Sunday 31 March 2013

Happy Easter..

Jaffa and I would like to send special 

Easter wishes

 to all our followers and blog readers.

Saturday 30 March 2013

Review ~ Heart Like Mine by Amy Hatvany

Heart Like Mine
Washington Square Press (19 Mar 2013)

Heart Like Mine


Amy Hatvany

When Grace meets Victor Hansen, she is swept off her feet by the handsome restaurateur, and is determined to be an excellent stepmother to Victor’s children, Ava and Max. However, family emotions run deep, and even as thirteen year old Ava takes it upon herself to look out for her mother, Kelli and her little brother, Max, it is obvious that cracks are appearing, and that life is starting to unravel.

What then follows is an interesting and poignant dissection of the complexities of family relationships. The story is narrated in three identifiable voices - Grace must find out if she has the emotional strength to be a mother to Victor’s children. Ava, who at thirteen years old is far too young to have such a weight of responsibility on her shoulders. Finally, Kelli whose troubled history is gradually revealed.

Overall, the story is well told, and even though there is at times a harrowing quality to the story, there is also a clear perception of the emotional turmoil experienced, along with a sensitive look at love and loss.

This is the first of Amy Hatvany’s books I have read but would be interested to read more of her work.

My thanks to NetGalley and Washington Square Press for a review copy.

Friday 29 March 2013

Friday Recommends ....

Published by Orion
9 May 2013



Philip Kazan. 

Set against the glorious backdrop of renaissance Italy, this disturbingly addictive story is as enticing as the most sumptuous of banquets, and will sweep you far away from the commonplace, and into the dark and dirty world of human excess and scintillating debauchery.

Nino Latino has an instinctive passion for creating food, and this rare culinary skill, takes him far away from his father’s butcher’s shop in the back streets of Florence, and hurtles him towards the luxurious world of the Medici’s, and into the decadent and opulent court of Italy’s greatest Renaissance city. With voyeuristic horror, a debauched world of gluttonous excess is laid bare, and as Nino’s passionate story emerges, you become completely captivated, not just by the lavish imagery of food, people and places, but also with the glory of art, and the fine balance of delicate frescoes. The vibrancy of the story blazes through the medieval kitchens of Florence and Rome with an intoxicating passion, and even as the vivid descriptions of food dazzles the senses, each turn of the page will take you deeper and deeper into a decadent and self indulgent world, where petty jealousies and political manoeuvrings are roused by the magic of the culinary maestro.

There is no doubt that Appetite is a gastronomic masterpiece, the impressive fervour of Kazan’s narrative paints a passionate picture of undeniable greed and overwhelming ambition, in a story which lingers in the mind, long after the last page is turned. 


It's a long time since I was so excited by a debut book. The writing is masterful and compelling and equally as absorbing as Patrick Suskind's Perfume .If you love Italy, food and well written historic adventure, then you will love this one as much as I did. 

If I could give it more than five stars I would.

I was given the opportunity to read this part as part of the LoveReading  review panel. 

Early reading reviews of this book can be found here 

Appetite is published by Orion on the 9 May 2013

Thursday 28 March 2013

Guest Author ~ Janey Fraser

I am delighted to welcome the author



Was I the only one to chuckle about the news that teenagers don’t want to learn about sex any more. They know all that, apparently. But what they do want to learn in schools is how to be a good parent.

What a fantastic idea! The irony is that when we were young, we all thought we could do it better than our own parents. I, for one, distinctly remember thinking that when I was a mother, I would not make my children take their shoes off as soon as they came through the door/eat liver/wear sensible shoes. Now, too late, I can see why my mother was right about the first and last.

‘What do you reckon makes a good mother, then?’ asked my daughter coyly. OK, here goes.

Giving unconditional love. Telling a child that you’ll love him/her whatever happens, is very comforting.

Setting boundaries. This actually goes with the above. We all need guidelines whether we’re football players or parents.

Taking time to listen at the most inconvenient times. One of my children once asked me what ‘intercourse’ meant when driving through Milton Keynes. I managed the first but got completely lost at the tenth roundabout as a result.

Not saying ‘In my day’. Things have changed. Thank goodness for that.

Not imposing our own dreams on our children. Just because we always wanted to do something and didn't do it, doesn't mean they have to do it instead. Similarly, why should they follow in our footsteps? They’re their own people.

Teach them to budget. Explain how bank statements work and holes in the wall and why it is that if they blow it immediately after pay day, there isn't always going to be someone to bail them out.

Teach them right from wrong. This may seem an obvious but through my work, I know of people who were taught at their mother’s knee to fiddle credit cards. Wrong can also be not taking change back if you’re under-charged.

Be kind to others.

Creating a warm, stable home. This doesn't always mean having two parents.

GIVE YOUR CHILD CONFIDENCE. Children who are told that they can do something (instead of being constantly criticised) or that they are beautiful (even when they’re not) grow up to be adults with self-esteem..

