Monday, 31 August 2015

Review ~ The Missing Husband by Amanda Brooke

The Missing Husband
July 2015

Jo Taylor, and her husband David, appear, on the surface, to have a good marriage. Like all couples they squabble and bicker, but their latest silly argument about giving David a lift to the train station was particularly uncomfortable. When David leaves the house early the next morning, Jo pretends to be asleep. Later that same evening when David fails to return home, Jo, and the rest of the family, including the police,  feel that David has abandoned her. Pregnant and alone, Jo has some tough decisions to make and a difficult journey to travel before the truth about David's sudden disappearance is revealed.

I think what comes across so strongly in the story is of  the unpredictability of life, and that however well we think we know someone, there is always a little part of ourselves that remains entirely secret. Jo experiences all sorts of feelings, understandable anger at her husband's callous treatment, sadness that she has been left alone to cope with pregnancy and impending motherhood, and huge financial worries as she struggles to cope alone. All combine to make a really interesting story, and one that for me, became a real page turner. I wanted to see how the story developed, speculated about what had happened to David and empathised with Jo as she struggled to make sense of everything. 

This is now the second story by Amanda Brooke that I have read and as with her previous book, Where I Found You, I was struck by her easy style of writing, and the effortless way she draws the reader into the story. There is a realism to her characters which resonates, and in this story, Jo's constant battle against anxiety and panic is done in such a realistic way that you can't help but become emotionally involved in her desperate search for the truth. I read the book easily over a couple of sittings, it's one of those stories that tugs away at you so that you don't want to stop reading until the story is complete. The ending is cleverly achieved and took me by surprise, as I had anticipated a very different outcome.

Amanda's debut novel Yesterday's Sun was chosen as a Richard & Judy Book in 2012. And I am pleased to learn that the author has a new novel, expected in 2016.

About the Author

Amanda Brooke

Follow on her website
On Twitter @AmandaBrookeAB

My thanks to Jaime at Harper for my copy of this book.


Sunday, 30 August 2015

Sunday War Poet...

The theme for this month's war poetry



May Wedderburn Cannan

(1893 - 1973)

May Wedderburn Cannan was a British poet who was active in World War I. In 1911 she joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and trained as a nurse. In 1918 she went to France and worked in the espionage department of the War Office in Paris.


April 29 - May 25 1915

Early morning over Rouen, hopeful, high, courageous morning,
And the laughter of adventure, and the steepness of the stair,
And the dawn across the river, and the wind across the bridges,
And the empty littered station, and the tired people there.

Can you recall those mornings, and the hurry of awakening,
And the long-forgotten wonder if we should miss the way,
And the unfamiliar faces, and the coming of provisions,
And the freshness and the glory of the labour of the day.

Hot noontide over Rouen, and the sun upon the city,
Sun and dust unceasing, and the glare of cloudless skies,
And the voices of the Indians and the endless stream of soldiers,
And the clicking of the tatties, and the buzzing of the flies.

Can you recall those noontides and the reek of steam and coffee,
Heavy-laden noontides with the evening’s peace to win,
And the little piles of Woodbines, and the sticky soda bottles,
And the crushes in the “Parlour”, and the letters coming in?

Quiet night-time over Rouen, and the station full of soldiers,
All the youth and pride of England from the ends of all the earth;
And the rifles piled together, and the creaking of the sword-belts,
And the faces bent above them, and the gay, heart-breaking mirth.

Can I forget the passage from the cool white-bedded Aid Post
Past the long sun-blistered coaches of the khaki Red Cross train
To the truck train full of wounded, and the weariness and laughter
And “Good-bye, and thank you, Sister”, and the empty yards again?

Can you recall the parcels that we made them for the railroad,
Crammed and bulging parcels held together by their string,
And the voices of the sargeants who called the Drafts together,
And the agony and splendour when they stood to save the King?

Can you forget their passing, the cheering and the waving,
The little group of people at the doorway of the shed,
The sudden awful silence when the last train swung to darkness,
And the lonely desolation, and the mocking stars o’erhead?

Can you recall the midnights, and the footsteps of night watchers,
Men who came from darkness and went back to dark again,
And the shadows on the rail-lines and the all inglorious labour,
And the promise of the daylight firing blue the window- pane?

