Tuesday 31 December 2013

Books in my year 2013....

It's that time again when I take stock of the books I have read this year and say a whopping big thank you to everyone for making Jaffareadstoo such a fun place to hang out.

Thank you also to the 56 authors who have given generously of their time and have allowed Jaffa and I to intrude into their writing time and who have contributed some interesting and informative interviews.


I've read over 200 books this year so it's been a real challenge to complete my "best of " list

But here goes...in no particular order...these are a few of my favourites

Huge thanks, as always, must go to the individual authors and publishers who have trusted Jaffareadstoo with their most precious books. We hope that we did your books justice.


Special thanks


The team at Penguin UK,
Elizabeth at Transworld,
Liza, Gillian, Jill, and Catriona at Triskele Books
Ian at Great Stories with Heart
Carol at Romantic Fiction Online
Helen at The Historical Novel Society
Guy and Michelle at Newbooks Magazine
The review team at Lovereading.co.uk
And everyone at NetGalley.

And most important, thank you to all those who have taken time to visit Jaffareadstoo in 2013
 We simply can't do this without you.


Here's to lots more Happy reading in 2014

Happy New Year

Monday 30 December 2013

My Author in the spotlight is Maggie Craig...

I am delighted to welcome to the blog



Jacobite Intrigue and Romance in 18th Century Edinburgh

Gathering Storm is the first in a suite of Jacobite novels by Scottish Writer Maggie Craig, author of the ground breaking and acclaimed non- fiction - Damn 'Rebel Bitches: The Women of the '45 and its companion Bare-Arsed Banditti : The Men of the '45.

Her novels include:

The River Flows On
One Sweet Moment
When the Lights Come On Again
The Stationmaster’s Daughter
The Bird Flies High
A Star To Steer By
The Dancing Days


*~Maggie ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo~*

What is it about your writing that will pique the reader’s interest?

Well, there's my lifelong passion for the Jacobites of 1745, which I've expressed in two non-fiction books: Damn Rebel Bitches: The Women of the '45, and Bare-Arsed Banditti, the men of the '45. I'm immersed in this period of Scottish history.  I love doing the research for my novels too.

Readers who enjoy my books tell that they love the sense of place and the depth of the emotions. Place is really important to me and all my novels start from there. I always revisit the locations important to my stories, taking photographs, making little sketches and above all, absorbing the atmosphere. It's easy to do that in a city like Edinburgh, where Gathering Storm is set. History is down every close and round every corner. I do my best to evoke not only the sights but also the sounds and smells of the past, touch and taste too.

When it comes to the emotions the characters are experiencing, mine don't necessarily wear their hearts on their sleeves. I find it's often better when they don't, leaving them guessing and picking up clues about one another's states of mind. However, it has to be clear to the reader how deep their feelings are. I believe that when we pick up a book, the most satisfying read is one which takes us into the heads and hearts of passionate human beings, for whom much is at stake.

What can you tell us about Gathering Storm that won't give too much away?

Robert Catto is a young Scottish Redcoat officer, seconded back from the wars in Europe to captain the city's town guard. His covert mission is to assess the strength of the Jacobite threat in the run-up to the last Jacobite Rising of 1745. Scotland holds painful memories for him but he's a man who always does his duty. He clashes with Christian Rankeillor, daughter of surgeon-apothecary Patrick Rankeillor. Both father and daughter are committed Jacobites. With Jamie Buchan, Patrick's apprentice, they're hiding a Jacobite agent with a price on his head in Edinburgh's vast new Royal Infirmary: a hanging offence.

Robert and Christian's mutual attraction is evident from the outset. So are their respective moral dilemmas.  They interact too with a varied cast of characters. Everyone is keeping secrets, even young Geordie, the cook-boy for the Town Guard. Everyone is in real danger. If I had to classify Gathering Storm, I'd call it a romantic historical thriller.

In your research for Gathering Storm, did you discover anything which surprised you?

That's a hard question to answer, as I've been researching the Jacobites of 1745 for much of my adult life. What I really enjoyed with Gathering Storm was doing the medical research, especially when I was invited to sit down in the library of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh at a beautiful antique table under a sparking chandelier and leaf through documents from the 18th century - well, carefully lay them on a linen-covered pillow and try to touch them as little as possible! Those include the tradesmen's bills for building the bagnio or bath-house which features in the story. I also did an Open University course on the history of European medicine which I found fascinating. Physicians and surgeons of the 18th century were much more advanced in their practice and thinking than we often give them credit for.

