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Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan

 

In keeping with my magical, mysterious reads for October, I grabbed Ruth Hogan's latest novel featuring a fortune telling woman who keeps everyone's secrets, no matter what. 

This story bounces back and forth between present day and 1973 in the English seaside town of Brighton. Imelda Burova is young and full of life. She's taking over her mother's fortune telling business on the pier, and she's very, very good at it. Imelda spends her whole life reading fortunes, and after decades of business, she decides its time to retire. 

Only retirement and Imelda just don't quite go together. As a keeper of promises and secrets, Imelda has one whopper of a secret she just can't share. She can, however, do some digging and make contact with the woman who was left as an infant in front of Imelda's storefront on the pier. 

Enter Billie, who has just sold her parent's home and laid her father to rest. Newly divorced and without a job, she is at a crossroads in life. Two letters turn her life upside down. One is from her father, telling her she was adopted, and the second is from Imelda, inviting her to tea in Brighton so she can talk to Billie. Shocked her parents never told her she was adopted, Billie decides that yes, she does want to know where she came from, and maybe Madam Burova has some of the answers she is seeking. 

As Billie and Imelda meet and get to know each other, Billie has more questions than answers. The cast of characters in Brighton are all charming, and all have ties to Imelda's past, and ties to what was once a wildly popular entertainment venue, the Larkin Holiday Park. Are Billie's parents entertainers from the park? 

This was a charming story full of characters who all made some great and not so great choices in their youth. Now, they all have chances to try again. Billie has a chance to start completely over in life; will she remain in Brighton or return to London? Will Imelda finally get the answers her broken heart needs after almost fifty years of heartache? 

This is a great read for an afternoon in front of the fireplace, sipping tea. It took me a bit to click into the story; I confess I was a bit confused at the beginning--mostly because I stopped and started a lot. But once I sat down and read for a bit, it all clicked and I was curious how everything would play out. 

Rating: 3/6 for a charming novel about second chances, secrets, and love. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco

 

I picked up a few creepy tales from B&N a few weeks ago and finally managed to read one of them. I'll confess I've been starting books, then picking up another one, over and over this month so far and not making progress on too many of them. Super restless reading-wise this month. However, I stuck with this and after a few "I'm not so sure about this one" moments, it clicked and wow, this was a great read. Just enough spooky to make you sit up and take notice, but not so much that you can't sleep at night. At least, for me it wasn't so scary. 

This novel is actually the first in a series about Okiku, a three hundred-year old spirit of a young woman who was brutally murdered in Japan. She was tortured, then tossed down a well, breaking her neck. She died upside down. So now, she spends a lot of time upside down, hanging from ceilings. She can look pretty gruesome, too. But sometimes she reverts back to what she looked like as a servant girl all those years ago. Her mission is to seek and destroy (yes, kill) people who murder children. She's pretty brutal about it, too. These serial killers carry the souls of those children with them--literally these souls are chained to these people (who are completely unaware of them). But Okiku can see them, and the only way to free those poor souls is to kill the horrible person who keeps them trapped. 

So, Okiku has been doing this for hundreds of years. Now she's taken an interest in Tark, a young teen boy who moves to a new community with his father. Tark has something strange about him--he has black tattoos covering his arms, chest and back. These tattoos look like they move, which is a bit freaky. Tark's mother gave those tattoos to him when he was five years old, and they are a symbol of something truly horrible living in Tark and trying to get out. Okiku sees what that horrible creature is, and is strong enough to defend Tark against it, but a final showdown can only come about if Tark and his father travel to a special shrine in Japan and undergo a dangerous ritual. 

Tark's cousin Callie can see Okiku, too. Freaked out a bit by her, but eventually gets a little more comfortable once she understands Okiku is there to protect Tark. Callie joins Tark in Japan and together they uncover the story of Okiku and the horrible spirit that lives inside Tark and is desperate to be free and kill, kill, kill. 

Sounds dark, right? It is actually a really well written story, full of Japanese mysticism, ritual, and legends. Fascinating look at how other cultures deal with death, spirits, and the afterworld. Okiku is even referenced as the inspiration for the movie The Ring. Her story continues in the next novel: The Suffering

This novel was published in 2015, so it's not new. Wow, it really was a gripping read. If you're easily queasy, don't read it. It's not super gory, but it has some moments. I'd read more of Rin Chupeco's novels any day. 

Rating: 5/6 for a truly creepy read, based in Japanese folklore and mysticism. Took me a bit to get into it, but BAM! it suddenly became unputdownable and I got completely sucked into it. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.


**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**



Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

 

The Montoya family is an interesting group of people; their matriarch Orquidea Divina is especially interesting and different. She's quite magical, too. Appearing in Four Winds decades before as a very young woman, she created an oasis out of nothing, leaving the townspeople to whisper about her and send the sheriff out on occasion to try to get her to leave. 

However, Orquidea stayed. She never left her little oasis, where food was always plentiful, the weather was beautiful, and there was a definite other-worldliness about it. 

Now Orquidea is calling her children and grandchildren back to Four Winds because she is dying and it's time to leave each of them an inheritance. When her family arrives, they are shocked to see Orquidea is not only dying, but is slowly transforming into a tree. Questions abound!

Now it's seven years later, and two of her grandchildren and one great-grandchild have gifts that are definitely odd: Rey, Marimar, and Rhiannon all have flowers growing out of their flesh. None of them understand why or what the flowers mean. 

Soon it becomes clear something is stalking the Montoya family, and it wants to destroy them. Seeking to figure out what is killing family members, they travel to Ecuador, Orquidea's home, to discover where her story began and to uncover the truth before they are all destroyed. 

Wow. This was one heck of a great read. Magic is everywhere in this story, and toss in a circus with a mysterious connection to Orquidea and you've got quite an interesting tale of bad decisions, promises made and broken, and heartbreak that never goes away. Revenge weaves its way through Orquidea's life story, and a big theme is the damage done to children by parents who do not love or care for them. Those children grow up to inflict damage on themselves and others, because of their rage, sorrow, and unanswered questions. 

I loved the mix of legends and magic, folklore and family love and connections. The story goes back and forth between present day (7 years after Orquidea transforms) and decades before, slowly revealing her journey and the price she paid for freedom. It all culminates in a showdown between the evil that stalks the family, and the gifts Orquidea gave her grandchildren. 

If you're looking for books with magic, cultural lore and otherworldliness, you'll enjoy this very much. The cover is just gorgeous. 


Rating: 5/6 for a tale of one woman's choices that create a magic safe place for family that is threatened by an evil that seeks revenge and will stop at nothing to destroy everything. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Witch Please (Fix-It Witches #1) by Ann Aguirre

 

If you'd like some spice with your romance, pick this book up, the first in the Fix-It Witches series.  Hot hot hot! 

Danica Waterhouse lives with her cousin Clem in the small town of St. Claire, Illinois. They own a repair shop--and use their magical witch gifts to fix anything from toasters on the fritz to refrigerators. The latest generation of talented, magical witches from the Waterhouse family, they are both looking for love. Unfortunately, their grandmother is an interfering busy-body and insists if they fall for a "mundane" (non-witchy person) they will lose their magic forever. Danica's mother married a mundane and Grandmother claims her magic is diluted because of it, and her mother completely lost hers as a result. 

Titus runs a local bakery with his sister Maya. He's known around town as the CinnaMan because not only does he make the most divine cinnamon rolls, but he's one gooood looking man. Titus has never been able to have a successful relationship--they always end after a few months, and he can't figure out why. Until he meets Danica, and sparks fly. BIG sparks. These two would make butter melt in seconds, their chemistry is so sizzling hot. 

Titus is a mundane, however. Danica's cousin and grandmother put the pressure on her to end her flirtation with Titus and find a witchy match. Her grandmother even threatens to hex Titus if she doesn't do her bidding. Can Danica follow her heart and have a happy ending? Will she really lose her magic if she decides Titus is worth it?

Wonky magic spells, electronics on the fritz--Danica's magic is definitely not all working as it always does. But she just can't stay away from Titus. And Titus is head  over heels pretty quickly, too. Has CinnaMan finally found his one and only?

This novel has plenty of heart and zippy do dah a heck of a lot of chemistry and steamy scenes between Titus and Danica. I enjoyed getting to know the players in this novel: Maya, Titus' sister; Clem, Danica's cousin, and other friends and family. The magic of the witches is gentle and not over the top. The best part: there's a second book coming out in 2022 which focuses on Clem and her dangerous romance with an honest to God modern witch hunter. Their story begins in this novel, so I am intrigued to read their story. It's way more complicated than Titus and Danica, so I'm eager to see how it all plays out. 

Rating: 4/6. If you want a modern romance with a lot of heart, a heart-tugger of a hero, and a bit of magic tossed in, grab this one. It does have some explicit sex and there are same-sex relationships and talk of bi-sexuality. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.


Second in the series is out in April, 2022:





Thursday, September 30, 2021

October is Here! I Give Myself Permission to Read Spooky Books and Eat All Things Pumpkin

 I set a pretty ambitious goal for reading in September and while I made a serious dent, I didn't quite get everything read. I just started one book and am about 3/4 way through another from my September list. I'll roll them over into October and review them this month. 

October is going to be a busy work month, and of course it's my month to get the yard ready for the approaching winter. My poor hosta plants are just done. Not having my big tree in the back yard to give them some protection, along with a very hot and dry summer, just burned them. Time to cut them back, along with the strange weeds that have appeared this year in my flower beds. Post-Derecho weirdness. I don't think I sat on my back deck more than a handful of times this summer. It was just too dang hot. So in many ways, it feels like a bit of a lost summer. Not much outside enjoyment and near constant a/c running all summer. It's even on today, the last day of September as we get another blast of heat. Hopefully it will cool down soon, in time to enjoy the changing season. 

I do so love to read witchy and ghosty novels. I'm not a huge fan of horror, but I do tend to read more of it this time of year. So many new books out, it's hard to pick what to read this month since I want to read them all. I've tried to narrow down my list to this group:

👻💀 A ghost preys on child killers. Not my usual pick for a read, but the cover got me! 

💀💀👮A bookshop, a murder, and all the elements of a delightful cozy mystery. 

👀👻 This cover creeps me out every time I look at it! 1890's Chicago World Fair, a missing sister, a horrific serial killer, and a monster in human form. 

                                                        


Non-fiction stories about the people who live in Natchez, MS. 

Highly anticipated! 

Historical novel about the woman who was the first to see King Tut's tomb. Did the curse wait fifty years to threaten her life?

A woman discovers an island where her powers aren't unusual, and she may finally find a home.

A second chance at love! 

Love Ruth Hogan! A magical world of 1970's seaside life, complete with tarot readers, magicians, and fortune-telling. 


Yes, most of them are of a supernatural slant, but I've sprinkled in a few historical novels and one non-fiction book that I picked up at B&N and thought looked really interesting. And I've got a stack of cozy mysteries, so I added one of those, too. 

I've also got a few review requests in October, too. I am a busy woman this month in my reading life. I wouldn't have it any other way. 💓💀👻💀💀💀


Happy October friends, and Happy Halloween! 



                Click here to find this gif! 





Sunday, September 26, 2021

Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

 

I picked this up at B&N on a whim and added it to my TBR stack and forgot about it (as I usually do!) until I was compiling my list for September reads and decided to add it in as a switch from my   otherwise heavy on the magic and literary theme choices. I'm glad I did, because this was perfectly enjoyable. Yes, it's on the eve of World War 2 (1937); the Nazis are rising and unease is building, but I don't think I've ever read a novel that includes the Hindenburg in it! 

This is a novel about two sisters: Clara and Madeleine Sommers. They are from a wealthy East Coast family. Their grandmother, Violet, has terminal cancer and has requested the two women travel to Europe to deliver letters to three people that meant something to Violet. All expenses paid, and they get to travel on the Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and return home on the Hindenburg-the latest in fast, luxurious travel between Europe and the U.S. 

The sisters don't get along--Clara is engaged to a wealthy businessman who treats her like a possession, and Madeleine is a journalist searching for her big break. Nellie Bly was a good friend of Violet, and her spirit is infused in this novel. Both ladies called her Auntie Nellie and remember her fondly. In fact Madeleine was inspired to become a journalist because of her. Clara loves art and is quite talented, but has had to set her talents aside as she prepares to marry Charles. She's not in love, but knows the marriage is what's expected of her. 

The two sisters set off on the Queen Mary--and yes, one is messy and wears trousers; the other is neat as a pin and dresses to the nines. One plays by society's rules, and the other drinks whiskey and gambles with men. They rub each other the wrong way and have many clashes. I was actually beginning to think they would never resolve their differences! 

However, as the sisters arrive in Paris to deliver the first letter, family history starts to pull them together. Madeleine feels the sense of unease that has settled over Europe and is eager to write about it. Clara is worried they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they promised Violet they would deliver the letters, and so after Paris, they travel to Venice, and then onto Austria. Along the way they discover more family secrets, find moments of sisterhood (followed by arguments, of course!), and start to realize the trip is also about discovering themselves and what they want out of life. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I thought it was well written; the sisters were enough alike and enough different to make their relationship interesting and believable. Their love interests were there to provide some relief from what otherwise would have been too much sister time. The travel sounded marvelous--the clothes and food, divine. 

This kind of novel always reminds me of people digging around their family trees and discovering their ancestors were not perfect, play by the rules people. Clara and Madeleine certainly discover things about their family that would have stayed secret if not for this trip. Discovering those secrets helped them be brave and reach for the lives they truly wanted. 

Fans of World War 2 fiction, or fiction set in the late 1930's are sure to enjoy this novel. Relationships are a central theme, as well as forgiveness and living a life of happiness--even if it means a bit of scandal comes your way. Anyone who likes to read about women traveling and especially Nellie Bly would also enjoy this novel. 

Rating: 4/6 for an entertaining novel about sisters, the golden age of travel, relationships, love, and last wishes. An elegant read. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Two Reviews in One: Aria's Traveling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin and The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber




I decided to review two books in one post this week. I was cruising along, reading at a good clip and somehow over the weekend hit a snag. However, some time at home (and I'll confess, a few late nights) had me finishing two books on my September list. 

First is Aria's Traveling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin. This is a sequel to Rosie's Traveling Tea Shop (read my review here), but definitely isn't really necessary to read it before this one. 

We find Aria and Rosie getting ready to take their campers to France so travel the fete and festival circuit. Aria's camper is chock full of books to sell, while Rosie (a former chef), creates delicious British treats to sell, along with specialty teas that often compliment Aria's books. 

Aria is a young widower, and has firmly shut her heart to any possibility of ever falling in love again. She had her true love, and no one can match it. However, there is Jonathan; a quiet, handsome, and bookish man Aria has one magical encounter with at a music festival. Now it's months later, and Aria runs into Jonathan again, just as she's about to leave for France. Can she open her heart to let Jonathan in, or will she lose him to someone else? 

This novel is all about grief, putting closure on painful memories, and opening up your heart to live and love again. It's also fun to see Rosie and Max and what's in store for them. I hope there is at least one more in this series so I can see where Aria and Jonathan are in the near future. Entertaining, clean (no sex scenes), likable characters. An uplifting novel about the best of friends and, of course, adventure. 



This novel was on my highly-anticipated list! 

And, as per usual, once I got it, I dithered about reading it. It's not a long book, but it took me a few weeks to finish it. I kept finding myself waiting for the big grab, and it just wasn't happening, which annoyed me to no end. However, the big grab did happen at nearly the end of the novel--and that was a really big grab! I love Heather Webber, and while I enjoyed this novel, it wasn't my favorite of the three I've read. 

Sadie Way Scott has to return to her hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama, after her mother has a cardiac incident. Sadie's sister Leala Claire lives in Sugarberry and decides to stay at the B&B their mother runs in order to keep it open and help out. Sadie and Leala haven't gotten along very well for the past eight years, after Sadie's near fatal dive into the magical lake just outside her mother's B&B. Sadie, under water for fifteen minutes, miraculously survives and comes out of the lake with silver, sparkling hair. 

It's not the only change to Sadie, however. She leaves Sugarberry Cove and begins a successful career as a digital storyteller. Now reluctantly, she's back at the one place she never wanted to return to. Family dynamics are really at play in this novel about two sisters, their mother, and the grief and tragedy that changed their lives. Mom Susannah is behind in her bills, and the B&B is looking shaggy. Sadie and Leala decide to help spruce it up in hopes of bringing back business. Will Susannah object? 

While Sadie and Leala are staying at the B&B, so many other players arrive: Teddy and her niece Bree, Uncle Camp, Iona (a potential subject for Sadie's storytelling series), Leala's husband Connor and son Tucker, and neighbor Buzzy. There's a lot of back story to go through with all of these characters, and that's part of the unfolding of the story. The Lady of the Lake saved Sadie that long ago night; will her magic save the family again as they navigate big changes? 

I'd love to stay at this B&B; it sounds heavenly. The myth of the Lady of the Lake is a big driver in this tale, and doesn't disappoint. I think I just got stuck a bit on the drama between the sisters and their mom. But the characters are all fully developed and charming, and misunderstandings are resolved once people are brave enough to speak up and make their wishes known. This novel is about family dynamics, not giving up on dreams, and of course, love. 


I enjoyed both novels and they hit the spot for my September comfort reads. Both novels are a 4/6 on my scale. 

Available in paperback and hardcover, audio and ebook. 

If you're looking for gentle reads, or comfort reads with likable characters, issues that are resolved in a believable way, and of course some beautiful scenery and delish food, either of these books would fit the bill. Love both of these authors.