From the thrilling voice of Sacha Wunsch comes a heart-stopping psychological mystery in a world where memories can be shared—but maybe not trusted.
Enhanced Memory changed everything. By sharing someone else’s memory, you can experience anything and everything with no risk at all: learn any skill instantly, travel the world from home, and safeguard all your most treasured secrets forever. Nova’s parents invented this technology, and it’s slowly taking over their lives. That’s where Nova comes in. She can pick up the slack for them—and she doesn’t mind. She knows Enhanced Memory is a gift, and its value outweighs its costs.
But Kade says Nova doesn’t even know the costs. Kade runs a secret vlog cataloging real experiences, is always on the move, and he’s strangely afraid of Nova—even though she feels more comfortable with him than she ever has with anyone. Suddenly there are things Nova can’t stop noticing: the way her parents don’t meet her eyes anymore, the questions no one wants her to ask, and the relentless feeling like there’s something she’s forgotten.
But there’s danger around every corner, and her own home might be the most dangerous place of all.
The platform was a hundred and fifty feet up.
I tried not to look down.
I hadn’t even known I was afraid of heights until the moment I stood up there.
The stranger came up to me, grinning. “You’re going to love it,” he said.
My entire body was sweating, most notably my palms, slipping as I tried to grip the safety harness.
Was I really going to do this?
No. I was going to get unclipped, turn around, and simply climb back down what felt like the millions of stairs stretching below me.
And then, just as I started to turn, someone pushed me off the platform.
I screamed as I dropped, nothing but air beneath me.
And then… I started to glide.
The scream kept coming a few seconds more, but my heart did a flip before it could reach my mind. I was soaring. Over the treetops. Whizzing along the zip line at high speeds. It was the best thing I had ever felt.
I had never been this free. Which made sense, I was essentially flying, after all.
Giggling was very much not in my nature, but there I was, giggling anyway. I closed my eyes to get a better sense of the wind on my face, but when the sweet scent of fresh-blooming flowers greeted me, I opened them again. Sure enough, the trees several yards below my feet were blooming some kind of large purple flower.
I sucked in a breath, wishing I could inhale the whole scene, wanting to appreciate it as much as I could—savor it—knowing it wouldn’t last forever, and landed gently on the other side.
I did not have to be pushed off the second platform—barely able to wait my turn to jump again. I soared from platform to platform, wishing nothing more than for this to go on forever, grinning all the way, and realizing only at the last second that the final landing platform wasn’t a platform at all, but a deep, cooling pool.
I sucked in a breath, and with a final burst of adrenaline, I splashed into the crystal-clear water.
TWENTY MINUTES EARLIER
“Come on, open it,” Mom said, her smiling beaming.
I held the small, beautifully wrapped box, unable to imagine what it was. My parents knew I wasn’t really that into jewelry, and neither were they really, but what else could be in such a small box?
I tore into it and flipped the lid open.
Which confused me even more. It wasn’t a ring or a pendant, just a small metal disk.
Dad sensed my confusion. “Give it a second,” he said, beaming even brighter than Mom.
In a blink, a form emerged, a hologram above the disk. There was no sound, but it looked like the person in the hologram was gliding through the tops of trees high in the air.
“This is…really cool,” I said, and meant it, but couldn’t help but feel like I was missing something.
Mom was practically bouncing on the couch. “We wanted to do something special for your birthday.”
“Thank you” was all I could really think to say. The disk was pretty cool, but what the hell was with their enthusiasm?
“You’re welcome Nova,” Dad said. “But this isn’t the whole thing. It’s the experience of it that’s the real gift.”
“The experience of it?”
Mom had gotten up and gone to the desk by the front door. She picked up another box, this one unwrapped, and pulled something from inside.
“Here, you put this on,” she said, handing me a clunky set of headphones plugged into a small handheld device about the size of a phone.
“The disk goes in there,” Dad said, and showed me how to open it, setting my new present inside.
And then I experienced my first ever zip line.
As the experience ended, I blinked my eyes open, a hundred percent sure I’d be soaking wet, but I was sitting right back in my living room. The sensation was a bit disorienting, but my parents were staring at me like they were about to explode.
“What was that?” I asked, grabbing the hem of my shirt, which I couldn’t quite comprehend being dry.
“That was Enhanced Memory,” Dad said, but the look on his face said so much more—like if he’d had feathers, they’d be plumaged out like the most badass peacock of the bunch.
“What did you think?” Mom asked, clasping her hands like she had so much energy whizzing through her body she had to do something to hold it in.
“Well obviously it was amazing, but by the way you two are acting, you already know that.” I couldn’t help but grin. They were just so cute sitting there all proud of themselves. “But seriously, what is this? What is Enhanced Memory?”
I’d seen 3D movies and had even tried virtual reality once, but this was way beyond either of those. This was next level.
“It’s simple,” Dad said. “The headphones are equipped with dozens of…well, let’s call them electrodes for sake of ease, though really, they’re more advanced than that.”
“Okay,” I said, mostly with him still, although knowing Dad it wouldn’t be long until the science-y droning took hold and steered him right off the layman’s term trail.
“And these,” he said, taking the disk out of the machine and holding it up, “are Memories.”
Mom nodded. “We discovered a way to extract memories and reproduce them.”
“Wait, you guys created this?”
Mom nodded, her smile huge and eyes wide. “This is what we’ve been working toward all these years.”
My mouth dropped open. I knew my parents had been working on some kind of project for a long time, but I guess I hadn’t really been that interested in what it was.
Mom laughed at my stunned expression while Dad came over to give me one of his signature kisses on the top of my head.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” Mom said, beaming.
I mean, they were scientists and science was basically the last thing I wanted to pay attention to, so I never really asked many questions.
