It’s been frigid here in the Midwest for a solid week. Not just cold, but like, “you’re definitely going to get frostbite” cold. Which is extremely frustrating when you’re cooped up in a too-small house with a toddler who hasn’t played with other children in nearly a year. Throughout the pandemic we’ve had ups and downs- I’m hoping this is simply a “darkest before the dawn” scenario because HOLY CATS something’s gotta give. I don’t know if I’ll be able to hold off sending Sammers back to daycare until both Jim and I can get vaccinated, but I’m hopeful. Do I wish the vaccines were approved for little kids? HECK YES. But knowing the risks of dangerous infections in kids Sammy’s age is very low, I think I’m just going to have to settle for knowing we won’t leave our kid a COVID orphan if he brings it home. What a crappy decision to have to make. Not that any of them thus far have been good or easy. On the upside, books are still a thing. A comforting, desperately needed coping mechanism. How’s that for a segue, eh? Let’s talk books!
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow- It’s 1893 and there are no witches. Witches used to be everywhere, but they were burned out by religious zealots long ago. All that remains are the whispered and half remembered spells mothers pass to daughters. Little things, like a spell to remove stains or a rhyme to help with other household chores. It’s been pushed underground and what little is left isn’t enough to make much of a difference in the lives of women. Until the Eastwood sisters show up, that is. The three Eastwood sisters were traumatically separated and find themselves supernaturally drawn back together one windy solstice. Together they embark on a dangerous quest to restore witchcraft. (Some of the sisters more enthusiastically than others.) This book started off a little on the slow side for me, but the last 20% positively FLEW- it was such a wonderfully creative take on witchcraft. Harrow created an alternate history with clear ties to actual history and familiar lore. The city in which the story takes place is New Salem, so named as it was built to replace the original Salem which was burned in its entirety for the sins of witchcraft. (Alternate history and all that, of course, as real-life Salem neither burned itself nor burned its “witches.”) This Salem connection was my favorite part of the book. 30 years after first learning about the Salem Witch Trials, it STILL pisses me off that poor Tituba got drawn into that mess. I’ll save you a long rant on the evils of slavery and the implicit power imbalances that led to her confession and the blatant racist scapegoating that got her accused of anything in the first place. THE POINT here is that in this book, Tituba was powerful and badass. She’s mostly just a minor background/foundational character, but I love the idea that she got some agency, even if fictional. Justice for Tituba!
Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire– After reading Indexing I was like “dang, why haven’t I read more Seanan McGuire? Ooooh I wonder if there’s a new Wayward Children story out!” Reader, there was! Eeep! And, because the Wayward Children books are novellas and Sam took more naps than usual (or, you know, any naps at all) I was actually able to finish an audio book! Yaaaaaaaaaaay! In this book, our intrepid traveler Regan opens a door and ends up in the Hooflands. Unicorns, Centaurs, Kelpies, and other hoofed beings live in a society that reveres the rare human that shows up in their world. Convenient that our Regan is a certified Horse Girl, no? Regan meant to temporarily escape a nasty school/friend situation and not to open a door into another reality, but she’s quickly enchanted by the Hooflands. Adventures ensue, truths are revealed, and lessons are learned. I really enjoyed this novella and thought it was a nice addition to the Wayward Children series. The only problem I had? I cannot for the life of me remember where Regan fits into the larger story arc. I’m assuming she was at the school, but my brain is now mush (thanks endless pandemic, lack of sleep, endless worry.) I’d have to go back and re-read some of the others to reconnect the dots. Luckily, it totally works as a standalone, so feel free to enjoy even if you too have an overtaxed mental load.
I’ve got a couple more books that I just finished but my eyelids are doing that twitchy thing from stress so I think it’s best that I wrap up here for today. Be gentle with yourselves, Bookworms.
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