Saturday, 23 June 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Prince of Mirrors by Alan Robert Clark

On Hist Fic Saturday 

Let's go back to ...Victorian England

Fairlight Books
7 June 2018

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

Prince Albert Victor, known as Eddy, is the grandson of Queen Victoria, and the heir presumptive to the British throne. Eddy is a quiet and sensitive soul, often overshadowed by his more rambunctious younger brother, George, and completely at odds with his philandering father, Bertie. Never quite sure of his place in the world but with the weight of future responsibility lying heavily on his young shoulders Eddy finds the strength of purpose he needs in his relationship with the man appointed as his tutor at Eton. The charismatic, Jem Stephens, is everything that Eddy strives, and wants to be, and yet, this close relationship is also filled with a powerful sense of destiny.

Moving between locations in London and Norfolk, the world of the nineteenth century aristocrat is brought sharply into focus. As a young man, Eddy moves, almost aimlessly, amongst society, and as he struggles to come to terms with his sexuality, so society eventually starts to dictate how Eddy should behave. His entrée into the clandestine world of Victorian homosexuality is explored in some detail where it is debatable whether any of the, sometimes sordid, relationships he embarked upon brought him any degree of happiness.

The Prince of Mirrors is an interesting combination of weaving together a fictional tale alongside what is known in history. Of course, there is speculation about Prince Albert Victor, as some of the more lurid gossip of the time tried, and it must be said, failed to pin the Whitechapel murders, more associated with Jack the Ripper, on Prince Eddy. That the Prince moved in the secretive world of homosexual London is also the subject of conjecture, however, his close association with Jem Stephens is certainly based on factual evidence.

The author succeeds in bringing into focus the vagaries of Victorian morals whilst at the same time bringing this rather forlorn Prince to life and although there were times when I felt that the story appeared a little disjointed in places, overall this didn’t detract from my enjoyment in reading, and learning more about, Prince Albert Victor, The Prince of Mirrors.

Alan Robert Clark was born and educated in Scotland. He briefly attended King's College in London, before starting his career as a copywriter and creative director with a number of leading London advertising agencies. With a background in journalism, Alan has ghost written and co-authored a number of biographies and has one previous novel. Alan now works as a freelance writer.


Twitter @FairlightBooks


Friday, 22 June 2018

Blog Tour - The Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The Hidden Bones

21st June 2018
Clare Hills #1

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

What's it all about..

Following the recent death of her husband, Clare Hills is listless and unsure of her place in the world. When her former university friend Dr David Barbrook asks her to help him sift through the effects of deceased archaeologist Gerald Hart, she sees this as a useful distraction from her grief. During her search, Clare stumbles across the unpublished journals detailing Gerald’s most glittering dig. Hidden from view for decades and supposedly destroyed in an arson attack, she cannot believe her luck. Finding the Hungerbourne Barrows archive is every archaeologist’s dream. Determined to document Gerald’s career-defining find for the public, Clare and David delve into his meticulously kept records of the excavation. 

But the dream suddenly becomes a nightmare as the pair unearth a disturbing discovery, putting them at the centre of a murder inquiry and in the path of a dangerous killer determined to bury the truth for ever.

What did I think about it..

The Hidden Bones is a new series of novels which feature archaeologist, Clare Hills. Putting her expert knowledge of archaeology and ancient archaeological site sites to good use the author has written a fascinating multi-layered story about what happens when the past comes back to haunt those who were once involved in the controversial Hungerbourne Barrows archaeological dig. Even decades later the lure of this ancient site continues to intrigue and when missing archive material is found the past is, once again, opened up to question.

The story starts off slowly and then, with careful consideration, each of the layers are stripped away to reveal a dark mystery which, whilst caught up in the here and now, is also hauntingly linked to the long buried secrets of the ancient landscape. However, the shadows of past are not going to lie quietly, and Clare and the rest of the archaeology team soon discover that someone, or something, is hell bent on trying to prevent them from getting any closer to the truth. As with all new series there is a certain amount of getting to know the characters involved and I especially enjoyed the interaction between the lead archaeologist, Dr David Barbrook and Clare, who have a certain amount of personal history between them, and quirky, osteo-archaeologist, Jo Granski, who added a real sense of vibrancy and enthusiasm to the team.

As the first book in a series, The Hidden Bones works well and the author’s knowledge of the subject gives the story such an authentic feel that I was soon involved in trying to piece together all the clues. There are some clever twists and turns which I didn’t see coming and the complex nature of the mystery at the heart of the novel is both entertaining and intriguing.

There is certainly huge potential for this series and I look forward to seeing where the archaeologists will go in future stories.

Nicola Ford is the pen name for rcheologist Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for  the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage site. Through her day-job and now her writing, she's spent more time than most people thinking about the dead.

