Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Extract ~ Connectedness by Sandra Danby

I am delighted to bring you this tantalising extract from Connectedness

© Sandra Danby
Beulah Press
May 2018

London, May 2010

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

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

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

But she would never move Darya from her home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Sandra Danby 

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

About the Author 

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

Author Links

Twitter @SandraDanby

Ignoring Gravity Connectedness (Identity Detective Book 2)

Guest Post ~ Sandra Danby

I am delighted to welcome to the blog the author

Photo:Ion Paciu

Sharing her thoughts about how music inspires her writing process

Inspirational Playlist: rock and opera

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

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

Joan Jett and Kristin Stewart
Cuttings on my Wall

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

The Royal Opera
Photo Clive Bardo ROH 2011

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

Queen Bohemian Rhapsody
Original UK sleeve Photo Wikipedia

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

Carmen Linares
Photo Javi Martinez_elmundo
Music links

Bohemian Rhapsody https://youtu.be/fJ9rUzIMcZQ
Canta con la Voz del Corazón https://youtu.be/tZdED75AuYI

About ‘Connectedness’

Beulah Press
May 2018


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

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

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

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

About the ‘Identity Detective’ series

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

Read an extract from Connectedness by clicking here 

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

Author Links

Twitter @SandraDanby

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


Monday, 16 July 2018

Blog Tour ~ Root of the Tudor Rose by Mari Griffith

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting a stop on the Root of the Tudor Rose Mini Anniversary 

Blog Tour

Accent Press
July 2015

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

What's it all about...

When King Henry V and his bride, Catherine de Valois, are blessed with the birth of a son, their happiness is short-lived. Henry’s unexpected death leaves Catherine a widow at the age of twenty-one. Then her father, King Charles of France, also dies, and her son inherits both crowns. Henry VI, King of England and France, is just ten months old and needs all his mother’s watchful care to protect him from political intrigue.

The queen, an attractive young widow, is a foreigner at the English court and now finds herself regarded with suspicion, particularly by the Duke of Gloucester, who will seemingly stop at nothing to protect his own claim to the throne. But lonely, vulnerable Catherine has found true friendship with another foreigner at court, a young Welshman named Owen. Their friendship deepens, but their liaisons must be kept secret at all costs, because Catherine, Queen of England and forbidden to remarry, is in love with a servant..

My thoughts..

I have an enduring fascination for all things Tudor and whilst I am familiar with the origins of the Tudor dynasty, it has been interesting to read this author's fictional account of the relationship that Catherine de Valois had with both of her husbands, Henry V and later, a young Welshman called Owen Tudor. 

I have an image of Henry V, the hero of Agincourt, as a battle hardened soldier, and yet, from the beginning of this story, the author shows Henry to have a rather tender appreciation of his young bride whilst at the same time emphasizing both his ruthlessness and political ambition. 

That Catherine is widowed, as a very young woman, comes as no surprise. Her life with her baby son, Henry VI, is often maligned, however, the author has shown Catherine to be a woman who knew her own mind. Catherine's subsequent, and rather romantic love affair with her servant, Owen Tudor is, by far, the more interesting side to the story, and where, for me, the people really started to come alive. 

Imaginatively written, Root of the Tudor Rose brings Catherine’s life into perspective. That she was, so often, at the mercy of politically ambitious men is well explained, as is the clandestine nature of her relationship with Owen Tudor. Whilst there is very little documented evidence of the relationship which existed between Owen and Catherine, I think that the author has succeeded in using what information there is and has made a convincing account of what might have happened between them.

Root of the Tudor Rose is about a passionate relationship which survived against all odds, when everything, both social and political was against them, and of the tentative beginnings of a dynasty which would shape the rest of history. 

Mari Griffith became well-known as co-presenter of BBC TV show Music Time and as resident singer on BBC radio. She also had her own TV series and was later a successful director and producer. Her debut novel Root of the Tudor Rose has been internationally acclaimed and remained in the historical novel bestseller charts for several months.

Twitter @AccentPress

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

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

Corgi Childrens

Who'll Sing the Anthem
Who will tell the story?

One of my absolute favourite go-to books is this classic remembrance book from Michael Morpurgo which was originally published in 2014 to mark the start of the WW1 centenary.

Only Remembered is a  lovely collection of extracts, poems and memories of the Great war . Aimed primarily at the young adult market, this is, most definitely, a book which can be enjoyed by grown ups too. Simply and beautifully illustrated Only Remembered brings the poignancy, the horrors and the heroes of the Great War into stark reality.

Those who have contributed with words, thoughts and deeds are Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, Sir Andrew Motion, Miranda Hart, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Anthony Horowitz, Eoin Colfer, Antony Beevor, Emma Thompson, David Almond, Dr Rowan Williams, Richard Curtis, Joanna Lumley, Raymond Briggs, Shami Chakrabarti and Sir Tony Robinson.

Royalties from the publication of Only Remembered will be spilt between the Royal British Legion and projects for soldiers' children and families at SSAFA.

Sir Michael Andrew Morpurgo, OBE, FRSL is the author of many books for children, five of which have been made into films.


Saturday, 14 July 2018

Review ~ Wrecker by Noel O'Reilly

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...Eighteenth Century, Cornwall

Harper Collins
14 June 2018

My thanks to the publishers and also to Lovereading.co.uk for my copy of this book

The wild and windswept Cornish coast with its rich history of ship wrecks comes alive in this story of village secrets and ancient superstition.

Like all the villagers in the remote Cornish village of Porthmorvoren whenever there is a ship wreck, Mary Blight heads to the beach to see what she can salvage, sometimes it’s a trinket or two, or occasionally, something more serviceable like a pair of wearable boots. When she discovers a distressed man in the sea, Mary risks everything to rescue him and nurses him back to health, but the villagers soon start to gossip about Mary’s motives for helping this stranger. The rescued man is Gideon Stone, an evangelical Methodist minister, who, on regaining his strength, sets out to bring salvation to this remote village which is blighted by religious fervour and age old superstitions. 

With a strong sense of time and place, Wrecker comes beautifully to life and highlights the difficulties of living in such a remote place. The superstitions which are so deeply ingrained into this harsh, and often unforgiving, community make it difficult for any stranger to get close to them and their vehement reaction to the minister’s attempt to save their souls is typical of their narrow-mindedness, whilst the way they treat Mary Blight borders on bigotry and hatred.

Wrecker is something of a slow burner of a story which I think is quite deliberate as it allows the place and its people to feature in a very realistic sort of way. The harsh realities of eking out a meagre existence in this unforgiving landscape are well described, as is the way that petty differences and scurrilous gossip are allowed to wreck and ruin lives. With a strong sense of time and place Wrecker comes beautifully to life, bringing together a strong story which is filled with a sense of destiny and which captures perfectly the spirit of this harsh and unforgiving time.

I read this book as part of the LoveReading Review panel.  More reviews of Wrecker can be found on the LoveReading website by clicking here.

Twitter @noeloreilly #Wrecker



Friday, 13 July 2018

Blog Tour ~ Fairlight Moderns

✨ Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be involved in the Fairlight Moderns Blog Tour ✨

A collection of new short modern fictions from around the world

The books in the novella series are: Inside the Bone Box by Anthony Ferner, Travelling in the Dark by Emma Timpany, There are Things I Know by Karen B. Golightly, Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn, The Driveaway Has Two Sides by Sara Marchant. 

Most of the authors within the series are award-winning literary short story or flash fiction writers who are turning to longer fiction for the first time.

✩ Here's a taster of what they are all about ✩

Fairlight Moderns
11 July 2018

Nicholas Anderton is a highly respected neurosurgeon at the top of his field. But behind the successful façade all is not well. Tormented by a toxic marriage and haunted by past mistakes, Anderton has been eating to forget. His wife, meanwhile, has turned to drink.

There are sniggers behind closed doors – how can a surgeon be fat, they whisper; when mistakes are made and his old adversary Nash steps in to take advantage, Anderton knows that things are coming to a head.

My thoughts...

Stressed and harassed in both his personal and professional life, Nicholas Anderton, a once respected neurosurgeon, is the total embodiment of a life that has lost all meaning. Turning to gluttonous eating is not the answer but for Nicholas it's a means of escape from the poison that infiltrates his life. Perceptively and intuitively written Inside the Bone Box is a fascinating look at the vagaries of human nature.

My thanks to the publishers for my proof copy of this novella.


Fairlight Moderns
11 July 2018

Travelling back to her home town with her young son, Sarah is ready to face up to what she ran away from ten years ago.

As delays and diversions force her to return to well-known places from her youth, Sarah reflects on the relationships with her family and the events of the past that have shaped her present.

Set in the wild, beautiful and unreliable landscape of southern New Zealand, Emma Timpany’s novella is an evocative story of a woman coming to terms with her past.

My thoughts...

Travelling in the Dark is a quietly reflective story which links the present whilst rationalising the past. Set against the wildness of Southern New Zealand, both the place and the people come beautifully alive. There’s a lyrical quality to the narrative which I thought beautifully expressed the emotion of returning to a place where memories run deep.

My thanks to the publishers for my proof copy of this novella.


Fairlight Moderns
11 July 2018

Eight-year-old Pepper sees the world a little differently from most people.

One day, during a school field trip, Pepper is kidnapped by a stranger and driven to rural Arkansas. The man, who calls himself ‘Uncle Dan’, claims that Pepper’s mother has died and they are to live together from now on – but the boy isn’t convinced.

Pepper always found it hard to figure out when people are lying, but he’s absolutely certain his mother is alive, and he’s going to find her.

My thoughts...

There Are Things I Know is a beautifully observed story which has a very dark theme at its core and yet, there is a real sense of connection with eight year old Pepper who, it must be said, is the real hero of this tale. Perceptive, insightful and succinctly written there is never a word wasted or an emotion unexpressed.

My thanks to the publishers for my proof copy of this novella.


Fairlight Moderns
11 July 2018

When Alina’s brother-in-law defects to the West, she and her husband become persons of interest to the secret services, causing both of their careers to come grinding to a halt.

As the strain takes its toll on their marriage, Alina turns to her aunt for help – the wife of a communist leader and a secret practitioner of the old folk ways.

Set in 1970s communist Romania, Sophie van Llewyn’s novella-in-flash draws upon magic realism to weave a tale of everyday troubles, that can’t be put down.

My thoughts...

Romania in the days of its oppression is the focus for Bottle Goods which is quite a dark little story in places and yet, the whole of this novella-in-flash is tempered by some light touches of magical realism which bring the story alive in a very different sort of way. I enjoyed the short vignettes and the flash fiction approach to the individual chapters.

My thanks to the publishers for my proof copy of this novella.


Fairlight Moderns
11 July 2018

On an East Coast island, full of tall pine moaning with sea gusts, Delilah moves into a cottage by the shore. The neighbours gossip as they watch her clean, black hair tied back in a white rubber band. They don’t like it when she plants a garden out front – orange red carpinus caroliniana and silvery blue hosta. Very unusual, they whisper.

Across the driveway lives a man who never goes out. Delilah knows he’s watching her too and she likes the look of him, but perhaps life is too complicated already.

My thoughts...

Delilah arrives in a small East Coast tourist town and turns the lives of three men completely upside down. Beautifully written and with a fine eye for even the smallest of detail, The Driveway Has two Sides is an interesting story about the fundamentals of identity and how we keep so much hidden, not just from ourselves but also from others.

My thanks to the publishers for my proof copy of this novella.

More Information 

 Visit the Website

Follow on Twitter @FairlightBooks #FairlightModerns

Find on Facebook Facebook

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Review ~ The Perfectly Imperfect Woman by Milly Johnson

Happy Paperback Publication  Day

Simon & Schuster
12 July 2018

My thanks to the publishers and to edpr for my copy of this book

The Perfectly Imperfect Woman is the heart-warming and hilarious new novel from the queen of feel-good fiction – a novel of family, secrets, love and redemption … and broken hearts mended and made all the stronger for it

What's it all about..

Marnie Salt has made so many mistakes in her life that she fears she will never get on the right track. But when she ‘meets’ an old lady on a baking chatroom and begins confiding in her, little does she know how her life will change.

Arranging to see each other for lunch, Marnie finds discovers that Lilian is every bit as mad and delightful as she’d hoped – and that she owns a whole village in the Yorkshire Dales, which has been passed down through generations. And when Marnie needs a refuge after a crisis, she ups sticks and heads for Wychwell – a temporary measure, so she thinks.

