Scott is an initiate of the Third Road and lives in Oakland.

May 092013

If you know what Hyperbole and a Half is, then all I have to say is: she’s back.

Hyperbole and a half

If any of you are still here, then I still heartily recommend you get over there. The post is about depression. You will probably cry. You will almost certainly laugh. It will probably be a good time to do the ritual of your choice thereafter.

 Posted by at 8:56 pm
May 032013

How not to kiss a toadI have recently been covering a recent mini-trend of Mysteries about witches starting bakeries in the South. How (Not) to Kiss a Toad is completely differently: it’s Romcom about a witch starting a bakery in the South. In this case, at least, we’re out of Georgia and over to Tuscon, Arizona. Our heroine is Cindy Eller. (Yes, both the author and character know just how awful that name is, and, in fact, one of the running gags is that Cindy’s mother is a serial monogamist who has given her daughters a succession of awful names.) Cindy is a twenty-something working her first job as a baker, and living with her two BFFs and co-workers, Jessi and Tansy, with only one real impediment to an otherwise relatively care-free and happy life: every time she kisses a guy, he turns into a toad. Thus, How (not) to Kiss a Toad is light and charming variant of The Frog Prince.

The world-building here is similar to that of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, up to and including a Witch’s Council which governs the use of magic in the mundane world. Cindy is a witch, but her powers are far more limited than those of her mother and sisters. And if it were not for the unfortunate effect that her kisses have on her life, she would be content to do what she loves: creating confections using the unique flavors of the American Southwest.
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 4:15 pm
May 012013

Peach PiesPeach Pies and Alibis is the second book in Adams’ A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery Series the first of which was the charming Pies and Prejudice. I did not enjoy this book as well as the first because it veers significantly from the mystery genre towards paranormal fantasy with an unfortunately trite dualism. It is still a mystery: there is a murder to be solved, and we find out whodunnit. But the protagonist, Ella Mae LaFaye, does not particularly figure out who the murderer is, and, instead, she finds herself enmeshed in a centuries old conflict between the witches of her heritage and yet another secret organization of scenery-chewing psychopaths bent on ridding the world of witches. After the jump, I will spoil the plot in more detail for the sake of discussion, but I will not reveal the murderer (though I must say that I’m not typically invested in sussing out who the murderer is in these things before the big reveals and even I saw who it was long before the resolution).
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 4:45 pm
Apr 252013

A Celtic Witch is a story that nearly demands to have a soundtrack. The spell that draws witches into the growing community of Witch Central in Berkeley and Fisher’s Cove in Nova Scotia catches the attention of a star in the world of Celtic music, an Irish fiddler by the name of Cassidy Farrell whose fame seems to be on par with Loreena McKennitt or Ashley MacIsaac (if you watched the opening ceremonies of the Vancover Olympics you got to hear both of them, though, strangely, US broadcasters never showed McKennitt on screen). Cassidy is taking her annual break in Cape Breton when a recommendation leads her to the Sea Trance Inn in Fisher’s Cove.

More so than most books in the series, A Celtic Witch is a love story which in this case brings together Cassidy with Marcus, the protagonist of A Nomadic Witch. It’s not something either of the two are seeking: we are well aware of Marcus’ prickly demeanor at this point, and Cassidy has a highly success career and no desire whatsoever to settle down. But Cassidy has a rare witchy gift for hearing the rocks sing, and the magic practiced by the witches of Fisher’s Cove calls to a part of her which she has set aside for the sake of her career.
Continue reading »

Apr 112013
 Posted by at 6:08 pm
Apr 092013

Pies and Prejudice is the first in a new series of witchy murder mysteries by Ellery Adams. Like Brownies and Broomsticks which was published two months earlier, it features a young woman who moves to Georgia and whose dreams of opening a bakery are complicated by a murder. However, Pies and Prejudice distinguishes itself from the witchy mystery genre in particular and from paranormal, wish-fulfillment fantasy more generally in a couple of ways.