The list is endless, isn’t it. And as I wrote it, I was horribly aware of all the times when I hadn’t done these things.

‘You’re a great mum,’ said one of my sons when reading this.

Really? ‘Yeah. Well apart from when you yell at us for not taking our shoes off and make us eat your rubbish veggy lasagne and try to make us wear stuff we don’t like….’

Happy Families


Janey Fraser

Published by Arrow, Random House. £6.99

More about the book....

When Vanessa, Bobbie and Andy get together at the local parenting class at Corrywood School, their lives are set to change for ever.

All three of them need help. Fast!

Bobbie’s children don’t listen to a word she says and her workaholic husband is never home. Even worse, her mother is bringing a new boyfriend to visit: the notorious Dr Know, who dishes out hard-line parental advice to the nation. Can parenting classes save Bobbie’s bacon, not to mention her marriage? And what do you do when your mother is about to marry a man you hate?

Meanwhile, Andy’s wife has been asked to run a parenting class at the local school. But when she scarpers, he’s left to run it himself and look after their two teenage daughters – who aren’t as perfect as he’d thought. When one of his childhood enemies signs up for the class, Andy is forced to confront the demons of his youth. The poor man needs a shoulder to cry on. Who better than Bobbie, his wife’s sister in law?

Enter Vanessa, a sparky young gran who’s found a new lease of life through her second-hand designer shop and internet dating. Her life is definitely on the up; especially when she meets Brian who might just be the One. But then her six-year-old granddaughter is deposited on her doorstep along with a message from Vanessa’s estranged bohemian daughter. “Please bring up my child” begs the note. This time, she’s determined to get it right, whatever the cost..

A family comedy, Happy Families is published by Arrow, April 2013


Janey Fraser always dreamed of writing novels in a country cottage with lots of children, a dog and a pony. Unbelievably, most of her dreams were answered although not without some rather large hiccups along the way (until she married the best man from her first wedding). After a career in women’s magazines interviewing celebrities like Julie Walters and Nigel Havers, Janey wrote several non-fiction books about childcare including ‘Tidy Your Room; How to get kids to do what you want’. Unfortunately, she has never quite succeeded in doing that with her own three. She has also written a series of children’s books, including ‘When Mum Was Little’ and ‘When Gran Was Little’. Janey has appeared live on breakfast television, talking about her books, and has also been on numerous radio programmes including Woman’s Hour and The Learning Curve. She also writes short stories for magazines; runs writing courses; is a regular speaker at literary festivals including Winchester and Guildford. Her recent hobby is belly dancing, much to the horror of her children. She also loves making up limericks – many of which are in her latest novel.

AM I THE ONLY ONE? is the copyright of Janey Fraser and is part of a series. For more details, visit Janey’s blog at

Thank you Janey for taking the time to visit Jaffareadstoo - we wish much success with your new novel Happy Families and hope you visit us again soon.

Wednesday 27 March 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 

 And the Mountains Echoed 


And the Mountains Echoed
Bloomsbury 21st May 2013

Blurb from Goodreads

So, then. You want a story and I will tell you one...Afghanistan, 1952. Abdullah and his sister Pari live with their father and stepmother in the small village of Shadbagh. Their father, Saboor, is constantly in search of work and they struggle together through poverty and brutal winters. To Adbullah, Pari, as beautiful and sweet-natured as the fairy for which she was named, is everything. More like a parent than a brother, Abdullah will do anything for her, even trading his only pair of shoes for a feather for her treasured collection. Each night they sleep together in their cot, their skulls touching, their limbs tangled. One day the siblings journey across the desert to Kabul with their father. Pari and Abdullah have no sense of the fate that awaits them there, for the event which unfolds will tear their lives apart; sometimes a finger must be cut to save the hand. Crossing generations and continents, moving from Kabul, to Paris, to San Francisco, to the Greek island of Tinos, with profound wisdom, depth, insight and compassion, Khaled Hosseini writes about the bonds that define us and shape our lives, the ways that we help our loved ones in need, how the choices we make resonate through history, and how we are often surprised by the people closest to us.

Kahled Hosseini is a master story teller and his previous books The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns have been two of my favourite books of the last ten years.

And the Mountains Echoed has been five years in the waiting, and my friends with early reading copies of this book tell me that it is well worth the wait.

I can't wait .

Monday 25 March 2013

Review - Welcome to Biscuit land by Jessica Thom

Welcome to Biscuit Land: A Year in the Life of Touretteshero
Published October 1st 2012 by Souvenir 
Welcome to Biscuit Land

A Year in the Life of Touretteshero


Jessica Thom

Jessica Thom has Tourettes Syndrome and lives with the knowledge that her behaviour is quite often viewed with mistrust and apprehension. In Welcome to Biscuit Land, Jessica sets out on a year long quest to record the trials and tribulations of her life. And leaving nothing unspoken or left out, Jessica has with great wit and charm completely overturned my thinking about Tourette’s syndrome, and those whose lives are affected bit it.

