Into the Dark – First Reviews

July 17, 2014 at 8:35 pm (Book reviews, News and updates, Publishing) (, , )

cover_low-resThe first few reviews of Into the Dark have been published on Amazon, and I’m so happy that people are loving it… You can see them – or add your own – here… Thank you so much to those who have taken the time to post a review…

5 out of 5 stars A Heartfelt Wondrous Journey into the Dark
Into the Dark is an amazing sequel to Into the Mists. I loved following the journey of Carlie into the dark where I was left to wonder, question and feel her experiences alongside her. The use of various forms of writing such as the beautiful selection of quotes, diary entries and letters added interest and immersion into the story. The charachters were relatable warm and lovable yet unique. The use of factual information about the spiritual path of paganism and magick also makes it an inspiring and valuable source for people who are wanting to learn more about this path. Both Into the Mists and Into the Dark are my favourite novels which have touched my life in ways I cant explain. An amazing story for people of all ages which shows no matter how dark life can get there is still purpose and magick to be found through love.

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Into the Dark continues Carlie’s journey towards an understanding of her own heart, a journey that takes her on from the heart-breaking accident in Australia that killed her parents and brought her into the care of her grandmother, Rose, which formed the basis of Serene Conneeley’s first novel for YA, Into the Mists. In Into the Dark, Carlie explores her growing love for her new life and the new people who have come into it, as well as her fascination with magic and ancient folk lore as she draws on the wisdom of her grandmother and also the support of her new friend, Rhiannon. A shaman, Rowan, comes into Carlie’s life, and the spark between them ignites into a love that Carlie is not sure she can trust. As their love deepens, so dark secrets come to light, not least the secret that drove Carlie’s mother from her home so long ago. Should Carlie follow her heart, or listen to Rhiannon’s warning, based on a psychic’s reading of the future? While much darker in content than the previous novel, Into the Dark also portrays the sweetness of love, and the power and fascination of the magical that is so often unacknowledged in our world. As always, the author’s notes at the end are both explanatory and interesting. This is a compelling novel that haunted my dreams while I was reading it!
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5 out of 5 stars I adored this book! 
I adored Into the Dark. This is the second book in the series and it certainly doesn’t disappoint! Just like when I read Into the Mist, I was up into the wee hours again, unable to stop reading until I’d made it to the very last page. It was magical to go back into Carly’s world again and to join her once more on her spiritual journey of healing and renewal. This time we witness Carly fall in love and experience all the highs and lows, the uncertainty and fatefulness, of new love. It is beautifully written and a book I will treasure and recommend to all of my friends. LOVED IT!
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Australian Women Writers Challenge Update

July 16, 2014 at 9:20 am (Book reviews, Favourite books) (, , , )

Can’t believe it’s already July. I guess I couldn’t really update my Australian Women Writers Challenge because for the first several months of the year I was on a reading-for-pleasure ban while I finished writing Into the Dark. But that’s over now (for now at least), so over the last week or two I’ve been book-bingeing, and it’s been bliss! Staying up late into the night, snuggling up on the couch on the weekend, reading on the bus to work – and I even took an actual lunch break at my day job and went to a cafe so I could read a bit more 🙂

I read two sweet magical books by UK writer Sarah Painter, The Language of Spells and The Secrets of Ghosts, which I really liked, especially as they’re based around Bath and Avebury (in a sort-of-real-sort-of-made-up village a little like mine)… I found them on Kindle – they might have been suggested to me because I’ve bought (and adore) Sarah Addison Allen books… And I liked Cecelia Ahern‘s novel Love, Rosie, even though I didn’t love the way it was written (no slight on her writing skills, I love her books, it was just an odd/interesting writing style. I still stayed up really late reading it though!)

But I also read a few Aussie authors, not because they are Aussies but because the books looked interesting. So unintentionally I’ll succeed at my Australian Women Writers Challenge for the year 🙂

I really loved Felicity Pulman‘s I, Morgana, a magical tale that offers a new perspective on Morgana and the people of Camelot – you can read my review here

I read The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty, and really loved it too. Modern and set in the real world, but still really compelling. I’ll review it soon…

I bought that one after I read Free-Falling and Paper Chains by her sister Nicola Moriarty – I’d planned to go to a speaking event she was doing in Newtown, and although I didn’t end up making it there on the day, I was still happy I read her books. Which I’ll review for the AWWC too…

(Their other sister Jaclyn Moriarty is also an author, with a string of published books – I figured I should read one of hers too, and realised that I have – she wrote The Spell Book which I read a few years ago… And I just bought Feeling Sorry For Celia – gotta love the instant buying power of a Kindle! – so I can include her in this year’s challenge…

And the other day a Facebook friend mentioned she was reading The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon, and charmed by the name, I looked it up and figured I’d enjoy it. I didn’t even know Josephine was Australian (originally from Brisbane, she now lives on the Sunshine Coast) when I bought it, but I really loved it, and will write a review of it for my challenge soon too…

I’ll eventually get back to working more, but I’m really loving being able to read right now! xx

 

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I, Morgana – A Magical Book…

July 11, 2014 at 2:14 am (Book reviews, Favourite books) (, , , )

felicitybookI, Morgana is a new interpretation of the King Arthur story, and a rich new addition to the much-loved (and hotly debated) canon. Morgana, the daughter of a king, half sister of Arthur and a powerful presence in her own right, has been portrayed in so many different ways over the years, from evil witch to heroine priestess and everything in between, and most readers are invested in their own preferred version. This can make her tricky to bring to life, but Felicity Pulman has succeeded in creating a character and a book that remain true to the myth, while bringing new energy and new perspective to it.

Told from her point of view, this Morgana is closer to the vengeful, ambition-fuelled king’s daughter of TV’s recent Camelot series, determined to take the throne she sees as hers at any cost, than the wise priestess of The Mists of Avalon, whose motivation seemed more about the protection of goddess spirituality against the rising tide of Christianity than her own personal power. But while I have a soft spot for the latter, there is no less magic or complexity in this tale.

Recounted by Morgana as an old woman filled with bitterness and regret, the story opens when she is a child, and she is revealed as clever, loving and strong, aware of her destiny and joyously embracing it. Her relationship with Merlin and their lessons together are a delight to read; her shapeshifting into other creatures beautifully written and evocative. She is a dutiful daughter, who takes her promise to succeed her father on the throne very seriously, and a loving big sister to an infant Arthur. Yet as she grows up she becomes twisted by what she sees as betrayal – by Merlin, by her mother, by her brother, even by the times in which she lives – and is transformed into a ruthless and cruel woman, unleashing chaos as a result of her desperation to rule, and responsible for all the tragedy that befalls both herself and the kingdom. This Morgana is much harder to love and empathise with than other versions of the character – she is selfish, arrogant, hard hearted and vengeful, the sole architect of her own unhappiness – but there are hints that she is not totally beyond redemption, in her love for Launcelot and her children, and her desire to help the mysterious woman she sees in the scrying pool, so in the end she is deeply flawed yet fully realised and compelling.

Felicity Pulman’s first adult novel is ambitious in scope, with new angles to the familiar story, new relationships between familiar characters and new motivations for familiar events, as well as fascinating new twists, such as Morgana’s ability to transport herself to other worlds, the possibility of travelling through time to save the past as well as the future, and a daughter conflicted between magic and religion. It is a beautiful, magical story that sweeps you away into another time and another world, and I was sad when it ended – but I’m very happy that the author has begun work on a sequel…

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A Magical Interview…

July 4, 2014 at 1:35 am (Interesting stories, Interviews, Magic, Magical Places, Sacred Sites)

Cover_SevenSacredSitesWhen I was in Scotland late last year, an English journalist emailed me to request an interview, and to review Seven Sacred Sites. My mum sent off a copy of the book for me, and we emailed back and forth quite a bit, and I later sent my other books for review as well.

I was really touched this week to read the interview that resulted…

Serene Conneeley’s chronicles of magic

By Huria Choudhari, Ravenhawks Magazine.

Huria Choudhari
Huria Choudhari

For the contemporary witch nothing serves as a better introduction to the craft of magic and spells than the books of Serene Conneeley.

An investigation into sacred sites, largely fed by my own quest for magical knowledge, led me to ‘Seven Sacred Sites’. ‘Seven Sacred Sites’ is Conneeley’s captivating and inspiring book that chronicles the “vibrational essence, beauty, tranquillity and history” of seven of the world’s most magical places including the old Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru; the pyramids of Egypt; Uluru, the ancient monolith in Central Australia; the magically placed stone circles of Stonehenge; and the volcanoes, mountains and oceans of Hawaii.

In ‘Seven Sacred Sites’, Conneeley’s adventures see her take sacred plant medicine with shamans in the Amazon jungle; explore her inner priestess in the Serene Conneeleymystical isle of Avalon in Glastonbury; meditate in Egypt’s Great Pyramid on the morning of the summer solstice; connect with the volcano goddess in the island paradise of Hawaii; dance within the sacred circle of Stonehenge in the British Isles; walk in the footsteps of kings and queens on the Camino pilgrimage across Spain; and explore the powerful earth energy of Uluru with Anangu elders.

Having visited some of these places myself, ‘Seven Sacred Sites’, for me, served as the missing piece of the jigsaw in my understanding, awareness, insight and connection to these sites which at the time of visiting I was “in the dark” about, largely due to my own reticence about the magical abilities inherent within me.

One book down and the Australian writer, healer and witch had not only whet my appetite for delving into more magic but her writings and knowledge of the craft had most significantly managed to open up my own internal blocks around being a magic user and being fearful of my powers.

Far from being a reluctant witch, Conneeley’s own interest in magic started at a young age. “Magic has always been with me,” she says. Born in Sydney but raised in a small town on the West Australian coast, Conneeley’s parents were adamant that she and her sister not grow up in the city.

“My childhood was spent amongst the trees of our bush property. It sounds grander than it was – for several years the ‘bedroom’ my sister and I shared was a tent attached to the one-room wooden cabin that was our home, and we had no electricity or hot water,” Conneeley recalls.

“I played amongst the trees, watched the seasons unfold, crossed a fallen log to the state forest across the river from us, swam at the beach by day, admired the stars at night – and was a vegetarian whose earaches were soothed by a baked onion tied to my head, and illnesses were treated by a naturopath and chiropractor rather than a GP. So I guess my hippie upbringing helped instill in me an appreciation for nature and a connection to the natural world.”

Conneeley’s journey as a teenage witch saw her borrowing her mother’s holistic health books by the likes of Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer and doing courses in the Japanese healing method of reiki. She would also connect with crystals and “fall in love” with the healing tools. But it was the time that followed when Conneeley would embrace the witch within. “I attended some pagan full moon circles, met some lovely women at a Witchy Reiki course and joined their coven for a time, studied magical and medicinal herbalism, travelled to many sacred places around the world and immersed myself in those energies – and finally realised that everything I had always felt and believed made me a witch,” she adds.

Incorporating magic into her daily life comes naturally to Conneeley who draws “inspiration from the moon” and “strength from the sun”. “To me, magic is about intent, and it is within every one of us, rather than an external thing we must labour to harness,” Conneeley adds. “It’s about connecting to the earth, celebrating the turning of the seasons, being in tune with the cycles of the moon and honouring the God and the Goddess, not as literal beings, but as archetypes of masculine and feminine and the balance of the two within us and within nature. It’s also – just as importantly, for me at least – about taking responsibility for my actions, realising the consequences of all that I do, choosing to be happy, deciding what kind of life I want to lead and working to create it, and recognising the sacred in all things.

“Practically, I have an altar and beautiful blessed tools that help me work magic. I celebrate the Sabbats with ritual and dance on a hill with other pagans under the full moon of the Esbats. I cast spells to let go of pain, fear and guilt. I draw on the energy of the earth and nature to heal myself and others. I honour the seasons of the earth and the phases of the moon, and always endeavour to include some form of nature conservation in my writing.”

Sharing her knowledge of the craft is something that Serene Conneeley is clearly destined to do. In addition to ‘Seven Sacred Sites’, she has written several books on magic as well as a novel, ‘Into the Mists’. And with her friend and fellow magic user, Lucy Cavendish, she has co-authored three books – ‘Witchy Magic’, ‘Mermaid Magic’ and ‘The Book of Faery Magic’.

‘Witchy Magic’ explores the wisdom of witchcraft, offering clear guidance on how you can access this ancient knowledge to create the life you desire. It explores how to create your own magic through connecting with nature; craft and cast trusted spells for love, health, joy, wisdom, success and authenticity; weave magic with the seasons, the moon cycles and the elements of the natural world; cast circles and create an altar; tap into your own healing powers; and determine your destiny through divination methods.

‘Mermaid Magic’ looks into the healing powers of mermaids, magic and the marine environment. While ‘The Book of Faery Magic’ delves into tradition, history and faery lore, providing whimsical accounts of interaction with the fae, grounded guidance on working with them, and beautiful ideas for reconnection with the magical realms.

‘The Book of Faery Magic’ was the first book that the two friends embarked on together. Conneeley says that in spite of some challenges, the pair had fun writing together. “We wrote well together, inspiring each other to look deeper into the aspects we each chose to write about, and had a lot of fun doing it,” she explains. “Lucy wrote more about the spiritual side – connecting with faeries, her experiences with Otherworld beings, how to find them and speak to them – while I focused on faeries as a personification of nature – how to use the faeries as inspiration to take better care of the planet and become an environmental activist, the magical properties of herbs and flowers, how to create your own fae garden, how to connect with your inner faery, places connected to the fae and more.”

The research process involved gathering knowledge from books, courses and interviews. “

“I researched a great deal through books, both old and new, did courses on magical and medicinal herbalism, drew on my interactions from travelling to sacred places, interviewed many people, from magical writer Juliet Marillier to environmentalist Cara Walker, druid priestess Cassandra Eason, faery artist Jessica Galbreth and author and healer Doreen Virtue,” Conneeley describes.

“For Mermaid Magic I submerged myself even deeper into the research, again focusing on the environmental aspects of the ocean as well as how you can connect with yourSerene Conneeley inner mermaid and use their archetypes for your own healing and growth – I did chapters on whales and dolphins and their conservation, swimming with them in the wild, the healing power of water, both wells and the ocean, crystals connected with the sea, connecting with mer myths and legends – and interviewed many people, from writers, artists, professors and environmentalists to healers, surfers, conservationists and an Indigenous woman whose people are connected to the ocean.”

Last year Mermaid Magic was published in Japanese by a Japanese publisher, which for Serene Conneeley was a major achievement “especially given the sadness of the dolphin hunts and whaling industry in that country – as well as the resistance to both by so many of the people of that land”, she states.

Healing is also at the heart of Conneeley’s books, a practice that she has embraced wholeheartedly in her work not just as an author and journalist but as a reconnective healing practitioner too. Reconnective Healing is a non-touch approach to energy healing. When you are trained and reconnected, you gain access to spiritual energy in the universe that you can pass to others and heal them of all kinds of ills. “I’ve been honoured to see some incredible results from it, from a brain tumour shocking doctors by its shrinking to emotional breakthroughs that have been incredibly healing,” she says. “I also feel that words have power, and that they can inspire and uplift people – although equally they can wound, so care needs to be taken. It means a great deal to me when people write to me to say that one of my books helped them through a tough time or inspired them to make some changes in their lives.”

Conneeley’s next magical adventure is currently underway as she writes her second novel and seventh book, a sequel to ‘Into The Mists’, which was published last year. Her first novel followed the tale of a young Australian girl whose parents die, which results in her being sent to England to live with a grandmother she never knew existed. There’s magic, and several mysteries, as she journeys through grief and anger and tries to make sense of her life and discover a future that will have meaning for her. “It sounds a little grimmer than it really is – there’s fun and laughter and magical rituals too, and a cottage that may or may not exist, and a couple of adorable black cats,” she says.

As far as wanderlust goes and the need to feed her fascination with history, myth and magic, Serene Conneeley hopes to expand her adventure pool in the future. “I would love to visit Greece one day and experience its ruined temples, and really get a feel for their history and culture,” she says. “And I’d definitely like to spend more time in New Zealand, and explore its countryside.”

For more information on Serene Conneeley and her books, visit: SereneConneeley.com

Huria Choudhari is a journalist, stylist, digital guru and creative coach. She writes about music, fashion and lifestyle for Life & Soul Magazine (www.lifeandsoulmagazine.com). Hones her stylist skills to building and designing websites, and helps people discover and embrace their creativity.

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