Monday, 19 March 2018

Review ~ A Sweet, Wild Note by Richard Smyth

Elliot & Thompson
1 March 2018

When I was twelve I joined the Young Ornithologist's Club and so began my life long love of wild birds. There's nothing more relaxing,than listening, in the early morning, to the birds as they chirrup and tweet and go about their business, or to sit outdoors and listen to the steady chatter of busy sparrows, or the cheerful soaring of a blackbird in fine voice. I don't claim to be knowledgeable about birds, I just love them for joy they bring to my world.

A Sweet, Wild Note is a delightful book which allows a privileged glimpse into the complicated world of birdsong. From the reasons why birds sing the way they do, through to the association of birds in literature, drama, music and science, there is something very precious in what they share with us. I can still remember with great clarity the eeriness of the 1999 solar eclipse when all the birds went silent for a few minutes and I realised then just what a strange and unearthly world we would have if we had no birdsong.

The author writes very knowledgeably and shares his own personal stories and anecdotes alongside facts and figures which makes the book so easily readable. I really enjoyed dipping in and out of the chapters, picking up snippets of information that I never knew I needed to know about birdsong but which collectively enhance my understanding of what makes birdsong, and its connection to us, so very, very, precious.

The glorious book cover enhances what's inside to perfection and if you're a bird enthusiast I am sure that you will enjoy this book for its factual information, but it's also equally fascinating for those of us who just love the simple pleasure of listening to the daily soundtrack of the beautiful birds who inhabit our gardens, woodlands and landscapes. 

Richard Smyth writes about nature, history, books, philosophy, art, sport and anything else that occurs to him. His latest book, 'A Sweet, Wild Note: What We Hear When The Birds Sing', is an acclaimed cultural history of birdsong.

Twitter @RSmithFreelance

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Ordinary Lives of the First World War

Imperial War Museum
“The war had begun and my heart beat then as it had never beaten before.”—Rosie Neal on the outbreak of war, 1914

In Their Own Words: Untold Stories if the First World War brings together for the first time, the personal accounts of 11 people who lived through the conflict, in a compelling and poignant collection from IWM's unparalleled Documents Archives.

In Their Own Words is a unique collection of stories and more, all of which look at the war from a different perspective.

My thoughts about it...

The eleven stories contained within the collection are a fascinating and poignant look at the effect of the First World War on the lives on ordinary people.

From Rosie's story at the outbreak of war in 1914, through to the reminiscences of Arthur on Armistice, 1914, the collection focuses on the personal accounts of those who were caught up in the evnts that happened between 1914-1918 and includes:

Gallipoli , 1915
The Battle of Loos, 1915
Prisoner of War, 1915-1916
Conscientious Objection, 1916-1918
The Battle of Jutland, 1916
The Battle of the Somme, 1916
War Work and The Home Front
The Third Battle of Ypres, 1917
The German Spring Offensive, 1918
Armistice, 1918

I am fascinated by the stories of the ordinary men and women who were caught up in the events of WW1 and this collection of stories gives a fascinating and very personal account of what happened and explains just how lives were affected.

Using archive material from the huge amount of WW1 information that is held by the IWM, and being presented in a very readable form makes this collection all the more interesting.

This is me reading - In Their Own Words


Saturday, 17 March 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The War Widow by Lorna Gray

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's Go back to...1947

Harper Impulse
22 March 2018
(ebook out now)

My thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of this book
The story opens in November 1947 as we meet the eponymous War Widow of the story. Kate Ward, a troubled young woman, is staying at a genteel hotel in the small Welsh town of Aberystwyth, where she hopes to discover more about the mysterious disappearance of her ex-husband, Rhys. However, circumstances are against her, and from the very start of the novel, Kate suspects that there are some sinister people shadowing her, who seem determined to prevent her discovering more about what has happened to Rhys.

What then follows is a suspenseful story about Kate’s determination to discover the truth, whilst at the same time trying to keep herself safe from harm. However, it soon becomes apparent that anything to do with her ex-husband has been buried so deep that it takes a great deal of tenacity on Kate’s part to get to the bottom of this dark mystery.

It is this complex mystery which is at the heart of the novel and the many twists and turns in the plot are certainly designed to keep you on the edge of your seat. The overall pace of the story is fast, and there is so much going on within the story that you really do need to concentrate on what’s unfolding. I enjoyed trying to fit all the numerous pieces of the puzzle together.