Jess is an amazing narrator, she calls it as she sees it with language which is at times rich and colourful, but ultimately what shines through is Jess’s personality, so that you quickly see beyond the tics and gestures, and notice the warm and wonderful, and totally unique person underneath.

I think what this book does is forcibly remind us that to some extent we all live in our own version of biscuit land, and yes, alright, perhaps most times we are able to suppress the bulk of our emotions, but the world be a less colourful place if we all had the ability to conform.

Jessica Thom is certainly my Touretteshero and long may she reign over Biscuit Land.

My thanks to Jessica and Souvenir Press Ltd for my review copy of this book.

Saturday 23 March 2013

A Little bit of Sunshine !

We've been awarded the sunshine award !

Jaffareadstoo has been nominated by 
Helen Hollick of  Let Us Talk of Many Things

Thank you Helen !

The Sunshine Award is an award given by bloggers to other bloggers. The recipients are “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.”

The way the award works is this: on your blog, thank the person who gave you the award, and link back to them. Then answer ten questions about yourself (below)
Finally, select up to 10 of your favourite bloggers, link their blogs to your post, and let them know they have been awarded the Sunshine Award!

  1. What inspired you to start blogging?
  2. How did you come up with the name of your blog?
  3. What is your favourite blog that you like to read?
  4. What would be your dream Job?
  5. If you could spend a day with 8 authors discussing novels as a group, who would you invite? (past or present authors)
  6. What is your favourite place to travel?
  7. What is your favourite book out of all the books you have read?
  8. What was your favourite book as a child and how did it influence your choice in books today?
  9. How much time do you spend blogging?
  10. What would you say to your favourite authors if you got the chance?


What inspired you to start blogging?

I seem to spend all my time reading, so it seemed a logical step to have somewhere to store my thoughts about the books I like to read. Blogging appealed to me because it was personal and I could present my thoughts in a structured way – I never thought that people would want to read it !


How did you come up with the name of your blog?

That was the easy bit and my inspiration is taken from a picture of my cat Jaffa reading along with me.

The book was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

 Jaffareadstoo was born...

There's a little bit of book love going on the cat crept in, and curled at my side, read with me, read with me, softly he sighed ....

What is your favourite blog that you like to read?


What would be your dream Job? 

Since my early retirement from my beloved nursing profession
I now feel like I have my dream job

Reading, Reviewing and Chatting about books !


If you could spend a day with 8 authors discussing novels as a group, who would you invite? (past or present authors) 

Diana Gabaldon
Elizabeth Chadwick
Barbara Erskine
Helen Hollick
Anne O'Brien

Jane Austen
Charlotte Bronte
Enid Blyton


What is your favourite place to travel?

I'm not a great traveller - I love all parts of the United Kingdom

Rhosneigr on Anglesey in North Wales holds a special place in my heart.


What is your favourite book out of all the books you have read? 

I'm  a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, so I guess the one book I would save if the house was on fire is my special signed 20th Anniversary edition of Outlander.


What was your favourite book as a child and how did it influence your choice in books today? 

My favourite book as a child was The Owl Service by Alan Garner, which is a story combining mystery, adventure, history and a complex set of human relationships. All the things I still like to read about today !

I still have my original 1967 copy

The Owl Service


What would you say to your favourite authors if you got the chance?

Please write quicker !!


And my nominations for the Sunshine Award go to these lovely 

Blogs and Bloggers. 

Friday 22 March 2013

Friday Recommends..

Penguin Group Viking
April  18 2013

The Plantagenets


This is a well written and informative look at the lives of the Kings and Queens who  ruled England during the turbulent years of Plantagenet supremacy. Starting with the catastrophic sinking of the White Ship in 1120 with the loss of Henry I's male heir, and continuing through to the demise of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the whole of the Plantagenet dynasty is set out in easy to read and nicely arranged sections.

It's a long book, coming in at well over 500 pages, but it is one of those delightful history books which you can easily dip into and out of at whim, and if you have a passion for the middle ages, you will find that all the major historical players are nicely contained and easy to find.

As my interest in reading historical fiction borders on the obsessive, this is definitely one of those books that will have  a special place on my book shelf.

About the Author

Dan Jones is a historian and award-winning columnist for the Evening Standard. A graduate of Cambridge University, where he was a star student of David Starkey, he is one of the most gifted British historians of his generation. He lives in London. 

Visit him on the web at

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Group Viking for an ecopy of this book to review.

Thursday 21 March 2013

Review~The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers

The Comfort of Lies
Published February 12th 2013 by Atria Books

The Comfort of Lies


Randy Susan Meyers

“Happiness at someone else’s expense came at a price. Tia had imagined judgement from the first kiss that she and Nathan shared. All year, she’d waited to be punished for being in love, and in truth, she believed that whatever consequences came her way would be deserved.”

When Tia has an affair with Nathan, she knows that he is married but is devastated when he tells he that he will not support the child she carries,  she reluctantly gives up her baby for adoption.

Juliette agreed to forgive her husband Nathan's infidelity but finds it difficult to trust him again.

Carolyn, agreed reluctantly to adopt a baby to please her husband, but never feels comfortable with motherhood.

Five years later and as a result of a letter opened by the wrong hands, and the lives of all these women is about to intersect with dramatic consequences.

The story is well written with a remarkable degree of honesty and soul searching and whilst it is difficult to truly imagine the anguish and despair felt by the women, you find that you can sympathise with each of them in different ways. At times the story seems very slow, with very little happening, but the writing style is impeccable and without knowing it you become drawn into the story.

Overall, I enjoyed it and would be interested in reading other work by this author.


My thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for an ecopy of this book to read and review.

Wednesday 20 March 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 

A Half Forgotten Song

Blurb from Goodreads

England, 1935. In the village of Blacknowle on the Dorset coast, thirteen-year-old Mitzy Hatcher has endured a wild and lonely upbringing. Shunned by her neighbours, the arrival of renowned artist Charles Aubrey, along with his exotic mistress and their two daughters, is like a breath of fresh air for Mitzy. Over the course of three summers, Mitzy develops a deep and abiding bond with the Aubrey household, gradually becoming Charles's muse. Slowly, Mitzy begins to perceive a future she had never thought possible - and a powerful love is kindled in her. A love that will grow as she does: from innocence to obsession; from childish infatuation to something far more dangerous. Moving from the wilds of the Dorset coast to the intoxicating heat of a Moroccan summer, A HALF-FORGOTTEN SONG explores the quixotic nature of memory - and the perils of obsessive love.

 A sweeping and powerful tale that will leave you captivated.

I'm not in a real hurry to read this one, but I have read and enjoyed Katherine Webb's previous books, so I am sure that I will pick this up one day.

The Legacy

The Unseen

Sunday 17 March 2013

Review ~ The Forgotten Queen by D. L. Bogdan

The Forgotten Queen
Published January 29th 2013 by Kensington
The Forgotten Queen


This fictionalised account of the life of Margaret Tudor starts with the realisation that she is to be used a political pawn to unite the countries of England and Scotland. Dispatched to Scotland as a young teenager, Margaret makes the best of her marriage to King James IV, and despite his infidelities and weak nature, she falls for his inherent charm. When she is widowed after the Battle of Flodden, Margaret must learn how to survive in a man’s world, and even as she seeks to protect her baby son, now James V, there are powerful men who would seek to destroy her. Margaret’s fearsome determination and self-absorption, do not make her very endearing, and I suspect that of all the Tudor siblings, Margaret was perhaps more like her brother, King Henry VIII, whose capricious and volatile nature is well documented. There is no doubt that Margaret was neither very good at marriage or motherhood, and the unpredictability of her troubled life makes for fascinating reading.

Overall, I thought the story was well written, the skill of the author encourages an emotional investment in the characters and even as Margaret comes across as both narcissistic and vainglorious, there is an element of sympathy for a woman who seemed to be strangely out of step with the world around her. The historical feel of the era is well captured, and it was refreshing to read about one of the lesser documented Tudor princesses.


My thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an ecopy of this book to read and review.

Readers in the UK will perhaps know this author under another name - Darcey Bonnette

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Please welcome - Helen Hollick

I am delighted to welcome the author, Helen Hollick, and to be part of her 2013 blog tour, as she celebrates the release of her latest pirate adventure, Ripples in the Sand.

SilverWood Books

The fourth voyage of Captain Jesamiah Acorne, 

pirate captain and charming rogue.

My Review

Coming new to a well established series is rather like coming late to a party where everyone is well known. Whilst standing nervously in the corner, clutching your party Pimms, you wonder if you will ever get to know anyone, or indeed have enough courage to mingle with the in-crowd. Such is the power of Ripples in the Sand, that even as you stand dithering on the sidelines, the skilful manipulation of the story allows you enough tantalising glimpses into the past story, so that even before you know it, you are singing sea shanties with rollicking gusto.

From the very first chapter of Ripples in the Sand, I was gripped by a story steeped in history and mysticism, and rich in the promise of adventure. Jesamiah Acorne and his wife Tiola, along with a motley ship’s crew are on board the Sea Witch bound for the English coast. Such is the power of the narrative that even as I imagined every creak and groan of the ship’s deck, and felt the icy blast of cold salt air, I was plunged into a dangerous seafaring world, and when a mysterious Navy frigate trails in their wake, I sensed that life was never going to be easy for the captain and crew of the Sea Witch. What then follows is a true adventure, with action that is both fast and furious, and which dips into and out of danger with skilful aplomb.

The snug warmth of a Devon hostelry and the refined despondency of the local gentry are explored in great detail, as is the hissing menace of Tiola’s nemesis, Tethys, the sea-goddess. However, it is in the portrayal of Jesamiah and Tiola where the story gains its heart and soul, there is no doubt that Jesamiah, with his gold acorn earring is the stuff of dreams, but it is Tiola with her ancient mysticism and her ability to sense danger who adds a unique blend of sensitivity and compassion to this exciting story.

To give my rendition of Ripples in the Sand would be doing a great disservice to the skill of this author, whose emotional investment in her characters shines through in every word. My best advice would be to stop dithering on the sidelines at the sea shanty party, and jump headlong into the story - better still, start at the very beginning, and enjoy every moment of this imaginative series.


Here's Helen,

Jo asked me to write something about my Sea Witch Voyages – she suggested how and why I started out, but followers of my Blog Tour will already be aware of how I ‘met’ Jesamiah on a beach in Dorset.

For anyone who doesn't know, or would like to refresh their memories the story is here:

After the enjoyment of writing Sea Witch I realised that I had a potential series on my hands. I had fallen hook, line and sinker for Jesamiah, and so had quite a few readers; I was getting enthusiastic e-mails and comments on Facebook and Goodreads – and demands for more about Jesamiah. 

I also realised that I ought to have the word ‘Pirate’ in the title because of various word searches on Amazon and other on-line book-sales sites.

The title, Pirate Code, though, was the easy bit! 

I had a rough idea for a plot: Jesamiah gets embroiled in encouraging a revolution on the Spanish-held island of Hispaniola. Needless to say he finds himself in a lot of trouble. I also wanted to establish his relationship with Tiola, his girlfriend – who also happens to be a white witch. (I’m being careful here as I don’t want to give away any spoilers!)

I found myself stuck, however, with an idea for a supernatural-based plot to run alongside the main story adventure. In Sea Witch, my use of Tethys, the spirit goddess of the sea was sufficient (she again returns throughout the series) but I did not want every adventure revolving around her, so had to come up with something different.
I decided on using a ‘daughter’ of Tethys – a mysterious woman in grey who always appears when it is raining. She is Rain – the elemental spirit of rainfall.

I first imagined her peering in through a window at Jesamiah, angry because there was another woman with him….

Leaving the table, the gold-rimmed china coffee cup in his hand, Jesamiah went to peer out at the tempest. The sea below the sheer drop, not a few yards beyond the walls of the house, was spuming foam over the rocks and up the cliff face. How was Sea Witch faring? Was she battling with this wind somewhere?

He sipped at the hot, black, sweet, coffee. Signing those papers before he had been permitted to leave the prison of the Tower had galled. They were his promise to not attempt an escape. That was a nonsense. Did they seriously think pieces of paper would hold him should he choose to go? An old man and a woman as his jailers – oh he was not disillusioned, he was a prisoner here, a bullet would be put in his back if he tried to leave. Which, he figured, the Governor was going to be disappointed about; Jesamiah had every intention of staying put. It was raining outside, there was good food, comfort and a very pretty woman inside. He was not stupid. Besides, what else did he have to do?

* * * 

‘Cesca was standing near him. Compassionate, she reached out, laid her hand on his arm.

A renewed burst of rain stuttered at the window; the catch must have been loose for suddenly it flew open. Cold rain and a swirl of wind rushed in, the curtains crazily lifting, items rattled, the tablecloth billowed upward, knocking over a jug of fruit juice and Jesamiah’s empty cup.

Seรฑor Escudero cried out, ‘Cesca ran to help Jesamiah slam the casement shut, his face, hair and front of his shirt and waistcoat were wet. She did not hear the wild cry of frustration, the scream of annoyance as the window slammed; Jesamiah did, but he told himself it was nothing more than the sound of the wind. And the face he had seen at the window, before it had burst open, had been his unease calling up fanciful notions.

He failed to notice the puddle in the shape of a woman’s footprint on the tiled floor. Had he done so perhaps he would have questioned his sanity.’

Cesca returns in Ripples In The Sand – and whether Jesamiah did or didn't eventually make love to her in Pirate Code I am not revealing here, you’ll have to read the book! 

There was not so much historical fact in Pirate Code, but I researched, as much as I could, the detail of places, and as ever, ensured to the best of my ability that the nautical scenes were factual – thanks to my good friend and excellent maritime author James L. Nelson who kindly edits the Nautical Bits for me. (He complains that the stories are too engrossing – he finds himself reading on from the at-sea scenes!)

I also incorporated more of Jesamiah’s background. This was hard to do because I originally intended
Sea Witch to be a one-off novel, so I had made no plans for intriguing background ideas, plus, if their relationship was to continue, I had to dispose of Tiola’s Dutch husband!

I did know some of Jesamiah’s past:

He had a half-brother, Phillipe, who was a bully. He had not got on well with his father, and after his father’s death, when the plantation in Virginia (Jesamiah’s home) had been left to Phillipe, Jesamiah, aged almost fifteen, fled to sea and a life of piracy. In Pirate Code I had to explore the whys of these facts of his past. Why was Phillipe a bully? Why did his father not love Jesamiah?

