Book Review – The Black Witch Chronicles

The Black Witch – Book #1

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I debated on waiting to review this book until I was done with book #2 and review the series together.  I finished the book yesterday and immediately got the second book and started reading it.  I decided that I probably should review the first book now and the second when I finish the second so we can all have my ideas as I formulate them.

There are some things about this book which I very much enjoyed and there are some things about this book that I didn’t particularly care for.  I think Laurie Forest’s creates a very interesting world and develops it in front of the reader in a way that is not too full of description nor missing any of the necessary information.

The story follows Elloren, the granddaughter of the most powerful black witch in the land.  Elloren looks exactly like her grandmother with one small detail missing.  She has no magic.  Elloren’s parents died in battle when she was young and she and her brothers were raised by her uncle who as an eccentric raised them to be removed from magic.  Elloren never owned a wand and she’s learned to build violins which is something women in her tradition/culture as not allowed to do.

At the start of the story we Elloren’s aunt, a very powerful and wealthy Guardnerian who wants her to become Wandfasted (married) which goes against what her uncle wants.  Her uncle decides to allow Elloren to go with her aunt to the city to enroll and join her brothers at the University and only after she finishes her studies will he allow her to Wandfasted.  Before she leaves he makes Elloren promise him that she will wait until she finishes her studies.  Which she does.

At University she’s exposed to a variety of other cultures and magic systems.  Especially the “evil ones” with whom she’s forced to room since she’s not willing to be Wandfasted to the boy her aunt wants her to be Wandfasted to.

After picking up the book I found out that there’s a whole lot of controversy surrounding it.  Although a fantasy book, it covers some very deep subjects the most prominent of which is a cultural one.  How different cultures see each other and the falsities we learn about each other which become harmful to society.

The story includes dragons and elves and sea creatures.  All the things a good fantasy book must have in order to make the story complete and each creature comes with it’s own history and the reasons for their existence in the story.

What I didn’t like about the book

I think Laurie did a great job at showing how what we believe about each other can cause pain if we don’t take the time to get to the know each culture for what they are.  However, although I know that the novel is a young adult fantasy novel I was not prepared for the lectures on the evils of some of the cultures.  I get the reason for them to be in the book but perhaps they could have been handled different.

I don’t want to spoil the story but there is a part in the book where students are talking about what they believe and it just felt very childish to me.  I could have done without that part and have instead action explain why some believes were prevalent.

Another thing that seemed like a stretch to me was that with every different culture, Elloren seemed to know immediately what they were.  I get that some cultures are easier to spot than others but there a whole lot that are not.  That did not seem to be present.  She and all the other students seemed to know the background of every student just by looking at them.  The exception were the fae who are able to change their appearance.  I found this to be a bit jarring.

What I liked about the book

I enjoyed reading about the different magic systems.  I particularly enjoyed how the Lupine who are the werewolves (for lack of a better description) were written.  From where I’m standing they seemed to be the ones who are able to overlook the differences in everyone else and accept the differences.  I enjoyed seeing the development of those characters.

I enjoyed how the romance was written.  It was not too much in your face but it made a point.  It was descriptive without being too much.  There is one small thing about one of the love interests that could have been developed better.  At one point he goes to military training (it appears that most of the boys go through military training) and only at the time that he’s about to return to we find out that he and Elloren have been corresponding regularly.  This was not mentioned before and I thought this could have been flushed out a little more.

How I feel generally

I really enjoyed the book.  I think it’s a perfect read for the winter time – Yes, I pick most of my books by season.  I enjoyed the description of the school and the magic system was well developed.  Some of the story at times felt a little too young but that’s not the book’s fault as this is, in fact, a young adult novel.

I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads because the book kept me interested and the ending was interesting enough that I bought the next book immediately after.  I would recommend this book to a younger audience or someone just getting started in Fantasy.

Looking forward to her other works.

Ana

Currently Reading……

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The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

Started reading The Black Witch this past week and haven’t been able to put it down.  What’s surprised me the most is my apparent enjoyment of YA Fantasy novels at the moment.  Particularly witchy and magic related YA.  This is a genre I was not prepared to like but am, in fact, having a great time with.  The books are easy to read and in a strangely easy way complicated enough to hold my interest.

The Black Witch starts off with Elloren Gardner, the granddaughter of a very powerful witch, standing in a forest with her uncle when for the first time she handles a wand and the forest catches on fire.  She’s a young girl and following the directions of her uncle.  They run out of the forest and she’s told that what she remembers from that day is only a nightmare.  But is it really?

After picking up the book I became aware of the controversy.   Being someone who does not shy away from controversy I chose to continue.  Pardon my honesty but if we were to remove every controversial aspect of a book we would be left with some very dry reading and no one wants that.

The novel takes place in a fantasy world in the very distant past and judging by the manner of dress of the characters I would say it’s in the Victorian Era, at a time when racism and discrimination were the norm.  Why wouldn’t we explore those issues as well as all other issues of the time when writing about that time?  Just because it’s fantasy there’s no reason to ignore the problems we had back then and figure out ways to not repeat them.  There is also a lot of powerful women in the story and I’m not seeing the people commenting on the racist issue commenting on the power that women have been granted.  Maybe things will change as I get deeper into the book.   Yes, there are things that happen between men and women which in our world and our time would present a problem and would make my blood boil, I am also able to put the story in perspective of the era to which it’s referring….. anyway.

If I were to say one negative thing about this book is the amount of description.  Sometimes it can go on for pages but I’m assuming it’s because it’s the first book of a series and the world needs to be set up so as to allow the reader to better understand and navigate though the story in the other books.  Still I can’t help thinking that it could have been handled differently – – I’m not a writer yet, so I’m not going to judge.

I’m only 28% through it (reading on my kindle) and yesterday I was glued to it.  I even picked it up between meetings at work.  I expect to be finished with it by the end of the year and will update you.

 

The Dutch House Book Review

Title:  The Dutch House
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Price:  Amazon Kindle $14.99
Pages:  Kindle Edition 352
Publication date:  September 24, 2019
Publisher: Haper

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House

I finished reading The Dutch House yesterday.  I will admit that I only started reading it because of the book club meeting at work coming up.  Unlike most of reviews I was not attracted to the cover at all.  I would probably picked it up at a bookstore but only because of the red color of the coat.  Red is an attention getter and that would probably had been the extent of it.  I would have put it back down and moved on to the next book on the shelf.

The first few pages were a struggle for me.  The writing is poetic and at the same time manages to be down to earth but the topic was not something I was able to get into at all. Again, had it not been for the meeting at work I would probably not have read it and DNF’d it almost immediately.  However, I am glad and thankful for that meeting which is scheduled for the 18th of this month.  I am actually really happy I finished the book.

This is my first novel by Ann Patchett.  I would love to say that it will not be my last but I am so afraid that the others will disappoint.  Not sure why but that always makes me nervous.  When I like a book so much I am always afraid to pick up another one for fear that it will disappoint.

The book follows a family in Philadelphia who lives in a very large, opulent home, The Dutch House.  The Dutch House is as much a character in the story as each of the people. in the story.  Danny, the young brother; Maeve, the older sister; Cyril, the father; and Elna, the mother.  There are also three maids/house keepers, Fluffly (her real name is Fiona); INSERT THE OTHER NAMES.  Prior to buying the house the family lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn and I got the sense that they moved prior to Danny being born.  The mother never got used to the house and, in fact, always hated it and spent a lot of time away from home.  The children, Danny and Meave, were never told why.  The father was emotionally distant to the children and the mother, the children were told, moved to Indian and left them behind.  Meave and Danny were raised by the housekeepers/nannies at different periods of their lives.

