WHAT THE HEX by Jessica Clare 

May 19, 2023

The Hex Series, Book 2

From the publisher:

One of Amazon’s Best Romances of April!

Enemies-to-lovers has never been more enchanting in this witchy romantic comedy from the 
New York Times bestselling author of Go Hex Yourself.

Penny Roundtree wants nothing more than to be a familiar to a witch. She’s been a member of the Society of Familiars ever since she was old enough to join the Fam. There’s just a small problem—no one’s hiring. Witches and warlocks are so long-lived that there are far more familiars available than witches to train them. So when an unorthodox arrangement to apprentice under the table to a forbidden warlock presents itself, she takes it.

Willem Sauer is banned from having a familiar due to past transgressions, thereby limiting his magic-casting abilities. Unfortunately for the surly, Prussian warlock, he has no choice but to work with enthusiastic Penny as a familiar. They immediately clash like dried roan horsehair and honeycomb gathered by moonlight (it’s a terrible spell combination, ask anyone).

Casting spells has delightful perks Penny never could have dreamed of, but also greater dangers. Someone is targeting Penny. Willem and Penny must work together to catch their enemy, and if their ploy requires a little kissing on the side, who is to question the rules of magic?

“Fans of Clare’s Go Hex Yourself will be happy with this follow-up in which Willem and Penny continue the enemies-to-lovers arc, with their own twist. Hand to readers who love witty banter, the fake-dating trope, and couples who fall hard fast.”—Library Journal

“Clare makes it easy to see why these two characters work together—and Penny’s feisty pet squirrel adds some laughs. Series fans will be pleased.”—Publishers Weekly

“Clare continues her delightful Hex series, introducing Penny, who is ultra-girly in “ruffles and pink,” with a “bubblegum and glitter” energy and an overwhelming desire to become a familiar for a witch or warlock…Willem’s iciness and aloof nature are belied by how he cares for Penny with cookies, milk, and great sex.”—Booklist


I really enjoyed Go Hex Yourself, so I was ready to love this next book in the series, and I did! The publicist had told me that the books stand alone, and she was right. You don’t need to read the first book to thoroughly enjoy this new one, but it was so good that you should probably read it anyway.

This one is an opposite attracts romance. Willem is a curmudgeon for sure, and Penny is a ray of sunshine. All Penny wants is to become a familiar, like her parents. But those jobs are really hard to come by, so she is working in a shop that sells ingredients for spell casting while she waits. When her good friends ask her if she would be willing to work as a familiar, but in secret, she jumps at the chance.

It seems that Willem has had some trouble in his life, and his punishment is another decade of no spell-casting or familiars. But he has work to do and decides to ask his friends for a recommendation. It’s all hush-hush, but these are people who know how to keep a secret and while Penny is way too flashy and outgoing for him, Willem knows his options are severely limited. If they get caught, neither one of them will escape the wrath of the witches’ council.

Penny loves her new job, but because it is a secret, she must keep working her other job. Spell casting is exhausting work, and Willem isn’t thrilled that he has to work around Penny’s schedule, but he has no other options. There is an interesting side effect to his spells, and Penny doesn’t know if it’s normal or not and keeps it to herself.

Meanwhile, they have to come up with some sort of ruse as to why they are spending time together. Willem has a reputation as being standoffish, to say the least. He is not well liked by his community, but doesn’t really care what anyone thinks. On the other hand, Penny is going to have to somehow convince her friends that she has fallen for the aloof warlock, and that’s not easy either. But the more time they spend together, the more they start caring about one another.

There is enough drama to keep things interesting in this steamy romance, and of course there’s a very happy ending. This was a fast, fun read and while I am not always enamored of paranormal romances (in fact, I rarely read any) I am thoroughly enjoying this series.

Note: New York Times bestselling author Jessica Clare writes under three pen names. As Jessica Clare, she writes erotic contemporary romance. As Jessica Sims, she writes fun, sexy shifter paranormals. Finally, as Jill Myles, she writes a little bit of everything, from sexy, comedic urban fantasy to zombie fairy tales.

5/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

WHAT THE HEX by Jessica Clare. Berkley (April 4, 2023). ISBN:‎ 978-0593337585. 336p.





GO HEX YOURSELF by Jessica Clare

February 17, 2023

Hex, Book 1

From the publisher:

It’s one hex of an attraction in this romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Jessica Clare.

When Reggie Johnson answers a job ad in the paper, she’s astonished to find that she’s not applying to work at her favorite card game, Spellcraft: The Magicking. Instead, she’s applying to be an actual familiar for an actual witch. As in, real magic.

The new job has a few perks – great room and board, excellent pay, and she’s apprenticing to a powerful witch. Sure, the witch is a bit eccentric. And sure, there was that issue with the black cat Reggie would prefer to forget about. The biggest problem, however, is warlock Ben Magnus, her employer’s nephew and the most arrogant, insufferable, maddening man to ever cast a spell.

Reggie absolutely hates him. He’s handsome, but he’s also bossy and irritating and orders her around. Ben’s butt might look great in a crystal ball vision, but that’s as far as it goes. But when someone with a vendetta targets the household, she finds herself working with Ben to break a deadly curse. Apparently, when they’re not fighting like cats and dogs, things get downright…bewitching.

One of…
Amazon’s Best Romances of April, 2022
Goodreads’ Most Anticipated April Romances, 2022
BookRiot’s Best Books of the Week
PopSugar’s Romance Novels for When You Need a Little Spice
Culturess’ April Romance to Have on Your Spring TBR

“A magical rom-com with both literal and figurative sparks aplenty.”Popsugar

“In this breezy paranormal rom-com from bestseller Clare (Holly Jolly Cowboy), an intense young woman trying to pay off family debts finds a job with unexpected erotic side benefits.”Publishers Weekly

“A lighthearted and fun romp.”—Library Journal


This author was new to me and to be honest, so is this subgenre of paranormal romance. I usually avoid paranormals as I have no interest in fantastical worlds, vampires, zombies, etc. I’ve read enough to know it’s not usually my thing. I read the Lizzy & Diesel Series by Janet Evanovich and mostly enjoyed those until they got stupid. I do like a touch of magical realism now and again, too. I guess I was in some kind of weird reading mood – looking for something a little different – when I received an email from Jessica Clare’s publicist about the second book in this series. It sounded fun so I asked for the first book, even though I was assured they each stand alone. This is the first book; the second book, What the Hex, comes out in April and I can hardly wait!

Reggie is a bit of a mess. She has lost many jobs due to her OCD-like tendencies to organize and clean and generally take over. She’s applied for a job as an assistant at what she thinks is a gaming business similar to Magick the Gathering type of thing. Instead, it’s assistant to an old woman, and she has no idea how old she really is. When she arrives at the house for her interview, the young woman she’s replacing due to maternity leave, brings her in and explains that this job includes room and board; she is expected to be available whenever she is needed. And the pay is $25,000, which doesn’t sound like enough, even with the living arrangements, until it is explained to her that that is the monthly salary. Reggie is floored; with that kind of money she can get herself out of debt and keep paying her gay best friend and roommate the rent, even though she won’t be living there.

Reggie has debt due to her parents, a pair of grifters that think nothing of stealing her identity, opening credit cards in her name, and leaving her with the bills. So she moves in and finds out that the sweet old lady thinks she’s a witch, and everyone around her just goes along with it, including her nephew, Ben. He is gorgeous but a real jerk to her and doesn’t want his aunt hiring her at all. On the other hand, he is completely entranced by her freckles…

Ben and Reggie go from enemies to lovers in this fun romance. He is grumpy to her sunshine, and as she gets more immersed in their world, she eventually realizes that the magic is real. While set in our reality, the boundaries are stretched almost to the breaking point but never goes over the top, at least not for me. There is some heat, a lot of snarky dialogue, some really funny subplots, and of course, the happy ending. This was a one night read for me, fast and breezy and just a whole lot of fun – a thoroughly enjoyable book!

2/2023 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

GO HEX YOURSELF by Jessica Clare. Berkley (April 19, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593337561. 384p.





