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Corridors of Babel
Corridors of Babel
by Sheila Hamilton
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Poetry as Quest, 25 Jan 2014
This review is from: Corridors of Babel (Paperback)
Sheila Hamilton was born in Leicester, graduated from the University of East Anglia in 1989, spent time in Hungary and Scotland, and presently lives on the Wirral. I discovered Sheila’s work through an interview on Melissa Lee-Houghton’s blog. What drew me to Corridors of Babel was reading about Sheila’s conception of poetry as quest, and her use of mythology to explore philosophical questions and the difficulties of human existence.

Corridors of Babel forms a poetic exegesis of the labyrinthine structures of human perception. Transformation is the central theme, with myth the vehicle for examining the dynamic relationship between human consciousness and the natural world, everyday life and the deeper reality beneath.

The book is filled with natural and animal imagery, mythic and real, harking back to pre-Biblical times when humans viewed themselves as part of nature, rather than domineers. The multitudinous visions and voices constitute a contemporary Babel, symbolizing liberation from two millennia of anthropocentrism.

The poems can be read as based in shamanic experience. Drinking an unnamed draught in Eastern Hungary, the narrator becomes a horse, feeling the damp plains beneath her hooves with the ‘itch of ticks,’ smelling blood shed by war before returning to her human form with a horse’s wisdom.

Imbibing intoxicants isn’t the only way to breach the confines of everyday reality. Many of Sheila’s poems are based on meditations on paintings. In ‘The Dream,’ she takes the reader into Franz Marc’s world. ‘You are going to break out tonight. / Without trying, you’ll find yourself / in a place summer-green and hilly / and whinnying with the horses.’

Sometimes visions just arrive. In ‘The Visit,’ one of the most haunting poems, Sheila asks the reader to consider the possibility of a ‘horse and woman’ simply there, in the garden, stepping closer. The woman’s haircut and eye colour is the same as addressees. She appears in the kitchen, ‘horseless and closer’ still. It’s possible to read echoes of an encounter with the Brythonic mare goddess Rigantona, or Epona, her Roman counterpart. Whatever the interpretation, the connection with the mysterious world of the Divine is clear.

Of course, horses aren’t the only animals featured. Geese, cats, fish and toads, unicorns and monsters play major roles, and likewise the wider world of nature. Sheila uses the myth of ‘Nine Ladies’ turned to stone for dancing in fields on the Sabbath to explore the oppression of women who have stepped outside society’s norms, celebrating their ‘striking attitudes. / Impossible to smash up. / Impossible to uproot.’ In Jadelaine, a woman journeys toward ‘100 % wildness,’ bedding down on leaf-litter and turning green.

The collection isn’t all about ecstatic reunion with nature. The gift of knowledge outside the bounds of everyday experience and the impetus to create that goes with it comes with a price. This is typified by the girl who swallows a star. Shooting light through her body it inspires her to write poems and stories. Yet it also makes her cry and curl up. It knows about overdoses and clinics. Because she swallowed the star ‘at the wrong moment’ she is cursed with mental instability.

Other poems explore the sensation of derealisation. The subject of ‘You will along anxious corridors’ feels trapped in a ‘lustreless body-halo’ ‘like a wet suit’ as the pages of books ‘wither to pointlessness’ and the teacher’s words become a ‘nonsense jingle.’ The wet suit reappears in ‘Hibernating in Maudsley,’ where the narrator, in a state of catatonia is a toad, laying eggs and mating, ‘but not with men.’

Corridors of Babel also brings forgotten portions of the past to life. A recurrent theme is the presence of people who are dead or missing. ‘They are always with us, / the dirty secrets,’ in mist and fumes on trains and in planes, ‘when you feel you are watched, you are.’ Diverting the tides cannot wipe out the memory, or ‘ancestral guilt’ following the execution of Margaret Wilson on Wigtown sands. On Arthur’s Seat Sheila meets her deceased grandmother and they go blackberry picking again.

One of the poems is titled ‘School in the Forest.’ Reading the collection can be seen as entering a forest school. In The Corridors of Babel we are shown how by connecting to a wider reality through myth our everyday lives can be re-interpreted, transformed and rejuvenated.

