Book Review

Reading Challenge Update – April – August

Oh dear, I have fallen so far behind with my reading challenge updates! Life has not been the easiest just recently, but things are looking up again now, so I finally have the spare brain space to catch everyone up with what I have been reading. Brace yourselves, this post is going to be a long one!

READING CHALLENGE BOOKS:

Witches Steeped in Gold – Ciannon Smart

It feels as though I read this book an absurdly long time ago to be talking about it now, especially as I have its sequel on my list to read in September. I absolutely loved this book, and I will be writing a full review of it, together with Empress Crowned in Red very soon, but in the meantime, I give you my selection for a book with a colour in the name.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

This is a very helpful challenge book, as it fits beautifully with a prompt from each challenge, being both a book that was made into a movie and a book written in epistolary style. I have been putting off watching the film adaptation as I always prefer to read the book first, but now I can finally sit down to watch.

Murder at the Vicarage – Agatha Christie

No huge surprise here that this book is for the prompt to read a book by Agatha Christie. I must confess that this is only the second Agatha Christie book I have ever read, the first being And Then There Were None. I have also never watched any of the Miss Marple adaptations, so this was my first real encounter with the amateur detective. I don’t think it will be my last though.

Lark Rise – Flora Thompson

Okay, I am cheating a little bit here. Whilst this book nicely fits the  book that is more than 20 years old prompt, it has a slightly more tenuous link to the other prompt I am using it for – a book set in your city/town. I live somewhere pretty small, so I couldn’t find a book that was actually set here, but Flora Thompson did live in the village for some years, and was actually the post mistress for a while.

A Secret History of Witches – Louisa Morgan

For my book set in the 1800s, I took advantage of the broad nature of the prompt to head back to the witchy books that I love so much. I read and loved Louisa Morgan’s The Age of Witches a couple of years back, so I was keen to read this book which spans the generations of a family of witches, and it didn’t disappoint one bit.

The Raven Spell – Luanne G Smith

This was my choice for a book suggested by a member of the Fiction Cafe (if you aren’t already a member, look us up on Facebook!) within the last seven days, and actually, I had seen it recommended by more than one member, so it seemed the obvious choice. Again, this author is one I have read previously and enjoyed, so I was glad to find a way to fit another of her books to my challenges.

The Queen of Nothing – Holly Black

I chose this as both a book that is part of a series and a book that is the last in a series – as you will see below, I actually binge read the entire series whilst on holiday in Dorset. YA fantasy is my absolute favourite genre, and I adore Holly Black, so it was a no-brainer for my holiday reading.

The Ghost of Ivy Barn – Mark Stay

This is a book that I was reading for a blog tour when I realised it was the perfect choice for my book with chapter titles. I absolutely love Mark’s Witches of Woodville series, and you can read my full review of The Ghost of Ivy Barn here.

Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s – Jennifer Worth

I am absolutely addicted to the Call the Midwife TV series, so I was delighted when I realised that Jennifer’s book was the perfect choice for a book that features a compass direction in the title. It absolutely made my day that I could so easily recall the characters and events in this book from scenes in the TV series, and I am looking forward to reading more of Jennifer’s writing.

OTHER BOOKS READ:

My New Superjob and Post-molecular Comfort Food  by Anton Eine – these are fantastic, quick reads by Ukrainian author Anton, and you can read my review of both here.

The Fatal Oath – Michael L Lewis – I thoroughly enjoy this series about elite boys school, Blackleigh, (more on that soon), and you can read my review of this instalment of the boys adventures here.

Snow Blind – P.J. Tracy – I love the Twin Cities series and I am slowly making my way through them. I like to dot them between other reads so I don’t run out too soon!

With This Kiss – Carrie Hope Fisher – this delightful romance with a sprinkling of magic was another book that I read for a blog tour, and you can read my full review here.

The Fossil Beach Murders – Rachel McLean – if you don’t know by now that I love everything Rachel has written, then you must have been living under a rock. I can’t recommend her books highly enough

The Magicians – Lev Grossman – this was a book club read that I actually had mixed feelings about, mainly because it didn’t match my recollections of the TV series (I watched that before I knew there were books), but I will still be reading the second book because I have to know what happens next!

Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl – Joya Goffney – another blog tour book and one that I just thought was beautiful and important in equal measure. Read my full review here.

The Write Balance – Bonni Goldberg – although my writing has taken a backseat recently, I couldn’t resist signing up for the blog tour for this fab book. Read my review here.

