Book Reviews: The Spellwork Syndicate

Hello bookish peoples! I’m here today with TWO reviews. I stumbled upon Sugar Spells (The Spellwork Syndicate #2) on NetGalley the other month and once I got approved to read it I immediately went and bought a copy of the first book, Deadly Sweet, on Amazon. I’ve recently found that I have a sweet spot for magical murder mysteries that involve food magic. So let’s dive into this scrumptious story…

Deadly Sweet (The Spellwork Syndicate #1)deadlysweet
Author: Lola Dodge
Release Date: January 16, 2018
Genre: Urban Fantasy (YA/NA)
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Goodreads Synopsis: Anise Wise loves three things: baking, potion making, and reading her spell books in blissful silence. She might not be the most powerful witch, but enchantment is a rare skill, and her ability to bake with magic is even rarer. Too bad no one wants witchcraft on their campus. Anise’s dream of attending pastry school crumbles with rejection letter after rejection letter.

Desperate to escape her dead-end future, Anise contacts the long-lost relative she’s not supposed to know about. Great Aunt Agatha owns the only magic bakery in the US, and she suddenly needs a new apprentice. Anise is so excited she books it to New Mexico without thinking to ask what happened to the last girl.

The Spellwork Syndicate rules the local witches in Taos, but as “accidents” turn into full-out attacks on Anise’s life, their promises to keep her safe are less and less reassuring. Her cranky bodyguard is doing his best, but it’s hard to fight back when she has no idea who’s the enemy. Or why she became their target.

If Anise can’t find and stop whoever wants her dead, she’ll be more toasted than a crème brûlée.

Who knew baking cakes could be so life or death?

Deadly Sweet is fun, if sometimes slightly aggravating, YA urban fantasy that involves two of my new favorite things: magic and baking. Anise Wise is our plucky main character who leaves her sheltered life behind after unfortunate incident and goes to live with her Great Aunt Agatha in the witch friendly town of Taos. Once Anise gets to Taos she finds it is not exactly what she expected. Not only is she sent to beginner baking classes to improve her skills but she is saddled with an extremely rude bodyguard with no real explanation as to why. After a near death experience, Anise decides to try and find out what happened to Agatha’s previous apprentice.

In general, I liked this book. It was a fun, quick read with a unique setting and magic system. The problem was I wanted to learn more about the magic system. I felt like we just got the bare bones of witches could do in this world. I liked that witchcraft was known to the world at large and that there were specific cities where witches basically ruled.

There were a lot of characters but I only want to focus on Anise and Wynn, the bodyguard. One thing I like about Anise is she is not some all powerful witch. She is average, she is a young adult who has young adult thoughts and attitudes, and she struggles like so many young adults do. However, she can be very fickle in her thoughts and sometimes make really, really poor choices. And then there is Wynn. Look, I like a grumpy love interest as much as the next book nerd, but Wynn is just an asshole. And not for any good reason. This guy…I just want to punch him. ALL THE TIME. His interactions with Anise are pretty degrading. I get that he is a bodyguard and his duty is to protect Anise, but all this guy does is sleep and act like a misogynistic prick. And Anise’s reactions to him are aggravating to say the very least. There is no communication at all. Like, Anise should have called out his attitude to her aunt and then they all could have had a nice little chat to get any bad feelings out in the open and the move the heck on. But, the antagonism between Anise and Wynn serves to create conflict that leads to the action at the end so I guess there is that…

All in all, this a decent paranormal YA/NA book. It did feel like it was lacking a little bit of magic, but I generally enjoyed reading it. Read this book if you love baking and/or need a quick and fun read.

FYI: There are spoilers for Deadly Sweet below.

sugarspellsSugar Spells (The Spellwork Syndicate #2)
Author: Lola Dodge
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Genre: Urban Fantasy (YA/NA)
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Goodreads Synopsis: After her run-in with a jealous warlock, apprentice baker Anise Wise can’t wait to get back the kitchen where she belongs. But thanks to her brush with death, the land of the living isn’t all cupcakes and marshmallows.

Anise’s magical mojo is way out of whack and her evolving powers are stirring up trouble. As the town buzzes with news that Anise can bake deathly spells, unsavory characters start lining up for a taste. They’ll stop at nothing for the chance to use Anise and her witchcraft to further their own plots.

