The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

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This is the first part of The Lives of the Mayfair Witches series which includes three books so far. Here’s what The Witching Hour is about:

Rowan Mayfair is a successful doctor in California, but unbeknownst to her she is the heiress of a legacy of an old New Orleans family. Despite rigorous attempts of a few family members to prevent her from coming to New Orleans, the death of her birth mother does exactly this. Together with Michael Curry, her lover and someone sharing a supernatural power since their first meeting, she discovers what this legacy entails: riches and jewels, yes, but also a ghost-like apparition whose aim and desire it is to become flesh and blood. And Rowan is supposed to fulfill that desire.

The book is over a thousand pages strong, so this short blurb only scratches the surface. There is a whole history contained in the book, but though it is supposed to be about the Mayfair witches, it’s more about their live-in spirit, Lasher.

I was actually looking forward to reading a book about witches, but already the beginning taught me that Anne Rice won’t just tell a plain story about a family of witches, about women (excuse me, if I think of women hearing the word ‘witches’, of course there are male witches, too). I’ve read some of her Vampire Chronicles books, and The Wolf Gift and they all struck me as very male-centric. I presumed that a story about witches (and Anne Rice seems to think mostly of female witches, too) would actually be about women. I was wrong, though.

While the story is interesting, enticing, gripping even, the story is not really about the Mayfair witches. It is more about the men watching these women. There’s a secret society in the book calling themselves the Talamasca, who have compiled the history of the Mayfair witches. Petyr van Abel tells a great part of that history. Then there’s Michael whose story starts in New Orleans where he is already pulled into the Mayfair history by seeing ‘The Man.’ Aaron Lightner is protagonist as well as compiler of the history. There’s Julien Mayfair, himself a powerful witch and pretty much the center of the tale about the Mayfairs, as well as his son Cortland.

The Witching Hour is another good example for the tale of women told through male eyes. Anne Rice is such a superb story teller, but I’m wondering if she is actually able to grab the female voice, to tell a story from the female perspective. This astonishes me, honestly. You may wonder why it is important, but if you read any of my other reviews you know I’m a feminist and kind of focus on stories about women, often by women.

It’s certainly not a great tragedy, or a fault that makes Rice’s writing unreadable. As I said, I enjoyed the tale. But even her one female protagonist – every other female’s story was told by a male – has a strong masculinity about her. And Rice makes it part of her personality, actually. She’s aware of it, she uses it, also in the character of Carlotta Mayfair, or Aunt Carl.

This is an intersting observation and maybe I will one day write a paper about it, but let’s come back to the book.

It’s a good story. The history is told from the Talamasca point of view and you never know if the narrators are trustworthy. You don’t get to know the witches’ story first hand, so that you can never see through their reasonings. You don’t get to know who Lasher is, where he comes from until the end of the book. But you know he’s a man (gendering a spirit and making him sexually potent and all-consuming, really?).

Rice ends the book on a kind of cliff-hanger, but I’m reluctant to pick up the follow-up Lasher. For all the reasons I already disclosed. As for wanting to read a story about witches and wanting to know what they do, how they do magic? Maybe pick up Harry Potter again, because The Witching Hour is more a history of a family where psychic powers are rather common. But if you’re a Rice fan, go pick it up, it’s a good read.

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Tales of the Grimoire (book one), edited by Astrid Ohletz and Gill McKnight

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It’s going on Halloween and you may have realized I love that holiday just a little more than I love all the others. One reason is all the new shiny stories who bite themselves into my flesh and won’t let go until they drank me dry. Sorry, for the bad metaphor there, but what better time than Halloween for awfully gory metaphors?

Ylva Publishing’s 2015 Halloween anthology is once again full of very entertaining and very different stories, all concerned with the scary, the supernatural, the downright sexy of All Hallow’s Eve. I find myself in a rare mood this year and enjoy stories about characters who do things and just happen to be queer a lot more than the ‘look at me, I’m gay’ stories. Luckily, this anthology delivers on that front.

We have zombie slayers, witches, a succubus, demon possession, and dryads. We go back in time and into a dystopian future, and rediscover an actual murder case. And, of course, we wouldn’t be satisfied if our all time favorites, werewolves and vampires, weren’t part of the mix, too. Between all these goodies are short scary snippets by Cheri Fuller, interludes that will make your skin crawl. I loved those, they were surprising and rounded out the anthology perfectly.

While I enjoyed all the stories, I do have favorites. This year, Centralia, 2013 by May Dawney, Still Life by Jess Lea, and The Crocodile Eye by Gill McKnight pulled me into their worlds and shook me up. But all stories were well-written, well-thought through, well-done. Ylva Publishing puts together another great anthology and I can’t wait for book two. When will that come out, anyway?

If you love well-written scary stories with female protagonists. If you don’t mind a little lady-love happening. If you are alone on Halloween, have already assembled your candles, murder weapon, and cauldron – muahahaha – buy this book to read with a spiked hot chocolate. You won’t regret it.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

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Look who’s been a lazy book blogger! Yes, that would be me. I have been reading, but I’ve been too lazy to tell you about it. Shame on me. But today, I wanna tell you about this book, ’cause it’s really good.

