Online Reading Challenge – June Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

We’re halfway through the year – how is your Challenge going? Did you find something good to read during this month of Alice Hoffman?

I chose to read The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman. Although it was written after Practical Magic (one of Hoffman’s most popular books) this one actually takes place chronologically  before Practical Magic begins. In The Rules of Magic we learn a little more about the curse that haunts the Owens family, about the aunt that helped raise Jet and Franny (and their brother Vincent) who in turn one day will be tasked with raising Gillian and Sally whose story will unfold in Practical Magic.

Members of the Owens family possess magic and trying to deny it or hide from it will not save them from the family curse, that everything they love will leave them. Jet and Franny and Vincent’s parents work hard to make the siblings hide their magic, but it persists in each of them, just below the surface. One summer, when they’re young teens, their mother allows them to spend the summer with their Aunt Isabelle at the family home place in a rural town. At first they miss Manhattan, but they soon discover that their magic is growing stronger and that their aunt is happy to encourage them. It becomes a summer of rebellion and revelation as they each begin to find how to live with their legacy.

In time, despite their best efforts, each sibling falls in love and for each one, in one way or another, the family curse prevails. But isn’t that part of everyone’s life, that we seek out love, that we love recklessly and without regret and that someday, maybe today, maybe years from now, that love will no longer be with us.

It has been several years since I read Practical Magic and I wasn’t sure I would be able to make a connection, but I found this book can stand pretty much on it’s own. The writing is lyrical, which sounds kind of pretentious, but describes it best – Hoffman evokes the mysterious, tangled atmosphere of Isabelle’s house as well as the depth of emotions the characters feel with the same delicate touch, never maudlin but always real. In many ways, I found this book to be sad with so much heartbreak and sacrifice but also, ultimately, hopeful that the legacy of the past passes on to the next generation and the sacrifices made were worth the pain. As Hoffman concludes, “the only remedy for love is to love more”. A beautiful book.

Now it’s your turn – what did you read this month?

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

“The things we fear the most are often the things we should fear the least. It’s irrational, but it’s what makes us human. And if we’re able to conquer those fears, then there is nothing we’re not capable of.”

If you are looking for a whimsical and darling story to whisk you away from reality for a bit, you need not look any further than The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. One of the most popular fantasy titles of the past year, this book invites readers to indulge in moments of introspection about living life to the fullest while remaining light, fun, and magical. Intrigued? Without further ado, let me tell you more about this exquisite book that is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year thus far!

This story begins with Linus Baker, a middle-aged man who lives a very solitary life in a world with magical beings. A caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY), he works to ensure that orphanages under the jurisdiction of the government are up to code and treating their young wards well. A strict follower of the rules, Linus never allows himself to form attachments with the magical children he visits; nor does he question the state of their well-being after he leaves. Although with good intentions and a kind heart, Linus naïvely and passively wades through life doing and believing everything he is told. This also carries over into what he tells himself, as he believes his life – complete with his verbally abusive coworkers and boss, his daily walks home in the rain without an umbrella, and listening to the same music at home each night alone with his cat – is as good as life is meant to be for him.

That is, until Linus receives a special assignment from Extremely Upper Management. Due to his impeccable attention to detail and impressive impartiality to magical orphans, Linus is selected for a month-long, confidential assignment in which he must observe six exceptional children, as well as their master, at an orphanage on an island no one knows about. What Linus also doesn’t know, however, is just how exceptional these children are. Despite his lack of comfort with the assignment, he is given no choice and leaves for this island the very next day. What unfurls at the orphanage after he arrives is the beautiful, comedic, and heartwarming story of how six magical children – a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, a were-Pomeranian, an unidentifiable green blob, and the Antichrist, to be exact – as well as their master, completely change Linus’s life forever.

Overall, this story pulls at your heartstrings and is truly innocent at its core. I wish I could meet all of the children – they are the sweetest, funniest, and most resilient set of characters, despite all of the challenges each has faced due to the prejudices hurled at them for having a magical background. One of the strongest tropes in this story (and also a favorite of the author himself) is that of the “found family,” or characters bound as a family not by blood, but by pure unconditional love for one another. Not only is this trope strong with the bonds shared between the children, all of whom come from different backgrounds, places, and lives, but also for Linus, as he develops relationships and finds love he never knew he needed or deserved. This story also features a beautiful, “slow-burn” romance between Linus and Arthur, the master of the orphanage, as Klune aspires to include positive LGBTQ+ representation in his stories. This book truly epitomizes how sometimes you can find love when you aren’t even looking for it.

It is also clear that some of the struggles faced by the magical beings in this story are also faced by people who are marginalized in our society today. With thoughtful and profound quotes from Linus, Arthur, and the children regarding the ways in which to make the world a kinder place, this story exudes empathy, love, and kindness toward those who are different. It urges characters and readers alike to choose love over hate, empathy and an open mind over prejudice, and understanding over fear. This message of unconditional kindness and love for others was absolutely my favorite part of this book, as it allows for the hopeful and optimistic vision of a future in which love does conquer hate.

All in all, I would highly, highly recommend this to anyone who is up for a book that will leave you laughing, thoughtful, teary-eyed, and in love with a family that finds itself together in the cerulean sea.

This title is also available in the following formats:

OverDrive eBook

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

How do you choose what books you want to read? When I’m not diving through my massive to-read pile, I find myself seeking out books with interesting covers first and then I read the book description. This is how I stumbled upon my last read, The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow. This fantasy novel wrapped me in a cocoon of alternate histories where witches are real and they are tired of being hunted. Magic and the suffrage movement become tightly tied together as Harrow tells the story of witches who will do anything to survive.

The Once and Future Witches tells the story of the three Eastwood sisters: James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna. It’s the late 1800s and the sisters are struggling. They haven’t seen each other in seven years when their father tore them apart and scattered them to different places. They have been feeling a tug in their bodies that something isn’t right. Their grandmother taught them the words, the ways, and the will to practice magic, but it always seemed small.

In 1893, magic and witches don’t exist. In the past before the burnings began, magic ran wild throughout the world, but man ruined it. They started burning the witches who opposed them and those that fit their idea of what a witch was. Today’s witching is smaller. It’s hidden in nursery rhymes and the charms that are done to keep the home tidy and appearance perfect. It’s not the witching of old. In this escape from the past, women have decided that it’s safer to seek power by fighting for the right to vote and joining the suffrage movement.

Juniper, Agnes, and Bella end up joining the suffrage movement in New Salem, but finding that it isn’t quite what they expected, they start looking for magic in the unexpected. The three start gathering the forgotten words and ways of witches hidden in the obvious places. Talking with other women, they discover that everyone has their own magic and start compiling their magic together. Magic and the women’s movement begin to converge leading to a witches’ movement that puts the women of New Salem at risk. The deeper they dive into magic, the more dangerous it becomes. Stalked across the city by those who want to destroy them, the sisters must forge new alliances, dig for old magic, and bind themselves closer together if they want to survive.

This book is also available in the following format:

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

A vital work of queer Latinx fiction, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas is full of vibrant culture, real emotions, and the triumph of self-knowledge.

“This stunning debut novel from Thomas is detailed, heart-rending, and immensely romantic. I was bawling by the end of it, but not from sadness: I just felt so incredibly happy that this queer Latinx adventure will get to be read by other kids.” – Mark Oshiro, author of Anger is a Gift

The story centers on Yadriel, a trans boy from a family of brujx, a magical community that lives in a cemetery and takes care of the souls of the dead. Traditionally, brujas focus on healing and brujos help spirits cross over to the afterlife. Unfortunately for Yadriel, his family is very traditional and can’t really accept him as a boy and a brujo, although his magical abilities lie firmly in brujo territory, with no skill for healing. Since his mother passed away, Yadriel’s only sources of support has been his best friend Maritza, a vegan bruja, and his uncle Catriz, whose magic isn’t strong enough to use, and neither of them have been able to convince his father to give him his quinces coming-of-age ceremony, which would confirm his identity in the community as a full brujo. But Yadriel isn’t giving up – he performs the ritual himself, and tries to summon the spirit of his murdered cousin to prove he can release a spirit to the afterlife. Unfortunately, the summoning instead produces Yadriel’s classmate Julian, the resident bad boy who isn’t going into the afterlife without knowing exactly what happened and tying up his loose ends. Without many options, Yadriel agrees to help, only to find that the more time he spends with Julian, the less he wants him to leave. In the meantime, Yadriel and his family must still find out exactly how and why his cousin was murdered, all before Dia de los Muertos, Yadriel’s first chance to see his mother since her death.

There’s a lot going on in this book, and I appreciated the steady pacing that kept the plot moving and new revelations every few pages. The portrayal of the rich culture was fascinating and informative, and the characters and their relationships were realistic with emotional pathos. Moreover, the depiction of being trans in a conservative family was heart-wrenchingly real. I definitely think this is a groundbreaking work, and an excellent read for anyone who either identifies with or wants to build understanding for Latinx culture and/or trans identity.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

The cover of this book was what first caught my eye when I was looking for a new book to read. I listened to this as an audiobook and I will admit that it took me about thirty minutes to become fully invested. Once that happened though, I was hooked. This book became my favorite book  and the one that I recommend to all of my friends. (Pretty big hype talk for this book, huh? I promise you – no pressure). Let’s get into it.

In The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, a massive labyrinth of tunnels and rooms filled with stories exists far underneath the surface of the Earth. This area isn’t accessible to everyone and those who wish to see its wonder must find an entryway. These entryways aren’t your typical doors. They are hidden throughout the world in places where you might not expect to find them. They appear before those seeking a change or those who are worthy or those looking.

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont. One day in the stacks at the library, he stumbles upon a hidden mysterious book that doesn’t look like it belongs. Drawn to it, Zachary begins flipping through and is shocked when he sees a story from his very own childhood written there. Confused, Zachary tries to figure out why and how his story came to be there and finds a series of clues that lead him to a masquerade party to a secret club to a doorway to an ancient hidden library. That ancient library is hidden far far below the surface and is beyond anything that Zachary Ezra Rawlins could ever imagine. He is quickly drawn into this mysterious realm and is introduced to those who are willing to sacrifice anything to protect it. Zachary teams up with travelers and they begin traversing the many, many different hidden places in this labyrinth. Everyone who travels to this library seems to be looking for their purpose in the real world, in the library, and in that mysterious book Zachary first found.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

What would you do if one day you realized that all the stories your family has told you throughout the years are actually true? Matty is just now realizing that the crazy stories he’s heard are really true and not just the ramblings of his upset uncle railing against the government.

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory tells the story of the amazing Tellemachus family, a group of psychics whose powers span generations. Three generations have now descended on one town, sharing secrets, houses, and jobs. The lives they have built together are now starting to crumble, thanks to actions sent in motion many, many years ago by the patriarch of the family, Teddy.

Teddy Telemachus met young Maureen when the two were at a college signing up for an experimental study. Fascinated by her good looks and psychic powers, Teddy made it his mission to get to know her better. Flash forward to the mid-1970s. Teddy and Maureen are married with three children in tow: Irene, Frankie, and Buddy. The Telemachus family is famous! They’re known on the talk show and late-night television circuit for performing tricks and feats that no one can understand. Those Telemachus people must be magic! Teddy is a conman with no actual magical talent, Maureen can astral project, Irene can detect lies, Frankie is telekinetic, and Buddy is clairvoyant. Teddy clearly knows how to work a situation to get what he wants and uses that to provide for his family.

