Friday, 27 April 2018

Blog Tour ~ Ghost by Helen Grant

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the blog tour for Ghost

Fledgling Press
19 February 2018

My thanks to the publishers and Love Books Group for the invitation to be part of his tour and for my e-copy of the book
What's it all about ...

Langlands House is haunted, but not by the ghost you think.

Augusta McAndrew lives on a remote Scottish estate with her grandmother, Rose. For her own safety, she hides from outsiders, as she has done her entire life. Visitors are few and far between - everyone knows that Langlands House is haunted.

One day Rose goes out and never returns, leaving Augusta utterly alone. Then Tom McAllister arrives - good-looking and fascinating, but dangerous. What he has to tell her could tear her whole world apart.

As Tom and Augusta become ever closer, they must face the question: is love enough to overcome the ghosts of the past?

My thoughts about it..

There is a distinctly creepy feel to Ghost, as right from the beginning there is something odd about the young woman, Augusta who lives, in isolation, at the gothic Langlands House with her grandmother. When Rose, her elderly grandmother mysteriously disappears, Augusta, too used to being hidden away from people, is distrustful and wary of strangers. And then Tom enters into Augusta's life which adds a whole new dimension to what is a deeply unsettling story.

The chilling atmosphere at Langlands House only gets stronger as the story progresses, and I especially enjoyed the creepiness and the gradual rise in tension which is pitted against the barriers and obstacles which Augusta uses to protect herself from harm. That she learns of life from reading books in the Langlands library allows us a delicate glimpse into Augusta's mindset, which is both sad and troubled.

The author writes well and knows how to keep the momentum of the plot ticking along so that you are carried along, by the atmosphere, and also by the setting, which is deliciously creepy. There are one or two surprises, and some genuine twists and turns towards the end which I didn’t see coming.

Ghost is a genuinely spooky story which kept me entertained from beginning to end.

About the Author

Helen Grant writes thrillers with a Gothic flavour and ghost stories. Her first novel, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, was shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal and won an ALA Alex Award in the US. Her other books include the exciting Forbidden Spaces trilogy. 

Helen's latest novel Ghost (Fledgling Press 2018) is set in Perthshire, where she has lived since 2011. When she is not writing, Helen loves to research the lost country houses of Scotland and to visit the sites where possible. Her experiences of exploring these fascinating places inspired her to write Ghost.

Twitter @Helengrantsays # Ghost



Thursday, 26 April 2018

Blog Tour ~ Rebellious Spirits by Ruth Ball

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the Rebellious Spirits Blog Tour
on its penultimate day

Elliot & Thompson
19 April 2018

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

A delicious history of Britain’s secret, exciting and often dangerous love affair with booze

From the first Malt Laws in Scotland and the restriction on gin in Hogarth’s London to the bootleggers of the Second World War and the modern speakeasy, Ruth Ball charts our enduring relationship with illicit alcohol. 

A former bartender and founder of the bespoke liqueur company, Alchemist Dreams, Ruth’s flair with spirits can be seen in the many recipes, both traditional and modern, that pepper the pages of Rebellious Spirits, inviting you to drink along as you discover the true taste of the past.

My thoughts about it..

I absolutely love this book. Not just from the illicit booze perspective which fills the book with the most wonderful snippets of history, but also from the point of view of the alcoholic recipes, which even though some of the ingredients bring tears to your eyes, it wouldn't half be great fun to sample a few of the concoctions.

Divided into eight sections we travel from the days of monks and monasteries, with its recipes for spiced wine and Aqua Vitae, through to the great and the good of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries with the rise, and rise, of alcohol producers. I especially enjoyed chapter three, which is all about the Gin Craze and of the introduction of gin, during the reign of William of Orange in the early 18th Century, and of its association with highwaymen, outlaws and revolutionaries!

Rebellious Spirits is a great little book for anyone who loves the odd tipple and if they also enjoy historical detail, well, it's a winner, winner 😊

I'm thrilled to be able to share this exclusive extract especially chosen with Jaffa in mind

Puss and Mew Shop – Rebellious Spirits by Ruth Ball 

There was one place where you might get a better quality of gin – the only kind of gin shop that could stay in one place without too much fear of informers for long enough to develop a reputation for good gin: the Puss and Mew shop. There’s a wonderfully colourful tale in the biography The Life and Uncommon Adventures of Captain Dudley Bradstreet about how the shop was invented. Bradstreet was quite a character, and his biography is full of unlikely anecdotes. It’s about as likely that he actually invented the Puss and Mew shop in anything like the way that he describes as it is that he really turned back Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army single-handed. But since he tells such a good story, it’s much more fun to believe him than to call him a liar. 

In 1736, after a spell as a government spy, Irish adventurer Captain Bradstreet arrived in London on the promise of an army commission. When the commission failed to appear, he was left in a strange city with only a few pounds to his name – but he was a resourceful man, and an educated one. He took a copy of the Gin Act and read it through. He found that for an informer to turn him in they had to know his name, and he also found that it was illegal, even for a magistrate, to break down his doors to find it out. 

He had a friend rent a small house and lend him the keys so that not even the landlord would know his name. Then he bought a large picture of a cat. Why a cat? We will probably never know. Perhaps it just happened to be the first picture he found that was the right size for the window. He got his cat, and he nailed it up so that it covered his window. Then he cut a hole for its mouth and pushed a small pipe out under its paw, which he bent up to a funnel inside the house. He told a few local gossips that his magic cat would give gin to anyone who fed it pennies, and he shut himself up for business. 

The first day was slow, alone with his magic cat; but soon he had so many visitors coming to feed that cat and call, ‘Puss, Puss, give me two pennyworth of gin’ that his neighbours had trouble getting in and out of their houses. It was at that point he decided that he was lonely, and invited a beautiful prostitute to assist him. The rest of his story is far too lurid for these pages, but he did keep up the business in good company for a few months – until imitators started cutting into his trade. Then he moved onto new and even more improbable schemes. As a result, all over town you could find the sign of the cat and call out ‘Puss!’ to be answered with a ‘Mew!’ and a glass of gin passed through a hole, poured through a pipe or delivered to you via a drawer. The magic cat had multiplied! 

… Gin-sellers and their customers were typically not just poor, but also cold. In the days before central heating, keeping warm could be difficult, and so it was common to drink just about anything that could be heated hot. One of the favourite drinks was called ‘gin & hot’, a hot mixture of ale and gin. I’ve tried it out on a few willing victims and received a mixture of confused enjoyment and absolute dis-gust; I guess it must be an acquired taste. Usually the drinks were heated up by plunging a red-hot poker into the cup, which was easy and wonderfully dramatic, but did have a tendency to get ash in your drink. 

Gin & Hot: The Alchemist’s Version 


25ml gin 

25ml sugar syrup 

½ pint ale 


Sharpening steel (or other suitable clean metal utensil; just be sure it doesn’t have a plastic handle) 

Oven glove 

Large mug (or suitably heat-resistant glass; an old-fashioned dimple glass with a handle is perfect) 

Put the sharpening steel into a hot oven for 10–15 minutes until thoroughly heated. Put the gin and syrup into your mug, and then top up with the ale. Carefully take your hot steel out of the oven using an oven glove, making sure you have a good grip. Plunge your steel into the mug and stir. 

Enjoy the dramatic sizzle as the iron plunges in and then sip your warm, foamy mug of gin & hot.

About the Author

Ruth Ball is related to Admiral Edward Vernon, the man who invented grog as a way to serve the rum ration to the navy in 1740. She is a chemist and former bartender, and was the founder of Alchemist Dreams, a company dedicated to making handmade liqueurs blended to order for clients such as the British Library and the Science Museum Group. She is the author of Rough Spirits and High Society: The Culture of Drink (British Library, 2017). Having grown up in the Peak District, she now lives in London where she works at East London Liquor Company.

Follow on Twitter @AlchemistDreams #RebelliousSpirits


Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Blog Tour ~ All Rivers Run Free

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the All Rivers Run Free Blog Tour

19 April 2018

My thanks to the publisher for my invitation to be part of this blog tour

What's it all about..

Brittle but not yet broken, Ia Pendilly ekes out a fierce life in a caravan on the coast of Cornwall. In years of living with Bran - her embattled, battering cousin and common law husband - she's never yet had her own baby. So when she discovers the waif washed up on the shore, Ia takes the risk and rescues her. And the girl, in turn, will rescue something in Ia - bringing back a memory she's lost, giving her the strength to escape, and leading her on a journey downriver.

It will take her into the fringes of a society she's shunned, collapsed around its own isolation. It will take her through a valley ravaged by floods, into a world not too far from reckoning. It will take her in search of her sister, and the dark remembrance of their parting. It will take her, break her, remake her, in the shapes of freedom.

My thoughts about it..

Ia Pengilly lives a solitary life on the Cornish coast, eking out a desolate existence, relying on her considerable wits and her innate ability to salvage the gifts the seas throw up. Her joyless relationship with her much older cousin, Bran, who uses and abuses her, and simply doesn't care enough to love her, is as bleak as her existence.

Set in some futuristic world where neither hope nor charity is allowed to flourish, gangs roam and pilfer, and when the light is on in Ia's isolated caravan, men, with their own specific needs, come a-calling.

There is a cold, cheerlessness to the story which I found utterly compelling and the barren nature of Ia's life is offset against the poetic quality of the words which rumble and turn at every opportunity. I loved the unique way that the prose skittered and danced, and was so in tune with the nature of its surroundings that it became totally immersive. I knew I was impressed when I read the opening paragraph three times, and so mesmerising is the narrative that even further into the novel I had to keep turning back to re-read a word, or a cleverly constructed sentence.

All Rivers Run Free is a story about self-discovery and self-worth, and of how lives are shaped and moulded by those we love, who are carried close to our hearts. It's also about a ferocious need to survive in a world where the dark shades of grief and loss are allowed to colour everything.

Natasha Carthew has been published previously as a poet and young adult writer and her books have been nominated for the Carnegie Award and shortlisted for several national awards including the Branford Boase. She lives in Cornwall with her girlfriend of twenty years and spends most of her time writing outdoors in all weathers. Her identity as a country writer has led her to become a survival expert, a trained walking-guide and to teach Wild Writing workshops.

Twitter @NatashaCarthew #AllRiversRunFree


Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Blog Tour ~ Half A World Away by Sue Haasler..

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting today's stop on the Half A World Away Blog Tour

The Dome Press
12 April 2018

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

What's it all about..

Gripping love story set in 1980s Cold War East Berlin. For fans of William Boyd and Helen Dunmore. A new genre for an established author.

Charming and talented Alex dreams of becoming a professional saxophonist while working long hours in the family bakery. 

Detlef, lonely, repressed and a small-time Stasi informer, develops an obsessive love for him. But Alex has eyes only for Nicky, an English woman visiting East Berlin as an au pair. With no natural outlet for his feelings, Detlef’s passion becomes destructive, his need for approval enmeshed with the latent homophobia of the regime. 

As Alex takes up with more successful musicians, he moves closer to influencers considered subversive by a state that has eyes and ears anywhere, and Detlef’s passions threaten to endanger them all.

My thoughts about it..

Half A World Away is a classic love story set against the backdrop of East meets West. Set in 1987, in East Berlin, when Nicky, from London, travels there to work as a nanny for an Englishman and his child. There she meets and quickly falls into a relationship with Alex, a talented musician who works in the family bakery by day, and plays jazz by night.

That this love affair is difficult from the beginning is down to, not just the circumstances the young couple find themselves in, but is also due to the machinations of someone whose desire for Alex takes us into some very dark places.

East Berlin in the years before the wall came down was a very different place. All influences from the west have been eradicated and whilst people are expected to conform to the regime there are those who bravely fight against the system, often to their cost. I am old enough to remember the days before the Berlin wall came down and I think that the author has captured perfectly that shadowy quality of East Berlin when no-one outside of the country really knew what was going on there, or of how people lived their lives. For Nicky, a girl, from the West to visit the East was difficult enough, but then to form a relationship with someone there was fraught with difficulty from the very beginning.

The quality of the writing is such that the story really came alive for me. I was fascinated by the way people were encouraged to spy on each other and that what little luxuries they had could be taken away in an instant. And although the 'West' with its Macdonalds and shopping malls was just a short train journey, it really was half a world away, and couldn't have been more different.

This could very easily have developed into very heavy story but with a lightness of touch the author brings everything alive in a very readable way and I enjoyed seeing East Berlin through Nicky's eyes whilst at the same time allowed myself to follow in Alex's footsteps into a very different world.

Beautifully written, and in perfect step with time and place, Half A World Away is one of those stories which stays with you long after the last page is turned.

Sue Haasler is the author of four romantic fiction titles. She has been commissioned by the BBC to write an authorised tie-in to Holby City. Originally from Durham, she is married with an adult daughter, and lives in London.
Twitter @pauseliveaction


Monday, 23 April 2018

Blog Tour ~ Songs by Dead Girls by Lesley Kelley

Jaffareadstoo is excited to be hosting today's stop on the Songs by Dead Girls Blog Tour

Sandstone Press
19 April 2018

My thanks to the publishers and to Ruth Killick Publicity for the inviatation to be part of the tour and my copy of the book

What's it all about...

Nobody likes the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team, least of all the people who work for it. An uneasy mix of seconded Police and health service staff, Mona, Bernard and their colleagues stem the spread of the Virus, a mutant strain of influenza, by tracking down people who have missed their monthly health check. 

When Scotland’s leading virologist goes missing, Mona and Paterson from the Health Enforcement Team are dispatched to London to find him. In a hot and unwelcoming city, Mona has to deal with a boss who isn’t speaking to her, placate the professor’s over-bearing assistant, and outwit the people who will stop at nothing to make sure the academic stays lost. 

Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh, Bernard is searching for a missing prostitute, while Maitland is trying to keep the chair of the Parliamentary Virus Committee from finding out quite how untidy the HET office is.

My thoughts about it...

A deadly pandemic has affected much of the population and in order to control the spread of this deadly virus, Health Enforcement Teams are employed to make sure that people attend a monthly health check. These stringent regulations are essential if the virus is to be contained and those who skip the test are hunted down.

The North Edinburgh Enforcement Team is on the case of two people who have flaunted these regulations. The investigative skills of HET operatives, Mona and Paterson, are needed in order to find the whereabouts of a leading academic who is about to miss his monthly check-up. Their undercover investigation takes them to London, where they encounter all sorts of problems. Meanwhile back in Scotland, the HET are on the trail of a missing prostitute, who may have links with the darker side of Edinburgh life.

This is a really interesting premise for a story; I especially enjoyed the dystopian feel to the narrative, particularly around the Orwellian tactics used against those individuals who missed their monthly check-ups. The double mysteries at the centre of the story are well plotted and I enjoyed the fast pace of the novel, and allowing two different sides to the story, one in London, and the other in Edinburgh, adds an interesting dynamic.

Songs by Dead Girls is now the second book in the Health of Strangers series and even though I haven’t read the first book, I was soon able to pick up the story and could follow the background reasonably well, although it took me a little while to get to understand the quirks of the central characters. The North Edinburgh Enforcement Team are an odd bunch of people, however, their lively wit and petty squabbles add an interesting dynamic to what is potentially, a dark and rather sinister working environment. That they continue to survive ,and thrive, in this setting is testament to the author’s skill in bringing this dystopian world to life in a lively and entertaining way.

Lesley Kelly has worked in the public and voluntary sectors for the past twenty years, dabbling in poetry and stand-up comedy along the way. She has won several writing competitions, including the Scotsman’s Short Story award in 2008. Her debut novel, A Fine House in Trinity was long-listed for the William McIlvanney award in 2016. She lives in Edinburgh.

Twitter @lkautho #songsbydeadgirls

@sandstonepress @rkbookpublicist

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

In the spring of 1918, Lady Northcliffe, the wife of the founder of the Daily Mail newspaper, appealed for women to remember a loved one by donating a pearl from one of their necklaces in order to raise money. Capturing the imagination of the country, The Pearl Appeal went on to become one of the most successful fundraising campaigns of the war. The event raised over £94,000, roughly £5 million in today's money, and amongst the first to donate was Queen Alexandra, the Queen Mother, which soon encouraged many others to follow suit.

To mark 100 years since the original campaign, the British Red Cross is reviving its Pearls For Life Appeal to help support people in crisis throughout the world.

You can find out more about the British Red Cross Appeal by clicking here Pearls for Life Appeal

I recently came across this interesting book which explains the Pearls before Poppies appeal in more detail. It's definitely on my wish list!

The History Press
March 2018

What's it all about..

Drawing on the archives of the Red Cross, Christie’s and the Victoria and Albert Museum, this book traces the story of the Red Cross Pearl Appeal throughout the eventful year of 1918. Interweaving the story of the campaign with the personal stories behind individual pearls this book provides a snapshot of a world that was changed forever by the war. 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

His Fic Saturday ~ The Cold Light of Dawn by Anna Belfrage

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...14th Century, England

February 2018

My thanks to the author for sharing her novel with me

The Cold Light of Dawn is now the fourth, and possibly the last, book in this epic historical saga which brings the medieval world of Edward III so vividly to life. 

In this latest adventure we meet up again with Adam and Kit de Guirande as they flit between their countryside manor house, at Tresaints, and the Royal court. As in previous novels, their life is just as eventful and, as they immerse themselves in the scheming and political manoeuvrings of the Edwardian court, so they find that, as always, danger is never very far away.

With Edward II believed dead, the English court is very much at the centre of controversy, and even as the new young King, Edward III, starts to flex his political muscles, there are still courtiers who gravitate towards Queen Isabella and her lover, Roger Mortimer. With his allegiance to his young king stretched to breaking point, Adam de Guirande, once again finds that his loyalty towards his mentor, Mortimer, will be tested to the absolute limit of even his, considerable, endurance.

It goes without saying that I am greatly enamoured of Adam de Guirande, who is fast becoming one of my favourite literary heroes. I love his ability to be at the heart of the action, whilst at the same time keeping his integrity intact. Adam and Kit's ardent love for each other shines like a beacon throughout, and the moments spent with them in the quiet of their bed chamber adds a really delicious blend of passion and spice to the story.

'Real life' historical personalities truly come to life in the hands of this skilful writer and by the end of this novel I really felt as though I had walked in the shadow of Roger Mortimer and, whilst not always in tune with his actions, by the end of the story, I had come to respect his ability as a political operator, and will, most certainly, miss his commanding presence. That there was also another sad departure of a character I had grown to love took me completely by surprise and, it must be said, that I shed a little tear and mourned his loss rather more than Mortimer's.

There is something rather wonderful about this exciting historical series which, with every successive story, grows in depth and complexity, and which offers a fascinating glimpse into life at one of the most controversial royal courts. The historical aspect is beautifully researched and, whilst the author takes one or two liberties, there is always a real sense of authenticity which captures perfectly the sights, sounds and sensations of a busy medieval world.

Steeped in history and alive with all the brilliance of a medieval court at the height of its power, The Cold Light of Dawn commands your attention. The story glitters and swirls around those vibrant personalities who made their mark on history and whose exciting stories deserve to be retold.

That the author feels this could be the end of The King's Greatest Enemy series is something I feel I must challenge, as to be without Adam de Guirande in future stories is not something I wish to contemplate. 

More .....please 😊

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing interests, namely history and writing.

When Anna is not stuck in the 14th century, chances are she’ll be visiting in the 17th century, more specifically with Alex and Matthew Graham, the protagonists of the acclaimed The Graham Saga

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Follow on Twitter @abelfrageauthor