Category Archives: Reviews

Last Girl’s Club – a review

View Last Girls Club Spring Issue by Eda H Obey, Martinne Corbeau

I was sent a review pdf of the first magazine from Last Girl’s Club, recently. It’s a fiction orientated magazine, focusing on weird, eldritch things and dark feminism – if you like my fiction it may well be your sort of thing! It’s going to be a quarterly.

It’s a tricky thing to review in that there are multiple articles – fiction and non-fiction – from a broad array of authors. It looks like there will be regular columnists – and they’re an interesting bunch with an array of perspectives and approaches. Otherwise the magazine is open to submissions, so there will be unpredictability. Issue 1 offered a diverse selection of authors working in a breadth of styles, from the creepy to the disturbing. It was light on gore, and happily light on the female abuse tropes that dominate some areas of horror. It’s a pleasure to see horrible things that don’t rely on the abuse of women. The magazine has a policy of no stories where sex leads to murder, and this makes me enormously happy.

I only gave up on one story – I didn’t engage with the author’s voice at all – everything else grabbed me and I enjoyed reading it. Inevitably with this sort of project there’s a likelihood of not finding everything to your taste, but it’s well worth a go, the writing is strong and innovative and the editorial team clearly has some very good ideas about what to say yes to.

This is a magazine that charges. It’s important to note that this is also a magazine that pays. There aren’t anything like enough of those out there, and I encourage you to support outfits that actually pay their writers. Last Girl’s Club is accepting short stories, poetry, flash fiction, non-fiction and relevant reviews. The content needs a female focus, but the gender of the author is not a consideration.  The submission guidelines are clear and can be found on the website.

If this is your area of interest, then it’s well worth checking out.

Sacred Actions – a review

Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Sustainable Practices (Paperback)

Dana O’Driscoll’s Sacred Actions is a rare example of a book I think everyone should read. It’s written for Pagans and Druids, but I think there are lot of people who simply care about the natural world who would also benefit greatly from this book.

This is a book about how to embed not just sustainable practices in your spiritual and daily life, but also how to be restorative. It’s not enough to be sustainable. The idea of being regenerative is exciting, and the book as a whole has a hopeful, encouraging tone and is a good antidote to despair and distress.

You could take this as a manual for a year long project, or you could just read it all and pick the bits that work for you – there’s plenty of inspiration and flexibility here. Author Dana is a longstanding Druid, with a wide range of life experiences. The result is a beautifully written book that is pragmatic, realistic and recognises the breadth and limitations you might be facing. It is as applicable for urban Pagans in small spaces as it is for those who can run off and start an organic homestead, and all places in between. There’s attention to issues of wealth and privilege, and this is an excellent piece of writing for not excluding anyone or assuming much about available resources.

The book follows the wheel of the year, and the 8 festivals familiar to most modern Pagans. You could draw on this material to enrich your own seasonal celebrations, there would be no difficulty setting it alongside a different set of celebrations, either. If celebrating the festivals isn’t part of how you do your Paganism, that will also be fine, you can make this entirely about action without any need for ritual.

Each festival explores an area of thinking and action and looks at how to bring this into your daily life, and spiritual life. It’s a book that is very much about embedding the spiritual in the everyday, and increasing earth awareness and feelings of interconnectedness.

If you’ve been a deliberate eco-Pagan for some time, you might find some of the content familiar. However, this is a book with so many ideas in it, that the odds are good of finding new things to bring into your life. There are original rituals and triads here, and content for contemplation and meditation that will enrich any Druidic practice. I really like the emphasis on meditation as an action, and using meditation to embed ideas, reflect on relationships and deepen understanding. These are the most valuable meditation pointers I’ve seen in a very long time.

The author writes from her own experience, which means that the book has most to offer a Pagan in similar circumstances – someone living in North America. If that’s not your situation, there is still a great deal to gain from this book, you’re just going to have to do extra work to find out about relevant plants and groups where you live, for example. As a UK dwelling reader I enjoyed the decision to make the content specific – in many ways, specific details provide a better map for those of us outside the area of interest, than vague content that doesn’t really give anything precise to anyone.

