#Book Review: Echoes of Home: A Ghost Story

Echoes of Home is an intriguing Ghost Story about an abandoned cottage and the secrets it keeps. Les Wills has just finished burying his mother when his brother Jonathan arrives, late, and bearing the gift of a new start for Les at Elphin Cottage, a home in the Scottish Highlands. When Les finally travels to this out of the way place, strange things begin to happen, and he sets out to solve their mystery. 

This captivating story is set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, although Les, the main character, doesn’t arrive there until about 20% into the book. There were times when I felt the pace was slow in the first half of the book, but after reading the story in its entirety, everything fit together and made perfect sense, and the pace itself was just right.

I am not a fan of horror and do not review it, and I would categorize this as paranormal, but not horror. It is also historical fiction, as the Great Famine of 1845- 1849 and the Highland Famine of 1846 – 1856 were very real and greatly impacted this story. Another theme in this book is solitude, and the story drips with palpable solitude, including Les’s solitude, ghostly solitude, and that of Clais Cottage and its surroundings. This is very well done by M.L. Rayner. The impact that class differences had on the poor leaves no doubt as to the evil that comes from thinking oneself above others. The character Michael Coull serves as an ending to some of the solitude in this story. He is also a connection to the land and the teller of its stories.

As I am descended from Appalachian settlers arriving in America from Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales, this type of tale reminds me of mountain stories I’ve heard, told in almost musical fashion, of ghosts or mythical creatures who haunt the Smokies. I can definitely feel a musical rhythm in this Scottish tale. 

I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good ghost story as well as fans of historical fiction and Scottish history. I downloaded a copy of this book on Kindle Unlimited, where subscribers can read it for free. 

I have rated this 4.5 stars, rounded up to five on sites that do not have a half-star option. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

M.L. Rayner

Born and bred in the county of Staffordshire. Matt is a keen reader of classical, horror and fantasy literature and enjoys writing in the style of traditional ghost stories. During his working life, Matt joined the ambulance service in 2009, transporting critically ill patients all over the UK. After writing his first novel, Matt was welcomed into the family of Question Mark Press publishing and now dedicates his time on future releases. His hobbies include genealogy and hiking, and he enjoys spending time with his wife, Emma, his children, and his family.

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#Book Review: My Name is Cain

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Mother Evelyn needs to solve a major problem, and Hannah, a young nun fresh out of college, is the one for the job. Joining the Inner Circle of the Abbey of St. Margaret is an eye-opener for Hannah, to say the least. Travel with Hannah and her Vatican Intelligence cohorts on a roller-coaster ride around the world as she discovers many secrets including . . .Did Cain ever die? The death of one of the prime characters in Genesis was never mentioned. Is he still alive?Who are the Elohim? How is Mother Evelyn always prepared for what is going to happen?Journey into a genre rarely touched—Christian science fiction

#BOOK REVIEW

My only comment prior to the review below is a question. Am I allowed to use the word “badass” in a Christian book review? Because I did.

This surprising novel starts out with a group of nuns in an abbey, and the reader has no idea they are about to enter a world of intrigue, spies, aliens, extrasensory powers, space travel, and cyber technology. Biblical characters, scriptures, prophecies, and events are woven through it all. The author keeps us in suspense as he expertly unveils one surprise after another. I was absolutely kept on the edge of my seat as a group of nuns revealed themselves to be badass operatives, bent on saving the human race. This book is so imaginative and well written that I was completely riveted to each page. The characters are complex and layered, and the layers are slowly peeled off as they reveal their true identities. The plot is so creative and the story itself is fast paced and hurtles forward to a shocking conclusion. There appears to be plenty of opening for a sequel, and I sincerely hope we get one. Fans of Christian fiction, Science fiction, Thrillers, and the Paranormal will enjoy this enticing, multi-faceted thriller mashup. In this well-written, imaginative novel, Dean Sparks shows us that Christian fiction can be bold, exciting, astonishing, and unexpected.  

