Harrowing and humorous stories.


HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, Diana Wynne Jones. An enchanting novel about Sophie, who’s stuck in a mediocre life until irks the Witch of the Waste and ends up in an old woman’s body. Breaking this curse means dealing with the wizard Howl–a hoot of a character–and haggling with a fire demon. An engaging, fun read. Two other books follow, but only feature Sophie and Howl in minor roles.

THE HUSBAND TEST, Betina Krahn. Eloise is a novice whose independent ways are taxing Mother Superior’s patience. Peril, Earl of Whitmore, is a master warrior, but his estate is in disarray because of a curse and he needs a wife to break it. The abbess sends Eloise with Peril to “judge” him and figure out who at the Convent of the Brides of Virtue will best suit him. Their romantic journey is a delight, although Peril may strike some as too aloof. Give it at try and decide for yourself.

THE HANDMAID’S TALE, Margaret Atwood. I haven’t seen the Hulu series, so I can’t compare the two. This is a chilling dystopian tale about the Republic of Gilead, where handmaidens belong to their “masters” and are expected to reproduce. Atwood isn’t the easiest author to read–she foregoes quotation marks, for example–and the pace can be slow, but this book is a classic you shouldn’t miss.

THE HOLLOW KINGDOM, Claire B. Dunkle. I enjoyed this book so much I wrote to the author and received a lovely note in response. Kate is taken by the goblin king, Marak, to be his wife, which sounds like a familiar trope, and might bother modern sensibilities. But Dunkle is such a lovely writer you can’t help but be swept up in the tale. Kate is intelligent and quick-witted, Marak an irreverent charmer. And the goblin kingdom, far from expectations, has a beauty of its own. The first, and best, of a trilogy.


HUNTED, Meagan Spooner. To save her father, Yeva hunts a strange creature into a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that she’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast? Another retelling of the classic tale.

Any others you’d recommend?





Young adult reads—all first books in series—for this round.


THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, Rae Carson. A thrilling fantasy about a sixteen-year-old, flawed heroine who becomes the secret wife of a king and is stalked by savage enemies harboring dark magic. If she fulfills a prophecy, she could be a savior. If not, she’ll die young. A quick-paced read and the beginning of an intriguing trilogy.

GRAVE MERCY, Robin LaFevers. I adore this book. LaFevers sweeps you into 15th century France with the story of seventeen-year-old Ismae, who escapes a brutal arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where nuns serve the gods of old. She’s trained as an assassin, a handmaiden to Death, and thrust into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared. Beautifully written, engaging, and the first in LaFever’s fabulous His Fair Assassin trilogy.

THE GOOSE GIRL, Shannon Hale. Loosely adapted from the fairy tale. Ani is a princess who spends the first years of her life listening to her aunt’s incredible stories and learning the language of the birds. Her story isn’t always pretty, and the beginning can be a bit slow, but overall you can’t help but root for the girl who accepts her “destiny” while looking for ways to shape her world. First in the Books of Bayern series.


GODDESS OF THE SEA, P.C. Cast. I’m always on the lookout for a good mermaid story and this one sounds promising. From Goodreads: “. . .  a series about normal women transformed by their willingness to believe in the spark of the Feminine Devine that makes all women magical . . . celebrates the female viewpoint and the joys to be found in the care of tending of beauty in whatever form it’s found, whether it’s nature, art, or humanity.” First in the Goddess Summoning series.

Any others you’d recommend?



Fantasy rules in this batch of books.


THE FIRE ROSE (Elemental Masters #0), Mercedes Lackey. Another one of my favorite fantasy authors, Lackey spins an engrossing version of Beauty and the Beast set in 1905 San Francisco. After her father dies and leave her penniless, Rosalind Hawkins, a medieval scholar, goes to work for Jason Cameron, a reclusive rail baron. The strange books she translates for him lead her to suspect he’s hiding a secret, which, of course, he is—a spell gone wrong that has left him half-wolf, half-man.

IN THE FORESTS OF SERRE, Patricia A. McKillip. Loosely based on a Russian fairytale, The Firebird, this is a wonderful story of love lost and found. Prince Ronan, mourning the death of his wife and child, flees into the wilderness, where he antagonizes the witch Brume and ends up cursed and bewitched. Princess Sidonie is escorted by a wizard to wed Ronan to avoid war. Sounds familiar, but McKillip’s fabulous, lyrical prose lifts it above the norm.

THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD, Patricia A. McKillip. Sybil is the wizard woman of Eld mountain, where she magically communes with animals. She’s content in her isolation until a man called Coren arrives, seeking protection for a baby. Years later, Coren returns and takes Sybil and the child away, pitching her into a world where her powers are exploited for political gain.  Winner of the World Fantasy Award. Another McKillip gem.

THE FOURTH ELEMENT trilogy. Kat Ross. Immerse yourself in the story of Nazafareen, who lives in a fantastic Middle Eastern world where she’s bonded—physically and spiritually, by means of a magic cuff—to Darius, a creature called a daeva. They set off to kill Druj, undead creatures, but their relationship takes many twists and turns. Compelling, original, thought-provoking. The tale continues with The Fourth Talisman series.


Can’t think of anything offhand. Recommendations?