A Body Made of You
A Body Made of You
by Melissa Lee-Houghton
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A Corpus of Fractured Bodies, 25 Jan 2014
This review is from: A Body Made of You (Paperback)
Melissa Lee-Houghton was born in Manchester and currently lives in Blackburn, in Lancashire. In A Body Made of You her inspiration is drawn from thirteen muses who she interviewed and studied in photographs and paintings. These poems, based in ‘pulse time’ begin in the flesh and blood realities of the muses before branching, in vivid and startling metaphors, into nature, the global and mythic. Olivia’s flesh is ‘stuffed with albino bunnies,’ Jonathon’s ‘face is civilised, like Plaster of Paris,’ Alexandra braves ‘King Arthur’s palace’ and dances ‘toward Carthage.’

The collection isn’t a comfortable or easy read. Melissa criticises those who ‘employ psychologists and spiritual healers to say and do all the really terrible things for us.’ Dauntlessly she explores all avenues of life and the nature of relationships, in particular sensuality and sexuality. A lot of the difficulty stems from her use of paradox. In ‘Carbon’ she says ‘I do not write to you, but of you, / because the paper that we write on / is our perishable skin.’ The words make sense as they’re read, yet the meaning is elusive. Another line intriguing yet unfathomable is ‘as Goya held fast to / what death is to madness then / so you are to flesh.’
Melissa also makes interesting use of contraries and the surreal. ‘Clowns’ opens a topsy-turvy world where she and Nate play drag queen and clown. Humour walks in hand with deep frustration. Undressed, Nate continues to wear clown shoes, seeing her as a playmate rather than recognising she is ‘the kind of animal’ that ‘could never be tamed.’ Behind the comedy lies the very relatable tragedy of misunderstanding sprung from the impossibility of knowing other people.

Like the picture on the cover, A Body Made of You presents a corpus of fractured bodies, only partially known, giving voice to the raptures and frustrations of relationships whilst retaining their mystery. There remains a lot to ponder in this book- many lines I don’t understand, and will probably interpret in different ways at different times. I think this is a good thing and signals the longevity of this brilliant first collection.

by William Park
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A vivid and visceral exploration of liminality, 26 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Surfacing (Paperback)
William Park was born in London and currently lives in Preston, in Lancashire. In 1990 he won an Eric Gregory Award in 2003 attained an MA in Poetry from Liverpool Hope University College. His poems have been published in literary magazines since the 1980's. I met Will last year at the Beautiful Planet Café in Preston, where we were both involved with a group called Harvest Preston Creative Community*. Since then, together with Nicolas Guy Williams and Benjamin Rivers-Fletcher, we have performed in various venues around Preston as 4Poets. Will runs writing workshops in the local area and is currently leading a spoken word project based on the difficulties of living in a city and discovering a catalyst for change. He is also involved with Social Enterprises, a group who visit work places with the aim of breaking down stigma surrounding mental health issues through discussion and story telling.

Surfacing was published in 2005. I bought the collection last year, and re-read it in October, during a period 4Poets were putting some pieces together for `The Sorcery of Nature' at the Continental. The performance took place close to Halloween / Samhain, a time when for many spiritual traditions the veil between this world and the Otherworld, and the living and dead is known to be thin. In `Fade Out' we hear the line `In the season of the dead / I walk tight-lipped.' Many of the poems take place in the dead season, a time of liminality.

The title itself is suggestive of things that lie outside our normal perception of reality pushing up from the depths of the Otherworld / the unconscious to surface into the liminal space of poetry. There is a sense throughout of reality as we know it breaking down to reveal a surreal and frightening, yet magical and fascinating world beneath. A damned man flees the high street to fall down a manhole into Dante's Inferno to be judged `by a beak with no wig.' Leaves in a hedgerow become amputated tongues. Birds sing `the world in stanzas' and `Other messages / lullaby / out of the moon.'

Vision begins after sunset. As the eye of day retreats lunar perceptions surface. Images of the moon appear repeatedly; `moon's grey ball,' `Moon hangs low, / clean as bone' `moon book' `wide-mouthed moon,' `hollow moon.' To `children, moonless, / lost in darkness' the Assyro-Babylonian moon god appears.

The liminal world of surfacing is neither fluffy dreamland nor spectral unreality. Vivid and visceral, it is filled with smells, sounds, colours and violent sensations. `The wind is an ache tonight, / the trees are ganglia.' Silence slithers `fresh as a tide.' `I smell a boy's blood... I am chewing, spitting, rolling, / in colouring wood.'

