BLOG TOUR – Mermaid Fins, Winds, & Rolling Pins – REVIEW, INTERVIEW

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4.5 out of 5 stars.

Welcome! Today I’m hosting another spot on a Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. Today’s tour is for Mermaid Fins, Winds, & Rolling Pins, the third book in the Spells & Caramels series by Erin Johnson. I’m totally enamored with this series and this one doesn’t disappoint! After my review, there is an interview with the author, Erin Johnson!

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Synopsis

The enchanted village of Bijou Mer’s on high alert, with the villainous Horace on the loose. Imogen’s excited to escape the tension with a trip to the underwater Mermaid Kingdom to bake for the young mermaid queen’s engagement to the pirate king.

But when the mermaids turn out to be less French Riviera and more Jersey shore, the bakers are wrapped up in their world of clubbing in sea caves and fighting off seals for the best tanning spots, and are embroiled in a pirate smuggling scandal. It gets worse when a member of the mermaid court is found dead in a fishing net, and one of Imogen and Maple’s baked goods seems to be the murder weapon.

Imogen tries to fish out the real murderer to clear their names, while struggling with her romantic feelings for Hank. At the same time, she’s working with him to learn to control her magic and investigate Horace’s riddle and her own mysterious past.

As the mermaid court’s freewheeling lifestyle rubs off on the bakers, the gang lets loose and passions rise to the surface. But with a giant octopus crawling the ocean floor, the mermaid court filled with simmering secrets and scandals, and the ever present threat of the Badlands Army, Imogen must solve the murder before she ends up fish food herself.

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Review

As I stated above, I am absolutely enamored with this series. I love the characters, the settings, the plots, everything. This latest installment didn’t disappoint.

In this installment, many of our characters experience growth and changes in their lives. This is always great to continue to see in a series. When characters start to stagnate, it can spell the end of the series, so I’m thrilled to continue to see growth among the characters.

This installment took us away from the castle and into the Mermaid world. It’s a great change in scenery and offers new locations for Imogen and her friends to utilize in their investigation.

The plot line moves along smoothly and at a steady speed. It’s not so slow that you get bored, but it’s not so fast that you can’t keep up with the changes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the changes in various relationships and the characters themselves. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t elaborate on those changes.

Overall, while there’s not that little extra pizzazz that’s needed to push it up to a 5-star rating, it is a very solid 4.5 and I really enjoyed it. If you’re just starting with the series, I do suggest you start with the first book, Seashells, Spells, & Caramels as there is important back story that you will need to understand things in the second and third installments.

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Author Interview

ErinJohnson

Q1: Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I do! I’m a Pilates instructor and have been for the last five years. I love my clients and really believe in what I’m teaching, so I do enjoy it. It’s kind of a nice compliment to writing, which can be a bit isolated and sedentary. When I teach, I’m forced to talk for hours straight and it inspires me to work out.


Q2: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Sometimes, I’m in the outlining or editing phase, or just between books, and in those cases I’m not writing every day. But when it’s time to write, I generally do spend several weeks, writing daily. I usually have a word count goal—normally it’s about 3,000 words. But right now I’m on a crazy deadline to finish book 4 in the Spells & Caramels Series, and I’m doing between 4,000 and 8,000 words a day. Wish me luck—I need it! I like it quiet, though sometimes I put on music that puts me in the mood for certain scenes. For instance, book 4 is holiday themed, so I’m listening to a lot of old English Christmas carols (like “Good King Wenceslas”).


Q3: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reins” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: In order to write quickly, I tend to do a lot of outlining. During that phase, sometimes characters do take the story in an unexpected direction. In the first book, for instance, Imogen’s cooking flame, Iggy, revealed the reason for his surliness to her, and it was honestly unexpected and really moved me! Which might sound kind of funny, since I wrote it, but sometimes as an author, I get surprised, too. But after the outline, things don’t veer too off course.

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Q4: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: So, I actually spent a lot of time deciding how I wanted to publish. I’d always assumed I’d traditionally publish and did research along those lines, even making a list of all the agents I intended to contact. But after reading about so many rejections being typical, and feeling like I’d procrastinated acting on my dream for too long, the idea of self-publishing really appealed to me. Especially, after reading and listening to Joann Penn and Chris Fox, both really positive, inspiring people, who made me excited about being an Indie author. So, I never contacted any agents, and just jumped full in to indie publishing.


