Sunday, 29 March 2015

Sunday WW1 Poem..

The theme for this month's WW1 poetry





Rose Macauley


We lay and ate the sweet hurt-berries
In the bracken of Hurt Wood.
Like a quire of singers singing low
The dark pines stood.

Behind us climbed the Surrey Hills,
Wild, wild in greenery;
At our feet the downs of Sussex broke
To an unseen sea.

And life was bound in a still ring,
Drowsy, and quiet and sweet….
When heavily up the south-east wind
The great guns beat.

We did not wince, we did not weep,
We did not curse or pray;
We drowsily heard, and someone said,
‘They sound clear today’.

We did not shake with pity and pain,
Or sicken and blanch white.
We said, ’If the wind’s from over there
There’ll be rain tonight’.

Once pity we knew, and rage we knew,
And pain we knew, too well,
As we stared and peered dizzily
Through the gates of hell.

But now hell’s gates are an old tale;
Remote the anguish seems;
The guns are muffled and far away.
Dreams within dreams.

And far and far are Flanders mud,
And the pain of Picardy;
And the blood that runs there runs beyond
The wide waste sea.

We are shut about by guarding walls;
(We have built them lest we run
Mad from dreaming of naked fear
And of black things done).

We are ringed all round by guarding walls,
So high, they shut the view.
Not all the guns that shatter the world
Can quite break through.

Oh guns of France, oh guns of France,
Be still, you crash in vain….
Heavily up the south wind throb
Dull dreams of pain…..

Be still, be still, south wind, lest your
Blowing should bring the rain…...
We’ll lie very quiet on Hurt Hill,
And sleep once again.

Oh we’ll lie quite still, not listen nor look,
While the earth’s bounds reel and shake,
Lest, battered too long, our walls and we
Should break…....should break…….... 

Dame Rose Macaulay was born in Cambridge.
 She went to school and college in Oxford but spent most of her childhood in Italy. She was a prominent novelist, essayist and poet and won many literary prizes.


Saturday, 28 March 2015

Blog Tour : The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

I am delighted to welcome



February 2015

I asked Jane what inspired her to write The Faerie Tree.....

Inspiration is like an onion. Honestly – it is. Not that it makes you cry (although that’s possible) but that it’s multi-layered. Look at the skin and it’s pretty obvious what you’ve got, but start peeling the layers back and goodness only knows what you’ll find.

When Jaffa and Jo asked me to write about my inspiration for The Faerie Tree, the first answer was the tree. I visited it in 2010 and just knew it had to be part of a story; its beautiful setting, the people who visit it and the hidden hand who helps the faeries with their correspondence. Not to mention the sprinkling of ancient magic it brings to the woods.

So if the faerie tree on the banks of the River Hamble is the onion’s skin, what else do we find as we work through the layers? As with The Cheesemaker’s House, I think we find folklore – in its very broadest sense. With the faerie tree it is perhaps a little more obvious as special trees have been the focus of ancient rites for generations. So I thought – why not make some of my characters people who follow these beliefs now?

Ah yes, characters. For me they aren’t inspired by real people – but pieces of people I know must find their way into them. That the young Robin is a carer; that he’s far from honest about it; that he has to keep up a façade – yes, I know people like that. I also know that it’s almost inevitable they will break. But what I find more inspirational is that Robin found a way back from the darkness and became a much stronger person. It would be wonderful if Robin’s journey could give hope to people who are struggling right now.

Of course at the beginning of the book Robin’s situation doesn’t look great. When Izzie first sees him again after twenty years he is living on the streets of Winchester. That was the second real moment of inspiration for me, sitting in Caffe Nero opposite the Buttercross one freezing Sunday morning, watching the homeless men gather there and wondering about their stories. Had they known love at some stage in their lives? What would happen if the person who loved them saw them now?

At the beginning of a book I find inspiration comes easily, but I never really know where the story is going to go. It may sound crazy – and I know a lot of writers who plan their work in meticulous detail before putting pen to paper – but I love allowing the characters to carry me along. The problem with The Faerie Tree was that I found myself writing that Robin’s and Izzie’s memories of their affair in 1986 were different, without really having a clue why. They had found the hook to their own story, but it took me a great deal of research, indecision and anguish before coming to a conclusion on why it happened that way.

Naturally I’m not going to tell you what I discovered…

My thoughts about The Faerie Tree

When Izzie meets Robin again after a gap of several years, there is much about them that lays hidden. Shared memories are hidden deeply away, locked in a place where hurt can no longer find them. Both Izzie and Robin have known loss and heartbreak and both have found love but in the intervening years they have never found the passion they once felt for each other.

In The Faerie Tree, the author sensitively explores the layers of memory that bind us together and just how deeply we lock away those memories when they seek to confuse and baffle us. The Faerie Tree itself ,hidden deep in the woodland, is the place where Izzy and Robin made their memories , it’s a magical place but firmly bound in the rites and rituals of the earth. People often leave their secrets there and hope that their wishes will, one day, come true.

I was drawn into the story of The Faerie Tree from the beginning. Izzie and Robin’s story is beautifully realistic to the point where you find yourself looking with new eyes at people in the street, and wonder what their lives are like. The story is easy to read and nicely divided so that we see what’s happening from both Izzie’s and Robin's point of view, and although their memories sometime coalesce, often they don’t and once you get used to the quirkiness of the storyline, the book becomes unputdownable. Both Izzie and Robin dominate the story, they are superbly flawed and filled with so much angst and heartbreak that at times the storyline becomes almost a battle to see who hurts the most, and yet, there is a lightness to the narrative, in the shape of Izzy’s daughter Claire, who is the still small voice of calm in an often emotionally fraught situation.

To say more about the plot would be to give too much away. This is one of those rather special stories which is all the better for reading knowing nothing of what is to come.

However, by the end of the novel I was in awe of vagaries of fate and of the powerful and unshakeable bond of memories.


You can find Jane on her website 
Follow her on Facebook
Find her on Twitter @JaneCable
Buy the book on Amazon UK

Jane is very kindly offering one lucky UK a paperback copy of The Faerie Tree

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Huge thanks to Jane for inviting us to be part of her Blog Tour.

We wish The Faerie Tree much success.


Friday, 27 March 2015

Blog Tour : Black Wood by S J I Holliday

Jaffa and I are delighted to be part of the Black Wood 2015 Blog Tour

March 2015
Black & White Publishing

S J I Holliday grew up in Haddington, East Lothian. She works as a pharmaceutical statistician, and as a life long book worm has always dreamt of becoming a novelist, She has had several crime and horror short stories published in anthologies ad was short-listed for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize . Her debut novel Black Wood was inspired by a disturbing incident in her childhood.

Susi ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo ~

Tell us more about the novel's background.
The idea was sparked from something that happened to me and a friend when we were 8 or 9 years old. We were playing in the woods one day, when two older boys appeared and started to make things very uncomfortable… one said he had a knife. I don’t know if he did, or he didn’t, but we were terrified. It stuck with me. I always thought: What if they hadn’t just let us escape across the burn…? What if something much, much worse had happened?’ The rest came from my twisted imagination.

What was the most difficult aspect of the writing the story? How did you overcome it?
Finishing the damn thing! I love the ideas stage. I am full of ideas, and whenever one comes (i.e. most days) I email it to myself with some brief notes and store it for later. With Black Wood, I found that the story grew from a simple idea into something much more complex. More and more threads found their way in and I had to try to tie them all together. Just finding the time to sit down for long enough and formulate it all, and get it all onto the page – it was a constant struggle! I overcame it by just keeping on… I had a deadline, and that definitely helped.

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?
Good question! They often don’t come out quite as expected. Jo started off far more snarky than she ended up, and some would say she is still a bloody nightmare. I was a little frustrated by Claire – I wanted her to stand up to Jo and she never did. Davie Gray is my favourite character – he’s the one who came out exactly as I planned him – he’s the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone, he’s easy on the eye but he doesn’t respond to attempts to woo him… he needs to find love. He’s fairly straightforward, compared to a lot of the others. That’s not to say he hasn’t got any secrets of his own…

What do you think makes a good villain?

The perfect villain has got nothing left to lose. I like intelligent villains who keep one step ahead of their pursuers, but I also like the ones who just go for it and damn the consequences.

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

It’s tough to find the time. My day job, even though I aim to work part-time, can be demanding. I’ve only got one brain! Sometimes I find it hard to split from the scientific nature of my day job and get into the creative headspace that I need. I like to write with my laptop on a cushion, either on the sofa or in bed. I’m at a desk all day so I like to mix it up. Plays havoc on my back though!

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?
I hate this question. You know why? Because I have a million other novels planned and I am really struggling with trying to stick to just one. As soon as I write a few words of an idea, ten others pop up. That’s when I’m in full-fire creative mode! I plan to write all of the ideas, eventually. At the moment though, I am attempting another one set in Banktoun. Stay tuned!

Thanks for hosting me, Josie – great questions!

Huge thanks to Susi for giving so generously of her time to answer my questions

Jaffa and I wish you much success with Black Wood and we will follow your career with great interest.


