Bleu Reviews: A Discovery of Witches

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It begins with a book recommendation and a purchase

It begins with a TV show and a binge session

It begins with a discovery of witches … book review

 

Rating: 5 out of 5

I am kicking myself for not having read this book sooner. I originally heard of the All Souls Trilogy  back when i worked for a company that won’t be named because they don’t sponsor me. LOL.

My coworker, another book fan soul sister recommended I check out the series. I made sure to buy all three of the books in the series and added them to my collection, TBR and c7e7739a729e409a46fa5fe50cb8aa4f328589467160928262.jpglong list of books I’d been planning to read.

I’d even attempted reading the book on two separate occasions the last of which was a month long maternity leave when I couldn’t be bothered to do much of anything, especially reading.

This year however, I made it my first book of the reading season and despite a shaky start while trying to find time to read with a growing toddler attempting to crawl everywhere, I picked up a rhythm and finished the book in about three weeks.

Alchemical historian and Oxford resident Diana Bishop, descendant of the Salem Bishop’s has shut herself off form her magic. Until she requests a not so ordinary book from the Bodlien library one day.  This book, Ashmole 782, will bring a host of magical creatures she never expected to socialize with and unravel a secret engrained in the fabric of her life…and then there are vampires.

My first impressions of the book…

I absolutely loved this book. At it’s core it’s a pretty standard formula. Matthew is the tortured hero who falls in love with our female protagonist. That Matthew follows the tropes of all vampires is a bonus, he is brooding and secretive with a killer temper, but 20200115_124316.jpghe loves fiercely and his love for Diana though sudden is unbreakable. Diana for her part plays the typical female lead in a YA love story, though she possesses great strength and abilities that rival those around her, she is fearful of her power, spends most of the book being coddled and cared for and only begins to step into her own towards the final stages of the story.

It usually annoys me while i’m reading, and I won’t lie some of the ways Matthew condescended to Diana and left her out of things irritated me a lot. However, Harkness did something few people have dared to do form what I’ve read. She gave Diana her strength back.

The best part of the story for me was “watching” Diana go through a literal transformation. At the start of the book she is completely closed off from her magic. Her past fears and an unknown spell only allow her to do tiny tasks like grabbing a book or fixing the washer. By the final pages Diana is hopeful of what she can do with her d33bfe4e23d3e4982f9b79fb20fdf4a7945846634189835100.jpgpowers and is able to control them to some small degree.

I do frequently enjoy a good vampire love story and Matthew and Diana’s forbidden love gives me all types of squishy feelings.  Their relationship mirrors that of mixed race couples during the civil rights era. Simply because they are different they are forbidden to be together and by defying this law they are putting themselves and their families in danger. They will do it for LOVE. The fear some of the characters have for their children and the support Matthew and Diana get from friends, family other people who are like them is reminiscent of the real life struggles mixed couples faced.

It’s great when a story has a deeper meaning. As a person of color, whether Deborah Harkness intended for this to be the theme or not, what stuck out most for me in this story were the ways it portrayed the downside of generational racial inequality and prejudice. Matthew and Diana are two different races of creatures and because of that they are forbidden to be together.

In a society where the hierarchy of magical creatures places value on lineage and supernatural ability Witches and Vampires are at the top and Daemons are at the bottom, Daemons aren’t even allowed to congregate together.  The way Harkness developed the society and culture of the characters in the world of All Souls is one of my favorite parts. I absolutely love a well built world.

The characters in the A Discovery of Witches  really moved the story along for me. I’d watched season one of the tv show beforehand so I was able to actually envision the cast for the first few chapters. Once I really got into the story though, the characters became more alive and no longer seemed remotely close to the way the actors portrayed them.3a956443b3e15ec5a9e1f9c7e43d8fb26087554198723611023.jpg

Diana can be annoyingly meek at times but has a resilient spirit. Her dedication to Matthew is on the one hand the stuff of feminist nightmares while the relationship as a whole draws you in. I root for this old fashioned chivalrous relationship despite being completely aware that he patronizes her and lies repeatedly. Because he’s a vampire? At one point it gets so annoying in the book I physically rolled my eyes. He eventually comes to respect her after she nearly dies trying to save his life and frequently blames himself for not being able to protect her. Even though she doesn’t seem to be able to protect herself either. Matthew’s decision  to aide her in learning her magic wins him brownie points in my book. His cute little French pet names for her makes my heart go fuzzy.

