Sara’s Favorite Reads of 2017 (Plus, Another Double Giveaway!)

Isn’t it fun to look back on the books you’ve read in the past year? I always enjoy doing this, though I also prefer to wait until January to share my lists of favorites. Somehow the books I read around Christmas and New Year’s have a habit of shaking up those lists – and that certainly was the case again!

Out of the 56 fiction books I read in 2017, I’ve narrowed my favorites down to a top 10 of brand new books and a top 10 of previously published books. Plus, like with my Favorite Reads of 2016 post, I’ve added something fun for readers at the end of this post. ūüėČ So let’s dive in!

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The Creativity Corner: Summer 2017

Summer ends tomorrow, and what a busy season it’s been. Traveling, sightseeing, getting a head cold (OK, that wasn’t fun, but it did happen), and through it all I managed to get a lot of writing and reading done. So despite the busyness, it was a productive and satisfying summer. ūüôā

Without further ado, let’s launch into the Creativity Corner for a recap of what I’ve been writing and reading, and other related happenings, since the end-of-spring edition in June.
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The 2017 Blogoversary, Part 1: Ten Unique Reads I Highly Recommend + Giveaway

This Sunday, July 9th marks my eighth blogoversary! And based on the results of this recent poll, this year’s celebration is going to be… giveaways! (Many thanks to everyone who voted, btw!) This is perfect, because blogoversaries aren’t just a time of virtual cake, confetti, and fireworks. They’re also a great opportunity to thank readers for their friendship and support, no matter how long they’ve been following you. So, consider this week’s and next week’s posts my gift to you guys. (*bows in gratitude*)

For this first giveaway, I wanted to do something bookish, but something different from the usual “favorite reads or authors of all time” theme. Then I read these recent Top 10 Tuesday posts by Sarah J. Higbee and The Bibliosanctum, and a lightbulb turned on. So, here are Ten Unique Reads I Highly Recommend, along with links to my reviews¬†at Goodreads. At the end you’ll find a Rafflecopter link and instructions for how the giveaway will work. Sounds like a plan, yes? ūüėÄ
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The Creativity Corner: Spring 2017

Can you believe that summer is here? ūüėģ It still feels like I was in Iceland last week. How on Earth has time zipped by so quickly??

Since a new season has begun, it’s time for an update on the past season’s creative happenings. And after a winter where I struggled with anxiety for a few weeks and my confidence in my writing hit rock-bottom,¬†I’m happy to say that spring was a more productive, inspiring, and emotionally healthy season. It wasn’t free of bumps, but I’m moving forward and focused on new projects.

New projects?? What about¬†The Keeper’s Curse? Or the novella? Yeah… I’ll explain what’s happening with them, too. But first…
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Recent Reads: June 2016 (+ My Favorite Reads So Far In 2016)

Recent Reads banner

Recent Reads is a monthly reading wrap-up, with mini-reviews of all the books I finished in the past month. I’ll also share what I’m currently reading and any¬†other books that are in the pipeline. Want to share your¬†bookish happenings, too? Feel free to do so in the Comments section at the end!

Huh? How did it become July so fast?! This year is flying by, and I’m sure I’m not the only one in denial about it. But time won’t¬†slow down if I ask it to, right?

This month’s Recent Reads post has a little something extra. In addition to June’s¬†book reviews and a preview of what I’m reading in July, I’ll also share some of my¬†favorite reads so far in 2016.¬†We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get right to my choice for Read of the Month!
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Recent Reads: June 2015

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Welcome to the revamped Recent Reads! As previously mentioned here, I’ve switched to¬†a new book review format to accommodate a change in blogging priorities. Recent Reads will now be a retrospective of¬†the books read over the past month,¬†and will consist of multiple, shorter reviews. Now that I’m reading faster that I used to, I’m hoping this will be a more “economical” way of sharing bookish thoughts. So, in addition to any comments on the individual books, let me know what you think of the new format in the Comments section at the end.

So, onto the books I read last month!

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Recent Reads: “The Night Butterflies” by Sara Litchfield

Night Butterflies cover

The Night Butterflies
Sara Litchfield
Science Fiction / Dystopian / Self-Published
209 pages


It is always dark. Warmer than it should be. The sun is a dull glower of reproach, only sometimes visible through the fallout. A once-majestic university town is crumbled, ashen and divided. The Men have made their home the Facility, where they develop the medication to combat the radiation that would otherwise kill those left alive.

Another day at school for Teacher. Another morning of bullying and torment from a batch of doll-like triplets more violent and unbalanced by the day. They are the nightmare product of Project Eden, the operation devised by Leader for the survival of the community, seeded in the Mothers without their consent.

Teacher has hope. She has a secret. When it is uncovered by Jimmy-1, a triplet who might be different, what will it mean for his future and hers?

