We spent last weekend in this cabin in northern Wisconsin. It was wonderful and lovely and totally free of ghosts. I was kind of hoping for at least a mild spook. The worst scare I experienced all weekend was Brian slipping and making a terrible thud with his backside on the stairs. I do believe places can echo with the energy of past inhabitants — anybody who’s walked into a room where everyone was angry five minutes earlier has felt it. Not this place, though! Good vibes only. The dog was in heaven as she was allowed off leash and sniffed her way carefully around ten acres.
I’m excited to be visiting several reviewers’ blogs over the next several weeks to talk about Soil & Ceremony! The first stop today is at Our Town Book Reviews — stop by to say hello and sign up for the $20 gift card giveaway!
First up is a fellow Tirgearr Author, Maya Tyler is a multi-published author of paranormal romance novels and blogger at Maya’s Musings. An avid reader, Maya writes the books she loves to read—romances! She still believes that “True Love’s Kiss” is the most powerful thing in the world. Her paranormal romances come with complex plot twists and happily-ever-afters. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, listening to music (alternative rock, especially from the 1990s), practicing yoga, and watching movies and TV.
Second is the happiest horror author I know. Rami Ungar knew he wanted to be a writer from the age of five, when he first became exposed to the world of Harry Potter and wanted to create imaginative worlds like Harry’s. As a tween, he…
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Cultures around the world honor their dead in myriad ways, but for me, there is nothing better than a good cemetery. Burial grounds have acquired a creepy reputation in folklore and movies—think Stephen King’s classic Pet Sematary, if you dare. However, consider the last time you actually visited a real cemetery. It was probably daytime, and you might have been sad, even distraught. You might have been reflective and grateful, alone or surrounded by family and friends. You were not haunted. (Probably.) I hope that your worries were diminished, as mine often are, by a glimpse of the awesome time scale of history.
My next novel, Soil and Ceremony, takes place partially in a cemetery, where our hero is a groundskeeper. If that sounds a bit grim, allow me to persuade you otherwise.
Cemeteries reflect our best selves: the desire to pay tribute to our dead, to remember. A loved one who was fully human and flawed can shed their complications on a marble headstone. We can ask our stonemason to carve Beloved Father, Brother, Husband or Cherished Aunt, Sister, Wife, Friend and display the truest, happiest facets of our lives.
I love the pared-down simplicity of a cemetery. Birth, death. In between, a complication we aren’t forced to examine. The earth itself, by providing soil and granite tombstones, offers us all a tiny slice of immortality.
In 19th century London, overcrowding and the temptation of profit led to the creation of the “Magnificent Seven,” private garden-style cemeteries. The earliest of these and my favorite, Kensal Green, was one of the inspirations for the fictional cemetery in Soil and Ceremony. Kensal Green has a non-consecrated section and a Dissenters Chapel that were in popular use by atheists, free thinkers, and others who didn’t conform to the Church of England.
The renowned cemeteries in New Orleans, Louisiana, are filled with mini-mansions to house the deceased because the original water table was so high at the foot of the Mississippi River that underground burial wasn’t feasible. You may occupy the shelf within for some time, but eventually you join your ancestors in the pit below, politely creating room for a fresher occupant.
The lovely, historic cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York, is famous by its association with Washington Irving’s story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” It also hosts the mortal remains of Andrew Carnegie, a couple of Rockefellers, Brooke Astor, and three of Alexander Hamilton’s children. Sleepy Hollow and neighboring Tarrytown put on a wonderful, atmospheric public celebration in October every year, complete with lantern tours of the cemetery, reenactments of the Sleepy Hollow legend, and a lot of carved pumpkins.
A new personal favorite is the nondenominational Springdale Cemetery in Peoria, Illinois, where tens of thousands of people occupy a wooded, curving valley alongside the Illinois River. The community has been busy restoring their old Civil War monument to fallen soldiers, one of the first in the United States. This February, my family laid my father to rest in Springdale’s graceful mausoleum in a crypt of his own choosing. (“Feet toward the right!” he insisted, as we rolled our eyes.) It reassures me to have followed his wishes, as so many other families have done. Any of us can visit while we grieve, then look around and see the idyllic cemetery is a perfect type of place to spend an eternity.
This post originally appeared on the Tirgearr Publishing Blog.
Please meet my new book!!
Juno is powerful and bossy and witchy, and Benjamin would prefer to be left alone in his cemetery. She drags him into trouble, of course. 🖤
A history of loss and a terrible stammer have led gravedigger Benjamin Hood to a life of isolation.
When a rash of untimely deaths sweeps through his small English village, he cannot stand by in silence. To uncover the truth about the lives lost, he takes up a long-neglected role of responsibility among the townspeople.
As Benjamin questions the victims’ families, he finds that beautiful widow Juno Stephens has preceded him in each case. She makes no secret of her odd midnight ceremonies and dark powers of persuasion. The villagers are whispering about a woman bearing a lethal hex.
Is Juno the source of danger in the village, or a victim of it? Benjamin must resist her beguiling ways and decide if he can trust her…until another death sets his smoldering worries ablaze.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Ugh. This book has two major structural problems:
1. Jackman and Evans (**minor SPOILERS**) have no personal growth as characters. They do their job and then the book is over. They barely even speak to one another, and then only about the details of the case. They’re both like detective-robots. Jackman’s only personal detail is that he likes his cozy house. Evans’s only characterization is that she loves her mum and had a friend, once, who was harassed by an old boss. I think I know the friend better than I know Marie herself.
2. The murderer (**BIGGER SPOILER**) never appears live on the page. Jackman and Evans never meet him or interact with him in any way. ???? Weird and unsatisfying.
The narration by Richard Armitage was superb. He created distinct voices for probably two dozen characters, and Evans’s voice in particular imparted more detail to her character than the author probably deserved.
Also, I’m growing tired of the (incorrect) trope that all abused children grow up to be adults who are irreparably broken, unfit for society, and possibly dangerous. There is a correlation to generational cycles of abuse, but it’s not an absolute truth as stated in this book. It is sad and wrong to pre-condemn mistreated children to that fate.
I made cupcakes for my neighbor but kept half of them because The Witch Elm needed fluffy, sugary sprinkles to pair with its twisty darkness. This is Tana French’s angle on our #MeToo moment. It’s amazing and horrifying. I have seen a few reviews complaining that Toby, the main character, isn’t “likeable.” You guys, here’s the thing:
I adored this gem of a gentle romance. It reads like a grown-up YA with just the slightest touch of magic. Intricate characterization drives the story of three flawed people chasing love, revenge, and possession. The fictional city of Loisail and the mannered culture of its moneyed class (the beautiful ones of the title) has that taste of realism that is so hard to cook up. Reading felt like glimpsing a full world instead of simply scenes created for the purpose of the story.
I enjoyed the deliberate pacing, although others might not. My attention never wandered from Nina and Hector and Valérie. If I have one marginal critique, it’s that Hector wasn’t always totally convincing as a man who could earn the obsession of two beautiful, intelligent women. He was handsome and unique in his abilities, although he moped a lot. I did believe that both Nina and Valérie could love him, and I loved the book.