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Once again cross-posting a single book from my regular Tuesday Book Reviews.

In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton

Mention 'Salem' nowadays, and the first thing that tends to come to mind is 'witchcraft'. In the early months of 1692 (which was actually the later months of 1691, by the old Julian calendar), a small group of girls and young women in the Massachusetts Bay Colony settlement at Salem Village fell ill with a number of strange ailments. When the local physician was called in to look at them, he speculated that the illnesses were not natural and might have been caused by bewitchment...a diagnosis that was later to prove fatal for the 14 women and 5 men who would be hanged for maleficium, the practice of diabolic magic intended to bring harm to others. Several other accused witches died in prison without ever coming to trial, dozens of men and women (and even children as young as four or five) were arrested or fled the colony to avoid arrest, and still more bowed to outside pressure and confessed to being witches, implicating neighbours and family members in the process. Not even the wealthy and powerful of the colony were completely immune to being 'cried out on' as witches, a most unusual circumstance in the days when the general idea of a possible witch was a poor to middling older woman who had neither the friends nor the financial wherewithal to preserve her good name. The Salem outbreak was the largest of its kind in New England, and the records kept on the accusations and trials have been relatively well-preserved, making the study of the Salem witchcraft cases both popular and constantly open to new, revisionist perspectives -- most of which attempt to make sense of why a few random accusations spread into a full-on outbreak.

Continued...Collapse )
9th-Aug-2006 03:37 pm - PG Wodehouse, Leave it to Psmith
Leave it to Psmith - PG Wodehouse

Leave It to Psmith was my first exposure to the work of PG Wodehouse, and is still my favorite. I reread it whenever I find it on my bookshelf again, and giggle just as much as the first time.

So, on to the story....Collapse )
31st-Jul-2006 08:06 pm(no subject)
sidewalk art
Novel: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon (trans. Lucia Graves)

Upon finishing The Shadow of the Wind, the first "adult" novel by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon, the reader might sigh ruefully and note that in addition to withholding judgment upon a book's cover, one might also desire to take its jacket blurb with a grain of salt. The short description on the back cover of Zafon's novel is indeed extraordinarily tantalizing to bibliophiles; a young boy named Daniel discovers a novel in a "Cemetery of Forgotten Books" that captures his mind like no other book he'll ever read, but when he searches for other volumes by the author (a mysterious Julian Carax), things take a turn for the strange and unnerving. A man calling himself Lain Coubert--the devil's pseudonym in one of Carax's books--has been steadily hunting down and destroying all copies of Carax's books. Daniel's investigations lead him into a haunting story wrapped up in Barcelona's troubled history, and at the heart of it is a bitter feud and a tragic love story, both of which cast their long shadows over Daniel's present-day in the 1950s.

It sounds fantastic, doesn't it?Collapse )
31st-Jul-2006 09:59 pm(no subject)
I'm a bit late, but better late than never? The books I've been reading lately have been mostly professional.

Bulletproof Web Design

Improving Flexibility and Protecting against worse-case scenarios with XHTML and CSS

By Dan Cederholm

Dan's fun-loving voice makes this subject, sometimes a dry one, easy to read from the first paragraph of the book.

“I have a confession to make. There's no such thing as a completely bulletproof Web site. Now, before you close the book and put it back up on the shelf (hopefully sticking out a bit further than the others, thanks), allow me to explain.”

From that moment, Dan takes you through all the most essential things to being an accessible and BobbyApproved website.Collapse )
Tea and Chopsticks
Another cross-post from my usual Tuesday book reviews, just to slot it in before the end of the month:

The Envy of the World: Fifty Years of the BBC Third Programme and Radio 3, 1946–1996 by Humphrey Carpenter

When I was doing my initial research for my undergraduate honours thesis on the 1980s British sitcoms Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, I came across a book called A Great Silly Grin -- a history of British satire boom in the 1960s written by the late Humphrey Carpenter. I thoroughly enjoyed his writing style, which was clean and polished and never dull even when dealing with a very twisty topic. So when I heard that he'd written a fiftieth anniversary retrospective about the Third Programme and Radio 3, I managed to dig up a copy with the help of the Internet and settled down to read it.

Continued...Collapse )
7th-Jul-2006 09:08 am - House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
Several years after its publication, there are still fans discussing and wondering about this book and the intentions of the author in writing it. (http://www.houseofleaves.com for example) Danielewski has said in interviews that there is not an error or a typo that is not intentional within this book. Some of the guesses at the meaning behind each strikethrough and spelling mistake made by readers sound farfetched, but each time the book is read a reader brings another perspective or analysis into the discussion, and shows how complex the story within the book really is. The biggest mystery (or perhaps the most in your face) of all is the reason behind the appearance of the word house within the novel. It is always colored in blue from cover to cover of this book. Even the name of the publisher, Random House is colored in blue, and mentions of a house in the book in any language is also in blue.

no spoilers of the story, but includes some stylistic analysis and interpretation that may affect some readers who want a fresh look at a book when they first read it.Collapse )
22nd-Jun-2006 01:14 pm - Sitting on my desk....
A Quiche Before Dying
M.C. Beaton

I read a lot of mystery books. Most of them fall in the subgenre of 'cozy' mysteries. (As opposed to 'hard-boiled.') Since I don't know how many of you reading know what I'm talking about, I will explain. Cozy mysteries most often feature an amateur sleuth, usually but not always a woman, some kind of gimmick, and quite often some kind of punny or otherwise 'clever' title. Most of the time they're also written by a woman. Cozy mysteries don't generally include gore or graphic situations, and by and large would never, ever be described as 'gritty' or 'realistic'. They're pleasant, nice, fun, whatever. Anyway, I generally like cozies.

A Quiche Before Dying is the first book of MC Beaton's Agatha Raisin series, and as far as pure mysteries go, it's not the best. As far as cozies go, it's quite good.

It's hard to review mysteries - I can't say who the culprit is outright because that's the point of the book! On the pure mystery level, MC Beaton does not cheat; all the clues are in place to figure out the killer ahead of time. Not much of consequence is kept hidden, and nothing comes out of left field as a GOTCHA, SUCKERS!! moment.

I have to say that for me, mysteries end up being more about the characters and their interactions and history than about the actual mystery itself. On that count, A Quiche Before Dying is certainly a good beginning.

A Quiche Before Dying - plottish, no spoilersCollapse )
20th-Jun-2006 10:33 pm - Hello, sun in my face.
Office girls burning poetry
Why I Wake Early
Mary Oliver

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

--Mary Oliver, "Why I Wake Early"

By 2006, Mary Oliver is a familiar name among the small circle of book lovers who also profess a devotion to poetry. By my standards, it's a well-earned reputation: she is a constantly accessible poet and also a very talented one (say what you like about the Pulitzer, but it's no mean feat). So it is slightly odd to have somewhat mixed feelings about her latest work.

Continue on.Collapse )
20th-Jun-2006 01:52 pm - Madeleine L'Engle - Time Quartet
Hello! gramarye1971 here with my first post -- actually, a cross-post from my regular journal, where I've been doing my best to post book reviews every Tuesday since the middle of 2004.

Having recently re-read the following four books, I thought I'd review the entire set at once. ^_^

Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quartet

A Wrinkle in TimeCollapse )

A Wind in the DoorCollapse )

Many WatersCollapse )

A Swiftly Tilting PlanetCollapse )
5th-Jun-2006 10:11 pm - Welcome!
Yeats: too much reality
Hi everyone! Welcome to Bookspammers. For those of you I don't know, feel free to introduce yourselves, or ping me on AIM (LunarEndeavor) or Y!M (roismelinor) at any time. I'm Beth, I am mod/editor. This post will be locked later and filtered to active reviewers.

Some simple rules to get us started.

1. Reviewers must write up at least one book per month. This is primarily to ensure that the community remains active. If people could commit to submitting their review during a particular week of each month, that'd be helpful too, so that we don't get a flood of reviews at the end of the month, and nothing in the weeks prior. I'll keep track and send out reminder emails one week before deadline. It'd be helpful if you submitted the title you want to review ahead of time, but since we are readers and thus eccentric, last-minute changes are acceptable, but use good judgment in choosing your last-minute replacement.

2. Email reviews to bookspammers@gmail.com prior to posting it, for checking and light editing.

3. Nobody is limited to a specific genre, and almost anything goes. However, there are a few restrictions.
* Comic book reviews are restricted to trade paperbacks and graphic novels.
* Preferably, no series in which the author does not own the source material, such as game novels or any number of multivolume teen series. Exceptions will be made if you think it is really that good and argue its case well enough.
* Uber-popular releases (say, The Da Vinci Code) or releases that appeal to multiple reviewers (that means us, Song of Ice & Fire fans) are limited to two reviews in the first three months after release, just to keep variety going. If more than two people want to review the book in question, they can throw their hats in the ring and two will be chosen randomly.
* No textbooks. You may review at text you read for a class as long as it is not a textbook--i.e. do not review your molecular biology book, but if you are assigned Sylvia Plath's Ariel, feel free.

4. Feel free to review a book that you've read before, but do give it a reread first.

5. You may swear in your reviews. But use good judgment, and don't be vulgar.

6. If reviewers fail to turn in a review, without providing advance notice, posting rights will be suspended. However, RL happens, and exams happen, so if you need a hiatus, just email bookspammers@gmail.com and advise me as to how long you will need.

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