Four Book Reviews! If I’m going to read, I figured I might as well write reviews. I’m happy to report that every book I’ve picked has been a solid 4 or better. This has not always been the case. Spoiler Alert: One of these books got my first 5-Star rating on NetGalley. You won’t see this very often. Fantasy, Mystery, and Magic Abound! Take a peek at my reviews. Every one of these is well-worth a read!
My scale is the standard 5-star system. If I can’t give a book at least a 3, I won’t post a review. Threes are good with defects. Fours are really, really good with a few minor issues. Fives are mind-bogglingly fantastic with very few or no errors that pulled me away from the story.
You can find these reviews and more of mine on NetGalley, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.
Book Review of Marshlights by Joy Ellis
Get your snacks, make a comfy nest, and enjoy a trip to the fenlands. It’s no real mystery who’s at the bottom of the disappearances and murders. The question is how can Christy, Matt, and Liz prove it before someone else dies.
Marshlights by Joy Ellis is a satisfying British mystery. The story develops steadily as we view the events in great part through the eyes of Christie, a newcomer England’s rural fenlands. She works as research assistant to a well-known author who is working on what he fears will be his last book.
Christie becomes enmeshed in the lives of the denizens of the community—more involved than she has a right to be and what she discovers is disturbing.
For a time, Christie bunks with her cousin Liz and partner Matt, both retired police officers who now run a private investigation business. Asked by their former colleagues to investigate a cold case murder in the area, they soon find their inquiries parallel Christie’s experiences. This is a Liz and Matt book, but Christie’s story merges nicely.
Things I liked:
A story set on slow burn is awesome—as long as it reaches kindling point and bursts into flame at some point. The seemingly disparate events and characters come together in the end.
I liked how much I loathed one character in the book. Ellis did a such a fine job of drawing this character, I have to wonder if she modeled this one on someone she knows—or several someones.
Being a paranormal and folklore junkie, I appreciated the tales and legends of the marshlights.
Things I didn’t like so much:
Really the only thing I would tell the author if I were her editor would be to add dialogue or action scenes rather than description. On the other hand, that’s sort of the style and though it tends to mute the lovely atmosphere, it isn’t a deal breaker for me. It’s the old show, don’t tell thingie. I like a good British mystery that takes time but would rather see it happening than be told what happened.
Marshlights by Joy Ellis kept me following local gossip and tracking down suspicions until the wee hours. I have not read other books by this prolific author but, based on this one, I’d happily recommend her to lovers of British mysteries.
Book Review of Silvers Hollow by Patrick Delaney
She can’t remember how she got to the train station in her hometown, but she remembers why she doesn’t want to be there. The place is haunted with bad memories which is why she hasn’t visited in years. She remembers her parents and their distant—even negligent treatment of her and her sister. She remembers how her father would sometimes take her sister into the basement. She remembers her sister begged for help. She remembers so many things that don’t quite fit with the experiences she has right now. Something’s wrong in Silvers Hollow.
This book takes readers through a wiggly-woggly nightmare landscape where the familiar morphs into a terrifying doppelganger of reality. If you are in the mood for something completely different, this is the one for you.
What Works in this Book
We’re seeing this world through the perceptions of the main character and the author does an outstanding job of conveying her confusion.
I loved the disjointed bits and pieces of memory that make up the whole and how these are revealed at just the right pace.
- It’s an absorbing read and one that will keep you guessing throughout—I like the unpredictability of it.
What Doesn’t Work So Well
I needed more explanation at the end. I see what’s happening, I get it, but I’d like a bit more clarification. Really this is the only thing I find to gripe about. I’d like a little more time spent on the actual reality.
Even with this bit of whininess from me, I heartily recommend Silvers Hollow to readers of horror and fans of the non-formulaic suspense novel.
Book Review of Hexing the Ex by Susanna Shore
I started reading this book expecting not to like it. Just my mood, I’m afraid, and the fact I’ve read a number of witchy books that disappointed. The more I read, the better my mood became.
Phoebe Thorpe returns to her London apartment from a vacation meant to heal her soul after a breakup. She finds her idiot roommate—haven’t we all had one of those—has managed to flood not only the apartment they share but the one below as well. And, just like that, she’s homeless and looking for an affordable place in a respectable neighborhood. Good luck with that!
When she sees the Room for Rent sign on a storefront she’s never noticed before, she doesn’t hesitate to inquire within. And thereby hangs the tale for this shop isn’t just any shop. It’s a witchy shop run for a discerning clientele. Not everyone is who they seem to be and some surprises are in store for Phoebe. But it’s charming and available and Phoebe feels like her luck is changing.
Then she goes back to work at the antique dealers, activates a dangerous curse, and finds out her conservative and sort of dull boss is anything but what she thinks he is. She’s threatened by witches and warlocks and hellhounds as she searches for the origins of the mysterious curse and a way to get rid of it.
Susanna Shore’s House of Magic series, of which Hexing the Ex is the first, promises to be fun and filled with hexes, curses, spells, and magical beings. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
What Works in the Book
- Pretty good writing. Only a few times did I question the author’s choice of words or structure. Dialogue is good. I thought it got a little hasty toward the end, but that could just be the nit-picker in me who is always finding something to gripe about.
- Characters: pretty good. Really on the strong side of pretty good. Nicely diverse and clearly defined—with a couple of exceptions.
- Resolution: not too predictable, but not so far afield as to be unreasonable. And that’s all I can say about that.
What doesn’t Work So Well
- I thought the motive a little weak and the villain not well defined. Granted, this is the first in a series and at the end we do meet someone who may grow on me. But I’d like to feel a bit more of a sinister intent on the part of the perpetrator. A good villain is even more important than a well-drawn hero, in my opinion, and it’s not just because I have a soft spot for villains. Which I do.
- I felt like we rushed a bit at the end. The dialogue and the plot seemed a little—not klunky, but maybe could have used one more editing pass.
All in all, this is a fun read with more to come from this author. I’m looking forward to reading about Phoebe, her interesting employer, and the House of Magic where she lives.
Book Review of How to Talk to a Goddess and Other Lessons in Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker
Stop Right where you are!! Go grab the first book—The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magcic. Read that.
Not because How to Talk to a Goddess does not stand up well on its own—it does. The author does a fantastic job of keeping it real in this one—I never felt lost or confused because I hadn’t read the first book in the pair. It’s just that there are references to the first book that titillate and tantalize and all the way through this one I was wishing I’d read the first one and I want to spare you that pain.
I don’t give very many 5-star reviews. I feel like a 4 is a really good book—one that I would recommend, give as a gift—one that I am happy I read. When I give a 4-star review, I am saying that I never—or at least very seldom—felt like I was wasting my time. I didn’t long to toss it in the fire or dissolve it with acid and I would probably check out anything else by that author.
A 5-star book, on the other hand, is something else.
How to Talk to a Goddess is a fantasy grounded, like the main character Nora, in the humdrum world of reality. And I can’t say a whole lot about plot until you’ve read the first one. Let’s just say the action will keep your attention and the romance is entertainingly non-standard. I’m a fantasy nut, but very few fantasies carry me into their world as well as this one did.
What Worked in this Book
Everything. Characters are clear and well-drawn. Plot is compelling. Descriptions are awesome. Writing is poetic at times, precise and practical at other times. The story twists like a giant snake and deals with universal issues like life and death and life again—and what’s real and what’s fantasy—and what is Divine and where can you locate it.
What Didn’t Work
Nothing. For me, this is as close to a perfect book as you need to get to get a 5 out of me. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I stayed up late on work nights to read it. I was sad when it was over but then I remembered I hadn’t read The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic so I bought that and was happy again. I’ll remember the characters and story because bits of them are now woven into my soul.