Book Review: Roots of Rookeri by Crispina Kemp

Crispina Kemp, historical fantasy author of the five book series, The Spinner’s Game, and Learning to Fly, is about to release another fantastic story, this time, Roots of Rookeri, my review for which you can find below.  It’s set for release on 15th April 2022, so add the date to your diary, or follow the link to pre order: Roots of Rookeri eBook : Kemp, Crispina: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Highly imaginative, engaging and complex, Roots of Rookeri, is a rich, well-woven tale, set in an well-constructed world. With themes of astrology, political intrigue, history, mystery and romance, this story has so much to offer. Highly recommended to fans of wonderfully-intricate, creative fantasy. 5 / 5

Summary (from Amazon)

A Key, a Tree, a Prophecy

The Cast:
Booderas Rookeri-Sharmin – better known as Boody, playwright, poet, dancer and chorusmaster – orphaned nephew of the Elect of Raselstad, disciple of the Forty-First Avatar who brought the Founders to this new world.
“Worth is not measured in gold. To ban a word is not enough. To forbid the metals silver and gold will not lessen their attraction. The Guided Guilds give no protection against the Old-World demons.”
Eshe, daughter of Judge Madir, believes herself tough (she enjoys caving and climbing), unsuccessful in matters of the heart, fears her father will intervene and arrange a marriage.
Kalamite, head of the quasi-religious Runman Order, son of a queen no one has seen, for to ensure her safety he keeps her locked in the mysterious Wood Tower at the heart of Citadel Lecheni. He is her sworn protector.
Sifadis Lafdi, heiress of the wealthiest House in Lecheni. Owns every ship in the Luant; no one eats fish except by her catching. But marriage arrangements threaten, and a ruling husband would separate her from her passion – the study of the ancient documents stored in her library.

The Play:
A violation of Wood Tower has astrologer-priest Kalamite in fear for his mother, his queen. Planetary alignments foretell an invasion from the south. When Eshe arrives in Lecheni from southern Raselstad, Kalamite moves into action. He insists a spy is sent to Eshe’s hometown. Sifadis jumps at the opportunity to be that spy, to pursue a project of her own and to delay further marriage arrangements.
In Raselstad Sifadis meets her antithesis, Boody with his abhorrence of everything northern and Rothi. Yet they share a love for ancient books and Daabian plants. They also share an ancient connection which on meeting neither expects.

Favourite Quote

“What is time?” His hands spread in expansive gesture. “A commodity which cannot be bought and yet we spend.”

 (From Roots of Rookeri by Crispina Kemp, page 207)

Review

Firstly, it’s worth pointing out, Roots of Rookeri is not set in the same world as the author’s previous books, so you don’t have to have read them to read this one.  However, it is also worth pointing out that I do love those other books and never tire of recommending them here on Sammi Loves Books, and the world in which Roots of Rookeri is set is just as authentic and well-constructed as the other one.  So read them all! Now, on to my review proper…

Let’s begin with what we first encounter: that beautiful front cover.  Isn’t it gorgeous?  The colours and the text work so well together to catch the eye and the attention of the reader.  The talented designer behind this front cover (and all of Crispina’s releases so far) is Lauren Willmore. 

And my thoughts on the story…

Roots of Rookeri is a rich, complex tale, one that, with the imagination of the author, pulls the reader in and grabs their attention.  With themes of astrology, political intrigue, history, mystery and romance, this story has so much to offer.  I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for this story, and I fell in love with the world and the characters almost immediately.  On this, my second reading of the book, I am even more captivated by the places and people, and the storyline as a whole.

The world building is simply remarkable and covers every aspect of life in the two countries.  As I read the story I could clearly envisage all the locations visited, from the towered city of Lecheni in Rothi, to the sprawling, open Raselstad in Luban, (there are maps at the end of the story of both places) as well as being able to picture the locales in between. The invented language and slang is intricate and adds another layer of richness to the story. Then there are the two religions and their gods, stemming from one common source but interpreted in a vastly different way by each.  I found this so fascinating to read as it so clearly echoes reality.

The interconnectedness of the stories of the four main characters was so cleverly done and woven together. All four were engaging, and together it meant there were so many layers of story unfolding as we progressed through it. Sifadis and Eshe were both strong, intelligent, independent brave women, whose stories almost mirrored each other, yet they were not the same. Boody the poet and playwright was entertaining and smart, and the love of his art was clearly important to him, as was his loyalty to his friends. And as for Kalamite, his single-mindedness and strangeness as well as being head of the Runmen Order made for an intriguing character.

All in all, Roots of Rookeri captures the imagination and transports the reader to another world, and I found once I started reading, I struggled to stop.  If, like me, you enjoy wonderfully intricate, creative fantasy, I highly recommend this to you.

Rating

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Bookish Reflections – May and June 2021

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


the last battle front cover sign-of-the-cross-front-cover the-last-of-the-mohicans-front-cover half-of-a-yellow-sun-front-cover The Silver Chair front cover when-hitler-stole-pink-rabbit-front-cover

In a nutshell

I feel like I’m pretty behind with all my self-set reading goals this year. Sigh. Yet, I am making good progress on catching up, with six reviews posted over the past two months. The problem I’m having is that I don’t seem to have as much time to read as I once had, yet where it’s gone I couldn’t tell you. This does not help me read, review and rehome the far-too-many books I have in my house, so this is something I am going to have to work on. I’ve also managed to give individual posts for the handful of titles I reviewed as part of my failed attempt at speed reviewing…

July is Indie Only Month at Sammi Loves Books, so if there are any indie authors, be they fiction writers or poets, who would like to see their work reviewed on this site, please feel free to reach out to me.  You can find out about my review policy and FAQs here.  Just ignore the bit that says closed to reviews, as I am only open to Indie Authors at this time.

If any writers / poets / authors / etc, would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books check out this page for more information, FAQs and an index of all the previous interviews. And, if you have previously been interviewed as part of this series, there is now a second set of questions, if you fancy being interviewed again! If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

To keep up-to-date with what I’m reading and reviewing, find me on Facebook and Goodreads.

Books I’ve Read and Reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

This month, I’ve been back through my reading round-up posts, to post Quick Reviews of individual title, which seems to be a better format for my shorter book thoughts:

Favourite Read(s) of The Month

  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

Books I’ve Bought or Been Given

  • Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
  • The Illustrated Odyssey by E. V. Rieu

Books I’ve Downloaded

  • None – woohoo!

What I’ve Been Reading on Wattpad

  • Progressive Dinner Deadly by Elizabeth Spann Craig

May and June’s “Read and Review” Goals

  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert (read, awaiting review)
  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  • Sign of The Cross by Chris Kuzneski

* Light blue = review posted | Blue = read but review not posted | Black = did not read / review

What I’m reading and reviewing in July

  • Progressive Dinner Deadly by Elizabeth Spann Craig (currently reading)
  • And that’s all I’ve decided so far…

The Very Informal Classic Reads Book Club Challenge 2021

  • January’s Book – The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells – Read and reviewed!
  • February’s Book – Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon – Read and reviewed!
  • March’s Book – Last of The Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper – Read and reviewed!
  • April’s Book – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – Currently Reading
  • May’s book – David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – Not started yet
  • June’s book – Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – Not started yet
  • Next month’s book – The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – Not started yet

Basic Book Review Challenge 2021

To read (at least) one book a week, to reach a target of 60 over the course of the year, with the aim of posting a review for some of them.

  • Month started at: 7 / 60
  • Month finished at: 13 / 60

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’m revisiting this challenge I started in 2019, to complete the challenges I missed. I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • none
  • Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20
  • Total challenges completed in 2020: 9 / 12
  • Total challenges completed in 2021: 0 / 3
  • Total: 16 / 20
  • You can find the complete list of challenges here.

Read, Rate, Review, Rehome

Goal: 35 | Total so far: 9 / 35

  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  • Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski
  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

Note: I’ve actually far-exceeded my goal as I’ve been having a sort out of my books, with two big bags set aside for donating to charity. So this tally will focus on books I’ve Read, Rated, and Reviewed in 2021, with an aim to also being Rehomed in 2021 😉

Bookish Reflections – February, March & April 2021

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

Welcome to this bumper Bookish Reflections.  I’ve spent a little over a month away from blogging.  This unexpected hiatus was needed as I tried to find the balance between everything I have to do and everything I want to do.  And, sometimes, the best way to do this is to simply stop, step back and look objectively at everything. Is this break over? Probably, though it might take a little while for me to work out a regular schedule again.  But that is fine.

My plan to post a “Read, Reading Now, Reading Next” update every couple of weeks did not work out so well in practice. I think there was just too much going on in those posts, so the updated plan is post shorter reviews alongside my longer posts.  Over the next few weeks, I will go back over the books that were reviewed as part of these bigger round-ups and post the reviews singularly…

Thanks to my taking a break from blogging, I’m a little bit behind with my classic reads challenge but hopefully it won’t take me too long to get caught up with it.  I have, however, still been reading a fair bit, so have a number of reviews to share here over the coming weeks.

If any writers / poets / authors / etc, would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books check out this page for more information, FAQs and an index of all the previous interviews. And, if you have previously been interviewed as part of this series, there is now a second set of questions, if you fancy being interviewed again! If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

To keep up-to-date with what I’m reading and reviewing, find me on Facebook and Goodreads.

Books I’ve Read and Reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

Favourite Read(s) of The Month

  • Learning to Fly by Crispina Kemp

Books I’ve Bought or Been Given

  • The Hog’s Back Mystery by Freeman Wills Croft

Books I’ve Downloaded

  • None this month

What I’ve Been Reading on Wattpad

  • Not much as I’ve not spent much time on the site these past weeks…sigh

February’s “Read and Review” Goals

  • Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • The Good Knight by Sarah Woodbury
  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

* Light blue = review posted | Blue = read but review not posted | Black = did not read / review

What I’m reading and reviewing in May

  • Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (read, awaiting review)
  • Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert
  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis (read, review awaiting posting)
  • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis (read, review awaiting posting)
  • Sign of The Cross by Chris Kuzneski (currently reading)

The Very Informal Classic Reads Book Club Challenge 2021

  • January’s Book – The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells – Read and reviewed!
  • February’s Book – Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon – Read and reviewed!
  • March’s Book – Last of The Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper – Almost finished reading
  • April’s Book – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – Not started yet
  • Next month’s book – David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Basic Book Review Challenge 2021

To read (at least) one book a week, to reach a target of 60 over the course of the year, with the aim of posting a review for some of them.

