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Temerran – Bard of the Borrows

Bard of the Borrows, a wonderful tale of the travels of charismatic Bard, Temerran, written by Emma Miles, is released today. I had the honour of sitting down for a chat with Temerran in between his adventures on the high seas, and this is what he had to say.

Hello and welcome Temerran. Thank you so much for speaking with me today.

Hello Maria. I love your name, it sounds like a cat’s purr.

Thank you, I have never thought of it like that before. I love cats though, so the comparison has made me smile.

You have travelled to so many places and are always looking for undiscovered lands, but do you have a bucket list of places you haven’t been to but would love to see?

There is a huge part of me that wants to set sail and keep going until I have found every land under our sky. But after what happened with Geladan I have learned caution. The longing is still there, though. Of places I know, I have seen little of Chem. It’s such a large land, and most of it not accessible by ship. I journeyed to Arkoom once, to see the old capital. It’s an eerie place, even now. Like bright flowers growing over ruins. Birds singing in a graveyard. I’d love to visit the mysterious sanctuary of the Rakinya to the north of Snowhold. That would mean negotiating Queen Catya’s court though! How about you? If I could take you anywhere on the Undine, where would you ask me to take you?

I would love to visit the Fulmers – it sounds so beautiful there, and they have a wonderful community. Do you think Jorrun would let me explore his library if we paid a visit to the Northold?

Ha ha, I’ve never been allowed to set foot in the Raven Tower, not sure that I’d dare ask! Though Jorrun has been kind enough to lend me books on occasion. Perhaps he would make an exception for you.

I can understand Jorrun wanting to protect his books. I am fiercely protective of my own library. It is a sign of great trust that he has lent you books!

If I could relocate the Undine to my world, I would love to sail the Mediterranean with you and show you some of my favourite places in Spain and Italy.

Your Mediterranean sounds delightful.

It is beautiful, and there is so much history to explore, I think you would love it.

I have just realised I have been really rude and haven’t offered you any refreshments while we chat. Can I get you anything to eat or drink?

I’d love some nettle tea if you have any?

I’ll pop the kettle on right away and rustle up some nettle tea for you.

I would imagine that captaining the Undine keeps you busy for the majority of the time, but when you do have some time to yourself, how do you relax and unwind from the pressures of captaincy and being a Bard? Are there hobbies you would like to do that just aren’t practical on a boat?

My ship and music are my life. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Playing my fiddle in particular helps me relax, and as I mentioned I do sometimes have time to read. Walking the coastline of Fulmer Island or sitting at the Undine’s prow composing music are where I am most at peace. As for hobbies… I can’t ever see myself leaving the Undine, so I don’t think I’d have time. I guess perhaps my studying of the origins of languages could be considered a hobby, though it is linked to my craft.

I love learning new languages. I am studying a few myself at the moment. It’s fascinating seeing similarities in different languages and being able to identify their roots through these similarities.

You understand me exactly. You can see how language travels across the lands. How the interaction of cultures influence each other. It’s fascinating, isn’t it?

There are so many beautiful languages to learn too – although I must admit I am finding some more difficult than others, especially when there is an entirely new alphabet to learn!

Or when the sentence structure is very different to our own. But the harder the language, the greater the satisfaction in conquering it.

That is so true. It is good to do something to keep the mind active and studying languages definitely does that.

How are you with accents? I’m lucky enough to have a very good ear for even the slightest variations, so for me it’s like playing a note the right way.

I am a bit strange with accents. I often find it easier to understand English spoken by someone who speaks it as a second language than I do with some regional accents where English is the first language. With the languages I am learning, I like to tell myself that my accents aren’t too bad, but a native speaker would probably tell you that they were horrible!

I’m sure your accent is better than you think. Ah, regional accents are fascinating aren’t they? In Chem they almost purr their r’s. In the Borrows the consonants are shorter and sharper. And not just the accents but the unique words too. In the Borrows they had an almost separate language from the rest of the four lands, as well as their runes as opposed to letters. Raiding, trading, and the arrival of the Bard had them slowly adopt the principle tongue of the north again. There are many who still use the old words, though.

You have beautiful hair, by the way. Dark and curling like midnight passion flower tumbling over a wall. You could easily be mistaken as coming from the Borrows. Were your people ever raiders?

Thank you so much. In a way, I suppose they were. One side of my family history can be traced back over 900 years to an invasion by foreign forces who conquered the country I live in. They could probably be considered to be raiders.

How amazing to be able to trace your ancestry back so far. I’m impressed, Maria. I know little of my actual family because… well, I lost my father when I was very young. My mother I never sought out again after I stole a boat to make my own way in the world. As you know, I did dedicate much of my life to trying to find out where the first Bard came from.

I must let you get back to the Undine now Temerran. I know you don’t like to leave her for too long. I look forward very much to hearing more about your explorations in the future, and thank you again for spending time with me.

BLURB:

Hold fast, my friends, we steer for the fierce winds of change through the storms of war.

Grieving for his lost friends, and battered by life and war, Temerran, the enigmatic Bard of the Borrows, sets sail on his graceful ship, the Undine. To protect those he loves, he must risk his crew and his beloved vessel, and guide them into enemy waters. Unknown lands beckon the audacious captain, and a new crew tests both his skill and patience as well as that of his loyal first mate. For not only has he taken aboard a feisty warrior-woman to help lead his crew, but also the absconded prince of Elden, who is more than a fish out of water.

Can he steer them through the perils of the sea, betrayal, and the machinations of foreign lands, or will his quest be the end of the Undine and the Bard of the Borrows?

Bard of the Borrows is part of the Land Beneath the Sky collection, companion books to the Fire-Walker saga. Bard of the Borrows Volume one follows immediately after the last book of the Fire-Walker saga, Raven Fire.

 

Book Review

Midnight In Everwood – M.A. Kuzniar

Happy publication day to Midnight In Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar! Many thanks to HQ for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour, and for providing me with a copy of this wonderful book.

BLURB:

A spell-binding retelling of The Nutcracker, filled with enchanted toys, decadent balls, fierce feminine friendships and a forbidden romance. For fans of The Toymakers, Caraval and The Bear and the Nightingale.

There’s nothing Marietta Stelle loves more than ballet, but after Christmas, her dreams will be over as she is obligated to take her place in Edwardian society. While she is chafing against such suffocating traditions, a mysterious man purchases the neighbouring townhouse. Dr Drosselmeier is a charming but calculating figure who wins over the rest of the Stelle family with his enchanting toys and wondrous mechanisms.

When Drosselmeier constructs an elaborate set for Marietta’s final ballet performance, she discovers it carries a magic all of its own. On the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, she is transported to a snowy forest, where she encounters danger at every turn: ice giants, shadow goblins and the shrieking mist all lurk amidst the firs and frozen waterfalls and ice cliffs. After being rescued by the butterscotch-eyed captain of the king’s guard, she is escorted to the frozen sugar palace. At once, Marietta is enchanted by this glittering world of glamorous gowns, gingerbread houses, miniature reindeer and the most delicious confectionary.

But all is not as it seems and Marietta is soon trapped in the sumptuous palace by the sadistic King Gelum, who claims her as his own. She is confined to a gilded prison with his other pets; Dellara, whose words are as sharp as her teeth, and Pirlipata, a princess from another land. Marietta must forge an alliance with the two women to carve a way free from this sugar-coated but treacherous world and back home to follow her dreams. Yet in a hedonistic world brimming with rebellion and a forbidden romance that risks everything, such a path will never be easy.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

REVIEW:

I must confess that I have never read the original Nutcracker, but I fell in love with the ballet years ago, and because of this, I was so excited to read this reimagining. It was everything I hoped it would be and more – just pure Christmassy wonder. M.A. Kuzniar’s writing made me feel like a child again, as I was swept away by the magical world of Drosselmeier’s creation.

Marietta is a character who is easy to fall in love with, and I adored her determination to follow her dreams and loyalty to her new friends. In Drosselmeier, we are gifted a character who is mysterious and chilling and yet absolutely captivating and wondrous. I think I would have found it impossible not to fall for his charms in Marietta’s shoes.

Kuzniar’s writing is wonderfully descriptive, and I was utterly captivated. The world that Marietta is drawn into is so delightful on the surface that it makes King Gelum’s cruelty quite startling. While reading Midnight in Everwood, I found the real world just melted away, and it was a real struggle to drag myself back to it when annoying things like the need to eat interrupted my reading.

I adore the ballet and wasn’t sure how this would translate but the author has captured the very essence of it and I could almost hear the music as I read. I know this book will become part of my Christmas reading ritual for years to come, and I am absolutely desperate to get to Waterstone’s to collect my hard copy!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

M.A. Kuzniar spent six years living in Spain, teaching English and travelling the world which inspired her children’s series The Ship of Shadows. Her adult debut novel Midnight in Everwood was inspired by her love of ballet and love of The Nuctracker. She lives in Nottingham with her husband, where she reads and writes as much as can and bookstagrams @cosyreads.

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Book Review

Babes In The Wood – Mark Stay

I am delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Babes In The Wood today, the second book in Mark Stay’s magical Witches of Woodville series.

BLURB:

July, 1940

In a quiet village in rural Kent, a magical mystery leads to murder . . .

Woodville has returned to ‘normal’ after the departure of the Crow Folk. The villagers put out fires from aircraft shot down in the Battle of Britain, and Faye Bright discovers that magic can be just as dangerous as any weapon.

The arrival of a trio of Jewish children fleeing the Nazis brings the fight for Europe to the village. When their guardian is found dead, Faye must play nanny to the terrified children while gathering clues to uncover a dark magic that threatens to change the course of the war. And she must do it quickly – the children have seen too much and someone wants them silenced for good.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Order here

REVIEW:

Regular readers will know that I adored The Crow Folk, book one in the Witches of Woodville series (read my review here). Although this is only the second book in the series, something about it felt so welcoming and familiar it was like being greeted by an old friend, and there was a sense of coming home.

Mark Stay doesn’t hang about in throwing the reader straight into the action as a plane falls from the sky right into Woodville within just a few sentences. As often seems to be the case in Woodville, nothing is straightforward, and the arrival of some surprise residents soon sees a fascinating story unraveling, and plucky, spirited Faye finds herself right in the heart of things once more. I love Faye’s attitude to life and she is fast becoming one of my favourite literary heroines.

In balance with the drama that unfolds, the story of the kindertransport arrivals is beautifully told and my heart bled for them,  and there were also little nods to the pandemic which made the book and the experiences of the characters feel very relatable, for example, Faye’s glasses steaming up when she puts her gas mask on, Charlotte’s comment about how there is more death around but that magic can’t solve sorrow. As much as I am all about the magic, it is these touches that really ensured this book has a permanent place in my heart.

Once again, Mark Stay has produced a book that is utterly charming, sometimes funny, and sometimes a little bit scary. It was a joy getting to know more of the colourful Woodville residents, and I am excited to keep doing so in future books.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mark Stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. He is co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and has worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com.

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Book Review

A Wild Winter Swan – Gregory Maguire

Today I am joining the blog tour for festive fairy tale A Wild Winter Swan by Gregory Maguire. Many thanks to Harper 360 UK, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part, and providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

Following her brother’s death and her mother’s emotional breakdown, Laura now lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in a lonely townhouse she shares with her old-world, strict, often querulous grandparents. But the arrangement may be temporary. The quiet, awkward teenager has been getting into trouble at home and has been expelled from her high school for throwing a record album at a popular girl who bullied her. When Christmas is over and the new year begins, Laura may find herself at boarding school in Montreal.

Nearly unmoored from reality through her panic and submerged grief, Laura is startled when a handsome swan boy with only one wing lands on her roof. Hiding him from her ever-bickering grandparents, Laura tries to build the swan boy a wing so he can fly home. But the task is too difficult to accomplish herself. Little does Laura know that her struggle to find help for her new friend parallels that of her grandparents, who are desperate for a distant relative’s financial aid to save the family store.

As he explores themes of class, isolation, family, and the dangerous yearning to be saved by a power greater than ourselves, Gregory Maguire conjures a haunting, beautiful tale of magical realism that illuminates one young woman’s heartbreak and hope as she begins the inevitable journey to adulthood.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

REVIEW:

Being a big fan of Wicked, I was eager to read this latest offering from Gregory Maguire, and while I may not have fallen for it quite as hard as I did for Wicked, I found it to be a charming book. The setting was beautiful – New York in the snow just screams Christmas and the writing brought it to life beautifully. I loved the sections written as Laura narrating her own life. These gave real insight into her character and how she viewed her own worth.

The frenetic preparations for a vast Christmas Eve feast add pace to what would otherwise be a fairly gentle story. Mary Bernice was a wonderfully colourful character and I could happily spend my days camped in her kitchen.

As I read, I wanted to know more and more about Hans. I know the original fairy tale, but where did this Hans come from? I found myself wondering if he was really there or if he was a figment of Laura’s imagination and it was her who trashed her room and the dining room, and whether his presence was some sort of mental health breakdown after everything she had been through. She had certainly had a lot to deal with and yet remained strangely naïve. This theory gave me a lot to think about as I read, and kept me hooked into the book throughout.

As a Christmas tale about a family dealing with a lot, this is a great book, but the fairy tale side of things felt a little under utilised. That said, it is a beautiful coming of age story and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Gregory Maguire received his Ph.D. in English and American Literature from Tufts University, and his B.A. from the State University of New York at Albany. He was a professor and co-director at the Simmons College Centre for the Study of Children’s Literature from 1979-1985. In 1987 he co-founded Children’s Literature New England. He still serves as co-director of CLNE, although that organisation has announced its intention to close after its 2006 institute.

The bestselling author of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Lost, Mirror Mirror, and the Wicked Years, a series that includes Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. Wicked, now a beloved classic, is the basis for the Tony Awared-winning Broadway musical of the same name. Maguire has lecture on art, literature, and culture bother at home and abroad.

He has three adopted children and is married to painter Andy Newman. He lives with his family near Boston, Massacusetts.

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Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part on the tour.

Guest Posts

Book Review Log Book – Jennifer Gilmour

I am delighted to be welcoming the lovely Jennifer Gilmour back to my blog today with something a little different to her previous books. I will be telling you all about her Book Review Log Book in just a moment, but first let me hand you over to Jennifer who has kindly written a guest post on using creativity to raise awareness of domestic abuse.

GUEST POST:

I have always been a creative person but never had the opportunity to use it for something important. It meant that after school and college I didn’t really tap into my creative side that often, it was no longer needed to create art, write stories or even act.

When I was at University I ended up entering an abusive relationship and I was in that relationship for several years. Abuse is progressive but looking back I can see the subtle signs that lead to the control he had over me. He controlled my work life and sadly I gave up my studies at University, there were many factors to this but the fact I worked at the same place didn’t help. Things changed when I had children and we had to work different shifts, I was relieved as it offered space however after every shift I would arrive home to an interrogation. Things got worse when he found out I had given work colleagues a life after their shift as it was on my way home, he would refuse to sit in the car for 24 hours because they had sat in his seat. Eventually I reduced my working hours to just 4 hours a week and had hardly any money.

At the time a friend of mine was expecting and as a gift I decided to make a nappy cake, I was always creative so I thought I would give it a go. It followed with a friend of hers asking if I could make one for her for a fee, that’s when I opened up my first business and this was the key to my freedom. Despite why I set up the business it offered me the opportunity to be creative and I had so much enjoyment from this. At the beginning stages of a business you do everything and I enjoyed putting together graphics of my work.

The business gave me a focus and an excuse to be in the dining room away from him on an evening. I started networking with people online and grew my Facebook page to 4,000 likes in just over a year. I went to craft fairs and didn’t care that he wasn’t going to support me by looking after the children, I took them with me and juggled it all.

When I finally fled the relationship and moved back to my home town I spent time figuring out how I was going to go forward with my life. I was lucky enough to access support and I went onto a recovery programme called The Recovery Toolkit. This was a big turning point for me because I not only had all the tools to live my new life but I also discovered how common domestic abuse is (1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men). That was the moment I knew I needed to help raise awareness of domestic abuse and that was the start of my writing journey.

My first book was all about educating through a form of entertainment, Isolation Junction, because I knew I had to reach into people’s lives without the jargon. My creativity streak came back and I started to build my own website and raise awareness in different ways.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and each year I try to do something different, I’ve done an Instagram challenge, last year I lit Hull City Centre purple and this year I am tweeting each day what I have learnt since leaving. You can find me on Twitter and most social platforms as: @JenLGilmour.

At this point you are probably wondering how my latest publication ‘Book Review Log Book’ fits in with raising awareness. The book itself is a journal style and right at the back there is a nod to my domestic abuse publications and advocacy. It’s small but it’s still there, sometimes we don’t need to be blunt about it but subtle. In terms of awareness, it could reach more readers so you never know how one book can roll onto reading another.

I don’t think I will ever stop being creative in raising awareness of domestic abuse, TikTok has been my latest go to platform to express my lived experiences. I feel that it not only helps others but it helps me personally because even several years later I am still working my way through the triggers, flashbacks and loss. I am building my life up and I share my journey openly online.

BLURB:

Keep a track of your reading progress and your book reviews in one place:

  • Reading Goals
  • To Be Read List
  • Book Release Dates
  • Word Cloud
  • Your Reviews
  • Your Notes

PURCHASE LINKS:

Purchase Link

REVIEW:

Now, I snapped up a copy of this book the second I heard about it, and I am so glad I did. Of course, like any good notebook and journal hoarder, I am now too scared to write in it in case I spoil it. But, with enough space for a year’s worth of reviews, and a handy release date calendar, I have decided that this is going to be my “go to” book log for 2022. I even have new pens specifically for the purpose. It is a fab book with a wonderfully clear layout, and would make the perfect Christmas present for that special bookworm in your life.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jennifer Gilmour is an author and advocate for women in abusive relationships, using her own experiences of domestic abuse as a catalyst to bring awareness and to help others. Jennifer has published two publications, Isolation Junction and Clipped Wings which have both been Amazon Best Sellers and received awards. Jennifer speaks at events across the UK and continues to raise awareness through her blog posts, public speaking, radio interviews and social media.

Most Informative Blogger Award 2018 (Bloggers Bash Annual Awards)
UK & European Award for using Social Media for Good 2019 (Social Day: Social Media Marketing Awards)

Jennifer says: “Together we are Louder”.

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SFFRomFest Blogger Spotlight

Everyone here already knows that I am a huge fantasy fan, so I was delighted to be asked to be part of the SFFRomFest to help launch a very exciting new podcast that celebrates SFF Romance. You might have seen that I have been taking part in the SFFRomFest Insta Challenge this month – I would love to see all your photos for each day’s challenge. Just use #SFFRomFest and #Bookstagram to join in, and don’t forget to follow @SFFRomCast on Instagram and Twitter.

As part of the festivities, myself and some of my fellow book bloggers have been answering a few questions about our love of SFF Romance. Here are my answers – it would be great to hear what your answers would be too.

What has been your favourite SFF Romance from 2021 so far?

Oh that is a tough one! I don’t think I can choose just one! I have just finished Red Magnolia, the first book in Lucy Holden’s YA series, the Nightgarden Saga, and I absolutely loved that. But then there is Stephanie Garber’s Once Upon a Broken Heart which was amazing – Caraval is one of my all time favourite series, and this spin off did not disappoint! Cassandra Clare is an author that everything else in my life stops for, so Chain of Iron also has to get a mention. Clara O’Connor’s Once and Future Queen series I devoured in its entirety this year, and I would highly recommend it to fans of British history as it offers a very alternative spin on what life could have been like if certain things had been different. All of these books were 5* reads for me.

Which subgenre of SFF Romance do you tend to read most of and what do you love about it?

I lean more towards fantasy than sci-fi, and then more towards YA and urban fantasy than the epics (although I do love the occasional epic fantasy). I think it is the idea of there being something other, something tucked just out of sight in the world we live in that appeals more than being transported to a completely different world. I love the idea of being in the know about things that normal people, or “mundanes” as Cassandra Clare would call them in her Shadowhunter Chronicles series (one of my favourites), are totally blind to, be that magic, or vampires, or shapeshifters, or any paranormal being (not zombies, I can’t cope with zombies – are zombie romance books even a thing?). 

What was the first SFF Romance you can remember reading?

I’m not sure if everyone would consider this as SFF Romance, but for me it was Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis – the hint of romance between Susan and Caspian really had me hooked, even more so when the film was made and the delicious Ben Barnes was cast as Caspian. Then, after an interval of more years than I care to think about, it was probably the Twilight books.

What SFF Romance do you always recommend?

It depends on who I am making the recommendation to. If I know they like their romance on the spicy side, then it has to be the Blood Web Chronicles by the fabulous Caedis Knight. I love the richness of their locations, and the diverse nature of their characters, plus their covers are absolutely stunning. They are quite wild though, so for more conservative readers, I would perhaps go for something like Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy, or the spin off book, Time’s Convert.

What SFF Romance is next on your TBR pile?

I haven’t entirely decided yet, but I think it will be either ghostly romance, The Wanderer, by Josie Williams or Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco (I am hoping for some romance in this one anyway with a certain Prince of Hell). I might have to toss a coin to decide!

The other blogs taking part are shown below – head on over to read their answers to these questions.

To celebrate the launch of their podcast on 13th October, SFFRomCast have teamed up with Words & Kisses to offer a fabulous giveaway. They will be running a competition to win three book bundles and all you have to do to enter is head over to @SFFRomCast on Twitter and follow the instructions in their pinned tweet.