Reading Fanatic ReviewsAll Paranormal Mystery Reviews
Fascinating World But Not Enough Suspense
This is the first book that I read by this author, so I’m not familiar with the entire Witch Myth series or world. I appreciated that the author didn’t start off the book with a bunch of backstory to catch those of us up who aren’t familiar with this Yew Hollow. Instead, she allows the world to unfold through the eyes of Gwen, the first-person protagonist. The author has created a fascinating world of magic. You’ve gotta love a world with a magical tree! I didn’t feel like enough happened in the story, like there wasn’t enough of a plot. The author calls it a cozy mystery, but mystery or suspense didn’t really take center stage. It felt more like a character and community study than a full-blown novel. That said, I did enjoy the world, but I was just expecting more to happen.
Mystery with a Little Magical Chalk Dust
This book is certainly not what I expected it would be. From the blurb, I thought that it would take place at least in part at a magical academy where the female protagonist was failing out. But most of the blurb is actually backstory for what the real story is. While the book had magical elements and was grounded in a magical world, it is written in a straight-up fashion. It reads more like a traditional fugative mystery that just happens to have characters like mages and elves who are involved in the murder plot. The books have some issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage, and this was a little distracting at times. I’m wondering on the national origin of the author because some of the words were definitely strange, and when I looked them up, and they seem to be of either South African or Australian etymology. I typically enjoy paranormal mysteries very much, but this seemed to be just a straight-up whodunit with magical chalk dust.
Love the 50ish Protagonist, But…
As a woman of a certain age, I love that the heroine of this book is a fifty-something, with all that that entails and so much more! Cas has recently discovered that she has magical powers, but she has no idea how to use or control them. Some of her friends in their mixed-magic community are helping a little when they can, but her magic doesn’t act or react as anyone expects. The council hasn’t been able to give her a mentor because of an important election that they are in the midst of. When one of Cas’ neighbors is found dead, she becomes a suspect. She also has a romantic interest and wants to run for siren (that election I talked about). To say that Cas has a full plate is an understatement. Her talking cat, Echo, is meant to be her guardian, but he spends a lot of time away.
As you can tell, this is a busy book! In fact, I think it is a little too busy. The murder doesn’t happen until the 30% mark, which doesn’t give a lot of time to develop the intricate subplots necessary for a good cozy. A lot of time is spent on the political aspect of the story, which is an intriguing look at the politics of race and disenfranchisement. The book is actually well written and engaging, as I was drawn right into Cas’ world and all the things that were upsetting her figurative applecart; I just thought that too much was going on that didn’t have to deal directly with the mystery or Cas herself.
Great Start to a New Series
What a delightful start to a new cozy mystery series! And it does feel like a beginning in several ways. There is definitely a hint of future romance, and the protagonist, Mimi, is coming to understand that she has a magical bent. Not everything is fully resolved in this book, though the central mystery is (of course), which makes me anticipate book two!
I have read several of Wendy Meadows books, and I find that she has a way of writing in deep third-person point of view that draws you right into the story and the protagonist’s world. Even though this is a murder mystery, she is able to inject humor on occasion, and the relationship between Mimi and her dog, Baxter, is absolutely adorable (and I’m not even really a pet person). The author seems to have a good sense of timing; I love that she put the murder right up front (around the 6% mark), as I’ve read a couple of mysteries lately that make us wait to find the dead body. An interesting cast of characters populates this book, and much seems to be going on in this small town Maine town, both below the surface and what can be seen. I quite enjoyed watching this story unfold, and I look forward to the next book in the series.
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Another Zoe and Crew Paranormal Cozy
I have read several books in this series now, and I always enjoy a trip to Zoe’s magical world. I like that she isn’t an experienced, know-it-all witch as often happens in these paranormal cozy mysteries. In fact, this book starts with a scene of one of her areas of witchy ineptitude: she can’t fly a broom like the other witches. Despite her lacks, she has decided to run for Head Witch because of all the mysterious events she has been involved with previously. All does not run smoothly, of course, when a rival is murdered at a town hall meeting of the candidates just before the election. Zoe becomes a suspect, and she has to use her skills to ferret out the real murderer. In an interesting subplot, some are proposing wand reform (in a way that mirrors gun control in our world).
I like how the author has made this series stand-alone but interrelated, and she gives necessary backstory in tiny bite-sized chunks that are easy to assimilate. Backstory seems to be one of those things that authors quite often trip up on, either giving too little or too much in an info dump. That doesn’t happen here. For those of us who have read previous books, the relationships between Zoe and her friends and her grandma are a delight to watch as the friendships, like with Mallory and Raina, are realistic in showing both closeness and humor, and the familial relationship shows a deep love and understanding. I just like watching Zoe and her peeps interact. I thought that the murder should have happened a little earlier in the context of the story to give a bit more time for the mystery to play out, but it was still a solid read.
Strange Magic at the Retirement Community
Things are rarely quiet for long at the Sunnyside Retired Witches Community! Zoey was having a lovely moment a flying kite with her boyfriend when she was called back to the community. Apparently, an insurance agent has been murdered on the premises. That’s not all. Strange magics are occurring, and odd energy blips seem to happen around them. Are the residents of the community involved in the murder? Why do these magic blitzes happen?
I’ve read all the books in this series so far, and they are a delight. The author is able to make the characters seem realistic even though this is a magical setting, and she can inject humor into what could be very serious scenes about the crime. In this book, most of the magic that goes awry is just plain funny (the sweatbands!). I love when I see that a new book in this series pops up because I can’t wait to read it.
Skeleton in the… Basement?
I’ve enjoyed the two previous installments in this series, and this one was just as delightful. It’s got all the things that I love about paranormal cozy mysteries: a beleaguered heroine, quirky cast of characters, a small town that is more than it seems, a little supernatural flair to take it out of the ordinary, and a mystery that has a few surprises that make it fun to follow. Paige certainly had a rough go right from the start. Not only did she need to take out a loan for plumbing repairs, but the plumber finds a skeleton. An inspector comes out to look at the plumbing but discovers Paige has been living there in a commercial-only zone; she gives Paige two weeks to get out, or she’ll be fined and the bookshop closed. Could deceased Aunt Nora actually be responsible for the skeleton found in the basement of the bookshop? I enjoy the author’s writing style, as I can just slip right back into the world she has created as if I never left. Looking forward to more in the series.
Magical Quirky Cast… and Mystery
The book begins at the reading of the heroine’s grandfather’s will. She, her brother, and her sister are all his heirs, each getting a generous stipend from his business. But Hulda receives his house, which she silently understands means that she is to take over his position in the community—running a group of witches! But before things get too far, a storm forces an unlikely group of characters together.
The authors have done an excellent job of creating a cast of quirky characters. I have a hard time choosing which of the van Dusen siblings I like more. They’re each distinct and add a unique perspective to the twists and turns of the plot. Parts of this book felt very realistic, but it had a magical overlay that made it so much more than regular day-to-day life. I like how at the end the authors left so much open. What will be the next adventures for this group? I am interested in finding out.
The Medium Place*
Another Paranormal Cozy in this Humorous Series
I had thoroughly enjoyed the first book of the series, so I was very pleased to see this show up at one of the book review sites that I use. I looked forward to starting it because I had hopes that the author would continue to amuse me with the delightful Zoe, her zany neighbors, and her spirits.
I was not disappointed, I am happy to report. This book is as humorous, if not more, so than the first but not in the way that feels over the top. It feels just right and very appropriate for Zoe and the crazy characters that live in her small town. What an unusual spirit to approach her! One with terrible wounds and such a mystery to figure out, made all the more difficult and conflict-inducing because the sheriff sees Zoe as a suspect.
If you enjoyed the previous book, with Zoe’s humor and interesting relationships with those living and dead, you will most likely enjoy the second book of the series as well. If you enjoy paranormal cozy mysteries, you should give this author and this series a try.
A New Witch in Town*
Paranormal Cozy is Missing Some Pieces
Lorna has inherited an English cottage from an old aunt. She decides to give up her job and no-good fiance in Tennessee and start a new life in England. The cast of quirky characters starts coming around the new place and introducing themselves. Lorna has barely settled in when a murder rocks the sleepy town of Tweed-upon-Slumber. Lorna’s inquisitive nature makes her want to help figure it out.
I was intrigued by the concept of the book. I love a good witchy paranormal cozy mystery. However, I was put off by several elements. There was quite a bit of head hopping, even just for brief moments. Occasionally, the author switched to an omniscient viewpoint, telling us things that the character couldn’t know or wouldn’t know yet. At the very outset, several things just didn’t ring true to me. They are tiny details, but enough to affect my suspension of disbelief. For instance, her aunt has only recently died, but the house is in total disarray with cobwebs, lots of dust everywhere, and rotting furniture. Even if it took Lorna a while to settle her affairs in the States and get to England, this doesn’t seem like it would be accurate; could the place get so bad so quickly. Another tiny quibble was that the author stated that Lorna only was given a small snack on her transatlantic flight; having just done one not too long ago, you usually do get a proper meal.
The book started with a bit of an informational dump about Lorna’s past and all that brought her to claim her inheritance in England. The parade of neighbors didn’t feel quite right either. Cozy mysteries definitely need to have a cast of quirky characters, but we’re not usually introduced to them one right after the other in one setting. Typically, the protagonist will meet someone around town or at an event. It almost felt like an information dump for characters!
Inexplicably, this cozy mystery takes place in the 1990s. I’m not sure why the author felt the need to make it happen that long ago. It was simply jarring when I first read the word “nineties” in relation to time. Before that, I had assumed it was contemporary, so I had to read that line more than once to understand the context of the word and that it’s a story that supposedly takes place twenty years ago.
Because of the odd setup on several points, I can’t fully recommend this book.