4 star, YA

ARC Review: Spells for Lost Things by Jenna Evans Welch

Willow has never felt like she belonged anywhere and is convinced that the only way to find a true home is to travel the world. But her plans to act on her dream are put on hold when her aloof and often absent mother drags Willow to Salem, Massachusetts, to wrap up the affairs of an aunt Willow didn’t even know she had. An aunt who may or may not have been a witch.

There, she meets Mason, a loner who’s always felt out of place and has been in and out of foster homes his entire life. He’s been classified as one of the runaways, constantly searching for ways to make it back to his mom; even if she can’t take care of him, it’s his job to try and take care of her. Isn’t it?

Naturally pulled to one another, Willow and Mason set out across Salem to discover the secret past of Willow’s mother, her aunt, and the ambiguous history of her family. During all of this, the two can’t help but act on their natural connection. But with the amount of baggage between them—and Willow’s growing conviction her family might be cursed—can they manage to hold onto each other?

From the New York Times bestselling author of Love & Gelato comes a poignant and romantic novel about two teens trying to find their place in the world after being unceremoniously dragged to Salem, Massachusetts, for the summer.



**Spells for Lost Things comes out September 27, 2022**

Thank you Simon & Schuster for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

In Jenna’s latest novel that is separate from her renown Love & Gelato series, I found her usual whimsical storytelling with likable protagonists set in a location that becomes as much of a character as anyone. Spells for Lost Things is a heartfelt novel about two individuals who don’t know where they belong in this world, but perhaps could find what they’re each searching for with one another’s help.

Yes, this is a dual POV story and I was totally here for it. I loved how both Mason and Willow have such distinctive voices right from the start and it totally adds to the story by knowing their deepest thoughts and struggles both so intimately.

Mason is an astronomy lover, and the little geeky stargazer that I am was super ecstatic with all the star facts just splayed across this story. Also, he keeps a star log and I absolutely need to do that over a traditional journal. Being a foster kid in search of his mom’s whereabouts, immediately we get the sense of his struggles as she had always been the anchor to Earth, the gravity that kept him moving from home to home because they’d be reunited one day when she was ready. I don’t have firsthand intimate knowledge of what the foster system is like, but I did think his actions and behaviour felt genuine when placed in his new foster home. He wasn’t always happy or outwardly grateful but my heart couldn’t help but love him for what he had gone through and was still working out.

Willow brought some more of the lightness to the story, although her own struggles with her workaholic mom was prevalent. Her mom’s secrets and distant behaviour left Willow in search for home, that sense of feeling that she belonged and fitted somewhere. Like Mason, she too was unmoored and had a wanderlust that drove her restless to see all that was out there in the world.

That being said, while it could’ve been a really serious and dark book, the balance of fun and lightheartedness worked out well in the context of Willow’s search for her witchy ancestry. With the help of Mason by her side to decode her aunt’s clues left for her and her mom to follow surrounding a mystery in their ancestor’s past in Salem, their struggles and individual losses were brought to light that felt natural. The chemistry between the two teens were present right away. While I loved both characters individually for who they were – a grand feat as YA romances sometimes define their protagonists based on their interactions with one another and not as separate individuals – I am glad their interaction as a unit was just as beautiful.

I mentioned earlier that the location is just as big of a presence as any person in the story. Like Jenna’s previous books, Salem gets brought to life on page before us. For someone like me who hasn’t travelled extensively to such locations, I felt like I was walking down the streets with them, seeing ghost tours, feeling the 365-day year round Halloween spirit that still had room to be amplified more in October. The witch aspect of the story wasn’t super developed like other books, so don’t expect a whole system described about how spells work or their specific beliefs. This might’ve been something that would bother me in another story, but it worked in this one. Being witches is not the main focus, although Willow’s eccentric great-aunts were such wonderful gems that brought the comic relief. But I will warn that may be something certain readers would want to see more, so unfortunately I’m letting you know now it may not be as expected.

Overall, Jenna Evans Welch displayed she can write a fun contemporary story even within a more local setting while focusing on character development that made her protagonists shine brightly. Spells for Lost Things is a perfect read for contemporary romance lovers and comes at the perfect time to snuggle up with a blanket on a cold October evening.

Overall Recommendation:

Spells for Lost Things follows 2 protagonists, Mason and Willow, on their individual journeys to seek what they feel is missing in their lives. It brings them on a crash course collision in Salem, home of magic and whimsical longing. Salem was beautifully described, almost like a character itself, and it made me want to take a visit there some time. The seriousness of both protagonists’ struggles with feeling lost was balanced with the lightness that came with Willow’s quest to discover her family’s past, including the fact that she is a descendant of a line of witches. I really enjoyed the character development most in this book for each character, and their romance was sweet and perfect for any who loves a good ending. Overall, a solid read and continues to show off Jenna Evans Welch’s writing in this genre.

4 star, adult

Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead… but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.



Love was putting up with someone for fifty years so you’d have someone to bury you when you died. I would know; my family was in the business of death.

The Dead Romantics showcases a different side to Ashley Poston’s writing and I’m totally here for it! I loved her YA sci-fi books but this paranormal, contemporary romance was something I didn’t even know I needed from her.

First off, the prose is everything. There were so many quotable paragraphs I found myself highlighting more than I usually would. There’s just something so flowery and magical in the writing. Words fit together so smoothly and transition like water gently flowing over stones in a shallow creek. I’m not normally this poetic or sappy about how words are strung together, but it definitely set the mood for a small town in South Carolina our protagonist, Florence, finds herself going back to for the first time in a decade.

It’s not just how the words fit together but also the way Poston was able to make Florence’s voice so distinctive and personal. She’s emotional and stubborn, loving but also hardened by life’s betrayals. I saw myself in Florence’s struggles to love herself and find worth looking inwards instead of to those around her. Reading her narration reminded me of the voiceovers in the early 2000s shows that brought both witty and sarcastic commentary to the story. I absolutely loved it.

Though the writing was oddly refreshing and wholly different than I anticipated, it’s also the story itself that made everything such a wild ride. I don’t cry very often when I read books and I wasn’t expecting to in this one, but boy, did the waterworks just start going at certain points. This book is also one about grief, though the author doesn’t drown us in it so much as reminds us it’s there as Florence faces the burial preparations for her dear father. The balance of funny moments with the reality of death and grief was one I thoroughly enjoyed. It doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the topic, but it allows for different processing and I think that’s what worked for me. Florence mourned her father’s passing and the time she lost spending it with him in person, but their love and memories still remained.

“There’s nothing like the sound of the sky rattling your bones, you know?” [my dad] once told me when I asked why he loved thunderstorms so much. “Makes you feel alive. Reminds you that there’s more to you than just skin and blood, but bones underneath. Stronger stuff. Just listen to that sky sing, buttercup.” …

I hoped that when they eased Dad into the ground, the dirt would part for the thunder. I hoped the sound would rattle his bones still, make them dance, like they did mine. I hoped that, when the wind was high, blown from some far-off shore, I could hear him singing in the storm, as loud and high and alive as all the dead I’d ever heard singing.

Florence’s self-inflicted isolation from her family all comes to a head when she’s forced back home to face the demons she ran away from. Her family, the town, and her backstory that led to her run to NYC was fleshed out very well. I will admit that the first half of the book moved quite slowly, setting up the foundation for the latter half. I almost wanted to give up but I’m so glad I stuck it out. So this is why I can’t give it top rating but the latter half more than made up for the slow pace.

But the waterworks didn’t only come from dealing with grief. The majority of this story is also one of romance. From the opening proclamation that Florence believed love was dead, a ghostwriter for romance novels, I knew this would get interesting. When her hot(!) but suddenly dead editor who wouldn’t give her an extension on her book pops up in town, you know this isn’t your ordinary meet cute kinda story. I grew up reading the Mediator series by Meg Cabot so I immediately knew this hot ghost love interest would make me happy and sad simultaneously. And wow, was I sure right.

Can I just interrupt this to say I love how meta this romance book felt? Ashley just name dropped all these big names in the publishing community, authors and books we hopefully should all know of, and I felt like only someone in the time period I grew up in with the kind of books I read could truly appreciate how cool it is to feel Florence’s reading and writing inspirations were mine too.

Back to Mr. Hot Editor, Benji Andor. He’s the perfect cinnamon roll, helping Florence through the roughest week of her life when she should be the one trying to help him move on. The chemistry was so on point, and the tension was agonizing because, well, he’s a ghost and they can’t actually touch.

Mostly, I’m a huge fan of character development. And Florence had her issues at the beginning. While the course of everything at home and with her dad’s death obviously changed her, it’s ultimately her shift in perceiving love that’s the winner for this book. We always think of love as romantic love first, but we gotta remember, love also exists in multiple forms beyond the one.

[Love] was something in between, a moment in time where two people existed at the exact same moment in the exact same place in the universe. …

Love wasn’t a whisper in the quiet night. It was a yelp into the void, screaming that you were here.

The Dead Romantics will leave you feeling mushy inside, trust me. Or at least, if you have some kind of a heart. It’s the perfect blend of paranormal romance with the contemporary struggles we can all relate to. This is probably Ashley’s best book yet and that’s saying something as I’ve really enjoyed most of her writing so far. Please do yourself a favor and pick this one up ASAP.

Overall Recommendation

The Dead Romantics blends wit and humor into a powerful story about grief and love. While that may sound like many books out there, what’s unique about this one is the ghostly boyfriend vibes a la Mediator style and the way the author lets us process Florence’s emotions and grief over her dad in a way that’s not suffocating. I LOVED the gorgeous prose that made the atmosphere of the small town and vivid emotions come alive off the pages. It’s truly a book to experience though the first half may test your patience as it sets up for the climax. With plenty of tears running down my face, I can honestly say this book in it’s entirely is sure to tug at your heartstrings and make you believe in love again too.

4 star

Review: The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

For fans of the compulsive psychological suspense of Ruth Ware and Tana French, a mother daughter story—one running from a horrible truth, and the other fighting to reveal it—that twists and turns in shocking ways, from the internationally bestselling author of The Scholar and The Ruin.

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.



Another one I picked off the shelf, but it certainly had an interesting premise. As a legal(ish) thriller, it was fairly well executed, and it wasn’t too jargon heavy, and anything that needed explaining was explained well. Compared to my last review of Verity, there were actually a lot of similar plot elements that I found interesting.

The Murder Rule follows our protagonist, Hannah, who worms her way into the Project Innocence project at the University of Virginia Law. She has high stakes in this project, as they are taking care of a famous murder case. Except she isn’t there to help free him like everyone else is. Will she be found out as she works against her own team? Full of twists and surprises, this is a story of girl who will do anything for her goals, with her own ideals of the justice system.

Continue reading “Review: The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan”