witchcraft

All posts tagged witchcraft

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – NOVEMBER READ – Witch Child by Celia Rees

Published November 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Enter the world of young Mary Newbury, a world where simply being different can cost a person her life. Hidden until now in the pages of her diary, Mary’s startling story begins in 1659, the year her beloved grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch. Mary narrowly escapes a similar fate, only to face intolerance and new danger among the Puritans in the New World. How long can she hide her true identity? Will she ever find a place where her healing powers will not be feared?
Just two weeks after publication, Celia Rees’s WITCH CHILD spirited its way onto the Book Sense Children’s Only 76 list as one of the Top 10 books that independent booksellers like to handsell. Within a month, this riveting book sold out its first two hardcover printings. Now, Candlewick Press is pleased to announce the publication of WITCH CHILD in paperback.

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I have been very lucky with the choices for our Kid Lit challenge this year and I’ve been delighted with what we’ve read so far. However, I’m sorry to say Witch Child fell a little bit short for me in comparison and if it hadn’t been so short and I hadn’t been so intrigued by the main character, I probably would have given up. It’s not written like many other pieces of young adult fiction and I think that’s a positive thing to say about it. In a way, it feels quite adult and not a book that specifically panders to a younger audience but personally speaking, I just found it too slow in points to capture my attention like I had hoped.

Witch Child is a historical fiction novel told in the format of a diary from the 1600’s, written by our young female protagonist, Mary Newbury. When the story opens, she has had to witness the brutal death of her grandmother after being put on trial for being a witch and yes, she floated which instantly made her a friend of Satan. There have been whispers about Mary too, being her grand-daughter of course, but she manages to escape overseas to America on a ship with a group of Puritans to start a new life and escape the rumours surrounding her “powers.” However, on reaching the settlement, Mary is once again in danger, especially as she fraternises with the Native American people whose way of life/ideals are seen as blasphemy to the Puritan way of life. The threat to her life becomes once again very substantial leading to her taking drastic measures to save herself from certain death.

I’ll start with the things I liked about this novel. Firstly, I loved the character of Mary herself. She was extremely personable, very easy to like and sympathise with and I did find myself eager to find out what her fate was going to be. As I mentioned before, I think it’s written in quite a unique style and I appreciated the difference when I compare it to other works of young adult fiction. Sadly however, points of the narrative were just so very tedious, especially the parts where Mary is on the ship that I found myself skipping entire paragraphs just to get to another part that I could feel slightly more excited about. Furthermore, I didn’t really feel that other characters, for example, Rebekah and Martha were as fleshed out as they had the potential to be and this was a shame as I was quite interested in both their personalities and back stories. This book has so many terrific ratings on Goodreads, I’m sure I’m in the minority that feel the way about it, perhaps it was just a case of wrong reader? I’d love to know if you’ve read it and what you think, especially if you feel the exact opposite and adore this story. I’m open to being talked round!

For Chrissi’s fabulous review, please check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN DECEMBER ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: Finding Jennifer Jones (Jennifer Jones #2) by Anne Cassidy.

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Banned Books 2016 – AUGUST READ – Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

Published August 29, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima enters his life. She is a curandera, one who heals with herbs and magic. ‘We cannot let her live her last days in loneliness,’ says Antonio’s mother. ‘It is not the way of our people,’ agrees his father. And so Ultima comes to live with Antonio’s family in New Mexico. Soon Tony will journey to the threshold of manhood. Always, Ultima watches over him. She graces him with the courage to face childhood bigotry, diabolical possession, the moral collapse of his brother, and too many violent deaths. Under her wise guidance, Tony will probe the family ties that bind him, and he will find in himself the magical secrets of the pagan past—a mythic legacy equally as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America in which he has been schooled. At each turn in his life there is Ultima who will nurture the birth of his soul.

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Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to our eighth banned book of 2016! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of 2016…

SEPTEMBER – Bone- Jeff Smith

OCTOBER – The Glass Castle- Jeanette Walls

NOVEMBER- Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegesar

DECEMBER – My Sister’s Keeper- Jodi Picoult

But back to this month….

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

First published: 1972

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2013 (source)

Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Bless Me, Ultima is one of our older releases on our banned books list this year and, as a result, I can see why certain things in the book may be challenged due to the change in attitudes compared to more modern times (this is not to say I necessarily agree with the challenges of course!). This book has a lot of references to witchcraft – the “black witch” kind that involves the devil not the nice, nature-loving “white witch” kind and I know there are a lot of people out there who do not want their children exposed to that kind of thing. If we compare it to nowadays, this is the same kind of people that don’t want books like Roald Dahl’s “The Witches,” or J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter,” available in schools. I don’t agree with their viewpoints as I think curiosity in children should be encouraged but I understand their right to a difference in opinion.

CHRISSI: Hm. I can understand why parents wouldn’t want their children to read this book as it does heavily deal with witchcraft and when published there would be quite an uproar about the subject matter of this book. I can understand why there would be uproar over it, especially with certain religions. So yes, I understand why it was challenged but I wouldn’t say that I necessarily agree with it.

How about now?

BETH: Nowadays, I think it’s even more important for children to have access to a wide variety of information about different practices and opinions to their own or their parents, even if it is difficult or somewhat controversial – within reason, of course depending on the age of the child. In the time of the internet where EVERYTHING is available, I think if children are curious enough, banning or refusing access to the book isn’t going to help. If they are determined enough, they are going to get their hands on it anyway and sometimes I believe refusing something might actually encourage children to be more rebellious and seek it out more!

CHRISSI:  I honestly don’t think that this book would be as problematic now as it was when it was first released. This is mainly due to the amount of ‘popular’ wizardry/witchy books out there right now. It seems much more acceptable subject to be featured in literature. I know some parents still have problems with witchcraft books (I wasn’t allowed to read The Witches by Roald Dahl to my class of 6-7 year olds last year, as one child’s parent was a devout Christian) but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it used to be. I think putting a banned label on something can make children more curious to seek it out themselves.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately, I really didn’t get on with this book. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have any problem with the content and I normally love a good bit of magical realism but something just didn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t get into the plot, the characters or the writing flow and it all seemed a bit too airy-fairy. Antonio and Ultima were decent enough characters and the things that Antonio has to witness and go through are much harder than your general coming of age story but I just found myself a bit bored and disappointed throughout, despite the difference in culture which I would normally love.

CHRISSI: I really didn’t like this book. Despite it having a lot going on from witchcraft, murder and revenge, I found myself to be incredibly bored throughout and I ended up skim-reading quite a bit which is a shame. This book just did not grab me like I wanted it to. I also don’t think the story is very relevant to today’s readers. Hmm. A real disappointment.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

BETH’S personal star rating (out of 5):

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Join us again on the last Monday of September when we will be discussing Bone by Jeff Smith.

The Vanishing Witch – Karen Maitland

Published October 23, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland, author of the hugely popular Company of Liars will thrill fans of CJ Sansom and Kate Mosse with its chilling recreation of the Peasants’ Revolt. The reign of Richard II is troubled, the poor are about to become poorer still and landowners are lining their pockets. It’s a case of every man for himself, whatever his status or wealth. But in a world where nothing can be taken at face value, who can you trust? The dour wool merchant? His impulsive son? The stepdaughter with the hypnotic eyes? Or the raven-haired widow clutching her necklace of bloodstones? And when people start dying unnatural deaths and the peasants decide it’s time to fight back, it’s all too easy to spy witchcraft at every turn.

What did I think?:

This review comes with many thanks to the lovely people at Book Bridgr and Headline Press for allowing me to read the latest novel by one of my favourite authors, Karen Maitland. As fans of the author will know, she is a wonder at combining the turbulent times of the Middle Ages with a little bit of the supernatural, a recipe that always results in a gritty historical mystery that never fails to keep me on the edge of my seat. This latest offering is set in the 14th century in the city of Lincoln against the backdrop of the Peasants’ Revolt. Richard II is on the throne and poverty is rife across England so what does our King do to assist those in need? Well, listen to his trusted advisor John of Gaunt of course and introduce a new tax to be paid for every person over fifteen years of age in a household. Furthermore, the way in which the King’s Commissioners went about checking to see whether someone was over fifteen years was so lewd and crass that it is no surprise the peasants revolted!

Our foray into the medieval involves a host of wonderful and wacky characters, laid out for us at the beginning of the book by the author under the heading Cast Of Characters (obviously). This always fills me with slight trepidation as there seem to be so many to contend with, but like her other novels, Maitland tends to focus in depth on a select few. In The Vanishing Witch we learn about two families on either side of the poverty scale, the first a boatman called Gunter, happily married and living with his family just outside the city. He ekes a living by transporting cargo from place to place with the help of his son. The new tax really hits his family hard, being in quite dire straits to begin with, and their quest for survival is prominent throughout the novel.

The head of the family on the opposite side of the scale is a wealthy wool merchant called Robert who is married to Edith and they have two sons, Jan the elder, confident and brash, who will take over the family business in time and Adam, scholarly and quiet. Robert’s troubles first begin when he is approached for advice from recently widowed Caitlin. Poor Robert practically bursts with pride at the attention Caitlin shows him and as Edith becomes seriously unwell, torn between his loyalties to his wife and gullible to her womanly wiles, he allows Caitlin to slowly worm her way into his life, eventually becoming his wife when Edith dies. She brings along two children of her own, Leonia and Edward, the former casting her own spell over Robert’s young and impressionable son, Adam. Can Caitlin be trusted? What is her motive for integrating herself with Robert’s family? Is there something a bit spookier i.e. witchcraft going on?

I have so much praise for this novel I hardly know where to start! I loved the way that the author transported us to medieval England with so much authenticity that I could almost smell the streets, hear the noises and taste the swill. Prior to every chapter Maitland gives the reader a glimpse back into history with anti-witchcraft charms and spells that come directly from medieval writings and grimoires (medieval spell books). Here’s a taster of one of many that stood out to me:

“If a family member goes on a long journey, a bottle of their urine or their knife is hung on the wall. If the urine remains clear, or the blade bright, they are well. If the urine becomes cloudy or the blade tarnished, they are ill or in danger. If the urine dries or the knife falls or breaks, they are dead.”

I enjoyed every character in this book for different reasons. Some were so damn unlikeable, like Edward, that I had to keep reading to see whether they would get their come-uppance. Others, like Caitlin’s daughter Leonia, or the strange man dressed as a friar who begins to follow Robert, I was so intrigued by that I had to know their story. Friend or foe? You get the picture, I just had to know. The author certainly does not make it an easy journey for the reader and I was continually confused (in a good way!) over who to trust as page by page, a different secret emerges. Medieval England comes to life all over again in the safe hands and imagination of a fantastic author who not only knows what she’s talking about but makes it so exciting too!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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