Dealing With Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1) – Patricia C. Wrede

Source: Goodreads

Princess Cimorene of Linderwall has very proper parents. She is nothing like her six elder sisters. Her hair is black and unruly. She avoids her dancing classes to fence with the castle armsmaster, learn magic with the court magician, practice economics with the court treasurer, or bake in the castle kitchens. Bored out of her mind, she summons her fairy godmother, who is no help whatsoever. So she runs away. Cimorene takes up the perfectly acceptable life of being a dragon’s princess, but she is nothing like the other captive princesses. She finds a place where her abilities (math, declining latin, cooking, baking, cleaning, magic) are welcomed and even useful. Now if only the knights and princes would stop showing up trying to fight Kazul and carry Cimorene off to live happily ever after.


Every year when International Women’s Day rolls around, I think of Cimorene. Wrede didn’t write her as a feminist. Equality is something that Cimorene takes as a given, not something she has to fight for. Anything that isn’t based in equality is just absurd, regardless of what is deemed ‘proper’ by the governing bodies. Cimorene is strong, smart, curious, and stubborn. She is, in short, my favorite literary character ever created and I hope I can write characters half as cool as her someday. I read this book at least once a year, usually more, and it is one of the biggest inspirations in my writing, equal to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time and Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted. I bring a copy with me any time I babysit and read it to my charges regardless of age and gender because it never fails. This book is pure magic.

Dealing With Dragons is not a romance. It is about Cimorene finding her place in the world and turning it into her best life. When life gives you lemons, make fresh-scented soapy water. Trust me, it can solve most of your problems.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other books by Patricia C. Wrede:
Sorcery & Cecelia, Or, The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

Star Trek Watch Through Part 5: The Original Series – “Miri” and “Dagger of the Mind”


Original image via Wiki Media Commons

Welcome to part five of my Star Trek watch through! I had some downtime over the holidays and was able to get back on track with my watching habits. This post will cover The Original Series, Episodes #8 and #9, “Miri” and “Dagger of the Mind.” Other posts in this series can be found linked at the bottom, and the watch order can be found on the first post, here.

Episode #8 – “Miri”

Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Spock, and Yeoman Rand beam down to a new Earth in what seems to be an exact replica of our solar system after they receive a distress signal. The planet seems to be halted sometime in the 1960s, and the crew only finds children alive. One of the older children, a girl named Miri, explains that the ‘grups’ (grown-ups) all contracted a disease, went crazy, and died. The crew of The Enterprise soon discover that the ‘disease’ was a failed attempt at immortality, and that it slows aging to a rate of 1 month of aging to every 100 years in children, but rapidly sends adults into a frenzy that ends in death. The children are the only survivors, and they will contract the ‘disease’ when they hit puberty. Before they are able to make this discovery, the oldest boy alive and defacto leader of the children, who call themselves ‘onlys’, leads a team to steal the crew’s communicators, so they have no contact with the ship or its computers to use in finding a cure. The crew begins contracting the disease after making contact with the children.

I think Cpt. Kirk is supposed to be attempting to manipulate Miri in order to get answers about the children, the planet, and the disease, but in all honesty, he just creepily hits on her for the entire episode, while also flirting with Yeoman Rand, which nearly turns Miri and the children against him. There wasn’t much, if any, plot movement in this episode aside from the actual search for a cure.

Episode #9 – “Dagger of the Mind”

The USS Enterprise is delivering supplies to the Tentalus Penal Colony when a Dr. Simon VanGelder, sneaks aboard and asks for asylum. Dr. McCoy asks Captain Kirk to perform a full investigation and Kirk beams down to the penal colony along with Dr. Helen Noelle, to act as his medical eyes and ears. Once on Tantalus, Cpt. Kirk and Dr. Noelle follow the lead penal doctor, Dr. Adams, through a full inspection of the facilities, including a Neural Neutralizer that Dr. Adams explains doesn’t work all that well, but none-the-less was the cause of Dr. VanGelder’s brain injuries.

Back on the ship, Dr. McCoy and Spock try to get some answers out of Dr. VanGelder, who seems to be in immense pain any time he tries to recall something of note. Spock attempts Vulcan Mind Reading on a human for the first time, whereupon they discover that Dr. Adams has been wiping peoples’ memories and filling them with his own ideas. After a struggle with Dr. Adams, Kirk is freed when Dr. Noelle electrocutes a guy and short circuits the security barrier, allowing Spock to beam down to the penal colony with a rescue team.


