Bleu’s Reviews: Conjure Women

Conjure Women focuses on three very different women of the same plantation. Told primarily from the perspective of Rue, daughter of esteemed conjure woman and favorite of Marse Charles Miss May Belle. Rue also happens to be trusted friend and confidant of the master’s daughter Varina. As the story swings from the past during May Belle’s reign as Queen of conjure on the plantation to present day Rue who has taken on the mantle as healer in the Resurrection – era village that is all that remains of their old home. Following the birth of “Bean”;  a child with unusual eyes, and the seasonal appearance of a traveling preacher, a sickness takes hold of the towns children. The townspeople are ready to turn their backs on Rue and towards their faith. As Rue works to find a cure, she begins a path at uncovering everyone’s secrets including her own.

Post – read I still can’t pinpoint exactly where this is located and I’m perfectly okay with that. Every main location was so well crafted I feel like I was blended into the story with them. My favorite would be Atakora’s description of the woods, the darkness of it how the fog seemed to emanate from it. The woods in post civil war village became a character in itself. I also loved how Rue interacted with the land itself, hiding coins in trees as she’d seen her mother do. How she often crouched low to the earth to pick flowers and herbs even the detail in which she described finding the herbs from different spots. I absolutely love a well built world and this book has it in spades.

The story is more about Rue than anyone else but seems to focus on Rue and how she maneuvers around other people. She is often measuring herself against her mother’s accomplishments. She feels a weighty responsible to look after the town and its children despite a clear and present threat to herself and yet she persists to ensure the people who live there are looked after and well cared for. Just as she had always served and cared for Varina throughout their upbringing. She often lets Varina lure her into mischief and I only say let because I feel like Rue at times doesn’t even attempt to speak up. The relationship she shares with Varina is a complex one that seems more maternal at times than what it truly is. The rivalries between a lot of the characters twists the theories of faith, magic and deception. What is illusion when belief becomes a tangible thing? Each of the characters in the book seem to be holding a secret and as the story progressed Atakora peeled back another layer until the final secret was brought to the light and true freedom could finally come.

 

Overall I 100% loved this book!

 

Its my first 5-star read of the year and I have loads more reading to do. As a debut novel I’d have to say Afia Atakora should be super proud of herself. Conjure Women was an amazign read. It was well written, i was into the story and genuinely felt something from start to finish. My goodreads feed was flooded with updates and I was able to finish this beauty in about three days.

 

I will be doing a live zoom discussion with #ALLTHINGSLIT Book Club to discuss Conjure Women be sure to check my social media for more information about that ❤ Can’t wait to chat with everyone soon.

 

What Did You Think Of Conjure Women?

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

Bleu’s 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

Origins – The Wicked Witch of the West

The Wicked Witch of the West, highest ranking female villain, as well as one of The Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. Wicked Witch Originally, she was merely the more well known antagonist of L. Frank Baum’s, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Despite never really being mentioned again after her death in book one. The Wicked Witch is a character that continues to evolve and challenges us all to question the true definition of Wicked.

In illustrations by  W. W. Denslow for Baum’s book, she is depicted as an elderly rotund hag with three pigtails, Baum in the book stated that she only had one eye, but that it “was as powerful as a telescope”, enabling the witch to see what was happening in her kingdom from her castle windows. Illustrator Paul Granger, placed her eye in the center of her forehead, as a cyclops. Usually, she is shown wearing an eye patch, however some illustrations and in all but one film adaptations, she is incorrectly shown with two eyes.

In all versions the Wicked Witch is a force to be reckoned with containing immense power, however, in the character’s infancy before cinematic license took over, most of her power resided in the creatures she controls.  It is commonly accepted that she had a pack of wolves, a swarm of bees, a flock of crows and an army of Winkies. Of her magical tools she owned an umbrella; instead of a broom, which she uses on one occasion to strike Dorothy’s dog Toto. She also wields the enchanted Golden Cap, which gave her control over the flying monkeys.

1939  wizard of oz wicked witchIn most variations of the story The Wicked Witch of the West is defeated after Dorothy, throws a bucket of water on her.  L. Frank Baum never explained why that’s what destroyed her but it is a belief that water has purifying properties against evil, commonly accepted in most religions.

In Baum’s creation she is merely referred to as the Wicked Witch, however in adaptations and recreations the character has been known by many other names. She was known as Bastinda in the 1939 novel The Wizard of the Emerald City, a name that was borrowed for March Laumer’s Oz books and in the 2005 novel The Emerald Wand of Oz.  She is identified as Elphaba in Gregory Maguire’s best-seller Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and in it’s musical adaptation as well. halloween-costume-wicked-1024x681The name Elphaba is tribute to author of the original Witch L. Frank Baum. Unlike its theatrical predecessor and any of Baum’s writings,  Maguire’s novel is not intended for children, and contains profanity, sexual content and violent imagery.

In film, popularity for the Wicked Witch ebbed and flowed, she was featured in the 1910 silent film The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, known as “Momba the Witch”. In, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914)  she is depicted correctly as a one -eyed villain. Margaret Hamilton, made sure everyone remembered the witch in the 1939 adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. With her famous line “I’ll get you my pretty, and that little dog too.”  In this version she is sister to the Wicked Witch of the East and sees Dorothy’s accidental homicide as a reason for revenge.

Hamilton reprised the role for Sesame Street, in 1976 but was poorly received by parents of frightened young children. She also appeared in The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976), and reprised her role several times on stage, most notably at the St. Louis Municipal Opera. Hamilton’s final appearance was on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood where she explained to the children how she was able to be turned into the witch and that it was all make believe.

Evillene-Wicked-Witch-West popsugarIn the 70’s the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz was given a groovy revamp and released as the hit musical The Wiz, the all – star cast featured, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Mabel King, as Evillene, the new Wicked Witch of the West both on screen and on Broadway. In the Wiz, King’s Wicked Witch is the sister of Addaperle (Miss One in the film version), Glinda, and Evermean, the other three witches of Oz.

She runs a sweatshop under Yankee Stadium with the slogan “Manufacturers and Exporters of Sweat” and extracts it from the Winkies, the Crows, the Poppy Girls, and the Subway Peddler. Her magic creates evil growing dolls sent by the Subway Peddler, Fighting Trees, and the wolves who in this version are actually sentient carnivorous trash cans, her lair is the Subway system. Her flying monkeys are a biker gang and she is defeated when Dorothy, played by Diana Ross, sets off the sprinklers.

Elphaba was reprised and played by actress Idina Menzel, for the 2003 musical loosely based on Maguire’s adaptation of the story. The Wicked Witch underwent one more  transformation in the 2013 Disney film Oz the Great and Powerful, played this time by Mila Kunis.

What We’re Reading: Wicked

wickedThis month we’re reading Wicked, written by author Gregory Maguire. It follows the life and historical demise of the infamous Wicked Witch of the West. The story is set in the a new version of Oz far from the warm and fuzzy rendition we’re used to. Originally published in 1995, the book is now a full series. I had only heard of the musical first. As a student at a performing arts school, “Defy Gravity” and Idina Menzel were my only references to the character of “Elfaba”. That being said i must now admit i have also never seen the full musical but I have captured scenes of it off on Youtube.

The series has been on my To Read list since 2005, and finally a full decade later I canIdina-Wicked-2 say i’ve cracked the spine of a borrowed copy from a co-worker. I will be adding the musical to my must watch list but for now let’s get to the book. “Wicked”, is nothing like it’s L. Frank Bean’s, “Wizard of Oz” and is in fact more like a prequel to the adventure of Dorothy and Friends. Our protagonist is, Elfaba the so-called “Wicked” witch in a time of civil unrest in Oz. The heroes we love, like Glinda and even the Wizard are given darker overturns as the novel challenges you to pick a side.

The opening scene brings us in the midst of a conversation between Dorothy and friends on their familiar voyage through the woods during “The Wizard of Oz”. Elfaba is concealed in a tree spying as they quite explicitly gossip about her origins. This mature adaptation of a childhood classic definitely lays the foundations for readers to quickly abandon memories of Judy Garland cradling her frightened Cairn Terrier , (yes that’s the specific breed of dog TOTO was.) and places you in the ruby red slippers of one of fiction’s greatest villains.

Wicked Musical
For more on the Wicked Witch of the West, check out the full article on our Origins blog!