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!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Further Investigations in Cystitis

So, cystitis. I have written about this before, here, and have actually since then been officially diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, which I have mentioned in that linked post. Basically it means that my body often mimics the symptoms of cystitis without there actually being any infection present.

I have been put on a pill to try and relax my bladder and such, trying to reduce my symptoms, and it has actually been helping. But over the last week or so, I have been getting the symptoms with increasing frequency, and also with more pain than I have experienced since going on the drug. And that has been pretty tough for me to deal with.

I am trying very hard to dig more into what is bringing the symptoms on, but it hard given that a lot of my conditions tend to just get worse during stressful times, and I don't feel like there is much that I can combat that with that I haven't already (no, being told 'just worry less!' and 'try meditation!' has surprisingly not led to an instant fix!). What I have noticed is that two main emotions often come up around the time that I get the symptoms - anger, and sadness.

Both of them make sense to a certain extent - I am usually really upset that I have the cystitis again and that I am so uncomfortable. I am wondering if it has something to do with not expressing when things are getting too much, or I am feeling overwhelmed and not talking about it - because when cystitis hits I often realise just how much stuff I have been piling onto myself, and how much I have been shirking self-care.

I can't say that I am always capable of investigating when this comes up, or digging into the 'why' of it, but I want to keep trying in the hopes that I might start looking after myself even better than before, and maybe keep the cystitis symptoms from taking over again.

I also hope I will continue to share my thoughts on this most frustrating and embarrassing of conditions... Just in case someone out there might need the reassurance that it isn't just them.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Inspiration Fixation

I felt like doing a slightly different post today, because I realised that I have some things that I go back to, time and again, for renewed inspiration. Today I rewatched a video that inspired me so much when it was first aired back in 2014 that I started to change my life quite a bit.

It isn't any secret to those that know me that I love watching Good Game (a tv show aired on ABC2 and a kids version on ABC3. You can also find them on youtube here if you can't access Aussie tv!). I've actually been watching it for years, ever since my brother introduced me to it. It's a great way for me to bond with my brother and also my husband, and find out about new games coming out that I might like to play (zombie games are still a big no from me, though, so I tend to read if they're reviewing one like that!). I wouldn't call myself a serious gamer, but I am definitely a gamer of sorts - I just tend to turn to books more often than games. Right now, for example, I am playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, and have played it for about 40 hours so far.

Anyway, when Hex got a chance to do an episode on her role at Good Game, and also her life in general, I watched it and rewatched it too many times to count. I loved it - and I realised that I hadn't really been forming my own style for some time. Her style was so similar to my own tastes that I found myself...yearning. For the life I was supposed to be living. And I feel like I have tried, more or less, to get towards that life, since that day. It may sound kind of odd, and perhaps you will watch this video and wonder what on earth I am talking about, but sometimes the strangest things can be like a wake-up call to others, saying 'you want a life like this? then what are you waiting for?'

This was a bit of a wake-up call for me. I hope you enjoy it, too! (psst! this is just part of the episode! if you want the full episode, with all of Hex's favourite games, look for Good Game Season 10 Episode 25 on youtube!)

Friday, August 19, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

"Destined to destroy empires, Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and daemons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Red Church is no ordinary school, but Mia is no ordinary student.
The shadows love her.
And they drink her fear."

I haven't always had a great time with Kristoff's books. I was impressed with his Stormdancer books, but ultimately ended up finding them a little to overwhelming - it kind of felt like too many themes jammed into one book. Illuminae, which he co-wrote with Amie Kaufman, was pretty good, but I am a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to zombie books, so there's that.

This one, however, just blew me away. I randomly decided to pick up a copy because it looked interesting and I ended up being kind of obsessed with it. I completely disappeared into it, and loved every single part. There's these little annotations throughout the book (sometimes not so little), and the wry humour with which they are written is just fantastic. Mia as a character is fantastic - strong, sometimes confused, sometimes vulnerable but showing herself all the stronger for that vulnerability. I loved reading about her and everything that happened to her, and the narrator's voice really just made it even better.

The other characters did not disappoint either and, while a lot of the subject matter here is very dark (assassin school... so...), it was absolutely my style of humour and had me laughing out loud more than once.

Basically, I loved what Kristoff has created here, and I am so very interested with where he is going to be taking this series (trilogy? series? more please!).

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