May news…

May 18, 2016 at 5:06 pm (Events, Magic, News and updates, Publishing) (, , , )

squeee1NEW RELEASES

Exciting times! Last week the first copy of the Into the Mists Trilogy Hardcover Omnibus arrived, and it’s sooo beautiful 🙂 And thick, and heavy 🙂 But I love it!

I have an exclusive preorder offer for it running at the moment, which includes a free copy of  Into the Mists: A Journal or A Magical Journey: Your Diary of Inspiration, Adventure and Transformation. Check it out here – Trilogy Preorder. It’s for Australian shipping only though, as it would cost $65-$70 to post the Trilogy internationally 😦 But it will be available internationally very soon, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc, so I’ll keep you posted…

_launchONLINE LAUNCH

I’ll be sending the Into the Mists Trilogy Hardcover Omnibus and Into the Mists: A Journal out into the world with an online launch on May 27. Because for the third year in a row, Janna Chronicles and I, Morgana author Felicity Pulman and I have new books coming out at the same time, so we’re having another shared launch party. Chat with us and other book lovers, win cool prizes and join in the fun at Serene and Felicity’s Book Launch.

SeeMEatMBS_600pxX600pxEVENTS

I’ll also be at the Sydney Mind Body Spirit Festival from May 26-29, launching Into the Mists: A Journal and the Hardcover Trilogy Omnibus. You can register for a free ticket here – Free MBS Ticket – and there are loads of great free workshops and seminars, including ones from Lucy Cavendish and Cheralyn Darcey, and heaps of exhibitors…

And in June, magical writer and artist Selina Fenech and I will be doing Sydney Supanova together again (June 17-19), which will be awesome fun – I’ve already started work on my outfits 🙂 And I’ll be doing Perth Supanova for the first time the following week. (Eek! But yay!)

WRITING

June is also when I’ll be getting back to finishing the first Into the Mists Chronicle, which makes me happy! In April I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo again (yes, possibly a little crazy), and wrote another 32,000 words of Rhiannon’s tale. Added to last year’s Camp NaNo effort, her story is definitely weaving itself together and emerging from the mists, and I’m hoping to have release date news on that soon…

Have a magical month! Sxx

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Guest Blog… Felicity Pulman… and a great opportunity…

October 24, 2015 at 3:05 pm (Guest Blog, Magical Places, Opportunity, Writing) (, , , , )

This week’s guest blog comes from Felicity Pulman, author of the wonderful novel I, Morgana and the magical Janna Chronicles, amongst many others. She has recently returned from a three-month writing adventure in the UK, after being awarded this year’s Di Yerbury Society of Women Writers’ Residency. During her time in England and France, Felicity wrote the first draft of the sequel to I, Morgana, which I’m so excited about. Read on to follow Felicity’s journey – and discover how to apply for the residency in 2016.

FelicityEver dreamed of having ‘a room of your own’, somewhere to plot and plan, to dream and write without interruption or having to cope with the everyday mundane minutiae of life? Read on and be inspired to make your dream come true!

I’ve recently returned from a three-month writers’ residency in Barnstaple, Devon (UK), where I was able to complete a first draft of the sequel to my novel I, Morgana. When you live in Australia, the joy of having a base in the UK is that you’re comparatively close to everything, so before I took up the residency I was able to do some research in France, and during the residency I took time out to spend a week in magical Glastonbury.

felicitybookMy sequel, The Once and Future Camelot, tells the story of Morgana’s daughter, Marie, who at the end of I, Morgana finds herself stranded in our world at the time of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine (hence my visit to France). It’s a time-slip dual narrative between the poet, Marie de France, and the present day Morgan, a rebel and runaway, who fetches up in Glastonbury and then has to try to make sense of the terrifying visions that haunt her: visions of the end of our world that she needs to understand in order to save the future. It will take all her courage, ingenuity and knowledge of magic, along with Marie’s help, to fulfil an ancient prophecy about the return of Arthur – but also to find a way to love and happiness, both for herself and for Marie.

Glastonbury_TorI loved my time in Glastonbury; it inspired me on a personal level (I found my time there very healing) and it also helped to inform Morgan’s story and give it veracity. I climbed the Tor, I visited the Springs and the Goddess Temple, and I found the people I needed to find (and I truly believe the Universe conspired to help me there!).

Felicity_TintagelBeing in the UK was a blissful and very productive time, writing in the morning (I set myself a target of 2000 words a day) and going on a long ramble beside the river in the afternoon, making notes as ideas flowed, talking to myself (!) and also enjoying the beautiful scenery. There was also time for reading and research, and for exploring historic and beautiful Barnstaple, and meeting some lovely people there, including the writers who meet regularly at the library. Barnstaple is also very close to some famous seaside towns, including “Portwenn”, the setting for Doc Martin, and also Tintagel, the birthplace of King Arthur. (Photo taken on Arthur’s throne in the Great Hall there.)

The Society of Women Writers/Di Yerbury Writers’ Residency is open to members of the NSW branch of the SWW (Australia) under the following conditions:
* You must be a member for at least three months before submitting your application, due March 6th, 2016. (So you need to join the SWW by early December.)
* You must be researching or writing a work of fiction or non-fiction either set in or linked to the UK.
* You must be over 55 years at the time of your residency.
* Applications must be received by 5pm March 6th. The winner will be announced at the SWW meeting on Wednesday April 13th.
* The residency is available from June 20th to September 19th, 2016.

Further details about the residency and the application form can be found on the SWW website: www.womenwritersnsw.org. Good luck!

Find out more about Felicity’s books and her writing journey on her website, www.felicitypulman.com.au. You can buy her books in bookstores or from Amazon and other retailers, and for more information and to buy the beautiful I, Morgana and The Janna Chronicles, visit Momentum Books.

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Meet My Character: Book Blog Tour

January 17, 2015 at 11:42 pm (Book reviews, Magic, Publishing, Serene's articles) (, , , , , , )

felicitybookAuthor Felicity Pulman invited me to take part in the Meet My Character Book Tour Blog – you can read my post about Carlie from Into the Mists further down the page, and enter a competition to win a copy of the book at the bottom… My friendship with Felicity began when we bonded over indie publishing a few years ago, and we’ve supported each other through deadline stress and book dramas since then (along with sharing successes and some lighter moments too). I was honoured that Felicity contributed a piece to Witchy Magic, based on her beautiful Janna Mysteries series, and so happy that we could launch our new books together last year, when Felicity unveiled her gripping I, Morgana, and I released Into the Dark.

Pulman_FelicityFelicity’s I, Morgana is a beautifully written story about the legendary Morgana, and she’s also penned A Ring Through Time, The Shalott Trilogy and Ghost Boy. And next week Blood Oath, the first in her new-look medieval crime series The Janna Chronicles will be published, followed by a new book each month until June. Find out more about Felicity and her work at FelicityPulman.com.au, and read my recent interview with her here. And you can check out her Meet My Character post here.

Now it’s my turn to tag two authors – I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading about Dionne and Emma, and also checking out their blogs once they’re up!

dionne_bookI met Sydney writer Dionne Lister last year at Supanova, where we both had stands to launch our new books, and we got to chat again at Book Expo a few months later. She’s the author of the fantasy series Circle of Talia, a coming-of-age story that weaves together magic, adventure and dragons, beginning with the novel Shadows of the Realm, continuing in A Time of Darkness, and concluding with Realm of Blood and Fire.

dionne1Dionne also writes novellas, has released a collection of suspenseful short stories, and is working on her next novel, Little Dove, the first in a new fantasy series. Plus she’s studying for an Associate Degree in Creative Writing, runs the Booktastik website, and co-hosts the Tweep Nation podcast – so I guess I should stop complaining about how busy I am 🙂 To find out more about Dionne and her books, visit her at www.dionnelisterwriter.wordpress.com.

Emma_book_blindsightedI met Emma Hibbs at the online book launch of Into the Mists (which I shared with Selina Fenech, who was launching Hope’s Reign, the second book in her Memory’s Wake Trilogy), where we chatted about faeries and nature and archery and Merida from Brave. We’ve kept in touch since – one of the joys of Facebook is connecting with wonderful people from around the globe – but as Emma lives in north-west England, we haven’t met in the “real” world yet 🙂

EmmaHibbsWriting as EC Hibbs, she is the author of the YA fantasy novel Blindsighted Wanderer and the paranormal romance/thriller Tragic Silence – and she’s already completed books two and three of the latter, and begun a new series. Emma is also a talented artist, which you can check out at her Elphame Arts website, where she does portraits as well as designing gorgeous book covers. Find out more about her at echibbs.weebly.com.

* * * * * * * * * *

Cover_Mists_smallNow to my book character!

What is her name? 

Carlie (named for the goddess Kali) Parker. She’s the main character in Into the Mists and its sequels Into the Dark and Into the Light, and the story is told from her point of view…

Is she a fictional/historical character?

She’s fictional, although many of the rituals she takes part in are based on my experiences, her questioning and scepticism around magic and spirituality echo mine, and she drinks her tea the same way I do, so I guess there is a little of me in her – or her in me… I’m not sure which way that goes 🙂

When and where is the story set?

