Touched by Magic(Razor’s Edge Chronicles, #1) by Celine Jeanjean – Review

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About Touched by Magic by Celine Jeanjean

I’m Apiva.  No, I’m not a badass magical asassin.  I’m a barber to the supernatural.  My magic is very weak and very niche — it works best with keeping things clean.  I know.  I can sense your awe at my power already.  And I’m sure you can see why barbering suits me well.

Although now that I’ve mastered the art of trimming a weretiger’s regrowth, my biggest challenge is fielding the insults of the shop’s cat. Sometimes I wish I had enough magic to go deeper into the city’s magical underbelly.  You know what they say—be careful what you wish for.

Everything changes when a pair of forest fae come into the shop one night, asking for help to protect their youngling. Something’s got them properly spooked, but they won’t say what. If it’s big and bad enough to scare the fae, it’s most definitely powerful enough to make a mouthful of me—probably a small mouthful, at that. And now that the fae have come to me, whatever’s after them is also after me.

My weak magic and a sarcastic cat for backup are unlikely to be enough to keep me alive and save the fae youngling.  There is someone who’s willing to help me—Sarroch. Arrogant, unpleasant, wealthy, and I don’t even know what kind of magical creature he is beneath his human form. Or what his motives are in offering to help.  I have no idea if I can trust him, but I’m so short on allies, I might not have a choice. I just hope I’m not making a huge mistake…

Grab Touched by Magic to see if I make it. Oh, and don’t get offended if the cat insults you…

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Review of Touched by Magic

I was very excited to get this first book in a new series by Celine Jeanjean.  I loved her Viper and Urchin series, so I have high expectations for this new one.  Book 1 did not disappoint!

The author has created a lovely detailed vision of Panong, the city where Apiya lives and barbers. The east Asian influence is evident in many ways: food, dress, transportation and, most importantly, in the folklore – the magical creatures, also known as the Mayak.  Many of the terms were not not familiar to me, prompting me to do a little research.  But the story gives plenty of definition and context so you will not need to do that research.  The Mayak is comprised of many different magical beings, each with their own agenda.  Those Mayak agendas will play into the story not only in this first book, but in the ongoing story.

Apiya is, as the title says, touched by magic.  That means she is not very magical but seems to be very lucky around things that are familiar to her.  Which explains why Hunter, the dog she loves, mostly sheds outside.  All this animal lover can say is Wow! What a great idea.  As a touched human, Apiya is also aware of all the other more powerful magical beings.  And while most of the Mayak believe Apiya to be beneath notice, a few do notice her.  Which is how she gets into a sticky situation.

Along for the adventure are Mr. Sangong, her magical mentor, her touched friend Chai, and businessman/Mayak Sarroch.  I found Mr. Sangong to be mysterious and not yet worthy of my loyalty because I’m not sure of his loyalty.  Chai is an artist with a talent for shaping any type of metal into whatever he wants.  And he is a great friend to Apiya, so, good guy.  Sarroch is the big question.  Is he good?  Is he evil? Will he help Apiya or eat her?  He is, I must admit, interesting.

I enjoyed Apiya’s relationship with her with parents.  They live in London, so she talks to them by phone.  Dad is a geeky scholar who barely knows how to use a phone and Mom is the calming voice of reason in the family.  Their family sense of humor is delightful!  Humor also comes in the form of a cat.  Timothy is a magical cockney cat, who doesn’t take orders from ‘inferiors’ (humans).  As Apiya says: ‘But that’s cats for you — tiny animals with enough arrogance to think they rule the world.”

The book ends on what I consider to be a cliffhanger.  That is, a major part of the storyline concluded and then the story continued, without the word ‘epilogue’ in between.  So I was a truly disappointed when it ended somewhat abruptly.  Touched by Magic is just 195 pages long and it was over too fast.  The next book is out next month though, so the wait is not long.  I am looking forward to more of Apiya’s adventures!

