Reading Fanatic ReviewsParanormal Mysteries
Over the Broomstick by Mara Webb
Over the Broomstick*
More Needed in the Middle
I enjoy cozy mysteries very much, especially paranormal ones. In general, I like novellas, but the mystery genre just is not made for this short form of writing. A good mystery needs room to ramble, time for twists and turns happen, a space for the buildup of red herrings, etc. This story felt like it had great potential. The death of a loved one that brings you to a magical town? Sounds like the perfect setup. And the setup was good. But I didn’t feel like the follow-through was there. There wasn’t enough tension and forward motion to the plot. I thought the writing itself was fine. The descriptive passages were perhaps at times a little much, but overall, it was a pleasant read. I just wish that it felt like there was more to the middle of the story.
The Perfect Brew by Jo-Ann Carson
The Perfect Brew*
Bumpy Start Morphs into a Good Read
I enjoy a good cozy mystery. This one, unfortunately, started off with an information dump, which I never like in any sort of fiction that I read. It did get better after that. The heroine got more than she bargained for when she came to a small town in the Pacific Northwest to settle her great-aunt’s affairs. The now-deceased lady has left the heroine a coffee shop… and a curse. Soon, a second body drops, and the heroine has determined to help figure out who the murderer is. She’s got a little something going on the romance front as well, or at least potentially. I found this novel a quirky and enjoyable read, which is how I like my paranormal cozy mysteries.
Clairvoyant Clues by Paula Lester
Another Delightful Visit to the Sunnyside Retirement Community
I think that I have read every single book in this series, and I just adore every one of them. The author has created a zany, quirky paranormal world that I love to revisit whenever a new installment comes out. What’s not to like about a series centered around a retirement home for witches and other magical people? Can Zoey, the young woman who is the director of this community, keep them in line?
In this particular story, Zoey has a lot on her plate. Her mother is just only back in the land of the living but still is not responsive; her father thinks that she is just faking it. Zoey has a new love interest. But the mystery centers around a psychic who is planning to move into the community; she disappears before she can do so. Law enforcement believes that someone at the retirement community, either a resident or worker, had something to do with it. Suspects pile up as many haven’t been so happy with the psychic’s predictions. So, that is what needs to be sorted out in this particular installment.
As always, I enjoyed the characters who make up the retirement community. There is so much humor in this book because of the wonderful characters that the author has created; she has taken great pains to make so individual and relatable as well as zany. Most of these people have what I would say are good intentions, but in trying to help Zoey, they more often make a hash of it all—and quite often in hilarious ways. Since this series now has several books, we have gotten to know some of these characters over time, so reading the book is like visiting your crazy friends; you just know it will be insane but a lot of fun. I totally would like to be the director of this community; you would never be bored! While the novel is a part of a series, it can definitely be read as a standalone, although you will get much more from it if you start reading the series at the beginning. If you like paranormal cozy mysteries with humor and an exceptionally well-drawn cast of characters, you might enjoy this series as much as I do.
Un-Familiar Magic by Belinda White
Magic Under Wraps
I am so enjoying this paranormal cozy mystery series. It is definitely one that should be read in order. Amie is a very powerful witch even if she doesn’t have control of her powers yet. The power is dependent on the type of witch she is. In fact, her kind of witch is so powerful that if the council found out, they would force her to live in a box, so to speak, that would drain her powers, which they could then use for their own benefit. The choice is either to live in this box or be killed. So Amie and her family do not want the council to find out about her powers. Those who care about her are trying to teach her how to control her magic but on the down low. Murders, unfortunately, keep happening in this small town, and Amie wants to help. But, of course, if she uses her powers, the council will find out. Will she be able to help without bringing harm to herself?
I like that the author has created a delightful deep point of view for this series. Being in Amie’s head is like watching a friend muse about her day. It feels intimate and personal. I don’t think that is easy to achieve, especially in a paranormal cozy mystery. I look forward to the next book in the series.
Pumpkin Patch Mystery by Lucy May
Pumpkin Patch Mystery*
Another Excellent Visit to Charm Cove
I don’t know how many books I have read in Lucy May’s Charm Cove series, but I have found every one of them a delight. I love seeing a new book in the series pop up at my favorite book review site. No matter how busy I am, I have to pick it up. One of the things that I appreciated about this story was that the murder happened right at the beginning, before the 10% mark. It is definitely a danger with cozy mysteries, delaying the murderer or the crime and filling much of the first part of the book with a look at the quirky community that cozy mysteries always have. I have seen the murder take place as late as almost to 50% mark, though that is extreme. But having such a crucial moment in a murder mystery take place so late doesn’t allow time for the mystery to develop. But that doesn’t happen here. We’re two months past the Wicked-Good wedding, and the newlyweds are embroiled in the murder because the two girls that they had taken to a pumpkin patch found the dead body. So the whole gang gets involved in this murder, though it is apparently not magical in nature. The book had some good twists and turns, which I love in a mystery. The cozy part was not ignored either, and I enjoy watching the interactions of the Charm Cove residents. I like that the author is able to write description in such a way that she places you there in the scenes, but it doesn’t seem like it is too much. Another enjoyable trip to Charm Cove.
Alexandra’s Riddle by Elisa Keyston
Several Riddles in Riddle
I live in Oregon, so I am always drawn to any fictional books that take place in my state. I love that the author actually chose a real town, Riddle, though it has been somewhat fictionalized for the story. I live just a couple counties away, so I loved hearing some somewhat local references in the book. This novel has a lot going for it: romance, mystery, and the paranormal (including the fae and brownies) as well as themes about responsibilities to self vs. others and keeping small-town life as it should be. The author actually did an excellent job of making the paranormal aspect seem just as much a part of the fabric of life in the area as the “real” human aspect. That’s not easy to do, I think. I liked the main character as well as the quirky people who made up the community. A thoroughly enjoyable book. If you like paranormal stories with a touch of romance in a fair amount of mystery, you may very well enjoy this book.
Stalking the Dead by E. C. Bell
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Thalia, Smashwords, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Bol.de
Stalking the Dead*
Still Not Vibin’
I love a good paranormal mystery, so I was intrigued when three books by this author showed up on my favorite book review site. Unfortunately, I have just never been able to get into them, and I have given this author three tries now. (I do always give authors two or three chances before I give up.) I love that Marie has the ability to communicate with spirits who have not yet moved on and uses that to figure out their murders (if that is the case). But something in the writing style always turns me off in these books. For one thing, the dialogue doesn’t feel quite natural to me, and in places, there is a lot of conversation. I am almost always put off, too, by the level of profanity in the books, usually said or thought by the ghosts. Cursing is just a significant turnoff for me in any book unless it is used for characterization. The mystery in this particular book actually did have some interest as it tied in different aspects of Marie’s present and past. But, again, because of the writing issues above and others that I have not detailed, I still couldn’t get into this book.
Movies, Moonlight, and Magic by January Bain
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Thalia, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, Indigo (Chapters), and Bol.de
Movies, Moonlight, and Magic*
Heavy on the Cozy, Light on the Mystery
This is the second book in the Manitoba Tea and Tarot series, and the second book that I have read in it. I will admit that I love the concept of this series because tea and tarot are two of my favorite things! I would love to frequent that little shop. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, so I was looking forward to the next. The series revolves around three sisters who have magical powers, each different. Charm, the heroine in this book, is only just coming to understand and work with what she can do. She has an interest in the new Mountie, but a gorgeous friend of his family has shown up, making Charm a little jealous. A film crew comes to town, and their accountant turns up dead. Other issues come up as well, and someone close to Charm is one of the suspects, leading her to want to investigate to clear their name.
As in the first book, the characters and the relationships between them are a delight. The paranormal aspect is fun. Unfortunately, as can happen in cozy mysteries, the mysteries themselves seemed to take a back seat to the quirky characterization and magical worldbuilding. For instance, the dead body wasn’t found until about the 21% mark. As that is the inciting incident for a murder mystery, not a lot of room was left for the mystery to be fully explored. This is already a short book, so not much space is given to the mystery. The other “mystery” shows up quite a bit later. All in all, I like the world and the characters that the author has created; I just wish that the mystery itself was more emphasized.
Magic and Mystery Box Set by Lily Webb
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson
Magic and Mystery Box Set*
The First Books of the Series
I was a latecomer to the Magic and Mystery series, so I was delighted to be able to pick up the first three books in the series as a single box set. Zoe is a witch who has only just coming to realize the extent of her powers, and I liked watching her evolution. It is sure a bumpy ride for her. I enjoyed seeing, too, more of the backstory and interactions between her and the other characters. These books are relatively light and are easy reads. The author does a good job setting up a paranormal world, make it seem completely logical that magic is an everyday happenstance because, in the world of the books, it is. So the author has managed to make the paranormal aspect seem integral and not fantastical, which I don’t think is always an easy thing to do. Well balanced, nice set of books.
Premonition by Gisele Vezelay
Jane Austen Fanfiction with a Supernatural Twist
I am a big fan of Jane Austen fanfiction. In fact, when I was in nursing school a few years ago, I rewarded myself with a Kindle at Christmas, for which Amazon rewarded me with one month’s access to Kindle Unlimited. For whatever reason, I filled my subscription with Jane Austen fanfiction and read through books as often as I could (which isn’t easy when you are in nursing school!). So I have read many, many Jane Austen fan fiction books, from the absolute worst to some pretty amazing ones. And I am always on the lookout for a new book or a new author to satisfy that craving for Miss Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.
This author is new to me, but I am delighted that I have found her. This book lived up to my expectations of what good Jane Austen fanfiction should be. It is just a little off from canon, which I always like. The language is elevated; I could hear some of the actors from the 1995 BBC production as well as the 2005 movie in my head as I was reading the dialogue. I always consider that a good sign. I liked the paranormal aspect of this one. One of my absolute favorite pieces of Jane Austen fanfiction is actually “Haunting Mr. Darcy,” by Karalynne Mackrory, which is unfortunately only available in paperback at this time. While this book by Ms. Vézelay is not humorous like that one, the paranormal aspect is still enjoyable. Mr. Darcy is a bit more forward in this one, and I found that refreshing. Imagine him asking Elizabeth for the first two dances at the Netherfield Ball right after the Bennet sisters meet Mr. Wickham in town; loved it! The book was refreshingly free from issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage. I am a professional copyeditor, so these types of errors can really distract me and keep me from enjoying a story. I’m so glad this wasn’t an issue here.
I do have two quibbles with the author. One is that she refers to Lady Catherine as Lady de Burgh. She is the daughter of an earl, so her correct address would be Lady Catherine, I believe. Second, I would not call this novel Gothic. In fact in the blurb, she called it “sweet Gothic.” If you understand the term, no Gothic novel could be called sweet. For me, when I think of gothic fiction, I think of Wuthering Heights, The Fall of the House of Usher, and Frankenstein—and perhaps even Northanger Abbey by Miss Austen herself. This book is supernatural or paranormal, but I wouldn’t call it gothic.
But this minor categorization issue did not detract from the story, of course. I highly recommend it.