Welp, now the fall is real. The trees are making their show and the temps are dropping after some last ditch warmer days. I like seeing my friends on social media absorbing all the nature and tranquility they can in the midst of everything else that’s crazy.
And let’s face it, things are crazy. I’m delighted school has been able to complete three weeks of hybrid instruction and should be able to keep going for the time being. That sliver of normalcy has made me crave more though, and I find as it gets colder I am missing being able to take my son to a movie on a weekend. I understand safety measures and I believe my frustration with this is placed where it should be, but it doesn’t change the fact.
So much witchery in this TBR decimating reading season. So much. I can’t help if I relate to powerful women who push against the norms.
The books here are teen witches but less about the high school context. More about a historical context and I’m doing three today because they have this overlap of women from a different time and context impacting worlds they aren’t supposed to be able to impact. Are witches solely because they can.
The Wicked Deep, Shea Ernshaw
Penny Talbot lives in a town in the Pacific Northwest that is haunted by a centuries old curse. Every year, the spirits of drowned witches return from the sea and exact their revenge on the town by drowning a few of its residents between the first day of June and the summer solstice. When a newcomer arrives at the island, he gets swept up in its intrigues, unbeknownst to him, he is an integral part of breaking the curse.
This book has looked delicious since its release and I finally got it on audio to read it for this fall’s reads. It did not disappoint. Even though it takes place in June the setting makes it atmospheric and dark rather than summery and bright. Penny’s family is bereft and broken with its own unsolved mysteries when the newcomer gets off the bus and meets Penny at the beginning of summer beach party. The unraveling of the plot and the secrets is lovely and kept me going and it had a decent resolution. I like how the newcomer questions the town’s acceptance of the drownings every summer, the tourist spectacle that it has become, and how his own story is ultimately a part of it all. How do we even battle the supernatural, even when the curses we brought upon ourselves are devastating? These stories of cursed towns I have been reading are all about people’s misguided attempts to be in control, only to have them blossom into a bigger and much more unwieldy problem. I definitely bought her second book, Winterwood, Saturday morning. I made serious progress to my list until I want the new releases too. Signs of an addict.
The Year of the Witching, Alexis Henderson
Emmanuelle is a young woman whose very origin is a scandal. She lives in a religious settlement, complete with an authoritarian Prophet, polygamy, and strict gender divisions. She comes from a line of midwives, her own mother being one slated as a prophet’s bride before she chose her own path and ultimately died in ruin. When Emmanuelle is lured into the Dark Forest she unintentionally ignites a prophecy (complete with a sighting of Lilith herself) and puts it upon herself to save her people from the disasters that follow, with the help of the current Prophet’s son and successor.
So I still have witchy TBR books, but I can’t tell you I didn’t poke around on my library websites for audiobooks with Witch in the title and move some ahead of the line. Because I am shameless. This was released summer 2020 AND it is a debut author, and with my fervent wish to be a debut author myself, I am trying to support new authors practically and of course with karma. So it’s a shameless line jumper, but it’s SO appropriate to the garbage fire that is 2020 (because this book is about a garbage fire year too) and it’s beautifully written, the world building is tight, the pacing appropriate and Emmanuelle is an awesome heroine/accidental unleasher/object of revenge, curses and wrath. She just wants to fit in but kind of doesn’t and it makes sense to her once she stumbles upon her late mother’s dark secrets. It’s coming of age times about a million. This is old school biblical women are the root of all evil witching. Where the stories to keep powerful women down began. And while I love fun witchy books, witches came from a real fear of women with power, and those dark tales are important too. Loved it. Excited to see what else Ms. Henderson comes out with, and I fully understand how this one broke into publishing. A-mazing.
The Familiars, Stacey Halls
Fleetwood is a pregnant member of the British aristocracy in 1612 when she comes across a letter from a doctor to her husband indicating that her next attempted childbirth will kill her. She is desperate to carry her fourth pregnancy to term, as the other three have ended in miscarriages and stillbirths, to hold together her marriage and keep her place in her home. Friendless and desperate, she meets a woman, Alice, who Fleetwood believes is integral in making this pregnancy end successfully, but Alice gets entwined in the witch hunt of the time, merely through trying to help someone. Fleetwood comes to believe that only she can spare Alice the rope, and only Alice can get Fleetwood and her baby safely through the pregnancy and birth. All through we aren’t sure what powers Alice possesses, if any at all, as Fleetwood learns the nature of the witchcraft accusations of the time.
Interestingly, both of these women are actual historical figures, but the juxtaposition of them is purely fictional. I find this fascinating, a writer who can take real elements of history and make them her own without deviating too much from the facts. If there’s one thing I love to do is google a historical character and see their pictures and read Wikipedia articles. The history of persecuting women who have any sort of power in this world is devastating, and makes me really glad I don’t live in a time where I could get hanged for my work as a therapist, but these women’s stories against their historical context is fascinating. I liked Fleetwood as a character very much, her loneliness was palpable in her life story and even in parts of her marriage, despite all her money and title in the world, and you find that women’s plights are similar across time and socioeconomic status. She was a bit independent for her time, but I find that none of the modern historical fiction stories would be very good if the women always behaved in them. I like that Fleetwood also is able to take notice of her privilege, of her ready resources of a horse any time she wants one or staff to free up her leisure time, even if she is dangling at the precipice of life and limb herself. I thought this book was well done. I was transported into the 1600s and a world that was still mysterious, dark, and cruel. And like I always say, I’m thrilled that my survival and standing never depended on my ability to make a baby.
Loving this atmospheric fall and the reads that go with it. Working on my spirituality amid the crazy and got my own little firepit so I don’t have to have my husband’s participation if I want a cozy little flame back in the trees. Awesome. Looking for the good in the world right now and learning tarot cards. A woman like me who loves stories, healing, helping others and a feeling of magic and awe needs to read cards. I just do.
And trying to move ahead with writing.