Written in the Stars

I have always had an interest in astrology; not in reading generic horoscopes in papers or magazines, but in the scientific aspect of mapping the planets and stars in the sky at the exact time we are born into this life. I love the idea that the position of the planets might have an influence on shaping our personality and our life path – our personal star map to help guide us through our life journey, while allowing our own free will and self-awareness to help us make choices along the way.

A couple of years ago, I saw that one of my favourite mixed-media artists, Suzi Blu, and her friend Courtney were offering astrological birth chart readings. I had always been aware that my personality was vastly different to that typical of my star sign and, curious to learn more about it, I signed up for a reading. I provided my exact time, date, and place of birth, and a couple of weeks later I received a PDF chart and a recorded in-depth explanation of the signs and personal interpretation of how it all related to my life. So much of it made perfect sense. Without knowing me, they were able to pinpoint my personality exactly and I was able to make sense of that which had always puzzled me. They also validated that I was on the right path with what I had chosen to do with my life, but suggested that my soul’s purpose was to delve deeper into my emotions, talk about uncomfortable things, and to write deeply things that are meaningful to me.

I am very fortunate to have had a good life with wonderful family and friends, a happy upbringing, and a happy marriage. The one thing I have struggled with over the years is social anxiety, which at times has led to crippling panic attacks, and in the past made school and work situations unhappy places to be.

After the reading I thought about what Suzi and Courtney had said and, soon after, I began writing ‘The Air that I Breathe.’ Although written as a fictional novel, this was a story with which I had a deep personal connection and could write from a heartfelt place of experience and emotion, a story that touched on my own personal experiences with social anxiety and panic attacks. But rather than dwell on the negative aspects, I wanted it to be a story of how we can create our own life path by choosing to live an authentic life and build a life around the things that allow us to feel happy and fulfilled. We shouldn’t be defined by our fears, our weaknesses and imperfections, but rather we should choose to shine a light on all that is good in our lives, on our strengths, our talents and capabilities, and on all that we have to offer others.

Available from Amazon

Social anxiety is only a small part of my life now. I have created a life around the things and the people who make me happy, a life that is full and rewarding. I haven’t had a panic attack in a long time. I know the triggers, I do my best to avoid those situations, and knowing I can choose to avoid them makes all the difference in the world to my personal wellbeing.

If it were not for that birth chart reading, ‘The Air that I Breathe’ would probably never have been written. I guess you could say that its creation was ‘written in the stars.’

This art journal page depicts my star sign, Aries. I had a lot of fun painting it, with bursts of colour denoting moments of creation in the universe. Actually, they were blobs of paint that I peeled from my pallete paper the next day and stuck to the page. I thought they added a unique element to the painting.

Book Release – The Air that I Breathe

I am delighted to announce the release of my new novel, The Air that I Breathe. It is available as a paperback and an ebook from Amazon.com.

This is a book close to my heart as it deals with social anxiety and panic attacks, emotions I have struggled with over the years. Although Zoe and her story are fictional, I have drawn on my own experiences in writing this novel, and hope it will be a story that others who have gone through, or are going through, similar experiences can relate to.

You can read the book description below.

The_Air_that_I_Breat_Cover_for_Kindle

Available from Amazon.com

Zoe Marche is afraid of the outside world. She has created a sanctuary for herself in her little bungalow on the hill, tending her beloved garden and creating magical pieces of art. But an invitation and the arrival of a stranger throw her world off-balance and cause her to question whether there might be more to life than the sheltered existence she has chosen.

Zoe must make a choice. Is she ready to face her fears and live her life the way that others expect of her? Or is she already living the life she was meant to live?

The Air that I Breathe is a story of choices, of possibilities, and of chasing dreams.

Tiny tea bag book of nature

 

Lately I have seen a lot of wonderful art on the Internet using tea bags. As an avid tea drinker, I decided to start saving my used tea bags to make my own little book. Although mostly I use loose leaf tea, I do use some tea bags and got some interesting effects from black tea, green tea, and nettle tea, while some I left unstained.

