#HowtoBelong by @SarahEFranklin #BlogTour @ZaffreBooks with thanks to @Tr4cyF3nt0n

It’s lovely to be a part of the blog tour to celebrate Sarah Franklin’s How to Belong, please do keep scrolling for some bookish chat…

The kind of book that gives you hope and courage…

Blurb

Jo grew up in the Forest of Dean, but she was always the one destined to leave for a bigger, brighter future. When her parents retire from their butcher’s shop, she returns to her beloved community to save the family legacy, hoping also to save herself. But things are more complex than the rose-tinted version of life which sustained Jo from afar.

Tessa is a farrier, shoeing horses two miles and half a generation away from Jo, further into the forest. Tessa’s experience of the community couldn’t be more different. Now she too has returned, in flight from a life she could have led, nursing a secret and a past filled with guilt and shame.

Compelled through circumstance to live together, these two women will be forced to confront their sense of identity, and reconsider the meaning of home.

My thoughts…

Firstly, I love the natural simplicity of the cover design for How to Belong. I love nature and the idea of a forest setting really appealed to me. I was not let down by Franklin; her writing is so vivid, the senses leap from the pages and the richness of the descriptive detail creates the perfect setting backdrop for a book of insightful observations of human behaviour, of challenges, disillusionment, trauma, hardships, defiance and illness.

I enjoyed the relationship between the two central, contrasting women (Jo and Tessa) and the sense of realism to the writing of their characters. Their friendship becomes a narrative drive for the reader and a revelation for the characters when building their futures. All this is explored in a slow paced, explorative way with a strong personal spirit behind the writing.

A story of community, of human nature and the depth of our interactions: of difference and connections. I thought this was a beautifully written book; a story of women, of place and the communities that frame them.

A sensitively and beautifully written story that I’d very happily recommend for readers looking for a reflective novel with both strength and hope at its heart.

#Blogtour for THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES by @AlixEHarrow with thanks to @orbitbooks @Tr4cyF3nt0n

A perfect book for October; it’s half-term and I’ve been lucky to have read ‘The Once and Future Witches’ by a warm fire with my ‘familiar’ on my lap (AKA Mr. Willoughby, my cat, he’s nearly all black apart from his white ‘socks’ and face markings). This is certainly a perfect autumnal/Halloween read, do keep scrolling for more bookish chat…

There’s no such thing as witches, but there used to be…

The Blurb:

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.

My thoughts

Firstly, this book is creative; the lyrical and creative writing lifts from the pages and you can take time and savour the words. Harrow is also just as creative with her punctuation, and you get a real sense of crafting throughout. The structure and plot are meticulously planned and literary history, actual history and the female is reworked and re-represented in a mix of childhood rhymes, fairy tales and lore.

An evenly paced story, that allows the reader to indulge in good storytelling against a backdrop of more pertinent and relevant themes. Gender, race, and identity are woven into the threads of this story. On its surface is a story of three sisters, of how they became separated and how their witchcraft begins to define them. There is a great bond, although severely fractured, between these three women. I love their flawed but powerful characters, and how over time we begin to view each one differently. Harrow connects the female, and her repression over centuries into the current lives of the three Eastwood sisters. History is re-worked as a plot device to relay themes of repression, feminism, racism, women’s suffrage, patriarchy, and persecution.

The Eastwood Sisters are great characters; they are not perfect; they have let each other down and are rather downtrodden and lost at the start. They soon change their current situations and begin a battle to promote witchcraft in a town that would have them burned. Their power and determination become a strong reading hook, as they unite to battle inequality and subjection from a shadowy, evil nemesis.

A book of witchy spells, creative fairy tales and the power of words with powerful overriding themes. It is also a great adventure: a book of love and resilience in the face of powerful adversaries.

Full blog tour belong – do check out all the bookish chat about The Once and Future Witches:

#BookChat ‘Mud’ by Chris McCabe and published by Henningham Family Press

‘Remind me never to date a wizard’

BLURB

Borak and Karissa must search the 24 types of mud until they find a trapped bubble of air. Only then can they be released from their relationship.

Chris McCabe’s macabre version of Orpheus and Eurydice brings its themes into the present day as we follow a couple whose quest forces them to resist throttling each other, and falling in love all over again.

Illustrated with Orphic sculptures and prints.

My thoughts

mud (noun)

1.
soft, sticky matter resulting from the mixing of earth and water:
“ankle deep in mud, we squelched across a meadow”
2.
information or allegations regarded as damaging, typically concerned with corruption:
“they are trying to sling mud at me to cover up their defeat”

I was fascinated by this little book called ‘Mud’; the blurb told me to expect a ‘descent into subterranean London’ where our focus characters, Borak and Karissa, would ‘chance upon bones, bricks and a talking mole’ and then the additional hook of a ‘macabre version of Orpheus and Eurydice’. Well okay…

So I popped the book on my kitchen shelf, next to my rather sad (and if my track-record has anything to go by) dying orchid plant. And there it sat…watching my kitchen life go by for weeks, getting the odd splash from a rather vigorous washing up session and absorbing smells of several dinners and the odd burnt pan. Until one day, I had the house to myself, I’d just come in from a cold walk with my dog down the fields, and I’d brought back at least half a bucket of mud back on my shoes. So, I made myself a cup of tea, put my boots on the radiator to dry, left the mud trail to dry and turned to Part One – Break-Up.

There’s no denying, this is an odd little book. It’s also charming. There’re several threads to take hold of during this experimental and somewhat confusing narrative. A journey seeking 24 different types of mud and releasing little bursts of air upon discovery before ending a relationship – it’s a surreal theatre watched by a small film crew following Borak and Karissa. It’s a stage of mud, tunnels, caves and roots; told via narrative, dialogue, snippets, images and emails.

Overall, there’s a distinct story-line to follow, but it’s consistently interjected with the surreal, the bizarre, the strange. It’s a creative literary puzzle, pushing language and imagery to question. An odd little, artistic puzzle of a book.

…and there my review of this little book sat, in my drafts…until a pesky, deadly virus contained me to my house, and where I realised, with horror, that this post wasn’t actually published. Well, finally I’ve posted and hope you’ll pick up this surreal little piece of literature one day and start traipsing through the mud with Borak and Karissa.

With thanks to Henningham Family Press for the gifted copy! I got there at last!

Mud