Wednesday 31 July 2013

Review ~ The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo's Calling
An imprint of Little, Brown Book Group
April 2013

First off, I have to say that I probably wouldn't have got round to reading this book just yet, if  not for the fact that the news recently broke that J K Rowling was the author. I'm a big fan of the Harry Potter books, but not so much a fan of The Casual Vacancy, so it was with an open mind that I started to read this sophisticated crime story.

Set in contemporary London sometime in the last decade, the mysterious death of model Lula Landry causes something of a media storm, all the clues point towards Lula’s suicide, and yet, there are some who believe that her death was rather more complicated. Cormoran Strike is an ex-military veteran, eking out his civilian survival by working as a private detective. His chaotic life is completely shambolic, and from the necessity of survival, Cormoran grabs the lifeline to his failing business when he is hired by Lula’s brother to investigate the surroundings of Lula's death.

What then follows is a tightly controlled and well thought out crime novel. There is impeccable writing and fine attention to detail, and without ever having to resort to blood and brutality, the twists and turns, red herrings and loop holes are completely absorbing. The plot literally grabs your imagination from the beginning, there’s humour, pathos and incredulity, and very quickly into the novel you begin to love Cormoran, who is superbly flawed but bright as a button and brimming with character. The added inclusion of a sharp and sassy temporary secretary in the form of Robin Ellacott is inspired, as the rapport which builds between these two very different characters is joy to observe.

It would be easy to write this book off as media hype, and yet, that would be to do this accomplished author a great disservice. Robert Galbraith is a very fine crime writer and this series of Cormoran and Robin deserves to run and run.

Monday 29 July 2013

Review ~ Whistling Past the GraveYard by Susan Crandall

Whistling Past the Graveyard
Published by Gallery Books
July 2013

In the summer of 1963, Starla Claudelle is just your average nine year old, but being separated from her teenage mother and brought up by her strict grandmother, Mamie, means that Starla is always hankering after ‘what might have been’.  When Starla misbehaves and sneaks out to watch a Fourth of July parade, Mamie, terrified that Starla will go the way of her mother, threatens her with reform school. But Starla isn’t prepared to take chances and runs away from home where she meets Eula, a black woman travelling on the road with a white baby.

What then follows is an interesting coming of age story which encapsulates the sullen heat of the Mississippi and the overriding turbulence of a country in the grip of racial and civil unrest. The instability of the Civil Rights movement and the growing dissatisfaction seen through the eyes of nine year old Starla makes for fascinating reading. In many respects the book is very easy to read, Starla is a feisty and gutsy heroine, and yet, it is her smart and out spoken sassiness, which so reminded me of Scout in To kill a Mocking Bird, where the heart and soul of the story lies. Nicely written, poignant and thought provoking with occasional flashes of humour, the simplicity of friendship is expertly explored and long remembered.

My thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for my digital review copy.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Review ~ The G I Bride by Iris Jones Simantel

The GI Bride
Michael Jones
May 2013
In October 1954, Iris Jones makes an early marriage to US soldier Bob Irvine. Although only sixteen, she feels that she has met the man of her dreams and is prepared to leave behind her family in England. She crosses the Atlantic on the USS General  R E Callan, to start a new and exciting life in America, but the America of the 1950s is very different from the home she has known, and at first Iris struggles to cope with her marriage, and a baby. What then follows is the detail of Iris’s life as she copes with the loneliness of being trapped in a country where she is considered a stranger. Forthright and brutally honest, Iris doesn't shirk from telling it like it is – from the cramped living conditions she shares with her husband’s parents, through to infidelity, despair and overwhelming homesickness.

This is a follow up to Iris’s first memoir – Far from the East End and is a worthy continuation of this feisty woman’s chronicle of her life in all its glorious detail.

About the author

Iris Jones Simantel grew up in Dagenham and South Oxhey, before moving to the US with her GI husband Bob at the tender age of 16. She now resides in Devon where she enjoys wring as a pastime. her first memoir about her childhood, far from the East End beat several thousand other entries to win the Saga Life Stories Competition

Saturday 27 July 2013

Review ~ The Reunion by Amy Silver

12 September 2013

Five friends from university meet for a get-together in an idyllic farmhouse in the French Alps. Caught up in a snowstorm and reunited for the first time in nearly twenty years, the dynamics of the group are about to be tested to their absolute limit of endurance. It is obvious that their friendship has survived heartbreak and tragedy; however, there are still unresolved issues from the past which must be faced before any of them can find resolution. Older, and maybe a little wiser, the group of friends realise that they all have unanswered questions about what really happened during a catastrophic event over two decades ago.

The book is divided into three parts, which covers the reunion, the events of the past and the promise of the future.  The story flows really well, there is fine attention to detail and such good imagery, I began to imagine I was in the old farmhouse with the snow swirling around outside the window. In many ways this is an emotional story but the revelations of the past and the unburdening of deep feelings makes for fascinating reading. It would appear that this is a change of direction for the author, and I feel that she has done a commendable job in creating an interesting examination of the minutiae of friendship, and uncovers, not just the way close relationships change and evolve over time, but also the effect that the past can have on future happiness.

I really enjoyed this and think it would appeal to fans of Jojo Moyes,Lisa Jewell and Hannah Richell.

Thanks to Newbooks for my advance copy for review.

Friday 26 July 2013

Book Beginnings on Fridays...

Hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader

Book Beginnings on Fridays as stated by the host was started:

 "to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires."

You can share on Google + and social media , please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings
and there's also a Mr Linky on the host's blog.

Book Beginning : The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory

The Red Queen (The Cousins' War, #2)

Spring 1453

The light of the open sky is brilliant after the darkness of the inner rooms.I blink and hear the roar of many voices. But this is not my army calling for me, this whisper growing to a rumble is not their roar of attack,the drumming of their swords on shields.   The rippling noise of linen in the wind is not my embroidered angels and lilies against the sky, but cursed English standards in the triumphant May breeze. This is a different sort of roar from our bellowed hymns, this is a howl of people hungry for death: my death.


.....We don't know who this narrator is but there is a sense of desolation, of doom and impending danger. I am intrigued to see what is going to happen to this as yet invisible person, and want to read on to find out what is happening and where the roar of many voices is coming from, and why are they hungry for this person's death.....


A bit of book blurb

The second book in Philippa Gregory's stunning series,  The Cousins War, brings to life the story of Margaret Beaufort, a shadowy and mysterious character in the first book of the series - The White Queen - but who now takes centre stage in the bitter struggle of The War of the Roses. The Red Queen tells the story of the child-bride of Edmund Tudor, who, although widowed in her early teens, uses her determination of character and wily plotting to infiltrate the house of York under the guise of loyal friend and servant, undermine the support for Richard III and ultimately ensure that her only son, Henry Tudor, triumphs as King of England. Through collaboration with the dowager Queen Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret agrees a betrothal between Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, thereby uniting the families and resolving the Cousins War once and for all by founding of the Tudor dynasty.

If you like authentic historical fiction then I am sure you will be interested in the books in this series:

Let me know what you think of this Book Beginning....

More about the author Philippa Gregory

In light of the popularity of the TV series currently on BBC - the books have now been reissued with fabulous tie -in covers.

The Red Queen

Thursday 25 July 2013

Carol E Wyer ~ Just Add Spice Blog Tour Blitz

Today Carol E Wyer is touring

with her latest novel

Just Add Spice 

to celebrate her book

Safkhet Publishing
25 July 2013

A Bit of Blurb

Escape from reality comes in patent-leather Prada kneeboots

Dawn Ellis needs to escape from her painfully dull existence. Her unemployed husband spends all day complaining about life, moping around, or fixing lawnmowers on her kitchen table. The local writing class proves to be an adequate distraction with its eccentric collection of wannabe authors and, of course, the enigmatic Jason, who soon shows a romantic interest in her.

Dawn pours her inner frustrations into her first novel about the extraordinary exploits of Cinnamon Knight, an avenging angel -- a woman who doesn't believe in following the rules. Cinnamon is ruthless and wanton, inflicting suffering on any man who warrants it. Little does Dawn realise that soon the line between reality and fiction will blur. Her own life will be transformed, and those close to her will pay the price.

Tour Stops with extracts and interviews can be found here

Melanie at

Josie at

Kate at

Shaz at

Heidi at

Lisa at

Donna at

Kim at

Sharon at

JB at

Sheryl at

Chris at

Carol at

Rick at


Carol shares with us her thoughts on the cover design for Just Add Spice

Writing the novel has always been the easy part for me. Titles are harder to come up with and covers are almost impossible for me to envisage. When I completed Just Add Spice, I was stuck for ideas for a cover. Since all my books have a silhouette on them of a woman I wanted to continue that theme so I eventually proposed the idea of a frumpy woman staring into a mirror in which she can see a fabulous wild and sexy silhouette of herself. If you read the book, you’ll know why I wanted to do that.

Safkhet Publishing were brilliant and set about drawing silhouettes for me to approve. They rustled up a spiffing version of what I had asked for. They liked it. I liked it. I was so excited that I made the mistake of showing Hubby it.

“Why is that woman in the picture waving a snake at the fat one?”

“It isn’t a picture. It’s a mirror. And...that isn’t a snake. It’s a whip. She’s a devilish woman, the opposite of the one looking at her. The one looking into the mirror wants to be more like her,” I patiently explained.

Hubby harrumphed. “Don’t like it,” he said sounding like a character from TV series Little Britain. “It doesn’t tell me anything about the book. Lose the snake,” he huffed and marched off.

I thought about it. Well, if he didn’t like it, maybe other men wouldn’t like it and wouldn’t buy it for their wives, so I emailed Safkhet Publishing. They were patient. They redid the cover. They got rid of the whip. They sent it off to a focus group who agreed it was obvious that the picture was a mirror, but to make sure people thought it was a mirror it was angled.

The final cover returned. It was a fabulous purple with black writing and a second one purple with white writing. Safkhet wanted to know which version I preferred. I was looking at them when Hubby loomed up behind me. “Don’t like those,” he said flatly. “Definitely don’t like those.” He glowered at the options, scrutinising each and scowling. “They aren’t very good.”

My hackles rose. How dare he make comment! What did he know about it, anyway? He hadn’t even read the book. The atmosphere became very hot as steam poured out of my ears. I stared at him. He glared back. “Well, I’m sure you can’t do any better!” I snapped.

I was wrong. He could do better. He did it almost immediately. This is his vision of what he believed the cover should look like. I have to admit, but don’t tell him I told you so...I love it.

Safkhet Publishing were extremely gracious and supportive. They didn’t get cross with me even though we changed the cover at the eleventh hour. They listened to Hubby’s suggestions and produced this. They couldn’t have been better. I owe them my sincerest thanks.

Next time, I’m going to ask Hubby to design the cover and leave him to it while I type. He really does add spice to my life (sometimes akin to hot chilli). Do you need some in yours?


There are some fabulous prizes on offer to celebrate Just Add Spice....
Here is the Competition entry form

Rafflecopter Entry

Just add Spice by Carol E Wyer
Published by Safkhet Publishing (25th July2103)

Smashwords :





My 5***** Review

In Just add Spice, the author has written an entirely believable story. You can very easily imagine that Dawn Ellis is someone you know - she could be that woman you see at the bus stop, or the one who queues in the sandwich shop just ahead of you at lunchtime, but what the story reiterates is that we are never quite sure about what goes on in the lives of those around us. With an uninteresting marriage and the prospect of dull reality, Dawn could have sunk so easily into the humdrum of middle age, but her interest in creative writing and the spicy life of her alter ego, Cinnamon allows Dawn to give full reign to her imagination.

I really enjoyed this warm and witty story, the author has captured both the reality of an uninspiring life and the way in which any life can be transformed by just adding a little bit of spice.

This is a fabulous summer read - just perfect for a long lazy day in the garden


Tuesday 23 July 2013

Review ~ Wars of the Roses : Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

Michael Joseph
10 October 2013

Stormbird is the first in a new series of books by author Conn Iggulden, who has used his expertise to bring together the story of the Wars of the Roses. In the early part of the 15th Century, England is inexpertly ruled by King Henry VI, who is a weak and docile king. It is left to the machinations of the political elite who linger in shadows, and who plot and scheme in dark corners of foreign palaces, who must endeavour to keep England strong and secure.

Initially, the story gets off to a promising start, the prologue which begins on the death bed of Edward III promises much in the way of plot and malice, and as the story continues there are moments of sheer brilliance, especially in the depiction of the King’s marriage to Margaret of Anjou, and the political skulduggery which surrounds Richard of York’s quest for power. The writing is as ever impeccable; the author has the ability to recreate the very bones of history and his flawless interpretation of events makes for an thrilling and occasionally graphic depiction of an exciting and often volatile time in English history.

Overall, this is a promising start to a new series. I am sure that Iggulden’s legions of fans will find much to enjoy, and with the recent interest in the Wars of the Roses, I am sure that this series will go from strength to strength.

My thanks to Michael Joseph and Real Readers for my review copies of this book 

About the author

Conn Iggulden is one of the most successful authors of historical fiction writing today. Stormbird is the first book in his brilliant series set during the Wars of the Roses, an extraordinary period of British history.His previous two series, on Julius Caesar and the Mongol Khans of central Asia, describe the founding of the greatest empires of their day and were number one bestsellers. coon Iggulden lives in Hertfordhsire with his wife and children.

For more information please go to the authors website 

Sunday 21 July 2013

Review ~ The Silent Tide by Rachel Hore

The Silent Tide
Simon and Schuster
6 June 2013

When Emily Gordon, editor at a London publishing house, commissions an account of great English novelist Hugh Morton, she finds herself steering a tricky path between Morton's formidable widow, Jacqueline, who's determined to protect his secrets,
and the biographer, charming and ambitious Joel Richards. But someone is sending Emily mysterious missives about Hugh Morton's past and she discovers a buried story that simply has to be told...
One winter's day in 1948, nineteen year old Isabel Barber arrives at her Aunt Penelope's house in Earl's Court having run away from home to follow her star. A chance meeting with an East European refugee poet leads to a job with his publisher, McKinnon & Holt, and a fascinating career beckons. But when she develops a close editorial relationship with charismatic young debut novelist Hugh Morton and the professional becomes passionately personal, not only are all her plans put to flight, but she finds herself in a struggle for her very survival.

Rachel Hore has a wonderful ability to convey a good story, and the way in which she controls both the past and present makes for fascinating reading. I started the book on Friday, in fact, it was the story I featured for my Friday Book Beginning, and the compelling opening paragraph made this an enticing read.

The use of separate chapters that tell both Emily and Isabel's story is nicely done and both leading females come across as strong characters. I enjoyed getting to know them and found that the parallel between their lives was a convincing portrayal of the era in which they lived.

The ancillary characters that make up the rest of the story are finely drawn; they could be people you know. Some are deeply flawed, whilst others add a livelier documentary to the story. I especially enjoyed reading about the publishing industry, and as the story unfolds we are given a tantalising look into the world of books and the capriciousness of authors and the unpredictability of their publishers.

The gradual layering of the story comes together in a really spellbinding climax. I was hooked from beginning to end in this story of secrets, love and family.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book; it would make a perfect Summer Read.

Saturday 20 July 2013

Review ~ Just One Day by Sharla Lovelace

Just One Day (e-novella)
Beyond the Page Publishing

Andie Fremont has just one day to make up her mind to either accept her boyfriend’s proposal of marriage or to ditch him. Driving aimlessly she comes across an out of town diner and stops for the calorific breakfast of her dreams. A chance meeting in the diner with an old flame from twenty years ago, and the added inclusion of a storm of epic proportions mean that Andie has some tough life decisions to make.

The story is nicely written and even though the romantic scenario is a touch predictable, overall, this is a pleasant and uncomplicated romantic read. Sometimes with a novella you don’t really get great depth of characterisation and yet the author has managed to pack quite a story into just a few words. I enjoyed it, and read it over the space of a couple of hours and sometimes that’s all you need.

Thanks to NetGalley and Beyond the Page Publishing for this ecopy to review.

