Great Reads

Bretton, Barbara. Casting Spells

Chloe Hobbs is a knitter of almost supernatural powers, and her shop, Sticks and Strings, has been named the number one knitting shop in New England two years in a row. But she’s the only inhabitant of small-town Sugar Maple, Vermont who invites any outside interest.  Sugar Maple, the ultimate cozy New England small town, was founded by Chloe’s sorceress ancestor as a haven for all the witches, warlocks, vampires, werewolves, pixies, fairies, and other supernatural beasties under attack by New England’s more mundane residents in places like Salem.  A spell woven by that ancestor is maintained by the presence of a Hobbs woma in town, and Chloe is the last. But she is only half-sorceress—her father was human—and the spell is weakening. So the town has been throwing an assortment of hunky supernatural fellows her way, hoping for sparks. Those sparks don’t fly, however, until human police officer Luke McKenzie comes to Sugar Maple to investigate the suspicious death of a human tourist. He’s exactly the wrong man for Chloe, but it’s love at first sight for them both and Chloe’s powers blossom just in time to help protect the town from her greatest rival—a faery queen of terrifying power.

Sweet, cozy, and charming, “Casting Spells” is a quietly pleasant read even for non-knitters.

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O'Malley, Daniel. The Rook

"The body you are wearing used to be mine."  So begins the letter that Myfanwy Thomas finds after opening her eyes in the middle of a public park surrounded by dead bodies and with no memory of who she is or what has just happened.  Her former self, it turns out, knew the amnesia was coming and prepared carefully, giving her future amnesiac personality two choices: To begin a brand-new life, far from England, under an assumed identity; or to take up the life and persona of Myfanwy Thomas and figure out who betrayed her and caused the amnesia.  Myfanwy (it rhymes with “Tiffany”) chooses the latter, and, via reams of letters and notes left for her by her former self, discovers that she is a Rook, a high-ranking executive in the Checquy Group, a secret supernatural agency policing the British empire and keeping it safe from super- and paranormal threats.  She also discovers that, despite her job and her own paranormal abilities, the former Myfanwy Thomas was actually a pretty boring person with a pretty boring life.  Keeping her amnesia secret proves to be difficult when she realizes that she’s a much more forceful personality than the one which formerly inhabited her body.  Meanwhile, at least one other member of the Checquy’s ruling body knows about her altered circumstances because Myfanwy was betrayed from within the organization, making it impossible for her to trust any of her compatriots—and whoever attacked Myfanwy won’t stop there. The safety and security of all of Britain is under threat and only the new Myfanwy can stop it.

Debut author O’Malley takes the concept of a secret supernatural government agency and makes it entirely his own, with a witty and unique spin on the superhumans among us. An appealing main character and liberal doses of genuine humor further enliven this already thrilling supernatural suspense story. Sequels are to be hoped for!

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Sanderson, Brandon. The Alloy of Law

Sanderson’s sequel to his popular “Mistborn” series is set three hundred years after the events of “The Hero of Ages” and society and technology have advanced accordingly, bringing his fantasy world up to a level roughly equivalent to our own Victorian/Wild West era.  Waxillium Ladrian, or Wax, is a Twinborn gifted with both Allomantic and Feruchemical powers.  Born into a noble family, Wax fled the glittering capitol city of Elendel as a young man to become a lawkeeper out in the wild Roughs. Now older, perhaps wiser, and certainly more jaded, he has returned to take up his role as the head of the Ladrian family following the death of his uncle. He has resolved to give up the coarse lifestyle of a backwoods lawman and marry for the good of his family, but soon finds that the city can be just as dangerous as the Roughs. A band of outlaws known as the Vanishers have been mysteriously robbing train cars and kidnapping noble women, then vanishing without a trace.  When Wax’s own intended becomes one of those captives, he, his wise-cracking parter Wayne, and his intended’s bright cousin Marasi are honor-bound to solve the mystery and save the Vanishers’ victims—a task that will strain both their intellects and their Allomantic powers to their utmost.

A well-developed and unique setting paired with sparkling, sympathetic characters, witty dialogue, and a rollicking adventure make this title far from a stale rehash of the original series, but a fascinating outing in its own right. We can only hope for further adventures with Wax and his crew!

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Wilson, Kevin. The Family Fang

This sharply comic first novel kept my interest from start to finish and has often entered my thoughts months after finishing it.  The story centers on the chaotic art that performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang create along with their two children who are participants—often unwillingly—in the bedlam their parents force upon others…in shopping malls, subway stations, and various other public places.  As the novel progresses, we see how this life has affected the psyches of the Fang children.

The Family Fang is more than just a highly entertaining story.  It is a novel that leaves the reader with some big questions, such as: “What is art?” “Is art worth it for art sake?” and “Does every family subject their children to their own personal “performance art?”

This is a great book, and I wait with anticipation for the next novel by this author.

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Benioff, David. City of Thieves.

In this coming-of-age story set during the siege of Leningrad, Lev and Kolya, a teenager and a young soldier who have both been arrested for petty crimes and sentenced to death, are given one last chance by a Colonel to save their lives if they can achieve the impossible: find a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. The next few days Lev and Kolya go on an epic journey to find this rare ingredient, navigating the terrors and sadness of their desperate city.  After crossing into German territory, Lev and Kolya must depend on each other more and more and their unlikely friendship strengthens as their mission reaches new levels of danger and consequences.

The modern-day odyssey is based on the experiences of the author's own grandfather, a now-retired Lev, who lives in Florida. Although set within a period of a few days, the events that happened effect the teenager for the rest of his life. This story should not be missed.