Friday, 28 February 2014

Review ~ The Echoes of Love by Hannah Fielding

18816562
2013


Venetia Aston- Montagu has escaped to the glitz and glamour of Venice where she hopes to put aside the pain of a lost love and immerse herself in her grandmother's architectural business. However, the seductive lure of Venice is difficult to escape, especially when Venetia meets the enigmatic and rather delicious Paolo Barone, whose Don Juan reputation makes him the proverbial bad boy. The fiery passion which erupts between Venetia and Paolo forms the basis for this intense and passionate story which takes in the beauty of Venice, the glory of the Tuscan countryside and the sizzling attraction between two beautiful people.

In The Echoes of Love, Hannah Fielding has really captured the essence of romance and also manages to convey a perfect sense of time and place, her research is, as always, impeccably done but it is in the fine attention to detail where she really excels. If you enjoy romantic suspense with a hint of glamour and more than enough high octane passion, then I am sure that you will love this one as much as I did.



My thanks to the author for an ecopy of this novel.



Hannah Fielding



Thursday, 27 February 2014

Review ~ The Undertaking by Audrey Magee

18807408
Atlantic Books
6 February 2014

Honeymoon leave and the security of a war pension are all that entices Peter Faber and Katharina Spinell to marry. The couple have never met, but war time creates strange bedfellows and Peter desperate for a reprieve from the horror of the Eastern front is willing to take this unseen woman as his wife. Arriving in Berlin in the autumn of 1941 for ten days leave, Peter and Katharina attempt to forge some kind of relationship, they discover that their immediate and powerful sexual attraction offers them a brief respite from the immediacy of war.

What then follows is the story of Peter’s struggle in horrendous conditions as he and his fellow soldiers embark upon the German offensive against Stalingrad. Katharina remains in Berlin, where she and her parents enjoy the protection of a powerful Nazi family; however, they soon discover that this wartime security comes with a high price to pay.

The story is predominantly written in the form of dialogue, which allows an intimacy between the reader and the characters thus allowing their voices to be heard in eloquent detail. There is no room for sentimentality in wartime and The Undertaking clearly describes the true horror of war, from the grim uncertainty of relentless and all consuming violence, to the insecurity and utter despair of living life stripped of all its compassion.

Overall, this is a commendable and powerful debut novel. I am sure that The Undertaking will be one of those books which will be of immense interest to book groups; there is much to discuss, not just about the German involvement in the Russian offensive ,but also about the morality and principles which govern wartime behaviour.


My thanks to newbooks and Atlantic Books for my copy of this book to read and review

The Undertaking is one of my books of the year , so far !

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Review - The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell


17329041

Penguin Books UK
2014

New York of the early twentieth century is the setting for this novel which takes the concept of the unreliable narrator and attempts to weave a story about the essence of what might have been. Rose Baker is a rather plain young woman, easily engrossed in the work she does as a typist with the police on New York’s lower East side. Following the prohibition order in 1923, the ever increasing procession of murderers and gangland hoodlums which pass through the precinct increases Rose’s workload and the need for another typist becomes paramount. Odalie Lazarre, is the other typist, and is everything that Rose isn’t; she’s beautiful, lively, sharp as a tack and from the beginning  Rose becomes obsessed with Odalie and is soon drawn into Odalie’s twilight world of prohibited booze and decadent immorality.

The dissolute and self indulgent world of 1924 New York really comes alive and the vivid portrayal of the notorious East side was, for me, rather more interesting than the character progression. We’re never really sure about the stability of Rose’s character; there is a complexity about her which I never got to grips with and by the time the book came to a close, I had rather more questions than answers.

I so wanted to like this story, however, the book had a vagueness about it which didn’t work for me and I’m afraid that but for the character of New York glossing the content, I would have given up long before the end.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books UK for my copy of this book.




Review - Postcards from the Past by Marcia Willett


17457019

Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
2013


As always Marcia Willett conjures up the spirit of family in this story which focuses on secrets from the past. Siblings Ed and Billa share their beautiful childhood home in the fictional village of Peneglos in Cornwall. Their lives are uncomplicated, filled with small pleasures of family and friendship but when mysterious postcards start to arrive from someone who once cause ripples of unrest, both Billa and Ed find that life is about to get rather more complicated.

