Book Review

The Witch Ways – Helen Slavin

As my friends will take great pleasure in telling you, I am not a fan of horror in any shape or form, but as Halloween approaches, I thought it only fair that I bring you news of a suitably themed (but not too scary) book. As luck would have it, I recently discovered the magical Witch Ways series by Helen Slavin, so today I am here to tell you about not one, but two delightfully magical books.

CROOKED DAYLIGHT (THE WITCH WAYS #1)

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The Way sisters, Anna, Charlie and Emz, were raised in two worlds. Their mother’s realm of reason, measurement and logic, and the world inhabited by their spectacularly unconventional grandmother, Hettie. 

While their mother worked, the sisters ran wild at Hettie’s Cob Cottage, discovering forbidden Pike Lake, unknowable Havoc Wood, and what their grandmother referred to only as ‘The Strengths’.

But time passed, the sisters grew up, work and relationships and their mother’s world won them over, and The Strengths lay forgotten…

That is until Hettie passes away suddenly, leaving behind Cob Cottage and a whole lot of questions.

Anna is busy trying very hard not to cry as she caters yet another wedding, Charlie is spending more time at the job she loves than with the boyfriend she’s not quite sure about and Emz is dreaming up new ways to avoid school and the drama that comes with it, but can they deal with strange guests, unexpected danger and some long-forgotten memories?

REVIEW:

As first books in a series go, this one certainly grabs your attention from the very first page, as the Way sisters make a break from their much loved grandmother’s funeral, with the coffin!

The bond between the three sisters is instantly apparent, and despite their obvious differences, their closeness remains clear throughout the book. With their wildly different personalities, I think every reader will find at least one Way that they can relate to.

Slavin creates a wonderful supporting cast in the form of the townspeople, a warm community reminiscent of old village life, making Woodcastle feel like the kind of place that I would like to live – I particularly enjoyed meeting the ladies of the WI, and the curious Craft Club.

As soon as I finished this book, I knew that I would be moving swiftly on to the second book in the series to find out what happens next to the Witch Ways.

SLOW POISON (THE WITCH WAYS #2)

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“You’re the Ways. The Gamekeepers. You must know.” 

But the problem is they don’t. After being thrust into a life of magic, Anna, Charlie, and Emz have lost their way. They don’t know where they’re supposed to be, what they’re supposed to be doing, or who they’re supposed to trust. Right now, they’re just trying to get by.

Struggling to accept their powers, the sisters are doing all they can to lead a normal life, but with the anniversary of Halloween looming everyone is on edge.

When a stranger arrives on their doorstep, they know a different magic is in the air. The Ways realise they must embrace their Strengths if they have any hope of doing the job Hettie left behind.

With dark magic crackling through the town and leaking into the lives of people they love, the Ways must find themselves before they lose everything. 

REVIEW:

Slow Poison picks up shortly after the conclusion of Crooked Daylight, with the sisters still trying to get to grips with their “Strengths,” when the second of their Gamekeeper guests arrives on the doorstep of Cob Cottage. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each of the sisters a little better in this book, and discovering more about each of their individual gifts.

This book has a darker feel than Crooked Daylight with the arrival of the mysterious Ailith and her severed head, and the sinister Mrs Fyfe to the town of Woodcastle. That said, even as unease and tension drips through the townsfolk, it maintains a distinctly British feel that reminded me of Midsomer Murders (this is a good thing, I LOVE Midsomer!), conjuring up images of picturesque towns with their unique local customs.

Despite the toxic, dark magic taking a hold over the town, there is a wonderful cosiness to Slavin’s writing that draws you in and refuses to let go until you have read the entire book! I think this is largely due to the wonderful Cob Cottage, which has a character all of its own and which, once you are safely tucked away inside will protect you from the evils outside.

I don’t know if Helen Slavin has plans to write more books featuring the Witch Ways, but I for one really hope that she does.

You can find out more about Helen and her books on her website, https://www.helenslavin.com/

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Another Kind of Magic – Cover Reveal

The release date for the final part of the Caitlyn trilogy  by Elizabeth Davies is approaching fast, and I am so excited to be a part of her cover reveal today.

