24 July 2020

Author Interview with Maria Kuzniar

Today I have an extra special post!  As part of Middle Grade Marvels, I had the opportunity to put forward a few questions for Maria Kuzniar, author of the wonderful book The Ship of Shadows, which was released last week.  I've heard that Maria is partial to a bit of prosecco so that's what I'm drinking today!

Here are some of the questions we came up with:

I loved Aleja right from the start, is there a little bit of you in her character?

Thank you, that’s lovely to hear! Yes, there definitely is. Aleja was based off my own wanderlust and longing for adventure. I would have loved to have read about her when I was younger and that was my starting point. Since then I have been lucky enough to have plenty of adventures of my own but I still feel that tickly urge to go out and explore, the less travelled, the better! Just the word ‘expedition’ gives me a shiver of excitement.

Where did you get the idea of linking legends to the changing ship?

This one’s quite a hard question to answer as it was during the editing process that my brilliant editor began to make me think even deeper about the Ship of Shadows, its mythology and backstory and magic system of the shadows. The legends effecting physical changes on the ship came out of that process so it was more of an evolution of ideas than having a direct inspiration from the start.

Why owls? Are they an animal you’ve always been interested in?

I’ve always loved owls! I think they’re mystical, beautiful creatures. And they can be quite fearsome too. The main reason I went for an owl though was to avoid the parrot on the shoulder trope! It also fitted in very nicely with one of Athena’s symbols being an owl—if you’ve read the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about here!—but funnily enough, Penumbra, Captain Quint’s owl, was a later addition. I’d actually already signed with my agent with The Ship of Shadows before both Penumbra and Geoffrey made their appearance!

Is there a specific way you selected the names of your characters?

I love naming characters! I know some authors hate it but it’s actually one of my favourite parts of the early writing process. Aleja’s name popped into my head almost straight away but for the other characters, I looked at older names from the countries they’re originally from. Ermtgen’s name came from a Dutch ship’s passenger list in the early 18th century! Penumbra is the only character with a name that has a special meaning. . .

For more insights into The Ship of Shadows and Maria's writing, check out these other great blogs for the rest of our questions and answers:

In case you haven't heard the news, Middle Grade Marvels is a super fun book club where we read one or two Middle Grade books a month and get together in a Twitter group each week to discuss. There's no obligation to get involved every single month and we all get input into the book choice.
Join us at @GradeMarvels for our August book - Small Spaces by Katherine Arden.

17 July 2020

The Ship of Shadows - Maria Kuzniar

Today's it's my stop on The Ship of Shadows blog tour. The book was out just a couple of days ago and I would highly recommend you go out and get yourself a copy as soon as possible! Unfortunately the post gremlins ate my review copy but I will be buying a finished one so I can lend this wonderful story to friends and family.

Aleja has always found it impossible to make friends with the girls her age in their pretty dresses, particularly since everyone found out her secret dream to be an explorer. She's more comfortable climbing walls and running around on rooftops. Sneaking into the library at night when she should be sleeping and reading about all the places she dreams of going one day.

One night she discovers the fabled Ship of Shadows is not only real, but actually docked in her city. Aleja can't believe it when she's offered a place on the ship, but taking it means leaving behind her family and everything she knows. Can she really take that leap? The choice is taken out of her hands when she finds herself on the run from some very dangerous people.

I knew right away I was going to love Aleja! She's so brave, curious and clever. She teaches herself languages just through reading books and proves herself invaluable as she solves riddles and clues to help Captain Quint with her mysterious search. She's a wonderful character, trying to balance her dreams of exploring the world, with not wanting to disappoint her family. Her older brother Miguel is such a sweetheart. It's a shame we don't see more of him as he's so lovely and supportive of Aleja.

The story is exciting but almost takes a back seat to the amazing Ship of Shadows. Where do I even start, it's the coolest thing, practically a character itself and I could write pages about how much I love it! The ship is huge and full of so many mysteries. First and most important, it actually has it's own massive library, complete with sliding ladders. There's a resident ghost and lots of creepy shadows moving around everywhere. Though Aleja does seem to acquire a small friendly one like a pet. There are countless different rooms and hidden places, with secret passages and rooms where magic likes to hide, creating mystical waterfalls. I would love to visit the Navigator's cabin with it's telescope and glass roof. I want to live in Velka's cabin, with tropical trees, butterflies and what sounds like an amazing chemistry lab.

I enjoyed this book so much. The descriptions are so lush and evocative I could almost imagine I was experiencing all those places with Aleja. And there's so much cake! I found myself hungry all the way through!

Cut yourself a big slice of cake and sip on a Black Shadow. Pour a shot of Blue Curacao and 1/2 shot of Creme de Cassis into a flute. Then top with champagne.

Be sure to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour, running till the end of the month!

5 July 2020

Malamander - Thomas Taylor

If the impossible is possible anywhere, it'll be possible in Eerie-on-Sea.

Come and visit Cheerie-on-Sea, a place full of legends. In summer you can get an ice cream and play on the beach, but in winter is when Eerie-on-Sea gets really interesting. Herbie is in charge of Lost and Found at the Grand Nautilus Hotel where he has worked for as long as he can remember, but the lost things he deals with has never been a person before! 12 years ago, baby Violet was left at the hotel and her parents disappeared. Now she's back to investigate and find out what happened to them. Who better to help than the resident Lost-and-Founder?

This book is full of wonders. You can visit the Eerie Book Dispensary and get a book prescription from a mermonkey. Or find some beautiful sea glass at the Flotsamporium. Or see some history at the museum in the castle. There's Erwin, the talking cat, who only talks when no one is taking notice. And of course the local legendary monster, the Malamander, with claws and needle-like teeth. 

Herbie and Violet are perfectly matched. While Herbie is cautious and tries (usually unsuccessfully) to follow the rules, Violet runs wildly towards any danger and is always happy to take risks. Herbie keeps them safe while Violet ensures they never miss a clue. I'm really looking forward to their future adventures!

With delicious sounding names like Herbert Lemon and Violet Parma, I was craving sweets throughout the book! So of course they had to inspire my Malamander cocktail. In a shaker with ice, pour 1 shot violet gin and 1 shot lemon juice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass and top with prosecco. Garnish with a Malamander egg, but if you haven't managed to find one yet you can use a cherry.

18 June 2020

Would You Rather?

I was tagged by the wonderful Amy at Amy's Bookish Life. This was a fun but difficult book tag. It took me ages to come up with the questions and I just had to keep Amy's first one as I'm really curious about other people's answers, hopefully I also have some good, original ones. Let me know in the comments if you've figured out all the books or even if you would like to have a go!


1. Answer the questions given to you by your nominator 
2. Make your own questions and tag others

The Questions

1. Would you rather read a book where a page was missing or a book where the author doesn’t know the difference between there, their, and they’re?

Oh, I can't stand bad grammar, particularly in a book which is supposed to be edited multiple times! I wouldn't be able to get into the story.  I'd much rather have a page missing and just guess what happened.

2. Would you rather have dinner with your favourite author or your favourite character?

This is too hard! I was going to say character, but I don't have a favourite. It would be so difficult to choose from my favourite authors though and I'd just spend the whole time dumbstruck.

3. Would you rather be in a fantasy book or a dystopian book?

Fantasy, I'm getting enough dystopia from the world we're living in right now.

4. Would you rather wait five years for the final instalment in a series or get it now, but must read every spoiler before you can start reading it?

I'd want it now, even with the spoilers. I forget everything immediately anyway, including the previous book!

5. Would you rather read a book with no page numbers or no chapter numbers?

I don't really mind either.

6. Would you rather live in your favourite fictional world for a day or be able to or be able to visit that fictional world whenever you want but only as an observer?

I think I'd like to go lots of times and observe. I'd probably be too shy to talk to anyone anyway.

7. Would you rather read a novel based on a true story of someone you know or a fictional novel where a character is based on you?

Fictional about me, it would be fun to be a character in a book.

8. Would you rather volunteer as tribute for someone you love in the Hunger Games or have someone you love volunteer to take your place?

I would probably be absolutely awful and die after about 3 minutes, but I couldn't stand to have someone I love take my place.

9. Would you rather own a signed edition or a first edition?

Signed, definitely. 

10. Would you rather only read your favourite genre for the rest of your life or every genre but your favourite?

Just my favourite.

My Questions

1. Would you rather read a book where a page was missing or a book where the author doesn’t know the difference between there, their, and they’re?

2. Would you rather have the chance to save your favourite character or give a gruesome end to one character you really hated?

3. Would you rather be an animagus or a vampire?

4. Would you rather choose all your future books by the cover alone or just by the first page?

5. Would you rather have only physical books or electronic books forever?

6. Would you rather be a demigod from Camp Halfblood or Camp Jupiter?

7. Would you rather read a book that is really well written but the story is a bit boring, or an amazing storyline but the writing is awful?

8. Would you rather have a daemon or a patronus?

9. Would you rather have a friend with a library or a chocolate factory?

10. Would you rather visit the Discworld or Middle Earth? 

9 June 2020

Midnight's Twins - Holly Race

Dreams come true 
but so do your 

Fern discovers her mother's secret when she's 15, but when she realises her twin brother has been chosen instead of her, she is determined to change her fate and prove she should be a knight of Annwn too.
Annwn is the dreamworld, a mirror of the real world, where everyone goes when they sleep. It's full of magic but also filled with danger and nightmares, thankfully the knights are there to protect the dreamers from the worst of the perils but there are continuous threats to them too.
It turns out not only was Fern meant to be a knight, but she and her twin have an extremely rare gift. When the dangers from Annwn spill into Fern's waking life, she has to find a way to fight an enemy more powerful and dangerous than any of nightmares.

The book starts off with a very intriguing and mysterious prologue. It definitely got my interest and made me want to keep reading. What could these strange, dangerous treitre be? I also really wanted to know more about the complicated relationship between Fern and her family and what happened to make them this way. You can tell she cares about her family even though it seems that something horrific happened to cause a huge rift between them.

It was all so magical, reading about inspyre, which is the substance that the dreamworld is made of. I would love to be able to control it and make things out of my imagination! On the other hand it's terrifying to think that dreams and nightmares could be real.

Midnight's Twins is released in just 2 days so you've still got time to pre-order! Let me know what you think, would you like to visit Annwn?

I've adapted a cocktail to make a Midnight in Annwn. Shake all the following ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. 1 shot gin, 1 shot shiraz wine, 1/2 shot lemon juice, 1/4 shot grenadine.

Make sure you check out all the other great blogs on the tour too!