But soon Marnie finds that Wychwell has claimed her as its own and she is duty bound not to leave. Even if what she has to do makes her as unpopular as a force 12 gale in a confetti factory! But everyone has imperfections, as Marnie comes to realise, and that is not such a bad thing – after all, your flaws are perfect for the heart that is meant to love you.

What did I think about it..

Whenever I open a Milly Johnson book I feel like I am sitting down with a cherished friend and having a natter over a cup of coffee and a slice of the delicious cheesecake which features so prominently in The Perfectly Imperfect Woman.

Marnie Salt is the epitome of every woman who has been beguiled and then left in the lurch by a man who bolstered her ego and then abandoned her to pick up the pieces of a shattered life. But never down for long Marnie picks herself up... hurt and bruised, most certainly, but with the offer of a clean break, she leaves her stressful marketing job and moves to the magical Wychwell, a delightful village in the Yorkshire Dales, where the rather wonderful and deliciously, eccentric, Lilian Dearman helps to put Marnie back together again.

Whilst reading the story over the last couple of afternoons, The Perfectly Imperfect Woman has filled my heart with sunshine. So typical of this author’s distinctive writing style, I have laughed out loud at the outrageousness, ranted at the perversity and bad behaviour of some of the characters and cried copious tears at the loss of others.  I've walked the village streets of Wychwell with Marnie Salt and enjoyed every single moment of the journey.

The Perfectly Imperfect Woman is an absolutely perfect recipe for a delightful summer read. A delicious dash of romance, a sparkling cup of friendship and a generous pinch of this author’s special ingredient…magical story telling.

Credit: Charlotte Murphy

Milly Johnson is a Top Five Sunday Times bestselling author of fourteen novels with plans for many more. Her novels are about the universal issues of friendship, family, love, betrayal, good food and a little bit of that magic in life that sometimes visits the unsuspecting. 

Milly is a columnist for her local newspaper and is also an experienced broadcaster on radio and TV. She is also patron of several local charities, including Yorkshire Cat Rescue and The Well at the Core, with community and animal welfare both things that are very close to her heart.

Twitter @millyjohnson #PerfectlyImperfect



Blog Tour ~ Sticks and Stones by Jo Jakeman

Happy Publication  Day

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the Sticks and Stones Blog Tour

Harvill Secker
12 July 2018

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

What's it all about..

Imogen’s husband is a bad man.
His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son.
In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable: she locks her husband in the cellar. Now she’s in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans?

And here's what I thought about it..

In what seems like a moment of complete madness, Imogen locks her ex-husband, Philip, in the cellar. That this act is done in haste doesn't lessen the impact of why she felt compelled to take this action in the first place. However, as Sticks and Stones unfolds, the reasons for this deadly drama starts to take shape, and as the story deepens, so more and more secrets about Philip Rochester start to emerge.

This is one of those tense and nail bitingly complex psychological suspense stories which grabs your attention right from the start, and whilst I couldn't always rationalise Imogen's behaviour, I could appreciate why Imogen, and later, Ruby and Naomi, two of Philip's other wives, acted in the way that they did. Looking at abuse, even in a fictional format, is never easy, and I think this story highlights just how desperate people can become when they have reached the limit of their endurance.

The author writes well and makes her characters feel totally authentic, and even though there were times when some of the action caused me to suspend belief, I couldn't help but become completely immersed in the way that the three women reacted to the situation. I was, very quickly, absolutely engrossed in this complicated story about the ultimate revenge.

The domestic noir genre is very popular and to stand out from the rest each new title has to offer something different, I think in Sticks and Stones, this debut author has succeeded in giving us a really innovative story, something which has a real edginess to it and which is both disturbing and utterly compelling, a real page-turner!

About the Author

JO JAKEMAN was the winner of the Friday Night Live 2016 competition at the York Festival of Writing. Born in Cyprus, she worked for many years in the City of London before moving to Derbyshire with her husband and twin boys. Sticks and Stones is her debut thriller.

Twitter @jojakemanwrites #SticksandStones

@Harvill Secker


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Blog Tour ~ The King's Justice by E M Powell

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on The King's Justice Blog Tour

Thomas & Mercer
1 June 2018
Stanton and Barling #1

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book and to HF Virtual Book Tours for the invitation to be part of this blog tour

What's it all about..

A murder that defies logic—and a killer on the loose. 

England, 1176. Aelred Barling, esteemed clerk to the justices of King Henry II, is dispatched from the royal court with his young assistant, Hugo Stanton, to investigate a brutal murder in a village outside York. 

The case appears straightforward. A suspect is under lock and key in the local prison, and the angry villagers are demanding swift justice. But when more bodies are discovered, certainty turns to doubt—and amid the chaos it becomes clear that nobody is above suspicion. 

Facing growing unrest in the village and the fury of the lord of the manor, Stanton and Barling find themselves drawn into a mystery that defies logic, pursuing a killer who evades capture at every turn. 

Can they solve the riddle of who is preying upon the villagers? And can they do it without becoming prey themselves?

And here are my thoughts about it..

It's been a real treat to escape to 1176 and spend time in the company of Aelred Barling, an esteemed clerk to the justices of Henry II, and his messenger and erstwhile assistant, Hugo Stanton, as they seek to investigate a brutal murder which has taken place in a small village on the outskirts of York.

With a real sense of time and place, The King's Justice takes us into very heart of medieval England and back to a time when impartiality was tenuous at best, and most often those on the wrong side of the law were often pronounced guilty even before trial. Trying to prove innocence was, quite often, a deadly affair, and although they have people under suspicion, Barling and Stanton’s attempt to investigate this horrific crime leads them into some very dark places.

From its short and snappy chapters, and filled with twists and turns, The King’s Justice moves along at a lively pace and there is certainly never a dull moment, or a minute’s peace, once these two, rather unconventional, investigators arrive in the village of Claresham. Stanton and Barling's subsequent involvement with, Sir Reginald Edgar, the Lord of the Manor, does nothing to make the due process of justice any less troublesome. 

Imaginatively written, with a fine eye for historical detail, The King’s Justice is the first in a proposed new series of medieval crime mysteries. The partnership between the sanctimonious Barling, alongside the more rambunctious, Stanton, makes for a really interesting partnership, and I am sure that we will learn more about what makes this duo tick as the series progresses. There is much to find out and I am already looking forward to seeing just where this intrepid duo find themselves in the next instalment of the Stanton and Barling mysteries.

E.M. Powell’s historical thriller Fifth Knight novels have been #1 Amazon and Bild bestsellers. The King’s Justice is the first novel in her new Stanton and Barling medieval murder mystery series. She is a contributing editor to International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill magazine, blogs for English Historical Fiction Authors and is the social media manager for the Historical Novel Society. 

Born and raised in the Republic of Ireland into the family of Michael Collins (the legendary revolutionary and founder of the Irish Free State), she now lives in North-West England with her husband, daughter and a Facebook-friendly dog.

Twitter @empowellauthor #TheKingsJustice



During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 6 paperback copies of The King’s Justice! To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 13th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

This giveaway is organised by the Blog Tour operator and Jaffareadstoo is not responsible for its organisation or of the distribution of prizes.

Historical Fiction Virtual Tours

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Blog Tour ~ Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on Her Name Was Rose Blog Tour

This new Irish voice is bursting onto the scene with her first foray into the thriller genre. This promises to be one of the most exciting debuts of 2018. Perfect for fans of Lianne Moriarty, B. A. Paris, Gillian Flynn and Marian Keyes.

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

Her name was Rose. 
You watched her die. 
And her death has created a vacancy.

When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.

And then she makes a decision she can never take back.

Because Rose had everything Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?

But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.

And here's what I thought about it..

This clever psychological thriller grips from the dramatic opening which introduces us to Emily D'Arcy, who after witnessing a fatal accident is left reeling with disbelief. When she discovers more about, Rose Grahame, the victim of the accident, Emily soon becomes totally immersed in Rose's life, to the point where she is completely obsessed with needing to find out more and more about her.

What then follows is a skilfully crafted psychological suspense story which has more than enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. The story gets off to a bit of a slow start but as Emily gets more and more involved in the seemingly perfection of, what was once, Rose's life, so the mystery at the heart of the novel starts to pull ever tighter.

I really enjoyed the hidden depths of this story, the characters, in particular, come bouncing into life, especially, Cian, Rose's widowed husband, who is a forceful presence from the start. However, it is the other characters, who Emily finds herself involved with, who add an interesting dimension to the overall complexity of the story.

