I wanted to go with a theme for the coming autumnal months ahead, so September is brimming with the sense of mythology and gods and magic. There’s a lot of books on my shelf, but these ones in particular I’ve loved.
So, without further ado, let’s get into this month’s book recommendations! First up is my Fiction recommendation.
Fiction: Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris
From the author of Chocolat, an intoxicating fairy tale of alchemy and love where wine is the magic elixir.
Jay Mackintosh is a 37-year-old has-been writer from London. Fourteen years have passed since his first novel, Jackapple Joe, won the Prix Goncourt. His only happiness comes from dreaming about the golden summers of his boyhood that he spent in the company of an eccentric vintner who was the inspiration of Jay’s debut novel, but who one day mysteriously vanished. Under the strange effects of a bottle of Joe’s ’75 Special, Jay decides to purchase a derelict yet promising château in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. There, a ghost from his past waits to confront him, and his new neighbour, the reclusive Marise – haunted, lovely and dangerous – hides a terrible secret behind her closed shutters. Between them, there seems to be a mysterious chemistry. Or could it be magic?
Why I Recommend
I read this a number of years ago, when I had read ‘Chocolat’ and was intrigued by all Joanne Harris’ other books. I actually don’t remember much of the story because it was that long ago, but I do remember it was a magical and mysterious book, filled with wine and relationships, and the potential magic that comes from this bottle of wine that inspires Jay to take the steps he needs to bounce back from his lacklustre life.
Jay Mackintosh has lost a lot of his vigour for life, and spends his time lost in the days of long past. With the help of a little wine and ‘alchemy’ that all starts to change, and it’s really wonderful to see those changes.
The book moves from past to present and back again, as we see young Jay and his meeting of the elderly gentlemen Joe, and then forward in time to meeting other characters including Marise. I just loved the interactions between characters, and I think that’s the main-stay of this book. It’s more a focus on the characters and their journey, and is a testament to Joanne’s writing. If you’ve read other books by her but not this one, I say check it out purely for the magic that is her story-telling.
Fantasy: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, ambitious wizard, known only as the Dragon, to keep the wood’s powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman must be handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as being lost to the wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows – everyone knows – that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia – all the things Agnieszka isn’t – and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But no one can predict how or why the Dragon chooses a girl. And when he comes, it is not Kasia he will take with him.
Why I Recommend
Oh I just loved this book. I read the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik and loved them to bits (they’re actually all up in my loft at the moment. One day I’ll get them all down and read them again!). But this is a new standalone fantasy book, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.
Agnieszka (the name I find trouble pronouncing) is brave and filled with determination to look after her sister. She lives on the edge of a strange powerful forest that a wizard known as the Dragon keeps under wraps. But the forest’s power is rising and the Dragon is struggling to keep it at bay. Enter ‘The Choosing’, where the Dragon requires a woman to serve him for ten years. All the other women who’ve served him have come back changed in some manner, and they never stay in the village, instead disappearing as soon as they appear again. Agnieszka is terrified that it will be her sister that is chosen. But instead, it is her, and she has no idea why.
After being chosen, however, Agniezka discovers she has a power that can rival the Dragon, and realising she needs to learn all she can to keep the dark woods at bay, she begins her instruction, all the while looking after the strange towering home that she now lives in.
I loved the magic of this tale, but I also loved the interactions between Agniezka and the Dragon. It’s absolutely a homage to the whole ‘dragon and the princess’ tales where women are handed over as sacrifices to the great and powerful dragon. This is just a twist on that tale, and I loved it to bits. There’s more than magic in this tale though, as there is romance as well. It’s not the bulk of the story though. This is a story about Agniezka and her realising that she is more than she appears.
Young Adult: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce
Young Daine’s knack with horses gets her a job helping the royal horsemistress drive a herd of ponies to Tortall. Soon it becomes clear that Daine’s talent, as much as she struggles to hide it, is downright magical. Horses and other animals not only obey, but listen to her words. Daine, though, will have to learn to trust humans before she can come to terms with her powers, her past, and herself.
Why I Recommend
If you haven’t worked it out by now, then I’ll tell you again. I love Tamora Pierce. All her books are brilliant, but I must say, the ‘Immortals’ series, starting with ‘Wild Magic’ is by far one of my favourites.
Many of Tamora Pierce’s books are hard to get hold of, as these were published in the early 1990s, and, to be honest, there’s a whole host of other fantasy and young adult books out there these days that probably drown Tamora Pierce out.
But please, read them, because if you’re a fan of Young Adult and Fantasy, these are classics. They got me hooked on the genre back in the early 2000s, when I was but a teenager, and I am still hooked on them today.
Daine’s story is one of magic and animals. She has the ability to talk to animals, even get into their minds and emotions, and in the past this has stood her out as different and caused all sorts of problems, so she tries to hide her power. Daine is a young teenager, with only her horse for company, and she is desperate for a way out of Scanra, where her family are gone and she has no home left.
She is a quiet but sturdy character, filled with eagerness and determination, though more than a little wary of people around her – for good reason considering her past. When she begins to meet new people, however, her talents become clear and she is tasked with developing her magic. For who knows, with the trouble that is brimming with gods and monsters appearing out of the Realms of the Gods, it seems the world of Tortall is in desperate need of a teenager with Daine’s magical talents.
I loved Daine and her quiet but steady character. You can absolutely see why she is so careful around people yet animals she is caring and attentive towards – they have not hurt her after all. But it’s lovely to see her character blossom throughout the book, and even into the rest of the books of the series.
The story itself is filled with magic and the plot moves at a good pace. There’s lovely interactions between Daine and multiple animals, as well as mythical monsters, and it’s a deft tale that Tamora Pierce has spun.
Read it if you haven’t already!
Non-Fiction: Greek Mythology by David Stuttard
The Greek myths have a universal appeal, beyond the time and physical place in which they were created. But many are firmly rooted in specific landscapes: the city of Thebes and mountain range Cithaeron dominate the tale of Oedipus; the city of Mycenae broods over the fates of Agamemnon and Electra; while Knossos boasts the scene of Theseus’ slaying of the Minotaur. Drawing on a wide range of classical sources, newly translated by the author, and illustrated with specially commissioned drawings, this book is both a useful read for those visiting the sites and a fascinating imaginative journey for the armchair traveler. The itinerary includes twenty-two locations, from Mount Olympus to Homer’s Hades, recounting the myths and history associated with each site and highlighting features that visitors can still see today.
Why I Recommend
I’ve just read Circe by Madeline Miller, and perhaps that’s why I chose this book for my book recommendations for September. I bought it a number of years ago from The British Museum bookshop, and since then I’ve dipped in and out of it, reading all about the Greek Myths from the tale of The Minotaur, to the city of Troy.
What’s really interesting about this book is every chapter is a different place which holds myths and legends. You start off at Mount Olympus, and it goes through a number of laces from Thebes to Athens, all the way to Hades.
Each chapter is split into sections about the myths, but also has a section based on history and the place in today’s society. At the end of each section is a page detailing important dates for those places, so you get a historical look at Greek living as well as the myths that purvey the landscape.
I just find it a really interesting book, and certainly one you can just dip in and out of whenever you feel like it. Unless you want to read it in full, which is great too.
That’s it! Those are my recommendations for September.
If you have a book you’ve loved and would recommend it this month, please share in the comments!
Kate @ Kandid Chronicles x