I received a free copy of this book via Reedsy Discovery. My review is voluntary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dean Sparks is first and foremost a Christian. He loves his wife abundantly. Four of his children, all daughters, were born in one year! Dean is thrilled to be a father and grandfather to the family’s six children and five grandchildren. He loves his job as a Chick-fil-A franchisee and has been with Chick-fil-A since 1978. Dean is an out-of-the-box thinker who is worth reading. You can contact him at authordeansparks.com or via e-mail at dean.sparks@authordeansparks.com.

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#Book Review: The Thin Place

This was another book I reviewed for the May issue of Historical Novels Review, and it was also an Editor’s Choice.

Scotland, present day. Reporter Ava is working on a story about Overtoun Bridge, outside Overtoun House in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland. Over the years, at least fifty dogs have jumped to their deaths from the bridge. Legends describe Overtoun Bridge as a “thin place,” where the boundary between Heaven and Earth is very thin. The locals will not cooperate, so Ava, pregnant with her first child, begins to investigate. Ava is also trying to get medical history from her mother, who was adopted, but she is uncooperative.

In 1929 England, Marion meets Hamish at a tea dance at the Savoy Hotel. She is swept quickly into marriage and is soon living in the huge and mostly unused Overtoun House in Scotland, sometimes visited by a very absent husband who has little love to share with her.

In 1949 in Scotland, Constance is confined to her room by her mother because she is very ill. Her mother and the doctor are the only people she sees, and she longs for contact with the outside world. When her mother brings her a puppy, some joy comes into her life.

This is a captivating but chilling historical mystery which combines the very real Overtoun house with fictional characters to create an intriguing story. The reports of dogs jumping to their deaths from Overtoun Bridge are heartbreaking but true facts that are spun into this fascinating mystery. The characters are well developed, and their connections begin to come alive. Overtoun House itself becomes a character, alternating between telling secrets and refusing to give them up. The bridge seems to live and breathe, hoping to lure captors to their deaths. This is a spellbinding novel that I highly recommend to those who enjoy historical mysteries with a touch of the paranormal.

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Historical Novels Review. My review is voluntary.

NOTE: The mystery of dogs jumping off of the Overtoun Bridge is very real. At least 300, if not more, dogs have inexplicably jumped off the bridge. At least 50 of them have died. If you would like to read more about this mystery, check out this link.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

C.D. Major

C.D.Major is the pen name of Cesca Major – a novelist and screenwriter. 

Cesca has always been fascinated by mysteries from the recent past. 

Her book THE OTHER GIRL was a number 1 Amazon Bestseller and longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award in 2021. It’s a historical thriller perfect for members of a book club. Set in an asylum in 1940s New Zealand it is inspired by the strange phenomenon of children claiming to have past life memories. Her latest book, set in the present day, THE THIN PLACE is based around the sinister happenings at Overtoun Bridge in Scotland – a place where dogs have been known to leap to their deaths. 

Cesca has presented shows for ITV West and Sky Channels in the past. She enjoys hosting or speaking on festival panels and films vlogs about the writing process. She runs writing retreats twice a year in the West Country and teaches creative writing courses for the Henley School of Art. She writes uplifting books under her own name and the pseudonym Rosie Blake, and currently has an original TV series in development. Cesca lives in Berkshire with her husband, son and twin girls.

She loves to hear from readers so please feel free to send her a message over at Twitter or Instagram.

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#Book Review: Ophie’s Ghosts

In Georgia, 1922, twelve-year-old Ophie is suddenly awakened by her father, who tells her to get her mother and hide. Although questioning, she obeys. Soon evil men descend on their home. They had already killed her father, and now they burn Ophie’s home to the ground. That was the night Ophie learned she could see ghosts.

With no justice for her father and nowhere to live, Ophie and her mother take the train to Pittsburgh to live with Aunt Rose. Ophie soon begins working at Daffodil Manor as a maid to the old, biased, and angry Mrs. Caruthers. But the ghosts of the manor know that Ophie can see them, and most of them want to be seen. Ophie begins to grow strong as she adapts to her job and to her abilities. When she starts to investigate a mystery in the old house, she questions the ones who would know the most–the ghosts.

