Tag Archives: witches

Dead Man’s Doll (Sugarwood Mysteries Book 2) by Diane Bator Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The holidays bring a bit of horror to the small town of Sugarwood as a woman stumbles across the murder of a local butcher and discovers tales of voodoo and witchcraft integrated into the mystery in author Diane Bator’s “Dead Man’s Doll”, the second book in the Sugarwood Mysteries series!

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The Synopsis

Christmas blooms in Sugarwood in the form of a brightly lit tree in town square, colourful ornaments, and a snowstorm. It’s just Audra Clemmings’ luck that she literally stumbles over the local butcher in Miss Lavinia’s shop. Then a witch doctor arrives in town.

Can Audra solve the mystery before the killer turns their sights on her?

The Review

I absolutely loved the juxtaposition of the holiday settings with the cozy murder mystery meets witchcraft and horror elements of the narrative. The author did an amazing job of bringing a good dose of humor and wit to the narrative amongst the more chilling elements of the story, and the rich detail and atmosphere that the author was able to achieve were inspiring to see come to life on the page.

The character growth and the exploration of our understanding of things like witchcraft, voodoo, and other magical-based belief systems were the true heart of this narrative. The humor and relatability that the author infuses into characters like protagonist Audra and Marilee, and even the inclusion of Audra’s dog Drake, added a depth and captivating element to the cozy murder mystery, while the magical practices element of the story showcased how it is often our own prejudices and misconceptions that make people far more dangerous than the unknown and things classified by society as “supernatural” and having all of this come to life in a Christmas setting was made even better.

The Verdict

Chilling, witty, and entertaining, author Diane Bator’s “Dead Man’s Doll” is a brilliant cozy mystery for the fall/winter season of 2022 and a perfect next chapter in the Sugarwood Mysteries series. The thoughtful and thrilling narrative blends well with the funny character dynamics and rich cultural and spiritual elements explored in the story, making this a one-of-a-kind read you won’t be able to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Diane Bator is a prolific writer published by BWL Publishing. She is a A member of WCYR, Sisters in Crime and a board member for the Crime Writers of Canada. She is the author of several mystery series and a budding playwright.

https://dianebator.ca/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BG9JCVBP/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F62884670-dead-man-s-doll%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3D4B8y5jPuET%26rank%3D2&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

To Charm A Killer (A Hollystone Mystery Book One) by W.L. Hawkin Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The High Priest of a powerful coven must search for a killer who is targeting witches as Hecate issues a dreadful prophecy he must race to prevent in author W.L. Hawkin’s “To Charm a Killer”, the first book in the Hollystone Mystery Series! 

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The Synopsis

When a third witch vanishes from Vancouver, the witches of Hollystone Coven spin a charm to catch the killer. But spells ripple with repercussions, and in the ensuing chaos, an innocent seventeen-year-old girl gets caught up in the charm. As obsessed with the killer as the killer is with him, High Priest Estrada vows to find the man and stop him. Then, at their Samhain ritual, Hecate speaks through their high priestess and shocks everyone with her prophecy:

As one of you has spun the charm, now none of you are safe from harm.

One who all felt they could trust, breeds deception cloaked in lust.

One will gain their heart’s desire, while yet another pays with fire.

Before the dark of winter night, four souls pass over into light.

Once begun it cannot end, but circles round as circles bend.

To save the girl and catch the killer, Estrada journeys from the West Coast of Canada to Ireland and Beyond. Abduction, death, fire, and faeries. Who is the killer? Why is he killing witches? And how can he be stopped before Hecate’s prophecy comes true?

WL Hawkin weaves threads of Macbeth and ancient Irish myth with edgy romance in this mysterious urban fantasy. To Charm a Killer is the first in the Hollystone Mysteries series.

The Review

I have had the pleasure of reviewing quite a few books this past year from W.L. Hawkins. Her work always entertains and inspires me both as a reader and a writer, and the interesting thing about this series, in particular, is that I came into it starting with book 2 and then jumping around a bit. I’ve become quite invested in Estrada’s journey throughout this series, and getting to see the genesis of this character and the supporting cast was such a pleasure to read about.

The balance of action and mythos was so strong in this first novel. The way the author is able to integrate the supernatural and paranormal elements into the world so naturally was amazing to read. As someone who is fascinated with the real-world applications of magick, the paranormal, and the supernatural as a whole, it was great to see just how close the author was able to go through real-world practices and mythologies before integrating the more fantastic elements of the narrative.

Yet it was the mystery and suspense of the narrative that was truly great to read about. The shocking murders and the cat and mouse element of the plot between Estrada and the killer kept me hooked on the author’s narrative. Being able to keep the reader guessing the killer’s identity as the clues begin to unravel before them was such a fun aspect of the plot, and kept me on the edge of my seat.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and thought-provoking, author W.L. Hawkin’s “To Charm a Killer” is a must-read novel and a great first book in the Hollystone Mystery series! The twists and turns in the narrative and globe-spanning mystery blended well into the mythology and supernatural deep dive into witchcraft, magick, and the paranormal as a whole, making this a thrilling story. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

W. L. Hawkin writes myth, magic, and mayhem designed to inspire and entertain. Described as “intoxicating, lush, magically-edgy, page-turners,” her Hollystone Mysteries series features a coven of witches who solve murders using their wits and ritual magic with a little help from the gods. Wendy is also a published blogger, book reviewer, Indie publisher, and poet, with a background in Indigenous Studies and English literature. She loves myth and magic, so when she’s not writing, she’s studying Druidry, shamanism, and mediumship. Although she is an introvert, in each book, her characters go on a journey where she has traveled herself.

She defies genre by writing character-driven fast-paced mysteries and thrillers that involve fantastical characters. See her four book series: To Charm a Killer, To Sleep with Stones, To Render a Raven, and To Kill a King.

Her latest book, Lure, is set on a Chippewa Reservation in the American Midwest and tells the story of Jesse & Hawk.

Conjure Lake (Ambrosia Hill Book 1.5) by Rebecca Henry Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

After a woman takes it upon herself to raise her younger brother after the tragic loss of their parents, a move into their family cottage home in upstate New York turns into a deadly trial as they realize an ancient curse threatens their new home in author Rebecca Henry’s “Conjuring Lake”, the latest book in the Ambrosia Hill series.

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The Synopsis

When feelings are more than a warning, they become haunting.

Eighteen-year-old Serena is attending university on the west coast when her life is flipped upside down. After the untimely death of her parents, Serena returns to New York City to care for her seven-year-old brother, Jack. As financial pressures mount, Serena makes the difficult decision to move them to their family’s heritage lake house in upstate New York.

Jack hasn’t spoken to anyone but her since their parents’ death and Serena’s only focus is learning how to become a full-time mother to her little brother with the hope that she can save him from his sorrow. But when the siblings arrive in the tiny and isolated town of Corvin Grove, they realize their family’s name raises eyebrows from the townsfolk as the two settle into the abandoned lake home.

It doesn’t take long for the siblings to discover that things inside the gothic house are not what they appear to be. An ancient witch has cursed Conjure Lake and if they stay in Korwin Cottage, they may never make it out alive.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of horror, gore and child endangerment. There are references to past animal death.

Publisher’s Note: This book is related to the Ambrosia Hill series.

The Review

I absolutely loved this read! The author did an incredible job of crafting a unique story that could be read all on its own without missing a beat, and yet fits into the mythos and world that the author crafted in the first book in the Ambrosia Hill series, Amethyst. The way the author was able to build upon the magical background and history of this small town from the first book and highlight the more haunted and chilling atmosphere that the first book hinted at was great to read. The book fits perfectly into the YA genre, as the younger protagonists allowed younger readers to get a sense of connection while also paying homage to the most ancient process of magic itself.

The character growth was truly the heart of this novel once more. The author’s specialty in all of her works has to be creating beautiful characters that people will come to love, identify with, and feel for in their journey. The special bond between Serena and Jack was so relatable to me as an older brother. I loved the inclusion of LGBTQ storytelling and character development in this book, something the author touched upon in the first book. The connection the author made to characters from the first book and the way the town itself seemed to become its own character, as the hardships that befell the town for so long seemed to impact the townspeople themselves, very much reminding me of the townspeople in Stephen King’s It. 

The Verdict

Haunting, captivating, and entertaining, author Rebecca Henry’s “Conjuring Lake” is a must-read YA LGBTQ Paranormal and Fantasy Romance novel of 2022! The amazing amount of depth and emotion that the author pours into the narrative and the care for which these characters develop and evolve in their own right, from Jack’s desire to gain knowledge to Serena’s journey to gather her own power and strength to face life’s challenges, really mad me care as a reader for this world the author has crafted and made it feel truly magical in nature. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Rebecca Henry is an American author living abroad in England. She is a devoted vegan who gardens, practices yoga, crafts, travels the world, and bakes. Rebecca’s favorite holiday is Halloween, and she is obsessed with anything and everything witchy! Besides writing fiction, Rebecca is also the author of her vegan holiday cookbook collection and green living lifestyle book. Her love for animals, baking with her family, having a plant-based diet, and cruelty-free, green lifestyle inspired her nonfiction novels. You can find all Rebecca’s books on Amazon.

https://www.rebeccahenryauthor.com/

Luminous by Mara Rutherford Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young witch who has hidden her power her entire life must unlock her potential after her sister is taken by a nefarious warlock and her best friend disappears in author Mara Rutherford’s “Luminous”.

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The Synopsis

From the author of Crown of Coral and Pearl comes an immersive new fantasy about a witch who must learn to harness her power—or risk losing her loved ones forever.

Liora has spent her life in hiding, knowing discovery could mean falling prey to the king’s warlock, Darius, who uses mages’ magic to grow his own power. But when her worst nightmare comes to pass, Darius doesn’t take her. Instead, he demands that her younger sister return to the capital with him. To make matters worse, Evran, Liora’s childhood friend and the only one who knows her secret, goes missing following Darius’s visit, leaving her without anyone to turn to.