Hotel Magnifique – Emily J Taylor – this is a book that I received via NetGalley and really need to get the review written for. If you are a fan of the Caraval series, I thoroughly recommend this book, and even if you aren’t, how gorgeous is that cover!

The Missing Girls of Alardyce House – Heather Atkinson – I got a bit more than I bargained for with this gothic historical novel. Sadly, it wasn’t my cup of tea, but I have seen a lot of positive reviews for it.

Fantasy Short Stories – Suzanne Rogerson – another favourite author making an appearance. I love Suzanne’s full length novels, so I knew I wanted to be a part of the blog tour for her short story collection. Read my review here.

The Trial – S.R. Masters – I took part in the One More Chapter readalong for this thriller and had an absolute blast sharing thoughts with everyone else taking part. My review is long overdue, but is coming soon.

The Seawomen – Chloe Timms – this is another book that I read on holiday, and it is gloriously atmospheric. I can’t wait to share my thoughts in my review which will be available soon.

Bad Things Happen Here – Rebecca Barrow – and another holiday read, (we had a very lazy holiday by the river), this time a YA thriller for which the review is coming up.

The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, and The Lost Sisters – all Holly Black – as mentioned earlier on, I adore Holly’s writing and binged all four of these (including The Queen of Nothing) whilst on holiday.

Her Majesty’s Royal Coven – Juno Dawson – another witchy book (is anyone sensing a theme yet?), and this one is an absolute cracker. The review of this one will be up soon, but in the meantime, just know that I am VERY excited for the sequel.

The Wedding Cake – Isabella May – well, you all know I love the Foodie Romance Journeys and dive into them just as soon as I can get my little hands on them. Read my review of Isabella’s latest showstopper here.

The Name She Gave Me – Betty Culley – this is a beautiful novel in verse about finding yourself no matter the obstacles. My review is coming soon.

Blood and Money – Rachel McLean – well, I did say earlier that I love Rachel’s books, and here she is making another appearance on this epic round up!

The Hike – Susi Holliday – I got a bit ahead of myself reading this because I was so excited to have it, so you will have to wait until October for my review!

Equinox – Paul McCracken – another blog tour, and this time I am making one of my occasional forays into sci-fi. Read my review here.

The Temple House Vanishing – Rachel Donohue – much the same as anything with witches in, I also find it very hard to resist books based at boarding schools – although this convent school in Ireland is a bit bleaker than the elite boarding schools that I seem to normally read about.

All Eyes On Us – Kit Frick – well, I haven’t quite finished this one yet, but I am nearly there so I am including it for August – more to come when I reach the end.

Phew, we made it to the end of the list! As you can see, I have a LOT of reviews to catch up, so keep your eyes peeled for those coming soon!

If you need a reminder, these are the challenges that I am aiming to complete this year. I think I am a little behind schedule!

Book Review

The Girl And The Goddess – Nikita Gill

Today I am reviewing a book that is quite possibly the best book I have read this year, the beautiful The Girl and the Goddess by Nikita Gill. Many thanks to Nikita, and Ebury, for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.

BLURB:

A mesmerising poetic tale following one girl’s wild journey of strength, beauty and self-discovery, told with lyrical wonder and spiritual revelation by one of the UK’s most popular poets. With over 558k followers on Instagram, 125k likes on Facebook and 36k followers on Twitter, Nikita’s fans include Cara Delevingne, Alanis Morisette, Jameela Jamil and Kristen Bell.

Let her be a little less human, a little more divine

Giver her heart armour so it doesn’t break as easily as mine.

Meet Paro. A girl with a strong will, a full heart and much to learn. Born into a family reeling from the ruptures of Partition, follow her as she crosses the precarious lines between childhood, teenage discovery and realising her adult self all while navigating different cultures, religions and identities.

Returning to her core themes of feminism, healing and mythology in her most powerful and personal work yet, Nikita’s masterful poetry, along with her beautiful hand-drawn illustrations, taps into the rich well of Hindu mythology, conjuring up jasmine scented voices and ancestral smiles as Paro confronts fear, desire and the very darkest parts of herself in the search for meaning and empowerment.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The Girl and the Goddess Cover

REVIEW:

I have started this review many times before scrapping every word and starting again – after all, what could I possibly say that would do this exquisite book justice and sufficiently capture the way that it made me feel? When a book reduces you to tears before the end of the third page, you know you are about to read something special. “A Secret From Me Too You” reached out and touched my soul in a way few things do and is the poem I never knew I needed. In actual fact, the same can be said about the whole book. Nikita Gill’s writing left me feeling strong, fierce, empowered – all emotions that I am not used to feeling – and I thank her for that.

