Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow

From the publisher: “Morrigan Crow and her best friend Hawthorne Swift are now proud scholars in the elite Wundrous Society, but life is far from perfect. Does Morrigan have what it takes to prove that she belongs in the Society?”

Morrigan begins her education but is disappointed that the narrowminded administration has limited her training as they consider wundersmiths as evil.  True evil is afoot and sure enough, the not entirely exiled Ezra Squall, despised wundersmith extraordinare, is behind a series of abductions.  This is a very good follow up to the quirky first book, Nevermoor:The Trials of Morrigan Crow, with more details about Nevermoor and the Wundrous Society.  We come to love Jupiter even more and the importance of friendship is stress when Morrigan finds acceptance with her classmates.

Publication date 11.12.2018

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Flamefall – Rosaria Munda

From the publisher, “Revolutionary flames ignite around Annie, Lee, and a brand new character in the follow-up to FIREBORNE.  After fleeing the revolution and settling into the craggy cliffs of New Pythos, the dragonlords are eager to punish their usurpers and reclaim their city. Their first order of business was destroying the Callipolan food supply. Now they’re coming for the dragonriders.  Annie is Callipolis’s new Firstrider, charged with leading the war against New Pythos. But with unrest at home, enforcing the government’s rationing program risks turning her into public enemy number one.  Lee struggles to find his place after killing kin for a leader who betrayed him. He can support Annie and the other Guardians…or join the rebels who look to topple the new regime.

Griff, a lowborn dragonrider who serves New Pythos, knows he has no future. And now that Julia Stormscourge is no longer there to protect him, he is called on to sacrifice everything for the lords that oppress his people—or to forge a new path with the Callipolan Firstrider seeking his help.  With famine tearing Callipolis apart and the Pythians determined to take back what they lost, it will be up to Annie, Lee, and Griff to decide who—and what—to fight for.”

Flamefall is every bit as fantastic as Fireborne.  Annie strengthens while Lee falters, so that his goals and Annie’s are not in sync.  And new character Griff immediately gained my sympathy.  This is more a story about revolution, the difficult path to true reform.  It’s more than gaining power, it is keeping power.  It takes time to rebuild a society and when there is an outside force, it is even more of a struggle.  This is one of my favorite series of late.  Extremely well written, engaging, plenty of action, fitting dialog, and very real characters who make mistakes but learn from them.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                            Publication date 3.23.2021

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Namesake – Adrienne Young

From the publisher, “With the Marigold ship free of her father, Fable and its crew were set to start over. That freedom is short-lived when she becomes a pawn in a notorious thug’s scheme. In order to get to her intended destination she must help him to secure a partnership with Holland, a powerful gem trader who is more than she seems. As Fable descends deeper into a world of betrayal and deception she learns that her mother was keeping secrets, and those secrets are now putting the people Fable cares about in danger. If Fable is going to save them then she must risk everything, including the boy she loves and the home she has finally found.”

Namesake is a fitting continuation of the story that began with Fable.  We get a bit more insight into West, Saint, and learn who Fable’s grandmother is and why Isolde ran away.  This story was difficult to put down and I eagerly went back to it.  Only one thing doesn’t make sense despite the author repeating the reasoning several times.  Why did Saint abandon Fable after the shipwreck that killed her mother?  To preserve her anonymity so no one knows she is Saint’s daughter?  Meh – for the first 13+ years of her life she lived with Saint and Isolde and not just on the ship that went down.  If people really didn’t know he had a daughter, after Isolde’s death, he could have kept her on, pretending to take in the daughter of a crewmate.  However, being abandoned is the central point of the story.  I’m thinking I like duologies more than trilogies.  The story was difficult to put down and neatly wraps up.   Excellent.

eGalley review                                                              Publication date 3.16.2021

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Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow

From the publisher: “Morrigan Crow and her friends have survived their first year as proud scholars of the elite Wundrous Society, helped bring down the nefarious Ghastly Market, and proven themselves loyal to Unit 919. Now Morrigan faces a new, exciting challenge: to master the mysterious Wretched Arts, and control the power that threatens to consume her.  But a strange and frightening illness has taken hold of Nevermoor, turning infected Wunimals into mindless, vicious Unnimals on the hunt. As victims of the Hollowpox multiply, panic spreads. And with the city she loves in a state of fear, Morrigan quickly realizes it’s up to her to find a cure for the Hollowpox, even if it will put her — and everyone in Nevermoor — in more danger than she ever imagined.”

Evil Wundersmith Ezra Squall is once again behind the horrible happenings in Nevermoor.  There is a bit of a twist in the relationship between Morrigan and Ezra that I won’t give away.  The parallels with our society (U.S.) at the time of the book release are spot on –  the bigotry, the rapid spread of misinformation, the fervent desire to put down a certain class.   But the book is not at all preachy. I began this book thinking it would be a trilogy, but no, there will be more.  That’s good, but it could become tiresome if the story spreads out too much further. The supporting characters are all back, but with lesser parts.  This book focuses more on Morrigan learning to grow into her power and her joy in learning. The books should be read in order and those who enjoyed the first two will certainly want to read this one.  I am intrigued about the growing relationship between Morrigan and Ezra.  Is he earnest, can he be trusted?  I will eagerly read the next in the series to find out.

eGalley review                                                   Publication date 10.27.2020

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Magic Lessons: The Prequel to Practical Magic – Alice Hoffman

There is a curse in the Owens family that has existed since the 1600s. If you have read Practical Magic you know about it. And it all began with an abandoned baby girl, found in the snow by Hannah Owens. Hannah was skilled in the “Unnamed Arts” and taught the girl, Maria, all she knows. Maria has a gift and mostly uses it wisely, but she has forgotten an important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

Alice Hoffman’s books are always wonderful. In this one she takes Maria from England to New York and Salem Massachusetts, and tells a tale of the mistreatment of single women in the 17th century, especially self-reliant, independent women. I greatly enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down.

eGalley review                                   Publication date 10.6.2020

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The Inheritance Games – Jennifer Lynn Barnes

From the publisher, “Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why — or even who Tobias Hawthorne is.

To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch — and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes. Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a conwoman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive.”

Avery is a determined, honest, big-hearted heroine and is the perfect person to have all this wealth bestowed.  Each of the Hawthorne brothers are also kind, considerate but very competitive.  They didn’t seem terribly bothered that Avery is getting the bulk of their grandfather’s vast fortune.  That seemed a bit odd.  The puzzles, the games – all very clever.  One thing though that my little brain is struggling with is that they are in Texas and decide to go cliff jumping into the Gulf.  Gulf of Mexico?  Cliffs on the Texas Gulf Coast are not a landform that I have encountered.  However, this is a fun, engaging read and wrapped up nicely.

eGalley review                                                                Publication date 9.01.2020

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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V.E. Schwab

France, 1714 – Addie LaRue DID NOT want to be married, not to anyone, but especially not to Roger, a widower with three small children. So on her wedding day she runs away into the forest and falls asleep with a prayer for salvation on her lips, and a dark god answers her prayer. She tells him that she wants to be free and to have more time to live, and they agree on a pact. She will live as long as she pleases and will give him her soul when she is done with it. But she soon finds that she is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. And so, for 300 years she wanders the world, alone and friendless. Her life is her own for as long as she wishes, but it will never be remembered.

I loved this book. It was thought provoking, tragic, funny. I have never read anything like it, and I don’t know how to review it. Is it a tale of a woman in love with the devil, or a tale about punishment, or is it about living well in spite of difficulties, or is it about something else entirely?  I just know that you must read this book.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                Publication date 10.6.2020

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The Midnight Circus – Jane Yolen

This is a three ring circus like no other. It is the dark side of The Emerald Circus. I loved those stories and thought I might not like Yolen’s dark side. I should not have worried, for these stories chilled me to the bone, and I loved every minute! This is a collection of previously published works dating from 1974 to 2013. A few were repeats for me, but most I had not read, or were stories I had mostly forgotten. You will find a Little Red Riding Hood, quite unlike the one you have known, and several Holocaust stories, dark and haunting. There is a bit of terror, but no blood. And of course, there are witches and wolves. Almost all of the poems are new, and all are wonderful.

eGalley review                                                Publication date 10.1.2020

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Fable – Adrienne Young

From the publisher, “Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father. But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.”

Excellent!  I gobbled up the author’s previous books and this one is even better.  I am drawn to seafaring books and adventure, cunning, grit, etc.  The author quickly creates the setting, outlines the characters, and pulls the reader into the story.  The reader gains insight into the character without the author droning on and on about the thoughts and feelings.  The story never drags and West, ahh quite charismatic: stoic, hardworking, sacrifice, heart yet tasked with dark deeds.  I delayed reading this until I obtained the sequel, Namesake, so I can read them back to back.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                      Publication date 9.1.2020

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The Evening and the Morning – Ken Follett

Edgar’s life is upended when a Viking raid leaves his father dead and the family boat building business destroyed. Looking for a new start, the family moves to the village of Dreng’s Ferry. There his life becomes entwined with Ragna, a Norman noblewoman, and Brother Aldred who hopes to turn his abbey into a center for learning. The year is 997, and England is in turmoil, with Vikings attacking from the east and Welsh from the west. The king has little power, so the nobility mostly do as they please.

As usual, Ken Follett transports the reader to another time with wonderful descriptions of place and characters. I was totally immersed in the book and was sorry to see it end. This is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth. The village of Dreng’s Ferry will one day be Kingsbridge and Brother Aldred’s little abbey is destined to be the magnificent cathedral.

eGalley review                                            Publication date 9.15.2020

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The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol.l: The Saga Anthology of Science Fiction 2020 – Jonathan Strahan, Ed.

This is a great assortment of very fine authors, Ken Liu, Rebecca Roanhorse, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ted Chiang, just to name a few, but my favorite story was from an author unfamiliar to me: Charlie Jane Anders. I loved her funny, The Bookstore at the End of America. Of the other stories, some I loved, some I hated, some I didn’t understand. And I am sure that your list will be quite different from mine.

eGalley review                       Publication date 9.8.2020

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Rebel Spy – Veronica Rossi

From the publisher, “A reimagining of the story behind Agent 355—a New York society girl and spy for George Washington during the Revolutionary War.  Rebellious Frannie Tasker knows little about the war between England and its thirteen colonies in 1776, until a shipwreck off her home in Grand Bahama Island presents an unthinkable opportunity. The body of a young woman body floating in the sea gives Frannie the chance to escape her brutal stepfather—and she takes it.

Assuming the identity of the drowned Emmeline Coates, Frannie is rescued by a British merchant ship and sails with the crew to New York. For the next three years, Frannie lives a lie as Miss Coates, swept up in a courtship by a dashing British lieutenant. But after witnessing the darker side of the war, she realizes that her position gives her power. Soon she’s eavesdropping on British officers, risking everything to pass information on to George Washington’s Culper spy ring as agent 355. Frannie believes in the fight for American liberty—but what will it cost her? Inspired by the true “355” and rich in historical detail and intrigue, this is the story of an unlikely New York society girl turned an even unlikelier spy.”

The writing excels in this important story of how the actions of individuals, ordinary people, helped turn the tide of the American Revolution.  The author deftly crafts Frannie, drawing the reader to her plight showing her grit and determination. Action abounds as she manages to get herself off the island and into her new life.  How she was draw into the spy ring is also quite believable.  A cause so great, that a person was willing to risk their life, a life of security and comfort, to bring about the needed change is a story that needs to be told and never forgotten.  This book could be paired with George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War by Thomas B. Allen.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                     Publication date 6.23.2020

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How to Raise An Elephant: No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (21) – Alexander McCall Smith

how to raise an elepphantMma Ramotswe can find a way to solve any problem, so she doesn’t think this one can be too hard. Surely taking care of a baby elephant is something she can manage . . . or is it? And she has a relative needing money and a new neighbor who needs a bit of advice. Quite a lot on her plate, but of course she can handle it all.

I love to be transported to Botswana, to feel the slower pace of life and to hear the conversations of Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi and Charlie, to watch them solve minor mysteries happily. This a book that makes me smile, makes me feel that everything will always be ok, eventually. Although this is book 21 in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone. But be warned, if you read one book in the series, you will feel compelled to go back and read another, and another, and another . . .

eGalley review                                                                Publication date 11.24.2020

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Migrations – Charlotte McConaghy

MigrationsFranny has an irresistible urge to wander. She just cannot stay in one place for very long. She also has an irresistible urge to swim in the ocean, the very cold ocean. And she has a great love for birds. She knows she is searching for something, but can’t quite understand what it is. Driven by a need to follow the Arctic terns on what might be their final migration to Antarctica, she convinces the captain of the Shanghai that to follow the terns she has banded will lead him to great schools of fish. Set in the near future when all animals are facing extinction, and told by an unreliable narrator, this is a haunting, disturbing novel. But it is at the same time beautiful and poetic. It is a novel I will remember for a very long time.

eGalley review                                   Publication date 8.25.2020

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The Burning Kingdoms – Sally Green

The Burning KingdomsFrom the publisher, “In this conclusion to the epic Smoke Thieves trilogy, the world has erupted into all-out war. King Aloysius is mining powerful demon smoke and using it to fuel an unstoppable army of children. March, now banished for treason, has joined up with this boy army. Forbidden from ever seeing Edyon again, and overwhelmed by his own betrayal, March no longer cares if he lives or dies.

Catherine—now queen of Pitoria—must find a way to defeat the boy army, while also grappling with her own troubles: her secret demon smoke addiction, and unresolved tension with her former lover, Ambrose. Catherine seeks military support from Calidor by reaching out to her illegitimate cousin Edyon, who has been proclaimed heir to the Calidorian throne. But Edyon has almost no power as he’s entangled in the unfamiliar machinations and manipulations of the royal court, finding that being the claimed son of a prince may be no easier than being a bastard.

With Catherine, his love, now married off and moving on, and his brother and sister tortured and executed before him, Ambrose doesn’t know what his role in this world is any more. He leads an expedition into the demon world, hoping to destroy the boy army’s stores of demon smoke. In this underground world, he runs into Tash, whom everyone had believed dead. She has survived in this new world using magical abilities that, prior to now, only demons had.

Aloysius will send his demon smoke-powered boy army to kill them all, if he can. But what nobody knows is that there is more to the smoke than meets the eye…”

This has been my favorite trilogy these past several years.  Flawless writing: plot, characters, dialog, setting.   She is the master at changing point of view without losing the thread of the story.  Clever, spunky, Tash is a favorite character.  Edyon’s character is complex and evolving so that I especially enjoy when the story shifts to him.  I greatly appreciate the epilogue.   I’ll happily devour anything the author writes.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review                                                Publication date 8.25.2020

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