Review of ‘The Last Magician’ by Lisa Maxwell

The Last MagicianThe Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary provided by the publisher:
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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 in the past.
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This book was such a fun read! The world, the characters, and the excitement of forbidden magic really were spot-on for me!

Let’s start with the world this book takes place in:

I think it was clever on the author’s part to set this book in New York, because in the early 1900’s–the time period most of this book is set in–there were many immigrants who came into America with dreams of being able to provide better lives for their families, or themselves. This reasoning really also tied in well with why magic could be found in the city, and why so many risked their lives coming into a city that would end up trapping them in. And then, being the early 1900’s, there was a lot of street gangs that ruled New York City at the time–these were usually depending on which nationality you were, i.e. Irish, Italian, and so on–so it made a lot of sense to have gangs be prevalent in this book, though these seemed to be more centered on powerful Mageus who “protected” those who paid tributes to be under their umbrella of protection. This was definitely a cool setting!

Now, for the characters:

I really liked Esta, whose affinity has to do with time, and being able to control it when necessary–or when she needed to make a point. This affinity helps her to go from present day to 1902, so that she may join a certain magical gang, help them with a heist, and retrieve an item she must bring back to the present. Esta is extremely street-smart, and is able to say she can pick any lock she comes up against, and these skills definitely come in handy when it comes to proving herself to the gang’s leader. I also loved how clever she was, always ready with a quick-witted response to anything Harte might have to say.
Since I’ve now mentioned Harte, I’ll say that I really liked how he was a guy who just wanted to live a better life…to be able to take care of his mother, though she didn’t exactly treat him very well due to something she faulted him with in the past, and mentally, she wasn’t quite right after coming in contact with the brink. Back to the better life point, he wanted to overcome his gang-related past, and with his magician ‘act’, live a relatively normal life that could provide him with some of the finer things, as well. But, Harte is dragged back into magic-oriented things, and must again deal with the people he’d left behind. Namely, Dolph, the leader of the gang Esta has managed to infiltrate.
Dolph, Nibs, Viola, and Jianyu are the secondary characters, who each bring their own skills and talents to make for a more interesting story, as well as strengthen the relationships between the characters so you’re able to see why each person is important and why they fight so hard for each other.

Finally, the forbidden magic:

I loved the element of magic being so forbidden in this world. This is a well-used plot-point, but it was so much fun in this instance. You’ll have to read to find out this find out more, but I will say that the Order are the bad guys in this story, and they’re the ones who have basically outlawed magic. I know, the Order…what a stereotypically used name for fiends, right? I’ll admit I did find the name to be a bit cheesy, but it wasn’t bad enough to stop my interest in this book.

All in all, I really did enjoy this book, and recommend it to any who are interested in reading about a magical world with cool characters.

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Mini Review of ‘Julia Vanishes’ by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes (Witch's Child, #1)Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Mini Review Time.

I really hate to say this, but this book really wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped it would be. I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe something along the lines of Witch Hunter, because of the whole ‘magic being outlawed, witches will be killed’ theme they both shared, but unfortunately, Julia Vanishes just didn’t interest me as much as the former had.

Because the character of Julia has the ability to go “unseen” by those around her, I was kind of assuming there’d be some life or death situations that would really highlight that ability. Sure, there were some instances when she had to go “unseen”, they just weren’t really all that exciting to me. I’m personally a sucker for characters with cool abilities, and seeing them use these abilities in really cool, epic ways, but Julia just fell flat for me, and just plain annoyed me. She also annoyed me because of her infatuation with a boy (whose name I can’t even remember right now) who never seemed to give 100% to their relationship–or even 50%. The guy was just lousy when you have so many better guys to compare him to in YA books.

Moving on from Señor Douche-face
(Okay, so he wasn’t that bad, I just happen to use the term ‘douche’ pretty freely when it comes to people (or characters) I do not care for.)

I feel like there was an attempt to make the world in Julia Vanishes unique, which was good on the author, but I feel like there was just too much info dumping going on. The information given just bored me, and when it went into the history of some magical beings and their crazy, fantastical names–I was ready to toss this book aside. The only reason I finished it is because I’d come too far to back out, and kept secretly hoping it’d get better for me. Nope. It didn’t.