If you could invite three prominent Jacobites from the 1740s  to your dinner table, who would they be, and why?

I'd definitely want John Roy Stuart sitting across the table from me. By all accounts he was a charmer and I think his conversation would have been highly entertaining. He was a poet too so we could talk about the creative process. Maybe being so often on the run sharpened his perception. I'd like Lord Pitsligo too, one of the older supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie. He was a scholar and a gentleman, interested in everything and everybody. He was also a great supporter of education for girls and women. You'd have to allow me one non-Jacobite to complete the party: Duncan Forbes of Culloden who, with John Roy, features in Gathering Storm. We might not agree on politics but he was a humane man who wanted peace and prosperity for his beloved Scotland and he was a convivial man too, who enjoyed good food, good conversation and the odd glass of claret.

When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?

I sit down every morning early and work until about 1 o'clock. My computer is on the upstairs landing under a Velux window. When I look up from the screen I can see the big old trees at the bottom of our garden, the sky and the clouds and, at this time of year, the geese flying south in their v-shaped squadrons.

Can you tell us what you are writing next?

The current work in progress is The Captain's Lady, a big, sweeping time-slip novel set in my native Glasgow and the West Highlands in modern times as well as before, during and after  the ‘45.  Its historical heroine is Meg Wood, who appears towards the end of Gathering Storm as one of Christian Rankeillor's close friends. 

I'm keeping the non-fiction muscle exercised by writing a short biography of Henrietta Tayler, a Scottish Jacobite historian who served during the First World War as a volunteer nurse with the Red Cross in Belgium, France and Italy, never very far from the frontline.

After those two are completed, I'm going back to Robert Catto and Christian Rankeillor. Can't leave them where they are. They have decisions to make and more adventures to have.

Maggie is very kindly offering 2 paperback copies of Gathering Storm - 1 UK copy and 1 US copy to 2 lucky winners of this fabulous giveaway.

Maggie thank you so much for spending time with us. Jaffa and I have loved hosting this interview. 
We wish you much success with the continuation of your Jacobite series.


My thoughts on Gathering Storm

Edinburgh, 1743, is a scheming hotchpotch of political intrigue. The ever present threat of English interference doesn't sit comfortably with those Jacobites whose preference for the Scottish king ‘across the water’ relies heavily on subterfuge and clandestine meetings. When Redcoat officer Robert Catto is enticed back to Scotland, from the wars in Europe, ostensibly to join the Edinburgh Town Guard, his real mission, to assess the strength of the Jacobite threat, will prove to be an enormous challenge.

Christian Rankeillor is the daughter of the Edinburgh surgeon-apothecary, Patrick Rankeillor, a known Jacobite. She is feisty, determined and no shrinking violet when it comes to the seamier side of Edinburgh life, and together with her father, and his apprentice, James Buchan, she helps to hide a Jacobite agent with a price on his head.

The gradual layering of the story as Robert Catto and Christian Rankeillor’s world start to collide and coalesce takes place over the course of a very eventful week, when the Edinburgh Jacobites are at the heart of conspiracy, deception and despicable murder.

Overall, Gathering Storm is a really enjoyable depiction of this troubled time in Scottish history. There is a real authenticity to the story as the author has with great skill used her considerable knowledge of the period to bring together a very credible story. Edinburgh comes alive; its cobbled streets and dark and damp alleyways form the backdrop to a story which abounds with intrigue, political mayhem and clandestine skulduggery.

Well worth reading.

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas Everyone....

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"


Jaffa and I would like to wish all our authors,blog viewers
and supporters



Merry Christmas

Sunday 22 December 2013

Review ~ The Other Side of the Bridge by Katharine Swartz

November 2013
KateHewitt Ltd
Following the break down of her marriage Ava Lancet escapes to a small Greek village, ostensibly to check out the dilapidated cottage which she has inherited from her dead grandmother, but also to heal her emotional wounds in peace and tranquillity. Her arrival in the village is the cause of much speculation, but it is her uncanny similarity to her grandmother , Sophia, which sparks memories long buried.

In 1942, Sophia Paranoussis is enrolled, albeit unwillingly, into the local resistance , where she is given the task of aiding twelve British special operation executives who have parachuted into Greece to blow up the nearby Gorgopotamos viaduct.

