Thursday 31 January 2013

Review ~ Two Evils by P J Tracy

Two Evils  (Monkeewrench #6)
Michael Joseph (17 Jan 2013)
Monkeewrench #6

Two Evils


In Two Evils, when Native American girls are kidnapped from the reservation on which they live, there seems to be no correlation between them and Grace McBride, a maverick computer analyst, and John Smith a retired FBI agent, who are on board a small boat in the Florida Keys, but with great skill the authors, successfully merge all the various strands of this crime story into a believable and tense narrative. Gino and Magozzi, are the two Minneapolis homicide detectives who feature strongly in the Monkeewrench series, and it is clear that their relationship is a big part of the story and their interaction with each other is one of brotherhood forged by adversity. When they are faced with a series of unexplained execution like killings in a  Minneapolis area known as ‘Little Mogadishu’, they discover that a complicated and malevolent conspiracy is in progress. 

Despite Two Evils being the sixth book in the progressive series of crime thrillers known as ‘Monkeewrench’, it is remarkably easy to follow, although I guess that some of the finer points of the continuing story are missed, if like me you are a newcomer to this mother and daughter writing combination. Without giving away any elements of the plot which is rich and varied, there is a degree of spirituality from the Native American characters which I found interesting, as was the scenic background around Elbow Lake where some of the later action takes place. If I have any criticism of the book it is that the show down finale, when it came seemed more of a damp squib, rather that the trumpet blast I had been expecting, but overall, I thought that the book was well worth reading, and I am now inspired to start at the beginning of the series to see where Monkeewrench began and how it has evolved over time.

My thanks to Real Readers for a review copy of this book.

P.J. Tracy is the pseudonym for the hugely popular mother and daughter writing team P.J. and Traci Lambrecht. 

Monkeewrench aka Want to Play? (2003)

Live Bait (2004)

Dead Run(2005)

Snow Blind(2006)

Shoot to Kill aka Play to Kill (2009)

Two Evils aka Off The Grid (2012/2013)

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Wishlist Wednesday..

 I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper ( somewhere in your post.

Dying Fall
Quercus 31 January 2013

Blurb from

This is the fifth book in the Ruth Galloway series of mystery thrillers from Elly Griffiths.

Ruth's old friend Dan Golding thinks he has made a discovery that will change archaeology forever - but he needs Ruth's help. Then, Dan is killed in a fire, leaving Ruth with one clue: the tomb of the Raven King. DCI Nelson is also rediscovering the past. He meets his friend Sandy Macleod, now at Blackpool CID, who tells him there are mysterious circumstances surrounding Dan's death. A Neo-Nazi group at Dan's University has been making threats and could be involved. Many of Dan's colleagues seem fearful and have secrets to hide. Ruth is drawn into the mystery, and where she goes, so does her daughter, Kate. This time, it's not just Ruth's life at risk.

I've loved the previous four books in the Ruth Galloway series and without doubt this one will find its way to me in the next few weeks.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Review ~ Ignorance by Michèle Roberts

Ignorance: A Novel
January 22nd 2013 by Bloomsbury USA



Michèle Roberts

Jeanne Nerin and Marie-Angèle Baudry grow up in the small French village of Ste Madeleine, where Marie-Angèle as the daughter of the local grocer thinks she is superior to her friend, Jeanne, whose mother, a Jewess, washes clothes for a living. However, the outbreak of WW2 will alter the dynamics, not just of the two girls, but also of the time in which they live.

This is not a story exclusively about war; it is rather more the story of the individual effects of war on a community and as both Jeanne and Marie- Angèle come of age in this troubled time, the consequences of their lives will impact greatly on those around them.

Beautifully descriptive, the detailed exploration of culpability, combined with the starkness of the prose lends an overwhelming seriousness to the narrative, which is as compelling as it is shocking.

My thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury.

Monday 28 January 2013

Review ~ The Children of Henry VIII by John Guy

The Children of Henry VIII
Oxford University Press

The Tudor family of Henry VIII has been the subject of much discussion, and whilst this book brings nothing new to the table, when all is said and done history cannot be rewritten, but what it does, is put all the children into one easily accessible volume. From Henry’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, through to the last of the Tudor babies, Edward, son of Henry’s marriage to Jane Seymour, this is a comprehensive look at the political affairs and passions which dominated the Tudor landscape and of the children’s unique place within it.

There is always going to be salacious interest in this period of English history, a king who married, divorced or executed his wives is bound to be the dominant feature in any documentary on the Tudor period. However, to see the children of this inscrutable ruler make their mark on history is a fascinating and intriguing look at, not just sibling rivalry on a grand scale, but also on the politics that formed the basis of Tudor England.

The book is a quick read in many ways, not because it is light on substance, far from it, the content is abundant and clearly annotated, but its easily readable format make it the sort of book to dip into and out of, and if like me, you read copious historical novels, sometimes it’s essential to have an aide memoir in your literary store cupboard to determine who is who in the Tudor hierarchy.

John Guy clearly knows his subject well, the research is impeccable and the comprehensive bibliography at the end of the book certainly provides enough impetus for further reading.


My thanks to NetGalley and Oxford University Press for an advance reading copy of this book

Sunday 27 January 2013

Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary...

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice 


"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." begins Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen which is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its publication.

Pride and Prejudice has got to be my favourite Jane Austen - I've lost count of the amount of times I've read the book, watched too many film versions, viewed copious TV dramas....

....but ultimately there is only one Fitzwilliam Darcy...

Mr Darcy & Lizzie (Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle)

Pride and Prejudice was Jane Austen's second published novel. The copyright of the novel was sold to publisher Thomas Egerton of Whitehall for £110. The first edition of the book was published on the 27th January 1813 and was priced at 18 shillings and promptly sold out ,with a second edition publication run in November of the same year, the third edition was published in 1817. Since then the book has gone on to sell over 20 million copies world wide and is regularly listed as one of the most popular novels in English literature.

Friday 25 January 2013

Friday Recommends...

The Snow Child
Published February 2012

The Snow Child


After they fashion a snow child, both Jack and Mabel are bewildered when they glimpse a young girl running in the snow -  is the child real or a figment of their imagination.....?

I enjoyed this magical fantasy set in the wilds of the Alaskan wilderness. The starkness of the landscape is portrayed in such a believable way that you can sense the chill from the snow and feel the isolation as pioneers, Jack and Mabel try to eke out a living in this inhospitable land.

At first the child, Faina, answers a need in them which is painful to witness but as the story progresses it becomes more obvious that the child, Faina is with them for a reason.

Based on the classic Russian fairy tale Snegurochka, The Snow Child is a haunting tale of love, loss and the power of friendship.


Wednesday 23 January 2013

Wishlist Wednesday

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper ( somewhere in your post.

The Silence


Sarah Rayne 

The Silence

Severn House Publishers Ltd (31 Jan 2013)

Publication Date: 31 Jan 2013

A century-old crime menaces the present in this spine-tingling tale of supernatural suspense. Antiques dealer Nell West is valuing the contents of her late husband Brad's childhood home, Stilter House. Set on the remote Derbyshire Peaks, there was once a much older property there, in which the notorious Isobel Acton committed a vicious crime. Warned against visiting the house by an elderly aunt of Brad's, Nell hears mysterious piano music soon after her arrival. It becomes clear that the music is tangled with Isobel Acton's macabre fate more than a hundred years earlier. A fate whose consequences still menace the present.

I really like the sound of this one !

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Review ~ Shadow on the Crown by Patricia Bracewell

Shadow on the Crown
Penguin Group Viking
7 February 2013

A rich tale of power and forbidden love revolving around a young medieval queen

Medieval England in 1001 is disrupted not just by the power and might of the marauding Danes who seek to invade this prosperous country, but also by the volatile and unpredictable nature of its ruling King. When the Danish leader, Swein Forkbeard attempts to negotiate a truce with the ruling powers across the narrow sea in Normandy, the English king, Æthelred, in desperation, agrees to marry Richard of Normandy’s fifteen year old sister Emma, in return for Richard’s sporadic protection against the Danes. However, Æthelred is a King with a notorious reputation, and Emma’s marriage to this volatile and troubled king is unhappy and fraught with danger, but Emma is a strong and courageous Queen who is determined to fight for what is rightfully hers as an anointed Queen of England.

Shadow on the Crown is the first book in a proposed trilogy about Emma of Normandy, and is a well written and easily readable account of this troubled period in England’s history. The author has used accurate historical evidence to support her story from the Anglo-Saxon chronicles, and it is this authenticity which adds a blend of realism to a story of political intrigue and sexual skulduggery. There is immense sympathy throughout the novel for the plight of this young and inexperienced Queen and with great insight the author has combined this largely forgotten period of England’s history with a fascinating account of the vagaries of life in a medieval court.

