Saturday, 17 August 2019

Hist Fic Saturday ~ A Tapestry of Treason by Anne O'Brien

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to...1399

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22 August 2019

My thanks to the author for my proof copy of this book

Her actions could make history – but at what price?

1399: Constance of York, Lady Despenser, proves herself more than a mere observer in the devious intrigues of her magnificently dysfunctional family, The House of York

Surrounded by power-hungry men, including her aggressively self-centred husband Thomas and ruthless siblings Edward and Richard, Constance places herself at the heart of two treasonous plots against King Henry IV. Will it be possible for this Plantagenet family to safeguard its own political power by restoring either King Richard II to the throne, or the precarious Mortimer claimant?

Although the execution of these conspiracies will place them all in jeopardy, Constance is not deterred, even when the cost of her ambition threatens to overwhelm her. Even when it endangers her new-found happiness.

With treason, tragedy, heartbreak and betrayal, this is the story of a woman ahead of her time, fighting for herself and what she believes to be right in a world of men.

What did I think about it..

The richness of A Tapestry of Treason is as sumptuous as anything that ever graced the walls of a medieval castle. Lovingly stitched by an author who continues to bring fascinating life to the forgotten women of our history. 

Constance of York was born into a vainglorious and deeply ambitious family whose familial connection to Edward III places them close enough to royalty to always be a threat. It is their unwavering allegiance to Richard II which will prove to be disastrous when in 1399 their cousin Henry IV usurps Richard’s crown inciting the York’s do all they can to restore Richard back to power.

A clever blending of fact and fiction brings the mercurial medieval court of Henry IV to life. Filled with political intrigue and deadly ambition, Constance discovers that despite her cunning and formidable ability she is always at the mercy of men who would exploit and deceive her. Despite an uneasy marriage to Thomas, Lord Despenser, Constance is never far from political intrigue and her uncompromising personality and her capacity to be drawn into scandal is what makes this account of her life such a fascinating read. That Constance is a worthy heroine is in no doubt, her life reads like a modern day reality show, and yet, by the end of the novel I couldn't help but have enormous respect for the trials she endured during her life in which her undoubted charisma, tenacity and sheer strength of will are tested to the absolute limits.

Beautifully written and impeccably researched, A Tapestry of Treason is another absolute triumph of a novel from an author who allows us, with her clever words and vivid imagery, to experience life in medieval England. We stand shoulder to shoulder with those strong and decisive women who forged our history, not armed with crossbows on the battlefields of Europe, but who, in draughty anterooms and dusty solar, could be found cleverly plotting and deftly weaving together the tapestry threads of  conspiracy, intrigue and deadly danger.

 A Tapestry of Treason is published in hardback and ebook on the 22nd August by HQ and is available to pre-order

by kind permission of the author

In 2019 Anne O'Brien celebrates ten years of giving voice to the forgotten women of history

Anne O'Brien was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire. After gaining a BA Honours degree in history at Manchester University and a Master's in Education at Hull, she lived in the East Riding for many years as a teacher of history.

She now lives with her husband in an eighteenth century timber framed cottage in the depths of the welsh marches in Hertfordshire the borders between England and Wales.

Twitter @anne_obrien #ATapestryofTreason

Friday, 16 August 2019

Review ~ Ten Poems About Art From Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press
July 2019

Poems about art have a long and vivid history, and some of our greatest poets have tried to capture in verse the beguiling worlds of colour on canvas. Geoff Dyer’s remarkably wide-ranging selection encourages us to look at familiar and unfamiliar paintings and artists with fresh eyes.

We find ourselves in Vermeer’s studio next door to a rowdy alehouse and meet a Bonnard nude day-dreaming in her bathtub. There’s a contemplative poem capturing the calm of a Vuillard interior, and then there’s life as one of Miró’s dots:

“So here I am, on the edge of animation,
a dream, a dance, a fantastic construction,

A child’s adventure.”

from ‘I Would Like to be a Dot in a Painting by Miró’ by Moniza Alvi

These poems are sure to delight every art lover, reminding us that any painting worth its salt has a thousand different meanings. This title is the second co-publication by Candlestick Press in association with Pushkin Press.

