Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Blog Tour ~ One Minute Later by Susan Lewis

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the One Minute Later Blog Tour

Harper Collins
21 February 2019

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

Vivienne Shager has everything going for her, but on the afternoon of her 35th birthday, Vivi has a heart attack. Unbeknownst to her, Vivi has been living with a rare heart condition and now her life shrinks back to how it begun, as she moves back to the small seaside town she grew up in. And with her time running out, there is one thing she wants to know the truth about… 

Thirty years earlier, Shelley’s family home, Deerwood farm, bursts full of love and happiness. Until her husband dies in mysterious circumstances. So many secrets were buried with him, family loyalties, and things best left to history.

My thoughts..

We tend to go blithely through life thinking we are indestructible but as this novel shows, life can, and does, change, quite literally, on a heartbeat. Vivienne Shager's life is altered forever when she experiences a heart attack on the afternoon of her thirty-fifth birthday. The result has a devastating effect, not just on Vivi as she comes to terms with her greatly altered lifestyle, but also on the lives of those around her, and even the lives of some people she has never even met. The story of how Vivi copes is in itself a captivating read but add into the mix a dual time element about something which happened thirty years earlier and the story starts to take on a whole different meaning.

The author writes this type of family saga really well and brings her characters to life in a very believable way. There is much to consider, not just about how Vivi's heart condition affects her lifestyle, but also running alongside is the consideration given to organ donation, and the meaning this has on the wider context of the story is gradually revealed. I think the first half of the book is concentrated on setting the scene and I needed to concentrate on what's happening but once the characters, and the settings, were fixed in my head, I enjoyed discovering where the story was leading.

One Minute Later is, in many ways, a rather sad story, and yet, what shines throughout is the importance of family and friends, and whilst there is sadness at the conclusion of the story, there is also hope, and love in abundance.

Susan Lewis is the bestselling author of over forty books across the genres of family drama, thriller, suspense and crime. She is also the author of Just One More Day and One Day at a Time, the moving memoirs of her childhood in Bristol during the 1960s. 

Following periods of living in Los Angeles and the South of France, she currently lives in Gloucestershire with her husband James, stepsons Michael and Luke, and mischievous dogs Coco and Lulu.

Twitter @susandlewis #OneMinuteMore #OnePageMore


Monday, 18 February 2019

Blog Tour ~ Dreaming of Tuscany by T A Williams

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the Dreaming of Tuscany Blog Tour

11 February 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my invitation to be part of this blog tour and for my ecopy of this book
Beatrice Kingdom (Bee to her friends) wakes up in hospital in Tuscany. After an accident on a film set leaves her burned and scarred, she feels her whole life has been turned upside down.

Bee is offered the chance of recuperating in a stunning Tuscan villa in the company of a world-famous film star, the irascible Mimi Robertson. Here amid the vines and olive groves, Bee quickly finds there’s more to the place than meets the eye, not least a certain Luca (and Romeo the dog). 

As she comes to terms with her injuries and her new life takes shape, Bee will have to travel a road of self-discovery… and make a huge decision.

My thoughts..

This is such a lovely story and a perfect pick-me-up after the gloom of winter. The beautiful Tuscan setting allows the gentleness of the narrative to wrap around you and gives you such a cosy, warm feeling.

I was quite enamoured of Bee, who after a dreadful accident on a film set, is sent to recuperate in a beautiful Tuscan villa, her companion on this retreat is a very well known film actress who is also recovering from the after effects of the same accident. The relationship between Bee and Mimi is at first a little difficult but the magic of the place and getting to know the interesting characters, particularly the handsome Luca, and Romeo the delightful Labrador,  soon help both women to relax.

Dreaming of Tuscany is a really lovely story, with its glorious Tuscan setting, delicious descriptions of Italian food and wine, and the charming characters who tug away at your heartstrings. I spent an enjoyable afternoon in the company of Bee, Mimi, Luca and Romeo, and whilst I was sorry when the story ended, as I could have read on and on, I was absolutely delighted to have been treated to another lovely feel-good story from this talented author.

T.A. Williams lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He was born in England of a Scottish mother and Welsh father. After a degree in modern languages at Nottingham University, he lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He’s taught Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, still-alive fish, and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing.

Twitter @TAWilliamsBooks


Sunday, 17 February 2019

Book Birthday Blitz ~ The Migraine Relief Plan by Stephanie Weaver

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of The Migraine Relief Plan

 Book Birthday Blitz

Agate Publishing

My thanks to the author for providing a copy of this book and giveaway prize
and also to Rachel at Rachel's Random Resources for my invitation to the Book Birthday Blitz

The Migraine Relief Plan: An 8-Week Transition to Better Eating, Fewer Headaches, and Optimal Health.

In The Migraine Relief Plan, certified health and wellness coach Stephanie Weaver outlines a new, step-by-step lifestyle approach to reducing migraine frequency and severity. Using the latest research, her own migraine diagnosis, and extensive testing, Weaver has designed an accessible plan to help those living with migraine, headaches, or Meniere’s disease. Over the course of eight weeks, the plan gradually transitions readers into a healthier lifestyle, including key behaviors such as regular sleep, trigger-free eating, gentle exercise, and relaxation techniques. The book also collects resources—shopping lists, meal plans, symptom tracking charts, and kitchen-tested recipes for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner—to provide readers with the tools they need to be successful. The Migraine Relief Plan encourages readers to eat within the guidelines while still helping them follow personal dietary choices, like vegan or Paleo, and navigate challenges, such as parties, work, and travel. A must-have resource for anyone who lives with head pain, this book will inspire you to rethink your attitude toward health and wellness.

My thoughts..

When I opened this book I felt like I had finally found someone who spoke my language. Having lived with the distressing symptoms of both vertigo and migraine, I realised long ago the importance of modifying my diet in order to avoid the triggers which exacerbated both conditions. 

This 8-week transition to better eating, fewer headaches and optimal health puts the whole thing into perspective and for people who live with these conditions finding something that really helps is half the battle of coping with so many different symptoms.

The Migraine Relief Plan is completely user-friendly, which helped enormously as there's nothing worse that starting a health plan only to be bamboozled by too much waffle and too much complicated science. The individual chapters are both informative and really useful and the author's own interpretation and the ways she puts forward her ideas and the reasons behind these ideas and suggestions was, for me, quite enlightening.

There's an informative diet plan, and interesting food suggestions to follow with lots of delicious trigger free recipes which help to navigate the complicated process of what you put into your body as fuel, but what struck a chord with me was the section about taking care of what you put on the outside of your body. I realised long ago that detergents, perfumes and chemicals acted as personal triggers and so it was reassuring to read that I haven't been wrong in my assumption and that so many artificial products really do act as triggers for both migraine and vertigo, the statement, "Avoid putting anything on your skin that you can't eat or drink " made perfect sense to me.

This is definitely my new go to book as I continue to cope with symptoms which I've learned to live with but, like many sufferers, I am constantly searching for new ways to cope, and this book certainly gave me some answers to questions which have long been a puzzle.

And just to add for those of us based in the UK that whilst there are references to US based medical practices it doesn't detract from the overall content to what is after all a very informative book.

If you live with migraine, and or vertigo, then here's a fabulous chance to win a copy in this generous giveaway or find the book here Amazon UK

The prize is a signed copy of The Migraine Relief Plan for US winners, or an unsigned copy of The Migraine Relief Plan for UK winners.

Enter this fabulous giveaway to win a copy of  The Migraine Relief Plan 

About the Author

Stephanie Weaver, MPH, CWHC, is an author, blogger, and certified wellness and health coach. Her recipes have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Parade, and more. She lives in San Diego, CA.

Social Media Links

Twitter @SweaverMPH #migrainereliefplan 



Saturday, 16 February 2019

Review ~ The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...Victorian England

Alma Classics
Alma Books
November 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Gilbert Markham is fascinated by Helen Graham, the beautiful and enigmatic woman who has recently moved into Wildfell Hall. He is swift to befriend her and steadfastly refutes the local gossip calling her character and behaviour into question, yet he soon has cause to regret his infatuation, and grave doubts and misgivings begin to arise in his mind. It is only when Helen presents Gilbert with her diary and instructs him to read it that the shocking truth about her past life becomes clear.

My thoughts..

The content of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is, by the standard of its time, rather dark and shocking as it uncovers a web of deceit and wickedness which surely shocked the sensibilities of its first readers It's about a woman who is grievously wronged and who, despite her precarious position in Victorian society, strives to protect herself, and her child, from further harm. 

Whilst there is no doubt that this story has all the strength and passion we associate with Anne Brontë it is not an easy read, firstly, it takes a while to become accustomed to Anne's writing style which is quite loquacious, and also the sheer scale of the novel takes a real investment of time. Realistically, I found that I could only read a chapter at a time, as the story is complex, and I needed to take time to absorb the meaning of this dark and quite gloomy Victorian Gothic.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is the book I most associate with Anne Brontë, and although by 1846 she had contributed to a book of poems with her sisters, it was the acceptance of Charlotte's novel, Jane Eyre, which spurred Anne to publish her first novel, Agnes Grey in 1847, under the pseudonym, Acton Bell. However, whilst Agnes Grey did reasonably well, it was rather overlooked by the greater success of Emily's Wuthering Heights which was published at the same time. Undaunted by this Anne went on to publish The Tenant of Wildfell Hall in 1848 and it's shocking and controversial content made it a huge success, with the first published run of the book selling out in 6 weeks.

There remains something remarkably important about the Brontë novels as no matter when you read the stories written by Charlotte, Anne or Emily, there is always something to discover which reiterates the strength, not just of their style writing, but also of their unique and at times quite scathing observation of  the role of women in Victorian society.

This edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was published by Alma Classics in November 2018 and is a beautifully presented copy with a sumptuous new cover. The series of illustrations at the start of the book show portraits of Anne, her parents and her sisters, placing them nicely into context and the extra material about Anne's life is both fascinating and informative.

Anne Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the youngest member of the Brontë literary family. The daughter of Patrick Brontë, a poor Irish clergyman in the Church of England, Anne Brontë lived most of her life with her family at the parish of Haworth on the Yorkshire moors. She died, aged 29, from tuberculosis in 1849.

©Digital Images


Friday, 15 February 2019

Review ~ The Secrets You Hide by Kate Helm

Bonnier Zaffre
7 February 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Georgia Sage has a gift: she can see evil in people. As a courtroom artist she uses her skills to help condemn those who commit terrible crimes. After all, her own brutal past means she knows innocence is even rarer than justice.

But when she is drawn back into the trial that defined her career, a case of twisted family betrayal, she realises her own reckless pursuit of justice may have helped the guilty go free.

As Georgia gets closer to the truth behind the Fielding family, something happens that threatens not only her career - but even her own sanity. At first, she fears her guilt around the events of her terrible childhood is finally coming back to haunt her. 

The truth turns out to be even more terrifying . . .

My thoughts..

Georgia Sage has an exceptional talent for recording what goes on in the most intense of courtroom battles. The reason for this is that Georgia is employed as a courtroom artist and her unique ability to record accurately the facial expressions and personality traits of those on trial have enhanced her reputation as one of the best artists in her field.

When Georgia is given the opportunity to revisit one of the more notorious trials she covered she finds, to her cost, that the deeper she gets drawn into reopening this mystery the more vulnerable she becomes. She is soon involved in a whole new set of secrets and lies which not only have the ability to destroy her peace of mind, but which also reveal the secrets of her own past which she has kept hidden for far too long.

The Secrets You Hide is a well written and complex psychological thriller. The opening chapter sets the scene really well and the action doesn't really let up until the story is finished. I found this to be a really suspenseful read and it was really refreshing to have a lead character who has a different perspective on the criminal justice system. Georgia is a complex character and we get a great insight into her personality as the story progresses.

The story is compellingly addictive and once started I found that I really couldn't put the book down.

Twitter @KateWritesBooks #thesecretsyouhide


Thursday, 14 February 2019

Review ~ The Smallest Things : On the Enduring Power of Family by Nick Duerden

 💖💖 Happy Publication Day 💖💖

14 February 2019

My thanks to the publishers and to Alison Menzies PR for my copy of this book
and the kind permission to share this extract from the book.

Nick Duerden’s grandparents were always just . . . there. A mysterious yet unchanging presence, a source of dutiful visits, birthday cards and carefully preserved rituals: lunches, dinners and endless card games.

But, as he enters midlife, and his 98-year-old grandmother enters a care home, he realises that, like so many of us, he should perhaps have paid more attention to her true worth years before.

As Nick goes in search of the secrets his late mother took to the grave, he finds it can be the smallest things that keep us together when so much is left unspoken. This is a memoir of the tiny dramas that fill all our lives, and a celebration of the special ties that can bind two intimately connected strangers. Tender and poignant, it captures the richness, and also the complexity, of family life.


How to remember us

Before you go, I want to give you something to remember us by. It’s clear to me you need some clothes, because why else would you have worn the same pair of jeans all week, with the rips at the knees? You really should have let me fix them for you. It wouldn’t have been any trouble. Anyway, your grandfather has many trousers here, and he doesn’t wear most of them. Look at these ones. Corduroys! And brown is always fashionable. No matter if they are too long and too wide, I can take them up, and in. Try them on, let me see you in them.

For consecutive birthdays, we will buy you a wallet made from real Italian leather. You may well let them pile up in a drawer at home, each unused and still in their presentation boxes, but eventually you will use every one of them. Life is long. You will always need to keep your money somewhere.

Here, take these cups. They are made from china. For coffee. Every time you have your morning espresso, think of us. No, no. I will wrap them up so they won’t break in your luggage. You can have the saucers, too. Do you have spoons in London?

For your wife, this scarf. A coat, perhaps? The collar is real fur. Or these lace doilies, beautiful for decoration. This umbrella? For the plane, some sandwiches. Four, so you won’t go hungry. Ham, cheese, tomatoes. And for the fridge at home: tortellini, ravioli. Gnocchi. Do you know gnocchi? You do? Some sweets for the plane, so your ears won’t pop.

Take the sweets. Remember us, yes? Don’t forget.

My Thoughts..

Love comes in many guises and on ♡Valentine's Day♡ it is all too easy to focus on the romantic love between couples but as this lovely book reminds us, love is all around us, and it's often the smallest things which make all the difference.

In this memoir of tiny dramas the author focuses on the strength of family, of the need to belong, and of the values instilled into us by our relationships with our significant others, and not just in a romantic way but also in a familial way. And by using the example of his grand-parents, the author takes us through the recollections he has of staying with them, and how these visits affected his upbringing and yet, what really shines throughout the book is the the love he had for his grandparents, and of the gradual realisation that they wouldn't be around forever.

This is a beautifully written memoir, which struck quite a few chords with me as my own mother is  97 and in a nursing home. Some days she doesn't know who I am or of my association with her and  this really hurts as I feel like I have lost the person she once was, and yet, there are still lovely moments when she surprises me and I can see that beneath the mask of dementia, she loves and remembers who I am and what I mean to her.

We take for granted those who mean the most to us and yet as this book so beautifully describes they really do 'hold the keys to who we really are'...

