Deadliest Sin by Jeri Westerson


Description

Crispin Guest is summoned to a London priory to unmask a merciless killer. Can he discover who is committing the deadliest of sins? 

1399, London. A drink at the Boar’s Tusk takes an unexpected turn for Crispin Guest, Tracker of London, and his apprentice, Jack Tucker, when a messenger claims the prioress at St. Frideswide wants to hire him to investigate murders at the priory. Two of Prioress Drueta’s nuns have been killed in a way that signifies two of the Seven Deadly Sins, and she’s at her wits end.

Meanwhile, trouble is brewing outside of London when the exiled Henry Bolingbroke, the new Duke of Lancaster, returns to England’s shores with an army to take back his inheritance. Crispin is caught between solving the crimes at St. Frideswide’s Priory, and making a choice once more whether to stand with King Richard or commit treason again.

My Thoughts

The final Crispin Guest story?!? I was crushed when I read the author’s introduction to The Deadliest Sin because I have enjoyed this series very much. Here, we find Crispin’s past returning with a vengeance when his former Lord and Master John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, dies in the first chapter, foreshadowing radical historical events that will change Guest’s life.

At the same time, he is called in as The Tracker of London to unravel a series of brutal murders happening in a a Priory where nuns are being killed according to the Seven Deadly Sins. This part of the story is a tricky mystery which Guest handles with his usual aplomb, discovering the truth behind the murders about halfway through the books, leaving the remaining chapters to deal with the brewing battle between Henry and Richard for the English throne.

Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy this series. I would recommending starting the series from the beginning, although this one can be read on its own.

Publication Date: December 7, 2021
Published By: Canongate Books; Severn House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Spanish Daughter by Lorena Hughes


Description

Set against the lush backdrop of early twentieth century Ecuador and inspired by the real-life history of the coastal town known as the birthplace of cacao, this captivating #OwnVoices novel from the award-winning author of The Sisters of Alameda Street tells the story of a resourceful young chocolatier who must impersonate a man in order to survive…

Puri inherited two things from her father: a passion for chocolate, and a cacao plantation located in Ecuador. After learning the art of chocolate-making from her grandmother, Puri opened a chocolate shop in her native Spain. But the Great War that devastated Europe has also ruined her business. Eager to learn more about the source of her beloved chocolate, Puri sets out across the ocean with her husband,
Cristóbal. But someone is angered by Puri’s claim to the plantation…

When a mercenary sent to murder her aboard the ship accidentally kills Cristóbal instead, Puri dons her husband’s clothes and assumes his identity, hoping to stay safe while she learns the truth. Though freed from the rules that women are expected to follow, Puri confronts other challenges at the plantation—newfound siblings, hidden affairs, and her father’s dark secrets. Then there are the dangers awakened by her attraction to an enigmatic man as she tries to learn the identity of an enemy who is still at large, threatening the future she is determined to claim…

My Thoughts

The story is just outright captivating. Puri’s disguise – will she or won’t she be discovered?? — had me turning pages as quickly as possible. Her budding relationships with her newly found siblings also add to the tension, and all of this human emotion and action set against the gorgeous backdrop of early 20th century Ecuador’s chocolate plantations make this a winner.

I am an impatient reader at times, so I appreciated that the story begins right away. There is no tedious backstory build-up; the author reveals details of the past throughout the book which complement the action taking place.

I have also come to appreciate beautifully descriptive writing that makes the setting pop off the page. This is the second book set in Ecuador I’ve read recently, and I am now captivated by this lush and beautiful country. It’s the landscape that is just as important to this story as the cast of characters., reminding me a bit of the descriptive landscape chapters in Grapes of Wrath.

At its heart, this is a story about family and how choices can build or break a family unit, no matter how tight or loosely connected the individuals. I can see this one making the rounds of 2022 book discussion groups. So well done.

Publication Date: December 28, 2021
Published by: Kensington Books
Thanks to the Publisher for the review copy

Year-End Micro Reviews


Finally getting around to sharing the last bit of my reading for 2021 in these micro reviews!

The Curse of Morton Abbey by Clarissa Harwood
Thornfield Press, October 2021 – Fans of traditional gothic romance novels will savor this spooky, dark, melodramatic story that features one of the coolest, bravest characters I’ve read in a while. All the elements are here: the crumbling and isolated mansion, the flawed characters with tragic pasts, the crying child in the night, the villagers who shun the property and the family, capped by the plucky girl and the curmudgeonly master of the house. The plot is predictable and familiar, exactly what I was looking for after a long day at work. This will give you a few hours of distraction and enjoyment.

The Steal by M.J. Rose and C.W. Gortner
Bluebox Press, August 2021 – A fun, clever romp through Cannes, Paris, and New York featuring a classy, smart jewelry artist and business executive paired with a rumpled, smart-alecky ex-soldier turned insurance investigator. This is the kind of book you pick up in an airport and devour in between and on flights then leave somewhere for another bored traveler. Overall appealing writing and a fanciful plot that whisks you through the fairyland of post-war Europe inhabited by film stars and very rich people. This would make a wonderful madcap rom-com-mystery movie. A very pleasant interlude….

A Secret Never Told by Shelley Noble
Macmillan-Tor/Forge, February 2022 – This is a well-written, nicely crafted mystery that will appeal to readers who enjoy historical suspense. Nothing tremendously unusual here, but still a nicely done mystery featuring a strong female lead.

The Hanged Man’s Tale by Gerald Jay
Doubleday Books, December 2021 – I dip in and out of French police procedurals and thought it was time to check out this author again. I’ve enjoyed his work, and was not disappointed in this one. Readers will find a cleverly plotted, well-written story that will keep their interest. The tarot element adds a mysterious creepiness to hunt for the serial killer.

The Witching Tree by Alice Blanchard
St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, December 2021 – The writing here is very well done – lush descriptions, good pacing – and the characters what you’d expect in a suspense novel. The beginning sucks you in and the story unfolds in a way that keeps the reader interested. My only issue is that I found the ending a little odd, almost as if a chapter was missing. Maybe a sequel will appear.

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal
Atria Books, February 2022 – Circus stories seem to be on the rise again, and Macneal has given us a dark but joyful look into a 19th century traveling show. Knowing what was going to happen to Nell made the first couple chapters very difficult to read, but the stage was set for her life to really take off. Macneal has written a story full of love, deception, and ultimately independence, made real by the colorful characters juggling and leaping through the pages. I’ll be recommending this one for book groups for sure.

The Burning Pages by Paige Shelton
St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, April 2022 – I have turned to cozy mysteries more and more this year, and Paige Shelton’s Scottish Bookshop series is one of my favorites. I enjoy the way Shelton has developed the characters by putting each of them at the center of the mystery. In this entry, we learn the backstory for Hamlet, Delaney’s co-worker at the bookshop. We also learn a bit more about Rosie, Edwin, and Delaney’s brother Wyatt. As usual, the mystery is interesting and well-researched, keeping my attention to the end. I recommend this series frequently and will continue to do so.

Thanks to Netgalley.com for the review copies of these books.

The Murder Dance by Sarah Rayne


Description

Researching the history of a dilapidated Elizabeth manor house, Phineas Fox uncovers the shocking truth behind a mysterious – and deadly – dance.

Having unexpectedly inherited an Elizabethan manor house in rural Norfolk, new owner Quentin Rivers has asked Phineas Fox to investigate the house’s history. Phin soon becomes immersed in The Tabor’s dark and mysterious past, and in the course of his research uncovers tales of a curious dance, the Cwellan Daunsen: a dance that has not been performed for centuries but whose strange legend still lingers. The dance has a dark side; whenever it took place, children were told to stay indoors – and on no account to look through their windows . . .

As Phin delves further, the terrible secrets of The Tabor and the Rivers family ancestors begin to reveal themselves, secrets stretching back more than six hundred years. But as the past gradually creeps up on the present, is history destined to repeat itself . . . ?

A darkly chilling novel of Gothic suspense which will appeal to fans of DAPHNE DU MAURIER, LAURA PURCELL and PHIL RICKMAN.

My Thoughts

Sarah Rayne offers a new mystery for Phineas Fox and Arabella Tallis, which is just as good as the previous entries in the series. I enjoy Rayne’s template of creating an imaginative mystery tied to a mysterious performance piece buried in the past. Here it is a dance – the Murder Dance, which children were not allowed to witness and which has haunted a family and a village for generations.

Rayne is skilled at blending suspense in the present with the same in the past and weaving a tale that encompasses both. Her present day characters seek to unravel the past while also dealing with trauma, deception, and betrayal in the present. Rayne’s creation of the mystery from the past is always intriguing and seemingly well-researched. The Murder Dance is just as creepy and horrifying as the Executioner’s Song in her last book.

Here, too, we see Phin’s relationship with Arabella progress and we get to know Arabella a bit more intimately. They make a great team, and I particularly like how Rayne writes the couple as intellectual equals. The other present day characters, cousins Quentin and Zillah, are two of the creepiest I’ve read in a while.

I recommend Rayne’s books all the time and this one will be no different. Well done!

Publication Date: January 4, 2022
Published By: Severn House; Canongate Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Searcher by Tana French

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Description

Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a bucolic Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens. But when a local kid whose brother has gone missing arm-twists him into investigating, Cal uncovers layers of darkness beneath his picturesque retreat, and starts to realize that even small towns shelter dangerous secrets.

“One of the greatest crime novelists writing today” (Vox) weaves a masterful, atmospheric tale of suspense, asking what we sacrifice in our search for truth and justice, and what we risk if we don’t.

My Thoughts

I was late to the Tana French party, but I worked my way through most of her books during lockdown and am a fan. The Searcher is a bit of a departure, but a welcome one. As expected, the characters are well-developed and feel like friends by the end (at least, some of them do!). One of the things I love about French’s books is the weird twist somewhere in the story, and it’s here for sure.

French carefully develops a sensitive and somewhat endearing relationship here between Cal and Trey, juxtaposed against Cal’s relationship with his own child, now an adult. The tough, Chicago cop finds himself in a situation where all his cop training is put to use, but this time within the fragile world of Trey Reddy where he really cares about the outcome on Trey’s behalf.

French also nails the small-town-closes-ranks trope but writes the “bad guys” in a way that is matter-of-fact but also a bit…sentimental. Think Clint Eastwood saying “Get off my lawn!” then beating the crap out of a bunch of punks.

Tana French is, in my opinion, one of the best crime fiction novelists writing today. Fans will enjoy this one, but it will appeal to new readers as well.

Publication Date: November 2, 2021
Published By: Penguin Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Maid by Nita Prose


Description

A charmingly eccentric hotel maid discovers a guest murdered in his bed. Solving the mystery will turn her once orderly world upside down in this utterly original debut.

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.

“Smart, riveting, and deliciously refreshing . . . a murder mystery with tremendous heart.”—Lisa Jewell, #1 New York Timesbestselling author of The Family Upstairs

My Thoughts

If you love well-crafted mysteries with a surprising end, this is your book for January. The character of Molly the Maid is one of the most original and endearing characters I’ve come across, and the cast of characters here is remarkable.

This isn’t just a mystery. It is a sensitive and heartwarming treatment of what it means to be different and how those things that make a person “different” also make them exceptionally human. The peek into the inner life of someone who interacts with the world differently than other people, someone who is considered “weird,” is handled with such compassion and matter-of-factness that the reader feels what it’s like to be Molly and comes away knowing that “weird” isn’t “bad.”

The surprise ending is a bit jarring but I think it could generate some great discussion among book clubs regarding Molly’s aversion to liars and cheaters expressed early in the book and how the story ends.

Nita Prose is an author to watch. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: January 4, 2022
Published By: Random House – Ballantine
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova


Description

The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—not for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed into a ceiba tree, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings and powers. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, her descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.

Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is a “spellbinding tale, both timeless and fresh, that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. Prepare to fall in love” (Kim Liggett, New York Times bestselling author).

My Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in August and was immediately drawn to the cover art, which is simply beautiful. I discovered that beauty was carried through to the text as soon as I began reading.

This is the story of a woman who began life as an unwanted child, a burden to her mother and an embarrassment to her stepfather, but beloved among the downtrodden in her village, who became the matriarch of a remarkable family. As a child, Orquidea wanted nothing more than to please her mother and take care of the people who needed help. She is portrayed as a resilient, clever child with a strong will who sees more to the world than most people. Cordova begins building the layers of Orquidea from the beginning, slowly moving towards the action that defines Orquidea’s adult life and the lives of her descendants.

Cordova has mastered the art of magical realism, blending magic with everyday life as naturally as a tree grows and gives life. The tree imagery runs through the story, beginning with Orquidea’s transformation into a ceiba tree, sacred to her people. It is believed that the souls of the dead ascend to the top of the trees to go to heaven. It was also a connection between all three worlds, the underworld, earth and heaven. Here, it is Orquidea, the matriarch, creating links between the past, the present, and the future.

The introduction of the fallen star reminded me of one of my very favorite books of 2020 – Quintessence by Jess Redman, a children’s book that used the fallen star imagery to remind us that we all have a light inside us and we just have to figure out how to ignite it. Orquidea understands that and does her best to help her descendants find their light. She uses the fallen star to wish her way into freedom.

This is also a story about obsession and possession. It’s a familiar trope – a woman running from a man who wants to consume and control her. Here, Orquidea finds the power and courage to escape but not without consequences. She lives with those consequences for 40 years before finally confronting her fear and anger and breaking free of him and it forever.

There are so many things to love about this book, but what brings it all together is Cordova’s gorgeous prose. She has mastered description and dialog and every word and phrase is exactly as it should be to create magic. She is a writer to watch and I look forward to more of her work.

This is my “Best of 2021” pick, for sure. I’ll be recommending this for a long time to come.

Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Published by: Simon & Schuster, Atria Books
Thanks to the publisher for an advanced reading copy

Author Spotlight – Heather Weidner

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Through the years, Heather Weidner has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers is the first in her cozy mystery series, the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries. She also writes the Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series set in Virginia. 

Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of CabernetDeadly Southern Charm, and Murder by the Glass, and her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series. Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

You’re getting ready to release a new cozy mystery series that features “glamping.” What inspired you to write this series? What other books have you written? 

My husband does a lot of restoration projects (vintage cars, boats, and room remodels), so we watch a lot of renovation shows. We landed on one where a team refurbished vintage trailers, and I thought this would be a cool twist on a traditional campground. Jules Keene owns the Fern Valley Camping Resort full of posh trailers that she and her father saved from the scrapheap. It’s so much fun coming up with cool amenities for “glamorous camping.”

I write the Jules Keene series. This is the first. The next two are FILM CREWS AND RENDEZVOUS, and CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AND CAT FIGHTS. I also write the Delanie Fitzgerald series. She’s a sassy PI from Central Virginia who gets into way more trouble than I do.

Describe a typical writing day for you. 

I still have a day gig in IT, so I try to write every day. I start at 5 AM, and I write until works starts at 7:30. Then I write during lunch, and if I didn’t hit my word count, then I’ll do some more in the evenings.

Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books? 

There are so many. My mystery habit started out with the Nancy Drew series and Agatha Christie. I’m still an English major at heart, so I love Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Austen, Hitchcock, and Dickinson, but I always gravitate back to mysteries and thrillers. My favorites are Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, John Grisham, S. A. Cosby, K. L. Murphy, Kellye Garrett, Ellen Byron, Laura Childs, Libby Klein, Sherry Harris, Louise Penny, Diane Kelly, and Bree Baker (to name just a few).

What things influence your writing?

