Review of Blood Ritual by Sarah Rayne – 5 Stars

Blood RitualBlood Ritual by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book contains the usual mysterious historical fiction and modern day interlinked storylines that Rayne seems to do brilliantly. I thought I had read most of Rayne’s work and then stumbled across this very early novel and at an exceptionally good price and I must say I feel I got a bargain!

It is quite a dark and unnerving as story, similar to her other standalone novels (such as House of the Lost), but certainly much darker than her Nell West series. It is also shrouded in mystery that crosses the line with legend and myth. I would say this story would appeal to horror fans as much as those that like the historical fiction genre.

The modern storyline follows Catherine a young girl from a convent that is urged by her Abbess/Mother Superior to return to where she grew up. However, Catherine has a secret (a few actually), her family are descendants of Elizabeth Bathory, known to locals as the blood countess, something that the rest of her family are much more proud of than Catherine is. The other main modern character is Michael, a journalist who lost his site at the ancient castle once owned by Elizabeth Bathory. Determined to know the truth about the castle and a horrific image he saw before losing his site, he makes his way back towards the place that haunts him. With Catherine and Michael crossing paths can they uncover the truth of the Bathory family history and live to tell the tale?

The historical storyline follows Elizabeth’s story. Re-living the events as she terrorizes the villages of the surrounding area. With a weak husband, an endless supply of young village girls at her service and a lowly blacksmith to do her bidding and surrounded by plenty of faithful servants, Elizabeth rules with an iron fist, so that even the local priest struggles to put a stop to her. The terrifying (and really interesting) thing about this book and this story is that Elizabeth Bathory truly existed and is rumoured to have done some of the terrible things mentioned in this book!

As with all Sarah Rayne books, her plotting is brilliant, she lays many, many, strands of threads for the reader to follow and then brilliantly weaves them all together. It did take me a little longer than normal to get into this book but it was so worth it when I did for the characters, mystery and dark storyline. I do like that Rayne experiments in her writing and tries out many characters’ viewpoints.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, very clever, particularly the historical storylines. For those that haven’t discovered the Sarah Rayne’s writing, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie. Although the dark dividing (standalone novel) is my favourite out Sarah Rayne’s books. The Nell West series she writes is also very good.

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Nessie – #writephoto

She had left the house, tears streaming down her face once again. But she allowed no noise to escape. She would not feel weak, not feel helpless, allowing the noise to escape would be admitting defeat. She had held it all together, been holding it all together for months as business had got quieter and quieter. Who could blame the visitors, there had been nothing here for years. Sure it was a beautiful drive, and when the weather was hot you couldn’t help but want to be near the cool blue water of the loch.

Science. She could blame science. People no longer wanted to believe in magic, the supernatural, the unknown. When she was a child she had listened in wonder at the stories the grown-ups told, kids these days scoffed and headed to their phones to the internet, they forgot to enjoy the present. That magic could lift your heart just a little even if it wasn’t true. These days it seemed to be gone.

She lifted her legs heavily climbing up the hillside away from the loch. Away from her sleeping, snoring, drunken husband. She blamed him too. Once their little bar had been the busiest on the loch, people loved to stop in for a drink and a chat. She had loved it too, but as things grew quieter her husband’s patience had grown thin and when she could no longer offer him comfort he turned to the bottle. She’d never admit it, but that hurt her too.

She found the quiet place she was looking for and sat down, watching the slow moving fog above the loch. The sun was barely visible. What time was sunrise? She couldn’t remember, yet the darkness wasn’t carrying its usual weight, it felt fresh. The crisp cold air made her salty wet tears sting a little on her face, but she liked it. Reminded her to feel. As her eyes followed the lazy movement of the cloud a lump formed in the middle. She rubbed her eyes, certain the tears and tiredness had got to her, but when a second hump appeared she knew what she was seeing. What she always longed to see. Nessie.

twilight fog by Sue Vincent

She reached in her pocket and pulled out her mobile phone, her gaze never leaving the shadowed form amongst the fog. Lifting the phone high in front of her she swiped the little screen and the light of the camera came on. Drat! She knew having the flash on wouldn’t work so she pulled the little screen towards her to fumble with the setting, her heart now beating fast that the sight before her would disappear. Cautiously she clicked. Just to be certain she clicked again. Then before her very eyes, the two lumps disappeared, back down into the fog, back down into the loch, back to the legend.

She stood up and raced down the hillside, it was a sign, she knew it. A sign her struggle had been worth it. When people saw her photo they couldn’t not believe. What else could it be? Nessie.


