for this blog. But I’ve been busy and anxious and etc., so today I took some time to make a meal with some of my friends and I feel much better for it. In case you want to make that recipe yourselves, I’ve thrown it together here for you. It was largely improvised, so my recipe is a little informal. Also judgey about people who don’t like real cider.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb green lentils
  • 1 double handful red lentils
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 4-ish cloves garlic
  • 1 gallon cider
  • salt
  • sage
  • thyme
  • cayenne
  • olive oil
Notes:
This goes well with grilled garlic & herb sausage (I used turkey, but w/e).
My friend also made a real tasty dijon-shallot-honey-olive oil salad dressing for a mixed greens & endive salad which went well with this.
You should occasionally pull out bits and taste them during the cooking process. My preferred lentil end state is pre-disintegration (not mushy), with some body and firmness still noticeable. Not crispy & crunchy like dry lentils, but you should know that there are individual tiny lentils in your mouth while eating. If that isn’t how you like lentils, you do you. I’m sure you can cook this until it matches your desired consistency. Or actually measure how much liquid you put in or something.
Oh, and I’m a Vermonter. I like cider. If for some reason you don’t like cider (northeastern unfiltered good brown stuff, not mislabeled apple juice)… I can’t help you. But if you’re unfortunate enough to not appreciate the goodness of real cider, you can probably substitute inferior replacements and be satisfied.
Directions:
  • drink some cider, there’s a whole gallon for a reason
  • wash lentils
  • dice onion into square chunks
  • mince garlic into moderately fine bits
  • coin carrots & parsnips (carrots needed first) into roughly even thin slices
  • heat some olive oil in a pan
  • add diced onion and begin sauteeing
  • you probably need more cider in your cup now
  • add garlic soon after, once onion has that early glassy look
  • add carrot coins (some may need to be halved as well, if they’re thickish)
  • cook these for a few minutes until the carrots have warmed up, possibly adding more oil if you like
  • add parsnips and cook until warmed up, again adding more oil if you like
  • pour in cider to cover, this is also an excellent time to drink more cider
  • add lentils and more cider to cover again, more or less generous depending on how soupy you want the end result to be
  • simmer that delicious soup! stir gently, and check occasionally for lentil/parsnip/carrot consistency
  • once the cider has heated but before you’ve let it cook much, spice to taste:
  • add some sage
  • add a good deal more thyme
  • add a dash of cayenne (a tiny bit goes a long way)
  • who doesn’t love salt: be generous, mix, and taste test… then repeat
  • once your desired lentil/carrot/parsnip consistency has been reached, turn off the heat, let sit for a minute or so, and serve!
  • maybe have some more cider at multiple steps along the way

Ads & the election: Hillary please

I’ve been told that people looking at this site have been served Trump ads. I don’t pay WordPress enough to have input on what ads are served on this site, but I want to make it clear (in case it somehow isn’t obvious enough through implication) that I not only don’t support Trump but do support electing Hillary Clinton President of the United States.

I’m not 100% aligned with what I think Hillary Clinton’s positions are, but she seems to me to be the obvious choice for POTUS. This seems like a piteously small contribution to make to getting her elected, but given the alternatives I think I’d be remiss to say nothing at all.

Please vote tomorrow.

Killer of Enemies, by Joseph Bruchac

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I know that young adult action stories might not be everyone’s preferred genre, but how about a post-apocalyptic young adult action story that weaves Native American history, lore, and culture seamlessly into other general Americana such that it feels like a fitting piece of a larger tapestry without feeling lost or subjugated by other elements?

I can’t take full credit for that astute observation. It was mentioned by one of my excellent classmates.

Killer of Enemies is a good, punchy story that fits with mythic narrative traditions in a number of deeply appealing fashions. It’s very nearly pulp. And it’s written by a member of the Abenaki Nation, which gives me a wonderful home-feel due to my fond early childhood memories of listening to Wolfsong telling stories around Vermont. It doesn’t hurt that it’s all about the badass warrior woman Lozen, named in honor of the real Lozen of the Chiricahua Apaches. I’d say that this book is pretty good stuff.

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex

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This book is a quiet piece of genius. It’s hilarious, and far deeper than I had expected it to be. And somehow it delivers on its premise without beating you over the head, even as it makes its commentary abundantly obvious to anyone who’s willing to pay attention. I think I’d be hard pressed to find a middle grade adventure novel that I liked more.

I wouldn’t say it’s the best, because I don’t like committing myself to statements like that, but you’d damn well better do yourself the favor of reading this book.