Brave Enough (Atlantic Books, 2015) is a book of quotes. It's as simple as that. I was looking for some inspiration and the lovely Cheryl Strayed popped back up onto my radar after disappearing post-Wild last June. Reviewing a book of quotes seemed like a bit of a pointless task to me, so I'm going to share with you a few of my highlights from this quick read. All quotes are from Cheryl herself (I don't think I've ever said one quotable thing in my life that wasn't crude, honestly). It's one of those ones you'll go back to when you need a kick up the butt.

'The body knows. When your heart sinks. When you feel sick to your gut. When something blossoms in your chest. When your brain gloriously pops. That's your body telling you the One True Thing. Listen to it.'

'Alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren't a state of being, but rather a room where I could always retreat to be who I really was.'

'Be the captain. You are the captain.'

'Don't own other people's crap.'

'Would you be a better or worse person if you forgave yourself for the bad things you did?'

'You let time pass. That's the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and you realize you're okay.'

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I write this soothing my throat with Lemsip. That is not a murky cup of tea. I have Freshers Flu and I'm not even a student.

Leaving the Atocha Station - Ben Lerner (Coffee House Press, 2011)
An actual spontaneous book-recommendation purchase when browsing the Amnesty store in Cambridge. My wonderful friend Dan (so wonderful he definitely won't be reading this) pointed this Lerner novel out to me, which I had never heard of before, but I trust his judgement when it comes to anything bookish. It's been blurbed by Paul Auster which just makes it even better. From what I can gather this follows a young poet and his exploration of art.

I Was Told There'd Be Cake - Sloane Crosley (Riverhead Books, 2008)
Another Amnesty store purchase, this time something I've had my eye on for years. This is an essay collection on modern life in the city (and was totally mentioned in an episode of Gossip Girl but I swear that's not the only reason). This has been blurbed by none other than the fantastic author of the next book I picked up...

You Don't Love Me Yet - Jonathan Lethem (Faber & Faber, 2007)
I love Jonathan Lethem. I wrote an essay for the Contemporary US Fiction module of my MA on his use of genre, comparing it to that of Thomas Pynchon and Paul Auster (mentioned above in this creepily self-referential blog post), and I ended up reading so much of his non-fiction work alongside Motherless Brooklyn. Now, You Don't Love Me Yet has absolutely terrible reviews on Goodreads, but I guess everyone fucks up at some point. The protagonist of this novel works on an art installation that takes the form of a 'complaints line' where she listens to the problems of callers, and she, of course, falls in love with one of them. I just want to read all of the Lethem under the sun.

Psyche Unbound - Heather Buck (Anvil Press Poetry, 1995)
Probably the purchase in this haul with the least reasoning behind it. I've been really enjoying poetry recently, and this collection caught my eye. I can't find much online about the poet herself so who knows what it's going to be like.

The Beats - ed. Park Honan (J.M. Dent, 1987)
This was the only book not picked up after work from the Amnesty store, but in London during a very hungover visit with my mum. I can't turn down anything related to Beat Poetry, so when I saw this in the window of a secondhand bookshop I knew I needed to crawl into that display and grab it. Which is exactly what I did. I then chatted to the shopkeeper about the new £5, because what else is there to talk to people in retail about at the moment?

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We have reached October which means one thing: thinking about next year already despite there being a crap-tonne of things still to do. Here are some of the books coming out in 2017 that I'm already very excited about:

Month Unannounced

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body - Roxane Gay (2017, HarperCollins)
Gay's second publication, this time a memoir on her relationship with her body image and food. The release date for this one keeps shifting around, with Roxane starting to write it in 2014 with a 2016 release in mind. Now it's set for some time next year.

January - March 2017

Universal Harvester - John Darnielle (February 2017, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
I loved Darnielle's debut, Wolf in White Van, so am over the moon that he has another book coming out in the next six months. This one sounds equally as mind-bending and creepy: mysterious footage starts appearing on VHS tapes at the local video store. I love how Darnielle used a retro play-by-post game in Wolf so happy to see another form of 90s media being used.

Wires and Nerve, Volume One - Marissa Meyer (January 2017, Feiwel & Friends)
Praise Meyer for continuing on with the Lunar Chronicles by adding a graphic novel series to the mix. This will focus on android Iko and feature all of our favourite characters from before. I cannot wait.

Caraval - Stephanie Garber (January 2017, Hodder & Stoughton)
A new Young Adult duology centering around Scarlett, a young woman trying to find her sister after she disappears at the mysterious Caraval, a once-in-a-year performance where the audience participates.

Carve the Mark - Veronica Roth (January 2017, HarperCollins)
Duology number two. From the author of Divergent we are presented with a violent planet where everyone is born with a specific gift, some better than others. Akos and Cyra both have gifts that can destroy one another and through events they must work together in order to survive. Drama drama drama.

Witch - Lisa Lister (March 2017, Hay House UK)
I've basically read everything Lisa has written. This will be no exception. In Witch, she gives a history of witchcraft and leads us through to its modern iterations. She is a wonderfully warm and wise woman, and I can't wait to hear more about this release.

April - June 2017

Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh (May 2017, G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers)
The first release in a new Young Adult series set in rural Japan. Mariko is an alchemist and the daughter of a prominent samurai, but is unable to follow to follow in his footsteps because she's a woman. She dresses as a boy and enters into the Black Clan. Obvious Mulan vibes here. What's not to love?

Release - Patrick Ness (May 2017, Walker Books)
Prepare yourself for the greatest book description you'll ever read. 'Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Bloom's Forever'. Need I say more?

Spindle Fire - Lexa Hillyer (April 2017, HarperCollins)
As if I could ever turn down a fairytale retelling. This time it's Sleeping Beauty. There's bloodshed, evil faeries, and obviously a whole lot of sleep. Recommended for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas.

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Today's interview is with the lovely Annie Dornan-Smith of Annie Dornan-Smith Design! I've been following Annie on Twitter for a while now and absolutely adore her illustrations and design style. She's recently fully-funded her Kickstarter for her book House Jungle, a gorgeous illustrated guide on how to care for your house plans. We spoke about artistic inspirations, greenery, and favourite films! I hope you enjoy it, and check out Annie's wonderful art at the links below.


Magic & Musings: Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Annie! First of all, for any readers who don't know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself. When did you first get into illustration? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby?
Annie Dornan-Smith: You're welcome! I got into illustration at uni - I was studying Graphic Design at Uni (Nottingham Trent), and I pretty much discovered that illustration 'existed' at the end of my first year. Before that, I vaguely knew that book illustrators existed, but I thought that to take illustration courses you had to be able to draw like Disney animators. I didn't realise that illustration was so wide and could be applied to so much. I graduated in BA Graphic Design this year, but luckily I had some very supportive illustrator tutors, which allowed me to explore illustration under the 'banner' of graphic design. Now I mostly focus on my shop, where I design illustrated stationery and homeware to make your life extra fancy!


M&M: When did you first start selling your illustrations and did you have to overcome any self-confidence barriers in order to get to that place?
ADS: Luckily I've always felt pretty confident that I can make stuff that is *nice* (naturally, I still compare my work to EVERYONE else's and feel bad about it, but I never really worried that 'nobody will want to buy this') so that wasn't a huge problem. I started putting a few illustrations on Etsy initially, in my second year of uni, as I thought it would be a good way to continue to keep practicing, and hopefully make a little extra money as a poor student! Now I have my own website - - where I sell my designs primarily.

M&M: When did you first get the idea to publish a book and use Kickstarter as a way of funding it?
ADS: I actually made the book in its entirely for one of my final projects at uni. It's 94-pages long and took me about three months to finish, and I had to get it made into a 'real thing' in order to hand it in for my course. When it was completed I was just really proud of it, and I wanted to make it real and I thought the best way to be able to afford enough copies would be to get some help via crowdfunding. I am the kind of person that has never felt like I needed anyone's help in order to do something, so instead of waiting around hoping something good would happen with it, I just decided to get on with making the book 'real', and start selling it myself. Funnily enough, throughout the course of the Kickstarter, I was actually approached by multiple publishers, and now I'm kind of getting that help. I've been really lucky.


M&M: On Magic & Musings I love talking about female artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourits to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?
ADS: There are so many female illustrators who've been really influential - hether it's their use of colour of their style. I really love Laura Callaghan even though our work is nothing alike! I also love Dinara Mirtalipova, Laura Redburn and always, Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co.


M&M: A lot of your work is inspired by nature. Would you say you turn to the natural world often for inspiration? I know walks outside have been the pursuit of artists for centuries and are certainly good for calming the busy mind.
ADS: Definitely - I love florals and 'girly stuff' - which I think is why, but I actually love leaves the most. I'm not sure why really, but when I'm trying to paint leaves and florals I often feel like I need to go and look at some real life plants for inspiration. I've always lived in cities, so I don't really go on lots of walks, but my mum grows an absolutely stunning, wild and abundant garden, which has probably been an influence on me.

M&M: Do you draw from reference items or do you draw from your imagination?
ADS: I like to draw from reference, but I usually make it my own by interpreting it in weird and wonderful ways. For House Jungle, I used actual photos of plants with a little artistic license, because they needed to look like the correct plant, but I like to use reference just as 'inspiration' and then think about how those things will translate through my 'style'.


M&M: This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I'm really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to?
ADS: I'm actually not very exciting in that respect. I usually work best from my desk (currently in my bedroom!) but that's mostly because I'm super forgetful, and if I went to share workspaces/coffee shops, I would probably sit down and realise I didn't have something. Or suddenly decide I needed a certain kind of pen, or something. Other than that, the only thing I like to have around it to-do lists - I design my own and I can get quite obsessive about knowing what I'm doing that day, but that's mostly because I'm so forgetful that I have to stay organised.

Note: Here is a link to Annie's blog post on her studio tour!

M&M: What are your favourite tools you use to create your illustrations?
ADS: I am always armed with gouache - which I do all my paintings in - and my beloved beloved brush pens. I am really into brush lettering, and being left-handed I find I can only do it properly with brush pens.


M&M: Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?
ADS: Hmm, I've been really bad about remembering to read recently - I used to be such a bookworm but now it's so easy to just sit there and look at your phone like an idiot instead of snuggling up with a book! However, I did read Garden of the Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng recently which was interesting! I need to get better about reading. As for a film, it'd have to be my favourite Scott Pilgrim vs The World. It's so stupid and silly and is probably my number one favourite film ever. It makes a lot more sense if you've read the graphic novels first, though. As for an album, I'm recommending Plans by Death Cab for Cutie. It's hardly a recent album, but it's probably my all-time favourite album ever ever ever. I think people hear their name and don't give them a chance but their music is really special and catchy and just excellent.

Note: Scott Pilgrim has got to be one of my favourites, too!


M&M: Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?
ADS: Well, I'm active on Twitter and Instagram at the moment if you wanna hang out with me a bit. I'm always looking for new friends. My website is where I sell all my lovely stationery and homeware designs, and my newsletter is where I share whatever cool new things I've designed to make sure you don't forget about me!

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