Jan. 14th, 2011

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Well, I'm doing good so far on the reading, not so much on the journaling. I'll work on that!

1. The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan
So, this is the first book in the companion series to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Which I loved. A lot. Just like I loved this one. Still great characters, mostly new. Piper especially. One thing I really liked about the Percy Jackson books is that Riordan knows his mythology, and he plays fair. If you know Greek myths, you'll understand a lot more a lot faster. (My circulation of books on Greek mythology has spiked since my students started reading them. Yay!) The same holds true in this book, but you need Roman mythology, too. And I'm terrible with Roman myths, so I need to brush up before the next book comes out in the fall.

2. Whiskey: A Global History, by Kevin R. Kosar
3. Cake: A Global History, by Nicola Humble
4. Sandwich: A Global History, by Bee Wilson
5. Chocolate: A Global History, by Sarah Moss and Alexander Badenoch
Not too much special to say about these. All good examples of the series, of course. I especially liked Sandwich. These books really work best when they're unique. I don't know of any other history of the sandwich, for example, and I really enjoyed that one. If you've read a more in-depth history of a food substance (like chocolate) it starts to feel a little thin. Still, very enjoyable reads, the lot of them.

6. The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor
I regret this one. The basic premise is that the story of Alice in Wonderland is based on the true story of Alice Liddell, who is really Alyss Heart, princess and rightful heir to the throne of Wonderland. And that's about all that deserves to be said about the plot of the book. Everything about this book is so cookie cutter that it smells faintly of gingerbread. The plot is standard and unremarkable. The villain, Redd, is a boring collection of cliches. It shamelessly steals the concept of the Force and turns it into White and Black Imagination, which effectively makes the only two characters who can use it properly, Redd and Alyss, nearly invincible. I have the very distinct impression that it was originally written as a vanilla fantasy, with one Wonderland inspired character (Hatter Madigan, the only one who's even remotely interesting) and the other Wonderland references were added in later. They, too, are so thin that you need to be told outright that they're meant to be allusions. Take Bibwit Harte, for example. He's meant to be an allusion to the White Rabbit. The only commonality is that his name is an anagram for White Rabbit. He's not even actually a rabbit! Or General Doppelganger, who can split into Generals Doppel and Ganger. Tweedledee and Tweedledum, of course. Even the author knows that the parallels between them are almost nonexistent, because he patiently explains them, at length. Of course, he had to eventually cut his explanation of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, because he didn't do his research and didn't know that they're from Through the Looking Glass, not Alice in Wonderland. There's another thing. I love the Alice books, but I get the impression that Beddor doesn't like them much. He doesn't seem to know that much about them, for one, and his tone is always hostile when he refers to them. The prologue has Alice calling them "stupid nonsense". Not the best way to introduce to your book to someone who thinks that the Alice books are quite clever nonsense. The writing can be surprisingly juvenile. Outside of comics, there's no reason to write "ARRRRRRRGGGGHHHH" instead of using your words to describe what it sounded like. Sure, it's a scream, but is it a scream of rage, of frustration, terror, what? And then (last thing!) there's how he treats the real Liddell family. He alters their family history to suit his purposes (making Alice adopted, for example, and nearly marrying her off to Prince Leopold). And then, the kicker. Once Alice has returned to Wonderland, she thinks about the entirely loving family in England that she's spent thirteen years with and says to herself that she's come to love them, as one might come to love kindly captors. Charming. The Liddells were real people, and the only reason that we know their name today is because of the family connection to the Alice books. They deserve better, all of them. The cover is nice, but those robots sure do look familiar...

7. Cat, by Katharine M. Rogers
So, the Global History food books I've been reading? This is the same publisher's series on animals. Same basic concept, a concise and readable history of a particular animal. Very focused on social history, which is fine. I'm more interested in that than the biological history anyways. This series is massive, and I'm looking forward to some of the more unique books. (Eel! Giraffe! Cockroach!).


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September 2011

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