Thursday, 20 September 2018

Review ~ The Antique Dealer's Daughter by Lorna Gray

Happy Paperback Publication Day

The Antique Dealer’s Daughter
Harper Impulse
20 September 2018

My thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for my e-copy of this book

What's it all about...

In the aftermath of war, Emily Sutton struggles to find her place in a world irrevocably changed by conflict. When she refuses to follow tradition and join her father’s antiques business – or get married – her parents send her for an ‘improving’ stay with her spinster cousin in the Cotswolds. But Emily arrives to find her cousin’s cottage empty and a criminal at work in the neighbourhood.

A deadly scandal still haunts this place – the death of John Langton, the rumour of his hoard of wartime spoils, leaving his older brother to bear the disgrace. Now, even as Emily begins to understand each man’s true nature, the bright summer sky is darkened by a new attack. Someone is working hard to ensure that John’s ghost will not be allowed to rest, with terrifying consequences…

Here are my thoughts about it...

 In The Antique Dealer's Daughter we are introduced to Emily, who with a mind of her own, doesn't always see eye to eye with her parents. Her father would prefer it if she followed him into the antique business but Emily refuses to conform to tradition. In desperation, her parents send Emily to stay with an unmarried cousin who lives in a cottage in the Cotswolds, but when Emily arrives to an empty cottage, she finds that she is inadvertently involved in a rather dark mystery which is haunted by a scandal from the past

The author writes with great enthusiasm and clearly does her research well as both time and place are nicely described and, within the 1940s setting, there is a real sense of history. As with this author's previous stories, the mystery is complicated and there is much to take in, both in terms of character and plot, but as always, the strength of the lead female character does much to carry the story forward. The adventure is filled with twists and turns and Emily finds that she needs to keep one step ahead of the game. I found the story a little over descriptive at times and it takes a while for the story to settle however, once I got used to the author's distinct style of writing, I started to enjoy the book.

The author seems to be developing a niche for this type of historical mystery/adventure and I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

The Antiques Dealer's Daughter is published today in paperback by Harper Impulse.

This is now the third book by this author which has a wartime setting

23390890 The War Widow The Antique Dealer’s Daughter

More about the author can be found on her website

Follow on Twitter @MsLornaGray

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Blog Tour ~ Street Cat Blues by Alison O'Leary

Jaffareadstoo is honoured to be starting off the Street Cat Blues Blog Tour

Crooked Cat Books

My thanks to the author, publisher and Random Things Tours for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of this blog tour
What's it all about ...

A quiet life for Aubrey? After spending several months banged up in Sunny Banks rescue centre, Aubrey, a large tabby cat, has finally found his forever home with Molly and Jeremy Goodman, and life is looking good. However, all that changes when a serial killer begins to target elderly victims in the neighbourhood. Aubrey wasn’t particularly upset by the death of some of the previous victims, including Miss Jenkins whom Aubrey recalls as a vinegar-lipped bitch of an old woman who enjoyed throwing stones at cats, but Mr Telling was different. Mr Telling was a mate…

Here's what I thought about it...

I often wonder what my two orange cats see and do when they go out for the night. That they patrol the area, with whiskers twitching and paws gently tumbling along footpaths and driveways, is all part of the secret world of cats.

In Street Cat Blues we meet Aubrey, a slightly overweight rescue cat, who hopes that he has found a permanent home with his new owners, Molly and Jeremy, but as every street cat knows, it’s always wise to have a backup plan and Mr Telling was Aubrey’s back up plan, that is until something dreadful happened to this kindly, old gentleman.

I knew I was going to like Aubrey from the very first paragraph when he slipped beneath a parked car and covered in grease and dust he waited and observed the comings and goings at Mr Telling's house across the street. 

The author writes well, and keeps the momentum of the mystery alive in several threads which don’t all involve cats and feline participation and yet, it is with Aubrey and his pals where the real heart of the story lies. She has created in Aubrey such a force of nature that you can’t help but become involved as he, and his associate cats, particularly, the hapless Moses, who I loved second only to Aubrey, start to delve a little deeper into the ensuing mystery. That Aubrey is as clever as he is wise comes across in this charming cosy crime debut.

I really enjoyed solving this murder/mystery alongside Aubrey and his pals, their feline point of view is a refreshing change in a world of gritty crime and I’m sure given the right set of circumstances, Aubrey and his adventures could become a great book series.

