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The Magicians Lie – Greer Macallister

Title: The Magician’s Lie

Author: Greer Macallister

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: The Amazing Arden is a up and coming magician. Her most famous trick is sawing a man in half. But one night her trick goes too far and ends up in a jail. Officer Virigil Holt is bound and determined to get her story straight and regain some of his honor. He learns of Arden’s past. From her humble beginnings as a servant with her single mother. At first she befriends a boy, Ray. Slowly Ray begins manipulating and hurting her. After he hurts her, he ‘heals’ her. After some time of this, Arden fleas. But Ray seems to find her every time she tries to settle down. Then she finds Adelaide Herrman, a master magician. She takes Arden under her wing. Then Arden goes off on her own and gets an agent, Clyde. The two fall in love, but the two are very similar have a falling out. Then Ray captures her and forces Arden to do whatever he wishes. Will Arden ever be free of Ray? Will her and Clyde reunite? Is Arden guilty or innocent?

Rating: 3.8 – This was an interesting read. It was a slow and steady read, but there was enough going on to keep me going.

Opinion: I enjoyed this book. It was a good balance of historical fiction and mystery. It was an interesting read because you started at the end and went back and forth from the past to the present. The air of mystery was good and not discouraging. There is even an air of magic in the book, the magic is slight and only two of the characters have the ‘healing’ ability. The book was a slow and steady read but still very entertaining. There is also a slow and steady build towards the end of the book, leading back up to the moment the book started at. It is a good read for anyone who wants a historical fiction laced with mystery and magic.

The Lost Books Series – Ted Dekker

Titles: 1 – Chosen, 2 – Infidel, 3 – Renegade, 4 – Chaos, 5 – Lunatic, 6 – Elyon

Author: 1-4 Ted Dekker, 5-6 Ted Dekker and Kaci Hill

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Plot: Chosen (Book 1) – Four new leaders are chosen to help lead the Forest Guard, they are the youngest chosen at sixteen and seventeen; Silvie, Darsal, Billos, and Johnis. The Forest Guard protects The Circle from The Horde. Johnis is considered an outsider, more a lover than a fighter. No one expects him to do well. But he was chosen for a reason. He was chosen by the Roush, messengers for Elyon (their god) to find the seven Lost Books of History. He was meant to lead the other three to find the books. The quest begins and they’re lead into the desert in search of the books. But they find the Shataiki, evil bats who serve Teelah (their satan) Will they find a book?Will they escape the Shataiki?

Infidel (Book 2) – They return home, heroes. Admist the celebration, Johnis learns that his mother may not be dead. This leads him on a mad quest to find her. Johnis will do whatever he can to find her. But it leads him, and many others into a trap that the Horde have set up. Johnis is now in deep trouble with the other leaders of the Forest Guard. He must be punished. But Johnis escapes to search for her mother. Against her better judgement, Silvie comes with. Together they search for her mother, who’s been captured by the Horde. But soon Johnis must chose between Silvie and his mother. Who will he chose? Or will he be able to save them both?

Renegade (Book 3) – Billos has disappeared into one of the Books of History. There he meets Marsuveus Black in the city of Paradise, Colorado. Black shows Billos that he has powers in this new city to make things appear at the snap of his fingers. He says that Billos can use this powers to find the other Books of History. But in order to get the books, Billos must get rid of anyone in his way. While Billos is searching for the book, Silvie, Johnis, and Darsal are searching for him. They find a way to go into the books as well. Billos has gone crazy with his powers. The other three try to knock some sense into him. Black turns on all of them. But is it too late? Will Black have the books? Will they be able to escape? Will they save the books?

Chaos (Book 4) – Johnis, Silve, and Darsal are transported into another world, what the reader would call our world, along with a new friend. Silvie and Johnis are transported to Las Vegas. They try to figure out how to navigate the new world, others are also watching and waiting. Silvie and Johnis are found by their new friend. Their friend tells them that she’s found some of the other Books of History. All they need to do is find one more and their quest is complete. But others are searching for it, too. Will they find it in time? Who are the others searching for the book? Where is Darsal? Will everyone be able to return home?