Can you recall the passing through the kitchen door to morning,
Morning very still and solemn breaking slowly on the town,
And the early coastways engines that had met the ships at daybreak,
And the Drafts just out from England, and the day shift coming down?

Can you forget returning slowly, stumbling on the cobbles,
And the white-decked Red Cross barges dropping seawards for the tide,
And the search for English papers, and the blessed cool, of water,
And the peace of half-closed shutters that shut out the world outside?

Can I forget the evenings and the sunsets on the island,
And the tall black ships at anchor far below our balcony,
And the distant call of bugles, and the white wine in the glasses,
And the long line of the street lamps, stretching Eastwards to the sea?

When the world slips slow to darkness, when the office fire burns lower,
My heart goes out to Rouen, Rouen all the world away;
When other men remember, I remember our Adventure
And the trains that go from Rouen at the ending of the day.


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Review ~ Beatrice and Benedick by Marina Fiorato

Hodder & Stoughton
July 2015

I'm ashamed to say that I am not overly familiar with Shakespeare's excellent play, Much Ado About Nothing, on which this book is based, but perhaps that's a good thing, as isn't always advisable to have something so familiar used in a different way. I am sure that the purists who prefer their Shakespeare unadulterated will perhaps be rather more critical of this interpretation, as inevitably, there is something of a modern feel to both the narrative and the dialogue, which would never be found in sixteenth century prose. However, this isn't  a retelling of the Shakespeare's play in its entirety, it's more of a look back at the earlier lives of Beatrice and Benedick and about what shaped their personalities.

It took a little while to relax into the story as there's the inevitable scene setting, and a whole array of characters who need to make sense. I'm pleased to say, though, that here is a good dramatis personnae at the start of the novel, which is helpful as it lists the main characters and their relationships to each other. I liked the way that the story was divided into acts and scenes rather like a play. This author's work is something that I am familiar with having read some of her other books, and as always I am drawn towards her skillful writing and how she allows the history of the time to shine through.  She writes with confidence and passion, bringing to life, the sunlit beauty of Sicily and the imagined love story between Beatrice and Benedick is entirely convincing.

As always by the end of a Marina Fiorato novel I feel like I have travelled to a beautiful place.  Her descriptions of Sicily are evocatively rich in detail and such a feast for the imagination that the story lingers on, even when the last page is turned.

My thanks to Book bridgr and Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of this book.

Marina Fiorato


Friday, 28 August 2015

**Around the World Blog Tour with Trip Fiction and #Book Connectors** and Margaret Skea

TripFiction was created to make it easy to match a location with a book and help you select good literature that is most pertinent and relevant to your trip. A resource for armchair and actual travellers, it is a unique way of exploring a place through the eyes of an author. We blog, and chat books and travel across Social Media, and love to meet authors and bloggers as we take our literary journey.

Book Connectors  was created as a place on Facebook for Bloggers, Authors and small Publishers to share their news.

We encourage book promotions; information about competitions and giveaways; news of events, including launch events, signings, talks or courses. Talk about new signings, about film deals .... anything really.

Book Connectors is a friendly group, there are no rules or guidelines - just be polite and respectful to each other.

You can find Book Connectors on Facebook

 I am delighted to be part of this Around the World Blog Tour starting in 


~And with huge pleasure I introduce my guest on the blog ~

Margaret has won or been placed in quite a number of short story competitions including Neil Gunn, Fish, Mslexia, Historical Novel Society. She now loves writing full length fiction and was thrilled to be awarded the Beryl Bainbridge Best First Time Author Award for her debut novel, Turn of the Tide. 

Turn of the Tide

Turn of the Tide

Set in 16th Century Scotland Munro owes allegiance to the Cunninghames and to the Earl of Glencairn. Trapped in the 150-year-old feud between the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries, he escapes the bloody aftermath of an ambush, but he cannot escape the disdain of the wife he sought to protect, or his own internal conflict. He battles with his conscience and with divided loyalties and to age-old obligations, to his wife and children, and, most dangerous of all, to a growing friendship with the rival Montgomerie clan. Intervening to diffuse a quarrel that flares between a Cunninghame cousin and Hugh Montgomerie, he succeeds only in antagonizing William, the arrogant and vicious Cunninghame heir. And antagonizing William is a dangerous game to play...

A House Divided

The sequel to Turn of the Tide, it continues the story of the fictional Munro family, trapped in a notorious vendetta in 16th century Scotland.
Eleven years on from the Massacre of Annock, the Cunninghame / Montgomerie  truce is fragile. For the Munro family, living in hiding under assumed names, these are dangerous times.
While Munro risks his life daily in the service of the French King, the spectre of discovery by William Cunninghame haunts his wife Kate. Her fears for their children and her absent husband realized as William’s desire for revenge tears their world apart.
A sweeping tale of compassion and cruelty, treachery and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of feuding clans, a religious war, and the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597.


I'm delighted that Margaret has chosen to share her love of Scotland with us .....

Confession time. Although my main focus at the moment is writing Scottish historical fiction, I’m not a Scot.  And despite having been married to a Scot for 36 years and having lived in Scotland for 33 of those 36, I’m still regarded as a ‘blow-in’ ie a foreigner.  (In case you’re counting, I was a child bride, well, close anyway).

But my love of Scotland goes much further back than my marriage – right back in fact to a caravanning holiday when I was 12. How could I forget my dad trying to negotiate Highland roads - single track with passing places almost long enough for the average car - while towing a caravan. Taking a wrong turn meant unhitching the caravan to turn it by hand while a stream of long-suffering locals built up behind us.

Passing Place

As an adult I appreciate the grandeur of the mountains and the fabulous scenery. As a child it was the silence that captivated me: the eerie atmosphere of the remote valleys, the dark lochs lying silent and undisturbed brooded over by ruinous castles that set my imagination aflame and sent me scurrying to my local library to devour every book I could find, both fiction and non- fiction, that focused on Scotland. From Mary Queen of Scots to Montrose, from the Highland Clearances to the Massacre of Glencoe, from Macbeth to Bonnie Prince Charlie, heroes and villains, I loved them all.

Loch Awe

But neither of my novels – Turn of the Tide and its forthcoming sequel  A House Divided feature kilted highlanders, or indeed any of the iconic figures of Scottish history. Instead I have chosen to focus on a period and people and places that most readers won’t have heard of before. How I came to focus on the ‘Ayrshire Vendetta’, a 150 year feud between two families in South-West Scotland, is another story, one which has its roots in Ulster, not Scotland, but to a large extent it is the setting of the Scottish Borders that inspires and informs my writing.

My main character, Munro, is a minor laird, and it wasn’t hard to find a prototype for his house, for the area in which I live is littered with tower houses – rather gaunt and forbidding dwellings, built more for defence than comfort and generally in inaccessible positions. Munro’s home is an amalgam of the two closest to me – Greenknowe, though ruinous, retains enough of the walls to provide an interesting exterior - it is the basis for the cover of my second book.


Smailholm is complete and allowed me to experience what it would be like to sit by the fireside in the hall, or peer out through the narrow window slits; how much breath it takes to climb up the slope to the tower, or to run up the spiral stair. It gave me the length and breadth and particularly the height of rooms, a sense both of the narrowness of their existence and the pleasure that the rare opportunity to sit at leisure within the shelter of the barmkin on a sunny day might provide.

A major feature of the history of our area is the legacy of the reivers – this panel, part of the Great Tapestry of Scotland, which I was privileged to help stitch -  illustrates a core feature of their lifestyle. Violent men for whom family and loyalty were all important, they rode out on wild, windy nights to steal sheep and rustle cattle from their neighbours … and worse. Suffice it to say the words ‘bereave’ and ‘blackmail’ have their origins in the reivers’ activities.

Reivers from the Great Tapestry of Scotland

Nowadays each town has a festival centred around rideouts to out-lying villages and places of particular significance. Large numbers of riders, in some cases as many as 400, take part and those elected as festival principals must lead all the rides. One of my earliest memories of moving to the Borders is of standing in a field on the edge of a village, hearing the distant thunder of hooves and watching as around 130 horses and riders appeared over the brow of the hill, heading straight for us. Hardly surprising then that, although the majority of my characters are historical, Munro, my fictional main character, rode into my head one day on his mare, Sweet Briar, almost a character in her own right.

Common Riding

The landscape of the Borders is just as beautiful and as wild as the Highlands, though on a smaller scale.

Our hills are rolling, punctured by outcrops of rock, smothered in spring and summer by a riot of colour as first gorse and then heather springs into bloom. The moors are bleak, lonely places, criss-crossed by hidden streams and boggy ground making it treacherous underfoot for travellers whether on horse or foot.

While I was training for a charity walk on the Great Wall of China I spent many days walking the Eildons, rough terrain that gave me a real feel for what travel in the 16th century  would have been like.



Some of the action in both my novels takes place in Edinburgh and I’m fortunate that it is only just over an hour’s drive from me. Some of my most enjoyable research involved wandering up and down the Royal Mile, where if I closed my eyes I could imagine the street lined with luckenbooths*  and hear the stall-holders crying their wares. And if I needed a little extra help in that I could visit Mary King’s Close– part of the medieval city, buried under the existing town, and Gladstone’s Land – a merchant’s house of the period. It was in Gladstone’s Land that I found a medieval baby-walker, almost identical to the one I had for my own children, except that it was wooden rather than metal. That was a detail that I just had to fit into my story somehow!

*Luckenbooths are covered booths or stalls which can be locked.

Mary King's Close

One of the tasks of an historical novelist when writing about people who actually existed is to find out as much information from the historical records as possible about them. In my first novel I broke that rule when writing about one character about whom I knew very little, yet instinctively making him one of my primary villains. Imagine my excitement when, during the editing process, I went to his home, Newark  castle, to check what could be seen from the windows of the Great Hall,  and discovered that in real life he was much more villainous than I had painted him, having gained notoriety as a wife-beater. That really was a ‘eukeka’ moment.

Newark Castle

I have travelled to many of the locations in my novels, scrambling up to stumps of castles, driving the routes that my characters take as the action unfolds, stopping wherever and whenever I can to take pictures to pin up on my notice board to refresh my memory as I write. But landscape isn’t a static thing and  many features change over time: river courses alter, deepen in some places, silt up in others, so an additional challenge is to try to understand what a landscape might have looked like all those years ago. In my second novel my main character hides in a cave system beside a river, but these are now some 12 metres above the water due to the excavation of the gorge by the river.

 Though nothing can beat visiting the locations in my books, it isn’t always possible and when I can’t get to a particular location I spend hours pouring over maps, both modern and ancient – particular favourites are those drawn by Timothy Pont, many of which survive in the National Library of Scotland. It is Pont’s map of Ayrshire that forms the basis for the maps in the front of both my novels, and I’m grateful to the NLS for giving their permission.

Living in such an atmospheric and lovely environment, perhaps it’s not surprising that the part of writing I most enjoy is description, even of weather – and in Scotland we certainly get plenty of that!

All photographs by kind permission ©Margaret Skea


Turn of the Tide

I first discovered Margaret's excellent historical novel Turn of the Tide when in November 2011, I watched the Alan Titchmarsh show, always a favourite programme of mine in the afternoons, and I learned about Margaret's involvement in the People's Novelist Competition, in which she was a finalist in the historical fiction category.

Turn of the Tide appealed to my love of historical fiction , firstly because of its Scottish setting, but also because it was about a set of warring families living within a harsh environment and with their own unique moral code. The story is evocative and atmospheric and really brings to life the inherent danger of living within the Scottish clan system of the mid part of the sixteenth century. Based on the true, and it must be said, violent feud between the Cunninghame's and the Montgomeries, the story literally abounds with skulduggery, political conflict and a real sense of rivalry between two stubbornly fierce adversaries.

It's beautifully descriptive, with a real sense of history and conjures sixteenth century Scotland in a such a glorious way that allows time and place to truly come alive in your imagination..

You can find Margaret on her website
Follow her on Facebook
Twitter @margaretskea1

Huge  thanks to Margaret for sharing her love of Scotland so eloquently and to #BookConnectors and @Trip fiction for the invitation to join this exciting Blog Tour around Scotland.