Each image forms `an entire world reflected as in a drop of water.' In a drop of water we find surfaces, depths and fragmentation. This metaphor relates to our perception of truth, a recurrent theme. The narrator of `The Damned,' fleeing into Boots, `searched / for plasters, the answer avoided / the appearance of truth.' Flight from surfacing images, disturbing truths that have been suppressed, leads deeper into the Inferno. Within the sanctity of `the chapel / truth is always returning / from the dead.' Here it does so with a `lightning flash.' At other times revelation is defined by `silence and slowness' or `starlight coma.'

Because our perception of truth can come in fragments or experiences that shake our beliefs about reality to the roots, and is always individual and personal it is extraordinarily difficult to capture in words. After years studying philosophy and aesthetics I have reached the conclusion poetry is the only type of language with the capacity to depict revelation. Through haunting metaphors, sliding images and linguistic twists Surfacing presents a unique view of this world at its strangest, and glimpses of the deeper reality beneath.

Price: 0.77

4.0 out of 5 stars An Ocean of Words, 26 Dec 2013
This review is from: Siren-Songs (Kindle Edition)
Nicolas Guy Williams was born in Gloucester, studied Fine Art in Cardiff, and travelled France, Spain and China before returning to England to live in Preston. Embracing a Bohemian lifestyle he has a love of pirates, free festivals, new age spirituality, shamanism and green ethics. Having written and studied poetry all his life, he has published 44 collections. I met Nick last year at the Beautiful Planet Café, where with myself and William Park he was a member of Harvest Preston Creative Community. Since then, with Benjamin Rivers-Fletcher we have performed together as 4Poets.

Siren Songs is part of The Preludes. This 205 page collection spans from 1992 - 2005 spanning subjects diverse as Toulouse, Kali, Hannibal Barca, junk food and one of our favourite topics of discussion, apocalypse, far more than I could ever hope to cover in a single review. I chose Siren Songs, which was written in 2002, because it contains one of my favourite poems this year, `The dark horses, last ride,' which Nick read as part of our `The Sorcery of Nature' performance in October.

Nick describes The Preludes as an `ocean of words dotted with the occasional island or rocky outcrop.' His conversational tone and mastery of rhythm like a siren's song lures the reader into a false sense of security before dragging them into the sea. Siren Songs opens with a star lit fall into a world of beach, tide and wind, craggy paradoxes and watery transformations.

The second poem, `The dark horses, last ride,' begins with the fall of a `false eyed equine The Black Horse, Prestonthing' dying an `unnecessary death', screaming as `the stars come down the warfare of its passage.' Powerful words and apocalyptic images, containing a nod to Blake's `when the stars threw down their spears.' What is this warlike creature whose death brings about the fall of the stars, the undoing of known reality? My intuition suggests the horse named `the torment of battle,' in the Black Book of Carmarthen, possibly an epithet of `The Black One of the Seas,' who appears in myths from Wales, Lancashire and Cumbria. (Admittedly this is a personal reading, and almost certainly not what Nick had in mind in 2002). `We don't understand this sifting after dead horses on the old beach' provokes a sense of loss. I'm reminded of the myth of the Black carrying people from Morecambe Bay to Anglesey, lost in the mists of time.

The poem moves on to `empty places' where `sometimes / something happens. / It doesn't happen often.' Happening is magical, doubly so when presaged by the fear of emptiness without events, dead time where nothing happens. Happening is explosive `there are fireworks and we cannot find the dead horses.' Death leads to transformation. Horses are `eaten by the wind-God's messengers,' becoming a part of our myths as wind song, running again as `horse whispers' through `older forests.'

There are mites on the horses' skin, `and of course the riders.' `Horse riders' are ancillary to horses. This shows the position of humanity in relation to the immensity of nature. Horses existed aeons before people. We are ancillary, riders on a world of mystery whose oceanic depths we have barely plumbed.

`There were dead lungs in the dark sea' opens with a paradox. There are graves on the beach, lacking corpses, yet the crabs are eating something, this is all the `game can make work'. There is a sense of absurdity, distancing us from our immersion in the fate of the dark horses. We hear the songs of sirens from dead lungs, admitting they are the sustenance of `something darker than ourselves. / An end / in the sky / and the stars.' Falling into the water, the stars have drowned. The end `is all there ever was here' - a cessation of happening. Yet in the final poem, `In the sea. / In the silence' the winds `thrill and hate nothingness.'

This tiny collection contains universal themes, a world within a vision of sea, sky and beach, the becoming and end of time, and the extremities of emotion; doubt, fear and wonder that go with apocalypse.

Old Gods, New Druids
Old Gods, New Druids
by Robin Herne
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent presentation of ancient British spiriutuality for a modern world, 26 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Old Gods, New Druids (Paperback)
I discovered this book a year ago at the same time I discovered Druidry. On a re-read it has been fascinating returning to parts that have inspired and shaped my relationships with the Old Gods and nature spirits of my local area, as well as finding new meanings to fit the present period of my life. The title alone has a magical resonance.

Old Gods. Robin Herne is a polytheist Druid who lives in East Anglia. He runs an Eisteddfod in Suffolk and is part of a long running Clan whose patron deity is Ogmios. He writes about Druidry due to his conviction `of the existence of the Gods.' This sense of passion and connection flows through the book, affirming and celebrating their existence. My own life has been characterised by a wild desire to hunt for the divine; my restless and insatiable mind and feet leading me through fantasy novels, horses, crazy festivals and the dirtiest rock clubs, Romanticism, Greek and German philosophy and tragedy, more horses, long walks, and at last to the Old Gods of this land, which has been a huge homecoming.

Reading this book for the first time confirmed my developing intuitions and taught me some important lessons. We can build better relationships with the gods if we address them rather than attempting to invoke them. Instead of approaching them with demands we should get to know them. Rather than turning up with an armful of offerings or a page full of verse we should find out what they want us to do for them.

Until Phil and Lynda Ryder introduced me to Druidry my connection with deities had taken place away from home, and in many ways been an escape from the banality of suburban life. After opening my eyes to what was outside my door I became more aware of the nature spirits of my local area. Robin's book has been really useful as he offers sound advice on how to connect with them. For example before approaching the spirit of a water course learning if it's artificial or manmade, whether it's been diverted and what it's old uses were. This process turned up some interesting research about my local valley and it's brook as well as deepening my understanding of the spirits.

As a poet I found the following lines inspirational: `in Clan, we wonder at what body of land-stories may have once existed, that saw and celebrated the spirits of the land. We wonder too at what stories we, and others, could create anew to reinvest the spirit in the Sacred Land.' They played a part in leading to me writing a book of poetry about the valley to raise money for the Friends group I set up there.

An exercise that stuck in my mind was a visualisation where Robin says `you may feel the urge to chant, sing, clap a beat with your hands, or do various other activities. Go with the flow...' Whilst I've found other people's visualisations don't work for me these words stuck in my mind, because I knew, frustratingly, this was something I'd never been able to do. Following a prompt to sing one of my poems to Belisama, the goddess of the Ribble, I recalled these words, with my frustration. I decided to try it, an experience which has transformed and deepened our relationship. Building on this I've learnt to let go entirely, allowing a song to take me into a trance, strangely and inexplicably met Gwyn ap Nudd, a deity whose wild, terrifying nature connects to my soul, and journeyed with him to the Otherworld.

New Druids. Robin's values as a young man coalesced `in the mythic image of the Druid.' The label of `Druid' has been a sticking point for me. Up until last year my world view was based on Nietzsche's artist's metaphysics and William Blake's visionary excavation of London, combined with my growing intuitions about the local land, its Gods and their myths and stories. This amalgamation made me see myself as some kind of pagan poet-philosopher, my totem mare fleeing tradition, stamping and shaking her head like a horse refusing to go into a box.

For Robin to reject tradition involves dismissing `those ancestors that adhered to polytheism within that time and who might well guide the living from beyond the grave.' A question I ponder frequently is why am I called to the Gods of ancient Britain and the tribes who lived in relationship with them, and to the divine figures whose tales, hunting horns and battle cries, with the scream of ravens echo from The Mabinogion and The Books of Ancient Wales? Why me? Why now? Why is Druidry returning, or perhaps, why is Druidry being brought into being by those who are called by the land and its Old Gods?

Robin's suggestion is that `Gods are astounding entities and a new spirituality could be built around them that would enlightening, liberating, awe-inspiring and magnificent. If the world had never had a body of polytheistic naturalists seeking meaning and beauty and sapience in the land around them, then the 21st century would be a fantastic time for it to gain one.' `Myths inspire the future.' For Robin the draw of the mystical religions is their capacity to restore wonder, mystery and enchantment to the world. This restoration does not take place solely in ritual and meditation but by working with and sharing the energy and inspiration that are gifts of the land and its deities, a task Robin performs through teaching, storytelling and poetry.

Lost Bards and Dreamers
Lost Bards and Dreamers
by Nimue Brown
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Voicing Lost Forests, 26 Dec 2013
Nimue Brown is a Druid author who lives in Gloucestershire, on a narrowboat with her husband and son. I met Nimue last month at the Druid Network Conference at the Bilberry Hill Centre, just outside Birmingham. Coincidentally, Nimue set up the west midlands Gorsedd, Bards of the Lost Forest, close to the conference centre. Much of Lost Bards and Dreamers was written whilst Nimue was the leader of this group.

The collection charts Nimue's journey as she dedicates herself to the path of the Bard, lover, mother and Druid, promising to honour the ancestors, seasons, animal life, and her personal vision of the divine. It expresses her part in a `song tribe' of `green souls' coming together to celebrate, create and make ritual. Through her poetry Nimue shares the magic of the Lost Forest; `Welcome kindred spirit / If you want this, it is yours.'

Nimue's path is strongly rooted in the earth and ancestral memory. She refers to herself as a `mud worshipper.' Her spirit contains `rotted down learning / Mortal remains of dead ideas.' Crawling into a burial mound, a `dark grave' of `age old decay and mouldering time' she receives rebirth, emerging from the `earth belly' to the `vibrant disorder of the living.' Her `darkly fertile soil' is her ground of creativity, growing `new flowerings / Vibrant purple madness, / The Dream God's bounty.'

Nimue's rootedness in the natural world shows through in poems that honour native trees, birds, ancestors of the land, and grandmothers and grandfathers. Nimue is critical of a world that does not respect these sacred relationships, eating battery kept animals, food `Plastic wrapped / Machine flavoured, / Carried far.' In `Ghost Forest' she laments the loss of the wild wood and its animals, `alive only in the dreams of learned men... We will not see your like again.'

Yet the Ghost Forest continues to exist as a place of Celtic magic. In a tone reminiscent of Yeats' `Hosting of the Sidhe' - `And Niamh calling Away, come away: Empty your heart of it's mortal dream' Puzzlewood (my favourite poem) opens:

`Step off the winding path, they said,
Where the ferns grow tall and fair,
Pick the dancing bluebells,
And knot them into your hair.'

Here Nimue is both child, pixie led, and seductive fey calling the reader away from everyday life into the enchantment of the Lost Forest. Her magical life is not lived alone but shared with a `graceful woodland spirit' a `dryad in hiding from the world' in `a fellowship of soul kith.' `Spirit Wood' presents the continuity of the Lost Forest returned to life, honoured and shared in this collection, keeping the spirit alive. Lost Bards and Dreamers ends with a beautiful image, of unison with nature and the Otherworld, balance and integrity.

`A face framed in leaves,
Rooted deep,
Ivy twined spirit,
Fair of form,
Reaching into the sky,
Standing between the worlds.'

Pagan Portals - Spirituality Without Structure: The Power of finding your own path
Pagan Portals - Spirituality Without Structure: The Power of finding your own path
by Nimue Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent advice on discovering spirituality on your own terms, 14 Dec 2013
Nimue Brown is a druid author and fiction writer living in Gloucestershire. Whilst Spirituality Without Structure is rooted in her experience of pagan Druidry it is written from an existentialist perspective. Directed at anybody who has given up on formal religions it holds relevance for theists and atheists alike. As an anarchic bard and polytheist who has avoided formal courses in Druidry I was deeply curious about what Nimue had to say.

Firstly, this is not a book about how to converse with God, the gods or nature. There are plenty of other books that do that. It is about discovering a spiritual path on your own terms. `This is not a structure. It's not a map. This is a method for making your own map, building your own compass and ascertaining your direction.'

The style is conversational and engaging. It's pitched at a level whereby the general public, students and academics alike could all understand it and gain fresh insights. I would have been inspired by it whilst studying philosophy and religion at college.

The core argument is that spirituality without structure is rooted in discovering what moves and inspires us in the real world- the spark of the numinous in nature and the treasure troves of myth and story- and honouring it by right action. Experience of the numinous has real effects, influencing us to change our lives and the world around us. I think many people would find this view enlivening and empowering.

Nimue deals with existential crisis in admirable manner. Admitting doubt goes hand in hand with the quest for personal truth, she shows that doubt and the act of questioning constitute the essence of the spiritual journey. They provoke us to create our own meaning day by day, living life to the full with no other authority than the questioning self. This kind of affirmation requires a lot of courage and isn't something I can relate to fully as I put a certain amount of trust in the land and my gods.

On a critical level I thought the importance of the real world was stressed at the expense of non-cognitive / imaginal perception, leaving the possibilities of other realities unexplored. Also, positing the self and its desires as the central source of meaning seemed limiting. I would have liked to see more discussion of the potential of finding and developing meaning through interaction with others outside of formal structures. However I feel these criticisms stem from a difference in standpoint.

Overall Spirituality Without Structure is a resonant rewarding book with much to teach about the art of questioning and authentic living. It's led me to consider how living one's own path from an existential perspective contrasts with my polytheism. I think it would be of value to anybody interested in learning more about how to do spirituality their own way.

Windsmith: The Windsmith Elegy: 2
Windsmith: The Windsmith Elegy: 2
by Kevan Manwaring
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.90

4.0 out of 5 stars A Journey through the Otherworld, 22 Sep 2012
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'Windsmith' charts the journey of Isambard Kerne, an observor on a bi-plane during the first world war through a vortex into the Shadow World (the Earth's symbiotic twin) and his adventures there. Following a period spent in the Void Kerne finds himself in the midst of a bronze age civilisation engaged in war with an iron age people, with the pilot of his bi-plane leading the enemy army. To defeat Harry 'Mad Duck' Mallard who has become Taranis (speaks-with-thunder) Isambard must learn the path of the bard / windsmith.

What I found most striking was the depiction of the disruptive effect of the first world war on the Shadow World. Here figures from Celtic Myth, often viewed as gods, such as Ogmios and Brigantia are not presented as immortal archetypes, but powerful yet mortal humans whose lives are threatened by the arrival of 'Taranis.' Through clever reworkings of the story of the Gundestrup Cauldron and origin of the Ogham alphabet Kevan creates a story that puts our everybody conceptions of the past, causality and relationship to the afterlife into question. Kerne's quest provides powerful insight into the transformative processes that make a bard, and the discovery of one's Awen.

My main criticism of this book is that are a huge number of characters, which in some places I found confusing. I suspect it would be more confusing for somebody without any knowledge of Celtic myth. In contrast to the first book in this series 'The Long Woman' the focus remains on Maud's experiences and self development, at some points I felt the building of the world and number of events overshadowed Kerne's journey. Part of the reason I began reading contemporary Bardic literature instead of fantasy was in the hope of finding character driven stories firmly rooted in this world and its myths but containing the same expanse of imagination. A world based on the Celtic Otherworld was the last place I expected to find elves and dwarves (!). That said, Kerne's central story ties everything together. If you like a challenging read or desire to deepen your insight into the Bardic Tradition I would recommend this.

The Spook's Apprentice: Book 1 (The Wardstone Chronicles)
The Spook's Apprentice: Book 1 (The Wardstone Chronicles)
by Joseph Delaney
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An Asset to the Landscape of Lancashire and it's Myths, 10 Sep 2012
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First off, I'm an adult. I bought this book due to my interest in Lancashire history and folklore. The first thing that struck me is that it's actually quite scary. I found myself turning the pages rapidly and got the end in no time.

In an adult novel I'd have liked to see more description, but as a children's story Delaney certainly knows how to tell a good story. Meshing together local myths about boggarts and witchcraft with Lancashire's hills and farms and alot of imagination this book is a non stop adventure.

I felt alot of sympathy for Thomas, the protagonist. He doesn't want to be the spook's apprentice yet he is determined to make it his career in spite of the hardship. What struck me most was his growing loneliness and the sacrifices he has to make to continue in his job, in particular the effects on his family life. He's a very mature boy and makes some tough choices. He messes up and makes amends.

This is a dark book and unlike in Harry Potter, there are no minor characters to bring any light. Alice, who I imagine is a future love interest, poses only more trouble. As in Wuthering Heights, the bleakness of the mood suits the landscape.

I only intended to read this first book. Now I'm hooked and have just sent off for the next one!

The Long Woman
The Long Woman
by Kevan Manwaring
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey of Discovery, 7 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Long Woman (Paperback)
This beautifully written book takes the reader through a woman's journey of discovery through a sacred landscape, poetry and myth to release her inner potential. Plumbing the highs and lows of human experience, 'The Long Woman' is full of surprise. In a lively and engaging manner it puts into question our modern presuppositions about our relationship to the natural world and life after death. I'd recommend this to everybody.

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