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Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Book of Secrets by Melissa McShane - Book Review, Guest Post & Giveaway

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Review by Suze

Twenty-one-year-old Helena needs a job. She needs to get out of her parental home for several hours each day, but has no idea what kind of direction she wants her life to take. After reading an ad in the paper she ends up in Abernathy's Bookstore accepting a job that pays well enough. Helena loves books, so she'll be working at a place that interests her. However, Helena has no idea Abernathy's isn't a regular bookshop. When the owner unexpectedly dies on her first day Helena discovers she's bound by the fine print of the contract she's just signed, she's now Abernathy's new custodian.

Abernathy's is much more than a store with books, it's an oracle where those who practice magic come for answers. There's a war going on between the Wardens and creatures from another realm. The people who use magic are divided and Abernathy's is neutral territory. That doesn't mean that being the custodian of the bookshop is without dangers. Helena has to adapt as fast as she can, she has to discover who her allies are and she has to stay one step ahead of her enemies. Will she survive the dangerous position she's landed herself in?

The Book of Secrets is a terrific enchanting story. I was immediately intrigued by Abernathy's, a magical bookshop that functions as an oracle is such a wonderful creative idea. The execution is flawless too, so I fell in love with the setting straight away. Helena is smart, strong and inventive. That helps when she needs to figure out how to run a bookshop with many special features after only working there for one day. There are plenty of challenges and she faces them all without giving into her fears. I loved how she grows into her new role and enjoyed every single page of her journey.

Melissa McShane has a fabulous descriptive writing style. She makes the magic she writes about come to life in a great way, it's dynamic, intriguing and riveting. I was captivated by The Book of Secrets from the very first sentence and really liked how the story progresses. There are plenty of surprising twists and turns and all of Helen's adventures are equally fascinating. There's action, there are creepy creatures, handsome allies and nasty adversaries. The mystery is thrilling as well. I highly recommend The Book of Secrets, it's absolutely wonderful.


If you love stories about magic you don't want to miss The Book of Secrets. Please keep in mind that it's the first book in the Last Oracle series and even though Melissa McShane provides plenty of answers, she will still make you eager to read more.

About Melissa McShane

When people ask “where did you grow up?” I have to answer “pick one.” My family moved often enough that I can call a lot of places home, including Oregon, Washington State, Colorado, New York State, Arizona, and Texas. I’ve lived in Utah for fifteen years now and I have children who’ve never known a home anywhere else.

Throughout all those moves, reading has been a constant in my life, and even now I remember places based on what I was reading at the time: the Dragonriders of Pern books in New York, the Foundation series in Texas, Crown Duel in Utah. I’ve worked as a librarian twice, once as a shelver in the public library and once supervising the collection of a small private school, both of which taught me a lot about people’s reading habits and how to match the perfect book with its perfect reader.

I never thought to write fiction until a few years ago; I studied young adult literature in college and went on to write literary essays and reviews for many years. I had the idea for my first book, EMISSARY, and just for fun decided to see if I could turn it into a novel. It was hard, and exciting, and more fun than anyone ought to be allowed to have, so I kept at it. I’m in the process of publishing the next Tremontane novel, RIDER OF THE CROWN, and am always looking forward to the joy of beginning the next book.

When I’m not writing or reading, I’m spending time with my family binge-watching Doctor Who or playing Arkham Horror. I also do some costume sewing, jewelry making and repair, and paint fantasy miniatures for whatever role-playing game I’m currently part of. I’m a terrible cook and a worse gardener, and I have three cats, one of whom is so dumb he often walks into walls.


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Magical bookstores
Guest post by Melissa McShane

There’s something about a lot of books in one place that avid readers can’t get enough of. Bookstores, libraries—the potential for finding a book you’ll love can only increase when you’re in one of these temples to reading. I remember vividly my disappointment when I visited Washington, D.C. and wasn’t allowed into the Library of Congress because I was too young. And the public library was always the first place I found my way to when my family moved somewhere new. Then there’s the libraries we build for ourselves, whether physical or as collections of e-books. The house I live in now has over 5000 books, a collection that never stops growing. It’s an almost magical feeling to be surrounded by them.

So it’s not such a long step to go from almost magical in reality to literally magical in fiction. My novel The Book of Secrets had its genesis in two book-related incidents.

I started trawling used bookstores when I was a teen, and got to know how different store owners have different philosophies when it comes to organization. Occasionally I’d come across a store where the philosophy was “Don’t.” Stores like this, you were lucky if the owners had grouped the books by genre. It was frustrating—right up until I noticed that I was finding amazing books, books I really wanted and had never found, or books that were seriously out of print, at random on these shelves. When I learned about indeterminacy—popularized as the thought experiment Schrödinger’s Cat—I thought: these random, disorganized collections could contain anything, so why shouldn’t they happen to contain exactly what I want? It was a fun idea that stuck with me for years.

The second incident, which gave the first a home, was a trip to New Orleans where I stayed in the French Quarter. It has a lot of bookstores, new and used, for such a small place, but one really stood out. It’s called the Arcadian and you have to see it to believe it. The shelves are packed, double- and even triple-stacked, with books. Mass market paperbacks are slotted into big square plastic crates normally used for carrying soda cans. There are piles on the floor and piles higher than an NBA star can reach. The shelves are so close together only one person can pass at a time. It looks like your grandma’s garage, but full of books rather than the remnants of her past hobbies and grandpa’s drill press.

And yet it’s organized. You can find things there, if you’re willing to move the stacks. And it smells just the way a bookstore should, of old paper and dust and, during the fall, the fresh scent of rain. After my first visit, I thought, “What kind of magic could a store like that contain?” Because it cried out to have its story told. And that long-ago whimsy of books showing up because of indeterminacy presented itself for review.

From that, I came up with The Book of Secrets, featuring a bookstore that looks sloppy and haphazard, but contains the world’s only living oracle—though “living” may be the wrong word. Helena Davies, looking for a job that will get her out of her parents’ basement, stumbles on Abernathy’s Bookstore, is hired as a file clerk, and by the end of her first day is the custodian of that oracle. I loved the idea of the answer to someone’s question be a book they have to study to get the answer—a modern interpretation of a mystic prophecy. And now, when I find a new bookstore, I have to wonder what kind of magic it holds within.


One very lucky reader of With Love for Books will receive a paperback or digital copy of The Book of Secrets by Melissa McShane (winner’s choice).

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The winner will be notified by email and has 3 days to respond. All of our giveaways are international.


  1. The Book of Secrets sounds like a magical tale that is fun, fast paced and filled with intriguing characters.

  2. I looked this up on Amazon and am intrigued by the opening with the musty bookstore!

  3. This looks right up my alley - would love to win a copy xx

  4. I have been in bookstores like the Arcadian. Pure magic.

  5. Hello Melissa1 The Book of Secrets sounds great. Thank you

  6. I'm so excited to read this book, unlike I have been any other book in awhile.

  7. I loved Book of Secrets, and the release for Book of Peril (book 2) is next month!

  8. I'm so excited to read this book, it sounds so different.

  9. This sounds an amazing book, I love jumbled bookshops

  10. The title alone has intrigued me, and even more after reading the review. Magical adventure which cooperate magical bookshop? Sounds mamazin. Thank you for the review and giveaway. Good luck with the book.

  11. I love the whole premise of this book...Books will always be magical to me.

  12. Thanks for the great prize and competition. Good luck everyone!

  13. My bedroom looks a bit like The Arcadian!

  14. Another great guest post, thanks for sharing so much. I too have moved, continuously it seems, since I got married. I did miss having a 'home base' where I knew everyone, luckily my children seem not to have suffered for the constant packing and unpacking. I'm a reading addict and would love to scout through the Arcadian to see what treasures I can find.