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Audiobook review: Moonshine & Magic

Author:  Bella Falls
Narrator: Johanna Parker
Audio Speed: 1.25x
Series: Southern Charms Cozy Mystery #1
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Paranormal
Source: Tantor Audio

Moonshine and Magic, the first title of a quaint, paranormal cozy mystery series, centers on the return of Charli Goodwin to her hometown of Honeysuckle Hollow, a place where non-humans can live together peacefully. Charli is a witch with an rare talent for finding misplaced items and people. She abruptly left Honeysuckle Hollow, and her finance, roughly a year ago, and her return goes a bit south when first her ex-finance proposes to her bratty cousin in front of the entire town, followed by Charli’s discovery that her favorite uncle is dead. 

Moonshine and Magic was a rough start for me. First I was confused as to how long Charli was gone from her hometown. At times it was “forever ago,” but then “not that long ago.” Additionally, Charli came off selfish, not telling her loved ones that she was leaving or where she went. Additionally, I had issues with her older brother, who in his effort to “protect” Charli, was pushy, vague, and unable to stand up to the “paranormal police” when Detective Mason went after her for her involvement in her uncle’s death. The mystery was slow starting and I found myself annoyed with the characters.

However, after taking a short break, I jumped back into the audiobook and found it more appealing. Once things settled in and other characters introduced, the mystery of who killed Uncle Tipper picked up speed. Charli is in the middle of it all, and has a few stumbles before capturing the culprit. And although several characters are somewhat stereotypical (bitchy aunt and stuck up cousin, alpha males, potential love triangle, etc.), I grew to like them and enjoyed the story. My biggest issue with Charli is that she got precariously close to “too stupid to live” territory when her stubborn behaviors nearly killed her three separate times.

The narration by Johanna Parker took me a bit to get used to, but only because I have been listening to her read the SPI series by Lisa Shearin, one of which I completed just before starting Moonshine and Magic. This caused some mental confusion for a good quarter or more of the book, thinking I was listening to Mak (SPI) instead of Charli. However, once I finally got into the story and warmed up to the characters, I found Ms. Parker’s performance enjoyable and well-suited for the story and setting. She conveys a charming southern attitude, which fits the small town of Honeysuckle Hollow. She is able to put a bit of desperation into Charli when needed, but generally keeps her voice calm and steady. The supporting characters each have their own unique voice, some of which are a bit odd, but once again, fitting to the unconventional cast of paranormal characters that inhabit the story.

Overall, I enjoyed Moonshine and Magic, even with the rough start and my few misgivings. The author set the stage for conflict and intrigue for any upcoming tales, and after warming up to Charli, I look forward to uncovering more mysteries with her.

My Ratings: Story: B-
Narration: B Jen About the Book:

Charli Goodwin doesn’t expect her homecoming to go without a hitch–after all, she skipped town, leaving her fiancé and family without a clue as to where she was going or why. Now that she’s ready to return home, she plans to lay low and sip some of her Nana’s sweet tea while the town gossips come out to play.

Unfortunately, on her first night back, Charli discovers the body of her crazy great-uncle, and suddenly finds herself at the center of a mystery that threatens the very foundations of Honeysuckle Hollow and the safety of every paranormal citizen in it–starting with Charli herself. 

With the clock ticking, will Charli’s special magical talents be enough to save not only the town but also her own life?

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Audiobook review: Lucky Witch

Author: Danielle Garrett
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi
Audio Speed: 1.5x
Series: Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries #5
Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Source: Tantor Audio

Lucky Witch opens only a few short weeks after the dramatic events that unfolded near the conclusion of the previous book, Witch Way Home, when human friend Nick was abruptly introduced to the supernatural world following a werewolf attack. With Holly feeling responsible and Adam willing to help the transition, the friends are shocked when the full moon hits and Nick’s transformation doesn’t go as planned. Couple that with a dead werewolf in the woods and a mysterious leprechaun, Beechwood Harbor Manor is once again the center of all things problematic. 

I genuinely adore the Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries and main character Holly Boldt’s crazy, flustered life. The cozy mysteries are usually well-thought out and keep me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what is going on. I also love the friendships Holly has made and the hint of romance with shifter Adam. With that said, Lucky Witch seems to fall short on both the mystery and romance fronts. 

First, the mystery of who killed a werewolf in the Manor’s woods, and the reasons behind the murder, begins in a promising way. Everything seems to point to Nick’s odd transformation and the story that began in the previous book. However, as the mystery unfolds, the strength of the story diminishes, and I felt like some of the parts were not supported by the clues. Overall, the end result felt weak and a bit disappointing. Additionally, the side story with the leprechaun goes no where, and I was left wondering why it was even part of the book in the first place.

Second, and the really frustrating thing for me, is that issues pop up AGAIN between Adam and Holly. This has been a long-standing problem for me throughout this series. The pair seems to get settled in one book, only to have things come between them in the next book. I have said this before, but it’s worth repeating – either get them together or break them up, end of romance. I will admit, things felt good between the pair at the close of the book, but I’ve felt that way before only to be disappointed. With only one book left in this enjoyable series, I truly hope things are settled for good this time!

As always, Holly and her friends are brought to life through the performance of Amanda Ronconi, who has consistently done a wonderful job. Her interpretation of Holly is always spot on – flustered and frazzled – just like Holly. Ms. Ronconi convincingly portrays Holly’s thoughts, concerns, and expressions. She helps solidify Holly as a favorite character of mine. Her female voices are each a bit different and well-suited. And unlike in previous books, I didn’t notice confusion between her male characters. Whether it is because of the narrator, writing, or both, I’m not certain, but overall, Ms. Ronconi does a wonderful job.

In the end, Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries remains one of the more enjoyable series I’ve listened to, and despite my frustrations with Lucky Witch, I still look forward to listening to more in the series. 

My Ratings
Story: B-
Narration: B+

Review copy provided by Tantor Audio

Jen About the Book:

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and Holly’s feeling lucky… 

At least, right up until a dead body shows up in the woods behind the esteemed Beechwood Manor. 

With the townspeople distracted by a mysterious shamrock-themed scavenger hunt, everyone seems content to chalk up the death as a tragic hunting accident. But when the clover-shaped clues lead back to the crime scene, things take a deadly turn. 

With a rogue leprechaun on the loose and something sinister lurking on the edges of town, it’s up to Holly to stop the murderer and keep secret paranormal powers from swallowing up the sleepy town she’s grown to love. 

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Into the Thinnest of Air
Author:
Simon R. Green
Reviewer:
Gikany and Una
Rating: B 

What We’re Talking About:

After the revelation in the previous Ishmael Jones novel, we were surprised by Into the Thinnest of Air.  We weren’t expecting an intermission.

Simon Green’s witty mystery/suspense series with a science-fiction twist has fascinated us for four novels.  Ishmael and Penny brave the strange and horrific, sleuthing out the culprit(s) while maintaining witty banter.  After the hint given in the previous book we had hoped to learn more about Ishmael’s mysterious past or see if Ishmael decides to dig into it.  What we didn’t expect is for Penny to surprise him with a holiday weekend.  

Into the Thinnest of Air felt like a break in the overarching plot of Ishmael’s past.  Penny and Ishmael go into the country for a fun weekend, visiting a group of Penny’s father’s old friends.  However, nothing for them is ever as it seems and people begin to disappear after dinner.  With no bodies to examine and nothing in the way of clues left, Penny and Ishmael are lost as they try to figure out what is going on.  The majority of the novel is mostly the remaining members of the group arguing about if the disappearances are the work of the supernatural or a more mundane monster.  This group of friends is made up of a handful of once young-dreamers now resigned middle-aged adults chained to the fate that a bad decision left them.  The revelation of the mystery is as fascinating as it is chilling heinous, but it felt as if Penny and Ishmael spent most of the novel either chatting, arguing, or running around in circles.  As a standalone mystery, it is interesting but as the next novel in this series, we were a bit let down.  

Although this is our least favorite story in this series, we still really like this series and are eager to see what happens in the next installment.  The mystery/drama may have been a little lackluster, but the humor and wit was still strong.  Hopefully it will be less a battle of words and suspicions and more battling of the evil forces in the world in the upcoming story.  Our fingers are crossed that more of Ishmael’s background will come into play in the next Ishmael Jones novel.