To find Evran and to save her sister, Liora must embrace the power she has always feared. But the greatest danger she’ll face is yet to come, for Darius has plans in motion that will cause the world to fall into chaos—and Liora and Evran may be the only ones who can stop him.  

The Review

A truly unique and intense new YA Fantasy world! This novel did an amazing job of drawing the reader into this unique world where witches, mages, and warlocks take on an entirely new meaning. The theme of sisterhood and family, as well as the theme of accepting ourselves for who we are, was felt widely in this narrative, as the story unfolded the layers of Liora’s past and her true nature beautifully.

The balance of world-building, mythology, and character growth was so well-written in this book. The exploration of Liora’s sheltered life and the fear of her magic was a great reflection of every parent’s desire to shield their children from the dangers our world presents, and the harm that can come from being too protective and letting our own fears dominate our children’s lives. Liora’s evolution as a protagonist was great to see unfold, showing the inner strength that blossomed her from a shielded witch in hiding to a powerful force for change and light in the darkness. 

The Verdict

Emotional, mythological in its world-building, and heartfelt in its delivery, author Mara Rutherford’s “Luminous” is a must-read YA Fantasy novel of 2021. A wholly unique take on witches and magic overall, and the theme of self-acceptance, this novel does a wonderful job of keeping the reader on the edge of their seat, delivering shocking and heartbreaking revelations, epic confrontations, and beautiful relationships that tie into the story of hope that Liora represents. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Mara Rutherford began her writing career as a journalist but quickly discovered she far preferred fantasy to reality. Originally from California, Mara has since lived all over the world with her marine-turned-diplomat husband. A triplet born on Leap Day, Mara holds a master’s degree in cultural studies from the University of London. When she’s not writing or chasing after her two sons, she can usually be found pushin_g the boundaries of her comfort zone, whether at a traditional Russian banya or an Incan archaeological site. Mara is a former Pitch Wars mentee and three-time mentor.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.mararutherford.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mararaewrites

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/mararutherfordwrites 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/56030266-luminous 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Luminous-Mara-Rutherford/dp/1335405658 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/luminous-mara-rutherford/1138317759?ean=9781335405654 

Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/Luminous/Mara-Rutherford/9781335405654?id=8287773942852 

IndieBound:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335405654

BookShop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/luminous-9781335405654/9781335405654 

AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/luminous/id1540957165 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Mara_Rutherford_Luminous?id=gK0JEAAAQBAJ 

Q&A with Mara Rutherford

Q: What was the hardest scene to write in Luminous? What was the easiest?

A: The hardest scene to write in Luminous was probably the climax. This book has changed a ton over the past five years, so balancing a few different aspects of the novel was challenging. I don’t want to give anything away, but I hope I hit the right combination of exciting and heartbreaking. Fingers crossed! The easiest part to write was somewhere in the middle… Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say I really enjoy writing anything with monsters. 

Q: Did you hide any secrets in your book? (names of friends, little jokes, references to things only some people will get)?

A: I always have some inside jokes/secrets in my books. In Luminous, the three sisters are inspired by the three daughters of our good friends. My husband and I had a black greyhound as our first dog, so that helped inspire Lord Darius’s sighthounds (although ours was adorable and in no way demented!). There’s a part where Liora, the MC, is looking at the stars and she recalls a myth about one of the constellations. The triplets referenced are inspired by my triplet siblings.

Q: What do you hope people remember about Luminous?

A: I suppose with all my books I hope people will remember how they felt when reading them, and in this case, I hope they feel inspired to embrace the parts of themselves they may fear or doubt. Liora is a somewhat reluctant heroine given her circumstances, and I hope young readers will remember that even if you don’t feel like the hero of your own story, you can be.

Q: Did Luminous have a certain soundtrack you listened to while writing?

A: I currently listen to a combination of alternative music, classical, and Taylor Swift when I write. I drafted this novel a long time ago, and at the time I didn’t listen to music when I wrote. But I will say that Folklore and Evermore were on repeat for all of 2020.

Q: What is your dream cast for Luminous?

A: This question is always weird for me because I’m 41 now and not particularly in touch with who the up and coming young actors are! I think Mackenzie Foy would make a good Liora based on looks, however.

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Excerpted from Luminous by Mara Rutherford, © 2021 by Mara Rutherford. Used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.

My father once described magic as an invisible beast, an unseen enemy that could snatch our lives away at any moment. As a small, impressionable child, I had imagined a lupine creature lurking outside among the whispering pines, breathing over my shoulder in our garden. For years, I didn’t even leave the house; it was magic that had killed my mother, after all.

I was old enough now to understand that magic didn’t work that way. But as I hurried down the dark road, past the woods that had become my haven during daylight hours, my childhood fears didn’t feel so foolish. I glanced behind me, sure I’d find Belle Sabine, the fabled witch of every young woman’s nightmares, swooping down as silent as an owl, ready to steal my youth and leave an empty husk behind.

To my relief, there was nothing there. My only traveling companion was the wind nipping at my heels, spurring me forward. But in my brief distraction, I tripped over a rock in the road, falling hard onto my knees. Cursing myself for my clumsiness and superstition, I dusted off my hands, wincing as a sharp pebble dislodged from my palm. I couldn’t afford this kind of delay. It was close to midnight, and there was no moon to speak of, which made my situation even more precarious; my exposed skin glowed so brightly that moths circled me like a flame. But my little sister, Mina, was missing. I had to tell Father.

As I rose, I heard the sound of footsteps up the road. I glanced around for a place to hide, but there was no time. A moment later, a figure loomed at the margins of my glow.

Some said Belle Sabine had died, others that she was biding her time until the townspeople became complacent once again. But I was convinced she had come to kill me on the one night I had dared to venture past our threshold.

I shrank back as skirts and slippered feet came into view, followed by a woman’s arms cradling a basket, and finally, the face of Margana, the weaver who lived next door. Not here to kill me, then. But a witch, nevertheless. And one arguably as dangerous as Belle Sabine, given who she worked for.

“What are you doing on the road, Liora? It’s the middle of the night.”

“Mina is gone,” I said. “Father is still at work, and I didn’t know what else to do.”

Margana scrutinized me for a moment. “You’re a witch.”

A chill that had nothing to do with the cool night air crept over my scalp. No one had ever called me a witch to my face before, though of course I knew what I was. My entire life revolved around my glowing skin and the fear that the kingdom’s most powerful warlock would discover it. Lord Darius was employed by the king himself, gathering mages and torturing them if they didn’t do his bidding.

I pulled Father’s cloak tighter around myself, but it was futile. She already knew. I had wasted too much time getting up the nerve to leave the house after I found Mina’s bed empty, wringing my hands at the window, wondering if she’d been kidnapped by drifters or lured into the forest by a ghost lantern. Then, once I was on the road, I had foolishly stopped to look at the devil’s footprints, little white mushrooms that grew in pairs of two, resembling the cloven hooves of a demon. I’d seen them in daylight plenty of times, but never at night. They had caught my eye because their glow was so similar to my own.

Oddly, Margana’s basket was full of the mushrooms. Her cornflower-blue eyes and auburn hair were pale and otherworldly in their light. As if sensing my curiosity, she shifted the basket to her other hip. Margana was one of the few people who lived outside the gates of the ancient village of Sylvan, like us. She was also my best friend Evran’s mother—and the only other witch I knew.

“I always wondered why your father moved you girls out here after your mother died,” she said. “Now it all makes sense. But something tells me your father wouldn’t be pleased to know you’re outside, exposing yourself.” She grabbed one of my hands and turned it over, examining it like a bruised apple at market. Against Margana’s dull skin, mine looked false, as if I wasn’t a real person at all.

I pulled my hand free as politely as possible. “I should go.”

She sighed. “Keep your head down, and pray you don’t meet anyone on the road. Darius’s spies are everywhere.”

My eyes widened in fear, and she chuckled to herself. “Not me, silly girl.”

I swallowed audibly. If there really were spies in Sylvan, Margana was the most likely suspect. After all, she did work for Lord Darius. She might not be his servant by choice, but he was dangerous enough that no mage dared cross him. No mage who had lived to tell about it, anyway.

I was about to step around her when my eyes drifted to the basket once again. “I thought the devil’s footprints were poisonous.”

Her lips curved in a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Oh, they are. Highly. Fortunately, I don’t plan on eating them. Good luck, Liora.”

I nodded and hurried to the stone steps leading down to Sylvan, which was tucked away in a gorge, hidden from the roving eyes of river pirates. Above me, a heavy iron chain was suspended between the cliffs. As far as I knew, Sylvan was the only village in Antalla—maybe the world—that could boast having attracted not one, but two falling stars. A fragment of the first had been melted into the shape of a five-pointed star and hung from the chain. At night, it was only a glimmer overhead.

The second star—my star—had disintegrated amid the flames when it landed.

I wound my way silently through Sylvan’s narrow streets, toward Father’s shop. He and Adelle, my older, more responsible sister, were likely the only ones working at this hour. Just as I quickened my pace, I heard a high-pitched shriek from somewhere above me. I looked up to where a lamp winked on in an apartment window, illuminating two silhouettes, then down to the shop on my left. The tailor’s shop.

Mina.

Without thinking, I grabbed the cast-iron boot scraper sitting by the front door of the shop and hurled it through the window. Glass shattered, leaving a jagged hole that gaped like a mouth midscream.

Heart racing, I flattened myself against the alcove by the door as a man shouted and a window screeched open. The tailor, a young man nearly as alluring as the fabrics he sold, poked his head out for a moment, then disappeared, likely heading downstairs to look for the culprit. I scurried to the nook in front of the butcher’s, hoping my light would be hidden there.

