BOOK REVIEW: Witchmark

WITCHMARK
by C.L. Polk

In an original world reminiscent of Edwardian England in the shadow of a World War, cabals of noble families use their unique magical gifts to control the fates of nations, while one young man seeks only to live a life of his own. Magic marked Miles Singer for suffering the day he was born, doomed either to be enslaved to his family’s interest or to be committed to a witches’ asylum. He went to war to escape his destiny and came home a different man, but he couldn’t leave his past behind. The war between Aeland and Laneer leaves men changed, strangers to their friends and family, but even after faking his own death and reinventing himself as a doctor at a cash-strapped veterans’ hospital, Miles can’t hide what he truly is. When a fatally poisoned patient exposes Miles’ healing gift and his witchmark, he must put his anonymity and freedom at risk to investigate his patient’s murder. To find the truth he’ll need to rely on the family he despises, and on the kindness of the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

 


If you’re a judge-a-book-by-its-covers kind of reader, well, then this book is sneaky and wicked. Wicked good, quite frankly because from the cover you think: “Oh, England and witches. Righto. Harry Pottery.” But no, no, no. WITCHMARK is somewhere else. Somewhere fantastical, populated by Invisibles and Mages and Storm-Singers. Oh my! But wait, there’s more! A murder mystery? Family intrigue? AND a love story? Yup! Yup! Yup! — Jen Payne

New Haven Bioregional Group POTLUCK & POETRY

SATURDAY, JANUARY 26 • 6:00 p.m.
First Unitarian Universalist Society of New Haven
featuring Evidence of Flossing by Naturalist Jen Payne

On Saturday, January 26, the New Haven Bioregional Group will host author and naturalist Jen Payne for a poetry reading and book signing featuring her book Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind. The event, held at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of New Haven (608 Whitney Avenue, New Haven), begins with a potluck supper at 6PM, followed by the reading at 7PM.

Come listen to a selection of poems that are, at their heart, love poems to the something greater within all of us. Inspired by Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and Mary Oliver, they explore the human condition juxtaposed to the natural world and the possibility of divine connection.

Evidence of Flossing: What We Leave Behind follows on the heels of Payne’s 2014 well-received book LOOK UP! Musings on the Nature of Mindfulness, and continues a dialogue about our innate connection with nature. Both books will be available at the event, which is free and open to the public.

Jen Payne enjoys writing about our relationships with each other, with our natural world, and with our innate creativity. Installations of her poetry were featured in exhibitions at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and Kehler Liddell Gallery (New Haven), and her work has been published by The Aurorean, Six Sentences, the Story Circle Network, WOW! Women on Writing, and The Perch, a publication by the Yale Program for Recovery & Community Health. Jen is a member of the Guilford Poets Guild and the Connecticut Poetry Society. You can find more of her work on her blog Random Acts of Writing, www.randomactsofwriting.net.

Connecting New Haveners to their life place, the New Haven Bioregional Group sponsors walks, films, canoe trips, potlucks, and other events to help us connect with our natural and built environment, and to build community and local resilience.

For more information about this event and others, please visit www.newhavenbioregionalgroup.org.

BOOK REVIEW: The Essex Serpent

THE ESSEX SERPENT

by Sarah Perry

An exquisitely talented young British author makes her American debut with this rapturously acclaimed historical novel, set in late nineteenth-century England, about an intellectually minded young widow, a pious vicar, and a rumored mythical serpent that explores questions about science and religion, skepticism, and faith, independence and love.

When Cora Seaborne’s brilliant, domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one. Cora leaves London for a visit to coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive eleven-year old son, Francis, and the boy’s nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend. While admiring the sites, Cora learns of an intriguing rumor that has arisen further up the estuary, of a fearsome creature said to roam the marshes claiming human lives. After nearly 300 years, the mythical Essex Serpent is said to have returned, taking the life of a young man on New Year’s Eve. A keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, Cora is immediately enthralled, and certain that what the local people think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species. Eager to investigate, she is introduced to local vicar William Ransome. Will, too, is suspicious of the rumors. But unlike Cora, this man of faith is convinced the rumors are caused by moral panic, a flight from true belief. These seeming opposites who agree on nothing soon find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart—an intense relationship that will change both of their lives in ways entirely unexpected.


I did not fall in love with this book right away. It was one of those relationships where you keep asking: should I or shouldn’t I continue? But things change one muddy night in the marsh, and it’s not until then that this book gets moving at an interesting – albeit slow – pace. The themes of religion, science, superstition, and intrigue start to reveal themselves more clearly then, as do the characters. There is a lot to this story, and it’s a good one! But truth be told, I found the supporting characters much more interesting than the main ones. Forget Cora and Will – meh – pay attention to Francis, Martha, Naomi, and Stella. They are much more fun to follow! — Jen Payne

Read More! Join me?

As you may have guessed, I’m a big fan of the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Last year, it helped me reads more than 50 books; see Goodreads: A Year in Books (2018).

This year, I’m hoping to get to even more of the books on my To Read list.

Join me? Visit Goodreads to sign up today!

(If you’re a Goodreads members, click here and we can follow each other’s progress!)

and then: the new year

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” – Neil Gaiman


IMAGE: The Moonlight Bed, Jacek Yerka