Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Book Review: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

It's the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern-day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts, is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the centre of a centuries-old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

how-to-hang-a-witch, adriana-mather, book

I was so stoked to receive a copy of this book to review - I mean, it has all my favourite elements all rolled up into one tempting read, so what's not to love? Young Adult, paranormal, historical influences, twists, turns and a dash of romance... it's almost as though this book was made from a recipe of all my own fictional favourites.

How to Hang a Witch follows the story of Sam, an NYC girl who finds she has some pretty major family history to live up to. Of course, everyone has heard of the Salem Witch Trials, but I have to admit that I was not particularly clued up about the real-life historical happenings. I didn't even know who Cotton Mather was, and at the mention of Increase Mather, I had to turn to Google to sort the facts from the fiction and satisfy my disbelief that anyone would be called 'Increase' (turns out, Increase Mather was indeed a real person).

Aside from the gripping story and nail-biting twists and turns, what made this book extra special for me was the author's personal connection with the tale. Author Adriana Mather is, in fact, a descendant of Cotton Mather - a unique claim to fame and one which must have undeniably put her in good stead during the writing process. I love discovering books and authors with quirky connections like this and the knowledge only made me fall in love with the story even more!

I found myself hooked on the tale right from the very start - I had to read on to find out what happened; this is definitely one of those unputdownable books. How to Hang a Witch is fast-paced and exhilarating, a wild ride which is certainly not for the faint-hearted!

An enjoyable read and a great fusion of historical facts and contemporary fiction, How to Hang a Witch is more than worthy of a spot on your tbr pile in 2018.

Rating: 4 stars

How to Hang a Witch is available to buy now.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Interview: Leapfrogtown


Leapfrogtown is all about distinctive diversity - who said all music had to be the same? I sat down for a quick catch-up with Christopher Guard from the band to find out what their unique sound is all about.

How would you sum up your music in three words?
Dreams, drums, lyrics.
Tell me a little about yourself.
My birth took 36 hours. I was a child TV star. I learned piano to Grade 5 then bought a guitar. My mum is a published poet.
Where is your music career at now?
Busting to be back on festival stages with Leapfrogtown; looking at labels for acoustic subdivision What the Fox.
Tell me about your latest release.
One-take What the Fox recordings, jahon, vox, guitar - back to the songs. Leapfrogtown remixes on Soundcloud.

What can listeners expect from you?
Songs and wherever they take me; delicate like Nick Drake, raw like the Stones. Now not then.
Are there any particular musicians that inspire you?
Lennon; my daughter Tallulah.
What music do you draw inspiration from?
Silence; everything; I’m an ornithologist.
What are your musical guilty pleasures?
Musak in lifts if I’m lucky enough to be in a posh hotel.
What is your ultimate goal when it comes to music? 
Freedom without poverty.
You can find out more about Leapfrogtown and their music over on the website.

What do you think of Leapfrogtown? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 9 March 2018

What Spring Means to Me


I can't believe it's been over three months since I wrote about what winter means to me. The last few months have flown by in an absolute blur - I've been so busy, I've forgotten to notice the passing of time.

Although recent snow and ice are still fresh in our minds, spring is slowly on its way. Flowers are beginning to bud, more and more animals are getting out and about in the countryside and, ever so slowly, temperatures are on the rise.

Since I enjoyed writing about winter so much, I decided to make my love for the seasons into a four-part series here on The Writing Greyhound. Winter may finally be on its way out, but spring is only just starting to begin. What does springtime mean to me? Here are just a few thoughts, memories and observations.

Spring means early blooming flowers, buds just beginning to show and fresh growth peeking through the cold, barren ground ready to start a brand new year. Spring means rebirth and awakening; all through the natural world, hibernation ends and another long winter passes. Newly-born lambs gamble in the fields, wobbling on unsteady legs and calling to their mothers for support and reassurance.


Spring means wildlife beginning to show its head once again, squirrels darting across the lawn and birds of all shapes and sizes pecking at the feeder and collecting twigs and moss to build their nests. Spring means tiny baby birds nesting in the small fir tree in the garden, hoping against all hope for survival and facing the harsh realities of life and death first-hand - the juxtaposition of home comforts and stark survival.

Spring means Mother's Day and giving gifts, sibling arguments and attempts at cooking dinner. Spring means days out and trips in the car, cold wind blowing in your face and hands stuffed in pockets to keep warm. Spring means family walks and trips to the farm park, following trails and learning about nature.

Spring means stress and exams, the need to study yet the lure of a sunny spring day. Spring means decisions and tough choices, symbolic endings and new beginnings. Spring means loss and heartbreak, the love of family members and walking in circles, sunsets fiery over water and the hope of better things to come. Spring means meeting new people and trying new things, discovering yourself and moulding into someone new. Spring means taking the leap and pushing back fears, a time for change and an opportunity for progress. Spring means out with the old and in with the new.

Spring officially begins on March 1st, and since we're now a good way into the month, it makes sense that spring will surely be here soon. Before you know it, the season will be in full bloom and thoughts of winter long gone. But then we will be onto the next season - summer.

Intrigued about what summer means to me? Interested in keeping up with the series? Keep checking back to discover the next instalment later in the year!

Which season is your favourite? What's your favourite thing about spring? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Book Review: Forest Dancer by Susan Roebuck

Work to impress, dance to express.

It’s a long way to go to create a new life for yourself.

Classical ballerina, Flora Gatehouse, has no choice but to take a risk. Having failed an important ballet audition in London, she moves to a small cottage in a forest just outside Lisbon, Portugal, her only inheritance following her father’s death.

Soon, Flora is involved in village life, where fate takes a new twist when she becomes attracted to forest ranger, Marco. But they are off to a shaky start.

Can Flora find acceptance in a foreign land, in a magical place that harbours secrets and heartache?

forest-dancer, susan-roebuck, book

Having previously read and enjoyed Rising Tide, another of Susan Roebuck's novels, I was always going to say yes when asked to review this book. I loved the descriptive imagery and poetic ebb and flow of Susan's writing from the first story, so couldn't wait to start reading Forest Dancer!

Luckily for me, Forest Dancer certainly did not disappoint.

Although our main character, Flora, is clearly a privileged young woman from a wealthy background, you can't help but feel sympathy for her as things seem to keep going wrong. From her work problems to health concerns and, of course, the overwhelming sense of loneliness and separation from her family and friends, these are issues that we all face at one point or another during the course of our lives.

However, as Flora heads to Portugal and begins to get to grips with a drastically different but vastly rewarding lifestyle (helped, of course, by Roebuck's fantastic descriptions once again) you automatically find yourself rooting for her and willing her to succeed. There are so many different threads holding this story together that it could easily become too tangled and complex, yet each distinct subplot is carefully woven into the overall storyline with the utmost ease and consideration. 

My one gripe with this book is that I felt it lost its realism at certain points throughout the story. Of course, I'm always prepared to allow a little artistic licence and creative leeway in fiction, but surely a novel based in reality such as this should maintain its realism throughout? While this isn't to say that I don't enjoy fantasy (regular readers will know that certainly isn't the case!), I like to know what genre I am reading before I start so I can make sure I am fully prepared. Perhaps it's just my own personal opinion, but I did feel that we lost the path of sanity and escaped into ethereal, otherworldly lands at times. 

However, this didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book and my drive to get to the end of the story to find out what happened! I feel this novel deserves a solid three-star rating - although I personally enjoyed Rising Tide more than Forest Dancer, I still look forward to reading more from Susan Roebuck.

Rating: 3 stars

Forest Dancer is available to buy now.

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Have you read any of Susan Roebuck's books? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Interview: Sandy Day

This morning I am thrilled to be welcoming the lovely Sandy Day to The Writing Greyhound! Read on to discover all about her life, her inspiration, and her novel Fred's Funeral.

Firstly, please could you introduce yourself?
Hello! I'm a Canadian writer, semi-un-self-employed-retired. I live in a small town north of Toronto, Ontario where I have spent every summer of my life. It's wonderful to be able to devote myself to writing but on the side, I also sell dog halters to dog trainers.
How did you first become interested in writing?
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. As soon as I learned to read, I started writing. My first poem was published in the Toronto Humane Society's magazine, Fur and Feathers, when I was in grade 5. It was a poem about a cat. 
I studied English Literature at university but after graduation, I ended up buying a gift store and spent the next twenty years selling knickknacks and raising two kids. I got back to writing in 2008 following a miraculous change in my life, which is chronicled in my soon to be released book, Poems from the Chatterbox.
freds-funeral, sandy-day, book