THE NIGHT CROSSING by Robert Masello

September 23, 2018

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Masello’s forte is the writing of historical novels with a touch of the supernatural included; “The Night Crossing” is no exception. It is set in England during the late 1800s and early 1900s and features the author Bram (Abraham) Stoker.

Stoker contributed more than a few books to the world of literature but is most remembered for “Dracula,” a novel about an undead Vampire living in Transylvania but than migrating to London spreading his horrors there.

This story opens when Mina, an intrepid explorer who is seeking out old ruins working in the Carpathian mountains, discovers a beautiful golden box and brings it back with her to England completely unaware of it’s evil power. She meets Stoker who is working as the manager of a successful theater and attempting part time to establish himself as a major author. Mina and Bram meet while becoming involved in a deadly plot that the wealthy owners of a safe haven for the poor have going for them. It is discovered that what these people who are brother and sister are engaged in is using ancient Egyptian methods in forestalling the aging process while using people staying at their safe haven as objects to utilize in their methods.

The couple own a factory making matches, using the poor as low or no paid workers to do so. The methods involve taking their souls and incorporating them into their own while killing the donor. Stoker and Mina are approached by Lucinda, who is an employee of the factory and mother to one of the children used to harvest the soul. They begin their investigation and in determining what is going on Masello makes the insinuation that in thinking about the possible eternal life gained by the couple and the source of Mina’s find of the golden box Stoker conceives the basic idea of the “Dracula” novel.

One of the coincidences of the period the novel is set in in real life is that Bram Stoker died five days after the headlines of the sinking of the Titanic appeared. Masello takes advantage of this and places Stoker and Mina aboard the doomed Titanic in their pursuit of the non aging couple they have chased for many years. The ship’s fate is chronicled faithfully indicating a good deal of research and an interest in it’s fate by the author. The description and the inclusion of people that actually were present makes for a very well done final setting to an excellent novel and adds to the story rather than steering it in another direction.

The presence of Bram Stoker on the Titanic is literary license- he never set foot upon her.

9/18 Paul Lane

THE NIGHT CROSSING by Robert Masello. 47North (September 18, 2018).  ISBN 978-1503904118. 448p.



THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton

October 20, 2015

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Sadie Sparrow was warned about becoming too involved in the Bailey case, but a letter that arrived just as it was all getting started put her in a mindset that definitely wasn’t ideal. At least that’s what she’s blaming for what happened. Now she’s on forced leave, visiting her grandfather in Cornwall, and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

But Sadie has found a new case to keep her mind occupied. After stumbling upon a grand and long-abandoned house in the area, Sadie learns that it was the scene of a decades-old missing persons case that remains unsolved even today. In 1933, the youngest Edevane – coincidentally the brother of the now famous mystery author A. C. Edevane – disappeared without a trace. For years folks speculated as to who could have been the culprit and what happened to the boy, but no solid evidence was ever found. Now, seventy years later, Sadie aims to be the one to solve it.

This latest from Morton is split between the Edevanes’ stories and Sadie’s. We’re shuttled from the 1930s to present day, and back even further than the disappearance, to when Eleanor – the rightful heir of Loeanneth (the Lake House in question) – met and married Anthony Edevane.

A slew of characters offer up their own perspectives of the case, each contributing pieces the others are unaware of until the entire picture begins to emerge. Morton also offers up insight into the emotions and motives each of these characters had in maintaining their silence or, as is the case with Sadie, in doggedly pursuing the truth.

For the most part, The Lake House is a satisfying read filled with Morton’s usual intricate plotting and fabulous atmosphere. Unfortunately, though, the end felt a bit too neat and tidy for my taste (though there are lots of comments about coincidence throughout the book to support this nice and neat ending). All in all, it’s one that will likely satisfy Morton’s fans but maybe isn’t the strongest title to start off with if you’re new to her work.

10/15 Becky LeJeune

THE LAKE HOUSE by Kate Morton. Atria Books (October 20, 2015).  ISBN 978-1451649321. 512p.

