A new arrival on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf is Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon Ben by Genna Rowbotham, thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources. It instantly caught Amber’s attention as any book containing a hint of dragon always do. Accepting the blog tour invitation, she passed it over to Rosa to review with the help of Alejo.
Scroll down to read their honest and unbiased view.
Book review: Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon, Ben by Genna Rowbotham
Feeling so excited for a new day ahead, Ellie-May struggles to sleep. So when her toy dragon, Ben
grows into a real-life dragon, they take to the starry skies and embark on a night-time adventure together, where they visit Ben’s castle and enjoy a dragon party.
But as the sun begins to rise and the stars fade, will Ellie-May be able to stay awake?
Thoughts from the Emporium
Before giving it to Rosa, teenager Amber read Ellie-May and Ben’s adventure first with a huge grin, as the simple rhyme immersed her into story and made her younger self happy. Her favourite toy was a dragon, Iggy, making Ellie-May and her Toy dragon Ben the type book she’d have chosen on a bookshop trip as a young child.
Alejo is on the upper end of the recommended age, five but when Rosa read it as a bedtime story, the adorable plot, fun imagery and characters lured him in. You know it’s a good story when a reread is requested. With an easy to follow plot and language he could also join in with some reading himself. He now wants a Ben of his own and more adventures.
Ellie-May and her Toy Dragon Ben is an ideal bedtime story for dragon loving kids and will be a hit on the Emporium’s lending library.
Genna Rowbotham wrote her first children’s story in 2017, fitting it in around caring for her young family, and is now an author of nine children’s books as well as a short story in a magazine. Rowbotham has a passion to write stories that help entertain, educate and inspire young-ones as the reader can escape the seriousness of life and enter a world of magic.
Her other interests include reading, writing, travelling, astrology, spending time with her family and exploring the great outdoors.
She lives with her lively, imaginative family in Derbyshire in a house full of books, magazines as well as colourful drawings and all sorts of artwork from her children (empty cereal boxes are often taken from the recycle bin to reinvent something wonderful like a spy camera or telescope).
*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
Willow stumbled on this book by accident on social media but was drawn to the promise of a midlife protagonist, humour, tea and of course witchcraft. Within seconds, it was downloaded on to her Kindle.
Scroll down to see if it lived up to her expectations
Book Review: Accidental Magic by Iris Beaglehole
Title: Accidental Magic Book 1 of Myrtlewood Mysteries
Author: Iris Beaglehole
Publisher: Te Rā Aroha Press
Release date: 28th February 2022
Genre: Paranormal women’s fiction
Welcome to Myrtlewood, a quirky town, steeped in magic, tea and mystery…
Life’s a struggle for Rosemary Thorn and her teen daughter, Athena. But their regular troubles are turned upside down after Granny Thorn’s mysterious death.
Despite her cousin’s sinister manoeuvrings, Rosemary returns to Myrtlewood and the sprawling, dilapidated Thorn Manor. But there’s more to the old house than meets the eye, as Rosemary and Athena soon find out — in a whirlwind of magic, adventure, mystical creatures and endless cups of tea.
Life in Myrtlewood would be bliss if Rosemary could only clear her name in a certain murder investigation, solve the mystery and stay out of mortal peril – for at least a little while!
A small town with endless secrets, strange activities, and a house with a mind of its own.
If you love mystery, witches, paranormal women’s fiction with a midlife main character and a big dose of humour, you’re going to love Myrtlewood Mysteries Book 1.
Thoughts From the Emporium
This book delivered on its tagline and gave Willow and then the others (they soon downloaded a copy* after she raved about it) some much needed light-hearted, witchy escapism with self discovery of the magical kind and a murder investigation at its core.
Single mum, Rosemary, and teenage, Athena move into the Grandmother’s home and discover the village, Myrtlewood, is nothing like they expected. With ampful mentions of tea to match Willow’s own addiction, quirky and unusual characters mulling around the pub and locality, there was plenty to latch on to and explore in future books.
Amber enjoyed having a fellow teenage witch to relate to despite Athena’s seemingly lack of powers while Rosa and Willow were drawn to Rosemary herself trying to do her best in bad situations and family disputes.
Like many witchy novels, the setting especially the house are characters in their own right and Thorn House is no exception. For many, witch or not. the idea of a self cleaning home is perfection but it is more than that, it’s quirky, shows the author’s imaginative side and is a foundation for the ongoing magical mysteries.
Accidental Magic is an entertaining read, and full of life. With characters ranging from witches, vampires and shapeshifters, this is the strong start to a cosy paranormal series and more than worthy of being the Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf when they get a physical copy.
*At the time of posting this the first three books are available as a boxset for a bargain of 99p – here
Iris Beaglehole is many peculiar things, a writer, researcher, analyst, druid, witch, parent, and would-be astrologer. She loves tea, cats, herbs, and writing quirky characters
Another treat for today is shining the spotlight on another arrival on the bookshelf, Awakening by Abby Wynne, courtesy of Random Things Tours. With an eye-catching but simple cover this first book in The Inner Compass Trilogy will catch the attention of passersby.
Book Spotlight: Awakening by Abby Wynne
When Marissa’s fiancé leaves her unexpectedly, she is left trying to put the broken pieces of her life back together again. The magical years of her childhood are now lost or long forgotten and, trapped in a downward spiral of worry and anxiety, nothing seems to be bringing the magic back any time soon. Training to become a therapist, Marissa discovers an unforeseen talent for helping others and, for a while at least, she puts her own needs and concerns to one side.
An unexpected windfall prompts a spontaneous trip to Peru, and an encounter while she is there triggers an astonishing series of events. Shaken but excited, Marissa embarks on a wonderful journey of revelation and adventure – after which, her life will never be the same again.
Marissa’s story is your story, is my story, is everybody’s story: we each must find our own true path through life, our one true way.
Abby Wynne, author and Shamanic Psychotherapist, brings all her wisdom to bear on Marissa’s amazing tale of discovery and healing. A catalyst for people’s healing processes, Abby is a problem solver, a creative artist, an alchemist, a healer, a mother, a daughter, a lover of life – and it shows in this, her first novel.
Abby Wynne is the bestselling author of the “One Day at a Time Diary”, “How to Be Well” and “Energy Healing made Easy.” She helps people release what is in the way of living an empowered, wholehearted life. She lives in Ireland with her husband, 4 children, and their dog and cat! The Inner Compass Trilogy is her first major work of fiction. Look out for Expansion, the final book in the series, in early 2023.
There are no fae in the Emporium’s secret garden but Willow is sure she saw one in Grandma Jax’s garden as a child and she was warned about those roaming the Yorkshire Moors the cottage backed on to. When this beauty, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, arrived on the enchanted bookshelf*, she knew she had to read it. Amber saw the cover and immediately thought of her own painted pages in her Book of Shadows so lay claim on it too.
The cover could easily have been designed by the fae itself and promised to hold an exquisite read. Scroll down to see if it hit everyone’s high expectations.
Book Review: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett
Title: Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries
Author: Heather Fawcett
Genre: Adult fantasy, folklore
Release Date: 19th January 2023
Enter the world of the hidden folk – and discover the most whimsical, enchanting and heart-warming tale you’ll read this year, featuring the intrepid Emily Wilde. . .
Emily Wilde is good at many things: she is the foremost expert on the study of faeries; she is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encylopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people
So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby
But as Emily gets closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones – the most elusive of all faeries – she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all – her own heart.
Filled with enchanting magic, heart-warming romance and a heroine you can’t help but love, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is the perfect read for fans of The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
Thoughts From the Emporium
Both witches decided this novel tapped into their adoration of Brian Froud’s Faeries books and could easily imagine once Emily had corelated all her findings, it would be just as an outstanding to read, with intricately detailed descriptions and illustrations of each faery. With this in mind, they were invested from the start for her to succeed in her mission.
Written as a journal, the adventure slowly unfolded as she travels to the cold depths of Norway to study the elusive Hidden Ones for her project. This gave them the opportunity to find out about her as a character through her actions and thoughts. Highly focused, scholarly and straightforward, it was fun to read a strong personality with such dedication to her field who thinks differently with surprising results. Amber related to her attraction to books, journaling and nature, solitude over social interaction, her in-depth curiosity and she understood why studying the fae became priority. The more Amber read, the more Emily Wilde became her literary hero. She had worked hard and nothing would get in her way. In Emily’s journals, her reasonings, flaws and social floundering were in full display. And her hatred for Wendell.
Wendell Bambleby was Emily’s opposite, and seen through her eyes it took a while to warm to him but with a flamboyant attitude, charisma and love of homely decor and fashion, he became a character to love and root for whatever his secrets. His unrequited love for her provides humour, chemistry and clashes. It was a joy to watch this slow, subtle romance and attraction grow.
Every character was well-developed, including side ones from the village, so was easy to be immersed in the comings and goings of the village, the horror of fae abductions and attacks. The Faeries themselves have personality, depth and a darkness seen in fairy tales of old, not the sanitised Disney versions.
Highly imaginative in characterisation, plot and setting, the small details gave this story heart. The wintery Norwegian location was an ideal place for the investigations for its landscape and otherworldly atmosphere. The freezing temperature emanated from the page the further Emily’s investigations took her, so lots of hot beverages were required while drinking. No one wanted this book to end and excited to see its part of a series.
This beautiful, heart-warming fantasy has everything needed for a magical tale exploring the dark world of the faeries and self-discovery; immersive worldbuilding, humour, mystery, drama and soul. More, please!
Heather Fawcett is the author of the middle grade novels Ember and the Ice Dragons and The Language of Ghosts, as well as the young adult series Even the Darkest Stars. She has a master’s degree in English literature and has worked as an archaeologist, photographer, technical writer, and backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theater festival. She lives on Vancouver Island, Canada.
*Thank you Compulsive Readers for supplying a copy to review.
This is the last review of the year unless another book sneaks in from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. A stunning copy of The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore arrived on the bookshelf courtesy of Random Things Tours. As usual, when a witchy book arrives there was a scrabble between the staff to see who would read it first. Willow won.
Scroll down to see her unbiased and honest review.
Book Review: The Witch and the Tsar by Olesya Salnikova Gilmore
Title: The Witch and the Tsar
Author: Olesya Salnikova Gilmore
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Historical fantasy, folklore
Release Date: 8th December 2023
As a half-goddess possessing magic, Yaga is used to living on her own, her prior entanglements with mortals having led to heartbreak. She mostly keeps to her hut in the woods, where those in need of healing seek her out, even as they spread rumors about her supposed cruelty and wicked spells. But when her old friend Anastasia—now the wife of the tsar and suffering from a mysterious illness—arrives in her forest desperate for her protection, Yaga realizes the fate of all of Russia is tied to Anastasia’s. Yaga must step out of the shadows to protect the land she loves.
As she travels to Moscow, Yaga witnesses a sixteenth century Russia on the brink of chaos. Tsar Ivan—soon to become Ivan the Terrible—grows more volatile and tyrannical by the day, and Yaga believes the tsaritsa is being poisoned by an unknown enemy. But what Yaga cannot know is that Ivan is being manipulated by powers far older and more fearsome than anyone can imagine.
Thoughts from the Emporium
The stunning illustrated cover with its golden gilt reflects the majestic tale inside. This reimagined tale of Baba Yaga is a beautifully written and captivating novel. Willow was gripped by the extensive world building, the depth of all the characters and dramatic plot. As someone who was unaware of the folklore connected to Baba Yaga this was a refreshing read. The language and vivid descriptions brought the colourful Russian cities, the horror of war and the scheming gods to life.
This version of the immortal witch, Yaga was far removed from the hateful, child eating witch she’s famous for. Instead, she was portrayed as a caring and reluctant hero. Her strength, chemistry between those she loves, including the animals she can charm, and her desire to protect the Motherland at all costs, makes her unforgettable. In the uncertain times we live, the politics of the sixteenth century and the war it fuelled felt oddly relevant and made the story more impactful.
Everyone at the Emporium adored Little Hen, her house on chicken legs despite the initial reaction being disgust. As a background character, she stole everyone’s hearts.
Olesya Salnikova Gilmore has successfully blended an inverted Yaga legend with the history surrounding Ivan the Terrible to create an immersive, dark and enlightening treat that will be well loved by those visiting the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. It is a strong contender to be one of the bookshelf’s favourite novels of 2022.
Olesya Salnikova Gilmore was born in Moscow, Russia, raised in the United States, and graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in English /political science, and from North western University School of Law with a JD. She practiced litigation at a large law firm for several years before pursuing her dream of becoming an author. She is happiest writing historical fiction and fantasy inspired by Eastern European folklore. She lives in a wooded lakeside suburb of Chicago with her husband and daughter. The Witch and the Tsar is her debut novel.
We know it’s not Monday for our usual Merry Meet, but we’re excited to welcome author, Stephanie Hansen, for a swift chat as part of the blog tour for her novella, Altered Helix arranged by Rachel’s Random Resources. Unfortunately Amber is at college, so can’t be here today but she is sorry she has missed this Merry Meet. Altered Helix is a book she can’t wait to read.
Surprise Merry Meet: Stephanie Hansen
Willow: Take a seat. First question has to be what would you like to drink? We have a selection of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate? Or I’m brewing some mulled cider in the workroom.
A coffee would be splendid. The characters in Altered Helix (my debut novella) often frequent Broadway Café. Though, your mulled cider sounds especially wonderful as a fall drink. You made this decision difficult. We hit our first frost advisory of the season last night and it is bone chillingly cold, so any warm drink will do.
Willow: Your book, Altered Helix, features a haunted house. As we have many paranormal activities in the emporium, we’re intrigued about what inspired your setting?
I worked at a haunted house when I was 20 and fell in love with it. The best is waiting for the right moment to scare people and seeing everyone enjoy it. People scream and hold on to each other. Their smiles after going through the haunted house are spectacular.
Willow: That sounds fun. Your book is also set in a dystopian America where the government has collapsed and homelessness is rife, placing your protagonist, Austria, in danger. What came first, the plot or the characters?
Mostly the characters developed first, but it was also a mixture of plot too. My characters often reveal their emotions through the smallest of gestures. Even though the characters first came to me before my hearing loss, the story was not completed until after I became unilaterally deaf. When you struggle to hear people, you often rely on subtle cues, and I’ve incorporated it into a lot of my fiction. I also create a working outline for books before writing, but inevitably the characters make different decisions than I’d planned, hence the “working” outline.
Willow: It must have been hard dealing with hearing loss but your visual observations add an extra layer to the book. We’ve just had Halloween, do you normally celebrate it? And if so, how?
I love reading scary books around Halloween. I just started White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson and I think it will be a perfect spooky thriller for the season. Complete with what appears to be a haunted house set in a town that reminds the protagonist of The Walking Dead, it’s bound to give me goosebumps of fright. I also enjoy watching scary movies but it’s hard to pick a favourite.
Willow: I’ll have to recommend it to Amber, she loves horror reads. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
If I may, as a literary agent, I’d like to discuss multiple publication journey options. I believe many paths (self-publishing, small press, mid-size house, major house publishing, etc.) can be taken for a successful experience. The important thing is to research each and find the one that works best for you as a writer. Some genres thrive in self-publishing, so it may be the best option. As many self-published authors know, it’s like opening a business and you’re the business owner. You need to either handle all responsibilities or delegate them to qualified individuals. It’s an investment. My agency handles subsidiary rights for self-published authors. We’re familiar with what foreign publishers, audio producers, gaming apps, and film producers are looking for, plus we can organize the process. For instance, I’m currently closing four foreign translation publishing deals for one author and will announce them all together in order to gain attention from film producers. Please follow the Metamorphosis Literary Agency social media for more information.
Willow: We have authors from all types of publication paths popping in and would be writers so will let them know. It must be a fascinating job. We follow our set rituals in the shop when preparing stock. What is your writing routine like?
Many of my story ideas begin as a dream. I wake up and rapidly jot down every detail that I remember. Then I begin handwriting the story into notebooks. I know that adds time as I’ll have to type later, but something about the process allows words to flow freely. With Altered Helix, I made a detective board of sorts to connect inciting incidents, character development and more (see an example below except the one I used while writing was physical and up on a wall). I was quite a novice at that point but had a lot of fun and have integrated it into a lot of what I continue to do. 😊 Once I have some bones and skin in place for the story, I now but didn’t in the beginning, share it with a critique partner. We work on the opening, try to see if there are plot holes, etc. and then I correct what I have and continue with the rest of the story. I couldn’t have done this in the beginning of my writing journey as it may have halted the story creation process. Once complete, I have another partner look at it for errors, problematic wording, things that would trip up a reader, etc. After that, I revise. Then, I have yet someone else review for grammar, typos, etc. What is a witch without a powerful coven?
Willow: Working with others does have its benefits and it is lovely to have those you can trust to work with. Many readers and our customers harbour the dream of writing a novel. Before we get round to blending a spell to help with the process, do you have any advice for new writers?
Some of that was covered in the last question, but I’ll add more here. I fear many authors fall so in love with their first manuscript that they can’t shelve it, therefore, restricting future creations from existence (or at least delaying them by quite a bit). By that I mean, they refuse to accept that it shouldn’t be published. Often these first manuscripts are the best writing lessons for an author and for that purpose very useful, but it doesn’t mean it should be published. A very talented agent shared some information about successful authors and what number novel it was that broke them out. I think by seeing this, it might help aspiring authors understand that everyone’s journey is different. https://twitter.com/EmilyKaitlinnn/ So, I guess my advice is to not only create one land of enchantment but many.
Willow: That is helpful. Thank you. The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range, which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
This one, which helps the user focus while the candle burns. I can be handling paperwork for the business when I see a new publishing deal announcement and it inspires a different direction for an author’s manuscript that I’m currently shopping. Or I can be writing one story when another story idea pops into my head. I have a notebook to keep all of these ideas organised BUT the idea’s there in my mind. It wants to build on it right then. I also have a couple teenagers, so the candle which “makes those around you help without asking” was very tempting. You made another decision difficult for me. Well done. Your magic brewing is extraordinary.
Willow: We have one candle that invokes memories of your favourite season when lit. Where would it take you and what would you be doing?
That’s hard. I’m currently in the Midwest and what I love is the changing of seasons. I probably prefer summer for being outside and seeing green everywhere. My body struggles with temperature changes at first. So, the current 50ish degree temps during the day are freezing me but give it a month and 50 will feel warm. I do really enjoy the activities during fall and spring. Fall is my favourite reading and writing season, which I think is shared by many as I believe the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) month is November. In the winter, when things are covered in snow, it is also very pretty.
Willow: Every season has its beauty and the Midwest sounds a good place to experience them. If we could blend a potion to give you a special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?
The ability to cure someone of a physical illness or disease. There are a couple of people dear to me who currently suffer from physical ailments, and I’d like to be able to rid them of the burden. Of course, one must be careful. After I lost two of my grandpas, I begged to whatever power that be to have me be the next one to get sick because I know my body could handle it and I didn’t want to lose another grandparent. Within months I came down with a very serious illness which caused my severe, unilateral deafness and 90 dB 24/7/365 tinnitus, but I didn’t lose another grandparent for years. So, I should probably ask before accepting, what is the cost of this ability?
