Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Book Review Club (July 2009)

Holy Toledo! It's the SIXTH meeting of The Book Review Club!

Without going all emo and touchy/feely, I'd like to say a million heartfelt thank yous to the reviewers. I've gotten to know most of you better through your reviews and emails and blog comments. Thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedules to blog about books. To give us your insights and opinions. To share a little of your reading life with us. I would like nothing better than if we could actually get together in real life.

And a huge thank you, also, to all our visitors. We're getting a very nice turnout each month. It's wonderful to have this opportunity to write about what we're reading. And to know readers out there in the blogosphere are interested.

Ahem, ahem. On to the book review...

There are some periods in history that just grab me. The Holocaust is one. The Salem witch trials is another. If a book, particularly a Young Adult, takes place during one of these time periods, I'm likely to read it.

So, when Celia Rees' debut young adult novel, WITCH CHILD, was published in 2000 (it was re-released last month!), I knew I'd pick it up. What I didn't know was how very much I'd enjoy it or how very often I'd end up recommending it.

Before the story begins, there is this note:

The following manuscript comes from a remarkable collection of documents termed "the Mary papers." Found hidden inside a newly discovered and extremely rare quilt from the colonial period, the papers seem to take the form of an irregularly kept journal or diary. All dates are guesswork, based on references within the text. The first entries are tentatively dated from March 1659. I have altered the original as little as possible, but punctuation, paragraphing, and spellings have been standardized for the modern reader.~~Alison Ellman, Boston, MA

What a brilliant set-up. And from here we go on to learn the story of fourteen-year-old Mary Newman. In England, Mary witnessed the torture and hanging of her grandmother as witch. During the hanging, Mary is whisked away for safety reasons and finds herself bound for Salem in the New World. Now orphaned and forced to keep her past and her supernatural powers secret, Mary attempts to make her way in a Puritan society where even a whisper of the word witchcraft can prove deadly.

The first person point of view and the diary format made this an intimate read. The suspicious society, fainting girls, and the minister who damned Mary's grandmother all work together to make this a tense read. The historical descriptions and careful language make this a rich read.

There is a sequel--SORCERESS. It was enjoyable, as well.

All in all, I'd recommend this book without hesitation.

Please, please visit the reviewers below. You won't be disapopinted. You can see that there's quite a variety of books!


Sarah Laurence: EVOLUTION, ME & OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE by Robin Brande

Alyssa Goodnight: THE POISON APPLES by Lily Archer

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: NUMBER THE STARS by Lois Lowry

Thao of serene hours: ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen


Sarahlynn of Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips: NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro (literary fiction with a dash of SF&F)

David Cranmer of The Education of a Pulp Writer: SWORDS OF THE TALERA by Charles Allen Gramlich

Scott Parker of SF Safari: THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA by Scott Lynch (sci fi)

From the Desk of Bee Drunken: LOVE IN IDLENESS by Amanda Craig

Patti Abbott: BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett

Linda McLaughlin: PERSEPOLIS: THE STORY OF A CHILDHOOD by Marjane Satrapi, PERSEPOLIS 2 by Marjane Satrapi (both are graphic novels)

Kathy Holmes: RED HOT LIES by Laura Caldwell (book 1 of the Izzy McNeil mystery thriller trilogy)

Jenn Jilks @ My Refections: MURDER IN A GOOD CAUSE by Medora Sale (mystery)

Beth Yarnall: DIE FOR YOU by Lisa Unger (mystery/suspense)


Jody Feldman: THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE ILLUSTRATED by Strunk & White and Maira Kalman (illustrator)

Kaye of the Book Review Forum: LEFT TO TELL, DISCOVERING GOD AMIDST THE RWANDAN HOLOCAUST by Immaculee Llibagiza with Steve Erwin

Prairie Rose's Garden: THE GARDEN OF INVENTION by Jane Smith (biography of Luther

Jenn Jilks @ My Muskoka: CLINIC OF HOPE: THE STORY OF RENE CAISSE AND ESSIAC by Donna M. Ivey (biography)

Note to reviewers: If I missed linking to you, please leave a comment or email me. I keep pretty good tabs on the blog on review club days.

