Tag Archives: Books

Legacy Witches- by Cass Kay- A Review

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Vianna Roots is a reluctant witch from a Salem family with a long history of witchcraft.  She also sees the dead which is not a normal characteristic of a witch. She never fit in—either with the town or her family and had a bad relationship with her mother. As soon as she was able, she escaped in the middle of the night and had no intention of ever returning to her childhood home.

Fate had other plans for Vianna.  Her mother died and she had to return home to take part in the ritual of the burial of her mother. But Vianna has other plans than performing the ritual as it is supposed to go. She wants to tie her mother to the grave so she can’t come back and harass her like her other dead relatives do—especially her grandmother Susannah.

When Vianna arrives in Salem, she has an accident in her old truck with, of all things, a local policeman.  Then, when she gets to the house she inherited and can’t wait to sell off, the house won’t let her in and things continue to go downhill for her from there.

She doesn’t want to wear witch robes to the cemetery and chooses a red dress from her mother’s closet which turns out to be the dress her mother wore when she was initiated into her role as a witch. Something Vianna is determined not to let happen to herself.

At the cemetery, we meet a number of other characters who all have distinct personalities and who do not much care for the rebel Vianna. The scene is set for more drama in her life.

Vianna ties her mother to her grave and once she returns home, she starts to clear out some of the old things lying around. In searching a drawer, she finds a rotting hand. A vision of a woman reliving her death in the bathroom shows her where the hand originated. And now Vianna is on a quest to help this spirit to rest—a spirit she happens to know quite well. But she doesn’t plan to embrace her legacy as a witch. She is going to solve this issue with this spirit and sell the house and leave again as soon as she can.

Along the way to her goal, Vianna goes on a date with a man she had a crush on in high school. She finds, not only is he weird and possessive, but his mother has issues, too. He’s persistent and annoying. She’s mystified about why he’s suddenly attracted to her. Old school mates wreak havoc in her life, and, when danger arises, she even has to head back to the cemetery to dig up another ancestor and get a bone from her—not because she wants to embrace her legacy, but because it’s necessary to do so.

The cemetery caretaker is someone she knew in the past who is not welcome in the witching community either and they strike up a friendship. I loved their relationship. It was nice to have someone that the heroine could rely on and who was a great character. She offered some relief from the gloomy atmosphere and danger the heroine was in.

This book was delightful to read. A lot of great action, a mystery about some paintings and a dead girl in the bathroom as well as the friendship that arises between two people who don’t fit in makes for a great story. The author also gives us fans of the macabre and light horror a lot of great, descriptive scenes.  This is no white witch, light comedy type story that glosses over some of the darker sides of the craft. I quite enjoyed the change of pace from those type stories.  

I recommend this one as it is chockful of great scenes, some humor and a compelling story, not least of which is how misfits can find their place and make the home/family they need.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders- A Review

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In the Tibetan religion, the bardo is the place between lives. I didn’t know this until I picked up this book. It’s sort of what I think some western religions call purgatory. I’m not 100% sure since I’m Methodist and we don’t have that concept in our theology. Nevertheless, this was a fantastic read. Mr. Saunders, a professor at Syracuse University is a brilliant, witty writer. 

This story starts with the last illness of Willie Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln. We are also introduced to a variety of characters in the bardo itself. They don’t know they are dead. They think they are in “sick boxes” and waiting to recover and go back to their families. 

The conversations and actions of the men and women in the bardo are repetitions of what they did in life. Some retell the same stories over and over. 

We have three main protagonists there. One a reverend, and one a man who was a printer who died when a rafter hit him in the head and one who slashed his wrists when his lover took another lover, who is still “waiting” for his mother to discover him and take him to the hospital. They show us, through their points of view, the others in the bardo. Some of the conversations are poignant and some are quite amusing. Sometimes, people leave the bardo with a flash and bang when they look at a light but our main characters resist the light as they don’t want to disappear to who knows where. They are waiting for their families to come take them home and they sure want to be there when it happens. 

Interspersed between the scenes in the bardo are some quotes of various members of the public and newspapers regarding the huge party the Lincolns threw when their son was upstairs gravely ill in the White House. Many thought they were wrong to have the party that had been planned for a while. Many thought the child’s parents were to blame for his illness as they allowed him out in the snow and cold with his little pony. It was interesting to read those comments. It appears as if they are from real articles of the time. I didn’t research to be sure of that, but they read as true. Which makes the story even more poignant. If they are fiction, it increases my admiration for the author’s cleverness.

The boy eventually dies and, after a funeral, is taken to the cemetery. He arrives in the bardo and our cast of characters assure him he’s only in a sick box and will soon rejoin his life and see his father again. 

Lincoln comes to the mausoleum where Willie’s body is and the boy tries to make contact with him. Of course, Lincoln can’t hear him. 

The main characters of the bardo become worried about the boy when he’s devastated that his father can’t hear him. They are determined to help him. Maybe he should try to escape the bardo? The young ones usually do, but Willie is determined to reunite with his father and plans to stay around. 

The rest of the story is about how they try to help Willie and lessons are learned for all of them. Well, most of them, as there will always be some who choose other paths. 

This book was a quick read that pulled me in and I found myself turning pages in thrall with the story and the talent of this writer. He encourages the reader to think about life and love of family and how we, as humans, are tied to our lives. It’s sometimes hard to let go of things and this book is a lesson in how we often have to make decisions where we might put ourselves at risk. The author teaches us these things in an amusing as well as heart-rending way. His talent in switching from one to the other is beautiful and make this a very worthwhile read.  I highly recommend this one. 

A Haunted History of Invisible Women by Leanna Renee Hieber and Andrea Janes- A Review

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Interesting, informative, and sometimes insulting.

I am somewhat torn about this book. There were some things to love about it and some things to hate as well.

Being someone who is intrigued by the spiritual and historical and having read/enjoyed some of Leanna’s fiction work, the premise and authors of this book intrigued me and led me to want to read it.

Quite a number of the ghost tales were known to me—in fact, one of them was very well known as I spent a semester at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama in high school in a program called Step Ahead where incoming high school seniors could take two classes (for credit) in the summer. I was pleased that one of the first tales told in this book was about the red lady from there. That summer I lived on campus, we used to walk down to the dorm (Pratt Hall) where the poor girl supposedly died and talk about how tragic that was. A few times, it seemed there was a face at one of the windows on the top floor. Perhaps a flight of fancy since we were told the room had been boarded up. Nevertheless, it was nice to see the story in this book.

Clearly, the authors did a wonderful job fully researching the various stories they chose to share. The way the tales were sorted into categories made sense and the organization was well done. The book had a nice flow to it and a good variety of stories.

Some of the prose was a bit too woke and strident for me. There were also some places that it seemed as if the authors were lecturing or looking down on the reader. It was odd to me for them to basically attempt to shame the very demographic of people who would be attracted to reading the subject matter of this book. It was also strange since one of the authors owns a ghost tour company and the other one leads ghost tours. If you make your living from the industry, how can you legitimately look down on your customers? Seems a bit cynical to me. I almost stopped reading a couple of times because of this, but eventually picked it up again as the actual ghost stories and histories of the places were intriguing.

Overall, I enjoyed this one. I recommend the book for the stories and thorough historical research. Just skim over the parts where the writers’ judgment of the reader is problematic. I’m giving this one 3.5 stars for the historical detail and quality of the tales.

I received a copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. September 27, 2022 release date.

The Magnolia Palace- Fiona Davis

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This was a quick read that was enjoyable. I found it interesting that the main character was inspired by a real person. I knew the family who owned the Magnolia Palace were real –The Frick family. Mr. Henry Clay Frick was an industrialist as well as an art patron and eventually, he left his home to the city to make into a museum. Audrey Munson was the woman who inspired the heroine, Lillian, in this story. Audrey was used by many sculptors of that era as a model for many of the statues around the city of New York. Many call her the first super model.

The novel begins with Lillian being in the wrong place at the wrong time and she is questioned in the murder of her landlord’s wife. She flees and ends up in a job interview to be the assistant to Mr. Frick’s daughter.

The action swings back and forth from the gilded age to the 1960s where we meet a model named Veronica who has come over from England to be part of a photo shoot at the Frick mansion which is now a museum. She meets a young man who is interning at the museum.  They accidently get locked into the museum overnight in a snowstorm and blackout.

Back in the gilded age, Lillian works for the daughter of the industrialist and tries to help her in her love life as the woman’s father wants her to marry. There’s a lot of interesting psychological undertones in Frick’s son and daughter’s interactions with him as well as each other.

Lillian finds herself falling for the young man who has been chosen to be her employer’s fiancé and he falls for her as well. The daughter goes out of town with her family and sets a kind of treasure hunt around the house for her intended husband in order to amuse him while she’s gone. Lillian helps him in the quest and they draw closer together.

In the 1960s, Veronica finds the clues for the treasure hunt in the house/museum and she, along with the intern start to follow them while they are stranded in the house.