Although this book covers difficult topics, and Paro sees and experiences things that no human should, there is a sense of peace to the writing. Even as Paro grows and begins to understand the world more, and a feeling of sadness enters the writing, there remains a beauty in the way her mother teaches her, and in how Paro challenges herself and others to do better, to BE better.

I had a limited familiarity with the goddesses who visit Paro throughout the book, and loved the beautiful folkloric feel to their stories. As they shared them with Paro, I could easily imagine them being handed down orally from generation to generation. The gorgeous illustrations that accompany these tales add so much to the beauty of the stories and enhanced my understanding.

Even through painful situations, Nikita’s writing is so beautiful that it soothes and calms, and I know this is a book that I will return to when I am struggling.

I feel a bit sorry for the next book that I pick up to read, because The Girl and the Goddess is an incredibly tough act to follow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nikita Gill Author PicNikita Gill is a British-Indian writer and artist living in the south of England. With a huge online following, her words have captivated hearts and minds all over the world. Nikita is an ambassador for National Poetry Day and is a regular speaker at literary events. Her previous works include Fierce Farytales and Great Goddesses. The Girl and the Goddess is her first novel.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

Tumblr

Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for this wonderful book.

Girl and Godess BT Poster

Book Review

The Death Of The Sentence – Richard Doyle

I have something a little different for everyone today as I join the blog tour for The Death of the Sentence by Richard Doyle. Many thanks to Richard for providing me with my copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour.

BLURB:

The death of the sentence is the debut role of the writer; the plight of the poetry pamphlet; an inventive homage; science in the novel; science fiction in the real world; prose spaceship and singular music; both fun-

Simple in style yet steeped in emotion, I recommend The death of the sentence for poetry newbs and aficionados alike – Dystopic.co.uk

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

The Death of the Sentence Cover

REVIEW:

The Death of the Sentence is a short poetry pamphlet of just 24 pages long. Don’t let it’s diminutive size fool you though – this is still a collection of poems that pack a punch, especially for the writers among us. I found the writing to be of a very different style to the types of poetry I have read in the past, but the poems really do seem to put into words the jumbled thought processes that I go through as a writer trying to get words onto the page.

“The Poem That Brought Me Hope” was exactly what I needed to read on the day that I picked up this book. As the title suggests, it really is a little ray of hope in the dark times we have all been through this year.

“The Only Novel I Could Ever Write” perfectly describes the current state of my own novel. In fact, all of the “novel” poems felt incredibly relatable to me and I would heartily recommend this pamphlet to writers both struggling and successful, as something that will help you through those tricky days when your life is full of plot holes, but your brain is empty of words.  And on the days you need a smile and stiff drink, check out “The Multifarious Moons of Saturn.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Richard Doyle Author PicRichard Doyle is an old-school SF fan who began writing seriously in 2001. He has a Diploma in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia and collaborated on a book in 2006. He has had poems published in the UK poetry magazines Orbis and Sarasvati and  is a regular member of the Bristol Stanza Poetry Group.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Facebook

 

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part in this tour for more thoughts on Richard’s poetry.

Death of the Sentence BT Poster

Extracts

The Love Virus – Eleni Cay

I have the privilege today of sharing with you all a couple of extracts from The Love Virus by Eleni Cay. Written in verses, it draws on Eleni’s personal experience of Multiple Sclerosis, which has strongly marked her young adult life. Thank you so much Eleni for allowing me to share these extracts.

BLURB:

When Katie finds out that her increasingly unresponsive legs and extreme fatigue is due to Multiple Sclerosis, she rides an emotional rollercoaster – anger, denial and fear – when faced with a wheelchair-bound existence. She puts her studies at Oxford on hold, and she splits up from her fiancé, Mark, even though she still loves him. While undergoing treatment, Katie is diagnosed with MS2 – a virus that paralyses the mind. In hospital, Katie has to cope with her irritating bedfellows who argue constantly, and where she is treated by Dr Andrews, a handsome psychologist. The closer she gets to him however, the worse her pain becomes. Compounding Katie’s struggle is Mark, who returns to her bedside day after day. Once Katie begins Dr Andrews’ new experimental MS2 treatment, Mark can’t recognise her anymore. He begins to wonder if Katie will ever be cured.

You can find out more about Eleni and her writing on her website where you will also find links to purchase a copy of her book.