Late one night on a talk show, the Telemachus family is faced with a skeptic whose only goal is to discredit their entire way of life. Teddy believes that after they prove this well-known skeptic wrong, the family will be set for life. Things don’t go to plan though. The magic fails to happen and the family is destroyed. Forced to go into hiding, they soon find themselves living in Chicago trying to rebuild the family name. None of the grandchildren have shown powers yet, at least that’s what Teddy tells the skeptic who keeps showing up and the CIA agents at the door. When one of his children gets involved with the mafia, Teddy discovers secrets running through the family that he wishes didn’t exist. One of these secrets: Irene’s son, Matty, has some Telemachus magic running through his veins. Fighting to stay alive, the Telemachus family realizes that they have to set aside their petty issues and come together to fend off the CIA, mafia, and skeptic threats knocking at the door. Is it too late? Only Buddy knows the answer to that and he’s not talking. You’ll just have to read and see for yourself.

The Magicians

Full disclosure: I have the hardest time reading or watching anything with magic. Suspending reality is very difficult for me, especially when that suspension involves negating laws of physics or science or math. I’m a slightly more left-brained person (in case you couldn’t tell by my inability to handle anything that defies logical thinking), so anything with magic needs to be crafted in a way that I find believable. The television show, The Magicians, which premiered on Syfy in 2015, has elements of believable magic(at least to me), plus really engaging character development and background information, that allowed me to suspend my logical brain for a little while.

The Magicians is what I think Harry Potter would be like for grown-ups. Just imagine Hogwarts as a college and BAM! You’ve got The Magicians. The main characters of this show are college students looking to get into different graduate schools. Quentin Coldwater is an awkward student who has been selected for an alumni interview for a prestigious university. As he and his best friend, Julia, walk into the interview, strange things begin happening.

Quentin finds himself admitted to Brakebills University for Magical Pedagogy(which is NOT the college that he had the interview for). Brakebills is a secret university located in upstate New York dedicated to all things magic. Quentin and his friends at Brakebills are thrust deep into the world of magic. They are learning more and more every day about their powers, but learning to control them proves difficult.  Each student has an interview/test to figure out what kind of powers they have, where they will live, and what sort of classes they will take. (Same type of concept as the sorting hat in Harry Potter! Except it’s a teacher testing them..) Quentin and friends are struggling with normal college problems with an added level of magical complications. Watching each student struggle to learn to master even the most basic spells is what made this show believable for me the most.

Add in a magical kingdom called Fillory, the land that Quentin’s favorite book series is based in, and there’s a whole new level of mystery involved! They soon find out that this magical fantasy world is actually very real. The consequences this discovery has on not only the students, but on humanity as a whole, is catastrophic and very dangerous. This television show is incredibly layered with multiple plots running simultaneously. I found this to be refreshing because it allows each character to become fully developed and have their own separate storyline that is still connected to the others. Highly recommended.


This television show is based on the book The Magicians by Lev Grossman. This book is the first in the Magicians Trilogy, which is:

  1. The Magicians
  2. The Magician King
  3. The Magician’s Land


The Librarians: Season One

the-librariansThe Librarians is an American fantasy-adventure television show that premiered in 2014. If the title sounds familiar, it should! This show is a direct spin-off of The Librarian film series starring Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen. (Look below for the list of The Librarian movies available for check-out).

This television series begins by introducing viewers to Eve Baird, a NATO agent who bumps into the librarian Flynn Carsen, a meeting that sends the two off on a new journey together. Baird becomes the librarian’s new guardian and, after a quick and dirty introduction to the Library and its magic, is immediately helping Flynn on a rescue mission. It turns out that someone is killing off potential Librarians and they need to be stopped.

Hijinks ensue and we soon find Flynn off to the find the Library after it disappears and is lost in time and space in an effort to save itself from the Serpent Brotherhood. Baird is left to protect the new Librarians and help Jenkins, the caretaker of the Library’s branch office, train the newbies. Meet Jacob Stone, Cassandra Cillian, and Ezekiel Jones: three people who were invited by the Library to interview for the Librarian position that was ultimately given to Flynn Carsen after the three didn’t show up for their auditions. They are each geniuses in their own rights with quirks and specialized knowledge that allow them to solve problems and escape from tricky situations seemingly at the last moment. Throughout the first season, this foursome, plus Jenkins at times, finds themselves set off on adventures to rescue ancient mysterious artifacts. These artifacts have magical powers and either the evil Serpent Brotherhood wants to snatch them up for themselves or they are somehow disrupting normal everyday life. Either way, this show is rife with comedic and stoic moments as the Librarians rush to solve problems, work together, learn new things, save the world, and keep magic alive.

