Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Author Interview: Jay Kristoff

Following the publication of the second book of The Nevernight Chronicles, Godsgrave,  I had the chance to catch up with author Jay Kristoff and ask him a few questions. A big thank you to Jay for answering my questions, and to Lara Wallace for facilitating the interview!

1)      The Nevernight Chronicles are extremely dark, with a deft touch of morbid humour. Do you have any books or writers that have particularly inspired this taste for the shadows?
I started reading Stephen King when I was ten, so it’s all his fault, really. I was a big horror fan in my youth, I read a lot of Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, those kind of guys. I was a mad Anne Rice fan, too. The morbid humor is all me, though.

2)      Mia's world seems to be quite inspired by Italy - could you talk about the importance of Italy to you?
Italy is one of my favorite countries in the entire world. My wife and I got married in Rome, we go back there every 5 years. Venice is probably my favorite city on the planet, and studying Ancient Roman history is one of my favorite pastimes. If you need someone to bore your dinner party guests with hour long conversations about the Julian dynasty, I’m your guy.

3)      Throughout Nevernight and Godsgrave, there is a narrator of sorts stringing things together, giving the reader little asides and footnotes. Is this narrator based on you, or perhaps another character of your own creation?
The narrator is a character you’ve already met in the books. No clues as to who it might be though – you find out in book 3!

4)      You have talked before about letting your characters take the lead sometimes - do you find Mia, in particular, to be fairly... headstrong in how she wants her story to be told?
Definitely. Writing the end of Nevernight was one of the hardest experiences of my career. I struggled with it for months. I had a definite idea of how the book should end, but I couldn’t make it work. But as soon as I threw that idea away and let Mia go where she wanted, I finished the book in a couple of weeks.
She knows what she wants :)

5)      If you were Darkin (for all I know, you are... perhaps I will keep a sharp eye on your shadow if I ever meet you!), what form do you think your shadow-friend would take?
Awesome question. I’d like to say Wolf, because that’s kinda badass. But I imagine it’d be something like a Jack Russell Terrier :P

6)    I really REALLY want to talk about things that happen in Godsgrave, because ARGHHH, but in the interests of not spoiling the ride for readers, let me just ask: are you enjoying your time with these characters? (I am so excited and sad that there is one more book to go...)
GODSGRAVE was amazing to write, yes! Normally book 2 is a struggle to write, but for some reason, GG was just great fun. I think changing the setting helped, and I knew I had some massive revalations in the pipeline that would make a big ending. But the characters I met along the way, and watching Mia grow as a character was enormous fun.

And finally, some quick questions!
What are your current favourites?
I’m currently reading WARCROSS by the amazing Marie Lu!
Jack Daniels for life.
...loving about the current season?It’s spring down here, so it’s pretty badass all the way.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions Jay!

Godsgrave: The Nevernight Chronicles, Book #2 is published by HarperCollins Australia and available at all good bookstores and online.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: The Little Library Cookbook by Kate Young

Title: The Little Library Cookbook
Author: Kate Young
Publication Date: 1 October 2017

Synopsis: "Paddington Bear's marmalade, a Neapolitan pizza with Elena Ferrante, afternoon tea at Manderley... The Little Library Cookbook provides over 100 delicious recipes inspired by the author's favourite works of fiction.

Beautifully photographed and divided into chapters to take you through the day - from Before Noon breakfasts and Around Noon lunches, Family Dinners and Midnight Feasts - food writer Kate Young captures the magic and wonder of meals enjoyed by some of our best-loved characters. This is an essential addition to any fiction-lover's kitchen."

My thoughts: To borrow from the synopsis, Kate Young most definitely does capture the magic and wonder of all of these foods, and the characters. The photography is so spot on in this book that it accompanies the recipes and words so well. The overall feeling of the book is thus ridiculously wonderful and cozy and just... LOVELY.

Each recipe is introduced using a small part of the book it has come from, usually the part that mentions the food itself, so you have this little bit of connection to the book at the start of each recipe to sigh over. Young's little bits of writing throughout the book also really brings the whole thing together - from talking about baking disasters she has had, to memories of her own from reading (p.s. Kate, if you're reading this, I definitely grew up with my face in a book, so I feel like we have had similar educations...), she really creates an atmosphere of reflection and nostalgia. Even for books that I haven't actually read yet.

Speaking of that, I have now added quite a few books to my to-be-read list because of this cookbook. Young's celebration of writing and food and the memories that both can evoke is contagious, and I can see myself referring back to this book not just for a recipe, but for a book recommendation. Highly, HIGHLY recommend.

{I received a review copy of this book from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'I have always been a highly suggestible, hungry reader. When discovering a new book, or revisiting an old favourite, my mind wanders, imagining what the food the characters are enjoying would taste like. A passing mention of a ripe summer strawberry, a fragrant roast chicken, or a warming mug of hot chocolate sends me straight to the kitchen, book still in hand.'

You would like this book if: You love bookish recipes, or cooking from books of your past; you love absolutely beautiful books that make you feel cozy-comfy.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I would say a nice black tea, perhaps with the Hunny & Rosemary Cakes from Winnie-the-Pooh?

Rating:  10/10

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Spoonie Musings: An Unusual Moment

I am sitting at my desk, reading blog posts (by other people, for once), and I just realised something - at this moment in time, I am experiencing no pain. I am almost always in some level of pain: usually from my stomach, sometimes my back or neck, sometimes my head or my eyes. Right now, I feel quite tired, and a little strained in my eyes from looking at a screen without my glasses (I really should go get them...), but I am experiencing no pain.

This is a really bizarre moment for me to realise, and I am not sure what to make of it. I feel like it is just a case of 'this too shall pass' - pain passes on or changes, no pain can change to much pain later on. Practising non-attachment seems to be a good way to go. But it is still nice to notice, and to be grateful for this moment.

Being sick for sixteen years (yes, it has been that long) has shown me quite a lot of things. And I still feel like I am confused as ever. But moments like this, where I can just sit back and recognise how far I have come - to be able to recognise that I'm not in pain, to be able to be grateful for that instead of raging against the world for not making it like this all the time, to recognise that it will most likely pass on - this is a really lovely thing.

Sometimes life feels like a selection of windows, connected together by a great long hallway. Snapshots of things that happen in my life that are drastic or huge. But I am finding space now to recognise the times in between those windows (when I am just in hallway, if you will keep following me down this rather odd analogy) and to appreciate them. Yes, I have been very sick in the last couple of months, but I've still been doing things. I've still been educating myself about diet and fertility, I've still been thinking about what my dreams are and, if not actively being capable of moving towards them, managing to keep them in my mind instead of dismissing them out of hand.

The in between moments can be really gorgeous, if you can stop and take a moment to see them. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.

Love to all who read.

Book Review: The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

Title: The Mitford Murders
Author: Jessica Fellowes
Series: Mitford Murders #1
Publication Date: 14th September 2017

Synopsis: "Christmas 1919
Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping London, and most of all her dangerous uncle. Her salvation is a position within the Mitford household at Asthall Manor. There she becomes nursery maid, chaperone and confidante to the Mitford sisters, especially sixteen-year-old Nancy - an acerbic, bright young woman in love with stories.

But then a nurse - Florence Nightingale Shore, goddaughter of her famous namesake - is killed on a train in broad daylight, and Louisa and Nancy find themselves entangled in the crimes of a murderer who will do anything to hide their secret..."

My thoughts: This book was such a fun ride. The writing creates such a lovely, cozy atmosphere, even when there is tension occurring during the scene (seriously, Jessica Fellowes, how do you do that?). The characters are all really interesting, and I absolutely loved Guy and Louisa - their characters in particular made me feel so happy and intrigued.

Honestly, I only kind of knew that the Mitfords were an actual family before I went into this book. But, rather than taking me away from the family or making them seem like caricatures, I am quite interested in reading more about them, and giving Nancy Mitford's books a go. I think this book (this series of books, too) come across as a really nice homage to the Mitford family, and build the reader's interest in them. [Of course, with so little knowledge about the Mitfords, perhaps others may have a different experience.]

Overall, this book comes across as the epitome of the 'cozy mystery'. I highly recommend it if you are in the mood - particularly you Northern Hemispherians, with your autumnal weather (not that I am at all jealous).

{I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

You would like this book if: You enjoy a nice cozy mystery; you want to read a little bit of historical fiction with the Mitfords in it!

Tea to drink while reading this book: Oh, just a nicely made Darjeeling, I should think.

Rating:  7/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review: Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

Title: Nevermoor
Author: Jessica Townsend
Series: Nevermoor #1
Publication Date: 10th October 2017

Synopsis: "Morrigan Crow is cursed.
Born on an unlucky day, she is blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks - and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on Eventide.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away to a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to pass four difficult and dangerous trials - or she'll have to leave the city and confront her deadly fate."

My thoughts: This book was so magical, so beautiful, so... wundrous. (Nevermoor jokes... they shall soon be a thing.) I was unexpectedly sent a proof copy of this and I honestly could hug the person who did that - I was in a bit of a slump at the time, not really seeing magic anywhere, and this book lifted me up, dusted me off, and then thrilled and beguiled me with tales of smoking rooms, changing walls, chandeliers that grow, and dragon-riding best friends.

Be honest - just that little description there has you a little intrigued, am I right?

What Townsend has created her is a beautiful book full of whimsy and delight, and just a little bit of underlying threat and fear. Morrigan Crow is such an interesting main character, one struggling to understand the sudden turn her life has taken, and I found that I related to her so easily. The trials, and Jupiter North, and the other characters that appear in this book are just all so ...I am running out of words. They are larger-than-life and most (most) are absolutely huggable.

