Monday, 25 July 2016

Blog Tour ~ My Last Continent by Midge Raymond

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the 

My Last Continent Blog Tour

Please welcome the author

Midge Raymond to tell us more about her novel

Hi Midge, tell us a little about yourself.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing since I was a young girl, though as I got older I switched from making up stories to telling real ones. I published my first article in a local newspaper when I was fifteen years old and continued in journalism until my mid-twenties, when I returned to making up stories. I published my first short story in 1999; my first book, a short story collection, Forgetting English, in 2009; and my first novel, My Last Continent, this year. 

Where did you get your inspiration for the story from – were you inspired by people, places or did you draw purely from your imagination?

As with most of my stories, My Last Continent was inspired by a specific moment, and it grew from there. The novel began as a short story that came to me when I was on an expedition in Antarctica and saw a passenger fall on the ice near a penguin colony. He was fine, fortunately, but seeing this happen reinforced the notion that, at the bottom of the world, you are at the mercy of the conditions and of the few people who are with you. This idea stuck with me and, combined with the concern of our shipboard naturalists about the larger cruise ships that visit the region, inspired me to write the novel, which tells the bigger story of what would happen if a cruise liner were to sink in the Southern Ocean, where conditions are unpredictable and rescuers can be several days away.

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 the story to life?

I love to travel and see new places, whether a new neighborhood or a new country. Often there’s something specific about a place that makes me want to write about it, whether it’s the otherworldly landscape of Antarctica or a wildly bright and noisy street in Tokyo. I find that people are very much a part of their environments, so for me exploring place is similar to exploring character. I love it when my research can be firsthand — the details are so much easier for me to convey this way — but if I can’t visit, or can’t return to a place I’ve seen, I use my photos, memories, and also read as much as I can to get a deeper understanding of a place. 

What do you consider to be your strongest points as a writer?

I love revision. Many writers dislike this part of the process, so I consider myself lucky to enjoy it! I’m at my best when I have a lot to work with on the page, and bringing what’s there to the next level is the most fun and rewarding part of the process for me.

In what skill (as a writer) would you most like to improve?

I would like to enjoy the blank page a bit more. This is my least favorite part of a writing project, how to begin with nothing but an idea. I’d love to be able to organize my thoughts better from the beginning. 

And finally - how can readers find out more about you and your writing?

Readers can visit me online and can also find me on Facebook 
Twitter @MidgeRaymond and Instagram 

Text Publishing
28th July
Amazon UK

About the book..  

It  is  only  at  the  end  of  the  world –  among  the  glacier  mountains  and  frigid  waters  of  Antarctica –where Deb Gardner and Keller Sullivan feel at home. For the few blissful weeks they spend each year studying  the  habits  of  penguins,  Deb  and  Keller  can  escape  the  frustrations  and  sorrows  of  their separate  lives  and  find  solace  in  each  other.  But  Antarctica,  like  their  fleeting  romance,  is  tenuous, imperiled by the world to the north. A new travel and research season has just begun, and Deb and Keller are ready to play tour guide to the  passengers  on  the  small expedition  ship  that  ferries  them  to  their  research  destination.  Except that this year, Keller fails to appear on board. Shortly into the trip, Deb’s ship receives an emergency signal from the Australis, a cruise liner that has hit desperate trouble in the ice-choked waters. And among the crew of the sinking ship is Keller...An  unforgettable  debut  love  story,  set  against  the  dramatic  landscape  of  Antarctica.  Lyrical, page-turning and emotionally intelligent, My Last Continent is a stunning novel of love and loss in one of the most remote places on earth.

And here are my thoughts about My Last Continent..

