Light relief

Sometimes, when you have been reading serious stuff—whether it’s stark realism, a western set in a dystopian world, or an intense (and long) immersive fantasy, you just need to indulge in some junk food. Lighter fare. In other words, chick lit. And if it has paranormal overtones, so much the better!

I have noticed a trend, also, that requires I seek out this kind of fiction occasionally: When I am painting intensely, I want light reading, and when I am reading something heavy, I don’t paint anything too challenging. So I guess what I am discovering is that balance is important, even in cross-disciplines? (Now, if could only find something to read that would make me want to do housework compulsively for about a week…)

I started on this chick-fest with Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft, by Mindy Klasky. I don’t recall precisely how I came across the book, but once I had read the description, I was a goner: The main character, Jane Madison, is a librarian (ahem), and when her library experiences funding difficulties, her boss breaks the news that she is about to suffer a 25 percent cut in pay; BUT, to compensate, she will be allowed to move into an empty cottage on the library grounds (it’s an historical library in Washington D.C., surrounded by extensive gardens) and live there rent free. Jane can’t really afford to turn down this offer; plus, the cottage is within walking distance of work, so she will save gas as well as rent. She and her best friend Melissa (yes, I know, but I am determined to be JANE) spend a weekend cleaning out the place, except for the cellar. A while later, Jane decides to see what’s down there, only to discover an extensive book collection (as well as other artifacts) placed there under ward by a famous witch. Guess what happens next?

When I was in my early 30s I worked in Hollywood as a movie title designer. The office was about a 30- to 45-minute drive from my house in typical Los Angeles traffic, with the result that I spent all daylight hours either driving or at work. The typography studio was in a primarily industrial neighborhood with no restaurants close by, so I mostly brought my lunch. But if I ate it at my desk, I would inevitably get 10 minutes max before someone needed me for something, and there went my lunch hour, so I went looking for somewhere else to enjoy my sandwich and chips. There were no parks close by, but there was a cemetery, backed up against the Paramount lot, and it was beautiful, with a lake, lots of mausoleums and sculptures, and benches strategically situated in the shade of large spreading trees. After eating, sometimes I would go gravestone browsing to see what famous or infamous people I could turn up (not literally). Along one wall of the cemetery there was what appeared to be a stone cottage, built right into the wall. It was most likely a garden shed where tools were kept, but it looked like someplace a reclusive witch (or an indigent typesetter?) would live, however macabre that sounds. So when I read the part of Klasky’s first book about the cottage in the library gardens, I was immediately hooked.

Needless to say, I had to finish out the trilogy, which details Jane’s journey as she comes into her witchy powers, works an accidental love spell that apparently connects with everyone from the library janitor to her own warder, and alienates the head witch of the Washington Coven. There is also a lot of “girl” time with friend Melissa, who is the local baker of delectable pastries and cupcakes and is always up for a Friday night of muddling mint leaves from Jane’s garden to make a pitcher of mojitos over which they can discuss their love lives.

Then I discovered that there were two more books, in which Jane starts her own (highly irregular) school for witches and has to fend off magical rivals and the beasts they send to deter her, so of course I had to proceed. There was also a 3.5 crossover novella that introduced me to a new character, Sarah, clerk of court for the District of Columbia Night Court (the secret after-hours Capitol court for paranormals). Sarah is (of course) a sphinx, charged with the protection of vampires (who knew they needed it?); she contacts Jane for assistance with a library of vampire lore in disarray and I (of course) was lured down this side pathway to read Sarah’s own trilogy, which involves her coming into her own as a sphinx and trying to decide whether to pursue romance with the very nice and compulsively tidy Chris, a reporter for a local newspaper (or is he?), or the darkly dangerous but infinitely appealing James, her vampire boss, head of security for the Night Court.

Finally, when I thought I had come to the end, I discovered one last volume, called The Library, the Witch, and the Warder, which circles back around to tell the Jane Madison story from the viewpoint of her warder, David Montrose. But I swear, THIS is the last Mindy Klasky book that will capture me with its lure of magic, romance, drama, comedy, cupcakes and mojitos.

The books are (in order):
(Jane Madison)
Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft
Sorcery and the Single Girl
Magic and the Modern Girl
Capitol Magic
Single Witch’s Survival Guide
Joy of Witchcraft

(Sarah Anderson)
Fright Court
Law and Murder
High Stakes Trial

(David Montrose)
The Library, the Witch, and the Warder

She has also written some vampire books that take place in a Washington, D.C. hospital, and some books with an actress, a magic lamp and a genie, but I am not going there. At least, not today.

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