Saturday 31 January 2015

Review ~ The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth

Headline Review
January 2014

I'm the only one who knows the secrets her friends have hidden, the mistakes the police have made.
I'm the only one who can warn her she's still in danger.
I know exactly who attacked her.
He's the same man who killed me.

The Life I left Behind is a clever psychological suspense story which takes the concept of a gross miscarriage of justice and turns it completely on its head by allowing the principle narrators to be the voices of two women, one of whom has already died, and the other who is so badly damaged by a traumatic incident that she has no recollection of what has happened to her.

The story is compelling on two levels. The first, is that the woman who has died gives a unique insight into the whys and wherefores of the case and second, is that the unreliability of the other narrator ensures that you are never really sure if her version of events is credible or not. Fleshing out the police procedural part of the story is a female DI who has more than enough domestic angst in her private life to make her question her judgement once the case is reopened in light of new evidence.

This is a real roller coaster of a read with more than enough twists, turns and red herring to keep you turning the pages. So many times, I thought I had figured out who the perpetrator was, only to have another spanner thrown into the works and for me to reconsider and go in a completely new direction.

I love books which allow me the luxury of reading something which keeps me guessing from start to finish, with characters that perplex and beguile in equal measure, and with dramatic content that makes me want to read on and on and on....

I am fast becoming a real fan of domestic noir and there is no doubt that The Life I Left Behind is up there with the best of the genre.

Colette McBeth

My thanks to Book Bridgr and Headline Review for my copy of this book.


Friday 30 January 2015

Author spotlight ~ Michael Obiora

 I am delighted to welcome Author and Actor

Michael Obiora 

Open Box Productions

Michael ~ Welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us today about your latest novel, Vivian's Couch...

What gave you the idea for writing Vivian's Couch?

 Vivian was the anger management therapist for the protagonist in my first novel, Black Shoes. I really enjoyed communicating through her so I made a note to myself to one day have her as the lead in a story I write. She's not necessarily the lead in my new book, but she's definitely the tie that binds all the characters. I also thought it would be challenging to write through the eyes of a female character because as a man, I know that I don't see everything in the world the same way a woman does. And in terms of the story idea, as somebody who achieved success as an actor at a very early age, I know from first hand experience that people can put you on a pedestal because on the surface you appear to "have everything". And maybe sometimes I've been guilty of playing up to that in the past. But at the end of the day I believe we are all a lot more similar than we think, or even care to admit. I wanted to show people from different ethnic backgrounds, and different walks of life all suffering in some way (I really wanted to make sure I put a football player in there because although it's getting a bit more press now, depression in sport is still a subject that I don't think is touched on enough). All trying to find out who they are, where they're going. The characters are different ages and status, but they are all lost and suffering from an identity crisis. They are all crying for help. These are issues that are not attributed to one type of person.

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

The most difficult aspect of the writing of the story was making sure I gave all the characters a unique voice. In my first novel the protagonist was also the narrator, and I found that so much easier than writing about multiple characters from a birds eye view. I think it comes from the fact that I'm an actor so it's part of my job to see things through other people's eyes. So this time round I deliberately decided that the characters would be more evenly spread, and that the majority of the story wouldn't be written in the first person.

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be? 

I one hundred percent live with my characters when I write. I dream about them, and I've actually had dreams from certain characters' perspectives. This happens more to me as an actor, but it can become quite obsessive and I find the process of writing lonely. There have been times when I've said to my wife "do you remember when such and such happened?" and she would look at me confused, and then I'd realized "such and such" had never actually happened before but that it's a part of a story I'm writing or thinking about writing!

How do you manage to balance writing with your everyday life and what do you do to relax?

It's not hard to balance writing with my everyday life because my life has never had a structure. I started working as an actor when I was nine years old and the BBC used to pick me up from school for filming at lunchtime. Or some days it was the other way and they'd drop me back to school. Some days I would film all day and we'd have a tutor on set, then I'd be dropped home in the evenings, and then I'd work for an hour at my local newsagent stacking shelves. Sometimes I'd do a paper round for the same newsagent in the morning, and then go to filming. So I've always been good at keeping plates spinning - even more so when I'm busy. When I was nineteen I wrote my first book in between scenes in my trailer. It was easier knowing that I had one or two hours, so I'd be completely focused. I find writing so much more difficult when I'm not busy as an actor. I have my own publishing company so I set my own deadlines and it's not always easy to stick to that when nobody is putting pressure on me - although I'm certainly not asking for anybody to put pressure on me! It definitely has it's pros and cons. But fortunately because I've been working from such a young age I'm very self motivated and disciplined.
I travel a lot and have a wide range of interests so writing would never get in the way of my life. Besides, without life experiences what are we going to write about? Both my books are fiction but they're inspired by fact.

What’s next?

As an actor I'm currently starring in Sky Atlantic's epic eleven-part crime thriller Fortitude. We spent six months filming it in Iceland and it has an amazing international cast. Maybe there will be another series in the future. And as a writer I've got a diary of poetry that I've been keeping since I was about fourteen. I go from being very prolific in my poetry writing, to not being so much. But I've got a nice collection that I'm thinking about publishing. I'd also like to bring out a children's rhyming book - with diverse characters, this is very important to me. And I have another idea for a story partly set in the world of Nollywood (Nigeria's Hollywood).

Black Shoes: Reality Check  Vivian's Couch

Huge thanks to Michael for sharing such an insightful view into the life of a busy actor and writer. Jaffa and I wish you continued success.

You can follow Michael on Twitter @michaelobiora
or visit his website here

My thoughts about Vivian's Couch can be found here.


Thursday 29 January 2015

Review ~ Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle

29th January 2015

** Out  January 29th in Paperback and eBook**

In Sisters of Treason, the author weaves together historical fact and fiction and brings to life the story of the enigmatic Grey sisters, who together with their more tragic sister, Jane, were forced to live within the ominous shadow of the Tudor crown, and who were destined to leave their own mark on Tudor history. 

In the aftermath of the execution of Lady Jane Grey, Mary Tudor’s court is a scheming hive of plot, counter-plot and malice, and for the Grey sisters keeping close to the Queen is not a comfortable arrangement. However, keeping your enemies close is a theme which will reverberate throughout the reigns of both Tudor queens.

Told in the combined voices of sisters, Katherine and Mary Grey, and also of Levina Teerlinc who is a court painter, we are given a unique insight into just what life was like at the centre of Tudor politics, and of how both Katherine and Mary were always kept within a hair’s breadth of the Tudor crown. Both sisters lived a tragic life which is sensitively and emotionally explored in this novel which covers both the reigns of ‘Bloody Mary’, and her more charismatic, but no less terrifying sister, Elizabeth.

There is no doubt that this new voice in historical fiction really knows how to bring the royal court alive in a believable and realistic way. Beautifully written and meticulously researched, Sisters of Treason, abounds with danger and political skulduggery. It offers a unique insight into a royal court where being a potential Tudor heir and female was fraught with danger, and which, ultimately would have no happy ending for any of the trio of Grey sisters.

I am completely captivated by the strength of historical detail in Sisters of Treason. The sheer readability of this novel takes you back in time and leaves you feeling that you are walking the same cramped corridors of power, to a place where the whisper of candle smoke reminds you that deadly and uncompromising danger is always just a heartbeat away.

I am already eagerly awaiting Elizabeth Fremantle’s next historical novel 
 Watch the Lady is due to be published in June 2015.

Elizabeth Fremantle

Elizabeth Fremantle holds a first in English and an MA in creative Writing from Birkbeck. As a Fashion Editor she has contributed to various publications including VogueElle,Vanity Fair and the Erotic Review. Sisters of Treason is her second book following on from Queen’s Gambit(2013).

**Queen’s Gambit has been selected as a World Book Night 2015 title**


My thanks to Francesca Russell at Penguin UK for my copy of this book.


Wednesday 28 January 2015

Costa Book of the Year ...

H is for Hawk


Helen  MacDonald

Jonathan Cape

From the age of seven, Helen Macdonald was determined to become a falconer. She learned the arcane terminology and read all the classic books, including TH White’s tortured masterpiece, The Goshawk, which describes White’s struggle to train a hawk as a spiritual contest. When her father dies and she is knocked sideways by grief, she becomes obsessed with the idea of training her own goshawk. She buys Mabel for £800 on a Scottish quayside and takes her home to Cambridge. Then she fills the freezer with hawk food and unplugs the phone, ready to embark on the long, strange business of trying to train this wildest of animals. 

About the author

Helen Macdonald

FalconShaler's Fish
Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, illustrator, historian and affiliate at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Her books include Falcon (2006) and Shaler’s Fish (2001). H is for Hawk won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction.


Tuesday 27 January 2015

Review ~ Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Hodder & Stoughton
November 2014

Jenna Metcalf was just a baby the night her mother disappeared from the New Hampshire Elephant Sanctuary where they lived. Now, ten years later, Jenna enlists the help of disgraced physic, Serenity and disillusioned ex cop, Virgil Stanhope, in the hope of uncovering new evidence which may lead her to her mother whereabouts.

This multi stranded novel unfolds in several different voices all of whom have a part to play in the eventual outcome. The mystery at the heart of the novel is well explored and makes for compelling reading. Jenna is a feisty protagonist, vulnerable and ferocious in equal measure and the way she systematically sets out to find her mother is commendable. However, it’s the background research into elephant behaviour which is the real strength of the novel and it becomes utterly fascinating to learn just what makes these majestic creatures act the way they do.

There is no doubt that Jodi Picoult is the master of her genre, she holds the reader in the palm of her hand and doesn’t let go until the story is finished. 

Without doubt,  Leaving Time is difficult to put down and is one of my favourite of Jodi Picoult's books to date.


Monday 26 January 2015

Review ~ Lamentation by C J Sansom

Shardlake Book 6


The latter days of the reign of Henry VIII are overshadowed by political and religious strife. No one who has any religious conviction feels safe to worship any religion other than that which is dictated by the King. For Queen Catherine Parr, Henry’s last stoical Protestant Queen, there are forces at work who would like to see nothing more than her downfall. When the Queen’s highly controversial confessional book goes missing, Shardlake is enlisted to track down the book on the pretext of looking for a missing jewel. Should anyone discover the real reason for Shardlake’s investigation, then the Queen, and all who are associated with her will be brought down.

Sansom writes about the Tudor age with great conviction, and allows Shardlake, as always, to take centre stage. The superb attention to detail, from the closeted elegance of the Tudor Court, through to the raggle-taggle print works in Paternoster Row, takes the reader on a journey through the vagaries of life in London during 1546. The noise, the stink, the sheer perversity of living alongside cut purses and murderers, as well as the stirrings of religious mania gives Shardlake one of his most complicated investigations. It’s a real joy to watch the pernickety lawyer and his dastardly sidekick, Jack Barak, go about solving such a convoluted murder mystery.

It’s a hefty read, well over 600 pages, filled with the usual subplots, red herrings and dangerous subterfuges, and if I have to be a little bit picky, I would say that its about 200 pages overlong, however, having said that, the story flows well; the political and religious turmoil is written about with great authority and the portrait painted of the failing Henry VIII, is both poignant and terrifying in equal measure.

I can’t see any time soon when Sansom’s legions of fans don’t demand another Shardlake adventure. The ending of this one certainly lends itself to a continuation and  I for one, can’t wait to see where Shardlake's story goes next.

C.J. Sansom

Sunday 25 January 2015

Sunday War Poet...

Vlamertinghe: Passing the Château, July 1917


Edmund Charles Blunden

" AND all her silken flanks with garlands drest " — 
But we are coming to the sacrifice. 
Must those have flowers who are not yet gone West? 
May those have flowers who live with death and lice? 
This must be the floweriest place 
That earth allows; the queenly face 
Of the proud mansion borrows grace for grace 
Spite of those brute guns lowing at the skies.