“Get behind me,” Luc said from somewhere inside the shop. “The thief could still be out there.”

“You’re so brave.”

I sighed in relief at the sound of Mina’s voice, before fury shot through me like an arrow. I should have known she would come to the tailor’s; she had flirted with Luc relentlessly today, which was how we’d acquired four yards of the champagne-colored silk she wanted for the dress I’d spent all evening working on.

A moment later, they emerged onto the street, Mina clutching at Luc’s sleeve as he lifted his lamp and peered into the darkness.

He tossed his black hair out of his eyes and frowned. “It doesn’t look like they stole anything. Just vandals, I suppose.”

“Or someone trying to send you a message,” Mina breathed, dramatic as ever. “Do you have any nemeses?”

When he turned his dark gaze on her, something tugged at my heart. She was wearing a dress I’d made for myself when I was her age. It hung loose on her thin frame, but the hem grazed her calves, a sure sign she had altered it. She had nothing but a shawl pulled around her shoulders, and from where I stood, it was painfully clear that the tailor was not interested in her the way she no doubt hoped.

“I have to find a member of the night guard and report this. You shouldn’t be here. If your father catches you, he’ll have me hanged. You’re a sweet girl, Mina, but this is inappropriate.”

“But the silk…”

“That was for your sister. Now, please, go home.”

Mina caught her lip in her teeth to keep from crying. With a nod, she hurried away, tears already streaming down her cheeks. I waited for Luc to start up the street before I ran out of the alcove to catch her.

She squealed in alarm when I placed my hand on her shoulder, and I quickly clapped my other hand over her mouth.

“It’s me,” I whispered, lowering my hand slowly when I was confident she wouldn’t scream.

She swiped at her tears. “Liora? What are you doing out? What if someone sees you?”

My anger softened at her concern, until I remembered that she was the reason I was out in the first place. “I might ask you the same questions. If Father had come home and found you missing, he’d have killed you.”

“And what if he goes home and finds both of us missing? Have you considered that?”

I opened my mouth to scold her, but she was right. “You can explain what you were doing once we get back,” I said.

In typical Mina fashion, she stuck her tongue out at me, then turned and ran toward home.

* * *

We were indeed lucky. We made it home not long before Father and Adelle. By the time he came to our room to check on us, we were both in bed. I waved sleepily at him and Mina let out an emphatic snore, but once the door was closed, I threw back my covers and leaped out of bed.

“I hope you have a good explanation for this,” I hissed.

Her voice was muffled by the thick blanket pulled up to her nose, but I could hear the tremor in it when she said, “I thought Luc liked me.”

“And I thought you were dead!” I whisper-shouted, then stalked to the window ledge to keep myself from throttling her. I plucked a pendant from the collar of my nightgown, running my fingers over the five points on the star charm to calm myself. Evran had given it to me, years ago, and its contours were as familiar to me now as the feel of his hand in mine as he pulled me through the Sylvan woods toward home at twilight. Perhaps I was being too hard on Mina. I would risk a lot of things for Evran.

“Luc told me he was having a party tonight,” she said. “I didn’t realize how late it was when I got there. Everyone else had already left.”

I was surprised that the thought of her getting ready for a party, the excitement she must have felt as she sneaked into Sylvan to meet a handsome young man, made me more envious than angry. “I heard you cry out.”

The whites of her eyes flashed in the dark.

“Don’t you dare roll your eyes at me,” I snapped.

“I’m just stretching them, Ora.” The world-weary tone was classic Mina: so eager to be a grown-up, ever since she was little. “A moth got tangled in my hair. Anyway, Luc was a perfect gentleman. And as it turns out, it’s not me he wants.”

The silk was for me. The last of my anger waned as I imagined how sure Mina must have been of Luc to do something so foolish, only to find she’d made a huge mistake. This was his fault as much as it was hers. “He was just being kind because I spend so much money in his shop.”

She snorted. “He spoke about you the entire time. He asked why you hadn’t come to the party, and what you liked to do in your free time, and why he never saw you out in town.”

“What did you tell him?” I dropped the pendant into my collar and pulled back the edge of the curtain just a bit to gaze at the real stars.

“I told him you were making me a dress, that that’s what you’re doing most of the time.”

I sighed and let the curtain fall. For a girl with glowing skin, I sounded unbearably dull. But it was the truth. If I wasn’t sewing, I was cooking, cleaning, or rereading one of our few books.

Father trusted me enough to let me go out on sunny days now. The smallest stars don’t shine at noon, he said, and my glow could be kept dim as long as I stayed in control of my emotions. But the downside of having even just a little bit of freedom was that it came with responsibilities. Father had only given me permission to go to town for errands, never to dawdle, which made taking Mina along particularly frustrating. She had made an art form out of window-shopping. I missed my afternoons in the woods with Evran, those glorious days when I could sneak out unnoticed while Father was working and my sisters were in their lessons.

I climbed back into bed and pulled the covers up, a wave of guilt washing over me. Had I really believed Mina was in mortal peril? Because if not, there was no excuse for my own behavior. What if some part of me had risked going out tonight because I wanted to prove to myself, finally, that my magic wasn’t as dangerous as Father feared?

If that was the case, I had failed spectacularly. It had only taken a few minutes for me to undo all our years of hard work, and I couldn’t blame my sister for that.

“Promise me you won’t sneak out again, Mina. I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to you.”

She twisted onto her side to face me. “I’m sorry. I should never have put you at risk like that. I won’t do it again.”

“It’s all right. Get some sleep now.”

Mina responded a moment later with a very genuine snore.

I smiled and tried to fall asleep myself, but I lay awake for hours, thinking about Margana. Would she tell Darius about me, potentially destroying not just my life but those of everyone I loved? I thought of Father and wondered if all this time it hadn’t been me he was protecting, but them.

Because as much as I had wanted to believe that the invisible beast was out there, that if I simply hid myself away like a secret, we would be safe, I had known for quite some time that the beast Father feared most lived inside of me.

The Marionettes (Marionettes #1) by Katie Wismer Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

One of the last remaining blood witches learns the spot she thought was all but hers in the prestigious witches league is anything but, and her future and her survival all depend on her work in the trials in author Katie Wismer’s “The Marionettes”, the first in the Marionettes series.

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The Synopsis

A betrayal. A deadly secret. An unlikely ally.

Valerie Darkmore’s entire life has been building up to this moment—her initiation into the Marionettes, the prestigious league of witches sworn to serve the vampires. As one of the last remaining blood witches, her spot is almost guaranteed. At least, so she’d thought.

The academy is full of sabotage and secrets as the tasks begin, and Valerie quickly realizes she has more than her spot on the line. Her survival seems just as uncertain.

The closer she gets to the final trial, the more she learns everything—and everyone—around her isn’t quite what it seems.

The Review

I can honestly say this was one of the best New Adult and Dark Fantasy reads I’ve read not only this year but in a long time. The amount of world-building and mythos the author was able to fit into the narrative was not only entertaining but made the world within this book feel seamless and immersive. The freedom with which the author incorporates not only the two main classifications of supernatural beings, (vampires and witches), but other powerful beings as well that don’t always fit into the typical supernatural fantasy read helped elevate this narrative to new heights. 

Yet it was the characters that really brought the heart and depth of emotions to this story. Protagonist Valerie is complex and the twists and turns of her journey take her to showcase strength and determination that defines her as a must-read new fantasy hero. Her relationships also help define not only her journey but the reader’s journey with this story as well, from her best friends at her school to her strained relationship with her mother and sister, and the evolving bonds with her partner through the trials and the human boy she’s loved for years. 

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, haunting, and engaging dark fantasy that is not to be missed, The Marionettes is a must-read book of 2021 and a contender for the best Dark Fantasy of the year. The shocking final chapter and cliffhanger of an ending will keep readers desperate for more of this enthralling new series, and it will be very interesting to see where the next book in the series takes these incredible characters. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy of this book today, and if you enjoy it, preorder book two in the series, due out this winter. 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Katie Wismer is a freelance editor and author of romance (sometimes contemporary, sometimes paranormal) and poetry books.

Be the first to know about upcoming projects, exclusive content, and more by signing up for her newsletter at katiewismer.com.

When she’s not reading, writing, or wrangling her two perfect cats, you can find her on her YouTube channel Katesbookdate.

https://www.katiewismer.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-J7x7Lf2YQ8i527YNO2iLw

Spells Trouble (Sisters of Salem #1) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Twin witches must avenge their mother’s murder, stop an ancient evil from taking over their town and ultimately fulfill their destiny in authors P.C. and Kristin Cast’s “Spells Trouble”, the first in the SISTERS OF SALEM series. 

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The Synopsis 

Double double, twins spell trouble…

Hunter and Mercy Goode are twin witches, direct descendants of the founder of their town of Goodeville. As their ancestors have done before them, it is now time for the twins to learn what it means to be Gatekeepers–the protectors of the Gates to different underworlds, ancient portals between their world and realms where mythology rules and nightmares come to life.

When their mother becomes the first victim in a string of murders, the devastated sisters vow to avenge her death. But it will take more than magic to rein in the ancient mythological monsters who’ve infected their peaceful town.

Now Hunter and Mercy must come together and accept their destiny or risk being separated for good.

The Review

A truly mesmerizing and haunting fantasy and supernatural YA series comes to life in a one-of-a-kind way, blending history and culture with mythology and the true concept of family. The family dynamics of the Goode sisters are engaging, to say the least, highlighting their differences as the two sisters who have always been close find themselves lost and drifting apart off and on throughout the narrative after the brutal loss of their mother. The history of Sarah Goode from the infamous Salem Witch Trials and tying her story into that of her descendants was an inspired choice for story and character growth, which helped elevate this story. 

What was the biggest draw for me as a reader was the incredible attention to detail both historically and mythologically, not only exploring the impact and culture of the Salem Witch Trials to a fantasy setting, but incorporating ancient gods and goddesses and mythological creatures from not just single mythology, but multiple mythologies. From bloodthirsty Norse monsters to ancient and sometimes even obscure goddesses of Greek origin made this narrative feel larger than life, while the balance came from the intricate relationship between the sisters, as well as their relationships with their friends as well.

The Verdict

An entertaining, shocking, and haunting YA fantasy and paranormal read, authors P.C. and Kristin Cast’s “Spells Trouble” is a must-read novel for YA fans this summer! A perfect blend of mythology, history, and family dynamics, the shocking final moments of this narrative will leave readers anxious to get a glimpse into the next book of this series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

P.C. CAST

PC was born in the Midwest, and grew up being shuttled back-and-forth between Illinois and Oklahoma, which is where she fell in love with Quarter Horses and mythology (at about the same time). After high school, she joined the United States Air Force and began public speaking and writing. After her tour in the USAF, she taught high school for 15 years before retiring to write full time. PC is a #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today Best-Selling author and a member of the Oklahoma Writers Hall of Fame. Her novels have been awarded the prestigious: Oklahoma Book Award, YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Prism, Holt Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, Booksellers’ Best, and the Laurel Wreath. PC is an experienced teacher and talented speaker. Ms. Cast lives in Oregon near her fabulous daughter, her adorable pack of dogs, her crazy Maine Coon, and a bunch of horses. House of Night Other World, book 4, FOUND, releases July 7th, 2020. More info to come soon about the HoN TV series!

https://www.pccastauthor.com/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/p-c-cast

KRISTIN CAST

Kristin is a #1 New York Times and #1 USA Today bestselling author who was born on an Air Force base in Japan and grew up in Oklahoma where she explored everything from tattoo modeling to broadcast journalism. After battling addiction, Kristin made her way to the Pacific Northwest and landed in Portland. She rediscovered her passion for storytelling in the stacks at dusty bookstores and in rickety chairs in old coffeehouses. For as long as she can remember, Kristin’s been telling stories. Thankfully, she’s been writing them down since 2005.

https://kcastauthor.com/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kristin-cast

The Lady Raven: A Dark Cinderella Tale by Rebecca Henry Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The classic tale of Cinderella takes a very dark turn in author Rebecca Henry’s The Lady Raven: A Dark Cinderella Tale. Here is the synopsis.

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The Synopsis 

In The Lady Raven, Rebecca Henry tells the tale of Zezolla, a little princess abandoned by her father into the hands of her evil stepmother and wicked stepsisters. A familiar fairy tale you may think but all is not as it appears. The reader is soon drawn into a web of witchcraft, lies and deceit, and gradually realises that this is no typical fairy tale but a dark and macabre take on one. Zezolla is treated with the utmost cruelty, neglected and vilified, and left to live in the damp cellars of the castle. The only friends Zezolla has are her beloved raven and her pet wolf. Her only comfort lies in the loyalty of the creatures of the forest and her mother’s hazel tree. Will Zezolla have the power to escape her torment and ultimately save herself from the unscrupulous clutches of the king? The Lady Raven is a compelling tale and one that is not for the faint-hearted.

The Review

If George R. Martin and The Brothers Grimm were to retell the story of Cinderella, they would have come up with this tale. It’s a truly dark retelling of the original story, filled with the same elements of the classic fairy tale with added elements of horror, dark fantasy and drama that rarely make their way into modern day retellings. The author does a marvelous job of adopting the same writing style of the classic fairy tale while infusing darker elements that not only play to the story, but bring imagery that reflects the attitudes and views of modern day life.

To read this story is to mirror the way in which women are viewed and treated in our world. While the fantasy elements are more prevalent than anything else, it’s hard to ignore the ways in which the protagonist Cinderella is shown the cruelty of men. From her father’s betrayal to future king’s desire to own and conquer her, she is also shown how women are too often pitted against one another by society, one made so desperate to find their perfect life that they are willing to burn down anyone in their way, much like the evil stepmother and her daughters. 

The Verdict

This was a unique and interesting take on the Cinderella tale. Bringing the subtle horrors the protagonist had to face in her original story to the forefront in a much darker and in your face way, the author beautifully blends the magical fantasy elements of the genre with a look into the cruelty of mankind and the hope that in that darkness, light can find it’s way out into the open once more. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of The Lady Raven: A Dark Cinderella Tale by Rebecca Henry today! 

Rating: 8/10

https://rebeccahenryauthor.blogspot.com/

Spring Promotion – $5 off $45 @ eBooks.com. Use Code: springebookscp. Valid until June 20.

About the Author

I am a newly published author with one novel released and another book coming out for publication, in February 2019. I am also a world traveller, living abroad. I have many interests and hobbies in life, besides my greatest passion of all, my family. I am also a vegan, gardener, crafter, and I practice yoga regularly.

Scarlet Reign: Malice of the Dark Witch by R.D. Crist Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A chilling and fantastic new look at the YA Fantasy genre, author R.D. Crist is set to release “Scarlet Reign: Malice of the Dark Witch”. The first in a series, this new YA adventure takes a classic supernatural group of individuals and gives them a brand new spin. Here is the synopsis:

Synopsis

After the unexplainable death of her mother on the eve of Natalie’s fourteenth birthday, she is suddenly forced to grow up. Compelled to leave her dismal and deceptive life behind by a mysterious woman who claims to be an old relative, Natalie carries with her the highly coveted, scarlet stoned ring she reluctantly retrieved from her mother upon her death. 

Following Natalie’s irreversible decision, she unexpectedly finds herself alone and thrust into a peculiar all female orphanage where her arrival was strangely anticipated by the inhabitants, and greeted by some with ire. Ultimately, young Natalie must quickly learn to fend for herself against bullies, unexplained forces, a male suitor, and something lurking for revenge. Does she have both the strength and resolve, and can she set the past aside, to uncover the secrets necessary in order to fulfill her destiny?

The Review

This novel was fantastic. With the YA genre stronger than ever before, the author has found a way to not only create compelling characters and a heart-wrenching story, but make the story have a fresh twist in the YA Fantasy world. The story follows a classic young woman thrust into a hidden world theme, but takes this theme and pairs it with the emotional realm of loss and what children experience after the loss of a parent.

What I really enjoyed was how the author managed to not pit two different groups of supernaturals against one another, but instead showed how a group of supernaturals can have division within itself, and how there are good and bad people in any group. The writing was evenly paced, descriptive and yet left readers with enough space to imagine the scenarios in the novel playing out. The action started from the first page and only escalated from there, leaving readers on the edge of their seat as they waited to learn the secrets of this orphanage and where Natalie truly belonged.

The Verdict

This is a must read for any YA Fantasy fan. With fall approaching and the Halloween season approaching, this is the perfect book for YA fans to jump into to begin their holiday adventures in literature. A powerful story that promises an engaging and shocking series, author R.D. Crist has done a fantastic job of creating a world worth diving head first into, and I for one cannot wait for the next book’s arrival. If you haven’t yet be sure to pick up your copy of Scarlet Reign: Malice of the Dark Witch today!

Rating: 10/10

Here is the book website: www.scarletreignbooks.com

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41555714-scarlet-reign

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Scarlet-Reign-Malice-Dark-Witch-ebook/dp/B07GTPZ4KN/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537547997&sr=8-1&keywords=scarlet+reign+malice+of+the+dark+witch

Author Bio

R.D. Crist is a psychotherapist who generates creativity via long walks and majestic views of nature. True inspiration to write, however, derives from personal hardships that have sparked a desire to help others manage life’s various struggles.

Although R.D. Crist has only released one book, three have been written and several more begun, which span a variety of genres.  The focus of these stories are intended to center on Crist’s favorite dynamics of a story – personal conflict, relationship development, inner growth, and social revelation.  Each story is created with a greater purpose to stimulate a person to reflect on common challenges, be they personal, interactive, or in principle.

Childhood influences include Ray Bradbury stories and character conflict movies like Twelve Angry Men.

Socializing, listening to people’s stories, spending time with family, and relentlessly exercising (as if those last ten pounds cared) are some of Crist’s favorite ways to pass the day.

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Dark & Darker Faerie Tales by Two Sisters Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

If you thought the fairy tales of the Brother’s Grimm couldn’t get any darker, then you thought wrong. In Dark & Darker Faerie Tales by Two Sisters, the stories we all grew up on are twisted in shocking and creative ways. Here’s the synopsis:

Inspired by Brothers Grimm and other sinister tales, Dark & Darker Faerie Tales is a collection of dark stories about evil faeries, corrupted heroes, vengeful innocents and malicious monsters. Delving into the darker side of fairy tales, each story offers a twisted journey that’ll make you wish for a happy ending.

Written and illustrated by Two Sisters, witness an unlikely friendship in “The Woodcutter and The Oak Tree,” discover what happens next to Little Red Riding Hood, and learn why it’s so important to be wary of who you meet in the woods.

This is one of the most unique story collections of 2018. The dark twist on tales like Red Riding Hood made for highly entertaining and nostalgic reading all at once, while tales of evil witches and heroes turned villains made the stories become even creepier than you could have ever imagined. The writing fit perfectly in line with the classic fairy tale style, while bringing a much darker horror twist into the genre. The stories are rich with vivid imagery, each page dripping with twisted characters and surreal settings that only a fairy tale world could bring to life.

Overall I loved this story. In fact so far it’s one of my top reads of 2018. The stories managed to be original and unique while paying respects to the fairy tale classics. Taking these stories in fantastically unexpected ways, this is the fairy tale collection horror fans around the world have been waiting for. If you haven’t yet, be sure to pick up your copy of Dark & Darker Faerie Tales by Two Sisters today!

Rating: 10/10