Book Review: Hidden Witch by Tess Lake

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Author: Tess Lake
Publisher: Tess Lake
Series: Torrent Witches
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4 Stars
Medium: Audio Book

An arsonist is hitting Harlot Bay, buildings around town going up and while one might have been looked at as faulty wiring, but too many buildings are going up. What’s worse is that there’s a sleazy real estate developer sniffing around Torrent Mansion wanting the property, a teen slip witch who’s angry at life (as teenagers misunderstood are), and her boyfriend is a little AWOL right now and unable to help her.

– Potential spoilers –

Shortly after a real estate developer makes an offer, then threats after the family refuse to sell Torrent Masion to him, the family bakery goes up in flames. Not the first of the fires in town, but also not the last. No, every time Harlow seems to have a feeling about a building, to check a place out, later that night the place goes up in flames.

So when an arson specialist comes into town to try and help the local police solve these fires to find out what’s going on, he puts his sights on Harlow. Who wouldn’t find it suspicious that she was one of the last people at the place that just ended up in flames.

It doesn’t help that she’s also under stress because the Bakery her family owned was funding the Mansion’s renovation and now the primary business that kept the family okay is going under. Things are starting to be stressful not just for her and her family. But time is running out to solve this whodunit before she’s arrested and taken in herself, blamed for fires she didn’t start. All while trying to help her grandmother with the teen slip witch that is still trying to understand her powers – something only Gran and Harlow can understand as slip witches themselves.

Another good installment of the series as we continue to dig deeper into the Torrent Family, and we definitely get a better understanding of slip witches because in this one we’re helping a new, untrained slip witch.

Book Review: Treasure Witch by Tess Lake

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Author: Tess Lake
Publisher: Tess Lake
Series: Torrent Witches
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4 Stars
Medium: Audio Book

The Annual Gold Mud Run has come to Harlot Bay and its adjacent island off the coast, Truer Island. When Harlow finds the skeletons of a man and a little girl on the island, she’s pulled into the investigation by the ghost of a little girl. The further she digs into the mystery and the link between the girl and the skeletons, the more dangerous it gets for her because whoever killed and left them on the island doesn’t want her to find out the truth.

– – – Potential spoilers beyond this point – – –

It doesn’t help that for the last six weeks prior Harlow was frozen in place while she had carefully and magically taken care of the magical monster that had been doing the killings from the Butter Festival.

Everything had changed while Harlow was frozen in time. Her cousins had found love, the family mansion had started to undergo renovations to turn it into a bed and breakfast, and the man she’d accidentally stood up on a date with because she’d been frozen left town and is now back. The biggest thing she’s not taking well to is Jack Bishop’s return because he’s been looking to see and talk to her. Not that she wants to cross that bridge yet.

Her family had come up with some crazy travel plans to explain why she’d been missing for the last six weeks. Not that it really helps any because she’s still trying to wrap her head around everything that she’s missed.

The strive to work out the little ghost girl that suddenly kept appearing to her was so sweet as I read it, and I loved that she fought so hard to find out what happened to the little girl and her father, to help them find peace together in the end so they could move on.

How she does that, well, it wasn’t the easiest time for her, dodging both the potential boyfriend interest and the murderer trying to put her down so she’ll stop looking into this. Coupled with trying to keep her online newspaper running after six weeks of being dead to updates, well it’s a lot on her plate that will keep you reading and curious through to the end.

Book Review: Butter Witch by Tess Lake

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Author: Tess Lake
Publisher: Tess Lake
Series: Torrent Witches
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4 Stars
Medium: Audio Book

Welcome to Harlot Bay, home to the Torrent witches along a small coast where the magic convergent seems to play havoc on the weather on any given day. We’re joining Harlow, our main character – resident journalist for an online newspaper for the town (employee roster 1) and Slip Witch, just in time for the Butter Festival. 

When one of the competitors at the festival is murdered, Harlow will stop at nothing to try and find out who the murderer is. And this is all between trying to keep her online newspaper going, managing her highly caffeinated cousins, meddling mom and aunts, and a great aunt who loves to craft things in an underground, hard-to-find laboratory. It’s enough to tire anyone out, really. 

– – – – Possible Spoilers Below – – – – 

Note: I have seen some of the reviews that say it’s very similar to another Witch series because it has similar family and romance setups. I do have that first book in my library to read soon™, but haven’t read that series as yet. So all I can voice is my opinion based on this book itself. Though to be fair to the author, you can have a similar setup or plot idea and still have a book unfold in a completely different way. I and a few other authors actually proved this when we all took the exact same starting theme and each wrote our own shorts. The stories, while stemming from the same idea starting point, were very different because of the point of view we each wrote from, our style of prose, and where we took the stories. 

Overall, I really loved this story. Harlow is interesting, as is her whole family dynamic. She’s one of three cousins, and her family – her cousins, her mother, and her aunts – all live in a large house that’s been in the family for ages. 

I enjoyed our introduction to the town, Harlot Bay, as a dying seaside town, which was once a favorite destination of pirates for a specific reason (cough cough). She informs us that the town used to be a tourist trap that’s been slowly dying, which is also where the Butter Festival comes in. As a push to continue to keep Harlot Bay on the map as a must-visit, the town is hosting this international festival. The idea of an entire festival dedicated to butter – down to a butter carving contest. Yes, you read that right, butter carving. It’s like your ice festivals where you have super famous ice carvers come in and use chainsaws to sculpt the ice into these completely fascinating and intricate statues, only it’s butter. 

When Harlow stumbles across the dead body of one of the contestants, drained of its blood by magical means, she takes it upon herself to try and figure out who the murderer is and why they took the blood. But things aren’t so easy when you have a couple suspects and a town filled with tourists for the festival milling about. 

The Slip Witch concept is an interesting one and something that takes a little getting used to. The concept behind it is that Harlow’s magic fluctuates, though there’s no real reason for why it does. Just that when she’s least expecting it, she’ll go from a water witch to a fire witch. It also shifts her spell-casting ability, some spells will suddenly become harder to cast. 

The ending of the book, I won’t spoil it, you’ll have to read it yourself, was a really interesting way to go with handling the whodunit portion and the position it put Harlow in. And I can’t wait to see where this series goes. 

Book Review: Grits, Gamblers, and Grudges by Paula Lester and Lisa B. Thomas

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Author: Paula Lester and Lisa B. Thomas
Publisher: Paula Lester and Lisa B. Thomas
Series: Beachside Books Magical Cozy Mystery
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 3 Stars
Medium: Audio Book

The bookstore is doing well and Paige is comfortable in the little home she’s made for herself on the second floor with the room and little bathroom. It almost feels like home. But when a plumbing problem has an inspector in, she learns she’s not zoned to be able to live on the property until she gets the zoning changed.

Add to the mix the dead body found in the basement by the Plumber, and there are now more questions that need an answer to than Paige has the time and bandwidth to explore. Was her Aunt a killer? If not, how did the body find its way into the basement?

Potential spoilers ahead

When it rains, it really does pour on Paige. Not only does she find herself having to find a new home because her building is only zoned as a commercial space with no partial residency zoning, but there’s also a dead body in the basement. Now the town is whispering about how her Aunt Nora might have been a murderer. While both take priority for her, clearing her Aunt’s name takes a major focus for her as she apartment hunts.

The last thing that she wants to do is end up in her brother’s spare bedroom. While he and his wife are kind enough to offer the space to Paige, rent-free, Paige is determined to a more than stubborn sticking point, to not end up there and find her own place. However, everything in town that might be in her price range gross, falling apart, or weirdly strict on furniture and clothes – something I’m not entirely sure is legal if you’re renting a place as your own, it’s looking more and more like she’ll have to take her family up on the offer.

The twist comes from exactly who was the killer and how the body ended up being in Aunt Nora’s bookshop basement. It’s a twist that I started to see coming as we progressed through the book. This one grated on my nerves a little, it seemed like Paige wasn’t learning or growing anymore to me. It was also a little predictable and I found myself growing bored with it as we continued. For that reason, I won’t be finishing the series, personally.

