Tag Archives: paranormal

Spellcasting in Silk (Witchcraft 7)

Title: Spellcasting in Silk (Witchcraft Mystery 7)
Author: Juliet Blackwell
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978-0-451-46578-8

Book Summary:
Lily Ivory is the owner of a successful vintage clothing boutique in San Francisco; Lily is also a very gifted witch. After a traumatic upbringing and incomplete education in her craft, she has finally found friends, a solid business, a budding relationship with a man named Sailor, and a place to call home. She enjoys scavenging through estate sales to discover beautiful clothing from by-gone eras. Her familiar, Oscar, is a miniature potbellied pig by day and a lovingly grotesque cross between a gargoyle and goblin by night.

Lily’s past experiences have attracted the attention of Inspector Carlos Romero of the San Francisco Police Department’s Homicide Division, and she has become an unofficial witchy consultant to the department. As her store, Aunt Cora’s Attic, is busy with customers as they search for the perfect outfit to wear to San Francisco’s upcoming Summer of Love Festival, Inspector Romero approaches Lily for help with a mysterious case. A woman jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in an apparent suicide. When her death seems to be related to a botanica in the Mission District, Lily goes to investigate. The mysterious owner is in jail, her granddaughter is missing, and a hostile spirit is wreaking havoc on the botanica.

Lily searches for the truth in a race to find the missing girl and encounters some very powerful magic that she isn’t prepared to deal with.

Book Commentary:
I have read all the Lily Ivory books and I really enjoy them. They don’t fall into my definition of fluff mystery, so if you aren’t interested in magic and paranormal, they might not be for you. Although the plots of the mysteries are fine, I read them because I love the characters. They are diverse and quirky and people I don’t meet in my normal everyday life. Because of their uniqueness, I am drawn to their adventures and experiences. I also love that the book is set in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities. Readers who are familiar with the city may enjoy the references to places and events.

Who might like this book:
These are paranormal mysteries, which don’t appeal to everyone. I do enjoy the paranormal story, as long as it isn’t too scary!, and this series is one the better ones I have read. The plot lines and characters have definitely grown and developed over the course of the seven books, and some of them are better than others. I would, as always, recommend that they are read in order. They stand alone as a story, but I think they work a lot better as a continuing adventure saga. The author Juliet Blackwell has also written the Haunted Home Renovation series, although I haven’t been able to get into those as much.

Here are the books in order:
Secondhand Spirits
A Cast-off Coven
Hexes and Hemlines
In a Witch’s Wardrobe
Tarnished and Torn
A Vision in Velvet

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An Inquiry into Love and Death

Title: In Inquiry into Love and Death
Author: Simone St. James
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2013
ISBN: 978-0-451-23925-9

Book Summary:
In the 1920’s being a woman at Oxford is a challenge. Jillian Leigh works tirelessly to keep up with her studies and prove herself a worthy student; she has no time at all deal with a family issue. When a solicitor from London appears with news of her uncle Toby’s fatal fall from a cliff, she travels to the seaside village of Rothewell to officially identify the body and pack up his belongings. Jillian remembers her Uncle Toby fondly from childhood but after he became estranged from her parents, her interaction with him stopped. Some of the separation may have been due to Toby’s occupation – a ghost hunter. As her parents are in Europe, Jillian must take the responsible family role.

She arrives at the Barrow House, which her uncle had rented for his research, and immediately the incidents start up. A book appears in a stove, a gate swings open but no one is there; soon they escalate into something much more terrifying. An angry spirit seems to be intent on entering the house. Is it Walking John, a-two-hundred-year-old ghost who haunts Blood Moon Bay in search of his drowned son? Or, is it something significantly more real?

To complicate matters, Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken arrives on the scene. Jillian is both attracted to him and wary of him. That Scotland Yard is interested in an accidental death doesn’t sit well with the small community, and Rothewell’s eccentric populations seems to close ranks. As the accidents intensify, it become apparent to Jillian and Drew that there is more to the death of her uncle and the ghost stories than either can imagine.

Book Commentary:
This is the third book I have read by Simone St. James and I really enjoy each unique and independent story. All her novels contain a supernatural element and occur following World War I. The horrors of war affect the characters in different ways in each of the novels, and it is fascinating to see the different manifestations of ghosts in her works. The spirit in An Inquiry into Love and Death has a historical appeal and a link to smuggling on the coast of England. I found the tie to the past combined with the post-World War I really engaging. Regardless of what you think of ghosts, St. James provides some compelling justification. The story is suspenseful and exciting, but just short of scary. I have way too active an imagination for horror stories!!

Who might like this book:
An Inquiry into Love and Death would be a great book for a book club. Fans of the post-World War I era will find the descriptions of vehicles and societal attitudes especially fascinating; I enjoyed the description of the Alvis motorcar and the reactions to Jillian’s driving. Although all St. James’ stories include a romantic element, I really enjoy how that part of the plot line doesn’t detract from the main story. My 15-year-old daughter enjoys St. James’ books as well and I think her novels are a good bridge between young adult/teen literature and adult literature. We have enjoyed discussing her novels and they would work well for a mother-daughter book club selection.

The Other Side of Midnight

Title: The Other Side of Midnight
Author: Simone St. James
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978-0-451-41949-1

Book Summary:
The year is 1925 and the place is London. As families deal with soldiers who do not make it home after the war, many seek out mediums to help them contact the dead. Gloria Sutter is almost as well-known for her ability to make contact with the dead as she is for her wild and excessive lifestyle. When she is murdered at a séance, her estranged brother finds a final message from Gloria advising him to seek out her former friend, Ellie Winter. Ellie too is a medium, but she uses her talents to find lost items, not make contact with the dead.

George Sutter uses his influence to convince Ellie to aid in the investigation, and she reluctantly is reconnected with James Hawley, a war veteran and researcher dedicated to proving in the invalidity of psychics. It becomes very apparent that no one is what they seem to be. What organization does George Sutter work for and how is he able to obtain classified police information? Why did Gloria work with Ramona, a fake drug-addicted charlatan of a psychic? How do Gloria’s three brothers who died in the war figure in to the choice that Gloria made to perform the unusual séance that was the site of her demise?

St. James weaves an intricate plot that creates a lot of suspense and tension. There is a feeling that answers must be found out quickly or more tragedy will strike.

Book Commentary:
Most of the descriptions of the book use the word “atmospheric” and that is a perfect word choice. The author does a great job at creating a sense of mystery and darkness as England recovers from World War I; women are gaining independence, hair lengths are getting shorter, and hemlines are going higher.

I really enjoyed the character development and how the author wove in history, without the book being a serious historical novel. There is a lot of discussion about psychics and their growth in popularity following the first World War; the mysticism adds to the ambiance of the story without distracting from the plot. Although I was able to figure out the “who dun it” fairly easily, it was much more interesting to learn the how and why.

I have seen books by Simone St. James before, especially The Haunting of Maddy Clare, and for some reason the plot line didn’t interest me. I am going to revisit some of the author’s other works and give them a try.

Who might like this book:
Not really a fluff read, as the mysticism and history are woven so deeply into the plot, but rather a very enjoyable book. If you have read The Haunting of Maddy Clare, you will really like this one. The author has gotten even better with her plot structure and description. Paranormal mysteries can sometimes be overdone and draw attention away from the plot and characters; I feel that this novel achieves a good balance.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare

Title: The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Author: Simone St. James
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 978-0-451-23568-8

Book Summary:
Sarah Piper’s parents are dead and she is left alone in the world. Struggling to survive, she accepts a questionable temporary assignment with a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis is wealthy, handsome, extremely personable . . . and obsessed with ghosts. His books and reputation have brought on the interest of Mrs. Clare. Widowed and living with her housekeeper, Mrs. Macready, Mrs. Clare has asked for Alistair’s assistance with the ghost of Maddy. Maddy was a young girl who arrived filthy, abused, and mute at the Clare house many years before. Unable to find any family or anyone who knew who she was, Mrs. Clare, her husband, and housekeeper cared for the girl. She slowly began to talk and help around the house but was never comfortable around men and periodically fell into fits of fear. At age seventeen, she hung herself in the barn and won’t leave.

Because of her aversion to men, Sarah is requested to make contact with Maddy and convince her to pass on to the next life. Alistair feels that this experience will add to his book and his assistant, Matthew Ryder, helps with the scientific data collection. Matthew is everything Alistair is not – gruff, moody, and scarred. The three quickly realize that Maddy Clare is no ordinary ghost and her powers are capable to bringing great destruction. Sarah knows that the only way Maddy — and the rest of them — can have any peace and safety is to find out the true story of what happened.

Book Commentary:
Set in the backdrop of the conclusion of World War I, this story blends the horrors of the war with the supernatural and the evils of man. Although the story has some very thrilling and intense scenes, much of its power in storytelling relies on the supernatural. I admit that I have picked this book up numerous times and put it back on the shelf. I am not sure if the cover or the hint of a chilling story turned me off, but the book is not scary or “creepy,” as the book back summary suggested. I read The Other Side of Midnight, also by this author, and really enjoyed her storytelling, combined with the supernatural elements, relatable characters, and mysterious tone. Although the “what” that happened was very predictable, the “how” and “way” were very intriguing and kept my interest. As this was her first novel, I think that the author has only gotten better and I am looking forward to reading more of her stories.

Who might like this book:
Not a difficult or thinking type of read, but the details and descriptions are very engaging. The fascination more than the thrilling aspect is what kept me engaged in the story. Susanna Kearsley had a quoted review on the cover and readers who enjoy her works will most likely enjoy this as well.