Mini Reviews: O.W.L.s Edition

Mini Reviews: O.W.L.s

Hello, readers!

Welcome to the last day of April! And we all know what that means.

Well… yes… tomorrow is May. But, more importantly, it’s the end of the Magical Readathon! You can read my initial announcement post here. This year, I was set on completing O.W.L.s that would put me on track for my chosen magical career: Trader of Magical Tomes. That meant I needed to read four books to “test for” four different O.W.L.s: Ancient Runes, Charms, History of Magic, and Transfiguration. It was touch-and-go for half the month but, I am happy to report, I completed all of my O.W.L.s! And now I can try and string my thoughts together about each book I read. Let’s get to it!

Ancient Runes

Title: The Heart’s Invisible Furies

Author: John Boyne

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Bought (BotM)

Rating: ★★★

Links: Bookshop::Indiebound::TBD::B&N::Amazon

So… I had a strange relationship with this book. I kicked off April with this one because it was the biggest book I was planning on reading for the Magical Readathon. I wanted to get it out of the way first. And then it took me FOREVER to read it!

This story follows Cyril Avery, who isn’t really an Avery, as his adoptive parents constantly remind him. He is a young man growing up in Ireland right after the second World War. He’s adoptive parents are rich and Cyril really wants for nothing, but he has a secret that he can’t share with anyone: he’s gay. Which, in 1940s Ireland, could land him in jail or, worse, in a grave. We follow Cyril’s life from the 1940s all the way up to 2016 and it is definitely a trip.

I have to say, I did enjoy reading about Cyril’s life and his struggles coming to grip with his sexuality in such an oppressive environment. So why did it take me so long to read it? It was the strangest thing… whenever I was actively reading the book, I was completely engaged! But, when I put the book down, I had the hardest time convincing myself to pick it back up. I will say that the story is slow, which I feel comes from the nature of the book. It takes a long time to grow up, after all. I think if this book had been more condensed, I probably would have enjoyed it more. Even so, this was a beautiful and heart-wrenching read and I can see why people love it.

Charms

Title: The Whisper Man

Author: Alex North

Genre: Thriller

Source: Bought (BotM)

Rating: ★★★★

Links: Bookshop::Indiebound::TBD::B&N::Amazon

This was actually the second-to-last book I read for the Magical Readathon and I went into it with a little trepidation. I was hoping that it would be fast-paced and pull me in because I did have time for it to drag on! Thankfully, I was not disappointed!

I’m sure most folks who read thrillers know what this book is about. It was all over the bookternet last year! This story follows a father named Tom and his young son, Jake, who have just moved to a new town after the tragic death of Tom’s wife. They are ready for a fresh start, but what they don’t know is that the town they have moved to has a past tragedy of its own. A serial child killer known as The Whisper Man kidnapped and killed several young boys before finally getting caught. But now, another child has gone missing and the circumstances bring up bad memories.

This book reminded me why I love thrillers so much. It was just so fast-paced and freaky and gave me several chills! My heart was pounding several times while I was reading it and I loved it! I will say that if you are triggered by child abuse/murder (none of it on page), you might want to skip this one. The descriptions can get a little intense at times. Still, I think one of the reasons I connected with this thriller so much is that I related to Tom. I was a single parent for quite a few years and some of the thoughts that went through Tom’s head when it came to his young son mirrored thoughts I had, myself. It added an extra layer to this book that I really enjoyed. All in all, this was a twisty, creepy, thrill of a book!

History of Magic

Title: The Vine Witch

Author: Luanne G. Smith

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy

Source: Bought (e-book/Kindle)

Rating: ★★★★

Links: Bookshop::Indiebound::TBD::B&N::Amazon

I literally had no idea what to expect when I went into this book. I think I got it for a dollar or something on my Kindle app. The cover was pretty and the premise sounded interesting, so I bought it. And then I promptly forgot it existed. So, when I picked it up for the Magical Readathon, I really went in cold.

And boy does the story start off with a bang! Elena Bourneau, a young witch living in the French countryside, emerges from a seven-year-long curse. She stumbles back to the vineyard where she was raised only to discover that everything has changed. The vineyard is under new ownership and the man who bought it, Jean-Paul Martel, is a man of science. He doesn’t believe in the so-called vine witches who ply their trade in the Chanceaux Valley. Which is kind of a problem since Elena is a vine witch. As Elena tries to secretly work her magic, she is also on a mission of revenge. Because she knows who cursed her and she is bound and determined to make them pay.

I picked this book up because of the witchy aspect and I was not disappointed! It was dark, mysterious, and eerie. I loved the atmosphere of this book, not least of all because much it is set in a vineyard. The descriptions were so lush, I could picture myself wandering among the vines, smelling the earth and the grapes around me. And the ending was delightfully creepy! My only hang-up with this book was the romance. It was a shining example of insta-love in the most eye-rolling of ways. Honestly, this book would have been much better minus the love interest. Still, it was a fun, gripping story and I’m glad I finally picked it up!

Transfiguration

Title: Nimona

Author/Illustrator: Noelle Stevenson

Genre: Graphic Novel/Fantasy

Source: Bought (Amazon)

Rating: ★★★★★

Links: Bookshop::Indiebound::TBD::B&N::Amazon

I’ve followed Noelle Stevenson on Twitter ever since I realized she was involved with Lumberjanes, a graphic novel series I love! And I really need to continue, now that I’m thinking about it. Anyways, I learned of the existence of Nimona by poking around her Tweets and decided to give it a go.

Y’allllllll, this graphic novel was EVERYTHING! We brought into the life of a young shapeshifter named Nimona. She has decided she wants to be a henchman and barges into the home of the local supervillain, Ballister Blackheart, asking for a job. Once hired, she helps Lord Blackheart in his fight against the Institution, the local hero-training academy that ousted him ages ago. There are nemeses and dragons and lots of good times!

I absolutely adored this graphic novel! It’s just a damn good time, but it also has a deeper level that I ate up. It examines the whole concept of “heroes” and “villains”. It tackles what it means to be “good” or “bad”. And it shows that every one of us is an amalgamation of both. It’s just so beautifully illustrated and written and there may have been tears 😭 I read this all in one sitting (when I should have been sleeping) because I just couldn’t get enough! I didn’t want it to end and have been struggling to not re-read it every single night. If you like fantasy and villains and weird, impulsive women, you would love Nimona!

Also, the little bonus comic at the end is just… *chef’s kiss*


Ahhh, I feel so accomplished! I mean, it’s not like I read a ton this past month, but I’m glad that I got through my O.W.L.s. Now I gotta prepare myself for the N.E.W.T.s… 😨

Did you participate in the Magical Readathon? How did you do with your O.W.L.s? Let me know in the comments!

And, as always, happy reading!

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