Monday, October 24, 2016

Feeling my way forwards.

You know when it is dark, and you can't see anything, you tend to automatically reach out your hands to try and feel for any bad things that might be coming, that might be about to hit you in the face? Your steps are kind of jittery, juddering, shakily feeling forward to avoid tripping. You are kind of fearful, worried, afraid of the unknown.

I feel like grief is kind of like that. Whatever you are grieving, sometimes it is not someone you know passing away, sometimes it is losing a friendship, losing a sense of groundedness or connection, losing a part of yourself that you thought would be there forever. In your grief, you are in the dark. This is not some logical progression, a step-by-step instruction list that you can follow to get from A to B. This is just the unknown, and you are sitting right in the middle of it.

And this darkness is so complete that sometimes you're not even sure if you are moving forward, or just going around in circles, or somehow, hopefully not, going backward.

Grief is a lesson in patience, one that I never feel ready or capable of learning. I am often feeling like I am fine, like I am moving out of it, like I am coping well, and then my foot will catch on something and suddenly I am completely unsure of myself again, lost back in the darkness, fumbling for the light.

There is not much else to say here, no deep wisdom to impart, just a reminder to you (to myself) to be gentle. To commit yourself to any simple thing you can do - even if it's just getting up to get a glass of water. Feel the glass under your fingers, listen to the water as it enters the cup, and really feel the water as you drink it. It may sound silly, but even just experiencing that much can draw you back, can restore a little bit of confidence to you.

All my love to those who read.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Book Review: Grown & Gathered by Matt and Lentil Purbrick

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: Grown & Gathered
Author: Matt and Lentil Purbrick
Publication Date: September 27th 2016

Synopsis: "In this, their first book, Matt and Lentil share all of their growing, gathering, preserving and cooking secrets. It is a practical guide to traditional skills in a modern world, with information, advice and projects for everyone, whether you have access to acres of farmland or barely a balcony. Learn how to grow your own vegetables, herbs and fruits the way nature intended; forage for wild mushrooms and edible weeds; raise your own animals, like chickens and bees; seek out the very best produce that exists; and trade without money to experience a new level of connection with those around you.

Included are over 100 delicious, creative wholefood recipes from Matt and Lentil's seasonal, regional diet. Make your own cultured butter, feta, and sourdough starter; bake a fresh loaf of sourdough bread; fry up some sourdough crumpets; and ferment traditional dill pickles, kimchi, sauerkraut and natural wine. You can bottle some pear and eggplant kasundi, impress with homemade green tomato ketchup, cure and smoke bacon the traditional way, and even can your own tuna at home.

If you believe in living thoughtfully, knowing where your food comes from and prioritising health, food, family, friends, and fun, then this book is for you."

My thoughts: Let me just say first up: this is an absolutely beautiful book. The photography is fantastic and manages to convey Matt and Lentil's personalities - which also comes through in the writing. It is a wonderful pairing.

The book takes you through seven main sections: Observe, Grow, Gather, Nurture, Trade, Seek, and Eat. Each one is fascinating to read about - even if you are not in a place to be able to have your own chickens or bees, for example, you might still enjoy reading about them in the Nurture section. The tone is informative and yet so friendly and warm - what comes through in this book over and over again is how much Matt and Lentil love the land, their animals, and their bodies (by putting the good things in!). 

The main thing I have gotten out of this book (so far!) is a changed view of how I prepare legumes/beans. When Matt and Lentil explain about the difficulty that human bodies go through in digesting certain parts of legumes, I started buying my beans in dry formats, soaking them, and then cooking them for the recommended time in the book (I started with chickpeas, which took 4 hours to cook!). The result? Buttery, wonderful, tasty beans that don't make my stomach hurt after eating them. Since that first venture, I have been happily soaking and cooking my beans whenever we need them, and I have to say it makes me feel good, and also makes our home seem cosier somehow!

