A Haunted Love Story: The Ghosts of the Allen House by Mark Spencer

A Haunted Love Story: The Ghosts of the Allen HouseA Haunted Love Story: The Ghosts of the Allen House by Mark Spencer

When Mark Spencer and his family moved into the beautiful old Allen House in Monticello, Arkansas, they were aware of its notorious reputation for being haunted. According to local lore, the troubled spirit of society belle Ladell Allen, who had mysteriously committed suicide in the master bedroom in 1948, still roamed the grand historic mansion. Yet, Mark remained skeptical–until he and his family began encountering faceless phantoms, a doppelganger spirit, and other paranormal phenomena. Ensuing ghost investigations offered convincing evidence that six spirits, including Ladell, inhabited their home. But the most shocking event occurred the day Mark followed a strange urge to explore the attic and found, crammed under a floorboard, secret love letters that touchingly depict Ladell Allen’s forbidden, heart-searing romance–and shed light on her tragic end. This haunting true ghost story includes several photographs of the Allen House.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Me thinketh thou doth protest too much–about people wanting to see your house and find out if it is really haunted. What an intrusion. Wait we could do ghost tours! Opinion stated. Okay, I’m done. Now on to the review.

Mark Spencer has written an interesting book with a lot of answers to questions the locals of Monticello, Arkansas have harboured for years. There is no doubt that many of the facts he relayed have quieted curious minds in the area.

I didn’t think this was a bad book at all. I appreciated that the author did not embellish everything to the tenth power and make the “hauntings” so unbelievable that the book seemed silly. I felt he was pretty down to earth about their various experiences there and really got the impression that he cared about the lives of the former owners as well.

The book is written in an easy going and conversational style that made it a quick and rather enjoyable read. His filling in of the gaps in between the letters between Ladell and her love interest were handled with charm.

What I did find, whilst reading this book, was that the author seemed to lose himself in his own feelings for the house and the past tenants occasionally, perhaps forgetting that we are not all in the same situation. Often times, the letters and his impressions of them came up a bit dry. I also thought it was interesting that he added his own speculation to the reason for the suicide of Ladell. The letters did not exactly confirm her reasoning and I found it a bit of a jump for the author to do so.

I felt closer to this tale than some others, as much of the letters have to do with being separated from someone you love, a feeling I know well.

Overall I thought this was good writing and an interesting inside look at one of “the most haunted houses” in America. If you enjoy ghost stories and are looking for something that will offer a glimpse of history at the same time, this would be a good one to pick up.

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Hamlet’s Ghost by Jane Tara

* If you haven’t read any of Jane’s books yet, then you have been missing out. Jane Tara is an author that is well on her way to becoming a household name. I love her works and strongly encourage you to check them out. This latest book is one of my favourites of the year and I am so happy I had the chance to read it.

 

Hamlet's Ghost (Shakespeare Sisters, #3)Hamlet’s Ghost by Jane Tara

Rhiannon Dee, a gorgeous witch, moves to a country town to reopen a theater and finds herself torn between the man who owns it, and his father who haunts it.

Kip Daniels has been haunting the Hamlet Majestic for thirty dull years, ever since the stage roof collapsed on him during what was meant to be his piece de resistance: his performance of Hamlet. All he really wants is to get to the end of the play, but that won’t happen while the theater stands abandoned and boarded up. He’s resigned himself to an endless limbo … until Rhiannon Dee moves to town to bring the theater back to life.

Rhi has fled a failed life in New York. She can’t find work as an actress. She’s overshadowed by her mother who has a hit TV show about witchcraft. Rhi is sick of being seen as a witch and intends to turn her back on the craft. But she quickly discovers she can’t escape her gifts, especially when she needs to use them to help one very sexy but sad ghost cross over. Surrounded by new friends and supportive townsfolk, Rhi breathes new life into the Hamlet Majestic, and helps Kip accept his death.

