Tuesday 30 December 2014

My 12 in 12......2014

As the end of the year approaches these are


12 in 12

Twelve authors who are new to me: 

  1. Jan Ruth 
  2. Anna Hope 
  3. Emma Carroll 
  4. Keir Alexander 
  5. Ashley Hay 
  6. Audrey Magee 
  7. Paula Daly 
  8. Lindsey Kelk 
  9. Rachael English 
  10. Linda Newberry 
  11. Dinah Jeffries 
  12. Claire Dyer

Twelve authors I have read before: 

  1. Sue Monk Kidd 
  2. Liane Moriarty 
  3. Elly Griffiths 
  4. Linda Gillard 
  5. Louise Douglas 
  6. Gillian E Hamer 
  7. Alison Weir 
  8. Julie Cohen 
  9. Wendy Percival 
  10. Joanna Hickson 
  11. Philipa Gregory 
  12. Anne O'Brien 

Twelve books that took me by the hand and led me into the past: 

  1. Dark Aemylia by Sally O'Reilly
  2. The Spice Merchant's Wife by Charlotte Betts
  3. Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle
  4. The May Bride by Susanna Dunn
  5. The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland
  6. War of the Roses: Winter Pilgrims by Toby Clements
  7. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  8. The Silversmith's Wife by Sophia Tobin
  9. The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements
  10. Winter Siege by Ariana Franklin
  11. The King's Sister by Anne O'Brien
  12. Red Rose, White Rose by Joanna Hickson

Twelve books from authors I know will never let me down: 
  1. Written in my Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon 
  2. Cauldstane by Linda Gillard 
  3. The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths 
  4. In Her Shadow by Louise Douglas 
  5. The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman 
  6. Crimson Shore by Gillian E Hamer 
  7. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson 
  8. The King's Curse by Philipa Gregory 
  9. Little Lies by Liane Moriarty 
  10. Dark Water by Jan Ruth 
  11. Guernsey Retreat by Anne Allen 
  12. The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival 

Twelve From the Non-Fiction Shelf: 

  1. Harry's War by Harry Drinkwater 
  2. The Tudor Queens by David Loades 
  3. Margaret Beaufort: Mother of the Tudor Dynasty by Elizabeth Norton 
  4. Anne Boleyn by Elizabeth Norton 
  5. Scars upon my Heart edited by Catherine Reilly 
  6. Lionheart by Douglas Boyd 
  7. Men of Letters by Duncan Barrett 
  8. The Tudor Queen by David Loades 
  9. Only Remembered by Michael Morpurgo 
  10. A Broken World by Sebastian Foulkes 
  11. Gin Glorious Gin by Olivia Williams 
  12. The Six Wives and Many Mistresses of Henry VIII:The Women's Stories by Amy Licence

Twelve Books that had lingered far too long on my Book Shelf:

  1. Foreign Fruit by Jojo Moyes 
  2. Postcards from the Past by Marcia Willett 
  3. The Spice Merchant's Wife by Charlotte Betts 
  4. Warrior Daughter by Janet Paisley 
  5. One Day in May by Catherine Alliot 
  6. The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich 
  7. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson 
  8. Signs of Life by Anne Raverat 
  9. The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer 
  10. One Apple Tasted by Josa Young 
  11. The Son-in-Law by Charity Norman 
  12. The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

Twelve Books that surprised me.....in a good way:
  1. The Ruby Slippers by Keir Alexander 
  2. Guilty by Jane Bidder 
  3. Beautiful Day by Kate Anthony 
  4. Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent 
  5. Hill of Bones ~ The Medieval Murderers 
  6. Payback by Kimberley Walsh 
  7. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson 
  8. Who Are You by Elizabeth Forbes 
  9. Just What Kind of Mother Are You by Paula Daly 
  10. The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull 
  11. Miss Carter's War by Sheila Hancock 
  12. The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley 

Twelve books that took me on incredible journeys around the world:
  1. Australia - The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay 
  2. Malaya - The Separation by Dinah Jeffries 
  3. Germany - Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville 
  4. Africa - The Palaver Tree by Wendy Unsworth 
  5. Armenia - Anyush by Martine Madden 
  6. Italy - The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich 
  7. Argentina - Twin Truths by Shelan Roger 
  8. France - A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore 
  9. Wales - Dark Water by Jan Ruth 
  10. America - Going Back by Rachael English 
  11. Scotland - The Strings of Murder by Oscar De Muriel 
  12. Rio de Janeiro - The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

Twelve authors I read last year but not this year:
  1. Phil Rickman 
  2. Kristin Hannah 
  3. Emma Donoghue 
  4. Hannah Richell 
  5. Dorothy Koomson 
  6. Elizabeth Chadwick 
  7. Jodi Picoult 
  8. Deborah Swift 
  9. Liz Trenow 
  10. Lisa Jewell 
  11. Lesley Pearce 
  12. Catherine Ryan Hyde 

Twelve books I would like to see made into a movie:

  1. The Ruby Slippers by Keir Alexander 
  2. Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff 
  3. Mr Mercedes by Stephen King 
  4. Spilt Milk by Amanda Hodgkinson 
  5. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson 
  6. The Strings of Murder by Oscar De Muriel 
  7. The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland 
  8. A Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon by Linda Newberry 
  9. The Boy Who Disappeared by Karen Perry 
  10. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd 
  11. Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent 
  12. Surrounded by Water by Stephanie Butland 

Twelve Books I would like to read in 2015:
  1. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult 
  2. Lamentation by C J Sansom 
  3. The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon 
  4. The Winter Crown by Elizabeth Chadwick 
  5. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters 
  6. The Ghost Fields by Elly Griffiths 
  7. The Widow's Confession by Sophia Tobin 
  8. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson 
  9. The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate Mosse 
  10. Night after Night by Phil Rickman 
  11. Finders Keepers by Stephen King 
  12. Betrayal by Toby Clements 

My twelfth and final category - the twelve books I have enjoyed the most will be revealed


Monday 29 December 2014

Review ~ The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

November 2014

Their Future Is Written In The Stars

When Maia D'Apliรฉse and her five sisters gather at their fabulous home, Atlantis, situated on the shores of Lake Geneva, they mourn the loss of their beloved father, the enigmatic billionaire, Pa Salt. The six girls all adopted by Pa Salt as babies have no idea where they originally came from, but their final gift from their father is a set of tantalising clues, which if they feel able to pursue, will lead them to the place where they came from and to their true heritage.

Maia, the eldest of the sisters, follows her clues to a crumbling mansion in Rio de Janeiro, where her story combines with that of Izabela Bonifacio, a young socialite, whose story, some eighty years before, entwines with that of Heitor da Silva Costa, the architect responsible for the construction of the statue of Christ the Redeemer and of an ambitious young sculptor, called Laurent Brouilly.

Maia’s story is beautifully intertwined with memories of the past and as the layers of the story are peeled away the connection between Maia and Izabela is revealed in a story which is rich in wonderful storytelling and faultless in the way both the past and present are allowed to evolve at their own pace. The Belle Epoque of Rio, in 1927 is gloriously described, from the fashions, to the constraints placed upon young women in society, all combine to give a heady description of an era lost forever.

When I first saw the size of the book, coming in at over 620 pages, I must admit to feeling concerned and more than a little daunted as committing to a seven book series is a real undertaking, however, as the pages flashed by and I became engrossed in Maia and Izabela’s story, I truly didn't want the story to end. Finishing the first book is a tantalising snippet of what is to come in the second book and its dramatic cliff hanger, of course, makes me want to read on.

