Monday, 15 October 2018

Review ~ Blood Ties by Ben Crane

Head of Zeus
4 October 2018

Mt thanks to the publishers and Midas PR for my copy of the book

What's it all about...

This is a book about a man’s relationship with hawks, and his self-education as a falconer, and about his discovery that despite his Asperger’s Syndrome, which hampers his normal social interactions, he can forge a loving bond with the young son he thought he had lost. He rediscovers his full humanity through his commitment to the training of falcons and his love of the natural world.

My thoughts about it..

I'm occasionally lucky to see small birds of prey soaring in the sky, carried on gentle wind currents, they don't come too close, although, once a hapless pigeon was attacked by a sparrow hawk in our garden, which was a sight to behold, but mostly they keep their distance. Viewed close up any kind of hawk is a beautiful creature and superbly built for predation and its necessary survival.

In Blood Ties, author, Ben Crane shares his extraordinary ability to work with these very special birds and his skill as a falconer and his genuine love for hawks comes across in his beautifully written memoir, which takes us from the untamed landscape of the Sindh province in Pakistan, through to the picturesque charm of an English woodland. Throughout the book, the majesty and natural ability of hawks, the glorious detail of the birds in flight, and of the trials and tribulations of hand rearing hawks, comes across with a lyrical quality, which is, at times, quite mesmerising.

Running alongside Ben Crane's passion for these beautiful birds is the way in which he learned how to communicate with his son and their shared interest in the way that hawks interact allowed them the space and time to get to know each other. Seeing how the author copes with his Asperger's makes the book all the more poignant reading. Ben Crane is a very modest author, and yet, the strength of his words, his natural ability as a writer and his genuine love for the falcons he trains made this memoir such a fascinating and very special book to read.

About the Author

Ben Crane is a photographer, falconer and art teacher based in the Shropshire countryside.

After failing his A Levels, Ben began night school to pursue his love of art, going on to study a BA in Fine Art in Coventry, an MA at Winchester School of Art and a post graduate teaching certificate from Cambridge University. Ben spent his early career as a school art teacher before turning to freelance work as a photographer and artist selling his art at shows all over the country. Ben is the author of Sparrowhawks: A Falconer's Guide and rehabilitates birds of prey to return them to their natural hunting environment.

Twitter @midaspr


#BloodTies #BenCrane #Hawks


Sunday, 14 October 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

As we move ever slowly towards to the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, I am reminded of this post I shared in 2015, about Moina Michael who was so inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields by Colonel John McCrae that she made a personal pledge to 'keep the faith'. She felt compelled to make a note of this pledge and hastily scribbled down a response entitled “We Shall Keep the Faith” on the back of a used envelope. From that day she vowed to wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance. 

We Shall Keep the Faith

Oh ! You who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields

She went on to use the idea of the delicate poppy flower to raise funds for ex-servicemen returning from the First World War.

Moina's fascinating autobiography, "The Miracle Flower, The Story of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy” was published in 1941. Moina dedicates the book to the late Colonel John McCrae, whose poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ was the inspiration for her idea of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy. 

As a result of Moina Michael's tireless campaigning, her complete dedication to the cause and the inspiration her idea gave to others, the delicate flower of the red field poppy has become an internationally-recognized symbol of Remembrance and welfare for war veterans.


For those who like fictional novels set during WW1, I can recommend the historical novel I featured on the blog yesterday. You can find my review of The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr by following this link.

It's currently just 99p Amazon Kindle 

Harper Impulse
12 October 2018

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Poppy Field by Deborah Carr

On  Hist Fic Saturday 

I am delighted to be hosting today's stop on The Poppy Field Blog Tour

October 12th 2018

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

What's it all about..

Young nurse, Gemma, is struggling with the traumas she has witnessed through her job in the NHS. Needing to escape from it all, Gemma agrees to help renovate a rundown farmhouse in Doullens, France, a town near the Somme. There, in a boarded-up cupboard, wrapped in old newspapers, is a tin that reveals the secret letters and heartache of Alice Le Breton, a young volunteer nurse who worked in a casualty clearing station near the front line.

Set in the present day and during the horrifying years of the war, both woman discover deep down the strength and courage to carry on in even the most difficult of times. Through Alice’s words and her unfailing love for her sweetheart at the front, Gemma learns to truly live again.

My thoughts about it...

The events of The Great War continue to both fascinate and beguile us and even now, a hundred years from the end of the war, memories linger and emotions run deep.

When young nurse, Gemma, escapes to France from the pressure of being a trauma nurse in the modern day NHS, her story intertwines with that of Alice, a young VAD working at a casualty clearing station in northern France during some of the most momentous years of WW1.  Alice's story comes to light when Gemma uncovers a stash of hidden letters during the renovation of a neglected farmhouse.

The parallels between the past and the present are nicely done and I enjoyed it when the alternate chapters gave us the story of both of these strong young women. That they have been touched by tragedy comes across and it was interesting to see how both of them coped with the difficulties life had placed before them.

The dual time element is strong, with some fascinating and quite poignant detail about what happened at the casualty clearing stations, when young men, so dreadfully damaged in both mind and body were patched up, to be either sent home if they were lucky, or hurried back to more fighting if they weren't so fortunate as to sustain a blighty, an injury which would, hopefully, see the end of their own personal war. However, in the midst of this horror, Alice discovers, that some relationships, despite the tensions and the danger and the petty bureaucracy which hindered personal contact, are worth fighting for. Gemma's story, in the here and now, with her struggle to discover what she truly wants from life, is equally fascinating, and the author does a great job at separating the two time frames so that both story lines feel fresh and relevant.

We are coming up to the hundred year anniversary of Armistice, a time, when the poppy fields of northern France will, once again, take on special meaning. The significance of the symbol of scarlet poppies blowing gently in the breeze is a constant reminder of those who died too young.... and far too soon.

About the Author

Deborah Carr lives on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands with her husband, two children and three rescue dogs. She became interested in books set in WW1 when researching her great-grandfather's time as a cavalryman in the 17th 21st Lancers. 

She is part of ‘The Blonde Plotters’ writing group and was Deputy Editor on the online review site, for seven years. Her debut historical romance, Broken Faces, is set in WW1 and was runner-up in the 2012 Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition and given a 'special commendation' in the Harry Bowling Prize that year. The Poppy Field is her second historical novel.

Twitter @DebsCarr

Friday, 12 October 2018

Northern Writer ~ Amy Lord

I am delighted to bring this feature to Jaffareadstoo which showcases

the work of authors who live and write in the North

🌠 Here's Northern writer : Amy Lord 🌠

Hi Amy, a very warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as a writer?

I’ve been writing since I was 10 years old. I’ve always loved books, so there was never a conscious decision: writing is a part of who I am.

Your books are written in North East England – how have the people and its landscape shaped your stories? 

This is a difficult question. In a direct sense, the North East doesn’t play a role in my writing. The first book I wrote, which is languishing unpublished in a drawer somewhere, was a coming of age story set in my hometown of Middlesbrough. But my more recent work isn’t located in the North East. 

However, being from this part of the world has shaped my identity and my voice, which I bring to my writing. I write dark, speculative stories, set in crumbling or somehow oppressive cities. Living in a formerly industrial area surrounded by beautiful but often bleak countryside and coastlines helps create a sense of otherness and isolation that feeds my writing.

As a writer based in the North East, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them? 

Publishing is very London-centric, so living this far from the city does leave you feeling out of the loop. I recently wrote a couple of pieces for a website aimed at debut authors and was invited to their regular events; but London is three hours and over £100 on the train, so it’s not easy to pop down for an event or meeting. Visiting can be a commitment. 

But as the search for diversity in fiction grows, I do think some parts of the publishing industry are becoming more open to writers who have a different voice or background. Being from the North East does make you different to writers from London. In this part of the world, there are some brilliant organisations such as New Writing North and plenty of small scale events for book lovers and writers. But the bigger events and opportunities are not as common, so you need to travel and that makes them much more expensive.

In your research for your books, do you visit any of the places you write about and which have made a lasting impression?

I don’t tend to write about real places; I prefer to let my imagination do the work. When I did write a book set in my hometown, I found myself trying to explain where everything was, adding street names and picturing every curve in the road. It became distracting. 

I would like to write something that captures the essence of the North East one day, but for now my stories are a little more fantastical.

If you were pitching the North East as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special? 

The North East is a wild and beautiful place. You can live in the heart of a bustling city, with access to exciting cultural activities, but still be just 10 or 15 minutes away from some of the most stunning countryside in the UK. We have dramatic coastlines and wild moors, forests and dales where it’s easy to lose yourself in your surroundings. 

This isn’t an expensive part of the world to live in, but it’s full of interesting, engaging people who will tell you their stories. 

And who wants to be in the same place as everyone else?

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors? 

This is something I’ve become better at over the years. I have a couple of writer friends who I’ve met at work and I recently took part in a year-long mentoring scheme, which led to the set-up of a monthly writers’ group which I share with half a dozen talented women. 

I’m also part of a few Facebook groups, but the most useful belongs to my publisher, Unbound. My debut novel should be out next year and I’ve just finished crowdfunding it. This is a challenging process, but it’s made easier by a secret Facebook group Unbound set up for the authors where we interact and share advice and tips. The conversation carries on each day and there’s a core group of writers there who really support each other. They have been invaluable and I’ll rely on them a lot as I get ready for the publication of my novel.

How supportive are local communities to your writing and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

Local communities are great, especially away from the big city where meeting a writer isn’t an everyday thing. As part of my crowdfunding campaign, I went along to a couple of book groups and chatted to them about my writing. The people there were so friendly and engaged and a few even supported the book.

Can you tell us anything about your current work?

My debut novel is called The Disappeared and it’s about obsession. Set in a dystopian version of the UK, run by a military dictatorship, it follows a young woman called Clara, whose father was arrested by the Authorisation Bureau when she was 11, for teaching banned books to his students. She never saw him again. 

Clara becomes a teacher and decides to do something to rebel against this regime, but the only weapons she has are the books her father left behind. 

The story is told from two perspectives: that of Clara, and her stepfather, the Major, the man who arrested her father. He becomes obsessed with Clara’s mother and wants to possess her utterly, even if that means destroying her husband completely. 

Huge thanks to Amy for being my guest on the blog today

You can discover more about Amy and her writing:

Twitter and Instagram: @tenpennydreams

Coming next time: Alan Rogers

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Review ~ The Road to Alexander by Jennifer Macaire

The Road to Alexander (The Time for Alexander #1)
Accent Press
My thanks to the author for my e-copy of this book

What's it all about..

After winning a prestigious award, Ashley is chosen to travel through time and interview a historical figure. Choosing her childhood hero Alexander the Great, she is sent back in time for less than a day. He mistakes her for Persephone, goddess of the dead, and kidnaps her, stranding her in his own time. What follows, after she awakes under the pomegranate tree, is a hilarious, mind-bending tale of a modern woman immersed in the ancient throes of sex, love, quite a bit of vino, war, death and ever so much more..

My thoughts about it..

Taking a character from the future back to an ancient time is always a bit of a gamble, sometimes it pays off and others not quite so much. In The Road to Alexander, the gamble pays off as  the author has taken, Ashley, a woman journalist from the future, and delivered her back in time to the age of Alexander the Great, who happens to be Ashley's absolute hero. What then follows is a lively romp through Alexander's world, filled with all the customs and traditions of this ancient time.

The author has given her characters, particularly Alexander himself, a great sense of style and a zest for life. That Ashley finds that she is trapped in this ancient world adds the necessary excitement and intrigue, and the eventual love interest between Ashley and Alexander fairly sizzles on the page.

It's obvious from reading The Road to Alexander that the author loves writing and has done her research for this particular historical period, which must be said, I know absolutely nothing and so I came to the book with no preconceptions of history and just enjoyed the story for what it was, a light and easy historical fiction read with a feisty heroine and a dashing hero.

That the story is a fun read and not a treatise on the ancient world comes across and the author has done a good job in recreating time and place whilst at the same time not taking it all too seriously, this is fiction, after all.

The Road to Alexander is a the first book in a series of historical novels which explores this theme.

Jennifer Macaire lives in France with her husband, three children, & various dogs & horses. She loves cooking, eating French chocolate, growing herbs and flowering plants on her balcony, and playing golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St. Peter and Paul high school in St. Thomas and moved to NYC where she modeled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

Twitter @jennifermacaire

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Guest Author ~ Anna Belfrage

 ✨ I am delighted to welcome back to the blog author ✨

Anna Belfrage

Welcome back to the blog, Anna

Your latest novel, A Torch in his Heart is a new direction for you.

What can you tell us about it?

...Like Bambi on ice...

They say it broadens your mind to venture into the unknown. I am sure it does—no, wait, I know it does—but it does come with a lot of side-effects. Stepping out of your comfort zone leads to sweaty hands and zillions of butterflies in your stomach. Not an entirely pleasant experience, no matter how much broader it leaves my mind…

All of us step out of our comfort zone. Some do it but rarely, others eagerly embrace every opportunity to try something different. And whenever we do take that step into the unknown, we change—a bit. 

“Hmm,” you may say, giving me a look over your reading glasses. “Really?”. 

Absolutely—if nothing else because we boost our self-confidence every time we try something new. Yes, sometimes things back-fire and we must retire for a while to lick our wounds. In those cases we also change. Hopefully, we learn a lesson rather than become bitter.

I have recently done a lot of venturing into unfamiliar areas. One of those excursions has resulted in a new book, A Torch in his Heart. Seeing as this is my fourteenth book, one would think this is no big deal. But it is. You see, in this book I have stepped out of the historic context I usually prefer and set the story in the present day. In itself a challenge as I enjoy using the historical events as a framework on which I build my story. I then upped the ante by adding a suspense element. Gulp, gulp.

I think the end result is a readable and somewhat heady cocktail of timeslip, passion, fast-paced action and epic love. As yet, I don’t know if my readers agree—always a nervous position to be in. Some have suggested I should use a different author name for this excursion into a new genre, but just the thought of maintaining two author profiles left me so exhausted I had to crawl into bed and binge on Jayne Ann Krentz books for a couple of days. (Not a good choice, as Ms Krentz actually does use different pen names depending on whether her books are set in the past or present *groans*…)

So how has this experience changed me? Well, for a start, it has led me to read much more contemporary romance than I usually do, and that has been a rather pleasant experience. I also find it interesting to note just how different the taste in romance is depending on which side of the pond you’re on. It seems to me British romances are more tongue-in-cheek and cozy, strong emotions understated rather than overblown. US writers have faster pace, are more into titillating sex scenes and don’t really do understated. I enjoy them both, but I do like some drama with my love 😊

Those that do not read romance may walk around under the misconception that romance features insipid ladies who depend on feminine wiles to hook the oh, so masculine hero. In fact, what all romance has in common is that the female leads are surprisingly strong. Not secret agent strong, more determined and stubborn and very courageous when it comes to the crunch. A bit like you have to be if you venture outside your comfort zone…

Very often, romance heroines do just that: they take a deep breath and plunge into the unknown, usually because their heart, rather than their head, is guiding them. Along the way, they are obliged to overcome all sorts of obstacles—as one must, if one aims to achieve one’s goal. Thankfully, our brave heroines (and heroes) usually make it across the finishing line and I, the very gripped reader, can relax.

Helle Madsen in A Torch in His Heart is one of those women forced to embrace change. One moment, she’s just your ordinary financial accountant, the next she’s the protagonist in an epic love story spanning 3 000 years and including such things as an abnormally gifted lover, a vindictive and very dangerous reincarnated adversary and a world turned upside down by passionate love and seething hate. As Helle herself puts it: She didn’t want to be the heroine of a far-flung, time-spanning adventure best fit for a Hollywood fantasy, or have her fate tied down without any choice in the matter. She wanted to be normal Helle, with no strange baggage in the form of previous lives and vindictive jilted suitors.

Unfortunately, once Helle meets Jason, it’s too late. She can no more tear herself free from the sticky strands of time and fate that bind them than she can amputate her foot. Besides, she doesn’t want to. It’s not Jason that’s the trouble—it’s that damned nemesis of theirs, Sam Woolf, that has Helle waking up at night shivering with fear.

This my foray into contemporary romance may not leave me shivering with fear, but I do suffer the odd frisson of nervous anticipation: will the readers like it? I comfort myself with the thought that no matter what, I have followed my heart and seen this project to completion—a bit like the heroine of a romance does every time she decides to trust her feelings. A story that has been burning little holes in my heart since well over a decade is now told. I can but open my hands and set it free, hoping it will fly and soar.

Meanwhile, I return to some of my other WIPs. So if you excuse me, dear Jo and Jaffa, I must run: I have a situation to sort in the late 13th century before things turn really, really nasty. Edward I is a dangerous king to rile.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Blog Tour ~ A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the Blog Tour for A Christmas Gift

Avon Books UK
My thanks to the publishers for the invitation to the blog tour and for my copy of the book to review

What's it all about..

Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.

To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?

Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

My thoughts about it..

There's always something exciting about reading a Christmas story and although it's only October this is one of those lovely Sue Moorcroft stories which is perfect reading for the forthcoming festive season... which will be here before we know it !

Georgine loves the festive season but this year, after a break up with her boyfriend, she is struggling to make ends meet and so, to help take her mind of her financial worries, she puts all her efforts into producing the Christmas show at, Acting Instrumental, the local performing arts college where she works as events director. However, Georgine is unprepared for the effect that her handsome new assistant, Joe Blackthorn, has on her, but, as she is about to discover, sometimes events from the past can't be kept buried forever.

The author writes her lovely stories with a cast of wonderful characters who stay with you long after you have finished reading of their adventures. I really enjoyed getting to know Georgine, as she is a feisty and determined heroine, and, of course, the added inclusion of a handsome hero, with something of a dark past, made reading the story all the more interesting! The added snippets of what goes on behind the scenes as the Acting Instrumental students get ready for their Christmas performance adds a lovely light touch which counteracts some of the darker elements of the story. 

There is no doubt that the quaint village of Middledip with its snow covered streets and festive tree will get you right into the Christmas spirit with a story which is made all the more festive by being wrapped up in the most delightful cover. A Christmas Gift is a wonderful seasonal story about the possibilities of love and friendship, of being able to put the past behind you and move forward into a new future.

Sue Moorcroft

Sue Moorcroft writes ward winning contemporary fiction of life and love. She also writes short stories, serial, articles, columns, courses and writing 'howto'.

Twitter @SueMoorcroftAuthor #AChristmasGift