Southern Spirits

There can be no such thing as too much Southern Spirits!

Gangsters, ghosts, murders, a pissed of passive-aggressive would-have-been-mother-in-law, a hunky police officer, and a pet skunk.  What could be better? The Skeleton in the Closet (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries, #2) The second (full length anyway) installment of the Southern Ghost Hunter series, The Skeleton in the Closet by Angie Fox, was another awesome little paranormal cozy!  And I can’t wait to read the third!

As a reminder, Verity, a girl hard on her luck because of a jerk of an ex-fiance, saw her life change in the first book when she dumped an urn full of the ashes of a 1920s gangster on her rose bushes. The gangster ghost, Frankie, is grounded to her and her property. In this installment, her town of Sugarland is preparing for an annual festival that will be filmed for a documentary about the Civil War – the “Ball in the Wall” (love that name!).  Frankie is still funny, Verity still doesn’t really shy from danger and is she is still sarcastic and witty (although not quite as much or as often here), the dialogue between characters is amusing and feels real. Melody, Verity’s sister is a great tool for info (she’s the Hermoine of this story, being the resident librarian) and Ellis is the hunk police officer who asks Verity for help investigating the murder.

This installment stayed true to the recipe for the cozy, even the paranormal type.  There was a lot going on, some misdirection (but I love that the misdirection headed down the “Virginia did it” road was really fun because of the history between Virginia and Verity), some mayhem, and a lucky discovery or two.  And what makes it even more fun is the ghostly element – there’s enough to keep things ever so slightly creepy but not so much that this isn’t something that can be read while smiling the entire time.  The “southern” way of making sure someone knows they are unwelcome, all with a smile, was on full display here during Verity’s visit to her ex-almost mother-in-law.  And it was awe.some.!!!  And, if I were paying more attention, some of the details wouldn’t have been surprising because the title is pretty meaningful (**hint, hint**) here.  I had so much trouble putting this down because it was cute and fun and all that I want out of my paranormal cozies!

I love everything Verity that I have read so far, and hope there are many many encores!

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Gift of a Ghost

A Ghostly Gift was a rare treat indeed. It’s not often that I think the little half installments are worthy of a full-length review. In fact,24390204 it is rare that I believe they are worth even a cursory review. However there are exceptions to this rule. And A Ghostly Gift by Angie Fox is one of those wonderful, delightful surprises of an exception. I don’t usually buy anthologies like the one that A Ghostly Gift was in. And these anthologies seems to be a much more frequent occurrence in the paranormal/romance genre than in others. So, it was with trepidation that I decided to buy this anthology, especially since I really only wanted it for a single story.  But, it was worth the download because this Southern Ghost Hunters little story was a fun little read.

The mystery here has to do with a disturbance in a cute little secondhand thrift shop that the shop owner believes is centered around a knickknack and jewelry case. The store is owned by a friend of Melanie, Verity’s sister. In exchange for getting rid of the ghostly problem Verity might actually manage to get some furniture! We are treated in this story to a glimpse of the 1920s prohibition era speak easy type bar scene. And a few great characters including a World War II soldier. The mystery doesn’t take long to solve and has a an adorable ending that is both happy and sad at the same time.

It’s a wonderful additional glimpse at Verity and what she is willing to do. It was also a great little extension of the rules of the world of Sugarland Tennessee and our resident ghost buster. The plot is not complicated, but it is not meant to be since this is one of those little novellas. The solution to the mystery, and how we get it, is not complicated either – ditto on the reasons why. But it was definitely a fun few minutes worth of a read.

I’m hoping that the expansion of Melanie’s involvement, from a research perspective, is the start of things to come in (**fingers crossed hopefully**) another full length addition? Hint hint… I would also love to see more of the relationship between Melanie and Verity. We also didn’t see Ellis this installment, so I can only hope for a full-length next book so that we can see him!

While we are robbed of Ellis time, we do get some good Frankie time. And Frankie helps further cement Verity’s ties to the spirit world.  There’s so much color that comes through in Verity’s stories (so far anyway) – from the use of some of the ghosts’ expressions to Verity’s old beat up car, and now her new purple velvet couch (love the mental image that description conjured – it looks so comfy in my mind)! It’s a nice change of pace from some of what I think or quite frankly more depressing dystopian young adult reads. I know I’m the one who chooses to read them but I can only read so many of them back to back before I need a dose of good old-fashioned fun and laughter.  And I guess that’s why this is considered a cozy mystery because when you look at how that particular type of book is described it includes the notion that when the reader is finished they are left feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. Like with the first book in the series, Southern Spirits, it fit that definition to T.

There was a cringe worthy moment that I must note.  Because I really don’t think I can take seeing this reference or joke or whatever it was supposed to be.  What am I talking about?  The references to Verity having a proton pack as a ghost buster. Really? I think once was enough and there is plenty of fodder in the Ghostbusters movies, characters (etc.) where jokes can be made about things other than just the proton pack.  No need for recycling the same exact joke.  It felt a little forced too.  And for a movie that is so old (despite the current conversations about remaking the movie(s), the original was funny at the time but the material is a little dated at this point) that it made me do a double check on the date of publication for the little story we have here.  Hopefully, more original references – or at least more current ones – will be made in the future.

When I opened the anthology it felt a little like unwrapping a Christmas present because I had to dig in to get to the story I was looking for. But once I found it and read it, it was just as nice a surprise as a present wrapped in shiny paper and a big pretty bow.

Spooky Fun in Southern Spirits

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00031]I want to thank Netgalley again for access to yet another wonderful title – one that has made my “to be read” pile significantly larger because if the other stuff by Angie Fox is as much fun as Southern Spirits, then I have a lot more reading to do!  I mean, there are a number of series that Ms. Fox has written and it looks like, fingers crossed, that there will be another related to Southern Spirits (the end page with other books lists this installment under “The Southern Ghost Hunter” heading!).  Yippeee!

I am a big fan of books like this – quick, fun, easy to read, an engaging mystery, and characters that are easy to like.  A little bit of romance and a little bit more of the paranormal, and I am hooked.  The final ingredient, which sometimes feels like the cherry on the cake is good writing.  I read some bad stuff, and very often continue to read that book or series anyway.  Call me a masochist (it’s bad but I like it!) or maybe an optimist (things will get better?) but it usually takes a lot to get me to stop reading something.  How can good writing be the dessert course?  Well, even bad writers can have fun books, good stories and/or characters.  Ok, so I am in a Twi-bashing kind of mood lately.  They were entertaining and fun reads.  But, lets face it, they were about sparkly vampires.  I mean, really, who thinks they were well written?  Or Fifty Shades – they may have been steamy but they were also the model for a course in contradiction and bad writing.

Not the case here!  Verity, a girl hard on her luck because of a jerk of an ex-fiance, happens to change her life when she dumps an urn full of the ashes of a 1920s gangster on her rose bushes.  And then waters said rose bushes.  And ends up with a gangster ghost, grounded to her and her property.  Property that she is trying to save.  So, she jumps into a mystery now that she has a connection to the spirit world, in an attempt to make the money she needs to save her home.  Frankie, the gangster is funny, Verity doesn’t shy from danger and is sarcastic and witty, the dialogue between characters is amusing and feels real.  Melody, Verity’s sister is a great tool for info (she’s the Hermoine of this story, being the resident librarian) and Ellis is the hunk who hires Verity and he was pretty fun to conjure in my brain.

The story isn’t super complicated – they never really are in this genre (cozy mystery is where I believe it sits, at least that’s where I have categorized it).  But the paranormal spin keeps it fun and lets things happen which otherwise wouldn’t be possible.  I was reminded very much of Madelyn Alt’s Betwitching Series (which I miss terribly, by the way – I still have fingers crossed that In Charm’s Way will eventually grace the book stores but I may be delusional on that front) or H.P. Mallory’s stuff (I am only one book into the Dulcie O’Neil series, but loved the first one).  We see everything from Verity’s perspective and she’s a great companion.  Never mind the fact that she has a pet skunk (yes, skunk!!!  Lucy. Love. It.) and isn’t shy about that.  She has just enough personality and we see just enough of her for me to think “move over Pepe Le Pew”.

Then, we have a little tiny hint of romance between Verity and Ellis, and that too keeps things interesting.  Just enough suspense and mystery to be alluring and addictive.   The ground rules for the paranormal world were solidly established and that was a relief.  The story, with the backdrop of the Southern Spirit’s distillery, was just spooky enough to keep me furiously reading.  Can’t go to bed right after the ghost attacks, after all!  A toast is in order: here’s to Southern Spirits, and hopefully more spooky fun in A Ghostly Gift!