Creating the series based on the legends of the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades star constellation is inspired and without doubt, Lucinda Riley combines the best of mythology with wonderful storytelling. Maia’s story gets the series off to a fantastic start and I am sure that the other sisters’ stories will be equally as enthralling.

 I really can’t wait for book two...and Ally's Story..

Sunday 28 December 2014

Sunday War Poet..

A Carol from Flanders


Frederick Niven

1878 - 1944

In Flanders on the Christmas morn
The trenched foemen lay,
the German and the Briton born,
And it was Christmas Day.

The red sun rose on fields accurst,
The gray fog fled away;
But neither cared to fire the first,
For it was Christmas Day!

They called from each to each across
The hideous disarray,
For terrible has been their loss:
"Oh, this is Christmas Day!"

Their rifles all they set aside,
One impulse to obey;
'Twas just the men on either side,
Just men — and Christmas Day.

They dug the graves for all their dead
And over them did pray:
And Englishmen and Germans said:
"How strange a Christmas Day!"

Between the trenches then they met,
Shook hands, and e'en did play
At games on which their hearts were set
On happy Christmas Day.

Not all the emperors and kings,
Financiers and they
Who rule us could prevent these things —
For it was Christmas Day.

Oh ye who read this truthful rime
From Flanders, kneel and say:
God speed the time when every day
Shall be as Christmas Day.

Frederick Niven was a writer and journalist.


Saturday 27 December 2014

Review ~ The Strings of Murder by Oscar De Muriel

Expected publication
February 2015

Inspector Ian Frey is sent from London to investigate, what could potentially be an imitator Ripper murder. Under the cover of a fake department specialising in the occult, Frey arrives in Edinburgh, ostensibly to meet up with his superior officer, Detective‘Nine-Nails’ McGray, who heads up a department dealing with, in Frey’s eyes, supernatural nonsense. From the outset, the derisive banter between Frey and McGray is set to hamper the criminal investigation as neither character has much time for the other. And yet, the series of vile murders which seem to be targeting the musicians of the Conservatoire of Music will test both men’s investigative skills to limit of patience.

As with any new series there is an element of getting to know the major characters, their petty idiosyncrasies and minor peculiarities are explained with just enough detail to sharpen the appetite, and as the story deepens, we start to learn more about Frey and McGray; discovering what makes them act and react the way they do, forms an exciting part of the story.

Combining the best of crime noir with well researched and atmospheric historical fiction, this debut novel captures the very essence of ill fated fortune. The story abounds with gothic gloom and brings the workings of Victorian Edinburgh to life in decadent detail. Both the place and its people  leap off the page with great energy and vigour, which helps to sustain, what is in effect, a very cleverly contrived murder mystery.

I really enjoyed discovering the darker side of Victorian Edinburgh in the company of Frey and McGray, and hope to be able to make their acquaintance again as the series continues.

My thanks to Real Readers and Penguin Books for my advance reading copy of this book.

*This book is only due for publication in February 2015*


Thursday 25 December 2014

A very happy and peaceful Christmas to you all...

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

A very happy and peaceful Christmas

And may all your Christmas wishes come true. 

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Itty Bitty Thank you...

Jaffa and I would like to send a whopping big thank you all the authors who have so generously taken part in our Itty Bitty Christmas feature.

You make blogging so much fun...

Jan Ruth
Gillian Hamer
Debbie Johnson
Jean Mead
Liza Perrat
Helen Hollick
Nancy Jardine
Anne O'Brien
Rebecca Mascull
Anne Allen
Wendy Percival
J D Smith
Linda Huber

Linda Huber's Itty Bitty Christmas ...

Wishing you a Merry Christmas 


Linda Huber

What’s your earliest Christmas Memory?

I was four years old and my present from Santa was a yellow scooter. I remember uncovering it on Christmas morning (my parents had draped it with one of the nineteen tablecloths they received as wedding presents) and just standing there gobsmacked – a scooter! Oddly, my mother was actually in hospital over Christmas that year, but I have no recollection of that at all.

Do you have any special Christmas Traditions?

I live in Switzerland so Christmas is a mixture of British and Swiss traditions. The Christmas trees here don’t go up till the 24th, and that’s when the Christ-child brings the presents, too, in the evening while the family are eating in another room. After the meal everyone congregates in the living room and presents are opened and played with. This has the advantage that the children aren’t up at 4 a.m. on the 25th

 What’s your favourite festive carol or song?

‘White Christmas’ does it for me every time!

 Do you have a favourite festive film?

It’s not exactly festive but it’s on most years and I usually watch it – The Sound of Music.
And of course The Snowman with its beautiful theme song.

 What’s your favourite festive read?

I don’t really have one. Mary Higgins Clark’s Silent Night is a good Christmas read, but I don’t have anything I read traditionally over the holiday. Usually I’m only too glad to have a little extra time to catch up on my to-be-read list!

 Are you organised or do you leave everything until the last minute?

I used to be extremely organised out of sheer necessityChristmas presents to the UK from Switzerland have to be in the post at the beginning of December for guaranteed arrival by the 24th. Nowadays we give to charity so that’s easier. Food shopping tends to be a bit last-minute in our house. I’ve stood in many a long queue at the supermarket on Christmas Eve!

Christmas Tree – real or artificial?

When the kids were small we always had a real one. Now we have an artificial one, but it’s the ornaments that are important. We have so many the boys made themselves over the years. The tiny flowerpot bell, the glue-gun stars, and of course the toilet paper angel. She always has pride of place!

 Tinsel or Glitter?

In a word – both!

Gingerbread Latte or Orange spiced Hot Chocolate?

I’ve never tried either but Gingerbread Latte sounds a wee bit OTT so I’ll go for Orange spiced hot choc. You can’t go wrong with chocolate and orange…

 Mince Pie or Yule Log?

I love mince pies but unless one of my expat friends brings mincemeat we don’t get them in Switzerland. I remember my mother making them, oh, the aroma when they came out of the oven!

Christmas Dinner – Traditional Turkey or something Different?

In Switzerland the tradition is flexible – some families go for baked ham and potatoes, some have cheese or (more usually, at Christmas) meat fondue, or Raclette. This is a dish where you have a table-grill and everyone has a little pan of cheese to melt, and the result is eaten with potatoes, gherkins and pickles onions, olives etc.

Christmas Tipple – Bucks Fizz/Mulled Wine or something stronger?

Nothing can beat The Christmas Sherry in our house. Longstanding family tradition, a bottle of sherry over Christmas…

 A fun game of after dinner charades or more chocolates and the television?

We have a traditional Swiss Christmas dinner on the evening of the 24th, after which the family open their presents, which generally takes care of the whole evening. The 25th is a day to visit more family and friends, and generally relax, eat the leftovers and do your own thing. Which could include charades and chocolates and the television!

18854689  The Paradise Trees

Linda is offering one copy of her latest book Cold Cold Sea to one lucky winner of this giveaway

(Europe only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My thanks to Linda for sharing her Christmas with us.

Jaffa and I wish you a very Happy Christmas


Tuesday 23 December 2014

J D Smith's Itty Bitty Christmas ...

Wishing you a Merry Christmas


J D Smith

J.D.   Smith

What’s your earliest Christmas Memory?

Hmm, pass ...

Do you have any special Christmas Traditions?

Walking in Grizedale Forest with all of my family - I think we've done that for about ten years now.

What’s your favourite festive carol or song?

The Pogues, Fairytale of New York.

Do you have a favourite festive film?

Love Actually.

What’s your favourite festive read?

I'm not sure I have one to be honest. Although last year I bought a book for my children of Night Before Christmas with the towns and villages local to us inserted in.

Are you organised or do you leave everything until the last minute?

Strangely, both. I tend to do lots of things well in advance, then nothing, then everything I haven't already done on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Tree – real or artificial?

Artificial - my mum wouldn't be happy if I had a real one.

Tinsel or Glitter?

Neither, although that's hard with children who love both.

Gingerbread Latte or Orange spiced Hot Chocolate?

I love gingerbread, but I'd probably opt for the Orange Spiced Hot Chocolate.

Mince Pie or Yule Log?

Definitely Mince Pie. I make my own.

Christmas Dinner – Traditional Turkey or something Different?

Usually something different.

Christmas Tipple – Bucks Fizz/Mulled Wine or something stronger?


A fun game of after dinner charades or more chocolates and the television?

More wine and the television ;-)

Jane's books are available on Amazon

17890882 21805711  23312068

Jane is giving away one copy of The Rise of Zenobia
 to one lucky UK winner of this giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My thanks to Jane for sharing her Christmas with us.

Jaffa and I wish you a very Happy Christmas


Monday 22 December 2014

Wendy Percival's Itty Bitty Christmas ...

Wishing you a Merry Christmas 


What’s your earliest Christmas Memory?

My earliest memories seem to be dominated by that of waking up really early, convinced it’s time to get up and being told to go back to sleep because it’s still only two o’clock in the morning!

Do you have any special Christmas Traditions?

Delia’s Christmas Chutney (from her Christmas book) is always made in November as it needs a month to mature and is a must-have with cheese or cold meat over Christmas.
On Christmas Eve a stocking for everyone hangs on the beam above the fireplace and we open these first thing on Christmas morning while still in our jim-jams. Inside are a couple of small gifts, some tasty treats (for later) and a magazine or comic. (Father Christmas’s plan was that it gave the children something to keep them amused before the main present opening event after breakfast - and while the grown-ups got dressed and took their turn in the bathroom which, from what I remember as a child, always took forever!).

What’s your favourite festive carol or song?

Years ago we bought a CD called Spirituality which is a collection of beautiful choral singing. We only tend to play it at Christmas because it evokes just the right atmosphere. Our youngest always referred to it as the Monk Music! Our old cat used to hate it, especially the track called Miserere which has some spectacularly high notes.

Do you have a favourite festive film?

We always enjoy watching The Snowman, though I’ve a soft spot for the film (A Christmas Story) about a young boy who wants a special gun for Christmas (a Red Rider BB) but everyone else (his mother, teacher and even Santa Claus) isn’t very keen on the idea. It’s very funny in a Bill Bryson-esque sort of a way. Otherwise, I do love a good snowy Victorian/Dickensian drama.

What’s your favourite festive read?

 As a child, my mum would read me and my sister The Christmas Book by Enid Blyton in the weeks leading up to Christmas. By the time we reached the chapter about Father Christmas coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve, and the youngest child Ann hiding behind the sofa to give him a present of a jar of sweets, we would be beside ourselves with excitement (which probably accounts for how badly we slept on Christmas Eve!).

Are you organised or do you leave everything until the last minute?

As in my writing, I’m a planner. Lists are crucial!

Christmas Tree – real or artificial?

Definitely real! I love the smell. And with the new varieties, the needle drop is not such a problem. We’re lucky enough to have a local grower a few miles away where we can go and choose a tree in the field.

Tinsel or Glitter?

Tinsel, as long as it’s not too gaudy, and I have fond memories of glitter which makes me think of making sticky pictures and cards with my class when I used to be a primary school teacher. It would enhance even the most primitive of pictures!

Gingerbread Latte or Orange spiced Hot Chocolate?

Orange spiced Hot Chocolate sounds my sort of thing… (see Christmas tipple!)

Mince Pie or Yule Log?

I love both but you can’t have Christmas without mince pies.

Christmas Tipple – Bucks Fizz/Mulled Wine or something stronger?

Cointreau on ice. I only buy Cointreau at Christmas so it’s a nice treat. And I might try it in a Hot Chocolate this year, too (see above!).

Christmas Dinner – Traditional Turkey or something Different?

We don’t often have turkey, though it depends how many people I’m catering for. Duck or guinea-fowl are favourites.

A fun game of after dinner charades or more chocolates and the television?

If there’s a crowd of us, games are always good and we’ll not bother with the TV. Otherwise, if we’re having a quiet Christmas, we’ll light the fire and settle down for a cosy read (there’ll invariably be books amongst the presents) or if there’s something extra special on the television later in the evening we’ll watch that.

Wendy's books are available to buy on Amazon

book cover blood tied The Indelible Stain icon

Wendy is giving away one copy of The Indelible Stain
 to one lucky UK winner of this giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

My thanks to Wendy for sharing her Christmas with us.

Jaffa and I wish you a very Happy Christmas

Review ~ The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival

Silverwood Books

Secrets from a tainted past....

Esme Quentin’s arrival on the North Devon coast is spoiled by the ghastly discovery of a fatally injured woman lying on the beach near Warren Cliff. What should be a pleasant interlude for Esme, helping out an old friend, soon becomes a convoluted and complex quest to find out more about the identity of the ill-fated woman. Even though the local police dismiss the woman’s death as an unfortunate accident, Esme is convinced that there is more to this mysterious accident and her intuitive form of investigation soon uncovers a tangled web of secrets and lies spanning multi generations.

This well written murder mystery, not only concentrates on the here and now, but also takes the reader on a journey of discovery into the tainted past of Britain’s brutal transportation system, when people were transported to the penal colony of Australia for little more than stealing a loaf of bread. The mystery at the heart of the novel takes some uncovering, but Esme does so with her usual confidence and tenacity. As always the fine writing of the author and the attention she pays to the smallest of details really helps to bring the story alive in the imagination. I was totally involved in Esme’s quest to uncover the truth and the many twists and turns in the plot really focus the novel so that it becomes an investigative challenge to piece together all the strands of the mystery.

Having been introduced to Esme Quentin for the first time in Blood Tied, it was a real pleasure to meet up with her again in another well written murder/mystery story. It’s rather like meeting up with an old friend whose life is rather more exciting than your own and in whose company you can sit back, relax, grab a cup of your favourite tea and just let the mystery unfold.

I can’t wait to see what Esme will do next.

My thanks to the author for sharing her book with me.

Twitter @Wendy_Percival


Sunday 21 December 2014

Sunday War Poet..

Christmas Day on the Somme


Leslie George Rub

1892 - 1917

T'was Christmas Day on the Somme
The men stood on parade,
The snow laid six feet on the ground
Twas twenty in the shade.

Up spoke the Captain ‘gallant man’,
"Just hear what I’ve to say,
You may not have remembered that
Today is Christmas Day."

"The General has expressed a wish
This day may be observed,
Today you will only work eight hours,
A rest that’s well deserved.

I hope you’ll keep yourselves quite clean
And smart and spruce and nice,
The stream is frozen hard
But a pick will break the ice."

"All men will get two biscuits each,
I’m sure you’re tired of bread,
I’m sorry there’s no turkey
but there’s Bully Beef instead.

The puddings plum have not arrived
But they are on their way,
I’ll guarantee they’ll be in time
To eat next Christmas Day."

"You’re parcels would have been in time
But I regret to say
The vessel which conveyed them was
Torpedoed on the way.

The Quartermaster’s got your rum
But you may get some yet,
Each man will be presented with
A Woodbine Cigarette."

"The Huns have caught us in the rear
And painted France all red,
Pray do not let that trouble you,
Tomorrow you’ll be dead.

Now ere you go I wish you all
This season of good cheer,
A very happy Christmas and
A prosperous New Year."

Leslie George Rub was born in Australia and enlisted in the 2nd Australian Pioneer Batallion,
He was wounded at Ypres and dies on the 23rd September 1917.