Q5: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: So, I’ve modeled my writing and publishing of this series, almost exactly on the recommendations of Chris Fox, and they’ve worked great for me, though they might not for everybody. I write a draft, read through it fully making notes, then I edit it myself. Then I give it to my alpha readers (my mom and sis) and incorporate their notes. My editors are really great (Hot Tree Editing). I then give it to them, I incorporate their suggestions and send it back and they do a final pass, proofread and have volunteer beta readers who take a look at it. By that point, it’s pretty polished. All of those steps are pretty much one, immediately after the other. So no, I don’t let the book sit at all.


Q6: A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: When I write villains, I try to make them intelligent and with motives that are relatable. I think lines can get blurred when you’re acting with the belief that you’re doing something for someone, or some cause, you really believe in. So, I usually try to give them something they really care about, that drives them to murder. No real life inspiration for this villain, though.

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Q7: Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’d say my sister and I show in most of the things I write, just because we’re close and make each other laugh, and I borrow a lot of our inside jokes. I haven’t written any character to be a straight parallel to a person I know in real life (though some TV personalities are in there), but I’m sure real people I know are influences.


Q8: If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Oh my gosh, I’m stumped on this one. Can I pass? Haha!


Q9: What are some great books you’ve read recently?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’m reading both, “The Bear and The Nightingale” and the first in the Aurora Teagarden mysteries, right now, and am really enjoying both.

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Q10: What books have influenced your life the most?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: Probably the Harry Potter books. They’re beautifully written, imaginative and feel so real.


Q11: If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I’d probably hang out with Iggy, Imogen’s cooking flame. He makes me laugh and is brutally honest, yet loving. We’d wander around the cobblestoned streets of Bijou Mer, eating baguettes and his favorite, Linden tree branches.


Q12: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

Ms. Johnson’s Answer: I do read most of my reviews, though I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m hovering, so I don’t leave comments. I’ll for sure respond if someone emails me directly with a link to or a copy of their review, but I do that privately, to thank them. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that readers love Iggy and that I’d better put him future books.

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BLOG TOUR – Black Arts, Tarts, and Gypsy Carts – REVIEW

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4.5 out of 5 stars.

Welcome! Today, I’m hosting another blog tour from Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. This time it’s for the book Black Arts, Tarts, & Gypsy Carts, the 2nd book in the Spells & Caramels series by Erin Johnson.  I absolutely love these books!

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Synopsis

With the Summer Sea Carnival visiting the enchanted island of Bijou Mer, Imogen jumps at the chance to help run the royal bakery booth. It’ll get her out of the palace and allow her to continue avoiding her feelings for a certain engaged prince.

Imogen’s plans to lay low are shattered when the world-famous necromancer, Madame Zerna, is found dead, sawed in half on the dark magician’s table and Imogen’s friend Rhonda is caught red-handed. With incriminating evidence piling up against Rhonda, Zerna’s rival, Imogen promises to help clear her name by finding the real murderer.

But between running the booth, encouraging Maple as she struggles to lead as head baker, and taking spell lessons from the friendly strong man, Imogen’s got her hands full. And it’s no easier getting information from the evasive dark magician or Madame Zerna’s secretive assistant. Even Rhonda’s hiding something.

With the Night of the Dead fast approaching, and Rhonda headed for a maximum security witch prison, Imogen races to unearth the real killer in time to save her friend. But in a mysterious carnival where nothing’s as it seems, will Imogen have the magical powers to keep from being on the chopping block herself?

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Review

I loved this book and even tho’ it doesn’t quite have that extra pizzazz to put it up to a 5-star rating, it’s a solid 4.5 in my opinion.

I adore the characters in this series. Imogen, Maple, Iggy, and Hank have all become almost like friends to me and I really care about what happens to them and how they react to situations. Imogen’s a little too impulsive for my personal taste, but she at least does slow down and think sometimes, just not all the time. I still love her though. I love her enthusiasm and her intelligence. She’s a good friend to Maple and Iggy as well.

