Yuletide Homicide by Jennifer David Hesse #BookReview

yuletidehomicideTitle: Yuletide Homicide
Author: Jennifer David Hesse
Series: Wiccan Wheel Mysteries #3
Format: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: September 26th 2017 by Kensington
Genre(s): Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

It’s Christmas in Edindale, Illinois, and family law attorney Keli Milanni is preparing to celebrate the Wiccan holiday Yuletide, a celebration of rebirth. But this Yuletide someone else is focused on dying . . .
 
After years of practicing in secret, Keli has come out as a Wiccan to her boyfriend, and she feels like this Yuletide she’s the one who’s being reborn. But the Solstice is the longest night of the year, and Keli is about to stumble on a mystery so dangerous, she’ll be lucky to make it to morning.
 
Paired with her unbearably stuffy colleague Crenshaw Davenport III, Keli goes undercover at a real estate company owned by mayoral candidate Edgar Harrison. An old friend of Keli’s boss, Harrison, is being blackmailed, and it’s up to her to find the culprit. But the morning after the company holiday party, Harrison is found dead underneath the hotel Christmas tree. The police rule the death an accident, but Keli knows better—and she’ll risk her own rebirth to nab a missing killer.

 

Review

Yuletide Homicide is the third in a series of cozy mysteries with a fun, witchy twist. I hadn’t read the previous books in the series but it stood-alone pretty well, so I wouldn’t let that put you off.

The story centers around Keli, who is exploring her Wiccan faith, mainly in solitude, but as the novel unfolds she becomes more open about her religion and practices. The Wiccan element is just one small part of Keli’s life however – she’s a busy lady!

Keli is an attorney who seems to spend her time as more of an amateur sleuth than an actual attorney. Along with her eccentric colleague Crenshaw, Keli is thrust straight into a murder mystery when her boss asks her to find out who is blackmailing him. Not only does she discover who the blackmailer is, but she also finds his body.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a little bit silly in parts, and felt like one of those books that you have to take with a pinch of salt, but it was paced-well, written nicely, and entertaining. I love a good murder mystery, and this reminded me of the likes of Midsomer Murders, which I love.

I enjoyed the dynamic between Keli and Crenshaw, and think it’s great to have a regular, down to earth, Wiccan, protagonist. The only thing that annoyed me was that she wasn’t more ‘out’ and proud as a Wiccan, like it’s something to be ashamed of. It felt a little old-fashioned in its approach in that respect. Hopefully though, that’s all part of the overall series arc.

Yuletide Homicide was a nice alternative to all the festive romances out at the time that I read it. I hope I get to read more in the series in the future.

unicorn rating 4

30 Days of Horror #17: The Haunting #HO17 #30daysofhorror

30daysofhorror

Join me for 30 Days of Horror in which we spotlight one horror book every day until we reach Halloween!

Tonight, I’ve chosen a great YA ghost story. The Haunting is part of the Red Eye series, a YA Horror imprint (which I love), and I’m hoping to do a special post in association with the publishers/one of the authors soon. Fingers crossed it all comes together. But for now, here’s a taste of The Haunting by Alex Bell. I also reviewed it here.

thehaunting

Available in paperback & ebook, 352 pages

Published February 11th 2016 by Stripes Publishing

 

Some curses grow stronger with time…

People say that all Cornish inns are haunted, but the Waterwitch’s history is particularly chilling. Built from the salvaged timber of a cursed ship, the guest house’s dark secrets go further back than anyone can remember.


Emma is permanently confined to a wheelchair after an accident at the Waterwitch which took place when she was ten. Seven years later, she decides to return to the place where the awful event occurred. But the ancient inn still has its ghosts, and one particular spirit is more vengeful than ever…


A chilling new title in the Red Eye horror series from the author of Frozen Charlotte.

 

Goodreads // My Review

bookdepo

Have you read it? What did you think?

Up Next on Horror October:

This Week in Books

Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine #BookReview #YA

 

princeofshadowsTitle: Prince of Shadows
Author: Rachel Caine
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 368 pages
Publication Details: February 4th 2014 by Allison & Busby
Genre(s): YA; Retellings
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from the library.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

From the author of the bestselling Morganville Vampires series comes an exciting retelling of the classic love story, Romeo and Juliet.

‘A plague! A plague on both your houses!’

In the Houses of Montague and Capulet, there is only one goal: power. The boys are born to fight and die for honor and – if they survive – marry for influence and money, not love. The girls are assets, to be spent wisely. Their wishes are of no import. Their fates are written on the day they are born.

