The Man Who was Magic
Young Adult / March 12, 2018

Author: Paul Gallico. Summary: A stranger comes to the city of Mageia and challenges its inhabitants with a new kind of magic – a magic that restores innocence and faith. My Thoughts: The Man Who was Magic is a pretty little fable, a little too straight-forward and moralistic to my tastes. Adam is a sweetly naive young magician who assumes only the best of everyone, but still navigates his time in a city of hostile pseudo-magicians without hurt. He befriends a little girl, teaches her the secrets of his magic, shocks the entire city with his dramatic final display, and vanishes from the city before he can be mobbed. The “lessons” that magic is all around us in nature and ourselves, and that the imagination is a powerful tool when well-exercised, seem awfully moralistic as I said; although I don’t disagree with them, to be sure. Content Review: Sexual Content: None. Language: None. Violence: Magician sends ants and wasps to sting and drive off a boy spying on him. One character is found dead of a broken neck – which happened presumably during a mob panic that happened directly before.

Howl’s Moving Castle
Middle Grade / Juvenile / December 31, 2017

Howl’s Moving Castle #1. Author: Dianne Wynn Jones. Summary: Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there’s far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye. My Thoughts: My younger siblings aren’t that much into reading – not as much as we wish they were – but when we got this trilogy for Christmas both of them (ages 12 and 10) devoured all three books in a matter of days, very nearly quarreling over who got which book. And, yes, I had to steal the books in the evenings too, to see what all the fuss was about. They’re great fun. I think the charm lies…

It’s Okay if the Sky is Awful
Outside the Reviews / October 29, 2017

It’s okay if the sky is awful. ​ Did you know that the words awesome and awful are directly related? “Awful” was around a lot earlier, going back almost a thousand years, and it meant something that was awe-inspiring. Full of awe. It could mean “worthy of, or commanding, profound respect or reverential fear”. It was not a far stretch, back then, to use it to mean “causing dread”. Sometime after it strayed into strong negative connotations, “awesome” came around, perhaps to replace it; and if now we say awesome the same way we’d say cool or great, still it used to mean “something that inspires awe”. Sometimes awesome is awful. Consider: even now, one of the sentences under the dictionary definition of awful is “the awful majesty of alpine peaks”. Being filled with awe has never been supposed to be a pleasant experience. It’s okay if the sky is awful. Humans are dreamers, philosophers, romanticists. We have always looked up at the sky and seen mystery. We have always asked halting questions about the intangible. We have always tried to paint our emotions: in lofty words of poetry and novels, in the music of songs and orchestras, in sweeping…

Silksinger
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / October 26, 2017

Faeries of Dreamdark #2. Author: Laini Taylor. Summary: One faerie, the last of her clan, must fight to complete her sacred duty Whisper Silksinger is the last of the secret guardians of the Azazel, one of the powerful Djinn who dreamed the world into being. Relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty devils, she flees to the city of Nazneen to restore the Azazel to his temple. At the same time, Hirik Mothmage is also on a secret quest, to find the Azazel and restore his disgraced clan’s ancient honor. And behind them all flies Magpie Windwitch, first champion of the new age of faeries, desperate to rescue Whisper and the Azazel alike before they fall in the clutches of a sinister hidden enemy. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Much more dynamic and fast-paced than the first one! When multiple new point-of-views were first introduced, I was confused and none too pleased. Who are all these random people, and why am I watching them mess about when Magpie obviously has important things to do? As it turned out, Whisper Silksinger and Hirik Mothmage turned into my two new favorite characters. (There aren’t even that many characters, but trust me – I really, really like…

The Invisible Library
Adult / October 19, 2017

Invisible Library #1. Author: Genevieve Cogman. Summary: Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently… Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book. Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own. Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I maintain that The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson proves that a book can actually live up to and beyond an epic premise. Well, The Invisible Library proves that a book can have a spectacular premise – the premise of that fascinating, thoughtful, epic-and-yet-amusing book you’re always wishing you could…

Blackbringer
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / October 13, 2017

Faeries of Dreamdark #1. Author: Laini Taylor. Summary: When the ancient evil of the Blackbringer rises to unmake the world, only one determined faerie stands in its way. However, Magpie Windwitch, granddaughter of the West Wind, is not like other faeries. While her kind live in seclusion deep in the forests of Dreamdark, she’s devoted her life to tracking down and recapturing devils escaped from their ancient bottles, just as her hero, the legendary Bellatrix, did 25,000 years ago. With her faithful gang of crows, she travels the world fighting where others would choose to flee. But when a devil escapes from a bottle sealed by the ancient Djinn King himself, the creator of the world, she may be in over her head. How can a single faerie, even with the help of her friends, hope to defeat the impenetrable darkness of the Blackbringer? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I was afraid from the cover that this would be a YA version of the Pixie Hollow stories, but was pleasantly surprised. They are still the tiny, pixie-ish version of faeries, not my personal favorite. And I don’t think the writing here was quite as lovely as Laini Taylor’s more recent stuff,…

The Serial Garden
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 11, 2017

Author: Joan Aiken. Summary: The complete collection of twenty-four charming and magical Armitage family stories. Includes a prelude by the author and introductions from Garth Nix and Lizza Aiken. My Thoughts: The best kind of silly is delightful, clever, straight-faced silly. (Not the straight-faced silly where you realize suddenly “Oh, no, they mean it. How. What. Someone, help,” but the extravagant ever-growing tall tale carried off to such perfection that there’s someone credulous in the back trying to figure out if it’s real or not.) Joan Aiken creates a world of magic, whimsy, and ordinary tea-time. Some of the stories were funnier than others; in fact the first couple of tales tasted bland to me, but there were two or three truly delightful ones, and most of them were fun. Seems to me like it might make a good read aloud for kids. Content Review: Sexual Content: None. Language: None. Violence: Witch ties a child up and tries to cook him, but through a series of mishaps no harm is done and he ends up escaping. Boy accidentally shoots man in the foot with a dart. There are multiple magical duels, but no one ever seems hurt – the worst…

The Last Magician
Young Adult / September 18, 2017

Author: Lisa Maxwell. Summary: Stop the Magician. Steal the book. Save the future. In modern day New York, magic is all but extinct. The remaining few who have an affinity for magic—the Mageus—live in the shadows, hiding who they are. Any Mageus who enters Manhattan becomes trapped by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that confines them to the island. Crossing it means losing their power—and often their lives. Esta is a talented thief, and she’s been raised to steal magical artifacts from the sinister Order that created the Brink. With her innate ability to manipulate time, Esta can pilfer from the past, collecting these artifacts before the Order even realizes she’s there. And all of Esta’s training has been for one final job: traveling back to 1902 to steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order—and the Brink—before the Magician can destroy it and doom the Mageus to a hopeless future. But Old New York is a dangerous world ruled by ruthless gangs and secret societies, a world where the very air crackles with magic. Nothing is as it seems, including the Magician himself. And for Esta to save her future, she may have to betray everyone…

The Crown’s Game
Young Adult / September 8, 2017

Crown’s Game #2. Author: Evelyn Skye. Summary: Vika Andreyeva can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side. And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know.  The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death. Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has? For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her. And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or…

A Dragon of a Different Color
Young Adult / August 1, 2017

Heartstrikers #4. Author: Rachel Aaron. Summary: To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives. Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who’s always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect. (Published Summary.) My Thoughts : Bernadette: Well, I enjoyed it, but A Dragon of a Different Color wasn’t as good as the previous books. I imagine Rachel Aaron had all this awesome worldbuilding done that she really wanted to give her readers… so she tied plot twists to each discovery, and crammed them all together. And it was exciting and fun and illuminating, but – it was also crammed. It felt like the entire book was just a series of twists and reveals, with never enough down time to process the new reveal or even to just enjoy the new characters…