Book Review : White is for Witching

White is for Witching by  Helen Oyeyemi

4 star read

Why I read:  Book Club pick for October.

Book blurb: “In a vast, mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the hole punched into its heart. Lily is gone and her twins, Miranda and Eliot, and her husband, the gentle Luc, mourn her absence with unspoken intensity. All is not well with the house, either, which creaks and grumbles and malignly confuses visitors in its mazy rooms, forcing winter apples in the garden when the branches should be bare. Generations of women inhabit its walls. And Miranda, with her new appetite for chalk and her keen sense for spirits, is more attuned to them than she is to her brother and father. She is leaving them slowly –

Slipping away from them –

And when one dark night she vanishes entirely, the survivors are left to tell her story.

“Miri I conjure you “

This is a spine-tingling tale that has Gothic roots but an utterly modern sensibility. Told by a quartet of crystalline voices, it is electrifying in its expression of myth and memory, loss and magic, fear and love.

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My review

Oyeyemi’s writing is magical.  She beautifully crafts words together to create a dark gothic atmosphere.  Words weave together,  suggesting things, lyrically grasping at your imagination.  The plot itself is bewildering and confusing. The narrative switches to different peoples viewpoints continuously and sometimes without any headers to indicate who we are now following.  The plot seems to meander along, back and forth through time till you no longer know where you are.  But somehow that works with the strange almost poetry of the words.  Its a book to read and absorb the atmosphere from.

It’s a book about mental health, how reality and illusion blend together when the mind is fragmented.  She captures the fragility of the mind wonderfully.  The main character “Miri” has a form of Pica, an eating disorder, where she consumes chalk.  She is a weird character, and I never felt like I got to know her.  But that fit into the atmosphere of the book as it seemed like Miri did not know herself or what was going on.

I was disappointed that there weren’t any actual witches in the book given the title.   The ending is left open so its not one for people who like all the loose ends tied neatly together in a book.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes:  weird tales, atmospheric books, ghosts,

“I collected pictures and I drew pictures and I looked at the pictures by myself. And because no one else ever saw them, the pictures were perfect and true. They were alive.” 
― Helen OyeyemiWhite is for Witching

****

244 pages
Published June 1st 2009 by Picador USA
ISBN  03304581404

Book Review : Salt Fish Girl – Magical realism

Salt Fish Girl by Larissa Lai

Why I read:  Intriguing and futuristic tale with feminist themes, Jan 17 Book club read.

Book blurb: “”Salt Fish Girl” is the mesmerizing tale of an ageless female character who shifts shape and form through time and place. Told in the beguiling voice of a narrator who is fish, snake, girl, and woman – all of whom must struggle against adversity for survival – the novel is set alternately in nineteenth-century China and in a futuristic Pacific Northwest.

At turns whimsical and wry, “Salt Fish Girl” intertwines the story of Nu Wa, the shape-shifter, and that of Miranda, a troubled young girl living in the walled city of Serendipity circa 2044. Miranda is haunted by traces of her mother’s glamourous cabaret career, the strange smell of durian fruit that lingers about her, and odd tokens reminiscient of Nu Wa. Could Miranda be infected by the Dreaming Disease that makes the past leak into the present?

Framed by a playful sense of magical realism, “Salt Fish Girl” reveals a futuristic Pacific Northwest where corporations govern cities, factory workers are cybernetically engineered, middle-class labour is a video game, and those who haven’t sold out to commerce and other ills must fight the evil powers intent on controlling everything. Rich with ancient Chinese mythology and cultural lore, this remarkable novel is about gender, love, honour, intrigue, and fighting against oppression.”

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My review

“How easily we abandon those who have suffered the same persecutions as we have. How quickly we grow impatient with their inability to transcend the conditions of our lives. ” ― Larissa LaiSalt Fish Girl

The story alternates between two settings: 19th century China and a future Pacific Northwest, it spirals around, back and forth between the two tales.   A deity, Nu-Wa creates human beings.   She chooses to become one of them and falls in love with a girl who sells salt fish at the market. Miranda is a young girl living in the 2040s, who has a strange affliction that her skin smells of durian fruit.  The story is a portrayal of both their lives, seeped in fantasy and magic realism.

Packed full of powerful imagery that has you smelling and tasting as well as visualising the world within the pages.    Lai’s writing is beautiful as the words flow from the page.  Weirdly beautiful.  The plot itself was muddled and often lacked logical sense as it jumped around.  Several times I had to re-read sections to connect the dots.  But this fit into the aura of mystery that the book has. It was highly readable and captivated me to the end although loose ends remain.   You are given glimpses of world-building, of a very imaginative future woven in the tale.    The ideas are wonderful and compelling, often surreal but not always making sense or flitting well together.  The creationist theme which ran throughout the novel from the first mythology to the genetic engineering was wonderfully interlaced through the different sections.    Science ethics, disability, corporate power, feminism and many elements of interesting sci-fi are  introduced  however many ideas lacked substance as they are not fully explored.

Overall I’d recommend reading the book for the beautiful writing that engages your senses and emotions and the imagination within.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: science fiction, fantasy, science ethics, feminism, magic realism,

***

“This story is about stink, after all, a story about rot, about how life grows out of the most fetid-smelling places.” ― Larissa LaiSalt Fish Girl

Paperback: 269 pages

Publisher: Thomas Allen Publishers (30 Aug. 2012)

ISBN-10: 0887623824

WWW Wednesday! 18 October 2017

I’m participating today in WWW Wednesday! 

“This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived at Taking on a World of Words.”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

Currently reading:

Cthulhu and other Monsters by Sam Stone

I adore Cthulhu  and monster stories so its a perfect pick for me.  I plan to try and read one story every night in bed.  But I’ll probably get so engrossed that I binge read them all.

“Sixteen tales of terror from the blood-soaked pen of Sam Stone. Enter if you dare and discover nine stories inspired by the nightmare visions of H P Lovecraft: Elder Gods returning to the Earth to wreak havoc, tales of death and destruction and betrayal and the last flickering embers of humanity … 

Alongside these are seven further stories featuring the monstrous creations of Stone’s own imagination: a hungry and jealous sea; wolf-creatures prowling the fashion industry; a terrifying creature held captive in a cellar … 

Open the cover and let Sam Stone’s nightmares guide your way into horror.” 

Recently Finished: The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield

“A Hu-Li is beautiful, slender and curiously foxlike. She lives in Moscow and works as a classy prostitute in the city’s premier hotels. But when a client goes inexplicably and fatally berserk at the sight of her in his luxury suite, A Hu-Li has to leave in a hurry. She decides to explore new avenues and place an ad on the internet – and that’s when the trouble really starts.”

This is a weird book:  Set in a gritty Russia where everyone seems out to make money. A fox prostitute  uses her tail to induce sexual visions in her clients.  Whilst also searching out a meaning for her existence.  This was recommended to me by a friend. I’m enjoy reading although its a little different to my usual taste for books it certainly is weird enough to keep me entertained.

 

My full review is here:  Sacred Book of the Werewolf

 

The Unremembered Girl by Eliza Maxwell

 

This is my kindle first book pick for October.   It was a fast read. with lots of twists and turns.  Full Review I hope to write shortly….

Reading Next:

White is for Whitching by Helen Oyeyemi

I’ve still not started this one !  I will be reading this one as part of The Galactic Girlfiends Book Club.  Its the October pick for us all to read.  It looks suitably spooky and supernatural for Halloween month.

 

 

WWW Wednesday! 11 October 2017

I’m participating today in WWW Wednesday! 

“This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived at Taking on a World of Words.”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

Currently reading: The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield

“A Hu-Li is beautiful, slender and curiously foxlike. She lives in Moscow and works as a classy prostitute in the city’s premier hotels. But when a client goes inexplicably and fatally berserk at the sight of her in his luxury suite, A Hu-Li has to leave in a hurry. She decides to explore new avenues and place an ad on the internet – and that’s when the trouble really starts.”

This is a weird book:  Set in a gritty Russia where everyone seems out to make money. A fox prostitute  uses her tail to induce sexual visions in her clients.  Whilst also searching out a meaning for her existence.  This was recommended to me by a friend. I’m enjoy reading although its a little different to my usual taste for books it certainly is weird enough to keep me entertained.

