Elizabeth's Reviews > Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft

Toil & Trouble by Tess Sharpe
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What magic is this? This anthology is diverse, and rich, and sweeping. My average rating is 4 stars, because I really enjoyed most of these stories.
And I even did this thing where I reviewed each of these short stories individually? What kind of magical creature am I becoming?

🔷 Starsong by Tehlor Kay Meijia // ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

➤ ownvoices Latinx, sapphic characters
CW - drug use

“People find me when they need to see the beauty they feel.”


Okay, this was seriously cute. I love how even short stories can convey so much about a person. Luna was engaging and adorable, and I loved the way she narrated. The instagram DMing was adorable, from the way Luna counted each minute, and holder breath. And it was just a seriously fluffy story, ok?

🔷 Afterbirth by Andrea Cremer // ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
CW: childbirth, blood, death

“In the eyes of the village, my truths cannot be suffered to live.”


Golly, that was a DARK read. Good, but so dark. I actually wanted a tiny bit more closure? Just a reassurance that everything was actually going to be alright.
Set in Puritan New England, with a midwife accused of witchcraft. A bit gory, because childbirth isn't pretty.

🔷 The Heart in Her Hands by Tess Sharpe // ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
➤ sapphic characters and sapphic relationships
CW: loss of a parent

“He can’t fill the empty space in her because there are none. There is no emptiness in a devoted heart.”


Ah, I LOVED this short story SO MUCH. I'll admit, the very beginning was a touch confusing. I had no idea what was happening and who liked who, and when this story was set. Because there's cars and phones and magic? That's a weird mix.
But I DEF liked the matriarchal society and the strong message of girl power. SO COOL.
And the sapphic ship? WOW. And straight up, throw out the heteronormative life for running away to a sapphic coven hidden up in the mountains. YAY.

🔷 Death in the Sawtooths by Lindsay Smith // ⭐️⭐️
CW: CW: death, corpses, bullying

“A person can tell you anything, but bones—those tell the truth.”


I'm still trying to feel out my thoughts on this short story? Like, I really liked the message. But the delivery was a bit too weird? And not just in a storyline, but the tone. The accent really, really threw me. The main character seemed to have a regular voice, but one of the characters had a very weird accent that was difficult to read.
And I didn't really like the overall theme of bullying. This girl was bullied, and she's rightfully angry. But the kids who bullied her don't seem to have learned? It was just mixed messaging for me and not my cup of tea.

🔷 The Truth About Queenie by Brandy Colbert // ⭐️⭐️⭐️
➤ Characters of Color

I thought this was really great! Super touching story about growing to accept who you are and your own strengths. Maybe the love triangle was a tad cliche, and I felt really bad for Queenie. (Come on, Webb)
I also really, really loved the conversation about how people of color are stigmatized while white people can get away with being witches. I definitely saw this growing up in conversations about traditional African religious practices.

🔷 The Moonapple Menagerie by Shveta Thakrar // ⭐️
➤ South Asian rep
I was so confused. So confused. I'm not sure what part of this is part of a dream sequence and what part was actually happening? The writing was very picturesque but the story just didn't make much sense.

🔷 The Legend of Stone Mary by Robin Talley // ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
➤ Sapphic Rep

“Everybody for miles around used to remember the story of Mary Keegan’s curse, but you wouldn’t know it now.”


Oh my goodness, this is my favorite! (at least so far) I LOVE the story, and the way it's told, and the rumors of curses and legends. And just EVERYTHING!
It's spooky and mired in mystery and sapphic and just GOOD.

🔷 The One Who Stayed by Nova Ten Suma // ⭐️
CW: rape, sexual assault

Um, I did not like this story. It's realistic to the feelings associated with sexual assault, but I just didn't appreciate the story. It was the vibe, people watching but doing nothing to stop the assault? I know some people really liked the empowering message, but knowing the girl was going to be assault, but doing nothing to actually STOP the rape from happening made me ill.

🔷 Divine Are the Stars by Zoraida Córdova // ⭐️⭐️⭐️
➤ Latinx rep
“…But memories make things grander and more beautiful when you want to think fondly on them.”


Um, I have no real idea what was happening most of this story. But it was lyrical and kind of pretty? I was just very confused and it was hard to keep ALL the names and characters straight.

🔷 Daughters of Baba Yaga by Brenna Yovanoff // ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
CW: bullying, gore

"I was born to bury saints in the yard."


Ok, I really, really liked this story! It kept me very engaged and I wanted to keep reading. and I was sad this was a short story because I could have kept on reading.

🔷 The Well Witch by Kate Hart // ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
➤ Native American rep
CW: racism, animal cruelty, death

"She brought nothing but the water along behind her."


Oh my word, this is definitely my very, very favorite. Everything about this story made me fall in love. The setting, in West Texas. Elsa, and her resilience. Zeb, and his kindness.
I just LOVED this story. Now, parts of it made me very, very angry. But it just resonated with me so deeply.

🔷 Beware of Girls with Crooked Mouths by Jessica Spotswood // ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
➤ Sapphic
“But she would trade it all to be able to remember her little sister’s smile.”


How could this story end??? I was NOT prepared for this story to gut me. It had a very colonial vibe but it wasn't exactly colonial. There were sapphic characters and pirates and Scottish witches. Gosh, it was dark and gay all at once. I LOVED it and wish desperately for a full length novel. Because it was SO GOOD.
I was a bit disappointed with the ending because it just ended? And it definitely did not feel concluded.

🔷 Love Spell by Anna-Marie McLemore // ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“The way my mother told it, girls always held on tighter than boys. A boy moved on while the girl still scribbled her first name with his last."


Oh my goodness, I did not know this anthology could get even better, BUT IT DID. This story is sweet, and heartwrenching. It drags you on this breathless step into first love. I loved it so damn much.

🔷 The Gherin Girls by Emery Lord // ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
CW: Absuive relationship

"In a way, you're related to many women who have suffered for misunderstanding and fear."


What a story. This is so powerful and beautiful. This is the sisterhood story we all need to read. It's moving, and emotional, and healing.

🔷 Why They Watch Us Burn by Elizabeth May // ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
CW: assault
➤ Sapphic characters, F/F relationship with a POC

We are thirteen. We have always been thirteen. And we are wolves, and goddesses, and witch."
Wow, wow, wow. This story is just, so powerful. I cannot stop thinking about it. And reading this week, during the Supreme Court hearing, and seeing a woman testify, this story just resonates so powerfully. I will keep coming back to this and reading it, because it's so deep and powerful.


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Reading Progress

February 12, 2018 – Shelved
February 12, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
February 12, 2018 – Shelved as: summer-2018-releases
September 16, 2018 – Started Reading
September 24, 2018 –
12.0% "Just finished the second story, and dang, I'm enjoying this more than I expected."
September 25, 2018 –
22.0% "Okay, that third story was a SURPRISE. In a good way."
September 25, 2018 –
35.0% "I'm actually taking notes about each short story as I read? What magic is this?
TBH, being a reviewer is hard work and I should not request anthology ARCs anymore because this is double hard work."
September 25, 2018 –
53.0% "Whew, a couple of these are messy. Really messy"
September 27, 2018 –
65.0% "It's going to be hard to pick a favorite."
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-reads
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: complete-mess-of-tears-and-feels
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: contemporary
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: diverse
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: f-f-reads
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: queer
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: young-adult
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: wow
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: mythology
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: magical-realism
September 28, 2018 – Shelved as: fantasy
September 28, 2018 – Finished Reading

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