I’m looking forward to this one. Their aren’t a lot of reviews, and what I have read about Banks is not great. That said, I loved Good House by Due, so I am looking forward to her story. It’s very short (9hrs, or <6hrs on fast forward), so I am sure I will finish it even if it is a bad.
Banks died of Cancer in 2011. She was a writer of a range of genres beyond dark fantasy and horror. Many of her works are YA or urban fantasy which isn’t my usual preference. I hope I enjoy this story. Even if I don’t, I suspect it is more to do with my own preferences, and I’m glad of the opportunity to experience her work.
This story wasn’t as bad as many reviewers made it out to be. In fact, I thought it was interesting and well written. The urban fantasy side of Banks was recognizable, but overall I thought it was a more on the paranormal side. I think my biggest issue with this story is the take away, the main moral of it all. The concept of our ancestors paving the way for us and even being integral to our own continued success and well being is a endearing thought. In many ways, we should respect what our family has done to help us achieve a better life. This basic concept makes its a good fit for this collection.
The issue stems from the Christianity centered themes that define this story. It is very much a Christian story. It was so extreme, it reminded me of reading the Left Behind books when I was still a christian. Christianity isn’t inherently a turn off. I enjoy Maya Angelou’s works even though her life is built around Christianity. The issue is with the concepts this book pushes. It is about the stories idea of morality and ethics. Essentially, every religion offers a form of goodness that our narrator sees in the form of light. It didn’t have to be just Churches, other religious individuals shared this trait. This may seem like an honorable note, but really it has a horrid implication.
It is as if without religion, there is no goodness to be had in a person. A person must focus all their attention on some god or institution if they have any hope to evade the darkness that seeks them. This story is fiction, and I admire it for how it is told. Nevertheless, the ideas within it are not new, nor are they fictional. Plenty of people believe this. It isn’t just ostracizing to a-religous person; it’s fundamentally insulting to what it means to be human.
The story has other issue. It tries to assign evil to taboo words or curses. Basically, they try and assign arbitrary harm to things religious people don’t like to try and turn a fundamentally amoral issue good and evil. I don’t know if Banks was just translating an important piece of African american history or if she was modern day C.S. Lewis. She wrote urban fantasy on vampires which makes me think it’s just this story, but who knows. This is a good work of fiction in my opinion. It’s where fiction overlaps with society that I have a problem with it. 3.5/5 stars, rounding down.
Massey is a horror thriller writer who lives near Atlanta, Georgia. Wikipedia says his work often involves contemporary African-American life with elements of horror and the supernatural. This sounds more interesting to me than the first story.
This story is only an hour (sped up), and I’m half way through it. It’s okay. I actually enjoyed Bank’s writing more. It may be because hers was more fantasy or paranormal even from the start, but I think her style was more appealing to me too. I’ll save my overall thoughts post completion.
I didn’t hate this, but I don’t think I am a fan of Massey’s writing. It feels kind of amateur. I’m not sure if I’m knowledgeable enough to make that judgement, but it’s the impression I get nonetheless. The story was okay. It reminded me a lot of Fledgling by Octavia Butler. It was published a year after it, so I don’t know how much influence it might have had in it. Although, part of me wondered if they were set in the same world. General plot points may be spoiled moving forward in this paragraph. It’s the same concept: vampires feed on humans, but they are also a separate species. With the help of Vampires, humans can live longer like in Fledgling. There are vampires who don’t like humans just like the other. There is one subtle difference in how humans are tied to vampires in this story versus that.
Overall, I appreciated the similarity. It wasn’t enough to save the story. It was fine. I liked it, but if I had to choose again, I’d go for something better. 3/5 stars.
Due is the only author I’ve read, and most reviews suggests this story is the best among them. She is an author and lecturer of black horror and afrofuturism. I really enjoyed the Good House and look forward to this one.
I don’t have a lot to say about this story which is odd because it’s also my favorite. The story was good. I enjoyed it. I wish the other stories were as well written as this one. Due is great at creating an dark tone and atmosphere coupled with characters that feel real. I enjoyed the family dynamic of this story; I felt it gave this story more layers of ancestor allegories than the other two which were much more heavy handed. The ancestors in this story aren’t even strictly the family that are the center of the story. That said, the bond this family has is still its own form type of ancestry.
