Cover Image: The Lighthouse Witches

The Lighthouse Witches

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Member Reviews

This book went in a direction that I definitely wasn't expecting.  It ended up being more heartbreaking than horror.
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The Lighthouse Witches by CJ Cooke is directly up my alley - Set in Scotland, spooky/atmospheric setting, a healthy dose of historical backstory, general witchiness and mystery - amazing, I'm in. If you are a fan of Jennifer McMahon (particularly The Invited and Winter People) you will really enjoy this book. Also bonus points for creepy children.

The storyline starts in 1998 with a single mother, an artist trying to make ends meet with her 3 children when she gets an opportunity to create a mural in a lighthouse on a remote Scottish Island. We then flash forward to one of her daughters as an adult in the present day and flash far back to the origins of witchcraft and witch trials on the very island where the lighthouse resides. 

A very fun and quick read, especially on a rainy day!
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Perfect for spooky season! it caught my eye because it’s marketed as a gothic thriller and the author drew inspiration from Scotland's witch trials.

Liv, a mother of 3, is commissioned to paint a mural in a 100-year-old lighthouse on a remote Scottish island. She thinks it’s a great opportunity for their family to start over but when 2 of the girls go missing, they’re frantic. They then learn that there’s a cave beneath the lighthouse that it was once a prison for women accused of witchcraft. The locals tell her stories about wildlings, supernatural beings who mimic human children, created by witches for revenge.
 
Twenty-two years later and the remaining sister has been searching for sisters for decades. Finally, she receives a call that one has been found and is initially ecstatic. However, the girl comes home and she is still seven years old, the age she was when she vanished. Luna is obviously baffled and although she has few memories of her time on the island, she has no  choice but to return to the island to find the truth of what happened to her family. It’s a chilling Gothic thriller that draws on folklore and explores the horrors of little-known history and is an examination of mother-daughter relationships. Sounds like the perfect october read! .
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So, I had tried to read this 'book about Witches.....' almost a year ago and put it down.  So, after spending 16 hours to trudge thru this slow burn of what ended up being a really dumb book, I will not be reading anymore by Cooke.  Single mother Liv is hired to paint the interior of a lighthouse and must take her 3 young daughters with her.  When one of them goes missing you think....ooooh, this is going to be creepy. NOT.  What ended up was so NOT scary at all but more of a wanna be mystery instead.  This could have been 175 pgs. shorter and been a BETTER book than it was.  

2 Snores.
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Ooh time goes by and if i don't write the review right away...sigh. I'm trying to be better. The best i can do right now is give a star count...

Unlike anything I'd read before. Loved it.
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This gothic mystery really kept my interest. Each time I set it down, I was anxious to pick it back up. I couldn’t figure out where the author was going with this, but when the underlying premise was revealed it made sense. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but it comes as a surprise, and one that has an inherent excuse for any inconsistencies you might find in the book. Cooke was very clever to include a short metaphysical piece that excuses those niggling doubts.

Liv, a single mother, is hired to paint a mural on the inside wall of an abandoned lighthouse on a remote Scottish island. She brings her three daughters with her, and mother and daughters alike fall prey to superstition and menace, with a little romance thrown in. There are tales of wildlings, children who disappear and then reappear years later, not having aged and with numbers carved into their skin. Townspeople connect them to a curse placed by witches who were burned in the 1600s and are determined to protect themselves from the curse at devastating cost. Who the wildings are is at the crux of the mystery, and figuring it out is no easier for the reader than for the characters.

Those characters are very well written, as are the descriptions of the Scottish landscape. A few of the scenes involving the daughters are a bit over the top, but they do add to the strange atmosphere of the place and the oddity of the people. I went back and forth between the audio and kindle versions, and found that the accents and voices in the audio book really added to the experience. They carried over in my head as I read some of it on kindle. I felt immersed in the experience.
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I'm a sucker for books about witches and this one did not disappoint. There were witches burnt at the stake, a lot of folklore, a creepy lighthouse, unexplained appearances and disappearances and just a whole lot of atmosphere. 

"'Well, I have to say, I'll only be too glad to tempt you into staying on Lon Haven. What we lack in the way of theater and art galleries we make up for in myth and murder...'"

The Lighthouse Witches uses an alternating timeline with multiple narrators to tell the story of three girls and their mother who arrive at Lon Haven, a small Scottish island, where their mother is commissioned to paint a mural inside a decrepit lighthouse, at the behest of a millionaire. In the present narrative twenty years later, Luna is still searching for her sisters and mother, who disappeared on Lon Haven never to be seen again. 

