I picked up The Witches of Eastwick for 25 cents in the used section of my local bookstore and I definitely got a quarter’s worth of enjoyment out of...moreI picked up The Witches of Eastwick for 25 cents in the used section of my local bookstore and I definitely got a quarter’s worth of enjoyment out of it. There’s something about reading an old mass market of a vaguely trashy book that will always take me back to my adolescence. I’m sure I would have felt very sophisticated and worldly reading Witches at age 16. At age 30, it was enjoyable- campy fun in just the right amount. It seemed rather quaint in a world full of paranormal romance series, but Updike’s astute descriptions kept me hooked from page to page. (less)
Growing up, I was an avid (even rabid) fan of Patricia C. Wrede’s The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. My sister and I read the four books in that series...moreGrowing up, I was an avid (even rabid) fan of Patricia C. Wrede’s The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. My sister and I read the four books in that series probably more times than I can count. I was in the mood for some light hearted fiction so I decided to grab some more of Wrede’s books that were written after my YA days. I have to say, this book was a good diversion but didn’t quite live up to my high expectations of this author.
The book’s heroine is Eff, a twin born to an almost Duggar sized magical family living in a parallel United States in the late nineteenth century. She had the bad luck to be the thirteenth child and her extended family’s harassment of her for this unlucky fact is matched only in their pride and encouragement of her twin, Lan, the doubly good fortunate seventh son of a seventh son. Eff’s parents decide to move the family out west to the east banks of the Mammoth River (Mississippi in our universe) when her father gets the opportunity to teach at a newly founded land grant college. The town they settle in is pretty much the last outpost in civilization. Although some brave pioneers have eked out a living west of the Mammoth, it is a perilous life as prehistoric beasts and magical creatures roam free. Eff grows into her adolescence in this new land anxious that her secret status as an unlucky thirteenth child will be revealed.
Eff annoyed me through most of the book. She is so insecure and wishy-washy, unlike the awesome female characters in The Enchanted Forest Chronicless. Eff’s angst at the prospect of being discovered as a thirteenth child is probably a pretty accurate portrayal of many girls who feel abnormal for a variety of reasons (trivial or not), but it didn’t make for exciting reading. The slow buildup in this plot makes it obvious it was planned to be the first installation in a series, which I guess is reasonable for an author who writes mainly series. However, I think the character development was so muted, it didn’t make me want to run out and immediately read the next book in the series.
I loved the parallel magical universe set up. But there was one disturbing parallel missing in this book; the hard work of frontier life is the same, the land grant system is awesomely and accurately described, the Civil War’s aftermath and resulting racial tension loam large, but there’s no mention of Indians or any other indigenous human population. The land west of the Mammoth is as conveniently unpopulated as Andrew Jackson’s wet dreams. To me, it seems more conceivable in Wrede’s alter-United States that slavery never existed in a world where all individuals have access to magic. Not including Native Americans in this book seems like a cop out on her part; it would have been difficult but not impossible. There are other books in this series that I expect I will eventually read and I hope that Wrede has a plan for incorporating Indians into her otherwise engaging and enjoyable narrative. (less)
I had a lot of problems with my first foray into the world of vampire lit. I by no means believe that every novel I spend my time on has to be enlight...moreI had a lot of problems with my first foray into the world of vampire lit. I by no means believe that every novel I spend my time on has to be enlightening; the principal reason I read is for fun and leisure. However, I can’t help but see this as a thinly veiled Twilight ripoff for the older crowd and I was very uncomfortable with how the witch protagonist Diana (named for the goddess of the hunt) interacted with her vampire boyfriend, Matthew. I try not to be a complete jerk when writing reviews because I know that most books are born of the author’s blood, sweat and tears and I don’t need to love everything I read. However I have a hard time showing restraint in this review because I am in disbelief that this author didn’t know better. This book was offensive to me as a woman, quite frankly.
I am quite disturbed that someone who is so accomplished (holds a doctorate, teaches at a well-known school) as the author basically writes an ode to domestic violence masquerading as some great romance. The correct response to our dashing vampire hero telling Bella (err I mean DIANA) that he “will kill her before someone else hurts her” is to call a domestic violence shelter, not bemusedly dismiss it as another endearing sign of his brooding personality. Diana is like your friend that you love and has eight million things going for her but still dates losers with addictions because she suffers from crippling low self-esteem. Diana obviously acts as though she needs protection despite the author’s half-hearted attempts to portray her as independent. Diana submits completely to Matthew; I have always felt affinity for the goddess Diana and the thinly veiled analogy where Diana uses her powers to convince a deer to submit itself to death at Matthew’s hands gave me a case of the icks. I don’t have a fundamental problem with a character being with a possessive lover but I DO have a problem with a squicky relationship like this being portrayed as something to envy. I can see hints that Harkness has second thoughts about writing Diana as such a twit but she fails to demonstrate that her character is anything more than a damsel in distress. (And no, adding lines of dialogue that Diana is independent, brave, blah blah blah does not make it so if her every action negates these declarations.) Diana is, to be blunt, an idiot a lot of the time in how she passively accepts Matthew’s crap. (I say this as an idiot myself because I continued to read this book even when it became evident my orbits were getting bruised from all the violent eyerolling that accompanied said reading.) 300 pages in I decided to commit and read all 579 pages if for no other reason than to be able to write a review hating it completely with the street cred of actually finishing the book.
I did enjoy the descriptions of Oxford (I have very fond memories of a trip there) and as a history geek, I also loved the aspects of historic research that were discussed. This book did slightly redeem itself towards the end, but in no way absolved the flaws I saw. The abuse undercurrents are still there and still disturbing but about 400 pages in, the story picked up enough steam that all Matthew’s borderline abusive behavior didn’t become my principal response to this book. We get to learn more of the interesting world of witching and Diana starts to show some personality traits other than acquiescence. Because it ends with the promise of time travel (a particular fondness of mine), I may even pick up the sequel when it is released…but probably not. It is also unlikely that I will read other paranormal romances with vampires. I find it impossible to accept the male possessiveness leitmotif that seems obligatory to vampire stories. (less)
I really enjoyed this complex book although a lot of its complexity was probably lost on me because I didn’t really unpack some of the denser themes a...moreI really enjoyed this complex book although a lot of its complexity was probably lost on me because I didn’t really unpack some of the denser themes about colonialism, racism. All these deep undercurrents were included in a fascinating, addicting story perfect for the reader like me who isn’t always up for the “big issues” in their leisure reading. This novel that makes me outright envious of the author’s ability to envision the plot and characters and then flesh them out in such an effective and evocative way. It was spooky in just the right amount-it sent a chill down my spine without keeping me up at night.
There aren’t a lot of novelists my age who have received much acclaim (yet) and I think that Oyeyemi is a good early standout. White for Witching has very little to do with being a member of my generation (Generation Y or Millennials or whatever it is we are being called these days) on its face value but I feel that she manages to capture the essence of young adulthood for someone born in the early to mid-1980s. (less)
This book has disappeared into the same black hole in my house that ate my wedding ring, most of my favorite movies and about a third of the baby's so...moreThis book has disappeared into the same black hole in my house that ate my wedding ring, most of my favorite movies and about a third of the baby's socks. When it reappears, I will give it another go. (less)