Saturday, 30 November 2013

Review ~ Sisters of the Bruce 1292-1314 by J M Harvey

17593593
Troubadour Publishing
November 2013

Set in late thirteenth century Scotland, during the tumultuous time in history when the charismatic Bruce family played an important role in the rich tapestry of Scottish history, this story had so much potential. However, it was altogether lacking in political punch and I felt that the story meandered too much around inconsequential chit chat, in the form of correspondence, between the sisters. In effect, what was needed was a livelier rendition of this troubled historical period, which never actually materialised within the main body of the story. The writing mainly appears quite ‘flat’ and at times seems as though the author merely added everything she knew about the period without considering how this information would be perceived within the story itself.

It’s been a long time since I opened a book which I so wanted to like, but which in the end, I'm sad to say, left me feeling as uninspired as the narration.


My thanks to NetGalley and Troubadour Publishing for my copy of this book.

Review - Ace, King, Knave by Maria McCann

17907300
Faber and Faber
November 2013


Eighteenth century London is vividly recreated in this charismatic story about the fortunes, and multiple misfortunes, of a trio of disparate people. There is the newly-wed Sophie who is married to the charismatic Mr Zedland, who keeps her own secrets well hidden. A former bawdy prostitute, Betsy- Anne Blore who runs her second hand goods shop with an enviable entrepreneurial skill, and also Fortune, who is the Zedland’s mismanaged slave.

On the surface, the lives of these three people should never intertwine, but Maria McCann has, with great panache, weaved together  a story which will gradually reveal the heaving hotchpotch of the great, and it must be said, the mightily unwashed of 1760s London. From the gin-soaked alleys, which are reminiscent of a Hogarth engraving, through to the genteel drawing rooms of the English upper class, no stone is left unturned, and as these proverbial stones are uncovered, a shocking story of vile corruption, and filth at the highest level, is revealed.

Ultimately, this is a good romp through Hanoverian England, and as always the author manipulates the narrative with considerable ease, blending authenticity with dramatic storytelling. Littered throughout is a colourful vocabulary which infuses such a tangible realism, that I felt like I had spent time wandering London, with a set of wastrels, vagabonds, prostitutes and grave-robbers.

If you like colourful and realistic historical fiction then I am sure that this story will appeal enough to warrant giving it a try.

Thanks to Netgalley and Faber and Faber for my review copy of this book

Friday, 29 November 2013

In conversation with Jane B. Night....

I am delighted to welcome to Jaffareadstoo

Jane B. Night



Author of

17668902
Published by Jane B Night
March 2013



*~Welcome Jane~*

What is it about your writing that will pique the reader’s interest?

I think that readers always enjoy a good story and lovable characters. I strive for that above all else. I also try to make my stories comfortable to read but different from other books the reader has read. 
Educating Autumn is a love story that is also a social commentary. It is primarily about a man and a woman falling in love with each other. But, on a deeper level it deals with women's rights and gender roles in society. 


What can you tell us about Educating Autumn that won't give too much away?

Educating Autumn is a romance that takes place in the future but has the feel of a historic romance. 
Autumn is sold to Orion as her wife and she has no idea why he wants her when other men don't. At first, she is terrified of him. But, slowly, she finds that he is exactly the right man for her to love.


 When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?

I work full time and am a busy mom so writing time is hard to come by.
I usually arrive an hour early at work and sit in the cafeteria to write. I write on my lunch break as well. Editing is usually done in the evenings if my kids are absorbed in Sesame Street or Barney.


The book world is very competitive – how do you get your book noticed?

I write a book I hope people will enjoy. I give out free copies through giveaways and I hope that people will enjoy my book so much that they recommend it to friends.


Have you always wanted to be a writer?  

Yes. I wrote my first romance "novel" when I was in fourth grade.  



Which writers have inspired you?

 I love so many writers. My biggest influences have been Mary Balogh, Virginia Henley, Anne Rice, and Janette Oke.

*~*


Thank you Jo for the questions!
Jane



It's been a delight to feature Jane on our blog. Jaffa and I wish you much success with your writing career


***

My thoughts on Educating Autumn


Educating Autumn is set some time in the future when the world has been devastated by World War III.  In the aftermath of this war only 1000 people survive to break away and form three new countries. In one of these countries, Josiathan, the belief is that the war was caused by the sinfulness of women, and because of this the women are kept largely suppressed. Born into this society, Autumn Clare, begins to question this authority and is determined to stand up for herself. When she is sold in marriage to Orion, a man who she has never met, Autumn has to learn not just to adjust, but also to risk trusting in someone else.

I liked the premise of the story, and even though it is set sometime in a distant future, it is not too futuristic to become unbelievable. The author has created a credible world and has explored a place where the repression of women is considered entirely normal. I liked how she developed her main characters and as the story progresses a real rapport starts to develop between Autumn and Orion, and it becomes interesting to see how their relationship will develop.

Overall, this is an interesting and credible debut novel and I am sure that the author will continue to go from strength to strength in subsequent writing.