Quite rightly, the conclusion of the book lends itself perfectly to the continuation of the story and I am sure that this series will go from strength to strength as the story progresses.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group Viking for an early reading copy of this book to review.

grew up in California where she taught literature and composition before embarking upon her writing career. She has always been fascinated by English history, which led to her studying Anglo-Saxon history at Downing College, Cambridge University. She has two grown sons and lives with her husband in Oakland, California

Friday 18 January 2013

Friday Recommends...

The Perfect Hope (Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy, #3)
Berkley Publishing Group (6 Nov 2012)

The Perfect Hope


Nora Roberts

This is book three in the Boonsboro Trilogy which has seen the construction and opening of the Inn at Boonsboro, in Maryland. As always, the book focuses on a love story - this time between the last remaining Montgomery Brother, the enigmatic and taciturn Ryder, and the deliciously perfect innkeeper, Hope Beaumont.
 Filled with family life, children, dogs,and assorted members of the Montgomery family,  this story of Ryder and Hope evolves just the way you hoped it would.

Nora Roberts has a gift for story telling, The Perfect Hope is delicious, frothy and unashamedly romantic ~ I loved every word.

As this is book three in the trilogy , I would advise anyone interested in this series to start at the beginning.

Book 1 The Next Always
Book 2 The Last Boyfriend
Book 3 The Perfect Hope

Thursday 17 January 2013

Review ~ Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

Cover of Snow
Ballantine Books
15 January 2013
Cover of Snow


Jenny Milchman

Nora Hamilton wakes one morning to find her police officer husband gone from the bed they shared, and their old farmhouse in the Adirondack Mountains of New York seemingly deserted. Whilst the coffee pot splutters, Nora makes a fearsome discovery and unleashes a story that is as powerful, as it is frighteningly accurate. Suspenseful from the very beginning, Cover of Snow describes perfectly the controlling atmosphere of a small town, where all newcomers are viewed with suspicion. Where, even in the aftermath of sorrow, and as Nora yearns to depend on her husband’s brotherhood of police officers; there are sinister forces at work within the town community who are equally as powerful in forcing Nora away.

Without doubt, Jenny Milchman has written a very good debut novel. It is evident throughout Cover of Snow that she has an undeniable talent, and as the story leaps of the page, it is obvious that she has a wonderful descriptive ability. She paints such a picture with words that this reader thousands of miles from the Adirondack Mountains can still feel the cold, cold breath of snow, and as the chill settles over the mountains, you realise that there are shadows creeping into the darkest crevices.

Cover of Snow is one of those books that you easily lose sleep over, not just because you want to continue reading long into the night, but also because you want to believe that good will triumph in the end.

My thanks to NetGalley and Random House / Ballantine Books for a digital copy of Cover of Snow to read and review.


Wednesday 16 January 2013

Wishlist Wednesday..

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper ( somewhere in your post.

My Wishlist Wednesday Book 


Never Saw It Coming


Linwood Barclay

Never Saw it Coming
Expected date of Publication
31 January 201

Keisha Ceylon is a psychic. At least, that's what she passes herself off as. The truth is, Keisha's real powers have more to do with separating troubled families from their money than actually seeing into the netherworld. Keisha watches the news for stories of missing family members. She gives it a few days, then moves in, tells these families she's had a vision, that she may have some clue to where these missing people are. And by the way, she charges for this service, and likes to see the money up front.

Keisha's latest mark is a man whose wife disappeared a week ago. She's seen him on TV, pleading for his wife to come home, or, if she's been abducted, pleading with whoever took her to let her go. Keisha knows a payoff when she sees one. So she pays a visit to our troubled husband and tells him her vision.

The trouble is, her vision just happens to be close enough to the truth that it leaves this man rattled. And it may very well leave Keisha dead.

Linwood Barclay is fast becoming one of my favourite crime writers and thankfully I don't have to wait too long between books.

Monday 14 January 2013

Review ~ Closure by Gillian E. Hamer

Triskele Books
November 2012

There is an undeniable confidence in Gillian Hamer’s writing and even as the opening chapter of Closure gets underway there is a definite sense that this story is darker and dirtier than her previous book, The Charter. As always the rugged beauty of the North Wales coastline forms a stunning backdrop to a story of murder, mystery and the uncovering of long buried secrets.

In Closure, a serial killer is striking at the very heart of the university town of Bangor in North Wales, where young women are being randomly selected, and with no obvious clues left behind, the North Wales CID department have huge problems in tracking down the perpetrator. By coincidence, and seemingly unrelated, six year old Jake West experiences surges of memory from a past life which at first appear to have no connection with the main body of the story.

However, with great skill, the author intertwines two very different story strands and creates a plausible and totally believable story about irrefutable evil and the overwhelming belief that good will overcome wickedness. There are twists and turns galore and as the story gets under way there is a definite heightening of tension, with some truly dark moments which add a certain frisson of excitement.

As a reader it’s always reassuring when an author comes up with a second book which is every bit as good, if not better than the first book. There is huge potential for this crime series to continue and I really hope that Ms. Hamer has more stories to share with her readers.


Sunday 13 January 2013

Review ~The Bones of Avalon

In order to get my "to be read" shelf lighter this year, I am part of the Just For Fun Goodreads Group which encourages you to read books that have been sitting on a book shelf for a while. As an active book reviewer, I am constantly approached to read and review new books, which is of course, an absolute delight and a dream come true for me, but I do neglect the books on my ever expanding bookshelves to accommodate review requests.

My Just for Fun challenge this year is to read twelve historically themed books, which I was interested enough in to buy for myself, but which have languished on my book shelf for more than a year....

Here is my first Just for Fun read of the year, and it's an historical whodunnit from Phil Rickman who writes the superbly successful Merrily Watkins series of books, as well as some very good stand alone historical chillers...

The Bones of Avalon
Corvus 2010

In this new series the author introduces the Elizabethan astrologer Dr John Dee, and has woven a series of historical mystery stories which find the acclaimed doctor in some tricky situations. Written with Rickman's customary skill, the  John Dee Papers combines the stark reality of life in Elizabethan England , alongside some convoluted and mysterious situations.

The Bones of Avalon (2010) ~ starts the series with John Dee and Elizabeth's favourite courtier Robert Dudley sent to the town of Glastonbury to seek the truth behind the legend of King Arthur, who is believed to lie buried within the grounds of the ancient abbey. However, the abbey has been left derelict since Henry VIII's plunderers tore it to shreds, and the town of Glastonbury still harbours a grudge towards those who seek to disturb its peace.

The story is a well written mystery which combines history with undeniable malice and is a real page turner that had me enthralled from beginning to end. The strands of the story are never over simplified and the many twists and turns reveal a convoluted plot that keeps you guessing until the very end.

The Heresy of Dr Dee is the second book in the series

The Heresy of Dr Dee

Friday 11 January 2013

Friday recommends...

Little Wolves
Published 8 Jaunuary 2013
Soho Press

Little Wolves 


Thomas Maltman

When a seemingly senseless act of violence shatters the isolated town in the Minnesota hills, it uncovers small town prejudices which reverberate throughout the whole community and draws together two unlikely protagonists. Grizz, the embittered old farmer who is coping with unutterable grief and loss, and Clara, the pastor’s wife, who whilst searching for her own answers, finds comfort in the myths and legends of her beloved ancient literature. On the surface, these two people have nothing in common, and yet shared tragedy will let loose emotions and secrets which have been long buried.
Beautifully written, and filled with snippets of mysterious mythological analogies, the story starts with a seemingly unrelated piece of folk legend, but it pays to take notice of this beginning, as it is far from superfluous to the story. As the novel progresses, there is a lyricism to the narrative which keeps you turning the pages, and yet, it is far from an easy book to enjoy as there are some dark and dirty moments, particularly towards the end of the book that had me on the edge of my seat.
Combining murder, mystery and mysticism Little Wolves is a difficult novel to categorise as it falls into several genres, but fundamentally it is the story of how lives are influenced by past events and the realisation that the passage of time does not lessen the effect of either grief or fate.

I enjoyed it.


My thanks to NetGalley and Soho Press for a digital copy of this book to review.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Wishlist Wednesday ..

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper ( somewhere in your post.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley


Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes sees images; glimpses into its past, and of those who have owned it before. Born with this rare ability, Nicola sees it as something to keep hidden. But when a young woman arrives at the London gallery Nicola works at, offering a wooden carving for sale and claiming it belonged to Russia's Empress Catherine, Nicola faces a dilemma. With no proof of its past, Nicola's boss believes the carving - known as 'the Firebird' - is worthless. But Nicola has held it, and she knows that the woman, who is in desperate need of money, is telling the truth. Compelled to help, Nicola turns to a man she once left, and still loves: Rob McMorran, whose own psychic gifts are far greater than her own. With Rob to help delve into the past, Nicola travels from Scotland to Belgium, and on into Russia. There, in St Petersburg, the once-glittering capital, Nicola and Rob unearth a tale of love and sacrifice, of courage and redemption - a story which will change their lives for ever.

Susanna Kearsley is the best selling author of several Gothic historical novels. She excels at dual time narratives and her books are amongst my favourite reads and re reads.

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Guest Post ~ Steven Manchester

I am delighted to introduce 

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestseller TWELVE MONTHS and PRESSED PENNIES, THE UNEXPECTED STORM: The Gulf War Legacy, and JACOB EVANS, as well as several books under the pseudonym, Steven Herberts. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly N ews. Recently, three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or his four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.



Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: January 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 308

Fate was working against little Brian Mauretti. The food that was meant to nourish him was poisoning him instead, and the doctors said the damage was devastating and absolute. Fate had written off Brian. But fate didn't count on a woman as determined as Brian’s grandmother, Angela DiMartino – who everyone knew as Mama. Loving her grandson with everything she had, Mama endeavored to battle fate. Fate had no idea what it was in for.

An emotional tale about the strength of family bonds, unconditional love, and the perseverance to do our best with the challenging gifts we receive, Goodnight, Brian is an uplifting tribute to what happens when giving up is not an option

Steven has kindly offered an excerpt of his latest book Goodnight, Brian to Jaffareadstoo readers 

Back at the cottage, Mama took three pills and washed them down with a tumbler of water. She limped to her chair and flopped down into it. She reached for her legs and tried to rub out the spikes that hammered into her brittle bones. The cancer felt like termites eating their way through an old, dry rotted shed. “Oh, Lord, please ease my pain tonight. It’s something awful.”

The Lawrence Welk rerun hadn't even released its first wave of bubbles when both the pills and the prayer took effect. She breathed deeply and drifted off. Her snoring could have woken the dead…

Mama opened her eyes to a vast expanse of rich, rolling countryside dotted with cypress trees. In the distance, there were several grazing sheep, but the shepherd was nowhere in sight. Beyond them, at the outskirts of a silvery olive grove, she could barely make out a small house. It appeared to be made of stone. Or maybe it’s stucco? she wondered. It’s the color of melted creamsicles. On each side of it, there were small groves of trees. Fruit—fig and pear, she guessed. The sun was warm on her back and a slight breeze tickled her neck. It felt like the first day of spring; everything was green and rich and bursting with life. Shielding her eyes from the sun, she looked up at the bluest sky she’d ever seen. A few puffy clouds floated above. Besides the wind, only her breathing could be heard—slow, relaxed, and in perfect rhythm with the beat of her heart. Another scan of the hills revealed no human life. Yet, she felt anything but alone. She smiled.

Looking to her left, for the first time she noticed two straight rows of tall, green cypress trees lining a red clay roadway, the sun illuminating its natural path. Streams of light danced upon the path, auditioning for her attention. Without a thought, she turned and started for the path, an old Italian song coming to mind. “Viva Tuscany,” she started humming aloud, her smile growing wider.

As she followed the path, an old man dressed in soiled work clothes and a worn soft hat was whistling. He worked on his hands and knees, weeding out the base of an ancient stone wall. She approached. He looked up and smiled. His face was tan and weathered; his eyes, kind and aqua blue. "Ciao, Bella," he called out.

"Ciao, Senor," she replied.

He tipped his hat and smiled again. Without another word, he returned to his work and his whistling. Mama journeyed on.

At the end of the path, she came upon a field of daisies that looked like it went on forever. Butterflies and doves joined her as she walked, the breeze carrying them all toward something better. In a clearing, she stopped to watch a doe and her fawn prancing about. The scene brought so much joy that she laughed aloud. For whatever reason, it felt like a sign—though she couldn't understand what it might be. She took three steps forward when she looked up again to discover that she’d just entered the outskirts of a small Italian village. “It’s Italy!” she gasped. “ I've finally made it to Italy!” Afternoon had just turned to dusk.

Her young, healthy legs carried her on adrenaline and curiosity. At the edge of the small villa, she walked past an outdoor market that was closing for the day. Men and women packed up boxes of their baked goods—bread, cakes and biscuits. There was also an inventory of cheeses, cookbooks, coffee, kitchenware, pasta, oils, vinegars and wine. There was lots of red wine. “ Buena Sera, Bella,” a copper-faced man called out.

“Buona Sera, Senior,” she replied and hurried toward the center of town, wondering why this was the second stranger to address her by her childhood nickname.