The setting of Bijou Mer is great. I love the descriptions of the area and buildings. Ms. Johnson does a nice job of discussing the settings without going overboard with her descriptions. I’m able to easily imagine the carnival grounds, the cemetery they visit, etc.

The plot line moves along steadily.  There were two villains. One I knew from the start. The other wasn’t quite as obvious and I was actually disappointed because I had liked the character a lot and hated to see him as a villain.

All in all, it’s a fantastic installment in the series and I highly recommend it! I do recommend starting with the first book, Seashells, Spells, and Caramels as there is backstory that you need to understand. You can find my review for that book here.

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About the Author

ErinJohnson

 

A native of Tempe, Arizona, Erin spends her time crafting mysterious, magical, romance-filled stories that’ll hopefully make you laugh. In between, she’s traveling, napping with her dogs, eating with her friends and family, and teaching Pilates (to allow her to eat more).

 

 

 

Author Links

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BLOG TOUR – That Olde White Magick – REVIEW

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4 out of 5 stars.

Greetings! Today I’m hosting a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for That Olde White Magick by Sharon Pape. This is the 2nd book in the Abracadabra Mystery series. It was a fun read and I did like it more than the first book in the series.

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Synopsis

Kailyn Wilde enjoys running her shop, Abracadabra, in the quaint New York hamlet of New Camel, where she lives with her six cats. Her family’s been here for centuries, and she’d like to keep up the tradition. But the place may never be the same if a big hotel gets built, so she does her civic duty and attends a town meeting along with her aunt Tilly . . . and Merlin. Yes, that Merlin—though he gets introduced to folks as her “distant English cousin.” The wizard is pretty grumpy about being transported here, but there are things about the modern world he doesn’t mind—like pizza.

Kailyn was prepared for a heated debate about the hotel, but she wasn’t expecting murder. When Tilly finds the body of a board member outside the schoolhouse, Kailyn doesn’t want any suspicion cast on the wrong person. She plans to crack this case, even if she has to talk to every living soul in town—plus a few departed ones . .

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Review

As I stated above, I definitely enjoyed this book more than the first one. Ms. Pape has definitely started to find her own style of writing and I didn’t have the problem of the first book where it seemed totally disjointed for the first half of the book. This book flowed much more smoothly.

I still love our main characters, Kailyn, Tilly, and Merlin. They’re fun, developed characters and we keep learning more about them as we delve deeper into their lives. In this book, the reason why Kailyn seemed so interested in this case is a bit more logical in my thinking than it was in the first book, which is good. I’m not generally keen on heroines who butt in just for curiosity’s sake. I prefer they have a good reason.

The setting descriptions were slightly better in this book. I found myself more able to imagine Kailyn’s shop and house much better than I could in the first book of the series.

The plot line moved along at a decent pace. I was semi-surprised by the villain. He didn’t enter my mind until just before he was revealed. I did kind of wonder earlier in the book why he was playing such a big role, but it’s a small town and I just figured that yes, while he was semi-central to the case, he wasn’t that important. Boy was I wrong! It was only towards the end that I started to put it together.

I definitely would recommend this book. You don’t even have to read the first book in the series first (though I do recommend it because there is some background information in book one that will make some things easier to understand).

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About the Author

sharon

Sharon describes her writing career as having two stages. Back in the dark ages, before computers were in every household, she had three paranormal books published. The first one was condensed by Redbook Magazine, the first paperback original they ever condensed. Then life brought her an unexpected challenge, by the name of breast cancer. After treatment she and her oncologist started a not-for-profit to provide information and peer support to breast cancer patients. With the organization up and running, she returned to her first love – writing. This time around she’s been writing cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist. That Olde White Magick is the second book in her Abracadabra Mysteries.

Author Links

Webpage – http://sharonpape.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sharon.pape.94

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sbpape

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BLOG TOUR – Seashells, Spells, & Caramels – REVIEW

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4.5 out of 5 stars.

Welcome! Today, I’m featuring a stop on the Great Escape Virtual Book Tour for Seashells, Spells, & Caramels, the first book in the Spells & Caramels series by Erin Johnson! It was an absolutely delightful read! I really enjoyed it!

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Synopsis

Imogen’s spent her twenties in Seattle, saving every penny and missing every party, to follow her dream of opening her own bakery.

When that dream goes up in flames, she accepts a spot in a mysterious baking contest—one she doesn’t remember entering. She travels to a bustling, medieval village off the coast of France and discovers an enchanting world of magic and mystery, and learns that she, too, possesses powers.

Unable to so much as cast a spell, Imogen struggles to keep up with the other witches and wizards who have come from all over the magical world to the Water Kingdom’s big competition. She juggles relationships with a sweet new friend, a snarky baking fire, and a brooding, handsome baker. As Imogen falls for this bewitching world, she fears she won’t master her magic in time to win the job of Royal Head Baker, and will be forced to return to the shambles of her non magical life.

It only gets worse, when a competitor drops dead in the middle of the big white baking tent, and Imogen’s the prime suspect. Now, she’ll not only have to survive the vampire and psychic judges, but also clear her name by finding the real murderer, before they strike again.

With a killer on the loose, a missing prince, and the Summer Solstice Festival fast approaching, Imogen will have to bake like her life depends on it – because it just might.

Review

This was an absolutely delightful read! It didn’t quite have that magical touch that made it a 5-star read, but it’s a solid 4.5 in my opinion!

Imogen is a wonderful character, full of spunk and makes the best of whatever situation she’s in. She’s well-developed, complex, and full of life. I’m looking forward to getting to know some of the other characters further as we get further into the series, especially Maple, Sam, Iggy, and Hank.

The setting was great. I thought the descriptions of Bijou Mer were delightful and magical (which is only fitting). I could imagine everything pretty well but yet could still use my imagination to fill in details.

The mystery was pretty good. I did have an inkling of the culprits, but I wasn’t sure until closer to the end. It ended up that I was right, but it didn’t spoil the rest of the story for me.

All in all, this magical mystery is a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to the sequel coming out later in November!

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About the Author

ErinJohnson

A native of Tempe, Arizona, Erin spends her time crafting mysterious, magical, romance-filled stories that’ll hopefully make you laugh.
In between, she’s traveling, napping with her dogs, eating with her friends and family, and teaching Pilates (to allow her to eat more).

Website: www.erinjohnsonwrites.com.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/EJohnsonWrites.
Twitter:@EJohnsonWrites

 

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The Witch and the Dead – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

I realized the other day when I started re-reading The Witch and the Dead, I never wrote a review for it when I read it in the fall. So I’m remedying that now!

Book Cover: The Witch and the Dead by Heather Blake - purple background on top and bottom of the cover where the text is - middle section shows an illustration of a young white lady with dark hair sitting on a tree stump under a willow tree with a black cat at her feet.

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Synopsis

When Darcy moved to Salem, Massachusetts, she never expected her life to change as drastically as it did. But within a short time, the Enchanted Village has become her home, its mystical residents have become her family, and As You Wish, the personal concierge business formerly run by her Aunt Ve, has become her calling. Still, the time has come for change—and for Darcy to move out of Aunt Ve’s house.

Darcy’s belongings are stashed in Aunt Ve’s garage, alongside a mess of memories, forgotten possessions, and, to both Ve and Darcy’s horror, a pile of old bones. It turns out they belong to Ve’s long missing second husband. Now Darcy must unpack old secrets to solve a cold case—and make sure her aunt isn’t looking at a spell behind bars.

Review

This is a wonderful, delightful read!

We learn so much about the villagers and their pasts in this book! It’s amazing how many connections there are between the villagers. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. If your Craft has been hunted for thousands of years and misunderstood as evil, it’s probably a small gene pool that exists, but nonetheless, I was surprised. 🙂 I won’t spoil it for you tho’. You’ll have to find out all the connections yourself!

The plot line in this book moves along at a steady to quick pace. The prose flows well and there wasn’t a single time where I felt pulled out of the book by the wording or description of something. That’s not easy to do and Ms. Blake does it wonderfully in the majority of her books. I wondered about the villain, but I wasn’t sure until the end when he was revealed.

I really enjoy this series. I’ve enjoyed watching the characters grow over the course of the seven (7) current books. It appears that the series will continue under a different publisher so #8 should be out in Spring 2018! 🙂

If you’re going to read the series, I highly suggest you start with the first title in the series, It Takes a Witch. This is one of those series that you really should read in order to get the full experience of it. And I highly recommend reading it!