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

What is Sera reading? Strange the Dreamer

2017 hardback of Strange the Dreamer.

Hello, I’m Seraphim “Sera” and I’m a Library Customer Assistant at Tenbury Wells Library part of Worcestershire Hub. Part of my day is finding out what kinds of books and titles folks are interested in. Recently, a friendly patron at the library asked me “Sera, what are you reading?” which opened a discussion.

So, in the spirit of sharing and encouraging all ages to read I’d like to tell you what this eclectic reader is reading currently.

STRANGE THE DREAMER is beautiful, the cover took me straight away. I have an illustration degree, so I do-“judge a book by its cover” partly at least. The cover is not the only beauty in this unusual fantasy, an unexpected story which has so many great characters that it’s very hard for me to pick a favorite. The narrative is easy to follow, which is so important in high fantasy such as this. Action is placed well in order to keep the motivation to stay in the story world. Worldbuilding is intense and wholly original, information and description is wound nicely into characters and scenes because there is so much going on, but, still very readable and fluid. Taylor is a very good writer.

Is Strange the Dreamer part of a series?

yes, so far we have two books. Strange the Dreamer 2017 and Muse of Nightmares 2018

If you are interested in finding a copy for yourself, our libraries at Bromsgrove, Kidderminster, Droitwich, Redditch and The Hive Worcester. Alternatively, please check out our website catalogue: https://wcc.ent.sirsidynix.net.uk/client/en_GB/wcc/entlogin

What was the sequel like?

Amy at home with her copy of Muse of Nightmare’s by Laini Taylor

13/12/2021 : The novel follows immediately on from Lazlo Strange and the ghost of Sarai, in the angle and in danger. this book unlike the first is not as balanced between emotional story and action. in distance the characters travel? no far. In the growth of characters maturity? massively. Killing and the choice to kill is the main issue around our new forging teams. The earth bound and the “god-sporn” have a new challenge on top of the problems about reconciliation. Vengeance feeling good in the moment and right somehow verses the knowledge that destroying the enemy would be destroying any hope for yourself and your own kind. Does foregoing vengeance mean that justice must fall by the wayside? A darker more twisted narrative and at the very limits for some young adult readers. Defiantly a teen to adult fantasy adventure.

Writing advice for the short fiction competitions.

A little writing guide here. It’s not a definitive guide on- How To Write A Short Story. Although, it will give you a few pointers as to what our judges look for when they’re reading entries.

The beginning. Make sure you grab the reader’s attention immediately. You don’t have many words, so use them wisely. Make sure you establish the tone, setting and character as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Character. Yes, this is a bit of an obvious one, but make sure your characters are believable and well-rounded. This seeps into the dialogue they speak, the actions they take (or don’t take), the motivations they have. It doesn’t matter if your protagonist is a down-and-out Santa, a middle-aged man looking back over his life, or a flip-flop, make sure their character is consistent throughout.

Plot and conflict. Another obvious one, but you’d be amazed how many stories we receive that don’t even get anywhere near the longlist because, quite frankly, nothing happens. Give your main character a problem to face – and make it one that the reader will care about. Use your 1500 or 500 words to work towards a satisfying ending. Even pantsers can benefit from a bit of planning, and even the shortest of stories can benefit from having the three-act structure applied to them.

The title. Our rules state that your maximum word count doesn’t include the title – so use that to your advantage. Now, we’re not saying that your title can be 200 words long! But a carefully chosen title that really complements  the story and adds a deeper degree of resonance will undoubtedly catch our judges eyes.

The mechanics. Check your spelling. Your grammar, your punctuation. Make sure you manuscript is professionally presented and properly formatted. Yes, it’s the story being told that is ultimately the most important thing, but if there’s only one slot left on the shortlist and two equally enjoyable stories, it’s the sloppy looking document, littered with spelling and punctuation mistakes, that will end up on the reject pile.

The rules. Read the rules… READ THE RULES… READ. THE. RULES.
And then, before you finally submit, go back and read them one last time to make sure you’ve stuck to them. Make a checklist if you have to, and go through it to make sure your story doesn’t fall at the first hurdle.

Exploring Coats of Arms

When i’m not studying National Heritage and History I moonlight as a storyteller and one half of a writing team with Kevin Brooke published Children’s author from Worcestershire.

This weekend as part of World Heritage Day [19-20 September] we were invited to Harlebury Castle to make some stories about their history and preform them to visitors on the day.

Hartlebury Castle tells the story of the bishops of a major middle England plot of land and their evolving role in English society, from political and military guardians of a frontier with Wales to active participants in political decision making in modern times. They number a pope (Clement VII) who played a key role in precipitating the establishment of the Church of England; Bishops Latimer and Hooper, Protestant martyrs of the Reformation; and Bishop Hurd, friend to King George III and creator of the Hurd Library.

The great hall at Hartlebury has some of the most interesting and rare examples of Coats of Arms and the Hurd library too contains much of the information in its ancient books on how and why we have Coats of arms.

So, how did shields become Coats of Arms?

The ancient Romans used various symbols called insignia on their shields so that they could identify their different military units of soldiers.

The first real use of what we now know as coats of arms is portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry which illustrates the Norman invasion of 1066, where some of the soldiers are carrying shields that have crosses and other symbols painted on them. However, by the 1100s, coats of arms came into more general use by feudal lords and knights in a battle to identify their soldiers and their opponents. By the 1200s, coats of arms had become a flag or emblem for noble families and inherited from one generation to the next. In Britain, only the aristocracy had the right to arms, with their serfs, servants and knights having these emblems as part of their ‘uniform’ when fighting on the battlefield for their Lord and Master. Eventually, the use of arms spread to the clergy, to towns, and places such as universities and trading companies; and so flags developed from coats of arms. The coats of arms that we are familiar with today were originally one person’s emblem. They were legal property which passed from father to son; however, wives and daughters could bear modified arms to show that they were related to the current holder. Other relatives of the original bearer of arms could use the family coat of arms but with a little bit of difference; maybe a colour change or an extra emblem. Coats of arms were essential in identifying people and used in seals on critical legal documents, and so their use was closely controlled. All coats of arms were tracked and recorded by heralds or agents to the King or Queen. which is why the study of coats of arms is called ‘heraldry.’

Did you know that the colours, animal, fruits, flowers and other objects used on the coats of arms all have different meanings?

Here are some of the meanings of the most used colours:

  • White stands for purity, innocence, peace and honesty
  • Gold stands for wisdom, glory, generosity and grandness
  • Green stands for happiness, love, and well-being
  • Red stands for strength and bravery
  • Purple stands for justice and is a royal colour used by Kings and Queens
  • Black stands for wisdom and sometimes grief
  • Blue stands for truth, strength and honour

The animals, fruit and flowers on coats of arms also have special meanings, here are some of the most used ones:

  • Apples, berries and grapes mean kindness, happiness and peace
  • Bay leaves stand for a poet or triumph
  • Oak trees or leave mean great strength and age
  • Olive branches or leavesstandfor peace and harmony
  • Roses are the mark of the seventh son -a red rose means grace and beauty; a white rosemeans love and faith
  • Bear stands for strength, cunning and defending your family
  • Dolphinmeans swiftness, love, charity and salvation
  • Dovemeans love and peace
  • Eagle is the sign for someone with a noble nature, bravery, strength and protection
  • Elephantmeans strength, happiness, luck and royalty
  • The horse stands for being ready for anything to do good for King and country
  • Lamb means gentleness and patience
  • The lion stands for great courage
  • Stagger stag’s antlers mean peace, harmony, strength and stamina
  • Swan means light, love, grace and perfection
  • Tiger stands for fierceness, bravery and fury

Mythological creatures are also often used on coats of arms, and these also have special meanings:

  • The dragon stands for a defender of treasure, courage and protection
  • Mermaidmeans eloquence
  • Pegasus (a winged horse)is the sign for inspiration and is considered a messenger of God
  • Phoenix is a symbol of resurrection
  • Sphinxstands for secrecy and knowledge
  • Unicorn(a horse with one horn)stands for extreme bravery, strength and truth

Crosses and angels are a sign of Christianity and stand for dignity, honour and glory.

here are some other meanings of the different angels and crosses you sometimes find on coats of arms :

  • An angel or a cherub means dignity, glory and honour and joyful news
  • Cross is a sign for faith and service in the Crusades
  • Celtic Cross shows heaven and earth as one
  • Cross Flory (flowered at each end)means one who has conquered
  • Seraphim(angel with three pairs of wings)means bearer of joyful news

Some other objects are also included on coats of arms and their meanings:

  • Anchor means hope
  • Bells mean the banning of evil spirits
  • Harp stands for the bridge between heaven and earth and also for a person who has good judgement
  • A plume of feathers is a sign of obedience and peaceful minds
  • Shell stands for a traveller to far off places
  • Sword, dagger or dart shows justice and military honour

Hope this helps you make or enjoy your own Coat of Arms.

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