Christmas Past: A Ghostly Winter Tale

By: John Alcox

Thank you to NetGalley and The Story Plant for the eARC in return for an honest review. 

The winter holiday season is a time for gifts and music, for snow and miracles, and for family and going home. For Jessie Malone, it’s a time for sorrow.

Jessie is a graduate student living in London, where she hopes to be one of the first folklorists ever to trace an urban legend back to its original source. She’s also a grieving young widow unable to heal from the agony of her life-shattering loss.

In the bleak midwinter, Jessie learns of an urban legend about a lonely, wandering ghost, a British sailor named Sam who promised his bride that he’d be home for Christmas. The legends say he’s been trying to make it back to her since World War II.

As she investigates, Jessie learns that Sam’s story defies the patterns of how urban legends are supposed to work. It’s a puzzle she can’t let go. To solve the mystery, she must confront the impossible and, just perhaps, discover a miracle of Christmas love that survives beyond the grave.

A story that will engage all your emotions, Christmas Past bursts with wonder, enigma, romance, and the unquenchable spirit that comes from promises that must be kept.

This book was a DNF for me. I tried several times to pick it up and read it and just couldn’t get into it. I really loved the concept of chasing down older Ghost stories or legends to see where they originated from. Unfortunately, that’s where the magic ended for me. 

The character didn’t have much emotional output for me. The main character didn’t interest me at all. I really felt nothing for her at all. It annoyed me how many times she reminded us that she cannot get distracted from her main purpose of writing her dissertation. Her memories were lovely but again, no emotional reaction from me.

The imagery didn’t strike a cord either. I couldn’t feel London or Paris around me at all.

I did love the ghost stories and how the legends were relayed. It’s such an interesting concept of how a legend is born and how it travels from place to place. I also enjoyed reading about the effect each story has on folks as it gets passed down from generation to generation. The stories were stories of kindness and humans going out of their way for those in need. This is a theme much needed in today’s world so I was glad to see it.  

I wish I could have loved this but I didn’t.

⭐ ⭐

The Resting Place

By Camilla Sten

The medical term is prosopagnosia. The average person calls it face blindness—the inability to recognize a familiar person’s face, even the faces of those closest to you.

When Eleanor walked in on the scene of her capriciously cruel grandmother, Vivianne’s, murder, she came face to face with the killer—a maddening expression that means nothing to someone like her. With each passing day, her anxiety mounts. The dark feelings of having brushed by a killer, yet not know who could do this—or if they’d be back—overtakes both her dreams and her waking moments, thwarting her perception of reality.

Then a lawyer calls. Vivianne has left her a house—a looming estate tucked away in the Swedish woods. The place her grandfather died, suddenly. A place that has housed a dark past for over fifty years.

Eleanor. Her steadfast boyfriend, Sebastian. Her reckless aunt, Veronika. The lawyer. All will go to this house of secrets, looking for answers. But as they get closer to bringing the truth to light, they’ll wish they had never come to disturb what rests there.

A heart-thumping, relentless thriller that will shake you to your core, The Resting Place is an unforgettable novel of horror and suspense. 

Note – Thanks to Netgalley and Minotaur Books for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This is the second Camilla Sten book I’ve read. I read The Lost Village last month and it was a decent read. I wanted to give her another try. 

In truth – I didn’t love it. It started out all mysterious and eerie. The timelines flipped back and forth from the past to present and back again. In the beginning, it was hard to know who was who – I got a little lost in the introduction of the character Anushka. 

The spooky atmosphere starts to build immediately as Eleanor and her boyfriend, Sebastian, reach Solhoga, the abandoned family mansion in the woods. Floorboards creak, a dumb waiter has a mind of its own, shadows appear in the woods and doors open by themselves. The main character has prosopagnosia (face blindness) which adds to the intensity of the story. You can clearly see the two storylines racings heading towards an intersection. Clearly, the author wants us to think the house is haunted and tries to write it as a character on its own. 

Unfortunately, it fell a little flat to me. The storm that cuts Eleanor and her party off from all civilization seems a little contrived. The characters were uninteresting and over-dramatic. There were a few loose ends that left me with question – like Vivianne’s background. It’s hinted at but never really explained. The relationship between her and Anushka is weird and unexplainable. The family dynamic was really disjointed. Sebastian was condescending and commonplace. I didn’t buy that he cared even a little for Eleanor. 

The macabre ending was predictable and uninteresting.

I will say that Sten’s writing style, her use of vocabulary is stunning. She’s descriptive and fluid. She’s detailed without losing you in the detail and is adept at creating a tangible atmosphere.  

Overall, I wanted to love this but I didn’t. However, I’m still a fan of Camilla Sten and eagerly await what she’s got in store for us next.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Room in the Attic

By Louise Douglas

A child who does not know her name…

In 1903 fishermen find a wrecked boat containing a woman, who has been badly beaten, and a young girl. An ambulance is sent for, and the two survivors are taken to All Hallows, the imposing asylum, hidden deep on Dartmoor. The woman remains in a coma, but the little girl, who the staff name Harriet, awakens and is taken to an attic room, far away from the noise of the asylum, and is put in the care of Nurse Emma Everdeen.

Two motherless boys banished to boarding school…

In 1993, All Hallows is now a boarding school. Following his mother’s death and his father’s hasty remarriage, Lewis Tyler is banished to Dartmoor, stripped of his fashionable clothes, shorn of his long hair, and left feeling more alone than ever. There he meets Isak, another lost soul, and whilst refurbishment of the dormitories is taking place, the boys are marooned up in the attic, in an old wing of the school.

Cries and calls from the past that can no longer be ignored…

All Hallows is a building full of memories, whispers, cries from the past. As Lewis and Isak learn more about the fate of Harriet, and Nurse Emma’s desperate fight to keep the little girl safe, it soon becomes clear there are ghosts who are still restless.

Are they ghosts the boys hear at night in the room above, are they the unquiet souls from the asylum still caught between the walls? And can Lewis and Isak bring peace to All Hallows before the past breaks them first…

Note – Thanks to Netgalley and Boldwood Books for this eARC in exchange for an honest review. 

This book opens with a BANG! It’s got a scary opening hook that draws you in immediately and doesn’t really let go until the very end. 

As a lover of gothic ghost stories, this one is pretty good. Told in dual time, the author starts in the present, then flips back and forth between 1993 and 1903 unraveling the mystery of a young woman and child washed up on the shore and brought to All Hallows Asylum/Boarding School. 

It’s 1993 and Lewis Tyler is a young teenage boy still mourning the loss of his mother when his father, an emotionally challenged man, and his new wife decide to send Lewis to All Hallows Boarding School in the hopes of turning him from his goth ways. So, right off the bat, we’re emotionally involved. Lewis is rejected, unwanted and discarded. Once at school, he meets up with Isak, another rejected teenage boy, and together they begin to weather the hauntings of All Hallows. 

Then we go back in time to 1903 where the mystery begins with the arrival of a young woman and small child at All Hallows back when it was used as an asylum. We meet Nurse Emma Everdene who assumes care of the child and becomes very attached to her. In order to keep the child safe from other asylum inmates, Emma and the child, Harriet, are kept sequestered in an attic room directly above where Lewis and Isak’s room is. As Emma’s own story unfolds, we discover she also is an outcast, thrown away by her parents at a time when “unruly, free-thinking” women were put in asylums as punishment until they learned to be respectable. 

The story leads us to events that took place on Boxing Day 1903 which results in a skeleton Lewis finds on the grounds in 1993. Lewis and Isak take to solving the mystery as they make an attempt to change the past. 

Several themes are going on here. The first is abandonment with the main characters of Lewis, Isak and Emma all being abandoned by their parents in one form or another. Individuality is another theme. Back in 1903, patients were brought in and those with their faculties were quickly stripped of them, along with their hair, clothes and anything else that defined them. The same happened to Lewis in 1993. He arrives fully in goth gear where quick judgments are made against him. He is forced to discard his goth attire and given a uniform while his hair is cut short, stripping away his own identity. Grief is another theme. Both Lewis and Isak have lost their mums unexpectedly. Emma lost her child. All parties are struggling to recover. Last is the theme of isolation and the result it can have on a sane mind. Douglas explores this fully with the character of Emma as she and Harriet are isolated from the rest of the asylum and how that thwarts and plays with her definition of reality. I really love how the author writes these as history repeating itself. It’s almost like it’s an effect of being at All Hallows. 

The scare factor is decent. After the opening scare, it’s not a huge theme nor are there a lot of jump scares but there is a creepiness steeped deep in the story and its eeriness is enough to leave you sleeping with the lights on. The story does slow up but only in a few places and it doesn’t last long. I was concerned about that since there’s 100 chapters to this book. 

Overall, I’d recommend it as a good Halloween read. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Rock Paper Scissors

By Alice Feeney

Think you know the person you married? Think again…

Things have been wrong with Mr and Mrs Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can’t recognize friends or family, or even his own wife.

Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts – paper, cotton, pottery, tin – and each year Adam’s wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn’t randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn’t want them to live happily ever after.

Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget.

The hook line for the synopsis is “think you know the person you married? Think again…”. That’s really the whole theme of this book. If you think you know what the story might be about, think again. If you think you know who the characters are, think again. All this ‘thinking again’ that happened while reading this book took me on one of the wildest rides I’ve had in a long time. 

After reading a few paranormal books, I’d actually decided on some family drama for my next read. I probably should have looked for something lighter, to be honest. I thought this might be a little lighter, a little more thought-provoking, perhaps some gritty characters that look deep inside themselves to find their soul….yeah…that wasn’t this book. 

In the beginning, it was a little slow. There was a nice hook to draw you in but when the letters start, it felt a little whiny. Both Adam and Amelia are really self-serving at this point in their marriage. Neither knows why they are still in it but they have this opportunity to make one last ditch effort after Amelia wins a free weekend at a getaway in Scotland. 

As someone who’s been married for ten years and then divorced, there was a lot in the letters the wife wrote that resonated with me, right down to losing their baby. The emptiness and sadness that engulfed her was very real. The fading away of love and how comfortable two people can get in something that’s so completely broken, always grasping at straws and yet still able to somewhat sleep at night. The language between the two felt very tangible and very evident of a relationship destined to fail. 

Then the fun started! The creepiness, the whispers, the eerie “housekeeper” who lived in the cottage down the lane…I couldn’t put it down and yet I didn’t want to read anymore. The twists and turns catapulting the reader to such an ending – every time I thought the story was over and I knew who everyone was and what they had done, there was one more chapter blowing my mind. 

The resolution left me breathless and almost wanting more. It begs the question of how can these characters possibly trust anyone ever again and moreover, how can we as readers ever trust them again. I closed the book wondering who was the bad guy and who was the good guy. And then I reached for my own inhaler! 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

56269064

The Keepers of Metsan Valo

By Wendy Webb

The spirits of Nordic folklore come calling in this entrancing tale of family secrets and ancient mysteries by the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Haunting of Brynn Wilder.

In Metsan Valo, her family home on Lake Superior, Anni Halla’s beloved grandmother has died. Among her fond memories, what Anni remembers most vividly is her grandmother’s eerie yet enchanting storytelling. By firelight she spun tall tales of spirits in the nearby forest and waters who could heal—or harm—on a whim. But of course those were only stories…

The reading of the will now occasions a family reunion. Anni and her twin brother, their almost otherworldly mother, and relatives Anni hasn’t seen in forever—some with good reason—are all brought back together under one roof that strains to hold all their tension. But it’s not just Annie’s family who is unsettled. Whispers wind through the woods. Laughter bursts from bubbling streams. Raps from unseen hands rupture on the walls. Fireflies swarm and nightmares stir. With each odd occurrence, Anni fears that her return has invited less a welcoming and more a warning.