But this was way beyond science. This was…actually kind of awesome.
A smile crept across my face. I couldn’t wait to try it again.
Sacha Wunsch grew up dividing her time between the family farm in Canada and traveling to numerous fictional worlds. She was a bookseller before discovering her love of writing mind-twisty novels – which has proved an excellent job since she gets to blame all the TV she watches on her love of storytelling. She now splits her time between the city and the lake, and still travels to made-up worlds as often as she can.
“My darling girls. You were once so happy in this house. Now I’m gone, all I ask is that you spend one last summer here together on Dune Island. And please forgive me, your Nana, for the secret I’m about to tell you…”
Arriving at the honeysuckle-covered beach house inherited from her beloved grandmother, recently heartbroken Jill hopes to convince her two feuding sisters not to sell a place so full of happy childhood memories. But the envelope waiting on the driftwood table changes everything. In her elegant handwriting, Nana Rose promises a new letter will arrive each day of the summer revealing a family secret she took to her grave.
Shaken, Jill anxiously awaits each letter filled with Nana’s bittersweet memories of her own sister who she loved more than anyone—and lost far too young. But why did Nana never speak of this tragic loss to her grandchildren?
Watching the sunset each night and wondering how well they really knew Nana Rose, Jill feels her family is closer than they’ve been in years. And after a chance encounter with blue-eyed tree surgeon Alex, she wonders if Nana believed being back on Dune Island would help Jill find love, too?
But when Nana’s final letter arrives, the revelation about how her sister died is more shocking than Jill ever imagined. Suddenly, despite the chance of happiness with Alex, selling the house seems the only way forward. Will Jill find a way to forge new bonds of sisterhood and save their inheritance,or will Nana Rose’s secret tear them all apart?
An absolutely gorgeous, gripping and heartbreaking read about the importance of family, and how even our loved ones can keep shattering secrets. Perfect for fans of Carolyn Brown, Debbie Macomber and Mary Alice Munroe.
I’ll grant you, A Letter from Nana Rose is not normally the type of book I’d gravitate toward. I prefer mysteries, usually of the cozy variety, or a good fantasy, or maybe a gripping thriller. But sister fiction? Romance? Meh. The hint of a long-kept secret to be revealed after Nana Rose’s death, though, was enough of a hook that I thought I’d take a chance on it.
I am so glad I did!
Nana Rose has been a fixture in the lives of Jill and her sisters, Rachel and Brooke, throughout their childhood. Now, though, Nana Rose has passed away, and the sisters are spending one more vacation at Dune Island at her request. She’s left a letter telling them that they’ll receive a letter from her each day of their stay, and she’s indicated that they’ll be learning things about their family that have never before been revealed.
Jill is hoping desperately to convince her sisters to keep Nana Rose’s house. Rachel and Brooke, though, have what they feel are strong cases for selling the property. As the letters come in day by day, and Nana’s story is told in flashbacks, the sisters learn that Nana Rose wasn’t the only one keeping secrets. Nana’s past is revealed, and the sisters learn things about each other, too.
This story, y’all. There were ups and downs as we learned what each sister was trying to keep from the others and how that might impact their decision regarding Nana’s house. There were moments of frustration when the sisters were apparently at an impasse, and it felt like they were each seeing only their own point of view. And when everything comes out into the open, when all the secrets are revealed, then we see the true power of love and family to unite and heal.
This is the first of Harper’s books that I’ve read. I don’t know if she’ll revisit these characters in another book, if we’ll see what happens with Jill and hunky tree surgeon Alex, if the sisters’ children will bring their kids to the house on Dune Island. I liked this story enough that I wouldn’t mind seeing the characters again in a future book.
If you’re a fan of books that are clean and sweet and give you the warm fuzzies, pick up A Letter from Nana Rose.
Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy from Netgalley and Bookouture. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
Would I recommend: Yes, if you’re a fan of a clean story with family at its heart and a little bit of romance (and maybe a tear or two at the end).
Present Day. After tragedy plunges her into grief and unresolved anger, Sarah Ashby returns to her childhood home determined to finally follow her long-denied dream of running Old Depot Grocery alongside her mother and grandmother. But when she arrives, her mother, Rosemary, announces to her that the store is closing. Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, make a pact to save the store, but Rosemary has worked her entire life to make sure her daughter never follows in her footsteps. She has her reasons–but she’ll certainly never reveal the real one.
1965. Glory Ann confesses to her family that she’s pregnant with her deceased fiancé’s baby. Pressured into a marriage of convenience with a shopkeeper to preserve the family reputation, Glory Ann vows never to love again. But some promises are not as easily kept as she imagined.
This dual-timeline story from Amanda Cox deftly explores the complexity of a mother-daughter dynamic, the way the secrets we keep shape our lives and the lives of others, and the healing power of telling the truth.
Amanda Cox’s first book, The Edge of Belonging, was one of my favorite reads of 2020. I had high expectations for this, her latest. She met them in fine style.
I enjoy a good dual-timeline story, and this one is very well done. We see the story unfold through the eyes of three women: Glory Ann, her daughter Rosemary, and her granddaughter Sarah. In 1965, Glory Ann finds herself in the family way, and her sweetheart is presumed dead in the war. Her parents, determined not to see their child and their family name ruined, find a young man, Clarence, who agrees to marry Glory Ann and raise the child as his own.
In the present time, Glory Ann and her daughter, Rosemary, are on the outs about the Old Depot Grocery. Rosemary insists it’s time to sell off the store, citing the shiny new supermarket in town as her reason to get while the getting is good, and Glory Ann is equally determined that it is not. Sarah hoped to come home and take up where she left off, running the store with her grandmother and mother. But now she fears that may not happen.
The main theme of the story is secrets. All three of our main characters have them. They keep their secrets to themselves, even when it would benefit them to let others in on what they’re trying to hide. Sometimes I wanted to smack Rosemary, or Sarah, or Glory Ann, for not letting people who might need to know in on their secrets. But the frustration I felt with them for keeping mum on things didn’t lessen the fact that I liked them as characters. Because honestly, haven’t we all kept secrets when it would have been smarter not to?
The men of the story weren’t the main focus, but they were just as important. The whole thing would have fallen apart without Clarence. I mean, imagine agreeing to marry a pregnant young lady and raise her child with someone else as your own. And you stick to your word, and you work to create a family where once just awkwardness existed. I wanted to hear more of Clarence’s story. Bo, Rosemary’s husband, played only a small role, but he was also a good example of a gentle and good man, loving his wife as best as he knew how. And Clay. My goodness, he just made me smile. I was cheering for him and Sarah. (Does it work out? I’m not telling. Read the book.)
And the ending. Y’all, I did not see it coming, and I was straight up bawling. Amanda Cox can surprise me in such a wonderful, emotional way, and she sure did it here. Secrets are revealed, wounds old and new are healed, and the past comes back most unexpectedly.
My thanks to Revell for a review copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
Texas, the second largest state, both in land mass and population, has more than 50,000 burial grounds. As the final resting places of those whose earthly journey has ended, they are also repositories of valuable cultural history. Pioneer cemeteries provide a wealth of information on the people who settled Texas during its years as a Republic (1836-1845), and after it became the 28th state in 1845. In What Lies Beneath: Texas Pioneer Cemeteries and Graveyards, Cynthia Leal Massey exhumes the stories of these pioneers, revealing the fascinating truth behind the earliest graveyards in the Lone Star State, including some of its most ancient. This guide also provides descriptions of headstone features and symbols and demystifies the burial traditions of early Texas pioneers and settlers.
KEEP SCROLLING AFTER YOU READ MY REVIEW TO GET TO THE GIVEAWAY!
I have long been fascinated by cemeteries and gravestones. Growing up in the South, I was expected to attend funerals and graveside services from an early age, and I always liked walking around cemeteries to see what interesting tidbits I might find on the grave markers. So when I had a chance to review What Lies Beneath, I jumped at it.
The book is divided into ten sections, based on the ten Texas Heritage Trails established by the Texas Historical Commission. That makes it easy to read in smaller chunks (if you can bear to put it down – I found it quite engrossing!), and if you’re interested in traveling to see any of these places in person, the book’s structure will make it easy to find and visit several in one area.
I lived in Texas for a time, and while I didn’t grow up there, I appreciate its history and culture. Massey doesn’t just give you a coffee table book full of pretty pictures. She really digs into the pioneer stories, the life and times of the folks whose grave markers she’s writing about. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know and was introduced to some fascinating characters. Some of the people whose burials she highlighted were lawmen. While many were good, honest men who strove to uphold the law, a couple turned out to be just about as bad as the criminals they were supposed to go after!
I’ve said before how much I enjoy books that both entertain and educate. What Lies Beneath does both admirably. It’s not a dry historical read at all. Massey’s prose brings the people she writes about to life, and I particularly enjoyed the sidebar facts. For instance, did you know that a “cemetery” is not the same thing as a “graveyard”? I’d never given it much thought. The terms have always been used interchangeably in my experience. But there is a difference. I also learned how women were identified on their tombstones if they died before or after their husbands. I had really never given that any thought at all.
We’d like to travel more, and I hope we can see at least some of the locations mentioned in the book. I’d love to go take pictures and share them on the Find A Grave site.
This is a great read for “the spooky month,” as my kids call October, and one I’d highly recommend for any student of history and anyone who, like me, feels the pull of the past coming from a graveyard.
Five stars as bright as the ones you’ll see in an old country cemetery on a moonless night.
Award-winning author Cynthia Leal Massey is a former corporate editor, college instructor, and magazine editor. She has published hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles and eight books. A full-time writer who publishes history columns for community publications, Cynthia was raised on the south side of San Antonio. She has resided in Helotes since 1994, and has served on the Helotes City Council since 2008, serving twice as Mayor Pro Tem. She is also president of the Historical Society of Helotes.
Cynthia, a former president of Women Writing the West, is a recipient of the Will Rogers Silver Medallion Award for her nonfiction book, Death of a Texas Ranger, A True Story of Murder and Vengeance on the Texas Frontier, which also won the San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award. She is the recipient of several literary awards, including the WILLA Literary Finalist Award for Best Original Softcover Fiction for her novel, The Caballeros of Ruby, Texas, called by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry, “a vivid picture of the Rio Grande Valley as it was fifty years ago and a very good read.”
Would I recommend: Absolutely. Jane Kirkpatrick weaves a tale second to none.
Classically trained pianist and singer Natalie Curtis isolated herself for five years after a breakdown just before she was to debut with the New York Philharmonic. Guilt-ridden and songless, Natalie can’t seem to recapture the joy music once brought her. In 1902, her brother invites her to join him in the West to search for healing. What she finds are songs she’d never before encountered–the haunting melodies, rhythms, and stories of Native Americans.
But their music is under attack. The US government’s Code of Offenses prohibits American’s indigenous people from singing, dancing, or speaking their own languages as the powers that be insist on assimilation. Natalie makes it her mission not only to document these songs before they disappear but to appeal to President Teddy Roosevelt himself, who is the only man with the power to repeal the unjust law. Will she succeed and step into a new song . . . and a new future?
Award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick weaves yet another lyrical tale based on a true story that will keep readers captivated to the very end.
