The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 3. Title starting with the letter “E”

Other Possible Prompts: 14. A character with superhuman ability, 34. An author’s photo on the back cover, 37. Set in a rural area, 41. Involves a second chance, 42. An indie read, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

I’m on a streak of some really *meh* books, which SUCKS because I was quite excited for this one! I was hoping for The Hating Game meets Payback’s a Witch, but no such luck.

Nine years ago, Vivienne and her cousin cursed her ex-boyfriend with a Bath & Body Works candle. After a wonderful three months, she broke it off with witch Rhys Penhallow and promptly labeled him a dickbag – but now he’s back, home to charge the ley lines that power the witchery of Vivi’s town, and the curse she didn’t really think worked apparently very, very much did.

Now, the pair have to work together to shut down living toys and ghosts, and other witchy antics haunting the little town as a result of Rhys’ curse, which he passed on through the ley lines. The proximity and the unresolved feelings make Rhys and Vivi’s relationship sizzle with some lightning intensity.

Without a doubt, this relationship was *sizzling*. The romance in this book is steamy and entertaining, if nothing else. Truthfully, I didn’t initially like Rhys and Vivi for each other…and I still didn’t really, by the end of the novel, but it mattered less because they never turned out to be super round or relatable characters so I wasn’t even mad. I felt like their backstories were generic and their reactions to things very neutral/unimaginative. I don’t know how else to describe it, other than I legitimately did not care about either of these characters, but Sterling writes some good romance *scenes*. That’s where all the magic happens.

I really want more from my witch books than The Ex Hex had to offer. I enjoyed Payback’s a Witch so much because it did a great job blending the romance and the witchy world; there was a lot of substance to that story and a lot of magic interspersed. That’s a series that will carry itself on the magic alone. The Ex Hex falls flat in comparison. I didn’t even really get the cozy vibe of a fall novel from this one, though I am reading it in 80 degrees…so that could be my fault. I just expect more from books about witches than Sterling was able to deliver.

I feel like I’m just entirely trashing this book here, but I evidently enjoyed it at least a little bit. And it really wasn’t that bad, it just wasn’t that good. The romance part was really solid, as I mentioned, but the rest of it was not stellar.

I think I will still pick up The Kiss Curse, especially because I really liked Gwyn’s character more than I liked Vivi. I had the potential to like Vivi more; I liked that she didn’t grow up as a witch, that she was coming into her own power in this book…but it was poorly executed. Gwyn had more warmth, character, and personality, so I’m excited to see her story play out on the page. Though I have to say, somewhat disappointed that we went from the f/f lead up created in The Ex Hex to whatever f/m magic is happening in The Kiss Curse.

And in conclusion, I would like to say that Sir Purrcival the cat was my very favorite character. He reminded me of my own kitties. I would be a witch in another life, and Eloise would be my Sir Purrcival.

Have a lovely week, friends!

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 14. A character with superhuman ability

Other Possible Prompts: 41. Involves a second chance, 42. An indie read, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre

This gem came up in my library holds a couple weeks ago but I’ve just been putting it off – everytime I got it, it seemed I was already in the midst of something. Finally I decided to just borrow it, and I literally could not put this one down.

Wallace was a powerful, cold and calculated attorney who was very good at his job, if nothing else – and then he died. At his funeral, he is collected up by his reaper, Mae, and brought to Charon Crossing: a peculiar teahouse run by a man named Hugo. Hugo, Mae tells him, is a “ferryman” who will help him cross over.

Unwilling to believe himself really dead, Wallace learns to navigate the world as a ghost with the help of Nelson, Hugo’s grandfather, and Apollo, Hugo’s dog – both also dead. Wallace isn’t quite ready to pass on, but he’s not sure why just yet. This odd clan is going to help him find out why.

I love the characters in this book. They absolutely make the story – they are warm and alive, much like in The House in the Cerulean Sea. Despite the wild fantasy the story tells, these characters are deep set in reality with beautiful personalities and stories to tell. Even Wallace becomes something greater than he was.

I didn’t think I was going to like the premise (pondering the afterlife) in this one as much as the other Klune I read, but I really did. Perhaps even more so, because it felt a bit more like magical realism than deep fantasy – I don’t prefer fantasy, but I think Klune has a knack for it. I can picture it, see it, follow it and actually enjoy it more than I can any other fantasy story I’ve read in the last five to ten years or so (God, I’m old).

The themes of this book, as we are forewarned, are very heavy. It deals with a lot of sad and sobering stuff, but it deals with it very well. Klune has the heart and mind to write about suicide, grief, and loss in a way that many authors can’t even touch. The empty feeling is captured and laid out on the page for you to grapple with. I cried multiple times reading this book and I’m not ashamed to say so. It is not an easy novel to read, especially if these themes have been in your own life.

My biggest complaint about Under the Whispering Door is the lack of bridge over the gap between how Wallace starts and what he becomes. For the most part, the character development is truly fantastic, but there’s a point, maybe around 35-40% of the way through, where I think Wallace made a very discernible shift without one particular catalyst. The rest of the transitions, including Wallace’s, are masterful.

I loved this book. Can’t recommend it enough. Please, please pick it up, but practice self care while you read it.

Have a great week. ❤