Saturday, 23 June 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Prince of Mirrors by Alan Robert Clark

On Hist Fic Saturday 

Let's go back to ...Victorian England

Fairlight Books
7 June 2018

My thanks to the publishers and Animate Communications for my copy of this book

Prince Albert Victor, known as Eddy, is the grandson of Queen Victoria, and the heir presumptive to the British throne. Eddy is a quiet and sensitive soul, often overshadowed by his more rambunctious younger brother, George, and completely at odds with his philandering father, Bertie. Never quite sure of his place in the world but with the weight of future responsibility lying heavily on his young shoulders Eddy finds the strength of purpose he needs in his relationship with the man appointed as his tutor at Eton. The charismatic, Jem Stephens, is everything that Eddy strives, and wants to be, and yet, this close relationship is also filled with a powerful sense of destiny.

Moving between locations in London and Norfolk, the world of the nineteenth century aristocrat is brought sharply into focus. As a young man, Eddy moves, almost aimlessly, amongst society, and as he struggles to come to terms with his sexuality, so society eventually starts to dictate how Eddy should behave. His entrée into the clandestine world of Victorian homosexuality is explored in some detail where it is debatable whether any of the, sometimes sordid, relationships he embarked upon brought him any degree of happiness.

The Prince of Mirrors is an interesting combination of weaving together a fictional tale alongside what is known in history. Of course, there is speculation about Prince Albert Victor, as some of the more lurid gossip of the time tried, and it must be said, failed to pin the Whitechapel murders, more associated with Jack the Ripper, on Prince Eddy. That the Prince moved in the secretive world of homosexual London is also the subject of conjecture, however, his close association with Jem Stephens is certainly based on factual evidence.

The author succeeds in bringing into focus the vagaries of Victorian morals whilst at the same time bringing this rather forlorn Prince to life and although there were times when I felt that the story appeared a little disjointed in places, overall this didn’t detract from my enjoyment in reading, and learning more about, Prince Albert Victor, The Prince of Mirrors.

Alan Robert Clark was born and educated in Scotland. He briefly attended King's College in London, before starting his career as a copywriter and creative director with a number of leading London advertising agencies. With a background in journalism, Alan has ghost written and co-authored a number of biographies and has one previous novel. Alan now works as a freelance writer.


Twitter @FairlightBooks


Friday, 22 June 2018

Blog Tour - The Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The Hidden Bones

21st June 2018
Clare Hills #1

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

What's it all about..

Following the recent death of her husband, Clare Hills is listless and unsure of her place in the world. When her former university friend Dr David Barbrook asks her to help him sift through the effects of deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart, she sees this as a useful distraction from her grief. During her search, Clare stumbles across the unpublished journals detailing Gerald’s most glittering dig. Hidden from view for decades and supposedly destroyed in an arson attack, she cannot believe her luck. Finding the Hungerbourne Barrows archive is every archaeologist’s dream. Determined to document Gerald’s career-defining find for the public, Clare and David delve into his meticulously kept records of the excavation. 

But the dream suddenly becomes a nightmare as the pair unearth a disturbing discovery, putting them at the centre of a murder inquiry and in the path of a dangerous killer determined to bury the truth for ever.

What did I think about it..

The Hidden Bones is a new series of novels which feature archaeologist, Clare Hills. Putting her expert knowledge of archaeology and ancient archaeological site sites to good use the author has written a fascinating multi-layered story about what happens when the past comes back to haunt those who were once involved in the controversial Hungerbourne Barrows archaeological dig. Even decades later the lure of this ancient site continues to intrigue and when missing archive material is found the past is, once again, opened up to question.

The story starts off slowly and then, with careful consideration, each of the layers are stripped away to reveal a dark mystery which, whilst caught up in the here and now, is also hauntingly linked to the long buried secrets of the ancient landscape. However, the shadows of past are not going to lie quietly, and Clare and the rest of the archaeology team soon discover that someone, or something, is hell bent on trying to prevent them from getting any closer to the truth. As with all new series there is a certain amount of getting to know the characters involved and I especially enjoyed the interaction between the lead archaeologist, Dr David Barbrook and Clare, who have a certain amount of personal history between them, and quirky, osteo-archaeologist, Jo Granski, who added a real sense of vibrancy and enthusiasm to the team.

As the first book in a series, The Hidden Bones works well and the author’s knowledge of the subject gives the story such an authentic feel that I was soon involved in trying to piece together all the clues. There are some clever twists and turns which I didn’t see coming and the complex nature of the mystery at the heart of the novel is both entertaining and intriguing.

There is certainly huge potential for this series and I look forward to seeing where the archaeologists will go in future stories.

Nicola Ford is the pen name for rcheologist Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for  the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage site. Through her day-job and now her writing, she's spent more time than most people thinking about the dead.

Twitter @nic_ford #TheHiddenBones


Thursday, 21 June 2018

Review ~ Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

3 May 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

What's it all about..

Jen's 15-year-old daughter goes missing for four agonizing days. When Lana is found, unharmed, in the middle of the desolate countryside, everyone thinks the worst is over. But Lana refuses to tell anyone what happened, and the police draw a blank. The once-happy, loving family return to London, where things start to fall apart. Lana begins acting strangely- refusing to go to school, and sleeping with the light on.

What did I think about it..

Every parent's worst nightmare is that their child goes missing but for Hugh and Jen Maddox this reality is all too true. As the story opens their fifteen-year old daughter, Lana, has just been found, relatively unharmed, but with nothing to say about where she has been over the frantic four days of her disappearance.

What then follows is a rather bleak story of a fractured family who struggle to come to terms with, not just, Lana's refusal to recall anything about her disappearance, but also, about her subsequent disruptive behaviour once she gets home. The way that this troublesome conduct affects the family is crucial to the way the story progresses and, whilst, it’s not always very easy to like Lana very much, there is no doubt that her unstable personality is what gives the book its drive and energy and certainly keeps the momentum of the story strong and meaningful. Lana’s volatile relationship with both parents, and particularly with her mother, is tested to the limits of everyone’s endurance, and it is to Hugh and Jen’s credit that they do their best to support this wild child who seems to push them away at every opportunity.

Whistle in the Dark is a perceptive dissection of a troubled family who seem to be constantly at odds with each other. The mystery of what happened to Lana during the four missing days is eventually revealed however what’s is more interesting is how the author gets us to that point and her fine dissection of family life is perhaps where the story sits most strongly.

The author writes this introspective novel very well and in Whistle in the Dark she so cleverly exposes the absolute anguish of mental health issues which can so easily fragment and eventually destroy family life. 

Emma Healey, a former bookseller, grew up in London where she went to art college and completed her first degree in bookbinding. She then worked for two libraries, two bookshops, two art galleries and two universities, and was busily pursuing a career in the art world before writing overtook everything. She moved to Norwich in 2010 to study for the MA in Creative Writing at UEA and never moved back again. Elizabeth is Missing, her first novel, was a Sunday Times Bestseller, won the Costa First Novel Award 2014 and was shortlisted for the National Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

Twitter @ECHealey #whistleinthedark

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Review ~ Bodacious : The Shepherd Cat by Suzanna Crampton

Bodacious: The Shepherd Cat
Harper Element
Harper Collins
14 June 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Bodacious: The Shepherd Cat is the heart-warming and charming tale of Bodacious – the most famous farmyard animal since Babe – who tells us about life as the Shepherd Cat of Black Sheep Farm. It’s a beautifully written memoir which captures perfectly the highs and lows of idyllic country living, and all that it entails – early mornings, frosty starts, beautiful sunrises, adventurous rare-breed Zwartbles sheep, hard work, entertaining animals, mouth-watering food and the kind people you meet along the way.

Photograph by kind permission of the publishers

Written from the perspective of this extraordinary cat, his charming memoir takes us through a year of life on the farm; from Bodacious’ daily farm duties and shepherding adventures, to his unbreakable bond with the shepherd, Suzanna.

Photograph by kind permission of the publishers

My thoughts..

On Black Sheep Farm in County Kilkenny, with gentle fields that slope towards the River Nore, Bodacious the Shepherd Cat can be seen amongst the rare-breed black Zwartbles sheep which give the farm, not just its name but which also produce the rather special yarn from which the shepherd produces beautifully soft blankets.

Bodacious first came to Black Sheep Farm as an abandoned cat and quickly became accustomed to farm life, tending sheep, caring for the lady egg givers and generally making his presence felt amongst the other animals who call the farm home, and as the farm closed itself around Bodacious, so Bodacious lovingly wrapped himself around Black Sheep Farm becoming as one with its rhythms and routines.

This lovely look at a year in the adventurous life of Bodacious takes us through the seasons. From spring through to winter there is never a dull moment in the life of this intrepid farm cat, be it tending his flock, supervising lambing or patrolling against the ever present threat of foxes, what is always guaranteed is that he does so with lively wit and considerable charm.

The very essence of Bodacious is captured so beautifully that it becomes a real pleasure to turn the pages of this lovely book to see just what's going to happen next as he goes about his important farm business. His voice is strong and purposeful as he chivies and scolds and generally makes sure that everything is as good as it can possibly be. However, the book isn't just about Bodacious, although his magnificence shines through on every well written page, it's also a love story to Black Sheep Farm and to the shepherd, Suzanna, who cares so deeply for the land, its soil and its ancient footprint on the landscape.

Suzanna and Bodacious
Credit: Clement Gelly

Suzanna Crampton grew up in the USA but spent her summers at her grandparents’ small farm in Kilkenny, Ireland. She studied agricultural and environmental sciences at Sterling Institute in Vermont and returned to Kilkenny in 1997. She now lives on her family farm with her flock of Zwartbles sheep, alpacas, horses, chickens, dogs, and Bodacious, who strolled into her life 11 years ago.

Follow Bodacious on Twitter @1CatShepherd #ShepherdCat

Follow the author on Twitter @zwartblesIE



Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Forgotten Guide to Happiness by Sophie Jenkins

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to host today's stop on the blog tour for The Forgotten Guide to Happiness

26 July 2018

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

What's it all about..

You can lose your memory, but you never forget how to love…

Lana Green has a talent for pushing people away. As a writer, she’s perfectly happy to be left alone with her books. But when she meets Jack Buchanan and Nancy Ellis Hall, Lana’s solitary life will change for ever.
Nancy has dementia, and social services believe this makes her vulnerable. But Lana can see the funny, brilliant woman underneath the illness.
As Lana and Jack struggle to keep Nancy out of a care home, Lana starts to question everything she ever thought mattered.
Because what’s the point in stories, if there is no one to share them with?

What did I think about it..

Lana is a struggling young writer who, after the success of her debut novel, is determined to get to grips with her difficult second novel. However, her home circumstances are conspiring against her and, as she takes stock of her life, so she gets drawn into the world of Jack Buchanan and his step mother, the renowned writer, Nancy Ellis Hall. Nancy's dementia is starting to become a problem but this strong-minded woman is determined to have control of her own life even though she really does need a little help. When Lana needs somewhere to live, in order to keep Nancy’s safe, the perfect solution is for Lana to move in with Nancy as her live-in helper. The quirky mixture of these two very different characters infuses such warmth and wit into the story that it’s a real pleasure to read of their exploits as they gradually get used to each other’s company.

This is a really lovely story about friendship and companionship which looks at the need we all have to be loved and understood. The characters are quite special, especially Jack, who takes on the role of Lana’s muse as she searches for the perfect hero for her novel. I loved the way that the author has included references to other writers within the story which adds a nice quirky touch and makes Lana’s journey as a writer all the more realistic. Nancy is such a strong character and so determined is she to have her voice heard that she, quite literally, leaps of the page. I found her story quite poignant, especially the way in which the dementia has taken hold of her, which is so sad, but also tremendously inspiring too, I admired Nancy's strength of spirit.

The Forgotten Guide to Happiness is beautifully written story which covers the progression of dementia in a really sensitive and positive way and which also shows that life, when we least expect it, can suddenly take a surprising turn for the better.

About the Author

Twitter @sophiejenkinsuk


Monday, 18 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ Her Mother's Secret by Rosanna Ley

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on Her Mother's Secret Blog Tour

14 June 2018

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

What's it all about..

For many years Colette has avoided returning to her homeland - the magical island of Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany - afraid to confront the painful memories she left behind. She is living on the Cornish coast when she hears about her mother Thea's failing health and realises that the time has come for her to go home. But can Colette ever forgive Thea for what she has done?

Despite Colette's wariness, romantic Belle-Île still fascinates her. She takes on the running of her mother's flower shop and makes friends with Élodie, from the Old Lighthouse where Thea once worked as a nanny, and with the enigmatic Étienne who shares Colette's mixed feelings about the island. As Thea opens up to her for the first time, Colette finds herself softening and being drawn back into the landscape of her past. But can Belle-Île also be a part of her future?

The ghosts of that past still linger. What happened all those years ago and how did it cause the rift between mother and daughter? It becomes clear that the beauty of Belle-Île hides a devastating family secret - one that Colette is determined to unravel at any cost.

My thoughts about it..

Colette returns to her childhood home on Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany, ostensibly, to look after her mother, Thea, who is terminally ill. This long postponed return brings back many memories for both Colette and her mother, as each of them have good reason to be wary of each other. Taking over the organisation of her mother's flower shop was never on Colette's agenda but as her mother starts to deteriorate so the languorous nature of the island begins to work its magic. Colette gets drawn deeper and deeper into a long buried secret which surrounds her mother's time on the island.

The author writes this multi-layered family drama really well and infuses such personality into her characters that you immediately start to care about what happens to them. I loved the gradual way the story unfolded so that when the secret is finally revealed, the characters have become so special that you really want everything to work out well for them all. I particularly looked forward to the different chapters as each was narrated by a different character who each have a very special role to play in the story.

Her Mother's Secret is such a strong character driven novel which really brings the story alive in the imagination and yet, it's not just about devastating family secrets, it's also a stunning tribute to Belle-Île-en-Mer and the people who call the place home. This is such a lovely summer read that I was quite enchanted by the story which is beautifully written by an author who really knows how to hold the reader in the palm of her hand.

About the Author

Rosanna Ley works as a creative tutor and has written many articles and stories for national magazines. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Spain and Italy. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives in West Dorset by the sea. Rosanna is available to write features and for interview opportunities.

Twitter @RosannaLey #HerMothersSecret #SummerReading



Sunday, 17 June 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered

Father's Day 

Of the 7.5 million men who volunteered to fight or were conscripted to fight in WW1, over 500,000 children lost their fathers, which was the largest loss of fathers in modern British history. 

At school the children were taught about what was happening in Europe and they were encouraged to help at home, especially if their mother's were involved in war work. Children would also organise egg collections, fundraising activities and wealthier children would invest in war loans to contribute their help to the war.

Pupils pay their weekly contributions into the War Savings Association in 1916 at Gibbons Road School, Willesden, London
© IWM (Q 30245)

Children were even used in propaganda posters to encourage men to join up

© IWM (Art.IWM PST 0311)


For all the fathers who were lost during WW1 and who never came home

Since they have Died

May Wedderburn Cannan

Since they have died to give us gentleness,
And hearts kind with contentment and quiet mirth,
Let us who live also give happiness
And love, that’s born of pity, to the earth.

For, I have thought, some day they may lie sleeping
Forgetting all the weariness and pain,
And smile to think their world is in our keeping,
And laughter comes back to the earth again.