If you need inspiring and uplifting right now, this book is for you. If you need help finding out how to live a life that is regenerative, and more than sustainable, this book is for you. If you are even slightly interested in earth based spirituality, this book is for you. I cannot recommend it enough. It’s made me realise a lot about what is most important to me in terms of Druidry – connection, care, community, responsibility, action, living our values, and uplifting each other so that we can all do better.

More about the book here – Waterstones

Kiss the Ground

If you care at all about climate chaos, you’re probably also experiencing depression, anxiety and despair. It all looks fairly grim out there and the politicians aren’t getting to grips with the issues anything like fast enough. Meanwhile Elon Musk adds to the pollution as he fires rockets into space and crypto-currencies use an alarming amount of energy. People with money and power seem hell bent on making everything worse.

Kiss the Ground is a documentary. It’s genuinely hopeful and offers what sounds like a real and realistic solution to de-carbonisation. It’s all about soil. The best thing is that no one has to wait for their government to get moving. Anyone with any land at all can take things on board from this and do something.

The solutions offered in this documentary benefit farmers. This is a way forward that offers lower costs, greater resilience and a better chance at making money – which is persuasive. It’s not a big ask to suggest people do something that will greatly benefit them. The solutions are low-tech for the greater part, so people in poorer parts of the world can get started without having to wait for help. The principles are easy to grasp.

We can keep a lot of carbon in the soil. We can add to it at a significant rate. Ploughing releases carbon, but we don’t actually need to plough to grow crops. If the soil isn’t bare, it takes in carbon, if it is bare, not only does it not take in carbon, but there are flooding issues, and earth becomes dust, topsoil is lost and we get desertification. Maintain plant cover and everything works better.

Here’s a trailer for the film, and if you get chance to see it, I heartily recommend it.

You might also want to watch this fantastic video on re-greening.

Artio and Artaois – a review

Pagan Portals - Artio and Artaois

If you’re a Pagan who loves bears, this is for you. This is a beautiful exploration of Celtic bear deity.

As is so often the way of it, we don’t have much by way of written sources for Celtic bear deities Artio and Artaois. What Andrew has done with this book is to share his journey in search of them, and it’s a really engaging read and an excellent way of approaching the quest.

It’s always clear where the material has come from, as Andrew searches widely for bears. His explorations are thoughtful, informed and intriguing. They also function as a map – there are so many Celtic deities for whom we have names and little more. The quest to forge a personal connection with a God or Goddess about whom little is known, is a challenging process but one that a person can undertake with honour and sensitivity, and this book demonstrates ways of working that anyone could use to inspire their own quests.

I have always loved bears. They were incredibly important to me in childhood, and they remain significant and deeply loved by me. I’m not very good at deity – it’s a complicated issue for me. However, I really enjoy work that is written with passion and integrity, and it felt like a privilege to join Andrew on his journey to find the Celtic Bear Gods. It was an inspiring read, as much for what it showed of personal devotion and enthusiasm as for what it teaches about Bear Gods specifically.

Heartily recommended.

More about the book here –

Scientific Analysis of Bees – Illustrated Booklet – a review

Scientific Analysis of Bees - Illustrated Booklet-Doctor Geof

This is a small, brilliant, illustrated book and I hurt myself laughing over it.

Dr Geof is a steampunk genius, a lovely human being, a maker of comics, and a bit of a bee fancier. In this book he sets out to prove that bees are better than anything else, using science, and also maths.

Aside from being adorable, it’s also a rather splendid bit of satire, poking fun at some aspects of science, how we use numbers to quantify things, and how easy it is to be persuasive with numbers. Fake news and conspiracy theories will show you diagrams, graphs and figures, but unless you know how those figures were reached in the first place, they aren’t worth much. Sometimes it’s just a case of picking the right numbers to get the result you were looking for.  And so it is with bees versus pirates, and bees versus windows…

You can find this small act of total loveliness over here –

A Brigit of Ireland Devotional – review

Brigit of Ireland Devotional, A

Sun Among Stars – Mael Brigde’s devotional to Brigit is a remarkable and fascinating book. It explores Brigit the Goddess, Brigid the Saint, the folklore, modern practice and the author’s personal journey. If you have any interest in Brigit, this will be an excellent read.

My knowledge of Brigit (Bride, Bridget, and many other variants) is fairly superficial. I’m probably typical for a Druid who is not a devotee. I found the material here entirely accessible even when the poetic content was dealing with traditions and stories I wasn’t familiar with. My guess is that for the reader who is more involved with Brigit, this book will have even more to offer.

Brigit is a complicated figure(s) and this book really digs into the issues. As a Celtic Goddess and a Catholic Saint, Brigit is and has been honoured by many different people, but is it fair to think of her as one entity? Mael Brigde explores the many different Brigits and shares her personal experience of being a devotee, and how that’s evolved over time. This is handled through a selection of essays and poems, supported by a wealth of notes and references. It is always clear what has come from one of the various traditions, and what has come purely from the author.

What I loved most about this book was the room it has for complexity and multiplicity. There isn’t a single coherent Brigit tradition to tap into – although it looks like modern Paganism is closer to achieving that than any other take on Brigit. There are Goddess stories, and multiple Saint stories, and maybe in there somewhere, the history of an actual woman. There’s a vast amount of speculation as well. As someone without deep knowledge, I found this exploration really useful.

If you are already well informed about Brigit, historical and modern, then it will be the personal and devotional content that is likely to be of most use to you. This is an unusual book in that it offers considerable richness for the novice and the more experienced reader alike. It is a good read for anyone who is casually interested – it certainly doesn’t require you to be devoted to Brigit or on an Irish polytheist path. You could read it simply because you’re interested in the traditions and enjoy poetry – that was mostly it for me and I’ve found it to be a thoroughly rewarding process.

More about the book here –

Intuitive Magical Practice – a review

Pagan Portals - Intuitive Magic Practice

Intuitive Magical Practice by Natalia Clarke is one of those  books I had the privilege of reading long before it came out. That’s been tricky because it had a significant impact on me and I didn’t want to pre-empt the book too much by talking about that.

This is a small book that offers things you can do to bring your intuition into your practice. It’s a gentle, generous book with a lot to offer in this regard, written by someone for whom intuition is at the heart of magic. Its clear reading this book that Natalia had to work to find and reclaim her intuition, and that raised a lot of questions for me.

It seems obvious – especially after reading this book – that magic should be intuitive. It shouldn’t be entirely prescriptive of about going through someone else’s instructions. I know there are intensely prescriptive high ceremonial approaches to magic out there, but those leave me cold. There should be room for wonder, and surprise, and… well… magic.

Reading this book made me ask a lot of questions about my own relationship with intuition. When did I stop trusting it, and why? How do I feel about it now? I came to the conclusion that it was something I wanted back. Natalia’s book was really timely for me, and it set me on a path that has radically impacted on my life. During 2020 I did a number of things that were leaps of faith, based on gut feelings and intuition. I started making space in my life for intuition and started acting on it. This has had a huge impact on me.

I’ve also tested my intuition a great deal. I’ve had some challenging opportunities to explore what I might intuit, and was later blessed with feedback about how well I’d done – and it was certainly enough to have steered by, and steered well in adverse circumstances.

This book opened a door for me. It also brought a lot of uneasy questions about my past, and it was good to be able to work that through. If you’re reading this review and wondering about your own intuition, and whether you have any, and whether you could work with it, then very likely this book is for you. If it feels right, go for it.

More about the book here –

All That Glitters – a review

All That Glitters by Halo Quin is a heady mix of poetry and prose, folklore and personal insight. This is a book of re-enchantment. Halo is steeped in folklore and has a powerful personal relationship with the wild and the natural world. At the same time there’s a sweetness to her work, and warmth in it.

It’s the sort of book I wish I’d had in my teens. These are words to cut through the loneliness of being an odd creature, a misfit, a dweller at the margins. I think if you’re carrying a lost child inside you, this book may touch that part of you. I felt it keenly. I remembered that youthful hunger for magic and enchantment, and how hard it is to hang on to a sense of wonder and possibility when there is no obvious place in the world for that part of your soul.

Halo is, I think, one of those rare souls whose child self wasn’t tamed or broken, and who carries her wildness inside her. If you were the sort of child who desperately wanted to be kidnapped by fairies, this book is for you.

More here –

The Hourglass Sea – a review

The Hourglass Sea is the second book in Mat McCall’s Dandelion Farmer series. It’s steampunk fiction set on Mars, and I reviewed book 1 here –

I think there’s a fighting chance this would stand alone without reading book 1 first, but really, why would you do that to yourself? Read book 1 first and then read this one! There’s always that worry with a series that the author won’t be able to live up to the promise of the opening, or that it will all spiral out of control – well, that’s not an issue here.

I loved book 1, and book 2 follows on from it wonderfully. Mat expands and develops the story and the setting with great style and skill. Life on Mars is explored in greater detail and the plots we encountered in book 1 become even plottier. As some mysteries seem to become clearer, new questions and problems arise for the characters. What’s critically important in this is that it feels entirely controlled. There’s clearly an underlying story here, and as the world building expands, more sense can be made of what’s going on, not less.

This is a wonderfully diverse tale, with characters from all kinds of backgrounds. It sets that diversity in a context that is sometimes supportive, sometimes problematic for the characters. There’s some of that Victorian prudery, and an exploration of prejudice around it, but also a strong pushback against narrow and restrictive ways of being. There’s a look at the realities of colonialism that does not romanticise invasion, conquest or settlement. While the central characters are largely privileged people, the story itself exposes that privilege and its implications in all sorts of ways.

This is a complicated adventure with a lot of action and a great deal going on – murder and revenge, spies and political scheming, evil science, strange sf elements, mystery, wonder, smugglers, airships, afternoon tea… it’s a really strong mix that managed to be both grounded and surprising.

I particularly like Mat’s approach to storytelling – the tale is presented as a series of documents gathered after the event – diaries, text books, letters and so forth. Sometimes the story is fragmented. Sometimes it overlaps, but in the overlapping versions, doubts and possibilities appear. The first person voices of the characters are distinctive, and the choice of who not to give a voice to also affects the plot in significant ways. I think it’s technically a really clever piece of work, which I also enjoyed. I may think about the mechanics of this sort of thing more than is normal!

It’s not easy reviewing a book in a series because almost any comment on the details has the potential to spoiler the previous instalments. This is especially true of this series, where even talking too much about the identities of the characters in book 2 might give away too much about who has survived book 1 and what has changed for them.

Heartily recommended!

The Fiery Crown Act 2 – a review

May be an image of 1 person, book and text that says "THE WIL CROWN Volume ICAL lainB CHARLES CUTTING DICE Csmics"

I was fortunate enough to get to read and review the first act of The Fiery Crown series a while ago. Act 2 is now in the world. This is the sort of graphic novel series you really do need to read in order. You can get a digital version of Act 1 from Comixology – – and I heartily recommend that you do.

This isn’t a standalone book, which makes reviewing it slightly tricky because I don’t want to create spoilers for the first one. I can say if you liked the first one, I think you’re going to enjoy this even more.

In Act 2, we see the story from Act 1 continue in really satisfying ways. The main character is a maiden, caught in a fairy plot involving a unicorn. She’s navigating through a ‘real’ world that has a British 1920s, 1930s feel although it clearly isn’t historical. Act 2 adds depth and richness to the scenario we got to know in Act 1 and moves the story forward – there is magic, and action, loyalty and betrayal, strangeness, whimsy and charm.

The art is lush. Charles Cutting has a unique style, and it’s really painterly and much more ‘arty’ than your typical comic. If you think comics mean primary colours in harsh blocks, think again. This is an art style that has pointillism, impressionism and cubism in its DNA. The result is beautiful, easy to make sense of, visually engaging and strong in terms of atmosphere. I read slowly because I lingered on so many panels, absorbing the details of the art.

The world building and storytelling are excellent. If you’re fond of folklore and fairylore, if you like a bit of Shakespeare, a bit of mumming – you’ll feel at home here. Charles is building a reality deeply rooted in all of these things but at the same time entirely original. The more we get into all of these aspects, the more impressive the balance gets regarding feeling familiar while being entirely new.

It’s always tricky seeing the first book in a series, to know whether to invest in it. Will the author be able to fulfil the promises made by the first book? Act 2 demonstrates that Charles Cutting knows exactly what he’s doing and that this is a story that won’t disappoint.