Carlie is from Sydney Australia, and there are flashbacks to her life there, but most of the story is set in Summer Hill, a small village in south-west England, shrouded in the magical mists that are a character themselves in these books. It’s set in modern times, although I avoided the whole Facebook/iPhone aspects of today, in favour of Carlie being able to connect with the magic of nature and the landscape around her. Summer Hill is a fictional place, but it could perhaps be a parallel universe that sits atop the town of Glastonbury – a different kind of Avalon…

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

When we meet Carlie she is seventeen, and on a plane to the other side of the world. Her parents have just been killed in a car accident, and she’s being sent to live with a grandmother she didn’t know existed. She’s devastated, obviously, and angry, and already hates her new guardian – her mum had left England as a teenager, and always told her that her grandmother was dead, so she believes that this woman must be a monster, to have driven her daughter to flee to Australia and break all contact with her.

What should we know about Carlie?

She’s full of grief and loss, which has also made her angry and bitter, and she’s drowning in self-loathing and guilt. She’s angry at her circumstances and at the world, and cynical of anyone she meets – real or magical – that wants to help her. But her journey into the mists becomes a journey into her inner self, and she has the potential to reveal another self, one that’s smart and funny and caring and full of love, if she has the courage to let go of her teenage defiance and the walls she’s built around her.

What is the personal goal of the character?

In the beginning, she doesn’t really have any goals – she’s not even sure she wants to live. She’s so broken by loss – of her whole family as well as her best friend, her home, her school, her whole future life that she had planned out – that she wishes she had the courage to end it. But eventually the darkness recedes a little, and so her goal becomes to get through each day, to start to heal, and to make amends for her own bad behaviour. She also becomes desperate to uncover the secrets of her mother’s younger life, which have left her shattered and unsure of who she really is, and to unlock the mystery of the woman in blue and the cottage within the mists that isn’t always there…

cover_low-resWho is the publisher, and where can we read more about the book? Are there more in the series?

Into the Mists and Into the Dark are published by Blessed Bee Books, and available in print and ebook formats. You can order them through Amazon, your local bookstore or my website, where you can read more about them too. The third book in the trilogy, Into the Light, will be published in May 2015.

There are three copies of Into the Mists to be won. Just leave a comment on this blog post, then email me via my website, SereneConneeley.com, requesting a copy. The first three people to email me with their postal address will win. (*Paperback or ebook copy depending on where you live…)

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Meet My Character Book Blog Tour – Felicity Pulman

December 22, 2014 at 4:26 pm (Interesting stories, Publishing) (, , , , )

felicitybookAustralian author Felicity Pulman’s latest book is I, Morgana, a beautifully written story about King Arthur’s half-sister, a woman loved and loathed in equal measure. Just as exciting for readers, a reworked version of her brilliant six-book medieval crime/romance series The Janna Mysteries, about the daughter of a herbwife and healer being trained in the Craft, whose life is turned upside down when her mother is murdered, is being republished from January 2015. Felicity has also penned A Ring Through Time, The Shalott Trilogy, Ghost Boy, The Little Penguins of Manly and more.

You can read my interview with Felicity here, and visit her at Felicity Pulman.

Sophie Masson invited Felicity to be part of the Meet My Character Book Blog Tour, for which she wrote a great article about her character Morgana. There’s also still a chance to win a copy of the I, Morgana ebook, just check out her blog post.

From her post: “The character of Morgana has always fascinated me. Throughout the legend she’s portrayed as a wicked, scheming ‘witch’, bent on Arthur’s destruction, and yet it is said that after the Battle of Camlann she took Arthur by boat to the sacred Isle of Avalon to be healed of his wounds – which seems such a loving act, and completely out of character after what has gone before. And so I set out to understand why she does what she does in the legend, and I, Morgana is the result: the story of a proud, ambitious and passionate woman, bent on revenge, and who is ruled by her heart and not her head, a flaw that lies at the heart of this story.”

Enjoy Felicity’s blog post, and I’ll be joining the book tour next week to talk about Carlie… xx

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Author Spotlight – Felicity Pulman

October 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm (Book reviews, Interesting stories, Interviews) (, , , , )

Pulman_FelicityAustralian author Felicity Pulman’s latest book is I, Morgana, a beautifully written story about King Arthur’s half-sister, a woman loved and loathed in equal measure. Last night she was awarded a fellowship to spend three months in England to write and research the much-anticipated sequel. Just as exciting for readers, a reworked version of her brilliant six-book medieval crime/romance series The Janna Mysteries, about the daughter of a herbwife and healer being trained in the Craft, whose life is turned upside down when her mother is murdered, is being republished from January 2015. Felicity has also penned A Ring Through Time, The Shalott Trilogy, Ghost Boy, The Little Penguins of Manly and more. Read her interview below, and visit her at http://www.felicitypulman.com.au.

felicitybookWhat inspired you to take on Morgana, such a huge presence in literature and legend, and write her story?

My interest in Arthurian legend began when I wrote the Shalott Trilogy, a timeslip ‘rewriting’ of the doom of Elaine of Astolat (the ‘Lady of Shalott’) and Camelot. The legendary ‘wicked witch’ (Morgana) and the ‘jealous bitch’ (Guenevere) fascinated me, and while I went some way towards reclaiming Guenevere’s character in the Shalott trilogy, Morgana continued to haunt me. I was intrigued by how she’s always reviled (in traditional tellings of the legend) as a wicked, scheming ‘witch’ bent on destruction – and yet legend has it that she was one of the queens who took Arthur by boat to the Isle of Avalon to be healed of his wounds after his bloody battle against Mordred at Camlann. Why? To me, this is an act of a contrite and loving sister, completely at odds with the Morgana of the traditional legend. So I decided to rewrite the story from Morgana’s point of view, coming to an understanding of this magically complex, passionate, ambitious, charismatic and deeply flawed woman as I did so. It was a fascinating journey, a journey that will continue in the sequel as I look towards the future and the prophecy, that ‘one day Arthur will return to save Britain in her hour of need’.

[Read my review of I, Morgana…]

Did you learn anything about yourself, or life, while you explored her psyche?

I think all writers invest something of themselves in the characters they create – so yes, it was certainly an exercise in exploring my own dark side! It was also an affirmation of the need to think before you act and also to take responsibility for your actions – a hard-won lesson for Morgana, but also for us all! It was an exploration of ambition, power, the use of magic to get what you want (as in ‘be careful what you wish for!’) and of hate, jealousy and revenge. But it was also an exploration of the love between a man and a woman, and the love of a mother for her child – and the heartache that loving sometimes brings.

Did your research into that time, and that form of spirituality, challenge your beliefs in any way?

I love writing about the Middle Ages, contrasting the splendor and extravagance of the court with the squalor and dirt – and the hard scrabble for life – suffered by the poor. Christianity, of course, was a huge part of everyone’s life at that time, whether secular or within the confines of an abbey or monastery. Both Morgana and Janna spend time in an abbey, and their questioning reflects my own conflicted views and beliefs (which I believe mostly stem from a past-life experience). My head reached a conclusion long ago, but my heart tells me different so, like my characters, I fall back on the notion of a God, but not necessarily a Christian one.

felicity-janna-book1-2Can you give a little update about The Janna Mysteries yet, or is it still a secret?

It’s not a secret, it’s more a work in progress, but I can give you an update of what I know so far. The Janna Mysteries are being reworked for an adult readership, and will be retitled The Janna Chronicles. The originals took plants and herbs as their titles: Rosemary for Remembrance, Rue for Repentance, Lilies for Love, Willows for Weeping, Sage for Sanctuary and Thyme for Trust, reflecting the knowledge of herbs and healing that Janna learned from her mother. The new books will have different titles which focus more on the crimes and mysteries that Janna solves on her quest to find her unknown father in order to fulfil her vow to avenge her mother’s death, and we’re still working on these. The first book will be published by Momentum in January 2015, with the next five books published every month thereafter – so fans of The Janna Mysteries who didn’t manage to get hold of all the books will soon be able to read the whole series within six months, as will a whole lot of new readers!

[Read my reviews of The Janna Mysteries…]

And how is the sequel to I, Morgana going?

The great news is that I’ve just been awarded the inaugural Di Yerbury Writing Fellowship from the Society of Women Writers, which will give me accommodation in the UK for three months of quiet writing time next year, as well as a base from which to do all the research I’ll need to do for the next book (with the working title Return to Camelot.) I am so grateful for this opportunity and already have a growing file of notes that will form the basis of the new book.

What’s your day like in terms of writing?

I don’t have a set schedule, but I do try to do writing-related ‘stuff’ every day – whether it’s being out talking about my books, or conducting writing workshops, or planning for either of those things, or researching what I need to know, or reading historical fiction (my favourite form of research!) or – yes – actually sitting down and WRITING!! Followed, of course, by editing – often accompanied by swearing and consumption of chocolate.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A bit of both. Through mistakes made in the past, I’ve learned that what works for me is to know how the book begins (there are often a few false starts) and also how it ends (although that sometimes changes too). For me, the joy of writing is to dream up the characters and a situation, and then set them in motion and follow their journey towards the end – a journey that often takes unexpected twists and turns because I’ve learned to listen to the voices and visions that sometimes inspire me. Even if I don’t know where they’re taking me, I always find that ultimately it all makes sense and that the story is immeasurably strengthened as a result. So I’m a pantser in that regard – but everyone works differently, so it’s really a matter of finding out what works best for you.

Any tips for people wanting to write a novel?

Lots! You can look at my website to read them all – the writing tips are here. The most important message, I think, would be: if you don’t care passionately about your story and the characters in it, don’t bother to write it.

Are you a tea or coffee person, and how do you take it?

I drink both (with milk and sugar) but in the evening I’d rather have a glass of wine!

 

You can buy I, Morgana in bookstores or from Momentum Books. Keep an eye out there for info on The Janna Chronicles too…

Visit Felicity at her website here, and her blog here.

Read my review of A Ring Through Time.

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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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Coming Soon! New Book! Into the Dark!

June 12, 2014 at 11:52 am (Magic, News and updates, Publishing) (, , , , , )

ImageOn June 27, I’ll be launching Into the Dark, the sequel to Into the Mists, at an online launch with magical author Felicity Pulman, so feel free to join us…

Into the Dark…

A best friend. A forever love. A promise… A betrayal. An ultimatum. A choice…

Carlie coped with moving from her home in Sydney, Australia to a small village in England to live with a stranger. She battled her way through the mists she thought would drown her, and emerged transformed. She was even starting to think she’d survive the death of her parents. But now an old diary, which promises to reveal the mystery of her mother, threatens to tear her world apart. How will the words she reads affect her? Will she wish the truth had died with her mum? And what is the connection to her own life hidden within the pages?

In the second book of the gripping Into the Mists Trilogy, a new relationship with her grandmother is opening Carlie’s soul to the energy and power of the earth. A new friend is opening her mind to the magic and potential within her. And a new love is opening her heart to the sweetest enchantment of all. Yet betrayal hovers around her, and she will face an ultimatum, a sacrifice and a cruel choice that might just break her.

Will Carlie find the courage to go into the darkness of her own heart and seek the wisdom and strength she needs to survive, or will the tragedies and the pain of her life break her into a million little pieces?

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Thyme For Trust… The final book in the Janna Mysteries…

January 6, 2012 at 6:45 pm (Book reviews, Favourite books, Interesting stories) (, , , )

A review of the final book in Felicity Pulman’s wonderful Janna Mysteries series… Definitely one of my favourites! They’re available in paperback in Aussie bookshops and from Amazon, and for Kindle and other eBook readers… xx

Thyme for Trust

The sixth and final instalment in the awesome Janna Mysteries.

I’m so sad that this is the last chapter of Janna’s story, but so happy that it was able to continue until its end, after a lengthy pause between books four and five. Thyme for Trust is a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful series, with all the questions raised throughout Janna’s adventures answered in smart, satisfying and non-predictable ways. The book opens with the Empress Matilda – who Janna so admires, and has helped in the past – trapped in Oxeneford Castle and laid siege by her bitter rival (and cousin) King Stephen and his men. In her own way, Janna too is trapped. While she has found her father and he’s welcomed her into his family, she is hated by her cruel stepmother and mean half siblings, and her life is in as much danger as that of the Empress.

While she fights her own war at home, Janna is also fighting to bring her mother’s murderer to justice, prove the innocence of her beloved, convince her father not to marry her off to an old but “suitable” suitor, protect her friends and help Matilda escape to safety. It’s a suspenseful, action-filled page-turner that also retains depth and emotion – all the characters are complex and well written, and even those ranged against Janna have their own motivations for their actions, eliciting at least a little sympathy from the heroine, and the reader.

Alongside Janna’s personal story is woven the dramatic real-life history of twelfth century English royalty and the bitter battles for the throne, which creates a rich tapestry of medieval life and adds colour, tension and realism. Yet it is Janna and her challenging, eventful and life-changing journey that most captivates. The author has created a wonderful character, brave, independent and strong in an age that expected little from girls, feisty and far from perfect, but enchanting all the same.

I loved that her quest to avenge her mother’s death was finally so close to completion, and also that she realised in that moment the toll it had taken on her and those around her, what it had cost her in terms of friendships, and the consequences of her actions on people she loved yet still wounded. I loved that she encountered some of her old friends and could see how much she had helped them, as well as accepting that they had changed and made her a better person too. I loved that she really did grow up over the course of the series, and was able to see the mistakes she had made, and to recognise that she still had much to learn. And I loved that the ending was realistic rather than happy-ever-after, and that although she found great joy, it came with sacrifice, loss and bitter grief as well.

In all, I loved that this final book so satisfyingly brought all six together, and while I am sad to farewell Janna and her world, I am so glad for the richness of her story and the magical journey it takes readers on. Thank you Felicity Pulman for a wonderful series…

And if you haven’t read any of this great series, here are my reviews of all six books… They’re available in paperback in Aussie bookstores and on Amazon, and as eBooks for Kindle as well…

Rosemary for Remembrance

The beautiful first book in a wonderful series.

Young Janna lives in a tiny cottage on the edge of the forest with her mother Eadgyth, the village herbwife. But twelfth century England is a dangerous time to be a woman and a healer, and the oppressive influence of the new priest and the jealous male apothecary can be felt throughout. When Eadgyth dies suddenly, Janna suspects her mother has been poisoned, and vows to find the killer and avenge her death. But the villagers and the Church are set against her, superstition and fear has warped the small community, and several people have explosive secrets they’ll kill to protect. As Janna tries to unravel the mystery of her mother’s death and the identity of her mysterious father, she realises that her own life is in danger, and her quest becomes more desperate.

Although I had never considered these to be crime novels, Janna does have to solve a murder and several other mysteries, and reveals great detective skills. The writing is suspenseful and the plot twists intriguing, yet it is not limited to the crime genre – it is also a beautifully written story of Janna’s coming of age, and there are elements of romance, action and medieval English history woven in (some school teachers even use it as part of the curriculum). The characters are fascinating and represent powerful archetypes – the healer, the maiden, the crone, the protector, the innocent, the villain – as well as being totally engaging and true to life. I especially love the descriptions of English life in this period, the clash between the Old Ways and the Church, and the magical properties of the herbs that the wise woman and her daughter work with to heal people and protect their community. (Anyone who loves Juliet Marillier’s beautiful books will love the enchantment of these.)

And Janna is a wonderful heroine. Not perfect by any means – she’s hot headed and hot tempered, speaks before she thinks, and is so stubbornly independent that it’s often to her detriment. But she is kind too, and fiercely intelligent, with a thirst for knowledge and justice that compels her to leave all that she’s ever known and set off on the quest that will unfold over the next five books – to find her father, avenge her mother’s death, and discover her own heart… Each of the Janna Mysteries ends with the solving of an epic mystery – along with more questions, so you are left desperate to start reading the next one (even now, as I re-read them all)…

Although it’s many years since I was a “young adult”, this series will appeal to anyone who loves adventure stories with mystery, historical weight and a magical twist.

Rue for Repentance

The second book in a wonderful, mysterious series.

Felicity Pulman’s storytelling prowess continues in this epic story of love, revenge, mystery and adventure. Young Janna, who had to flee her home after her mother was poisoned, her cottage was burned down around her and the whole village turned against her, starts this book running for her life through the ominous forest. Disguised as a boy to protect her on many different levels, she finds herself teaming up with a fellow fugitive and being taken on as a worker in the fields of a manor. But there is mystery afoot, and she finds herself playing detective again as the scenes of several supposed accidents are each marked with a posy of rue. Can she find the culprit, and the motive, before the crimes escalate any further? What will she do when she discovers who owns the manor, and their relationship to her enemy? Can she make peace with the two men she cares about? And will she be able to save the life of an innocent child, or be blamed for the ultimate crime?

I first read the Janna Mysteries a few years ago, but on discovering that the final two books of the series have now been published, I’m re-reading the first four in preparation as I wait for them to arrive. And they’re just as involving, intriguing and suspenseful on a second read as a first. The author creates such a realistic world, filled with characters you care about, mysteries with many suspects, and a twist of enchantment that will draw you in to the lives and loves of these medieval country folk. Each of the books is unique, set in a totally different location and with many new (as well as old favourite) characters, and can be read on its own as a self-contained mystery. But as part of the series each has even more weight, and seeing Janna learn and grow through each adventure is a lot of fun.

Lilies for Love

The third book in the wonderful Janna Mysteries.

In this instalment young Janna, on the run from the ruthless man who plots to kill her to protect his secret, seeks sanctuary in the abbey. Despite her distrust of the Church and her dislike of the Abbess, she comes to like life among the nuns, and is surprised when she makes a friend, and finds a kindly old infirmarian who continues her education as a healer. While her main goal in being there – to learn to read so she can unravel the secrets of the letter her father sent her mother before she was born – seems thwarted, she finds a new sense of confidence and purpose in healing the sick and advising those around her, and she continues to learn much about herself and the world.

Janna is again faced with a murder and several other crimes to solve, and the pace is brisk and never dull, with much intrigue and mystery, and the introduction of a few shadowy, dangerous characters. Life behind the abbey walls is not quite as peaceful as you’d imagine, and there are a few sinister plots to unravel. The various nuns Janna comes to know are fleshed out with great depth – and the kindness, serenity and faith of some of them is well balanced with the petty jealousies and spiritual searchings of others in this group of women cut off from the world and dedicated, some more willingly than others, to God’s work. It’s a testament to the skill of the author that there are no caricatures amongst the characters, and that it never seems strange that a teenager is the one to seek justice, solve crimes and see to the truth of a situation.

Janna is also growing up, and in this adventure she comes to question her own religious beliefs, and those of her mother, and is shocked as she learns more about her parent’s past. She also comes into contact with the two men she cares most about, who she thought she’d never see again, and is torn between the longing in her heart for love and protection, and her determination to continue her quest to prosecute her mother’s killer and discover the identity of her father.

