Books I read in October 2022


Cultish, the language of fanaticism, Amanda Montell

I reviewed this in a separate post. It’s a harrowing but useful read. I definitely recommend it to anyone who leads a group or who gets sucked into groups with a strong “us versus them” vibe.


Witch Wood, John Buchan

As with all Buchan’s books, beautiful and compelling writing.

It’s the early 1600s and the time of the Covenanters in Scotland. In the wood of Melanudrigill, a coven meets on Beltane, Midsummer, and Lammas. It’s not quite clear what the coven believes — are they Satanists or Pagans? (most likely Satanists but why do they celebrate the old festivals?) But they do sacrifice chickens.

The leader of the coven is a sinister person as he pretends to be an upstanding member of the Kirk, and is willing to sacrifice one of his number to the witch-pricker in order to save his own skin.

The young minister of the parish discovers the beauty of Nature but it is despoiled for him by the activities of the coven, as he stumbles upon one of their rituals.

The main goal of the book seems to be to expose the hypocrisy of the Kirk, but also the fact that cunning folk and witches were willing to sacrifice one of their number to save themselves from burning (in Scotland and Europe) and hanging (in England and Wales). Perhaps it’s just to point out that humans are not very nice.

At the end, the minister (who isn’t keen on witch-pricking, especially as the leader of the coven gets away and an innocent woman dies) is excommunicated and he goes abroad with one of Montrose’s army.

At least Montrose gets good press in this book (the battle reenactment group I used to belong to was keen on him and I met one of his descendants once, so I am glad Buchan liked him too).

This book was first published in 1927, so it is a pretty early reference to Beltane (well before the Pagan revival in Scotland).


Witch please, Ann Aguirre

This was a fun read. At first I was annoyed by the idea that the witches have to marry another witch because otherwise they will lose their power, but then there was a very cunning plot twist. Not being a regular reader of rom-coms, I had no idea how much hot sex there was in them these days. Tastefully written sex too.


A scatter of light, Malinda Lo

An enjoyable read, beautifully written. I kind of wanted it to be more of a sequel to Last Night at the Telegraph Club, but at least we get to find out what happened to the characters from that book. And I loved the main characters in this book.


Stravaganza series, Mary Hoffman

I re-read these every few years; it is like visiting old friends. The stories are fast-paced and the characters are diverse (and the Black and Asian characters are not just ciphers as is the case in some books). It could do with more LGBTQ+ characters but it was written a while back when the publishing industry was still avoiding LGBTQ+ characters. I occasionally spot a plot-hole (how did Fabrizio use a Talian talisman to get to our world, since he’s a Talian?) but it’s mostly excellent plotting.

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