Wednesday, 12 December 2018

🎄 Review ~A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews by Annie Darling


🎄

Harper Collins
November 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book


Star baker Mattie has hated Christmas ever since she had her heart broken on Christmas Eve. The only thing she hates more is the insufferable Tom, who has rubbed her up the wrong way since she started running the tearoom next door to his bookshop. So when Mattie and Tom are left in charge in the frantic festive days before Christmas, it might be cold outside but things are sure to heat up.

Can a bookshop full of romantic novels, a life-sized reindeer and a mistletoe kissing booth persuade two scrooges to fall in love with Christmas… and each other?


My thoughts about it...

I've loved these books ever since I read The Little Book Shop of Lonely Hearts, so to meet up again with some of the characters who have featured in these delicious rom-com novels is a real treat.

This time the focus is on Mattie, the talented pastry chef, who runs the Happy Ever After tea rooms and Tom who works in the Happy Ever After Book Shop. Normally, these two don't see eye to eye on anything but when circumstances throw them together, well, as you find out, anything can happen !

What delights me about reading these novels is the way that Annie Darling brings her characters to life with such warmth that you can't help but be drawn into their stories. I loved Mattie from the start, and even though her heart was broken one Christmas Eve and she still has reservations about the festive season, she still manages to make wonderful festive confections which sound delicious. There's even a recipe for Gingerbread Cupcakes at the back of the book! Tom is a whole different matter and it took me a while longer to warm to his character but there are reasons, as we discover, why he acts in the way he does. Add into the mix a delightful cast of characters, who add lots of quirky personality into the story, and you have all the ingredients for a fabulously festive read.

A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews is a heartwarmingly, gorgeous romantic comedy and is just perfect to read, with a gingerbread latte, in the run up to Christmas.





@_AnnieDarling

@HarperCollinsUK





Tuesday, 11 December 2018

🎄 Fabulously Festive with Kathryn Freeman 🎄





In the run up to Christmas, I have wonderful author interviews to help get you into the festive spirit

Here's the fabulous, Kathryn Freeman





Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog Jo, I’m looking forward to answering your fabulously festive questions! 


🎄What’s your earliest Christmas Memory? 

Waking up to the feel of something heavy around my feet. Then sitting up bolt upright and finding the stocking I’d put on the end of my bed was overflowing with presents. 


🎄Do you have any special Christmas Traditions? 

As children my brother and I were forced to sit around the table and sign our names on each Christmas card my mum and dad sent. Needless to say, it often descended into chaos. I vividly recall introducing the guinea pig to the table at one point. Naturally I made my husband and sons continue the tradition … the name signing I mean, not the guinea pig. 


🎄What’s your favourite festive carol or song? 

Santa got stuck up the chimney. I have a very fond memory of my son at nursery, aged three, yelling his way through it. His was the only voice all the parents heard. 


🎄Do you have a favourite festive film? 

Ben Hur, The Great Escape, Gone with the Wind … I know, I know, not very festive, but when I was a kid they were the films always scheduled over Christmas, so they were the films I remember watching. Given the choice, I’d go with Lovely Actually, but males outnumbered females 3 to 1 in my house so the choice is rarely mine. 


🎄What’s your favourite festive read? 

I love, love, love Nora Roberts and really enjoyed the two stories in Christmas in the Snow. 


🎄Are you organised or do you leave everything until the last minute? 

I aim to be organised, but I’m not good at it. For example, I buy presents in the sales when I see them over the year and put them in the trunk. Clever eh? But two weeks before Christmas I usually panic and buy presents I didn’t need because I forget what’s in the damn trunk. 


🎄Christmas tree – real or artificial? 

Real – it’s the smell. 


🎄Tinsel or Glitter? 

Neither – but there’s no such thing as too many fairy lights. 


🎄Christmas cracker or party popper? 

