Myra, 34, has been a recluse since her disfiguring accident when she was a young child. She inherited a small mansion from her grandfather and step-grandmother and it seems to have a mind of its own. Alex returns home to a sick father that’s always pushed him away and he needs help running their business. Myra blogs about her miniature mansion and Alex notices that some of the furniture in his life-size mansion matches exactly to the tiny furniture in Myra’s. The characters are lovable and I appreciate the empathy shown throughout the book. The mystery behind the two mansions is written with creativity and unravels perfectly, 4 stars!
Blood and Moonlight by Erin Beaty
Riveting mystery with a touch of magic! 5 stars!
Catrin, 17 years old, finds a woman’s dead body that’s been mutilated by a murderer, so she becomes the main witness in helping Simon solve the case. Simon is the nephew of the Comte in charge of keeping the justice in Londunium but he wants to keep his son Oudin out of suspicion, so he assigns Simon to the case. The murders continue and several suspects come to light. Catrin uses her newly found magic that appears in moonlight to try to stop and prevent any more murders from happening and she receives the last thoughts of the fatally wounded women that will help find the killer. Catrin is adamantly protective of those she loves and does her best to stop the violence and the person behind it.
Likes/dislikes: The intensity of the mystery kept me riveted. The explanation of magic and the world building are written out nicely. I love Catrin, the main character because of her strength, loyalty to those she loves, bravery and intelligence.
Mature Content: PG for drug use mentioned, brief kiss, gentle kisses, urgent nondescript kiss.
Language: PG for 8 swears and no f-bombs.
Violence: PG-13 for Catrin finding a dead body that’s bloody and broken. The death is described with little detail. Description of a bloody death, implied sexual assault.
The Charmed List by Julie Abe
Cute charm and a fun read!
The Charmed List is a quirky, genre-bending book. It’s romance mixed with magic. Ellie lives in a city full of magic gatherers and spell makers. Most of them want to help others by making their lives a little happier, better. Jack’s father seems to just want to make money using the magic. Ellie and Jack used to be best friends until his mother died and he distanced himself from her and chose other friends that make fun of her. Ellie and her now best friend Lia plan a prank on Jack and he uses magic to get rid of it. He doesn’t realize that anyone is watching him. Lia doesn’t know magic exists and the magical community has strict rules about sharing magic, information or anything, with those who don’t know it’s real. When she sees Jack use a spell, she’s overwhelmed and everyone in Jack’s and Ellie’s families find out what they did. Jack and Ellie get in trouble and are sent on a work trip for their parents’ shops. They’re told they have to work out their differences and being wisely magic-aware. The first part of the trip, Ellie is frosty towards Jack. They won’t open up to each other but their siblings planted charms in the lunch they packed, so Jake and Ellie have to compromise if they’re going to eat. They start to relax around each other and actually enjoy their time together. When both families arrive at the convention, Jack’s father blows up and says cruel things about Ellie and her family. A roller coaster ride of emotions, crossing items off a bucket list and cute charm make this a fun read, 5 stars!
The Shattered City by Lisa Maxwell
Told in alternating timelines of 1902 and 1983 Brooklyn, each time focuses on different people. Esta and Harte move forward to 1983 where they can go to the future, get away from the enemy, and figure out how to solve the problems of the Brink and the evil Nibsy Lorcan. Viola and Jianyu are in 1902 with Nibsy. All of the main characters from the past books of this series are mentioned in different timelines. The characters eventually all end up in the same timeline together. The storyline consists of turmoil and struggles to right the wrongs of the past and give freedoms to the people who have an affinity for magic. An intelligent time travel fantasy.
The many timelines, characters and struggles almost need a chart to keep track of. This is the fourth book of The Last Magician series and it just adds another layer to the whole concept and plot. If this series is going to be read, the books should be read together without much time between to help keep it all straight. I like the diversity of the characters and their strengths.
Mature content: PG-13 for drug use by side character, kissing
Language: R for 53 swears and 1 f-bomb
Violence: PG-13 for villain shooting himself, explosions that killed people.
Ethnicity/other info: The ethnicity is mixed with white, Italian, Oriental and Black.
Master of Iron by Tricia Levenseller
Suspense, action and humor!
The story opens as the group travels to the healer that will hopefully save Temra after she was injured and received a nick in her lung. The group consists of the captured warlord Kymora, Ziva, Temra, Kellyn and Petrik. Kymora happens to be Petrik’s mother and his father is the deceased king. They’re all on their way to get help from Petrik’s half brother, Prince Skiro. Soon after they arrive at their destination, they’re informed that the healer has been kidnapped by Prince Ravis, Skiro’s oldest and war hungry sibling. Petrik shows Kellyn and Ziva the portals to the siblings’ connected kingdoms. They use the portrait portal to quickly get to Ravis’ kingdom and rescue the healer by Kellyn causing a distraction. Ziva sends Petrik and the healer back to Skiro’s kingdom then she destroys the portrait and goes back for Kellyn. She’s captured along with him and forced to create magical weapons to conquer the other kingdoms. Ziva vows never to create magical weapons again after seeing what Kymora and Ravis do with them. The group moves from one conflict to another after Ziva escapes with Kellyn and goes back to Skiro’s castle. Ravis soon attacks and Skiro uses the imprisoned Kymora against the attack. She’s loose and still wants to conquer the world. Ziva has tough decisions to make involving her magical abilities, Temra, Kellyn and their future. She also works at overcoming her anxiety and undergoes tremendous character development. The suspense and action made the reading go by quickly and I like the snippets of humor woven through the duology, 5 stars!
Daughters of Nri by Reni K. Amayo
Twins, stolen and separated!
Naala gets reprimanded for getting dirt all over her wedding gown that Gini designed and sewed. Sinai is trying to avoid a bully. These two young women are twins separated soon after they were born and they have no idea that the other one exists. Twins are forbidden and usually killed because the leader has heard a prophecy that twins will be his undoing. The girls’ parents were royalty, also unknown to them. Their mother died after giving birth to them and their father planned on keeping them safe afterwards but the girls were stolen and their father died of a broken heart. Now Naala and Sinai are living separate lives and know nothing about each other, their parents or the prophecy. Naala has just escaped the slaying of her village and is living on the run with other survivors of Eze’s army. Sinai has made a pact with a magical older lady and now she’s supposed to be spying on Eze. The mythology was all new to me since I didn’t have much background knowledge of the specific culture and I enjoyed learning about that. I would have liked more action and development of the characters but still a good read, 4 stars!
The Witch Hunt by Sasha Peyton Smith
Frances is now a teacher at Haxahaven. She and Maxine are traveling to Paris and picking up their mutual friend Lena on the way. They travel six days on a fancy ship then stay at Maxine’s family home once they reach Paris. Frances hasn’t told Lena and Maxine that she received a letter from Finn or that she wants to visit her father who abandoned her family when she was young. She meets her father and is underwhelmed with his reaction and his personality. Finn doesn’t evoke trustworthiness but Frances feels that she has to work with him to fix the damage the two of them caused when reaching the veil and speaking to her deceased brother William. Frances and her friends are determined to fix the magic problem caused by the veil breach and they need all the help they can get. Likeable characters! 4 stars!
Mature content: PG-13 for underage drinking, LGBT side characters mentioned
Language: R for 7 swears and 1 f-bomb
Violence: PG-13 for stabbing, shooting and a tied up victim
Mixed Ethnicity and set in 1913 Paris
The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith
A magical, tragic fantasy!