Tell me about Fred’s Funeral.
Fred's Funeral was inspired by the life of my Great Uncle, a shell-shocked WWI veteran who lived a long and sad life. It is a fictional account - Fred is a ghost at his own funeral. The story is fuelled by the rivalry between Fred and his prudish sister-in-law Viola. She remembers Fred's life a little differently than he does.
What’s the best thing about writing literary fiction?
Literary fiction is what I love to read so naturally it's what I aspire to write. It's a tricky genre though, because what does literary even mean? Every work of literary fiction is also a story belonging to some other genre, unless it's very "experimental", i.e. unreadable. I suppose the definition is that literary fiction is not written to a formula, but even that seems farfetched to me. I think literary fiction is a style rather than a genre, and it just happens to be the style in which I write.
What drew you to writing about history? Did you undertake much research for the book?
I wanted to write a story about my Great Uncle. I didn't know anything about WWI so I needed to do a lot of research. I am drawn to writing about the past. I like to record little details that place a story in its time. The internet is an amazing resource for historical research. I don't know if I would have been able to write Fred's Funeral without YouTube and Wikipedia.
How did you get inspiration?
For Fred's Funeral, my Great Uncle's letters, found in a box in the attic, overwhelmingly inspired me. When I transcribed the letters, my Great Uncle's voice became embedded in my mind. When I wrote what he thought and what he felt, it was as though he was speaking to me. I was also inspired by the injustice I felt transpired for him; I wanted to correct the story.
What’s your writing process?
I cook up a story in my mind about a character or two and then I plot it out. I figure out what kind of story I am trying to tell and I make sure I include in the outline all the elements a reader wants to see. Every day, I spend time doing creative work, whether it's writing a first draft project longhand, or editing a piece. Little by little, the scribblings come together into books. 
That is not how I wrote Fred's Funeral. It was more of a quilting process. I took all the snippets and pieces I'd been writing since 1986 and sewed them all together. It took ages. I never want to work that way again. 
Poetry is different. Poems arrive like speeding torpedoes in my mind and I have to race to a notebook to write them down. If I don't grab them when they're mid-air, they're lost forever. I haven't had a poem come in quite a few months.
sandy-day, author

What’s the hardest thing about writing?
The hardest part of writing is the blank page. Every time I work on a first draft, getting started is absolute torture. When people tell me that I must love writing, I think they're nuts. I love editing - writing is hard hard work.
What do you love most about writing?
I love when a piece works. I love when I write something and read it a few days later and feel delighted. I love when I'm in workshops and I write something that makes people laugh or gasp. Most of all, I love the revision process when all my skills come into play and I get to hone a piece to perfection, or some reasonable facsimile thereof.
Which authors inspire you?
I'm reading a book of poetry, Closer to Where We Began by Lisa Richter, and I have to set it aside because it inspires me so much. I think, not now, not now! I don't have time for this inspiration right now! 
When I wonder if I'm on the right track with my own writing I reread Alice Munro.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Write. That's the only advice I can give. Write and share your writing. Blogs are free. Facebook is free. Write and write and write some more. My only caveat would be before you publish, that is making something public, make sure it is EXACTLY how you want it to sound. Read it out loud to yourself, and fix up all your spelling. 
Also, I think all aspiring writers should look into self-publishing. There is no dearth of material on the www about how to do it and it is the way of the future. Don't waste your time trying to get traditionally published.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished the final edit on my soon to be released, Poems from the Chatterbox. And I am writing a new novel that I cannot talk about - I don't like to talk about a first draft in progress. In the spring, I will be putting together a book I wrote last summer and publishing it. Then I have a novel I've been writing for a few years that will become my editing project. Whew!
What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading an engaging YA novel, The Last Singer by Marjorie Lindsey, and the sweet romance trilogy by Penny Appleton (not sure how I feel about that yet, it may be a bit too sweet for me). I'm also reading the entire internet, it feels like.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
It's a toss-up between The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje, or A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toewes. Both are writing perfection to me.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
As I head into my silver years, I hope to make a living from my writing. I will continue to be an indie-author and help others to publish their books. I think indie-publishing is the most exciting development in the book world now and in the foreseeable future.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I'm very interested in spirituality and spend a great deal of time pondering existence and non-existence. What is my purpose here on Earth and am I fulfilling that purpose?
Fred's Funeral is available to buy now. For more about Sandy and her writing, you can visit her website.

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!