Tuesday, 21 November 2017

V is for Venice

The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins has been on my shelf for a while so I thought it was time to dust it off and give it a read. It is a typical Victorian mystery and needs to be read in context. Perhaps to modern tastes it may be a bit stilted and to my mind the middle part is over long and adds little to the story. On the other hand, if you can persevere, the story itself is good and the ending makes up for some of its shortfalls. It isn't Collins' best work, The Woman in White I feel is a much better book, yet it does deal with many of the themes of today's mysteries; jealousy, madness, and is very atmospheric in the final chapters as you can feel the evil almost seep in from the canals of Venice.

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Is there no explanation of the mystery of The Haunted Hotel? Is The Haunted Hotel the tale of a haunting -- or the tale of a crime? The ghost of Lord Montberry haunts the Palace Hotel in Venice --- or does it? Montberry's beautiful-yet-terrifying wife, the Countess Narona, and her erstwhile brother are the center of the terror that fills the Palace Hotel. Are their malefactions at the root of the haunting -- or is there something darker, something much more unknowable at work? 

A close friend of Charles Dickens from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, William Wilkie Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens' bloomed. 

Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has received for 50 years. Most of his books are in print, and all are now in e-text. He is studied widely; new film, television, and radio versions of some of his books have been made; and all of his letters have been published. However, there is still much to be discovered about this superstar of Victorian fiction.



Julie Ryan is the author of the Greek Island mystery series, Jenna's Journey, Sophia's Secret and Pandora's Prophecy. You can find out more about her here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00F0VYX34








Monday, 13 November 2017

U takes us to

We're off to The USA -  Key West to be precise. At First Light is beautifully written and I love the way it links the two time periods. It is very evocative, not just of the time but also the place and the contrast with Cuba of 1919 is very atmospheric. Based on real events, the book highlights the beginning of segregation and the arrival of the Ku Klux Klan. Sadly not much has changed in the last century regarding the rise of racism. It was interesting to follow Dwayne's character as he struggles to do the right thing. Very moving book.

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1993, Key West, Florida. When a Ku Klux Klan official is shot in broad daylight, all eyes turn to the person holding the gun: a 96-year-old Cuban woman who will say nothing except to admit her guilt.

1919. Mixed-race Alicia Cortez arrives in Key West exiled in disgrace from her family in Havana. At the same time, damaged war hero John Morales returns home on the last US troop ship from Europe. As love draws them closer in this time of racial segregation, people are watching, including Dwayne Campbell, poised on the brink of manhood and struggling to do what's right. And then the Ku Klux Klan comes to town...

Inspired by real events, At First Light weaves together a decades-old grievance and the consequences of a promise made as the sun rose on a dark day in American history.




Julie Ryan is the author of the Greek Island mystery series, Jenna's Journey, Sophia's Secret and Pandora's Prophecy. You can find out more about her here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00F0VYX34






Saturday, 4 November 2017

T is for ...Thailand

and Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Australia, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia as the author recounts his exploits teaching and travelling around the world. I particularly enjoyed the section in Thailand as I also taught in Bangkok albeit ten years earlier. If you want a lightning tour with valuable insight into different cultures as well as a bit of light relief then this is the book for you. It is divided into countries so you can just dip in but as it's so easy to read you may as well read the whole book. Brought back a lot of memories.

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Follow Barry around the world as he tells the story of how teaching English as a foreign language changes his life. After doing a TEFL course in London, he flies to South America alone. He has no job to go to but hopes that teaching English will fund his travels – ultimately, it opens up opportunities all over the world.

During Barry's two-year TEFL adventure he has several nervy encounters with local louts in Ecuador and Brazil, collapses after a trip to Machu Picchu, gets stuck next to ecstasy raving loonies and a transvestite on a Greyhound Bus across America, struggles to settle Down Under, finds himself working for strict Catholic nuns in Bangkok, and meets some sex mad Babushkas on the Trans-Mongolian railway.

This book is essential for anyone who wants to see how rewarding it can be to teach English in a foreign land.


Julie Ryan is the author of the Greek Island mystery series, Jenna's Journey, Sophia's Secret and Pandora's Prophecy. You can find out more about her here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00F0VYX34





Wednesday, 1 November 2017

S takes us to Spalding

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We're back in the UK for this leg of our bookish journey, more specifically in the Lincolnshire fens around Spalding.

A double murder takes place in Spalding. The victims are Tina Brackenbury and her baby daughter, but Tina’s ten-year-old foster daughter, Grace Winter, manages to escape the killer. Then enquiries by the police and social services reveal a startling coincidence - four years previously Grace was the sole survivor of the horrific massacre of her mother, grandparents and sister on a farm in North Lincolnshire, a crime for which her uncle is currently serving a whole-life tariff.
Why did Amy Winter, Grace's adoptive mother, send her to live with a foster parent? Is it a coincidence that both of Grace's families have now been brutally killed? And is it possible that Grace's uncle, a notorious con-man, has found a way to contact her from his maximum security cell?  DI Tim Yates and his team face a series of apparently impenetrable conundrums.

A gripping story that had me wanting to find out what happened. The story has one or two surprises and some amazing characters. I love the setting round Spalding, although more could have been made of the unique Lincolnshire scenery, which in itself can be very atmospheric. At first I thought that it would be a story involving the female bookseller and the male prisoner. Nothing so contrived here! This story was soon put more or less on the back burner as the rest of the story unfolded with its shocking ending. A good read!


Julie Ryan is the author of the Greek Island mystery series, Jenna's Journey, Sophia's Secret and Pandora's Prophecy. You can find out more about her here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00F0VYX34





Monday, 30 October 2017

R takes us to Rome


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Rome is our destination this week and what better to whet our travel tastebuds than "From Rome with love' by Jules Wake.

Rome is the city of love and seduction, right? Not if you find yourself staying in a beautiful apartment with your childhood-friend-turned-arch-enemy, Will Ryan…no matter how hot he is!

Romance is the last thing on Lisa’s mind. She’s got more important things to focus on, like hunting down her estranged father. Except when her search falls at the first hurdle, Will doesn’t just help her get back on track, he also shares the romantic sights – and exquisite tastes – of the Eternal City, and Lisa starts to wonder if it’s not just Rome seducing her.

Only, as Lisa and Will dig into the past, neither of them is prepared for the long-buried secrets they reveal. Secrets that will turn both their world’s upside down …


Jules Wake manages to convey the atmosphere of actually being in Rome even if you've never visited. Add some super characters, a romance with a conflict ( and boy what a conflict when the twist appears) and you have a wonderful read. My favourite kind of book combines a good story with escapism preferably set in a foreign location and "From Rome with love' has this in bucketfuls. It also gives a few cultural tips should you actually be able to visit for real. Very enjoyable and after being immersed for a couple of hours was a tad surprised when I surfaced to find myself still in the UK!

Julie Ryan is the author of the Greek Island mystery series, Jenna's Journey, Sophia's Secret and Pandora's Prophecy. You can find out more about her here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00F0VYX34


Friday, 27 October 2017

Q is for Quebec


The Long Way Home: A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery, Book 10 by [Penny, Louise]




















Clara Morrow's husband is missing. When he fails to come home on the first anniversary of their separation, as promised, Clara asks the only person she trusts to try and find him: former Chief Inspector of Homicide, Armand Gamache. 
As Gamache journeys further into the case, he is drawn deeper into the tortured mind of Peter Morrow, a man so desperate to recapture his fame as an artist that he would sell his soul. As Gamache gets closer to the truth, he uncovers a deadly trail of jealousy and deceit. Can Gamache bring Peter, and himself, home safely? Or in searching for answers, has he placed himself, and those closest to him, in terrible danger?
I've had Canada on my 'must visit' list for quite a while now after recommendations from several friends. After reading this book, it sounds as if the scenery alone is to die for - pun intended! So with my love of all things french, I think Quebec must be a wonderful place to visit. For now sadly it will only be through the medium of this book.

In 'The long way home' Louise Penny skilfully draws us into quebecois life yet this book is so much more. On one level it's about a missing person yet it soon becomes clear that Art, the meaning of life, success,power, guilt are all subplots that add to the whole. A fascinating book, the tenth in the series, yet easily read as a standalone - although now I desperately want to read the others to find out exactly what brought Armand Gamache to the place he is in at the start of the book. Very cleverly written.

Julie Ryan is the author of the Greek Island mystery series, Jenna's Journey, Sophia's Secret and Pandora's Prophecy. You can find out more about her here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00F0VYX34


Saturday, 21 October 2017

P takes us to the fictional village of Pendruggan

A Cornish Gift: Previously published as an eBook collection, now in print for the first time with exclusive Christmas bonus material from Fern by [Britton, Fern]


















We're off to a fictional village on our world tour this week; the village of Pendruggan in Cornwall in Fern Britton's 'A Cornish gift'.


Christmas comes to the little village of Pendruggan and Cornwall’s very own Mr Rochester, Piran Ambrose, discovers the true meaning of the festive season when even he can’t resist the village celebrations. Meanwhile, best friends Penny and Helen are embarking on a stolen weekend of blissful indulgence but best laid plans often go awry and the ladies are in for a big surprise. In an idyllic cottage on the Cornish cliffs, the Appleby family and their bearded collie, Molly, are having a holiday to remember. It’s time for a little Cornish escape for all.


This is a lovely collection of stories all centred around the fictional village of Pendruggan in Cornwall. There is quite a bit of back story included so even if you haven't read any of the other books, you can still follow the stories. I loved finding out more about some of the characters from 'The Postcard' as well as some of Penny's colleagues. Piran as a modern day Scrooge is also a great twist. This book is great to dip in and out of yet together provides a satisfying completeness as you realise they are not just random stories but add to the Cornish flavour of the last book.

Julie Ryan is the author of the Greek Island mystery series, Jenna's Journey, Sophia's Secret and Pandora's Prophecy. You can find out more about her here

https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00F0VYX34