The Rise of Magicks

The Rise of Magicks by Nora Roberts

When a publisher announces a one million-copy printing of the conclusion to the Chronicles of the One trilogy, it’s fair to expect an awesome sequel to Year One and Of Blood and Bone. Some reviewers found this book to be brilliant, compulsively readable, and fully satisfying. I found this book to be not as fast-paced or as satisfying as the earlier books, though still enjoyable to read. Fallon Swift, born in the first book and trained to lead in the second, now travels the country finding small groups of people who have survived and thrived after the Doom, gathering troops for her battle against evil villains. Twins Duncan and Tonia are foretold to help Fallon in the final battle, back in Scotland near a stone circle. Fallon finds time for romance, and gets advice from her mother Lana and Lana’s friends, who have larger roles in the first book. I enjoyed reading about life in post-apocalyptic communities more than the battle scenes. Definitely start with the first book, and read this one to find out what happens to everyone who made it through the Doom and settled in charming New Hope, Virginia.
Brenda

 

Scythe

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Most people in this future utopian society are content, but are their lives still meaningful? Death and old age are now reversible conditions, except for those gleaned by an order of scythes. Feared and celebrated, scythes can grant a year of immunity. Teens Citra and Rowan are selected to be apprentices to Scythe Faraday, but only one will be chosen to be a scythe. This is a unique, astounding blend of philosophy and high-octane adventure. First in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, this book is deservedly popular with teens and adults. The sequels are Thunderhead and The Toll.
Brenda

Lady Takes the Case

Lady Takes the Case by Eliza Casey

An enjoyable historical mystery set in 1912, suggested for fans of Downton Abbey. A house party at Danby Hall in Yorkshire is planned to introduce Patrick, Lord Avebury’s son, to young American heiress Annabel Clarke. A poisoning during a formal dinner party casts suspicion on Patrick, an amateur botanist. Patrick’s sister, Lady Cecilia, teams up with Annabel’s maid Jane and her inquisitive cat Jack to help solve the mystery. Very likeable main characters, a picturesque setting and a clever mystery make for a satisfying cozy, although the pacing is rather leisurely in the beginning. This is the first book in the Manor Cat series by a pseudonymous award-winning author, with Lady Rights a Wrong to be published this June.

Brenda

 

Chilling Effect

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

In this entertaining debut space opera, Eva Innocente, captain of the small cargo ship, La Sirena Negra, has a cargo of psychic cats but no buyer. Then Eva learns that her sister Mari has been kidnapped by an intergalactic crime syndicate known as The Fridge and she is being blackmailed in a piracy scheme that might be connected to an archaeological find. Her crew, including attractive engineer Vakar, wonder what Eva’s got them into, with each mission more dangerous than the last. Full of adventure and humor, yet often poignant, this science fiction novel is a good readalike for Becky Chambers. The audiobook is very well narrated by Almarie Guerra, especially when Eva, who has Cuban roots, swears eloquently and often in Spanish. Ultimately, Eva has to decide what she stands for, and whether her crew or her family are more important. Intriguing aliens and a variety of planets make for a fast-paced and fun read. Eva’s next adventure, Prime Deceptions, will be published in September.

Brenda

 

Novice Dragoneer

Novice Dragoneer by E.E. Knight

Ileth, 14, camps out on the doorstep of the Serpentine, persisting in her request to be a novice. Ileth is stubborn, resourceful, loyal, often in trouble, and content with very little. Orphaned Ileth, who stutters, met a dragon and his rider when she was 7 and dreamed of a different life. Finally, Ileth takes the novice oath and gets the worst job, cleaning fish for the dragons. Later she learns to dance for the dragons, and gets some unexpected flight time. In her world, there seems to be no magic other than the flying dragons, who can be noble, greedy, or grouchy, and are not always loyal. She reminds me of Keladry in First Test, by Tamora Pierce, who wants to be only the second lady knight in Tortall, or Keevan in “The Smallest Dragonboy” in A Gift of Dragons by Anne McCaffrey, who can only dream of being a dragonrider. I was fascinated to learn that the author studied ballet in doing research for this book, and why he chose to give Ileth a stutter. I look forward to finding out what’s next for Ileth in the hoped for sequel in the Dragoneer Academy series, which is off to a memorable start in this compelling read.

Brenda

 

Royal Holiday

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

This is a fun, frothy contemporary romance, a very appealing read. Social worker Vivian Forest accompanies her daughter Maddie to England for a December vacation after Maddie gets a chance to be stylist to a young duchess for the Christmas season. Vivian meets Malcolm, the Queen’s private secretary, and he gives her a tour of the Sandringham estate, takes her riding, and the pair exchange notes delivered by footmen. Vivian is very down-to-earth, funny and considerate. Malcolm is a bit more formal and private, but is clearly smitten by Vivian. It’s so refreshing to have the main characters in a contemporary romance be in their fifties. The Sandringham and London settings make an amazing frame for the slightly predictable story so that the reader can enjoy armchair travel along with a joyful but not steamy romance. What Anglophile wouldn’t enjoy a private museum tour, or getting to park inside the gates at Buckingham Palace? What will happen when Vivian goes back to California with the possibility of a job promotion? Sadly, no scone recipe is included, but all the other ingredients for a perfect holiday read are there, from helping pick out a dress for the duchess to fireworks over the Thames River. Enjoy!

Brenda

This Tender Land

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

The author of Ordinary Grace sets this adventure novel with echoes of Huckleberry Finn and The Odyssey in 1932 Minnesota and Missouri. Four kids head south in a canoe, fleeing loss and harsh treatment at the Lincoln Indian Training School. Odie and his older brother Albert are orphans heading to a barely remembered aunt in St. Louis, while young Emmy clings to Sioux teen Mose after she’s lost everything in a tornado. Mose is mute, and the group share an often secret sign language. They meet a healer with a revival tent show, a madam, traveling families and vagabonds, and find temporary haven in a soup kitchen and friendship in a Hoover town. Odie is a storyteller, Albert can fix most mechanical equipment, Mose goes on a vision quest, and young Emmy reminds an eccentric farmer of his missing daughter. Poignant and lyrically written, this story of an unlikely family on an epic journey has moments of conflict balanced with simple joys, unpredictable adventures, and the possibility of danger around every river bend. This remarkable character-driven novel is a compelling read.

Brenda