Thursday, October 23, 2014

Review: The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe and Giveaway!

The Penguin Book of Witches
Editor:  Katherine Howe
Publisher:  Penguin Classics, September 30, 2014
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price: $17.00 (print)
ISBN:  9780143106180 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Chilling real-life accounts of witches, from medieval Europe through colonial America, compiled by the New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane and Conversion

From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, The Penguin Book of Witches is a treasury of historical accounts of accused witches that sheds light on the reality behind the legends. Bringing to life stories like that of Eunice Cole, tried for attacking a teenage girl with a rock and buried with a stake through her heart; Jane Jacobs, a Bostonian so often accused of witchcraft that she took her tormentors to court on charges of slander; and Increase Mather, an exorcism-performing minister famed for his knowledge of witches, this volume provides a unique tour through the darkest history of English and North American witchcraft.

Stacey's Thoughts

There is no better time to be reading about witches than right before Halloween! The Penguin Book of Witches is not a short story collection about witches.  It is a nonfiction collection of documents dating back to 1584-1813. This is excellent supplemental reading who anyone who is fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials and witchcraft in early North America. And interesting side note: Do you know who this book is edited by? The totally awesome Katherine Howe! Not only is she an amazing author herself (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, 2009) Howe is the direct descendant of three accused Salem Witches. So cool!

Howe is a professor and prefaces each document with a summary, which I found very helpful. Reading three hundred year old legal documents is not my forte, so I was very grateful for some assistance. This is not a day-by-day account of the Salem Trials but shows how embedded the belief in witchcraft was during those times. I was intrigued to learn that witchcraft was usually seen as a legal problem and not a social or religious problem (until Salem.) I also learned about the beliefs about witchcraft that the early Americans brought over from England.

Howe guides you through different legal cases and remarks on what was typical and atypical about each trial. There is also a wonderful section entitled “After Salem” where apologies of participants of the Trials were published. There were witchcraft trials after Salem, and I’d like to say that they weren’t as bad as the Salem Trials, but that wouldn’t be true. You become very aware of the deaths of the accused, especially by reading their words. They are no longer just names on a page or a depiction by an actor or actress. Witchcraft fascinates many people, myself included. This gave me a healthy dose of the reality of the Salem Trials and the mindset of the people of the time by also including public writings about the subject. This is a great book that's not just for Halloween and it will stay on my bookshelf permanently!

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a copy of The Penguin Book of Witches edited by Katherine Howe from Penguin Classics. US/CANADA ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US or Canadian mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on October 31, 2014. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without any notice.*

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Review: Into Darkness by J.T. Geissinger

Into Darkness
Author:  J.T. Geissinger
Series:  Night Prowler  6
Publisher:  Montlake Romance, October 21, 2014
Format:  Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $9.99 (print)
ISBN9781477825549 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher via NetGalley

In New Vienna, capital of the oppressive global government formed after the Flash, three things are certain: the sun is poisonous, speaking out is dangerous, and being different will get you killed.

And Lumina Bohn is extraordinarily different. Living in terror of discovery, Lu knows nothing of her past—but she knows she must pretend to be human to survive. When an incident at work triggers her astonishing powers, she becomes the target of an international manhunt. Only one person can save her: Magnus, the enigmatic stranger haunting her dreams. Magnus rescues the outcasts called Aberrants from capture and torture.

As Lu begins exploring her powers among her people, her feelings for Magnus intensify. He’s determined to stay emotionally distant, yet their smoldering passion soon becomes impossible to resist. But when a shocking revelation threatens the lives of every remaining Aberrant, Lu and Magnus must risk everything, confronting their enemies in an explosive final stand to save their kind from the darkest fate of all: extinction.

Melanie's Thoughts

I have been a big fan of this series and really pleased that I have been given the opportunity to receive e-Arcs of most of the Night Prowler series. Geissinger ends this fantastic series with Into Darkness. In this final instalment Geissinger sets the book twenty plus years in the future. Everything changed since the ending of Darkness Bound when jets fly over the Brazilian iKati community. The world is a very different place where the sky is red, society is oppressed and anyone different is killed. Lumina Bohn finds almost everything in her life has been a lie apart for her attraction to the hunky, yet disfigured Magnus. Lumina is more than what she seems or who she thinks she is. It isn't long before we discover that Lumina is really Hope, one of Elena and Leander's twins. She is fighting not just for her survival but also for Magnus, her sister Honor and the whole iKati race. 

