Supernatural Business: A Review of Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen

Book cover for Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen (Lovelace & Wick #1.5) by Jennifer Rainey. Image on cover shows a black and white drawing of a woman wearing a late 1800’s style dress and a large, floppy hat. There is a small ruffle of fabric around her neck as the dress covers up every bit of her torso and arms and much of her neck, too. This drawing is surrounded by a drawing of a Victorian-style floral frame that has been drawn on top of a red, wallpaper-like surface. Title: Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen (Lovelace & Wick #1.5) by Jennifer Rainey

Author: Jennifer Rainey

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: August 30, 2017

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, LGBTQ

Length: 79 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

As a demon, Iago Wick has made quite a career out of conjuring mischief and mayhem in the name of Hell, but this time, perhaps he’s gone a bit too far.

After deliberately foiling the plans of a spoiled vampire—all in the name of fun, really!—Iago discovers that the vampire in question is no ordinary bloodsucker. She’s the newly-appointed matriarch of one of the oldest vampire families in America, and she’s very angry.

Soon, Iago is caught in a war with the vampires and their cyborg servants. Will he settle his score with the clan of bloodsuckers or will Iago find himself at the mercy of the Vampire Queen? What precisely is the matter with those strange cybernetic servants, anyway? And most importantly, will Iago ever get the smell of garlic out of his clothes?

“Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen” is a 17,000-word short story prequel to The Lovelace & Wick Series.

Content Warning: Murder and kidnapping. I will not mention these topics in my review.

Review:

Supernatural business is nothing to mess around with.

I enjoyed the quiet and unassuming small town setting. Honestly, the residents of Marlowe probably wouldn’t have believed what was going on behind closed doors in their sleepy community even if one of the main characters had decided to reveal their true identities to everyone. Peaceful places are a good option for hiding in plain sight, and I liked the way the author showed the many ways in which awful deeds can done right under the noses of people who think they know all of the local gossip already.

This novella had a dry sense of humor that I struggled to connect with due to the terrible things that were simultaneously happening to so many of the human characters. I’d read about either one of these things on their own, but the combination of them simply didn’t work for me as a reader. It felt a little too flippant to move between an edgy joke and another description of the ways in which vampires harm the humans around them. This is a subjective piece of criticism, of course, and I’m sure there are a lot of readers out there who love this sort of dark writing style. I’m simply not one of them, and I found myself wishing I could stick to the more lighthearted elements of the plot and skip over the rest.

With that being said, Iago’s personality was such an interesting one. There was a strong, sharp sense of danger surrounding him due to the fact that he’s (obviously) a demon and therefore not exactly the most wholesome fellow around. He had his own moral code that often didn’t match up to what a human might consider a reasonable or kind thing to do, but I did admire the way he stuck to it no matter who or what might have tempted him to break the rules of hell just once.

Iago Wick and the Vampire Queen was a playful read.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Something You Might Not Guess About Me

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

While working on this post I was pleased to see that the painting American Gothic by Grant Wood is in the public domain now, so I can share it here before I share the recreation of it my parents did when one of my brothers and I were little.

This is the original painting:

The painting American Gothic by Grant Wood. This was created in 1930 and features two stern-looking white people who are standing in front of their farmhouse looking grumpy. The man is holding a pitchfork and wearing a white shirt and black jacket. The woman is wearing a black dress with a white collar, a red floral apron, and a little necklace around the collar that looks like the silhoutte of a person’s face. She has blond hair pulled back into a neat bun. He is mostly bald but has a fringe of grey hair on part of his head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is my family’s recreation of it with two little kids who weren’t quite sure what was happening but were thrilled to be included:

 

Photo of two little white kids dressed up like 1930s farmers in imitation of the famous 1930 American Gothic painting by Grant Wood. The little boy, my brother, is wearing a black longsleeved shirt and a pair of overalls. he’s holding an old wooden rake. I am wearing a grey long-sleeved dress with a white pinafore over it and a red scarf around my neck. Someone also put a bit of rouge on my cheeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have memories of the grownups asking us not to smile, but I also remember being happy to play along with their wishes. So, yes, we both look quite serious, but this was a fun experience for us. (Or at least it was for me!  This brother of mine can speak for himself if he so desires to and still remembers that day. He was pretty young when it happened).

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Things I Loved About Shepherd’s Sight


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Thank you for suggesting this week’s topic,Cathy @ WhatCathyReadNext!

My selection is Shepherd’s Sight: A Farming Life by Barbara McLean. It’s a nonfiction book about a year in the life of the author and her farm as she goes through the typical routines of each month of the year.

I left a five-star review for it on Goodreads back in March, so keep an eye out for it if you click on the link.

Book cover for Shepherd’s Sight: A Farming Life by Barbara McLean. Image on cover is a drawing of a ewe standing and looking to the left. The rest of the book is adorned with a drawing of red plants that have pretty little oval leaves. This is what I loved about this book:

1) Nothing was sugarcoated. Just like anything else in life, rural living has positive and negative aspects to it. The author included both of them in her book in vivid detail, from the delicious meals her family cooked made from the many different types of food their farm grew to the difficult aspects of choosing this lifestyle like needing to put sick livestock down.

2) The food descriptions. They made me so hungry.

3) How the weather influenced everything the author and her family did. Travelling on rural roads during ice storms is still pretty dangerous, to give one example, so they always had enough food and other supplies to stay home for a week or two if the roads were all iced over or it was otherwise unsafe to go into town.

4) Balancing the needs of nature, humans, and animals was constantly on the author’s mind. She might want to start planting her garden on a specific date, but the weather may or may not actually cooperate that day! The same can be said for lambing season, harvesting the large garden on this farm, and so much more.

5) The author’s memories of how rundown and rustic the farm was in the 1970s when she and her husband moved in. They really made this a nice property!

6) Family reunions. My grandparents’ are farmers, too, so I know how special it is for all of that work to be put aside for the day so the kids and grandkids can visit.

7) Neighbourly behaviour. When you live on a farm or in a rural and isolated area, you never know when you might need the assistance of a neighbour or when they might need your assistance. Building good relationships with those who live nearby can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.

8) Baby lambs. There are so many adorable stories about them in this book.

9) Losing skills. Whether it’s due to disability, chronic illness, or as a part of growing older,  nearly everyone will eventually realize that they are no longer capable of things they could easily do in the past. The author was in her 70s or 80s when she wrote this book and had reached a stage in life when she simply didn’t have the strength or endurance she did 50 years ago.

10) The question of retirement and when it should happen. Many jobs can still be safely done by senior citizens, but the sheer physicality of farm work can make it really hard for older people  to keep going as long as they could if they were, say, an accountant or a paediatrician who didn’t need to throw hay bales around or chase mischievous sheep around in the rocky and uneven soil of the pasture all day at work. (And some seniors can still do a lot of that stuff, of course! I’m related to one of them 😉 )

 

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A Review of Tapping at Twilight

Title: Tapping at Twilight Book cover for Tapping at Twilight by Kassandra Alvarado. Image on cover is a close-up photograph of an old-fashioned wooden door that has an iron hinge and knocker. Both the hinge and the knocker are rusting, and the wood on the door is cracking with age.

Author: Kassandra Alvarado

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date:  February 26, 2013

Genres: Paranormal, Historical

Length: 7 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A quiet London evening is disturbed by quiet rapping at the door, who or what could it be?

Review:

Visitors aren’t welcomed here.

Ms. Alvarado had a descriptive writing style that pulled me into the storyline before I even finished the first sentence. Seriously, it was that fast!  I adored her use of alliteration and the vivid manner in which she described even the most ordinary details of the setting. There is nothing like settling into such crisp writing while allowing it to carry you away to a faraway time and place. She is clearly a talented writer, and I hope to read more of her work soon.

With that being said, I did find myself wishing for much stronger plot development as I read this. I had so many unanswered questions by the time I finished the seventh and final page of it. By no means did I expect everything to be resolved, but it was disappointing for me as a reader to experience a rapid buildup of tension and intrigue only to be left hanging at the end about what was going on with all of the rapping at the door. As much as I wanted to give this one a higher rating, the sudden and unsatisfying ending dampened my enjoyment of a tale that was otherwise delightful.

The protagonist’s character development was well done, though. Mister Westerfield was a sympathetic man who had been denied his greatest wish in his youth by his disapproving parents. Now that he was old and settled in life, he finally had the opportunity to make some of his own decisions about how to pass the time. It’s not as common as it ought to be for narrators who are senior citizens to be the centre of attention, so I relished getting to know this character and imagining what adventures might still await him in life.

Tapping at Twilight had an old-fashioned feel to it that suited the subject matter nicely.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Do You Enjoy Shopping? Why or Why Not?

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Generally, no, I do not enjoy shopping because of how consumeristic and expensive it can be.

Closeup of eco-friendly mesh bags. Two are black, two are white, and one is yellow. They are all arranged in a circle against a white background. I replace clothing and shoes as they wear out or no longer fit me, but I find it wasteful to replace perfectly good stuff just because an advertisement says that a certain pattern or colour is no longer in fashion this year. (This is not a criticism of anyone who loves fashion, only of an industry that often strongly encourages people to purchase things they may not need or even want a few months from now).

Due to planned obsolescence and how many items are not being constructed in ways that makes repairing them easy or even possible in some cases, it can be harder to do this with stuff like electronics or small appliances, but I do still try to get as much use out of them as I can.

I used to like visiting the grocery store and occasionally the local chocolate shops before inflation increased the price of  everything so terribly.

It was once relaxing for me to pick out the freshest produce I could find and browse new dairy-free products so long as I went at a quiet part of the day. There was nothing like the thrill of finding a new vegan cheese, dark chocolate bar, or less common fruit or vegetable to try that was only a few dollars but might become a new favourite of mine.

Chocolate shops always smell so good that I used to go there just to sniff around and see if there was any new vegan chocolate for me to buy.

With prices for everything rising and my budget having less wiggle room, I do not find as much joy in these things as I used to….unless I happen to stumble across a fantastic sale or something which does happen every so often.

The only shopping-adjacent thing I enjoy these days is browsing the new section of my local library or the new additions page on their website.

I love the thrill of seeing books by favourite authors pop up in these places and either realizing I can borrow them immediately or that the waitlist for them is beautifully short.

This isn’t even to mention all of the other stuff libraries offer: concerts, authors giving talks, discussion panels, book clubs, job hunting advice, movies, festivals, events, and more.

Thank goodness for libraries, I say!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Was “Forced” to Read


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

 

I’m going all the way back to 2013 for this freebie throwback topic. Top Ten Books I Was “Forced” to Read is about books one was assigned to read in book clubs, English classes, the workplace, and similar places. 

Photo of an opened book sitting on a desk in a sunny room. The book has about a half dozen little coloured pieces of paper stuck in it as bookmarks, perhaps to make studying easier?Other than a few rare exceptions (ahem, see #3 on this list which is something I will never revisit), I found something enjoyable about every book I was assigned to read from Elementary school all the way up through university. Some of them even became favourite titles and/or authors of mine!

Here is an assortment of titles my teachers included in their syllabi:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

3.The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

5.Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

6. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

7. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

8. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

9.Beowulf by Unknown

10. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

How did you feel about your assigned reads in school?

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A Review of The Killer Catfish of Cape Cod

Book cover for The Killer Catfish of Cape Cod by Bill Russo. Image on cover shows a few dead trees in a flooded area that could be a swamp or the overflow area for a river. The sky above the trees is blue with a few puffy white clouds in them, and you can see a forest of healthy trees in the distance. The water looks like it has been recently disturbed as it is not perfectly still.Title: The Killer Catfish of Cape Cod

Author: Bill Russo

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 9, 2017

Genres: Horror, Contemporary

Length: 26 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

This is not a Halloween story though you might find monsters in it, depending on what your definition of a monster is. Rather, it is the tale of two young men in search of an eerie pond they read about in a book – a strange lake said to be filled with man-eating catfish. Against the counsel of a wily old Cape Codder who claims there’s no truth to the story, they venture into the wild, uninhabited area in hopes of collecting specimens to sell to a museum in Maine. You could go to that Museum (It really does exist) and see if there are any collections of Killer Catfish on display – or if you find it more convenient, you may read the story!

Content Warning: Murders. I will not discuss it in my review.

Review:

If you know better, will you do better?

There wasn’t a lot of time for character development in such a short piece, but Mr. Russo definitely made the best of what he had. I especially enjoyed getting to know Anse, a slightly crusty old man who worked at a tackle shop and often gave tourists advice on the best fishing spots in the area. He was a little gruff at first glance, but he had excellent reasons for coming across this way that I’ll leave up to other readers to decipher for themselves. Honestly, I probably would have behaved the same way if I were in this character’s shoes. He didn’t exactly live in the safest part of the world, after all, and dealing with constant streams of visitors who weren’t always keen to listen to reason only made things worse.

I liked Anse’s explanation for why Rico and Angelo, the visitors, decided to brush aside his warning and go fishing at Kaycee Pond despite its scary reputation. Not everyone in the world has common sense or is willing to consider other points of view. Sometimes this only leads to minor inconveniences, but occasionally it can be wildly dangerous to ignore the advice of people who have many years of experience on a specific subject like, say, catfish that are much larger and smarter than they should be.

The ending was perfectly frighting. While I can’t go into much detail about what happened in it without giving away spoilers, I can say that it added new layers of meaning not only to everything Anse already knew about that area but also to why nobody lived near that pond anymore and why everyone else in the area was also terrified of getting too close to the water. This was one of those cases when basic details about what happened were more than enough to tickle my imagination and make me feel very glad that fishing isn’t one of my hobbies.

The Killer Catfish of Cape Cod made me shudder.

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Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: My Thoughts on Social Media

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Clean, clear water being poured into a glass cup. There are small puddles of water around the cup on the table it is sitting on. Social media is like water. Context matters.

If you drink unfiltered water from a stagnant pond, you just might also be drinking bacteria, viruses, and/or  pollutants that could make you violently ill.

If you drink too much water too quickly, you could upset the electrolyte balance in your body and likewise become dangerously sick.

If you drink clean, safe water, you’re doing a good thing for your health.

I have seen examples of social media harming people, but I’ve also seen it make life easier for others by allowing them to connect with folks in similar situations, teaching them things about the world they didn’t already know, and providing hours of free entertainment.

Generally speaking, I shy away from arguments that try to paint social media into a corner. Who you follow and what they’re saying makes all of the difference in the world when deciding whether having a TikTok, Instagram or other account is the right choice for you.

I tend to avoid celebrities, influencers, and large corporations online. There are exceptions for accounts that genuinely provide valuable information like weather updates, sneak peeks at upcoming speculative fiction books, or new dairy-free recipes or products for me to try, of course, but I usually find average people to be more interesting and useful individuals to follow because they’re not trying to sell me things I don’t need or make clickbait content.

(Your lists of things you want to hear about on social media might be completely different from mine, of course, and that’s totally okay. Not every sort of content should or even can appeal to every single person out there There’s a lot of perfectly good content out there that isn’t appealing to me but would be ideal for sports fans, new parents, or joggers, for example).

Many of the people I interact with regularly on social media are friends and relatives. We use it to keep in touch with each other, and I close those apps glowing with joy and feeling like I’m all caught up on their lives.

Under these circumstances, I think using those sites is a wonderful way to keep in contact with loved ones who live far away or who might have health problems or work schedules that can make even short trips for an in-person visit hard.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books with My Favorite Color on the Cover


Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Purple crocuses growing in a grassy field. They are gorgeous and vibrant little flowers. Purple is my favourite colour. Specifically, I prefer the darker and richer shades of this colour, although light purple can be pretty as well.

I originally tried to whittle down this list to books I’ve read that have purple covers, but there weren’t enough of them to continue down that path.

Therefore, I’m including books I have not read yet as well.

If you’ve read any of them, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!

 

 

Book cover for King Lear by William Shakespeare. Image on cover is dark purple and contains abstract lines that vaguely look like the edges of an antique book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. King Lear by William Shakespeare

 

Book cover for Swoon (Swoon, #1) by Nina Malkin. Image on cover shows a portion of the face of a young white woman who is lying down and looking up at something. Her eyes are shut and her lips are barely parted as if she were about to say something. The top three-quarters of this image shows a leafless tree against a dark purple background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Swoon (Swoon, #1) by Nina Malkin

 

Book cover for Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse, #4) by Charlaine Harris. Image on cover shows a drawing of the main character, a young blonde white woman, being carried through the night sky by a Flying Vampire as a gigantic full moon looms behind them. They are floating over a graveyard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse, #4) by Charlaine Harris

 

Book cover for Caribbean Cruising by Rachel Hawthorne. Image on cover shows a drawing of a cruise ship in the distance. There is also a series of white dots that have been arranged into the shape of a heart on the lower portion of the cover. The heart covers most of the space and is the first thing the eye is drawn to when looking at this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Caribbean Cruising by Rachel Hawthorne

 

Book cover for The Alchymist's Cat (The Deptford Histories, #1) by Robin Jarvis. Image on cover show a drawing of a spirit grabbing the shoulders of an irritated orange cat. The cat is looking behind itself in shock that will probably soon turn to grumpiness. Beware, spirit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. The Alchymist’s Cat (The Deptford Histories, #1) by Robin Jarvis

 

Book cover for .Rejected Princesses: Tales of History's Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath. Image on cover shows a drawing of a gold-covered object that has a purple crown carved into it. The edges of the object are curled into loops and swirls. The background of this piece is the same colour as the little crown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath

 

Book cover for I See/You Mean by Lucy R. Lippard. Image on cover is a drawing of dozens of little golden wavy lines against a dark purple background. They remind me of ripples in a pond or of how some tree branches stick out in various directions from the tree. I do not know if either of these interpretations are what the artist intended viewers to think about, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. I See/You Mean by Lucy R. Lippard

 

Book cover for The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Image on cover shows a drawing of a young black girl wearing a red sweater and sitting next to a window. Her back is a little hunched as if she were sad or uncertain. She is not looking out the window but straight ahead of her at the wall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

 

Book cover for Loveless by Alice Oseman. Image on cover is a black and white drawing of a person with chin-length straight har looking down at a heart in their hands. The heart is releasing dozens of tiny little hearts into the world. This is set against a light purple background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9. Loveless by Alice Oseman

 

Book cover for The Amateurs (The Amateurs, #1) by Sara Shepard. Image on cover shows drawing of two people looking down at the purple ground beneath them. The shadow of a third person looms into the scene as well. The title is shaped to look like fingerprints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. The Amateurs (The Amateurs, #1) by Sara Shepard

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Going Home Again: A Review of Forgotten Homeland

Book cover for Forgotten Homeland - An Exmoor Ghost Story (A Lorne Turner Novella) by Joe Talon. Image on cover shows someone walking alongside an old stone cottage on a foggy day. They are so bundled up in their coat you can’t tell their sex, race, age, or anything else about them other than the fact that they seem to be roughly adult-sized (or a very tall preteen). The fog is so thick that you can see only the faintest outline of what might be a tree in the distance. Everything you can see has been washed out by fog and looks kind of grey. There are three birds flying overhead the person who is walking. Title: Forgotten Homeland – An Exmoor Ghost Story (A Lorne Turner Novella)

Author: Joe Talon

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: November 17, 2021

Genres: Mystery, Paranormal

Length: 58 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Lorne Turner, a broken soldier, arrives home for the first time in twenty years to an empty, lonely farmhouse on Exmoor.

The coming days reveal the despair of a farm drowning in debt. The coming nights reveal something far worse.

Lorne doesn’t know if the noises, the crack, crack, crack, are the wind ravaging the moor, memories savaging his mind or the ghosts tearing the veil, begging for help.

This is a short novella which is an introduction to the Lorne Turner Mysteries. The whispering of Exmoor’s dead need justice.

Content Warning: A character who has war-related PTSD (including flashbacks to battle scenes) and who occasionally drinks too much alcohol; a (probably?) accidental death; a  character whose leg was badly broken in an accident.  I will briefly mention them in my review.

Review:

A quiet, peaceful countryside life in the family farmhouse sure sounds nice…but that’s not at all what’s going on here.

Lorne’s character development was handled beautifully. I’m lenient about how much of this I expect in shorter works given the very limited amount of space they have to work with, but no such grace was necessary here. Mr. Talon excelled at packing dozens of facts about Lorne’s personality, tragic backstory, and personal development into nearly every single scene in this novella. He couldn’t have done a better job at making this character come alive in my imagination, and I wasn’t about to stop reading until I knew how this would end.

One of the cool things about the paranormal storyline was how intertwined it was with everything else that was going on: serious financial difficulties, a missing girl, the protagonist’s struggles with post traumatic stress disorder, unresolved grief, and so much more. This gave the ghostly elements of the plot an even stronger reason to be included as it wasn’t immediately clear how much of them were genuinely happening versus whether any of them might have been influenced or even accidentally misinterpreted by Lorne’s already fragile state of mind. He was so preoccupied by his horrendous memories of the war and the physical and emotional pain he still carried from his injuries there that he didn’t always know what was happening around him, after all. This is something I’d especially recommend to readers who may not typically be into ghost stories but who are open to trying an excellent example of what this genre can be like.

I also appreciated the fact that not every conflict was wrapped up neatly. While I did feel a sense of closure about some of the short term conflicts, there is still ample room here to dig deeply into everything that can’t be fixed in a few dozen pages. Some problems need much longer periods of time to be addressed, and I’m glad that nothing that required such extensive work was brushed under the rug. What an exciting way to begin a new series.

Forgotten Homeland – An Exmoor Ghost Story was utterly perfect.

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