Thursday, 21 August 2014

Author Spotlight and Giveaway...Shelan Rodger

I am delighted to welcome

Author of

Cutting Edge Press

Shelan ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for sharing your book Twin Truths with us.

What is it about your writing that will pique the reader’s interest?

I’m hoping the title will already start to do this, as it is deliberately ambiguous.The protagonists are twins and this is a story of discovery, an unveiling or dismantling of the very concept of truth in people’s lives. We all search for answers at one level or anotherover the course of our lifetime and Jenny’s search when her sister disappears is a journey of twists and turns. My hope is that the psychological suspense will grip the reader early on and that the writing is evocative enough to carry him/her to places they may have never been to. Not just geographical places but the hidden places inside someone’s head. I have tried to create a story that is both compelling and thought-provoking.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of Twin Truths?

Actually a surprisingly difficult question to answer. I started to write Twin Truths over 10 years ago at a tough time in my own life when I couldn’t walk – perhaps it was this lack of mobility that triggered the introspection I needed to write. Anyway, Sunday was my writing day, alongside a full time job, but as I recovered I got busier with work and the book kept getting parked. I think it took 2 to 3 years to finish the first draft. Then I moved to Kenya and it stayed quiet for a long while, before I revisited it and did a huge edit - including a total rewrite of the ending. So, it really is a book that has grown with me over time. I actually finished the first draft of my second novel before I went back to the rewrite of Twin Truths.

Your main character Jenny is on an emotional journey - how important is location to your story?

A fascinating question.How much does location shape us and influence the river of life? As someone who was born in Africa, grew up in an aboriginal community in Australia and has lived for large chunks of time in Argentina, England, Kenya and Spain, this is a question I have lived with all my life…

When Jenny’s sister disappears, Jenny flees to Argentina in an attempt to discover what happened and rebuild her life and sense of self without her sister. Location – or dislocation – can be very defining in terms of understanding who we are, powerfully grounding or alienating or liberating. How much does changing where we live change who we are? Jenny’s interaction with Argentinian culture, self-expression in a foreign language, the reaction of others towards her, the shared sense of exploration of people in their twenties travelling and living abroad – these are all factors at play.

There is also a subtle link between the history of Argentina and Jenny’s own character. In my own experience of living there in the 80s and 90s, the consciousness of Argentina’s 30,000 ‘disappeared’ during the military dictatorship that ended with the Falklands war was a slippery animal under the surface of bubbly Buenos Aires, a darkness many tried to bury. Jenny becomes close to someone who lost her own sister because she was one of the disappeared, an important parallel in the story.

Then there are the falls at Iguazu, stunningly moving and the setting of a crucial scene in the story. Water plays an almost metaphysical role in Jenny’s life and the Devil’s Throat in Iguazu falls is a place where water is mesmerizing enough to tempt you to jump to your death.

But the book is also partly set in England and Greece. Different geographical and emotional contexts, different landscapes shaping the river of someone’s life…

In your research for Twin Truths did you discover anything which surprised you?

This is a hard question to answer without giving away the plot! I think above all it confirmed the amazing complexity of the human spirit and how little we really understand about how our minds work. What makes us who we are? Can we change who we are? What is this thing called ‘I’ that we carry with us on life’s journey?

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

Over the last few years I have lived on two different flower farms in Kenya and then on the volcanic cape of Cabo de Gata in the south of Spain, so my writing venues have varied quite a lot! Wherever I am, I like to write in front of a window. When writing really flows it is almost a form of meditation and I find that looking through a window helps get me into the quasi-conscious state that opens the gates to the subconscious and lets the writing flow.

As for finding the time, this is a challenge! I continue to juggle my writing around a full time job and I certainly don’t have a disciplined or consistent approach. I am a bit of an all or nothing person and when I write I like to lose myself and spend hours at a time. I have wonderfully happy memories of a writing highlight in Kenya: a writer friend and I rented a house on the beach at Watamu for a week, swam every morning with the sunrise, and filled our days with writing, fresh fish, conversation, sea, and white wine.Not possible every day of course but highly recommended!

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

My second novel is in its last stages and will be published by Cutting Edge Press, who also published Twin Truths. Set in England and Kenya during the post-election crisis of 2008, Yellow Room is a drama that explores the power of secrets to run our lives.

The third novel exists in my head but I have yet to really get stuck into this one. Working title: ‘A Paper Trail’. It’s another multi-layered psychological tale with dark undertones. In this one, an unpublished manuscript by the father she never knew falls in to the hands of Elisa and takes her to Kenya, where a twist presents the one person from her past she never wanted to meet.

You can find Shelan here:

blogging at


My thanks to Shelan and Harriet Ash at Cutting Edge Press for their help with this interview.

There is one copy of Twin Truths up for grabs in this great UK only giveaway


My thoughts on Twin Truths

Truth is an uneasy concept which we all adapt to suit ourselves and in Twin Truths Shelan Rodger takes the concept of truthful identity and turns the question on its head in a story which keeps you guessing from beginning to end.

In many ways, this cleverly suspenseful tale divulges the story of the emotional connection between, Jenny and Pippa. When one of them disappears in mysterious circumstances, the remaining twin, Jenny, sets off on a journey of discovery, not just to determine what happened to Pippa, but ultimately to find out more about herself. Jenny is the quintessential unstable narrator, what she tells us we believe, because that’s how the truth is presented, but as the story progresses, what becomes obvious is that there are far more questions than answers, and that truth is all too often a misused commodity.

The concept of credible evidence is a skilfully manipulated until it becomes the driving force of the novel and with lyrical precision the shocking story of love, loss and culpability is revealed in a story that is as profound as it is beautiful. Without doubt, this is a very commendable debut novel, and well worth a read.

Highly Recommended.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Quarter Past Two On A Wednesday Afternoon by Linda Newbery

Random House
September 2014

This is a story about family secrets, and of the unending quest for answers to a series of questions for which there is only ever endless speculation. Through the gradual layering of time, we learn the story of what really happened at a quarter past two on a Wednesday afternoon, which left Don and Sandra Taverner without their daughter Rose, and which gave their remaining child, Anna, a burden of sibling guilt, which at times threatens to overwhelm her.

Anna is the main protagonist of the story and it seems that all her adult life she has struggled to understand why her lively and enthusiastic elder sister suddenly and without warning disappeared without trace. We get the impression that Anna, now in her thirties, is always on the outside looking in, and that her personal and private life suffers as a consequence. Don and Sandra now in late middle age, are also undergoing some personal turmoil, and Sandra’s sudden irascible and unusual behaviour seems strangely out of character.

The story switches impeccably between past and present; we get snippets of family life and flashbacks to Anna, Rose and Sandra’s youth, which when added together make up the bulk of the story.  The gradual uncovering of a devastating family drama is done with skill and precision, and such fine attention to detail, that the story becomes quite compelling to read. There is hurt and anger, and all the emotion that exists when a person goes missing, and in the search for answers, it is inevitable that some responsibility lies more heavily with some than with others. And as the story delves deeper, Anna’s character quietly draws you in, and although it took me a while to ‘warm’ to her, I couldn't help but be sympathetic to her; neither could I fail to be moved emotionally by Sandra’s seemingly bewilderment as she struggles to maintain the status quo.

Overall, this is a well written and sympathetically portrayed family drama, which steers the reader though to its ultimate conclusion, with warmth and understanding.

 My thanks to NetGalley and Random House, Transworld for my review copy of this book.

Linda Newbery

Monday, 18 August 2014

Review ~ Who Are You? by Elizabeth Forbes

Cutting Edge Press

Post Traumatic Stress disorder is at the heart of this disturbing novel which rips away the veneer which all too often shrouds this distressing condition in secrecy and silence. Alex has been an elite career soldier, who is now attempting albeit unsuccessfully, to make a new career as a security advisor. Meanwhile, his wife Juliet and small son Ben are learning to adjust to life with Alex back at home with them. On the surface, all should be well, but Alex’s increasingly volatile and often brutal behaviour is set to spiral out of control and neither Juliet nor Ben can escape his mood swings.

This is a tight and well constructed psychological suspense story which grabs you by the scruff of the neck and wallops you into hanging onto every word. It’s a dangerous and vicious look at just how two individuals, who are both irrevocably damaged, can wreak havoc, and as their despicable behaviour reverberates throughout their personal lives there is little to choose between them in the unlikeabilty stakes. I felt like I should have liked Juliet more than I did, and believe me, I truly sympathised with her plight, but she also knew just how to wind Alex up so that he snapped, and then, of course, there’s Alex with his smooth talking charm, whose total disregard for what is right and proper really cranked up the menace.  Overall, there is much to both like and dislike about both Juliet and Alex as neither of them appears to be truly honest, but what really strikes a chord is the plaintive voice of five year old Ben, whose vulnerability in the face of his parent’s worst excesses is heartbreaking.

 It’s a long time since I read a story in which I was viscerally and emotionally involved with the characters to such an extent that I really couldn't put the book down but Who Are You really does get underneath your skin, so much so, I breathed a sigh of relief when the book was done and I couldn't be upset any further.

Highly Recommended.

My thanks to Harriet Ash..... at Cutting Edge Press for my review copy of this book.


Author Spotlight and Giveaway ...Elizabeth Forbes

I am delighted to welcome to the blog

Elizabeth Forbes

Author of 

Cutting Edge Press
July 2014

Elizabeth ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions about your latest book 

What can you tell us about Who Are You? which won’t give too much away?

Meet Alex and Juliet Miller and their five year-old son Ben. They’re a year into their new life post Alex’s retirement from the Army. For all of their married life Juliet has longed to be able to live in the way that she wants to live, like other – normal – families. She’s sick of being posted away every two years, or having to wait at home in Army quarters with all the other wives, terrified that Alex is going to be wounded or killed. Now at last she’s got what she wants: a house in a smart London suburb, her husband safely away from a war zone, and like-minded people around her to make friends with. But is Alex really OK? And are they really OK together? Or are they just pretending? And if they are pretending, just how much are they trying to hide – both from each other and from themselves?

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for the story?

I was intrigued by the idea of sock puppets, people who use fake identities on the web in order to pretend to be someone they’re not. And there’s so much sophisticated spy equipment available over mail order that it seems impossible to ever know not only who you can trust on line, but to know that even your own computer is safe. But that was just one aspect of the story. I was also struck by how much we expect from the men and women in our armed forces, what we are prepared to expose them to ‘in our name’ and what the long-term effects of such experiences will have on them. I was privileged to sit in on a lecture at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst which was all about the morality of killing. I remember listening to the padre explaining how he’d felt when he’d gone on his first tour; about seeing the horrifically wounded men; trying to comfort the dying, and witnessing the dead. He said something that I’ll never forget: ‘You will wish to get back to the person you used to be before… but you never can…’ These experiences change people forever, and not only is it hard for them, it’s also really tough on their loved ones.

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 Who Are You? to life?

What a lovely thing to say, thank you.

I think Who Are You? has quite a claustrophobic feel about it because most of the action takes place within the home over a relatively short period of time, and there are very few characters.  Hopefully this serves to intensify the focus on Alex and Juliet’s consciousness, letting the reader inhabit their minds more fully – uncomfortable as that might be. I am fascinated by the dangers which can lurk in a supposedly safe domestic environment, and marriage and close relationships which are going wrong are very claustrophobic places to be, aren't they? I think the other thing which comes out in the novel is maybe the sense of isolation and loneliness and the tension lurking just below the surface.

I read lots of accounts of soldiers in the front line, and books by people who have suffered from combat stress. I talked to psychotherapists and psychologists about the effects of trauma, and I read a lot of reports about the latest theories on why some people are more susceptible than others. I was particularly inspired by Jake Wood who wrote the amazing Among You: The Extraordinary True Story of a Soldier Broken by War. He is one of my major inspirations for the book – although as I keep stressing, Jake is nothing like Alex.

But Who Are You? is not just about Combat Stress, it’s also about PTSD generally, and how people attempt to employ their own coping mechanisms when things go haywire. People can try so hard to cover things up, to pretend that they’re all right when they’re really falling apart, and sometimes I think that you can pretend so much that you lose sight of the person you really are. The real person has got lost somewhere. I imagine if you are with a very secure and nurturing partner then you might stand a chance of rediscovering yourself, but imagine if you’ve chosen someone just as damaged as yourself? Someone who’s also trying to cope with their own demons and past; what then? Everything just gets more and more knotted up.

What Scares You About Writing Books?

What a great question! Everything scares me about writing books. I jokingly tell people it’s a really horrible job – you shut yourself away for months at a time, you never know whether or not all the work will see the light of day, and if it does you don’t know what kind of reception it will get. There’s the agony of getting the words right, the sentences… not to mention the characters and the plot. The worry of who you might offend… honestly if anyone was to ask me if they should take up writing I’d probably say ‘no’, get a proper job. But when it’s going well it’s bliss, and when it goes out into the world and people start giving you nice feedback then all the pain and angst – like childbirth – are forgotten. And besides, if I didn’t write I’d definitely go insane.

What Books do you Like to Read?

It depends on what mood I’m in and I generally have about four or five books on the go. I love psychological suspense, the darker the better. I thought Alex by Pierre Lemaitre was particularly good. Our local book club have just read The Rosie Project which I enjoyed because the voice was so original and very funny. I’m reading The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst at the moment. One of my favourite writers is J. M. Coetzee because his writing is sublime, and I also admire Ian McEwan. Maggie O’Farrell’s The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox is a favourite because it fits so beautifully into the mad woman in the attic domestic-gothic ‘conversation’ which stretches back through Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso SeaRebeccaThe Yellow Wallpaper and Jane Eyre – all of which are particular favourites.

What’s Next?

I’m about to start work on the number three. I have the overall theme, but the detail of it and the characters are all a bit blurry at the moment. I wish I could tell you more, but all I can say is it might focus on a struggle over sexual identity, and the psychological cost of conformity.

Thanks so much for inviting me on to your blog and for posing such interesting and challenging questions. 


Elizabeth ~ it's been a real pleasure to host this interview , Jaffa and I wish you continued success and look forward to reading book three.


Elizabeth's books are available from all good book shops 

Nearest Thing to Crazy  Who Are You?

My thanks to Harriet Ash at Cutting Edge Press for her help with this interview and for generously providing a giveaway copy of Who Are you?

Enter this fabulous giveaway to win a copy of Who Are You ? ( UK only )

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Sunday War Poet...

David Herbert Lawrence

1885 - 1930

D H Lawrence passport photograph.jpg


The Town has opened to the sun.
Like a flat red lily with a million petals
She unfolds, she comes undone.

A sharp sky brushes upon
The myriad glittering chimney-pots
As she gently exhales to the sun.

Hurrying creatures run
Down the labyrinth of the sinister flower.
What is it they shun?

A dark bird falls from the sun.
It curves in a rush to the heart of the vast
Flower: the day has begun.

D H Lawrence is an English novelist, poet and literary critic who is best remembered for his novels
Lady Chatterley's Lover, Sons and Lovers, and Women in Love, amongst others.
He was, however, the author of over 800 poems.

He is considered one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Review ~ The Blood Dimmed Tide by Anthony Quinn

Published by No Exit Press
Oldcastle Books
October 2014
"To make contact with a ghost you must be prepared to relinquish the very idea of your own existence"

Blending together fact and fiction, this book explores the concept of life after death, and of the unbreakable ties which bind us together. Using the writer, W B Yeats as his protagonist, and his fame as one of Ireland’s most literary figures, gives credence to a journey into the mysteries and vagaries of the occult. Set in Ireland in 1918, the story unfolds as Yeats returns to Ireland, and whilst this is a time of great political unrest, it is also a time of great personal change for Yeats, and his investigation into the supernatural leads him to seek out the services of an apprentice ghost catcher. Their perilous journey along Ireland’s untamed west coast, in company with a restless ghost, forms the core of the story.

Initially, I struggled with the novel, as having no real knowledge of either Yeats or of the Irish situation in 1918, I didn't warm to the idea of the story, but about a third of the way into the novel and the story starts to emerge and becomes an interesting account of life in the early part of the twentieth century. The author has a confident style of writing which has realistic literary feel to it, and he uses intricate descriptions of both Irish history, and of its wild and beautiful coastline, to good effect. The unusual story of W B Yeats and his wife, Georgie strikes a chord and adds a very personal touch.

Overall, I thought this was an interesting and well written novel which looks at the bizarre craze for the occult that was rife during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and which combines this with the history and political uncertainty of a proud nation undergoing great change.

My thanks to Real Readers and No Exit Press for my advance copy of this book.

This book is due for publication on the 23rd October 2014 
No Exit Press 
an imprint of Oldcastle Books


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Review ~ The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland

The Vanishing Witch
Headline Review
14th August 2014

If a witch tries to bewitch you, spit at her so that the spittle lands between her eyes. That will break the spell.

In The Vanishing Witch, the authentic feel of medieval England comes alive in a tale which thrives on intrigue and superstition. Effortlessly weaving supernatural elements with historical fact, the interpretation of the peasant’s revolt from its ungainly beginning in 1380, runs alongside the story of Robert of Bassingham, a wealthy Lincolnshire wool merchant, whose unwise relationship with an inscrutable widow, will have far reaching consequences. And, as the rich get richer, the disenchanted poor decide that the time to fight back is coming sooner rather than later.

Maitland’s command of the story really shines throughout the narrative. Beautifully written with an uncanny eye for detail, the peasant’s heroic struggles are convincingly portrayed and the complex nature of the story allows the multifaceted characters to evolve at their own pace. The stories they tell, their hidden secrets and mammoth lies, all coalesce to reveal an intricate novel in which treachery and heartless injustice walk hand in hand with the complexity of medieval life. There is never any part of the narrative that doesn't transport you back to a time of ancient superstition, when danger is glimpsed on every street corner, and where dark and dangerous forces linger in the grey and gloomy alleyways of our medieval towns and cities.

Walking the medieval streets of Lincoln in the company of Karen Maitland is like stepping from a superior time travel machine, and even though you know that the world outside your door belongs to the 21st century, your mind is easily convinced that medieval England actually co-exists in the here and now. And lingering like a shadow in the darkness, you hear the muffled voice of a stranger calling for help, the mist swirls over the river and in your imagination the year 1380 has just begun.

Highly recommended.

 My thanks to newbooks and Headline  for my copy of this book