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EXTRACT ONE

‘Deep love doesn’t reside in the universal.

Deep love is local.’

Markos gives Philippa a big kiss on her forehead.

‘Deep love, my dear friends, is about the authentic details

that you create with your partner

as you cook and enjoy your life together.’

 

‘When you trade the heart as a commodity,

then you can do that with any other organ,

any human. Any island, any country.

Any home becomes a sellable property.’

Untoucheable poem

EXTRACT 2

I remembered how dad took me to

a jazz club once. He liked blue notes

and he liked this song.

He couldn’t stand mum’s cheesy pop.

Too smooth for him.

He liked the dissonance.

Not jarred jazz, but a blue note

here and there,

that can bring the whole song

to another level.

Perhaps this whole

Multiple Sclerosis thing

was one of those blue notes.

It added some novelty to the ordinary,

some new vocabulary we all had to learn,

something new for friends to Facebook

and to Tweet about.

Some modifications to my diet,

to my personalised Google ads.

Some changes to my thinking,

to my love life …

ms relapses

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Goodreads

YouTube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

Extracts

Words of Alchemy – Camilla Downs (Part Two)

Following my post earlier this month about Camilla Downs’ collection of poetry, Words of Alchemy, today I have the honour of sharing another poem from the book with you. The following is a Renga poem written by Team TLC (Camilla and her two children). Thomas Darnell wrote the first stanza, Lillian Darnell the second, and Camilla wrote the third. They rotated in that order until the completion of the poem.

You can find out all about Camilla and her work on my previous post, here.

Photo #9 Words of Alchemy Thanksgiving 2018 Team TLC 11.22.18
Love is Magical
Cows are loud and can moo
sometimes they say,
I love you!
Cows have milk,
and cows eat grass.
You are surrounded by love
every breath you take is love
You are love
Guinea pigs wheek and guinea pigs meek,
lovey dovey guinea piggy moo!
Love is the butterfly
gracefully it flies
magical is its color
Love is magical
the alchemy of peace.
Airplanes flying
through the air
fun galore!
How beautiful the bird flies,
as the wind.
Love is the tree
Love is the flower
Love is the silence.
Flowers blossom
pollen falls.
Rainbow is the sky
Rainbow is the water
Rainbow is the colors of the earth.
Nature is love
Nature knows how to be.
Team TLC
always kind
always thinking.
Kindness is always there
Kindness is like friendship
A wise man
is kind to the kind
and kind to the unkind
A wise man
under a tree
Blue bird flies to Alaska
Red bird flies to Hawaii
White bird flies to Australia
The magical hummingbird
arrives on a warm summer day
Sushi
best food ever
try some
Pineapple
Most delicious food ever
Mindful eating
Mindful living
The way of peace and happiness
Eating is fun
and yummy
Apple trees grow with sunshine
Butterflies grow with food
Cake gets eaten fast or slow.
Beings, trees, and insects
We are all one love.
Words of Alchemy - Pre-Order November 2019 copy
Guest Posts

Words of Alchemy – Camilla Downs

I am delighted to welcome Camilla Downs to my blog today to tell us all about her book of poetry, Words of Alchemy, and to share one of her poems with us. Thank you so much Camilla for taking the time to talk to us, and for sharing your work.

Words of Alchemy - Pre-Order November 2019 copy

Thank you Mai, for having me as a guest on your lovely blog. I deeply appreciate your time and effort.

My latest book, Words of Alchemy, is a culmination of a six year journey. A journey of turning into my writing, of a solid walking practice, a journey of going within, a journey of travelling to the past, a journey of living, and of healing.

Six years ago I wrote my first free-verse poem. This continued through to the publication of Words of Alchemy. I’m currently taking a break from writing, a break from the intensity of the past thirteen years. I reached the tipping point of my healing journey in the beginning of 2020. On the other side of it now, I can look back and see that it was one hell of a ride. Thirteen years of going within, excavating, confronting, feeling, feeling, feeling, and getting to know myself.

I share this to convey how much writing was a vital component of my healing. All that was written, all that I write, is from my experiences. I openly share with others as I know I am not the only one with these experiences, these feelings, similar journeys. It is my hope that everyone who is inclined, make time to write. I’m not speaking of becoming a published author, simply writing for the benefit of it, getting things out of one’s mind, giving oneself a bit of peace.

I’d like to share a poem from the book.

Emerge

And out of the darkness

We shall emerge

A darkness that

Has been necessary.

 

A vital and pivotal point

Of confronting the

Shadows within.

 

For to have more

Than brief glimpses

Of the light,

This acceptance, forgiveness,

And dissolution of shadows

Must be met.

 

As what awaits is

The eternity of light and love,

Ever there, ever lovingly

And patiently waiting

To welcome us home

BLURB:
In Words of Alchemy, Camilla Downs invites you to walk with her to share her love of Nature and Life through a heartfelt free-verse poetry memoir.

During her daily strolls she is mindfully present as she delves into life in the raw and experiences her heart’s observations.

Camilla embraces what happens when she opens her heart and invites the written words to flow. The Alchemy of Love and Healing is what happens.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Photo #1 Words of Alchemy Wilbur May Arboretum Rancho San Rafael Lillian and Camilla 5.2.19 #3 camilla selfieCamilla Downs is a bestselling author, indie publisher, mentor, and mom. Nature and life experiences are a constant source of inspiration for her writing. She enjoys living a minimalist lifestyle, practicing meditation and mindfulness, reading, going for walks, and capturing nature’s essence with photographs. Camilla is the founder of MeetingtheAuthors.com and lives in Northern Nevada, USA with her two kids.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Website

Twitter

Camilla has kindly agreed to let me share a couple more poems from Words of Alchemy with you and I will also be sharing my thoughts on this book in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for those posts.

Extracts

Captive – Madeline Dyer

Some (hopefully all) of you will have seen my review of Captive, a collection of poetry by Madeline Dyer, a few days ago, and will know how moved I was by the poems. If you missed it, you can find all the details here. Today, I am honoured to be joining the blog tour for the book, and to have the privilege of sharing one of Madeline’s poems with you.

Drowning and Melting

My feet are cold candles on the beach,
and my eyes are teapots,
and I see things I shouldn’t see,
because my vision is twice and nothing is right
when the monster dances in my brain.

And why won’t the doctors extinguish
the fire that burns my veins until the tubes wilt?
Because now I am drowning and melting
as I dance between worlds waving my flags,
trying to be noticed among all the crying girls.

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Book Review

Captive – Madeline Dyer

Happy publication day to Madeline Dyer! The ebook of her first book of poetry, Captive, is released today. I was lucky enough to be given an early copy by Madeline, so read on for all the details and my thoughts on the book.

BLURB:

I just want to get better and see the stars and believe in hope again.’

Captive, Madeline Dyer’s first poetry collection, is based on the therapy writings she produced when she was experiencing psychosis and OCD due to Autoimmune Basal Ganglia Encephalitis, a rare type of brain inflammation caused by the immune system attacking the brain. While her communication skills and cognitive abilities diminished due to the effects of the inflammation, she was able to share her thoughts and emotions via the written word, process that gave her great comfort when she otherwise felt possessed.

Captive provides readers with a glimpse of her tormented mind during this dark time of loneliness, loss, and fear.

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PURCHASE LINK:

Click here to purchase

REVIEW:

I have long been a fan of Madeline’s fiction writing, and so I subscribe to all of her social media accounts. As such I am familiar with her struggles to a certain extent, and have been following her progress through her Medium page. I know how hard 2019 was for her, but even so, reading these poems was completely and utterly heartbreaking and I am not ashamed to admit that I cried through most of them.

It is incredibly brave of Madeline to open herself up to the world in sharing these intimate thoughts with the world in order to give people an insight into what it feels like to live with PANS. The raw pain that runs throughout the writing is almost palpable and really opened my eyes to what it must truly be like to live with OCD.

Whilst I was touched by the almost brutal frankness of all of the poems, I found “Things People Say” and “Psycho particularly upsetting – as a chronic illness sufferer myself I know how hard it is for people to understand, and how cruel their words can be sometimes, so this really touched a nerve with me.

“Don’t” hit home for me, as the son of my dearest friend struggles with OCD. People use the phrase so flippantly but they have no idea what it is truly like for sufferers. I have been guilty of this myself in the past, but now having experience of people who are fighting a constant battle, I can understand, to a certain extent, just how hurtful this can be.

A final mention has to go to “An Apology to the Ponies.” As I said earlier, I cried my way through most of this book, but this poem had me sobbing. Even thinking back to it now as I type this review brings a tear to my eye.

Captive feels like such an important book, both for sufferers of OCD, to hopefully help them to see that they aren’t the only people struggling with the thoughts in their head, but also for anyone who wants to gain an insight into what it is truly like to be constantly fighting an internal war with yourself.

For more information on Madeline, please visit her website.