Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill- REVIEW

Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill is a collection of reinvented fairy tale poems and prose for the those of us who wear our crowns slightly askew, for those of us who live our lives asleep like sleeping beauty, and for those of us who lock ourselves up in our towers, waiting for Prince Charming. What appealed to me about this book was the idea that perhaps Gill would be the new Grimm, that perhaps her stories would enchant, inspire, and ignite a sense of adventure and self-empowerment for the now age. Thankfully, this work did not disappoint. The consistent theme throughout is that princesses and fairytales are not exclusive to dusty old books and Disney films- we slay dragons everyday, we dream our own dreams, and only we can be our own knights in shining armour.

Gill has taken the morals of the classic fairytales and have injected them with a much needed modern day context. Some poems are dark, going deep into the woods to confront society’s demons such as eating disorders, absent fathers, the patriarchy etc. This was needed and speaks to the issue about the romanticism of fairytales. For those looking for stories about glamorous balls, glass slippers, and talking fauna, this is not the collection for you. There’s a reason this book is called Fierce Fairytales, the stories are meant to uplift you by first deconstructing the harsher lessons of classic tales. It becomes evident that “once upon a time” is our time.

While I did enjoy some of the poems, I felt the themes were redundant. This book could have been cut down in size by half and it would have been a lot more effective. I did enjoy many of the poems- particularly ‘Why the Leaves Change Colour’, ‘The Woods Reincarnated,’  ‘Somewhere Across the Universe, This Intergalactic Fairytale Is Being Told,’ and ‘The Healing,’ just to name a few.

If fairytales exist for the purpose of teaching and instilling morals and values into the people, then Fierce Fairytales will motivate you to get out of your cold dark cellar and rescue your self-love that you have put into the hands of wolves, villains, and enchanted mirrors.

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Daughter of Light and Shadows by Anne McKerrow- REVIEW

Daughter of Light and Shadows by Anna McKerrow is a sexy and intoxicating novel set in the fairy kingdom and the price one has to pay to embrace their darkness. The story follows Faye- a proprietor of a new age shop in Abercolme who descends from a long line of witches. We follow Faye trying to come to terms with her Mother’s death and casting love spells with her two good friends. Along the way she comes to learn about her true ancestry which carries a heavy burden for many.

I really enjoyed the blending of the witchy genre with the fairy genre which I haven’t come across in many other books. There was just enough magic without it being too fantastical and this book reminded me of another similar story The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle. There was plenty of romance and eroticism which I didn’t mind in this particular story since it was used to show how the enchantment of the fairy world brings out people’s greatest desires that would otherwise linger in the peripheries of their being. It was this exploration of light and dark that kept me engaged from beginning to end. The fairy kingdom served as a metaphor for our own shadows. A place where desire, lust, and beauty can distort one’s personal power. The real world setting of Abercolme is the reality we live everyday, fighting our own shadows in order to stay in the light of what is acceptable. The mystical cold beach was the border between the two worlds- the place where spells and magic consummated. The murky waters of the sea were representative of our emotional depths- how far and deep would one go to discover themselves? This battle between light and dark played out in very magical way for Faye that kept me on the edge of my seat. I found myself struggling as Faye did. There were points in the story where I wanted Faye to fully embrace her fairy side- I mean, who wouldn’t be enamoured with gilt, jewels, and gorgeous supernatural creatures? Yet, there were other times when I wanted to see her exact revenge upon Glitonea and Finn, using her full witchy power. Daughter of Light and Shadows cast its own spell upon me, leaving me wanting more and more.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton- REVIEW

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton is a haunting tale about an artist, a manor, and a priceless gem, and the interwoven lives of the manor’s mysterious occupants. I had high expectations for this book as I am a fan of Kate’s previous book The Lake House and trained as an Archivist like one of the characters. With that being said, I was left feeling disappointed with this book. I found it to be extremely slow-paced and the story itself was boring. It was an average whodunnit that really wasn’t all that interesting. I was confused as to what the story was really about? Was it a ghost story? A crime story? A story about a mysterious manor? Birchwood Manor was the main character, so I think it might have been more appropriate to rename the book as such. I felt the story was saturated with too many characters and it was difficult to keep up with them. As other readers have pointed out, it would have been nice if the two main characters didn’t share a similar names- Lily and Lucy. The Eldritch Children seemed last-minute and I’m not really sure why Elodie’s subplot was included since it was left unresolved. The Clockmaker’s Daughter needed a stronger supernatural element, less characters, and a more intriguing central mystery.

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston: REVIEW

From the author of the The Witch’s Daughter comes a brand new time bending adventure story that will make you never look at antiques in the same way again.

Without giving away any spoilers, this story follows a Mother & Daughter duo as they attempt to rebuild their lives in rural England by opening up an antique shop. What follows is a magical silver piece with a sordid past , a violent ghost, ley lines, a good old-fashioned love story, English politics, and proper English gentleman.
The author’s use of descriptive language to evoke a charming English village and its previous centuries old history, not only transports the main character, but also transports the reader to another time and place.
The strong relationship between the main character Xanthe and her Mother Flora was a nice added break from stories about estranged parents and dysfunctional families. It’s what kept the reader anchored to the present but also floating to the 17th century sub plot as well. It is their mutual love that drives the story forward like an old-fashioned carriage, a little bumpy, but reliable nonetheless.
The supernatural aspect of the story was tasteful and effective as were the bits of romance. Readers will appreciate the female characters who were each strong in their own ways appropriate to their statuses. The main character Xanthe is a heroine, with her mud-stained cheesecloth rags she rescues an innocent young girl from her terrible fate, and in doing so, rescues a part of herself that she lost after enduring her own terrible fate prior to moving to Marlborough.
We see how this charming English village of Marlborough evolved into a more modern version of itself but still retained the same type of personalities even after hundreds of years. This made the story more believable, as the past and present are always interacting with each other and it is those long forgotten items and discarded antiques that are some of the greatest witnesses of history. If we started treating them as such, as opposed to a price tag, we would develop a greater appreciation for the present.

Be careful not to hold onto this book too tightly, for you might find yourself transported to 17th century England…oh and if you do, a minstrel is always a good disguise.

My Best Reads of 2017

2017 was the year of books for me! I was able to read and review 26 books (I’m both a little surprised and proud of this). I didn’t want to rank the books best to worst, so I rated them based on their categories. Without further ado, here we go!

Best Fiction 

  1. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

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The Rules of Magic revisits the Owens clan- not Sally and Gillian this time, rather the eccentric aunts- Fran & Jet. The story follows the aunts and their brother Vincent as teenagers who discover their magical lineage and all the perilous adventures they have as a result. The 1960s backdrop of the novel creates a kaleidoscope of magic that twists and turns as the story unfolds. It’s less hippy star-child, and more awakened thrill seeking. Growing up in a strict household, when Franny turns 17, she receives an invitation to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt in Massachusetts (in that glorious white house we remember from Practical Magic). The three head off and are initiated into magic-by making black soap at the full moon, collecting herbs for their neighbours woes, and scrying a black mirror that shows the future. Once again the home served as a sanctuary and respite from the children’s overbearing mother who forbade magic and falling in love. One day, their spunky cousin April comes for a visit who tells them all about their ancestor- Maria Owens- who was responsible for the Owens “love curse.” As we saw with Practical Magic the Owens tend to play a dangerous game of love vs fate. Franny is cautious, Jet is passionate, and Vincent is reckless. The story takes us from their magical awakening in Massachusetts, to their adult life running an Apothecary in NYC, and to their first meeting with Sally and Gillian. Along the way we find ourselves becoming entangled in their love affairs, grieving at funerals, and soothsaying what appears to be their fated futures. It’s hard not to become emotionally involved with these characters whose innocence, determination, and risk taking, tugs at your heart strings- at times making you cry and smile.

Readers and fans of the Owens story know, that death is a frequent visitor for the Owens and The Rules of Magic are no exception. Tempting fate and risking love are the common themes throughout this story- but we see so clearly how it is loss, heartbreak, and destiny that weaves the most powerful spell of all. Alice Hoffman’s most successful achievement with both Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic is that she makes us realize that magic is not about waving a wand or dancing naked under the full moon (partially clothed will suffice), rather magic is an inherent gift we each possess- we either live our lives defeated-surrendering complete control to kismet, or we actively co-create our realities through adding a heavy dose of love to everything that comes our way. Magic is what you make of it, and as we have learned from the Owens the only rule of magic, is that magic is boundless- we create our own rules through the choices we make. A pinch of salt, some lavender, and a black cat doesn’t hurt either.

 

2. The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman

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The Stargazer’s Embassy is unlike any alien novel written before. Thought provoking and addictive, this is a must read and should be on everyone’s e-reader and book shelf. Judging by the title, what appears to be a quirky cosmic sci-fi novel is actually a rich metaphysical novel that ponders some important existential questions. What really happens after death? What are aliens’ intentions? Can we ever truly escape our past?

The story follows a woman named Julia who finds herself part of an alien conspiracy and wants no part of it. She’s a house-cleaner who is trying to move on from her new-agey childhood and mommy issues. All she has is a tattoo, and a place called The Stargazer’s Embassy, where people come and go, like life itself. We find her at various points in her life struggling with this issue, and trying to make a life for herself. Along the way we are introduced to some interesting characters who find themselves implicated in the very same alien problems she’s trying to escape from.

Julia’s defiance of involving herself in this haunting issue is what makes this a stand out novel. We don’t see Julia enthusiastically throwing herself into the unknown. We see a truly scared, annoyed, and assertive character who becomes the anti-hero. There is a will she or won’t she anticipation that hooks the reader and offers a certain emotional and psychological realism. There are plenty of alien encounters in the novel to satisfy traditional science fiction lovers, but it takes it a step further by offering a multitude of spiritual questions. It is because of this, that The Stargazer’s Embassy becomes an exploration of the meaning of life.

Suffering from emotional abandonment issues, the aliens become a metaphor for Julia’s strange childhood. In essence, she herself is an alien- trying to create a life for herself that she’s never known. Losing her mother with many unanswered questions, Julia hopes her encounters with the aliens, or “things” as she likes to call them, will provide her with the answers she needs. The aliens themselves are not exactly sure what they’re looking for and this in turn becomes a mirror for Julia and other “experiencers” encounters. If we all had the chance to travel throughout the cosmos like the aliens- would any of our questions be answered, or would we be even more confused? Julia spends most of her life searching for answers, but it is the very place she is running away from that provides her with the comfort she seeks- The Stargazer’s Embassy. The aliens have just as many questions as Julia and her friends do, but appreciating life for the journey it is, is all that counts in the end. Everything has a beginning and an end, so rather than spend lifetimes dissecting what it all means, it is important to treasure every waking moment, because it is those moments that stitch the fabric of our lives. There are two things we must do in our lifetime, be born and die. Everything in between is alien compared to the certainty of those two things.

I appreciated the humour associated with the aliens and their un-friendly demeanors. Once again they did not come across as stereotypical menacing superior beings, but relatable drifters who seemed genuinely lost. The story was perfectly paced and the first person narrative was a great way to keep the reader invested in Julia’s journey.

In essence, each of us have our own Stargazer’s Embassy- a place, either imagined or real where we are able to go to find comfort and peace- knowing that the answers we seek, are in fact seeking us. The Stargazer’s Embassy is a place where people- human and inhuman come and go, like life itself.

*A big thank you to Sarah Miniaci at Smith Publicity Inc. for being kind enough to send me a paperback copy to review. You’re friendly correspondence and enthusiasm for this book has me looking forward to reviewing other Smith Publicity Inc. books!

 

3. The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

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The Goblins of Bellwater was one of the most unique stories I have ever read. I applaud the author for choosing to write a book about a supernatural creature that does not get featured in literature very much. The storyline was captivating and kept me hooked from the beginning until the end. Its dark magic crept into each of the characters lives, making this an eerie tale of forest fae, temptations, and sacrifice. There was a certain realism to the story and characters that makes me wonder if there aren’t goblins hiding in every forest around the world? I loved how the it took place in Washington state which is a lovely break from the traditional supernatural locations of London and New York. There was enough romance to satisfy supernatural romance lovers and enough of a background story of who the goblins were, that mythology readers would appreciate. Incorporating other mystical creatures aside from the Goblins was a lovely added touch- along with the nod to environmental protectionism. There are times when the story becomes a little vulgar which is needed in order to demonstrate the effects of the Goblin magic, but it seemed a little predictable and I would have liked to have seen a darker effect on the humans as opposed to eroticism. Overall this book was original, uncomfortable, and addictive. I know that fans of supernatural and fantasy genres will adore it and it will perhaps start a goblin trend in other books to come. I do hope there is a sequel and for some reason I can’t help but think that Bellwater is not quite done with the Goblins.

 

Best New Age/How To’s

1.  Womb Awakening: Initiatory Wisdom From The Creatrix of All Life by Azra Bertrand & Seren Bertrand

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An exploration of the divine feminine, an intricate look at the hidden feminine/womb symbology throughout cultures, times, and places, and the explanation of the womb as a spiritual gateway- this book was groundbreaking on a number of levels. As someone who has recently become very interested in the divine feminine, I have been on the hunt for a book like Womb Awakening for quite some time. This book will shock you, awaken you, and inspire you to open yourself up to feminine consciousness. Feminine consciousness is described in the book as a metaphor for cosmic creation. When we begin to honour the feminine and all that is encompasses such as mothering, nurturing, creativity, intimacy, and intuition, we can not only heal ourselves- but we have the opportunity to the heal humanity because the feminine boils down to LOVE. Since we all came from the Great Mother of the universe, we are all starseeds encoded with the feminine- we each have the power to create and to destroy.

The book went in a few different directions and proposed that the ills of the world can be attributed to the disconnection to the feminine- a soul loss. It’s not about being a woman or a man- feminine goes beyond that as we each have both within us. This book explores why there is a need to embrace the feminine cosmology again after thousands of years of patriarchy.

Rather than chapters, this book contains Spirals- which are sections of the book that explore the mysteries of the feminine deeper than what a chapter could. The spirals themselves will be explained later in the book as the original chakra system- a feminine spiral path that energy flows mirroring a cosmic portal. This supports one of the main tenets of womb consciousness which is that flow with life is the feminine mystery. There is a deep discussion of the Womb of God which explains womb consciousness. I would have preferred if that was at the beginning of the book prior to the long discussion of womb symbology. Throughout the book Womb Oracles were a creative way to eloquently express and digest the chapter it followed, and were channeled by the authors who journeyed deep into the feminine. This gave a great visual. A plethora of tips on how to connect to womb consciousness such as breathing techniques and posture poses were extremely helpful and reader friendly.

This book went places other books on the divine feminine did not. There were discussions on the cerebellum, the spiritual meanings of conception, gestation, and how the four elements are connected to birth, which was ingenious. The lunar consciousness discussion was unique, and I would have loved more information on that because there aren’t any books that have explored that from the angle of Womb Consciousness. The trickster archetype to explain the loss of the feminine was original along with the sacred feminine medicine wheel.

If I could sum up what Womb Consciousness is, this is what I would say:

-Womb is a place of sacred union- where we lose the “I’ and become one with source

-Womb as a stargate, a reservoir of cosmic knowledge

-Alchemical abilities of the womb- becoming a sacred form of chemistry

-Womb is an archive of trauma and deep emotions

I have never read a book that had so much passion and love poured into its pages. You can really tell the authors have been affected greatly by womb consciousness and have evolved and opened up to the feminine. This is an encyclopedic source while at the same time a love letter and sensory exploration of the feminine that is compelling and inspiring. Womb Awakening is and will be a sacred encyclopedia for generations to come! The book itself is a womb that the reader will journey into, and every page will become a source of light.

 

2. Crystal Magic by Sandra Kynes

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A must read for anyone who uses and or is interested in crystals- whether you are a lapidary or witch- you will find this book to be both grimoire and text book. Crystal Magic is one of the best books I have read about crystals. Most books on this topic simply name crystals and their properties but this book took it a step further. The first part of the book is about the History and Science of crystals which is absolutely needed if you are going to be working with them. It is fascinating learning about crystals and gemstones in antiquity whether it was in astrology, divination, or medicinal uses. Learning about crystals from a scientific perspective such as their mineral compositions, their crystalline structures, and their formations provides a wealth of information about crystals that help you understand their magical properties even more. This section was not overly scientific, so if you are not a sciencey person, you have nothing to fear about this part of this book. This was extremely useful as we can sometimes forget that at the end of the day, crystals come from the earth. Tips on how to spot fake stones was also very helpful as we want to ensure that we are not simply relying on the placebo effect and that we aren’t supporting fraudulent distributors. I thought the chapter on crystals grids that are based on the crystalline structures of the crystals to be ingenious as I have never come across information about that before. The Compendium of Stones was one of the best I have seen as it also included the history of stones as many books opt not to include that in their descriptions. Two reference guides are also included at the back of the book that list the magical correspondences for the crystals such as ruling deities and planets. Once again this was very helpful. Whether you are a beginner or more advanced crystal practitioner, this book creates a solid foundation in understanding crystals from their historical and geological perspectives. Understanding crystals, gems, and minerals history and compositions creates a deeper and richer appreciation for these marvelous rocks.

 

3. The Body Heals Itself by Emily A. Francis

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The Body Heals Itself looks at muscle memory from a metaphysical perspective. This book has a Louise Hay ring to it because she built her career on her books about the emotional body. This book takes it a step further by focusing in on our muscles- which is something Louise Hay did not.

A discussion on the biology of muscles was included to help readers understand their functions. From there, muscles as storehouses for memories was included using both biological and spiritual examples. The author’s main point was that when muscles are massaged and stretched- emotions are released. She gave examples of clients she worked with who were able to discuss and heal old wounds when their muscles were massaged and activated which helped to prove her point. Chakras and meridians were also described, which is pretty standard for these types of books.

By the far the most interesting and important part of the book was learning the emotional component of each muscle group which is directly linked to their functions. Stretching techniques were included, along with recommended crystals, and essential oils. The main thesis of the body healing itself comes through when by the end of the book we are reminded that muscles remember when they are healthy as does the body. Our body stores emotions in order for us to go within and release them. Healing can only occur when the body is an active participant.

Overall a fascinating read that will ultimately offer a deeper appreciation of something we take for granted- our muscles.

 

Most Unusual

1. The Cairo Pulse by B.B Kindred

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This book was a metaphysical exploration of the collective consciousness, magnetism, memory recall, and the limits of the human experience. The main character Gabriel, an architect, begins to tap into the reservoir we call the collective consciousness due to an enigmatic character named Cairo. Think of it as a database where old memories, suppressed feelings and thoughts get archived. I couldn’t help but notice that the use of architecture throughout the story was reminiscent of a classical technique known as the Art of Memory. This technique required the individual to create a mental picture of a building with rooms. Usually this building was one which was familiar to the individual. Different objects would be envisioned in each room, leading the individual through the building of their mind. This technique was used ultimately for memory recall. I wonder if the author intentionally or unintentionally incorporated this technique into the story? Regardless, it serves as a genius metaphor for memory retrieval. The human mind is like a building with thousands of rooms that contain compartmentalized experiences. Deep spiritual practices such as meditation or for the purpose of this book- magnetic pulses, can assist with breaking into these rooms to collect what was believed to be lost. The story makes a point that it’s not simply about remembering what once was- rather it’s a full mind, body, soul experience that shatters the five senses into heightened awareness, and creates a spiritual awakening whereby one realizes that nothing is ever truly lost- but simply unconscious. If time is an illusion, than what once was, is what is now. Artificial memories become the norm such as memorizing useless information, and forgetting what happened merely minutes ago, while natural memories become stored into a hermetic reservoir. The human mind can be both logical and illogical at times, and The Cairo Pulse explores this idea- pushing the boundaries of what we believe to be the human potential.

The story is overly descriptive and wordy, but I appreciate this complexity as simplicity would have been a disservice to this mind boggling journey. The Cairo Pulse will challenge you to dig deep within yourself in order to align to your highest potential. If The Cairo Pulse is deemed a sci-fi novel, than I am very excited for this genre to explore the spirituality of science.

 

Disappointing Reads

  1. Healing From Within by Ryuho Okawa

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Healing from Within was a bland attempt at explaining the mind body connection. It’s a difficult topic to tackle considering the forerunner of this topic is none other than Louise Hay whose underlying metaphysical causes of disease has captured the hearts and minds of many. My biggest contention with this book was the discussions of the mind body connection in general. Nothing new was introduced here, nothing that the readers of this book wouldn’t already know, for instance we all know stress causes disease. But Mr. Okawa’s advice of spending money to manage one’s health is contradictory to his other messages of not allowing work and our busy lives to consume us. How can one spend money on managing their health if that requires slaving away at work to earn that very money that is one answer to combating their stress? The book took a turn when evil spirits were introduced as a culprit to disease. I appreciate Mr. Okawa’s religious and cultural background, but to imply that evil spirits seek out those with eating disorders is a little ridiculous, even for those of us who are more metaphysically inclined. If an analogy was made between evil spirits and state of mind, then perhaps this book could have gone in a different direction, where a comparison of different socio-cultural viewpoints of disease could have been introduced. Unlike Louise Hay who looked to our actual state of minds and feelings as the harbingers of disease, I was disappointed that Mr. Okawa did not focus more on the mind itself. His explanation is that the when the mind is suffering from depression or other ailments, this draws negative spirits to the individual, inciting disease. There seems to be a disconnect with his thesis of the mind body connection and what his book actually discussed. I am sure many people will appreciate this perspective, but I just wish he took everything a little further. I enjoyed his brief sections on Death and the Disabled, but it did not go anywhere. Infusing this book with more focus on the mind and our emotions as opposed to demons would save this work from turning into a weak, boring, and at times ridiculous exploration of healing.

 

2. Sigil Witchery by Laura Tempest Zakroff

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Sigil Witchery explores sigil magick all the way from the past such as heiroglyphics, up to the modern day present with graffitti. This book is different in that it does not show you how to make a traditional sigil using a kabbalah numbers grid. It would have been helpful to show how to make a traditional sigil rather than simply mention it and move on. The instructions on how to make a sigil were based on modern magick and witchy sovereignty. A discussion on why certain symbols were sacred to certain peoples were mentioned in many chapters which was a prelude to finding one’s own symbolic significance.

Personally, I wished a more methodical approach to sigil witchery was the focus of this book, as opposed to just making your own sigil without any specific system. There was a recurring theme of playing around with shapes and designs that does require a certain level of artistry in my opinion. Not only does this turn away a large audience, but for those looking for a more ritualistic and traditional approach to sigil magick, this book would not be satisfactory.

My advice to the author would be to devote some time to explaining traditional sigil magick in order to lay the proper foundation for readers.

 

That’s all folks! I will see you and my book reviews in 2018.

If you would like me to review your books, please send me a message and I would be more than happy to feature them here on my blog.

Keep reading!

Futura: A Novella by Jordan Phillips- REVIEW

Futura follows the story of Ruby- an ex-pat living in 2050 Paris. Paris is under a dome to preserve its Nouveau Nouveau architecture, Invisibles (AI) are the framework for society and are the “blue collar’ workers. Humans have a Universal Basic Income so work is no longer a priority but just a means to pay for indulgences, genetically engineered babies are the norm as are air taxis and virtual reality experiences.

We follow Ruby as she yearns to have a baby- to create a human life that is the stark contrast of Paris- imperfect and unpredictable.  We can use Ruby’s journey in wanting to conceive as a protest against the perfection and the obsession to be authentic. In 2050 Paris where everything is acceptable and AI is the pillar of society- human emotions become the determining factor between what is real and what is fantasy. Every emotion is accepted and people are free to express them in public without judgement. As one of the characters in the book proclaims “it’s as though every human emotion is rewarded.”

Throughout the book Ruby explores what it means to live in the present- to be mindful. Human life becomes meaningless as every emotion and act is accepted as a human liberty. For Ruby, conceiving a baby is a natural process-not from a virtual source but from the purest source, LOVE, which is something that can not be dehumanized.

Futura ponders some important existential questions. If in our current society we are encouraging the expression of emotions and authenticity, what will our future look like? Will everything become accepted to the point that no morals and values will be considered? If everything is created artificially, does creation even exist?

A short but powerful read that will leave you feeling both unnerved and mindful.

 

 

 

An Interview with Molly Ringle Author of The Goblins of Bellwater

I am honoured to be a part of the Launch Events for The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle. Please see an interview with Molly about her enchanting book down below. This was one of my favourite reads so far this year and I cannot recommend it enough!

Q & A With Molly Ringle
The Goblins of Bellwater

How closely did you follow Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” as a basis for the story?
I call this a book “inspired by” Rossetti’s poem rather than saying it’s “based upon” it, because I did veer from the poem a significant amount. I first read the poem a few years ago, and it intrigued me deeply. It’s evocative and strange, and, like a fairy tale, has many symbols and events that could be interpreted as having several different meanings. My assignment to myself was to use it as a jumping-off point for a modern paranormal novel, which would then go its own way as the plot required. What I kept from the
poem was the basic surface framework: we have a pair of sisters, grown but on the young side, one of whom becomes enchanted by eating goblin fruit in the forest and begins wasting away as a result, alarming the other sister into seeking a way to save her. Since Rossetti’s poem ends with a fast-forward to the women being “wives” and telling their children about their adventures, and since I wanted to write a paranormal romance anyway, I gave my modern sister characters a pair of men to get involved
with, in a double love story with eerie angles that I think match the eeriness of the original poem. Mind you, another interpretation of the poem is that the two women aren’t really sisters but lovers, which would be a different route to take and which I think would be lovely to see too!

For those of us who haven’t been there, what is Puget Sound like and why did you choose it as a setting for a retold fairy tale?
Puget Sound is a vast area of Pacific seawater, meandering into countless inlets and coves in skinny, deep fjords left behind by glaciers. Seattle and Tacoma and Olympia lie on its shores, on some of its largest bays, but it also has many wilder and more rural shores, especially on the western side where it backs up against a huge national forest on the Olympic Peninsula. That’s the region where my grandparents bought a vacation cabin decades ago, and where my family has been going for many vacations ever
since. I can safely say it’s one of my favorite places on Earth. In order to agree, you have to enjoy a cool, rainy climate and all the thick moss and ferns and mushrooms and huge evergreens such a climate produces, and I happen to love those things. Fairy tales, at least those from Northern Europe, almost all involve a deep dark forest. That’s where the faeries, witches, werewolves, vampires, elves, and all the other interesting beings live. Everyone knows that. I haven’t spent much time in the forests of Europe (alas! I will someday), but I reckoned our Pacific Northwest deep dark forests were more than adequate for housing supernatural creatures. My grandmother used to tell us that the mossy ruins of big tree trunks in the Puget Sound forests were the homes of Teeny-tinies, whom I always took to be faeries. So I set the story there, at the edge of the Sound, where saltwater meets woods and where the Teeny-tinies live.

What is the significance of the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) in this story?
The four elements are common fixtures in many ancient cultures, and have remained popular into the modern day. One of my favorite TV shows is Avatar: the Last Airbender, which uses the four-element framework brilliantly in its world-building. In reading up on faery lore for this book, I found that scholars often classify types of fae under the four elements, and since that appealed to me, I did the same. As one of the characters in The Goblins of Bellwater muses, there’s something human and emotionally real
about looking at nature that way, even if we technically know, thanks to science, that nature contains far more than four elements. And in my novel, the only way to break the goblin spells involves respecting and trusting each of the four elements, even when they’re at their most daunting.

Why do you think fairy tale and other myth and legend re-tellings are so popular right now?
I think they’ve always been popular! Maybe it’s a case of selection bias, because I personally have always been into ghost stories, fairy tales, and other supernatural lore, but it seems to me that human culture has never stopped telling such stories. As scholars of fairy tales will tell you, reading and writing about fantasy and the paranormal may look like escapism from reality, and sometimes I tell myself that’s what
I’m doing, but in truth these stories end up giving us all the useful lessons about real life that any good stories do: empathy, courage, love, respect for nature and community, and the importance of thinking fancifully and creatively.

What are the goblins like in this book?
In keeping with both the “Goblin Market” poem and the bulk of faery lore, they are mischievous and villainous. They laugh a lot, but they are decidedly laughing at you, not with you. They steal, and in particular they lust after gold. Like other fae, they enjoy making deals with humans, but humans would be wise not to enter into such deals, as the obligation tends to be heavier than it sounds at the outset. These goblins go further than merely them, too; they assault and sometimes steal away humans and turn
them into fellow goblins, and at other times enchant them into wandering unhappily in the woods until they waste away and die. Although the goblins are sometimes amusing in their level of witty rudeness, they are nearly all amoral and highly dangerous to get involved with. Only a scant few of them, who were once humans, manage to retain any human empathy. However, not all of the fae in my book are this cruel—the goblins are the worst of the lot! Others are willing to be quite helpful to humans as long
as they are respected in return.

What kind of magic system does this book involve?
In this book, my main characters are ordinary humans who can’t do any magic, but they become involved in the dealings of the fae realm, which is a bit like another dimension. It can be entered or glimpsed by summoning the fae (which includes goblins), who might or might not answer you. But you’re luckier on the whole if they don’t, because many of them are treacherous, and the realm itself is a wilderness containing many uncanny dangers. From the point of view of the human characters, the magical rules and the cultural norms of the fae are nonsensical, almost inexplicable, but since some of
these people have fallen under curses, they have to step in among those dangers and work with the rules as best as they can anyway.

What do you find most challenging in writing a novel?
At first, it’s usually getting to know the characters. I tend to start with a general idea of who they are, but then when I begin writing, I realize there’s too much I still don’t know about these people and therefore they aren’t coming across as real yet. It slows me down in the early stages while I take breaks to write notes in which I interview them and figure them out. I also have a perennial problem with writing antagonists. They have to do fairly awful things (being antagonists and all), but I still want them to feel like real people (or other beings), and therefore I have to get into their heads and figure out why they would feel justified in doing such a thing. It’s not a comfortable place for my mind to go. I suppose that’s why I gravitate more toward romance and lightheartedness: I much prefer spending time with those who love and laugh.

What are the easiest parts of writing a novel for you?
No part of the process is exactly easy. But sometimes lines will occur to me seemingly out of nowhere when I’m writing, and they’re perfect for the moment; or I’ll find my characters talking to each other in my head when I’m not writing. And I love those moments, because for them to have come to life in my imagination like that, it means I must have done sufficient groundwork in figuring out the world and the
characters. So although the groundwork is the hard part, it pays off and leads to easier parts later!

How did the writing of this novel, a fairly short stand-alone paranormal, compare to the writing of the Persephone trilogy?
It was far simpler! The Persephone’s Orchard trilogy had dual timelines, for one thing: the ancient world in Greece, and the reincarnations of those people in the modern day. For another thing, it had far more characters, both in original and reincarnated versions. And for any series, you need to have plot arcs that stretch over the whole series as well as smaller ones that get wrapped up within each volume; and you have to keep the whole thing internally consistent in terms of mood and themes and character personalities. It turned out exhausting enough that I didn’t want to write another series again anytime soon. So I picked The Goblins of Bellwater as my follow-up project: small cast, straightforward plot, and simple timeline. Most of the action takes place within about six weeks, in this small town, which is indeed a contrast to the millennia of world-spanning events covered in the trilogy!

Would you want to live in any of the fictional magical worlds you’ve created?
Strange though it might sound, I’d love to visit the Underworld as I wrote it in Persephone’s Orchard and its sequels. I made it much less scary, for the most part, than it is in traditional Greek mythology; and besides that, I love caves and glowing things, and definitely would be interested in a ride on a ghost horse as long as an immortal was keeping me safe during it. As for the fae realm we see in The Goblins of Bellwater, I’d like to catch glimpses of it, and of the fae themselves, but I wouldn’t want to actually enter
the realm. Too perilous!

What are you writing next?
One of the genres I love, and haven’t written enough of myself, is male/male love stories, so I’ve been working on a couple of those. One is contemporary, no magic or supernatural stuff, and it’s undergoing the feedback-and-revision stage right now. Another will involve a fae realm like that of The Goblins of Bellwater, only in a new location in the world, a fictional setting I’m creating. I stoll have to figure out how
this place works and what its magic system is like, in addition to getting to know the characters, but I’m excited about the idea and it has definitely taken root in my brain.

What are the most magical places you’ve been to in real life?
Puget Sound and its surrounding forests and mountains—which is why I chose the area for the enchanted lands in The Goblins of Bellwater. Also some of the forests and meadows in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where I grew up. Oregon and Washington are both overflowing with natural beauty and I’m spoiled to have spent most of my life here. In addition, some places in Great Britain have felt quite magical to me, such as Tomnahurich (Hill of the Fairies) in Inverness, Scotland; or Old Town Edinburgh with its many close alleys and dark medieval buildings and brick-paved streets; or Westminster Abbey, not only because of its beauty and its many graves of astoundingly famous historical figures, but because when I first visited it as a 19-year-old, I’d never been in any building anywhere near that old before (having grown up in the Pacific Northwest), and it blew my mind.

Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore- REVIEW

This quirky books tell the story of one soul- Milo and his nearly 10 000 incarnations. Each chapter tells the story of a different incarnation and the strange experiences and characters he encounters- everything from being eaten alive by a shark, to travelling the cosmos. Milo is in love with Death herself- Suzie, who he meets after he dies and the short stints he spends with her before moving on to his next life. He encounters her in each of his incarnations, although he does not remember her. They are madly in love with each other, but it is their complicated relationship of her being Death and him almost finishing his incarnational cycle that they devise a plan in order for them to be together. The plan is for Milo to achieve Perfection- meaning he can surpass becoming part of the Oneness of the universe and can therefore be with his true love. We accompany Milo during his different soul experiences, sometimes laughing, sometimes relishing in the simple beauty of life, and sometimes grieving alongside him. As someone who has always been fascinated with the concept of reincarnation, I thought this book while appearing to be yet another mystical fiction read, turned out to be a much deeper metaphysical exploration of the human experience. Appreciating the fragility of life while living up to your soul’s contract is a delicate balance we are all hoping to achieve.