I first came across The Diviners at my favorite multi-media store in the German version, but the cover had just the right mix of mystery and 1920s feel to it that I was instantly intrigued. I wrote the title down and totally forgot about it, then lost the note, but finally reremembered. At some point, it was the only book I wanted to read at that instant and that was last month. And finally, I read.

And let me tell you, there was no disappointment there. Libba Bray writes in a humorous style about young adults, but that doesn’t mean she writes just for young adults. Just like the J.K. Rowling, Bray understands that the tone of a story can lure in people of all ages. She tells a mature story, doesn’t shy away from gory details and delivers a tale that’s thrilliing and engaging.

And now I almost forgot to tell you what it’s about:

Evangeline O’Neill of Zenith, Ohio, gets herself in a little bit of a bad situation at home and is temporarily shipped off to her uncle in Manhattan. The perfect moment for Evie to shine, though she didn’t think it would be as a part of a murder investigation. Evie has the ability to divine secrets from the possessions of people and it gets her into more trouble when those possessions belong to murder victims.

She’s not the only diviner in town. Through the happenings of the story, a number of people with mysterious abilities revolve around each other: Ziegfeld girl Theta, poet Memphis, piano player Henry, and trickster Sam are more than just coincidentally acquainted in one way or another. But Evie is the one whose life is in danger as she fights the spirit of a serial killer who’s about to put an end to all that’s golden about the 1920s.

Evie is a charming protagonist, but she’s also a bit of a self-involved mess. The tone in which she and her peers talk is the big-talking way of youth, but also the quick-witted repartee of their time. Bray describes the 1920s so well, the book rushes by in a blur. I found myself completely pulled into the plot. And it’s only the first part of The Diviners-series.

This is a story for people who like a good scare, some mystery, some thrill and little drinky at a speak-easy before bedtime. And who doesn’t like that?

Wicked Things: Lesbian Halloween Short Stories, edited by Astrid Ohletz & Jae (The Reader’s Edition)

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Here it is, Ylva Publishing’s Halloween anthology 2014 – which might include a short story by yours truly. But since this is the ‘reader’s edition,’ I’m not gonna talk about that. I have a different post for the ‘writer’s edition’ here.

Let’s talk about the anthology.

14 authors have come together to create 14 amazing stories for our Halloween pleasure. And a true pleasure it is. What I found really wonderful with this anthology is the wide range of (scary) topics these stories cover.

Andi Marquette writes about ghost hunters in a haunted house, May Dawney about a local urban legend seemingly come to life, and Eve Francis about a vampire cop falling off the blood wagon.

And where there are vampires, there are werewolves and hunters. There are also witches and ghosts. But there’s also a lot of attraction between women and some sexy times.

As a person who truly loves Halloween, I couldn’t help but love this anthology. It’s a great read to enjoy with your chocolate-y Halloween treasures or some hot chocolate on a cold October night before a toasty fire. Some of it is scary, some tragic, some erotic, and then there’s somethng for the romantic among you.

All stories are well-written, all are entertaining and some are even better than all that. My favorites? S.M. Harding’s A Winter Story, R.G. Emanuelle’s Strega, and after that all the other stories.

This is an anthology for all those of you who like a good scare, love Halloween, or maybe just enjoy supernatural stories. But even if you only want to read some really great stories about lesbians and their loves – read it. You won’t be disappointed.

Sometime Yesterday by Yvonne Heidt

sometimeyesterdayOctober – what better month for reading a ghost story? I’m diving bookwise into Halloween this year and Yvonne Heidt’s Sometime Yesterday is certainly a worthwhile read for the shorter days and longer nights – who are hopefully filled with steamy love rather than scary ghosts.

Here’s what happens – in the book:

Life after divorce. For Natalie Chambers it’s a new beginning with a new house. But the realtor never mentioned the ghosts that are already living in the Victrian mansion Natalie bought. Two lesbian ghosts who stir feelings in Natalie she hasn’t known before, and one ghostly husband terrorizing the living like he once terrorized his wife and sister. Their history does not not only involve the dead but also Van Easton, a landscaper Natalie is falling in love with.

It’s a lovely story. Heidt paints a convincing picture of the house and its garden in two different eras with two sets of female protagonists. They meet in a dreamscape and slowly the secrets of the past are revealed. Sometimes in vivid violent scenes that involve Beth’s husband Richard, a psychopath, sometimes in sexy love scenes between Beth and her sister-in-law Sarah.

The story is beautifully set and well written. The prose is a little choppy, a style I’m usually not comfortable with, but Heidt describes this magical world so captivating I couldn’t stop reading.

Sometime Yesterday is the perfect read for October when we’re awaiting Halloween with a cup of hot chocolate. But not just for that time, because there’s never a bad time to be scared, to feel indignant about the injustices of the past or simply fall in love. This novel gives you all this and then some. You should read it. I guarantee you’ll love it.