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.

 

Uprooted Book Review by Naomi Novik

 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Goodreads Review

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

My Reveiw

Every ten years in the valley village of Dvernik a seventeen year old girl, born between one October and the next, is taken by the Dragon, the local wizard, to live with him in his castle where they are not seen again until they return home ten years later and then usualy leave the village for good.  These girls are called Dragon-born girls.  Agnieszka is one of these young women.  Her father is a wood cutter and she has three older brothers.  The entire village believes her good friend, Kasia, will be the chosen one.  Kasia is the prettiest and most capable of all the village girls.  When the Dragon appears everyone is shocked when it is Agnieszka who is taken instead.

Agnieszka is left to her own devices when she arrives at the castle with no instructions or guidance about what is expected of her.  As a result she ends up annoying the Dragon with all of her mistakes.  Agnieszka does eventually find her way and surprises herself as well as the Dragon (whose actual name is Sarkan) with her own unrealized strengths and talents.

There is a very strong Beauty-and-the-Beast-like theme running through the story.  The ending is quite different although magic plays a part in both stories.  This book is very magical and has the feeling of an adult fairy tale.

Agnieszka is a very likable heroine.  She is tough, curious, and compassionate.  She finds an inner-strength as a result of her experience with Sarkan that she would never have realized if she was never taken.  This is a stand alone story.  While the ending became a little convoluted for me, I would love to read more about Agnieszka and what else lies ahead for her.

 

The Wolf of Dorian Gray: A Werewolf Spawned by the Evil of Man by Brian S. Ference

the-wolf-of-dorian-grey

Rating: 3/5 stars

Goodreads Description

This expanded edition of the classic philosophical fiction by Oscar Wilde, features all-new scenes in a compelling tale of love, lust, and the werewolf spawned by the evil of man. The story, set in late 1800’s England, follows the life of Dorian Gray, who through ancient Romani magic’s and the skills of an astonishing artist has had his fate and soul irrevocably linked with the last remaining wolf in the forests of England. Dorian revels in the experiences of first love, delights in the art and beauty of the world, relishes the freedom of his youth, and is awakened to the many pleasures of life. His friend and mentor, Lady Helena, provides a guiding hand as he struggles with his conscience and the purpose of living. Meanwhile, the wolf begins to grow and change into a hideous monster that is ravaging the countryside.

“The wolf had begun hunting human prey. They were plentiful in the dark city streets and provided enough good meat to satiate his gnawing hunger. He was still very careful not to let any who saw him live. To do otherwise would displease the Master. He would only stalk those people that were foolish enough to walk alone in the night.” 

My Review

I was requested to read this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.  I didn’t know what to expect from this book going in.  I am always willing to try something new when it comes to reading books.  When I first saw the cover I was a little hesitant because I thought I would be reading a cheesy horror novel, but I was pleasantly surprised when the book turned out to be a mostly faithful retelling of the classic tale with the exception of the addition of the wolf and some character gender changes.

Dorian Gray accompanies his artist friend Sage into the woods so she can collect herbs and leaves for her homemade paints.  They come across a wolf pup who is orphaned when his mother dies in an animal trap.  Dorian tries to open the trap to release the mother wolf but injures his hand and the wolf also has some injuries.  Sage cleans both of them with rags from her art studio.  When she mixes her paints she decides to mix in some of the blood from both Dorian and the wolf which she then uses to paint a portrait of Dorian with the wolf pup.  This is how the magic of of Dorian’s eternal portrait is created and where all of Dorian’s problems and those of his social circle begins.

Dorian is vain and shallow and goes through life without much care for the feelings of others.  As the death toll rises around him, it is the wolf pup’s image that changes and contorts into a vicious creature and Dorian’s image stays the same.  Dorian doesn’t age even though his image stays the same in the portrait.  This is where this story and the original start to diverge.  All of the corruption goes into the wolf pup’s image, turning the wolf cub into an almost human creature.  The parts dedicated to the werewolf I skimmed through because I preferred the human story line more than reading about an animal on the hunt.  I also found it a little too gory for my taste.

I enjoyed the book for the most part.  I liked the traditional part of the story. The writing was very good and easy to read and follow.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson – Book Review

 

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Goodreads Description

Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London to start a new life at boarding school just as a series of brutal murders mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper killing spree of more than a century ago has broken out across the city. The police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man believed to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him – the only one who can see him. And now Rory has become his next target…unless she can tap her previously unknown abilities to turn the tables.

My Review

Rory Deveaux’s family relocates from Louisiana to England for work and Rory is enrolled in a London boarding school.  She becomes good friends with her roommate Jazza and Jazza’s friend Jerome.  A good portion of the beginning of the book is dedicated to Rory adjusting to England, boarding school, and her interactions with her roommate and other students.

While the first Ripper-style murder takes place early on in the story, the supernatural aspect isn’t introduced until almost half way through the book.  Maureen Johnson does a good job of developing the characters and building character relationships as well as a sense of nervousness on campus as more murders occur.

I liked Rory.  She was a strong young woman who has to deal with a lot of change: living in a new country, living away from her family, and dealing with and accepting the new abilities that she didn’t know she had which draws her deeper into the world of the recent murders.

The second half of the book moved faster than the first half and there were more twists and turns.  This is the first book in a series and I look forward to reading the next one.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – Book Review

 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Amazon Description

If you love Eleanor and Park, Hazel and Augustus, and Mia and Adam, you’ll love the story of Maddy, a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world, and Olly, the boy who moves in next door . . . and becomes the greatest risk she’s ever taken. This innovative and heartfelt debut novel unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, illustrations, and more.
 

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.
 
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
 
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.”

My Review

Madeline Whittier, Maddy, never leaves her house.  NEVER.  She has Severe Combined Immunodeficiency which means she is allergic to everything.  She lives with her mother who is also a doctor.  The only other person she has physical contact with is her nurse Carla, who is a surrogate friend and family member.  Maddy’s father and brother died in an accident when she was 6 months old, so her mom and Carla are the only family she knows.  She is home schooled and interacts with her teachers via Skype and the rare home visit.

Maddy’s life takes a turn (for the better or worse?) when a new family moves into the house next door.  They have a teenage son, Olly, who Maddy is immediately attracted to when she sees him out her window.  Olly notices Maddy in her window and they start communicating through their windows and eventually through emails.

This is where the story becomes interesting because Maddy is a teenager and starting to have feelings for Olly, but she isn’t allowed to act on these feelings because she is not allowed contact with other people and can’t leave her house.  Mady’s whole world is turned upside down by these new feelings and the introduction of another person other than her mother and Carla into her world.

The way the story plays out after Olly enters Mady’s world is very interesting.  At one point the action that Mady takes that involves using a credit card for a very expensive purchase I found to be over-the-top.  At about 1/2 – 3/4 of the way through the book I figured out how it was going to end.  For me, the way it ended was the only way it could, or else Mady’s life would have been nothing but depressing and frustrating.

I really enjoyed Nicola Yoon’s style of writing.  I was able to finish the book in two days.  She has a very engaging and beautiful writing style.  I loved the characters of Mady and Olly.  They were presented as real and funny and angst-ridden teens with real problems and emotions. I would highly recommend this book.