Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Author in my Spotlight is ....Virginia Moffatt



Jaffareadstoo is delighted to introduce debut author


Virginia Moffatt





Hi Virginia, welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for spending time with us to talk about your debut novel, Echo Hall on its Publication Day !!



Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author?


I consider myself to be a community worker, having worked in a variety of roles across the public and nonprofit sectors, mainly in social care. I currently work in a support role in education.

My father was an English teacher so I was lucky enough to grow up in a house heaving with books. I think it was that, and the propensity of both my parents to tell stories, that inspired my twin sister (Julia Williams) and I to be writers. 

It took me a long time to get going, because when I was young, I lacked confidence. The only writing course around was the University of East Anglia Masters degree but it didn’t even occur to me that it would be worth trying that route.

I wrote a few stories and three quarters of a novel in my early twenties, but abandoned them when work and other academic study took over. Then I met my husband and before I knew it, we had three children, I was nearly forty and I wasn’t anywhere near being a writer.

It took having a career break for me to make the decision to commit to being a writer. A couple of years later we moved to Oxford began a writing course. I haven’t looked back since. 


Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for Echo Hall?



In 2003 Chris and I moved to a small village in Northamptonshire. It was a very spooky place and we lived in a creaky old school house near a graveyard. So I often used to imagine I could hear voices in the night. Of course, it was just my imagination, but it got me thinking, what if those voices were real, whose voices would they be, what would they be saying and why?

Will you explain to us a little more about the plot without giving too much away?

The novel tells the story of three different women, Ruth, Elsie and Rachel, who are all connected to the Flint family, the owners of Echo Hall a house on the borders of Wales. It begins with the newly married Ruth arriving at Echo Hall in 1990, to discover a place full of mysteries and unhappiness. Her search for the truth takes us back in time to meet Elsie in 1942, who is living with her unpleasant in-laws while her husband is away with the RAF. We then go further back to follow Rachel’s story from 1911 to 1924, discovering the source of the conflict which has damaged the family for so many years. Part four brings us back to Elsie and Part Five to Ruth, where the last secrets are finally exposed.

I hope the book is a gripping mystery and that readers will engage with the different characters and their dilemmas. But I’m also exploring a wider question of the impact of war on those who experience it, asking if conflict is inevitable or can we find another way?

Do you have a special place to write and where do you do your best thinking?

When I first started we were squeezed into a tiny little flat and the children were so small, I barely had time to write. What little I did manage was from the computer in the dining room, but for most of the first three years, the writing was mainly in my head. I did a lot of it running at the time and that was great for working out plots, characters, twists, motivations etc.

Once my youngest was at school and I was doing a writing course, I found I had time to work from the computer in our front room. As they got older, I’ve been driven into the kitchen, but I’ve learnt to write pretty much anywhere, cafes, trains, buses, parks...

Every now and then I get away on writing retreats, and I have loved those. I particularly enjoyed trips to Gladstone’s Library in Cheshire and Retreats for You in Devon.

What is your idea of writing Heaven and writing Hell?

Writing Heaven is going on a writing retreat. Writing at home is always snatched time first thing in the morning, or in the evening after work, and is often interrupted by the demands of family life. Being on a retreat is wonderful because I get meals cooked, and don’t have to worry about the housework. I usually end up being very anti social, starting early in the morning and writing till very late at night, and it makes for a very productive experience.

Writing Hell is when my writing gets derailed by the demands of life. Sometimes work is so busy that it takes up all my thinking time and I just don’t have enough brain space for anything else. On other occasions an emotional event, such as a bereavement has completely floored me and I haven’t been able to write. Stress is never good as it interferes with my creativity. But I’ve learnt that this happens from time to time, and usually when it passes I find myself returning to writing with enthusiasm.

Are you your worst critic and why?


I am, particularly during the editing process.The first draft is usually total rubbish, so I have to be able to step back and work out what needs to change to fix it. Then I have to rewrite, and rewrite and rewrite until I get to the point where someone professional needs to take a look. I was really lucky with Echo Hall to have a fantastic editor Scott Pack who was able to point out some serious flaws and ways to sort them out. 

I’m pretty happy with the finished version of Echo Hall, as I think we got it to the best place we could and there is a moment when you have to stop otherwise you over cook it. But I suspect in a few years I’ll look back on it and want to change something.

How can readers find out more about you and your writing?

I am very active on social media, on Twitter I am @aroomofmyown1 and Facebook Virginia Moffatt and Echo Hall. I’m always happy to talk about writing, reading, politics, and anything else that takes my fancy. I also have a blog, ‘A Room of My Own’ where I discuss books, writing and post the occasional review (https://virginiamoffattwriter.wordpress.com/). I’m always happy to chat about anything that interests me.


Echo Hall is published today Amazon UK


About the Author...

Virginia Moffatt was born in London, one of eight children, several of whom are writers. Her eldest brother writes about theology and politics, one sister is a poet, a second a translator and her twin sister is a successful author.

Virginia has always been a writer but began to take it seriously only in 2004, when she first had the idea for Echo Hall. In 2009, she setup her blog, ‘A Room of My Own’, where she publishes flash fiction, short essays and reflections about writing and reading.

Virginia also writes on political and faith issues. She has recently dited a collection of essays, Reclaiming the Common Good: How Christians can help rebuild a broken world, published by Darton, Longman and Todd in 2017. Her Lent course, Nothing More, Nothing Less, based around the film I, Daniel Blake, will be published by the same publisher on the 30th November 2017.

After working in social care for 30 years, Virginia left local government to work for the Christian think–tank Ekklesia in 2014.She currently works for a multi-academy trust as a procurement and contracts manager.

Virginia is married to Chris Cole, director of Drone Wars UK. They have three children and they live in Oxford.



Huge thanks to Virginia for being such a lovely author in our spotlight today and for answering our questions so thoughtfully.


~****~

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Christmas Read ~ A Winter's Tale by Carrie Elks




Piatkus
30 November 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of this book


Book Blurb from the cover...

Struggling film student Kitty Shakespeare is determined to make the most of her new job as nanny to major producer Everett Klein's son, Jonas. It might not be exactly the career she'd hoped for when she moved from London to LA, but thanks to her habit of freezing up in interviews, this is her last chance to impress a key player in Hollywood – if she can get this right, then surely he'll take a moment to look at her work. However, what Kitty hasn't allowed for is Everett's sexy-as-hell brother, Adam – but love at first sight this is not.

Adam Klein may be sexy, but he's also gruff and rude and in no way ready to make a fool of himself over the nanny – not after the year he's had. All he wants to do hole up in his cabin and hide from the brother who destroyed his life. If only he could find it easier to ignore the way Kitty makes his heart race . . .

As Christmas approaches, Kitty and Adam come to realise that the course of true love never does run smooth – and just maybe, it's more interesting that way...

A heartwarming Shakespeare Sisters Christmas romance from the bestselling author of Fix You.


My thoughts...

When Kitty Shakespeare is employed as a nanny to the delightful, seven year old, Jonas Klein she doesn't bargain on making the acquaintance of Jonas's taciturn and decidedly, cheerless Uncle Adam, who seems hellbent on making Kitty's life as difficult as possible.

This delightful seasonal story really took me by surprise, not just from the beauty of its cover, which, it must be said is stunning, but also, in the strength of the story which really grabbed my attention from the beginning. Kitty is a feisty and determined heroine and from the very onset of the story is determined to make the most of a difficult situation. Her ongoing relationship with the adult Kleins is fun to observe, but it is in her burgeoning relation with the ruggedly sexy, Adam, where the story really starts to take flight.

I loved the snowy setting of West Virginia, a place I am never likely to visit but thanks to the author I feel as if I experienced life there through Kitty's eyes. The place is so beautifully described that I could feel the icy blast of snow and the flutter of flakes, and the wonderful romantic edge to the story is done with a strong sense of passion and more than a hint of intimacy.

I loved the references to Shakespeare at the start of each chapter which compliment perfectly what is to come. This is definitely one of those feel good seasonal reads which will really brighten up a cold, dark wintery afternoon , a perfect antidote to too much seasonal stress.

A Winter's Tale is the second book in The Shakespeare Sisters series of books by this author.



Carrie Elks lives near London, England and writes contemporary romance with a dash of intrigue. She loves to travel and meet new people, and has lived in the USA and Switzerland as well as the UK. An avid social networker, she tries to limit her Facebook and Twitter time to stolen moments between writing chapters. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can usually be found baking, drinking wine or working out how to combine the two.

Website

Twitter @CarrieElks



A Winter's Tale is out tomorrow 30th November and is published by Piatkus






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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Review ~ Two Hundred Very Short Stories by Helen Keeling-Marston

35064205
June 2017

My thanks to the author for sending me an ecopy of this book
I always say that I am not an avid reader of short stories as sometimes I feel a bit disappointed that they don't stir my imagination enough but that really wasn't the case with this quirky selection of short stories, and when I say 'short'  I really do mean very short, sometimes just a snippet which you are able to read in between waiting for the next bus or whiling away a minute of two at a railway station. Other stories may take slightly longer, depending on how quickly you read, but there is always something to fire the imagination and give you the welcome chance to unwind with something just a little bit different.

The stories are well written and nicely different so that they never become monotonous or lacking in impact. The blurb describes the stories as similar to a music tape mix but I think they are rather like an iPod shuffle, so that you're never quite sure of what story you are going to get until you have it in your imagination.

