Sunday, 5 April 2020

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Camilla Downs

On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo

I'd delighted to welcome writer,  Camilla Downs 

☼Good Morning, Camilla. Happy Sunday !

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch? 

I’m bringing a cold pasta salad with Kalamata olives, marinated artichoke hearts, a few sweet and spicy peppers, capers, shredded vegan cheese, finely chopped rainbow carrots, small sweet peas, tossed with a tangy Rosรฉ vinaigrette. 

Would you like a pot of English Breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?

 I’m going to color outside the lines with my answer. HA! It would depend on my mood. I love a good, strong, cup of English Breakfast tea. Yet, I also immensely enjoy a cup of rich, creamy, Nitro coffee. Yet, again, if I still imbibed, I would go with a delightful, frothy, mug of Theakston Old Peculier. 

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today? 

Here I go coloring outside the lines again … John Muir is who I’m bringing as I’m inspired by his love and advocacy of Nature and how he expressed this in written form.

What’s the title of the book nearest to you? 

Women Who Run With the Wolves - Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

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What’s the oldest book on your book shelf? I can’t just list one as I love old books! 

Here are the four oldest on my shelf.

1883 - Treasures of Use and Beauty: An Epitome of the Choicest Gems of Wisdom, History, Reference and Recreation

1884 - One Thousand and One Gems of English and American Poetry

1876 - Emerson’s Essays

1894 - Representative Men by Emerson

Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for …yet! 

'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***k: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life' by Mark Manson …. I’d mainly like to read this as the title and subject intrigue me. At 50 years of age, I’ve already reached the point of not giving a f***k. Ha! Although, there’s that wee voice within that, at times, brings forth guilt and shame by whispering to me that I look like a fool and a jack***. 

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it? 

No. I don’t think I feel guilt about anything I read. Then again, I’m quite picky about what I read, so maybe that’s why.

If the house was on fire which book would you rescue? 

I would get my kids and myself out first, and then if there’s time, I’d rescue one of a kind family photo books.

Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read/write? 

On my couch, with a blanket covering me if it’s cold, with a cup of black coffee or strong English tea, and my laptop perched on my lap. I simply cannot write by hand, as my fingers and hands start aching after about 5 minutes. 

Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs? 

Tenacity to write
Courage to write
Tenacity to keep writing
Courage to keep writing

What can you tell us about your latest novel, or your current work in progress?

My latest book is non-fiction, a free-verse poetry memoir. If you had asked me years ago if I wrote poetry or if I would ever publish a poetry book, I most likely would have wildly laughed and answered, “No”. I have learned to never say never. Six years ago, poetry just started flowing. I “listened” and I wrote. Here we are with a published book with six years of poetry! Titled, 'Words of Alchemy', and published December 2019. 

The poetry of nature, the poetry of healing, the poetry of appreciation, the poetry of love … in one beautiful book. 

Book Blurb:

In Words of Alchemy, Camilla Downs invites you to walk with her to share her love of Nature and Life through a heartfelt free-verse poetry memoir.

During her daily strolls she is mindfully present as she delves into life in the raw and experiences her heart’s observations.

Camilla embraces what happens when she opens her heart and invites the written words to flow. The Alchemy of Love and Healing is what happens.

Praise for Words of Alchemy

“Words of Alchemy, a heartfelt new collection by Camilla Downs, lives up to its namesake in numerous ways. Downs spans the broad range of nature, healing, love, and parenting, while making sure we have a little fun along the way. And the bridge she creates from the mindfulness of how we see the world at large to the poetry of everyday life is certainly worth a stroll or two across its borders.” – Thomas Lloyd Qualls, Award-winning author of Painted Oxen

“This poetry collection offers contemplative words, soothing thoughts and peace to the reader.” – Sue Bentley, Bestselling author of Second Skin

“Camilla Downs shares truth, vulnerability and wisdom in her Words of Alchemy collection, inviting readers to be inspired, contemplate and dive into her world of self-awareness and growth.” – G. Brian Benson – Award-winning author, actor and spoken word artist

“These poems take you on a calm and loving walk through the verses of the author’s thoughts. Alchemy is a perfect word for the title as Camilla Downs understands nature; connecting with its magical, medicinal qualities and beauty which she conveys throughout her poetry.” – Ailsa Craig, Author of The Sand Between My Toes

“Words of Alchemy is a chronicle of hope. These poems are an encouragement, especially when we are feeling at our lowest, to keep seeking the light that is our way forward, and focus on the real. This collection is a walk through the positive nature of life. Camilla Downs is to be commended.” – Frank Prem, Author of free-verse memoir Small Town Kid.

