Thursday 31 July 2014

Review and Giveaway ~ Love is All You Need

Sophie's competition for new romance writing attracted entries from all over the world, and the winning stories are now published digitally and in print.

Corazon Books
June 2014

Enjoy these 10 great stories with heart - the winning tales of love from The Sophie King Prize 2014, chosen by bestselling author Sophie King.

"...I picked those that surprised me and also left a lovely warm feeling. 
A bit like a love affair, really..."

Sophie King 


Meet 10 women, from different places, backgrounds and times, and each with a different experience of men and romance.

Their stories in turn hold the promise of romance, reflect on finding love, or show the lengths we'll go to for the special person in our lives.

An anthology of stories which are funny, thought-provoking, and thrilling, with characters you'll empathise with as they discover that ... Love is All You Need.

Stories by Alyson Hilbourne, Yvonne Eve Walus, Johanna Grassick, Pauline Watson, Melanie Whipman, Linda Triegel, Laurel Osterkamp, Helen Yendall, Mary Lally, Sherri Turner.

My Review

Ten very different women from all around the world share their thoughts on love in this winning anthology of short stories.
There is much to enjoy in this set of affectionate stories, from the rather poignant, to the utterly heart-warming, all them are written with a fine eye for detail and a lovely sense of empathy and a delicious sense of flirty banter.
Amongst the ten I have two particular favourites which struck a chord with me and to which I have returned for a re read, and what becomes obvious on a second reading is how much care and attention has gone into getting these stories so right. All too often with short stories the reader can feel a little let down, with the stories being merely a collection of words thrown together. Not so with this anthology, all the writers have really excelled at the genre, so much so , in some cases I could have gone on to read more of the story, which can only be a good sign.
It is commendable that Sophie King, realising the value of romantic fiction, goes on to champion those writers who may not otherwise have a voice in the literary world. This collection of lovely stories really does confirm that no matter where you are in the world, love is all you need.

My thanks to Sophie King and Great Stories with Heart for my copy of this lovely book
and for the opportunity to offer a paperback copy of Love is All You Need to one lucky winner of this giveaway..

***Open Internationally***

 Good Luck


Tuesday 29 July 2014

Review ~ City of Dreams by Harriet Steel

The story opens in St Petersburg in 1864 as seventeen year old Anna, the daughter of a prosperous Russian furrier, is swept off her feet in a whirlwind romance with the attractive and elegant Frenchman, Emile Daubigny. In joyful anticipation, Anna leaves her family in St Petersburg and enters married life in the glorious city of Paris, where she expects to have a comfortable and affluent lifestyle amongst the great and the good of this enchanting city. However, Anna’s circumstances change dramatically when her husband Emile mysteriously disappears leaving her both homeless and penniless. As a woman alone, in a man’s world, Anna soon discovers that she has limited choices, and as the Franco-Prussian war looms, Anna must do whatever she can to survive. In a skilful blending of fact and fiction, Anna’s story is told against the back drop of a city in turmoil, the Franco-Prussian war encroaches, not just on the way in which the city of Paris went about its daily business, but it also demonstrated the fact that lone women would be always be considered to be at the mercy of powerful men.

The narrative is nicely written with a fine eye for detail and the author’s obvious love of history and skill at historical research shines throughout the story, so much so, the era really does come alive. The majestic splendour of sharing company with the Emperor Napoleon III during a rendition of La Belle Hélène at the opera house, and of chance encounters with Alexandre Dumas during intimate suppers at the Moulin Rouge, sit quite comfortably against the more colourful and lively description of washday in one of the city’s more salubrious washing sheds. The juxtaposition of vast wealth is counteracted against the descriptions of lives which are affected just as deeply by poverty and squalor. The rich array of characters who flit into and out of the story add an undeniable charm, and yet what shines throughout is Anna’s strength of character and the way in which she was able to keep her dreams alive.

Overall, the story adds a lovely touch of authenticity to a thoughtful and sensitive portrayal of a tumultuous period in French history. The ending of the book lends itself quite nicely to a continuation of the story, as there are still avenues to explore and loose ends which need some clarification. However, I am sure that this feisty heroine will find much to occupy her in her city of dreams.

 My thanks to the author for inviting me to read her novel.


Monday 28 July 2014

The author in my spotlight is ...Harriet Steel

I am delighted to welcome to the blog

Author of

Harriet ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for your novel, City of Dreams?

I often find inspiration in paintings and I love the French Impressionists, particularly Renoir. I know his work is often dismissed as ‘chocolate boxy’ but if you look closely, there’s so much more to it than that. He’s clearly fascinated by people. In his day, Paris was a place of glamour and fun and he shows this so beautifully. People loved to be out and about, seeing and being seen. For me, there’s a story behind every picture. For example, from a central spot in the scene depicted in A Dance at the Moulin de la Galette a girl stares wistfully out of the picture plane. What is she thinking of? I believe that the germ of Anna’s character grew from there. 