I am not sure what else to say about this book except that it is a wonderful experience to even glance through it, and I hope that you will get a chance to get your hands on a copy to enjoy.

(I received a review copy of this book from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!)

A favourite line from the book: "To your future garden, full pantry, warm home, celebrations and happy everyday routines. This book is dedicated to making change, to experiencing life fully, being brave and bold, and to a bright future. We hope that one day 'organic farming' will just be called farming again and 'whole foods' will just be called food.

With our love. We wrote this for you."

You would like this book if: You feel a connection to the land, and to the things you eat; you want to grow food for your family.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Perhaps some fresh mint tea using leaves from the mint plant in your garden?

Rating:  10/10

Sunday, October 2, 2016

{2016} September Reading

Hooo boyyy I did not do a lot of reading this month. But I think that is to be expected since a lot was going on (moving house, organising mail, trying to make sure our cat didn't flip out, to name a few) and my health has not been in the best condition since... January. XD

Anyway, let's take a look at what I got and what I read!

Books bought/received:
~ Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (review)
~ Heartless by Marissa Meyer (review)
~ Grown & Gathered by Matt and Lentil Purbrick (review)
~ Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier (review/finished copy)
~ Imprudence (The Custard Protocol #2) by Gail Carriger
~ [also received some wonderful books from my dear friend Skye, but I am a bit too tired to list them here! Plus at the moment they are my private treasure so...]

this is what Heartless looked like when it arrived!

Books read:
~ The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
~ Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger
~ Herbal Remedies: Using Herbs for Stress Relief and Common Ailments by Sue Hawkey

lots of rest lately, when I can, but not a whole lot of reading!

Well, so. Only three books this month. I am actually okay with that because I am reading a lot of books at the moment and so many of them will probably get finished next month. (you saw the 'books bought/received' list!)

The Little Paris Bookshop was a wonderful read, and just what I needed during the stress of the move, with all the packing and whatnot. My mum lent it to me and I am so grateful she did, because it was so relaxing and wonderful, and made me a little more chilled out than I could have been.

Prudence is a book I started aaages ago, but then put it up on a shelf and kind of forgot about it. I love Gail Carriger's writing though, and it was so wonderful to get back into this story and fall in love with Prudence, Primrose, Percy, and Quesnel (and rediscover old favourites from the Parasol Protectorate series!). I just got Imprudence (book 2) yesterday and have already jumped in!

I recently decided that I need to follow my passions a little more, and research things that I am interested in, thus the book on Herbalism. I am very interested in the ways herbs can help our body and, given that lately my stomach seems to only be calmed by chamomile tea, I think now is a positively wonderful time for me to be researching into this matter. I am also looking into fairytales and mythology that has come out of the UK, as I am fascinated by that, too!

At least Pepper seems to be relaxing...

What are you reading at the moment? Do you drink tea during your reading times?

Love to all who read!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Author Interview: Juliet Marillier

Recently I put up my review for Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier, and today I am sharing an interview I did with her! Having only recently started doing author interviews, it is kind of incredible to me that I have been given the opportunity to interview my favourite author so quickly, and I am so very grateful for that.

A huge thank you to Juliet herself for answering my questions, and also to Lucy Inglis at Pan Macmillan for facilitating the interview. (Did I mention how grateful I am?)

Congratulations on the upcoming release of Den of Wolves! How does it feel to have explored Blackthorn and Grim’s stories for three books now?

Thank you! I’ve loved every minute of the journey with these two characters. They are complex, difficult, and not always easy to love, and that has made them rewarding to write. Although each novel in the series has a stand-alone story, the personal stories of Blackthorn and Grim and their gradually evolving relationship run through all three books.

 You have mentioned in previous interviews that Blackthorn and Grim as characters were born from your research into PTSD. Was it difficult to continue exploring this topic in Den of Wolves? Or was it more difficult initially when you first started writing the characters back in Dreamer’s Pool?

