Category Archives: Reviews

Everyday Enchantments – a review

Everyday Enchantments by Maria DeBlassie is a lovely read, and was timely for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about what needs to change in my life if I am to be well and happy. This is not some sort of instruction manual for making or finding magic in daily life. It is a series of essays/reflections/meditations  capturing a sense of the marvellous found inside the mundane. It’s a very gentle read, inspiring and often thought provoking. How you apply it to your own life is entirely up to you.

In each chapter, Maria reflects on some part of her life where she finds soul nourishment.  Physical activity, baths, food, rest and blankets all feature here.  Tales from the garden and the market, and the kinds of simple, everyday things that are available to most of us.  If this sounds like the kind of life that would appeal to you, then this book is well worth your time.

The chapters are small – which is really good if your concentration is shot (mine has been). You can just dip in and take what you need, it’s the sort of book you can read cover to cover, or just dip in and out of, or open at random.  Some of the writing is first person as the author reflects on her life. Some of it, more unusually, is second person. This is the author writing to herself, but the effect is that she is describing things as though this is your life being reflected. How resonant or distant any of those scenes feel is interesting. There were times when the content sounded like it was being addressed specifically to me and telling me things about my life that I really needed to hear. And there were times when I was very much outside of that second person telling – but that was fine and still enjoyable.

Obviously, this is a book for anyone  trying to re-enchant themselves and seeking delight in their everyday life.  It’s a good book for anyone trying to climb out of depression, and I can also heartily recommend it for anyone wanting to explore ideas of slower living. For women interested in wild womanhood where you don’t have to abandon the life you already have, this book has a lot to offer. On the Druid side, it has a lot to offer the reader around how we seek and experience beauty, and how we might find inspiration from our immediate environments.

More here – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/everyday-enchantments


The Fiery Crown – a review

Here is a truly beautiful thing. The Fiery Crown is a comic written and illustrated by Charles Cutting. The cover art is indicative of what’s on the inside so it is easy to tell if the art style is for you. It’s full colour and lush and has that arty, painterly quality throughout. It’s a style that fits the story perfectly.

The Fiery Crown is set in some-when that resembles England in the early twentieth century, but clearly isn’t England as we know it. Much of the difference seems to hinge on a play called The Winter Solstice, and the story around it of the human who wiped out the fiery folk. Only it seems as though at least some of the characters are alive, and passably well and have plans.

This story does one of the things I love most. It tells a tale that feels like folklore. It feels like tradition and fairy lore and it is almost, but not quite familiar. It does draw on tradition, but it isn’t a straight borrowing from tradition, it is largely new, but with its roots deep in the rich soil of folklore. Charles Cutting clearly gets fairy folklore and is thus able to write something that both feels right, but is original. So I have no idea what’s going on or how the story will play out in future instalments and this makes me really happy.

I was fortunate enough to be sent a hard copy for review – it is a beautiful object. There are, I gather, 12 copies remaining from a limited edition print run, at time of writing this. You can pick up one of those here – http://charlescutting.com/The-Fiery-Crown

Or, if you don’t manage to snag a hard copy, there’s also a Comixology option over here – https://www.comixology.co.uk/The-Fiery-Crown-Act-1/digital-comic/897850?

Heartily recommended for anyone who loves fairies and living tradition, or who finds themselves in need of a bit of uplifting magic.


River Magic – a review

River Magic by M.A. Phillips is witch lit, romance, and magical realism and I heartily recommend it. This is a contemporary set novel with a main character exploring the Druid path in America. It’s a really lovely book with a great deal to recommend it.

While this is a straight romance, there are a number of queer characters in the story, which made me really happy. It turns out that I enjoy het romance a lot more when it isn’t set in a hetronormative context. Much of the book deals with the developing relationship, not just the opening gambits of  getting into a relationship – I really like this I think we need a lot more stories about people who are together rather than just obsessing over people getting together.

The Druid content is perfect – because the author is a Druid. It goes deeper than the rituals and beliefs though. This is a story that is absolutely rooted in a landscape and where the seasons are intrinsically part of life. There’s great richness to the writing around the river, the mountains, and trees that not only brings the story vividly to life but really conveys a sense of lived Pagan experience. I loved reading this, and realised how much I need this kind of story that reflects my values and priorities.

The magic is compelling, and Pagans who have had their own woo-woo experiences will recognise the challenges this brings. It’s one thing doing a tarot reading for love guidance and quite another acting on otherworldly instructions. Again, it’s wonderful seeing this sort of content handled by someone who clearly knows what they are talking about. I also really like the way the author tends to avoid big drama, and keeps the characters in a more realistic relationship with reality.

This is a beautiful book, and I loved it and look forward to the rest of the series. It’s very human, and warm and grounded, while also being magical and soulful.

More on the publisher’s website – https://shadowsparkpub.com/ma-phillips

This is part of a blog tour, and you can find out more about that here – https://www.storytellersontour.online/2020/10/20/tour-schedule-river-magic-by-m-a-phillips/


The Druid Garden – a review

Luke Eastwood’s The Druid Garden brings together spirituality, philosophy, sustainability and gardening. It’s a timely title that many people may find helpful. If you’ve taken up gardening in response to lockdowns, the inspiration in this book may be exactly what you need. It’s unusual to see so much tree content in a book on gardening, and that’s going to strike some chords with Druid readers.

You can buy copies from places that sell books, and also get it directly from the author’s website – https://lukeeastwood.com/books/the-druid-garden

Luke is perhaps best known for his Druid’s Primer – a well received book that brings together the ancient material on Druidry currently available to it.

Even though I don’t have a garden, I found it a good and interesting read and it gave me a lot of ideas about the garden I one day hope to have. I think it’s a really good example of a way in which we can bring druid philosophy to modern activities in a meaningful way.

I’m by no means an impartial reviewer – Luke approached me for an endorsement ahead of publication, we share a publisher (Moon Books) and I am his publicist. However, I don’t ever review books I didn’t like, and I don’t do publicity for people unless I like their work.


Meditations, Quotes and Affirmations – a review

Author R.D. Cain is someone I’ve known for a very long time, and like most of my book reviews, I don’t feel like objectivity is something I’m especially capable of. R.D. Cain’s new book of Meditations, Quotes and Affirmations is something I very much appreciated – it isn’t perfect, but it is bloody good.

The contents are offered for reflection, contemplation, inspiration, aspiration – you can use this however you want. There are accompanying photographs and pages for writing your own pithy wisdom statements, or journaling.

Philosophically it is a very good body of work. I usually find affirmations stressful, but these aren’t a difficult stretch and are much more about what a person could do rather than what they might claim to already be. It’s wonderful finding a body of wisdom statements that aren’t overloaded with privilege, either. The vast majority of what’s here is usable in crisis, and doesn’t become a mockery in disastrous circumstances. It’s also pleasingly broad to the point of being contradictory – there are Buddhist statements about letting go of dreams to live in the present, and there are much more Druid-aligned statements about the importance of dreams for enriching our lives. As the introduction makes clear, take what works for you at the time and ignore whatever doesn’t.

I read the whole thing cover to cover in a couple of sessions. I found that uplifting. I intend to keep this book around and dip into it at need – it is something I will find helpful for repeat use.

There’s one major way in which I wish this book had been different. It really should have been larger and lush, with a tactile cover and really nice paper, and high resolution full colour photographs. It should have been the sort of book you cuddle, and carry round. But, you only get to make books like that with a publisher who can afford it, and this has been put together by a cooperative of creators, so forgive it for not being the act of extravagant beauty it could have been.

Buy the book from http://www.3mpub.com/cain/meditations.html


Hungry Business – a review

Hungry Business is a short story by Maria DeBlassie that manages to be a surprisingly large number of things very effectively all at the same time. It’s a creepy zombie story – with a neat premise about how being a zombie works and what you have to do to avoid it. At the same time, it’s a clever piece of social commentary where the being-a-zombie works as a metaphor for certain kinds of modern experiences. It is somehow both a sinister horror story and very funny, often both at the same time. It’s also a romance, and a story about the nature of romance and the importance of romance stories.  

Author Maria DeBlassie has all of these things going on, but none of them get in the way of it being a charming and entertaining read. Impressive! Do check it out.


Oshibana Complex – a review

Craig Hallam’s Oshibana Complex is a science fiction, cyperpunk sort of story set in a grim future. I very much enjoyed it and if this is a genre you’d read, I recommend picking up a copy.

This is one of those stories where making sense of what is going on is integral to the plot, so, I shall try to review without spoilers. From the first page, we know this is a setting where work dominates life, and those who are poor are incredibly vulnerable. This speaks to the present moment all too clearly, and offers a trajectory no sane and decent person should want. The idea of the disposable human worker who is little more than a cog in the corporate machine is one we need to resist, and Craig illustrates it beautifully.

We also know from the first page that this is a culture that doesn’t do gender. I found this fascinating. The grammar is easy enough to get to grips with and cleverly done. It made me conscious of the way in which gender signifiers are so hardwired into how we think about people and identity. Being a writer myself it got me thinking a lot about gender identities in fiction, and what kinds of clichés and gender stereotypes we might unconsciously use when writing. It’s really interesting exploring characters who do not experience gender in themselves or other people, and I greatly enjoyed that as a reader.

The third thing that really struck me about this book and that isn’t a spoiler, is that it deals with mental health issues. The main character is distressed, experiences trauma and has realistic responses to that. As the story unfolds, the impact of being overwhelmed, lost, and in existential crisis plays out really effectively. Craig (who also wrote Down Days) has a lot of insight on this score and brings it to bear with skill, taking you into the mind of someone who is struggling. So often in speculative fiction, characters take on the chin things that tend to break real people. That sets up unrealistic expectations and means we otherwise have very few maps of what to do when faced with mental health issues in ourselves or others. It’s good to see the emotional consequences taken seriously.

This is a fine piece of work, it’s a book with many layers and dimensions to it, a strong story, with a surprising trajectory, lots to ponder and lots to enjoy. Heartily recommended.

