Sunday 30 November 2014

Sunday War Poet ...Author's choice ...David Ebsworth

I am delighted to welcome 


Sharing his Sunday War Poem

So far as First World War poetry is concerned, I still remember reading Wilfred Owen's The Sentry for the first time. It would have been early 1963. The war in Vietnam was escalating. We'd just come through the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a member of a local cadet force, I was regularly involved in "Civil Defence" drills on how to survive a nuclear attack. It was a period of lunacy in human history almost as stark as the summer of 1914, and those final two lines have always stayed with me. I guess that, at the age of fourteen, I thought our lights were going out yet again - though this time for good. 

The Sentry ~ Wilfred Owen

We'd found an old Boche dug-out, and he knew,
And gave us hell, for shell on frantic shell
Hammered on top, but never quite burst through.
Rain, guttering down in waterfalls of slime
Kept slush waist high, that rising hour by hour,
Choked up the steps too thick with clay to climb.
What murk of air remained stank old, and sour
With fumes of whizz-bangs, and the smell of men
Who'd lived there years, and left their curse in the den,
If not their corpses. . . .
There we herded from the blast
Of whizz-bangs, but one found our door at last.
Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles.
And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping
And splashing in the flood, deluging muck —
The sentry's body; then his rifle, handles
Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.
We dredged him up, for killed, until he whined
"O sir, my eyes — I'm blind — I'm blind, I'm blind!"
Coaxing, I held a flame against his lids
And said if he could see the least blurred light
He was not blind; in time he'd get all right.
"I can't," he sobbed. Eyeballs, huge-bulged like squids
Watch my dreams still; but I forgot him there
In posting next for duty, and sending a scout
To beg a stretcher somewhere, and floundering about
To other posts under the shrieking air.

Those other wretches, how they bled and spewed,
And one who would have drowned himself for good, —
I try not to remember these things now.
Let dread hark back for one word only: how
Half-listening to that sentry's moans and jumps,
And the wild chattering of his broken teeth,
Renewed most horribly whenever crumps
Pummelled the roof and slogged the air beneath —
Through the dense din, I say, we heard him shout
"I see your lights!" But ours had long died out.


David Ebsworth

is the author


The Jacobites' Apprentice The Assassin's Mark The Kraals of Ulundi

My thanks to David for sharing his personal choice of WW1 war poem and for explaining why
 The Sentry is important to him.


My Author's Choice of Sunday war Poem have been

Jane Cable
Claire Dyer
Karen Maitland
Elisabeth Gifford
David Ebsworth

My thanks to them all for giving so generously of their time and for their support of Jaffareadstoo.

Saturday 29 November 2014

An author interview with ....Anthony Quinn

I am delighted to be part of the blog tour to support the publication of 

Anthony Quinn ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo

Where did you get the inspiration for The Blood Dimmed Tide?

It might seem bizarre material for a crime novel, the doomed search of a Nobel Laureate poet for evidence of the supernatural, but I've been a fan of WB Yeats and his poetry for years, so much so that I was able to recite several of his longer poems in order to woo my wife Clare on the evening we first met. The beaches where he composed some of his most famous works are places that I visit frequently. Over the years, I've often wondered what went through his mind as he trod the shoreline at Lissadell and Rosses Point. So I didn't have to travel too far mentally to arrive at the idea of a supernatural mystery thriller with Yeats at its heart, and the silver strands of Sligo as its stage.

Those beaches weren't so much the inspiration as the steady stimulant that helped produce The Blood Dimmed Tide. I'm talking about rugged, empty beaches that are as much a means of escape from the everyday routine as writing itself, or travelling to more far-flung destinations. I wanted to write a book that was steeped in their light and sound. One that would make the reader keep turning the page.

What can you tell us about the book that will pique the reader's interest?

The thing about Yeats is that what you learn from his personal life in his biographies is very different from what you understand about him from reading his poetry. Yeats navigated much darker territories that his literary work only hints at. As a poet, he comes across as a very intellectual and reserved man but the truth was something quite different. He had a nose for trouble and surrounded himself with volatile characters, emotionally, politically and spiritually. He dabbled in all sorts of esoteric practices and rituals, such as 'false-hanging' and rebirth ceremonies. He was a leading member of the Golden Dawn, a society of mystics devoted to the practice of magic, and once had to evict the satanic Aleister Crowley with force from a meeting. Even his relationship with his wife Georgie was full of secrets. He was prepared to go to any length in his adventures as a supernatural sleuth. In one pivotal beach scene in the book I have him threatening to knock the narrator unconscious in order to access his dreams. Yeats was very good company in the fourteen months it took to research and write The Blood Dimmed Tide. I hope that he will prove equally irresistible to readers.

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

I’ve always written around my day job and my hectic family life - we have four young children. I find that the busier you are the more you get done. Writer’s block is a luxury a harried father can’t afford. So I rise at 6am and work for a few hours, and resume last thing at night for a couple more. There are sacrifices, usually in the form of entertainment and a social life. However, spending several hours alone with a blank page every single day changes you, for the better, I think. You become more reflective and meditative. In terms of stimulants I rely heavily on tea, and frequent nibbles of chocolate. I also find that having a patch of the colour blue within my peripheral vision also helps with writing. I read somewhere that the colour stimulates creativity, and it really does seem to work.

Unfortunately, I'm finding that my valuable writing time is being siphoned away promoting my books, four of which are being published in a twelve month period. Disappeared’, my debut, was published in August, shortly before ‘The Blood-Dimmed Tide’. ‘Border Angels’ is out in January, while ‘Blind Arrows’ is scheduled for next summer. At the minute, I’m putting the finishing touches to the third Celcius Daly novel. However, in spite of appearances, I'm not Ireland’s answer to George Simenon. The five books have been written over six years or so. Whenever I finished one book I moved swiftly to the next; each one was an all-consuming obsession, filling my waking thoughts and quite a few of my dreams. In the end, however, they were the very opposite of children. Once they were created, I disowned them completely and moved on without looking back. It’s the only way to work as a writer otherwise you would never create that elusive perfect novel.

Can you tell us what's coming next ?

I've already written the second in my Irish War of Independence trilogy - Blind Arrows, which is due to be published next summer. It is set in Ireland at the same time as The Blood Dimmed Tide, but this time has the Irish rebel Michael Collins as its principal character. It is more of a spy thriller with a dose of financial and political intrigue. I'm due to start working on my next mystery novel involving Yeats, which will be set around Thoor Ballylee in Galway, the tower in which he spent summers with his young family

There's still a chance to win a copy of The Blood Dimmed Tide in this giveaway.

Oldcastle Books

My thanks to Antony for sharing his time with us and for giving such a fascinating insight into writers and writing. More about Anthony can be found on his website.

My thanks also to Clare Quinlivan at Oldcastle Books for her all help with this interview.


Friday 28 November 2014

Review~ Shadow of the Raven by Millie Thom


By the mid ninth century, Danish raids on Anglo-Saxon kingdoms have escalated. Several bands even dare to overwinter on the coastal islands, particularly those at the mouth of the Thames, where the kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia border each other. 

The kings of these lands must put past enmity aside and take the first steps towards unity; steps they see as vital in the face of this newfound threat to their lands . . . 

To be the sons of kings in the mid-ninth century was to be faced with the harsh realities of life. It was a time when enemies lingered in shadows and the crucial lessons learned were often tinged with both tragedy and danger and the ever present threat of invasion was never far away.

In Shadow of The Raven Millie Thom has brought this dangerous time to life in a story which abounds with all the frisson of high drama. From the kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex, to the lands of the Norse invaders, there is never a moment when the history and passion of the time doesn't draw you into a really good adventure story. The author does a commendable job of blending historical fact with fiction and throughout the story manages to keep control of a complicated and complex narrative.

As this is book one in a trilogy quite a lot of the early story is devoted to setting the scene and explaining where the individual characters fit into the narrative. This is done with fine attention to detail and it is obvious that the author has a passion for this period in history and uses her knowledge to good advantage. As the power struggles in this Anglo-Saxon game of thrones continues, it becomes obvious that the repercussions on the kingdom will last for centuries. I am sure that as this proposed  trilogy progresses, the fight for supremacy will continue to enthral.

Millie Thom

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


Thursday 27 November 2014

The magazine for readers and reading groups....newbooks nb83 Winter ...

