Happy 20th Anniversary, Harry!

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I read Harry Potter for the first time in 1999. Sorcerer’s Stone had been out for two years, and Prisoner of Azkaban was recently released. Walking into our middle school library and seeing the first three books on the shelf filled me with an undefinable level of excitement. Until seventh grade, I attended a private Christian school, and they would never have put a book about a young sorcerer on their shelves. I checked out all three books that first week of middle school- snuck home in my book bag because I was sure my parents would never have approved. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were my childhood companions. We grew up together- the last few years of my childhood were ushered out on magical adventures. High school brought freedom and the excitement of midnight release parties. The Deathly Hallows came out my second year of college, and I’ll always remember the excitement of that final release party: Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, all night trivia, and a myriad of Sorting Hats… then rushing to my grandmas only to stay up all night and have one last adventure with my magical friends. I still love Harry just as much as that awkward seventh grade girl did, and I’ll be forever grateful to J.K. Rowling for making my childhood magical. It’s been a wondrous 20 years. Happy Birthday, Harry!

Signed, Sealed, But Not Delivered: The Lost Letter

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I love books that deal with World War II, and The Lost Letter did not disappoint. We follow the main characters through WWII era Austria and late eighties/early nineties America. Part love story, part mystery, Jillian Cantor manages to weave an intriguing tale. I will admit that there were times I found myself wishing that she didn’t jump between the two storylines every other chapter. It was easy to fall in love with the characters and their trials, and just when I felt invested, it was time to switch storylines. Despite this, I felt that the two story lines intersected perfectly, and I love how the author managed to connect all the pieces. It’s often easy to predict where a story is going and how it will end, but I felt that Mrs. Cantor kept me guessing until pretty far along in the novel. If you like a little bit of history, mystery, and love all rolled into one, then I highly recommend The Lost Letter!

4/5 STARS

Cabinet of Curiosities: Review, The Keeper of Lost Things

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*There are some slight spoilers below.

From the very first lines of the story, you’re drawn into the wonderful world that Mrs. Hogan has crafted. One of my favorite things about the story is seeing the puzzle pieces of each character’s life fitted together to form an intricate narrative. We meet Anthony Peardew, a man who lost his love many years ago. In order to keep from drowning in his sorrow, he begins collecting the random trinkets that seem to fall into his path: a single puzzle piece, a cookie tin of ashes, a daisy hair bauble. Anthony’s curious trove is lovingly cared for, each piece is catalogued with the place, date, and time of discovery and added to his collection- with the intent that he might someday return the pieces to their rightful owner. Anthony passes, and he leaves his collection to his housekeeper,
Laura. Anthony’s home, Padua, has become a place of respite following her divorce; we see Laura begin to live again, and we meet a wonderful cast of supporting characters.
Above all, this is a love story, but not just between significant others. It’s a story of learning to love yourself, imperfections and all. It’s about creating a life worth living and not settling for the mundane. There’s a little bit of the supernatural thrown in- just enough to give the story that little something extra.

To Sir, With Love: Dear Mr. Knightley Review

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Guys. I just read the most beautiful, lyrical, soul-searcher of a book and I want to gush about it to everyone. I started Dear Mr. Knightley late last night and spent the rest of today hiding away from the world trying to devour the remaining pages- a task our main character, Sam, would definitely approve of. I don’t want to hash out too much of the plot here because I want you to have the opportunity to fall in love with this book the way I did. Sam spent the majority of her life in and out of foster care and group homes, and my heart just breaks for all that she had to endure. But her spunk, her love of Jane Austen, The Count of Monte Cristo, Jane Eyre, and her ability to become the main characters of those novels in order to make it through some of life’s crazier moments… Man oh man, can I relate. Those of us who are book hoarders, book dragons, book devourers- whatever you like to call yourself- can totally relate with Sam. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that there’s a whole, big, wonderful world out there- outside of our beloved books. Dear Mr. Knightley broke my heart in the best way possible, and reminded me that even when life seems crazy and tasks insurmountable, it’s our faith that will keep us going and get us through. So go ahead, buy this book for its beautiful cover (like I did), but fall in love with its quiet wonder of a story.

