All about Books, Book review

Book Review: The Nightmare Tree by Paul O’Neill

It’s been a while since I have read a horror book, but with Halloween galloping closer, I was excited to be invited to the blog tour for The Nightmare Tree by Paul O’Neill. With a tag line ‘ Somewhere between Iain Banks and Stephen King’, I had high expectations. Scroll down to see if it exceeded them.

Book Review: The Nightmare Tree by Paul O’Neill

The Nightmare Tree by Paul O’Neill

Title: The Nightmare Tree

Author: Paul O’Neill

Publisher:

Genre: Horror, short stories

Release Date: 10th September 2021

Purchase: Amazon

Blurb

‘Somewhere between Iain Banks and Stephen King’

The debut short story collection from a fresh new voice. Thirteen tales of horror and suspense. In the forgotten places of Scotland, terror awaits.

‘Intriguing and heartfelt’

Contains the chilling stories: The Great Slime Kings – Three’s a Crowd – The Summer Bullet – The Only Emperor – Down Below is Silence and Darkness – Guardians – In a Jar of Spiders – We the Dark Deniers – Blocks – Nightmare Soup – The Dumps – Once Upon a Flame – The Nightmare Tree (novella).

Dare you stand before the Nightmare Tree and make your wish?

‘Oh my God!’

‘Powerful

My Thoughts

I’m very glad this was a collection of short stories and not a full length novel – I do not think my nerves will have coped. Whoever quoted the tagline was not lying; while I haven’t read any Iain Banks novels this collection was very classic Stephen King-esque without the excess waffle. These compact stories make every word count and were on the edge of being too horrifying for me which is an excellent sign for horror writing especially when this wasn’t because of over the top violence or goriness.

The power of these stories is the ability to tap into the reader’s imagination and allow it to fill in the gaps of the unsaid. I found myself trapped in the scenarios and nightmares on the page.  Paul O’Neill has the ability to transform the ordinary into something disturbing and horrifying. From his descriptions of the swamp in The Great Slime Kings, snow drifts in The Only Emperor, and the leaves slamming on the window panes in The Nightmare Tree, the effects of these stories will linger and unnerve me for a long time to come. Especially on damp nights when I have to venture outside to bring Nigel, our Jack Russell, in when he finds a toad.

Would I recommend?

If you love horror, give it ago but be warned, it made me sleep with the light one and despite immersing myself into festive books, my nerves haven’t recovered. They hit the spot in tension, fear and lingering chills.

Author Biography

Photo of Paul O'Neill Author
Paul O’Neill

Paul is a short story writer from Scotland.

He is a PR / Internal Communications professional who tries not to let the horror of corporate-speak seep into his stories. |

His stories have appeared in Scare Street’s Night Terrors series, Purple Wall Stories, and Fae Corps Press’ Nightmare Whispers anthology, with an upcoming story in Eerie River Publishing’s It Calls from the Doors anthology.

You can find him sharing his love of short stories on twitter @PaulOn1984. 

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

What are your favourite horror books? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: All Things Hidden by Caroline O’Donoghue

It’s the run up to Halloween so I am pleased to share a witchy book to add to your Halloween reading list, All Things Hidden by Caroline O’Donaghue.

Book Review: All Things Hidden by Caroline O’Donoghue

All Things Hidden by Caroline O’Donoghue Book Cover

Title: All Things Hidden

Author: Caroline O’Donoghue

Publisher: Walker Books

Genre: YA fantasy, witch lit

Release date: 21st July 2021

Blurb

I’ll give up the tarot readings. I’ll apologize to Lily. 

But Lily doesn’t come to school on Monday. Or Tuesday. It’s not until Wednesday that the police show up. 

Maeve Chambers doesn’t have much going for her. Not only does she feel like the sole idiot in a family of geniuses, she managed to drive away her best friend Lily a year ago. But when she finds a pack of dusty old tarot cards at school, and begins to give scarily accurate readings to the girls in her class, she realizes she’s found her gift at last. Things are looking up – until she discovers a strange card in the deck that definitely shouldn’t be there. And two days after she convinces her ex-best friend to have a reading, Lily disappears.

Can Maeve, her new friend Fiona and Lily’s brother Roe find her? And will their special talents be enough to bring Lily back, before she’s gone for good?

My Thoughts

I heard about this book via a friend who knows I have an interest in tarot. The blurb caught my attention. Overall, I enjoyed it. The beginning is slower paced and sets the scene, but by the middle I was as captivated as I hoped to be and couldn’t put it down. I needed to know where Lilly was and how Maeve would make things right, or if she could.

I loved how tarot and the card meanings were blended into the tale, but it was the author’s use of magic and witchcraft to delve into the world of homophobia, racism and privilege that made me love this story. It revealed parts of Irish culture I never knew about, as well as exploring the undercurrents and tension we see all over the world.

Maeve is a hard character to like, never mind love with her sense of privilege, outspoken and bratty nature. The cards force her to study her behaviour and see the hurtful consequences of her actions. It is a coming of age story and I would love to read more about what happens next. There is so much more to discover and I felt it was setting up to be a sequel with some threads left dangling.

Lilly is an unseen constant in the book, and you only hear Maeve’s voice and view of what happened. I would love to see Lilly’s viewpoint too because she sounds like she has so much to say.

Would you recommend?

If you love of folklore, tarot or witchcraft, this is a YA novel to try. The gentle pacing at the beginning explodes with excitement at the midpoint. It explores gender, bullying and extremism bundled into a magical tale. The eeriness of this novel reminded me of The Changover by Margaret Mahy, which was the book that introduced me to supernatural and fantasy genre as a teenager. Like that one, I will not forget this novel and I now have a new author to follow.

This would be a popular book on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf especially with the younger witches.

Love

All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: The Lighthouse Witches by C.J Cooke

I am so excited to share my review for The Lighthouse Witches by C.J Cooke on the run up to Halloween. I adore books seeped in the history of witches and this book promised just that and with a dark, menacing but beautiful cover, I just had to read. Scroll down to see if it met my expectations.

Book Review: The Lighthouse Witches by C.J Cooke

The Lighthouse Witches by C.J Cooke

Title: The Lighthouse Witches

Author: C.J Cooke

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: witchlit, supernatural, gothic

Release Date: 30th September 2021

Blurb

The brand-new chilling gothic thriller from the bestselling author . . .

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse. A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms. Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation.

Coincidence? Or curse? Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left. Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .

But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

My Thoughts

The Lighthouse Witches is a deliciously dark tale based on an isolated island in Scotland which automatically adds to the gothic atmosphere. The descriptions of the lighthouse’s interior gave it an ideal setting for an unnerving, fear based reading experience. Told by several narrators including an ancient grimoire it follows Luna who has to return to the island to discover what happened in 1998 when her mother and sisters disappeared but she is not as welcome to the close-knit community as she expected adding to the mystery and tension. With links to the 17th century Scottish witch trails, it grabbed my attention and did not release me until the end, but even then I keep finding myself lured back into thinking about it.

Midway I questioned how dark it was going to go and whether I needed to grab a cushion to hide behind, but it made me use my imagination for the darker moments which may have made things worse. The tension grew towards an unexpected and satisfying conclusion.

Would I recommend?

Yes. With strong female characters, many twists and turns and unique location this is one of my favourite books of the year and a perfect Halloween read.

As a page turner and with strong witch connections, this is a firm favourite on The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf and loved by both Willow and Amber.

Author Biography

Photo of author C.J Cooke
Author C.J Cooke

C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications written under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Her work has been published in twentythree languages to date. Born in Belfast, C.J. has a PhD in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. C.J. Cooke lives in Glasgow with her husband and four children. She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival.

Other blogs on this tour

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Love

All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: Whispers of the Runes by Christina Courtenay

Today, I’m excited to share my review for a romantic time-slip novel, Whispers of the Runes by Christina Courtenay. Firstly, I was attracted to this by the title as I love runes and wondered how they would be incorporated into a story and secondly the time slip to the times of the Vikings. Ever since, I visited York as a child I have been fascinated by the era.