Since 2007 I have been actively involved with newbooks  as a reviewer for their excellent magazine which is aimed primarily at readers, readers who belong to reading groups, or indeed, to anyone who quite simply enjoys reading about books, reading reviews from like minded bibliophiles and for those readers, much like myself,  who have a to be read pile which teeters dangerously close to the ceiling !

A few months ago I was dismayed to discover that the magazine was perilously close to closing down and I hoped beyond hope that there would be a solution and thankfully the answer came in a shared collaboration with the excellent on line book site which offers the best of book worlds, on line content combined with a printed magazine for those of us who still like to hold something in our hands and turn physical pages.

I was delighted to be approached by the editorial team at newbooks to help launch a new feature in their relaunched magazine which aims to highlight the world of blogging and the many hundreds of us who take the time to winkle out those new books and who are passionate about sharing their love of reading with a wider audience.

Jaffa, of course, was included, what feature on Jaffareadstoo would be complete without the main man!  Donning his best bib and tucker, he kindly posed on his favourite vantage point, the garden shed roof, and as usual, managed to look extremely thoughtful, as he contemplates his important role in the book world.

Opening the Winter issue of newbooks I was extremely proud to be associated with such a fine venture and I really hope that this relaunch of the magazine I have come to know and love goes from strength to strength.

My thanks to Guy Pringle at newbooks and to Karen Maitland who generously allowed me to use her interview in this magazine article.


March 2015 - In the latest issue nb84 you will find a similar feature of my friend Lindsay's blog - The Little Reader pop along to meet her.


Wednesday 26 November 2014

Review ~ Return to Fourwinds by Elisabeth Gifford

An Imprint of Atlantic Books

One House. Two Families. 

A Lifetime of Secrets.

The story opens in 1981 as two families gather at the house named Fourwinds, to celebrate the marriage of Alice and Ralph's son, Nicky, to Patricia and Peter's daughter, Sarah. However, when Sarah goes missing just days before the wedding, family secrets which have been long buried threaten to overwhelm the happiness, not just of the young couple about to be married but also of the older couples, whose shared connection to the past, threatens the happiness of future generations.

The story evolves between 1981 Derbyshire and 1930’s Spain with effortless ease and the consummate skill of the author ensures that all time frames have equal importance with none trying to outshine the other. We learn of the connection between Alice and Peter as we flit into and out of the great country houses of England and yet juxtaposed is the less salubrious evidence of working class ambition. Ralph’s eventful childhood in 1930s Valencia is gorgeous, and succulent with the heat and tempestuousness of a country on the brink of war. As the story moves to the eventful years of the Second World War, the connection between the characters becomes more evident and secrets start to emerge with shattering consequences.

Initially, the book gets off to a slow start which I think reflects rather well, as there is much to take in, both with the different characters who flit into and out of the story, and with the complexity of the settings, which are all described in wonderful detail. The evolution of the story is done with a deft hand by an author who knows and understands how to control a complicated plot and who by the end of the novel has delivered a wonderful family drama with an entirely appropriate ending.

I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Review ~ Honeyville by Daisy Waugh

Harper Collins
November 2014

Two women. Worlds apart. One town built on sin.

When a blood stained letter is delivered more than a decade after it was written, the long buried secret of a violent past comes hurtling back to journalist, Max Eastman, and reminds him of his involvement with two very different women during the miner's strike in Colorado during the Ludlow massacre of 1914.

On the surface, Inez Dubois and Dora Whitworth should never have met, but when they witness a violent murder, an unlikely friendship is established between Inez, a respectable librarian, and Dora who works as a whore at the Plum Street Parlour house, in the town colloquially named Snatchville, in Trinidad, Colorado. Almost by default, the two women are drawn into a violent time when seemingly ruthless men incited violence and sedition amongst a working class who had little or no hope of restitution.

What then follows is a story about the political and emotional ramifications of a town at war with itself and of the ruthless ambition of unscrupulous men who with violence and intimidation used fear as the ultimate control.  Overall, the story held my attention. I enjoyed getting to know both Inez and Dora, they are both feisty heroines and deserving of centre stage in a novel which never shies away from the violence of the times and which ultimately focuses on the power of friendship and the overwhelming sadness of betrayal.

I enjoyed this look at a period in American history of which I knew nothing. I thought the author did a commendable job of allowing the story to evolve slowly and the fine attention to historical detail really made the story come alive. I enjoyed it.

Daisy Waugh is a novelist, columnist and journalist. She has worked as an Agony Aunt, a restaurant critic, a property reviewer, and a general lifestyle columnist for many years – most recently for the Sunday Times. She writes a monthly column for the magazine Standpoint, and has worked for radio and TV.


Sunday 23 November 2014

Sunday War Poet ~ Author's Choice ~ Elisabeth Gifford

Continuing my Sunday theme on the poets of the Great War

I am delighted to welcome


Sharing her choice of WW1 poem

Adlestrop ~ Edward Thomas 

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

This poem does not mention the war, but rather sums up all that is precious to those who went to fight. Edward Thomas loved the English countryside and this moment is taken from a rare stop during a train journey to stay in a cottage with his family for the summer, a fleeting glimpse of something beautiful and passing. Soon the great steam engine will grind into motion and propel them away into a future they cannot prevent. It’s a moment that is even the more precious as it is now being seen as a distant memory. The day is now gone, the place only a name, and yet it remains as something precious and enduring in the poet’s mind. It feels as though this might be part of a conversation held by soldiers waiting in their bell tents somewhere in France and reminiscing about England.

Thomas joined up late in the war and, as his wife feared, he did not survive. In this poem, he seems to both understand what will be lost to him if he dies, and also why he was willing to fight and to defend a way of life he held so dear.

One of the impulses in writing my recent novel, Return to Fourwinds, was to show the continuing damage that many returning soldiers endured as they began their lives after the Great War. Using family anecdotes, I attempted to recreate the life of a Manchester soldier who has been gassed in World War One and so is unfit for physical work, the result being that his family struggle to make ends meet. You can read the extract here.

18149907 17934610
UK and US edition



My thanks to Elisabeth for sharing her thoughts about Adlestrop and for her insightful explanation into why Adlestrop is important to her.


Saturday 22 November 2014

Review ~ The Lie by Helen Dunmore


A young man stands on a headland, looking out to sea. He is back from the war, homeless and without family.

For Daniel Branwell, newly returned to his native Cornwall, from the battlefield trenches of northern France, life is never going to be the same again. Tortured by the loss of  Frederick, his childhood friend, Daniel seeks to find some sort of resolution, and in the windswept corner of his Cornish home village, Daniel anguished and bereft, can only flounder from one set of tormented memories to another.

Beautifully written and in stark and often desolate prose, Daniel’s story intertwines with that of Felicia, Frederick’s gently grieving sister, whose own devastating loss overshadows any hope she has for the future. The story develops slowly, oh, so slowly, so that you truly get the chance to delve into Daniel’s psyche and learn to see the world through his eyes, and far too often, it’s a world that is found to be wanting.

In this commemoration year of the start of the Great War I have read quite a few books which uncover the thoughts and feelings of a lost generation of young men and women. Of lives, irrevocably changed by the momentous events of what they witnessed during the years 1914-1918. Without doubt, The Lie is up there with the best of the current crop of WW1 commemoration reads.


Friday 21 November 2014

Review ~ The Twilight Hour by Nicci Gerrard

Penguin UK
Be with me now, at the twilight hour....

Eleanor Lee lives alone her house by the sea, but aged ninety-four and almost blind, Eleanor is a source worry for her family who try to persuade her to move into care. A whole lifetimes of possessions need to be tidied away but Eleanor needs to do this without her family being involved. When Peter Mistley, a young friend of her grandson Jonah, is enlisted to help catalogue Eleanor’s personal effects, a whole range of secrets are exposed.

What then follows is a well written account of a life encumbered by memories and as Peter starts to delve into Eleanor’s life there develops a rich closeness between them and a gradual drawing together of both the old and the young which is especially poignant. I found the book easy to read and very quickly became involved in the detritus of Eleanor’s life. I think the author really got into the minutiae of daily life and emphasised that we all have secrets and that all too often the discovery of these hidden away memories can leave us feeling vulnerable and exposed.

All in all, a good light read with interesting characters and well thought out storyline.

My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books UK and Real Readers for my copy of this book.


