Category: Magical Realism

Book Review: Murder Through an Open Door by Melissa Bourbon

I loved the first two book in this series, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read and review this third book, “Murder Through an Open Door”. I am happy to say that it was every bit as good as the first two, and has left me eagerly anticipating the next installment!

This time around, Pippen focuses more on the series-wide mystery of her family’s curse. One of her inn guests turns up dead, and Pippen quickly learns that he was actually in town to see her, and might have had information about the curse and her father’s research. I enjoyed watching her investigate in an effort to learn the truth, and appreciated her methodical approach, as well as the fact that she sought out help from family and friends instead of trying to do it all herself.

The reader gets to know Pippen and Grey even better in this second book. We also meet a potential new permanent character in Hazel, as well as spending more time with series favorites like Jamie, Cyrus, and (of course) Sailor. I like seeing these major characters, as well as their relationships, evolve over the course of the series. I especially appreciated the evolution of Pippen’s relationship with Jamie this time around.

The actual mystery was very well written. Pippen delves into her investigation, using both regular techniques and her bibliomancy. (This is a special gift she has in which books reveal information to her magically.) She’s fairly methodical about this, and I liked following the clues along with her. One mysterious character from the second book made a reappearance, and I hope we see more of him in the future. Once the culprit was revealed, it all made sense based on the clues uncovered throughout the story. Of course, more information about the curse, and how to potentially break it, was uncovered along with solving the murder.

As an added bonus, we spend some time with a member of Pippen’s extended family, and learn more about her family history.

I feel that this book could be read as a stand-alone. The author provides enough information about what has already happened that the reader should be able to figure everything out fairly quickly. However, due to the underlying family curse storyline, I would recommend reading the books in order if at all possible.

Five out of five chunks of creamy Brie!

Book Review: The Last Roman: Exile by B.K. Greenwood

I enjoyed everything about “The Last Roman: Exile”. It’s an exciting, fast-paced combination of thriller, historical fiction, and magical realism. Since I’m a fan of all of those things, this book couldn’t have been a more perfect choice.

The story toggles between two timelines. The present-day plot deals with main character Marcus and his partner Sam trying to thwart a centuries-old plot to wreck havoc on humanity. The historical timeline moves from Marcus’ mortal days and follows him through some key moments of his immortal life. Usually when I read a dual-timeline story, I find myself rushing through one to get to my preferred plotline. In this case, both timelines were so enthralling that I honestly couldn’t choose a favorite. I find myself looking forward to the next book in the series to see what happens in the modern-day crisis, as well as to learn more about Marcus’ past adventures.

Main character Marcus was given a detailed backstory, and lots of information to help the reader understand who he was, who he is today, and how that transformation occurred. His motivations are clear and the reader feels a true sense of who this character is. Minor characters added a lot to the story as well. I particularly enjoyed Sam, and the relationship between the two.

The historical story begins in Biblical times, and I appreciated the author’s use of religious people and events in the book. I enjoyed the unique take on what may have happened to people who had noteworthy interactions with Jesus, and what happened to some of those people after the Biblical events were over. Please note that this book is NOT to be read as a theological treatise. It is a “what might have happened if…..” exercise, not a suggestion of philosophical possibility.

All in all, I loved everything about it, and eagerly await the next installment.

Book Review: Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham

First off, I have to say that I absolutely adored this book! The year isn’t over yet, but I’m confident that this one will be making my Top 10 list. Yes, it’s that good.

I want to suggest that, if at all possible, please do yourself a favor and start reading at page 1, without reading any sort of summary or book description first. I think you’ll enjoy the story even more if you have no idea what’s coming. The story’s events were still a bit of a surprise, but I would have been full-on shocked and stunned if I hadn’t read the description first.

Now, on to why I loved “Winterset Hollow” so much:

  1. It’s different. I read a lot of books, so when I come across one that really strikes me as something I haven’t experienced before, I take notice. While this book has some familiar fantasy and magical realism elements, the direction and nature of the story itself is truly unique. When an author manages to surprise me like this, I’m always impressed.
  2. The actual story is very good. If you haven’t already read the description, I’ll provide the spoiler-free version: A young man and his friends visit the island home of the author of a favorite book. Many things happen during this visit, and they will surprise even if you have read a more detailed summary. They will THRILL you if you go in blind.
  3. The characters were very well-written. I felt like I really knew all of the major ones by the time the story ended. Eamon, the main character, is provided with an incredibly detailed psychological profile. Enough is shared about everyone else who matters to the plot that the reader understands each of them and their motivations. I felt so connected that I’d love to read a follow-up book (or even a short story) about what happened after the novel ended.
  4. The writing itself was impressive! I don’t just mean that the book was free of typos and grammatical errors. It was, but that is to be expected. I mean that the actual writing style was amazing. This book was beautifully written, with a lyrical quality evocative of Markus Zusak. Don’t worry…the writing style never bogs down or takes away from the flow of the story in any way. It’s just perfect!

Thank you, Jonathan Edward Durham, for writing such a fantastic book. This one will have a home in my permanent collection, and I eagerly await whatever you come up with next.

Five out of five chunks of my absolutely favorite sharp cheddar!

Book Review: The Love Hex (or Nicest Flings in Mexico) by Mike Meier

I can honestly say that I LOVED “The Love Hex (or Nicest Flings in Mexico)”. It was a delightful mix of historical fiction, romance, magical realism, and comedy. Add in a healthy does of plain good storytelling, and you have a book I’d highly recommend to anyone.

The book mainly focuses on Rose, an American woman who visits Mexico in 1929 in search of a hot springs cure for some medical issues. She brings along her best friend Alice, who is trying to cope with her husband’s death. The pair quickly meet some attractive young men, and romance (as well as hilarity) ensues. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that everyone winds up where he or she belongs in the end. Rose and Miguel, as the lead characters, are very well-drawn and detailed. The reader learns a great deal about their personal histories, dreams, and goals. The more I got to know these characters, the more I was eager to see what happened next for them, and to find out where they ended up.

I’d be remiss not to mention a couple of side characters who added a great deal to the story:

  1. Maria, Miguel’s younger sister. This young lady has a lot going on in her life, and she is absolutely in charge! She added a special spark to the overall story, and I’d be thrilled to see a spin-off book following her character as she grows up (and quite possibly takes over the world).
  2. The curandera, or local medicine woman/witch. A typical scam artist…or is she? She absolutely steals all the scenes she’s in.
  3. Diego, Ramiro’s dog with unique markings. Or possibly his brother. Maybe both? Regardless, I especially enjoyed any scene in which Diego made an appearance.

Black and white drawings are interspersed throughout the book. I enjoyed these, and found they added greatly to my mental pictures of the characters and places.

As usual, author Mike Meier has created a unique, fabulously enjoyable book that grabbed my attention from the beginning and kept it until the last page.

Five out of five extra-large chunks of ultra-peppery Pepper Jack!

Book Review: A Sprinkling of Murder by Daryl Wood Gerber

“A Sprinkling of Murder” is the first book in a new cozy series, and author Daryl Wood Gerber does not disappoint! I am a huge fan of the author, and was eager to give this new series a try. I’m very glad that I did.

First, this is a magical realism cozy, meaning that it’s mostly a regular-world story, but with a bit of magic added in. In this case, that magical element comes in the form of fairies being real. Main character Courtney saw fairies as a child, and has recently opened her own fairy garden shop. She has a resident fairy names Fiona, who is very much an active character in the story. I especially enjoyed that certain adults (who truly believe) can see and interact with the fairies. Animals and some children can see them as well.

It is important to note that, while Fiona and other fairies have special gifts and powers, they do NOT sweep in and magically solve the entire mystery. Instead, they help by observing and providing useful information. Courtney is left to her own devices to utilize this information as she tries to unravel what really happened to the victim.

There are plenty of characters and suspects, but a handy “who’s who” guide is provided at the start of the book. My advice is to NOT read over it upfront….instead, refer back to it if you come across a character you don’t remember. The list looks overwhelming if you tackle it first….I found that by meeting the characters as they appeared in the story, I had no trouble keeping everyone straight.

On the subject of characters, Courtney is a great one! She is realistic, with real-life strengths, relationships, and problems. Her open heart and faith (which allows her to see fairies) make her even more likeable. I also enjoyed meeting her father, friends, and frenemies, and look forward to seeing these relationship evolve over the course of the series. (I’d especially love to see Courtney’s dad have a bigger role next time around.)

The mystery itself was ideal, with plenty of possible suspects and motives to keep things interesting, but never so many that things became confusing. In the end, I was satisfied with who the guilty party was, and with the motive. Everything made sense, and the savvy reader could have figured it out with the clues provided, but not too early in the story.

I’ll conclude that I loved the addition of the fairy aspect, and am eager to learn more about the fairy world and fairy gardens in Courtney’s next adventure!

Five out of five perfect slices of provolone!