Benvolio Montague, cousin to Romeo, knows all this. He expects to die for his cousin, for his house, but a spark of rebellion still lives inside him. At night, he is the Prince of Shadows, the greatest thief in Verona – and he risks all as he steals from House Capulet. In doing so, he sets eyes on convent-bound Rosaline, and a terrible curse begins that will claim the lives of many in Verona.

Review

I have to say I was pretty sceptical going into this but I was intrigued regardless. Having read Caine’s Morganville Vampire series (or most of them at least), I was pretty shocked to find this in the library. A Shakespeare retelling, really? Hmm…

You can’t help but love the tale of the two doomed lovers, right? And you know what, this wasn’t a bad retelling. It’s told from Benvolio’s POV, who is forcibly entrusted to keep his cousin and Capulet heir, Romeo, on the straight and narrow. But that pesky boy has a habit of getting into serious trouble and falling in love with all the wrong girls. Then there’s his bff Mercutio with his own doomed love Tomasso, both of whom will be killed if discovered. Poor Benvolio has got a lot on his plate!

On one hand I really enjoyed this book. I liked reading from Benvolio’s point of view. It was an action-packed, fun retelling with a modern twist. The pages flew by. But on the other hand I did find myself cringing a lot. ‘Shakespeare turning in his grave’ was a phrase which often sprang to mind. But I guess there would be no point in retelling it without a new spin on the traditional.

I felt like the whole business with the curse was a double-edged sword. It made the story new and fresh, and Caine does paranormal very well, such is her remit! But for me, it meant that the story lost all its romance. Which is surely the point of any Romeo & Juliet story?

I really respect Rachel Caine for taking on such an iconic story and introducing a fantasy element. It’s a pretty bold move, and I think it mostly worked. Her writing is always so readable. Not one for the purists though, obviously.

unicorn rating 3

The Witches of New York by Ami McKay #BookReview #Magic

a7Title: The Witches of New York
Author: Ami McKay
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 320 pages
Publication Details: October  2016 by Orion Books
Genre(s): Historical Fiction; Magic Realism; Supernatural
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (‘Moth’ from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and “gardien de sorts” (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients.

All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind?

Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

Review

Although not a sequel, this book follows a character from McKay’s acclaimed novel The Virgin Cure, which if I had known before (lack of research on my part) would perhaps have put me off requesting it. Fortunately it didn’t seem to matter. Unfortunately, my first foray into the world of Ami McKay didn’t quite beguile me like I thought it would. 

The Witches of New York follows young Beatrice who is seeking employment. When she sees an advert in the paper from a strange-sounding tea shop where ‘those averse to magic need not apply’, she feels like this will be the start of a new life for her, and it is.

Owned by Adelaide, a seer (and Moth from The Virgin Cure) and Eleanor, a witch, the tea shop is a front to a growing magic business. Beatrice soon becomes an invaluable apprentice but her visions begin to haunt her, and she’s weakened and easily exploited.

I liked some parts of this book, but I just don’t think I was in the mood for it. I can imagine enjoying a lazy Sunday reading this, but trying to read it during a busy schedule didn’t work. The pace was painfully slow and although the descriptions were beautiful and elegant, they were subtle and drawn-out. I found myself skim reading a lot.

This novel does have a great magic-realism atmosphere, and McKay is clearly a talented writer, but this book was too light for me. She reminded me a lot of Alice Hoffman, albeit with something missing.

However, I liked the way she presents these real-life witches – as strong, independent women in an era where women had no rights, were discriminated against, and most certainly should not have worked in a shop, never mind owned one. AND I liked that the heart of this book was about women’s relationships in that hard time where it was extremely brave of them to be proud of who they are.

Basically, I enjoyed what McKay was tying to do here, but I needed more to take hold of to keep me interested in the plodding plot.

unicorn rating 2

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Spooky Picture Books

icon4-ttthorroroct

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is… A Halloween-related freebie! 

It took me a while to decide what to do for this open Halloween topic. But after much deliberation I went for a change of pace in the Horror October proceedings and decided to go for my top Halloweeny picture books for children.

There are so many great classic ones that I still remember from my childhood, but I also wanted to showcase some of the newer books out there so my TTT is split into two parts this week.

Top 5 Classic Picture Books for Halloween

Room on the Broom – Julia Donaldson

In a Dark Dark Room – Alvin Schwartz

Pumpkin Soup – Helen Cooper

Mystery Tour – Allan Ahlberg

Badjelly the Witch – Spike Milligan

 

Top 5 Modern Picture Books for Halloween

Baba Yaga – An Leysen

Gracie meets a Ghost – Keiko Sena

The Wolves in the Walls – Neil Gaiman

One, Two, Boo! – Kristen Depken

Halloween Hustle – Charlotte Gunnufson

What would have made your list?

 

 

Labyrinth Lost #BookReview #YA

summer16.3Title: Labyrinth Lost
Author: Zoraida Córdova
Series: Brooklyn Brujas #1
Format: Digital ARC, 336 pages
Publication Details: September 6th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre(s): YA Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep, I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Nothing says Happy Birthday like summoning the spirits of your dead relatives.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange marks on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

Review

I was dying to read this as soon as I saw that stunning cover. It’s also not often you come across YA books built upon Latin American culture. So WIN.

Labyrinth Lost is the story of Alex and her close family of bruja’s – sort of witches. Alex, a middle sister, should have come into her gift by now and had her Deathday ceremony just like her older sister and and her parents before her. Little do they know that Alex’s magic is much, much stronger than they ever imagined and she’s been hiding it for years. 

Unfortunately, an incident exposes Alex’s magic and her family rally around to arrange her Deathday party – the one thing Alex was fearing – as once the dead are raised and her magic is blessed, she will be stuck with it forever.

However, the ceremony doesn’t exactly go to plan for anyone, and Alex’s family disappear leaving just her and brujo Nova to journey through the Labyrinth of Los Lagos to reclaim their souls. 

This was a book of two halves for me. I was absolutely entranced with the  first half. I loved Alex and her family. Her relationship with her sisters was so full of love but fraught with annoyances it really rang true. 

I also loved the dynamic between Alex and her best friend, and felt for her for having to keep so many secrets from colourful Rishi. 

Córdova brings Latin American history, spirituality and mythology to the forefront in Labyrinth Lost and I found it spellbinding. I did however, think it lost a lot of pace when they got Los Lagos – a definite downside to creating a dreamy, psychedelic limbo – I did wish it moved along a bit faster during the second half. I also thought the believability factor was stretched to breaking point in parts.

Overall though, this was a quick, interesting read which stands out from a lot of generic YA fantasy. The mythology Córdova built on and evolved was a delight, and now I’d love to read more about Latin American beliefs. It was also nice to see a gay relationship in here – although I wasn’t convinced of Alex’s feelings half as much as I was the other character’s.

unicorn rating 3

 

Glove of Satin, Glove of Bone #BookReview #LGBTReads

gloveTitle: Glove of Satin, Glove of Bone
Author: Rachel White
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 205 pages
Publication Details: June 8th 2016 by Less Than Three Press
Genre(s): Fantasy; LBGT
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Enne Datchery and Muriel vas Veldina, ex-lovers and witches with a shared apprentice, are tasked by the Citadel, to repair an old grimoire together, despite the fact their relationship is tense at best.

The situation is further complicated when the book is stolen, and tracking down the thief stirs even more of Muriel’s past. It swiftly becomes clear to the two that dealing with their fractured relationship is going to be the easy part of the assignment—if they can live long enough to complete it.

Review

I had it in my mind that this would be a sort of YA Sarah Waters’ with magic, but I was wrong. It’s not even YA, although to be fair it read like YA and the only thing that made me realise it wasn’t was a sex scene which sprouted the C word. 

Muriel and Enne are ex-lovers and business partners in their thirties which is considered too old to be single so you can tell what kind of era this world evokes. Their apprentice is basically their adopted child and her upbringing is just one of many things they bicker about. Constantly. 

When the High Circle (magic HQ) ask them to repair a grimoire they fail to tell them anything about it, even what kind of magic it contains. It turns out to a book of destruction (which is bad) and Muriel’s other ex-girlfriend steals it and tries to destroy the world. 

I really thought this was a great basis for a story and don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it the whole way through. But that’s all it was, a basis for a story. It was very short and very…basic. There were no sub-plots or twists; nothing going on outside Muriel and Enne’s bickering as they try to find the grimoire and stop the baddie. It felt like it should have been a short story to me. 

If you’re looking for a super quick read which has LGBT characters and magic, then give it go. It’s written well too, I just wanted more. Lots more. 

unicorn rating 3