When another tragedy strikes near home, Anni must dive headfirst into the mysterious happenings to discover the truth about her home, her family, and the wooded island’s ancient lore. Plunging into the past may be the only way to save her family from whatever bedevils Metsan Valo.

I’m no stranger to Wendy Webb’s books. I’ve read them all. So when I was given a change to read the eARC of this book by NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing (in exchange for an honest review), I jumped at the chance. I read the whole book in under 24 hours. 

This book took me by surprise. I’m used to high levels of creepiness, dark corners, shadows taking on a life of their own and weird dolls with insane smiles on their faces. Wendy Webb knows how to write an intensely dark novel with enough scare to keep you up at night. 

So you can imagine my surprise to find not a whole lot of that in this book. The story was good – really good. There are some eerie moments and some minor shivers down the spine but nothing to what I’m used to coming from this author. I’m not going to lie when I say I was a bit disappointed. There is a bit of a supernatural element to it along with a fair amount of folklore but the scare factor wasn’t there at all. 

That being said, the folklore and antiquity of this family was nicely written. As with most Wendy Webb books, the house is its own character and you’re left with a few questions here and there. You also really get to know the Halle family and experience their nuances and get to dig deep into their relationships.

This story is about family. It’s about family history, particularly the Halla family history. It’s about ancient stories laced in the supernatural whose magic has survived the generations. It’s about a young girl stepping into the role she was born to play superseding those that came before her and taking the reins of an ancient magic that surrounds her home. It’s about the folklore weaved in and out of her past and moving her into her future. 

And it’s about forgiveness, love and the ability to overlook the flaws we see in those close to us. 

One thing I really loved was the way characters and places from Wendy Webb’s previous stories were laced throughout this book. It felt like a little “thank you” to all of us who’ve read all of her previous books. I almost felt like I was coming home to visit some of my favorite haunts of Wharton. That was a really nice surprise and I loved every bit of it. 

If you’re looking for a traditional ghost story, this book isn’t it. If you’re looking for dark and sinister, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a light read with some mild shivers and a quick read, this book is for you. 

House of Salt and Sorrow

By: Erin Craig

In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next. 

I am so drawn to tragic stories set on or by the sea. As a child, I fell in love with the original story of The Little Mermaid. Her fate, so painful, really ignited in my heart of love stories like this. When I first came upon this book, I didn’t know it was retelling. I often say I’m not a fan of them but…well…maybe I am! 

This book has a little bit of everything I love in it; set by the sea, princesses and fairy tales, a touch of Greek mythology, ghosts, mysteries and a magic curse. I picked it up and was hard pressed to put it down (stupid real life! stupid job!) but I did. All in all, it only took three days to read so it’s a fast read. There’s no slow moments in this story. 

Now, the original story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses was a bit of a snore fest, to be honest. It was a delightful surprise to see the author embellish and twist this into something gothic and ghostly while keeping the thread of the original story intact. 

There are some notable themes here. Probably the most obvious one is grief. The book opens to the funeral of Eulalie, the latest sister to die. The main character, Annaleigh, struggles to process the losses of all her sisters throughout the book. Her grief deepens as she comes to believe foul play took her sisters and not fate. We feel Annaleigh’s loss and heartbreak quite keenly, especially when two more sisters are lost later on in the book.

It was quite a challenge to keep all the characters organized in my brain. The author helps by breaking up the sisters a bit, having the “triplets” of Rosalie, Lenore and Ligeia and then the “graces” of Verity, Mercy and Honor. Between the girls and so many other supporting characters, I would suggest reading this with a notebook to help keep everyone straight. However, each character stands on their own, having their own voice, so to speak. I enjoyed and felt attached to them all. 

There is a love interest for Annaleigh and by the climax of the story, we question whether or not he is real as Annaleigh realizes she’s been tricked and played with by the evil Kosamaras, the harbinger of Madness. Cassius plays the part of the love interest nicely without distracting from the main story or taking over and becoming the hero. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Yes, it was a little predictable in places and while the love interest didn’t take away from the story in any way, it really didn’t add a whole lot to it. The world building was incredible and the setting was beautifully written. The characters were believable and relatable without them being too much out of their own time or element. The gothic, ghostly elements were all there for me to make this a great read on a chilly, rainy night. 

All in all, this was a very enjoyable read and a great introduction to this author. I look forward to reading more by Erin Craig. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Bookbinder’s Daughter

By Jessica Thorne

When Sophie is offered a job at the Ayredale Library – the finest collection of rare books in the world, and the last place her bookbinder mother was seen when Sophie was just a teenager – she leaps at the chance. 

Taking in the endless shelves of antique books, the soaring stained-glass windows, and the grand sweeping staircase, usually shy Sophie feels strangely at home, and is welcomed by her eccentric fellow binders. But why is the Keeper of the Library so reluctant to speak about Sophie’s mother? And why is Sophie the only person who can read the strange spells in the oldest books on display, written in a forgotten language nobody else understands?

The mysteries of the library only deepen when Sophie stumbles upon an elaborately carved door. The pattern exactly matches the pendant her mother left behind years ago, engraved with a delicate leaf. As the door swings open at her touch, Sophie gasps at the incredible sight: an enormous tree, impossibly growing higher than the library itself, its gently falling golden leaves somehow resembling the pages of a book. Amidst their rustling, Sophie hears a familiar whisper…

‘There you are, my Sophie. I knew you’d come back for me.’

There are several things to love about this book. 

First, the language used is intricate, delicate and beautiful. Jessica Thorne has a such a mastery over vocabulary which she uses skillfully and without alienating her reader with a lot of “high-falooty mambo jumbo”. It’s simply exquisite. She uses words like a carver would use their tools to carefully craft a world-behind-the-world creating such detail and a stunning backdrop for this story. I fell in love with the library as though it was a living, breathing entity. Due to this, it can take a while for the actual story to unfold however, if you just stay with it, it’ll be worth it!

Next, the story itself. The idea of books and magic housed under the roof of a library isn’t one unfamilier to us readers. Books are magic, transporting, creating, and allowing escape from our everyday lives – even if we’re escaping to live the everyday life of a book character. We meet it, crave it and thrill to it as we let the magic of a good book envelope us and take us where the author wants us to go. Outside of God and all I feel and know through my faith, books are literally the next best ‘high’ one can get. 

I always love when an inanimate object suddenly becomes a character. There are two of those in this book; one is the library and one is the tree. They both have words, feelings, personalities and ebb and flow with the heroine flawlessly as she seeks out their secrets and unravels their mysteries. The library moans and groans under threat of evil. The tree dispels its leaves which, in turn, become pages for the bookbinder to create into a book. 

There’s a nice symbiotic relationship here as the library cannot survive without the tree, which gives of itself to the library yet the tree cannot exist without the library; the library is its home. 

The main character of Sophie is lost, alone and confused and all for the right reasons, having survived an emotionally abusive relationship and much loss. She flees to be with an estranged uncle as she takes on a job as the bookbinder at Ayredale’s library. She meets up with friends, old and new. There is a love interest in the form of Will and we struggle along with her to find out his connection to the library. 

There is an evil presence and I often found myself wondering who were the good guys and who were the bag guys with the exception of Sophie, our heroine. There is a nice character development as we watch Sophie’s internal struggle to find out what happened to her mom but also to free herself from the bondage of her abusive relationship. 

Lastly, I love that this story is almost told like a bit of folklore. It’s like a story you’d tell your kids at night, around a fire while sipping hot chocolate. It’s simply lovely! 