I found this fascinating – almost like unravelling a real family’s secrets. And the more I unravelled, the more secrets came into my mind, so while writing Pirate Code I plotted the story for the third Voyage –
Bring It Close. This adventure was to reveal a lot more of the ‘whys’ – and was to feature the most famous pirate of all – Blackbeard.

I wrote Sea Witch, initially, because I had enjoyed the Pirates of the Caribbean - the Curse of the Black Pearl movie, and had become obsessed with Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. I wanted more Captain Jack – but at that time there was only the one movie planned. (And between you and me, I wish they had stuck with the one. The other three follow-on movies were nowhere near as good, in my opinion.) 

Photo by kind permission of  Helen Hollick
I searched for pirate-based adult novels. Plenty for children and young adults, but nothing for the grown-up with more grown-up material (a bit of sex, for instance). There were nautical adventures: Hornblower, Patrick O’Brian’s wonderful novels, Julian Stockwin’s Kydd series… Jim Nelson’s books – but none were about a charmer of a pirate rogue, and none had that added element of the supernatural.

I wanted something that was as fun to read as Pirates of the Caribbean had been fun to watch. I found nothing. So I wrote my own. Wrote the books I wanted to read. 

And found my very own handsome pirate into the bargain!

Find out more about Helen:


Main Blog:



Publisher : SilverWood Books

Thanks Helen - Jaffa and I are delighted to be part of your 2013 blog tour, and we wish you continued success with your handsome pirate !

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Review ~ The Eloquence of Desire by Amanda Sington -Williams

The Eloquence of Desire
Sparkling Books Ltd (14 Jun 2010)

The Eloquence of Desire


Amanda Sington-Williams

Set in the 1950’s, The Eloquence of Desire follows the disintegration of a marriage and combines it with the heady descriptions of life in Ipoh, in Malaya. At the start of the novel we are made aware that George is being punished for an extra marital dalliance with the Boss’s daughter, by being sent abroad, his wife Dorothy does not wish to accompany him, but for the sake of propriety she agrees to leave their daughter Susan behind at boarding school  in England, and goes with George. What then follows is the story of deception, infidelity and heartache.
The story is well written and certainly maintains interest throughout with some creative descriptions of life in the tropics. The boredom and languor of the 1950’s colonial experience is captured, as is the political unrest. However, there was something lacking in the overall characterisation which left me feeling a little uneasy. I didn’t really warm to the characters except maybe for Susan, who was I think badly treated by both her family, and life in general.

My thanks to NetGalley and Sparkling Books Ltd for an e-copy to read and review.

Saturday 9 March 2013

Book Cycle...

From tree to book and back again

With an ever increasing supply of paper books in need of a good home jaffareadstoo is delighted to support the idea of book cycle, and are even more delighted to find a flourishing branch of book cycle two miles away from our home.

Book Cycle is a UK based volunteer run charity.

Who seek to empower communities both here and in developing countries
through the provision of free books and educational resources.
We also encourage the reforestation of rural England by offering
free trees and information on self-sustainability.

All of this is achieved through your kind donations at our
'free' bookshops and shelves located in community spaces.

Book-Cycle also works to benefit the local community;
establishing projects to encourage self-reliance through
home food growing, engaging in global issues and
promoting wildlife through the planting of trees. We also provide free internet access, seed banks, independent film screenings, 'Bring Your Own Art' exhibitions and a variety of workshops too!

I spent a very enjoyable half hour browsing the well stocked and perfectly arranged book shelves yesterday and despite donating a bag full of books, I still managed to come away with three more for myself 

well would have been rude not too, wouldn't it ?

They were:

The Stranger's Child by Alan Hollinghurst
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel

Friday 8 March 2013

Friday Recommends...

The Orchardist
27 December 2012
Weidenfeld & Nicolson

The Orchardist


Amanda Coplin

Set in the early part of the twentieth century in the American North West, and hidden amongst a remote community, Talmadge is the taciturn orchardist whose bone deep grief sets him apart, and whose attachment to his beloved apples and apricots are his salvation. When two pregnant girls creep onto his land, he is unprepared for the effect that their presence will have, not just on him, but also on the landscape.
The slow, and almost mesmerizing quality of The Orchardist is so finely done, that even before you reach the end of the first chapter, you realise that you are reading something very special. There is an oblique gentleness to the story, and sometimes it seems that not much is happening, but therein lies its strength, as this book has moments which are far from gentle, and which shock their way into your subconscious with a real jolt. However, there is such a beautiful feeling to the story that even with its burden of tortured feelings and hidden emotions, there is always the hope that the fragility of life will triumph.

To say any more about the story would be unfair, as this book deserves to be read without any preconceptions. I would hope that most reading groups have this somewhere on their reading agenda as it worth talking about in great detail.

On a personal level, I am sure that I have found one of my favourite books of 2013.

My thanks to Newbooks for a review copy of this book.

