Month: October 2020

What a Witch Really Is #Halloween #Samhain #Wicca #Witches

Double, double toil and trouble; 
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.  
By the pricking of my thumbs, 
Something wicked this way comes. 

Most of us are familiar with these words from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and with the gruesome hags that stir the cauldron. They have become the blueprint for the portrayal of witches; ugly, toothless old women; scheming, mysterious and powerful. But is it fair? And why do we see witches in this way – it can’t all be Shakespeare’s fault, can it?

Before the advent of Christianity there were many diverse religions – Druids, Norse Odinists and the witches that had for centuries acted as healers, midwives and wise women and men. However, when the Inquisition was launched, it wasn’t just direct ‘threats’ to the Roman Catholic Church that came under suspicion. Anyone could potentially be accused of heresy, and many of those healers and wise woman came under attack.

Propaganda was a big part of this religious war. The inquisitors sought to portray witches as evil, ugly, dirty, devil-worshippers:

This left anyone who didn’t conform open to attack – if you lived by yourself, had a wart on your nose or a deformed leg – then watch out! You were probably a witch. The majority of those arrested, tortured, tried, condemned and murdered were not witches; real witches had taken their religion underground.

Of course real witches are nothing like those pointy-nosed, warty child-cookers of Hansel and Gretel fame and seemingly endless Disney adaptations. But the stereotype lingers, as false today as it was back then. Witches aren’t Satanists, and witchcraft isn’t and never has been Satanism. In fact, witchcraft in ancient times was ‘the craft of the wise’. It is a spiritual system that teaches respect for the earth. Witchcraft is also referred to as Wicca, the term most often used today. It is a religion, based on respect for the earth, and the worship of a creator that is both male and female – Goddess and God. Wiccans believe the creator is in everything – the trees, rain, the sea and all other creatures, and this belief fosters a respect and a caring for the natural world and for all life. Wiccans celebrate the changing of the seasons, and the phases of the moon. They are still healers; using natural remedies, and their spells are for harmony, love, creativity, wisdom and healing. Isn’t it time witches were given the respect that we give others? After all, we speak a lot of tolerance for religion and beliefs and yet don’t allow this most ancient of religions any respect at all.

And as a little antidote to these images, here’s a rather beautiful portrayal of a witch, strangely enough from an ad for Pears soap!

Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC – How To Write A Review For A Book That You Didn’t Like

My post for Rosie Amber on writing a review if you didn’t like a book.

Rosie Amber

Alison joins us today to talk about reviewing a book that you didn’t enjoy.

As part of Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC, we continue our week of advice posts. See the link at the bottom of the page for details of the challenge and where you can sign up for a free book in exchange for a review.

Honest but fair – how to review a book you didn’t like

If you read books and write reviews, the chances are that you’re going to eventually be faced with writing a review for a book that you didn’t like. So what do you do?

Before you write and post that review, consider the following:

What didn’t you like? Be specific – was it the story itself? The characterisation? The plot? The pace?

Once you’ve nailed that down, ask yourself why you didn’t like that particular aspect or aspects. Was the plot too…

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Introducing Rosie’s Review-A-Book Challenge #RRABC



Did you know that 99% of the reading public never post a review for a book?

At Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team (six years and going strong!), we often look at ways to encourage more people to review.  This autumn, Rosie has planned a Review-A-Book Challenge, with a great list of books to choose from, all free of charge to anyone serious about writing a review for her blog – and possibly joining the review team, if you enjoy the process.
Each day for a week or so, she will feature articles on how to write simple reviews, on choosing a star rating, and many more.  The challenge is open to all, from experienced reviewers to those who have never written one.  If this has piqued your interest and you would like to take a look at the books on offer, please click here.

I’ve been part of Rosie’s Review Team since the beginning and I’ve read some wonderful books that I would never have known about otherwise. Other team members have also become good friends, and it’s lovely to be part of a network of readers, writers, reviewers and bloggers who all share a love of books. The challenge is a great opportunity to get involved.

Autumn is the perfect time to curl up with a good book, and goodness knows we could all do with a bit of escapism at the moment – so give the challenge a go, you just might discover your new favourite author.

A week of book reviews – ‘Shaking Hands With Death’ by Terry Pratchett #BookReview #FridayReads

I have been absolutely snowed under with work over the last few weeks – not that I’m complaining – and although I’ve been reading as much as I can, I haven’t got round to reviewing. So this week I’m determined to catch up with a review a day.

Why we all deserve a life worth living and a death worth dying for

‘Most men don’t fear death. They fear those things – the knife, the shipwreck, the illness, the bomb – which precede, by microseconds if you’re lucky, and many years if you’re not, the moment of death.’

When Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his fifties he was angry – not with death but with the disease that would take him there, and with the suffering disease can cause when we are not allowed to put an end to it. In this essay, broadcast to millions as the BBC Richard Dimblebly Lecture 2010 and previously only available as part of A Slip of the Keyboard, he argues for our right to choose – our right to a good life, and a good death too.

It never ceases to amaze me that we deny people the right to choose their own death, that, as with so many things here in the UK and the USA, the opinions and religious beliefs of the minority are allowed to dictate the way others must live and die. It’s an absolute disgrace that people are forced to suffer – and for no reason at all.

The debate about assisted dying has been rumbling on for years, the same tired arguments trotted out by the same people. Terry Pratchett, with his customary warmth, intelligence and humour, takes those arguments apart one by one. How anyone can read this and still think their beliefs trump his wishes and those wishes of many like him beggars belief.

Worth reading too simply because, as expected, the writing is beautiful.

Available from Hive.

Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT #Historical Saga Set In Wales THE COVENANT by @ThorneMoore @honno

My review of ‘The Covenant’ for #RBRT

Rosie Amber

Today’s team review is from Alison, she blogs here https://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Alison has been reading The Covenant by Thorne Moore

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What a fabulous book! The way women were expected to live in the not all that distant past has always fascinated me, and I love stories about those who endeavour to live their best lives in the face of so much misogyny and poverty.

The location appealed to me too as the novel is set close to where I live – the villages of Cilgerran and Boncath are both ten minutes away so it was very easy for me to imagine Leah’s world.

The author depicts this world so clearly, with beautiful, evocative description that doesn’t weigh the narrative down. There’s such a strong sense of time and place and a real authenticity throughout.

The novel shows how precarious life was for tenanted farmers; an accident, an illness, and everything…

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A week of book reviews – ‘In Safe Hands’ by J.P. Carter #BookReview

I have been absolutely snowed under with work over the last few weeks – not that I’m complaining – and although I’ve been reading as much as I can, I haven’t got round to reviewing. So this week I’m determined to catch up with a review a day.

How far would you go to save the ones you love?

The first book in a gripping new crime series featuring DCI Anna Tate.

When nine children are snatched from a nursery school in South London, their distressed parents have no idea if they will ever see them again. The community in the surrounding area is in shock. How could this happen right under their noses? No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying.

But DCI Anna Tate knows that nothing is impossible, and she also knows that time is quickly running out. It’s unclear if the kidnappers are desperate for money or set on revenge, but the ransom is going up by £1million daily. And they know that one little boy in particular is fighting for his life.

It’s one of the most disturbing cases DCI Anna Tate has ever worked on – not only because nine children are being held hostage, but because she’s pretty sure that someone close to them is lying…

The blurb made this sound so exciting – and what an intriguing premise. Nine vulnerable, very small children kidnapped. No one knows why or where they are. The potential here for drama, emotion and tension is huge.

So I was disappointed at the execution. The pace is very ploddy, not a lot actually happens, there is no real sense of urgency, no real portrayal of the raw emotion that the parents would surely feel. There’s a huge amount of repetition of detail, lots of telling, a lack of dialogue – I was surprised to say the least that this was by a successful and prolific crime writer.

If you’re really into police procedurals then this might be for you.

But it definitely wasn’t for me.

Available from Hive.

A week of book reviews – ‘Notes to Self’ by Emilie Pine #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog

I have been absolutely snowed under with work over the last few weeks – not that I’m complaining – and although I’ve been reading as much as I can, I haven’t got round to reviewing. So this week I’m determined to catch up with a review a day.

‘I am afraid of being the disruptive woman. And of not being disruptive enough. I am afraid. But I am doing it anyway.’

In this dazzling debut, Emilie Pine speaks to the business of living as a woman in the 21st century – its extraordinary pain and its extraordinary joy. Courageous, humane and uncompromising, she writes with radical honesty on birth and death, on the grief of infertility, on caring for her alcoholic father, on taboos around female bodies and female pain, on sexual violence and violence against the self. Devastatingly poignant and profoundly wise – and joyful against the odds – Notes to Self offers a portrait not just of its author but of a whole generation.

I have to say the blurb makes this sound like a misery fest, but that is very far from the truth. This is a brilliant book – emotional, insightful, intelligent, terribly sad in places but a joy to read. In a world where there are so many bad books, so much badly written TV, endless remakes of mediocre films, it’s easy to sometimes forget that there is still real talent out there, and Ms Pine’s voice is like a breath of fresh air. 

There were things here that really resonated with me, but even those experiences I didn’t identify with were still so beautifully written, so informative, so honest and real.

One of my favourite books of the year.

Available from Hive.

A Week of Book Reviews: ‘The Covenant’ by @ThorneMoore #BookReview #RBRT

I read ‘The Covenant’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

What a fabulous book! The way women were expected to live in the not all that distant past has always fascinated me, and I love stories about those who endeavour to live their best lives in the face of so much misogyny and poverty.

The location appealed to me too as the novel is set close to where I live – the villages of Cilgerran and Boncath are both ten minutes away so it was very easy for me to imagine Leah’s world.

The author depicts this world so clearly, with beautiful, evocative description that doesn’t weigh the narrative down. There’s such a strong sense of time and place and a real authenticity throughout.

The novel shows how precarious life was for tenanted farmers; an accident, an illness, and everything could be lost. And no matter how strong, how intelligent, how capable, if you were a woman, your life was defined by duty – to your father, to your husband, your brother, the church. 

Despite this, Leah is so full of life – she’s an absolute pleasure to read. She’s strong, she’s intelligent, she’s resourceful and determined, but she also dreams and laughs and loves. You’re willing her to find the life and the happiness she so deserves.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and it definitely won’t be the last.

Highly recommended.

Available from Hive.

A week of book reviews – ‘The Rumour’ by Lesley Kara #BookReview

I have been absolutely snowed under with work over the last few weeks – not that I’m complaining – and although I’ve been reading as much as I can, I haven’t got round to reviewing. So this week I’m determined to catch up with a review a day.

When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

Anyone who has had to spend a few years at the school gates to drop off and pick up a child will know that it can feel very much like being back at school yourself – the gossip, the cliques, trying to fit in, feeling pathetic because no one talks to you, the mums who smile and wave one day and ignore you the next… it can be quite a traumatic experience.

And when your child finds it hard to make friends, it can feel like the most important thing in the world to make sure you fit in, to make life easier for them.

Which is exactly what tempts Joanna to get involved in spreading a rumour – one that will have far reaching consequences.

This is a really interesting premise, and one that is very pertinent at the moment, particularly in the way Twitter is used to show how things can get out of hand. It shows how easy it is for things to go too far, for things to run away from you. Joanna is relatable, and it’s refreshing to have a character that has all those little insecurities lots of parents feel. And the story behind the rumour is really interesting too – can little Sally McGowan really be held responsible for her crime?

A good read, well-paced, well-written, with a good twist at the end. Well worth a read.

Available from Hive

A week of book reviews – ‘Needlemouse’ by Jane O’Connor #BookReview

I have been absolutely snowed under with work over the last few weeks – not that I’m complaining – and although I’ve been reading as much as I can, I haven’t got round to reviewing. So this week I’m determined to catch up with a review a day.

needlemouse

Hive   

Time to come out of hibernation…

Sylvia Penton has been hibernating for years, it’s no wonder she’s a little prickly…

Sylvia lives alone, dedicating herself to her job at the local university. On weekends, she helps out at a local hedgehog sanctuary because it gives her something to talk about on Mondays – and it makes people think she’s nicer than she is.

Only Sylvia has a secret: she’s been in love with her boss, Professor Lomax, for over a decade now, and she’s sure he’s just waiting for the right time to leave his wife. Meanwhile she stores every crumb of his affection and covertly makes trouble for anyone she feels gets in his way.

But when a bright new PhD candidate catches the Professor’s eye, Sylvia’s dreams of the fairy tale ending she has craved for so long, are soon in tatters, driving her to increasingly desperate measures and an uncertain future. 

Sylvia might have been sleep walking through her life but things are about to change now she’s woken up…

This is a tricky one – I’m still not sure whether I liked this book or not! It’s well-written, without a doubt, and it’s an interesting story. But there were aspects of Sylvia that just didn’t work. She’s intelligent, resourceful, independent, yet she behaves like a schoolgirl around the professor, who seems to be devoid of any redeeming qualities. That didn’t really ring true for me. And she’s so spiteful, so cold about everyone except the professor, that it’s hard to really believe in the changes that happen. When we learn more about her, we understand her so much more, but this doesn’t happen until around the second half of the book – I think the novel would have worked so much better if there had been a few more hints earlier on, a few subtle suggestions about what was behind her behaviour.

So a bit hit and miss – but worth a read.

three and a half stars