I definitely had the feeling of this being in a post war setting, the way the places were described added an authentic and believable edge to the story, and I especially liked the references to newsreel information about Princess Elizabeth‘s wedding to Philip Mountbatten which again helped to put this story into its historical context.

There is no doubt that author has, with great enthusiasm, brought this spirited War Widow to life in an suspenseful story which thrives on excitement.

More about the author can be found on her website

Follow on Twitter @MsLornaGray

Friday, 16 March 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on 

The Ocean Liner Blog Tour

Lake Union Publishing
20 March 2018

My thanks to the author for this guest post, to the publishers for my copy of the book
and to Midas PR for the invitation to be part of the blog tour.

The Story that didn’t make it: The Black Eagle

Sometimes the parts an author finds most interesting are the ones that editors cut out! 

That happened to me with my "factional" novel, The Ocean Liner, which contains a number of real-life characters.

One of them who ended up on the cutting-room floor was Hubert Fauntleroy Julian, the Black Eagle of Harlem.

This larger-than-life character was celebrated and vilified in equal measure in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Handsome, golden-tongued and elegant, Julian billed himself as the first Black aviator at a time when Negroes were considered too primitive to drive a car, let alone fly an airplane. He was part authentic pioneer, part huckster. His detractors said he was merely a bootlegger and a daredevil stuntman who threw himself out of airplanes in red long johns. 

The Harlem Eagle's penchant for raising money on behalf of grand schemes, and then pocketing the proceeds, tarnished his career more than once. In fact, it was to escape prosecution that he was forced into a hasty flight from Harlem in a seaplane built by himself, which fell to pieces shortly after take-off and precipitated him into Flushing Bay with serious injuries. 

He also patented various ingenious aerial devices, including a motorized parachute for airplanes, which he called the parachutta-gravepreresistra. Demonstrating a smaller model, the saxophoneparachut-tapreresistationist, he sailed across the New York skyline, playing the saxophone, but unfortunately crashed through a Harlem police station window, and was arrested. Despite this inauspicious start, Julian had sold the patents to a Canadian aircraft company as the 'Airplane Safety Appliance.' The craziest of his schemes had a strange way of turning into something profitable for himself, if not for others. 

When Mussolini's Fascist army invaded Ethiopia (then known as Abyssinia) in 1935, Julian rushed to the defence of the African nation. Wearing a dramatic uniform designed by himself, and accorded the rank of Colonel in the Ethiopian Air Force, he cut an impressive figure as he trained the barefoot tribesmen. As usual, his career was chequered. He crashed the Emperor's personal Gypsy Moth biplane into a thorn tree during a ceremonial parade in Addis Ababa. The plane had been a present from Selfridges department store in London, the Emperor's favourite shop, and the Emperor was furious. The number of Julian's flights which ended in crashes led to the suspicion that he didn't really know how to fly a plane at all. 

He managed to talk his way out of the disaster, and Haile Selassie awarded him the Order of Menelik, a spectacular red-and-green enamelled cross on a brilliant yellow ribbon. However, Ethiopia tragically proved no match for Mussolini's mechanized modern army, and Julian was forced to retire. 

During the Second World War which followed, Julian challenged Air Marshall Hermann Goering, the chief of Hitler's Luftwaffe, to an aerial duel over the Channel, saying that the Nazis had insulted the black races unforgivably, and offering to settle the matter like gentlemen, in fighter planes. Goering did not respond to the challenge. 

Julian followed this with a scheme to raise an army of Negro pilots, nurses and doctors, 'The Friends of France,' to assist the French in their war against the Nazis. France, he said, was among the few European nations to have treated the black peoples with kindness. 

Julian recommended that every Negro volunteer should receive French citizenship and a degree from the Sorbonne. This proposal, like so many others, failed to win approval. 

The Black Eagle gave up aviation after the war but found his metier as an arms dealer during the 1960s and 1970s, selling munitions to various states in South America and Africa. He remained a controversial figure until his death in 1983 at the age of eighty-six. The enduring memory he leaves is of a magnificent swashbuckler who inspired a generation of Black pilots. 

About the Author

Marius Gabriel served his author apprenticeship as a student at Newcastle University, where, to finance his postgraduate research, he wrote thirty-three steamy romances under the pseudonym Madeleine Kerr. Gabriel is the author of several historical novels, including the bestsellers The Designer, The Seventh Moon, The Original Sin, and the Redcliffe Sisters series: Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye and Take Me To Your Heart Again. Born in South Africa, he has lived and worked in many countries including Italy and Spain, and now divides his time between London and Cairo.