Natalie Curtis was a classically trained musician with a bright future ahead of her, or so she thought. But she suffered a breakdown that left her a shadow of herself, and she hid herself away from the world, physically, mentally, and emotionally weakened. Her brother George, back home from the West where he’s been working and traveling, invites Natalie to join him. Against her mother’s wishes, and with the caveat that she’ll return home after just two months, Natalie sets off with George in hopes of finding healing, a new hope at living again.
She finds her spark in the music of the Indian people, who have largely been removed from their homelands and placed onto reservations with the government instruction that they must assimilate. Natalie is shocked by the horrific injustice of the government’s Code of Offenses, which requires, among other things, that the native peoples refrain from singing their songs, performing their dances and ceremonies, and speaking their languages. Natalie sets out to preserve as much of the Indian music as she can, fearing it will be lost forever, and in doing so, she rediscovers and recreates her own song.
Jane Kirkpatrick has a positive gift for taking little-known historical figures and bringing them to life with her words. I’d never heard of Natalie Curtis before having the chance to be on the review team for this book. But now I feel the need to learn more about her.
Kirkpatrick paints a wonderful picture of Natalie as a young woman, in the public eye as a musician but still sheltered, who’s suffered a derailment of her life plans. She’s hidden herself away from public scrutiny, but she’s ready to move forward in spite of her mother’s desire to continue to protect her. She knew something had to change, and she was going West whether her mother agreed or not. “Most important, she wasn’t seeking permission. She was intentionally stepping into the grace pause, bringing the past with her, and for the first time in so long, the tempo of her life had picked up.” Doesn’t that sound remarkably hopeful?
Curtis’ journey isn’t portrayed as an easy one, though. She had to learn to navigate new things like horseback riding, and travel rougher than a young lady of her social status was accustomed to. She had to find a way to reach out to the Indian people whose culture she wanted to preserve without making it about her. In Kirkpatrick’s telling of her story, Natalie Curtis rises to the occasion and overcomes the challenges she faces. Not only does she travel far and wide and record songs from a variety of tribes, she learns that the thing she thought had broken her in the past didn’t merit the importance she had placed upon it. In finding a way to free the Indians to sing their songs, Natalie finds the music hasn’t left her after all.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’d love to track down a copy of Curtis’s The Indians’ Book and see her writing for myself. Jane Kirkpatrick’s story has me wanting to know more about the events she describes, and isn’t that what good historical fiction should do?
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the Revell Reads blogger program. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
And if you pre-order, you get to enter the giveaway! In the week before release, the author will be doing five different giveaways just for the people who fill out the pre-order giveaway form. Pre-order your copy and then fill out the form here: https://bit.ly/MTAOD-PreOrderGiveaway
To stop the curse that has plagued her family for centuries, Pippin Lane Hawthorne has enlisted the help of authors Tolkien, Homer, and Dickens. How? Through bibliomancy, a practice by which passages in books speak to her in cryptic code that only she can decipher. When she finds a message from her mother in an old copy of The Secret Garden, she hopes this book might hold the answers she so desperately seeks.
The book leads Pippin to a vital clue, but before she can figure out what it means, she stumbles upon a dead body. Though the authorities deem the death is from natural causes, the books found scattered around the body tell Pippin a different story—the victim was murdered. And the death is connected to her family and the curse. Now, to solve a murder in the present, Pippin must dig deeper into her family’s troubled past, even if it means staring danger in the face.
“Filled with quirky characters and atmospheric descriptions of the quaint town of Devil’s Cove, Bourbon hits all the right notes for a cozy: amateur sleuthing, several possible suspects, bookstores, and a touch of romance.” ~Elena Taylor, Author
“This series had me at ‘book magic’ and wrapped me up in its unique plot from start to finish!” ~Carrie Schmidt, ReadingIsMySuperPower.org
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.
My father once described magic as an invisible beast, an unseen enemy that could snatch our lives away at any moment. As a small, impressionable child, I had imagined a lupine creature lurking outside among the whispering pines, breathing over my shoulder in our garden. For years, I didn’t even leave the house; it was magic that had killed my mother, after all.
I was old enough now to understand that magic didn’t work that way. But as I hurried down the dark road, past the woods that had become my haven during daylight hours, my childhood fears didn’t feel so foolish. I glanced behind me, sure I’d find Belle Sabine, the fabled witch of every young woman’s nightmares, swooping down as silent as an owl, ready to steal my youth and leave an empty husk behind.
To my relief, there was nothing there. My only traveling companion was the wind nipping at my heels, spurring me forward. But in my brief distraction, I tripped over a rock in the road, falling hard onto my knees. Cursing myself for my clumsiness and superstition, I dusted off my hands, wincing as a sharp pebble dislodged from my palm. I couldn’t afford this kind of delay. It was close to midnight, and there was no moon to speak of, which made my situation even more precarious; my exposed skin glowed so brightly that moths circled me like a flame. But my little sister, Mina, was missing. I had to tell Father.
As I rose, I heard the sound of footsteps up the road. I glanced around for a place to hide, but there was no time. A moment later, a figure loomed at the margins of my glow.
Some said Belle Sabine had died, others that she was biding her time until the townspeople became complacent once again. But I was convinced she had come to kill me on the one night I had dared to venture past our threshold.
I shrank back as skirts and slippered feet came into view, followed by a woman’s arms cradling a basket, and finally, the face of Margana, the weaver who lived next door. Not here to kill me, then. But a witch, nevertheless. And one arguably as dangerous as Belle Sabine, given who she worked for.
“What are you doing on the road, Liora? It’s the middle of the night.”
“Mina is gone,” I said. “Father is still at work, and I didn’t know what else to do.”
Margana scrutinized me for a moment. “You’re a witch.”
A chill that had nothing to do with the cool night air crept over my scalp. No one had ever called me a witch to my face before, though of course I knew what I was. My entire life revolved around my glowing skin and the fear that the kingdom’s most powerful warlock would discover it. Lord Darius was employed by the king himself, gathering mages and torturing them if they didn’t do his bidding.
I pulled Father’s cloak tighter around myself, but it was futile. She already knew. I had wasted too much time getting up the nerve to leave the house after I found Mina’s bed empty, wringing my hands at the window, wondering if she’d been kidnapped by drifters or lured into the forest by a ghost lantern. Then, once I was on the road, I had foolishly stopped to look at the devil’s footprints, little white mushrooms that grew in pairs of two, resembling the cloven hooves of a demon. I’d seen them in daylight plenty of times, but never at night. They had caught my eye because their glow was so similar to my own.
Oddly, Margana’s basket was full of the mushrooms. Her cornflower-blue eyes and auburn hair were pale and otherworldly in their light. As if sensing my curiosity, she shifted the basket to her other hip. Margana was one of the few people who lived outside the gates of the ancient village of Sylvan, like us. She was also my best friend Evran’s mother—and the only other witch I knew.
“I always wondered why your father moved you girls out here after your mother died,” she said. “Now it all makes sense. But something tells me your father wouldn’t be pleased to know you’re outside, exposing yourself.” She grabbed one of my hands and turned it over, examining it like a bruised apple at market. Against Margana’s dull skin, mine looked false, as if I wasn’t a real person at all.
I pulled my hand free as politely as possible. “I should go.”
She sighed. “Keep your head down, and pray you don’t meet anyone on the road. Darius’s spies are everywhere.”
My eyes widened in fear, and she chuckled to herself. “Not me, silly girl.”
I swallowed audibly. If there really were spies in Sylvan, Margana was the most likely suspect. After all, she did work for Lord Darius. She might not be his servant by choice, but he was dangerous enough that no mage dared cross him. No mage who had lived to tell about it, anyway.
I was about to step around her when my eyes drifted to the basket once again. “I thought the devil’s footprints were poisonous.”
Her lips curved in a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Oh, they are. Highly. Fortunately, I don’t plan on eating them. Good luck, Liora.”
I nodded and hurried to the stone steps leading down to Sylvan, which was tucked away in a gorge, hidden from the roving eyes of river pirates. Above me, a heavy iron chain was suspended between the cliffs. As far as I knew, Sylvan was the only village in Antalla—maybe the world—that could boast having attracted not one, but two falling stars. A fragment of the first had been melted into the shape of a five-pointed star and hung from the chain. At night, it was only a glimmer overhead.
The second star—my star—had disintegrated amid the flames when it landed.
I wound my way silently through Sylvan’s narrow streets, toward Father’s shop. He and Adelle, my older, more responsible sister, were likely the only ones working at this hour. Just as I quickened my pace, I heard a high-pitched shriek from somewhere above me. I looked up to where a lamp winked on in an apartment window, illuminating two silhouettes, then down to the shop on my left. The tailor’s shop.
Without thinking, I grabbed the cast-iron boot scraper sitting by the front door of the shop and hurled it through the window. Glass shattered, leaving a jagged hole that gaped like a mouth midscream.
Heart racing, I flattened myself against the alcove by the door as a man shouted and a window screeched open. The tailor, a young man nearly as alluring as the fabrics he sold, poked his head out for a moment, then disappeared, likely heading downstairs to look for the culprit. I scurried to the nook in front of the butcher’s, hoping my light would be hidden there.
“Get behind me,” Luc said from somewhere inside the shop. “The thief could still be out there.”
“You’re so brave.”
I sighed in relief at the sound of Mina’s voice, before fury shot through me like an arrow. I should have known she would come to the tailor’s; she had flirted with Luc relentlessly today, which was how we’d acquired four yards of the champagne-colored silk she wanted for the dress I’d spent all evening working on.
A moment later, they emerged onto the street, Mina clutching at Luc’s sleeve as he lifted his lamp and peered into the darkness.
He tossed his black hair out of his eyes and frowned. “It doesn’t look like they stole anything. Just vandals, I suppose.”
“Or someone trying to send you a message,” Mina breathed, dramatic as ever. “Do you have any nemeses?”
When he turned his dark gaze on her, something tugged at my heart. She was wearing a dress I’d made for myself when I was her age. It hung loose on her thin frame, but the hem grazed her calves, a sure sign she had altered it. She had nothing but a shawl pulled around her shoulders, and from where I stood, it was painfully clear that the tailor was not interested in her the way she no doubt hoped.
“I have to find a member of the night guard and report this. You shouldn’t be here. If your father catches you, he’ll have me hanged. You’re a sweet girl, Mina, but this is inappropriate.”
“But the silk…”
“That was for your sister. Now, please, go home.”
Mina caught her lip in her teeth to keep from crying. With a nod, she hurried away, tears already streaming down her cheeks. I waited for Luc to start up the street before I ran out of the alcove to catch her.
She squealed in alarm when I placed my hand on her shoulder, and I quickly clapped my other hand over her mouth.
“It’s me,” I whispered, lowering my hand slowly when I was confident she wouldn’t scream.
She swiped at her tears. “Liora? What are you doing out? What if someone sees you?”
My anger softened at her concern, until I remembered that she was the reason I was out in the first place. “I might ask you the same questions. If Father had come home and found you missing, he’d have killed you.”
“And what if he goes home and finds both of us missing? Have you considered that?”
I opened my mouth to scold her, but she was right. “You can explain what you were doing once we get back,” I said.
In typical Mina fashion, she stuck her tongue out at me, then turned and ran toward home.
* * *
We were indeed lucky. We made it home not long before Father and Adelle. By the time he came to our room to check on us, we were both in bed. I waved sleepily at him and Mina let out an emphatic snore, but once the door was closed, I threw back my covers and leaped out of bed.
“I hope you have a good explanation for this,” I hissed.
Her voice was muffled by the thick blanket pulled up to her nose, but I could hear the tremor in it when she said, “I thought Luc liked me.”
“And I thought you were dead!” I whisper-shouted, then stalked to the window ledge to keep myself from throttling her. I plucked a pendant from the collar of my nightgown, running my fingers over the five points on the star charm to calm myself. Evran had given it to me, years ago, and its contours were as familiar to me now as the feel of his hand in mine as he pulled me through the Sylvan woods toward home at twilight. Perhaps I was being too hard on Mina. I would risk a lot of things for Evran.
“Luc told me he was having a party tonight,” she said. “I didn’t realize how late it was when I got there. Everyone else had already left.”
I was surprised that the thought of her getting ready for a party, the excitement she must have felt as she sneaked into Sylvan to meet a handsome young man, made me more envious than angry. “I heard you cry out.”
The whites of her eyes flashed in the dark.
“Don’t you dare roll your eyes at me,” I snapped.
“I’m just stretching them, Ora.” The world-weary tone was classic Mina: so eager to be a grown-up, ever since she was little. “A moth got tangled in my hair. Anyway, Luc was a perfect gentleman. And as it turns out, it’s not me he wants.”
The silk was for me. The last of my anger waned as I imagined how sure Mina must have been of Luc to do something so foolish, only to find she’d made a huge mistake. This was his fault as much as it was hers. “He was just being kind because I spend so much money in his shop.”
She snorted. “He spoke about you the entire time. He asked why you hadn’t come to the party, and what you liked to do in your free time, and why he never saw you out in town.”
“What did you tell him?” I dropped the pendant into my collar and pulled back the edge of the curtain just a bit to gaze at the real stars.
“I told him you were making me a dress, that that’s what you’re doing most of the time.”
I sighed and let the curtain fall. For a girl with glowing skin, I sounded unbearably dull. But it was the truth. If I wasn’t sewing, I was cooking, cleaning, or rereading one of our few books.
Father trusted me enough to let me go out on sunny days now. The smallest stars don’t shine at noon, he said, and my glow could be kept dim as long as I stayed in control of my emotions. But the downside of having even just a little bit of freedom was that it came with responsibilities. Father had only given me permission to go to town for errands, never to dawdle, which made taking Mina along particularly frustrating. She had made an art form out of window-shopping. I missed my afternoons in the woods with Evran, those glorious days when I could sneak out unnoticed while Father was working and my sisters were in their lessons.
I climbed back into bed and pulled the covers up, a wave of guilt washing over me. Had I really believed Mina was in mortal peril? Because if not, there was no excuse for my own behavior. What if some part of me had risked going out tonight because I wanted to prove to myself, finally, that my magic wasn’t as dangerous as Father feared?
If that was the case, I had failed spectacularly. It had only taken a few minutes for me to undo all our years of hard work, and I couldn’t blame my sister for that.
“Promise me you won’t sneak out again, Mina. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to you.”
She twisted onto her side to face me. “I’m sorry. I should never have put you at risk like that. I won’t do it again.”
“It’s all right. Get some sleep now.”
Mina responded a moment later with a very genuine snore.
I smiled and tried to fall asleep myself, but I lay awake for hours, thinking about Margana. Would she tell Darius about me, potentially destroying not just my life but those of everyone I loved? I thought of Father and wondered if all this time it hadn’t been me he was protecting, but them.
Because as much as I had wanted to believe that the invisible beast was out there, that if I simply hid myself away like a secret, we would be safe, I had known for quite some time that the beast Father feared most lived inside of me.
I enjoyed Luminous. Mara Rutherford’s writing style is very readable, and that made it easy to keep reading…and reading…and reading long past my bedtime.
The story is engaging – a young woman who’s long been kept hidden away from the world for fear of a powerful warlock discovering her power, the young man she loves who has secrets of his own, the powerful warlock himself (who may not be as he appears).
Liora and her family fled the king’s court for the small village of Sylvan after her mother’s death. Liora’s father feared that Lord Darius, a warlock with his own nefarious agenda, would discover Liora’s magic and take her away. When she leaves the house (seldom), Liora has to keep her radiant skin covered up. But Darius does discover Liora’s magic, and instead of demanding her, he takes her younger sister Mina as collateral. Thus begins the quest to save Mina. Liora must go into the king’s court, where Darius holds sway, and even into the heart of darkness itself, to wrest Mina from Darius’s clutches. In the process, she learns about the true power of her magic, and why Darius has been seeking it, and realizes that perhaps she isn’t the monster she’d always feared herself to be.
The story is perhaps a little simplistic. There are no detailed descriptions of the magic system or how it works. Some people have magic, some don’t. Something has to activate the magic. But Rutherford’s writing makes it work. She does a marvelous job of drawing pictures with her words, and those pictures kept me scrolling through the book, wanting to know what happened next. And her characters aren’t simplistic. There is more to most all of them than how they first appear. (With the exception of Luc, perhaps. He was just a troll. Figuratively. There are no actual trolls in the book.)
I was particularly intrigued with the project Margana had been working on for Darius for twenty years, the tapestry of darkness. It was a thing – a tapestry. And yet it was like a Tardis, bigger on the inside. Way, WAY bigger. What a thing to conceive of!
Liora’s power calls to mind that of Penn in L. J. Hatton’s Sing Down the Stars. If you enjoyed that story, you may also like Luminous.
Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for an advance reader copy! All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books that I don’t actually like.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world with her marine-turned-diplomat husband. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a master’s degree in cultural studies from the University of London. When she’s not writing or chasing after her two sons, she can usually be found pushin_g the boundaries of her comfort zone, whether at a traditional Russian banya or an Incan archaeological site. Mara is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor.
Zada is a camel with a treasure trove of stories to tell. She’s won camel races for the royal Pasha of Smyrna, crossed treacherous oceans to new land, led army missions with her best camel friend by her side, and outsmarted a far too pompous mountain lion. But those stories were from before.
Now, Zada wanders the desert as the last camel in Texas. But she’s not alone. Two tiny kestrel chicks are nestled in the fluff of fur between her ears—kee-killy-keeing for their missing parents—and a dust storm the size of a mountain is taking Zada on one more grand adventure. And it could lead to this achy old camel’s most brilliant story yet.
Once Upon a Camel is a story about life, and learning, and change, and finding family where you are. The story is told from the viewpoint of Zada, a camel who started her life as one of the Pasha’s camels in Smyrna, Turkey, in 1850. She was raised as a racing camel. Zada is now in her later years, and she is no longer in Turkey, but is (as far as she knows) the last camel in Texas. She came to Texas as part of a group of camels that would be used to transport supplies for the U.S. military.
The rest of the camels, including Zada’s best friend, Asiye, are long gone. Zada has formed new friendships with a pair of kestrels, Perdita and Pard. When a haboob (what Zada knows it as – we’d call it a sandstorm) comes blowing in, Perdita and Pard ask for Zada’s help in getting their babies, Wims and Beulah, to safety. Thus begins a tale of adventure!
Zada gets the little birds settled snugly atop her head, but as they set out for a place of safety, the storm blows Perdita and Pard away! Zada is faced with the rather daunting task of protecting her young charges from the wind and sand, from an old frenemy, and even from each other. She does so with patience and good humor, and as she works to help the little birds stay calm, we learn the story of Zada’s life.
I had no idea there were camels in Texas! My history nerd husband, of course, knew exactly what I was talking about when I told him about the book. I love books that are fun to read and that educate at the same time, and this one does both admirably. Wims and Beulah are just about the cutest little baby birds ever, and they bicker and squabble just as you’d expect siblings to do, even when there’s danger lurking nearby. Their interactions are so humorous, I couldn’t help but laugh.
Zada isn’t like a surrogate mother to the baby birds. She’s more like a grandmother figure, who’s gained wisdom through her life and is now figuring out how to pass that on to her unruly charges. She’s patient, she doesn’t let Wims and Beulah see her lose her cool even when she’s not quite sure how things are going to work out, she perseveres to get them to safety.
The artwork complements the story nicely. There isn’t much of it, but what there is is wonderfully done. And I’m not going to spoil the ending, but it made me smile (and even tear up a little) to see how Appelt wove all the threads together.
So much fun to read! This will be a great book for younger middle readers. The age range given on Amazon is 8-12 years, but it may be a little on the young side for some 12-year-olds. My younger son is a very precocious 12, and he wasn’t the least bit interested in the story. His loss. I loved it. (And when he was 8 or 9, he would have loved it, too!)
Five humps – I mean, stars – for Once Upon a Camel!
Kathi Appelt is the author of the Newbery Honoree, National Book Award finalist, and bestselling The Underneath as well as the National Book Award Finalist The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Maybe a Fox (with Alison McGhee), Keeper, and many picture books including Counting Crows and Mogie, the Heart of the House. She lives in College Station, Texas, with her husband and five gifted and talented cats.
Would I recommend: Yes. If you’re a fan of The Night Circus, you may enjoy this one.
About the book:
The song surrounded her now, the murmuring of the library insistent, and her foot took the first step on the winding stairs. She knew it wasn’t entirely a dream. It was the library calling her, its magic driving her.
When Sophie is offered a job at the Ayredale Library – the finest collection of rare books in the world, and the last place her bookbinder mother was seen when Sophie was just a teenager – she leaps at the chance. Will she finally discover what happened to the woman she’s always believed abandoned her?
Taking in the endless shelves of antique books, the soaring stained-glass windows, and the grand sweeping staircase, usually shy Sophie feels strangely at home, and is welcomed by her eccentric fellow binders. But why is the Keeper of the Library so reluctant to speak about Sophie’s mother? And why is Sophie the only person who can read the strange spells in the oldest books on display, written in a forgotten language nobody else understands?
The mysteries of the library only deepen when Sophie stumbles upon an elaborately carved door. The pattern exactly matches the pendant her mother left behind years ago, engraved with a delicate leaf. As the door swings open at her touch, Sophie gasps at the incredible sight: an enormous tree, impossibly growing higher than the library itself, its gently falling golden leaves somehow resembling the pages of a book. Amidst their rustling, Sophie hears a familiar whisper…
‘There you are, my Sophie. I knew you’d come back for me.’
An absolutely spellbinding read about long-hidden family secrets and the magic that lurks between the pages of every ancient book. Perfect for fans of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Night Circus and The Binding.
When I hear “bookbinder,” I think of someone who does just that – binds books so that they can be published. But the books being bound here aren’t just for sale at your local bookstore, though. Oh, no. They are so much more.
Sophie’s mother died under mysterious circumstances when she was a teenager. Her father took her away from the Ayredale Library, only home she’d ever known, thinking he was saving her from…something. She’s got a good job, but she’s starting to question her relationship with Victor. Her uncle, Edward Talbot, reappears unexpectedly in her life after her father’s death, with an offer of a job at the Library. Sophie takes it, leaving behind the manipulative Victor and all that she’s known for years.
When she returns to the Library, memories begin to return in bits and pieces. Sophie hopes she can learn what happened to her mother. She also remembers the attraction she and Will, the Library’s guardian, once shared, and wonders/hopes that can be rekindled. The Library is starting to feel like home again, drawing Sophie in, and she’s finding her place there, remembering who she was and who she is, when her past comes crashing back in unexpectedly.
The atmosphere Thorne creates is enthralling. It calls to mind The Night Circus and Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe for me. Her word choices are exquisite, and she builds a lush, fantastical world for her characters to inhabit. The magical system she envisions is intriguing, with chaos willingly sacrificing itself for creativity to thrive, and the ideas going forth into the world, to be seeded and discovered and used. And how can you not be sucked in by a description of a tree with leaves glowing gold, swirling and falling into Sophie’s hands?
The romance with Will feels a little rushed, especially as Sophie has just broken free of an abusive relationship. I understand, though, that it’s made to fit the confines of a story, and there are allowances to be made. I also would have liked to know more about Will – what actually happened to turn him into the Library’s guardian?
And Victor (said abusive relationship) is just SO ROTTEN. I wanted to reach into the pages and shake Sophie (just a little) when she turns away from Will to go with Victor. I know abusers can be very charming and manipulative, and I know Sophie was a young woman wounded by her past. But it’s hard to imagine how she ever saw anything in him worth her time, because he’s written as such a positively awful character.
Tia may have been my favorite character. So much about her seems baffling, until things click into place and her true nature is revealed.
I might have enjoyed this as book one of a duology. A second book might have given Thorne room to expand more on the characters, tell us more of how they came to be part of the Library. But overall, I found it engaging and a worthwhile read. Recommended for people who like magical realism and are willing to suspend their disbelief while they read.
Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for an advance reader copy. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
Jessica Thorne saw Star Wars at an impressionable age and life was never the same. She’s loved fantasy, romance and science fiction ever since and spends her time looking for adventure – in the pages of her books.
Sometimes she is Ruth Frances Long and won the European Science Fiction Society Spirit of Dedication Award for Best Author of Children’s Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2015.
Would I recommend: Yes. This was a great start to the series!
When the secrets of the past threaten to destroy the future.
A tale of hope, resilience, and the indomitable spirit of a woman, this sweeping epic spans the Atlantic from New England to Morocco during the Age of Exploration.
2019: A young woman finds a relic engraved with a mysterious symbol off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Terrorists in Morocco steal a 17th-century book engraved with the same symbol. As the woman struggles to unravel the secrets behind the symbol, her life changes in ways she could never have imagined.
1657: Transported back in time, she meets the alchemist, John Winthrop, Jr. who is plotting to lure the greatest scientific minds to the New World. But the more she learns, the more she fears for the lives of the loved ones she left behind.
In a stunning twist of fate, a modern terrorist has traveled into the past, where he has become a Barbary Corsair. He has plans of his own. And he will stop at nothing to succeed.
I enjoy a good time travel read, and this one had a bit of a different take on it. Here, time travel involves alchemy.
Ayoub is a Moroccan boy, growing up Muslim, learning what can only be called terrorist ways. When he is helping his mother steal a book from a museum, things go wrong. His mother loses her life, and Ayoub is on the run with this book. Inside it he finds an artifact of some kind. The artifact whisks him to the days of the Barbary pirates through a ball of light.
Experience Fuller (or Peri, as she understandably prefers to be called in this modern world) is a freshman in college. She’s looking forward to enjoying the college experience, and she’s flattered and maybe a bit overwhelmed when Liam, an older student, takes a romantic interest in her. She discovers an artifact in the shallow waters off Martha’s Vineyard. During a storm, the artifact attracts ball lightning, and much like Ayoub, Peri is transported back in time. She finds herself in the era of the Puritans.
Ayoub is rescued by a pirate crew. He resolves to become captain of his own ship, and then use the artifact to travel forward in time and bring modern weapons back. His goal is then to establish the Caliphate before America becomes a nation powerful enough to fight against them.
Peri is rescued from the water by a group that includes Daniel, a Wampanoag who has converted to Christianity and is training to become a minister. She ends up meeting her ancestors and, by the by, Connecticut Governor John Winthrop, Jr. Winthrop is an alchemist, and Peri is able to learn about alchemy from him in hopes of figuring out how she can get back home. She has realized that there’s a connection between her artifact and a book she’d seen on her travels, and between the book and terrorist activity.
Ms. Denny clearly did her research on this book. The historical detail is almost an education in itself! I’m not a huge student of history, and I never really think about what else was going on in the world when studying one aspect of history. This book helped me do just that. The Barbary pirates were the terrorists of their day, so it seems fitting that our time travelers should end up in similar situations when they were transported back – Ayoub with like-minded fellows, Peri with the Americans that will be.
Peri was a little dithery at first, and I really wanted to scream at her when she was so infatuated with Liam. He just seemed off to me (and indeed, he is). But I thought about what I was like at that age, and realized I was probably very similar to Peri when I headed off to college. Ayoub is slightly terrifying in his single-mindedness and his determination to bring 21st-century havoc to the 17th century.
The book doesn’t have a cut and dried ending. It’s rather a cliffhanger. I loathe cliffhangers, because it means I have to wait to get my hands on the next book, and I hate waiting. So I’m anxiously looking forward to seeing how the story continues. Will Ayoub succeed? Will Peri stop him? Will Peri find a way to stay with Daniel, or to bring him with her back to modern times? How will that even work? I have so many questions!
I recommend this if you like well-researched and detailed historical fiction, time travel, and a little bit of romance. It’s a lot of fun, and I look forward to reading more.
Disclaimer: Thanks to the author for an advance copy of the book. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books that I don’t really like.