About Camilla:

Camilla Downs is a bestselling author, indie publisher, mentor, and mom. Nature and life experiences are a constant source of inspiration for her writing. She enjoys living a minimalist lifestyle, practicing meditation and mindfulness, reading, going for walks, and capturing nature’s essence with photographs. Camilla is the founder of and lives in Northern Nevada, USA with her two kids.

Family Website:

Where to Buy:

If you're in the U.S. and would like a personalised, signed book - free shipping! (I will ship internationally, if the reader would like to pay the international shipping fee):

Amazon - Takes the reader to my book, in their country:
Amazon Author Central:

Camilla Downs Author

Founder & Host of Meeting the Authors

Facilitator of MTA Book Blog Tours

My latest book, Words of Alchemy has arrived! A free-verse poetry memoir of the last 6 years. The poetry of nature, the poetry of healing, the poetry of appreciation, the poetry of love - all in one beautiful book. Get yours now!

Be inspired and whisked away!! Check out my 18 year old daughter's debut book, Where Would You Fly and Other Magical Stories. Published January 2018! Order here.

Check out my 14 year old son's book, Biggest Little Photographer! Published October 2016. Be Inspired. Buy one for yourself or as a gift. 

And my book published in 2012, D iz for Different - One Woman's Journey to Acceptance; which reached #2 in the Self-Help Category and #1 in Special Needs Parenting on Amazon.

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ H R Kemp

On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast, and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo

I'm delighted to welcome author, H R Kemp

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch? 

I have a sweet tooth and love anything French. In 2009, I spent six months living in France and it was a fabulous experience. We had a cottage near Sarlat, in the Dordogne and spent our days exploring and experiencing the French way of life. There was so much to love, and of course, the food was a highlight. I particularly love their almond croissants, ‘snail cakes’ (pain au raisin) and all kinds of French pastries. Sunday Brunch is the perfect time to share a selection of those. 

Would you like a pot of English Breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz? 

I’m definitely a coffee drinker and long black is my poison of choice. I do try to limit my number of coffees each day and lean towards herbal teas for the rest of the day. Now, with the social distancing and social isolation looming for us in Australia, I’ve resorted to buying take-away long black coffees from my favourite cafes whenever I can. Usually we drive to our beachside, sit in the car and enjoy. 

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today? 

I’m a big fan of John Le Carrรฉ, Peter Temple (who will sadly join us in spirit only), Elliot Perlman and Anna Funder. I love books with a plot (it can be crime, thriller or other) and touches on social issues. 

What’s the title of the book nearest to you? 

Red Birds by Mohamed Hanif. I’ve been planning to read this book since I heard Mohamed speak at last year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week. It’s next, when I finish my current read ‘The Cut Out Girl” by Bart Van Es. 

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What’s the oldest book on your book shelf? 

The complete works of Shakespeare – bought when I was fresh out of school - and it’s still in good condition. I find it harder to read now-a-days, the print in those older books is very small. I’ve got a whole host of classics on my shelves, and I keep meaning to read them but…. 

Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for …yet! 

I have a whole bookcase full of books to be read. They tell the story of my reading tastes going back many years. I would love to make a real dent in this pile, but unfortunately I can’t resist buying more, especially during the Adelaide Writers’ Week, when I always promise I will not buy any more books. This year I only bought 5. Maybe now, I’ll have more time to read. 

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it? 

No guilt about reading. It’s hard to find the time, but I squeeze it in. I still enjoy reading paperbacks more than eBooks. Maybe now I will have more time to plough through my TBR (although since setting up the launch of my debut novel, the second novel has been impatiently waiting for me to get back to editing it). 

If the house was on fire which book would you rescue? 

