Oakland private investigator Ivy Gamble is mugged on her way to work, and shortly afterwards a stranger appears in her locked office. Ivy is asked to investigate a suspicious, gruesome death at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. Ivy doesn’t usually investigate possible murders, but the retainer offered is large, and she will have the chance to reconnect with her estranged twin sister Tabitha, a teacher at the school. Ivy has 14 years of experience as a PI, but feels ordinary compared to her brilliant, magical sister.
At Osthorne, Ivy wonders if it’s wrong to let staff and students think she also has magical powers. What if she dates one of the teachers? Does she want a relationship with her sister, and can she be trusted? Darkly humorous, this compelling read skillfully combines mystery, fantasy, and relationship fiction. Readalikes include Book of Night by Holly Black, Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, and A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.
I read this eBook because I liked A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, a newer book by the author. I enjoyed this fantasy novel for teens, tweens, and adults even more. Oliver, a minor mage, is 12. His mother is out of town. His familiar is an armadillo. The armadillo’s mother was the familiar of the elderly wizard who taught Oliver everything he knows. And, other than learning about using herbs, it’s not much. Oliver only knows how to use three spells. Trying to summon an elemental or becoming invisible are just a bit tricky at the moment. But Oliver’s village is struggling during a drought, so he gets sent on a journey with his familiar to the Rainblade Mountains, in an attempt to bring back some rain.
Oliver and the armadillo are very appealing characters. Their adventures, while many, are not predictable, either to Oliver or the reader. They meet ghuls, bandits, pigs, an evil mayor, and a musician in this charming, heartwarming story. The eBook is available from Hoopla Digital and from Media on Demand/Libby.
Mona, 14, is an orphan who works at her Aunt Tabitha’s bakery. She has a knack with bread and cookie dough, and can make gingerbread men dance for the bakery’s customers. Her bread is exceptionally good, thanks to a sourdough starter named Bob. One early morning, Mona arrives at the bakery to find a body on the floor; someone who also had a magical talent. The dreaded Spring Green Man has struck, again. But Mona first has to clear her name, aided by the city’s Duchess. A boy named Spindle and a skeleton horse help her in what turns out to be a quest to save their city, aided by some really massive baked goods. By turns funny and deadly serious, this exciting Andre Norton Nebula Award winner is a good readalike for Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novels featuring Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men.
This shorter fantasy novel reads like a cozy historical mystery, and is connected to the acclaimed The Goblin Emperor, which was published in 2014. Thara Celehar is a witness for the dead in Amalo, and is a minor religious cleric. His rank is unclear, and he lives modestly; with a daily routine that includes visiting teahouses and feeding stray cats. Thara can sometimes get information from a dead person, and is obligated to investigate any suspicious deaths. An opera singer who dies in the wrong part of town is one plotline, and a forged will that somehow leads to Thara being sent to a mining town with a ghoul problem is another. The aftermath of an explosion at an airship factory and searching local cemeteries for the grave of a missing young woman are the last strands in this intricately plotted yet character-driven story. Thara is an elf, but is unlike any of Tolkien’s elves, and many of his clients are part elf and part goblin. A thoroughly nice and hardworking man, Thara will win hearts of many readers and makes them long for more mysteries for him to solve. Readalikes include books by Natasha Pulley, Zen Cho and the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh.
The Pulitzer Prize winning author of All The Light We Cannot See has written another masterpiece. Set in an astonishing variety of settings and time periods, with a story within the larger story to keep the reader enchanted. In a modern day public library in Idaho, Zeno, a Korean War veteran, is helping several children produce a play he translated from the Greek. Young seamstress Anna and Omeir and his oxen are caught up in a siege of Constantinople in 1453. In the future, teenager Konstance is living on a spaceship bound for planet Beta Oph2. Doerr excels at storytelling, plot, and characters, although this is not a happy, upbeat story. Somehow, the storylines converge with the theme of the importance of story to inspire, cheer, and remember. Readalike authors include Elsa Hart, David Mitchell, Natasha Pulley, and Neal Stephenson.
