The Last Oracle #1: The Book of Secrets – Melissa McShane

How do I tell you how much I loved this book without spoiling anything for you but give you enough information to convince you that you’ll love it too … Oh, I know!

Magic.

Bookstore.

MAGIC BOOKSTORE!!!

Review endeth here.

Just kidding! Seriously though, those two words would be enough for me to pick up this book! Without giving away anything spoilerish, Helena answers a newspaper advertisement for a job at Abernathy’s Bookstore. Her first day on the job could easily be a contender for the Worst First Day at Work award 🏆 when her boss is murdered before giving her a handover or at least letting her know what her tasks will involve besides using a typewriter (!) to address labels to post the bookstore’s catalogue to customers.

Without having the foggiest idea what signing her employment contract actually means Helena’s life quickly becomes much more interesting, dangerous and bizarre than she could have imagined possible. Thankfully she has her best friend Viv to help with fashion choices, the blind date from hell, and some much needed “No, you’re not crazy. I believe you, girl!” chats.

During Helena’s first week at Abernathy’s she meets a plethora of customers, who range from gossipy curiosity to full blown rage at her appointment as Abernathy’s new custodian. It turns out Helena has stumbled into the middle of a war of the worlds (of sorts) that she knows nothing about.

It’s up to her to try to fast forward her training in a previously unknown magical world, all while dealing with the fallout of the unsolved murder of her boss and a murderer whose identity is a mystery. Some of the people Helena meets at Abernathy’s seem to be trying to help her learn the ropes, others are just waiting for her to fail and Helena doesn’t know who she can trust and whether she’s even the right person for the job.

There are so many characters, magical elements, reasons why Abernathy’s is the coolest bookstore in the history of the universe, plot points and hopes for future books in the series that I’d love to go into detail about but I can’t wreck your experience of this book with spoilers. 🤐 Please trust me when I tell you that there’s so much more to this book than I’ve told you.

I just have to say that I loved the writing, the characters, the mythology and of course, the bookstore, and I can’t wait to read the rest of this series. My favourite characters so far are Viv and Judy; Viv because she’s such a fun character and Judy because I can’t wait to see how her character unfolds throughout the series. Even though this is only the first book I can see this series becoming one of my favourites.

Food I Need in my Life After Reading This Book: Chocopocalypse cake 🍫 🍰 🤤

Melissa McShane, pretty please with an entire Chocopocalypse cake just for you on top, I don’t want to sound desperate – but I’m desperate! I need The Book of Peril in my life urgently. Hmm, what can I do to convince you?! Threaten to go to Abernathy’s and both categorise and alphabetise all of the books? Tell you my augury foretold it magically appearing on my Kindle overnight? Tell the familiars how lovely they look today? 😊

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Curiosity Quills Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Helena Davies just wants a job that will get her out of her parents’ basement. Abernathy’s Bookstore is disorganised, out of the way, and smells funny, but it pays well and promises to at least be interesting. She has no idea how interesting her life will become. By the end of the first day, Helena has a dead boss in the basement, an unexpected promotion, and the news that she is now a part of an endless war against creatures from another reality.

As Abernathy’s newest custodian, Helena is responsible for its secrets, including the most important one: Abernathy’s isn’t just a bookstore. It’s the world’s only living oracle, producing prophecies to help fight the war against alien invaders bent on draining this world of its magic. Helena’s job is to find books to answer questions put to the oracle by the Wardens, fighters in the Long War. It seems simple enough, but Helena’s new job is anything but.

She has allies: her best friend Viv, from whom she has no secrets; Harry and Harriet Keller, elderly magi skilled at uncovering secrets; and the enigmatic Malcolm Campbell, warrior magus and one of the few who have faith in Helena’s abilities. But not everyone is thrilled that an outsider now has charge of one of the world’s most powerful magical entities. Helena must defend herself against the antagonism of Judy Rasmussen, who’d expected to be the next custodian of Abernathy’s, and her father William, powerful leader of the Wardens and someone with an agenda of his own.

Without training, without any knowledge of the magical world, and facing the hostility of those who’d wanted someone else to be Abernathy’s custodian, Helena must navigate the treacherous waters of her new world and find a place for herself within it. But there’s still a murderer on the loose, someone who intended to control Abernathy’s by killing its custodian – and Helena might be next on his list.

The Switch – A.W. Hill & Nathanael Hill

Multiverse!!! So satisfied and happy and my imagination is firing all over the place and I wanna go on that ride again!!! Dialling … 1-2-3-0-0 …

I did the Dory thing with The Switch. I was so excited to read it and then before I started I got distracted by “ooh look, a book!”. New ones piled up and while this one wasn’t forgotten it lay in the middle of my brain trying desperately to climb its way to the top. So I’m late reading this one and kicking myself for it because I could’ve been living in Jacobus’ worlds weeks ago! Well, I’m here now and wow, what a ride!

The moral to this story (option 1): If you see a switch in a red house on a truck that’s not connected to electricity yet has a lightbulb turned on inside and there’s a sign in Latin next to the switch, maybe pop those words into Google and translate them before you flick the switch. Unless you’re Jacobus or Connor. If you are, just go for it!!!

As I was reading this book I kept thinking back to being obsessed with The Butterfly Effect when the first movie was released. For me, this was so many levels above The Butterfly Effect. The characters in this book weren’t the only travellers. I travelled with them through all of the worlds and I want to experience it all over again. I don’t know the last time I used this word but I kept thinking as I was reading that this book is exquisite. Father and son team A.W. Hill and Nathanael Hill have exploded my brain in such a wonderful way!

It is deep, so deep you could get in over your head if you don’t pay attention but if you take the time to read carefully, you’ll be rewarded greatly. The way that the knowledge of how travelling works is doled out in bite sized pieces is fantastic because otherwise my brain could have exploded from information overload instead, but as the characters learned more, I learned more. Then each time my brain said, “But hold on. How does that work? Why did that happen?”, one of the characters would ask something similar and my answer would come, usually from sweet, adorable, geeky, wise, catcher outfit wearing Gordon.

I know just enough sciencey stuff to be dangerous but not enough to be able to discuss the scientific validity of the events in this book so I’ll leave that for a different breed of nerd. However I was given the imagination bone (Huh? It’s not a bone?) and from an imagination standpoint, the authors get a jumping up and down ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ from me. As a token of my appreciation I gathered each star from a different world for them and boy, was it awkward carrying them all home!

Some serious thought has gone into the way the universes work in The Switch – which rules apply universally, which rules rely on whether you pulled a switch or not, which parts of you remain you regardless of the universe you’re in.

I love a story that whets my appetite and makes me want to learn more. The Switch did that for me. I’ve had Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos calling me for way too long and I long to read that and then come back to experience The Switch again, this time as a sciencey-type person.

The moral to this story (option 2): The grass is not always greener on the other side. Who knows whether their grass is green or if they even have grass over there at all?!

In case you can’t tell, I loved this book. I loved the characters. I loved the concept. I loved the execution. I love that it got my brain all tingly, wanting to learn. I love that it got my imagination doing gymnastics in my mind. I love the message that our choices have the power to change our world.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Curiosity Quills Press for the opportunity to read this book.

And now it’s time for a word from our sponsor:

Why does the food always sound so amazing when you’re reading?! This time it was a chocolate donut. Now, personally I prefer pink donuts but here I am reading about this supermarket chocolate one and all of a sudden I’m desperately craving it. So, I’ve decided there’s an untapped market out there.

There needs to be a service where food and drink companies make a deal with publishing companies so if you crave food that’s in your book you double tap the word/s and that sends an instant message to the service in your area. Someone from that service then drives to your house, knocks on your front door and says something like, “Please enjoy this complementary chocolate donut from the good folks at Krispy Kreme and Curiosity Quills Press.”

OK, stay with me. This may sound like an expensive marketing tool but if you think about it, the next time you want a donut you’re going to remember that freebie and you’re likely to choose that brand over the one that’s never done anything nice for you. The same thing could work for TV. Hmm.. [sound of brain cells hissing as they attempt to ignite] * ring, ring * “Hi, is that Shark Tank?” 🦈

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Imagine that you could change your world with the flip of a switch. You might be prettier, more athletic, more popular, or even living on an exotic island, because your history — your world line — would be different. But here’s the catch: you have no way of knowing if the reality on the other side of that switch will be better … or much worse.

Jacobus Rose is a fifteen year-old who believes — as many fifteen year-olds do — that his life could use improvement. School is a numbing routine, and his parents’ marriage seems to be imploding before his eyes. ‘Maybe I was born into the wrong world,’ he thinks. Lured by his best friend, Connor, into a strange little house containing nothing but empty rooms and an oversized circuit breaker, he’ll discover that reality comes in a plural form, and that our choices create a continuous web of branching worlds, any of which is as ‘real’ as another.

A solo odyssey becomes a duo, a trio, and then a quartet, as Jacobus befriends other interdimensional travelers along the way: Gordon Nightshade, the veteran pilgrim and chief theorist; Moses deWitt, the alley cat with an old soul; Jemma Doone, a girl of many-worlds who becomes the main river home for Jacobus and his crew; and finally, his lost friend Connor, who just may have preferred an alternate universe to his own.

The Switch is the story of their journey home. The question is: if they get there, will it be the same place they left behind?