Thursday, 27 November 2014

The magazine for readers and reading groups....newbooks nb83 Winter ...

Since 2007 I have been actively involved with newbooks  as a reviewer for their excellent magazine which is aimed primarily at readers, readers who belong to reading groups, or indeed, to anyone who quite simply enjoys reading about books, reading reviews from like minded bibliophiles and for those readers, much like myself,  who have a to be read pile which teeters dangerously close to the ceiling !

A few months ago I was dismayed to discover that the magazine was perilously close to closing down and I hoped beyond hope that there would be a solution and thankfully the answer came in a shared collaboration with the excellent on line book site which offers the best of book worlds, on line content combined with a printed magazine for those of us who still like to hold something in our hands and turn physical pages.

I was delighted to be approached by the editorial team at newbooks to help launch a new feature in their relaunched magazine which aims to highlight the world of blogging and the many hundreds of us who take the time to winkle out those new books and who are passionate about sharing their love of reading with a wider audience.

Jaffa, of course, was included, what feature on Jaffareadstoo would be complete without the main man!  Donning his best bib and tucker, he kindly posed on his favourite vantage point, the garden shed roof, and as usual, managed to look extremely thoughtful, as he contemplates his important role in the book world.

Opening the Winter issue of newbooks I was extremely proud to be associated with such a fine venture and I really hope that this relaunch of the magazine I have come to know and love goes from strength to strength.

My thanks to Guy Pringle at newbooks and to Karen Maitland who generously allowed me to use her interview in this magazine article.


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Review ~ Return to Fourwinds by Elisabeth Gifford

An Imprint of Atlantic Books

One House. Two Families. 

A Lifetime of Secrets.

The story opens in 1981 as two families gather at the house named Fourwinds, to celebrate the marriage of Alice and Ralph's son, Nicky, to Patricia and Peter's daughter, Sarah. However, when Sarah goes missing just days before the wedding, family secrets which have been long buried threaten to overwhelm the happiness, not just of the young couple about to be married but also of the older couples, whose shared connection to the past, threatens the happiness of future generations.

The story evolves between 1981 Derbyshire and 1930’s Spain with effortless ease and the consummate skill of the author ensures that all time frames have equal importance with none trying to outshine the other. We learn of the connection between Alice and Peter as we flit into and out of the great country houses of England and yet juxtaposed is the less salubrious evidence of working class ambition. Ralph’s eventful childhood in 1930s Valencia is gorgeous, and succulent with the heat and tempestuousness of a country on the brink of war. As the story moves to the eventful years of the Second World War, the connection between the characters becomes more evident and secrets start to emerge with shattering consequences.

Initially, the book gets off to a slow start which I think reflects rather well, as there is much to take in, both with the different characters who flit into and out of the story, and with the complexity of the settings, which are all described in wonderful detail. The evolution of the story is done with a deft hand by an author who knows and understands how to control a complicated plot and who by the end of the novel has delivered a wonderful family drama with an entirely appropriate ending.

I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Review ~ Honeyville by Daisy Waugh

Harper Collins
November 2014

Two women. Worlds apart. One town built on sin.

When a blood stained letter is delivered more than a decade after it was written, the long buried secret of a violent past comes hurtling back to journalist, Max Eastman, and reminds him of his involvement with two very different women during the miner's strike in Colorado during the Ludlow massacre of 1914.

On the surface, Inez Dubois and Dora Whitworth should never have met, but when they witness a violent murder, an unlikely friendship is established between Inez, a respectable librarian, and Dora who works as a whore at the Plum Street Parlour house, in the town colloquially named Snatchville, in Trinidad, Colorado. Almost by default, the two women are drawn into a violent time when seemingly ruthless men incited violence and sedition amongst a working class who had little or no hope of restitution.

What then follows is a story about the political and emotional ramifications of a town at war with itself and of the ruthless ambition of unscrupulous men who with violence and intimidation used fear as the ultimate control.  Overall, the story held my attention. I enjoyed getting to know both Inez and Dora, they are both feisty heroines and deserving of centre stage in a novel which never shies away from the violence of the times and which ultimately focuses on the power of friendship and the overwhelming sadness of betrayal.

I enjoyed this look at a period in American history of which I knew nothing. I thought the author did a commendable job of allowing the story to evolve slowly and the fine attention to historical detail really made the story come alive. I enjoyed it.

Daisy Waugh is a novelist, columnist and journalist. She has worked as an Agony Aunt, a restaurant critic, a property reviewer, and a general lifestyle columnist for many years – most recently for the Sunday Times. She writes a monthly column for the magazine Standpoint, and has worked for radio and TV.


Review ~ The Gift by Joanne Clancy

November 2014

Some short stories can be so rich in content that by the end of the story you feel that you have read a full length novel. Such is the case with The Gift which starts with the joyful birth of a Christmas baby to Julie and Shane, only to delve into the darkness of a troubled mind as someone seeks to disturb their happiness. To reveal more would be to do both the book and the writer a complete disservice.

I found much to enjoy in the story, which at just over 70 pages is short enough to be read over your lunch break or during the morning lull in your favourite coffee shop. The author knows how to rack up the tension and very soon I was caught up in both the joy and the drama of a well written short story which commanded my attention from beginning to end.

Joanne Clancy is an Irish mystery writer, from Cork, Ireland. Her books combine murder, mystery, and suspense with a twist of psychological drama, and some romantic suspense for good measure!
Joanne’s crime books have consistently hit the Amazon paid best seller lists in Crime, Thrillers and Mystery.


Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday War Poet ~ Author's Choice ~ Elisabeth Gifford

Continuing my Sunday theme on the poets of the Great War

I am delighted to welcome


Sharing her choice of WW1 poem

Adlestrop ~ Edward Thomas 

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

This poem does not mention the war, but rather sums up all that is precious to those who went to fight. Edward Thomas loved the English countryside and this moment is taken from a rare stop during a train journey to stay in a cottage with his family for the summer, a fleeting glimpse of something beautiful and passing. Soon the great steam engine will grind into motion and propel them away into a future they cannot prevent. It’s a moment that is even the more precious as it is now being seen as a distant memory. The day is now gone, the place only a name, and yet it remains as something precious and enduring in the poet’s mind. It feels as though this might be part of a conversation held by soldiers waiting in their bell tents somewhere in France and reminiscing about England.

Thomas joined up late in the war and, as his wife feared, he did not survive. In this poem, he seems to both understand what will be lost to him if he dies, and also why he was willing to fight and to defend a way of life he held so dear.

One of the impulses in writing my recent novel, Return to Fourwinds, was to show the continuing damage that many returning soldiers endured as they began their lives after the Great War. Using family anecdotes, I attempted to recreate the life of a Manchester soldier who has been gassed in World War One and so is unfit for physical work, the result being that his family struggle to make ends meet. You can read the extract here.

18149907 17934610
UK and US edition



My thanks to Elisabeth for sharing her thoughts about Adlestrop and for her insightful explanation into why Adlestrop is important to her.


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Review ~ The Lie by Helen Dunmore


A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family.

For Daniel Branwell, newly returned to his native Cornwall, from the battlefield trenches of northern France, life is never going to be the same again. Tortured by the loss of  Frederick, his childhood friend, Daniel seeks to find some sort of resolution, and in the windswept corner of his Cornish home village, Daniel anguished and bereft, can only flounder from one set of tormented memories to another.

Beautifully written and in stark and often desolate prose, Daniel’s story intertwines with that of Felicia, Frederick’s gently grieving sister, whose own devastating loss overshadows any hope she has for the future. The story develops slowly, oh, so slowly, so that you truly get the chance to delve into Daniel’s psyche and learn to see the world through his eyes, and far too often, it’s a world that is found to be wanting.

In this commemoration year of the start of the Great War I have read quite a few books which uncover the thoughts and feelings of a lost generation of young men and women. Of lives, irrevocably changed by the momentous events of what they witnessed during the years 1914-1918. Without doubt, The Lie is up there with the best of the current crop of WW1 commemoration reads.


Friday, 21 November 2014

Review ~ The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard

Penguin UK
Be with me now, at the twilight hour....

Eleanor Lee lives alone her house by the sea, but aged ninety-four and almost blind, Eleanor is a source worry for her family who try to persuade her to move into care. A whole lifetimes of possessions need to be tidied away but Eleanor needs to do this without her family being involved. When Peter Mistley, a young friend of her grandson Jonah, is enlisted to help catalogue Eleanor’s personal effects, a whole range of secrets are exposed.

What then follows is a well written account of a life encumbered by memories and as Peter starts to delve into Eleanor’s life there develops a rich closeness between them and a gradual drawing together of both the old and the young which is especially poignant. I found the book easy to read and very quickly became involved in the detritus of Eleanor’s life. I think the author really got into the minutiae of daily life and emphasised that we all have secrets and that all too often the discovery of these hidden away memories can leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed.

All in all, a good light read with interesting characters and well thought out storyline.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books UK and Real Readers for my copy of this book.