My thanks to Black&White Publishing for my copy of this book
and to Liz at Liz Loves Books for all her help with this interview.

My thoughts about Black Wood.

The book opens as two young girls play in the woods. A deep sense of menace pervades the scene and it becomes noticeable, very quickly, that danger lurks in the shadows. Twenty-three years later, Claire and Jo have now grown to adulthood. They have remained close friends, but, there is always a sense of something kept hidden. Both girls, now young women, have hidden demons they would rather not challenge but when a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dreadful memories are rekindled, and the past, once thought buried, surfaces with devastating consequences.

The story is a well written mystery with just the right amount of menace layering between the hidden clues of the storyline. The main protagonists are realistic and the police procedural element, ably led by police sergeant Davie Gray, is well controlled and nicely focused on the present, but with relevant hints towards the past. The insularity of the Scottish town of Banktoun is presented in a no nonsense kind of way, which I thought worked well, as this is the kind place where everyone knows each other’s business, and yet, there is still room for secrets and lies.

I really enjoyed Black Wood. I thought that the mystery at the heart of the novel was exciting. The twists and turns in the plot were complex and credible and the overall integrity of the ending worked well within the context of the story.

This is a good debut novel and I am sure that this exciting new writer will continue to go from strength to strength.

Amazon UK...**kindle edition currently 59p at time of writing**
Amazon US

You can find Susi on her website
Follow her on Twitter @SJIHolliday


Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Last Plantagenet King...

Richard III

October 1453 - August 1485

Richard Plantagenet was born into violent times, and even by the brutal standards of his day, he most certainly knew death and family tragedy on a grand scale. 

 Whether we judge him or not, it is entirely appropriate, that the last English King to be killed in battle be afforded some peace at last.

Richard III
Re-buried in Leicester Cathedral
26 March 2015


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Review ~ The Jackdaw by Luke Delaney

D I Sean Corrigan #4
March 2015
Harper Collins Publishers

The Crime is treachery. The sentence is death.

When an appalling event shows up on a social media video channel depicting the horrific death of a captive live on line, it opens up a murder mystery which will test the capabilities of the police investigative team to the very limits of their expertise. Keeping one step ahead of a fanatic whose sole purpose is to bring justice to a seemingly random group of corporate people makes for compelling reading.

Creatively written with a fine eye for detail, this fourth book in the D. I. Sean Corrigan series of murder mysteries rolls along at a cracking pace. There is never a lull in the narrative and the murder mystery at the core of the novel is dangerous, and in this age of social media, frighteningly realistic. There is a voyeuristic quality to the narrative as you can’t help but be drawn into the story and watch in fascinated horror as the perpetrator, nicknamed The Jackdaw, sets out to wreak revenge of the most deadly variety.

There is always a danger when you come into an established series so far into it that it becomes impossible to understand how the series works, but the author succeeds in keeping continuity for those readers who have been with him since the beginning whilst at the same time drawing in new readers with just enough back story information for the established characters to make sense.

I really enjoyed The Jackdaw. It was great read, not because the book was light on content, far from it, but because once I started reading, I really couldn't put it down and needed to read in fascinated horror, to see just what The Jackdaw would do next.

 My thanks to Emily Edwards at Harper Collins for my copy of this book.


Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Review ~ Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix

20 March 2015

Love. Passion. An incredible legacy

Two women separated by time, experience the beautiful city of Pisa in a story which abounds with duplicity, passion and the temptation of marital infidelity. In 1999, Sam reacts to the news of her husband, Michael’s infidelity with sadness and confusion, which is made all the more poignant by discovering her husband has been taken seriously ill whilst making a documentary film about the iconic  Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

In twelfth century Pisa, Berta di Bernardo is the young, pampered wife of a rich merchant, who becomes enamoured by Geraldo, a young mason employed to work on Pisa’s new campanile. Berta’s unusual interest in the complexities of the campanile’s architecture and of the internal politics connected with its construction make for fascinating reading.

What then follows is a cleverly researched and well written story which succeeds in bringing both the past and present to life. The clear distinctions between time frames allow the stunning city of Pisa to come gloriously alive, and whether walking its medieval streets in the company of Berta and her maid, Aurelia, or watching Sam pick up ice cold frappes and shopping for clothes in the modern day piazzas, the sense of time and place is authentic and really rather beautiful.

There is no doubt that this is a commendable debut novel. The author has a real gift for storytelling and by using her own experiences of modern day Pisa, she allows Sam and Michael’s very modern marriage dilemma to be played out with an authenticity which is both poignant and thought provoking. And yet for me, the real heart and soul of the novel was played out in the thoughts and feelings evoked by the twelfth century protagonists and of the constrictions placed on women. Keeping company with Berta and Aurelia as they go about their daily business made for compelling reading and certainly kept me turning the pages long into the night to see just how their story would play out.

Pisa, both past and present comes alive with a lovely authenticity and the story sits comfortably within its dual time frame. I am sure Secrets of the Tower will appeal to historical fiction fans everywhere, and it’s certainly a book to load onto a reading device should you be heading to Italy on holiday.

My thanks to Netgalley and Kim Nash at Bookouture for my ecopy



The author in my spotlight is..... Debbie Rix

I am delighted to welcome

Author of

20 March 2015

~ Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Debbie ~

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for your novel , Secrets of the Tower?

The novel had a dual inspiration. My husband had a stroke while making a film about the Leaning Tower of Pisa back in the late 1990s. I had to go over to Pisa to take care of him, leaving our little children behind in the care of my mother. I got to know Pisa pretty well and a few years later, once he had recovered and life had returned to normal, I felt it would make an interesting premise for a novel. I knew from the start that I wanted to write a something where the modern-day story is interwoven with a tale from the past – but I wasn’t quite sure which aspect of the Tower’s fascinating history to focus on. Then I met the Professor of Medieval History at Pisa University, and he told me about Berta di Bernardo, the widow who made a bequest in her will leaving sixty ‘soldi’ to build the tower. Incredibly he had a copy of that will and from the moment I read it, I was hooked! It was witnessed of course, and they were a very interesting group of men – the notary (lawyer) to the Emperor Frederick, and a master mason named Gerardo di Gerardo. Clearly she was a woman of some influence, but I was intrigued by her relationship with the mason. Why was he there? In the novel I explore the possible explanation for their friendship. 

Tell us three interesting things about your novel which will pique the reader’s interest?
Perhaps the most interesting thing really is Berta herself. Whilst we know little about her in real life, beyond the contents of her will, I think it’s a great pity that she has been so overlooked by history. She must have been a special person, and yet – perhaps because she was a woman- she has been forgotten. And yet without her investment, the most famous building in the world – the Leaning Tower of Pisa - may never have been built.

In the story, Berta is childless. She is married to a wealthy merchant named Lorenzo Calvo and the one thing he wants is an heir to his fortune. So she embarks on a process of trying to get pregnant. She visits an apothecary named Violetta who tells her that her inability to conceive might be due to her husband …firing blanks. In the medieval period, the medical profession refused to countenance that a woman’s childlessness could be due to anything but her own ‘sin’ – so this was revolutionary. Her remedy involved getting Berta’s husband to eat some special biscuits made of crushed almonds, sugar and … ground lizard! This was a genuine recipe for male infertility at that time – incredible..

I am fascinated by how medieval masons and architects created such spectacular buildings as the Tower the Baptistery and the Duomo without machinery or mechanization of any kind – just brute strength and an intelligent use of natural forces. For example - the marble that was used comes largely from Monte Pisano – a mountainous region near Pisa. In order to cut the marble, without machinery, the workman would find a natural crack in the stone, allow water into it and then as it froze over the winter months, it would expand, splitting the marble into two. This is so simple, and yet so ingenious.

In your research for Secrets of the Tower did you discover anything which surprised you?

Pisa in the twelfth century was a melting pot of cultures. It was a sea-faring nation that traded with the Middle and Far East, as well as carrying crusaders from France to the region to fight – usually in return for money. On their return journey the traders brought back spices, silk cloth, damasks and fantastic glassware from Syria. But the most remarkable thing they imported was a camel –which was used to ferry goods around the city!

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

I write mostly at weekends and in the holidays, as I have a ‘day job’ as a journalist and Event Producer. I work in a little summerhouse in the garden that my husband renovated for me when I began this project 7 or 8 years ago. It’s essential that I work somewhere removed from the house, so as not to be distracted by work, or what’s going on in the kitchen! I even have a separate laptop for my writing that has no email function so I’m not interrupted by the arrival of email.

Name four essential items for a writer?

Imagination, patience, attention to detail and curiosity – not necessarily in that order!

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

I do yes… I am working on another novel based around an inanimate object (like the Tower). It will be set partly in Italy, partly in two other countries. It will also feature a modern day story that runs through it…

Thank you so much  Debbie for sharing your lovely story with us. Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your writing and look forward eagerly to your next novel.

You can find Debbie:

On her website 
Twitter @debbierix

My thanks to Kim at Bookouture and NetGalley for my ecopy of this novel.