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! 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

The Silent Companion

By Laura Purcell

When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure —a silent companion —-that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

Honestly, I think I fell in love with the book after reading the synopsis. This story has all the ingredients of a Victorian gothic ghost/horror story of the very best kind. Star with a setting in a creepy asylum. Add in a story that goes back to 1860s, where a widowed woman travels to a Victorian estate filled with creepy dolls that seem to be the real owners and caretakers of the house and sprinkle with a diary from 1630s which tells the real origins of the story and you’re in for a few nights of sleeping with the lights on. 

The storytelling is immense in this book. There’s three different time periods; Elsie’s present, her past and Anne’s diary (which is told in the first person). Three timeline lines yet the storytelling is so flawless, I had no trouble following it. 

I loved the writing: so pure and so visual yet not overwhelming. Too often, whenever I read a period novel, the author gets so caught up in details of either the scene or clothing I tend to lose connection with the story. While I love a well-researched novel, I think a good author will know how much detail to add without overpowering the story with historical facts. Laura Purcell balances this out perfectly in this book. I was able to be transported and yet kept my focus on what was going on in the story. 

The story ends with a twist and I almost wasn’t sure what exactly happened until I read it over a few times. One question I was left with was why did the companions even come to the house? I know how they were acquired but I wasn’t sure if it was the intention of the dolls to be obtained by Anne? Or were they affected by the house? Did Hetta summon them? I love that I was left with these questions and then at the same time, I want to know the answer to these questions. 

My advice – If you love gothic horror, then you will LOVE this book. I would read it at night while the snow falls and the wind howls. Grab your favorite blanket and a cup of tea. This novel doesn’t disappoint! 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Victoria Grace the Jerkface

By S.E. Clancy

Ever since Tori Weston and MamaBear were abandoned by her dad, finances have been tighter than a new pair of skinny jeans. As if keeping her grades up for scholarships and working every spare moment weren’t enough, Tori gets suckered into visiting a retirement home and paired with ancient resident Marigold Williams. After learning she’s the only one to visit Marigold in decades, Tori becomes a regular at Willow Springs. Besides, someone has to help with her history homework.

Few books make it to my read-over-and-over-again shelf. This book now resides there. I will pick this up again and again just to feel all the warmth, all the love, all the kindness and all the laughter this story gives. 

First, as a single mom of two early twenty-something girls, I really loved the relationship between Mamabear and Tori. Mamabear is strong, protective, funny and an excellent role model working hard to give Tori as much as she can. I related with her a lot. She set the boundaries for Tori in those tough moments of decision and yet, within those boundaries, we get to see Tori grow and flourish. And their text message conversations were hilarious. It reminded me very much of conversations I’ve had with my girls, usually via text and usually when they were in the next room. 

Victoria Grace is the perfect “flail” girl. She’s awkward and funny and puts her foot in her mouth one too many times when confronted with a boy she likes. She’s learned the art of not needing scores of friends and is super faithful to the one friend she does have, Madison, even when Mads gets to be a bit too much for Tori.

She’s a great role model for young girls here. Hard working with the ability to sacrifice wants in order to get things she needs: a car, for example. She works hard for her grades and at her two jobs. Of course, Mamabear is a great example of doing that, having had to raise Tori alone after her dad took off. 

Tori signs up to volunteer to spend time with some elderly folks at a local nursing home – actually, Mamabear sorta lets her know that while she has a choice, she also doesn’t have a choice. And there, she meets Marigold. 

Marigold is a resident of the nursing home who’s led this wonderfully interesting and somewhat sad life. She’s worked in Hollywood for most of her life, was unlucky in love and, until Tori came along, thought to die alone with no family and no one to visit her. Tori’s unselfishness and tenacity is able to help with the latter but we’re left wondering about the former. What happened in her marriage and who was the starlet she was an assistant to? 

Tori enters the nursing home much like I would expect any teenager to; smelling weird smells and wishing she had an invisibility cloak as she walked the halls to get to Marigold’s room. Along the way, she meets Jasmine, another resident with dementia who tells Tori she’s beautiful and she reminds her of her own granddaughter. Every time Jasmine reached for Tori, my heart broke a little just thinking about how many real live Jasmines there are in the world, sitting alone in a nursing home not knowing who they are or why they’re there. 

I loved the way Marigold demanded the respect due her, instantly setting the tone for the relationship between her and Tori. Their relationship grows from that mutual respect and they take and give it to each other in droves. As their relationship evolved, it was interesting to watch Marigold interact with Tori, giving her pearls of wisdom and advice. She seems to steal a little bit of Tori’s youth, using it to energize her until the very end. Through Marigold, Tori gets a glimpse of life at the end and is able to size up what really matters in her life; her relationship with her mom and her boyfriend and showing kindness to those around her, even those she doesn’t know like the soldiers she writes to. 

Heartwarming story and wonderful characters aside, this book is a gentle call to action. Especially today, when folks seem meaner, more selfish and more polarized than ever, it’s a call to find that kindness inside of you. To step outside of your box and reach out to those you don’t know to help them. To take extra steps to quit under-estimating our young people and pay attention to our elderly, for they have so much wisdom yet still to give. To know family and friends are the most important things we can ever have. To learn to appreciate what we have in the here and now and know that once we do, better things usually show up in our lives. 

My advice – Read this book. Then read it again. Then read other books. Then go back to this one and ready it again. A box of tissues is optional but always a good idea.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Vanishing

by Wendy Webb

Julia Bishop is recently widowed and left penniless by her husband who engaged in fraud as a means of making money. A stranger shows up one day offering her more than just a job, but a new life and a chance to disappear. Moreover, it’s a chance to work taking care of her favorite author, Amaris Sinclair….who is supposed to be dead. 

First, let me say this book opens with a creepy scene of a séance-gone-really-wrong which happened many years before our story takes place. It sets the scene, so to speak and instantly drops hints at the type of ghosts we may be dealing with. I was instantly hooked and couldn’t wait to find out who these entities were and why they were haunting.  

What I really love about Wendy Webb’s writing, especially in this book, is that while I was reading it, I felt each ghost leap out and brush against me. I heard the whispers in the dark hallways. I could almost see myself, like Julia, feeling against the wall hoping for a light to turn on to dispel the darkness. It wasn’t so much that this book was scary as much as it was intensely eerie. I found myself wondering who Amaris Sinclair was and got quickly drawn into her story as it unfolded. I also loved the dogs, who were fiercely protective of Julia pretty much from the moment she entered the house and almost where characters in their right in the story.

I also loved the setting. Who doesn’t love the idea of an isolated, historic mansion in the middle of the woods. Add a snowstorm causing all the main characters to be snowed in and my anxiety levels increased while reading this book. I wanted a way out and I read this during the winter when it was snowing.

Now, I’ll admit, I raised an eyebrow or two at a few things – like why Julia would be so willing to trust a total stranger with her whole life and future after being so brutally betrayed by her husband. Or her quick romance Again, after being betrayed by her husband, it’s hard for me to believe she so easily fell into the arms of someone else so quickly. There’s almost a brushing aside of the natural grief and uncertainty in the face of Adrian Sinclair’s offer.

Also, I was unsure of the endings. I say endings as there seemed to be two of them. One ended the ghost story which honestly was over much quicker than I anticipated. I felt a little let down. But then the epilogue happened and my literal reaction was, “Wait….WHAT?” So was it a dream? Is it real? And even though I initially hated that ending, I also loved that ending because it DID leave me wondering if any of it was real or not and if not, at what point did it stop being real. That is true, talented story-telling, in this reader’s opinion and it made me want to read more of Wendy Webb’s books. 

My advice – read this on a rainy afternoon, with a blanket on your lap and a dog at your side. A cup of tea (or hot chocolate) should be at the ready. Then, immerse yourself in this story and don’t let go. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Strangers on Montagu Street

by Karen White

Psychic realtor Melanie Middleton is still restoring her Charleston house and doesn’t expect to have a new houseguest, a teen girl named Nola. But the girl didn’t come alone, and the spirits that accompanied Nola don’t seem willing to leave…( nicked from Goodreads)

I have four words to say about the ghostly aspect of this book. 

Dollhouses creep me out. 

They creep me out more than empty rocking chairs, more than creepy old dolls, more than clowns and even more than those shaggy old monkeys with cymbals attached to their hands that play for no reason at all

*shudders*

From the moment Nola, Jack’s estranged daughter, laid eyes on the dollhouse in Jack’s mom’s antique shop, I knew I was in for several nights sleeping with the lights on. As usual, Karen White gives us a super scary ghost story (complete with a ghost dog!) while weaving it into a more gentle one involving Nola’s recently deceased mother. 

We get a gift in this book – we get to go a little deeper in the characters. Up to now, we’ve only seen the talented, smug, sexy side of Jack who would love nothing more than to have Melanie put her trust issues behind her and give him a second glance. This book introduces us to the parental side of Jack – the Jack who stumbles and bumbles his way through attempting to parent a teenager (a teenager, no less! Karen’s not easy on this guy at all!). There’s a lovely side of Melanie we get to see also. 

Nola is a refreshing, funny, witty, sarcastic teenager who’s hanging on to life by a thread. I fell completely in love with her. As a mom of girls (both adults now), I wanted nothing more than to reach into the book, grab Nola and hug her under all the bad things in her life disappeared. I felt her distrust,  her every disappointment but most of all, I felt her complete love for her mother. I hoped the relationship between her and Melanie would give the latter some insight into her relationship with her mother but that inched along as the story progressed. 

What I did like to see if for once, we got to see Melanie lay down a bit of her OCD-ness and search inside for some real wisdom in dealing with Nola. Nola, unable to live peacefully with her dad, moves in for some much needed perspective and space while she heals. And yet, while Melanie is so capable of being so wise where Nola is concerned, I’m still left wondering why she fails to apply any wisdom to her own life. 

Still on rocky ground with her daughter, Ginnette makes a reappearance as does Melanie’s dad. There’s a super sweet reconnecting of these two characters in a “love never dies” type of way. It’s warm and heartfelt, even though I find myself wanting to kick Melanie’s dad for STILL failing to acknowledge the abilities of his ex-wife and daughter. 

Melanie finding out she’s pregnant is just rewards for trying so hard to retain any control over her rapidly fraying life. There’s nothing like a baby to shake one up and make one realize that little is within our control. 

My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Girl On Legare Street

by Karen White

Melanie Middleton, top real estate agent in Charleston, SC has another mystery to solve. Ghosts have been residing for quite a while at her grandmother’s home on Legare Street and this time, it will take Melanie pairing up with someone she’d rather never see again – her mother – in order to help bring peace to the old, historic home. Jack Trenholm, her partner-in-crime from the last book joins her in this adventure and stands at the go-between between Melanie and her mother as ghosts wreak havoc once again in Melanie’s otherwise organized life. 

I have to say, I was pretty excited to read this one. There was a bit of a build up in the previous book, The House on Tradd Street, alluding to the fact that Melanie and her family had unfinished business at her grandmother’s house. Melanie’s mother comes back into her life bringing not only reinforcements on the psychic front but also some answers for Melanie as to why she left in the first place. 

What I loved about this book was, of course, the ghost story! Once again, there is a masterfully written history behind the ghost stories and there’s a couple of them to follow in this book. Karen White starts us off with strings that seem disconnected one from another and yet somehow, manages to pull them all into a beautiful macrame of a conclusion where everyone finds peace. I totally fell in love with Wilhelm and how much his character protected all the Prioleau women – literally for decades! His heartbreaking story of losing his love, Catherine, and how he came to haunt and protect the Legare house had tears running down my face. 

A new character and family member, Rebecca, was introduced as a cousin who also shared a gift of sorts, although her gift comes in dreams. I had a hard time deciding if I liked her or not. I couldn’t tell if she was working for or against Melanie. In the end, I concluded that she’s that one family member that every family has and wishes they hadn’t. 

I was disappointed in the non-growth of the main character, Melanie. By the end of book two, she is still a whiny, self-absorbed, over-reactive Melanie who hates a house she’s been given. While you can see a little more healing between her and her father, she seems to completely discount her mother’s explanation as to why she had to leave her – which was to save Melanie’s life. There’s not even a little give there and that bothered me. For someone approaching 40 years old, I would expect a little more maturity and reasoning and sense and honestly, I didn’t get any of that by the end of the book. 

And her treatment of Jack, who’s done nothing but try to help her and be there for her baffles me. 

Yet still, the ghost story was wonderfully done. The imagery was fabulous. The characters, outside of Melanie, are rich and beautiful and leap off the page. Karen White makes me want to go to Charleston, South Carolina, get a couple of donuts and a coffee at Ruby’s and have a good ol’ gab with these folks.

My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

The House on Tradd Street

by Karen White

Melanie Middleton, Real Estate extraordinaire to Charleston, South Carolina, has her life turned upside down when she inherits an old, historical home from one of her clients. She also inherits a family of ghosts, a dog and housekeeper and, in a way, a writer by the name of Jack Trenholm. As Melanie reluctantly works to restore the old home to its former glory, the ghost work to tear her life apart resulting in a total upheaval of everything Melanie holds dear and forcing her to confront a few ghosts of her own. 

This book was recommended to me three times before I finally picked it up. I had been looking for a good ghost story with a good history behind why the ghosts haunted. I definitely got that and more in this book. My first Karen White story ever, I was surprised not to have crossed paths with this story earlier on in my hunt for good paranormal literature. This book felt more like three books in one as Ms. White intricately weaves a trifecta of romance, paranormal and mystery all into one story that doesn’t get boring. 

First, the ghost story truly is magnificent. I thought I had most of it figured out however, Ms. White managed to surprise me at the end. The history behind it was well-thought out and really well written. There’s even a bit of a treasure hunt. I felt the cold in the air whenever the ghosts were around and a chill went down my spine also every time Melanie’s phone rang. The ghost’s voices were chilling and creepy and on more than one occasion, I wanted to cry out, “TURN THE LIGHT ON!” Melanie’s ability to communicate with them was really cool although I felt her hesitation and her desire to wish them away slightly annoying. I mean, it’s not like she was new to hearing them. The paranormal part of this book was super fun for me to read and yes, I slept with the lights on as I was reading it. 

Themes of abandonment and addiction plague the heroine of the story. Melanie is a sugar-obsessed work-a-holic who dives into donuts and overly sweet lattes like her father dives into whiskey. I found it odd that she so easily shrugs off her own addiction as being part of her DNA while her father pays the price of her continual disappointment in him, despite his efforts to sober up. Honestly, by the end of the story, Melanie was so whiny, hyper-sensitive and so selfish that I found myself more interested in whether or not her dad was getting better than I was in Melanie’s forgiveness of him. I failed to see strength in her which I thought odd for all she endured. Honestly, Jack and the ghost of Louisa were really the ones who seemed to save the day.

Jack Trenholm comes onto the scene with an agenda of his own and again, I’m not too sure why Melanie has so much animosity towards him. I get that she has trust issues but they seem to be inconsistent, especially considering Jack’s laid-back character. Yet, he adds a bit of fun and puts Melanie in her place on more than one occasion. Melanie’s friend Sophie is the same way. What a sunshiny-type girl! I love this character! Sophie is smart, witty and comfortable in her own skin – a pole opposite of Melanie in every way. She also adds a layer of fun and intelligence to the story.

My only disappointment was that it took me a few times to get past the serious amount of detail in this book. If you don’t know anything about victorian style decor, some of the language will be lost on you. I found myself wanting to “kick the horse” as it were to get to the good stuff. Of course, as the main character was renovating an old house, I could see the reason for all the detail. Truly, some serious research went into this book. But it did make it a slow-starter for me. 

Recommendation – If you like romance, ghost stories and mystery all in one package, I would recommend this book to you. Just remember to be patient at the beginning. 🙂 

Rating – ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

The Cottage By The Sea

by Debbie Macomber

Annie Marlow wakes up to a whole new world finding her old one swept away (literally) overnight by an unexpected tragedy. Her grief leads her to return to Oceanside, where she and her family used to vacation when she was younger. The pacific northwest town gives her more than just healing; it’s filled with colorful characters needing her as much as she needs them. In the end, she faces a decision to remain locked in memories of the past or to go and find the strength to create a new future. 

This is my first introduction to anything by Debbie Macomber. After reading this book, I researched her and discovered more than just books but Hallmark movies based upon her books. I had no idea. I picked up this book to read after marathon-reading Wendy Webb’s ghost stories and needing something a little lighter and less frightening. This book didn’t disappoint. 

Death and resurrection are in this book. Not only does the book open with unexpected tragedy, it closes with a resurrection of sorts. As someone who lost her mom three years ago to tragedy, I easily related to all Annie was going through in the aftermath of her own situation. The grief was very real but the torment of what could have and should have been said and done but wasn’t was acute. Like Annie, I also faced people in my life who needed me to just “move on”. Not nearly as easy as it seems and Ms. Macomber highlights this theme beautifully. I felt every hurt, every regret, every ache. 

Having recently moved away from my mom’s hometown of many years, I also experienced the coming alive again that a new home and a new town brings. That was really special to read especially since many authors gloss over the aftermath of a loss a little too quickly. 

The theme of grief is very real in this book yet, I didn’t find it to be heavy. Each character had something to grieve and leave behind them and while Annie wasn’t necessarily their savior, she seemed to be a catalyst for all of them moving forward in their lives. 

I had a hard time with Annie’s friends from her hometown. The constant badgering and telling her to get back to her life was super annoying. No one needs unsupportive friends like that. 

I would recommend this book. It’s an easy read. I really loved Keaton. I loved the emergence of Mellie. It was beautifully and heartbreakingly written. I almost liked her more than I liked Annie. 

Read this book. You’ll find yourself wanting your own seaside cottage.

My Rating – ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Welcome to All In Good Books!

Welcome to All In Good Books!

Like many in the publishing world, I have a love of books and reading. Unlike many in the publishing world, it wasn’t my childhood dream to write books.

However, I have been a storyteller all my life.

From spinning yarns about my home life to the nuns at school ( a few earning a call to my parents and even one resulting in a parent/teacher conference ) to living alternate lives inside my head to tuning into the lives of others immersing myself in their personal history, I’ve loved to tell stories. Since then, story-telling has morphed into story-reading which is currently morphing into story-writing.

I review books to share my love of stories. I am mostly attracted to paranormal stories with a good historical background. I’ve also recently started to get into women’s literature as well as contemporary fiction. And while I’m a good 50-something aged woman, I love a good young adult book as well.

Thank you so much for being here. Enjoy and feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment.