Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners by Libba Bray

Summary: Evie O’Neill has been a very bad girl. After pushing a party trick too far and exposing a scandal she’s sent off to live in New York City with her crazy Uncle William who runs The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult. It’s the days of bobbed hair and bathtub gin but Evie’s secret powers may be a more interesting party trick than anything Fitzgerald could dream up. When a series of killings that seem to relate to the occult occur, the police ask for Uncle William’s help and Evie tags along hoping to put her abilities to the test.

Bechdel test? Evie really only has one female friend, the super-boring Mabel. Unfortunately the girls’ conversations revolve mainly around the dreamy Jericho Jones, making this a fail. (For a book by Libba Bray that does pass the test, check out my trailer for Beauty Queens!)

Rating: 4/5

Was it as good as Beauty Queens or A Great and Terrible Beauty? Not exactly. The book held my attention toward the end but it seemed that throughout there were a few too many characters. I’m sure that they’ll be important for the next book in the series but here I didn’t’ really care about  them which made reading their chapters a bit of a chore.

Other than that the story was wonderful. Bray really hits the feeling of 20s glamour on the head with her discussion of speakeasies, Ziegfeld productions, and NYC apartment life. The slang was a real treat (though it may be a little confusing to those who don’t read very closely, Bray often defines a term once and then uses it again a hundred pages later – keep your thinking hats on boys and girls!)

Book Review: When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke By Hillary Jordan

Published October 4, 2011

Mode read: Hardcover

Summary:  Set in the future United States when the extreme right has taken over, When She Woke tells the story of a woman who has committed the crime of abortion but refuses to disclose the name of the father. It follows much the same story as The Scarlet Letter but instead of Hester Prynne’s scarlet A Hannah Payne is forced to have all of her skin turned scarlet. This “melachroming” is the government’s answer to crowded prisons and results in many deaths by citizens who don’t want criminals in their midst. Rather than risk death by vigilantes Hannah chooses to flee the country and soon learns the difficulties of keeping silent.

Bechdel Test?: Passes with flying colors (if you’ll pardon the pun). Hannah lives in a halfway house for the melachromed and has intense conversations about life and death with her housemates.

Rating: 4/5

There are no words for how much I liked this book. From the opening scenes that are reminiscent of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to the brief mentions of Bowling Green, KY, this book had me turning the pages furiously. Hannah is a loveable character because she doesn’t complain about her circumstances but accepts that her choices have consequences. Though I don’t like to discuss political issues on my blog, this book seems to me to be a must read before the upcoming elections both for its discussion of women’s reproductive issues and its focus on what happens when you take away funding for the arts/start censoring.

Warnings: This book contains very strong political statements and discusses LGBTQ, reproductive rights, and religious issues.

 

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Book Review: City of Women by David R. Gillham

City of Women by David R. Gillham

Published August 7, 2012

Mode read: ARC

Summary:  City of Women is set in Germany during the Second World War and tells the story of a young woman whose circumstances suddenly make it impossible to ignore Hitler’s mission. Sigrid appears to be the perfect Aryan woman, working for the cause and attending Party meetings, but when she begins an affair with an undercover Jew and meets a reckless girl with a death wish she becomes a link in the chain to move Jews out of the country.

Bechdel Test?: The title couldn’t be more appropriate. Filled with anecdotes of powerful women, there are many opportunities for them to discuss politics, religion, family life, and their innermost thoughts. My favorite scenes were when Gillham showed us the ways that the “city of women” learned to function independent of men — developing a new currency, language, and way of doing things.

Rating: 4/5

I positively adored this book! Sorry if I seem to be gushing but I was so pleasantly surprised by this novel. War novels, even when they leave out a great deal of the combat, have never been my thing. I find long descriptions of battle tedious. However this portrayal of life on the ground, of what happens for everyone not on the front lines was exactly what I wanted.

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Week In Review: August 13-18

It’s my second week of truly settling into my NC apartment so I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the city. Somewhere between sightseeing and grocery shopping, I found time to read some pretty great online articles. Here they are:

 

  1. 6 ways your schoolteacher sabotaged your business writing: As an English major I constantly found myself breaking “the rules” about writing that I learned in middle school. It’s interesting to think that the same things that enabled me to write have “sabotaged” me later in life. I’m not sure that I have as extreme a view as the author of this piece but the idea is an interesting one.
  2. A Professional Assessment of Twilight Sparkle as a Librarian: This one is a purely fun read! While I was abroad I had two friends with whom I had endless “My Little Pony” movie nights (not as lame as it sounds, I swear). By trying to analyze the episodes, the author brought me back to those nights — we found an episode that perfectly encapsulated 19thc. British foreign policy that we called “My Little Imperialist Pony!”
  3. Five Women Writers Tougher Than Hemingway: Hemingway + feminism. Enough said.
  4. Generation Y Leads in Book Buying: As interesting as the article is, the real gem here is the discussion beneath it. There’s an active group that insists Gen Y buys books they don’t read or that the stats don’t take into account the number of textbooks Gen Y is buying. While both opinions may have merit, I am frustrated that other generations continually view Gen Y as a “tech only” generation!
  5. Old Timey Slang to Bolster Your Vocabulary: This is another fun one full of terms I wish people still used. Someone should really bring “Lobbygow” back.  Not me, I’m still working to bring “sistren” back.
  6. Lemony Snicket on the Murder of His Books: Lauren Conrad recently did an arts and craft project on her blog and used the Series of Unfortunate Events books. Whether you agree with using books as objects or not, Snicket’s response is hilarious. Readers of his books will love the on point response!

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Book Review: The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams

The Pleasures of Men  by Kate Williams

Published August 7, 2012

Mode read: ARC

Summary:  Bored with her life in Victorian London, Catherine Sorgeiul begins following a set of recent brutal murders in the newspaper. Her troubled past gives her insight into the killer’s motives so she begins writing an account of the crimes. When the killer begins leaving notes on her manuscript, Catherine must make a choice about how close to the murders she wants to get.

Bechdel Test?: Catherine talks to a lot of her female friends about the murders but the conversations seem wooden. This could just be from Catherine’s distaste for Victorian society but it quickly frustrated me.

Rating: 3/5

Williams tries to create a connection between Catherine and the shadowy Jack the Ripper-type figure but ultimately fails. I was frustrated at how long it took for Catherine’s past to be revealed and when it finally was it was underwhelming. I was looking forward to a strong female character who took charge of a situation — either by having a serial killer past or detective skills, I’m not picky! — but what I got was a teenager with an overactive imagination who dramatized her past.

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