Reading Fanatic ReviewsParanormal Mysteries
Seeing the Light by E. C. Bell
Seeing the Light*
Book Falls Short
I generally enjoy mysteries and books that have anything to do with the paranormal or supernatural, so I thought that this book would be a natural fit for me. However, this particular novel didn’t work for me. I’m having a hard time pulling together my thoughts about it. Several things just didn’t ring right with me, but I’m having a hard time putting my finger on precisely what I’m not liking here. One of the things I can say for sure is that I didn’t like the profanity in the book; I just don’t think profanity is necessary except to show character and only in very limited places (genres). I felt like the characterization was weak for all the major players in the book. Marie, a viewpoint character, could have been interesting given all that she had to deal with but she was just lacking in too many ways; I didn’t feel like her head was an interesting place to be in. The main viewpoint character has to have solid characterization to be believable, relatable, and someone that we want to follow, and that just wasn’t here for me. I also felt like the mystery element of the story was barely there; for a book called a mystery, there needs to be more mystery! Like the other characters, I didn’t find the villains particularly well drawn either. I understand that this is the author’s first book, and perhaps she will improve the more she practices writing.
Mummy Issues by Paula Lester
Not Easy to Keep Mum
I have read every book in this series about Zoey and the zany characters at the paranormal retirement community where she works. Something in Zoey’s past is coming back to haunt her, literally and figuratively! I absolutely love the way this series mixes Zoey’s life with those of her residents. The community members add such color. In this book, Zoey is facing parental issues. Her crew with her retirement community has her back, but oh, my! I love that the magical aspect of these books is written with such humor. If you’ve read and enjoyed the other books in this series, you will thoroughly enjoy this latest addition.
Witch Myth Christmas by Alexandria Clarke
Witch Myth Christmas*
Paranormal Christmas a la Groundhog Day… Plus!
The first part of this book feels like a paranormal holiday version of Groundhog Day. Christmas day keeps repeating over and over with slight variations. Only one person seems to be aware of the time slip. I quite enjoyed this author’s writing style. She uses active verbs and deep point of view that makes you feel like you are living the story along with Noelle as she tries to figure everything out. There is a little bit of an information dump at the beginning, including the rather hackneyed use of a window so that a first-person narrator can describe herself, but this is written better than most, so I can forgive it. I loved following the twists and turns of the story. A fun and engaging read.
A Murder in Hope’s Crossing by Brooke Shelby
A Murder in Hope's Crossing*
Didn’t Work for Me
I will admit that I am turned off right away when a book starts with an information dump, and this book had quite a lengthy one. I do work with some authors on their books, and I sometimes recommended they just toss out the first chapter or two and get to the story! This book might have benefited from such an action. I thought the dialog sounded stilted, not like the way people talk. As such, I had a hard time getting into and sticking with the story. I didn’t really find the characters engaging, and I will be passing on the rest of the series.
The Cursed Key by Miranda Brock and Rebecca Hamilton
Available at Amazon (currently paperback only; eBook Jan. 14, 2020), Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, and Indigo (Chapters)
The Cursed Key*
Nice Paranormal Aspects; Other Elements Off
I am not quite sure what to make of this book. There are elements of it that I enjoyed, but there were definitely some issues with it. I enjoyed the paranormal aspect and the idea that such a paranormal world existed was unknown to the heroine at the book start, but I didn’t feel like the MacGuffin, the key, was explained well enough so that the reader would know why it was so important to everyone. We weren’t really given much background about it to understand its significance nor were we told what exactly it did. I thought that the two main characters had grating personalities, which sometimes made them annoying to read about. I also thought the heroine acted unprofessionally and unethically at times. The opening jungle sequence was a good start to the story, but then the pacing slowed down to a crawl when the heroine returned to the United States; luckily, it did pick up again towards the middle of the book. Some of these flaws may be overlooked when you’re reading because the author actually has a good writing style. It is engaging, especially in the action parts, and easy to read. But then only when you start thinking about the story do its flaws truly become apparent.
Siren Song Gone Wrong by Lucy May
Siren Song Gone Wrong*
More Slice of Pre Wedding Life Than Mystery
I have read several of the mysteries in this series, and I find them to be humorous and warm paranormal cozies. While I thoroughly enjoyed the book just as a reader, I felt that this installment was a little light on the mystery aspect. It starts a month before the wedding of Liam and Moira. For those of you who are not familiar with the series, Moira is the one from whose perspective we see the stories unfold. To be honest, this felt more like a bit of a slice-of-life moment before the big day. Yes, there was an interesting little side arc about sirens, but I felt like it was more about family dinners and conversations with friends about the upcoming wedding and the couple’s future. I did find the theme about destiny to be interesting, which did elevate this story to be somewhat more than just that slice of life just mentioned. I don’t want to give anything away, but I think the prologue just should have been the last chapter or two. It wasn’t a true prologue. All in all, not the best of this series, but if you’ve already read other books in it, you will most likely enjoy the run-up the big fated marriage.
Manners and Monsters by Tilly Wallace
Manners and Monsters*
Regency… and Zombies
Mercy, what a completely different read! Think Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies with a little bit of suspense, romance, and gothic and steampunk sensibilities. The women of high-society Britain have suffered from a nasty, zombie-making affliction since the close of the Napoleonic Wars; some nasty Frenchmen created an expensive face powder that made this happen. I liked the heroine; she is a strong and smart woman in an era when that is not appreciated. The hero feels relatively weak in comparison, but he is still a fascinating character to watch. I didn’t like the information dump at the start of the book. It’s a long enough novel that the author could have started with a nice impactful action scene and dribbled in the backstory of the world little by little. Since this is essentially a zombie novel, at times it gets a little too gory for me. I like the author’s writing style, which was at times quite humorous and quite fitting for the type of book. Even though I am not one who particularly enjoys zombie literature or movies, I found this to be a fun read.
Lost Magic by Alexandria Clarke
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.
Murder in Downfell Manor
Murder in Downfell Manor*
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.
A Witch Too Hot by Paula Lester and M. E. Harmon
A Witch Too Hot*
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.