Short & Sweet Sundays: Forever Charmed by Rose Pressey

Sundays are a day of rest. So in honor of this one day of the week when I can legitimately loaf around in my Garfield jammies in front of the DVR, I bring you “Short and Sweet Sundays.” This is a fun way for me to write up a quick and dirty book blog without getting too wordy.

17331698Summary (from the publisher) Halloween Laveau is descended from a long line of witches. Yes, her name is Halloween. The cosmic universe is definitely playing some kind of sick joke on her. She’s the ultimate witch cliché, complete with a black cat and spooky house. Thank heavens she’s missing the warts and flying broom.

When Halloween inherits her great-aunt’s manor, she decides to put the house to good use as a bed-and-breakfast. Her first guest is the sinfully good-looking Nicolas Marco, but he’s not here for the continental breakfast. Halloween discovers a ratty old book in the attic. It’s written in an unfamiliar language, and unknown to her, the tome is cursed.

Halloween soon learns there’s a link between the book and her newfound talent as a necromancer. But her new skills come with a catch: the reanimated dead aren’t as cupcake-sweet as they were when they were alive. When a rival witch comes after the book, Halloween doesn’t know who to trust–the sexy vampire who says he wants to save the day, or the warlock who says he can destroy the book once and for all.

Halloween had better learn fast. Because when the dead start rising, only a powerful witch can put them back under

What I liked: The premise is the book’s biggest selling point. The author was really on to something when she created a series about a witch named Halloween running a mystical B&B in a charming little town. Sprinkle in a love triangle with a couple of mysterious bad boys and I’m sold.

Favorite character: Sorry to be an asshole, but I have to be honest. All of the characters fell flat for me. I could see that the author was trying to paint Halloween as a lovable, quirky fledgling witch, but it just didn’t work out. I needed more of a backstory about her struggle as an outsider – something that could have resonated with my own plight as a nerdy social outcast back in high school.  I’m not saying that she’s unlikeable, she just needed more depth. Plus the witty banter between Halloween and her best friend seemed forced. I got the sense that she didn’t really have a good handle on her characters, resulting in wonky dynamics and stilted dialogue.

The cover: Speaking of shallow, I admit that I bought this book because of the cover. While I was shopping around on my Nook, I immediately honed in on the fearless, fashionable blonde standing before a creepy haunted manor amidst the backdrop of a starry midnight sky. I love a good Halloween story filled with spooky atmosphere and magic! Moral of the story: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Overall assessment:  If you like fluffy, uncomplicated paranormal romances, perhaps you’ll enjoy this book. And hey, sometimes it’s nice to read a little fluff every now and then. When my brain needs a break, there’s nothing I’d rather do than veg out in front of one of those paint-by-the-numbers Hallmark movies. But if you’re looking for a witchcraft series with a little more depth and suspense, I recommend picking up a book by Juliet Blackwell or Debbie Viguie.

The Friday Five: The Last Grave: A Witch Hunt Novel

In honor of the coolest day of the week, I bring you The Friday Five. Every Friday I will ask the same five questions to myself, or any other willing participant! All my fellow book lovers are welcome to join in on the fun.

15808533From the publisher: Samantha Ryan—homicide detective by choice, witch hunter by necessity—has left Salem for San Francisco, hoping a move will help her forget the horrors of her past. But she’s about to discover that witches tempted by the dark side are everywhere…. Samantha is doing whatever she can to forget her terrible childhood in a coven destroyed by its members’ greed and lust for power. Now she’s a San Francisco detective struggling to fight her own desire to turn to magic. But as she discovers, escaping who you are isn’t easy. Her latest case seems straightforward enough—the murder of a local historian named Winona Lightfoot. But strange clues take Samantha to the Santa Cruz Mountains, a place teeming with witches and black magic. As she works to uncover the connection between Winona and this coven, an earthquake rocks the Bay Area. That’s when Samantha has a premonition: Something is coming. Something evil. To survive—and save everyone around her—she will have to tackle her greatest fear, and hope she isn’t the next one put into a deep, dark grave….

