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


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

O is for ...

Inspired by Algeria, the place where Albert Camus was born, today we're visiting Oran courtesy of 'The Outsider'. I first studied this book for 'A' Level French and decided it was about time I reread it - almost forty years later. I was surprised that although I remembered the main themes and events, I had very little recollection of the build up to the murder. Surprising how selective our memory can be? It is still thought provoking and the mastery of language is wonderful; the descriptions of the hot sun, the beach, the feeling of isolation as Meursault is condemned essentially for not showing emotion. if anything I think the passage of time has made me appreciate the book even more.

                                             

Meursault will not pretend. After the death of his mother, everyone is shocked when he shows no sadness. And when he commits a random act of violence in Algiers, society is baffled. Why would this seemingly law-abiding bachelor do such a thing? And why does he show no remorse even when it could save his life? His refusal to satisfy the feelings of others only increases his guilt in the eyes of the law. Soon Meursault discovers that he is being tried not simply for his crime, but for his lack of emotion - a reaction that condemns him for being an outsider. For Meursault, this is an insult to his reason and a betrayal of his hopes; for Camus it encapsulates the absurdity of life.

If you are interested in 'The Outsider' then 'The Meursault Investigation'  might also be of interest. It tells the story of the dead Arab's brother and the repercussions of his murder.

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, 14 October 2017

N takes us to Notting Hill


One Christmas Kiss in Notting Hill: A feel-good, heartwarming Christmas romance by [Baggot, Mandy]



















If it's October then it must be time for the first of our Christmas reads. This one by Mandy Baggot takes us to Notting Hill.

Imagine the perfect Christmas Kiss…

His strong arms around her waist, her hands on his face, the snow slowly starts to fall…

It’s enough to make Isla Winters cringe! While her sister can’t get enough of this – increasingly common – sight on the streets of London, Isla’s too busy trying to stop Hannah’s wheelchair from slipping on the ice, and making sure she’s not too late to her dream job at Breekers International. 

But everything changes with the arrival of Chase Bryan, fresh from the New York office. He’s eager to learn everything about Isla’s beloved Notting Hill, but as the nights get colder, will cosying up to him come at a price?


A lovely book to get you in the mood for Christmas. Loved the theme of Hannah seeking her Christmas kiss in Notting Hill and Raj is a brilliant creation. To be honest I found the subplot of their romance more interesting than that of Isla and Chase, which seemed a bit contrived at times. Nevertheless the book will leave you with a nice warm feeling inside even when it's freezing outside. The London Eye ( i-circle) scene is memorable and Chase's two daughters will ring true for anyone with teenagers. Well worth a 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


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

M is for the Mediterranean

I can't resist books set in the Mediterranean so this book was an easy choice being set in Paris and of course the South of France.
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May 1968 and Paris is hot with rebellion, passion and hope, as protestors clash with the riot police. Brilliant art student Laure stands boldly on the barricades, heady with her new-found defiance, and is swept into romance with Lolo, the fascinating student leader. But youthful rebellion comes at a cost.


Set against the student uprising in Paris in the 1960s this book immerses the reader in another world. No sooner are we immersed n this world than we are transported to a rural idyll in the South of France; an escape from the frenzy of the capital. There are a few surprises on the way but I enjoyed this intelligent summer read. The descriptions of both locations are exquisite and it is easy to empathise with the protagonist.Some nice little touches too such as the father's bakery and the background of the main character's childhood friend.


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


Tuesday, 26 September 2017

L takes us to ...?


Hope to Die: The gripping serial killer thriller for fans of M. J. Arlidge (The DS Nathan Cody series) by [Jackson, David]




















On our bookish journey round the world. we're staying close to home this week. "Hope to die', a crime thriller is set in Liverpool with a serial murderer on the loose in the grounds of the cathedral. This is the first book by David Jackson that I've read and I found myself gripped by tension as the body count mounted. I read a lot of crime thrillers though and I'm pleased that even for an avid fan there were still a few surprises.I worked out the red herring but still didn't spot the killer so well done for that. I did find myself wishing I had read the first in the series as there were a lot of references to a previous case which has had repercussions for Cody and affects his relationship with his colleague, an aspect of the book that I particularly enjoyed. Although the ending of the book is neatly resolved regarding the killers, Cody's personal and mental issues are not so it looks like I'm going to have to read the rest in the series to find out what is behind his nightmares. All in all a read that will keep you turning the page, full of emotional suspense, clever without being contrived.