The trope of most protagonist-unexpectedly-discovers-that-they-are-a-really-truly-real-witch books is that the protagonist discovers that he or she is a witch in the first few chapters, and the books are generally about how the characters learn about and use their new found powers. In Pies and Prejudice the heroine, Ella Mae LaFaye, does not learn that she is a witch until the final chapter. There is definitely magic happening earlier than that, and the reader is in the know long before Ella Mae is, but the structure allows the magic which occurs to take on more of the resonance of the magical realism of Marquez, Allende or Block. In fact, for the hardy Pagans who work their way through the comparatively pedestrian murder mystery involving thoroughbreds and a Machiavellian nail-salon mogul, there’s absolutely delightful scene of Ella Mays initiation at the end.
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 4:18 pm
Mar 112013

  • Here’s BoingBoing’s brief review of a new YA novel about an African witch, Akata Witch.
  • The etymology of “temple” goes back towards words meaning a forest clearing.
  • Speaking of trees, here’s a nice, short slideshow on Pando.
  • The Van Allen belt is far more dynamic than previously known.
  • Tickets are now available for the second annual Hexenfest. I attended and enjoyed last year’s event. Enjoy some Pagan bands, amazing ritual dancing, and a fashion show in Alameda, CA on April 27. Come and fly your Pagan freak flag.
  • PVP went all Abbott and Constello as it introduced a Wiccan character for its current story arc today.
 Posted by at 9:06 pm
Mar 072013

Katie Lightfoot’s adventures continue in this second book of Cates’ Magical Bakery Mystery series. Six months have passed since the events of Brownies and Broomsticks, and it is almost Samhain. Katie is still successfully fending off her two suitors, the handsome but normal Declan, and a fellow witch Steve. The book opens with Katie and Declan having morning picnic in Savannah’s Johnson Square when Katie spots a body under a rhododendron.

Katie soon learns that the dead man is a member of a small, extremely secretive group of what Bonewits called Mesopagan Druids who have lived in Savannah since the 18th century. The Dragoh Society is led by Steve’s father, Heinrich Dawes, and always consists of six members with membership being passed from father to son among six families. (I always wonder if any author really understands how unstable such structures are. It is certainly a common trope which would seem to be utterly impossible to maintain beyond a few generations.) The Dragohs are probably the least Nature-oriented Druids you will ever encounter in literature, but they are supposedly powerful magical practitioners (a claim which is fairly hard to support since at least two of them are murdered in fairly short succession despite their apparent ability to cast broadly indiscriminate protection spells fully capable of telekinetically flinging pumpkins off of tall buildings). They are also extremely patriarchal in addition to being patrilineal which adds additional stress to Katie’s relationship to Steve even though he openly disagrees with his father’s views. In fact, the members of the society are oath-bound not reveal the existence of the society to their wives and daughters.
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 7:09 pm
Mar 042013

Brownies and Broomsticks is the first book in a new series in the ever growing sub-genre of light, fem-friendly murder mysteries. Here Katie Lightfoot serves as our plucky sleuth. She’s moving on from a broken engagement in Akron to a new life in Savannah as a partner with her aunt Lucy and uncle-in-law Ben who are opening a new bakery called the Honeybee. Unfortunately, the new bakery attracts the attention of a powerful local harridan, Mavis Templeton, who strongarms the not yet opened bakery into hosting and catering a meeting of Savannah’s Downtown Business Association.

The nascent bakery scrambles to meet Mrs. Templeton’s demands, and the event is brought off without a hitch. Unfortunately, Mrs. Templeton provides a check for half the agreed upon price, and Ben loudly confronts her about her reneging on the bill in front of the rest of the DBA. Templeton leaves for her car and Ben goes out back to cool off. And so when Mavis is discovered with a broken neck in her car, and witnesses place a similar looking man in the vicinity of the car, the suspicion falls on Ben. Thus, Katie must solve the crime to clear Ben’s name.
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 5:35 pm
Feb 262013

Debora Geary considers issues of neurodiversity in the fifth book of her A Modern Witch series. As in all the previous books in the series, a witch is brought into the friendly chaos of Witch Central in Berkeley. However, since the protagonist in this case has Asperger syndrome, she does not welcome the noise and rich social interactions that the nexus offers, and, in fact, Beth struggles throughout the book against her desire to flee back to Chicago and the comforts and routines of her life there.

Beth appeared in a single scene back in the first book of the series, A Modern Witch. She was leading a coven in an occult shop in Chicago, and Jamie came to a meeting and told them essentially that they were doing everything wrong, demonstrated his superior powers and then left. Needless to say, Beth and rest of the coven resented his cavalier intervention, but it was hard to argue with the results. At the start of A Different Witch, a couple of years have passed, Beth and her coven’s wounds have healed, and Beth feels its time to seek out the training that Witch Central offers.
Continue reading »