“A Court of Thorns and Roses” by Sarah J. Maas

Bloomsbury

It feels like an age since I sat down and devoured a book in one day. It probably feels that way because it’s true—since my two Masters Degrees were completed, I’ve hardly had the time or energy to read for fun; or at least, I’ve lacked the patience to read a book in one sitting without being overly critical or without finding my brain wandering to other responsibilities and tasks. And then I picked up A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and (pardon the cliche) couldn’t put it down. Continue reading

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“The Forgotten Seamstress” by Liz Trenow

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There is nothing I love better than realizing an author I already admire has written more than one book. Such was the case with Liz Trenow, author of The Last TelegramThe Forgotten Seamstress, her second novel, interweaves the stories of two women in England who are connected by a mysterious quilt.

The first character we meet is Maria, who is telling her life story to someone we cannot see. What the audience encounters is Maria’s memories via voice recordings and transcripts. Maria recounts her early years to a faceless young woman, explaining how she was raised in an orphanage before going to work at Buckingham Palace as an assistant seamstress. While there, she fell in love (and in bed) with the Prince Royal, whom she calls David. We know him as the historical figure of King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in 1936. Continue reading

“The Last Telegram” by Liz Trenow

51nIm9OgdxL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I first read The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow when I was preparing to attend City University London last year. Trenow penned the story during her time studying the Novel MA at that same university. Fast forward to half way through my courses, when we were encouraged to find guest tutors. Trenow was the first person who came to mind, and I’m happy to say that she is as lovely as her writing. She worked with me first hand on my dissertation, giving priceless advice. If my novel turns out half as good as The Last Telegram, I will be pleased.

But back to the point. Set during the second World War, The Last Telegram focuses on ambitious Lily Verner and her family. The Verners own and run a successful silk mill in England, and when rumors of impending war begin to circulate, Lily’s father Harold changes the focus of the mill from producing silk for expensive clothing, to producing silk meant for parachutes. As stressed numerous times throughout the story, the silk used in parachutes has to be perfect—it must withstand certain pressure and strain in order to work properly. “Get it right, and you save lives, sir. Get it wrong, and you’ve got dead pilots.” 

Lily, who has begun apprenticing at the mill, finds herself in the midst of the war effort, as well as the war’s terrors. Her older brother enlists, her best friend is working at a hospital in London, and her family vouches for a trio of German Jews. The boys are refugees whose parents managed to send them out of the country in the hopes of keeping them safe. Lily soon forms a close friendship with Stefan, the oldest—while it was somewhat obvious that their relationship would eventually become a romance, it was lovely to watch it unfold through Trenow’s lively sentences. Lily and Stefan’s relationship is met with resistance by the workers at the mill, as well as her own father, adding considerable tension to a story already dripping with the stress of the war.

To say much more would entail giving spoilers, so I will cut my details short. Lily’s story is both breath-taking and heart-wrenching. Trenow has woven a story as vibrant and resilient as the silk she describes, and I am eager to read more of her work. I’m half way through her second novel, The Forgotten Seamstress. The Poppy Factory also looks intriguing. 5/5 stars

What is your favorite WWII novel? Have you read anything by Liz Trenow? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Happy reading!

“Red Rising” by Pierce Brown

15839976Reminiscent of The Hunger GamesRed Rising is the first part in a debut trilogy from Pierce Brown. If you enjoy dystopic fiction, Greek and Roman mythology, or science fiction, then this is the book for you.

Our story begins beneath the surface of Mars. Mankind is terraforming planets, and requires a large force of workers to mine elements necessary to tame the ground above. Darrow is a Red, the lowest color group in a tightly controlled society modeled after the Romans. Darrow doesn’t mind working in the mines, believing that his strength will help the terraforming efforts, even though the life of a Red is a difficult, short one.

But after Darrow’s wife Eo is hung for treason, he discovers the truth about Mars—it was terraformed and colonized 700 years prior, and the higher colors chose to keep certain groups under the surface to toil as slaves (in a sort of reverse Morlocks/Eloi scenario). Recruited by the revolutionist group “the Sons of Ares,” Darrow becomes part of a clandestine endeavor to right the wrongs of their civilization. Darrow’s task is to infiltrate the high ranks of Golds, the top color tier who rule the galaxy with an iron fist. Continue reading

“The Summer Queen” by Elizabeth Chadwick

91tpZQQhf4L._SL1500_The Summer Queen is the first installment of Elizabeth Chadwick’s Eleanor of Aquitaine series. I picked it up in a used bookstore in London, having read positive reviews about it. I’m a bit of sucker for historical fiction (okay, a BIG sucker), and Eleanor is one of my favourite people to read about.

Through Chadwick’s writing, we meet a young Alienor (how Eleanor’s name was originally spelled), long before her marriage to the king of France. The story is rich with description, and you can tell that Chadwick did her research. When I first began reading The Summer Queen, I was in the midst of my creative writing project/dissertation for my second MA. I was conducting my own heavy research about 11th century Spain, and am familiar with the huge amount of work it takes to recreate a medieval world that is not only historically accurate, but relatable to readers. Chadwick is a master at this, and I am happy to say that I learned from immersing myself in this novel.

However, I did feel an absence of love for the characters themselves. While Alienor begins as an interesting young woman with the world at her fingertips, we soon lose the drive to care about what happens to her. She, and the surrounding characters, eventually fall flat. Their dialogue is stilted, and not in a convincing courtly way.

Although it is unlikely that I will finish this series, I did enjoy Chadwick’s writing overall, and will be looking into her other work. As a writer myself, I am in awe at her abilities to reimagine and re-fabricate a portion of history that eludes many novelists.