The two most notable things about this episode are, firstly, the past between Cpt. Kirk and Dr. Noelle, who apparently hit it off at a Christmas party. Kirk seems uncomfortable beaming down to the colony with her and tells Spock to pass a message to Dr. McCoy, that Dr. Noelle had better be the best damn assistant he’s ever had. I assume the feeling here was supposed to be that McCoy let Noelle go with Kirk because she liked him, but it came across as either she was way more interested in him than he was in her and couldn’t let it go, or that he has trouble keeping his hands off of her. Either way, it was icky. Made more so by Dr. Noelle attempting to ascertain if Kirk has feelings for her and Cpt. Kirk falling prey to mind control and then sexually assaulting Dr. Noelle. The over-sexualization of Dr. Noelle’s garb and that single loose lock of hair were all ridiculously over the top as well. That chunk of hair would get annoying fast. No woman would walk about without spare bobby pins in her pocket (do their uniforms have pockets?). And also if you’re a medic, why bother curly your hair like that all the time when a ponytail works so much better.

Secondly, the Neural Neutralizer, which is clearly a basic prototype from which we get the Neuralizers found in the Men In Black films. Flash someone and fill in the blank for their memory. Genius! Put it in all the things!

Overall, not a terrible episode, just the glaring sexualizations that really irked me. I don’t think I will ever get used to it.

Other Posts in This Series:
Star Trek – The Original Series: Season #1
Part 1: “The Cage” and “The Man Trap”
Part 2: “Charlie X” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
Part 3: “The Naked Time” and “The Enemy Within”
Part 4: “Mudd’s Women” and “What Little Girls Are Made Of”
Part 6: “The Corbomite Maneuver” and “The Menagerie, Part 1” (Coming Soon)

Gift of the Shaper – D.L. Jennings

Source: Goodreads

Thornton Woods has always lived in the small village of Highglade, where he assists his father, Olson, in their forge. On a routine trip into the neighboring town of Lusk, Thornton and his best friend, Miera, barely escape from black-clad thugs who claim to want something other than money from the pair. Their return trip moves even more dangerous, and by the time they reach Highglade, Thornton’s father is nowhere to be found. Convinced the thugs have kidnapped him, the young apprentice will stop at nothing to find the only family he has. With the help of Ynara and Kethras, two of the near-mythical cat-like race known as Kienari, Thornton and Miera set off on the thugs’ trails. Along the way, they make discoveries about their world, it’s creation, and the parts they must play in it’s continued existence.


I first discovered this book through Instagram, of all places. The author had reached out to me about a book we mutually loved and later offered to send me a copy of Gift of the Shaper. I became wrapped up in the semester’s coursework, but we’ve stayed in touch and I was able to read his book during my Christmas break. You guys. This book is really well done. And I’m not just saying that because I’ve become friends with the author. Sure, there are a few moments where I’m pretty sure I missed a character walking into a room or mounting/dismounting a horse or two, but those are tiny things that probably only I would catch.

Gift of the Shaper is a debut, high fantasy novel, set in a world where select groups of people can channel the magic of creation or destruction to do their will. Into the middle of this conflict are thrust a young blacksmith’s apprentice and his childhood best friend, completely unaware of the danger lurking just out of sight. The world building is smoothly done, the reader learning about the land through characters and their actions, rather than being info-dumped on. The characters themselves are strong stock, each one an individual with physical differences and personality quirks that make this book one of the most racially and culturally diverse that I’ve read in a while.

In addition to the rich world and cast, Jennings implemented some of my most favorite tropes, which I won’t discuss here to avoid spoilers. There were characters I loved, and characters I loved to hate, like Captain Durakas, who may be in the running for the most sexist person in Gal’Dorok. But every single person had a purpose and a connection to the story, and that’s what made me love every second of it. Now I just have to wait for Jennings to finish writing the sequel.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

TV Review – Carmen Sandiego, Season #1 – Netflix

Source: HMH

One of my childhood idols, Carmen Sandiego, returns to screens this month when Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt and Netflix team up to bring us an animated reboot of the world-class thief’s origin story.

Carmen, played by Jane The Virgin‘s Gina Rodriguez, must come to terms with her orphaned upbringing on a mysterious island when she makes contact with Player, a young hacker from the outside world played by Stranger Things’s Finn Wolfhard. As we learn more about Carmen’s past, the story takes some new and surprising turns that put Carmen more in the middle of the war between ACME and VILE than ever before. A colorful and diverse cast of characters brings Carmen’s fact-filled world to life, with many returning characters taking on new roles in a world dominated by a single red trenchcoat and fedora.


I definitely binge-watched all nine episodes when they were released on January 18th, and loved every second of it. Ivy, Max, and the Chief are back in action, and ACME and VILE are up to their old antics. Carmen is still the brilliant and yet humble thief extraordinaire we all know and loved to look up to as young girls, and the red is here to stay. I’m all about the new twists they’ve put on Carmen’s world, and seeing everything from her point of view for the first time ever just makes her even more inspiring. I might even call this show the kid-friendly version of Alias. If you’re looking for a strong female character your children can look up to, look no further than Carmen Sandiego.

You can find Carmen Sandiego streaming now on Netflix.


HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Star Trek Watch Through Part 4: The Original Series – “Mudd’s Women” and “What Little Girls are Made of”

Original image via Wiki Media Commons

Welcome to part four of my Star Trek watch through! It’s been quite a while since I posted one of these, but I found myself with some down time over the holidays and was able to get back to watching it. This post will cover The Original Series, Episodes #6 and #7, “Mudd’s Women” and “What Little Girls are Made of.” Other posts in this series can be found linked at the bottom, and the watch order can be found on the first post, here.

Episode #6 – “Mudd’s Women”

This episode was a strange one. It starts with The Enterprise in pursuit of an unidentified Class-J Cargo vessel… Which turns out to be carrying just three women and a man named Mudd. The Enterprise blows most of its circuits chasing Mudd’s ship and must head to Rigel 12, a nearby lithium crystal mining planet before its life support systems fail. The longer the women are aboard the ship, the more strangely the male crewmembers act. Spock, obviously, is not affected. McCoy makes a comment that one of the women made his medical equipment beep as she walked past it, saying that any alien who could make itself so beautiful would be smart enough not to have that effect on the equipment. He wonders aloud to Kirk if they are actually just acting beautiful and if that is what makes them beautiful. Near the arrival at Rigel 12, Mudd is shown tearing apart his quarters to locate a drug for the women, and after giving it to them, using a stolen communicator to contact Rigel 12 and beg for them to negotiate his release in exchange for the women.

Once on Rigel 12, the miners want nothing to do with Kirk or the USS Enterprise and instead focus on the women. Running low on power, Kirk reluctantly agrees to give the women to the miners. One of the would-be-brides, Evie, runs off into a sandstorm and by the time the miner rescues her the drugs that Mudd gave her have worn off. Kirk and Mudd arrive to retrieve the power supply crystals and Evie looks as though she has aged 10 years. She claims that the so-called Venus drugs are what have been making her beautiful, and takes some when Mudd offers them to her. Kirk points out that it wasn’t the drugs which made her beautiful. She insists that they are, but Mudd admits that she just ate colored jello, not the Venus drug. Evie decides to stay with the miner and Kirk and Mudd return to The Enterprise.

I think it worth noting that only two women aside from Mudd’s three women appear in this episode. One unidentified crew member and Uhura, who is notably wearing the yellow uniform of a commanding officer rather than the red of a communications, engineering, or security officer.

Was the point of this episode that women are only beautiful when they believe they are? I expected them to out Evie as an alien who can change her appearance at will. The concept that her appearance could change (from no-makeup to makeup much less) by just deciding she wanted to be beautiful is a little silly. In real life, confidence does play a part in beauty, but not anywhere close to that drastic of one.

Episode #7 – “What Little Girls are Made of”

Finally, the return of Majel Barrett! I loved her as Number One in the original pilot, “The Cage”, that was scrapped. She returns in this episode as Nurse Christine Chapel, who signed up to work on the USS Enterprise in order to find her fiance, Dr. Roger Korby.

The crew of the Enterprise arrives at Exo-III, where Dr. Korby was last stationed, and Captain Kirk and Nurse Chapel beam down to the cave he has supposedly been living in, where they spend hours wandering the abandoned tunnels before locating Korby and meeting a few of his friends – Dr. Brown, whom Nurse Chapel is acquainted with, and Ruk and Andrea. When Chapel questions the fact that Dr. Korby and Andrea seem close, and that Dr. Brown does not remember her, Dr. Korby reveals that Dr. Brown is also an android, created by transferring Dr. Brown’s personality to the robotic body just before the doctor died. Ruk and Andrea are also androids.

Dr. Korby shows Kirk and Chapel how an ancient machine left behind by a race known as “the old ones” makes androids, using Kirk as an example. While Korby shows Chapel around his home, Kirk returns to the Enterprise to check in. During her discussion with her fiance, Nurse Chapel finds out that he, too, is an android, built by the actual Dr. Korby as he was freezing to death. Korby-droid, who has up until now insisted that the androids cannot feel emotions such as love or anger, proclaims his love for Chapel is everlasting, and that he is exactly who he has always been, just immortal. Chapel spurns his advances as Captain Kirk arrives, revealing that the Kirk aboard the Enterprise was actually the android version of him. Kirk-droid has been killed and so has the male android, Ruk. Dr. Korby is forced to confront his fears when Andrea, the female android, proclaims her love for him and kisses him. Dr. Korby cannot stand his own creation and fires her phaser, destroying them both.

