Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Book Review: Tower of Thorns 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: Towern of Thorns
Author: Juliet Marillier
Series: Blackthorn & Grim #2
Publication Date: October 3rd 2015

Synopsis: "Award-winning author Juliet Marillier's Blackthorn & Grim series continues as a mysterious creature holds an enchanted and imperiled ancient Ireland in thrall.

Lady Geleis, a noblewoman from the northern border, has asked for the prince of Dalriada's help in expelling a howling creature from an old tower on her land - one surrounded by an impenetrable hedge of thorns. Casting a blight over the entire district, and impossible to drive out by ordinary means, the mysterious presence threatens both the safety and the sanity of all who live nearby.

As Blackthorn and Grim begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together, it becomes clear that a powerful adversary is at work. Their quest is about to become a life and death struggle - where even the closest of friends can find themselves entangled in intrigue."

My thoughts: It is not secret that Juliet Marillier is my favourite author, I just find her books so amazing - they all have a mystical quality and such fantastic characters. Tower of Thorns is no different, and I am loving the Blackthorn and Grim series so far. 

[I am in love with these covers, by the way.]

The new story was something of a fairytale, something of the fae, and also something of a mystery. It was a really interesting combination and I found myself really being drawn in and wondering what was being hidden, what was not being said. I worried about our main characters and I got irritated at times with new characters like Lady Geleis, who definitely seemed to be more than what she said. It was mysterious and at times a little spooky, but always engrossing.

I also loved that the stories of Blackthorn and Grim's pasts were also part of the story, and we could continue getting to know these characters. Reading newer characters' opinions on Blackthorn or Grim made me want to defend them, so they have already earned a place in my heart, even after just two books. I find the relationship between the two really interesting, and I find Blackthorn, in particular, to be a complex and interesting character. She is grumpy and irritated at the best of times, but she is also extremely intelligent, wonderfully talented as a wise woman, and even occasionally a little sly. Grim, on the other hand, is quiet, but comes across as extremely kind to those he cares for or feels are good people, and he is a character that has easily made a place in my heart as a favourite.

I don't want to give away any spoilers here, but I will say that the ending has left me wanting the next book ASAP, and has been the catalyst for me deciding that this is going to be the year that I read everything of Marillier's that I haven't read already (there isn't a lot, but I desperately want to be up to date, and I adore being lost in the worlds she has created). I cannot recommend Marillier enough, and I think the Blackthorn & Grim series would be a great place for people to start if they haven't read her before - though I think the Sevenwaters series is a great place to start, too!

I received an uncorrected proof copy of this book from Pan Macmillan - thank you so much!

You would like this book if: you enjoy mystical fantasy worlds; you like fae stories that have been retold.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I would recommend a herbal brew to go with the brews that Blackthorn and Grim make - specifically something with Chamomile and Mint if you can! I almost exclusively drank T2's Gone Surfing while reading this book.

Rating:  10/10

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

Friday, September 25, 2015

Musings: Poetry and Postings, Movings and Musts.

I just wanted to sit down and write a quick post about things that have happened and are about to happen.

So, many poetry postings, along with one short story! I am really loving putting my work out there. I don't know if people are enjoying things, and I am desperately trying not to ask for permission to do these things (I have it already, I just get confused sometimes) or say anything silly and back-tracky like 'they're silly' or 'they're just works in progress!'. Not doing that has been really really difficult, but I am proud of myself for the not-doing.

What does this mean for my postings? Well, I want to keep going. But they may stop. More likely they will become less frequent - maybe once or twice a week. Maybe I will have a designated day of postings! This is all stuff to be thought of.

Other things I have been thinking about are my current studies - I have almost finished my writing degree, and have one more unit to go. Unfortunately it is a unit I am not much enjoying - one that I had to drop out of last year because of expectations that felt not-so-good to me. But it is a core unit, so here I am again. My tutor is so far quite understanding and helpful, so I am grateful for that, but I still found myself getting stressed out about this unit and its workload. And then my partner, Xin, asked me what level I aim my writing at, or what level I thought I was writing at, and I said I was always aiming for an 80+ out of 100. He made me realise that I was kind of operating on almost full capacity for this unit, even when I didn't like it and I actually just have to focus on passing. My grade is quite good at the moment, so I don't really need to always be trying so hard.

Guys, I hope it doesn't paint me as a complete goodie-two-shoes if I say that this doesn't really occur to me very often. Not try hard? Wut? I am still doing the coursework, but I am thinking I won't throw everything I have at every assignment. I'm going to work on the surge of guilt that I feel upon writing that O____O

Finally, in other news, I just wanted to mention that I will be moving out of home over this weekend - I am finally moving in with my dear love, Xin. It is our first place together, and we have found a little rental place that is very cute. So, just a forewarning, there may not be very many posts for a little while until I get the internet up and running at the new place (hoping that is relatively painless...) and also to let you know that I might be a bit emotional in some upcoming posts. This is a huge change for me, and I am worried about how well I will adapt. Some parts of me think it will be totally fine, and other parts are kind of unsure and a teensy bit panicky. I am creating space for them all.

Sending much love to all who read.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

little pieces of poetry #7

I change my shape
And form my mind
I am the chameleon
Of all that you know

If I need to find anger
I change to become sharp
Edges aplenty
Straight lines to chart

If you try to blunt my edges
I blunt them for you
I regain my curves
And let words slip away


Now I see
My ever-changing ways
I am returning to my former shape.
Edges and curves
Both in place.

I am humbled
By the beauty
Of being in my own shape…
And that feels so much better
Than my former transformations
Ever could.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

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: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Publication Date: September 22nd 2015

Synopsis: "Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert's books for years. Now, this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process - and reminding us all just how easy it can be.

By sharing stories from her own life, as well as those from her friends and the people who have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear."

My thoughts: I was a little apprehensive upon picking this book up - I am a huge fan of some of Gilbert's other work - Eat, Pray, Love, of course, and Signature of All Things in particular - but my experience with her nonfiction (basic at best - I have only read Committed of her nonfiction works) was a little lackluster. Interesting and relatively engrossing, but not something I connected to very much.

However, Big Magic was such a wonderful read that it became one of those experiences where you just want to send everyone away to do their own thing for a little while so you can enjoy some genuine connection time with your book. I kept trying to read this in snatches of time between other things, and eventually discovered that that wasn't working, because it was making me want more and more, and I was beginning to get a little snappish with my loved ones if they interrupted my reading time (something that is wont to happen at any time, but I usually keep it under control...).

I adore Gilbert's tone in this book. Having heard her speak (on audiobooks, in speeches, on podcasts) I felt like I could hear her reading her book to me in my mind as I read each sentence. You find yourself feeling like you actually know her and she is just explaining her book to you, using research she has done and stories she has collected. It feels extremely intimate and so touching.

The topic itself is fascinating, and I will admit to having many different realisations during the course of reading this book. For those who follow this blog regularly, you may notice that I have starting posting my own writing and poetry once more, and that is because of this book and the way Gilbert addresses the need for things like Courage, Permission, and Trust in a life of creative drive. Reading about her story and also her thoughts on the topic of fear, in particular, made me question why I was holding back so much of myself when all I've ever really wanted to do was share my work, and improve upon it.

So, yes, this book review is rather more personally engaged than usual, but my own context has provided me with a very deep connection to what Gilbert says here. And I love that. I think this is a book that anyone, particularly people living a creative life and producing creative work, could read and get something from. I may go read it again soon. Maybe now.

I received a review copy of this book from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review. (thank you!)

You would like this book if: you like Elizabeth Gilbert's writing; you feel you need a deeper connection with your creativity, or want to understand it a little better.

Tea to drink while reading this book: something creative and colourful, like cranberry and elderflower, or something similar!

Rating:  10/10

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

little pieces of poetry #6

Everything I do
and everything I am
are collections of words

words surround me
appear within my mind when I look
slide out of my mouth, dancing along my tongue

I used to want to cut
myself open
just to see the letters fall to the ground

I don’t write as much anymore
because each time I do
the letters that keep my heart pumping
my brain working
my eyes looking
are lost to those
who would not use them properly.


And because that piece was a little deep and intense (to me, at least) have a piece I wrote about my dog chasing her tail... :D


Fur and fuzz and flying fluff
never ever have enough
Tight and textured, tying tangle
cannot see from another angle.

Monday, September 21, 2015

mini stories #1

since the poetry has been going relatively well (nobody is trying to throw things at me yet!), I decided to post a very short story that I wrote about six months ago. It is rough, but I enjoyed writing it and wanted to share it. I hope you enjoy!