Townsend's writing style is smooth and a dream to read - nothing jarred me out of my experience of reading this. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading it, and being eager to get back to it pretty much all the time. Even now, as I write this, I am gazing at its beautiful cover thinking about how long I should wait before I read it again, because maybe I missed something or didn't appreciate it fully the first time round...

This book is a charming romp, and I highly recommend it. I have already talked it up to basically anyone who will listen. Please give it a look!

[I received an unsolicited copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: ''And is your room all right?'
'Y-yes, of course!' she stammered. 'At least it was when I left it. I swear.''

You would like this book if: Magical, comfortable, cozy reads filled with whimsy and wonder. (If you don't like those kinds of things, I am not entirely sure we can be friends.)

Tea to drink while reading this book: Ohh a cozy hot chocolate, or some quite milky tea for comfort.

Rating:  10/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review: Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, and Giovanni Rigano

Title: Illegal
Authors: Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
Illustrator: Giovanni Rigano

Publication Date: 5th October 2017

Synopsis: "This is a powerful and timely story about one boy's epic journey across Africa to Europe, a graphic novel for all children with glorious colour artwork throughout. From Eoin Colfer, previously Irish Children's Laureate, and the team behind his bestselling Artemis Fowl graphic novels.

Ebo: alone.

His sister left months ago. Now his brother has disappeared too, and Ebo knows it can only be to make the hazardous journey to Europe.

Ebo's epic journey takes him across the Sahara Desert to the dangerous streets of Tripoli, and finally out to the merciless sea. But with every step he holds on to his hope for a new life, and a reunion with his sister."

My thoughts: Oh my goodness, this book broke me. I haven't sobbed over a book in a while. What the blurb says above is so right - this is an extremely powerful story with a very strong and timely message: the things that Ebo goes through in this book, others go through all the time. The very title, Illegal, speaks to the way we in the West, in particular, tend to think of people trying to find a new life for themselves. As the epigraph from Elie Wiesel says at the start of the book: "...no human being is illegal."

Ebo is a lovely, surprisingly gentle (surprising because of the things he goes through) person, and we follow him, flashing forward and backward, as he attempts to make his way to Europe. I can barely write about this book without disappearing into thought, and feeling tears push at the back of my eyes. The authors of this book have amalgamated the stories of countless immigrants to create Ebo's story so, while it is a work of fiction, every event in the book has happened to others, and continues to occur today.

I think this book is one that many people should read, not just children (which I believe are the target audience). It is eye-opening, and deeply sad, but also contains a glimmer of hope. It makes me want to help people more, and made me rethink things quite a bit about my own life. And that is quite amazing.

[I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!]

You would like this book if: You enjoy beautiful graphic novels with impactful storylines.

Rating:  10/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Spoonie Musings || Cysts and Fear

Hi all,

I am feeling quite thoughtful today. It's a welcome change from the weeks and weeks of brain fog so thick that I forget what I am talking about mid-way through a sentence (my husband, thankfully, is very understanding when this happens).

I am trying to see my life from the outside for a bit, and I have to say it is a bit rough. I have let fear swallow me for a little while. I have just started to pull myself out of the fear quicksand in the last week or so, and look around me a little bit. I'm so glad I am able to do that.

What is happening now, in my head, is a kind of weird mesh of old fear-driven thoughts and a great wash of gratitude for the life I have. It makes for some pretty weird moments - a sweep of fear over possibly dying or having to deal with cysts rupturing on my ovaries for the rest of my life, then a great heart-sigh of gratitude for my husband and everything he does for me. I am a bundle of emotions at any given point of the day.

A couple of nights ago, I made the mistake of looking up ovarian cyst ruptures on the internet, mostly to see what treatments exist. What I found was an outpouring of fear and grief from other women who had experienced them - some who get them even worse than I do. One who waited for hours before going to the hospital, despite the pain not going away, to discover that she had been bleeding internally and had to receive a blood transfusion.

I have been receiving a lot of odd and sometimes conflicting information about cyst ruptures from doctors and nurses - one doctor assured me that I would never get internal bleeding from my cysts rupturing (although they did also mis-diagnose me at the time); another completely unable to give me advice on what I could do, but assisted me with stronger painkillers and a referral for an ultrasound.

The fact is, I am living in a place of fear almost all the time. But I have realised that I just can't let it overtake me. I do my best to acknowledge it when I feel it rising, and am practising meditation breathing as often as possible to get through pain. I am sad that this is happening to me, but I am also grateful for everything in my life - particularly the people (and animals) that support me as much as they can, and offer me solace when I can no longer carry my fear alone.

I wish that everyone with chronic illness, chronic pain, or ongoing conditions, could have (and recognise) their own support networks.

Love to all who read.
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