Friday, 20 January 2017

Today my guest author is ...Kirsten McKenzie

 I am delighted to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo

Hi Kirsten, a warm welcome back to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for spending time with us today...

How have things been for you since you were last on the blog ?

If you’d suggested in January 2013 that I’d be typing this up as part of my new role as a full time author, I would probably have laughed hysterically. But it’s amazing how life changes once the desire is there, and following hard work.

In January 2013 I started writing my first novel, Fifteen Postcards, a historical fiction book loosely based on my family’s antique shop, with a dash of Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop thrown in. It was published in 2015 by Accent Press, a UK based publisher.

Accent Press

After the success of Fifteen Postcards, I started on its sequel, The Last Letter. Initially I thought writing a second book was going to be a doddle, as easy as pie. I had my systems in place, research was streamlined, reference books stood proudly on my bookcase a short stretch away. It was anything but easy. There was a mantle of expectation hadn’t existed with the first book. Would it be as well received as the first or was I trying to stretch my knowledge too far?

Accent Press

But writing The Last Letter was also like visiting an old friend - my characters seemed to have missed me and they had matured. I’d had one review for Fifteen Postcards where the reviewer had called my protagonist a bubble-head, and you know what? She was right, and that really helped me develop Sarah Lester further. Reviewers are great!

Almost all the reviews for Fifteen Postcards mention the research which must have gone into the book, and they’re right. The research for The Last Letter was no different. You end up down a two hour rabbit hole on the internet researching Victorian hearth tiles, or hats from 1860 worn by ladies in India. I’ve learnt so much, and ended up incorporating things I never imagined I’d write about because of those hours lost in the Internet. Writing can be a lonely occupation, but Twitter has been a remarkably social tool - I’ve found that people on Twitter love to help. Often I’d pose a question along the lines of “How long would it take to walk from Manse Street to High Street?”, and then an discussion would erupt online as various people questioned the answers given by others and offered their own opinions. Highly entertaining and it made me feel part of something greater than me just sitting at my desk by myself. I love Twitter and I’m very enthusiastic there, and probably a little too outspoken about some aspects of life in general.

My first book took eighteen months to write, the second took twelve but the process after writing it was that much more complicated and time consuming than with the first. The cover of The Last Letter went backwards and forwards between the publisher and I, the release date needed to be agreed upon, the pricing of the first book at the release of the second. Even the editing process seemed more complex because I’d had the previous experience to compare it with. With Fifteen Postcards I was such a novice that I stumbled through everything blindly, and to my utmost surprise, it ended well.

And now The Last Letter is out there and doing well. And I quit my day job as an Antique Dealer. A leap of faith greater than writing the first, or even the second book, and one which is paying off.

More about the Author

Kirsten is currently working on her third book, 'The Ruination Of Art', set in the magical city of Florence, Italy. She lives in Auckland with her husband and two daughters, and a doddery old cat.

You can find out more about Kirsten and her writing on her website by clicking here 

Visit her on Facebook or Follow on Twitter @Kiwimrsmac or find on Goodreads

Huge thanks to Kirsten for sharing her time with us today.

Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your writing and look forward to

 hearing all about 'The Ruination of Art'


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Review ~ The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond

Pan Macmillan
26th January 2017

A bit of blurb..

Number 11, Dukes Square, looks just like the other houses on the Brighton seafront: a Regency terrace with elegant sash windows, a winding staircase, and post piled up in the hall for its tenants. It might be part of the city's history, but it's also a place of brand new beginnings.

Georgie has followed her childhood sweetheart to Brighton but is determined to carve out a career for herself in journalism. Throwing herself into the city's delights is fun and exciting, but before she knows it, she's sliding into all kinds of trouble . . . 

Charlotte's in the city for a new start, hoping to keep her head down and somehow get over the heartbreaking loss she's suffered in the past. But Margot, the stylish old lady on the top floor, has other ideas. Like it or not, Charlotte must confront the outside world, and the possibilities it still holds.

A terrible revelation sent Rosa running from London to start again as a sous chef. The work is gruelling and thankless but it's a distraction at least . . . until she comes up against the stroppy teenager next door who challenges her on her lifestyle choices. What if Rosa's passion for food could lead her to more interesting places?

As the three tenants find each other, it's as if a whole new chapter of their lives has begun.

My thoughts about the book..

What Lucy Diamond always does so well is to craft a story that could so easily be about people you meet every day, in fact, many people in real life could find themselves in the same sort of situations as the women who are the focus for The House of New Beginnings.  It's a story about finding your way when everything around you seems to be thwarted against you, but yet, you know that deep down with good friends you can survive and come through, and hopefully, at the end of it all be stronger and more prepared to face life than ever before.

The author writes with great understanding of what makes women tick and soon plunges her characters into the nitty gritty of life's problems and yet,  at the same time she keeps the writing warm and compassionate. There are some nice areas of light and shade, with moments that made me happy, but there are also some sadder recollections, particularly Charlotte's story, which made me want to make everything better for her. The other characters who flit into and out of the story add complexity and there some unexpected surprises along the way which help to make the story all the more thought-provoking.

I found much to enjoy in The House of New Beginnings, not just about the situations the three women find themselves in but also about living and working in Brighton, about sharing secrets and about starting life anew when it would be just as easy to carry on in the same old rut. This is one of those stories that you could comfortably read at any time of year. It would make a perfect holiday read but it's also one of those lovely books that you can just curl up with on a cold afternoon, preferably with a cup of hot chocolate close at hand.

Best Read With...One of Rosa's salted caramel muffin and a creamy cappuccino 

Lucy Diamond lives in Bath with her husband and their three children. She is the author of the bestselling novels Summer at Shell Cottage, The Beach Cafe, The Year of Taking Chances and The Secrets of Happiness.

Website click here


My thanks to  Jess at Pan Macmillan for my copy of this book


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Blog Tour ~ Relativity by Antonia Hayes

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the 

Relativity Blog Tour 

Little, Brown
17th January 2017

A bit of book blurb..

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.
His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.
Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

My thoughts about the book..

Twelve year old Ethan is remarkably gifted. His knowledge of particle physics and the universe far exceeds his age limit. However, life is never going to be easy for Ethan or for his single mother Claire especially in light of a tragedy that happened when Ethan was just a baby. What actually happened to cause this tragedy is explained in the course of the story which is sympathetically told in three viewpoints, namely that of Ethan, Claire, and Mark, Ethan's father and Claire's estranged husband.

The individual voices of these three very different narrators are incredibly strong but each is no less compelling and as their individual stories start to unfold therein lies the strength of the novel which looks at the very minutiae of life and dissects just how tragic misfortune can either shape us, or make us.

Ethan's story is a joy to read, his twelve year old self just on the cusp of adolescence is beautifully described, as is his overwhelming knowledge of physics. I expected to be bamboozled by some of Ethan's theories but the author does a really good job of explaining just how a gifted twelve year old would see the universe rather than, perhaps the more complicated way that Mark, his particle physicist father, would view events.

Relativity is an exceptionally good first novel, taking what could so easily have been a subject filled with angst and despair but this talented author turns it into a story filled with hope and goodness and the joy of simply being alive in a world which seems to get ever more complicated

I am always intrigued by the choice of a one word book title so much so  I looked up the definition of relativity and found Einstein's theory that states that..

 "..all motion must be defined relative to a frame of reference and that space and time are relative, rather than absolute concepts: it consists of two principal parts .. "

Ok, so not having a particular penchant for physics I am perhaps no wiser however, what I am sure of is that this incredibly well written novel eventually allows you understand just how important everyone is in the scheme of things, and of how that in the universe every single one of our actions has a greater effect in the long term.

Best Read with...A MacDonald Cheeseburger , heavy on the pickle..

About the author

Antonia Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, currently lives in London with her husband and son. Relativity is her first novel.

Find out more about the author on her website by clicking here

or on Twitter @antoniahayes

My thanks to Clara at at Little Brown for the invitation to be part of this blog tour. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Silk Weaver by Liz Trenow

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting the first day of 

The Silk Weaver  Blog Tour 

Published by Pan Macmillan,
26 January 2017 in paperback priced £7.99

It's all about the book...

A novel of illicit romance set against the world of the silk trade in London

Anna Butterfield moves from her Suffolk country home to her uncle's house in London, to be introduced to society. A chance encounter with a local silk weaver, French immigrant Henri, throws her from her privileged upbringing to the darker, dangerous world of London's silk trade. Henri is working on his 'master piece' to make his name as a master silk weaver; Anna, meanwhile, is struggling against the constraints of her family and longing to become an artist. Henri realizes that Anna's designs could lift his work above the ordinary, and give them both an opportunity for freedom…

This is a charming story of illicit romance, set against the world of the burgeoning silk trade in eighteenth-century Spitalfields - a time of religious persecution, mass migration, racial tension and wage riots, and very different ideas of what was considered 'proper' for women.

My thoughts about The Silk Weaver...

Inspired by real historical events and characters, The Silk Weaver takes us back in time to the London of 1760, back to a time of social and political unrest and to what was an uneasy time if you attempted to earn your living in the burgeoning silk weaving industry.

Not that Anna Butterfield knew very much about the manufacture of silk when she first arrives in London from her home in rural Suffolk.  Staying with her more affluent relatives, Anna is about to be launched into London society and although this doesn’t sit easily with her , she knows that making a good marriage will be enough to save her father and  younger sister from  a life of hardship. From the start of the story, we know that Anna would much rather use her skill at painting to become an artist, however, Anna’s Aunt Sarah is equally determined to make the most of Anna’s assets in the marriage market.

What I enjoyed about The Silk Weaver was the genuine authentic feel to the narrative. It is obvious in the way that the story is allowed to develop that the author has done considerable research in order to bring to life this story of social unrest and illicit romance. Time and place is captured really well with some lovely details, particularly Anna's entree into society and of her burgeoning friendship with the French silk weaver, Henri Vendome, both of which are a real joy to read. I especially enjoyed the references to Anna's interest in art and of her encounters with some of the great artists of the time, however, for me, the story truly came alive in the story of silk manufacture. I found the description of the silk weaving process quite fascinating, especially the care and attention given to Henri's weaving of his master piece, and of the role Anna played in the creation of Henri's sumptuous silk design.

The Silk Weaver is a really lovely historical novel. It has a fine blend of romance and dangerous intrigue and yet, there is also friendship, love and a genuine desire to see that hope can survive, a combination which I think works very well. I am sure that fans of Liz Trenow’s previous novels will be as captivated by The Silk Weaver's story as I was.

Just as an nice addition I was intrigued by the silk image which graces the back cover of the book and discovered that it was printed around the time that this story is set by the renowned silk designer Anna Maria Garthwaite . There are comprehensive author notes at the back of the book in which the author discusses both the history and the inspiration behind the story of The Silk Weaver which I found to be most interesting.

Best read with… a cold veal pie and a cup of the newly fashionable coffee..

Author website click here
Follow of Twitter @LizTrenow

Liz Trenow is the author of three previous historical novels: The Last Telegram, The Forgotten Seamstress and The Poppy Factory. Liz's family have been silk weavers for nearly three hundred years, and she grew up in the house next to the mill in Suffolk, England, which still operates today, weaving for top-end fashion houses and royal commissions. This unique history inspired her first two novels, and this, her fourth novel.

Liz is a former journalist who spent fifteen years on regional and national newspapers, and on BBC radio and television news, before turning her hand to fiction. She lives in East Anglia, UK, with her artist husband, and they have two grown-up daughter.

My thanks to the author and Alice at Pan Macmillan for the invitation to be part of this blog tour 

Tour runs 17th January -  29th January

Do visit the other stops on the tour.


Monday, 16 January 2017

Review ~ Portraits of Pretence by Susan Grossey

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

A bit of book blurb..

An elderly French artist is found dead in his rooms in London clutching a miniature portrait of a little girl. Intrigued, Constable Sam Plank delves into the world of art dealing and finds himself navigating the fragile post-war relationship between England and France. What is the link between this and the recent attacks on customs officers in London Docks? And will a beautiful mademoiselle put paid to Martha Plank’s matchmaking?
In this fourth novel in the Sam Plank series, set in the chilly spring of 1827, Plank and his junior constable William Wilson meet Frenchmen in London and daring blockademen in Kent to uncover smuggling and even more dangerous ambitions,

My thoughts about the book..

There are a collection of authors in my arsenal of ‘authors who will never let me down’ and I can officially say that Susan Grossey is now firmly placed in this category. The whole of the Sam Plank series of Regency crime novels have been an absolute joy to read and this fourth outing by Constable Sam and his able assistant Wilson is just as exciting as the previous three books.

The chilly spring of 1827 sees Sam and his junior constable, William Wilson, investigating the unexplained death of an elderly French artist who has been found dead in mysterious circumstances. The only clue left at the scene is an exquisite miniature of a young girl which the old man is clutching in his hand. Given the unusual circumstances surrounding this death neither officer will leave any stone unturned until the mystery is solved to their satisfaction. However, dabbling in the complicated world of art reveals far more questions than it does answers, and Plank and Wilson soon find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into a shadowy criminal underworld filled with conspiracy and dangerous secrets.

Confident in his ability, Constable Plank strides the streets of London with all the self-assurance of a man who knows his place in the world. He strives for justice and truth in an entirely commendable way, and his integrity and honesty shines through with every word that this author so lovingly shares with her readers. What I enjoy most about this series is the way that the world of Regency crime comes alive in the imagination, so that it becomes an entirely believable world of thieves, vagabonds, conmen and criminals who scurry and skulk within the shadows of the great city of London.

There is no doubt that the author has created a plausible and comprehensive Regency world and with each successive novel I feel as if I am returning into the bosom of a well-loved family. Sam and Martha’s thoughtful care and supervision of the ever vulnerable Constable Wilson, and of course, Martha’s marvellous ability, in moments of extreme worry, to be her husband’s still small voice of calm is, as always, written with such thoughtful attention to detail.

As one book finishes I am heartened to know that, like buses another one will be along soon, after all, the author did say that there would be seven Sam Plank stories and I am holding her to that promise. I don’t want to contemplate what I will do when this wonderful crime series comes to an end but maybe by book number seven Sam may well have put his foot down and said… “There’s more”..!

Best Read With.. A tankard or two of porter and a well roasted chop..

About the Author

You can find more about Susan and her writing by visiting her website ~ click here

Follow on Twitter @ConstablePlank or @susangrossey

Read an extract from Portraits of Pretence by clicking here 

My thanks to Susan for sharing Sam Plank's world with me and for including a "Jaffareadstoo" quote on the cover on Portraits of Pretence.

As a reader I am delighted to endorse this wonderful series.


Sunday, 15 January 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered ...

Feeding the German Troops during WW1

Food was considered a luxury to British soldiers fighting at the front during WW1 and this was no exception for the German troops who were facing the same constrictions. Food rations were in short supply

German Army Daily Rations

26 ½ ounces of bread or               
17 ½ of field biscuits or 
14 ounces of egg biscuit               
53 ounces of potatoes  
4 ½ ounces vegetables 
2 ounces dried vegetables

German Insulated Hot Food Container

© IWM (FEQ 803)

With a small plaque marked 'Nicht aufs feuer setzen' ('Do not place on a fire')

The food container was worn on the back like a rucksack and kept food hot rather like a vacuum flask

This container was captured by the 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment.

A Dispatch Dog brings food to Germans at the front

© IWM (Q 23700)

The dog is wearing a special harness on its back which can hold mess tins. In the background, a third soldier can be seen pointing his rifle over the top of the trench.

German Soldiers queue at a hot food wagon

©Digital Images

This photograph was in a collection of WW1 memorabilia brought back from the Western Front by my husband's grandfather, Sam Whalley


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Close To Home ....Martin Edwards

As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.

Today I welcome North West Crime Writer

Martin Edwards

Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author?

I’ve always wanted to write stories – really, from the time I was able to read. And I became fascinated by detective stories at a very tender age – just short of nine years old. (I tell the full story of how that came about in the introduction to THE GOLDEN AGE OF MURDER). I wrote a mystery at age 10 – the first in a series! – and a full-length thriller while I was training to be a solicitor (my parents had wisely urged me to get a ‘proper job’ so that I could pay the rent while trying to write). But I realised the thriller wasn’t good enough to publish, and so I never sent it anywhere. When I started working in Liverpool, I began to write articles, and later books, about the law. My first book’s unlikely title was UNDERSTANDING COMPUTER CONTRACTS. Surprisingly, it did quite well. But novels were what I wanted to write, and eventually I published ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE in 1991. The hero was, naturally enough, a down-at-heel Liverpool solicitor....

As a writer based in the North West, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them?

The British publishing world revolves around London, there’s no denying that. But I’ve always been devoted to my part of the country, and writing books set first in Liverpool and more recently in the Lakes has been  a source of great enjoyment. Also, technology means that you can live pretty much anywhere and still do quite a bit to promote your books.

Your novels are set in the North West but I wonder do the people and its landscape shape your stories in any way?

Absolutely. The Harry Devlin books couldn’t be set anywhere but Liverpool, and when I returned to the series after a ten year gap with WATERLOO SUNSET, I really enjoyed exploring the changes in the city during that time, through his eyes. The sub-text of the series is the metamorphosis of Liverpool since the dark days of the early 80s (which coincided with my arrival there, but I don’t think I was to blame....) In a different way the Lakeland landscape – and literary heritage – is at the heart of the Hannah Scarlett books. There the sub-text concerns the pressures on rural English life, and in particular on Lakeland life..

If you were pitching the North West as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?

I have tried to ‘sell’ the North West many times during my legal career, explaining to disbelieving young solicitors why it would be appealing to relocate oop North. For those addicted to London, it’s only a train ride away, but the quality of life is immeasurably better here in my personal opinion. It’s not just that housing is so much more affordable (even in Cheshire!) but also that there is so much variety on your doorstep in terms of landscape and places to spend quality time. There’s culture aplenty – look at Liverpool’s museums and art galleries, let alone all the others – and plenty of peaceful places where you can get some writing done. An example, a short bus ride from Chester, is the unique Gladstone’s Library.

In your research for your books, do you visit any of the places you write about and which have made a lasting impression?

I always visit them, and for me it’s vital try to soak up the local atmosphere. So I explored Williamson’s Tunnels in Liverpool when working on FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST. I even dragged my protesting teenage children to Coniston for a very wet and cold February week-end so I could see what the place was like at the time when THE ARSENIC LABYRINTH was set. Luckily they are still speaking to me. Among many other examples, I’d highlight the fascinating west coast of Cumbria, around the intriguing ancient port of Ravenglass, which forms the backdrop to THE DUNGEON HOUSE. A wonderful part of the world, and very atmospheric.

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

I’ve been a member of the CrimeWriters’ Association for many years, and CWA events have helped me to form many friendships. I was a founder member of the very active Northern Chapter of the CWA, and later a founder member of Murder Squad, founded by Margaret Murphy and also including Ann Cleeves and Cath Staincliffe among others. Both groups are still going strong. I’m now the Vice Chair of the CWA, and a year ago I was elected eighth President of the Detection Club, which was the world’s first social network for crime writers. It was founded by G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and several others; that trio were among my predecessors as President, so I’m honoured and excited to have the role. We have three dinners a year in London, and they are very convivial events. Apart from all that, I enjoy going to crime conventions here and overseas.

How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

I’ve found libraries in particular very supportive of my writing, and I enjoy doing a range of library events – including talks, workshops, and murder mystery evenings. I’m concerned about the threat to library funding – libraries form an essential part of every community and any local council and government that is committed to improving community cohesion should take care to protect and enhance the library service.

And finally, if someone is new to your work, which book do you think they should start with?

THE COFFIN TRAIL is the first of the Lakes books, and a lot of people tell me they like to start there. My own favourite in that series is THE DUNGEON HOUSE, while I’m fond of YESTERDAY’S PAPERS and WATERLOO SUNSET in the Devlin series.

You can discover more about Martin on his website by clicking here

His crime writing blog by clicking here 

Twitter @medwardsbooks

Huge thanks to Martin for sharing his thoughts about his work and also about

what makes living and writing in the North West so special.

Coming next week : Paula Daly