Review: White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

28. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
Publication: Nan A. Talese (June 23, 2009), Hardcover, 240pp / ISBN 0385526059
Genre: Horror, Teen
Rating:
Challenges: GLBT Challenge 2010 (#2) & Colorful Reading Challenge (#2)
Read: February 9-10, 2010
Source: Library
Summary from Amazon:

As a child, Miranda Silver developed pica, a rare eating disorder that causes its victims to consume nonedible substances. The death of her mother when Miranda is sixteen exacerbates her condition; nothing, however, satisfies a strange hunger passed down through the women in her family. And then there’s the family house in Dover, England, converted to a bed-and-breakfast by Miranda’s father. Dover has long been known for its hostility toward outsiders. But the Silver House manifests a more conscious malice toward strangers, dispatching those visitors it despises. Enraged by the constant stream of foreign staff and guests, the house finally unleashes its most destructive power.

Review

Oh my GOD is this a creepy book. It’s creepy because of many things– sentient houses, ghosts, incest and the pica situation. It’s sort of like a Southern gothic book, with the moodiness and the no-one-talks-to-each-other and the messed-up family stuff, except that it’s all set in England and it’s CREEPY. Also very, very good.

A lot of times when I was reading White is for Witching I thought “wth am I reading and why am I so scared,” and it’s because of that that you have to get this book RIGHT NOW. Remember how much I liked The Ghost Writer? Well, this is MUCH BETTER and the ending isn’t even disappointing or confusing!

Why exactly do I like this book so much? It’s not that I particularly liked the characters, or identified with them. It’s mostly because of the writing and the story, and if an author can make me keep reading about people I don’t like? That’s some good freakin’ writing, okay.

I really like how Ms Oyeyemi weaved together the story. It’s got four perspectives: the twins, Miranda’s girlfriend, and the house. (Houses that can think and make moral decisions about the people who live in it? CREEPY.) That almost seems like too many perspectives, but it actually works really well. Especially because Miranda herself obviously can’t be trusted to have a good grasp on reality– so it’s nice to have some other views on what’s happening.

And another thing I liked was how the pica came into play. it’s not just being used as a shock tactic, or to be cool. It’s a definite part of the story, and I think it was handled without making it sensationalistic. Pica isn’t fun, and if it isn’t treated it’ll kill the person afflicted because they’ll starve to death. Ms Oyeyemi showed that, and unfortunately it just made me dislike the characters even more because no one was doing anything. Miranda was dying! Why wasn’t her father putting her into a hospital so they could give her nutrients? Absent parents just make me frustrated. (But maybe it was the house making him ignore her troubles? It’s possible, I suppose.)

I think the writing is honestly the best thing about this book, and for its sheer wonderfulness alone you should read this book. But I also think it’s worth reading because it’s just a darned good story! If you can’t handle horror then maybe you’ll have a hard time, but it was more psychological than physical horror. Hm.

Anyway, one of the best books I’ve read this year. For sure.

And

Find your own copy @ Amazon or IndieBound

Other reviews: A Striped Armchair | Coffee Stained Pages | Torque Control

House that are alive are ever scarier than ghosts, because how the heck do you fight against your own home? (Demolition?) More scary houses:
- Rose Red. Totally terrifying Stephen King miniseries. I never seem to make it all the way through this– it just gets too scary somewhere around hour four. Eek!

- The Haunting. This came out the same time as House on Haunted Hill (the remake), which is more ghosts than house. Anyway, I think The Haunting counts! Maybe it’s the ghosts moving the bits of the house around, or maybe it’s the house itself. Both? Plus, it’s got Liam Neeson in it. Score!

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TSS: February 14 (Balancing act)

The Sunday Salon.com I’ve been kind of out of it for the past week or so, because ever since I decided to do a gap year after graduating I haven’t been able to keep my mind on anything. There’s just so much I have to plan for! It’s extremely hard to read about vampires, for instance, when all I really want to read about is how to find a job overseas. I haven’t started the next Lord of the Rings book for the readalong, I’ve forgotten what I need to do for my challenges, and it’s all a big mess.

But I am trying to balance things. I’m taking the day off from reading travel blogs and focusing on Sunshine (that vampire book), and maybe a few smaller YA books, and hopefully I’ll stop running around like my pants are on fire. A year is a good amount of time to plan, and if I keep telling myself that I’m sure I’ll start believing it.

Now, I’m wondering what to do with the books from my TBR pile I don’t want to keep. I could put them on BookMooch or PaperbackSwap, but spending money when I want to save it (see here) doesn’t seem like a smart plan. I was thinking about maybe doing, like, a bookstore type thing? Where people could buy my old books and help fund my trip at the same time? What do you think: does that sound like a good idea? Or should I just wait to get rid of them in a yard sale? (By the way, how does one hold a yard sale when one lives in an apartment complex?)

Sooooo many questions. Time for stats!

Books read this week:
27. The Hunchback Assignments – Arthur Slade five-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-stars
28. White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi five-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-stars

Books reviewed this week:
24. Bite Me! – Dylan Meconis five-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-stars
26. Beyond Tourism – Kenneth Cushner five-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-stars
27. The Hunchback Assignments – Arthur Slade five-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-starsfive-stars

Currently reading:
Sunshine by Robin McKinley. I’m about halfway through now, and while I’m enjoying it I can’t help but think that a) it’s really WEIRD how Sunshine and her boyfriend do, like, nothing together and they don’t even talk to each other, and b) Sunshine needs to grow a spine. Seriously. GROW A SPINE, SUNSHINE.

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Review: The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

27. The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
Publication: Wendy Lamb Books (September 22, 2009), Hardback, 288pp / ISBN 038573784X
Genre: Sci-Fi, YA
Rating:
Read: February 8, 2010
Source: Library
Summary from Amazon:

The mysterious Mr. Socrates rescues Modo, a child in a traveling freak show. Modo is a hunchback with an amazing ability to transform his appearance, and Mr. Socrates raises him in isolation as an agent for the Permanent Association, a spy agency behind Brittania’s efforts to rule the empire. At 14, Modo is left on the streets of London to fend for himself. When he encounters Octavia Milkweed, another Association agent, the two uncover a plot by the Clockword Guild behind the murders of important men. Furthermore, a mad scientist is turning orphan children into automatons to further the goals of the Guild. Modo and Octavia journey deep into the tunnels under London and discover a terrifying plot against the British government. It’s up to them to save their country.

Review

I read this because of a positive review and even featured it as a bonus book for Unsung YA, but unfortunately I didn’t like it as much as I hoped.

The idea is very interesting: a steampunk re-imagining of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I think I was expecting something like THOND plus steampunk stuff. Basically the same plot, but with added nifty science-y things, right? Well, it’s not.

I admit that I probably should have read the book summary before starting it because I think that would have kept me from being disappointed with what it actually was: young Quasimodo with superpowers. That’s not nearly as interesting and exciting to me as Quasimodo with, I don’t know. A mechanical tail or something. Like Frankenstein’s monster except with machinery added on. I think I just wanted it to be more closely tied to THOND than it was.

But if you ignore THOND connection, The Hunchback Assignments isn’t a bad steampunk book. It’s actually pretty good! I really liked how the steampunk technology was new and creepy. Like mechanical arms, for instance. Have you ever thought of how they’d actually work? When I was reading Boneshaker, and I read about the character with a gun-arm, I never thought of how it’d actually work. But Mr Slade describes it– and it’s gross. No steampunk gun-arms for me, thanks. But I loved the detail Mr Slade put into it.

The characters were pretty good, too. I think they tended to be a little bit on the cliched, stereotyped side of things (plucky, fiesty girl lead? Check. Miserable, disillusioned loner who falls in love with the female lead? Check. Sexy villainess? Check. Bah.) but I liked reading about them and how they handled themselves in this world. I feel bad for Modo, of course, but I liked that he was a little messed up in the head. It made things more interesting. (And of course he’s disfigured.)

This is going to be a series, and so I hope the second book improves on some of the things I had problems with. Who knows, maybe the farther on we’ll get in the series the more it’ll follow the original THOND! But I don’t think I’ll be running out to get a copy of the sequel.

And

Find your own copy @ Amazon or IndieBound

Other reviews: The Written World | Once Upon a Bookshelf | Dreaming of Books | Readspace

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Thursday Tea (February 11): Sunshine

Thursday Tea Thursday Tea is a weekly meme hosted by yours truly. To play along, all you need is some tea, a book, and the answers to these questions: what tea are you drinking (and do you like it)? What book are you reading (and do you like it)? Tell us a little about your tea and your book, and whether or not the two go together.

The book: I’m just barely into the first part of Sunshine by Robert McKinley. I’m not entirely what what’s going to happen– Sunshine just met the vampire who I think is finally going to kick the action into high gear– but so far I’m enjoying it. I’m only about 15 pages in, but I’m enjoying it.

The tea coffee: This early in the morning I need coffee, thanks. Put a little too much creamer in it, so it’s actually kind of gross, but any coffee is better than no coffee. Even that crappy complimentary coffee from welcome centers and whatever! (You just put a lot of sugar/creamer in it.)

Do they go together? Yes! Because, see, Sunshine works in a coffee house! Ha! And she probably drinks a lot of coffee, although it wasn’t specifically mentioned in the book.

What are you drinking/reading this Thursday?

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REVIEW: Beyond Tourism by Kenneth Cushner

REVIEW: Beyond Tourism by Kenneth CushnerBeyond Tourism: A Practical Guide to Meaningful Educational Travel by Kenneth Cushner
Published by Rowman & Littlefield Education (2004), Paperback, 172pg
Filed under: Adult, Non-Fiction, Travel
Got my copy from: Library
Buy your own copy at Amazon or BookDepository (affiliate links | info) or add it to your Goodreads shelf

three-starsthree-starsthree-stars

Cushner integrates current research on the intercultural experience and relates it to his personal travel experiences while providing guidelines to enable educators to integrate reflective travel as an active part of the educational experience of young people. (from Amazon)

I picked this up last week when I was hankering for a travel book and only have historical fiction with me. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for (I thought it meant “tourism” like “adult tourists”), but it was interesting and somewhat informative. It was also convoluted and just basically read like it didn’t know what it wanted to be.

It’s supposed to be about educational tourism, specifically about how it relates to students and their teachers. Just that by itself would have been fine (if kinda boring), but Mr Cushner adds in personal anecdotes and a few bits of statistical info. Okay, now, that sounds alright on the surface, but it never actually tied everything together as neatly as I’ve made it sound. It would have been immensely better if it had been either an academic study on education tourism, etc etc, or a personal story about one teacher who used educational tourism in his curriculum.

Because Mr Cushner tries to mesh the two, it makes the book both boring and interesting by turns. I was way more interested in his life as a teacher using e.t. in his classroom than I was by the statistics, but if I was trying to read it as an academic study I would have been disappointed there, too. The academic part was just as as lacking as the personal part. It just didn’t flow well, and the disparity between the stats/personal stuff was jarring.

Admittedly I skimmed through most of the statistic stuff, but I did manage to glean what I think the book is actually supposed to be about: how visiting other countries, living with its people, and integrating that into one’s worldview is a wonderful, necessarily thing for today’s kids. Broadening horizons, and all that.

Read: February 5-6, 2010

Review: Bite Me! by Dylan Meconis

24. Bite Me! by Dylan Meconis
Publication: Elea Press (October 2009), Paperback, 168pp / ISBN 9780982343739
Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor, Horror?
Rating:
Read: January 30, 2010
Source: Bought
Summary:

Vampires! In the French Revolution! With funny bits put in!

Review

Through a long and complicated process of clicking on random links in the search for historically-based funnies, I found Dylan Meconis’ Family Man, a webcomic about a dude in Germany in the olden days. With werewolves! And I loved it. (It’s still ongoing, by the way.) Once I was done with currently available offerings, I decided to check out DM’s first webcomic, Bite Me!, which was written between 2000-2004, when DM was first starting out as a Professional Artist Person.

I read the synopsis, I saw she had a store, I found the super awesome Bite Me! extra package that came with buttons and stickers and an AUTOGRAPH and I decided, what the heck, I like the author’s work, and I love funny historical comics (and vampire farces)– I’ll just buy the book instead of reading it online. So I did!

Anyway, to make a long rambling post short like I meant it to be originally: I loved it. It’s hilarious! You can see Ms Meconis growing into her style through the course of the book, getting her writing style down pat, and so on. I laughed more than a few times out loud, and I pretty much just grinned maniacally at the pages the entire time I read it. And while the print quality is a little bit fuzzy (because the originals were drawn on printer paper, which is, uh. Not good for reprinting, unfortunately), it’s not horrible and by the end I didn’t even notice it.

So: check out the website. You can read the whole thing online for free, or you can buy the paper version and support a wonderful artist. It’s worth it either way!

And

Find your own copy here!


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That time I went crazy and bought a million Virginia Woolf books

So I’m taking a Virginia Woolf class this semester, and while that means I could have gotten every book I needed from the library (which was my PLAN) I, er. Ended up buying all of them.

I was lured into it! I went into the bookstore for Persian Letters and BAM. Shiny, tempting books. So, you know, now I’ve got a Virginia Woolf collection. It’s a good thing I like modern fiction!

So far we’ve read The Voyage Out (I only made it halfway; I seriously hated it) and we’re onto Jacob’s Room. I like Jacob’s Room, and I’m underlining a lot of interesting, melodious phrases. But I’m dreading the end. If you know what happens at the end, you’ll know why. If you haven’t read it, I won’t ruin it for you.

One of the things I like about Jacob’s Room is how while it’s about Jacob, the person, he’s only ever a sort of background character. Most of what we learn about him is through other people’s perspectives, even if they’re only just sitting across from him on a train. Jacob gets to let out a few thoughts of his own, but they’re small thoughts, inconsequential. When he speaks, it’s mostly in monosyllables.

Plus it’s got that wacky, wacky modern fiction thing where stuff is happening but you don’t know where or when, characters are introduced in a way that gives you absolutely no information about them, and oftentimes objects are described in entirely oddball ways. Sometimes you don’t even know what’s being described until a page later, if that. Fun stuff, if you like that sort of thing. I tend to just hang on by my fingernails I hope I don’t get too lost.

Next we’re going on to Mrs Dalloway. Huzzah!