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“I am a cat. But I am no ordinary cat. I am a witch’s familiar. I am also a woman, with a woman’s heart and a woman’s frailty.”

Nearly two hundred years have passed since Caitlyn was trapped by supernatural forces and black magic, and she has known many mistresses. This time, the witch she is enthralled to is Joan, wife of Llewelyn, Prince of Wales.

At first, this mistress appears no different to any of the others Caitlyn has served – until Llewelyn captures William de Braose, and Joan falls in love, risking everything, including Caitlyn, to fulfil her desire.

Caitlyn, meanwhile, has her own cross to bear in the form of the gallant and reckless Hugh of Pembroke…

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to read more about the next stage of Caitlyn’s journey! But before any of us can do that, I need to show you the cover. Are you ready?

Another Kind of Magic eCover

You can pre-order your copy of the book here.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Author Photo Aug 16

Elizabeth Davies is a paranormal author, whose books have a romantic flavour with more than a hint of suspense. And death. There’s usually death…

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Book Review

The Westwood Witches: A Secret Discovered – Sarah Northwood

Some of you might remember that Sarah Northwood recently visited my blog to share a couple of extracts of her psychological thriller, She’s Not Gone (if you missed them, you can catch up here). What you might not know is that the multi-talented Sarah has recently turned her hand to writing Young Adult Fantasy. If this sounds like it might be up your street, read on for all the details.

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Aero trembled as she held the box sealed inside black paper. The dilemma was a difficult one – her mum had told her the box contained secrets she might not be ready for. Once she opened it, there would be no going back… 

Aero has always felt like a misfit and an outsider. Thankfully, having a best friend like Lilly, along with a grandma like Joanna, makes life worth living. But a terrible event tears her world apart, and Aero Westwood is about to discover that her family has more secrets than most.

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REVIEW:

I was hooked on this book from the very first page. Although the world seems awash with books about young witches lately, Sarah Northwood presents a unique spin on the usual tale. The Westwood Witches is a story of witchcraft for the modern era complete with technology, conspiracy theorists and mysterious strangers.

I loved the fact that in terms of navigating the tricky path through school, socially awkward Aero’s problems weren’t instantly solved as soon as she discovered her powers. Her hair is as uncontrollable as ever, and bullies are still bullies.

The Westwood Witches is a tale of magic and mystery that can be enjoyed by everyone from teenagers to grandparents alike. The characters cover all generations of the family, and each have their own very important role to play.

The descriptions of the magical Shadow Realm are just wonderful, and I can’t wait to find out more about it in book two!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Sarah Northwood is a multi-talented author, who not only writes poetry but is a dab hand at writing music too. Her love and passion for poetry is never more prominent than in her first children’s poem book, “Unicorns are real and other cool poems.” More recently Sarah has expanded her interests, and has three further published fiction works for adults. Despite covering the genres; horror, thriller and contemporary fiction, all of her works embrace deep and believable characters that will have you wanting to read more and sometimes cowering for the shadows in fear of what’s to come.

“Growing up in a little town, I was surrounded by animals and a loving family. However I never quite knew what I wanted to be when I was older. I’ve spent most of my working career working in science until a new life beckoned. Now I believe in never growing up! I am a Wife and Mum to two wonderful girls, who rock my world, they inspire me every day. I enjoy writing stories for children and adults. In particular I’m a fan of romance, rhyme, poetry and composing songs. In addition I also work part time at my local school, which I love! I have a trusty companion, Charlie, who is my King Charles spaniel. Wherever my adventures take me, he is by my side.”

 

 

Book Review

Divide and Rule – Rachel McLean

Regular readers will have seen my review of the first book in the Division Bell Trilogy early this month (you can read it here if you missed it) and will know how much I was looking forward to sharing part two with you all. Well, today is that day! Quick warning – anything passed this point WILL contain spoilers for book one if you haven’t read it!

Divide and Rule e-book

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Jennifer Sinclair’s fight to save her political career, her family and her freedom has failed. Traumatised by prison violence, she agrees to transfer to the mysterious British Values Centre.

Rita Gurumurthy has betrayed her country and failed the children in her care. Unlike Jennifer, she has no choice, but finds herself in the centre against her will.

