Tag: magic

Book Review: Before I Let Go, by Marieke Naijkamp


before i let go
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Corey and Kyra grew up as best friends in tiny Lost Creek, Alaska. Kyra was vibrant and artistic—and manic/depressive, so the town ostracized her for being different. But Corey was always there for her. Until Corey’s mom got a new job and Corey had to move away, promising Kyra she’d be back in exchange for Kyra’s promise to stay strong.

Days before Corey’s visit home, Kyra dies, and Corey is devastated. Her grief turns to confusion when she returns to Lost, and discovers the town has changed in her absence. Everyone grieves for Kyra, but whispers that her death was meant to be.

Corey doesn’t know what to think. The town that shut Kyra out seems to have embraced her in the past months, but the more Corey asks questions, the more she’s treated as an outsider herself. As she tries to learn more about what happened to Kyra, the more her suspicions grow. Lost is hiding a secret—and Corey can’t get through the darkness to the truth.

I’m just going to say it:  this was a weird book. It’s a mix of YA, magical realism, and death investigation—kind of. Lost comes to vivid, haunting life on the pages, and the characters are both compelling and strange.  Kyra and Corey’s friendship was heartwarming and sad, and I enjoyed Corey’s attempts to find out the truth about her friend. In the end, though, I still wasn’t quite sure what happened. An interesting, unpredictable read.

Marieke Naijkamp was born and raised in the Netherlands. She is the New York Times bestselling author of This is Where It Ends. Her newest novel is Before I Let Go.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)



Book Review: The Forgotten Book, by Mechthild Gläser

the forgotten book
Image belongs to Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan.

Emma’s life is pretty good. She attends a prestigious boarding school. Her friends all trust her enough to ask her for advice. She’s pretty sure the guy she’s had a crush on for ages is about to ask her out. Things are going well. Except for arrogant Darcy de Winter, the heir to the family who owns the school, who’s there searching for clues about his missing sister.

Then someone trashes the abandoned library Emma and her friends have taken as “theirs,” and Emma finds an old book hidden there. The book is filled with pages written by many different people over the years. A diary of sorts, Emma thinks, and she starts writing in it as well.

When the things Emma writes in the book come true—sort of—Emma realizes there’s more to the book than she thought. But someone else knows of the book’s power, and will stop at nothing to take it from Emma. Emma must unravel the mysteries hidden in the book—and the school—if she’s to figure out what the book is—and who’s after it.

The Forgotten Book is labeled as YA, but that seems a tiny bit too old for this book, to me. Or maybe Emma’s led such a sheltered life that she seems younger. And, considering this is a boarding school, there is surprising little conflict or animosity between a group of students who all live together. Everyone gets along. That was the most far-fetched part of this book for me. Not the magic book.

I enjoyed the mystery, as Emma tries to figure out the secrets of the book, as well as the mysterious creature mentioned in the book. The school sounds like a fantastical place to live, or at least to visit. Emma is an interesting character:  she’s very innocent and oblivious to some things, but she’s inquisitive enough to make up for her naivety.

Mechthild Gläser is an award-winning German author. The Forgotten Book is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)


Book Review: As You Wish, by Chelsea Sedoti

as you wish
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Madison is a small town in the middle of the Mojave Desert, a.k.a. nowhere. It’s the kind of place that no one ever leaves. Where everyone knows everyone else and all their business, but the town itself is keeping one very big secret:  on their 18th birthday, every person in town is granted one wish, that always comes true.

Most people have their wishes picked out months or years in advance. Not Eldon. His birthday is only weeks away, and he’s got nothing. Except every single person in town pressuring him to make up his mind and pick a wish. But where to start? His family could use money. His sister isn’t really there anymore. His ex-girlfriend, now dating his ex-friend, is still the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, but she hates him now. He could fix any one of those things with his wish.

But Eldon sees the dark side of wishing:  he can’t find a single person who is happy with the results of their wish, especially not his parents. And Eldon is tired of all the pressure, tired of the looming decision, tired of the darkness hanging over his sleepy little town. Eldon thinks maybe it’s better to just not wish—than to risk the unhappiness he’s sure will result.

I have to be honest, with a title like As You Wish, I expected at least one The Princess Bride reference. Sadly, that was not to be. Despite that lack, this was a wonderful read that explores everything that terrifies me about small towns—and I’ve lived in them for most of my life—with the added element of magical realism. Everyone knowing what everyone else is up to is exactly what small towns are like, and Madison is like that personified, with the addition of keeping the wishes a secret from the outside world. But everyone in town knows what everyone else wished for. And Eldon wants no part of the heartache he sees as the result of the wishes, but he can’t quite see his way out of the whole mess, either. This book explores what happens when people get what they wish for, and the consequences it can have.