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
A Dance at the Moulin de la Galette 

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

It’s a story that explores the themes of the fragility of dreams, the resilience of the human spirit and the powerful charisma a city can exert.

Anna, a Russian girl from a prosperous family, comes to Paris in the 1860’s with her new French husband, Emile Daubigny. Paris was at the time the most fashionable city in the world and Anna thinks all her dreams of love and an exciting life have come true, but she has much to learn.

The conflict in Anna’s story is between her desire for independence and a life she can feel proud of, and her need for security and love. Through her story, the reader will also experience the many contrasts in Parisian life in those days, as well as the drama of the Franco-Prussian war, the Siege of Paris and the brief reign of the Commune, all of which play an important part in Anna’s, and my other characters’ lives.

In your research for the novel, did you discover anything that surprised you?

Yes. I was originally drawn to the period in which the novel is set by the glamour of the Second Empire and the drama of the Franco-Prussian war. I knew the Empire crashed with the debacle of the defeat by the Prussians but until I went deeper into my research, I hadn’t appreciated the full impact of the war and the events that followed.

The war resulted in a devastating humiliation for Paris and France as a whole, and the Commune only compounded the disaster.  The death toll in the Commune was far greater than I had realised. Reliable historians estimate the figure as somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 deaths over a period of two weeks. During the 15 months of the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution of 1789, about 1,500 people were executed. The far greater awareness of the events of 1789 may well be due to its exposure in literature and film, most notably Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities and the famous film staring Dirk Bogarde. No comparable classic exists for the Franco-Prussian war and the Commune apart from Zola’s The Debacle, but Zola is not widely read these days. Alexandre Dumas, who might have written one, died just before the war, and Victor Hugo was by then an old man. In any case, he might not have considered such a recent sore was something he wanted to write about.

On a happier note, Paris recovered with remarkable speed. Many more of the city’s treasures survived than had been expected. The diarist, Théophile Gautier described the irrepressible excitement when the Venus de Milo was disinterred from her hiding place in the burnt-out Prefecture of Police, preserved by the apparent miracle of a burst water pipe. A major beneficial effect of France’s defeat was a complete overhaul of the mechanism of the army which had failed the country in the war. The transformation into a modern fighting force was to be of profound importance in 1914.

The Commune was also important in the annals of Communism. Karl Marx wrote an account of it from the safety of his home in London and Lenin studied it with great interest all his life. It came to be seen as a foundation for the political philosophy that took hold in Russia in 1917. When the first three-man team of Soviet cosmonauts went into space in Voskhod in 1964, they took with them a ribbon from the Communard flag.

What makes you want to write historical fiction?

From way back, I’ve chosen to read historical fiction over other genres; early favourites were the novels of Anya Seton and Jean Plaidy. When I read a novel, I want a good story but I think that if that story is rooted in a background of real events and people from the past, it gives it added resonance.

I also enjoy researching the period I want to write about. The upside of this is that many of my readers have been kind enough to say that they felt they were actually in the world of the era I was writing about. I’m afraid the downside is that I’m easily distracted when I’m researching and I wander down paths which have nothing to do with my story. Recently, I found a fascinating article about bizarre Victorian deaths, some too gruesome to repeat, but I liked the one about a man who was dressing a mannequin in his shop when his wife appeared. In an alarming case of mistaken identity, she thought the mannequin was a rival and shot him dead.     

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

I’m lucky enough to have a writing room of my own now that my daughters have grown up and have their own homes. Sometimes I dream of a pretty writer’s retreat at the bottom of the garden or a quirky gypsy caravan painted with roses, but this is England after all. In winter, I like my creature comforts in the great indoors! I’m an early bird so I usually mull over what I’m going to write next around dawn and make some jottings. After that, the writing gets done at the time that fits in with whatever else is on that day. I try to discipline myself to reach a certain word count each week though, even if I edit a lot out later. The blank page can be very daunting. I like to have something written down to work on.

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

I’m currently working on a sequel to City of Dreams which will take the story of Anna and her family into the 1880’s and 90’s. Unfortunately, it seems I didn’t make this sufficiently clear when I first published City of Dreams and a few reviewers were disappointed with the ending as it didn’t provide a conventional HEA. Most people however considered that the novel was complete as it stood.  All the same, I hope that now I’ve left no room for doubt.

Harriet ~ thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. 

We look forward to reading the sequel to City of Dreams and hope you will come back and visit us again soon.

Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your writing


Harriet is kindly giving away a copy of City of Dreams to one lucky UK winner of this giveaway.

Good Luck everyone


Sunday 27 July 2014

Sunday War Poet....

Alice Meynell


Summer in England, 1914

On London fell a clearer light;
Caressing pencils of the sun
Defined the distances, the white
Houses transfigured one by one,
The 'long, unlovely street' impearled.
O what a sky has walked the world!

Most happy year! And out of town
The hay was prosperous, and the wheat;
The silken harvest climbed the down:
Moon after moon was heavenly-sweet,
Stroking the bread within the sheaves,
Looking 'twixt apples and their leaves.

And while this rose made round her cup,
The armies died convulsed. And when
This chaste young silver sun went up
Softly, a thousand shattered men,
One wet corruption, heaped the plain,
After a league-long throb of pain.

Flower following tender flower; and birds,
And berries; and benignant skies
Made thrive the serried flocks and herds. --
Yonder are men shot through the eyes.
Love, hide thy face
From man's unpardonable race.

Who said 'No man hath greater love than this,
To die to serve his friend'?
So these have loved us all unto the end.
Chide thou no more, O thou unsacrificed!
The soldier dying dies upon a kiss,
The very kiss of Christ. 

Alice Meynell was an English writer, editor,critic and suffragist. She is perhaps best remembered as a poet.

This rather poignant poem conjures the undeniable image of England juxtaposed against the stark brutality of " a thousand shattered men .."


Saturday 26 July 2014

Review ~ Just what kind of mother are you? ~ Paula Daly

Random House UK

Your friend's child is missing. It's your fault

Every parent’s nightmare is being responsible for someone else’s child when something happens to that child. For Lisa Kallisto, a harassed mother of three, her worst nightmare comes true when she forgets that her friend’s daughter, Lucinda, should have been spending the night at a sleepover at her house. When Lucinda goes missing, Lisa is overwhelmed not just by her failure as a responsible adult but also with the devastation of witnessing the deep grief of Lucinda’s parents as they struggle to cope with the stressful situation of the disappearance of their beloved daughter.

The real strength of the book lies in the beautiful depiction of life going about its daily business. Lisa Kallisto is typical of so many mothers, juggling a demanding full time job and struggling with the daily pressures of child care and limited income. Lucinda’s parents, Kate and Guy, are more affluent but with no less pressure of keeping up appearances. Juxtaposed between these two suffering families, is the added interest of DC Joanne Aspinall, she’s the detective charged with looking into Lucinda’s disappearance and interestingly, she comes across as a blunt straight talking Northerner, a sensible detective with no airs or graces and yet who doesn’t suffer fools. She possesses that still small voice of calm in an otherwise crazy situation.

This chilling and utterly compelling story is one of those books which grabs your attention from the very beginning and after the first few pages I got a feeling that I was reading something rather special. That old cliché of a book being ‘unputdownable’ really does apply to this story.  I became engrossed in lives that were so realistic that these really could be people you meet on the street going about their daily lives. The small Cumbrian town of Windermere and surrounding area is as much a character in the novel as the people and the sense of foreboding amongst the nooks and crannies of a small community is expertly controlled.

I am in awe of Paula Daly’s ability to control a narrative to such an extent that it feels less like reading a novel and more like having a chat over a coffee with your best friend. The writing just flows like smooth cream, never faltering, no unnecessary banter, just really good dialogue, great light and shade and perfect characterisation. Even now, after finishing this book, I still really care about the people and hope they are doing alright.

There is no doubt that this is a stunning debut novel and I know that I have just read one of my books of the year.

 My Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Transworld  for my copy of this book


 About the Author

 Paula Daly

Paula Daly was born in Lancashire. Before beginning her first novel JUST WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU? she was a self-employed physiotherapist. She lives in the Lake District with her husband, three children and whippet Skippy.


Friday 25 July 2014

Just Because it's Friday..

.....Just because it's Friday....

This is Jamie Fraser

I've waited over 22 years for someone to capture the vision I had of Jamie Fraser 

and Sam Heughan comes pretty darn close...

Outlander is coming 

09- 08- 2014

*~Happy Friday~*


# bookadayuk my guilty pleasure.


Thursday 24 July 2014

Review ~ Race to Death by Leigh Russell

Paperback to be published
24 September 2014
No Exit Press
Available now on Kindle

Race to Death, begins with a suspicious death at York Racecourse, which, for newly promoted DI Ian Peterson, starts a convoluted crime search. For Peterson, lately transferred to York CID, not only has to cope with a new detective team, but also with a crime scene which offers little in the way of clues or explanation. What then follows is a convoluted and complicated crime story which uses the initial crime scene as a starting block for other more complicated deaths. For Peterson and his team, there seems little correlation between the crimes but gradually truths are exposed and strands start to come together.

I enjoyed the story, it’s an easy read and yet the twist and turns are complex and well crafted and there are more than enough red herrings to keep you guessing until the end. The characterisation is particularly well done and I liked the way story started to piece together with just enough tension to keep the momentum alive. The ending of the story left everything nicely wrapped up but with the added promise of more to come from DI Peterson.

There is no doubt that the author is an accomplished crime writer, she has already had a successful run with her Geraldine Steel series of crime novels. It is interesting, now, to see her turn her attention to Ian Peterson who for so long worked in Steel’s shadow as her detective sergeant. In this, his own series, DI Peterson is newly promoted and transferred from London to York. His wife Bev, also gets more of a starring role, and as she learns to cope with living in a new town  we get more of her personality, and start to piece together the dynamics of them as a couple.

This is the second book in the DI Ian Peterson series, and whilst it is more enjoyable to start the series at the beginning, it is by no means essential as the author provides enough clues to able to pick up the finer points of the back story.

My thanks to Real Readers and No Exit Press for my review copy of Race to Death.

Leigh Russell

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Review ~ Surrounded by Water by Stephanie Butland

Random House UK Transworld Publishers

When Elizabeth’s husband, Michael dies in a tragic drowning accident which also involves a young woman, the whole community mourns his loss. For Michael was a local police officer with a record for bravery and an almost cavalier attitude to saving the public. He and Elizabeth had the perfect marriage; both of them had found their soul mate when they met whilst Michael was on holiday in Elizabeth’s native Australia. Moving to the UK and to life in a small English village was difficult for Elizabeth but with Michael’s love and the support of his mother, Pauline and his friends, Blake and Andy she soon began to call England ‘home’. When rumours start to circulate about the circumstances of Michael’s death, Elizabeth struggling to cope, pours out her feelings to her dead husband in a series of poignant letters.

What then follows is an emotional and totally absorbing look at the way overwhelming grief can cloud judgement and that despite how well we think we know someone, we can never truly know what is going on in their lives.

I found the way the story was written greatly moving and had such sympathy for Elizabeth’s character, although there were times when I didn't really like her very much. But the secrets which threaten to ruin her peace of mind are exposed in a very realistic way, that you can’t help but be moved by what you read, and it would take someone with a heart of stone not to be moved to tears by some of the sentiments expressed.

The story evolves very cleverly and builds up a picture of Michael and Elizabeth’s life together, their problems and insecurities are revealed and the underlying sadness of their lives is shared in minute detail.

I found much to enjoy in this novel, the writing is beautiful and the ultimate conclusion of the book was perfectly executed, so much so, that I closed the book with a smile on my face which, after the way the book started, gave me a real sense of satisfaction, that this was indeed a story well told.

Highly Recommended.

My Thanks to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers  for my copy of this book.


Tuesday 22 July 2014

Review ~ Darkling by Laura Beatty

Random House UK, Vintage Publishing
June 2014
This dual time narrative shares the story of two very different women. In the present day, Mia Morgan is tormented by grief and the unhappy memories of her late lover, her blind father and of a family secret which is best forgotten. Four hundred years in the past, Lady Brilliana Harley, is caught up in the conflict of the English Civil War and as her husband gets dragged into the conflict, Brilliana learns to defend her family with a strength she didn’t knew she possessed.

On the surface, these two women have little in common but gradually the pieces start to reveal common similarities and using the research left by her biographer lover, Mia starts to pick up Brilliana’s story of a strong God fearing, Puritan woman, who was living in a county of Royalists. Based on factual evidence, Brilliana, a prodigious letter writer really comes to life, and the skilful interweaving of both fact and fiction is cleverly achieved.

The story is rather slow in places and it took me a little way into the book before I began to warm to Mia’s style of observation but what is undeniable is the beauty and prose of Laura Beatty’s writing. There are some lovely descriptive passages and I found the opening chapter about the eye of the hawk quite enchanting. She describes the natural surroundings very well, so much so that Hereford, the area of Welsh Marches around Brilliana’s castle of Brampton Bryan, starts to come to life.

I think perhaps the most fascinating concept I will take away from this story is the strength of  Brilliana Harley's character and what a lasting legacy she left behind with all her letters and observations of a very troubled time in England’s history.

My thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for my copy of this book.


Sunday 20 July 2014

Sunday War Poet....

Hon. Eleanour Norton


In a Restaurant, 1917

 Encircled by the traffic's roar
Midst music and the blaze of light,
The battle-jaded khaki knights
Throng, sleek and civilised once more

Oh, one there was who, long ago
(three centuries or is it years?)
Adored the splendour and the tears
Of London Ebb - of London Flo

Oh, one whose very presence gave
The common air an added grace
Now in out hearts an empty place
And far in France an unmarked grave.


I can't find anything about this poet but I rather liked this sad little poem which seemed
a poignant reminder of once what was, and how for some, life was never going to be the same again.


Friday 18 July 2014

Review ~ Dark Water: Part Two of Wild Water by Jan Ruth


An excellent continuation....

Jack Redman, estate agent to the smart Cheshire set, should be living the life of his dreams in North Wales with his partner Anna. But his commute from the leafy suburbs of Wilmslow, to the rural bliss of Gwern farm on the outskirts of Conwy, is fraught with anxiety. Caught between a rock and hard place, Jack struggles to organize a life which is made all the more complicated by his increasingly demanding ex-wife Patsy, his precocious daughter Lottie, and the uncertain paternity of two of his children. Whilst he struggles to keep the peace with Anna, the phrase, oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive, springs to mind, as Jack Redman tries to juggle his increasingly difficult personal life.

All too often sequels can become a bit of damp squib with less on offer than what has gone before, but rest assured that this is not the case with Dark Water.  This follow-on story picks up on the threads which were left hanging at the end of Wild Water, and with her usual panache and fine attention to detail, Jan Ruth brings together all the pieces of a story which very quickly becomes a roller coaster of emotional turmoil and smouldering resentments. There is never a lull in the narrative, the plot is allowed to evolve beautifully, and there some really lovely, light moments which offset the darker elements of the story. The banter between Jack and his small daughter, Lottie, is quite irresistible and I found myself laughing out loud at some of their dialogue, and likewise the touching moments between Anna and her dog Benson, brought tears to my eyes and echoed the memories of what it feels like to lose something precious.  With the tension is racked up to an almost impossible level, Jack, Anna and Patsy get caught up in a dark and deadly story of long buried secrets, which threatens not just their relationship with each other, but which also has a profound effect on their family and friends.

As with any part-two story, it is almost essential to have read the first book, and whilst it’s not impossible to pick up the story, you will miss the finer points and that would be to do both the story and the author a great disservice, as the books should be read sequentially. I am heartened that the ending of Dark Water could almost lend itself to another visit to this beautiful part of Wales and I'm sure that Jack Redman and company have a lot more life in them for future stories. I really hope so....

My thanks to the author for sharing her book with me


Wednesday 16 July 2014

Review ~ The Marriage Game by Alison Weir

Random House UK
June 26 2014

The mystery which surrounds the relationship between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley is the focus for this deadly marriage game, which entices the reader into the very heart and soul of the Elizabethan court.  With Elizabeth’s capricious behaviour at the centre of the intrigue there is much speculation as to whether the couple were actually lovers in the physical sense, but what is obvious is that there was a deep and abiding affection between them, which lasted throughout the whole of their lives, and which survived all the speculation and gossip.

What Alison Weir has done in this fictional account of the relationship between the young Queen and her courtier is to add weight to the argument that other forces were behind the reluctance of a match between them. William Cecil, Elizabeth’s chief advisor, not only insisted that Elizabeth could only be a successful queen if she had a husband by her side, but was also shown to be instrumental in keeping Dudley and Elizabeth apart. As with all speculative fiction surrounding Elizabeth’s relationship with Dudley scurrilous accusations abound, and the fact that Elizabeth continued to keep her politically correct marriage suitors at bay, only added weight to the scandal that Dudley was more than just her master of horse.

As always, Alison Weir brings the scandal of the age alive with her usual skill and fine attention to detail. The story flows well, like a well ordered romantic novel, with more than a hint of intrigue, and even though there are no astonishing revelations, what still shines through the political shenanigans is a remarkable love story, which is made all the more intriguing by the fact that we will never truly know what happened between them. And if I’m honest I rather enjoy the speculative aspect of their relationship rather more than the knowing, and feel that after all this time they are entitled to keep some of their more intimate secrets to themselves.

Well worth a read if you like Elizabethan history but don’t look for any extraordinary revelations, just enjoy the love story.

My thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Cornerstone for my e-copy of this book.

Alison Weir

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Review ~ The Summoning: A Supernatural Dark Fantasy by F G Cottam

Severn House Publishing
May 2014

This epic dark fantasy sees the start of a new series of supernatural stories, set in the shadow land and takes the reader into a dark world of mystery and ancient magic.

Adam Parker is a young archaeological student working on an historical site in an ancient Scottish forest. When he finds a mysterious artefact, he is unintentionally drawn towards it and yet has no reason to understand why he feels so strongly about the connection – however, it is a sign that Adam’s life as he knew it, is about to change forever, and his summons to the shadow place is about to fulfil his destiny. 

