I don’t wanna be nice

I am currently rejoicing in having found a new way to circumvent the habit of a lifetime.

In the past I have found  it impossible to write anything negative in a book review and I kludged my way through this  pathological niceness by simply not reviewing books I felt ambivalent about.

There were other reasons that I failed to write a book review – lack of time, upheavals  in my private life, lack of interest in or knowledge of the subject and on at least one occasion, when having sent an email promise to let me have a hardback first edition of their next book, signed with a personal handwritten inscription along the lines “For Jean Dark, I just LOVED your last book-review”, the author simply forgot to put the book in the post.

And I found other ways to deal with my negative bibliophilic sensibilities – if the book was in e-book format I wrote about the generic failings of electronic books and avoided discussing the book itself. So desperate was I not to upset anyone, particularly if I knew their name, or the title of a book they’d written.

And then I found myself on the horns of a dilemma. I was sent an e-book to review, I fell instantly in love with the style and content, but the e-manuscript had so many typos (typing errors as blatant as “ans” for “and” etc) that by the 2nd chapter I had so lost heart and viewed the book with such dread that the experience was utterly ruined for me.

It is from this place of despair that I formulated the following ploy to avoid appearing uncharitable:

One  of my many gripes about e-books is that they often lack the basic elements that separate books from rambling hebephrenic babble. By that I don’t mean that the content is bad, it’s the production values that are at fault. For instance, a hard copy paper book would be laughed off the shelves if it lacked something as fundamental as a  contents page. Yet I have been sent e-books to review in just that state. Books that consisted of plain solid text; with none of the expected markers and signposts – like chapters, page numbers, introductions, beginnings, endings, indexes, punctuation and contents page.

Where are all the proper pedantic pagan proof-readers when you need one?
In response to this common FAQ…

Jean  Dark  is now offering an e-book proof-reading service
(reduced rates for small presses)

For more details of proof-reading and editing services available contact witchystickler@gmail.com

See, I’m really nice even when I don’t wanna be.

Somnium by Steve Moore

Today I found from the blog of the publisher Strange Attractor that Steve Moore had died on the bright spring equinox full moon.
I only recent had contact with Steve Moore, he sent me a email thanking me for a book review I had written of his Novel Somnium, which had been published in Pentacle magazine. A tantalisingly brief brush with mystery and chivalry, I feel gently charmed.

Silver Wheel Journal 4

I was recently delighted receive a complimentary copy of Silver Wheel Journal 4 in the post. Silver Wheel Journal – a yearly “anthology of Craft, Druidry, Paganism and Magic”…(read more in Pentacle 39 – see below)…I am also delighted because three of my own pieces – “Alchemilla”, “Moon Shadows & Firelight” and “Walks with Mistletoe”- have been published here in issue 4, alongside Modern Witchcraft luminaries.

One piece of mine that wasn’t accepted for publication is this a house blessing/cursing channelled-poem I wrote about the specifically East-Anglian house-wights – the “Yarthkin”.

I am of Yarthkin, Hearth Sprite, House Wight. I live in your home, behind the fireplace, in the doorways, under the floorboards…more

This book review has been edited in anticipation of an extended version appearing in Issue 39 (yule 2013) of Pentacle Magazine.

This week in Earth Pathways…

Vision of a Sacred Garden

 Back in February 2011 at a Pagan conference in Chester I had the good fortune to take part in a guided pathworking lead by Glennie Kindred, the author of the pagan primer “The Earth’s Cycle of Celebration” and part of the Moonshares Collective who annually produce the Earth Pathway Diary – a pagan “network and resource for Earth lovers, environmentalists, artists, writers and activists”.

On that winter afternoon in the dimly-lit hall Glennie Kindred’s soft calming voice and her drumming drew us deep into ourselves, where she encouraged us to discover and visualise our deep wishes and hopes. Some way in, I found myself immersed in green light, flickering around me like sunlight through pale fresh leaves, I drifted amongst branches creaking in the breeze, I saw and ran in a meadow, danced by a fire, lay back in long grass, gazing at ripe red fruits growing overhead. When I surfaced, still gleaming from my reverie I was handed a bowl of green slips of paper cut into leaf-shapes. I chose a leaf that looked to me like an apple tree leaf and wrote that I had dreamed of a green and magical place, a Sacred Garden to steward.

At the time I lived in a ground floor flat in a 1960s council block. Although it was a comfortable and compact apartment, it was also very square, plain and functional, a blank white box. The strip of garden was a lawn visible from the bedroom window, municipalised by default into an unexciting communal greensward. A twisty shady garden hidden away amongst thickets, like I had envisioned, seemed like a world away…read more

Book Review of The Trials of Arthur

trials arthur cover

The Trials of Arthur – Revised Edition By Arthur Pendragon & CJ Stone
(Published by The Big Hand 2012 Kindle version ISBN 0956416365 )

When the mythical once & future King Arthur Pendragon retreated with 12 of his knights to a mountain cave, to lie asleep and awaiting the clarion call to arise and come forth to Britain’s aid, I very much doubt he suspected he’d be re-incarnated in the twentieth century as a “mad biker Druid Eco-warrior cider-belly King of all Britain, with knobs on it”.

