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[Fiction Review] “Amelia Unabridged” by Ashley Schumacher

Full Title: Amelia Unabridged
Author: Ashley Schumacher
Published: February 16, 2021 by Wednesday Books
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Books About Books
Edition Details: 304 pages, hardcover
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Rating: {5/5 stars}

This is a spoiler-free review. No details will be shared from the storyline itself that aren’t available or inferred from the book jacket and online descriptions.

First Glance

I thought this book looked pretty while scrolling through NetGalley for my next set of ARC requests, and then I saw that it was published by Wednesday Books. So far, the books I’ve read from that publisher happen to be very poignant in their themes and the authors’ voices. Added to that, this is a book about books (or more specifically, a book about the author of some books). I’m a nerd for that!

Positive Bits

This is clearly a book about grief. The description tells us that Amelia’s best friend dies after an argument, leaving her hurt and lost. Grief is a deeply personal thing, but I think the author does an amazing job at showing us Amelia’s grief rather than telling us she’s grieving. To put that into perspective, I teared up within the first few chapters of the book and continued to ache and cry with Amelia throughout her story. When you look at the quotes I chose to share below, you can see pieces of how we’re handed the hurt of loss and being lost.

If we didn’t follow Amelia through her journey to find healing, the grief might’ve made this story unpalatable. Instead, we get to watch her rediscover herself without her best friend or the future they thought they had planned out together. The author wove healing into Amelia’s life without skipping the way grief returns unexpectedly, again and again. It was amazingly real (and better for it).

I happen to enjoy realistic stories, particularly when there’s romance and family involved. The way Amelia’s relationship exists with her own family, her best friend’s parents, and those she meets in her travels are all authentically flawed. People are allowed to fail. Some are even given opportunities to grow beyond their failings, only to fall short of personal growth. Maybe that’s not for everyone, but I appreciate the honest approach to relationship dynamics, especially as someone with similarly complicated relationships.

Less Enjoyable Bits

While I enjoyed the imagery and weight given to Amelia’s grief, I imagine this book will be a difficult read for anyone who’s recently experienced their own loss. Consider this your fair warning.

The characters are all very dynamic, whether they’re part of the main cast or not. However, the locations we visit with Amelia might as well be Anywhere, America. I had issues with remembering whether the nearby body of water was a lake, river, or ocean. I couldn’t remember the layout of a repeatedly visited building, other than one or two small details that I found quirky. Setting didn’t play a huge role in Amelia’s story, even when it might’ve had the need to do so.

While it was written in an entertaining style, I didn’t enjoy the epilogue. It felt rushed and unnecessary to the story itself. Then again, I generally expect a realistic story like this to end in a similar vein. Life doesn’t give us epilogues, because the story doesn’t end until we’re dead.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

While some kids waited for their letter to be delivered by owl or for their closet to one day reveal a magical land with talking animals and stone tables, I’d waited for the other shoe to drop. Because if there’s one thing I learned from books, it’s that life is fair and unfair, just and unjust.

I imagine whales swimming in the air between the trees, the forests of Orman rising up with their dark branches to mingle into the Michigan landscape. I pretend I am not real; Wally and Alex are not real. The world is one giant story and I’m only a figment of some author’s imagination, a discarded character that never made it onto a page. Strangely, it makes me feel a bit better.

I am different, but like the stories, I will hold up to more readings, even if those readings are drastically changed in my after.

There are a hundred thousand ways to tell a story. Medical students help people live longer and continue their own stories. Engineering majors tell a story of technology that goes back to caveman with rocks and sticks. Marine biologists piece together shreds of plot until they know where whales sleep at night and where fish live in coral reefs. Everything is a story, not just writing. You need to find the story that means something to you, a story you like telling.

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – this story will make you ache to your bones and then soothe the hurt.

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[Fiction Review] “Lore” by Alexandra Bracken

Full Title: Lore
Author: Alexandra Bracken
Published: January 2021 by Disney Hyperion
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult, Greek Mythology, Roman Mythology, Contemporary Fantasy
Edition Details: 576 pages, hardcover
Source: ARC via NetGalley
Rating: {5/5 stars}

This review is spoiler free. No details will be shared from the storyline itself that aren’t available or inferred from the book jacket and online descriptions.

First Glance

I’m a sucker for anything involving a revised version of mythology, particularly Greek mythology. So when I saw this book on NetGalley while browsing for advanced copies to request, I couldn’t resist. The idea that some of the gods were being punished with a hunt in mortal bodies sounded gritty and exciting!

Positive Bits

The slow feed of information on the Agon and the people within it was done well. There weren’t a bunch of info dumps to slug through while reading; instead, the details were woven into the story and explained as needed within the context of the story. It helped that one of the main characters isn’t part of the Agon’s world, so we gain lots of explanations via his questions to the other characters.

I enjoyed Athena’s role in the story. As the goddess of strategy and reason, her choices made sense the way you’d expect a deity to consider choices (as opposed to a mortal person). The other gods were interesting in their own ways, but she held a unique place in Lore’s adventure.

An overall theme of being raised within a culture and wanting to leave it played well into the plot, from start to finish. It echoed a familiar thread seen in people who leave certain churches or political factions for their own well-being, and thus it really hit home how lost Lore felt and how hard the entire experience was for her.

Less Enjoyable Bits

Maybe it was just me, but I was left confused several times in the beginning. While the book is written in third person following Lore’s point of view the entire time, there are moments when the scene slips out of focus. I think part of that had to do with reading too fast in sections that included explanations of this Agon event and the world-within-our-world in which it occurs.

Some plot points disappointed me, largely due to the letdowns between culture and choices made by various side characters. If you live in a culture were honor and glory are key to everything, I don’t understand how betrayal of your people fits into that picture. Ever. So sometimes I was left scratching my head and wondering how choices made sense.

I had envisioned a different ending (or two, or three). There’s nothing wrong with the ending that we got, but I personally hoped for more. And without spoiling anything, I had hoped that the person with Poseidon’s power would be more involved in the story. They were mentioned enough to seem important, but then they came and went from the actual plot with little fanfare.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Fear is a foreign land I shall never visit and a language that will never cross my tongue. [ebook – 33%]

Monsters lived in the shadows. To hunt them, you couldn’t be afraid to follow. And the only way to destroy them was to have the sharper teeth and the darker heart. [ebook – 58%]

I was born knowing how to do three things – how to breathe, how to dream, and how to love you. [ebook – 83%]

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – This book is an action-packed reimaging of the Greek gods, and I think it’s worth a read. I can’t help but wonder if the author will release any similar myth-based stories in the future, because I’d grab them too!

