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Witch by Finbar Hawkins – Review

About the Book

A powerful debut about women, witchcraft, revenge, grief and the ties that bind us.

In 17th-century England, civil war rages and witches have become pawns in a plot to oust the King. Young, red-haired Evey does not want to be a witch, but she cannot deny the magick coursing through her veins. 

A storm is coming. 

After witnessing the murder of her mother by witch-hunters, Evey vows to avenge her. Fury burns in her bright and strong. But she has promised her mother that she will keep her gifted, little sister Dill, her mother’s favourite, safe. 

But battling terrible jealousy, Evey abandons Dill with their Aunt Grey at the coven in the woods, and sets off to town where crowds are gathering for the witch trials. 

As the lust for blood and retribution rises to fever pitch, will Evey keep true to the bonds of sisterhood and to her witching ways? 

With an enchantingly dark, wintery atmosphere and beautiful lyrical writing, WITCH is the perfect read for fans of A Skinful of Shadows by Francis Hardinge, Witch Child by Celia Rees and Witch Hill by Marcus Sedgwick.

About the Author

Finbar Hawkins is a graduate of the Bath Spa MA in Writing for Young People. He grew up in London and now lives in Wiltshire with his family, in a place steeped in myth and legend. He is a creative director for Aardman in Bristol, where he makes fun interactive things for children of all ages. Follow on twitter @finbar_hawkins

Phot credit: Gavin Strange

What I Thought

Author Finbar Hawkins has written the perfect read for this time of year. His debut Witch is a young adult novel set in the time of the witch trials, but more importantly it’s a tale of two sisters, and one teenager’s trial to find herself.


It starts with a bang, straight in to the action that throws our young protagonist Evey on the run with younger sister Dill. The sister she harbours a jealousy towards, her mother’s favourite, the one with magick. This quiet sibling rivalry festers to the extent that she shuns Dill’s name for her, Eveline of the Birds.


But what burns inside her is the need for revenge and it is this revenge that is too often missing from the tales of the women put on trial for witchcraft. But in Witch, magic is more than simply things others simply don’t understand or fear. At least it is when pushed to be so.


Evey’s journey through revenge and to herself is aided by Anne, the daughter of the local magistrate and she finds sisterhood with her, and her way back to sisterhood in general. I wasn’t sure if there was going to be a touch of romance between them, and there was one secret that I thought Anne was keeping where I was really wrong with my guess. I’d love to know if that was a clever misdirection or if I totally made it up 😂.


I loved the writing and a couple of descriptions stood out. “a desk slumbered beneath papers like fallen leaves, and a feather quill wept black tears for its master’s hand.” and “I licked the edge of my words.” Hopefully they made it across from the review copy to the finished text. I also loved the honesty that the author shared with us about some changes that were made between the copy I read and what is published, showing the value of sensitivity reading and understanding the modern situation even when writing something historically set.


As Halloween night draws ever closer settle down to this atmospheric read, and if like me you have a younger sister too remember not to feed the green eyed monster. Although saying that has oddly got me thinking about one of the character’s surname 🤔.

With thanks to Laura Smythe for the gifted copy for the purposes of honest review.

Do check out my guest post from Monday and the rest of the blog tour spots – Ironically today’s post is by Never Judge a Book by its Cover – but with this one you can because that stunner matches up to the insides.

Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble: Magical Poems – Paul Cookson Blog Tour Book Review

About the Book

Can you hear the distant dragon’s rumble of thunder? And smell the sweet swampy aroma of the ogre? Can you taste the tangy tarantula tarts? And see the girl who’s really a wizard? From magic carpets and wands to unicorns, potions, creams and lotions, Paul Cookson’s brewing a spell of fantastically magic poems. On this tattered magic carpet You can choose your destination For nothings quite as magical As your imagination 

Beautifully illustrated, this enchanting anthology brings together work from a range of classic, established and rising poets including Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Benjamin Zephaniah, John Agard, Valerie Bloom, Matt Goodfellow, Joshua Seigal and A.F. Harrold. Whether you’re in the mood for a haunting or a spell gone wrong, this collection of mesmerising poems will have you bewitched from beginning to end!

Front cover

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54968419-fire-burn-cauldron-bubble

About the Author

Paul Cookson


The poems were chosen and compiled by Paul Cookson who also appears as an author.