  • Month started at: 4 / 60
  • Month finished at: 8 / 60

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’m revisiting this challenge I started in 2019, to complete the challenges I missed. I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • none
  • Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20
  • Total challenges completed in 2020: 8 / 12
  • Total challenges completed in 2021: 0 / 4
  • Total: 16 / 20
  • You can find the complete list of challenges here.

Read, Rate, Review, Rehome

Goal: 35 | Total so far: 4 / 35

  • The Good Knight by Sarah Woodbury

Note: I’ve actually far-exceeded my goal as I’ve been having a sort out of my books, with two big bags set aside for donating to charity. So this tally will focus on books I’ve Read, Rated, and Reviewed in 2021, with an aim to also being Rehomed in 2021 😉

Afternoon Tea (II) with Crispina Kemp

Crispina Kemp, author of the five-book epic fantasy series, The Spinner’s Game, and the newly-released Learning to Fly (available 1st April 2021) is visiting Sammi Loves Books to answer a second set of Afternoon Tea Interview questions.

You can read the first Afternoon Tea interview here, my review of Learning to Fly here, and an interview whose questions are focused on Learning to Fly here.

So grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or slice of cake, then sit back and relax and read the interview…

* * * * *

So what have you been up to writing-wise since we last spoke? What projects have you been working on recently? What plans do you have for the future?

Since last we spoke, I’ve been busy with Learning to Fly – no, I don’t mean I’ve earned a pilot’s licence. Learning to Fly is the title of my new book. My critique partner is hard to please; she’ll find every little plot hole and complain at me if I have “soft” chapter endings. All of which has involved loads more work when I thought it was done. And then the “polish edit” which is my prime delight, to make the manuscript sparkle.

Do you listen to music when you write or do you prefer to write in silence? Do you create playlists for the stories you are working on?

I always have music playing; I can’t imagine writing in silence. And yes, I do create playlists according to the story I’m writing. With The Spinner’s Game I listened to Pagan Rock and Mongolian Metal which seemed to fit the setting. With Learning to Fly I played Hard Rock (what the MC Neve calls Music with Muscle). For my work-in-progress (Roots of Rookeri) I’ve lightened up with what might be called Sing-along Rock.

Do you have any writing rituals? For example, writing first drafts with a special pen, or writing with a special candle lit? 

My only writing ritual is to make sure I have a fresh cup of coffee to start me off. After that first one I tend to forget the coffee until it’s cold! Also, I check emails and Twitter before starting each day… and the weather forecast. I prefer to write in the mornings and will get up at 4:00 am to do so. But even if I sleep in, I like to be writing by 8:00 am. I’m a morning person, that’s when my brain is most creative.

Do you set yourself writing goals and targets? Do you find it easy to stick to them?

I don’t set myself targets, except to say, “Today I am writing from 8:00 am until noon,” or such. However, I do have “To Do” lists. Top of today’s list is to answer these questions for Sammi. Top of tomorrow’s list is to revise/rewrite the supplementary material for Roots of Rookeri to send to beta readers for their opinion of whether to include in the book or not.

Have you read any writing craft books / articles / blog posts etc to help improve your craft? Which ones have you found the most helpful?

I have read loads of craft books. After a virus wrecked my brain (way back in 2005) I was left unable to write above a few words. Since I had to learn that basic skill again, I decided now was a good time to delve into craft books too. In the years leading up to 2005, structure had been my downfall. Also, back then, I was a panzer – or rather a knitter. I’d start with a thread and follow it to where it led; mostly to dead-ends or chaos.

The craft books I’ve found most helpful – and these I recommend because I believe as writers it’s not enough to know how to do something but also to understand why we do it:
Save the Cat! Write a Novel, Jessica Brody
Between the Lines, Jessica Page Morrell (having worked out the structure, here’s how to finesse it)
– Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them, John Yorke
– The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, Jonathan Gottschall, not a craft book but highly recommend.

About Learning to Fly: Medievalist Neve is delighted to find herself surrounded by swirling colours and foot-stomping music in Regin-jarl’s mead hall… even if her presence is dependent on the memories of a banished angel. Prompted by the angel to find the truth of her grandfather, locked in a cage to be food for vampiric grimmen, trapped beneath a dragon… life isn’t fun for Neve… though she does like the music!

What was the last book you read and what were your thoughts on it? Would you recommend it?

The last book I read was The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker. A murder/mystery which centres on what we would recognise as a paedophiliac affair and yet is the most beautiful love story I have ever read. This was well beyond my comfort zone; I was led there by a fellow author whose comedic spoof-books use a spoofed version of the MC of Dicker’s book. And yes, I do recommend it.

Do you prefer reading e-books or physical copies of books?

E-books or physical? Difficult to answer. I have a problem with my eyes (waiting for an op) so the ability to adjust font size and boldness is important to me, especially since I most read at night when my eyes are already tired. However, I find the physical book so much easier to navigate, eg: to check back on a passage that you suddenly realise was important.

Do you organise your bookshelves? If so, by what criteria?

Do I organise my bookshelves? Yes. First, fiction resides in the bedroom, which keeps the main shelves free for everything else. Everything else falls under the headings of Literature, Folklore & Mythology, Psychology, History, and Reference books. Within the Reference section are books and books and books on symbols. The History section is divided into archaeology, prehistory, Middle East/Egypt, Europe general, then Britain by dates covered. Homer sits in the Literature section with Beowulf and Roland, Chaucer and Mallory.

In the first interview we closed by discussing a fantasy afternoon tea, with you choosing who would attend, where it would be and what would be served.  This time round, we are talking about a fantasy book club.  If you could host a fantasy book club where would you hold it? What beverages and snacks, if any, would be on offer?  And, most importantly, what would your chosen book club read be and why?

Where would I hold a fantasy book club? There can be but one answer: In Middle Earth, in the Shires.
What beverages and snacks? I know from when I hosted a Community Workers Lunch there must be snacks. Being gluten-free my first thought is to offer a range of nuts, but I wouldn’t like to be responsible for someone having an anaphylactic shock. Therefore, I’ll have to settle on potato crisps. And fruit: cherries, strawberries, pineapple. As to beverages, water. Ok, I’m a health freak, I admit it.

My chosen book for the club to read is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V E Schwab. “France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets” (taken from the book’s blurb).

Why this book? Apart from Schwab is a genius of a writer, it has an interesting structure, weaving back and forth in time until the unexpected ending. The imagery sets the imagination on fire. The MC Adaline (Addie) captures the heart and draws the reader into her strange world to share her entrapment. A quick look at the reviews on Goodreads shows how many readers got lost in the book as well as in Addie’s world. It’s a delightful challenge, well worth the read. It would be a great book to discuss.

* * * * *

About Crispina Kemp

Failing to find a place on the space programme – to boldly go – I turned my vision inwards to a study of psychology and exploration of spirituality. This encouraged an outward journey to explore this wonderful world, its peoples, its beliefs, but mostly its pasts. From the exploration I returned with the core of my writing.

But, for the more mundane-minded: For a shy child with a speech problem, the written word came as a release, enabling me to express myself without being asked, ‘Eh? What did you say? Say again?’ I wrote my first ‘proper’ story when I was nine. A gothic offering to scare my friends. Since then, there’s been scarcely a day when I haven’t been busy writing. Novels. The short story form doesn’t appeal to me, although over recent months I have posted micro-fiction on my blog.

In my early teens, I visited Grimes Graves, the Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk. The following summer, I visited Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Thence began a lifelong interest in the archaeology of prehistory. The study of myths and legends seemed a natural progression, and from there to linguistics (despite my inability to pronounce the words).

Resident in Norfolk (UK) where my roots dig deep, my regular rambles into the surrounding countryside provide balance to the cerebral… and ample subjects for my camera.

https://www.amazon.com/author/crispinakemponamazon

https://crispinakemp.com

On Twitter: @crispinakemp1 and @ineebrown51


If you would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books, check out this post.

Book Review: Learning to Fly by Crispina Kemp

Thank you to Crispina Kemp for sending me an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Learning to Fly is a captivating read. Entertaining and engaging, this perfectly-paced tale is historical fantasy on an epic scale. Well-written, and filled with colourful characters and rich, vivid descriptions, it’s impossible not to get pulled into the gripping story-telling.  Highly recommended! 5 / 5

Summary (from Amazon)

Medievalist Neve is delighted to find herself surrounded by swirling colours and foot-stomping music in Regin-jarl’s mead hall… even if her presence is dependent on the memories of a banished angel.

Her vicarious entry to the past begins when, curious about the local offshore windfarm, she ventures down to Yalesham seafront.

“We buried Skimaskall there,” an unlikely-looking youth says.
“And Skimaskall is?”
“A dragon.”
“And you are…?”
“I’m Raesan, an angel… an elf… an Asar. And you are illegal, Lady Nineve, child of Constance Oath-breaker.”

Raesan offers to take her back to 1086 to identify her grandpa before he can spawn more illegal semi-divines… and there she is, hooked on the quest.

Favourite Quote

“Toli fitzMa, clearly you’re unacquainted with the role of squire. Humbly to serve his knight.”

“Oh, I know that, Sir Guy. But what’s to humble me? Those four years between us? Na, let’s make a deal. Say, the higher you rise, the lower I’ll bow. Does that satisfy, Sir Guy?”

(from Learning to Fly by Crispina Kemp, page 49)

Review

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to beta read this story, and I must say that I loved it from the very beginning.  So, as you can imagine, I was very keen to write a review of it in the run-up to its release day.

Learning to Fly is a story set in the same world as the epic fantasy series The Spinner’s Game, by the same author. And, without a doubt, I loved this story as much as those. We have a quest, a journey of discovery, angels, dragons, mystery and suspense, action, romance, magic, monsters, knights, and plenty more besides…what else could you ask for?

Like The Spinner’s Game, Learning to Fly is full of things that I love, in general, but also things I enjoy reading about. So for me, this book is a perfect read.

The story is well-written, and the many threads, characters and locations are marvellously handled by the author. Like the stories that make up The Spinner’s Game, Learning to Fly is historical fantasy on an epic scale.  It is complex without being complicated, and full of rich world-building. We have, in effect, a story within a story in Learning to Fly, where Anglo-Saxon and Norman history of the eleventh century is brought into sharp focus in one timeline and we have a modern tale of personal discovery and empowerment in the other. 

I really liked Neve. She’s intelligent and sensible, and her story and journey is an interesting and engaging one. Neve’s a main character I can really get behind and root for.  She won’t believe the things she’s told unless she can verify them from a reputable source, yet she can’t help but feel the pull of magic and possibility in the tales she hears, which is perfectly understandable and makes her relatable.

Apart from Neve, my favourite character was Rat, but I also liked the interplay between Guy and Toli – just who is the master and who is the squire? See my Favourite Quote above for a glimpse at the humour also to be found in the story. I liked that we got the opportunity to be briefly reacquainted with some old friends from The Spinner’s Game as well as get to better understand the person Raesen has become.

I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the story.  The descriptions of people and places really brought the story to life and I could imagine each location with ease. And, the fantastical elements of the story blended in very well with the rest of the story to create a seamless narrative that kept me hooked until the very end.

If you like your historical fantasy on an epic scale, I can’t recommend this (as well as the five books of The Spinner’s Game) highly enough.

Find it on Amazon, where it will be released 1st April 2021.

Rating

Bookish Reflections – January 2021

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

This month, I spent a good deal of time editing, which inevitably means I read less.  Sigh.  However, four books is one a week, and so not too shabby for this bookworm, methinks.  Hopefully, I can pick up the pace in February…

January saw me trial my new “review only some books and rate the rest” policy. To be honest, it did feel like it took the pressure off, and I doubt I would have been able to claim the above four books for the month if I was still reviewing them all.  So, a month in, and it seems to be working so far…

I also started my classic reads challenge this month, which I am enjoying at the moment.  January’s read was H.G. Wells’, The Island of Dr. Moreau, which I think will stay with me for a while yet. February’s book is one I’ve been meaning to read for a while, Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, which is supposed to be one of the great sensational novels of the Victorian period…

If any writers / poets / authors / etc, would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books check out this page for more information, FAQs and an index of all the previous interviews.  If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

To keep up-to-date with what I’m reading and reviewing, find me on Facebook and Goodreads.

Books I’ve Read

Books I’ve Read and Reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

Favourite Read(s) of The Month

  • All of January’s books were rated 4 / 5, so I’m guessing I enjoyed them all equally 😉

Books I’ve Bought or Been Given

  • none this month

Books I’ve Downloaded

  • Lady Audley Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

What I’ve Been Reading on Wattpad

  • Not much as I’ve not had a great deal of time for reading really this month…sigh

January’s “Read and Review” Goals

  • The Voyage of The Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
  • The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian
  • The Island of Dr Moreau by H. G. Wells

* Light blue = review posted | Blue = read but review not posted | Black = did not read / review

What I’m reading in February

  • Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • The Good Knight by Sarah Woodbury
  • The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

The Very Informal Classic Reads Book Club Challenge 2021

  • January’s Book – The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells – Read and reviewed!
  • Next month’s book – Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Basic Book Review Challenge 2021

To read (at least) one book a week, to reach a target of 60 over the course of the year, with the aim of posting a review for some of them.

  • Month started at: 0 / 60
  • Month finished at: 4 / 60

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’m revisiting this challenge I started in 2019, to complete the challenges I missed. I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • none
  • Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20
  • Total challenges completed in 2020: 8 / 12
  • Total challenges completed in 2021: 0 / 4
  • Total: 16 / 20
  • You can find the complete list of challenges here.

Read, Rate, Review, Rehome

Goal: 35 | Total so far: 3 / 35

  • The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
  • Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Bookish Reflections – December 2020

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…

In a nutshell

December saw a lot of activity at Sammi Loves Books with nine reviews in total being posted on the site, which must be a record for me…It sounds like one, at any rate 😉

With another Festive Reads Fortnight complete, some of the reviews for which rolled over from the previous year, this Christmas-themed reading challenge and it’s subsequent page is now up to date.

In my last round-up post (November 2020), I mentioned I was going to attempt to not review absolutely everything I read in 2021. Instead, I’m going to be more selective about my reviews going forward, and move towards focusing on review requests and book blogging. I think this will lead to me reading more and worrying about keeping up with the reviews a lot less, so my aim is to trial this for a few months and see how things go.