So, in the run up to the festive season when tempers get frayed and shopping queues seem nightmarishly long, allow yourself ten minutes to settle back with a gingerbread latte and dip into and out of Two Hundred Very Short Stories while you recharge and gather strength for the next shopping onslaught.


More about the Author can be found on her Website or follow her on Twitter @helenkeeling

Over on the author's Goodreads page there is the chance to win a copy of this collection for yourself. Ends on December 1st , so hurry !!





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Monday, 27 November 2017

Christmas Blog Tour ~ The Deaths Of December by Susi Holliday





Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of this Christmas Blog Tour 


Thanks to the publishers for my invitation to be part of this tour and for my review copy of Deaths of December

I'm delighted to be able to share Susi's Favourite Christmas Foods




My Favourite Christmas Foods...

Christmas has become synonymous with a time to indulge in far more food than you could ever really need or want, often with things that you never have any desire for the other 364 days of the year. In no particular order, here are some of my favourite Christmas foods:

After Eight Mints

Extremely addictive. Started on at the end of Christmas dinner, because even if you are stuff to the brim you can always fit in an After Eight. Usually finished before everyone has left the table, with the wrappers left in the box to annoy anyone who comes along later and stupidly thinks there might be some left.

Cheese and Biscuits

Cheddar, brie, camembert, roule, port salut. Cream Crackers, those loaf-shaped Hovis digestives, wholemeal thins, Tucs or Ritz. Grapes, celery, cranberry sauce. Ok, I confess – I probably eat cheese and biscuits at least once a week, but not the full variety J

Kilted Sausages / Pigs-in-Blankets

Whatever you might call those little sausages wrapped in bacon, they rarely make an appearance except with Christmas dinner, and no matter how many you make, there will never be enough.

Stuffing

I’m not even sure I particularly like it, but I pretty much only have it at Christmas, and if there is a Christmas dinner served without it, there’s trouble.

Sprouts

Much maligned, these little green monsters often get subjected to a re-boot to make them more appealing to those who say they detest them. But I actually really like them.

Maybe not enough to have them at any other time of the year.

Turkey

I actually don’t like turkey. We never had it at Christmas when I was growing up, usually having roast beef or chicken instead – but I love all the trimmings – in fact I am sure cranberry sauce was invented to give turkey some sort of flavour. I’m always pleased when pubs start offering their Christmas Specials, because then I can usually fit in several turkey dinners. Just not on Christmas Day.

Nuts in their shells

I don’t think anyone ever eats these outside of December, but who doesn’t like getting their hands on the nutcracker? That crunching sound is so satisfying. 

Actually, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t eat these all year round . . .

P.S. I am not a fan of Christmas cake, pudding or mince pies!


Hodder&Stoughton
16 November 2018


It looks like a regular advent calendar.

Until DC Becky Greene starts opening doors...and discovers a crime scene behind almost every one.

The police hope it's a prank. Because if it isn't, a murderer has just surfaced - someone who's been killing for twenty years.

But why now? And why has he sent it to this police station?

As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer.

Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them...

It's shaping up to be a deadly little Christmas...


About the Author


Susi Holliday grew up in East Lothian. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham competition. She is the author of three novels in the Banktoun trilogy, Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly. She is married and lives in London.

Follow on Twitter @SJIHolliday #TheDeathsofDecember
@MulhollandUK






Huge thanks to Susi for her festive guest post today.



Sunday, 26 November 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...






November is the month of remembrance


Since They Have Died

by 

May Wedderburn Cannan


Since they have died to give us gentleness,
And hearts kind with contentment and quiet mirth,
Let us who live also give happiness
And love, that’s born of pity, to the earth.

For, I have thought, some day they may lie sleeping
Forgetting all the weariness and pain,
And smile to think their world is in our keeping,
And laughter comes back to the earth again.






~****~




Saturday, 25 November 2017

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Author Spotlight on Nicola Pryce


On Hist Fic Saturday I am thrilled to welcome Historical Fiction writer


 Nicola Pryce to talk about why she writes historical fiction.






                 Thank you so much Jo, I’m delighted to join your Saturday Author Blog.

                                          
                                              Why I write Historical Fiction.


I can’t pin the place, but I can pin my age: I was ten, standing in front of a portrait in a National Trust house. I was in the junior department of a boarding school in Kent. My father’s job had taken us from the US, to Baghdad, and now to Rome and my parents wanted me to have British schooling.

The lady next to me is my aunt, Miss Dorothy Johnstone-Hogg, a scary lady who petrified me. Later, I realised how lucky I was to have such a formidable aunt. I completely adored her. She had a first class degree in history from Bedford College, worked in Bletchley Park as a code breaker, and taught in Egypt. She was head of history at the school, had permed hair, thick glasses, wore bright red tights, and carried a red cushion wherever she went. Like all good teachers, she had a passion for her subject and communicated this love to all her students.

I spent half terms with her, and once over the embarrassment of having people join us, thinking she was the guide, I loved our visits to National Trust houses. She would stand under carefully chosen portraits and tell me, not only who the person was, but their political leanings, who they had married, who their off-spring had married. She would tell me who was on the throne, who was the first minister, all of which went happily over my head. But then we got to the good part when we pretended to be the people in the portraits…Imagine the feel of that silk dress…being pinched in so tight… those dainty shoes, and so would start a happy discussion on what the lady was thinking, what she was hiding in her hand, which young man awaited her in the shrubbery, and for the rest of the day I would be that lady – or the child with the dog, or the seamstress sewing by candlelight.

Aunt Dodo, as I called her, introduced me to her favourite novels and if my love of historical fiction was not actually in my DNA, I was to be hard-wired for life. I devoured books. We had no television and strictly regulated viewing at school, so books became my escape. I read everything I could lay my hands on, historical novels my favourite, with Jane Austen topping the list. 

I did English for A level but chose nursing as my career. Biology fascinated me – running through the shrubbery in long petticoats and satin slippers was all very well, but my black lace-up shoes were planted firmly on the ground. Forty years later, with an Open University degree in Humanities behind me, I was to heed the advice of one of my patients – it’s not what you do that you regret, but what you don’t do. I had long wanted to write a novel and knew I must seize the opportunity. Even as I flirted with other genres, I knew I must write from my heart – about what I loved, for whom I loved. 

I had no thought my book would be published. I wrote it for my children, now in their thirties. I wanted to slip the finished manuscript into their Christmas stockings so they could catch a glimpse of my childhood, of Aunt Dodo, and the books I had devoured; a sense of going full circle – the child I had been, reflected in the adult I had become. I would base the story in Cornwall where we sailed, and set it in the late eighteenth century, my favourite period of history. 

So, in a way, I didn’t choose to write historical fiction, it chose me. But once started, I realized how much I loved the research. I might send my characters off on crazy, hair brained adventures, but it has to be authentic and accurate, everything based on what was there – that lane, that inn, that shipyard. I need to hold primary sources in my hands, read the letters, see the accounts the shipwrights actually wrote. 

I think that’s the draw. The fear of getting it wrong, the absolute delight of finding the exact document or letter needed to drive my story forward. My characters are born from these primary sources, from the books I’ve read, and from the portraits I study. I’m still that ten year old child, gazing at the beautiful woman, wondering what it was like to wear expensive jewels, a turban with such fine feathers. Thank goodness, I’m not practical anymore – far from it. I’ve come full circle; I’m back to the romantic dreamer always in trouble for reading in lessons, to the girl crying her eyes out, expelled from orchestra for reading the last few pages of Gone with the Wind.



Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. She studied for a degree in Humanities with the Open University and lives in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. She is a qualified adult literary volunteer and when she isn’t writing, she’s probably scrubbing decks on a boat somewhere on the south coast of Cornwall where her books are set. 


30167593 33814316
Out now in paperback
Published by Corvus


35606501
Expected publication 2018


Links




Warmest thanks to Nicola for sharing her love of historical fiction with us today.


My hist fic author next month is ....John R. McKay



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Friday, 24 November 2017

Audible Review ~ Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie


Murder on the Orient Express Performance
My thanks to the publicists midas and Audible.co.uk for my listening copy of Murder on the Orient Express

Written by: Agatha Christie

Narrated by: Tom Conti, Jane Asher, Ruta Gedmintas,Walles Hamonde, Paterson Joseph, Rula Lenska, Art Malik, Eddie Marsan, Sophie Okonedo
Length: 5 hrs and 47 mins 

Performance

Release Date:01/11/2017

Publisher: Audible Studios


What begins as a routine journey on the luxurious Orient Express soon unfurls into Agatha Christie's most famous murder mystery. On board is the famous detective Hercule Poirot, and one man who, come morning, will be found dead, his compartment locked from the inside.

This Audible Original dramatisation follows the train as it's stopped dead in its tracks at midnight. The train's stranded passengers soon become suspects as the race to uncover the murderer begins before he or she strikes again.

This all-star production features lead performances from Tom Conti (The Dark Knight Rises, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence) as Hercule Poirot, Sophie Okonedo (After Earth, Hotel Rwanda and Ace Ventura) and Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes, V for Vendetta and Hancock) plus a full supporting cast and even sound effects recorded on the Orient Express itself.

