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

All about Books, Just life, Writing journey

Hello September or Where the heck did Summer go?

It’s September already, another month has gone by without a peep from me on here; I still haven’t told you all about the RNA conference and there was much I could say. My plan was to blog about it while there or at least, give a round up the following week but nope – life had different ideas. My draft box was checked in the hope I could redeem myself by sharing one I had not finished but all that came up was this:

 

Summary of RNA conference

 

It is not quite the detail I had planned but it sums it up. It was an amazing weekend. I highly recommend it to all romance writers; the knowledge, support from speakers, authors and fellow newbies and the friendships made are priceless. The one to one appointments I had with the two agents and editor boosted my confidence, helped mould my proposed ending of A Blend of Magic into something more fitting and encouraged me to keep writing.

I met authors of books I have read and loved, all were lovely and encouraging including magical Jenni Keer and Sarah Painter, and the wonderful Dorothy Koomson. It was hard not to be starstruck when Katie Fforde talked to me, never mind when she bought me and friends a drink.

I also met fellow writers and bloggers I talk to online and they are all as lovely in person as they appear behind the computer screen. Watch this space for when they finish their books and their talent will be available for all to read. They include Kate Baker (https://violableu.com) , Emma Wilson (https://www.glasshousemagazine.com) , Jenny Kennedy (https://jekennedy.co.uk), Sandra Forder and Julie Morris (https://alittlebookproblem.co.uk).

Excuses, Excuses

My excuse for not being active blogging is I have been juggling having my in-laws to stay, frantically writing my manuscript to meet the New Writers Scheme deadline and dystonia flares and fatigue. Dystonia was always going to fight back and  I’m grateful it waited as long as it did.

I only submitted a partial rather than full manuscript to be critiqued by readers for the RNA. My in-laws were supportive at the beginning of their month long holiday but they soon became bored of seeing me type, dream or talk about my fiction. I am happier with my WIP than before I started to edit/rewrite it but I need to know if I am on the right track or if the magic element too much, too boring or the plot is just blurgh. Their advice will gratefully received however devastating it may be. Meanwhile I’ll keep plodding on with the knowledge that at least 3 people at the conference liked my first couple of chapters.

Books, Bookshops and little Gems

Last month, I read some wonderful books including The Lost Daughter by Sylvia Broady, The Unlikely Occultist by Isobel Blackthorn and the phenomenal The Woman in the Photograph by Stephanie Butland. Their reviews can be found on my book blog From under the Duvet.

I also discovered a wonderful new independent book shop,  The Little Book Emporium  in Driffield, East Yorkshire. This tiny store is full of old and new delights, literary surprises and is dangerous for the budget. Who needs to eat if you can have an unusual book? I have found this gem:

20190901_084246.jpg

And these:

How wonderful and useful will these be for witch research?

Enough rabbiting for now, it is time to write my next chapter while the house is quiet (apart from 3 Jack Russell snores from under the duvet).

Happy writing!

Love

All about Books, Writing journey

The Pigeonhole: A New Reading Experience

I recently signed up to The Pigeonhole, described on the website as a book club in your pocket. It offers a selection of new releases from top publishers and classics. The new Sophie Kinsella book is an option which I am looking forward to if I get chosen to read it.  The books  are released in sections and you read along with other readers. More on how it works can be found here

The Pigeonhole a new reading experience
First stave of The Flower Girls

I saw an advert for it on social media and not only did the blurb of The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts look good, the promise of a free book drew me in.  I am on a strict book budget this year. The more I read about the idea of the business the more I realised it could also help with my aim of reading more classic books. The big tomes, even on Kindle, are daunting but this way the book is broken down into staves or instalments. It reminded me of the Dickensian scenes in The man who invented Christmas where readers eagerly wait for the next part of the story out side the book shop. If it was good enough then, maybe the updated version will be good now.

I started reading The Flower Girls this week and so far I am enjoying the experience. As an insomniac it is exciting to receive the next part at midnight. It adds to the suspense of the thriller because you are left dangling mid story everyday and you are eager to know more. On the flip side, this could be frustrating depending on your outlook but the whole book is available to binge read a month once all the staves have been sent out or those on the read at leisure bookshelf can be read quickly. With crime or suspense novels, I also have a bad habit of reading the last page to discover who did it or who is alive, this curbs that temptation.

Alongside the story, there are options to interact with readers – share opinions of characters or scenes and writing style. I think this will come into its own with the classic books but I am enjoying the Q and A with the author which is also available.

One bonus I was not expecting was that as a procrastinator with words to write, this way of reading increases my productivity because I can not fall into the trap of reading just one more page or chapter. I am reluctant to start new book to read concurrently so it is a win-win situation.

Have you tried it? Let me know your thoughts below.

Love

Discovering Charles Dickens
All about Books, Just life, Writing journey

Discovering Charles Dickens at Christmas

I love A Christmas Carol and part of the joy of the run up to Christmas is reading taking my copy off my forever shelf for its annual read as well as binge watching the movies from Disney’s cartoon starring Jim Carey, the Alastair Sims to the best version The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. This year I had the luck of reading Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye which is a beautiful read and complements the original perfectly. It is a warm, heartbreaking tale but has thread of hope throughout. It will be added to collection to read every year as will the film The Man Who invented Christmas.

Have you seen it?

I love it for the festive and book theme, the era and acting but mainly because it gives a glimpse into the creative mind of Charles Dickens. It tells the tale of how under pressure to produce a book readers will love he produced A Christmas Carol in only six weeks. I am sure it skims over the negative aspects of his personality to produce a high energy fantasy with an insight into the writer’s mind when they suffer writer’s block, find inspiration and how they act when characters appear.

It also shows how he decided to self publish and his battle with plagiarism which are relevant topics for today’s writer.  I wonder what his tweets would say if he was in the situation today.

As many of you know I am lot a great fan of classic books but this and Miss Marley have encouraged me to find out more on this enigmatic man beyond snippets I have picked up along the way – I doubt Dr Who Christmas special from a few years ago is the most reliable source of information. The book the film is based on by Les Standiford is on my TBR for next December and I am also going to  attempt to read at least one Charles Dickens novel next year. Maybe then, I will not feel as much of a dunce at writing group when they discuss literature. Any recommendations would be great.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas

Love

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