Book Review: Whispers of Runes by Christina Courtenay

Whispers of the Runes by Christina Courtney

Title: Whispers of the Runes

Author: Christina Courtenay

Publisher: Headline

Genre: Time slip, romance

Release date: 24th June 2021

Blurb

Time is no barrier for a love that is destined to be.

She couldn’t be sure that she had travelled through time … but deep down she just knew.

And her only way back had just disappeared.

When jewellery designer Sara Mattsson is propelled back to the ninth century, after cutting herself on a Viking knife she uncovers at an archaeological dig, she is quick to accept what has happened to her. For this is not the first Sara has heard of time travel.

Although acutely aware of the danger she faces when she loses the knife – and with it her way to return to her own time – this is also the opportunity of a lifetime. What better way to add authenticity to the Viking and Anglo-Saxon motifs used in her designs?

As luck has it, the first person Sara encounters is Rurik Eskilsson, a fellow silversmith, who is also no stranger to the concept of time travel. Agreeing that Sara can accompany him to Jorvik, they embark on a journey even more perilous than one through time. But Fate has brought these two kindred spirits together across the ages for a reason…

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whispers-Runes-enthralling-romantic-timeslip-ebook/dp/B08L6535FJ/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Whispers-Runes-enthralling-romantic-timeslip-ebook/dp/B08L6535FJ/

My Thoughts

This is the first book I have read from Christina Courtenay, though I have others waiting patiently on my Kindle which I need to catch up on. I loved it and though it is the third in the Runes series; it works well as a standalone. This highly readable romantic novel follows a modern silversmith, Sara, when she slips into the 9th century thanks to an ancient sword. I quickly connected to her when she meets a shipwrecked Viking, Rurik. Unlike the traditional stereotypical Viking we all expect, he is chivalrous, kind and unphased by her time travelling because he has met a wanderer before in a previous book. I loved this twist because it meant Sara did not have to pretend to be someone she wasn’t, increasing the speed of the story. Rurik is also a silversmith, giving the characters a common thread to discuss and allow the chemistry between them build. He really is a Viking everyone could fall in love with.

As like all time travellers, Sara is faced with dangers from others but this tension is balanced with the everyday life of the Vikings. The highly detailed descriptions of this gave the novel depth and was able to transport me to the tents in the camps immersed in the smells and chat. Unlike some well researched historical fiction the details are perfectly blended with the storytelling and were never a distraction but made it a joy to read.

I can’t wait to be able to nudge the other books in the series up my TBR pile and catch up with the series.

Would I recommend?

Yes, it is a perfect summer read with the perfect gentle hero to fall in love with, set in interesting times and locations. Living on near the East Coast of Yorkshire, I can’t help love books even more if they are located in places nearby, this novel is no different and makes me long for when I can get to York again.

The magic in the Runes series may be subtle but with swords that allow time travel, this novel has a well-deserved place on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf and will be popular with many witchy and non-witchy customers of The Enchanted Emporium.

Author Biography

Christina Courtenay

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014).  Whispers of the Runes (time travel published by Headline 24th June 2021) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.christinacourtenay.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christinacourtenayauthor?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PiaCCourtenay

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

Giveaway to Win a signed copy of Whispers of the Runes plus a pair of silver Viking style earrings  (Open INT)*

Click here to enter

Giveaway prizes

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

Happy reading and good luck!

Love

Other blogs on this tour

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

All about Books, Book review, The Enchanted Emporium's Bookshelf

Book Review: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Finally, it is my turn to review Threadneedle by Cari Thomas and take part in this magical blog tour with Random Things Tour. For those who regularly follow my blow, you know much I love magic and witchcraft fiction so I could not resist the invite to read this advanced copy when I read the blurb. Scroll down to see if it met my expectations.

Book Review: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas

Title: Threadneedle

Author: Cari Thomas

Publisher: Voyager

Genre: YA fantasy, witchlit

Release date: 27th May 2021

Blurb

Anna’s aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences. Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever. Until she meets Effie and Attis. They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revellers lose themselves in a haze of spells. But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her aunt was right all along. Is her magic a gift…or a curse? Told through spells created with knots and threads, this is a story that is both innovative and based in traditional witchcraft.

My Thoughts

Where do I start? The physical copy of this book is a joy to hold with its red edges and stunning, vibrant cover. On opening, there is map and I’m a sucker for maps in books, they lure you into a story and add to the excitement of discovering the setting. It adds to the promise that there is a treat inside, and this novel doesn’t fail to deliver. It left me with a crushing book hangover for days.

Threadneedle is intense with a background tension which builds up to a crescendo of a climax that I would never have guessed, despite all the clues cleverly threaded throughout. It’s beautiful, and dark with impressive magical world building blended into reality. The depth and multi-layering means it could easily reread* and allow the reader to discover more about the characters and setting. Some of the imagery of the magic and punishments endured is so powerful it made me believe the book was created by magic itself. It is immersive so I felt Anna’s emotions – her confusion and pain while living with her controlling Aunt and her wonderment at the magic beneath her fingertips and in the locations she visits when she meets Effie. They are deliciously imaginative especially the library for witches and the second-hand shop. Part school drama, it is reminiscent of Heathers, The Craft and Stephen King’s Carrie but has an original feel. The characters are unique, memorable and made me think they were real while reading and beyond.

I love witch and magic themed books but this one is worlds ahead of the best. It has left me reeling in shock and in awe. It left me wanting to read more and I can’t wait to read more from this author. Not since the first reading of Deathly Hallows in the midst of Harry Potter mania has a book hit the spot like this. In fact, forget Hogworts I want to go on a tour of the Threadneedle locations.

Would I recommend?

Yes, it has become one of my favourite books and I know it will be  on permanent  loan from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf by young and old customers. If you love witchlit, magic or a good YA fantasy this is a must to try. I long to be with fellow book lovers to talk about this for hours. It’s that type of book you don’t want to keep to yourself deserves to be loved, unravelled, discussed and then reread. *I have read it twice but also listening to it on Audible.

Author Biography:

Cari Thomas

Cari Thomas has always loved magic, inspired by her upbringing among the woods and myths of Wales’
Wye Valley. She studied English and Creative Writing at Warwick University and Magazine Journalism at
The Cardiff School of Journalism. Her first job was at teen Sugar magazine where she ran the book club and
quickly realized she wanted to be the one writing the books instead. She went on to work at a creative
agency, spending her spare time researching magic and accumulating an unusual collection of occult books.
She wrote her debut novel Threadneedle while living in London, wandering the city and weaving it with
all the magic she wished it contained. She now lives in Bristol with her husband and son, who bears the
appropriately Celtic name of Taliesin.

A note from Cari Thomas:


I remember the old family stories about my Great Aunt Mary. A fiercely independent,
enigmatic woman who was said to be a witch. Perhaps it was these early stories
seeping into my subconscious, perhaps it was devouring The Worst Witch, or growing
up in rural Wales surrounded by myth and fairy tales, or maybe it was just me, but
from a young age I developed a fascination for all things witches and magic.
But let’s not forget that the witch’s hut always sits outside of the village for a reason.
In my research, I became just as obsessed with magic’s opposite forces – repression,
fear, suspicion and prejudice. After all, if my Great Aunt Mary had been alive a few
centuries earlier she may well have been burnt at the stake.


Witch hunts became an area of fascination for me and the more I read the more outraged I became – how powerful, outspoken women and men, or people of the pagan faith, or simply outsiders, have
time and time again been suppressed, silenced and extinguished from society. How the power structure of the day meant that it was near impossible for them to have a voice and to defend themselves.


Why was it such people terrified those in power? Why were we not taught more about this dark period of history? Why did the themes feel like they still resonated so strongly today?
I explore these tensions in Threadneedle- the freedoms of magic set against a fear of witches and feminine power; schoolgirls forced to take on the injustices of the world one spell at a time.
The sheer joy of writing the book came in bringing these tensions into the modern world and particularly into the London setting we think we know.


Ultimately, this is where the heart of the story lies: in feminine power and sisterhood. It brings together an unlikely set of outsiders, who together must navigate their way through the light and dark of being a young woman in today’s world. A world that is more complex than ever and yet still plagued by many of the same issues that my Great Aunt Mary would have faced, and all the witches who came before her.

Happy reading and writing!

Love

Other blogs on this tour