Friday 28 April 2023

Review: The Very Secrety Society of Irregular Witches, by Sangu Mandanna

The Very Secret Society of Irregular WitchesThe Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a read for my bookclub, and I thought it might be a bit too 'soft' for my taste, being that all the reviews and marketing call it a 'cosy romance', but it has swearing in it, and a detailed sex scene towards the end which I didn't think was standard for anything 'cosy' books.

The writing itself flowed really well and I was drawn into the story within the first few paragraphs. The only other witchy books I have read are from Terry Pratchett's discworld, and I will say I found them compariable in some places, as it was light and engaging, especially with the opening scene as we observe a witch gathering from the main character's point of view.

There is a romance in this book, (obviously as there is a sex scene) but it wasn't the main focus. The main focus was the story of tutoring three witches and joining a family and the main character finally finding somewhere she belonged. It was an easy to engage with all the characters and care about them. I look forward to discussing it at my book club.

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Thursday 27 April 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 292

This week's picture prompt is by Colbriere A., Hong Kong, Thailand based photographer. This picture is taken at Lake Baikal, Russia back in 2015. They take amazing photos, and especially on their Facebook page which is more up-to-date with pictures. Loads of inspiration. 

A bit of a climate dystopian tale this week. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

Looking through a gap between chunks of broken ice and icicles from above, at an ocean with the sun setting over up, and the light giving the ice an orange glow. Picture taken on Lake Baikal in Russia, by Colbriere A.


I cracked an eye open once I registered the sound I was hearing. It was water … moving water; sloshing, splashing, moving around. It had been a long time since I’d heard that sound outside of a pan over a fire.

Bright sunlight glowed through the ice and I shuffled myself closer to the opening of the cave to get a better view. A lake. I could see, a lake.

I pulled a hand out of my sleeping bag to move hair out of my eyes. I had to be seeing things. But no, it was still there, a huge expanse of water – wet, running water. But how?

And then I felt it, on my skin, the sun and the heat of it. I hadn’t felt heat from the sun in over a decade. No one had.

Could it be true? Was it over?

Then I heard other sounds, people sounds, they were waking up all along the shore. There was laughter and high fiving. I fought my way out of my sleeping bag to join them.

“What the fuck?! I thought I was seeing things,” I called over to Jesse.

“I know, mate, it’s unbelievable. No more melting ice over a fire. And soon we should see some greenage.”

“Yeah but it won’t be green.”

“It won’t take long,” Maddie reassured me. “Not with these temps, this is incredible.”

“The ice age is over!” The very words seemed incredible as I said them.

“You might be being a bit hasty there mate,” Marcus didn’t want me to get carried away. “Melting the surface of the water doesn’t mean it will stay this way for long. It is mid-July by the old calendars, the peak of summer, and we aren’t seeing that kind of melt on anything else.” He pointed towards the shoreline, and my eyes followed the arc as I looked at the solid ice still up there. There wasn’t any dripping or rivulets of water.

“Don’t dampen his enthusiasm, Markus.” Maddie defended my excitement. “This is huge! Even if it is only brief, it’s a beginning.”

“Yeah, but are we high up shore enough? Will the water rise? Otherwise we’ll need to find somewhere else to settle.” Marcus wasn’t going to be persuaded not to worry.

“Not just the water rising. If the caves melt we will need to find new homes. These were only caused by the development of the glacier when we were plunged into this. If there is indeed a melt going on, we are going to need to find higher ground.” Brady had always been the pragmatic one.

“Can we all just take a breath, and enjoy this historical moment for a second?” Halle called over the noise.

We all quieted. She was our leader. She kept us all on an even keel, and that wasn’t easy. We were all scientists with different specialities and liked to express our opinions about everything. We’d been thrown together as it seemed only those that knew how to survive an ice age actually could survive one.

“The lake has begun to thaw, as we can all see. This could well mark the beginning of the end of this stage of the ice age, or at least a shift in temperatures. But this is not just a result of the air temperature shifting a couple of degrees – it hasn’t risen enough to do more than create a thin layer of water on top, at most, which would quickly freeze again at sunset. I believe a warm current has come in from somewhere, and being that this is a land-locked lake, it concerns me what that might be. Plus the speed of the thaw; the ice was solid all day yesterday, no significant change. This lake is over 300 miles long, what could thaw it so quickly, and overnight too?”

We all paused, our minds racing as we looked at each other.

“I can only imagine there’s a vent of some sort causing a warm or even hot current,” Jordan offered.

I baulked. “You mean, seismic activity? We didn’t feel anything.”

“It might not be in this lake. It could have happened elsewhere and the warm or even hot water began flowing in and out from tributary rivers.”

“We need to science the shit out of this,” Parker stated. He liked the hustle of the team working together – in fact we all did, which is why we had come together. And he was right. We needed to get moving and start running tests. Days were short when you had a lot to do.

I rushed back to my cave to get my equipment. It felt good to finally have a purpose again, one that ended with hope.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 291

This week's picture prompt is a digital creation by Ciara, or Aura, as she calls herself online, and She Freaks, She Speaks, over on Facebook. She actually have a whole selection of these baths as well as Moon Crescent shape ones, but this was the one that spoke to me to be written about. She also has a shop where she sell crystals and crystal jewellery. If you like that sort of thing there's a lot of choice.

Short and sweet this week. Just what came into my head. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

A claw foot, free standing stained glass bath tub next to a stained glass window. The bath design has a background of blue with birds and foliage in a variety of colours. Created by She Freaks, She Speaks


She knew he wanted to make her happy, but she wasn’t sure buying her a stained glass bath was what she meant. It was beautiful and functional, and lying in this rainbow bathwater, made that way by the light reflecting through the different coloured stained glass, was delightful, but it had nothing to do with their relationship.

It wasn’t beautiful things she needed to make her happy, it was an attentive, loving partner. Mostly he was absent – not physically but mentally. He’d come home and either switch on the telly or the gaming machine. He barely spoke most of the time. And she understood that his work was demanding, and was grateful for everything he provided, but she felt invisible, transparent, much like this bath.

When out socially, he might admire her when talking to others, and pretend she was the most beautiful thing on earth, but once home, it was like she had no substance. She was like this bath, beautiful to behold, but when the door was shut, it was like it wasn’t even there.

She wanted to have vibrant conversations with him and know his thoughts and feelings on things. She wanted to feel connected and not just in bed at night when he was in the mood.

She wanted to believe he loved her, but again, like the bath, she felt functional. She took care of the house, the kids, the day to day. She organised and tidied and had all the time in the world to do her own thing. But she didn’t want to do her own thing all the time, by herself every day, day after day for the rest of her life. She wanted a life with him, a life together, where they shared conversations, interests, friends, and had a social life.

She had tried to explain this any amount of ways but still he just thought she was unhappy about some minor thing that had happened, or something from the past. He didn’t actually understand what she needed.

She sighed, sinking lower into the warm enchanting waters of this beautiful bath.

And if she chose to go? He would never understand why. He would just tell himself he couldn’t make her happy, when really he never tried.  

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 290

This week's photo prompt is by Sortvind over on Deviant Art, a Norwegian artist. He posted it back in 2007! He hasn't posted since 2016, and I haven't been able to track him down to anything recent. Anyway, he calls this Stay Focused II.

Short and sweet this week - and dark.  

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

Close up of drops of water falling from a tap in a room with black and white checked walls. The black and white check is reflected perfectly in the droplets of water. Photo take by Sortvind on Deviant Art

Drop Dissociation

He was intrigued how the black and white pattern on the walls reflected in each drop of water as it fell, shining in the glare of the single naked light bulb, before landing on his face. He had managed to stop caring about the sensation, and diverted the panic it aroused, instead turning his mind to the droplets themselves, letting the fascination of the perfect reflection and defined checkered pattern take over and consume him.

It carried him away from this place of torture, where they were trying to get him to speak. They hadn’t worked out yet that he couldn’t. Their enemies were also his enemies. They had taken his voice box some years ago and he couldn’t tell them anything while they kept his hands tied behind his back.

They seemed to think this kind of persecution would help them, but it wouldn’t. They’d never be able to catch them if they couldn’t understand who were their friends and who were their enemies. They were foolish people from a land so far away they had no concept of life here, either what it had been or what it was now.

This wasn’t hard. He could lie here as long as it took them to work out that they were wasting their time. He had learnt long ago to see beauty in the tiniest of things; it was the only way to survive. And here he was again observing each drop as it fell like they were coming from another dimension … and maybe they were. They seemed to slow down when he watched them, as he waited for them to tumble in the light and take up the pattern of the walls. He could dream of being in another dimension, stepping inside one of those droplets and vanishing from this place. And mentally he did just that. He had all the time in the world.

Thursday 6 April 2023

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 289

This week's picture prompt was created by William Eubank, an American film director, screenwriter and cinematographer. He shared it on twitter with the words: 'Eyes open, heart braced ...' 

Another Tricky tale. She's definitely on my mind as I begin to work out the next book. This one goes on for much longer than this and I plan to use it in new collection I am working on, so I have only included the first part of it. I wrote about Tricky last week in Week 288

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.

Fantasy art depicting a ring of light and sky, in a sort of sworling vortex with what looks like roots entwined within, hanging in the sky of a plant, like a portal. Created by William Eubank, Film Director

Master of Time

It was huge and it was bright, and everyone could see it, Tricky was sure, but she was also fascinated. How had he managed to create something like this? It was mesmerising.

She stood on the edge of the woods, keeping herself cloaked by the trees, not daring to step out onto the road, staring at what looked like a giant open portal in the middle of the sky. It moved too, in a slow circular motion. She could see different skies from different dimensions, and lines of different coloured energy wrapping round all of it like roots of a tree.

It was a trap, it had to be. It’s how he would lure her in and convince her of his powers. Tricky knew tricky when she saw it. It could be a projection of some kind. She knew there were people on the landmass busy trying to bring back that kind of technology and some of the old machines from before the shift still worked if they could generate a power source.

But this was big, and even though she’d been standing here a while with the sunsetting on this strange phenomenon, she hadn’t seen any movement – even the trees were still, probably admiring it too.

She sent her energy out to it, and immediately felt immense amounts of energy swirling in and around it, as she suspected. She even took some of it in, only heightening her interest more.

Should she attempt to enter? She was a master of time after all, and this was definitely her thing. But she worried she wouldn’t be able to handle such power. She was just one tiny piece next to the realms of that. Oh how she wanted to go in there, and discover what was in it. Oh yes, this was her thing alright, and he knew that.

Did he really have that much power to create such a thing? One man – a pompous bloated one at that? She scoffed at the idea this could be a natural occurrence. Something this big? No, this was a man-sized anomaly.

Nature had a way of knowing how to create and sustain boundaries. It didn’t split and part things without good reason, like when a species gets too big for its boots and destroys things on an epic scale. Then nature has to step in and do something to correct the balance, like shifting landmasses to release pressure and correct the bio rhythms of the planet.

But rents in space and time? No, that wasn’t nature’s thing at all. It was manmade - one particular man in this instance. Tricky was impressed. Maybe he did earn his nickname, Gandalf. Maybe he was a mighty wizard … just not a likeable one.

What to do? Go in or stay out? This was Tricky’s weakness. It piqued her curiosity and her paranoia at the same time. Curiosity killed the cat they said – but it had nine lives, so it didn’t matter if it cost one or two. She’d done alright for herself so far; come close to death a couple of times, but she could hold her own.

And this? She needed a piece of this. Oh yes she did.

She turned back into the woods and travelled through the trees, moving closer until she could feel energy pulsing right through her. Her body tingled from top to toe – it was marvellous!

She approached it from the side. It had a sound now like rushing wind. There were other sounds within it, but she couldn’t define them. They could be animals or birds, or even other humans. Or the sound of so much concentrated energy.

When she was right up against it, she could see into the dimensions. Some seemed to be all sky but there were stretches of land in some too. If this was a trap she wasn’t quite sure what she was meant to do with it. Was he in here somewhere? How would he know where and when she entered? Was it booby trapped? Was he going to jump out and grab her? It’s not like she wanted to find him – not really, but as the saying goes, trick your enemy before they trick you.

And he would trick her. Then he’d kill her. Oh yes. He had no compunction about that. He wanted her dead. And to be honest the feeling was mutual. Usually Tricky wouldn’t go in for such dramatic thoughts and murder was definitely NOT her thing. But in this case, it was definitely a matter of who would get who first, like one of those old western books her dad loved to read. They were always standing there ready to draw their guns and shoot the hell out of each other. Except there were no guns anymore. If any turned up they were immediately melted down. Metal was too precious, and so was human life too. Humanity had at least learnt that since the shift. Although fat wizardy types and his cronies might think differently. But they didn’t have guns now, they had magic instead. And staring at this big swirling rupture it could be just as deadly.

It was then that Tricky realised she wouldn’t be going in. Oh no, she had to shut this thing off. Close it up before some innocent happened across it. If she was going to chase him into another dimension, she was going to be the one controlling the when and where of it. 

Saturday 1 April 2023

Review: Hard Man by Jack Rollins

Hard Man: A Dark Chapter Press Unlimited Short: H (Dark Chapter Press A-Z Book 8)Hard Man: A Dark Chapter Press Unlimited Short: H by Jack Rollins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brutal short story. I was hooked from the opening and enjoyed the first person POV as though the main character was talking to me in a pub.

The rough setting with dealing and fighting and a touch of territorial gangs in pubs felt familiar as I have been in those pubs and met those people - even broken up some of those fights, though maybe not 'quite' as violent!

A quintissentially British read about the rougher side of life. Really enjoyed it. But it's not for the faint hearted, being blatant and graphic.

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