Review: Witch Way to Murder

Title: Witch Way to Murder
Author: Shirley Damsgaard
Place/s visited:

  • Summerset, Iowa

Thoughts:
I was quite excited to read this one as it presented a great, new opportunity for me to enjoy a new book. The story had a slow start but the action and mystery sure did pick up right towards the later part of the novel.

Ophelia Jensen is a librarian at a small public library in Summerset, Iowa. Unbeknownst to other residents, Ophelia and her grandma Abby possess psychic gifts although Ophelia is quite adamant about not using it after it had seemed to fail her by not preventing her friend Brian’s murder when she was still working at the University of Iowa.

Fast forward four years, her talents started manifesting again following a murder whose victim Ophelia and one of the other main characters, Rick, found. What ensued was a bizarre mix of petty crimes and incidents which dropped hints and clues here and there leading towards the big finish, some romance, which, although quite obvious, did not develop that naturally to my taste, some humor provided by the protagonist’s sidekick, Darci, and a quite satisfactory ending.

The mystery in itself was a bit convoluted although the author tried her best to tie things up at the end. While I like that Ophelia did finally want to move past her reticence and reluctance in using her gifts, there were times when she was just a tad irritating in insisting on locking away her potential. Her moments of helplessness were quite maddening, too. Rick, on the other hand, while described as charming by the author, was just annoying at the start after dogging Ophelia and the others with his questions. He later mellowed and started redeeming himself in my eyes. Trust me, it took a really long time before I started to be okay with him. Haha!

My favorite characters would have to be Darci and Abby. Though they weren’t as fleshed out as Ophelia in characterization, they’ve more than made up for it with their spunk, wit and humor.

For my final notes, I would gladly return to Summerset and revisit these characters but that may take a while as I have decided to explore other books for the Paranormal Reading Challenge 2017. (I have just updated the list of what books I’ll be reading and reviewing for that particular challenge so you might want to check that out. ^_^)

If you’re into witches and cozy murder mysteries, then Witch Way to Murder is a good choice to pass the time especially on a cold, rainy afternoon like we’re having in Cebu today. 🙂

Verdict: A light carry-on luggage / a fun start to a new series; okay enough while waiting for your flight to be called for boarding

I’m reviewing this book as part of the Paranormal Reading Challenge 2017.
Sign-ups open throughout the year– http://www.wholelattebooks.com/2016/12/the-2017-paranormal-reading-challenge.html!


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Book image owned by the author and publisher.
Original image of the world map from www.drodd.com.
All other images in this post are copyrighted by The Traveling Reader, 2017.

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Review: Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen

Title: Maman’s Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen
Author: Donia Bijan
Place/s visited:

  • Tehran, Iran
  • Majorca, Spain
  • Fresno, California, USA

Thoughts:
Why do we chronicle our lives? Is it because we have accomplished so much that we want people to know just how good our lives have been? Or is it because we are vain and we just can’t resist a little bit of boasting? Or is it because deep down we know we have a good story to tell that other people would learn some from?
Probably a little bit of everything of those. And that’s what this book is about and more.

Connecting anecdotes and snippets of the Bijans’ lives through food and recipes learned at her mother’s kitchen and recipe books, author Donia Bijan has crafted a memoir suffused with happiness, contentment and a yearning for an easier time in the past. These tales are nothing short of mesmerizing as they paint in your mind a tableau worthy of a five-course meal in a five-star restaurant. My favorite scenes were of the author’s younger self picking sour cherries from the trees they have grown at the back of the hospital that their family has built and their travel to Majorca where their explorations of the local cuisine has induced some hunger pangs in me. Oh, to have the means to take off for some time just to soak in a new culture and what they have to offer on the table and not be bothered to hurry from one tourist spot to another but I digress.

More than just a foodie book (and a really good one at that based on the salivating I was making while trying to finish it), the accounts told of her parents’ sacrifice and exodus and eventual stay in America were what made this book solid for me. While I did enjoy all the food discussions, I sometimes found myself losing focus because I couldn’t relate to the author’s experience. There was just a slight tinge of “haughtiness” appearing here and there, probably because the narratives are told in a light and breezy manner despite the seriousness of some of the topics, though that didn’t distract me much as all the food things reeled me back in. I couldn’t help but feel that with stories like this, some of the events that happened tended to be romanticized rather than viewed and reported through the hard lenses of reality. This is not a perfect tome but since I wasn’t looking for one, this was still totally enjoyable to me.

Verdict: A jetsetter’s must-have — Quite right when reading through flights / learning more about Persian cooking

I’m reviewing this book as part of the Foodies Read 2017 Challenge.
Sign-ups for January still available until 1/31 — http://www.spiritblog.net/january-2017-foodies-read/!


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Book image owned by the author and publisher.
Original image of the world map from www.drodd.com.
All other images in this post are copyrighted by The Traveling Reader, 2017.

Mystery Monday #2: The Ghost and Mrs. McClure

I know it took me a long time to produce a follow-up to my Mystery Monday #1: Secondhand Spirits post and I apologize for that. But here’s post no. 2 and hope you’ll like it as much as you did post. no. 1. 🙂

The Ghost and Mrs. McClure by Alice Kimberly

The first novel in this “hauntingly good” cozy mystery series by the hubby and wife writing tandem of Marc Cerasini and Alice Alfonsi, under the pen name Alice Kimberly, has introduced us to Penelope “Pen” Thornton-McClure, co-owner of Buy the Book, a quaint bookstore in an even quainter town of Quindicott, Rhode Island. Pen is a single mom eager to make a new life for her and her seven-year old son Spencer back in her hometown after witnessing her husband’s suicide and leaving her publishing job in NYC and her late husband’s elitist family.

But going back to Quindicott is no picnic in the park. The bookstore needed immediate renovations and inventory problems that had to be sorted. Without much hesitation, Pen cashed in her late husband’s life insurance policy to breathe new life into the bookshop that has been in her family for years. Pen also bought and annexed the “cursed” establishment next door making Buy the Book twice as big with enough room for book-related events that could house a sizable crowd.

And it was during the first affair organized by Pen that the mystery started. Timothy Brennan, author of the famed Jack Shield series, chose Buy the Book as the first stop in his Shield of Justice book tour. It was a calculated move as the spot where Buy the Book’s community center is located was the site of the unsolved murder case involving Jack Shepard, the real life hard-boiled detective for whom the Jack Shield books are modeled after. Tim Brennan had known the real Jack back when he was still a reporter and he wanted to cash in on that notoriety. But Jack Shepard the ghost was not happy. Yup. The infamous PI has been trapped in the premises of the bookstore since 1949 when his life was unfortunately snuffed out before he could crack the case he promised his friend he would solve. Quite baffling how only Pen could hear him in her thoughts even though he had played pranks with the construction workers as the bookstore renovations were going on. What started as a getting-to-know-you between our heroine and our ghostly gumshoe quickly became an unlikely partnership in solving the murder case of Tim Brennan’s untimely demise while promoting his latest opus.

MY VERDICT:
I like it. I like how the book was able to make me feel part of that darling Rhode Island community. Alice Kimberly was keen on painting vivid details so it was quite easy to picture myself going around Buy the Book and the other locations. Unlike other cozies when it was the main character who’s responsible for solving the crime, with the Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series, it’s actually a ghost who aids and ultimately solves the mysteries (I’m on to the third book now). So this kind of premise requires a suspension of belief on the reader’s part for him/her to accept certain circumstances like how Jack and Pen are able to communicate telepathically even if Pen acknowledged herself to be a skeptic about things psychical. But I’m rather imaginative so it wasn’t that hard to believe how a ghost could interact with the living in that singularly peculiar manner.

The only stumbling block maybe for me was Jack’s language that hailed all the way from the 1940’s Americana. English is not my native tongue so I consulted the Kindle Touch’s built-in dictionary more than a few times in order to better understand the context. Some of the slang weren’t even decipherable. But other than that, the book was really fun. The relationship between the MC and the secondary characters were hilariously charming. I sure want to feel that camaraderie again in the next books as I’m planning to read them. But what sold me in on the series is my burning curiosity as to what will become of Jack as the story progresses. Will the mystery behind his death be solved? Or will he remain an immaterial entity longing to have a slice of life that was inopportunely snatched from him? Maybe it’s kind of creepy how I think he and Pen could have something going on but I’m a romantic at heart so I’m hoping (and I’m crossing my fingers on this one) the authors would be able to provide something to satiate my wants for a hot romance between the lovable single mom and the supernatural investigator.

P.S. Read my review of the second book in this series – The Ghost and the Dead Deb on BookTrib:

http://mauiehernando.booktrib.com/reviews/the-ghost-and-the-dead-deb/


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Mystery Monday Logo and Art © The Traveling Reader, 2011. Book cover image © Alice Kimberly and Berkley Prime Crime, New York.

Alice Kimberly is the pseudonym employed by the popular writing couple Marc Cerasini and Alice Alfonsi in penning The Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series. They pair also go by Cleo Coyle in writing the very popular Coffehouse Mystery Series.

You can find out more about this book and the rest of the series on:
Series Info – Haunted Bookshop Mystery Series
Author’s Website – http://www.coffeehousemystery.com/cleos_haunted_bookshop.cfm
Author’s Blog (with other mystery authors) – http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com/
Twitter – @CleoCoyle
Goodreads – Alice Kimberly on Goodreads

Mystery Monday #1: Secondhand Spirits

Today marks an important event in The Traveling Reader’s calendar because today is the debut for Mystery Monday. Certainly, the start of the year deserves a resounding bang and a brand new blog feature. At the start of every week, I’m going to be reviewing mystery books, cozies most especially. Hope you are as excited as I am. 🙂

And as far as debuts go, we are starting off with a spine-tingling piece of murder.

If you’re looking for a fluffy read, then don’t try this, as it will only seduce you with how incredibly engaging it is.

Lily Ivory is a free-spirited witch who has lived like a nomad, traipsing from one world capital to another. As a child and a budding witch, she was staying under the tutelage and guidance of her grandma Graciela, an accomplished witch with a Mexican/Cuban origin, in a small Texan town. Unfortunately, before she could complete her training, an incident threatened to divulge her status as a witch (not that others haven’t noticed the peculiar events that seemed to happen when she’s around) so she had to scram before they could burn her. After years of being on the road, Lily has finally decided to settle and take up a business of selling vintage garments in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. In a relatively short time, Lily’s vintage clothing and curio shop, Aunt Cora’s Closet, bloomed and boomed under her care. With a handy talent for spotting rare vintage finds and outfitting people with clothes that flatter them, the witch has finally found a place she could call home while keeping her secret under wraps. Being a newcomer, Lily was a bit hesitant to open up to people lest she be outcast (not again) when they find out her true nature. But fate must have something in store for Lily when she had to use her powers to get to the bottom of a mystery involving a dead client, missing children and a powerful spirit.

I literally knocked myself on the head (only a bit as I read this book through kindle which was only lent to me..hehe) when I finished Secondhand Spirits. I was only expecting a tepid storytelling peppered with details that make it a cozy mystery. Boy, was I wrong. The book, being the first in Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft Mystery Series, did not only lay the foundation for the rest of the books but it has suckered me in through the crisp dialogues, descriptions and a solid mystery case. Lily Ivory is quite a character herself. She’s a professional witch – one who knows what she can and can’t do – yet doesn’t hesitate to call in help from other paranormal experts. I truly truly like hearing her voice as she narrates the lovely time she has running her store plus meeting (and trusting) new friends. She’s smart, decisive yet is not too perfect not to be plagued by bouts of insecurity. After all, one has to be very careful when dealing with paranormal deviates as they operate on Maslow’s law – if something could go wrong, it really could in ways you can’t and won’t imagine.

Another thing that endeared this book to me was the romance. It wasn’t love-at-first-sight nor a forced occurrence. It naturally flowed with the story that I was so caught up in it long before I realized what’s happening. You’d really ache for Lily to find her HEA (happy ever after, that is). Max Carmichael was a reluctant hero and rescuer. He was a mythbuster after all with a natural distaste for anything magical or weird so being in like/lust with a witch is something he was loathe to do. But what could he do if Lily Ivory turned out to be more complicated and likeable than a potion brewed under the moonlight?

So I repeat.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy read with no flesh or bones, then don’t read this. But if you’re prepared to invest your time, effort and heart in a world of vintage clothes, strong female bonds, romance and magical mysteries, then this one’s for you. Read Secondhand Spirits and you won’t regret it. I should know as I’m now researching more about SanFo just for kicks. 😉

P.S. For more of Lily Ivory and her hippie gang, read my review of the second book in this series – A Cast-off Coven on BookTrib:

http://mauiehernando.booktrib.com/reviews/a-cast-off-coven/


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Mystery Monday Logo and Art © The Traveling Reader, 2011. Book cover image © Juliet Blackwell & Signet.

You can find out more about this series on:
Series Info – A Witchcraft Mystery Series
Author’s Website – http://julietblackwell.net/
Author’s Blog – http://paranormalartmysteries.blogspot.com/
Twitter – @JulietBlackwell
Goodreads – Juliet Blackwell on Goodreads

Guest Post: Carrier of the Mark (Book Review by and an Introduction to Felicia of A Novel Paradise)

A few weeks back, The Traveling Reader held a book giveaway contest which led me to get to know readers and bloggers from different parts of the world. Some were old friends – Karina, Memory, Isabeau, Simonette, and few previous officemates – yet most were new acquaintances. Among the new gems I found was Felicia of A Novel Paradise. This book fanatic and blogger from Singapore won 2 books from The Book Depository, one of which she’ll be reviewing for us today.


Title: Carrier of the Mark
Author: Leigh Fallon
Publisher: Harper Teen (October 4th, 2011)


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Book Review: She Smells the Dead

The first in a quickly-addicting (or addictive) series, She Smells the Dead introduces us to Yuki, a high-school girl who can, well, smell the dead. She is a spirit guide – one born with the unique ability and responsibility to bring the spirits of the dead into the light. Together with her best friends, the New Age-enthusiast Calvin Miller, and the staunch animal rights activist (and vegan at that) Emma, Yuki solves mystery cases and unfinished business involving dead spirits with only smell impressions as her main clues.

She Smells the Dead by E.J. Stevens

Yuki has a self-deprecating humor that anyone can relate to. She has spunk, is honest, fiercely loyal and she’s just laugh-out-loud funny sometimes. Plus, her emo appeal (fashion-wise) adds a charm to her already colorful character. Calvin is also someone I would like to read more about. He balances Yuki’s personality with his stability and candidness (and when the author revealed just what he really is, now that was a splendid moment, albeit predictable). And the situations they find themselves in? Ah, so made for TV. Fun and funny are words one would not normally describe paranormal stories but She Smells the Dead tops my list for the most entertaining books I’ve read this year (slight competition there with Stevens’ Spirit Storm and Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss).

But a lovely book would always have its share of flaws. While I got kilig (Tagalog word for “feeling mushy over something”) over Yuki and Calvin hooking up (anybody who grew up watching Dawson’s Creek could totally relate to what I mean), I felt it was a bit rushed. It would have helped strengthen the validity of their feelings if some leading scenes were inserted before Yuki realized that she was falling in love with her bestfriend. My other nitpick would have to be about the sparseness of the mystery cases that Yuki had to solve. Would have loved to see her “smelling prowess” in action in a few more occasions or cases. But other than that, everything else flowed smoothly.

My verdict: I didn’t expect myself to become fully engaged in this book. While I had high hopes of being entertained, I didn’t put so much stock on it thinking it was yet another run-of-the-mill YA paranormal. And boy, was I ever wrong. E.J. Stevens has created a solid series backed by a strong plot and believable characters. Reading the book through Yuki’s point of view was a fascinating experience, one I’d like to continue well into the third book and the next ones after that (yes, I eagerly devoured the second book, Spirit Storm, when I got a hold of it).

As for this book’s grade, I am quite aware that this is the first time I have given the rating “The Jetsetter’s Must-Have (more about my book review ratings). I know it’s a tall order for any book to be highly entertaining with full character development and passing our “travelability” meter at the same time. But I believe She Smells the Dead accomplished all that with flying colors. E.J. Stevens’ tale delivered a punch with a crisp saucy voice; no senseless mumblings from her. I like that. And I know you also would. So try reading the Spirit Guide Series if you’re up for a more than average teen paranormal story.

You can stalk the author on:
Her blog: http://ejstevensbooks.blogspot.com/
Twitter: @EJStevensAuthor
Goodreads: E.J. Stevens on Goodreads

P.S. See how Yuki dresses up on an otherwise blah day on Polyvore.


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Image © E.J. Stevens and Sacred Oaks Press. All rights reserved.

Book Review: Middleworld

This is how you do adventures featuring popular legends or folktales. Lots of action, danger and adventure at every turn, and characters who seem to have been lit on fire because they’re just raring for you to get to the next pages.

Middleworld by Jon & Pamela Voelkel

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