Widdershins: 1600’s Witchcraft trails

Morning all, I hope you enjoy your weekend – I know I did! Lots of things have been going on in my life, so it’s nice to finally sit down and blog!

Today, I am part of the ‘Widdershins’ tour. Debut author Helen Steadman sees her novel Widdershins published this Saturday (July 1st), which uncovers the story of the Newcastle witch trials of the 1600’s, following apprentice healer Jane Chandler who uses herbs to cure the sick.


Was the Newcastle witch-finder the earliest example of local authority performance-related pay?

The common council of Newcastle, in perhaps the earliest incidence of local authority performance-related pay, is said to have paid the witch-finder twenty shillings per witch.

Things were just as grim down south, where Aldeburgh spent over one-seventh of its annual budget on witch-finding. They had to pay for the witchfinder general, Matthew Hopkins, and a special tax was put in place to raise money.

But it seems that either inflation set in, or prices rose further north. When the Scottish witch-finder fled Newcastle following the trials, John Wheeler stated that he went ‘went into Northumberland, to try women there, where he got of some three pound a-peece’.

Dr Fian engaged in necromancy (Source: Newes from Scotland)

According to John Wheeler, Henry Ogle a former MP seized him, but the witch-finder got away again, this time mostly likely back to his native Scotland. There is a record of him there being paid six pounds for ‘brodding ’ a woman called Margaret Denham at Burncastle near Lauder. In addition to this eye-watering fee, it seems Kincaid also charged a further four pounds for ‘meat and drink and wyne’. More worryingly, two men were also paid forty-five pounds for guarding Margaret Denham for a month. It seems that the witch-finding industry was a most profitable one. Not least, because Margaret Denham was a wealthy woman who had to pay for her own testing and execution, which still left sixty-five pounds following her death.

Sources
Hugo Arnot’s Criminal Trials, appendix, in J. Sands (1881) Sketches of Tranent in the Olden Time, Chapter 3 ‘Witchcraft, 1591’.
Ralph Gardiner (1849 [1655]) England’s Grievance Discovered in Relation to the Coal Trade. North Shields: Philipson and Hare. Ch. 53.
Newes from Scotland (1591) ‘Declaring the damnable life of Doctor Fian a notable sorcerer, who was burned at Edenbrough in Ianuarie last.’ London: William Wright (in Special Collection Ferguson Al-a.36 at Glasgow University).

Be sure to take a look at the previous stops on the tour – they’re fab’ hosts! My review of Widdershins will be on the blog soon!


Clare Signature
Connect with A Book and Tea!
Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

#bookreview: Wishbones by Virginia Macgregor


Format: Paperback
Publisher: HQ Stories
Published: 23rd May 2017
Pages: 384 Pages

The Blurb

Feather Tucker has two wishes:

1) To get her mum healthy again
2) To win the Junior UK swimming championships

When Feather comes home on New Year’s Eve to find her mother – one of Britain’s most obese women- in a diabetic coma, she realises something has to be done to save her mum’s life. But when her Mum refuses to co-operate Feather realises that the problem run deeper than just her mum’s unhealthy appetite.

Over time, Feather’s mission to help her Mum becomes an investigation. With the help of friends old and new, and the hindrance of runaway pet goat Houdini, Feather’s starting to uncover when her mum’s life began to spiral out of control and why. But can Feather fix it in time for her mum to watch her swim to victory? And can she save her family for good?

Purchase the book: Amazon UK| Book Depository

The Review

A unique and heartbreaking tale of teenager, Feather, and her mother’s struggle with obesity.

Wishbones is a story told through the eyes of Feather, a girl that has a lot of responsibility on her young shoulders. She’s having to support her mother in her battles with obesity. It’s no secret that her mother is morbidly obese, but people seem to know the reasoning behind her comfort eating – why won’t anyone tell Feather?

Her main goal is to get her mother healthy again, but how can someone be helped if they won’t help themselves? Feather doesn’t overpower or demand actions, she merely supports her mother in anyway she can – bringing a slimming group to her house and cooking her healthier meals; she even tries to rebuild her parent’s marriage – her Dad is struggling too. However, her mother can’t comprehend the changes and gets frustrated with Feather, when all Feather wants to do is help.

I’ve never experienced the level of emotional strain that such an issue can have, so I can only feel for Feather and her determination. To Feather, her mother is her best friend and the only person she can rely on, so when she learns of secrets it’s only natural that she feels hurt. Not only that, but she gets frustrated because she can’t understand why. Surely it’s easy to just stop your unhealthy habits? She’s also scared that her mother is going to die, a feeling you don’t want any child to experience.

Not only was Feather dealing with her family life, she too had emotional troubles of her own. Every teenager has experienced their first love and then equally the heartache of it ending (not all, but most!), which Feather saw coming from new guy, Clay. When he joined the small village, her heart fluttered, but his inner secrets caused their relationship to not develop. Clay had his own struggles with food, which I thought was a great thing to highlight, as eating habits and body image doesn’t restrict themselves to gender – it affects us all.

I’m not going to lie, Wishbones is emotional – particularly the feeling of sadness – but three are elements of companionship and love. The inclusion of characters Jake (her best friend, Mrs Zas and Rev Cootes aids to Feather’s support network and help her in times of solace.


Clare Signature
Connect with A Book and Tea!
Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

#bookreview: Sweetpea by CJ Skuse

5147kugelll-_sx315_bo1204203200_-1.jpg
Format: E-book (Kindle)
Publisher:
HQ Stories
Published: 20th April 2017
Pages: 384 Pages

The Blurb
The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcoholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.

Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.

From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

Purchase the book: Amazon UK


The Review

This review warrants a good ol’ keyboard bash of excitement because Sweetpea was BRILLIANT. Fnkjfndjnfjsdk ffni489b’#.glfkjgh896uhjkhjgf9huj950fnkjfndjnfjsdk ffni489b’#.glfkjgh896uhjkhjgf9huj950 – see what I did there? LOTS OF BASHING!

Sweetpea is not for the faint-hearted, or those that are shocked easily because you can guarantee there will be swearing, sexual and crude references, plus dark dark humour – all of which adds tonnes of dimension to the diary style story. One thing that I didn’t like, and there’s only one, please can we stop using the c word, please? I don’t know why, but it’s a swear word that I just can’t get my head around, the rest don’t phase me, just the c one. It’s all personal preference, though!

Rhiannon has a kill list, and a lot of people need to be careful as they might just be on it. Each chapter starts off with the list, detailing a selection of people that she wouldn’t mind bumping off. I’m not suggesting by any means that killing someone is acceptable, but there are a few people on the list that really don’t help their cause, and in her eyes, probably deserve it. Sometimes she’s lucky and is able to kill, others not so much.

Even though you know she’s a killer, you strangely find her endearing – she’s funny, blunt and honest, probably all the things you wouldn’t expect from someone like her. I’m not justifying her actions, but let’s just say that Rhiannon hasn’t had the best start to life, what with being involved in a nursery massacre and her being the only survivor. She did have a nasty head injury and I think her troubled mind probably comes from that experience – you’ve got to be a little troubled,  haven’t you?

There’s even talk about Sweetpea becoming a TV programme and I cannot wait – perhaps it’ll have the same kind of vibe as Dexter.

If you’ve not read any other books by CJ Skuse, take a look at my reviews for Monster and The Deviants.


Clare Signature
Connect with A Book and Tea!
Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

#bookreview: The Other Us By Fiona Harper

The Other Us Cover

Format: Paperback
Publisher: HQ Stories
Published: 4th May 2017
Pages: 384 Pages

The Blurb
If you could turn back time, would you choose a different life?

Forty-something Maggie is facing some hard truths. Her only child has flown the nest for university and, without her daughter in the house, she’s realising her life, and her marriage to Dan, is more than a little stale.

When she spots an announcement on Facebook about a uni reunion, she can’t help wondering what happened to Jude Hanson. The same night Dan proposed, Jude asked Maggie to run away with him, and she starts to wonder how different her life might have been if she’d broken Dan’s heart and taken Jude up on his offer.

Wondering turns into fantasising, and then one morning fantasising turns into reality. Maggie wakes up and discovers she’s back in 1992 and twenty-one again. Is she brave enough to choose the future she really wants, and if she is, will the grass be any greener on the other side of the fence?

Two men. Two very different possible futures. But is there only once chance at happiness?

Purchase the book: Amazon UK | Book Depository


The Review

What would you do if you had the chance to re-live your past? That’s what happens to Maggie, a forty-something mother who is bored with her current life and wants a change. Maggie gets the chance to turn back time and make different choices in her life, but what will the consequences be?

This book is full of what-ifs: what if Maggie had said yes more often, what if Maggie picked Jude, rather than Dan? what if she had lots of money? Essentially, a whole bunch of what-ifs. Maggie takes you through her journey of self-discovery, detailing her past and enlightens you into what happened before she married her husband Dan and had her daughter.

I think we’ve all experienced what Maggie is going through, haven’t we? Not so much that we hate our lives (unless you do!), but sometimes we always wonder how things may have turned out if we’d picked something different. I don’t have regrets, but I do wish I’d done (a few) things differently. I wish I was a more outgoing when I was younger, but then it could have made me into the person I am today – who knows?

I think I felt sorry for Maggie because she was stuck in a rut and I doubt that she was feeling the best. However, I don’t think she should have wished for a different life – Dan was her husband, and although he was moody, that’s not really a good enough reason to want to see what it was like to be with her ex Jude. Perhaps it’s the whole let’s see what happens and if it hits me in the face, so be it!

I like how Fiona included dimension to other characters: Jude, Dan, and her best friend (the name has totally left my head) because they definitely aided in how Maggie was feeling. Out of the two men that Maggie was pinning over, I much preferred Dan because he cared more about Maggie regardless if she couldn’t see it; he loved her dearly.


Clare Signature
Connect with A Book and Tea!
Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

#bookreview: Spandex and the City by Jenny T.Colgan #blogtour

Spandex and the CityFormat: Paperback
Publisher:  Orbit Books
Published: 18th May 2017
Pages: 368 Pages

The Blurb
LOCAL GIRL SWEPT OFF HER FEET

Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love. She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.

But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.

Can Holly find love, or is super dating just as complicated as the regular kind?

Purchase the book: Amazon UK | Book Depository


The Review

Join Holly and Ultimate Man in this modern day superhero tale of love, anguish and humour.

Bad things keep happening in Centerton and Holly always seems to be there when it does. Some people think she loves the attention, others are too occupied with the Internet and their social media feeds – the Internet (to them) is life and like oxygen.

Ultimate Man is a superhero who loves to wear purple – he’s strong, caring and a crime fighter. His nemesis Frederick Cecil wants to teach the world a lesson, but Ultimate Man is going to try and stop him, and it just so happens that Holly is going to be there when he does.

There were two main themes that kept jumping into my mind when I was reading Spandex and the City and they were thoughts about Batman and Superman: Batman because Centerton reminded me of Gotham,and Superman because Holly, to me, was Louis Lane – albeit a very bitter Louis Lane.

It was no secret that Holly was a negative Nelly and always saw the downside to situations. Part of me wanted to shake her, other parts sorta understand why she was feeling the way she did. I think she needed to relax a little and just enjoy the time spent with her friend Gertie and her brother.

Join the other fab’ blog stops on the #spandexandthecity blog tour!
poster-page-001 (10)


Clare Signature
Connect with A Book and Tea!
Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram

#bookreview: Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

Good as Gone cover
Format: E-book (Kindle)
Publisher: HQ Stories
Published: 6th April 2017
Pages: 384 Pages

The Blurb
Eight years ago, thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night.

In the years since, her family have papered over the cracks of their grief – while hoping against hope that Julie is still arrive.

And then, one night, the doorbell rings.

Purchase the book: Amazon UK


The Review

This is a story all about 13 year-old Julie and her kidnapping, which is told through the eyes of her mother, Anna. All members of the family are impacted by Julie’s disappearance, especially sister Jane who witnessed Julie’s abduction.

You’d be wrong in thinking that Good as Gone is your typical ‘thriller’ because in reality, it’s so much more. You’re kept in suspense throughout, with little droplets of shock thrown in for good measure. Rather than a gritty crime scene (no spoilers here), there’s a puzzle for you to finish. Julie’s kidnapping is far more complex than anyone can imagine, and when people start making an appearance, it leaves Anna and the family questioning everything they’ve experienced, or felt.

Part of me wanted to read about Julie’s experience first hand because I’m a little sadistic in the fact that I’d want to feel what she experienced. Sometimes you can relate more to a character if you’re aware of how they are feeling. However, I also think it was clever to read about how Anna was feeling, so you’re left in the dark with what has happened. It focuses on Anna’s mental health and the relationships she has with other people. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to experience such a loss, more so when you don’t have any answers. Her relationship with her husband Tom and daughter Jane were strained, which added extra sadness onto an already sad situation.

I will admit that I preferred the second half of the book because I felt that the story hit speed during this time, compared to quite a slow, yet informative beginning. Given that it’s penned as ‘a novel of suspense’ I’m not too sure if there was a lot of suspense, more of why things happened and who people were.


Clare Signature
Connect with A Book and Tea!
Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram