Tag Archives: fiction

Review: Beware the Night by Jessica Fleck

Beware the Night (The Offering Series #1) by Jessika Fleck

When her world divides, pitting light against dark, Veda must join a dangerous revolution to save her grandfather and fight against injustice…even if it costs her the boy she loves.

On the island of Bellona, life is peaceful–as long as the citizens dutifully worship the Sun, which protects them from all harm. Seventeen-year-old Veda knows that keeping the Sun happy will protect her and her grandfather from the Night, the dangerous people who snatch innocent citizens from their beds under the cover of darkness, never to be seen again. As long as Veda follows the rules, she will be safe.

But when Veda’s grandfather is offered up as the next sacrificial offering to keep the Sun’s favor, she starts to see that the safety she’s been promised comes at a dangerous price. Maybe there is more to fear above than there is below.

With a mysterious young man, Dorian, at her side, Veda has to figure out if the scary bedtime stories she grew up hearing are real–or dangerous lies.

Published 12 March 2019 |  Publisher: Swoon Reads |  RRP: AUD$16.99

Buy it at: Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

I love Swoon Reads books. Their covers are divine and to date, I’ve been very happy with most of the books I’ve managed to read that they’ve published. I guess, they’re just my kind of people 😉

In this universe, Day and Night are mortal enemies. The Day reigns supreme but yet the Night continues to resist. The people are oppressed and desperation will, sooner than later, sparks a revolution. This is the world that Veda Adelina was born into and in just a few days, she will enter her 17th year. Despite all her wish to fight back, she has no idea who her real enemies are but she’s about to find out.

I really have enjoyed this fascinating world set with the ocean on 1 end and a forested hill on another. It sounds rather like a Roman empire with the wealthy living atop a Hill and a Coliseum where rich & poor congregate to witness Offerings to the Night. The contrast between Day and Night, Light and Dark, Sun and Moon, was done rather well and those who tries to bridge the two will do best to be wary.

Veda reminds me a bit of Katniss as both are orphans (of sort) and both very capable young women. However, I find Veda to be more open and easier to like. She is also angry but she seems to be better at channelling her emotions… mostly. The only thing that I really do Not like is… the love triangle, *sighs* Oh, and this book ends with a cliffhanger! But thank goodness, I’ve got book 2 ready to go 😉

Thanks to Swoon Reads via Xpresso Tours for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), is now available. Her next YA novel, BEWARE THE NIGHT (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) releases March 12, 2019.

Find author on:  WebsiteGoodreadsFacebookTwitter

Review: Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan

Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan

A thief. A spy. A mysterious codebook. And a whole lot of trouble.

It’s 1940 and World War II is being fought in faraway Europe. Lizard doesn’t know much about that. He lives in Singapore’s Chinatown, surviving on odd jobs and petty theft.

When Boss Man Beng asks him to steal a teak box from a suite in the glamorous Raffles Hotel, Lizard knows the job is important. But can he know just how dangerous it is?

A sinister man appears in the shadows, and Lizard’s best friend, Lili, shows up with unexpected fighting skills and her eyeon what’s in the box.

And Lizard finds himself on an exciting, action-packed adventure in a world of coded secrets, Japanese invasion plans and undercover spies.

Published 2 July 2019 |  Publisher: Text Publishing |  RRP: USD$16.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s

My Blurb (5 / 5 stars)

Gosh, I loved this now as I read it in my late 30s and I can just imagine how much I would’ve adored this book were I to read it 30 years ago! It has everything I love from the cute cover, a very capable Chinese girl, to a beautiful bittersweet ending.

Lizard is the name of this 12 year-old boy who has no one is known by. While he himself if a clever young fellow, he does not know his way around big cities. Luckily, he found help in a Chinese girl called Lili and the two formed a friendship, of sort. Lizard, these days, will do all sorts of things to stay above water. Meantime, he kept an eye out for his missing uncle. Until the day that he inadvertently got involved in something well beyond his ken. Lucky for him, there are friends who cared for him who are willing to help.

Let me provide a complete list of things I loved of this novel:
🦎 Cute eye-catching cover
🦎 own voice (POC) author
🦎 Great characters: resilient & courageous MC with brave & resourceful sidekicks
🦎 Friendship Friendship Friendship
🦎 Set in Asia (Singapore)
🦎 Diverse characters (and let me stress the DIVERSE here)
🦎 Set in WW2 (or just before)

A terrific mystery, fast paced plot, and marvellous characters, Lizard’s Tale is highly recommended for readers of ALL ages!

Thanks to Text Publishing via Netgalley for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Weng Wai Chan was born and grew up in Singapore. She now lives in Auckland with her husband and three children. Lizard’s Tale is her first book.

Find author on:  goodreads  |  twitter

Review: The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

The Daughter of Victory Lights by Kerri Turner

An enthralling story of one woman’s determined grab for freedom after WW2 from a talented new Australian voice.

‘PART CABARET, PART BURLESQUE, AND LIKE NOTHING YOU’VE EVER SEEN BEFORE! GENTLEMEN, AND LADIES IF YOU’VE DARED TO COME, WELCOME TO …’

There was a pause, and Evelyn sensed those around her leaning forward in anticipation.

‘THE VICTORY!’

1945: After the thrill and danger of volunteering in an all-female searchlight regiment protecting Londoners from German bombers overhead, Evelyn Bell is secretly dismayed to be sent back to her rigid domestic life when the war is over. But then she comes across a secret night-time show, hidden from the law on a boat in the middle of the Thames. Entranced by the risque and lively performance, she grabs the opportunity to join the misfit crew and escape her dreary future.

At first the Victory travels from port to port to raucous applause, but as the shows get bigger and bigger, so too does the risks the performers are driven to take, as well as the growing emotional complications among the crew. Until one desperate night …

1963: Lucy, an unloved and unwanted little girl, is rescued by a mysterious stranger who says he knows her mother. On the Isle of Wight, Lucy is welcomed into an eclectic family of ex-performers. She is showered with kindness and love, but gradually it becomes clear that there are secrets they refuse to share. Who is Evelyn Bell?

Published 20 January 2020 |  Publisher: Harlequin Australia |  RRP: USD$29.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R  |  Abbey’s

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

Look at the gorgeous cover 😍 and I’ve always been a sucker for a WWII story plus it is written by an Australian woman writer… Sold! And it was sooo worth it!

That’s the one thing about humanity you can always rely on: we’ll forever judge the secrets and faults of others while desperately trying to make sure our own stay hidden.

The Daughter of Victory Lights opens with the one tragic incident that leaves a lifetime worth of scars on many.  Then, we are taken back in time… to the past decade and the events that lead up to this moment in time. This is Evelyn’s story. Evelyn who was courageous in serving her country in time of war. Evelyn who, being intelligent and free-spirited, was unable to settle for a life that is dependent on men. Evelyn who, in desperation, grasped at the only chance to work with what she loves and independence.

Ignore the stiff upper lip; do not keep calm and carry on. Dig your fingers into your fears and face them head-on. For that is the only way to become free of them.

Then comes Part 2… Lucy’s story. As soon as I started Part 2, I just knew what happened and my heart broke. I didn’t have the details but I knew a lot more than Lucy! I think Lucy might be around 10 or 11 and has always felt unwanted and unloved. As she discovers who she really is, we are provided with the details of that incident from the beginning of the book and its aftermath. And oh DID I CRY!

our biggest trials can also lead to our biggest triumphs

This novel is entrenched in grief and fear for many different things. Yet, it is an encouragement to all who are suffering to seek help. I may have cried but I feel light as air following the hopeful ending of this novel. The Daughter of Victory Lights features all the glamour life can offer yet gives glimpses of its darkest pits but most of all, there is light outside to guide you through. An enchanting novel full of beautiful characters set in a fascinating time, you’ll be captivated.

Thanks to Harlequin Australia via Netgalley for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

The Last Days of the Romanov Dancers, my debut novel, was released with HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins Australia, in January 2019. A second historical fiction novel, The Daughter of Victory Lights, is scheduled for release 20 January 2020.

​In 2017 I signed with literary agent Haylee Nash of The Nash Agency. In prior years, my short stories have been published by Reflex Fiction, Boolarong Press, Catchfire Press, Stringybark, Underground Writers, and as part of the Dangerous Women Project.

My author influences include (but are not limited to) Kate Forsyth, Sara Gruen, Belinda Alexandra, Hazel Gaynor, Ken Follett, Eli Brown, and Kate Morton. I also have a special fondness for Lorna Hill, particularly her ‘Sadler’s Wells’ series, which I have collected since childhood.

When not writing or reading, I can usually be found teaching ballet and tap dancing, baking sweet treats, or spending time with my husband and my miniature schnauzer Nelson.​

Find Kerri on:  goodreads  |  website  |  twitter  |  facebook  |  pinterest  |  instagram

Review: Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

Above the Bay of Angels by Rhys Bowen

A single twist of fate puts a servant girl to work in Queen Victoria’s royal kitchen, setting off a suspenseful, historical mystery by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and The Victory Garden.

A single twist of fate puts a servant girl to work in Queen Victoria’s royal kitchen, setting off a suspenseful, historical mystery by the New York Times bestselling author of The Tuscan Child and The Victory Garden.

