Feb. 9th, 2017

rynet_ii: A deoxys (alien-like pokemon) with a neutral expression. (Default)
Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

Graphic novel set in a fairytale land that first starts with a retelling of Sleeping Beauty: the story and the curse go off more or less as expected, but once the Princess is awoken by her True Love she rides off with him, leaving a castle full of servants displaced a hundred years into the future and not sure what to do next. Cue a timeskip, and the Princess's three original handmaidens have now become old women, and the castle has turned into a refuge of sorts for various misfits. The first half of the volume centers primarily around a pregnant noblewoman named Lady Jain, fleeing from an abusive husband; by the second half she and her infant are settled into the castle and we spend a lot of time listening to stories from the local nun, Sister Peaceful, about her youth and various people she's known in her past. Very cute, lady-centric stories, though there's some... exoticism? I guess? In its portrayal of Romani people and such. Asides from that though, it was pretty delightful.



The World In 2030 A.D. by the Earl of Birkenhead

Another one of my local library's really old books shelved under "history." I think this one was less old than Seven Ages but not by very much. At some point somebody cut out a newspaper obituary for the Earl of Birkenhead and glued it into the front of this book- it seems that this was written towards the end of his life after a successful career as a politician/scholar guy. Anyway, it's basically just a series of predictions about what life will be like in 2030 A.D. as written by a 58 year old upper class man from 1930, which means there were occasionally "Ugh" inducing bits due to things like eugenics apologism and the entire chapter on women's roles in the future. (Which wasn't "stay in the kitchen" and in fact the Earl believes that everyone will be happier when women aren't basically forced into child rearing and can focus on their careers or whatever interests them, but at the same time he was of the belief that women simply can't reach the same heights of genius as men and that their ultimate role in society is basically supporting men.)

"Ugh" aside it's sort of interesting as a period piece and you can tell the author was an intelligent, well-educated person, and a number of things were pretty accurate. (While he didn't predict the internet he did rightly guess that TV and world communications in general would advance hugely, for instance.) Unfortunately his vision as a whole was of a utopia and maybe it's premature of me to say this when we're thirteen years away from 2030, I would say that's where his predictions mostly collapse. Honestly, call me cynical, but anyone who predicts the future as some sort of utopia is probably shooting themselves in the foot.

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck


Basically a collection of short stories, all centered around a boy named Joey Dowdel and his sister Mary Anne and incidents that occur while they're visiting their grandmother in small town Illinois. In the first story it's 1929 and Joey is nine while Mary Anne is seven- the last story takes place in 1935 with a fifteen year old Joey and a thirteen year old Mary Anne. Each summer they get into a wacky adventure of some sort, usually focusing around their grandmother thwarting or attempting to thwart a local jerkface. Pretty cute kid's book, though something about it being narrated by an elderly Joey recounting childhood memories makes it feel sadder to me personally than it was probably supposed to be. (Especially the epilogue, where he's very casual about the fact he's being shipped out to World War II.)

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

In the fairytale world of Arilland there lives the Woodcutter family, a family deeply wrapped up in magic and stories and faerie and with a bit of a grudge against the local royal family due to their involvement with the death of the eldest child, the heroic Jack Woodcutter Jr. Besides the erstwhile Jack Jr. members of the Woodcutter family include:
  • Jack Woodcutter Sr. the patriarch of the family, seventh son of his family, loves telling stories and is very happy about being in a troperific family,
  • Seven Woodcutter, Jack Sr's wife, also a seventh child. (Born to very uncreative parents.) Frowny, spends a lot of time focused on chores and ordering her children to do chores, doesn't like accepting charity,
  • Peter Woodcutter, son no. 2, does not do much in the story besides help to chop wood,
  • Trix Woodcutter, adopted Mischievous Young Boy who is part fairy,
  • Monday Woodcutter, beautiful eldest daughter who wound up married to a Prince, gave the property the family currently resides on to her parents, and then wound up basically estranged from the family,
  • Tuesday Woodcutter, Monday's twin sister who wound up dancing herself to death, leaving behind a grieving Monday,
  • Wednesday Woodcutter, gloomy poetic middle child surrounded by an aura of tragic beauty and is the most fae-like of the daughters,
  • Thursday Woodcutter, ran off and married a pirate, sends gifts home occasionally when she isn't busy being a Pirate Queen,
  • Friday Woodcutter, sweet and goodhearted and talented with a sewing needle and just generally the nurturing type,
  • Saturday Woodcutter, butch daughter who helps to chop wood and laments being the Token Boring Normal Daughter,
  • Sunday Woodcutter, youngest daughter, can rewrite reality by telling stories so is very careful to only write down things that are already true. Also, our main heroine.
Whilst writing about her family in the wood Sunday meets a frog called Grumble. She quickly deduces that he's an enchanted human and the two of them wind up falling in love, both oblivious to the fact that Grumble is the amnesiac Prince Rumbold, and sort of responsible for Jack Jr.'s death.

I say "sort of" because what happened is Jack Jr. accidentally killed Rumbold's puppy when Rumbold was a tiny child, so Rumbold's fairy godmother cursed him into turning into a dog, which is suspected to have lead to Jack's death/disappearance. Unbeknownst to the Woodcutter family their Fairy Godmother cursed Rumbold in retaliation, causing him to turn into a frog when he was older. And this is really just the least of the magic fuckery that Rumbold has to unravel when he turns back into a human, alongside his somewhat questionable decision to try and woo Sunday Woodcutter without mentioning that oh yeah, btw, I'm that frog you befriended.

Sunday, meanwhile, has her own family related magic fuckery to deal with, as well as ugh, that Prince from the family we don't like is throwing a bunch of balls and mom says we have to go because there's bound to be plenty of eligible men there.

Sunday alas suffers from being kind of... bland? Her primary character trait seems to be "I love my family" and she doesn't really have much of an arc? I think her primary desire is "to be normal" but she doesn't really do much about that? I was under the impression early on that she was supposed to be a sunny, silly-but-not-stupid sort of girl, but then she was apparently supposed to be unhappy? And I wasn't sure why she was supposed to be unhappy? (I think her unhappiness was supposed to be due to "I have magical powers and I don't like that because magic makes everything sort of unreal" but I am not sure.) And I mean, there's some stuff going on with her but I felt like the book needed some more rewriting specifically to make Sunday a stronger character, because her personality was sort of nondescript and she's pretty damn passive throughout most of the book, just sort of going along with what her stronger willed and more magically inclined relatives do- which in itself could work except there isn't much conflict for her wrt to her passivity.

I don't know. I just feel like she could have been a more compelling character, but just didn't have enough going on to pull her weight as the heroine. And I mean, I do like a bunch of the book- the blending of various fairy stories, the genuine fucking creepiness of the villain, and for all I complain about Sunday I did find her romance with Rumbold to genuinely be pretty cute. Just, for a reality warper she doesn't do much.

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