My biggest problem with this story was that the plot didn’t resonate with me as much as I liked. It was well written and immersive. It was even interesting; I suppose I just came in expecting it to pack a bigger punch emotionally. 4/5 Stars.
I didn’t this book. In fact, my expectations were circumvented in each case. I think the biggest surprise was the Banks’ story and my enjoyment of her writing. Then there was Massey who I thought I would like more. Then it ends on a good note, if not a great one with a story that is at least well crafted in prose and characters if not as much in plot. I will definitely be giving Due more of my time. As far as Banks, I will give her books another look over, but I still am not sure if they’re my cup of tea. The average rating was 3.5/5 stars (rounding down).
Commentary on diversity
I saw a great Booktube video by one vlogger Francina Simone discussing what diversity means in books and how we should approach it. She talks about people fixating on a book as being unique because its diverse. It ignores the story, what a vlog should really be about, and makes it about the boxes it checks. I found it informative. It is definitely something I want to think about when choosing and discussing books.
I chose this book because I wanted to find more black writers of horror. I like to think I am focusing on the stories. I want to find good books that I like. I may choose a book because it is a black author, but it isn’t for the sake of saying I did. What I hope to find are authors that I otherwise haven’t (and perhaps wouldn’t) heard of despite their being worthy of praise. I think Due is a perfect example of that. While I am unlikely to read any other books by Banks, I think her story is the perfect example of me having lower expectations for whatever reason and finding those to be wrong, at least in part.
I have recently come across Booktube, which I will discuss when I make my end of month update. Long story short, it has opened my eyes to just how large book world is online. One of my recent encounters was with a video discussing this thing called Spookathon that I was interested in participating in. Essentially, its 7 days where a group of booktubers are going to try to read 5 books, one that fits each of these categories:
A book with red on the cover
A book with a spooky word in the title
A book with a spooky setting
A book you don’t normally read
Can I actually do it?
I love this idea, so I want to think whether or not this is something I can do. By the end of this month, I think I may clock in at 10 books read in the last 2 months. That number along shocks me and makes me seriously wonder what I would be capable of achieving over 12 months. Still, that’s 5 in a month, on average. Could I actually read 5 in one week? I am not sure if I physically have the time, motivation aside. Last I check, I read ~10 pages in 30-40 minutes, of a mass paperback. Say 300 x 5, 1500, assume 10 per half an hour, and we are at 150 half hours or 75 hours, or 15 hours per book.
Actually, that isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I would be doing most of my books on audio anyway. Fledgling is about 12 hours, and 300 pages. I’m listening to that at 1.3 speed, knocking it down to 9 hours or so. Lets be conservative and say I can work with whatever speed gets me down to an average of 10 hours per book. 50 hours, one week. That isn’t impossible in theory. Even assuming I was a good grad student, worked 40 hours, a 90hr work week is a bit much, but people do it. Realistically, we are talking a 50-70hr work week if I were to succeed.
Step 2, check my schedule. The 14th is the Canadian Thanksgiving, and it just so happens to be the first day of the marathon. That is also the week of the Lab Midterms. That means I have to do grading that weekend. The way this class is set up, there are very few weeks where I have to grade, so this is bad timing. Still, it isn’t a deal breaker. It probably won’t even take up as much time as I would theoretically get from having monday off (as grad student, is it really off though?). All in all, it feels manageable, so lets get down to brass tacks.
Assume I read 2 hours in the morning (wake up, get ready, bike to school), no reading at school (conservative), ~1hr leaving and getting home. Lets say I leave at 5 (reasonable). I listen the entire time and continue when I get home until midnight. 7hrs, decent time for bed. That is 9 x 4 + 16 x 3 (assume read 8 to 12, no rest monday, and weekend). 36+48 = 84. Enough time. It is doable. Will I enjoy it? Will I be able to focus on the book? How much of this depends on the books I choose? These are all very relevant questions I don’t know the answer to, but suppose I can. Suppose my ability to get through books vastly exceeds my expectations. Imagine the books I can through for the next 4-6 decades of my life. 5 in a week? Then of course I can do 5 in a month; compare that to my 10 or so per year, the last few years. #lifegoals.
Okay, I’m doing this. So what am I going to read?
1) A Thriller: The Institute by Stephen King
I am not a big thriller fan, but I love horror. I could make an argument for horror fitting into thriller, but it feels like cheating if Goodreads doesn’t explicitly say Thriller. Lucky for me, The Institute is listed as both. In addition, I haven’t read many of Stephen Kings newest novels since 11/22/63 (which I’ve reread a lot). Scratch that, I read Under the Dome. I loved it at the time, but I think I saw it through rose colored glasses. I’ve come to recognize now King isn’t a god; not all of his books are worth reading. The mediocrity of Under the Dome has made me more hesitant to pick up his newest book. Whats more, I am trying to really diversify what I read. I don’t have the time for filler (not that all my selections or the cream of the crop despite how I try). I have heard some good things about this, but it can be hard to weed through all those readers who also see King through rose colored glasses. Even if this isn’t in Kings top 10, I know it ties into the King Universe rather well, so at least I’ll have that.
2) A Book With Red on the Cover: The Ancestors, by Brandon Massey, Tananarive Due, and L.A. Banks
This is harder. I could easily and happily say IT by Stephen King. Red, creepy name, creepy place (Derry). It isn’t new, and it feels like cheating. I am not going to do another Stephen King, even if I haven’t read it. I read the Cabin at the End of the World, so that’s a no. One of the things I learned from Booktube is how bad I need to read Vicious, by V.E. Schwab, but this isn’t thriller or horror. It’s Spookathon for a reason.
I am looking to read The Ancestors, a collection of novellas by Brandon Massey, Tananarive Due, and L.A. Banks. This is one I found when looking for black horror writers, but I am considering using this for something I don’t usually read. Sure I am reading Due’s The Good House, but one book doesn’t make a pattern. It is, however, a book with a red cover. In the same line of thinking, there is The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi or Dark Dreams, a collection of short stories by black writers, edited by Brandon Massey. My biggest issue with these is that I selected these to push the boundary of what I read, and I fear it may take me time to get into them in a way that may slow me down, or worse, turn me off to them. Still, I am inclined to read one of Massey’s collections. Both are ~300pgs, so I tentatively plan for The Ancestors since it’s only 3 stories. Hopefully, it will be easier to get invested into 3 stories rather than a bunch of short stories (which I find I need to pace myself).
3) A Book With a Spooky Word in the Title: Summer of Night, Dan Simmons
First off, let me say, this category is confusing or hard to figure out what fits. I am going with a word or phrase that is creepy or spooky. I googled words that are creepy, but it feels so arbitrary. Some titles have creepy phrases some don’t. Dark Dreams could work here, but like I said, I don’t want to go too far into experimental and risk losing energy. I already picked King, but a King like substitute might be Summer of Night, by Dan Simmons, book one of the Seasons of Horror series. Sure, I may be stretching the spookiness, but I think the phrase is ominous enough to justify it belonging here. Tthink of The Long Night described in GOT or Children of Night, in Dracula; night makes things spooky. The biggest reasons against this is it is 22hrs (600 pages!). Listing at 1.3 can get me to ~17hrs, which is a bit high, but doable. Some books I can only do 1.2 without being bothered, but even then its ~18hrs. I don’t want to rule it out just yet, but if I finish this list and find myself way over budget with my time then I will reconsider. The reason I want to do this is because I know its a well known horror series by an author I’ve never read. This hasn’t been a priority because I am really trying to cut back on the number of white guys I read especially since there are other authors I know who have books I want to read (King included). However, this a 7 day binge of 5 books. I think it evens out.
I do want to mention some back ups in case I need to reconsider this slot. Dark Dreams, obviously still an option, half the size of this one. Obviously, I could speed through it faster than Simmons. In addition to not wanting to lose steam, I really don’t want my first experience with all these authors be rushed or feel like an assignment. I want each of them to have a chance to impress me. The Devil in Silver, by Victor LaValle is a novel by a black man that I think I learned about in a bootube video. It is in my to be read (TBR) list, but I don’t remember a lot about it. It says it’s set in an insane asylum. Maybe that is better suited for the next category. I could do a classic. Lagoon, by Nnedi Okorafor is a fantasy, science fiction alien story. This isn’t a thriller or a horror novel, but there is something about an alien story that feels fitting for this type of readathon. A couple other options are Demon Theory (which is also an unusual book, i.e. better for #5) and Mongrels, both by Stephen Graham Jones. I am more likely to read Mongrels because its a more straight forward book.
4) A Book With a Spooky Setting: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
The Devil in Silver, by Victor LaValle is a strong contender here, set in an asylum. If this were a strict set of rules I might pick it, but there is another I have been dying to read. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury about a satanic carnival that comes to town. It doesn’t fit as well, but I feel the carnival should work as a spook setting. I have never read this. I feel as if I can’t call myself a horror fan without adding this to my read list. Plus, I expect it will be a fun quick read (293 pages). Another option is We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson. This is a classic set in a haunted house. I’ve read Hill House, but not this one. My line about Something Wicked being essential definitely fits Jackson’s work as well. It is also very short. This may change, but I think I will just read Jackson’s story before the Spookathon. The Spookathon is actually taking care of a couple books I had lined up to read for Halloween which frees up my normal routine reading time (it’s more of a novella anyway).
5) A Book You Don’t Normally Read: White is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi
I am going to try reading a physical book (or ebook) of White is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi because this is a fantasy, horror, paranormal book that I came across that I want to read that is sadly not on audio. That makes this book a perfect example of a book I don’t usually read. That is coupled with Oyeyemi being a young black woman horror/fantasy writer. Part of the reason I chose not to go with The Icarus Girl was because I knew I wanted to read this. Assuming I read at the same rate I mentioned above, this will take ~12hrs. That is manageable, I just won’t be able to multitask as well. I definitely want to start here, I think that Monday so I can really try and dig in. My follow up, will be Kindred, the graphic novel. I have read Kindred, but I recently bought the graphic novel and would love to read it. Needless to say, I don’t often (as in never have I ever) read a graphic novel. If all else fails, I go to Gone Girl. Your classic thriller which I am sure I will love. I just never read it, even as it is on my TBR because I don’t often go for strictly Thriller novels. I won’t be happy if that’s where I end up, but I want to kill it at this challenge which means I need to be prepared for bumps in the road.
I also want to plug Chesya Burke’s Let’s Play White which is a collection of short stories in fantasy, science fiction and horror. Burke is also a young black author. The book is nearly 50 pages shorter, but in the end, I am more intrigued by Oyeyemi’s book. I would like to try this collection out eventually too. I may give this a shot leading up to the Spookathon.
Preparing for whats to come
I got a copy of White is for Witching from bookoutlet.ca (thanks to @BooksandLala for constantly mentioning this bookstore). It is the paperback, which I prefer hardback. Plus this cover isn’t as nice as the one above. If I end up loving it, I’ll probably get it on hardback. The others are on audio, and I can get either on audible with existing credits or through other resources. I am also buying physical copies because I want a copy of what I read, especially if I get the audiobook from special sources.
*assumes I have the endurance for reading a physical copy as I do for listening to an audiobook.
In total, this will take ~60 hrs hours if I am lucky. For the audiobooks, worst case I lose an hour because I need to back up to 1.2 normal speed, but at 1.3 speed I am saving ~10 hrs. If I can keep the strict schedule of continuous listening, I feel confident I can make it through the books. It leaves me 24 hrs to spare. Even if I take twice as long to finish White is for Witching, that leaves another 12 hours to spare (aka write, tweet, and follow others doing the challenge.
10/13/19 – One more day
It is nearly 3 am, and I’m up preparing for my blogs to come over the next week! I am so excited. In particular, I am excited to read White is for Witching. I just really hope I have the attention span to finish this in a week. I still haven’t finished Maya Angelou’s second autobiography when I should be. It’s all about time management. I think I am ready because since I set this up, I’ve got into listening at 1.8 x speeds. That means I am going to save a lot more time on the other books.
10/15/19 – Chug, Chug, Chugging along
10/17/19 – White is for Witching Done. Summer of Night almost there
I finished White is for Witching. I gave it 4.5/5 stars. I read this as a book I don’t normally read. It fit that category in several ways 1) not an audiobook, 2) considered literary and definitely confusing in structure, 3) a woman of color horror writer. I discuss this in my review, but I had an amazing experience reading a physical copy again, at least toward the end. I won’t lie, it felt like a chore at first. It was daunting. Large parts of it I narrated out loud to help keep myself focused. I am not sure if I have that kind of patience to keep that going. That said, I also appreciate that it just takes time.
If it is a good book, it’s time I might otherwise be spent watching TV or wasting time on Facebook. I am currently reading the second autobiography in Maya Angelou’s series via a physical book. I have been reading it for at least a month. I started with a chapter a day. Then I read it for pleasure for a couple hours one weekend. Then I just stopped for a couple weeks and it sat. I feel like I can do better. I enjoyed reading with a cup of coffee at Starbucks these past two nights. Perhaps I can dedicate a night each week for such a thing. At the very least, a book a month seems reasonable. If not for the joy of reading a physical book, then for the risk of missing hidden gems like White is for Witching that isn’t on audio.
I wish I had as many great things to say about Summer of Night. I’m nearly 2/3rds through the book with ~3 hrs left. It isn’t as emotionally satisfying as White is for Witching. I don’t feel all that invested, but there isn’t much left in any case. It is very long, and it makes me worried for King’s The Institute. I’m already feeling fatigued. Which sucks.
I finished Summer of Night and started The Institute and Ancestors. I’m over half way through the former and over 1/3 through the later. Luckily, the first story was the longest. It was also better than I expected based on reviews. The Institute still has over 4 hrs, add on ~5hr for Something Wicked and probably a couple more hours for Ancestors and that leaves me with ~12 hrs. My birthday being today, yay me, means I’m hanging with friends today and tomorrow. That will make this difficult, but with 2 days, I think I can make ~6hrs a day work. Even if I can’t, this is for fun! Who care is I have to spend an extra day to finish up.
I am enjoying this. Summer of Night was the only disappointment, and that’s mostly because it was so long and so “okay”. I think when this is done, I may begin some non Halloween stories. I’m ready for a chance, and a little eager to start my TBR for next month.
I spent as much of Saturday as I could trying to get through Something Wicked this Way Comes. My birthday was on Friday, so I was busy at least part of each day this weekend. Luckily, I knew that was going to happen, so I stayed up until 4 AM Friday night to finish the Institute. Luckily, Stephen King is a master writer and I can speed through his work without any issues.
I finished Something Wicked This Way Comes, listening while I cleaned up after my Saturday night partying. Luckily, the intense ringing from the night before wasn’t so bad I couldn’t hear what was going on. I enjoyed it more today than the day before. I don’t know if that’
s the book or the fact that I was on the bus and at the mall while listening. It was a bit distracting. Today, though, I had the cleaning and laundry. Mindless tasks work so well as a way to focus on the story.
I took my time finishing the last story of The Ancestors. It was split into three stories, so I’ve been listening to one story in between each new book I read after Summer of Night. I finished it as I edited my TBR for November and the upcoming #buzzwordAthon 5.0.
I was definitely pushing my cognitive abilities here. I’m just so excited for next month and the books I will get to read. I wasn’t adding books. I was just figuring out which books I have on hand and cued up. I kept pausing it though because I kept wanting to watch a video or read good reads descriptions. I eventually finished it, spending my last 20-30 minutes (1/3) preparing some food. That’s it! It’s done.
I really enjoyed this even if I got a little fatigued. It gets me excited about books, even those I don’t read. There are 10-15 I want to read for the next readathon, but I know I can’t. This readathon gives me a reference point to plan around in the future because I definitely want to keep doing one every month. Its usually one week where my social life is more book centered. I think that’s reasonable. It also easily doubles my reading for the month, or if I find myself waning as I approach my comps, I might end up only reading during this point. That’s okay. I just want something interactive to keep me going!
I will try to continue the “read a physical book” during each readathon because I really enjoyed that. It does take up a lot more time. I read about 3-4 times slower than I listen. Still, I think it’s worth it. After all, White is for Witching was my only 5/5 star read. Imagine all the gems I’m missing because they aren’t on audio. Plus, I learned how much I enjoy reading at a coffee shop; I’d like to keep that up regularly. I could easily read one night every week for a few hours. I want to finish the last 30 pages or so of Maya Angelou’s second autobiography. I think I could still finish Kindred, the Graphic Novel. Granted, I’ve never read a graphic novel. I don’t know how long it will take or how much time I should admire the pictures. I’m betting on it being a quick read, but hey, I’ll learn as I go!
Right now, I am saving this for last. I don’t know what to expect. I am curious how deep into horror this story goes, but in either case, I am intrigued by the synopsis.
I am conflicted by this book. I loved it, but it had to grow on me. The trouble is, I don’t know if that’s my problem or its. This story is very well written. Bradbury writes in a way that is lyrical or poetic. Every word is crafted to create an atmosphere of dread. By the end, I grew to enjoy it and even love it. It creates a world unlike most books. Unfortunately, it took me about half the book to really get into it. I love it for what it is, but as a story telling device, it’s distracting. It seems like this sort of writing can best be appreciated with rereading the story. Perhaps if I had been reading a physical copy, I might have enjoyed it more being able to reread things on the spot.
That is my only complaint. The story itself is wonderful, in both plot and themes. I read this alongside The Ancestor’s edited by Brandon Massey. Bradbury creates a tale of good versus evil perhaps one that is in part created around the mythos of good and evil. In the Ancestor’s, we get overtly christian stories with heavy handed allegories that were frankly offensive. Bradbury discusses good and evil in a much more leveled manor. Even the best of us do bad things, yet it is often the best of us that stress so much about how good they are. It is strange how that should happen, how self reflection is so essential yet so damning.
Another thing that I loved about this story was the dynamic between the father and son. All to often in supernatural stories, kids will try and open up to their parents, but of course they never believe. In truth, why should they? Kids are young and imaginative, but that doesn’t stop the father figure from trusting his son, at least to an extent. He trusts him to be honest and to treat him like he isn’t a pet to be managed. That shows such a strong loving bond that really resonated with me. To be honest, it was my favorite part of the story.
Lastly, we can’t ignore the mastery of our villains. Bradbury masters the art of ton in his writing, and it is complemented by his nefarious characters in their speech and mannerisms. I thought about the ideas he proposes and how that has gone on to influence future stories. One major point is the power of good against evil. It may come across as somewhat naive, but it is also a good principle to work towards. Basically, don’t feed the trolls; Don’t give the power over you they try to manipulate you into giving.
In the end, there was so much to love in this story. It is easy to see why it is a classic. The style is different and somewhat disconcerting, but it helps set the tone for the story. 4/5 stars.
I really hope this is good. I just got off my Kingathon. I hope I am not Kinged-out. At the same time, I think I am primed to judge this story objectively and not through the rose colored glasses of a King fan. Worst case scenario, this is an easy and mildly entertaining book because King is so easy to enjoy.
Update – 10/18/19
It’s nearly midnight, and I’ve made it through 3/4ths of the book. It’s really good. The story starts off much like many of King’s recent crime novel as we follow the happenings of an ex-cop. We spend a good chunk of the start following him before we abruptly pivot. I’d say the transition into the main plot is probably the worst part of the book. It comes out of no where, and it really doesn’t flow very well. That said, we don’t have much time to focus on that because we move quickly into the life of a young boy named Luke. He is exceptionally intelligent, and his life is forever changed one day when he wakes up to find himself in a place called the Institute.
I’ll admit, I was a little worried with how the story started because, as much as I enjoy the Bill Hodges series, I really don’t care much for a detective story. I also want something different. Thankfully, this is different. This isn’t exactly a detective story. It is much more about a young boy and certain struggle he and others like him have to overcome.
We seem to be covering a lot of ground in this book. King often does that where his stories can be broken into sections. What I like about this book is that it can do that and still feel refined. I’m not usually one to complain about his length. In fact, this story is still over 500 pages (see Trick or Treat-athon), but I’m still impressed by how fast pace and compelling the story is. It should come to no surprise that I like King’s writing style. Nevertheless, it’s nice to love the story too. I’ll be surprised if this ends with less than 4 stars. There is only one thing I feel the story is lacking, but I’ll save that discussion for the end where I can give a minor spoiler warning.
It was a great book. It isn’t King’s best, but I stand by it being better than his most recent crime novels (including the Outsider). I thought the ending was satisfying. I was ready to come in her and dock King for an easy ending if that was what happened; it didn’t. There are larger consequences to the actions of the book and our main character. King address issues in politic and society making a point to provide commentary on the President himself. This isn’t new. I am happy with this read. It seems like a good novel that is pretty consistent throughout.
There are similarities to the Shop in Firestarter. It involves the abduction of children with special gifts. The institution is secret, etc.. The story itself is different; the Big Bad, is not so different. The question then becomes if it hurts the story. The next paragraph will have very mild spoilers as it relates to the Shop. Skip it if you don’t want to hear it.
In The Outsider, I criticized it for its similarity to IT, so I want to be fair and do the same here. These are only spoilers for what is not in the book. I was a little annoyed that we never got even a mention of the Shop, from Fire Starter. King is all about inter-connectivity and even when things don’t connect, he isn’t afraid to reference his own work (the Shining in The Outsider). Still, we never get a mention of the Shop. It could easily have been included if only in passing. Our character might think of how it compares to the Institute, or an Institute employee could mention it in passing. The lack of that connection makes me think he doesn’t want that connection to be there. The fact is, it’s there. Your ideas are meshing. If they’re worthy of being an independent work then why steer clear of acknowledging the elephant in the room? Why not make it an updated version of it (I’m pretty sure its not).
In the end, I still enjoyed this novel. I liked it more than Firestarter even. This story felt darker and the ending less convenient. 4.25/5 stars.
Summer of Night is going to be the second book I start in Spookathon 2019. It is a long one, so I hope I don’t get fatigued from it. Although, I wanted to save Stephen King for when I may start to get tired (second to last), and I didn’t want to read Ancestors right after White is for Witching since it is also another experimental book.
This should take ~12hrs; that’s down from 22 hrs at 1.8 speed. I may even go up to 2.0 x since it is such a long book. I really hope I like it. I want a good Halloween scare.
Update – 10/15/19
I’m 18% in with ~9hrs left (on 2x speed). I’m enjoying it, and there are some great creepy moments. I think they might be more effective if I wasn’t listening nearly as fast, but I’m still enjoying it! I’m still learning the characters. It has a nice small town vibe, but it isn’t as dark as IT exactly.
Update – 10/16/19
I am enjoying it. There are moments where I am almost hooked and intrigued. I’ve learned whose who, for the most part, and I am mildly invested. Unfortunately, I still don’t feel the emotional investment I was hoping for here. This is so often compared to IT. The coming of age story is there, and it certainly feels like a cleaner more desirable edit (so far as how it deals with race and sexuality). I still was hoping for more. At this point, I don’t see this getting better than a 3.5, rounding down. It just feels like a lot of fluff. IT is so long, but I cherish every line of it. In this, I feel half the excitement a fraction of the time.
I don’t think it’s fair to compare it to IT. IT is a uniquely exceptional book in my eyes, but I didn’t go into this looking for IT either. If anything, it really brings on that comparison itself..
Finished – 10/17/19
It was okay. This isn’t a bad book. There are few complaints beyond the central one. I just didn’t really connect with the story. There were moments where I was really interested, but too much of that was woven together by slow moments that felt like a slog.
The story has interesting characters. Although, there wasn’t much characterization of the female characters. Simmons avoids the mishaps Stephen King made (to put it mildly), but even with the flaws in IT, it wasn’t male centric. A key part of the story was Beverley’s childhood experience. and I was even surprised a couple times. Here, they feel more like character development for the male characters.
I may be biased with my love for IT, but in all of King’s overly long book, it keeps me interested. It earns its length. That isn’t the case here, and it’s more than half as short. Add on part two of the series, and the combined set get closer to IT if not quite that big. It isn’t exactly the same though. I think it’s a different kind of story. I don’t know if I’ll read it. This story makes me want to say no, but it also makes me want to read it out of a hope that maybe I’ll enjoy. Then, in a way, it makes up for spending so much time on the first one. 3.25/5 stars.
I am so excited to be reading this via a physical copy for this years #spookathon as a book a don’t normally read. This book does that twice over. One: a new fantasy/horror writer that is a woman of color and two: not listening to the book. I’ll post updates as I go along!The “plan” is to read it on Monday, but I am prepared to spread it out over the week.
Update – 10/14/19
I kicked spookathon off about 3 hours late, but I was determined to get going before I went to sleep. I got all of 5 pages or so before just had to go to sleep. It certainly didn’t help that the start of this book was weird and hard to follow.
My late night led to a late morning along with a few things that came up. I finally got going around lunchtime. It was a little rough going at first, but I ended up getting a steady 4 hours of reading in. I definitely enjoyed it, but I struggled. The format of this is a bit abstract, and I really wish it did a better job setting it up so we know what we’re getting into. I only got ~75 (1/3) pages in before I took a short break.
I got nearly half way Monday night before I had to call it. I was at a point where I finally started to understand what was going on enough to really enjoy everything it has to offer. The story starts off with a very weird beginning. Miranda is missing. This is the opening line. What follows is a strange assortment of writings that begin to introduce you to the story, but they are so obscure that it is hard to follow what the hell is going on. Luckily, this section is very short. The problem is, my confusion leaked on into part one where things were moderately more sensible.
The story is told, for the most part, from specific perspectives. I now appreciate the subtly of these perspectives and how the story transitions from one to the other. It may just be me, but this is very disconcerting for a very long time. Without revealing any hard details, what I would say to any perspective readers is to take great care to identify “who” is our narrator. I found this particularly hard because of how characters referred to members of their family. Dad was called dad yet mother is referred to by her name. This left me very confused and unsure who exactly was narrating. Therefore, try and figure out the relationship of our characters as soon as possible. Make a point to clearly distinguish them in your mind. I think this will make it far easier to understand; specifically look for a change in narrator after each break.
Speaking of breaks, sometimes sentences are ended with the same word that starts the next paragraph. Rather than state it twice, it’s printed once in between the two paragraphs (See the Instagram post below). This is pretty easy to catch onto, but I know I was confused over at least one break and just kept going without fixating too much on the incongruity.
I’m writing these first few entries at the same time, taking care to reveal things as they revealed themselves to me. I am officially in the full swing of things, capable of jumping in and out of the story with ease. I began reading with the intent to finish part 1 (~40 pages), but once I did, I was too hooked to stop. I’m now ~15 pages into part 2 and I had to stop to talk about how much I am loving this book.
Specifically, I finally understand what the opening of the story was saying. I don’t know everything, but finally, over half way through, I finally can look back and understand what the hell is going on. Making that connection was immensely satisfying. I am a little slower than the average reader and others may connect the dots sooner; if not, give it time. It is worth it. I have another 20 pages I want to read tonight (finishing this chapter and leaving ~1/3 left). I only stopped to gush about how great it is once it all comes together. It is weird and dark, and I am here for it.
The story itself is about Miranda and her place in her family. I still have a good bit to learn, but so far we see an interesting generational connection of strange women. To understand why Miranda is missing, we have to understand her. To do that, we have to understand her family. It’s a series of strange events full of well meaning characters suffering from serious mental issues for whatever reason. I suspect these mental issue must connect somehow to whatever secret this family of women hold.
It’s Wednesday night, and I finally finished White is for Witching.
In the end, I think I loved this book. I’ve read a lot of weird stories, whether it’s a short story, a novella, or full novel. Every time, I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s left me wanting wishing the intriguing mystery was more clearly addressed by the end of the book. I think I’ve finally found a book that does that. The more I think about it, the more I wonder. There is still plenty left up to the imagination. I think that makes things especially curious. Overall, this walks the line between curious and confusing, and it certainly crosses it times. In the end, I think it comes together nicely.
There is a connection between our character Miranda, her family, and their house. We never get to see things from Miranda’s perspective, and it becomes a journey of understanding what’s going on in her head. I liked the multiple perspectives because they each offered a different take. It reminded me of Anne Rice’s first two Vampire Chronicles books that center on Lestat and Louis, each from from the other’s perspective. It completely redefined Lestat’s character getting inside his head. While I am desperate to get inside Miranda’s mind, I do feel as if we get close to it.
The magical realism of this novel is like the manifestation of her own mental illness. It is chaotic, disturbing, and nearly impossible to escape. One of the reviewers quoted on the cover of the book relates Oyeyemi to Shirley Jackson. They are distinctly different, but I certainly see the similarities as it pertains to mental health. While it is unsettling, it is still a gripping tale.
What begun almost as a chore, ended with me desperate to make it to the end, not for the sake of being done, but to consume everything this book has to offer. This is probably the first physical book I’ve read in years, and I’ve missed the feeling of anticipation as I go from one page to the next. I kept checking my watch, wondering how much longer before I lose the high of my current cup of coffee. Can I afford another one so late? Part of me didn’t care if it meant I get to finish this book, and that, I think, best sums up, my feelings of this book.
I’m stuck rating this between a 4.5 to 5 stars. Should the slug of the beginning outweigh my feelings in the end? Was this slug a necessary component to ensure such a strong reaction in the end. Personally, I don’t think so. I think you can go into this book, unspoiled but with the slightest bit of advice to help ground you. However, as much as I can appreciate the unique style, I don’t entirely understand why it’s necessary to confuse your reader, right down to grammar at the end or start of a paragraph. 4.5/5 stars, rounding up.