‘There are many things that don’t need to be said in this world, but I’d wager you don’t say any of the things that need to be said either!’ Tomoyo grabbed her sake cup and downed the contents in one quick wrist movement. Slamming the cup back down on the table, she leaned in on her elbow and stared at her companion. ‘What is wrong with you, niisan, really? Why don’t you ever say anything?’
The man across the table maintained his cross-legged posture as he sipped from his cup. He watched his sister from underneath lowered eyelids and took a deep breath, knowing what was coming.
‘You know what, Shin? I’m going to get drunk tonight. I’ve had enough of this place. It’s so dull. The only way to get some excitement around here is to do things while intoxicated!’
Although that’s what it was probably supposed to be, but it was rather slurred and Shin just had to guess what she meant. Plus, she’d said it every other time they’d gotten together, so he figured he could decode it this time.

Tomoyo was well on her way to doing just what she declared when they sliding door to their booth was opened and a large man in a red uniform appeared. He looked over both of them – Shin sitting perfectly still, cup in hand, Tomoyo lying on one side propped up by her elbow looking at him through sleepy, lidded eyes.

The man returned his gaze to Shin after a long, lingering look down Tomoyo’s entire body, and his eyes narrowed as they took in the dual swords resting nearby. ‘I believe you are in my booth.’ Neither questioning nor emotional inflected, his statement rested gently in the air while Shin continued to gaze at him.

Tomoyo rolled lazily onto her front and put her face in her hands, feet kicked up in the air behind her. ‘Oh, reallyyy? Mmm well I think it’s our booth right now.’ Tomoyo roared with laughter, despite her statement being neither funny, nor interesting. Shin raised an eyebrow at his sister, but she just winked at him and chuckled under her breath. He shook his hand and then returned his gaze to their new guest, whose hand was now resting gently on the hilt of his katana, lowering it gently in what could be misconstrued as resting, but to Shin represented an aggressive way of announcing that he could easily draw his blade at any time.

Shin narrowed his eyes at the movement, and then, downing the last of his sake, he lowered the cup gently to the table between himself and the intruder, and then rested his hands on his knees.

‘I don’t think you heard me, my friends. You are in my booth. Since I now need my booth, you must get out of it. It is unfortunate for you, I understand, but unavoidable.’ As he spoke, he moved his left hand behind the hilt of his sword, and gently let each of the fingers of his right hand come to rest on the tsuka. He did not draw, but the intent was abundantly clear.

Shin gently rose to one knee, and glanced to the side to see that his sister had rolled herself into a crouched position. The intruder seemed surprised by their fast movement, but stood his ground. Shin allowed himself a small smile of elation at his opponent’s bravado, and his sister’s ability to seemingly rid herself of drunkenness within a few nanoseconds – and with the right motivation.

Tomoyo was holding her dual wakizashi now, and with their silver gleam glinting next to the pale skin of her forearms, she looked deadly – and excited. Shin took advantage of the man’s incredulous observation of Tomoyo and returned his swords to their rightful place at his hip. Moving quickly, he flicked his sword slightly out of its sheath with his left thumb, ready to move at a moment’s notice.

The man’s dangerous edge had all but evaporated as his eyes nearly crossed trying to keep them both in view. He looked unsure as to whether keeping with his current line of ‘persuasion’ would lead to the best outcome for him or not. He looked at Shin, his eyes almost desperate now.

Tomoyo spoke her brother’s thoughts: ‘We’re going to make this easy for you. Take your hands away from that poor excuse of a sword and go find yourself another booth – one that is actually empty, like your threats. Do that, and you won’t have to deal with my brother’s or my own version of ‘persuasion’.’

The man looked stunned for a second, before quickly removing his hands and leaving the room – giving a quick bow as he slid the door closed. Shin removed his sword once more and lay it on the ground beside him as he resumed his sitting position. Tomoyo sheathed both of her wakizashi and placed them under the low table before slumping on the ground, appearing for all intents and purposes like she had just downed a dozen bottles of sake.

‘Thank Kami-sama he chose the easy option – I was so close to just falling down, bare blades or not.’ She chuckled to herself and reached for the bottle, pouring another generous portion into her cup. She lifted the bottle in Shin’s general direction, ‘more, brother?’

Shin smiled and raised his cup so she could fill it. ‘Of course.’

Sunday, September 20, 2015

little pieces of poetry #5

photo taken by me in Kyoto in 2014.

morning light
sleepy smiles
unravel yourself
from your drowsy den
first deep breath
in hours
and greet this new day
for he is here
he is here
he is here.

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