Friday 19 July 2013

Book Beginnings on Fridays...

Hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader

Book Beginnings on Fridays as stated by the host was started:

 "to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires."

You can share on Google + and social media , please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings
and there's also a Mr Linky on the host's blog.

Book Beginning : The Silent Tide by Rachel Hore

The Silent Tide


East Suffolk Coast, 31 January 1953

She couldn't say at first what woke her.
It was dark, very dark - and cold, a penetrating icy cold. Even under the bedclothes she shivered. Something was different; all her senses told her this. Outside, the wind was up, scuffling about under the eaves of her wooden beach house, shaking the glass in the window  setting off strange creaks and sighs around her,  as though the house was shifting in its sleep. There was an odd smell, too, of something dank and salty,  and  trickling sound like rain in the gutters. She threw back the blankets and swung her feet to the floor - only to snatch them back as they met several inches of water.


I am intrigued by this opening sentence, with just a few words I am drawn into the story and want to discover just what is happening. I want to know more about the wooden beach house, and why there is water seeping inside. Who is Isabel and what is she doing at the beach house in the penetrating cold and wet.....

Rachel Hore is one of my favourite dual time narrators - she commands your attention from the beginning and creates a seamless transition between past and present. I'm looking forward to reading this book - it's her latest, published by Simon and Schuster in June 2013.

A bit of book blurb thanks to

When Emily Gordon, editor at a London publishing house, commissions an account of great English novelist Hugh Morton, she finds herself steering a tricky path between Morton's formidable widow, Jacqueline, who's determined to protect his secrets, and the biographer, charming and ambitious Joel Richards. But someone is sending Emily mysterious missives about Hugh Morton's past and she discovers a buried story that simply has to be told… One winter's day in 1948, nineteen year old Isabel Barber arrives at her Aunt Penelope's house in Earl's Court having run away from home to follow her star. A chance meeting with an East European refugee poet leads to a job with his publisher, McKinnon & Holt, and a fascinating career beckons. But when she develops a close editorial relationship with charismatic young debut novelist Hugh Morton and the professional becomes passionately personal, not only are all her plans put to flight, but she finds herself in a struggle for her very survival. Rachel Hore's intriguing and suspenseful new novel magnificently evokes the milieux of London publishing past and present and connects the very different worlds of two young women, Emily and Isabel, who through their individual quests for truth, love and happiness become inextricably linked.


Do let me know what you think , does the story sound appealing to you?

You can read my review of  The Secret Tide here

Thursday 18 July 2013

The Silver Chain by Primula Bond

The Silver Chain (The Unbreakable Trilogy, #1)
Harper Collins UK AVON
Mischief Books

Serena Folkes is a photographer, and is so intent on capturing a night time shoot with her camera, that she isn't aware of the mysterious stranger who stands in the shadows watching her. This chance meeting with the enigmatic Gustav Levi, will ultimately propel Serena into an altogether different and more adult themed world. Gustav is more than twice Serena’s age, sophisticated, experienced and fabulously rich, and whilst Serena isn't an inexperienced ingénue, she does come across as someone who needs nurturing. Gustav promises to launch Serena’s photographic career in exchange for an agreement that Serena will be his exclusive property ,and as they become bound together by a silver chain, Serena is about to discover that there is more to this enigmatic stranger than first appears.

I'm not a usually reader of erotic fiction, so it’s difficult to judge whether this book is good by the standards of the genre. All I can say is that overall, the book kept my interest, and whilst I tended to skip over some of the more explicit scenes, not from any moral objection, but more because I found them rather tedious. I grew to like both Gustav and Serena, they are incredibly flawed, and yet the author does a great job of showing both their vulnerability and their strengths.

The ending of the book lends itself into the continuation of the story in The Golden Locket.

No doubt this story will appeal to readers of the Fifty Shades trilogy and The Crossfire series by Sylvia Day

My thanks to NetGalley and Harper Collins UK, Avon for my copy of this book.

Wednesday 17 July 2013

The walk in my week...

It seems like a long time since I added a "Walk in my Week" blog post - I have still been walking but mostly in the evening as this bout of hot weather makes it uncomfortable to walk during the day.

These photographs  were taken on a walk through the fields near my home. The wheat is starting to grow really nicely and thanks to some  well placed footpaths, I can skirt round the edge of the fields without doing any damage to the growing crops...

Orrell Fields

As I walked along the paths there was a wonderful smell of wild camomile - its one of my favourite herbal drinks - so how wonderful to see it growing wild and natural. I didn't pick any - but I did have a drink of my favourite Twining's Organic Camomile when I got back home...

Wild Camomile

The added bonus of the walk was to discover these clay pipes fragments which must have been thrown away and abandoned by field workers as they went about their agricultural business in the early part of the century and maybe even beyond that date ....

 Clay Pipe fragments

Clay Pipes were used in England after the introduction of tobacco, by Sir Walter Raleigh,  in the 16th century, at first only the rich folk could afford to use tobacco as it was considered an expensive luxury. However, by the mid-17th century, the manufacture of clay pipes was a well established trade and most towns had their own pipe makers. Millions of clay pipes were used and because they were produced so economically and quickly, they were often thrown away after only a few uses. The first example of throw away society !

The local clay pipe maker was situated just a few miles away from this field where I found these pipe fragments.- Rainford is well known for its industrial past when it was a major manufacturer of clay smoking pipes - so these pieces could well have been made there sometime during the last couple of hundred years.

Similar pieces of clay  pipe can be found throughout the country - so next time you're out for a walk in the countryside or even along the banks of the River Thames in London,see if you can spot a little piece of history.


Tuesday 16 July 2013

My Guest on the Blog is David Charnick

Photo with kind permission of the author


23 March 2013

What happens when put-upon prostitutes and workhouse inmates take revenge, or when a royal corpse goes walkabout? Why do the dead call to us, and who are they anyway? These twelve stories, written by a life-long Londoner, introduce us to the dead of London. We hear their voices, and through them we understand our place within the ongoing narrative of history. Just as we remember them, so one day we will be remembered. The author draws on London's folk history, each story being based on a place or institution which has been part of the local history he has learned since childhood. As such, each one bears a ring of authenticity, both in its historical detail and in its place in London's story.

David ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions about your book

Who or what inspired you to write your book Death and the City?

The idea was a belated response to hearing two talks. I heard Roger Luckhurst talking about London and gothic fiction at the Bishopsgate Institute, and Sarah Wise talking about the Italian Boy case at the Shoe Lane Library in the City (a case of Burking - killing people to obtain their bodies). Both spoke about London's burial practices and the attitude of the living toward the dead. As I was born and grew up next to a park which once was an independent Victorian cemetery, I'd been used to the closeness of the dead, but these two people's words lurked at the back of my mind and demanded a response.

I decided to address the question of the dead through fiction, partly because Catherine Arnold has written an excellent book called 'Necropolis' which charts London's funerary history from Roman times, but principally because with fiction you are allowed to access emotions and provoke reactions which cause the reader to experience the question in ways denied to the reader of non-fiction.

What was the writing process like and how long did it take you to write the first draft of Death and the City?

The collection took about a year to write. It was an interesting process, because I set myself the task of using only what I've called folk history. In other words, all the settings for the twelve stories are things I have learned from growing up in London; rather than reading around and finding things which would be interesting subjects for stories, I dredged my memories to provide subjects. This means, I hope, that there's more authenticity in the telling of each story. It also underlines my basic theme, which is that the closeness of the dead to the living in London embodies the closeness of the past to the present.

How did you research your subject matter, and what are you favourite methods of research?

Of course I used the internet, and there's a list of sites visited in my acknowledgements; I found old London maps particularly useful when getting my local geography straight and checking where you could and couldn't go. Having said this, the internet was used largely for fact-checking. Experience was at the heart of my research. Two of the stories are based on visits I made to Spitalfields Charnel House and Bromley Hall respectively with my friend Brad, who morphs into my husband (!) and a fellow academic in the stories, but I relied on my own memories for the other locations I've described, which I then redressed in period costume, as it were.

Also I picked on odds and ends. For instance, for the flyover story I watched two episodes of The Sweeney before I got started, to get into the linguistic mood, and the title 'Those Hot Venetians!' for a musical comedy version of Othello comes from an exhibition at the Geffrye Museum in Hoxton (it was a seventeenth century English glassmaker's assessment of the glassmakers of Murano in Venice). There are hints of others' works too. Cadfael intrudes ever so slightly into the medieval story, which also contains more than a nod to Peter Ackroyd, and there's a (genuinely accidental) hint of the dementor in the Tudor story.

I don't have a favourite method of research. You have to approach writing from so many different angles if you want it to have any depth or complexity. Accuracy of detail is important, of course, but it mustn't be slavish. This is fiction, and what matters to the reader is that he or she is taken into your mind and made to feel the things you feel when you think about your subject. They must experience the sights, the smells, the way things feel, as well as your emotions and reactions. If you're disgusted or horrified, happy or approving, they must be too, at least while they're reading. You only get this from going to places and from observing how people react to things.

London is a very special place - what is it about your book that will pique the reader's interest?

Apart from the variety of stories and settings, I hope that the reader will enjoy the authenticity of the portrayal of the areas of London covered in the book. Through research and personal experience, I have tried to evoke what these places feel like now and felt like then. As a tour guide, I know how there are so many stories lurking beneath the surfaces of London, and how unexpected they often are, so I have tried to give the reader not just an idea of the past, but also the knowledge that these stories are part of the city we know, and at least some of us love, today.

If you could meet one person from history, who would it be and why?

One of those awkward questions: there are so many. I'm tempted to say St Augustine: for a theologian who thought so deeply that he inspired and influenced so many thinkers after him, he was a supremely human person, and I think he would be a reassuring person to talk to. However, it has to be William Shakespeare. I know that his private life is a bit of a let-down when compared to his creative life, but he was a genius of a writer. I would love to hear how he spoke in everyday life, whether there was any hint of the richness of his written style, and whether his thoughts were as profound as his works suggest. It would be interesting to see whether he had any idea he would come to be so important to us, and whom he rated as better than him.

Of course I'd love to hear his anecdotes, they would be priceless: was Richard Burbage really such a good actor, and just how much of a pain in the bum was William Kempe? It would be fun as well to see what he would think of the alternative authorship question and of the candidates put forward. I think I can imagine what he'd say about the snobbery that thinks a middle-class boy from Warwickshire couldn't have written such good stuff!


My Review

“But no-one sees the ghosts of  the little people “

I am not a native Londoner, and so the best part of this city’s fascinating death history, apart from the obvious historic claims to fame, like the traitors of the Tower of London and those who faced ignominious death on Tyburn Hill, have passed me by. However, it is both refreshing and enlightening to have an intelligent collection of stories, which add a thoughtful interpretation to what may have happened to the ordinary people who died in this fascinating and compelling city.

Taking his inspiration from folk history, David Charnick has used the places and institutions with which he is familiar, and has incorporated these into a series of sharply focused short stories, which endeavour to carry the reader through the vagaries of the city, from the early days of the Roman settlement, through to the more modern and no less appealing proximity of death as it appears to the current inhabitants of London.

Running like a thread throughout the narrative, is the author’s obvious love for the city he calls home, which is combined, not just with fine attention to detail and meticulous research but also with an obvious talent for storytelling. There is a sentence towards the end of the book which states “But no-one sees the ghosts of the little people”. I am sure that David Charnick’s intelligent and thought-provoking narrative has ensured that the ghosts of the little people and the voices of the dead are now very much seen and heard.

Thanks again David for sharing so  much of your time to answer our questions.

 Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your writing.

You can find David's Book here
And read his blog here

Monday 15 July 2013

Review ~ Brothers Fury by Giles Kristian

Brother's Fury (Rivers Family, #2)
May 23rd 2013
Random House UK,Transworld Publishers

Rebel : Renegade : Huntress

If The Bleeding Land lays down the visceral gauntlet of war, then this continuation of the English Civil war story, in Brothers Fury, certainly continues the theme of mayhem and destruction, however, this time the narrative is interspersed with a more character centred focus, namely, on the two brothers whose fury is duly illustrated. Thomas and Edmund Rivers continue the quest to fight for their beliefs, and whilst both brothers are admirable in their loyalty, it is the very fact that they remain on opposing sides, which gives the book its heart and soul.

Giles Kristian never shies away from the graphic and true nature of conflict, but he seems to have mellowed the story in this middle book of the trilogy. There seems to be less emphasis on shock tactics and more focus on purpose, and the added inclusion of sister Bess’s role as she seeks to unite her family adds a more subtle touch to what is still, in effect, one of the best English Civil war stories.

There is no doubt that the author has found his niche with his interpretation of history, and yet what’s refreshing is that whilst his historical narratives are realistic to the point of explicitness, there is never any doubt that the story being recounted is as powerful and as accurate as the author can make it.

I am sure that the conclusion of the trilogy will be every bit as powerful.

My thanks to NetGalley and Random House Uk, Transworld Publishers for my ecopy of this book.

Sunday 14 July 2013

Review ~ The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

The Lavender Garden
Atria Books
6 June 2013
"Unlocking the past
      is the key to the future"

Following her mother’s death in 1998, Emilie de la Martinières, returns to the family château in the sun drenched Côte d’Azur. She is dismayed to find that her reckless mother has been profligate with the family finances, and if the chateau is to remain in her family, Emilie has some tough financial choices to make. When the enigmatic Englishman Sebastian weaves his way into her life, Emilie is faced with her growing attraction to him, and whilst trying to rationalise Sebastian’s interest, Emilie must also seek out the truth behind the château’s involvement during the German occupation in WW2.

This dual time narrative gets off to something of a slow start but as the story evolves and it becomes more obvious where the story is going, the narrative becomes much more interesting. Both dual time frames are captured well; the suspicion of wartime and the indecision and fear of discovery is well thought out, as is the present day romance story of Emilie and Sebastian.

Overall, this is an interesting and enjoyable family saga which blends secrets, history and a smattering of romance.

My thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for my copy of this book 

**This book is also entitled The Light Behind the Window **

Saturday 13 July 2013

Review ~ Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Apple Tree Yard
June 6th
Faber and Faber
Sometimes a book you don’t expect to like really takes you by surprise and makes you sit up and take notice. Gripping from the beginning this book takes you on a roller coaster of a journey as we watch as Yvonne Carmichael, a renowned scientist, begins an illicit and highly addictive extra marital affair with man who is at first a stranger. This irresponsible liaison which begins with a risky sexual encounter will ultimately spin Yvonne’s life out of control.

I think what I found refreshing is that Yvonne is fifty-two, not some inexperienced ingénue, so  it could be argued that she should have known better but what it does prove is that we are never too old to act out of character – and that pushing self destruct buttons is not merely a prerogative of being young and in love.

To say more about this story would be to do the book a complete disservice- it is definitely one of those books which once started you simply can’t put down. I started reading it on a sunny day in the garden at about 11:30 and didn’t look up, except for food and drink some twelve hours later.

My thanks to NetGalley and Faber and Faber for my copy of this book.

Friday 12 July 2013

Book Beginnings on Fridays....

Hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader

Book Beginnings on Fridays as stated by the host was started:

 "to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires."

You can share on Google + and social media , please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings
and there's also a Mr Linky on the host's blog.

Book Beginning : Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts

Whiskey Beach

Through the chilly curtain of sleet, in the intermittent wash of the great light on the jutting cliff to the south, the massive silhouette of Bluff House loomed over Whiskey Beach. It faced the cold, turbulent Atlantic like a challenge.

I will last as long as you.


I like this opening sentence. I can imagine the cold, and picture the sweep of light as it illuminates the house and Whiskey beach is suddenly there in my imagination and the story is open with endless possibility.

I know that as I open the latest Nora Roberts that I am in for a good read. Her books are always pure escapism and she has a wonderful ability to tell a good story, and sometimes that's just what I need on a sunny summer's day.


A bit of book blurb...thanks to goodreads

For more than three hundred years, Bluff House has sat above Whiskey Beach, guarding its shore - and its secrets.

To summer tourists, it's the crown jewel of the town's stunning scenery. To the residents of Whiskey Beach, it's landmark and legend. To Eli Landon, it's home...

A Boston lawyer, Eli has weathered an intense year of public scrutiny and police investigation after being accused of murdering his soon-to-be ex-wife. And though there was never enough evidence to have him arrested, his reputation is in tatters as well as his soul. He need sanctuary. He needs Bluff House.

Thursday 11 July 2013

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke ~ UK Giveaway

The Sea Sisters
Harper (9 May 2013)

"People go travelling for two reasons:because they are searching for something, or because they are running from something. For me, it's both".
Sisters, Katie and Mia are coping with their own personal grief after the loss of their mother. Katie, the sensible one stays at home and concentrates on her job and life in London, whilst Mia, the younger and more flighty of the two, decides to go travelling. When news reaches Katie of an appalling tragedy involving Mia, she is determined to discover the truth. Using Mia’s travel journal as a guide, Katie retraces her sister’s footsteps and in doing so throws open a story of lies, deceit and heartbreak.

What then follows is a well written mystery adventure which looks into the complexity of sibling relationships and opens up to scrutiny the minutiae of both Katie’s and Mia’s lives. The story, told by both sisters in alternate chapters, allows the plot to evolve in both the present and in the past, and the travelogue which is central to the story is nicely descriptive and sets the scene well.

Overall, the story is nicely told, it kept my interest from start to finish and I think if you are looking for an interesting holiday read then this one certainly ticks all the boxes. It’s got foreign adventure, mystery, excitement and a smattering of romance.

I really enjoyed it.








***GOOD LUCK ***

And the winner is 


Well done !!
And thanks to everyone else who entered.

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Outlander news....

Starz and Sony Pictures television will start filming in the Autumn of 2013 their Outlander adaptation of the best selling Outlander series by American author, Diana Gabaldon.

It with great delight that I share the news that came out yesterday that
Scottish actor, Sam Heughan has been cast 

“Oh. My. God. That man is a Scot to the bone and Jamie Fraser to the heart.”

Diana Gabaldon

Now that Jamie has been cast - and to my eyes - Sam looks quite perfect - I can't wait to see  the other characters - come to life. 

My only hope is that somehow , someday I'll get to see the series on UK televison or DVD.

Fingers crossed !


It seems like a long time since I wrote of my obsession for all things Outlandish,but really the books and the stories they contain are never forgotten, and just like the old friends they are, they sit patiently waiting for yet another re-read.

In the excitement of yesterday's news, it now seems imperative that I re-read the books with the *official* Jamie in mind. I have a lot of books to reread ~ seventeen* at the last count ~ which is not including the back up copies I have on Kindle ~ just in case !!
*includes the Lord John books and duplicate copies of Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Drums of Autumn

I have an eclectic mix of book editions - my oldest book is the 1991, mass market paperback, which was the only copy available to buy at the time - hardback copies in the early 1990s were pretty hard to come by.

My 1991 copy is now so old and fragile, I have to protect it with its own little bag - tartan lined , of course !

As you can see my other copies are a mixture of hard copies and paperback - all are far from pristine - they've been read more times than I care to admit and they're still the only books I would save if the house was on fire.

But by far the most precious of my books are my 20th Anniversary copy of Outlander and my hardback copy of The Exile, which thanks to my friends at the Outlander Book Club - both books are signed by Diana Gabaldon.

Alba gu bràth
"Scotland forever",

These beautiful Outlander book Beads were a gift
from a lovely friend which I then added onto my own silver book mark.

Twitter: @Outlander_Starz - join the conversation with #Outlander and #STARZ


Tuesday 9 July 2013

Review ~ The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
Published June 6th 2013 by Tinder Press

Set against the beautiful background of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, this interesting debut novel tells a rather poignant story of lost innocence in the story of fifteen year old Thea Atwell, who has been sent away from her parents, and her twin brother Sam, to the eponymous Yonahlossee Riding School for Girls. The reason why she has been uprooted from her family in Florida is only implied, however, as the story unfolds the reason for Thea’s banishment is revealed in tantalising glimpses.

The languor of the 1930’s and the dreaminess of a bygone age is encapsulated in the almost surreal atmosphere of the riding camp, where some of the girls ride sedate horses by day, and yet sneak away to illicit assignations under cover of darkness. Throughout the narrative there is an underlying sexual tension which is made all the more evocative by the gradual revealing of Thea’s involvement in a scandal of epic proportions.

Overall, I enjoyed the descriptions of life at this rather strange boarding school, which in many ways reminded me of the Enid Blyton boarding school stories I so enjoyed as a young teenager, but obviously this books’ more adult theme set a more risqué tone to the story. 

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

Monday 8 July 2013

My Guest on the blog is Hannah Fielding

I am delighted to welcome

Photo by kind permission of the author

Hannah ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for visiting us to talk about your book

Hannah , what is it about Burning Embers which will pique the reader’s interest?

One of my reviewers describes Burning Embers best: ‘A sultry epic romance like Hollywood used to make.’ Burning Embers is pure romantic escapism. The plot takes place in magnificent surroundings, there is a little suspense which will keep the reader turning the pages, and of course Rafe, my hero, is to die for!

You set the book in Kenya – how important is location to your story?

In my stories location is very important because it is a means by which I convey romance. I believe that the setting is essential for establishing a romantic mood and transporting the reader to the fantasy world, because location holds such power to colour a story. Since childhood I’ve loved writers who really paint a scene in your mind, and I knew when I started writing romance that I wanted to transport my readers to the time and place in which I situate the tale. The canvas I’m creating must not only capture their attention but also their emotions. The reader must be able to see, feel, taste, hear, smell everything my heroes and heroines are experiencing, and I call upon all the senses to render an authentic ambiance. 

What came first, the plot or the people, and did you base your characters on anyone you know?

The plot came first. When I write, I am essentially a planner. Having researched my facts thoroughly, I plan my novel down to the smallest detail. A writer today has no excuse for not getting his/her facts right. I use all the tools available: travel, internet, books, films, documentaries: they’re all there to enrich the experience and make the writing journey easier. Planning ahead, I have found, makes the writing so much easier and therefore so much more enjoyable. After that I place my characters – purely my own inventions – in my story like pawns on a chessboard.

How much research did you need to do for Burning Embers?

I read widely on Kenyan history and culture, especially folklore, but in fact most of the inspiration was from my own experiences. Burning Embers began not as a story, but as a vivid landscape in my mind. The seed of the idea was sown many years ago when, as a schoolgirl, I studied the works of Leconte de Lisle, a French Romantic poet of the 19th century. His poems are wonderfully descriptive and vivid – about wild animal, magnificent dawns and sunsets, exotic setting and colourful vistas (see my website for translations: 
Then, later on, I went on holiday to Kenya with my parents and I met our family friend Mr Chiumbo Wangai who often used to visit us. He was a great raconteur and told me extensively about his beautiful country, its traditions and its customs. I was enthralled, and when I put pen to paper Burning Embers came to life. 

Can you tell us what you are writing next?

My next novel, The Echoes of Love, is a romantic and touching love story set in Venice and Tuscany. It opens with the first Venice Carnival of the Millennium. It is a tale of lost but tender, deep, ineffable love, dealing with its echoes and learning to love again. The release of The Echoes of Love is planned for November.

...And finally a fun question: If Burning Embers was optioned for a TV drama/movie, who would you like to play Rafe and Coral ?

Read an Excerpt from Burning Embers

Though the afternoon sunshine was beginning to fade, the air was still hot and heavy. Coral was struck by the awesome silence that surrounded them. Not a bird in sight, no shuffle in the undergrowth, even the insects were elusive. They climbed a little way up the escarpment over the plateau and found a spot that dominated the view of the whole glade. Rafe spread out the blanket under an acacia tree. They ate some chicken sandwiches and eggs and polished off the bottle of cordial. They chatted casually, like old friends, about unimportant mundane things, as though they were both trying to ward off the real issue, to stifle the burning embers that were smoldering dangerously in both their minds and their bodies.
All the while, Coral had been aware of the need blossoming inside her, clouding all reason with desire. She could tell that he was fighting his own battle. Why was he holding back? Was he waiting for her to make the first move? Rafe was lying on his side, propped up on his elbow, his head leaning on his hand, watching her through his long black lashes. The rhythm of his breathing was slightly faster, and she could detect a little pulse beating in the middle of his temple, both a suggestion of the turmoil inside him. Rafe put out a hand to touch her but seemed to change his mind and drew it away. Coral stared back at him, her eyes dark with yearning, searching his face.
The shutters came down. “Don’t, Coral,” Rafe whispered, “don’t tease. There’s a limit to the amount of resistance a man has.”
“But Rafe…”
A flash of long blue lightning split the sky, closely followed by a crash of thunder. Coral instinctively threw herself into Rafe’s arms, hiding her face against his broad chest. She had always had a strong phobia of thunderstorms. Now she knew why the place had seemed eerie, why there had been no bird song or insect tick-tocks, no scuffling and ruffling in the undergrowth. Even though the skies when they entered the valley had not foretold the electrical storm that was to come, just like with the animals, her instinct had told her that something was wrong. But she had been too distracted by the turbulence crackling between her and Rafe to pay attention to the changing sky.
Rafe, too, was shaken out of his daze and turned his head to see that the sun had dropped behind the mountain. Dense clouds had swept into the valley and were hanging overhead like a black mantle.
“Where did that come from? No storm was forecast for today?” he muttered, jumping up.
There was another tremendous peal of thunder, lightning lit up the whole glade, and again another crash. Then the heavy drops of rain came hammering down against the treetops, pouring down through the foliage.
A wind was starting up. Without hesitation, Rafe folded the blanket into a small bundle and tucked it under his arm. He slung the hamper over his shoulder, and lifting Coral into his arms, he climbed his way up to the next level of the escarpment where a ledge of rock was jutting out and found the entrance to a cave where they could shelter. Coral was shivering. She tucked her face into his shoulder, her fingers tightly gripping his shirt. She was completely inert, paralyzed by fear. They were both drenched.
There was no way they would be able to get back to Narok tonight. Coral knew from her childhood that storms were always long in this part of the country, and through her panic she prayed that he wouldn’t be piloting that little plane back in this howling gale. At least here they were protected from the storm. It was not yet completely dark. Rafe looked around, still holding her tightly against him. Coral couldn’t herself as she sobbed uncontrollably.
“Shush, it’s all right,” he whispered softly in her ear. “It’s only a storm. By tomorrow morning it’ll all be over.” He brushed her tears away as more fell. “I’m going to have to set you down for a moment, Coral. I need to light us a fire and get you out of those wet clothes.”

Hannah - thank you for visiting us - we wish you continued success and look forward to reading The Echoes of Love when it is published.