Monday, 1 June 2020

Featured Book ~ The Glass House by Eve Chase ☼


🌠🌠 It's the first of the month and time for my featured book 🌠🌠

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Michael Joseph
14 May 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.

The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They're grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house's dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour - and the law - don't seem to apply.

But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.

Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .

From the author of Black Rabbit Hall, The Glass House is a emotional, thrilling book about family secrets and belonging - and how we find ourselves when we are most lost.

What did I think about it..

In 1971, after a devastating tragedy, the Harrington family move out of London to live at Foxcote Manor, their remote and rather dilapidated country home on the edge of the Forest of Dean. Together with their nanny, Big Rita, the children, Hera and Teddy, run wild in the woods, allowing their mother, Jeannie, time to come to terms with her own particular sadness. However, there are just too many secrets waiting to be exposed, especially when an unexpected discovery threatens everyone's peace of mind.

In present day London, Sylvie is adapting to an entirely new way of life when she receives the devastating news that her mother has had a terrible accident. The consequences of which will alter the course of Sylvie's life and will send her searching for clues about her past which have been buried for far too long.

The Glass House is wonderfully atmospheric, conjuring the dark oppressive nature of Foxcote Manor to perfection. The house on the edge of the dark, dark woods comes creepily alive and throughout the story there's a lingering sense of dread, not in a haunting way, but with a growing sense of impending doom that all is going to go badly wrong for the Harrington family. The family nanny, Big Rita, was, by far, my favourite character, she is such a fascinating enigma, and the linchpin around which the story turns and tumbles.

The modern day story is no less fascinating than its 1971 companion as both time periods are captured to perfection. I really liked the modern day Sylvie and found her search for the truth entirely believable, and so poignant, as her search starts to uncover secrets which should have been exposed years ago. Sylvie's troubled relationship with her daughter, Annie, adds an interesting dimension, continuing the theme of families in a very modern way.

The Glass House is a beautifully written family mystery which slips effortlessly between two time frames which are just far enough apart for the revelation, when it comes, to still be quite shocking.

Eve Chase is the author of Black Rabbit Hall and The Wildling Sisters, and the pseudonym of journalist and novelist Polly Williams. She lives in Oxford, England with her husband and three children.

Twitter @EvePollyChase

@MichaelJBooks @PenguinBooksUK

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Sarah Mallory

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 author,  Sarah Mallory

☼Good Morning, Sarah. Happy Sunday !

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch? 

I adore seafood, so I have a prawn salad with a lovely chunk of fresh crusty white bread. Yumm 

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

I can never say no to a glass of bubbly! But could I have a cup of tea too, pretty please? 

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today? 

Not Mr Darcy – much as I love the book, he is rather a serious young man and I want to be entertained. So, no brooding heroes joining us for brunch (I prefer those as dinner guests!). I present to you Mr Miles Calverleigh, from Georgette Heyer’s Black Sheep. He is laid back, intelligent and witty, but also kind. Not sure if he likes seafood… 

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

Tales of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites (I am currently researching for my latest romantic adventure) 

What’s the oldest book on your book shelf? 

Oh goodness, where to start? I buy lots of old books so that’s a challenge! From my nearest bookshelf, it is English Costume of the 19th Century, published in 1935. If I look at my novels, it is probably Jeffery Farnol’s Jade of Destiny, published in 1931. I inherited this from my Dad: it was raiding his bookshelves and reading Farnol, Orczy, Dumas etc that helped to foster my love of historical romance. 

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

My current TBR list is enormous (and I guess I am not alone there). The one that I really, really want to read is Milly Johnson’s My One True North, but I am saving that, because I know when I start it, I won’t be able to stop so everything will be neglected, housework, husband, children, dog. I just love her books and her writing style. 

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

Georgette Heyer. I love her writing, especially the historicals and although I have read them all over and over, I still return to them, which makes me feel a tad guilty because I think I should be reading something new. 

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

Heyer’s Venetia. That will get me through the dark times while I get life sorted again. 

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 haven’t moved on to music downloads yet but I have hundreds of CDs. I play lots of instrumental music when I am writing, especially piano music. I really like Carl Davis’s score for the 1995 series of Pride & Prejudice, it is such a lively piece, very jolly, and it always cheers me up. 

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

I am so lucky because my lounge overlooks the sea, so I sit by the window and read. It can be distracting, though, when the sea is rough or the sea birds are wheeling around. 

Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs? 

I am sure not all writers need the same things but for me, a notepad and pen/pencil are a must. Also, a thesaurus and a dictionary (although I am not sure whether the last two should be replaced by the kettle and teapot). 

