Saturday, 25 May 2019

Review ~ The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

On Hist Fic Saturday

Lets go back to Georgian England...1785

January 2019

One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This chance meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, a journey on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost…

What will be the cost of their ambitions? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

My thoughts...

Middle aged widower, Jonah Hancock is awakened early one morning to the news that one of his merchant ships has been lost at sea and in place of his livelihood the captain of his fleet has returned with, of all things, a mermaid. Jonah is both dismayed and intrigued by this turn of events and more than a little alarmed at being the owner of such an unusual curiosity.

With the need to recoup his losses, Jonah allows the public a tantalising glimpse of this creature and his mermaid exhibition causes a furore in London, with the great, and the not so good, queuing to see it. Against his better judgement Jonah comes into contact with Mrs Chappell, a notorious brothel keeper, who has her own more risqué ideas on how to enhance the mermaid’s effect. However, Jonah’s uneasy association with the brothel keeper brings him into contact with Angelica Neal, a famed courtesan, who is the most beautiful woman Jonah Hancock has ever seen.

This is a really intriguing story about love, greed and obsession and is a real journey through Georgian London, with its fascination for curiosities and its ambiguous morality. The characters are a fascinating bunch, from the rather staid atmosphere of Jonah Hancock’s merchant’s house, to the bawdy illumination of Mrs Chappell’s establishment, there is never a moment when the story doesn’t draw you in. Angelica Neal takes some getting used to, she’s brash and lively, petulant and greedy and yet, by the end of the story I really liked her spirit and determination.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, is really a story of two definite halves; with, I think, the second half of the story being stronger than the first, but throughout it all is a real sense of time and place, and Georgian London with all its pettiness, squabbles and obsession with society is brought to life in quite a vivid way.

I listened to The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock as an Audible recording, which was beautifully narrated by Juliet Stevenson. ( 17 hours and 19 minutes)

About the Author

Imogen Hermes Gowar studied Archaeology, Anthropology and Art History before going on to work in museums. She began to write fiction inspired by the artefacts she worked with, and in 2013 won the Malcolm Bradbury Memorial Scholarship to study for an MA in Creative Writing at UEA. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock was a finalist in the MsLexia First Novel Competition and shortlisted for the inaugural Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers’ Award.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Blog Tour ~ My Mother's Daughter by Ann O'Loughlin

Delighted to be sharing my book review on the last day of this blog tour 

16 May 2019

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and the invitation to the blog tour

County Wicklow, Ireland. Margo has just lost her husband Conor and is grieving his passing, unsure how she and her daughter Elsa will survive without him. Then she receives a letter that turns everything she thought she knew on its head. Not only has she lost her husband, but now Margo fears she could lose her daughter as well. 

Ohio, United States. Cassie has just split from her husband acrimoniously. Upset and alone she does not know how to move forward. Then her ex-husband demands a paternity test for their daughter Tilly and sorrow turns to anger as Cassie faces the frightening possibility of losing her daughter.

My thoughts...

So many emotions run through this book that it's really difficult to say much about the plot without giving far too much away. However, it's safe to say that I was completely engrossed in the combined story of Margot and Elsa in Ireland, and Cassie and Tilly in the US. Both women have had their fair share of heartache as each is grieving the loss of their marriages, albeit for very different reasons. Not content with the trauma of coping as a single parent both women are devastated to learn that the daughter they each cherish could by some dreadful quirk of fate not be their biological child.

Getting right into the emotional heart of a story is what this author does best and My Mother's Daughter certainly shares some really tough emotional issues which, at times, threaten to engulf both Margot and Cassie. Throughout this emotional story there are some wonderful mother/daughter moments to cherish but equally there's also some really heart-breaking decisions to be made which the author handles with thoughtfulness, compassion and a real sense of empathy.

My Mother's Daughter covers some really sensitive issues around love and loss, and with some really sad stuff towards the end of the book which had me reaching for the tissue box, and yet, it's also a really uplifting story about the powerful bonds of both motherhood and friendship. 

Throughout this excellent story I was reminded of the lengths that mother's will go to to protect their children and that sometimes the strongest emotional bonds are not forged by blood but by unconditional love.

About the Author

As a leading journalist in Ireland for nearly thirty years, Ann O'Loughlin has covered all major news events of the last three decades. Ann spent most of her career with independent newspapers where she was Security Correspondent at the height of The Troubles, and was a senior journalist on the Irish Independent and Evening Herald. She is currently a senior journalist with the Irish Examiner newspaper covering legal issues. Ann has also lived and worked in India. Originally from the west of Ireland she now lives on the east coast with her husband and two children

Twitter @annolwriter #MyMothersDaughter


Thursday, 23 May 2019

Review ~ Ten Poems about Childhood from Candlestick Press

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to share this latest poetry pamphlet from
Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press
April 2019

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this poetry pamphlet

Poems exploring innocence and experience

Childhood must be one of poetry’s very favourite subjects. Countless poems try to capture the light and shade of being very young – moments that lodge vividly in our adult memories.
This beautiful mini-anthology ventures off the beaten track with poems that will be new to many readers. From a group of children who:

“...thought words travelled the wires

In the shiny pouches of raindrops,”

from ‘The Railway Children’ by Seamus Heaney

to a baby entranced by mirrors and glass, we see the world in language that sparkles with newness.

Mimi Khalvati’s selection reflects her fascination with how we learn to talk and read, and there are poems about a first encounter with books and about children from different cultures playing ball and swapping words in a village square.

Mimi Khalvati is an award-winning poet and founder of the Poetry School.

Poems by Kayo Chingonyi, Jane Duran, Louise Glück, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Jennings, Mimi Khalvati, Hannah Lowe, James Merrill, Tracy K Smith and James Womack.

Cover illustration by Celia Hart.

Donation to Unicef.

My thoughts...

When I was a child I loved listening to poetry and I can remember how perfectly safe I felt when my mother read to me from a battered old copy of Robert Louis Stevenson's, A Child's Garden of Verse. In Ten Poems about Childhood, the magic of words comes alive and with such a wealth of emotion in this selection, it is difficult to choose a particular favourite.

Mimi Khalvati's thoughtful selection covers a whole range of experiences from her own work in:


"...children throwing languages in rotation-
their own, a new one, being made aware
as they leap, drop, pick up, catch, of translation..."

To The Railway Children by Seamus Heaney

"...We were small and thought we knew nothing
Worth knowing, We thought words travelled the wires
In the shiny pouches of raindrops..."

Reading Ten Poems about Childhood is a real celebration of childhood in all its many guises. Reading the poems took me back to those heady days of my own childhood, when summers stretched endlessly long, when with great excitement we build dens and dams, ran races and climbed trees and snuggled up with a glass of milk at bedtime and became lost in the universal language of words.

Ten Poems about Childhood makes a perfect gift for the child that lives in all of us.

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

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Review ~ The Effortless Mind by Will Williams

Simon & Schuster
2 May 2019

My thanks to the publishers and Midas PR for my copy of this book
Will Williams has taught thousands of everyday people to meditate with astounding results. Long term sufferers of debilitating conditions including insomnia, depression and anxiety have used Will’s unique form of Beeja meditation to transform their lives. Others have found a new sense of joy and fulfilment in their lives, and report becoming incredibly productive and creative at work and home.

Supported by scientific research, The Effortless Mind explains how Beeja meditation soothes and calms both the mind and the central nervous system - with fast-acting, tangible results. Each chapter in the book is dedicated to a different problem created in our increasingly pressured and demanding world including addiction, divorce, and work-related stress. Compelling real life stories reveal how Beeja meditation can help overcome these traumatic situations and help improve relationships with both ourselves and others, with chapters on family, anger management, digestion and overeating.

Stories from the book include Nick, a banker and father of two who was admitted to psychiatric hospital for depression. Within two months of learning Will’s technique his anxiety had halved, his medication reduced and a month later he returned to work. Then there is Mia, a medical researcher who suffered with chronic IBS. With GPs dismissive and medication ineffective, Will’s meditation course led to results within 72 hours. Mia’s IBS clinic discharged her citing meditation as the catalyst.

Will’s meditation technique is so successful at calming the mind that he has become one of the UK’s leading meditation teachers and experts. Will teaches Beeja meditation to the world’s biggest brands including Google, Microsoft, BBC, Spotify, HSBC, Sony and Universal. His celebrated courses and retreats have taught film stars, musicians, business leaders, royals, politicians and explorers how to use his simple method to increase productivity, release potential and foster creativity.

My thoughts..

I'm not usually a great reader of self help books but sometimes one comes along which piques my interest and allows the opportunity of looking at life in a very different sort of way.

In The Effortless Mind, the author presents a way of mediating which helps to calm the mind thus allowing a more relaxed state of being.  I found the book to be an interesting and thought provoking read and the author, obviously passionate about the technique he promotes, does a great job of explaining the benefits of Beeja mediation, a method he has perfected.

There are some interesting case studies which help to put the contents into perspective and I enjoyed reading the author's own interpretation of what can be gained by embarking on a series of mediation. The book is divided into easy to read sections and covers: Mind and Body, Relationships, Being Your Best and Finding Greater Purpose.

In our stressful world we all need coping strategies, however, what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for someone else but what The Effortless Mind goes on to explain is that sometimes we just need to step away from the stresses and struggles and allow ourselves the time to reflect and relax.

I have enjoyed reading through this introduction to the Beeja technique and found much to consider and some really good suggestions.

About the Author

A former music industry executive and insomnia sufferer, Will discovered meditation after he used it to cure his own chronic insomnia. Will William’s meditation expertise is based on over 11 years’ experience training with renowned meditation masters across the globe. Will teaches classes and courses from his Beeja HQ in London and runs regular weekend retreats across the UK. Will leads a team of Beeja meditation teachers worldwide, and will be opening new centres in Berlin, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles this year. Will founded World Meditation Day which takes place on the 15th of May, and this year will be launching the new BEEJA meditation app. Will is also working with the OECD to introduce meditation to all primary and secondary schools globally by 2030, with a trial initiative rolling out in 2020, with 20 schools in the UK expected to take part.

@beejameditation #TheEffortlessMind



Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Blog Tour and Author interview ~ The String Games by Gail Aldwin

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host day two of this blog tour 

and to share an interview with the author 

Victorina Press
28 May 2019

My thanks to the author for inviting me to read her book and to take part in this blog tour

Hi Gail and welcome to Jaffareadstoo. What inspired you to write The String Games?

One of the worst experiences of my life was losing my three-year-old son for forty minutes on the beach at St Jean de Luz. I was rubbing sunscreen onto my daughter and when I looked up, he was gone. Although this episode ended happily it made me think about different possible outcomes, the vulnerability of little children in countries where they can’t speak the language, and the parental fear of losing a child. I decided this would be a good hook for novel readers but instead of telling the story from a parental perspective, I decided to explore the legacy of loss from the viewpoint of an older sibling.

Tell us three interesting things about your novel. 

😊 there are characters who are strung along, others who are puppets on string and those who need to cut the apron strings – string is the controlling metaphor of the novel

😊 it’s a three-part novel but I wrote the middle section last

😊in terms of structure and themes, The String Games has similarities with the Oscar winning film Moonlight

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

I started writing The String Games with an end in mind and could see the last chapter as if it were the closing shot to a film. However, the writing journey to get from start to finish was rather like entering a maze. Many chapters took circuitous routes, some paths led to dead ends where I had to backtrack, other chapters flitted around the outskirts and I needed to navigate a new path. When the first draft was completed, every subsequent draft (and there were many over the five-year period it took to finalise the novel) brought me closer to the heart of the novel and the completed story. 

In your research for The String Games did you discover anything which surprised you?

When I began the novel I also enrolled on an MPhil programme with the University of South Wales. I enjoyed the practise of creative writing alongside academic study so much that when the two-year course was over, I transferred to PhD. The String Games became the creative element of my submission and I wrote a thesis to accompany this. One chapter of my research looked at feminist theories about women writers. In “On Female Identity and Writing by Women”, Judith Keegan Gardiner describes the relationship between women writers and their female protagonists by use of the analogy “the hero is her author’s daughter”. This caused me to reflect on my relationship as a writer with my protagonist and to build greater understanding and empathy for her mother, who is quite a tricky character. 

What were the challenges you faced whilst writing this novel?

I am the sort of writer who wears the shoes of my characters. When writing about devastating events, it’s inevitable to feel something of the characters’ pain. To avoid this spilling into my everyday life, I’ve developed the habit of closing my workroom door whenever I finish writing. This helps to separate the experience of engaging with the tragic events in my novel from my life with my family. 

What do you hope that readers will take away from reading The String Games?

The String Games is a celebration of human resilience. It is possible for people to experience heart breaking events and become reconciled with those experiences. 

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

I’ve got into some very bad writing habits. The other day I started a writing task at 8am and didn’t leave my desk until 2pm when I was absolutely famished. My writing life spreads into all aspects of daily living like some amorphous creature. I always have several writing projects on the go at any time so it’s more a question of finding time to do the necessary that keeps a home functioning rather than the other way around. 

I share a desk with my husband and although he rarely works from home, his stuff takes up a lot of room. I pile all my notebooks and papers at one end and this has become my writing space. Once I’ve got my head down, it doesn’t matter that I’m in a tiny room. My writing takes me to many different locations. 

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

I write a blog called The Writer is a Lonely Hunter which includes lots of information about me, my projects, publications and events. I’m also part of a collaborative writing trio called 3-She. Together we write short plays and comedy sketches. We’re currently working on a show that will be staged as part of the Shaftesbury Fringe. I’m active on social media so please find me on Twitter and Facebook.

Social Media links:

Twitter @gailaldwin

My thoughts about The String Games..

It's every parents' worst nightmare to have a child disappear, I can well recall that heart stopping, gut-wrenching feeling when my daughter, then aged six, went missing for about half an hour and the sheer relief when she was found safe and well. 

The String Games reminds us of that feeling but it also cleverly focuses on the effects on the sibling in a missing child case, people who are, so often, overlooked, as so much emphasis is concentrated on the distress of the parents. Nim is only ten years old when her four year old brother, Josh, goes missing on a family holiday in France, and, whilst the impact of this devastating event on the parents is never underestimated, it is Nim's reaction to her brother's disappearance which becomes paramount to the story.

I found The String Games to be a very insightful family drama, which never over-sensationalises what has happened, but which looks introspectively into how much Nim suffered and of the grief and sense of loss that she carried with her and her need to have answers to so many unresolved issues. In a way The String Games is a rather poignant coming of age story as we witness Nim's constant search for resolution.

The author writes really well and the attention to detail and the authentic feel to the narrative make this a compelling and thought provoking read.

Monday, 20 May 2019

Blog Tour ~ Stolen by Paul Finch

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Stolen

16 May 2019

Lucy Clayburn #3

My thanks to the author,  publishers and Sabah for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the tour

How do you find the missing when there’s no trail to follow?

DC Lucy Clayburn is having a tough time of it. Not only is her estranged father one of the North West’s toughest gangsters, but she is in the midst of one of the biggest police operations of her life.

Members of the public have started to disappear, taken from the streets as they’re going about their everyday lives. But no bodies are appearing – it’s almost as if the victims never existed.

Lucy must chase a trail of dead ends and false starts as the disappearances mount up. But when her father gets caught in the crossfire, the investigation suddenly becomes a whole lot more bloody…

My thoughts..

The first chapter gets the book off to a really good start and this exciting atmosphere never lets up until the dramatic conclusion which had me scrabbling back into the story to see if I had missed any important clues. There's so many twists and turns and genuinely heart stopping moments that my fingers turned the pages ever faster so that I didn't loose track of what was happening.

In the town of Crowley in Greater Manchester random people are going missing, they are simply there one minute and then gone the next and whilst the link between the missing takes a while to become a police investigation, when it does, Lucy Clayburn and her team have a real challenge in trying to keep one step ahead of an investigation which gets more and more complex as time goes on.

Those who are familiar with the Lucy Clayburn crime series will know just how this gutsy detective operates, she's feisty, resolute and brimful of curiosity, and certainly doesn't suffer fools, and throughout this complex investigation she is absolutely determined to get to the heart of the matter, even if that means going into some very dangerous situations. It was interesting to see that the complication in Lucy's past is developed further in this story and I have enjoyed working out the connection, especially with her estranged father, which adds another dramatic layer to what is, already, an exciting crime thriller.

The author writes really well and, using both his police experiences and his local knowledge, brings this gritty northern series to life in such a scarily realistic way. Stolen is particularly gritty, with some genuinely dark moments which, at times, makes for uncomfortable reading, but which add such fascinating drama to this fine continuation of the Lucy Clayburn series.

Lucy Clayburn Series

Strangers (Lucy Clayburn, #1) 34522381 42959331

About the Author

Paul Finch is a former cop and journalist, now turned full-time writer. He cut his literary teeth penning episodes of the British TV crime drama, The Bill, and has written extensively in the field of children’s animation and for Dr Who. However, he is probably best known for his work in thrillers, crime and horror. His most successful works to date are the six-novel DS Heckenburg crime series, and the new Lucy Clayburn series, the first instalment of which, STALKERS, reached no. 7 in the Sunday Times best-sellers chart.

Paul lives in Lancashire, UK, with his wife and children.

Twitter @paulfinchauthor #Stolen


Saturday, 18 May 2019

Blog Tour ~ Night by Night by Jack Jordan

Jaffareadstoo is excited to be part of the blog tour for Night by Night

2 May 2019

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

‘If you’re reading this, I’m dead.’

Rejected by her family and plagued by insomnia, Rose Shaw is on the brink . But one dark evening she collides with a man running through the streets, who quickly vanishes. The only sign he ever existed – a journal dropped at Rose’s feet.

She begins to obsessively dedicate her sleepless nights to discovering what happened to Finn Matthews, the mysterious author of the journal. Why was he convinced someone wanted to kill him? And why, in the midst of a string of murders, won’t the police investigate his disappearance?

Rose is determined to uncover the truth. But she has no idea what the truth will cost her…

My thoughts..

What a roller coaster of a ride this turned out to be, from its dramatic opening, to its intricate middle and jaw dropping conclusion, there is never a moment when the plot doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rose Shaw is a really troubled soul and with very good reason as she has suffered more than enough tragedy in her life to justify her sleepless nights. At the start of the story, Rose feels that she has no purpose and we meet her with her family life in complete disarray. Late one night she inadvertently collides with a man who seems to be running away from something, in the aftermath of this altercation, Rose discover that the man had dropped a journal. Looking through this rather personal journal Rose discovers the story of a young man called Finn who has a nightmare of a story to share.

What then follows is a fast and furious psychological thriller which takes Rose to the very edge of despair and causes catastrophic rifts ,not just with her family but also with the local police force whose helps she seeks, but who seem intent to thwart her every move.

I thought that Night by Night was a really clever thriller, there are some genuinely sad moments which brought me to tears, and also some really dark situations which made me want to grab Rose and take her into safekeeping.

Thought provoking, hugely addictive, Night by Night kept me on the edge of my seat all the way through and, as this is the first book by this author I have read, it also introduced me to a wonderful new, and very original, writing talent.

Jack Jordan wrote his first novel at seventeen and self-published two e-book bestsellers, Anything for Her and My Girl, by the age of twenty four. He lives in East Anglia.

Twitter @JackJordanBooks #NightbyNight