Oshibana Complex is widely available from online retailers, but you can also buy it directly from the publisher, which is without a doubt, the best way to get money to the author!


Encountering the Dark Goddess – a review

Encountering the Dark GoddessEncountering the Dark Goddess, by Frances Billinghurst isn’t out until March 2021, but I saw it and I had feelings so I’m doing an early review. It was the book I needed to read, as I felt my own life plunging out of control (again).

Dark journeys happen. Dark nights of the soul happen. Sometimes we have no choice but to crawl on bloody hands and knees through some kind of personal Hellscape for a while. Working with Dark Goddesses, or The Dark Goddess as an aspect of the Goddess, is about having the tools for those journeys. Find yourself in the thick of one and you may reach for a book like this for guidance and wisdom.  Being prepared won’t save you, but it will help you make sense of things.

This is an excellent book. Frances takes us through 13 Goddesses of the dark. Each one is put in their mythological context and we get information about their cultural context, and who honoured them and when. It’s a good overview on this front, enough to give you a sense of place, people, culture and to put modern devotion into some sort of context too. From there, if you want to dig deeper, you have a strong starting position and the clarity that deities exist in contexts and that those matter.

Each section includes something personal that the author has written in response to the Goddess, and an exercise that you can do to explore that Goddess. These are guided visualisations, and they’re very good.

This is a book that will work no matter what you believe. If you’re exploring Goddess as archetype and energy, with no particular belief, then this book will work for you. If you believe that all goddesses are aspects of one great goddess, this book will work for you. If you are a hard polytheist seeing each Goddess as a specific being with their own personality and intentions, this book will work for you. It’s been written with great care and inclusivity, and there is room for all outlooks here so long as you are at least broadly interested in the subject matter.

I found it a helpful read during a hard time. There is wisdom here, compassion and life experience. I can entirely recommend getting a copy.

More about the book here – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/encountering-dark-goddess-journey-shadow-realms 


Erika and the Princes in Distress

I’m a biased reviewer, this  graphic novel  is published by Sloth Comics – who also publish Hopeless Maine. The reason I’m able to review it in advance of the release date is that I did a proof reading sweep on it. The original comic is French.

Erika and the Princes in Distress is gender bending comedy fantasy that messes about with fairy stories.  I found it really funny, and delightful. All the women in this story are muscular and have swords, and all the guys are little, pretty and delicate and need looking after. That reversal allows Yatuu to do some really entertaining things around gender politics.  And really, women should be able to be big, powerful and sword wielding if they want, and men should be free to be pretty and delicate if that suits them, and gender stereotyping is shit.

This comic was surprisingly powerful for me. I’m tall and broad shouldered.  My husband, Tom is an inch shorter than me. My beloved Dr Abbey is three inches shorter than me. I’ve always tended to be self conscious about my height and build. I can honestly say that this comic helped me think differently about my identity and body shape.  It has helped me navigate and feel better about how I am, and less weird about things.

This is a funny, warm hearted book – it’s not mean in its gender swapping.  It also has the best grumpy comedy sidekick horse in the entire history of the world.

You can read Erika and the Princes in Distress for free online https://www.webtoons.com/en/challenge/erika-and-the-princes-in-distress/list?title_no=341945

And the paperback version will be out in September

Book Depository – https://www.bookdepository.com/Erika-And-The-Princes-In-Distress/9781908830180

Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Erika-Princes-Distress-Yatuu/dp/1908830182

Blackwells – https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Erika-and-the-Princes-in-Distress-by-Yatuu-author/9781908830180


Pagan Portals Aphrodite – a review

Pagan Portals Aphrodite by Irisanya Moon is a new introductory title from Moon Books. It is a small book, easily read and digested and designed for the non-expert who would like to find out more about this Goddess and how to work with her. If that’s you, this is a good book to pick up.

If you’re established as a follower, dedicant or priestess of Aphrodite, this book is not for you. And that’s fine because you don’t need it!

I have a confession, and it is something I’ve not really talked about directly. I’ve had an attraction to Mediterranean Goddesses of love and sex ever since reading Jane Meredith’s excellent book, Aspecting the Goddess. I picked up this book because I am reading around this topic and actively seeking inspiration. It’s part of a personal process to try and heal. I was taken with the way Irisanya talks about Aphrodite as a Goddess of heart healing.

What affected me the most was the content in this book about beauty. There’s a lot of exploration of what beauty means and how it might manifest in our lives and how we might work with that. Not beauty in the narrow, conventional ways in which mainstream western culture defines female beauty. Something wilder, more expansive, loving and inherently magical. This book has caused me to ask some serious questions about the role beauty plays in my life and the changes I need to make. I’ll be back on this topic.

I still don’t know whose temple I would dance in if there were temples I could dance in. I’m still looking for a name, a sense of connection, a deity associated with the landscape I inhabit. I may never find that, but the looking is important to me all the same. This book has been a useful part of my journey. It wasn’t written for me, I am not seeking a relationship with Aphrodite, but even so it has given me maps I can use on my own journey, and it has taught me things about love and beauty that I really needed to hear.

More about the book here – https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/moon-books/our-books/pagan-portals-aphrodite