Oak and Mistletoe

The Rituals Trilogy (1)

Fiction - Fantasy - General
254 Pages
Reviewed on 11/01/2016
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

J.Z.N. McCauley is an award-winning fantasy author residing in lovely New England, where she loves wearing jackets and boots in the unpredictable weather there. She is a wife and mother who enjoys life to the fullest. Also, being a nerd across many genres is something she expresses openly.

McCauley spends most of her spare time writing, drawing, or reading. She loves archeology, mythology, history, music and many other forms of art as well. Always having a variety of interests and talents, she could never pick just one. When the chance pops up to travel to any of her favorite places, she takes way too many pictures. Otherwise, she is exploring a mystical land in a daydream, which all provides fuel to her immense joy of writing.

The Rituals Trilogy was especially inspired by her life long love of fantasy, history, and Irish mythology.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite

Oak and Mistletoe by J.Z.N. McCauley is a story reminiscent of fairy tales. Catherine and her siblings, Danny and Kathleen, take a trip to Ireland to celebrate her college graduation. During their vacation, two significant events occur: Catherine receives an offer to work at a museum and their Uncle Mickey is murdered. Two years later, Catherine is living in Ireland with her siblings taking up residence with her after their lives don’t pan out the way they expected. Mysterious Bowen arrives with a warning. “Leave Ireland or they will be set free.” Catherine interprets the warning as hatred or even insanity. When tragedy strikes, Catherine understands the truth of his warning and the magic hidden within her.

Oak and Mistletoe has all the elements of a fairy tale. It has the magic and wonder of the Irish myths. Ancient ageless druids are only the beginning. It has a villain insane from tragedy. He’s unlikable yet sympathized with through Bowen. There’s the dashing prince charming type. Bowen can’t stand the thought of letting anyone suffer. There’s the humorous side character of her brother. There’s even a tragedy that propels her into the world. Oak and Mistletoe is perfect for a younger audience, but anyone who loves a good fairy tale will enjoy it. The magic is real, but is not the heart of the story. Catherine must find the magic within her in order to survive and save her loved ones. It’s a story of different types of magic, the magic of self-discovery, love, loyalty, and belief. Oak and Mistletoe is charming, fun, and magical.

Cassidy Taylor, Author of

Rating from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31353031-oak-mistletoe
Mini-review from reviewer's website: http://cassidytaylor.net/review-oak-mistletoe-by-j-z-n-mccauley/

"I was excited to read this book – a new adult fantasy with a beautiful cover and an original premise! Yes please! And I was not disappointed. Once things get going, it turns into a fast-paced read. Let me tell you, McCauley is not afraid to kill her darlings and take you on an emotional roller coaster ride. As with any book that incorporates magic, it requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but Catherine was a very well-developed character, and believing in her helped me to believe the events that occurred around her. I also, of course, adored Bowen, the mysterious stranger, and would love to have more about him in the coming books.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, action-driven fantasy, this is the book for you."

Aimee McNeil, Author

Review & Rating from Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1719959885?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

"I have to admit it took me a little while to get into this book but once things started coming together I really enjoyed it. I loved that magical history that was woven into this story. The romance was sweet and the plot twists kept me captivated. The imagination that came into play by the author in creating this original tale was fantastic. It was a great read!"

Cait

Cait • A Page with a View's Goodreads review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1782959697?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

"3.5 stars overall. If you've been following my reviews you probably know how much I LOVE anything related to Ireland. This story had so, so many elements I absolutely adore. It's set in Ireland and has all of this magical/mystical stuff like fairies, druids, and curses woven into an absolutely gorgeous setting.

I thought this would be more YA, but it was a refreshing change to see a similar style story with adults in their mid-twenties! The prologue starts with Catherine visiting her uncle in Ireland with her brother and twin sister. The uncle tells her he thinks she has a tinge of magic in her or is connected more to Ireland. He's murdered shortly after.

Then the story picks up two years later when Catherine's living in Ireland and working at a museum. Her twin sister Kathleen is getting a divorce and is still a bit materialistic and annoying. While she's wearing Catherine's jacket and glasses, some random guy grabs her and tells her that she has to "just get out of here, out of Ireland... because if you don't, you'll unleash them." And then he's gone. His name's Bowen and he proceeds to keep showing up and angrily telling Catherine to get out of Ireland, but not filling her in. Catherine is attracted to him.

Very minor spoilers about the first half of the book:

There's a moment of really lovely character development for Kathleen, but then she's (view spoiler) by some psycho guy who was trapped in a rock. It turns out Bowen is a druid over 2,000 years old and has been living in an ageless state until the woman he will truly love appears to unintentionally break the curse a high priest's daughter put on that psycho twin-killing guy and his followers (which is how those guys got trapped in the rocks). So now they're free and out to get Bowen and Catherine.

Bowen & Catherine go off on a quest to find the remnants of Bowen's people, which are cool items like the staff of a priest... and they're obviously hidden in gorgeous, hard-to-reach locations. A lot of action and answers unfold. Catherine's brother is kind of in the story sometimes, but then he disappears.

I loved the premise of the story and think the author has a super original and creative idea here. I would have liked to have seen more in each area though... it's a pretty fast/short read and kind of felt like it just breezed through the surface while covering a TON instead of letting the reader really connect with everything. Like I wasn't entirely sold on the attraction between Bowen and Catherine, even though I really liked the idea of it. And it did take me a while to get into the story with all of the weird warnings and no answers.

But I still liked the book and recommend it if you love Ireland! The author really knew her stuff about Irish history, myths, geography, culture, etc. I'm not sure if she lived there, but this definitely felt like one of the most authentic or better-researched stories about Ireland I've read.

Thank you so much to the author for sending me a copy of this book!"

Hadassah Harper

Goodreads review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1779122286?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

"This book is amazing. Not only is the story original, but the writing is so good and the characters memorable. This book follows Catherine, a woman who originally planned on only visiting Ireland with her brother and sister. Evidently, Catherine falls in love with the country and takes up permanent residence. Catherine now runs into a certain man who keeps warning her to leave Ireland. At first, she just thinks he is . . . some crazy dude just trying to freak her out. Things are not always what they appear.

For a fantasy/paranormal read, this was super refreshing. We have boatloads of series out there, and not so much stand-alones. (Trusting my instinct that this is not the debut of a series, but that would be great as well.) I am so glad I had the chance to read this book, and I look forward to more of the author's coming works."

Brittacakes20

I absolutely loved the plot of this book! It pulled me in right as I started, if I didn't have work it would have been done in one sitting!

I originally was interested because of the cover. (Look at that beautiful book!)
J.Z.N. McCauley did such a great job with her characters, Catherine has such a strong personality, and was very well written, she easily slid into being relatable and a favorite character. I'm a huge sucker for anything to do with Magic, this book defiantly shows off the magic of druids, and an adventure. (Side Note can we talk about Conall? uh yes.)
The only down side for me was I wish there was more description of the areas that they were in because Ireland is such a beautiful country but this downside wasn't enough for me to knock a star off. It was a very good read, I highly suggest it for anyone who wants to read about druids and magic. It definitely has a young adult, fantasy, feel also, there's a little romance. I cannot wait for the next book!!

Jenna Táralóm

Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1753795707?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1

"I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Oak and Mistletoe is a fresh new adult fantasy story that features ancient druids, curses, love, loss, and a quest for revenge. The story follows Catherine Greene, a young woman who moves to Ireland after landing her dream job. There, she meets the mysterious Bowen, who orders her to leave Ireland before she causes disaster to befall the island. Catherine accidentally unleashes an evil army of ancient druids by breaking a curse cast thousands of years ago. Shortly after that, Catherine learns the consequences of breaking the curse in the most brutal way and sets out on the quest for revenge.