Thursday 7 March 2013

Happy World Book Day 2013....

World Book Day

World Book Day is an annual event organised on the first Thursday in March and every school child in the United Kingdom and Ireland is given a one pound book token to spend on a book.

Here are the 2013 one pound books

Alfie's Shop by Shirley Hughes 
Giraffes Can't Dance: Colouring and Puzzle Fun by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees 
Horrid Henry's Guide to Perfect Parents by Francesca Simon, illustrated by Tony Ross 
Tony Robinson's Weird World of Wonders: Funny Inventions by Tony Robinson 
The Diamond Brothers in… Two of Diamonds by Anthony Horowitz 
Hang In There Bozo: The Ruby Redfort Emergency Survival Guide For Some Tricky Predicaments by Lauren Child 
Tom Gates: Best Book Day Ever! (So Far) by Liz Pichon 
The Chocolate Box Girls: Bittersweet by Cathy Cassidy

Have a great day !!

Wednesday 6 March 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 

His Dark Lady
Bantam Press (28 Feb 2013)

London, 1583. When young, aspiring playwright William Shakespeare encounters Lucy Morgan, one of Queen Elizabeth I's ladies-in-waiting, the two fall passionately in love. He declares Lucy the inspiration for his work, but what secret is Will hiding from his muse? Meanwhile, Lucy has her own secret - and one that could destroy her world if exposed.

I read Victoria Lamb's first book ~ The Queen's Secret and enjoyed the blend of historical fiction and cleverly crafted espionage . I'm looking forward to reading more about Lucy Morgan, in this second book in the series.

**You can read an extract from His Dark lady over with my friend Lindsey at The Little Reader Library 

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Review ~ A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger by Lucy Robinson

A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger
Penguin (31 Jan 2013)

A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger 


Charley Lambert seems to have the perfect life. She has a job she loves, and finally, the boss she has the hots for, seems to be showing her some interest, at last – and then following a freak accident she goes and breaks her leg. Charley is a complete workaholic, and as she recuperates at home, and with little to occupy her time she starts an online dating agency, where she helps hapless lovers get together by writing their emails for them. What then follows is a warm and witty look at, not just the dating game, but also at life in general. Full of deliciously captivating mishaps, Charley blunders along with the help of her friend, Sam who is ‘resting’ between acting assignments.
I really enjoyed this story; it’s well written, warm and comical. The heroine Charley can be a bit capricious at times as she comes across as both vulnerable and fearsomely bossy, but there is undeniable warmth about her which is strangely endearing. Some of my favourite parts of the book are the family moments, Charley’s dad is a delight, as is Grandma Helen but it is in Charley’s email interaction between her clients where the book really shines though.

If you like well written romantic comedies, than you can do no better than to give this one a try.

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

Monday 4 March 2013

Thank you ~ Random Things Through My Letterbox

Pan Macmillan
August 2012

Jaffa and I were delighted to be asked to review Home Front by Kristin Hannah for Random Things Through My letterbox.

Anne Cater is the blogger extraordinaire in charge of this excellent blog and is a great friend of Jaffareadstoo.

You can find our full review here 

Guest Author ~ Anne O'Brien

I am delighted to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo 

The Forbidden Queen
Published 1 March 2013
To celebrate the publication of her latest book The Forbidden Queen, Anne has very kindly provided a valuable insight into two of her main characters - Katherine de Valois and Owen Tudor.  

1415. The Battle of Agincourt is over, and the young princess Katherine de Valois is the prize to be offered to Henry V of England. The innocent Katherine is smitten with Henry, but soon understands that her sole purpose is to produce an heir to unite England and France. When Henry leaves her a widow at the age of 21, Katherine is forced to resign herself to a quiet life as the Dowager Queen; her duty is to raise her son, the young King of England, and little more.

But Katherine is still young and passionate. Many desire her, and her hand in marriage is worth a kingdom. Setting aside those driven by ambition, Katherine falls in love with her servant Owen Tudor, and glimpses the happiness that love can bring. But their enemies are circling, all battling for power and determined to prevent their marriage. Katherine will have to fight to control her own destiny…

A Renowned Historical Misalliance ...

How did Katherine de Valois and Owen Tudor fall in love?

This, the first flowering of the relationship between Queen Katherine, Queen Dowager of England, and Owen Tudor, is a subject that has fired my imagination over the past year when writing THE FORBIDDEN QUEEN.  It presents one of those fascinating minefields for a writer of historical fiction.  We know enough about Katherine to place her firmly in a historical context, but the origins of Owen Tudor are obscure in the extreme and the manner in which the two lovers met and fell in love has been described as ‘a pot pourri of myth, romanticism, tradition and anti-Tudor propaganda.’  It is certainly a gift to writers of historical fiction - although it brings its own problems.

To start with, who was Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudor?  A genealogy chart exists for Owen, which I certainly made use of and without regret, but it smacks of a good pinch of pro-Tudor propaganda, and I suspect that there is really no solid evidence for his Welsh nobility.

