All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Beltane by Alys West

The witch themed book reviews continue with Beltane by Alys West. I read it in May and discussed it on my sister blog, From Under the Duvet.

BOOK REVIEW: BELTANE BY ALYS WEST

Beltane cover

Title: Beltane

Author: Alys West

Publisher: Fabrian Books

Release Date: 8th June 2016

Genre: Fiction, supernatural

Purchase: Amazon

BLURB:

Struggling artist, Zoe arrives in Glastonbury seeking inspiration. The small Somerset town is steeped in myth and legend and Zoe’s sure it’ll be the perfect place to work on a book about King Arthur. But behind the shops selling witchcraft supplies and crystals real magic is being practised.
When Zoe meets Finn her life changes forever. Not only is he a druid connected to the ancient energies of the earth but she dreamed about him long before they met. Finn’s life is in terrible danger and Zoe’s dreams start to reveal more of the plot against him.
After dreaming of a deadly battle at a stone circle on Dartmoor, Zoe starts to wonder if the dark magic around her is playing tricks of its own or if she really can see the future. Will she learn to trust Finn, and herself, in time to stand any hope of surviving the powerful magic that will be unleashed at Beltane? Or is it already too late?
This gripping story of magic, romance and the supernatural will entrance fans of Deborah Harkness and Phil Rickman and keep you spellbound until the very last page.

MY THOUGHTS

Wow! I was trapped in the spell of this book from the first chapter and was not released until the last page. I loved the premise, the characters and the foreboding atmosphere. It got under my skin. I needed to know what happened next.

As a heroine, Zoe is memorable for her strength of will as she stumbles into a battle of magic on a vacation designed to inspire her work. Her visits to the places linked to the Arthurian legends made me add them to my own bucket list, not only because of these tales but so I can imagine Finn and her acting out the scenes of their own story. Forget a ghost walk, I would do my own Beltane trail if they are accessible to wheels. The imagery invoked by the written word is ideal for this powerful, fast paced, and highly imaginary tale of witchcraft, druidry and magic. A thread of romance between Zoe and Finn runs throughout but it is the menace and creepiness of Maeve that will stay with me forever.

WOULD I RECOMMEND?

Yes. This is a thrilling spooky contemporary novel to escape into. The tension grabbed me making me stay up throughout the night to finish it. I am pleased to have this on my forever shelf to return to in the future. I can’t wait to read Alys West’s new novel in this series Storm Witch.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

ALys West 2020
Alys West

Alys West writes contemporary fantasy and steampunk. Her first novel, Beltane was inspired by the folklore of Glastonbury. Her second novel, The Dirigible King’s Daughter is a steampunk romance set in Whitby. Storm Witch is her third novel and is set in the beautiful Orkney islands which she fell in love with back in 2010 and has used every excuse to return to since (including setting a novel there!) She is fascinated by folklore and folk tales which are a big influence on the stories she tells.

Alys has a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teaches creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. She’s also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.

When she’s not writing you can find her at folk gigs, doing yoga and attempting to crochet. She occasionally blogs at www.alyswest.com, intermittently tweets at @alyswestyork and spends rather too much time on Facebook where you can find her at Alys West Writer. She is also on Instagram at @alyswestwriter. To keep up with Alys’s news you can join her Facebook readers’ group ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles’.

Storm Witch’s book review will be published here later this month.

Happy reading and stay safe!

Love

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: To Catch a Witch by Sharon Booth

My second witchy book review* is To Catch a Witch by one of my favourite Yorkshire author’s Sharon Booth, who we met last year on my sister blog, From Under the Duvet. You can find her interview here. She is also a fellow member of the RNA and is an inspiration when I consider going down the indie path with some of my work. When I listen to her chat, the idea seems a viable option with a chance of success. It is the last novel in the Castle Clair trilogy. Read on to discover more.

BOOK REVIEW: TO CATCH THE WITCH BY SHARON BOOTH

To Catch a Witch by Sharon Booth

Title: To Catch a Witch

Author: Sharon Booth

Publisher: Green Ginger Publishing

Genre: Romance, uplifting fiction, witchlit

Release Date: 28th April 2020

Links

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sharonbooth.writer

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sharon_Booth1

Instagram: www.instagram.com/sharonboothwriter

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sharon-Booth/e/B00PP5S1X8

Website: www.sharonboothwriter.com

BLURB

Return to Castle Clair for the final chapter of the St Clair story.

It’s three hundred and fifty years since the famous witch’s leap happened in the North Yorkshire town. Riverside Walk is swarming with eager tourists, wanting to pay tribute to the legendary Blaise St Clair. It’s also Christmas Eve, and the family has gathered to celebrate an eventful year, and to look forward to even better times ahead.

But a shock event changes everything, bringing a whole lot of trouble to the door of Castle Lodge.

For something big is happening in Castle Clair. Strangers are arriving, a prophecy is unfolding, a mystery is deepening, a reckoning is coming … and someone’s getting rather too fond of Mrs Greenwood’s baking.

The past is colliding with the present, and the future is in jeopardy. No wonder the High Council of Witches is a bit miffed.

Will the St Clairs have enough strength, courage ~ and chocolate fudge cake ~ to see them through?

Or is this the end of the world as they know it?

MY THOUGHTS

I was mesmerised by the other two novels based in Castle Clair which tell the stories of Sky and Star St Clair and pre-ordered this one, eager for its release but delayed reading it until now. Why? I did not want the series and the magic to end. Mistake. Big mistake, I could have reread the entire series by now. What was not a mistake was the timing. Celeste’s story begins on Christmas Eve, the 350th anniversary of Blaise St Clair’s death at Witches Leap, making it an ideal book for October with the preparations of both Halloween and Christmas. Witches and Christmas, my favourite things make it a winning combination.

Sharon Booth’s wonderful storytelling invoked the Christmas spirit and drew me into the St Clair’s world. The opening chapters are upbeat, quirky, and full of laughter as well as trepidation of what is to come. The many references to Dr Who to describe the situation made me smile and added to the festive atmosphere. Like the Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Dr Who specials make Christmas.

Celeste fast became my favourite witch with her innocent, romantic view of love, believing she will meet the one. Her gentle and kind nature makes her the ideal match for Blaise, the 17th century witch. I enjoyed watching him grapple with the steep learning curve of fitting in to the 21st century, including the changing roles of women and zippers. That scene is one I cannot get out of my head.

WOULD I RECOMMEND?

To Catch A Witch is witchy escapism wrapped up in an uplifting romance that also revisits the other St Clair sisters. With many twists and turns, it was a joy to read and is firmly one of my forever shelf with the rest of the series. This has become my favourite, but it would be wrong to read it again without the others. I can feel a Halloween tradition brewing.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Sharon Booth

Sharon Booth is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and writes uplifting women’s fiction — “love, laughter, and happy ever after”. Although a happy ending for her main characters is guaranteed, she makes them work for it!

Sharon grew up in the East Yorkshire town of Hessle, where her enduring love for all things Yorkshire was born. She now lives in Kingston-upon-Hull with her husband and their much-loved German Shepherd dog.

Since giving up her admin job at a medical practice, she spends a lot of time assuring her family of five children, assorted in-laws and hordes of grandchildren – not to mention a sceptical mother and a contrary hairdresser – that writing full-time IS a “proper” job and she HASN’T taken early retirement.

She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, adores Doctor Who and Cary Grant movies, and admits to being shamefully prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes.

You can sign up to Sharon’s newsletter at smarturl.it/sharonsnewsletter

Happy reading and stay safe!

Love

* This review was first published on From Under the Duvet earlier this month.

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

My first witchy book review is Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman. As soon as I read she was writing a prequel Practical Magic explaining the origin of the Owen curse, the countdown to publication was on. After reading Rules of Magic last year, I fell in love with her prose and the Owen family. I was thrilled to be given an ARC to review via NetGalley. Read on to see if it was worth the wait.

If like me you love listening to interviews with authors talking about their books, read on for a gem of a chat.

Book Review: Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

Title: Magic Lessons

Author: Alice Hoffman

Genre: magic realism, adult fiction

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, Scribner UK

Release date: 6th Oct 2020

Purchase link: Amazon

Blurb

Where does the story of the Owens family begin? With a baby abandoned in a snowy field in the 1600s. Under the care of Hannah Owens, little Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows.

When Maria is abandoned by the man she loves, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s is here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters

My Thoughts

Despite my excitement I was anxious to begin this novel in case my high expectations were unfounded and there are times I struggle to read historical fiction, which this is. I need not have worried; the arrival of Maria into Hannah Owen’s life captivated me, and I remained in her world for hours; I did not want to stop reading.

Maria’s early carefree childhood with Hannah was a joy to read and connected me to her and Cadin, making the rest of the book an emotional ride as she travels across the globe to end up in Salem, Massachusetts. As a reader, you know the danger she will face when she blindly believes she will be fine. This knowledge added to the tension. The novel is short on dialogue which surprised me because it is a rare these days but I found I did not miss it because of Alice Hoffman’s talent for setting the scene, her magical prose and the observations of love in all its guises. The study of love with its joy and dangers is the core of this novel; it brings lightness, warmth, darkness, and destruction.

It is a well-researched historical fiction as seen in the lists of herbs, and spells written in the Owen’s grimoires and highlights the prejudice against women who are different and do not follow the social constructs created by men and the dangers they faced.

I have not read Practical Magic yet, and it is years since I watched the film, so my memory of her story was vague. I would be interested to hear what others with a firmer grounding of the curse think of Maria’s tale and the origin of the curse. Though this book is part of a series, you can easily read it as a standalone.

Would I recommend?

Alice Hoffman is a queen of magical storytelling, making Magic Lessons a pleasure to read. This emotional novel has depth, and I came away with the desire to wear my red boots with pride and the lessons of the Owens are tattooed in my heart. The observations of love in all its forms were what I needed to hear. It will be on my forever bookshelf with the rest of the series, ready for a reread and will inspire my own writing. Alice Hoffman’s shows how a novel involving witches and magic can be successful and loved in the mainstream.

