The Firefly Witch by Amanda Hughes – a #BookReview

The Firefly Witch (Bold Women of the 17th Century Series Book 1) by Amanda Hughes

The Firefly Witch by Amanda HughesBook Blurb:

For readers who like historical fiction with a bit of a love story and fantasy.
It is a life of enchantment in a world gone mad with hatred. The daughter of Puritans in 17th Century Massachusetts, Circe Swinburne must hide her pagan dreams and strong ties to Mother Earth or be banished forever. Fortunately, she finds solace in the serenity and magic of the Great Marsh near her home. But visions of fireflies soon begin to haunt her, flooding her with riddles. At last, the tiny creatures guide her to a group of people living in secret, practicing the ancient ways of the Celts in the backwoods of the colony. She lives in peace with them until one day a mysterious man appears with an unusual map. Circe is increasingly drawn to this dark and enigmatic Spaniard, and together they fight against the malicious witch hunters who are determined to execute her new family and destroy her way of life forever.

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.”

–H.L. Mencken

My Review:

Azubah Craft, 12-year-old daughter of Puritan millers of Ipswich, Plum River, Massachusetts Bay Colony, has very strange dreams as well as disembodied messages delivered to her ears along with apparitions, but she is careful not to share. She is part of a strict Puritan family that fled the UK to avoid religious persecution and they are extremely careful to observe their spiritual tenets. So she is not allowed to exhibit happiness, laugh, skip, play like a child. Further, she has flaming red hair that sets her apart. Her grandfather lovingly calls her Firefly.

The Firefly Witch by Amanda HughesBut in 1662, she should be serious, pious, and obedient. She does, however, have another extraordinary gift that is well known–she can weave gorgeous fabrics, working her loom, and her eye for embroidery is unmatched. She longs to create brilliantly colored fabrics but is not allowed, forced instead to stay with the earthen brown tones of the community cloaks.

She has an aunt and uncle nearby, as well as the waterwheel directed by her beloved grandfather for use of the local farmers. Life in the colony is a day to day struggle against weather, disease, and Indians and her friend, Bullfrog, lost his parents to the latter. He now survives on his own in the marshes, but is said supported with food from time to time by some they call The Hooded Ones.

After the village is again attacked by Indians, Azubah flees into the marshes but is hit by an arrow. She wakes in the home of her real father, part of The Hooded Ones, who has been watching her for some time. Azubah is Circe Swinbaine, part of the Derwydds–Celtic people who also fled persecution. They have changed somewhat their practices of the old country and are vigilant in their seclusion. The author is careful to include background and fascinating information, much of whose worship is dominated by a goddess and a totally different ideology (and loving) lifestyle, including a short explanation of the “handfasting ceremony” (wedding).

Circe is welcomed into the Derwydd village and is set to work under the tutelage of the weaver as apprentice and time passes. Conflict and turmoil begin to increase, however, with the news of a witch hunter who has steadily been working his way through the colonies causing fear and forces a plan of action where Circe will be set in Boston to help conduct arrivals safely to seclusion in the New World. In the turmoil that follows, Circe will get to know the man who’ll steal her heart.

I love that the author creates such an authentic and unique storyline, putting you in the century with period names, costumes, language, food, and customs. And so much information about the dark period surrounding the hunt for witches and origins. Dialogue seems so faithful to the time and the well-plotted storyline lends an insecure tension–where to flee next?

I was given a copy of this ebook download by the author in exchange for a read and review. These are my unbiased opinions. Recommended to any who enjoy historical fiction, fantasy, stories of the Celts, the flight from religious persecution, and magical manifestations.

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Book Details:

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Lillis and Jaymes

  • ISBN-10:1987462629
  • ISBN-13:978-1987462623
  • ASIN: B07CMHCNZS

Print Length: 291 pages
Publication Date: April 23, 2018
Source: Author Request

Title Link: The Firefly WitchThe Firefly Witch

Amanda Hughes authorThe Author: Bestselling and award-winning author, Amanda Hughes is a “Walter Mitty”, spending more time in heroic daydreams than the real world. At last, she found an outlet writing adventures about bold women through the centuries. Well known for her genre-busting books, she is the winner of the Gems National Medal for Writing, featured in USA Today and is nominated for the 2017 Minnesota Book Award. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, and when she isn’t off tilting windmills, she lives and writes in Minnesota. Don’t miss these page-turning novels for readers who like historical fiction with a just bit of a love story. All of her books are stand-alone and can be read in any order.

The Bold Women of the 17th Century: The Firefly Witch Book 1

The Bold Women Series of the 18th Century: Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry Book 1 The Pride of the King Book 2 The Sword of the Banshee Book 3

The Bold Women Series of the 19th Century: The Grand Masquerade Book 1 Vagabond Wind Book 2 The House of Five Fortunes Book 3

The Bold Women Series of the 20th Century: The Looking Glass Goddess Book 1

Interested in her new books or a free novelette? Go to http://www.amandahughesauthor.com

©2019 V Williams V Williams

The Image Seeker by Amanda Hughes – a #BookReview #bestselling author

Five Stars Five stars

The Image Seeker by Amanda HughesTitle: The Image Seeker (Bold Women of the 20th Century Book 2) by Amanda Hughes

Genre: US Historical Fiction, Cultural Heritage Fiction

  • ASIN: B07SQ5GGDQ

Print Length: 328 pages

Publication Date: HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY-June 20, 2019!

Source: Author request

Title Link: The Image Seeker

Book Blurb:

The Dust Bowl 1936-Battered and near death, Billie Bassett gazes up at the stars from the door of a boxcar wondering if she can go on. Yet, in spite of the violence and privation riding the rails, she endures and becomes one of the finest photojournalists in the nation.
From humble beginnings in an Indian boarding school in Minnesota to high society in New York City, Billie experiences it all. Her pioneering camera work attracts the attention of a group of elite New York journalists who catapult Billie to fame and fortune, but it comes at a price. Her talents are required in the war effort, and she must travel undercover, deep into Nazi Germany as a courier. By her side is the charismatic and acclaimed journalist, Max Rothman, Billie’s harshest critic and dearest friend. But Max does not reveal to her his own clandestine and dangerous agenda.
The Image Seeker is a tale of lost youth, strength, and rebirth set in one of our country’s most tragic eras, The Great Depression and in the cauldron of hatred that was Nazi Germany.

My Review:

The Image Seeker by Amanda HughesRest assured, you need look no further than author Amanda Hughes for an authentic, historically accurate, and poignant historical fiction novel. They consistently touch all the right buttons!

The female protagonists in the Bold Women series do not try to project a super-hero feminist. They are vulnerable but persevering, subtle but daring, quiet but strong, using their native intelligence and quick-witted response to the given situation. I love that they could also be you–or me. This is the second in the Twentieth Century series, but each of these books can be read as a standalone.

Billie Bassett is separated from her family in Minnesota at age 5 and sent to an Indian boarding school to integrate her into (white) society. Not allowed to speak her native language, she is fed, sheltered, and educated–until a tragic occurrence forces her decision to escape. She has been lucky in that during several summers she was welcomed into a German farm family exchanging domestic help for another kind of education. And something else–love and support. It is through the encouragement and generosity of this couple she will further her new and growing interest in photography.

The storyline grips from the first page, grabs your attention, and does not let go. Much of what I thought I knew of this period in our history is opened up, laid out, examined in intensity I’d yet to visualize. Billie is instructed in the ways of life on the rails–teaching her the signs and symbols of hobo communication, the “jungles,” protection, hunger. It’s an amazing lesson and combined with the languages she’s learned by immersion, invaluable.

But there are always forks in the road and each that the talented Billie has boldly chosen or fought for has led inexorably to the path that would lead to achievement, independence, even a wealth of sorts–dollars no less than those of connections. The connections lead to a dangerous mission for her country at the 1936 Games of the XI Olympiad in Berlin, witnessing the rise of Nazi Germany, and while she steadfastly refuses romance in her life, it finds her, unbidden.

The well-plotted narrative builds upon itself, leading you to cringe more than once over what will happen next, and scared that you think you might know. Dialogue is natural and the storyline easy to follow, though trust me that there will be a few unexpected twists along the way. The conclusion is carefully drawn pulling in threads after a harrowing escape, smoothing out the ripples, allowing the adrenaline to settle back down.

I received the ebook download from the author for a read and review and the review is my own and independent opinion. I’m a big fan of this award-winning and bestselling author. (Read my interview with Amanda here.) I thoroughly enjoyed The Image Seeker and found SOO many parallels in my life–as well as I’m quite sure you might as well. (My paternal grandmother born on a Chippewa reservation and maternal grandmother in Minnesota.) The Depression generation suffered through some horrible deprivation and saw many of those ingrained habits handed down to succeeding generations. (Save everything! Rugs out of old nylons–oh yeah.) Many rode the rails and we have a legacy of country/folk music to prove it. Trains have always held a fascination hard to deny–the power of the behemoths–and the legacy they spin. So many stories. Whether or not you are a historical fiction buff, you’ll love this fascinating narrative. Highly recommended!

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Amanda Hughes authorThe Author: Bestselling and award-winning author, Amanda Hughes is a “Walter Mitty”, spending more time in heroic daydreams than the real world. At last, she found an outlet writing adventures about bold women through the centuries. Well known for her genre-busting books, she is the winner of the Gems National Medal for Writing, featured in USA Today and is nominated for the 2017 Minnesota Book Award. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, and when she isn’t off tilting windmills, she lives and writes in Minnesota. Don’t miss these page-turning novels for readers who like historical fiction with a just bit of a love story. All of her books are stand-alone and can be read in any order.

The Bold Women of the 17th Century: The Firefly Witch Book 1

The Bold Women Series of the 18th Century: Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry Book 1 The Pride of the King Book 2 The Sword of the Banshee Book 3

The Bold Women Series of the 19th Century: The Grand Masquerade Book 1 Vagabond Wind Book 2 The House of Five Fortunes Book 3

The Bold Women Series of the 20th Century: The Looking Glass Goddess Book 1

Interested in her new books or a free novelette? Go to http://www.amandahughesauthor.com

©2019 V Williams Blog author

Reading Ireland – Author Amanda Hughes Interview

Author Amanda Hughes Interview

I am thrilled today to present an interview with author Amanda Hughes who has written edge-of-your-seat adventures about bold women of the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th Centuries.

The Bold Women Series

To highlight the March, Reading Ireland theme, I just want to mention that one of my favorites from the 18th Century Series, Beyond the Cliffs of Kerry, is set, in part, in Ireland, as is The Sword of the Banshee.

This theme, Bold Women, is so timely. While the stories include just a touch of romance, the women are no shrinking violets. They are strong, independent, and capable main characters that hold your interest and quickly get you invested.

Thank you, so much, Amanda, for joining me today! Let’s talk about your Bold Women Series to begin:

You began your Bold Women Series with the Bold Women of the 18th Century and wrote three in the series, three in the 19th Century, one in the 17th Century, and one in the 20th Century in April of 2017. I get the feeling we are due another shortly for the 20th Century. Can you tell us about it?

You are so right. I am just completing Book Two in the “Bold Women of the 20th Century Series”. After listening to my father’s stories about riding the rails during the Great Depression, I decided to write a book about a bold woman who rides the rails in the 1930s. Her adventures take her back and forth across the country and eventually she becomes an accomplished photojournalist. The book culminates in Berlin when she has to smuggle a renowned scientist out of Nazi Germany.

WOW! That does sound exciting and I’m looking forward to the release already, apparently scheduled for April. We’ll be looking for it!

Do you have any plans for writing a standalone?

All the books in the Bold Women Series are standalones. Each one is set in a different time period and about a different woman. Sometimes readers ask me if I am interested in writing a series about men. So far, I have had no wish to write about men’s adventures. It has been done to death! We need books about audacious women.

Do you dream about your characters or see them in a scene you can use?

Yes! Sometimes I do dream about my characters, but so far they have been in those odd, surrealistic settings. Unfortunately, there has been nothing I can use in my books. But I do know that my best writing happens in the morning right after I wake up. Maybe my brain is still in creative overdrive.

The “Bold Women” series is compelling and an empowering and topical theme. How did the distinctive sub-title come about?

It was not something I set out to do. It sort of evolved as a promotional tool. Knowing that readers love a series, I decided to pull my first three or four books together in some way. I had to find a common theme, and it was easy to identify. First, my novels were always about women in a historical setting and second these women were plucky, fearless, and often reckless survivors. They were bold women.

Do you carefully lay out an outline to follow or let it flow and see where it goes?

I know many writers follow an outline, and that it works well for them, but I do not. I have no idea where my book is going. My characters whisper their stories in my ear, and I write them down—rather like that classic movie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The book is as much of a surprise for me as it is for the reader.

Do you research popular female and male names for the century of the book? How do you create your character’s names?

That is such a fun question! No one has ever asked me that before. A lot of research going into the creation of my main character’s name. And yes, I try to keep the name within the historical context. I also want the name to reflect my protagonist’s character. In my most recent book, my main character goes on to work as a photojournalist, so I wanted her name to sound like a reporter, short and snappy. I named her Billie Bassett. The name of the love interest in the book is equally important. I research baby names popular in that particular portion of the century, and then I run my choices past my daughters for final approval. They never mince words and have no problem telling me if it is a dumb name.

Do you look for real characters in the century that you can loosely base your novel on? Which book closely follows a real story?

So far I have not based, even loosely, any of my “Bold Women” on anyone who actually lived. My secondary characters though are sometimes real people. Frances Marion, also named “The Swamp Fox,” shows up in The Sword of the Banshee, and the villain in The Looking Glass Goddess is based on Kid Cann, a notorious mobster in Minnesota.

Once begun, how long does it generally take to write your books?

Always around a year.

Do you shoot for a total word count in your novels?

I try to keep it under 100,000 words, but I am not always successful. Much over that is overwhelming for a reader. I know it is for me!

Do you set a daily word count goal or is there an average?

No, whatever I do in a day, I do in a day.

The Looking Glass Goddess by Amanda HughesWhat kind of awards have you received?

The Looking Glass Goddess was nominated for The Minnesota Book Award in 2017 which made me very happy, and I was awarded the Gems National Award for Writing.

It appears you’ve had more than one designer create your covers. Who are you currently using and do they receive a synopsis of the book in order to more creatively fit the cover? 

Most of my book covers have been designed by The Killion Group. They have a detailed questionnaire for writers to fill out before the design process begins and then Kim (the cover designer) works directly with you to make sure your vision for the cover matches hers.

And now personally, Amanda, have you been able to retire and write full time?

I write full time and love every minute of it.

What did you do before discovering your writing talent?

I have a degree in Therapeutic Recreation and for many years I worked in mental health settings, from locked units in psychiatric hospitals to group homes with developmentally disabled people. You can see these themes again and again in my books and in my choice of characters especially in The Pride of the King.

Family? Children and/or grandchildren?

I have three children who are now grown and my first grandchild just came along five months ago—a little girl. It is as much fun as everyone says it is.

Where are you currently living?

I live in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Do you read all your reviews?

I try to read every one, and I really appreciate them.

Where can we easily find you? Your own website and social media?

I LOVE hearing from my readers. I will always respond to you if you write a note. I am at www.amandahughesauthor.com and you can find me on Facebook as well at https://www.facebook.com/amanda.hermannhughes

I can’t thank you enough for inviting me to your blog. What great questions. I hope it was as much fun to read as it was to write!

It certainly has been for me! It has been my absolute pleasure and I so appreciate the time you took to be with us today. To my faithful readers and followers, please check out the Bold Women Series by Amanda Hughes and enjoy a woman protagonist who can hold her own against the world. Click the link on one of the books noted above or view her Amazon author page to see all her books. We would both love to hear your thoughts!

About the Author

Amanda Hughes authorBestselling and award-winning author, Amanda Hughes is a “Walter Mitty”, spending more time in heroic daydreams than the real world. At last, she found an outlet writing adventures about bold women through the centuries. Well known for her genre-busting books, she is the winner of the Gems National Medal for Writing, featured in USA Today and is nominated for the 2017 Minnesota Book Award. Amanda is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, and when she isn’t off tilting windmills, she lives and writes in Minnesota. Don’t miss these page-turning novels for readers who like historical fiction with a just bit of a love story. All of her books are stand-alone and can be read in any order.

©2019 V Williams Blog author