I’m a C. K. (cop’s kid). I thought everyone talked about murder, mayhem, and crime at the dinner table. (I was shocked to find out that they didn’t.) One of my first jobs as a kid was to pick up the shell casings on the range after my dad practiced. He’s retired now after 46 years on the force, but he’s still my best resource. There are just some things that you don’t want to Google like, “hey dad, what’s a meth lab smell like” or “how long would a body stay submerged if I weighted it down with a cinderblock.”

I think the people around me are big influencers, too. They all have great stories to tell. I listen to dialogue, and I’m always jotting down ideas that often make it into a story.  

What do you want readers to experience when they read your work?

I would love for them to experience a fun story and be challenged by a mystery with a lot of possibilities. I also want them to see that it’s not always about the murder or the crime. It’s about justice and fair play winning in the end.  

What kind of research do you conduct for your books?

I actually do a lot of research for fiction. I want to make sure that things I mention are real or plausible. For VINTAGE TRAILERS AND BLACKMAILERS, I did a lot of research on classic campers and tiny houses. I am fascinated by both, and people have done some really creative things. Jules Keene decorates each trailer with a theme, so I do research to make sure my history and details are correct.

Describe a book that changed your life.

That’s a tough one because I learn something from every book. I like books that inspire me and that generate creative ideas. Going back to elementary school, I was fascinated with the Nancy Drew series. My friend and I raced through the whole collection at the school library and later at the public library that summer. Nancy was teen who was able to solve crimes that the adults couldn’t. She had great friends, a cool car, and the freedom to sleuth. I loved that she was a normal teenager, and that was inspiring to a little girl in the fifth grade.

If your books were to made into films, who do you see in the major roles? 

Jules has long red hair. I could see Chloe Grace Mortez, Florence Pugh, or Hayden Panettiere as my sleuth. Tyler Posey or Taylor Lautner could play Jake, and I see Kyra Sedgewick, Mary Steenburgen, or Helena Bonham Carter as Jules’s aunt, Roxanne.

I’m a Gen-Xer who loves pop culture, so the book does have some movie allusions. Jules’s name came from Demi Moore’s character in ST. ELMO’S FIRE, and Jake was named after Jake Ryan in SIXTEEN CANDLES.

What book do you think everyone should read? 

I think people should read everything they can get their hands on. Read lots of genres and different authors. Read different cultures and points of view. To be a good writer, I think you need to be well read. (And you can never have too many books.)

What book are you recommending right now? 

It’s always the book that I’m reading at the moment. There are so many good books out there. I’m reading the Louise Penny Gamache mysteries right now. I just finished THE NATURE OF THE BEAST. Next up is S. A. Cosby’s RAZORBLADE TEARS. I loved his first novel, BLACKTOP WASTELAND.

 Social Media Links

Website and Blog: http://www.heatherweidner.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeatherWeidner1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherWeidnerAuthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heather_mystery_writer/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8121854.Heather_Weidner

Amazon Authors: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HOYR0MQ

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/HeatherBWeidner/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heather-weidner-0064b233?trk=hp-identity-name

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-weidner-d6430278-c5c9-4b10-b911-340828fc7003

Book Summary

There is nothing like finding a dead body, clad only in a red satin thong, on your property to jolt you from a quiet routine. Jules Keene, owner of the posh Fern Valley Camping Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is thrust into the world of the Dark Web when one of her guests, Ira Perkins, is found murdered in the woods near her vintage trailers. Jules quickly discovers that the man who claimed to be on a writing retreat was not what he seemed, and someone will go to any length to find what he left at her resort. Jules, along with her Jack Russell Terrier sidekick Bijou, has to put the rest of the missing pieces of a blackmailing scheme together before her business is ruined.

Jules’s resort, set in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains near Charlottesville in the quaint town of Fern Valley, offers guests a unique vacation in refurbished and upcycled vintage trailers. Hoping to expand her offerings, she partners with her maintenance/security guy to create a village of tiny houses, the latest home DIY craze, but a second murder of a reporter interrupts Jules’s expansion plans. Curiosity gets the best of her, and she steps up her sleuthing to find out what Ira Perkins was really up to and what he was really hiding at her resort.

Book Links

Apple Books: ‎Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers on Apple Books

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09GGBFWT5

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Vintage-Trailers-Blackmailers-Heather-Weidner/dp/1685120369

Barnes and Noble: Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers by Heather Weidner, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

BookBub: Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers: A Jules Keene Glamping Mystery by Heather Weidner – BookBub

BookShop: Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers a book by Heather Weidner (bookshop.org)

Booktopia: Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers eBook by Heather Weidner | 9781685120375 | Booktopia

FNAC: Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers – Dernier livre de Heather Weidner – Précommande & date de sortie | fnac

Goodreads: Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers by Heather Weidner | Goodreads

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/vintage-trailers-and-blackmailers

Target: Vintage Trailers And Blackmailers – By Heather Weidner (paperback) : Target Thalia: Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers von Heather Weidner – eBook | Thalia

Luminous by Mara Rutherford


Description

“Wonderfully lush and enthralling.” —Erin A. Craig, New York Times bestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrows

From the author of Crown of Coral and Pearl comes an immersive new fantasy about a witch who must learn to harness her power—or risk losing her loved ones forever.

Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.

To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos—and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.

“A beautiful, enchanting tale of a young woman coming into her own powers. Luminous shines as brightly as its heroine.” —Joan He, New York Times bestselling author of The Ones We’re Meant to Find

“Shining prose, radiant characters, and a love story that burns bright.” —Elly Blake, New York Times bestselling author of the Frostblood Saga

My Thoughts

This captivating tale of a young girl discovering her own power falls somewhere between A Court of Thorn & Roses and MarcyKate Connolly’s Shadow Weaver, meaning it will appeal to advanced middle grade readers as well as to teens and adults who enjoy fantasy.

The story is familiar – a young girl must hide her powers to keep herself and her family safe, but in Rutherford’s hands readers are treated to some first class world-building and character development. Rutherford draws inspiration from multiple places – e.g. the use of three sisters, the weaving of fate from Greek mythology, even The Nothing from Neverending Story which is how I interpreted Darius – but the story she creates in wholly hers and it’s one of the best things I’ve read lately. While the main character Liora was charming and brave, I was utterly captivated by the character of Margana and thought her fate, while unexpected, was well-done.

Highly Recommended.

Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Published by: Inkyard Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo


Description

A 2021 People Magazine Best Books of Fall Winner!

From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and two-time Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall comes a fantastical meditation on fate, love, and the power of words to spell the world.

We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.

In a time of war, a mysterious child appears at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. Gentle Brother Edik finds the girl, Beatryce, curled in a stall, wracked with fever, coated in dirt and blood, and holding fast to the ear of Answelica the goat. As the monk nurses Beatryce to health, he uncovers her dangerous secret, one that imperils them all—for the king of the land seeks just such a girl, and Brother Edik, who penned the prophecy himself, knows why.

And so it is that a girl with a head full of stories—powerful tales-within-the-tale of queens and kings, mermaids and wolves—ventures into a dark wood in search of the castle of one who wishes her dead. But Beatryce knows that, should she lose her way, those who love her—a wild-eyed monk, a man who had once been king, a boy with a terrible sword, and a goat with a head as hard as stone—will never give up searching for her, and to know this is to know everything. With its timeless themes, unforgettable cast, and magical medieval setting, Kate DiCamillo’s lyrical tale, paired with resonant black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall, is a true collaboration between masters.

My Thoughts

Kate DiCamillo just keeps on writing perfect books. The Beatryce Prophecy is storytelling at it finest, with endearing characters and a compelling, folktale-like story led by a remarkable and memorable trio of characters. However, if you count the goat, it’s really a group of four!

All the elements of a story are here – characters that leap off the page; a well-constructed plot that keeps the reader turning pages; a setting defined by vivid description; and a tension that grips you by the hands and pulls you along to the very satisfying conclusion.

This would make a lovely classroom read-aloud that could be used to spark discussion on a number of topics, including equity in education.

Highly recommended.

Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Published By: Candlewick Press
Thanks to Edelweiss+ for the review copy