Friday, 6 May 2016

Review ~ Spare Me the Truth by C J Carver

Zaffre Books

Three strangers. Countless secrets. One deadly truth.

Dan Forrester is just an ordinary man out doing the family shop but when he is approached by a woman who looks vaguely familiar, some distant memory is triggered, and when she tells him things about himself, almost against his better judgement, Dan is intrigued.

Lucy Davies, is a bit of a rebel, a police officer who has been banished from the Met to a provincial posting in the North East, where she becomes involved in a series of mysterious killings which seemingly have no motive, but with a point to prove, Lucy sets out to solve the mystery, but at what cost?

Grace Reavey is grieving after the sudden death of her mother, but when shadows of her mother's past start to encroach on Grace's present, she has no choice but to do as she is told, by people who mean her harm.

On the surface these three people have nothing whatsoever in common but in a very cleverly controlled plot, and with a spider’s web of conspiracies and counter plots, the story starts to come together. There is much to take in, as it’s one of those tightly twisted and convoluted stories, so you really have to take notice of what’s being said and done, and look for hidden references which, a few pages down the line start to make sense.

This is the first book I have read by this author and I was really impressed by her ease of storytelling and her ability to draw me into the story from the beginning. The plot is well controlled and there are lots of twists and turns which kept me guessing all the way through, and I really enjoyed trying to puzzle out how all the complicated pieces of the jigsaw fitted together. Overall, there is a genuine edginess to the story which grips tight and which never lets up the pace until the story is dramatically concluded.

Memories shape our world; they make us the people we are, allowing us the comfort of remembering good times whilst at the same time protecting us from the bad. Imagine then, if you have no recollection of times past, and if the only detail you have of yourself, is what your loved ones are telling you.  The idea of suppressed memory and drug altering amnesia is an interesting concept and the author goes a long way to demonstrate just how this rather scary scenario could become a very frightening possibility. 

Best Read With…A bowl of noodles, spicy with chillies and ginger, and a chocolate reindeer…

C J Carver is the best selling author of seven crime fiction novels including Blood Junction. She has won the CWA debut dagger and the Barry Award for Best British Crime Fiction.

Find out more on C J Carver's website

Follow on Twitter @C_J_Carver

You can read a guest post by the author here

My thanks to the publishers, Zaffre,  for my review copy of this book.


Thursday, 5 May 2016

The author in my spotlight is ...David Hewson

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome

On the Publication Day of his latest Detective Pieter Vos Novel

Voss #3
5th May 2016

Hello David, welcome to Jaffareadstoo and congratulations on the publication of  your latest novel.

Without revealing too much, what can you tell us about Little Sister?

This is a story about two sisters who, at the age of ten, were deemed guilty of a terrible crime: the murder of a man they seem to have believed, wrongly, had killed their family. We meet them eleven years on, after incarceration in an institution outside Amsterdam in a remote lakeside location. Their doctor thinks they’re well enough for a gradual return to the community. But when they set off for a halfway house in the city with their nurse they disappear - as does the nurse. And Vos, drawn into the case almost by accident, begins to realise that the family tragedy of a decade before was never fully investigated and is still, for some people, very much alive. So it’s a story about guilt and retribution and, for the sisters, Mia and Kim Timmers, a fight to understand what really happened to them in the past.

Where do you get your inspiration for a story from – are you inspired by people, places or do you draw purely from your imagination?

Bit of both really. I spend a lot of time in the Netherlands for these books. They’re published pretty much simultaneously in Dutch too so I have a publisher in Amsterdam who’s incredibly helpful when it comes to background. But I never use real-life incidents or people as inspiration. I think imagination’s a wonderful thing and I’d be cheating a bit if I did that. 

Your writing is very atmospheric – how do you ‘set the scene’ in your novels and how much research did you need to do in order to bring Little Sister to life?

I choose a particular area of the city and a set time of year because they will dictate a lot of the story. This takes place in high summer, much of it in the rural area outside Amsterdam called Waterland. So I rent an apartment and travel the buses, taking photos, making notes, trying out ideas. The contrast between rural Waterland and the busy city is a key part of this book. Mia and Kim can’t wait to escape their institution and reach the city. But when they get there — surreptitiously — it’s quite terrifying for them. 

Whilst researching the novel, did you discover anything which surprised you?

The biggest surprise was discovering Waterland. It’s only fifteen kilometres from the centre of Amsterdam but it’s like travelling from the middle of London to furthest Cornwall. The best known place is Edam where the cheese originated. A lot of the story, though, takes place in the fishing and tourist village of Volendam and the little island of Marken. The Dutch view this as a holiday area and it’s delightful but foreign visitors barely know it exists.

When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?

Well writing’s what I do for a living so finding the time for it is no problem at all. Though I could always use more. Mostly I write at home in Kent but I always take the work in progress with me on the road. A fair bit of this book was actually written in an apartment overlooking the Prinsengracht canal, not far from where Vos’s fictional houseboat would be. But home, with a big screen and no distractions, is probably the best place to write.

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

The fourth Vos book is already finished and will be out in a year’s time. After that… I’m working on a few ideas. And the first Vos book is being developed as an eight-part series for Dutch TV which is exciting too - looking forward to seeing that.

David Hewson is a former journalist  who has worked at The Times, The Independent and The Sunday Times. He is the author of twenty crime thrillers set in various European cities, including the critically acclaimed interpretation of Danish TV drama The Killing and the Nic Costa series set in Rome. His ability to capture the sense of place and atmosphere of the cities in his novels comes from spending considerable research time there. David was inspired to write his new detective crime series starring Pieter Voss ( The House of Dolls, its sequel The Wrong Girl and now Little Sister) after exploring the city of Amsterdam..

Twitter @david_hewson

My thanks to the author and to the publishers Macmillan for my review copy of  Little Sister

and to Sophie at EDPR for her help with this interview.


Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Review ~ Six Tudor Queens: Katherine of Aragon, The True Queen by Alison Weir

Headline Review
5 May 2016

Six Tudor Queens #1

History tells us how she died. This captivating novel shows us how she lived.

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by bestselling historian Alison Weir, author of The Lost Tudor Princess, is the first in a spellbinding six novel series about Henry VIII’s Queens. Alison Weir lets you walk in Katherine’s footsteps and so understand this extraordinary woman as never before. History tells us how Katherine died; this captivating novel shows us how she lived.

I've read fictional stories about the Tudors since I was in my early teens,always finding something fascinating about the plots and intrigues of their lives, and none more so than Katherine of Aragon who landed in England in 1501 betrothed to marry Prince Arthur, the heir to the Tudor crown. Of course, we later know more about her marriage to Henry VIII,and the trials and tribulations of her acrimonious divorce, following Henry's tumultuous affair with Anne Boleyn.

As always, Alison Weir has given us a comprehensive look at the life of this fascinating Tudor Queen. For those who are familiar with the history of the Tudors there will be no surprises in the content of the story , as it's been told so many times, but there is no doubt that this is a very good fictional version, filled, as always, with the intrigue and machinations which we have come to expect from this exciting time in English history.

The story is very readable and spans the story of Katherine's life from 1501 when she landed in Plymouth, through to her death at Kimbolton Castle in January, 1536. There is much detail about her early marriage to Arthur, her young widowhood and her later relationship with Henry, with all the heartbreak and sadness of frequent miscarriages, all played out against the backdrop of the Tudor court, with its salacious gossip and devilish intrigue. It's far too easy to dismiss Katherine, as she is so often overshadowed by her sexier, and rather more tragic love rival, Anne Boleyn, and yet, it must not be forgotten that Katherine was such a valuable asset to England during the important early years of Henry's reign. 

The book is hefty coming in at over 550 pages, so it's not something to be read in a rush, but more to be savored slowly in order to appreciate the fine attention to detail. The way that Katherine comes alive on the page is credit to the author who has such a breadth of knowledge about this Tudor period that it's a real pleasure to read her fictional work.

This is the first of six historical novels planned which will each detail one of Henry's six Queens. Anne Boleyn is next, I can't wait !

Best Read with...Spiced wine, wafers and candied plums...

About the author

Alison Weir

Visit the author's Website
Twitter @AlisonWeirBooks

Amazon UK

My thanks to Caitlin Raynor at Headline for my review copy of this book.


