Hello everybody! Today, I’m going to be reviewing some of the books I’ve read in the last couple of months, all themed around nature (whether that’s because of their themes, settings or even just a word in the title!). Onto the books!
Otters’ Moon by Susanna Bailey
I thoroughly enjoyed Susanna’s debut Snow Foal at the end of last year, so Otters’ Moon was a definite priority on my 2021 TBR, and I’m so glad I’ve read it because, like Snow Foal, it’s a beautiful story about family, friendship and how much of an impact the love of an animal can have on us. This focuses on Jake, who is being forced to spend his summer with his mum on a tiny island he thinks is deadly dull, until he meets Megan and gets caught up in her plan to save an otter pup whose mother has died. The friendship Jake and Meg share is very special, even though it takes a while to develop, and I loved how much they both adored Willow and wanted the best for her. The relationships they have with their respective families is also really interesting. Jake’s mum is suffering from depression and it’s heartbreaking to see him grapple with that and try his best to help her, and I felt equally synonymous towards Meg, whose grandfather is losing his memory and seems to be stuck in past traumatic memories, such as the death of her parents. Seeing the effect they have on each other and how much caring for Willow gives them a purpose and a bit of hope is so moving, and I loved the way the Otters’ Moon of the title was utilised in the plot. I obviously don’t want to give any spoilers, but the things that happen at the end of this made me cry (mostly for good reasons because I was happy, I hasten to add!) and Susanna Bailey is quickly becoming an auto buy author for me, after only two books.
Kat Wolfe on Thin Ice by Lauren St John
This is the long-awaited third book in the Wolfe and Lambe mystery series, which follows animal-loving detectives Kat and Harper as they travel to the Adirindacks and become involved in a mystery regarding the disappearance of the star witness in the trial of the alleged ringleader of the notorious Wish List Gang. The setting is the first thing that deserves a shoutout because the natural beauty of the Adirondacks is conveyed so wonderfully that I really felt like I was there experiencing all the action myself, but I also loved the sense of danger and tense atmosphere that both the setting and the difficult weather conditions contribute to. The mystery itself is also fantastic, I really didn’t manage to guess all the twists, but I loved the way things unfolded and Kat and Haroer’s relationship with Riley was something else I really enjoyed in here. Overall, I think this might be my favourite in the series so far and I’m very much hoping this won’t be the last I see of Wolfe and Lambe’s adventures, because they’re always such interesting mysteries, with a fantastic friendship and love of nature at their hearts.
The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange
My friend Louise has been nagging me to read this for the longest time, particularly since I’m such a fan of Lucy Strange’s other books, and I can’t tell you how glad I was that I adored her debut every bit as much, if not more. It’s the story of a girl named Hen, who moves to a new house with her family, and her having to cope with her mum’s mysterious illness while her dad is away on business and no one will tell her what’s going on. She’s also just lost her brother, and the entire country is rather in turmoil seeing as it takes place in 1919, just after the end of the Great War, which of course gravely affected thousands and thousands of people. Hen is, I think, one of the most endearing heroines I’ve ever read. My heart absolutely ached for her throughout and I loved the way she approaches life and tries to help her mother any way she can because she knows, instinctively, that the way she’s being treated isn’t right or just. I also loved her love of literature and ingenious planning towards the end of the book, as well her as her beautiful friendship with Moth, an ethereal woman she meets in the woods and initially believes to be a witch. Also, I don’t want to go off on too much of a tangent, but I think this book’s exploration of mental health and how women who suffered from what we in the modern day recognise as mental health conditions were treated at this point in history is brutal, but also very truthful and important, because it’s a stark reminder of just how far we’ve come in the past 100 years, but also how far we still need to go as some people’s attitudes are decidedly still stuck in this era. Overall, this book is stunning and crucial and I wish I’d read it years ago like I was told I should.
The Boy Who Met a Whale by Nizrana Farook
In Nizrana Farook’s second book, which is also set in Serendib (the setting of the Girl Who Stole an Elephant, which is a fictionalised version of Sri Lanka), we meet Razi, as he helps a boy named Zheng evade capture from pirates who are after not only him, but treasure they’re willing to kill for. The two, along with Razi’s sister Shifa, set out to find the treasure for themselves, and an amazing adventure ensues. Razi is such a lovely character, and his kindness and bravery are both incredibly admirable. I have to admit I wasn’t sure of Zheng at first (much like Razi and Shifa!) but I was very fond of him by the end, particularly as the people who want him dead are very scary indeed. Shifa was most definitely my favourite though, as I loved how clever she was, as well as how protective she was over Razi. I think Serendib is a beautiful, intricately described setting (to the point where I almost felt like I was there) and I’m really hoping Nizrana will set her future books here too, as I think there’s still a lot of it left to explore with different different characters with their own stories.
Bloom by Nicola Skinner
I loved this book so much that I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do it even remote justice in this review, but I’m going to try my very best because I honestly want everyone to pick it up. It’s the story of Sorrel Fallowfield, who finds a packet of “surprising seeds” in her garden and ends up planting them on her head (and her best friend Neena does the same), and the very unexpected consequences of that decision. I feel like it’s pretty hard to describe this book and why it’s so special without spoiling it completely as part of the fun for me was all the twists and turns it took every time I thought things just couldn’t possibly get any worse for poor Sorrel, so if I’m a bit vague please forgive me. Sorrel is a great character, I loved how imperfect she was even though she starts the book believing she basically is perfect because she’s so well behaved and clever, and I thought Neena was a really good friend to her, as well as a brilliant character in her own right, and her passion for science was so amazing. But if I loved Sorrel as a character, then I don’t even know what word to use about how obsessed I was with her narration (she’s telling the story in past tense, from the future), with all its dark warnings and wry comments. I can’t tell you how much I laughed at this book, not just because of Sorrel but also the world she lives in, which is very like our own but in a slightly exaggerated, almost satirical form, which provides so much scope for humour as well as commentary on how absurd some parts of modern life are! The themes it tackles to do with nature and the effect removing green spaces to build urban environments has are vitally important, and I absolutely loved the way the book ended as it was just so beautiful and I wish it were a real place so I could go and visit.