The glacier, cold waters of Antarctica are home to creatures who survive in bone biting cold. However, their isolation and remoteness does not render them safe from the elements, but rather puts them at the mercy of nature which is so often unpredictable and cruel. The inhospitable surroundings are not a natural environment for humans and yet, researcher, Deb Gardner feels perfectly at home at the edge of the world, where amongst her beloved Adélie Penguins, she has learned to cope with solitude. That is until she meets Keller Sullivan and falls in love… 

Adélie Penguins

Cleverly told in a series of flashbacks, the story moves forwards and backwards in time, which helps to give a clear understanding of both Deb and Keller as individuals, whilst at the same time allows the author to draw you into an isolated, frozen world. A world which is so believable, that you can, quite literally, feel the bone biting cold, and see the penguin colonies in your imagination, and before long you begin to worry about Deb and Keller and all the other people who exist in this inhospitable part of the world..

The writing is wonderfully lyrical with an otherworldly dreaminess to it, which is rather difficult to describe without giving anything away, and I don’t want to spoil anything. However, what I will say is that My Last Continent is one of the most emotionally affecting novels I have read in a long time. It’s so visually descriptive that, even though I will never, in my wildest dreams, travel to Antarctica, I now feel that I have just survived a journey where I stepped ashore on Petermann Island, slept on a bunk at McMurdo Station, experienced fifteen foot sea swells aboard the M/S Cormorant and listened in gentle awe to the purrs and squawks of groups of penguins. 

Everything about the story feels so beautifully realistic that it’s almost like being immersed in a travelogue, with the added benefit of making an emotional connection to both the characters and the scenery. I am sure like me, you will read through to the end with a real sense of affinity, to the people, the landscape and more importantly to the penguins, especially Admiral Byrd.

My Last Continent is a very different love story, it’s honest, believable and so beautifully written that it will break your heart into a million pieces.

Best Read With..Southern fried tofu with crinkly fries and a bottle of ice cold beer

About the Author

Midge  Raymond  is  an  award-winning  short-story  writer  who  worked  in  publishing  in  New  York before  moving  to  Boston,  where  she  taught  creative  writing.  She has published two books for writers, Everyday Writing and Everyday Book Marketing. Midge lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is co-founder of the boutique publisher Ashland Creek Press. My Last Continent is her first novel.

Twitter @MidgeRaymond

Huge thanks to the author for answering my questions so thoughtfully and for spending time with us today and also to Alice at FMcM Associates for my invitation to be part of this Blog Tour.

Blog Tour runs between 21st July- 27th July 2016

Do visit the other stops for more interesting content about

My Last Continent 


Sunday, 24 July 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

It must be remembered that women also played a huge role in the war effort.

This interesting poem is by war poet writer and journalist  

Jessie Pope


War Girls

'There's the girl who clips your ticket for the train, 
And the girl who speeds the lift from floor to floor, 
There's the girl who does a milk-round in the rain, 
And the girl who calls for orders at your door. 
Strong, sensible, and fit, 
They're out to show their grit, 
And tackle jobs with energy and knack. 
No longer caged and penned up, 
They're going to keep their end up 
'Til the khaki soldier boys come marching back. 

There's the motor girl who drives a heavy van, 
There's the butcher girl who brings your joint of meat, 
There's the girl who calls 'All fares please!' like a man, 
And the girl who whistles taxi's up the street. 
Beneath each uniform 
Beats a heart that's soft and warm, 
Though of canny mother-wit they show no lack; 
But a solemn statement this is, 
They've no time for love and kisses 
Till the khaki soldier boys come marching back.

Jessie Pope was born in Leicester and educated at the North London Collegiate School. As a journalist she was a regular contributor to Punch magazine, The Daily Express and The Daily Mail. 

The Daily Mail, a newspaper which actively encouraged enlistment, handing out white feathers to those who did not take up the call of duty, regularly published Pope's war poetry.

Pope's poetry was in direct contrast to other war poets , particularly Sassoon and Owen who found her pro-war poetry distasteful. In 1917 , Wilfred Owen directed his poem, Dulce et Decorum Est at Pope and initially, dedicated the poem to "To Jessie Pope etc.", but then later changed this to "To a certain Poetess". 

It would seem that Pope's pro war poetry was in direct contrast to the more notable war poets anti -war stance.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Review ~ The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling

A bit of blurb..

The adventures of Mowgli, the young man raised by wolves in the jungles of Central India, and his friends Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther and Kaa the python, as they face the arch villain Shere Khan the tiger, have become so popular that they have achieved an almost mythical status throughout the world. They were collected by Kipling in The Jungle Book and its sequel, The Second Jungle Book, which also contain other stories set in India which prominently feature animals, such as the well-known ‘Rikki-Tikki-Tavi’, which describes the struggles of a mongoose against venomous cobras.

Here presented with brand-new illustrations by Ian Beck, these hugely popular tales, inspired by ancient fables and Kipling’s own experiences in India, form a vivid account of the relationship between humans and nature, and will continue to inspire readers young and old.

Age range 12+ to adult...

Here are my thoughts..

It's always a treat when a lovely book like The Jungle Books pops through the letterbox, which then takes me, instantly, back to when I was a child. Back to days of endless sunshine, summer holidays stretching before me and the possibility of sitting in the long grass with a book and a chocolate biscuit. I read The Jungle Books when I was about eleven or twelve, but before that I had often listened to the some of the stories read to me by my mother, or by my teacher at school and I loved the stories so much, that when I was able to buy my own copy, I did.

Of course, we've all seen the Walt Disney version of The Jungle Book which is based on Rudyard Kipling's First and Second Jungle Books and yet, inside, the story is so much more. There are tales of great adventure and derring-do, stories that remind us to be kind to one another and stories which make you smile and which also make you ask questions. 

The Jungle Books were first published in 1894, and have been reissued many times. This new version by Alma Classics is an easy to read paperback, which, contains the first jungle book and also its sequel, which, together with beautifully simple drawings, is a real joy to read. From the very the beginning Kipling's rich prose and poetry draws you into the heat of the jungle, to the danger lurking in corners, and to all the myriad sights, sounds,colours and legends of this amazing landscape. 

I especially liked the extra material for young readers which goes into some detail about the author, the books and the characters, along with a wonderful informative glossary.

Best Read With...A bottle of ice cold, fizzy lemonade and a Blue Riband biscuit...

About the Author

Famous for his tales of adventure in British India, Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) is one of the most popular writers of all time and the first English-speaking recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

About the Illustrator

Ian Beck is an author and illustrator known for his beautifully illustrated books which include his young fiction series, 'Tom Trueheart' (translated into over seventeen languages), and numerous picture books including The Teddy Robber and Lost in the Snow. He has also collaborated with authors including Bertie Doherty and Philip Pullman on classic fairytales retellings and continues to write and illustrate picture books and titles for young readers.

My thanks to Alma Books for my copy of The Jungle Books


Friday, 22 July 2016

Blog Tour ~ Random Acts of Unkindness by Jacqueline Ward

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the 

Random Acts of Unkindness Blog Tour


Random Acts of Unkindness by Jacqueline Ward 

June 2016

A bit of blurb...

How far would you go to find your child? 

DS Jan Pearce has a big problem. Her fifteen year old son, Aiden, is missing. Jan draws together the threads of missing person cases spanning fifty years and finds tragic connections and unsolved questions. 

Bessy Swain, an elderly woman that Jan finds dead on her search for Aiden, and whose own son, Thomas, was also missing, may have the answers. 

Jan uses Bessy's information and her own skills and instinct to track down the missing boys. But is it too late for Aiden? 

Set in the North West of England, with the notorious Saddleworth Moor as a backdrop, Random Acts of Unkindness is a story about motherhood, love and loss and how families of missing people suffer the consequences of major crimes involving their loved ones. 

Random Acts of Unkindness is the first in the DS Jan Pearce series of novels.

My review ...

Saddleworth Moor in North West England is a bleak and lonely place. It's a place that guards its secrets well, and in the quest to find her missing son, DS Jan Pearce discovers, to her cost, just how many evil secrets lurk in dark corners. Looking into missing persons cases, which stretch back over a period of many years, DS Pearce starts to uncover some unusual cases and, as her frantic search for her own missing son gets cast ever wider she starts to discover some painful secrets of her own.

I found the story to be fast paced and intricately plotted. There is much to take in, not just in terms of the present day mystery in which DS Pearce finds herself to be a major part of, but also in the struggle she has to bring to justice those evil manipulators who threaten the very foundation of society.

The story is gritty in the places where it needs to be and remarkably insightful in others, particularly in the way it deals with the sorry history of missing persons. I especially like the way that the author bought time and place to life, and only someone familiar with the subtle nuances of the north of England can do justice to the way in which the dramatic landscape so often shaped people’s destiny.

There is no-one of my generation, growing up in the north of England, who cannot be aware of the ghastly shroud which was cast over those small northern towns, which nestle in the shadow of the moor itself, by the Moors Murderers, and the author has done a really good job of using some of this dark history, whilst at the same time, developing a story which is completely unique.

This is a fascinating and intricately plotted crime novel by an author who, I am sure, will continue to go from strength to strength.

Best Read With...Sausage and Beans on toast, all washed down with copious cups of tea from one of those big brown Betty teapots.

Jacqueline Ward writes short stories, novels and screenplays. She has been writing seriously since 2007 and has had short stories published in anthologies and magazines. Jacqueline won Kindle Scout in 2016 and her crime novel, Random Acts of Unkindness, will be published by Amazon Publishing imprint Kindle Press. Her novel SmartYellowTM was published by Elsewhen Press in 2015 and was nominated for the Arthur C Clarke Award in 2016. Jacqueline is a Chartered psychologist who specializes in narrative psychology, gaining a PhD in narrative and storytelling in 2007. She lives in Oldham, near Manchester, with her partner and their dog.

Find the author on her website
Visit her on Facebook
Follow on Twitter @JacquiAnnC

Read an excerpt from Random Acts of Unkindness here

My thanks to Faye Rogers PR for the invitation to be part of this blog tour 

which runs  18th - 24th July.

For more interesting content do please visit the other stops on the tour.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Blog Tour ~ Bad Blood by Julie Shaw

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the Bad Blood Blog Tour

~I'm delighted that the author Julie Shaw is spending time with us today ~

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Julie. Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author?

I’m 52 years old with two grown up children. I have six grandchildren (and hoping that that’s the lot!) but thankfully I have a very young, modern attitude and a bucket load of patience! I have been writing since I was a little girl really and that stemmed from my love of reading. If I was well behaved, I got a new book every week and I soon learned that I could escape reality whenever I wanted by simply opening some pages. Whenever I couldn’t get a book, I would write my own stories and I had my first story serialized in a local newspaper when I was just nine years old.

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

Bad Blood really concentrates on complicated relationships within families. A single mother who wants to remain young and carefree puts her son and daughter to one side as she concentrates on finding and keeping a man. The man has many other women and only uses them to serve his needs. The children suffer in the most unusual ways and pay the ultimate price for their mother’s lack of concern. Despite all of that, I think the underlying theme is – how far would you go for your family?

I know that you base your novels on things that have, perhaps, happened within your family, do you find this a help... or a hindrance?

It’s a definite help. I can understand and write about the actual raw emotion that accompanies these tragedies without having to research or second guess. I’ve lived almost everything I write about.

How do you plan your writing, are you a plotter, or a see where it goes kind of writer?

Actually, I used to be very much a ‘see where it goes’ kind of writer, but my friend and co author, Lynne Barrett–Lee, would absolutely despair of me! She is a dyed in the wool plotter. And I don’t just mean she will have me sketch out a rough outline, oh no, she has taught me that the easiest way to write is always to have a chapter by chapter outline, a full story before we even start! I do have a moan now and again, but secretly I’m so pleased she now has me doing this without thinking. It makes the whole process so much easier J

What do you consider to be your strongest points as a writer?

I believe my strongest points are that I find it easy to write believable dialogue, naturally. I don’t know why, I can just hear the natural rhythm of speech as I write and I don’t really have to think about it. I think I am also an emotive writer, which apparently is also a good thing J

Which was the first book (of any kind) to make a strong impression on you – and why? 

The first book that had a very powerful effect on me was called ‘They Put Me Inside’ by Tony Grestone. It was a memoir about a young lad from an impoverished background who went to prison for petty crimes. The book told the story of his struggles in prison and how he felt he didn’t fit in, anywhere. Finding religion saved his soul and his life ultimately, and it was this – underdog comes good, theme that affected me so much. It left me with a lifelong desire to help those less fortunate who wanted to change things.

And finally...If your life was book what would be the title?

Oh dear, that’s a tough one! Against the odds? I once wrote a song that I guess was biographical, it was called When is it my turn? It was about a girl who was happy to listen to her girlfriends bemoan their love lives etc. She would make them feel better and build them up, and even though she wanted nothing more than to be loved herself, she put it to one side every time so that she wouldn’t be happy if her friends weren’t. Sad eh? J

Harper Element
July 2016
(Hudson #5)

A bit of blurb..

It’s 1981 and seventeen-year-old Christine is about to give birth to her son. When her family throw her out, Christine has the biggest fight of her life to bring up her son safe on the infamous Canterbury Estate in Bradford, rife with crime, alcohol and drugs, a place where family is everything and nothing.

It's Friday evening on the Canterbury Estate in Bradford and Christine, who's been rushed to hospital by her friend, Josie, is on the maternity ward giving birth. She's 17 and terrified. Not just of the pain, which is ripping her in two, but because she knows that once the baby arrives, her family is never going to speak to her again.

Her beautiful baby boy is about to start a chain of events that will lead to tragedy - and only her own family can save her

My thoughts about Bad Blood..

A gritty northern saga with more than a hint of seriousness is the basis for this novel which starts in 1981 when seventeen year old Christine has her baby boy. This is not the happy event is should be, and as the chasms which open in Christine's family threaten to engulf her, you can't help but be drawn into a story that abounds with tough northern grit. The ties that bind families together are not always the most meaningful or reliable, and Christine, growing up in her dysfunctional family has left her with a void, which this new baby may just satisfy, that is, if she is ever given the chance to get her act together.

I found the story easy to get into and even though the characters were a bit of an mystery to me, having not read the other books in the series, I was soon able to pick up the thread. It's hard hitting and doesn't pull any punches but then that's the trademark of this talented author who writes about what she knows with such honest realism. It's hard to believe that 1981 now seems so far away that it almost feels historical, but not quaintly historical, as this was a time of great social and political change. Families were struggling to keep body and soul together and many council estates such as the one in Bad Blood were a scheming hotchpotch of thwarted dreams and the gradual erosion of family life.

The author does a great job of bringing time and place alive, to a time before mobile phones and social media, taking us to the very depths of despair and to the absolute misery of hopelessness.

I am sure fans of this author's writing will delighted by this continuation and by the end of the book will be eagerly looking forward to the next installment. 

Best Read With...A large vodka and coke and a packet of crisps..

About the Author

Julie Shaw is the daughter of the only surviving member of the 13 Hudson siblings, born to Annie and Reggie Hudson on the infamous Canterbury Estate in Bradford. Bad Blood is her fifth book.

Twitter @JueShaw

My thanks to the author for her insightful answers to my questions and also to Jasmine at Harper Collins for for all her help and her invitation to be part of this blog tour

Tour runs 18th -22nd July


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Blog Tour ~ Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be today's stop on the Sugar and Snails Birthday Blog Tour 

And here's the author Anne Goodwin to tell us all about Sugar and Snails

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Anne ~ How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil, but took it up seriously about thirteen years ago when a bereavement forced me to take stock of my life, especially the balance between my employment as a clinical psychologist and my more personal ambitions. It felt quite scary reducing my hours to dedicate some time to an endeavour I’d always felt rather embarrassed about, with no way of knowing whether the effort I was putting in would reap results. I was lucky to find an online short story writing course to support those tentative first steps and, although it’s been a rough ride at times, I’ve never regretted taking that leap into the unknown.

What inspired you to write Sugar and Snails and what can you tell us about the story that won’t give too much away?

Sugar and Snails emerged from a strange interaction between my response to a newspaper report about a distinguished academic who died of anorexia without anyone in her immediate circle being aware of her difficulties; questions about gender fluidity, including the chance discovery that I’d been travelling for weeks on a passport with the letter M in the box for sex; and my attempts to reconcile myself to my own traumatic adolescence. In a nutshell, it’s a midlife coming-of-age story about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for her entire adult life. While Diana’s background is an unusual one, readers can easily relate to the challenge of bridging the gap between who we are and who we would like to be. We all have some parts of ourselves we’re not happy with and would rather others didn’t see.

Are you a plotter...or ...a start writing and see where it takes you sort of writer? 

Although I’ve often posed this question myself in the debut novelist Q&A’s on my website, it doesn’t help much when it comes to formulating a response in relation to my own writing! Since I really don’t know what it would mean to properly plan a novel, I suppose I must be a pantser, although that doesn’t fit so well with my control-freakery personality. However, I do find that the best way for me to prepare to embark on a fiction project is to play around with the ideas in my head for as long as I can. At some point, the thoughts will be so overwhelming that I have to get them out somehow, but I definitely feel there’s a loss of flexibility (despite multiple revisions and rewrites) once the words are on the screen. I enjoy seeing where the story will take me, and my characters, but if I don’t have some idea of the ending by about a third of the way through, it’s unlikely to work (which is why I have a lot of unfinished projects). However, as happened with Sugar and Snails that ending might well change over time. Once I have a first draft, I can look at what I’ve got to see where I can ratchet up the tension and tighten up the plot. For a big project, like a novel, I tend to produce an outline to remind me what I’ve got as I go along, so you could say I’m a retrospective plotter.

What were the challenges you faced whilst writing this novel?

Out of dozens, some of which I’ve probably repressed, I’ve picked three to share with you: 

1. I wanted readers to have the pleasure of discovering Diana’s secret as the story progressed without inducing too much irritation at information being withheld. I had a rule of never deliberately misleading, and I particularly enjoyed planting clues along the way, but it was hard to strike the right balance. While I also felt that her reticence was consistent with her character, some of her more curmudgeonly features were edited out in order to make her more sympathetic.

2. I also needed to convey information about her particular identity which the average reader would not have known. I think I found ways of doing this which worked within the story, but I do have a morbid fear of the “information dump” or clunky dialogue in which characters discuss something they already know.

3. I originally wrote the novel from three points of view, which was condensed into one in the final draft. While some scenes from the perspectives of her parents could be cut without spoiling the story, the experience of her father, Leonard, as a prisoner of war, impacts on the kind of person Diana has become. Since Leonard was no longer in a position to tell his own story, I had to find another way of showing this to readers.

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

I’m very lucky in that I took early retirement a few years ago so my time is (mostly) my own. I don’t have a set routine, but generally do my writing in the daytime. The downside, of course, is that I have fewer excuses for failing to complete projects than I had when I was working.

I’m also lucky to have a desk in a pleasant room with a view over our front garden. Because I rely on speech recognition software to do my writing I do need a quiet space, so I don’t have the flexibility of some writers to work in cafes, for example.

But I also consider myself to be “doing my writing” in my head when I’m out on country walks so, in that sense, the Peak District where I volunteer as a Ranger also qualifies as one of my favourite writing places.