Frances works in a sewing factory in 1911 America. Working and living conditions aren’t very good. She’s working late one night so she can finish an order that’s scheduled to be delivered the next morning when her boss rushes in to steal money from the till and then notices Frances. He tries to force himself on her and he’s choking her to hold her still. Frances is struggling for air when she suddenly feels an odd sensation in her fingers and hears a whoosh sound. Her boss gasps and lets her go because her scissors have somehow ended up embedded in his neck. It takes Frances a minute to catch her breath and notice that her scissors have killed him. She panics, throws up and decides that the only way to get out of this situation is to stage a crime scene. Her supervisor helps her. She’s picked up by two strangers taking her to a sanitarium but they’re actually witches taking her to a training school. Haxahaven is a school that helps young women use their magical skills to help them become better wives and mothers and conform to the early 1900’s society. Many of these girls also want to learn how to use their magical abilities to protect themselves. Frances and a couple of others sneak out to venture and meet Finn who says he’ll help them train and help Frances figure out what happened to Will, her deceased brother. An entire world opens up to the girls and they get involved in much more than they bargained for. 5 stars for this magical, tragic fantasy!
It Ends In Fire by Andrew Shvarts
Sixteen-year-old Alka tricks a group of thieves into stopping a wagon for her. They think the wagon holds treasure but it holds a Wizard that is the senator’s powerful daughter. Alka wants revenge on the Wizards for killing her parents ten years ago and Lady Alayne is the key. After dueling with Alayne, Alka retrieves Alayne’s invitation to Blackwater Academy of Magic so she can go in her place and infiltrate the Wizard power. The next chapter explains what happened to Alka’s parents. Wizards arrive at their home so seven-year-old Alka and her six-year-old sister Sera hide under the floorboards like their parents told them to. Their father, Petyr, admits he’s a rebel to save his wife but the Enforcers kill them both. But before Petyr dies, he tells his daughters to run and then he sets off an explosion to kill the Wizards. Alka’s childhood ended that day. Her world completely changed. Now, she travels to Blackwater Academy to take Alayne’s place and exact her revenge. Fylmonela Potts befriends Alka and the two form an alliance preparing for the intense competitive Blackwater Academy where one third of the students will drop out or die instead of graduating. At the opening ceremony, Alka sees the man who killed her parents, Magnus Aberdeen, headmaster of Blackwater Academy. After a failed attempt to get close to Aberdeen, Alka meets the exchange student Prince Talyn Ravensgale IV. The story continues to alternate between young Alka and the present Alka, when she’s at Blackwater. She pretends to mess up a Glyph that distracts Aberdeen and the entire class so she can steal the last four Glyph pages from the master codex of the wizard spells to keep and learn on her own. She wants to be the most powerful so she can take down the wizards. When she was being trained by rebels, she was told not to feel remorse for killing wizards or others who stand in the way of her mission. Despite that, Alka gains allies and friends and when their order competes in a school challenge, they try a daring stunt to beat the competition. This makes the ruling order angry but the rest of the school feels empowered. The second challenge doesn’t go down as planned and when a friend dies, Alka knows the end is coming. She’s got to make a plan that will take the biggest toll of all. 4 stars for the writing and the intensity. Similar to a Harry Potter outline.
Gilded by Marissa Meyer
Serilda enjoys creating stories to tell and embellishing the tales every time she retells them. One snowy night, she hears noises outside her house. She dares to go outside and she sees two moss maidens trying to hide from hunters. Serilda helps them hide but lies to the Erlking to keep them safe. He’s intrigued by her story of being able to spin straw into gold so he sends for her to come to his castle. After that, she’s bound to keep going back to the castle because the Erlking won’t let her go. She meets Gild, who the Erlking classifies as a poltergeist. Gild has the gift of magic that allows him to spin straw into gold. He helps Serilda but requires payment in return each time he helps her. The first two times, Serilda gives him the gifts the moss maidens gave her when she saved them from the Erlking. The third time, she offers her future firstborn child as payment. That is the only thing she has to offer. Gild accepts this offer, so his magic will work. Everything grows more complicated and the people Serilda love become endangered. The Erlking is heartless, cold and brutal. He will do whatever it takes to get what he wants.
Gilded is one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read because Marissa Meyer adds twists and brings original characters to the story. Suspenseful, dangerous and interesting fairytale retelling, 5 stars!