Thursday 20 November 2014

Book Launch and Giveaway ~ The Blood Dimmed Tide by Anthony Quinn

Anthony Quinn is an Irish writer and journalist whose first novel Disappeared was acclaimed by the Daily Mail as 'unquestionably one of the crime novels of the year, written in peerless prose.’ It was shortlisted for a Strand Literary Award by the book critics of the GuardianLA TimesWashington PostSan Francisco Chronicle and other US newspapers. It was also listed by Kirkus Reviews as one of the top ten thrillers of 2012. His short stories have twice been shortlisted for a Hennessy/New Irish Writing award.

The Blood-Dimmed Tide is the first in a series of three historical novels set in Ireland during WWI and the War of Independence.  He lives in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.


Book Launch

 20th November 2014

No Alibis Bookstore Belfast at 7pm

Free entry – No tickets needed

More information here 

No Exit Press
Oldcastle Books


London at the dawn of 1918 and Ireland’s most famous literary figure, WB Yeats, is immersed in supernatural investigations at his Bloomsbury rooms.
Haunted by the restless spirit of an Irish girl whose body is mysteriously washed ashore in a coffin, Yeats undertakes a perilous journey back to Ireland with his apprentice ghost-catcher Charles Adams to piece together the killer’s identity.
Surrounded by spies, occultists and Irish rebels, the two are led on a gripping journey along Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast, through the ruins of its abandoned estates, and into its darkest, most haunted corners.
Falling under the spell of dark forces, Yeats and his ghost-catcher come dangerously close to crossing the invisible line that divides the living from the dead.

Anthony will be back on the blog on the 29th November answering questions about his book but in the meantime here's your chance to win your own copy


The Blood Dimmed Tide.


Wednesday 19 November 2014

Review ~ The Widow Makers by Jean Mead


Nineteenth century Wales is brought to vivid life in this family saga which takes the reader from the coal mines of Lancashire, to the slate quarries of North Wales. Following a devastating tragedy Joe Standish, his wife, Emily and their small son, Tommy, leave behind friends and family in Lancashire to start a new, and hopefully, better life in Wales.

Following the fortunes of this family makes for an enjoyable read, one which is made all the more interesting by the author’s fine eye for detail and interesting use of dialect, particularly in the Lancashire sections. All too often vernacular can be overdone, but as a Lancastrian, I found the colloquialisms realistic and appropriate. It was interesting to see the progression this family made during their time in Wales and the direct contrast between the working classes and the upper class quarry owners is done well and demonstrates the difference in social status.

There is no doubt that the author has a keen eye for social observation and combines this with an obvious love of history and a well thought out storyline. The Widow Makers is a good start to a trilogy which I am sure will only go from strength to strength as the story progresses.

The Trilogy

11420521 22072315

  More about the author can be found here


Tuesday 18 November 2014

Review ~ The Thursday Night Club by Steven Manchester

The Story Plant
18 November 2014

A Tale of Christmas Spirit

The Thursday Night Club are a group of five college friends who meet every Thursday on Izzy and Ava’s front porch to share in good food and the joy of close and happy friendship. They are comfortable and familiar in each other’s company and the light hearted banter shared between them reiterates just how important they are to each other. When tragedy strikes the group, they decide to honour the spirit of their friendship and show just how simple acts of kindness can have a profound effect, not just on their own behaviour, but it also demonstrates just how the gift of hope can be transferred to others.

I have now read several stories written by this author and thoroughly enjoy the way he is able to get right into the minutiae of daily life and is able, in just a few words, to tug away at your heart strings. I found much to enjoy within the story, the homely atmosphere of being seated at the old wooden table on the front porch conjures such a lovely an image of warmth that I felt like I wanted to curl up near the steamer trunk, cover myself with one of grandmother’s colourful crocheted Afghans, and settle into my own Thursday Night Club.

The overall theme of friendship, love, life and helping others is written in perfect detail and whilst the novella is, in many ways, a quick read, it is not light on content and as the story draws you in, you begin to understand the need we all have for simple human kindness and shows how compassion for others is something to be cherished.


Steven Manchester

Coming in January 2015

My thanks to the author for my review copy of The Thursday Night Club


Monday 17 November 2014

Happy Publication Day ~ Hush Hush by Gabrielle Mullarkey

I am delighted to introduce

Gabrielle Mullarkey

Author of

17th November 2014
Corazon Books

Hush Hush by Gabrielle Mullarkey

Widowed a year ago, thirtysomething Angela has retreated into her shell, reluctant to dip a toe back in the job market – let alone the dating game. Between them, her bossy mum and her best friend gently nudge Angela back to life, persuading her to find a job and even try a solo holiday – which ends with a luggage mix-up and an encounter with a rugged Irishman called Conor.