This is a well written and important book because it teaches middle grade readers about the horrors and history of racism. Through the savage murder of Ophie’s father, the experiences of some of the ghosts, and the cruel privilege of Mrs. Caruthers, America’s tainted past is explained. Ophie herself is a force of hope as she helps the ghosts move on to the afterlife and shows the truth to those who are still living. Every character, ghost and living, is well developed and has a story to tell. The point of view is mostly Ophie’s, but the old house, Daffodil Manor, also has a voice, as does the City of Pittsburgh. Aunt Rose serves as a helpful guide to the spirit world in a difficult time. This is a beautiful blend of historical fiction and magical realism that is both awakening and intriguing. Highly recommend.

I received a free copy of this book for review in Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

Ophie’s Ghosts will be released on May 18, 2021.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Justina Ireland is the author of Dread Nation (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins), a New York Times bestseller, as well as the sequel Deathless Divide. Her earlier works include the fantasy young adult novels Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows (both Simon and Schuster).

Justina also writes for the Star Wars franchise, including the books Lando’s Luck, Spark of the Resistance, and the upcoming A Test of Courage, part of the High Republic publishing initiative.

She is the former co-editor in chief of FIYAH Literary Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction, for which she won a World Fantasy Award. She holds a BA from Armstrong Atlantic University and an MFA from Hamline University. 

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Book Review–The Best Thing You Can Steal

The Best Thing You Can Steal takes place in the magical underworld of modern London, much like Harry Potter. However, this is an adult story with a darker bend. The protagonist is Gideon Sable, a thief and con-artist, who apparently is not the actual Gideon Sable, but another thief using his identity. He is determined to pull off an elaborate heist and take down an evil collector of rare magical items, Fredric Hammer. Gideon is accompanied by his ex-girlfriend Annie Anybody, who can charm technology, the Damned, who has killed angels and wears their halos, Johnny Wild Card, who knows the truth of reality, and the Ghost, who has long haunted the streets of London. They’ve all been wronged by the collector, who has ruined many lives, and they all have their reason to want revenge. 

This is magical realism done well, as we are introduced to each member of the specially selected team, told about their story and their magical gifts, and told the reason why they want revenge on Hammer. The character development is superb. Every single member of the heist team is fascinating, and magical London is dark and intriguing. In some sense we are kept much in the dark about the narrator, which makes this even more delicious. This is a short but compelling read about magical revenge that will leave you wanting more. 

NOTE: I feel I must caution readers that although the book is 183 pages, the e-book version is priced at $19.49 on Kindle. I feel it’s way overpriced for an e-book and would probably think about spending $28.99 on the hard cover version instead. I will provide links to both below.

I received a free copy of this book from Severn House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Simon R. Green is a British science fiction and fantasy author. Green was born in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. He holds a degree in Modern English and American Literature from the University of Leicester. He is the author of the best-selling Nightside series and many other works.

AUTHOR PAGE ON SEVERN HOUSE WEBSITE

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Book Review–Loving Modigliani (Updated: Blog Tour and Sale through Feb 17th)

Diamond Level Read

See my previous review of Loving Modigliani below. I really enjoyed this one! Loving Modigliani is on sale starting Feb 14th through February 17th on Amazon. The ebook price has been reduced to $3.99. It’s a great time to pick up your copy (Amazon Link). As you can see from my raving review below, I highly recommend you check this out. I’ve joined another blog tour to help promote this great book. The tour schedule is:

February 8 – RABT Book Tours – Kick Off
February 8 – Readers Alley – Excerpt
February 9 – The Avid Reader – Interview
February 10 – Book Review Virginia Lee – Spotlight
February 11 – Teatime and Books – Spotlight
February 12 – Silver Dagger Book Tours – Spotlight
February 12 – The Indie Express – Review
February 13 – Dina Rae’s Write Stuff – Spotlight
February 14 – Jazzy Book Reviews – Excerpt
February 15 – Lynn Romance Enthusiast – Excerpt
February 15 – Bonnie Reads and Writes – Review
February 16 – Momma Says to Read or Not to Read – Spotlight
February 17 – A Slice of Orange – Guest Post
February 18 – Quirky Book Reads – Review
February 19 – Nesie’s Place – Spotlight
February 19 – RABT Reviews – Wrap Up

REVIEW

Loving Modigliani is one of those books that is so good that I don’t feel my review will do it justice. It is so good that I stopped halfway through and bought it in print version because I only had an electronic copy. I always keep print copies of my favorite books. It is so good that I didn’t want to put it down, and I was sad when it was finished. It made me realize that if I ever write a book I need to demand this type of excellence in my own work. I even created a new Category on this blog, Diamond Level Reads, for books that are beyond special. Below is my humble attempt at a review and my bow to an accomplished author, Linda Lappin, who has woven together a remarkable piece of fiction based on real events.

