Reviews: The Year of the Witching & The Pull of the Stars

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two historical fiction novels that are releasing in July.  The first is an atmospheric tale about witches and curses that is sure to entertain, while the second is a heart-wrenching and thought provoking look at the influenza pandemic of 1918.


Reviews:  The Year of the Witching & The Pull of the StarsThe Year of the Witching Goodreads

Author: Alexis Henderson

Publication Date: July 21, 2020

Publisher:  Ace

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.


I’m always up for a good witchy read so I couldn’t resist picking up a copy of The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson.  That gorgeous cover promises an atmospheric read with hints of the supernatural, and I knew from the moment I opened the book and saw it was divided in parts labeled Blood, Blight, Darkness, and Slaughter that I was in for a wild ride, and boy does this book deliver! The story follows a young woman named Immanuelle Moore, who was labeled as cursed from the moment of her birth, because her mother was unmarried.  Raised by her grandparents after her mother ran off, Immanuelle has spent her entire life trying to live up to the religious ideals of her community and prove that she is not a curse or a threat.  One night, however, Immanuelle finds herself inexplicably drawn to a forbidden place called the Darkwood and it is there that everything changes. She encounters witches there and they present her with her mother’s diary.

When people in her community start falling ill soon after, Immanuelle fears she has unleashed something awful and turns to her mother’s diary for some insight.  The more Immanuelle reads, the more she questions everything she has ever known about her mother, her own life, and the Puritanical, cult-like ways of her community.  I adored Immanuelle because she was so smart, so resourceful and resilient, and because she wasn’t afraid to challenge and question authority, especially if she feels that the authority figures are abusing their power.  I also loved how determined she was to save the people of her community even though they weren’t always as nice to her as they could have been because of her “cursed” status.  I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m just going to say that for me, The Year of the Witching reads like a mashup of Margaret Atwood’s popular dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, a play about the Salem Witch Trials.  It’s an atmospheric witchy read filled with secrets, lies, and curses, and whose vivid supernatural imagery will keep you glued to its pages.  4 STARS.


Reviews:  The Year of the Witching & The Pull of the StarsThe Pull of the Stars Goodreads

Author: Emma Donoghue

Publication Date: July 21, 2020

Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.


When I first heard about Emma Donoghue’s new novel, The Pull of the Stars, I struggled with whether or not I could handle reading a novel about a pandemic since we’re currently in the middle of one ourselves, ultimately my love of Donoghue’s writing and storytelling won out though and I decided to give it a go.  Set in Dublin, Ireland in 1918, in the middle of both WWI and a deadly influenza pandemic, The Pull of the Stars takes us inside a maternity ward in a hospital in Dublin.  Through the eyes of Nurse Julia Power, we see firsthand what it looks like to work in what has become just as lethal as the battlefield itself.  Nurse Power is tasked with caring for expectant mothers who have contracted the deadly flu.  The hospital is woefully overcrowded and understaffed as the staff continually gets sick while caring for patients.  Nurse Power’s ward honestly isn’t even a ward; it’s a supply closet that has been converted to a ward.  Not only is it cramped, but it means that all of the pregnant women are in one room together.  When tragedy strikes, there’s no dignity and no privacy.  Everyone bears witness to your grief.

I was drawn into the story immediately by Nurse Power’s perspective of what it was like to work as a nurse in this environment and her tireless devotion to keeping these women alive, but what really captivated me was watching each pregnant woman’s story unfold.  The story may mostly take place in a tiny closet, but Donoghue uses the journeys of each woman to explore some huge themes – religion, poverty, sexual abuse, PTSD, and abuse of power, just to name a few, as well as to show how deadly the flu was and how it could strike at any moment.  What takes place in that room is raw, emotional, and so authentic that I found myself tearing up many times while reading, particularly once I learned the significance of the watch on the book’s cover.  I may have been hesitant to start reading The Pull of the Stars, but once I started it, it kept me rapt until the very last page.  While in many ways, it’s a tragic story, The Pull of the Stars is also a quietly, powerful story of hope and survival.  4.5 STARS

22 replies
  1. Jade @ Reading with Jade
    Jade @ Reading with Jade says:

    Great to hear you enjoyed The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue – I have this reserved as a library ebook and hope my reservation date rolls around soon! Thanks for sharing these thoughtful reviews.

  2. Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy
    Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy says:

    I’m glad you also enjoyed The Year of the Witching, it was a really good debut! And I’m not sure now is the right time for me to read The Pull of Stars, but I’ll keep it in mind for the future, I do like Donoghue😁

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Understandable, lol. If it had been any other author besides Donoghue, I probably would have held off but I just can’t resist her gorgeous writing. She’s up there with Alice Hoffman for me.

  3. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books says:

    I’ve read a couple rave reviews for The Pull of the Stars. And it sounds (surprisingly, for some reason) quite emotional. Especially getting each women’s story. I’ll have to check my library for this one.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      It really was a pretty emotional read, between the mothers so desperately trying to bring their babies safely into the world during such a deadly time and the nurse doing everything she can and still often feeling so powerless.

  4. Amber Elise @ Du Livre
    Amber Elise @ Du Livre says:

    I got my copy of The Year of the Witching last week but I have soo many books I promised myself I’d read so I’m not sure when I’ll get to it. The world and atmosphere sound so eerie and I already love Immanuelle!

  5. Anne - Books of My Heart
    Anne - Books of My Heart says:

    Excellent reviews! I haven’t read either of these books. The Year of the Witching felt too dark for me right now. I haven’t heard of The Pull of the Stars but it sounds heart-grabbing.

Comments are closed.