The Ladies of the Secret Circus, By Constance Sayers ~ 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Redhook for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: March 23rd, 2021

469 Pages

Synopsis: 

Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder—a world where women tame magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. But each daring feat has a cost. Bound to her family’s strange and magical circus, it’s the only world Cecile Cabot knows—until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate love affair that could cost her everything.

Virginia, 2005: Lara Barnes is on top of the world—until her fiancé disappears on their wedding day. Desperate, her search for answers unexpectedly leads to her great-grandmother’s journals and sweeps her into the story of a dark circus and a generational curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations. (Goodreads)

The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a darkly magical read, that I enjoyed so much I didn’t want it to come to an end. The first quarter of the book delves into the life of Lara in 2004/2005 as she struggles to move on after the mysterious disappearance of her fiancé on their wedding day. You find out a little bit of her background, and her family’s magic, but the real revelations come when her great-grandmother Cecile’s journals fall into her hands. The majority of the book alternates from Jazz Age Paris to the early 2000s and what Lara discovers involves the supernatural, star-crossed lovers, a family curse, and the question of what you’re willing to sacrifice to save the one you love. It’s exquisitely told and although it’s almost 500 pages long, I had to make a concentrated effort to slow down. There are so many elements to this atmospheric novel: demonology, history, art, circuses, and magical realism. Sayers skillfully builds layer upon layer, until I felt as though I was within the pages of the book. There’s a little bit of romance but this isn’t really the focus of the story. All that’s left to say is that The Ladies of the Secret Circus is creative, mesmerizing storytelling at its finest, and perfect for fans of The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. 

Malice, By Heather Walter ~ 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: April 13th, 2020

496 Pages

Synopsis: Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar really cares about what happens to their princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she…cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

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Malice is a master class in how to create a fairytale retelling. With her debut novel, Heather Walter has taken the beloved tale of Sleeping Beauty and embroidered it with gorgeous and unique embellishments that drew me in immediately from the first chapter and didn’t release me for hours after I finished. You all know how I endeavor not to include any spoilers in my reviews if I can help it, and I’m even more determined in this case because this is a tale you need to experience on your own with no preconceived notions or expectations. It’s both character-driven and plot-driven, with each perfectly complementing the other. This first book mainly concentrates on Alyce, and how she and her dark magic become a force to be reckoned with. While her relationship with Princess Aurora plays a role in who she becomes, their romance doesn’t truly factor in until the latter half of the book. I do warn that there’s a pretty passionate scene between Alyce and Aurora, so this is definitely not for younger YAs. A few of the secondary characters are molded from familiar characters, both from the original story and the Disney adaptation, but they all take on completely original characteristics of their own. The world building is visually detailed and helps bring the kingdom of Briar to life. While there’s not a lot of action in the first part of the book, I was so enthralled with Briar, its history and inhabitants, that I didn’t mind at all. The final few chapters though fairly explode, and the climactic ending has left me impatient for the sequel in this planned duology. I HIGHLY recommend this for older teens and adults who are looking for diverse fairytales with complex characters, rich world building, and engrossing storytelling. 

Whimsical Wednesday

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I have been wanting to share the beautiful animated short, Float, with all of you since it debuted on Disney Plus in November 2019. Unfortunately, until now, you had to be a subscriber to the streaming service to watch it in its entirety. Due to the increase of attacks on Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders by ignorant, hateful people, the studio has decided to make the first animated short featuring Filipino-Americans widely available. After the film I encourage you to also watch how it came about. It’s quite inspiring. 

Bad Witch Burning, By Jessica Lewis ~ 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Children’s/Delacorte Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: August 24th, 2021

336 Pages

Synopsis: For fans of “Us” and “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina,” comes a witchy story full of black girl magic as one girl’s dark ability to summon the dead offers her a chance at a new life, while revealing to her and even darker future.

Katrell doesn’t mind talking to the dead; she just wishes it made more money. Clients pay her to talk to their deceased loved ones, but it isn’t enough to support her unemployed mother and Mom’s deadbeat boyfriend of-the-week. Things get worse when a ghost warns her to stop the summonings or she’ll “burn everything down.” Katrell is willing to call them on their bluff, though. She has no choice. What do ghosts know about eating peanut butter for dinner?

However, when her next summoning accidentally raises someone from the dead, Katrell realizes that a live body is worth a lot more than a dead apparition. And, warning or not, she has no intention of letting this new lucrative business go.

But magic doesn’t come for free, and soon dark forces are closing in on Katrell. The further she goes, the more she risks the lives of not only herself, but those she loves. Katrell faces a dark choice: resign herself to poverty, or confront the darkness before it’s too late. (Goodreads)

For me personally, Bad Witch Burning was a difficult read. As you can tell from the 5 stars I’ve given it, it’s not because I think it’s a badly written story. No, it’s because it’s so on point in regards to living with a toxic parent, something author, Jessica Lewis sadly experienced herself. Without going into details, I too am a survivor of a childhood filled with abuse, although my background was white and middle class, rather than black and poverty stricken. Despite the differences in race and socioeconomic background, I strongly connected with Katrell and her complicated feelings toward her mother. She makes many terrible decisions, but every one of them can be laid at the feet of her horrendous home life and her desperation to escape. Her anger, bitterness, loneliness, and anguish are so intense they pulsate off the pages, and what she goes through is utterly heart wrenching. I confess to tearing up more then once. Mixed in with the darker real life themes of child abuse and neglect, is this incredible supernatural mythology which reminded me at first a little of The Monkey’s Paw, before taking a truly unique turn which had me worrying how Katrell was going to survive. Lest you think it is all doom and gloom, it’s not. There are moments of bright spots in the forms of Katrell’s loyal best friend Will and her adoptive parents who do their best to help, and Katrell’s caring guidance counselor, Mike. And without giving any spoilers, the book ends on a hopeful note. Because of the graphic abuse scenes, certain readers may have a tough time reading Bad Witch Burning, but if you’re looking for a vulnerable yet fiercely courageous protagonist to root for in a story that will suck you in from the first page, I highly recommend you give this a try. I guarantee it’s a book you won’t soon forget.

The Last Post?

Many of you know Sue Vincent as a gifted writer and kind and caring fellow blogger. Yesterday she published what may be her final post as she comes to the end of her battle with cancer. Please click on the link to her post and join me in saying farewell to this courageous and inspirational lady.

The Silent Eye

This may be the final post that I get chance to write for the Silent Eye… that decision has been taken out of my hands. I spent much of last week in hospital, having, as many of you know, been diagnosed with incurable small cell lung cancer last September. It has been an interesting and informative journey on so many levels as familiar things have been stripped away and a gift of love left in its place… rather like the tooth fairy leaving something of real value in place of a discarded incisor.

First to go was the illusion of near-immortality that gets us through life, one way or another. We know there is a certain inevitability about life leading to death, but we tend not to apply it to ourselves until we are forced to pay attention. Dealing with the situation that made me sit up and listen meant…

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