Sunday, 22 July 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered

Over the last four years of adding WW1 information onto my blog I have found lots of books really interesting so I thought it was time to share them.

Forgotten Voices of the Great War
Ebury Press
In 1972 The Imperial War Museum began the task of finding the ordinary veterans and survivors of the First World War. This book records the experiences of the ordinary men and women of the Great War who share their stories in this fine collection of reminisces and recollections of what it was like to live during this troubled time in world history. 

From the mundane to the complex each of the stories have a special poignancy, not just because these brave people are now forever lost to us but also because their wealth of knowledge and experience will stand the test of time, and will be part of our collective history forever .

The book is divided into years from 1914-1918 and I've found it very useful in trying to experience just what was being seen, and of the myriad of emotions which, in so many cases, are heartbreaking and occasionally, strangely uplifting.

From an entry dated...July 18th 1918

Captain Reginald Thomas, Royal Artillery

"It was a magnificent sight as the French cavalry came out of the forest at Soissons. Their uniforms were all new, bright blue, every bit and spur-chain was burnished and polished; their lances were gleaming in the sun; and as the bugler blew the charge the horses went into the gallop in a fan attack-two regiments of French cavalry, They went along beautifully, magnificently, through the wheat field in the afternoon sun..."

The stories within Forgotten Voices of the Great War are taken from the sound archives of the Imperial War Museum and after hundreds of hours and unlimited access to the complete WW1 tapes, the author, Max Arthur and his researchers have created this unique insight into WW1 as related by those ordinary men and women who experienced it first hand.


Saturday, 21 July 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Incendium Plot by A D Swanston

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...Elizabethan England

March 2018

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book

In 1572, Elizabethan England is rife with fear, not just from the sporadic outbreaks of plague but also from the danger of insurrection and invasion. The Ridolfi plot which sought to place Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne has just been thwarted and Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, has paid the ultimate price for his betrayal. Lawyer, Christopher Radcliff is in the Earl of Leicester's employ as his chief intelligencer and he is charged with the task of seeking out those who would threaten, not just the safety of the Queen, but also the stability of England.

When Radcliff discovers a new and deadly plot against the Queen, it is a race against time to search out those, both at home and abroad, who seek to destroy her.

The Incendium Plot is a really sleek thriller which has all the hallmarks of a great whodunit and set, as it is, against a backdrop of the glorious Elizabethan age there is much to enjoy, both in terms of historical background, which is beautifully authentic, and also in the sharpness of the investigative process. Radcliff is a likeable character, methodical, meticulous and with never a clue left uninvestigated, you feel as though you are in safe pair of hand as he moves stealthily through some very dangerous places and mixes with very undesirable characaters.

Historically accurate, as only good research shows, The Incendium Plot has all the necessary ingredients for a rollicking good historical adventure which moves effortlessly between France and England, and as Radcliff and his associates discover more about the darkness which threatens to overwhelm them, so the danger moves ever closer to home.The author writes this type of historical suspense very well and intersperses the story with a wealth of interesting characters, some act as spies and informers, whilst others add a colourful and lively glimpse into life in Elizabeth's England.

This is the first of two thrillers which will feature the adventures with Christopher Radcliff in his intelligencer role. The Incendium Plot certainly gets the stories off to a very good start.

A.D. Swanston

Andrew read a little law and a lot of sport at Cambridge University, and held various positions in the book trade, including being a director of Waterstone & Co, and Chairman of Methven’s plc, before turning to writing. Inspired by a lifelong interest in early modern history, his Thomas Hill novels are set during the English Civil Wars, and the early period of the Restoration. 

Andrew’s novel, Incendium*, was first published in February 2017 and is the first of two thrillers featuring Dr. Christopher Radcliff, an intelligencer for the Earl of Leicester, and is set in 1572 at the time of the massacre of the Huguenots in France.

*The Incendium Plot was first published in hardback as Incendium


Twitter @AndrewSwanston

Friday, 20 July 2018

Review ~ Bad Twins by Rebecca Chance

Summer Sizzler

26 July 2018

My thanks to edpr for my copy of this book

What's it all about...

In a game where the ultimate prize is power beyond your wildest dreams, you should never underestimate your competitors, even if they are family . . . and, it turns out, twins can be the most dangerous rivals of all . . .

Bad Twins by bestselling author Rebecca Chance explores vicious sibling rivalry in this gripping thriller.

My thoughts about it..

When Jeffrey Sachs, CEO of the prestigious Sachs hotel chain, introduces his new fiancé to his grown up children, he also announces that he is going to step away from the company he has created and in six months’ time one of his children will be named CEO in his place. What is then unleashed is sibling rivalry on a grand scale and nothing and no-one will stand in their way...not even each other. And twins, Charlotte and Bella, fight dirtiest of them all..

Pure escapism from beginning to end, Bad Twins is a cheeky roller coaster of a ride through boardrooms and bedrooms, and shows in raucous detail the lengths that the Sachs siblings will go to in order to outwit and out manoeuvre each other. Power struggles, manipulation and dirty dealings all combine in this lively family drama.

There is no doubt that this author is the absolute queen of the glamorous thriller, with highly detailed sexual shenanigans playing out alongside some impressive back stabbing, Bad Twins is an absolutely perfect summer sizzler.

Born in London, Rebecca Chance read English Literature at Cambridge and wrote for various newspapers and music magazines before moving to Tuscany to focus on writing books. She has written several best selling novels including Bad Brides, Mile High, Killer Diamonds and Killer Affair. She lives in London with her husband and her interests include cocktail drinking, men's gymnastics and reality TV, including the Real Housewives.

Twitter @MsRebeccaChance #BadTwins

Bad Twins will be published by Pan on the 26th July 2018

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Review ~ Call Billy by Sam McColl

May 2018
Call Billy is partly funded by a New Writers’ Bursary from the Scottish Arts Council.

My thanks to Cameron Publicity and Marketing for my copy of this book

What's it all about..

Edinburgh is meant to be a new start for the Gillespie family. Rachel has enrolled as a mature student at the university, while Andrew is spending more time with the kids. But Rachel’s ‘new start’ morphs into ‘new affair’ with fellow student Ryan. Or is it Stevie? 

Either way, her lover is not what he seems. When his past surfaces in the guise of a name on Rachel’s library ticket, the affair turns nasty. And then her teenage daughter unwittingly discovers the deceit and the family begins its spin into free fall.

My thoughts about it...

Rachel and Andrew Gillespie have recently moved from Oban to Edinburgh with their teenage children, ostensibly to make a new start. Rachel has enrolled as a mature student at the university where she embarks upon an affair with another student, whilst Andrew is left to spend more time with their children. Call Billy is an intriguing story which doesn't shy away from showing the difficulties which send the Gillespie family into a downward spiral, which then threatens the future stability of them all. 

The story gets off to a slow start, which I think is deliberate, as it gives us a chance to get to know the characters and to find out what makes them tick. And finding out what makes them act in the way that they do is a major part of the story. They're an odd bunch, to be sure, and it took me ages to warm to any of them, but as the story gets more involved, so I started to connect better with what was happening on the page. I'm being deliberately vague about what was going on, as to say too much would be to  spoil the overall drama of Call Billy which, to be honest, is best read with no spoilers from me.

I liked the author's writing style, which is sharp and sassy, and the Scottish vernacular gives the story an authenticity of speech which is helpful as it places the novel firmly in the here and now. There's an gritty edginess to Call Billy which I appreciated, and whilst it's not always an easy read, I admire the way in which the author has allowed the story to evolve at its own distinct pace.

I'm pleased to say that there are plans for the story to be continued...

Sam McColl was born into a family hushed by the threat of violence. Orphaned at 12, unable to grieve or understand her stolen childhood, she continued to recreate it - until she got help.

Since then she has worked with young people and addicts, and those who have had a rough time of it.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Blog Tour ~ In the Dark by Cara Hunter

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting today's stop on the In the Dark Blog Tour

12 July 2018

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

What's it all about...

A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive. No one knows who they are – the woman can't speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile. The elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before. The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock. How could this happen right under their noses?

But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible. And that no one is as innocent as they seem...

What did I think about it ...

This talented author first came to my attention when I was introduced to DI Adam Fawley in Close to Home which is the first book in this crime thriller series, and what a roller coaster of a ride that turned out to be. So my expectations in this, the second book, were naturally high, and I'm delighted to say that once again the author has given us a lively, and it must be said, rather dark glimpse into what's been going on behind the closed doors of genteel, Oxford.

In the Dark reintroduces us the investigative team, led by DI Adam Fawley, and once again they have their work cut out in trying to discover the perpetrator of an absolutely heinous crime. The reasons why a young woman and a child were imprisoned in the damp cellar of a house in Frampton Road, Oxford, gets the enquiry off to an absolutely cracking start, and as the investigation gets under way so the net starts to pull ever tighter.

As fast action crime thrillers go, In the Dark  is up there with the best of the genre, taut, tight and tense from the start there is never a moment when the story doesn't grab your attention and to be honest, the attention grabbing starts as early as page one and doesn't let go until all the many twists and turns in the plot have been unraveled.

In the Dark is best read as part of the DI Adam Fawley crime thriller series so as to better understand the interplay between the detectives who make up this fine investigative team, but it's also easily enjoyable as a standalone read.

Cara Hunter is a writer who lives in Oxford, in a street not unlike those featured in her series of crime books. Her first book, Close to Home, was picked for the Richard and Judy Book Club and this is her second featuring DI Adam Fawley and his team of detectives.

Twitter @CaraHunterBooks #InTheDark


Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Extract ~ Connectedness by Sandra Danby

I am delighted to bring you this tantalising extract from Connectedness

© Sandra Danby
Beulah Press
May 2018

London, May 2010

Darya was asleep, propped up against her pillows, a Sudoku book open on her lap. The blank squares of the grid, empty. Justine closed the door silently and tiptoed down the stairs to her studio. Today’s page in her diary had one word scrawled across it in capital letters. ‘Clean’. It was her end-of-creating process, a day devoted to drawing a line under the completed work, clearing a blank canvas in her mind, the studio and her diary, to make space for the next project. Usually she enjoyed the routine; today she felt as heavy as lead. This morning she had brought Darya home from hospital and safely installed her in bed.

She switched Peter Grimes on repeat, hoping the ‘Sea Interludes’ would transport her north to the Yorkshire coast. More and more she felt pulled to Seaview Cottage, but it was impossible. She wondered if her instinct was telling her to run away. But now more than ever Darya needed routine, consistency, familiarity. She did not need to be piled into a car with luggage and driven for six hours to a strange house where her bed was in an unfamiliar room. Life seemed simpler in Yorkshire, though Justine was not naïve enough to believe the illusion. It was grief talking, the pull of home. 

Perhaps I can take my life with me, when Darya is better.

But she would never move Darya from her home.

With the high violin melody of ‘Dawn’ punctuated by darting viola arpeggios, she allowed her mind to leave London, Darya and ‘Green’ behind, until she stood at the edge of the cliff. Her mother was icing a cake in the kitchen, her father was polishing the car. The wind in her hair and the sound of waves, advancing and retreating, the twirling flight of gulls riding the gusts filled her head leaving no space for worry.

At first she dusted gently but her intensity grew with the rhythm of the music, so that when the CD reached the clashing cymbals and beating drums of ‘Storm’, waves crashing against the rocks, its French horns sweeping up and down the scales, she was sweeping furiously, her cheeks reddened with the effort. She was heading into a tempest but was unable to change direction.

‘What harbour shelters peace, away from tidal waves, away from storms? What harbour can embrace terrors and tragedies?’ 

She should change the CD; it was too emotional, too tragic. But familiar. Familiarity won. She hummed as she washed windows, and still the music pulled her onwards. By late morning the last box was packed, labelled in red marker pen, and put away on a shelf. The morning sun disappeared and roiling dark clouds presaged rain. Summer was still more than a month away. Outside, the limbs of the biggest chestnut tree waved in the manner of a famous conductor instructing his symphony orchestra, while the giant cedar creaked and swayed in the wind and the musical waves crashed on the shore. She estimated the mess had been reduced by half.

She turned on her desk lamp and spent some time online, ordering a biography of Jacob Epstein and a new crime novel. With a ping, Maud’s daily e-update arrived. ‘Green 6: Not Forgotten’ had been sold to a collector, a regular client who had been awarded a private sneak preview. The price was excellent, more than the sales forecast had predicted. Also attached was an interview schedule for tomorrow. 

She turned her laptop off and waited to feel relaxed, expecting the sonorous French horns and the woodwind raindrops at the beginning of Act 2 to combine with the smell of Mr Sheen and work their usual magic. The tone had changed, the music was arresting now, not threatening. Cosy inside, with the afterglow that a hard session of cleaning brings, she made a pot of tea and carried it on a tray to the window. She ran a fingernail along the purple foil wrapper of a new bar of chocolate, and broke off a chunk.

Normally after a successful opening she would leave Maud to do her job and go travelling alone with nothing more than a rucksack, her art box, a couple of books and a change of clothes. The Black Isle, Grizedale Forest, Gower, the Calf of Man; her art owed a debt to each. Sometimes, the idea for her next series came to her during these days of walking alone, sitting, resting, being within nature, thinking. Above all thinking. But the next work would have to be created in London. She closed her eyes and pretended that the dull hum of traffic was really the waves breaking on the East Yorkshire shore, pretended she was walking Danes Dyke, the ancient defensive cutting that slashed across Flamborough Head almost severing it from the mainland in the shape of an unwanted nose. A Roman nose. Thin chalky soil beneath her feet, the scent of salt. She imagined the large sky above and the wide acres of ploughed fields stretching far beyond her sight.

Her mobile beeped. A text. It would be from Maud. Did she never stop working?

I should have emailed to say yes to those interview dates. She’ll keep ringing and texting and emailing until I reply.

She replied with a one word text. ‘Yes.’

The sun reappeared between a gap in the clouds and its rays fell across her chair. The music reached ‘Moonlight’ and the pace slowed; Justine’s heart rate and breathing followed suit. Her thoughts gradually disconnected until she, like Darya upstairs, was asleep, absolved from having to do anything.

‘What harbour shelters peace, away from tidal waves, away from storms? What harbour can embrace terrors and tragedies?’

The music played on and, as always, Peter Grimes died.

© Sandra Danby 

Click here to read how music has inspired Sandra's writing process..

About the Author 

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. 

Author Links

Twitter @SandraDanby

Ignoring Gravity Connectedness (Identity Detective Book 2)

Guest Post ~ Sandra Danby

I am delighted to welcome to the blog the author

Photo:Ion Paciu

Sharing her thoughts about how music inspires her writing process

Inspirational Playlist: rock and opera

Music is a key part of my writing process. I prefer to listen to classical music while writing as I find anything with lyrics interferes with my thought process. But music is a key inspiration when I’m at the early ideas stage, when I’m inventing and clarifying a character; assigning music, bands, singers, to my protagonist helps me to firm up a personality and backstory. I take my time to get it right, selecting according to the period in which the story is set and choosing something I think fits my character. For Justine Tree in Connectedness, this eventually meant a combination of rock and opera.

I made an early decision that the young Justine would be a fan of Joan Jett and The Runaways, particularly their 1976 hit single ‘Cherry Bomb’. Inadvertently, in my head I began to think of Justine as physically resembling Jett too. Once I recognized this, I stuck two photographs on the wall above my computer: Joan Jett as she is now, in her fifties, the age Justine is when she starts to search for her birth daughter; and Kristin Stewart playing Jett in the 2010 film The Runaways, around the age of Justine when, as a student, she falls in love and falls pregnant. Jett played rhythm guitar, seen standing left of lead singer Cherie Currie in the official music video. Quiet Justine, like many teenagers, admired the singers’ outgoing vibrant personalities, the opposite of what she was like herself but what she longed to be.

Joan Jett and Kristin Stewart
Cuttings on my Wall

The sea is particularly important in Justine’s life. She spent her childhood in a clifftop cottage on the East Yorkshire coast, waking up and falling asleep to the sound of waves breaking on the shore below. As an adult artist, she lives in London but is still drawn to her homeland. I show this connection, this innate sense of belonging, by the music she plays and particularly Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes. Britten’s first opera, it is about a fisherman in Aldeburgh on England’s eastern coast, a misanthropic loner who is hounded to self-destruction by the townspeople after the mysterious, but accidental, deaths of two of his apprentices. When Justine is troubled, she listens to the Four Sea Interludes that both remind her of home and reflect her emotional turmoil.

The Royal Opera
Photo Clive Bardo ROH 2011

It was important to me to show joy in Justine’s life, though her story is a difficult one. Interviewed on the radio programme ‘Desert Island Discs’, one of the tracks she chooses is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen. This was a hit in 1976, staying at number one in the charts for nine weeks. Justine confides to the radio audience how she and her mother loved this song, dancing around the kitchen table to the bemusement of her father. This scene was cut from the novel at the final edit stage but you can read it in Connectedness/cuttings, a small collection of three free stories; perhaps they are better-named ‘extracts’, never previously published.

Queen Bohemian Rhapsody
Original UK sleeve Photo Wikipedia

Finally, I couldn’t set the novel in Spain and not include flamenco. When Justine first arrives in Malaga in 1982, she goes to a flamenco club with her two flatmates. When I wrote the scene, I was hearing in my head ‘Canta con la Voz del Corazón’ sung by Carmen Linares, one of the finest flamenco singers in Spain.  Although the song is dated slightly later than the period I was writing about, it stuck in my head. I have a pile of flamenco CDs and this is the one I found myself humming. It mans ‘sing with the voice of your heart’.

Carmen Linares
Photo Javi Martinez_elmundo
Music links

Bohemian Rhapsody
Canta con la Voz del Corazón

About ‘Connectedness’

Beulah Press
May 2018


Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.

A family mystery for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore.

About the ‘Identity Detective’ series

Rose Haldane reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz.

Read an extract from Connectedness by clicking here 

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted.

Author Links

Twitter @SandraDanby

Huge thanks to Sandra for sharing her inspirational music with us today