Only one? I think I would rescue my photo albums first, then my travel diaries (I write pages each day to capture the essence of my experiences when we travel. Finally, if I have to choose, both ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor. E. Frankl and ‘Stasiland’ by Anna Funder had a profound impact on me. 

Do you have a reading/writing playlist on Spotify, or a favourite CD to listen to when reading/writing? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy? 

I don’t often listen to music when I write but I love listening to Australian artists like John Farnham, Rene Geyer and Doug Parkinson (all from my teenage years). My taste in music often follows what my family exposes me to. For many years, my daughter played trumpet for symphony orchestras, and a ballet and opera orchestra; my young grandson is learning guitar (and loves AC/DC and plays stairway to heaven); and I love to mix nostalgia with something a little more modern. 

Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read/write? 

I read wherever I can, often that’s on the bus or tram, in the car while waiting for grandchildren after school and even in front of the TV. Strangely I don’t like reading in bed, I can never get comfortable. 

Writing happens in two general locations. Twice a week I write (in long hand), or edit, while enjoying a coffee at one of my favourite cafes. The rest of the time, I write at my desk (using the laptop). It’s upstairs with a view over roof and tree tops but the desk has become a very messy place. (I was always so tidy, I don’t know how this happened) 

Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs? 

Coffee, pens, beautiful notebooks and electronic devices like laptop and phone. (I know that’s more than four but…) 

What can you tell us about your latest novel, or your current work in progress? 

My debut political conspiracy thriller, Deadly Secrets, was released on 31 March. It is a thriller with a difference and involves an ordinary public servant whose innocent investigation into the suspicious death of her friend, uncovers a deadly high-level conspiracy. 

Deadly Secrets 

What unspeakable truths lurk beneath the lies? 

Can ordinary people thwart a powerful conspiracy? 

Shelley Ormond’s life is about to change forever. Her friend, a young refugee, dies suddenly and the federal police have shrouded her case in secrecy. Shelley has never been bold, but she will have to break the rules and jeopardise her safe, public service career to learn the truth. 

Her new friend Adrian, a medical researcher, is studying a mystery illness in outback communities. Young children are falling fatally ill, but there’s no obvious cause although suspicious mining activity in the area is worth investigating. 

Shelley delves deeper and is drawn into a sinister world of police cover-ups, organised crime and corporate greed. If she obeys the law, the powerful can go on breaking it. 

The stakes are high, and the treacherous schemers will do anything to keep their deadly secrets. Lives don’t matter, not even hers. 

Can they expose the plot before more lives are lost? 

Will the formidable and ruthless forces behind the conspiracy stop them? 

Deadly Secrets is available from: 

Amazon UK (eBook & paperback) 

Amazon Australia (eBook & Paperback) 

The eBook is also available from 

The paperback is also available from:

Where can we follow you on social media? 

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Mini Blog Blitz ~ The Warrior Knight and the Widow by Ella Matthews

Delighted to be one of today's stops on this Mini Blog Blitz

Mills & Boon
19 March 2020

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

Protected by The Beast 

Undone by the man 

Racing cross country pursued by danger, widow Lady Ellena Swein isn’t pleased to be taken back to her father’s castle. But with his knight Sir Braedan Leofri, also known as The Beast, as her captor, she has little choice! Ellena is surprised by his honourable and protective nature, even if she shouldn’t trust him. And when all seems to conspire against them, Braedan’s secret could either extinguish the spark between them or make it burn brighter.

What did I think about it..

Despite her objection, newly widowed, Lady Ellena Swein is being escorted back to her father's castle. Sir Braedan Leofric's, reputation as a dangerous warrior goes before him, nicknamed 'The Beast', he has been charged with delivering Lady Swein back into her father's safekeeping, however, the road back to Ogmore Castle is fraught with danger, a danger which will test both Ellena and Braedan to their absolute limit of endurance.

What then follows is an entertaining historical romp which has all the necessary ingredients for a lively medieval adventure. There's danger aplenty for Ellena as she is pursued across country, and Braedan has to keep his considerable wits about him in order to keep them both safe from those dastardly enemies who seek to do them harm.

