5 star reads - Courtney

(Arc) Toil & Trouble – 15 tales of Women & Witchcraft edited by Jessica spotswood & Tess sharpe


A 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

When I read was this book was going to be about I knew I had to have it. I love anything involving witches and this book was so amazing. The diversity and each story left you heart wrenched. Each authors writing added a unique and amazing story to the book.

I’m going to go through each story and give you a small summary of each one and my rating for each. I won’t do but a small bit about each because I don’t want to give away any big spoilers.

1. Starstrong by Tehlor Kay Mejia – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Trigger Warning for drug and alcohol abuse. 

This was a cute story about a girl named Luna. She is constantly fighting with her mother after making some bad life decisions with drug and alcohol. She also has made a very big Instagram following and soon she is talking to another girl doing the debate of science vs. magic. The girl is soon questioning Luna wondering if she is gay or not and flirting with her. This was a really cute story and I loved Luna and her love for music and art.

2. AfterBirth by Andrea Cremer ⭐️

I really didn’t like this story or the characters. I didn’t find them engaging in any way, I just didn’t get that connection like I did with the other stories. It was set in New England in the 1600s about a midwife accused of witchcraft after accusing a man of being the father of the unmarried woman’s baby. It was well written, it just wasn’t a favorite of mine.

3. The Heart in Her Hands by Tesse Sharpe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This one was a great story about magic and an f/f romance. This had a lot of tea descriptions in it, so I was in heaven, to be honest. It also goes into the ideas and possibilities of what your family wants you to do and what you want to do. I enjoyed this one a lot dealing with my families own expectations. It was such a cute and amazing story. I honestly could read a whole book about these two girls I loved it that much.

4. Death in the Sawtooths by Lindsay Smith ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Trigger Warning for Bullying, Death, and Dead Bodies.

This was a fun read for me because I have been getting into darker cringe-worthy books for some reason. This story is centered around Mattie who preps dead bodies for the town. She helps them let their unsettled secrets out so that they can Rest In Peace. Someone is using that same power but keeping people alive attempting to build an army out of them. I was kinda hoping towards the end this would turn into an f/f romance, but sadly it did not. I still enjoyed the story and lesson from this one. It is easily one of my favorites in this book.

5. The Truth about Queenie by Brandy Colbert ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This one is honestly my second favorite in the book. I believe all the characters in this story are black and it talks a lot about difficult it is living in an all-white neighborhood on top of being a witch. Queenie and Webb have my heart and I honestly want a whole damn story about them now. Queenie spends a good portion of the story denying her powers, not wanting to use them because she thinks she hurt a friend. This was a cute contemporary witch story and I’m honestly here for it.

6. The Moonpie Menagerie by Sheveta Thakrar 

I’m not going to this give this one a rating because I honestly didn’t read enough of it to feel like I can give it a rating. I just couldn’t get into and ended up dnfing it.

7. The Legend of Stone Mary by Robin Talley ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Trigger warning for death and bullying*

Wendy is a descendant of Mary Keegan, a witch. Mary was shunned by the town and died by their causes. She put a curse on the town, so they built a statue in order to hopefully gain her forgiveness. This would be a great Halloween short story as it just has those good creepy vibes. The writing was great, it did have an f/f potential but it was just lacking for me.

8. The One who Stayed by Nova Ren Suma ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Huge Trigger Warning for Rape and Sexual Assault

This one was difficult to read at the time because rape and molestation is a huge trigger for me, but I pushed through it anyway because it was a beautiful story. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is about a group of girls in the woods in the spot where they meet waiting to meet there newest member of their group so that they can help her to take revenge,

9. Divine are the Stars by Zoraida Cordova ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This one was confusing for me at first, but it kinda came together at the end for me. The MC goes home because her grandmother is dying. This story shows you what’s it’s like to be a family and shows how horrible certain family members can be. One of the biggest lessons in this story is to know where you come from and who you are in your heart.

10. Daughters of Baba Yaga by Breanna Yovanoff ⭐️⭐️

Trigger Warning for Bullying

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the others. It had so much going on that I was confused at times. I was looking for more witchcraft and instead got issues with bullying and bullies, which is just as important just not what I expected on wanted in this book.

11. The Well Witch by Kate Hart ⭐️⭐️

Trigger Warning for severe racism and animal cruelty. 

This short story had so much potential and it just went downhill about 3/4 of the way through, that ending sucked. The first half I loved, it talked about a woman whose mother had passed away years ago and her father had been gone for three years. It a potential for a love interest, but it snuffed it out very quickly. It’s just not what I expected at all. I hope those two rot in hell.

12. Beware of the girls with Crooked Mouths by Jessica Spotswood ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was really an over different story than the rest. It talks about three sisters who live by prophecy that one one of them will survive. It is such a great story about love, sisterhood and doing what it takes to make sure of survival. Georgie has the ability of fire, Elle has a the ability for potion and jo (the first we see) has a ability for prophecy that she becomes revolved around making it come even the slightest bit true. The ending kind of left me hanging a bit, so Jessica could we please have a full novel?

13. Love Spell by Anna Marie Mclemore ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Anna Marie never disappoints. I loved her writing in wild beauty and I loved this one too. You have a mc that moves in with her tia to learn about her own magic abilities and share in that bond with her tia, they can both cure heartbreak. I loved this one because it mixed faith and magic. The main character still goes to church and takes part in communion, even though she is shunned by the town and is an outcast. She ends up having a crush On one of the priest and struggles with the fact he will never be hers. This was such a hopeful amazing short story. Loved every minute reading it.

14. The Gherin Girls by Emory Lord ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Trigger Warning for abuse (never gets graphic, but it is talked about through most of the story) 

I loved this one so much, it talked about the bonds of sisterhood and unconditional love you have for your family. My heart was ripped to shreds with this story. Rosie found herself in a incredibly dangerous relationship with a guy and couldn’t find a way out. Her sisters rallied around her to help her and show her that it is not any woman’s fault for that relationship that it’s his fault for being a monster. This was such a hopeful, loving and amazing story.

15. Why they watch us burn by Elizabeth May ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Trigger Warning for rape, nothing is graphic or too visual 

This one was honestly a mountain of emotion for me and I’m still thinking about it while writing this review. When I think of this book, this story over all the rest stick out in my head. It talked about the injustice and how even if you speak the truth, the world will make you a liar. That right there spoke volumes to me, sadly because it is the truth. I loved the fact that all 13 women came together as one and stood together and for each other. I honestly don’t think most men would understand this story if they read it, I sadly don’t. It did have a f/f romance which I cheered on. This was my favorite amount all the other stories and I will be checking out all of Elizabeth’s other books now.

NOTE* I did not include Tristina Wright’s story in this review and also didn’t read it because it will not be in the final copy. The publisher removed the author and her story after allegations of sexual abuse. I’m glad the publisher took a stand to make this a safe place for all. 

Overall I loved this book and gave it 4 Stars. While there were some I didn’t enjoy the 4 and 5-star stories made it completely worth it. I really hope you all preorder this book it makes its way to your favorites. I know it did mine.

 Courtney 💛

10 thoughts on “(Arc) Toil & Trouble – 15 tales of Women & Witchcraft edited by Jessica spotswood & Tess sharpe”

  1. Amazing review, love. I loved this anthology so much. And I truly don’t believe I will ever forget that last story. Ahhhh, so powerful! I hope whatever you read next is just as amazing! 💗xx

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