This updated and revised biography of our modern-day King Arthur tells the story of the wild west-country biker, previously known as  ‘Mad Dog’, ‘Geronimo’, ‘Ace’, or ‘Wolfdog’, who changed his name by deed poll to King Arthur Pendragon and stepped up to the defence of Albion…read more…

Review of The Book of Baphomet

book of baphomet cover

The Book of Baphomet by Nikki Wyrd and Julian Vayne.
(Mandrake Press 2012 ISBN 9781906958466)

In many ways this book does exactly what it says on the label. If you want to know anything about Baphomet, then this is your book, as it covers the historical origins of the name, cowled and candled in ceremonial magic, from the persecution of the Templars, through Eliphas Levi, Aleister Crowley and Death Metal to current-day Chaos Magic…read more

A book review of Steve Moore’s Somnium

Steve Moore’s Somnium is a rare and affecting novel where all is not as it seems…finally completed five years ago, drawn from decades of detailed personal dream diaries, the book was published by Mark Pilkington’s Strange Attractor Press …the plot-line is a compelling mobius strip, without formal chapters. As layers of story within story, dream within dream, book within book are built up and burnished, the hard outlines between author, writer and fictional character meld and coalesce…for me, Moore’s prose is exquisite and alluring, swelling with subtlety and suggestion, and it will bear repeated reading.

“May not the stars be plucked and set into a sparkling crown? The tails of comets wove into a scarf that trails all sequinated through the sky?” (from Somnium by Steve Moore)

I say, the curling smoke-ring arabesques of dream-webs may be retted, carded and spun into black thread words on the white virgin sheets of a book. Only to unfurl and unravel again, speechlessly settling inside the moonlight of my imagination. Steve Moore’s novel tells me this much, at least, is possible.

A full version of Jean Dark’s review of Somnium by Steve Moore is printed here and in the Summer 2012 edition of Pentacle Magazine.

Other Book reviews by Jean Dark may be found here

Jean Dark
13th August 2012

Somnium By Steve Moore

Steve Moore’s Somnium is a rare and affecting novel where all is not as it seems…finally completed five years ago, drawn from decades of detailed personal dream diaries, the book was published by Mark Pilkington’s Strange Attractor Press …the plot-line is a compelling mobius strip, without formal chapters. As layers of story within story, dream within dream, book within book are built up and burnished, the hard outlines between author, writer and fictional character meld and coalesce…for me, Moore’s prose is exquisite and alluring, swelling with subtlety and suggestion, and it will bear repeated reading.

“May not the stars be plucked and set into a sparkling crown? The tails of comets wove into a scarf that trails all sequinated through the sky?” (from Somnium by Steve Moore)

I say, the curling smoke-ring arabesques of dream-webs may be retted, carded and spun into black thread words on the white virgin sheets of a book. Only to unfurl and unravel again, speechlessly settling inside the moonlight of my imagination. Steve Moore’s novel tells me this much, at least, is possible.

A full version of Jean Dark’s review of Somnium by Steve Moore is printed in the latest copy of Pentacle Magazine.

Other Book reviews by Jean Dark may be found here

Jean Dark
13th August 2012

Book review by Jean Dark

Dice & Dysfunctionality by Fay Knight

Published 2010 by Shield Crest Publications

The Role-Player/Pagan crossover is a well known phenomena (See Ann Finnin’s The Forge of Tubal Cain for a real life example) and this debut novel by Fay Knight mines that rich seam with surrealism, dark humour and panache.

The wonderful opening line “Kevin already knew he was going to die” immediately catapults us into the skewed world of the “Dice-Tossers”, as one long-suffering girlfriend describes them.

From there the rapid-fire plot loops and swirls and sweeps unrelentingly through all manner of strange shenanigans; UFOs, swoopy bat-like things lurking in the dark, goth clubs, a lost weekend in Whitby, an Old Dear packing a pistol fired up with the vision of a local tele-evangelist as the anti-christ.

And there’s dragon-porn too. A collection of hand drawn images which “go a bit further than Giger’s artwork” become empowered and manifested by an unspecified and possibly accidental Austin Osman Spare Zos-Kia style sex magic ritual. Knight’s writing leaves everything to the imagination and my mind kept flinging up lurid images from vintage science fantasy paperback covers. Not to mention more terrifying dragon-on-dragon variants.

The book is seamlessly written, and the dialogue is particularly witty and sharp-tongued. Characters seem to emerge progressively, realistically as well-rounded, but not always sympathetic, individuals from the initial homogeneity of a role-player clique. At least, some of them do, one or two remain repellently unfathomable, shady strange secretive huddled and whispering in the corner.

This is an enjoyable read for anyone with an interest in paganism or gaming, you’ll recognise many of the characters among your friends. It would also be an ideal yule gift for any sigil-wielding, dragon-loving dice-tossers you may know.

Better still, give a copy to their girlfriend, who’ll undoubtedly snigger knowingly.

Jean Dark

August 2011