The Wild Folk Rising by Sylvia V Linsteadt
The length of time it’s taken me to pick this up is absolutely criminal given how much I enjoyed the first in the series in 2018, but I’m so glad I know now how Comfrey and Tin’s story ends, because it’s a wonderful duology and definitely a must read if you’re looking for books connected to nature. This picks up not too far from where the Wild Folk ends, and continues the story of Comfrey and Tin (and their friends/family who work alongside them) trying to defeat the Brothers, who want to extract precious stargold from the magical Wild Folk, for their own gain, led by the despicable Father Ralstein. I absolutely adore both Comfrey and Tin, who are both so gifted and special in their own ways that they form the perfect team by combining these talents and abilities, and even though things were incredibly bleak throughout this book, there’s still hope to be found because people are working so hard to try and prevent the Brothers from destroying the world of Farallone completely. My particular favourites in the ensemble are definitely still Myrtle and Mallow, but I very much enjoyed some of the new characters in this book too, such as Mary. Farallone is described so beautifully, even in the dark time it faces throughout the duology, and the worldbuilding is beyond exquisite; I love the mythology of its creation story and how it’s evolved into this incredible, magical celebration of nature, when it’s not being tainted by greed and hatred of anything that is in any way different. I have to admit I was hoping for a different ending, but after reflecting on what did happen in the weeks since I read this, I think it ended in a way that was very true to the series- it’s bittersweet and beautiful and a reminder that nature has so much power, but that it must never be used for evil.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
I’ve been meaning to read this since I saw Justine recommend it ages ago, and while holding a 450 page hardcover for a few days was a slight challenge, this book was definitely worth it. It’s about Elisabeth, who has been raised in one of the Great Libraries of the magical world she lives in, where grimoires are kept. After a dangerous grimoire escapes and causes chaos, she is blamed and taken away by sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn to face trial. I loved the worldbuilding and magic system in here a lot, particularly the way in which books are so vitally important, and I found learning about how sorcerers and their demons operate fascinating. I also enjoyed getting to know the characters, as Elisabeth is a strong, clever heroine and I fell utterly in love with Nathaniel, who’s just wonderful and witty, with a heartbreaking backstory that troubles him often in the present day. The villains are truly terrible people, and I was pretty much on the edge of my seat as things unfolded and more details of their plans unfolded. The star of the show, however, was undoubtedly Nathaniel’s demon Silas, who is so complex and layered, and therefore utterly fascinating to read about. The ending fitted the story so well, and while I’m usually not the biggest fan of open endings, I really liked the way this one was done as it lets me imagine a certain future for these characters.
Swan Song by Gill Lewis (recieved from the publisher in exchange for my honest review)
I’ve really enjoyed a lot of Gill Lewis’s work in the past, but I feel like this might be my new favourite (it’s very close between this, Sky Hawk and Scarlet Ibis, if you’re wondering). It’s about a boy named Dylan, who is really struggling at school due to depression. and him being forced to move in with his grandfather after he is expelled from school. Although Dylan is reluctant to say the least, he ends up trying to save an area swans fly back to every year from being built upon, amidst serious family illness and healing himself. As someone who didn’t have the best experience at school myself, albeit for different reasons perhaps, I really felt like I was able to understand Dylan’s situation and it was very powerful seeing his journey back to wanting to live, and I I absolutely loved that one thing that helps do this is reading, because I can definitely relate to that too. The conservation part of the storyline was also wonderful and I found it fascinating to learn more about swans and their habits, and I was so worried about Dylan’s grandfather after he got ill. I felt like everything came together so perfectly at the end, and I look forward to reading more Gill Lewis in the future.
The Gift of Dark Hollow by Kieran Larwood and illustrated by David Wyatt
I am thoroughly ashamed of myself for taking so long to get to this series after adoring the first one towards the end of 2020, so naturally I’ve made it my mission to catch up in 2021. The series follows the story of a legendary rabbit warrior named Podkin One-Ear (and his siblings Pook and Paz), who have to face off against the evil Gorm, as told by a bard, who is travelling to a festival with a young rabbit in this book. The way these books are structured is so clever, as the narrator is a character in their own right, and I love the interludes where we get to see what’s going on, which only got more exciting in this book as we learn much more about the bard and how personal Podkin’s story is to him (plus Rue is precious and I love him and his inquisitive nature so much!). Podkin’s story only got more interesting as well, as this book sees him take on a new mission in his quest to defeat the Gorm, who are suitably terrifying villains and are enslaving and murdering rabbits at a horrifying pace, and I loved his development as a character that came about as a result. My favourite character is definitely still Paz because she’s just such a queen, but I really liked some of the new characters in this installment too, and I’m also very fond of Crom, Bridgid and who could resist baby Pook? The worldbuilding is another huge highlight, it really reminds of the Warrior books by Erin Hunter as I’m so invested in the characters and story arc, and loved learning about the structure of the rabbits’ lives in terms of them all having different warrens and each Warren having a special Gift, bestowed by their goddess. I’m so sad I only have one book left in the trilogy now, but I’m dying to see what happens next and equally can’t wait to meet Uki in the sequel series.
Which nature themed books would you recommend? What are your thoughts on the ones I’ve picked? I’d love to hear in the comments!Amy x