Do follow #BookConnectors on Twitter to discover more authors sharing their love of all things Scottish


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review ~ A Better Man by Leah McLaren

Atlantic Books
August 2015

Nick Wakefield is a workaholic. His successful business leaves him little time to spend with his wife, Maya and their twins,Foster and Isla, and even when he does spend time with them he is filled with a sense of boredom and a feeling of not really belonging in their world. Maya is a good mother, but her intensity and yearning for fulfilled motherhood does not leave any space for her to be the wife Nick wants. When he approaches his lawyer friend, Gray,to make tentative inquiries about divorcing Maya, he is filled with dismay at the amount of money he will lose in a joint asset split divorce. Advised by Gray to become a better husband in order to minimise his losses in a future divorce settlement , Nick sets out to become a better husband and father. What then follows is a salutary warning of being careful of what you wish for, because as Nick changes, so does Maya, with disastrous consequences.

I really enjoyed this wry look at modern marriage and parental responsibilities and about what happens when the boundaries between the two start to blur. Initially, I really disliked Nick , he was selfish and arrogant and totally immersed in himself and what he wanted. But then, Maya too was also very selfish, possessively absorbed in her children and obsessed to the point of paranoia about her precious babies eating or doing the wrong things. The twins were adorable, frighteningly observant in the way only small children can be,  and this observation by Foster sums up Nick entirely  as   "Even when daddy's home, it's like he's away "...out of the mouths of babes, springs to mind.

The writing in A Better Man is confident and skillful, and I am sure that the premise of the story will resonate throughout the affluent world, as it's about what happens when possessions, greed and apathy take priority over feelings. I really liked the way both sides of the stories emerged which allowed Maya and Nick to tell the story from their point of view. I'm not sure that I liked either of them any more by the end of the novel, but I thought that the interesting twist at the end concluded the story nicely.

Follow Leah on Twitter @leahmclaren
Amazon UK

I read this book as part of the Curtis Brown Book Club

My thanks to Corvus and Curtis Brown for my copy of this book.


Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Blog Tour: Higher Ed by Tessa McWatt ( and Giveaway)

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of this exciting Blog Tour

TESSA McWATT was born in Guyana, grew up in Canada, and has been living and working in London for nearly two decades. She is the author of five earlier novels; her second, Dragons Cry, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and the City of Toronto Book Awards. Her most recent novel, Vital Signs, was nominated for the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. She developed and leads the MA in Writing: Imaginative Practice at the University of East London.


Published 27 August 

London. Now. And here come the new Londoners.

Francine would prefer to be thinner, but is happy enough to suffer her boss' manhandling of her ample hips if it helps her survive the next cull in Quality Assurance. She just wishes she could get the dead biker's crushed face out of her mind's eye.

Robin is having a baby with the wrong woman, wishes he were with the perfect Polish waitress instead, leans hard on Deleuze for understanding, and wonders if his work in film will continue to be valued by the university management.

Olivia is angry — angry with her layabout mother, with her too-casual BFF, and with her own timidity and anxiety. Perhaps the wisest of her lecturers will help? Knowledge is power, right? And she's beautiful when she's angry.

Ed wishes he’d never gone back to Guyana to help his rass brother as it lost him his mini-Marilyn wife and the possibility of watching his only child grow up — until someone surprising crops up at the crematorium.

Katrin is starting not to miss Gdansk or Mamunia so much, and starting to understand London living. But if she works and hopes harder, maybe she’ll secure a full British future for herself and her mother with the Good Englishman.

The five of them cross paths and cross swords to bring London living unforgettably to life. Real London lives.

My thoughts about Higher Ed

This is an interesting novel about the unpredictability of modern life, all brought together by the unique perspective of five very different people, all with complex stories to tell.

Their individual stories are told in short and snappy chapters. We get to know them as people and learn about what makes them act in the way they do. Some of them are not always very likeable, but their collective stories really make you think about the vagaries of modern lives. Inevitably, they are all connected in some way, the reasons why they are linked becomes apparent as the story progresses.

Initially, I felt that the story got off to a bit of a slow start and I found that I needed to pay particular attention on who was who, which for a time spoiled my enjoyment, but then about a third of the way into the novel, and as I became more comfortable with the characters, I started to become more involved in the story itself. In many ways, it's a story about London and about how it functions as a city and of how it works as a huge melting pot for people from so many different backgrounds. And yet, it is also a story about the complexities of human nature, and of the tenuous ties that bind us together, and also of the wretched situations that people can find themselves caught up in.

Overall, I think that Higher Ed was a well written and intelligently thought out novel. It's a slow burner rather than all action but it's nicely observed and certainly kept me entertained whilst at the same time made me look at things in an different way.

My thanks to the author and  to Molly at Scribe Publications for inviting Jaffareadstoo to be part of this exciting blog tour 

and for offering the chance for one lucky UK winner to have their own copy of Higher ED in this fabulous Giveaway.


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Review ~ The Sisters by Claire Douglas

Harper Collins
August 2015

Abi is mourning the loss of her beloved twin sister, Lucy. When she spots Bea on the crowded streets of the city of Bath, the resemblance to Lucy is uncanny. Irresistibly drawn towards Bea, Abi is aware that there is an instant rapport between them; it’s as if they each recognise in the other something that has been missing from their lives. When Abi is invited to move into the beautiful house Bea shares with her twin brother Ben, an unlikely friendship develops between them all and as Abi gets drawn deeper and deeper into Bea and Ben’s world, cracks start to appear in this unusual friendship and a distinct air of menace starts to pervade.

The book gets off to something of a slow start but I felt that this was entirely appropriate as it allows the atmosphere to develop in such a way that the subtle changes which start to occur really heighten the tension. In many ways, I think that it’s a story of contrasts, cleverly manipulated blends of light and shade and lots of subtle pointers which really make you sit up and take notice. The characters are wonderfully diverse, all fatally flawed in their own way, and I so enjoyed trying to dissect the nitty-gritty of their personalities and in the end became quite beguiled by all of them, particularly, Ben, who I so wanted to like and found that I didn’t like him at all and couldn’t understand why I took such a dislike to him.

There are several twists in the story which took me unawares and I like that – I like being surprised by characters. I don’t always want to know what they are going to do next. I think that there was the just about the right balance of suspicion, not too much to have me doubting that it could ever have happened like that and with enough disturbing moments to make the book nicely creepy.

So, overall, I think this is a good debut novel and I hope that this talented new author has more books to share with us in the future.

About the Author

 Claire Douglas

Find Claire Douglas on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @Dougieclaire

The Sisters is the August read Good Housekeeping Book Room on Facebook


Monday, 24 August 2015

Review ~ The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

Simon & Schuster
August 2015

In The Taming of the Queen, Philippa Gregory succeeds in bringing the latter years of the Henrician court to vibrant life. Kateryn is depicted as a fiercely intelligent woman, deeply devout, with a real sense of family, offering a safe and loving pair of hands to Henry's bewildered children. On the other hand, Henry is portrayed as an irascible, gargantuan monster, who manipulates and controls everyone around him, and whose psychopathic tendencies are all too often disguised under a mask of benign indifference. I felt huge sympathy for Kateryn, to be at the whim and mercy of such an irritable monster, and no matter how disguised or how feted with fine clothes and rich jewels, she must have been, during her four years with Henry, constantly in fear of her life. I can’t begin to image how scary life at court must have been for her, to live alongside Henry, as she did, and to share in his daily life, and to be completely at his mercy.

As always, with a new Philippa Gregory novel, I want to read until my eyes ache and I always have a real reluctance to put the story down until it is finished. Everything is well explained, the places and its people are so beautifully depicted that Tudor life really does come gloriously alive. I think the author has done an excellent job in bringing Kateryn's precarious position to life and her abiding love for Thomas Seymour is sensitively handled.  Kateryn's religious fervour comes across well and it's terrifying to imagine just how fine a line she crossed when she attempted to translate God's word into English, when to do so, however discreetly, was tantamount to being branded a heretic. The aging Henry doesn’t come across as having any redeemable qualities and to be subjected to the whims and fancies of such a tyrant must have been terrifying for anyone who ever crossed him.

The Taming of the Queen is beautifully written and works exceptionally well as standalone historical fiction. It also forms a really good continuation of this author’s very successful Tudor Court series of historical novels.