Why did you choose this book? When a Signet Publishing rep offered up this book, I immediately responded with a “Yes, please!” Since I’m a huge fan of Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mystery series set in San Francisco, this book looked like a surefire win. How could I go wrong with witchcraft, mystery and a touch of romance?

Where did the author go right? Or if it’s a turkey, what went wrong? This book is so incredible; I don’t even know where to begin! I guess I could start with Samantha. Despite the whole superhuman thing, I think a lot of readers can relate with her struggle to overcome her past. Anyone who has suffered from an abusive upbringing will emphasize with Samantha’s self-doubt and trust issues. I really fell in love with this character because she desperately wants to be a good person, but ghosts from the past kept dragging her back down the rabbit hole.

In addition to an incredibly endearing main character, the author knows how to weave together a tightly-plotted mystery.

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I felt like I was right there with Samantha as she stumbled upon bizarre clues – like a petrified dead body in the middle of a museum – and came up with more questions than answers. The momentum kept building – leaving me with no other option but to tear through the pages until I knew San Francisco was safe from a ginormous earthquake. I’ll stop right here before I give anything away. But I will say that she’s dealing with one helluva evil witch who’s willing to wipe out an entire city to get what she wants.

While I’m at it, I should mention the setting. Like Juliet Blackwell, this author uses the San Francisco backdrop to her advantage. I especially loved her descriptions of the spooky circle of trees amid the backdrop of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Oh and the nighttime rendezvous scene at the Santa Cruz boardwalk totally evoked images of Lost Boys. What is it about carnival rides after dark? There’s something really unsettling about being all alone in an amusement park with the dead eyes of carousel horses staring back at you.

Did anything bug you about the book? Oh man, I wish I could offer some constructive criticism, but nope. Just keep doing what you’re doing, Debbie.

Would you read another book by this author? Absolutely! I’m listening to the first installment of the Witch Hunt series right now on audio. I just finished the part where Samantha escaped the forces of evil in the house where her mother and her coven of evil witches were found dead in a supposed “mass suicide.” This is some creepy stuff, y’all!

How would you sum up the book in three words? Scary, thrilling, addictive.

Mystery and Suspense Reading Challenge 2012!

I have a huge pile of cozies just waiting to be read, so this Book Chick City Mystery and Suspense Challenge should be a cinch! I have until this time next year to read 24 mysteries. From crime-solving kitties to ghost-whispering sleuths, my reading list is chock-full of murder, mayhem, romance and intrigue! To get a head start, I think I’ll skip out on the Sixth Street party scene this New Year’s Eve and ring in 2012 with a paranormal cozy. The real challenge here is deciding which one to read first!

 Here’s the first 16 whodunits I plan to read:

 1. How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner
 2. Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs by Blaize Clement
 3. Hostile Makeover by Ellen Byerrum
 4. Jane and the Ghosts of Netley by Stephanie Barron
 5. Greedy Bones by Carolyn Haines–Read her Q&A here.
 6. Bone Appetit by Carolyn Haines–Read my review for “Wishbones” here.
 7. Pushing Up Bluebonnets by Leann Sweeney
 8. A Bad Day for Scandal by Sophie Littlefield–Read my review for “A Bad Day for Sorry” here.
 9. Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell — Read her Q&A here.
10. A Crazy Little Thing Called Death by Nancy Martin–Read my review for “Murder Melts in Your Mouth” here.
11. Better Read than Dead by Victoria Laurie
12. How to Survive a Killer Séance by Penny Warner
13. Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Copperman
14. Murder Past Due by Miranda James
15. The Trouble with Magic by Madelyn Alt
16. Death on Heels by Ellen Byerrum 

For more details about this challenge, visit Book Chick City.