Book Review: A WITCH BEFORE DYING by Heather Blake

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Series: A Wishcraft Mystery, #2
Publisher: Signet
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Source: Paperback purchase
Rating: ★★★★½


Darcy Merriweather is Salem, Massachusetts’ newest resident Wishcrafter—a witch who can grant wishes for others. While Darcy isn’t able to grant wishes for herself, she does possess a certain knack for solving problems—including the occasional murder…

When Darcy is hired by Elodie Keaton to clean up her missing mother’s disorderly home, the Wishcrafter is certainly up for the task. After all, the motto of her Aunt Ve’s personal concierge service As You Wish is “No Job Impossible.” But beneath the piles of old newspapers and knickknacks Darcy discovers something much more disturbing—Patrice Keaton’s body.

Darcy’s determined to give Elodie peace of mind by investigating her mother’s disappearance and death. Patrice was last seen over a year ago after a fight with her Charmcrafter boyfriend. Was her murder a crime of passion? Or were Patrice’s troubles caused by the Anicula, a wish-granting amulet? Now Darcy has to not only find a killer, she has to find the Anicula— before the power of ultimate wish fulfillment falls into the wrong hands…


A WITCH BEFORE DYING is the second book in Heather Blake’s Wishcraft Mystery series which is set in a magical neighborhood of Salem, Massachusetts. Ms. Blake’s “witchy” cozy mysteries are a delight to read, and this one was no exception.

The mystery in this book was very good. It was complex with interwoven plot lines, and I was kept guessing until the very end. Wishcrafter Darcy Merriweather has her hands full when she’s hired to clean out a missing hoarder’s house, and she finds the dead body of the woman buried under all the junk. It was like an episode of Hoarders gone horribly wrong! Since it’s obvious foul play was involved and the woman’s dangerous magical amulet is missing, the daughter of the victim hires Darcy to find the killer. Though not an official private investigator (yet), Darcy is clever and has a knack for solving mysteries.

No big secrets of the Enchanted Village are revealed in this book, though we do get to know more characters – crafters, half-crafters, and a few who are just passing through. New relationships bloom, and old ones are severed. I especially loved seeing Darcy and Mimi’s bond grow stronger. Mimi is Darcy’s potential boyfriend’s daughter. Sweet! Like in the last book, the familiars Archie the macaw and Pepe the mouse were too funny.

This was an enjoyable read with unique characters, just the right about of woo woo, and a strong mystery that takes center stage.

Book Review: CHARMS AND CHOCOLATE CHIPS by Bailey Cates

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Series: A Magical Bakery Mystery, #3
Publisher: Signet
Released: November 5, 2013
Source: Borrowed from the Library

Between brewing magically spiced treats at Honeybee Bakery and volunteering with a local conservation group, Katie Lightfoot barely has time to see her firefighter boyfriend, Declan McCarthy, much less delve further into her destiny as a witch. But avoiding her fate won’t be as easy as whipping up a new recipe—especially when Katie finds herself once again mixed up in murder.

When a fellow volunteer for the conservation group is found dead, Katie’s mystical senses tell her that there’s more to the death than meets the eye. Her suspicions are confirmed when members of her coven are targeted next. Katie will have to embrace her powers quickly…or she may find herself chewed up and spit out by some serious black magic.

 ———

CHARMS AND CHOCOLATE CHIPS is a delightful continuation of the Magical Bakery Mystery series. This time around, Katie is faced with murky, woo woo filled swamps, endangered bats, and the mysterious murder of a local environmentalist.

First, I’ll get my complaint out of the way. In the first two books, Katie was being wooed by firefighter Declan and Druid/reporter Steve. She’s finally made her choice, and she picked the wrong guy! That’s strictly my opinion, of course. 😉 I’m still holding onto a glimmer of hope for my man.

Katie is a recent transplant to Savannah, and a lot has happened in her life since her arrival. She’s running an enchanted bakery with her aunt and uncle, practicing her craft as a hedge-witch, and becoming a skilled amateur sleuth. Katie also discovered that she is a light-witch and magical catalyst, which she’s having a hard time with. Basically, she must fight evil, and wrong situations seem to find her so she can right them.

The murder mystery in this book grabbed my attention. I really enjoyed the environmental angle, and the subtle magical elements too. When a volunteer at a the conservation group Georgia Wild is murdered, Katie is compelled to help track down her killer. The group is trying to stop a land development deal of a swamp from going through which threatens the habitat of an endangered, possibly extinct, bat. There were plenty of viable suspects, and though I picked out the killer early on, I wasn’t clear on the “why” until the end.

Katie is a down-to-earth, sensible character who’s doing a fine job as a newbie in the world of magic. She’s still very confused over the light-witch revelation (me too), and I’m hoping that gets explained better in the next book. Sweet Aunt Lucy and the rest of the Spellbook Club (a.k.a. Katie’s coven) play a big role in this story. I don’t know why, but I still have a hard time keeping track of who’s who, even after three books! I was a little annoyed with coven member Cookie this time. She was cold and distant to Katie the whole book, and her reason was kind of silly.

Overall, I enjoyed CHARMS AND CHOCOLATE CHIPS. Exciting mystery, enchanting setting, and bewitched baked goods. Looking forward to Katie’s next adventure.

Rating: 4 Stars

Book Review: A POTION TO DIE FOR by Heather Blake

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Series: A Magic Potion Mystery, #1
Publisher: Signet
Released: November 5, 2013
Source: Purchased for my Kindle

As the owner of Little Shop of Potions, a magic potion shop specializing in love potions, Carly Bell Hartwell finds her product more in demand than ever. A local soothsayer has predicted that a couple in town will soon divorce—and now it seems every married person in Hitching Post, Alabama, wants a little extra matrimonial magic to make sure they stay hitched.

But when Carly finds a dead man in her shop, clutching one of her potion bottles, she goes from most popular potion person to public enemy number one. In no time the murder investigation becomes a witch hunt—literally! Now Carly is going to need to brew up some serious sleuthing skills to clear her name and find the real killer—before the whole town becomes convinced her potions really are to die for!

———

I’ve been waiting on this book to come out for many months! I bought it early on release day and gobbled it up. A POTION TO DIE FOR had all my favorite elements: a puzzling mystery, surprising plot twists, a cast of colorful characters, a little woo woo, and the beginnings of a second chance romance to boot!

Carly Bell Hartwell is a healing witch and owner of Little Shop of Potions, located in Hitching Post, Alabama. The tourists and townsfolk are always in need of her magical potions, especially when a seer predicts an upcoming divorce. On the same day as the prediction, Carly finds a dead body in her store’s break room. It’s a local lawyer, obviously murdered and clutching one of her potion bottles. Bad news for Carly and her livelihood!

Carly is soon wrapped up in an intriguing, multilayered mystery. Her ex-fiance Dylan is the investigator on the case, which makes for some nice romantic tension. (Yep, there’s still something between them, even if they don’t want to admit it – yet.) Being that Hitching Post is a very small town, Carly is able to see and hear things that may help with the investigation. With a little help from her arch nemesis (also known as her cousin Delia), Carly is able to piece together what really happened to the murder victim and bring the killer to justice. By the way, I loved Delia.  She owns the hex shop across the street from Carly, and she only deals in the dark arts. There’s an interesting family squabble going on there, with lots of history behind it.

A POTION TO DIE FOR is an enchanting start to Heather Blake’s new series. Fans of paranormal cozy mysteries are sure to be delighted. Looking forward to more!

Rating: 5 Stars

Audiobook Review: THE FATE OF MERCY ALBAN by Wendy Webb

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Format: Audio; 8 CDs (9 hrs.)
Narrator: Kirsten Potter
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Released: February 5, 2013
Source: Borrowed from the library

From award-winning novelist Wendy Webb comes a spine-tingling mystery about family secrets set in a big, old haunted house on Lake Superior.

Grace Alban has spent twenty years away from her childhood home, the stately Alban House, for reasons she would rather forget. But when her mother’s unexpected death brings Grace and her teen-age daughter home, she finds more haunting the halls and passageways of Alban House than her own personal demons.

Long-buried family secrets, a packet of old love letters and a lost manuscript plunge Grace into a decades-old mystery about a scandalous party at Alban House, when a world-famous author took his own life and Grace’s aunt disappeared without a trace. The night has been shrouded in secrecy by the powerful Alban family for all of these years, and Grace realizes her family secrets tangle and twist as darkly as the secret passages of Alban House. Her mother was intending to tell the truth about that night to a reporter on the very day she died – could it have been murder? Or was she a victim of the supposed Alban curse? With the help of the disarmingly kind–and attractive—Reverend Matthew Parker, Grace must uncover the truth about her home and its curse before she and her daughter become the next victims.

———

THE FATE OF MERCY ALBAN was an eerie contemporary Gothic with all the right elements: a creepy old mansion, dark family secrets, deadly curses, a mysterious death, a ghostly woman in white, and a dash of romance.

The Alban family has been cursed since building the estate on the shore of Lake Superior in the mid-1800s. Tragedy after tragedy has befallen the family. Is it caused by a malevolent spirit in the house? Or is it the house itself? No one is certain. Grace Alban left 20 years earlier to escape the past, but she finds herself back at Alban House after the death of her mother, possibly another victim of the curse.

Questions about the death of a man and the sudden disappearance of Grace’s aunt in 1956 resurface when Grace finds old love letters written to her mother. These letters give clues to what went on behind the walls of Alban house all those years ago. Grace also discovers that someone – or something – has been sneaking around the secret passageways recently. It seems the evil presence is back, and it has targeted Grace and her daughter, Amity.

Overall, this was an enjoyable story to listen to. Some of the mystery I had figured out, but there were still surprises along the way. The plot was suspenseful and moved quickly for most of the book. Some of the things the characters did (or didn’t do) seemed unusual or far-fetched, but I was okay with it, as it worked for the story as a whole. I loved the eerie atmosphere the author created, and the mysterious mansion was an intriguing character on its own. The very last page left me saying, “Ooo!” Maybe there will be a sequel at some point. I’m hoping the story of the Alban family isn’t over yet…

Rating: 3¾ Stars

Book Review: BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, AND BISCOTTI by Bailey Cates

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Series: A Magical Bakery Mystery, #2
Publisher: Signet
Released: December 31, 2012
Source: Review copy from the publisher

As a new witch—not to mention owner of Savannah’s most enchanting bakery—Katie Lightfoot is still getting used to casting spells, brewing potions, and mastering her magical powers. But that doesn’t mean she can’t find time to enjoy a picnic with firefighter Declan McCarthy…until she stumbles upon a corpse.

The dead man’s tattoo reveals he was a member of a secret society—and it turns out he’s missing an object that was very important to the group. When Katie learns the killer was after more than the man’s life, she and her Aunt Lucy leave the baked goods on the rack to cool and set off in hot pursuit of a killer.

———

BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, AND BISCOTTI is the second book in the Magical Bakery Mystery series, and I enjoyed it even more than the first.

Katie Lightfoot is settling in as co-owner of Honeybee Bakery in Savannah, and getting used to her new found magical powers. While having a lovely breakfast picnic in the park, Katie and Declan (one of her two love interests) find a dead body.

The deceased man’s mysterious tattoo fascinates Katie, and with help from her other love interest, Steve, she finds out he belonged to a super secret group of powerful (and misogynistic) druids. She also learns that the man’s killer may be planning something darker and more dangerous when some important books from his library go missing.

Katie and the witchy ladies from the Spellbook Club reluctantly join forces with the devious druids to catch the killer.

The mystery in this book was a bit darker and more complex than the first book, and it really drew me in. Magic in this story was explored on a deeper level as well, though Katie used her smarts, not magic, to figure out the culprit.

The Declan-Katie-Steve love triangle continues, and Katie doesn’t seem any closer to deciding who she wants most, though readers get to learn much more about Steve in this book. (I’m really liking Steve.)

BEWITCHED, BOTHERED, AND BISCOTTI is a must read for fans of paranormal cozy mysteries. I can’t wait for the next in the series!

Rating: 4½ Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.