I decided on a nature theme for my little book. I stitched down the center of the tea bags to bind them together, then added cardstock and vellum to the front and back covers. To embellish the tea bag pages I used stamped images, stickers, stamps, tiny pictures, pressed flowers and leaves, and washi tape.

Here are a few of the pages.

 

Finally I glued coloured hemp and recycled silk fibers to the spine.

This teeny tiny book is as light as a feather and fits into the palm of my hand.

Little Book of Ancestors

I recently took Laly Mille’s online class, Little Book of Whispers, a beautiful class in which she teaches you how to make a mixed media artist book connecting to the whispers of your soul. I chose to make my book into a little book of ancestors.

I embellished the pages with scraps of vintage lace and doilies, ribbons, buttons, and sewing ephemera, many of which belonged to my ancestors. I also used vintage greeting cards from my collection, Victorian decoupage scraps, pressed flowers from my garden, pages from old music books, fabric, and pieces of broken jewellery.

Between the covers of this little book lie the whispers of my ancestors.

To learn more about Laly Mille’s class, Little Book of Whispers, click here. The class is only available to join at certain times of the year, but you can get on the wait list to learn when the next class is open for registration. I urge you to take a look at her website www.lalymille.com where you will find lots of beautiful mixed media art and inspiration.

The House in Wattle Lane, the second book in my Wattle Lane series, also delves into ancestry and connecting to whispers of the past.

When 29-year-old Neave Hamlin is made redundant from her job in the city, she decides to return to the small town of Kerrigan to consider her future and to reconnect with her estranged father and half-siblings. However, she soon learns that being part of a family is not always easy as she struggles to cope with the emotional dramas of her 14-year-old, half-sister, Lily, who insists that the old family home is haunted, and a less than welcoming stepmother.

After attending a heritage scrapbooking class, Neave is inspired to learn more about the lives of her ancestors. While searching for the truth behind a dark family secret, she discovers that sometimes unearthing the past can shine a light on the future.

The House in Wattle Lane includes recipes.

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Scrappy Cupcake Angels, book one in the Wattle Lane novels, introduces you to some of the other characters who live in the small New Zealand town of Kerrigan, several of whom also make an appearance in The House in Wattle Lane.

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

 

In Celebration of World Book Day

To celebrate World Book Day this coming Sunday, my novel, Scrappy Cupcake Angels, book one in the Wattle Lane novels, will be available as a free ebook download on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk for five days, from April 23rd until April 27th.

When Angeline opens the door to her scrapbooking shop for the first time, she hopes to encourage the residents of her small New Zealand town to explore their creativity and capture memories.

As Grace works on a scrapbook for her mother who has dementia, she wonders if it will help her mother cling to her last memories. Tegan scraps her travel photos with an insatiable wanderlust while contemplating where her heart truly belongs. As Jodi creates beautiful layouts of her daughter, she questions whether any of her efforts will help mend her broken family. Kayla finds it easiest to express herself through her art, but secretly speculates whether she will ever gain the confidence to realise her dreams.

As Angeline opens her home and her heart to her new friends, only time will tell if the Scrappy Cupcake Angels can help her overcome her own greatest fear and fulfil a lifelong dream.

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

You can learn more about World Book Day here.

Happy reading everyone!

Halloween Book Deal

Where the Moths Dance

My young adult novel, Where the Moths Dance, is on sale at Amazon.com for one week only. From October 26th until November 2nd, Amazon.com customers in the U.S. can pick up a copy of the Kindle ebook for $1.99. A perfect read for Halloween!

Sixteen-year-old Jessie Hale lives in the caretaker’s cottage at the bottom of Gum Tree Hill Cemetery. She feels more comfortable surrounded by the dead than the living, and the graveyard is her sanctuary, a place to escape from her troubled home life and from her mother’s despicable boyfriend, Conrad.

Elliott Rossi has found a way to come back from the dead. He needs to warn Jessie about a demon who can also access the living world and has his new prey firmly in his grasp.

When Jessie learns who has become the demon’s latest victim, she must enlist the help of her friends to battle the evil that has invaded her sanctuary, turning her life upside down and threatening to destroy everything she cares about.

Then there is the small matter of falling in love with a dead boy.

Book Review: The Edge of the Earth

the-edge-of-the-earth

I don’t usually read historical novels, but I was eager to read The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz because I have always had a fascination for lighthouses, and the cover of this book drew me to it immediately.

The book tells the story of Trudy, a young woman who abandons the life that is expected of her, to marry Oskar, a man who is ambitious and determined to invent something that will bring him fame and fortune. Keen for adventure, Trudy leaves her comfortable life behind to accompany her husband to a remote island off the coast of California where he has taken a job as assistant lighthouse keeper. There, Trudy must learn to adapt to a difficult life on the island, which is home to only one other family, and which feels like living on the edge of the earth. While struggling to maintain a relationship with her increasingly distant husband, her life suddenly becomes more interesting when she discovers something hiding among the rocks, and she sets out to uncover the mystery surrounding the strange presence.

I loved the atmospheric setting of the story, and the depiction of life as it would have been for lighthouse keepers at the end of the nineteenth century. A wonderful story with interesting characters and richly detailed writing that draws you along to a climactic ending.

~  ~  ~

A few years ago Nick and I visited Castle Point Lighthouse on the Wairarapa Coast of New Zealand. Although we weren’t able to go inside, it was a wonderful experience to walk up to it and explore around it. The lighthouse was built in 1913 and was one of the last attended lighthouses to be built in New Zealand. It became fully automated in 1988 and the lighthouse keeper was withdrawn. Although we set off to drive there early in the morning, unfortunately we got there too late to see the light shining.

These are some photos that Nick took of the lighthouse.

Castle Point Lighthouse

Castle Point Lighthouse

Castle Point Lighthouse

Castle Point Lighthouse

We saw many fur seals basking on the rocks surrounding the lighthouse.

fur seals

One day I hope to return and see the light shining.

Books by my Favourite Mixed-Media Artists

 

As a book lover and a crafter, I have quite a large collection of art and craft books on my bookshelves. I love browsing through them. Each one provides me with inspiration for my own craft projects, as well as teaching me new techniques. These are a few books by my favourite mixed-media artists.

Mixed-Media Girls with Suzi Blu: Drawing, Painting, and Fanciful Adornments From Start to Finish

Mixed-Media Girls

www.suzibluart.com

Suzi Blu was the first mixed-media artist I ever discovered. I fell in love with her charming mixed-media girls and her gypsy boho style of art. When her book came out I immediately bought it, keen to learn her techniques and to see more of her lovely creations. It was her book that provided inspiration for my first foray into the world of mixed-media art. She also introduced me to the wonderful world of art journaling. I took one of her art journaling courses and discovered a whole new way of expressing myself creatively. She has many videos on YouTube and offers lots of courses on her website.

Mixed-Media Girls with Suzi Blu includes instructions for drawing and shading a pretty face and folk art body, lots of step by step projects, and a gallery of artwork by her students. It also comes with a bonus DVD on which Suzi guides you through drawing, painting, and finishing one of her mixed-media girls, presented in her fun, quirky style.

Creative Girl: Mixed Media Techniques for an Artful Life by Danielle Donaldson

Creative Girl

danielledonaldson.com

This is the book that began my love of watercolour painting. Danielle Donaldson paints lovely whimsical watercolour illustrations and her distinctive style of art includes a range of mixed-media elements. Her book teaches basic watercolour techniques and fun ways to incorporate mixed-media elements such as stitching, collage, and layering, into your projects to tell visual stories. At the back of the book there is a small gallery of some of Danielle’s work.

Collage Couture: Techniques for Creating Fashionable Art by Julie Nutting

Collage Couture

julienuttingdesigns.blogspot.com

As a young child I loved playing with paper dolls and was so excited whenever I received a new one for my birthday or Christmas. I would spend hours cutting out the clothes, folding the paper tabs over the cardboard dolls, and making up stories for them to act out. I still have all of the paper dolls from my childhood and take them out every now and then when I am feeling nostalgic! Naturally I was thrilled to discover Julie Nutting’s two books, Collage Couture: Techniques  for Creating Fashionable Art, and Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls. It was a chance for me to rediscover those magical childhood memories, and to combine two of my favourite things, paper dolls and pretty scrapbook papers.