My rating ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Mrs. Rochester’s Ghost

By Lindsay Marcott

Jane has lost everything: job, mother, relationship, even her home. A friend calls to offer an unusual deal—a cottage above the crashing surf of Big Sur on the estate of his employer, Evan Rochester. In return, Jane will tutor his teenage daughter. She accepts.

But nothing is quite as it seems at the Rochester estate. Though he’s been accused of murdering his glamorous and troubled wife, Evan Rochester insists she drowned herself. Jane is skeptical, but she still finds herself falling for the brilliant and secretive entrepreneur and growing close to his daughter.

And yet her deepening feelings for Evan can’t disguise dark suspicions aroused when a ghostly presence repeatedly appears in the night’s mist and fog. Jane embarks on an intense search for answers and uncovers evidence that soon puts Evan’s innocence into question. She’s determined to discover what really happened that fateful night, but what will the truth cost her? 

Right off the bat, while I know this book was being promoted as a Jane Eyre retelling, I honestly felt it  paid a significant amount of homage to Rebecca. So much so that I often had to think of which story was being retold. If the author’s intent was a Jane Eyre retelling, then this book, while really good, falls short. Same for a Rebecca retelling. However, if Lindsay Mancott’s idea was to marry the store stories into one solid retelling, then she succeeded. 

Mrs. Rochesters Ghost has all the elements of a creepy, eerie novel; mansion, seaside cottage, fog, old tower, secrets, tragic history and a whole bunch of unanswered questions which unravel themselves as the story goes on. The author seemed to know exactly which scare buttons to push using just the right amount of fright-factor pressure to set my teeth on edge. I, myself, felt like I was being watched in the same way Jane did. 

Lindsay Marcott also did a great job of getting inside of Beatrice’s head. We see her hallucinations, her downward spiral and even her severe and violent manic moments all through her eyes which was something I hadn’t come in contact with before in a novel, certainly not to this degree. I couldn’t tell which was more disturbing; the idea of her ghost hanging around the house or being inside her mind. Truly well done. 

The main character of Jane isn’t written as a strong woman but more of a loner who really isn’t sure of her life. I think this is why I liken this more to Rebecca than Jane Eyre. The character of Jane Eyre was a solidly strong woman who knew exactly who she was. Rebecca was more of a wandering soul and a little closer to the character of Jane. I did like Jane, however, and I felt empathy for her situation which lead her to Thorn Bluffs. 

The whole who-dun-it was also nicely done as initially, I really couldn’t sort out if Evan was the good guy or if Rick was. I love a novel that keeps me guessing (even though in this instance, with this being a retelling, I sorta already knew). 

A few oddball characters for me…Otis. I really didn’t believe he was a lifetime long friend of Jane. Their conversations were odd and seemed contrived at times. I had no emotional attachment to him at all. Same with Sophia. Sweet girl. Nice character but I really didn’t care much about her.

Characters I did connect with were Jane, of course, and Evan. His swirling around trying to make deals, deals with the fallout of Beatrice while trying to keep his own sanity made him likeable and unlikeable all in one. I like a character that keeps me guessing. However, I have to say it again, what wound up happening to him at the end was more reminiscent of Rebecca than Jane Eyre. 

Overall, I think this was an enjoyable read. Great mystery. Good characters and a decent level of suspense and haunting themes. I would recommend this book. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Lost Village

By Camilla Sten

Documentary filmmaker Alice Lindstedt has been obsessed with the vanishing residents of the old mining town, dubbed “The Lost Village,” since she was a little girl. In 1959, her grandmother’s entire family disappeared in this mysterious tragedy, and ever since, the unanswered questions surrounding the only two people who were left—a woman stoned to death in the town center and an abandoned newborn—have plagued her. She’s gathered a small crew of friends in the remote village to make a film about what really happened.

Not long after they’ve set up camp, mysterious things begin to happen. Equipment is destroyed. People go missing. As doubt breeds fear and their very minds begin to crack, one thing becomes startlingly clear to Alice:

They are not alone.