Recently Finished:

The World of Lore, Volume 1: Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke

“A fascinating, beautifully illustrated guide to the monsters that are part of our collective psyche, from the host of the hit podcast Lore.”

A nicely written guide to the areas of folklore that surround each type of monster.   Chapters are filled with  legends and history on each creature type.  Vampires, werewolves,  sea monsters and  ghosts are just a few of the monsters encountered within.  Cute illustrated prints that enhance the text are scattered throughout.  Its a great introduction to monster legends with a biography at the back for if you want to explore even more folklore.

My full review is here: The World of Lore

Doorways in the Sand  by Roger Zelazny

A wacky, playful,  sci-fi book that doesn’t take itself too seriously.   Fred has been a perpetual student supported by funds from his cryogenic-frozen uncle.    An alien artefact “the starstone gem” goes missing and everyone thinks Fred has it, including the aliens.  What ensues is an adventure through multiple realities as we follow Fred’s quest to find the starstone and stay alive.

A good mix of sci-fi, sillyness and detective  novel.  Its a nicely quick and entertaining read with plenty of action and packed full of weird ideas and references.

My full review is here: Doorways in the Sand

Reading Next:  White is for Whitching by Helen Oyeyemi

I will be reading this one as part of The Galactic Girlfiends Book Club.  Its the October pick for us all to read.  It looks suitably spooky and supernatural for Halloween month.

“High on the cliffs near Dover, the Silver family is reeling from the loss of Lily, mother of twins Eliot and Miranda, and beloved wife of Luc. Miranda misses her with particular intensity. Their mazy, capricious house belonged to her mother’s ancestors, and to Miranda, newly attuned to spirits, newly hungry for chalk, it seems they have never left. Forcing apples to grow in winter, revealing and concealing secret floors, the house is fiercely possessive of young Miranda. Joining voices with her brother and her best friend Ore, it tells her story: haunting in every sense, White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi is a spine-tingling tribute to the power of magic, myth and memory. Miri I conjure you . . “

The Unremembered Girl by Eliza Maxwell

“In the deep woods of East Texas, Henry supports his family by selling bootleg liquor. It’s all he can do to keep his compassionate but ailing mother and his stepfather—a fanatical grassroots minister with a bruising rhetoric—from ruin. But they have no idea they’ve become the obsession of the girl in the woods.

Abandoned and nearly feral, Eve has been watching them, seduced by the notion of family—something she’s known only in the most brutal sense. Soon she can’t resist the temptation to get close. Where Henry’s mother sees a poor girl in need, his father sees only wickedness. When Henry forges an unexpected bond with Eve, he believes he might be able to save her. He doesn’t know how wrong he is.

Eve is about to take charge of her own destiny—and that of Henry’s family. As both their worlds spin violently out of control, Henry must make an impossible choice: protect the broken young woman who’s claimed a piece of his soul, or put everyone he loves at risk in order to do the right thing.”

 

This is my kindle first book pick for October.  It looks dark and full of twists to keep me engaged.

WWW Wednesday! 27 September 2017

I’m participating today in WWW Wednesday! 

“This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived at Taking on a World of Words.”

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

 

Currently reading:  The Windup Girl  by Paolo Bacigalupi. 

Its a dark dystopian thriller which I’m enjoying.   I’ve wanted to read it for so long after seeing so many great reviews.  I have it in paperback so its taking me a while to read as I just read this one on an evening in bed.  Its about Emiko the Windup Girl, she’s not human but an engineered being. Programmed initial to satisfy the desires of a businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok.  I’ve been thrust right into the middle of a bustling future full of shady characters.  Still figuring out what is going on but the world-building is pretty amazing.

Recently Finished: Monsters Exist – Edited by Jesse Deadman & Theresa Braun

A fun book full of horror short stories. Really quick reads, loaded with monsters to haunt your nightmares. Mythological and cryptozoological critters.  Stories that bring urban legends to life. That play on your fears.  These are the monsters that lurk within your imagination, and the ones that live next door, or down the well in the woods. My full review of the book is here: Book Review: Monsters Exist

Reading Next:  Doorways in the Sand  by Roger Zelazny

This looks like a humorous sci-fi so I can’t wait to dive in. “Follow Fred on his adventures as he enters multiple realities, flipping in and out of alien perspectives, through doorways in the sand.”  Looks fun!

 

Book Review: Nights of Blood wine – Exquisite dark vampire shorts

Nights of Blood Wine – Freda Warrington

5 star read

Why I read: Vampires! Vampire tales written by one of my favourite authors. I knew I was in for a treat.

Book blurb: “”Enter the spellbinding worlds of Freda Warrington. Fifteen tales of horror and darkness, taking the reader deeper into the vampiric and the unknown.

Warrington’s vampires haunt the borderlands of excess, and you can find them here in ten stories set in her popular Blood Wine series of novels. Then there are five further tales of fantasy and horror as Warrington takes you further into the worlds of imagination. Step gently, as you may not leave untouched!”?”

Select passage: “They split women in half, good and bad, virgin and whore, submissive and disobedient, Eve and Lilith, Odette and Odile. But we are all one. Lilith’s crime was her refusal to be dominated. She is rage and freedom and sexuality, all the things women are not meant to be, even today because men fear those things so greatly. Yes, she is dark, but darkness is only the essential complement of light. It is mystery, not evil. How people fear mystery!” My Name is Not Juliette, Freda Warrington

 

My review

Reading this book was pure indulgence for me. I loved the Blood Wine series as a teenager and this took me right back there into the addiction. Beautiful yet dark vampires, complex stories filled with emotion and depth, a touch of eroticism, all wrapped up in lavish prose.

Nights of Blood Wine consists of 15 short stories. These are dark tales of vampires, fantasy and horror that weave mythology into a breathtaking new vision. They can be read as stand alone tales so no previous knowledge is needed of her previous works. All my old favourites are back, Karl and Charlotte, the vampire twins Stefan and Niklas and Violette. 5 other tales not inspired by the Blood Wine novels make up the rest of the shorts including an intriguing story featuring Dracula.

Freda Warrington’s vampires are far away from sparkly “Twilight” teen romance vampires. Her “romance” is a sprinkling of adult eroticism, dark and disturbing visions of blood and cravings. Her vampires are complex, multi-layed beings some capable of both pure evil and others spellbinding empathy towards humans. She writes women beautifully, mixing good and bad, strength and vulnerability into complex, realistic and compelling characters. This work has an element of feminism but its there in the background and the richness of all her characters, male and female rather than pushed at you. Each story gives an exquisite glimpse into the characters lives and takes you into a wonderful fantasy world of vampires. I only wish some of the vampire stories were longer as I loved re-visiting that world.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, vampires, horror, fantasy, dark tales

*****

Paperback, 228 pages
Published March 31st 2017 by Telos
About the author:   Freda Warrington is an award-winning British author, known for her epic fantasy, vampire and supernatural novels.

 More about Freda Warrington and her other books can be found on her website: http://www.fredawarrington.com/

Book Review – Lagoon – Nigerian alien tale

Lagoon – Nnedi Okorafor

Why I read:  Book club pick for June

Book Quote “A star falls from the sky.  A woman rises from the sea.  The world will never be the same.”

Book blurb: “When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

Told from multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.

‘There was no time to flee. No time to turn. No time to shriek. And there was no pain. It was like being thrown into the stars.’

My review

This was an unusual book which played with the normal first encounter tropes.  Shapeshifting water-loving aliens land in the waters of Lagos. The main alien  is able to switch into varying shapes and gets named Ayodele.   The book is filled with vivid and evocative imagery such as tentacled sea monsters.  ” ..a three-tentacled sea beast leaped over them, spiralling wildly through the air.  It splayed all its think purple fifty-foot tentacles wide for full effect, splashing loudly into the water.

The story is told from a wide range of different viewpoints.  With more of a folk tale/history vibe than that of a story.  Unfortunately all these viewpoints come across as a mishmash of confusing views some of which seem to have no relevance to the plot and there was a lot crammed into the book that did not help the story along.  Some parts were written in dialect and I did not discover the glossary at the end until I reached it (this would have made sections more coherent).  That said I particularly enjoyed the perspectives of the creatures that gave short almost morality tales woven through the book.

I wanted to like this more than I did.  Aliens are coming out of the ocean in contemporary Lagos, feminist women, the blend of folk law, sci-fi, eco-science, and speculative fiction are all right up my street.  But unfortunately the entire story did not gel together for me.  I’d have loved to have more featuring the main alien as she was a fascinating character.

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys the combination of African fiction and sci-fi.

***

 

 

Book Review – Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge – Magic and Mixology

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Kreuger

Why I read – Book club pick for May.

Book blurb: “A sharp and funny urban fantasy for “new adults” about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol fueled magic.

College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore. “

 

 

My review

Cocktails giving secret powers to kill demons was really fun and I enjoyed this part.   The teen romance was too much for me so I skimmed over a lot of it and I didn’t feel the plot really went anywhere. I loved the diversity of the characters – a good blend of people all with distinct personalities.  However it seemed like the cocktails were the star of the book rather than the characters.   I was left feeling though that the idea of the book was better than the actual book itself so I think I had some disappointment as I was really looking forward to reading it and wanted much more.

The highlight of the book for me was the Devil’s Water Dictionary which had extracts interspersed throughout the book.   This fictional mixologist’s guide to alcohol and magic included recipes, secret histories, and effects of all the various cocktails. These were interesting and engaging with a good dose of humour thrown in. I can’t wait until our next cocktail evening so we can have fun trying the recipes in the book.

I’d recommend it to anyone who wants some lighthearted fun young adult reading with a cocktail twist.

***

Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by Quirk Books
Book bloggers never stop reading.  I even managed a few chapters of this one whilst having my foot tattooed:

 

The Earthsea Trilogy

I was recently introduced to Ursula K Le Guin’s wonderful prose and speculative fiction.  So I just had to read her fantasy Earthsea trilogy to see if I loved these books as much.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Book Blurb: “Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.

Hungry for power and knowledge, Sparrowhawk tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.”

My review

The Wizard of Earthsea is a beautifully crafted fantasy story that tells of the coming of age of young Sparrowhawk. Throughout the tale he learns the skills of a mage and how to wield his power and come to terms with darkness. Along with a convincing magic system Ursula K. Le Guin creates the wonderful world of Earthsea which is written in an almost lyrical prose. This is classic fantasy and true escapism on the surface but woven throughout is an exploration of themes including cause and effect, keeping the world in balance and what it means to be oneself. A truly magical read.

Oh and if that doesn’t inspire everyone to read this book. There are dragons, epic fire breathing dragons and cute pet bracelet “dragons”.

****

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The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Book blurb:  “When young Tenar is chosen as high priestess to the ancient and nameless Powers of the Earth, everything is taken away – home, family, possessions, even her name. For she is now Arha, the Eaten One, guardian of the ominous Tombs of Atuan.

While she is learning her way through the dark labyrinth, a young wizard, Ged, comes to steal the Tombs’ greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. But Ged also brings with him the light of magic, and together, he and Tenar escape from the darkness that has become her domain.”

My review:

A beautifully written short book filled with mystery and awe. It is a coming-of-age tale of a young girl Tenar as she becomes the Eaten One, guardian of the Tombs of Atuan. The writing is captivating as you feel the depth and darkness of the oppressive tombs. Tenar is a wonderful strong female character who has to question everything she has known in a struggle to discover who she is.

*****

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The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

Book Blurb: “Book Three of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle Darkness threatens to overtake Earthsea: the world and its wizards are losing their magic. Despite being wearied with age, Ged Sparrowhawk — Archmage, wizard, and dragonlord — embarks on a daring, treacherous journey, accompanied by Enlad’s young Prince Arren, to discover the reasons behind this devastating pattern of loss. Together they will sail to the farthest reaches of their world — even beyond the realm of death — as they seek to restore magic to a land desperately thirsty for it.”

My Review:

My least favourite of the trilogy as it returns to focus on a middle aged Ged.  The story is one of death and magic dying out.  The writing was beautiful but I didn’t feel a connection to these characters or feel that the story was as strong as the other two books.

***