About the Author

Alison was born in London and spent her teenaged years in Hertfordshire. She has also lived in Somerset and Gloucestershire. After studying Law she decided to teach rather than go into practice and for many years taught Criminal Law to adults and young people. Since moving to the south coast, Alison has been involved in qualification and assessment development for major awarding bodies. When not writing, she enjoys crosswords, walking by the sea and playing Scrabble on her iPad – which she always sets to beginner level because, hey, why take chances? Alison lives with her husband John and cat Archie.

Twitter @alisonoleary81 #StreetCatBlues



Blog Tour ~ The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

Jaffareadstoo is really excited to be part of The Lion Tamer Who Lost Blog Tour

30 September 2018

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

What's it all about...

Be careful what you wish for… 

Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes it hadn't...

Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. 

When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…

Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it? 

What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

Here's what I thought about it...

I don't know where to start with this one because no matter how hard I try I won't do justice to this poignant, beautiful, heart-breaking story, which by the last few words had me a blubbering wreck, and not with those tears which roll, ladylike, down your cheeks, but with those big, ugly tears which run like a torrent, and which leave you wrung out like a wet cloth.

I came to the book knowing nothing of its content, and when I first saw the title, I naively thought it was going to be, mainly, a story about taming lions, and whilst lions, and two very special ones in particular, do feature in the story, it's about so much more than animal conservation. At its core, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is a story about friendship and family, it's about feeling lost and alone, bewildered and frightened, and it's also a rather beautiful love story between Ben and Andrew and of their close relationship which society still doesn’t fully understand. 

The story is beautifully written, by an author who, with perfect precision, has the ability to take you from the absolute solitude of a wild African dawn, with its lingering scent of heat and dust, to the pungent aroma of stale booze and cigarettes in a tiny northern kitchen. And as you travel in your mind, the writing never falters or fails to reach out both physically and emotionally. It will make you stop, think, consider, rant, laugh, and, ultimately, when you read those last two lines of the story, unless you have a heart made of granite, will make you weep those big, ugly tears. 

Books come and books go, and some may even linger in the memory a little while longer before they fade. The difference between those stories and this one is that the beautiful complexity of The Lion Tamer Who Lost will stay with you forever. 

My Reading Table

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Her third book, Maria in the Moon, was widely reviewed and critically acclaimed. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice. Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Twitter @LouiseWriter #LionTamerWhoLost



Monday, 17 September 2018

Blog Tour ~ Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek and Dave Philpott

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to host today's stop on the Dear Mr Pop Star Blog Tour

20 September 2018

My thanks to the authors for my invitation to this blog tour and for my ecopy of the book

What's it all about...

For nearly 10 years, ‘Team Philpott’, as their followers fondly refer to them, have been on a quite bonkers crusade, writing good old-fashioned letters to pop and rock stars (sometimes even sent to their home addresses with prior consent!), either picking up on genuine ambiguities within their lyrics or often deliberately misunderstanding them for comedic effect.

‘Dear Mr. Popstar’ proudly features 100 of the best letters and responses from famous and legendary names spanning the whole pop and rock spectrum, all relishing their involvement and revealing their own, in many cases, hitherto unknown humorous sides within what could well be the most interactive dialogue compiled between music stars and their audience ever undertaken. 

Here's what I thought about it...

There's nothing I like better than a good old fashioned letter, something that pops through the letter box and which prompts a reply. What the authors have done, in this cleverly put together collection of letters, is to encourage a reply from some of the great and the good of the music industry, often misinterpreting their unique raison d'etre, with hilarious results.

It's all good fun and those pop stars, with their considered responses to a myriad of rather bizarre observations, enter into the spirit, some, it must be said, with more gusto that others, but always with a, reasonably, good natured patience.

The individual Dear Mr Pop Star letters are the real star of this show, cleverly worded, witty, slightly reproving, but always with an astute eye for interpreting the anomalies and blatant ambiguities which surround pop stars and their music.

It's really difficult to pick out just one or two favourites but these have made me chuckle:

The letter to Dr Hook which observes that the interminable butting in of a telephone operator who kept demanding 40 cents more for the next three minutes must have been " a little bit more than infuriating, not to say a bit of a dent on the old wallet" and the fact that it would have been much cheaper to skype 😊

Spandau Ballet being ripped off for "buying a ticket to the world" since the planet is free...

Starship being admonished for the lyrics .."We built this city on rock 'n' roll"...and the reason why any construction needs a solid foundation.

And my absolute favourite is to the hapless Herman from Herman's Hermits being told off for cancelling the milk and skipping his breakfast cereal.