This is the author's debut historical romance/adventure and I feel that she has the balance between excitement, danger and passion absolutely spot on. There's an authentic historical feel to the story and more than enough thrills and spills to keep you turning the pages. Of course, there is also the added attraction of a passionate romance and The Warrior Knight and the Widow certainly sizzles with an undercurrent of forbidden and illicit attraction between the high born lady and the fierce-some warrior, with his hidden heart of gold.

I enjoyed getting to know both of these characters who each have their own faults and failings but when up against the worst that can happen both Ellena and Braedan prove themselves to be strong and forceful personalities.

In this current troubling time, I need to read stories which take me to anther time and place, and I found so much to enjoy in reading The Warrior Knight and the Widow that I read the whole book in one delightful sitting.

About the Author

Ella Matthews lives and works in beautiful South Wales, When not thinking about handsome heroes she can be found walking the coast with her husband and their two children ( probably still thinking about heroes but at least pretending to be interested in everyone else)

Twitter @ellamattauthor



Giveaway to Win a Signed copy of The Warrior Knight and the Widow (Open INT) 

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Please enter using 

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Friday, 3 April 2020

Book review ~ The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey

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5 March 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Some secrets are unspoken. Others are unspeakable . . .

August 1939.

Thirty-year-old Hetty Cartwright is tasked with the evacuation and safekeeping of the natural history museum’s collection of mammals. Once she and her exhibits arrive at Lockwood Manor, however, where they are to stay for the duration of the war, Hetty soon realizes that she’s taken on more than she’d bargained for.

Protecting her charges from the irascible Lord Lockwood and resentful servants is work enough, but when some of the animals go missing, and worse, Hetty begins to suspect someone – or something – is stalking her through the darkened corridors of the house.

As the disasters mount, Hetty finds herself falling under the spell of Lucy, Lord Lockwood’s beautiful but clearly haunted daughter. But why is Lucy so traumatized? Does she know something she’s not telling? And is there any truth to local rumours of ghosts and curses?

Part love story, part mystery, The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey is a gripping and atmospheric tale of family madness, long-buried secrets and hidden desires.

What did I think about it..

At the start of the second world war, Hetty Cartwright is the museum curator who is in charge of relocating the mammal exhibits from the Natural History Museum in London to a safer environment in the countryside. Lockwood Manor is the place which has been chosen to store the precious collection but right from Hetty's arrival it is obvious that there is something rather dark and dangerous about Lockwood Manor and it's inhabitants.

Combining a strong sense of history with the natural world and setting it against a backdrop of gothic gloom is an interesting one, and this is certainly a creepy story, especially when some of the artifacts go missing and Hetty begins to doubt not just her own sanity but that of those around her, particularly the daughter of the house, Lucy Lockwood, who has her own share of insecurities and terrifying nightmares.

Combining a haunting ghost story with a tentative and rather sweet love story, the author brings several  strands of the story together in an interesting and unusual way. I enjoyed the attention to detail  and the particularly lyrical way of explaining time and place.  Some of the narrative is a little slow in places but I think this works as it helps to create a certain amount of tension.

With more than a nod towards those gothic classics- Jane Eyre, Woman in White and more recently Fingersmith and Affinity, The Animals of Lockwood Manor is an interesting addition to the genre.

About the Author

Jane Healey studied English Literature at Warwick University. She has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize 2013, the Costa Short Story Award 2014, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2016 and the Penguin Random House WriteNow mentoring programme 2017. The Animals at Lockwood Manor is her first novel. She lives in Edinburgh.

Twitter @Healey_Jane #TheAnimalsatLockwoodManor


Thursday, 2 April 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Silken Rose by Carol McGrath

Delighted to be hosting a stop on this Blog Tour


๐ŸŒ  Publication Day ๐ŸŒ 

Headline Accent
2 April 2020
#1 The Rose Trilogy

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

1236. Beautiful Ailenor of Provence, cultured and intelligent, is only thirteen when she marries Henry III. Aware of the desperate importance of providing heirs to secure the throne from those who would snatch it away, she is ruthless in her dealings with Henry's barons.

As conflict escalates between them, Ailenor's shrewd and clever Savoyard uncles come to support her but her growing political power is threatened when Henry's half-siblings also arrive at court.

Henry and Ailenor become embroiled in an unpopular war to protect Gascony, last English territory on the continent, sparking conflict with warrior knight, Simon de Montfort, the King's seneschal. Ailenor, desperate to protect Gascony for her son, strives to treat with France and bring peace to Gascony.

Caught in a web of treachery and deceit, 'she-wolf' Ailenor's courage is tested to the limit. Can she find the strength to control her destiny and protect her all that she holds dear.

What did I think about it..

My knowledge of Alienor of Provence is, to say the least, sketchy and apart from knowing that she was the wife of King Henry III, and mother of King Edward I, the background to her life and times seems to have passed me by. So it has been particularly refreshing to read a novel which not only brings Alienor to life in a meaningful way, but which also highlights something of the troubled times in which she lived. Married, when very young, to Henry III, who was considerably older, was never going to be easy for Alienor, however, her determination and strength of purpose,which she displayed as a young teenager, would stand her in good stead for what would follow during in her eventful life. It's easy to see why Alienor has been branded with the infamous sobriquet of 'she-wolf' as there is no doubt that her strong and quite forceful personality, made her, at times, quite unpopular, and did much to enliven the reign of her husband.

The Silken Rose is the first in a proposed trilogy and this first novel certainly gets the series off to an excellent start. The dark and dangerous world of the thirteenth century with all of its complicated politics comes to life in an authentic and meaningful way. I especially enjoyed the intertwining of Alienor's regal lifestyle alongside that of her fictional embroiderer, Rosalind, whose background in London's merchant district adds a lovely authentic touch and brings to life a lovely character who adds something quite special to the story.

Beautifully written and intricately researched The Silken Rose gave me a much needed history lesson, particularly about Henry's constant struggle against the barons and those volatile relatives who were a constant thorn in his side. However, I think what brought the book to life were the lovely descriptions of Alienor's life and her devotion to her husband and children, her love for fashion, the arts and courtly love were such a joy to read.

Over the last few days immersing myself in The Silken Rose has been a very real escape into a very different world and I have loved every moment of this historical journey. I'm already looking forward  to reading what the author will educate and entertain us with in The Damask Rose which will feature the life and times of Alienor's daughter-in-law, Eleanor of Castile, first wife of Edward I.

The Silken Rose is published today and is available from Amazon UK and other book outlets.

About the Author

Following her first degree in English and History, Carol McGrath completed an MA in Creative Writing at The Seamus Heaney Centre, Belfast, followed by an MPhil from University of London. Her fifth historical novel, The Silken Rose, first in The Rose Trilogy, published by the Headline Group, is set during the High Middle Ages. It features Ailenor of Provence and will be published on April 2nd 2020. Carol was the co-ordinator of the Historical Novels’ Society Conference, Oxford in September 2016. 

Twitter @carolmcgrath #SheWolfQueens

Blog Tour ~ The Last Crossing by Brian McGilloway

๐ŸŒ  Delighted to be hosting the first stop on this blog tour on Publication Day ๐ŸŒ 

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The Dome Press
2 April 2020

My thanks to the publishers and the author for my invitation to be part of this tour
and their kind permission to share an extract from The Last Crossing

Tony, Hugh and Karen thought they’d seen the last of each other thirty years ago. Half a lifetime has passed and memories have been buried. But when they are asked to reunite - to lay ghosts to rest for the good of the future - they all have their own reasons to agree. As they take the ferry from Northern Ireland to Scotland the past is brought in to terrible focus - some things are impossible to leave behind.

In The Last Crossing memory is unreliable, truth shifts and slips and the lingering legacy of the Troubles threatens the present once again.

✯ Here's a tantalising extract from The Last Crossing 

Martin Kelly cried for his mother before he died. 

His face was glazed with tears, his mouth a grotesque O as first he pleaded for his life and, when it became clear that they would not listen to him, called for his mother. Stripped naked, he knelt in the grave they had already dug for him. The light of the torch Tony held caught the shiny skin of the scar on his lower abdomen where he’d had his appendix out, standing out against the lividity of the bruising he carried there, his phallus shrivelled amongst the dark of his pubis, at the outer edges of the glare.

Tony had wanted to cover him up, give him his coat to offer him some dignity, but Hugh had refused. He was aware of Karen next to him, her breathing quick and shallow as she watched the black plastic bag of Martin’s clothes, which they had stripped from him, twisted in her grip.

Martin held out his bound hands in supplication, looking from one face to the next. ‘It wasn’t me,’ he said. ‘I didn’t do it.’

‘You’re a liar,’ Hugh spat.

‘I’m not,’ Martin sobbed. ‘I swear on me mother, I’m not.’

‘And you knew what would happen.’

It was then that Martin broke down, his body wracked with sobs that turned to retching. He vomited onto himself, half choking on it, the bile and saliva hanging in a lace from his chin to his chest. He made no effort to wipe it away. 

‘Fuck this,’ Hugh said, moving forward, raising his pistol.

‘Tell me mother - ‘

The shot reverberated through the trees, which came instantly alive, cacophonous as a murder of crows took wing against the evening sky. 

Martin twisted with the shot, his body thudding against the edge of the grave they had dug. Hugh moved across and, with his toe, pushed him down into the gaping space, before firing three more shots in quick succession, each one momentarily illuminating the still white body where it lay, the red wounds flowering as the blood unfurled with each shot. 

‘Get those clothes burned,’ Hugh ordered, glancing at Karen. ‘You,’ he added, looking at Tony, ‘grab a spade and get shovelling.’

© Brian McGilloway

About the Author

Brian McGilloway Author Photo.jpeg

Brian McGilloway is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Benedict Devlin and DS Lucy Black series.

He was born in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1974. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he was Head of English until 2013. He currently teaches in Holy Cross College, Strabane.

Brian’s work has been nominated for, and won, many awards, including Borderlands (shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger), Gallows Lane (shortlisted for both the 2009 Irish Book Awards / Ireland AM Crime Novel of the Year and Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award 2010), and Little Girl Lost (winner of the University of Ulster’s McCrea Literary Award 2011).

In 2014, Brian won BBC NI’s Tony Doyle Award for his screenplay, Little Emperors, an award which saw him become Writer In Residence with BBC NI

Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife, daughter and three sons.

Twitter @BrianMcgilloway


Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Featured Book ~ The Lost Lights of St Kilda by Elisabeth Gifford

๐ŸŒ  It's the first of the month and my featured book is The Lost Lights of St Kilda ๐ŸŒ  

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5 March 2020

My thanks to the author and publisher for my copy of this book
When Fred Lawson takes a summer job on St Kilda in 1927, little does he realise that he has joined the last community to ever live on that desolate, isolated island. Only three years later, St Kilda will be evacuated, the islanders near-dead from starvation. But for Fred, that summer is the bedrock of his whole life...

Chrissie Gillies is just nineteen when the researchers come to St Kilda. Hired as their cook, she can't believe they would ever notice her, sophisticated and educated as they are. But she soon develops a cautious friendship with Fred, a friendship that cannot be allowed to develop into anything more...

Years later, to help deal with his hellish existence in a German prisoner of war camp, Fred tells the tale of the island and the woman he loved, but left behind. And Fred starts to wonder, where is Chrissie now? And does she ever think of him too?

What did I think about it..

Beautifully evocative of a bygone time, The Lost Lights of St Kilda, takes you into itself and wraps you safe from the smouldering storm of seas which crash along the coast with some ferocity, and which continually threaten the livelihood of this close knit community, who are only ever one bad season away from starvation.

Chrissie Gillies is a beautiful young woman, she's also something of a rarity having been born and raised on the remote Scottish island of St Kilda. The stoicism of the islanders and their tenacity in clinging to a life of hardship allows no room for sentiment. However, Chrissie's head is filled with dreams of a very different life that she may never fulfill, and featuring strongly in those dreams, is the local laird's son, Archie Macleod, whose casual return to the island with his friend, Fred Lawson, in the summer of 1927, causes some disruption, not just to Chrissie's life, but also to the peaceful equilibrium of the island and islanders.

The second arc of the story takes us to an altogether more troubled time as we learn of the events which unfolded in 1940, and Fred Lawson's wartime account is just as compelling as his memories of that poignant summer on St Kilda, and is no less heart breaking.

