2019 Book #55 – The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

51SWKLzVjxLTitle: The Book Charmer
Author: Karen Hawkins
Date finished: 8/4/19
Genre: Contemporary romance, women’s fiction, magical realism
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Pages in book: 368
Stand alone or series: #1 in the Dove Pond series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Sarah Dove is no ordinary bookworm. To her, books have always been more than just objects: they live, they breathe, and sometimes they even speak. When Sarah grows up to become the librarian in her quaint Southern town of Dove Pond, her gift helps place every book in the hands of the perfect reader. Recently, however, the books have been whispering about something out of the ordinary: the arrival of a displaced city girl named Grace Wheeler.

If the books are right, Grace could be the savior that Dove Pond desperately needs. The problem is, Grace wants little to do with the town or its quirky residents—Sarah chief among them. It takes a bit of urging, and the help of an especially wise book, but Grace ultimately embraces the challenge to rescue her charmed new community. In her quest, she discovers the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the power of finding just the right book.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I finished this book for ARC August 2019! Love this reading challenge. And this year I’m especially excited because this year they have a bunch of fun games and challenges, including one of my favorite things, reading bingo! This book will be checking off my “Start one series” box since this book is the first in a new series by this author.

I haven’t read anything by this author before, I was intrigued enough by the description and the cover to give this a read! I love books with magical realism and this one was really just such a magical read. I loved the story building and how the author wove different pieces of magic into the story. The thing I found kind of frustrating was how unresolved the ending was. We spent so much time delving into Sarah’s character, which I understand was necessary to understand the whole book talking and saving the town thing, but I was super bummed that we didn’t get resolved on Sarah’s story at the end of this book. I usually prefer to read series consisting of stand alone novels for that reason, I like the connection but I like for things to be resolved at the end. I’m excited to read Sarah’s story though, whenever it may come! Also I thought there was a lot of build up to the Apple Festival and then the actual event only ended up taking up like a page, which left the event feeling a little anti-climactic to me. I loved all the tension and plot building, then when it was wrapped up so quickly it felt a little rushed. There were so many emotions in this book though, I loved it. I laughed, and I cried a bunch. There were so many touching scenes in the book. All of the characters were charming and I loved how much of a family was formed by the various town members. I’d definitely recommend this book.

Link to author website

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2019 Book # 2 – The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

51qqjkvcdqlTitle: The Winter of the Witch
Author: Katherine Arden
Date finished: 1/10/19
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, magical realism, fairy tale
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Winternight Trilogy
Where I got the book from: Publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

“A tale both intimate and epic, featuring a heroine whose harrowing and wondrous journey culminates in an emotionally resonant finale.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviewers called Katherine Arden’s novels The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower “lyrical,” “emotionally stirring,” and “utterly bewitching.” The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

My rating: 5.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read the first two books in this series and loved them. For me, this series has been so interesting, different and refreshing, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each book. Also, I don’t know who designed the covers for this trilogy, but they have been GORGEOUS. They really draw the reader to the book and represent each book’s story so well.  I found this book a bit easier to jump back into than the last, though it does still take a good amount of additional concentration compared to some of the other novels I’ve read recently. There are just so many characters to keep track of and they’re all called multiple names/nicknames throughout the book. It can be daunting to keep track of at times, but it’s definitely do-able. This book could possibly be classified as “wordy” – to be honest if it were any other book I would probably say it is – but with this book I found each word to be so necessary to the magic of the story, and I found myself going back over the pages because I didn’t want to miss a single word. The author uses intense descriptions to draw the reader into the story and trap them in this Russian world of magic and wonder. And the narratives surrounding the fight scenes were so good that I felt like I was there, watching the sweat drip from the warriors’ faces.

This book really made the reader question the idea of right vs wrong and good vs evil. I love when books make us reevaluate our ideas of morality, and I thought this was a very interesting sub-layer to the story. One of my favorite quotes in the book was “monsters were for children,” as Vasya learns that the truth is more complicated than simply being able to pick a side and call it the “right” side or the “good” side. All of us have the potential for goodness inside of us and all of us have the ability to make a difference in the world, even in unorthodox ways. I just loved delving into this concept within the story line amidst all of the action and magic that the book brought to life for me. I highly recommend reading this series and I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next!

Link to author website

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2017 Book #87 – First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

51ssKKGyVGLTitle: First Frost
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Date finished: 10/15/17
Genre: Fiction, magical realism
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 20, 2015
Pages in book: 291
Stand alone or series: Seems to be a sequel to Garden Spells
Where I got the book from: Terryville Public Library

Blurb from the cover:

Two magical sisters.
One cranky apple tree.

