Book review: Inside the Secret Life of Fairies: Where Dreams Come True by Maggie Hamilton

What is it about fairies that enchants us so? Where do these elusive beings live, and what do they do? Why is it some see fairies and others do not? What’s the truth about glamour? And why when they promise your dreams will come true, do fairies grant three wishes?

Maggie Hamilton has spent a decade exploring the rich world of the fairy. Having talked with people from all walks of life, she captures their astonishing, sometimes poignant encounters with fairies here. Read about the fairies found in people’s homes and gardens, deep in nature, and in city streets and parks.

On this mesmerising journey deep into this achingly beautiful otherworld, you’ll discover the many exquisite possibilities present at dawn and dusk, and why the fairy kingdom has an ecology all of its own. Learn about the notes plants sound, and why some indigenous peoples no longer need to pick a plant to access its healing properties. Find out how to work with fairies to heal the earth and your own bruised spirit, and how this quest can transform you inside and out.

For those with their own fairy stories to tell, and fairy lovers everywhere.

 

My Thoughts

What an absolutely enchanting this book is! Exquisitely told in a genuine, heartfelt and inquiring fashion, Inside the Secret Life of Fairies sets out to enchant and delight while inviting readers to make that deeper connection with nature that is our birthright – a too often unrecognised gift of being. Hamilton takes us on a journey of discovery at a time in our history when humanity has disconnected from nature. Smart phones, urbanisation, the pressure and pace and demands all pull us all away from simple acts such as observing a flower or a meadow. We live in a time when even our holidays are fake and constructed. Just simply reading Inside the Secret Life of Fairies acts like a salve.

In gentle and uplifting prose, Hamilton coaxes all of us into accepting the existence of the fairy realm: fairies are nature spirits of the plant and animal kingdoms, fairies are loving light energy, fairies are divine portions of the Creator. We may see or feel fairies when we see the world as sacred, when we indwell in nature. Fairies can be experienced anywhere but we are more likely to encounter their energy in the wilderness. I am reminded of a recent experience of my own, when I stood in the Valley of Fire in Nevada. Desert, fringed by mountains with breathtaking rock formations. I felt expansive, at one with the environment, a profound connection I couldn’t make sense of, and an overwhelming sense of belonging. It was as if I could hear the silence. The feelings were so powerful, all-consuming, and yet subtle. I had to pull myself away. Then I read this fed back to me by Hamilton:

‘This, I’ve discovered, is what the fairy realms do. They help us connect more profoundly to ourselves and to the whole of life.’

Inside the Secret Life of Fairies is fundamentally spiritual and refreshingly unpretentious. I especially appreciated Hamilton’s honesty, her questioning, her doubts. And then, her revelations. Written in part as memoir and part informative, the author gifts us a valuable lesson; to take time out and really connect with nature. Following in the footsteps of the Caddys and Dorothy MacClean of Findhorn, and of all those who have gone before and live today in communion with nature,  Inside the Secret Life of Fairies is a very special self-help book, a survival guide in this crazy, artificial reality most of us now live in. Ultimately, Hamilton has penned a book that, through the lens of an overlooked spiritual reality, encourages us all to care for our world.

I’m off to clean my house! If you want to know why, read this truly exceptional book. No superlatives do it justice!

https://www.maggiehamilton.org/

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’ She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

Behind the Story: A Prison in the Sun (Canary Islands Mysteries Book 3)

When I was first told that a prison incarcerating gay men during General Franco’s regime in Spain, I was a foolish twenty-seven year old with aspirations of becoming a writer and not a clue how to go about it. The year was 1989. Back then, the true story of the prison was a dark secret whispered among locals and no one else. The Canary Islands government was silent.

It took me almost thirty years to feel equipped to tell this story. By then I was living in Australia, I had three novels set in the Canary Islands and I knew I needed to write a fourth. I felt torn as I also wanted to produce something literary, a work set entirely in the Canary Islands in the 1950s. Trouble for me was I no longer lived there, I was not born there, my Spanish was adequate but by no means sufficient to chat with locals, and above all, I am not male and I am not gay. I am also not rich! The research needed for such a literary approach would have cost many thousands in travel and accommodation. Twice I applied for funding but was unsuccessful. So I resigned myself to the notion of positioning the novel alongside the two mysteries I had already written, knowing that approach would constrain the way A Prison in the Sun could be told.

The prison cells at La Colonia Agrícola Penitenciaria de Tefía, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

I felt apprehensive. I had a lot of conversations with numerous respected authors and publishers. There was talk of the inappropriateness or lack of my fitness for the task, being neither male, gay nor from the islands. Lionel Shriver was mentioned along with political correctness. Most encouraged me, championing my efforts and bravery. I took this very idea of appropriateness and also of contemporary conversations around sexual preference and created a conflicted character, millennial ghostwriter Trevor Moore. I decided I would have him tell the story of the prison. After all, he wants to write a novel with his name on the cover for once, and there is the small matter of his ghostwriting gigs winning prizes for other writers. I had so much fun being Trevor. Best of all, I popped him in a holiday let which was a house I was poised to buy back in 2017. The only reason I didn’t was the owners took it off the market. I think they did me a favour, as you will find out if you read the book.

Screenshot taken from documentary La Memoria Silenciada Tefía – Twelve men crammed in a barn.

As for the prison in Tefía, Fuerteventura – or rather concentration camp for that is what it was – I spent many many hours brushing up my Spanish so that I could read newspaper articles, blog posts, doctoral theses and academic books. I read James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. I took copious notes on the economic, political and social history of the Canary Islands from the 1920s. I watched YouTube videos. I read everything I could find on the prison. I am indebted to former prisoner Octavio García, whose testimony and activism helped raise awareness, in Spain at least, of this ignominy. Also to Professor of History Miguel Ángel Sosa Machín who interviewed Octavio and produced a novella, Viaje al centro de la infamia (which I read). His efforts gained much publicity in the noughties. It would have been impossible for me to write this novel prior to efforts of these two men.  I read up on what it was like to be gay in Spain. I recalled my closest friends of that time, who were both local to the islands and gay. The result is as authentic as I, a humble female author in her fifties, could make it. I did not shy away from the brutal truth of prison life. I put myself there. I lay down in the prisoners’ cots. I trudged up the hill in the searing sun and the raging wind to assemble in the quadrangle. I imagined what it would be like to break rocks all day. To be starving.

Not wanting to give Trevor an easy time of it, I put him through his paces. And what he goes through provides relief from the harsh reality of Fuerteventura in the 1950s. To say more would spoil the novel. Here is what one reviewer has to say:

“The author has used her deep knowledge of landscape, politics and history on the Canary Islands to give us a page-turning juxtaposition of savage past events with present-day drama, mystery and murder.

The book weaves two stories together over decades: a present-day author uncovering revelations of sadistic and gut-wrenching homophobia in the past while anguishing over his own sexual orientation. Matters heat up as he finds himself battling for his life, caught in the crosshairs of a murderous drug deal.

The result is a tapestry of events that will keep you reading to the last page.” – Veronica Schwarz.

You can find A Prison in the Sun here : http://mybook.to/prisonsun

 

Book Review: Hallowed Ground by Paul Twivy

I am delighted to have been invited to join Rachel’s Random Resources book tour of Hallowed Ground by Paul Twivy.

About Hallowed Ground

This magical story is inspired by the most haunting and least explored country in the world – Namibia – with its foggy skeleton coasts; buried goldmines, shocking secrets and awe-inspiring sand dunes.

Spread across the face of its deserts are hundreds of miles of ‘fairy circles’ : vast enough to be seen from space. They grow and die with the same lifespan as humans, yet no-one has been able to explain why or how they appear.
Then one day, three teenagers and their families arrive from different parts of the globe. Helped by bushmen, the buried possessions of a Victorian explorer, and a uniquely spotless, golden leopard, they solve the mystery of the African Circles. What will they discover beneath this hallowed ground? And how will it change the future of the planet above it?

My Thoughts

Hallowed Ground is a rendering of the Namibian myth of fairy circles into a mystery involving a group of teenagers and their families. The author is clearly passionate about his subject, something that shines through the pages. The writing is good, the pacing considered. I admit I found the character introductions at the beginning of the novel rather tedious and would have preferred a different approach.

Hallowed Ground is an ambitious novel, blending as it does ancient myths and present day issues, held within the mystery narrative. The novel is presented as YA, the protagonists are teenagers, and I surmise Twivy has an educational purpose in mind.

It is commendable that the author brings to the attention of those who do not know a country with a rich culture, fascinating geography and brutal history of genocide.

 

Paul Twivy and his book can be found at these websites

www.thefairycircles.com and https://hallowedground.co.uk

 

 

Book Review: Spirit Teaches a Simple Seeker by Jean Whitred

The reader is invited to witness a struggle within the mind of a simple seeker when her thinking is challenged by a formless intelligence.

 

My Thoughts

Contained with the pages of this short book are, as the title states, thirty-three lessons of life, in what amounts to a series of short and insightful dialogues between a ‘simple seeker’ and Spirit teacher.  Each lesson presents a charming and ironic reflection on a key aspect of our journey through life, with lessons on loneliness, seeking, awareness and compassion.

The premise of the book is usefully summed up by Whitred with an ‘expansion of awareness can’t possibly develop without an ever-expanding capacity to think.’

Humility shines through the pages of this well-written volume. I enjoyed the inquiry, the open-mindedness, and despite the apparent simplicity, the profundity inherent in the insights. Simple wisdom, yes, perhaps. In all, Spirit Teaches a Simple Seeker: Thirty-three Lessons of Life is a book written to encourage readers to reflect and ponder. An inspirational book that would make an ideal gift.

You can find a copy on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Teaches-Simple-Seeker-Thirty-three/dp/1982228695/

Blackthorn Book Tours Review: Rose by Rami Ungar

 

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form.

Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death.

But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.

My Thoughts

At first Rose seems like the sort of light horror novel that will also appeal to fans of YA. Very fast, punchy writing, the narrative action packed and filled with the angsts and worries and conflicts typical of those in their late teens. The story opens with sociology graduate Rose Taggart, who awakes to find herself lying on a table in a greenhouse and realises she has partial amnesia. In a few short paragraphs the horror of her new circumstances unravels as she finds she has been the subject of a spell from ‘The Forest God’s Record’, a grimoire that fell into the hands of her apparent boyfriend Paris. A playful wit vibrates behind the words, Ungar taunting his readers with the absurd, the ridiculous, Rose a hat tip to Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Instead of finding herself transformed into an insect, Rose is part plant, a rose no less. Somehow Ungar renders Rose’s metaphysical calamity plausible.

The playful wit soon gives way to a descent into the ominous and the spooky, Rose’s situation unraveling, the lens pulled back bit by bit, the suspense building and building, culminating in an unexpected ending. Rose contains good characterisation, enough descriptions to offer a sense of place and Ungar demonstrates a keen talent for plotting.  In all Rose makes for very entertaining and disturbing reading.

About Rami Ungar

Rami Ungar knew he wanted to be a writer from the age of five, when he first became exposed to the world of Harry Potter and wanted to create imaginative worlds like Harry’s. As a tween, he fell in love with the works of Anne Rice and Stephen King and, as he was getting too old to sneak up on people and shout “Boo!’ (not that that ever stopped him), he decided to merge his two loves and become a horror writer.

Today, Rami lives and writes in Columbus, Ohio. He’s self-published three novels and one collection of short stories, and his stories have appeared in other publications here and there. Rose, his first novel with Castrum Press, will be released June 21st, 2019.

When he’s not writing your nightmares or coming up with those, he’s enjoying anything from the latest horror novel or movie to anime and manga to ballet, collecting anything that catches his fancy, and giving you the impression he may not be entirely human.

https://ramiungarthewriter.com

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46374205-rose

https://www.facebook.com/RamiUngarWriter/

@RamiUngarWriter

Buy Link

 

 

New Paperback Edition of The Unlikely Occultist Now Available from Odyssey Books

A red letter day today as The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey now has two publishers! Next Chapter will continue with the Kindle e-book edition and Odyssey Books have taken over the paperback rights. This means my book will be available far more widely. You can purchase a copy from Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/1925652777/  and you should also be able to order from Barnes and Noble and all good online booksellers. The Unlikely Occultist is soon to hit physical bookstores and libraries in Australia too. My heartfelt thanks to both publishers.

The Unlikely Occultist is based on the known story of Alice Bailey. All of the events are true as per the historical record. The author has taken some occasional artistic licence in order to create a fictionalised book. The intention behind the project was to introduce a remarkable historical figure to a fresh audience.

In loving service…

 

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, and contemporary and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney, for her research on the works of Theosophist Alice A. Bailey, the ‘Mother of the New Age.’ She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

Embarking on a full biography of Alice A. Bailey!

When I completed my biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey The Unlikely Occultist I thought my service to a woman I have long admired had reached an end. I had a similar feeling when I completed my doctoral thesis back in 2006, having spent three years working on a ground-breaking study of the Bailey books, for which I received my PhD from the University of Western Sydney. Both times, I was wrong. This time, a door has been flung wide open and I find myself immersed in yet more research on my beloved subject for a full biography of her life and works.

I was first urged to write a full biography of Alice Bailey in 2007 by my then employer Mary Cunnane, former vice president and senior editor at WW Norton & Company in New York, who had established a literary agency and was keen to represent me should I chose to take on the project. Back then, my literary skills were not up to the task. My mind was still attuned to the formal academic style and I needed to unlearn a lot of habits.

I made a solid attempt at producing a non fiction biography in late 2016, when Mary once again urged me to set to work. My concern was primarily to salvage Alice Bailey’s reputation and tackle her detractors, who can be found among conspiracy theorists, Christians, Jews, scholars, and Theosophists. I rose up in defence, sympathetic as I’ve always been toward a woman who led a difficult life dedicated to world peace and goodwill. I produced a whole draft of the biography and then began to doubt the content was enough. I lacked access to vital material. I did not have the full story. In a moment of inspiration, I decided to fictionalise what I did know, based on my extensive research into the known story. The result was The Unlikely Occultist and the material that did not make the cut forms the content of https://alicebaileyconspiracy.com/

Three years have passed and I am happy to announce that I have begun work on a full biography of the life and works of Alice Bailey. This time, my focus is different and the content will be much richer now that I am unravelling portions of the unknown story of Alice and her books and pursuing a number of lines of inquiry. With the wholehearted support of key members of the Alice Bailey community, my aim is to produce a sympathetic, fair and balanced account of this underrated and most remarkable historical figure and her books, written in telepathic rapport with the Tibetan. I have forty-one fully referenced chapters planned. The book proposal is currently with a New York literary agent. And I am champing at the bit to see this project come to fruition.

Watch this space!

Dr Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes dark psychological thrillers, mysteries, historical and literary fiction. Isobel was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019 for her biographical short story, ‘Nothing to Declare’. The Legacy of Old Gran Parks is the winner of the Raven Awards 2019. Isobel holds a PhD from the University of Western Sydney for The Texts of Alice A Bailey: An Inquiry into the role of Esotericism in Transforming Consciousness, She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.