Two Magical Mysteries

steeped-jacket      Steeped to Death by Gretchen Rue

Phoebe is ready for a life change, and happily moves from Seattle to Raven Creek, Washington after she inherits a house and business from her Aunt Eudora. The house comes with Bob the cat, and the bookshop/tea room has an upstairs apartment that unexpectedly has a tenant she used to know. When a local woman demands that Phoebe sell her house and a body turns up behind the shop, Phoebe quickly realizes she needs to learn more about the town and her aunt. Some of Eudora’s teas seem to have magical properties. Also, Phoebe really should pay more attention to the cat. This was a fun, light read. More books featuring Phoebe are planned.

Whiskers and Lies by Sofie Kelly whiskers-jacket

Several previous books, beginning with Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, have shown librarian Kathleen Paulson settling into life in Mayville Heights, Minnesota. She runs the library, and is busy helping plan the Halloween party for the library’s Reading Buddies program. Kathleen is also hoping to discover the identity of the prankster who keeps leaving items in the library’s gazebo overlooking the river, from a small pool filled with jello to a headless horseman. In the past, magical cats Owen and Hercules have helped her investigate crimes in town, and they’re ready to assist when a visitor to town is found dead near the river. A visit to Mayville Heights always makes for very enjoyable reading.

Readalikes include:

Interview with a Dead Editor by Shanna Swendson

Brownies & Broomsticks by Bailey Cates

In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon

Live and Let Chai by Bree Baker

Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower

Enjoy! Brenda

Magic for Liars

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Oakland private investigator Ivy Gamble is mugged on her way to work, and shortly afterwards a stranger appears in her locked office. Ivy is asked to investigate a suspicious, gruesome death at Osthorne Academy for Young Mages. Ivy doesn’t usually investigate possible murders, but the retainer offered is large, and she will have the chance to reconnect with her estranged twin sister Tabitha, a teacher at the school. Ivy has 14 years of experience as a PI, but feels ordinary compared to her brilliant, magical sister.

At Osthorne, Ivy wonders if it’s wrong to let staff and students think she also has magical powers. What if she dates one of the teachers? Does she want a relationship with her sister, and can she be trusted? Darkly humorous, this compelling read skillfully combines mystery, fantasy, and relationship fiction. Readalikes include Book of Night by Holly Black, Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, and A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.

Brenda

The Sparrow Sisters

sparrow jacketThe Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

An unusual first novel, an excellent readalike for Sarah Addison Allen fans. Set in a seaside town on Cape Cod, the three Sparrow Sisters run a plant nursery, and youngest sister Patience makes herbal remedies for the town. When doctor Henry Carlyle moves to Granite Point, he is skeptical of Patience’s talents. Neither Nettie nor Sorrel has ever married, and the three sisters live in the house they grew up in. When tragedy strikes, Patience’s remedies come under suspicion, and many of the men in Granite Point turn against the sisters. Magical realism is strong but never stated in this book, as Patience’s moods seem to affect the whole town, just like her ancestor Eliza Howard. In spite of the turmoil, one sister falls in love and another gains an admirer. The tone of the book changes, which makes for an unsettling reading experience. I’m expecting small town charm, quite a bit about plants, some romance and magic, and that’s what the first half of the book is like. Then it turns darker, melancholy and suspenseful, with the ending rather uncertain. But that makes for a memorable book, with more depth than a typical cozy mystery or romance.
Brenda

First Frost

first frost jacketFirst Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First Frost is a pleasant, mostly gentle read that may make you hungry. I didn’t realize at first that it’s a sequel to the author’s first book, Garden Spells, set ten years later in Bascom, North Carolina. Claire is living in the house she inherited from her Waverley grandmother, but now makes candy with edible flowers instead of catering. Her niece Bay enjoys helping out, but Claire is increasingly tense. The Waverley women all have minor magical talents. Elderly cousin Evanelle gives people unusual gifts they may need later, such as a spatula. Claire’s affinity is for flowers and cooking, while her sister Sydney is a wonderful hair stylist. But Claire’s young daughter seems quite ordinary. Bay knows where some people and things belong, making her a great organizer, but when she gives Josh a note telling him that he belongs in her life, he doesn’t know how to respond. When a stranger in town tries to convince Claire that she’s not really a Waverley, it takes the magic of first frost, when their apple tree blooms, to set things to rights. It’s nice to visit with the Waverleys again, and Bay is an appealing narrator, but I wanted more back story to remind me what happened in the first book. Actually, I’d really like a book set earlier than First Frost. Complaints aside, this was a very enjoyable book to read, and I will probably re-read Garden Spells.
Brenda