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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.