Thanks to the author who provided a copy of her book in exchange for my honest review.

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Links

Add Touched by Magic to your Goodreads shelf:

Purchase Touched by Magic:

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So Much for Treaties! (About the Stewards War Series) By Juli D. Revezzo – Guest Post

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Today I welcome Juli D. Revezzo.  Her series based on Irish myth continues with the newest release, Druid Defiance.


What if the gods of the Tuatha dé Danann and their foes, the evil Fomorii, hadn’t settled their differences and how can humans make them stop spurs the action in Druid Defiance the final book in my Stewards War series. The series mixes paranormal romance (and in some titles, historical fantasy romance) with Irish mythology, particularly influenced by the tale of the Second Battle of Mag Tuired from the Irish Medieval manuscript the “Book of Invasions”.

That story sparked my imagination and I thought what if those battles didn’t really end with the Second Battle spoken of in the Irish myths? What if part of their treaty included a stipulation that the sides would pick a specific meeting place to battle again, every five hundred years, until the end of time?

So that was the jumping off point in the series: The specific time has come again in present day, but the owner of the battleground in question has built her own business on the site and is none-too-happy about it, even though, deep down, she expects it. And even though she wins her battle (no spoilers) with the help of a Guardian (a member of an elite force of wizard warriors sent by the Tuatha dé Danann called harshad warriors*)—with whom she falls in love the trouble didn’t end with the conclusion of their battle.

Trouble carries on into this new book in the series, Druid Defiance, where she (and the warrior to whom she’s now engaged) decides to “go home” so to speak, to her ancestral Irish homeland and hopefully find a way to convince the two sets of warring gods to end their bickering once and for all. The winner… takes control of the world for the next 500 years.

Or, worst case scenario—forever, this time! So, you see why our heroine might want to stop the fighting altogether! Can she convince them to make peace once and for all? If you’d like to see how it all plays out, the earlier books in the series are available now and Druid Defiance releases February 2, 2021.

*The name of the band of warriors comes from the fact that they fight this battle every 500 years, that number being a mathematical concept of a harshad number which is a number divisible by the sum of its digits. (https://www.ria.ie/leabhar-gabhala-book-invasions)

Thank you, Riley, for hosting me today!

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About Druid Defiance

Destined for War…

As Steward, Stacy Macken travels to her ancestral home in Ireland to wed. When she is granted access to the family’s sacred site, her presence opens a magical portal that brings her into a new version of the world. Does this mean the gods approve and her wedding can move forward or will the evil Balor object and end the world once and for all?

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Links

Add books in the Stewards War series to your Goodreads shelf.

Druid Defiance is available for the special pre-order price of $.99, through February 2 at Amazon.  Purchase books in the Stewards War series:

You may also be interested in the related series Celtic Stewards Chronicles:

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About the Author

Juli D. Revezzo has long been in love with writing, a love built by devouring everything from the Arthurian legends, to the works of Michael Moorcock, and the classics and has a soft spot for classic the “Goths” of the 19th century. She writes fantasy and romance and dabbles in other genres, and is the author of is the author of the Stewards War series and the related Celtic Stewards Chronicles, as well as the paranormal urban fantasy series, Antique Magic, and historical romances including the Camden Girls series, Watchmaker’s Heart, and Vesta’s Clockwork Companions, among many others. Her non-fiction has been included in The Scarlet Letter. She has also, on occasion, edited the popular e-zine Nolan’s Pop Culture Review… But her heart lies in the storytelling. She is a member of The Indie Authors Network and the Magic Appreciation Tour.

Find Juli here:

WWMB Best of 2020

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Assuming I was diligent about updates on my Goodreads account, I read (or listened to) 131 books in 2020.   I like to think that I am pretty discriminating when it comes to choosing which books to read.  That means that almost every book that I read is a winner.  That makes it very difficult to pick out the best of 2020.

However, there are several that have stood out.  These are the books that come to mind long after I have read the last word.  They elicit emotions ranging from despair to hope, evoking anger, laughter and love.  In short – they leave a mark. 

Today I am presenting my selections for the WWMB Best of 2020.  I hope you find something that appeals to you.  Most were published in 2020 and for the few that are older, I’ve noted the publishing year.  If you have a favorite you would like to share, please add it in the comments.

(Note: Click on book covers for the Amazon link.  Link to Goodreads under each title.)

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Science Fiction Romance

Catnip for SciFi Reading Librarians
Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarians, #1) by Kit Rocha
Goodreads

In 2020, Kit Rocha (pen name for the writing team of Donna Herren and Bree Bridges) released Deal with the Devil (Mercenary Librarian, #1) by Kit Rocha.  Mercenary librarians. How is someone like me, a librarian that loves Scifi romance, going to ignore this one?  Deal With the Devil is a non-stop action, post-apocalyptic scifi thriller. There are evil corporate overlords and supersoldier enforcers. Nina, Knox and their friends are the bright stars in the neighborhood (or wherever they venture to), helping out in their peaceful, quiet ways and also in their deadly, not-so-quiet ways. These are the honorable heroes of the futuristic Atlanta.  Previously known for paranormal tales, I am very happy Kit Rocha as entered the scifi realm.  Also, this is one of my favorite book covers of 2020.

Genre-Bending
Changed (The Made Ones Saga, #2) by Vicki Stiefel
Goodreads

Changed is a cross between Scifi and Fantasy that features transportation to a parallel world where the Earth-bound ravages of disease and age are miraculously wiped away. I have to say, I really like this idea. Of course, the miracle comes with a price.  One hopes the price will be worth it.  Bad guys with a dystopian-like control make things interesting.  Parallel worlds, flying horses, DNA manipulation, magic.  See – a little bit of everything.  Love this series!

Best SciFi Romance Collection
Pets in Space 5 by many authors
Goodreads

Pets in Space 5 – The 2020 release is the best Pets In Space collection of all.  Even though the anthology is supposed to be about pets, many of the cats, dogs and otherworldy creatures are so much more than pets. Many are sentient companions, have specific purposes and even seem to be as in charge of things as their partners. Pet lovers can relate to this.  I thought all the stories were great, but if I had to single out 1 or 3, they would be General’s Holiday by Pauline Baird Jones, Juggernaut by Laurie A. Green and Finding Mogha by Kyndra Hatch.

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Science Fiction

Best SciFi Series
Lady Astronaut by Mary Robinette Kowal
Goodreads

Book 3, The Relentless Moon, was released in 2020, but I read all three books in this series, plus a few short stories last year.  A lot of research was done to make the story of an early aggressive space program developed to save humanity seem real and vital. Told from the POV of the women destined to be the first Lady Astronauts, the story reflects attitudes toward women and minorities in the 50s. So, our heroines and their friends have a lot to overcome.  Notable among the short stories is The Lady Astronaut of Mars, (free to read on Tor.com)a novelette first published in 2012.  Read this after reading books 1 and 2.  Be prepared to shed some tears.  Nebula Award winning series.

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Intentional Time Travel

Time is Complicated
Just in Time (Out of Time, #2) by Pauline Baird Jones
Goodreads

This long-awaited sequel to Out of Time is the edge-of-your seat, messing-with-time adventure that appeals to the “Time is Complicated” crowd.

Best Spinoff from a Favorte Series
Doing Time (The Time Police, #1) by Jodi Taylor
Goodreads

Published in 2019, this first book in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s spinoff series features Matthew Farrell, the scion of a pair of awesome, yet calm-challenged parents.  Along with his two misfit friends, they form Team Weird, keeping the world safe from illegal time travel.  Shenanigans ensue!  I love the original series, and I am afraid I am going to love this one just as much!  The audiobook is superbly narrated by Zara Ramm.

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Steampunk Powered by Women
A Touch of Ice (The Towers of the Earth, #4) by Nita Round
Goodreads

If I think back to book 1 of this series, which I read as a mystery and not much more, I am amazed at how far the story has progressed. Every time I finish a book in this series, I think the story just keeps getting better.  While the overall story arc of The Towers of the Earth is intricate and fascinating, these books are ultimately about three strong women who will do anything for each other. Which is the true appeal for me.

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Paranormal Romance

We Should All Be More Wolflike
Season of the Wolf (The Legend of All Wolves, #4) by Maria Vale
Goodreads

The Legend of All Wolves is still my favorite wolf/werewolf/shifter series. From the beginning of the series, I have admired the unique take on the wolves that can wear skin. Season of the Wolf focuses on two characters. Evie, the pack Alpha, and Constantine, a shifter that got caught up the battle between the pack and the shifters.  The wolves of the Great Northern Pack have a life philosophy that includes family (pack) first, total honesty and taking care of their environment. 

 

Whiskey Drinkers
The Witches of Port Townsend by Kerrigan Byrne, Cynthia St. Aubin, Cindy Stark and Tiffinie Helmer
Goodreads

This 4-book, 4-author, 4-witch, 4-hoursmen-of-the-apocalypse series was so much fun to read.  I read all four books with a few months.  Each author wrote a section of each book, telling her witch’s story.  Long lost sisters found, the end of the world, sexy as heck heroes, and Lucifer are all thrown into the mix with familiars, zombies, religious extremists, and druids.  This series will put a spell on you – I have personal experience.  For some reason, while I was reading book 3, I found myself sipping a glass of whiskey at the end each day while I was reading the book (just like the sisters liked to do).  The 2020 versions are re-releases.

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Fantasy Romance

Characters to Fall in Love With
In the Darkest Midnight by Grace Draven
Goodreads

Grace Draven’s fantasy romance books always top my list.  This year I read Dragon Unleashed and The Ippos King.  Both were wonderful.  But the one I really loved was In the Darkest Midnight.  Published in 2018, this novella features two amazing protagonists.  The slow burn romance set in the world of the Wraith Kings is beautifully told, absolutely brimming with heart.  It joins Master of Crows and Enreat Me to become another one of my favorite Draven stories.

 

History/Myth/Imagination
Lord of Shadows by Tanya Anne Crosby
Goodreads

After having read book 1 of the series late in 2019, I was on a mission to read the entire series.  The finale, Lord of Shadows, expertly combines English history with Arthurian myth.  The author’s dose of imagination was the spice to add richness and piquancy.  Ms. Crosby also writes historical romance and contemporary suspense, but this series is my favorite by far.

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Fantasy Barbarian Romance

I don’t know if this is a genre, but there were a couple of standout fantasies that dealt with characters that live outside of typical civilizations. 

Great New Author
Hollen the Soulless (Dokiri Brides, #1) by Denali Day
Goodreads

“Dokiri Brides” is not typically a title that would stand out to me.  Judging a book by cover.  I know.  But something propelled me to try this one and I got so much more than I was expecting.  The Dokiri culture, the amazing characters and the intensive slow burn romance have made Hollen the Soulless one of my favorites of the year.  I’ve since read a prequel and 3 sequels.  Keep your eye on Denali Day.  I foresee many great stories coming from her. 

An Author by Another Name
A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons, #1) by Milla Vane
Goodreads

Last February I predicted A Heart of Blood and Ashes would be one of my favorites of 2020.  Milla Vane is the alter-ego of Meljean Brook.  Like her Iron Seas series, this new series has a complex, yet lush story line. It has sharply defined characters – flawed primary characters that are somehow still perfect and secondary characters that add depth and perspective to the tale. And it has a world intricately built just for them. And for me, the reader. 

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Fantasy

The Author that Always Makes Me Cry
A Dance With Fate (Warrior Bards, #2) by Juliet Marillier
Goodreads

It is difficult to imagine ever reading a book by Juliet Marillier that will not end up on my favorites list.  Marillier’s stories are beautifully imagined, and full of emotion.  The characters’ journey is often heartbreaking, but always magical and hopeful. 

Most Original Fantasy Setting
Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse
Goodreads

Black Sun is a highly original story of prophecy, honor, revenge and power. Told from the viewpoint of several pivotal characters, the story weaves through a timeline, back and forth.  It is full of contradictory characters, long-reaching intrigue and fascinating mythology. The mythology surrounding an eclipse in pre-Columbian America native cultures plays heavily in the story, making this fantasy stand out from the typical Euro-based fantasies.  Black Sun will appeal to fantasy readers looking for a fresh treatment of the genre.

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Historical Mystery

Best Collaboration
The Deadly Hours by Susanna Kearsley, Anna Lee Huber, C.S. Harris, and Christine Trent
Goodreads

This anthology follows the story of a cursed gold watch as it passes through time and people.  Each author put their own spin on the curse. Because these authors solve mysteries, rely on facts and believe that the evidence will point to a human culprit, the validity of the curse is constantly questioned. But it never really goes away. I was fascinated and entertained by all four stories.

Something Different from a Favorite Author
The Business of Blood (The Fiona Mahoney Mysteries, #1) by Kerrigan Byrne
Goodreads

Published 2019.  In The Business of Blood, Fiona is a protagonist with a dark past and a current life that keeps her alive in an era where single women are not generally taken care of. That she takes on the job of cleaning up after corpses is not the only thing that makes her life a dark journey. Her obsession with Jack the Ripper as well as other activities that could get her hanged complete the picture for Fiona’s grim life.

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Children

While I don’t have time to read all the new books that come into my library, I often take the time to read the picture books.  Sometimes I am blown away by how wonderful they are!

Anyone Can Be and Artist
When I Draw a Panda by Amy June Bates
Goodreads

What a glorious book! Somewhere between childhood and just a little bit older, most of us forget how to draw. I love how this book shows that all you need to do is put pencil (or chalk or color or…) to paper, keep going, and eventually, you get art!

 

Dad Shows His Love
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Goodreads

This utterly charming book is based on the Oscar-winning short animated film by Matthew A. Cherry. It is the story of a young black girl, her quest to make her hair look special and her daddy’s help.  Check out the video on YouTube.

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Just a Few More

Out of My Box
Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia
Goodreads

Not something I would typically pick up, this book, with so many Poe references, called to me. In answering the call, I was treated to an adventure through Boston neighborhoods while surrounded by several unusual characters whose stories are both fun and heartwarming.  The very quirky story of the brainy Tuesday Mooney and her eclectic group of friends takes the reader on a hunt for treasure, adventure, self-discovery, and friendship.

This One Cracked Me Up
Kiss of a Duke (12 Dukes of Christmas, #12) by Erica Ridley
Goodreads

Published in 2018.  A lady chemist attempts to make a man fall in love with her because of the perfume she invents.  As you might imagine, the unexpected results are not at all what was intended. In the author’s notes she says:  “In case it’s not obvious, I spend a good chunk of my work day giggling at my keyboard.”

Brings Back Fond Memories
A Bad Day for Sunshine (Sunshine Vicram, #1) by Darynda Jones
Goodreads

Readers of Ms. Jones’ Charley Davidson series will see many similarities between that series and Sunshine Vicram – in both characters and plot construction.  This new series has less woo-woo content but just as many questions to answer.  So, if you lamented the end of Charley Davidson, take heart. Sunshine Vicram is just as charming, just as funny, just as complex, just as smart, has just as much heart, and I think I might like her even more than I liked Charley.

Best Title and Timeliest Theme
St. Mary’s and the Great Toilet Roll Crisis (The Chronicles of St. Mary’s, #11.1) by Jodi Taylor
Goodreads

Free read on the authors website.  (Click on the cover.)