The Witchy Storyteller
A collection of poems, musings, micro/ flash fiction, and book reviews
- The Amethyst Dusk
- Down the Hatch by Lina Hansen - Book Review
- The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner - Book R...
- A Broken People’s Playlist by Chimeka Garricks - B...
- The Lonely Hearts Book Club by Lucy Gilmore - Book...
- Murder at Waldenmere Lake by Michelle Salter - Boo...
- Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller - Book Review
- The One Who Fell by Kerry Wilkinson - Book Review
- Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Je...
- Death at Castle Cove by Mary Grand - Book Review
- Mr. & Mrs. Witch by Gwenda Bond - Book Review
- SINISTER SPRING: Murder and Mystery from the Queen...
- The Protégé by Jody Gehrman - Book Review
- The Magician’s Daughter by H.G. Parry - Book Review
- ▼ March (14)
- ► 2022 (130)
- ► 2021 (108)
- ► 2020 (55)
- ► 2019 (45)
- ► 2018 (52)
- ► 2017 (66)
- ► 2016 (27)
Sunday, March 26, 2023
The Amethyst Dusk
Saturday, March 25, 2023
Down the Hatch by Lina Hansen - Book Review
Series: Magical Misfits Mystery #2
Publication Date: 01st April 2023
Genre: Contemporary Small Town Cozy Mystery
One Liner: Slow start but gets better in the second half
Myrtle has her hands full with the Witch’s Retreat B&B, unpredictable magic, and constant pressure to lead a new-found coven with (over) enthusiastic members. She doesn’t even have the time to indulge in her budding romance with Chris, a software developer and witch hunter.
As if things aren’t hard enough, a body turns up in the local pub, followed by another death. Sergeant Sarah Widdlethorpe is trying hard to structure the cases as her pig-headed boss complicates matters. Myrtle is happy to help, of course.
However, it’s not long before Myrtle realizes something is terribly wrong, and magic is way too involved in the process. Can she get to the bottom of the truth without risking her neck?
The story comes in Myrtle’s first-person POV.
I read the first book in the series some 2.5 years ago. It was one of my first NetGalley ARCs. I lost track and worried I missed the subsequent books but turns out that the second book is here and releasing next month.
Though I hardly remember anything, I could recollect a few bits and pieces as I continued with this one. It helped get into the plot. This one can still be read as a standalone, but only if you want to go with the flow instead of wondering what terms like skyelles mean. You’ll figure it out soon.
The beginning is super slow, and the first-person narration doesn’t help. Myrtle’s POV takes time to get used to (I remember struggling with it even in the first book). She is still not happy being a witch and having magic (duh, give it to me!).
The second half is where many things happen, so the story does get better once we settle in. In fact, there’s some noteworthy character development in the climax, which makes me hopeful about book three (I’m sure there will be one, given how this ends).
As a typical small-town cozy mystery, the book has enough characters that come and go. That’s not an issue. The problem lies with the lack of depth in the main characters. We don’t get much to connect with either of them (and Chris should have had a better role given his background).
So what made the book better for me? Petty, of course!
Petty is a magical primula (Primrose) Myrtle creates (or brings to life in book one). And guess what? Petty is a familiar… yep, we have cats, rabbits, and animals as familiars, but a plant is something new and super cool. Moreover, Petty is a treat to read about. I so wish she has a POV of her own. I loved all scenes involving this darling plant. There’s a pet cat, too, but almost overshadowed by Petty (can’t say I object).
To summarize, Down the Hatch is a decent cozy mystery with some magic, murder, and mayhem during the summer solstice. Pick it up if want to meet an adorable plant familiar. There are bits of humor that keep the story lighthearted most of the time.
Thank you, NetGalley and Literary Wanderlust, for the eARC.
P.S.: Myrtle has a vast collection of shower gels in multiple scents. She chooses a different scent each time to go with her mood. I’m so envious of her!
The cover is well-done without feeling crowded. Each element in it is significant in the book.
Thursday, March 23, 2023
The London Séance Society by Sarah Penner - Book Review
Publication Date: 22nd March 2023
Genre: Historical Paranormal Mystery, Romance
One Liner: An entertainer; atmospheric but nothing deep
1873, Paris and London
Vaudeline D’Allaire is an acclaimed spiritualist known to conduct séances for murder victims and help find their killers. She is in Paris after escaping London due to unknown reasons.
Lenna Wickes is her apprentice intent on learning more about the process to find her sister’s killer. She is also struggling to accept the existence of the paranormal since her logical mind refuses to believe in anything she cannot see. However, Evie, her sister, was a firm believer, and Lenna is willing to try anything to discover the truth.
When Vaudeline is requested to visit London and help solve the crime of the founder of The London Séance Society, things turn dangerous quickly. Soon, the two ladies may have only each other and the paranormal to rely on if they want to stay alive.
The story comes in the limited third-person POV of Lenna and the first-person POV of Mr. Morley.
What I Like:
The beginning is a little slow but picks up pace in the second half (after a weak middle part). It’s easy to read and doesn’t require your grey cells to function. In fact, don’t let them be active.
The séances are atmospheric. The book almost carries a dark moody vibe throughout. However, it doesn’t get heavy at any point.
The seven-step process to conduct a séance is among the highlights of the book. I always enjoy such information. You never know when it may come in handy (shh!).
The Victorian setting enhances the plot. The common bias against women and a man’s role in society comes across clearly. I have to mention the author’s notes at the end. Informative, interesting, and useful (it has recipes!).
The climax begins on shaky ground but ends well. I like how it’s done. The epilogue is also well done.
What Could Have Been Better for Me:
Well, I don’t think the combination of Lenna’s and Morley’s POVs did anything to enhance the plot. Morley is a weak character with a wobbly arc. I’m not sure if it is deliberate (makes sense in a way), but it should have been better established.
Lenna… well… she started strong until she turned whiny, stupid, and silly as the story progressed. It’s only in the climax that she redeems herself. I can see the allure of having a logical character ace paranormal interaction. It could have been better, though. A character jumping to conclusions is hard to empathize with.
Vaudeline is probably the steadiest character in the book. However, not having her POV didn’t help the story. She should have been one of the narrators. In fact, if you think about it, Evie and other women are also intriguing (too bad they don’t get enough space).
The dual POV also means that information is repeated in consecutive chapters. This makes the plot boring and slow. We don’t need to know the same thing from both POVs and go around in circles.
A few developments don’t make sense, especially when they should. This is where you have to turn off your logical side and consider it an entertainer (or a Bwood film). If the issues were handled better, I think the plot would have been enriched with more drama and tension. A wasted chance, TBH.
I don’t know if I should call this a romance. It’s supposed to be slow-burn (maybe) but doesn’t get enough space to grow organically. While I like the darkish touch to the track, I’m not happy with the overall development. It could have been achieved with some care. Removing the repeated content would have created space for this track.
To summarize, The London Séance Society is an atmospheric entertainer and a light mystery with some good and not-so good points. Read it for fun and don't worry about things that don't make sense.
Thank you, NetGalley, Harlequin Australia, and HQ (Fiction, Non-Fiction, YA) & MIRA, for the eARC.
Confession: I rated the book 3.7 stars immediately after finishing it. After drafting the review, I brought it down to 3.3 stars. Somehow, I had more things I disliked despite enjoying the book. Sigh!
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
A Broken People’s Playlist by Chimeka Garricks - Book Review
Publication Date: 21st March 2023
Genre: Short Story Anthology, Music
One Liner: A wonderful collection of short stories
A Broken People’s Playlist is a collection of twelve short stories set in Port Harcourt. The stories deal with various life stages, situations, moments, memories, and more. The characters are varied (though a few appear in more than one story, which doesn’t affect the readability) in personalities, professions, and age groups.
The common theme is that the stories are inspired by songs. I don’t know a single song mentioned in the book, but it didn’t make any difference. The stories are independent. Some have music as the central theme, while others don’t.
An interesting point is that many stories come in the second-person POV and read very well (not an easy thing to achieve). That said, an anthology cannot have all hits, and this one is no exception. However, the quality of writing and execution is top-class. The character arcs are subtle yet perfect. It’s not common to have such layered characters in short stories.
The setting is an integral part of all stories and just enough to visualize everything. There are a few native words that can make it a little difficult, but it’s easy to go with the flow (as always, I winged it).
Here’s a list of stories in the book:
Lost Stars – 4.5 stars
Oh, my! The story starts out quite casually, but soon we see the layers peeling off, revealing the depth of emotions. The climax and the ending made me teary-eyed (not an easy task). The writing is almost off-handed and distanced, which is a perfect choice for the plotline. A solid start to the collection.
Music – 4 stars
A story about a boy growing up in a broken family and the role of music in his life. The story looks like it is limited to one phase of his life, but gives us the entire picture of the past and the future. The characterization is top-class. It’s not often that short stories have such strong characters.
Hurt – 4.5 stars
A dying man decides to arrange his funeral when he’s alive. The story isn’t about the funeral, though. It is about people, their actions, flaws, regrets, repentance, and more. The second-person POV is impactful in this one and hits the reader with strong emotions when you least expect it. Wonderful!
Song for Someone – 4.5 stars
Another story in the second person POV, and just as impactful as the previous one. How does a woman break the toxic cycles in her life? Can she even do it? The story goes back and forth, giving snippets of information to build her character arc. I love that this one has the kind of endings I enjoy.
In the City – 3.5 stars
A policeman fighting demons, a drug peddler, and an innocent young man looking for a chance to get a decent job. How does a chase gone wrong change their lives? This theme is familiar to me (we have enough movies with it). The story is structured to continue the suspense, and the ending is blunt. However, I knew what would happen and didn’t feel as emotional as I thought I would.
I Put a Spell on You – 4.5 stars
The title says it all! The lives of three friends are changing, and they can’t stop it. Given the tone of the stories until now, I didn’t expect something lighthearted and funny. This steals deals with toxic relationships, but the overall tone is a touch humorous and teasing.
I’d Die Without You – 4 stars
What breaks a broken man who can’t cry even though he wants to? The story is written in the second person POV and has a distanced narration to suit the character. It is compact and contained with just enough ease at the end. The ending rounds up the theme and offers a different perspective.
Beautiful War – 4 stars
What happens when a husband confesses to cheating on his wife, especially when he was considered the faithful kind? The story comes in the second-person POV of the husband and the first-person POV of the wife. Knowing both sides makes the ending even better.
River – 3 stars
This is a story about an unlikely but strong friendship between two young boys and how their lives change when they join confra (something like a local rowdy gang). I can see why this is an important story, but somehow I couldn’t connect with the main character despite the story being in the second person POV. The ending is good, though.
Love’s Divine – 3.5 stars
What happens when a young teenage boy with dreams about becoming a football star gets a chance of a lifetime? This one has great potential and almost hits the mark. However, the main plot is predictable, which dims the overall impact. Like the previous story, the ending is very good, in fact, just right for the main character.
Desperado – 4 stars
A womanizer tries to get his wife back and finds something more precious. Yet another story in the second person POV. It starts almost like every other piece, but the writing and character development are strong. The ending is half hopeful, though the readers can guess it could go either way. The relationship between the two is beautifully presented.
You Suppose Know – 4.5 Stars
Oh, my heart! This is such a tender and touching story. I don’t want to say anything except that it is the best of the collection. Stories with loving and bickering older couples are a favorite of mine. This one does full justice to the theme.
To summarize, A Broken People’s Playlist is a bitter-sweet and heart-touching collection of stories about people we find around us.
Don’t forget to read the author’s note. It’s heartfelt and informative. As a writer, I can understand the struggle with novels (one reason I prefer to write short stories). Nevertheless, I hope the author will not give up and finish his second novel. I sure want to read it.
Thank you, NetGalley and HarperVia, for the eARC. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.
Monday, March 20, 2023
The Lonely Hearts Book Club by Lucy Gilmore - Book Review
Publication Date: 28th March 2023
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
One Liner: Good premise but slow (and needs better execution towards the end)
Sloane Parker is a librarian in a small town and lives a simple life. She doesn’t have many friends despite being a friendly and kindhearted person. When Sloane meets Arthur McLachlan, an old and rude patron of the library, their sparing becomes the highlight of her day (and maybe even his).
One day Arthur doesn’t turn up as usual. Days pass on, but he doesn’t visit the library. Sloane is worried and decides to visit him (ignoring her boss’ warnings). When she finds him ill but grudgingly happy to see her, Sloane knows she needs to help him. Maybe it’s her chance to help herself too. Arthur’s neighbor is only too delighted to pitch in.
Soon, they start an odd book club that grows bigger, as more people with different personalities come together. Each of them needs to heal, and, as a group, they might make it happen.
The story comes in the first person POV of the main characters- Sloane, Maisey, Mateo, Greg, and Arthur.
What I Like:
The premise is heartwarming. Imagine good-hearted people who suffer from loneliness due to various reasons come together to help and support each other. It’s a novel concept.
Given the characters, there are enough references to other books and quotes from these. Though I’m not much of a highlighter myself, I know people who love to highlight bits that touch their hearts (or mind).
Using the first-person POV for each of the main characters works to a good extent. I could get a glimpse into who they are and what holds them back. However… (more in the next section)
The book also blends everyday issues and major life decisions to add depth to the characters. Some of it works well.
There are bits and pieces of lighthearted scenes that make the book a little easy to read. Maisey sure brightens up the book club.
What Could Have Been Better for Me:
The pacing is super slow. Moreover, this is the kind of book one cannot speed-read. A few things are stretched too much, and the ending is compressed. There isn’t an epilogue either (I deserve it after reading about so much heartache!).
Maisey’s POV is probably the best. It’s not perfect, but I could feel for her and understand the situation with her teen daughter Bella. Greg’s POV is the second best. I thought Mateo’s would be just as great, but somehow, ended up liking Lincoln more.
Now, Brett is Sloane’s fiancé and chiropractor. Going by the standard trope, he is initially presented as a snobbish guy with an overbearing family. And we have Sloane, who thinks they can give her the kind of comfort she wants. However, towards the end, Brett really isn’t a jerk. He is just another guy with some flaws. In fact, the climax puts him in a better light than Sloane. He handles it far better than she does. I’m not sure that’s what is supposed to happen.
I went to skim through a few reviews after drafting mine and saw references to Ove. Well, for me, this is a half-successful attempt to create an Ove-like character in Arthur. With Arthur’s POV towards the end of the book, I expected something truly emotional. But let’s just say it was disappointing. The POV started strong, but soon I lost interest and wanted the book to be over.
To summarize, The Lonely Hearts Book Club is a decent book dealing with topics like grief, loneliness, friendships, and finding your tribe. It could have been a lot better but ends up more as an average read.
Thank you, NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Casablanca, for the eARC.
P.S.: Would a book lover use precious copies as a makeshift step to hold rotting stairs at home? Wouldn't the books get damaged? Though books are considered god in my culture, I know it's not the same everywhere. But book lovers are supposed to take better care of their copies irrespective of the rest.
Thursday, March 16, 2023
Murder at Waldenmere Lake by Michelle Salter - Book Review
Series: An Iris Woodmore Mystery #2
Publication Date: 21st March 2023
Genre: Historical Cozy Mystery
One Liner: Enjoyable
Local reporter Iris Woodmore is back in action, and this time she is intent on saving the beloved Waldenmare Lake from being destroyed in the name of progress.
The war is over, and the British Army can no longer afford to maintain the convalescent home or the lake. The Walden City Council wants to buy it for rehabilitation, while the railway company wants to convert the location into a tourist spot.
However, the old mansion on the site belongs to General Cheverton, who is determined not to leave him home. But when the General is found dead in his home, it becomes quite impossible for Iris to save the lake. But as new developments occur, Iris realizes that her fight isn’t limited to the land. There’s a lot more to uncover, and she needs to get to the bottom of it, come what may.
The story comes in the limited third-person POV of Iris.
Though this is the second book in the series, it works well as a standalone. At the same time, series readers will enjoy the new developments for the main character Iris.
The beginning is a little slow, but soon, the book picks up pace. It drags in the middle and goes in circles before finally moving ahead to the climax and reveal.
I like Iris more in this one. Her character arc is growing steadily while also keeping things realistic to a good extent. George is an interesting character, and I wish there’s more of him in the coming books.
The mystery is tied up well but takes time to unfold. Two tracks need to converge at a common point (the Waldenmere Lake), which meant the pacing is sacrificed. Some information is repeated multiple times in different conversations, further weighing down the narration.
However, the mystery here has a greater emotional connection to the characters than we normally see in this genre. This makes the plot more personal instead of something that needs to be solved and settled.
Though I like how Iris connects the dots, I wish the actual reveal was a little more detailed and came a bit sooner. That said, the red herrings were well done without going overboard.
The setting and treatment of women from that era are seamlessly woven into the plot. The observations, the changes, the resistance, etc., become a part of the story rather than taking the focus away from it.
I must admit that the author does endings very well. She somehow makes me enjoy the kind of endings I usually dislike. The same happened in book one too. I’m impressed!
To summarize, Murder at Waldenmere Lake is a strong continuation of the series with interesting characters and an attractive setting. I’m excited about book three (the cover has been revealed).
Thank you, NetGalley and Boldwood Books, for the eARC.