**There is a free promotion  of Jane's latest book Singing the Last Song during the weekend of 29/30 November on Amazon.com**

***

  

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Author Blog Tour ~ Alison Morton

I am delighted to welcome Alison Morton

and to be part of her PERFIDITAS

Blog Tour 2013






 Author of PERFIDITAS


Silverwood Books
October 2013

www.alison-morton.com @alison_morton
Author of INCEPTIO, an alternate history thriller published by SilverWood Books in March 2013
Shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award B.R.A.G. MedallionTM honoree



*~ Alison - welcome to Jaffareadstoo~*


Where did the idea for the Roma Nova series come from?

I was eleven and on holiday in north-east Spain. Fascinated by the Roman mosaics in Ampurias, I wanted to know who had made them, whose houses they were in, who had walked on them.

After my father explained about traders, senators, power and families, I tilted my head to one side and asked him, “What would it be like if Roman women were in charge, instead of the men?” Maybe it was the fierce sun boiling my brain, maybe early feminism surfacing or maybe it was just a precocious kid asking a smartass question. But clever man and senior ‘Roman nut’, my father replied, “What do you think it would be like?”

Real life intervened (school, university, career, military, marriage, parenthood, business ownership, move to France), but the idea bubbled away in my mind. My mind was morphing the setting of ancient Rome into a new type of Rome, a state that survived the dissolution of the Western Roman Empire into the 21st century, but retaining its Roman identity. And one where the social structure changed; women were going to be leading society.



What is it about PERFIDITAS that will pique the reader's interest?

Readers of the first book in the series, INCEPTIO, said they loved the mix of history, mystery, action adventure and romance of Roma Nova; all those elements are in PERFIDITAS, but in different ways.

PERFIDITAS, although the second in the series, can be read as a stand-alone story or as a sequel. As it’s set in an imaginary Roman country where women rule, there’s a feminist streak running through. The heroine, Carina, is an officer in the 21st century Praetorian Guard. Yes, she’s tough and sassy but vulnerable; she’s almost overwhelmed by the betrayals surrounding her. And apart from trying to stop conspirators determined to overthrow the government, she’s torn by personal dilemmas which I think will resonate with readers.

PERFIDITAS has as many plot twists and turns as INCEPTIO so I hope readers will be surprised and intrigued.



PERFIDITAS is the second book in the Roma Nova series – did you feel more of an obligation to make this book even better than the first?


I think all writers strive to make their following book better than the previous one! Keeping the story lively without losing the plot – literally – is crucial as is attention to detail. And in a series, it’s important to develop the characters in their personal stories as well as drive the action forward.




How much research did you do for the book, and did anything surprise you?

I built on the research I had accumulated for INCEPTIO. Authenticity and plausibility are crucial for an imagined setting; you can’t Google it or load the Wikipedia page! But inventing a country doesn’t mean you can throw any old facts into your book; they have to hang together in a logic way. I wanted to give readers connections between ancient Rome and the 21st century. For instance, I’ve used the 4th century Roman coinage name, solidus, for the Roma Nova currency, but today they have notes, debit cards and internet banking.


Can you tell us if there are more Roma Nova books planned?

Haha! Yes, indeed there are. I’m working on SUCCESSIO which is a slight play on words which in Latin can mean “what happens next” as well as “the next generation”.


After that, we go back a little in Roma Nova history for the following three books.


For a glimpse of what Roma Nova may look like, click here…
 
http://alison-morton.com/roma-nova/roma-nova-what-it-could-look-like/

And finally:



Who, or what are your main literary influences?

I read a lot and across different genres, so that’s a really hard question to answer. Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth must be the first Roman novel I ever read. It terrified and thrilled me at the same time - I wanted more! Then followed a steady diet of spy and adventure stories from the Simon Templar “Saint” series right up to William Boyd’s Restless and Ian Rankin’s Rebus, plus historical fiction from Jean Plaidy to Elizabeth Chadwick and Lindsey Davis via Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.

I’ve just finished Simon Scarrow’s Blood Crows, the latest of his Macro and Cato Roman Army novels. Simon very kindly gave me a lovely endorsement for PERFIDITAS and I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Harrogate History Festival last month.


Read about Alison's meeting with Simon Scarrow here

Alison is very kindly offering a signed copy of PERFIDITAS to one lucky winner

a Rafflecopter giveaway


My review of Perfiditas

As good, if not better, than the first...

Perfiditas is the clever continuation of the story which began in Inceptio, and follows the story of Captain Carina Mitela of the Praetorian Guard Special Forces as she continues her life with her family in Roma Nova. As always, the momentum of the narrative never falters and the pace continues with a fast and furious story of conspiracy, treachery and betrayal at the highest level.

What I like best about this series is the author’s fine attention to detail and her uncanny ability of, not just creating an altogether alternate history, but also of maintaining the status quo in a story which abounds with excitement and enthusiasm. The characters become quite real in your mind, and even though deep down you know that Roma Nova doesn’t exist beyond the author’s imagination, there is a real temptation to hop on a plane and go find the place for yourself.

There is always the danger that the second book in a series will be a bit of a letdown, either the plot doesn’t feel as strong, or the development of the characters can seem a little insipid, however, there is no such fear with Perfiditas, if anything the plot this time is stronger and more succinct and you can sense that the author has a real emotional commitment to the characters and their lives.

I am sure that in the hands of this very capable author, the alternate world of Roma Nova will continue to go from strength to strength, and I look forward to being an enthusiastic traveller on the Roma Nova journey for quite some time.


*~ Thank you so much Alison for spending time with us ~*

Jaffa and I have really enjoyed hosting this interview and look forward to many more trips to Roma Nova.

***

Monday, 25 November 2013

In conversation with Deborah Swift...

I am delighted to welcome back



Author of 

17901154
Pan
25 October 2013



*~Welcome Deborah~*


What is it about A Divided Inheritance that will pique the reader’s interest? 

The story has a wide historical sweep that will transport the reader from the foggy, winding London streets to the vibrant cathedral squares of Golden Age Seville. The novel explores family relationships and how love and trust develop through shared experiences, so that our real 'family' might not be just our blood relations.


This book takes the reader to Spain - how important is location to your story?

I wanted to contrast the historical and religious contexts of the two countries. In England, in the time just after The Gunpowder Plot, Catholics were persecuted, and to hold a Mass was to risk imprisonment and hefty fines. Elspet Leviston's priest has to hide in the priest hole and is continually on the run from household to household.

But in Spain, not to be Catholic was an offence punishable by death. I wondered what would happen if Elspet was forced to go from one country to the other. Also, in Spain the Inquisition were still active, and it was the Morisco population that were persecuted. Their story forms a backdrop to the latter part of the book, moving the plot forward because Elspet and Zachary, her cousin, become embroiled in their plight. 

As well, the two cultures allowed me to explore themes about what freedom feels like - Zachary feels free when he trains at the fencing school, Luisa when she is dancing Flamenco, and Elspet when she is giving up her restrictive and conventional English clothing for simpler attire.


When researching A Divided Inheritance did you discover anything which surprised you?

I was surprised by the fact that about 400,000 of the Spanish population - many of whom had been there for generations, were expelled from Spain. They were given only a few days notice to leave their homes, their friends and their livelihoods. It was an act of ethnic cleansing I had never heard of before. As soon as I came across it in my research I felt it was a story that deserved to be told.


Are you inspired by any particular era, author or book?

I love the 17th century as it was a time of enormous change in English history, and also the Victorian era, the great age of Industrialisation, though I haven't yet written a book set in Victorian times.


At which event in history would you like to be a fly on the wall and why? 

Definitely the death of the Princes in the Tower! It is one of those classic whodunnits of history. As long as I was definitely a fly, that is, and not someone likely to need to be silenced!
Or I'd like to watch Shakespeare put pen to paper and write Hamlet. Just to see him as a writer rather than an icon. I'd also like the contents of his waste paper basket!


Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

I have been working on a novel set in World War II which is finished - working title 'Past Encounters' - and I'm also writing a Teen fiction book set during the English Civil War.


Many thanks, Jo and Jaffa for hosting me.
Deborah


Deborah has very kindly offered a copy of A Divided Inheritance to one lucky UK winner



Deborah - it's always a great pleasure to have you visit our blog.
Jaffa and I hope you will come back and see us again soon.

***

My thoughts on A Divided Inheritance

London 1609...

A Divided Inheritance is set initially in Jacobean England when distrust of family, neighbour and friend had reached its zenith. Religious persecution was rife throughout Europe and in England hidey holes for Catholic priests could be found in the most illicit of places. Helping to run the family lace business with her father, Nathaniel, Elspet Leviston’s life is about to be turned completely upside down by the arrival of her mysterious cousin Zachary Deane who has his own ideas for the family business. When Nathaniel dies unexpectedly, Elspet and Zachary are forced into a battle of will to determine which of them will have the inheritance of Leviston’s Lace. However, Zachary has disappeared into Spain, and Elspet has only a limited amount of time to track him down, before she risks losing everything she and her father worked so hard to attain.

As with Deborah Swift’s previous novels, the research and fine attention to detail is impeccable. The Jacobean world is revealed as a scheming hotchpotch of family rivalry and religious persecution which takes the reader from the stark and drear world of Jacobean London, through to the sweltering heat and colour of Catholic Spain, when the inquisition lingered on corners and the dreadful expulsion of Muslims  forced families apart in the most  horrendous of circumstances.

Initially, the book appears to get off to a slow start with little seeming to happen, but then about a third of the way into the story, and particularly when the focus shifts to Spain, the narration becomes livelier. The strength of the story telling and the vivid imagery of seventeenth century Seville is quite compelling. The day to day life in Spain made for fascinating reading; I especially liked the revealing of intricate details of swordsmanship at the fencing school.

European history and particularly Spanish history is not an area I am familiar with, so to have a story which seeks to shed light on some of the more disturbing events that happened in seventeenth century Spain whilst at the time keeping control of an intricate and complex family drama, made this an enjoyable and fascinating read.

I am sure that fans of well written and factually accurate historical fiction will love it as much as I did.

***




Sunday, 24 November 2013

Review ~ The Property of a Gentleman by Catherine Gaskin

Corazon Books
2014


The Property of a Gentleman was originally published in 1974 and forms part of the extensive catalogue of historical/romantic suspense stories which were written by Catherine Gaskin during her forty years as a novelist, when she became known as “The Queen of Storytellers” and “The Girl with the Golden Pen.” 

Sent from a London auction house, Jo Roswell, and her companion Gerald Stanton visit the stately home of the Earl of Askew, in the English Lake District. Their mission is to evaluate the historic contents with a view to a possible sale of antiquities. However, once at the house they become enthralled by the history, and also of the tragic story of the ill fated Spanish woman who  lived in the house centuries before and of the infamous diamond, La Española, which exerts a sinister curse over all who come into contact with it.

I half expected this story to have lost some of its charm over the years and whilst parts of it can appear a little out-moded, it is still a very good story and quickly draws you into the whole concept of the slightly dilapidated country house, the reluctant Earl and his enigmatic mistress, and the brooding gloom of the faithful old retainers who knows far more than they should about the history of the house and contents.

This story encompasses all that is great about Catherine Gaskin's writing, and even forty years on from its publication date ,The Property of a Gentleman remains as atmospheric and compelling as when it was first published. 


The Property of a Gentleman is available as an ebook for the first time - it is published on Thursday 5th December 2013


My thanks to Corazon Books for the opportunity to read this book in advance of its publication

***


Christmas with Heart Charity Competition


Christmas with Heart competition


To celebrate the publication of The Property of a Gentleman by Catherine Gaskin, Corazon Books are running a Christmas competition for readers.

Our competition is one with a difference and, we think, in the true spirit of Christmas. We will send a donation of £50 to a charity of the winner’s choice, as a special gift from us and our winning reader!

To be in with a chance to win, simple email your answer to the question below to editor [at] greatstorieswithheart.com


Q) In The Property of a Gentleman, what is the name of the ancient house which is home to Robert, the Earl of Askew?

Clue: check out the link below! Please nominate your chosen charity and include a link to their website with your entry.


The deadline for entries is midnight on Friday 20th December. The winner will be notified by email on Monday 23rd December.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

18623494
Penguin
Expected publication
February 2014


From the beginning of the book we know that the narrator, Rachel has recently died and is inhabiting a form of private purgatory where she can view her loved ones as if from afar but who is unable to make any sort of physical contact with them. Through Rachel’s unique form of analysis we meet with her grieving husband, Max and their bewildered seven year old daughter Ellie, both of whom are still struggling to deal with the aftermath of Rachel’s unexpected death.

What then follows is the story of how the grieving process evolves and even though well meaning friends feel that Max should be able to move on, somehow ‘moving on’ isn’t as important as remembering what has been lost in the first place. Despite the premise of the book being controlled by the feelings evoked around death and dying, it isn’t always a sad story, there are moments when the book is quite uplifting.

Ultimately, however, this is a story about what happens to those who are left behind following the death of a loved one, and is testament to how everyone experiences grief and loss in quite different ways. There are subtle chapter references to the five stages of grief first recounted by the eminent American physician, Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, whose book ‘On Death and Dying’ is still the definitive work on the grieving process.

The author has captured the emotional aspect of grief very well and with a subtle hand has explored the vagaries of loss in an appealing and eloquent way. The book is very readable and gets the message across without ever resorting to over sentimentality. It is a commendable debut novel, and I look forward with interest to more books from this talented author.

My thanks to Real Readers and Penguin for the advance copy of this book to read and review


Friday, 22 November 2013

Review ~ The Memory of Trees by F G Cottam

17415094
Severn House
October 2013

When millionaire Saul Abercrombie enlists the services of arboreal expert Tom Curtis to manage an ambitious project to return trees to an ancient woodland along the wild Pembrokeshire coast line, the fine balance between the forces good and evil are disturbed. Ancient forces long buried are unleashed and it soon becomes obvious that the woodland has much more to reveal.

The story gets off to rather slow start, but I feel that this is entirely in keeping with the way the author controls the narrative. With a rather subtle hand the tension starts to build and conflicts arise, not just between the characters, but also with whatever forces are being unleashed in the forest. The ancient woodland has much to reveal, and as most of its secrets are decidedly unpleasant, the sense of unease starts to creep up until it becomes impossible not to look at the branches of a willow or yew tree, and wonder...what if?

I have read a few of Cottam's books now and I am always impressed with the stealthy way he lets his story creep up on you, until almost without realising it, the story completely overwhelms. This is a perfect read for a wild winter night, but best read by a cosy fire with preferably something comforting close by....


My thanks to Netgalley and Severn House for my review copy of this book.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

In conversation with Primula Bond...

I am delighted to welcome to my blog

Primula Bond


author

of

The Unbreakable Trilogy
Book 2

Published 21 November 2013

*~Welcome Primula~*


Where did the original idea for the Unbreakable trilogy come from?


The original idea started with Serena, who, like the Berocca adverts, is me, but on a really good day. Then I closed my eyes and envisaged, in glorious detail, my ideal man firstly in pure looks and then in character and background. Gustav actually started out as a vampire and I have retained the dark, mysterious, wolfish air he has about him. While her past is not remotely like mine, Gustav's bad marriage is based on real life stories I have been told and have wanted to portray in fictional terms, because there really are evil women like Margot out there... The rest followed quite naturally, once they had come to life. The challenge lay in bringing those two characters together in glorious locations, giving them fascinating occupations and plenty of adventure, while keeping it real, ie exploring how two such different people could meet, ignite, overcome threats and sabotage, and (hopefully) live happily ever after.