Both women are expected to conform, to prove their loyalty to the state and to betray everything they hold dear. One attempts to comply, while the other rebels. Will either succeed in regaining her freedom?

Divide and Rule is 1984 for the 21st century – a chilling thriller examining the ruthless measures the state will take to ensure obedience, and the impact on two women.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

REVIEW:

It is hard to find the words to describe Divide and Rule without giving too much away about the story. I found it to be quite an unsettling read, I think largely because it didn’t take an awful lot of imagination to picture the state of Britain portrayed in it becoming a reality, although I hope it is one that never comes into existence!

The tactics used at the centre to control the “patients” are shocking, from mind games and public humiliation, to vicious beatings and more, and it is disturbing to read about the lengths the Government is prepared to go to to control people who it sees as dissenters. Rachel McLean’s writing style skilfully weaves an atmosphere of fear and distrust amongst all the Centre’s occupants.

I am probably making this sound like a difficult read, but it is far from it. From the very first page, I found it almost impossible to put down, as I just couldn’t wait to see what was coming next for Jennifer and Rita. Despite the subject matter of the book, there is an underlying sense of warmth between the “patients” at the centre, and this gives an added depth to the story that I didn’t expect.

I am looking forward to reading the final instalment of the trilogy to see what the future holds for Jennifer and the friends she made whilst in the centre.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

rachel mclean

I’m Rachel McLean and I write thrillers and speculative fiction.

I’m told that the world wants upbeat, cheerful stories – well, I’m sorry but I can’t help. My stories have an uncanny habit of predicting future events (and not the good ones). They’re inspired by my work at the Environment Agency and the Labour Party and explore issues like climate change, Islamophobia, the refugee crisis and sexism in high places. All with a focus on how these impact individual people and families.

You can find out more about my writing, get access to deals and exclusive stories or become part of my advance reader team by joining my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub.

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Many thanks to Rachel McLean, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of today’s blog blitz, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

Extracts

Isolation Junction – Jennifer Gilmour

I am sure most of you have realised by now that I am a huge fan of Jennifer Gilmour and all the amazing work she is doing. If you haven’t already realised, where have you been??? (Also, you can find my previous posts regarding Jennifer here, here, and here. I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Isolation Junction today, and thrilled to be able to share an extract of the book with you.

IJ - NEW COVER Isolation Junction

EXTRACT FROM CHAPTER SIX:

Sat back downstairs, Darren was muttering to himself. Rose could hear some of what he was saying but was trying her hardest to ignore him and zone out but when he said his behaviour was Rose’s fault because they hadn’t had sex for ages, she was devastated and disgusted all in one. He just loved sticking the knife in, over and over again. He was relentless.

Darren carried on, ‘I mean … we’re meant to be married, but that doesn’t mean anything these days.’ Rose’s heart was starting to race. ‘All my mates are getting it.’

That was it, Rose couldn’t listen to him anymore, she stormed into the kitchen and started to wash the pots. A distraction was needed and keeping busy was therapeutic to Rose.

Darren gave it just the right amount of time before following her – just long enough for Rose to think that she was going to get away with her defiance.

‘How dare you walk out when I’m talking to you?’

‘Talking at me, more like.’ Not caring about his reaction, Rose bit back at him.

‘Sorry, what did you say?’ he grunted. ‘I didn’t quite hear that; do you want to say it to my face?’

Rose was giggling inside, this was so pitiful and felt like they were in the playground at school bickering over the smallest of things. Rose carried on washing-up and ignored him. Then, as she leant over to grab a tea-towel, he gripped Rose’s wrist and pulled her towards him, something Rose wasn’t expecting.

‘Sorry …’ he said, taking a long pause, ‘…what … did … you … say … to me?’

Her heart was racing, and her breathing became erratic, his eyes filled with something akin to mania and Rose was terrified. Pulling her top in his fist he dragged her towards him and screamed in her ear, ‘Do I need to ask you again?’

Rose closed her eyes as he spat at her. Holding her breath, she didn’t want him to know she had a shake in her breathing and she looked around the kitchen, anywhere other than his eyes. There was a knife block on the sideboard right beside her, it would be over in minutes and it would be so easy if only she could grab the knife and stab him.

