Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Review ~ Bodacious : The Shepherd Cat by Suzanna Crampton

Bodacious: The Shepherd Cat
Harper Element
Harper Collins
14 June 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Bodacious: The Shepherd Cat is the heart-warming and charming tale of Bodacious – the most famous farmyard animal since Babe – who tells us about life as the Shepherd Cat of Black Sheep Farm. It’s a beautifully written memoir which captures perfectly the highs and lows of idyllic country living, and all that it entails – early mornings, frosty starts, beautiful sunrises, adventurous rare-breed Zwartbles sheep, hard work, entertaining animals, mouth-watering food and the kind people you meet along the way.

Photograph by kind permission of the publishers

Written from the perspective of this extraordinary cat, his charming memoir takes us through a year of life on the farm; from Bodacious’ daily farm duties and shepherding adventures, to his unbreakable bond with the shepherd, Suzanna.

Photograph by kind permission of the publishers

My thoughts..

On Black Sheep Farm in County Kilkenny, with gentle fields that slope towards the River Nore, Bodacious the Shepherd Cat can be seen amongst the rare-breed black Zwartbles sheep which give the farm, not just its name but which also produce the rather special yarn from which the shepherd produces beautifully soft blankets.

Bodacious first came to Black Sheep Farm as an abandoned cat and quickly became accustomed to farm life, tending sheep, caring for the lady egg givers and generally making his presence felt amongst the other animals who call the farm home, and as the farm closed itself around Bodacious, so Bodacious lovingly wrapped himself around Black Sheep Farm becoming as one with its rhythms and routines.

This lovely look at a year in the adventurous life of Bodacious takes us through the seasons. From spring through to winter there is never a dull moment in the life of this intrepid farm cat, be it tending his flock, supervising lambing or patrolling against the ever present threat of foxes, what is always guaranteed is that he does so with lively wit and considerable charm.

The very essence of Bodacious is captured so beautifully that it becomes a real pleasure to turn the pages of this lovely book to see just what's going to happen next as he goes about his important farm business. His voice is strong and purposeful as he chivies and scolds and generally makes sure that everything is as good as it can possibly be. However, the book isn't just about Bodacious, although his magnificence shines through on every well written page, it's also a love story to Black Sheep Farm and to the shepherd, Suzanna, who cares so deeply for the land, its soil and its ancient footprint on the landscape.

Suzanna and Bodacious
Credit: Clement Gelly

Suzanna Crampton grew up in the USA but spent her summers at her grandparents’ small farm in Kilkenny, Ireland. She studied agricultural and environmental sciences at Sterling Institute in Vermont and returned to Kilkenny in 1997. She now lives on her family farm with her flock of Zwartbles sheep, alpacas, horses, chickens, dogs, and Bodacious, who strolled into her life 11 years ago.

Follow Bodacious on Twitter @1CatShepherd #ShepherdCat

Follow the author on Twitter @zwartblesIE



Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Forgotten Guide to Happiness by Sophie Jenkins

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to host today's stop on the blog tour for The Forgotten Guide to Happiness

26 July 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..

You can lose your memory, but you never forget how to love…

Lana Green has a talent for pushing people away. As a writer, she’s perfectly happy to be left alone with her books. But when she meets Jack Buchanan and Nancy Ellis Hall, Lana’s solitary life will change for ever.
Nancy has dementia, and social services believe this makes her vulnerable. But Lana can see the funny, brilliant woman underneath the illness.
As Lana and Jack struggle to keep Nancy out of a care home, Lana starts to question everything she ever thought mattered.
Because what’s the point in stories, if there is no one to share them with?

What did I think about it..

Lana is a struggling young writer who, after the success of her debut novel, is determined to get to grips with her difficult second novel. However, her home circumstances are conspiring against her and, as she takes stock of her life, so she gets drawn into the world of Jack Buchanan and his step mother, the renowned writer, Nancy Ellis Hall. Nancy's dementia is starting to become a problem but this strong-minded woman is determined to have control of her own life even though she really does need a little help. When Lana needs somewhere to live, in order to keep Nancy’s safe, the perfect solution is for Lana to move in with Nancy as her live-in helper. The quirky mixture of these two very different characters infuses such warmth and wit into the story that it’s a real pleasure to read of their exploits as they gradually get used to each other’s company.

This is a really lovely story about friendship and companionship which looks at the need we all have to be loved and understood. The characters are quite special, especially Jack, who takes on the role of Lana’s muse as she searches for the perfect hero for her novel. I loved the way that the author has included references to other writers within the story which adds a nice quirky touch and makes Lana’s journey as a writer all the more realistic. Nancy is such a strong character and so determined is she to have her voice heard that she, quite literally, leaps of the page. I found her story quite poignant, especially the way in which the dementia has taken hold of her, which is so sad, but also tremendously inspiring too, I admired Nancy's strength of spirit.

The Forgotten Guide to Happiness is beautifully written story which covers the progression of dementia in a really sensitive and positive way and which also shows that life, when we least expect it, can suddenly take a surprising turn for the better.

About the Author

Twitter @sophiejenkinsuk


Monday, 18 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ Her Mother's Secret by Rosanna Ley

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on Her Mother's Secret Blog Tour

14 June 2018

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

What's it all about..

For many years Colette has avoided returning to her homeland - the magical island of Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany - afraid to confront the painful memories she left behind. She is living on the Cornish coast when she hears about her mother Thea's failing health and realises that the time has come for her to go home. But can Colette ever forgive Thea for what she has done?

Despite Colette's wariness, romantic Belle-Île still fascinates her. She takes on the running of her mother's flower shop and makes friends with Élodie, from the Old Lighthouse where Thea once worked as a nanny, and with the enigmatic Étienne who shares Colette's mixed feelings about the island. As Thea opens up to her for the first time, Colette finds herself softening and being drawn back into the landscape of her past. But can Belle-Île also be a part of her future?

The ghosts of that past still linger. What happened all those years ago and how did it cause the rift between mother and daughter? It becomes clear that the beauty of Belle-Île hides a devastating family secret - one that Colette is determined to unravel at any cost.

My thoughts about it..

Colette returns to her childhood home on Belle-Île-en-Mer in Southern Brittany, ostensibly, to look after her mother, Thea, who is terminally ill. This long postponed return brings back many memories for both Colette and her mother, as each of them have good reason to be wary of each other. Taking over the organisation of her mother's flower shop was never on Colette's agenda but as her mother starts to deteriorate so the languorous nature of the island begins to work its magic. Colette gets drawn deeper and deeper into a long buried secret which surrounds her mother's time on the island.

The author writes this multi-layered family drama really well and infuses such personality into her characters that you immediately start to care about what happens to them. I loved the gradual way the story unfolded so that when the secret is finally revealed, the characters have become so special that you really want everything to work out well for them all. I particularly looked forward to the different chapters as each was narrated by a different character who each have a very special role to play in the story.

Her Mother's Secret is such a strong character driven novel which really brings the story alive in the imagination and yet, it's not just about devastating family secrets, it's also a stunning tribute to Belle-Île-en-Mer and the people who call the place home. This is such a lovely summer read that I was quite enchanted by the story which is beautifully written by an author who really knows how to hold the reader in the palm of her hand.

About the Author

Rosanna Ley works as a creative tutor and has written many articles and stories for national magazines. Her writing holidays and retreats take place in stunning locations in Spain and Italy. When she is not travelling, Rosanna lives in West Dorset by the sea. Rosanna is available to write features and for interview opportunities.

Twitter @RosannaLey #HerMothersSecret #SummerReading



Sunday, 17 June 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered

Father's Day 

Of the 7.5 million men who volunteered to fight or were conscripted to fight in WW1, over 500,000 children lost their fathers, which was the largest loss of fathers in modern British history. 

At school the children were taught about what was happening in Europe and they were encouraged to help at home, especially if their mother's were involved in war work. Children would also organise egg collections, fundraising activities and wealthier children would invest in war loans to contribute their help to the war.

Pupils pay their weekly contributions into the War Savings Association in 1916 at Gibbons Road School, Willesden, London
© IWM (Q 30245)

Children were even used in propaganda posters to encourage men to join up

© IWM (Art.IWM PST 0311)


For all the fathers who were lost during WW1 and who never came home

Since they have Died

May Wedderburn Cannan

Since they have died to give us gentleness,
And hearts kind with contentment and quiet mirth,
Let us who live also give happiness
And love, that’s born of pity, to the earth.

For, I have thought, some day they may lie sleeping
Forgetting all the weariness and pain,
And smile to think their world is in our keeping,
And laughter comes back to the earth again.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Poison Bed by E C Fremantle

On Hist Fic Saturday 

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the The Poison Bed

 Blog Tour

Michael Joseph
14 June 2018

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

What's it all about..

Autumn 1615. Celebrated couple Robert and Frances Carr are imprisoned in London on suspicion of murder.

SHE has been rescued from an abusive marriage by Robert, and is determined to make a new life for herself. Whatever the price …

HE has risen from nothing to become one of the country’s most powerful men. But to get to the top you cannot help making enemies …

Now a man is dead. And someone must pay with their life

Frances knows the truth can kill. Robert knows a lie can set you free. Neither understands their marriage is a poisoned bed …

What did I think about it..

Intrigue and treachery at the court of James I is rife, as it's a community built on lies and subterfuge, particularly amongst those who the King calls his 'favourites'. Robert Carr is one such favourite who holds a special place in the King's affection, that is, until Robert becomes besotted by the wily, and very beautiful, Frances Howard. Throughout the sixteenth century, the Howard family have never been far from scandal and controversy, and at the beginning of James I's reign, in the early seventeenth century, they are, once again, firmly ensconced at the very heart of court politics.

What then follows is the fictional account of the infamous scandal in which both Robert Carr and, by now, his wife, Frances Howard are implicated in the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, a contemporary of Carr's, and a man with whom he shares many deadly secrets. The background to the events, which begin in 1615, with Carr and Howard’s imprisonment in the Tower of London, is told in their two very distinct voices, in which we get a fascinating interpretation, not just of the events which have led to the death of Thomas Overbury, but also of Frances’ early, and scandalous, marriage to Robert Devereux, 3rd Earl of Essex. 

Walking in the footsteps of this infamous couple takes us into a deadly world of poisoners and their poisons, to shadowy places where dark spells and enchantments prosper, and to those hidden corners where unscrupulous people scheme and plot until get what they want. 

Beautifully written and meticulously researched The Poison Bed is a fascinating story of murder, passion and politics at the very heart of the Jacobean court of King James I.

Elizabeth Fremantle is the critically acclaimed author of Queen's Gambit, Sisters of Treason, Watch the Lady and The Girl in the Glass Tower. She holds a First for her BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck. She lives in London.

Twitter @LizFreemantle #ThePoisonBed


Friday, 15 June 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Hanging Women by John Mead

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the The Hanging Women

 Blog Tour

The Book Guild
February 2018

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

What's it all about..

Jack Stevens discovers the bodies of two women, Philomena Blackstaff and Mary Walsh, tied together and hung by their ankles in a position resembling the symbol for treachery as depicted on tarot cards. Though retired and now wealthy, Stevens is an ex-sheriff and involves himself in the subsequent investigation.

As a result of Jack `stealing' Philomena's diary and his association with the Pinkerton detective agency, it is discovered that Mary Walsh worked undercover for the Pinkertons, investigating the Knights of Labour (the fastest growing workers' rights movements in America of the late 1800's). The women had been working together, tracing the man who was selling guns and dynamite to the more extremest factions of the workers movement. This led them to Ruby's, a secret `nightclub for deviants', where Stevens and Inspector O'Leary believe the pair fell foul of the man they were looking for, gang leader Joseph Mannheim.

With the May 4th Haymarket riots and bombings looming, Stevens must uncover the truth about The Hanging Women before it's too late.

My thoughts about it...

What an interesting historical thriller this turned out to be. Set in Chicago in 1886 we are immediately thrown into the mystery surrounding the discovery of two females who have died in the most horrific of circumstances. That the finder of the two women is Jack Stevens, an enigmatic ex- sheriff, who has more than enough skeletons in his own closet, makes the story all the more fascinating.

From the start of the novel, it becomes obvious that Stevens is a force to be reckoned with, superbly flawed, of course, and a man who is more comfortable with a glass of whisky in his hand than he is with people, but before the investigation is finished, his association with the great and the good of the city will lead him into some very dangerous situations.

The author writes this type of historical thriller with great enthusiasm, always keeping an eye on the plot and never allowing the overall grittiness to get in the way of telling a good story. The Hanging Women certainly packs a real punch and with more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, the story is an entertaining read from start to finish.

About the Author

John was born in the mid-fifties in Dagenham, London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector. He was the director of a college, a senior school inspector for a local authority, and was head of a unit for young people with physical and mental health needs. When he is not travelling, going to the theatre or the pub, he writes. His inspiration for his debut novel came whilst attending a lecture in Denver about the history of the American midwest, describing a time and place that was very different from that espoused by popular culture, which started him thinking this would make a excellent period in which to set a crime story. His book describes how Chicago was a prototype of much that we consider both good and bad in the current age, it had a vibrancy and decadence that allowed a few enterprising individuals to prosper whilst violence and intolerance held back many others. The situation for some African Americans and women was improving but it was still a time when to be anything other than white and male made you a second class citizen. The city was the manufacturing and transport hub of America, the vast influx of immigrants swelling its already booming population brought great wealth but also corruption and criminality. The midwest and Chicago typified a way of life, the ‘gun culture’ which is a euphemism for individualism, from which much of modern American social values have grown.

John is currently working on a trilogy of novels set in modern day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city: a Whitechapel noir.

Twitter @JohnMeadAuthor

Follow the tour on Twitter @rararesources

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Review ~ The Woman in the Wood by Lesley Pearse

Happy Paperback Publication  Day

14 June 2017

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

What's it all about..

Fifteen-year-old twins Maisy and Duncan Mitcham have always had each other. Until the fateful day in the wood . . .

One night in 1960, the twins awake to find their father pulling their screaming mother from the house. She is to be committed to an asylum. It is, so their father insists, for her own good.

It's not long before they, too, are removed from their London home and sent to Nightingales - a large house deep in the New Forest countryside - to be watched over by their cold-hearted grandmother, Mrs Mitcham. Though they feel abandoned and unloved, at least here they have something they never had before - freedom.

The twins are left to their own devices, to explore, find new friends and first romances. That is until the day that Duncan doesn't come back for dinner. Nor does he return the next day. Or the one after that.

When the bodies of other young boys are discovered in the surrounding area the police appear to give up hope of finding Duncan alive. With Mrs Mitcham showing little interest in her grandson's disappearance, it is up to Maisy to discover the truth. And she knows just where to start. The woman who lives alone in the wood about whom so many rumours abound. A woman named Grace Dev

My thoughts about it..

There's always something special about a new Lesley Pearse story and this, her twenty-fifth, novel is no exception. The Woman in the Wood gets off to a rather dark start when teenage twins, Maisy and Duncan Mitcham go to live with their curmudgeonly grandmother, who neither cares for them, or is interested in what they do with their time.  As Maisy and Duncan settle into their new environment, so they start go off independently, pursuing their own interests, making new friends and generally growing up. All is well, that is, until Duncan goes out on his bicycle and doesn't return home.

What then follows is a dark and disturbing story which looks right into the heart of a complicated family mystery. The more innocent time of the 1960s is perfectly recreated and the rather laissez-faire attitude of the police investigation certainly feels like it belongs to a less intrusive time, all of which makes the search for the missing boy all the more poignant.

As always, the author brings her characters to life in such a believable way that they literally jump off the page fully formed and ready for action,although it must be said that I liked some more than others. I felt an emotional connection to Maisy from the beginning, she's such a determined young girl, qick to action and not afraid to say what's on her mind. However, it is in the interaction of the other characters where the story really comes alive, particularly the scenes with Grace Deville, the eponymous Woman in the Wood.

There is no sign that this talented author is running out of ideas for novels and, most certainly, this twenty-fifth novel is right up there with the best of her stories. Long may they continue.

About the Author

Lesley Pearse

Visit the author's website

Visit on Facebook 

Follow on Twitter @Lesley Pearse 

#LoveLesley #TheWomanInTheWood