Recent Reads: The Midnight Witch

Usually, when you think of Pinterest fails, it’s more along the lines of some cake or craft gone rouge. Right?

Not today! My Pinterest fail was reading this book. (Kinda harsh right? But hear me out!)

So I have a Pinterest board just for books, and basically it’s just different lists to check off and random flow charts of “If You Liked Harry Potter Here’s 99 Books You’ll Love” and the works. So when I saw The Midnight Witch on sale I recognized the cover vaguely from my board. And I thought, what the heck, Pinterest has never led me astray.

Boy was I wrong.

So the first couple of pages were really promising! The plot was moving along at a good pace, there was just enough mystery and character development to keep me interested. All in all things were getting set up for a nice story line. Lilith seems like a strong female character that I could rally behind as she takes her place as the Head Witch after her father’s untimely death.

But then it just started to unravel. Around page 50 I was waiting for the writing to develop more and be less introduction-y in nature. I felt like the author Paula Brackston just kept adding things just for the heck of it, rather than developing the already established themes and ideas.

At page 100, I wanted to stop reading the book, but momma didn’t raise no quitter so I suffered through another 230-ish pages to an unsatisfactory and quite predictable end.

My main problem with this book was it’s over-dependence on wearisome and unsurprising story arches that are commonly found in Historical Fiction/Time period pieces. The Midnight Witch is “supposed” to take place in the high society of Edwardian England.

So of course Lilith has an arranged marriage.

Of course Lilith isn’t in love with the man that she’s been set to marry since birth – whom might I add, actually cares for her and is a perfectly good romantic option for her other than the fact that she’s…..

Of course in love with someone who is deemed an “unfit match” because he is of a lower social status than she is. But it doesn’t matter because LOVE.

I don’t have a problem with that story line, I’ve read MANY great books that have follow that arc, but this romance was so weakly written and predictable that I wanted to shake Lilith from pure frustration.

Louis literally loves Lilith, sacrifices a great deal to help her, and basically is there at every beck a call. Bram, a poor painter (because why not) sees Lilith at her father’s funeral, quickly becomes enthralled (and a little obsessed) with her, and as fate would have it, their path crosses and wham-bam they’re in love.

Lilith then proceeded to make every horrible decision until the last page of the novel. Her character was so weakly developed and poorly written that instead of coming off as altruistic, caring, and benevolent (as I’m sure it was intended), Lilith comes off as selfish, haphazard, and naive. The first 40 or so pages of the book sets of clear rules and expectations of members of the Lazarus coven and of the Head Witch and Lilith spends the next 300 pages breaking every single one in the name of “love” and “sacrifice” or “great duress”.

It felt like every conflict was handled brashly and consequences didn’t matter as long as Lilith got what she wanted. When confronted with the results of her actions by some of her fellow witches that were within her stewardship, the solution was to announce that she was Head Witch and shouldn’t be questioned.

As far as the antagonist, the way he was written got on my nerves. I’m sure he was intended to be steely, calculating, and cold but I got anti-social, brooding vibes instead. I think Brackston was trying to juxtapose the intentions of  Lazarus Coven and the Sentinels and make the obvious good guys the Lazarus Coven but I just didn’t feel it. Their opposing views on the use of necromancy was a tool to further the plot, but was never developed enough for my liking, thus making it hard to side with either of the groups.

ALSO another thing that irked me was that their source of magic was never explained. Lilith was  a witch but her brother wasn’t. The main antagonist wasn’t born a witch but was trained into becoming a Sentinel. When facing the coven after exposing them to Bram, one of the solutions was to just train Bram into becoming a witch. There wasn’t any clear rules as to who could and could not possess the skills/magic to be a witch.

The Midnight Witch is riddled with inconsistencies, weak plot lines, and a cast of random secondary characters that help the story limp to the end, kinda. As much as I tried to love the book, being a fantasy lover and genuinely fan of period pieces, I couldn’t help the reflex eye roll that happened every other page because of the potential that was wasted. There was so many opportunities for this book to be something noteworthy, but none of them were realized.

If you have any suggestions let me know! I’d love to read them or at least add them to my ever growing list!

xo

Chid

Programing Party: The Science of Chocolate

Type: Educational/ Social

Topic: Chocolate, Chemistry, Biology

Cost: $15

Materials: Chocolate, Spice Gum Drops, Toothpicks

Overview:

During this program, residents were able to learn what goes into their sweet treats. The first thing that residents did was to assemble theobromine, which is a chemical found in cocoa and when digested interacts with the body in ways that induce the pleasurable feeling associated with eating chocolate. Residents were put in pairs, and competed against each other to see who could build the most structurally sound molecule, and the winning duo was awarded a giant chocolate bar. Following the short activity, a presentation about how neurotransmitters work in the body, as well as chocolate’s role in increasing the activity of certain neurotransmitters was given by me. The residents were then able to participate in a quiz type activity, where each group would answer a question presented by me. As they got the answers right, they were awarded with mini candies, as well as points. At the end of the program, the team with the most amount of points were also awarded giant chocolate bars.

I assessed the learning by handing out a pre-assessment and a post-assessment. Both assessments contained the same question, and learning was assessed by seeing the difference between previous knowledge and knowledge gained after the end of the program. Also, the short, but fun quiz based on the presentation that I gave served as another way to see if the information was being retained. In the quiz there were also questions that discussed topics that were not in the presentation, but could be answered due to the answers being common knowledge.

The residents were able to learn about the history and origins of chocolate. How chocolate as we know it came to be as well as the modifications that chocolate undergoes to get to how it is eaten today. The residents were able to learn about the chemistry behind components of chocolate such as theobromine, serotonin, tryptophan, and phenyl ethylamine and how they interact in the body.

This program ended up being better than I thought. It was a little slow at first, but the anticipation of getting chocolate made them eager to participate. My residents are super competitive, so anything that they can win riles them up, and for this program that was a plus. The hardest part for me was keeping myself from overly explaining the science, or diving into the rabbit hole. Most of the residents who attended were not in any kind of STEM major (which didn’t mean that they couldn’t enjoy it) so I knew that getting too technical would cause interest to be lost.

Overall, it was a fantastic program!

Prep:

There wasn’t a lot of prep for this. The only thing that took time was creating the PowerPoint that I used for my presentation. I did have to separate the gum drops by color, but that took only 5 minutes or so!

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Real Talk: Why Is White History Month Not A Thing?

History is written by the winners. That’s how the world works. The weak get erased and the strong prevail and are blessed with an on-going legacy.

So, what does that have to do with anything? Especially with Black History? Well how many of us would have known about  Katherine G Johnson,  Dorothy J Vaughan, or Mary Jackson if it wasn’t for the movie Hidden Figures? Do we know who Barbra Jordon is, or who  Pauli Murray, or why there are such things are HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Do we know what happened to Black Wall Street or that Aretha Franklin was the first woman EVER to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or that Madam C.J. Walker was the first self-made female  millionaire?

The truth is that the African American community has been greatly shortchanged in our representation in history. There is wrongful dichotomy that black history is composed of only slavery and civil rights, and we are subject to being pushed to the background of history as if George Washington could have led the American army if it wasn’t for the fact the his livelihood was already secured by the labor of hundreds of black men and women. Thomas Jefferson had no business traveling to France and spending his time writing books and being scholarly if he had to plow the fields to provide for his daily meals.

Since the beginning this country, which was literally built on the backs of slaves, has profited by oppressing and marginalizing people of color including Indigenous Americans, Asian Americans, and Latino Americans. We have had to be pacified with a sham of a treaty. Here, take your Black History Month and be done. You should be happy, you have a whole month dedicated to you (not mention the irony of it being the shortest month of the year, but who’s counting?). What else do you want?

What I want is a fair share of the country I helped to build. What I want is the continual acknowledgment of the contributions that the African American community has made to the progression of this country. There is not part of this wonderful country’s history that hasn’t been touched by black hands, and it’s about dang time that we started learning a more cohesive history. I want to be able to open a text book and see someone that looks like me without the words slavery or Jim Crow on the page. I want other people to be able to list scholarly African Americans the way that they can remember feuding rappers or basketball statistics.

What do we have to lose? What is the worst thing that can happen if little black girls and boys see heroes that they can emulate coming from their own communities? We strengthen the African America community? There can be something associated with being black that doesn’t include the stereotype of athleticism or the  assumption of “ghetto” culture?

Even Black History Month hasn’t escaped the “Token Friend Phenomena”. Always there are cries and rallies about Martin Luther King Jr., about the great work that he has done and the wonderful things that he has said. We celebrate Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and Barack Obama. Somehow the people who are quick to fling these names into the air are the same people who’s ancestors flung rocks into their homes. I find it very interesting, that somehow even in Black History Month, we are still tokens in a system that has never been intended to work for us. There’s still the hint of “look at how well they worked with white people to go about change” that leaves a lingering taste in my mouth. All of these people faced mass amounts of criticism on their performance because of their race, all of these people were considered less than their white counterparts, all of these people  were subject to unreal expectations with the intention of their failure.

Black History Month lives across the street from “I can’t be racist, I have a (insert ethnicity here) friend”. It perpetuates the idea that one interaction negates the effect of multiple years of oppression, or that association frees one from the implications of their actions, and the accountability of their peers. It’s something used to justify the continuation of a problem that our country has, that we, as an African American community, should be satisfied with the gift of a seat in the room of history. That our request for more is anything short of ungrateful, that we in our pleas for acknowledgment are in fact contributing to the problem.

I don’t want just a seat in the room, I want a spot at the table.

Also, here are some cool reads about why we don’t need a White History Month (you know other than the fact that the concept of whiteness is arbitrary, but that’s for a whole other post).

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-we-dont-need-a-white-history-month_us_56a79202e4b01a3ed123d62f

https://mic.com/articles/133968/9-tweets-asking-exactly-why-there-s-no-white-history-month-surprised#.oZTgyh4aa

http://www.ebony.com/news-views/to-people-who-want-a-white-history-month-981

xo

Chid