With all of the androids destroyed and no one left on the planet, the crew returns to the ship, where Nurse Chapel decides to stay on for the remainder of the mission now that she has no ties elsewhere.

Both of these episodes put women in competition with one another and in a spotlight where they could only interact with other characters romantically. In that way, they were both mildly disturbing. I enjoyed Majel Barrett’s return, as I enjoy her acting and can’t wait to see where she goes from here, but overall I was underwhelmed by both of these episodes.

Other Posts in This Series:
Star Trek – The Original Series: Season #1
“The Cage” and “The Man Trap”
“Charlie X” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”
“The Naked Time” and “The Enemy Within”
“Miri” and “Dagger of the Mind” (COMING SOON)

The Grey King (The Dark is Rising, #4) – Susan Cooper

The-Dark-Is-Rising-The-Grey-King-Susan-Cooper
Source: My Photos! Also, find the book on Goodreads

Struck down by an unknown illness, Old One Will Stanton is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle in Wales to recover. In his unhealthy state, Will is not aware of much that has been going on besides the weather, and indeed it is not until he meets a boy named Bran that his memories of being an Old One return to him. Bran has been visited by Merriman, and together he and Will begin the search for the harp with which to wake the sleepers.

 

What made this story especially interesting were the additions of Bran and his dog, Caval, as companions for Will instead of Merriman. In fact, Merriman hardly made an appearance. The secondary characters really carried this story, with Will just tumbling along headfirst into danger among them because he can’t understand Welsh. This small fact truly holds the entirety of the plot together, as Will knowing Welsh would uncomplicate his journey significantly.

The start of this book was rough and sharp. We are never given any description or name for the illness which Will had, just that it clouded his mind and weakened his body, making him forget all about the Old Ones for a time. It is never even expressly stated where he caught the sickness or if it was caused by the Dark. It’s as if Will woke up one day from a bad dream, realized he had been asleep for a few months, and just kind of had to guess what to do next to help the Light. The majority of the plot surrounds Bran and Caval anyway, and I felt as if Will was simply an avenue for explaining their presence. Overall, the story was good, but it felt disconnected from the previous three.

 

HHC Rating: 3.75 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – Over Sea, Under Stone
Book #2 – The Dark is Rising
Book #3 – Greenwitch
Book #5 – Silver on the Tree (Coming Soon!)

The Bear and The Nightingale (Winternight, #1) – Katherine Arden

Winternight-The-Bear-And-The-Nightingale-Katherine-Arden
Photo: Goodreads

As if you all didn’t already know of my love for fairytale retellings based on my reaction to Uprooted last year, let this be a testament. In this version of the classic Russian tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, Katherine Arden reimagines Vasya as the youngest child of a wealthy trader and his late wife, who herself was the daughter of the late ruler.

Vasya is indeed beautiful, but with a wild streak. As her elder sister begins preparing to marry, Vasya’s father Pyotr realizes that there will be no women to run Vasya’s life and makes the decision to remarry himself. At his brother-in-law’s insistence, he marries a woman whose faith dictates her life, and who is nearly as young as his sons.

About this time a young priest is rising to prominence in Moscow, threatening the power of the grand duke and the tentative peace across Russia. The grand duke decrees that the priest will travel with Pyotr when he returns to the north and to serve as the regional priest.

Vasya’s new stepmother and the new priest begin implementing Christian values in place of the old traditions, threatening the ancient spirits that protect Vasya’s homeland. As the townsfolks’ faith in the old ways waivers so do the life forces of their protectors. Vasya can see and communicate with the mysterious creatures, and soon finds herself the protector of the protectors. But a greater evil lurks in the forest, and it is only a matter of time – as the old ones weaken – until it wakes and comes for it’s due.

 

Much like Uprooted did last year, The Bear and the Nightingale transported me to another realm,  another time. The twists and turns! The intricacy of the plot! The landscape itself was so beautifully depicted that it took my breath away. Arden has succeeded in creating a future classic with a permanent place on my shelf. And it’s a series! The second book, The Girl in the Tower, was released last year and the final book in the trilogy has been announced for release sometime early next year. I cannot wait to dive back into Vasya’s world: magical, dangerous, and filled with religion and court intrigue.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

 

Other books in this series:
Book #2 – The Girl in the Tower
Book #3 – The Winter of the Witch