Several factors went into the creation of these two characters. My interest in military PTSD was one of them; another was various requests from readers over the years for an older female protagonist. Most of my novels have youngish central characters, partly because in the time periods of the books, people married and gave birth, went off to war, plied a trade or headed a household at a much younger age than they do now. They generally lived far shorter lives. I liked the request for an older protagonist and decided I’d tackle not only older characters, but characters who were less obviously good, heroic and self-controlled than some I’d written – so poor Blackthorn and Grim both start the story with a weight of past trauma and some serious hang-ups as a result. Blackthorn is bitter, angry and disillusioned – in no fit state to return to her calling as healer and wise woman. Grim believes himself to be worthless, a failure. They’re both exhibiting PTSD symptoms such as finding it hard to sleep and hyper-vigilance. They both find it hard to trust anyone.

The dark and gritty flavour of this series is a departure from my previous work, and that was challenging, but it was a good challenge. Some scenes were really hard to write, as they took me into some dark places. The story evolves through the three books – Blackthorn and Grim deal with their own challenges in different ways, as they are very different individuals, but they also help each other through those dark places, and in the end become able to reach out the helping hand to others. The support of a peer group, others who have experienced similar trauma, is a valuable part of recovery for PTSD sufferers.

 Originally I believe the Blackthorn & Grim books were going to go for a few more books – do you think you will come back to explore their stories again in the future?

I had hoped Blackthorn & Grim might be a longer series. With Blackthorn sworn to follow her fey mentor’s rules for seven years, it felt like a seven book idea! But the story ended up being wrapped up quite neatly in three books, which was what my publishers preferred. In my imagination I do know what happened next for these characters, but I think this is quite a good point at which to say farewell to them.

 Did the characters take control of the storyline during the course of Den of Wolves? (I imagine Blackthorn can push things forward a bit, and Cara seems like an independent pusher, too!)

Cara went off on a tangent once or twice, as suited such a non-conformist! But I generally keep a pretty firm control of the storyline, especially in a novel with such a formal structure – Den of Wolves has four narrators, each with a particular voice, and they take chapters in turn for most of the book. Cara’s chapters can be longish as a result of her lyrical voice. The words she has such difficulty getting out when speaking aloud flow more poetically in her train of thought. Bard├ín’s chapters are the shortest, because he is so shut down as an individual. Blackthorn’s and Grim’s voices we already know from the earlier books. Blackthorn is acerbic and sometimes impatient. Hers is an educated voice, wise and reasonable when she isn’t angry. Grim’s voice reveals his true character – he speaks simply, but has strengths far beyond the purely physical.

 Have you found that writing strong female characters in your books has made you feel stronger in yourself? Do you feel you share qualities with Blackthorn?

I should think there is a lot of me in Blackthorn, yes. I love to write about women’s lives, their challenges, how they stay brave or find their old courage when it’s been beaten to almost nothing. One of the most satisfying aspects of my work is getting feedback from readers who say my writing has helped them through their own dark places. I don’t think I would ever write directly about my own life experience, but that experience is instrumental in my creation of characters like Blackthorn. I also love writing complex male characters like Grim. He is one of those characters who are so real they almost write themselves.

Do you feel that your study to become a Druid (I am studying the Bardic grade currently) influences your writing and the way your stories write themselves?

Most definitely. Druids believe that storytelling is a powerful force for teaching and healing – that is something I hope to do through my books. Readers’ comments seem to confirm that it’s working. I feel as if I am part of a long line of storytellers going right back to my distant ancestors, and that too is a druidic idea. Possibly, when the stories seem to write themselves, it’s the voices of those ancestors whispering in my ears. My characters are often so real to me it’s as if the stories were once in some way true. I call that ‘truer than true’, meaning it’s a deeper truth than literal truth.

Druid training has also helped me understand the natural world and its cycles better – nature plays a vital part in all my stories. Last but not least, the idea that god, goddess or spirit is not set apart from us, but exists within all living things, linking us together, has had a profound impact on both the way I write and the way I live my life these days. Knowing you have a spark of the divine within you means you learn to respect and forgive yourself. And other people. And book characters! I now think of characters as multi-faceted individuals, all of whom have the capacity to do good, though in some it’s hidden deep. I hope you’re enjoying the Bardic training – I loved it.

 You have written so many fantastic characters, Blackthorn and Grim being great examples (I am a huge fan of both)  – do any characters ever stick around after their book is written? Perhaps niggling at you for more stories?

They do stick around, and I always know what happened next for them even when I don’t write it down. But there are also new characters clamouring for their stories to be told. 

In your collection of short stories, Prickle Moon, you explored some tales and even genres that you hadn’t before. Do you think you will explore other genres like science fiction in a novel format in the future?

I can’t see myself writing a science fiction novel – I just don’t have the science background to do it convincingly. I have considered writing women’s fiction or straight historical fiction. Or a book about dogs.

 And finally, some quick questions!
What are your current favourites:... reading?
I’ve recently read Vigil, a dark fantasy/horror novel set in an alternative Brisbane, by multi-award-winning writer Angela Slatter. I was most entertained by Vigil even though urban fantasy is not one of my preferred genres. It’s highly recommended, as are Angela’s short fiction collections, which are dark folkloric fantasy. I’ve also read a stylish new anthology, Beyond the Woods: Fairy tales Retold, edited by Paula Guran. It’s a real treasury of wonderful, imaginative tales.
Tea, an essential aid to meeting deadlines.
Here in Australia it will soon be the season for fresh nectarines, apricots, plums, and peaches. I’m really looking forward to that.
...loving about the current season?
The rain. We don’t get much of it in Perth these days and we need to treasure every drop. It has been a long winter, though, and I’m looking forward to some spring sunshine.

Juliet’s website:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Book Review: Den of Wolves by Juliet Marillier

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: Den of Wolves
Author: Juliet Marillier
Series: Blackthorn & Grim #3
Publication Date: October 2016

Synopsis: "Feather bright and feather fine
None shall harm this child of mine

Healer Blackthorn knows all too well the rules of her bond to the fey: seek no vengeance, help any who ask, do only good. But after the most recent ordeal she and Grim have suffered, she knows she cannot let go of her quest to bring justice to the man who ruined her life.

Despite her own struggles, Blackthorn agrees to help the princess of Dalriada to care for a troubled young girl who has been brought to court, while Grim travels to the girl's home in Wolf Glen to aid her wealthy father with a strange task, repairing a broken down house deep in the woods. It doesn't take Grim long to realise that everything in Wolf Glen is not as it seems, the place is full of perilous secrets and deadly lies.

Back at Witerfalls, the evil touch of Blackthorn's sworn enemy reopens old wounds and fuels her long simmering desire fro retribution. With danger on two fronts, Blackthorn and Grim are faced with a heartbreaking choice, to stand once again by each other's side or to fight their battles alone."

My thoughts: I have already mentioned my love of Juliet Marillier's work, so I shan't go on about it for too long. Her writing has that wonderful (and sometimes hard to find) quality of being able to take you into a completely separate world, whilst still completely engaging all your emotions and somehow managing to make you grow as a person with each book. Den of Wolves is no different.

Blackthorn and Grim are pulled into another problem once more, and this time they are separated pretty early on - something that is difficult for them to cope with. The new storyline featuring Cara of Wolf Glen is fascinating and absorbing, but the thing I loved most about this book is how Marillier explored Blackthorn and Grim's relationship more than ever. 

My favourite parts were often quiet, soft moments, and you really felt the gentle understanding between the two of them, and how much they have each come to rely upon the other for strength, and for solace. As always with Marillier's books I have become so attached to these characters, and I find it hard to believe that this is the last book in their tale - I can't help wanting more of both of them.