Twitter @nic_ford #TheHiddenBones


Thursday, 21 June 2018

Review ~ Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

3 May 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

What's it all about..

Jen's 15-year-old daughter goes missing for four agonizing days. When Lana is found, unharmed, in the middle of the desolate countryside, everyone thinks the worst is over. But Lana refuses to tell anyone what happened, and the police draw a blank. The once-happy, loving family return to London, where things start to fall apart. Lana begins acting strangely- refusing to go to school, and sleeping with the light on.

What did I think about it..

Every parent's worst nightmare is that their child goes missing but for Hugh and Jen Maddox this reality is all too true. As the story opens their fifteen-year old daughter, Lana, has just been found, relatively unharmed, but with nothing to say about where she has been over the frantic four days of her disappearance.

What then follows is a rather bleak story of a fractured family who struggle to come to terms with, not just, Lana's refusal to recall anything about her disappearance, but also, about her subsequent disruptive behaviour once she gets home. The way that this troublesome conduct affects the family is crucial to the way the story progresses and, whilst, it’s not always very easy to like Lana very much, there is no doubt that her unstable personality is what gives the book its drive and energy and certainly keeps the momentum of the story strong and meaningful. Lana’s volatile relationship with both parents, and particularly with her mother, is tested to the limits of everyone’s endurance, and it is to Hugh and Jen’s credit that they do their best to support this wild child who seems to push them away at every opportunity.

Whistle in the Dark is a perceptive dissection of a troubled family who seem to be constantly at odds with each other. The mystery of what happened to Lana during the four missing days is eventually revealed however what’s is more interesting is how the author gets us to that point and her fine dissection of family life is perhaps where the story sits most strongly.

The author writes this introspective novel very well and in Whistle in the Dark she so cleverly exposes the absolute anguish of mental health issues which can so easily fragment and eventually destroy family life. 

Emma Healey, a former bookseller, grew up in London where she went to art college and completed her first degree in bookbinding. She then worked for two libraries, two bookshops, two art galleries and two universities, and was busily pursuing a career in the art world before writing overtook everything. She moved to Norwich in 2010 to study for the MA in Creative Writing at UEA and never moved back again. Elizabeth is Missing, her first novel, was a Sunday Times Bestseller, won the Costa First Novel Award 2014 and was shortlisted for the National Book Awards Popular Fiction Book of the Year.

Twitter @ECHealey #whistleinthedark

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Review ~ Bodacious : The Shepherd Cat by Suzanna Crampton

Bodacious: The Shepherd Cat
Harper Element
Harper Collins
14 June 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Bodacious: The Shepherd Cat is the heart-warming and charming tale of Bodacious – the most famous farmyard animal since Babe – who tells us about life as the Shepherd Cat of Black Sheep Farm. It’s a beautifully written memoir which captures perfectly the highs and lows of idyllic country living, and all that it entails – early mornings, frosty starts, beautiful sunrises, adventurous rare-breed Zwartbles sheep, hard work, entertaining animals, mouth-watering food and the kind people you meet along the way.

Photograph by kind permission of the publishers

Written from the perspective of this extraordinary cat, his charming memoir takes us through a year of life on the farm; from Bodacious’ daily farm duties and shepherding adventures, to his unbreakable bond with the shepherd, Suzanna.

Photograph by kind permission of the publishers

My thoughts..

On Black Sheep Farm in County Kilkenny, with gentle fields that slope towards the River Nore, Bodacious the Shepherd Cat can be seen amongst the rare-breed black Zwartbles sheep which give the farm, not just its name but which also produce the rather special yarn from which the shepherd produces beautifully soft blankets.

Bodacious first came to Black Sheep Farm as an abandoned cat and quickly became accustomed to farm life, tending sheep, caring for the lady egg givers and generally making his presence felt amongst the other animals who call the farm home, and as the farm closed itself around Bodacious, so Bodacious lovingly wrapped himself around Black Sheep Farm becoming as one with its rhythms and routines.

This lovely look at a year in the adventurous life of Bodacious takes us through the seasons. From spring through to winter there is never a dull moment in the life of this intrepid farm cat, be it tending his flock, supervising lambing or patrolling against the ever present threat of foxes, what is always guaranteed is that he does so with lively wit and considerable charm.

The very essence of Bodacious is captured so beautifully that it becomes a real pleasure to turn the pages of this lovely book to see just what's going to happen next as he goes about his important farm business. His voice is strong and purposeful as he chivies and scolds and generally makes sure that everything is as good as it can possibly be. However, the book isn't just about Bodacious, although his magnificence shines through on every well written page, it's also a love story to Black Sheep Farm and to the shepherd, Suzanna, who cares so deeply for the land, its soil and its ancient footprint on the landscape.

Suzanna and Bodacious
Credit: Clement Gelly

Suzanna Crampton grew up in the USA but spent her summers at her grandparents’ small farm in Kilkenny, Ireland. She studied agricultural and environmental sciences at Sterling Institute in Vermont and returned to Kilkenny in 1997. She now lives on her family farm with her flock of Zwartbles sheep, alpacas, horses, chickens, dogs, and Bodacious, who strolled into her life 11 years ago.

Follow Bodacious on Twitter @1CatShepherd #ShepherdCat

Follow the author on Twitter @zwartblesIE



Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Forgotten Guide to Happiness by Sophie Jenkins

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to host today's stop on the blog tour for The Forgotten Guide to Happiness

26 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..

You can lose your memory, but you never forget how to love…

Lana Green has a talent for pushing people away. As a writer, she’s perfectly happy to be left alone with her books. But when she meets Jack Buchanan and Nancy Ellis Hall, Lana’s solitary life will change for ever.
Nancy has dementia, and social services believe this makes her vulnerable. But Lana can see the funny, brilliant woman underneath the illness.
As Lana and Jack struggle to keep Nancy out of a care home, Lana starts to question everything she ever thought mattered.
Because what’s the point in stories, if there is no one to share them with?

What did I think about it..

Lana is a struggling young writer who, after the success of her debut novel, is determined to get to grips with her difficult second novel. However, her home circumstances are conspiring against her and, as she takes stock of her life, so she gets drawn into the world of Jack Buchanan and his step mother, the renowned writer, Nancy Ellis Hall. Nancy's dementia is starting to become a problem but this strong-minded woman is determined to have control of her own life even though she really does need a little help. When Lana needs somewhere to live, in order to keep Nancy’s safe, the perfect solution is for Lana to move in with Nancy as her live-in helper. The quirky mixture of these two very different characters infuses such warmth and wit into the story that it’s a real pleasure to read of their exploits as they gradually get used to each other’s company.

This is a really lovely story about friendship and companionship which looks at the need we all have to be loved and understood. The characters are quite special, especially Jack, who takes on the role of Lana’s muse as she searches for the perfect hero for her novel. I loved the way that the author has included references to other writers within the story which adds a nice quirky touch and makes Lana’s journey as a writer all the more realistic. Nancy is such a strong character and so determined is she to have her voice heard that she, quite literally, leaps of the page. I found her story quite poignant, especially the way in which the dementia has taken hold of her, which is so sad, but also tremendously inspiring too, I admired Nancy's strength of spirit.

The Forgotten Guide to Happiness is beautifully written story which covers the progression of dementia in a really sensitive and positive way and which also shows that life, when we least expect it, can suddenly take a surprising turn for the better.

About the Author

Twitter @sophiejenkinsuk


Monday, 18 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ Her Mother's Secret by Rosanna Ley

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on Her Mother's Secret Blog Tour

14 June 2018

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

What's it all about..

For many years Colette has avoided returning to her homeland - the magical island of Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany - afraid to confront the painful memories she left behind. She is living on the Cornish coast when she hears about her mother Thea's failing health and realises that the time has come for her to go home. But can Colette ever forgive Thea for what she has done?

Despite Colette's wariness, romantic Belle-Île still fascinates her. She takes on the running of her mother's flower shop and makes friends with Élodie, from the Old Lighthouse where Thea once worked as a nanny, and with the enigmatic Étienne who shares Colette's mixed feelings about the island. As Thea opens up to her for the first time, Colette finds herself softening and being drawn back into the landscape of her past. But can Belle-Île also be a part of her future?

The ghosts of that past still linger. What happened all those years ago and how did it cause the rift between mother and daughter? It becomes clear that the beauty of Belle-Île hides a devastating family secret - one that Colette is determined to unravel at any cost.

My thoughts about it..

Colette returns to her childhood home on Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany, ostensibly, to look after her mother, Thea, who is terminally ill. This long postponed return brings back many memories for both Colette and her mother, as each of them have good reason to be wary of each other. Taking over the organisation of her mother's flower shop was never on Colette's agenda but as her mother starts to deteriorate so the languorous nature of the island begins to work its magic. Colette gets drawn deeper and deeper into a long buried secret which surrounds her mother's time on the island.

The author writes this multi-layered family drama really well and infuses such personality into her characters that you immediately start to care about what happens to them. I loved the gradual way the story unfolded so that when the secret is finally revealed, the characters have become so special that you really want everything to work out well for them all. I particularly looked forward to the different chapters as each was narrated by a different character who each have a very special role to play in the story.

Her Mother's Secret is such a strong character driven novel which really brings the story alive in the imagination and yet, it's not just about devastating family secrets, it's also a stunning tribute to Belle-Île-en-Mer and the people who call the place home. This is such a lovely summer read that I was quite enchanted by the story which is beautifully written by an author who really knows how to hold the reader in the palm of her hand.

About the Author

Rosanna Ley works as a creative tutor and has written many articles and stories for national magazines. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Spain and Italy. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives in West Dorset by the sea. Rosanna is available to write features and for interview opportunities.

Twitter @RosannaLey #HerMothersSecret #SummerReading



Sunday, 17 June 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered

Father's Day 

Of the 7.5 million men who volunteered to fight or were conscripted to fight in WW1, over 500,000 children lost their fathers, which was the largest loss of fathers in modern British history. 

At school the children were taught about what was happening in Europe and they were encouraged to help at home, especially if their mother's were involved in war work. Children would also organise egg collections, fundraising activities and wealthier children would invest in war loans to contribute their help to the war.

Pupils pay their weekly contributions into the War Savings Association in 1916 at Gibbons Road School, Willesden, London
© IWM (Q 30245)

Children were even used in propaganda posters to encourage men to join up

© IWM (Art.IWM PST 0311)


For all the fathers who were lost during WW1 and who never came home

Since they have Died

May Wedderburn Cannan

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

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

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle

On Hist Fic Saturday 

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the The Poison Bed

 Blog Tour

Michael Joseph
14 June 2018

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

What's it all about..

Autumn 1615. Celebrated couple Robert and Frances Carr are imprisoned in London on suspicion of murder.

SHE has been rescued from an abusive marriage by Robert, and is determined to make a new life for herself. Whatever the price …

HE has risen from nothing to become one of the country’s most powerful men. But to get to the top you cannot help making enemies …

Now a man is dead. And someone must pay with their life

Frances knows the truth can kill. Robert knows a lie can set you free. Neither understands their marriage is a poisoned bed …

What did I think about it..

Intrigue and treachery at the court of James I is rife, as it's a community built on lies and subterfuge, particularly amongst those who the King calls his 'favourites'. Robert Carr is one such favourite who holds a special place in the King's affection, that is, until Robert becomes besotted by the wily, and very beautiful, Frances Howard. Throughout the sixteenth century, the Howard family have never been far from scandal and controversy, and at the beginning of James I's reign, in the early seventeenth century, they are, once again, firmly ensconced at the very heart of court politics.

What then follows is the fictional account of the infamous scandal in which both Robert Carr and, by now, his wife, Frances Howard are implicated in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, a contemporary of Carr's, and a man with whom he shares many deadly secrets. The background to the events, which begin in 1615, with Carr and Howard’s imprisonment in the Tower of London, is told in their two very distinct voices, in which we get a fascinating interpretation, not just of the events which have led to the death of Thomas Overbury, but also of Frances’ early, and scandalous, marriage to Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex. 

Walking in the footsteps of this infamous couple takes us into a deadly world of poisoners and their poisons, to shadowy places where dark spells and enchantments prosper, and to those hidden corners where unscrupulous people scheme and plot until get what they want. 

Beautifully written and meticulously researched The Poison Bed is a fascinating story of murder, passion and politics at the very heart of the Jacobean court of King James I.

Elizabeth Fremantle is the critically acclaimed author of Queen's Gambit, Sisters of Treason, Watch the Lady and The Girl in the Glass Tower. She holds a First for her BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck. She lives in London.

Twitter @LizFreemantle #ThePoisonBed


Friday, 15 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Hanging Women by John Mead

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the The Hanging Women

 Blog Tour

The Book Guild
February 2018

My thanks to the author for my copy of the book and to Rachel's Random Resources
for my invitation to take part in this blog tour

What's it all about..

Jack Stevens discovers the bodies of two women, Philomena Blackstaff and Mary Walsh, tied together and hung by their ankles in a position resembling the symbol for treachery as depicted on tarot cards. Though retired and now wealthy, Stevens is an ex-sheriff and involves himself in the subsequent investigation.

As a result of Jack `stealing' Philomena's diary and his association with the Pinkerton detective agency, it is discovered that Mary Walsh worked undercover for the Pinkertons, investigating the Knights of Labour (the fastest growing workers' rights movements in America of the late 1800's). The women had been working together, tracing the man who was selling guns and dynamite to the more extremest factions of the workers movement. This led them to Ruby's, a secret `nightclub for deviants', where Stevens and Inspector O'Leary believe the pair fell foul of the man they were looking for, gang leader Joseph Mannheim.

With the May 4th Haymarket riots and bombings looming, Stevens must uncover the truth about The Hanging Women before it's too late.

My thoughts about it...

What an interesting historical thriller this turned out to be. Set in Chicago in 1886 we are immediately thrown into the mystery surrounding the discovery of two females who have died in the most horrific of circumstances. That the finder of the two women is Jack Stevens, an enigmatic ex- sheriff, who has more than enough skeletons in his own closet, makes the story all the more fascinating.

From the start of the novel, it becomes obvious that Stevens is a force to be reckoned with, superbly flawed, of course, and a man who is more comfortable with a glass of whisky in his hand than he is with people, but before the investigation is finished, his association with the great and the good of the city will lead him into some very dangerous situations.

The author writes this type of historical thriller with great enthusiasm, always keeping an eye on the plot and never allowing the overall grittiness to get in the way of telling a good story. The Hanging Women certainly packs a real punch and with more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, the story is an entertaining read from start to finish.

About the Author

John was born in the mid-fifties in Dagenham, London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub, he writes. His inspiration for his debut novel came whilst attending a lecture in Denver about the history of the American midwest, describing a time and place that was very different from that espoused by popular culture, which started him thinking this would make a excellent period in which to set a crime story. His book describes how Chicago was a prototype of much that we consider both good and bad in the current age, it had a vibrancy and decadence that allowed a few enterprising individuals to prosper whilst violence and intolerance held back many others. The situation for some African Americans and women was improving but it was still a time when to be anything other than white and male made you a second class citizen. The city was the manufacturing and transport hub of America, the vast influx of immigrants swelling its already booming population brought great wealth but also corruption and criminality. The midwest and Chicago typified a way of life, the ‘gun culture’ which is a euphemism for individualism, from which much of modern American social values have grown.

John is currently working on a trilogy of novels set in modern day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city: a Whitechapel noir.

Twitter @JohnMeadAuthor

Follow the tour on Twitter @rararesources

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Review ~ The Woman in the Wood by Lesley Pearse

Happy Paperback Publication  Day

14 June 2017

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

What's it all about..

Fifteen-year-old twins Maisy and Duncan Mitcham have always had each other. Until the fateful day in the wood . . .

One night in 1960, the twins awake to find their father pulling their screaming mother from the house. She is to be committed to an asylum. It is, so their father insists, for her own good.

It's not long before they, too, are removed from their London home and sent to Nightingales - a large house deep in the New Forest countryside - to be watched over by their cold-hearted grandmother, Mrs Mitcham. Though they feel abandoned and unloved, at least here they have something they never had before - freedom.

The twins are left to their own devices, to explore, find new friends and first romances. That is until the day that Duncan doesn't come back for dinner. Nor does he return the next day. Or the one after that.

When the bodies of other young boys are discovered in the surrounding area the police appear to give up hope of finding Duncan alive. With Mrs Mitcham showing little interest in her grandson's disappearance, it is up to Maisy to discover the truth. And she knows just where to start. The woman who lives alone in the wood about whom so many rumours abound. A woman named Grace Dev

My thoughts about it..

There's always something special about a new Lesley Pearse story and this, her twenty-fifth, novel is no exception. The Woman in the Wood gets off to a rather dark start when teenage twins, Maisy and Duncan Mitcham go to live with their curmudgeonly grandmother, who neither cares for them, or is interested in what they do with their time.  As Maisy and Duncan settle into their new environment, so they start go off independently, pursuing their own interests, making new friends and generally growing up. All is well, that is, until Duncan goes out on his bicycle and doesn't return home.

What then follows is a dark and disturbing story which looks right into the heart of a complicated family mystery. The more innocent time of the 1960s is perfectly recreated and the rather laissez-faire attitude of the police investigation certainly feels like it belongs to a less intrusive time, all of which makes the search for the missing boy all the more poignant.

As always, the author brings her characters to life in such a believable way that they literally jump off the page fully formed and ready for action,although it must be said that I liked some more than others. I felt an emotional connection to Maisy from the beginning, she's such a determined young girl, qick to action and not afraid to say what's on her mind. However, it is in the interaction of the other characters where the story really comes alive, particularly the scenes with Grace Deville, the eponymous Woman in the Wood.

There is no sign that this talented author is running out of ideas for novels and, most certainly, this twenty-fifth novel is right up there with the best of her stories. Long may they continue.

About the Author

Lesley Pearse

Visit the author's website

Visit on Facebook 

Follow on Twitter @Lesley Pearse 

#LoveLesley #TheWomanInTheWood

Blog Tour ~ The Reading Party by Fenella Gentleman

Happy Publication Day

Jaffareadstoo is excited to be hosting today's stop on the The Reading Party Blog Tour

Muswell Press
14 June 2018

My thanks to the author, publishers and Random Things Tours for my invitation to take part in this blog tour
and for my copy of the book

What's it all about..

It is the seventies and the colleges of Oxford are finally opening their doors to women. Sarah Addleshaw, young, spirited and keen to prove her worth, begins term as the first female academic at her college. She is in fact, her colleges only female Fellow. Impulsive love affairs with people, places and the ideas in her head beset Sarah throughout her first exhilarating year as a don, but it is the Reading Party, that has the most dramatic impact. Asked to accompany the first mixed group of students on the annual college trip to Cornwall, Sarah finds herself illicitly drawn to one of them, the suave American Tyler. Torn between professional integrity and personal feelings she faces her biggest challenge to date.