Dear Mr Pop Star is one of those clever little books that you can dip into and out of at whim, and what's guaranteed, is that there is always going to be, regardless of where you open the book, something to make you smile, and, before too long, you will find that you are nodding your head in complete agreement.

Derek and Dave Philpott are the noms de plume of two ordinary members of the public, working with  help from a worldwide social networking community.

Twitter @DerekPhilpott  #Dear MrPopStar

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

A Sampling of War Poets


Arthur Graeme West

1891- 1917

The Night Patrol

France, March 1916.

Over the top! The wire’s thin here, unbarbed

Plain rusty coils, not staked, and low enough:

Full of old tins, though—“When you’re through, all three,

Aim quarter left for fifty yards or so,

Then straight for that new piece of German wire;

See if it’s thick, and listen for a while

For sounds of working; don’t run any risks;

About an hour; now, over!”

And we placed

Our hands on the topmost sand-bags, leapt, and stood

A second with curved backs, then crept to the wire,

Wormed ourselves tinkling through, glanced back, and dropped.

The sodden ground was splashed with shallow pools,

And tufts of crackling cornstalks, two years old,

No man had reaped, and patches of spring grass.

Half-seen, as rose and sank the flares, were strewn

The wrecks of our attack: the bandoliers,

Packs, rifles, bayonets, belts, and haversacks,

Shell fragments, and the huge whole forms of shells

Shot fruitlessly—and everywhere the dead.

Only the dead were always present—present

As a vile sickly smell of rottenness;

The rustling stubble and the early grass,

The slimy pools — the dead men stank through all,

Pungent and sharp; as bodies loomed before,

And as we passed, they stank: then dulled away

To that vague fœtor, all encompassing,

Infecting earth and air. They lay, all clothed,

Each in some new and piteous attitude

That we well marked to guide us back: as he,

Outside our wire, that lay on his back and crossed

His legs Crusader-wise: I smiled at that,

And thought on Elia and his Temple Church.

From him, at quarter left, lay a small corpse,

Down in a hollow, huddled as in a bed,

That one of us put his hand on unawares.

Next was a bunch of half a dozen men

All blown to bits, an archipelago

Of corrupt fragments, vexing to us three,

Who had no light to see by, save the flares.

On such a trail, so light, for ninety yards

We crawled on belly and elbows, till we saw,

Instead of lumpish dead before our eyes,

The stakes and crosslines of the German wire.

We lay in shelter of the last dead man,

Ourselves as dead, and heard their shovels ring

Turning the earth, then talk and cough at times.

A sentry fired and a machine-gun spat;

They shot a glare above us, when it fell

And spluttered out in the pools of No Man’s Land,

We turned and crawled past the remembered dead:

Past him and him, and them and him, until,

For he lay some way apart, we caught the scent

Of the Crusader and slide past his legs,

And through the wire and home, and got our rum.

Arthur Graeme West was a British writer and war poet. West was born in Eaton, Norfolk, educated at Highgate School, then Blundell's School and Balliol College, Oxford.

He enlisted as a private in the Public Schools Battalion in January 1915. In August 1916 he was a second lieutenant in the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. In 1917 he was killed, near the town of Baupame, by a sniper's bullet.


Saturday, 15 September 2018

His Fic Saturday ~ Author ~ Jasper Barry

On Hist Fic Saturday 

I am delighted to welcome back to the blog, Jasper Barry, author of  That Deplorable Boy

March 2018

✧A warm welcome, Jasper, tell us why do you write historical fiction ✧

I suppose it's the challenge. Like all novelists, I want to draw the reader into a world that they can see, touch, smell. But for me, driven by my addiction to nineteenth- century European history, that's the vanished world of Belle Époque France. And, because I'm also hooked on the period's literature, I use as my model the nineteenth-century novel, with its expansive reach into all walks of society and its characters battling against rigid rules of class and morality. 

The Miremont novels, The Second Footman, and the latest, That Deplorable Boy, don't dramatise specific historical events - although, if there's a crisis, like the 1882 crash of the Paris Bourse, it will feature in conversation. My aim is to place my characters firmly in the world of the time and make you feel what it was like to live then. But I've added a contemporary touch: the troubled love affair central to the novels is between two men, Armand de Miremont, a rich middle-aged marquis and Max, a handsome but unscrupulous young man of dubious and mysterious origins. 