Arriving as Helen Barton from Yorkshire, she pursues her passion for creating culinary delights, served to the delighted Queen Victoria herself. Best of all, she’s been chosen to accompany the queen to Nice. What fortune! Until the threat of blackmail shadows Bella to the Riviera, and a member of the queen’s retinue falls ill and dies.

Having prepared the royal guest’s last meal, Bella is suspected of the poisonous crime. An investigation is sure to follow. Her charade will be over. And her new life will come crashing down—if it doesn’t send her to the gallows.

Published 11 February 2020 |  Publisher: Lake Union Publishing |  RRP: USD$24.95

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R

My Blurb (3.5 / 5 stars)

I’ve been aware of Rhys Bowen for many years but only read 2 of her books (the first 2 of Molly Murphy Mysteries). I realise that she’s quite a prolific writer and her books are mostly historical mysteries which I do like to read. As I found Above the Bay of Angels being available to read via NetGalley, I thought I’d give this a go.

Above the Bay of Angels is a stand alone novel. Set in the beginning of the 20th century, main protagonist, Isabella Waverly, is seeking for a life of independence but what can a single young gentle woman do? Her circumstances were so reduced that she became a servant at the house of a nouveau riche yet fate intercedes when she was first given the opportunity to approach the royal kitchen as an applicant. It may not be under her own name but ‘Carpe diem’!

Things did not go quite smoothly for Bella but yet many times, fate intercede again and again she kept to her philosophy to ‘seize the day!’ It appears that Lady Fortune continues to bless her for no great disaster fell upon her.

A likeable protagonist and a beautiful setting make an enjoyable read but I do feel that I must suspend some disbelief at certain points of the novel. Thinking that I was reading a historical mystery, I also expected the crime being committed near the beginning of the novel but it did not. It didn’t happen until quite later on in the piece and therefore, had to be solved rather quickly. I felt a little cheated but c’est la vie.

Above the Bay of Angels is an historical fiction feast with a splash of mystery and a dash of romance. And oh, be prepared to be hungry while reading!

Thanks to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Rhys Bowen is the New York TimesWall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of two historical mystery series as well as three internationally bestselling stand alone novels. Her books have won multiple awards and been translated into over twenty languages. A transplanted Brit, Rhys now divides her time between California and Arizona, where she escapes from those harsh California winters.

Find Rhys on:  goodreads  |  website  |  twitter  |  facebook

Review: Preservation by Jock Serong

Preservation by Jock Serong

Preservation, based on the true story of the wreck of the Sydney Cove, sees master storyteller Jock Serong turn his talents to historical narrative.

On a beach not far from the isolated settlement of Sydney in 1797, a fishing boat picks up three shipwreck survivors, distressed and terribly injured. They have walked hundreds of miles across a landscape whose features—and inhabitants—they have no way of comprehending. They have lost fourteen companions along the way. Their accounts of the ordeal are evasive.

It is Lieutenant Joshua Grayling’s task to investigate the story. He comes to realise that those fourteen deaths were contrived by one calculating mind and, as the full horror of the men’s journey emerges, he begins to wonder whether the ruthless killer poses a danger to his own family.

Published 29 October 2018 |  Publisher: Text Publishing |  RRP: AUD$22.99

Read a sample chapter from Preservation here.

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R |  Abbey’s  | Text Publishing

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

This is one of those books that’s been on my radar but I’ve resisted to add to my TBR because I just wasn’t sure whether it’s something I’d like. I ended up reading it to fulfil a reading challenge, of course, like so many of my reads and… I really quite enjoyed it.

Preservation has the flavour of a psychological thriller set in Colonial Australia. I’m not usually a fan of psychological thrillers – they frighten me somewhat but this novel is not quite the norm. It is inspired and/or based on a true historical event. One which I was not at all familiar with… I’ve just read the Wikipedia entry and the major plotline followed that but since not much else is known, the author really did have a lot of room to play with.

The first few chapters were a bit strange because this story is told through multiple point-of-views and as usual, this takes some getting used to. Each perspective is unique and wide-ranging (the perpetrator, the accomplice, the witness, the investigator and sidekick) so we have a very nearly well-rounded view of the case. For this novel is rather like a case study of a crime with some sprinkling of historical and personal interests to engage the reader.

Thanks to Text Publishing via Netgalley for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Jock Serong is the author of Quota, winner of the 2015 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction; The Rules of Backyard Cricket, shortlisted for the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Award for Fiction, finalist of the 2017 MWA Edgar Awards for Best Paperback Original, and finalist of the 2017 INDIES Adult Mystery Book of the Year; and On the Java Ridge, shortlisted for the 2018 Indie Awards.

Find Jock on:  goodreads  |  twitter

Review: Dead Man Switch by Tara Moss

Dead Man Switch (A Billie Walker Mystery #1) by Tara Moss

Bestselling author Tara Moss returns to crime fiction with a stunning new series, and a stunning new heroine. Meet PI Billie Walker – smart and sexy, with a dash of Mae West humour, she’s a hard-boiled detective with a twist.

She’s a woman in a man’s world …

Sydney, 1946. Billie Walker is living life on her own terms. World War II has left her bereaved, her photojournalist husband missing and presumed dead. Determined not to rely on any man for her future, she re-opens her late father’s detective agency.

Billie’s bread and butter is tailing cheating spouses – it’s easy, pays the bills and she has a knack for it. But her latest case, the disappearance of a young man, is not proving straightforward …

Soon Billie is up to her stylish collar in bad men, and not just the unfaithful kind – these are the murdering kind. Smugglers. Players. Gangsters. Billie and her loyal assistant must pit their wits against Sydney’s ruthless underworld and find the young man before it’s too late.

Published 21 October 2019 |  Publisher: HarperCollins – AU |  RRP: AUD$32.99

Buy it at: Dymocks |  Booktopia |  A&R |  Abbey’s

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

Firstly, loved the cover!

Secondly, it kinda reminded me of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series… albeit set a couple of decades later (in comparison between first books) and in different countries BUT that is the best thing about this book, it is set in my own backyard or rather Sydney & the Blue Mountains. I recognised all the landmarks and that was just added an extra layer of sweetness to this novel.

I must admit though that it meant I did a lot of comparing between Billie Walker (the protagonist in this novel) to Maisie Dobbs and while there are a number of similarities (eg. losing their loves to war, setting up private investigation agencies, injured returned soldier as assistant, etc), there were enough differences that I could appreciate especially the fashion (!) If you love fashion in novels, in combination with mysteries, you’d love this book.

Billie Walker is working hard to push her grief aside. She’s also working hard because things are tough after the war; everyone is looking for work & are mostly strapped for cash. At the same time, she also loves her work. She loves solving puzzles and seeing justice served. She’s a character one can easily loved. It was also quite easy to love the secondary characters from her toff mother, her most reliable assistant, to the enigmatic detective inspector; Moss has created a most appealing set of characters.

The mystery itself was pretty interesting and the author has done well in connecting the dots. I do love the car chase scene and Billie’s overall capability as a private investigator. There is no bumbling about like an amateur, she’s all professional.

There were 2 things which I found a little bit weird… Instead of using words like ‘gut instinct’ or ‘intuition’, she used ‘little woman’. There was a paragraph in the book explaining why she’s chosen this phrase of ‘little woman’ but really, it just didn’t sit right with me. Maybe I’ve just got a dirty mind (?) because when we have a male protag and he refers to ‘little me’, he’s usually referring to his private parts. Can I just say that I therefore automatically applied the same meaning and had to work really hard to steer myself in the right direction? That was just too strange.

Also, there were too much ‘looking into people’s eyes’ – not staring as such but Billie seems to like to make sure she’s looking into whoever’s eyes a lot… but then again, I read an uncorrected proof so maybe there have been some changes since.

Dead Man Switch was an absolute delight to read. I loved walking through Sydney in the 40s in the high-heeled shoes of a fashionable, capable & brave young woman. If you love historical mystery set in Australia or those like Maisie Dobbs series, I’d highly recommend that you get on board with Billie Walker!

Thanks to HarperCollins AU via Netgalley for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Tara Moss is the bestselling author of eleven books of fiction and non-fiction published in nineteen countries, a documentary maker and host, public speaker and outspoken advocate for human rights and women’s rights. She is the writer of the popular Mak Vanderwall crime series, the Pandora English paranormal series, and the feminist memoir The Fictional Woman. She received an Edna Ryan award for making a feminist difference, inciting others to challenge the status quo. Tara currently lives in Vancouver with her husband and daughter.

Find Tara on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook  |  instagram  |  pinterest

Review: River of Salt by Dave Warner

River of Salt by Dave Warner

1961, Philadelphia. After having to give up his brother to save his own life, hitman Blake Saunders flees the Mob and seeks refuge on the other side of the world. Two years later he has been reborn in a tiny coastal Australian town. The ghosts of the past still haunt him but otherwise Coral Shoals is
paradise. Blake surfs, and plays guitar in his own bar, the Surf Shack. But then the body of a young woman is found at a local motel, and evidence links her the Surf Shack. When Blake’s friend is arrested, and the local sergeant doesn’t want to know, it becomes clear to Blake – who knows a thing or two about murder – that the only way to protect his paradise is to
find the killer.

Published 1 April 2019 |  Publisher: Fremantle Press |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (3 / 5 stars)

So some GR friends were very excited about having access this as ‘Read Now’ on Netgalley and it was so contagious, I caught it. For some reason though, the words (in the description) ‘reborn’ and ‘ghosts’ made me expect something supernatural?! I don’t really know what my frame of mind was like at that time but my head was definitely not screwed on properly because there’s really nothing supernatural here…

Of course, incorrect expectations didn’t help because whatever I expected never happened and that can let to a disappointment. I’m afraid that even after I read other reviews, I still couldn’t get rid of my original thought. Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of noir so River of Salt turned out to be just an okay read for me.

I enjoyed the first chapter a lot as it really gave form to the character of Blake Saunders. This is not a novel about the mafia though so he needed to be ‘reborn’ and what better place that some little coastal Aussie town. But even in an out-of-the-way sort of place, there is no avoiding bad things and as Blake tried to get it all sorted, things just kept escalating ’til he came across a ‘ghost’ from his past.

I love the setting (and said descriptions) and secondary characters (especially of the female variety). I’d love to live in a town like that – sounds divine – but I really would not like to live in the 60s as a woman. The mystery itself was astonishing, the climax heartpounding, and the ending, I think this could be a series 😉

Thanks to Fremantle Press via Netgalley for ecopy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

Dave Warner is an author, musician and

screenwriter. He originally came to national
prominence with his gold album Mug’s Game, and
his band Dave Warner’s from the Suburbs. In 2017
he released his tenth album When. He has been
named a Western Australian State Living Treasure
and has been inducted into the WAMi Rock’n’Roll
of Renown.

Find Dave on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter  |  facebook

Review: Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng

Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng

By the winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, 2018.

Since her sister died, Meg has been on her own. She doesn’t mind, not really—not with Atticus, her African grey parrot, to keep her company—but after her house is broken into by a knife-wielding intruder, she decides it might be good to have some company after all.

Andy’s father has lost his job, and his parents’ savings are barely enough to cover his tuition. If he wants to graduate, he’ll have to give up his student flat and find a homeshare. Living with an elderly Australian woman is harder than he’d expected, though, and soon he’s struggling with more than his studies.

Published 7 May 2019 |  Publisher: Text Publishing |  RRP: AUD$29.99

My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)

I went to see the author’s panel at Sydney Writer’s Festival this year and Christos Tsiolkas, who was facilitating, praised this novel for its quiet splendour (I can’t quite remember the exact phrase he used but it’s something along that line) and I couldn’t agree more! This little unassuming novel was so relatable; it’s easy for me to relate to Andy as I was myself an overseas student but I also found myself to be able to relate to Meg, an older Australian lady.

In Room for a Stranger, we have two seemingly very different people come together and found, in the end, that they were troubled with what is essentially the same thing even if troubles came in different forms. It is very clear that the author knows her subjects well as she drew from her own personal experiences as an “overseas student” and a GP to many older patients.

While the book dealt with our protagonists going about their daily lives: Andy with his parental expectations of good results and Meg with her loneliness, it also did not shy from the hard reality of life: sickness, health, unhappy marriages, and racism (one particularly shocking scene where even I as a reader felt the shame of it and I’ve had my share of scenes…).

A wonderful novel about life – no matter who you are or where you are in life, it is always possible to connect with the stranger next to you.

Thanks to Text Publishing for copy of book in exchange of honest review

About the author

I am a writer, mum and general practitioner from Melbourne, Australia. I have been published in print and online. My writing has appeared in The Age, Meanjin, Overland, Griffith REVIEW, Sleepers Almanac, The Bridport Prize Anthology, Lascaux Review, Visible Ink, Peril, The Victorian Writer and Seizure. My short story collection, Australia Day, won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Unpublished Manuscript and went on to win the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction. My latest book is the novel, Room for a Stranger. If Saul Bellow is right and “a writer is a reader moved to emulation” then I am moved by authors like Richard Yates, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami and Christos Tsiolkas.

Find Melanie on:  goodreads  |  website  | twitter

Serene Conneeley: Q&A

Thank you, Serene, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing journey.

Quick Qs

Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Dark chocolate.

Coffee or Tea?Tea for sure. There’s nothing better than books and tea 🙂

Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark?

Anything for a bookmark. No dog ears! I have heaps of lovely bookmarks, but I often end up using envelopes, scraps of paper, a shopping list or whatever’s at hand – I just found a book I’d been searching for, and it had one of those moisturiser samples from a magazine marking my place…

Plot or Character? They’re so intertwined, but if I had to choose I guess I’d say character.

HEA or unexpected twist? Unexpected twist…

Q: Could you please share with us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer? Was there a particular book you loved as a child or how did your love of words translate to writing?

A: I’m shy, so writing has always been the way I communicate, and the way I make sense of the world. Mum still has a little story I made into a book when I was a kid, about saving the seals 🙂 I wanted to help people, so I was planning to be a social worker, but Dad convinced me I could help more people through words. And that’s what still motivates me to write – when I was a journalist I got letters from teenagers who told me my articles helped them deal with a traumatic event or decide not to commit suicide, and as an author I’ve had a lot of readers contact me to let me know how much one of my books has helped them heal too.

In high school I wrote for a national surfing magazine, at uni (I studied politics and journalism) I was the first student editor of their newspaper, and spent way more time writing articles than going to class, and after that I was a journalist for years – writing about everything from health and social issues to entertainment and spiritualty. A publisher I worked with when I was in magazines offered me a book contract when I left one of my jobs, and that’s how I became an author.

Some of my favourite childhood books were Mandy by Julie Edwards, about a girl in an orphanage who found a little cottage in the woods she escaped to, Searching For Shona by Margaret J Anderson, about two girls who switch places during the war, and one who refuses to give the identity back at the end, and A Time To Love, A Time to Mourn by Paige Dixon, about a teenager with a rare and fatal disease… Which I realise as I write that, all have a sense of tragedy, yet also hope, which is true of my books too. (Hence the unexpected twist not the HEA – I like a book that makes me cry, but also uplifts me…)

Q: Could you share a little of what this trilogy is about and what inspired you in in writing it? Was there a purpose or a target audience you are seeking to reach?

A: I’d written five non-fiction books before I decided to see if I could write a novel, and Into the Mists was woven out of the research I did for Seven Sacred Sites, Faery Magic and Witchy Magic. It’s about death and loss, but also about healing, the bonds of family, the power of friendship and the magic of the natural world, and how that can heal and inspire us. I thought it would just be one small novel, but it turned into a trilogy, and then people asked about some of the other characters, and that spawned another trilogy.

In the beginning the audience was people who loved my non-fiction, but now it’s everyone from young girls at Supanova to men and women of all ages from around the world. With all my books, I want to acknowledge that there is sadness in life, but also hope. It’s always important to me that strong friendships are portrayed, that forgiveness and redemption is possible, and that love can heal. It was also interesting timing that the second trilogy, Into the Storm, launched in the time of #metoo and #timesup, as there is a strong thread of that through these books, and the feedback on that in terms of helping people who have experienced assault and harassment has been really touching.

Q: As I have mentioned to you previously, I found it truly difficult in the first half of the book due to all the grief and anger Carlie was going through. Have you experience such grief yourself and/or how did you research into this?

A: I’m so sorry you found it hard! Fortunately I haven’t lost anyone like Carlie has, but I have been overwhelmed by the response of readers to it. Several people have come up to me at events to hug me, and thank me, and burst into tears as they tell me how much it helped them deal with their own grief, which I wasn’t expecting at all. A husband told me how grateful he was, because when his wife lost her mum she was inconsolable, and he didn’t know how to help her, but apparently the Mists books did. So whenever I’m feeling discouraged, or the writing is hard, I remember those things, because to me it is worth it if it helps even one person… There are others who thank me because the books reminded them of who they are, and got them to re-engage with nature or magic or ritual, and then there are the people who just love the story and the mystery of it and that’s great too 🙂

With the research, I did a bereavement counselling course, and read a fair bit, and I’ve done energy healing courses and workshops, and rituals with shamans and druids and pagan priestesses, and that all contributed too…

Q: In Into the Mists, I could read your sincerity in all things pagan and the note at the end of the book also acknowledged that you are a pagan. Could you please share your experience on how you came to your belief?

A: Paganism is an earth-honouring spiritual path of personal growth and self-discovery, a connection to nature, to the rhythms of the earth and the cycles of the sun, moon and seasons, and a belief in the interconnectedness of people, animals and the land. I was born in Sydney, but when I was six my family moved to a tiny little town on the other side of the country, because they didn’t want to raise my sister and I in the city. So I grew up on a bush property on the river, near the beach, revelling in nature, campaigning with Dad to protect it, and doing healing work with Mum. (My parents were hippies, which I’m sure contributed to my pagan outlook!) A pagan is simply someone who walks lightly on the earth and strives to be kind and compassionate. Who takes responsibility for their own life and their own actions. Who is aware of the impact of word, thought and deed. Someone who understands that there is magic in every moment, if we stop to look, to breathe it in, and to unlock all the potential and promise we hold within. It’s about the magic of the earth, the magic of science and nature. Many pagans are environmentalists, working to protect the earth and its creatures, or they are healers or psychics – or all three – for it’s a path of learning, a search for wisdom and inner knowledge, and a quest to uncover personal truths and meaning. Pagans honour the phases of the moon and the changing of the seasons as metaphors for their own life, and perform rituals as a shaping of intention, and a way to express gratitude for their life, their loved ones and all they have achieved.

Q: What are your top reads for 2019 to date? And which book are you desperately waiting for publication?

A: I’m aiming for a book a week this year (so far so good!), and I’ve already read some wonderful stories. Paula Brackston’s Lamp Black, Wolf Grey, Anne Rice’s Blood Communion, Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches (thanks to Read3rz Revu for the reminder that I had it!), Jodi McIsaac’s Bury the Living, and DL Richardson’s One Little Spell, amongst others.

Juliet Marillier is my favourite author, and she has TWO new books out this year, which I’m desperately waiting for! I can’t wait for The Harp of Kings, the first in her new Warrior Bards series, which is out in September, and she also wrote a new novel, Beautiful, that is coming out as an audiobook exclusive at the end of May. Squeee!

Q: What are your top reads for 2019 to date? And which book are you desperately waiting for publication?

A: So far this year I’ve really enjoyed The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, which is an intriguing time-slip mystery about a man reliving a day again and again in different bodies, and Educated by Tara Westover, an extraordinary memoir about learning and change. I’m really looking forward to The Parade, by Dave Eggers, as his books are always both meticulously crafted and full of interesting ideas about the way we live now.

Q: What are you working on now? Or what can we look for from you next?

A: At the moment I’m finishing Into the Air, which is book three of the Into the Storm Trilogy. It will be sad in a way, to say farewell to these characters I’ve lived with for six years (the Into the Mists Trilogy is set in the same world), but I’m really excited about a couple of new projects I’m about to begin – an Australian faerytale of sorts, and a fantasy series with two friends. We’re off on a writing retreat next week to get started!

Q: “Well, cooking is definitely a witchy skill,”  ~ said Rose (Carlie’s grandmother)

Lastly, and just for fun, could you please share a favourite recipe for the upcoming festival which I believe is Ostara?

A: Of course. Mabon was March 21, and I put some recipes for Mabon (the autumn equinox), which is Ostara (the spring equinox), in the northern hemisphere, on my website for you – then I missed getting this to you in time, sorry! They’re here if you want to include any, www.blessedbeebooks.com/mabon-recipes and www.blessedbeebooks.com/ostara-recipes

The next seasonal celebration for Australians is Samhain, the beginning of winter, in the first week of May (and the first week of November in the northern hemisphere, which is where most of the Halloween traditions come from), so I’ve included a bunch for you in a separate document, if you want to include any… In the northern hemisphere the next seasonal celebration is Beltane, which has some cute recipes, so I’ll send you some of those too…

And the Mabon ones below are also perfect for Samhain…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the author

Serene Conneeley is an Australian writer with a fascination for history, travel, ritual and the myth and magic of ancient places and cultures. She’s written for magazines about news, travel, health, spirituality, entertainment and social and environmental issues, is editor of several preschool  magazines, and has contributed to international books on history, witchcraft, psychic development and personal transformation.

She is the author of the non-fiction books Seven Sacred Sites, A Magical Journey, The Book of Faery Magic, Mermaid Magic, Witchy Magic and Into the Mists: A Journal, and creator of the meditation CD Sacred Journey. The Into the Mists Trilogy was her first adventure into fiction, and she is currently finishing three Into the Mists Chronicles.

Serene is a reconnective healing practitioner, and has studied medicinal and magical herbalism, bereavement counselling, reiki and many other healing modalities, plus politics and journalism. She loves reading, rainbows, drinking tea with her friends, and celebrating the energy of the moon and the magic of the earth. Her pagan heart blossomed as she climbed mountains, danced in stone circles, trekked along pilgrimage paths, wandered through ancient cathedrals and stood in the shadow of the pyramids on her travels, and she’s also learned the magic of finding true happiness and peace at home.

Find Serene on:  website  |  goodreads  |  facebook   |  instagram

Sam Meekings: Q&A

Thank you, Sam, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing journey.

Quick Qs

Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Dark, and much more frequently than I probably should.

Coffee or TeaTea (I’m predictably British).

Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark? Dog-ear.

I’m sorry, Sam, this is totally a deal-breaker!!! :O

Plot or Character? Character – they best stories come from people and their desires and conflicts.

HEA or unexpected twist? Unexpected twist, though hopefully with a sprinkle of happiness!

Q: Could you please share with us a little bit about yourself and what it is that fascinates you about history?

A: I’m a British poet and novelist, and I teach creative writing and literature to university students. I’m also a single parent, so when I get small pockets of free time, I enjoy escaping into the past. I read a lot of history, as it’s really interesting to me how people lived, what they believed, what they had to cope with. My belief is that people have the same desires and longings and hopes no matter where or when they live, but what is interesting is the challenges they face based on the time and place they are trapped in.

 

Q: Your 3 novels so far have been historical fiction (2 being set in China). Was that a conscious decision on your part (your love for history naturally translate into historical fiction) or were there other factors in play?

A: Yes, it was definitely a conscious decision. I studied History and English Literature at university, and I’ve always been fascinated by different times and different cultures. I like to think of myself as a part-time time-traveller (books, after all, are the best time machines that we have). When I went to China after university, one of the first things I started doing was reading up on its history. When something interests me, I have a longing to share it, and that’s been the starting point of all my books: bringing the past back to life to share with others.

 

Q: I don’t know much about famous paintings though this Doctor Gachet looks vaguely familiar. How did it actually come to your attention? So much so that you’re inspired to write about it?

A: I first read about the painting in an article listing some of the most expensive artworks ever sold. It was the only one of those to have disappeared. That grabbed my interest, and I started reading up on it. There was something about the sad look on his face that intrigued me. There are hundreds of books about Van Gogh, but I was amazed to find that there are so few about the people in his paintings. Soon I was researching the painting a lot in my free time, and I knew I had to share his strange and fascinating story.

 

Q: I found the structure of this novel to be very interesting. The alternate chapters between Doctor Gachet himself with journeys of the painting and narrator. Is this narrator yourself? How did you come to structure the novel in such a way?

A: What I wanted was to show not only the life of this person and the painting, but also the afterlife. Part of that meant following the journey of the painting from owner to owner, from Nazi Germany to New York and on to its mysterious disappearance in Japan. But it also meant trying to trace the effect of the painting in the people who see it. I wanted to illustrate how works of art, or books, or songs, or movies, can take on a special relevance and meaning in a person’s life, and I decided it would be easiest to do that in the first person through my own experiences. I also hoped that structuring the novel in this way would help readers see the painting from many different perspectives (the history of the man in the painting, the journey of the painting, the effect of the painting), just like how in a gallery we might move around an artwork and look at it from different angles and in different ways.

 

Q: I don’t think this is a spoiler but there is one particular chapter which I was very surprised by. Near the end, you’ve inserted a chapter set in the far future. What prompted you to write this chapter?

A: For me, the act of writing a book is an adventure. No matter how much research I’ve done (especially to get all the history right), there is something exciting about veering off into unexpected places. I decided early on that it would be a novel – full of emotion, drama, conflict – rather than a biography, and so I wanted to show the importance of the painting not only through its past history but also in its possible futures. When we talk about our lives, we’re not only thinking of the things we’ve done in the past, but all our potential and all the things we might do in the future, and so I wanted to dramatize that with that chapter.

Q: What are your top reads for 2019 to date? And which book are you desperately waiting for publication?

A: So far this year I’ve really enjoyed The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, which is an intriguing time-slip mystery about a man reliving a day again and again in different bodies, and Educated by Tara Westover, an extraordinary memoir about learning and change. I’m really looking forward to The Parade, by Dave Eggers, as his books are always both meticulously crafted and full of interesting ideas about the way we live now.

Q: What are you working on now? Or what can we look for from you next?

A: I’m working on a mystery set in Cambridge called ‘The Vanishing Light’, about the way the past echoes and repeats in the present.

You can check out my thoughts on The Afterlives of Doctor Gachet, here, and you can purchase it from following links: Amazon | Amazon UK | Book Depository  |  Eyewear Publishing | Soundcloud

 

About the author

Sam Meekings grew up near the south coast of England. He took an undergraduate degree in Modern History and English Literature at Mansfield College, Oxford University and, later, a Masters degree in Creative Writing at Edinburgh University. In 2005 he moved to China where he worked as a teacher and editor. He recently moved to Qatar with his wife and family to take up a post as Lecturer in poetry and creative writing at Qatar University. In 2006 and 2007 Sam was longlisted for an Eric Gregory Award for poets under 30.

Find Sam on:  website  |  goodreads  |  twitter   |  instagram  |  facebook  |  youtube