Tag Archives: book reviews

Witchlit and Spiral Nature

The Bed, by Laura Perry.

Oh what a glorious read this was! A witchlit novel full of magical realism, strange occult happenings, supernatural beings and … haunted furniture! I read it over a couple of days, immersing myself in the world of Liz – upcycler and folk artist – whose world is sent spinning into chaos by the purchase of an antique bed. The writing style is utterly engaging, the characters complex, the situation intense. It’s great reading occult fiction from someone who really has a feel for the traditions of both writing and practice – it feels real. It feels like someone could really have been through all these things (assuming your reality accommodates the supernatural). There are some serious messages in the book about knowing what you’re up to, and not assuming that any spirits you might interact with are inherently benevolent. Alongside all the supernatural shenanigans, Liz’s family, friends, and the man attempting to become her fiancée are portrayed with skill and depth, making it all feel very rooted in this world, this life. For me that’s a key part of the genre – the real world stuff has to be persuasive to ground the magical aspect of magical realism. The magic has to be real enough to not stretch credulity too far, while also feeling genuinely magical. For witchlit of course the magic has to make a certain kind of intuitive sense, and this absolutely does.

This ticked all the boxes for me – a heroine who isn’t fresh out of school, and who has as a consequence a more developed life and character, with real life issues, and a nice mix of independence, and cooperativeness. A surprising story, that keeps you guessing right up to the end. Loved it!

More about the book here – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/the-bed

I recently reviewed Lupa’s book Nature Spirituality from the ground up for Spiral Nature. This is my first Spiral Nature review, and also my first time reading a full length Lupa text, although I’ve been following her blog for a while. It’s a great read, and the full review is here – http://www.spiralnature.com/reviews/nature-spirituality-from-the-ground-up-lupa/

More information about the book here – http://www.thegreenwolf.com/books/nature-spirituality-from-the-ground-up/

 


Things I have been reading

When I review in batches, I often find there are themes. I can’t see any links this time, it’s quite a disparate set, but perhaps that ups the odds of there being something for everyone…

Revealing the Green Man – Mark Olly. This small and startling book comes out in August, and is unlike any Green Man stuff I’ve read previously. I’m not an expert on history or Green Men, though. This book intrigued me, it went into the possibilities of the past, and the implications for the future than I had anticipated. Author Mark Olly lectures in archaeology, it’s worth noting, so can be assumed to know his stuff. I’m not going to say too much about the content, to avoid spoilers, but I will say I found it a wild ride of a read, and far darker than I’d expected. If you wanted to be excited and surprised about this familiar icon of modern Paganism, I think there’s every chance this book will deliver.

More about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/revealing-green-man

 

Steam Hammer – story by Fnic, art by Charles Cutting. This is a Steampunk graphic novel set in an alternate reality where the USA is the conquering colonial power, England is in their power and Scotland is fighting back. It’s a bit like an Asterix setup, although far darker and with an alchemist instead of a Druid. This is a story that revolves around action and violence – to a greater degree than I’d normally go for, but if you like that kind of story, it’s well told, great pace, not gratuitous (readers over 12 I think) compelling setting, mechanical horses… I didn’t read it at the speed the story suggests because I spent a lot of time studying the line drawing of Charles Cutting, cooing over his landscape representations and how he does clouds. I’m entirely a fan. It’s part 1 one of a series, ends in a cliffhanger, and I do want to read the next installment.

More about the book here – http://www.slothcomics.co.uk/steam_hammer.html

 

The Fifth Quarter, Richard Selby. Poetry, prose, illustration and photography. This small book represents a love affair with Romney Marsh and is very much written for people besotted with that landscape. Having never been there, I may not be best placed to judge, but I found the writing evocative and it conjured an idea of this landscape for me. There’s a sense of timelessness, and of liminality – between land and sky, sea and shore. Watery landscapes always have that slightly otherworldly quality to them. It’s a charming book, and if Romney Marsh is part of your world, you ought to check this out.

More about the book here – http://www.awenpublications.co.uk/the_fifth_quarter.html


Folklore, myth and new writing

All three of the titles in this set of reviews have a really interesting relationship with folklore and mythology.

Coal House, W.S. Barton I came to quite by chance through a Twitter conversation. It’s a really creepy ghost story, with high levels of tension but not a lot of gore. I couldn’t put it down and read it in one evening. I can definitely recommend it. A haunting landscape, and a great plot. The folklore role in this is really interesting. A couple buy an empty house on impulse. Then the local people start being weird at them, but no one wants to talk about it. There’s some dark and troubled folklore associated with the house, but people seem reluctant to take it too seriously, until the deaths start again… everything anyone needed to know was there in the local folklore all along, but people coming in from further afield, and people not wanting to seem superstitious keep that valuable information out of the mix for too long. Given how well, and how long important information can survive in oral tradition, there’s something very pleasing about the way spooky tales do tend to validate the folklore while the people who sneer tend to be eaten first.