WINK OF AN EYE by Lynn Chandler Willis

October 11, 2015

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Gypsy Moran’s return to Wink, Texas was meant to be an attempt to lay low after the fallout from a recent case. Instead, he finds himself roped into a local mystery that could have devastating results.

Twelve-year-old Tatum McCallen is certain his father did not commit suicide. He’s insistent about that fact. The man in question, a cop – as his father was before him, had been investigating a series of missing persons cases the department had already shrugged off, in his personal time, when he was found hanging from a tree in his own backyard.

At first Gypsy isn’t interested in getting involved, but as he learns more about the McCallen family and the case Tatum’s father was digging into, even he begins to realize something is very wrong in Wink. And as his own investigation progresses, Gypsy finds he may not like where the clues are leading.

This 2013 winner of St. Martin’s/PWA Best 1st PI Novel Competition introduces a great new private investigator to the mystery scene. Michael “Gypsy” Moran grew up in Wink and longed to leave from an early age. In truth, it was because he didn’t qualify for a football scholarship and couldn’t see himself working a ranch. And so he left for Vegas where he became a PI. But things, as we soon learn, have gone a bit sour in Sin City forcing him to return to his hometown.

In terms of plotting and setting I think Chandler-Willis has done a fantastic job. I was hooked from page one with Tatum’s plea and found Gypsy to be a compelling and utterly likable character (perfect as a PI series lead, in other words). The clues and story unfold at a great pace and Wink, an actual town in West Texas whose claim to fame is that Roy Orbison once lived there, comes to life completely.

I should be clear, though, in that the case Gypsy is investigating is the death of Tatum McCallen’s father. There are a few cases that are intertwined with this one, including the missing girls, but that case isn’t Gypsy’s focus right now. By pointing that out, I mean to say that there are a few questions left unanswered at the end of the book, questions that likely make for further installments in what I hope will be a series. (The author is reportedly working on her second Wink project as we speak.)

Wink of an Eye has been nominated for a 2015 Shamus award in the Best First PI Novel category.

10/15 Becky LeJeune

WINK OF AN EYE by Lynn Chandler Willis. Minotaur Books (November 18, 2014).  ISBN 978-1250053190. 304p.


October 9, 2015

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What if the outcome of WWII were determined by something of a decidedly supernatural and evil nature? This is the question Maselo poses in his latest, The Einstein Prophecy.

After being injured while on a mission for the Cultural Recovery Commission, Lucas Athan finds himself teaching at Princeton. Though both the student body and staff have shrunk as a result of the war, war hero Athan is exactly the kind of man the university will pull strings to have on their roster. But his job with the CRC hasn’t ended. The very ossuary he was tasked with recovering when he was injured – a sarcophagus of historic significance that Hitler tagged for his own collection – has been recovered and the government wants Lucas to continue his work. The primary goal is to find out exactly what Hitler’s interest in the piece may be.

Simone Rashid and her father know all too well what the ossuary represents and what it is capable of. They were, after all, the ones who discovered it in the first place. But even Simone doesn’t understand the full potential of the ossuary or what Hitler’s goal may be. What she does know is that if she isn’t able to intercept the piece or at least warn the people involved, no good will come of opening the ancient coffin.

The Einstein Prophecy is what would happen if The Monuments Men and Indiana Jones had a baby and invited The Manhattan Project to the shower. (The CRC is a fictional creation based on the Monuments Men.)

The story is set in 1944 and Einstein, Gödel, Oppenheimer, and a few others all make appearances. Of course, too, there’s the very real history behind Hitler’s obsession with the paranormal and the occult, the also very real Manhattan Project (which does play a big role in the story), and the biblical history of the ossuary as well. Maselo uses the actual history of the era and the key players to anchor a tale that is based in mythology/theology to create an action packed mashup that’s a quite fun read.

If you’re a fan of James Rollins and the like, you’ll love The Einstein Prophecy.

10/15 Becky LeJeune

THE EINSTEIN PROPHECY by Robert Maselo. 47North (August 1, 2015).  ISBN 978-1477829400. 326p.


October 4, 2015

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(Fake) Paranormal Investigator

Jillian doesn’t believe all the paranormal mumbo jumbo her father peddles but she does know that an all but orphaned teen has to earn money somehow. Umbra Investigations is Jillian’s somehow – a PI agency focused on cases of an unusual sort. In other words, taking advantage of the same folks her father does.

But then Jillian gets a case that definitely sounds more serious: a missing person, and she’s been hired to find him. Of course the person hiring her believes the missing guy has been cursed and the new boy in school who has suddenly latched himself onto Jillian also believes this to be the case. (He blackmailed his way into partner status.) Nevertheless, Jillian needs the paycheck more desperately than ever and is determined to solve the case even when the clues start to point in some pretty unbelievable directions.

A writer on Grey’s Anatomy with a slew of other show credits to her name, Jen Klein definitely has the chops for a clever and catchy novel and she absolutely delivers in her debut! Jillian Cade: (Fake) Paranormal Investigator is a fun blend of Veronica Mars sass and Buffy the Vampire Slayer supernatural and is perfect for fans of both.

But Jillian Cade is no Veronica or Buffy – she’s all Jillian. She puts up a bad-ass front all the while dealing with some heavy stuff, most prominently the recent weird death of her mother and her father’s abandonment. And things only get harder for the teen. Confronted by the fact that not one but two people are threatening to out her as a fraud, she knows she has to solve this case.

I expected the whole story to be “(Fake) Paranormal” and was quite surprised to find that wasn’t at all the case. There are some pretty big revelations both for our skeptical heroine and for the reader as well. Considering all of that, I assume that Jillian Cade is the first in a series and will most definitely be looking forward to more.

10/15 Becky LeJeune

JILLIAN CADE by Jen Klein. Soho Teen (September 1, 2015).  ISBN 978-1616954345. 288p.

THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR, ed. by Ellen Datlow

September 5, 2015

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Volume 7

Once again Ellen Datlow has culled through the past year’s mass of horror shorts and novellas to put together a collection of some of the best highlights for genre fans.

Datlow not only has great taste, but with these “best of” anthologies she’s essentially offering readers a snapshot of the year’s releases. The chosen tales are narrowed down from multi-author anthologies, single author collections, magazines, online publications, and any other place that might have featured horror shorts for the previous year. What’s more, Datlow also takes the time to list additional readings of note including shorts that didn’t quite make the cut (because there are such a plethora to have to choose from), genre novels, award winners, etc from the calendar year.

This year’s twenty-two tale selection runs the gamut of horror with tales inspired by Lovecraft (Brian Evenson’s “Past Reno” and Livia Llewellyn’s “Allochton” were both originally part of the Letters to Lovecraft anthology edited by Jesse Bullington), a sin eater (Genevieve Valentine’s “A Dweller in Amenty”), vengeance from beyond the grave (Laird Barron’s “The Worms Crawl In”), and of course a couple of tales of the apocalypse as well, just to mention a few.

Some of my own favorites this time around include Garth Nix’s “Shay Corsham Worsted” and Keris McDonald’s “The Coat Off His Back,” both of which center around some quite historic criminals, the abovementioned “Past Reno,” and Angela Slatter’s revenge tale “Winter Children.”

Here’s the full table of contents:

The Atlas of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud

Winter Children by Angela Slatter

A Dweller in Amenty by Genevieve Valentine

Outside Heavenly by Rio Youers

Shay Corsham Worsted by Garth Nix

Allochton by Livia Llewllyn

Chapter Six by Stephen Graham Jones

This is Not for You by Gemma Files

Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8) by Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Culvert by Dale Bailey

Past Reno by Brian Evenson

The Coat off His Back by Keris McDonald

The Worms Crawl In by Laird Barron

The Dog’s Home by Alison Littlewood

Tread Upon the Brittle Shell by Rhoads Brazos

Persistence of Vision by Orrin Grey

It Flows From the Mouth by Robert Shearman

Wingless Beasts by Lucy Taylor

Departures by Carole Johnstone

Ymir by John Langan

Plink by Kurt Dinan

Nigredo by Cody Goodfellow


9/15 Becky LeJeune

THE BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR 7, ed. by Ellen Datlow. Night Shade Books (August 18, 2015).  ISBN 978-1597808293.  368p.



THE UNINVITED by Cat Winters

August 29, 2015

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Ivy has only just recovered from the flu, but when she hears that her father and brother have murdered a local German shop owner she knows she can’t stay in their house one moment longer. Ivy has always seen spirits – they’re harbingers of bad things to come – and the last thing she can take is seeing the ghost of the man her father murdered.

When she arrives in town, though, she finds that Buchanan has been hit hard by the war and Spanish flu. The hospital is bursting at the seams and turning away patients with the wrong background or address. Fear is a predominant feeling amongst the locals – fear of being called out for being unpatriotic, fear of getting sick, fear of losing one more loved one… Ivy knows that fear makes men like the one her father murdered prime targets but she still feels a responsibility to the dead man’s brother and is desperate to make amends. At the same time, Ivy is certain something awful is about to come to pass. Why else would she be seeing her dead brother at every turn?

Cat Winters makes her adult debut with The Uninvited. It’s historical fiction set in an imagined town that’s pretty wonderfully representative of the era: the undertone of sadness and dread and the overwhelming anxiety of the town certainly feels true to the time.

Imagine watching your brothers, classmates, and sometimes even fathers going off to fight a war against an enemy overseas. Imagine being told that your neighbors could be collaborating with that enemy. And now imagine that a truly deadly and virulent sickness is making its way through your town as well. This is Ivy’s reality and her only relief comes from music and a love that’s pretty much forbidden.

There’s more than a hint of the supernatural to this tale – Ivy does see ghosts, after all – but The Uninvited is somewhat less of a ghost story than I’d initially expected. It’s more a story about human nature and the terrible effects of war. The combination makes for an eerie and emotional read.


8/15 Becky LeJeune

THE UNINVITED by Cat Winters. William Morrow Paperbacks (August 11, 2015).  ISBN 978-0062347336.  368p.



X by Sue Grafton

August 25, 2015

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Hallie Bettancourt’s biological son has just been released from jail. Hallie put the boy up for adoption over two decades back and has since become quite wealthy, so even if her son doesn’t want to meet her, she wants to offer some sort of help. And that’s where Kinsey comes in. Hallie has hired the PI to find out where the parolee lives and provide contact info so Hallie can reach out to him. Nothing could be simpler from Kinsey’s perspective.

But that simple job becomes less so when the feds show up investigating a marked bill that passed through Kinsey’s hands. A bill Hallie paid Kinsey with. Kinsey soon discovers that Hallie Bettancourt doesn’t exist. But why would anyone go to so much trouble to pull one over on Kinsey?

Meanwhile, Pete Wolinsky’s widow has grown concerned over some calls she’s received on Pete’s behalf from the IRS. Since Kinsey was the last one to go through Pete’s files – files Ruthie recently trashed – she’s hoping Kinsey might have come across something that can help. Kinsey never saw any financials but she did hang onto one old Byrd-Shine box that has a few curious items she decides are worth a closer look.

Kinsey is back in this twenty-fourth installment of the series. That’s right. Twenty-four. That means, sadly, that there are just two more to go.

Of all the long-term series that I read, this is by far my favorite. Kinsey – still trapped in the 80s, still enjoying her pb & pickle sandwiches, and still renting Henry’s guest house – is a character you want to be with for a while. And in spite of how it sounds, this isn’t a series that’s stagnant or stiff at all. Kinsey is constantly growing – this far along she’s a bit more cynical and a bit more snarky, which is why she’s so certain that the files she finds are another shady scheme of Pete’s. And while Ruthie is a staunch supporter of her husband, Kinsey really wants to stick to her guns based on what she thought she knew about him.

Henry, Rosie, William, and the regulars are back, but there are a few cameo appearances by past favorites too (Dietz.). But that doesn’t actually mean that you have to have read all of the books in order to be able to get into X. In fact, it could serve as a good starting point if you’ve yet to dive into the series.

8/15 Becky LeJeune

X by Sue Grafton. Marian Wood Books/Putnam (August 25, 2015).  ISBN 978-0399163845.  416p.