All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Once and future witches by Alix E. Harrow

My plan was to shout about this last month as part of the witchy Halloween take over but life had other ideas so I am happy to share my delayed review for Once and Future Witches by Alix. E Harrow.

Book Review: Once and future witches by Alix E. Harrow

Title: Once and future witches

Author: Alix E. Harrow

Publisher: Little Brown Book Group

Genre: Sci-fi and fantasy

Release date: 15th October 2020

Blurb

‘The Once and Future Witches is a gorgeous and thrilling paean to the ferocious power of women’ Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Strange the Dreamer

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the three Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote – and perhaps not even to live – the sisters must delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

Praise for The Once and Future Witches:

‘A brilliant dazzle of a book . . . I devoured it in enormous gulps, and utterly loved it’ Kat Howard, author of The Unkindness of Ghosts

‘Compelling, exhilarating and magical – a must read’ Booklist (starred review)

‘Delightful . . . a tale of women’s battle for equality, of fairy tales twisted into wonderfully witchy spells, of magics both large and small, and history re-imagined’ Louisa Morgan, author of A Secret History of Witches

‘A love letter to folklore and the rebellious women of history’ Publishers Weekly

‘A breathtaking book – brilliant and raw and dark and complicated’ Sarah Gailey, author of Magic for Liars

My Thoughts

This novel blew me away and I’m in awe of the prose, vivid storytelling and unusual, powerful characters. The three Eastwood sisters drew me into their story like the witchcraft they practise and they refused to let me go. Forget sleep, chores and reality, I had to read as long as I could. It is a book for a lazy, indulgent weekends where you have no distractions.

Blending the suffragette movement with women fighting for the vote with a movement to release witching from its shackles so women are empowered is clever, powerful and urges the reader to read more. The characters of the Eastwood sisters are so well developed they leap of the page and the descriptions of location make the story form a movie in the mind. The twists and turns along with the love, anger and hate the sisters encounter as they find their way to Avalon make this book unforgettable.

The conclusion is unexpected but is perfect.

Would I recommend?

Yes, yes, yes. This is my favourite book of the year for its powerful storytelling, unique characters, vivid imagery and theme. If you love books that are different, witchy or highlight the strength of women when challenged this is a must. It would make a fantastic series, but like all things, nothing can beat the insight you gain from the written word; it left me wanting more.

I am grateful to Little Brown Books for the advanced copy so I could give my honest, unbiased opinion. This is one of those books I would have missed if it had not been brought to my attention and the world would have been a little bit greyer without.

Have you read it? I would love to know what you thought, comment below.

Take care and happy reading!

Love

Dystonia Around the World Challenge, Just life, Writing journey

Remember, remember 2020’s November: #DystoniaAroundTheWorld news, writing and RNA DISCO launch

How can we be hurtling towards the second week of November? I had grand plans for individual catch up posts about my fundraising for Dystonia UK, stories and book reviews, but time sped by thanks to the anxious wait for news from America. I don’t think I have felt so wretched waiting for election results. At least here in the UK, we know the results of elections and referendums over our first cup of tea.

But much needed hope has entered 2020 and I’m excited to see what 2021 brings with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Maybe climate change and things that matter will be back on the agenda. The last few days, like the rest of 2020, has been a sharp reminder we are living in historical times and future students will study and analyse our lives in great detail. Their exams will be a nightmare as they struggle to keep up with the quick changing events.

The last four years has brought Brexit, our own government turmoil, and COVID so often I have felt like I have been living in act one of a dystopian novel waiting for the trauma of act 2 to start. Today I feel lighter and more hopeful that act 2 may be kinder than expected. We may even slip into a more uplifting genre.

Books leading to happy ever afters?

So over the next few days there will be a flurry of catch up blogs including news about the Dystonia Around the World challenge, the launch of the Romantic Novelist Association’s DISCO chapter, witchy book reviews and hopefully, an edited short story.

Remembrance Sunday

Today is Remembrance Sunday and a day of reflection. Usually in our village, a crowd gathers to watch the parade of scouts and guides walk to the war memorial for the laying of the wreaths. Today we will watch the reduced proceedings on Facebook live from our own homes or paying our respects our own way, saying thanks to our loved ones and others who fought for peace.

I have little memories of my Grandad who fought in Burma except his wonderful hugs but on days like today, I miss him so much it aches. It also intensifies the grief of others I have lost. I am sure it affects many the same. So I offer you all a big hug, a cyber cup of tea and hope that next year normal life with our loved ones can resume and on days like today, we can stand side by side.