Philippa Gregory
Twitter @PhilippaGBooks


Sunday, 23 August 2015

Sunday War Poet...

The theme for this month's war poetry



At a Calgary near Ancre

Wilfred Owen

(1893 - 1918)

One ever hangs where shelled roads part.
In this war He too lost a limb,
But His disciples hide apart;
And now the Soldiers bear with Him.

Near Golgotha strolls many a priest,
And in their faces there is pride
That they were flesh-marked by the Beast
By whom the gentle Christ's denied

The scribes on all the people shove
And bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love
Lay down their life; they do not hate


The Battle of the Ancre (13–18 November), was the final large British attack of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

On 4 November 1918 Wilfred Owen was killed while attempting to lead his men across the Sambre canal at Ors. The news of his death reached his parents on 11 November, Armistice Day.


Saturday, 22 August 2015

Review ~ The Love of Julius by J D Smith

Quinn Publications
June 2015
(Short Story)

I had a hospital appointment just recently and needed something quick to read in the waiting room. Looking through my kindle, I was relieved to find this story by J D Smith which easily transported me away from the rather bleak NHS waiting area and took me to a land far away, to a couple who fate had decreed should fall in love but be on opposing sides.

As always the strength of this author's writing had me completely engrossed. The story works well as an introduction to the equally excellent Overlord series and it kept me entertained completely and I could very easily have read more..

The Love of Julius is a prequel to the first book in the Overlord series but can easily be read as a quick standalone short story. It is currently a free download on Amazon kindle.

Amazon UK

I was introduced to this talented author a while ago when I read her version of the classic love story Tristan and Iseult. I then went on to read, The Rise of Zenobia, which starts the Overlord series and charts the fall of the Roman Empire in a very readable way.

Tristan and Iseult Cover MEDIUM The Rise of Zenobia Cover Cover MEDIUM The Fate of an Emperor Cover MEDIUM WEB The Better of Two Men

As always with these interesting stories I am completely enamored by the book covers which are always beautifully designed by the author herself.

About the Author

As well as an author and book cover designer, Jane is also a member of the Triskele Books collective, editor of the writers' ezine Words with JAM, and the readers' review site Bookmuse.

J.D.   Smith

Find JD Smith on her website

On Facebook

On Twitter @JDSmith_Design


My thanks to Jane for sharing her books with me.


Friday, 21 August 2015

Review ~ The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly

Bantam Press
Random House UK Transworld Publishers
August 27 2015

He wants her. At any price.

There is one thing of which I am absolutely sure and that is, to be in possession of a new Paula Daly novel, is akin to winning a literary lotto. All six of your numbers come up at once and as you sit comfortably in your favourite reading chair time simply ceases to exist in the here and now, and you are instantly taken to another time and place, and very quickly find yourself amongst people who become as familiar as friends. And as you do with friends, you laugh with them, hurt with them and try to understand when they make decisions you inherently know are going to bring them a whole heap of trouble.

Roz, a physiotherapist, is desperately struggling to makes ends meet after her profligate ex-husband left her with crippling debts. It’s a common belief that a professional career should earn enough to be able to fill the car with petrol and make sure that there’s food on the table, but life is difficult and Roz is faced with some really tough choices. Amongst her choices, is one being made by Scott Elias, a local man with enough disposable income to get what he wants, and what he wants is to pay for a sexual encounter with Roz. But gratification comes with a high price tag, and the intimate liaison Scott suggests is a way for Roz to escape her money worries forever, but the moral code by which Roz has lived her life is so harshly called into question that you can’t help but be emotionally affected by the choices she makes.

The Mistake I Made is gripping, it’s a real page turner, it’s everything you want in a suspenseful novel and it exemplifies just how clever Paula Daly is at writing about strong, decisive women who have bucket loads of charisma and yet who are as fatally flawed as the rest of us. For those who have read the author’s previous books, there’s a nice sense of continuity as The Mistake I Made is also set in the English Lake District and it features a very welcome appearance by DC Joanne Aspinall who we have met before. As always, though, the book stands completely confidently as a standalone story with more than enough twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat. 

From beginning to end, I absolutely loved it, and I really can’t wait to see what’s to come next from this talented author.

When I'm compiling my books of 2015, The Mistake I Made will definitely be on the list ..

About the Author

Paula Daly lives in Cumbria with her husband, three children and whippet Skippy. Before becoming a writer she was a freelance physiotherapist

Paula Daly

Follow Paula on Twitter @pauladalyauthor

The Mistake I Made will be published on the 27 August 2015 by Bantam Press

My thanks to NetGalley and Randon House UK, Transworld for my copy of this book


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Review ~ The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

John Murray

The eponymous Loney of the book’s title is a strange and desolate place filled with ambiguous contrasts and a myriad of unanswered questions.

An uneasy group of Catholic pilgrims head for the remote shrine of Saint Anne on the bleak and windswept Fylde coast. The Moorings is a place where they have stayed before but on this Easter visit the dynamics of the group have been altered and there is an uncomfortable atmosphere which disturbs the shifting balance of those who seek true spiritual comfort.

The Loney is a real slow burner of story, expertly described by an unknown narrator, which allows a unique glimpse into the heart of a fractured family. The narrator seeks to protect his older brother, Hanny, whose mental health problem is the main focus of the pilgrimage and the reason why Hanny’s troubled parents seek a desperate cure for his disability. 

The story is beautifully written and eerily suggestive that something dark and sinister prowls in dark corners, and although the story is set largely in the mid nineteen seventies there is a timeless quality to the narrative which makes the story all the more compelling. Deeply troubling and quite unnerving in places, the story examines the power of spirituality and calls into question the subject of belief and religious fervour.

With more than a hint of the supernatural, this brilliant story conjures perfectly a dark and gloomy place and questions what it truly means to believe in a greater spiritual power.

About the author.

Andrew Michael Hurley has lived in Manchester and London, and is now based in Lancashire, where he teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. He has had two collections of short stories published by Lime Tree Press. The Loney is his first novel - it was first published in October 2014 by Tartarus Press, a tiny independent publisher based in Yorkshire, as a 300-copy limited-edition.

The Loney is published by John Murray on the 27th August 2015


I read this book as part of the Reading Panel

More reader reviews can be found on the Love Reading Website

My thanks to John Murray and for my copy of this book.


Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Review ~ Children of the Chieftain : Betrayed by Michael E. Wills

Children of the Chieftain: Betrayed
Silverwood Books

When the town of Birka is raided by the most fearsome of Vikings, the Jomsviking, many of the people are captured. A group of orphans are forced to take action and lead their friends in a desperate attempt to rescue the captives. But not all of their allies are as loyal as they should be. The brave children are betrayed and find themselves in grave danger of captivity and risk being sold into slavery.

I have a great passion for historical fiction and can remember quite clearly when I was an early reader at primary school racing through stories of great adventure and of the thrill of being transported back in time. I am sure that modern day children are no less excited by the tales of derring-do and that even in this computer age , the majority of kids can appreciate a good story when they see one.

When asked to read and review Children of the Chieftain: Betrayed, I agreed eagerly as I have already read the work of this fine author before and I knew that even though this story is distinctly targeted at the children’s market, it would appeal to my sense of fun and adventure.

The story is really well written with an entirely appropriate sense of adventure which neither patronises nor overly protects its young audience. There’s a definite sense of time and place and the palpable air of fear generated by the Viking raid is particularly well done. The young people, on whom the book focuses, are feisty and fearless and show remarkable fortitude in the presence of great danger.I think that this is something that would appeal to, maybe, eight to thirteen year olds who enjoy a rollicking good adventure, and it works equally well as an introduction to Scandinavian history.  The book is a perfect length, I read it quite comfortably in the space of an afternoon, but probably a child with rather more distractions may want to read it, either with an adult or curled up on a chair, over a  longer period of time. 

I am also reassured that there is to be a sequel - Children of the Chieftan : Banished, is expected sometime next year, so there’s plenty of adventure still to come, and in the hands of this fine writer, I am sure that it’s going to be something to really look forward to.

Twitter @MWillsofSarum

Children of the Chieftain: Betrayed is currently the HNS Editor's choice and has been longlisted for the HNS Indie Award 2016 - here

My thanks to Michael for sharing his book with me.