This week our lovely postman delivered something rather special. A beautiful, signed copy of The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw. Shea sent it to me all the way from America after pulling my name out of the hat on a giveaway she ran on Twitter. I’m absolutely thrilled to give this beautiful edition a home and look forward to reading it again very soon. It was also rather exciting to here that this spine-tingling story is going to be adapted into a movie! Can. not. wait.
So this is a beautiful book but what about the story within… well that’s rather fabulous too. Here is my review posted earlier this year.
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
A haunting tale of three sisters on a quest for revenge…
Two centuries ago, in small, isolated Sparrow, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery and drowned in the waters surrounding the town. Now, each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three girls and seeking revenge by dragging boys to their watery deaths.
Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the town’s fate. Then, on the eve of the sisters’ return, Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into or the fact that his arrival will change everything…
Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.
But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.
Wowser, I loved this beguiling story full of witchcraft and revenge. Even the cover tempts you to pick it up with smatterings of foil that catch the light, making the book shimmer. It is beautifully designed. This isn’t a book that languishes in a tbr pile, it’s one that calls to you until you pick it up and then entrances you, pulling you in deeper and deeper until you reach the stunning end. Such is the magic of the Swan sisters and their sinister tale.
Ernshaw spins this tale with expert ease. Spanning two hundred years, the Swan sisters story is one that has had a hold on the people of Sparrow, a town cursed by its treatment of the three sisters, outsiders, who were said to bewitch the men with their beauty and the perfumes they concocted. Every year since, they have returned to seek their revenge. As the deadly Swan Season approaches, visitors swarm to the town and the teenagers prepare for the annual beach party that welcomes in the sinister season. As the Swan sisters song begins, a sense of foreboding sweeps over the town as they wait for the eerie silence that can only mean the sisters have returned, and the hunt for their first victim begins.
This story swept me away and I loved inhibiting the town of Sparrow (from a safe distance). Full of atmosphere, magic and intrigue, I was sad to finish the novel. I shall very much look forward but to revisiting The Wicked Deep so I can look for all the clues that brought me to the remarkable ending.
Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous! Oh and did I mention that it has a shimmery cover?
This evening I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary.
A quiet life for Aubrey?
After spending several months banged up in Sunny Banks rescue centre, Aubrey, a large tabby cat, has finally found his forever home with Molly and Jeremy Goodman, and life is looking good.
However, all that changes when a serial killer begins to target elderly victims in the neighbourhood.
Aubrey wasn’t particularly upset by the death of some of the previous victims, including Miss Jenkins whom Aubrey recalls as a vinegar-lipped bitch of an old woman who enjoyed throwing stones at cats, but Mr Telling was different.
Mr Telling was a mate…
A murder mystery like no other. I was intrigued when I first read the synopsis. The main protagonist is a cat. How fabulous is that!? Refreshing, funny and a super read. I really enjoyed Street Cat Blues.
Okay I admit I am both a lover of both cats and crime novels and so I didn’t take much convincing but it was actually a great story. I loved Alison’s take on cat life; from the turf wars, waiting for food and tickles, to surviving ‘Sunny Banks’ rescue centre. I loved sharing time with Aubrey. Quite often he went unnoticed and gave us a completely new insight into the mystery.
Aubrey is a tom cat who is familiar with tragedy. After a sad, unsettled start to life he eventually ends up living a comfortable quiet life with Jeremy and Mollie. A quiet life that suddenly comes to an end with the murder of Mr Telling. This wasn’t the first murder in the area but for Aubrey it was a step too far. He liked Mr Telling.
A cat is a curious creature that can slip unnoticed into the most difficult of situations and Aubrey makes the purrfect cat detective as he works to get to the bottom of who is behind the growing number of murders. But there is more going on in this mystery than even Aubrey realises and it’s not long before the danger is very real.
A fantastic, feline-led murder mystery that was an absolute delight to read.
Thoroughly recommended for those who like a gentle murder mystery with an unusual detective leading the way.
About the author…
Alison was born in London and spent her teenaged years in Hertfordshire. She has also lived in Somerset and Gloucestershire. After studying Law she decided to teach rather than go into practice and for many years taught Criminal Law to adults and young people. Since moving to the south coast, Alison has been involved in qualification and assessment development for major awarding bodies.
When not writing, she enjoys crosswords, walking by the sea and playing Scrabble on her iPad – which she always sets to beginner level because, hey, why take chances? Alison lives with her husband John and cat Archie.
Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner, a story that is especially poignant in this, the 100th anniversary since the end of the First World War.
The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner
Margate 1920 The Great War is over but Britain is still to find peace and its spirit is not yet mended. Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past. Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live to live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side. Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for thesenew friends and the country?
Historical fiction can encourage us to think about the past by going beyond fact bringing alive time and place by making us care about the character, making them relatable in unforgettable. They were, after all, ordinary people living through extreme hardship and suffering. I do feel that Paul has written a wonderful novel here. At 601 pages long it is quite a lengthy read but the characters and subject matter draw you in and you become invested in their story even though at times it could be utterly heartbreaking.
There are some difficult subject matters addressed but Paul brings a gentleness to the story with his writing. The story is set after the First World War and focuses on lives forever affected by the horrors experienced. It reminds us that even after the fighting has ceased, the pain, guilt and heartache carry on. These events can never be forgotten and his amalgamation of both fact and fiction give us a powerful read with characters that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
Paul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary
ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one (but still finding
time to play drums with Redlands and Rags 2 Riches).
Cornwall has always been a place that I have loved to visit. There is an energy about it that refreshes and invigorates. For our holiday this year we craved an escape to the coast, a chance to recharge batteries and share some family time together. Cornwall was the perfect choice.
After searching the internet a few months ago we came upon a holiday let that looked cosy, was big enough for our small family of three, and was close to Fowey, a place that I have often been drawn to. The name of our home for the week was Jenny Wren which was located in a small village called Tywardreath about three miles from Fowey and within walking distance to Par beach. It was perfect and just right for our break. Comfortable, very clean, with stunning views across the village and continuing countryside, I felt very much at home from the moment we arrived. We were tired from a long, slow journey and happy to make the most of our accommodation after an exploratory stroll down to Par beach.
Upon the bookshelves in Jenny Wren were a wide selection of novels, biographies and non fiction titles including a short book entitled The Cornish World of Daphne du Maurier, which had been published by Bossiney Books, a small publishing house based in North Cornwall specialising in books about the West Country. I knew that Daphne had lived for some time in Fowey at Ferryside and also at her much love home Menabilly, which was close by but I didn’t realise just how soaked in her history the local area of Fowey, Par and Tywardreath is. The book was fascinating and perfectly placed upon the bookshelf of our summer home. Reading it during my visit bought me a little closer to this author who has fascinated me for so long. Over the years I have been discovering her work, beginning with one of my all time favourites Rebecca and most recently The House On The Strand. It seemed utterly right that I should begin the latter whilst staying in the very village in which the novel is set.
Tywardreath has a wonderful village shop
St Andrews Church
Enjoying a Cornish Beer at The New Inn in Tywardreath
For the first few days of our holiday we were treated to glorious blue skies and warm temperatures. Ideal beach weather in fact and as I sat on Par beach enjoying the stunning coastline I felt a little closer to her still. I can understand why she felt such undying love for Cornwall. There is a sense of calm yet also an unrest, a peace yet a thousand stories waiting to be told. It feels rather exciting and inspiring and I felt very at home there.
We discovered Par beach on the night we arrived and returned many times over our stay. Only a mile from our home for the week, it was a pleasant 20 minute meander away. The bay itself was unspoilt and enjoyed a lovely view. Although busy it never felt crowded and indeed we did feel rather put upon when new arrivals plumped to set up towels right behind us when there was so much space to choose from. I took with me books and notepads but my attention was stolen by my surroundings and the sea, and I felt content to simply soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the moment. A natural mindfulness perhaps, with very little effort required. The sand cold and damp beneath my feet. The salty freshness of the sea air. The chatter of people. The holler of others. The cry of the seagull chasing the breeze and the rumble of the waves gently coming closer or moving farther away.
There is something rather wonderful about mornings in Cornwall, even on a cloudy day. There is a fine mist in the air or ‘mizzle’ as I’ve heard it referred to. The birds are louder, their cries cutting through the air, shattering the silence. At home they are gentler in their song, more like the softer side of the percussion section in an orchestra. Yet here in Cornwall they boom, dramatic and clear across the Cornish skies. There are of course many gulls but also other birds each with a unique voice which when combined creates quite the orchestra to awaken me from my dream filled sleep.
The weather can be moody and incredibly atmospheric as captured so perfectly in any of du Mauriers tales. Glorious blue skies and sunshine or clouds tumbling dark and sinister filled with menace, or light and whispy, like the breathe of an angel. Our holiday home rose high up on a residential area which enabled us a view far across the countryside. From the kitchen we could sit and watch the weather roll in, distant clouds carrying rain which we could see falling on the hills, whilst we sat emersed in the warmth of the sunshine until the clouds would finally reach us before disappearing as quickly as they had arrived.
I love this place, it soothes my soul and I can see why Daphne du Maurier and so many writers and artists have been inspired by it. The history, the atmosphere and the dramatic coastline all hold such magic.
She was never anything but perfectly suited to the place in which she lived. Without that stability, I very much doubt if those novels would ever have been so immensely enjoyable. For that, we can thank the Cornish landscape that she so loved. Above all, of course, she was the supreme story-teller. A master craftswoman in the fine art of narration.
An excerpt from The Cornish World of Daphne du Maurier
It does make me question if the Cornwall we see today would have existed if not for Daphne du Maurier, or even would the Daphne du Maurier we know and love have existed without Cornwall? So intrinsic each was to the other.
Towards the end of her life Daphne wrote Vanishing Cornwall, a fascinating insight into the Cornwall she knew and loved. I have since purchased a copy and look forward to returning via the pages of her book over the coming winter months.
We spent only a week in Cornwall this summer, but on that visit we travelled in time, back to where knights protected our shores from enemies across the seas, to the future and a visit to Mars via a speedy tour of our wonderful solar system. It filled me with such wonder and we returned home with so many fantastic memories.
Walking through history at Tintagel
and Restormel Castles
And river adventures with Fowey River Hire
Kayaking with Fowey River Hire
Messing about on Fowey River
Visiting the Lifeboat on Fowey River
A visit to The Eden Project took us to Mars
Waiting for take off at The Eden project
Looking at the Earth from afar
So close to the Moon
Life on Mars
Family fun on the Lanhydrock bike trails
Daphne first moved to rented accommodation in Readymoney Cove in 1942. She’d discovered and fell in love with Menabilly many years before but it wasn’t until 1943 that her perseverance paid off and she convinced the owners to lease it to her. Menabilly was then her home for over 20 years but when the lease ended she was forced to move on to her final home, Kilmarth. Sadly her husband of many years died just before they moved and so the house that they had chosen together would be hers alone. Yet she found contentment there and made it her home for the last twenty years of her life.
This grand old house, overlooking the majestic sweep of the bay beyond began to spur Daphne’s curiosity and imagination and the result was The House on the Strand, first published in 1969.
An excerpt from The Cornish World of Daphne du Maurier
Cornwall is steeped in history, mythology and legend. There are stories in every corner and for me it is somewhere I feel at home. I love the sense of space, the fresh air, the feeling of becoming whole again – if only for a brief time. I feel I can stretch and breath deeply. Indeed a holiday should give you a sense of freedom, freedom to relax, to take in the world around you. To just be. Yet this Cornish landscape also feeds the soul from the moors to the coastline, it fires the imagination and for me, provides a sense of balance. I wish I could stay but I know that it will always be a part of me and I’ll be back.
When I made the booking I had no idea that I would be spending quite so much time with Daphne du Maurier. Yet I could feel her there with me, in the smells on the air, the sea breeze, the summer rain, and the birds as they flew through the air, sending their message out to the world. Perhaps that is why it feels so familiar and so much like coming home. I have visited many times before both in person and through her novels. Cornwall is ever-changing and yet its ghosts surround you as you wonder. Their stories permeate through sand, stone, grass and skyline, and there still so many yet to be told.
You can find out more about our fabulous holiday let, Jenny Wren here. It was absolutely perfect for the three of us and had everything we needed. The owners, Dave and Dianne were incredibly friendly and welcoming. The location was very peaceful but close to the village centre. We slept well throughout the week and were very sad to leave.
I’m be delighted to be taking part in the upcoming blog tour for The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner. The tour runs from Sunday the 10th September through to the 19th and will be visiting us here on Tales Before Bedtime on Monday the 11th of September.