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

My second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman imprisoned in a cellar, is written and edited heading for publication in May next year. But that isn’t because I’ve been particularly quick at getting it written. Two years after I began Sugar and Snails I thought it was finished, so sent it out for a critique while starting another. When the feedback showed me I still had a long way to go, I moved back and forth between the two novels, spending several weeks or months revising one before putting it aside in favour of the other. I never quite knew which would be published first, or if either would be published at all, so I’m pleased how things have worked out.

I’ve also been plugging away slowly on the second draft of what I hope to be my third novel, which, like Sugar and Snails is about secrets, with the focus this time on lives wasted through psychiatric incarceration. I’ve taken my inspiration from my first job as a qualified clinical psychologist as part of a team tasked with resettling long term psychiatric patients to the community.

Inspired Quill
July 2015

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill and longlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, is scheduled for publication in May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger and author of over 60 published short stories. Catch up on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.

In honour of its first birthday, Sugar and Snails is available in Kindle format at only £0.99 / $0.99 until 31 July 2016.

My thoughts about Sugar and Snails...

Sugar and Snails is an altogether different look at the way destiny shapes our lives. Diana Dodsworth is a shy and introverted forty-something, she guards her privacy well, and trusts few people. She keeps her friends at arm’s length and finds no reason to confide in them, nor does she want people to know anything more about her other than what she is willing to disclose. However, when circumstances force her to look again at her life, Diana has to learn to have self-belief, even if it means giving up some of her well-guarded secrets.

The author, with a keen eye for detail, tackles some difficult issues, but with perceptive sensitivity she keeps a firm grasp on the main thread of the story, and as Diana's interesting past emerges, a thoughtful and poignant story starts to be revealed.

I don't feel that I can share anything more about the emotive themes which run through Sugar and Snails  as that would be to reveal more than was wise, so all is will say is that I found the story quite different  from what I expected, but different in a good way. It's a very thought provoking read and makes you ponder the question ‘what is identity’ and concludes with the thought that, who we are, should be who we are’ regardless of the circumstances, or otherwise, of our birth.

This is a though provoking debut novel and I hope that this talented author continues to give us more of the same in future novels.

Jaffa was especially pleased to meet up with Marmaduke, a discerning cat after his own heart.

Best read with...Jam sandwiches and hot, sweet tea.

Huge thanks to Anne for sharing her book with me and for her kind invitation to be part of her Birthday Blog Tour. The tour runs 18th - 29th July, so do visit the  other blog hosts for more exciting content.


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Blog Tour ~ A Certain Age by Beatriz Williams..

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting today's stop on

A Certain Age Blog Tour

Harper Collins
July 2016
As the freedom of the Jazz Age transforms New York City, the iridescent Mrs Theresa Marshall of Fifth Avenue – a beautiful socialite of a certain age – has done the unthinkable: she’s fallen in love with her young lover, Captain Octavian Rofrano, a handsome aviator and hero of the Great War. But though times are changing, divorce for a woman of Theresa’s wealth and social standing is out of the question.

When Theresa’s bachelor brother, Ox, decides to tie the knot with the youngest daughter of a newly wealthy inventor, Theresa enlists her lover to present the family’s diamond rose ring to pretty ingénue, Miss Sophie Fortescue – and to check into the background of this little-known family. Yet even as he uncovers a shocking secret, Octavian falls under Sophie’s spell…

Divided loyalties and dangerous revelations lead to a shocking transgression and eventually Theresa must make a choice that will change them all forever.

And to celebrate our stop on the tour, here's a lovely interview with the author Beatriz Williams..

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for A Certain Age?

For some time, I’ve wanted to set a book in the 1920s – I talk all the time on book tour about the many ways this decade transformed Western culture into what we are today – but I was waiting for just the right story to come along. And one day I was listening to the end of Der Rosenkavalier, an opera by Richard Strauss about a woman who loses her much-younger lover to a sweet young debutante, and I realized how well those themes might play out in a Jazz Age setting.