Interview with Alice Hoffman about Magic Lessons

As promised an interview with Alice Hoffman discussing this book. I hope you enjoy.

Thank you Simon and Schuster via NetGalley for an advanced copy so I could give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Happy reading and stay safe!

Love

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, Book review, Dystonia Around the World Challenge, NanoWriMo, work in progress, Writing journey

October News: Witches, dystonia and world building

September flew by and October has arrived with falling leaves, dark mornings where you can drink your first cuppa while stargazing and chilly evenings. It is my favourite time of year for reading, writing and world building. The run up to Halloween conjures up many stories and plots with witches not far away.

Dystonia Around the World News

Thank you for supporting my fundraising and spreading awareness for Dystonia Awareness Month.

Nearly there

I raised £205 and and wrote and stumbled 350 miles. I am pleased Dystonia UK have extended the time to complete the challenge until the end of October. If you would like updates or support this valuable cause follow this link.

NaNoWriMo is calling

NaNoWriMo is also just round the corner making it ideal time to build a world for my current WIP. November and the support offered is my most productive writing time. Let’s hope life allows the headspace to increase my wordcount.

Halloween and Witches takeover

I will be reading and reviewing witch books and ghosts stories this month on my sister blog, From Under the Duvet. I will share my favourites here including Beltane and Storm Witch by Alys West and To Catch A Witch by Sharon Booth.

Recommendations for witch and ghost stories are always welcome. Just comment below.

Happy reading, writing and keep safe!

Love

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, Dystonia Around the World Challenge

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Flash Fiction: Shattered Dreams

It is the end of Dystonia Awareness Month but not the end of the Dystonia Around the World challenge. Dystonia UK have extended it until the end of October – phew! I may achieve my mission of 1000 miles after all. To support or find out more about the challenge and dystonia click here.

This piece was written from the writing prompt, scarecrow, given by my local writing group. It always amazes me how diverse people’s flash fiction is from the same word and where their imagination takes them. Graham is a side character in my current work in progress; I hope you enjoy.

Shattered Dreams

Graham’s mood plummeted as he slipped into the village hall to join the adults lining the wall. All standing in silence. The class was still in progress. He checked his watch. Time was ticking and his meticulously planned schedule was in jeopardy; the match started in less than an hour. It was not fair, Saturday’s were his time to relax with the lads, and a few beers after a long week at the office yet with one phone call from Louise’s work and his Mum’s refusal to babysit, he was watching a troop of girls dancing to music from an out of tune piano. He consoled himself that if they ran, he could still make kick off and easily bribe Elsa with extra screen time and chocolate while he took a shower to wash the remains of football training from him. What Lou did not know wouldn’t hurt her.

Not that song. He groaned at the familiar tune drifting across the hall. The woman next to him tutted to highlight her disdain at the interruption. She studied his clothes and stepped back to avoid the mud splattered on his tracksuit staining her white jeans. Dingle Dangle Scarecrow -the loop of lyrics wormed into his brain during their summer holiday when Elsa played it on repeat. The worm roared to life again as the would-be ballerinas rose from the floor to spring into action with their floppy hands. He knew he would hum the blasted tune next week in meetings unless something more suitable replaced it soon. For the second time in minutes, he cursed his Mum for encouraging his youngest to join this class. 

With his hands stuffed in his pockets, he shook his head and released a deep sigh. His fingers clutched the cold metal of a whistle; he did not belong here. Elsa did not belong here. Not his daughter. She belonged with her brother and cousins, getting muddy on a football pitch. As soon as Louise announced her pregnancy everyone expected another boy; a brother for Jake to play with. A girl had not been born to the Towsers for generations. There was no need to believe the run would end with him. He purchased a babygro supporting Leeds United after the first trimester and dreamt of taking his sons to a home match. Louise’s eyes lit up when the midwife announced the newborn placed in her arms was a girl and she had visions of dresses, bows and playing princesses, but the football bug won.  Elsa preferred playing with her male cousins on the pitch and helping his Dad in the shed while dressed in dungarees to playing pretend with dolls. She never wore dresses after the raging tantrum when she was a bridesmaid. His dream of watching his child play for England remained intact. But now, she had traded shorts for a pink leotard and her studded boots for delicate ballet slippers. The mop of unruly hair was tamed into the classic sleek bun. He struggled to recognise her as she enthusiastically pointed her toes. The music stopped, and Elsa nudged the neighbouring girl sharing a joke, their eyes alive with happiness. There was no mistake; this was the mythical Laura who had captured Elsa’s friendship and pressuring her into following rather than being the leader he imagined Elsa being. And then his Mum encouraged her by saying everyone deserves the chance to dance? What was that about? His mum never danced in her life.

“Ok my little scarecrows, it’s time to get changed but remember, ballet is all about practise.” The teacher rose on pointe and spun several times with a grace Graham had never seen before. Elsa’s mouth dropped in awe at the magic she was seeing. Graham ambition shattered. He knew he had lost her to a world of bright lights and tutus.   

Happy writing and stay safe!

More soon.

Love