An overly rich treacle tart, sweet and flavorful but hard to get through.

THE BOOK OF MAGIC

In the conclusion to Hoffman’s Practical Magic series, a present-day family of witches and healers wages a final battle against the curse that has plagued them since 1680.

Thanks to an ancestor’s bitter curse, anyone who's been in love with and/or been loved by an Owens family member for the last 300 years has met death and tragedy (with rare exceptions involving risks and personal sacrifice). Hoffman’s prequel, Magic Lessons (2020), detailed the origin of the curse. In this series finale, Hoffman brings the three most recent generations together: sisters Sally and Gillian, whose youthful adventures introduced the series in Practical Magic (1995); their beloved elderly aunts, Jet and Franny, and long-lost uncle Vincent, children themselves in 1960s Manhattan in Rules of Magic (2017); and Sally’s daughters, Kylie and Antonia, whom she’s shielded from knowledge of their unusual heritage and its curse. The novel opens with Jet about to die, aware she has no time to use the knowledge she’s recently gained to end the curse herself. Instead, she leaves clues that send her survivors on a circuitous path involving a mysterious book filled with magic that could be dangerous in the wrong hands. Then an accident makes the need to break the curse acute. What follows is a novel overripe with plot twists, lofty romances, and some ugly violence along with detailed magic recipes, enjoyably sly literary references, and somewhat repetitive memories of key moments from the previous volumes. While centered in the Massachusetts town where the Owens family moved in the 17th century, the novel travels to current-day England (briefly detouring to France) and becomes a battle of good versus evil. The Owens women’s greatest challenge is knowing whom to trust—or love. Hoffman strongly hints that the danger arising when someone chooses incorrectly is less a matter of magic than psychology and morality. Ultimately, for better or worse, each Owens woman must face her fear of love. For all the talk of magic, the message here is that personal courage and the capacity to love are the deepest sources of an individual’s power.

An overly rich treacle tart, sweet and flavorful but hard to get through.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982151-48-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

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BOOK OF NIGHT

A former thief who specialized in stealing magical documents is forced back into her old habits in Black's adult debut.

Charlie Hall used to work as a thief, stealing for and from magicians—or rather, “gloamists.” In this world, gloamists are people with magical shadows that are alive, gaining strength from the gloamists' own blood. A gloamist can learn to manipulate the magic of their shadow, doing everything from changing how it looks to using it to steal, possess a person, or even murder. Gloamists hire nonmagical people like Charlie to steal precious and rare magical documents written by their kind throughout history and detailing their research and experiments in shadow magic. Gloamists can use onyx to keep each other from sending shadows to steal these treasures, but onyx won't stop regular humans from old-fashioned breaking and entering. After Charlie’s talent for crime gets her into too much trouble, she swears off her old career and tries to settle down with her sensible boyfriend, Vince—but when she finds a dead man in an alley and notices that even his shadow has been ripped to pieces, she can’t help trying to figure out who he was and why he met such a gruesome end. Before she knows it, Charlie is forced back into a life of lies and danger, using her skills as a thief to find a book that could unleash the full and terrifying power of the shadow world. Black is a veteran fantasy writer, which shows in the opening pages as she neatly and easily guides the reader through the engrossing world of gloamists, magical shadows, and Charlie’s brand of criminality. There's a lot of flipping back and forth between the past and the present, and though both timelines are well plotted and suspenseful, the story leans a touch too hard on the flashbacks. Still, the mystery elements are well executed, as is Charlie’s characterization, and the big twist at the end packs a satisfying punch.

Hits the marks for spooky thrills and mysterious chills.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-81219-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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