Back home, Angela resolves to take her new romance slowly, particularly as Conor’s (non-holiday) baggage includes the original ‘child from hell’ and a temperamental ex-wife with Pre-Raphaelite hair. Since Angela’s never liked winging it, is a future with Conor too uncertain to contemplate?

But as she’s about to discover, her old life was far less secure than she thought. And the past won’t let go until she confronts its long-buried secret.

Gabrielle ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo.....

What makes you want to write stories?

There’s an impulse that comes from deep within, and I’ve often heard other people say the same about their own great passion, whether it’s baking, walking, gardening, raising a child … we’re engaging all the time in these fulfilling creative acts. I’ve understood that impulse a little better while studying for my MSc in creative writing for therapeutic purposes. The course showed how creative writing can release one’s inner voice, whether it’s refugees telling stories that no one has wanted to listen to before, or people who pick up a pen for the first time since leaving school and discover they can write a poem or a story! 

Do you write for yourself or other people?

A bit of both. That urge to spill characters, their voices and dilemmas onto paper is partially cathartic. Equally, a story is something the teller wants to share, as opposed to confiding innermost thoughts to a journal. That means I take the reader into consideration, which in turn affects how I shape the writing. You want to be entertaining, clear, and you want the reader to turn to the next page!

Where did the idea for Hush Hush come from?

In the book, thirtysomething widow Angela meets Conor on a holiday flight from Morocco, buttonholing him about a contact lens she might have lost in his in-flight meal. It was loosely inspired by my own encounter an Irishman with a hint of russet, three years earlier. I met my swain in a crowded pub in Co Kildare one hot August night when he approached me with the classic line, ‘is this your jumper? I found it on the seat next to me.’ Twenty-two years later, ‘our song’ isn’t People Will Say We’re In Love or Because You’re Mine. It’s the Sultan of Pings FC classic, Where’s Me Jumper? He also went about for a decade harbouring the misconception that I’d deliberately chucked my jumper onto an adjoining seat, a variation on the coyly dropped hanky. Which got me wondering – how much do we know about each other, and how readily do we find evidence to endorse our own preconceptions and first impressions?

According to John Lennon, life happens when you’re busy making other plans – or in Angela’s case, when you’re deciding not to make too many at all. But who knows what impact a forgotten jumper or missing contact lens can have on someone’s destiny?

What was the most difficult aspect of writing the story? How did you overcome it?

I underestimated the cathartic elements of the story, which became more obvious as I was writing it. My own background, growing up in suburban Kent in an Irish family, seeped unwittingly into my writing, if only through comedic asides – such as the time I printed hundreds of clock cards upside down in a factory job I did after my A-levels! I realised I was using humour to deal with memories that were actually quite raw, but that was no bad thing – it allowed me to distance myself from painful episodes, while also ensuring I wrote for the reader. On a practical note, I was living beside noisy neighbours as I drafted the book, and evolved a routine where I had to make the most of hours they were out. It was beyond frustrating at the time, but probably helped me just get on with it! 

Do you write the type of books you like to read and which authors influence you?

I think I have to write the sort of book I’d read myself or I’d quickly get bored and risk my voice coming across as inauthentic. I devour a couple of novels a week, time permitting, and my tastes are quite catholic, although as soon as I discover someone who makes me think, ‘wow!’, I try to read everything in their canon. At the moment, I’m very taken with Laurie Graham for her characters’ dry prose, F G Cottam’s supernatural mysteries – which treat the reader as an intelligent, deductive being – and Douglas Kennedy for his evocative dialogue. This week, I’ve read Joseph O’Connor’s Ghost Light, in which an ageing Irish actress looks back on her love affair with the playwright Synge. The language is wonderful, almost Joycean. 

What's next?

My second novel, A Tale of Two Sisters, is due out in spring, and recounts the fallout from an ongoing feud between two siblings with nothing in common – except an overlapping taste in men! I’ve also nearly finished a novel about a man whose life is thrown into turmoil when he finds a letter that his birth mother wrote to his adoptive mother years earlier, telling the story of why she ‘abandoned’ him. I love inhabiting different characters – and I hope that love comes across in my writing! 


Praise for Hush Hush:

"A gentle, funny romance." Sarah Caden, Sunday Independent

"A witty and irreverent insight into the nitty gritty of life." Helen Murray, The Irish News

Praise for Gabrielle Mullarkey:

"Readers love Gabrielle’s fiction for its range – whether atmospheric mood pieces or contemporary slices of life, all revolve around imaginatively twisty plots packed with sassy dialogue, characters you feel you know and ‘I didn’t see that coming!’ moments." best 

Gabrielle - thank you so much for spending time with us . It's been a pleasure to host this interview. Jaffa and I wish you much success with Hush, Hush and look forward to seeing what you do next.


My thoughts about Hush Hush

There is much to enjoy in this gentle, romantic story, which looks at the unpredictability of love and life, and focuses on the overshadowing effect of long buried secrets. 

Told with wit and humour and fine attention to detail, Hush, Hush, takes a very ordinary character and imbues in Angela all those characteristics we find in ourselves. Recently widowed, and long out of, both the dating game, and the adult job market, Angela is reluctant to open up her life to the scrutiny of others but bossed around by her mother and her best friend, Angela is encouraged to take charge of her life again. However, from the offset this is not going to be easy, as Angela has lots of obstacles to overcome and panic is never far from the surface. Over the space of the novel, I enjoyed getting to know Angela, sometimes she irritated me, but overall, I  wished her well.

I read the story over the space of a couple of afternoons. It’s a light read, easy to pick up and put down and filled with nice observations about life in general. I enjoyed it.

 My thanks to  Ian Skillicorn at Corazon Books for my e-copy of this book.


Sunday 16 November 2014

Sunday War Poet ~ Author's Choice ~ Karen Maitland

I am delighted to welcome to my blog


Sharing her Sunday WW1 Poem

When I was a child I went to stay with an elderly great aunt who’d never married, but who always wore a slender engagement ring. I loved it, but was curious about why she never removed that particular ring, even to do the washing-up. When I finally plucked up the courage to ask her and she said simply - ‘I wear it for someone who never came back.’

Then she went to her bedroom and brought down a faded book of Rupert Brooke’s poems. She opened it at this poem ‘Fragment’ and told me to read it. ‘When you’re old enough to truly understand that poem,’ she said, ‘you’ll understand why I always wear this ring.

We never spoke of it again, but when she died she left me the book of poems and the ring. I wear the ring constantly myself now. It’s thin with age, but I wouldn't part with it. I never did discover the name of the person she’d lost. Rumour in family was that she was engaged to a First World War pilot who was killed in action. I don’t know if that is true, but I wear the ring for my aunt and for all the unnamed ones who never returned. 

And this poem still chills me. We are all ghosts in waiting.

Fragment ~ Rupert Brooke

I strayed about the deck, an hour, to-night
Under a cloudy moonless sky; and peeped
In at the windows, watched my friends at table,
Or playing cards, or standing in the doorway,
Or coming out into the darkness. Still
No one could see me.

                                          I would have thought of them
—Heedless, within a week of battle—in pity,
Pride in their strength and in the weight and firmness
And link’d beauty of bodies, and pity that
This gay machine of splendour ’ld soon be broken,
Thought little of, pashed, scattered. …

                                                                        Only, always,
I could but see them—against the lamplight—pass
Like coloured shadows, thinner than filmy glass,
Slight bubbles, fainter than the wave’s faint light,
That broke to phosphorus out in the night,
Perishing things and strange ghosts—soon to die
To other ghosts—this one, or that, or I.


Karen Maitland is the best selling author 


Company of Liars The Owl Killers The Gallows Curse The Falcons of Fire and Ice The Vanishing Witch


The Raven's Head

 Due in August 2015

Huge thanks to Karen for sharing her personal memories of this poem and for explaining why
Fragment by Rupert Brooke is so important to her.


Thursday 13 November 2014

Review ~ The Reluctant Elf by Michele Gorman

Notting Hill Press
13 November 2014

Single mother and extremely undomestic goddess, Lottie, has five days to become the ultimate B&B hostess to save her beloved Aunt Kate’s livelihood.