Lunatic (Book 5) – Johnis, Silvie, and Darsal, have returned home. But it’s been five years in their home world. Thomas and the circle have disappeared. Their forest has been taken over by the Horde. In their haste to escape, and keep the books hidden, Johnis and Silvie go in a different direction from Darsal. Darsal gets captured. Johnis and Silvie get lost in the desert. Johnis starts hearing a voice and follows it, despite Silvie’s protests and Johnis’s better judgment. It leads them to a being who can help them defeat the Horde. But at what cost? What will happen to Darsal?

Elyon (Book 6) – The gran finale. The medallion has been found. Johnis is still under Shaeda’s influence, and she’s taking more and more control. The deal has been made between Johnis and Sucrow. But that deal is shaky at best. Sucrow and Marak also have an uneasy treaty. Darsal is a slave to a Horde general, Marak. They have a way to enslave the Shaitaki, the medallion. But who will have that privilege? Will Johnis be free of Shaeda’s influence? What will happen if Sucrow succeed?

Rating: 3.0 – Off to a good start but became episodic.

Opinion: This is a good series, not amazing, but good enough to keep reading. Towards the third book, it began to feel episodic. Someone gets captured, someone else loses their book, or the bad guys take it, etc. The fourth ends well enough. The heroes save what they’re searching for, and the worlds. They get to go home. Hurray good has won!The fourth has a slight cliffhanger, but the ending doesn’t necessarily leave you wanting more. I could’ve been done with the series then. Books five and six are about their return home. They’re not tied to the first four very well. But they do leave the series on a happier ending. If you want to see what happens when they return home, then read those two. If you’re okay with how the first four ended, then you’re okay stopping. Overall these were good books, meant for someone a little younger than me, maybe high school or college. Middle school if the kid is okay with battles and some frightening images. If you’re looking for an easy read series, a gift for your book reading kid, then go for it.

The Fourth Flag – Jamie Barton

Title: The Fourth Flag

Author: Jamie Barton

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: Elsa Schmidt is a pretty girl living in Germany during WW2. The only problem is that she’s Jewish. Her father smuggles her and family out of Germany via currier. They go separately and reunite in Switzerland. To lessen her suspicion while travel, her mother hand makes her a swastika. Elsa’s courier is Markus Spielman. He has a hard heart and a hidden past. Can he put it aside to help Elsa escape? When they do escape, will anyone else meet them there? Elsa arrives first. While there she sees the struggle of others trying to make to safety. She begs Markus to let her help others escape to freedom. He reluctantly agrees. They get separated when Markus gets called away on anther mission. Will she be successful in helping? What if she gets caught? Will her and Markus ever be reunited? Will everyone survive the war? Who will not?

Rating: 4.5 – It’s a unique side of WW2. Accurate with some sappy romance, but not distracting.

Opinion: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Though it’s been a while since I’ve read it, I only have positive memories of it. The only thing that threw me for a loop was that the point of view suddenly changed. I loved the whole story. It was a part of history you don’t hear much about, the underground movement of WW2. Though I wasn’t surprised that it happened, just sad that I didn’t learn more about it sooner. This book is excellent and written by a local author, one of my high school’s history teacher. I’ve leant this book to some of my friends and they’ve all enjoyed it, too. It’s an easy read, but an excellent read.

The Golem and the Jinni – Helene Wecker

The sequel, The Hidden Palace, is available now.

Title: The Golem and the Jinni

Author: Helene Wecker

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Plot: A golem, a clay creature, named Chava is created by a rabbi as a companion for a man traveling to New York City. The man dies on the journey and Chava is left without a master. A local NYC rabbi takes her in. Chava wanders NYC and finds a job in a bakery. Ahmad is a jinni, a spirit made of fire and air, trapped in a copper flask and released, though still connected to the flask, by a local metal worker. Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends. Both learn how to live among humans. Both learn they are connected, and hunted. Who is hunting them? Why? Will they survive? How are they connected?

Rating: 4.0 – Good story, fantasy based on Jewish and Arabic myths and set in 1899 NYC with a bit of magic thrown in. Good views of a life of immigrants and wealthy.

Rating: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It had a great combination of fantasy and historical fiction. I also enjoyed the facts that the fantasy is based on mythology, and not European mythology either. Though the plot is a little slow, it gives a little more depth into the lives of different classes and peoples in NYC at the turn of the 20th century. The book has some great plot twists, too. And there were great changes in character importance, too. I thought this was a great book. It has a great blend of historical fiction and mythology based fantasy. Helene Wecker did a great job in her debut book.

All Souls Trilogy – Deborah Harkness

A side story to this trilogy is here: Time’s Convert

Title: All Souls Trilogy

Author: Deborah Harkness

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction

Plot: A Discovery of Witches (Book 1) – Diana Bishop is a witch, in a long line of witches, who doesn’t want to be a witch. She is a historian at Oxford and while doing research with a book called Ashmole 782 starts drawing the attention of other creatures, witches, deamons, and vampires. One vampire in particular, Matthew Clairmont, is keen to keep others at bay. Against her better judgment, Diana starts to trust Matthew. They start working together to learn about Ashmole 782. A high ranking witch, Peter Knox, wants the book, too. He’ll do whatever he can to get it. Out of fear for her safety, Matthew takes Diana to his family home in France. Diana learns more about Matthews long history as a vampire. She also learns she has powers no one has seen in ages. Someone kidnaps Diana out of the Clairmont’s castle. Matthew is out for revenge to get her back. He does, but at what cost? Diana returns to her parent’s house and starts to learn about her magical abilities. Her aunt’s teach her. But her enemies are closing in. She needs to escape. Her best bet, escape to the past. Will she do it? What will happen there?

Shadow of Night (Book 2) – Diana and Matthew are in Elizabethan London looking for Ashmole 782. Matthew introduces him to his friends in that time. But things are more complicated in that time. While there, Diana starts to look for a teacher who can teach her more than her aunts. But witches in this time are in hiding because of some witch hunts. Matthew finds a lead on the Ashmole 782. But the cannot escape until Matthew confronts part of his past. Diana gets the chance to meet more of Matthew’s family. Will Matthew’s family help them escape? Will Diana find a tutor? Will they find the book?

The Book of Life (Book 3) – Matthew and Diana have found all the clues they could about the Ashmole 782. They almost had it, but lost it. Now they have to track it down in the present. Diana is a powerful witch now. Diana and Matthew now have to find their allies within all of the creature communities. Their enemies are closing in. They have a hard time convincing everyone that what they have learned is true. Even among friends they are unsure of who to trust. Soon they find the book, but pages are still missing. Where are the missing pages? Who has them? How can they convince others about the book? What is in the book? Who can they trust?

Rating: 3.5 – great read, good fantasy, a little political, but the characters seem to stray away from what they’re looking for and go on side quests, if you will.

Opinion: I really enjoyed the series. Though I wasn’t a fan of how the books seemed to wander. The characters seemed to get distracted about why they were in certain areas. I loved the different take on fantasy, especially the new take on vampires. The book had a good, realistic magic system. I enjoyed learning about the history in parts of Europe you don’t normally hear about. Despite the characters getting distracted, it really was a good series. I recommend this series for those who want a good fantasy and historical fiction series. The first book is also a TV show, made by the BBC, I think. It takes out some of the drama of the book and adds some different aspects of mystery.