Geoff Dyer is the award-winning author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction. His books have been translated into 24 languages.

Poems by Fleur Adcock, Moniza Alvi, WH Auden, Sue Hubbard, Mark Doty, Linda France, Mimi Khalvati, RS Thomas, Tomas Tranströmer and William Carlos Williams.

Donation to Teapot Trust

What did I think about it..

There's a little bit of an artist in all of us, some can express this in beautiful paintings, whilst others are more inclined to paint pictures with their words and in this latest collection of Ten Poems about Art, Geoff Dyer has chosen a fascinating range of poetry which describes the colour, sensation and emotional appeal of artists, their models and their masterpieces.

I think opening poem sets the atmosphere really well:

From Musée des Beaux Arts by W H Auden(1907-1973)

"About suffering they were never wrong.
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;"

An artist's visionary colour palette is recreated in glorious detail in Four Cut Sunflowers, One Upside Down by Mark Doty.

"...They are a nocturne
in argent and gold, and they burn
with the ferocity
of dying..."

In the poem Cézanne The Card Players by RS Thomas the scene is captured perfectly and those who knows the painting will recognise the two enigmatic card players who sit intently staring at the cards in their hands, wine bottle between them..

"..The Pipe without 
smoke, the empty
bottle,the light
on the wall are the clock
they go by.."

Ten Poems about Art brings into focus diverse works of art which then give a tantalising glimpse into a world of sensation, colour and emotion. And for anyone who has ever gone into an art gallery and, like me, bought a bunch of postcards, this one will ring true:

Leaving the Tate by Fleur Adcock

"..Coming out with your clutch of postcards
in a Tate Gallery bag and another clutch
if images packed into your head you pause
on the steps to look across the river.."

Ten Poems about Art is a lovely collection of poetry made all the more special by a glorious cover and would make a perfect gift for any art lover.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Clouds, Walking, Birds, Home and Kindness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter @PoetryCandle

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Blog Tour ~ Gone by Leona Deakin

Ebook 9August
Paperback 3rd October 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my proof copy of the book
 and also to Random Things Tours for my invitation to be part of the blog tour

Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:



The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic, and psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom is persuaded to investigate. As she delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all. 

And that something makes them very dangerous indeed. 

As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the puppeteer. But is she playing into their hands?

What did I think about it...

We've probably all tried at some point one of those enticing questionnaires on social media to find out what type of personality we are and never really attach much significance to the results but as this story points out the importance of collecting data from these, seemingly innocent quizzes, can be very relevant indeed. 

In Gone people are going missing after receiving a mysterious birthday card which dares them to take part in a game. Leaving behind family, friends, work and all other personal commitments, these people are being recruited and quite simply leave everything behind, only to either resurface later ... or disappear completely.

Psychologist and private detective, Dr Augusta Bloom, gets drawn into this rather bizarre situation when a friend of her fellow investigator, Marcus Jameson's, goes missing leaving behind her young daughter. Further investigation ensues and Augusta and Marcus get drawn closer and closer into the centre of a totally perplexing mystery.

What then follows is a really thought-provoking psychological thriller which had me, on more than one occasion, on the edge of my seat. The characters are entirely plausible, some I liked more than others, for reasons which become apparent as the story progresses. I especially enjoyed getting to know more about Dr Bloom, who is quite a formidable figure, and her colleague, the enigmatic Marcus Jameson, with his MI6 background, is quite charming in his own special way. I could, quite easily, see this pairing becoming a forceful investigative duo should the author choose to continue this as a book series. 

Gone is a commendable debut novel from an exciting new talent and I can't wait to see what she writes next !

About the Author

Leona draws inspiration for her writing from her own experiences having started her career as a psychologist with the West Yorkshire Police and her successful work in psychology since. She is now an occupational psychologist and lives with her family in Leeds. This is her debut thriller.

Twitter @LeonaDeakin1 #Gone



Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Blog Tour ~ Another You by Jane Cable

Delighted to be involved in the blog tour for this lovely dual time story

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Sapere Books
27 June 2019

My thanks to the author and publisher for my invitation to be part of this blog tour

I'm delighted to be able to share this exclusive book extract from Another You 

I am about to turn on the shower when I hear it. Distant at first, almost thunder — but with a definite pulse. I throw open the bathroom window and look to the skies: heavy, low and revealing nothing.

Studland Bay is shrouded in early morning mist, still and silent over the sea. The dampness clings to the folded umbrellas in the pub garden, staining the fabric with dark streaks. With the habit born of years I listen for the sea, but all I can hear is thrum, thrum, thrum from above.

The sea is beyond the garden. Figures move along the shoreline, somehow lacking the randomness of dog walkers. Something unfamiliar jars. Thrum, thrum, thrum.

The mist makes Studland a strange, enclosed world. On a clear day I can see the cliffs to my right rise to meet the sky at Old Harry rocks, a wall of chalk which dazzles in the sunlight before plummeting into the surf. Now it is as though there is nothing there. I shiver and wrap my towel more closely around me.

As the thrumming fades into the distance my attention is caught by a jeep bumping over the field in the direction of Fort Henry, its concrete mass just visible between the trees to my left. Two men jump out and call to each other, their words indistinct on the breeze. That’s it — I remember now — the re-enactment.

Music from Jude’s radio alarm reaches me through the wall. Time I was getting on, but a movement in the bay catches my eye. The mist is breaking a little, wisps like candyfloss spiralling past the window. The prevailing wind has changed but there is something else… I sniff the air. The merest hint of cordite.

Shapes shift beyond the thinning curtain: huge, beige, intangible. I lean out further. The men from the jeep are dragging a wooden crate towards the fort. Gears grind in the lane as an army truck negotiates the bend at the bottom of the cliff path. It stops in the dip and soldiers stream out, disappearing down the gully to the beach.

The wind is an unfamiliar visitor to the bay but this morning it sweeps in from the east with a vengeance, whipping the water into angry furrows and peaks. The shapes in the sea edge into view, pitching and tossing in the swell. I can only count three of them, but something makes me think there are more beyond. I strain my eyes — what in heaven’s name are they?

There is a tap on the bathroom door. “Just putting the kettle on, Mum. Want some toast?”

“Please.” I shake myself and turn on the shower.

But still I am drawn to the window and the sea, gunmetal grey as the shapes emerge from the mist. Steam fills the room behind me as they appear then disappear, never quite reaching the shore.

Jude has the Bournemouth Echo spread out in front of him on the kitchen table. I pause at the bottom of the stairs — he’s so like his father was when I first met him: tall, blue-eyed and with a smile to melt hearts at fifty paces. All he’s inherited from me is my coppery-blonde hair.

“Morning, Mum. Just checking the timings for today.”

“The re-enactment?”

“No, that’s in a couple of weeks — today’s the memorial service for the tank crews.”

I sit down next to him and pour myself a mug of tea from the pot. “Are you sure? It’s crawling with soldiers out there.”

His finger moves across the paper. “Well, there is a bit of historical stuff going on; Bovington Museum’s bringing down a tank to drive ashore from a carrier and there’ll be an old plane flying over to drop some poppies.”

I lean towards him so I can read over his shoulder. It’s a big day for Studland; exactly sixty years ago the village stood silent witness to the first of a string of rehearsals for D-Day, which went horribly wrong when the amphibious tanks that were meant to float didn’t. The army picked the Studland peninsular because the terrain, with cliffs at one end and sand dunes at the other, was similar to Normandy. And it was secret; the paper says during the war it was almost completely cut off from the world.

Exercise Smash was so hush-hush it’s only recently that anyone’s heard about it and today a memorial to the men who died will be unveiled. The editorial proclaims that without their sacrifice the story of D-Day might have been very different, but I bet their families didn’t think so. There’s an interview with the last remaining widow, who says they were told nothing in 1944 and just accepted it. Stiff upper lips and all that. What a time to live.

Jude stands up and stretches. “I’d best go prep the bar. It was busy last night, and if we’re opening for coffee we’ll need stacks of cups and saucers.”

“What time’s your father coming in?”

He rolls his eyes. “Who knows? Said he had a date last night, remember?”

Nothing new there.

As Jude clatters down the stairs to the pub the feeling washes over me. Drab, familiar, bleak as the misty dawn. How the hell did the six inches of cold sheet between Stephen and me stretch until it became three miles of chalk headland? And would I change it? No. Not now, anyway.

Jude was conceived in this grey prison of a place, long before the mullions grew bars. Upstairs, on the lumpy mattress of Uncle Ted’s spare bed, before we knew it would become our future. Even before we knew we had one. We curled together under the blankets, star-struck by the novelty of a whole weekend together, oblivious to the fact I’d forgotten my pills.

In the morning we walked along the beach, barefoot, my skirt trailing in the sand. Behind the tide, with salt and a bucket we pulled up razor clams. I cooked them for supper, with pork, wine and garlic. Uncle Ted said I should be running the kitchen in his pub. Oh, how we laughed at the idea.

I’ll never forget waking here for the first time. We arrived in the dark, not long before closing time. Smoke filled The Smugglers’ public bar and Stephen’s Uncle Ted, a narrow whippet of a man, was polishing glasses behind it. He grasped my hand.

“Welcome to Studland, Marie.” His voice was gentle, his smile slow. I miss him to this day.

©Jane Cable

About the Author

Although brought up in Cardiff, Jane Cable now lives in Cornwall and is a full time writer. Another You is a moving saga of family life in the 21st century which draws on the horrors of combat, both in modern times and World War Two as down-trodden Marie fights to reclaim her identity and discover what really matters to her. Jane’s next book, Winter Skies, will be available for pre-order from Sapere Books soon.

Twitter @JaneCable #AnotherYou


More about the author can be found on her website by clicking here  or on Facebook by clicking here 

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Review ~ The Last by Hanna Jameson

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1 August 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

The world has ended in Nuclear War.

You and nineteen other survivors hole up in an isolated Swiss hotel.

You wait, you survive.

The you find the body.

One of your number has blood on their hands

The race is on to find the killer...


What did I think about it...

Nuclear bombs drop on strategic points around the globe and for the remaining guests at the isolated L'Hôtel Sixième in Switzerland life, as they once knew it, is definitely over. For Jon Keller, an American historian, the situation allows him to observe his fellow survivors in close detail and so when the discovery of a body suggests foul play, Jon needs to do all he can, not just to find the perpetrator, but also to survive against all odds.

The Last is a decidedly scary account of what might occur should there ever be a global nuclear atrocity. The post-apocalyptic world is so eerie realistic that I read through the book with a feeling of extreme cold, trapped in the same time-warp, with the same feeling of disbelief and terror. The dystopian world is a frightening place to linger, survival of the fitness is reliant on those who have food, medication and a means of protecting themselves. For the nineteen survivors who are trapped in the hotel having to depend on each other proves to be extremely toxic in a terrifying world where there is complete a news blackout and with no idea of as what is happening in the wider world.

Jon Keller's own very visceral account is recorded as detailed journal entries and gradually, over time, we watch as the mystery at the heart of the novel becomes ever more complex, people start to become more wary of each other and we also witness the overall deterioration of morals, ethics and everything which makes us act with humanity

In a nuclear age, when all the super powers have the facility to launch a nuclear attack, The Last proves to be a scarily realistic tale and one that stays with you long after the last page is finished.

Hanna Jameson wrote her first book at the age of seventeen. She wrote The Last, her first book for Penguin, during the fallout from the 2016 Presidential election. She has the skill set of a wild-west gun-slinger and you would want her on your zombie Apocalypse team.

Twitter @Hanna_Jameson #TheLast


Monday, 12 August 2019

Blog Tour ~ At Your Door by J P Carter

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of this exciting Blog Tour

8 August 2019
DC Anna Tate #2

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

What happens when the past comes back to kill you?

When DCI Anna Tate is called to the gruesome discovery of a dead woman found on Barnes Common, she is plunged into a high‐profile investigation involving a prominent MP. London is baying for blood – but is there more to Holly’s death than at first meets the eye?

Meanwhile, the hunt is on for Anna’s missing daughter Chloe, who vanished ten years ago when her father kidnapped her. The case has been cold for what feels like forever – but a phone call brings a brand-new lead…

Can Anna solve the murder case whilst dealing with her own personal demons? Or is someone from the past planning to get in her way?

What did I think about it...

Once again DCI Anna Tate and her team of detectives are called to investigate a complicated  murder, and the young woman who is found murdered on Barnet Common is far from ordinary as her complex home situation and her even more complicated love life goes on to prove.

The story moves between two plot lines, that of the current murder investigation which is fast and furious, and also giving more of an insight into DCI Tate's search for her own missing daughter. Those readers who have read the first book in this series, In Safe Hands, will be familiar with the reasons for Anna's search, and even if you are new to the series the author explains the background really well that you can easily pick up the gist of the story.

At Your Door is a clever and complex thriller with more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing. For much of the story I was convinced that I knew who the perpetrator was, only to have my judgement questioned at the last minute and that's what I enjoy about this author's skilful writing and his ability to write so realistically from a female detective's perspective whilst at the same time keeping the integrity of the story alive.

At Your Door kept me entertained from start to finish, and I can only see the series going from strength to strength, certainly the dramatic conclusion to At Your Door, lends itself quite nicely to another nail-biting story.

About the Author

J P Carter is the pseudonym of a bestselling author who has also written sixteen books under the names Jaime and James Raven. Before becoming a full time writer he spent a career in journalism as a newspaper reporter and television producer. He was for a number of years director of a major UK news division and until recently co-owned a TV production company. For a while he was also a part-time professional magician. He’s married and divides his time now between homes in Hampshire and Spain.

Twitter @JPCarterAuthor


Friday, 9 August 2019

Review ~ The Missing Years by Lexie Elliott

6 June 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
An eerie, old Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere that’s now hers.

Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago—her father.

Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who’s almost a stranger to her.

Ailsa can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her—as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can’t ignore how the neighbourhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.

When the first nighttime intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything.

What did I think about it..

When Ailsa Calder opens up the old Scottish Manse which was once her childhood home, she has few memories of spending time there, and most of her recollections are bound up with the mysterious disappearance of her father when she was just seven years old. Years later, her family circumstances have now changed, and Ailsa has inherited a half share in the old house, the only problem is the other half still belongs to her father and he hasn't been seen for twenty-seven years.

From the start of the story there is something deliciously creepy about the house, and Ailsa and her half sister, Carrie find that living in a place where mysterious things keep happening does nothing to ease the tension. Mixing with the local community Ailsa finds that old animosities run deep, and her return to The Manse is filled with an eerie sense of unease.

The creeping menace, which is evident from the start, is done in an entirely realistic way and the brooding nature of the house, with its mysterious happenings and the animals who don't venture too close, make this story into a clever mix of normal and paranormal. The story has a slow and steady pace which helps to maintain the tension and both Ailsa and Carrie are interesting characters, quite different as half-sisters tend to be and yet, there is a shared bond between them, especially in their recollections of their enigmatic mother.

The story flows well and the author has done a great job in maintaining the tension, and for me the deliberate slowness of the novel is part of its appeal, so that when things do go bump in the night and the house starts its scary stuff, I  was genuinely creeped out 👻

The Missing Years is a complex suspense story, with a dark and brooding Gothic edginess, which kept me entertained and absorbed from first page to last.

Lexie Elliott grew up in Scotland, at the foot of the highlands. She graduated from Oxford University where she obtained a doctorate in theoretical physics. She now works in fund management in London, where she lives with her husband two sons. She is also a keen sportswoman. Her first novel , The French Girl, was published in 2018.

Twitter @elliott_lexie #TheMissingYears