Reading Fanatic Reviews


Black Widow by Lucy Leroux

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Black Widow*

Good at First, Then Goes Off the Rails

I am not quite sure what to write for this review. I was surprised by this book, but not in a good way. When I read the book description, I just read the summary, not the quotes from other reviewers within the blurb; I never read those or other reviews before I read a book. From the couple paragraph description, I was expecting a somewhat standard historical romance. And the first part of the book and delivered on that, along with a little romantic suspense—which I also enjoy. The heroine has a variety of secrets that neither we nor the hero is privy to for a while. We learn from the first chapter that the heroine is not a murderer, as first suspected by the hero. I actually enjoyed watching their initial dance, shall we say, as they became reacquainted with each other and he tried to figure out if she had anything to do with her husband’s death.

But then it got weird. And, frankly, I didn’t see it coming. I read a variety of books, so I don’t have anything necessarily against weird so long as I am prepared for it. I certainly did not expect the book to go the way it did in the last roughly 40%. Actually, I kept thinking it would straighten back out into a standard story instead of going into a paranormal aspect that wasn’t appropriately foreshadowed and therefore felt entirely out of place. It almost felt like a deus ex machina move, which I never like in a story as it feels like a cop-out. I did enjoy watching the push-me, pull-you relationship of the hero and heroine at first, and the heroine’s naivete was surprising (in an intriguing way) in a story about a widow (and I liked watching the hero’s education of her). I do feel that there were too many intimate scenes after a certain point in the story; they did detract from the rest of the plot because, at times, it felt like the plot existed as something to happen between the intimate moments so it wouldn’t be just all that. So, I actually enjoyed the first part of the book, but the second half fell apart for me once it appeared as though the paranormal aspect was meant to be real.

The Secret of the Spellbook by Isabel Riley

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The Secret of the Spellbook*

Magical Female Academy Meets Victorian Steampunk

This is a fascinating paranormal novel that combines the idea of a magical academy with Victorian steampunk. The heroine is an orphaned young woman who has magical powers. When she accidentally unleashes these on the orphanage’s tyrant caretaker, a maid and good friend of the heroine sends her away to London to seek sanctuary at a special school for young women with magical powers. Because she specifically sought sanctuary, she is bound to this academy for three years, during which time she will study and learn more about magical ways. But there are rules that she must follow, or her residency will be terminated. If she breaks these rules, then she will be turned out and gradually lose her magical powers and ultimately her life. The young women at the academy are forbidden to interact with the young men across the way at the Embers Society who are training to be alchemists and engineers; these young men are the ones who bring the steampunk element to this story, as they make magical mechanical objects and other things. One of the graduates of the magical academy has been working in secret with these young men and encourages the heroine to do so. She does not want to break the rules because of the dire consequences, though she feels like she knows one of the young men.

This novel has some elements that we often see in magical academy books. For instance, there are rivalries between the girls, one particular bad seed, and a pecking order. The headmistress of the school is at times a bit of a terror, but she does have the girls’ best interests at heart. I was quickly swept up in this world and was fascinated by the way that magic worked in its universe as well as the way the steampunk aspect was incorporated in. If you enjoy books about magical academies, you may very well enjoy this book.

Un-Familiar Magic by Belinda White

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Un-Familiar Magic*

Magic Under Wraps

I am so enjoying this paranormal cozy mystery series. It is definitely one that should be read in order. Amie is a very powerful witch even if she doesn’t have control of her powers yet. The power is dependent on the type of witch she is. In fact, her kind of witch is so powerful that if the council found out, they would force her to live in a box, so to speak, that would drain her powers, which they could then use for their own benefit. The choice is either to live in this box or be killed. So Amie and her family do not want the council to find out about her powers. Those who care about her are trying to teach her how to control her magic but on the down low. Murders, unfortunately, keep happening in this small town, and Amie wants to help. But, of course, if she uses her powers, the council will find out. Will she be able to help without bringing harm to herself?

I like that the author has created a delightful deep point of view for this series. Being in Amie’s head is like watching a friend muse about her day. It feels intimate and personal. I don’t think that is easy to achieve, especially in a paranormal cozy mystery. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Death’s Choice by Laura Greenwood

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Death's Choice*

Fast, Action-Packed Read

Wow, that was a quick and busy ride! The author gets you right into the action, showing us exactly what Kali does for a living. Then her assignments get changed up, and she is thrust into a completely different world. She discovers court intrigue, a little mystery, and romance—also discovering her soulmates. Just when she’s getting comfortable with this idea, another monkey wrench is thrown into the works. Like all books by Ms. Greenwood, the action is tight, and the characters are well-defined. You’ll be turning the pages fast to figure out what is going on. An enjoyable, fast read.

The Mountain’s Shadow by Cecilia Dominic

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The Mountain's Shadow*

Pacing Off But Better Toward End

This is a quirky combination of paranormal urban fantasy and medical thriller. I felt like the pacing was a bit off. It started too slowly, spending much time on revealing background and slice-of-life moments rather than some good, gripping action. There is a lot going on in this book, so much so at times that it was difficult to keep everything and everybody straight. I particularly liked the science aspects of the story. While taking place in a fantastical setting, it still seems realistic. I thought that perhaps there was a little too much exposition, even though it was well done. I kept wanting more to happen in the first half, which is never good in a thriller. Still, I stuck with it, and I am glad I did as the pacing and action did pick up in the second half of the story.

Nixie and the Healer by Ellen M. Bard

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Nixie and the Healer*

Good Installment of Excellent Series

There are so many things to like about this series. I’ve read and enjoyed every book so far. Because the author has woven such a complex world with its own codes and laws, the books are really best read in order so that you can fully understand what is going on.

As a longtime student of the chakras, I absolutely adore how the author has incorporated the concept into this series. She’s made the bedrock for much in this world. But it makes so much sense in the way that she has ordered it, and it gives structure to both the characters and the plot. I love how this series, unlike others, really weaves in the characters from the previous books even though each book focuses on a new couple. The overarching ongoing plot regarding the prophecy, which is slowly being revealed,  and all that must be done truly lays at the heart of each book. I love seeing more about how the lives of those characters already known are progressing and how they impact the next part of the story.

In terms of the two main characters in this installment, they are just about as opposite as they can be. However, that makes them complimentary. It was fascinating to watch Jeb grapple with his energies, especially the one that he did not identify with. Nixie was a hard character to like at first as she comes across as a bit shallow and only interested in superficial pursuits. But the author has done a fantastic job of creating a growth arc for her. She grows and changes so much in this book that in the end you cannot help but appreciate her growing strengths and core goodness, even if she is still somewhat immature. I look forward to finding out about the next couple and the next steps in this amazing journey.

Alexandra’s Riddle by Elisa Keyston

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Alexandra's Riddle*

Several Riddles in Riddle

I live in Oregon, so I am always drawn to any fictional books that take place in my state. I love that the author actually chose a real town, Riddle, though it has been somewhat fictionalized for the story. I live just a couple counties away, so I loved hearing some somewhat local references in the book. This novel has a lot going for it: romance, mystery, and the paranormal (including the fae and brownies) as well as themes about responsibilities to self vs. others and keeping small-town life as it should be. The author actually did an excellent job of making the paranormal aspect seem just as much a part of the fabric of life in the area as the “real” human aspect. That’s not easy to do, I think. I liked the main character as well as the quirky people who made up the community. A thoroughly enjoyable book. If you like paranormal stories with a touch of romance in a fair amount of mystery, you may very well enjoy this book.

Slayer Academy Books 1-3 by Amelia Shaw

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Slayer Academy Books 1 to 3*

Nice to Have Series in One Place!

I quite enjoyed this series about a nerdy young woman who was believed to be destined to be great in the magical realm as others were before her in her family. Her family, though, could have never known the twists her life would take! She did, in fact, become great and powerful, but not in the expected ways. I like books about magical academies and the paranormal world–yup, a Harry Potter fan–so I was intrigued by the potentials set up by this author. I felt that the pacing was a bit uneven in all the books, but that did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the books.

Let me tell you a little more about books one and two…

Book 1: The Legacy: I was particularly intrigued by the idea that the heroine considers herself to be a nerdy bookworm, and she is suddenly thrust into a magical world that she had no idea existed. In this world, she is to be trained to be a fae slayer, as her family has been such for four generations. I thought this was a little slow to get started, as, she doesn’t even get to the academy until near the halfway point of the book. While we do see a few interesting scenes at the academy, the author chose to flash forward through much of her time there, focusing on a couple of key scenes instead. I would have liked to have seen more of her regular daily life at the academy and her adjustments to this world and her role in it. That said, even though this book felt a little slow at times, I think it does a good job setting up this magical world.

Book 2: Fae Hunter: The blurb of the book makes you think that the bulk of it will take place in the Fae realm, but after a brief visit there, we stay stuck in the human world at the Academy until around the 50% mark. The book felt slow in the beginning and through much of the middle, but then really sped up–and the end was at lightning speed. The book has a little more profanity than I am comfortable with. I thought some sensual scenes, as well as regular ones, had elements that were slightly cringe-worthy. The heroine learned a lot more about herself, the Fae realm, and the Academy, much of which will come as a surprise to the readers of the first book. Not everyone is who or what they seem. The end of the book is a bit shocking, with a nail-biting cliffhanger at the end…  so if you’re not a fan of those, be glad that you have all the books in one volume! While this book did have shortcomings, I am curious to see the resolution to the cliffhanger as well as what happens in the heroine’s evolving relationships with Fae princes.

I’ll let you discover book three for yourself!

Rapunzel Untamed by Erin Bedford

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Rapunzel Untamed*

Dystopian Fairy-Tale-Inspired Urban Fantasy

I absolutely love reworkings of the classic fairy tales. I’ve read several different ones by various authors in the last couple of years. But I haven’t read any revamps of Rapunzel or any other books by this author. So I was looking forward to a new fairy tale twist and a new-to-me author. Neither disappointed I am happy to say. This version of Rapunzel is a dark dystopian urban fantasy. Now, don’t let all that heaviness make you think that it is all dark; I have read some retellings that I like that. This one had a surprising amount of humor, especially when Rapunzel/Eva is rescued. There are other parts that are quite funny as well, like the discussion about Eva wearing a bra.

The author did a very good job describing the world from Eva’s perspective, even though Eva is confused about her circumstances. This isn’t easy to do, to get information across while the perspective character is in a confused state. But the author seems to do so with absolute ease. I found Eva’s head an interesting one to be in, and I really enjoyed the various personalities of her rescuing mages. The descriptions throughout the book are well done, not too much yet just enough to get across the character’s state of mind as well as what is happening. The writing at times feels immersive. The end has a surprising twist; the book ends on a cliffhanger. So if you aren’t a fan of books that end on cliffhangers, you might want to skip this one. But it is a very well done inspired-by-fairy-tale story, so you might want to consider it anyway.

Movies, Moonlight, and Magic by January Bain

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Movies, Moonlight, and Magic*

Heavy on the Cozy, Light on the Mystery

This is the second book in the Manitoba Tea and Tarot series, and the second book that I have read in it. I will admit that I love the concept of this series because tea and tarot are two of my favorite things! I would love to frequent that little shop. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, so I was looking forward to the next. The series revolves around three sisters who have magical powers, each different. Charm, the heroine in this book, is only just coming to understand and work with what she can do. She has an interest in the new Mountie, but a gorgeous friend of his family has shown up, making Charm a little jealous. A film crew comes to town, and their accountant turns up dead. Other issues come up as well, and someone close to Charm is one of the suspects, leading her to want to investigate to clear their name.

As in the first book, the characters and the relationships between them are a delight. The paranormal aspect is fun. Unfortunately, as can happen in cozy mysteries, the mysteries themselves seemed to take a back seat to the quirky characterization and magical worldbuilding. For instance, the dead body wasn’t found until about the 21% mark. As that is the inciting incident for a murder mystery, not a lot of room was left for the mystery to be fully explored. This is already a short book, so not much space is given to the mystery. The other “mystery” shows up quite a bit later. All in all, I like the world and the characters that the author has created; I just wish that the mystery itself was more emphasized.



The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

The Amazon book links on this site are affiliate links, which means I make a tiny percentage if you choose to buy a book linked from this site.

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