REVIEW TIME: The Daughters of the Oak by Becky Wright

Daughters of the Oak

 

Daughters of the Oak
The blurb of this extended edition of The Manningtree Account.

“A supernatural thriller, weaving witches, and ghosts, together, in one spine-tingling tale.”

1646 – The English Civil War. The Royalists of King Charles I, and Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, battle, both eager to lay claim to a tattered country, where life has become cheap and death trivial.

Though, for the lowly commoner, a greater, far more devious, war rages. It threatens the souls of the weak, timid and needy. Seeking refuge in the Lord’s word, God fearing folk employ the skills of one man, the Witchfinder. His success speaks of his talent, to seek out, punish and rid the countryside of Witches, the Devil’s Whores.

2016 – A paranormal team are called to investigate, as poltergeist activity brings terror to one family. Under the cover of darkness, in silent suburbia, an endless night of battle against evil ensues, until finally, a new day dawns.

Lies, secrets, and treachery, it seems, are never forgotten.
Welcome to Manningtree…

After reading The Manningtree Account, I was interested to read this extended version. Becky Wright has combined history with chilling imagination to craft this dark, paranormal tale of witchcraft. Of course, Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General, isn’t a fictional character. Women who were branded witches had no hope of escaping his brand of terror.

Becky Wright seamlessly merges the story in the 1600s with the characters in 2016.

I found Daughters of the Oak dark and disturbing.

The ending has quite an unexpected twist that is quite chilling.

If you like a dark tale, then this is for you.

 

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Interview with Soulla Christodoulou by Ellen Read

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Welcome Soulla.

I am delighted to welcome Soulla Christodoulou to my blog today.

Soulla is an author from London.

Today we’re discussing her new book The Summer Will Come.

Congratulations on its publication.

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ER  The Summer Will Come is very close to your heart and your heritage. So to start, would you like to tell us something about yourself and what inspired you to write this book?

SC   I’m British born, with Greek Cypriot parents and I’ve always lived in London. Growing up I remember embracing my family’s traditions and our culture in a way which made me feel safe. I liked having something that made me different to the children in my class at school. I also liked the way other Greek Cypriot children would somehow become part of not only my friendship circle but their parents would come to know my family too. So in a way, my family was always growing!

In my adult years, my mother became ill and after a long battle with cancer I was overwhelmed with the news she was in remission. This experience impacted on me deeply and I questioned my purpose and my life’s path. I began asking questions about my heritage, my grandparents and their decision to come to London. I knew part of the story but never really thought about it in the context of the political landscape of the country at the time. This is what planted the seed that lead me to write The Summer Will Come.

ER   I suspect your parents would have had many anecdotal stories to help you. However, you must have had to a do a lot of research.

SC  They certainly did Ellen but you’re right in that my research, both primary and secondary, opened me up to the reality of the harsh, violent and disturbing political backdrop which has, even to this day, shrouded the island of Cyprus. I always believed Turkey were wrong to invade Cyprus in 1974, but going back over the history since 1953, I can see why they did, even if I disagree with it. The research I did, in the main, was around the political landscape. It connected me with the family of a famous EOKA hero, Evagoras Pallikarides, whose poetry, incidentally, gave me the title of my book. I interviewed many people of my parents’ generation and older too and their personal stories are what makes my book so real. It’s not about facts and figures, or what I gleaned from history books of the time, but personal accounts; it’s the passion, the love, the fear, the uncertainty, the reality of leaving the home they had ever known, which I have explored and hopefully, bring out in the story.

ER  The story revolves around two families, both Greek Cypriot living in different villages in Cyprus. You’ve set the story in 1953. That was a turbulent time in Cyprus’s history. I refer in particular to a quote from your book, ‘You want to be a part of this. I praise your conviction to the EOKA cause even if I disagree. But it’s more complicated than you know. You’re putting yourself, and us, in danger.’

Could you tell us something about the turmoil and political conflict during those years?

SC   Yes of course, although it’s all far more complicated than I am able to tell you here and I am certainly no specialist on the subject; much of my research involved personal accounts of that time period. Many of the stories talk of complete and utter chaos and a reign of inter-racial conflict; the EOKA guerrilla group fought hard against the British in an effort to gain freedom from British occupation. Initially, the British administration didn’t realise how serious the situation was and when they did, it was too late; EOKA was highly organised, regimented and those who signed up were patriotic to the death in wanting to secure freedom. It caused a panic, form the accounts I have heard, and as such the tactics used by the British too were ferocious and inhumane. Many innocent people, including Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots and British, were killed in bombings and unprovoked attacks. Many school children got involved too with demonstrations against the British who retaliated by imposing curfews on villages and their inhabitants and arresting anyone who behaved suspiciously. It was a terrifying and chaotic time. There are, of course, many accounts written from many different viewpoints, however my book has been written from the viewpoint of those who lived in Cyprus during this time and it is these personal struggles that are depicted through the characters in my book. It is certainly not a political or historic encyclopaedia.

ER   EOKA was a Greek Cypriot nationalist guerrilla organisation that fought a campaign for the end of British rule in Cyprus.

How many years did it take before this was achieved?

SC   All in all, Ellen, it took 5 years until a resolution as reached which gave Greece, Turkey and Britain the authority to intervene should they have to through the Treaty of Guarantee. But if you look at the bigger picture it goes further back than 1955, all the way back to 1931 in fact and, I suppose, the repercussions of the EOKA movement is what ultimately lead to Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in the summer of 1974.

The British flag came down at midnight on the 15th August 1960 which brought to an end the British occupation of the island. So officially Cyprus gained its first day of independence on 16th August 1960.

ER  Both families in The Summer Will Come immigrate to London. This must have been a challenge for them.

Could you tell us how they coped?

SC   Both families in the story had common hardships; language, culture, finding work, but they also had their own individual hardships to face.

Elena’s family missing family and friends and even foods and personal belongings. came to London in the hope of starting a new life with the Kostas, the wife of Evangelia, but their dramas were shattered when it evolves he was weak man with poor morals and little regard toward his family responsibilities. This in turn, brought additional hardship to the family whereby Evangelia becomes the sole income earner of the family and Elena, despite being a promising at student at school, has to leave and work to supplement her mother’s income. Christaki’s family struggle initially as Loizos, his father, does not come to England with them. Christaki therefore has to grow up and becomes head of the family. Pavlo and Melani both have their own demons; Pavlo is angry and cannot settle, Melani begins to fight the restricting demands of her culture and traditions which are exacerbated against the backdrop of 1950s London.

ER  The novel is written as a multi-point of view story – a mother and daughter from one family and a father and son from the other family. Elena, the daughter, and Christaki, the son, are the key main characters in the story.

How did you find writing in both female and male voices?

SC   Actually I feel like I cheated a bit here. I knew my grandparents, both maternal and paternal, and Christaki and Elena are based loosely on my own parents, and so I just imagined what they would say. The only difficulty was getting across the same passion in the English language as would be evident had the story been written in Greek. I tried to compensate for this by using little Greek sayings and anecdotes my family have used over the years and which are still used today in Cyprus.

ER   Do you have a favourite character in this book? Why?

SC   I would have to say, Elena who is one of the four main characters. She is the one who grows up the most in the story from being a child living in the village of Kato Lefkara to becoming a mature young woman in London and finding herself despite the setbacks along the way; both external and personal. She longs to meet her father and when she does, despite her initial excitement and intrigue, she is disappointed and let down and neglected but despite this she loves him to the very end of the story. She deals with poverty, a controlling mother after the family’s move to England and yet she stands by her family despite their failings, which are not always intentional or malicious but rather a thread woven into their lives through tradition, culture and beliefs. She’s my favourite because she faces her chance for a new life with a happy-go-lucky outlook and a can-do attitude, which sometimes gets her into trouble…she reminds me a little of me in a lot of ways!

 ER   Readers interested in Greek Cypriot life and culture, as well as 1950s Cypriot and British history will love this book. It’s also a story of hope and new dreams.

What do you hope readers take away with them when reading The Summer Will Come?

SC   I really hope that above all else they will get a real sense of what Cyprus was like and how passionate the people of the country are and how they held onto their values and traditions despite being miles away from home in a foreign land. It is with belief in God and their faith that drove them to continue and work hard to make things work in a new country, with no support network, a new language and culture and way of life to get used to.

ER   What are you working on now?

SC   I’ve written the first 43,000 words of a novel called Trust is a Big Word about an illicit online relationship that develops between two people. It’s quite experimental as I’m including in the book passages of narration in the first person, witter message feeds between the two main characters and poetry which one of the characters writes for the other.

 ER   What do you do when you’re not writing?

SC   I’m a busy bee doing lots of other things including private tutoring from home, working part-time for a private tuition school as well as working on commissions for proof-reading and editing and writing marketing content and blog posts for clients. I enjoy meeting up with my friends, especially if there’s dancing involved, and of course being Greek Cypriot I spend a lot of time with my immediate and extended family, which always involves food…a lot of food! I enjoy walking and holidays that take me to places that make me think and feel differently. (I can add a bit about India here if you like – going there in Feb)

ER   I’d like to thank you so much for joining me today. I wish you every success with The Summer Will Come.

Thank you so much for having me Ellen and for putting together this really thoughtful interview. I’ve really enjoyed taking part…you’re a dear friend and I wish you well with your writing too.

 

Soulla lace dress

Born in London to Greek Cypriot parents Soulla Christodoulou spent much of her childhood living carefree days full of family, school and friends. She was the first in her family to go to university and studied BA Hotel & Catering Management at Portsmouth University. Years later, after having a family of her own she studied again at Middlesex University and has a PGCE in Business Studies and an MA in Education.

Soulla is a Fiction author and wrote her first novel Broken Pieces of Tomorrow over a few months while working full time in secondary education and is a mother of three boys.

She is a compassionate and empathetic supporter of young people. Her passion for teaching continues through private tuition of English Language and Children’s Creative Writing Classes. She offers writing services too in support of businesses, authors and students.

Her writing has also connected her with a charity in California which she is very much involved in as a contributor of handwritten letters every month to support and give hope to women diagnosed with breast cancer. One of her letters is featured in a book ‘Dear Friend’, released on Amazon in September 2017.

When asked, she will tell you she has always, somewhere on a subconscious level, wanted to write and her life’s experiences both personal and professional have played a huge part in bringing her to where she was always meant to be; writing books and drinking lots of cinnamon and clove tea!

She also has a poetry collection inspired by old phrases and sayings, Sunshine after Rain, published on Amazon and is releasing her second novel, The Summer Will Come in March 2018.

She is currently working on a third novel, Trust is a Big Word, about an on-line friendship which evolves over time into an illicit cyber relationship.

A Word from Soulla.

I have recently come back from India and after spending 23 days there I can honestly say the country and its people have inspired a deeper happiness in me, which coupled with gratefulness, has allowed me to look at my life, for a second time, with different eyes.

Travelling always seems to impact on me in a big way; it refreshes, enlightens, empowers me in so many ways.

You can buy The Summer Will Come at the following:

The Summer Will Come

Connect with Soulla:

Website: https://www.soulla-author.com/

Blog: https://www.soulla-author.com/blog/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/schristodoulou2?lang=en

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/soullasays/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100016786150671

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/asceducational/

  

The Light Over Broken Tide by Holly Ducarte

REVIEW TIME: by Ellen Read

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Young love, an Irish legend, a hidden lighthouse and Peter Pan – I was hooked before I started reading.

This is also a story of mental illness, an otherworldly encounter, loss and grief. Holly Ducarte handles these difficult themes with great sensitivity.

‘We’re all like paper dolls. Happiest when linked to another, often unaware of our flimsiness. So easily torn. What happens when we reach out to find there’s no one there to hold our hand?’
These are the opening lines of the story.

Becky is torn and is reaching out for a hand to hold. She finds it in Shawn, the boy-next-door, who believes magic does exist.

In the beginning, I had mixed feelings about Rebecca because she is rebellious and so difficult to get along with, but I sensed her vulnerability. She is a teenager, she’s lost her mother, doesn’t know her father well, and is then whisked away to a new house in a new coastal town in Nova Scotia. I soon felt empathy for her. This is really a testament to Ducarte’s writing that she portrayed Becky so well.

Becky’s relationship with her father, Andy, is an important thread in the story and I was pleased with how it developed. In the beginning, I wasn’t certain if I’d like Andy but my respect and liking for him grew.

I loved the references to Peter Pan and, in the magical dreamlike scenes, I felt myself fly away with them on their adventure. Shawn becomes Becky’s Peter Pan. This gives her a lifeline but forces beyond her control send Rebecca spiralling into dark places. When she emerges, she wonders what was real.

This book moved me so deeply.

I highly recommended this YA read. It’s excellent, something very different.

Well done, Holly Ducarte, on your debut novel.

Mrs Preston’s Kitchen

Thank you to Michael Chrobak for inviting me to write a guest post for his blog.

Please visit his link below.

https://eatingwrite.weebly.com/guest-blogs/mrs-prestons-kitchen

Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings to Everyone

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You may wonder why I have a wombat in my photo. This is Waddles. I bought him in Daylesford when I was researching my next book. So what does a wombat have to do with a cozy murder mystery?

My next book, the second in The Thornton Mysteries is set in Daylesford, Victoria, Australia, where the Thorntons have a holiday home. It isn’t as grand as Thornton Park but it’s a large house set into the side of Wombat Hill. There’s the clue. Daylesford, in its gold mining days, was called Wombat.

I first went to Daylesford about ten years ago. It’s set in the Macedon Ranges and is a favourite spa town. The area is known for its mineral springs. Mt Franklin, which most Australians know of, is about a twenty minute drive away.

The Thornton’s home is Wombat Hill Manor, and just as I did with Thornton Park, I based Wombat Hill Manor on a real building. It was initially built as a private residence and later sold to the Catholic Church as a Convent.

It’s now The Convent Gallery, beautifully restored as an art gallery and restaurant/cafe. If you go to Daylesford, I recommend going there. It’s about a one hour drive from Melbourne and worth the trip.

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I’ve been to Daylesford twice this year, the first time to do research for my book. The second time was after I finished my first draft and I wanted to check on some details.

This year has been a busy one. The two trips to Daylesford. A trip to Adelaide and the Barossa Valley, which besides being a wonderful holiday, was also research for book three. For those who don’t know, the Barossa Valley in South Australia is famous for it’s wineries. I’ll be starting book 3 early in the new year. You’ll remember from reading The Dragon Sleeps that Benedict’s family own a vineyard in South Australia. There’s a hint about book three.

I’ve not long returned from a trip to Hawaii. It was another fabulous holiday with my family. I thought I can’t go to such a location and not write a book set there. I didn’t have any ideas for a story when I arrived but I had the start of Book 4 before I left. My dilemma was why would the Thorntons want to go to Hawaii. Book two is set in 1928. Book three in 1928 also. So why in 1929 would they want to travel so far? The reason came to me. I was so pleased! Originally, I intended writing three books but now book four is on the schedule.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family and friends and I wish you a Happy New Year.

REVIEW: Eléonore by Faith Rivens.

Elenore

This if Faith Rivens debut novella and it certainly delivers. From the very beginning the story grabbed me and didn’t let go. I haven’t read an Urban Fantasy at all. For my first to find the protagonist is a demon hunter and a librarian and a mother is very appealing. I particularly love the relationship between Eléonore and her son. It’s very touching and real. Rivens portrays a mother’s love so heart-warmingly. Raphael is another engaging character and the dynamics between him and Eléonore are exciting and foreshadow more to be told.

It is well-written, with a snappy pace and has a great structure to the story. I liked the small diary entries at the beginning of each chapter that help the reader understand the demon hierarchy.

I highly recommend this book. You really can’t go wrong.

REVIEW: Wardens of Archos

Wardens of Archos

Wardens of Archos is the second book in Sarina Langer’s Relics of Ar’Zac fantasy series.

I was so pleased to be back in Rifarne with Rachael and her colleagues. It was great to pick up the story from where it finished in the first book. New characters were introduced and joined Rachael on her journey to new lands in an attempt to find the answers to what is hidden beneath the ancient Krymistian ruins of Archos.

The story moves at a good pace and always left me wanting to turn the page. Sarina Langer’s world building is excellent, with plenty of description but nothing to slow the pace down. The new worlds came to life.

I loved the dynamic between Rachael and Cale. Their story develops further.
Thank you to the author for providing a free ARC in exchange for an honest review.

If you enjoy fantasy, you’ll love this book.

Review: My Year of Stories by Abigail Shepherd

My Year of Stories

This is a delightful book that follows the journey of Abigail Shepherd from unpublished writer to debut novelist, with the release of her YA book Victoria’s Victorian Victory.

In My Year of Stories, we follow Abigail’s journey with twelve stories to represent each month, preceded by an excerpt from her journal. I like the addition of this diary extract as it gives the reader an idea how each story was created and when.

This is a book you can read in one sitting or go to when you want to read another story for the first time or as a reread. You’ll find you’ll want to do that. I read the first story, The Dandelion Clock when it was first published in Whim online magazine but I enjoyed reading it again as January’s story in this book. There is also a prequel to Victoria’s Victorian Victory.

The stories are each different, some sweet and moving, others humorous and some a little dark.

I highly recommend My Year of Stories. You’ll enjoy the read.

REVIEW: Beauty in Thorns – Kate Forsyth

Beauty in Thorns

 

Beauty in Thorns – Kate Forsyth

 I love Kate Forsyth’s writing and when Beauty in Thorns was released I couldn’t wait to read it.

It is a story set around the Pre-Raphaelite circle of artists and poets, including William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

For many years, I’ve adored their wonderful paintings, so I knew I’d love getting lost in their tumultuous world. I discovered there was so much I hadn’t known about their work and their relationships. Kate Forsyth brings to life their story of love and heartbreak with such care and beauty.

I also loved learning about the women in this circle. Lizzie Siddal, Georgie (Georgiana) Burne-Jones nee Macdonald, Jane Morris nee Burden, and later in the novel Margot Burne-Jones the daughter of Georgie and Ned (Edward)Burne-Jones. I was especially moved by Lizzie Siddal’s tragic life. I think I admired Georgie’s stoicism the most.

Kate Forsyth’s research is excellent and her story telling is superb. If you haven’t read Beauty in Thorns as yet, I highly recommend it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the art of the Pre-Raphaelites, it will add to your appreciation of this book if you look up some of their paintings.

A Cup of Conversation: Soulla Christodoulou talks with Ellen Read author of The Dragon Sleeps

I was recently asked to do an interview for Soulla Christodoulou’s new series, A Cup of Conversation.

Thank you so much, Soulla.

You can read it here

 

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