Owen Tudor

This is Owen Tudor.  Not the image of a romantic hero.  Since it is high on heraldic decoration, I presume that it is a piece of pro-Tudor propaganda, probably produced in the reign of Henry VII.

Owen’s early history is also open to debate and much romantic speculation from those who would wish to give him an ‘interesting’ background.  Owen, it is said, fought at Agincourt in 1415.  Owen went on a crusade to Greece.  Both again unlikely.  Perhaps with more realism it is said that in 1421 he, in the name of ‘Owen Meredith’, travelled to France in the retinue of Sir Walter Hungerford, Henry V’s steward, and this gave him his first experience of life at court.  He saw action in France and from there he progressed to some position in the royal household.  It certainly seems a more realistic proposition.  

Windsor Castle

And this, of course is Windsor Castle where the love affair with the Queen Dowager is most likely to have blossomed.

So what was his position, and most particular, how did his path cross that of Dowager Queen Katherine?  

Tradition gives us a number of possibilities, allowing him various ranks but all in the role of servitude:

The Queen’s tailor
Master of the Queen’s Household
Master of the Queen’s Wardrobe
A personal servant (unspecified) in the Queen’s chamber

Whatever the truth of this, we know that he was a disenfranchised Welshman, living under the restrictions placed on all Welsh by the English after the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dwr, and we must suppose that if he was a member of Katherine’s household, then she must have known him for some years before she fell in love with him around 1429 after the debacle of her flirtation with Edmund Beaufort.

It was, without doubt, an extraordinary liaison, for the Dowager Queen of England, a Valois princess, to wed a man from her household.  Not even the date of their marriage is on record but it is thought to be around 1430, before the birth of their eldest son Edmund in 1431.  The occasion of their falling in love is again a mix of myth and romantic legend, and deliciously scandalous, most likely occurring at Windsor where Katherine was by law made to live in the household of her son, the young king.

One strong tradition, written in a poem in 1361 at the time of Owen’s death, was that he first caught Katharine’s attention when he over-balanced and fell into her lap at a Court ball.  Too much alcohol?  Or clumsy dancing?  Impossible to tell.

A mid 16th century chronicler tells a quite different story.  Katharine saw Owen and his friends swimming in the river on a summer’s day.  

Perhaps in this very spot. 

Windsor castle and River

Overcome by his sheer masculinity, Katharine changed garments with her maid and arranged to meet Owen in disguise.  He was too ardent, mistaking her status, she struggled and, escaping his embrace, received a wound to her cheek. Serving her at supper that night, Owen saw the bruise and realised who the ‘maidservant’ had been.  Ashamed, he begged her forgiveness.  Katharine forgave him readily, they professed their love and were duly married.

Sadly, there is no historical proof for either version.  But what vivid scenes these sources paint for us.  The difficulty for a novelist is of course producing something half-way realistic.  If Owen was Katherine’s personal servant, how could he not recognise her face, her voice, even in disguise?  Unless she was mute and they met in a dark cupboard, it would seem impossible.  As for the drunken debauchery ...  It makes writing a credible version highly entertaining.  But whatever the circumstances, fall in love they did, and risked the weight of the law to marry.  As a novelist I chose the aspects that seemed to fit my characters, and since there is no evidence to prove me right or wrong, I am free to make use of the traditions.

Whatever the truth of their meeting, their love was strong enough to encourage the unlikely pair to flout the law of the land.  Katharine was forbidden to marry without the permission of the King who was not yet ten years old.  Any man foolish enough to wed her without permission would find all his lands and possessions declared forfeit.  

Most of their short married life was lived at Katherine’s dower properties of Hertford and Leeds Castle.  

They lived quietly, out of the public eye. 

Hertford Castle

This, the gatehouse, is all that remains of the Castle at Hertford which was probably Katherine's favourite property.

Whatever the truth or falsehood of their meeting, there was never any doubt that the marriage of Katherine and Owen was legal and their children legitimate. Even those who might have found it of an advantage to prove that the Tudor line came from illegitimate stock never did so. Whatever the opposition to Henry VII, it was not voiced that his father, Edmund Tudor, was illegitimate or born outside wedlock.

I would wish Katherine and Owen well in their love. 

 Sadly it was of short duration, Katherine dying in January of 1437.

Leeds Castle

So finally, to return to my original question, should I have stuck to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? 

 In all honesty, without the use of the romantic legends surrounding Katherine and Owen, there would be very little to write about. Who is to know what is truth and what is myth? 

 And without evidence, I feel justified in making use of what is long-held tradition. 

I rest my case.

Anne O’Brien


All Photographs reproduced by kind permission
of the author.

Thank you so much Anne for taking the time to give such a fascinating view into the relationship between Katherine and Owen.

Jaffa and I wish you continued success with The Forbidden Queen

Win a copy of The Forbidden Queen
UK only