The way magic, magical creatures and the supernatural are sorted in this world is why A Discovery of Witches  is becoming one of my favorite series to read. Harkness took the c0ce585322590a49e08b7290e633998e901557597508079403.jpgconcept of the magical community and broke it down in a way that I’ve often thought about for my own writing.  Vampires long since believed to be “dead” are merely beings with an alternative metabolism that slows their heart rates and reserves energy. The term, sleep like the dead, was used as the explanation for why people thought these beings were in fact deceased.

Experiencing magic through Diana’s eyes as she finally learns to wield and control it is what kept me reading through the book. More than I wanted to know how the lovers would fair against their adversaries, more than I enjoyed meeting each new character that showed 9c005c70f2392849b97d083135c169496164085333605234820.jpgup at Sept-Tours and later the bewitched house in Madison. I enjoyed the magic and the history that was entertwined within the magic.

I guess that’s my reasoning for why I’m shirking my 2020 TBR and jumping right into Shadow of Night. I’ll be reading this along with a few shorter e-books I’ve promised to review from some lesser known authors so keep your eyes on the blog for a lot of new content.

My goal at the start of my read was to complete the first book of the All SOuls Trilogy  before season 2 of A Discovery of Witches started back on BBC. As I was checking my email this morning, sneek-peeks of the cast of season 2 are just being released, so I think I beat my deadline.

 

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What Was Your Favorite Part of A Discovery of Witches?

You can keep up with me, Noel Bleu and Blu Moon Fiction on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodReads and Pinterest, or Shoot me an email @ BluMoonFiction@gmail.com

Featured Author: Marlon James

For black history month this year I wanted to try something that spoke to the blog itself while still shedding light on fantasy and writers of color. Each Friday for the rest of 358fdd0c873707ea62162bf8d0c0184345167563636023847.jpgFebruary. I’ll be sharing another talented author and their body of work.

This week I discovered an author whom I actually already had on my TBR. While doing a bookstore browse many years ago. At that time the distinctive cover showed a woman who’s skin was a striking contrast to the paleness of the background surrounding her.

The Book of Night Women. tells the story of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. At her birth, the slave 64f0abdf369633633bfb407331e9052a6281915892799790816.jpgwomen around her recognize a dark power that they and she will come to both revere and fear. 

Marlon James, born in Kingston, Jamaica left Jamaica to escape homophobic violence and economic conditions that he felt would mean career stagnation, he received a master’s degree in creative writing from Wilkes University in Wilkes7884e152a061d4850cf1e4f61cccd7d84859259759275158337.jpg Barre, PA. 

His first novel, John Crow’s Devil was rejected 70 times before being accepted for publication in 2005. James has taught English and creative writing at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, since 2007.  He is also a faculty lecturer at St. Francis College’s Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing.

In February 2019, James gave the seventh annual Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke College, Oxford.  He has published four novels: John Crow’s Devil, The Book of Night Women, A Brief History of Seven Killings which was the winner of the 2015 Man Booker Prize, and Black Leopard, Red Wolf. He is now living in Minneapolis. 

 

Which of the Marlon James Novels Have You Read? Leave A Comment Below!

 

You can keep up with me, Noel Bleu and Blu Moon Fiction on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodReads and Pinterest, or Shoot me an email @ BluMoonFiction@gmail.com

 

Featured Author: L. A. Banks

For black history month this year I wanted to try something that spoke to the blog itself while still shedding light on fantasy and writers of color. Each Friday for the rest of February. I’ll be sharing another talented author and their body of work.

ec3eab148b2944dfd84495eb900e8a8a3355255612623085561.jpgThis week I have the special pleasure of highlighting not only an amazing, award winning author, but also a legendary Philadelphia native whose body of work crossed genres.

I’m describing none of other than author Leslie Ann Esdaile Banks. She has written under the pen name Leslie Esdaile, Leslie E. Banks, Leslie Banks, Leslie Esdaile Banks and L. A. Banks. With the latter penning at least 19 books in the dark fantasy/horror.

Inspired by her life experiences and the abnormal intensity of crime and political injustice in the city. She created a world where she could express her political views and cultural experiences to the world. A world where the CEOs of major companies were vampires draining the life’s blood from African American youth. 

Born in 1959, Leslie has won numerous awards but is most noted for snagging the 2008 87a26fba2e588539f7ed1f528bf5dd847992586320228627.jpgEssence Storyteller of the Year literary award.  As L. A. Banks she wrote The Vampire Huntress, Crimson Moon, Dark Avengers and The Dark series. However she has written in multiple genres, including African-American literature, romance, women’s fiction, crime suspense, dark fantasy/horror and non-fiction.exploring different nationalities and cultures within her work. 

I recall hearing the name but never actually read anything from her. I honestly wouldn’t have known about her if I wasn’t actively looking for authors of color who wrote in the fantasy genre. She lived in Philly this entire time! 

Sadly Mrs. Banks passed away from cancer on August 2, 2011, at the age of 51. She left behind a daughter, Helena Esdaile and a literary catalog to make any book-lover drool. That’s what makes L. A. Banks this week’s featured author. I’ve already added Bad Blood and Minion to my TBR. 

 

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Have You Read The Vampire Huntress Legend or Crimson Moon series? Leave A Comment Below!

 

You can keep up with me, Noel Bleu and Blu Moon Fiction on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodReads and Pinterest, or Shoot me an email @ BluMoonFiction@gmail.com

 

Check out this video of the late, great Ms. L. A. Banks Queen of the Vampires, tamer of Shadow wolves. 

Bleu Reviews: Mirror, Mirror

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Gregory Maguire is still one of my favorite authors but Mirror, Mirror is sadly one of my least favorite books by this author. It’s tragic because I really wanted to love this book as much as I love much of his other works. Mirror, Mirror wasn’t a poorly written book but it definitely didn’t inspire me to read on.

As far as his body of work goes, the same tools and tricks he uses to craft and ensnare us with his other stories are utilized here. Maguire infuses reality and history into a fairytale as old as time itself, while finding a way to draw forth a deeper moral to the screenshot_20190124-220719_chrome4007441423460780054.jpgoverall concept, making us look closer at our childhood bedtime stories.

This time however, I found the story weighed down with too much historical context. This time around I felt sequestered on an island. It dragged on like the years Vicente spent in prison. I too was trapped, between my desire to finish the book and my inability to completely buy into the history lesson.

Maguire’s retelling of the Grimm’s classic Snow White, takes us to Montefiore. A luxurious farm nestled high above the rolling hills and valleys of Tuscany and Umbria. We meet our main character, seven – year – old Bianca de Nevada and her doting father Don Vicente.

Vicente is sent on a religious quest by the unscrupulous Cesare Borgia and his sister, Lucrezia leaving innocent Bianca at the mercy of the two wicked children of the corrupt political family.

96700515d6979b8a8e4dc940e9856c4f6444981157864553769.jpgSnow White’s tale has always been about purity and innocence and this version was no different. Maguire’s Mirror, Mirror added another layer of depth toying with the theme of influence and how influence can effect and alter another’s existence.
We saw how the influence of Pope Alexander VI shaped his children and led them ultimately to their demises.

How Vicente’s influence kept Bianca on Montefiore, how Primavera and Fra Ludovico were able to protect the young girl with whatever little influence they had. How Bianca’s mere presence was enough to change the dwarves.

We watched the transformations of each main character in the book as the story crept on at it’s snails pace. The intention seemed to be to give context. Snow White’s was a slow systematic manipulation at the hands of Lucrezia. A years long evolution in what seemed like a chrysalis stage ending the final if not abrupt emergence as a fully physical formed young woman, gullible but seemingly of age.

Vicente’s evolution was more a literal withering of his body and at times his mind. He remained determined to her back to his daughter despite the challenges he’d faced.

Lucrezia Borgia’s evolution was more a literal transformation, when we are introduced to her she is at the height of her power both physically and politically but gradually falls away. In time Lucrezia’s own vanity strips her of everything and her relentlessness drives her to her death.

Maguire’s interpretation of Snow White showed a young girl who was always isolated. Shyer than most, she possessed a curiosity that was often outweighed by her meekness. I rooted for our heroin to some day be rejoined with her father but even more than that I fc624855b3c17871e57bfcfe49791c892177338806584808463.jpgrooted for our heroin to save herself.

This Snow White didn’t seem like the main character at all. The action happened around her or to her but never as a direct result of her. In fact the entire catalyst of her story was in reaction Cesare Borgia and not the young girl directly.

This may be why the book dragged on for ages. It took me about four months to finish reading it in its entirety, partly because I knew how the story would end. I wasn’t waiting for some great plot twist or any alterations to the basic story line. There was instead a more pensive waiting to see how the author would unfold the common tropes of Snow White.

His delivery though overwhelmed with backstory and scenery did not disappoint. We witnessed Maguire masterfully craft the magic mirror, then shatter it’s magic with science before shrouding it with myth again. Maguire unpeeled the layers of the queen’s depravity and her spell-craft and even gave meaning to the high position the apple screenshot_20190124-220930_google2242974854855260815.jpgplayed in the story. The apple which has always been a symbol of purity and wisdom. A religious scion to relate to, a means of temptation especially when paired with the feminine mystique.

Maguire’s apple served as not only a means to begin the story but a common thread tying all the tales loose ends together. The apple which once tempted Eve in her garden drove Lucrezia to insanity and murder. A nod at how even the semblance of influence is enough to alter one’s behavior.

Overall I did enjoy the book. I’m rating it 3/5 because I wouldn’t force myself to endure it a second time but definitely would recommend reading it if you’re a fan of Maguire’s books. If you enjoy a good fairy tale or like adult adaptation’s of children’s stories than this book is great to add to the list.

For me I get to scratch it off my Gregory Maguire bucket – list and move on to my new read.

 

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What Is Your Favorite Snow White Re-Telling?

You can keep up with me, Noel Bleu and Blu Moon Fiction on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, GoodReads and Pinterest, or Shoot me an email @ BluMoonFiction@gmail.com

Bleu Reviews: The Immortalists

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Rating: 4 out of 5

There was a lot of buzz about the NY Times best -selling book, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I’d heard tons of great reviews and recently decided to crack it open. My overall thoughts on this one was that it was interesting.

The words, Thought-Provoking come to mind which coincidentally may have been featured on the back of the book. The plot; four siblings visit a fortune teller and find out the “dates of their deaths”. 

Thoughts Have Wings. 

The prologue aptly titled, The Woman on Hester St. lays it all out for the reader to pick up. Hinting that you need to know exactly what’s about to happen so that you can follow the rest of the story. We meet the Gold children, thirteen-year-old Varya, Daniel, eleven, Klara, nine and Simon, seven. Told as if by a guardian angel watching over the Gold’s we learn of the gypsy woman and the prophecies she has for each child.

“Character is fate—that’s what he said. They’re bound up, those two, like brothers and sisters. You wanna know the future?” She points at Varya with her free hand. “Look in the mirror.” 
― Chloe BenjaminThe Immortalists

That quote was the most foreshadowing for me looking back on the story as a whole. Each Gold went into the room with the gypsy alone, each was given a different date and that date affected each child differently. However, there is never any clear indication that the prophecies were real, in fact, at least twice we can see examples of how their fates could’ve been easily avoided. Yet something in each of the siblings pulled them towards the lives they chose to live.

“And what if I change?” It seems impossible that Varya’s future is already inside her like an actress just offstage, waiting decades to leave the wings.  “Then you’d be special.’ Cause most people don’t” 

–  Chloe Benjamin, The Immortalists

The Immortalists  was a fascinatingly cerebral kind of story that forces you to ponder some of life’s most philosophical questions.Was it fate that led each Gold to their end or was it simply, the belief that things were meant to happen, that affected their realities. The destructive behaviors of each siblings seem more responsible than any fated date. Each crisis the Gold siblings found themselves in were strictly by their own design and were entirely avoidable. The recurring theme became a rather annoying race to prove the fortune teller right.

I’m still trying to reconcile O’Donoghue’s overall role. Was he cosmically linked to the Golds? Are we all cosmically linked to the random people in our lives?

***** Possible Spoilers below******

I’ve considered that maybe Eddie was the good shoulder angel in the equation. He always appeared in crucial moments offering another path. A chance for the siblings to 1b34b66af5c62296869ed3b7b20c5c227852714073979919797.jpgdo something else. He first appears in Simon’s he gives Simon a more than stern talking to but still insists he return home to NYC. He returns in Klara’s story having met her in Simon’s lifetime and falls for her. In this I saw a chance for Klara to lead another life altogether, still doing magic but perhaps not living as isolated a life, perhaps O’Donoghue being a cop would’ve saved her from herself. It seems his presence spooked her instead especially since it seemed like he was obsessed or stalking her. He weirdly becomes friends with Daniel, offering closer and a chance to move on from his grief over having introduced his siblings to the fortune teller idea in the first place.

The idea that grief is what caused each sibling to behave in the ways they did seemed liek a bit of a cop-out at times. The grief Klara felt for urging Simon to flee to San Francisco. Daniel’s grief for not being their for Simon, for not being closer to Klara. Varya’s grief over not connecting with any of them, that grief caused them to act out impulsively and in doing so it ruined them.

“If they had not lived as though life were a mad dash toward some unearned climax; if they had walked instead of fucking run” 
― Chloe BenjaminThe Immortalists

I applaud Benjamin for succesfully creating a body of work that captures a snippet of humanities obsession with mortality., or immortality depending on which angle you’re addressing. Of all the questions the children could’ve asked they each wanted to know 20180802_1906265326587727603823312.jpgthe dates of their deaths.

Knowing those dates they each took steps to achieve some form of greatness before they ran out of time. Yet as each sibling fell to their destinies, it seems hard to discern how much was actually out of their control.

Simon’s destiny was to die young, and though we can always wonder if he would’ve had a stroke or been hit by a bus we know for a fact that the lifestyle he chose to participate in. (San Francisco in the 80s for a gay male) He lived recklessly despite having every reason to find a calmer safer life. It wasn’t hard to guess that he’d be a victim of the AIDS virus, especially when introducing multiple sex partners and drugs.

Klara’s obsession with the otherworld and magic were less dangerous than her alcoholism and hallucinations. Some would even speculate that Klara was mentally ill, perhaps having a husband as a cop would’ve gotten her the help that she needed but married to fellow magician and business man gave her more pressure than she could handle. I must admit I always suspected her to fall to her death during a magic trick, to know that she ended things herself felt like cheating.

Daniel’s death also felt forced and like it didn’t belong. We start his downward spiral by having him suspended for not wanting to send unfit soldiers to their deaths and before the chapter is over he’s hunting down a gypsy, wielding a pistol and committing suicide by cop. There is no explanation for why this would’ve happened beyond it being the date he was supposed to die, yet something tells me he could’ve stayed home and seen the next day.

Varya is the only one who seems to be left standing when the book ends but her date wasn’t until 2044 and even in real life it’s only 2018, so describing a future world wouldn’t have fit within the theme of the story. Having the most time allowed Varya to got through a metaphysical death, one in which she was able to begin a new life with new possibilities unencumbered by fear which she felt far greater than her siblings.65bd58748deeff2f03312db075cb16418240064846513339096.jpg

She had been consumed by fear long before they visited the woman on Hester St. and it may have been this fear which hinted to her long life. Suffering from a mental illness of her home, she sacrificed pleasure for a chance at securing her safety. She was the only Gold who had no outward vices and she was miserable until that changed.

I like Varya’s chapter the best because it was the only chapter that showed evolution and options. Varya had started her life stagnant alive but alone, starving herself and wracked with guilt for being the last sibling standing. Yet when faced with examining her life, she rises to the occassion and chooses to make the effort to enjoy the long life she was striving for.

“It sounds like you’re saying we can choose to live. Or we can choose to survive.”
― Chloe BenjaminThe Immortalists

 

Would You Want To Know The Date of Your Death?

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Mini-Obsession: The Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks Theory

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I’m a nerd. A Book Nerd and A Film Nerd and I am proud. That being said there are so many fantastically nerdy things happening around us at all times it’s hard to pin down one specific thing to focus on. However… Some wonderful people from the internet knew exactly what I needed and so they let their Nerd flags fly super high and created

The Disney Theory

The Pixar Theory

The Dream Works Theory

It started back in 2013, so far as I can tell, blogger John Negroni spent countless hours actively connecting the Pixar Cinematic Universe with the purpose of finding  a common thread. Below is what he discovered.

I was a child when Disney first started pointing out the hidden Easter Eggs they’d been leaving in their movies. I’d always assumed the Disneyverse  was interconnected, in games like Kingdom Hearts and in TV Shows like Once Upon A Time. It explained why we could find so many similarities within the worlds of other characters.  Especially the Disney Princesses which have their own theories. In fact The Disney Theory has way more movies connecting than Pixar does so I was pleased to find that there’d been an idea behind that as well.

The Disney Theory shows the evolution and progression of the world inside the Disney Universe, whereas the Disney Princess theory explains how and why all the Disney Princesses and their kingdoms are connected to other Disney movies.

The only Dreamworks theory i’d found had tons of plot holes, missed connections and seemed to be modeled closely after our buddies over at Pixar. But it spins an interesting tale of intellectually gifted animals and the obliteration of dragons. Though this may be a “mini-obsession” something tells me I’ll be looking further into these for some time.

The Pixar Theory has been made into a book as well as spawned a branded website.

 

Have You Been Reading Along?

What is Eddie’s True Role in This Story?

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Mini-Obsession: What Dates Do They Die?

c03aacba0d4db273714ae7278d8b75a57847845150090983815.jpgI’m reading The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, I hadn’t made it past page 35 before my obsession kicked in.

They went to a soothsayer who told them the dates of their deaths. Of all the things they could’ve chosen to ask they decided on that. 🙄

They were all so shaken no one spoke of it….Until their dad died. Then we finally get to know that each sibling asked for the date of their death and each sibling was told something dramatically different.

The book provided all of Varya’s details, January 21, 2044 – age 88. Daniel the second oldest was also provided November 24, 2006 at age 48.

That’s when things become tricky, now of course I’m sure that the book will reveal exactly when and how these siblings meet their fates but having been given the first two I wanted to know the years of the others. Simon’s obviously dies in 1982 as that’s when his section ends. He dies young but that’s all we know.

Klara admits she dies at 31 though and by using her age at the time of the reading (9 in 1969) at least we know she kicks the bucket in 1991 or maybe 1990 depending on her actual birthday…🤔

This is what I worked out so far.

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What Book Are You Presently Obsessing Over?

 

 

You can keep up with me, Noel Bleu and Blu Moon Fiction on FacebookTwitterInstagramGoodReads and Pinterest, or Shoot me an email @ BluMoonFiction@gmail.com