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: 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

Book Review for The Illustrated Herbiary
All about Books

Book Review: The Illustrated Herbiary by Maia Toll

 

This beautiful book popped up on my NetGalley dashboard and with my recent interest in herb growing and research for The Journals I was excited to receive a digital copy from Storey Publishing to give an unbiased, honest review.

The Illustrated Herbiary by Maia Toll

 

Book review for The Illustrated Herbiary
The Illustrated Herbiary by Maia Toll

Title: The Illustrated Herbiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Bewitching Botanicals

Author: Maia Toll

Publisher: Storey Publishing

Release Date: 7th August 2018

Genre: Non-fiction, botanical, spirituality

Blurb

Rosemary is for remembrance; sage is for wisdom. The symbolism of plants — whether in the ancient Greek doctrine of signatures or the Victorian secret language of flowers — has fascinated us for centuries. Contemporary herbalist Maia Toll adds her distinctive spin to this tradition with profiles of the mysterious personalities of 36 herbs, fruits, and flowers. Combining a passion for plants with imagery reminiscent of tarot, enticing text offers reflections and rituals to tap into each plant’s power for healing, self-reflection, and everyday guidance. Smaller versions of the illustrations are featured on 36 cards to help guide your thoughts and meditations

My Thoughts

This book was different to what I was expecting in the best possible way. Rather than an encyclopedia of herbs  I thought it would be, it is a reflective look at a selection of plants and their meanings and uses with the view to guide the reader in meditation and life. The illustrations are beautifully vibrant, bold with the distinctive look of tarot cards which complement the easy-to-read text well.  I loved the insight into the meanings of the plants, inspiring quotes, snippets of information and the simple rituals you can slip into your daily routine. It was a pleasure to read as a book but with the additional cards included with the physical copy I am certain the oracle potential will come into its own. I keep returning to my copy; the more I do, the more I see, and the more magical and grounding it is. I feel lucky, Maia Toll has shared some of the knowledge she learnt from her year stay in Ireland with a healer and herbalist. As I look at the plants in my garden and in the Yorkshire countryside I have a greater appreciation and connection to them. Sometimes you read a book and hear the author’s voice in your head urging you to discover more; this is one of them. I was happy to discover her blog so I can do that.

Favourite flower

Book review for The Illustrated Herbiary
Trillium – A plant to be inspired by

My favourite flower and the one that calls to me has to be one I have never heard of, Trillium. With it’s simple flower nestled in the forest floor, it helps the birth of ideas and nurtures them; just what I need in my creativity.  And I will always remember Valerian and her permission to have guilt free afternoon naps.

Would I recommend?

It may not be the in-depth book I was expecting but I long to have a physical copy of this magical, insightful book and the accompanying cards on my bookshelf to delve into for guidance and inspiration. I need this book so they are high on my Christmas wish list, if I can wait that long.

Thank you NetGalley and Storey Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.

Hope you are not sweltering in the summer heat.

Happy reading!

Kate Kenzie's Blog

Ellfaenian Journals, Writing journey

Practical research: Willow’s herbs and garden in June

When I began to develop Willow Anderson, an important character in the journals,  I knew as a  witch and proprietor of The Enchanted Emporium herbs and remedies would play a significant part of her life. What better way to get into her psyche than grow some myself. Last summer I took cuttings from the plants of green-fingered friends and miraculously grew. Elsie and friends must have helped because I have the anti-Midas touch when it comes to gardening. Some are now in bloom.

Flowers blooming in June

Nature and their gardens are important to all the witches in the journals bar one, so what better way to research this aspect of their lives than record the cycle of my own fledgling garden and others on Instagram, please follow #willowswitchsgarden to find out more. Or even better use the hashtag #willowswitchsgarden so we can be nosy and see the wonders in your garden.  June has brought a border of colour.

 

For those who love herbs and their uses, I have found a wonderful site full of useful information  and I was impressed I had accidentally planted many of the recommended herbs – http://www.flyingthehedge.com/2016/05/10-herbs-every-witch-should-have.html

What are your favourite flowers and plants in June? Or if you have any herbs or tips you think Willow should know, I would love to hear from you below.

 

More soon.

Happy writing and gardening!

Love

Kate Kenzie's Blog

 

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