Toil & Trouble Review & Buddy Read Recap!

Yesterday marked the Book Birthday to the newest YA Anthology Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft ! I was so excited to see that the sweet Flavia the Bibliophile received this anthology too because that meant we could buddy read! I look forward to future buddy reads with her and if you don’t follow her blog you definitely need to hop on over there because it is beautiful! You can follow her here!

Thank you to Netgalley for providing access to these magical stories!

About Toil & Trouble

T&T.jpgA young adult fiction anthology of 15 stories featuring contemporary, historical, and futuristic stories featuring witchy heroines who are diverse in race, class, sexuality, religion, geography, and era.

Are you a good witch or a bad witch?

Glinda the Good Witch. Elphaba the Wicked Witch. Willow. Sabrina. Gemma Doyle. The Mayfair Witches. Ursula the Sea Witch. Morgan le Fey. The three weird sisters from Macbeth.

History tells us women accused of witchcraft were often outsiders: educated, independent, unmarried, unwilling to fall in line with traditional societal expectations.

Bold. Powerful. Rebellious.

A bruja’s traditional love spell has unexpected results. A witch’s healing hands begin to take life instead of giving it when she ignores her attraction to a fellow witch. In a terrifying future, women are captured by a cabal of men crying witchcraft and the one true witch among them must fight to free them all. In a desolate past, three orphaned sisters prophesize for a murderous king. Somewhere in the present, a teen girl just wants to kiss a boy without causing a hurricane.

From good witches to bad witches, to witches who are a bit of both, this is an anthology of diverse witchy tales from a collection of diverse, feminist authors. The collective strength of women working together—magically or mundanely–has long frightened society, to the point that women’s rights are challenged, legislated against, and denied all over the world. Toil & Trouble delves deep into the truly diverse mythology of witchcraft from many cultures and feminist points of view, to create modern and unique tales of witchery that have yet to be explored.


Mini Reviews of each Story

Starsong” by Tehlor Kay Mejia 

5 Stars

I absolutely loved this beautifully written short story. The setting was perfect, the characters were perfect, and it left me wanting more.  I was sad when it ended because I wanted so badly to see what happened to the characters.  For a short story it was well written and Tehlor is definitely on my radar!  (Urban Fantasy, Diverse, LGBTQ+)

Afterbirth” by Andrea Cremer 

4 Stars

Wow! This story was so dark. It was definitely a shock after reading the first story but it was by no means shocking in a bad way. I love dark stories because they are unique all on their own. This story brought to light the prejudice women experienced during the late 1600’s and even still today in some ways. I think it also touched on the way life and death was interpreted and viewed in that time period as well which I found added so much to the story. It was a sad story but written in a way that will make you appreciate life during the dark times. (Historical, Fantasy)

The Heart in Her Hands” by Tess Sharpe 

4 Stars

I enjoyed this story even though it was at a slower pace. It was a very unique soulmate story with a twist. In a society where soulmates are chosen for you, Bettina defies the odds and fights for the love she chooses despite the consequences! (Urban Fantasy, Diverse, LGBTQ+)

Death in the Sawtooths” by Lindsay Smith 

5 Stars

Oh My Goodness! I loved every minute of this story! It is the most unique story out of all of them and I cannot tell you how much I wish this were a full book. I wanted more of the world, of the characters, and of the darkness. If I lived in the world this is set in I would want to be mentored by the Lady of Slumber too! It was just so good! (Fantasy)

The Truth About Queenie” by Brandy Colbert 

4 Stars

This story was filled with sadness. It is a journey of self-discovery and learning who you are, or who you can become, but sometimes fear can keep you from taking those steps. Sometimes you have to sacrifice your own feelings for those you love. I enjoyed this story and it’ll definitely give you the feels.  (Urban Fantasy, Diverse)

The Moonapple Menagerie” by Shveta Thakrar 

4 Stars

Flavia the Bibliophile (who I buddy read this with) described this story to the tee when she said, “This one very much reminded me of Roshani Chokshi’s lush and whimsical writing style, and it also included a creature from Indian mythology (which was terrifying and interesting)”. I couldn’t agree with her more! This creature  totally gives off Kamala vibes! It was a really cool story! (Urban Fantasy, Diverse)

The Legend of Stone Mary” by Robin Talley 

4 Stars

“The Legend of Stone Mary” reminded me of a classic ghost story with the tone, the Mary’s backstory, and the overall vibe. I thought it was really fun and I enjoyed how nostalgic it made me feel! (Urban Fantasy, Historical, Diverse, LGBTQ+)

The One Who Stayed” by Nova Ren Suma 

3 Stars

This story was probably my least favorite and I feel bad about that. I think it had some good aspects to it and was definitely a feminist story but in the end I was left confused. It was difficult for me to really comprehend what was happening in the end. It was really dark and the story was sad but it just wasn’t cohesive enough for me. (Urban Fantasy)

Divine Are the Stars” by Zoraida Córdova 

5 Stars

This is definitely right up there with Death in the Sawtooth! It was so beautiful. It was kind of a mix between All the Crooked Saints and Labrynth Lost. I loved the family dynamic and the sense that we return to the Earth when our time comes. I want more of this story! (Urban Fantasy)

Daughters of Baba Yaga” by Brenna Yovanoff 

3 Stars

I really need to read more about Baba Yaga. This story was a really interesting take on revenge and super dark. My favorite line from the story is “When I smile, I’m not smiling. I’m showing you my teeth. I was born to bury saints in the yard”.  There was definitely zero remorse in getting her revenge on those who bullied her. (Urban Fantasy)

The Well Witch” by Kate Hart 

5 Stars

I thought the setting of this story was really neat. I feel like we don’t get much of the old time western settings in YA these days so it was refreshing to have a story that took place during that time. The fact that the witch featured was a POC added so much more to the story as well. I totally shipped the couple that formed in this story and wanted more. I wanted a damsel in distress scenario and I didn’t get that which kind of made me sad in the end. (Historical, Western, Diverse, Fantasy)

“Beware of Girls With Crooked Mouths” by Jessica Spotswood 

3 Stars

This was another story that fell short for me. It was strange story and I didn’t feel like it gave enough information to make it cohesive. If the story had clearer lines I think I would’ve enjoyed it more.  (Historical, Fantasy, Diverse, LGBTQ+)

“Love Spell” by Anna-Marie McLemore 

5 Stars

This one was another one of my favorites! I thought it was such a beautiful love story. The characters were well developed, it flowed well, and I fell in love with the couple. There’s so much more I could say about this story but you’ll just have to read it! (Urban Fantasy, Diverse)

“The Gherin Girls” by Emery Lord 

4 Stars

I love sister stories and this one was a really good one. It is about supporting your sisters no matter what they go through. When things get really bad it’s always good to have those who care about you there to support you through it and that is exactly what this story is all about. It is the longest story and one of the best in the anthology. (Urban Fantasy, Diverse, LGBTQ+) 

“Why They Watch Us Burn” by Elizabeth May 

5 Stars

This ending story was fantastic. It is a beautifully written story about survival and bonding together through shared struggles. It showed so much strength among the women in this story. I read this story in the middle of the night on a long drive with my fiance through the Utah mountains with the stars overheard, canyons winding along the sides of the road, and just the mass of space all around. This story will make you contemplate life and what women have had to face to get where we are today. It’s about not backing down, and not giving in, to the beliefs that what happens to you is your fault. The line that really stuck with me was “You’re only different until the day you’re not” and how the realization that she is not alone in what has happened to her. She is not different, what happened to her is not different, what happened to her happens to others all the time and those others are left with the same thoughts about themselves as she is. It’s just beautiful.  (Urban Fantasy, Diverse, LGBTQ+)

Overall Review

It was so much fun getting to know Flavia throughout reading each of these stories the past few weeks. We got to discuss the one’s we enjoyed and the one’s we struggled with. It confirmed even more just how much we have in common when it comes to the books we enjoy!

Each story was unique in storyline, setting, and all together feel. I thought it was well put together and there were so many stories that left me wanting more. No matter what time period or setting each story was set in I felt like the witches were realistic and the world building in each one of them was well done. I hope to see more anthologies involving witches because this was a lot of fun to read! 

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