I really enjoyed the Scottish myths and history of witches worked into the story, though the lighthouse setting is obviously the star of the show. I did wish there was just a little more creepiness, but overall the story worked and I was here for it.
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It was a steady paced good read. I'm not much of a SciFi reader, and I haven't read his other books, but this one actually really held my attention.
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The writing style just wasn’t my favorite and lacked overall depth. Definitely willing to try more from the author in the future.
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DNF - Did not finish. I did not connect with the writing style or plot and will not be finishing this title. Thank you, NetGalley and Publisher for the early copy!
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C. J. Cooke is an awesome writer. I want to start with that. This is the second book of hers that I’ve read, and I absolutely cannot put them down, except I make myself so I can savor them. The Nesting was a creepy delight, and I don’t even like creepy books.

The Lighthouse Witches is as full of delightful twists and curves as the staircase on the cover. It opens with the arrival of Olivia and her 3 daughters on the remote Scottish island of Lon Haven. Olivia’s running from–well I won’t say–and the 4 of them arrive unexpectedly one evening. Sapphire, Saffy for short, is 15 and rebellious. Luna is about 10 and Clover is 7. Olivia has been hired to paint a mural on the inside of an ancient lighthouse, its floor awash in debris, its staircase worn and dangerous. The owner of the lighthouse has a very specific design in mind. He’s a mysterious character in his own right, and his design is a bit…weird.

Fast forward 22 years with the turn of a page. It’s modern day, and Luna is an adult who was raised in foster care after her mother and sisters went missing. She has never stopped searching for them, and when she gets a call that Clover has been found, she and her boyfriend race north to Scotland, hoping that this will actually be her sister. Her shock (and ours) when confronted with a Clover who is still 7 is profound.

Lon Haven has a long history of witch stories–witches being tortured and burned, and retaliating by sending wildlings among the population–creatures who look like children who’ve gone missing but who are inexplicably different and must be killed to protect the population. Luna wonders: is Clover a wildling? What other explanation could there possibly be for her disappearance and reappearance? And what could explain the weird tattoo on her skin?

The Lighthouse Witches is a great story. It keeps you guessing, you care about the characters, the ending is so satisfying, and it’s just a fantastic read. It’s definitely a book you’ll want to read and reread. I highly recommend it.
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First off, I love the deep dive this book took into the whole world and culture of Scotland. I learned so many Scots-specific words and loved it. Luckily this is a book that pays back any confusion you might feel as you work your way thru the decade-hopping story of Liv and her daughters. I've gotten so used to, in both TV and books, having no satisficatory conclusion and feeling I wasted my time. The Lighthouse Witches does not abandon you. Just go along for the twisty-turny ride and feel the craggy, damp Scottish air. I was even a little emotional at the end of the book. That doesn't happen a lot.
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Loved this one, so atmospheric and eerie. Thank you so much for this copy! Will be posting and doing a reread around halloween, absolutely devoured it!
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Thank you for the advanced copy of this book! I will be posting my review on social media, to include Instagram, Amazon, Goodreads, and Instagram!
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Sometimes life gets in the way of you being able to sit or lay on the sofa and read without interruptions. And this is exactly what happened to me when I first started THE LIGHTHOUSE WITCHES, back in the fall. Yes, the fall. I wish now I could go back in time and be able to read this book in one sitting. wink emoji.

It had many story elements I love: witches, folk lore, cold settings, a creepy lighthouse, CHANGELINGS (also known as wildlings). There was another big element I won't name so I don't give a spoiler. However, that element is one typically do not enjoy. But in THE LIGHTHOUSE WITCHES it made sense.

Because of my on again and off again reading relationship status with this book, it was hard to follow at times. The story rotates in three different time periods - 2021, the mid-90s and the 1600s. 

The premise of the story is a woman and her three daughters temporarily move to an Irish island with a lighthouse. She has been commissioned to paint inside the lighthouse.

Eventually, her daughters go missing. The town has creepy citizens, it's freaking cold and rainy, it's dreary, there's a forest … ahhh, this would be perfect for Halloween reading.

Years later, after one of the daughters survived the whole lighthouse experience, we find out she's now an adult and pregnant. Yet, imagine her surprise when one of her younger sister shows up being the same age she was when she disappeared. She has not aged at all. And that's where the mystery comes in.

I really enjoyed the different view points from various characters. I thought, at times, things were confusing, but overall the story had a good pace. 

THE LIGHTHOUSE WITCHES is a story to be enjoyed by fans of witches, Irish folklore, bays and mysteries.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for an e-book copy of THE LIGHTHOUSE WITCHES to review.

I rate THE LIGHTHOUSE WITCHES four out of five stars.
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A mix of history, time-travel, and the magic of witches. The Lighthouse of Witches is a marvelous and engaging read in the vein of Deborah Harkness and Phillipa Gregory. The only bit I wasn't a huge fan of was all the flashbacks from the 1600s to present moments, but this is entirely a preference in storytelling style. The switch back and forth was actually quite smooth and interesting. Just not my cuppa. I'd recommend this 1000% though!
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Great story and characters. The fact that the story was told in flashbacks from 1600's to present made for an interesting read. Loved the time travel/disconnect element and thought that it worked well with the device of flashback.
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Thrilling and Spellbinding

Two sisters go missing on a remote Scottish island. Twenty years later, one is found--but she's still the same age as when she disappeared. The secrets of witches have reached across the centuries in this chilling Gothic thriller from the author of the acclaimed The Nesting.

When single mother Liv is commissioned to paint a mural in a 100-year-old lighthouse on a remote Scottish island, it's an opportunity to start over with her three daughters--Luna, Sapphire, and Clover. When two of her daughters go missing, she's frantic. She learns that the cave beneath the lighthouse was once a prison for women accused of witchcraft. The locals warn her about wildlings, supernatural beings who mimic human children, created by witches for revenge. Liv is told wildlings are dangerous and must be killed.

Twenty-two years later, Luna has been searching for her missing sisters and mother. When she receives a call about her youngest sister, Clover, she's initially ecstatic. Clover is the sister she remembers--except she's still seven years old, the age she was when she vanished. Luna is worried Clover is a wildling. Luna has few memories of her time on the island, but she'll have to return to find the truth of what happened to her family. But she doesn't realize just how much the truth will change her.

C.J. Cooke has created a masterful novel about witchcraft, family, and time. The story takes place in both the past, 1998 and the present 2021, each adding elements of the overall narrative and arch. Luna’s discoveries add to and enhance the story while the past helps add to the power and emotional arch of the novel. 

The characters are engaging, with the emotional elements, the drama of their family adding to the overall narrative. Liv struggles as a mother which most women will relate to while Sapphire’s teenage rebellion is also completely relatable. Luna with the disappearance of her family is perhaps the one I connected with the most, especially as she struggles to make sense of her past and what happened to her family. And all of them interacting with the history of the island, the witches that were killed and their supposed curse makes for a thrilling and spellbinding story, one where the truth is far from expected and where the conclusion is quietly impactful. 

Once you begin reading this novel, you will find it impossible to put down as you follow the mystery of what is happening on the island, whether Luna will discover the truth, and whether she will finally know what has happened to her family as she works to create a new family. If you love thrillers, if you love novels that paint witches in an authentic light, one that provides a true history of witch trials, this novel is for you. It is magical, unexpected, and wondrous.

Rating: 5 out of 5 wildlings
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The Lighthouse Witches is a blend of several genres: Gothic, paranormal, and mystery. At the outset, author C. J. Cooke expertly sets the eerie, evocative scene: a decommissioned lighthouse called the Longing on the Scottish island of Lon Haven. It is "a white bolt locking earth, sky, and ocean together. . . . [L]ovely in its decrepitude, feathery paint gnawed off by north winds and rust-blazed window frames signatures of use and purpose." It stands one hundred and forty-nine feet tall and offers breathtaking views from the lantern room accessed by climbing one hundred and thirty-eight steps. In a first-person narrative, Liv describes arriving on Lon Haven in 1998 and seeing it for the first time with a sense of haunting familiarity, even though she has never been there before. She has come to the island with her children in tow looking for a fresh start, on the run from an unpleasant truth she is too frightened to face head-on. She is well aware of "how stupid" her thought process is, but is unable to disavow herself of the ludicrous notion that if she just ignores the problem it will go away. They are to live in the rustic lighthouse keeper's cottage while Liv paints a mural inside the lighthouse that has been commissioned by the owner, Patrick Roberts. He wants the mural to be "stunning and inspiring" and plans to turn the lighthouse into a writing studio.

Sapphire immediately finds a grimoire -- an old book of spells -- on the cottage's bookshelf. Cooke inserts excerpts of "The Grimoire of Patrick Roberts," which details the life of a local family who "lived our lives by magic" in 1662 and what ultimately happened to them. Liv and her children learn there were witch hunts not just in the United States, but also in Scotland and England. In fact, women believed to be witches were imprisoned in a dungeon underneath the lighthouse before being burned if they were found guilty of witchcraft. One of those witches cursed the island as she was dying, and a young child went missing there thirty years earlier. According to the boy's sister, another child was found a year later who looked just like him, but bearing a telltale mark on his neck. Was he a wildling, sent to kill every member of his family until their bloodline was destroyed? 

Sapphire's first-person narrative expresses her dismay at being dragged from her school, friends, and boyfriend in New York to live in the "arse-end of nowhere." She misses her stepfather, Sean, who died in a car accident, and daydreams about her biological father materializing. Liv and Sapphire have an unsurprisingly fraught relationship -- at fifteen, the always headstrong girl has grown disrespectful and defiant. But Liv loves all her girls boundlessly and struggles to balance raising them as a single mother with accepting commissions for paintings and teaching art. 
 
Yet another narrative is set in 2021 and focuses on Luna, who has only fragmented memories of the time she spent on Lon Haven. Her psychiatrist has explained that whatever happened to her all those years ago was so horrific that she dissociated, "effectively checking out of the horror," her memories deeply buried in her mind. Liv abandoned her when she was just nine years old. "No explanation. No apparent motivation. Just dumped her in the woods and vanished into thin air." Now she and her boyfriend, Ethan, are expecting their first child. She has vowed never to return to Lon Haven, but maintains Facebook pages devoted to her missing sisters, Sapphire and Clover, neither of whom have ever been accounted for since they went missing more than two decades ago.

But then Luna receives a life-changing call. Clover has been found! Since she was seven when she disappeared, she is twenty-nine years old now. But when Luna rushes to the hospital to meet the "wee girl" who has been found, she is disappointed. It's not Clover at all. It's a seven-year-old girl. But the girl bears an uncanny resemblance to Clover and asks why Sapphire is carrying the stuffed giraffe Clover adored. Sapphire kept it in the intervening years. The girl has knowledge of other matters, as well, that only Clover could possess.

Cooke weaves a tale of increasing angst in 1998. The creepy lighthouse has been vandalized with horrific symbols, but as Liv prepares to bring the mural to life, she makes other unsettling discoveries. She meets Patrick Roberts, the "island's mystery millionaire," who turns out to be much younger and more eccentric than anticipated. And disturbing details come to light about how he came to own the lighthouse.

Meanwhile, in 2021, Luna struggles with the prospect of marrying Ethan and takes custody of Clover, who insists that she just left the cottage on Lon Haven the night before she was found. She was discovered wandering on the side of the road, claiming that she'd gone looking for Luna. And she has an inexplicable mark on her hip.

Cooke deftly alternates the narratives into a cohesive tale of witchcraft, curses, time travel, and legends that mystify and frighten her characters and mesmerize readers. Liv is an empathetic character -- a single mother doing her best to care for her children and earn a living after experiencing trauma. She is frightened and in denial about what the future might hold for her and her daughters. Sapphire is a typically inquisitive, willful teenager trying to assert her independence, while Luna is a young woman who survived early traumatization but has found a man who loves her and is attempting to lead as normal a life as possible when it is upended by the reappearance of Clover. But it can't really be Clover. So Luna has to return to Lon Haven to face her own demons and determine who Clover really is.

As the narratives meld cohesively, Cooke gradually reveals the details of her uniquely inventive plot as she gradually accelerates the story's pace and ramps up the dramatic tension. She assembles a world in which wildlings (also known as fae or fairies), witches, and magic exist, and reveals the true motives of Patrick Roberts. She also explains precisely what happened to Liv and Sapphire, as well as Clover's true identity, and provides a conclusion that is surprisingly emotional yet fitting and, ultimately, uplifting and hopeful. In the process, she relates a tale that is engrossing and entertaining. With her richly descriptive prose and thoughtful examination of parent-child relationships, lost love, and the power of fear, she might make believers even of readers for whom the genre is outside their comfort zone.
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Didn't capture my attention and engagement. Interested in trying it again though and hopefully it will take.
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