Nick lives in London with his Spanish wife and children. History is repeating itself as his two daughters have a Spanish grandmother. He is an experienced broadcaster appearing on national TV and radio, and writes regularly for the national press.

Twitter @Nick_Duerden



Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Blog Tour ~ Material Remains by Richard W H Bray

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to host today's stop on the Material Remains Blog Tour

7 February 2019
My thanks to the publishers and also To Anne at Random Things Tours for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

One Thursday morning a body is found on the beach of St Andrews. Suddenly archaeology student Mike MacEwan's world of tea, pints, late mornings and the occasional essay comes to an abrupt halt. Consumed with guilt, grief, confusion and thoughts of what might have been, Mike haunts the local ruins, rebuilding them in his mind, trying to find the shape of what is no longer there, as he obsesses over the loss of someone he barely knew, unsure of his place in her life, or her death. It's only the discovery of an ancient plague burial site near campus that drags Mike back into contact with those around him. But life has changed, both for himself and others, and the burial ground holds more than the bones of those long dead. Unsure what he will find, Mike peels back the layers of earth and its dark history, trying desperately to connect the victims of the past to the tumult of his present.

My thoughts..

Mike MacEwan is a mature student studying archaeology at St Andrews University in Scotland. He and a group of friends seem to spend most of their evenings in the pub getting drunk and then something happens which turns Mike's world upside down. He sinks into depression, only finding some sort of resolution when he becomes involved in an archaeological dig which is uncovering long buried secrets from the past.

Material Remains is a slow book in many ways and there doesn't seem to be much going on at times but then, I think this is quite deliberate as it gives you the opportunity to understand more about Mike's character and to discover what he is thinking. I must admit that, given the book blurb, I did sort of expect this to be more of a murder mystery, but that wasn't the case at all. There are several layers to the story, one is of the bewilderment when life suddenly takes a different turn, with no clear answer of what to do next. The other is one of involvement, learning to deal with events in a practical sort of way and finding the way forward.

The author writes the story well, and the university town of St Andrew's with its snaking wynds and alleyways are nicely described and together add atmosphere to this interesting story.

About the Author

Richard W. H. Bray is a writer and winemaker. His first book, Salt and Old Vines, won Best French Wine Book at the 2015 Gourmand Awards. He lives in London.

Twitter @RWHBray #MaterialRemains



Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Guest Author ~ Melinda Hammond

I'm delighted to welcome writer Melinda Hammond back to the blog today

 on the publication of her latest Historical novel

Melinda Hammond writes: Today sees the publication of The Bladesmith, A Georgian romantic adventure that I started working on some years ago. The whole thing began with a medieval castle…

(Picture: Dunstaburgh Castle) 

The photo above is of Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland, and it is pretty close to how I saw it for the very first time. It was love at first sight! I knew wanted to use this setting and as I wandered around the impressive ruins on a cold November day, the first seeds of a story began to germinate. 

A castle demands action, and danger, so I decided to set the story at the time of the Jacobite Rebellion. Dunstanburgh was already a ruin by then, but my fictional castle, Warenford Keep, was restored and preparing to support Bonnie Prince Charlie as he marched south towards London. 

(picture: cavalry officer’s sword, late 18th century) 

My hero is a young man from a family of sword makers who delivers a consignment of swords to the castle, not knowing they are destined for rebel hands. In the mid eighteenth century, some of the finest swords in Europe were being made at Shotley Bridge, just 50 miles from Dunstanburgh. The swordsmiths had fled Germany a century earlier and set up business near the river Derwent, where good quality ironstone and soft water provided two important elements for making steel. Thinking of those early refugees I decided my hero’s family name might be Stahl, which by the eighteenth century had become anglicized. Thus, John Steel was born; blond, blue-eyed and courageous! 

So, I had my setting, and my hero, but now I needed a heroine. Enter Katherine, spirited, dark haired, with grey eyes that shone like a freshly polished blade. She lives with her father, who had been imprisoned for treason following the Jacobite uprising of 1715 and returned home a broken man. She and John are immediately attracted to one another, but there’s a problem: she is betrothed to the powerful Lord Warenford! 

I loved writing this adventure romance, set against the brooding backdrop of the Northumbrian coast and here is a snippet: John, travelling with his friend and servant, Matthew, sees the castle for the first time: 

(picture: South Walls) 

A low, wind-blown hedge separated the road from lush green pasture that fell away for half a mile or so to the shore and gave way to an expanse of restless blue and white water that stretched to the horizon. They stopped. John took off his hat and wiped his brow. 

'The German Ocean,' breathed Matthew, awed. 

John set his hat back on his head, pressing it down firmly for a keen breeze was blowing steadily in-shore. 'Aye, Matthew. And that, I fancy, must be Warenford Keep.' 

His outstretched finger pointed to a whinstone ridge that reared up from the flat meadows and jutted out into the bay, where the waves broke tirelessly against the black rocks. Built onto the ridge, and gleaming in the bright sun, was a sprawling stone castle. Sturdy high walls perched on top the rocky outcrop, broken occasionally by a high tower, while on the south-facing slope twin round towers stood on each side of the arched gateway. 

Matthew glanced at his master. 'They say this was once a wild land. A lord might have need of such a stronghold.' 

'And if the Stuart is indeed in Scotland, he might have need of it again. By God, the air is so clear it seems I could reach out and touch those walls!' 


The Bladesmith, by Melinda Hammond, is available on Kindle and as a paperback

1745: John Steel takes a consignment of swords to Warenford Keep on the wild Northumberland coast. He suspects that the swords are destined for the rebel army of Charles Edward Stuart, but matters are complicated by his growing attraction to Katherine Ellingham, daughter of a known Jacobite and betrothed to the powerful Lord Warenford.

With Carlisle in the hands of the Jacobites, and government troops patrolling Northumberland, John makes a desperate bid to retrieve the swords from the Keep before his family is implicated in the uprising, but can he succeed, and protect Katherine and her family at the same time? 

Twitter @SarahMRomance

Monday, 11 February 2019

Books in my Week !

My postman had a really busy week last week, not only struggling through in appalling weather but also delivering this pile of book goodies to me.

I'm always so appreciative of the authors and publishers who share their work with me and never take receiving copies in the post.

My reviews of these lovely books will be coming on the blog soon, so watch out for my recommendations 😊

Stay warm, stay safe and Happy Reading !!

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Review ~ Ten Poems for Breakfast - Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press
February 2019

My thanks to Kathy at Candlestick for my copy of this pamphlet

One of the most original and successful anthologists at work today has chosen the poems for this enticing new mini-anthology. Ana Sampson has selected poems that introduce us to all manner of morning delights and remind us that it can never be too early in the day to read a poem. Ana says:

“I’ve edited a fair number of anthologies, but this was certainly one of the more unusual ones. I’m a passionate believer in the power of poetry and I was inspired by the idea of encouraging people to read a poem first thing in the morning (rather than looking at their phone, for example!) Everyone needs something to set them off on the right foot before they get caught up in their busy daily routine.”

We find Billy Collins buzzing around his house after several espressos and Lani O’Hanlon walking barefoot to the hen-house to collect eggs, both relishing the quiet solitude of being up early and contemplating the day ahead. For others, the first hours of the day are to be shared with loved ones; slices of toast flying from the toaster provide a vivid childhood memory:

“...I ate six slices

one weekend, enthralled

with how happiness

was the colour of butter,

best eaten hot.”

from ‘Toaster’ by Olga Dermott-Bond

The selection also includes three brand new poems that were chosen as winners in a recent Candlestick Press breakfast poem competition.

Even if you’re not a morning person, these tender and beguiling poems are a reminder that there’s always something very precious about the start of a new day.

Poems by Elizabeth Bishop, Billy Collins, Elizabeth Daryush, Olga Dermott-Bond, Catherine Edmunds, Phil M Houghton, Ted Kooser, Lani O’Hanlon, Charles Simic and Mary Stewart Hammond.

Cover illustration by Jane Walker.

My thoughts...

Sunday morning is one of those special days in the week when most people try, if their work-life balance allows, to make time for a leisurely breakfast, and what better way to start this Sunday than with Ten Poems for Breakfast which is the latest poetry pamphlet from Candlestick Press.

I have never really considered breakfast to be an inspiration for poetry and yet once I had read, and considered, all the content of this clever collection I was completely convinced that breakfast, the most important meal of the day, really should be immortalised in verse.

As always in these wonderful poetry pamphlets, there is something for everyone to enjoy,

from the stark beauty of Before the Lark by Phil M Houghton

" leave me
 in the company
 of doorsteps
carve up the pavement
and with thin shafts of light
take in the milk"

to the glorious work of one of my favourite WW1 poets Still-Life by Elizabeth Daryush

"Through the open French window the warm sun
lights up the polished breakfast table, laid
round a bowl of crimson roses, for one "

I've really enjoyed reading through the ten poems which make up this short anthology of breakfast poems, and which have been so beautifully selected by Ana Sampson. There really is something for everyone and in the hurly-burly of frenetic weekday mornings when you are rushing out of the house with a breakfast biscuit in one hand and a wickedly strong espresso in the other perhaps it's a good idea to make one day a week the time to indulge in a leisurely breakfast and at the same time enjoy the wonderful poems in Ten Poems for Breakfast.

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

Twitter @PoetryCandle

Ana Sampson @AnaBooks

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Blood's Revolution by Angus Donald

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...1685

Blood's Revolution

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Following a long sojourn in France, Holcroft Blood has returned to England and is now a Lieutenant in His Majesty's Ordnance. With civil unrest looming everywhere, Blood is soon busy defending the realm against those who wish to see King James II deposed. Against a backdrop of religious, and political, strife, Blood finds that his return to England is fraught with danger, not just because his role in the Ordnance sees him in the thick of military action, particularly at the Battle of Sedgemoor, but there is also a shadowy figure from his past that seems hell bent on causing Blood's destruction. 

It's been really interesting to discover just how Blood has progressed in the fifteen years since we last knew him. No long working as a spy, Blood is very much his own man and whilst his work in the Ordnance is dangerous, there is always something which fires Blood's imagination and, as before, he is not one to take orders easily. This independent spirit will see him in grave danger as he tries to keep one step ahead of those who wish to do him harm. However, Blood is a worthy hero, superbly flawed, of course, but with a real sense of honour and a genuine desire to do the right thing. It was interesting to discover a little more of Blood’s character particularly in his personal relationships, which are covered in a little more detail in this story. 

The author writes this type of historical adventure very well, and in using historical fact cleverly combined with fiction, the age of treachery comes alive in the imagination. The difficulties of living in such a unpredictable time politically is highlighted, as is the ambiguity and growing dissent which surrounded the reign of this very Catholic King. 

Even though the story ends at the conclusion of the Glorious Revolution in 1689, I feel sure that this is not the end of Blood’s story.  I look forward to seeing where his adventures will take him next.

Twitter @angus_donald #BloodsRevolution


Friday, 8 February 2019

Review ~ Song of the Dead by Douglas Lindsay

Mulholland Books
7 February 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

A dead man walks into a police station. He tells a tale - bizarre as it is grotesque - of kidnap and organ harvesting. John Baden's story of being held prisoner for twelve years sounds far-fetched - but it's all about to get much, much stranger.

DI Ben Westphall has been given the case because of his background in MI6. He also has a knack for getting inside people's heads and seeing things others would miss. Westphall is no ordinary detective and this is no ordinary investigation.

When his suspects start dying, Westphall realises someone is killing to cover up the truth. But what exactly is the truth? To find out, he'll have to question everything he's been told, before there's no one left to ask..

My thoughts..

When a dead man walks into an Estonian Police Station his appearance creates something of a conundrum, not just for the personnel involved, but also for DI Ben Westphall who is the Scottish detective in charge of the British side of the investigation. The 'dead' man's sudden arrival creates more questions than it does answers and before long Westphall is dragged into a bizarre investigation which gets more and more complicated as the story evolves.

I liked Ben Westphall from the beginning, he's an interesting character and his background in MI6 mean he has a good eye for working out the improbable, that he is also rather flawed, goes a long way into making him an interesting leading man. As with any new series there is a certain amount of scene setting and background about the lead characters but this was achieved smoothly and didn't get in the way of what is, in effect, a really tense murder mystery.

Song of the Dead is a really cleverly plotted crime thriller, with more than enough twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing. Its complicated story line moving between dangerous situations both in Eastern Europe and some rather dark events in Scotland makes for fascinating reading.

Three titles in the DI WESTPHALL series will be coming from Mulholland Books in 2019.

About the Author

Douglas Lindsay was born in Scotland in 1964, at 2:38 am. Thirty-five years of little note ensued, before the world heralded the publication of his first book, The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson, which was adapted was adapted for the screen starring Robert Carlyle, Ray Winstone and Emma Thompson. As he was leaving the house to undertake a public engagement for the first time, his wife kissed him on the cheek and said, 'Whatever you do, don't be yourself...' Sadly, Lindsay continues to ignore her advice to this day.

Lindsay worked at the Ministry of Defence for over ten years and is married to a diplomat. He has lived in Dakar, Belgrade, Warsaw and Tallinn, an experience that inspired Song of the Dead. He now lives and writes full time in Somerset with his wife and their two children. 

 Twitter @DTSLindsay #SongOfTheDead

Amazon UK

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Review ~ The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

✨ Happy Publication Day ✨

7 February 2019

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

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him...

My thoughts..

There's been such an excited buzz around this book for the last few months that I was almost afraid to read it in case it didn't live up to expectations but from the moment I started The Silent Patient and came into contact with both Alicia Berenson, and her psychotherapist, Theo Fenton, I knew that I was reading something that was a little bit special.

There's a distinct creepiness to the story, and in light of Alicia's incarceration following her husband's death, for which she is held responsible, her silence is made all the more eloquent by her refusal to communicate on any level. Theo Fenton, takes employment at the secure psychiatric unit where Alicia is being held, and with a profound sense of bravado, Theo attempts to unravel the reasons for the silence of the silent patient. And, as we discover, over the length of the novel, there are so many valid reasons for Alicia's silence but the game is on to find out just who is telling the truth, as once the truth is out there, there is never going to be any way back. 

For me, the novel works well because it's a cleverly layered dissection of a life which has been traumatised and shows just what happens when the brain tries to protect itself from catastrophic loss. And yet the story is also about so much more than a psychiatric analysis, it's about love, betrayal and obsession on a grand scale, and it's about those secrets and lies which are so huge they threaten to overwhelm everything.

There's so much about The Silent Patient which is better left unsaid, as that way the denouement will be every bit as shocking to you as it was for me. I usually have a good idea of where a thriller is heading, but I really didn't anticipate the ending, which blew me away. Some  books leave you feeling a little bit empty when they finish, but not so with this one which was absolutely unputdownable and which had me completely hooked from first page to last.

About the Author

Alex Michaelides

Alex Michaelides was born in Cyrprus in 1977. He wrote the film The Devil You Know and co-wrote The Brits are Coming. The Silent Patient is his first novel which he was inspired to write after doing a post-graduate course in psychotherapy and working part tine in a secure psychiatric unit for two years. The film of The  Silent patient is being developed by Brad Pitt's Plan B company.

