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

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

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, Dystonia Around the World Challenge, flash fiction, Short story, Uncategorized, Writing journey

Flash fiction for #DystoniaAroundThe World: The Priest Hole

Yesterday night, I limped over the 200 miles of writing milestone so I am sharing with you, The Priest Hole, the first tale from Mexenby Hall. It’s publication is much later than I imagined but dystonia is predictably unpredictable and I should have realised as soon as I pledged to write 1000 miles the #DystoniaAroundTheWorld challenge it would fight back in the worst way by affecting my vision. Days have been lost but like all travellers on an epic adventure, I am just moving forwards one step at a time.

Flash Fiction: The Priest Hole by Kate Kenzie

 

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Darkness cloaked the narrow passageway. The small candle’s flame flickered with every exhalation and cast little light as Nell gingerly eased herself towards the steep spiralling steps. Her worn uniform and thin borrowed shawl offered little protection against the bitter cold emanating from the damp stone walls.

The privilege Nell felt earlier when summoned to the Great Hall and took into the Lady’s confidence after only a few weeks of employment seeped away as the walls constricted and the rising stench of unemptied chamber pots forced her to question her easy compliance. The Lady hid her true faith well. Any rumours rippling through the staff of clandestine visits from the cast out priest were quickly stamped on by the sharp tongue or slap from Cook and the staff’s forced attendance to the dreary church service every Sunday while the Lady stood in the family pew crushed any lingering doubts. Nell never guessed until she heard the simple request and now she wanted to return to the warm wood panelled room with the crackling fire she lit earlier to retract her agreement, but the clunk of the entrance closing sealed her fate.

Clutching her bundle close to her pounding chest, she swallowed down the wave of nausea, licked her dry lips, and rolled back her shoulders; she could do this and stepped down into the abyss. The twisting staircase plummeted into the depths of the property and she wondered whether the priest had traded the raging flames of Hell he feared for an icy, stagnant equivalent. A hacking cough echoed upwards. She froze and listened. Would the sound penetrate the thick walls of Mexenby Hall and alert the visitors to his presence? Would it lead to his violent demise? And hers? She made the sign of the cross with the candle and prayed. It remained silent except for a shuffling below. He was close. Nell hastened her descent: the sooner she delivered the bundle, the sooner her role as a small cog in the bigger machine would be complete and she could retreat to safety.

The dancing flame illuminated the bare and compact room. A dark shape rose from the corner, uncurling itself to reveal a bent figure hidden beneath a thick cloak. A hand clawed with arthritis beckoned her over. Fear grabbed Nell and the words announcing the arrival of food caught in her constricted throat. She wanted to flee, scramble up the way she came but her feet refused to comply. A cold draft wrapped itself around her ankles, shackling her to the ground as the figure approached.

“Come child,” it crooned. The voice was smooth and mesmerising. “You have nothing to fear. Not you.”

The hand grasped hers. Nell pulled, but the hand clenched hers tighter into a vice grip.  Nell’s eyes widened; the hood flung back,  revealing an elderly woman whose mass of white hair was braided into a long tail, and her blue eyes pierced deep into Nell’s soul, pinning her into place. A searing heat radiated up her arm. The bundle fell to the floor, unravelling, sending small loaf and apple rolling into a puddle. The scurry of small feet told her it had not gone unnoticed, but Nell could not take her eyes off the woman before her. The Old Crone of Mexenby. A legend of nightmares and fairy tales. A toothless smile emerged from the folds of the wrinkled face.

“It’s true. They don’t lie, even when the truth feels impossible. They don’t lie. You are the one. The one that can save us all.”

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You can find out more about the dystonia challenge to raise awareness for dystonia and keep up to date on my progress here. Here is to the next 100 miles and hopefully I will be a step closer to reaching my target of £250.

Happy writing and stay safe!

Love

just Kate

Dystonia UK: https://www.dystonia.org.uk/

My fundraising page: https://www.dystoniaaroundtheworld.org/fundraiser/katekenzie

My team’s progress: https://www.dystoniaaroundtheworld.org/fundraisers/dunedystoniauknortheast