What did I think about it..

Sarah Addleshaw is the newly appointed history professor at an Oxford College, something we wouldn't make any remark over today, however, back in 1976, when the story begins, Sarah is the first women to be thus employed, and as such is treated as something of a curiosity. At the start of the Michaelmas term, along with one of her senior male colleagues, Sarah is given the task of choosing the first ever mixed group of students who will attend the annual reading party, an event, usually an all-male affair, which takes place in Cornwall during a week in March. With places in high demand, Sarah discovers that choosing the right combination of male and female students to make up the reading party, is no easy task.

The story then follows what happens during the group’s time in Cornwall, and it is in the curious combined dynamics of this reading group, with all their very different personalities, which allows the story to move forward at a lively pace. There is a definite tension to the group which comes, not just from putting together people from different social and cultural backgrounds, but also in way that circumstances dictate how, as a mixed group, they should, or perhaps, shouldn’t, behave. The reading party are certainly an interesting bunch of people, some with sparkling personalities, others with quirky idiosyncrasies, and yet, they all mingle together to make their interaction a fascinating study into the vagaries of human behaviour.

Intelligently written and with a real sense of time and place, the author certainly brings to life the rather cloistered atmosphere of an Oxford college. With skilful writing she takes us back to a time when academia was being pushed, forcibly, into a direction it would rather not travel to, but which, by necessity, had, eventually, to take place.

The Reading Party is a fascinating glimpse into a bygone time, travelling back to an era which is becoming ever more shadowy, and it is to the author's credit that she has recreated this time of change with such a fine eye for detail and a real sense of tradition.

Fenella Gentleman studied PPE at Wadham College, Oxford, when it went mixed. She participated in two reading parties in Cornwall. After graduating she worked in publishing, before moving into marketing and communications in the professions. She lives in London and North Norfolk.

Twitter @FGentleman #TheReadingParty



Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ Somewhere Beyond the Sea by Miranda Dickinson

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting the first stop on the 

Somewhere Beyond the Sea  Blog Tour

Somewhere Beyond the Sea is published on 14th June by Pan Macmillan in paperback, eBook and audiobook.

My thanks to the publishers and ed public relations for my invitation to be part of the blog tour and also for my copy of the book

 I am delighted to have the author, Miranda Dickinson, as my guest today to tell me a little more about Somewhere Beyond the Sea

©Miranda Dickinson

Miranda, welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Tell us a little about yourself. Have you always wanted to write and how did you get started?

I always wanted to write stories, from as soon as I realised you could make up your own. I remember asking my Mum, aged about five, if she thought our local library would put one of my books on their shelves – I think that was when I first started dreaming about being a writer! I wrote throughout my teens, but stopped for a while when a guy I fancied at college said he thought writing stories was childish (moral of this story: never listen to boys you fancy when you’re 18. They know nothing!) 

In my late twenties a friend gave me a dinosaur of an old PC and I started writing what eventually became my first novel, Fairytale of New York. It took me eight years to write, on and off, mainly because for a long time I didn’t realise I was writing a novel. Then I decided to be brave and put it on Authonomy – a website for unpublished writers that sadly is no more. Within a month an editor at HarperCollins contacted me, asking for the full manuscript. Then, two weeks later, they offered me a three-book deal! Five Sunday Times Bestselling novels later I was able to become a full-time writer and that’s what I do now. I feel very lucky!

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about Somewhere Beyond the Sea?

Somewhere Beyond the Sea is a love story, told from two characters’ perspectives – Seren MacArthur and Jack Dixon. Both of them have recently lost someone: Seren’s father has just passed away and left her trying to keep his seaside gallery in St Ives afloat; while Jack’s wife died seven months ago in a freak accident at work – she left him with their young daughter, Nessie, to look after and a financial mess that led to their home being repossessed. But their response to grief is very different. Seren is hurting and overwhelmed by what she’s been left with, Jack is angry and terrified he won’t be able to provide for his little girl. 

Without realising, they become connected with a game on Gwithian Beach, just around St Ives Bay from the town itself. Seren, who beachcombs seaglass pieces from local beaches to make jewellery in her spare time, finds a star shape on the beach made of seaglass with one of its points missing. She completes it with the pieces she has found. Then, that evening, Jack and Nessie return to the beach to check on the star they made the night before, only to find it complete. Making and completing the seaglass stars becomes a lovely game that lifts Seren and Jack from the worries of their lives and gives them hope – a little bit of magic in their day.

Then, they meet in real life – but it’s on opposing sides of a debate that threatens to split the community of St Ives. Seren is leading the campaign her father started to save a local landmark, while Jack is working for the developer who wants to turn it into luxury apartments. They don’t know the other is their secret starmaker and both believe strongly in their side of the debate. Who will win? And will they discover the truth about the seaglass stars on Gwithian Beach?

I wanted to write a real love story, told from two sides. As a reader I love it when I get an insight into a story that its protagonists don’t yet see – I think it’s fun to see something unfold from two sides. Will they meet? Will they miss? Love it! But I also wanted to write a real love story – about ordinary people and life in all its chaos and messiness and beauty. So the story takes in grief (and how it affects everyone differently), the challenges of living and working in a seaside location, the importance of community, respecting the past and looking to the future. But at its heart it’s a story of hope, of finding magic and joy where you least expect it.

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?

It doesn’t always happen that characters arrive immediately when I start writing a new book. Sometimes I have to hang out with them for a long time before I really understand what their story should be. With Somewhere Beyond the Sea, I wrote the first two chapters of the book to see if Seren and Jack worked – thankfully they appeared straight away and the opening chapters didn’t change between first draft and the finished book. That set the tone for the rest of the book, which was a lovely thing to happen. 

Jack and Nessie arrived with a bang in their first chapter (Chapter 2 in the book) and Jack’s voice was very strong. Seren took longer because just before I began writing the book in earnest my lovely Dad passed away after a short illness. Writing about a character who has lost a parent when it’s just happened to you in real life is surreal and difficult. So while it didn’t change the story – I pretty much knew what was going to happen and the characters let me stick to it – it probably changed my approach to how I wrote it. A lot of Jack’s scenes with Nessie were written early on, mostly because they were fun to write and I could fully immerse myself in their lovely relationship.

Which character in the story did you identify with the most?

Obviously Seren, for the reasons above. But I also identified with Jack and how he feels about being a parent. I have a four-year-old daughter, Florence, so a lot of the terror/joy/fun/fears Jack talks about chime with my experience of being Flo’s mum. I felt very much that Seren and Jack were like two sides of my personality: Seren for the inspiration she draws from the sea and beautiful St Ives and Jack for how he finds humour in every situation, no matter how scared he might be.

Somewhere Beyond the Sea is set in Cornwall. In researching the book did you visit any of the locations and did anything leave a lasting impression on you?

St Ives is my favourite place in the world and hugely important to my family, so I wanted to pour all my love for the town and Cornwall in general into this story. All the places named in the book are real and you can visit them, apart from a group of standing stones called The Maidens where Seren and her best friend Aggie have hung out since they were teenagers, and Bethel Parsonage, the local landmark Seren is trying to save. My favourite beach in St Ives is Porthmeor Beach, which is mentioned in the book. Our favourite ice cream parlour, Moomaid of Zennor, gets several mentions, as does my favourite bookshop, St Ives Bookseller. Gwithian Beach and Godrevy Lighthouse are very special to my husband Bob and his family, so that’s why Seren, Jack and Nessie make the seaglass stars there. I visited St Ives four times while writing this book and a lot of the scenes were written on the actual beaches they take place on and sitting in café’s in Fore Street, where Seren’s dad’s gallery MacArthur’s is located. It’s my love letter to St Ives and I hope it makes readers fall in love with this incredible place, too!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog and for your lovely questions!

Brightest wishes

Miranda xx

Miranda, thank you for being our guest today. It's been huge fun 😻

Here's what I thought about Somewhere Beyond the Sea..

This is such a lovely, lovely story that I was quite enchanted by Seren's and Jack's developing relationship and I found that I was eagerly looking forward to their individual stories which are told in alternate chapters, each giving a unique perspective into the way the story moves forward.

To say too much of what's going on in the whole of the story would be to give too much away and that would really spoil things. However, the difficulties that both Seren and Jack face feel all too real, especially Seren's financial worries over her arts and craft shop and the constant need to keep everything going well in order to honour her father's memory. Jack's obvious need to provide a secure future for himself and his young daughter, Nessie, adds a poignant, richness to the story, especially in Jack's dealings with the local people of St Ives as they fight to save one of their most cherished landmark buildings. It's safe to say that all the characters are brought to life in a really believable way, however, it was young Nessie, who stole my heart, she's quite simply adorable, wise beyond her years and such a force to be reckoned with that every time she appeared on the page she made smile.

Cornwall, in all its glory, comes beautifully alive so that I felt as if I walked the narrow streets of St Ives, or stopped to buy a strong coffee at Aggie's coffee hut on Porthgwidden Beach, but most of all I sat on on Gwithian Beach on the dawn of a spring morning and watched as Seren picked the most beautiful pieces of sea washed glass which are so much a part of this story.

Beautifully written with a strong story line and a stunning set of characters, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, is my perfect summer read. 

Twitter @wurdsmyth #Somewhere BeyondTheSea

@PanMacmillan #TeamSparkly


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ Love Will Tear Us Apart by Holly Seddon

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the  Love Will Tear Us Apart  Blog Tour

Atlantic Books
7 June 2018

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

What's it all about..

Fearing eternal singledom, childhood friends Kate and Paul make the age-old vow that if they don't find love by thirty, they will marry each other. Years later, with the deadline of their 30th birthdays approaching, the unlikely couple decide to keep their teenage promise. After all, they are such good friends. Surely that's enough to make a marriage? Now, on the eve of their 10th wedding anniversary, they will discover that love between men and women is more complex, and more precarious, than they could ever have imagined. As Kate struggles with a secret that reaches far into their past, will the couple's vow become the very thing that threatens their future?

My thoughts about it..

Kate and Paul have been friends since childhood, both are loners, but in each other they find that special something which has always been missing and which completes them. Kate's rather disjointed childhood, with an uncaring father and an indifferent mother, leaves its mark on her but she finds joy and a semblance of family life with Paul's family as the Loxton's offer Kate a respite when the world gets too much for her.  As they each enter into young adulthood, both Kate and Paul pursue different career paths but each remember the pact they made, that is, if they were both still single when they reached thirty, they would marry each other.

What then follows is a bitter sweet story about the complexities of the deep and abiding connection which can exist between good friends, especially when their relationship is based on childhood trust and, unfortunately, of what can happen when that trust seems to have been spoiled.

As always, this talented author gets rights into the nitty-gritty of what makes people tick and brings both Kate and Paul to life in a really believable way so that it becomes very easy to follow where the story leads.  Both are scarily realistic so that they could be people you know and care about and it is testament to this author's skill as a story teller that both Kate and Paul's individual stories never seek to outshine the other. I found that I was equally fond of both of them and wanted everything to work out well. I really enjoyed how everything moved so seamlessly between time frames, giving different perspectives, all of which add up to a really thought-provoking story, and one that stays with you long after the book is finished.

Holly Seddon is a full time writer, living slap bang in the middle of Amsterdam with her husband James and a house full of children and pets. Holly has written for newspapers, websites and magazines since her early 20s after growing up in the English countryside, obsessed with music and books. Her first novel TRY NOT TO BREATHE was published worldwide in 2016 and became a national and international bestseller.

Twitter @hollyseddon #lovewilltearusapart

Monday, 11 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ Mine by Susi Fox

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the Mine Blog Tour

14 June 2018

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

What's it all about ..

The baby in the cot is not your baby. 

You wake up alone after an emergency caesarean, desperate to see your child. But when you are shown the small infant, a terrible thought seizes you: this baby is not yours. 

They say you’re delusional. 

No one believes you. Not the nurses, your father or even your own husband. They say you’re confused, potentially dangerous. But you’re a doctor – you know how easily mistakes can be made. Or perhaps it isn’t a mistake? 

Everyone is against you; do you trust your instincts? Or is your traumatic past clouding your judgements? You know only one thing… 

You must find your baby.

Here's what I thought about it..

When Sasha Moloney wakes after an emergency cesarean section and is taken to see her newborn son, she convinced that the fragile baby she sees in the special care unit is not her child. Trying to convince the medical authorities of a possible mix-up proves impossible when even her husband, Mark, is absolutely convinced that the baby is his. What then follows is Sasha's downward spiral into  utter confusion which is brought on by the dreadful realisation that no-one believes her.

Mine is a very cleverly controlled psychological suspense story with characters who are so flawed that you are never quite sure where the truth, if any, is coming from. Sasha herself is such an emotionally rich character that my thoughts about her were constantly all over the place, sometimes I wanted her to leave well alone and accept what the medical professionals  were telling her, and then, at other times, I absolutely admired her tenacity and bravery when all around her were trying to convince her of her mental instability.

I read the story over the space of an afternoon, as once started it's one of those stories which is impossible to put down. The pace is fast and furious and cleverly divided into different time scales, so that we get the developing story from the perspective of both Sasha and Mark, and as the story continues we also get fascinating snippets into their individual backgrounds.

The author writes well and from her own background as a GP clearly understands the way the Australian medical system works which adds to the overall authenticity of the story. Mine is a cleverly, complex novel with more than enough twists, turns and red-herrings to keep you on the edge of your seat and with a corker of an ending which I, genuinely, didn't see coming.

There is no doubt that Mine is a very accomplished debut novel, but perhaps not a book to read if you have a baby due any time soon.

About the Author

Susi Fox live in Macedon Ranges with her family, where she works as a GP. She was part of the 2015 QWC/Hachette Manuscript Development Program and has been awarded a Varuna Fellowship and a QWC/Olvar Wood Mentorship for Mine. Susi is currently completing an Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT. Mine is her first novel.

Twitter @writerdrfox #Mine