It is Paris, 1920. It is also Jeanne Hébuterne’s day of death, 48 hours after her common-law husband, Amedeo Modigliani, died of meningitis. Modigliani was an early 20th Century artist of post impressionist inspired portraits and nudes who died basically destitute, but became famous years later. As the book begins, we meet Hébuterne on the street where her body lies after she fell or jumped, despondent and hugely pregnant, out of a window. We follow her spirit to a wheelbarrow rumbling through the streets of 1920’s Paris, which is described in such detail that we feel we are there. We watch along with Hébuterne’s spirit as her belongings are stolen, including her diary, a bangle, and a family portrait. We flash back with her to her life with Modigliani and her own growth as an artist. We cheer her as she struggles to move forward and begins to search the afterlife for her beloved “Modi.” 

In a separate timeline in the 1980s, an art student stumbles upon some long hidden secrets and is given a window into the life of Jeanne Hébuterne. What will she do with this information and who will try to stop her?

This is an amazing historical novel with sub-genres of fantasy, mystery, and the paranormal. It is a tribute to the art world of Paris, specifically the post-impressionist era of the early 1900s. Linda Lappin’s ability to describe the sights, sounds, and smells of 1920’s Paris transports us there immediately. Her portrayal of the art and artists of that time is meticulously researched. Her ability to create a work that seamlessly binds together history, mystery, fantasy, and the paranormal is awe-inspiring. Her characters are so real you can see them, feel them, love them, and hate them. Lappin’s description of Hébuterne’s afterlife is full of unexpected turns, pitfalls, and surprises with huge nods to the art world. The realities of Jeanne’s life with Modigliani are shown to us, from infidelity to drunkenness to abuse and neglect, but above all we are shown Jeanne’s all-consuming love for this man, so well described in this book. Lappin shares the spirit and talent of Jeanne Hébuterne in so many ways, through her art, her music, and her steadfast determination and willingness to buck the rules of society. I wish I could speak more of the last line of the book without giving out any spoilers, but it is a perfect ending, tying everything together.

My personal rules for historical novels, regardless of sub-genre, is that they must transport me to that time and place. Loving Modigliani did this instantly. They must also teach me something, and I learned so much about the 1900s Paris art scene that I am interested in exploring it further. 

Although I was given a free digital copy via Netgalley, I also bought a print copy on Amazon. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.

About the Author:

Prize-winning novelist Linda Lappin is the author of four novels: The Etruscan (Wynkin de Worde, 2004), Katherine’s Wish (Wordcraft , 2008), Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery (Pleasureboat Studio, 2013), and The Soul of Place (Travelers Tales, 2015). Signatures in Stone won the Daphne DuMaurier Award for best mystery of 2013. The Soul of Place won the gold medal in the Nautilus Awards in the Creativity category.

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Book Blitz: Loving Modigliani

 


The Afterlife of Jeanne Hébuterne

Paranormal Ghost and Love Story

Historical Paranormal Fiction, Magical Realism, Fantasy Fiction, Literary Fiction

Published: December 2020

Publisher: Serving House Books



A ghost story, love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.

PARIS 1920 Dying just 48 hours after her husband, Jeanne Hebuterne–wife and muse of the celebrated painter Amedeo Modigliani and an artist in her own right — haunts their shared studio, watching as her legacy is erased. Decades later, a young art history student travels across Europe to rescue Jeanne’s work from obscurity. A ghost story, a love story, and a search for a missing masterpiece.

Loving Modigliani is a genre-bending novel, blending elements of fantasy, historical fiction, gothic, mystery, and suspense.


Praise for Loving Modigliani:

“LOVING MODIGLIANI is a haunting, genre-bending novel that kept me turning pages late into the night” –Gigi Pandian, author of The Alchemist’s Illusion

“Part ghost story, part murder mystery, part treasure hunt, Linda Lappin’s Loving Modigliani is a haunting, genre-bending novel that kept me turning the pages long into the night.” – Best-selling mystery novelist Gigi Pandian



Other Books by Linda Lappin:


Signatures in Stone

2014 Overall Winner DAPHNE DU MAURIER AWARD for excellence in Mystery Writing, also Winner in the Historical Mystery section of the Du Maurier Awards, from Romance Writers of America.

Seeking inspiration in the timeless Italian landscape, four unlikely misfits find their destinies entangled in the meanders of the mysterious sculpture garden of Bomarzo, peopled with freaks and monsters. Daphne, a writer with a hashish habit, Clive, American gigolo and aspiring artist, Nigel, an English aristocrat down at the heels, and Finestone, a fly by night art historian come together in a decrepit villa looked after by two Italian servants who are not what they seem. To find their heart’s desire, all the characters must descend into the depths of hell, but not everyone will make it out alive. In the hideous sculptures of Bomarzo, Daphne must face up the hidden sides of herself while solving the mystery of murder for which she is unjustly accused. She will discover that her own journey to hell has already been written sculpted by an unknown genius centuries ago in these signatures in stone.

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The Soul of Place

In this engaging creative writing workbook, Linda Lappin, novelist, poet, and travel writer, presents a series of insightful exercises to help writers of all genres — (literary travel writing, memoir, poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction) discover imagery and inspiration in the places they love.

Lappin departs from the classical concept of the Genius Loci, the indwelling spirit residing in every landscape, house, city, or forest, to argue that by entering into contact with the unique energy and identity of a place, writers can access an inexhaustible source of creative power. The Soul of Place provides instruction on how to evoke that power.

The writing exercises are drawn from many fields such as architecture, painting, cuisine, literature and literary criticism, geography and deep maps, Jungian psychology, fairy tales, mythology,metaphysics,theater and performance art, all of which offer surprising perspectives on our writing and may help us uncover raw materials for fiction, essays, and poetry hidden in our environment.

An essential resource book for the writer’s library, this book is ideal for creative writing courses, with stimulating exercises adaptable to all genres. For writers or travelers about to set out on a trip abroad, The Soul of Place is the perfect road trip companion, attuning our senses to a deeper awareness of place.

“Insightful exercises help creative writers of all levels attune themselves to the power of place.” Amy Alippo, National Geographic Traveler

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About The Author


Prize-winning novelist Linda Lappin is the author of four novels: The Etruscan (Wynkin de Worde, 2004), Katherine’s Wish (Wordcraft , 2008), Signatures in Stone: A Bomarzo Mystery (Pleasureboat Studio, 2013), and The Soul of Place (Travelers Tales, 2015). Signatures in Stone won the Daphne DuMaurier Award for best mystery of 2013. The Soul of Place won the gold medal in the Nautilus Awards in the Creativity category.


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Midnight Sun

I don’t normally do a review on a book I couldn’t finish. I tried to finish it, I really did. But this is a longer, more boring version of Twilight. I actually liked Twilight, but this story is excruciatingly dull. I was never Team Edward, and this just reminded me why. He is a controlling, compulsive, whining, annoying person. Let’s not forget he’s actually over 100 years old, even though he looks 17. So his obsession over the 18 year old Bella is kind of unbelievable and creepy. What I loved about Twilight was Bella’s interaction with her father, with Jacob, and with the other characters, especially Alice and Carlisle. Edward was never the reason. I don’t care about his perspective, and I learned that quickly as I tried to read this. Why Bella chose him over a badass wolf shifter is beyond me. ( I know Jacob imprinted later, but that’s kind of sad too.)

I made it 28% through the book, let it sit for two months, and realized I’m never going to finish it. This doesn’t change the fact that I liked Twilight. It does add a boring, unnecessary fifth book to the series. Would I have liked a fifth book? Yes. I would have liked to have seen the further adventures of Jacob or, even better, Leah. Her story was really unfinished and I would have loved to have seen more of it.

Stephenie Meyer’s Website

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