I have also posted my “Very Informal Classic Reads Book Club Challenge” for 2021 – a list of 12 classic books, one to be read each month, in an attempt to read more of them.  It was surprisingly difficult to narrow the list down to just 12, but I did it, and I’m looking forward to reading them all, though I’m especially looking forward to Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon and the re-reading The Epic of Gilgamesh.  For more information or to have a look at the list, you can find the page under the “Themes and Challenges” tab on the menu, or follow this link.

Speaking of challenges, I completed a number of self-set ones in 2020: The Basic Book Review Challenge where the aim was to review 52 books over the course of the year, my A-Z Review Index Challenge where I hoped to be able to list at least one review under each section / letter of the index, and my Read, Review, Rehome challenge, which worked out so well I actually lost count of the final numbers…

For 2021, I am challenging myself to read more over the course of the year – I aiming for 60, though I do not intend on reviewing them all.  I am also hoping to complete the challenge I set myself in 2019 (the Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge) where I still have 4 challenges to go.  I’ve already mentioned my 12 classic reads for 2021, but there is one more challenge I am planning on continuing with: my Read, Review, Rehome, as I still attempt to thin out the number of books in my home.  The target for 2021 is going to be higher than 2020, at 35…we shall see how well I do…

If any writers / poets / authors / etc, would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books check out this page for more information, FAQs and an index of all the previous interviews.  If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

To keep up-to-date with what I’m reading and reviewing, find me on Facebook and Goodreads.

Books I’ve reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

  • None

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis and The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P.D. James

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  • None – woohoo!

Books I’ve downloaded

  • None

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • Once again, not very much…

November’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • Agatha Raisin and The Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton
  • Agatha Raisin and The Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton
  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  • Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon
  • The Gift of The Magi by O. Henry
  • A Strange Christmas Game by Charlotte Riddell

* Light blue = review posted | Blue = review not posted | Black = did not read / review

What I’m reading in January

  • The Voyage of The Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
  • The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian
  • The Island of Dr Moreau by H. G. Wells

Basic Book Review Challenge 2020

To post (at least) one book review a week, to reach a target of 52 over the course of the year. – COMPLETED! YAY!

Month started at: 39 / 52

Month finished at: 53 / 52

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’m revisiting this challenge I started last year, to complete the challenges I missed. I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • #3: a book set in a place you’ve lived / visited – A Strange Christmas Game by Charlotte Riddell

Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20

Total challenges completed in 2020: 8 / 12

Total: 16 / 20

You can find the complete list of challenges here.

A to Z Review Index Challenge

  • Completed

Read, Review, Rehome

Goal: 20 | Total so far: 25+ / 20 * Completed *

  • Agatha Raisin and The Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton
  • Agatha Raisin and The Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton
  • Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis
  • Agatha Raisin and The Terrible Tourist by M.C. Beaton
  • plus a big bag of books I put together over Christmas, including duplicate copies, books that I’ve read in the past but have held on to for some reason, as well as books from part-way through a series when I’ve not even read the first book yet…this put the numbers significantly over my goal for the year – WOOHOO!

Bookish Reflections – November 2020

A monthly round up of all things bookish at Sammi Loves Books…It’s my attempt at becoming more accountable in my reading and reviewing habits…


In a nutshell

My main focus for November was NaNoWriMo, so posting around here went a little quite.  However, I did get a few reviews written in November, even if I didn’t get around to posting them all until the first few days of December. Surprisingly, my level of reading didn’t slow in November as it usually does when I’m concentrating on NaNo, so there is as always, an ever-growing pile of books awaiting to be reviewed here…

On my list are a couple of Christmas reads from last year, which I didn’t get around to reviewing, as well as some new Festive reads for 2020, because Festive Reads Fortnight begins on 11 December. If anyone has any Christmas or wintry themed book recommendations I would gladly hear them.  Also, any author out there with a Christmas / winter-themed book / collection / poetry pamphlet etc, who would like to have their work reviewed on Sammi Loves Books, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can find all the information regarding Review Requests here. Ignore the “Currently Closed To Review Requests” status; I’m closed to general requests at this time but not Christmas-themed reads.

As we draw towards the end of the year, naturally my mind turns to my plans for this site for 2021.  I am thinking of starting a Classic Reads Book Club or Reading Challenge.  If anyone would be interested in joining in, please do let me know, and I can finalise and share the book list.

I am also thinking of moving away from reviewing absolutely everything I read (because it is getting a little exhausting, and I’m struggling to find the time to keep up with it).  Instead, my focus here would be on review requests and book blogging, with more informal posts about what I’m reading, planning on reading, and what I’ve been enjoying.

If any writers / poets / authors / etc, would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books check out this page for more information, FAQs and an index of all the previous interviews.  If you’ve any questions, please do get in touch at: sammicoxbooks@gmail.com

To keep up-to-date with what I’m reading and reviewing, find me on Facebook and Goodreads.

Books I’ve reviewed

Other Book-Related Posts

  • None

Favourite read(s) of the month

  • The Mezzotint by M. R. James

Books I’ve bought (or been given)

  • None this month – woohoo!

Books I’ve downloaded

  • None

What I’ve been reading on Wattpad

  • My reading time has been limited to physical books recently rather than ebooks / digital books to help reduce my screen time…

November’s “Read and Review” Goals*

  • A handful of M.R. James short stories (Halloween Reads 2020)
  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • The Shakespeare Secret by J.L Carrell

* Light blue = review posted | Blue = review not posted | Black = did not read / review

What I’m reading and reviewing in December

  • Agatha Raisin and The Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton
  • Agatha Raisin and The Murderous Marriage by M.C. Beaton
  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  • Mystery in White by J. Jefferson Farjeon
  • The Gift of The Magi by O. Henry
  • A Strange Christmas Game by Charlotte Riddell

Basic Book Review Challenge 2020

To post (at least) one book review a week, to reach a target of 52 over the course of the year.

Month started at: 39 / 52

Month finished at: 45 / 52

Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019

I’m revisiting this challenge I started last year, to complete the challenges I missed. I’ve completed the following challenges from the list this month:

  • No new challenges have been completed since August 😦. I can see this challenge rolling over into 2021…

Total challenges completed in 2019: 8 / 20

Total challenges completed in 2020: 7 / 12

Total: 15 / 20

You can find the complete list of challenges here.

A to Z Review Index Challenge

  • Completed

Read, Review, Rehome

Goal: 20 | Total so far: 21 / 20 * Completed *

  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  • The Shakespeare Secret by J.L. Carrell
  • Plus, 3 books I read ages ago and / or no longer wish to keep (Evermore by Alyson Noel, Odin’s Wolves by Giles Kristian, Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl), a Sweet-shop recipe book, and a knitting book

Book Review: Lake of Dreams by Crispina Kemp

My thanks to Crispina Kemp for providing me with a copy of Lake of Dreams in return for an honest review…

Lake of Dreams is the second book in The Spinner’s Game series by Crispina Kemp.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Enchanting and magical, this historical fantasy series goes from strength to strength. The characters, setting and story kept my attention from the very beginning and did not let up until the last page. A fantastic read.  Highly recommended! 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

Powerful visions… but can their dreams reveal the truth of Kerrid’s fantastical origins?

In the first book of The Spinner’s Game, Kerrid explored and developed her powers, gained a glimmering of what she might be, discovered the source of the accusatory voice, and worked to transform her status to that of a genuine shamanic wise-woman, able to enter the Spinner’s Otherworld Web. At the last, the Spinner tasked her with the eradication of Neka, the snake-demon. To do this she must understand the cause and the source of their Asaric nature.
The eldest of Gimmerin’s Asaric brothers also wishes to discover this source. But to join his quest Kerrid must gain the approval of all the brothers, hindered by Gimmerin’s repeated efforts to undermine her, and the strange pull she feels to the second-born brother, Jiar.

A unique and captivating story of a tapestry unravelling.

Set in the between-time, when hunter-gatherers turned to settled agriculture, when spirits and demons morphed to gods, the five books of The Spinner’s Game takes Kerrid’s story across continents and weaves through ages fraught with floods and droughts to become the prototype of our most ancient myths.

Favourite Quote

They had been boys, they hadn’t had to cling to their lives. They could be wolfmen, farfooting, a convenient cover for running away.  She’d been a girl, to be wed or be dead.

(From Lake of Dreams by Crispina Kemp, chapter 7)

Review

First, I love the book cover.  The colours – that ice cold, crisp morning blue – really draws me in, making me want to read this book.  And that tiger…amazing! I like the chosen text too: A quest from frozen wasteland to lake-bed slumbers…Can their dreams reveal the truth?

I read and reviewed the first book when the whole five-book series was first published earlier in the year (you can find that review here).  I loved that book, and as I’ve previously mentioned, having beta-read the whole series, I fell in love with the characters, the story and the setting.  So you can imagine how happy I was to be offered the chance to review book 2 (if you can’t, I was very, very, very happy!).

Lake of Dreams sees a change of location for Kerrid, leaving behind the village of her husband, Gimmerin, to trek northwards  to the frozen lands where his brothers are waiting for him to join them.  And, although Kerrid is not invited, it is her and not Gimmerin, who insists they go.  Their welcome is to be as frosty as the world beyond their hide-and-bone dome…

Kerrid is growing in strength and knowledge in this instalment, and with both of those comes an increase in power and understanding.  She has a lot to contend with, from the jealousy and possessiveness of her husband to the open hostility of some of the brothers.  Then there are those who don’t necessarily like her, but desire her.  Mixed in with all this, there is genuine love too, a connection that goes beyond explanation and comprehension, but one that cannot be ignored.

As for the Uissids, these brothers are funny and chaotic and difficult and impossible to manage, but their interactions – with Kerrid and each other – make for compulsive reading.  To find the understanding and knowledge of their origins, and to complete the task given her by The Spinner, Kerrid must somehow make them accept her but how can this be done when there is so much conflict? Kerrid’s journey of learning does not only see her tread the paths of a wise-woman in the otherworldly web, as she must also learn to navigate and overcome the obstacles of the living.   After Kerrid, my favourite character would have to be Jiar…

One of my favourite parts of the book was the descriptions.  I loved how the landscape came to life, I could see it clearly, imagining it as if I was there.  Then there’s the mythology, and the ancient history, the references to early cultures…Lake of Dreams is indeed a rich and rewarding read.  It’s the sort of story I can easily get lost in, and quite happily so. There is a lyrical quality to the prose that I just find enchanting and magical.

Do you need to read the first book in the series, The Spinner’s Child, before reading this? Good question.  I would say, ideally, yes.  That story is wonderful in its own right, and it will ensure you understand Kerrid’s backstory and who the people are around her.  However, is it absolutely necessary? Probably not, as the author does a great job of providing you with the information you need to know without burdening you with it.  I believe if you choose to begin the story here, you will be able to follow it.

Although the book is not short, I managed to finish reading it within a couple of days, so hooked was I on the story.  Every time a free moment appeared in my day, I would sneak in an extra chapter’s worth of reading…

The third book in the series is The Pole That Threads, and I am looking forward to reading and revisiting it, tremendously 🙂

Rating


You can find Lake of Dreams on Amazon and Goodreads.  Connect with the author, Crispina Kemp, by visiting her website.

Book Review: We All Die In The End by Elizabeth Merry

My first review for Indie Only Month 2020 is Elizabeth Merry’s collection of interconnected tales, We All Die In The End. My thanks to Elizabeth for providing me with a copy of the collection in return for an honest review. 

 

You can find my Afternoon Tea interview with Elizabeth Merry here.  We All Die In The End can be found on Amazon and Goodreads.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Perfect summer reading if you enjoy real-life styled tales, some light, some dark, all compelling, evocative and well-written. A fantastic read. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

This is a diverse collection of interlinked stories set in a small, seaside town in Ireland. Some of them verge on the macabre; others deal with abusive relationships and many of them are grim. But there is humour here too – although it is dark humour.

There’s Sadie, avoiding her mother’s advice:
“Sadie said nothing. She trimmed the fat off the kidneys and the liver, her fingers curling away from the soft, red slither and she held her breath against the faint smell of blood. Madge lifted her walking-stick and rattled it against the leg of the table.”

And poor, wee Andy, struggling with a teenage girlfriend and their baby daughter:
“Andy felt the unhappiness grow in his chest again. It was heavy and he fought against it. No, he said to himself. No. He held his arms up and out in front of him and made soft, crooning, engine noises.”

And then there is recovering alcoholic, Arthur:
“So, I watched Lydia and waited for some bloody nuisance of a child to come screeching after her but no child came. Well, that didn’t make any sense but then Lydia stopped and I saw her speak to the doll. Oho, Arthur, I said to myself and I threw down the cigarette. Oho, I said, what’s this? What have we here?”

Just a couple of the strange and interesting characters in this ebook available on Amazon Kindle.

Favourite Quote

What does it matter?  What does any of it matter?  We all die in the end.

(From We All Die In The End by Elizabeth Merry)

Review

I really enjoyed reading this collection of nineteen interconnected short stories. I loved how a mention of one character in one story sets up another story, in a very loose, roundabout sort of way as the stories themselves are all separate.  It gave great fluidity to the book, and once I started reading I found it very difficult to stop.  The stories were compelling and addictive, and the characters so well-devised that I found myself gripped, wondering where the next story was going to go. The connections between the characters come in the form of family ties, friends, neighbours and work colleagues, giving a cross-section of the population of a small Irish coastal town.

A wide variety of topics and themes are covered: infidelity, the struggles of young parents, crime, mental health issues, religion and spiritualism, dreams and first kisses, sadness, manipulation, regret, guilt, love, fear…There’s a little bit of violence in a handful of the stories, and adult themes and bad language gets a mention a few times as well, but there is nothing graphic and it’s not overused.  It adds to the stories rather than detracts from them, and I think it is always worth pointing that out.

As I’ve already said, all the characters have depth and authenticity.  It doesn’t take long for the author to present the reader with fully-fleshed people, and it is the thoughts and emotions of these people that bring these stories to life.  The author has a great grasp of people and captures wonderfully the two faces of an individual – the one they show to the world and their real self.  And it is the secret side of themselves, what they think, what goes on in their homes once their doors are locked and curtains closed that ensure the reader keeps reading.  Not everyone we meet is likeable, not everyone we meet is nice.  There are characters with ugly personalities and brutal ways, but there are others just trying to make it through the day or realise their dreams.

The descriptions of the town, especially down by the sea (the beach, the pier, the harbour) and the pub, are so clear and evocative that I could easily imagine them as I worked my way through each story.  Indeed, the whole town felt very real, I could picture the different houses and flats, and the different rooms within each, quite clearly.

The tension of some of the situations some of the characters find themselves in is palpable, and some of the twists that unfurl aren’t predictable but make perfect sense for the characters they happen to.  In essence, these stories are about people; they’re not real, but they could very easily be, and they serve to remind us, we don’t really know other people as well as we sometimes think.  A fantastic read.

Rating