Paul Cookson lives in Retford with his wife, two children, a dog and several ukuleles. He has worked as a poet since 1989 and has visited thousands of schools and performed to hundreds of thousands of pupils and staff. Paul is the official Poet in Residence for the National Football Museum, the Poetry Ambassador for United Learning and Poet Laureate for Slade. He worked as the Poet for Everton Collection at Liverpool Library, was Poet in Residence for Literacy Times Plus and, as part of the National Year of Reading, was nominated a National Reading Hero and received his award at 10 Downing Street. Paul has 60 titles to his name and poems that appear in over 200 other books. His work has taken him all over the world from Argentina, Uganda and Malaysia to France, Germany and Switzerland.

About the Illustrator


The illustrations are by Eilidh Muldoon a freelance illustrator based in Scotland who gained her MFA from Edinburgh College of Art where she now teaches.

What I Thought


From the silly to the spooky, to the sinister this collection of poems is perfect for the witching season. As with any collection of poems some speak to you more than others but there is an excellent mix included between classic and new poems.

Endpapers

The book itself is stunningly bought to life by the illustrations from Eilidh Muldoon. From its striking pumpkin orange, with black block print, cover to the endpapers and the whimsical illustrations such as this one to illustrate ‘A Cold Spell’.

Illustration by Eilidh Muldoon


A few of my favourite poems were:

The silly – I once asked a wizard to make me a sandwich by Graham Denton

The sinister – Ooshus Magooshus by Jason Seigal which warns of Stranger danger

The artistic – Magic Love Potion by Liz Brownlee Shaped like a potion bottle

The cute – The Cool Dragon by Jo Mularczyk reminds me of that John Lewis ad

The classic and the pastiche – Song of the Witches by Shakespeare, and the homage which adds the subtitle (when the internet wasn’t working) by Stan Cullimore

The rhyme and atmosphere made by Witchy Magic by Mary Serenc

If you are at all squeamish you might not like Oh How I Love a Unicorn by Paul Cookson!! So follow it up with How to Cast a Spell if you are Vegetarian by Roger Stevens

The Magic Kitchen Carpet by Paul Cookson that speaks of the immense joy and adventure that our imagination brings.

But I think my top two are This is my Library by Angela Topping and Somewhere in the Library by Stewart Henderson which espouse the magic of books and the cast the librarian as a bewitching creature who is ‘a gatherer of magic and a confidante of elves’.
Thank you to Bloomsbury and Blue at Kaleidoscopic Tours for the copy for the purposes of this honest review. Do check out the rest of the stops on the tour.

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The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton – Book Review

Synopsis

All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. But as a descendant of the Witch Rona Blackburn, who famously cursed her family over a century ago, Nor is no stranger to suffering. She has a reason to hope, however, that she may have escaped the thornier side effects of Rona’s curse.

Then a mysterious book come out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author – Nor’s own mother- is performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice.

A storm is coming. It’s coming for Nor.

Author

Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest, a setting that figures predominantly in both her novels for young adults. Her debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, was published in 2014.

Twitter @LeslyeWalton

What I Thought

Like a cross between Practical Magic, Charmed and The Craft with Dark Willow thrown in for good measure. This book seems to have garnered mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it. I have not read the author’s previous novel which I believe is in the genre of magical realism. This is a very different book to that. More an urban fantasy horror.

The story takes place on Anathema Island and the environment and nature plays a huge part. Our protagonist can hear plants and animals so they become characters in the story and shift and change based on the mood. Personally I’d have liked to hear from some the animals a little more. Some of their conversations provided little spots of humour in an otherwise dark novel.

Nor was a conflicted heroine with the dual burdens of being a witch and having an awful mother taking a heavy toll. Luckily her grandmother Judd and her partner Apothia fulfil the loving family element although they take more of a back seat later in the story, with the next generation leading the charge.

There is some romance and friendship and small town shenanigans but this is at its core a horror and therefore a perfect read with Halloween on the way. The Prologue was all about the matriarch of the Blackburn Witches, Rona. I’d have loved to have had her story in even more detail too.

We start with a girl who isn’t comfortable in her own skin and end with an epic showdown. Nor’s mother Fern the author of The Price Guide to the Occult is most definitely bad to the bone and she has no redeeming features. Nor’s father felt very inconsequential – and this fact is played out. Fern has everyone – even the President of the USA under her spell and and the comedown from the magic high is briefly explored at the end of the book. Nor’s comfort may be fleeting, and it made me wonder if we will be hearing more from Nor (sorry couldn’t resist).

Trigger Warnings for Self Harm, Suicide and Parental Violence.

Thanks to Walker for the copy for the purposes of this honest review.

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