What then follows is a well written dual time narrative which explores Ava's life in the present and her determination to find out more about her grandmother's life during WW2, whilst at the same time evaluating her own life, either with or without her husband, Simon. The transition between both time frames is expertly done, and the story flows well and captures both the indecision of Ava's modern marital dilemma, alongside the more poignant story of Sophia's involvement in the danger and uncertainty of living through the German occupation of Greece.

Overall, this was a nicely written multi generational family saga which kept my attention from beginning to end.

My thanks to NetGalley and Kate Hewitt Ltd for my ecopy of this book.

Saturday 21 December 2013

2013 catch up reviews..

The First Rule of Swimming
Courtney Angela Brkic
Little,Brown and Company

I thought that this was an uninspiring look at multi generational family difficulties told through the eyes of two very different sisters. When Jadranka disappears shortly after emigrating to America, her sister Magdalena must leave her home in Croatia and travel to New York, where her quest of answers throws up more questions than it does answers and uncovers long buried family secrets which once exposed can never be forgotten.

I found the story to be quite slow moving in places and felt like at times the narrative lacked impetus, so much so, I was quite bored by the whole concept of the story and found myself skipping chunks of the narrative to get to the more interesting parts.


In the land of the Living
Austin Ratner
Little, Brown and Company

In the land of the Living is the story of fathers, sons and brothers and of the family ties which bound them together. Mainly this is a story about divided loyalties and the anger and unease which can fester and accumulate until problems become insurmountable. Isidore Auberon has grown up with the need to protect his brothers from their abusive father and it is this drive and ambition to protect which will propel Isidore into accomplishing his medical training. When Isadore has his own family he tries to nurture and protect them in the same way until tragedy strikes.

This was a credible look at family dynamics and of the ties that bind us together.


Questions of Travel
Michelle de Kretser
Little Brown and Company

Laura is a traveller who wants to see as much of the world she can before returning to Sydney where she works for the publisher of travel guides. In Sri Lanka, Ravi dreams of becoming a tourist but when he is forced to leave his homeland after a devastating family tragedy, he must learn to readjust and develop as a person.

I found the book really difficult to read with any enthusiasm and am guilty of putting the book away to 'read later'. I didn't warm to any of the characters and couldn't gather enough enthusiasm to really work at the story. It's not that the book is badly written, in parts the prose is quite attractive, it's just that the premise of the story, remains, for me , unappealing.


My thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for my e-copies of these books.

Review ~ The Queens of Love and War ~ Ellen Jones



Add caption
This series which comprises three book have been reissued with new art work. Originally published in the 1990's, the books cover the tumultuous years of the middle 1100s, when the English throne was the subject of much political skulduggery.

Book 1 -The Fatal Crown charts the story of the fight for power between Maud, daughter of King Henry I, and her cousin Stephen of Blois.

Book 2 - Beloved Enemy charts the early life of Eleanor of Aquitaine and explains her upbringing amongst the troubadours and gallants in one of the most glittering places in Europe. Married to Louis of France, Eleanor must put aside her own feeling to support her husband and his quest for political fulfilment.

Book 3 - Gilded Cages charts the passionate and volatile relationship between Eleanor and her second husband, Henry Plantagenet. The dawn of a new royal dynasty will have repercussions that lasts for centuries.

All three books are nicely written and  explain the historical background with a few minor embellishments. Overall, I thought that the series was well worth reading, especially if you enjoy historical fiction set during the Middle Ages.

My thanks to NetGalley and Open Road media for my e-copies of all three books in the 
The Queens of Love and War series.

All three books are available in one volume.

Kindle Edition

Friday 20 December 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 Beginnings: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


Stave 1

Marley's Ghost

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon'Change' for anything he chose to put his hand to.

This book doesn't really need any more introduction from me.It's one of my all time favourite Christmas stories and my Christmas is complete until I have read it.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas


Thursday 19 December 2013

Review ~ The First of July by Elizabeth Speller

Open Road
November 2013

This story begins in 1913, on the cusp of WW1, and introduces us four very different young men, whose lives are about to be changed forever by what happens on the First of July 1916, during the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

I found the book to be a well written account of the horror of warfare and of lives broken and lost in the heat of battle. I liked how the author combined the stories so that we are given the perspective from each of the four men, Frank, Benedict, Jean-Batiste, and Harry. Their individual stories give us much to think about.

It is an easy read in many ways, but not light on emotional content, as stories about WW1 never are, and yet there is a depth to the narrative which I found to be both appealing and thought provoking.

My thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Integrated Media for my ecopy of this book.

This book is published in the UK under the title At Break of Day


More about the Author
Elizabeth Speller 

Elizabeth Speller


Wednesday 18 December 2013

Review ~ This Child of Mine by Sinead Moriarty

Penguin Books UK
September 2013

This is the emotional story of the bond between two mothers and two very different daughters. Sophie has been brought up in London by her adoring mother, Anna, whilst Mandy has been brought up in Ireland, by her arty mother, Laura. The story evolves gradually and the devastating consequences of long buried secrets are about to tear two families wide apart.

I found that this was a quick read , not because the book is light on content but because once I started to read  , I really couldn't put the book down and became engrossed in the way the author drew me into the back story of Anna and Laura's past lives. Each story is equally compelling, with neither outshining the other, and there are enough twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing right until the end. I don't want to reveal any of the plot, as this is one of those stories which is better for the not knowing, and deserves to be read with no preconceptions.

Recommended if you like books by Diane Chamberlain, Jodi Picoult, Susan Lewis.

My thanks to Penguin UK and Netgalley for my copy of this book.


About the Author

Sinéad Moriarty


Tuesday 17 December 2013

Book Buddies....

Today Jaffa and I delighted to be the guest of Carol over at Dizzy C's Little Book Blog

Thanks Carol !

Monday 16 December 2013

My author spotlight falls on...John Sawney

I am pleased to feature the work
John Sawney


Author of

Fireship Press
March 2013

It is the fifth century AD, in the former Roman colony of Britannia, where civilization has all but disappeared. Some vestiges of the old infrastructure remain in the urban south, but the west and north are wild and lawless. Plague sweeps through the entire country, leaving thousands dead in its wake. Eiteol, a cloddish and apathetic nobleman, saves the dictator Vertigern from an assassination attempt. The two go on the run, and as time goes on Eiteol finds himself called upon to do things he finds more and more morally repugnant. Deep down he knows that Vertigern is a monster, and that he should walk away, but for reasons he does not understand he finds himself bound to the man whose life he has saved. Their flight takes them into the barbarous west-where money has no value, the law has no power and murder is a daily reality-and they are forced to look for shelter in a country that is falling apart around them.

*~Welcome John ~*

What can you tell us about The Ruin that will pique the reader’s interest?

Well, it’s set during the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, but really that’s just background. The story is about how people can tie themselves in knots out of a misplaced sense of duty, even when they know consciously that they’re in the wrong. There’s no heroics or grand ideas in there.
The main character is a lazy, apathetic aristocrat (nice enough, but not too smart) who rescues the local despot from an assassination attempt, almost by accident. He ends up going on the run with the man he’s rescued, and the two of them are chased across the country (post-Roman Britain in this case) by various warring factions. It doesn't end well.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of The Ruin?

Just under three years, I think. It was written very much in fits and bursts, whenever I could find the time.

The book world is very competitive – how do you get your book noticed?

If I knew that I’d be really onto something!

Yes, it’s pretty daunting, especially with all the changes in the industry lately. The internet is revolutionising everything, just like it did with the music industry. I suppose the flipside of that is that it’s becoming more democratic, and that there’s more power in the author’s hands if they’re willing to put the time in promoting the work. So I guess the finish line is no longer typing ‘THE END’. That’s really just the beginning, and all the real work is ahead of you.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If I was in a position to give advice, it would only be the most basic practical stuff. By far the most important thing is to carry a notebook everywhere, I think, because no matter how good you think your ideas are, you will forget ninety per cent of them. Or you’ll forget the crucial details, or why it was a good idea in the first place. Other than that, I’d say just make sure you write as often as possible, and make sure you enjoy what you’re writing.

Which writers have inspired you?

The big ones are George Orwell, Albert Camus, JG Ballard, and Edgar Allan Poe. Those four don’t really have a lot in common beyond the fact that I love pretty much everything I’ve read by them.

As far as direct inspiration for The Ruin goes, I had a couple of specific books in mind when I was writing it—namely Perfume by Patrick Süskind and Grendel by John Gardner. I wanted to write something in an historical setting that could be enjoyed by people who don’t necessarily read historical novels. Whether or not I managed it, I don’t know, but those two books are pretty wonderful examples of that.

Thanks so much John for sharing your thoughts on the writing process.
 Jaffa and I wish you much success in any future writing venture.


