It’s no secret that I love reading books about witches and I’ve reviewed a fair few of them here on the blog (A Discovery of Witches, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic, and others). When Penguin offered me a copy of the new Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe, I jumped at the chance to review it!
The book is a collection of documents relating to witchcraft through the ages. It begins with essays and trial transcripts from England in the 1500s. As someone who has done a lot of reading about American witch trials, I found their English counterparts fascinating!
Continue reading “Review: The Penguin Book of Witches”
When e-readers first came out I was among their loudest critics. How could they possibly simulate holding a book? Wouldn’t reading on a device take away the essential “readingness” of the experience?
During my freshman year at Kenyon, a student was selling a brand new kindle for about half-price; I took this as a sign that I needed to try it out before I ridiculed ebooks any more. Color me surprised when I ended up loving it!
Though it doesn’t exactly replicate reading a physical book, e-readers are surprisingly lovely to read on. I have a definite preference for the kindle because of its e-ink/non-backlit design; to me it is a lot more like reading a paperback.
Which brings me to the title of this post. Earlier this week I reached into my backpack to read an ebook between classes, only to find my kindle screen hopelessly broken. After calling Amazon and confirming that it was indeed beyond repair I set up my pity party, complete with a trip to the library to check out books to fill the void. While I am being a bit over dramatic, the truth is I already miss my kindle dearly and I might just have to bite the bullet for a new one.
Know where I can get one gently used?
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!)
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!)
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.
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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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.
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.