The Okay Witch Review

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Magic is harder than it looks.

Thirteen-year-old Moth Hush loves all things witchy. But she’s about to discover that witches aren’t just the stuff of movies, books, and spooky stories. When some eighth-grade bullies try to ruin her Halloween, something really strange happens. It turns out that Founder’s Bluff, Massachusetts, has a centuries-old history of witch drama. And, surprise: Moth’s family is at the center of it all! When Moth’s new powers show up, things get totally out-of-control. She meets a talking cat, falls into an enchanted diary, and unlocks a hidden witch world. Secrets surface from generations past as Moth unravels the complicated legacy at the heart of her town, her family, and herself.

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This book that I sadly haven’t seen anyone raving about is a hidden gem. It’s a graphic novel with cute artwork, and lots of coming into your magic, plus small town vibes and school shenanigans!

Moth loves everything that is magical and witchy, but that means she’s a little out of the main circle in school. However as she makes a new friend because she is friendly, she accidentally comes into magic powers. And boy, they are interesting and scary and also, magic is hard!

Not to spoil anythign but Moth lives in a small town that was really against witches, there is a talking cat, and there is a school play, Moth’s friend trying to impress his father (mysterious character that the father is), and then Moth’s own mother is keeping some really interesting secrets of her own.

But none of that will stop Moth from trying to learn how to do magic and use it better than by accident! She is one determined girl and this is a fun read full of joy, adventure, crazy stuff and bucketfuls of magic and history.

Highly recommended if you like empowering books about preteens/teens coming of age and finding powers, if you like magic, and friendship and family. It’s a really lovely book.

Sanctuary Review

Sanctuary by V. V. James

The small Connecticut town of Sanctuary is rocked by the death of its star quarterback.

Daniel’s death looked like an accident, but everyone knows his ex-girlfriend Harper is the daughter of a witch – and she was there when he died.

Then the rumours start. When Harper insists Dan was guilty of a terrible act, the town turns on her. So was his death an accident, revenge – or something even darker?

As accusations fly and secrets are revealed, paranoia grips the town, culminating in a trial that the whole world is watching

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I read Sanctuary a while back but had a backlog of reviews, so only doing it now. My bad! Because this book was a wild ride and it kept surprising.

The only thing to consider is that this is a book about a witch hunt, a “murder” and contains rape of a minor by another minor (slightly older). There’s a lot going on in this book.

I found this book a wild ride because the beginning is a hit in the face, and then it shifted from a muder mystery/investigation to a bit of “The Real Housewives of Sanctuary”. This was the part that took me the longest to get through, as it is exactly that type of drama and relationships that I try to keep myself away from and do not particularly appreciate in personal relationships (Vic wrote it brilliantly, which is why I struggled with it, it was too “real”).

The concept of a “small” town full of secrets was very intriguing and it was good to see the secrets reveal themselves a little through Maggie but also to get them from each of the characters involved and then seeing different sides of the same story. And seeing characters suddnely connect the dots and go “oh dear”.

Abigail and Michael drove me up the wall, but I have known people like them and yeah, wide berth. No wonder Daniel was as he was.

I liked Sarah and one part I wanted to know more of was the magic system, the Conclave, everything. It is a world where being a witch is allowed and technically not persecuted (the nuance on how it can be a useful but slightly complex skill and how to use it, plus the implications on keeping records, and what actions you can do or not, was fascinating. I could read a book on how it is meant to work, or more details of it, seriously).

To be fair, in general, the characters kept me wondering or hating them very much. For some I just wanted them to stop being so obtuse, and the ending was good, as was the explanation of the mystery and if it was a murder or not. Plus all those layers of secrets on secrets and lies on lies were very intriguing and kept connecting the story throughout. Shame that the children sometimes end up having to live through everything the parents have done and undone.

Still, if you want a good witchy scary feminist book, with a murder and a mystery, go for this book. it won’t disappoint!

Cookies and Clairvoyance Review

Cookies and Clairvoyance by Bailey Cates

Baker Katie Lightfoot serves up enchanted delicacies and tracks down a malicious murderer in the newest installment of this New York Times bestselling series…

Hedgewitch Katie Lightfoot is juggling wedding preparations, a visit from her father, and home renovations on top of her long hours at the Honeybee Bakery, where she and her aunt Lucy imbue their yummy cookies and pastries with beneficial magic. But when firefighter Randy Post is accused of murdering a collector of rarities, and his prints are on the statue that was used to kill the man, Katie steps in.

Randy is not only Katie’s fiancé’s coworker, but also the boyfriend of fellow spellbook club member and witch Bianca Devereaux. Bianca and Declan are both sure Randy is innocent, and so is Katie. However, to prove it she’ll have to work with ornery detective Peter Quinn again–and this time around he knows she’s more than your everyday baker.

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I stumbled upon this book while wandering around Forbidden Planet. It caught my eye because it was a mass market paperback, it has a cat and some food on the cover and it implies magic or something. I tried to find the first ones (this is the 8th book in the series) but Forbidden Planet didn’t have them in the store. [I have bought them all now]

I enjoyed it a lot and it was exactly what I wanted. Plus it comes with two recipes at the back fo the book for two of the many pastries/cakes/muffins/cookies featured in the book. I haven’t tried baking either of them, but they read well (as in, they seem to be solid recipes with delicious results).

Of course, as you can guess, this book talks a lot about many foods. And I ended up craving some of them. It also explains why they choose certain combinations and what they are attempting to achieve with them as a “magical boost”. Calming ingredients to help calm nerves, things like that.

Which brings me to the magic. One of the things I liked is that this isn’t a “magic solves it all” kind of book. It is more of a “magic can boost things and help, but it isn’t the holy grail”. It places magic as part of your daily life, as a small boost rather than this impossible thing far far away.

Despite missing the backstory worth of seven books, I didn’t feel too lost reading the book. It feeds you enough “reminders” of backstory without being annoying or too much.

Now to plot, this was a cute story with many mini plots. Like Katie trying to solve and right a murder, clearing the name of someone innocent (or not?). But also there is the story of getting her home rebuilt and ready for her wedding (I enjoyed this part even more considering I had just had my wedding when I read it), and it is the story of the murder victim and his family/social circle. There’s a few other plot points that were interesting but they’d be considered spoilers and are worth not spoiling them.

All in all, for a cute witchy easy read, with loads of food and a murder mystery all wrapped in one, this book does well and it was a good read for a long flight (and airport time).

Lord of Secrets Review

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Lord of Secrets by Breanna Teintze

Magic is poison. Secrets are power. Death is . . . complicated.

Outlaw wizard Corcoran Gray has enough problems. He’s friendless, penniless and on the run from the tyrannical Mages’ Guild – and with the search for his imprisoned grandfather looking hopeless, his situation can’t get much worse.

So when a fugitive drops into his lap – literally – and gets them both arrested, it’s the last straw – until Gray realises that runaway slave Brix could be the key to his grandfather’s release. All he has to do is break out of prison, break into an ancient underground temple and avoid killing himself with his own magic in the process.

In theory, it’s simple enough. But as secrets unfold and loyalties shift, Gray discovers something with the power to change the nature of life and death itself.

Now Gray must find a way to protect the people he loves, but it could cost him everything, even his soul . . .

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Jo Fletcher books kindly accepted my begging for a copy of this and this is a free copy (I will be buying this because yeah it is good and I need more books!)

This has been pitched as a bit of Schwab, Trudie Canavan, Novik and a few others. It feels like a high ask for this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I love the books from all three ladies.

However, reading this, neither of those names popped into my mind (say what?!). Instead, what came into mind was Terry Pratchett. I know, I am comparing high. And this is not a Discworld book. But Lord of Secrets has a lot of humour and it is reminescent of Pratchett’s.

It is that dark, gritty, life is hard but let’s make the best/worst of it, nevermind kind of humour. The book had me laughing a lot, and also made me want to read more fantasy books like Canavan’s or Pratchett’s and go into another world.

Gray is an intriguing character, and actually, all the characters are interesting and have a lot of layers. There’s very few “plot” characters (the ones that have names but that only really move plot and have no other purpose), and the plot is mostly carried by the characters and a little by the mystery.

Also, the actual Lord of Secrets and what all that implies was a fun take on necromancy and magic. Oh! Talking of magic! The magic system is wonderful! Write the spells and then say them. Oh but lo and behold, they have a price, they are in a way poisonous and each one has a different effect on you. Makes you consider using magic a little bit more (not that this seems to stop Gray, but then again, he just seems to be frequently in trouble so spells it has to be).

After reading this, I felt refreshed and almost like a “faith restored” feeling for fantasy. This was different to most of what I have recently read, and also in a way familiar enough, which made it cosy read.

Do note that this is not a young adult fantasy book, but properly just Fantasy (saying it is for adults doesn’t mean it is full of erotica, which it isn’t, or that only adults can read it). It deals with topics of family, death, and even slavery and abuse of the self. All with an interesting sense of humour, but still, it touches on topics that are a little bit less in the front of a younger adult/teenager than they would be for an adult. This is hard to explain without revealing important plot points which are good to come to rather than be spoiled.

Fallible Justice Review

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Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso

In Old London, where paranormal races co-exist with ordinary humans, criminal verdicts delivered by the all-seeing Heralds of Justice are infallible. After a man is declared guilty of murder and sentenced to death, his daughter turns to private investigator Yannia Wilde to do the impossible and prove the Heralds wrong.

Yannia has escaped a restrictive life in the Wild Folk conclave where she was raised, but her origins mark her as an outsider in the city. These origins lend her the sensory abilities of all of nature. Yet Yannia is lonely, and struggling to adapt to life in the city. The case could be the break she needs. She enlists the help of her only friend, a Bird Shaman named Karrion, and together they accept the challenge of proving a guilty man innocent.