Book Review: Apples, Actors and Axes by Paula Lester and Lisa B. Thomas

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Author: Paula Lester and Lisa B. Thomas
Publisher: Paula Lester and Lisa B. Thomas
Series: Beachside Books Magical Cozy Mystery
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 3 Stars
Medium: Audio Book

As Paige settles into her home in Comfort Cove, Texas with her bookstore. She’s even back to trying to write again now that she’s settled in. However, things pick up because a famous director has created a treasure hunt that promises the winner a role in his new movie, and the clues seem to hint at Comfort Cove so of course actors have flocked to town. But when one of the treasure hunters ends up dead on the beach, and Paige’s Detective brother sets his sights on Paige’s new assistant as the killer, it’s a race to find out who did it before her assistant is put away for something he may not have done.

Possible spoilers ahead.

We’re greeted to Paige settling into life in the bookstore, living in the small bedroom above the shop in the building, it’s left her without having to actually find a place to live now that she’s settled in the little town. Though she can’t officially tell if the uptick of customers in the shop are because the town has an influx of treasure hunters and actors looking for a prize or the cute new guy manning the till behind the counter for her. Either way, for the most part, Paige isn’t going to complain. Or well, not as long as they’re buying stock from her shop at least.

But when Paige’s brother adds her new assistant, and several other actors, to the suspect list after a body is found on the beach, Paige decides to get involved with the investigation, with the help of her new witchy coven. Her brother, naturally, doesn’t love that she’s getting herself involved in a police matter, but she does help some in finding out the who dun it.

Coupled with treasure hunters that are claiming to have found the treasure and stirring up more trouble, the town starts to get a little more chaotic. There is a good twist at the end with the treasure, which I was pleasantly surprised by, and overall it’s another cute book. I will say that for a series that’s supposed to be a ‘magical’ cozy, I’m not getting a lot of magical. It’s mostly just a bookstore owner getting involved in her brother’s business because he’s the detective and saying she’s in a coven.

Book Review: Pasta, Pirates & Poison by Paula Lester and Lisa B. Thomas

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Author: Paula Lester and Lisa B. Thomas
Publisher: Paula Lester and Lisa B. Thomas
Series: Beachside Books Magical Cozy Mystery
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 3 Stars
Medium: Audio Book

Paige is living her best life sipping wine and working on her romance novel in one of the most romantic countries in the world, Italy. But all of that changes when she gets a call and has to fly home to Texas for her beloved Aunt who falls ill.

Quicker than she’d like, her Aunt passes and she finds herself with her Aunt’s failing bookstore, cousins who aren’t happy inheriting their aunt’s house, and a mysterious message from her Aunt that hints at buried treasure somewhere on the house’s property. Before Pagie can consider returning to Italy, she has to untangle the mystery and find the treasure. But will she even survive to return to Italy?

Potential spoilers beyond this point

Overall this book started off interesting. Paige has moved to Italy because she thinks she’ll have a better chance at writing her book about love in a romantic country with a beautiful view. But it’s not exactly the life she’d thought it was, because the reality is she’s working a small job to pay rent on a house she’s sharing with others, and her novel is kind of stagnant on the page due to writer’s block.

While she grumbles about having to return to Texas for her Aunt, the move gives her life a new chapter as it were. She not only inherits her Aunt’s failing bookstore, but she discovers that there’s the ghost of an old pirate captain that’s tied to one of the books in the shop, and his long buried treasure was found by her Aunt and then hidden carefully away in the house.

Which means it’s a race against time to try and find the treasure because her cousins are selling the house because they don’t want it, and inherited it so it’s theirs to do with as they will. Naturally, others have heard of the buried treasure as well and are looking to buy it for the same reason.

By cleaning up and trying to get the bookstore on its feet again, Paige gets to learn and connect with her late Aunt in a way she hadn’t understood she could before, learns about herself, and finds a potential future if she wants to grab it with both hands.

It’s definitely a cute start to a series and it caught my interest enough to want to continue to the next book.

Book Review: Vintage Vampire by Bella Falls

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Author: Bella Falls
Publisher: Evermore Press
Series: Southern Relics Cozy Mysteries
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4 Stars
Medium: Audio Book

Following the events of the last book, Ruby Mae and Luke are now engaged and what should be a celebration doesn’t stay that way because while the two do love each other, Luke’s past is a long and secretive one. He doesn’t talk much at all about his past and his family save for the little we had learned about him in the last book, but with this strange growling distance Ruby Mae feels is growing between them, she confronts him about it.

After confronting him, we’re whisked away to Italy and drawn into his family to learn first hand just why he left, why he doesn’t talk about them, and why it seems like the weight of the world hangs heavily on his shoulders.

Spoilers ahead.

This is definitely going to be marked as my second favorite from the series. I really loved getting a better glimpse at the vampire politics that revolve in this world but also a front row seat at Luke and his family. The history is long considering he’s centuries old, carrying the burden of his sister’s death for all of those years.

Everything starts off on egg shells from Ruby Mae fully realizing just how much money Luke actually has, coming from basically vampire royalty, to his family who doesn’t like witches in the first place. His parents, of course, do not approve of his choice in a betrothed – so much so that even after being told he’d proposed to Ruby Mae, Luke’s father pushes a vampire at Luke because wouldn’t she be a better betrothed.

Things get even more interesting when Isabella, Luke’s sister, calls to Ruby Mae from beyond the grave, drawing Ruby Mae to her old room and entwining the witch in helping to untangle the mystery surrounding the vampire’s death. Nothing is as it seems, and it becomes harder when someone tries to kill Ruby Mae on two separate occasions.

The centuries old mystery was weaved wonderfully, and I will say personally I wasn’t sure where the threads would leave as far as who had caused her death for most of the book, though I was a little suspicious of the culprit early on because he rubbed a little wrong in the beginning.

I loved that Isabella was able to find some peace because the truth of her death was able to come to light, but also that the family could settle what happened better with knowing the truth.

I can’t wait to see where this series will go in the future.

Book Review: Pickups and Pirates by Bella Falls

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Author: Bella Falls
Publisher: Evermore Press
Series: Southern Relics Cozy Mysteries
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 4 Stars
Medium: Audio Book

After a hurricane hits the Crystal Cove, an old pirate ship and the myths behind the ship and the owner of the ship, notorious pirate Captain “Bonny Anne” Bonnet, a race to find her treasure befalls our story.

Honestly, I think this was my favorite of the books so far. I loved the pirates, the history, and the treasure hunt that we take part in from the perspective of Ruby Mae.

Spoilers beyond this point.

I have to say that I love both of the starts of this book – the dip into the past with the prologue of the book to set up the treasure hunt we’ll be going on and helping us start already in the history of the events – but also just watching Ruby Mae and Luke as they walk along the cost and learn about the pirates themselves. The interaction with Cane’s son is honestly just the absolute cutest, as was the inclusion of the fun way to ‘find your pirate’ name.

I loved the dive into the mystery and the riddles that had to be figured out, coupled with the fact that they were in a race against someone else to try and the treasure because they weren’t the only ones hunting it. Though, thankfully, they had magic on their side to assist them.

As well, I actually liked the inclusion of Charli and Mason from Honeysuckle Hollow joining us for this adventure, on loan from their town. It helped both with Charli’s magic helping to draw her toward the treasure, but it was also kind of fun to get a glimpse of them from another character’s perspective.

Over all, I really loved the story, especially how it ended and what the treasure really was. It was a really sweet story to be told and I was glad to join the hunt and the resolution.

Book Review: Rags to Witches by Bella Falls

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Author: Bella Falls
Publisher: Evermore Press
Series: Southern Relics Cozy Mysteries
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 3 Stars
Medium: Audio Book

I have to say that I did enjoy this one more than the first, maybe the characters are starting to grow on me as I get into the book and their story a little more.

While attending the wedding of a friend, the night is going beautifully and even Ruby Mae and Luke are having a good time. However, at the reception, the groom is stabbed and of course Ruby is on the hunt to find out who had tried to kill Harrison and why.

Potential spoilers beyond this point.

I feel like our main character, Ruby Mae has either grown a little between this book and the last, or maybe the author is getting a slightly better handle on the character as a whole. She feels a little more her age, a little more wise, because when she starts to dig into the attempted murder, she actually reaches out for help. Instead of thinking she can do it alone, and blundering her way through the mystery, by asking for aid of the head of the coven she’s granted access to the library for her research.

But also by asking for help, she’s not alienating people by making sneaky decisions and moving forward against people’s wishes. I found that I liked that she wasn’t only asking for the help but also listening to others. It made the mystery flow well and I enjoyed getting to know the other members of the coven that she’s been bonding with since joining.

Over all the mystery was weaved well throughout the story, and I loved that the key item for this mystery was a magical sewing machine. I think it’s so interesting and smart on how it was presented and used in the story. It was also interesting that the company came to collect the item at the end, giving a hint at just how much that’s going on in the outside world, away from our little town we’re not seeing. As a reader, I enjoy knowing that the authors are aware of the world even if we only get a hint of the world continuing to move on its own outside our scope. Knowing there might be other stories that might get told later in this same world.

Book Review: Flea Market Magic by Bella Falls

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Author: Bella Falls
Publisher: Evermore Press
Series: Southern Relics Cozy Mysteries
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Cozy Mystery
Rating: 3 Stars
Medium: Audio Book

I picked up Flea Market Magic because I finished the other series by the same author and wanted to check this one out to see if it would be both of the same caliber and contain the same lovable characters. I was pleased to find that this is set in the same universe as her Southern Charms Cozy series with Charli – something easily distinguishable because of the use of the Spell Phones that are in the book.

As a whole the concept is interesting. Ruby and her family live in Jewell, NC – which qualifies as its own township so the neighboring town they would normally be part of technically has no jurisdiction within their borders, which comes into play a little when the family finds a dead body not just on their land but in one of their buildings. The family themselves deal with antiques and refurbished goods, but also host a flea market with stalls from other people on their land. While out picking through other flea markets to pick up new products, they also keep a keen eye out for any magical related items.

One of the other key features of the family, which I found interesting, was that they store magical items in a family vault that only the family can find and open. And while they do sell magical items to the magically inclined community, they also do a fair bit of safe keeping on the more dangerous relics that they stumble across to keep them out of the wrong hands or off the market entirely.

Possible Spoilers beyond this point.

Like I said above, I find the concept interesting and I am intrigued to be able to dip into the same universe as her other series but see a new aspect of the world and the lore. Ruby’s family tends to stay a little to themselves it seems, making sure to keep the family business going, but at the same time our main character is dating a vampire. I do like that we’re getting to see more of the vampires in this series because in last series while there are some vampires living in town we don’t get a deeper dive into them.

As a whole, I’m not entirely sure how old Ruby is supposed to be but she does come off as naive and impulsive. She’s been told that this magical item is dangerous. She’s been told not to touch it or try to use it, no matter how much it might help them. She’s even been shown what happens to the people who have used it, because just before she uses it she has to help save the woman who used it before her. But instead of listening to the people around her from family members to her own vampire boyfriend that has seen people use it to no good end, she forges ahead like she has an idea of what she’s actually doing.

She also seems really reckless about using her magic in front of the non-witch folk, which is both dangerous and technically against the magically inclined rules that she’s supposed to be following. To the point where one of the guys actually starts to get uppity about what she might be doing, suspicious because she does things to him on two different occasions.

For someone who’s grown up in magic all her life, knowing the rules and how careful they have to be – I feel like if she’s as old as I wanna pin a finger on how old she should be she’s technically too old to be doing both of these things.

While the other series got four stars from me across the board, because I’m a little unsure of the characters and I didn’t bond with them as fast as I did the characters from her other series, I’m dubbing this three stars. It’s definitely an interesting concept, and I’m intrigued by the family dynamic, the vampire boyfriend dynamic, as well has her needing to join the local coven as part of her deal for some help to see how that plays out. And I will continue the series at least for another book, but at the same time I wasn’t as impressed with this book as I was the other series.