Not just another dystopian novel. New author Sara Litchfield explores what it means to be a child, a mother, and a monster in a chilling world devoid of comfort.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Genetically engineered babies, mind-numbing medications, and an incinerator where rebels and children are burned alive¬†– that’s the post-apocalyptic Britain that readers will visit in Sara Litchfield’s debut novel, The Night Butterflies. If the book title or the author’s name sounds familiar, it might be because I’ve mentioned both here before. I already knew Sara from being¬†one of the beta-readers for The Night Butterflies¬†last year. So I was thrilled when the final printed version arrived in the mail so I could read it again.

One thing that the above synopsis doesn’t reveal about¬†The Night Butterflies¬†is that it’s told from five¬†POVs: three adults (Teacher, and Jimmy-1’s parents Karen and Nick), and two children (Jimmy-1, and Teacher’s daughter Ellie). It’s impossible to be more specific about each character¬†without diving into too much backstory. What I can say, though, is that each character has a unique perspective on the story’s events.¬†Readers will see the entire¬†scope play out and gain a chilling understanding of how everyone in this small, isolated community¬†will be impacted.¬†Also, under Litchfield’s elegant yet visceral prose, the voices of each POV character are unique¬†from one another. Jimmy-1’s in particular is choppy and direct, reflecting his learning disability¬†as well as glimmers of intelligence and empathy. Creating a¬†quintet of distinct characters is¬†an ambitious feat for a debut novel, yet Litchfield pulls it off beautifully.

Like any speculative fiction novel, dystopians need a solid world-building foundation so¬†the story can¬†hold up. Holy¬†mama, does¬†The Night Butterflies¬†deliver on this. Take the totalitarian regime of The Hunger Games (minus the Games), plunk it in the post-nuclear landscape Cormac McCarthy’s¬†The Road¬†(minus the cannibals), and add dashes of bio-engineering with twisted results. It’s desolate, it’s¬†scary, and it’s staggering. Fortunately, Litchfield doesn’t overwhelm readers with her backstory. Instead, she drops hints of it throughout The Night Butterflies. Readers gradually learn¬†about what happened in the past, how it led up to current times, and how the community functions (or rather, cowers) under a mad scientist’s¬†iron grip. So, everything makes sense¬†despite the chilling nature of the “status quo,” and you find yourself absorbed in its¬†many layers.

Having read an early draft of¬†The Night Butterflies, I can now compare what I remember from last year to the final version. It’s amazing to see how much has changed, yet how much of it remained¬†the same. For example, in the final copy, Litchfield¬†allows certain POV characters who were originally mere observers to¬†jump deeper¬†into the conflict,¬†and brings¬†in new scenes that filled in previously gaps in the story. The world is better explained and more deeply fleshed out as a result. At the same time, much of what¬†I loved about the original version – especially Jimmy-1’s character arc – is still there.

Despite enjoying The Night Butterflies, I wasn’t satisfied with its¬†narrative style. It leans heavily on exposition;¬†and as a reader who enjoys strong dialogue and character interactions,¬†I often wished there was more of both elements and less thinking from each POV character. (Other reviewers didn’t seem to mind this, so maybe it’s just me.) I also thought that certain scenes and descriptions were rushed, which jarred the story’s flow at times¬†and made it difficult to picture¬†what was happening. The epilogue in particular could have¬†gone into more detail about how the town and the lives of the POV characters¬†I’d grown to care about had changed since the climax.

Overall, though, The Night Butterflies is¬†a plunge into the human soul that reader¬†won’t soon forget.¬†It¬†shows the risks¬†that everyday¬†people are willing to take to do what’s right, and the questions they’re willing to ask so they can understand¬†the science and morals (or lack thereof) of¬†their dilemma. And despite its bleak world and weighty subject matter, its message of hope and humanity will buoy your spirits like its namesake. I know not everyone is keen on reading self-published novel, but if you’re willing to give one¬†a chance, try¬†this haunting tale by Sara Litchfield.¬†The amount of depth it possesses and thought it provokes will challenge – and perhaps change – those¬†perceptions.

Have you read The Night Butterflies? What did you think of it? If you haven’t read it yet, do you think you might check it out based on what you’ve read above? Let me know by commenting below or visiting the same review at Amazon or Goodreads.

Interview with Karina Sumner-Smith, Author of “Radiant”

Karina Sumner-Smith

You never know where a book is going to take you sometimes. That was the case with Karina Sumner-Smith’s debut novel¬†Radiant. I guessed from the jacket copy that it would¬†be a cross between urban fantasy and dystopian science fiction. But in the end, I couldn’t¬†pigeon-hole Radiant¬†because, well, I couldn’t. *lol* It’s imaginative, beautifully written, and too difficult to categorize – in a good way that’s equally hard¬†to describe. Does that make sense? Anyway, if you’re looking for a futuristic fantasy that emphasizes world-building and focuses on friendship instead of romance as the primary relationship, Radiant¬†may just sate your appetite.

Today I’m thrilled to have Karina Sumner-Smith here to talk about¬†Radiant¬†as well as her path to becoming a published author. What kind of writing did Karina¬†explore before tackling novels? What YA fantasy novels does she recommend to fans of adult fantasy? And, what can readers expect from her forthcoming sequels to¬†Radiant? Read on to find out the answers to these questions, and much more!

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