Book Review: Odd Spirits by S.T. Gibson

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Note: I received an advance reader copy of Odd Spirits from the author in exchange for a book review. 

It takes a lot of commitment to make a marriage between a ceremonial magician and a chaos witch work, but when a malevolent entity takes up residence in Rhys and Moira’s home, their love will be pushed to the limits.

Brewing up a solution is easier said than done when your magical styles are polar opposites; throw a psychic ex and a secret society in the mix, and things are bound to get messy.

Fans of The Raven Cycle and The Haunting of Hill House will devour this paranormal romance with a diverse cast of characters!

Like so many other writers I admire, I discovered Sarah Taylor Gibson through social media. When she announced that her novella Odd Spirits would be released this month, I could hardly contain my excitement.

I was not disappointed. Odd Spirits is the literary equivalent to dark chocolate. Once I got a taste, I could not put it down. The writing style is absolutely gorgeous, and the story itself is immediately captivating. It was sweet and romantic one moment and brutally honest the next; plus, the paranormal elements made every chapter dark and mysterious in all the right ways.

The story follows Rhys and Moira, who discover that their house is being disturbed by an unpleasant spirit. Moira’s a witch who learned magic from her mother and grandmother; Rhys is self-taught. While Moira takes on clients who are interested in tarot readings and reiki, Rhys practices ceremonial magic with spells in Latin and Hebrew. It isn’t always entirely clear if their magic comes from a supernatural power (i.e, the magic in Harry Potter–you are either born a wizard or a Muggle), or if their magic is the sort of modern witchcraft that’s making a comeback. However, it is always clear that the result of their magic is usually supernatural.

For such a short amount of time, Odd Spirits manages to address all kinds of topics, and it certainly does well in terms of representation. But what I loved most about Odd Spirits was how it so beautifully addressed the challenges that creep into your marriage. Drew and I haven’t been married for long–our first anniversary is October 28–but I definitely related to their story (aside from the supernatural elements, anyway). Conflict isn’t fun, but addressing problems is necessary for relationships to thrive.

Bonus: Odd Spirits came just in time for the fall–and Halloween! If you need a cozy read, this story is perfect. Grab your pumpkin spice latte, light an autumn-scented candle, and then spend a weekend reading ghost stories. And then grab more pumpkin spice lattes. Obviously.

Overall, I gave Odd Spirits 4/5 stars. Needless to say, I’m excited to read more of S.T. Gibson’s work, and I’m planning re-read this spooky-sweet story in the fall (see above.). In the meantime, be sure to visit website for more updates. You can also purchase the e-book version of Odd Spirits on Amazon or Smashwords. According to the author, there will be a print version coming soon!

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Read and Resist: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Welcome to Read and Resist, a blog series where I review books that amplify marginalized voices and address social justice issues. This includes fiction and non-fiction books (especially #OwnVoices), so if you have any suggestions, please let me know! 

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Between how outraged I always am with the patriarchy and how our nation is in the midst of important conversations regarding sexual assault, Moxie could not have found me at a better time.

I’ll admit it: I judged the book by its cover. How could I not? The library had it proudly displayed with other new young adult novels, and in case you don’t know, I am all about  badass ladies. And hot pink.

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Vivian, the book’s protaganist, was especially relatable to me because she is seen as someone who abides by the rules. I always feel like marching into a temple and flipping over some tables, but at the end of the day, I reallyreally hate getting into trouble. Similarly, when Vivian sparks the feminist revolution at her high school, no one suspects it was her–and she constantly wonders what her mother, grandparents, and friends will think when they find out.

The revolution begins after a boy in Vivian’s class quips that a girl should make him a sandwich. Considering that every girl I know has heard this “joke” a bazillion times (and guess what, everyone? It’s never funny), I immediately believed in Vivian’s small-town Texas high school. After a few similar incidents, Vivian takes inspiration from the Riot Grrl movement of the ’90s and anonymously distributes a zine to her classmates. She calls it Moxie, and invites fellow Moxie Girls to fight back.

One of the most wonderful things about Moxie is how it addresses intersectional feminism and internalized misogyny. In one of my favorite scenes, Vivian and her friends are discussing a Hot-Or-Not-type system created by the boys in their school. The winners, Vivian realizes, are always the same type of girl: skinny and blonde. When her African-American friend points out that they’re always white, too, Vivian admits that she has never noticed. “Well, no offense,” her friend replies, “But you wouldn’t have, because you’re white.”

 

Vivian’s mother also admits to not including black and brown women during her days as a Riot Grrl. The scenes are honest and poignant, and Vivian is able to acknowledge her privilege in a way many of us are not.

In terms of internalized misogyny, Moxie recognizes that some girls are hesitant to identify as a feminist. In Vivian’s case, her best friend thinks the word ‘feminist’ is too strong and the feminist movement is too radical. Her boyfriend, too, has trouble understanding some of Vivian’s views. It’s an especially heart-wrenching look at how we love those who do not share our own convictions. As Vivian’s mom so wisely puts it, we all grow up hearing the same bullshit.

And Vivian has her fair share of bullshit to deal with. Later on in the novel, she becomes friends with a cheerleader–a cheerleader who she used to judge and do her best to ignore. I did my fair share of cheerleader-bashing throughout middle school and high school, and this aspect of the novel made me want to hug every girl I once needlessly despised.

Reading about the Moxie Girls is a beautiful experience. Instead of tearing each other down, they lift each other up. It’s the feminist community I dream about. They start to break barriers built by race, sexual orientation, and high school hierarchies. When shit gets real and the girls start to fear suspension and expulsion, they fiercely protect one another. In every page, Moxie reminds you of the power that every girl has inside her.

“It occurs to me that this is what it means to be a feminist. Not a humanist or an equalist or whatever. But a feminist. It’s not a bad word. After today it might be my favorite word. Because really all it is is girls supporting each other and wanting to be treated like human beings in a world that’s always finding ways to tell them they’re not.”

Fortunately, Moxie Girls exist outside of the realm of fiction. Moxie Girls Fight Back! is the book’s official Tumblr, and the blog includes feminist resources and even a mix tape!

Needless to say, Moxie gets all the stars. Five out of five, I guess, if you’re making me follow these arbitrary book review rules. I still don’t like getting into trouble. But Moxie there are more important things–namely, taking part in the revolution.

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How do my fellow Moxie Girls fight back? What feminist books are you loving right now? Let me know in the comments or contact me through Goodreads or Twitter