The Circle Series – Ted Dekker

Title: The Circle Series

Author: Ted Dekker

Genre: Fantasy, Realistic Fiction

Plots: Black (Book 1) – Thomas Hunter just moves to Colorado with his sister. Low on motivation, he works in a coffee shop while his sister is a nurse. This all changes when he is shot at and attacked on his way home from work one night. Thomas is knocked unconscious. While unconscious, he is transported to another world. He barely escapes a Black Forest. Then Thomas wakes up and is back in Colorado. From then on he when he sleeps in Colorado, he goes to the other world. The more he goes there the more he learns that it’s like Earth but after a deadly attack. If Thomas can stop the attack in his Earth in Colorado, maybe he can stop the attack in the other world. The race is on, but who will believe him? Can he save both worlds?

Red (Book 2) – Years have past in Thomas’s alternate Earth. He has become a great leader of the Forest People. But his enemy, the Horde, has grown. A boy, Justin, has risen among them. He wants to bring peace between the enemies. Justin wants them to love each other. His ideas are scoffed at, while few see his reason. Then it seems like Justin betrays Thomas and the Forest People and joins the Horde. The Horde threaten the Forest People when they think Justin has betrayed them, too. For that, Justin is killed and the Forest People, or the few who believe Justine’s words, flee. Meanwhile, on Earth, Thomas continues to convince leaders that the deadly attack is real and imminent. Will he succeed? Will the Forest People Survive?

White (Book 3) – Thomas and the Forest People are aided by a former Horde member who has defected and joined them. They seek the Books of Histories. Books that could help them win the war against the Horde. While sneaking in the Horde capital city, they meet the princess, Chelesie. Thomas is taken prisoner and made to be Chelesie’s slave. She takes Thomas to the library and shows him the books he needs. She asks him to read them in order so the Horde can win the war. Instead she learns to love Thomas and sees reason in Thomas’s side of things. Thomas’s commander’s are plotting a rescue. Will they rescue Thomas? Will Chelesie be convinced of the truth? Meanwhile, in Earth Thomas is almost out of time. The people in charge of the deadly attack have all that they need. They demand the world’s nuclear weapons in exchange for protection. Some countries agree. But they release the attack anyway. Can Thomas find a way to save both worlds or is it too late?

Green (Book 0) – Thomas has survived in the alternate reality. The Horde have almost won. His oldest son, wants one last rally to wipe the Horde from the planet. Thomas is adamantly against it. The Horde are planning their own attack. Thomas takes the Horde leader on a trip to Earth in an effort to help him change his mind. It back fires when he takes modern weapons back his him and his second in command. Thomas finds another way back. He travels to find another way to save the Forest People. He finds something that could help, but will it be enough?

Rating: 3.6 – Good series, sometimes the plot was hard to follow cause of the dual realities in the books.

Opinion: This was a great series. Green (Book 0) is meant to be read first or last. I read it first and was more confused than if I had read Black (Book 1) first. So if you’re going to read this series, read Red (Book 1) first. It explains the alternate reality better and gives more background to the characters. The realities are easy enough to keep separate but still can be confusing when it jumps back and forth between the two. Overall I liked the series. I’ve loved Ted Dekker’s books. His books always want me knowing more and this one is no different. This one is his most “normal” book(s) that I’ve read. It’s not too scary. It’s a little dark, but not compared to Ted Dekker’s other books. It explains the dual realities well without overwhelming the brain. I enjoyed the series, and recommend them if you don’t mind a dual reality book.

The Hatmaker’s Heart – Carla Stewart

Title: The Hatmaker’s Heart

Author: Carla Stewart

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: Purnella, or Nell as people call her, Marchwoth is an apprentice hat maker in 1922 New York. Originally from England, she works long hours to make ends meet. She’s trying to make a name for herself working for Oscar Field at his milliner’s shop. He’s a hard man to work for, very controlling and stifling and stingy. Oscar is quick to bring up her flaws and shortcomings, including her stutter. But Nell tries hard to please him. She soon impresses some wealthy clients and starts making more and more hats. All the while, Nell goes to see a speech therapist. The therapist starts to uncover the reason for Nell’s stutter. Nell receives an invitation to make hats for some ladies in London for a royal wedding. Oscar takes her and two assistants to help make hats. Oscar works Nell harder and longer hours. There she meet’s an old friend, Quentin, her first love. Emotions arise, but are soon made complicated. Nell learns that Oscar has had her followed. She becomes more and more conflicted about leaving after Oscar fails to deliver on promises. Will Nell stay at Oscar Field’s? Will Nell and Quentin stay friends? Or more?

Rating: 3.0 – There was not an amazing plot. It was hard to relate to the characters. It didn’t seem to have much of internal struggle.

Opinion: I found it hard to connect to the characters in the book. I feel like the author could’ve gone more into the backstories earlier on. While learning about part of 1920’s history was interesting, the plot was simple. There didn’t seem to be much internal conflict in the main characters. The characters made difficult decisions without too much difficulty. The author left it to mystery but I didn’t love how she did it. It was a quick and read. So if you’re looking for that, check this book out.

As You Wish – Cary Elwes

Title: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

Author: Cary Elwes

Genre: Memoir

Plot: Cary Elwes, who plays Westly in The Princess Bride, talks about his time filming the classic movie. He talks about how he was cast in the movie, the classic scenes (the fight scene, Miracle Max scene, end scene kiss, pit of despair, and fire swamp), his co-stars, behind the scenes, and his sword fight training. He also talked about the fame of his co-stars and how he was the most inexperienced actor. Cary was in awe of the fact that he got to work with such an incredible cast and crew. The book added quotes from Cary’s co-stars, director, and assistant director through out the book. They talk about their time filming the movie, and what they thought of certain scenes, and what happened according to their point of view. Cary talked about how intense his and Mandy Patikan’s (Inigo Montoya) fencing training was. They practiced for months before shooting began and during breaks between filming with two of the best stuntmen and sword fighters in movie making at the time. At last Cary talked about how filming The Princess Bride made a lasting impression on him and some of his co-stars. He accepted the fact that this will be his most well recognized film, and is okay with that. He enjoyed the friendships and memories that he made. He was proud to work on a film that will always remain a classic.

Rating: 4.2 – Fun story about the behind the scenes of a classic movie – The Princess Bride. Cary Elwes (Westly) talks about how he was cast and what happened on and off the set.

Opinion: I got kicks and giggles out of this book. I’ve seen the movie countless times and can quote most of it. I enjoyed learning about how one of my favorite movies was made. It’s easy to forget how much work goes into making a movie. Cary Elwes and Mandy Patikan’s sounded intense and back breaking. It made me wonder if they still remember their fencing moves because of how much they practiced. I got lots of laughs learning that Billy Crystal (Miracle Max) was pretty much given free reign with his scene and that the director and Cary Elwes got kick off set because they couldn’t stop laughing. It’s also easy to forget that even experienced actors feel inadequate for their roles. Wallance Shawn (Fezzini or the inconceivable guy) gave himself hives because he was so worked up about being replaced. After getting a minor injury, Cary, too, felt like he’d be replaced. But the director thought them perfect for their roles and kept them on. I enjoyed learning that the author of the book the movie was based off of wrote the screenplay. I found it curious that no one wanted to produce for years because it was hard to categorize into one genre. It didn’t gain much popularity until it came out on VHS 10 years after it was in theaters. I loved learning more about the making of a classic, and one of my favorite, movies. I hope to read the book it was based off soon. I also hope others can get as much enjoyment out of this book as I did.

The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter – John Pipkin

Title: The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter

Author: John Pipkin

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: The book follows a couple characters, Caroline Ainsworth, Arther Ainsworth, William Hershel, Caroline Hershel, Finnagen (Finn) O’Siodha, and James Sammuels during the mid-1700’s and follows them through the early-1800’s in England and Ireland. All are connected through astronomy. Arther Ainsworth is Caroline Ainsworth’s “father.” Caroline A was given to Arther in secret after his wife and children die in childbirth. Caroline was found by Finn on his way to his adoptive family. His adoptive family’s father is a blacksmith who already has enough mouths to feed, but takes them in anyway. The family calls Caroline A Siobhan. An accident at the forge left Caroline A with a withered arm. Still Arther takes her in out of grief in exchange for a chance for Finn’s adoptive family to own their own land that they rent from Arther in exchange for the child and making and/or fixing astronomy equipment. Arther teaches Caroline A everything he knows about astronomy. She helps Arther with his calculations. Arther is determined to find a new planet. But William Hershel, with some help from his sister Caroline H, gets lucky and finds one first. Arther goes crazy trying to find his planet. After Arther goes blind and dies, Caroline A flees Ireland for England.

William and Caroline Hershel grew up in Germany but moved to England. Both are musicians who love astronomy. They give music lessons by day and watch the stars by night. William finds something new in the sky and tracks it until he is sure of what it is, a new planet. He names it George’s Star (later called Uranus).

Finn travels to Scotland after Caroline A leaves for England. He becomes a tinker and fixer, fixing medical equipment and helping those who can’t afford to pay. All the while, trying to find something to help with Caroline A’s withered arm. After seeing something unusual in a town market, it gives him an idea. When his trials scare the locals, Finn fleas for Ireland.

James Sammuels was a former student of the Hershel siblings. When we meet him again, he is a secretary for the English landlords in Dublin. He has a strange sleeping disorder, that confuses the local doctors. He dreams of traveling, but his disorder, and his fear, keep him from his dream. He tells his story of the Irish rebellion from the lofty vantage point in Dublin.

Then it goes through all of their journeys through the Irish rebellion. Caroline returns to Ireland to sell her astronomy equipment after helping male astronomers with their calculations. She and Finn reconnect. They fall in love only for Finn to be roped into fighting with the United Irishmen and being their blacksmith. Will Finn survive? Will Caroline and Finn be reunited? What will happen to James?

Rating: 3.0 – Not a bad read. Not the most thrilling book I’ve ever read. Not a fan of the time jumps and how the author switches characters.

Opinion: This was not my favorite book. I found myself skimming parts. While I enjoyed learning about astronomy and Irish and English history during the mid-1700’s to early 1800’s I found the plot boring. The story started at one point, jumped back 30 years, and took 150 pages to get back to the starting point. The author is great with details, but added too many details for my liking. I thought the book would center around the Ainsworth’s and Finn and his family, but the author added other characters that added more to the history of the time than the actual plot. The book itself was not at all bad, it just focused more on the history and details than I was expecting and seemed to diverge from the main plot points too much for my liking. If you don’t mind time jumps and chapter character switches, then read this book.

From This Moment – Elizabeth Camden

Summer of Dreams is a short story in relation with this book.

Title: From This Moment

Author: Elizabeth Camden

Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: The story takes place in Boston Massachusetts while the city is building their subway system. Stella White is an amazing artist and illustrator. She has recently returned to Boston to find out what happened to her sister Gwen. Stella tries to be inconspicuous, but quickly makes enemies and annoys many. Romulus White has been trying to get Stella to work for his science magazine, Science World. Stella agrees to work for Romulus if he’ll help her find out what happened to her sister. Both are very similar and get along amazingly. But forces are trying to tear them apart. Someone doesn’t want Stella finding out what happened to her sister. Someone else wants to defame and discredit his magazine. Who is responsible? Why does someone want to do this? What really happened to Stella’s sister?

Rating: 3.5 – Good read, some sappy romance, Christian themes, lots of historical facts, realistic relationships, some good plot twists, steady read

Opinion: This was a very steady read. It kept me entertained. There were lots of good historical references. The relationships seem a little cheesy to me but are realistic. The couples talk about their problems and work through them. They fight and argue and storm away. After some time, they return, talk things through, and apologize. In the end they all realize that they are imperfect people trying to work through their imperfections. They try to make each other better. That’s what kept me reading. If you’re looking for a cute romantic, historical fiction book, read From This Moment.