Collage Couture: Techniques for Creating Fashionable Art teaches you how to sketch fashion figures and create stylish dresses  from patterned papers, and it has step-by-step projects for creating mixed-media backgrounds for the dolls. Great fun!

Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls: Design, Collage, Cut & Play by Julie Nutting

Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls

Collage Couture Studio Paper Dolls has five paper dolls from around the world, each with their own little story and a page of clothes in their own style, which can be photocopied or scanned and cut out.  There is also a template for designing your own paper doll, and step-by-step projects for building mixed-media backgrounds and settings for the dolls.

Taking Flight: Inspiration & Techniques to give your Creative Spirit Wings
by Kelly Rae Roberts

Taking Flight: Inspiration & Techniques to Give Your Creative Spirit Wings

www.kellyraeroberts.com

It was through this book that I first discovered Kelly Rae Roberts. In Taking Flight, Kelly Rae shares her personal journey towards becoming a full-time artist and inspires you to rediscover your dreams and live a more creative life. She shows you through step-by-step projects how to create mixed-media backgrounds, using collage and other techniques, and how to draw and paint faces. As well as teaching through her own recognizable style, the book also includes techniques from contributing artists, which Kelly Rae incorporates into her projects. At the end of each chapter is an interview with the contributing artist.

Layered, Tattered & Stitched: A Fabric Art Workshop by Ruth Rae

Layered, Tattered & Stitched: A Fabric Art Workshop

ruthrae.blogspot.com

As well as having a love of scrapbook papers and embellishments, I also adore fabrics, lace, beads and buttons. This book indulges my love of all those things. Layered, tattered & Stitched: A Fabric Art Workshop by Ruth Rae is full of inspiring small projects with step-by-step instructions for making fabric cards, books, journals and albums, art dolls, wall art, and much, much more. The book explores a range of sewing techniques combined with collage, photo transfers, dyeing and staining fabric, using wire, and more. At the back of the book there are pattern templates for some of the projects. A lovely book for anyone interested in fabric art.

Book Review: 101 Easy Homemade Products For Your Skin, Health & Home

I have always tried to live a healthy lifestyle, conscious of what I put both into and onto my body, and the effect that household products have on us and on the environment. For many years I have used cleaning products that have no nasty chemicals, and body care products that are natural and organic.

Recently I bought a book called 101 Easy Homemade Products For Your Skin, Health & Home by Jan Berry. I have followed Jan’s blog The Nerdy Farm Wife for a while now and was excited when I saw that she had written a book. It is full of projects for making skin and hair care products, household cleaners, health remedies, and pet care products using natural ingredients and common herbs, flowers and oils. The book is perfect for the beginner with easy-to-follow directions and lots of lovely pictures.

101 Homemade Products

So far I have made three projects from the book. The first one I tried was a lip balm. Jan teaches you how to make a basic lip balm, then gives lots of ideas on how to customise it using different herbs and essential oils. The first one I made I used avocado oil infused with lemon balm from my garden, and the next one I used olive oil infused with lavender flowers. It was so easy to make, I will never buy lip balm again!

lavender lip balm

Next I made the calendula lotion, which had a few extra steps and ingredients, but it turned out really nice. I didn’t have any calendulas flowering in my garden, so I bought a packet of dried calendula flowers from a health shop and infused them in organic avocado oil. I’ve planted a load of seeds in my garden so that I will have some on hand for using in creams and lotions when I need them. Now that I know how to make a lotion, I can’t wait to try out some different recipes. There are recipes in the book for face cleansers, face creams, eye creams, body butters, soaps, and much, much more.

Calendula Lotion

I made the orange pine floor cleaner, using pine needles collected on our walks, and oranges from our garden. It cleans the floors well and leaves a lovely refreshing scent.

orange and pine floor cleaner

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in making their own herbal products and in living a natural, chemical-free lifestyle.

A New Favourite Author

Don’t you love it when you fall in love with a book by an author you haven’t read before, and then find they have written several other books, and you can’t wait to read them?

I discovered Susan Branch while browsing on the Internet for a calendar for 2016. Her Heart of the Home calendars feature recipes, quotes and her charming watercolour illustrations. Then I discovered that she had written a book called A Fine Romance: Falling in love with the English Countryside. It immediately caught my attention as I have always dreamed of travelling to England and exploring the picturesque country villages. I bought the book and it is just amazing, not only to read, but there is so much to look at, too!

The book is Susan’s account of her and her husband’s trip to England to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Based on the diaries that Susan kept of the trip, the book is handwritten and tells the story of their voyage from America to England on an ocean liner, and then of the two months they spent exploring the English countryside, visiting historic homes such as Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, and the tea rooms, pubs and antique stores they discovered along the way. The beautiful hardcover book with a red ribbon bookmark is full of photographs, recipes, and Susan’s delightful watercolour illustrations. Her warm, friendly prose makes you feel as though you are right there with them on their journey.

Susan has also written two prequels to A Fine Romance. Memoirs of her life, The Fairy Tale Girl and Martha’s Vineyard Isle of Dreamsare also handwritten, with lots of photographs and watercolour pictures. These beautiful hardcover books recently arrived in my mailbox and are eagerly awaiting to be read and devoured!

Susan is an amazing watercolour artist. As well as her memoirs and calendars, she has a Heart of the Home series of books that celebrate cooking, gardening, homemaking and entertaining, and a range of products that feature her watercolour illustrations including greeting cards, journals and recipe keepers.

You can learn more about Susan, her books, and her life on the beautiful Isle of Martha’s Vineyard at her website www.susanbranch.com.

Free eBook Deal

Scrappy Cupcake Angels

For those who haven’t read my Wattle Lane novels, Amazon have a book promotion running for Scrappy Cupcake Angels, the first book in the series. For 5 days only, the eBook is free on Amazon Kindle. Click here to get your free copy. The promotion runs from December 16th to December 20th.

Here is a description of the book:

Nothing can quell Angeline Dunwich’s excitement as she stands before Wattle Lane Keepsakes. As she opens the door to her scrapbooking shop for the first time, Angeline hopes to encourage the residents of her small New Zealand town to explore their creativity and capture memories. Little does she know that Wattle Lane Keepsakes will very soon become the weekly destination for four women drawn to scrapbooking for widely different reasons.

Every Thursday Angeline teaches the Scrappy Cupcake Angels how to find joy through scrapbooking, and each of the four learns to confront her fears and to understand what is important in life. As Grace works on a scrapbook for her mother who has dementia, she wonders if it will help her mother cling to her last memories. Tegan scraps her travel photos with an insatiable wanderlust while contemplating where her heart really belongs. As Jodi creates beautiful layouts of her daughter, she questions whether any of her efforts will help mend her broken family. Kayla finds it easiest to express herself through her art, but secretly speculates whether she will ever gain the confidence to realise her dreams.

As Angeline opens her home and her heart to her new friends, only time will tell if the Scrappy Cupcake Angels can help her overcome her own greatest fear and fulfil a lifelong dream.

Book Release: Christmas in Wattle Lane

Christmas in Wattle Lane

I am thrilled to announce that my new novel, Christmas in Wattle Lane, is now available on Amazon as a paperback and an ebook. Just in time for Christmas, this third book in the Wattle Lane novels continues the story of Angeline, Neave, and Lily as they prepare for the festive season.

Here is the description of the book.

Christmas is coming to Wattle Lane.

Angeline is making a very special scrapbook album for her daughter. But as she pieces together the past, will some memories be too painful to relive?

Neave is preparing for her first Christmas in Wattle Lane. As she makes decorations and bakes pies, she wonders if her greatest wish, a future with Ethan, will ever come true.

Lily is staying with Neave at the Wattle Lane Guest House while her parents are overseas. When she notices strange lights in the vacant house next door, what starts out as a quiet holiday turns into a quest to solve the mystery of the night-time intruder.

Pippa arrives at the Wattle Lane Guest House with two intentions – to escape Christmas, and to mend a broken heart. But is the small town of Kerrigan far enough away to leave her past behind?

As the festive season approaches, the residents of Wattle Lane are drawn together in joy, heartache, love , and the magic of Christmas.

Amazon.com

Amazon.uk

Visit my Wattle Lane blog for crafts and recipes from the Wattle Lane novels.

Book Update

Christmas in Wattle Lane, the third novel in my Wattle Lane series, is now finished and has been passed on to my lovely editor and proof reader.

In this third instalment, Neave and Lily prepare to celebrate their first Christmas in the Wattle Lane Guest House. As they make vintage-themed decorations and bake Christmas goodies, a guest arrives with a strange aversion to Christmas, while next door, at Wattle Lane Keepsakes, Angeline relives some emotional memories from her past as she makes a very special scrapbook album for her daughter.

Now it’s on to the all-important book cover. Christmas evokes so many wonderful images that it will be hard to choose one to best represent the Christmas spirit of Wattle Lane – handmade paper snowflakes, vintage ornaments, or maybe some yummy Christmas fare…

Favourite Books of June

My favourite books this month include two non-fiction books and another young adult apocalypse novel.

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography
Edited by Pamela Smith Hill

As a child I loved watching the TV series, Little House on the Prairie, and I enjoyed reading the Little House series of books. This new book, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, includes Laura Ingalls Wilder’s never-before-published autobiography, Pioneer Girl, which she completed in 1930 at the age of 63. Her story, with much help from her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, was later rewritten as the Little House series of books for children.

This is a beautiful, large format, hardcover book that contains not only the manuscript for Pioneer Girl, but lots of information and insights into Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life. It also includes many maps, photographs and records from the period, and is a book that I’m sure all Laura Ingalls Wilder fans will love.

The Pioneer Girl Project blog, which I began following in the months leading up to the publication of the book, has lots of extra photographs, interviews and interesting information about Laura Ingalls Wilder, her family and friends, and the communities in which they lived.

The Secret Language of Flowers by Samantha Gray

I know there are many books on the language of flowers, but this one is a particularly lovely one with beautiful illustrations. It discusses the hidden meanings of over 50 flowers and includes a lot of interesting flower folklore and myth. A small, hardcover book, it is perfect for browsing through on a rainy day, or reading while sitting in the garden, drinking tea, surrounded by flowers.

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

What would you do if you knew the world was going to end in two months? An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and there is a sixty-six percent chance that it will collide with the planet and destroy life as we know it. This is the story of four teenagers and the choices they make with the knowledge that they may have only two months left to live. The chapters alternate between the characters – the athlete, the outcast, the slacker, and the overachiever – who each have very different personalities, backgrounds, dreams and ambitions. Through the impending disaster, their lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. This is one of those books that I couldn’t put down, anxious to see how it would end and whether or not our planet would survive.

Tommy Wallach is a singer-songwriter as well as an author, and he has written and recorded an album to go along with the book. It is available on iTunes, and you can listen to one of the songs on his website tommywallach.com.

Kindle Book Deal

Where the Moths Dance

Amazon are running a Kindle Countdown Deal for my YA novel, Where the Moths Dance, from June 10th to June 17th. For one week only, Amazon.com customers in the US can buy the ebook for $1.99 (usually $4.99), so if you haven’t already read it, hop on over to Amazon.com and pick up a copy.

Sixteen-year-old Jessie Hale lives in the caretaker’s cottage at the bottom of Gum Tree Hill Cemetery. She feels more comfortable surrounded by the dead than the living, and the graveyard is her sanctuary, a place to escape from her troubled home life and from her mother’s despicable boyfriend, Conrad.

Elliott Rossi has found a way to come back from the dead. He needs to warn Jessie about a demon who can also access the living world and has his new prey firmly in his grasp.

When Jessie learns who has become the demon’s latest victim, she must enlist the help of her friends to battle the evil that has invaded her sanctuary, turning her life upside down and threatening to destroy everything she cares about.

Then there is the small matter of falling in love with a dead boy.

Favourite Books of May

Favourite Books of May

Three books I have enjoyed reading this month include a magical story from one of my favourite authors, a companion book to another of my favourite books, and a post-apocalyptic novel.

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Nightbird

Alice Hoffman is one of my favourite authors and I have been gradually working my way through her extensive backlist. I love the magical realism genre, which Alice Hoffman writes so well for both adults and children. Nightbird is her latest novel for middle grade readers. I love the cover!

Twelve-year-old Twig lives in a small town, with a mysterious brother, and a mother who bakes irresistible apple pies. Twig’s family are reclusive, distancing themselves from the rest of the town to protect a family secret. Twig dreams of one day having a friend and when a new family moves in next door, her dream becomes reality as she befriends Julia and her sister, Agate. When rumours abound throughout the town of a winged beast, accused of theft and vandalism, Twig and her new friends set out to solve the mystery surrounding the myth before the townsfolk hunt the beast down. But first they need to break the witch’s curse that keeps Twig’s brother a prisoner in his own home.

Nightbird is a story filled with magic, mystery, a touch of romance, and those delicious pink apple pies. There is even a recipe at the end of the book so you can make your own. I have tried it and it is very good!

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy

One of my favourite books I read last year was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which is an endearing and entertaining story about a  man who recieves a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend whom he hasn’t seen for many years, explaining that she is dying of cancer. On a whim, he sets out on a pilgrimage to walk the length of England to reach her before she dies.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is told from Queenie’s point of view. As she lies in the hospice, waiting for Harold Fry to arrive, she decides to write a second letter revealing her true feelings for him and telling the truth about the events that led up to her sudden departure from his life all those years ago. As Queenie tries to hold on until Harold arrives, she forms some unlikely friendships as the staff and patients in the hospice follow Harold’s progress through postcards he sends along the way.

In this book we learn a lot more about Harold’s past, and the mystery surrounding his son. As Rachel Joyce says, this is not a sequel to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, nor a prequel, but a companion.

It is a story of unfulfilled love, atoning for one’s past, and making peace with the present, and although it is set in a hospice, it is not at all depressing.

The Sky so Heavy by Claire Zorn

The Sky so Heavy

The Sky so Heavy is a post-apocalyptic novel set in Australia. After nuclear missiles are detonated on the other side of the world, entire cities are wiped out and a nuclear winter descends upon the earth. With their father missing, and their mother in the city, seventeen-year-old Fin and his younger brother Max are left at home to fend for themselves. With no power, bitterly cold temperatures, and dwindling food supplies, their lives become a daily struggle to survive. When their neighbours start getting sick from radiation poisoning and society collapses around them, with no relief in sight, they decide to leave their home in the suburbs and head for the city in search of their mother. Along with two friends, they make the perilous journey, unaware of what they will find when they get there.

I found this story very plausible, thought-provoking, and unnerving. It made me wonder how I would survive after a nuclear war, or if I would even want to when every day becomes a battle for survival. The story is a real page-turner, but it is not only a story of survival, but a story about the unbreakable bonds of family, and the importance of friendship.

Book Tour: Where the Moths Dance

 

Where the Moths Dance

 

I am excited to announce that Enchanted Book Promotions has organised a virtual book tour for my young adult, paranormal novel, Where the Moths Dance. The tour runs for the month of August and includes book excerpts, author interviews, book reviews, and a giveaway for a signed paperback copy of the book. I’ve posted the tour schedule below and hope that you will check out these great book blogs!

August 1st: Starter Day Party @ I Heart Reading

August 1st: Book Excerpt @   Sylv Jenkins’ Blog

August 2nd: Promo Post @ I’m an Eclectic Reader

August 3rd: Book Excerpt @ Ashley’s Paranormal Book Blog

August 5th: Promo Post @ The Reading Guru

August 7th: Author Interview @ Majanka’s Blog

August 9th: Promo Post @ Rose Shadow Ink

August 11th: Book Review @ Forever Book Lover

August 13th: Book Excerpt @ Realm Tramper

August 15th: Promo Post @ Editor Charlene’s Blog

August 16th: Book Excerpt @ Hollow Readers

August 17th: Author Interview @ Cassidy Crimson’s Blog

August 18th: Book Review @ Endazzled Reading

August 19th: Promo Post @ The Book Daily

August 21st: Book Review @ I Heart Reading

August 23rd: Book Excerpt @ Books Direct

August 24th: Book Review @ Books, Books and More Books

August 25th: Author Interview @ The Single Librarian

August 26th: Book Excerpt @ Fantasy Book Lane

August 28th: Promo Post @ Bookaholic Ramblings

August 30th: Book Review @ Paranormal Romance and Authors That Rock

September 1st: Book Review and Book Excerpt @ Dalene’s Book Reviews

A Sense of Place

I love to read books with a strong sense of place, ones in which I can imagine the setting so vividly that it seems real. I think the best books are those which not only describe the physical setting, but engage all the senses to draw the reader into the story. Alluding to the smell, the sounds, the feel of a place, all help to make it come alive. For me, a story with a strong sense of place helps the story to linger in my memory long after I have finished the book.

Laura Ingalls Wilder achieved this beautifully in the Little House books. Her descriptions of the places she and her family lived were so richly detailed with the sounds and smells and feel of her surroundings that it was easy to feel a part of her world. The way she describes the little log house in the big woods of Wisconsin, the enormous, empty prairie, with the great blue sky above it, the small town of De Smet where Laura and Carrie went to school, truly bring the stories to life. I could almost feel the penetrating cold of the blizzards, hear the birdsong and the whispering of the wind through the grasses, see the wildflowers, the fields of Pa’s crops, the furniture inside the little log house.

 

In Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde, most of the story takes place in an apartment building. The story revolves around a  young girl, who is neglected by her troubled mother, and who seeks help from the building’s occupants. The lives of the residents become intertwined as they are brought together in their bid to help 10-year-old Grace evade Social Services. The strong sense of place is central to the story not only for Grace, but also for another of the building’s residents, Billy Shine, who is agoraphobic and has not left his apartment in years.

 

 

A tiny island off the west coast of Ireland is the setting for Casting Off by Nicole R. Dickson. Rebecca Moray goes to the island with her young daughter, Rowan, to research a book on Irish knitting and to seek refuge from a painful past. Nicole Dickson has created a strong sense of place as we learn the history of the island and meet the many colourful characters who inhabit it. I think I enjoyed this book so much because it is the sort of place I would love to visit.

 

 

One of my favourite books I have read lately has been Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann. The chapters alternate between Amanda, who runs a vintage clothing store in present day New York, and Olive, a young woman in turn-of-the-century New York. When Amanda finds Olive’s journal sewn into a fur muff, she learns what life was like in her own neighbourhood more than a hundred years ago. Throughout the story there is a strong sense of place in both modern day New York and early twentieth century New York. With the wonderful descriptions of the city in both eras, and of the department store in which Olive works, I felt as though I were right there with the characters. Also, I love that there are many old photographs in the book of New York City as it was in Olive’s era.

 

I always try to create a strong sense of place in my own writing. I ask myself What would I see, hear, feel, and smell if I were the character?

Where the Moths DanceIn Where the Moths Dance, much of the story takes place in an old graveyard, surrounded by gum trees, whose gnarly old roots encroach onto the pavement leading up the hill. The graveyard is Jessie’s sanctuary, where she talks to the dead, and can navigate her way around the gravestones in the dark like a night hunter. She finds comfort in the sound of the wind through the gum trees, the cawing of the crows as they fly between the branches overhead, the smell of eucalyptus after it has rained. But Gum Tree Hill Cemetery harbours something more sinister, and when Jessie’s sanctuary is threatened, the graveyard becomes vital in Jessie’s battle to protect those she loves.

 

Scrappy Cupcake AngelsScrappy Cupcake Angels is set in Kerrigan, a small New Zealand town with a gold-mining past. The story revolves around a scrapbooking shop, in a converted Victorian house, down a small lane. As the aroma of coffee swirls tantalisingly through the shop, drifting out the door to lure in passers-by with the temptation of warmth and comfort, Angeline teaches the folk of Kerrigan to embrace their creativity and make beautiful keepsakes. For four women, it is the friendship, and the chance to escape from life’s hassles for a few hours each week, that keeps them coming back to the cosy, little shop, where problems seem to mysteriously sort themselves out.