Homosexuality was not illegal in 1880s' France. But it was still condemned and carried the risk of ostracism and blackmail. How easy is it to hide an illicit affair when you live in a house full of keen-eyed servants? And, in That Deplorable Boy, Max and Miremont's difficulties are compounded by the arrival of Miremont's estranged wife, Aline, who has brought his virginal younger daughter, Juliette, to Paris to make her debut. 

Miremont is torn between his jealous obsession with Max and his duty to be an upstanding father. Max, although promoted from footman to secretary, finds himself in social limbo, viewed by Miremont's family as no better than a servant, but scorned by the servants as "jumped up". He is, in the words of Old Jouvert, the sinister ex-butler, "neither fish nor fowl," and soon he is at risk of losing even this questionable status. 

As with The Second Footman, That Deplorable Boy balances life in the opulent salons of the Hôtel de Miremont with what goes on in the servants' hall - the squabbles between Miremont and his wife have a direct impact on the servants, greatly increasing their work, setting them against one another and, in the case of a new livery that makes them look like wasps, driving them close to rebellion. There's a ball too, but this one does not happen as if by magic; we see it from the point of view of Max, who is given the unenviable task of organising it to Mme de Miremont's satisfaction. The ball, of course, like all the best balls in novels, provides the spark that ignites the final slow-burning but devastating crisis of the book. 

When I began writing the Miremont novels I imagined I wouldn't need to do much research, as I was well up on the historical background. After all, the key thing is getting the characters and their motivation right and many of the conflicts they grapple with are no different from today's - social inequality, prejudice, sexual abuse, the pain of discovering the truth about your parentage, the agony when your heart tells you one thing but your conscience another… But, in fact, to make the setting for these conflicts as authentic as possible, I've been researching ever since. 

I like to be able to visualise things. It's a wonderful excuse to go to France, to the countryside for Miremont's estate, Beauvallon, and, of course to Paris - one task for That Deplorable Boy was to find out how long it would take Max to walk from Saint-Sulpice to Montmartre. Often I use paintings and old photographs, for instance for the book's skating scene on the frozen lakes of the Bois de Boulogne, or the ball's fête galante costumes. The section of the novel set in Beauvallon required research into 1880s' farm machinery. The internet is also a boon, but for the novel's fencing bout, having watched numerous YouTube videos, I found a very helpful fencing academy, so I could feel what it was like to wear a mask and hold a foil and where I learned to my delight that fencing is like chess, but with weapons. 

I like to be able to see things I'm not necessarily even going to mention: where people stand in a room, how they move across it. I once spent forty minutes wondering how a character in a servants' room without a fireplace could dispose of his cigarette when ashtrays were not yet invented - until I remembered there was a candle, and candle holders had a tray for spent matches, whereupon I could happily forget the cigarette and get on with the scene. 

So yes, it's a challenge to recreate the past. But it's also fascinating. 

17167018 39357605

More about That Deplorable Boy

The long-awaited follow-up to The Second Footman. 

A modern take on the nineteenth-century novel, set in 1880s’ France and full of period detail and atmosphere. 

Who is Max Fabien? Is he the loyal secretary and faithful lover of the marquis de Miremont? Or a handsome but unscrupulous trickster, who regards lying as an accomplishment and any sexual quarry as fair game? 

Miremont’s heart says one thing, his jealousy another. But his obsessive passion for the boy must remain a dark secret—no easy task when his estranged wife and their younger daughter arrive in Paris for a prolonged visit. 

Soon the strain begins to tell. The Hôtel de Miremont becomes a hive of gossip, mistrust, intrigue and deceit, and Miremont is faced with an impossible choice. 

Meanwhile the grim secrets of Max’s past continue to haunt him. Has the time come for him to claim his not-so-rightful destiny? 

That Deplorable Boy is the second book of the Miremont trilogy, charting the course of a gay love affair between an aristocrat and a former servant in late 19th-century France. Rich in period detail and set in the grand châteaux of Paris and Burgundy, the novels explore the suffocating social codes of the time and the conflicts and dangers they bring for those who must live outside them.

" Since writing (an appalling) first novel at boarding-school by torchlight under the bedclothes, Jasper Barry has spent a lifetime writing, in advertising, in journalism and as a novelist. Barry lives in London with too many books and three obstreperous cats." 

Twitter @JasperBarry2 #ThatDeplorableBoy

 ✨ Huge thanks to Jasper for being my guest on the blog today ✨

Friday, 14 September 2018

Review ~ Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness

From the author of A Discovery of Witches 

a new All Souls novel about what it takes to become a vampire.

18 September
Published in hardback with 3 different collectable endpapers designs, ebook and audio

My thanks to Caitlin Raynor and Headline for my copy of Times Convert

As a fan of the All Souls Trilogy you can imagine my excitement when a few weeks ago this lovely package was delivered - I actually said wow! To receive one of the few limited proof copies of this latest book in the All Souls series had me jumping with joy 😊

What's it all about...

Set in contemporary Paris and London, and the American colonies during the upheaval and unrest that exploded into the Revolutionary War, a sweeping story that braids together past and present. 

On the battlefields of the American Revolution, Matthew de Clermont meets Marcus MacNeil, a young surgeon, during a moment of political awakening when it seems that the world is on the brink of a brighter future.

When Matthew offers him a chance at immortality and a new life, free from the restraints of his puritanical upbringing, Marcus seizes the opportunity to become a vampire. But his transformation is not an easy one and the ancient traditions and responsibilities of the de Clermont family clash with Marcus's deeply-held beliefs in liberty, equality, and brotherhood. 

Fast forward to contemporary London, where Marcus has fallen for Phoebe Taylor, a young employee at Sotheby's. She decides to become a vampire, too, and though the process at first seems uncomplicated, the couple discovers that the challenges facing a human who wishes to be a vampire are no less formidable in the modern world than they were in the 18th century. The shadows that Marcus believed he'd escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both - for ever.

The shadows that Marcus believed he'd escaped centuries ago may return to haunt them both - for ever.

What did I think about Time's Convert...

Time's Convert is an absolute gift of a story as not only does it allow us a tantalising glimpse into the de Clermont household as Diana and Matthew get on with their lives, but it also gives us the eagerly anticipated story of how Marcus Whitmore became part of the de Clermont family and of the long and complicated process that becoming a vampire entails, both for Marcus in the eighteenth century, and his girl-friend, Phoebe Taylor, in the twenty-first.

I found Time's Convert to be an insightful story, true, it carries all the trademarks of this author's ability to conjure a world within a world and there is much to identify it alongside previous stories in the series, and yet, there is less frantic action and more introspection, which I found fascinating. I loved how time was managed so that all the multiple story strands were given equal consideration so that none dominated and everything all flowed seamlessly from past to present and present to past. I was as captivated with Diana and Matthew's life at Les Revenants in Limousin, as I was in Phoebe's vampire transformation in Paris, and yet, it was Marcus’s story which absorbed my attention. 

Anyone who has read the All Souls series cannot fail to be intrigued by Marcus, the young vampire, who Matthew welcomed into the de Clermont family, but until now we have never been given more than a few interesting snippets into the background to his story, of the society that shaped him and of the puritanical birth family, in rural Massachusetts, who failed to nurture him. Set against the background of the American Revolutionary War, with all the inherent danger of conflict and disease, both the politics and the people come alive in the imagination. In 1781, Marcus is working as a surgeon's assistant with the Continental Army when he comes into contact with the enigmatic Matthew de Clermont. This momentous meeting will shape both of their lives forever, and observing just how Marcus’s life plays out within the wider scope of the story is what makes this book so fascinating.

Beautifully written, Time’s Convert is another absorbing page turner from an author whose magical writing continues to take us into the haunting world of vampire, witch and demon and is, without any shadow of doubt, a worthy continuation of the All Souls series...

✨ TV series coming to SKY ONE TONIGHT ✨ 

By Kind permission of the publishers

Deborah’s debut novel, and the first in the bestselling All Souls trilogy, A Discovery of Witches has been adapted by Jane Tranter’s Bad Wolf Productions for Sky One starring Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey/The Crown) and Teresa Palmer (Hacksaw Ridge) as well as Alex Kingston, Trevor Eve, Lindsay Duncan, Owen Teale and Louise Brealey.

Teresa Palmer plays brilliant academic and historian Diana Bishop, a reluctant witch denying her heritage. The discovery of a manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library throws her into the heart of a dangerous mystery and into the path of enigmatic geneticist Matthew Clairmont played by Matthew Goode, an ancient vampire hiding dark family secrets. As Diana and Matthew embark on a journey to understand the significance of the mysterious manuscript and as their relationship develops and their heritage comes in to play, events threaten to unravel the fragile peace that has long existed between humans, witches, vampires and daemons.

I have been waiting for The Discovery of Witches to be made into a TV series since I first read the book way back in 2011. I can't wait for tonight ...

Twitter @DiscoveryofWTV 

 @DebHarkness #AllSouls



Credit :Vania Stoyanova
Source: Headline

Deborah Harkness is the number one Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night and The Book of Life. The trilogy has sold over 3 million copies worldwide plus foreign rights sales in over 38 territories. A history professor at the University of Southern California, Harkness has received Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. Deborah has 33K Twitter followers and 80K likes on Facebook.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting today's stop on The Blue Bench Blog Tour

Bluescale Publishing
June 2018

My thanks to the author for my copy of the book and to Random Things Tours for my invitation to the blog tour

What's it all about..

Margate 1920 The Great War is over but Britain is still to find peace and its spirit is not yet mended. Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past. Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live to life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side. Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends and the country?

Here's what I thought about it..

The fragments of lives altered by circumstance haunted those who returned from The Great War and for those who were irreparably damaged in both mind and body their lives would be changed forever. The task of getting back to some semblance of normality was attempted, but sometimes the cracks, quite simply, ran too deep, and the memory of those who would never return was often a merciless burden which was carried, by some, for the rest of their lives.

In The Blue Bench, Edward and William have returned from the Western Front, they each bear the scars of this dreadful war and although they endured the nightmarish horror with stoicism, the question they ask themselves, in this time of peace, is what price is paid for freedom?

The book concentrates on the events of a summer in the seaside town of Margate in 1920, where Edward, with his skill for music, has been booked to play piano at the town’s Winter Gardens. There they meet two young ladies, Catherine and Evelyn, a momentous pairing, which will have repercussions for years to come. All four characters are eloquent narrators, each expressing their thoughts with an almost detached vulnerability which I found distinctly moving. 

There’s lots of historical fiction written about The Great War and what I found so refreshing about The Blue Bench was to pick up the story just two tears after the war was over when the country was still reeling with the loss of a generation of young men. There was a distinct sense of trying to get back to normal, but with an almost covert embarrassment at acknowledging those who had been so dreadfully damaged, not just in a physical way, but also in recognising the psychological trauma which was still so vivid for those who had lived and survived the mud of Flanders.

Having read of the work of Harold Gillies, the WW1 doctor, whose pioneering surgery in facial reconstruction cannot be underestimated; it was particularly poignant to have the title of the book, The Blue Bench, acting as a poignant reminder of just what he achieved in this experimental field of plastic surgery.

Beautiful and poignant, The Blue Bench is a heart breaking story which takes a while to read and which sometimes urges you to take a break to consider what you have just read. Coming in at over 530 pages of smallish print it cannot be rushed, and nor should it be.

About the Author

Paul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one (but still finding time to play drums with Redlands and Rags 2 Riches).

Twitter @marrinner_p #TheBlueBench


Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Little Theatre on the Seafront by Katie Ginger

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting today's stop on The Little Theatre on the Seafront

Blog Tour

HQ Digital
1 September 2018

My thanks to the author for her invitation to be part of her blog tour

What's it all about..

When Lottie’s Gran dies she leaves one last request; save Greenley Theatre. 

Faced with a decaying building, a mayor who most definitely isn’t on board with the project and a group of actors who just can’t get along, Lottie has her hands full, but with best friend Sid by her side she knows she can do it somehow. 

But the arrival of Jeremy, a hotshot London developer who sweeps Lottie off her feet, complicates things. Suddenly Sid gets a new girlfriend, the Greenley Players fall apart, and that crumbling building? Well it crumbles a whole lot more. With no one to turn to, Lottie has to find the courage to save the day. 

Will Lottie be able to save the theatre and also follow her heart?

✨ I'm really thrilled to share this lovely guest post from Katie ✨

Hi Jo, Jaffa the gorgeous cat, and all your lovely readers! Thank you so much for hosting me for the blog tour of The Little Theatre on the Seafront.

As this is my debut novel, I thought I'd tell you a little bit more about myself and how I got into writing. Like most authors, I used to love writing as a child but then with university, work, and general life getting in the way, I stopped for a long time (and I mean a long time!). It wasn't until I got made redundant that I decided I wanted to do something completely different and think differently. I'd spent so many years solving problems I wanted to do something creative and as every time I picked up a book I wished it was my name on the cover and my words on the page, I decided to do a creative writing course.

I really am so glad I did!

I loved the course as soon as I started and thanks to my tutor and the online writing group I joined, I realised that, while I had a lot to learn, I was kind of okay at it! I kept writing and practicing and managed to have a few short stories published, then the idea for The Little Theatre on the Seafront started to take shape. It took a couple of years to write and the story changed a lot during the revision process. After I got my book deal, my lovely editor helped me find the story I was really trying to tell and I'm so pleased with the final result. I'm really proud of it! I'm just crossing everything I've got in the hope that others enjoy it too! If anyone does read it please let me know what you think. 

You can reach me on Twitter: @KatieGAuthor #thelittletheatreontheseafront

 Facebook or check out my website:

So that's me! I hope I'll get to talk to you again when my next book comes out in 2019 but until then, ta ta for now! 

All about Katie Ginger

KATIE GINGER lives in the South East of England, by the sea, and apart from holidays to very hot places where you can sit by a pool and drink cocktails as big your head, she wouldn't really want to be anywhere else. This is Katie's debut novel but she is also the author of some cosy mystery short stories. She loves making her characters either fall in love, or killing them off - it depends on her mood.
When she's not writing, Katie spends her time drinking gin, or with her husband, trying to keep alive her two children: Ellie, who believes everything in life should be done as a musical number from a West End show; and Sam, who is basically a monkey with a boy's face. And there's also their adorable King Charles Spaniel, Wotsit (yes, he is named after the crisps!).

Here's what I thought about The Little Theatre on the Seafront..

When Lottie's beloved gran dies, Lottie is persuaded, against her better judgement to take over one of her gran's good causes, namely to save the dilapidated old Greenley Theatre. With the best of intentions, Lottie, with the help of her friend, Sid, tries to inject some enthusiasm into the project but there are so many obstacles and grouchy people in the way that poor Lottie has her work cut out from the very start.

I found much to enjoy in The Little Theatre on the Seafront. It's a delightfully perceptive look at life and love, the power of friendship, and of the steely determination needed to carry on when all around you is floundering. I really loved the author's light and easy style of writing and the way that she allowed her characters to come to life. They're an odd bunch to be sure, making me laugh out loud at some of their antics, particularly the actors themselves who aren't always very helpful! I enjoyed watching how they all developed as the story progressed and especially of how Lottie grew in confidence.

Without doubt this is a charming debut and I hope we will see much more of Katie Ginger's writing in future stories.

Currently just 99p at Amazon UK

Huge thanks to Katie for inviting me onto her blog tour today and for her lovely guest post.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Blog Tour ~ The House Across the Street by Lesley Pearse

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on The House Across the Street Blog Tour

Michael Joseph
Hardback 6 September 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...

Twenty-three-year-old Katy Speed has always been fascinated by the house across the street . . .

The woman who lives there, Gloria, is the most glamorous neighbour on the avenue, owning a fashionable dress shop in Bexhill-on-Sea. But who is the woman who arrives in the black car most Saturdays while Gloria is at work? Sometimes she brings women to the house, and other times the women come with children.

Hilda, Katy's mother, disapproves of Gloria. She wonders where these mysterious visitors have come from, and what they want. Does Gloria have sinister reasons for secretly bringing strangers into the heart of the community?

Then one night, the house burns down. In the wreckage, the bodies of Gloria and her daughter are found. Katy is sure the unexplained strangers must be responsible, until her father is arrested and charged with murder.

Surely the police have arrested the wrong person?

The House Across The Street by Lesley Pearse is published on 6th September in hardback by Michael Joseph priced £20.00. This year is Lesley’s 25th anniversary year in publishing.

What did I think about it...

I know that whenever I start a new Lesley Pearse book I very quickly become immersed in the wonderful way that she creates both a memorable set of characters and a distinct awareness of time and place. Set in 1964, The House Across The Street tells the story of Katy Speed, a feisty young woman who sets out to discover just what happened when her neighbour’s house was set on fire. The dark mystery which is at the very heart of the story soon becomes compelling reading. 

The author is just as comfortable at describing dramatic suburbia as she is at getting into the heart of a family mystery and this story is no exception. The story moves along quickly and takes us from the sleepy seaside town of Bexhill-on-Sea, to the London of the swinging sixties and, as always, thanks to this author’s trademark fine eye for detail, the story comes alive in the imagination and there’s an exciting sense of anticipation as the story develops. There’s an underlying dark thread to this story which the author carries off well, managing to get her point across without relying too heavily on shock tactics which might be too gritty, and yet, it’s quite a dark and menacing sort of tale, filled with secrets, and as Katy becomes entangled in this treacherous world, so the threat of danger sneaks ever closer to Katy herself.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Lesley Pearse being published by Penguin, in that time she has sold over 10 million copies of her wonderful books, with the staggering thought that a Lesley Pearse book is purchased in the UK every 4 minutes. The House Across The Street is the 26th book in this author’s fine repertoire of compelling fiction, and it is to her credit that each successive story feels just as fresh and enthralling as her previous book.

© Charlotte Murphy

Visit the author's website

Visit on Facebook 

Follow on Twitter @Lesley Pearse #TheHouseAcrossTheStreet




Monday, 10 September 2018

Blog Tour ~ Ladders to Heaven by Mike Shanahan

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Ladders to Heaven Blog Tour

6 September 2018

My thanks to the author, publisher and Random Things Tours for my copy of the book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

What's it all about...

A stunning survey of the extraordinary and surprising ways that fig trees have shaped human civilisation – and could enrich our future.

Fig trees have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways: they are wish fulfillers, rainforest royalty, more precious than gold. In Ladders to Heaven tells their incredible story, beautifully peppered with original hand-drawn illustrations

They fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played a key role in the birth of civilisation. More recently, they helped restore life after Krakatoa’s catastrophic eruption and proved instrumental in Kenya’s struggle for independence.

Figs now sustain more species of bird and mammal than any other fruit – in a time of falling trees and rising temperatures, they offer hope. Theirs is a story about humanity’s relationship with nature, as relevant to our past as it is to our future.

What did I think about it...

Sometimes a book takes you by surprise and takes you to places you didn’t know existed and offers information you never knew you needed to know. In Ladders to Heaven the author, with great enthusiasm and knowledge, leads us through the fascinating subject of fig trees and of their utmost importance to our planet’s ecological stability. Over 750 species of ficus are known to exist with more being discovered all the time and their relevance to our environment cannot be overstated.

The author writes with great authority on the subject and it is obvious that he cares deeply about the impact that the loss of this giant species would have on our bio network if ever they were lost. Over the course of the book and almost without realising it I developed huge sympathy for fig trees and read in fascination at the diverse eco-system they maintain, in particular. the plight of the fig-wasp who must have the perfect conditions before the female can make her perilous journey to lay eggs in the Ficus Sycomorus. The successful outcome of this pairing ensures the survival of many animals and helps to sustain the future of our rain forests.

Scattered throughout the book are stark but beautiful black and white line drawing illustrations which add a real gift to the narrative and allow a pictorial glimpse into the secret world of fig trees.

I found the book really relatable and enjoyed each chapter as it unearthed more fascinating facts and snippets of information, particularly about the importance of fig trees, not just how they have contributed to the well-being of our planet for millions of years and how they will, with the right environment, continue to do so for many more years to come.

About the Author

Mike Shanahan is a freelance writer and illustrator with a doctorate in rainforest ecology. He has lived in a national park in Borneo, bred endangered penguins, investigated illegal bear farms and produced award-winning journalism. His writing includes work published by The Economist, Nature, New Scientist, BBC Earth, Scientific American and Newsweek.

Twitter @shanahanmike #LaddersToHeaven



Sunday, 9 September 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered ...

A Sampling of War Poets


Edward Thomas

1898 - 1917


Fair was the morning, fair our tempers, and

We had seen nothing fairer than that land,

Though strange, and the untrodden snow that made

Wild of the tame, casting out all that was

Not wild and rustic and old; and we were glad.

Fair, too, was afternoon, and first to pass

Were we that league of snow, next the north wind.

There was nothing to return for, except need,

And yet we sang nor ever stopped for speed,

As we did often with the start behind.

Faster still strode we when we came in sight

Of the cold roofs where we must spend the night.

Happy we had not been there, nor could be.

Though we had tasted sleep and food and fellowship

Together long. 

“How quick” to someone's lip

The words came, “will the beaten horse run home.”

The word “home” raised a smile in us all three,

And one repeated it, smiling just so

That all knew what he meant and none would say.

Between three counties far apart that lay

We were divided and looked strangely each

At the other, and we knew we were not friends

But fellows in a union that ends

With the necessity for it, as it ought. 

Never a word was spoken, not a thought

Was thought, of what the look meant with the word

“Home” as we walked and watched the sunset blurred.

And then to me the word, only the word,

“Homesick,” as it were playfully occurred:

No more. If I should ever more admit

Than the mere word I could not endure it

For a day longer: this captivity

Must somehow come to an end, else I should be

Another man, as often now I seem,

Or this life be only an evil dream.

Phillip Edward Thomas was an Anglo-Welsh poet. Although few of his poems deal directly with war, he is considered to be a war poet.

He enlisted in the army in 1915, and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras in 1917, soon after he arrived in France.