This is another beautifully written book, with so much research put into the historical narrative – as the Empress Matilda defends her claim to the English throne from her cousin Stephen of Blois – as well as the herbal medicaments and potions that Janna dispenses to the sick, and the flowers which are used to symbolise so much in convent life. Suspenseful and intriguing, it’s hard to put the book down, and the resolution at the end, while wonderfully played out, only brings more questions, and an eagerness to quickly begin number four…

Willows for Weeping

Book four in a magical six-book series.

I love this series – it’s so magical and fun, with a good dose of mystery and a teenage protagonist who has to solve a crime (or two) as she continues her quest to find her father and avenge her mother’s death. At the end of book three Janna was surprised to find herself enjoying life in the abbey, where she had found friendship, learning and a sense of purpose as a healer. But her quest remains more important to her than her own happiness, and so, having finally learnt to read and with some new clues to her father’s identity, she leaves the security of the abbey and heads out on the road to Winchestre with some pilgrims, determined to track down her remaining parent. They’re a rag tag bunch, each having their own intriguing story, beliefs and motives, and Janna isn’t sure who she can trust (and she learns some hard lessons when she reads a few people the wrong way). There’s plenty of action – early on they stumble across a dead man carrying a message that could change the fortunes of the king, one of the pilgrims is murdered inside the circle of Stonehenge, and as Janna gets closer to the truth of the culprit, danger swirls ever nearer. As in all the Janna books, the heroine is smart, kind and fearless, yet she is also flawed, with a quick temper and a naivety that frequently gets her into trouble, but makes her all the more endearing. All the characters are interesting and multi-dimensional, making you feel deeply for them, and the historical figures and true events combined with the imagined lives of others creates a captivating story. As in previous instalments, the author manages to have all the mysteries solved by the end of each book, while also opening up new questions that leave you desperate to read the next one! I first read this book more than two years ago, and was devastated to learn that number five and six were indefinitely delayed. When it was announced recently that the final two in the series were about to be published, I read the first four books again in preparation, and they were just as enchanting and satisfying the second time around.

Sage for Sanctuary

The long-awaited fifth book in the Janna Mysteries series.

There were a few years between this book and its predecessor, and many fans have been waiting anxiously to discover what Janna would do next, and whether her quest to find her father and avenge her mother’s death would be fulfilled. None should be disappointed, for this is another beautiful, intriguing story, and adds so much more to Janna’s character, her choices and her life. It opens in medieval Winchestre, where Janna is awaiting the return of her father from Normandy. He is a wealthy and influential man whose identity she has just discovered, but he knows nothing of her existence. It looks like she will meet him soon – but within the first few pages Janna’s fortunes take a turn for the worse. Her purse, containing proof of her identity, her link to her father and all her money, is stolen, and she ends up having to work in a tavern just to survive. As the story unfolds there are many mysteries, and many dangers, that plucky young Janna must face. She becomes swept up in a royal scandal, the assassin who tried to kill her some time ago returns and tries again, and she finally meets her father – and her new family, who hate her with a passion that looks like it could lead to murder.

I was swept up in the action from the first page, and was excited that not only does Janna find her father in this book, she also realises which of the two men she has loved for so long is the one she truly wants – it would have been too cruel if we’d had to wait for the next book for that one! Janna’s decision is slowly and gently arrived at, and the process she goes through to realise the truth of her heart reveals a new maturity on her part. Of course there are many obstacles put in her way (and she may not be able to marry him anyway – a dilemma that is left for the next book), but she has decided at last. I was surprised to read one Amazon review that said her decision between Hugh and Godric was sudden and unexplained, for it was not at all. Janna does much soul searching before she realises who she loves and why, and throughout the story she learns much about herself and others, while also solving several crimes, continuing her herbal medicine work and becoming clearer about what she wants to do with her life. I loved this book as much as I loved the previous four, and can’t wait for the final instalment!

Thyme for Trust

The sixth and final instalment in the awesome Janna Mysteries.

I’m so sad that this is the last chapter of Janna’s story, but so happy that it was able to continue until its end, after a lengthy pause between books four and five. Thyme for Trust is a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful series, with all the questions raised throughout Janna’s adventures answered in smart, satisfying and non-predictable ways. The book opens with the Empress Matilda – who Janna so admires, and has helped in the past – trapped in Oxeneford Castle and laid siege by her bitter rival (and cousin) King Stephen and his men. In her own way, Janna too is trapped. While she has found her father and he’s welcomed her into his family, she is hated by her cruel stepmother and mean half siblings, and her life is in as much danger as that of the Empress.

While she fights her own war at home, Janna is also fighting to bring her mother’s murderer to justice, prove the innocence of her beloved, convince her father not to marry her off to an old but “suitable” suitor, protect her friends and help Matilda escape to safety. It’s a suspenseful, action-filled page-turner that also retains depth and emotion – all the characters are complex and well written, and even those ranged against Janna have their own motivations for their actions, eliciting at least a little sympathy from the heroine, and the reader.