She’d thought about this plenty of times before, the opportunities would present themselves, but she’d never take them. However, if she had to do something in self-defence she’d do it, and this situation felt more concerning than others had. Rose knew it was because she’d tried to stand up for herself for once and he was trying to put her back in her place.

Darren was pressing Rose up against the fridge-freezer, holding her wrists tight by her sides. He could do anything he wanted to, and Rose would powerless against his force and he knew it.

As much as he belittled Rose’s body, he still wanted to abuse it – Rose had lost count of the nights she’d wake up to find him having sex with her. There would be a bit of a struggle as she tried to stop him, but he carried on – Rose was his wife and sex was his right, what Rose wanted, or didn’t want, was irrelevant.

The way he was breathing, the way he was holding her, the way his eyes flashed made Rose realise this time, there was something different about him.

ABOUT ISOLATION JUNCTION:

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First published in 2016, Jennifer has republished a second edition with the changes in Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

This is the republication of Isolation Junction and what a difference it is. A make over with a new book cover, new content, with Pict Publishing, third person only (as opposed to third and first in first edition) and the incidents in correlating order.

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Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. But through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t will she be able to do it? Will Tim help her? And will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

Based on true events.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

IJ - Jennifer Gilmour

Born in the North East, Jennifer is a young, married mum with three children.  In addition to being an author, she is an entrepreneur, running a family business from her home-base. Her blog posts have a large readership of other young mums in business.

From an early age, Jennifer has had a passion for writing and started gathering ideas and plot lines from her teenage years.  A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, she has drawn on her personal experiences to write this first novel. It details the journey of a young woman from the despair of an emotionally abusive and unhappy marriage to develop the confidence to challenge and change her life and to love again.  

SOCIAL MEDIA:

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Make sure you stop by the other blogs taking part in this amazing tour.

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Book Review

Till It Stops Beating – Hannah R Goodman

Today I am joining the blog tour for Till It Stops Beating by Hannah R Goodman.

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Seventeen-year-old Maddie Hickman’s senior year begins with the good (the reemergence of The One That Got Away), the bad (a cancer diagnosis, not hers, but it might as well be) and the WTF (an anxiety attack that renders her writhing on the floor like an upside down crab). 

Adding to her spiraling anxiety is Senior Project, in the form of I’ve Decided To Write A Book about The Other One That Got Away (And Crushed My Heart). Compounding it all is applying to college and keeping up with her friends. The ever mounting stress eventually rips her tight grip on all that she holds dear. 

Her break down leads to an unexpected road trip where she is forced to listen to her wildly beating heart. It is only in the back of a convertible with pop music blasting, that she discovers she must risk everything in order to really live.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

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REVIEW:

Till It Stops Beating is the type of book I wish had been around when I was thinking about heading off to university. I found Maddie’s fear of leaving behind the familiarity of school, friends and family entirely relatable, and feel this would be a good book for anyone who has doubts about going to university to read. No one ever speaks about the anxiety that this huge step causes for some people, but this book would definitely have made me feel less alone in my thoughts and doubts.

I loved the characters of Peter and Susan – everyone needs friends like this pair in their lives to stand by their side through thick and thin, to make them laugh when things get too much. I am pretty lucky and have my own versions of Peter and Susan to lean on when I need them.

Because of the themes in this book, I perhaps wouldn’t recommend it to younger teenagers, but certainly for those approaching the end of their school life, and going through the same experiences and emotions that Maddie faces, I feel it would be a enjoyable read. It might sound strange to call a book with such difficult themes enjoyable, but they are handled in such a way as to never feel too heavy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

9 Often referred to as “the teenage whisperer”, Hannah R. Goodman’s twenty-year career working with teenagers includes the titles teacher, tutor, coach, and, more recently, mental health counselor. Hannah has written essays about mental health for various online publications. Her work has appeared on MindBodyGreenOC87 Recovery Diaries,  Zencare.co, and The Mighty. Though she has previously earned the title author with her first three books, the last was released in 2009 and all were self-published. This time around, indie publisher Black Rose Writing released her novel Till It Stops Beating this summer.