Starring: Tom Conti as Hercule Poirot, Sophie Okonedo as Mary Debenham, Paterson Joseph as Colonel Arbuthnot, Walles Hammonde as Hector Macqueen, Jay Benedict as Monsieur Bouc, Jane Asher as Mrs Hubbard, Rula Lenska as Princess Dragonioff, Ruta Gedmintas as Countess Andrenyi, Eddie Marsan as Ratchett and Art Malik as the Narrator.

Also featuring: Marie Rabe, John Chancer, Cedric Cirotteau, Andreas Karras, Barnabas Reti, Cristina Catalina, Greg Canestrari, Harry Hadden-Paton, Christope Delesques, Atilla Akinci, Hakan Silahsiz and Jeff Gerard.

©1934 Agatha Christie (P)2017 Audible, Ltd


This is an excellent performance of one of Agatha Christie's most iconic novels. Murder on the Orient Express has been read, watched and listened to countless times in the eighty years since its first publication, and its universal and timeless appeal never wavers.

I sat quietly on a rainy afternoon to listen to this Audible original recording and was immediately transported to the elegant world of detective, Hercule Poirot and his now famous investigation into the murder of a passenger, on the Simplon-Orient Express as it travels from Istanbul via Italy, to Calais.

The performances throughout the narration of the story are very, very good. Tom Conti in the iconic Poirot role ensures a strong character interpretation and the other characters are equally as compelling, particularly, Jane Asher as Mrs Hubbard and Rula Lenska as Princess Dragonioff. Art Malik does a superb job as narrator and holds the story together with his customary charm.

The performance comes in at just over 5 hours, so can be listened to quite easily in the space of a couple of afternoons or evenings, or even better listening to this performance of Murder on the Orient Express would break up a long journey by making the time go by really quickly.


Perhaps just not a train journey !!


You can find the Audible recording of Murder on the Orient Express by clicking here 




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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Blog Tour ~ Sweet William by Iain Maitland


Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the 


Sweet William Blog Tour




36437024
Contraband
October 2017


My thanks to  the publishers and also to Ruth Killick Publicity for my review copy of this book
 and the invitation to be part of this blog tour


What's it about ...

Just One Chance. Now or Never. Run

A father desperate to be with his young son escapes from a secure psychiatric hospital, knowing he has just one chance for the two of them to start a new life together. He plans to snatch the three-year-old – and run away to a new life in France … but first he must find the boy, who has been fostered by his murdered wife’s family, and stay clear of the police, already in pursuit. He will be utterly ruthless in pursuit of this outcome. But William is a diabetic who needs insulin to stay alive…

Cut through with dark humour, Sweet William is a story of mental illness, a foster family under pressure, and an aggrieved father separated from his precious child. As the fugitives are pursued through the back roads of East Anglia the story reaches its terrifying climax. The result is an incisive and deeply affecting literary thriller.


My thoughts about it ...

This is one of those difficult books to review without exposing anything of the story, as to give even the smallest hint of what's happening would be to spoil, what is, a very compelling and, it must said, decidedly dark thriller. 

Being caught up in the life of this desperate father, who wants to spend time with his adored son, should on the surface work out well, however, the father in Sweet William isn't anything like your typical father. To say that he has been confined in a secure psychiatric unit for committing heinous crimes is enough to set your teeth on edge from the very start of the story, the opening of which, makes for compelling reading. 

Sweet William moves along quickly in real time and the way in which this unique forty-eight hour time lapse evolves allows the story to have a scarily realistic edge. There is much to be aware of, both in terms of the capriciousness of a supremely flawed individual, and also, far beyond this unpredictability there are elements of the story which terrified me, not in a 'being afraid of the dark' sort of fearfulness, more in an escalating feeling of apprehension, which made me very uncomfortable, both in terms of the eventual outcome, and ultimately, for the safety of young, William. 

Sweet William is a taut and tense psychological thriller. The author commands the narrative well and keeps the momentum from start to finish. The roller coaster of a journey he takes us on is highlighted by the vividly descriptive way he brings to life the difficulty and emotional impact of a family, and an individual, in absolute turmoil.


About the author

Iain Maitland is the acclaimed author of Dear Michael, Love Dad (Hodder, 2016), a moving book of letters written to his son, who suffered from depression and anorexia. Iain is an ambassador for Stem4, the teenage mental health charity, and has discussed mental health issues on The One Show. He lives in Felixstowe.

Twitter @iainmaitland #SweetWilliam @SarabandBooks






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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Audible Review ~ The Monster Collection


The Monster Collection Audiobook
My thanks to Midas and Audible.co.uk for my listening copy of The Monster Collection


Written by: Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, Maria Mellins, Peter Howell
Narrated by: Richard Armitage, Dan Stevens, Greg Wise, Rachel Atkins

Length: 30 hrs and 24 mins 

Unabridged Audiobook

Release Date:24/10/2017

Publisher: Audible Studios


These stories need no introduction as I am sure that everyone is aware of the continuing and timeless fascination for this trio of classic stories.


Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is narrated by Richard Armitage
Frankenstein is narrated by Dan Stevens 
Dracula is narrated by Greg Wise

All the narrators have their own unique way of telling the story and I found, in listening, whole new aspects of the stories which I had previously not registered or had forgotten entirely. That the stories remain spookily credible in today's modern world is testament to the absolute strength of the original, which never need any embellishment to make them as fresh and as compelling as the day on which they were written.

The length of the audible narration, over 30 hours, needs a level of commitment, but I also think that these are amongst the best sort of stories for listening to in snippets rather than in whole great chunks as that way the individuality of the stories can be savoured and enjoyed rather like vintage wine,

My favourite has always been Dracula and Greg Wise does a superb job of bringing this fascinating story to life. There's a subtle blend of suspense mingled with the classic story telling tradition of dark tales told around a flickering fireside, and as always, Bram Stoker's classic really comes alive in the imagination. 

The Gothic elements of all three novels are timeless and sit within the imagination really well and if you haven't time to read all three novels then listening to The Monster Collection would make an ideal accompaniment to a long journey. 


You can find the Audible edition of The Monster Collection by clicking here 



~****~



Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Christmas Read ~ The Christmas Stocking and Other Stories by Katie Fforde




Century
2 November 2017

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

A wonderfully festive Christmas collection of short stories from the Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author of A Summer at Sea and A Secret Garden 

The perfect gift for Christmas, escape to the countryside with Katie Fforde


Inside this Christmas Stocking you will find...

A Christmas in Disguise
Candlelight at Christmas
The Christmas Fairy
The Christmas Stocking

Plus much, much more to unwrap and enjoy...

Sometimes in the hectic run up to Christmas its difficult to find time to settle down to reading as there's so many other things to concentrate on, but in the hustle and bustle it's even more important to find a quiet half hour to recharge your batteries and that's where The Christmas Stocking and Other Stories comes into play.

Each story is perfectly proportioned to help you while away a quiet hour or so and whilst, its worth mentioning that two of the stories have been previously published in magazines I hadn't read them, so it didn't affect my enjoyment at all, but other readers may need to be aware of that.

The six stories which make up the whole of the book have a delightful seasonal theme and feature an array of people, and animals, who very quickly make an emotional impact. I really enjoyed reading the stories and each one, when finished, left me with a smile on my face and a lovely warm glow inside.  As with any short story collection, there are some which stand out more than others and my two particular favourites are The Christmas Stocking and A Dream Christmas. I could have happily read on for much longer than their sixty or so pages, and was, in a way, disappointed when the stories ended, only because I had grown to love the characters and wanted to read more of their story

If you are familiar with this author's work, you will instantly recognise her trademarks of lovely character definition and fine attention to detail which is so reminiscent of her writing. And for those who can't wait until her next novel is due, there is a sneak peek of A Country Escape, which is coming in February 2018.

So if you're looking for an escape from the rush of the shopping mall, then take a breather and enjoy a short break with The Christmas Stocking and Other Stories.




Katie Fforde lives in the beautiful Cotswold countryside with her family, and is a true country girl at heart. Each of her books explores a different profession or background and her research has helped her bring these to life. She’s been a porter in an auction house, tried her hand at pottery, refurbished furniture, delved behind the scenes of a dating website, and she's even been on a Ray Mears survival course. She loves being a writer; to her there isn’t a more satisfying and pleasing thing to do. She particularly enjoys writing love stories. She believes falling in love is the best thing in the world, and she wants all her characters to experience it, and her readers to share their stories. 




To find out more about Katie Fforde step into her world at www.katiefforde.com, visit her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KatieFforde.



The Christmas Stocking and Other Stories is published by Century in Hardback and eBook 02/11/2017, £9.99






Monday, 20 November 2017

Christmas Blog Tour ~ A Winter Love Song by Rita Bradshaw




Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on A Winter Love Song Blog Tour


My thanks to the publishers for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour
and to the publicists at edpr for my copy of A Winter Love Song and the permission to share this book extract.

It's with real pleasure that I share this lovely extract from 

A WINTER LOVE SONG

It was shortly before Christmas when she confided to Betty that she wanted to become a singer and it had been her main reason for coming to London. Betty was all agog, and immediately wanted to hear her. It was their day off and they were sitting in a little square of park eating a meat pie before they went to see Fred Astaire at the cinema. Bonnie looked around her, shaking her head.

‘I couldn’t, not here.’

‘Course you can, there’s no one about, and if you want to do that sort of thing you can’t be shy,’ said the ever practical Betty. ‘Go on, Bonnie, sing us a song. I can’t believe you haven’t told me about this before.’ Bonnie shrugged. ‘I tried for ages when I first came to London and got nowhere. I didn’t even get one audition. Perhaps I’m no good.’

‘How can you say that if no one even heard you?’ 

That was true. Bonnie knew she’d gone red. ‘What shall I sing?’ she asked uncomfortably, wishing she hadn’t said anything.

‘Don’t mind. I know, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”. I love that one. Do you know the words?’

It had been one of the hits of the year and Bonnie nodded. ‘I only have to hear a song once and I remember the words and the tune. My da was the same. He had a lovely voice.’ She had told Betty the same story she’d told everyone else since coming to the capital; that her mother had died when she was a baby and her father had brought her up, and it was his death that was the catalyst for making the move to London. Which was partly true.

‘Go on then,’ Betty said again. ‘Look, I’ll introduce you.’ She jumped up from the bench and lifted her arm in an extravagant gesture much as Dennis did. And in an imitation of his ringing tones, she announced, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, for your pleasure for one night only, the amazing, the beautiful, Miss Bernice Cunningham will sing “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.’

Grinning, she pulled Bonnie to her feet and then sat down expectantly, her face bright.

Bonnie stood for a moment and then shut her eyes. 

Outside the small square London went about its business; the noise of traffic and people only slightly dampened by the trees and bushes surrounding the perimeter of the tiny oasis. When she had been living with the fair community after her father’s disappearance she had sung most nights – her grandma had seen to that – but even during the day when she’d been doing other things she would sing for the sheer enjoyment of it. Since coming to London there had been little opportunity to practise, though, and for a second or two she was suddenly frightened she might be too rusty. She had never had any difficulty in deciding how to sing a song and bring out the emotion in the words – it was part of the feeling she experienced that she was the song, that was the only way she could describe it to herself. Now, after the first line or two, that familiar

feeling took over and she sang as she had always sung, with her soul laid bare.

She didn’t open her eyes until she had finished the last word, and when she did it was to see Betty sitting with her hand to her mouth while the tears rolled down her cheeks.


A Winter Love Song
is out now and published by Pan Macmillan

A Winter Love Song is a heartwarming and moving story of survival and love from bestselling author Rita Bradshaw.

Bonnie Lindsay is born into a travelling fair community in the north-east in 1918, and when her mother dies just months later, Bonnie’s beloved father becomes everything to her. Then at the tender age of ten years old, disaster strikes. Heartbroken, Bonnie’s left at the mercy of her embittered grandmother and her lecherous step-grandfather.

Five years later, the events of one terrible night cause Bonnie to flee to London where she starts to earn her living as a singer. She changes her name and cuts all links with the past.

Time passes. Bonnie falls in love, but just when she dares to hope for a rosy future, WW2 is declared. She does her bit for the war effort, singing for the troops and travelling to Burma to boost morale, but heartache and pain are just around the corner, and she begins to ask herself if she will ever find happiness again?



About the Author


Rita Bradshaw was born in Northamptonshire, where she lives today. At the age of sixteen she met her husband - whom she considers her soul mate - and they have two daughters and a son, and six grandchildren. Much to her delight, Rita's first novel was accepted for publication and she has gone on to write many more successful novels since, including the number one bestseller Dancing in the Moonlight.

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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...






November is the Month of Remembrance


Now to be still and rest

by 

P H B Lyon

Now to be still and rest, while the heart remembers
All that is learned and loved in the days of long past,
To stoop and warm our hands at the fallen embers,
Glad to have come to the long way’s end at last.

Now to awake, and feel no regret at waking,
Knowing the shadowy days are white again,
To draw our curtains and watch the slow dawn breaking
Silver and grey on English field and lane.

Not to fulfil our dreams, in woods and meadows
Treading the well-loved paths – to pause and cry
‘So, even so I remember it’ – seeing the shadows
Weave on the distant hills their tapestry.

Nor to rejoice in children and join their laughter,
Tuning our hearts once more to the fairy strain,
To hear our names on voices we love, and after
Turn with a smile to sleep and our dream again.

Then – with a new-born strength, the sweet rest over,
Gladly to follow the great white road once more,
To work with a song on our lips and the heart of a lover,
Building a city of peace on the wastes of war.




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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Butcher's Block by Lucienne Boyce


On Hist Fic Saturday


Let's go back to ...18th Century, London 


35917840
SilverWood Books
August 2017


My thanks to the author for my review copy of this book


I first met Bow Street Runner Dan Foster in Bloodie Bones which is the book which starts this excellent historical fiction series, and where I was transported to the dark and dangerous world of Georgian crime. In this second book, Dan is again caught up in a distinctly murky underworld, this time with body-snatchers who are visibly connected with the grisly discovery of some rather interesting human remains. Arresting the culprits is only the first step in a long process which will take Dan into some dark and dangerous places, and which will put him and others in grave danger.

The Butcher's Block is a really exciting continuation of the series, rather darker in content than the first book, but no less compelling and just as intricately plotted. Eighteenth century London, with its dark and shadowy corners, and mean and moody criminal fraternity, really sparkles with intent. And Dan finds to his cost that investigating the activities of the aptly named resurrection men will lead him right into the heart of some dangerous hidden societies who are hell bent on causing insurrection and rebellion.

Discovering the multi-layers and the hidden depths of the story is one of the absolute joys of reading this author's very cleverly controlled novels. Throughout The Butchers Block there is much to take in, not just in terms of plot and malice, but also in the wonderful array of new characters who arrive in the story fully fleshed and with enough deadly intent to keep the story rollicking along at a fast pace.

In this story, it is also interesting to discover a little more about Dan Foster. We see him very much on his own turf, and walking out with him in the areas of London he calls home, makes both the place and the people come vividly to life. In the treacherous undercurrent of Georgian London, Dan Foster strides out with all the gusto of a super hero and I can't wait to see where his adventures will take him next.


25587091 35917840

35166071




Friday, 17 November 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald




Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Man in the Needlecord jacket

Blog Tour


Matador
2017

My thanks to the author and to Anne at Random Things Tours for my review copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of this blog tour.


What's it about ...

When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved. 


My thoughts about it..

There's something very modern about this story which resonates from the beginning and the way that the reader is drawn into the story is testament to the strength of the story telling. That The Man in the Needlecord Jacket is a continuation of sorts made me wonder whether I would be able to sit comfortably with the story but it is perfectly possible to read the book as a stand alone, although I suspect that those who have read the previous novels will understand references to the back story a little more than I did.

I enjoyed the way the story unfolded, especially the unique viewpoints which we get in separate chapters. The way that we get to see both Felicity and Sarah's individual perspective on this rather complex relationship triangle, makes for interesting reading. There is much to take in, especially in terms of how the women's relationship with Coll develops, and whilst I didn't like Coll at all, I did feel great sympathy for these two women who he manipulated, and then betrayed, so selfishly.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket looks at life, and the mature nature of love, in a different sort of way. Its perceptive insight into the faults, foibles and weaknesses of all of its characters is one of the absolute strengths of the novel.

It's probably better to have first read the other books which make up the series but regardless of that, and if like me you haven't, then don't worry, as this is still a very readable standalone story by a talented author.





Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria. She is the author of Missing Lydia,A Meeting of a Different Kind, and The Alone Alternative, which although can be read independently , they form a trilogy. The Man in the Needlecord Jacket continues the series but also stands alone in its own right.

Follow on Twitter @LindaMac1



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Thursday, 16 November 2017

Candlestick Press ~ A Feast of Prose for Christmas and the New Year





The holly and the ivy
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown


Holly and Ivy by multi award-winning writer Sean O’Brien is a spooky winter fable that’s guaranteed to add an extra frisson to everyone’s Christmas.


Published by Candlestick Press
October 2017, priced £4.95
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of Holly and Ivy

My thoughts...

This is a spooky little Christmas story which looks at the concept of family and the expectations which tend to overshadow the meaning of Christmas, the superficiality which, all too often, becomes far more important than it should, and when offered the chance of a new beginning, we should grasp the opportunity.

The story begins and ends with two lovely poems, one by Emily Bronte, and the other by contemporary poet, Suzannah Evans.

It's a lovely story to read on a cold December afternoon, with a warming cup of hot chocolate nearby.

Purchase of Holly and Ivy ensures a donation to Save the Children 



In contrast, Gift of the Old One by smallholder and goat-breeder Eunice ‘Pixie’ Day is a heart-warming tale from America that will delight readers of all ages and reminds us of the true spirit of Christmas.





Published by Candlestick Press
October 2017, priced £4.95
My thanks to the publishers for my copies of Gift of the Old One


My thoughts...

There is something profoundly moving about this story which looks at the concept of love and loyalty and the generosity of spirit which comes from looking after and caring for animals. That animals can offer a source of comfort and constancy is without question but in this beautifully narrated, and illustrated, short story we see the best of the human spirit.

The story starts and ends with two lovely poems which nicely compliment the story of the Gift of the Old One.

I think this is definitely my new favourite Christmas story.


Purchase of Gift of the Old One ensures a donation to Buttercups Goat Sanctuary 


Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Cricket, London, Puddings, Birds, Kindness, Home, Grandparents, Mothers and Fathers. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Find out more about about Candlestick Press by clicking here

Follow on Twitter @PoetryCandle



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