Alongside Janna’s personal story is woven the dramatic real-life history of twelfth century English royalty and the bitter battles for the throne, which creates a rich tapestry of medieval life and adds colour, tension and realism. Yet it is Janna and her challenging, eventful and life-changing journey that most captivates. The author has created a wonderful character, brave, independent and strong in an age that expected little from girls, feisty and far from perfect, but enchanting all the same.

I loved that her quest to avenge her mother’s death was finally so close to completion, and also that she realised in that moment the toll it had taken on her and those around her, what it had cost her in terms of friendships, and the consequences of her actions on people she loved yet still wounded. I loved that she encountered some of her old friends and could see how much she had helped them, as well as accepting that they had changed and made her a better person too. I loved that she really did grow up over the course of the series, and was able to see the mistakes she had made, and to recognise that she still had much to learn. And I loved that the ending was realistic rather than happy-ever-after, and that although she found great joy, it came with sacrifice, loss and bitter grief as well.

In all, I loved that this final book so satisfyingly brought all six together, and while I am sad to farewell Janna and her world, I am so glad for the richness of her story and the magical journey it takes readers on. Thank you Felicity Pulman for a wonderful series.

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Wonderful books: The Janna Mysteries (2)

October 17, 2011 at 3:23 am (Favourite books) (, , , )

I reviewed books one to three of The Janna Mysteries by Felicity Pulman here

Here are books four and five, with the sixth to come soon…

Willows for Weeping

Book four in a magical six-book series

I love this series – it’s so magical and fun, with a good dose of mystery and a teenage protagonist who has to solve a crime (or two) as she continues her quest to find her father and avenge her mother’s death. At the end of book three Janna was surprised to find herself enjoying life in the abbey, where she had found friendship, learning and a sense of purpose as a healer. But her quest is more important to her than her own happiness, and so, having finally learnt to read and with some new clues to her father’s identity, she leaves the security of the abbey and heads out on the road to Winchestre with some pilgrims, determined to track down her dad. They’re a rag tag bunch, each having their own intriguing story, beliefs and motives, and Janna isn’t sure who she can trust (and she learns some hard lessons when she reads a few people the wrong way). There’s plenty of action – early on they stumble across a dead man carrying a message that could change the fortunes of the king, one of the pilgrims is murdered inside the circle of Stonehenge, and as Janna gets closer to the truth of the culprit, danger swirls ever nearer. As in all the Janna books, the heroine is smart, kind and fearless, yet she is also flawed, with a quick temper and a naivity that gets her into trouble but makes her all the more endearing. All the characters are interesting and multi-dimensional, making you feel deeply for them, and the historical figures and true events combined with the imagined lives of others creates a captivating story. As in previous instalments, the author manages to have all the mysteries solved by the end of each book, while also opening up new questions that leave you desperate to read the next one! I first read this book more than two years ago, and was devastated to learn that number five and six were indefinitely delayed. When it was announced recently that the final two in the series were about to be published, I read the first four books again in preparation, and they were just as enchanting and satisfying the second time around.

Sage for Sanctuary

The long-awaited fifth book in the Janna Mysteries series

There were a few years between this book and its predecessor, and many fans have been waiting anxiously to discover what Janna would do next, and whether her quest to find her father and avenge her mother’s death would be fulfilled. None should be disappointed, for this is another beautiful, intriguing story, and adds so much more to Janna’s character, her choices and her life. It opens in medieval Winchestre, where Janna is awaiting the return of her father, a wealthy and influential man whose identity she has just discovered, but who knows nothing of her existence, from Normandy. It looks like she will meet him soon – but within the first few pages Janna’s fortunes take a turn for the worse. Her purse, containing proof of her identity, her link to her father and all her money, is stolen, and she ends up having to work in a tavern just to survive. As the story unfolds there are many mysteries, and many dangers, that plucky young Janna must face. She becomes swept up in a royal scandal, the assassin who tried to kill her some time ago returns and tries again, and she finally meets her father – and her new family, who hate her with a passion that looks like it could lead to murder.

I was swept up in the action from the first page, and was excited that not only does Janna find her father in this book, she also realises which of the two men she has loved for so long is the one she truly wants – it would have been too cruel if we’d had to wait for the next book for that one! Janna’s decision is slowly and gently arrived at, and the process she goes through to realise the truth of her heart reveals a new maturity on her part. Of course there are many obstacles put in her way (and she may not be able to marry him anyway – a dilemma that is left for the next book), but she has decided at last. I was surprised to read one Amazon review that said her decision between Hugh and Godric was sudden and unexplained, for it was not at all. Janna does much soul searching, and learns much about herself and others, while also solving several crimes, continuing her herbal medicine work and becoming clearer about what she wants to do with her life. I loved this book as much as I loved the previous four, and can’t wait for the final instalment!

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