Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Review ~ M for Mammy by Eleanor O'Reilly

Two Roads
March 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
Meet the Augustts: a loving, Irish family who, like all families, are a bit complicated. But they are bound together by their love for each other and the way their words shape their world.

Things become even more complicated when the mother has a stroke, and the force of nature who is Granny Mae-Anne comes to try and take charge to keep the family together.

She has a job on. There's the son Jacob with all his words trapped in his head by The Autism, the father Mickey struggling to express himself at all, and Jenny, the daughter, quietly writing it all down to try and make sense of it.

My thoughts..

M for Mammy is quite a different sort of story which offers a powerful message about the bond of family and of the drama of holding everything together when it seems as if the world is falling apart.

The Augustts are a loving Irish family who have their share of family problems but they are somehow muddling, as best they can, through life. Told in a series of clear voices a story emerges of a family on the brink of  significant change especially since early on in the book, mum, Annette Augustt, suffers a debilitating illness and Granny Mae-Anne, the family matriarch, with a heart of gold, and penchant for apple crumble steps into the brink, keeping the family together in her own inimitable style.

M  for Mammy is an interesting story, parts of which I thought worked better than others as some of the narrative is a little bit over long in places, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of this lovely story. I thought the characterisation was excellent, especially little Jenny who I loved from the start, especially her written composition about A Good Day which opens the book,  her description of eating chips with her dad and little brother Jacob, fairly sizzled on the page. Jacob's autism is particularly well done and I heard his voice loud and clear. however, Granny Mae-Anne was, for me, the glue that kept the story together, and, believe me, every family needs a granny just like her!

M for Mammy is a good debut novel and I look forward to seeing what the author does next.

About the Author

Eleanor O’Reilly is a teacher of English and Classical Studies in Co. Wexford who has just completed an MA in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University. Having first started writing five years ago, she has received several literary prizes, including the 2015 RTE Francis McManus Radio Short Story Award and the 2013 William Trevor International Short Story Award, and has been shortlisted for several others, including the 2016 Colm Tóibín Literary Award.

She lives in a small town on the east coast of Ireland with her husband and daughter.

Twitter @eoreillyauthor


Sunday, 23 June 2019

Blog Tour ~ Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain (Translated by Emily Boyce)

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Vintage 1954

20 June 2019

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

When Hubert Larnaudie invites some fellow residents of his Parisian apartment building to drink an exceptional bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, he has no idea of its special properties. The following morning, Hubert finds himself waking up in 1950s Paris, as do antique restorer Magalie, mixologist Julien, and Airbnb tenant Bob from Milwaukee, who's on his first trip to Europe. 

After their initial shock, the city of Edith Piaf and An American in Paris begins to work its charm on them.

But, ultimately, they need to work out how to get back to 2017. And the key lies in a legendary story of the vineyards of Chȃteau Saint-Antoine..

My thoughts..

Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could take a drink from a vintage bottle of wine and cross through time, back to the glorious era in which the grapes were harvested and bottled, and that's just what happens in this lovely story which takes us, thanks to a vintage bottle of 1954 Beaujolais, back in time to the Paris of the 1950s, and to all those lovely people who made this vibrant post-war city such a joyous place to live.

The story starts with a disappearance, and then whisks us forward into 2017 Paris to meet up with four eccentric neighbours who find themselves living at 18 Rue Edgar-Charellier. This disparate group of characters who, collectively have very little in common will, in the course of the story, have the adventure of a lifetime.

This is such a wonderfully quirky story that it is easy to just sit back and enjoy just how it all unfolds. To allow the author's clever writing to transport you back to a bygone time is such a joy, especially as we spend time in Paris when it was a less frenetic city. Back to a gentler time when there were tiny bistros tucked away and fruit sellers on street corners who had time to stop and chat. It was also a city where the great and the good loved to visit, so it's wonderful to have the fleeting opportunity to meet up with the likes of Salvador Dali, Audrey Hepburn, Hubert de Givenchy and Edith Piaf.

Vintage 1954 is a hidden gem and the most perfect summer read, especially if you are visiting Paris but it would work equally well sitting in the garden, preferably with a glass or two of Beaujolais close to hand 🍶

Antoine Laurain is a wine-lover, journalist, and antique collector. Born and bred in Paris, he is the author of bestselling novels The President’s Hat (a Waterstones Book Club pick) and The Red Notebook. His books have sold over 155,000 copies in English and Antoine’s work has been adapted for French TV, translated into 14 languages, and won the Prix Relay des Voyageurs amongst others.

Twitter @BelgraviaB  #Vintage1954


Saturday, 22 June 2019

Hist Fic Saturday ~ The Diary of Margery Blake by P J Roscoe

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back to ...1853

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book.

The harshness of 19th century life for women as seen through the eyes of a young bride. Margery Blake is nothing but a pawn in family affairs, and her marriage is seen as a good match. Margery has no power, or control over her life and endures her husband's rights to her body in order to produce an heir. Margery soon realises 'husband' is merely another title for owner, beater, brute, bully and evil. She finds friendship in the unlikeliest of places.

My thoughts..

We have the romantic notion that living in the Victorian era was generally a time of pretty young ladies waiting eagerly for a man to take their hand in marriage and then lead them into a life of conjugal bliss.

In The Diary of Margery Blake we are introduced to the spirited Margery when we are given leave to read her highly descriptive diary entries, in which we are privy to her thoughts and fears as she embarks upon an arranged marriage. As the story progresses, and continuing in diary format, we get to know Margery’s intimate thoughts about her marriage to Captain John Harrison. And just what happens in this tumultuous marriage forms the basis of this interesting historical saga.

The author certainly brings this feisty young woman to life and I read the diary entries almost like a voyeur, learning about the struggles and fears and, it must be said, of the difficulties which Margery faces on a daily basis.

The difference between the sexes is very much at the forefront of this novel, especially in a time when women had relatively few rights and no say at all in where their lives would take them. Well written and with a strong and authentic voice, The Diary of Margery Blake is one of those stories which paints a dramatic picture of a bygone time and which makes you glad to have been born in a more enlightened time when women have the opportunity to go wherever life leads them.

P J Roscoe is the the author of supernatural, historical novels for adults and faerie books that teach children morals. And is the 2017 Winner of the Marie M Irvine Literary Excellence Award for Historical fiction.

Twitter @derwenna1

Friday, 21 June 2019

Review ~ The Best of Crimes by K C Maher

Red Door
23 May 2019

My thanks to the publishers and Ben at Cameron PR for my copy of this book

An unconventional love story that will challenge your most entrenched ideas of right and wrong

Walter, a child prodigy who now works on Wall Street, considers himself a father figure to Amanda, his daughter’s best friend and the only child of a neglectful single mother. But when he loses his job and his wife leaves him, taking their daughter, his relationship with Amanda enters a precarious new stage.

Walter struggles to give her the affection and guidance she desperately needs, without succumbing to her budding sexuality. In the year before she enters high school, these two lonely souls will transform each other as Walter breaks out of his emotional shell and Amanda blossoms into adolescence.

My thoughts..

Unusually, the story opens with an ending, which then takes us back in time so that we get to learn much more about Walter Mitchell, and the way his life played out before we get to the dramatic scenario which opens this unusual love story. I use the term 'love story' rather than romance as I think this book crosses the boundaries and makes you question the difference.

Amanda is the best friend of Walter's thirteen year old daughter Olivia. The girls' are the same age but that's where the similarities end. Olivia has everything her heart desires and yet, she still wants more. Her friend Amanda, is far more vulnerable, as she has been forced, by the indifference of her selfish mother, to fend, very much, for herself.

Throughout the story I was reminded, of course, of Nabokov's Lolita, there's the same sense of experimentation, and the urge, not to shock, but to challenge the perception of what is considered appropriate behaviour. Pulled by an attraction that defies convention, Walter is increasingly drawn towards Amanda and not in an entirely paternalistic way. There is no doubt that even though Walter's intentions are honorable, his emotional connection to Amanda crosses the divide between what's appropriate and what's not acceptable between an adult man and a prepubescent girl.

The author writes well and whilst I didn't entirely enjoy all of the story I commend the author for tackling a difficult subject and for writing a thought provoking and unusual story about a complex relationship between two sad and lonely individuals.

K.C. Maher grew up outside of Chicago and has been writing fiction all her adult life. Her fiction and journalism has appeared in US and UK magazines online and off. Now that her children are grown, she writes more than she sleeps. The Best of Crimes is her first published novel. K.C. Maher lives in New York.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Blog Tour ~ A Cornish Summer by Catherine Alliott

Delighted to be hosting today's stop on A Cornish Summer Blog Tour

Penguin Random House
13 June 2019
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book 
and the invitation to take part in this blog tour

Flora’s been in love with her husband for twenty years. The only trouble is, he’s been married to someone else for the past fifteen. When she’s invited to spend the summer in the shady lanes and sandy coves of Cornwall, it should be perfect – except she’ll be staying with her former mother-in-law, Belinda.

And when she gets there, she discovers that she’s not the only one who’s been invited.

Can Flora spend the summer playing happy families with her oblivious ex-husband, the woman who stole his heart, and the mother-in-law who might have had a hand in it? As the weeks go by, she soon discovers that there may be even more at stake than she thought…

My thoughts..

When single mother Flora gets an invitation to spend the summer in Cornwall she is apprehensive about staying with her ex-in laws, however, the thought of beautiful beaches and a stay in an idyllic cottage helps to overcome her fears, that is, until certain unexpected guests alter Flora's peace of mind.

It's a bit slow to start, but once the story started to take off, I really enjoyed reading about this lovely Cornish summer. Flora's interaction with the other characters, particularly her ex-father in-law Roger, made me laugh, however, it is her fractured relationship with her domineering ex-mother-in-law, Belinda, where some of the real problems lie. There's such a lot going on in the story and whilst I can't say much without giving too much away there's a lovely authentic feel to the story and the author has infused all her characters, and there's quite a lot of them, with some quirky personality traits which makes them all such fun to get to know.

This is a complex family drama about all those angst ridden problems which seem to beset a modern family, we have, ex in-laws, second wives, mistresses, half siblings, old friends, new friends, lost love and new love and all with Flora firmly entrenched in the heart of all the action.

A Cornish Summer is a lovely warmhearted story and whilst its a bit of a slow burner, and overall it's quite a long story, I do think that this lends itself to being a good summer read and ideal for those lazy afternoons in the garden or on the beach.

Catherine Alliott is the author of fifteen bestselling novels including About Last Night, My Husband Next Door, A Rural Affair, One Day in May, The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton, and Wish You Were Here. She lives with her family in Hertfordshire.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Review ~ Ten Poems about Horses from Candlestick Press

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to share this latest poetry pamphlet from
Candlestick Press

Candlestick Press
19 June 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this poetry pamphlet
Poems that capture the beauty and magic of horses

The poems in this selection take us on an exhilarating canter through our friendships with horses. Along the way, we meet an edgy stallion waiting for his winter bale and a pony picking her way across paddocks after having her hooves trimmed:

“…she sidled through the silver air
pretending to shy at shadows
each hair of her coat
standing upright with joy.”

from ‘The Grey Pony’ by Dorothy Hewett

There are also encounters of a quieter kind – a moment lingering at a field gate as horses decide whether to come over and say hello. The poems beautifully illustrate that humans and equines are always equals. We can learn as much from them as they from us.

Alison Brackenbury is an award-winning poet who has kept and loved horses for most of her life.

Poems by Alison Brackenbury, Jane Commane, Tony Curtis, Sally Goldsmith, Adam Lindsay Gordon, Jen Hadfield, Dorothy Hewett, Geoffrey Holloway, Maxine Kumin and Robert Wrigley.

Cover illustration by Lizzie Ginbey and Barry Tottle.

Donation to Bransby Horses.

My thoughts...

Just a couple of weeks ago I watched a beautiful bay mare, with a glorious blonde mane, gambol and frisk in the sunshine. The horse was simply stunning, beautiful, so graceful, and filled with the simple joy of being alive, in perfect harmony with nature.

In this collection, Alison Brackenbury has made a clever selection of ten poems which bring to life this animal who has walked alongside us for so many centuries. With over a million horses in the UK trying to find ten poems which encapsulate this beloved friend must have been a mammoth task! But there are some real beauties:

Rebuke by Geoffrey Holloway

"...You stand etched in sunlight,
then slowly canter down;
wind ruffling the russet nap
of your coat, turning
your mane spiky..."

Last Horse by Alison Brackenbury

Once from long rides where hit hills rolled
to sun's glare, she would drift away.
Now, tail a flare, a melt of gold
she moved to me as at first day..."

Reading Ten Poems about Horses has made me smile and brought back happy memories when, as a teenager, I spent many Saturday's in a local stable, learning to how to ride and care for these wonderful animals.

As always, these beautifully presented poetry pamphlets make lovely gifts, and this one is absolutely perfect for those who love horses, however, with such a glorious selection to choose from, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Clouds, Walking, Birds, Home and Kindness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter @PoetryCandle

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the blog tour for The Last Widow

Harper Collins
13 June 2019

Will Trent #9

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

It begins with an abduction. The routine of a family shopping trip is shattered when Michelle Spivey is snatched as she leaves the mall with her young daughter. The police search for her, her partner pleads for her release, but in the end…they find nothing. It’s as if she disappeared into thin air.

A month later, on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, medical examiner Sara Linton is at lunch with her boyfriend Will Trent, an agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. But the serenity of the summer’s day is broken by the wail of sirens.

Sara and Will are trained to help in an emergency. Their jobs – their vocations – mean that they run towards a crisis, not away from it. But on this one terrible day that instinct betrays them both. Within hours the situation has spiralled out of control; Sara is taken prisoner; Will is forced undercover. And the fallout will lead them into the Appalachian mountains, to the terrible truth about what really happened to Michelle, and to a remote compound where a radical group has murder in mind

My thoughts..

It's been such  a thrill to be be reacquainted with Will Trent and Sara Linton and as always, the story lives up to every one of my expectations. The Last Widow sees Will and Sara as close as ever as a couple, and yet, in this story, because of dramatic circumstances, they spend very little time together. However, such is the strength of their relationship, that you feel the extraordinary emotional pull of their connection even when they're apart.

The Last Widow bears all the trademarks of this author's exceptional writing talent with an opening which had me, quite literally, on the edge of my seat, and as the excitement builds there is never a moment when the story doesn't leave you reeling.  The plot is very topical and, it must be said, rather brutal both in terms of its characterisation and in the way that the author gives us a very plausible situation, highlighting, in a frighteningly realistic way, the toxic rise hatred and prejudice.

It's perfectly possible to read The Last Widow as a standalone story as the author includes enough information about her main characters so you are able to invest in their situation but of course, this is such a fabulous series that it's better to have followed both Sara Linton's story in the Grant County series, and likewise, start at the beginning of the Will Trent series, and in that way you can apprentice the joy of watching the characters develop in confidence and of the sheer excitement in experiencing their collective crime dramas.

I raced through The Last Widow over a couple of days simply because I couldn't put the story down without wanting to discover just how this tense, taut, fabulous thriller eventually played out.

I hope it won't be too long before we meet up again with Sara and Will, the ending certainly lends itself to another exciting continuation, hopefully in Will Trent #10 😊

Karin Slaughter is one of the world's most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe. her 19 novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant Sunday Times bestselling novels, Pretty Girls, The Good Daughter, and Pieces of Her.

Twitter@SlaughterKarin #The Last Widow