It is easy when reading this book to jump to conclusions and cringe when we see Milo making a mistake and smiling when he’s done good……if only life were that easy. In the beginning of the book Milo does not want to stop reincarnating as he tells Death and some other elusive cosmic characters that “who doesn’t want to live?” What becomes apparent, is that Milo truly wasn’t living, he didn’t treasure every single moment of his lives because somewhere deep down inside he knew he would be back for another turn again. I believe the whole concept of reincarnation comes with a massive responsibility- we all like the idea of being recycled when we die, but somehow, that can become a cop out and excuse for not living a full life. Perfection- the state Milo is so desperately trying to achieve is not something we strive for, it’s something we must become.

The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman- REVIEW ***A Must Read!!

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Stargazer’s Embassy is unlike any alien novel written before. Thought provoking and addictive, this is a must read and should be on everyone’s e-reader and book shelf. Judging by the title, what appears to be a quirky cosmic sci-fi novel is actually a rich metaphysical novel that ponders some important existential questions. What really happens after death? What are aliens’ intentions? Can we ever truly escape our past?

The story follows a woman named Julia who finds herself part of an alien conspiracy and wants no part of it. She’s a house-cleaner who is trying to move on from her new-agey childhood and mommy issues. All she has is a tattoo, and a place called The Stargazer’s Embassy, where people come and go, like life itself. We find her at various points in her life struggling with this issue, and trying to make a life for herself. Along the way we are introduced to some interesting characters who find themselves implicated in the very same alien problems she’s trying to escape from.

Julia’s defiance of involving herself in this haunting issue is what makes this a stand out novel. We don’t see Julia enthusiastically throwing herself into the unknown. We see a truly scared, annoyed, and assertive character who becomes the anti-hero. There is a will she or won’t she anticipation that hooks the reader and offers a certain emotional and psychological realism. There are plenty of alien encounters in the novel to satisfy traditional science fiction lovers, but it takes it a step further by offering a multitude of spiritual questions. It is because of this, that The Stargazer’s Embassy becomes an exploration of the meaning of life.

Suffering from emotional abandonment issues, the aliens become a metaphor for Julia’s strange childhood. In essence, she herself is an alien- trying to create a life for herself that she’s never known. Losing her mother with many unanswered questions, Julia hopes her encounters with the aliens, or “things” as she likes to call them, will provide her with the answers she needs. The aliens themselves are not exactly sure what they’re looking for and this in turn becomes a mirror for Julia and other “experiencers” encounters. If we all had the chance to travel throughout the cosmos like the aliens- would any of our questions be answered, or would we be even more confused? Julia spends most of her life searching for answers, but it is the very place she is running away from that provides her with the comfort she seeks- The Stargazer’s Embassy. The aliens have just as many questions as Julia and her friends do, but appreciating life for the journey it is, is all that counts in the end. Everything has a beginning and an end, so rather than spend lifetimes dissecting what it all means, it is important to treasure every waking moment, because it is those moments that stitch the fabric of our lives. There are two things we must do in our lifetime, be born and die. Everything in between is alien compared to the certainty of those two things.

I appreciated the humour associated with the aliens and their un-friendly demeanors. Once again they did not come across as stereotypical menacing superior beings, but relatable drifters who seemed genuinely lost. The story was perfectly paced and the first person narrative was a great way to keep the reader invested in Julia’s journey.

In essence, each of us have our own Stargazer’s Embassy- a place, either imagined or real where we are able to go to find comfort and peace- knowing that the answers we seek, are in fact seeking us. The Stargazer’s Embassy is a place where people- human and inhuman come and go, like life itself.

*A big thank you to Sarah Miniaci at Smith Publicity Inc. for being kind enough to send me a paperback copy to review. You’re friendly correspondence and enthusiasm for this book has me looking forward to reviewing other Smith Publicity Inc. books!

Crazy Little Spring Called Love- REVIEW

This anthology contained eight short stories centered around spring time love. Each story was whimsical, quirky, and romantic. Some stories were weaker than others, and some were highly developed enough to become their own stand alone books. Spring time is always a time of magic as flora bloom and fauna procreate. This served as the backdrop for all of the short stories. Whether it was a pagan love story, or a mermaid tale, or Greek gods falling in love- spring romance was definitely in the air. I appreciate Seton Hill University for helping to put this anthology together which featured some great writers and helped to showcase their emerging talents. As a lover of fantasy fiction, this book was a light and easy read that satisfied my mystical book thirst. This is the perfect book to enjoy on a lovely Spring day in the garden amongst the flowers and bees. There was just enough romance to satisfy romantic novel lovers and plenty of magic for fantasy connoisseurs. The stories were not too long and not too short and had many cliffhangers which I hope means a second volume is in the works! The season of Spring always serves as a reminder that anything is possible…….especially when love and magic are involved!