Book Review – In The Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace

In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Company of Witches by Auralee Wallace



In the Company of Witches is about Brynn, who, after the loss of her husband, feels she can no longer do magic. However, when a murder happens right inside her family’s inn, she goes to try to solve the mystery of who committed the crime to clear her family’s name. During this harrowing experience, she realizes that maybe she can reconnect with her magic.

I loved this book, pure and simple. It has everything I could want in a story: mystery, magic, witches, ghosts, a loving family in a small town. The writing style is simple, but Wallace really brings each character and place to life with those simple words. I could imagine being in the small town and interacting with everyone that Brynn interacted with.

My favorite part, I think, was that even though they were all a little bit crazy in their own ways, Brynn’s family, the Warrens, were so loving to each other and tried to be supportive when they could. Even the animals, Dog the crow and Faustus the cat, lent their support where they could. That plus the witches and ghosts is everything I could ever want in life, and Wallace portrayed this family so, so well. Also, it brought back some nostalgia as it reminded me a bit of Sabrina the Teenaged Witch (from the 90s)!

The mystery was fun as well. You really could not be sure who did what in terms of the crimes committed, and that kept me on the edge of my seat. A whole family is involved, well, technically two families, and secrets are kept everywhere.

I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants a little magic and mystery in their life. What a great book to end my reading challenge on this year!



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Book Review and Discussion – Horrid by Katrina Leno

Horrid by Katrina Leno

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Horrid



I will be doing a separate discussion of this book after the review.


Horrid was a book I started reading after being told it was like Gilmore Girls, but dark and scary. And honestly? That’s a pretty good assessment of this book. You get the close mother-daughter relationship, with a shady history with the grandparents and other family. There is even a deep, dark, secret that everyone knows, though, as opposed to Gilmore Girls, our main character, Jane, is not as privy to these secrets as she would like to be. Basically take Gilmore Girls and Jane Eyre and you have Horrid.

I immediately loved Horrid when I started reading it (actually listened to it on audiobook, which was pretty amazing). The writing is gorgeous, and I fell in love with the characters. Leno wrote the supporting characters so well, I almost want a book with just them in it. And the atmosphere of the old house that Jane and her mother move into was perfectly spooky and haunting.

I really did love this book, up until I reached the end, which, I feel was very much ruined by the direction the author decided to take with Jane. I won’t spoil that – that will be in my lengthier discussion on my blog – but I am disappointed because it was such a good book, right up until the disappointing last scene. And this is why I can only give it three stars. That and the fact that the story needed more ghosts (but I always believe stories need more ghosts).

I can honestly recommend most of this book, just be aware that the ending is not what you would expect.

Discussion (for those who have read the book or don’t mind spoilers)

As I said above, I really liked this story, up until the last scene, where Jane gives in to the ghost of her dead sister. The story was going so well, and Jane was actually having a pretty good life: good relationship with her mother, new friends (I loved Suzy and Will, favorite characters hands down), new job at a bookstore (which is totally my dream). The only thing that’s weird in her life is that her family has a shady past and there’s a secret the town knows.

And when she finds out the secret, all of a sudden she decides her life is terrible? I don’t think so. I hate that Leno wrote Jane’s character this way in the end. It was like she changed her whole personality for no reason. And so abruptly too!! Jane is a very nice person, and not bad at making friends. She has no idea about her dead sister, but when her dead sister just suddenly appears and tells her that everyone is terrible, Jane believes it? That’s not at all believable to me. To say I was absolutely shocked that Leno ended Janes character that way is an understatement. And when Ruth, her mother, tells her the truth about her sister, Jane is so uncharacteristically unfeeling.

I really loved this book before the ending. I even liked the subtle haunting, but honestly the ghost of Jemima Rose ruined the whole thing. So it was a disappointment, though I still like the first half of the book. I guess if you did want to compare it to Gilmore Girls again, Jane and Rory having character changes aren’t that far off? Though I would argue that Rory was kind of insufferable the whole time, while Jane abruptly became insufferable.

Sorry, I do know that was a bit rambly, but I have strong feelings about this book! I welcome any and all messages/comments about my discussion and opinions. Did you agree with me, or did you like the ending? Did it make sense to you?

Cheers!


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Book Review – The Ghost of Mackey House by R.A. Johnson

The Ghost of Mackey House by R. A. Johnson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Ghost of Mackey House by R. A. Johnson



I received an early copy of this book as a Reedsy Reviewer. This review was originally posted on Reedsy (link below)

I started The Ghost of Mackey House thinking this story was going to center around this B&B, Mackey House, and the ghost that was in it, with the history surrounding it as its dark and mysterious backdrop. Unfortunately, for me personally, this was not the case.

Books with a haunted house are usually very heavy with atmosphere. The Ghost of Mackey House feels like it has very little atmosphere, likely because the story is so character-driven. The characters spend so little time actually experiencing Mackey House that the haunting atmosphere just isn’t there. I like in-depth characters a lot, but not when the integrity of the plot is put aside for character exposition and backstory. This sort of exposition takes up most of the book – we don’t get much of the ghostly atmosphere and plotline until two-thirds into the story, and so I was very uninvested for that much of the book.

I won’t get too into the characters themselves – overall, they weren’t bad, and I think if I was more prepared for an almost entirely character-based story, I would have enjoyed it more. I do wish, however, that I was able to empathize with the characters more. I think if they were written in such a way that I truly felt for them, they could have been excellent characters.

I don’t think this book needed to be as long as it was. I think a lot of the story relied on characters’ backstories to fill the wordcount, and thus made the story feel slightly incoherent and muddled. I think this book could have been great if it was shorter, almost a novella, and if it took place more inside the titular Mackey House. However, I do think the story, as written, could make a very cool videogame. In terms of the characters and the history, it really reminded me of games like Silent Hill or Resident Evil (if you were to make it more horror-based).

While The Ghost of Mackey House was not for me, I do want to end this review with some positives. When the story does pick up, in the later half of the book, the plot was a lot more compelling and I became really eager to find out what happened in the end. And, if you are someone who likes more character-focused storytelling, I will say the background characters are very fun, and I would read the book again just for them.

*Link to the Reedsy Review: https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/the…



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Book Review – The House with a Clock in its Walls by John Bellairs

The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs


The House with a Clock in it’s Walls is about Lewis, who goes to stay with his uncle Jonathan in his big and mysterious house. There, Lewis finds that there are magical mysteries hiding in the shadows, and that his uncle, and others he meets, are also of a magical and mysterious nature.

I thought it was a fun story! I liked the characters a lot, and the atmosphere was properly spooky. At first I was a bit skeptical of the plot point where the dead come back to life – I was hoping it would just be ghosts! But it ended up working pretty well. The mystery of the clock was very intriguing, though it ended up being a bit less mysterious than I had hoped.

The ending felt very anticlimactic, though I think I probably would have thought so less ten or more years ago. I think, though, that Lewis deserved an anticlimactic, peaceful ending. However, I know that he will have more adventures in the John Bellairs books I plan to read next.



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Book Review – The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll

The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Ghost Garden by Emma Carroll


The Ghost Garden takes place just before the start of WWI. Fran is a young girl working with her father in the garden on the estate where they live. One day, Fran finds a bone in the garden. She thinks this is odd and mysterious, until more odd and mysterious things start to happen around the estate.

I wouldn’t call this a ghost story; rather, it is a coming-of-age story with ghosts in it. I really like how Emma Carroll portrays the mystery and childhood wonder in Fran’s explorations of the gardens and the mysteries they bring to her. There is a sense of whimsy, but also of fear as the mysteries turn into predictions of terrible things to come.

The writing is very beautiful. This is my first book by Carroll, but I am eager to read her other works (of which, I am happy to say, she seems to have many!). In this particular story, I get a lot of Secret Garden vibes, and, especially with the exploration of tombs and ghosts, I have ended up feeling very nostalgic for my own childhood. I usually don’t like war stories, but this one dealt with the impending war in a very healthy and subtle way.

I recommend this book to those who want some nostalgic feelings, and some sense of whimsy.



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Book Review – Stormhaven by Jordan L. Hawk

Stormhaven by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stormhaven (Whyborne & Griffin, #3)



In Stormhaven, the third installment in the Whyborne & Griffin series, the pair are tasked with solving another mystery back in their hometown of Widdershins. This time, however, the aspects of the case hit far too close to home for either of them.

As usual, Hawk does not disappoint. I love the story, the characters, the setting, all of it! I especially liked the imagery of the sea, as that was quite the theme in this book. The story was wonderfully compelling – though, thankfully, I wasn’t nervous about Whyborne and Griffin possibly getting separated or breaking up; this time, I was worried they’d both go insane (they do not, I am happy to say).

We get to meet Griffin’s parents as well, and that brings its own trials and tribulations. But Whyborne and Griffin are always there for each other, and their love continues to make me so very happy.
Christine is also there, though because of the circumstances, her skillset is not used as much. Hopefully she is doing more in the books to come.

That’s about all I have to say about this book. It was brilliant, and I am looking forward to reading more!



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Book Review – Threshold by Jordan L. Hawk

Threshold by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Threshold by Jordan L. Hawk



In this sequel to Widdershins, Whyborne and Griffin are hired to look into another case, this time by Whyborne’s father. So, the two men and their friend, Christine, head to the town of Threshold to investigate supposedly paranormal disturbances in the town’s mine. However, even this investigation has its twists and turns.

Once again, Jordan L. Hawk does not disappoint. I absolutely loved the second book of this series – either as much or maybe more than the first! As I said for the first one, the characters are brilliant, and the story is compelling. Actually, I might argue that the story is more compelling this time around! The writing, of course, is excellent.

I think my favorite part about this particular story is that it feels like the original Star Trek meets the Twilight Zone meets Sherlock Holmes (three of my favorite pieces of literature and media!). All that was missing was Rod Serling narrating the twists, but Whyborne filled that role very well.

And, of course, the romance between Whyborne and Griffin was just to die for. I am so excited to keep reading this series, and I’m so happy there are many more books in it to come!



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Book Review – Hunter of Demons (SPECTR 1) by Jordan L. Hawk

Hunter of Demons by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hunter of Demons (SPECTR #1)


This first book in the SPECTR series is about Caleb, whose brother’s recently deceased corpse was hijacked by what they think is a demon. But, when an amateur investigation goes awry, Caleb finds himself sharing his body with a drakul (vampire) named Gray. Now the agents of SPECTR, especially John Starkweather, need to find out what is going on, and who the real murdering demon actually is. In the meantime, John and Caleb find they are both attracted to the other, despite their mutual hatred for each other’s situation.

So of course I started this other series by Jordan L. Hawk because he is an amazing writer and I am going to keep reading his work forever! I will say, I still like the Widdershins series best, but this was a fun read. The characters are quirky, and again Hawk’s worldbuilding is really very good. I like the fact that Hawk makes all of the paranormal aspects of his books very matter-of-fact and practical, very normal for the world of his books. This book is no exception. I really want to read more of this series so that I can see if the paranormal aspects are expanded upon – maybe a bit more history of Gray the drakul?

Not much more to say about this book I think. It’s a super fun, quick read, a bit spicy at points, just downright enjoyable.





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Book Review – The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles

The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies, #1)



The Magpie Lord, the first book in K.J. Charles’ series, is about the reluctant Lord Crane who is the target of a malicious and magical murderer. Stephen Day, a practitioner of magic, is hired to help Crane discover who is trying to murder him and why. Their search takes them to Crane’s ancestral home, where the two discover more about magic and Crane’s ancestry, as well as possible feelings for one another.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was the perfect balance of paranormal, murder mystery, and romance. Charles is really good at writing atmospheric settings, and I could feel the cold and the dread of Crane’s ancestral home as Stephen and Crane tried to, well, not die.

I liked the way magic is portrayed, and I hope that the magic is explored even further in the next books of this series.

I like the characters. They are simple, but they have a lot of determination and emotion, especially when it comes to one another. The side characters were also well-written, though I do hope we see more of them in the following books.

And the romance, the romance! The lust definitely was not much of a slow burn, but I think the love was. It was completely worth it though, and you could see the characters’ devotion to each other by the end.

The only thing I really would criticize (Spoilers) is the fact that the murderers were people we really didn’t know throughout the story. I think it would have been just a bit cooler if it was someone we knew. But even so, this did not take too much away from the goodness that was this book.

I’m really excited to read the next books in the series!



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Book Review – Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Widdershins (Whyborne & Griffin #1)


Widdershins is the first novel in Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin mystery series. This book revolves around Whyborne, a museum philologist who is recruited by ex-Pinkerton detective Griffin Flaherty to solve a murder that turns out to be much more involved in the supernatural than either had foreseen. In the course of their time together they form a wonderful romance. Together with their Egyptologist friend, Dr. Christine Putnam, they endeavor to solve a gruesome mystery.

When I say this book had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, I mean THE ENTIRE TIME. The mystery and paranormal had me on the edge of my seat – eager to understand the evil that our heroes were fighting and whether they would make it out alive (I had read the last pages of this book so fast at that point) – and the romance between Whyborne and Griffin also compelled me so much that I feared so much for their safety at the end. Suffice to say, I became quite attached to these two goofballs.

And boy were they goofballs. Hawk could not have written them any better – I kept wanting to knock their heads together and at the same time hug them. I’m sure Christine also felt the same way.

Christine is a great character too: a doctor of archaeology in a time when women could barely do such things, she is strong and independent, but also fiercely protective of her friends. I am very excited to see more of her in the next books of this series.

The supernatural side of the mystery was an interesting choice. I have no idea whether it is based of actual ancient Egyptian mythology and folklore, but its complexity and involvement with death on many levels was very intriguing – definitely one of the reasons I kept reading this book!

I really have no criticisms for this book whatsoever. I loved the characters, as I said above, the book was very well-written, and I loved the setting and background of the mystery. Apart from the romance, what drew me to read this book was the fact that the main character is a philologist of ancient languages – much like myself! – and has to use his skills in language to defeat an ancient, supernatural entity. I hope the other books in this series use philology and ancient history as much as this book did. I know me and my classicist friends love books like these!

This is also a great book/series to start right now during Pride Month (or really any time because it’s so good!), as it is a M/M romance written by a very talented trans author.

I recommend this book to all classicists, and to those who like being kept on the edge of their seats.



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