She plans to hole up researching magic recipes until the attention dies down, but then she discovers the horrifying terms of her bodyguard’s contract. Wynn has saved her life so many times, she can’t leave him trapped. But doing the right thing will mean risking death or worse—being cast out of her dream job.

For this witch, justice might not be as sweet as advertised.

Sugar Spells was provided to me by NetGalley and the publisher at my request. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own and are not influenced in any way.

I’m going to start this off by saying the first book in this series should have been called Sugar Spells, and this book should have been called Deadly Sweet. I mean, the whole book is about death magic…okay, now that that is out of the way (seriously, it’s been bugging me for weeks), let’s get to the actual review.

Also, since this is the second book in the series there will be some spoilers for the first book, Deadly Sweet.

Sugar Spells jumps straight into Anise Wise’s next set of woes in her life: after her near death experience with the villain in Deadly Sweet, her magic has become tainted with death magic. All her bakes are self destructing and she is banished from Great Aunt Agatha’s bakery incase her death magic messes with the aura of the bakery. On top of that, Anise learns the terms of Wynn’s shield contract and decides to help him buy out the contract so he can go live his life. Both these issues lead us to the creepiest character, Girrar. He is a vampire, which also inhabit the witch friendly town of Taos, and is the ultimate creeper. He wants Anise’s death magic baked goods and is willing to pay a lot for them. I won’t go into too much more, but we all know nothing good can from all of this.

Wynn and Anise were a little less antagonistic in this one. Wynn, getting his tragic backstory finally told, is a little more relaxed in this. But honestly, it doesn’t make up for how much of an ass he was in the first book. I see where things seem to be heading with Anise and Wynn, and while I’m not 100% on board with it, I can handle it. I think my main problem is I don’t really care for either Anise or Wynn. I don’t hate them, but I haven’t found myself rooting for them either.

Again, this was a quick, fun read, but it felt like it was lacking a layer of the story. The villain situation was weird in this one and while I won’t go into details for spoiler reasons I can say that the big bad they have to face is forgettable. Like, I don’t remember anything about it. I don’t want to use the term “fluffy read” because it’s not a fluffy book, but it is lacking a bit of depth. Still, I enjoyed myself while reading it and I am looking forward to the third book.


While I enjoyed these two books for the most part, there was just something missing. It was like one of those cute, delicious looking cakes you see in a shop window but when you actually get to eat it you find out it is mostly over sugared frosting and very little cake. And as much as I like frosting, you need a solid cake to make things really good.

25 Bookish Facts About Me

I’ve seen this tag circulating the book blogging universe so I wanted to jump in on the fun. My personal life has overtaken my time lately and I’ve felt very disconnected from my book life. I thought this would be a fun way to re-introduce myself a little, especially to new followers (HELLO NEW PEOPLE! Thanks for the follow!).

ViwDbau66WyWs

  1. I’ve been reading as long as I can remember. | I honestly can’t think of a time in my life when I wasn’t a reader. Much like my mother and grandmother, I am constantly in the middle of a book.
  2. I currently own more unread books than read books. | THIS IS MY GREATEST SHAME!
  3. When I was a teen, all I did was reread. | In my teens, back before the dawn of today’s YA offerings, I was VERY picky about what books I wanted to read. Basically, all I wanted to do was read LJ Smith books and I reread each of her books 15 + times in my mid to late teens.
  4. I will always be a fan of vampire books. | I don’t care what people think, vampire books are entertaining to me.
  5. My YA books are organized by color. | And it’s not that hard to find books like I thought it would be. I’m not much a rainbow person, but it is aesthetically pleasing to have my shelves arranged this way.
  6. I get quite cross when people get snobby about books. | Yes, I am a 33 year old who reads YA…what of it? I also read non-fiction and adult fiction of various genres, but book snobs don’t care about that. They just think it’s okay to belittle a reader because of a style of book that is not to their personal tastes. I’ll stop my rant here, but seriously, the snobbery needs to end.
  7. I’ve been told I should narrate audio books. | Apparently I have a good speaking voice. Which I find hilarious because I hate speaking and my anxiety has actually started manifesting into speech impediments (YAY!).
  8. On the topic of audio books, I still remember the exact moment I listened to my first audio book. | The first week of 2014 I went to a silent meditation retreat. Due to some scheduling issues, I ended up being the only one at the retreat. On the second night I was bored but couldn’t sleep, so I decided to try out the Audible account my friend gave me access to. I downloaded Storm Front by Jim Butcher (read by James Marsters aka Spike from Buffy) and from there I was hooked. Side note, AUDIO BOOKS COUNTS AS READING!
  9. The two people responsible for my reading addiction, my mother and grandmother, are huge mystery fans and I am…not. | Don’t get me wrong, I’ll read a straight up mystery book every now and then, but usually only if my mother has highly recommended it. I tend to lean more towards Science Fiction and/or Fantasy.
  10. I can’t read while flying. | Y’all I hate flying. It encompasses a large portion of my many fears. Everyone always says to just read, but it doesn’t work for me. When in a plane I can’t disconnect enough through a book. It is the ONLY time I can’t read.
  11. One of my favorite places to read is a loud bar. | I used to go to happy hour at a local Irish pub and would read as I ate and drank my dinner. It was always an interesting experience to be so immersed in my reading that the loud pub around me truly fell away from my senses.
  12. I tend to have, at bare minimum, two books going at a time. | Usually I have one physical book and one audio book going at a time. However, lately, I’ve had two audios and two or three physical books going at once. You know, to keep me on my toes.
  13. I started reading Harry Potter in the summer of 2002, during a road trip from Sacramento, CA to San Diego, CA. | I read the first two books in the car ride down to San Diego and then INSISTED that my mother take me to a bookstore to buy the third book so I could keep reading.
  14. When I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in theaters, I was not impressed. | Also, yes, I watched the movie before I started the book series.
  15. I am a firm believer that the book is NOT always better than the movie. | The Princess Bride: LOVE the movie, LOATHE the book. Also, I like the movie version of Chocolat better than the book.
  16. If possible, I always carry the next book in a series along with my current read. | This practice was very helpful when I finished A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab. The ending is INTENSE and I was so happy I could just pull the next book out of my bag and keep reading.
  17. I’m going to Emerald City Comic Con in 2019 and 99% of my excitement is book related. | While I’ve always been a reader, I didn’t know much about the book and publishing community. Specifically signings and ARCs and things like this. This will be the first comic con I’ll be going to knowing about all the cool publishing things and I can’t wait to meet more members of the bookish community.
  18. I don’t like the smell of books. | I guess to me, new books don’t really have a smell…and used books don’t smell particularly pleasant.
  19. My preferred reading method, from favorite to least favorite, is Paperback, Hardback, Audio book, then eBook. | I thoroughly believe there is no superior reading method. It is completely dependent on the person’s personal preference and anyone who says otherwise is probably a book snob.
  20. My lack of poker face makes it very entertaining for people to watch me reading. | As mentioned before, I used to read a lot in public, specifically at a local pub. I could feel myself making certain faces and gestures as I was reading and I can only imagine some of the other bar patrons were amused.
  21. I LOVE listening to music while reading. | Though, only instrumental music. My favorite reading music is Two Steps from Hell, specifically the following albums: Battlecry, SkyWorld, Unleashed, and Vanquish.
  22. If I won a big lottery I already have my two bookish ventures planned. | First, I’d take a group of my bookish friends on a trip to New Zealand to visit filming locations of The Lord of the Rings. Then I’d open a new/used bookstore in Canada, England, or Iceland.
  23. I am addicted to bookish themed candles. | I never knew they were a thing until a year ago…I now own close to 200.
  24. Deciding to start reviewing books was super scary to me. | After joining the #bookstagram community on Instagram I learned how important book reviews are. However, I get so nervous talking about the work of other people. But I’m slowly getting better (I hope) and I think reviewing is making me a better reader.
  25. One of my biggest regrets in life is not finding the online book community sooner. | My 20s were rough and was the time in my life when I was reading the least. I wish I had known about the bookish community back then because I think I could have kept myself out of a lot of trouble. But I’m here now and I have never been happier to find a group of people who share my love of books and reading. Most of my life, I have been surrounded by peers who did not enjoy reading and made me feel that my love of books was unusual. But through #bookstagram and the book blogging community I have finally found my people.

I tag whoever sees this and wishes to do the thing!

Happy Sunday evening everybody! I’m finally almost caught up on reviews so I’ll be posting regularly this week *gasp* But for now, it is time for me to go hop into bed and read for a bit!