Cracker. Party poppers last two seconds. Between the jokes and the daft plastic toys, crackers give a whole meal time of entertainment. 


🎄Mince Pie or Yule Log? 

Both please. 


🎄Christmas Dinner – Traditional Turkey, Nut Roast Veggie or something a bit different? 

Always turkey, though it’s the stuffing I like best so I’d be happy with a plate of just that. 


🎄Christmas Tipple – Bucks Fizz/Mulled Wine or something stronger? 

All of the above, but not at the same time. 


🎄A fun game of after dinner charades or more chocolates and the television? 

We’ve tried games in the past, including a quiz on my books (not many marks were scored) and stick the bauble on Jenson Button (best not to ask … no, no, not the real Jenson, a cardboard cutout that usually sits by my desk). Sadly nineteen and twenty-one year old boys tend not to do what you want them to anymore, so it’ll be television for us this year. 

🎄Happy Christmas 😊



Choc Lit
October 2018

Would you swap sea and sunshine for tinsel and turkey? Gabby Sanderson is used to being let down – even at Christmas. Which is why she’s happy to skip the festive season completely in favour of a plane ticket and sunnier climes. But this Christmas could be different, because this time she might not be spending it alone. Can Owen Cooper charm Gabby into loving Christmas in the same way he’s charmed his way into her life, or is he just another person who’ll end up disappointing her?


Twitter @KathrynFreeman1





Monday, 10 December 2018

🎄 Blog Tour and #Giveaway ~ Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak




 ✻ Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Seven Days of Us Blog Tour ✻


Piatkus
October 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour


It's Christmas, and the Birch family is gathering for the first time in years.

Emma is elated at having everybody under one roof, but her oldest child, Olivia, is only home because she has nowhere else to go. She's just returned from treating an epidemic abroad and must stay in quarantine for a week - and so, too should her family.

For the next seven days, no one can leave the house and no one can enter.

It doesn't sound too hard. But a week with your nearest and dearest can feel like an eternity, especially when they're all harbouring secrets.

One of whom is about to come knocking at their door...


My thoughts about Seven Days of Us..

The Birch family like to spend the festive season at their Norfolk country home, and whilst certain traditions remain, like filling Christmas stockings and digging up the Christmas tree, they don't always spend time quality time together. This festive season is going to be very different, as they have to spend seven days together in complete isolation. The reason for this quarantine is that the elder daughter, Olivia, who for the first time in ages is spending Christmas with the family, has just returned from working as an medical aid doctor in Liberia, treating a deadly virus, known as Haag.

This forced isolation allows the family the opportunity to rediscover what's been happening in each of their lives but, very soon, the fragmentation of a family who don't really communicate with each other, comes to the fore and forms the basis for a fascinating look at the minutiae of family life. There's so much going on in the story, from the sibling rivalry between the sisters, particularly with Phoebe, who is just so flimsily materialistic compared to her ethically responsible older sister. Husband and wife, Andrew and Emma have their own complicated secrets which, when discovered, will have the power to change the family dynamic forever.

I enjoyed the story very much especially the multiple points of view, which help to give a fascinating insight into the innermost thoughts and feelings of the family as individuals. However, as we find out in the story, being in forced isolation doesn't always bring out the best in people, and the complicated journey of discovery they each travel, made the story, for me, quite a compelling read. 

There are some quite serious topics covered which are have an impact on the way the story evolves but there were also some lighter moments which made me smile. The Birch family with all their faults, flaws and failings could, very easily, be any family coping with life's problems.

Seven Days of Us is written with warmth, wit and compassion, bringing a whole new meaning to staying home at Christmas.







About the Author

Francesca Hornak is an author, journalist and former columnist for the Sunday Times Style magazine. Her debut novel Seven Days Of Us is published by Little, Brown. Little Island Productions has pre-empted TV rights to the book. Francesca's work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Metro, Elle, Grazia, Stylist, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and Red. She is the author of two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects: Middle Class Stuff (and Nonsense) and Worry with Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama.

