How To Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather

How To Hang A Witch by Adriana Mather, 368 pages, Knopf Books For Young Readers, July 26th 2016, Genre: Young Adult/Horror/Fantasy/Paranormal. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Samantha Mather’s returning to Salem to live in the old family homestead. When her father went into a coma, her step-mother Vivian sold their New York home to save money so they could afford her dad’s medical treatment and to be closer to him as he had been moved to Boston. Sam is resistant, but feels a bit better once she meets their bakery-owning neighbor Mrs. Meriwether and her son Jaxon, a dreamy upperclassman at Salem High.

Salem has a dark history, never buried, always vibrant and a source of tourism and pride for the town. Unfortunately for Sam, being a descendant of Cotton Mather marks her as the least liked person in town. She draws the ire of “the descendants”, a tight knit mean girls group directly descended from the accused witches of the Salem Witch Trials. When bad things start happening and people start dying, everyone starts whispering that Sam’s cursed. Sam also befriends a ghost who helps her solve the riddle of the town’s curse.

Our culture is fascinated with winning, power, and violence, so I’ve always wondered why some people are so surprised that some kids bully. People bully others when they feel they’ve been wronged or are jealous. They do so when they are or were bullied themselves, trying to escape a constant feeling of powerlessness by forcing powerlessness onto others. They may have low self-esteem, or be influenced by being part of a pack led by a bully. Sure, plenty of people suffer these things and don’t turn to bullying. But bullies haven’t developed mechanisms to express themselves or seek confidence and self-empowerment through less damaging means. For them, winning is all that matters, and the methods they employ to win are always justified in their own minds.

The hysteria among kids and adults builds slowly over the course of the book, giving insight into how mass hysteria starts and spreads. Mather does an excellent job of linking the theme of modern bullying with the motives and events of the Salem Witch Trials. The plot was engaging, the pacing was perfect. There is a love triangle which added to rather than detracted from the book. The mean girls were mean, but they were human. I could still feel for them when bad things happened to them. This book features Salem, witches, ghosts, an old curse, high school rivalries, and secret rooms. What’s not to love?

I’d recommend this book to fans of young adult fiction. This book can be found at How To Hang A Witch .

Watch the Book Trailer:

How To Hang A Witch Book Trailer

Book Description:

The #1 New York Times bestseller!

 It’s the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in this New York Times bestselling novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern-day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

 Salem, Massachusetts, is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials—and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves the Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real, live (well, technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries-old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

“It’s like Mean Girls meets history class in the best possible way.” —Seventeen Magazine

“Mather shines a light on the lessons the Salem Witch Trials can teach us about modern-day bullying—and what we can do about it.” —Bustle.com

“Strikes a careful balance of creepy, fun, and thoughtful.” —NPR

I am utterly addicted to Mather’s electric debut. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, twisting and turning with ghosts, witches, an ancient curse, and—sigh—romance. It’s beautiful. Haunting. The characters are vivid and real. I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down.” —Jennifer Niven, bestselling author of All the Bright Places

About the Author:

Adriana Mather is the 12th generation of Mathers in America, with family roots stretching back to the first Thanksgiving, the Salem Witch Trials, the Revolutionary War, and the Titanic. Adriana co-owns Zombot Pictures, a production company that makes feature films. In addition to producing, Adriana is also an actress. She lives in Los Angeles where she has a life full of awesome, cats, and coffee.

Spellcaster by George Bachman

Spellcaster by George Bachman, 262 pages, Sublime Ltd., April 3rd 2017, Genre: Historical Fiction/Paranormal. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

“It took all my own will merely to swallow water. “What sort of powers?”

“Amalrich claimed he could descend into certain forbidden passages beneath the earth where our world meets others.” Lady Kinloss gave me a secretive look. “Unfortunately any records he might have made of his trips are lost. But recently one of these supposed keys passed into my hands.” I nodded. “I keep it locked away in a glass cage and take it with me when I’m out. Would you like to see it?”

Spellcaster is a work of historical fiction set in England. Unlike traditional works in this genre, this book has a strong paranormal element. Spellcaster weaves together two tales- one involving past lives and unfinished business, and the other involving magic, relics, and bargains in the present. If you enjoy Jane Austen’s writing style, you’ll enjoy the style of Spellcaster.

Christine Daniel, a Provencal young lady, is spending the summer in England with the Cote sisters. She is coming out into society, officially becoming a marriageable young woman. However, she has another purpose. Christine’s fevers induce visions and she’s hunting for a remedy. Rather than fight the visions, Christine follows their lead. She seeks out “the mage” to befriend her as her visions portend. She encounters Lady Kinloss, whom she determines to be the mage of her visions. She rents a home for herself and her friends in the countryside from Lady Kinloss. Christine strikes a bargain with her to gain possession of a relic.

I felt the book started off a bit slow. The last half of the book picked up pace and revealed more information, tying things together as the story continued. I enjoyed this novel, especially its interesting reincarnation twist. When magic is used, it’s apparent that Bachman researched beliefs about magic in this time period.

This book can be found at Spellcaster by George Bachman.

Check out other reviews at:

Paperback Darling’s review of Spellcaster

Spellcaster at Kariny’s Book Frenzy

Shadow Eyes by Dusty Crabtree

Shadow Eyes (Shadow Eyes Series 1) by Dusty Crabtree, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2nd Edition, 328 pages, June 27th, 2016, Genre: Paranormal and Urban, Young Adult. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

“Shadow Eyes” is a story about good versus evil. It’s also a story about feeling imprisoned by false feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, feelings each of us has had at some point in our lives, particularly during our teenage years. It has been said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In “Shadow Eyes”, this lesson is learned through a series of struggles by Iris Kohl.

Iris Kohl is a seventeen-year-old girl whose life seems typical: she has divorced parents, two older sisters, a couple of close friends at school, and a favorite teacher. But there’s nothing typical about Iris herself. After a traumatic event on her fourteenth birthday, Iris gained the ability to see “shadows”. These shadows are really more like demons, invisible, but influencing them subliminally, hanging on their shoulders. These shadows don’t appear to have the ability to force people to behave a certain way; rather, they wait until the person is in a difficult situation fraught with negative emotions. This is their opportunity to pounce, to subtly influence a person to step over the line and commit an immoral act they were already tempted to commit in a moment of weakness. The shadows terrify Iris and she pretends not to see them most of the time. She learns to stay away from people who are surrounded and infested with them, for her own safety. The more she observes the shadows, the more Iris comes to believe people are truly wicked, and that she’s powerless to do anything to change it. Iris makes friends with some new students at school, Patrick and Kyra. Kyra sets an example for Iris to follow by helping those in the grips of the shadows and works to build up Iris’ self-esteem. Patrick, meanwhile, is crying out for help, filled with guilt over things he has done. As Iris sees her own family being pounced on and influenced by the shadows, she knows she can no longer sit by the sidelines. She has to gain enough confidence to make a difference. She has to act.

My favorite character, hands down, was Kyra. Filled with security, peace, confidence, and concern for others, Kyra is a role model for the others to follow. She allows her friends to make their own choices, but is always only a moment away in their time of need. Iris makes a good choice when she befriends and looks up to Kyra.

The story was well-written and centered more on characters and their challenges than on plot twists. I enjoyed watching Iris learn and grow as a character and I’m curious where her newfound purpose and sense of confidence will take her. I’d recommend this book to anyone- but especially to young adults- who likes paranormal stories of good versus evil.

This book is available on Amazon at Shadow Eyes (Shadow Eyes Series Book 1).

Blessedly Bound (An Elemental Witch Trials Novel Book One) by Lucretia Stanhope

Blessedly Bound (An Elemental Witch Trials Novel Book One) by Lucretia Stanhope, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, February 6th, 2017, 218 pages, Genre: Paranormal. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Blessedly Bound features a female witch as the main protagonist, depicting magic as a blend of shamanistic abilities and energy manipulation. After hundreds of years in Western culture of witches being depicted in an incredibly negative light, it’s refreshing to read a story in which they’re presented in a more positive manner. Although the genre is listed as paranormal, I’d also ascribe elements of romance and mystery to the work.

Gwen Hensley is a witch, a woman born with innate potential to tap into the natural elements and thereby use power for either good or evil as each witch sees fit. Gwen comes from a long line of witches. Raised in an orphanage since an infant, after the death of her mother, Gwen has never known her family but has always dreamed of finding a place and people to belong with. Gwen has a familiar, Lewis, who takes the shape of a raven or a man as needed and has been Gwen’s best friend and closest companion most of her life. Bonded to her, his job is to teach Gwen magic and boost her power. When her grandmother, Lizzy, is murdered, Gwen and Lewis arrive on the scene to solve the murder and inherit her sizeable estate. Traipsing about town, Gwen gets to know Lizzy’s friends and joins her knitting circle as she prepares for a memorial for her grandmother. Among Lizzy’s friends is the attractive, suave Sebastian. Sparks fly between them as Lewis grows envious over time.

Lewis is quite possibly the worst familiar ever. He teaches Gwen nothing, yet teaching her magic is his job. Lewis broke her heart when he rejected her romantic advances prior to the onset of the book. Apparently, if a familiar and his witch become romantically involved, the bond between them is broken, weakening them both magically. He treats her as a child, making choices that affect her future without her consent. Gwen, for her part, is a very young and inexperienced lady and witch, struggling to discover her family’s past and forge her own identity. Lewis makes mistakes, resenting his witch for his own romantic and magical frustrations. I was rooting for Lewis and Gwen to find a way to end up together, but by the end of the book, I decided Lewis needed to do some serious soul searching and maturing before he’d be the right fit for Gwen, as either a familiar or a lover. Gwen needs to grow and come into her own before she will be ready to commit to someone with all her heart, so I was satisfied that no permanent commitments were made. Sebastian is an intriguing character with a past still not fully revealed. The most mature of the trio, he serves as a balancing force and mentor for Lewis and Gwen.

There were two themes in the work that stood out to me. From the romantic aspect, this was about longing, reaching out for the fruits of love but never quite touching them. Every interaction seems to be permeated with this longing. I’ll never look at knitting the same way again. The second theme is about unpleasant truths. We like to think that honesty is always the best policy and truth is a goodness. But things aren’t always so clear cut. “Sometimes the illumination of truth makes things darker.”

The book was well written, but the mystery’s solution was predictable. I wish the mystery had been more difficult to solve as I relish an element of mystery in any genre. Overall, I enjoyed reading Blessedly Bound. I’d recommend this to those who enjoy a paranormal series featuring a non-traditional magical female protagonist, particularly if the reader enjoys romance and the interplay between male rivals.

This book is available at Amazon at Blessedly Bound (An Elemental Witch Trials Novel Book 1) .

Demons and Destiny by Catherine Milos

Adventure of Lifetimes!

Demons and Destiny (Angels and Avalon Volume 2) by Catherine Milos, 276 pages, October 26th, 2016, Genre: Paranormal and Urban/Dark Fantasy. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

by Leigh Holland

Demons and Destiny is a story about gods manipulating men who were formerly angels across multiple lifetimes. The second in the series, it can be read as a stand-alone novel, however I highly recommend reading them in order as I feel the experience would be more enjoyable by having more knowledge of the first book. Currently, the set is available at Amazon on Kindle for $3.98.

In his lifetime as a Viking translator and warrior, Tyr joins him mortal brethren on Celtic shores, conquering villages and taking thralls. Rarely one to ask for such spoils, Tyr sees Madigan, a beautiful blue-painted Celtic warrior woman. Realizing that the others may harm her should she be taken by one of them, he asks for her as his thrall. He promises to one day free her when it is appropriate if in return she answers his questions to assist him in negotiating trade with her people. Not only does he successfully do so with her help, but she ingratiates herself among the men with her herbal and cooking skills. Nuada, Madigan’s god, instructs Tyr to make her his wife. Tyr convinces her and they find wedded bliss for a time. Nuada has other tricks up his sleeve, resulting in her tragic death. Nuada strikes a deal with Tyr. Once Tyr removes all demons from Earth, Nuada will reunite him with Madigan.

The tale zips forward to modern day. Tyr is reborn as Tyrel, a security expert and P.I. Other characters from the first book, former angels reincarnated by choice as mortals with magical powers, join him in his feverish quest to dispose of all demons and regain his lady love. Tyr’s wife has been reborn without her memories as Madison, a biologist with no belief in demons or magic. Nuada continues to manipulate characters, especially Tyr, to further his own selfish ends. Most of these schemes lead to conflict and violence, providing obstacles for the characters to overcome. While some of the characters find happiness and resolution, others are left with their fates uncertain.

Demons and Destiny has many varying conflicts, such as man versus the supernatural, man versus man, man against himself, and man versus nature. Its themes include fate versus free will, the strength and nature of true love, the responsibilities and shackles of having power, and the bitterness of envy. The pace moved quickly through most of the book. The plot, world, and characters were interesting but I felt I would have enjoyed them more had I read the first book beforehand. My favorite character was Elizabeth. Although she lost a great deal, she didn’t allow it to swallow her whole. Instead, she moved forward, trying to use her knowledge to help her friends. I was also fond of Alan, Gabriel’s manservant. Alan was a font of loyalty and gentlemanly courage, even in the face of grave danger.

I enjoyed reading Demons and Destiny. I’d recommend this book to lovers of paranormal urban fiction. You can find it at Amazon at Demons and Destiny.