REVIEW TIME: Sleeper’s Castle

IMG_4721

Sleeper’s Castle by Barbara Erskine.

Blurb:

Two women, centuries apart. One endless nightmare tearing Wales apart – and only they can stop it.

Hay-On-Wye, 1400 – War is brewing in the Welsh borders, Catrin is on the brink of womanhood and falling in love for the first time. Her father is a soothsayer, playing a dangerous game playing on the mixed loyalties and furious rivalries between welsh princes and English lords. For two hundred years, the Welsh people have lain under the English yoke, dreaming of independence. And finally it looks as though the charismatic Owain Glyndwr may be the man legend talks of. In the walls of Sleeper’s Castle, Catrin finds herself caught in the middle of a doomed war as she is called upon to foretell Wales’s destiny… And what she sees, is blood and war coming closer…

Hay, 2015. Miranda has moved to Sleeper’s Castle to escape and grieve. Slowly she feels herself coming to life in the solitude of the mountains. But every time she closes her eyes her dreams become more vivid. And she makes a connection with a young girl, who’s screaming, who’s reaching out… who only Miranda can help. Is she losing herself to time?

My thoughts:

Sleeper’s Castle enthralled and enchanted me from the very beginning. Barbara Erskine effortlessly weaves together the two eras of this time-slip story. I loved the references back to the ancient druids and their sacred dreaming.

There’s magic and mystery, a hint of romance, wild Welsh countryside, and mysterious characters, such as Meryn, who is mentioned in the beginning of the story. When he makes an appearance, he still carries an aura of the unknown about him. Not to mention, Pepper, the condescending cat that believes he really own Sleeper’s Castle.

I love the historical side of the story, which follows the life of Owain Glyndwr, Prince of Wales, who waged a campaign to free Wales from the English yoke.

Sleeper’s Castle is the pivotal link. The house is an extra character in the story, with its own past, tragic tales and hopes for the future. However, it’s the stories of Miranda (Andy) and Bryn, in the present day, and Catrin and Edmund in 1400 that held me all the way through, along with the suspense engendered by a crazy ex-wife out for blood.

This is a fantastic read. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it.

5 STARS

Advertisements

The House behind Thornton Park

collage

When I first thought of writing The Dragon Sleeps and needed a grand house for the Thornton’s family home, Werribee Park and mansion in Victoria came to mind. I’d first visited it years earlier and always intended to include a house like it into a story. 

I thought you might like to read something about the house behind my Thornton Park.

Werribee Park is approximately 10 hectares of manicured gardens and native woodland. There is Werribee Mansion, which is next to the Victorian State Rose Garden, and also Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Many people think that Australia’s history is not as rich as England’s or Europe‘s and that we don’t have grand houses and gardens. They haven’t seen Werribee Park. 

Scottish brothers Thomas and Andrew Chirnside, built the Italianate styled mansion over three years, from 1874 to 1877. They had made their fortune in Australia’s developing agricultural industry, so had the wealth to construct such an elaborate residence. 

It’s intriguing to note that there was a romantic triangle here. Some years earlier, Thomas had proposed marriage to Andrew’s wife Mary, who was also their first cousin. The mansion was built by the brothers for Mary, who held both their hearts.

It is sad that Thomas committed suicide in 1887 from depression. Andrew died in 1890. Werribee Park was left to Andrew and Mary’s children, with Mary residing in it for the remainder of her life. 

In 1923 the property was sold to the Roman Catholic Bishops of Australia, where it became a seminary, a place of reflection and spiritual development, named Corpus Christi College.

Today, the mansion is open to the public. It also has an adjoining hotel and spa. Visitors can experience the grandeur of Werribee Mansion, discover Victoria’s unique pastoral history down at the farm and homestead, or have a picnic on the Great lawn surrounded by stunning formal gardens.

It’s located 30 minutes from Melbourne by car.

REVIEW TIME: DISBELIEF by M.J.T. Meijer

Disbelief by M.J.T. Meijer

Disbelief

From the back cover…

Multiple mass-poisonings have occurred at pilgrimage sites throughout Europe. Sophie Pearson, a successful artist, created paintings of the horrific events before they occurred. There are more sketches, implying other attacks are to take place.

What does Sophie know? Who does she know?

It is up to Chief of Europol Dave Johnson and police consultant and psychic medium Ben Smit to unravel the ties between past and present, or more lives will be lost.

One thing is four certain – they won’t all make it to the finish line…

My review…

This fast-paced, exciting thriller will grip you and keep you held in suspense, wondering what will happen, until the final twist in the story.

It is a fantastic debut novel for M.J.T. Meijer. Meijer has written it with multiple viewpoints that carry the story through unexpectedturns and chilling developments, which take the reader from Amsterdam to Dubai, London, Lourdes and The Hague.

The characters leap off the page. They’re well-rounded and believable, and at times very frightening.

Dan Brown and Jeffrey Archer come to mind when I think of Disbelief.

If you love a great thriller, I highly recommend you read this book.

It’s a 5 Star read.

Disbelief by M.J.T. Meijer

OUT NOW

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.

 

The Light Over Broken Tide by Holly Ducarte

REVIEW TIME: by Ellen Read

36359453

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

IMG_4326

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.

DSC_0235 - sm

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: 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.

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

 

img_0925