Readers of Marcia Willett’s previous books will, of course, recognise the beautiful Cornish setting about which she writes so eloquently and it was nice to see characters from her previous book, The Christmas Angel, make an appearance. However, for me this book seemed to be lacking in impetus and for a time the story didn’t seem to be going anywhere important. As always the glory of Cornwall comes alive and there some nice touches which help to link the present and the past but overall the story felt a little bit tired as if the formula has been reworked too many times.


My thanks to NetGalley and Random House Uk, Transworld Publishers for my copy of this book

Review - The Violet Hour by Katherine Hill


18245865
Penguin Books UK
6 February 2014


This is a story about families and the dynamics which keep them together but which ultimately force them apart. The story opens as Abe and Cassandra Green take a boat out into San Francisco Bay. The marriage is troubled and the couple argue bitterly and Abe’s anger at Cassandra’s infidelity runs like dagger through this initial commentary but then the story goes forward and becomes more of a snapshot of 21st century American life with all its petty squabbles and inherent failures.

I thought that the story was nicely written although there were times, in the middle, when the story meandered without saying very much. However the social observations and the dissection of family life is interesting and allow an intimacy into the lives of others which is always fascinating if done properly.

A well thought out debut novel with enough potential for the author to go from strength to strength.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books UK for my copy of this book.





Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Review ~ The Silent Wife by A S A Harrison

17933761
Headline
2013



The disintegration of a relationship when one of the couple is hell bent on pressing the self destruction button should make for compelling reading, but for some reason The Silent Wife left me feeling a little bit underwhelmed by both plot and malice. On the surface Todd and Jodi seem to tick a long ok, but Todd is a serial philanderer and whilst Jodi seemingly puts up with his crass and stupid behaviour, underneath she is a simmering melting pot of bitter resentment and long held grudges. When Todd is caught up in a web of his own deceit and his world is crumbling around his ears, it would seem that Jodi eventually has had enough.

The book is not badly written far from it, there are moments of insight which ordinarily I would find compelling, however, my main discomfort lies with the characters. I found both Jodi and Todd deeply unlikeable and whilst unlikeabilty is no justification for completely writing off a novel, I am more than convinced that the book would have worked better for me, if at least one of them had been more congenial.

There are so many glowing endorsements on the cover of the book, that I really feel like I have missed the point of this novel, maybe the endorsers have read more into the ‘deliciously wicked’ aspect of the story. For me, it was neither delicious nor wicked; it was just an ok read, which was neither good nor bad,it was  merely indifferent.


My thanks to Real Readers for the opportunity to read this book.


 ***


Sadly, the author Susan Harrison passed away in 2013 just as this debut  novel was about to be published.


*~*~*




Monday, 24 February 2014

Baggy Pants and Bootees by Marilyn Chapman


Publisher: Safkhet Soul (13 Feb 2014)
Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
Language: English
ASIN: B00IG90U1Q




 Book Blurb


Sophie's finally landed the job of her dreams, but her mother has suddenly fallen ill. While going through her mother's things to put some order in her life, Sophie discovers a baby bootee and the sordid past of her father, a dishonoured military man who allegedly raped a civilian.

Now Sophie wants to know the truth about her estranged father. Will she be able to discover the real story?



About the Author

Marilyn Chapman is an NCTJ accredited journalist who spent her early career on the Blackpool Evening Gazette and later freelanced for national newspapers and magazines, including the Daily Mail and Woman. She began writing for a football magazine at the age of fifteen and attributes her dry sense of humour to a very eventful life! She has worked in recruitment, training, estate agency and public relations.
Born in Guernsey, Marilyn now lives with her husband in Lancashire where she writes commercial women's fiction full time. She is a member of the Society of Authors.


Baggy Pants and Bootees is her first novel,



*~*~*

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Sunday War Poets....

Walter  John de la Mare

1873 - 1958



Happy England

Now each man's mind all Europe is;
Courage and fear in dread array
Daze each true heart; O grave and wise,
Abide in hope the judgement day.

This war of millions in arms
In myriad replica we wage;
Unmoved, then, soul by earth's alarms
The dangers of the dark engage.

Remember happy England: keep
For her bright cause thy latest breath.
Her peace that long hath lulled to sleep
May now exact the sleep of death

Her woods and wilds, her loveliness
With harvest now are richly at rest;
Safe in her isled securities
Thy children's heaven is her breast;

O what a deep, contented night
The sun from out her eastern seas
Would bring the dust which in her sight
Had given its all for these!



First published in The Times Literary Supplement
27 August 1914

***


Sir Walter de la Mare was born in Charlton, Kent, in the south of England, of well-to-do parents. His father, James Edward Delamare, was an official of the Bank of England. His mother, Lucy Sophia (Browning) Delamare, was related to the poet Robert Browning. Walter de la Mare is best remembered for his works for children and for his poem The Listeners.

*~*~*

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Review ~ Dream of the Dead by M G Scarsbrook

19135062

November 2013
CreateSpace




A wealthy theatre producer is found dead

A rare corrosive poison has burned through his stomach.

No-one knows why....


D I Jack Ravenshaw is the main character in this fast action thriller which focuses on events which are happening in London’s theatre district. The story gets off to a promising start and the introduction of the main character is done with certain panache and more than a hint of mystery. There is much to discover about this enigmatic young man and as the story progresses we are treated to hints about his past which help to move the story along.

The mystery at the heart of the story is well handled and there are more than enough twists and turns between the pages to keep you guessing. The theatre district really comes alive and the characters seem believable without being overzealous. As this is the start of a proposed series, there is a certain amount of scene setting, but overall it’s done in a lively and entertaining way.


I enjoyed Dream of the Dead and look forward to seeing how the series progresses in future books.


My thanks to the author for my copy of this book.



M. G. Scarsbrook


M. G. Scarsbrook is the author of three novels and the editor of four literary collections. Since 2011 his books have sold more than 20,000 copies worldwide and been translated into five languages. English editions of his work are sold in paperback, eBook, and audiobook formats at all major online bookstores. A member of the prestigious Crime Writers' Association and the Society of Authors, he lives in the UK and is working on the next book in the West End Murders series

*~*~*

Friday, 21 February 2014

The author in my spotlight is .....Jane Bidder

I am delighted to welcome

Jane Bidder



Author 

of

Accent Press
15 January 2014




~* Jane ~ welcome to jaffareadstoo~*


Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for 'Guilty'?


I worked for three years as a writer in residence of a high security male prison. Although I didn't base my characters on any of the people I met, I got a flavour of another world which I hadn't come across before.




What can you tell us about the story which will pique the reader's interest?



It's about Simon, a newly-married solicitor who goes to prison for two years for a driving offence - only to find he is haunted by the voice of the beautiful woman who died in the crash. She acts as a humorous commentator to his life in prison. Guilty is also told from the point of view of Simon's new wife and her teenage son.




In your research for Guilty did you discover anything which surprised you?



Yes. When someone goes to prison, his or her family goes too - from an emotional point of view. Meanwhile, the victim's family may never recover. Yet in some cases, there is amazing forgiveness. I was also surprised by all the rules and regulations about released prisoners. For instance, they often can't get house insurance and if they are staying in someone’s home, their host's insurance might be invalid.





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


I like to write in the morning after breakfast and after running my dog along the beach. My study is in the top floor, overlooking the sea. I need complete peace!





Can you tell us if you have another crime novel planned?


Yes. It's called The Witness and is out later this year. It's about a woman who sees a couple committing a crime. As a result, her secret past is revealed and her own world is turned upside down.



Jane Bidder also publishes books under the pen name of Sophie King and Janey Fraser





Jane ~ thank you so much for spending time on Jaffareadstoo. Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your writing and look forward very much to reading and reviewing The Witness.





My thanks to the author and Alison at Accent Press for my ecopy of this book to review.


*~*~*

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Review ~ The Templar Prophecy by Mario Reading

18976709
Published 6 February 2014
Corvus
Atlantic Books



This fast action story starts in 1190 with an explanation of how the Holy Lance, a revered Christian symbol was entrusted to a Knight Templar, Johannes von Hartelius and subsequently into his family's safekeeping in perpetuity. Moving swiftly to 1945 and the last days of the Reich in Germany, Adolph Hitler entrusts a special package to two of his most trusted supporters, a package they must protect to the death.  In the present day, intrepid photo journalist, John Hart finds himself caught up in a series of violent and catastrophic events which shatter his belief in everything he once felt was true.