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly.  As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree…and the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies.  Though her handcrafted confections — rose to recall lost love, lavender to promote happiness and lemon verbena to soothe throats and minds — are singularly effective, the business of selling them is costing her the everyday joys of her family, and her belief in her own precious gifts.

Sydney Waverley, too, is losing her balance. With each passing day she longs more for a baby — a namesake for her wonderful Henry. Yet the longer she tries, the more her desire becomes an unquenchable thirst, stealing the pleasure out of the life she already has.

Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to…if only he could see it, too. But how can he, when he is so far outside her grasp that he appears to her as little more than a puff of smoke?

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before.  And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells, lose yourself in Sarah Addison Allen’s enchanting world and fall for her charmed characters in this captivating story that proves that a happily-ever-after is never the real ending to a story. It’s where the real story begins.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I read this book for the Terryville Library’s Fiction Lover’s Book Discussion group discussion for this month (October). This book has been on my “to read” list for a long time, one of the girl sin my Mom’s quilt guild has been recommending this author to me for years and with my reading schedule in recent years I haven’t had time to pick it up. I’m so glad that someone picked it for book club though and I got to read it this month! This book tells the story of the Waverly women, each of whom have some sort of special ability. Sydney is really good with hair, Claire is good with food and Bay knows where things belong. But knowing where things belong doesn’t help a teenage girl trying to find her way through high school. Nor does it help Bay navigate her suddenly emotional relationship with her mother. This book tells the story of the Waverly women leading up to the First Frost, when the apple tree in the back suddenly blooms. There was so much interesting about this book and I loved the magical realism and how seamlessly the author tied it into the story and made it seem real. This book reminded me a lot of The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert and The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee. I would definitely read more by this author in the future!

The bottom line: This book was very good, I love magical realism and this author did a great job of it. I can’t wait to read more by this author and I would recommend giving this one a read!

Link to author website

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2017 Book #44 – The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert

61EYgKWCiDLTitle: The Simplicity of Cider
Author: Amy E. Reichert
Date finished: 5/12/17
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Fall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.
Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.
Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.
Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.
From the warm and funny Amy E. Reichert, The Simplicity of Cider is a charming love story with a touch of magic, perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Gayle Forman.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Sanna Lund, who lives with her father at their family orchard. The orchard has been their family’s land for generations, with their normally large family all living together in the large farm house. It’s narrowed down to just Sanna and her father, Einars, now though and they rattle around the house and the land, trying to keep their orchard afloat. Sanna has a talent for making cider and her father decided to invest in a great renovation of their barn to install more cider machinery. Unfortunately neither of them know how to get the word out though so the orchard is now pretty deep in debt. Despite that, when father and son Isaac and Sebastian roll into town Einars decides to hire them to help out. Isaac feels an immediate attraction to Sanna, but his life is complicated enough with what he’s running from. With all their complications, is there really any chance for them to have a happy ending?
Overall I really just loved this book. There was just a touch of magic in the book and it really made it come alive for me. I loved Sanna’s character, she was strong and proud but also so loving and generous. And the cidery and orchard added such an interesting aspect to the story. The author really did such a wonderful job too of weaving this romantic and touching love story, Sanna and Isaac’s story really reached into my chest and just squeezed my heart tight. And I loved the ending and how creatively the author made a happy ending not only for Sanna but also for so many of the other characters in the story as well. This was such a great read and I would really recommend it!

The bottom line: I just loved this book, this was a beautifully woven love story with just a touch of magic to it. This one is a must read for the summer, I would definitely recommend!

Link to author website

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2017 Book #37 – The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

515qNGaUTcLTitle: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Date finished: 4/24/17
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, magical realism
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Book #1 of trilogy
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Vasilisa Vladimirovich, a girl born with the second sight, whose mother dies right after childbirth. Her father, Pyotr, loved her mother, Marina, fiercely and was devastated when she died. And it made him angry that Marina knew this child would most likely kill her and she chose to have it anyways. Vasya is a sweet and generous child though, and it is almost impossible not to love her. As she grows she learns the ways of her land and learns from the different magical creatures that haunt the stables and the house. As she grows older though she is in danger from a shadow in the forest, and as the old ways are forgotten for fear of God, the whole village is in danger of the Bear devil in the forest.
Overall I really liked this book a lot. The Russian terms made the story a little harder to get into at first but once I was engaged with the story line I didn’t want to put it down. It was a beautifully woven fairy tale with just enough of the fantastical to make it feel perfectly magical. Vasya was fierce and brave, I loved her character. The plot line was thrilling and filled with danger and excitement. I’m excited to see where the story will take us in the next installment of the trilogy.

The bottom line: I loved this book. While it took a little time to get into the story, it turned out to be an utterly captivating story and I can’t wait to read more.

Link to author website

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2016 Book #96 – The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin by Stephanie Knipper

51lfjgkxu-l-_sx329_bo1204203200_Title: The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin
Author: Stephanie Knipper
Date finished: 10/9/16
Genre: Fiction, magical realism
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Pages in book: 325
Stand alone or series: Stand-alone
Where I got the book from: Library Thing NOTE: I received this book for free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Sisters Rose and Lily Martin were inseparable when growing up on their family’s Kentucky flower farm yet became distant as adults when Lily found herself unable to deal with the demands of Rose’s unusual daughter. But when Rose becomes ill, Lily is forced to return to the farm and to confront the fears that had driven her away.
Rose’s daughter, ten-year-old Antoinette, has a form of autism that requires constant care and attention. She has never spoken a word, but she has a powerful gift that others would give anything to harness–she can heal with her touch. She brings wilted flowers back to life, makes a neighbor’s tremors disappear, and even changes the course of nature on the flower farm.
Antoinette’s gift, though, comes at a price, since each healing puts her own life in jeopardy. As Rose–the center of her daughter’s life–struggles with her own failing health and Lily confronts her anguished past, the sisters, and the men who love them, come to realize the sacrifices that must be made to keep this very special child safe.
Written with great heart and a deep understanding of what it feels like to be different, The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin is a novel about what it means to be family and about the lengths to which people will go to protect the ones they love.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book is about Rose and Lily Martin and Rose’s daughter Antoinette. Rose and Lily have always had a special bond, even for sisters. And when Rose has Antoinette, Lily loves the little girl more than anything. But Lily sees a lot of herself in Antoinette and she is afraid of trying to help her sister care for a girl with special needs. So Lily leaves home and starts a life on her own. When Rose calls six years later though, its to ask once again for Lily to come home. Rose needs help more desperately than before, she’s dying and she’s not sure how much time she has left. But can Lily really come home that easily? And can she be responsible for such an extraordinary girl like Antoinette?
Overall I liked this book ok, though I will admit it wasn’t one of my favorites. I liked Antoinette’s character and I loved being able to hear her thoughts and her perspective even though she couldn’t speak, I thought that was an interesting part of the story. The story line of this book reminded me a lot of The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott, so if you’ve read that one and enjoyed it then I would definitely recommend reading this one. And if you like magical realism this is a great one to read.

The bottom line: I liked this book but I don’t think it thrilled me or anything. It was a good book though. If you liked The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott then I would definitely read this one!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #72 – The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell

51N3CEGiH7LTitle: The Secret Ingredient of Wishes
Author: Susan Bishop Crispell
Date finished: 8/7/16
Genre: Fiction, Magical realism
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publication Date: September 6, 2016
Pages in book: 292
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown—and her past—behind for good.
Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina—also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.
As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love—and her chance at happiness—all over again.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book will count for my ARC August reading challenge for this month. This book tells the story of Rachel Monroe, a woman from Memphis that can grant people’s wishes by thinking about them. Rachel has had a rough life up to this point, after accidentally wishing her brother away, her father walking out on her, and her mother killing herself, plus Rachel spent much of her time hospitalized or in therapy due to her “condition.” No one seems to believe that Rachel has this ability, and her parents can’t seem to remember her brother Michael. The only family Rachel has left is her friend MaryBeth, who spent time with Rachel in a psych hospital. After Rachel starts granting wishes again though, she runs away to try and protect those she loves. She ends up in a town called Nowhere, North Carolina, where she meets Catch, who can keep secrets by baking pies. But when Rachel’s secret gets out, the Town isn’t quite so welcoming.
Overall I really liked this book. It reminded me a lot of The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee because of the magical realism and the food, and that was one of my favorite books of 2014. I liked the characters in this book, there was a lot going on in the story and it kept me interested throughout with the varied story lines. I thought that the ending was a little abrupt, there were definitely some things that I thought were unresolved at the end of the book. I still really enjoyed the book though, the romance in the book was sweet and it was wonderful to see their relationship develop. This was a great book and I would recommend!

The bottom line: This was a great book! I really liked the magical realism and the story line was really creative. I would definitely recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page