I read this book in one day. The opening scene is extremely creepy and grabbed my attention. Immediately, I had to know what happened to this village! So the suspense aspect of this story was a huge hit for me. 

The setting – a Swedish mine village in the 1950’s – served as a great backdrop to this story. I mean, seriously now – an abandoned village in the middle of nowhere was very well-written and chilling indeed. I could feel the silence – even had to turn on some music as it got a little too quiet for me while reading it. The psychological aftertaste was a bit too intense for me, though, which surprised me since I love a good scare! I mean, I’ve read everything Wendy Webb has ever published and her books haunted me to my core! 

I was surprisingly shaken by my own reactions to the amount of human suffering in this story. Birgitta’s story alone was tragic and heartbreaking and how her story ended shook me up. The reality of what actually happened to the town so led astray by a psychotic fanatic, while predictable, is still a bit troubling. Combine that with the modern story of Alice and the losses she suffers while trying to get enough evidence just to get someone to fund further investigation into what really happened and you wind up with a cross between the Blair Witch Project and the Jonestown massacre. 

The characters were all well-written although I found myself forming more of an attachment to the characters from the past then the present. Alice really evoked no emotional response from me at all, despite her battles with mental health issues. Emma was a little cardboardy, Max and Robert were stiff. Only Tone was mildly intriguing and that was most likely due to her backstory. I really loved Elsa, however, and I felt for her as she watched her daughter being taken from her bit by bit. She broke my heart into a thousand pieces as did Birgitta. While I started out really liking Aine, unfortunately, I saw the writing on the wall with her as her relationship with Pastor Mattias became twisted and warped. Then, I only felt pity for how lost she was. 

All in all, this was a decent read and a super fast one. The story flips from the past to the present just enough so you’re able to easily follow the storyline. While the ending is predictable (in my opinion), the writer does give you just enough clues to keep you going back for “just one more chapter”. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Dancing With the Dead

By S.A. Dunphy

She had taken only one step towards the hotel when she heard the car door opening, and then something had her by the shoulders in a grip like steel. Penny tried to fight, but it was no good. The last thing she heard as consciousness drifted away was the whisper of a familiar song…

In a small town on Ireland’s west coast, a young woman named Penelope O’Dwyer leaves a restaurant. It should take five minutes to walk back to where she’s staying. In those five minutes she disappears without a trace.

It’s a few days before the tape arrives. The kidnapper’s face is masked, his voice distorted, but no one doubts for a second he will follow through on his threat: a ritual murder at the end of October – and after that, many more murders to come. Penelope has two weeks to live. And the police don’t have a single lead.

This was a first read for me by this author. I opened the book yesterday morning and didn’t stop reading until I was finished. This doesn’t happen for me very often. I just HAD to know how it ended! 

While I’m not a huge fan of crime/serial killer stories, this book sucked me in. It gave me a lot of Joy Ellis vibes (and I am a huge fan of hers). The camaraderie and friendship between Jessie, Seamus and Terri reminded me a lot of Jackman and Evans. They’re easy characters to care about. I loved how each one was introduced. We get a bit of each of their backstories without leaving the path of the story. Each backstory is introduced just at the right time and is essential to the story. 

This book also gave me a few CJ Tudor feels, with the folklore added to the storyline. I love Celtic folklore. It was weaved brilliantly into the story and mixed well with the modern day mystery. 

I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I won’t but reading this book was like putting together a huge puzzle. Mr. Dunphy put each corner together first giving us a glimpse of what the whole picture would like. Then, he skillfully connects each little completed piece to give us the whole picture, like a fuzzy image coming slowly into a clear view. And yet, even with all that, we’re still left wanting more with a bit of something left over for the next book. 

My recommendation is READ THIS!! Set aside a day and start in the morning because once you start, you will not want to put this book down. Personally, I cannot wait to virtually go to Ireland and visit Jessie, Seamus and Terri again. I’m so curious to see what the future holds for all of them! 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