Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Blog Tour ~ Evil Games by Angela Marsons

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting a stop on the Evil Games Blog Tour

I am thrilled to be able to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo Angela Marsons talking to us today about 

Tackling Sensitive Subjects

Over to you you, Angela....Tackling Sensitive Subjects...

I have been asked if there is any subject matter that I wouldn’t tackle in the Kim Stone series of books and my answer to that is no. I firmly believe that any subject can be explored providing it is done with respect and sensitivity.

In Evil Games I cover child abuse, manipulation, sociopathy, autism and Post Natal Psychosis amongst other subjects.

Exploring disabilities, both mental and physical is important to me. My partner, Julie, faces many physical challenges but it does not change the person inside. I recall an occasion when she was confined to a wheelchair and we were out shopping for a necklace for her mum’s birthday. In the first jewellery store the assistant asked me what my partner was looking for. I (not so) politely asked her to speak to my partner directly as it was only her legs that were impaired.

In the next store we entered the assistant took the tray from the window, brought it around the counter and placed it on Julie’s legs without addressing me once. No prizes for guessing which store got the sale.

It is important to me to capture the personality behind the disability, the spirit within as I tried to do with Lucy in Silent Scream who suffered with Muscular Dystrophy. In Evil Games I introduced a character named Dougie who although severely autistic was a loving and sharply intelligent young man.

It can be easy to overdo the description of a particularly gruesome crime scene. If you add too much information the reader can become inured against the subject completely. Many times I’ve had to edit out details on the second draft so that the horror can be realised in the reader’s own imagination.

The imagination is such a powerful instrument. There is a particular scene at the opening of Evil Games where Kim and her team carry out an early morning raid on the home of a paedophile. During the raid they search the cellar and uncover clues of the abuse. I chose not to detail the horror of the acts as that fear and repulsion lives in us all. The details were alluded to rather than stated but the scene stayed with me for a very long time. I always explain to readers that if a scene was difficult to read then it was also difficult to write.

As an author I don’t feel it’s my place to preach about subjects or to even pass judgement but I do think it’s an opportunity to bring subjects up for discussion. I always try to remember that my job is primarily to entertain the reader and if possible tap into their emotions whether that be anger, sadness or joy.

26 January 2017
The greater the evil, the more deadly the game

A bit of blurb...

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time - it's personal.

Angela Marsons is the author of the Amazon #1 bestseller SILENT SCREAM. She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their bouncy Labrador and a swearing parrot.

Find out more on Angela's website by clicking here
Follow on Twitter @WriteAngie

My thanks to Angela for her fascinating guest post, to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre and to Kim at Bookouture for the invitaion to be part of this exciting blog tour.

The blog tour runs 23rd January to 13th February - do visit the other stops on the tour and follow on Twitter at #EvilGames.


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Watcher by Ross Armstrong

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting today's stop on The Watcher Blog Tour

About the book..

A keen birdwatcher, Lily Gullick loves watching the world through her binoculars. But she can’t seem to help using them to spy on her neighbours. Across from the new-build flat where Lily lives with herhusband, Aiden, something sinister is happening. In the crumbling estate complex, marked for demolition, Lily starts to see suspicious things beginning to happen. Then her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead,forcing Lily to confront what she thinks she sees to uncover the truth.

Intrigued by the social divide, and the gentrification that her local area seems to be going through, Lily knows that she has to act. But interfering is a dangerous thing, and soon Lily finds her own life threatened. The closer she gets to the truth, the faster she has to run.

Now that nothing is at it seems, can Lily trust everything she believes?

Maybe she isn’t the only one watching..

A blackly comic debut with an unreliable narrator and a classic Hitchcock feel, The Watcher is a highly contemporary and hugely compelling novel for people who enjoy books that you read through your fingers.

My thanks to the Ross for taking the time to answer my questions about The Watcher...

Hi Ross, welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for The Watcher?

The central character, Lily, actually virtually lives with me in the flat, which is quite awkward when I need some space on my own. By that I mean that the idea came to me with the setting, the inspiration being the view of my neighbourhood, and that first image and flash of possibility for a story happened on the very first day I moved in. This does mean however mean that every sight around here reminds me of her, or indeed a plot point to do with a murder that I’ve concocted vividly in my mind. Which is kind of creepy. I have to remind myself the book is an alternate version of reality, not reality itself.
It helped that I moved apartments recently, still staying in the building but away from the one where I wrote The Watcher. However, I’ve ended up in one of the other character’s flats! And spookily, having only imagined its look and dimensions in the book before living here, it is almost exactly as I had written.

Will you explain to us a little more about the plot without giving too much away?

It’s all about what Lily sees and a connection she makes with a woman over the road, motivated by a kind of gnawing middle-class guilt she has about living in a heavily gentrified area. When the woman ends up dead only a day after their encounter, Lily feels she is the only one able to solve what she believes to be a murder. Her thoughts soon turn everyone in the neighbourhood into suspects, many of whom she’s incidentally recently started to watch through binoculars and take notes on as if they were birds. Which makes us question whether this very unreliable narrator needs help in more ways than one.

What do you consider to be the strongest parts of the book?

I think the character of Lily has the ability to constantly draw strong feelings out of people through her strange manoeuvres. Even more so than I’d imagined before writing in fact. I like to think of my book structures as a tiny spotlight on a piece of a picture that slowly gets bigger until the whole, or almost the whole, is revealed. The clear but jagged way in which the story is told has, I hope, provided the most intriguing and leftfield angles to look at her character from, finally arriving at the most coherent understanding of her bizarre, impulsive behaviours. 

The Watcher has been described as homage to Hitchcock, which other writers have influenced your writing?

So many writers and film makers from all different genres. I love Chuck Palahniuk’s ability to disturb and compel with what he calls his ‘transgressional fiction’, and he’s someone I’d like to emulate. I’m always blown away by Harlan Coben’s thrillers, Jonathan Franzen’s incisive human detail, Gillian Flynn’s meticulous swagger. I really like everything Lena Dunham does. Ian Rankin is always superb. Jon Ronson and Louis Theroux really inspire me. As do film makers like Clio Barnard, Andrea Arnold, David Fincher and Steve McQueen.

What is the main thing you want readers to take away from The Watcher?

It’s about sanity, community and the drives that keep people going, which are variously, bizarre, personal, constructive, destructive, but above all, make us the people we are.
It attempts to stare at us with binoculars, checking in to question whether this is the best way things could be. It suggests embracing divergence of character and opinions, and a need to break down the modern phenomenon of fear of community, which has been exacerbated by social media and twenty-four-hour fear-based news.
But essentially it’s all wrapped up in a twisting turning thriller that’s meant to be consumed in as few sittings as possible and keep people up all night.

The Watcher is your debut novel, are there any nuggets of wisdom you can impart to aspiring writers?

Write what you want to write, as if your parents will never read it, as if you will never be called on to explain yourself, and the most true and compelling story might appear. But also be generous to the reader. Try not to demonstrate how smart you are, instead focus on building the most fulfilling story, that’s what will stay with people, will entertain them, and then leave them thinking about it a little if you’re really lucky.

What’s coming next - more writing, more acting, or a bit of both ?

I’m in a new TV show called ‘Will’, which is a vibrant, punk telling of the Shakespeare’s coming to London, getting involved with the theatre, some amazing characters and coming up with the best plays ever written. I play a kind of desperately, wonderfully uncool love rival of his.

Then my next book I’m working on is about a man trying to solve the disappearance of a series of young girls in North London while recovering from a major head injury. It’s very much about perception and the brain. It’s kind of ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’ meets ‘Seven’.
And, there could be more from Lily. She just won’t go away, and has so much to say. 

Ross , thanks so much for spending time with us today and for giving us such a fascinating glimpse into the writing of The Watcher.

About the Author.

Ross Armstrong is an actor and writer based in North London.He has performed on stage with the RSC as well as numerous TV appearances. The Watcher is his debut novel.

Follow on Twitter @Rarmstrongbooks #The Watcher

My thanks to Lucy at HQ for my copy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

Follow @HQStories


Monday, 23 January 2017

Blog Tour ~ Corpus by Rory Clements

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting the first day of the  Corpus Blog Tour


Europe is on the brink of a cataclysm.

The Nazis have marched into the Rhineland.

In Russia, Stalin has unleashed his Great Terror.

Spain has erupted in civil war.

January 2017

In Berlin, a young Englishwoman evades the Gestapo to deliver vital papers to a Jewish scientist. Within weeks, she is found dead in her Cambridge bedroom, a silver syringe at her side.

In a London club, three senior members of the British establishment light the touch paper on a conspiracy that will threaten the very heart of government. 

In a country house near Cambridge, an elderly couple are discovered brutally murdered. 

But what has this to do with the looming abdication of Edward VIII and the unstoppable march of fascism?

Set against the drumbeat of war and moving from Berlin to Cambridge, from Whitehall to the Kent countryside, and from the Fens to the Aragon Front in Spain, this superbly atmospheric, accomplished and original novel marks the beginning of a major new series from bestselling author Rory Clements.

My thoughts about the book...

1936 was a momentous year, as not only were political storm clouds starting to rumble across Europe with the rise of Adolf Hitler, but also in London, the prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, was facing a national crisis as Edward VIII continued his self-destruct trajectory in his determination to marry Wallis Simpson. These events should have little or no bearing on the quiet life of a Cambridge history professor but when Thomas Wilde is inadvertently drawn into a mystery surrounding a particularly violent double murder, and the seemingly unrelated death of a young woman, an almost palpable sense of gloom starts to pervade.

What then follows is a tense and atmospheric novel which sees, Tom Wilde and his friend, Lydia Morris become more and more embroiled in events which inevitably start to spiral out of control. Using his considerable academic familiarity with how the Elizabethan spymaster, Thomas Walsingham operated his legions of spies, Wilde can't help but use this knowledge in order be one step ahead of the local constabulary, almost to the point of doing their work for them, which inadvertently leads him and Lydia into all sorts of very dangerous situations.

The history of the time is well explained, particularly the rise of the Nazi party, the unease surrounding the Spanish civil war and the divisions between the Bolsheviks all, of whom, seem to find their way into the pages of this fascinating historical conspiracy. However, it is in the minutiae of old fashioned sleuthing where the story starts to truly come alive. The mystery at the heart of the novel is intelligently written with this author's fine eye for historical detail and even though the overall pace of the novel is never fast and furious, there are certainly more than enough twists and turns in the plot to keep the reader guessing until the end.

Corpus starts the beginning of a new spy thriller series, and I am sure that by the end of this tense thriller there will be readers who, like me, will be eager to make the acquaintance of Professor Wilde in future novels.

Best Read With... ...Dover sole and a well chilled bottle of Pouilly-Fuissé ...

RORY CLEMENTS won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award in 2010 for his second novel, Revenger. He is the author of the John Shakespeare series of novels which are currently in development for TV by the team behind Poldark and Endeavour. Since 2007, Rory has been writing full-time in a quiet corner of Norfolk, England, where he lives with his family. 

Find out more on the author's website by clicking here  or find him on Facebook by clicking here

My thanks to Emily at Zaffre for her invitation to be part of this tour. Tour runs until the 10th February, so do catch up with the rest of the tour stops. Follow the tour on Twitter #Corpus

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

It wasn't all about fighting on the Western Front. 

The troops spent long tedious hours when nothing much was happening, so with great endeavour the men found ways to entertain themselves. To alleviate the boredom the men would play cards, such as pontoon and brag and a board game called Crown and Anchor.

Crown and Anchor Board game
© IWM (EPH 7436)

Pack of 'Waddington's Number 1 Playing Cards', associated with the First World War service of Herbert Copestake in the Royal Flying Corps. The set of linen-finish cards by John Waddington Ltd (Leeds and London) is complete with its original (though now damaged) box. (© IWM)

Waddington  Playing Cards
© IWM (2325)

When away from the front line the men were able to have more free time, and once their morning routines had been completed games of football could take place, mostly against each other but occasionally against other units in the area. There was also the opportunity to visit the local areas and the etsaminets, small cafes that sold food and wine, became a place where the men could find some consolation in home cooked food and companionship.

An elderly lady serves coffee to British troops at a French estaminet behind the lines at Croix-du-Bac, near Armentières.(© IWM)

(Ernest Brookes)
© IWM (Q635)

Music Halls, variety shows and theatres were all very popular during the war and the troops found the opportunity to bring this form of entertainment to the Western Front. Music and singing could provide huge escape for them.

An open air performance in front of a large audience of troops by the "Bohemians" concert party of No. 14 Convalescent Depot at Trouville. The stage has been erected in the shell of a ruined building. 16 August 1918. (©IWM)

© IWM (Q 11503)

The men would sing sentimental songs which reminded them of wives and girlfriends at home. Occasionally someone would have a gramophone sent out to them from home with boxes of popular records. Officers being sent home on leave were often instructed to bring back a new record so that a collection could be built up.

Singing helped to lift the spirits and when the wine and beer flowed the men were able to forget their troubles, and as the alcohol took effect, the song words became slightly more bawdy, which had a great effect on their morale !

DECCA Gramophone
© IWM (EPH 7660)

It's a Long Way to Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles were very popular.

Listen to more -  Podcast 44 IWM : Wartime Leisure and Entertainment


Saturday, 21 January 2017

Close To Home ...Paula Daly

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 North West Writer

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

Before becoming an author I was a self-employed physiotherapist, but I was miserable at work and my friend suggested I should try writing something. She thought I’d be good at it. She told me to read Stephen King’s book On Writing, which I did, and unexpectedly I found once I started to write I couldn’t stop. 

Your books are based in North West England – how do the people and its landscape shape your stories?

My first four books are set in the Lake District. I write psychological thrillers and the sometimes bleak but beautiful landscape of the Lakes really lends itself to this kind of fiction. As for the characters, elements of the people I know, people I see everyday, creep into each character. This is what makes them real to me and hopefully to the reader too. 

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

I know the places I write about. I wouldn’t write about an area I wasn’t familiar with because I couldn’t make it come to life. But I’m always on the lookout for unusual settings. Something that can make an ordinary scene more interesting. In The Mistake I Made I had a lot of fun writing scenes that took place on the Windermere car ferry. Hopefully the reader enjoyed the fact that they’d not read something like it before. 


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

I’m very lucky to be with Penguin Random House, because a large commercial publisher like this will cover the costs of sending an author out to promote their books. 

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

Hmm, if I was to pitch the North West as an ideal place to live everyone would want to come and live here. So here’s my pitch: the weather’s terrible and the people are very unfriendly, nobody smiles and it’s an awful place for a writer to live and work. Totally uninspiring.

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

I don’t feel a great need to interact with other writers so much as to connect with other people in general. So I get out the house, walk the dog, chat to friends etc. I just do what any normal person does to connect to the wider world. 

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

Cumbria libraries have been very supportive of my work and have arranged numerous events at which I’ve spoken about books and writing and chatted to readers. We don’t have many independent bookshops left but Bookends in Keswick and Carlisle go out of their way to promote my books and I’m very grateful to them. 

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

Start with whichever piques their interest. The books follow a loose kind of order, so ideally, start with Just What Kind of Mother Are You? But really, it doesn’t matter. They can be read in any order. 


Paula's latest novel The Trophy Child  is out in hardcover on the 26th January

Bantam Press
26 January 2017

A doting mother or a pushy parent?

Karen Bloom expects perfection. Her son, Ewan, has been something of a disappointment and she won’t be making the same mistake again with her beloved, talented child, Bronte.

Bronte’s every waking hour will be spent at music lessons and dance classes, doing extra schoolwork and whatever it takes to excel.

But as Karen pushes Bronte to the brink, the rest of the family crumbles. Karen’s husband, Noel, is losing himself in work, and his teenage daughter from his first marriage, Verity, is becoming ever more volatile. The family is dangerously near breaking point.

Karen would know when to stop . . . wouldn’t she?

You can pre-order The Trophy Child here

You can find out more about Paula by visiting her Facebook page by clicking here  

or follow on her  Twitter @pauladalyauthor

Huge thanks to Paula for sharing her books and her love of the North West with us today.

Coming next week : Cath Staincliffe


Friday, 20 January 2017

Today my guest author is ...Kirsten McKenzie

 I am delighted to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo

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

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

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

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

Accent Press

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

Accent Press

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

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

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

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

More about the Author

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

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

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

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

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

 hearing all about 'The Ruination of Art'


Thursday, 19 January 2017

Review ~ The House of New Beginnings by Lucy Diamond

Pan Macmillan
26th January 2017

A bit of blurb..

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts about the book..

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

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

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

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

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

Website click here


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