Huge thanks to Marius for spending time with us today and for this fascinating guest post.

Twitter @Scribbler4Bread #TheOceanLiner

Do visit the other blog tour stops for more exciting content

The Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel is published by Lake Union Publishing on 20th March.

What's it all about 


In September 1939, cousins Masha and Rachel Morgenstern board the SS Manhattan bound for New York, leaving behind everything – and everyone – they know in war-torn Europe. America offers a safe haven, but to reach it they must survive an Atlantic crossing fraught with the danger of German U-boats and their lethal torpedoes, 

Their only distraction from peril is the drama of life on board. Among their fellow passengers are the composer Igor Stravinsky, making a new start after a decade of personal tragedy; and Rose Kennedy, wife of the US ambassador to London, determined to keep her four young children from harm. And then there’s Thomas, a young Nazi with a secret ... 

All 1,500 passengers on board are hoping to find a bright future at the end of their perilous journey. But as they discover, fate is not smiling upon them all. 

Thoroughly researched, The Ocean Liner is a fictionalised portrayal of some of the true stories from The Golden Age of the Ocean Liner, and sensitively pays tribute to some of true tragedies of the period. From the destruction of the SS Athenia, the heroics of Commodore Albert ‘Rescue’ Randall, to the events that changed Rose Kennedy’s life forever, Gabriel brings to life a cast of refugees escaping WW2.


Thursday, 15 March 2018

Author Spotlight...Lorna Gray

I am delighted to introduce the author

Hi Lorna, welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for spending time with us today.. Will you explain to us a little more about the plot of The War Widow without giving too much away?

Harper Impulse
22 March 2018

Absolutely - no spoilers here! The War Widow is a sequel to 1940s adventure In the Shadow of Winter. It is about identity, courage and self belief. Danger stalks the coastline of Wales while the bells of a Royal Wedding peel out to the fading echoes of war.

Labelled a hysterical, grieving divorcee in the wake of her ex-husband’s death, no one will believe heroine Kate Ward is being pursued by two violent men demanding answers she cannot give. Not the police, not the guests at the Aberystwyth hotel, and certainly not the reclusive war-veteran-turned-crime-novelist, Adam Hitchen, a reserved widower who is the only source of kindness in a shadowy world of suspicion and fear. 

As ghosts old and new rise to haunt her, Kate must rely on all her strength and courage to uncover the shocking truth hidden within a twisted web of lies.

Kate is the main protagonist of The War Widow. Tell us about her and why you decided to tell her story?

Kate is wonderful. She isn’t an extrovert but she’s steadfast. For me there is no more proof of her bravery than in the way she faces her most personal challenge of all - the question of who she is set against the way other people perceive her. 

When things get a bit tricky in the wake of her ex-husband’s apparent suicide, Kate finds herself feeling very isolated because it’s not just the underlying mystery that is dangerous. In the year or so since the divorce, Kate’s been trying to start again but now she’s in a position of having to depend upon other people’s judgement once more. And they are so busy making assumptions about her that they start taking charge in a very wrong way. This feeling of powerlessness is I think one of those fearsomely dangerous moments in a test of self-belief. It’s also a wonderfully romantic way to meet Adam - it takes a man like him to perceive Kate’s oft-underestimated inner resolve and decide, despite the odds, to help her. 

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. Do they ever dictate how the story progresses or do you stick with a writing plan from the beginning and never deviate?

I’m the sort of author who maps out the basic narrative and swiftly finds that the characters start dictating their own actions. I find it quite funny really when I set out to write a scene a certain way only to discover about half way through that one of the characters is letting me know quite plainly that they simply wouldn’t behave that way. It’s great actually. It’s the moment I know they’re not just mannequins on a page.

Location seems to play a major part in your novels. Can you tell us why you decided to set The War Widow mainly in Aberystwyth?

I know and love Aberystwyth from my years there as an art student. These days I live near Cirencester and it was in a local charity shop window that I found my inspiration for this book. It came in the form of the chance discovery of a 1925 Guide to Aberystwyth (complete with instructions on where to catch one’s charabanc). The guidebook united my memory of life in Aberystwyth with my new life in Cirencester. It made me think about how much my heroine might try to reinvent herself after the end of a relationship and how certain elements of the past might quite simply refuse to let her go.

The War Widow is your second post war novel. What makes this era attractive to you?

To be frank, my original inspiration came from a conversation I had with a next door neighbour. He’s in his eighties now and was in his teens at the end of the war. He started talking about the years of recovery and change and I realised just how abruptly my education had stopped with the final days of the war. WWII is naturally a period that vastly influences the world I know today but the time that came afterwards is almost as important because this was when an awful lot of people had to deal with what had happened to the life they knew and attempt to build a new idea of normality for themselves. Everybody’s idea of what constitutes ‘normality’ is so different, I think it’s the most evocative era for an adventure.

And finally , what do you hope that readers will take away from The War Widow?

I hope you’ll love Kate and Adam as much as I do, and the era and the mystery and danger. I also hope you’ll begin to spot the fine threads that run from one book to the next. And please get in touch with me on Facebook or Twitter. It’s lovely to talk!

 The War Widow by Lorna Gray

More about Lorna can be found on her website

Follow on Twitter @MsLornaGray

Huge thanks to Lorna for being our special guest today

Thank you for sharing your writing with us, Jaffa, Timmy and I wish you continued success.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Review ~ Bring Me Back by B A Paris

8 March 2018

My thanks to the Publishers, Lovereading and Netgalley for my copy of this book

When Finn’s girlfriend, Layla, goes missing on their journey home from a skiing holiday in France, the finger of suspicion falls on him, but twelve years later and with no further clues to Layla’s disappearance, Finn has moved on, but then, strange things start to happen which upsets the balance of Finn’s ordered life.

What then follows is an exciting page-turner which has all the hallmarks of this author’s exceptional writing. Her meticulous attention to the connection between people, and her fine observation of human frailty, is captured in this emotional story, which is rich in detail and alive with malice. The multiple story strands, which move backwards and forwards in time, gradually reveal a dark story of lies and deceit and as we get further into the nitty-gritty of the story, so the chill levels start to rise.

I raced through Bring Me Back at top speed as the concise chapters lend themselves to speedy reading. And as the story evolves, so the need to know more about what’s going to happen next gets more and more gripping. Over the course of the book, I tried to second guess where the plot was taking me, only to have it veer off in a completely unexpected direction.

There is no doubt that this talented author has captured the domestic noir genre to perfection and her ability to control a complicated plot whilst holding the reader’s attention, from start to finish, is to her credit.

Bring Me Back is a taut and tight psychological thriller with more than enough suspense to keep you guessing from beginning to end.

I read Bring Me Back for the Love Reading Review Panel which you can find by clicking here

About the Author

B. A. Paris Book and Novel

B A Paris grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked both in finance and as a teacher and has five daughters. Bring Me Back is her third novel.

Twitter @BAParisAuthor #ForgetSleep #BringMeBack

@HQstories @Lovereadinguk

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Review ~ The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths

8 February 2018

In this, the tenth, book in the Ruth Galloway series of mysteries, The Dark Angel, sees Ruth away from her beloved Norfolk. On the invitation of an old flame she is is invited to act as a consultant on an archaeological discovery in the pretty Italian town of Castelli degi Angeli, which is about an hour's drive from Rome. Ruth's fleeting romantic association with archaeologist, Angelo Morrelli, was over twelve years ago, so when she gets his phone call asking for her advice on a difficult case, she is at first reluctant to get involved. However, the idea of getting away from Norfolk is an attractive proposition, and using this consultancy work as an excuse for a holiday, Ruth travels with her daughter, Kate, and her friend Shona, with her little boy, Louis.

From the start all is not as it seems at Castelli degi Angeli and as Ruth gets drawn further and further into the mystery surrounding the archaeological discovery, so she realises that there is far more to this investigation than Angelo Morrelli is admitting.

It was interesting in this tenth anniversary story to take Ruth out of her comfort zone and place her in an environment which allowed her to work without the usual background of a wild and windswept Norfolk. However, Ruth's natural ability to get things moving is just as creative in Italy, as it is back at home, and I didn't feel that the story lost anything by taking it to a different location.

I read through The Dark Angel at top speed, always eager to see where the story will lead and it's not always the crime aspect of the investigation which grabs my attention, often, it's more the interaction between the other characters which I enjoy the most, especially around Ruth's complicated relationship with DCI Harry Nelson. So, even though Ruth may be away from Norfolk, there is still quite a bit of complicated stuff happening back at home, which undoubtedly adds a different dimension to the story. There's a bit of a surprise in this book which I didn't see coming, and which shakes things up a lot ,and whilst I can't give the game away, it did sort of startle me a little, as I hoped that this particular aspect of the story would gather momentum.

The writing is, as always,  sharp and beautifully observed, and the complex relationship which has been created between these well loved characters continues to be the absolute strength of the series. I have grown really fond of everyone, and hope to see Ruth Galloway and her mysteries continue for another ten ...or more years.

Of course, it must be said that if you are new to the series, and if so, wherever have you been for the last ten really should start these books from the very beginning. You won't be disappointed.

Elly Griffiths was born in London. She worked in publishing for many years. Her bestselling series of Dr Ruth Galloway novels, featuring a forensic archaeologist are set in Norfolk.The series has won the CWA Dagger in the library, and has been shortlisted three times for the Theakston's Old Peculiar Crime Novel of theYear. Her Stephens and Mephisto series is based in 1950s Brighton. She lives near Brigton with her husband and their two children.

Twitter @ellygriffiths 

Monday, 12 March 2018

Author Spotlight ~ Joanne Nicholson

I am delighted to welcome author Joanne Nicholson to the blog today

I’m thrilled to be featured on Jaffareadstoo today. I’m Joanne Nicholson, an Australian indie author of contemporary women’s fiction.

There is no better feeling than to sit down and allow the creative juices to start flowing when an idea for a story has been buzzing around in your head for a while. Writing is a solitary act, but when you have the adoration of a pet nearby it doesn’t seem like such a lonely pursuit.

Those familiar with this blog will know that Jaffa and Timmy are well read bookish cats that keep an eye on Jo’s reading and blog writing. Similarly, I have a lap warmer who keeps me company when I write. My cavoodle puppy Tilly is either sitting on my lap or curled up by my side whenever I read or write.

I was once told to read my dialogue out loud to myself when writing to see how well it flows. I don’t look half as mad doing that when I have my dog by my side to listen (who am I kidding, of course I do, but it’s in the privacy of my own home so it doesn’t matter).

The other advantage of writing with a pet by my side is that she forces me to periodically take breaks, either to take her for a walk or at least to stretch my legs and put her outside. This makes the world of difference to how my back feels after an intense session of writing where I’m sitting in the same position for hours on end.

When writing my latest novel ‘Positive’ it was comforting to have my dog Tilly by my side as I began exploring the pain of my main character Ruth as she went from planning an engagement, to the sudden realisation that she had been dumped and would have to start looking for love once more. In ‘Positive’, Ruth has her heart set on becoming a mother and being in her mid-thirties, feels her time is running out. After multiple online dating disasters, Ruth contemplates IVF as an option to become a mother without a partner. She leaves no stone unturned in her quest to become pregnant and is thrilled and shocked when she gets her positive test result. Her caring friends provide a supportive network to help her through her rollercoaster of emotions as she becomes accustomed to her new reality.

I’m thankfully very happily married with four kids and a cute dog, so this story is by no means autobiographical. I think everyone has a time in their lives when they have a ‘sliding doors’ moment when they consider what life would have been like had they made different choices along the way. Would I have been content with being single without children, or would I have moved mountains to make sure I was a mother, regardless of whether it was on my own?  I guess the beauty of writing is that you can explore the thoughts and feelings of alternate lives, without having to leave the comfort of the life you lead. Writing ‘Positive’ definitely made me feel grateful for having never had to endure an awkward online date or having to consider alternate technology to make sure I could have a baby. I know plenty of people who have had their own struggles with these scenarios and my heart goes out to them.

If you are interested in reading ‘Positive’, it is available for purchase at Amazon, together with my other contemporary women’s fiction novels ‘In Another Life’ and ‘Intuition’.

31360758 25822299

Feel free to follow me on social media (you may even get a sneak peek of Tilly from time to time):

Twitter: @jolnicholson

Instagram: joannenicholsonauthor

Facebook: Joanne Nicholson Author

 Huge thanks to Joanne and Tilly for being our special guests today

Thank you for sharing your writing with us, Jaffa, Timmy and I wish you continued success.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

Ordinary Lives of the First World War

Mothering Sunday 

The Mother


May Herschel-Clarke


If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.