Bold great daisies, golden lights, 
Bubbling roses' pinks and whites — 
Such a gay carpet! poppies by the million; 
Such damask! such vermilion! 
But if you ask me, mate, the choice of colour 
Is scarcely right; this red should have been much duller.

Edmund Charles Blunden


Edmund Charles Blunden was an English poet, author and critic. He was born in London in 1896, moving with his family to Kent shortly afterwards. He was educated at Christ's Hospital and Queen's College, Oxford. Blunden was commissioned into the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1915 and served in France and Belgium from 1916 to 1919, fighting on the Somme and at Ypres. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1917.


Saturday 24 January 2015

Review ~ Vivian's Couch by Michael Obiora

Open Box Production

Kieran Ledley is the world’s most expensive football player, he is also one half of glamour couple “Kier-rissa,” and his step-brother is about to be released from prison.

Freddie Abani is the MP for Woundham, who was touted as London’s potential first black Mayor - until the summer riots.

Rupal Advani is a former policewoman and is now a marijuana addict.

Gemma and her struggling filmmaker husband Pete Newman, are trying to save their marriage.

Vivian Moses is a therapist, and they all have her in common.

This book is not something I would normally have picked up but when approached by the author to read and review it, I was taken in, firstly by the simplicity of the cover, which is, I think, quite striking, but also, because, the overall premise of the story intrigued me.

We read so much about the people who relish being in the spotlight, and watching snippets of the recent celebrity big brother, only reiterates just how vulnerable are people when they are, supposedly, just being themselves. In reality they are as angst ridden and perplexed as the rest of us.

In Vivian’s Couch the author succeeds in bringing a gritty realism to the world of the therapist and of the intertwining of lives which have been irrevocably damaged by circumstances. Although it’s a relatively short read, coming in at just over 164 pages, there is a clear understanding of taking the reader on a journey. Once you get used to the author’s distinctive style of writing, which is, at times, quite dark and gritty, the diversity of the characters start to come together and this then gives the book its realistic edginess.

Overall,I think that Vivian's Couch is an interesting and thought provoking read about the vagaries of modern life.

Michael Obiora

Michael Obiora is an actor and writer. His first novel – BLACK SHOES, was published in 2009
 His second novel VIVIAN’S COUCH, a prequel to Black Shoes, was released in December 2014.


Thursday 22 January 2015

Review ~ The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones.


A jumble of entries, written in different hands, different languages, and different times. They tell of a rumour. A shadow. A killer.

The only interest that Oxford Professor Charles Meredith has in the diaries is as a record of Hungarian folklore ... until he comes face to face with a myth.

For Hannah Wilde, the diaries are a survival guide that taught her the three rules she lives by: verify everyone, trust no one, and if in any doubt, run.

But Hannah knows that if her daughter is ever going to be safe, she will have to stop running and face the terror that has hunted her family for five generations.

And nothing in the diaries can prepare her for that. 

Read. Believe. Run.

The String Diaries is one of those unusual stories which focuses your mind on the unbelievable and causes you to suspend belief from what you know to be good and true. It starts off in a visceral and quite terrifying way with Hannah Wilde, her husband and small daughter apparently on the run from danger and persons unknown. Hannah’s fear is palpable and her instinctive need for survival makes her distrustful not just of her surroundings but also of the circumstances in which she finds herself. 

I must admit that this sort of story is a bit out of my comfort zone but I do so like clever writing which takes me away from the ordinary and prompts me into thinking about something which is just a little bit different. There is no doubt that this is a praiseworthy debut for a new writer. The imaginative way the reader is drawn into a world of myths and shadows, alleged killers and uncanny shape shifters is to be commended. 

To disclose more about this cleverly produced story would risk the wrath of future readers as there is no other way to talk about it but to reveal both plot and malice and that would be unfair. 

