All about Books, Book review

Book Review: 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, Vol. II by Mariëlle S. Smith

Last year, I reviewed Mariëlle S. Smith gratitude journal here so was thrilled to be asked by Rachel’s Random Resources to review her latest journal, 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, Vol. II

BOOK REVIEW: 52 WEEKS OF WRITING AUTHOR JOURNAL AND PLANNER, VOL. II BY MARIËLLE S. SMITH

52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, Vol. II by Mariëlle S. Smith

Title: 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, Vol. II

Author: Mariëlle S. Smith

Publisher: Indie

Genre: Writing Self-help

Release date: 21st Nov 2021

BLURB

‘With this book by your side, anything feels possible.’ Jacqueline Brown

Tired of not having a sustainable writing practice? You, too, can get out of your own way and become the writer you’re meant to be!

52 Weeks of Writing:

  • makes you plan, track, reflect on, and improve your progress and goals for an entire year;
  • helps you unravel the truth about why you aren’t where you want to be; and
  • keeps you writing through weekly thought-provoking quotes and prompts.

With this second volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, writing coach and writer Mariëlle S. Smith brings you the same successful strategies to craft the perfect writing practice as she did in the first journal. The only difference? Fifty-three different writing quotes and prompts and a brand-new look!

Purchase Links

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P8SJ8FK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08P8SJ8FK

https://www.amazon.de/dp/B08P8SJ8FK

https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08P8SJ8FK

A printable PDF is available through: https://payhip.com/b/0YgJ Get 50% off until 31 March 2021 by using the coupon code 52WOW during checkout.

MY THOUGHTS

I’m in love with this journal and even though I’m only a few of weeks in, as long as I can keep reminding my grasshopper brain to keep filling it in, I know it will help keep me focused on my long-term goals of being a writer and encouraged to keep going. It will also help me explore and dig deeper into my writing and the reasons for doing it.

The journal’s objectives are clearly explained in the introduction and Mariëlle S. Smith is encouraging and friendly, making it feel you have someone on your side. I was excited to begin. I have the pdf version which can be printed out, but a physical copy is also available. The layout of the journal is clear and being purple, which is my favourite colour, it felt personal even before my stickers and coloured pens came out to personalise it some more.

As the title suggests, it covers 52 weeks and each week begins with a writing quote to motivate you and ends with optional writing prompts and exercises. Recently, I was introduced to general journaling and was amazed at how liberating and revealing it was to free write on topics. This is a superb extension of that. Some prompts will push my boundaries not only in respects to my writing but my emotions around it. For example, the second week deals with fear. Fear is a large part of why I procrastinate, but exploring this helped put it in perspective, silence my inner critic and move forward even if I will need to be reminded about it again and again.

In the first week long-term goals for ten years, five, down to 3 months are set. This made me focus on where I want to be and gave me a boost to get cracking. The journal checks in on these goals every three months for you to reflect on them and see if you are on track or need to adapt. The empathise is that these goals are fluid, which helps relieve some pressure I know as a writer I can put on myself which can end up being of being counterproductive. One failure at hitting a goal can snowball into nothing getting done because of guilt and emotion. The aim of this journal is to keep things realistic.

WOULD I RECOMMEND?

Yes, if you want something to keep your goals, thoughts and plans in place while being urged to explore your writing more. It would suit writers who love journaling. It provides a helping hand to keep things grounded and prevents you being overwhelmed.

Reading Mariëlle S. Smith also has a book on the use of tarot, I need to explore her back catalogue some more.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Mariëlle S. Smith

Mariëlle S. Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, and a writer. Early 2019, she moved to Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, where she organises private writer’s retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count.

Social Media Links –

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/mswordsmith

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mariellessmith/

YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtnYOpjmj83mvMM2L348F1w

Have you used a writing journal? How do you find them, let me know below.

Thank you Rachel’s Random Resources for this advanced copy to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Happy writing!

Love

This review also appears on From Under the Duvet.

All about Books, Meet the Author, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Meet the Author: Amanda Larkman – Witches, Magic and Favourite Books

Recently, I found a book that immersed me into the story from the start with an outspoken, waspish centenarian witch who reluctantly takes a woman under her wing. This is one thing I’m grateful to Facebook for as it kept popping up on my newsfeed making it impossible to resist. Today I am very excited to have The Woman and the Witch’s author Amanda Larkman popping in to to talk about her book, magic, reading and writing tips. My review for her book can be found here.

The Woman and the Witch Blurb

‘I see the wood first. A knitted shawl of green and black tossed across the shoulders of the ancient hills. I take a great gulp of breath, my lungs no longer compressed by cages of contorted bone. I want to drink the cool air like water, scented as it is with earth and starlight.But as I drift close to the house, I falter. Something is wrong. I will myself on, ignoring the whispers of pain beginning to curl up from my bed-ridden body. A ball of dread is growing in my stomach; it is so terribly black and heavy it slows me down. My hands shake. The light is gone.’Nothing ever changes in the village of Witchford until the day a hundred year old, bad-tempered witch falls and breaks her hip, and a fifty year old cleaner decides her life is over. Both are haunted by ghosts, but can Frieda help Angie to find out what her long dead father is trying to tell her? And can Angie help Frieda fight off the wolf who circles ever closer?

The Woman and the Witch https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B086K184T8

Airy Cages and Other Stories https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08KRJYZZT

Meet the Author: Amanda Larkman

Hi Amanda. I am thrilled you could join us today. Your book The Woman and the Witch bring together Frieda a 100 year old witch and Angie, who is in her 50s. They are two very different characters, do you share any of their traits?

I very much identify with Angie. The loss of her child was the way in which I processed the loss of my first son, James, who was stillborn at 42 weeks. But more generally, I wanted to explore a character who had ended up limping along in a marriage that died many years ago. At 50 she has resigned herself to a dull, unloved life that won’t change, her adventures are behind her. Meeting Frieda (as well as her husband’s affair) opens Angie’s eyes to everything she was capable of, getting rid of her self-limiting beliefs.

Frieda is a character I really enjoyed creating, very much based on my grandmother who I looked after for a short time when she was in her mid-90s. Absolutely uncompromising and not interested in pleasing anyone. She was very different to me – I hate upsetting people! – so I had a whale of a time having her go round being rude to people. She’s brave, strong and (despite her outward appearance and behaviour) kind. I hate the way our society overlooks and dismisses elderly people – especially women – and I wanted to explore a character who doesn’t give a stuff about ‘proper’ behaviour, and has the power to back it up, righting the wrongs she sees around her.

Angie is a character I connected to from the start, but she isn’t the young apprentice associated with books where a witch takes someone under her wing. Was this a conscious decision?

Both Frieda and Angie didn’t go down the path they were supposed to. Frieda absolutely rejected the idea of taking on a young apprentice and suffers because of that decision. Because of her father, Angie never discovered what she was capable of until she met Frieda. I supposed I subverted the young apprentice trope as I wanted to celebrate women no matter their age, while passing on and reinforcing the idea that it is never too late. Despite what society tells us, life doesn’t end at 29.

Her story gave me a boost to stop procrastinating and continue to follow my dreams. Frieda is a complex character and not the nicest person making her a joy to read when she gets her revenge however small on people by magical means. What came first the characters or the plot?

Definitely characters. The idea for the book sprang fully formed into my head when I pictured a plumber in a kitchen with a bent over, wizened old woman sitting smiling sweetly in the corner zapping him with invisible darts and making his tools fall to the floor whenever he reached for them. The idea made me laugh and got me wondering what else she could do.

The story deals with magic and ghosts. Have you ever had any supernatural experiences and if so, did this influence your storytelling?

Not really. I think of the magic in the book as being very real. I have read many studies that prove the power of nature, walking in the woods can lower your blood pressure, hugging a tree can help with anxiety… as well, of course, the recognised benefits of herbs and flowers. So. what I did with The Woman and the Witch was to take this to the next level and find a woman who could somehow harness the power and energy of the natural world.

Where did you get the idea for this book?

I think a combination of remembering my grandmother, reading articles on the restorative power of nature, and hitting 50!

What is your favourite book?

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

Who is your favourite author?

Oooh impossible to choose! The ones on my list whose books I automatically order without even knowing what they are about (in no particular order) are… Marian Keyes, Sophie Hannah, Nicci French, Jilly Cooper, Kate Atkinson, Jenny Colgan, Liane Moriarty, Maggie O’Farrell, and Lisa Jewell.

It is a cruel question because it is hard to choose a favourite but some of my go to authors are on your list too. What are you currently reading?

I’m teaching Chaucer at the moment, and the whole pandemic nightmare has meant I am finding reading anything challenging really hard. So, I am currently working through Marian Keyes’ back catalogue (again) and am looking forward to re-reading ‘Rachel’s Holiday’.

Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?

Yes, definitely. I read all the time and have to work hard to not let someone else’s style leak into mine. I think I’ve only just found my voice or style and it took my thirty-five years!

Where is your favourite place to read or write?

Bed! And if my family won’t let me stay there, the kitchen table.

When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?

I’ve got drawers stuffed with terrible novels I’ve written every few years since I was about 15. I’ve spent thirty years sending them out to agents and never had any luck. I felt ‘The Woman and the Witch’ had an important message, so I spent three years making it the best it could be. Most of that time was chucking great chunks of it out and re-writing the damn thing! With a full-time job and two demanding children it was very hard to find the time and I had to be terribly selfish.

When I was finally happy with it (and I was really sick to death with it by the end!) I sent it off to agents again. Most didn’t even reply, but a couple said they liked it but as it was difficult to categorise they didn’t think it would sell well to publishers.

This time instead of giving up I thought ‘sod it, what would Frieda do?’ and decided to publish it independently. I was expecting to sell a handful of copies and for it to sink into obscurity, but people seemed to have liked it and I’ve had some lovely reviews that have sent me over the moon! I am so happy people have enjoyed it as well as being kind enough to come and tell me they liked it.

I loved it as you can see from my review here. Do you reread books or do you only read them once?

Re-read old favourites all the time.

Quite a lot of people have decided to write during lockdown. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I can only say what worked for me; everyone is different, so it’s all about finding what works for you. Marian Keyes has put together a series on becoming a writer on YouTube and its brilliant and FREE!

  1. Write every day – I aim for 1,000 but sometimes life gets in the way. But it does get you into the groove. Even if putting a word down feels like climbing a mountain, just keep putting one foot (or word) in front of another. Eventually the brakes will come off and you’ll write a great whoosh of thousands that will tumble out of you. The next day you might be back to one word every ten minutes, but the whoosh will come back.
  2. Get a first draft down. Even if it’s utter rubbish, get the draft down. It’s much easier to work on a rubbish draft than it is a blank page.
  3. Don’t let anyone see it until you finish it. You need to get what is in your head down first and then tweak it. People will interfere and make you lose confidence, which is death to anything creative. Wait until your draft is pretty solid before exposing it to the cold eyes of a beta reader!

I agree with Marian Keyes series, it is wonderful and she is so open and natural in her approach. It can be found here for those wanting to give writing a try or need some advice.

Thank you Amanda for joining me today, it has been great chatting to you and I hope to read some more of your work in the future.

Author Biography

Author Amanda Larkman

Amanda Larkman was born in a hospital as it was being bombed during a revolution. The rest of her upbringing, in the countryside of Kent, has been relatively peaceful.

She graduated with an English degree and has taught English for over twenty years. ‘The Woman and the Witch’ is her first novel.

Hobbies include trying to find the perfect way to make popcorn, watching her mad labradoodle run like a galloping horse, and reading brilliant novels that make her feel bitter and jealous.

She has a husband and two teenage children, all of whom are far nicer than the characters in her book.

Social Media links

Twitter https://twitter.com/MiddleageWar

Website https://middle-agedwarrior.com/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/amanda_larkman/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MiddleageWar/

Have you read Amanda’s book? Do you have any writing tips? I would love to know your thoughts below.

Take care and stay safe.

Love

The Woman and the Witch revi
All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: The Woman and the Witch by Amanda Larkman

One of the most popular books borrowed from The Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf is The Woman and the Witch by Amanda Larkman so I am pleased to share my review. Scroll down to see why it is so popular.

Book Review: The Woman and the Witch by Amanda Larkman

Book cover for The Woman and the Witch by Amanda Larkman

Title: The Woman and the Witch

Author: Amanda Larkman

Genre: Women’s fiction, fantasy

Publisher: Indie

Release date: 30th March 2020

Blurb

‘I see the wood first. A knitted shawl of green and black tossed across the shoulders of the ancient hills. I take a great gulp of breath, my lungs no longer compressed by cages of contorted bone. I want to drink the cool air like water, scented as it is with earth and starlight.But as I drift close to the house, I falter. Something is wrong. I will myself on, ignoring the whispers of pain beginning to curl up from my bed-ridden body. A ball of dread is growing in my stomach; it is so terribly black and heavy it slows me down. My hands shake. The light is gone.’Nothing ever changes in the village of Witchford until the day a hundred year old, bad-tempered witch falls and breaks her hip, and a fifty year old cleaner decides her life is over. Both are haunted by ghosts, but can Frieda help Angie to find out what her long dead father is trying to tell her? And can Angie help Frieda fight off the wolf who circles ever closer?

Purchase links

The Woman and the Witch https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B086K184T8

Airy Cages and Other Stories https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08KRJYZZT

My Thoughts

I discovered this book when it popped up on my Facebook newsfeed and the title drew me in. As many of you know, I cannot resist witch related fiction, and this book did not disappoint. Behind the quiet cover hides a powerful book with strong characters who jumped off the page into my heart. The protagonists, Frieda and Angie are polar opposites, and unlike some dual point of view books, I loved them both dearly and wanted to read both of their stories rather than favour one. This added to the enjoyment of the novel.

 Frieda is a hundred-year-old witch who is feeling her age and the darkness that is forcing its way in. Her waspish demeanour reminded me of a lady I cared for and loved when I worked in the nursing home. She did not suffer fools gladly, and you felt privileged if she let it slip she liked you. I could easily imagine she would have cast spells in revenge of maltreatment or a bad cup of tea if she could, which added to my enjoyment of Frieda’s antics. It was refreshing not to read about nice, sweet old ladies often depicted in fiction. The novel slips into the past to show her use of power to manipulate, her love of partying in the highly visual era just after the war, and her run in with evil. She is a character I secretly would like to be when I age.

Angie’s life is not happening how she planned and is limping from day to day in her 30-year-old marriage, but this is turned on its head when she meets Frieda and her house. The house is a character of its own and a place I’d like to explore. The combination of the chemistry between unlikely duo, the imaginative magic threaded throughout and the increased tension when Frieda’s past gets closer made this an emotional and thrill to read.

Would I recommend?

This novel has everything I want in a book – witches, ghosts, love and suspense and is one for my forever shelf. I can see why it is highly recommended by Willow and the Enchanted Emporium. I can’t wait to read Amanda Larkman’s other book of short stories and what she releases next.

Watch this space for my chat with Amanda Larkman later this week.

Author Biography

Author Amanda Larkman

Amanda Larkman was born in a hospital as it was being bombed during a revolution. The rest of her upbringing, in the countryside of Kent, has been relatively peaceful.

She graduated with an English degree and has taught English for over twenty years. ‘The Woman and the Witch’ is her first novel.

Hobbies include trying to find the perfect way to make popcorn, watching her mad labradoodle run like a galloping horse, and reading brilliant novels that make her feel bitter and jealous.

She has a husband and two teenage children, all of whom are far nicer than the characters in her book.

Social Media links

Twitter https://twitter.com/MiddleageWar

Website https://middle-agedwarrior.com/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/amanda_larkman/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MiddleageWar/

Have you read Amanda’s book? I would love to know your thoughts below.

Take care and stay safe.

Love

All about Books, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

#LoveMyLibaryWeek An Enchanted Library

Its Love My Library week so I want to reveal one of The Enchanted Emporium secrets.

An example of a much loved little library

Inspired by the wonderful small free libraries she saw online, Amber dragged out a small cabinet she found in the depths of the Emporium’s stock room into the Witch’s Yard. Her aim was to share recommended books with those with magical leanings to help them learn their craft when funds were low, but it grew to include any book she, Willow or Rosa adored. The only clause they discovered was the book needed a magical or supernatural thread. Without it, the book would leap from the shelf and ricochet across the yard to the nearest puddle, and the cabinet has its own impeccable taste. Rosa tried to sneak in much loved non-magic orientated books with horrifying consequences. I cannot say it that no books were hurt during her experiments. On one occasion a novel burst into flames and no, I will not say the title as it would be cruel to the book and the author. 

The cabinet is possessive over an illustrated copy of A Christmas Carol, allowing only some to borrow to take it away. There have been reports of the book placing itself on top of the borrowers reading pile and appearing near them and nudging them if ignored. Once read, it finds its own way home. Borrowing it has become a badge of honour; not only because of the worthiness of the person but who has the nerve to live with such an impatient novel. 

It’s favourites are those by Alice Hoffman including Magic Lessons, The Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow, The Castle Clair witch series by Sharon Booth, and Beltane by Alys West.

Books for all age groups are welcome. The other day a young child added Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson, and the cabinet’s sigh of happiness drifted into the store for all to hear. If you have read or watched the film, I’m sure you would understand why. 

Over time, I will share reviews of some books it has on the shelves. Some of these include The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, The Woman and the Witch by Amanda Larkman, Threadneedle by Cari Thomas and The Ultimate Guide to the Witch’s Wheel of the Year by Anjou Kiernan. And I’d love your recommendations of books you love, and you think would impress this small witch library and Black Cat who guards it. 

Take care of yourself and love your library. Happy writing, reading, and stay safe!

Love

P.S Thank you A Little Book Problem for your help this week.