My thoughts on The Ruin

In the fifth century AD, life was all too often violent and ruinous, as ordinary citizens were beholden to the whims and fancies of unprincipled men. When Eiteol, a rather slow-witted member of the local nobility rescues, by chance, Vertigern a powerful tyrant, the resulting drama of their combined lives, as they seek to make sense of the barbaric world around them makes for an interesting read.

The story evolves rather slowly and at first I found that it took a little time to get fully involved with the characters. However, once I settled into the author’s style of writing, I thought that he captured the darkness and unscrupulous nature of living in such a barbarous time. The main characters take on their own momentum and as they begin their epic journey to salvation they start to develop some quirky peculiarities which are essential to the story.

The book is professionally finished to a high standard. I thought that the cover art was particularly striking and the added inclusion of a couple of maps at the start of the book helps to set the story in its geographical context.

Overall, this was an interesting and slightly different look at our dark and distant past.

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


Sunday 15 December 2013

Review ~ The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson

January 2013
Harper Collins

This is an interesting and informative look at the supposed early life of Catherine de Valois. Much of the story is narrated by Guillaumette, who becomes the official wet nurse to Catherine when she is abandoned as a baby by her decadent and licentious mother, Isabeau. The story of 15th century life at the French court is beautifully depicted and the fragile and tenuous grip that the royal children had on their own destiny makes for fascinating reading.

Catherine and Guillaumette's relationship is portrayed as one of mother and daughter, and yet the cord which binds them together never loses sight of the fact that Catherine is of royal birth,  and as such her fate is very much dictated by whoever happens to be in political power. The scheming court of the Valois, from the debauched world of Isabeau , and her haphazard methods of motherhood, through to the sad and sorry sight of Catherine's father King Charles VI, who is mad to the point of insanity, is portrayed as hot bed of political intrigue. The emotional bond between Catherine and Guillaumette is nicely done and leads the story from Catherine's babyhood, through to her early adolescence when she is on the cusp of her relationship with the English King, Henry V. 

The book comes in at a hefty 578 pages, which I think could have been condensed a little, but having said that, the story kept my attention throughout and I am intrigued by the ending of the book which lends itself very nicely to a continuation of Catherine's story in the follow-on book, The Tudor Bride which is due to be published sometime in 2014.

My thanks to Harper Collins for my copy of this book.

Friday 13 December 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 Beginnings: The Orphan Choir by Sophie Hannah


Blurb from Goodreads

Louise is bereft.

Her seven-year-old son Joseph has been sent away to boarding school against her wishes, and she misses him desperately.

And the neighbour from hell is keeping her awake at night by playing loud, intrusive music.

So when the chance comes to move to the country, she jumps at it as a way of saving her sanity.

Only it doesn't.

Because the music seems to have followed her. Except this time it's choral music, sung by a choir of children that only she can see and hear...

"It's a quarter to midnight. I'm standing in the rain outside my neighbour's house, gripping his rusted railings with cold wet hands,staring down through them at the misshapen and perilously narrow stone steps leading to his converted basement, from which noise is blaring. It's my least favourite song in the world: Queen's'Don't Stop Me Now'.....


It's been a while since I read a Sophie Hannah story and this one intrigues me as I don't readily associate her books with horror, but this one has been written under the aegis of of Hammer Arrow. Hammer's literary legacy is being revived through its partnerships with Arrow Books. The series features original works as well as classic stories from nearly a century of publication.

Sophie Hannah

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Review ~ The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Penguin UK
Expected Publication
February 2014

Jessica Thomas is a single mother who is stoically trying to bring up her young daughter Tanzie, and also Nicky her ex- husband’s teenage son. She relies on two jobs to make ends meet, but knowing where her next pound is coming from is a constant source of worry. Tanzie is gifted in mathematics, so when she is offered the chance of a scholarship to a prestigious public school, Jessica knows that she will do whatever it takes in order to make this dream a reality.

Ed Nicholls’ professional life is in complete disarray; he is facing severe corporate punishment for a misdemeanour which has had disastrous consequences on the business he cherished. Alone and lonely, Ed gets drawn into the tangled web of Jessica’s life and before he knows it, he has agreed to help with something which could help Tanzie realise her dreams.

On the surface Jessica and Ed’s world should never have collided but what follows is a finely crafted story of friendship which emphasises the need we all have to believe that true goodness will overshadow all the bad things that life constantly throws our way.

One plus One is a truly delicious story about the bonds which bind us all together. It has a bit of everything; there’s some real laugh out loud funny moments and some equally poignant sad times which make your heart flutter and your soul stay sad. But, the overwhelming glory of this story is the incredible beauty of its writing. Jojo Moyes has got the balance just right and captures the incredible need we all have to be loved and accepted.

To say more about this story would be to do the book, and its author, a complete disservice as it needs to be read in glorious abandon with no preconceptions. Just get a cuppa and big packet of chocolate hobnobs and immerse yourself in this wonderful story.


 My thanks to Penguin UK,  Real Readers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this story in advance of its publication.

Monday 9 December 2013

My author spotlight falls on ....J F Penn

I am delighted to welcome

Author of 

J.F.Penn is the bestselling author of Desecration, as well as the ARKANE series of thrillers. Pentecost, ARKANE Book 1 is currently available for free if you want to try it. Joanna’s site for writers, TheCreativePenn.com has been voted one of the Top 10 sites for writers three years running. Connect with Joanna on twitter @thecreativepenn

*~WELCOME J F Penn~*

What do you love about writing?

Writing is the way I process the world. It’s how I understand the way things work, and how I learn, grow and change, as well as heal. So writing is integral to who I am, and when I don’t write, I start to get crotchety. I always carry a notebook with me, either a Moleskine or Leuchtturm, and there’s a whole stack of them by my desk that (hopefully) nobody else will ever read!

I love to write books, specifically, as a way to learn new things about the world - I’m a research junkie! I want to share with others within a story that engages, entertains and makes people think. I also like to measure my life by what I produce, and a book is a tangible product of time, effort and love. It’s also magic, as people can read those words even many years later and it’s as if they are in my head, so that connection is a critical part too.

Do you write stories for yourself, or other people?

I don’t think I would write novels if I was the only one who read them. I would certainly write something for me as I’ve always written journals with thoughts, poems, musings on the world. But in terms of crafting a story, with all of its complexities and then taking that forward through editing to become a book, that’s something I enjoy doing in order for others to take pleasure in, or to discover something new. 

Why do you choose to write in your particular genre?

I write across several genres, like most authors, and yes, they are based on what I love to read. I love kick-ass action-adventure, and the ARKANE series has been described as ‘Dan Brown meets Lara Croft’. Desecration has shades of crime and mystery, with a hint of darker supernatural, in the vein of John Connolly. My short story series, A Thousand Fiendish Angels, is based on Dante’s Inferno and was influenced by H.P. Lovecraft.

My own voice comes through strongly, but of course, we’re all shaped by what we read and seek out for our own pleasure.

When do you find the time to write, and do you have a favourite place to do your writing?

When I had a day job, I would get up very early to write before work, and now I always try to work on creative things in the morning. I’m definitely a morning person!

When I became a full-time author-entrepreneur, I started trying to work from home all the time, but it drove me crazy, so now I work in the London Library several times a week. It has a fantastic literary pedigree with Agatha Christie, T.S. Eliot, Charles Dickens and many more as alumni. It’s also in St James’ Square in central London, so I often do research trips in the afternoons, as sense of place is so important to my work.

Which writers have inspired you?

Oh goodness, so many! I’m a voracious reader, and I don’t have a TV, so I get through a lot of books every week. On my desk, I have Ben Okri’s poetry collection, Mental Fight, and also Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, a must-read for any creative. Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose was the book that made me want to be a writer, but for genre fiction, I love Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series and James Rollins’ action-adventure books, as well as Lisa Gardner, John Connolly and Stephen King for the darker side. 

Can you tell us what you are writing next?

I’ve only just  published Desecration, a crime novel that opens with a murder in the Royal College of Surgeons and delves into grave robbery, body modification and the genetic engineering of monsters. That’s the first in a new, darker series, and I have just started the next one, Delirium, with a murder in the old premises of Bedlam Hospital. I’ve also started researching the next ARKANE book which will be set in Spain around the themes of Kabbalah

  Chance to win an ecopy of One Day in Budapest in this fabulous giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My Thoughts on One day in Budapest

This was the first of the ARKANE thriller books that I had read and , of course, I worried that I wouldn't be able to pick up the story so far into an established series. I was wrong. One Day in Budapest had me hooked from the very beginning and I soon became immersed, not just in the pace of the story, but also in the depth of characterisation and the vivacity of the lead players.

