What is Sera Reading? The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

Hello, for those who have just met me I’m Seraphim and I am a Worcestershire Library worker. I wasn’t always a big reader but now I can’t stop. Sometimes it’s hard to pick your next book as it’s a lot of time and energy you are giving to another world. So to help folks out I’m posting what I think of the titles I’ve tackled.

This week in honor of the LGBTQ+ Month I picked up an new title from a debut novelist.

The Sweetness of Water is Nathan Harris tribute to the lost history that most or at least for many Black Americans is missing. “All Black writers are drawn to filling in their past,” he says. The Main theme deals with the end of the Civil War in America and with the newly emancipated slaves. Harris really gets you thinking about the repercussions of the enslaved suddenly becoming free, and what that freedom meant when there were no guidelines to help navigate the change.

Opening with the main character George Walker, a decent, moral man transplanted to the south from New England, wandering in the woods. He is searching for a monster: “A black coat of fur that clung to the shadows, moving fluidly as if it were part of the darkness itself.” Instead, he meets the two brothers, Prentiss and Landry, recently freed from under the yoke of a villainous neighbor.

Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos, including a murder, unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community. In the aftermath of so much turmoil, it is Isabelle who emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox

A personal and political twin tale, this is a far from traditional renderings of post-Civil War America. Harris is writing with both passion and thorough research, this gives us a compelling story which I really enjoyed.

What’s Sera Reading? The Starless Sea

I fell in love with the author Erin Morgenstern creative style after I read “The Night Circus.” Worlds with mysterious circuses, grand love affairs and beautiful prose are just my ‘cup of tea’.

The Starless Sea is a magical realism narrative, a newish gene, that has picked up a large following very quickly. Morgenstern is known for master crafting words, and I was stunned at the beauty of some of the sentences I read. yet she can leave you lost in a world of description almost forgetting to tell you the story, (not a mistake she made in The Night Circus.) She has a genuine power to create brand new and original sub-plots, stories within stories, that somehow feel like myth. There is also some amazing queer representation in this book. The main character, Zachary Rawlins, is gay, Huzzah! Unfortunately character development in some of the main characters such as Zachary get a bit limp toward the later half of the book and for such a large book this is bad. The role of the main female lead, Mirabel. She is the immortal representation of Fate, but again she ends up feeling much like a minor one because she was not developed to her full potential. Mirabel had a lot to offer, but the author left her alone after a certain point. She felt simply unfinished.

However, for a fantasy novel this is no let down. For those of us who love to visualize new worlds and inter-dimensional layers there is so much to play with here. If, like me, you enjoy deciphering narrative clues, weaving together story threads, and nodding at metatextual nuggets. Read this book!

Young Writer Competition

Poster for WCAF’s story writing comp

Worcester Competitive Arts Festival aims to give  amateur musicians, actors of all ages the opportunity to perform in a friendly and supportive environment. Medals and trophies are awarded to the winners of competitive classes and winners may also be invited to perform at the festival concert.

The next festival will take place on

12th and 19th March 2022.

https://www.wcaf.org.uk/

What’s Sera Reading? The Phone Box at the Edge of the World

Quote from The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina


Inspired by a real telephone box located in the north-east of Japan comes The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina, a novel about Yui, a woman who lost her mother and daughter in the 2011 tsunami and is forced to navigate her grief as well as the life that lies ahead.  A radio host, Yui first heard about the wind phone when she was moderating a discussion on grief. A caller, who had also lost a loved one in the 2011 tsunami, described the phone box with a phone doesn’t work; there’s no connection but the caller says that “your voice is carried away with the wind” Yui is intrigued and makes the drive from Tokyo.

The writing style is different to normal English writers. First written in Italian and published as Quel che affidiamo al vento, the English translation was done by Lucy Rand. Rand’s translation is fluent and seamless; she captures the lyricism and meditative quality of the writing with care. Longer chapters are punctuated by shorter ones, some written as lists (“Ten things plus one that Hana and Akiko loved doing together”), others as fragments, a single word, or an in-depth look and what had otherwise seemed like a secondary observation. These ultimately add to the experience: revealing a relationship through quieter moments, serving as a break in the tension or offering a different lens to reflect upon the previous chapter.

There is a stillness and quietness to the book that makes each movement all the more meaningful. The words carry a weight that makes each sentence feel intentional; there’s no fat to trim. Moving and heart-breaking, Yui’s story, and that of the Wind Phone, is equally uplifting and heart-warming.

What’s Sera Reading? The Hoarder

Seraphim with Tenbury Library’s copy of The Hoarder by Jess Kidd.

This is a very gifted writer at her best. Kidd takes on a roller-coaster of a mystery crossed with a ghost story, including clues to the disappearance of two women, and traps for the reader to fall into. The characters are very strong and original in this setting so, even though we are mostly set in the old house, there is so much to explore. The main charters are Maud Drennan an irreverent Irish care worker who has been assigned the unholy task of bringing order to the life of Cathal Flood, a cantankerous old man who lives with his cats in a decrepit house surrounded by piles of rubbish. I really enjoyed the charter of Mr. Flood the way he talks, the mysterious life he had lead, and plays tricks on Maud. he is a giant of a man and his character arc is also giant. A special mention has to go to Maud’s glorious cross- dressing, agoraphobic neighbor, Renata, who is a beloved element to Maud’s life and such a joy in the narrative. The house itself seems to have a character shown in the amazing imagery and description.

What’s Sera Reading? The Wind Singer

Sera with the Tenbury Library copy of The Wind Singer by William Nicholson

The first in a trilogy, The main character’s are twins Kestrel and Bowman Hath, who share a telepathic/empathic connection and include what seems a useless character Mumpo. The children are from a very controlled life and are suddenly chased into an epic, at times strange adventure.  On top of Bowman possessing empathic abilities, the group have to overcome completely different lands. In part, it is a children’s book about the horrors of standardized testing. In the city of Aramanth, the lives of its citizens are ruled by a colour-coded caste system of tests. How well one does on the yearly “High Examination” determines what you do for work, where you live, and even what colour clothing you wear. Yet there is more to the book, the complexity of friendship and challenging the thoughts of aggression as one only form of attack or defence. You are left with many questions about what will happen next (good job, it is a trilogy) and why the world is so different. So if you want an honestly mind-boggling adventure with loads of fun, here is a book for you.

the updated covers for the 10th anniversary
the original book series Wind on Fire trilogy

What’s The Next Book Like?

Second book in the series – Slaves of the Mastery

picks up the story of twins Kestrel and Bowman five years on from the closing chapter of The Wind Singer. relseaed from the grip of the fearsome Morah the city is new and is therefore not ready to deal with an oncoming attack. This time it is the whole peoples that are taken from thier home and lead on a death march to a new land. with the exception of Kestrel Hath, the Manth people who servive are brought to the Mastery, a beautiful country built up entirely on slave labor. They are branded and given jobs. 

This is as dark as the first story but for me, much more clear about its enemy. Everyday the Manth people have to deal with life and death choices and Nicholson spares no mercy in how he delievers the teast of charaters. reading this book i’m reminded of how we have so many choices and how difficult it would be to try and give others hope in such a dark test of time/trust. the whimsy of the first book is gone and i like this telling of charaters and situations better. The narrative is cleavely written so young readers can manage the subject matter, evoking vivid imagery but never going so far as to make it too graphic. A much more cleaner and more mature narrative with lots of adventure and plenty of emotion put in every step.

What is Sera reading? Wakenhyrst

Tenbury Library copy of Wakenhyrst by Michelle Paver, and my cup of tea. hahaha

A good book for a winter nights. Wakenhyrst is described as “a darkly gothic thriller” gothic it defiantly is which I love. the novel is about murderous obsession and one ladies life long fight to fly free of society and her father’s rule.  the narrative follows Maud living the life of a recluse for 50 years in the tiny village of Wakenhyrst in the Suffolk fens. 

After Maud’s mother tragically died in childbirth, she was raised by her father, a historian and a controlling man. its a devastating part of life in Maud’s history and you as the read can feel nothing but contempt at how this tragedy is so coldly dealt with. from that moment you know who Maud will be pitted against her whole life. in Maud’s eyes her father is already a murderer but is he guilty of more? Maud is a lonely child who secretly reads her father’s personal journals, he overlooks her as an equal and she is only a possession and disappointment to him. yet we the reader see she is much more.

I found the story to be awesome, but I do not like that so much of the narrative is taken up by the man’s journals and the reading of them. I found myself put off by his annoying scholarly tone and attitudes. However, this annoyance plays right into Paver’s skill as a writer and its only right that I find the man disagreeable. I do love all the folklore references and even the mediaeval influences. A book of Excellent quality.

What is Sera Reading? Anatomy of a Soldier

Seraphim with Tenbury Library’s copy of The Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker

A blinder of a book. I had heard that the book was challenging to some and upsetting to others. So, I approached the reading with my mind open, hesitantly expecting I would not understand. Parker’s writing in this book is phenomenal and nothing is wasted, description or information.

The story is told by the items that surround and orbit the Soldier. As the narrative is told at first this gives a sense of the less human, non-sentimental mind but soon you are enveloped by the British captain’s lost of his leg to an IED, then the other to an infection, and the slow, mind hazy recovery. The first three chapters, for example, are narrated by a tourniquet, a bag of fertiliser, and a boot.

The narrative is jumpy. From the chaos of an [Afghan?] firefight to a Sainsbury’s car park and back again. Yet doesn’t feel all that puzzling thanks to the prose being economical but evocative and at times wincingly graphic. I was soon able to navigate through the ruptured timeline. An amazing debut novel not surprisingly from a former UK soldier. I was astounded at how much I learnt and understood from this book despite having zero military knowledge or much interest in war novels. deeply moving and real. I defiantly recommend this to your bucket list.

What is Sera reading? The Ghost Tree: A Betty Church Mystery

Sera with the Tenbury Library copy in paperback of The Ghost Tree: A Betty Church Mystery

Hello, Its Sera again. A new mystery has arrived at Tenbury Library and you can find it on our Quick Choice Shelf. – What starts as a simple story of a runaway girl turns into a brilliantly twisty tale. The story is split over two time lines both with our lead character narrating. Betty doesn’t disappoint solving both crimes and unraveling the trail of misconception. Betty’s childhood friend Etterly, running from something, hides inside the trunk of a tree and disappears. nothing can be done as the trail goes cold on the police. June, 1940: Inspector Betty Church is alerted to a skeleton being dug up in a local woods. Though most clues have long since decayed, it is wearing an unusual necklace, Etterly’s necklace. A World War Two crime for fans of Agatha Christie. I’m a fan of M.R.C. KASASIAN since the March Middleton series. So, I’m defiantly going to borrow The Suffolk Vampire, I will let you know if its just as good 🙂

Is it part of a series? yes, Betty Church and the Suffolk Vampire is Book 1 The Room of the Dead (A Betty Church Mystery): Book 2 and The Ghost Tree (A Betty Church Mystery): Book 3

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