P.S.- If you love Daddy Long Legs, then you absolutely must read this book- that’s all the hints you’ll get from me!

5/5 STARS!

Into the Mystic: Song of the Current Review

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Song of the Current was one of those books that was patiently waiting on my Amazon YA Wish List. What a stroke of fate (which happens to play a rather large role in this book) that I received a copy in one of my monthly book boxes just yesterday. Even though I’m currently in the middle of a couple of other books, Song of the Current was calling to me, and I knew I had to start it right away. Cut to this afternoon and I’m in the middle of a major reading hangover after devouring this wonderful, magical book! Caroline, or Caro, is our heroine, and I love that she manages to be totally relatable while also kicking some major butt. Her journey of self-discovery is the heart of the story, and even though I’m no longer a teen, I can totally relate to the self-doubt and struggle that comes with trying to figure out your place in the world. You’ll fall in love with the supporting characters and never once feel like they’re just filling space in the book; in fact, I want a spin-off with Caro’s cousin Kente (please, please, please!)! I cannot recommend Song of the Current enough. It has quickly become one of my favorite reads this year. Sarah, please don’t make us wait too long for the next book. I’m dying for more adventures, magic, and swoon with Caro, Markos, and the gang!

5/5 Stars!

Review: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

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It’s so exciting to sit down and finally write a book review. A few years ago, my friends and I had an amazing blog where we talked about our love for BBC Miniseries, tea, and classic novels (among other things). The experience of lovingly curating posts on some of our favorite things has stuck with me, and I’m excited to talk about my lifelong passion for books here with all of you!

A couple years ago I was browsing Amazon when I came across a book cover that I couldn’t resist. Admittedly, I’ve been known buy a novel based solely on its cover design- fellow booklovers, you know you’ve done this as well. That novel was V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. Getting to know Kell, Rhy, and Lila and accompanying them on adventures through alternate, magic-filled versions of London was a fantastic experience. I’ve had the second novel in the series, A Gathering of Shadows, sitting on my bookshelf for over a year now. I simply couldn’t bring myself to pick it up until the third and final book released. What can I say, I hate cliffhangers!

For those of you who are new to Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, I’ll give you a quick run-down. The books follow the adventures of Kell, an Antari (incredibly rare magician), his brother Rhy (a prince), and Delilah Bard (thief extraordinaire). The first book is great because it does spend quite a lot of time world-building: explaining how Antari magic works and the alternate versions of London, but it also gives the reader plenty of adventure and quite a bit of angst.

A Gathering of Shadows picks up about five months after the conclusion of A Darker Shade of Magic. Without delving too much into the plot, because spoilers, I’ll tell you that we’re reunited with Kell, Rhy, and Lila. We also meet mysterious ship Captain Alucard Emery. The Essen Tasch (Element Games) are taking place in Red London and the lives of our characters are about to change forever.

A Gathering of Shadows raises the stakes for our beloved characters. I love that the chapters are told from alternating points of view and that the book is divided into segments. These two things allow us time to connect with and learn more about our protagonists. Alucard, Kell, Lila, and Rhy are all fascinating, complex characters, and I love that they’re portrayed as actual human beings- neither completely good or bad.

The Essen Tasch is an interesting premise- think Triwizard Tournament but without the wands and a little more violence. It takes us beyond the magic of the Antari, which Schwab focused on in the first book, and builds our understanding of elemental magic. Lila played an interesting role in the Games, but I will say that she was the one character who sort of irked me in this book.

Really the only con I have with AGOS is Lila. When we meet Delilah Bard in Grey London, she is a thief, yes, but she also has a conscience. While we do get glimpses of that girl in this book, it seems more like she has lost any sense of what it right or wrong. The thirst for magic has taken over her life and causes her to make many questionable decisions. The Lila we met in A Darker Shade of Magic was not this selfish!

Overall, I highly recommend picking up A Gathering of Shadows. It’s a fantasy adventure of the best sort, and I can’t wait to see how the series ends!

4/5 STARS