Chelsea Sedoti loves adventures and writing. She is the author of The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, and her newest novel, As You Wish.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Girl in the Tower, by Katherine Arden

the girl in the tower
Image belongs to Del Rey.

Vasya has long seen creatures from legend, and her ability to see has brought trouble down upon her and her family. Only the aid of Morozko (Frost, the winter demon from the stories) has kept her alive so far, and the love of Solovey, her magnificent stallion. With her parents dead and her village casting her out as a witch, Vasya knows her options are limited:  life in a convent or marriage to a Moscovite prince. She wants neither, and disguises herself as a boy as she sets out to explore the world.

She finds burned villages, missing girls, and bandits that vanish leaving no traces behind. After she rescues three girls from the bandits, the Grand Prince of Moscow calls her a hero, and she is reunited with her brother and sister. But Vasya cannot reveal that she is female, or her entire family risks disgrace and death. Soon she realizes that a danger stalks Moscow and the Grand Prince, and even Morozko, who she no longer knows if she can trust, may not be able to help her.

Have you ever identified with a character so completely that it almost broke your heart? That’s how I felt about Vasya as I was reading The Girl in the Tower. Everyone wants her to be content to marry, raise a family, and be conventional, but she wants anything but that. She wants to travel, live her life, and be happy, but the people around her don’t want that for her:  they want her to conform. And she doesn’t want to hurt those she loves, so she’s torn.

Vasya is a powerful character, so relatable that you want to cry for her struggles. This is a magical, vibrant book, and wonder permeates every page. The setting is so vividly depicted that I found myself shivering—and I hate cold weather!

Katherine Arden is from Texas, but lived in Vermont, Russia, Hawaii, France, and Hawaii (again). She has picked Macadamia nuts, made smoothies, and sold real estate, but now she writes. The Girl in the Tower is her newest novel, the second book in The Winternight trilogy.

Go. Read this! And if you haven’t read The Bear and the Nightingale, read it first!

the girl in the tower2
Gorgeous covers!

(Galley provided by Del Rey in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

beasts of extraordinary circumstance
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Weylyn Grey was orphaned and raised by wolves. He met Mary when she was 11 years old, when he saved her from an angry wolf. Weylyn knows strange things happen around him—like stopping that tornado on Christmas Day—but he prefers to give the credit to his horned pig, Merlin.

Freak storms, trees that grow overnight, hurricanes that mysteriously dissipate; Weylyn has been around them all. Though it all, his love for Mary stays strong, until he realizes that she might come to harm. Then he knows he must move on. Instead of stopping hurricanes, the magic in his life now consists of fireflies who make phosphorescent honey. But, through it all, his love for Mary remains strong. All he needs is the courage to knock on her door.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is classified as fantasy/sci-fi, but to me, it’s more magical realism. It’s different from anything else I’ve ever read, and different is a very good thing. This is told not only from Weylyn’s point-of-view, but from that of those who know him. There is magic on every page, and wonder hides here as well.

Ruth Emmie Lang was born in Scotland, but moved to Ohio when she was four. Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is her first novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)



Book Review: The Goblins of Bellwater, by Molly Ringle

Image belongs to Central Avenue Publishing.

Kit is the local mechanic in tiny Bellwater, Washington and an artist. He’s also the liaison to the goblins who live in the woods. But Kit doesn’t talk about that. Most people have no idea the goblins even exist, much less that Kit does his best to keep them protected from the goblins and their twisted temptations.

When Sky, a barista and an artist, falls victim to a goblin curse one winter’s night, she is rendered almost mute and in danger of drifting away. Her sister Livy is desperate to find out what’s wrong with her sister, but has no idea where to turn. When she starts dating Kit, the two of them are soon drawn into a web of magic that has ensnared everyone they love. Livy is the only one with a prayer of freeing them, but she’ll have to travel a magical path of her own to do so.

Ms. Ringle wrote The Goblins of Bellwater inspired by Christina Rossetti’s poem, Goblin Market. The novel has the same spooky, sensual feel as the poem does. The setting is magical and almost dreamy, but brimming with life. Readers who ever imagined that there was something else out there—like Sky and Livy’s “Teeny-tinies”—will understand the lure of magic in the woods. This story is full of magic and mystery, wonder and love, and tinged with darkness. A must-read for anyone looking for a story about the unseen things hovering at the edge of your vision.

Molly Ringle writes novels that mix half-familiar stories from legend and fairy tales with the real word. The Goblins of Bellwater is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Central Avenue Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco

the bone witch
Image belongs to Sourcebooks.

Rin Chupeco writes books that mix fantasy with dark thrillers. The Bone Witch is her newest novel.

The women in Tea’s family are witches, but when teenage Tea raises her brother Fox from the dead—unintentionally—she learns she’s far different from the others. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, both feared and shunned by everyone she knows. Then an older bone witch arrives to take Tea and her brother far away for training.

Becoming an asha—one who wields magic—is the hardest thing she’s ever done, but Tea wants it more than anything. The intricate rituals, the esoteric knowledge, the combat training all prepare Tea for her new role. But training isn’t all that waits for Tea, and dark forces are rising in secret, set to destroy everything she holds dear.

From the book’s website: Memoirs of a Geisha meets The Name of the Wind…” This is exactly what this book is! And since I loved both of these books, it stands to reason that I’d love this one. Which I did. I started off a bit confused, but gradually I got a grasp on everything. The cultures in this book are rich and intricate, especially the ashas’. There’s action, history, a little bit of romance, and a lot of magic…everything to keep the reader entranced until the very end. I highly recommend this book!


(Galley provided by Sourcebooks via NetGalley.)

Clay Tongue, by Nicholas Conley

This image belongs to Nicholas Conley.

Nicholas Conley is the award-winning author of Pale Highway. Fueled by coffee, he’s fascinated by science fiction novels, comic books, and horror movies. Clay Tongue is his new novelette.

Katie Mirowitz isn’t very big, but her love for her grandfather is. After suffering a stroke, he can no longer talk, but Katie’s relationship with him is still a bright spot in her life, as her family struggles to keep things together. Then Katie finds her grandfather’s old journal, full of tales of a creature from myth. She also finds a key. So Katie sets off into the woods in search of the creature, desperate to have her wish granted, a wish that will save her family.

Clay Tongue isn’t very long, but has plenty of room to draw the reader into Katie’s tale. Katie’s just a kid, but her view of the world is bigger—and far more clear—than the adults in her life. Her love for her grandfather is fierce, as is his for her. There is magic in the pages of this story; magic both large and small, as well as love, hope, and vision.

(Galley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Enveloping Shadows, by Lauren D.M. Smith

Image belongs to Carina Press.

Lauren D.M. Smith is the author of The Emperor’s Arrow, winner of Harlequin’s 2015 So You think You Can Write contest. Her newest novel is Enveloping Shadows.

Terrwyn is a knight and the chief bodyguard of the princess. Her sword skills are all she needs. Until a stranger cloaked in darkness snatches the princess right in front of Terrwyn before she can even move. Now Terrwyn can no longer ignore the rumors of monsters and dark monsters as she sets out to rescue the princess.

All alone and in an unfamiliar land, Terrwyn cannot afford to refuse help from the mysterious stranger who steps from the shadows. Zelek, full of secrets and after the same man who kidnapped the princess, is a shadow-whisperer intent on avenging his family. Together, he and Terrwyn must face Zelek’s old enemy and a sorceress with a demon at her side if they are to save the princess and repay a debt from Zelek’s past,

I loved the premise of this book, and Zelek’s power was intriguing—he can talk to shadows! I also loved the idea of Terrwyn being a female knight, and that being no big deal at all in this world, even if slightly unusual. Zelek on the whole was a far more interesting character than Terrwyn, whom I found to be somewhat inconsistent:  experienced with men yet super shy with Zelek (this was more on the “Ah, how cute!” level than anything.), a stellar warrior who runs into situations without thought, super focused yet oblivious to the obvious at times. I liked the world itself a lot, and would be interested in reading more set in it, but the character inconsistencies and the caricature villains were troublesome for me.

(Galley provided by Carina Press.)

Heir of Thunder, by Karissa Laurel

Image belongs to Evolved Publishing.

Karissa Laurel is the author of The Norse Chronicles. Her newest book, Heir of Thunder, is the first book in The Stormbourne Chronicles.

Evelyn Stormbourne is left reeling by the sudden death of her father amidst an attack by revolutionaries. Her only ally is Gideon, her father’s horse master, who helps her conceal her identity as they flee to the safety of the coast to find a ship to the Continent.

When a horrific storm washes Evie overboard, she finds herself “rescued” by slavers collecting girls from all cultures. Though Evie escapes, she’s determined to save her fellow captives, with the aid of nomads who live in airships fueled by lightning. Add in a cabal of Dark Magicians intent on using her to create a new god, and an ancient family intent on claiming Evie’s birthright, and the likelihood of disaster is high, as Evie struggles to embrace her identity as well as her powers.

Heir of Thunder is an engaging read set in an intriguing world. The airships are fascinating, as is the culture of the people who live in them. Evie starts off as a sheltered, spoiled brat, but grows so much as a character throughout the novel. A great epic fantasy read for YA or adult readers alike.

(Galley provided by Evolved Publishing via NetGalley.)