Willow: The cost of some spells can be high, so it is always wise to consider the consequences. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
I love so many books by Seanan McGuire! I absolutely devoured The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab as quickly as possible! Plus, the strength in sisterhood in the Girls with Sharp Sticks series by Suzanne Young is awesome! If you want page turning, heart pounding series, try Crave by Tracy Wolff or The Bone Witch by Ivy Asher. My end all, be all go to is Relentless by Karen Lynch. And now you can see why my family believes I’m turning our house into a library! 😊
Willow: Every house should have a library and with those books my own bookshelf will be overflowing. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?
If you have not read One Last Stop by Casey McQuistion, please do. It’s simply divine. This book was so pleasant to read; National Treasure meets Ghost in the most splendid way. Years ago, I was an avid Nora Roberts fan. Have you read any of her books? I think one of my favourites had been The Garden Trilogy. Have you read The Dragon Heart Legacy? I haven’t yet but want to. If you do, please let me know so we can read it together. Also, another one that tugs at the heartstrings is If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.
Willow: I adore Nora Roberts books and enjoyed The Garden trilogy too but for obvious reasons love the Three Sisters series. Finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
I’m currently working on the gaming app adaptation of Altered Helix. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait for it to fully release in 2023! I’m also working on a story that began for me as a short story, then evolved to a screenplay, and now I’m adapting it to a novel (almost backward to my journey with Altered Helix). It’s fun dissecting a story to different platforms but keeping the heart intact. It’s challenging and, hopefully, will help me grow as an author.
Willow: Those sound thrilling projects and look forward to hear about their progress. Thank you for coming in for a chat all the way from America.
Thank you so much for having me. I thoroughly enjoyed your questions and bid you adieu.
Stephanie Hansen is a PenCraft and Global Book Award Winning Author. Her debut novella series, Altered Helix, released in 2020. It hit the #1 New Release, #1 Best Seller, and other top 100 lists on Amazon. It is now being adapted to an animated story for Tales. Her debut novel, Replaced Parts, released in 2021 through Fire & Ice YA and Tantor Audio. It has been in a Forbes article, hit Amazon bestseller lists, and made the Apple young adult coming soon bestsellers list. The second book in the Transformed Nexus series, Omitted Pieces, released in 2022. Her next novella, Ghostly Howls, releases 2/7/23. She is a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community so she tries to incorporate that into her fiction.
Another beautiful book has landed on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf courtesy of Rachel’s Random Resources. With a captivating blurb, the witches are looking forward to reading, The Gifts by Liz Hyder, and give their honest and unbiased opinion.
Scroll down to see if The Gifts succeeds in reaching the dazzling heights the cover suggests.
A young woman staggers through the woods. Something is happening deep inside and as she’s thrown to her knees in agony, the world around her stops. When she comes to, she is astonished at the sight of her shadow – it has wings.
Meanwhile when rumours of ‘fallen angels’ cause a frenzy across London, a surgeon desperate for fame and fortune will find himself in the grip of a dangerous obsession, and the women he seeks in the most terrible danger . . .
THE GIFTS is the astonishing debut adult novel from the lauded author of BEARMOUTH. A gripping and ambitious book told through several female voices and set against the luminous backdrop of nineteenth century London, it explores science, nature and religion, enlightenment, the knife-edge roles of women in society and the dark danger of ambition.
Thoughts from the Emporium
Wow! What a beautifully written, evocative and original novel. It had both Willow and Amber on tenterhooks throughout as the women stumbled into danger and the tension increased. It was a book hangover in the making.
The detailed description of the locations provided the ideal backdrop for this deliciously dark tale and it enhanced the women’s predicament in a time when the unusual were seen as a commodity and something to be exploited, and women were expendable. The women came from different backgrounds but they all shared an admirable strength and depth making them relatable.
Neither witch could put this book down, resulting in no sleep. Despite bleary eyes on their shift, the novel triggered much discussion in the store, ranging from their views on the characters, to the role of society and power. This makes it an ideal read for book clubs.
Each witch required a copy of their own for their forever shelves, knowing they will both revisit it again and again.
Liz Hyder has been making up stories for as long she can remember. She has a BA in drama from the University of Bristol and, in early 2018, won the Bridge Award/Moniack Mhor Emerging Writer Award. Bearmouth, her debut young adult novel, won a Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Branford Boase Award and was chosen as the Children’s Book of the Year by The Times. Originally from London, she now lives in South Shropshire. The Gifts is her debut adult novel.
Today we’re excited to chat to Alys West, author of the witchy series the Spellworker Chronicles. We hope you enjoy hearing about Samhain, her books and spells.
Monday Merry Meet: Alys West
Willow:Hi Alys, come in it’s blustery out there. It’s as if you brought your Storm witch with you. We’ve heard the waves hit the harbour walls all day. Usually we’re too far away.
Amber:On the plus side the courtyard has gathered so many autumnal leaves, I can make a wreath. Can I get you a drink? We have our own blends of tea, Yorkshire tea, as no one can beat that for a proper cuppa, coffee or something different?
Alys: I’ll have a cup of green tea with jasmine if you’ve got it. Thanks for inviting me to visit your wonderful shop. I love Whitby. It’s one of my favourite places. I always feel history really strongly here and there’s so many stories to tell about Whitby. I set my steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter here and I’m sure I’ll come back to it in future books.
Willow:We’d love to read those. You write novels surrounding witchcraft and the occult. What drew you to that genre?
Alys: Ooh, thanks for the tea. That looks lovely. I’ve always read a lot of fantasy and I’m a big fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Merlin. I’m also deeply fascinated my folklore. When I started writing Beltane I wanted the magic to be organic, to come from the earth and the folklore of Glastonbury. I think all of the witches in my books are essentially hedge witches. Their power is mainly instinctive and comes from hedgerows and gardens rather than reading magical books.
Willow: We know all about instinctive magic and it often gets Amber into trouble.
Amber: Willow prefers tried and tested magic from books.
Willow: Not always.I love your atmospheric settings. Beltane was set in Glastonbury and Storm Witch is located in West Orkney. How important are locations for you and what comes first, the location, character or plot?
Alys: Location is hugely important to me. I’m very influenced by the spirit of a place. With my writing, I start with the place and the story grows from it. Beltane grew out of the landscape around Glastonbury. Storm Witch was inspired by a folk tale about a girl called Janet Sinclair who lived on the island of Westray in Orkney in the seventeenth century who was believed to be able to call up storms.
Amber:I found the Storm Witch highly relatable and their emotions cause havoc with their powers. How easy was it to write those scenes?
Alys: I’m pleased to hear you related to the Storm Witch. It was pretty cathartic to write those scenes. It was a bit of a release to allow those emotions out. As a person I feel things deeply but do my best to hide it so I was probably working through some of my own anger by allowing the Storm Witch to let rip!
Willow:As you can see with our pumpkins and window display, we are looking forward to Halloween. Is Samhain something you usually celebrate?
Alys: Yes, Samhain is a really important time of the year for me. I love autumn. In the Celtic tradition, Samhain is the start of the new year. It’s the time when our energies turn inwards as the days grow shorter. I’ve got much more comfortable with the idea of retreating and recharging in the winter and Samhain is the start of that period.
There’s a Samhain tradition which I like to follow; you eat an apple and each seed symbolises something you’d like to grow or develop during the winter months. Traditionally you would then eat the seeds but I like to see that as optional!
So I won’t be out Trick or Treating but I’ll be celebrating the turn of the seasons at home with candles and the leaves and seeds I’ve gathered on my walks.
Willow:It’s a beautiful way to celebrate it and we must give you one of our Samhain candles before you go. Every writer seems to tread different paths to publication. What has your journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Alys: My journey has been a bit twisty-turny but I feel I’ve ended up in the right place. Initially I tried to get a traditional publishing deal and had an agent for a while. However that didn’t work out so I indie published Beltane. It’s been hard work but I wouldn’t have changed it. It’s allowed me the freedom and time to write the stories I wanted to tell. I’ve also met some absolutely brilliant people along the way who have supported my writing and helped me keep going. If I was to change anything, I think I’d have gone indie straightaway. Indie publishing is right for me and my books. I could have saved myself a lot of rejection letters if I’d embraced it sooner!
Willow:Spells and magic can be very ritualistic. Do you have writing rituals are strict writing regime?
Alys: I always sit in the same green Ikea chair. We moved house a few months ago and the writing chair was not available for a few weeks and it really threw me. Other chairs are available in our house but none of them felt right. I also need tea when I sit down to start writing. That’s usually a pot of green tea but I move onto peppermint later in the day. I like to write first thing in the morning but don’t think that means I’m up at six every morning. I like my sleep so for me first thing in the morning is about 9.30am!
Amber:I secretly write. Do you have any advice for new writers?
Alys: There’s masses of advice out there for new writers and it can be overwhelming. When I was younger I absorbed the maxim that you must write every day. I have a long-term health condition which means that’s simply not practical for me and I spent a lot of years feeling that because of that I would never be a writer. I’m older and wiser now and have learnt what works for me.
In my opinion, many writing books are about what works for that writer. Some of that may work for you but other bits won’t. The most important thing you can do is keep writing and as you do that, you’ll find out what approach works for you.
Having said all of that, I do recommend reading books on story structure. These are generally written for script writers but apply equally to fiction writers. My favourite is ‘Into the Woods’ by John Yorke. It’s definitely worth picking up a copy of that, Amber.
Amber:I’ll seek it out. Thank you. If we used magic to bring one of your characters to life so you could share a coffee with them, who would you choose?
Alys: Gosh, that’s a tough one because I love them all. I’m going to go with Winston because he’s got that bad boy charm going on but underneath he’s a bit of a softy. In the next book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’ we’re going to find out a bit more about Winston’s past. Over coffee I could ask him a few searching questions but I know him too well to think he’d open up and give me a straight answer. Most likely I’ll get a lot of jokey deflection. Seeing behind that as one of the challenges of writing his character.
Willow:Talking of magic, we sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Alys: I’m a bit of a people pleaser so the ability to say no would be useful. If you can make that the ability to say no without guilt then that would be even better.
Amber:Releasing the guilt is important and already accounted for in the spell. The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity all year round. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Alys: I’m originally from York which is absolutely packed with ghosts. There are stories of ghosts in most of the pubs, the theatre and various historic buildings. I’ve never experienced anything paranormal even though I’ve worked in a few buildings which are known to have ghosts. The most I’ve experienced is a strong sense of negative emotions in certain places. I do believe buildings can absorb the feelings of the people who inhabit them and I think I pick up on that sometimes.
Willow:If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours what would it be and what would you do with it?
Alys: Right now, I could do with a superpower that allowed me to travel instantly to where I need to be. My Mum is currently in hospital. It’s an hour’s drive each way to visit her. I’d like to be able to teleport straight to the ward to see her rather than spending ages stuck in traffic and then pop to my parent’s house to have a cuppa with my Dad.
Amber:We hope she feels better soon and teleporting would be ideal. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Alys: ‘Spirited’ by Julie Cohen. I’ve only just finished it and I absolutely loved it. Julie’s a fabulous writer and she packs such a lot into a book. ‘Spirited’ is about Victorian spiritualism but it’s also about sexuality, female power and colonialism. The characters became so real to me that I’ve kept thinking about them and wanting to know what happened to them after the novel ended.
Willow:We loved that book. Great choice. Our assistant Rosa couldn’t be here today because of childcare issues but she has a box full of romances for people to borrow. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?
Alys: Oh gosh, it’s so hard to choose! I’m going to go with ‘Thornyhold’ by Mary Stewart. I loved Mary Stewart’s books when I was younger and read them all again when I decided to start writing myself. This is my favourite. It’s a wonderful story of romance and magic which a big dollop of mysticism.
Amber: I’ve heard good things about her. And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Alys: I’m working on ‘Stone Magic’ which is the third book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’. It’s taken a while for this one to reveal itself (turns out living through a Pandemic is not good for my creative process) but I’m really excited about it now. It’s going to pick up the story from the end of Storm Witch and follow the investigation into the deaths of The Order. After ‘Stone Magic’, there’ll be a fourth and final book in the series which has the working title of ‘The Winter Tree’. I’m not making any promises as to when they’ll be ready as I don’t write very fast and life has a habit of getting in the way but I will get there.
Thank you so much for inviting me to visit The Enchanted Emporium. It’s been lovely to sit in your wonderful shop and chat to you both. Thanks as well for the tea, very much appreciated!
Struggling artist, Zoe arrives in Glastonbury seeking inspiration. The small Somerset town is steeped in myth and legend and Zoe’s sure it’ll be the perfect place to work on a book about King Arthur. But behind the shops selling witchcraft supplies and crystals real magic is being practised. When Zoe meets Finn her life changes forever. Not only is he a druid connected to the ancient energies of the earth but she dreamed about him long before they met. Finn’s life is in terrible danger and Zoe’s dreams start to reveal more of the plot against him. After dreaming of a deadly battle at a stone circle on Dartmoor, Zoe starts to wonder if the dark magic around her is playing tricks of its own or if she really can see the future. Will she learn to trust Finn, and herself, in time to stand any hope of surviving the powerful magic that will be unleashed at Beltane? Or is it already too late? This gripping story of magic, romance and the supernatural will entrance fans of Deborah Harkness and Phil Rickman and keep you spellbound until the very last page.
Alys West writes contemporary fantasy and steampunk. Her first novel, Beltane was inspired by the folklore of Glastonbury. Her second novel, The Dirigible King’s Daughter is a steampunk romance set in Whitby. Storm Witch is her third novel and is set in the beautiful Orkney islands which she fell in love with back in 2010 and has used every excuse to return to since (including setting a novel there!) She is fascinated by folklore and folk tales which are a big influence on the stories she tells.
Alys has a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teaches creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. She’s also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.
When she’s not writing you can find her at folk gigs, doing yoga and attempting to crochet. She occasionally blogs at www.alyswest.com, intermittently tweets at @alyswestyork and spends rather too much time on Facebook where you can find her at Alys West Writer. She is also on Instagram at @alyswestwriter. To keep up with Alys’s news you can join her Facebook readers’ group ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles’.
A new book has arrived on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf, courtesy of Random Things Tours and it promises to provide its readers nightmares before Halloween. Silverweed Road by Simon Crook has an unusual premise and Amber can’t wait to read and give her honest opinion soon. Watch this space.
Want to know more? Scroll down for its horrifying blurb
Title: Silverweed Road
Author: Simon Crook
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Horror, anthology
Release Date: 29th September 2022
Welcome to Silverweed Road – a once quiet suburban street where nothing is quite as it seems. In this macabre collection of twisted tales, were-foxes prowl, a swimming pool turns predatory, a haunted urn plots revenge and a darts player makes a deal with the devil himself. As the residents vanish one by one, a sinister mystery slowly unpeels, lurking in the Woods at the road’s dead-end. Creepy, chilling, and witty by turn, Silverweed Road deals in love, loss, isolation, loneliness, obsession, greed,and revenge. Come take a walk through suburban hell. The neighbours will be dying to meet you …
Simon Crook has been a film journalist for over 20 years, travelling the world visiting film sets and interviewing talent for Empire Magazine. A new and exciting voice in domestic horror, he is perfectly placed to translate the recent successes of the genre from the silver screen to the written word – while adding something new and wholly his own.
It’s Wednesday! The ideal day to share our review for a witchy book which landed on the bookshelf thanks to Random Things Tours. The blurb and cover captivated the witches and then they demanded Rosa to read. Find out why they were so adamant she tried it below.
Book Review: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais
Title: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor
Author: Bianca Marais
Publisher: Harper 360
Genre: witchlit, fiction
Release Date: 23rd August 2022
The House in the Cerulean Sea meets The Golden Girls in this funny, tender, and uplifting feminist tale of sisterhood featuring a coven of aging witches who must unite their powers to fight the men determined to drive them out of their home and town.
A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.
Summoned by an alarm, five octogenarian witches gather around Ursula when danger is revealed to her in a vision. An angry mob of townsmen is advancing with a wrecking ball, determined to demolish Moonshyne Manor and Distillery. All eyes turn to Queenie—as the witch in charge, it’s her job to reassure them—but she confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments and property taxes. Queenie has been counting on Ruby’s return in two days to fix everything. Ruby is the only one who knows where the treasure is hidden, those valuable artifacts stolen 33 years ago on the night when everything went horribly wrong. Why didn’t clairvoyant Ursula see this coming sooner? Wasn’t Ivy supposed to be working her botanical magic to keep the townsmen in a state of perpetual drugged calm, all while Jezebel quelled revolts through seductive bewitchment?
The mob is only the start of the witches’ troubles. Brad Gedney, a distant cousin of Ivy, is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy that was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. And things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
In a race against time, the women have nine days to save their home and business. The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but fear their aging powers are no match against increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of extra help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.
Funny, tender, and uplifting, THE WITCHES OF MOONSHYNE MANOR explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family, and unlikely friendships. Marais’ true power is her clever prose that offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity, and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Both heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you wonder: why were we taught to fear the witches, and not the men who burned them? Above all, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.
Thoughts from the Emporium
If last year’s The Ex Hex brought witchy fiction out of the shadows into the wider commercial fiction, The Witches of Moonshyne Manor will cement the sub-genre into its rightful place in commercial fiction. Full of humour, this novel has a cast of six octogenarian witches who have heaps of wisdom, quirks and depth which make them unforgettable. While in most books, there is a clear favourite character, here it is impossible to choose. With Jezebel showing you’re never too old for a healthy sex life, Ivy with her plants and Queenie dedicated to her lab, it’s inspired. Full of magic and uplifting chuckles, its witchlit at its finest.
Everyone found this novel captivating when the tension built as the witches fought against a mob to protect the manor but it is more than a story about survival. It covered the longevity of friendship, betrayal and scandal and captured many observations of life in concise but quirky ways.
The recipes and spells from the Moonshyne grimoire sprinkled between the chapters were a clever addition and brought the readers into the story.
Despite wanting to know the ending, no one wanted the spellbinding book to end and is one of the reasons, those at the emporium think this is a book to read, recommend and treasure. Just like watching Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic is a Halloween tradition, rereading this will be part of the spooky season routine.
Bianca Marais is the author of the beloved Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh (Putnam, 2017 and 2019). She teaches at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies where she was awarded an Excellence in Teaching Award for Creative Writing in 2021. A believer in the power of storytelling in advancing social justice, Marais runs the Eunice Ngogodo Own Voices Initiative to empower young Black women in Africa to write and publish their own stories, and is constantly fundraising to assist grandmothers in Soweto with caring for children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. In 2020, Marais started the popular podcast, The Shit No One Tells You About Writing, which is aimed at helping emerging writers become published.