More about the book here – http://www.rudlinghouse.com/books/fiction/coal-house-by-w-s-barton/

 

Kadath, Charles Cutting is a graphic novel published by Sloth (Hopeless Maine has moved to this house). Its a tale that both operates within and cunningly subverts the Lovecraftian mythos. I think what’s happening with Lovecraft is a fascinating case study in modern myth making, and Charles has certainly added to the mix. Based on The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath, is makes explicit that the main character from Lovecraft’s story is really Lovecraft himself and brings to the fore all the detestable things about the man. It’s no mean feat to make a story viable with a loathsome main character, but it works – not least because it’s visually so appealing. Set mostly in the realms of dream, it shows a dreamworld that seems more like Dunsany than Lovecraft, and is enchanting. Carefully avoiding any spoilers, this is on one level a moral tale about people who obsess about the wrong things, and creative souls who are more enchanted by their own egos than by anything… well… enchanting. A remarkable and gorgeous piece of work, highly recommended.

More about the book here – http://www.slothcomics.co.uk/kadath.html

Invoking Animal Magic, Hearth Moon Rising. This is a book offered as a study text for would-be students of animal magic. I confess I didn’t read it that way, not being someone who is looking for study options at the moment. I read it instead as a fantastic collection of myths, folklore, and personal insights relating to a set of creatures. Hearth Moon Rising has picked out a selection of creatures with particularly rich and magical folklore and explored the differences and similarities in tales from around the world to help the reader connect with these various beings. I especially like the way that there’s no attempt to shoehorn international folklore into single narratives, and that the diversity in stories is kept really visible. The tales are brilliant, and shared with considerable wit, wisdom and insight. It was an absolute joy to read. I suspect it’s a great study course, but if you aren’t looking to practice, it’s well worth having for the stories, and everything you can learn and enjoy in them. As it’s an illustrated book, I recommend getting the paperback – an ebook won’t do the visuals any justice at all.

More about the book here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/invoking-animal-magic


The importance of hope

Life is full of challenges. Not just my life, looking around its obvious that most of the people I know get more than what seems like a fair share of crap. Life is just not easy. I’ve lived for more years than I can count in survival mode. Just holding together, keeping going, dealing with each new setback as it rolls in, and trying to make the best of the good things. Moments when the sun shines, the streak of electric blue that is a kingfisher. A not working weekend where I can snuggle with my bloke for a bit. The small things have been what I live for.

What I’ve not had, for a long time, is any real hope. Any serious belief that I could do more than survive, and frequently doubts that even survival would be possible. One day at a time, sometimes one breath at a time, I have pushed onwards, waiting for the thing that would finally put me down in a way I could not get up from. That hasn’t happened yet.

I’m getting feedback about the Druid books, and people, your words stun me. I’ve been awed and humbled by the words people have offered back in response to what I’ve written. It makes me want to go further, and do more and it gives me a sense that I can do some useful work in the world. In the last few days, the reviews have been coming in for Hopeless Maine, as well. It’s getting a bit unreal. Big comics websites talking about us. More importantly, people getting the work, grasping what we meant, and responding to all the little details. I never dared to imagine that we’d get to this sort of point. I start to feel that we could get somewhere.

A life of survival, a life without hope is not an easy or happy one. Even the most irrational hope is remarkably sustaining if you can hang on to it. Living day to day waiting for the universe to finish off and crush you properly – I can’t say I recommend it. Tom and I have held on to each other through the hard times, and to the knowledge that whatever else we might not have, we have what we feel. Bearing in mind that because of the international angle, we have not had the same guarantees of being able to be together or stay together that most couples take for granted. The tiny threads of hope that have kept us going have been hard to hang onto in face of some of the things we’ve had to deal with. And here we are, getting somewhere, watching the good reviews roll in and thinking that we can go further and do more.

We make a promise, one that we have made to each other repeatedly for years now. If this works, if the books sell, if there is money to spare, we will take that money and do good stuff with it, and try to share that goodness as widely as we can. I daydream about all kinds of things that I think would help brighten life for people, add to the good stuff, help the planet. I want a device that turns poo into burnable fuel, for a start. Bringing a whole new meaning to the term ‘log pile’. I want to be able to reach out and enable other people to follow their hearts, to make opportunities. I swear, if this book flies, I will use that as a jumping board to make more good stuff happen.

Thank you, everyone who has come this far with us, everyone who has supported us with words of encouragement, and practical aid. And by buying the books.