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Review ~ The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati

The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily
Alma Books
May 2016

Translated by Frances Lobb

Starving after a harsh winter, the bears descend from the mountains in search of food and invade the valley below, where they face fierce opposition from the army of the Grand Duke of Sicily. After many battles, scrapes and dangers, the bears’ reign is established over the land, but their victory comes at a price.

First published in Italian in 1945, this book has been recently reissued with a glorious cover, which seeks to reintroduce the story of The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily to a modern day readership. However, inside the book,  the story remains gloriously alive with Buzzati's original 1940s artwork, both in colour and black and white, which is quite stunning and very evocative of the era in which the book was published. The story was been beautifully translated into English in 1947 by Frances Lobb and there is a poignant letter from Dino Buzzati to Frances Lobb, dated December 1947 in which he says "Brava! Bravissima!" for her wonderful translation of his story, and I so agree with this sentiment.

I'm not going to tell you the story of the Bears of Sicily, as this book is best read in its entirety without spoilers from me, but what I will say is that from the moment you open the book, you begin to realise what a special book you hold in your hands. The words flow well, and interspersed with prose and verse what emerges is a story of true bravery in the face of cruel adversity. There are moments of violence and some younger readers may be put off by that, but probably no worse than they would find in modern day children's stories, and I suppose it's readership is aimed at maybe ten, eleven, twelve year olds who can immerse themselves in a story without adult interference. At the end of the book there's an extensive reader's companion by Lemony Snicket which is nicely informative and which offers a wonderful additional insight to the story.

The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily sits very comfortably as an ideal parent/child  'read it together at bed-time' sort of book. 

Best Read with...A Buzzati cocktail, spicy with ginger and a few roasted chestnuts...

About the Author

The novelist, journalist and painter Dino Buzzati is one of the most important voices of twentieth-century Italian literature. He is best remembered today for his novel The Tartar Steppe and the story The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily, which he illustrated himself and has become a classic of Italian children’s literature.

About the Translator

Frances Lobb was the pen name of Leila Buckley (1917-2013), a linguist, poet and scholar who was educated in France, Germany and Italy. During the Second World War she worked in the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office. Her other translations include poetry,politics, and philosophy and a number of children's books by Karl Bruckner and Michael Ende. She was also the author of three highly individual novels.

My thanks to Alma Books for my delightful copy of this classic children's story book


Review ~ The Story of a Seagull and the Cat who taught her to fly by Luis Sepúlveda

Alma Books
17th March 2016

That only those who dare may fly..

What can I say about this delightful book that will do the story justice? Firstly, the cover, it makes me smile every time I look at it. The expression on both the seagull and the cat's face is just a real tonic for a gloomy day. The book is interspersed with beautiful black and white line drawings which really brings the story to life. And what of the story, well, I started this on a dark afternoon when the clouds were rollicking by at top speed and there was a distinct hint of rain in the air, but all that really didn't matter, as within minutes of picking up the book, I was immersed in a story of dedication, bravery and the heroism of keeping one’s word when all the odds are stacked against you.

Kengah is a seagull, who caught up in a dreadful oil spill, knows that she is dying but makes a mammoth effort to lay her one little blue-speckled white egg, in the hope that her chick, once hatched will have a chance of survival, and that's where Zorba, the big fat black cat from the port of Hamburg,  comes into the story, when Kengah, with all hope gone, begs Zorba to care for her, as yet unhatched, chick, imploring Zorba to teach it to fly.

“Then  Zorba knew that the poor gull was not just delirious: she was totally mad.”

What then follows is a story about a cast of intelligent and sensitive cats who learn that life can offer many challenges and none more so than the care of an orphaned seagull, but rise to the challenge they most certainly do. The cats are delightful, there's Segretario and Colonel who live at Cuneo’s Italian restaurant and eat Lasagne al Forno for breakfast, Einstein with his love of books and learning, who despairs when he can’t find the page he needs in his encyclopedia because the rats have eaten it, Seven Seas, an ocean-going cat who wears a made-to-measure oilskin, Angelina, the beautiful cat, and of course, there’s Zorba, the big fat black cat, who with poignant sensitivity sets out, with a little help from his friends, to teach a baby seagull, called Lucky, to fly.

My thoughts about this lovely story, well, it’s bright and beautiful, sad and funny, wonderful in its simplicity and alive with curiosity. Beautifully written, expertly translated from its original Spanish and charmingly illustrated. Without doubt, it’s  a special little book which will appeal to readers of all ages, not just for children, who I am sure will also love it, but also for adults who like escaping from the mayhem into the magical world of children’s stories.

Best Read with....a nice bowl of milk and a packet of Squid flavoured Dreamies ( Jaffa's suggestion)

About the Author

Born in Santiago, Chile, Luis Sepúlveda is the multi-award-winning author of many adult novels and stories for children. Politically and socially engaged, he was persecuted and jailed by the Pinochet regime and worked for years as a crew member on a Greenpeace ship. The Story ofa Seagull and The Cat Who Taught Her to Fly has been translated in over 40 countries with several film and theatre adaptations.

About the Illustrator

Satoshi Kitamura was born in Japan and has lived in the UK for many years, where his books have won many prizes, including the Mother Goose Award (for Angry Arthur) and the Smarties Prize (for Me and My Cat). Nowadays, Satoshi is back in Japan where he studies Spanish in his spare time, and is working his way through Sepulveda’s oeuvre in the original.

My thanks to the publishers Alma Books for my copy of this book to review.


Monday, 2 May 2016

The Author in my spotlight is.... Kate Ryder

I'm pleased to  introduce  the author

Summary of The Forgotten Promise

Irish lass, Maddie O'Brien, is living an independent, carefree life in London.  She loves her work with a film production company but, as the years slip by, is increasingly aware of a nagging insistence for change.

During a film shoot in Dorset she is inexplicably drawn to a 17th Century cottage for sale.  Although in a semi-serious relationship with Dan, Maddie takes the plunge and exchanges city life for country living.  But all is not what it seems at the cottage and immediately after moving in she experiences visions and happenings which would have most people booking into the nearest hotel.  Not so Maddie; she feels she has “come home”.

Embracing her new life, she soon meets Nick, a local wood sculptor, and, despite both being in relationships, they are immediately attracted to each other.  But who is Nick and what is it that draws them together?

And what is her connection with The Olde Smithy?  Little by little the cottage reveals its secrets and Maddie uncovers the intriguing love story that took place within its four walls during the dangerous days of the English Civil War.

Hi Kate, 

I'm really pleased to welcome you to Jaffareadstoo and I'm excited to learn about your debut novel The Forgotten Promise.

What can you tell us about it?

The Forgotten Promise is a story of self-discovery, lost loves and second chances. It is my debut novel and it wrote itself – I was merely the conduit! This is how the story came into being…

Over the years I have worked in a number of industries in different guises, but always I am drawn to the written word. Within publishing I was employed in editorial as a proof reader, copy editor and, most recently, as chief writer for a national newspaper. In 2013 I joined a writers group in order to exercise my creative writing muscles. The inspiration for this novel came from having swapped the South East of England for the South West.

A few years ago I moved to Cornwall to restore a 200-year-old cottage, rumoured to have been a sawmill. During renovations a time capsule was discovered, buried by a previous owner. This prompted me to consider past occupants and the various dramas that may have taken place within its four walls. Indeed, at one point that’s all there was – four walls! At the same time I was studying short story writing. However, a particular exercise turned out to be a little longer than intended and, with my curiosity piqued about past lives, resulted in this debut time-slip novel.

The Forgotten Promise is not only a rewarding romance but also an intriguing ghost story, which switches between the present day and the English Civil War. When looking for a village in which to base the book, memories of happy childhood holidays spent fossil hunting along the Jurassic coast took me to Dorset. By happy circumstance, I chanced upon the village of Walditch and, through my research into the village and the surrounding area, I discovered historic events on which to pin the story. Most of the historical elements are a true account, though I have exercised the writer’s right to fictionalise with, maybe, a slight tweak of location to fit the tale.

Having polished and re-polished the novel, I sent it off to a handful of agents and sat back and waited. I received a couple of rejection letters (effusive in their encouragement… but not for them) though many did not respond, and I must admit to becoming a little disheartened. So I took the plunge and decided to self-publish. After several weeks searching on the internet for a suitable front cover, I kept coming back to a particular water colour of a farrier and horse; nothing else compared. By a convoluted route – which included the help of a student in Ohio – I managed to track down the artist based in Northern California. Not for a moment did I imagine she would allow me to use her painting, but I emailed her anyway and, by chance, it happened to be Thanksgiving Day when my email arrived in her inbox. I was overjoyed and totally humbled when she said it was the best Thanksgiving gift she had received and that she was happy for me to use it as my front cover! I think you will agree that it is truly atmospheric and, I can assure you, it is perfect for the story.

I am delighted to report that The Forgotten Promise was recently shortlisted in Choc Lit’s “Search for a Star” competition and although I didn’t win, it has given me the confidence to submit my latest novel to traditional publishers for consideration.

I am a member of the Romantic Novelists Association’s New Writers’ Scheme and write thought-provoking romance, suspense and mystery novels with substance. My novels have gained several 5-star Amazon reviews and I have been told that my writing appeals to fans of Joanna Trollope, Liz Fenwick, Kate Morton and Kate Mosse, amongst others.

Today, I live in a totally renovated 200-year-old sawmill in the beautiful Tamar Valley with my husband and a collection of animals, and we are (almost) mad enough to consider doing it all over again!

Social Media Links:

Connect with Kate on her website for signed copies

Facebook author page

Twitter @KateRyder_Books

Amazon UK

Kate, it's been a real pleasure to have you as our author in the spotlight today. 

Jaffa and I have enjoyed reading about The Forgotten Promise and we wish you continuing success with your writing.

You can read my review of The Forgotten Promise Here


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

The War Poets of WW1

Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy MC (1883 -1929) was an ordained Anglican priest and poet.
He was one of nine children, born in Leeds, educated at Leeds Grammar School and later at University College, Dublin, where he gained a Classics and Divinity degree.

woodbine willie

During WW1, he volunteered as a chaplain on the Western Front and helped  as a stretcher bearer. He  was given the nickname of "Woodbine Willie" because of his habit of giving Woodbine cigarettes, along with spiritual comfort, to the dying soldiers. 

He once said .."a chaplain needed a box of fags in your haversack, and a great deal of love in your heart.."

He was awarded the Military Cross at Messines Ridge after running into no-man's land during an attack by the German front line.

This is his Military Cross citation...

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He showed the greatest courage and disregard for his own safety in attending to the wounded under heavy fire. He searched shell holes for our own and enemy wounded, assisting them to the dressing station, and his cheerfulness and endurance had a splendid effect upon all ranks in the front line trenches, which he constantly visited.

To Stretcher - Bearers

Easy does it — bit o' trench 'ere,
Mind that blinkin' bit o' wire,
There's a shell 'ole on your left there,
Lift 'im up a little 'igher.
Stick it, lad, ye'll soon be there now,
Want to rest 'ere for a while?
Let 'im dahn then — gently — gently,
There ye are, lad. That's the style.
Want a drink, mate? 'Ere's my bottle,
Lift 'is 'ead up for 'im, Jack,
Put my tunic underneath 'im,
'Ow's that, chummy? That's the tack!
Guess we'd better make a start now,
Ready for another spell?
Best be goin', we won't 'urt ye,
But 'e might just start to shell.
Are ye right, mate? Off we goes then.
That's well over on the right,
Gawd Almighty, that's a near 'un!
'Old your end up good and tight,
Never mind, lad, you're for Blighty,
Mind this rotten bit o' board.

We'll soon 'ave ye tucked in bed, lad,
'Opes ye gets to my old ward.
No more war for you, my 'earty,
This'll get ye well away,
Twelve good months in dear old Blighty,
Twelve good months if you're a day,
M.O.'s got a bit o' something
What'll stop that blarsted pain.
'Ere's a rotten bit o' ground, mate,
Lift up 'igher — up again,
Wish 'e'd stop 'is blarsted shellin'
Makes it rotten for the lad.
When a feller's been and got it,
It affec's 'im twice as bad.
'Ow's it goin' now then, sonny?
'Ere's that narrow bit o' trench,
Careful, mate, there's some dead Jerries,
Lawd Almighty, what a stench!
'Ere we are now, stretcher-case, boys,
Bring him aht a cup o' tea!
Inasmuch as ye have done it
Ye have done it unto Me.

Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy MC