The book starts with introducing the reader to Andrea.  Andrea it appears always wanted to get inside the house.  She is the father’s girlfriend  whom the father later marries.  Andrea has two daughters Bright and Norma.  The tension between the new wife and the children was palpable from the start and the reader is lead to believe that it’s all because Meave and Danny feel as if she’s replacing their mother.  The father seemed to just give in to all of Andrea’s whims, and I, as the reader couldn’t help but feel that he just did not do well with conflict and preferred to just let her take the lead.  I never felt as if he didn’t care.

What I Liked

The writing.  The writing has got to be the one thing in the book that will stay with me for a long time.  I am normally very much involved in the plot of any book.  I enjoy the ups and downs and most of the time if the plot doesn’t grab me I’m most likely not going to enjoy the book.  I think this was the reason I had such a hard time at start of the book.

There is no plot….. for more than half of the book I had no idea where we were going.  However, the writing was so perfect that I didn’t care.  For the first time I allowed myself to become immersed in a story even though I had no clue where it was taking me.  What I was supposed to find at the end.  I found myself not caring about that and being completely taken in by the people in the story.  Their lives….

Reading this book was like sitting and chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and talking about life.  The book IS about life.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the friendship between the two siblings.  Being the older sister of a brother and having grown up being best friends I couldn’t help but let myself wonder how sometimes as we grow up we let that friendship fizzle.  We’re still great friends but not like Danny and Meave.  I also was able to see how that type of friendship between siblings can sometimes be detrimental to other relationships in our lives and throughout the book the reader is reminded of that.

What drove me crazy

Danny drove me crazy sometimes.  He was completely focused on the past.  Why he didn’t do something or why someone did something to him.  He let his past dictate his present and eventually his future.  He was so passive that it drove me nuts and I even found myself sometimes silently yelling at him to grow up.

Although Meave also focused on the past she was able to let it go and forgive the people who had hurt her because she knew that not forgiving or letting go would ultimately ruin her.  I felt bad for Danny that he could not do the something but I wanted him to learn to just let go and live his life.

The other thing that sometimes was frustrating was not knowing.  The fact that the book just kept going and talking bout the lives of all these people made me crazy sometimes.  I wanted to know the point.  Perhaps the thing is that there is no point.  We are here, as readers, to just enjoy listening (reading) about this family who is in a way like so many of us and is going through a lot of the things most of us go through.  Marriage, death, sickness, raising children, not getting along with in-laws and then getting along with in-laws, love and hate.  I think that once I realized that the point was to not have a point I was find and the book was amazing after that.

Do I Recommend It?

Absolutely.  I think that if you can get past the fact that the story is about a family just like your or anyone else’s in the world and they are just trying to survive then I think this book will teach you a few things.  I think you will enjoy the adventure.  It’s slow to happen but it will happen…. Trust me.

Favorite Quotes:

I’m not sure if this was Danny or Meave while they are sitting in the car talking.  They used to enjoy sitting in Meave’s car.  The car was where they had their deepest conversations and sometimes where Danny learned the most about his family and why thing happened the way they did.  During one of the conversations one of them had the following to say about how the past sometimes colors the present and the way we see things.

But we overlay the present onto the past. We look back through the lens of what we know now, so we’re not seeing it as the people we were, we’re seeing it as the people we are, and that means the past has been radically altered.

Danny talking about his father.

He had protected me from the world so completely that I had no idea what the world was capable of.

Danny thinking about the past and how it affects the present.

There are a few times in life when you leap up and the past that you’d been standing on falls away behind you, and the future you mean to land on is not yet in place, and for a moment you’re suspended, knowing nothing and no one, not even yourself.

I should…. Not a Book Review Again

I should be doing a book review now.  It’s time.  I finished reading the book over a month ago… I could be already two months and I have not taken the time to review it yet.  I’m not sure why and I’m not going to try to come up with excuses.  I could tell you that it’s because of NaNoWriMo which has been taken quite a bit of time and I could tell you, also, that it’s how busy my life has been … or better yet, I could tell you that I have decided to vlog my NaNo experience and the learning curve has been steep with YouTube so I’ve not had the time to dedicate to reviewing the book.

Although all those things are true.  I have entered NaNoWriMo and have been busy trying, and failing, to meet my word count every day, I could have written the book review for you.  I have been really busy at work but no more busy than I have been at any other point in my life.  I have also decided to vlog my NaNo participation…. Now this one is new and the learning curve is super steep.  I’ve never had so much trouble with my computer as when I’ve tried to get my videos from my library to iMovie.  I think I finally got it to work but don’t ask me how.

So, why am I not reviewing the book you might be asking.  Well, I don’t know.  I liked it.  I actually liked so much that I am thinking I want to write a historical novel.  I don’t feel prepared to do that yet but I have a setting and I have a thought but I’m just not good at romance and the kind of historical novels I like always have a little bit of romance in them.  Just a little, I hate all the gushy type of stuff.  Just a hint makes it so much more interesting.  Anyway, I’m going to learn and practice and perhaps I will write a historical romance novel one day.

So here is what I think the reason I have not reviewed the book is.  I’ve been lazy and focused on other projects.  Things that I need to do in order to survive.  Nope, I’m not being dramatic.  I’m being laid off from my job.  Yep….. the place I’ve been for the past 8 years and the place where I thought I was going to stay forever… well until retirement.  It was a shock, but not really.  I have known for a while, a year, but now it’s real.  I’m being shown the door and I’ve been having trouble figuring out how that makes me feel.  I’m ok.  I’m not suicidal or anything like that.  I’m a little angry and a little upset and going through all the stages of grief so if you just give me a little time and indulge me in what I choose to write I promise the review will come.

I will say that the book is great.  I really liked it so if you waiting for the review to know if you should buy it… there you go.  I think you should and I think you should read it.  Ohhh wait… I haven’t told you what book! Right.

The Carnegies’ Maid

The review will come in the next few days.  I promise!  I just need to get through some more stuff.  In the mean time I hope you are enjoying some of my posts about NaNoWriMo.  Please go visit my YouTube channel where I will giving you a glimpse of my life trying to get through NaNoWriMo and keeping a sense of humor.

thank you so much for understanding.  I’m going to go put in a few more words for my NaNo novel and then write a review….

Thanks again.  Glad you are still here with me.

Ana

#NaNoWriMo2019 Today was a struggle

Today, Day 3 of NaNoWriMo was a struggle.  I’m not sure what it was but the entire day I was feeling sort of blah and not in the mood to do anything . I’m going to theorize and say that it was the hour change that messed me up.  I got up super early and actually got quite a few words down which helped out towards the end of the day when I started feeling like I was running out of steam.

Here’s today’s video.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?  How’s it going?  Let me know if you have any tips for when you feel blah and how to break through it.

Wish you all lots of luck and I’ll see you all soon.

Ana

What am I Writing – NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is upon us and as nervous as I was before it started I think my nerves have calmed down.  I figure out what I’ll be writing and now it’s just a time to find time to write.  Between day one and day two I wrote 4,495 words.  Then this happened 🙂

 

I thought I’d vlog my process and originally the idea was to upload it to Youtube but I’ve not been able to do that.  I want to have something to look back on and remember the process.  I don’t know about you but when I accomplish a goal I rarely think of about what it took to get me to that point.  There are some lessons learned and I can remember those but I imagine that watching the process will be an added bonus.

Today is day 3 and I have been sitting in front of my computer for a while now.  In my defense I have been fighting with iMovie and trying to figure out how to get this video on here and on Youtube.  I think I finally figured it out.  Good luck to me and if you’re writing during NaNoWriMo, good luck to you as well.  Please leave a comment below and let me know what you’re writing about.

See you next week.

Ana

 

Dressing Up for Halloween/Life

So, this will have absolutely nothing to do with writing.  Except that IT IS writing and therefore I guess it will count.  It’s probably just going to sound like a stream of consciousness to anyone who reads it because ….. well, that is exactly what it is.  

I woke up a half hour ago, made a cup of coffee and sent the obligatory email to work advising that I would be working from home because I woke up with a migraine and just took some medicine.  I’m not lying, this is actually the truth.  I did wake up a half hour ago and I had, actually still have a headache.  But I’m on of those annoying people who just wakes up naturally at a certain hour and resolves to be productive even if it’s super annoying.  Believe me, it’s annoying to me also.  I’d much rather be in bed, under the covers, sleeping.  But…. Here I am.

Anyway, having woken up and sent out the emails to the office and the team and not being able to sleep I sat, at the kitchen table with coffee in hand and thinking about the day ahead.  It’s halloween and every child, or at least most children, will be dressing up as whatever their little imaginations allowed them to imagine.  They will for one day become the fruits of their imaginations.  Why can’t we, as adults do this?

I’m looking forward to seeing them come to the door asking for candy.  I will admit that, as an immigrant, this tradition of trick or treating is still a bit odd to me but as a chocolate lover I completely understand it.  If this had been a thing where I come from, I would be such a happy kid on that day.  Chocolate is life.  You better believe that I would have it all mapped out where the best chocolate giver lived and I would make sure to hit those houses before anyone else.  Like I said…. Chocolate is life.

But I am here to talk about the kids and their imaginations.  Have you ever paid attention to how kids behave when they dress up for Halloween? They become the thing they imagine the thing or person to be.  Most little girls, not all, want to dress up as princesses…. I’m not really sure why but that’s not the point.  If you really look at a little girl who is dressed up as a princess her attitude completely changes. She walks a little taller and speaks a little different and there is a tone of importance in her voice.  She says please and thank you and her smile is a little different.  She becomes the person she imagines a princess to be.  Now think back to the little boy dressed as a monster or something like that.  You got it?  He comes to your door and sometimes doesn’t even ring the bill but knocks and as you open the door he looks up at you and he looks a little taller and growls at you.  You just saw this little boy yesterday running to get into mom’s car to be driven to school and he was just a little boy.  Today, as a monster, he is that monster.  When grabbing the candy from the skull or pumpkin bucket I have in my hands he will just reach in and take it.  He will say thank you but in a growly voice and he’s on to the his next “victim.” 

I say all this to say that clothes do in fact make the person.  These little people become what they imagine they are.  They take on the actions of a princess, a monster, a police person or whatever they decide to “become” for this one day of every year.  I think that in a way we do as well.  We become who we think we are.  As adults we become what we imagine we are.  The trouble with this is that others will then see us in that way and because this becomes a vicious cycle.  Sometimes it’s great and sometimes …. Well, not so much.  

Every morning we put on whatever clothes that reflect what we are feeling.  Have you ever said to yourself.  “I am so tired, I don’t feel like putting on heels…. I’m just going to wear my jeans and sneakers.”  Gosh, I say this almost every morning.  I AM so tired at 4:00 a.m.!!!!!!!!!! But that little girl dressed as a princess is a lot smarter than I am.  She is probably also tired from playing all day and not being able to sleep thinking about her dress and her beautiful tiara just a few feet away from her bed and how for one entire day she’s going to be a beautiful princess.   That little girl knows that in order to be believable as a princes she must look like a princess and as such she CANNOT go outside in public wearing anything but her long dress and her tiara.  How else will she be distinguishable from the other little girls?  

When did we, as adults forget how to be this little girl?  As I sit here at my kitchen table, with my now cold cup of coffee, I’m thinking that perhaps our clothes are more important than we give them credit for.  They are our coat of armor and our special power.  They are like Superman’s cape or tights (whatever you prefer).  They don’t make us who we are but they enhance who we are and they present to the world the best form of ourselves.  

Perhaps it’s time I bring this little girl back and go find my princess dress.  Perhaps I will regain my superpower!

Anyway, not writing related but I just needed to write.  Hope you enjoyed it and if you did please like and share with your friends.  I am trying to grow the blog and thinking about a podcast.

Thanks for listening

Ana