I think that Geissinger was both brave and innovative to set this final instalment in the future. It would have been quite easy for Geissinger to just continue in present day and focus on the romance but instead she decided to shake it up. Lumina's world is a terrible place where nearly everyone lives in fear and where the iKati have been almost driven to extinction by the evil Sebastian Thorne.  Lumina/Hope has to dig deep, with the help of Magnus and a few other iKati to re-discover who she really is and hopefully save her race. As strong and as brave as Hope was I still enjoyed the Elena chapters more, although these were few and far between. I felt that Geissinger was rather brutal to her long standing characters and I almost missed their perfection from the previous novels.

Geissinger does make heavy use of one plot device that I wasn't that keen on - immortality. I feel that immortality should only be used for special occasions, kind of like sexy underwear. I thought that immortality really made the evil madman, Caesar a formidable foe in the previous books. In the case of Into Darkness I would have preferred if it had been used a little less than it was.

Overall, Into Darkness was a solid conclusion to a urban fantasy series that I have enjoyed reading over the last few years. This wasn't my favourite  book of the series but it demonstrated that is Geissinger is happy to challenge her readers and doesn't play favourites with her characters. She builds the plot over each of the novels and really packs a punch in this finale. This is a great series for those who like a slow burn HEA.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

ParaMysMo 2014: Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen, authors of America's Most Haunted - October 22, 2014

Today we have a special ParaMysMo treat: Guest Blogs by Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen, the authors of America's Most Haunted and hosts of the internet radio show "America's Most Haunted".

How a Haunted Housewife Celebrates Halloween
By Theresa Argie
America’s Most Haunted

For me, Halloween is the end, the crescendo of a long, spectacular season. It’s been months of preparing, getting into the spirit (pardon the pun) of the holiday in true "Haunted Housewife" style. By October 31st, the Willoughby Ghost Walk season is over and the paranormal fundraisers will soon begin. But for that one night, the actual evening of Halloween, I’m not a tour guide, or a ghost hunter, or a paranormal philanthropist. For that night I am just a kid again.

My costume has been meticulously planned for months. Because I live in northeast Ohio, I have to factor in the unpredictability of the weather and the possible need for a quick adjustment. It may be 85 degrees and humid or it could be snowing, you never know. That’s just how it is in Cleveland. My children have to be ready as well. After all, they’re my excuse to trick-or-treat.

Before we embark on the frenzied sugar fest of snack-sized treats, I feed my little goblins dinner. The table is elaborately set with coverings of orange and black. I do my best to set the scene, emulating a picture perfect magazine spread that would make Martha Stewart envious. But I have to go deeper, darker, more Halloweenish than she could ever imagine. Let’s just say my north coast home has an air of authenticity that old Martha can’t touch.

After feeding our faces with the least healthy dinner of the year, we set off to collect our bounty! It’s time to trick-or-treat! I find myself fighting the urge to run ahead, remembering that this is for the kids, I’m only here to escort them safely and keep them from approaching the more questionable houses on the street. Not everyone in the neighborhood gets into the spirit of Halloween. Some close the blinds and shut off the lights as if to ward off the evil little treat-seeking monsters who dare knock on their darkened door.

Hours later, If I’ve done my job properly, the kids return home with a heavy sack of goodies and satisfied smile. They’ve managed not to get hit by a car, trip on their costumes, or swallow any razor blades. I’ve embarrass them just enough with my outrageous and horrifying costume that I’ll be forgiven by next year. My freakish make-up has scared a few toddlers and given the neighbors another reason to think I’m the weirdest mother on the block.

And then it’s done. Porch lights off and candy haphazardly splayed out on the carpet ready to be sorted. A thorough scrub of the kids faces and teeth and they’re off to bed. My stomach hurts and my heart aches. It’s a huge emotional crash for me, a melancholy moment of knowing it’s over. I drown my sorrows in more candy and zone out on a scary movie. I’ll eventually fall asleep, dreaming of monsters and ghosts of every kind. Come tomorrow I’m back to being a grown up.

Goodnight Halloween, I bid you farewell until next year, when I get to be a kid all over again.

The Power of Halloween
Eric Olsen
America's Most Haunted

Our Season of Darkness begins materializing toward the end of September when the doors creak open at haunted attractions and pop-up Halloween stores, heralding the true end of summer.

We check out the stores periodically throughout the season to see what’s new, get decorating and costume ideas, and soak up the commercial-but-creepy ambience. At home, my wife quietly breaks out a few noncommittal fall decorations, which over the next few weeks will be augmented with overt symbols of fear and magic. We ease into our spooky viewing routine: not much outright “horror” per se, at least at first, but Halloween-specific perennials that satisfy the disparate tastes of a 14 year-old girl, 10 year-old boy, and their busy, distracted parents.

Among the never-misses are charming, atmospheric “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown“; wicked and delightful “Hocus Pocus“; Jill Thompson’s imaginative and unhinged “Scary Godmother” specials; oddly touching, insightful “Under Wraps“; and R.L Stine’s towering achievement “When Good Ghouls Go Bad.” “Ghouls” stirs the imagination, plucks the heartstrings, and touches upon something ancient and deep at the end as reanimated townsfolk -- after all, they’re just no-longer-living friends and relatives -- waltz upward into the mist, the magic of Halloween fades and the veil between this world and the next is restored.

The power of Halloween strikes me hardest when October’s full moon arises - this year a lunar extravaganza of Harvest Moon, Blood Moon, and Super Moon conflating on October 8. As I stand outside in the crystalline cool of a silent Northeast Ohio night, I feel a tug from the same effulgent orb as my ancestors, stretching back hundreds and thousands of years. I apprehend the link between the natural and supernatural, inextricably bound, as leaves scream out in colorful agony before falling to their deaths, and all living things begin to hunker down for the winter ahead.

No wonder man’s thoughts have always turned toward the dead -- and their intentions -- at this time of year. Rituals of disguise, appeasement, and distraction have evolved over millennia and are very recognizable today. It is a time of awe, magic, and fear; and is variously know as Samhain, Dios de los Muertos, and Halloween.

America's Most Haunted
The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places
Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen
Berkley, September 30, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Throughout the United States, there are places haunted by souls both malevolent and benign. Places where paranormal activity runs rampant. Places where we can glimpse the other side…

In America’s Most Haunted, “Haunted Housewife” investigator Theresa Argie and journalist Eric Olsen team up to take you on a first-person tour of some of America’s most active paranormal hotspots.

Experience the crawl through the death tunnel where visitors have reported sightings of an inhuman creature that creeps along the walls and ceilings. Walk the decks of the Queen Mary with the hundreds of souls that met their ends in watery graves. And get to know the spirits that wait in jails, mansions, lunatic asylums, and even a stately old hotel.

Combining spine-tingling stories, documented evidence, and interviews with some of the top names in paranormal investigation—including the stars of TV’s “Ghost Hunters,” “Ghost Adventures,” and more—America’s Most Haunted gives you a terrifying chance to tour our nation’s most famous haunted places.

Are you brave enough to take a look?

About the Authors

Theresa Argie, a.k.a "The Haunted Housewife," is an experienced paranormal investigator who has worked with some of the field's most well-respected experts. Theresa has been on several television shows, including "Paranormal Challenge" and "My Ghost Story." Eric Olsen is a leading journalist in the field of paranormal investigation. He is also a published author, media personality and respected blogger. Together, the two host the internet radio show, "America's Most Haunted."

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Trade Paperback copy of America's Most Haunted by Theresa Argie and Eric Olsen.

How:   Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on November 7, 2014. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

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ParaMysMo 2014: Sofie Kelly, author of the Magical Cat Mysteries - October 22, 2014

Please welcome Sofie Kelly to The Qwillery! Sofie writes the Magical Cat Mysteries.

It used to be my idea of celebrating Halloween was to cram as many mini Snickers bars as I could into the freezer and then spend Halloween night eating them all. Things that go bump in the night scare me and I might be a tiny bit afraid of the dark, so I was never one to put on a costume and hit the streets. The only pumpkin I like is in Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte.

So why is she sitting in my living room?

Because the universe, with a perverse sense of humor, gifted me with a child who LOVES Halloween. She’s loved it since her Dad took her to pick out her first pumpkin, since the first time she said, “Boo!”

Even in kindergarten my daughter spent a lot of time planning her costumes. (Yes, costumes. Some years she’s had more than one.) She’s been a bunny, a fairy, a witch, a ghost with her dad as a spooky vampire sidekick, and a Goth girl which gave the vampire cloak a second life. One year she was a mummy, which involved strips torn from a double bed sheet and me following her around all night with a handful of safety pins.

There are ridiculously realistic bats on my living room ceiling at the moment, and a six-foot skeleton in the front window that glows green in the dark. There’s a tombstone in the bathroom, skull lights around the kitchen door, and not one but two pumpkins, and the pièce de resistance, ghoul girl in the living room. (You can see I’m still working on getting the knees right.)

And there are three little Snickers bars in the freezer with my name on them. Literally. Because between you and me, that’s still the part of Halloween I like the best!

Magical Cats Mysteries

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat
A Magical Cats Mystery 1
Signet, February 1, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

When librarian Kathleen Paulson moved to Mayville Heights, Minnesota, she had no idea that two strays would nuzzle their way into her life. Owen is a tabby with a catnip addiction and Hercules is a stocky tuxedo cat who shares Kathleen's fondness for Barry Manilow. But beyond all the fur and purrs, there's something more to these felines.

When murder interrupts Mayville's Music Festival, Kathleen finds herself the prime suspect. More stunning is her realization that Owen and Hercules are magical-and she's relying on their skills to solve a purr-fect murder.

