The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel by Alyssa Palombo

Ichabod Crane is an unlikely hero for a historical romance. In Washington Irving’s famous tale, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, he is described thus:

He was tall and exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, and feet that might have served for shovels. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose . . . To see him striding along on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.

Soooooper sexy, amiright?

Everyone deserves a chance at love, of course, no matter how they look; however, the gangly and shovel-handed generally don’t appear in bodice rippers. We usually see specimens of this sort:

photo of man in body of water wearing white brief
Photo by Samad Ismayilov on Pexels.com

We wouldn’t know if his clothes were ill-fitting, since the romance hero usually walks around shirtless.

Alyssa Palombo manages a feat of extraordinary magic by tranforming Ichabod Crane into a believable romantic figure. In The Spellbook of Katrina Van Tassel, her “feminist” retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, she describes him in this way:

He was young, that much was certain–likely only in his early twenties. He was tall and gangly, with long arms and legs; he nearly towered over me. Were my father to stand, his own considerable height would be no match for this man. His brown hair, which he had tied back at his nape with a simple black ribbon, was shot through with gold. Wide eyes stared back at me, a startling deep green, like the moss that grew at the banks of the stream in the woods. His ears, I noted, were unfortunately large, yet somehow made his already pleasant face even more endearing. He was handsome, but not too much so.

I was delighted by the idea of this nerd turned hunk. Unfortunately, I have grown into a hard-hearted creature in middle age and find myself impatient with effusive romantic scenes in books and movies. The first half or so of The Spellbook was little more than overwrought lust between two young people who, by society’s standards, were ill-suited for one another. I’m sure some people will enjoy this depiction of forbidden love, but it wore me out.

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I still believe in love, but I’m much more moved by relationships that are grounded in reality, established and nurtured over time, developed through thick and thin…and expressed primarily in small, but consistent loving gestures. The great romances of stories seem too impetuous and inflamed for me. I have a hard time believing those sorts of relationships will last beyond the initial burst of lust.

The second half of the book redeemed itself primarily because Katrina matured. Her adult voice and perceptions were much more tolerable to me. Kudos to the author for developing her heroine so successfully! I particularly liked how Katrina’s relationship to her best friend and her housekeeper deepened as she weathered her trials. Her own sufferings prompted her to consider those of these two special people in her life and she stepped up, offered them her attention and care.

When I first began reading this book, I was worried that it was going to be a slog because the dialog was so awkward. The author attempts to recreate the language used in colonial America. I can’t judge how accurate her rendition is because I don’t know enough about how language was used then; however, I wasn’t impressed with it because it made the exchanges between the characters seem so stilted.

Mr. Crane laughed, a warm, rich sound. “I had hoped I was not too bold, nor overstepping. But it did seem that you had no particular desire for that gentleman’s company.”

“How correct you are, Mr. Crane,” I said.

I don’t know if this is entirely accurate, because I haven’t sat down to analyze the text closely, but I was left with the impression that the characters always spoke in complete sentences. Who does that? Finally, the language had the unfortunate effect of making the character’s emotional outpourings seem more melodramatic than necessary.

Fortunately, I didn’t give up on the book because of my issue with the linguistic style. At some point–probably one third to halfway through, I was completely drawn into the drama of it all. I had to know what happened. Just like the characters, I wanted to know whether or not the spectre would prove to be real. I wanted to know if Katrina would be able to tap into the magic of the world and I wanted to know if there was any possibility of a happy ending.

Overall, I thought the book was really well done. The author’s post-script added to my appreciation of what she had been trying to achieve with this work: infusing a previously two-dimensional female character with spirit, agency and a voice. She did her research, but knew when to allow her artistic license to dictate one deviation or another in order to keep the story compelling and the atmosphere rich. I liked the bits of Dutch culture and language that were sprinkled throughout the tale and the grounding of the story in a particular time by references to events outside the small world of Sleepy Hollow. I look forward to reading more books by Alyssa Palombo!


Netgalley provided me with a free copy of this book for an honest review. It is due for publication on October 2, 2018.

Want to Master Instagram?

instastyleInstaStyle by Tessa Barton is going to be a hit with a lot of people. It hands you the keys to creating an aesthetically pleasing, well-branded, focused and influential instagram account, which you can set up for monetization of your online efforts.

If this is what I wanted to do with my instagram, I would have been thrilled myself. It’s a beautifully produced book, containing stunning photography and streamlined how-tos on everything from finding inspiration, developing narratives,  fostering engagement, and editing images.  Additionally, it provides niche-specific advice, including lifestyle, fashion, travel, food, beauty, family, health & fitness, interior design, and flat lays & products.

This book just isn’t written for a person like me, who already has a full-time job and only wants to use social media as a creative outlet and a way to connect with like-minded people. InstaStyle makes it abundantly clear that if you wish to develop an account like Tezza’s, it’s going to require a lot of work.

Gotta work for it: Truth be told, I’m never not working. I’m constantly planning posts, gathering inspiration, scouting locations, styling outfits , and meeting with brands. It’s a 24/7 job. Granted, it’s a pretty dang good 24/7 job, but it really can be exhausting. It’s important to know that before jumping in. It takes pushing yourself every day to come up with something new and finding ways to stand out and be different.

~ Tezza MB

Clearly, it’s not for dilettantes like me! Recognizing that I’m not the target audience doesn’t mean I’m going to dismiss the book as a bad one. It’s not bad at all. In fact, I think it will be an excellent resource for a lot of people. If you’re like me, however, and want something that encourages playfulness and experimentation, then you might want to save your precious book money for something else.

This book also promotes an aspect of Instagram that I find off-putting: it’s just too sleek and polished. The images show glamorous skinny people doing glamorous things using fancy products and basically living a life I’ll never have. It can be downright depressing to look at too much stuff like this online. I’ll look, from time to time, because it’s hard to turn away from something so perfect that’s begging for my attention, but I prefer to follow accounts that are a little rougher around the edges and show people I can relate to doing regular people stuff…like petting a fat cat on the belly (it’s a trap!), or eating a tub of ice cream while binge-watching the 100 on Netflix.

I do appreciate Tezza’s frequent reminders to keep your expectations realistic, practice positive self-talk, and remain authentic:

Don’t lose sight of the goal. Let your experiences shape your life, and don’t get caught up in doing things for the sake of the ‘gram. They’re not authentic when they become a chore.

~ Tezza MB

Many thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for my ARC. All opinions are my own.

Release Date: October 23, 2018