There's far too much I want to say about this beautiful story but that would spoil everything. I'll concentrate instead on this talented author's ability to pitch every story absolutely perfectly, so that rather than the story overshadowing the reader, the reader becomes part of the natural landscape, blending as one with the islanders as they eke out their meagre existence in a place of such natural beauty that the author's descriptions of the island left me quite breathless. And then of course there's the history of St Kilda and its people, the simple beauty of their myths and legends, their rich stoicism and natural reticence, which is juxtaposed against the horror of a world war which claimed a generation of young men.

Combining a rich tapestry of history, a detailed mystery and heart breaking lost love, The Lost Lights of St Kilda, is everything I ever wanted in a story. Beautifully researched, evocatively explained and with an undeniable attraction that keeps you turning the page, with a desperate need to discover what happened to Chrissie Gillies, Archie McLeod and Fred Lawson.

Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a vicarage in the industrial Midlands. She studied French literature and world religions at Leeds University. She has written articles for The Times and the Independent and has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford OUDCE and an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. She is married with three children. They live in Kingston upon Thames.

Twitter @elisabeth04liz #TheLostLightsofStKilda

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Book Review ~ A Good Neighbourhood by Therese Anne |Fowler

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February 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. Xavier is headed to college in the fall, and after years of single parenting, Valerie is facing the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door―an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenaged daughter.

Thanks to his thriving local business, Brad Whitman is something of a celebrity around town, and he's made a small fortune on his customer service and charm, while his wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the security of marriage and homemaking. Their new house is more than she ever imagined for herself, and who wouldn't want to live in Oak Knoll? With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie's yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.

Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don't see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful. 

What did I think about it..

Sometimes a book comes along at the right time. I'm a great believer in a book suiting a reader rather than a reader suiting a book and A Good Neighbourhood helped to get my reading mojo back in this confused and gloomy time when, because my mind has been on lots of other things, I couldn't really settle into a story.

A Good Neighbourhood impressed me right from the start and almost at once I became part of this good neighbourhood, with its neat trimmed lawns, impressive square acreage of houseroom and a monthly book club that had me envious of the camaraderie shown to each of the neighbours. Their welcome to the new neighbour, Julie Whitman, is impressive even though she made the ultimate faux pas of taking foie gras to a group of women  who are strongly immersed in animal welfare.

Valerie Alston-Holt and her charming son, Xavier have been part of the Oak Knoll community since Xavier was a baby, and this year he is about to go to college to study music. His life seems pretty much settled, and on track, that is, until pretty Juniper Whitman moves in next door, and a relationship develops between Xavier and Juniper, which, despite all the odds, seems to move on rather quickly.

What then follows is a compelling coming-of -age story, and of how a blossoming romance between two lovely young people very quickly becomes something rather different. Tackling the racial issue sympathetically is sometimes difficult to get right but the author's delicate way of handling this subject brings the dilemma into stark focus, whilst at the same time highlighting the petty prejudices of small town America.

Beautifully written from first page to last, A Good Neighbourhood had me engrossed from the start, and I read the book in one sitting as I couldn't put it down. Parts of made me angry, others made me smile, and sometimes, I was just so unutterably sad by the outcome that I sobbed.

I know in this gloomy time uplifting and feel good stories are perhaps more in order but reading A Good Neighbourhood suited my mood and took me out of isolation and into the fictional world of the good neighbours of Oak Knoll.

Therese Anne Fowler

THERESE ANNE FOWLER is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and A Well-Behaved Woman. Raised in the American Midwest, she moved to North Carolina in 1995. She holds a BA in sociology/cultural anthropology and an MFA in creative writing from North Carolina State University.

Twitter @headlinepg #AGoodNeighbourhood

Monday, 30 March 2020

Review ~ Ten Poems about Flowers from Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press
February 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this pamphlet

A bouquet is a welcome and beautiful thing, but the beauty is inevitably short-lived. This delightful mini-anthology, however, is guaranteed never to wither. Roses, fritillaries, daisies, gentians and the humble ragwort are celebrated here by poets ranging from Mimi Khalvati to William Wordsworth.

We experience their colours and scents in vivid language, so each lives on the page with all the intensity of a real flower. Sometimes it seems we can even learn from them; lilacs growing in an urban street know as much about love as we do:

“Lilac, like love, makes no distinction.
It will open for anyone.
Even before love knows that it is love
lilac knows it must blossom.”

from ‘City Lilacs’ by Helen Dunmore

This is one of the lovely mysteries of these poems – that a flower can somehow be like us and shed light on our own hopes and joys.

Cover illustration by Angie Lewin

What did I think about it..

If there's ever a time when the value of poetry comes into its own, then this is it. I personally gain such comfort from reading about the beauty of nature, especially flowers, and the lovely sentiments expressed in this latest mini-anthology have helped to lift my spirit during a particularly sad time in my life.

The poems cover a range of emotions and depending on your mood there is something both to comfort and charm, I especially enjoyed the late Helen Dunmore's poem, City Lilacs which highlights the beauty of lilac blossom in city life's ordinariness.

William Wordsworth's sweet poem To the Daisy reminds us of simple pleasures:

"Do thou, as thou art want, repair
My heart with gladness, and a share
Of thy meek nature!..."

It's also good to see D H Lawrence's Bavarian Gentians featured, he's such an underrated poet, I love how his words resonate with a rhythm entirely of their own making:

"Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!
let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of this flower..."

The most significant poem for me, Overblown Roses by Mimi Khalvati, reminded me of my mother, who loved roses:

"She held one up, twirling it in her hand
as if to show how the world began
and ended in perfection..."

Ten poems about Flowers is a perfect collection of verse for any time of year, to celebrate a birthday, or an anniversary, or quite simply to comfort someone in this strange time in our world when everything seems especially gloomy just now.

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, Walking, Birds, Home and Kindness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Connect: /  Twitter @PoetryCandle

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Anne Williams

On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo

I'd delighted to welcome blogger, Anne Williams from Being Anne

☼Good Morning, Anne. Happy Sunday !

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch? 

You can’t really go wrong with a bacon buttie, can you? 

Would you like a pot of English Breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz? 

Ooh, the coffee please Josie - with just a splash of milk… 

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today? 

I think maybe some of those lovely ladies from Authors on the Edge - it’s not too far for them to travel, and I so loved the two Miss Moonshine anthologies, as well as some of the novels they’ve written on their own. 

What’s the title of the book nearest to you? 

It’s Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik - I’ve had a signed copy on my bookshelves for quite a long time, but it’s this month’s choice for my real-life bookclub. 

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What’s the oldest book on your book shelf? 

I’ll admit I’ve had a major clear-out over the last few years - I now read almost entirely on kindle, and have only hung on to my signed copies. But scanning my shelves, I think it might be a signed copy of Milly Johnson’s The Yorkshire Pudding Club - with a very old cover, featuring headless women! 

Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for …yet! 

I’m so behind with Lucinda Riley’s books - the standalones, and I’ve only managed the first two of the Seven Sisters series. 

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it? 

I’m never guilty about my reading - I read whatever I feel like at the time, and get every bit as much pleasure from a fast-paced rom com as I do from something much more literary and challenging… 

If the house was on fire which book would you rescue? 

I might grab an armful of signed books, and my kindle will be in my handbag (as it always is). 

Do you have a reading playlist on Spotify, or a favourite CD to listen to when reading? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy? 

I prefer classical music when I’m reading, because I find words distracting - usually just Classic FM, on low in the background, and I particularly enjoy a bit of Rachmaninov… 

Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read? 

Most of my reading is in the afternoons in my lounge, in my reclining chair, with a cup of tea to hand (I switch from coffee to tea in the afternoons!). But I love the summer, when I can sit outside in the shade and disappear into a book for a while. But I’ll read anywhere and everywhere - and at all hours of the day or night. 

Give us four essential items that a blogger absolutely needs? 

A diary, kept rigorously updated 

A good wifi signal 

A piece of IT kit that suits your needs - some, I know, use their phones but for me it has to be my iMac 

An innate sense of organisation and attention to detail 

Tell us a little about your blog and why you are so passionate about books and reading? 

I started blogging seven years ago now - you might remember that you were one of the friends who encouraged me to start. I love doing it now more than I ever did - books are the best escape from life I know, and have given me so many years of joy. I guess I blog mainly to share my love with others, perhaps making them aware of books they might otherwise miss - but also to say thank you to the many authors whose books I’ve loved. 

Twitter @WilliamsAnne13