Sleight of Paw
A Magical Cats Mystery 2
Signet, September 6, 2011
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Small-town librarian Kathleen Paulson never wanted to be the crazy cat lady. But after Owen and Hercules followed her home, she realized her mind wasn't playing tricks on her-her cats have magical abilities.

When the body of elderly do-gooder Agatha Shepherd is found near Kath's favorite local café, she knows Owen's talent for turning invisible and Hercules's ability to walk through walls will give the felines access to clues Kath couldn't get without arousing suspicion. Someone is hiding some dark secrets-and it will take a bit of furtive investigating to catch the cold-hearted killer.

Copycat Killing
A Magical Cats Mystery 3
Signet, May 1, 2012
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Everyone thinks their cats are special—but Owen and Hercules have powers that go far beyond an adorable look or an irresistible purr. Along with their owner, librarian Kathleen Paulson, they have an uncanny instinct for solving crimes...

It's been raining cats and dogs in Mayville Heights. The small town's been deluged, and now the local artists' co-op is on the verge of flooding. Kathleen has been up all night helping her friends move their creations to the safety of the upstairs studio.

The artwork survives, but when controversial mask maker Jaeger Merrill is found drowned in the co-op basement, Kathleen questions whether the death was accidental. After she discovers the artist was using an assumed name, she realizes she can't actually assume anything about him. With the help of handsome detective Marcus Gordon—and her cats' extraordinary powers of detection—it's up to Kathleen to unmask a killer.

Cat Trick
A Magical Cats Mystery 4
Signet, February 5, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Kathleen Paulson enjoys her life as a small-town librarian with two extraordinary cats, Owen and Hercules, who provide companionship during the quiet times and have a remarkable talent for sleuthing when murder disturbs the peace....

The local businesses of Mayville Heights hope to convince Chicago-based company Legacy Tours to sell a vacation package for their town. Legacy Tours partner Mike Glazer grew up in Mayville Heights, but he’s no longer the small-town boy people once knew. Even the local bootlegger has an issue with the bossy loudmouth Mike has become—until someone shuts him up for good.

When Kathleen discovers Mike’s body on the boardwalk, she can’t help but get involved in the investigation—even if her beau, Detective Marcus Gordon, would rather she didn’t. Now, with a little help from Owen and Hercules, it’s up to Kathleen to make sure the killer is booked for an extended stay in prison before someone else takes a permanent vacation.

Final Catcall
A Magical Cats Mystery 5
Signet, October 1, 2013
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Small-town librarian Kathleen Paulson gets plenty of entertainment from her extraordinary cats, Owen and Hercules. But when a theatre troupe stumbles into more tragedy than it bargained for, it’s up to Kathleen to play detective....

With her sort-of boyfriend Marcus calling it quits and her ex-boyfriend Andrew showing up out of the blue, Kathleen has more than enough drama to deal with—and that’s before a local theatre festival relocates to Mayville Heights. Now the town is buzzing with theatre folk, and many of them have their own private dramas with the director, Hugh Davis.

When Davis is found shot to death by the marina, he leaves behind evidence of blackmail and fraud, as well as an ensemble of suspects. Now Kathleen, with a little help from her feline friends Owen and Hercules, will have to catch the real killer before another victim takes a final curtain call.

A Midwinter's Tail
A Magical Cats Mystery 6
Signet, October 7, 2014
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 336 pages

Kathleen Paulson is snowed under running her library and caring for her extraordinary felines, Owen and Hercules. But when a fund-raiser turns deadly, she’ll have to add sleuthing to her already full schedule....

Winter in Mayville Heights is busy and not just because of the holidays. Kathleen is hard at work organizing a benefit to raise money for the library’s popular Reading Buddies program. She has her hands full hosting the event. And when a guest at the gala drops dead, her magical cats, Owen and Hercules, will have their paws full helping her solve a murder.

The victim is the ex of town rascal Burtis Chapman, but she hasn’t lived in the area in years. And though everybody is denying knowledge of why she was back in town, as Kathleen and her detective boyfriend, Marcus, begin nosing around, they discover more people are connected to the deceased than claimed to be. Now Marcus, Kathleen, and her uncanny cats have to unravel this midwinter tale before the case gets cold.

About Sofie

Sofie Kelly is an author and mixed-media artist who lives on the east coast with her husband and daughter. In her spare time she practices Wu style tai chi and likes to prowl around thrift stores. As Sofie Ryan she writes the Second Chance Cat Mysteries.

Website - Sofie Kelly

Website - Sofie Ryan

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of A Midwinter's Tail (A Magical Cat Mystery 6) by Sofie Kelly.

How:   Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on November 7, 2014. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway