I know, September seems to have passed such a long time ago! My intention had been to post my favourite read of the month before going on vacation. However, all the preparations to go away took away the time I usually spend on blogging.
Below is the list of books that I read. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title and you will be able to visit my post:
Nina Varela Crier’s War – Young Adult science fiction/fantasy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4 stars
With the start of the new academic year, time was taken away from reading. I did manage, however, to read 6 books. During September I focused on reading my favourite genre – fantasy fiction. The fantasy books I read were excellent though my absolute favourite was Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson. Not only did I enjoy the story but the writing and imagery were absolutely beautiful. I have no hesitation in making this novel my favourite read of the month.
I hope you enjoyed a number of novels in September. What was your favourite read? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.
I was excited to read the third novel in the Bulari Saga by Jessie Kwak. As I admired the cover of Pressure Point, I itched to crack open the pages and begin reading.
Genre: Science Fiction
Peace demands its price in blood.
Jaantzen may have brought stability to the city of Bulari, but not everyone’s grateful. Allegiances are shifting sand, and he’s made a miscalculation that earned him a deadly new enemy — one who plays a viciously different game than the one Jaantzen is used to winning.
Jaantzen and his crew fight to gain the upper hand, but secrets buried in shallow graves are coming back to haunt them. And as Starla and Toshiyo edge closer to understanding the growing mystery that’s been dropped in their laps, their search is awakening darker things than any of them can imagine.
Peace comes at a price, and this Pax Bulari could cost Jaantzen everyone he loves.
The pressure in Kwak’s story is definitely building in the third installment in Bulari Saga. The consequences of the action taken in the second novel are realised and the reader sees how the characters are figuring out how to deal with these consequences. What I enjoy is that the people in the story stay true to their character – each behaves as I would expect them too. I still have my favourites and I continue cheering them on as I read.
A little romance is developing in the story and it adds another dimension to the storyline. The romance shows that the characters are human and, as such, have feelings for one another. I am certainly curious to see where the romantic relationship leads; and whether it will change the decisions that will be made.
As with the previous two episodes in the story, Kwak’s pace is pitched perfectly. I could not help but turn the pages and found it difficult to put the novel down. And the end of the novel left me wanting more – I definitely cannot wait to read the next installment in the series!
In order to enjoy Pressure Point, it is important to have read the previous two novels in the series. But it is never to late to start reading from book 1! If enjoy reading science fiction and gangster-type stories, Kwak’s saga is one you need to pick up. You would enjoy the fast-paced tale with smatterings of humour and a touch of romance.
At the Frenzy Presents event in late August, I learned about Rena Barron’s novel Kingdom of Souls. The fantasy aspect of the novel interested me; and the African theme running through the story intrigued me. Soon after the event, I pre-ordered the novel online.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend, where one girl must sacrifice her life, year by year, to gain the power necessary to fight the mother she has never been good enough for.
Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can’t even cast the simplest curse.
Shame and disappointment dog her.
When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.
An explosive fantasy set in a world of magic and legend with a twist you will never see coming.
The beginning of Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron was not easy to read as I had to familiarise myself with the unusual names as well as the references to African culture. Often I found myself wishing for a name chart at the beginning of the novel so that I could refer to it and set it clear in my mind who was related to whom, and in what way they were connected.
Once I got used to the unusual names and had a clear picture in my mind where everyone fit in, it was easier to focus on the story. And what a story it was! Details were intricately woven in between the actions of the characters; characters that reflect the range of personalities that are found in the world. Within the Kingdom, there are kind and gentle people as well as people who are cruel and who adversely affect the lives of others.
The heroine, Arrah, is a young woman who tries to rectify the actions of someone she loves. As she goes on her journey, she grows as a person. She is one who perseveres and, as such, is a good role model to any young person reading this novel. Arrah is a character who discovers who she is and who discovers the magic she has within herself. Her journey is difficult but, with the help of her friends, she is able to realise her potential.
Kingdom of Souls is not an easy read and is more suitable for a young person who enjoys a more literary type of novel. Magic is a thread that runs through the story and is perfect for fans of fantasy novels. The ethos of African culture is a bonus and will appeal to those who are looking to connect with or explore the beauty of this culture. As an adult, I enjoyed the symbolism and imagery I read in Barron’s words. This is a novel I would highly recommend.
On Instagram, I kept seeing good reviews of Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson. As well as being a Fantasy novel, the story featured a library. I could not resist and decided to immerse myself in the story.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.
Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.
As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.
From the first pages of the novel, I was swept away by the story and the beautiful imagery. The language definitely drew me in and I often paused in my reading of the story to appreciate it. Rogerson used words to create beautiful pictures in my mind; images that are a perfect fit for a fantasy novel.
Sorcery of Thorns is set within the walls of Great Libraries and features a heroine who works within one such library. Her name is Elizabeth Scrivener. Such a clever last name, don’t you think, especially as she works in a library filled with scribed books. I enjoyed, too, that all books within the library are magical (precisely the way I see books) and are thus labelled grimoires.
The heroine, Elisabeth, sets out on a mission to save the Libraries and, while doing so, sets out on an adventure of self-discovery. The unexpected ups and downs of the story were thoroughly enjoyable for me and I flipped the pages quickly. This was one of those books that I couldn’t wait to continue reading when I got home from work. And it was definitely one that encouraged me to ignore the TV remote!
I enjoyed Robertson’s unusual heroine, as well as her counterpart, Nathaniel. Reading about Nathaniel and his demon was interesting and, even though one should Not enjoy a demon character, I did. Silas is definitely not what one would expect of such a creature.
Sorcery of Thorns is a beautifully written fantasy story that will enfold you in its magic. The bonus is that the novel is set in a bookish environment. I loved this story – as shown by the amount of post-its I placed throughout the novel. This beautiful book is a novel that I recommend to those who enjoy stories about magic and a young woman who grows to know herself better.
Harper Collins Canada held a #FrenzyPresents event earlier this month at which they promoted the Young Adult book written by Brian Francis, Break In Case of Emergency. I had the opportunity to attend and meet the author so I was curious to read the novel the folks at Harper Collins were enthusiastically promoting.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, LGBT
Life has been a struggle for Toby Goodman. Her mother died by suicide five years ago, and her father left their small town before Toby was born. Now a teenager living on her grandparents’ dairy farm, Toby has trouble letting people in. She keeps even her closest friend, the brash but endearing Trisha, at arms’ length, and recently ended her first relationship, with Trisha’s burnout brother, Mike. Convinced that she is destined to follow her mother’s path, Toby creates a plan to escape her pain.
But with the news that her father is coming home and finally wants to meet her, Toby must face the truth of her family’s story. Not only is her father gay, but he’s also a world-famous female impersonator—and a self-absorbed, temperamental man-child who is ill-prepared to be a real parent.
When Toby’s careful plans go awry, she is forced to rebuild the life she thought she knew from the ground up. While she may not follow an expected path, through the support of a quirky but lovable circle of friends and family, Toby may finally put together the many different pieces that make up her past, her present, and her future.
I do admit to beginning this novel with high expectations as it had been avidly promoted. The story also interested me as it dealt with possible mental health issues that so many teens face at this time of their lives. I think it is good that there is literature like this out there to help teen readers realise that they are not alone when experiencing suicidal thoughts or even feelings of worthlessness.
The story is written from the point of view of a teenage girl who does feel worthless; and who comes to believe that the people she is surrounded by would be better off without her. She does have a raw deal: growing up with her grandparents without a dad around, her mom having committed suicide. Francis places us right inside the mind of Toby Goodman, a girl who is having suicidal thoughts. We read of how her mind circles around suicide and why it would be such a good thing for her to do. There were moments, to be honest, when I felt that the thoughts expressed were a bit repetitive and I wished the story would move on – though I can understand that the writer wanted to reflect how a depressed person would focus on the negative and constantly obsess on a point.
Toby Goodman meets her dad who is a well-known drag queen. Not much time is spent on the encounter and subsequent meetings though. At the end of the novel, I wished that more had been written of their interaction. The moment of meeting her dad does help Toby come to certain realisations about herself, and even about her mom. Meeting her dad does put to rest some concerns that Toby had about her mother and her own relationship with her.
Toby is a character that grows in the story. She learns about herself and about what is important to her. She comes to learn more about the people in her lives; and begins to see herself through their eyes. The novel suggests to the reader that in our lives we are part of a group; and that we each have our role within that group. Out role is important and our actions do affect the others around us in a negative or positive way.
Break In Case of Emergency is a novel that celebrates a person who can overcome extreme sadness with the help of those around her. It celebrates that we, as people, can overcome the challenges in our ordinary lives with the love of those in our lives. This contemporary young adult novel will be one of those stories that can help young teens realise that they are not alone; and that they can look to the support of family and friends to help them through difficult times.
At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that interested me: A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth. This is her second novel and I wanted to compare the second novel with her debut.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Violet Sterling has spent the last seven years in exile, longing to return to Burleigh House. One of the six great houses of England, Burleigh’s magic always kept the countryside well. And as a child, this magic kept Violet happy, draping her in flowers while she slept, fashioning secret hiding places for her, and lighting fires on the coldest nights to keep her warm.
Everything shattered, though, when her father committed high treason trying to free Burleigh from the king’s oppressive control. He was killed, and Vi was forced into hiding.
When she’s given a chance to go back, she discovers Burleigh has run wild with grief. Vines and briars are crumbling the walls. Magic that once enriched the surrounding countryside has turned dark and deadly, twisting lush blooms into thorns, poisoning livestock and destroying crops. Burleigh’s very soul is crying out in pain.
Vi would do anything to help, and soon she finds herself walking the same deadly path as her father all those years before. Vi must decide how far she’s willing to go to save her house—before her house destroys everything she’s ever known.
As I began reading A Treason of Thorns, I was pulled right into the story. I loved the magical thread running through the story; and the fact that a house was imbued with a magic of its own. So much happens in a house and so many secrets occur within it walls. I love that this fact is transformed into magic in this story. While reading it, I could imagine the large houses in England of centuries past and the power that they used to have within society.
I felt a connection with the characters in Weymouth’s second novel much more than I did with the characters of her first. The reason could be that I enjoyed the inner strength of Violet – as well as the fact that she is loyal both to her House, Burleigh, and to her childhood friend, Wyn. In the novel, Violet has a series of choices to make and it is not always obvious what it is that she will choose. In order to make her choice, she comes to a few realisations about herself and what is important to her. I am tempted to say that Weymouth’s character development of her heroine is far stronger in A Treason of Thorns than it was in her first novel.
I enjoyed the magical quality of this novel and it is a perfect story for fans of fantasy fiction. The fantasy, however, is not too far removed from human history: readers can make a connection to the not too distant past (or even the present) when thinking of the influences of the Great Houses in society. It is a story that reminds us of the magic of the Great Houses in England. I enjoyed Weymouth’s storytelling and I look forward to reading her next offering.
At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that interested me: Crier’s War by Nina Varela.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT
After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.
Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.
Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.
Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.
Goodreads describes Crier’s War by Nina Varela as a Fantasy novel. While reading it, however, it had more of a science-fiction feel to me as it describes a world that is overtaken by human-made creations. The novel describes a possibility in a far distant era on Earth, and not on a mythical land.
The story describes a contrast between the Human and the Automae: two creatures that are at odds with one another and who both want their freedom – the Humans from enslavement of the creatures they created; and the Automae from their dependence on the humans. The politics of the Automae reflects the ideology followed by many humans in today’s world; a worldview that centres on keeping one’s culture and race separate from others.
Crier’s War is not just a story set in a possible future. It is a story that deals with separatism, as well as with being different. It is a story that reflects a realisation – and then acknowledgement – of difference within one’s self. It is a story that hints at the possibility of living in harmony (a possibility that I guess will be explored more in the second novel of the series). And it is a story that explores humanity and what it is to be human.
The two main characters in the story – Ayla and Crier – experience a growth throughout the novel. I enjoyed seeing their own self-realisation unfold as I turned the pages. The more I read about them, the more I grew to understand them and to like them as characters. It is a beautiful thing to see a young person come into their own and Varela describes their unfurling subtly and gently.
I enjoyed the world created by Varela as well as the characters that people her world. The novel ended on a cliffhanger and at that perfect moment. Now I need to wait for the release of the next in the series – and I am hoping that it is not a long wait. I need to know what happens next!
If you enjoy fantasy and science fiction stories, you will enjoy this one. In addition, it is a queer story with beautiful character development of young people. This is a series that I have every intention of completing.
As I am writing this, August seems to be a long way away as my days filled with reading have been replaced by the routine of the new school year. Squeezed in between my obligations at work, I have been trying to finish off the book reviews of the ARCs I read during the final month of my Summer Break. I managed to read an astounding fifteen novels and experienced a number of delightful stories.
Below is the list of books that I read. To read my reviews (if you haven’t already), click on the title and you will be able to visit my post:
I still cannot believe I read fifteen novels during August – no wonder it took me so long to to complete the reviews! There were a number of 5 star reviews for me, making it difficult to choose my favourite:
Abdi Nazeman’s novel Like A Love Story took me back to the past with the story’s conetnt. In addition, I enjoyed reading about his characters and their coming-of-age story.
Samra Zafar’s memoir A Good Wife was such an interesting and inspiring read. This is one book all girls and women should read.
Meg Waite Clayton’s The Last Train to London really pulled my emotional strings. Not only did I learn something new (about the kindertransport that saved thousands of children) but I very quickly became invested in the characters of the story.
Once taking some time to reflect, I feel that The Last Train To London by Meg Waite Clayton should be my pick of the month. Even a month after reading it, the story still resonates in my mind.
I hope you read as many wonderful stories as I did in August. What was your favourite read? Share your choice, or the link to your post, below.
At the Frenzy Presents event at the end of August, I was lucky enough to receive one of the books that I hoped to read: Suggested Reading by Dave Connis.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary
Publication Date: 17 September 2019
A bookworm finds a way to fight back when her school bans dozens of classic and meaningful books.