Hannah’s  first YA novel, My Sister’s Wedding, won the first place award for The Writer’s Digest International Self-Publishing Contest, 2004, children’s book division. She published the follow-up, My Summer Vacation, in May 2006, which went on to win a bronze IPPY in 2007. The third Maddie book, Fear of Falling, was released in the fall of 2009 and was praised by teachers and readers for tackling subjects like homophobia and coming out. She’s published young adult short stories on Amazon’s Shorts, in an anthology entitled Bound Is The Bewitching Lilith, and in the journal Balancing The Tides. She also has written columns for The Jewish Voice & Herald. Recent, previous projects include Sucker Literary, which features emerging YA authors and All The Way YA, a group blog of writers telling the real deal about writing and publishing YA fiction.

Hannah is a member of  ARIA  (Association of Rhode Island Authors) as well as a graduate of Pine Manor College’s Solstice Program in Creative Writing where she earned an MFA in Writing For Young People. She resides in Bristol, RI with her husband, two daughters, and black and white cat named Zoe.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

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Many thanks to Hannah, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, and for providing me with my copy of the book. Don’t forget to check out the other blogs taking part in the tour.

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Book Review

The Poppy Field – Deborah Carr

As we approach the centenary of the end of the First World War, and I find myself surrounded by the fabric poppies that I am making for a remembrance event, I am honoured to be able to talk to you today about The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr.

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Young nurse, Gemma, is struggling with the traumas she has witnessed through her job in the NHS. Needing to escape from it all, Gemma agrees to help renovate a rundown farmhouse in Doullens, France, a town near the Somme. There, in a boarded-up cupboard, wrapped in old newspapers, is a tin that reveals the secret letters and heartache of Alice Le Breton, a young volunteer nurse who worked in a casualty clearing station near the front line.

Set in the present day and during the horrifying years of the war, both woman discover deep down the strength and courage to carry on in even the most difficult of times. Through Alice’s words and her unfailing love for her sweetheart at the front, Gemma learns to truly live again.

This is a beautifully written epic historical novel that will take your breath away.

You can purchase your copy of The Poppy Field here.

The Poppy Field Cover

REVIEW:

The Poppy Field is a poignant story of the parallels between two women living 100 years apart, who find themselves drawn to the same building in France. The book shifts between the present day and the latter half of the First World War, as Gemma, our modern day nurse, unravels the tale of Alice’s war, whilst searching for her own sense of peace.

World War One, the Great War, was supposed to be the war to end all wars, but the world we live in today sometimes seems to be headed full circle, as reflected by Tom’s experiences in Kabul, and even by the injuries witnessed by Gemma working in a UK trauma centre.

Whilst I enjoyed Gemma’s part of the story as she tried to settle her personal demons whilst renovating the old farmhouse, it was Alice’s story that really got under my skin, and lit a fire under my inner war historian. Whilst the true horrors of the casualty clearing stations where VADs like Alice spent their war are just unthinkable, Deborah Carr’s writing brought them to life through her sensitive characterisation of the varied patients that passed through them. I was intrigued to see mention of the “casualty dogs” as this was not something that I had come across before, but have since read up on further. I had no idea that dogs were used in this way during the war.

There were a number of times when reading this book when my emotions got the better of me, but there is one particular scene about a quarter of the way in that really got to me, and which I hope Deborah won’t mind me pinpointing (don’t worry, it doesn’t give anything away). In this particular scene there is a conversation between two of the soldiers at the casualty clearing station who are wondering if anyone would remember the soldiers who fought and all the men who died in a hundred years time. Even writing about this now brings a tear to my eye, because as we approach this hundred year mark, yes, we do remember and we will continue to do so.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Poppy Field - Deborah Med

Deborah Carr lives on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands with her husband, two children and three rescue dogs. She became interested in books set in WW1 when researching her great-grandfather’s time as a cavalryman in the 17th 21st Lancers.

She is part of ‘The Blonde Plotters’ writing group and was Deputy Editor on the online review site, Novelicious.com for seven years. Her debut historical romance, Broken Faces, is set in WW1 and was runner-up in the 2012 Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition and given a ‘special commendation’ in the Harry Bowling Prize that year. The Poppy Field is her second historical novel.

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Many thanks to Deborah and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, and for providing me with my copy of the book. As always, be sure to stop by all the other amazing blogs taking part in the tour.

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