Thursday, 23 March 2017

Candlestick Press Launches ~ Ten Poems About Home

...Launched today...

Candlestick Press
23 March 2017

This latest title from Candlestick Press is a haunting selection of poems that reflects our complex feelings about the true meaning of home. Mahendra Solanki’s choices encompass the many ways in which we experience that unique sense of being at home through poems that evoke “the daily furniture of our lives” or echo with the memories of a childhood spent far away. Contemporary poems rub shoulders with more traditional selections to create a vivid sense of the abiding spirit of belonging.

Yeats’s famous poem of longing is evoked in the beautiful cover image created especially for Candlestick by artist Sarah Kirby. Yeats expresses what we all instinctively feel – that home is a place we carry with us always “in the deep heart’s core”.

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:

Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade.”

from ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by WB Yeats

From Harrison to Larkin and from Cavafy to Dharker there are poems here that will delight and intrigue every reader. 

Mahendra Solanki’s poetry has explored notions of home and belonging for over 30 years. His work has been broadcast by the BBC and published in Britain and abroad in magazines and anthologies. His most recent collection is The Lies We Tell (Shoestring Press, 2014).

Poems by CP Cavafy, Imtiaz Dharker, Thomas Hardy, Tony Harrison, Philip Larkin, Linda Hogan, Grace Nichols, Mahendra Solanki, Wislawa Szymborska and WB Yeats. 

To continue the Candlestick tradition of supporting a range of charities through pamphlet sales, a donation will be made to Shelter. 

What did I think about it..

I few years ago I discovered the stunning poetry pamphlets published by Candlestick Press and, since then, have not only acquired my own collection, but have given away just as many as gifts to people I care about.

As always, I am charmed by the quiet beauty of these poetry pamphlets and I'm really thrilled to be able to support the launch of Ten Poems about Home. And it's not just because in this pamphlet is one is my favourite  W B Yeats poem,  The Lake Isle of Innisfree, and those who share my love of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon will know why I love this poem so much, but it's also because there are nine other beautiful poems which are all poignant reminders of why we all call home, home.

From, Thomas Hardy's The Self-Unseeing, 'Childlike, I danced in a dream; Blessings emblazoned that day:' to the beautiful simplicity of Mahendra Solanki's verse, Home...'It's what brings us back to earth, another ritual, at home' 

And for me, an emotional response to what has happened in London over the last 24 hours can be beautifully summed up in the opening verse of Philip Larkin's ethereal..

Home is so Sad.

Home is so sad, It stays as it was left,
Shaped to the comfort of those who were last to go
As if to win them back. Instead, bereft
Of anyone to please, it withers so,
Having no heart to put aside the theft.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Cricket, London, Lesbian and Gay, Revenge, Babies and Fathers. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Like and follow on Facebook   or visit their Website

Follow on Twitter @poetrycandle

With thanks to Candlestick Press I have one copy of Ten Poems about Home
 for One UK Winner of this giveaway.

Good Luck


Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Review ~ When I was Invisible by Dorothy Koomson

**Out 23rd March in Paperback**

23 March 2017

What's it all about..

In 1988, two eight-year-old girls with almost identical names and the same love of ballet meet for the first time. They seem destined to be best friends forever and to become professional dancers. Years later, however, they have both been dealt so many cruel blows that they walk away from each other into very different futures – one enters a convent, the other becomes a minor celebrity. Will these new, ‘invisible’ lives be the ones they were meant to live, or will they only find that kind of salvation when they are reunited twenty years later?

What did I think about it..

Two girls both called Veronica/Veronika find that their lives are irrevocably bound together in story which flits forwards and backwards in time, and which reveals the very sad circumstances of two lives shattered by life experiences.

Written with all the trademark flair of this talented contemporary author When I was Invisible sheds light on the invisible bonds of friendship which, although bind people together, can also tear people apart. The girls renamed as Nika and Roni find that their live in adulthood have veered off in very different directions, one as a minor celebrity, and the other as a nun and yet, their combined secrets threaten both of their sanity and well-being.

The author writes very well and weaves a story that takes in different time frames and circumstances and does so with assurance and confidence, and, even though the story evolves quite slowly, there is always something to capture the reader's attention and which makes you sit up and take notice.

I've now read several books by this author and I have never been disappointed either by her stories, or of her clever storytelling ability. I think that When I was Invisible is one of her strongest and saddest books to date.

Best Read with...A noodle stir fry and several glugs of white wine..

About the Author

Dorothy Koomson is the author of eleven novels and has been making up stories since she was thirteen. For more information about Dorothy and her writing visit her website  or follow her on Twitter @DorothyKoomson

My thanks to the publishers and also to Darran at edpr for my review copy of this book.

**When I was Invisible is out in paperback today and published by Arrow**

23 March 2017


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review ~ Behind her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Harper Collins
January 2016

Don’t trust this book. Don’t trust this story. Don’t trust yourself.

What's it all about...

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He's a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?

As Louise, David's new secretary, is drawn into their world, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can't guess how wrong – and how far someone might go to protect their marriage's secrets.

What did I think about it ...

There's been a lot of hype around this book which came out in late January and whilst I'm a little bit late to the party I can sort of see what all the fuss was about, although there's a little bit of me that was ever so slightly disappointed by that ending.  However, that could just be because I read so many books in this genre that nothing really surprises me too much, but I have to admit that I did guess the ending before it came along, so the hastag #WTFthatending has, I'm afraid, been lost a little bit on me.

Still, I digress, back the story of the relationship triangle between psychiatrist,Oliver, his damaged wife, Adele and David's secretary, Louise. Really, this trio should have nothing in common, the three lives should never have had any real need to come together in the way that they did, but then the fickle finger of fate intervened, and that's when the trouble really started.

As David's secretary, Louise should have been content to keep his diary and manage his appointments but a chance encounter with David before he became her new boss meant that they already had personal history together. By far the most compelling character in this menage a trois is the very beautiful but, oh so vulnerable, Adele, who entices and snares Louise into a situation which develops into something which, if I say more, will start to give the game away... so I won't say another word..

I thought that the book was an interesting look at the lengths that people will go to in order to maintain utter control, whilst at the same time keeping a facade of relative normality. It was scary and deeply troubling and yet, there were also parts of the story where I , sort of,  had to suspend belief and go way jose... but then that's what fiction is all about. It takes you to places beyond the ordinary and leads you into situations where you really wouldn't want to go, even in your wildest dreams.

I think Behind her Eyes would translate really well to the screen and I could see that it would make a clever TV drama or movie..

Best Read With...copious pots of Peppermint tea..

About the Author 

Sarah Pinborough is an award winning YA and adult novelist and screenwriter. She's written for the BBC and her last YA thruller 13 minutes has been optioned by Netflix and is in development. 

More information on the author's website

Follow on Twitter @sarahpinborough #wtfthatending

My thanks to Jaime at Harper Collins for my review copy of this book.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Review ~ To Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin

Allen & Unwin
Atlantic Books
February 2017

What's it all about...

In February 1887, Caitriona Wallace and Émile Nouguier meet in a hot air balloon, floating high above Paris, France--a moment of pure possibility. But back on firm ground, their vastly different social strata become clear.As the Eiffel Tower rises, a marvel of steel and air and light, the subject of extreme controversy and a symbol of the future, Cait and Émile must decide what their love is worth.

What did I think about it...

This interesting love story is set during the glory days of the La Belle Époque when the world was innovated both by design and invention. Widow, Caitriona Wallace, is the paid companion of brother and sister, Jamie and Alice Arrol, and their arrival in Paris is the culmination of a European tour. Caitriona does not expect to find love again, nor does she seek it out, but a chance meeting with, Émile Nouguier, the Eiffel Tower architect, starts a delicate relationship which opens up a wealth of unseen possibilities for Caitriona.

The story is nicely written and brings eighteenth century Paris alive in the imagination. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and think that the author did a good job in demonstrating the expectations of people in different social classes. There are a few really interesting female characters that help to give the book its light and shade. I particularly liked Gabrielle, Émile's feisty mistress, whose chaotic lifestyle clearly showed that life, for some women was never going to be easy. However, I'm not sure that the men come across with any redeeming qualities, Jamie Arrol, in particular, is a bit of a loose cannon and I think that the author captured what it was like for an aimless young man who had too much time and not enough common sense. Émile Nouguier is rather an enigma, and whilst I wanted to like him for Caitriona's sake, I found him rather disappointing as a romantic lead character. The detailed description of the construction of the Eiffel Tower was particularly fascinating as was the people’s reaction to its construction and completion.

To Capture What we Cannot Keep is a quietly confident and intelligently written historical novel. It captures the atmosphere of nineteenth century Paris really well both in terms of its social constraints and also of the magic of living in such a wonderfully inventive age.

Best Read with ... Delicate French pâtisserie..

Beatrice Colin is a novelist based in Glasgow. The Luminous Life of Lily Aphrodite, a novel set in Berlin in the early twentieth century was translated into eight languages and was Richard and Judy pick. Beatrice has been shortlisted for a British Book award, a Saltire award and a Scottish Arts Council Book of the Year Award. She also writes plays and adaptations of BBC Radio 4.

My thanks to Karen at Atlantic Books for my review copy of this book


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Continuing a Spring-like theme

The Place by Francis Ledwidge

Blossoms as old as May I scatter here,
And a blue wave I lifted from the stream.
It shall not know when winter days are drear
Or March is hoarse with blowing. But a-dream
The laurel boughs shall hold a canopy
Peacefully over it the winter long,
Till all the birds are back from oversea,
And April rainbows win a blackbird's song.

And when the war is over I shall take
My lute a-down to it and sing again
Songs of the whispering things amongst the brake,
And those I love shall know them by their strain.
Their airs shall be the blackbird's twilight song,
Their words shall be all flowers with fresh dews hoar.—
But it is lonely now in winter long,
And, God! to hear the blackbird sing once more.

Francis Ledwidge was an Irish writer and poet. He was killed in action at Passchendaele in 1917

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Close to Home ~ Kate Rigby

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

Please welcome Northern writer

I was born in Crosby in the late 1950s but don’t remember much before the age of three. We moved away when I was seven and returned to Thornton when I was 13, about a mile away from Crosby, but I see those as two very different phases of my life. Crosby very much associated with my childhood and Thornton with my teenage years and growing into adulthood.

Of course, Beatlemania was happening in my living memory in Liverpool in the early 60s. I was just a tot, though one of my earliest memories is of singing ‘She Loves You’, and ‘Eleanor Rigby’ not only makes reference to our family name but its haunting strings and poignant lyrics evoke strong memories of our last few months in Crosby! It evokes childhood angst on autumn Sunday evenings, tied up with Evensong at St Faith’s High Church, and the fear of school the following day. My teacher put the fear of God into me with a perishing look of her eye and a stern presence. It’s hardly surprising then, that moving away to the Cotswolds, seemed to my young mind, like an adventure and a great escape!

But during those early years at Crosby, some of the most striking memories are in relation to the landscape and the shore. When we ventured down there as a family, we took our buckets and spades and had a paddle, though the tide was often a long way out, but there were dollops of oil coated in sand across Hall Road beach - deposits from passing tankers no doubt.

 My sister and me (right) at Blundellsands in 1964

Sometimes we would venture further afield to New Brighton or Freshfields. We’d do the interminable walk through the pine woods at Freshfields (or so it seemed to my little legs) with red squirrels delighting us along the way, before coming out to rock pools and dunes with long grassy clumps where caterpillars uncurled while we crunched our sandy sandwiches.

But when we returned to Thornton in the early 1970s, it seemed like a backward step and so Crosby was avoided where possible. We (that is me and my sister closest to me in age) were soon venturing regularly into town (Liverpool city centre). That was the place to be. For the size of it, Crosby didn’t offer much for the young who’d outgrown youth clubs.

My sister and I doing the bump (74) before going out on the town in Liverpool
Photo courtesy of Chris Rigby

So it was with a certain amount of incredulity, when, some thirty odd years later, I heard Crosby was the chosen place for Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ exhibition. His 100 iron men became a permanent fixture, putting Crosby well and truly on the map. I last returned to Crosby in 2009 for a trip down Memory Lane and to see the Iron Men. It is quite an experience and Crosby beach, cleaned of oil, is still unspoiled.

 One of the Iron Men in a Waterloo sunset, and me resting my head on an an Iron Man

Naturally all these early experiences on Merseyside have had a big influence on my writing. My first novel ‘Did You Whisper back?’ was written when I was still living in Thornton. It’s about a young woman who slowly descends into mental illness and is largely set in Blundellsands and Waterloo, with many references to Liverpool and Seaforth in a 1970s setting. It won a Southern Arts Bursary in 1991 under its previous title (Where A Shadow Played).

However, the book of mine that is most influenced by my early life in Crosby and Liverpool is ‘Suckers n Scallies’(previously published in paperback as Sucka! by Skrev). It begins in the 1960s, moving through the 70s and 80s, interweaved with present day (1990s in this case). It’s a gritty story with lots of Scouse dialect and retro sweets and is about a life long friendship between two men from different backgrounds, beginning in 1960s Liverpool when they are children. It’s a bit of a marmite book as there are a lot of time and viewpoint shifts but these are clearly marked with sub-headings. There are no actual references to Crosby as such, but rather north Liverpool, and also Kirkby. References to Terry’s grandpa painting ships in his blood came from a similar story about my own great grandfather. My father also painted the docks in the 1970s/early 80s.

Pier Head picture (taken by my father in 1964 as a slide – the skyline has sprouted more buildings since!)

My very short novella ‘She Looks Pale’ is also set in Liverpool and has references to Waterloo Park school in the 1970s. In fact the title is taken from a schoolgirl ritual we used to do in lunch hours! It is quite a sad and poignant tale, however, about a child confined to the house by her over-protective parents, until her only view of the world is through diaries and photo albums of her mother’s past. It is an e-book in its own right but also fronts a short story collection of mine in paperback. ‘She Looks Pale & Other Stories’.

‘Our Marie’ is about generational differences and conflicts between a mother and her daughter, and is also available in the e-collection of short stories ‘Tales By Kindlelight’.

Liverpool is also referenced in some of my other books and short stories, for instance, the Freshfields walk makes a brief appearance in The Dead Club and the novel I’m working on at the moment has the main character from Crosby, although she now lives in Devon! I think that’s called coming full circle as that’s where I live now. I am hoping to write something autobiographical in the future so Crosby will definitely feature again.

Find out more about Kate on her website

Many thanks to Jo – and Jaffa! - for inviting me to be a guest on your blog.


Warmest thanks to Kate for sharing her thoughts about growing up in Crosby and of how her childhood in Liverpool has shaped her stories.

I hope that you have enjoyed this week's Close to Home Feature

Coming next week : Claire Brown


Friday, 17 March 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting the last day of  

The Possessions Blog Tour

Scribe Publications
March 9th 2017

What's it all about ..

Who will prevail – the woman or the ghost? A worker at an organisation which channels the dead for the grief-stricken begins an illicit affair with a client. But as she gets closer to him, she begins to question whether he is telling the truth about his wife's death.

What did I think of it ...

The first time I meet Patrick Braddock, I’m wearing his wife’s lipstick..

Working for the Elysian Society, Eurydice (Edie) is just one of  a number of ‘Bodies’ who rents her services so that the recently bereaved can take advantage of her disassociated state to communicate with their loved ones beyond the grave. Using objects which were once linked to the deceased, the Bodies then swallow the Lotus, a small white pill which allows a metamorphosis to take place. Intimate contact between user and Body is not encouraged and whilst there are protective considerations in place to safeguard this exchange, inevitably some users want more than can be safely offered.

In her role as a Body, Edie is bound by a strict moral code but she’s also an enticing enigma, prone to her own brand of secrecy, and, as such, she is destined to become inextricably linked with a mystery that opens up, for her, more questions than it does answers. Her association with client, Patrick Braddock is intense, as is her connection to his dead partner, Sylvia. Both situations are fraught with irregularities, and, as the plot starts to diverge beyond the connection laid down as acceptable by the Elysian Society, a dangerous subplot starts to develop between Patrick and Edie.

The Possessions is set in what could be a dystopian world, a place where the past stays hidden and the future reaches out into white space which, at times, appears bleak and unfathomable. Memories surface and linger and a shimmering disquiet bubbles away just beyond reach. The concept of communicating with the dead takes the image of dusty séances that bit further and succeeds in delivering a story which is in part ghost story and part illicit romance.

The premise of the story is cleverly addictive and I enjoyed being taken into a very different world. I think that the author has shown considerable imagination in delivering a story which goes beyond the ordinary, and which make you think about life and death in a different way. By the time the story finishes, the concept of something like this existing in a parallel universe is perhaps not so unbelievable after all...

Best Read with...strong coffee, tart as poison.

Sara Flannery Murphy was born in Little Rock, Arkansas and received an MFA in Creative Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. Currently, she lives in an Oklahoma college town with her husband and son. The Possessions is this author’s first novel.

Visit Sara on Facebook
Follow on Twitter @sflannerymurphy 
#The Possessions

My thanks to Adam at Scribe for his invitation to be part of this blog today.

At Christmas I was one of the lucky bloggers to be given a wonderful goodie box

 to promote The Possessions. Here's the link