Clara Evans is horrified when she discovers her principal’s “prohibited media” hit list. The iconic books on the list have been pulled from the library and aren’t allowed anywhere on the school’s premises. Students caught with the contraband will be sternly punished.
Many of these stories have changed Clara’s life, so she’s not going to sit back and watch while her draconian principal abuses his power. She’s going to strike back.
So Clara starts an underground library in her locker, doing a shady trade in titles like Speak and The Chocolate War. But when one of the books she loves most is connected to a tragedy she never saw coming, Clara’s forced to face her role in it.
Will she be able to make peace with her conflicting feelings, or is fighting for this noble cause too tough for her to bear?
From the moment I started reading this novel, I knew I would love it. Not only does the story centre on a love of reading and censorship, but it also describes the emotions felt by the reader. Connis describes the reader’s experience when reading a beloved book – and it is perfect! The anticipation, the dread, the emotions. all are described as Clara (the main character) expresses her feelings when completing her current read.
Even today, book censorship can be an issue in some circles. These books are seen to have a negative impact on some readers – forgetting that, instead, these books describe the readers voice perfectly. Other books may have us question our social values, or the trends that can be seen in our environment. Books make us think and, if they are censored, those with the decision-making power intend for readers to think within the box.
Clara Evens fights for the books that she believes are important. She fights for the right to think outside of the box. She fights to read and think freely. While she is fighting the censorship of certain books at her school, she comes to the realisation of certain things about herself and how she was censoring other people’s actions. It was interesting to read how she developed as a person in the story. Just like books open a reader’s mind to ideas; her fight for these books opened her mind to the full persona of the people that she had previously disregarded.
This is definitely a book I would read again as there is so much to think about when enjoying the story. Even though it is described as a Young Adult novel, I believe that even older adults would appreciate both the story and the message. Suggested Reading is a novel that is definitely on my suggested reading list and would be perfect for any book lover!
I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars with no reservation
I enjoy Christmas stories and was curious about a novel describing quilting as my mom loves to quilt and I see it to be a wonderful talent. It is for these reasons that I requested to read and review The Christmas Boutique by Jennifer Chiaverini from my contact at Harper Collins Canada.
Genre: Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Christmas
Publication Date: 1 October 2019
Just weeks before Christmas, severe wintry weather damages the church hall hosting the Christmas Boutique—an annual sale of handcrafted gifts and baked goods that supports the county food pantry. Determined to save the fundraiser, Sylvia Bergstrom Compson offers to hold the event at Elm Creek Manor, her ancestral family estate and summertime home to Elm Creek Quilt Camp.
In the spirit of the season, Sylvia and the Elm Creek Quilters begin setting up market booths in the ballroom and decking the halls with beautiful hand-made holiday quilts. Each of the quilters chooses a favorite quilt to display, a special creation evoking memories of holidays past and dreams of Christmases yet to come. Sarah, a first-time mother expecting twins, worries if she can handle raising two babies, especially with her husband so often away on business. Cheerful, white-haired Agnes reflects upon a beautiful appliqué quilt she made as a young bride and the mysterious, long-lost antique quilt that inspired it. Empty nesters and occasional rivals Gwen and Diane contemplate family heirlooms and unfinished projects as they look forward to having their children home again for the holidays.
But while the Elm Creek Quilters work tirelessly to make sure the Christmas Boutique happens, it may take a holiday miracle or two to make it the smashing success they want it to be.
Praised for her ability to craft “a wonderful holiday mix of family legacy, reconciliation and shared experiences” (Tucson Citizen), Jennifer Chiaverini once again rings in the festive season with this eagerly awaited addition in her beloved series.
The Christmas Boutique was written as part of a series – The Elm Creek Quilts series. It is not necessary, however, to have read the previous novels in order to enjoy the story: I had not read the preceding novels and there was not a time in which I was lost or confused. Chiaverini describes her characters well enough for a first reader of her series; and places them in a setting that is very quickly understood.
Women who quilt will enjoy reading the detail that the author adds to the narrative. I am not a quilter myself but some of the techniques described rang a bell in my mind as I have heard my mom speak of them; or I have read the terms as I have browsed her books and magazines.
I enjoyed reading the story that evolved around a group of women who quilt. The group is seen as a reflection of society and a woman’s circle as all types of personalities and problems are described. The story mirrors so much of what happens in life and, as a result, makes the novel totally believable. The book describes the emotions and experiences of each quilter in the group with the author matching up each story to create the whole – much like a quilt.
I enjoyed reading The Christmas Boutique. It was a lighthearted read that would be perfect to read over the holiday period snuggled up warmly under the cover of a blanket or quilt. Definitely a book you can curl up with during the cold winter months.