in the light of the garden by Heather Burch – Book Review

 

Rating: 5/5 stars

Goodread Description:

In the Light of the Garden is a novel about unearthed family secrets, the enchantment of past loves, and the indelible power of forgiveness.

Inheriting her grandparents’ island estate on Florida’s Gulf coast is a special kind of homecoming for thirty-one-year-old Charity Baxter. Raised by a narcissistic single mother, Charity’s only sense of a loving home comes from childhood summers spent with Gramps and Grandma. But piercing her fondest memories is her sharpest grief—the death of her beloved grandmother, when Charity stopped believing in the magical healing power of the weeping willow that still casts a shadow on their property.

Now that Charity has returned, she’s full of longing and regret, until she befriends her neighbor Dalton Reynolds, who has come to Gaslamp Island carrying his own heartache. As other exiles arrive—a great uncle harboring secrets, a teenage runaway—Charity begins to reconsider what makes a family. When her own estranged mother shows up in crisis, Charity is challenged to search her heart for forgiveness. But forgiving herself may require a little magic from the last place she’d expect to find it.

My Review

Thirty one year old Charity Baxter was raised by her single mother Ellen in New York, but spent her childhood summers up until the age of eleven at her grandparents’ house on Gaslamp Island in Florida.  Her grandparents were everything her mother wasn’t:  loving and generous.  Ellen had Charity as a teenager and always resented not being able to chase her dream as the next big movie star.  Vain and shallow, Ellen was unable to parent Charity in the ways she needed or deserved.  Gramps and Grandma filled that void.

Gaslamp Island was magical for young Charity.  She believed in fairies and magic until a family tragedy swiftly brought those days to an end.  After the age of eleven Charity’s beloved summer escapes to her grandpaents’ home came to an end.

When Charity’s grandfather dies she returns to Gaslamp Island after inheriting her grandparents’ house.  It is here that Charity will have to tackle her past in order to face her future.  Her new next door neighbor, Dalton Reynolds, is dealing with his own demons and heartbreak.  Throw in some other family members and neighbors with struggles and regrets to overcome, and they are able to come together and embrace forgiveness, acceptance and renewal, all the while with a hint of magic in the air.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the characters.  There was a sense of magic streaming through the storyline.  Charity is a strong woman who has risen above the challenges of having a selfish and distant mother.  Her return to her grandparents’ home ignites so many changes in the lives of those she comes in contact with.  I loved how the story unfolded and how problems were resolved.  This is a story of family and forgiveness and was beautifully told.  I look forward to reading other books by Heather Burch.

Jackaby by William Ritter – Book Review

 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads description:

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion–and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritter’s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

My Review

The Chicago Tribune called it “Sherlock Holmes crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer”.  It is, in a way.  Jackaby does act like Sherlock Holmes, but with a lighter, flittier air about him.

Abigail Rook arrives fresh off the boat in New Fiddleham, New England in 1892, having left Europe in search of adventure.  Rather than stay at the boarding school her parents enrolled her in, she took the money and joined an expedition headed for the Carpathian Mountains.  When the expedition folded, Abigail headed for America instead of returning home to England and face her parents.

In New England, Abigail finds employment with R.F. Jackaby, an eccentric young investigator who specializes in cases dealing with the paranormal.  Abigail is suited to deal with Jackaby, who is not one held in the highest esteem with the townspeople.  When a serial killer is on the loose, it is Jackaby and Abigail who find themselves in the center of the turmoil.

This book is a light-hearted romp and filled with fun characters and an enjoyable, easy-to-read story line.  This is the first book in a series and I look forward to reading the others.

 

All The Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders – Book Review

 

Rating: 3/5 stars

Goodreads Description:

Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during high school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention into the changing global climate. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever-growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together–to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the apocalypse.

My Review:

When we are first introduced to Patricia Delfine she is seven years old.  She lives with her parents and older sister.  Her parents are somewhat cruel with their punishments, i.e. locking Patricia in her room and sliding meals under her door.  It is at this time of Patricia’s life that she discovers she can speak to animals.  She is drawn to the woods near her house and finds herself speaking to birds.  This is the first glimpse of her magical abilities.

Laurence Armstead is an only child who is fascinated with science and computers.  His parents are constantly trying to get him out of the house and enrolling him in extra-curricular activities  to get him out of the house in an attempt to keep him from becoming “socially dysfunctional”.

Patricia and Laurence’s paths cross in middle school and we follow their lives and relationship as they mature and their lives diverge.  There are many magical elements to this story.  Patricia’s life follows a magical path and Laurence’s life follows a scientific/science-fiction-esque path.  These two very different life choices will eventually cross paths causing an almost dystopian-like conflict.

I was enjoying the beginning of the book and was expecting it to be more magical and less science-fiction as it went along.  I found the conflict to be the story’s downfall for me.  The characters were somewhat likable but also confused and flawed which didn’t add to their likability.  They were not characters that I bonded with or felt an affinity for.  Their friendship is tested and weathers through lots of mishaps.  I would have liked more magic and less science-fiction.  That is just my personal taste and this book did not live up to that magical potential.