Hamlet’s Ghost is a story about those moments in life that define us, and how to truly move forward we must find peace with the past

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Much like Jane Tara’s other books, this is filled with magic, outstanding characters that are easily loved and quirky, fun writing. I love Jane’s stories for their ability to take you away from daily life and make you feel as if you are somewhere else. I also love her sassy writing full of quips that make you giggle.

What made me love Hamlet’s Ghost was not just the cast of unique and varied characters, but the setting. The connections between the name of the town and the goings on inside the theatre were brilliant and kept me turning pages. I loved the way she tied the past and familiar characters into this novel but still managed to make it feel new. This could easily be read as a standalone novel even without the primer of the previous books.

My favourite character was Crystal. She’s strong and independent and full of life and it affects the characters around her. I’d love to know even more about her story. This was a book that I was sorry to see go and it will be difficult to find something else to read after this–but this is the price you pay for reading Jane’s work.

If you are tired of reading books where the female characters are all perfect down to the last fake nail, then this is for you. This author values differences between her characters and they are not all cookie cutter shapes that have been done before. She uses real women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds to fill her pages. I love that.

The love story(ies) are charming and the romance scenes mild enough for those who don’t want to jump into the deep end too soon. You get a sense of each character’s personality and that of their match before they end up together and things don’t always go exactly as one would expect. Overall I thought this was one of the most delightful reads of the year.

If you like romantic stories with lots of twists and plenty of magic, you can’t go wrong here. Definitely a book that deserves recommendation.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Of Monsters and MadnessOf Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

A romantic, historical retelling of classic Gothic horror featuring Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee, from a New York Times best-selling author.

Summoned to her father’s home in 1820’s Philadelphia, a girl finds herself in the midst of a rash of gruesome murders in which he might be implicated. She is torn romantically between her father’s assistants-one kind and proper, one mysterious and brooding-who share a dark secret and may have more to do with the violent events than they’re letting on.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars

Right away, if you love Edgar Allan Poe, you may find yourself doing a bit of a head-scratcher at this novel. The basis of this book is interesting. There is a bit of Jekyll and Hyde, a feeling of Frankenstein in the sections that deal with reanimation, and a love story of sorts in between. The unusual main character which has a very mixed cultural background brought a lot to this story, in my opinion, making in unique in yet another way.

Impressive descriptions of the city and the especially the shops led the way to interesting connections with the family at the centre of this novel. I particularly liked the good vs. evil feeling of a character more or less struggling to gain control over their own demons.

I did feel that this book had steep drop offs where the every day actions of the characters took over the story for pages at a time. The novel redeemed itself whenever something exciting would happen, but there are some rather long stretches where nothing much is going on.

The author does a good job of painting a background for her characters that is both believable and enticing. She raises questions about them throughout this novel, never answering them all at the end. There is definitely room for another book, if one has not been written already.

Some liberties were certainly taken with the rearranging of facts and dates to accommodate the needs of the writer, but I think for the most part it worked pretty well.

Overall, I thought this was an intriguing story and a book that fans of Gothic literature will be happy to check out for themselves.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from Netgalley and the publisher.

Guest post and review: Maggie Anton’s Enchantress, A Novel of Rav Hisda’s Daughter

Today, I am so pleased to welcome Maggie Anton to Readful Things for a guest post. The topic is an interesting one for authors and audiences alike. The border between fiction and non-fiction–how real is too real? The check below the guest post for a review of Enchantress. We’d love to hear your thoughts on the guest post topic, so feel free to drop a line with your opinion.

How real is too real?

Because the heroines in my Rashi’s Daughters trilogy [11th-century France] and Rav Hisda’s Daughter duo [4th-century Babylonia] are historical figures, I tried to write so they behave like real women in their times. This entailed months of research to ensure that I described them and their world as accurately as possible. And because I am a stickler about not closing the doors on my characters, it meant that they use the privy, menstruate, suffer in childbirth, and see children die young.

 

I admit that I seem to be a rarity among historical novelists in this regard, as only rarely does one even mention when a girl starts her period. Yet this is a significant point in any woman’s life, and if she is a Jewish woman, it will be a central part of her marital relationship for years to come. I’ve also read plenty of historical romances that take place centuries before modern medicine, when average life expectancy was less than forty years and 40% of children didn’t reach their tenth birthday, yet none of the characters, even minor ones, catch so much as a cold, let alone suffer a serious illness or injury.

 

Still I drew the line at too much reality. Rashi, the great Jewish scholar from whose commentaries I learned a great deal, describes six kinds of fleas and lice, but I decided to leave that out. Apparently nearly everyone lost teeth as they aged, so a large portion of adults had none or only a few. I left that out too.

 

On a positive note, real married women have sex, mostly with their husbands. Since I only write kosher sex scenes, my heroines only sleep with their husbands, and that is after they get married. To keep things real, not all my heroes are good in bed, at least not at the beginning, and sometimes my heroines are sexually frustrated. As may be surmised, I don’t like to close the door on my characters, and that included the bedroom door. In other words, I left little to the reader’s imagination.

 

I make an effort to describe my characters’ meals, clothes, and dwellings in detail. This not only makes my historical novels come to life, but readers are usually more fascinated than bored by this glimpse into the past.

 

But sometimes the author shouldn’t make things too real. If characters in a novel spoke like people really do, with all the “uh’s,” pauses, and “you know’s,” readers would close the book in a minute, if not sooner. Real everyday speech often includes blather about neighbors, relatives, and coworkers. But dialogue in a novel must set the scene, elucidate character, or advance the plot – and if it does more than one of these at a time, even better. Which means no inconsequential conversations like real people have.

 

Another difference between a fiction and reality is that in real life we meet all sorts of people who pass though our lives without making an impact. Indeed these are the majority of individuals we interact with each day. But every character in a book, even minor nameless ones, should serve a purpose. In early drafts of my first novel I created a horde of secondary characters for my hero and heroine to encounter in the course of their daily activities. My editor made me either delete them or at least leave them nameless, for otherwise my readers would expect them to turn up again or have some important role, and be sorely annoyed when they didn’t.

 

Thomas Hobbes penned a well-known saying, “Life is poor, nasty, brutish and short.” True as that may be, if historical novelists focused on characters whose lives fit that description, we would have few readers. Readers want a happy, or at least satisfying ending. When characters die, other than of old age or in their lover’s arms, it should be a redeeming sacrifice or to show the antagonist’s malevolence. In the third volume of Rashi’s Daughters, I created a scene detailing the massacre of Rhineland Jews during the First Crusade. I used a description from a primary source, an “eye witness” account, but the carnage was too strong for my editors, who had me tone it down. Reality was indeed too real to put in my novel.

 

The well-written historical novel includes just enough reality to take readers on a mental vacation to a time and place they could never experience otherwise, all from the comfort of their climate-controlled homes equipped with indoor plumbing and well-stocked medicine chests.

 

Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda's Daughter

Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda’s Daughter by Maggie Anton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Initially I was afraid that taking this book under my review wing would be a little scary. The amount of knowledge I had prior to reading this novel when it came to Jewish history could have been held in a shot glass. Even so, through Maggie Anton’s magical abilities as a storyteller, I found myself immediately immersed in a world of long ago with characters so rich and vibrant that they dance off the pages.

The way this author interweaves her story with historical threads and uses such beautiful imagery and wonderful word choices kept me up late at night turning pages. She not only has a gift for making you see the world of her characters through words, but also has a real talent for making her characters vulnerable and human at the core level. Reading her writing is a journey, and one that you will want to repeat again.

I loved that the story took unexpected turns and that there was no way to know what was coming next. What I thought at first, would be a rather difficult book to read, instead turned out to be exciting, compelling and a fine example of literary genius.

My only stumbling block along the way was the difficulty of keeping certain characters straight. There is a guide in the beginning to help with that, so the troubles were really more my fault than that of the author (difficult to keep checking back on a Kindle ereader.)

Overall this is a beautifully crafted novel with plenty of reasons to make me recommend it. A great book from a very talented author.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and distributed through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

The Fourteenth GoldfishThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Galileo. Newton. Salk. Oppenheimer.
Science can change the world . . . but can it go too far?

Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if someone truly discovered the fountain of youth? What if you could go backward in age and live life over again? It is these questions and many more that this book focuses on. That and fuzzy slippers. Can’t forget those.

I enjoyed this. There are a lot of unique and interesting concepts in the middle grade fiction genre, and this book explores them well. I liked the voice of the narrator and her views on life. I also appreciated the way the author approached the situation with the grandfather. This is written in such a way that it is almost believable that these things could really happen.

Jennifer L. Holm did a good job finding and pointing out the things that make us young and giving a direct comparison to those things which show our age. The way she explored the differences between the two was fascinating and often times laugh out loud funny.

The story flow was relaxed but the pace wasn’t slow. I enjoyed the humour throughout this title and think kids would have a lot of fun with it. There are few times when I read a book and then burn with curiosity about what happens to the characters after, but I hope, in this case we get to find out.

I’d definitely recommend this book and not just to kids.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

The Blood of an Englishman by M.C. Beaton

The Blood of an Englishman: An Agatha Raisin Mystery (Agatha Raisin, #25)The Blood of an Englishman: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you have not read any of the Agatha Raisin Mysteries yet, up to and including this one, you need to get caught up!

I loved this book. There is a healthy dose of humour all the way through it and the characters are not only memorable, but a lot of fun. I love unique mysteries where you feel as though you haven’t read it all before in one form or another. M.C. Beaton has a way of making everything that happens feel like it is original.

If you are a fan of the cozy mystery, this will satisfy you without being overly ‘precious’ or silly. I enjoyed watching the events unfold as the story was told and going through the process with the main character. The story takes plenty of unexpected turns and will leave you wanting the next book right now!

This is a fun book that will keep you guessing. I like characters with big personalities and Agatha Raisin is certainly one to fit in that category.

**Having an actual Englishman read this book aloud to you may also increase your chances of loving it, but is not necessary for enjoyment:)

Highly recommended, five stars well deserved.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Salt & Storm by Kendal Kulper

Salt & StormSalt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

A sweeping historical romance about a witch who foresees her own murder–and the one boy who can help change her future.

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wants only to take her rightful place as the witch of Prince Island, making the charms that keep the island’s whalers safe at sea, but her mother has forced her into a magic-free world of proper manners and respectability. When Avery dreams she’s to be murdered, she knows time is running out to unlock her magic and save herself.

Avery finds an unexpected ally in a tattooed harpoon boy named Tane–a sailor with magic of his own, who moves Avery in ways she never expected. Becoming a witch might stop her murder and save her island from ruin, but Avery discovers her magic requires a sacrifice she never prepared for.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever find the perfect book at the perfect time? This was that book for me. I began reading this book during a holiday to the Western US Coast and it was absolutely perfect for the trip. The scenery described in it was so wonderfully written that I looked around at some points and felt like I was walking through the pages of the book.

The main character is very well written. It was easy for me to identify with her feelings and for me to like her. This story is written full of magic and surprises. If you are into magic realism and enjoy tales that feature family heritage and passed down secrets, this will surely keep enticing you until the very last page.

I loved this book. The love story was sweet and important to the decisions the main character made, but never felt contrived or overly forced. I enjoyed the secondary characters and thought the author did an excellent job of making them memorable.

The setting was great and the time period seemed appropriate to the feel of the story. I am very happy to recommend this book to other readers. If you are looking for something that will make you feel as if you have left the world you see every day and experience something new, this would be a great book to choose.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.