Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

Warning: this is going to be a rave. This book is fantastic! It’s different, fun, witty, and every single character is wonderful.

Greta Helsing is a doctor to a…um…special clientele. She treats banshees, ghouls, vampires, and other supernatural beings (she even helps a mummy regain the ability to lurch!). She also manages to get caught up in a rash of murders being committed by a very odd cult. Greta, and some unique friends, have to stop the murders before it’s too late.

I love that this book takes place in modern times, and not Victorian. It’s a great blend of adventure and plot development. I like all the characters, but Fass is my favorite. He’s so sweet, despite being a bit of hellish being.

I loved Strange Practice so much that I picked up the sequel, Dreadful Company, before even finishing the first, so that I could dive right into the next installment as soon as I finished it. Read this book. READ IT!

Three Dark Crowns Series by Kendare Blake (no spoilers)

I loved, loved, loved this book and the books following it (One Dark Throne, and Two Dark Reigns)! The story centers around triplets, each with a special gift: Arsinoe is a naturalist who is said to be able to tame wild animals; Katherine is a poisoner, said to be able to not suffer ill effects from any poison; Mirabella is an elementalist, said to be able to create enormous storms.

They were separated young and raised separately, which is the custom on Fennbirn for triplets born of royalty. Over generations, each set of triplets spends sixteen years honing their gifts, then they battle for the right to be crowned queen. The winner is the one left alive at the end of the year.One of the many things I loved about this book is the amount of time spent developing the characters. Each sister has her own incredibly layered personality. Katherine and Arsinoe both have trouble with their gifts, while Mirabella is the strongest elementalist there has been in a very long time. I loved seeing the desperation that drives Arsinoe throughout much of the first book, and the determination that Katherine has. There are questions of whether or not any of the triplets is willing to kill the other, political intrigues, and hints here and there of the island’s dark history.

The characters and story line develop naturally over the course of the second book, adding a sense of urgency that made me hold my breath in a few spots.

And Two Dark Reigns is brilliant! The story is thundering along at this point, the characters are incredibly complex, flawed, and vulnerable. At least one (I’m being vague with names so as not to give spoilers) has to fight her own sense of self as well as surviving plots against her.

The ending had me yelling at the book– wow. My poor husband just sighed and smiled when I shrieked in the kitchen. It was so well done! If you like your fantasy dark, and a little violent, this book series is for you. The fantasy world is totally believable, and the characters will draw you in. Read it, and tell me who you think should be crowned queen.

My Book Suggestion: Anna Dressed in Blood, also by Kendare Blake.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I may have a slight obsession with this book. Okay: I definitely do, and it’s well deserved. If you haven’t read it yet, you need to stop what you’re doing and read it right now. I’ll wait.

Gorgeous black and white tents, amazing illusions, mysterious nighttime arrivals, The Cirque de Reves is merely the setting for a battle between two magic users, who have been pitted against each other by their masters in a “game” to see whose magical style is better. Little do they know, in this game there can be only one survivor.

Reading this book is like entering a beautiful dream, the kind you don’t want to wake up from. Morgenstern is such a compelling writer that you’ll be able to hear the crackle of the bonfire, and taste the delicious sweets. You’ll see the black and white swirling paths taking you to new wonders, possibly the carousel that is more than it seems, or the Ice Garden.

The characters are just as well-written. My favorite is Chandresh, the eccentric mind who weaves the circus into a character all its own. I also love Herr Fredrik Thiessen, the gifted clockmaker.

The book builds to an amazing climax, with an unexpected but perfect ending. I’ve reread this book at least six times and I’m about to start it again. In fact, I dressed as a reveur for Halloween (that term will make perfect sense when you read the book). If I can only recommend one November read, this would be it.

Read it. Let me know what you think.

Welcome to The Circus of Dreams!

                             The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lamposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

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