The story opens at the Basilica of St Stephen in Budapest with an audacious theft of a venerated relic, when a call goes out for retribution; the entire city is plunged into a state of violent unrest. Dr Morgan Sierra, psychologist and ARKANE agent, joins forces with Zoltan Fischer, a Hungarian Jewish security advisor, and together they run the gauntlet of violent unrest in order to discover the whereabouts of the Holy Relic.

At just about 79 pages, this is rather more than just a short story, throughout the narrative the pace reads more like a novel as so much action is contained within its pages. At the end of the novella I felt like the story was complete and yet I was also aware that there is so much more to explore with the ARKANE series.

As with all established series it is probably better to start at the beginning but it's by no means essential as I enjoyed this as a stand alone story.

A highly recommended read if you like fast paced thrillers.


Sunday 8 December 2013

Review ~ The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow

December 2013
Harper Collins, Avon

This beautifully layered story is as finely crafted as the quilt on which the story is based. In the present day when Caroline Meadows discovers the forgotten quilt in the attic of her mother’s house, she is entranced by the craftsmanship, but it is the history of the quilt which gradually reveals a story of heart break and forgotten love. 

Gradually, and as the history of the quilt is revealed, we are introduced to Maria Romano, a talented seamstress who, following an ill-fated love affair, has been incarcerated in a mental institution. Using a series of recorded interviews with Maria as an old woman, we are given a glimpse into a forgotten world and as Maria’s tragic story is exposed, Caroline begins to take stock of her own life.

Overall, this is a finely crafted story, with well rounded characters and a real sense of time and place. Both past and present fuse together in rich detail and the story really evokes a sense of memory and an awakening of possibilities.

Well worth reading.

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

**At the time of this review The Forgotten Seamstress is currently a 99p kindle download**
Find it here

Review ~ A Final Reckoning by Susan Moody

Severn House Publishers

Thirteen year old, Chantal Frazer’s happy-go-lucky childhood is overshadowed by her elder sister’s murder. Twenty-three years later, Chantal returns to Weston Lodge in the Cotswolds, the scene of her sister Sabine’s murder, which is now converted into a luxury hotel. Determined to find out more about Sabine’s, untimely death, Chantal finds that events were not as clear-cut as she was first led to believe.

The Gothic setting, the chilling characters and misleading clues all add up to a fairly standard murder/mystery, which didn't quite keep my attention. Somehow, the story lacked a sense of authenticity, and I found myself skipping parts of the narrative, which for me is never a good sign. There is potential in some of the novel but the epistolary communication between the sisters seemed a bit contrived and rather uninspired.In the end, I was left feeling let down by the whole story.

Not a great book, but, as always make up your own mind.

My thanks to NetGalley and Severn House for my digital ecopy of this book.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Review ~ The Lake House by Marci Nault

Gallery,Threshold,Pocket Books

On the surface, Victoria Rose and Heather Bregman have little in common. The odds that they would ever strike up a friendship are stacked high against them and yet, when they are brought together in the idyllic setting of Nagog, New England, their unlikely differences are the very bond which brings them together.

Victoria is learning how to come to terms with the life she once left behind, and the breaking of promises made fifty years ago, now leave Victoria feeling alone and vulnerable. On the the other hand, Heather is an international journalist, who is at a crossroads in her life and who has now chosen to live a quieter existence. Both women have their own demons to erase, but what is achingly exposed about the story, is the way in which the author brings together a real sense of community with all its faults and foibles.

For me, the story got off to rather a slow, and it must be said, rather meandering start but about a third of the way into the novel, I began to warm to the characters and empathised more with their personal dilemmas. The lakeside setting is idyllic and is captured very well, and really adds depth to the story.

Overall, this is a pleasant story, about the power of friendship.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for my ecopy of this book

Friday 6 December 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 Beginnings: Secrets of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore

Burb from Goodreads:

Ellen Trawton is running away from it all - quite literally. She is due to get married to a man she doesn't love, her job is dragging her down and her interfering mother is getting on her nerves. So she escapes to the one place she know her mother won't follow her - to her aunt's house in rural Ireland. Once there, she uncovers a dark family secret - and a future she never knew she might have.


It is autumn and yet it feels more like summer. the sun is bright and warm,the sky a translucent, flawless blue. Ringed plovers and little terns cavort on the sand and bees search for nectar in the purple bell heather, for the frosts are yet to come and the rays are still hot on their backs. Hares seek cover in the long grasses, and butterflies, hatched in the unseasonal weather, flutter about the gorse in search of food.Only the shadows are longer now and the nights close in early, damp and cold and dark......