I think at this point it’s safe to say I’m not personally going to recommend this one.

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Review of ‘The Weight of Lies’ by Emily Carpenter

The Weight of LiesThe Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary provided by the publisher:

In this gripping, atmospheric family drama, a young woman investigates the forty­-year­-old murder that inspired her mother’s bestselling novel, and uncovers devastating truths—and dangerous lies.

Reformed party girl Meg Ashley leads a life of privilege, thanks to a bestselling horror novel her mother wrote decades ago. But Meg knows that the glow of their very public life hides a darker reality of lies, manipulation, and the heartbreak of her own solitary childhood. Desperate to break free of her mother, Meg accepts a proposal to write a scandalous, tell-all memoir.

Digging into the past—and her mother’s cult classic—draws Meg to Bonny Island, Georgia, and an unusual woman said to be the inspiration for the book. At first island life seems idyllic, but as Meg starts to ask tough questions, disturbing revelations come to light…including some about her mother.

Soon Meg’s search leads her to question the facts of a decades-old murder. She’s warned to leave it alone, but as the lies pile up, Meg knows she’s getting close to finding a murderer. When her own life is threatened, Meg realizes the darkness found in her mother’s book is nothing compared to the chilling truth that lurks off the page.

———————————————————————————————————————————– The Weight of Lies is a wonderful book full of mystery and thrills that really kept me on my toes until the very end!

So, let me start by saying that I really loved this book!!!

One of the main reasons I think I liked it, was the mystery surrounding a young girl’s death over forty years prior, which had served as the “inspiration” for the murder/mystery best-seller by MC Meg’s mother, Frances Ashley. Honestly, Frances Ashley’s book came off as a sort of cheap knockoff version of Truman Capote‘s In Cold Blood–in the sense that it was basically the story of a real crime (though there happens to be a major embellishment I will not mention here)–and the reason it worked, was because it came out in a time when America was really into books and movies about creepy kids (think Rosemary’s Baby and the like).

Ashley’s book, therefore, becomes a cult phenomenon, which leads to her becoming extremely wealthy, and eventually leads to her partying, trust-fund daughter Meg resenting her. It’s really stereotypical, with Meg pretty much screaming poor, little, rich girl, but it does help lead up to Meg’s eventual decision to write a tell-all about her mother, which happens to include a new investigation into the murder that inspired her mother’s best-seller…

It’s when Meg finally makes it to Bonny Island–the very island the murder had taken place on, and the very island Frances had been when she’d first met the inspirations behind her novel–that the story really takes off. I had had no problem learning a bit of Meg’s back-story, as well as that of her mother, but when we are finally able to start digging into the mysteries of Bonny Island, and the resident that is said to have inspired a particular character in the novel, then we’re able to really start feeling the thriller aspect of this book.

And were there thrills!!

I absolutely love the idea of the MC having the sense that there’s someone on their trail as they’re investigating…someone who’s combing over the evidence they discover, in an attempt to eventually throw some sort of wrench into their investigation, and finally, someone who will have the MC feeling a strong sense of discomfort, thus becoming a real, possible threat in the end. Yup, all the hallmarks of a Lifetime thriller, I know, but we are all allowed our guilty pleasures, aren’t we?

One more thing, before I finish this review, and besides the fact that I did love the small cast of characters, I just didn’t really feel the need to go too in depth when it comes to that…is that I loved the way Frances’ book, the infamous Kitten, is somewhat shared through excerpts in-between chapters of main storyline. It really helps you get a sense of why her book was considered horror, and why the person who is the inspiration behind the fictional
Kitten
becomes such a fascinating character that you just can’t seem to stop thinking about.

Well, there we are with my review. As I’d already mentioned before, I really loved this book, so that being the case, I will be more than glad to recommend it to others.

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Odd & True’ by Cat Winters

Odd & TrueOdd & True by Cat Winters
(Release date: September 12, 2017)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Summary provided by the publisher:
Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.
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Odd & True is told in parallel “modern” (the main storyline is set in 1909) and past accounts. The modern is told from younger sister Odette’s POV, while the past is from Trudchen’s. Cool, we get some history and get to find out how it is they come up against the Leed’s Devil (you may know it by it’s more popular moniker, the Jersey Devil), right? I mean, that cool cover has to come into play at some point, right? Well…yes and no. Yes, in the sense that we do inevitably have the MCs facing off with something, but it takes
way
too long to get to this point.

The idea of two young sisters living in the 1900’s, a time when females were considered – as well as treated as – the fairer sex, wanting to together go and fight monsters, was really a cool one. I had pictured in my own mind the different “monsters” or basically anything supernatural really, they could possibly battle before the Leed’s Devil case, but no, we get a lot of journeying to, and back-story. Oh my God! the back-stories really bored me to death! I feel like we could have been told, in lesser words, the sister’s history. Sure, a lot of what we’re told explains the sister’s current circumstances, but there was also a good amount that just seemed too…extra. Like I said, their history in lesser words, then we can be cool.

Moving on…

I liked the MCs well enough (yeah, even with my squabbling), and what’s always a plus for me, is that they weren’t annoying! Yay! I thought that it was really cool to see them in a field you just wouldn’t expect. At least, I haven’t read any books with characters like these, so I liked that about this one.

Finally, I haven’t seen any mentions of a sequel, and the epilogue seems to support that, but I feel like this book could really benefit from being a series, because there’s so many more monsters that could be highlighted in a book, and we can get to know the sisters more in “modern” times.

Really, though, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book, I did enjoy it for what it was, so that’s all I can say.

Thank you to Amulet Books via Netgalley for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Epic Crush of Genie Lo’ by F.C. Yee

The Epic Crush of Genie LoThe Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A super funny action-adventure that involves Chinese Folklore, centering around the very modern, teenaged Genie Lo.
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Summary provided by publisher:
The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo’s every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.

Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined…
——————–

Usually, I like to start off my reviews with the things I didn’t like, but when it comes to The Epic Crush of Genie Lo…I have nothing bad to say, because I absolutely loved this book!

–The Characters–
First, let’s talk about our MC, Genie Lo. I think that Genie will go down as one of my favorite heroines ever! She initially played the role of the stereotypical Asian teen, being the model student, and model daughter. But then, with the arrival of Quentin Sun, she’s suddenly thrust into a world in which Chinese Folklore is real, and something she just happens to play a major part of. But she’s still a teenage girl. So, cynicism and snark abound in her interactions with Quentin, which really had me cracking up at times. I really loved how she does grow more comfortable in her own way as the book goes on, and though there’s no mention of a book 2 on Goodreads (as of the last time I’d checked, that is), I really look forward to more Genie!

Now, for Quentin Sun, I won’t say much when it comes to exactly who he is, because you’ll just have to read to find out. But he’s so endearing, interesting, as well as super-funny, though his funniness stems more from his having to combat Genie’s snakiness. Again, I just loved their interactions together!!

–The Plot–
What an exciting, fantastical story! I know zilch when it comes to Chinese folklore, but the things that were introduced to me in this book were definitely super interesting! Genie’s strength, and the things she has to fight against really make for an even more exciting read!

–The setting–
It seems fitting that this book would take place in San Francisco, considering it is home to the oldest Chinatown in North America, and the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia (I took this bit of info from Wikipedia, so hopefully it’s right, ha ha!). So, being that a lot of Chinese live in these parts, it’s the perfect place for Chinese monsters, and the like, to blend in, thus, the perfect setting for this fabulous book!

I think I’ve established by now, how much I absolutely loved this book, so obviously I will gladly recommend this book!!!

Thank you to Amulet Books via Netgalley for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The Sunshine Sisters’ by Jane Green

The Sunshine SistersThe Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Contrary to the cover of this book…it did not evoke the feeling of a beach read for me.
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Summary provided by publisher:
Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters.

As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her.

But now the Sunshine Girls are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy are all going through crises of their own, their mother s illness draws them together to confront old jealousies and secret fears and they discover that blood might be thicker than water after all.
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Honestly, it took me a long time to finish reading this one. Though I didn’t exactly hate it…I didn’t quite love it, either.

Let’s go ahead and start with the bad, first.

Ronni Sunshine, epitome of the Hollywood diva (though she never was quite the starlet she likely would have preferred), is also the matriarch of the family. Reading about her life and how she treated her children was painful, and all because of what a narcissistic person she is. God, I just really disliked her. I couldn’t stand reading the details of her tedious life, and could of cared less about her early years trying to become a breakout star, nor what she had to do in her attempt to get there.
Then, if I were to pick another person I didn’t like, it’d have to be Lizzie, the youngest of the Sunshine girls. She’s pretty much had everything handed to her because of her beauty, and the things she actually did earn due to talent? They seem a bit cheap because of her attitude and indifference when it comes to how she would treat others. She was just as despicable as her mother at times, and when she finally realizes how wrong she was about several things in her life, she pretty much thinks she can just take them back, as if she hadn’t abandoned them.

I’m not sure if this is supposed to be some “great family story”, where they lay aside their differences and hug it all out, because if it is, it did not leave me with happy, satisfied feelings. If you couldn’t tell by my last few paragraphs.

By now, you’re probably wondering, ‘why did you rate this three stars if you hated it so much?’

Because I didn’t hate it. Sure, I didn’t love it, but even though it took me forever to get through – and my dislike for Ronni and Lizzie – I was still curious about this family, and I still wanted to know how Meredith was doing in London, or how Nell was doing on her farm.

Oh, and as much as I hate saying it, a certain TMZ-side of me still had to know what was going on with Lizzie and her…”complications”. And yeah, I wanted to find out if there was a chance for redemption with it came to Ronni and the girls. Whatever.

As for recommending this book, if you’re a fan of Danielle Steele, you’ll probably like this, because it kind of reminded me of the few books I’d read of hers in the past.

Thank you to Berkley Books via NetGalley for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘When Dimple Met Rishi’ by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a cute, adorable, and fun read – can I use any more adjectives? – that I really enjoyed!

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Synopsis taken from publisher:

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
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When Dimple Met Rishi was a book that I had had on my radar for awhile. The fact that this was centered on two Indian-American teens with such different ideals when it comes to their culture?

Gimme Gimme!!

So, being that I am already a sucker for cutesy romances, I was really looking forward to see how Dimple and Rishi’s relationship would end up playing out.

Now, let’s start off by saying that Dimple and Rishi were fantastic characters. I enjoyed them both for their differences. Dimple is super independent, though her mother would love to see her embrace her culture more – mainly the part where she’d find the Ideal Indian Husband, that is. But Dimple’s goals are far different, and a husband is definitely not in the plans.
Then there’s Rishi, who definitely fits the Ideal Indian Husband description to a T. And he is more than happy to do the things that would make his parents proud, including marry the woman his parents have chosen for him. But still, he’s more than just being the ideal Indian guy, and it was cool seeing that he had something he really enjoyed outside of his parent’s expectations. (I won’t go into it, since you should be reading the book anyway.)

Anyway, when these two meet, it’s most definitely not love at first sight…course, it didn’t help that Rishi said, “Hello, future wife…I can’t wait to get started on the rest of our lives!” On some girls, that might work, but on Dimple Shah (and most normal people)? Nope. And so comes into play the scene depicted on the back cover, of Dimple throwing a coffee in to Rishi’s face.

Of course, a moment in which Dimple is very much justified.

Though the first meeting went far from well, I really loved seeing the two characters get closer, as well as seeing them come to understand each other more. There’s definitely growth from both, and that does help make for a more interesting read!

Before I finish my review, I feel I should touch upon the fact that the two happen to be attending a summer program for aspiring web developers – something Dimple is very much interested in – and I think it’s a pretty cool setting that shows just how driven these characters are when it comes to getting what they both want. Though, Rishi’s end goal is a wee bit different than Dimples…

Finally, in conclusion, I really did enjoy this book and would be more than happy to recommend it!

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