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Toil & Trouble | Anthology Review

If witchcraft is the voice of women rising free and powerful (to change the world, make it ours, on our feet instead of on our knees) then I wish to be a witch more than anything. - Elizabeth May, Why They Watch Us Burn

I had really mixed feelings going into this: on the one hand, I love the idea of queer witch stories, but on the other hand, I have a notoriously bad track record with enjoying anthologies. I love the idea of anthologies and I love a lot of short stories, but often times with anthologies, I only find two to three stories or authors that I really enjoyed reading.

So, I was pleasantly surprised when I enjoyed most of the stories and fell in love with about eight of the fifteen stories. I have a full breakdown of every story in the collection over on my goodreads, but here I just want to geek out about all of the stories that I loved.

Part of what was surprising to me about the ones that I loved was that all eight of them are from authors I've never read before. Since reading their stories in this anthology, my TBR has gotten, ahem, quite a bit bigger. Or, at the very least, it got majorly reorganized.

My absolute favorite, favorite stories were: The One Who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma, The Gherin Girls by Emery Lord, Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May, The Truth About Queenie by Brandy Colbert, and Beware of Girls with Crooked Teeth by Jessica Spotswood.

  • The One Who Stayed: This is my favorite story in the entire anthology. I am absolutely in love with Nova Ren Suma's writing. She writes an amazing short story, and she had my full attention throughout the whole story.
  • The Gherin Girls: The sheer number of witch sisters in this anthology is amazing, and I loved most of them. But of the sister stories, this was my favorite. I loved all of the sisters in different ways, but I loved Nova. Like, she shaved her head when she got into a serious relationship with a dude so that people wouldn't assume she was straight. I love a bi protaginst.
  • Why They Watch Us Burn: So, so amazing and well-written. The allegory, the story, everything about this was perfect for me. This also has a real cute F/F romance.
  • The Truth About Queenie: After this story, I'm officially bumping up Colbert's book on my TBR. I absolutely fell in love with her writing. This story was very much real life with a touch of magic, which is one of my favorite ways for magic to be in stories. It also felt very Practical Magic, which I loved.
  • Beware of Girls with Crooked Teeth: Oh, I love an unlikeable, morally grey female main character. Also, it felt like a period drama? Which super appealed to me. 
My other favorites were Love Spell by Anna-Marie McLemore, Afterbirth by Andrea Cremer, and The Legend of Stone Mary by Robin Tally. 
  • Love Spell: So, now I understand the absolute love for Anna-Marie McLemore and her writing. The writing itself is absolutely gorgeous, and I love how she incorporates Spanish into her writing. It just exists, she doesn't translate or explain it, it's just part of the story. Also, the family relationship in this book hit me right in the heart. Gonna go read all her books ASAP.
  • Afterbirth: This was the historical, Crucible-esk story that I wanted going into this. I loved Cremer's writing, and I'm kind of sad that her other novels don't sound super appealing to me.
  • The Legend of Stone Mary: I feel personally blessed that Robin Tally has so many other books for me to read after this. The writing wasn't my favorite, but there was nothing wrong with it either. However, the storytelling and the plot of this story kept me so engaged.
I'd also like to give a quick honorable mention to Zoraida Córdova's Divine Are the Stars. I didn't love this one as a short story. I loved the roots of this story, the magical realism, the relationships, but it was just too short? I wanted this to be fleshed out more, so I think I'll really love her full-length novels.

My average rating for this anthology is closer to a 3.5-3.75, but I bumped it to a 4. Because while there were a handful of stories that I really didn't like, the ones that I enjoyed I absolutely loved. So, if you're wanting some good, queer witch stories leading up to or on Halloween, this is a great choice.


Getting Back Into Blogging | Recently in Reading #4

"Recently in Reading" is a feature on my blog that I created myself, although I did adapt it from the Goodreads Tag and made it into a feature that I could do semi-regularly on my blog!

I'm so happy to be back on the bookish internet, and after rounding up all the best books I've read in the year I've been away, I thought this would be a good way to catch you up on the recent goings-on of my reading and bookish life before jumping back into everything.

I recently finished Obsidio, the last book in the Illuminae Files by Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff. I've been following this series for years, so I was really anticipating this finale. (So much so that I bought it release day and then waited almost six months to read it.) I'm simultaneously very happy with how it ended but so sad that it's over. We will get another space trilogy from this writing duo next year, but . . . it just won't be the same.

Currently, I am a few stories away from finishing the Toil & Trouble anthology, which I've surprisingly been loving. I've also been making my way slowly through Stephen King's Full Dark, No Stars, which I started during Spookathon but never finished.

The best comics I've been following issue-by-issue and picking up from my local comic book stores have been Margaret Stohl's The Life of Captain Marvel and John Allison's (yes, the John Allison from everyone's favorite Giant Days) By Night, both of which I have been loving.

I've been reading a lot of comics while I was away, and one that was recommended by one of my favorite comic writers Kelly-Sue DeConnick and recently released the first issue is Man-Eaters, a satirical comic (almost similar in tone to The Power by Naomi Alderman) where women when on their period turn into man-eating cats. I love it so far.

Novel-wise, I recently heard great things about A Heart in a Body in the World, which I know almost nothing about. I also loved Brandy Colbert's story in Toil & Trouble, and I saw that she has an upcoming release, The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, which has an amazing cover and I also know nothing about. Similarly, the cover for Hello Girls dropped recently, and I don't need to know anything else because I'm already in love with it.

Nonfiction November starts soon, so I want to finish what I'm currently reading before then. If I have time, I also want to start some of my semi-recent acquisitions (What If It's Us, Fierce Fairytales, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing) before or during the month of November.

Recently, I made a trip to Nashville for a signing of What If It's Us, where I also picked up a copy of Anna-Marie McLemore's Blanca & Roja. While I was in the area, I also traded some books at the used book store, and I found a bunch of things that I've been wanting to read for ages. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is a sci-fi that has amazing reviews and has the found family trope, which is my favorite. Also grabbed some recent fantasy releases, The Queens of Innis Lear and Spinning Silver, as well as Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace.

I'm not entirely sure what I'll buy next, but it'll either be The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes or a nonfiction book that I grab during the month of November.

Last week, I went to the local stop on the What If It's Us book tour, and I got to meet up with book friends that I haven't seen in ages. It was so nice to catch up with them, and it was so nice to see Becky and Adam again.

Another thing I've been loving (though my wallet hasn't) has been going to my local comic book stores. It's been a great way of grabbing new comics that I wouldn't have heard of otherwise.


One Year of Favorites | Tomes Project

I've been gone for a while (almost exactly a year, in fact) and that's been for a lot of reasons: school was far too stressful, issues with medications, and just general gloominess. But in the time I was gone, I still read quite a lot (over 50 things just this year, in fact) and most of them I really loved because I've mostly stopped reading things just because everyone else is reading it. If I finish it, I've got to love it.

I've also been watching a lot of movies, and I've been tracking them on letterboxd, which is a goodreads-esk equivalent (with half stars!) for movies. (You can follow me, if you'd like.) And I may end up incorporating more movies/tv type content here as well, so if you're interested in that, let me know.

Either way, here are the 21 books, two complete series, and a handful of comics that I've been loving in my time away from blogging (ordered by read date).

END OF 2017

  • JANE, UNLIMITED - Kristin Cashore: 4/5 - Oh my gosh, I loved this so much. It's the most unique book I've ever read; it's multiple universes plus a 'choose your own adventure' story that bends genre. So lively and fun.
  • DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES - Seanan McGuire5/5 - Probably one of the ones on the list that I continue to think about the most. This was everything that I wanted from this series--a dark, portal fantasy fairytale. The even numbered books of this series are the ones that show the students from Eleanor's school finding their doors. I love those stories, and McGuire writes them so well. In addition, this has some really powerful writing and messages about gender norms and the restrictions and expectations that we put on children that I think about on a regular basis.  
  • THE PRINCESS DIARIST - Carrie Fisher: 4/5 - I didn't grow up on the classic Star Wars trilogy. I never really cared, to be honest, but one of my earliest memories is seeing Episode II in theaters. I only got into the series when the new trilogy premiered in 2015. And, this provided a lot of context to those movies and that fandom that I hadn't known. When I started reading this, I was the same age as Carrie's diary entries from the first movie, and there was a particular connecting power in that for me. 

  • MARCH, BOOK THREE - John Lewis: 5/5 - An absolute must-read non-fiction graphic memoir series that takes place during the civil rights period, with flashes of the "current time" of 2009 on the day of Barak Obama's inauguration. 
  • THE POWER - Naomi Alderman: 4/5 - This is another one that I continue to think about on a near-daily basis. While not my favorite book or the most well-written book for me, this has fundamentally altered the way that I not only interact with the world but also with my own ideas and beliefs. 
  • LONG WAY DOWN - Jason Reynolds: 5/5 - Actually the only one on this list so far that I've reread. I read this both in print and on audio, and while both great, I would definitely recommend the print version because this is a book in verse, and Reynolds' poetry is very visual in nature.

SO FAR IN 2018

  • ALL AMERICAN BOYS - Jason Reynolds, Brendan Kiely: 5/5 - Jason Reynolds is a fantastic author, and I love his work. This is a complex look on police brutality against black people in America. It was written a few years ago now, but it's still very relevant and taught me a lot of things. 
  • THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO - Taylor Jenkins Reid: 5/5 - I literally cannot talk about this book without going on for about three hours about it, so I'll keep it short. This is my book, I've never connected to anything like I've connected to this. I've never felt that type of ownership over anything before, so much so that I cannot listen or read people talking about how much they love this book because it's just such a personal story for me. I absolutely loved this, and it's my favorite book of probably ever.
  • THE REFRIGERATOR MONOLOGUES - Catherynne M. Valente: 5/5 - Another book that has fundamentally changed my outlook on things. In this case, comics and superhero movies, of which I consume a lot. This is a series of short stories parodying the "Women in Refrigerators" trope. Here are some resources for you to look deeper into the topic (Vox article on Gail Simone, wikipedia page, WiR website) but basically, this is the plot device where, disproportionately, women are killed, injured, driven insane, or depowered for the advancement of the men in the story. It's a thing that happens a lot in comics, and *cough cough* especially recently in big superhero movies.
  • THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS - Leigh Bardugo: 5/5 - Bardugo is a queen. I love her. These are the dark fairytales that I've always wanted and never got until this.
  • WE ARE OKAY - Nina LaCour: 4/5 - I read this when I was in an especially dark period, and Marin was so incredibly relatable to me, and the arc that she goes on in this book really helped me.

  • Crazy Rich Asians trilogy (I - II - III) - Kevin Kwan: 4/5 - *screams for seven years about how much I love Astrid Leong*

  • Binti Trilogy (I, II, III) - Nnedi Okorafor: 4/5, 4.5/5, 3.5/5 - Such a phenomenal series of sci-fi novellas that stars a young girl, Binti, who is the first in her family to leave their village, their planet in order to go to university. I consumed these, and they're so great.

  • IF THEY COME FOR US - Fatimah Asghar: 5/5 - Absolutely beautiful and stunning and incredibly eye-opening and relevant poetry. I actually bought my own copy recently so that I could go through and mark it up. The best poetry I've read in the past year.
  • THE HATE U GIVE - Angie Thomas: 5/5 - You've all heard of this, you all love it, and the only reason it took me so long to read was that I specifically wanted to listen to the audiobook, and the waitlist from my library was ridiculously long.
  • SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES - Caitlin Doughty: 4/5 - My family was low-key concerned about me when I was reading this, but this is a really good book for anyone looking to know more about the death industry and what happens when you die. This is something I know that I will go back and reference as I need, and it's another that I continue to think about.
  • IN ORDER TO LIVE - Yeonmi Park with Maryanne Vollers: 5/5 - Another that I'd been meaning to read for years, but felt that I needed to due to current events. This is a terrifying recount of Yeonmi's life and her escape from North Korea. An absolutely necessary read, especially now.
  • THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE - Heidi Heilig: 4/5 - At the time, I really needed something to lift my spirits. I'd been reading a lot of really heavy material at the time (see: above) and this was a really fun YA romp with pirates, time-travel, and myths. Oooh, I loved it, and I'm hoping to read the sequel soon.

  • UNDEAD GIRL GANG - Lily Anderson: 4/5 - It was a girl gang with witches. I couldn't not enjoy this.
  • BRAIN ON FIRE - Susannah Cahalan: 4/5 - Another memoir that was terrifying and gripping. This was Susannah's recount of the medical mystery that surrounded her at 24. A really amazing story that's incredibly well-written.
  • CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE - Tomi Adeyemi: 5/5 - Speaking of well-written, I'm low-key shook after this book. So, so amazing, and another one that only took me so long to read because I was waiting for the audiobook from my library. (Sidenote: Bahni Turpin is now one of my favorite audiobook narrators of all time, she always does an amazing job.)


  • BINGO LOVE - Tee Franklin: 4.5/5 - This is one I'm gonna recommend my goodreads review for because this was a really important and beautiful story, but I had some issues with it that I go into there.
  • BITCH PLANET - Kelly Sue DeConnick: 4/5 - KSD is a phenomenal writer. I love her so much, and when I heard we were getting more of this comic soon, I picked up the first volume of this. It's definitely more mature than the others on this list, so maybe don't pick this up if you're not keen on nudity (purposeful, not excessive or super sexualized) and violence.
  • CAPTAIN MARVEL (2012) - Kelly Sue DeConnick: I'm like crazy excited for the new movie, and I loved the 2015 run of Captain Marvel, so I've been making my way through Carol's backlist. It's been so much fun, and if you're looking for a place to start with Carol before the new movie comes out, this is a good place to start.
  • GOLDIE VANCE, VOL. 3 - Hope Larson: 4.5/5 - Queer Nancy Drew. Fight me, it's so much fun.

  • THE LIFE OF CAPTAIN MARVEL #1-2 - Margaret StohlHave I mentioned that I'm excited about the Captain Marvel movie? (The trailer drops today, and I literally can't handle the excitement.) This is exceptionally well-written, and issue #3 comes out this week. *can't handle the excitement*
  • BY NIGHT #1-2 - John Allison: When I was picking up the previous comic from my local comic book shop, I saw this and John Allison's (see: GIANT DAYS) name and immediately bought the first two issues. It's a wild, supernatural ride, and I'm really enjoying it.

That was a lot, and if you've stuck around in my absence then I really appreciate you. If you're new, welcome! I hope you stick around. I'm dipping my toe back into blogging for now but I'm looking forward to coming back to this world. I've missed it a lot. 
(I am working retail right now, so I'm a little dead inside but we're all good.)