Thursday, 30 November 2017

X is for Xamnesia

Okay - well there aren't many places in the world beginning with X so we're off to the fictional Xamnesia located somewhere  in Asia.


Welcome to Xamnesia... where you forget who you were when you landed.

At twenty-three, Lizzie leaves her native New Zealand to work for VIP billionaires in a remote Asian oasis. Legally forbidden to talk about her employers, she starts to call her new life Xamnesia. It's not all bad living in Xamnesia -- she gets a hug from Michael Jackson and diamond watches as tips. But the servitude and secrecy of her new life destroys her self-confidence. 

Even transferred to Paris, she depends on champagne, cigarettes, and hotel concierges on speed dial to help fulfill all VIP requests. Will smuggling a million dollars be what snaps her out of her fog? And can she forge a real life after so many years in 'Xamnesia'? 

An illuminating, no-holds-barred travel memoir about money, myopia and men.

This memoir of a time spent primarily in an Asian oasis that shall remain nameless is certainly different. I really grew to love the author's dysfunctional family though I can see how she might have wanted to escape at times. This gives us a glimpse into the lifestyle of the rich, the demands they make on their 'servants' and underlying it all, the threat of deportation if you do something wrong. In a rather Orwellian way, quite often it was difficult to know what misdemeanour had been committed but one day a colleague would no longer turn up for work having somehow transgressed the code, for example by mentioning that they felt tired. On the other hand, if your face fit then generosity knew no bounds and highly expensive presents could be yours. It certainly made for an interesting read as the author struggles to get her life in order.

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

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

W takes us to Wales

A cottage by the sea takes us to Pembrokeshire in Wales. Carole's style is easy to read and I found myself reading this in a day as I became engrossed in the lives of three friends. There are some lovely descriptions of the Welsh countryside and beaches yet it was the relationship between the friends that really sold the book to me. There are hints throughout as to what is really happening yet the ending was still a bit of a shocker even though the right people ended up together. A very enjoyable read that brought back happy memories of family holidays in the region.


Grace has been best friends with Ella and Flick since university. The late-night chats, shared heartaches and good times have created a bond that has stood the test of time. Now in their thirties, Grace is always a bit disappointed about how little time they get to spend together, so when Ella invites them all to stay for a week in her cottage in South Wales, Grace jumps at the chance to see her old friends. She also hopes that the change in pace will help her reconnect with her husband, Harry. Unfortunately for her, Harry isn't as enamoured with Cwtch Cottage as she is. Then Flick arrives; loveable, bubbly Flick, accompanied by the handsome and charming Noah, and suddenly the week ahead looks as though it may be even more confusing for all the residents of Cwtch Cottage.

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

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.


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

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.


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

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.


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

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

S takes us to Spalding


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