Thursday, 11 February 2016

Review ~ Tainted Love by Kimberley Chambers

***Happy Publication Day ***

Harper Collins
February 11th 2016

Nobody can hurt you like the ones you love…

Tainted Love starts, with a prologue, in the Autumn 2001, but very quickly moves back in time to the Spring of 1986, when Vinny and Michael Butler were very much in control of the mean, and it must be said, moody streets of the East End of London. Family history runs deep, and there is much antagonism between the various factions who make up the hangers on, and associates, of this violent, and often vicious, brotherly duo. So dangerous is the world in which the Butler’s live, that there is never any sign of a companionable softening between them, there is certainly no love lost, and there is never any condemnation that ever goes unnoticed. Tempers fare and spill over, old resentments are allowed to fester and bitterness flourishes in the dark corners of their shady world.

As always, the skill of the writing draws you in with realistic fervour. There is much to take in, both in terms of deadly domestic undercurrents, and also of the dark and poisonous secrets which start to unfold, and you soon start to realise that, deep down, it’s not going to end well. Truthfully, I really can’t say much more about Tainted Love without spoiling the whole story, but suffice it to say that for those readers who have followed this series from the beginning, there is no doubt that this fourth book will have you on the edge of your seat.

For anyone new to this series, this really is NOT the book to start with, as you need to truly understand the complicated Butler family dynamics in order to comprehend the depth of animosity that continually gnaws away at the central characters. However, if you like your gangster crime to have a frighteningly realistic edge, then I highly recommend this series, but please start at the beginning in order to enjoy the journey.

Best read with …Eggs Benedict and copious amounts of decent champagne…

Visit her website
Follow on Twitter @kimbochambers
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Tainted Love is published on the 11 February in hardback and ebook

My thanks to Felicity Denham at Harper Collins for my review copy of this book.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Blog Tour ~ Song of the Sea Maid

I am excited to be hosting today's stop on the Song of the Sea Maid Blog Tour

and to welcome

Welcome back to Jaffareadstoo Rebecca. 

You must be so exited at the paperback publication of
 Song of the Sea Maid. 

Thanks for being our guest today and for answering our questions.

Paperback Edition
Hodder & Stoughton

Song of the Sea Maid is a story about a female scientist. Have you a particular interest in science and in your research for the novel did you discover anything which surprised you?

Hello Jo! *waves* Hello Jaffa! *tickles under chin* Well, I do have a particular fascination with science. I’ve had that since I was a child, but sadly not a scientific brain to go with it. My brother David does have that kind of mind, and he kindly spent many nights when we were younger trying to explain scientific theories to me, such as chaos theory or quantum physics. And I would understand it for about five minutes before my brain decided it was far too complicated to bother holding onto, and then it was gone! So, I read books about science and scientists and watch TV documentaries about them. I love films like A Beautiful Mind and so forth. Thus, it was inevitable that I would want to write about scientists one day. I had a box labelled ‘Science Novel’ for years, in which I would squirrel away articles from newspapers and the New Scientist magazine, usually about palaeontology, which is probably my favourite part of science. So, when I came to think about my second novel after The Visitors, my science story beckoned. I knew a bit about palaeontology, evolution and Charles Darwin – my mum is a bit of a Darwin expert - but I learned so much by researching this novel. The thing that surprised me most was how many theories akin to evolution were being developed a long time before Darwin was even born. The most surprising one was learning that Leonardo da Vinci came up with theories about fossils way back when, which I didn’t know at all. I found the most marvellous book in a second-hand bookshop called ‘I Searched for Adam’, which was all about theories of early humans from the past. It was perfect for me because I really needed to know what my main character’s contemporaries in the 18th-century would have known and understood by the time she comes to develop her own theories.

The novel is set in the early part of the eighteenth century, why did you choose this particular era?

I had a very particular reason for choosing the 18th-century in the first place and that was because I wanted my character to be developing theories that were similar to Darwin’s but a good few generations before Darwin came on the scene. The premise behind the novel was this: what if a poor, unconnected female in times past came up with an extraordinary scientific theory – would it ever see the light of day? So I felt it would be an even more interesting experiment if this scientist was living in an age where science was in its early days in terms of palaeontology and particularly in an era where myth, religion and science were all coexisting and bumping up against each other i.e. the 18th-century. I chose to set the story from the 1730s to the 1750s because there were some particular historical events I was interested in that I wanted to incorporate into the narrative and they took place in those decades. Also, in my research, I’d come across a lot of stories that took place later in the 18th-century, particularly during the Napoleonic wars and beyond into the Regency period of the 19th century, so I felt the earlier part of the century was the less trodden path and thus might be interesting to readers. I really wanted to escape that idea that the 18th-century was all massive frocks and huge wigs and Let them eat cake. I wanted to show another side of the 18th-century that perhaps was less familiar.

C18 Cabinet of Curiosties

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

I’d say it’s all of those things! You can’t predict it. There are going to be topics that are naturally interesting to me – like science – or settings that particularly appeal to me, for example, places I’ve actually visited, such as Portugal (see Sea Maid!) or where I grew up (e.g. Kent in The Visitors). Other than that, there might be a snippet of something on a radio programme or film or book or something that I see when I’m walking in the park or driving on the school run – something that sparks a train of thought, perhaps a What If type question, or simply a luminous moment – that Virginia Woolf called a ‘moment of being’ and James Joyce called an ‘epiphany’ – where some truth comes to you. So, as you can see, inspiration is a complicated beast and not something you can wholly plan or perhaps even plan at all. Once I have my idea, after that it’s months of reading and research to which my imagination is applied in order to come up with what I hope is an engaging story. Inspiration and perspiration and all that…

The Berlengas Islands
Off the coast of Portugal

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?

Characters are mercurial things. You may believe you create them but they have the strange habit of wandering off and doing as they please. (See ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’ by Luigi Pirandello for a brilliant rendition of this). Of course, what’s really happening is that your subconscious is in charge of creation and your conscious mind is trying to organise it, sometimes without success. So, I’ve learnt to listen to that and not try to shoehorn it into something my conscious mind thinks is a good idea. I may have plans for how my character is going to be, their personality, the way they think. But most of this magic happens in the telling i.e. once the voice is off and running, it creates its own nuances that perhaps you hadn’t planned for. This can happen with first or third person narratives, I’ve found – for example, my current work in progress is told in third person limited view i.e. limited to the consciousness of one character. And I’ve still found that pushiness of the main character to assert her own personality has been exactly the same as when I was writing in first person for my first two novels. A writing friend of mine, the actress Juliette Burton, told me the other day that she heard a lovely version of this: that creating a character is like finding Michelangelo’s David in a block of stone i.e. the character already exists and you are chipping away at the stone to reveal it. I thought that was beautiful and very true. With Adeliza (from The Visitors) and Dawnay (Sea Maid), I absolutely felt that they were extant characters who I just needed to get to know. It a very mysterious process! As for how I feel about them when the book is finished, well, so far, I’ve loved them all and miss them dreadfully when the book is done. It’s like a separation that is permanent, once they leave your mind and inhabit the story and when the book is finished it gets up and walks away from you and it’s never wholly yours again. Of course, that’s what you want for it, you want it to go out into the world and be read and thought about. But there’s a sadness there too, that it will never belong to you again like it once did. A bit like being a parent!

Song of the Sea Maid is your second novel, The Visitors being the first – did you feel more pressure writing a second novel?

Well, like quite a few authors I know, The Visitors wasn’t the first novel I’d written. I have a few in metaphorical drawers gathering dust. So Sea Maid wasn’t my second ever novel, but it was my second published novel and yes, that does bring with it its own unique pressures. You have expectations all of a sudden, something that perhaps you didn’t have in the same way before publication. Now, you need to please other people as well as yourself e.g. your agent, your editor and beyond that the readers of your first novel who liked it. If your editor doesn’t like it, specifically if you don’t already have a deal in place with that publisher for that book, you may well have it rejected! After all that work and maybe two years of your life devoted to it. That’s terrifying and happens often. Having one novel published is absolutely no guarantee of getting your next project published too. The book is the thing (unless you are already famous, then it’s easier. But even then, if you write a complete turkey, I imagine your editor would have something to say about it. However, I would just say one word to sum up the folly of this: Morrissey…). This is why authors talk about ‘second novel syndrome’ i.e. can I pull off this magic trick again? It’s very hard because you don’t know how you did it in the first place, so how can you possibly be asked to do it again, when you’re not allowed to reproduce what you did, as you still have to come up with something new, that’s similar enough to the last time to please people who liked that one and yet different enough to avoid accusations of being a one-trick pony! It’s a minefield! The best advice I would give is to shut out all that crap and just write the bloody thing, write it from your heart and sod the rest.

What do you hope readers will take away from your stories?

Oh gosh, that is an interesting question! Well, first and foremost, I want to entertain them! I want them to have a good time when they’re reading my books and escape a little from the everyday world. I want them to be compelled to read on. They don’t have to necessarily adore my characters – although that’s nice! – but to be interested in them and want to follow them on their journeys. A secondary thing, I guess, is that the themes and situations I present my novels will make them think about the status quo and perhaps question it, just a little bit. With Sea Maid, it would be good to think that at least some readers will walk away with the knowledge that there were female scientists throughout history doing amazing work – we just aren’t taught about them. This is why I have come to write such a detailed Author’s Note as the one you will find in the back of this book, which explains the true history behind the story I’m telling. It is annoying when, as an author who has worked really hard to do the research properly, reads a review that says something like, This would never happen; this is impossible; someone in this era would never do this or think this. So, you can’t please everyone. But I hope that some readers at least will go away thinking about such things as why there are hardly any statues of women scientists in the world. Or on a more philosophical level, things like, I wonder what other marvellous mysteries – such as hidden ancient caves – there are out there in the world left to discover… But that’s all icing on the cake. Mostly, I’d be delighted if the reader enjoyed their time with my book and perhaps it stayed in their mind for a while after reading.

Cave Art depicting Mermaid

Can you tell us what you are writing next?

I am three chapters away from finishing the first draft of my third novel for Hodder and Stoughton. The end is in sight! I can tell you it’s set in the Edwardian era, taking place from 1909 to 1919, beginning in my current hometown of Cleethorpes. More details will follow, all in good time…*mysterious*…*actually, not so much mysterious as paranoid...!*

Thanks for brilliant questions and for having me on your blog, Jo.

All about the author


Rebecca Mascull lives by the sea in the east of England with her partner Simon and their daughter Poppy. She has previously worked in education and has a Masters in Writing. SONG OF THE SEA MAID is her second novel.

Song of the Sea Maid is published on the 11 February 2016 

Find her on her website
Follow on Twitter @rebeccamascull
Visit her Facebook page

Here is my review of the earlier edition of Song of the Sea Maid

Huge thanks to Rebecca for inviting Jaffareadstoo to be part of this exciting blog tour 
and to Ruby Mitchell at Hodder & Stoughton for my review copy of this book.

Do visit the other stops on the tour.


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Jaffa welcomes Yin the Black Cat....

Jaffa is delighted to welcome to the blog his very special friend

Yin the Black Cat shares her love of witchy historicals

Ever since I was a kitten I’ve always wanted a witch of my own. Unfortunately my human companion won’t let me have one – something to do with making a mess in the kitchen with spells, and too many explosions. And I have to say, my human has a very dull profession which seems to involve sighing a lot and filling the waste paper basket with reject paper. Every now and then a big box of books arrives, but what I can’t understand is, why are they all the same? Why would anyone order fifty books that are all the same? Anyway, she gives a lot of these away, and I get to sleep in the empty box.

When she is not looking I paw through her bookshelves anxious to read all the novels I can about witches. And I have found some gems, which allow me to fantasize about riding a broomstick, or sitting on a shoulder next to a big black hat. That would really make me purr!

Here are my top ten witchy books:

1. My all-time children’s favourite: Gobbolino, The Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams. Fantastic! Do any of you remember this?

 Here's a reminder.

My human companion likes historicals, and being a Lancashire cat, I have a passion for the Lancashire Witches. Two of the best novels I have read on this subject are:

2. The Witch and her Soul by Christine Middleton, and 

3. Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt. 

Both books follow the historical facts and are truly chilling. Sixteen women were tried for witchcraft in 1612, and you can find out more about the real history here.

4. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (the last in the excellent A Discovery of Witches series) - Diana Bishop, a historian and witch, along with vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont, return from the past to the present, and face their old enemies.

5. Witch Child by Celia Rees – the gripping diary of Mary Newbury, whose self-penned story begins in 1659, the year her grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch. 

6. The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston – in this Celtic witch fantasy, Tilda, a widow and ceramic artist moves to Wales, where Seren, a witch, lived thousands of years ago. Strangely, Tilda starts to have visions of the past…

7 and 8 The Heretic’s Daughter and The Traitor’s Wife by Kathleen Kent - Martha Carrier was one of the first women to be accused, tried and hanged as a witch in Salem, Massachusetts. These two spine-chilling books follow her extraordinary life.

9. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – Now I know it’s not strictly speaking about witches, but it is about magic. And if you like gothic Victoriana, you’ll love this.

10. I Coriander by Sally Gardner - (children’s) Coriander tells the story of her childhood in seventeenth-century London, and of her discovery that she has inherited magical powers from her mother, who was, by the way, not a witch but a fairy princess. 

Bonus! The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth. Any cat interested in magic should check out Kate Forsyth’s books. This particular one, delicate and haunting, revolves around Grimm’s fairy tales, but all her books have a magic at their core.


Now, it’s time for my nap in the sock drawer. Don’t suppose I’ll get a broomstick ride today. Thank you to Jaffa for hosting me. Of course there are ginger cats who get involved in magic (Crookshanks, Hermione Granger’s cat for example). So if any opportunities come your way, Jaffa, please let me know.

Oh, suppose I should say, my human has a website with her books. It’s She writes historical fiction. Her latest is Spirit of the Highway. It features a ghost. A ghost. I ask you. What’s wrong with witches?

Yin the Cat

Follow Deborah on Twitter @swiftstory
Find Deborah on her website
Follow on Facebook


Huge thanks to Yin for this fabulous witchery guest post

Jaffa is always pleased to welcome his particular friends to the blog

Come back and see us again soon


Monday, 8 February 2016

CHERRINGHAM - The Cosy Crime Series That Gives You a New Case Every Month‏...

I am delighted to bring to the blog

 Matthew Costello and Neil Richards

Co -authors of the Cherringham Mysteries

About the authors

Authors Neil Richards (based in the UK) and Matthew Costello (based in the US), have been writing together since the mid 90’s, creating content and working on projects for the BBC, Disney Channel, Sony, ABC, Eidos, Nintendo to name but a few. 

Their transatlantic collaboration has underpinned scores of TV drama scripts, computer games, radio shows, and - most recently - the successful crime fiction series Cherringham. Now into its second season of 12 novellas, Cherringham is popular around the world, having sold over 65,000 copies and has been adapted as a series of audiobooks in Germany. Neil and Matthew are both available for interview.

I'm thrilled that Matthew and Neil have taken time out of their busy schedules to answer a few of my questions...

Matthew and Neil welcome to both of you - it's a real treat to have your company...

*What can you tell us about Matt Costello and Neil Richards? How did you both meet and what made you decide to write in collaboration?

We met while mentoring at various media labs for BBC and other media companies worldwide. We enjoyed doing that together, and soon started, quite naturally, creating ideas for TV, shows, games, and books…all of which we went on to create and write.

*The Cherringham crime series is written as a series of episodic novellas, how do you determine who writes what, and how do you share ideas and construct the stories?

Initially, we focus on the crime…then slowly let details, twists, characters and settings emerge. Since we will be passing the story back and forth, we keep the outline pretty detailed, though sometimes…characters will surprise us. One of us will start, do the first few chapters, then pass to the other…and we each do an initial edit of the other’s work. And happily for our little village, the process has worked.

*Location is obviously very important to your writing. Have you visited any the places you describe so vividly?

Matt: We have! To start the series, we rented a cottage in a Cotswold location that must remain nameless. But staying there, one of us British, the other American, helped us replicate the dynamic between Jack, Sarah…and all the residents of Cherringham. And the locale itself suggested so many plot ideas!

Neil: I have family and friends living in the Cotswolds – and I lived there too for a while. So I feel very much at home in the area. Our Cherringham is very real to us – we have a map with all the pubs, restaurants, families… victims – and murderers!

*What is your perfect writing day and do either of you have any writing rituals?

Matt: A perfect day is one where the writing flows, moving me -- and then there is no better job. That day starts with a morning run, thinking of pages to come. It ends with those pages done…and with luck, even I am impressed. Then, onto cooking an amazing meal, and preparing the evening martini.

Neil: Like Matt it’s a day when the words just come easy and I lose myself in the world of the story. I try and get to my desk by 8.30 and will write through until late afternoon. I prefer my run at the end of the day – and I use it to think through story for the next day. Often I’ll come up with some edits – so I’ll hit my desk again to make the changes. Then – like Matt I’m the cook in this house – it’s getting dinner ready and enjoying that first gin and tonic… You can guess – I’m the English one!

*What do you hope readers will take away from the Cherringham crime series?

Primarily, a love of the characters. That they feel they know Jack and Sarah…and also the rest of our ‘cast’. Having done so many of these episodes, I have real feeling for all of them, and Cherringham itself seems so real as well! And lastly, we hope the reader feels we honored the traditions of the well-crafted and gripping mystery story.

*What's coming next?

Full length Cherringham Novels! With the first one out this summer and at least two more to follow. Neil and I are also working on a darker series of books…these will be anything but cozy! (But great fun, we hope!)


 28075173  24661336 Cherringham - A Death in the Family: A Cosy Crime Series

Published monthly from 9th March 2015 by Bastei Entertainment, price £1.49 per eBook

Nothing ever happens in the small Cotswold village of Cherringham, making it the perfect place to retire to – or so ex-NYPD Detective Jack Brennan thought. But before long, local web designer and single mother Sarah Edwards had convinced him to help her investigate a suspicious suicide. Since then, he and Sarah have solved mysterious deaths, unlikely accidents and perplexing robberies. “Peace and quiet” never really suited Jack anyway…

Cherringham is an ongoing “cosy crime” eBook series, that launched in December 2013 and features unlikely sleuthing duo Sarah and Jack. Released in monthly episodes, it is written by award-winning game and TV writers UK-based Neil Richards and US-based Matthew Costello in a transatlantic collaboration – which mirrors that of Jack and Sarah. The new series, released from March 2015, launched with A Lesson in Murder, in which the two are asked to investigate the violent death of a popular teacher at Cherringham Girls School.

You will find A Lesson In Murder for sale on sale here  ( )kindle download £1.49
You will find A Bad Lie on sale here (kindle download £1.49)
You will find A Death in the Family on sale here (kindle download £1.49)

Huge thanks to Neil and Matthew for being such delightful guests 

My thanks to Sophie Goodfellow at ED public relations for her help with this interview.

and for introducing me to the Cherringham Mysteries.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Music of The Great War

Listening to Classic FM early this morning I was inspired by a piece of music
which was composed just before the outbreak of WW1 in August 1914. 

Sospiri Opus 70 by Edward Elgar

Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet OM GCVO (2 June 1857 – 23 February 1934) was an English composer, born in the village of Lower Broadheath, a village just outside Worcester. Among his best-known compositions are the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, several concertos for violin and cello, and two symphonies. He also composed classic choral works, including The Dream of Gerontius.

Listen to Sospiri 

Sospiri, Op. 70, is an adagio for string orchestra, harp (or piano), and organ (or harmonium) composed by Edward Elgar just before the beginning of World War I.

Originally intended for violin and piano and Elgar used it as a companion piece to Salut d'Amour and had in mind the title Soupir d'Amour (French for "Sigh of Love"). While composing it, however, he realised that he was writing something more intense, and so chose an Italian word, sospiri, meaning "sighs"

Sospiri with a performance time of approximately five minutes, was first performed on 15 August 1914 in Queen's Hall in London, conducted by Sir Henry Wood.

Sospiri was dedicated to Elgar's long-time friend, the violinist W. H. "Billy" Reed.

War was declared on the August 4th 1914. 

The gentleness of Sospiri bears no resemblance to what would shortly be taking place on the Western Front.

\relative c' \new Staff \with { \remove "Time_signature_engraver" } {
 \key d \minor \time 4/4 \tempo "Quasi recit."
  r8\fermata e'4\upbow \p \< (g8) a2~\> << a8 { s16 s16\! } >> a4( c8) d,2~ d8 c\<( d e\!) f--[ e--] d4~ d8 c-- d-- e~( e\>[ c]) c4\!
Source: Wikipedia


Saturday, 6 February 2016

National Libraries Day 2016...

My earliest abiding memory as a child is of being taken to the library by my mother. I could only have been about 4, it was certainly before I went to school. I remember the overwhelming size of the library, the quietness and the mystery of peeping up at towering shelves that seemed as tall as giants.

Whilst my mother took her time choosing the latest romance, I was allowed into the children's section, and I as ran my tiny fingers along the shelves and touched the spines of books a whole new world of adventure opened up before me. I can remember that I was allowed to borrow a book about the adventures of a teddy bear, which looked so much like my own well loved tatty teddy. The book was huge, well, to my 4 year baby arms it seemed so, and I carried it ever so carefully all the way home.

Although I didn't know it at the time, this first visit to the library would spark a life long love of books, and even after many thousands, possibly millions of pages later, that love for books and libraries has never diminished.

Here's my latest read from the library...


Last year I borrowed 135 books from my library 

I went on numerous adventures all over the world
I travelled to the past and to the future
I witnessed crimes and murders
Saw kings and queens toppled
Peeped through curtains, 
Waited at bus stops,
 Traveled by high speed car
Saw love affairs unfold
And read and read and read....until my eyes ached

But not only that....

I attended my monthly reading group
I took part in a craft market
I borrowed audio books
I borrowed DVDs
I used a computer
I researched
I made friends
I laughed 

Libraries were visited over 265 million times last year 

Remember Libraries are not all about books and if we don't make good use our libraries 

we lose something very precious

 ..."I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library"...

Jorge Louis Borge 

Follow on Twitter @NatLibrariesDay  #librariesday

Friday, 5 February 2016

Review ~ In the Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride

Harper Collins
January 2016

Logan McRae, the troubled Scottish sergeant who seems to attract trouble like a moth to a flame, returns in this tense and gritty novel which focuses on a dark and dirty criminal underworld.

When Logan and his team are called upon to investigate a missing person, the disturbing nature of the enquiry leads Logan in a direction he would rather not travel, but as with all complex cases, what he discovers during the investigation, will reveal more questions than it does answers. It’s difficult to say more about the plot without giving away vital pieces of information which will act as huge spoilers, so it’s really for the best if you read of the challenges that Logan faces, both in his personal and professional life, without any preconceptions.

Without doubt the story is action packed and full of gritty realism which had me on the edge of my seat, but, I think because this was the first time I had read any of the books in this series, I puzzled about certain aspects of Logan’s character and couldn’t quite make up my mind about whether he was one of the good guys.. or not. I realise that he’s a superbly flawed individual, which I why, I guess this series has run and run, and that part of his special appeal is no doubt due to his somewhat maverick approach to policing, which often gets unexpectedly good results.

Coming into a series so far down the line, really does makes a difference to the overall enjoyment. I missed lots of points of reference and I couldn’t always fathom Logan’s relationship issues, or his somewhat cavalier approach to professional standards. But putting that on one side, I am sure that fans of the series will be delighted with the story, which is well written and complex, the dirty dealings of the criminal underworld are scarily real, and Logan’s part in it, is both exciting and complex.

So, all in all, well worth a read if you like gritty crime and, of course it's a sure fire read if you've followed Logan's story from the offset.

Best read with…giddying amounts of whisky and several sausage butties, heavy on the red sauce…

Thanks to Jaime Frost at Harper Collins for my review copy of this book