Without giving too much away – what can you tell us about the story?

Well, like Der Rosenkavalier – which really contains one of the most poignant, bittersweet scenarios in all opera – the book opens in bed, where Theresa and her young lover Octavian are enjoying a tryst, when they’re interrupted by her brother Jay “Ox” Ochsner interrupts them with the news that he’s getting married to the lovely heiress of a wealthy inventor. Theresa, suspicious of this family’s mysterious pedigree, sends Octavian to investigate, and he not only uncovers a shocking murder mystery in Sophie’s background, he falls in love with her himself. While it’s packed with plot twists and romance and Jazz Age razzle-dazzle, it’s also about the fleeting nature of youth, and the rise of this modern new culture in Jazz Age New York, and the ways in which we all have to grow up and deal with our demons. Most of all, it’s a love story—two love stories, really—drawing together three bright, complicated, charismatic people.

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?

Oh, absolutely! I think anyone who reads my books knows I’m obsessed with voice, and expressing each character’s particular personality through the music of dialogue. My characters are real, living people inside my head, and I can’t help loving them with all their faults, in the same way you love your own children. And just like children, they have their own minds and wills, so that you have to adjust the story as you get to know them better. I had such a tough time with Octavian, for example, because he’s the kind of person who keeps his deepest thoughts and his misery on the inside; I kept having to rewrite scenes because I knew he would never say or do something that I needed him to say or do! And Sophie ended up being so much richer and more resilient that I expected – the character in the opera is more like an early Disney princess, wringing her handkerchief and stamping her sweet little foot.

Which character in the story did you identify with the most?

I think I identified most with Sophie, who tries so hard to be good despite the tides of ambition and emotion running inside her. But I felt so much empathy for Theresa, who has lost virtually every person she’s ever loved – starting with her husband, who showed himself a philanderer early in their marriage, to her baby daughter to her oldest son, who dies in the First World War. So she’s hiding so much pain and misery, which of course she’s not going to tell you about because she’s Theresa, and I loved the way she grew and stretched during the course of the story. 

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 the place and people to life?

You know, I had a lot of early exposure to theatre as a child, so it’s a natural process for me to imagine myself in the middle of a scene and feel the characters walking and talking and thinking around me. And in my view, the history is the setting on which a human drama plays out, so the focus should be on that drama with the surrounding details presented as naturally as possible. You can’t be too heavy handed, or it doesn’t work – you’ve popped outside the character’s point of view and dragged your reader out of the narrative world while you discourse on all your historical knowledge. Lucky for me, of course, I’m writing about periods in which we have a photographic and often cinematic record, so I can absorb all the nuances of dress and posture and syntax, the mannerisms and the furniture and food. Novels written during the period are a big help, as are diaries and letters, because you must absolutely create an authentic period voice, however much you streamline that voice to make it accessible to a modern reader. When I have specific questions, such as brands of soap and the price of a subway ride, I turn to the internet, which has become a godsend to writers of historical fiction! I especially love looking up vintage menus to figure out what my characters would be eating and drinking, since I’m a bit of a foodie myself. 

Can you share with us anything about your next writing project?

I’ve had so much fun writing about the 1920s, I’m going to stay there for a few more books! My next one is called THE WICKED CITY, and it’s about a straight-arrow Prohibition agent who recruits a flapper to help him crack a bootlegging ring. 

About the Author..

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz Williams spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons, before her career as a writer took off . She lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore.

Photo credit : Marilyn Roos

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Amazon UK

Huge thanks to Beatriz for answering my questions so thoughtfully and also to  Jaime at Harper Collins for my review copy of A Certain Age and for the invitation to be part of this exciting blog tour.

Tour runs between 18th -29th July. 

Do visit the other stops