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[Witchy Review] “The New Aradia” by Laura Tempest Zakroff

Full Title: The New Aradia: A Witch’s Handbook to Magical Resistance
Author: {edited by} Laura Tempest Zakroff
Published: September 2018 by Revelore Press
Genres: Nonfiction, Paganism, Wicca, Witchcraft, Spirituality, Occult, Magical Resistance
Edition Details: 106 pages, trade paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: {5/5 stars}

First Glance

This summer I went hunting for books about magical resistance. With America being full of unrest and injustice, I wanted to do something! This book came up on more than one suggested reading list, so I decided to grab a copy.

Positive Bits

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or hopeless, this book is for you. Thanks to the variety of writers who pitched in their works, the handbook serves as a pep talk across diverse angles of approach. There are rituals and sigils to work toward change, but there are also reminders of our inherent power laced throughout.

I’m pleased to say that the focus isn’t so targeted to 2020 that the book will lose value with time. While highly applicable to today’s problems, I feel like the writers made smart choices in providing ideas and spells that can be molded to any working angled toward justice, positive change, and community. When I bought this book in June, I imagined I’d make the most use out of the sigils included. However, here I am in November embracing the self-care rituals and reminders of my personal power as a witch. Clearly, the topics covered flex with your needs.

As a poet and longtime witch, I don’t often use other people’s spells as written. I tend to rework the wording, paraphrasing the original in my own syntax. However, I found myself impressed with several of the workings as written; I find myself wanting to use them “as is” rather than transforming them, and that’s a good thing. Well-written magic is beautiful and powerful!

Less Enjoyable Bits

This book should be three times bigger than it is! In all seriousness, I wish the book had been delayed a bit longer to allow for more content inclusion; the introduction mentions how rushed the creation process was, and I feel like we missed out on an opportunity to truly build a social justice handbook for witches everywhere.

The title made me think there’d be more of an embrace of Aradia’s mythos, but she was minimally included. As I don’t connect to her story, it didn’t bother me; however, newer witches less familiar with her might wonder why she was used as a lens to view magical resistance through in this book. Aradia’s mythos is very focused on using witchcraft to fight oppression, particularly when wielded by the minority against a powerful majority. I think including a bit more explanation of her history might’ve been helpful for some readers coming in blind.

There’s no organization to this handbook. My brain works the same way, where most thoughts are only tangentially tied together. If you prefer linear thoughts and patterns, then this book might frustrate you. Fair warning!

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Calling oneself a Witch is in itself an act of defiance, a statement of going against the grain and the status quo of society. – page 16

Set your face against the gathering cold, the meanness of spirit that threatens to wither us before our time. Dig your heels into the good old Earth. Remember who you are. Consider your deepest birthright as witches. Gather your allies. Sharpen your tools. – page 25

Go ahead and burn me. The fire will change me, transform me to ash. […] Burn me and I shall be everywhere. The air you breathe, the water you drink, the earth that nourishes you, and the fires that keep you warm. These will all bear my mark. – page 90

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – I needed this. Of all the books I purchased with magical resistance in mind, this is the first one to give me something back: hope.

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[Fiction Review] “The Boneless Mercies” by April Genevieve Tucholke

Full Title: The Boneless Mercies
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Published: October 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genres: Fiction, YA Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, High Fantasy, Mythology Retold
Edition Details: 352 pages, trade paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: {4/5 stars}

This review is spoiler free. No details will be shared from the storyline itself that aren’t available or inferred from the book jacket and online descriptions.

First Glance

This book has been on my TBR list for ages, but I kept putting it back in an effort to avoid buying too many new books when my pile of unread books is already unmanageable. And yet, when our local book club asked for suggestions on books to read, I immediately thought of this one. It gave me an excuse to finally buy it!

Positive Bits

This world is harsh but beautiful. The fact that the Mercies and their trade are needed, that people would pay to die at their hands, tells you something about the kind of reality they live in. And yet, each death we witness has its beauty. Even the deaths of “bad” people are done in such a way as to be a mercy killing, so that we walk away with the feeling that death is both a kindness and an inevitability.

I adored the variety of girls involved in the Mercies, particularly when their origins come out during the course of the story. Letting each girl be so different while remaining so close spoke to me, and they felt real compared to a gaggle of photocopy children running wild together. Each girl played an important role toward the finale of the story, all feeding into the plot with their actions. Juniper is my favorite from start to finish, particularly as her story is told.

The end left me both satisfied and a little sad. Without ruining it, I can only say that I had hoped each girl would get to make different choices for their futures after leaving behind the Mercies. More than once, though, we see them at a fork in the road without an obvious path to choose; as we follow them down their choice, we can see all of the potential futures they left behind. The fact that each choice feels like a reasonable one is what makes this book so good!

Less Enjoyable Bits

This book never mentioned that it’s a retelling of Norse mythology or a clever twist on Beowulf. The blurbs mention it, but I honestly skip blurbs on covers out of irritation; I prefer a proper book description rather than snippets of someone’s opinion. Honestly, the mythological tie-ins are a bonus rather than a notch against this book, but they should’ve been part of the marketing.

While it doesn’t bother me, the book does run light on the descriptive imagery. We get an introduction to each person and location with vaguely sketched lines, and then we move on with the plot. For some, that means more space for our imaginations to run amok. But for others, this might be an issue.

There’s a romantic subplot that’s woven throughout the book, only to have no real payout. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but it was a letdown. If it had been treated as a small detail, the lack of follow through would’ve been just fine. When it’s brought up often enough to feel very important, you kind of need to make something out of it by the ending. Added to that, there’s an almost sapphic energy between the Mercies that’s never explained or explored – another disappointment and, at least in my opinion, a missed opportunity.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Glory. I wanted to touch it. Taste it. I wanted it so deeply I thought my heart would swell up, claw its way out of me, and float away on the wind, cawing like a Sea Witch raven, a prayer caught in its beak.

I’d experienced joy before. Not often, but enough to know what it was, enough to ache for it late at night when I sat quietly beside the fire. Joy was different from peace, though. Peace was slower, calmer, and lasted longer. I hadn’t know this kind of tranquility could exist.

We didn’t speak. There was no need. I felt her heart against mine, and it sang the same sad song.

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – I will always recommend a good retelling of mythology or folktales! This weaving of magic and Norse-flavored myth is perfect for someone with little familiarity of the base materials.

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[Fiction Review] “Black Sun” by Rebecca Roanhorse

Full Title: Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1)
Author: Rebecca Roanhorse
Published: October 2020 by Gallery / Saga Press
Genres: Fiction, Epic Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Native American Literature, LGBTQ Fantasy
Edition Details: 464 pages, trade paperback
Source: Advanced Reader’s Edition won via Goodreads Giveaway
Rating: {5/5 stars}

This review is spoiler free. No details will be shared from the storyline itself that aren’t available or inferred from the book jacket and online descriptions.

First Glance

I enter giveaways on Goodreads if the book sounds like something I might read. In the case of this book, the description had me entering to win in the first sentence:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

I’m a sucker for any story based in mythology, but I particularly enjoy magical worlds reimagining unfamiliar cultures. In her acknowledgements and credits at the end of the book, the author points out how often “epic fantasy” only seems to apply to European-flavored stories. I agree, which is why I often seek out those written in different lands.

Positive Bits

The world we’re brought into is beautiful and deadly. Isn’t that the best kind? We visit a land with a holy city run by Priests of the non-Christian variety, as well as wild seas and a crescent coast full of different peoples and cultures. Even without visiting some of the locations mentioned by characters, we’re given enough details to have a taste of their individual quirks. The worldbuilding was done skillfully enough that I never had a moment where I fell out of the story due to confusion over a custom or description.

As a queer woman, I greatly appreciated the fact that LGBTQ folks exist throughout the story without being the story. Representation is important, and I love a good queer-focused story as much as the next person, but the best kinds of representation are when being queer is treated the same as being short or tall – as in, it’s natural and a part of some characters’ stories without being the entirety of their plotline. Also, there’s a nonbinary person throughout this first book who uses the pronouns xe/xir, and I found that inclusion to be done skillfully enough to explain and then move us along to the actual reason xe was introduced.

Trilogies by their very nature have to end unfinished, but there’s a skill needed to leave us wanting more without leaving us at a confusing cliffhanger. This book handles that balance well, leaving us with just enough closure to be satisfied while maintaining enough loose threads to keep weaving the story in the next book. The specific characters who end up together at the end due to circumstance definitely had me wishing for more.

Less Enjoyable Bits

Sometimes, I find details I dislike that are important to the story. I think that might be the case here. For example, one character struggles with alcoholism or at least regularly uses alcohol to seek oblivion, and there’s a decent portion of the story where it’s not given context. It’s just a vice they have, and it gets them tossed in jail (to have them meet up with other important characters, of course). Much later, we learn a few details about their past that hint at why they drink so often, but it’s not particularly satisfying. Then again, maybe any family or personal experience with alcoholism or alcoholics makes this plotline hit different?

We’re given hints of each main character’s past, but sometimes it’s not balanced in the first book of a trilogy like this. While I became thoroughly invested in each of the characters as they came across the page, it disappointed me that we didn’t get more information on the Teek. Considering how their people and culture play into the first book’s story, I would’ve expected to hear more about them than a passing mention. The story in book one still makes sense without those details, but it might’ve been enriched with more of them included.

My only other complaint is on the magic system(s) used in this world. I enjoy fantasy worlds where magic is standard, especially if there are different kinds based on culture or class. That said, this book didn’t flesh out the magic existing in their society. We get hints here and there for plot purposes, but there’s never a really good explanation of what is and isn’t possible with magic (or how). Again, this might be a trilogy issue rather than an issue with this book directly. I can only wait and see in book two.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

She was only ten, then, her destiny far from decided. She had not yet learned that she was poor and that people like her only went to the celestial tower as servants, or that once you were poor, people hated you for it even when you weren’t poor anymore.

“Villain,” he mouthed, liking the sound of it, the weight of the word on his bloodied lip. If protecting his crows made him a villain, then a villain he would be.

Even when armed with blade and bow, even with an army of a thousand at her command, a spearmaiden’s greatest weapon is her tongue.

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – if you enjoy reading fantasy based in non-European cultures, this book is a great add to your collection. Also, the queer representation is woven throughout the story, so that’s a major bonus!

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[Witchy Review] “The Complete Book of Moon Spells” by Michael Herkes

Full Title: The Complete Book of Moon Spells: Rituals, Practices, and Potions for Abundance
Author: Michael Herkes
Published: July 2020 by Rockridge Press
Genres: Nonfiction, Magic Studies, Witchcraft, Spirituality, Moon Magic, Goddess Worship
Edition Details: 218 pages, trade paperback
Source: Won via Instagram Giveaway
Rating: {4.5/5 stars}

First Glance

I won this book from an Instagram giveaway hosted by @fatfeministwitch (Paige Vanderbeck) and @the.glam.witch (Michael Herkes) in July. They asked for affirmations based on a moon phase prompt, and mine was “I am a child of the universe, my bones and blood are stardust!” I’ll admit that I hadn’t run across Michael’s Instagram prior to the giveaway, but his posts are always colorful and inspirational.

Positive Bits

Right off the bat, I was impressed and excited by the book’s plan to break down the lunar cycle into eight different phases instead of the standard four. Even moon-focused books often direct your energies to the New and Full Moons, with basic details on the differences between waning and waxing moon energies. Here, we get spells and rituals designed for all phases of the moon, taking us deeper into the practice of lunar magic.

Each section starts with a journaling prompt, helping you to form your magical intentions before you start working your magic. I think this provides real guidance for working through your magical goals with focus, rather than a complete set-it-and-forget-it approach. Also, your journaled notes will be there later for reference, so you can look back and see what works for you personally. As someone who struggles to journal regularly, I think these prompts are pure gold! They give just enough of a push to guide me into writing down my thoughts throughout the lunar cycle.

The layout of this book is perfect for active use! Each ritual and spell only covers two pages, facing each out. That means you could prop it open on your altar and work from the pages without having to flip back and forth for details. It prevents you from feeling overwhelmed by an ungainly mess of ritual instructions, which is often a problem with pre-made rituals. All in all, the aesthetics and functionality of this book put it high on my resource list. Rockridge Press once again used colors and formatting choices to enhance the book’s message, and I’m starting to think they’re a publisher to keep an eye on.

Less Enjoyable Bits

I get a little disappointed when anyone shortcuts their ritual closing process. The ritual outline for starting your magic is nicely detailed, from casting circle to calling quarters to raising energy. But when we’re all done, the closing of the circle turns into a quick description of giving thanks. I feel like you need to either be general in your instructions for both calling and releasing the elements, or you need to include full descriptions for each piece of their participation. It’s a pet peeve I notice in a lot of pre-made ritual descriptions including the processes used by my old coven, so it’s not a deal breaker. It’s just frustrating.

There are a few times that random ceremonial or hoodoo magic practices are pulled in without explanation, but this is the nature of being a witch outside of a standardized path. I’d likely research symbols and actions with more detail if they weren’t familiar to my personal practices, so this didn’t make any spells or rituals stand out as malformed. Instead, I reread the spells that had these kinds of details and looked for the why.

Every witch is different, and so are our ethics. That said, I took issue with one particular spell in this book. In a spell for strengthening an existing relationship, we’re told that hair is the easiest biological bit to retrieve from your partner without being noticed. However, if you’re in a healthy relationship that you simply wish to enhance, I would think you could safely ask for permission to use their hair instead of sneaking around. Call me old fashioned, but that doesn’t sound like a relationship with open and honest communication. I recognize, though, that this is my personal ethical approach to magic that directly includes another person.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

The universe does not operate on our sense of time. Spellcasting is not a fast-food spiritual practice. – page 19

Not everything goes the way you think it will. Sometimes life takes a sharp turn off course, and you either back up and get back on the road or change course completely. Regardless of which way you go, I’ve learned it’s best to just enjoy the scenery of whatever detour you take. – page 88

All obstacles present new experiences for us to learn and grow from. It is through embracing these hardships that we learn just how strong we are. – page 144

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – this book would be a good resource for someone just starting their lunar practice, because it strikes a balance between simplicity and focus. For those not new to their path, the spells can provide a shot of inspiration to revive and rejuvenate your moon magic.

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[Witchy Review] “The Grimoire Journal” by Paige Vanderbeck

Full Title: The Grimoire Journal: A Place to Record Spells, Rituals, Recipes, and More
Author: Paige Vanderbeck
Published: July 2020 by Rockridge Press
Genres: Nonfiction, Wicca, Magic Studies, Witchcraft, Spirituality, Journal
Edition Details: 158 pages, trade paperback
Source: Won via Instagram Giveaway
Rating: {5/5 stars}

First Glance

I won this book from an Instagram giveaway hosted by @fatfeministwitch (Paige Vanderbeck) and @the.glam.witch (Michael Herkes) in July. They asked for affirmations based on one of the prompts in this book, and mine was “I am a child of the universe, my bones and blood are stardust!”

Positive Bits

I need other publishers to step up their game! The aesthetics of this journal and the other books I’ve received from them are literally magical. We get colors and artwork scattered throughout the book, lending inspiration to the reader on every page. Journals and prompt books can come across as plain or even dull, especially when the majority of a page is full of straight lines for us to write. In this journal, we get the expected lines to fill in with our thoughts, but every single page has borders with color and symbols to tickle your fancy. The overall effect of this layout is a feeling of focused creativity.

Of course, the content itself is more important that the appearance. For my first read-through, I chose not to actually perform any of the writing activities or rituals while reviewing the full picture. Yet I found myself brainstorming page after page, staring off into space while I considered the prompt or spell worksheet at hand. As someone who’s been struggling with a witchy listlessness for some time now, it amazed me to feel so focused on each idea the journal presented. Not every spell suggestion fit my needs, but enough of them did to make the collection useful to any witch who might be looking for some inspiration.

There’s also a beauty in using a journal with prompts like this completely out of order. The topics are divided into basic sections: Summon Your Spells, Record Your Rituals, Relish Your Recipes, and Make Your Magic. What this really means is that there are prompts for spells, a review of large rituals celebrating the year, some recipes to craft around the kitchen, and a combination of various magical tools. You can work to create your own magical oil recipe, then turn around and use that for a prompted spell for protection. I’d actually recommend jotting down the page numbers of incorporated items like the oil recipe on any other pages it appears in, just to make finding your recipe easily when the time comes. All in all, the ties between items are loose enough that there’s no need to move chronologically through the exercises in order to gain their benefits.

Less Enjoyable Bits

This journal may not do much for a brand new witch. Without some basic background knowledge of various topics (elements, herbs, colors, crystals, and so forth), the prompts may come across as a bit overwhelming. However, some patience and the use of a couple outside resources could overcome this issue.

In a completely personal preference, I wish this journal was bound in a spiral. As a lefty in particular, I don’t enjoy the feeling of resistance that the left side of the book applies to your hand as you write in a bound book. That’s why my own active grimoire is a spiral journal instead, because it can truly lay flat. To be fair, though, I’m not sure that many publishers have the equipment (or desire) to bind books in anything other than traditional methods.

More prompts related to personal associations would’ve been wonderful. We get into some basics throughout the journal, but we didn’t dive into the elements or moon phases as they relate to us as individuals. Considering how different my relationship with the elements has been based on location (living in Texas versus living in the Pacific Northwest), that would’ve been an interesting direction to explore together.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Magic isn’t something purely outside of ourselves; it’s equally pulled from within. We find it in our memories, feelings, and relationships, and our inner voice weaves this magic into the fabric of who we are and how we see ourselves. – page xi

The act of preparing food, for others or yourself, is inherently imbued with the energies of love, care, and healing. – page 70

The flame of your candle can release your wishes out into the universe, attract blessings and spirits with its warm light, and bring psychic revelations through smoke and wax. – page 102

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – particularly if you need some inspiration to get your magical creativity flowing. The variety of topics touched by this journal is like the rainbow of light a prism casts onto the walls as the sun hits – there’s a bit of every color mixed in!

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[Witchy Review] “Green Witchcraft” by Paige Vanderbeck

Full Title: Green Witchcraft: A Practical Guide to Discovering the Magic of Plants, Herbs, Crystals, and Beyond
Author: Paige Vanderbeck
Published: February 2020 by Rockridge Press
Genres: Nonfiction, Wicca, Witchcraft, Spirituality, Religion
Edition Details: 169 pages, trade paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: {5/5 stars}

First Glance

Paige Vanderbeck is The Fat Feminist Witch, and she posts across various social media on witchcraft and related topics. She’s best known for her podcast, which is available on most podcast providers.

To be fair, though, I don’t do podcasts. I don’t have the focus to listen to someone speak without a visual, so I’ve only listened to one or two of her live shows thanks to Facebook Live. Still, between those and her non-podcast posts, it was exciting to see her publishing a book on green witchcraft. Added to that, I’m working to find new books for my personal library that aren’t a few decades old, so this definitely looked like a good option.

Positive Bits

Right off the bat, I think this book was written with the right amount of openness. What I mean is that we’re provided with just enough information and structure to function, but then we’re told to look into each topic ourselves and experience it directly. Too many books fall into the trap of telling you how energy feels or how magic works without giving any flexibility. In this book, we’re given a look at how each of our senses can interact with energies; as someone who can visualize the taste and smell of a peach but can’t visualize the image itself, I appreciated the discussion of different psychic senses being involved in your magical processes.

The fact that this book limits each category (stones, plants, etc) to fifteen examples is the perfect balance between being informational and being intuitive. By giving us a handful of examples and their basic magical information, we’re shown what potential different plants and stones have without being spoon fed associations to use. I think we could all use more intuition on our magic! Paige specifically tells us to consider the local flora for our magical workings, which is something I’ve been inspired to do now that I own a house. Having lived in half a dozen climates around the world while growing up, I can see the obvious benefit of looking at your specific location for plants, stones, trees, and other creatures to work into your magic.

Each spell and mixture of ingredients is satisfying as well as powerful. I love the simplicity of things like magical bath salts, because it’s important to bring your magic into your mundane moments like bath time. There’s also a note on several of the spells that explain optional additions to the working; this allows the caster to remain as simple or complex in their magic as they so desire. All in all, nothing felt inaccessible due to cost or content.

Less Enjoyable Bits

If you’re looking for a deep dive into the details of green witchcraft or a huge compendium of magical stones and plants, you’re going to be disappointed. This book is an introduction into green witchcraft and ways to incorporate it into your life, not an intensive guide into the dark corners of earth-based magic. Keep that in mind.

It would’ve been nice to see more information on how to find or discover the magical uses for different plants and stones. Sure, you can go buy a random collection, but I think there’s more power in figuring out magical associations yourself. The book tiptoes next to this idea, but we’re presented with things like elemental and astrological associations for items without any reference as to where or how to find those details. It was a missed opportunity to look a little closer at the intuitive side of green witchcraft.

I’ll be honest. I’m wracking my brain to find things I didn’t like about this book, and I can’t really think of any good reasons. I mean, I wish it was longer?

Tidbits Worth Repeating

The most important plants, herbs, and flowers for you to learn about are the ones that grow locally. What kinds of trees grow where you live? What are the native flower species? Are there poisonous plants and fungi onto which you might stumble? Their energy is all around you, and you have the privilege to be able to interact with them at all stages of growth, learning exactly how they work. – page 27

Your morning coffee is already a magical potion that energizes you and brings mental clarity. – page 79

As you go forward, creating your own path as you go, remember to remain curious and humble in the wilderness. – page 160

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – With two decades of witching under my belt, I can get a little annoyed at the repetition found in beginner’s books. Not this time! This book is perfect for a beginner, but it’s also inspired me to take a renewed look at my own path.

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[Fiction Review] “Practical Magic” by Alice Hoffman

Full Title: Practical Magic
Author: Alice Hoffman
Published: Reissue edition from 2003 by Berkley
Genres: Fiction, Family Saga, Magical Realism, Paranormal, Fantasy
Edition Details: 286 pages, trade paperback
Source: Purchased
Rating: {4/5 stars}

First Glance

I’m not a movie person. Period.

That said, Practical Magic is one of the few movies I still call a favorite, even as the years progress and the filming style (i.e. special effects, acting methods, directing, etc.) become more and more aged. I had no idea back in 1998 that the movie was based on a book; I was an eleven year old in a world without internet in everyone’s house, so I enjoyed the movie and moved on.

I only found out about the book when the prequel showed up on our bookstore’s display during my birthday trip. I picked up both books and added them to my TBR list, and a friend’s decision to create an online book club led to me bumping Practical Magic up to read next.

Positive Bits

This review contains spoilers, because this book and movie have been out for years. Fair warning!

Hoffman’s voice is unique in the way she tells her story. Instead of reading a story as though we are the omnipotent viewer, we get to experience the story as though we’re listening to a storyteller as they tell us the story. There’s not a ton of dialogue, but we get a taste of each character’s inner world through the descriptions of what they’re doing and feeling. It’s an interesting approach to telling a story that you don’t see often.

Kylie (Sally’s younger daughter of thirteen) is probably the most interesting character in the book. I enjoyed experiencing her sudden onset of aura and energy awareness, as some of the descriptions really hammer home the way someone with high empathy can feel. She felt like the character who was given the most depth, which is amusing when you consider that her main role in the movies was to be the little girl that saw Jimmy’s ghost. I think the story benefited overall from having teenagers instead of children in the family, as teenagers can provide another pair of nearly-adult eyes to view the story.

If I completely ignore the fact that a movie of this book exists and measure the book on its own standing, then I enjoyed the story. The magical realism involved is extremely subtle (i.e. almost non-existent), but I think it lends just enough suspension of disbelief to make the rest of the story believable. Without the hints of magic, the events that happen and the characters’ reactions to them wouldn’t make any sense.

Less Enjoyable Bits

My wife had to keep correcting me as I talked about this book. In my head, the movie has existed since I was a kid but the book only came into existence (for me) this year. Every difference I noticed came out as “they took out the part where…” instead of “the movie added a part where…”. Regardless, my problems with this book were largely based on what never happened outside of the movie. Some of my favorite scenes included the love spell meant to keep love away and the PTA phone tree calling in a volunteer coven to help save the day… neither of which existed in the book. Basically, the book had none of the movie’s magic woven into the story, and that was disappointing to a fan of the movie’s version of events.

Aside from artistic differences between the book and movie, I took issue with some of the random vulgarity in the descriptions. Hoffman’s prose is generally soft and floaty, like you’re listening to a storyteller, but she randomly tosses in details like “Maybe it’s because she’s just realized who it was she was fucking and calling sweetheart all that time. (page 223)” that become jarring as they enter the scene. There were a handful of times where the that kind of sharp note showed up unannounced, and I don’t feel like they were necessary to tell the story. Sometimes these moments also occurred within tangents in the prose, leaving them to feel both uncomfortable and unnecessary.

This book is labeled as magical realism, but it’s disappointingly mundane. Sure, the aunts are witch-like women who occasionally perform a love spell for someone foolish, but mostly they make soap to sustain themselves. They ride a bus to go down and help the girls out. One of Sally’s daughters can see auras when she turns thirteen, but it’s not important except to explain her seeing Jimmy’s spirit around the garden where he’s buried. She sees a pair of men leave a bar drunk, and her ability to see auras isn’t needed to see that they’re troublemakers; in fact, her ability plays no part in her own story outside of seeing Jimmy’s spirit off and on. Most of the story is based in the kind of world Sally wants to live in: a normal one.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

It doesn’t matter what people tell you. It doesn’t matter what they might say. Sometimes you have to leave home. Sometimes, running away means you’re headed in the exact right direction. – page 56

On especially hot days, when you’d like to murder whoever crosses you, or at least give him a good slap, drink lemonade instead. – page 193

Although she’d never believe it, those lines in Gillian’s face are the most beautiful part about her. They reveal what she’s gone through and what she’s survived and who exactly she is, deep inside. – page 265

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – as long as you’re not looking to read the movie in book form. They’re nothing alike, but I think the book stood up well on its own.

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[Witchy Review] “Badass Ancestors” by Patti Wigington

Full Title: Badass Ancestors: Finding Your Power with Ancestral Guides
Author: Patti Wigington
Published: September 2020 by Llewellyn Publications
Genres: Nonfiction, Witchcraft, Magic Studies, Angels & Spirit Guides, Spirituality
Edition Details: 256 pages, trade paperback
Source: ARC – requested by me
Rating: {5/5 stars}

First Glance

I know you don’t usually judge a book by its cover, but a good cover design can get your attention long enough to have you reading the description. That happened here, where the cover art drew me in and then the details had me requesting an advanced readers’ copy on NetGalley.

I don’t work with ancestors in my current practice. My family is a far-flung mess of people, with my biological father’s side completely unknown to me. I’ve always wondered where you would begin to work with ancestors in that kind of situation.

Positive Bits

To be honest, I only made it to the end of Chapter 3 before pre-ordering a physical copy of this book. In the introduction, the author already drew me in with a discussion of chosen family, adopted family, and purposefully severed family ties. She then followed through with that promise from the start, covering different definitions of family and ancestors than just blood relatives.

This book provides both research guidance and ancestor rituals with equal balance between spiritual and mundane methods. I found myself browsing some of the suggested resources just to see what I could find, losing a few hours just poking around online. Thanks to prior family tree work, I know there’s one branch of Filipino heritage I can trace back to ship records, but the author provided suggestions that led to a local ancestor’s grave and a marriage to an actress in the 1930s. Neither of those details came up in previous searches, because I didn’t know where to start.

Meanwhile, the rituals are very approachable and intuitive. Her suggestions for tying in culturally relevant foods resonated with me the most, as I’m a foodie at heart and love trying unfamiliar recipes. The idea of integrating that love into something I can share with my ancestors to show them appreciation just made sense. Again, I found myself down a research rabbit hole as I looked into traditional Filipino recipes and clothing (prior to colonization), but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Less Enjoyable Bits

As with most books, there were parts that didn’t speak to me. As a polytheist, I couldn’t connect to Chapter 8 as the author discussed calling archetypes in place of unknown ancestors. The idea hadn’t sounded strange when it was mentioned prior to that chapter, but then she used deities as if they were archetypes throughout this section. That may work for a non-religious witch or someone who believes deities are archetypes of the Unnamed Divine. However, as a person who’s worked to develop relationships with individual deities along my path, I can’t connect to the idea of treating them like ancestors or symbols instead of actual gods.

I’ll admit that I felt a little lost and left out at times, though it’s not the author’s fault. My family is a tangle web of marriages and divorces, immigrants, lost records, and poor folks. I don’t have family heirlooms or anything older than my grandparents’ generation. We have almost no pictures older than that, either. And don’t get me started on how being poor means not putting down roots! All of that is to say, sometimes the author’s descriptions of how her research progressed (talking to elder living relatives, asking about family heirlooms or where traditions started, looking up local newspapers) felt unfamiliar and almost impossible.

Efforts were made to pull in options for those without steady family trees. They were imperfect, but I appreciate the attempt. By the end of the book, I could tell I’m still out of luck on some fronts when it comes to ancestor tracing and the related spiritual workings. Thankfully, there were plenty of other parts that spoke to me and gave me guidance for working with the ancestors I can reach.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Our ancestors were survivors of things far more frightening than our first-world problems. They were strong. How do we know that? Because you’re here. Your bloodline survived millennia of plague, war, pestilence, famine, infant mortality, and just plain old bad luck… just to make you. That means your ancestors were badasses. – in the Introduction

It’s not that a rebel is unaware of those constraints; they simply don’t allow themselves to be held by them. The rebel brings about freedom by way of dissent and justice by way of rebellion. – in Chapter 8, Connecting to Archetypical Badasses

Family traditions tend to have other benefits as well. In our hectic and chaotic, non-stop busy lives, a ritualized tradition offers a feeling of comfort. They give us a constant. – in Chapter 11, Your Badass Legacy

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – because I had a free digital ARC and still pre-ordered the physical book. This is the best introduction to ancestor work in a spiritual context that I’ve come across, and there’s value for both the traditional family person and someone like myself with a less structured family tree.

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[Witchy Review] “Werewolf Magick” by Denny Sargent

Full Title: Werewolf Magick: Authentic Practical Lycanthropy
Author: Denny Sargent
Published: September 2020 by Llewellyn Publications
Genres: Nonfiction, Magic Studies, Witchcraft
Edition Details: 240 pages, trade paperback
Source: ARC – Requested by me
Rating: {2.5/5 stars}

First Glance

As a therian and animist, I enjoy any opportunity to delve into magic related to shapeshifting and spirit work. This book clearly focused on wolves, which happen to be one of my favorite animals, so I decided to ask for a first look. I received an advanced readers’ copy (ebook) through NetGalley. As usual, I get paid nothing to give my honest opinion.

Positive Bits

The overall idea behind werewolf magick is that we need to (and can) embrace our wild side and go a little feral if we want to really connect to our own power. I’ve written and participated in several different versions of this kind of magic, where you reach deep down to find your inner wildness; it’s a powerful piece of energy work.

The author clearly runs with this wildness, as the majority of the rituals included are wordless. Howls and yips and growls are the only magical words used, and I think that’s a smart approach. It makes it a little harder to plan your ritual, as there are no cue cards, but sound is a good carrier of energy regardless of its form.

I appreciated the notes on animal parts and meat usage throughout the book. As someone who prefers to be an ethical omnivore rather than a vegetarian, I respect the balancing act it takes to honor the animals who obviously had to die in order for you to eat or wear them. There are different ways to approach animal parts (fur, bones, or meat) and they all start with an acknowledgement of death and your role in the process.

Less Enjoyable Bits

I’ll admit that this book is too eclectic for me. There are repeated notices that the author makes no claim at being a shaman, which is all well and good. But then there are random pieces of the Greco-Roman pantheon, modernized versions of old Nordic ritual, and a surprise visit from an Egyptian god. Throughout that mix, we have Gaia used as a name for the Earth as a being (but not as Gaia, the Greco-Roman goddess) and a liberal smattering of mantras from Hindu practices (without any explanation about their source or purpose). The author could’ve used a bit more explanation between rituals to tie together his eclectic pieces, but they were presented as disjointed mosaic pieces.

In the history of werewolves presented, the author travels a familiar and well-worn path of pretending that witches (and, therefore, werewolves) have always existed and were hunted down during the Burning Times. And yet, enough witches and werewolves hid to bring their practices to us today. The truth is, we’ve recognized as a community that the “history” we were taught was a tool to loan authenticity to new practices. After all, everyone respects an ancient teaching, right? Each example of werewolves in the past is dubiously tied together in a string, and it’s supposed to guide us from ancient werewolves to today’s shifters in an unbroken line… that I’m not buying.

Based on personal studies and experience, I found his entire section on Fetches to be misguided. Take it or leave it as you will, but I find that a Fetch or similar thoughtform isn’t an alter ego (wolf or otherwise) of myself. Rather, it’s a separate and directed entity. The author treats the animalself (his word for your animal side) as both a part of you and something apart from you, depending on the working presented. I feel there’s no ambiguity in what is Self versus what is outside of Self, and this makes the entire use of animalself as a Fetch an impractical process – one that I would expect to cause you some discomfort, if not exhaustion. There’s a reason we practice magic with the help of external energies and items other than ourselves.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

The names are less important than the truth behind the powers.

We are smart, feral, amazing beasts who can dress in a suit for work and later that night run naked and howling in the woods under the moon.

Our wild gods are not spiritual metaphors or cosmic entities, they are the dirt beneath our naked paws, the rain that tastes sweet on our tongues, the lunar dance of the tides within us and the fresh scented air of Spring that fills us with green energy.

Is it worth the coin?

No – there are other resources on wolf mythology and shapeshifting that can be found, and I would pick up something more focused if I were studying either topic.

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[Fiction Review] “What Should Be Wild” by Julia Fine

Full Title: What Should Be Wild
Author: Julia Fine
Published: May 2019 by Harper Perennial
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism, Coming of Age, Fantasy, Adult Fiction
Edition Details: 368 pages, hardcover
Source: Borrowed
Rating: {3.5/5 stars}

This review is spoiler free.

First Glance

My wife’s coworker gave her this book after hearing about some of the other books I’ve read. She said it was my kind of weird. Considering the description includes a family curse and the power to kill at the slightest touch, I figured she was right.

Positive Bits

I happen to enjoy stories that switch perspectives, as long as we’re given clear guidance on who the speaker is for each section. The author did so throughout this book, swapping from the main character Maisie to her female ancestors to build the story. It played an important role in fleshing out the family curse and Maisie’s personal experience of it. Each change in perspective was clearly marked.

Magical realism is that dark kind of lovely to read. It always feels like zooming into a story with magic, whereas we often view it from high above. Instead of showing me how hard it is to live with deadly touch, the author has Maisie weeding the garden by touching certain vines at their base (efficient!). Her actions have a hesitant kind of grace, born of necessity as she dances around touching the living things in her life. I think the real beauty of magical realism is in how successfully it brings magic into our reality, playing it out to its obvious conclusions.

The story of Maisie’s family and the ancestors we meet are tragic and deeply intertwined with Maisie’s own story. Each is fleshed out in a way that builds someone with their own personality and goals, rather than a prop to tell the main character’s story. The other characters in the cast (outside of her family) are equally well told, allowing you to ride along with Maisie while understanding the actions and motives of those around her. Any surprises are based on purposeful plot points, rather than accidental plot holes.

Less Enjoyable Bits

I struggled with what to rate this book, honestly. In my personal rating system, I used 1-10 as options; the 3.5 stars would be 7 in that system, listed as “the book was good, but there were plot holes or tropes that got in the way of full enjoyment – will not keep.” To be fair, “will not keep” just means I have limited shelf space and likely won’t reread this book.

As for the things that got in the way of full enjoyment, there’s not a lot of specifics I can give without ruining the plot. I found that the primary and secondary antagonists we meet just don’t sit well with me. Maisie is made a victim and rests in that place for quite a while, making me frustrated and uncomfortable with her lethargy in the face of being misused. Later, the “climax” kind of fizzles out with the main antagonist not antagonizing Maisie at all once they finally meet. The ending is what I expected it to be, but it was built up to something dramatic only to be solved with a handshake, so to speak.

Because of the ending more than anything else, I don’t know how I’d recommend this book to someone. If asked about this book directly or asked for suggestions on books with magical realism done well, I’d say it’s an interesting read and definitely weird in a good way. But I don’t think this book will be one I choose to suggest to others outside of that window.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

Nothing begs question of permanence, of sin, like the power to kill and revive. Nothing promises revival like a fairy tale.

Tamed. A word for a wild girl made obedient. A word for a hawk with clipped wings, a declawed tiger. A word that made me safe.

Peter would have said that behaviors are determined by principles, theories. That the difference between Theory of God and Theory of Not God was actually quite slim, each a slightly different lens through which to choose to view the world. One a shade lighter, the other negligibly darker – what mattered was that both were held up to the eye and used to filter our experience.

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – if you’re looking for a book with magical realism and a dark family history, this is a good choice.

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[Witchy Review] “Aradia” by Craig Spencer

Full Title: Aradia: A Modern Guide to Charles Godfrey Leland’s Gospel of the Witches
Author: Craig Spencer
Published: August 2020 by Llewellyn Publications
Genres: Nonfiction, Magic Studies, Witchcraft Religion & Spirituality, Mythology
Edition Details: 240 pages, trade paperback
Source: ARC – Requested by Me
Rating: {4/5 stars}

First Glance

In my early witchy studies, I tried to get my hands on anything written by older sources in an effort to understand the foundation of what witchcraft had become. At that time, I was a Wiccan and read through the writings of Gerald Gardner, Dion Fortune, Doreen Valiente, and other Big Name Pagans.

I tried to read Aradia, Gospel of the Witches multiple times, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. From the random inclusion of Lucifer to the rambling stories, I just couldn’t see anything of value for my personal path in Leland’s work, especially as I have no ties to Italy or its traditions.

Thankfully, someone who has those ties has taken the time to retranslate and discuss Leland’s Aradia. I requested a copy of the book when I saw it was available, because I hoped this time someone had made the Gospel make some kind of sense.

Positive Bits

I’ll start off by saying that Spencer made a good decision to write this book. Period. When you realize something is needed and you have the ability to provide it, I think it’s wise to step in and create a resource for others. He did a wonderful job on citing sources and noting where he changed the original translation (as well as why). It’s always a good sign when someone explains their process to you, because you can retrace their steps and see the clear delineation between points A and B.

Pointing out the Catholicism flavoring different portions of the Gospel makes the stories easier to follow. I hadn’t considered it before, but clearly local stories and folktales are colored by the cultures they live inside of; as those cultures change, so do the details of the stories. As I’ve never been Catholic, it was helpful to see the pieces that fit into the Catholic worldview separated and explained throughout the Gospel.

Spencer made sure his Part Two section included enough basic framework to point in the direction that Aradia’s witchcraft would travel without bogging it down in details. In “Attending the Sabbat”, he broke down ritual into individual portions that each tie together to form the great working. I’m always intrigued by new breakdowns of the ritual process, as the differences are often where a ritual’s magical flavor comes in.

Less Enjoyable Bits

I disagree with the premise that witchcraft is inherently a religious act. In the Gospel, I can understand and agree with the idea that the witchcraft of Aradia is meant to be a religion. However, there are so many paths of witchcraft out there that don’t interact with any higher beings, focusing instead on the use of personal and elemental energies to perform spells and rituals. I feel it’s often easy to slip on blinders as a religious witch and fail to recognize this. (As a hard polytheist and animist, I get it.)

Other than that disagreement, I actually found no issue with this book. Spencer set out to provide a better translation and context for Leland’s Aradia, and he did so. Period. I didn’t find his revelations (i.e. interpretations) to be overly invested in a personal agenda or attitude. Instead, he took the time to explain any interpretations he had that didn’t line up with Leland’s original, and he included enough sources to make checking his work possible for those so inclined.

Tidbits Worth Repeating

The moral of this story (and it could also be said of Italian witches) is that we should never attack what we do not understand. We should never attack a divinity just because our own  personal path does not lead in their particular direction. Looking at the world today, this is a lesson that many people could benefit from learning – witches included. (56%)

The spirit of witchcraft is the driving force and power behind the words, not the rigid dogma of a set formula. (92%)

Be the witch you are meant to be, and let the magic of the Old Religion guide you, guard you, keep you, and show you its deep secrets. (98%)

Is it worth the coin?

Yes – I’d recommend this book for anyone interested in historical (traditional) witchcraft, particularly of Italy. It’s a good resource for anyone focused on the “Old Religion” style of witchcraft as a religious path, particularly if you’re drawn to the European and/or Wiccan paths due to their ties to a historical context.

Posted in [poetry]

my favorite book [poem]

I treat my heart like my favorite book
thumbing through the happy memories from time to time
retelling those stories with a smile
but like my favorite book
I’m both incredibly cautious
and amazingly careless with my heart
I might dog-ear the pages of my favorite moments
but I’m so nervous to let anyone borrow this love
who knows what kind of condition they’ll return it in
or if they’ll return it at all
right?

Posted in [poetry]

friends in strange places [poem]

I had a tree friend once
and by that I mean
I once had a friend that was a small oak tree
his branches barely hitting the roof of our two story building
he wasn’t much of a talker
but he was the best at lending an ear
he wasn’t any good at hugs
but he grew a branch directly over the sidewalk
just to give me a high five every day
his leaves whispered loudest in the autumn breeze
and he caught the rain in his leaves the best
and I miss him
sometimes
when it’s too sunny outside
and there’s no tree to greet me when I get home

Posted in [poetry]

writing a book [poem]

it’s hard to write a book
the kind that’s supposed to teach a stranger things
without ever looking them in the eye
you’d think it the ideal way for an introvert to share her knowledge
but instead it’s a struggle
to spell out important concepts
in self-contained lessons
with no interaction
or discussion
or signal that anybody’s getting it

Posted in [poetry]

Dad it’s your birthday [poem]

and I didn’t bother asking Mom for your number
I love you
but I prefer this silence just the same
it’s been years since I came out to you
half a decade since you told me
not to bother coming home
and I haven’t Dad
I love you
but this silence is my gift
wrapped in distance and disappointment
today I turned on the radio to wash the dishes
and I almost cried
[because a warrior gave up his place in Valhalla
to save his Valkyrie daughter]
because a song played
about a father sacrificing everything for his daughter
it’s one of my favorite songs Dad
one of the songs where
I blame my daddy issues for the tears
you were an amazing father once
I grew up loved
I never forget that
my friend worries that he’s a terrible father
and I use your love as an example of why
he’s doing everything right
because you loved me like your own flesh and blood
and what can you call a man
who loves his stepkids like their own
but a good father?
Dad you were a good father once
so good I never guessed I was a stepchild
until Mom decided to tell me so
every year I think about reaching out
about being the one to bend and break the silence
but I did nothing wrong Dad
there’s nothing wrong with the way I love
or the life I choose to live
maybe one day I’ll be able to forgive you
for not seeing it the same way
until then
I can only wish you happy birthday
in less than happy poetry
and relentless silence

Posted in [poetry]

taking care of you [poem]

I want to keep you forever
I want to tuck your heart into the safety
of my own rib cage
I want to run my fingers through your hair
I want to hold the world at bay
until you’re rested and ready to face it again
I want to bake you cookies
I want to fill you up until you’re not hungry anymore
be it for food or fun or affection
I want to curl up in the circle of your arms
I want to love you so thoroughly
that you forget what being lonely felt like

Posted in [poetry]

hopeless romantic [poem]

I’m not a hopeless romantic
my heart is full to the brim with hopeful optimism
instead I consider myself a helpless romantic
the kind of person who can’t help but want to love you
I will paint a lover’s every action with romance
but I will do the same to the actions of a stranger
love is in every moment
in every smile
every word
I can’t help but want love to be
all-encompassing and ever-present

Posted in [poetry]

embrace [poem]

I’m trying to find things to embrace
rather than continuing to float here
moved only by the current of the waters
and never with any effort to steer
toward or away from anything
I’m trying to stir this listless body into action
knowing it feels so good to dance
once you get started
but lying here unmoved is also good
and easier to not do
I’m trying to choose anything and everything
that pulls me away from inaction
even if it’s uncomfortable or awkward to get started
better to stumble than stand still
always so struck in my own head

Posted in [poetry]

traveler [poem]

I know myself by virtue of having never
been given a moment to linger
unchanged in a place of stillness
instead
I’ve traveled more miles than some family cars
felt the warm anger of a Kentucky summer storm
the sharp sting of summer’s hot kiss in Texas
the caffeinated bite of Germany in December
I’ve known people who have also traveled
unnumbered miles before we met
their roadmap worn in different places than mine
but both equally well used
this is how you build a raindrop child into an ocean
let her waters collect and grow
from puddle to pond to Pacific
I know how to navigate by the stars of
my own secret hopes and long lost memories
thanks to a lifetime spent
never walking the same path twice
only a traveler can know they’re home
by the way the trees move in the wind

Posted in [poetry]

midwinter love [poem]

time slips by a phantom
without a whisper or goodbye
and suddenly it’s midwinter
and the grey skies murmur our names
a couple’s incantation
drawing us together to defeat the cold
and I want to watch the seasons change with you
taste the midsummer berries
under the blinding sun
and know we’ll melt next winter too
that new spring growth and dead autumn leaves
are both beauties we will witness together
again and again