The rest of the story continues to move back and forth between the time periods and the two heroines. A murder occurs and the excitement builds in each era. I won’t say much more as I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but it’s a unique and interesting story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it if you like art, the gilded age, the 1960s, mysteries and a fictionalized look at the past in an exciting way.

Issues of racism and prejudice against women with ambition are two of the themes of this story as well as family love and conflict.  Overall, I think it’s a good story.

The Girl from Bletchley Park by Kathleen McGurl

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A tale of two protagonists. One from the 1940s and WWII era, Pam, and one from modern times, Julia, her granddaughter. The story alternates chapters between the two women. This book was an easy read as the author’s style was straightforward and uncomplicated. I found myself yelling at the modern woman for the way she allowed her husband to treat her and talk to her. I wanted to smack him for his nastiness and his thoughts that all she was basically good for was to cook and clean for him while he lolled about.

The girl from WWII who worked at Bletchley Park was naïve and a little bit too sweet for my taste but I did enjoy her storyline. She found herself working as a code breaker and signed the Official Secrets Act as part of her job. She took that very seriously although she almost messed up a few times as the story went on.

Pam was a popular girl, making friends easily and having two very different men attracted to her. She met them both when she was billeted at Woburn Abbey. One was the gardener there and the other was a young man who worked with her at Bletchley. Adventures ensue and she has to make some hard decisions, but eventually figured out her true feelings about the things happening in her life.

The modern protagonist had a lot go wrong in her life, but she drew strength from her children She was pitched a lot of curveballs as the story unfolded.

While I solved both storylines pretty early on in the book, it was still an enjoyable read and I think it is a good story for people interested in that time period as well as readers who like stories that tie together the past and the present. 

Chances Are – Laurie Ryan- a Review

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I’ve been in the throes of writing the first draft of my latest book and haven’t taken time to read for a month. I started reading Chances Are at the end of October, but was only a couple of chapters in before I went on my forced diet of no reading. It was an intriguing story from the start —the hero was particularly compelling. I could actually picture him leaning against the doorway in all his macho glory. J I wasn’t sure about the heroine as she was a lawyer and I’m always leery of lawyer characters and/or law based stories. Being one myself sure can wreak havoc with my enjoyment of a book, movie, or television show. I’m hyper critical of mistakes when the law is involved. J

When I picked the story back up this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to find the legal issues to be well done—except for a few moments of anxiety which were put at ease almost as soon as I started to twitch. J

The story was fast paced and enjoyable. The hero and heroine had great chemistry and the supporting characters (some of whom have been in other books of this series) were fully developed and delightful. I did guess one character’s secret pretty early on, but I really enjoyed her parts.

As to the villain, having known some people who had similar experiences with bad apples, the villain didn’t seem over the top to me. It could easily have gone to a situation where reality was stretched there, but didn’t. Sadly, there are too many people in the world who place blame for their situations on others. Ms. Ryan nailed that aspect of things.

Overall, this was a great read. Steamy in spots, exciting drama, and true friendships and love were shown by the main cast of characters. The next book is being written now and I’m sure it’ll be more of the same—hoping we’ll see these characters, Jackson and Aimie, again as friends with the new hero and heroine. Small town romances are the best as it’s always a possibility to run into someone you already know. Willow Bay seems like a great place to live.

The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell- a Review

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I went to a wedding a week ago in Tallahassee and, on my drive back, stopped at a couple of Goodwill Stores as they always seem to have a good selection of used books. One of the ones I purchased was The Family Upstairs. I hadn’t read any of this author before, but I’m a fan now. The book was intriguing as well as a quick read. A house with dark secrets is at the center of the tale.

The story is told from three points of view and I enjoyed all of them. Each had a distinctive voice and were compelling in different ways. The movement from each voice to the other was smooth and kept me turning pages.

In the author note, she stated her inspiration for the book came from seeing a woman in Nice, France sneaking her children into the public baths near the beach. From that, a tale of family terror, loss, and lives shattered was born. I loved how all the threads of the story came together. I figured out most of it, but a surprise or two in the pages made this reader happy as I usually solve it all before the end.

Each of the three protagonists were dramatically affected by their upbringings and the way the author showed how those experiences carried over into their adult lives was genius. It’s a dark tale, but moments of light and love shine through. I throughly recommend this one for a few hours of entertainment mixed with a little anxiety for the characters.

The Blitz Bus by Glen Blackwell

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I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

This middle grade book is a good one for children to learn about the London Blitz and WWII days of 1940. The main characters, Jack and Emmie are in modern day London and Jack is assigned to write an essay about the London Blitz and how a lot of children were evacuated to the countryside during that time. Meanwhile, in Emmie’s drama class, they are acting out the children leaving their parents.

Jack has a hard time envisioning the city at that time and is kept back at school that afternoon to finish his paper,, making him almost late to meet his friend Emmie. 

When they are finally on the bus headed home, they look out and see a shop they haven’t seen before.  In the window is a mannequin who has a gas mask.

Exiting the bus, there is a large unexplained bang. It’s raining and they take shelter at a tube station. Everyone is dressed differently than Emmie and Jack. There are cots set up in the station. The two children think they’ve stumbled onto a film set. Until very real bombs start falling and they find themselves in the middle of an air raid.

They make friends with a boy in the shelter, but don’t tell him they have somehow come from another time period.

The adventure really begins here. Jack and Emmie discover food lines, cratered buildings, rationing, bombs, anti-aircraft balloons, air raid shelters in yards, and, as well, have to hide from authorities. They fear spies are around and being taken for spies themselves with their modern items like Jack’s calculator. They find some help from their new friend, Jan, a boy from Poland.  

Even though I am nowhere near the age for middle grade stories, I enjoy them and this one was particularly good. The fact that the children were studying this era in school and couldn’t imagine how people were living and then were transported there is very educational—yet done in a fun way—A lot of interesting historical facts came through in a way that entertains and would have a younger reader on the edge of their seat worried about the two protagonists and how they would solve their problems as well as how they would be able to get back to their own time period.

The only thing I would have liked to be added to the story would be an epilogue of the children finding the friends they made in the 21st century when the friends were elderly. That would have been a fun ending. Overall, I was happy with the story and would recommend it to the middle grade age group as a history lesson full of interesting reading that will hold their interest.

Dracula’s Death, a Review – by Laszlo Tamasfi; Illustrations by Jozsef Svab

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Dracula’s Death is a retelling of a Hungarian silent film that has been lost to time. The author has meticulously researched this film as well as the novelization of the story. He has translated the tale from Hungarian and it’s a gem of a story. This is not your standard Dracula tale. This one involves a mental asylum, a young girl in love but sad due to her father’s impending death, and a lot of creepy inmates of that asylum. The heroine is a sweet character and I found myself rooting for her throughout the story. 

The story is evocative and well-told. The descriptions are lovely and this reader was transported to the snowy mountains of Europe just reading the prose. The illustrations are also lovely and amazing. Even the cover of the book is delicious. I very much enjoyed this story and appreciate the efforts made by the author to translate this to English as otherwise, it wouldn’t be available for us here to enjoy. 

After the story—which is very creepy and exciting—the author shares his research into the film. He translates many articles that were published during the time the film was being made as well as publicity ads during the era of the release of this silent film. Photos are also shared that bring this movie to life. It’s sad that its been lost to the annals of time, but wow—good job to Mr. Tamasfi for his work in bringing it to us—as well as the articles about it—and the Mr. Svab for his wonderful illustrations. 

If you like horror or Dracula tales, this one shouldn’t be missed as it’s a different take on a popular character and suitably creepy. If you’re a film buff—silent or talkies—this is a great resource for a missing piece of film history. 

If She Dies- by Erik Therme – A Review

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The blurb for this story set me up for a certain kind of story and, surprisingly, it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, there were twists and turns and some surprises, and it definitely held my attention despite not leading me where I thought it would. The beginning was not like a traditional thriller. It was a slow start that built through the first almost ¾ of the book. I liked it a lot and being surprised by a few things made it even more enjoyable. It didn’t take me long to read it, because it moved fast and held my interest.

There were a couple of places where I thought the protagonist, Tess, was a little naïve and slow on the uptake, but it served the plot, so I can get past that. She wasn’t one of those heroines that make the reader want to slap some sense into her and the naivety was somewhat understandable.

The minor characters like Tess’s brother and husband were well-drawn with good back stories and motivations for their actions. Her husband, Josh, was a bit OCD, but that showed the author put a lot of thought into how he would act as well as react to Tess. I did get a bit peeved at Josh a few times, but to me, that’s a sign of a good story since it means I am relating to the characters.

I have a friend who lost her child in similar circumstances to how Tess and Josh lost Lily and so much of how these characters dealt with their grief was familiar to me from what my friend and her husband went through, the scenes dealing with the sadness, loss and lack of communication really resonated with me. Well done to the author for being able to realistically write about such horrific loss as well as making the story suspenseful.

This one is a 4.5 star read for me. A hard subject handled skillfully.