The tiny villa was a menagerie of cobblestone streets and intimate cafes. It was so wonderfully congested that it appeared each building was no more than an addition of the one before it. The smell of espresso filled the sweet spring air, challenged by the salami and cheese that hung in nearby shops. White, twinkling lights—strung from tree to tree—illuminated a smile on every face. Some waved at her as she walked by. She returned the gesture, oddly grateful that her presence had not gone unnoticed. The old cathedral called out to its faithful, its bells echoing through the granite square. As she approached the stone statues of angels and saints, two old women sang in Italian, a soft breeze carrying their notes toward the heavens. Love was all around—everywhere—and the world was perfect. She took a seat at the fountain in the middle of the square and scanned every inch that surrounded her. The architecture of the ancient provincial buildings was breathtaking, food peddlers and lovers protected beneath the terraces that overlooked the villa; balconies that were filled with terracotta pots of roses, wildflowers, and tiny pear trees. The faint scents of lemon and thyme wafted on the breeze. And then she heard the sound of water. She stood and looked back. It’s not the fountain, she knew. It’s the ocean—the tide coming in and out.

Drawn by its call, she hurried through the square and made her way down a narrow alley that led out to a long, wooden dock. She could see cobalt and turquoise dancing on everything. She squinted to see the Italian port filled with sailors mending fishing nets and singing about the day’s great catch. It’s everything I ever thought it would be…everything I ever told Brian about and more. With the taste of salt on her tongue, she licked her lips and picked up the pace. This feels like heaven…

Mama awakened and sat motionless in her gray chair. At peace, she looked around the room until disappointment crept into her heart. And then—in one sudden surge—the pain came rushing back. It felt like cleavers being tossed into her hips and legs. She cried out and struggled to free herself from the chair.

“Where are those painkillers?” she asked aloud. “Dear God, where are they?”

© Excerpt reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

My Review of  Goodnight, Brian by Steven Manchester

“Giving up is not an option.”

As a baby, Brian Mauretti failed to thrive on the infant formula that was meant to give him nourishment. The adverse effects of this baby food meant that Brian was devastatingly damaged, with no realistic prospect of living a normal life. However, Brian’s formidable grandmother, Angela DiMartino refuses to give up on Brian, and with love, encouragement and sheer force of will, she begins to challenge fate.

There is poignancy about this story that really tugs on your heart strings, and as the heart-rending story of Brian emerges you almost want to stand up and cheer as Angela, known to her grandchildren as “Mama” refuses to acknowledge that Brian will not accomplish his full potential.

Written with the author’s characteristic warmth, and with fine attention to detail, Goodnight Brian is a story about determination and the absolute power of unshakeable family bonds.

If every family had a grandmother like “Mama”, the world would be a better place to live.

My thanks to Steven for generously allowing us a glimpse of Goodnight, Brian.!/AuthorStevenManchester

And thank you for visiting our blog, Jaffa and I wish you continued success with Goodnight, Brian.

Monday 7 January 2013

Review ~ The Lady of Secrets by Susan Carroll

The Lady of Secrets

The Lady of Secrets is set during the reign of James I, when England in the 1600s fostered an almost unwarranted belief in witchcraft and the dark arts. Meg Wolfe has the gift of healing but the lasting legacy from her mother, the mad witch Cassandra Claire, makes sure that Meg will always be held accountable for her mother’s notorious reputation. When someone hell bent on revenge enlists Meg’s help, there are choices to be made which will have severe repercussions on the destiny of “The Lady of the Faire Isle”.
I think to appreciate this novel fully it would have been more helpful for me to have read the previous books in TheDark Queen Saga, of which, The Lady of Secrets is book number 6. However, the author does go some way into involving in a new reader with several references to events which have passed in previous stories.
Initially, I was drawn to the book by its cover which I think is very pretty and as the premise of the story evokes a time when superstition and mistrust formed the basis of everyday life, what follows is a part historical, part fantasy balance between good and evil, and right and wrong. If I am honest, the book could have done with a tighter edit, there are some modernisms in the text which would have found no place in Stuart England, however, putting that to one side , I am sure than fans of Susan Carroll will find much to enjoy in this latest offering.


My thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for a review copy of this book

Friday 4 January 2013

Friday Recommended ..

 The Queen's PromiseThe Queen's Promise by Lyn Andrews

The story of Anne Boleyn's early fated love affair with Henry Percy is well documented but normally this relationship is glossed over before the more interesting aspects of her life start to evolve around her life at court with Henry VIII.
Interestingly, The Queen's Promise tells the story of Anne Boleyn and Henry Percy from three perspectives. We have Henry Percy himself, weak, enigmatic, easily persuaded against fighting for the love of his life, alongside Anne, capricious, beautiful and as always with an eye for her future development.
The third voice is by far the most interesting , we have a fictitious man servant of Henry Percy who speaks for the common man and who can therefore view things more objectively,from the position of ordinary life as opposed to the rarefied atmosphere of the Tudor court.

I thought that the story was well written and although there really isn't much new evidence to be discovered in the story, overall, I enjoyed the book.

Lyn Andrews in one the the UK's top one hundred paper-back best-sellers  Born and brought up in Liverpool, she is the daughter of a policeman who also married a policeman. After becoming the mother of triplets, she took some time off from her writing whilst she raised her children. Shortlisted for the romantic Novelists' Association Award in 1993, she has now written twenty-one hugely successful novels. Lyn Andrews divides her time between Merseyside and Ireland.

Thursday 3 January 2013

Guest Author - Kim Rendfeld

Guest Author

I am delighted to introduce Kim Rendfeld

Photograph courtesy of Kim Rendfeld

author of 

The Cross and the Dragon, published by Fireship Press, is available in e-book via kindle,Nook, Kobo, (and other readers) and in print from Amazon US, UK and Canada, and other countries.

"Inspired by legend and painstakingly researched, The Cross and the Dragon is a story of tenderness, sacrifice, lies, and revenge in the early years of Charlemagne's reign, told by a fresh, new voice in historical fiction."

Kim, welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for being our guest author today.

What inspired you to become an author?

I've enjoyed storytelling since I was a child, if playing with my dolls counts, and that urge led to a career in journalism, along with a few attempts to write a novel. By the late 1990s, I was content with editing and writing the short non fiction of newspaper articles and was considering public relations. I had given up on writing a book, but discovering a German legend prompted me to try fiction again.


Where did you get the inspiration for your debut novel, The Cross and the Dragon?

During a family vacation in Germany, I stumbled across a legend about the origin of Rolandsbogen, an ivy covered arch on a high Rhineland hill, and it is a very different interpretation of Roland (Hruodland in The Cross and the Dragon), best known as the stubborn hero in “The Song of Roland.”

What comes next is a spoiler, so readers who would like to avoid it can skip to the next question.

 In the legend of Rolandsbogen, our hero builds the castle for his bride and goes off to war in Spain. He survives the attack in the Pyrenees, but his wife is told he died. Not wishing to marry another, she takes a vow of chastity and joins the convent on Nonnenwerth, a Rhine island. Roland comes back too late and spends the rest of his days at his window trying to catch a glimpse of her to and from prayers.
This legend is not true. The historic Hruodland died in the attack, and that is all we know about him 

Yet the story of Rolandsbogen left me with questions such as “Why would someone lie to the bride?” It followed me home and would not let me rest until I sat at my computer and started writing, even though I knew little about the Middle Ages at the time.

What makes you want to write historical fiction?

I enjoy experiencing another time and place, and I've never lost my fascination with legends and folk tales.  The Middle Ages in particular has a lot of fodder for a writer, especially the melding of personal and political among the aristocracy.
King Charles’s (Charlemagne’s) personal life rivals a soap opera. At the beginning of my story, he is about to go to war with his ex-father-in-law, who is threatening Rome. I didn't invent that or any of the other wars in The Cross and the Dragon.

I hope my story tells readers something they didn't know, but my first purpose as a novelist is to entertain.

Do you outline the plot first, or do you let the story go wherever it takes you?

I use historical events as an underpinning for my story, but otherwise let the story take the lead. I would simply get stuck if I did the outline first. I wrote a few drafts before writing an outline for revision and then threw two-thirds of the outline away because the characters had different ideas.

Ellie and Icy
Picture courtesy of Kim Rendfeld
Do you have a special place to do your writing?

I have an office in our house, the proverbial “room of one’s own.” My computer is in a corner with windows on both sides, and my reference books are close at hand. It is not the tidiest place, but it is mine. My two distractions walk on four legs and will sometimes purr in my lap while I'm writing.

Can you tell us what are you writing next?

My next book is tentatively titled The Ashes ofHeaven’s Pillar. Here is the most recent draft of the blurb:

Charlemagne’s 772 battles in Saxony have left Leova with nothing but her two children, Deorlaf and Sunwynn. Her husband died in combat. Her faith lies in the ashes of the Irminsul, the Pillar of Heaven. And the relatives obligated to defend her and her family sold them into slavery, stealing their farm.
Taken in Francia, Leova will stop at nothing to protect her son and daughter, even if it means sacrificing her honor and her safety. Her determination only grows stronger as Sunwynn blossoms into a beautiful young woman attracting the lust of a cruel master and Deorlaf becomes a headstrong man willing to brave starvation and demons to free his family.
Yet Leova’s most difficult dilemma comes in the form of a Frankish friend, Hugh. He saves Deorlaf from a fanatical Saxon Christian and is Sunwynn’s champion—and he is the warrior who slew Leova’s husband.

And finally for fun...

If you could invite three people from history to your dinner table, who would you choose and why?

That is a tough one for me, because there are so many interesting people, but in no particular order, the guests would be:

Susan B. Anthony—She was one of the leaders for women’s suffrage in the United States but died before she could exercise the right to vote. What would she think of the status of women today?

James Madison—The fourth president of the United States, he is considered the father of the Constitution, the basis of our laws. Does he believe it’s a living document with implied rights such as privacy (as I do) or would he insist on sticking to the letter? If he knew how some people interpret the Constitution, would he have written it differently?

Bertrada—When she was queen, Charlemagne’s mother was the most powerful woman in Francia, the matriarch of an upstart ruling family. Even though the medieval mindset can sometimes be disturbing to a 21st century audience, it would be interesting to hear her take on the historical events in her time.

The sculptures of Bertrada and Pepin are 13th century funerary statues at the Basilica of Saint Denis, where they are entombed (wikipedia)

Kim kindly invited me to read her book The Cross and the Dragon. Here are my thoughts on the story ...

The history of the Middle Ages is bound in folk lore and legend, and in The Cross and the Dragon, set during the martial reign of Charlemagne, the author Kim Rendfeld, takes the story of Alda, wife of the military leader, Hruodland, and blends together a story about the effects of war on the women who were left behind, and about the men who loved them.

With quite harsh realism the author has blended fact with fiction and has created a story which is rich in historical detail and alive with atmosphere. The subtle but imposing characters make the story very readable, and even if you know nothing about the middle ages, you will enjoy the experience of stepping back into a time when love and war were intermingled and to be a woman in man’s world was often a frightening and lonely place to be.

With this, her debut novel, Kim Rendfeld has shown that she understands the fine distinction of her subject matter and without compromising historical fact she has the ability to weave together a good fictional story.

Kim,thank you so much for spending time with us, Jaffa and I  have loved having you as our guest author today. 

We wish you continued success with your writing career.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Wishlist Wednesday...

I am delighted to be part of wishlist Wednesday which is hosted by Dani at pen to paper

The idea is to post about one book each week that has been on your wishlist for some time, or maybe just added.

So what do you need to do to join in?

Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.

Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.

Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.

Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of her post.

Put a link back to pen to paper ( somewhere in your post.

My first wishlist book of the New Year 

The Fever Tree

Jennifer McVeigh

The Fever Tree
Viking; First Edition edition (29 Mar 2012)

Blurb from Goodreads

1878. South Africa. A country torn apart by greed. Frances Irvine, left destitute by her father's sudden death, is forced to travel from the security and familiarity of her privileged English life to marry Edwin Matthews, an ambitious but penniless young doctor in South Africa. They are posted to a smallpox station on the vast, inhospitable plains of the Karoo but she is so caught up in her own sense of entitlement and loss of status that she cannot recognise its hidden beauty nor the honour and integrity of the man she has married. All her hopes for happiness seem destroyed when her husband exposes the epidemic that is devastating the native community in the diamond-mining town of Kimberley. Here, the gleaming houses of the rich disguise the poverty of a labour force under coercion, and Frances is drawn into a ruthless world of wealth and opportunity, where influential men will go to any lengths to keep the mines in operation. Passionately caught up with the man her husband is fighting to bring down, she must make a fateful choice. "The Fever Tree" is a powerful and moving novel set against the raw backdrop of nineteenth-century Colonial South Africa, its deprivation and beauty alive in equal measure. Above all it is an achingly poignant love story, saving the best and most profound moments of truth and redemption until the last pages.

This book has also been chosen as one of Richard and Judy's Spring Reads 2013.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Happy New Year 2013

Jaffa and I would like to wish all our friends and followers


Happy Reading in 2013 

For last year's words belong to last year's language 

And next year's words await another voice.