This show is full of history lessons and quirky/off-the-wall humor, much like The Librarian movies are. When you think you are just enjoying a new television show, you’ll realize that you are in fact learning something new, whether it’s about Nikola Tesla, Shakespeare, King Arthur, Santa, Egyptian Gods, the minotaur, or a variety of other historical, mythical, or magical things. This show is full of librarians after all, so you’re going to learn something new!

Once you finish the first season, be sure to go and put the second season on hold! (The third season is still on television.)


This television show is based on/is a direct spin-off of The Librarian film series starring Noah Wyle. This is a series of three movies: The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines, and The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice.

librarian-quest-for-the-spear librarian-return-to-mine librarian-curse-for-judas-chalice

I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young

i hate fairylandI Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young is a twist on the classic fairytale. This volume begins by introducing readers to Gertrude, aka Gert, a six year old who wishes she could go to a magical world full of fun and magic and laughter. Her wishes are granted and she is sucked down into Fairyland. Once there, Gertrude wishes she could go home. Queen Cloudia gives Gert a map of all of Fairyland that she has to follow in order to find a key that will open up a door back to her world. This whole process should only take her about a day and she’ll be back home with her parents.

Flash forward 27 years and Gert is still stuck in Fairyland. Scooting around Fairyland with her guardian, she’s stuck here and she hated it. Gert is trapped in her six-year-old body, but her mind has aged and felt every minute she’s been trapped in Fairyland. Using violence to get what she wants, Gert is leaving a bloody trail across this world and still hasn’t found her key. Queen Cloudia is sick of Gert and just wants her dead. Because of the fact that Gert is a visitor though, her safety is guaranteed(at least from Cloudia). Assassins track down Gert, forcing her to use whatever means necessary in order to survive.

This graphic novel is a twist between Alice in Wonderland and Deadpool with quirky and fantastical drawings with a large amount of battle-axe wielding and blood soaked gore. Gert’s journey to leave Fairyland is fantastic and leads viewers on a trippy adventure of mayhem.

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

signal to noise

Love. Friendship. Vinyl records. Music. And of course, magic. Moreno-Garcia has taken the everyday perils of teenage life and added in her own twist: magic found in vinyl records.

In Signal to Noise, readers are introduced to Meche, an awkward fifteen-year-old girl, who is friends with two other awkward fifteen-year-olds, Sebastian and Daniela, in 1988 Mexico City. As they slog and struggle through family and school, Meche soon discovers that in the vinyl records that are scattered throughout her house lies the possibility of magic. Soon the three are off searching record stores and Meche’s house for records that are either hot to the touch or give off a shock when touched. Meche is the one who shows a natural aptitude and ability for magic, something her grandmother both fears and acknowledges will happen as she too was blessed with the gift of magic at a young age, though she was not nearly as strong as her sisters. As Meche and her friends begin casting spells, they realize that this new magic will afford them the chance to become more popular and noticed, fix their broken families, find love, and become more confident with themselves. This use of magic comes with a price though.

Flash forward to Mexico City in 2009: Meche has come alone back to Mexico City for her estranged father’s funeral. Moreno-Garcia accomplishes the switch between 1988 and 2009 by alternating back and forth between the different time periods as the reader progresses. The difference between 1988 and 2009 leaves readers wondering what happened between Meche and her family, as well as what happened between Meche and her friends.

For those of you that are trying to wade your way into the realm of fantasy or those of you who are looking for a break from heavy fantasy, Moreno-Garcia helps these by tempering the amount of practiced magic in her book with stories of magic told by Meche’s grandmother about previous practicing witches and warlocks. The amount of fantasy within the book is also lessened by the fact that the friendships between the three teens dominate the majority of the book with magic being a thread that weaves its way throughout everything. This book worked for me as a good introduction into fantasy since the magic present within did not overwhelm me as I was reading.