So, if you want a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat, which makes you look up from reading and wonder where you are, or if you just like a rollicking good story with a well driven plot and satisfying conclusion they you could do worse than give this one a try.

Stephen Lloyd Jones

Stephen Lloyd Jones grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire, and studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London. He now lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and far too many books. His first novel,The String Diaries, is available in paperback from Headline.

 His second novel, Written in the Blood was published by Headline in November 2014.

November 2014


Tuesday 20 January 2015

Review ~ The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

15th January 2015

If you've ever sat in a train and watched as the lives of others pass by in a blur or when the train has slowed down to a crawl maybe you've stared into kitchens and dining rooms and seen people quietly going about their daily business, it’s a bit of fun to wonder what their lives are like, but in reality we take it no further. In this psychological suspense story, Rachel fantasises about the lives of a couple she sees every day on her daily commute to London. Jess and Jason, as she thinks of them, are everything Rachel is not and therein lies the temptation for Rachel to construct a life for them which has no correlation with real life, the problem starts to take over when the blurred edges of fantasy encroach on reality.

There’s been much hype around the publication of this debut psychological suspense story and I was thrilled when I received my review copy. It was with great excitement on a cold and wet afternoon that I stepped onto the train with the girl and started to read; but by about a third of the way into the story I was becoming increasingly disappointed. I kept reminding myself that any time soon I was going to start to enjoy the book, after all, everyone else seemed to have enthused about it, so why was I not connecting with the story more?

I can’t say that it’s because the book is badly written, it’s not, it’s good and clever and oh, so sharp in places that you can’t help but be drawn into the whole sorry turn of events. But then, I realised, it was the three main female characters I didn't like very much. I found them rather clichéd; the psychologically damaged and alcoholic ex-wife, the suspicious new wife and the troubled wild child, all jostled for my attention but none of them made inroads into my heart and therein was the crux of the problem. None of them made me care enough, and I think that’s why the book didn't quite work for me. I suppose one could argue that the whole premise of the story is not reliant on the characters being likeable, after all it’s a psychological suspense story involving characters who are all supremely flawed individuals, but it would have meant a great deal more to me, as a reader, to be able to connect and even sympathise with them at some sort of basic level.

In a way it was a relief when the final dénouement arrived and confirmed my suspicions of whodunnit, and even that didn't come as a huge surprise; there had been more than enough hints. Sadly, I was just thankful that the journey was over and I could now step away from the girl on the train with almost a sense of relief. 

....And yet, all is not entirely lost, there’s a lingering whisper at the back of my mind that if ever I'm caught day dreaming on a train journey, I might just start to wonder what’s going on behind the slatted blinds of suburban England.

The more I read, the more I realise, that every reader is unique, just as every writer is unique and not all of us will like the same story and will have a myriad reasons for not doing so.



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


Monday 19 January 2015

Author Spotlight ~ Linda Huber

I am delighted to welcome Linda Huber back to my blog to talk about her book 

Legend Press

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for The Cold Cold Sea?

Two things happened way back in the nineties. I was researching my family tree and came across a distant little cousin who had drowned in the 1940s, aged just eleven, in a Glasgow swimming pool. I was shocked that I had never heard of this child. Not long afterwards I had a letter from a friend, very upset because a friend of hers had suffered a similar tragedy in her own family. That really started me thinking – how do parents cope in this kind of nightmare situation – and what happens if they don’t cope? That was the start of The Cold Cold Sea.

What can you tell us about the story which will pique the reader's interest?

I think it’s clear to the reader quite near the start what is going on in The Cold Cold Sea – the suspense is more in how the characters deal with the situation they find themselves in. So many people have said to me ‘I wanted to reach into the book and hug/shake/yell at X, make them do the right thing, tell them it was going to be okay.’ I found it interesting that while some people wanted to hug X, others would much rather yell…

Your writing is very atmospheric – how do you ‘set the scene’ and how much research did you need to do in order to bring -The Cold Cold Sea to life?

As a child I spent several summer holidays in and around Newquay, and I absolutely loved it. I’ll never forget those breakers crashing up the beach, or the colours of the sea as it shimmered in the sunshine. All the time of writing The Cold Cold Sea I was back there in my mind – it was lovely! 

The school setting was no problem either, as I’ve worked in several schools over the years and know what goes on in a classroom. I’ve also worked with people under severe stress, so I was able to take some aspects of that into the book too. 

Most of the research I did for this book was geographical, and as always the world wide web had most of the answers!

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

For me, the hard bit is leaving large chunks of my characters’ lives out of the story. When you write about people you really get to know them, and it’s all too easy to include too much detail that’s of no interest to the reader because it takes them away from the main story for too long. As a writer, I find it almost impossible to stand far enough back from my own work to judge if I’ve balanced it well – this is where you need someone whose opinion you value and who knows what they’re talking about. And then you need to give yourself a mental kick and take their advice! 

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How do you feel about them when the book is finished? Are they what you expected them to be?

I love my paper people, and I hope that comes across in the way I write about them. The situation in The Cold Cold Sea is dreadful for them so it wasn’t easy, putting them through such a nightmare. As for ‘finished’, that’s tricky too – this is my second book and for the second time I was gutted when my editor said, ‘That’s us, we’re done now’ – and I had to accept that never again could I change something that Maggie felt, or give Phillip more insight into what he had to do, or…

I don’t know what I expected them to be, but I do hope they come over as real people.

How do you manage to balance writing with your everyday life and what do you do to relax?

Writing is my relaxation! My day job is teaching, I’m in Adult Education, but as I work part time I have plenty of opportunity to go jogging or walking, my main ‘switch off’ hobbies. I get a lot of ideas then too. I think writing merges with everyday life too, as so many ideas come from brief encounters with various people.

What’s next?

My main work-in-progress at the moment came from just such a ‘brief encounter’ at a family wedding – it’s about a couple who are in the process of adopting a child, and then…

Another project is almost ‘finished’ too, but I’m not sure what I’m doing with that one yet – you can join me watching this space!

You can find more about Linda on her website here
Twitter @LindaHuber19

My thoughts about The Cold Cold Sea

Three year old Olivia Grainger disappears from the Cornish beach where she has been happily collecting seashells and for her parents, Colin and Maggie, their worst nightmare is about to come true. Meanwhile, not too far away, Jennifer is settling into her new home and preparing her daughter, Hailey, for school. On the surface, these two families have nothing to connect them but by a series of clever manipulations the story reveals how all too easily people can be duped into believing what they think they see.

From the start, this clever psychological suspense story draws you into a web of deceit which is so deftly manoeuvred that at times you really do have to stop and take a breath. The writing is very good, the plot credible and the whole premise of the novel works well because of the believability of the characters involved. The anguish of Colin and Maggie is so well done that their devastating terror at the loss of Olivia is palpable and deeply upsetting. Jennifer, on the other hand, is a skilled manipulator; she is supremely flawed but no less fascinating because of that, however, it is her treatment of Hailey which will have every parent itching to make a phone call to social services. Jennifer’s husband Philip, largely absent in America for much of the action of the story, gets drawn into the mêlée largely by default but his bewilderment is credible and his actions understandable. However, the real star of the novel, for me,  is Hailey who shows wisdom and tenacity far beyond the scope of her tender years.

To say more about this excellent novel would be to do both the book and the author a complete disservice. The Cold Cold Sea deserves to be read, as I did, in one sitting on a cold and blustery day, when the scudding clouds overhead cast as much a shadow on the world as did the book itself.

 My thanks to Linda for sharing her novel with me and for allowing us a fascinating glimpse into the writing of The Cold Cold Sea.


Linda is also the author of The Paradise Trees and was an author contributor on the recently published  anthology Winter Tales

The Paradise Trees Winter Tales: Stories To Warm Your Heart


Sunday 18 January 2015

Sunday War Poet..

Break of Day in the Trenches


Isaac Rosenberg

The darkness crumbles away.
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver — what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in man’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe —
Just a little white with the dust.

Isaac Rosenberg was an English poet and writer. His WW1 Poems from the Trenches are considered to be some of the most outstanding poems of the war period. In 1916 he was sent with his battalion, The King's Own Lancaster Regiment to the Western Front.

He was killed on 1 April 1918.


Saturday 17 January 2015

Review ~ The Edge of Dark by Pamela Hartshorne

The Edge of Dark
Pan Macmillan

Be Careful What you Wish for....

Roz Acclam has just been appointed as the events manager at the newly renovated Holmwood Hall in the city of York, a fifteenth century town house, once the home of a prominent York family. From the beginning the dark and brooding nature of the house overwhelms Roz and as she starts to experience sights, sounds and sensations from the past, it is obvious that someone within the house has unfinished business.

In 1569, Jane is the eldest daughter of York butcher Henry Birkby. Her social standing and lack of beauty do not bode well for a good marriage and so plain Jane has resigned herself to being forever in the shadow of her more beautiful and flighty younger sister, Juliana. When an offer of marriage is made to Jane from the prestigious Holmwood family, she is amazed when her new bridegroom, Robert, is neither ill favoured, nor as ugly as a toad.

With skilful storytelling, a dramatic story emerges of two women both badly damaged by life events and of two marriages affected by circumstances. By using Roz as a conduit, every aspect of Jane’s bizarre married life is revealed and the very real drama being played out by Jane and Robert Holmwood in the sixteenth century becomes as compelling and just as convincing as the very modern marriage dilemmas being faced by Roz and her husband Nick.

The malign forces at play in Holmwood House have survived throughout the centuries and the immersion into the past in such a visceral and realistic way only emphasises the idea that just on the edge of dark, twixt night and day, is the most powerful time, and there is no doubt that the gut wrenching fear which is stirred throughout the novel powerfully evokes the edge of dark.

With each successive novel, Pamela Hartshorne’s writing goes from strength to strength. There is no doubt that she has captured the idea of the time slip/dual narrative historical novel to perfection and she continues to enthral, beguile and entertain.

Recommended if you like dual time narratives by Barbara Erskine, Susanna Kearsley, Rachel Hore.

Pamela Hartshorne

Amazon UK


Friday 16 January 2015

Guest Post ~ Hannah Fielding

I am delighted to welcome Hannah Fielding back to the blog
to tell us how music inspired her novel

Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: she writes full time, splitting her time between her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.

To date, she has published two novels. Burning Embers is a vivid, evocative love story set against the backdrop of tempestuous and wild Kenya of the 1970s, reviewed by one newspaper as ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’. The Echoes of Love is a story of passion, betrayal and intrigue set in the romantic and mysterious city of Venice and the beautiful landscape of Tuscany.

The theme song for Burning Embers

Music is a great source of inspiration for me, whether classical or modern and in any language. I have a huge repertoire of songs from all over the world that I listen to while doing my research, and it helps me create the initial atmosphere for my story. Sometimes I put music on in the background while I write as well, carefully selected to reflect the mood of the particular chapter I’m working on.
In Burning Embers, as well as running a prosperous plantation, Rafe owns a nightclub, The Golden Fish: a high-class, palatial establishment with a majestic cliff-top location overlooking the tempestuous ocean. This chapter is charged with emotion – sensuality, jealousy, frustration. It’s a setting imbued with soul and sexuality, and as I wrote, the melody of Fausto Papetti’s saxophone provided the perfect romantic ambiance.

Other than Papetti, the music on my Burning Embers playlist can be grouped as follows:

African music: The Kenyan setting is vivid in the book, and to really put myself in the place as I wrote I listened to African music. I especially liked music with a strong drum beat – the natives near Coral’s plantation use the drum in the book to signal danger.

Music from the era, 1970: The heroine, Coral, may have come to live in Kenya, but she has lived for many years in England and, as a woman of her time, is comfortable in Western culture. So as I wrote I listened to songs I thought she would listen to, like  Elvis Presley’s ‘Suspicious Minds’, and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ ‘Tears of a Clown’, and Andy Williams’ ‘Can't Help Falling in Love’.

Later, while browsing YouTube, I found the song ‘Burning Embers’ by singer/songwriter Kendall Payne. It’s soulful and gently lulling, and once she got to the chorus I was hooked – the lyrics ‘You feel like burning embers / You feel like coming home / You feel like my forever’ instantly made me think of Coral and Rafe in my novel Burning Embers.

©Hannah Fielding

Burning Embers is now re-released with a beautiful new cover.

London Wall


Coral Sinclair is a beautiful but naïve twenty-five-year-old photographer who has just lost her father. She's leaving the life she's known and traveling to Kenya to take ownership of her inheritance – the plantation that was her childhood home – Mpingo. On the voyage from England, Coral meets an enigmatic stranger to whom she has a mystifying attraction. She sees him again days later on the beach near Mpingo, but Coral's childhood nanny tells her the man is not to be trusted. It is rumored that Rafe de Monfort, owner of a neighboring plantation and a nightclub, is a notorious womanizer having an affair with her stepmother, which may have contributed to her father's death. Circumstance confirms Coral's worst suspicions, but when Rafe's life is in danger she is driven to make peace. A tentative romance blossoms amidst a meddling ex-fiancé, a jealous stepmother, a car accident, and the dangerous wilderness of Africa. Is Rafe just toying with a young woman's affections? Is the notorious womanizer only after Coral's inheritance? Or does Rafe's troubled past color his every move, making him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine?


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

 ©Hannah Fielding

More about Hannah can be found here:

My review of Burning Embers can be found here...

**At time of writing - Both Burning Embers and Echoes of Love are currently just 99p - Amazon UK**


Thursday 15 January 2015

UK Launch ~ The Curvy Girls Club by Michele Gorman

The Curvy Girls Club made its American debut in June, becoming a USA Today bestseller, 
called “a laugh-out-loud and heart-warming tale” by Publishers Weekly 
and "witty and engaging" by Sophie Kinsella. 

January 15th 2015  is its UK Launch Date

Published by AVON 
January 2015

Pixie, Ellie, Katie and Jane have been best friends since meeting at Slimming Zone. Tired of being judged on the number of calories they consume, they decide to form a different kind of club. The fun evenings they spend together, not worrying about their size, make them happier than they've been for years!

But the club doesn’t stop real life from getting in the way and together the girls have to address some much bigger issues than just their weight…

Will Pixie ever be brave enough to leave her abusive husband Trevor? Can Jane ever regain her confidence and go back to work as a TV presenter? Will Katie always carry a torch for the office lothario? And what if Ellie lets her all-consuming jealousy destroy her relationship with ‘The One’?


The Curvy Girls Club is available in all ebook formats and paperback from 15th January in the UK

Amazon UK
Amazon US

My Review of The Curvy Girls Club

Enjoying life rather than counting calories forms the basis of this story which looks at the way society views body image but which does so in a way that most of us can relate to. Katie Winterbottom and her friends become disillusioned with attending a weekly slimming club, only to find that the pounds they lost in weight the week before have been mysteriously added back on. Determined to enjoy themselves they form The Curvy Girls Club which becomes, almost overnight, an instant success. What then follows is a heartfelt look at how female friendship evolves and of how all too often, the expectations of society unfortunately define the person we are, rather than the person we want to be.

I enjoy Michele Gorman’s novels. She manages to get right into the heart of the novel and captures with a light and easy style of writing the very essence of female friendship. Her characters literally bounce of the page and very quickly you become immersed in their story, which will have you laughing out loud one minute and fighting tears the next.

The Curvy Girls Club is a warm and witty look at a topic, that of body image, which all too often we shy away from, and yet, this novel shows that size really doesn’t matter,  but good writing does, and this delivers fine writing in abundance.

My thanks to Michele Gorman and Notting Hill Press for sharing this book with me.