Miss. Magpie Feeds Her Delusions: Let’s Talk About Books

Hello Dear Readers,

I hope you are all having a spooktacular Halloweekend. This is my favourite time of year. I love when everyone is out on the streets in their finest. I was going to be a creepy doll with the outfit I reviewed in my last post, but my craftiness was short lived. So I defaulted to being a witch (again). Why mess with a good thing, right? Here’s what it looks like:costume

I went to a party on Friday night in celebration, and would also like to carve a pumpkin today, however, with Halloween day actually falling on a Monday, I reckon the 31st will be a quieter day comparatively. As such, maybe your plans will include reading a book or two? In honour of those delightfully introverted or in need of a rest, I offer the books this year that have gone through my literary test (not all passed):

1. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty – This is very much a Halloween-flavoured read, as it is a book about death and the rituals surrounding it. Caitlin Doughty writes about her experiences, her research, and fears with undeniable wit and comic intuition. I highly recommend this book, to those who dare to contemplate their own mortality and laugh at it.

2. Soulless by Gail Carriger – This book reads like a fanfiction, which might be your cup of tea but is certainly not mine. It is a heavy-handed Steampunk novel with Twilightesque supernatural elements. Between the jarring imitation Victorian language and North Americanisms, plot holes, and bizarre sex scenes I just felt really disappointed at the end of the novel. While I can appreciate a parasol-wielding heroine with sass, I think Elizabeth Peters did it better in her Amelia Peabody series (Crocodile on the Sandbanks, and etc).

3. Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen – This book is about Edgar Allen Poe’s supposed mistress. This book left me nonplussed. On the one hand, it was fascinating to read a book where Edgar Allen Poe is thought of as a titillating individual. It also personifies Edgar’s wife whom we don’t normally think of. But on the other hand, the plot climax was a bit of a let down. Read it for the historical perspective (there is also a good note section at the end of book) and for the selections of poetry, but don’t base your enjoyment of the book on its plot.

4. Demian by Herman Hesse – This book is a product of the first world war, and for a long time appealed to young men who felt they could identify with the main character’s feeling of corruption in the transition from childhood into adulthood. I found it very odd to read. The main character is at times easy to empathize with in his childhood troubles, and the story of him floundering at university, but then at times he is intentionally jarring and strange.

5. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – I cried reading this novella. I don’t know why but the picture of a bug man just feeling alienated and wanting his family’s love seemed like the most emotional thing in the world to me. This book is notorious for representing in-depth themes like the dehumanizing nature of capitalism, and so forth. This would be a good quick read for a Hallowevening.

6. After Alice by Gregory MacGuire – This is a solidly good read. It’s a reimagining of Alice in Wonderland – except it is about the children who followed Alice’s trail on her iconic journey. With a plethora of political elements, questions of racism, Darwinism, and a Wonderland – that is insinuated as more of an underworld for the dead – this book will entertain you but also leave you feeling a little uncomfortable as you ask yourself, “What exactly just happened?”

7. The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston – This book had so much potential, but it fell flat for me. The author relied heavily on Wiccan traditions outlined by Scott Cunningham and alike, which I felt contradicted the portions of the book early on that included devil worship and Satanic rituals. Additionally, I wanted more details about the mother-daughter relationships in the book, and perhaps how they reflected something in the goddess (just to more accurately reflect the title).This book should have been called Gideon’s Girls or something due to it’s focus on the character Gideon, the evil warlock character.

8. Observatory Mansions by Edward Carey – This is an excellent Halloween read because it’s a lot like Edward Gorey’s Gashlycrumb Tinies (except with adults as its focus). You have an apartment complex full of unusual people: a kleptomaniac who must wear gloves all the time, an old woman who thinks she is a dog, a young woman with a sordid orphan history and an unfortunate illness, and so forth – and then you have murder, and explosions. Most importantly, you have good writing. I highly recommend this book.

edward-gorey-gashleycrumb-tinies

9. The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory – This book initially leaves it to the reader to decide if the magic is real or if  Alys is crazy. Eventually it concedes that it’s little bit of both, which I appreciate. Alys is deliberately difficult to champion as a protagonist through her need to survive at all costs. This need to survive ties into the recurring themes of motherhood throughout the book. Additionally, while I am not a huge fan of sex in books (it tends to serve as a plot distraction), this book uses it well to demonstrate sexuality as Alys’ main source of power in a world dominated by men. I won’t spoil the ending for readers but I felt like it was inevitable which in a way left me both satisfied and dissatisfied simultaneously.

I hope my book reviews have been entertaining for you all. I must be off now, but I would love to hear what your Halloween plans are. Post in the comment section below, and if you would like to offer book suggestions or joust with opposing opinions on the selections above, know I am always interested in an exchange of words.

Thank you for reading,

~DeludedMagpie

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