About David Jackson

David  Jackson 


I am the author of a series of crime thrillers featuring Irish-American NYPD Detective Callum Doyle. The first in the series, Pariah, was Highly Commended in the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Awards. It is published by Pan Macmillan. The follow-ups are The Helper and Marked, and I am hard at work on the fourth in the series. My writing influences include Ed McBain, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, Robert Crais, Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben, amongst many others. My favourite quote about my work is one from the Guardian, now carried on the front of my novels: 'Recalls Harlan Coben - though for my money Jackson is the better writer.'


Website


Twitter





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, 21 June 2017

K is for ...?


This time it's back to Greece again - and to the island of Kefalonia. Made famous by Captain Corelli's Mandolin, it is the largest island in the Ionian sea and one that remains on my 'must visit' list. With its beautiful white sandy beaches and rugged scenery, medieval castles and hidden villages, what's not to like? Paul Dillon manages to capture all this and more in his book The magic of the receiver. The description of the catastrophic earthquake is very moving and I liked the way in which the book links the past and the present through the boyhood memories of a man and the eyes of his daughter as she visits the island. Great summer escapism!


Product Details

Set on the beautiful Greek island of Kefalonia, this vivid family saga is lit with memorable characters: a man revisiting the haunting site of a childhood earthquake, and his American-born daughter who faces a decision that could change her life.

Paul Dillon is a British author living in Los Angeles, California. His first novel, THE MAGIC IN THE RECEIVER, was published in July 2012.

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, 6 May 2017

We're off to J

No surprises if you guessed that J on our world tour takes us to Jersey, courtesy of Alison Golden's 'The case of the hidden flame'. This cosy mystery is the second in the series and although I hadn't read the first, it works well as a standalone and being novella length is a quick read. The setting of Jersey and the hotel in particular really add to the book but more could have been made of the location instead of simply using it as a backdrop. The characters have great potential but could have been fleshed out more and the style is quite simple but enjoyable. It is a combination of Agatha Christie and midsummer murders and although it is contemporary there is an older feel to the story. Great if you are looking for an easy summer read. Maybe I'm missing something but I still don't see the relevance of the title to the story but that could just be me.

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A new cop. A murdered lover. An eccentric community.  
Detective Inspector David Graham has just arrived on the island of Jersey, taking over a rag tag team of questionable commitment and skill at the Gorey Constabulary, a team that he is supposed to lead and develop into a cohesive investigative unit. 

Within minutes, his first challenge presents itself when ex-soldier, Colonel Graves, finds a dead body on the beach. As the military man kneels down, he discovers it is his soon-to-be fiancĂ© half buried in the sand… 

In a small resort like Gorey, this event is monumental, and almost unheard of. The rumors swirl yet it is the new Detective Inspector’s job, with a bag still packed and travel dust on his shoes, to ferret out the clues and solve the case…while bringing his team along to assist. 

With a Sherlock soul, The Case of the Hidden Flame packs humor and intrigue onto a small island of eccentric characters, roiling sea undercurrents, and deceptive coincidences – all accompanied by a fine cup of tea. 



Alison Golden


Alison Golden was born and raised in Bedfordshire, England. She writes cozy mysteries and suspense novels, along with the occasional witty blog post, all of which are designed to entertain, amuse, and calm. Her approach is to combine creative ideas with excellent writing and edit, edit, edit. 

She is the creator of the Reverend Annabelle Dixon cozy mysteries, a charming, fun series featuring a female vicar ministering in the beautiful county of Cornwall, England. She also produces a Jersey-based detective series featuring Inspector David Graham and the Diana Hunter series, set in Vancouver. 

Her books' themes range from the humorous and sweet to harder hitting suspense. They are recommended for readers who like to relax and unwind with their books, who enjoy getting to know the characters, and who prefer the tougher side of life implied.

She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and twin sons. She splits her time traveling between London and San Francisco.



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, 19 April 2017

I takes us to ...?


Before the Rains by [Jefferies, Dinah]



















This time we're off to India no less. Be prepared for a magical journey.

A romantic, heart-wrenching tale of love against the odds from the Number One Sunday Times bestselling author
1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband's death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza's only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she's determined to make a name for herself.
But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince's handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families - and society - think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what's expected, or following their hearts. . .


Dinah Jefferies has truly mastered the skill of transporting the reader, both in time and place, in this case to Rajputana in India in the years before India gained her independence from Britain. In a few paragraphs the reader experiences the cultural differences between the two societies through the burgeoning relationship of Eliza, a photographer, and Jay, a member of the Indian Royal family.
I enjoyed watching the relationship develop and wondering if they would be able to overcome the barriers. Jay's brother provided an added threat and I found his mother intriguing. The book deals with some controversial topics such as the position of women, the custom of burning a husband's widow (as a punishment for 'allowing' him to die) as well as the political situation of the time. I found Eliza to be a strong and courageous woman in what was essentially a man's world - both the society she escaped from and the one she escaped to. All in all an engaging read that offers pure escapism.


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



Tuesday, 28 March 2017

H - and we're off to ...?

I've had this book on my shelves for a long time - almost twenty years so thought it was about time we head over to Hong Kong. This book is set just before the handing back of Hong Kong to the Chinese and needs to be read in context. It gives a great insight into both the British and Chinese hopes and fears as well as prejudice and inherent racism on both sides. I found it a fascinating read despite the fact, or even because of the fact, that none of the main characters are particularly likeable. It is a novel of its time and does a good job describing the period.

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Ninety-nine years of colonial rule are ending as the British prepare to hand over Hong Kong to China. For Betty Mullard and her son, Bunt, it doesn't concern them - until the mysterious Mr. Hung from the mainland offers them a large sum for their family business. They refuse, yet fail to realize Mr. Hung is unlike the Chinese they've known: he will accept no refusals. When a young female employee whom Bunt has been dating vanishes, he is forced to make important decisions for the first time in his life - but his good intentions are pitted against the will of Mr. Hung and the threat of the ultimate betrayal.


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




Thursday, 23 March 2017

G is for .... well where else would I be?

A Self Effacing Man (The Greek Village Collection Book 19) by [Alexi, Sara]





















If it is in your nature to put others before yourself, what do you do when someone makes a play for the person you have secretly loved for years? 

Maria is illiterate, and Cosmo, the village postman, is obliged to read the love letters he delivers to her. He stammers over the words and blushes at the feelings he cannot bring himself to voice. 

However life is not always predictable and a sudden twist in events throws him in the role of village hero. 

But will this change be enough to enable him to overcome his shyness and declare his feelings to the woman he has loved all his life, and will she even be interested after all these years?


Where else would our travels take us this time but Greece? I've been a fan of Sara Alexi since stumbling across her first book 'The illegal gardener'. She blends her knowledge of Greece with an insight into the Greek psyche. Beneath the apparent simplistic style lies a deeper layer that the reader can relate to on a personal level, revealing as it does human nature with all its foibles. As well as telling a darned good story there is inevitably a dilemma involved which will reveal the true mettle of the protagonist. I particularly enjoyed the story of Maria and Cosmo and look forward to the next book in the series.


Sara Alexi

Best selling author Sara Alexi was born in Oxford, England. After travelling widely she now splits her time between England and a tiny rural village in the Peloponnese, in Greece, where she has renovated a stone farmhouse, whilst observing the Greek way of life and absorbing the culture.

As a qualified as a psychotherapist Sara ran her own practice for years. Her artistic nature was, during that time, confined to painting and she exhibited widely. Her move to Greece was the catalyst that began her writing.

Her 'Greek Village Series' has been very well received and provides a keenly observed, compassionate insight into the Greek people and culture, and the human condition in general.



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