The first is called The Language of Spells by Sarah Painter.
Gwen Harper returns to her hometown after her great-aunt dies and she inherits her house, but her great-aunt had magical powers, and so does Gwen. Her magical powers, which she has for years tried to suppress, now return - the Finding as she calls it. She wants to sell the house, but she can't for a while, and she finds she has to stay in the house, forcing her to deal with an odd neighbour, a fractured relationship with her sister who resents magic, and an ex-boyfriend.
In many ways this story revisits familiar themes, but it's told well. The writing is good, and the characters are engaging, and I was keen to keep reading.
Tension is raised by the actions of the increasingly unpredictable neighbour, and also the relationship with Gwen's ex, and her hometown.
If you want overt magic, spells and fantasy, you'll be disappointed, as this is far more subtle, seeking to integrate magic into everyday life. I liked this subtlety, it made magic more believable - if that makes sense.
This is the start to a series and the sequel is also out, The Secret of Ghosts, but told from Gwen's niece's perspective - or so I understand. Highly recommended.
Link to Amazon
The second book I'm reviewing is called Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
The story revolves around the Waverley family - Claire, Sydney, and Bay. The family is known throughout the neighbourhood as being odd, and they have a garden with magical properties.
Claire keeps to herself, other than running a catering business. Her magical powers are used in her cooking and the way she evokes certain emotions. When a new neighbour moves in, she is forced to reconsider the way she lives.
And then to complicate matters her sister Sydney returns with her daughter. Sydney left home years before and wants to put magic behind her, but when she returns it throws up all sorts of emotions for Claire. Sydney is on the run and wants to keep secrets about her past, but again she has to come to terms with who she is and her family legacy.
Both sisters have to reconsider their relationships, their choices, and learn to accept their differences.
There's something for everyone in this - some mild romance, mystery, tension, and magic. The story is well paced, and moves between the two sisters' point of view. It's well written and the characters are believable, and I want to visit Bascom, North Carolina where it's set!
The sequel First Frost is out, and it's on my 'to read' list.
Link to Amazon
I really wanted to like this book. It's about three cousins who live together in a cabin in the grounds of their ancestral home. Their mothers/aunts all live together in the big house and run a B&B.Bay is the main character - the editor of the local newspaper. When a dead body is found in a cornfield the cousins have to investigate, and they find it has similarities to murders committed several years before.
The family are well known in the community for their witchy powers and the cousins run a magic, mystic, new age shop.
Sound good? It's not. It's told in this breezy, tongue in cheek tone, which would be OK, if not for the constant, wearing, repetitive banter between the main characters. And I mean constant. It gets in the way of any real characterisation or plot, and the whole thing became tedious and annoying. I gave up half way through, and skipped to the end just to find out what happened.
There's not much magic for a book about witches. It's talked about a lot, and the attempt is to ground it in the familiar, but it felt secondary and tacked on. Bay sees spirits, and there's a lot of talk about hexes, but that was it. As I mentioned earlier, I'm happy with subtle magic, but this was not that type of book. There was a suggestion of romance with a muscled biker, but again not much happened there either.
I will not be reading any more of these, but to be fair they seem a popular series, so the style suits some readers!
If you're interested, here's the link to Amazon