The Templar Prophecy gets off to a good start; the historical opening of the story is credible although I would have liked to know a little more about the Holy Lance in this initial phase of its journey and of the Knight Templar who to some extent forms the basis of the story. As time moves forward to 1945 and the present day, the malevolent aspect of the narrative really starts to come alive and the action becomes fast , furious and not without moments of extreme violence. The historical strands start to coalesce and it soon becomes obvious that modern day protagonist, John Hart, has some link with the past, and the violent death of a member of his family is just the catalyst he needs to fulfil his destiny.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story, and found it to be a real page turner. The writer has a great sense of time and place. His ability to control the narrative whilst maintaining the integrity of the story and the rapid pace of the action is commendable. As with all fast action thrillers, there are times when you have to suspend belief, but then,  isn't that what good fiction is all about?


My thanks to Alison Davies at Atlantic Books for my copy of this book.



Mario Reading


Mario Reading is a multi-talented writer of both fiction and non-fiction. His varied life has included selling rare books,teaching riding in Africa, studying dressage in Vienna,running a polo stable in Gloucestershire and maintaining a coffee plantation in Mexico. An acknowledged expert on the prophecies of Nostradamus, Reading is the author of eight non-fiction titles and five novels published in the UK and around the world.


~*~*~







Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Review ~ Last Bus to Coffeeville by J Paul Henderson

20467872

To be published
24 April 2014
Oldcastle Books

Last Bus to Coffeeville is a road story with a difference and with a group of characters who step right out of every dysfunctional self help guide that you have ever read. Eugene Chaney III is a seventy-two year old retired doctor, living a quiet existence, alone with his thoughts and drowning in a sea of what might have been. When he is contacted by his lost love, and reminded of the promise he once made to her, ostensibly to end her life should that life become unbearable, all it takes is just one phone call and the whole vista of his life changes once and for all. For you see, Nancy Skidmore has Alzheimer’s and she has no wish to see her life degenerate into insensibility and counts on Eugene to take her to Coffeeville, where she hopes he will help her to end her life.

This is an interesting debut novel, which has a strong beginning and a poignant ending, however, for me, the story lost some of its focus somewhere in the middle and became a bit untidy. There is no doubt that the author’s unshakable love for all things American shines through; however, because the pace of the story is so frenetic, there are times when it almost feels like he needed to throw absolutely everything he knew about America into each little piece of the narrative. As the book progressed, I was constantly reminded of the 1967 song by The Monkees  - ‘The Last Train to Clarkesville’ and couldn’t for a time get this chirpy melody out of my head, although somehow it seemed to sit well with the concept of the book.


The ride to Coffeeville is filled with colourful characters, some Eugene and Nancy meet on their journey whilst others are old friends but together they form the basis of a rich and varied story about the power of love, the true value of friendship and the notion that family are not always those born closest to us.


My thanks to Real Readers and Oldcastle Books for my advance reading copy of this book.



About the Author

J. Paul Henderson


J PAUL HENDERSON was born and grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire, gained a Master's degree in American Studies and travelled to Afghanistan. He worked in a foundry, as a bus conductor, trained as an accountant and then, when the opportunity to return to academia arose, left for Mississippi, returning four years later with a doctorate in 20thC US History. He currently lives in England. 

Last Bus to Coffeeville is his debut novel.

*~*~*


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Review ~ The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes

 18807416
Corvus
6 February 2014


Following a devastating personal tragedy, Alex Morris returns to Edinburgh to take up a teaching post in a unit for troubled teenagers. The work is as challenging as it is difficult, and at first Alex despairs of ever making a connection with a particularly demanding group of five young people who seem intent on making her life even more miserable. By using a series of Greek tragedies, which mimic events in their own lives, Alex starts to build a connection. However, the stories of spiteful fate and malicious revenge soon start to have a profound effect on the dynamics of the group.

What then follows is a deeply disturbing psychological drama which builds imperceptibly and which soon becomes all consuming. There is a real rapport with Alex who is vulnerable and delicate, and whose tenacity in dealing with her personal emotional pain quickly becomes the driving force of the novel. However, the teenagers are a force to be reckoned with, they are all deeply offensive in many ways, and yet each demonstrates a susceptibility which is heartbreaking. The story doesn’t pull any punches and some strong profanities litter the dialogue between the students and Alex, however, these are integral to the plot and add necessary vibrancy and realism.

The gradual layering of the narrative is skilfully achieved, the tension is expertly managed and the dénouement is cleverly crafted. Overall, this is a commendable and exciting debut novel, and I am sure that reading groups are going to be clamouring to read it.



My thanks to Guy and Mel at Newbooks for my copy of this book.