The story starts off fairly innocuously but as with all horror, there is an underlying darkness which helps to keep you on the edge of your seat. The strands of the story are cleverly woven together so that everything starts to come together and as the modern and the ancient worlds start to interweave, the two worlds collide into a believable fantasy. The added inclusion of a romantic triangle between Adam and two of his archaeological colleagues adds an interesting dimension to the story and watching how they all fit into the bigger picture is fascinating.

What follows is a creepy and decidedly scary horror story, a genre at which this author excels, and who skilfully holds the reader in the palm of his hand. Reminiscent, at times, of the early work of Phil Rickman, whose work I enjoy, this story starts off slowly, and then builds to a crescendo but which ultimately leaves the ending ready for the continuation of this shadowy story in future books.

 My thanks to Severn House Publishers and NetGalley for my e-copy of this book.

F.G. Cottam


Monday 14 July 2014

Review ~ Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

June 2014
Hodder and Stoughton

Retired US cop, Bill Hodges sits and ponders over the killer that got away. Mr Mercedes was that one perpetrator whose violent crime shocked a small community and which has threatened Bill’s peace of mind in more ways than one.  When a typed letter loaded with innuendo lands on Bill’s doorstep, he is sure that the Mercedes killer is behind the taunts and insinuations, and he becomes obsessed in bringing this violent perpetrator to justice.

When then follows is a tight and taut psychological thriller, which stirs the imagination and coolly takes you on a journey into the violent mind of a sadistic and brutal psychopath. It is a journey which keeps you guessing, and as it continues to dig deeper and deeper into the minds of both seeker and prey, you are never quite sure which story is the more challenging. Bill Hodges is not your ordinary retired cop, sure, he eats too much of the wrong food and enjoys nothing more than sitting in front of the TV, but once his interest in the case has been reignited, he is determined, as a point of pride, to bring this killer to justice before he strikes again.

I was absorbed in this story from the beginning, not because it’s the best crime novel ever written, but rather because I appreciated the way the story was allowed to probe into the psyche of both men. Bill’s almost pedantic realism was beautifully counterbalanced against the Mercedes killer’s utter disregard for what is right and proper. It’s not a fast action, all guns blazing type of story, but for me that worked better, as amongst the still, small, moments of calm are some interesting character studies which help to propel the story. For me, when all is put together, Mr Mercedes, is a classic example of good overpowering pure evil and as such well is worth a read.

If you want Stephen King horror then this is not the story for you, but if you like intelligent and absorbing crime novels from a master storyteller, then do give it a try.

Stephen King


Sunday 13 July 2014

Sunday War Poet...

Jessie Pope

1868 - 1941


Shining pins that dart and click
In the fireside’s sheltered peace
Check the thoughts the cluster thick  -

20 plain and then decrease.

He was brave – well, so was I –
Keen and merry, but his lip
Quivered when he said good-bye –

Purl the seam-stitch, purl and slip.

Never used to living rough,
Lots of things he’d got to learn;
Wonder if he’s warm enough –

Knit 2, catch 2, knit, turn. 

Hark! The paper-boys again!
Wish that shout could be suppressed;
Keeps one always on the strain –

Knit off 9, and slip the rest.

Wonder if he’s fighting now,
What he’s done an’ where he’s been;
He’ll come out on top somehow –

Slip 1, knit 2, purl 14.


Jessie Pope was a poet and journalist. She is best known for her patriotic motivational poetry
which was published in the Daily Mail newspaper during WW1.

Pope was widely published during the war, apart from newspaper publication producing three volumes: Jessie Pope's War Poems (1915), More War Poems (1915) and Simple Rhymes for Stirring Times (1916)


Saturday 12 July 2014

Tea and books....

For me 

The perfect combination 


Tea and Books

and a

A little light reading 

in my garden

Whatever you have planned for the weekend ~ I hope you have fun.....


Friday 11 July 2014

Six in Six .....2014


This is a great idea of highlighting the books I have read during the last six months.
 It was started by 
There are lots of categories to choose from, or you can make up your own.
Books and authors can overlap categories.

It's up to you !

Here are my Six in Six for the first half of 2014.

Six new authors to me:

  1. Jan Ruth 
  2. Anna Hope 
  3. Emma Carroll 
  4. Keir Alexander 
  5. Ashley Hay 
  6. Audrey Magee 

Six 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 

Six 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 

Six 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 

Six 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 

Six books I have enjoyed the most:

  1. Frost Hollow Hall by Emma Carroll 
  2. The Undertaking by Audrey Magee 
  3. In her Shadow by Louise Douglas 
  4. The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman 
  5. Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon 
  6. Crimson Shore by Gillain E Hamer 

What are your favourites so far this year ?

