Monday, August 15, 2022

Spotlight and Excerpt of The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais



A story of a coven of modern-day witches and a magical heist gone wrong.

Fiction / Magical Realism

Publishes on August 23, 2022 by MIRA 


Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. 

All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby—one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years—will surely be their salvation.

But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. 

In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.

The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. 

Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. 

Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. 

Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.



Saturday, October 23rd


Half an hour before the alarm will be sounded for the first time in decades—drawing four frantic old women and a geriatric crow from all corners of the sprawling manor—Ursula is awoken by insistent knocking, like giant knuckles rapping against glass. It’s an ominous sign, to be sure. The first of many.

Trying to rid herself of the sticky cobwebs of sleep, Ursula throws back the covers, groaning as her joints loudly voice their displeasure. She’s slept in the buff, as is her usual habit, and as she pads across the room, she’s more naked than the day she was born (being, as she is, one of those rare babies who came into the world fully encased in a caul).

Upon reaching the window, the cause of the ruckus is immediately obvious to Ursula; one of the Angel Oak’s sturdy branches is thumping against her third-floor window. Strong winds whip through the tree, making it shimmy and shake, giving the impression that it’s espousing the old adage to dance like no one’s watching, a quality that rather has to be admired in a tree. Either that, or it’s trembling uncontrollably with fear.

The forest, encroaching at the garden’s boundary, looks disquieted. It hangs its head low, bowing to a master who’s ordered it to bend the knee. As the charcoal sky churns, not a bird to be seen, the trees in the wood whisper incessantly. Whether they’re secrets or warnings, Ursula can’t tell, which only unsettles her further.

That infernal billboard that the city recently erected across from the manor property—with its aggressive gigantic lettering shouting, ‘Critchley Hackle Mega Complex Coming Soon!’—snaps in the wind, issuing small cracks of thunder. A storm is on its way, that much is clear. You don’t need to have Ivy’s particular powers to know as much.

Turning her back on the ominous view, Ursula heads for the calendar to mark off another mostly sleepless night. It seems impossible that after so many of them—night upon night, strung up after each other seemingly endlessly—only two remain until Ruby’s return, upon which Ursula will discover her fate.

Either Ruby knows or she doesn’t.

And if she does know, there’s the chance that she’ll want nothing more to do with Ursula. The thought makes her breath hitch, the accompanying stab of pain almost too much to bear. The best she can hope for under the circumstances is that Ruby will forgive her, releasing Ursula from the invisible prison her guilt has sentenced her to.

Too preoccupied with thoughts of Ruby to remember to don her robe, Ursula takes a seat at her mahogany escritoire. She lights a cone of mugwort and sweet laurel incense, watching as the tendril of smoke unfurls, inscribing itself upon the air. Inhaling the sweet scent, she picks up a purple silk pouch and unties it, spilling the contents onto her palm.

The tarot cards are all frayed around the edges, worn down from countless hours spent jostling through Ursula’s hands. Despite their shabbiness, they crackle with electricity, sparks flying as she shuffles them. After cutting the deck in three, Ursula begins laying the cards down, one after the other, on top of the heptagram she carved into the writing desk’s surface almost eighty years ago.

The first card, placed in the center, is The Tower. Unfortunate souls tumble from the top of a fortress that’s been struck by lightning, flames engulfing it. Ursula experiences a jolt of alarm at the sight of it for The Tower has to signify the manor; and anything threatening their home, threatens them all.

The second card, placed above the first at the one o’clock position, can only represent Tabitha. It’s the Ten of Swords, depicting a person lying face down with ten swords buried in their back. The last time Ursula saw the card, she’d made a mental note to make an appointment with her acupuncturist, but now, following so soon after The Tower, it makes her shift nervously.

The third, fourth and fifth cards, placed at the three o’clock, four-thirty and six o’clock positions, depict a person (who must be Queenie) struggling under too heavy a load; a heart pierced by swords (signifying Ursula); and a horned beast towering above a man and woman who are shackled together (obviously Jezebel). Ursula whimpers to see so many dreaded cards clustered together.

Moving faster now, she lays out the sixth, seventh and eighth cards at the seven-thirty, nine and eleven o’ clock positions. Ursula gasps as she studies the man crying in his bed, nine swords hovering above him (which can only denote Ursula’s guilt as it pertains to Ruby); the armored skeleton on horseback (representing the town of Critchley Hackle); and the two bedraggled souls trudging barefoot through the snow (definitely Ivy). Taking in all eight sinister cards makes Ursula tremble much like the Angel Oak.

Based on the spread, Ursula absolutely should sound the alarm immediately, but she’s made mistakes in the past—lapses in judgment that resulted in terrible consequences—and so she wants to be a hundred percent certain first.

She shuffles the cards again, laying them down more deliberately this time, only to see the exact same shocking formation, the impending threat even more vivid than before. It couldn’t be any clearer if the Goddess herself had sent a homing pigeon with a memo bearing the message: Calamity is on its way! It’s knocking at the window, just waiting to be let in!

And yet, Ursula still doesn’t sound the alarm, because that’s what doubt does; it slips through the chinks in our defenses, eroding all sense of self until the only voice that should matter becomes the one that we don’t recognize anymore, the one we trust the least.

As a result of this estrangement from herself, Ursula has developed something of a compulsion, needing to triple check the signs before she calls attention to them, and so she stands and grabs her wand. She makes her way down the hallway past Ruby’s and Jezebel’s bedrooms at a bit of a clip before descending the west wing stairs.

It’s just before she reaches Ivy’s glass conservatory that Ursula breaks out into a panicked run.

Excerpted from The Witches of Moonshyne Manor @ 2022 by Bianca Marais, used with permission by MIRA Books.



“Bianca Marais is a genius” — Ann Patchett, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"The Witches of Moonshyne Manor is an engaging, hilarious, and utterly charming take on the modern witch story. I loved every page." – Lana Harper, NYT bestselling author of Payback's a Witch.

"The new 
Practical Magic for a generation of women who value sisterhood, friendship and fierce, fabulous feminism above all else. It was an absolute delight from start to finish, and the kind of book I’ve been craving for years. Escapist and hilarious but also bold and incisive, this novel has shot to the top of my list of favourites."— Marissa Stapley, New York Times bestselling author of Lucky

"In this enchanting novel we meet a coven of misfit witches—a sisterhood as diverse as it is powerful, though struggling with many of the same issues that face non-magical women: in particular, what it means to be an aging woman in a society enamored with youth. Brimming with magic, mystery and meaning, prepare to be bewitched.—Karma Brown, #1 bestselling author of
Recipe for a Perfect Wife

“Picture it. Critchley Hackle, 2021. A group of older women living together to share expenses and lean on each other. Sound familiar? But with these delightful witchy equivalent of The Golden Girls, it's not just the cheesecake that has healing powers.”- Steven Rowley, bestselling author of
Lily and the Octopus and The Guncle, a Goodreads Choice Awards finalist for Novel of the Year.

"Richly imagined, gorgeously written, and completely addictive, this exuberant novel is a celebration of womanhood at its brightest, funniest, most honest, and most kind. Bianca has written the kind of insightful, empowering story you can't wait to share with a friend."
#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs

"A quirky
Golden Girls with wands that explores women’s empowerment, friendship, and loyalty and addresses racial equality, identity, and gender fluidity. A timely, fun modern-day fable about women who refuse to conform." Library Journal, starred review

"Resonant and relevant in its exploration of gender expression, race and racial justice, and age and aging, all with central characters full of wit, heart, and magical secrets."
Booklist--This text refers to the paperback edition.





PHOTO CREDIT: Brendan Fisher


Bianca Marais cohosts the popular podcast The Sh*t No One Tells You About Writing, aimed at emerging writers.


She was named the winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award for Creative Writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies in 2021.


She is the author of two novels, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh, as well as the Audible Original The Prynne Viper. 


She lives in Toronto with her husband and fur babies.


It's Monday! What Are YOU Reading? - 8/15/2022

I hope you had a great reading week.
This is a weekly meme hosted by Kathryn at BOOK DATE!

Post the books completed, the books you are currently reading, and the books you hope to finish at some point.
Books Completed:
THE WINTER ORPHANS by Kristin Beck - review will be on September 14.
An amazing read....heartbreaking, but so good and based on true events and real people.
AN AFFAIR OF SPIES by Ronald H. Balson - review will be on September 13.
Another amazing read by Mr. Balson.
THE WAYS WE HIDE by Kristina McMorris - review will be on September 6.
Marvelous research, great characters, but a bit too long - could have been shorter.
THE COUPLE AT NO. 9 by Claire Douglas - review will be on August 14. good.  It was a bit confusing at first, but wow...lots of twists, turns, and secrets.
THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman - review will be on August 31.
Excellent historical fiction.
TICKET by Freya Sampson - review will be on August 30.
A sweet, uplifting read. 
TAHOE MOON by Todd Borg - review will be on August 20. 
THE BLAME GAME by Sandie Jones - review will be on August 16.
Another good one by Sandi Jones.
THE EDGE OF SUMMER by Viola Shipman - review is in the book's title.
Absolutely LOVED this book.  This is Wade's best yet.  Don't miss it.
THE FORGOTTEN COTTAGE by Courtney Ellis - review will be on August 13.
A mystery and family saga...enjoyable. 
LONG GONE by Joanna Schaffhausen - review will be on August 12.
Another fab read by this author...keeps you guessing.
STAY AWAKE by Megan Goldin - review will be on August 11.
Ohhh....this is a good one.  Don't miss it!!
THE WAR LIBRARIAN by Addison Armstrong - review will be on August 10.
A little disappointing....dragged on.
THE ORPHANS OF MERSEA HOUSE by Marty Wingate - review is in the book's title.
Sweet characters and a sweet storyline.
YOU'RE INVITED by Amanda Jayatissa - review is in the book's title.
Not a favorite...let me know what you think if you read it.
THE MAGIC OF LEMON DROP PIE by Rachel Linden - review is in the book's title.
A sweet, heartwarming, uplifting read with a character you will fall in love with.
THE CODE BREAKERS SECRET by Sara Ackerman - review is in the book's title.
Interesting look into the codebreakers in Hawaii during WWII.
THE SECRET KEEPER by Siobhan Curham - review is in the book's title.
An excellent history lesson, but it did drag at times.
SUGAR AND SALT by Susan Wiggs - review is in the book's title.
Oh so good as always!!
THE LIBRARIAN SPY by Madeleine Martin - review is in the book's title.
Another fabulous read by Ms. Martin.
THE NEW NEIGHBOR by Karen Cleveland - review is in the book's title.
Not a favorite...didn't like the espionage aspect.
Book Currently Reading:
THE BOOK HATERS' BOOK CLUB by Gretchen Anthony - review will be on September 15.
Books Up Next:
THE MATCHMAKER'S GIFT by Lynda Cohen Loigman - review will be on September 20.
Gorgeous Cover!!
THE CATCH by Alison Fairbrother - review will be on September 21.
MOTHER DAUGHTER TRAITOR SPY by Susan Elia MacNeal - review will be on September 22. 
THE FORGOTTEN GIRL by Daco Auffenorde - review will be on September 30.
DIRTY MARTINI by Daco S. Auffenorde - review will be in October - no date specified yet.

HESTER by Laurie Lico Albanese - review will be on October 4.
MAD HONEY by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan - review will be on October 5.
THE NIGHT SHIP by Jess Kidd - review will be on October 6.
THE CRADLES OF THE REICH by Jennifer Coburn - review will be on October 11.
THAT SUMMER IN BERLIN by Lecia Cornwall - review will be on October 12.
UNDER A VEILED MOON by Karen Odden - review will be on October 13.
SHE'S MISSING by K. E. Heaton - review will be on October 14.
IN THE DARK WE FORGET by Sandra SG Wong - review will be on October 17.
THE FORGOTTEN BOOKSHOP IN PARIS by Daisy Wood - review will be on October 27.
BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME by Jacqueline Bublitz - review will be on November 1.
THE PRISONER by B. A. Paris - review will be on November 2.
DEAD AND GONDOLA by Ann Claire - review will be on November 3.
THE LINDBERGH NANNY by Mariah Fredericks - review will be on November 16.
THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT by Kimberly Belle - review will be on November 29.
THE WIDOW by Kaira Rouda - review will be on November 15.

THE WIDOWMAKER by Hannah Morrissey - review will be on December 6.
ONE LAST SECRET by Adele Parks - review will be on December 27.
THE VILLA by Rachel Hawkins - review will be on January 3, 2023.
THE NIGHT TRAVELERS by Armando Lucas Correa - review will be on January 11, 2023.
REEF ROAD by Deborah Goodrich - review will be on January 12, 2023.
KILLER STORY by Matt Witten - review will be January 17, 2023.
WHERE COYOTES HOWL by Sandra Dallas - review will be on April 18, 2023.