Top Social

Featured Posts Slider

Author Interview with Sara Pascoe (Being a Witch and Other Things I Didn't Ask For)

Saturday, May 27, 2017
Today, I'm delighted to host author Sara Pascoe on the blog with an interview. I recently read and loved her latest novel Being a Witch and Other Things I Didn't Ask For.

Welcome to the blog, Sara! Tell us a little about yourself.
I come to writing fiction after a career in psychology. I had a lot of interesting and inspiring experiences from teaching chimpanzees language, to working in the US Congress. I am originally from the US and moved to Great Britain in 2004, where I now live on the south coast where we run a B&B for English Language students.

The main characters travel through space and time in your latest novel. What did you learn in writing Being a Witch?
I learned quite a bit about the history of both England and the Ottoman Empire around the time of the story, the mid-seventeenth century. What I found particularly fascinating was the stark contrast between the two places in the mid-1600s. Things were awful in England at this time. There were food shortages due to long-term weather conditions, the water was so dirty it was safer to drink ale, the average lifespan was 16 years of age, and ordinary folk, both men and women had very few rights.

But in Istanbul (called Constantinople by Europeans) life was amazing. There was hot and cold running water! Proper toilets! There were soup kitchens for the poor, schools for boys and girls, free hospitals for people and animals. It was considered a good deed to feed stray cats :). Women could own businesses, and bring cases to court. I read quite a few (translated) original court documents, and diaries of European women who ran away to Istanbul for a better life. I also read original writings by two of the real-life historic figures in the book, Matthew Hopkins, the notorious witch hunter in England, and Katip Celebi, the celebrated scientist and scholar of the Ottoman Empire. I am happy to send anyone the links and references for any of the research.

It's neat how much you can learn while writing a novel! What life experiences did you draw from in the writing of Being a Witch?
There were two main areas of personal experience that fed into the book.
  1. Foster Kids. I'd worked with foster kids over many years in my role as a psychologist. And I always was, and continue to be, very moved by what this is like. You never have a 'forever' home. You know the grownups can throw you back if you're just that much too much of a pain. And then, at 18--flick--you're out on your own.
  2. Traveling to Turkey. We visited friends in Izmir, where there is now the Katip Calebi University, and in Istanbul. That had been my first time in Turkey, and I adored it. I had been in the middle of writing the book, and decided to bring the story there, so I had a good reason to learn more about this amazing place and the history still gloriously evident.

While reading Being a Witch, I found myself wondering what other kinds of skills witches could learn. If you had a speciality as a witch, what would it be?
To always be patient and in a good mood! My life is just lovely, and I am so lucky in so many ways, but I can easily slip into getting caught up in any of life's ordinary frustrations and setbacks. So, I would give myself the superpower of Constant Greater Perspective!

I understand completely. When life happens and ruins our carefully laid plans, it can be so easy to get frustrated and let it ruin our day. Describe your witch familiar.
Ooo, I don't think I could limit myself to just one. Of course, I'd have a trusty cat familiar who would suss out people who aren't who they seem, or pretend to be. But I also adore rats, and find they are a very under-appreciated species, so I'd have a rat familiar who would ride on my shoulder, and I think they would sense oncoming danger from natural things such as food that's gone bad, storms, earthquakes and the like. And I'd have a goat familiar whose power would be to draw in wonderful friends. It would be a very well-behaved goat who could go on walks, and people would be drawn in to him or her, to say 'hi', as people do with dogs.

I agree. Rats are really intelligent and underappreciated. One of my first pets was a rat, and I loved playing with her. What's your favorite baked good? Do you have a recipe to share?
Wow, another hard choice. My favourite at the moment is a banana cake with cream cheese icing. It's a big hit at gatherings and a good one for making ahead. (You'll see the part about putting it in the freezer right after baking -- this is correct. You can just freeze it from there, then thaw it out and ice it on the day you want it.) I've attached the recipe for all to enjoy. This is my altered version; the original was from another writer, Della Galton.

That sounds delicious. I'm looking forward to trying out your recipe! If you could visit any time period, which would you visit and why?
I may have this wrong, but I think I'd like to go back to the 1920s in the US or Europe. From what I know, this was a time of hope and expansion both culturally and socially, with the Impressionists, some of the early greats of photography, and the start of real, and positive developments for ordinary working people. It was after the horrors of losing millions in World War I, but before the global hardships of the Great Depression. Jazz was coming into it's own, the dancing was great. And they had cool clothes :).

I love jazz music. What are you working on right now?
Sabrina Jones' Blog from the Future (working title) is a science fiction novel aimed at adults. Sabrina, in her late twenties, lives in a entirely self-contained high-rise 'hive' where food is grown on the roof, your TV tells you when your brain chemistry is off, and sex is no longer taken personally. But her life is turned upside down when her boss is found dead, and she accidentally uncovers a government cover-up to hide the President's brain damage. The President's behaviour is putting the whole world in danger, but will anyone believe her?

That sounds like an interesting book. I look forward to checking it out when it's released!

Blog readers, don't forget to scroll down and enter the international giveaway of Being a Witch (and a cool pen to go along with it!).

About Being a Witch and Other Things I Didn't Ask For



When you’re fourteen and life has been nothing but hurt and disappointment, maybe it’s time to strike out on your own. But after leaving the boring village and foster home for the excitement of London, Raya finds out she’s a witch, with this annoying habit of time-travelling – by accident. And this sarcastic witch’s cat Oscar tags along for the ride. But why would she fling herself into the midst of the Essex Witch Trials in 1645 England? After being arrested by Matthew Hopkins, one of history’s most notorious witch hunters, her social worker and witch mentor Bryony goes back to try to save them from the gallows. But returning to present day London remains out of reach with Raya’s powers still out of control when they find themselves in 1645 Istanbul/Constantinople. There, life is more amazing than she ever dreamed. Can she stay? And at what cost?





AUTHOR BIO

Sara Pascoe came to writing fiction after a career in psychology. She's had great fun in a lot of interesting jobs including bicycle mechanics, teaching chimps language, studying brains under the microscope, and working in the US Congress. She also worked as a clinical psychologist, which she found to be rewarding and moving.

After living on in various parts of the United States, she now resides in the United Kingdom, where she runs a B&B with her husband for English Language students in a beach town. Of course, she also writes.

For more information, visit her website. You can also connect with her on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.



GIVEAWAY


Thanks to author Sara Pascoe, I have a hardcopy of Being a Witch and Other Things I Didn't Ask For and a Being a Witch pen to give way to an international reader of the blog!



Being a Witch and Other Things I Didn't Ask For by Sara Pascoe ⇉ Witches, Time Travel, and a #Giveaway (International)

Thursday, May 25, 2017
I picked this one up in the midst of finalizing student grades. During this time, I generally don't read much because my brain goes on break, but I always found the time and energy to read this book. Being a Witch and Other Things I Didn't Ask For is a light, enjoyable read that has an underlying level of depth to it in the contemporary issues addressed.

A contributing factor to the lightheartedness of the novel is the youthful tone. At fourteen years of age, Raya is still a child and has much to learn about society. In the beginning, she comes off as bratty and unappreciative, but author Sara Pascoe makes her situation understandable. It may also be that I'm reading this from an older perspective; when I was Raya's age, I probably would have put more blame on the character for her circumstances.

I especially appreciate how Pascoe address contemporary issues through Raya's situation. Some issues addressed include foster care, the homeless, teen runaways, and social care. While I would love to discuss this in more detail, it may result in potential spoilers. Just know that I appreciate how, in the end, both the adults and the children are able to contribute to the discussion and seek mutual understanding. There are too few books out there where children are able to rely on adults or work together with them to a common purpose!

Being a Witch has the additional treat in that it takes place in the UK, both in the present day and in the historical past during the Essex Witch Trials. There's also a side trip to the Middle East. I'll let you find out the time and place when you read the book! Having grown up in the United States, I enjoyed taking a peek into the lives and culture of the people in these locations. It was made all the more enjoyable by the presence of Oscar the cat. Cats always spice up a story with their catty personalities and commentary!

Lastly, I want to once more acknowledge the constant presence of adults in Raya's life. I love that she's able to rely on them and receive support from them. Of course, as the heroine of a novel, she must step up and take action herself at times, but she is also able to be a child thanks to the adults who are there for her.

Being a Witch and Other Things I Didn't Ask For is a magical story that I recommend to readers who enjoy a good fantasy, especially one with witches and (of course) a cat!




When you’re fourteen and life has been nothing but hurt and disappointment, maybe it’s time to strike out on your own. But after leaving the boring village and foster home for the excitement of London, Raya finds out she’s a witch, with this annoying habit of time-travelling – by accident. And this sarcastic witch’s cat Oscar tags along for the ride. But why would she fling herself into the midst of the Essex Witch Trials in 1645 England? After being arrested by Matthew Hopkins, one of history’s most notorious witch hunters, her social worker and witch mentor Bryony goes back to try to save them from the gallows. But returning to present day London remains out of reach with Raya’s powers still out of control when they find themselves in 1645 Istanbul/Constantinople. There, life is more amazing than she ever dreamed. Can she stay? And at what cost?





YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...


« Click to read reviews »





CHAT WITH ME


If you were to travel to any time period, which would it be and why?


Publication Info
  • Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn't Ask for by Sara Pascoe
  • Published by Trindles and Green
  • On February 6, 2017
  • Genres: Contemporary
  • Pages: 380 Pages
  • Format: Paperback
Series
  • N/A
Content
  • Language
  • Teen runaway
  • Violence

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author. All thoughts expressed are my personal honest opinions.



INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY


Thanks to the author, I have the following to give away to a reader of the blog. The giveaway is open internationally!

PRIZES
Being a Witch and a Being a Witch pen

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The History of Hilary Hambrushina by Marnie Lamb ⇉ Junior High + All the Feels + #INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY

Monday, May 22, 2017
You know those books that make you feel all sorts of feels? The books that make you want to share them with the world, but you don't know what to say?

That's how it feels putting down The History of Hilary Hambrushina.

To understand what I love about this novel, we need to start off with...

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE

An Immature Heroine
To be honest, I was tempted to throw Hilary out the window after the first quarter of the novel. Hilary starts out as a terribly naive girl who thinks she's fat and desperately wants to be a part of the popular crowd. Her comments on her family, herself, and her wants broke my heart. I wanted to tell her that this is not what life is about.

What kept me reading was the belief that Hilary would learn and mature over the course of the novel. Not only did this happen, but I wasn't ready for the feels that would come with Hilary's growth.

Flat, Stereotypical "Villains"
Like many school-life stories, Hilary features stereotypical villains in the form of the "in" crowd. For the most part, these characters act in predictable ways.

That said, I like the nod to the insecurities that lead people to behave in "villainous" ways.

As Hilary learns, there are two sides to every story. (Now, does that mean everyone will grow up, hold hands, and frolick together through green meadows? No, but at least we can try to understand why people do what they do.)

WHAT I LOVED

Supportive Adults That Care and Are Involved
Too many stories feature incompetent or otherwise absent adults. Sure, like any other teenager, Hilary spends quite a bit of time upset with her mom and believes that her mom won't understand what she's going through. However, her mom and dad and a consistent presence in her life, and they're ready to step in when she needs them.

Hilary is blessed with adults outside of the family as well. Kallie's mother provides an exemplary role model of a pretty woman who also has a job in the math and sciences. Kallie's father is an artist. (Both parents are involved in Kallie's life, and they have a loving relationship.) Kallie's grandmother gives Hilary advice, albeit through tarot card reading.

Terrific Teachers: Recognizing Everyday Heroes
As a teacher, I teared up over Miss Stephanopoulos's support and care for her students. I'm also a teacher, and I love how she involves her students in fun projects that make them think about who they are and where they came from. I love how she lets Hilary (and other students) know through her words and actions that she is there for them.

Most of all, I love that she doesn't play favorites but reaches out to those that she knows is in need. (Read to the end to find out more. I can't say more on this because of potential spoilers.)

When We Find What We're Looking For in a Likely Yet Unlikely Source
Hilary spends much of the novel trying to fit life into her expectations of it. As veterans of life know, "life happens." It doesn't always turn out as we planned, and sometimes, the best things have always been there waiting for us to find them.

Hilary Grows Up, and She Isn't Perfect
Even after all she's learned, Hilary has a lot of growing to do. Because narrator Hilary is reflecting on events from five years into the future (I'm guessing around the end of high school), she recognizes her flaws. She is able to comment on the mistakes that she made and the flaws in her thinking, which she thought justifiable at the time of the story.

I believe strongly in being a lifelong learner. I love how events do not wrap up neatly but instead challenge us to think about how we ourselves may continue growing.

In the end, Hilary's story presents a realistic portrayal of life.

That's what I love most about it. It's why we can all relate in some way to Hilary's story. It's why we rage, weep, and finally rejoice when the heroine makes it through her trials at the end of a novel. Because we've been her, and we understand what she's been thought.

Themes: Friendship, Insecurity, Bullying, Family, Love (not in the romantic sense), Forgiveness


★★★★☆


Hilary has one goal for her first year in junior high: to become popular. But her plans are turned upside down when her best friend leaves for the summer and a quirky girl named Kallie moves in next door. Kallie paints constellations on her ceiling, sleeps in a hammock, and enacts fantastical plays in front of cute boys on the beach. Yet despite Kallie’s lack of interest in being “cool,” Hilary and Kallie find themselves becoming friends. That summer friendship, however, is put to the test when school begins, reigniting Hilary's obsession with climbing the social ladder. As Hilary discovers the dark side to popularity, she must decide who she wants to be before she loses everything.



YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...


« Click to read reviews »




CHAT WITH ME


What do you think is the key ingredient in a friendship?



Publication Info
  • The History of Hilary Hambrushina by Marnie Lamb
  • Published by Iguana Books
  • On May 31, 2017
  • Genres: ContemporaryMiddle Grade
  • Pages: 206 Pages
  • Format: Paperback
Series
  • N/A
Content
  • Bullying
  • Name calling

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel for review. All thoughts expressed are my personal honest opinions.




GIVEAWAY


Thanks to the author Marnie Lamb, I have two giveaways for you.

(1) U.S. / CANADA
- Donation of C$10 to a charity of your choice (must be legit and easy to donate online)
- A signed copy of The History of Hilary Hambrushina (for yourself or a friend)

(2) INTERNATIONAL
- Donation of C$10 to a charity of your choice (must be legit and easy to donate online)
- An e-copy of The History of Hilary Hambrushina (for yourself or a friend)

MAY THE ODDS BE IN YOUR FAVOR.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Keeping the Tree Upright ⇉ Guest Post by Marnie Lamb + International #Giveaway!!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Society in the United States, Canada, and many other Western countries today is highly polarized. On one hand, difference is increasingly celebrated. Intermarriage, gay couples parenting children, and friendships between people of different faiths are becoming possible in ways not imagined even twenty or thirty years ago.

On the other, a lot of hatred, judgment, and suspicion of those who are different remains. People continue to be pigeonholed into categories based on race, religion, and gender, and are expected to behave in ways stereotypical to those categories. Movements against these stereotypes have produced their own extremes. For instance, until around the 1960s in Western culture, women were generally expected to be modest and subservient to men, remain out of the public eye, and put themselves last. Now, a self-promotional, “me first” ethos predominates in some circles, with naked selfies shared with the Internet the norm for some celebrities. But what if you’re a woman who, like many of us, wants to be thoughtful and caring towards others without being dominated by them? Or someone who is happy with her body but doesn’t necessarily want an intimate shot of it immortalized for posterity to click on, download, and share?

Navigating this terrain as an adult is difficult enough. What about as a tween or teenager? If I had a daughter or niece, I’d give her a few hard-learned tips about how to navigate today’s social biosphere.

1. Be choosy about who you listen to. There are many self-proclaimed “experts” out there, but what are their credentials? What makes them experts about vaccines or nutrition? Practise a healthy suspicion of the celebrity culture. If you feel like you shouldn’t really be spending your time following someone, that’s a good indication that this person is an addiction rather than an inspiration. What is important to you? What qualities do you admire in others? Knowing the answers to these questions, you can find and follow people who display your values. Are you passionate about the environment? If so, check out Canadian crusader Severn Cullis-Suzuki. About education for girls? Look to Malala Yousafzai.

To narrow the definition of “society,” extend this choosiness to your friendships. Sometimes, “friends” appear to have your best interests at heart, but they’re actually looking out for themselves. Beware of anyone who tries to push their way on you, even if they appear to be doing you a favour. I’ve had friendships where the other person insisted on paying my way every time we got together, despite my attempts to reciprocate. Sounds nice, right? It was until I realized that these friends had been subtly controlling me for years, always choosing where we went and how often we met and putting down any opinions of mine that differed from theirs. Paying my way was simply a beautifully clothed example of this manipulation, like new silk curtains hiding a dirty, cracked window. Anyone who tries to control you isn’t allowing you to be free to be yourself. They’re warping you into someone who serves their needs. Be alert to these patterns and prepared to take action if necessary. Society often still tells us girls to be nice, but you have to draw boundaries.

2. Have one day a week without social media. We’re bombarded with myriad pieces of information every day. The more information that gets in, the more confused we become, especially because much of the information is contradictory. Not so long ago, a slender body was the norm to which Western girls were taught to aspire, and girls with rounder bodies were belittled. Now, “thin shaming” has entered the English vocabulary. Yet fat shaming still exists. What does that mean? Are all of us, slender or round, deficient in some way?

Coming as it does via a website, this advice might seem counterintuitive, but we all need to take regular breaks from the too-easily accessible online world. Read a book. Get outdoors and walk. And turn off your phone. Unless you’re on call for work, you don’t have to always have your phone on. “But I might miss a text from a friend,” you say. So? Unless you’re meeting the friend immediately and need to know whether she’s still coming, the text can almost certainly wait. If you open it, you might decide to check your Facebook account and then see a link a friend has posted and click on that link, and before you can say Zuckerberg, you’ve been sucked back in, surfing the net and ending up who knows where reading who knows what. I have a rule that I don’t turn on my computer on Saturdays unless I have to work that day. If people want to contact me, they know that they have to phone me on my landline (yes, I still have one!).

3. Find your container. In The Highly Sensitive Person, Elaine Aron talks about the need to find “containers,” spaces of nurturing that provide an escape from the stresses of daily life. Everyone, highly sensitive or not, needs such spaces, which include places away from the online world, with its rapid stimulation. Not being glued to a screen on Saturdays frees me to bask in the comfort of some of my containers, like biking on recreation paths on a sunny summer afternoon or catching up over a scrumptious brunch with a friend I haven’t seen in ages. These containers ground me and help me simply be, without worrying about becoming.

Following this advice won’t free you from the woman vs. world conflict. But taking a moment to consider, step away, and recharge will help you steady yourself, like breathing deeply, fixing your gaze on a single unmoving point, and looking away from the other yogis as you’re trying the tree pose in yoga class. You’ll still wobble or even fall over every once in a while. But if you can block the outside distractions and focus inward as much as possible, you’ll be more likely to stay upright.


CHAT WITH ME (MARNIE LAMB)
What is your favourite container? It could be physical or mental.


About The History of Hilary Hambrushina


Hilary has one goal for her first year in junior high: to become popular. But her plans are turned upside down when her best friend leaves for the summer and a quirky girl named Kallie moves in next door. Kallie paints constellations on her ceiling, sleeps in a hammock, and enacts fantastical plays in front of cute boys on the beach. Yet despite Kallie’s lack of interest in being “cool,” Hilary and Kallie find themselves becoming friends. That summer friendship, however, is put to the test when school begins, reigniting Hilary's obsession with climbing the social ladder. As Hilary discovers the dark side to popularity, she must decide who she wants to be before she loses everything.





AUTHOR BIO

Though she once dreamt of heading to Hollywood, Marnie Lamb decided that writing, not acting, was the better outlet for her creative impulses. She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Windsor before embarking on a short but glorious career as a globe-trotting ESL teacher. Her short stories have appeared in Journey Prize Stories 25 and various Canadian literary journals. Her first novel, a YA book named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, will be published by Iguana Books on May 31, 2017. When she is not writing fiction or running her freelance editing business, she can be found cooking recipes with eggplant or scouting out fashions—preferably ones with polka-dots—at the One of a Kind Show.

For more information visit her website. You can also connect with her on Goodreads and Facebook.





GIVEAWAY


a Rafflecopter giveaway