JZN McCauley created some amazing characters in this story. A lot of her secondary characters are just as interesting and relatable as Catherine and Bowen. The antagonist, Conall, is really well thought out and reminds us that good vs. evil isn't always black and white. There is plenty of characters that walk in the shades of grey, which makes them (and the world in Oak and Mistletoe) more believable. The relationships between characters are also really well developed-- nothing feeling forced.

The story did start out a bit jumpy, with short scenes that drove the plot forward in a choppy way. However, as soon as the curse is broken, the pacing gets better. The scenes don't feel too short anymore and the pacing is fantastic. There is tons of action mixed with the characters' downtime.

As this is the first book in a planned trilogy, I was worried that the book would end on a massive cliffhanger, but everything wrapped up beautifully. While there are still some loose ends/questions the reader is left with, I was left completely satisfied by the ending.

I am really looking forward to the second book in the Oak and Mistletoe series!"

Lene Blackthorn

Amazon Review

"I received a copy as a voluntary reviewer.
Catherine's story was a very pleasant read. She came to visit her uncle in Ireland together with her twin Kathleen and brother Danny, when a stranger warned her to leave immediately and prevent a disaster. She refused and decided to stay and live in Ireland, and strange things started to happen. Murder of her uncle, breaking a millenia old curse, watching her twin killed and ancient druids regain their power. The druid leader, Conall, is a pitiful yet evil creature with enormous magical power and ability to shift, driven by mad grief and lust for revenge. Deep pain twisted his mind and he became a cruel leader seeking rulership over the world. In order to stop him, Catherine and Bowen went on a dangerous journey to uncover Caty's magical powers and save her brother.
Fairytale-like world with atmosphere humming with magic and Catherine's incredible power to destroy and heal are two base stones I built my pleasant experience on. Both main protagonists are interesting, full of understanding that makes them accept their nature and assimilate to changes, which develops their personalities greatly. I also found Kathleen's character very amusing, a typical careless girl from big city and shallow desires, only to be proven wrong when she opens up to her twin sister.
Although I appreciate the peaceful mood of the whole story, it made the fighting scenes a bit odd. I did not feel any tension on suspense, simply knowing it would end well. I also felt the pace slowing down in several passages, and I would certainly welcome more dialogues - and a bit more romance between Bowen and Catherine, since the main plot many times dominated the development of their relationship.
Nevertheless, I am quite satisfied with the book. It was very relaxing and I do not regret reading it at all. Not a must read, but well written and charismatic. Four stars from me."

Ashley Nestler

Amazon Review

"Oak & Misletoe is a new adult novel about Druids, Celtic myth, and coming of age. J.Z.N. McCauley did an excellent job of intertwining current events with fantasy and the past, and I was intrigued by how she was able to create a contemporary cast of characters, but was also able to make fantasy become believable and alive.

McCauley's novel is a perfect book for anyone looking into Celtic mythology simply because it connects mythology to modern life, and it makes it understandable. I also always look for strong, female protagonists in fantasy/adventure novels, and I couldn't have asked for a better heroine than Cathleen Green. She is one of the best characters that I have read who develops so much in such a short novel. Cathleen begins as a shy, naive woman but ends up being a powerhouse who takes on evil forces and tries to make everything right. She is super woman, and she is an excellent role model for readers in this age group. McCauley didn't dwell on physical aspects of the characters, and I think that this helped me as a reader to connect to the characters in the way that I saw them.

I particularly liked the beautiful descriptions in this novel of Ireland and the mythology that is part of the country. I could see the landscape for myself, and reading the pages was like me traveling to Ireland myself. McCauley was able to portray to the reader a beautiful setting with an intriguing plot to fill it, and I felt myself falling into McCauley's beautiful words as I read on.

Even though I was not fond of the romance in this novel due to the fact that it came off as cliche, I did like learning about the different legends of Ireland itself. It is a great novel to help you escape to another place and time, and I would highly recommend it as a beautiful, fall read."