Our Rating:  B, Liked It

About the Book:

Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny are attending the re-opening of Tyrone’s Castle, an ancient Cornish inn originally built by smugglers. Over dinner that night, the guests entertain one another with ghost stories inspired by local legends and superstitions. But it would appear that the curse of Tyrone’s Castle has struck for real when one of their number disappears into thin air. And then another . . .

Is the inn really subject to an ancient curse? Skeptical of ghost stories, Ishmael believes the key to the mystery lies in the present rather than the past. But with no bodies, no evidence and no clues to go on, how can he prove it?

Release Date: March 1, 2018
Publisher:
Severn House Publishers
Series:
Ismael Jones #5
Genre:
Sci-fi/Mystery
Format(s):
Hardcover (167 pages), e-book
Book Source: Purchased with our own funds

Purchase Info:
Amazon

Reviews in the Series:
Death Shall Come by Simon R. Green (Ishmael Jones #4)

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Welcome to our feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to…

Audiobook review: Twice the Witch

Author: Danielle Garrett
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi
Audio Speed: 1.5x
Series: Beechwood Harbor Magic Mysteries #2
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Source: Tantor Audio

Picking up about a month after the conclusion of the first book, Twice the Witch finds our heroine Holly settled into her life in Beechwood Harbor. She spends most of her time working at the local coffee shop, Siren’s Song, having to cut short time spent with new boyfriend, housemate and werewolf, Adam. Holly contemplates her current situation, knowing she doesn’t want to spend her life working at the coffee shop, hoping to grow her mostly illegal potion selling business. She’s weary of confiding in Adam because of her mysterious past. Holly is also dealing with being one of two witches at the manor. She’s a bit jealous of newcomer Evangeline, but more annoyed with her. Evangeline has her eye on Adam, and seems to be up to something nefarious. 

The story picks up speed quickly with the introduction of a newly deceased ghost and her connection to a case Nick, the town’s new PI, is working on. Once again, Holly finds herself wrapped up in a murder investigation, determined to help Nick solve the mystery, using her magically enhanced detective skills without his knowledge. The murder mystery is clever and exciting. I found myself engrossed in the guessing game of whodunit, even when I was worried Holly was sabotaging her relationship with Adam because of how much time she spends with Nick.

In addition to the murder mystery, Twice the Witch explores more about Holly’s past and the Haven system. Through her interactions with Evangeline and Adam, Holly gives readers clues about what got her evicted from the magical Haven system where most supernaturals live their lives. I appreciate the balance of answers and new questions the author puts into the book. I also really like the direction the overarching story takes by the end of the book, solidify some tenuous relationships and creating a solid cast of characters for the upcoming titles. 

As I mentioned in my review of the first book, Murder’s a Witch, I picked up the series because of narrator, Amanda Ronconi, who continues to do a marvelous job with the varied cast of characters. Ms. Ronconi narrates the story in the voice of primary character, Holly, infusing her quirky personality with pep and joy. She nails Holly’s nutty persona, bringing her harried, crazy world to life. She also provides a range of voices well-suited to the supporting cast, although I feel her male characters aren’t as varied, and I confused the characters at times.

In the end, Twice the Witch is an engaging cozy paranormal mystery. Ms. Garrett’s storytelling strengthened with this second tale. I found the combination of mystery solving, light romance, and character-driven plotlines entertaining and hard to put down.

My Rating: A-
Narration: A-

Review copy provided by Tantor Audio

About the Book:

There’s a new witch in town… 

Jealousy is rearing its ugly head in Beechwood Harbor as Holly contends with her new roommate, and popular paranormal soap star, Evangeline Loren. Especially when the new witch in town turns her flirtatious smile towards Adam St. James, Holly’s newly minted boyfriend. 

But before she can wrench Adam from Evangeline’s clutches, she has an amnesiac ghost begging for her help and finds herself smack dab in the middle of another murder investigation in the small town. 

Holly has to track down the murderer and save her relationship … all without landing herself in a witch’s duel.

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