Book Review – Black Arts, Tarts & Gypsy Carts : A Cozy Witch Mystery (Spells & Caramels Book 2) by Erin Johnson.

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank the author Erin Johnson for gifting me with a free electronic copy of this book. She has done so only because I enjoyed the first book in this series and I can assure you this is still my own open and honest opinion and not something I’ve been paid (or bartered a book) to say.

Okay, so we know I am a lover of cosy crime with a bit of the supernatural… so being gifted ‘Black Arts, Tarts & Gypsy Carts’ (along with books 3 to 5 in this series) simply for really enjoying the first book ‘Seashells, Spells & Caramels’ was like buying a piece of chocolate cake, enjoying so much I compliment the baker… and get given the rest of the cake as a thank you. Yup, I really do like this series and will be posting my reviews of the other books I’ve read soon. And, for those who think I am cheap and never buy books for myself, I’ve bought the rest of the series (there are 10 books in all). Yup, I REALLY like this series ‘Spells & Caramels’.

Okay, back to book two in the series – ‘Black Arts, Tarts & Gypsy Carts’ takes place just weeks after the first book ‘Seashells, Spells & Caramels’. Imogen (main character) is settling down into her new magical life and loving being a baker. There, that’s enough of a blurb from me.

This book is still world building the series, while also carrying a new whodunit and undercurrent sub-plot. And it carries them all in a perfect balance. A bit of padding it out with world and character building, a little sub-plot that will grow throughout the series (I only know this as I’ve just finished book 6) and a rather well thought out whodunit. And, as much as I guessed the how and why early on, I found the scenes set as the reveals (there was more than one) really nicely done. It was like I’d glanced briefly at a black and white image (figured it out), only to have the real, full colour, place revealed to me by Ms Johnson as the book progressed. So I may have had an idea as to what it was all about, but needed her creativity to bring it to life.

And, as much as I am usually an anti “magic” and “wizards” person – yes, I don’t like Harry Potter *gasp* – I liked this magical world. There was just something about it that shows it’s not all sparkles and making everything perfect. That magic doesn’t suddenly make you the popular, talented star of everything… In the ‘Spells & Caramels’ world magic is just something you do to get on with your day. No different than using a mobile phone, internet, blender, etc. This series makes magic seem less… magical… and more normal and usual. I know that sounds weird, but it does.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that ‘Black Arts, Tarts & Gypsy Carts’ is a perfectly balanced cosy with its raw emotions of love and loss, its mystery of “who are they really”, the grunge of real life being hard, and that tinge of brewing romance and unrequited love that makes any cosy a GREAT read. The magic is just the garnish to set this book, and series, apart from others.

‘Black Arts, Tarts & Gypsy Carts’ is filled with believable characters, a protagonist you can connect with, a setting that is familiar and magical all at the same time and a gruesome murder to remind you why you’re reading it. A fun read. 😉

Formatting and the usual book nerd stuff – It was formatted perfectly to Kindle, no complaints from me there. And no major clangers or copy edit trip ups spring to mind.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Though I would be telling them to read book one, ‘Seashells, Spells & Caramels’, first. Otherwise you’re doing yourself, and the author, a great injustice.

Lovers of cosy crime/ mystery thrillers set in places that are close to our own reality… but with a twist – you will enjoy this book.

Lovers of supernatural cosy crime – you will enjoy this book.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I would have, if I’d not been gifted a copy. As said, I’m slowly making my way through the ‘Spells & Caramels’ series right now and have run out of books given to me for free so have been buying the rest of them. They are affordable (none of that outlandishly, overpriced eBook madness happening here) and they are enjoyable.

In summary: A good second book in a potentially excellent series, the world building and continued spinning of suspense and mystery is fabulous.

Until next time,
Janis.

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