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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street, East Providence, RI 02914

 LAST UPDATE  12/26/20

Hope Island by Tim Major, Titan, 2020

When her boyfriend leaves her unexpectedly, a woman decides to her daughter to meet his parents, which seems a bit odd. They live on a remote island where things are going on that are more than a bit odd. She slowly unravels the mystery, and this is all reasonably entertaining, but the final revelations - though certainly original - are disappointing and unconvincing. This feels almost like a horror novel at times -think Algernon Blackwood - so I suppose one should call it dark fantasy. 12/26/20

When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey, Simon Pulse, 2020  

Three teenager girls have magical powers, but they are not entirely in control of them and through mischance they cause the death of a boy. Each of the three has to wrestle with the outcome, and their failure to correct it. This is a clever and ambitious story which I generally enjoyed but it fan afoul of my personal showstopper present tense narration. It serves no evident purpose in the story and was constantly distracting. For young adults, obviously. 12/21/20

Hooting Grange by Jeffrey E. Barlough, Gresham & Doyle, 2020, $14.95, ISBN 978-0-9787634-7-3

If you're tired of fantasy involving barbarian armies, usurped thrones, court intrigues, quests for magical swords, and the rest of the currently popular tropes of that genre, this is a series you might want to try. The Western Lights series has now been extended to eleven volumes, most of which involve non-recurring characters. The protagonist this time is a sea captain who inherits a rambling country estate in the wilds of a country that somewhat resembles England. The house has a bad name locally - a sense of wrongness rather than explicit ghosts - but the captain is prevented by the terms of the will from selling the property. There is some other presence on the property and he'll just have to find a way to live with it. I won't spoil things by revealing any more. This is the kind of quiet fantasy that has never really appealed to the popular taste for long, but it's a strain of the genre which I think will persist after all of the wars of succession have ended and the evil wizards defeated. 11/20/20

Damned Pretty Things by Holly Wade Matter, Aqueduct, 2020, $19, ISBN 978-1-61976-185-8

This is a road trip story and a coming of age story and a love story and a buddy story and a fantasy. Two women set out on a trip involving a cursed family and other wonders, and they're pretty magical themselves, although in different ways. They quickly become friends, but that is in jeopardy when they both fall in love with the same man. It is primarily a novel of character, of course, given the premise, and it delivers two strongly likeable people whose world is enhanced by a good deal of subtle detail about the people they meet and the things that they see.  I had never heard of the author before, but this was a very pleasant surprise, and I have no doubt we will hear of her again. The ending is bitter sweet.10/28/20

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab, Tor, 2020, $26.99, ISBN 978-1-250-8756-1

Just when I thought the deal with the devil story was done forever. Three centuries ago, a young French woman made a deal with a devil. She is to become immortal, but the flip side is that no one will ever remember her after their first meeting. And so she goes through life - and we see bits and pieces of this sprinkled across three hundred years - without ever having a friend. Her love affairs are inevitably one night stands, and she has a lot of them, with both sexes. The curse seems unbreakable until the day she tries to steal a book and a young man remembers her the next time they meet. She has no idea why, and that of course is the ultimate plot in the novel. I have read and enjoyed previous books by this author but this was far more impressive than her earlier work. If she never wrote another word, I suspect she would be remembered for this one. 10/4/20