So begins a breathless race against time and against all conceivable odds. Can Yannia and Karrion save a man who has been judged infallibly guilty?

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I discovered this gem of a book thanks to Louise Walter Books (who kindly provided me with a proof copy of the book and that gorgeous postcard) and Asha (who thought I’d love it because Yania, the main character has EDS, she was right, of course).

Now, if you don’t want to read the whole review, I can shorten it for you. It reminds me beautifully of the place I wish Dresden files had gone. It also evokes Patricia Briggs and Charles de Lint (making me want to read them again) and a bit of Anne Bishop.

If you are wondering who all the previous authors are, then you’ve missed out on a wonderful genre called Urban Fantasy (UF). Seriously, give it a go.

Now back to this book, and expanding on the “short version”. It is the story of a paranormal detective, and if you just go by that then it sounds a like a variety of UF books out there. However, I have to say that the writing itself is very good, the words flow and don’t get in the way of the story. There are descriptions but they aren’t shoved down your throat (thankfully) but rather you discover as you go.

The Old/New London concept was refreshing (she isn’t the first one to write communities of humans and others/magical beings coexisting) but for me, who lived in London for a bit and go there for work about once a month, it made it more “real”.

The lack of romance in the book also got bonus points for me(not that there isn’t any but rather it isn’t added as an afterthought or to attract you into it and be predictable)! And this makes the partnership between Yania and Karrion so much better.

Obviously I really appreciated the way Yania describes the pain of EDS, as someone with Hypermobility this was precious. I actually stopped after a paragraph and turned to my boyfriend and said “you should read this, it puts into words just how difficult living with this is” (he said he would if it was that important). So kudos for representation.

I could go on, which doesn’t happen a lot in my reviews because I dearly try not to spoil the story, and somehow, in this case I can skirt around the story and still praise this book a lot. I can’t wait for Echo Murder to come out (even though I haven’t even received my preorder of Fallible Justice yet, woops).

One last thing, I have a soft spot for Wishearth.

Moon recommends

Go buy Fallible Justice and read it of course. And maybe try the other authors I mentioned? Jim Butcher (Dresden Files), Patricia Briggs (my favourite is The Hob’s Bargain even if her closest work to Fallible Justice is Moon Called), Charles De Lint (The Riddle of the Wren) or Anne Bishop (Written in Red)

 

 

The Witch Boy Review

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The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag

In thirteen-year-old Aster’s family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn’t shifted . . . and he’s still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.

When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help — as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family . . . and be truly himself.

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Yes, there’s more graphic novels being reviewed here and that’s just because I have been able to find more fo the kind I like to read for prices I can afford to pay recently, so I am loving it.

This story intrigued me, but it turned to be very relevant to the times, as it tackles sewgregation. The magical family of Aster has very defined roles in magic, women become witches. Men become shapeshipters that fight and “protect”.

Aster can’t seem to find a spirit to shapeshift into, and instead has a good knack at witchery. But he keeps getting chased away. He makes a friend from the non maical side of town and starts sharing some of his troubles, and she encourages to do what he thinks is best and not let the predefined roles limit him.

Then, his talents turn out to solve the issue of the disappearing boys. Mostly because Aster has been listening and paying attention to both sides of magic, so he gets a better panorama plus he can do witchery. But it was also a part of “children can still teach things to adults”.

I am really looking forward to the next one!

Moon recommends

Read The Witch Boy, or check out Nimona, or if you prefer non graphic novels, then try The Apprentice Witch.

Half Bad Review

I’ve been trying to speed through my YALC list as the date approaches and thankfully I am not the only one so this was a buddy read and I didn’t do a full “Moon” on it (I usually work well with buddy reads up to the third day then I somehow end up finishing the book way before, this time I only read until the next part so not the end).

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Half Bad by Sally Green

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?

Half Bad is an international sensation and the start of a brilliant trilogy: a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive.

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The book starts quite childish and it was a quick start and easy to read (remember this was a buddy read so I ahd to stick to a number of pages per day). It didn’t feel like a chore to catch up with the pages of the day which is always a good sign and I enjoyed how the writing/ the voice of the book changed as NMathan gerw and learned more, as he discovered more and more about the world and who he is.

I absolutely abhorred the Council and was so annoyed at their practices which is a good thing because the villain is something you can well dislike.

I really enjoyed Rose and Mercury, and wasn’t too sure about Gabriel, but now I have so many questions that I hope get answered in the next books (it is a trilogy and thankfully I have all 3 already!), plus Smoke Thieves).

Funnily and sadly enough, this book was quite relevant to what is happening in the world around us and it was sad that it matches a lot of things that aren’t going well.

Moon Recommends

Try The Apprentice Witch because it reminded me of it as I read Half Bad. Maigc in many forms indeed!