When Aunt Kate ends up in the hospital, Lottie and her seven-year-old daughter are called to rural Wales to stand in at the B&B. Without the faintest idea how to run a hotel (she can barely run her own life), Lottie must impress the picky hotel reviewer and his dysfunctional family who are coming to stay over Christmas. Without the rating only he can bestow, Aunt Kate will lose her livelihood.

But will Danny, the local taxi driver who she hires to help her, really be Santa’s little helper, or the Grinch who stole Christmas?

A ramshackle B&B in rural Wales is the setting for this delightful Christmas read. Following a devastating accident to her aunt Kate, Lottie and her seven year old daughter Mabel, arrive in Wales, ostensibly to take over running their aunt’s guest house, however, they are dismayed to find that the B&B, far from being a rural retreat, turns out to be something from a hammer horror film. The faded elegance and shabby chic of this rural idyll and the way in which Lottie enlists the help of local taxi driver Danny to help her turn the business around, forms the basis of the story.

From the beginning I loved the story, the setting, and the characters, who made me, laugh out loud. It has a wonderful light hearted charm and whilst it’s a quick read, I read it in one sitting over the course of a rainy afternoon; it really helped to lighten my mood and provided great escapism.

So, if you want something to cheer you up on a cold wintery day – put the kettle on, grab a cup of tea, and a packet of chocolate hob nobs, and immerse yourself in The Reluctant Elf.


Watch the You Tube Video 

Michele Gorman

My thanks to Notting Hill Press for my review copy of this book.


Wednesday 12 November 2014

Review ~ Forgotten Authors. ~ Scottish Lost Treasures


As more publishing companies have disappeared, and with them many great books which might never be reprinted, Palimpsest is seeking to save Scottish literary classics. The first list will be launched in October 2014 .

Marriage by Susan Ferrier

Anonymously published in 1818, Susan Ferrier’s Marriage, is the first of her three published novels, and combines the story of a scandalous marriage, a dysfunctional family and the rich portrayal of nineteenth century life. Reminiscent of the style of Jane Austen, there is much to enjoy in the clear prose and fine attention to detail. Once I got accustomed to the overall writing style, I rather enjoyed being immersed in this long forgotten way of life. The author is adept at writing about what she knows and I would think that the social traditions she so clearly describes would have been part of her social background. It is commendable that the rise of e-publishing allows a forgotten author another chance to share their stories with a new audience.

Gillespie by J. MacDougall Hay.

The austerity of nineteenth century life is explored in this powerful novel which examines social conscience amongst the Scottish working classes. The eponymous Gillespie Strang is a ruthless and devious man, not likeable in any measure, out to fill his own pockets at the expense of the working class fishing community in which he lives.

Overall, I found the novel difficult to read, not because it was badly written, far from it, it’s a weighty tome. However, I felt that the Scottish dialect made the story difficult to scan easily and left me feeling frustrated and, I must admit, rather downhearted. Not a book to read if you dislike heavy prose, and certainly not joyous in any measure but it works as an example of nineteenth century literary fiction.

Ringan Gilhaize by John Galt.

The troubled history of Scotland’s seventeenth century Covenanters forms the basis of this novel which follows the fortunes of Ringan Gilhaize, whose religious and political conflict is explored in great detail. I found the story ponderous in the extreme and, I’m afraid it’s not one I found I could read easily or with any great enthusiasm. Throughout, I was reminded of the work of Sir Walter Scott but found that even making the comparison with Scott’s work, there was something entirely lacking for me in Ringan Gilhaize. Some works succeed in being brought alive again, sadly for me this concept didn’t work with this forgotten story.

My thanks to Real Readers for the opportunity to read again the work of thses forgotten Scottish authors.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Armistice Day....

The eleventh hour of the eleventh month in 1918 saw the signing of the Armistice at Compiรจgne in France which marked the end of hostilities on the Western Front of World War One.

Today we remember.

Like sentinels they stand. 

A crimson tide set against the smoothness of ancient stones,

An army of remembrance.

And with hearts weeping tears like rain, 

We gather together the lost ones and the loved ones,

And remember that for our tomorrow they gave their today.

© J. A. Barton


In Our Family - We Remember

Private John Hopkins
The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Died 24 January 1919


The five Whalley brothers who went to fight in the Great War 
who all returned safely home.

Driver Frederick Arkwright
Royal Army Service Corps
Died 1 February 1945

Buried Schoonselhof Cemetery 
Antwerp, Belgium