The flowery description of the beginning of the book suggests a book of light and yet the ending sentence suggests that perhaps there are some darker forces at work....time will tell as I read on....

Santa Montefiore is the bestselling author of 14 books
Secrets of the Lighthouse
 was published
July 2013 by Simon and Schuster

Santa Montefiore


Wednesday 4 December 2013

Review ~ Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir

Random House Publishing Group
December 3 2013

I was really excited when I was given the opportunity to read this book in advance of its publication, as Elizabeth of York has long been one of my favourite Tudor queens. The documented evidence of her life and times, and the turbulent period of her early youth certainly has enough information to warrant several books about her life.

As always, Alison Weir has produced an impeccable and very readable biography, which begins with Elizabeth's birth on the 11th February 1466 in the royal palace of Westminster.  Born to Edward IV and his queen, Elizabeth Woodville, she was the first princess to be born to an English monarch for over a century. The news of the birth of a royal princess was met with great jubilation and the prosperity of the ruling house of York seemed secure. However, the dark and violent years which followed Elizabeth's birth would see brother pitched against brother, and the country plunged into political turmoil, which culminated at the ill fated Yorkist defeat at the battle of Bosworth in 1485.

All too often we see repetitive biographies of the great and the good of our historical inheritance, whilst those who somehow stand quietly in the background tend to be forgotten. Such has been the case, I think, with Elizabeth of York, as all too often we see her merely as a shadowy figure against the more robust rendition of Tudor history in relation to her husband and infamous son. It is refreshing, therefore, to view an interesting and very readable account of this most enigmatic of English queens.

I think that Alison Weir has really brought to life the challenging times in which Elizabeth lived and demonstrated how the very survival of the newly established house of Tudor was largely reliant on the convincing political association which Elizabeth brought to the marriage. It is entirely credible that without Elizabeth of York's vital input, the royal house of Tudor would have been much maligned.

If, like me, you love to read historical fiction set during the Plantagenet and Tudor periods in English history; then this is definitely one of those books to have in your historical arsenal. It’s an interesting dip into and out of sort of book, but which also works well, as it reads as easily as a good historical novel. 

My only niggle is that this is one of those books I would prefer to have in hardback rather than on my kindle, as I like to be able to see good illustrations and to be able backtrack within the text.

Highly readable and highly recommended.

My thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing /Ballantine for my advance copy of this book.


Tuesday 3 December 2013

Review ~ The Lost Duchess by Jenny Barden

Ebury Press
November 2013
Emme Fifield is lady- in -waiting to Queen Elizabeth and as such holds a privileged position at the English court, but this protection does not extend to the capricious nature of a courtier who is hell bent on claiming Emme has his own. When personal scandal threatens to overwhelm Emme, she persuades Sir Frances Walsingham to intervene with the Queen, and gain her approval to allow Emme to sail for the New World, ostensibly to report back to the Queen on activity in one of the new world colonies, but in reality to escape public disgrace.

What then follows is a well written and beautifully researched novel, which takes the reader from the dangerous beauty of the high seas, in the company of a shabby assortment of passengers and crew, to the wild and untamed splendour of the New World, where the indigenous people are not as welcoming as was first believed. Throughout the story, and in fact what gives the book its heart and soul, is the developing relationship between Kit Doonan, a charismatic, and it must be said, handsome mariner, and Emme, whom fate seems to throw together in the most challenging of circumstances.

The story zings along at a cracking pace, there is danger, excitement, romance and deep emotion and by the clever weaving together of fact with fiction, the danger of this untamed period in history comes gloriously alive. By the end of the novel, and with the wild backdrop of the New World firmly ensconced in my imagination, I felt like I had spent time in the company of a wonderful array of adventurers. When the last page was turned, I breathed a heartfelt sigh of relief, not because the story was finished, far from it, but because the book’s ending was really well done.

I have no hesitation in recommending this book to lovers of well written and decisive historical fiction.


**Those who have read The Mistress of the Sea will appreciate the subtle binding together of some of the loose ends which were left at the end of that novel, but it is by no means essential to read this book first as The Lost Duchess is more than capable of standing alone.

There is an interview with the author Jenny Barden where she talks about her inspiration for
The Lost Duchess

A little more about Jenny and her writing can be found here: