Walk in their shoes

I will not be ruled by hate! “Here Here” – Great Post Sue!

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

“.. before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

“Is everything okay over there?” said my son, calling from half a world away. “Yes… fine…” I replied, moments before madness hit London Bridge. Britain, like so many countries recently, reeled once again as violence destroyed lives and peace. That attack followed hard on the heels of Manchester and Westminster, and would precede a lethal attack on Finsbury Mosque.

“My daughter and granddaughter were there,” said our Companion, speaking of the Manchester bombings that killed children as young as eight years old, as we struggled to come to terms with yet another explosion of hatred and inhumanity.

Britain is far from being unique in this. Globally, over eight hundred terrorist attacks have been listed this year alone…

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Review of Marrying a Stranger by Anna Jacobs – 4 Stars

Marrying a StrangerMarrying a Stranger by Anna Jacobs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, the plot of this book is what drew me in, it is really intriguing. Megan was orphaned as a child and went to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin. Despite adoring her new family as an adult she decides to return to the area of her childhood. During her journeys, she accidentally ends up rescuing Ben from being pick-pocketed. In return, they end up spending a few days together and the attraction between them grows. When Ben unveils he has to move away to Australia she is heartbroken, but then he surprises her by asking her to marry him so that she can go with him. Megan agrees but the rocky road of marriage is long and complicated. What will her family think? What are Ben’s family like? How will she feel being provided for when she has always worked and paid her own way? All these questions and more provide Megan with plenty of turmoil, throw in Ben’s overbearing ex that is desperate to win him back and you just don’t quite know which way the story will go? Can the newlyweds really make their marriage work?

The writing style is a little old fashioned and the story a little slow at times. But, in saying this, there is nothing wrong with a bit of good wholesome romance now and again. The settings were quite quirky in this novel, however the author never let Megan stay anywhere for the reader to become too familiar with the setting (I’m not sure if this was deliberate or not to show Megan’s discomfort at being constantly moved) but it did mean that the reader has to read quite a lot of descriptions from quite a few places. The first hotel and then the house towards the end of the novel were both brilliant locations, particularly the house.

I think Megan is an interesting character, it feels a bit like she’s going through a mid-life crisis. She feels she has a boring job and is yearning for something more. The solution = marry a stranger and move to the other side of the world. Yet somehow as a reader, you do root for her. Ben is a lot more complicated character. He’s very distant and I think as a reader it takes a while to warm to him (and to understand why Megan is so enamoured) – think of a boring Mr Grey. Although the good thing about that is it means he develops later in the novel and you do end up liking him, I just felt as a reader it takes a little longer for you to start to like him. Apart from that, the other characters are pretty good especially Ben’s ex as soon as she appears you mistrust her, dislike her and are ready for her to get her comeuppance – haha!

Overall I really enjoyed this book. Very light, easy summer reading. This is the first Anna Jacobs book I have read and I have already ordered another from this author! For those that enjoy this type of novel, I would recommend Diary of a Whitby Girl by Jessica Stirling. It is historical fiction but a really enjoyable slower paced romance.

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Mask of the Gods – #Writephoto

Griffin stared at the dancing fire. Allowing its constant energised movement to fill his soul. He required as much energy as he could consume before the ceremony would begin. The mask in the pocket of the ceremonial robe felt like it was pulsing. Or was that the music? Or his pulse? It didn’t matter all sights and sounds merged to this one heightened moment.

Slowly those around him began to sing. Their voices low merged with the throbbing pulse that seemed to fill the air. Griffin tried to make out the words but nothing was coming through clear. It didn’t matter he only had to know his own words, the words that would change his life, the words that would bring his wife back to him. Even the thought of her made his entire body ache, he was desperate to bring her soul back to the earthly plane. He had traded empires to find the powers to do it, to find the Mask of the Gods. Mask fire image by Sue Vincent

He had never had faith in religion before, not in this day and age, when the zest for life, for living, was too strong to stop and thank some unknown God for it all, that hadn’t seemed to make sense. That all changed when his wife passed, he needed to understand, he needed a reason why he had survived when she hadn’t. He had been so lost in his sorrows he had hardly registered the stranger who had helped him home from the bar and told him of an ancient relic, a relic that had the power to bring back the dead.

Griffin had started to research, started to follow, started to obsess, maybe the world worked slightly differently than he had suspected, and maybe there wasn’t just the one god but the many, and maybe the gods made mistakes, just like humans? Griffin began to wonder if he was chasing the mask or if the mask was coming to him, but little by little the chances unfolded and he had grasped them. At first, it had seemed so unbelievable, the mask was in his hands. Then the agony began, waiting for the blood moon to perform the traditional ritual.

Suddenly the night filled with silence, the others voices had stopped and leader of the group lifted his arm and pointed at Griffin. Griffin froze to the spot. Now? He took the mask from his pocket lifting it slowly to his face and placing it on. He found the words slowly building inside him.

revertetur a morte, uxorem, audi vocem meam, veni ad me

                       Griffin closed his eyes behind the mask and repeated the words louder and louder. The crowd once again began to chant in a low voice. The throbbing sound grew and grew in the night. It felt like the forest around him had joined in the chant, birds singing, bats screeching, frogs croaking. All sending their summons out into the night.

All at once the sound of silence filled the air and only Griffin’s voice was now permeating the darkness. He hesitated to open his eyes but the group leader nodded into the night and with a little more confidence Griffin repeated the summons.

revertetur a morte, uxorem, audi vocem meam, veni ad me

        The flame grew higher, the light blinding, Griffin could no longer see the others in the circle. It was just him and the fire. It seemed to grow hotter and hotter until it was a burning white flame. Griffin’s throat grew so dry he had to break the chant to swallow. The light became so intense he had to shield his eyes. In that moment of solace, he heard a gasp from the crowd followed by an uncomfortable silence. He opened his eyes to see the form of his wife standing where there had just been flames.

He ran to her but she retracted before he could embrace her.

“Oh no, Griffin… What have you done?” her gasp filled the silence of the forest.


My response to Sue’s wonderful photo prompt. Couldn’t resist toying around with this photo, definitely something mysterious about it! I loved it. Managed to combine it with the daily prompt of traditions too. Obviously, all these ancient traditions, I made up! For those that want to know the bit in the thing Griffin chants is a bit of googled latin – “Return from the dead, My Wife, hear my summons, come to me” – or something along those lines. 🙂

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

Review of Uneasy Spirits by Louisa M Locke – 4 Stars

Uneasy Spirits (A Victorian San Francisco Mystery #2)Uneasy Spirits by M. Louisa Locke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I stumbled across this book by chance when it showed up rather cheaply on a Kindle titles sale and the outline sounded quirky and I must say I am very pleased with the find. I didn’t realise it is actually the second in the series and I’m quite glad as I think that would have put me off but actually, it was very easy to read without having read the first. You could quickly pick up who the characters are and each of their rough backgrounds, but you are also not swamped with information about them learning more as the book goes on.

This Victorian thriller is set in San Francisco, in the world of Annie Fuller (who doubles as clairvoyant Madam Sibyl). Annie actually doesn’t believe in any of the astrology or palmistry but as an intellectual woman, she uses it as a front to help give her clients business advice. When she is asked to investigate some mediums (the Framptons) who claim to be talking to deceased relatives of their clients Annie and her kitchen maid Kathleen soon step into a very dangerous world.

Discovering the truth about the Framptons may just expose Annie’s own secret that she is not really clairvoyant, can she take that risk to help her friend. The line between helping and deceiving suddenly becomes very blurred for Annie and she’s not too sure where she stands on it.

There is also an underlying love story between Annie and Nate, an up and coming lawyer who is desperate to break out of the shadows of his Uncle’s law firm. Their story is very sweet and Nate is a great character, but perhaps a little overshadowed in this story by Annie and Kathleen. I suspect he will be much more interesting in the other books as their storyline develops.

The historical descriptions are great in this book, and as some other reviewers have mentioned it’s actually set during Halloween so some of the details are really interesting.

This book can certainly be read as a standalone, but as more is revealed about the characters and their relationships develop as the series progresses, it might be best to start from the first book in the series, Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery (which I am hoping to do). I certainly will return to read more books by this author in future.

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Review of Holy Island by L.J. Ross (DCI Ryan #1) – 5 Stars

Holy Island (DCI Ryan Mysteries, #1)Holy Island by L.J. Ross

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I stumbled across this book by chance when it showed up rather cheaply on a Kindle titles sale and the outline sounded quirky and I must say I am very pleased with the find.

This is actually the first of the DCI Ryan detective mysteries series by L.J Ross and it starts the series off with a bang – especially the ending, great job on keeping us readers hooked for the next one in the series. I do think the writing in general was very good, not overly police procedural, plenty of characters to set it up for a series but not too many that you can’t figure out who is who, enough of an intriguing back story about the characters that I suspect may come back to haunt them at a later date. A very strong start to the series.

The plot mainly includes two interlinked storylines/character viewpoints. DCI Ryan has taken a sabbatical from his police duties after a traumatic experience during a murder investigation and temporarily moves to Lindisfarne. After several weeks of calm enjoying the peaceful island, his sabbatical is disrupted when the body of a young woman is found murdered at the priory. The murder looks staged with cult underlying’s and soon more murders in the small island follow. The murderer is smart, leaving very few clues and cleaning the sites so that the investigating team struggles to narrow it down. In the meantime, questioning becomes more and more difficult as the Islanders try to protect their own from outside police interference.

In the second storyline, we follow former local girl Anna who travels back to the island as an informant on the occult. When one of her own family members turns out to be the next murder victim Anna is removed from the case but fearing for her safety and his new-found feelings for her DCI Ryan insists she move into his small cottage that is doubling as police base on the island.

The storylines are very sharp, intricate and clever, but the book itself is not as dark as you would expect for a murder mystery, certainly, there is actually very little gore allowing you to sit back and enjoy the storyline.

I think Ross has done a great job, leaving plenty of room for the characters evolving, in this novel you really feel sorry for Ryan; his mental trauma from his past and how he is suffering trying to suppress those feelings to deal with the new case. I actually finished this book a little while ago but the story and characters still feel very vivid and I think that is a sign of how well the story has been told.

One of the real big highlights for me was the locations. I loved the rugged windswept island and it’s close knit community. The one pub that you need to visit to find out what is going on. Unless you want to risk speaking to the gossipy landlady of the local b&b. All great places and very easy to visualize.

For those that haven’t discovered the DCI Ryan collection, I would suggest these novels are quite similarly written to something like Elly Griffiths (Ruth Galloway Series – also very good if you haven’t read that). It is crime but not really dark gritty like rebus or anything, also not a Miss Marple cosy crime, something in the middle.

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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 ❤