Friday, 16 November 2018

Review ~ Darling Blue by Tracy Rees

Quercus Publishing
1 November 2018

Blue lives a charmed life. From her family’s townhouse in Richmond, she lives a life of luxury and couldn't want for anything - well, on the surface at least.

Then on the night of her twenty-first birthday her father makes a startling toast: he will give his daughter’s hand to whichever man can capture her heart best in the form of a love letter. But Blue has other ideas and, unwilling to play at her father's bewildering games, she sets out on her own path to find her own destiny...

From the author of Amy Snow and The Hourglass, Darling Blue is both a sweeping tale of love in the 1920s and a powerful story of reinvention.

My thoughts about it..

When Ishbel Camberwell, affectionately known as 'Darling Blue' turns twenty-one, her father makes a surprise announcement, that he will give Blue's hand in marriage to the suitor who wins her affections by writing anonymous love letters to woo her heart. This causes Blue some consternation as she isn't actively searching for a partner, she would much rather pursue her ambitions as a writer. However, this in 1925, and getting an opportunity as a journalist isn't going to come easily and living a life of moneyed privilege could be something of an obstacle to Blue's ambition.

What then follows is a delightful family saga which perfectly encapsulates the long, hot summer of 1925, and of the trials and tribulations which seem to follow the Camberwell family. Their generous friendship, emphasises the kindness of their spirit, however, these kind gestures, so well meant, will see the family embroiled in some rather dangerous activity.

I really loved spending time with Blue and her erstwhile suitors, and yet, the strength of the novel lies in the authors ability to create such strong characters and to allow the history of the period to come alive in careful descriptions of both place and people. It's not all light-hearted froth and pretty dresses, as the novel touches on some quite serious issues, particularly post-natal depression and domestic abuse and puts them into the context of the time.

Darling Blue is quite a hefty read coming in at over 560 pages in the paperback so it needs a fair amount of investment in terms of time to read, but overall, I thought the journey was well worth it.

Darling Blue is my favourite of this author's historical novels to date.

About the Author

Tracy Rees was born in South Wales. A Cambridge graduate, she had a successful eight-year career in nonfiction publishing and a second career practising and teaching humanistic counselling. She was the winner of the Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller Competition for Amy Snow (2015) and was shortlisted for the 2018 Epic Romantic Novel of the Year Award with her latest novel, The Hourglass. Darling Blue is her fourth novel.

Twitter @AuthorTracyRees #DarlingBlue


Thursday, 15 November 2018

Blog Tour~ The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be on the Blog Tour for The Winters

It is my great pleasure to welcome the author, Lisa Gabriele to the blog today

Hi Lisa. How important is location to your writing, and did you visit any the places you describe in your novel?

Location is everything, and yes, I make extensive visits to the places I write about, if I’m not already familiar with them. For this book, I’d spent some time in the Cayman Islands, lucky me. And I took a few trips to Long Island, doing weird things like trying to find densely populated forests where a conflagration might occur. I stumbled upon the Suffolk County Museum and read about Gardiner’s Island, which became a template for my Winter’s Island, including some of the nefarious ways the Gardiners have kept the land in the family.

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

I have become a plotter. I used to wing it a little, but things tend to turn flaccid if you have to leave the work for a spell. Now, once I find the voice and the main characters, I step back and roughly outline the path I’m going to take with them. I usually have a sense of how I want to end things, though the actual writing of the book will take you on a few detours. But yes, I like a plot and they take work and a lot of forethought, but to me it’s the most enjoyable part, even if sometimes I’m left flat on my back staring at the ceiling trying to write my way out of a jam.

What were the challenges you faced whilst writing this novel?

Writing a modern response to a book as beloved as Rebecca was a tricky tightrope walk. I didn’t want to tread too closely to the original, or stray too far away. I wanted to pay homage to the book, but depart from it as well, in order to create something that stands alone. It was a balancing act, with a lot of trial and error. But in the end, it was one of the most satisfying creative experiences of my life. I hope that shows.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Go to my website,; there you’ll find some recent essays and a bit about my other novels. I am also on Instagram and Twitter at @lisagabrieletv.

Here is a bit of a spoof I made when I was the showrunner on the Canadian version of Dragons’ Den, which doubled as a promotional video for my second novel.

You can see here how seriously I take myself.

(As you can see by the comments, some people thought I was serious.)

I tweeted the new video a friend made for The Winters. You see, I’ve changed.

About the Book

Harvill Secker
Penguin Random House
15 November 2018

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded mansion of her new fiancΓ© Max Winter - a wealthy senator and recent widower - and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell.

As the soon-to-be second Mrs. Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family’s dark secrets - the kind of secrets that could kill her, too.

Twitter @Lisagabrieletv #TheWinters

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Review ~ Gift Horse by Jan Ruth

Kindle edition
September 2018
Caroline Walker’s daughter suffers a horrific riding accident. Her distraught parents wonder if she’ll ever walk again, let alone ride. And when Mollie’s blood group is discovered as rare, her husband offers to donate blood. Except Ian is not a match. In fact, it’s unlikely he’s Mollie's father.

Eighteen years previously, Caroline had a one-night stand with Irish rock star, Rory O’Connor. Caroline fell pregnant. Deeply flawed boyfriend, Ian, was overjoyed. And Caroline’s parents were simply grateful that their daughter was to marry into the rich, influential Walker family. 

Caroline turns to Rory’s friend Connor; and although his almost spiritual connection with his horses appears to be the balm she needs, Caroline cannot forget Rory, or her youth – both lost to a man she never loved. Eighteen years on and after surviving cancer Rory lives as a virtual recluse in the Welsh mountains. Through his well-meaning but interfering sister, he is shocked to discover he has a teenage daughter. Or does he? 

Someone has made a terrible mistake… someone is going to get hurt…

My thoughts about it..

I have a few writers in my arsenal of "go to" authors, those whose stories I know will never disappoint, and this author is definitely one of those who I know will never let me down and, her latest novel, Gift Horse certainly ticks all the right boxes. 

Caroline Walker's daughter has a dreadful accident at a riding event, a trauma which acts as catalyst for what follows in the rest of the story. Flipping effortlessly between past and present, the story gradually emerges of something which happened in Caroline's past, a youthful indiscretion, which will have repercussions far into the future. 

The story flows beautifully, not just around the characters, but also of the landscape around it. People and places merge, delivering a story of a traumatised girl on the road to recovery, the emergence of secrets long buried, and of the devastating consequences of the truth being revealed.

There's such a powerful connection to the characters that you can't help but form an emotional bond with them, some I liked more than others, and yet, they all bring an overall strength to the story, particularly, Connor with his tender care of the horses at the therapy centre, Rory with his laissez-faire attitude to life, and Ian, Caroline’s husband, who brought some powerful anxieties of his own into the story. Throughout the whole of journey is Caroline, fighting her own particular demons with a reserve of character which, I think, we would all like to have. I enjoyed her company immensely and hoped that everything would eventually work out for her and her family.

I read Gift Horse quickly over the space of a few hours, not because it was light on content, far from it, but because once started, I really couldn’t put the book down and needed to keep turning the pages until I knew just how the story would eventually play out. And yes, there were a few tears at the ending.

About the Author

Jan Ruth lives in Snowdonia, a mountainous area of North Wales, UK. Jan writes contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic, often blending life in rural Wales with a touch of city business. Her style is best described as fast-paced and realistic, with a sprinkling of dry humour. 

Jan is also an active member of her local RDA group (Riding for the disabled) and is an Assistant Equine Facilitated Learning Practitioner for the Welsh Institute of Therapeutic Horsemanship. In her spare time she enjoys riding and walking the Welsh hills; a constant source of inspiration.

Jan’s books are available globally via Amazon in paperback and for Kindle; and locally, you’ll find them in North Wales libraries and Hinton’s bookshop of Conwy.

Twitter @JanRuthAuthor

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Review ~ Testament by Kim Sherwood

I always try to have a Remembrance Read on the go in November

12 July 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
Her family was always complicated. It's why Eva was closest to her grandfather: a charismatic painter - and a keeper of secrets. So when he dies, she's hit by a greater loss - of the questions he never answered, and the past he never shared.

It's then she finds the letter from the Jewish Museum in Berlin. They have uncovered the testimony he gave after his forced labour service in Hungary, which took him to the death camps and then to England as a refugee. This is how he survived.

But there is a deeper story that Eva will unravel - of how her grandfather learnt to live afterwards. As she confronts the lies that have haunted her family, their identity shifts and her own takes shape. The testament is in her hands.

My thoughts about it..

When Eva's beloved grandfather dies she's realises that his death brings about far more questions than it does answers for it would seem that Joseph Silk has not been entirely truthful about his experiences during the Second World War.

Skillfully blending the past with the present a story emerges of a dark and shadowy time when Joseph was forced to work in horrendous circumstances in a labour camp in Hungary. His survival, from this dreadful time, was something he carried with him for the rest of his life, and yet, he didn't want to be defined by the terrible things he had witnessed. After his death, certain documents come to light which reveal more details about Joseph's WW2 experiences, and following a trip to the Jewish Museum in Berlin to read these documents, Eva must come to terms with the secrets  her grandfather had kept hidden for so long. A  burden of secrets and heartbreaking memories which Joseph Silk had wanted to be kept hidden forever.

Testament is a beautifully written and very moving story about the trauma of living through the holocaust and of the guilt and confusion of being one of the survivors. It's about the terror of being displaced without the shelter of home and family, and of the uncertainty of making a new future when all seemed hopeless.

A commendable and poignant debut novel from a talented new writer.

About the Author

Kim Sherwood was born in Camden in 1989. She studied on the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia, going on to teach creative writing at UEA and the University of Sussex. Kim's stories and articles have appeared in numerous journals, including Mslexia, Lighthouse, and Going Down Swinging. The manuscript of her debut novel, Testament, won the 2016 Bath Novel Award. Kim began writing Testament in 2011 after her grandfather, the actor George Baker, passed away. In the same year, Kim's grandmother began to talk about her experiences as a Holocaust Survivor for the first time. These events provided seeds for a story that grew as Kim undertook research into the events of  the Holocaust in Hungary, and as extremism rose again across Europe.

Kim lives in Bath. She is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of the West of England. Testament is her first novel.

Twitter @kimtsherwood #Testament

@riverrunbooks @QuercusBooks

Monday, 12 November 2018

Literary Book Gifts...

It's that time of year when thoughts turn to gift buying and I'm delighted to have been put in touch with Literary Book Gifts ,a small company who have a stunning array of high quality gifts for book lovers.

Literary Book Gifts brings bookish designs onto tote bags and shirts. The perfect online store for teachers, librarians, and bibliophiles!

Literary Book Gifts are inspired by vintage design and great literature. Old book covers have an amazing way of reminding us of our favorite stories, without even having to open up a book. New designs are added all the time, with a few fun ones on the way, check back often for new products!

If you love authors ranging from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Jane Austen be sure to stop by the Literary Book Gifts for some unique book gifts!

Just in time for Christmas shopping !!

© 2018, Literary Book Gifts

© 2018, Literary Book Gifts 

These look really great and perfect for the book lover in your life....or even as gift for yourself !

Literary Book Gifts has devised a special 20% discount code for Jaffareadstoo readers with no minimum spend and no expiry date...


😊 Happy Shopping 😊

Jaffareadstoo is not responsible for any orders, deliveries or returns 

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Armistice ~ Sunday WW1 Remembered...

At "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" in 1918 the guns grew silent on the Western Front. The Armistice of CompiΓ¨gne was signed between the Allies and Germany and went into effect at 11am, Paris time, on the 11th November, 1918 .

©Digital Images

And There Was a Great Calm


(On the Signing of the Armistice, 11 Nov. 1918)

There had been years of Passion—scorching, cold,
And much Despair, and Anger heaving high,
Care whitely watching, Sorrows manifold,
Among the young, among the weak and old,
And the pensive Spirit of Pity whispered, “Why?”

Men had not paused to answer. Foes distraught
Pierced the thinned peoples in a brute-like blindness,
Philosophies that sages long had taught,
And Selflessness, were as an unknown thought,
And “Hell!” and “Shell!” were yapped at Lovingkindness.

The feeble folk at home had grown full-used
To 'dug-outs', 'snipers', 'Huns', from the war-adept
In the mornings heard, and at evetides perused;
To day-dreamt men in millions, when they mused—
To nightmare-men in millions when they slept.

Waking to wish existence timeless, null,
Sirius they watched above where armies fell;
He seemed to check his flapping when, in the lull
Of night a boom came thencewise, like the dull
Plunge of a stone dropped into some deep well.

So, when old hopes that earth was bettering slowly
Were dead and damned, there sounded 'War is done!'
One morrow. Said the bereft, and meek, and lowly,
'Will men some day be given to grace? yea, wholly,
And in good sooth, as our dreams used to run?'

Breathless they paused. Out there men raised their glance
To where had stood those poplars lank and lopped,
As they had raised it through the four years’ dance
Of Death in the now familiar flats of France;
And murmured, 'Strange, this! How? All firing stopped?'

Aye; all was hushed. The about-to-fire fired not,
The aimed-at moved away in trance-lipped song.
One checkless regiment slung a clinching shot
And turned. The Spirit of Irony smirked out, 'What?
Spoil peradventures woven of Rage and Wrong?'

Thenceforth no flying fires inflamed the gray,
No hurtlings shook the dewdrop from the thorn,
No moan perplexed the mute bird on the spray;
Worn horses mused: 'We are not whipped to-day;'
No weft-winged engines blurred the moon’s thin horn.

Calm fell. From Heaven distilled a clemency;
There was peace on earth, and silence in the sky;
Some could, some could not, shake off misery:
The Sinister Spirit sneered: 'It had to be!'

And again the Spirit of Pity whispered, 'Why?'

Wigan Parish Church 2018
©J Barton

It's been a real privilege to bring this WW1 Remembered feature to Jaffareadstoo. 

Huge thanks to all those who have taken the time to read and especially to those who have contributed to this feature.

Gill Paul, Georgia Hill, Juliet Greenwood, Glen Craney, Ros Rendle, Susan Lannigan, Linda Gillard,Terri Nixon, John R McKay, Michael Wills, Jane Cable, Claire Dyer, Karen Maitland, Elisabeth Gifford, David Ebsworth, Kirsty Ferry, Rachel Sargent and John Barton.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the WW1 war poets whose eloquence brought tears to my eyes and whose words, with both poignant simplicity and graphic imagery, conjure the war in so many different ways.

Huge thanks to the Imperial War Museum for their magnificent WW1 archive and valuable shareable resources.

And remember, in the quiet corners of Commonwealth War Graves, there are those soldiers who lie, often forgotten, in our villages, towns and city cemeteries. We owe these quiet sentinels of our peace a huge debt, so do, please visit them and take a quiet moment to remember their extraordinary sacrifice.

Wigan Parish Church 2018
©Digital Images


In our family we remember 

Pte. John Hopkins

Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

Died 24th January 1919

©Digital Images


Pte. Sam Whalley

Royal Fusiliers/17th Lancers

©Digital Images

©Digital Images
Sam and his five brothers all survived the war


Driver Frederick Arkwright


Royal Army Service Corps

©J Barton

Died 1 February 1945
Buried Schoonselhof Cemetery 
Antwerp, Belgium

Wigan Cenotaph
©Digital Images
Wigan Cenotaph
©Digital Images


A generation of young men and women, gone too soon in a war that robbed them of their future so that we could have ours

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them


©Digital Images


Saturday, 10 November 2018

His Fic Saturday~ Author~ Jean Fullerton

On Hist Fic Saturday I am delighted to welcome back to the blog

Best selling author, Jean Fullerton

A very warm welcome, Jean. Thanks for coming back to see us and for sharing why you love writing historical fiction...

Threads through History.

One of the joys of writing for me is building worlds in which my characters and my imagination can play around in. It also means you can, for your own amusement run themes through successive books. 

However, even the most attentive reader can be forgiven for not picking up all the threads that run through my East London Victorian, East London Nurse and now my WW2 series but let me give you a clue. 

It started with my lovely Ellen in No Cure for Love who fell in love with Dr Munroe. The house where she and her daughter lived in Anthony Street is the self-same house Millie Sullivan's mum, in Call Nurse Millie moves into. The link between No Cure for Love and Call Nurse Millie continues as Millie works for the nursing association which is based in Munroe House, founded by Robina Munroe, Robert's daughter, a hundred years before. 

The hero of my second Victorian novel, A Glimpse at Happiness, is Patrick Nolan is the other man in my life and was in all four Victorian books but I loved him so much I couldn't let him go. When I moved forward some 100 years for the 1940s nurse series I reincarnated him as Alex Nolan Nurse Millie's love. Although he didn't know it Alex was Patrick's great, grandson. 

The link continues as the McGuire coal wagons and later lorries mentioned in all my novels are from the same coal yard Patrick's sister Mattie struggles so hard to build up in Perhaps Tomorrow and is later the scrap metal yard where the O'Toole family lived in All Change for Nurse Millie. It’s one of Maguire’s horses that Billy let loose from it’s shafts in A Pocketful of Dreams and that Jerimiah is hoping to hire in A Ration Book Christmas.

In addition, Kate’s Kitchen, the eating house which Mattie and Patrick's sister Kate ran and was situated on the Highway, made it through to the 20th century and featured in all of Nurse Millie and Nurse Connie books but was updated and called Kate's Cafe. I've also used it again in my previous book Pocketful of Dreams and the current one, A Ration Book Christmas. 

I've reused some of the less salubrious locations too. In A Glimpse at Happiness the villainess Ma Tugman operated her brutal waterside empire from the Boatman public house, the self-same public house where Nurse Millie Meets Jim Smith in All Change for Nurse Millie. It’s also one of the pubs Queenie frequents in the Brogan series. 

I've also reincarnated Mooney's doss house in Spitalfields where Aggie Wilcox, the prostitute Kate's estranged husband Freddie takes up with in Hold on to Hope, becomes Fry House. This is now the clinic where Connie, in Wedding Bells for Nurse Connie, works. 

Of course, there are lots of other smaller links through the various series Glasson & Glasson the unscrupulous solicitors who aided Amos Stebbins fraudulent financial dealing are the same solicitors who evicted Millie’s mother Doris from her home and there are many others. 

Of course, I'm not the only author to do this but for me, all my characters and their offspring continue to live and thrive which is how I’m able to convince you they do, too even when the story on the page is finished. 

Ration Book Christmas. In the darkest days of the Blitz, Christmas is more important than ever.

With Christmas 1940 approaching, the Brogan family of London's East End are braving the horrors of the Blitz. With the men away fighting for King and Country and the ever-present dangers of the German Luftwaffe's nightly reign of death and destruction, the family must do all they can to keep a stiff upper lip.

For Jo, the youngest of the Brogan sisters, the perils of war also offer a new-found freedom. Jo falls in love with Tommy, a man known for his dangerous reputation as much as his charm. But as the falling bombs devastate their neighbourhood and rationing begins to bite, will the Brogans manage to pull together a traditional family Christmas? And will Jo find the love and security she seeks in a time of such grave peril?

Read my review of A Ration Book Christmas by clicking here

About The Author

Jean Fullerton is the author of eleven novels all set in East London where she was born. She worked as a district nurse in East London for over twenty-five years and is now a full-time author. 

She is a qualified District and Queen's nurse who has spent most of her working life in the East End of London, first as a Sister in charge of a team, and then as a District Nurse tutor.

She has won multiple awards and all her books are set in her native East London. Her latest book, A RATION BOOK CHRISTMAS, is the second in her East London WW2 Ration Book series featuring sisters Mattie, Jo and Cathy Brogan and their family. 

Twitter: @JeanFullerton_ 

Huge thanks to Jean for being my Hist Fic Autho
r today and for sharing the amazing threads that bind all of her lovely stories together.