Twitter @ AlexMichaelides #TheSilentPatient #BreakTheSilence


Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Review ~ I Can't Tell You Why by Elaine Robertson North

8 January

My thanks to Ben at Cameron Publicity and Marketing for my proof copy of this book

Sometimes even the most grounded people make bad decisions – decisions that even they cannot explain. And sometimes bad decisions take on a life of their own . . .

Having an affair is inconceivable to Dani and yet she’s having one with Alex. He’s married, he’s an actor and she’s his agent. Then Dani meets Sean, a paparazzi photographer with a formidable reputation. It’s a profession that makes him unpredictable at best. A dangerous trait when his motivation to expose becomes personal.

Can Dani dig her way out of a bad situation that she thought that she was too smart to get into?

My thoughts about it..

Dani is a successful agent, cleverly maneuvering her clients through the minefield of celebrity status. Alex Cambridge is one of her rising stars, still a little bit vulnerable in light of his new found stardom and reliant on Dani to be with him when he faces the growing curiosity of the media. Alex is not only charming and very easy on the eye but he also has a growing attraction to Dani. This attraction is not entirely unwelcome, however, the last thing Dani needs is to have an affair with Alex, as not only is he being chased by the paparazzi, but he also has a wife and three children.

What then follows is a love triangle situation which Dani really should have anticipated for not only does she succumb to Alex's charm which leaves her vulnerable but she also finds she is growing increasingly attracted to Sean MacDonald who, as a paparazzi photographer, as few scruples when it comes to dishing the gossip about the rich and famous.

I enjoyed reading of Dani's dilemma and even though at times I found her quite irritating I couldn't help but be drawn into her story. The author writes well and using her knowledge of working in the media to good effect creates a nice sense of living in the here and now. Throughout the story there's an interesting assortment of characters, especially Dani's friends, Billy and Amanda, who do all they can to support Dani when she needs it most.

I Can't Tell You Why is an entertaining read which highlights the perils and pitfalls of living life in the glare of the media. It shows the tenacity of the photographers and news reporters who make their living dishing out all those juicy tit-bits of gossip which make magazines and newspapers so appealing to us readers.

About the Author

ELAINE ROBERTSON NORTH spent a fast and furious 25 years working in entertainment marketing and communications. She spent seven years marketing national newspapers, ran the publicity campaign for three Red Nose Days, spent a couple of years working in entertainment PR and was the Unit Publicist on Four Weddings and a Funeral. She was also the Press & Promotions Manager at Capital Radio and the Head of Communications at UKTV. It was a fantastically rich source of material.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Review ~ Claws, Paws, Feathers and Jaws and The Two Tails by Katie Christine

Relegated to a life without hope for anything more than a squalid existence at the bottom of the pecking order, Petunia, a backyard chicken, lives out her days in a flock where gossip flows as currency, with malice at its heart and boredom by its side. Petunia’s plight seems insurmountable until a strange woman’s tears hurl her through a labyrinth that she never anticipated and into a friendship she might not survive.

My thoughts..

Petunia is a chicken with a heart as big as the flower garden she nourishes. Low down in the pecking order, she is never going to be accepted by the chicken hierarchy, but then an unlikely saviour in the form of Macy the cat enters her garden, and soon Petunia’s life is turned completely upside-down.

This beautifully written and delightfully illustrated little book captures the imagination, and explores some quite dark themes – there is loneliness, bullying and despair, but there is also friendship and loyalty, and some genuine laugh out loud funny moments, as Macy and Petunia take on the wrath of the chicken supremo, and her cluster of conspirator chickens.

Impeccable Petunia is one of those lovely books which has the fundamental themes of friendship, loyalty, fraternity, and equality, and all are portrayed in a sympathetic and understandable way, and the stunning illustrations really bring the story to life.

As The Two Tails opens, the flock confronts a spiral of death and disappearance. Ensnared by a rapacious raccoon and desperate for a way out, Petunia must throw herself at the mercy of the dark, open road with little more than gumption, a pair of useless wings, and a dubious companion as her guide.

My thoughts..

It's such an interesting concept to make an entirely credible world about chickens and at first I wasn't sure that I could imagine such a world, however the author writes with such a passionate interest that her love for animals shines through any reservations I may have had. The characterisation is completely credible, and it wasn't long before I was fully immersed in this chicken inspired world. The Two Tails starts off well with an introduction to an egg stealing raccoon, who very quickly gets everything off to a dramatic and rather exciting start, and the story also sees the welcome return of Petunia, and her companion, Macy, the cat.

There's a lot going on in this second book with the introduction of some new characters and a story which is a little bit longer and a rather edgier than the first book but as before the story moves along quickly. The Two Tails covers some rather dark themes but there's also some lighter moments and the theme of camaraderie and sticking together through all sorts of adversity comes across. The story is complimented by clever illustrations which I don't think my kindle paperwhite does full justice too.

I've enjoyed this second foray into the world of Claws, Paws, Feathers and Jaws and The Two Tails and my thanks to the author for the e-copies of her books.

More about the author can be found on her Website

Monday, 4 February 2019

Blog Tour ~ A Small Dark Quiet by Miranda Gold

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to host today's stop on A Small Dark Quiet Blog Tour

4 December 2018

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

March, 1945. The ravaged face of London will soon be painted with victory, but for Sylvie, the private battle for peace is just beginning. When one of her twins is stillborn, she is faced with a consuming grief for the child she never had a chance to hold. A Small Dark Quiet follows a mother as she struggles to find the courage to rebuild her life and care for an orphan whom she and her husband, Gerald, adopt two years later.

Born in a concentration camp, the orphan’s early years appear punctuated with frail speculations, opening up a haunting space that draws Sylvie to bring him into parallel with the child she lost. When she gives the orphan the stillborn child’s name, this unwittingly entangles him in a grief he will never be able to console. His own name has been erased, his origins blurred. Arthur’s preverbal trauma begins to merge with the loss he carries for Sylvie, released in nightmares and fragments of emerging memories to make his life that of a boy he never knew. He learns all about ‘that other little Arthur’, yearning both to become him and to free himself from his ghost. He can neither fit the shape of the life that has been lost nor grow into the one his adopted father has carved out for him. 

As the novel unfolds over the next twenty years, Arthur becomes curious about his Jewish heritage, but fears what this might entail – drawn towards it, it seems he might find a sense of communion and acceptance, but the chorus of persecutory voices he has internalised becomes too overwhelming to bear. He is threatened as a child with being sent back where he belongs but no one can tell him where this is. He wanders as an adult looking for purpose but is unable to find his place. Feeling an imposter both at home and in the city, Arthur’s yearning for that sense of belonging echoes in our own time. 

Meeting Lydia seems to offer Arthur the opportunity to recast himself, yet all too soon he is trapped in a repetition of what he was trying to escape. A past he can neither recall nor forget lives on within him even as he strives to forge a life for himself. Survival, though, insists Arthur keeps searching and as he opens himself to the world around him, there are flashes of just how resilient the human heart can be. 

Through Sylvie’s unprocessed grief and Arthur’s acute sense of displacement, A Small Dark Quiet explores how the compulsion to fill the empty space death leaves behind ultimately makes the devastating void more acute. Yet however frail, the instinct for empathy and hope persists in this powerful story of loss, migration and the search for belonging. 

My thoughts about it..

This is such a sad story which is made all the more poignant by the author's quite distinct writing style and the way that the story is allowed to evolve quite slowly. I thought the opening chapter was particularly well done as it introduces us to Sylvie, and explains the dreadful loss she suffered when, after a home birth, only one of her twins survived. Her grief and sense of sorrow is palpable and this sets the scene for the rest of the story as Sylvie never really comes to terms with her profound sense of bereavement. 

Even though she and her husband, Gerald, have a healthy son, they also adopt a displaced child, from one of the concentration camps, and there is a continual sense that Arthur, named for the dead child, is always trying to replace the twin that was lost. This, in a way, reiterates Arthur's sense of bewilderment, and not just because of his fragmented, and terrifying start in life, but also in the way that Arthur becomes the focus for all of Sylvie's grief. 

The author writes well and even though it takes a while to feel comfortable with the way the story is written, as it moves around in quite different time frames, it is worth keeping with it as it all starts to fall into place. A Small Dark Quiet is a very reflective piece of writing, not just because of what it exposes about the destructive nature of loss and grief, but also about the importance of recognising one’s heritage, and of the need to find a way through the turmoil of lives which have been forever changed by distressing circumstances. 

I found much to consider in A Small Dark Quiet, as to the author’s credit she hasn’t wrapped everything up in a neat package, there’s no happy ending or tidy resolution to the fractured lives within the story, which, I think, is entirely appropriate and in keeping with the story as a whole.

About the Author

Concert pianist in a parallel universe, novelist in this, Miranda Gold is a woman whose curiosity about the instinct in us all to find and tell stories qualifies her to do nothing but build worlds out of words. 

Miranda’s first love was theatre and advises anyone after a dose of laughter in dark (along with a ferocious lesson in subtext) to look no further than the cheese sandwich in Pinter’s The Homecoming. No less inspiring were the boisterous five year olds she taught drama to and the youth groups she supported to workshop and stage their scripts. Both poetry and its twin, music, have been fundamental in her process as a writer and her hope is that the novel can tap into some of their magic to unleash the immediacy and visceral power of language – qualities that keep the reader on the page as well as turning it. Gatsby, To the Lighthouse and The Ballad of the Sad Café are books she will always come back to, always finding another door left ajar. Having the opportunity to mentor prisoners at Pentonville reaffirmed for her the connections that can be made when we find a narrative and a shape that can hold experience. There have been fleeting fantasies of becoming a Flamenco dancer, but sadly she has the coordination of an inebriated jelly fish. 

Her first novel, Starlings, published by Karnac (2016) reaches back through three generations to explore how the impact of untold stories ricochets down the years. In her review for The Tablet, Sue Gaisford described Starlings as “a strange, sad, original and rather brilliant first novel, illumined with flashes of glorious writing and profound insight, particularly into the ways in which we attempt to reinvent ourselves.” Before turning her focus to fiction, Miranda attended the Soho Course for young writers where her play, Lucky Deck, was selected for development and performance.

Twitter @mirandagold999 #ASmallDarkQuiet