Paige is a 23-year-old witch and the only daughter of the murdered coven leader who has been taking care of recently orphaned 13-year-old witch Savannah. When Savannah is pursued by a dangerous Cabal leader (the wizard equivalent of a coven) and a telekinetic half-demon, Paige does everything she can to protect the strong-willed teen. But it is not only dangerous enemies that Paige must protect her from, it is also Savannah’s darker side (learned from her mother, who liked to practice the dark arts).
With the help of a Cabal leader’s son, Lucas Cortez, Paige fights for Savannah’s life and magic (she must hold a specific ceremony at a specific time to ensure the full growth of her abilities), for her coven (which is being lead by old-fashioned women who were too spooked by the witch trials to be strong and bold), for love (not surprising that she a Cortez fall for each other), for her mother’s vision of the future (where the coven comes into their own full powers), and for the secrecy of magic from the rest of the world.
Armstrong does a strange, if bizarre, job of integrating the magical and real worlds. The magic-users fight in the legal world in an attempt to gain Savannah’s guardianship, and then resort to magical intimidation when that does not work. As a repercussion for the magic and deaths, the small town where Paige lives protests against her (because the think she is a devil-worshipper). The coven turns their backs on her in fear of being exposed and hunted. Paige acts much older than her 23 years and I almost wonder if it is worth making her so young. It doesn’t matter much, but it feels like we’re reading about a thirty year old and you forget she’s so young until it gets mentioned by someone. It is almost more distracting than anything else. Despite this minor flaw, Paige is a strong, determined heroine who is easy to root for.
Though this isn’t strictly the first book in the series (Women of Otherworld), you can easily pick it up and understand everything that is going on.
The weakest point of the book for me was the opening, which is a little slow and hard to get into. Once we actually meet Paige and start dealing with her problems, the book really comes to life.
As someone who loves fairytale retellings, I was thrilled to discover this new take on the story of Alice in Wonderland (though less thrilled to discover that there are already six books out).
In Book One of this new series, we learn that Alyss Heart is the young heir to the Wonderland throne. She is forced to run away when her Aunt Redd returns from exile to attack and kills Alyss’s mother. Alyss finds her self in out world and unable to return so she confides her story to a priest in hopes that he will get her story out to the world so she can be found by someone who can take her home. But he ends up getting all the details wrong, thinking to take creative liberties and “make the story his own.” Ultimately, Alyss must return to Wonderland to reclaim her throne.
One of the best elements to the book is the way it adjusts the characters we always knew. Mad Hatter becomes Hatter Maddigan, an agile bodyguard. The Cheshire Cat becomes deadly assassin The Cat. The White Rabbit becomes royal tutor Bibwit Harte (a good idea minus the fact that we now have two characters with the last names Heart and Harte). Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum become General Doppleganger…
The one area where the book is particularly lacking is in the actual magical aspect of it. Alyss’s basic skill is that she has the strongest “imagination” of anyone in a long time. Ideas are created in Wonderland and then sent into the real world and Alyss is particularly skilled at making things up. What are the limits to a power like this? How do you really overpower someone in battle (we saw her battle the Redd Queen but I still found myself unclear on their actual abilities–why not just imagine your enemy dead? there’s no coming back from that)?
This isn’t my favorite series. I will probably buy the next book, but it’s at the bottom of my list, which has grown too long to ever really catch up on.
Each chapter focusing on one of the eight races Michael Phelps competed in to win the record eight golds in the 2008 Olympics. Using these races as a frame, Phelps talks about his fight to elevate the sport of swimming in the US while giving insight into some of his struggles. We learn about his struggles with ADHD, how he got into swimming (thanks to his talented older sisters), how his coach took on the role of father figure, his drunk driving mistakes, and his “competition” with other top swimmers (I put the word competition in quotation marks because it was more of a friendly rivalry–like Ash on Pokemon! Yes, I did just reference that but if you have ever seen that kid show, you know what I mean–and because he competed more with himself than other swimmers).
The book gave a little more and a little less than I wanted from it. Part of why I love sports memoirs is for their insights into the sports themselves, the little tricks it takes to be the best, the injuries and sacrifices, the pursuit of greatness. We got some of that in the book, with the early morning practices and some talk of form, but I didn’t feel as close to the sport as I had hoped. I also didn’t feel like I got to know who Phelps was as a person. It was more like he was a spokesperson for perkiness and “life is good.”
It might have been more interesting to hear about his rise to greatness than the actual Olympics when he was already basically unbeatable.
It was fun to read, but left something to be desired.