Lia Louis, The Key to My Heart
Since the tragic death of her husband, Russ, two years ago, Natalie has been struggling. Once a professional pianist, now she can only play at the dilapidated public piano in St. Pancras station, where she can be anonymous and ignored. When a mysterious person starts leaving sheet music there for Natalie — music that has special meaning for her and Russ — she tries to discover who’s responsible. Along the way, she slowly begins to work through her feelings of guilt and loss. I enjoyed this one; despite the sad premise and the very realistic-feeling portrayal of grief, the book has an uplifting and even sometimes humorous tone. A romance eventually develops, but the novel’s main focus is Natalie’s personal growth. I’d recommend this one if you like your women’s fiction with a little gravitas, though Dear Emmie Blue is still my favorite book by this author.
Sylvia Izzo Hunter, The Midnight Queen
Gray Marshall, a student of magick at Oxford’s Merlin College, has just been framed for a crime he didn’t commit. His pompous, disagreeable tutor forces him to retreat to the tutor’s country estate till the scandal blows over. Gray resents this change in his circumstances — that is, until he befriends the tutor’s daughter, Sophie. They soon discover that the plot against Gray is part of a much larger scheme that could throw the entire kingdom into turmoil; meanwhile, Sophie learns some surprising truths about her identity. I originally read this book in 2014 but couldn’t remember a thing about it, so I decided to reread it before continuing with the series, and I’m so glad I did! I loved the fantastical alt-Regency setting, Sophie and Gray are both wonderfully likable characters, and the plot is intriguing (albeit a bit slow-moving). In short, I loved this book and am so glad I decided to tackle this series this year!
Sarah Addison Allen, Other Birds
This quiet, magic-infused novel centers around the inhabitants of the Dellawisp, an old condo building tucked away in the small town of Mallow Island, South Carolina. The residents are estranged sisters Lizbeth and Lucy, artist Charlotte, chef Mac, newcomer Zoey, and building manager Frasier. They all have difficult pasts and are all keeping secrets. But as they slowly get to know one another, they discover friendship, love, and the strength to let go of their (sometimes literal) ghosts. I’m a Sarah Addison Allen fan, and this book delivers her trademark evocative writing and sympathetic yet flawed characters. There are POV chapters for almost every character, which feels like a bit too much…but I’m also not sure whose POV I’d want to take out. I really liked this one overall and would recommend it if you’re in the mood to sink into a slow-paced, magical world.