This review can be found in March/April NB issue 80 - out now!

newbooks




*~*~*



Monday, 17 February 2014

Review ~ Harry's War by Harry Drinkwater

18485013
Random House UK, Ebury Publishing
October 31 2014


Harold Drinkwater was not supposed to go to war. He was told he was half an inch too short. But, determined to fight for king and country, he found a battalion that would take him and was soon on his way to the trenches of the Somme




This poignant First World War diary really brings home the squalor and deprivation encountered by those brave soldiers who found themselves wallowing knee deep in mud and water whilst at the same time trying to defend the trenches from enemy bombardment. Harry Drinkwater managed to snatch stolen opportunities to write up his thoughts and he shares his feelings so eloquently that the horror and the sheer repetitive drudgery of life in the Somme trenches really comes alive with a poignancy which lingers long in the memory. The diary certainly doesn’t pull any punches, and whilst Harry lives his life surrounded by foul mud, disgusting stench, and the ever present threat of lice and vermin, he also describes the utter joy of having the luxury of a clean shirt, the blissfulness of hot water to wash in and the sheer exasperation of never having a warm drink.  

As first-hand knowledge of this dreadful war fades from personal memory, it is far too easy to dismiss the events of 1914-1918 as something merely confined to the annals of history. What this book reiterates is that these were just ordinary young men caught up in extraordinary times, and who through their unrelenting bravery and gallant determination were able to command the respect of their countrymen and their king.

In this centenary year of the start of the First World War, Harry’s Diary is a fitting testament to those brave young men of WW1 who died in their millions and whose short, sweet lives must never be forgotten.

Highly Recommended.


My thanks to Random House UK, Ebury Publishing for my ecopy of this book.





Harry Drinkwater received the Military Cross for bravery

He died in 1978




*~*~*



Sunday, 16 February 2014

Sunday War Poets...

Sir Henry Newbolt

(1862-1924)





FAREWELL 

Mother, with unbowed head
 Hear thou across the sea
The farewell of the dead,
 The dead who died for thee.
Greet them again with tender words and grave,
For, saving thee, themselves they could not save.

~
To keep the house unharmed
Their fathers built so fair,
Deeming endurance armed
Better than brute despair,
They found the secret of the word that saith,
"Service is sweet, for all true life is death."

~
So greet thou well thy dead
Across the homeless sea,
And be thou comforted
Because they died for thee.
Far off they served, but now their deed is done
For evermore their life and thine are one.

*~*~*



Sir Henry Newbolt was born in Bilston,Staffordshire. On leaving Christi College, Oxford, he became a barrister but is better known for his poetry and for his literary works on naval history. At the start of the First World War, Newbolt - along with over 20 other leading British writers - was brought into the War Propaganda Bureau which had been formed to promote Britain's interests during the war and maintain public opinion in favour of the war.

***

FAREWELL was originally composed in 1910 but was reprinted in The Times on the 
23rd September 1914

***


Saturday, 15 February 2014

Review ~ Daughter of the Winds by Jo Bunt

18777744



When the Turkish invade Cyprus in 1974 Pru, a young British Army wife, has her life turned upside down. Two weeks later she flees the country with a baby who isn't hers.

Over thirty years later that baby, now a grown woman called Leni, returns to the island of her birth to find out about the chain of events that led her to be brought up as Pru's child. She discovers the true cost of war, how the hurt still continues through the generations and what being a family really means.

In this story of love and loss Leni will lay ghosts to rest in more ways than one






Jo Bunt was born in Cyprus to British parents. It made sense to her that her first novel should be based there.

Following the family's return to England Jo went to school in Nottingham, university in Hull and then worked in London as a Recruitment Consultant for PwC for many years. Following a family illness Jo moved to Derbyshire where she now lives with her husband and her twin sons. This has enabled her to focus on her two great loves in life; her family and her writing.

She remembers writing her first 'novel' when she was seven but spent her angst-ridden teenage years writing miserable and dark poetry. She mostly writes mainstream fiction but is also working on a series of children's adventure books, largely guided by her own children. When she is not writing or looking after the children Jo is an avid reader and self-confessed food snob. If she can combine the two she is a very happy lady indeed.

~*~*~

My thoughts on Daughter of the Winds

This multi generational story weaves together the present day story of Leni as she returns to Cyprus to discover the truth about her family, in order to lay the ghosts of the past and to find out what happened during the political unrest of 1974 when Leni’s adoptive mother Pru fled the island with a baby that didn't belong to her. Leni’s attempt to piece together the fragments of her past opens up a story of secrets, lies and devastating loss.


I enjoyed the story, there is nice attention to detail and the Cypriot culture both past and present is imaginatively described. The present day island comes alive with stunning descriptions of food and hospitality. The warmth of the Cypriot sunshine infuses the pages with a compassion which is in direct contrast to the description of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Overall, the fine distinction between factual evidence is nicely blended with an interesting fictional story and both time frames blend together quite well. 


An enjoyable story written in the easy style of Victoria Hislop, I think the combination of history and sunshine makes this an ideal holiday read.


***


Daughter of the Winds is now available on Kindle for just 99p as part of a special Valentine's Day promotion
14th - 20th February 2014.


My thanks to pubshelf for my copy of this book.




Friday, 14 February 2014

Happy Valentine's Day...



“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.”
© Diana Gabaldon, Outlander, 1991









*~*~*

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Giveaway ~ The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

*~Giveaway~*


To celebrate the publication of  The Dead Wife's Handbook by  Hannah Beckerman
on the 
13th February 2014



18623494
Penguin Books UK
13 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 Katie Sheldrake at Penguin Books UK

***
I have one paperback copy to giveaway to one lucky UK winner 

*~ Good Luck~*

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

My author in the spotlight is ...Carol Cooper

I am delighted to welcome 




Author of


19098811
November 2013



*~Carol ~ welcome to jaffareadstoo ~*



Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for One Night at the Jacaranda?

I was sitting on a plane with a gin and tonic, bound for New York and my father's funeral, when the idea for a plot popped into my head. So  I began scribbling on the paper napkin.  I then worked on the story over the next few months. Maybe the spur was the fact that my father had always wanted to write, though he never did, apart from a couple of chapters in books on life insurance.  It took me a while to finish One Night at the Jacaranda because I had commissions for two non-fiction books around that time, but I'm glad I persevered.  Dad would have been proud of me, even if the novel itself would have shocked him.



What do you love about writing?

I love using words, and I relish the challenge of using ordinary words to say extraordinary things.  Plus you can write anytime, even if feeling miserable. Writing is the perfect escape when things aren't going my way.




Do you write stories for yourself, or other people?

A bit of both.  Of course, I write stories that I hope people like and will identify with.  But it also has to be the kind of story I'd most like to read myself.  The legendary crime writer Ruth Rendell once told me that if your own writing makes you cry or gets you aroused, then you know you've hit the spot.





What books do you like to read?


I like fiction with colourful characters that I can care about, with realistic dialogue, and a pacy plot that keeps me on my toes.  If there are long passages of description, I usually skim over them.  I read a lot of chick-lit as well as Kate Atkinson, Tony Parsons and Harlan Coben. They're all master story-tellers, and just as importantly they know when to stop.



What next?

Many readers have commented that the characters in One Night at the Jacaranda cry out to have their lives play out in another novel.  I'm therefore working on a sequel, but there's also a prequel simmering away in my head.  It will go back 15 years, to when some of the characters were students.  I loved being at university, so there are loads of ideas for this bubbling away already.



Thank you so much for joining us today Carol, Jaffa and I look forward to seeing the sequel to 


***

My Thoughts on One Night at the Jacaranda

During the eponymous one night at the Jacaranda, four very different individuals come together for a speed dating evening. In three minute conversation bursts, lives are laid bare, hidden hopes, fears and failings are brushed away, and the bright veneer of high expectation gathers momentum. The observation of such a night creates fodder for undercover journalist Harriet, who is only there to raise enough copy for her next piece of writing, and yet unwittingly gets drawn into the whole premise of what happens next.

The story is cleverly written and exposes the lives of the characters as they slowly interact in the aftermath of their first meeting, and although on the surface they have nothing in common, gradually common bonds are realised and as the different strands of the story come together, what is revealed are lives blighted by secrets, lies, hidden terrors and unfulfilled dreams.

My initial impression of the story was that it would be a light and frothy chick lit type of romance but I couldn't have been more wrong. What I got was a warm-hearted and compassionate story about the vagaries of modern life, written in a lively and fun style. Undoubtedly, the writer has a real skill with words, her ability to tell a good story really shines through and her affection for, and understanding of, her characters make this a commendable debut novel.

Recommended.

*~*~*

Monday, 10 February 2014

Review ~ Guilty by Jane Bidder

21112276
Accent Press
January 2014


As the result of a momentary lapse in concentration, Simon Mills causes the death, by dangerous driving, of a family friend. What then follows is a cautionary story of the resulting consequences, when Simon, once a successful solicitor, is sent to prison to atone for his crime. The story focuses on the very real problems of what happens when families are split apart. For those who live on the outside, life will never be the same again, and Claire, Simon’s wife, is forced to make some really harsh decisions which impact on both herself and her son, Ben. Prison life is no bed of roses either, and Simon is constantly plagued by guilt as he is forced to recognise his own culpability.

Written in two distinct parts; the first deals with Simon’s time in prison, the second when he is eventually released, both stories focus on the alternate viewpoints of Simon and Claire and make for compelling reading. The author writes with great conviction so that life ‘inside’ really comes alive with all its rules, regulations, petty squabbles and insidious boredom. Equally compelling is the story of Claire’s overwhelming struggle on the outside, as she copes with the crisis of losing everything she once considered important.

Overall, this was a compelling and thought provoking read. The story flows really well, and neither patronises nor sensationalises what is happening on both the inside and the outside, and yet successfully serves as a warning that this really could happen to anyone.

Recommended.

My thanks to Accent Press for my ecopy of this book.

Guilty is out now in Paperback and on Kindle

*~*~*

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Sunday War Poets...

Thomas Hardy

(1840-1928)

Thomashardy restored.jpg


"MEN WHO MARCH AWAY"

(Song of the Soldiers)

WHAT of the faith and fire within us
 Men who march away
 Ere the barn-cocks say
 Night is growing grey,
To hazards whence no tears can win us;
What of the faith and fire within us
Men who march away!

Is it a purblind prank, O think you,
Friend with the musing eye
Who watch us stepping by,
With doubt and dolorous sigh?
Can much pondering so hoodwink you?
Is it a purblind prank, O think you,
Friend with the musing eye?

Nay. We see well what we are doing.
Though some may not see—
Dalliers as they be—
England's need are we;
Her distress would leave us rueing:
Nay. We well see what we are doing!
Though some may not see!

In our heart of hearts believing
Victory crowns the just,
And that braggarts must
Surely bite the dust,
Press we to the field ungrieving,
In our heart of hearts believing
Victory crowns the just.

Hence the faith and fire within us
Men who march away
Ere the barn-cocks say
Night is growing grey,
To hazards whence no tears can win us;
Hence the faith and fire within us
Men who march away.

Thomas Hardy


September 5, 1914.

***

Although known for his Wessex inspired classic fiction, Thomas Hardy considered himself to be a poet and is now considered to be one of the greatest twentieth century poets.

Men Who March Away was written in September 1914 at the very start of the Great War when English optimism was running high and the war was fully expected to be over 'by Christmas'.

Hardy was no stranger to war poetry and had penned several during the earlier Boer War - he took a pragmatic approach to conflict and Men Who March Away is seen as a rallying cry.

*~*~*

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Some Good news....



~*Some good news to share ~*


I've been closely involved with the Historical Novel Society as one of their Indie reviewers for some time.  I'm delighted to say that I have been invited to help out as part of their UK editorial team

as

 HNS UK Indie Review Assistant Editor


I'm excited to be able to do what I can to help promote the wonderful stories of those Indie authors whose work continues to fascinate and enthral me...





***

Friday, 7 February 2014

Review ~ The Ruby Slippers by Keir Alexander



18711551
Published by Corsair
20th March 2014



This accomplished debut novel uncovers the minutiae of daily life and reveals the insatiability of greed, the sadness of family secrets and the destructive nature of overwhelming regret.



The story opens during the St Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan.  Old Rosa and her dog Barrell, meander through the crowds leaving behind a vile aroma of mouldering humanity. At a downtown Deli, Michael Marcinkus, the effusive proprietor, prepares a Macchiato for his customer. James is a man whose sadness permeates through to the bread, bagels and bakery goods and as he sips his macchiato, he mourns the loss of his lover. Three world-weary youths hangout outside a record store; bored and jaded they speculate on those whose lives interconnect with their own. The humiliation of hauling his bulk from the toilet seat to his wheelchair causes Malachi McBride to take his anger and frustration out on his nursemaid, Inez. Meanwhile, over a hundred miles away in Riverhead, Long Island a teenage girl yearns for something which is sadly out of her reach.


On the surface this cast of disparate characters should have absolutely no need to interact but gradually as the story unfolds, the lasting legacy of a pair of ruby slippers will have a profound effect on the lives of this contrasting group of individuals.


I found the story remarkably easy to read and very quickly became immersed in the lives of those who feature strongly in the story. There is a fine style to the writing with some moments of sheer brilliance and the conjured imagery goes from the hustle and bustle of a small town deli, to the squalid and foetid ambience of a hoarder’s hovel with comparable ease.


Overall, I found that I had a real connection with the characters, some I liked more than others but throughout the novel, the need to find out just a little bit more kept me turning the pages with real enjoyment.





I read this book as part of the lovereading.co.uk readers review panel.

Find more early reviews of this book



The Ruby Slippers will be available from all good book shops from 20th March 2014






Update 2016

Delighted to see a quote from Jaffareadstoo in the paperback copy of

The Ruby Slippers




~***~

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Review ~ Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

18242996
Hamish Hamiliton
An imprint of Penguin UK
February 6 2014

This multi faceted story takes the concept of dark and turns it completely on its head. With a dual time setting the story takes us from fin-de-siècle Vienna in 1899 and follows the story of psychoanalyst, Josef Bruer’s quest to determine the identity of an extremely disturbed young woman who comes into his care. Years later, in Germany we meet Krysta, a little girl, who loses herself in the fairy tales of the Pied Piper and Hansel and Gretel, as the world around her goes mad.

The enduring symbolism of fairy tales forms the basis for this very dark story which takes us from the bleak awareness of mental incapacity, through to the terrors associated with Nazi Germany and yet it does so with a lightness of touch which belies the strength of its narrative. There is no doubt that the book gets its message across, those readers who are have read The Book Thief and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, will already be aware of innocuous terminology hiding something deeper and ultimately far more sinister. To dig any deeper into the overriding message of the book would be to give away far too much of the whole premise of the story and to discuss more of plot and malice would be to do the book and the author a complete disservice.

The book is complex, the author’s use of imagery and her ability to weave together two seemingly unrelated plots is commendable and quite enthralling, although it does take a while to get used to the style of writing and I can imagine that some people may want to give up early on. My advice is to stick at it and as the story starts to be revealed and the strands that weave the story together become entangled, it really does become compelling reading.

Recommended Read.


My thanks to Anna Ridley and Celeste Ward-Best at Penguin Books UK for my advance copy of this book and for allowing me access to the promotional video.





***

About the Author

Eliza Granville


Eliza Granville was born in Worcester and currently lives in Bath. She has had a life-long fascination with the enduring quality of fairy tales and their symbolism, and the idea for Gretel and the Dark was sparked when she became interested in the emphasis placed on these stories during the Third Reich.

~*~*~



Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Review~ The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths

18740933
Quercus Books
6 February 2014



When forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway uncovers a set of bones during an archaeological dig at Norwich Castle, they are believed to be those of the notorious Mother Hook, a nineteenth century baby farmer turned child murderer. The dig attracts the attention of a documentary film crew whose interest in 'women who kill' forms the basis for a voyeuristic television programme. At the same time, DCI Harry Nelson and his team of detectives are facing the worst of crimes as children are being inexplicably abducted. What then follows is which really focuses on human emotion.

This series of crime novels, this is currently number six in the pecking order, really do go from strength to strength and the ongoing relationship between Ruth Galloway and DCI Harry Nelson, as they attempt to make the best of their shared parental responsibilities, makes for lively and fascinating reading. As always the character analysis is incredibly specific, everyone is so utterly believable that you really could stumble upon them as they go about their daily business in Norwich and surrounding area. The police procedure feels authentic, and I am sure there are many CID teams who share the same amount of irreverent banter but who come together as fierce as lions when one of their own is threatened.

I devour these stories in one sitting, yes...they really are that good, and the need to find out just a little bit more will keep me enthralled in this series just as long as Ms Griffiths keeps them coming.

Huge thanks to NetGalley and Quercus Books for allowing me a copy of this book in advance of its publication.

*~*~*


Elly Griffiths

Elly Griffiths was born in London. She read English at King's College, London and worked in publishing for many years. Her crime novels are based in Norfolk and feature Dr Ruth Galloway, forensic archaeologist. She lives near Brighton with her husband, an archaeologist and their two children.