Twitter @FrancescaHornak

@PiatkusBooks

@LittleBrownUK



Thanks to the publishers 

I am giving away a copy of Seven Days of Us in this UK only giveaway






Sunday, 9 December 2018

🎄Blog Tour ~ Nici's Christmas Tale by Jean Gill



Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of Nici's Christmas Tale Blog Tour

The Thirteenth Sign
November 2018

My thanks to the author and Random Things tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to the blog tour

A stand-alone short story in the multi-award-winning Troubadours Quartet series 1157: Aquitaine. The wolves are coming! At midnight on Christmas Eve, while the blizzard blasts snow through every crack in the castle walls, Nici the Shepherd's Dog stands guard in the sheepfold. Beside him as usual are his pack and the flock they protect but this night is not usual at all. A small boy braves the snowy night, seeking the protection of his great friend while he is banned from his parents' quarters in the castle. Nici recalls other times and other dangers, his trials and failures, the reasons why he ran away with a young girl, now the little boy's mother. He would still give his life in a heartbeat for Lady Estela. And yet, on this snowy night, he cannot help her. So, while he waits and comforts Estela's son, he tells his own puppies the story of a dog's life.

My thoughts about it..

Nici's Christmas Tale takes us back to Aquitaine in 1157 and huddled with his sheep is Nici, a large Pyranean shepherd dog, who guards his flock, and his pack of dogs, from wolves, but on this snowy Christmas Eve, Nici has someone else to watch over, as whilst his patron, Lady Estela is otherwise occupied, her son seeks warmth and comfort. This is a lovely gentle story which looks at the world through Nici's eyes, and as he recounts the stories of his eventful life to his offspring, so he protects Lady Estela's son from harm. 

Beautifully reminiscent of the age old tradition of gathering on cold night to tell stories, time and place sit comfortably within the time frame. There's a real sense of history and I found that I could well imagine the cold and dark and the pleasure of being held together in a safe place. Filled with adventure, danger, love and friendship, Nici's life, which hasn't always been easy, is explored in fine detail.

Whilst this is book five of the Troubadour Quartet series of books by this author, it is perfectly possible to read as a standalone and coming in at just under 60 pages, it's a lovely story to read on a wintry afternoon over a cup of hot chocolate.





Jean Gill is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with two scruffy dogs, a beehive named 'Endeavour', a Nikon D750 and a man. For many years, she taught English and was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Wales. She is mother or stepmother to five children so life was hectic. Publications are varied, including prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, and a cookery book on goat cheese. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, she can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions. Sign up to Jean special readers' group at http://www.jeangill.com/ for exclusive news, offers and a free book.

Twitter @writerjeangill #NicisChristmasTale #Troubadors

#RandomThingsTours






Saturday, 8 December 2018

🎄Blog Tour ~ The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson



Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting The Mother of All Christmases Blog Tour


Simon Schuster
November 2018

My thanks to  the publishers and edpr for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour


The brand new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Perfectly Imperfect Woman; a gorgeous read full of love, life, laughter - and crackers! 


Here are thoughts about it..

Three very different women discover that they are expecting a Christmas baby. For one it’s a dream come true, for another it’s a case of being a bit slap dash with the birth control pills, and for the youngest of the three, it’s a baby conceived in rather unusual circumstances. They bond over tea and biscuits at the aptly named Christmas Pudding Club and as their friendship begins, so the details of their lives start to emerge.

The Mother Of All Christmases is a festive treat, from its setting in a winter wonderland theme park, at the gloriously named Winterworld, to making hand-made crackers in the Christmas cracker factory, there is never a moment when the story doesn’t pull you into the fabulous world that this author so lovingly recreates.

What Milly Johnson does so well is making her characters feel real. Anne, Evie and Palma could be any of the women you know. Their worries and problems, high spots and low ebbs are so relatable that after a few pages you forget that you are reading a novel as this just feels like you’re having a natter, over a cappuccino, with your best girlfriends. There is so much to enjoy about this heartwarming story, for readers who are already fans of her work it's another chance to meet up with some of the characters from a previous story and for new readers it is a perfect standalone story to enjoy.

The Mother of All Christmases is an absolute triumph from an author who is absolutely at the top of her game. It’s warm, witty, wise and wonderful and there really is no better tonic at this stressful time of year than settling down with a pot of tea, a plate of mince pies and let Milly Johnson take you into the magical world of her imagination.




Photo credit: Charlotte Murphy


Milly Johnson is a Top Five Sunday Times bestselling author of fourteen novels with plans for many more. Her novels are about the universal issues of friendship, family, love, betrayal, good food and a little bit of that magic in life that sometimes visits the unsuspecting. 

Milly is a columnist for her local newspaper and is also an experienced broadcaster on radio and TV. She is also patron of several local charities, including Yorkshire Cat Rescue and The Well at the Core, with community and animal welfare both things that are very close to her heart.


Twitter @millyjohnson #TheMotherOfAllChristmases

@simonschusterUK

@ed_pr









Friday, 7 December 2018

🎄Northern Writers ~ Drew Neary and Ceri Williams


I am delighted to bring to Jaffareadstoo this feature which showcases the work of authors who have based their work in the North of England

Here are Northern co-writers : Drew Neary and Ceri Williams 

and the book illustrator, Ana Priscila Rodriguez Aranda


Drew
Drew Neary became interested in history, science fiction/fantasy and conspiracy theories in his teenage years. This prompted him to write short stories over the years. He is also a fan of tabletop gaming.


Ceri

Ceri Williams has always loved language, and after a 5 year stint in advertising and journalism, now writes supernatural horror and fantasy. The Clockmaker is their first book and forms part of an upcoming series.


Ana Priscila Rodriguez Aranda

Priscila Rodriguez was born in Mexico City, 1974 and now resides in The Netherlands since 1998.


A huge welcome to you all. Thank you for being our guests today. 

Tell us a little about yourselves and how you got started? 

We met in a writers’ forum and quickly realised that our interests and approaches to writing were very similar. As we live close to each other we met for a coffee and began discussing a photograph that we had seen online. Before we knew it several hours had passed and we had outlined an exciting epic storyline that we knew had to be written. 

"This is the first time we are co-writing and we are really excited about how dynamic our partnership is. It was evident from our initial meetings and the snowballing of ideas which evolved into the journey, that we absolutely had to write this novel, and which subsequently forms the basis for the books that will follow."


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What’s the book about? 

The story is about a little child, Duncan and his mother, Annette, who are moving to his father's ancestral place in Scotland. Here they plan to start a lodging service to escape the devastation of the London blitz and heal the scars left by the death of Duncan's father in WW2. 

On their train journey to Scotland they briefly meet a man whom they later find in their own village as a guest in their lodge. This man known only as The Clockmaker who escaped from Hilter’s bunker is much more than meets the eye. Who is this mystery man and does he have any role in the many strange things that begin to happen in this little Scottish village? 

“I enjoyed this book. It has some gothic, is a bit historical, has some supernatural and a touch (but only a touch) of horror. This is not a blood, guts and gore book but a clever unravelling of a story where the human characters are not the most unnerving.” 


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

Drew splits his time between the North and the Midlands where his children are based. 

In terms of marketing and promotion we will obviously try and get promoted everywhere in the UK and abroad (we have books on shelves in Europe for example). However we found a great deal of support from our communities up north and the first Waterstones to stock our books were actually Northern branches. 

In terms of radio and TV interviews you have to be prepared to travel as you do for book signings and literary festivals etc. We were interviewed in Bournemouth recently for example but we love doing it and consider it a healthy part of the job. We are still quite new to this but we find social media is an invaluable tool to promote and market our work and a wonderful way to meet new readers, which is one of the joys of being an author.


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

The book starts off in Newcastle where Drew hails from and so all of the places mentioned are a significant part of his youth. Two of the characters are based on his grand parents, and the young girl is his mum. It was an opportunity to celebrate the lives of real people who fitted the timeline of the book, which is post WW2, and it fits with the storyline. Drew’s grandfather was:

“A WW2 veteran, who had so many amazing stories about his war experiences and yet he told them to us young ones in a way that wasn’t terrifying- it was entrancing. He earned a box full of medals (one from El Alamein) that are now the treasured possessions of my son.” 

This involvement of real people in the novel was something that hopefully the reader engages with. Drew wanted people to know what his grandfather was like.

The main body of the novel is set in Balomoral in the Scottish highlands, in the fictitious village of Lochnagar. Western Scotland is a beautiful country dotted with little villages, standing stones, mountains, lochs and mists that whisper of ancient secrets and hidden ancient powers waiting to be re- discovered. Powers which the clockmaker seeks to unlock. We felt it important to visit several places in Scotland so as to ensure we got the soul of the country in our words. 

“One of the most well-written books I've read in a while. The setting development cannot be beat and you actually are placed dead in the centre of every scene.” David Kaiser 


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

It is the people above all. All those we grew up with in the North-friends, neighbours and family. It is hard to imagine a warmer, friendlier, positive group of people with an awesome sense of humour and a great outlook on the joys of living. 

The north has some wonderful cities such as Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, and Chester. All of these cities have given so much to not just the UK but also the world in general. Music art, literature, sport, engineering to name just a few. 

In addition you have beautiful countryside-which was part of the inspiration for the setting of the book. 


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

We’re a little different as we co-write. We do write separately on occasion, but the most important aspects and content of the writing and novels come from us blending what we have written, discussions around ideas and next steps, and what we come up with when writing together. We have been asked whether it is difficult to write together, and our response has been not at all- in fact just the opposite. 

When we are co-writing we are putting into words a dialogue we have with each other. Then we blend it in the editing process. So it reads as though one person has written it. Readers of our book cannot tell which parts have been written by either of us. Editing together is vital, it allows us to discuss what needs to be changed and or developed. 

Drew: “I’m definitely not a loner, I much prefer the company of people, admittedly when you are writing you have to get the words n the page which is solitary one man job; but I write with music, or the radio on and I talk over scenes in my head, so I don’t feel like I am alone. But also when I have written some pages, I talk them over with my children and ask them what they think. My son in particular will always ask what happens next-and this spurs me to write .He is very good at giving feedback and thinking of other scenarios.” 

If we cannot physically write together, a really successful method has been sending each other the writing via email and then discussing this, or we just ring up and have a chat. 

We find that we have a very strong respect for each other’s ideas and thoughts, and as a result this respect leads to a meshing of quality text. 

We use social media extensively to promote our novel, and in the process have linked up with other authors. 


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

We have held signing events at local shops who carry copies of the book. We contacted local and regional library services and are now stocked in several and are currently waiting for confirmation of author events. 

Drew attended a local reading group who were reading The Clockmaker, and the response from them was wonderful (they even made a cake) and several of them put it their top 3 books of the year.


What can you tell us about your latest books? 

We are currently writing two books, as The Clockmaker is part of an upcoming series. Optics is the prequel and The Perfect Child is the sequel. 

Optics: 

Is a semi dystopian novel set in the future but jumps backwards and forwards through time, and this is where The Clockmaker first appears. Many of the genres evident in The Clockmaker are within the novel, although there is a strong sci -fi element throughout. 

Through the sins of mankind The Beast grew in power and was thus able to slay God. Mankind is spread through the stars but a sentient artifact from the past is discovered by the heroes- Judd and Walden who are escapees from the shackles of The Great machine. This artifact leads the heroes down on a fraught and mysterious journey to restore the balance between good and evil and attempt the impossible -and bring God back. 

The Perfect Child: 

Continues the journey started by Annette and Duncan in The Clockmaker. Spanning 3 centuries, the protagonists are brought together for one final time. Set in Nottingham primarily, it is a gothic thriller with elements of the supernatural and horror.


More about the illustrator - Ana Priscila Rodriguez Aranda - Visual artist

Priscila Rodriguez was Born in Mexico City, 1974 and now resides in The Netherlands since 1998.
She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Utrecht in 2006 with a specialty in Intermedia and Photography and has also studies in History and Graphic Design, currently she works in developing her own photographic techniques, in which she combines digital and three dimensional elements.

She started working with the classical forms of drawing and painting until she soon discovered the magic of antique photographs and old papers left behind in flee markets, which she has been obsessively collecting for more than a decade. The fascination for the old and the forgotten are the key elements to her work and the stories she tells.

Among exhibitions in Mexico and in The Netherlands, she has also collaborated in publications. The Clockmaker is her first book cover.

The atmosphere of the novel and the nature of her "time based" visuality gives to this title the perfect match.


For more of her work, visit:  http://www.allthingslostonearth.com/




Drew and Ceri on Twitter@stepford115




Huge thanks to Drew and Ceri for being my guests on the blog today



Thursday, 6 December 2018

🎄Blog Tour ~ Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield



✨Jaffareadstoo is really excited to host today's Once Upon A River Blog Tour stop✨


Doubleday
14 January 2019

My thanks to the publishers and Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to the blog tour


A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child. Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can it be explained by science? An exquisitely crafted multi-layered mystery brimming with folklore, suspense and romance, as well as with the urgent scientific curiosity of the Darwinian age, Once Upon a River is as richly atmospheric as Setterfield’s bestseller The Thirteenth Tale.


My thoughts about Once Upon A River...

Once upon a River starts on a dark midwinter night at The Swan Inn at Radcot, where within its ancient walls, stories linger and grow with the telling, and for all those who sit around the inn’s tables that night, there’s no story ever told as strange as the one that’s about to happen. An injured stranger and the corpse of a tiny child set the whole story in motion.

In Once upon a River the myths and folklore that so often infuse this author's stories come to life in a richly detailed account of interwoven lives, circumstances which blend well together to form a richly suspenseful story and one that I’m not about to spoil by giving any clues as to what happens. The only point I will make is that the story requires slow and careful reading; it’s a hefty story, filled as it is with lots of fascinating detail, so it’s well worth taking your time to allow the story to evolve as gracefully as the tide on which the book turns.

So often during the reading of Once upon a River, I was reminded of a dimly lit fireside and a huddle of bodies keeping close, keeping warm and sheltering from harm, and of those ancient teller of tales, recounting stories which are passed from one generation to another. Reminiscent of the stark beauty of a Grimm’s fairy tale, the darkness of Dickens, the Gothic imagination of Ann Radcliffe, the story weaves and dances along with the tides of the great river Thames, which ebbs and flows, as much a character in the story as the people who call its river bank home.

There are a few authors I get excited about and, without doubt, Diana Setterfield is one such author. There’s no doubt that she is a talented weaver of tales, creating stories so darkly imaginative that time, place, people and circumstances are instantly recognisable and, at the same time, beautifully evocative of times past.

Once upon a River seems to have been a long time coming, but believe me, it’s been well worth the wait.




Diane Setterfield’s bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale was published in 38 countries, sold more than three million copies, and was made into a television drama scripted by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave. Her second novel was Bellman & Black, and her new novel is Once Upon a River. Born in rural Berkshire, she now lives near Oxford, by the Thames.


Twitter @DianeSetterfie1 #OnceUponARiver #Passthestoryon

@DoubledayUK @TransworldBooks @AlisonBarrow

#RandomThingsTours

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