Happy Canada Day to all our Canadian readers!


  1. That's a very creative set-up and the cover photo is also arresting. It's the kind of book I buy for my wife and then enjoy reading it before she does.

  2. Happy half anniversary! Thank you for starting this club and hosting us every month. I've enjoyed hearing about books and getting to know more book lover bloggers.

    The Salem Witch trials would be a good YA subject, especially given all the YA witch books out there. Nice review!

  3. Great job, as ever, Barrie!

    What an interesting find, your post!

    Thank you for acknowledging our Big Bday. We're 142 years old. So young... :-)

  4. Thanks for doing these reviews! I just finished reading A Long Way Down based on your review a few weeks ago. LOVED it!! And it's a book I never would've picked up on my own.

  5. That book's premise DOES sound good. And thanks to you I've got the Little Giant of Aberdeen County slated for our Sept. book club read (that was your review, right?).

  6. Witch Girl sounds fascinating. When I was a young teen, my favorite book was The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare, so I think I'd enjoy this one, too. Thanks for keeping us all organized, Barrie.

  7. I've written this one down in my little to-buy book. I think that it would really appeal to my teenage daughter.

    Do you still celebrate Canada Day, Barrie? We "try" to celebrate July 4th, but it is not quite the same from England!

  8. Thanks for the Witch Child rec. I'm going to check that one out for sure. I am fascinated, too, by that era, and have been entranced by the cover art on "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" featured in bookstores. I haven't purchased it, but would like to hear from anyone who's read it. Some early reviews love the concept of a PhD candidate discovering her family's roots in the Salem Witch Trials but have trouble with the dialect used.

  9. I have always been fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials. This book sounds really interesting.

  10. The Salem witch trials have always been a fascinating era in history for me. This is a book I will definitely recommend to my granddaughter. Thanks for hosting; I finally finished my review, and my post is up!

  11. How fascinating. I love stories based on historical events.

  12. This is a great Idea. I've got to get involved in this one of these days.

  13. Your book sounds very good. I'll have to put that on my TBR. Looks like some good reviews this time.

  14. Green Girl: My critique partner, Kelly, reviewed The Little Giant of Aberdeen County. I'll definitely let her know you got the book based on her review. Or she'll have figured it out herself from your comment! :)

    Bee: I can't celebrate Canada Day with fireworks because it's illegal to set off fireworks in San Diego. I mean, unless you're a city, etc. with a permit. I used to celebrate ALL Cdn. holidays (Thanksgiving, Boxing Day), but must admit I've really slacked off these last couple of years. HOWEVER, I'm thinking of baking butter tarts this afternoon. YUM!

  15. Chris: Oooh...good to know you loved The Long Way Down! We probably have similar taste in books. :)

    Charles: You know we'd love to have you! In fact, I'm adding your email addy to my reminder email for the August meeting. No pressure, though. Ha! Oh, and everybody: David Cranmer's review this month is of Charles' book SWORDS OF THE TALERA!

  16. Loved your summary--this does sound like a very tense--even thrilling--read.

    I can only imagine what happens in the sequel...

    Cheers to another great month of reviews!

  17. Enjoy the butter tarts, thanks for the book recommendation and thanks for keeping - as ever - such a totally interesting blog!

  18. what is the book review club?
    how does it work?
    thanks! i'm clueless most of the time :P

  19. My to be read pile is growing and growing!

  20. I just found a bunch of new books to read from your list!!



  21. Marie, We *meet* the first Wednesday of each month. Email me if you're interested in joining and I'll send you more details. (barrieDOTsummyATgmailDOTcom)

  22. Love the cover of the book - sounds really interesting . Over here in England many young and old women were tried as witches - in one village we still have the pond where the " ducking stool" was situated.

  23. I wish I had come here this morning when I had some TIME on my hands.

    I love the book reviews!

  24. 'witch child' looks like a keeper!

  25. I'm putting this on my list for when I visit Indigo. A perfect book for a present for my niece.


Comments are always welcome!