I still hope that there are more books to this series, as I believe that was Marillier's intention initially, and, although it was done well and with skill and understanding, I just felt that the end of this book was somehow rushed. Just a touch. It was still an enjoyable resolution and I found everything that occurred wonderful and (running out of words to show how great this is) enjoyable, I was still left feeling a little put out.

Regardless, this is a fantastic addition to the series, a great end (*sob*), and I will always be looking forward to more writing from my favourite writer.

(I received a review copy of this book from Pan Macmillan. Thank you!!!!!)

A favourite line from the book: "Cara loved the rain, loved the many feelings of it on her skin. Rain could be soft, like a mother's touch. It could be as hard as a punishing whip. It could be as warm as a sunny morning or cold enough to set ice in your bones."

You would like this book if: you like Juliet Marillier's work; you enjoy fantasy that has a touch or two of fairytale in it.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I always love making my own brews when drinking Marillier's work, but at the moment I am favouring Ready Set Raspberry from T2, which is herbal and wonderful.

Rating:  9.5/10

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

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Just because.... Things that improved my day :D


I have been absent from this blog for a little bit... again... but I have been moving house and settling in and all that stuff that comes with uprooting everything you know and love and shifting it many blocks away, trying to fit what felt like a square peg into a round hole, but it turns out that you actually adapt better to a triangle and... hmm this analogy may be falling apart. Blame the extreme exhaustion! :D

ANYWAY. I just watched these two amazing (and completely unrelated) videos and I wanted to share both of them with you. I hope they make you think and smile like they did for me :D

Thursday, September 1, 2016

{2016} August Reading

Wow, I kind of can't believe it's already September. Wow. I will be moving house this month so there may be a little less from me on the blog. Just a heads up!

Book bought/received:
~ Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
~ The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
~ Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
~ The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
~ The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
~ There May Be a Castle by Piers Torday (review)
~ Undying: A Love Story bu Michel Faber

new purchases!

Books read:
~ Spotless Pets by Jennifer Fleming and Shannon Lush (review)
~ Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter #8) by J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne (review)
~ Woman Code by Alisa Vitti
~ Den of Wolves (Blackthorn & Grim #3) by Juliet Marillier (review to come)
~ Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff
~ The Anxiety Book by Elisa Black (review)
~ The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home (Fairyland #5) by Catherynne M. Valente
~ Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel
~ The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
~ Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo

oh man, so many favourite things.

Wow! This month was actually surprisingly good. A few review books in there, and then some books that I picked up on a whim and ended up adoring! For more info on the ones I reviewed, please click the links above :)

A few of the books that really took me by surprise were Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. I also adored Meadowland but I kind of expected to! The Essex Serpent I bought because quite a few of my favourite booktubers were singing its praises, and I felt like something a little different. It took me a while to really get into it, but it was so interesting and delightfully weird at times that I found myself completely drawn in. Nevernight I picked up at a store randomly - I originally decided not to buy a copy because Kristoff's Stormdancer books had kind of fallen a bit flat for me. I am so glad I changed my mind, though, because I absolutely adored Nevernight. It was so engrossing and fantastical, the character voices were fantastic, and even weeks after I have finished it I am still thinking about it. Finally, Six of Crows. This one was recommended over and over, but I wasn't sure. The sample on my kindle seemed alright but not amazing. And then I finally got my hands on a copy and absolutely gobbled it up. I am now among the thousands who are making grabby hands at the next book, due out on the 27th of September. (Huzzah!)

the first BookBathBox ever! I can't wait for the next one...

I also got the first ever BookBathBox this month and am so pleased with it! I backed this venture on Kickstarter and have not regretted my decision for a moment. I am about to move houses to a place that actually has a bath tub so I can properly enjoy everything from this box in my own home, and I am giddy with excitement over that. Books and baths and tea! Oh my!

What are you reading at the moment? I am reading The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George partly because my mum lent it to me, and partly because I needed something a little softer and more lyrical to smooth my way into Spring. Do you have any books that make you think of Spring? Love to all who read!
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