Thursday 10 July 2014

Review ~ The Railwayman's Wife by Ashley Hay

Allen and Unwin

She had never appreciated before the lovely anonymity of the unremarkable life.’

The Railwayman’s Wife is an emotional and at times quite melancholy story which explores the effects of grief and the consequences of living life in the aftermath of devastating loss.

The coastal town of Thirroul is redolent with the smell of the ocean and the sound of its rail road, but beneath the shimmering surface of beach front and train track, three very different people clarify the meaning of loss. For Anikka Lachlan, the eponymous railwayman’s wife, the devastating loss of her husband means that life will never be the same again and yet life goes on for her and her daughter Isabel. War poet, Roy McKinnon has returned from fighting in the war in Europe but in his sadness he is now a poet without words and cannot find the inspiration he searches for so desperately. Doctor Frank Draper is haunted by what he saw when he helped to liberate the concentration camps and now his cold detachment disconnects him from those who seek to love him. Over the space of about a year, these three characters meet and form a relationship and it is their shocking stories which form the very heart and soul of the novel.

 Beautifully descriptive, the gentleness of the narrative is quite mesmerising and the tender exploration of lives deeply affected by unhappiness is done in a compassionate and sensitive way. There are some lovely lyrical moments which encompass the beauty of literature and poetry and the quiet homage to the writing of D. H. Lawrence, who visited this part of Australia in 1932, is done as a charming and unpretentious tribute.

I was quite enchanted by The Railwayman’s Wife; Anikka’s quiet dignity encapsulates the true strength of the novel and the fragility of her heartache combined with the stoicism of the ‘carry on regardless’ generation allows a thought provoking glimpse into the restrictions of grief and the vulnerability of the human spirit.


It must be said that there are mixed reviews about the ending of the book which I thought was in keeping with the overall 'feel' of the novel and as such was entirely satisfied with it ~ but as always ,I'll let you make up your own mind.

I read this book on behalf of as part of their reader’s review panel.

More panel reviews can be found here

The Railwayman’s Wife is available in paperback from all good bookshops


Wednesday 9 July 2014

New Release ~ Dark Water by Jan Ruth


The tragedy and comedy that is Jack's life; is there a future for him and Anna, or is the past too destructive?
Jack Redman, estate agent to the Cheshire set and skilled juggler of complex relationships. Someone to break all the rules, or an unlikely hero? In this sequel to Wild Water Jack and Anna return to discover that history repeats itself. Anna's long-awaited success as a serious artist is poised to happen, but her joy, along with her relationship with Jack, is threatened by old scores.
Simon Banks is a depressed and unstable man with a plan. He wants to wipe out his past by buying a brighter future, but Jack Redman stands in his way. Will Jack ever escape the legacy of lies and deceit left by his ex-wife? Can Jack and Anna hold it all together, or will tragic repercussions from Jack's past blow them apart forever?

I already have my copy - if you want your copy go to :

Extract from DARK WATER:

She knelt on the cold tiles and buried her face in his coat. It seemed cruel that it was still so vibrant and luxurious other than a light greying around his muzzle, and yet everything inside was breaking down. The top of his head smelt intoxicating, of grass and adventure, of selfless, unconditional love. Did love have a smell? And it smelt of home, faint traces of lavender from his newly washed blanket.

Jack was on the phone in the hall, his voice low, words indistinguishable.

It was a beautiful summer day, full of rolling clouds, light and shade. It was like the day he’d been born, she said. Jack carried him to the apple trees fluttering with white ribbons, horseshoes and hearts. As they neared the right spot, hundreds of crows took flight. She sat propped against one of the twisted trunks and Jack struggled to put the dog down on the ground next to her. Then he kissed her face and went to fetch her some coffee.

They settled together in the long grass and Benson’s nose twitched as she talked.

Presently, two vets arrived, one of them a young trainee, who kept staring at her soiled dressing gown and all the crazy decorations in the garden. They examined the dog and the older vet said he’d likely had a stroke and did she still want to go ahead with euthanasia? They were gentle without being sentimental. She nodded, Benson’s head in her lap, his useless limbs spread on the grass. Jack was silhouetted against the sky, chewing a nail. The trainee vet shaved a neat patch of hair from Benson’s foreleg, while the other one hunkered down next to her with some paperwork.

‘Miss Williams, I need you to understand that once I have administered this injection, your dog will be clinically dead.’

Jack muttered some expletive and turned away. She knew he was wiping his eyes.

‘I understand,’ she said, and signed somewhere in the indicated box.

One hand on his beating heart as the lethal drug seeped into his bloodstream, both eyes on his. He licked her hand, almost twice, and even then it seemed apologetic, as if he was trying to comfort her.

I’ll see you on another dappled lawn, or a bright sunlit mountain under a thousand cloudless skies.

His silent heart, his soulless eyes. Instant, the giving and taking of pain. Now, all the pain was hers, and weirdly, there was some comfort in that.....

© Jan Ruth all rights reserved.

If you haven't read book one then take advantage of its special price on Amazon but hurry as this price is only for a short time.



The tragedy and comedy that is Jack's life; secrets, lies and family ties.

Jack Redman, estate agent to the Cheshire set. An unlikely hero, or someone to break all the rules? Wild water is the story of forty-something estate agent, Jack, who is stressed out not only by work, bills and the approach of Christmas but by the feeling that he and his wife, Patsy are growing apart. His misgivings prove founded when he discovers Patsy is having an affair, and is pregnant. At the same time as his marriage begins to collapse around him, he becomes reacquainted with his childhood sweetheart, Anna, whom he left for Patsy twenty-five years before. His feelings towards Anna reawaken, but will life and family conflicts conspire to keep them apart again?

Buy it here :

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


Tuesday 8 July 2014

Review ~ What a Girl Wants by Lindsey Kelk

17th July 2014

From the author of the best selling Heart series

On the surface Tess Brookes seems to be your average girl next door, she’s quirky and funny and sometimes just downright loopy. She’s been in love with her friend Charlie forever but on a holiday to Hawaii, Tess meets Nick and that’s when her life starts to get really complicated. And as she faces the dilemma of either staying in London or of travelling to Milan to take on a new assignment, she needs to decide what's going to happen with Charlie and what on earth is going to happen with Nick!

This is a warm and witty look at the problems all too often encountered in relationships, of those we know we will win and those we know we won’t, but through it all, Tess and her best friend, Amy, have just the right amount of irreverent charm to keep the story fun and entertaining. I really enjoyed the story. The plot moves along at a quick pace and although there were times when I found Tess to be a bit irritating, on the whole, I liked the way the story drew me in and how the characters felt realistic without being overly sentimental or overly dramatic. Amongst all the angst and girlie gossip is the story of the complicated process of finding the right person and I suppose the ultimate moral of the story is that what a girl wants is sometimes not always the answer to the question.

Lindsey Kelk’s writing is as warm and witty as ever as those who have read her work before will testify. Fans will recognise a continuation of  Tess’s story which started with the 2013 release of About a Girl, but for those readers who are new to Lindsey’s writing it is quite easy to pick up this latest story without having read the first book.

So, it’s a definite thumbs up from me for What a Girl Wants; it’s a perfect read for a sunny afternoon by the pool or in the garden, preferably with a nice glass of sparkling rosé close to hand.


There's a chance to win a copy of this lovely summer read in my giveaway


What a Girl Wants Blog Tour 2014

I am delighted welcome to the blog


Tess Brookes was the girl with a plan. Now she's the girl with a choice. Should she stay in London and start her own advertising agency with her best friend and potential boyfriend Charlie? Or should she head to exciting Milan to pursue both a new career as a photographer and a new man, the enigmatic and elusive (and highly irritating) Nick? For the first time, Tess has to choose between the life she always dreamed of and a future she never imagined possible. With her heart and her head pulling her in different directions, Tess has to make a life-changing decision about What a Girl Wants.

Lindsey ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for inviting us to be part of your blog tour to celebrate

What do you love about writing?

I love telling stories, I love making up people and places and trying on lives that aren’t my own. It’s like reading a book but better, because you’re making it up as you go.

What scares you about writing?

The fear that it will go away. I get so scared that one day I’ll just wake up and I will have completely forgotten how to do it.

Do you write stories for yourself, or other people?

For myself. I've learned the hard way that you can’t please everyone and at the end of the day, I need to be able to close my laptop and know that I feel good about the work that I’m doing. It’s much easier to deal with the criticism if you know that you believe in what you’re doing.

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

I write all the time! I've been on constant deadlines for maybe the last two and a half years so there aren’t many days when I'm not working away at something. Mostly I write in my apartment, parked on the sofa or curled up in bed. I spent an obscene amount of money on a beautiful desk to break my bad habits and I think I've sat at it maybe twice…

 Can you tell us what you are writing next?

Yes! Right now I’m finishing up the Jenny Lopez Saves Christmas ebook and then it’s onto my new novel, out next spring.

Lindsey ~ It's been a real pleasure to host this interview, thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.

 Jaffa and I wish you much success
with your blog tour.


My thanks to Amy Winchester at Harper for organising this Blog Tour
and for generously providing 2 copies of

What a Girl Wants in this fabulous Giveaway.


Good Luck Everyone