Take care, stay safe and those who are typing away for NaNoWriMo, happy writing.

Love

All about Books, Guest post, Writing journey, Writing process

Guest Post: WORLD BUILDING with Guardian: Recruit author, Catherine Rull

Catherine Rull

Today I am excited to introduce Catherine Rull, the Australian author of paranormal romance, Guardian: Recruit as a guest on my blog. Her book is about guardian angels that watch over a psychiatric facility in London. She’s here for a quick chat to tell us more about world-building, and hitting those word counts.

Hi, Kate. Thanks for having me.

Hello. Shall we get started? Okay, so first up: how did you come up with the world for Guardian: Recruit?

Well, it actually came to me in a dream while I was pregnant in 2008. In my dream, I was driving and saw some small things flying around. When I got out of my car, I realised they were pixies. One of them was someone I knew as a child, but he’d died. And he told me, children’s souls got to grow up but as pixies. When I woke up, I wrote down the idea. But of course pixies aren’t really sexy so I went with angels.

Good choice. Was there anything else from your dream?

No. That was it. The rest, I had to figure out myself.

Well, the world in Guardian: Recruit’s quite fleshed out. Do you have any advice for other paranormal writers?

I think there are probably five things you’ll need to do to build your own world.

  1. Base it on something real. Any novel requires a certain level of world building, regardless of the genre. I think the more you can ground your world in reality, the more believable it is. The setting for Guardian: Recruit is similar to the hospital school where I worked in London. Of course, it wasn’t creepy there at all but that’s the beauty of creating your own world. You add your imagination to the mix and hopefully create something vivid and realistic for your readers.
  2. Research. Researching different aspects of your story (eg. your character’s job; angels from different cultures) often leads to more ideas for your books.
  3. The new character. Another important tool in world building is to have a character who is new to the world. This allows you to explain some of the rules of the world to the reader in a more organic way. You see this all the time, including in Harry Potter. As someone who didn’t know he was a wizard, Harry had to be taught the way the wizarding world works and the reader learns about it with him.
  4. Layering. If you have the time, I suggest editing the book with some breaks in between. This allows you to notice things you may not have realised before, or come up with new ideas to add to your world. This gives the book its many layers.
  5. Series Bible. It’s important to keep track of the rules you’ve set for your world. I keep a “Series Bible” for all my books (not just the paranormal ones) to ensure continuity.

Thanks, Catherine. That’s a handy list. Did it take you long to write Guardian: Recruit?

I wrote about five pages in 2008. Then, in 2014, I picked it up again and set myself 800-words minimum a day until it was finished. And it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, I would fall asleep at my laptop trying to hit my word count for the day and I would wake up to find a row of “bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb” where my hand rested while I was sleeping. But then I’d wake myself up and keep going till I reached that word count. There were times when I felt like what I was writing was absolutely terrible, but when it was time to edit, those parts were never as bad as I thought. Sometimes, they were actually quite good! Either way, it’s better to edit bad writing than to have a blank page.

I completed the first draft of Guardian: Recruit in about 8 weeks, and then I edited it lots of times. I’m a “pantser”—that means I like to write “by the seat of my pants”. I find that this gives me space to surprise myself. I personally find plotting very restrictive. “Pantsing” allows the characters the freedom to get themselves into trouble, instead of me plotting their challenges 😊

Anyway, after writing the first draft, I print out my manuscripts to edit on paper, input the changes to the digital copy, edit on the laptop and print again. I usually edit books between five to ten times in this way. But I editing is all part of making a tight story and a clean manuscript. In 2015, Guardian: Recruit was shortlisted in the UK’s Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition.

That’s great. Congratulations!

Thanks.

So, do you already have other books lined up after Guardian: Recruit?

Yes. I’ve already written Book 2 of the Guardian Series and have the basic premise for the third book. I think the sequel will come out some time in 2021. I am currently working on other projects as well—some sequels to the chick lit and rom com that have already come out this year: The Fat Chicks’ Club Series and my Swim Bike Run Series.

You sound very busy. Do you have a set routine or favourite drink while you’re writing?

Not so much a routine. Like most writers, I have a day job. Plus, I have young children so I fit my writing around my other responsibilities. However, before the lockdowns, I sometimes used to go to my local library to get away from the distractions at home. That was usually when I needed to write or edit something in time for a competition or a submission to an agent or editor.

As for a favourite drink. I’m a big kid, so I like cold drinks like bubble tea and frozen Cokes. I like to keep it fun. Writing brings me so much joy, and I hope my readers feel that in my stories. You know, even though Guardian: Recruit has a seemingly sombre premise, you’ll find there’s a lot of humour in it as well. I don’t think I’d like to write anything too sad or depressing—I like my characters to have a sense of humour. It’s important to be able to laugh at life.

That’s good advice. Well, all the best with all those projects!

Guardian: Recruit is the first book in the Guardian Series. It’s available in ebook and paperback from Amazon, Book Depository and Barnes & Noble.

Social media contacts

website: www.catherinerull.com

Facebook: Catherine Rull (novelist): https://www.facebook.com/CatherineRullnovelist

Twitter: @catherinerull13

Instagram: @catherine.rull 

Thanks again Catherine, and I can’t wait to read your book. We are heading into November and NaNoWriMo so let me know if you are joining in and have any other word building tips.

Happy writing and stay safe!

Love

All about Books

Guest post: Lizzie Chantree and Networking for Writers

Today, I am excited to pass my blog over to best-selling author, Lizzie Chantree to discuss her new book for writers – Networking for Writers: A Fun Way to Sell Books which one day I hope to need. Over to Lizzie.

Networking for Writers by Lizzie Chantree

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your wonderful blog today, Kate.

Hello everyone. My name is Lizzie Chantree and I am a romance author. I write books about sassy entrepreneurs who are always up to mischief and find friendship and love along the way. I have been lucky enough for them all to become international bestsellers in various categories, including hitting the #1 spot more than once with my book, If you love me, I’m yours.

I have just written my first non-fiction book, Networking for writers, in the hope of helping writers who are looking for a little guidance about branding, marketing, events, seminars, mentorship, social media, finding a wider readership and more. Networking is about being social, but it is also about structure, discipline and focus. In my book I offer insight into the tools I use to stay productive, find creative time and to have room left to step away from work and give myself space to breathe and let creativity blossom. Have a great day everyone and if my book does help you on your writing journey, I’d love to hear from you!

Networking for writers. Samm doc. By Lizzie Chantree

Title: Networking for Writers: A Fun Way to Sell Books

Author: Lizzie Chantree

Genre: Non-fiction

Release Date: 29th October 2020

Blurb

Are you swamped with book marketing and looking for a way to find new sales? Learn simple and effective networking techniques, to grow your readership and connect with other authors and book lovers, today!

Whether you are a new or experienced writer, self-published or traditionally published, this book will show you how to grow your readership and author network, through some of the most powerful of all marketing tools – word of mouth and recommendation.

This book will show you:

How networking can help you sell more books.

Why author branding is important.

How networking hours work.

Specific Facebook groups for writers

How to utilise social media to grow your readership.

How not to waste valuable writing time.

How to make our marketing more effective.

Throughout Networking for Writers, we will explore running or attending book signings, hosting seminars, finding a writing buddy or mentor, author networking groups, social media planning and so much more

Author Biography

Lizzie Chantree. Author photo small
Lizzie Chantree

International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Visit her website at http://www.lizziechantree.com or follow her on Twitter @Lizzie_Chantreehttps://twitter.com/Lizzie_Chantree.

Book links: Lizzie Chantree.

Universal book buy link: Networking for writers: viewbook.at/NetworkingForWriters

Universal book buy link: If you love me, I’m yours: viewbook.at/IfYouLoveMe-ImYours

Universal book buy link: Ninja School Mum: viewBook.at/NinjaSchoolMum

Universal book buy link: Babe Driven: viewbook.at/BabeDriven

Universal book buy link: Love’s Child: viewBook.at/Amazon-LovesChild

Universal book buy link: Finding Gina: viewbook.at/FindingGina

Social media links:

Website: www.lizziechantree.com

Author page: https://www.viewAuthor.at/LizzieChantree

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lizzie_Chantree

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7391757.Lizzie_Chantree

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/LizzieChantree/pins/

FB Groups: https://www.facebook.com/groups/647115202160536/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lizzie-chantree

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lizzie-chantree-03006425/

Email signature Flat covers. Lizzie Chantree

Thanks Lizzie for popping over and sharing your book details. It will hopefully arrive on my Kindle at midnight.

Happy Writing!

Love

just Kate

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