Addie LaRue will likely win your heart, but almost no one she meets in her remarkable long life remembers her. Desperate to avoid marriage to a widowed man with children, Addie prays for “a chance to live and be free”. Unfortunately, the sun has set and a spirit from the dark answers her plea. Luc grants her freedom, but she can’t even say or write her own name. When someone steps through a door, they forget her. Born in a small French village in the late 17th century, Addie struggles to survive, and to thrive. After many decades, she can make friends quickly, learns to read and speak several languages, and influences artists and musicians. It’s an amazing life, but Addie’s often lonely. She may see Luc once a year, if that. One day in New York City in 2014, she steals a book. When she returns it to the bookstore, Henry remembers her. And so her life changes, again, while Henry finds someone who sees him as he really is, but there’s a catch. The audiobook is skillfully narrated by actor Julia Whelan. Readalikes include How to Stop Time by Matt Haig and A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness A wonderfully immersive, character-focused read, Schwab is quite the storyteller and Addie LaRue is unforgettable.
Bree Matthews and her friend Alice are accepted into the Early College program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Bree’s mother recently died in a car accident, and she doesn’t always make the best choices. Assigned a peer mentor, Nick, she realizes he can also see magical creatures like hellhounds, and asks to join his secret society at the college as a page. She doesn’t realize he’s connected to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Meanwhile, Bree’s new counselor, who knew her mother, introduces her to her Black Southern magical roots, where she learns that her female ancestors still have stories to tell. While Bree’s classes are barely mentioned and Bree doesn’t share what’s going on with Alice or her father, this is an immersive and suspenseful fantasy novel with numerous plots twists that neither Bree nor the reader will see coming. The well-developed and diverse characters, especially mysterious and menacing Sel, have me looking forward to a sequel expected next year.
Reading this fantasy novel about an orphanage for magical youth is as comforting as a warm hug. Scrupulously honest Linus Baker is a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. After work, Linus retreats to his small house, listening to records and talking to Calliope, his grumpy cat, while dreaming of a sunny day by the sea. After being summoned by Extremely Upper Management, Linus is sent to inspect an island orphanage for especially dangerous magical children. After a long train ride (with Calliope the cat, of course), he meets the children, their charming caretaker Arthur, and island local Zoe. After getting acquainted with the children, then encountering prejudice in a nearby village, Linus finally finds his voice. The six children are unique, and I can’t pick a favorite. They include eager Chauncey, who wants to be a bellhop, Talia the fierce gardening gnome, and a scary six-year-old boy nicknamed Lucy. Linus evens gets to dance with Arthur, once, before returning home to file his final report. Readalikes include Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and the Tom Hanks movie Joe Versus the Volcano.
Eagerly awaited by the legion of fans of Chicago wizard Harry Dresden, this 16th book in the series is definitely worth the wait. While there is another cliffhanger ending, there is also a welcome surprise: Book 17, Battle Ground, is to be published on September 29. Karrin Murphy, no longer with the Chicago Police Department is Harry’s closest friend, recovering from serious injuries. There are some wonderful scenes featuring magical illusions, and many characters from earlier books return as there are peace talks in Chicago. Not much is peaceful for Harry, as the wizards might kick him off the White Council, faerie Queen Mab wants Harry to do a couple of favors for vampire Lara, and Harry’s half-brother is in prison after an assassination attempt. In addition, Harry has other family members and friends to worry about, but there are some very funny scenes to balance the danger. If you’re new to this exciting Chicago set fantasy series, start with Storm Front, and you’ll have plenty of books to binge read. Peace Talks is scheduled for publication on July 14.
Lucy Jordan works in an ice cream shop and creates costumes for her high school’s musicals. Her friend Dawn, who loves to sing, hopes they can make a living on Broadway after graduation. But Dawn’s aunts won’t even let her attend Lucy’s party on their shared sixteenth birthday, so that dream seems unlikely. After Lucy, Dawn, and their friend Jeremy celebrate early, Lucy gets kidnapped while wearing Dawn’s necklace. Mistaken for a princess, she escapes a castle with the help of Sebastian, a young soldier. Jeremy and Dawn search for Lucy in a land with talking animals, ending up with a troupe of traveling entertainers. In a fast-paced adventure with a bit of romance, this modern adaptation of Sleeping Beauty is an entertaining read. The author’s Enchanted, Inc series is a good readalike. Spindled is available from Media on Demand, our Overdrive/Libby collection.