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

I am very excited about my latest novel, The Mysterious Miss Fairchild, because it is my 30th book for Mills & Boon. It is a Regency romance, set in Bath (one of my favourite settings for this time period) and features a highly accomplished young lady who knows nothing about her past and that causes her to imagine the worst! 

Mills and Book
April 2020

Natalya Fairchild can’t help but be drawn to Tristan Quintrell, Lord Dalmorren, with his effortless charisma, even if he’s not her intended bridegroom. Tristan is an eligible society catch…whereas Natalya’s unknown heritage could label her ruined! As he helps Natalya investigate her mysterious past, she starts to hope the truth of her conception won’t destroy her prospects…of a life with Tristan!

Linda, where can we follow you on social media? 

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Carol McGrath

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 author,  Carol McGrath

☼Good Morning, Carol. Happy Sunday !

What Favourite Food are you bringing to the Sunday Brunch?

Pain Perdu which is eggy bread (homemade sour dough) with semi caramelised fruit. See Gordon Ramsey for the recipe. 

Would you like a pot of English breakfast tea…?

I would love a pot of breakfast tea and a little glass of bucks fizz if I may to celebrate the publication of The Silken Rose paperback on 23rd July. E book out now.

Which Literary Heroes are joining us?

I thought I would invite:

Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice as she is sparky and engaging

Katherine Swynford from the novel Katherine by Anna Seyton which inspired me

Jacob de Zoot from the 1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoot a fascinating character who was also incredibly courageous and romantic living in Japan during the late 18thC.

Marianne from Normal People by Sally Roony. Millennial angst but very bright and fun.

Seamus Heaney a great conversationalist and poet who once taught me.

What Book is near you now?

Graven With Diamonds by Nicola Shulman about Thomas Wyatt, the poet. I am reading it as part of research into Tudor Love Poetry.


What is the Oldest Book on Your Bookshelf?

The Collected Works of William Shakespeare given to my mother in 1942, published in New York in 1941. It was left with my mother by an American surgeon who never returned from the war.

Which Book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for yet?

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. I am too busy just now but shall be reading it soon.

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure?

I do. I am reading The Famous Five books by Enid Blyton at night before I fall asleep. They are on my kindle and calm me in this time of pandemic.

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

I own the very first signed copy of Wolf Hall signed to me by Hilary Mantel herself and which is dated as such. I think it’s an heirloom book worth rescuing.


CD to Listen To whilst writing?

I really tend to escape so much into my fictional world I don’t hear other than character voices in my head. However, I love The Unthanks. The Winterset Rachel Unthank is wonderful. I also have an old favourite in Amazing Blondel. I love all their works.

Favourite Place to Write

I have a study but really love writing in my airy bright kitchen on a blond-wood French table. 

Essential Tools For a Writer

Pens, notebooks, laptop, Thesaurus

My Latest Novel

I have just written the second novel in the She-Wolf Queens Trilogy which is with my editor at Headline. This novel follows The Silken Rose a novel about Ailenor of Provence. The new book begins with the Barons Uprising in the 1260s and its heroine is Eleanor of Castile. Just as The Silken Rose had a subplot involving a woman from the artisan class The Damask Rose has a female gardener/herbalist who acts as a go-between carrying secret messages and who accompanies Eleanor on Crusade. Eleanor of Castile was a property developer because she swore she would never suffer poverty again as she had during The Barons War. She acquired many properties from the rebel barons after the war as they were in great debt and she continued to develop her property office all her life, to their chagrin. She was powerful and clever and a blue stocking and she adored gardens. Her life was eventful as she went on Crusade with Edward her husband, followed him to Wales during the Welsh rebellions and was involved in his castle building and managed to have fifteen children though only five survived into their teenage years and adulthood. The first book in the Trilogy The Silken Rose is out now. The second will be published next year. I am writing The Stone Rose currently which is about Isabella of France.

Ebook out now
Paperback 23 July 2020

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?

 Carol, where can we find out more about your writing?

Twitter @CarolMcGrath 

Instagram: carol.mcgrath58

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Hist Fic Revisited ~ The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

It is the last Saturday of the month so time for Hist Fic Revisited

Let's do a bit of time travelling..

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Bantam 2016

Through Jean M. Auel's magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly--she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza's way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge. 

What did I think about it..

Over this lock down period I have been listening to more audio books and The Clan of the Cave Bear, expertly narrated by Rowena Cooper, has been a perfect distraction. It is rather a long listen, over 20 hours but, once the story gets going, I found that I was easily transported back to living amongst the Cave Bear people, over 35,000 years ago.

Ayla is an orphan child when she is found, and rescued, by a group of individuals who belong to the Clan of the Cave Bear. This primitive Neanderthal tribe take Ayla into their group but they realise that she is not one of them. With her blue eyes and blonde hair Ayla is one of the Others, a disparate group of people who are infiltrating the ancient lands. However, with no-one to claim her, Ayla is adopted into the clan and cared for by Iza, the medicine woman, and Cleb, the Mog-ur, who, over time, come to love this unusual child. Over the passage of time, Ayla grows to young womanhood as part of the Clan of the Cave Bear, but her journey  into adulthood is not without problems, as she is not universally welcomed by the rest of the clan.

The author brings this ancient world alive, and the myths and legends of the clan, and its people are vividly recreated. In many ways it's rather a slow story with not much happening other than descriptions of the clan as they search for their forever home, and it takes a while to get to know all the individual characters and to appreciate their faults and foibles. I grew to love Ayla, whose affection for her adopted family, particularly Iza and Cleb, is fascinating, however, there were others amongst the clan who become more and more unlikable as the story progresses. 

Written over 40 years ago, The Clan of the Cave Bear is far from perfect, it is rather over long in places and a bit repetitive, however, it is still an interesting story and has definitely been well worth a revisit 😊

The Clan of the Cave Bear is just the beginning of The Earth Children series 

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Jean M. Auel is an American author best known for her Earth's Children books, a series of historical fiction novels set in prehistoric Europe that explores interactions of Cro-Magnon people with Neanderthals. As of 2010 her books have sold more than 45 million copies worldwide, in many translations.

Friday, 29 May 2020

Audible Original ~ Animal Societies by Ashley Ward

Audible Original
23 April 2020

My thanks to Midas PR for the opportunity to listen to this audio book

Animal Societies is a voyage of discovery across desert, forest, tundra and ocean to uncover the many benefits and intricacies of sociality in the animal kingdom.

Taking listeners on a journey from Aysgarth Falls to the Great Barrier Reef, Animal Societies explores the intimate worlds of social animals, demonstrating how studying their social behaviour provides insights to the development of such things as empathy, altruism, leadership and language. It’s clear that animals are not so far removed from us as we might imagine

In a time where humans are struggling to navigate cityscapes, isolation and a loneliness epidemic, Ward shows us that studying the social behaviour of animals offers a window into the evolutionary basis of our own species.

What did I think about it..

Animal Societies is a well described journey through the animal kingdom which is brought to life by the skill and passion of the author, who, by narrating his own work, brings his specific expertise in the study of animal behaviour to enhance the overall effect of the book. Whilst the narration is about the partnership of animals with nature, and their reliance on the natural world for survival and social grouping, it's also about the simple joy of enjoying the natural world in all its glorious splendour.

This detailed look at how all the different groups of animals go about their complex lives is thoroughly explained by an expert which brings a specific authenticity to the narration, and everything is explained in an easy to understand manner. The book is stacked full of facts, with much to consider and learn about animal behaviour, however, I never had the feeling that I was sitting in a lecture, rather more that I was listening to an interesting talk with the author. I especially enjoyed the occasional sound effects which added a nice touch and broke up the narration in a good way.

I've enjoyed listening to Animal Societies and thanks to the interesting topic and the skill of the narrator the 13 hours and 36 minutes of the book passed by very quickly.

About the Author

Ashley Ward is Professor of Animal Behaviour at the University of Sydney and has travelled extensively for his research all over the world – studying lions and elephants in Kenya, whales in the Azores and Tonga, crows in Iceland and Nevada, and fish in Lincolnshire.



Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Blog Tour ~ The Railway Girls by Maisie Thomas

I'm excited to host a stop on this lovely blog tour
for a brand new historical saga

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28 May 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my ecopy of this book
and the opportunity to be part of this blog tour

The first novel in the utterly brilliant Railway Girls series. 
Perfect for fans of Nancy Revell and Ellie Dean.

In February, 1922, at the western-most entrance to Victoria Station in Manchester, a massive plaque was unveiled. Beneath a vast tiled map showing the lines of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway network, a series of seven bronze panels recorded the names of the men of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway who gave their lives for King and Country in the Great War – a total of 1,460 names.

In March, 1940, a group of women of varying ages and backgrounds, stand in front of the memorial, ready to do their bit in this new World War...

What did I think about it..

It's always exciting to be in right at the beginning of a new historical saga and to have one set in the north west is especially heartwarming as many of the places mentioned in The Railway Girls are places I am familiar with, in fact, like one of the characters in the book, my own grandfather worked on the northern Railways.

The story starts in 1940 when the country is already in the grip of war. All those industries which once relied on manpower, now find that it is the women folk who have to keep the country together, from working in heavy industrial factories making ammunition, to keeping the canals and railways functioning, women were very much in charge of keeping the home fires burning. However, this didn't always sit comfortably with those men who stayed at home, and there was often resentment and bullying  towards the female workforce.

The eponymous railways girls are pulled from all walks of life, from the posh girls with plummy accents, to the rough and ready northern housewives, there is a real mix of personalities and I think that's what really works as right from the start the women who are brought together to work on the LMS railway network do so with a sense of excitement, trepidation and pure northern grit.

Some characters I liked more than others and some I wanted to give a good telling off to, but throughout it all I sensed that this disparate group were going to get on like a house on fire. I especially enjoyed when the women all met up after their shifts to share their problems over a cup of tea in the station tearoom. However, it's not all about gossiping over a teacup, there's plenty more going on, and I enjoyed how the author gave attention to each of the characters so that we got to know more about them, not just the roles they played on the railways ,but also their, very different, home circumstances.

The Railway Girls brings this wartime period alive in a beautifully written historical saga and the author uses her own local knowledge of the area to really bring everything alive in the imagination. Whether it be observing the hard graft of physical labour on the LMS network, or typing invoices in the clerks' office, or waltzing in the Manchester dance halls, there is never a moment when the personality of the railway girls, or the sense of historical authenticity doesn't shine through.

It's been a real pleasure to spend time with the intrepid railways girls and I am already looking forward to finding out just what happens next to them all.

Maisie Thomas was born and brought up in Manchester, which provides the location for her Railway Girls novels. She loves writing stories with strong female characters, set in times when women needed determination and vision to make their mark. The Railway Girls series is inspired by her great Aunt Jessie, who worked as a railway clerk during the First World War. Maisie now lives in beautiful North Wales with her railway enthusiast husband and their two rescue cats. They often enjoy holidays chugging up and down the UK’s heritage steam railways.

Twitter @MaisieThomas99 #TheRailwayGirls

Twitter @Arrowpublishing 

The Railway Girls is published in paperback and ebook on the 28th May 

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo ~ Harriet Steel

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, Harriet Steel

Good morning, Harriet. Happy Sunday!

What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?

Greek yogurt and fresh fruit salad.

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

English Breakfast tea, please.

Which of your literary heroes are joining us today?

There are so many writers I would love to talk to, but if I have to restrict myself, it would be Agatha Christie, with Dorothy Sayers a close second. 

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

The Concise Oxford Dictionary – I’d be lost without it!

What’s the oldest book on your bookshelf?

A copy of The Wind in the Willows that belonged to my mother-in-law. The publisher didn’t print a publication date, but we think Sylvia would have been nine or ten when she was given it and she was born in 1927. 

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

It’s a series; I hope that’s admissible! I’ve always wanted to get through all of the Barchester Chronicles but so far, I’ve only managed The Warden and Barchester Towers.

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

The Montalbano books by Andrea Camilleri, which are even more amusing in the television series based on them. Montalbano is so cool and the formula works brilliantly – the swim in the sea and the expresso coffee while he thinks about the answer to the case, the long-suffering girlfriend, and of course, the romantic Sicilian setting.

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

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. It was a favourite bedtime story for my daughters for many years, and I practically knew it by heart at one stage! The book brings back many happy memories. 


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 prefer to be quiet when I’m writing, although I like to hear the birds singing outside my window. A piece of music that always makes me happy though is Bach’s Christmas Oratorio; I get in the festive spirit the moment I hear it!

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

Now that our daughters are grown up with homes of their own, I have a room upstairs that used to be a bedroom. It has a view over the garden which is lovely.

Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?

A computer is certainly essential for me as my writing is very untidy these days. When I’ve been in a rush to get some notes down, even I can hardly read it back! Constructive criticism is vital, as well as a good walk to clear my head when I hit a plot problem. Reading other authors is essential too. I think Stephen King was absolutely right when he said that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. 

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

My latest novel is called Taken in Nuala, and it’s the eighth instalment in my Inspector de Silva Mysteries which are set in the 1930s in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka). The series is traditional in style without graphic violence or sex.

I was lucky enough to visit Sri Lanka several years ago and immediately fell in love with the island. The people are charming, and life has a peaceful quality to it. The island has been described as India without the dirt and the crowds, and I think it’s a fair summing up. It has wonderful scenery and wildlife, and the plant life is lush and colourful. Many readers have told me that they’ve enjoy visiting it as armchair travellers through my books. They also say that the characters who feature regularly have come to feel like old friends, and (despite the danger of being murdered) Nuala feels a comfortable place to be, especially in these difficult times.

Harriet, where can we follow you on social media?

Twitter @harrietsteel1

Follow #SundayBrunchwithJaffreadstoo