The Golden Locket is the second book in the trilogy; did you feel more of an obligation to make this book even better than the first?

A really interesting question. I was pretty daunted at the idea of maintaining this story through three volumes, as I think some authors find they are spreading it pretty thin if they're not careful. At first I felt I'd given my all in The Silver Chain and just hoped that I could find enough to put into a second and third volume, let alone make them as good as the first. Also, at the time of writing The Golden Locket, I hadn't yet had the reaction of readers to The Silver Chain, so it was a bit like writing in the dark, or with ear muffs on – no idea how it would be received! But as the story progressed, and more characters and plot lines emerged, I found that, as with real life, there is always more to say. Obviously a writer's job is to condense that into a fictionalised world, so it will be stylised and manipulated to fit the parameters of your plan, but as an avid fan of mystery/thriller TV drama and film, I love the idea of cliffhangers, twists, and unexpected developments. If you leave each chapter/book on some kind of breathless moment, the next chapter/book becomes easier to start. If I'm honest I think that's why I enjoyed writing The Golden Locket and the third book more than writing The Silver Chain, because 'd already set up the main characters and situations, and now all I had to do was send them on their logical way. So, whisper it, but yes, I think The Golden Locket may be better! So what I'm hoping is that, while people really loved The Silver Chain, they will go wild about the sequels!



When writing your novels do you outline the plot first, or do you let the story go wherever it takes you?

A little bit of both. I do write a synopsis, broken down into chapters. I think a lot about it, and it helps me get over the dread of starting a new book, because I have given myself a framework to follow. Obviously then characters and plots will crop up which will deviate from the path, but at least I have some kind plan to keep me on the straight and narrow.



Location is obviously important to your story, how do you decide where in the world to take your characters?


After my first taste of travelling aged 18 (camping in Biarritz), I have loved it ever since. In fiction these locations add to the exoticism and luxury of the story, and is also relevant to the plot, but ultimately I weave that around places I have lived in myself, and/or travelled to. I have lived in London, Venice and Egypt (which I haven't written about this time, owing to current situation, but have shifted some of the action in Book 3 to Morocco instead), and I've visited all the other places such as New York, Paris etc more than once. It's a great excuse to revisit favourite areas, hotels, restaurants etc, pore over guidebooks, maps, etc, and go on the internet to check that I'm still up to date.



Can you give us any clues about what will happen in Book 3 of the trilogy?

We will find Serena and Gustav back in New York after the bumpy ride of The Golden Locket, more committed to each other than ever, but as well as trying to come to terms with what Pierre was trying to do in The Golden Locket, their greatest nemesis of all, his ex wife Margot, will also be sharpening her claws and clinging on for all she's worth, determined to wreck their hard-won happiness, so they both face and intense trauma as the story progresses towards its climax...



And finally –


If The Golden Locket was optioned for a TV drama/ movie, who would you like to play Serena, Gustav and Pierre?

We can but dream! My ultimate fantasy would be sitting in a cinema with a vast box of Maltesers watching those opening credits! My instinct if a film were made would be to swerve the Hollywood hype, be groundbreaking and original, and go for gorgeous unknowns. But to give an idea, I've always had Olivier Martinez, the French actor, in my mind for Gustav, Josh Holloway from 'Lost', or Dominic Zamprogna (from 'General Hospital'). They must have silky dark hair, haunted, Slavic cheek bones, black eyes, and the constant hint of unshavenness. Amanda Seyfried would make a great a red-haired Serena. Pierre would have to be a thicker set, younger version of Gustav, the Puerto Recan actor Sharlim Ortiz perhaps if he put on a little muscle. Polly could be the Swedish actress MyAnna Burring who was in 'Twilight' and also 'Downton Abbey'. Salma Hayek, Diane Lane, Rachel Weicz or Demi Moore could be Margot, the evil but charismatic ex-wife. Tilda Swinton could be Crystal, the enigmatic housekeeper, but she might steal the show!


Primula ~ thank you so much for spending time with us . Jaffa and I wish you continuing success with your writing career and look forward to the third book in the Unbreakable trilogy.  

***

**There is a special one day offer available through Amazon  where you can download a copy of The Silver Chain (Unbreakable #1) for free. *Available 21st November only - so hurry **

17904056

Here's the link 



My thoughts on The Golden Locket

This second book in the Unbreakable Trilogy, finds Gustav and Serena in New York, where they remain enamoured of each other. However, Gustav's younger brother, Pierre is now firmly on the scene and seems determined to complicate Gustav and Serena's loved-up life.

There is a real sense of continuity in this second book, and it's great to see the relationship between Gustav and Serena become even stronger. It's also good to see Serena start to gain a little more personality, and as she becomes more self assured, she starts to gain in confidence and becomes more feisty and independent. I enjoyed the photography assignments, which take Serena into some bizarre situations, but she handles these with remarkable panache and quite enviable sexual confidence.

The story retains its irresistible pull. There's some explicit sexual activity, after all this is an erotic novel, but what interests me more is the observation and interaction between the main characters. There are some poignant scenes between Serena and her cousin Polly, whose continuing love affair with Pierre is complicated, and the tantalising glimpses of Gustav's arch nemesis Margot, adds extra spice to the plot. The delicious magic of Gustav and Serena’s relationship weaves throughout the story and the thread of the golden locket binds them closer together.

Overall, this is a good continuation of the story. There are some great moments with well described locations which take the action from the chic of New York, to the carnavale atmosphere of Venice. I am sure that fans of The Silver Chain will be delighted with The Golden Locket.

***



Wednesday, 20 November 2013

In conversation with Catriona Troth...

I am delighted to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo




Author 

of




*~Welcome Catriona~*


What can you tell us about Ghost Town that won’t give too much away?

Ghost Town is set in a time when tensions between skinheads and a newly vocal young Asian community were escalating. Of my two main characters, Baz is half English and half Punjabi ("to Paki to be white, too gora to be desi"), a photographer who finds himself on the receiving end of Far Right demonstrations. And Maia is a typical left-leaning student who has her politics brought home to her when she falls pregnant with a mixed-race child. The choices they make are going to put both their lives on the line.


Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for the story?

That goes back to when I was a student in Coventry. I have a vivid memory of being acutely aware of rising tensions in the city, and at the same time, hearing about riots breaking out in other cities around the country and fearing what could happen if they reached Coventry.  Then something seemed to change - something which appeared to be linked to the band, The Specials, putting on a Concert for Racial Harmony. To a very great extent, the tensions evaporated, and in fact Coventry was one of the few major cities in England where the riots never reached.
Years later, I had a story in mind that had an edge to it that had to do with anti-racism, and this seemed like the perfect backdrop.  I started doing some research and I was shocked by what I uncovered.  Things had been far far worse than I had ever realised when I was a student.  And yet it really was true that, after the Specials gave their concert, something remarkable happened and things did change for the better.
Trying to tell a story that got to the bottom of what really happened became something of an obsession. Ghost Town was a story that would not let me go.


You have set this book in Coventry in the 1980s - how important is location to your story?

Hugely important. Firstly because the background is a true story and therefore needs to be rooted in real soil. But also because there is a whole feel to the story that is unique to the Coventry of that time.   It's no accident that I shamelessly cribbed both the title of the book and the look of the cover from the Two Tone label.   The whole country was listening to The Specials in the summer of 1981, but it was a Coventry sound and the city was intensely proud of that. 
And then there all the contrasts inherent in the city. People think of Coventry as a concrete jungle - an unfortunate by-blow of wartime bombing and post-war city planning.  And yet there are all sort of relics of the old medieval city tucked away in unexpected places.  And I defy anyone to stand on the steps of the old cathedral and see its ruins reflected in the window of the new cathedral and not be moved.
It's a place I love and I hope that comes across, even when the story gets quite dark.


Ghost Town is your second novel – did you feel more of an obligation to make this book even better than the first?

Not so much because it was my second novel, but because (although fiction) it is based on a true story. I felt an enormous obligation to those who lived through those events to be not just factually accurate, but true to the essence of what happened. The story is so little known outside Coventry, I wanted this to be the best account I could possibly give. Ghost Town as been torn apart and rewritten more than once before I was satisfied that I had got it right


What are you planning for your next book?

Good question! Ghost Town has been such a huge part of my life for so long that it is a bit like trying to see past a mountain.  But I'm over the summit and coming down the other side now, and various ideas are starting to bob around in my mind.  There's a character who was originally going to be in Ghost Town, until she started taking the story in the wrong direction, and I'd like to go back to her again.  And there's another character - a young girl begging on the streets - who keeps popping into my head and demanding to be noticed! We shall see.



Catriona has very kindly offered a copy of Ghost Town to one lucky UK winner in this great giveaway



Catriona ~ thank you for spending time with us again. It is always a real pleasure to chat with you about your books.

Do come and see us again soon.


***


My Thoughts on Ghost Town


In 1981, Coventry is a city in turmoil. Constant battles between skinheads and young Asians blight the environment and racial unrest festers in the city like an open wound. At the start of the novel, unemployed university graduate, Maia, is struggling to adjust to a life without her best friend, Ossie who has returned to his uncertain future in South Africa. Drifting aimlessly, Maia has no real sense of purpose, but when she takes a temporary job at a homeless shelter, she comes into contact with the enigmatic, Baz, a mixed race photographer, who views this racial tension through the long lens of his camera. As she becomes a reluctant participant in this rebellious subculture, Maia begins to form a tentative relationship with Baz which will have repercussions throughout the whole of the story.

In Ghost Town, the simmering melting pot of racial disharmony comes powerfully alive. On the surface; it’s a story about the menacing world of racial tension, and seems to concentrate on the sinister shifting of acceptable behaviour, and yet on searching closer, it is more of an inspection into the disintegration of moral standards. And even as  the street gangs and hooligans rampage through the concrete jungles of the inner city, the heavy tread of Doc Marten boots and the verbal rattle of racial abuse can be heard echoing through the colourless buildings of the shopping malls and empty precincts.

Without doubt Ghost Town is a fascinating novel. There is a subtle blend of realism and pragmatism which allows the story to evolve in such a way that despite its subject matter, it never becomes distasteful or inflammatory. There is clever use of colourful street vocabulary which is dotted throughout the text; from South Asian Punjabi, through to Rasta slang, words which imply meaning without always needing to refer to the exemplary glossary. In ghost Town, the whole vista of the 1980s is captured like a snapshot; a moment of time which embodies a culture one hopes is relegated to history books but which perhaps sadly lingers, alive in memory.

It is a commendable and thought provoking novel.

***

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Triskele Book Launch...


At the weekend Triskele Books became part of the Chorleywood Literary Festival




The Triskelites offered themselves as reference books on all aspects of independent publishing 
and shared their collective experience to a wide range of festival attendees.




The Triskele authors answered questions on the practicalities of operating as a collective. Jane explained how they remain independent while working as a team. Gilly shone some light on how five authors communicate across three countries and two time zones. Liza gave an honest insight into how much work really goes on behind the scenes. 

***

Three new releases and unusually for Triskele, all in the same genre: historical fiction. But the time periods in question could not be more dissimilar.


Wolfsangel_CoverFinal_EBOOKGhost Town Cover_MEDIUMOverlord Cover MEDIUM



Liza Perrat's Wolfsangel takes place in a rural French village under the shadow of WWII Nazi occupation.

JD Smith's Overlord is set in 3rd century Syria and follows the rise of warrior queen Zenobia.

Catriona Troth's Ghost Town explores race, racism and identity against the backdrop of 1980s Coventry.


The passion for the story radiated from each author, and the brief readings seemed to enthuse and excite the audience, so that our books table was overrun.



***


Jaffareadstoo is delighted to support Triskele Books
and we wish all the Triskele authors continuing success.


Liza Perrat
J J Marsh
Gillian E Hamer
J D Smith
Catriona Troth


PhotowebsiteP1130161 - SMALL jill-busty Gilly-Bio-Photo

Jane_12_SMALL Catriona Troth ID

***





Monday, 18 November 2013

In Conversation with Liza Perrat..

I am delighted to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo



Author of



Perrat Publishing
November 2013



 *~Welcome Liza~*

What can you tell us about Wolfsangel that won’t give too much away?

Wolfsangel is the second book in L’Auberge des Anges series, and follows the descendants of the Charpentier family a hundred and fifty years after the French Revolution, when the village comes under the heel of the German occupation. Even before I had finished writing the first book in the series –– Spirit of Lost Angels –– I knew the characters had more tales to tell. However, to answer your question, Jo, Wolfsangel was directly inspired by a true-life WWII war crime, but telling you about this particular event would spoil the story! I’ll just say that this tragic site has haunted me since I visited it many years ago, and I have included some information about it in the Author’s Note section at the back of Wolfsangel.


Where did you get the inspiration for the title of the book?

The women of Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel and the third in the series –– Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel –– all share the same profession: healer, midwife and angel-maker. But they also have a stronger link: an angel pendant carved from bone, which is handed down through the generations of women of L’Auberge des Anges. So, I wanted to keep the word “angel” in all the titles. It is also alludes to the symbol for Das Reich’s 2nd SS Panzer Division, was notorious for the particular war crime on which my story is based: the wolf’s hook, or Wolfsangel.
And lastly, the Wolfs’ angel is a reference to the Jewish family who feature in this story –– Max, Sabine, Talia and Jacob Wolf.


Why did you choose to set this book during WWII?

After Spirit of Lost Angels, I wanted to continue the story of the Charpentier family, their farmhouse and their village, and what might have been their lives during different historical eras and upheavals. During WWII, the Germans did occupy the region of France in which Wolfsangel is set, and there was a large French Resistance presence. Consequently, the local historical association has a lot of documentation on this subject. I was also fortunate enough to meet “Agent du Roc”, an ex-Resistance member who gave me first-hand accounts of what it was really like. Two of the Resistance members in the novel –– Pierre and Antoine –– are based on him. I also stumbled upon an excellent Occupation and Resistance exhibition in a village of the Monts du Lyonnais –– St-Martin-en-Haut –– which features in Wolfsangel as a “safe hideout” for various Resistance members. Photos of the exhibition can be seen here:



Wolfsangel is your second novel in the L'Auberge des Anges series – did you feel more of an obligation to make this book even better than the first?

I strive to improve my writing with each book, and to make every one better than the last. Before Spirit of Lost Angels, I wrote two books, both of which will stay asleep, forever, on my hard drive! I regard them as part of the learning curve. That said though, the story for Wolfsangel seemed to come more easily than the others; it was the kind of story that wrote itself. And those, I’ve found, from the days I wrote short stories, always seem to turn out the best.


The cover of Wolfsangel is very evocative - who designed the cover and why did you go for that particular design?

Oh I’m glad you like the cover, Jo; I’m so thrilled with it too. I worked closely with my very talented Triskele Books colleague and designer, JD Smith. She does the covers for all our Triskele books, as well as our promotional material –– posters, bookmarks, etc. I wanted to evoke the tragic church scene, with the dark clouds. I wanted there illustrate hope, in the bright part of the sky, with the bird. I also tried to go for the strong, rebellious heroine look.


What can you tell us about the next story in the series?

As I said, a bone-carved angel pendant is handed down from mother to daughter in the first two books, and the stories and legends that surround this angel talisman are many and varied. The characters are not certain from where it hails, and from what type of bone it is sculpted. Some say it was probably carved from seal or ox, or walrus tusk. Others believe it was mammoth bone and a few whisper that it was carved from human bone.
I haven’t quite decided where the angel pendant comes from, though I have several ideas, which I’m currently exploring in the third and final novel in the series: Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel, set in the same French village, during the 14th century Black Plague years. 


Here is the working blurb, to give you some idea:

1348. A bone-carved angel talisman –– family heirloom, evil curse, holy relic. And Héloïse Dumortier, the midwife-healer woman who wears it –– heretic, Devil’s servant, saint.
When the Black Plague arrives, sweeping across France, the superstitious villagers begin to ask who or what is to blame for this pestilence. Fire and foul winds from the East, or the stinking miasmas of stagnant lakes? Is it some malign conjunction of the planets, or God’s wrath against sinners? Perhaps it is the curse of a mere woman.
Amidst the terror, grief and contagion, Héloïse must find the courage and compassion to care for birthing women and plague-stricken victims. She must also fight against those who accuse her.



AUTHOR BIO:

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a nurse and midwife for fifteen years. When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and a novelist.
Several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.
She has completed four novels and one short-story collection, and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency.
Spirit of Lost Angels, the first in the historical L’Auberge des Anges series was published under the Triskele Books label in May, 2012. The second in the series –– Wolfsangel –– was published in October, 2013, and Liza is working on the third novel in the series –– Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel –– set during the 14th century Black Plague years.
Liza is a co-founder and member of Triskele Books, an independent writers’ collective with a commitment to quality and a strong sense of place.
Liza reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and Words with Jam magazine.

Contact and Other Information

Twitter: @LizaPerrat
Twitter: @TriskeleBooks



Liza has very kindly offered an amazing giveaway opportunity 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Liza ~ Jaffa and I are delighted to chat with you about Wolfsangel.
It's always a real pleasure to have you visit with us.

Do come back and see us again soon.

***


My thoughts on Wolfsangel


Wolfsangel is the second book in the L’Auberge des Anges trilogy and opens as elderly Céleste Roussel commemorates a tragedy which happened in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne some 68 years earlier. This emotional opening chapter sets the scene for a powerful and dramatic story, which takes the reader back to 1943, and to a dark time in France’s history, when the German occupation of this tiny French village had a profound effect on those who lived and worked under the shadow of cruelty and repression.

Céleste Roussel, and the women of her family, have been connected to the village of Lucie-sur-Vionne, and their home at L’Auberge des Anges for centuries. Strengthened by their ancestry, and running like a silken thread throughout the narrative, is the continuing connection the women of L’Auberge des Anges have with an angel talisman, which exudes strength and positivity to those who wear it. In 1943, Céleste Roussel is the latest keeper of the talisman, she is a spirited young woman, quick witted, courageous and as brave as a lion, but she is also impetuous, capricious and entirely  unpredictable. However, it is her burgeoning relationship with a Reich officer which threatens not just her sanity, but also the safety of those who are precious to her.

With superb skill, the author has manipulated the narrative into a powerful depiction of a dark and dangerous time. Lucie-sur-Vionne is so vividly described that I stood in the market square, and felt that first frisson of excitement as Céleste met the violet eyes of the German officer, Martin Diehl. I rode with her, on the same rickety bicycle, through dank, dark woodland, and cheered with relief when the stealthy movements of the local résistance succeeded in one dangerous mission after another. The squalor, the danger, and the sheer unpredictability of living life constantly looking over your shoulder is so realistic, that you feel as if  you are seeing the story unfold in real time.

Beautifully researched, and based on historical factual evidence, the story has an emotional depth which pervades and which reveals a story of courage, bravery and unforgettable heroism.

I loved it and can't wait for the third and final novel in the L'Auberge des Anges series.



Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Debt & The Doormat by Laura Barnard


18271391

Poppy and Jazz are the best of friends, but when they’re together trouble always seems to follow them around.  When Poppy gets into financial difficulties,  Jazz is determined to help out ,but she doesn't really bargain for the change in her life , which is what happens when she swaps Jazz’s life for her own. What then follows is a quirky and laugh out loud look at friendship, relationships and the sheer unpredictability of life in general.


Nicely written, and with a good eye for the ridiculous, the author has instilled in her characters a real sense of fun, and yet, the values of what is important, namely friendship and loyalty come shining through. On the whole this is a nicely done debut novel.  The writer shows a talent for this slightly quirky style of chic-lit and I am sure that her writing, in subsequent novels, will continue to go from strength to strength. 


My thanks to the author for an e-copy of this book in return for my unbiased review.

(At the time of posting the book is currently a free Kindle download)
Find it here

Friday, 15 November 2013

Friday Book Beginnings...



Hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader

Book Beginnings on Fridays as stated by the host was started:

"to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires."

You can share on Google + and social media , please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings and there's also a Mr Linky on the host's blog.




Book Beginnings: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

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We didn't notice right away.We couldn't feel it. 
we did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin....

I wonder what it is they didn't notice....and what the notion of extra time means to the story ....


Share your thoughts on my Friday Book Beginnings...

More about the author can be found here


Karen Thompson Walker