If you should die, think only this of me
In that still quietness where is space for thought,
Where parting, loss and bloodshed shall not be,
And men may rest themselves and dream of nought:
That in some place a mystic mile away
One whom you loved has drained the bitter cup
Till there is nought to drink; has faced the day
Once more, and now, has raised the standard up.
And think, my son, with eyes grown clear and dry
She lives as though for ever in your sight,
Loving the things you loved, with heart aglow
For country, honour, truth, traditions high,
--Proud that you paid their price.

(And if some night Her heart should break--well, lad, you will not know)

May Hershel Clarke was an English poet better known for her anti-war poems.
The Mother was published in 1919 in direct response to  Rupert Brookes very famous sonnet
The Soldier.

For Mothers today and every day


they are always our sons and daughters.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Cursed Wife by Pamela Hartshorne

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...Elizabethan England

8 March 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

“Sometimes I forget that I am cursed”, says Mary as she wakes to the pitter patter of rain on the roof of her merchant’s house, on Little Wood Street, in the Elizabethan city of London. And as her household stirs on this ordinary day in March, 1590, Mary puts on her shift and begins the day that will change her life forever.

Beautifully written and wonderfully evocative of the mean, and often, dangerous time period of Elizabethan England, The Cursed Wife is ultimately the story of two women, each with a thirst for self-preservation, and who have been so viciously hurt by the circumstances of their lives, that nothing, and no-one, can stop the momentum of their deadly downward spiral.

Filled with scurrilous gossip, dark innuendo and the creeping power of superstition, parts of The Cursed Wife made my blood run cold, and such is the richness of the story telling that I felt as though I occupied a privileged position in the household on Little Wood Street, quietly waiting, with Peg the doll on my lap, and fearfully watching, as the story begins.

The mystery at the heart of the story is sharp and precise and, as the unease drifts and lingers, there gathers about it a vibrant sort of energy which has its roots in darkness and vengeance, and which tells of the ruthlessness of ambition and of lives which been ruined by a deadly game of chance.

The Cursed Wife is something of a change of direction for the author as her previous novels have had some element of time slip about them, however, this story is very firmly placed in one time frame, and it is in this complex and convoluted Elizabethan mystery where the real strength of the story lies. 

Deeply disturbing and deliciously moody, The Cursed Wife is one of those fabulous stories which lingers long after the last page is turned.

Pamela Hartshorne is a historian as well as an award winning romance writer. She lives in York and continues to draw inspiration from her PhD research to write about the 16th century, in fact and fiction, Time's Echo, her first novel written under her real name, was shortlisted for awards on both sides of the Atlantic.

Twitter @PamHartshorne #TheCursedWife

Friday, 9 March 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on The Dark Lake Blog Tour

Atlantic Books
1 March 2018

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

What's it all about...

A hot summer. A shocking murder. A town of secrets, waiting to explode...A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses. Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before. But that's not all Gemma's trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim's past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried. The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths...

My Thoughts about it...

The small Australian town of Smithson is rocked to its core when one of the local high school teachers is found dead in mysterious circumstances. Rosalind Ryan is a popular teacher, her pupils love her and her recent school theatre production of a reworking of Romeo and Juliet has been the high spot of her career. When local detective, Sergeant Gemma Woodstock arrives to investigate the murder she finds rather more than she bargained for, as the victim is well known to her, as Rosalind and Gemma were once pupils at the very same high school.

What then follows is a tense crime thriller which looks at the murder investigation in some detail and which also explores the emotional aspect of the connection between Rosalind and Gemma. Their combined secrets are buried deep and it takes a while before their connection starts to surface but when it does, the direction the story takes becomes darker and darker.

The Dark Lake is one of those suspenseful crime stories which makes you really think about what's happening and the twists and turns in the plot are well designed to keep you guessing. However, quite a lot of the story is taken up with the details of Gemma's life, and her complicated relationships sometimes take centre stage rather more than the murder investigation.This is no criticism, as the details of Gemma's rather complex life are finely intertwined with that of the town and its people.

The author writes well and certainly knows how to crank up the tension and whilst there are little clues dropped into the narrative, they're very subtle and interesting to observe. I enjoyed the flipping back and forth of the time frame which gives insight into the real background of the story which I can't say too much about but it all blends in very well.

There is no doubt that The Dark Lake is a remarkably accomplished debut novel and, as it's the first book in a proposed crime series, it certainly gets everything off to a very good start. 

An author to watch, I think.

Sarah’s first novel, The Dark Lake, was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in May 2017 and in the USA and Canada in October. Sarah lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Sarah’s second book, Into The Night, featuring Detective Gemma Woodstock, will be published in 2018.

Twitter @sarahbailey1982 #TheDarkLake


Do visit the other stops on the Blog Tour


Thursday, 8 March 2018

Review ~ All Day At The Movies ~ Fiona Kidman

Aadvark Bureau
8 March 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

All Day at the Movies is published today in the UK to mark International Women's Day

What's it all about ..

When war widow Irene Sandle goes to work in New Zealand’s tobacco fields in 1952, she hopes to start a new, independent life for herself and her daughter – but the tragic repercussions of her decision will resonate long after Irene has gone.

Each of Irene’s children carries the events of their childhood throughout their lives, played out against a backdrop of great change – new opportunities emerge for women, but social problems continue to hold many back. Headstrong Belinda becomes a successful filmmaker, but struggles to deal with her own family drama as her younger siblings are haunted by the past.

A sweeping saga covering half a century, this is a powerful exploration of family ties and heartbreaks, and of learning to live with the past.

My thoughts about it...

All Day at the Movies is a story of many parts which has a foothold in the past whilst also taking the story forwards into the future. Starting in 1952 with a sad and rather uncomfortable story about Irene Sandle and her daughter Jessie. Trying to build a new life as a post-war widow is not easy for Irene and in order to find work and a safe place to live she and her daughter must travel to Motueka to eke out an existence picking tobacco. The consequences of Irene's actions at this time will reverberate throughout the next half century.

I was completely mesmerised by this story and enjoyed the way the author interlinked everything, sometimes in tenuous ways, and quite often in directions I didn't see coming. Intelligently written and acutely observed it looks at way that families, often against their better judgement, are linked together and not always in a good and meaningful way.

This is one of those quietly confident stories which, in a no nonsense kind of way, gets on with the business at hand. Beautiful written by an author who has a unique and often succinct way of telling the story, it neither glorifies nor condemns the actions of those who have been damaged by the circumstances of their lives.

All Day at the Movies, whilst not exclusively about women, gives us an understanding of the difficulties that women face in circumstances often not of their own choosing.

Fiona Kidman is a leading contemporary novelist, short story writer and poet. Much of her fiction is focused on how outsiders navigate their way in narrowly conformist society. She has published a large and exciting range of fiction and poetry, and has worked as a librarian, producer and critic. Kidman has won numerous awards, and she has been the recipient of fellowships, grants and other significant honours, as well as being a consistent advocate for New Zealand writers and literature. She is the President of Honour for the New Zealand Book Council, and has been awarded an OBE and a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to literature.

Amazon UK

Gallic Books @BelgraviaB

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Review ~ Poems for a World Gone to Sh*t...

8 March 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
What's it about...

When it feels like the world is falling apart around you, things can seem pretty f**ked. But even the greatest poets past and present have also lived through sh*t times. And you know what? Just like us they felt f**ked off about the way the world was going - and they wrote about it in poems that show no matter how bad things might seem, you're not alone.

In Poems in a World Gone to Sh*t you will find inspiration to guide you on a journey from feeling what the f**k and that first instinct to just get the f**k away from it all, to getting some peace and perspective before being empowered to do something about this sh*t- and finally realising that life can be pretty damn beautiful.

My Thoughts..

A good poetry book is like an emotional first aid kit with a little bit of everything thrown in to make you feel better. When you are hurting poetry can take you to places deep within yourself, it can make you feel instantly better, or it can wrench buckets full of emotion from you until you are left feeling completely wiped out. 

Such are the power of words that they really can help you through some pretty rough times. Equally though, poetry can also be uplifting and can inspire, amaze and open up your mind to all that is good in your world.

Poetry from the great and the good are included in this well put together anthology. Some by famous poets, others from poets not so well known, but all with an emphasis on making you stop and consider what's really important.

Here are a few of my favourites:

The Songs I had ...Ivor Gurney
On Children ...Khalil Gibran
From to Jane : The Invitation ...Percy Bysshe Shelley
The oldest reason in the world... Gil Scott Heron

There's lots more wonderful verse, from the traditional to the contemporary, and there's definitely something to suit every mood and every occasion.

Poems for a World Gone to Sh*t make you think, they make you smile and ultimately, they make you realise that when you stop and think about it, the world isn't such a bad place after all.

Poems for a World Gone to Sh*t is published on the 8 March by Quercus

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Review ~ The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

8 March 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

I've never been fond of fortune telling. That people should deliberately seek out the knowledge of what is to come, always feels to me, a bit like tempting fate, but for the Gold siblings the idea of finding out about their future is pretty much all they can think about when they enter the dirty tenement building in New York's Lower East Side. When they are given a momentous piece of information, the repercussions reverberate and change the course of their lives forever.

The novel is nicely divided into sections so that each of the siblings have the chance to tell their own story and yet, it is the pull of their shared connection as a family which helps to give the story its momentum. I enjoyed getting to know the finer points of their lives and of course, wondered just how everything would play out in the finer context of them knowing what they know. I'm being deliberately vague about what they find out from the fortune teller in 1969, although what they are told comes very quickly at the start of the novel !

The Immortalists is one of those satisfying stories which pulls you in slowly and, in soft and subtle ways, makes you stop and consider the consequences of what happens when you simply know too much...

Chloe Benjamin is the author of THE IMMORTALISTS, a New York Times Bestseller, #1 Indie Next Pick for January 2018, Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection, #1 Library Reads pick, and Amazon Best Book of the Month.

Her first novel, THE ANATOMY OF DREAMS (Atria, 2014), received the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize.

Her novels have been translated into over twenty-three languages. A graduate of Vassar College and the M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Wisconsin, Chloe lives with her husband in Madison, WI

Twitter @chloekbenjamin #The Immortalists

Monday, 5 March 2018

Blog Tour ~ When I Grow Up by Patricia Asedegbega

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host the first day of the blog tour for When I Grow Up

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

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

What's it all about...

"You need a plan B," said Alicia’s mother when at five years old she told her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Thirty odd years later, Alicia is on plan D: sharing a flat, no tangible savings, and working for hateful Julia, whose sole purpose in life is to make her existence utterly miserable. Good thing she has Oscar and the girls to make the long hours at work bearable. But when a series of events tears the close-knit group apart, putting friendships and motives under suspicion, will Alicia be able to restore balance and set things right? More importantly, will she ever be able to upgrade her life to at least plan C?

My thoughts...

Alicia works as a corporate personal assistant to the brilliant lawyer, Julia, at the law firm Fernandez & Associates. Her work is busy but humdrum and her relationship with Julia is fraught with difficulties, but Alicia has good friends amongst the rest of the corporate assistants and together they have a good moan about their work and what's going in the office. When something bad happens to one of the associates, Alicia and her colleagues try to discover just what's going on and who in the office is playing a devious game plan.

I enjoyed this story of office intrigue and I think that the author has done a good job of bringing the characters, with all their faults and failings, to life.  I think anyone who has ever worked in an office will see similarities among the intrigue and gossip and how, when something unexpected happens, work colleagues can either draw closer together, or be pushed apart, as friendships are spoiled by suspicion and doubt.

The author knows how to tell a good story. Her characterisation is lively and the Spanish setting feels nicely contemporary, and even though I didn't find some of her characters particularly likeable, I did enjoy trying to figure out just what made them act in the way they did. I especially enjoyed seeing Alicia and her friend, Ebele's reaction to the exclusive dinner club they go to with the enigmatic, Alejandro. The food descriptions were lovely, especially the Japanese Matsutake mushrooms with white truffle sauce and lobster, which made me feel quite hungry 😊

The overall presentation of the book is quite quirky and once I was used to the different style of font, it could be Comic Sans, I really enjoyed the informal feel of the text.

This is my first book this author and I would definitely be interested in reading more of her work.

Author of I stand corrected, When I grow up..., Rewind, Balou uncensored, Bienvenidos a gatos anónimos, Pasarse cuatro Pueblos and Sesenta segundos dan para mucho, Patricia Asedegbega Nieto was born to a Spanish mother and a Nigerian father in Madrid. As a child, she relocated with her family to Nigeria and later returned to Spain, where she acquired her BSc and master´s degree. She is currently living near Madrid with her family and her very stubborn cat, Merlin Mojito.

Twitter @Patricias_Space #WhenIGrowUp 

Blog Tour runs until the 14th March - do visit the other stops for more exciting content