White is for Witching

Hello again! I’m alive! I’m still reading! I haven’t totally fallen off the face of the earth!White is for Witching

Quick general update: Things have been fairly busy/stressful around here since school started. I’m in my junior year of high school now, and while many of my classes are interesting, I’ve gotten pretty caught up in managing the workload, along with still trying to do fun things outside of school (and I need to really start focusing on thinking about college because WOW THAT’S A THING). Unfortunately, the blog kind of fell by the wayside in the midst of all of that, but I’ve still been reading and trying to work on various posts. I’m hoping that now that I’ve gotten fully immersed in junior year and have a better feel for things that I can manage an at-least-semi-regular posting schedule, and I’m really going to try to get a better handle on everything that’s going on. And what better way to start that than with a brand new book review?

(Please note: Trigger warning for eating disorders.)

White is for Witching is the third novel by author Helen Oyeyemi (her most recent is Boy, Snow, Bird), and is the second of hers that I’ve read. The book revolves around one Miranda Silver, a girl living with her parents and twin brother in Dover, England, in the childhood home of her mother. Miranda’s life is inextricably intertwined with those of the Silver women who came before her–her mother, Lily, the grandmother she never knew, Jennifer, and her great-grandmother, Anna Silver. After Miranda’s mother dies, she begins hearing voices. She has an appetite for chalk and plastic. She can’t sleep, she can’t eat, not even the delicious concoctions her father cooks up for her. And after she leaves to attend university at Cambridge and returns with a friend, things only get eerier.

White is for Witching is without a doubt one of the most fascinating and original books I’ve ever read. It’s a maze–winding path after winding path of subplots and language and unreliable narrators. It’s incredibly hard to wrap your mind around, even after the pages are closed, and once you’re done it seems like the only thing to do is to pick it up and reread it to see if you understand it more the second time. It’s so hard to get a handle on, and yet still so amazing to read. It’s also the kind of book that makes me a little scared to tell anyone too much about it, for fear of ruining the mystery for them.

One of the things that makes White is for Witching so fascinating and absorbing is the narration. The story of Miranda and the people she knows is told from various points of view, allowing the reader to become intimately acquainted with Eliot (her brother), their family, a friend she meets at college, and more. The narration is constantly twisting and changing, making it sometimes hard to know who is saying what, and whether you can even believe what is being said. But despite this confusion, it makes the story more complete, adding hidden layers that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. I loved that I got to know so many of the characters, in ways that added a whole new depth to the story overall.

Another thing that makes the book so captivating is how Oyeyemi uses the supernatural elements of her story to touch on things in the real world. She addresses xenophobia, describing the sometimes violent reactions to Kosovan refugees who fled to the UK during the Kosovar War, something still all-too-relevant today. The book also touches on racism and prejudice, and when Miranda’s friend Ore comes to visit her in Dover, these things become physically manifested within the family home. Oyeyemi addresses these subjects so capably and in one of the most interesting ways I’ve ever seen, not shying away from them at all, and it’s part of what makes me want to experience the book all over again. She mixes the supernatural terrors of her stories with the very real issues of our time, and the result is a fascinating use of language that I kind of (and very nerdily) want to analyze in my English class.

And then, there is the plot–the plot that made me feel like my head was spinning and so confused I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was going on. The plot is the complete opposite of a straight line. It twists and curves and runs in circles. It follows Miranda’s story and the changes in her psyche, while also weaving in the stories of the other Silver women and how they all interact. It felt like Oyeyemi had thrown me into some whirling, twisted dream, where from page to page you can’t help but wonder what’s real and what’s not. What are the voices in Miranda’s head, the person who responds when she writes questions on a piece of paper? What truly inhabits the house in Dover? It’s all so incredibly tangled, but in a way that made the book only more absorbing and hard to put down.

White is for Witching is without a doubt one of the most captivating books I’ve read all year. It resembles a fairy tale, but not at all the ones that are found in Disney movies–it’s twisted and eerie and dark, and sometimes so disturbing I had to take a break from reading to absorb what had happened. Oyeyemi doesn’t shy away from the gruesome or the frightening. She infuses her story with the stuff of monsters and nightmares and things that go bump in the night, drawing the reader in with her prose and characters. It’s strange and peculiar, and, most definitely, not for children.

That’s all for today. Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, if you celebrate it, and that you’re enjoying the last couple days of November!

–Nora

Bookish Quote of the Day: “Miranda Silver is in Dover, in the ground beneath her mother’s house.” —White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

P.S. White is for Witching leans more towards adult on the spectrum of book genres, and lately I’ve been exploring more adult books when I choose what to read. I’m definitely still very much in love with YA, but just a heads up that some upcoming reviews will feature books that are more likely to be found in the adult section of the library. But of course, that doesn’t mean they can’t be perfect for teens as well 🙂

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The Name of the Star

Now, before I start, there is one very very very important thing you should understand about this book: SCARY SCARY SCARY SCARY SCARY DO NOT READ LATE AT NIGHT SERIOUSLY DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

Phew. I’m glad we got that sorted out. Now. . .

As you have probably noticed, this book is titled The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson. The main character of this story is Rory Deveaux, who is just arriving in London from Louisiana to attend a difficult boarding school there. And London is starting to become very exciting–violent, gory murders imitating those committed by Jack the Ripper are popping up around the city, and that has to be just a little noteworthy.

While at first Rory isn’t that interested, that changes soon enough, especially when one of the murders takes place just a bit too close to home. And here’s where it gets really strange. . .Rory saw a man lurking around that night. She talked to him, even. But even though her roommate was right there, Rory was the only one to see him.

And you have to admit, that’s just a bit suspicious.

As the murders continue, the people of London are alternately terrified and curious, or both, and Rory’s left to try to solve the mystery of the strange man she saw. Not to mention why she saw him and no one else did. Oh, and it’d be nice if she could stay alive, too. That would be rather nice.

I’ve already established that this book is definitely creepy, but it is also definitely good. The characters are unique, and the plot is nice and suspenseful. It’s well-written, and while it would occasionally take me a while to really get into things, it was pretty hard to get out once I did. I’m definitely going to check out the sequel soon!

ALSO, as I have mentioned before, this book is very scary, and it has descriptions of gore and violence as well. It’s still a really great book to read, and I liked it a lot, but you should probably keep those things in mind when deciding if you’re going to read it. Anyway, that’s about it! Have a great day everyone!

Literary Quote of the Day: “Fear can’t hurt you. When it washes over you, give it no power. It is a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you.” —The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

Venom

Okay, me continuously apologizing for insanely late posts is probably getting old by now, so I’m just going to jump right in for once. . .

Today’s post is on the book Venom, written by debut Young Adult author Fiona Paul. Cassandra Caravello lives near Renaissance-era Venice, on San Domenico Island, with her elderly Aunt Agnese and a number of servants. And boy, is she restless.

The rest of Cass’s life seems to consist mostly of an engagement and marriage to Luca da Peraga, a young man studying in France whom she hasn’t seen in years. The future looks bland and frightening indeed, and Cass honestly isn’t really looking forward to it. At the moment, she doesn’t really feel like she HAS much of a life, period. Until, that is, she discovers the body of a strangled girl in the graveyard near her home. Then things change. Just a bit.

Suddenly, Cass is on the trail of a crazed murderer, along with Falco, a young artist who Cass feels more and more attracted to, despite the fact that he’s obviously keeping secrets of his own. And when you catch a boy sneaking around graves late at night, can you really trust him?

One thing’s for sure: This story is bursting with detail. It throws you into the world of Venice, complete with masquerade balls, politicians, gossiping nobles, and murky canal waters. It’s original, and the plot is often gripping. The characters are pretty unique, and while I was sometimes annoyed by them (including Cass), overall they were entertaining and well-written. Cass’s character may not be as original as some of the others, but for me it doesn’t really hurt the story as a whole. Even if the writing itself is occasionally less than great, most of it was definitely good and enjoyable.

All in all, Venom is a pretty good read, and I would definitely recommend it to Young Adult and mystery lovers. So, what about that sequel? 🙂 Everyone have a great day!

Literary Quote of the Day: “. . .evil flows silently among us like venom. We are at its mercy.” –The priest in Venom, by Fiona Paul

The Ghost, The White House, and Me

In the patriotic spirit of it being the day after President’s Day, I’ve an especially patriotic book to review. It’s written by Judith St. George. Let’s get started, shall we? Ahem.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to live in the White House? Sure would, right? Well, that’s what KayKay and Anne Granger thought, until their mom got elected as president of the U.S. Now they hardly ever see her; she’s so busy. Well, soon they realize something pretty intriguing: The White House might be haunted, by none other than Honest Abe, the sixteenth president of the United States. And KayKay intends to figure out if there’s any truth to it. And she drags her little sister Anne into it as well. It’s funny, interesting, and a mystery. Read it even if it’s not President’s Day.

The Crowfield Curse

Written by Pat Walsh, The Crowfield Curse is a chilling and haunting tale. Maybe not as enthralling as other books I have read, but it is a creative and interesting thing to read. The main character is William, an orphaned boy who is servant to the monks at Crowfield Abbey. When Will rescues a hobgoblin, he learns more about the world of the fay, and the Dark King who used to terrorize it. And things only get more complicated when two very peculiar and strange persons show up at the abbey, a Jacobus Bone and his manservant, Shadlock. Things aren’t always as they seem, William learns, and sometimes these things can be very dangerous. Especially when he discovers a mythical creature lies buried in the forest, and Jacobus Bone and Shadlock seem far too interested. As I said, the book was not as absorbing as others, but the characters and plot are of good quality. So next time you’re at the library, I recommend you take a look.