August. In the South it is dog days and long afternoons of swelter until the sky cracks open too wet to hold in the moisture anymore. In California it seems to be the season of low morning haze that never means rain. It’s mid-day cloudless skies and a breeze that here—far out of sight of the waters of the Bay—seems to come from no where. It’s the season of finding the parking lot full of seagulls tearing apart some fast food trash—or is that always? I am still learning. keifel traveled home for his birthday week so part of this month was spent alone, following my own rhythm of sleep and wakefulness and maybe eating popcorn too often as dinner. I did get in a lot of reading.
(Links are to Bookshop.org if it is available there and I do not receive any kind of compensation or commission.)
Elemental Witchcraft by Heron Michelle — this was a podcast read and I received a promotional copy from Llewellyn. I thoroughly enjoyed Michelle’s writing. It’s a great witchcraft 101 book for witches interested in the history of western esotericism and witchcraft and how to work in that tradition. Michelle points out the problematic elements and offers insight on building a practice that does not rely upon outmoded thinking and the interpretation of fallible humans of the past. Definitely one I would recommend to new seekers and honestly anyone looking for a start on where to learn about the foundations of witchcraft practices.
Shadow Magic Compendium by Raven Digitalis — this was a podcast read and I received a PDF review copy from Crossed Crow Books. This is a new and expanded edition of a book originally published in 2008. Digitalis has a conversational style of writing and though the book deals with shadow work and some of the darker aspects of witchcraft practice, it doesn’t read like an impenetrable tome.
Sacred Leaves by Diego de Oxóssi — this was a podcast read and I purchased my own ebook copy. This one was a bit of a surprise for me. I had not had any previous exposure to Brazilian magical traditions of any kind and went in blind. Oxóssi does a great job of centering the reader in the traditions he is discussing and contextualizing his own practice within Brazilian, European, and Asian (especially feng shui) traditions. Yes, a great number of the herbs discussed are unique to South America but many are not and Oxóssi guides the outsider to what would be appropriate and possibly useful in their own practice.
The Witch’s Guide to the Paranormal by J. Allen Cross — this was a podcast read and I received a promotional copy from Llewellyn. A departure from his first book American Brujeria, but not without some personal continuity. Cross works with a paranormal investigation group to help people experiencing hauntings and other “paranormal” phenomena. There is a good overview of terms and a number of exercises for someone who is interested in taking up the same work in an ethical manner. If you are going in expecting cable TV haunting exploitation, you’ll be disappointed.
The Witching Hour by Anne Rice — this was initially a podcast read (for an upcoming special episode) but we went a different direction; I did however listen to all 50 hours at (X1.25 speed) of the audiobook I borrowed from the library. I read this book when it came out in 1990 (and have a hardback doorstop copy on the shelf to show for it). It is probably one of my top three favorites of Rice’s work. The long center section detailing the history of the Mayfair Witches is probably my favorite pieces of her writing ever. I did forget there was quite so much body horror involving fetuses and that it was so rapey in parts but I did enjoy it all over again.
Pretty Little Fliers by Erin Johnson — this was a read for my trashy fun bookclub and I purchased an ebook edition. Johnson writes cozy paranormal mysteries by and large but this was my first foray into her impressively large back catalogue. It’s breezy popcorn writing and a quick read. I enjoyed the world building but I found the main character annoying and a little unbelievable even by cozy standards. I’ve been recommended a different series of hers which I’ll probably try before I make any grand pronouncements (though I try to avoid those in general).
The Art of Preserving by Rebecca Courchesne and Rick Field, Rustic Mexican by Deborah Schneider, and La Vie Rustic by Georgeanne Brennan — I have been on a cooking dearth for most of the past year. Something in pandemic isolation broke my love of cooking and I really haven’t gotten it back, but I still love reading cookbooks and get suckered into things like a Williams-Sonoma library Humble Bundle of ebooks. If I had more fire I would be at the stove cooking from all of these right now, especially the two “rustic” cooking ones. The cover of La Vie Rustic alone will make you long for a tomato tart.
The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike — this was the replacement podcast read for our special episode and I borrowed an ebook copy from the library. I think I read this book in high school, after I saw the movie but I’ll be honest that I was a little fuzzy on that. Updike’s writing is the star here. He can describe the smell of autumn air and the social chilliness of a small New England town in a turn of phrase that leaves a writer in awe. The one thing I did not remember is how petty and awful and very unsexy the witches of the book are despite their orgies with the maybe Devil. Cher, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer are superior models in the movie but neither the book or the movie give women as witches their true power without having to get it from or sacrifice it for man.
A Dark and Stormy Tea by Laura Childs — fun read and I borrowed the ebook from the library. I’ve read all 23 of Childs previous books in this series and had pretty much sworn off after the last one. Theodosia Browning, the amateur sleuth main character, had become an almost insufferable busybody who put her friends and police officer boyfriend at risk with her out-of-bounds snooping. This one deals with a serial killer swathed in the supernatural mists and myths of Charleston and the Low Country. I generally don’t read serial killer stuff at all but I have to say of the last few this is the best of them and Childs takes every opportunity to skewer serial killer fanatics. Theodosia still makes some dumbass decisions but I’m willing to let it slide when the writing in general is better for my dose of teashop pleasantry and Drayton, Theodosia’s confirmed Southern bachelor right hand man. Popcorn reading and my escape, and happily so.