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:
———————————-
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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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 ‘The Town Built on Sorrow’ by David Oppegaard

The Town Built on SorrowThe Town Built on Sorrow by David Oppegaard

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Release date: September 26, 2017

*This review was actually written a few months back, when I used to attempt to write my own book summaries, so after this one, I’ll be going back to attaching the ones provided by the publisher.*

A strange book that features a pioneer girl’s diary, a serial killer, and a long forgotten skull. (Yes…a skull…).

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In Hawthorn, Minnesota, a serial killer is dumping his victims into the town’s river, and the police are no closer to finding out who it could be.
While this is going on, Harper Spurling is becoming more and more obsessed with the locally published diary of Sofie Helle, a young pioneer girl and one of Hawthorn’s original settlers.
Sofie’s diary describes the settler’s journey to Hawthorn, as well as the strange things that happen when they arrive. But the strangest thing has to be the way it ends–abruptly, and then there’s the fact that no one knows whatever actually happened to Sofie, since she’d disappeared not long after.
Harper’s obsession has her delving further into this mystery, and doing so also unwittingly brings her closer to the serial killer as well.
But will Harper survive long enough to solve the mystery of Sofie’s disappearance?
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The title of this book is what initially drew me in. Not only did I like the way it was worded, it also intrigued me enough so that I had to request it from Netgalley. But how sad was I to find this book not quite as interesting as I’d thought it’d be?

Anyway, so there are three MCs in this book, Harper, the serial killer (whose name I won’t mention, just because I feel it’s a bit spoiler, though you do find it out fairly quickly), and Sofie Helle’s account, as well.

I thought that Harper’s interest in Sofie’s diary was refreshing, since not many people her age would usually care about an old diary that seemingly has no relevance to the modern teen. It was kind of strange how her accounts in this book pretty much revolved around the diary. For example, she had a party she was going to one night, but after telling her friend she has a date to said party (and being told the things she should do to get ready for it), she grabs the diary to read, and honestly, though the diary had some strange things going on in it, the entries weren’t really all that interesting. Harper mentions that she likes how Sofie ‘notices things most people do not, and that she describes things so well, you can see it in your mind‘…but these things that so impressed her? Yeah, I didn’t quite get the same impressions…

Really, this book just read so random for me in regards to the fact that most of it seemed so…unnecessary…
Harper’s obsession with Sofie’s diary; Sofie’s accounts of the early days in Hawthorn, and the disconcerting/bizarre things that had seemed to plague those settlers; and finally, the serial killer.

Seriously, this town just needs to call the FBI, cause the BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit for those not in the know) would have had this case solved so fast! The killer was by no means complex, so I’m surprised the police had nothing. Psh.

Along with the whole ‘reading random’ thing, I feel like I have to add that when we get an explanation for the skull I had mentioned earlier, it ended up being so…simple. I had expected something more–anything more–but the answer was just so not satisfying.

Anyway, at this point, I think it’s safe to say that this book was a little too all over the place, the characters weren’t fleshed out enough, and the whole wrap-up was just disappointing for me.

Because of my own response to this book, I will not be recommending it.

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

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Mini Review of ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’ by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mini Review Time!!!

Being that this is my first book from Neil Gaiman, I didn’t know what to expect. The blurb summarizing the book on the inside cover was interesting enough that it drew me in when I first picked it up several years back, but it sat on a stack of books until someone recommended I read his books, and I will definitely be reading more!

So, initial thoughts when I’d started reading this, were, ‘this book is weird, where is this even going?’ Reading through it a bit more, and I realize that the Hempstocks are…otherworldly–if that’s even the best way to describe them. Their presence in this novel is strange, but they really do help make for an interesting story! I loved the Hempstocks interactions with each other, as well as with the MC of this book. The MC is a seven year old boy when he meets the Hempstocks, and though they all know each other for a short while, theirs becomes a powerful relationship. The MC goes through several horrifying events, and only with the Hempstock’s aide does he even have a chance of getting through them.

I just love the word ‘horrifying‘ when it comes to describing a book, because this is just one of the things I live for when reading!

One more thought before I wrap up. It took me until the end of the book to realize that the MC was never named, and only because it was brought up in an author interview. I guess I was just so engrossed in my read, that I hadn’t even thought about it. Shrug.

Anyway, there we are with my review, I loved this and can’t wait to read more of his books!

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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 ‘Invictus’ by Ryan Gaudin

InvictusInvictus by Ryan Graudin
(Release date: September 26, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Summary provided by publisher:
Time flies when you’re plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.

In this heart-stopping adventure, Ryan Graudin has created a fast-paced world that defies time and space.
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I had never read a Ryan Graudin book before (though I do have Wolf by Wolf, courtesy of my Uppercase box subscription), but I can now say that I am definitely a fan!

In Invictus, we get the joys of time travel, but without so much of the clichĂ©d time paradoxes the blah that comes with being constantly told to not re-write history. No, instead we have four teenagers time traveling in order to acquire treasures from different time periods for their boss who happens to run a very successful black market business. So when it comes to venturing into the past, it’s all business until they are allowed free time to travel to pretty much any point they’d like.

Anyway, before I go off and end up summarizing more of this book, I’ll move on with my actual line of thought.

So, back to time travel without all the fun of paradoxes looming over everything. I really loved how time travel wasn’t all that we had to concentrate on in this book. Sure, it was really cool to see them travel to the Titanic in 1912, but the focus was set on our merry band of travelers first meeting Eliot, who pretty much crashes into their lives and blackmails her way onto the Invictus ship. I’ll be honest and say that at first I really disliked Eliot, because she always went completely against everything that Far (captain and boy wonder – for reasons that are explained in the book summary, and the book itself) ordered. I’m not saying I’m against a strong female character, I just happen to be a fan of order, and admittedly, I am known to outwardly cringe when things go off track in epic proportions…which is what happens when the team go to Pompeii on the day of eruption. Honestly, you’re going to have to read this book if you want to find out what exactly happened, but I’ll say that it was a huge plot twist, and really becomes a focal point in this book.

I already mentioned Eliot and Far, so now I’ll mention the other three characters who play a big role in this book. There’s Far’s cousin, Imogen, who’s job as a historian is very important when it comes to their clothing being as authentic to each time period they visit, and how can I not mention the fact that she’s chalking her hair different colors everyday? Oh the joys of being blonde, right? (I am so not blonde, so I do not have this joy.) I just loved her easygoing manner, and the dedication she had to her friends.
Next, we have Priya, Far’s girlfriend, and the ship’s medic, who brews a fantastic chai tea, and is the levelheaded one when Far needs rational opinion.
Finally, we have Engineer Gram, who happens to be extremely intelligent, and without his calculations, the ship wouldn’t land where it’s supposed to. He also possesses a love for Tetris, and for Rubik’s Cubes (both understandable, since I also love both, though I have never successfully completed a Rubik’s Cube…sigh). What he does not possess, is the realization that Imogen really, really likes him…sigh again.
Yeah, the characters each are fun in their own ways, and I enjoyed them immensely.

Now that I’ve mentioned my love of the plot and the characters, I will conclude by saying that the ending really lived up to my expectations, and I just really loved this book overall. Sure, it did start off a bit slow, or it could have just been that I was distracted, but once I picked this back up, I really couldn’t stop! The story was that entertaining for me! It’s probably pretty obvious at this point that I will gladly recommend it.

Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via Netgalley for giving me this copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Mini Review of ‘The Dark Tower I : The Gunslinger’ by Stephen King

The Dark Tower I (MTI): The GunslingerThe Dark Tower I (MTI): The Gunslinger by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mini Review Time:

Considering that most of the books I’d read from King has been more or less categorized as horror, this book was completely different from what I’d expected.

There were creepy moments, like Nort the man who ate weed and died with nothing, only to be resurrected by the man in black, resuming his familiar presence in a small-town bar. Or maybe even the Slow Mutants that terrorize the gunslinger and Jake, deep within the dark tunnels that will lead them to the man in black? Yep, just a bit of the creepiness you’d expect from a renowned writer of horror.

But really, though the ideas and the world-building were super interesting, I couldn’t help but feel like this book took a little too long getting anywhere. For example, the gunslinger spent a ridiculous amount of time in the small town of Tull, where he shacks up with a barmaid named Allie, and observes the weird behaviors of the townspeople. Tull is literally the epitome of a redneck town, and even has its own eccentric preacher-woman, who believes herself to be the Bride of God. Craziness abounds, and eventually he does leave the town, though it does involve emptying his guns on the way out.

There’s more world-building, like us learning a bit about the gunslinger’s past, though not much, and we see him eventually meeting the child, Jake, but again, slow-progression, and when the story seems to maybe be getting somewhere, it’s the end of book 1. Yep.

Well, though it took me a bit longer to read this book because of boredom at times, I still found the story interesting enough to read the next in the series, and from what I’ve heard, the series only gets better, so I’m looking forward to that, at least.

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