I can't say too much about the plot and its eventual outcome as that would spoil it and this story is one you need to read without any spoilers from me but what I will say is that Her Name was Rose is an enjoyable escape into a complex world of secrets and lies and is a great holiday-by-the pool sort of read.

A former journalist and columnist, Claire Allan has been writing fiction since 2006.

An Irish Times bestseller, she has tackled issues from post-natal depression, infertility, and dementia through to writing a based-on-a-true-story book about a couple reunited after 50 years apart. She has now decided to unleash her dark side!

Married with two children, two cats and a mad puppy she is happiest lost in a good book. She has kissed Michael Buble.

Twitter @ClaireAllan #HerNameWasRose


Monday, 9 July 2018

Review ~ Three Shoeboxes by Steven Manchester

The Story Plant
June 2018

My thanks to the author for my e-copy of this book

What's it all about..

One shoebox might store an old pair of sneakers. Two shoeboxes could contain a lifetime of photographs. But in Three Shoeboxes, a father’s undying love may be just enough to make things right again.

My thoughts about it..

Once again the author gets right into the heart of family life with this sensitive portrayal of the impact of living with someone who is traumatized by the effects of PTSD. 

Mac Anderson has everything he could possibly wish for, a beautiful wife, three healthy children and a prosperous lifestyle; all that is good in life seems to be his for the taking. However, this starts to change when he unexpectedly experiences violent panic attacks which distort his perception and make his and his family’s, life intolerable. What then follows is a story of how an ordered and peaceful life can suddenly change so much, and as Mac spirals into chaos, life for his wife and his children, will never be the same again.

The author writes about family life so thoughtfully that there is never a moment when the whole thing doesn't feel absolutely authentic. The wider effect, that of coping with PTSD, is handled sensitively and well, and yet, at the same time it allows a glimpse into the dreadful ramifications that this debilitating disorder can have on family life and structure. Mac's terror and bewilderment is palpable and as he struggles to make sense of what's happening to him so his family sink into utter despair as they too struggle to cope with his irascible mood swings.

Three Shoeboxes makes for emotional reading. The strength of the writing and the author’s obvious comprehensive research into PTSD comes across in the sensitive way he describes Mac’s decline. That the writing doesn’t shy away from showing just how devastating an effect this has on family life is to the writer’s credit. And yet, in the midst of chaos come hope and Three Shoeboxes demonstrates just how important is the love of  good a family and supportive friends.

I’ve read several novels by this talented author and I think that Three Shoeboxes is the strongest of his stories to date.

More about the author can be found on his website

Follow on Twitter @authorSteveM

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

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

Michael Joseph 1988
Penguin 1991

Lyn MacDonald writes with authority on the events of WW1 and this book in one that I use when I want to check up on facts or to look for inspiration for a blog post. It's a very readable account of what happened during 1914-1918 and what I find most useful is the poignant mix of the serious and the ordinary, which all add up to a fascinating account of the lives of those soldiers who fought, and died, on the Western Front.

It contains lots of illustrations, poignant photographs and letters, amateur poetry from 'ordinary' soldiers and the events they describe in letters home are both enlightening and desperately sad. There's even information in a letter which was been sent to The Times newspaper, in 1914, accusing them of reporting false news..so we know that phrase isn't new then !

Of the many books in my WW1 bibliography, 1914-1918 : Voices and Images of the Great war is one of my particular favourites especially as it gives a voice to those ordinary soldiers who found themselves, often unwillingly, living out their, sometimes very short, lives in extraordinary and difficult circumstances.

First written 30 years ago, the book is perhaps a little harder to come by now, however, it's well worth a read if you spot it in a library or second hand book store.


Saturday, 7 July 2018

His Fic Saturday ~ Pam Weaver

 On Hist Fic Saturday I am delighted to welcome to the blog, best selling author

Pam Weaver

It's a real thrill to have Pam as my guest on the blog today sharing her thoughts about why she writes historical fiction..

My mother was a great story teller. I grew up listening to her tales from the past. Neither of us realised but she was doing the foundation work upon which I would start to build my reputation. I would listen to the same story over and over again and never get tired or bored. She’d create the scene, explain the dilemma, build the story to a crescendo but always leave me with a satisfying conclusion. 

Was story telling in my genes? The truth is, I have no idea. My mother adopted me. 

My mother was born in 1912 and life was very different back then. However her story telling was so vivid I felt like I could have been there. I quickly learned that no matter when we are born, we all have the same dreams, the same aspirations and the same longing to be loved and accepted. Because I loved her, I was always rooting for her in the stories she told. I felt the same indignation, the same pain of insult, the same frustration or the same glow of romance as she spoke. It was only as I grew older, I realised that as a child of the 1950’s and 60’s my attitudes and opinions were shaped in a different forge. It wasn’t long before I would cry, ‘You never should have put up with that, Mum,’ or ‘I would have told her to sling her hook.’ And she would just smile and say, ‘That’s the way things were back then.’

I never did have any great love for the dry facts of history but I am fascinated by the people. What made them tick? Why did they accept patterns of behaviour that we would never condone nowadays? When I write, it’s great fun to imagine myself in the same room as my character, but thanks to the years of listening to those often repeated stories, I know I have to be very careful to leave my 21st century mind, attitude and conditioning away from the page. 

In my first book, my character stayed with her pig of a husband and tried to make the best of it. A reader told me that she’d lost patience with her. ‘What an absolute wimp!’ she complained angrily. ‘Why on earth didn’t she just walk out on him?’ I would say, the answer to that question is simple. 

In this day and age, any wife leaving her husband can find support outside the marital home. The women of my mother’s generation had no such luxuries. A woman couldn’t even rent a flat without the signature of a male guarantor on the agreement. The man might be her local doctor or bank manager but I would hazard a guess that those men would be far more likely to tell her to go back home and be a dutiful wife, than they would be willing to stand surety for her. And if she had children - Oh, don’t get me started on that one!

There’s been plenty written about kings and queens or notables in high places but I’m more interested in the unrecorded people of history and the ordinary women who in turn became extraordinary – like my mother. I my humble opinion, they were the ones who really won the war. The men may have been fighting, but the women kept the country going, brought up the next generation and found a strength of character which is still much admired. To fully comprehend what that meant, as I write, I try to immerse myself in their times. And what fun that can be.

We are lucky enough to have a wealth of research material at our fingertips. The Internet, the local library, and old newspapers have given me a real insight into the ordinary life of the time. Added to that, the rest of the world and his wife have written their memoirs. Best of all, I love talking to the people from that generation. It’s wonderful when they’re in full flow and then they say something in all innocence which gives me a real insight into their lives. I remember a 90 year old telling me that during the war, all the petrol they used on the farm was tainted pink. ‘If you were caught using pink petrol in your car,’ she went on, ‘you’d be in big trouble.’ 

‘Oh that didn’t bother us,’ scoffed her 93 year old friend sitting next to her. ‘We used to filter our petrol through the gas mask. When it came out the other end, it was normal colour.’

What a gem! And yes, I did use it in a book. 

So why do I write historical fiction? First and foremost because I love it and then because you learn something new all the time. 

Pam Weaver is a bestselling author of saga novels set in Worthing, including There’s Always Tomorrow, Better Days Will Come, Pack Up Your Troubles, For Better For Worse, Blue Moon and Love Walked Right In. Pam’s inspiration comes from her love of people and their stories and her passion for the town where her novels are set. She is married with two grown-up daughters and lives in Worthing.

Here's more about Pam's latest novel

Sing Them Home

Pan Macmillan
June 2018

A German aircraft crashes into a house in Worthing, and causes complete devastation to the local community. Three strangers meet for the first time that day – Pip, Stella and Lillian. Lillian’s little girl Flora has been hurt in the crash and is rushed to hospital. As she comes through her ordeal, she finds her mother and her two new ‘aunties’ by her bedside.

The three new friends quickly bond over shared experiences; all their husbands are overseas in the fighting forces. They also have the same love of singing and soon form The Sussex Sisters, Worthing’s answer to the Andrews Sisters, to boost morale in in dance halls and canteens all over the south coast.

When D-Day finally arrives, it’s the promise of a brighter future they have all been longing for. But the men that return home are altogether different from the husbands they waved off. How will they respond to their wives’ new-found fame? How will the women live alongside these distant, damaged men? With secrets, revelations and surprises on the horizon, the friends will need each other more than ever.

Huge thanks to Pam for being such  a lovely guest on my blog today and for sharing her love of writing historical fiction with us.

You can discover more about Pam's bestselling sagas by clicking here