My response to Sue’s wonderful photo prompt. Sorry Sue, couldn’t resist with this photo, definitely something mysterious about it! I loved it. 🙂

If you want to give the prompt a go too, head over to Sue’s Page Thursday Photo Prompt – Twilight #writephoto and join in the prompt. KL ❤

Review of The Children’s Hour by Douglas Clegg – 3.5 Stars

The Children's HourThe Children’s Hour by Douglas Clegg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m really perplexed about writing this review. This author was recommended to me on the premise that he was very similar to Stephen Kings older horror books and I soon purchased this book with eager anticipation. I didn’t find that to be the case. I didn’t have that terror that somehow kept you addictively reading with Stephen Kings classics such as the shining. Nothing like that, at all.

That being said the book itself wasn’t too bad. The premise is really intriguing. A family returns to the town the father (Joe) grew up in and on his return he is confronted by a girl that disappeared during his childhood. The issue being the girl is exactly the same, she hasn’t aged at all and she remembers Joe.

Clegg’s writing is really quite good, it’s strange and quirky and at times a very vivid image of this small backwater town is portrayed. However, for a lot of this book, I found it quite boring. Not a lot seems to be actually happening. I do agree with other reviewers also that there are just too many points of view in this book, so you sort of struggle to really champion Joe as the main character as the perspective switches a lot along with quite a few flashbacks. It makes the reading quite hard-work and off-putting and all these flashbacks/perspective switches, do slow the pace down a bit.

So, a bit of a mixed bag for me really. This book is not for me a Stephen King equivalent. The story was much more complicated than it needed it to be. That said I didn’t totally dislike it, I really enjoyed the premise, the main character Joe was pretty good and I did like the ending. I think this author has talent and as he continues to write I think his writing style will really flourish, for that reason I will keep an eye out for future books, but I think this one could have done with just a little extra polish and honing. Still, overall an enjoyable read and it’s nice to find something new in this genre. 3.5 star rating.

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Circling Above – #writephoto

The sound woke me. My head throbbed as the screeching sounds pierced my brain. What was that? I blinked. The light above me scalded my pupils in the few seconds my eyes were open to the sunlight. In fact, as I lay there with my eyes closed

birds wings photo by Sue Vincent

I became aware that I could see the brightness through my eyelids. And the shadows moving beyond the closed veil. And the noise. The continuous noise continued to screech and echo inside my head. There was no way to block it.

I forced myself to open my eyes again. Longer this time. I had to figure out what was going on. As I looked up at the sky the black shadows moved above me, screeching, and swirling like dementors ready to suck out your soul, I had read about those in a book one time. When? I didn’t know.

With every effort I rolled over onto my stomach, the quick roll gave me a wider view of my surroundings. I was outside, on a picnic blanket, but with no picnic. Yet, I could tell I had been with someone. The fuzzy clouds in my brain parted just a little to offer me a filtered flashback of lying on our backs, looking up at the sky, talking, holding hands, did we kiss, or did I just want to kiss them? I wasn’t sure. Who? I shook my head trying to get a clearer picture of the fuzzy picture, any clue, a face, a name, but it was no use.

I forced myself to roll back over, I had to start moving but that small movement alone knocked the wind out of me and sent my head spinning again. Lying on my back I gave myself a countdown. On three I would sit up, regardless of the pain, I had to do this. I lay there and counted, watching the birds swirl above, then after the slow agonising account to 3. At that moment my world went black. Something had been placed over my head, and my arms had been pulled sharply against my back, my wrists held together buying something tight.

“Who is there?”, I asked but the only answer was the high-pitched cry from the birds. I was pulled to my feet, my arms feeling like they were being wrenched from their sockets, and an overwhelming dizziness struck me making me feel nauseous. The grip on my arm grew tighter and I was pushed forward into a walk.

“Where are you taking me I asked?” A low hollow laugh was the answer I was given as I was marched away, the echoing birdsong disappearing in the distance as I walked.


My response to Sue’s wonderful photo prompt. The start of something intriguing but I’m not quite sure where I am going with it. 🙂

If you want to give the prompt a go too, head over to Sue’s Page Thursday Photo Prompt – Wings #writephoto and join in the prompt. KL ❤

Review of What lies beneath by Sarah Rayne – 3.5 Stars

What Lies BeneathWhat Lies Beneath by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book contains the usual mysterious historical fiction and modern day interlinked storylines that Rayne seems to do brilliantly, it isn’t quite as dark and unnerving as some of her other standalone novels (such as House of the Lost), but certainly darker than her Nell West series.

In the modern storyline, we go with Ella Haywood who finds out the town from her childhood is to be re-opened for a short while prior to being cleared for new motorway bypass. This is the talk of the town and soon Ella gets very jittery and no-one including her granddaughter knows why. Ella’s behaviour becomes more and more obscure and no-one around her knows why.

The historical storyline was very interesting. The story switches back to 1912 where we meet the Cadence family of Cadence Manor in the village of Priors Bramley, mostly through a series of journals – author initially unknown. We also flashback to Ella’s childhood and an incident on the day the village closed.

Other reviewers have complained about Rayne’s writing style in this and I do agree with some of the comments (e.g. it is quite slow in places). There are four storylines in this book and it is quite complicated how it is held together. Normally Sarah Rayne’s writing style is much sharper, darker and more dramatic. However, I did enjoy the storyline non-the-less. Also, the main character in this book Ella is not very nice, normally Rayne has a really strong protagonist who you champion throughout the book whereas this character isn’t. I did enjoy Rayne’s experimentation with this technique but I think having a main character that you dislike isn’t always an easy sell to other readers.

Overall, I still really enjoyed this book, not as good as others she has written but still very clever, particularly the historical storylines. For those that haven’t discovered the Sarah Rayne’s writing, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie. Although the dark dividing (standalone novel) is my favourite out of her books. The Nell West series she writes is also very good. This is more of a 3.5 from me but as that option isn’t available and a 3 felt very mean I gave it a 4.

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Review of The Kept Woman: (Will Trent Series Book 8) by Karin Slaughter – 5 Stars

The Kept Woman (Will Trent, #8)The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love the Will Trent series. It took a while at first to warm to it I’ll admit, mostly due to the fact that I really liked the Grant County series with Jeffrey and hated that he was killed off. Will (the main character in the Will Trent series) was initially as a character too…well… good – too nice – too sweet – too vulnerable. It was certainly a change of pace from Jeffrey. That said I still loved Sara Linton, the character that crosses both series. I also very quickly liked Will’s partner in the series – Faith. Now that we are in the eighth book of the Will Trent series, Karin Slaughter has really found her stride. The characters are so lifelike and complicated yet you cannot help but like the good guys, hate the bad guys and well feel conflicted about those that straddle the worlds of good and bad.

In this novel, we catch up with Will and Sara trying to live their happily ever after and things seem right on track. That is until an ex-police officer is found dead at an abandoned nightclub owned by a famous sports hero who has just escaped a rape charge Will was trying to file against him. Things go from bad to worse when the team examines the scene and all signs point to Will’s ex-wife Angie being the culprit of the attack. Not only does it look like she was involved but the amount of blood lost at the scene means she could be in real danger. Sara’s scene-of-the-crime diagnosis is that they only have a few hours to find Angie before she bleeds out

This book looks big but it is fast reading. Real page-turning action reading. The writing style is fluid, intriguing, and completely engrossing. And the plot… well, it is absolutely jam-packed twists, murder, drama, deception, secrets, lies, heartache and mystery.

I quite liked the way this book was laid out too. The first half follows Will, Sara and the investigation team. Whilst the middle shines the spotlight on Angie. It gives a real insight into her past, her impulse reactions, her motivations and her desire to have Will to herself. She truly is such a conflicting character who you will love, hate, love, hate. Somehow this makes Will’s storyline even more intriguing.

Whilst this is the eighth book in the series I think it could be read as a standalone. In fact, most of the series can as I read it completely out of order initially, so if you see it at a bargain price don’t let the order put you off.

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Review of The Bell Tower By Sarah Rayne (Nell West #6) – 4 Stars

The Bell Tower: A Haunted House Mystery (Nell West/Michael Flint, #6)The Bell Tower: A Haunted House Mystery by Sarah Rayne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel continues as entry #6 in the Nell West series and we catch up with Nell and Michael a little after the events of “Deadlight Hall”. In this story, Nell returns as the primary character with Michael returning to the secondary research investigation role. I really enjoyed the author’s ability to switch back and forth making two strong protagonists, that’s strengths differ and keep the series fresh and alive. Returning to Nell’s perspective as a primary character gave this story a new refreshing take and also allowed Nell as a character to really develop more. It was also interesting that Nell’s daughter Beth featured a bit more in this story and is a little more grown up in this book. Great use of character progression.

In this story, Nell has bought the shop next door and is working on and extension. When some old plaster is removed Nell finds a hidden message on the wall referring to someone called Thaisa. This leads Neil on a chain of discovery where she uncovers a link with a village in Dorset (where her daughter is holidaying this summer), a mysterious piece of music called Thaisia’s song and a derelict bell tower with a silenced bell. The story is told from a variety of historical sources and also from the view of an old woman living the life of a recluse. She is desperate to protect her family’s secrets at all costs.

As with all Sarah Rayne books, her plotting is brilliant, she lays many, many, threads for the reader to follow and then brilliantly weaves them all together. It did take me a little longer than normal to get into this book. I think there was a little less mystery than others in this series and this was quite a dark storyline. I do like that Rayne still experiments in her writing and tries out many characters’ viewpoints.
I think Rayne has done a great job of developing Michael and Nell’s personal relationship too. For returning readers it is handled very well and the progression can be seen, but it’s also not distracting and confusing for first-time readers. For those that haven’t discovered the Nell West collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to Phil Rickman’s work; old story exposed, great characters and slightly eerie. The books are well written and well plotted and the historical details are always interesting.
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