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

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Recent Reads: Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery

Happy Black History Month y’all! The older I get, the more I appreciate Black History Month and the resilience that African Americans have to survive in a country that was built on our backs, and continues to oppress us systematically. However, that topic is for another post. This post is for lauding the magnificent work that is Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery by Charles Johnson and Patricia Smith.

Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery is an accompaniment to a four part PBS special (that I have yet to watch), and it is truly a masterpiece. It starts at Jamestown and goes through American history to the brink of the Civil War. After I read this book, I realized how whitewashed the perspective of American history was, and it made me want to learn more about America from the views of the minorities, namely African Americans and the indigenous people.

The book itself is an easy read, you pick it up and from the first page it lays down the gravity of the topic that the book is about. Unlike many books that flirt around the history of slavery in a measly attempt to condemn the wrong and yet excuse the remains of its existence, Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery plods straight through. It takes the history that you’ve learned since middle school and flips the narrative. We know about Jamestown, about cash crops, about the Revolutionary War. Washington, Jefferson, Locke, Douglass are all familiar names to us, but there are sides to them that are conveniently glossed over or simply ignored in the history books that I’ve seen inside the walls of the American school system.

What Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery does is brilliant, everything is so familiar because it’s American history told chronologically, so as part of the brain remains in neutral territory, remembering what it’s learned over the span of X amount of years another part of the brain is absorbing the new knowledge and meshing it with the old to form a more holistic and complete knowledge of American history.

My favorite part of reading Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery was the short excerpts in the middle of the chapters. Some of them where historically influenced stories that related to the chapter, actual letters written by people of those times, or pictures and portraits of the land and the people. This made sure that the book didn’t read like a textbook, and it was very enjoyable.

This book does include a lot of facts, but it is to be read as a narrative and not so much as something that discusses slavery statistics in great detail. As a non-fiction, it does it’s job recounting history and showing how this country thrived on the backs of slavery. But do not expect to read this book and become an expert on colonial America. Many of the sources used are primary source, and are not scrutinized and picked apart, which I liked.

Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery is a book that has influenced the way I see myself as a black woman in America. It has exposed the gaps in my knowledge of history from a perspective that wasn’t written by the winner. It points out the flaws in the Constitution, it doesn’t shy away from the fact that the same men that are praised for defending life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness  are the same men that snatched those very ideals away from hundreds of thousands of people.

We clearly are still facing the effects of slavery today. Systematic racism is real. Mass incarceration is real. Gerrymandering and red-lining is real. Microaggression is real. There are so many problems that the African American community is facing because of the fact that America was built with a system of oppression, and we haven’t done enough to resolve it. Just because the slaves were “given their freedom” doesn’t mean that they were free from the violence, from the racism, from their place of disadvantage. The land that they toiled on, remained in the hands of their oppressors. With little access to funds or an education a whole race of people were slaves to a different system.

Everyone should read Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery. It is truly a masterpiece, and beautifully twines together the history we are taught and the history that many tend to forget.

 

xo

Chid

Recent Reads: Velocity

Before winter break started, a few of my staff members and I went on a short day adventure. We went out to have lunch, shopped around a little bit and then stopped at Half-Priced Books. I got to pick up a couple of books to read over the break, one of them being Velocity by Dean Koontz.  I was a little surprised after reading that I enjoyed it so much, because I’m more a fantasy type girl, think Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. However, I’ve been going through a lot of series recently, and I wanted something that I could pick up and put down without selling my soul (I’m looking at you Patrick Rothfuss).

So I picked up a cheery looking yellow book and turned to the back to see a synopsis and this is what I read:

If you don’t take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher somewhere in Napa County.

If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work.

You have six hours to decide.

The choice is yours.”

What.

Did.

I.

Just.

Read.

I knew then, that I had to take the book home. I had to know how everything would pan out. Already I was thinking about the moral implications of the request. Inaction is not an option, or rather inaction is an option that will still lead to someone’s demise. Action, will also lead to another person’s downfall. Who is to say which life is worth saving? All of these thoughts ran around my mind as I scanned the first few pages.

The main character Billy is extremely ordinary, he’s had his share of hardships, his fiancée is in a coma and he’s a bartender. One day he finds a note on his windshield with a deadline and an impossible ultimatum that turns his life upside down.

As time goes on, the notes continue, the deadlines are shorter, and Billy’s life turns more into a fast paced horror movie. With nothing but his wits he has to figure out who is tormenting his life, and ending the lives of others. The pressure is on as he is given the choice to choose the psychopath’s victims, as he himself becomes a victim to the cruel mind of the killer.

While reading the book, I couldn’t help but think about what I would do in such a situation. Knowing that even if I decided to do nothing, that dire consequences would ensue. I think Koontz was brilliant in his plot and the added sense of urgency. In real life, even inaction is a choice that has consequences, typically however they do not include deciding who a psychopath kills though.

Every detail is flawlessly sewn together, and I didn’t even guess who the killer was until late in the book.  Velocity is a page turner that you can’t put down. With each chapter that passes, the stakes are raised and you just have to keep reading to find the resolution. Velocity is a thriller that makes us question your own morality and how you view the world. Not everything is as it seems.

xo

Chid