Saturday 28 February 2015

Review ~ How to Make a Friend by Fleur Smithwick

Random House - Bantam Press
January 2015

I was intrigued by the cover and the title of this book for two reasons. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, I wondered how do we really make friends,  as most of my friends I seem to have made without conscious effort and secondly, the paper cut-outs on the book cover reminded me of spending hours with intricate paper cut-out books as a child, they were always such a  treat when I was unwell or in need of comfort.

And then it struck me that this book is about someone constantly in need of comfort, as Alice is initially such an isolated child, and the reassurance of having a friend like Sam is one bright spot in an otherwise rather sad childhood. As Alice grows to maturity, from necessity, she puts away her childish needs and Sam for a time disappears until a traumatic incidence brings him back into Alice's life.

What then follows is a microscopic look at the way families interact and of the way that our characters are largely influenced by own role within that family. Alice is emotionally fragile and vulnerable and when Sam reappears, no longer a child like figure, Alice needs to make some difficult choices.

A rather slow start to the book makes this a little hard going in places however, once the story starts to develop I felt that the narrative became more interesting.  The idea is original and quirky and a good example of analysing complex personalities and I felt that the author did a reasonable job of bringing Alice’s story to life.

My thanks to Netgalley and Random House UK Transworld Publishers for me ecopy of this book.


Friday 27 February 2015

Review ~ A Dream of Lights by Kerry Drewery

Harper Collins Children's Books

It began with something so simple.
A dream.
Of a city like no city I had ever seen before.

Firstly, I want to reiterate just how important book covers are - visually, I think this book is quite stunning and the rider "The only thing they can't take is your hope” is the underlying theme which runs throughout Yoora's story.

Yoora, and her parents and grandparents, live in a small settlement in North Korea, a place were neither hope nor charity is allowed to flourish.  Emotionally sterile and devoid of all compassion, Yoora and her family face hardship on a scale which we, in the ‘civilised’ west can barely imagine. And yet, hope is allowed to linger in hidden corners and as Yoora and her family face tough challenges, you can’t help but be drawn into the significance of their plight.

The story is beautifully written, with a fine eye, not just for the history and genetic makeup of a country at odds with itself, but also with a deep understanding of the power of the human spirit.  A Dream of Lights really gets into the heart of what it is like to live under such a fierce regime. Life is unbearably hard for Yoora and her family and horrendously shocking, and yet, the strength of the narrative ensures that this fictional story really gets its message across, and shows that determination and the will to succeed is a fundamental human right, whilst at the same time forcibly reminding us, that we should never forget those for whom life is a constant struggle against almost impossible adversity.

Aimed at the young adult market, this is one of those books which easily crosses the great divide into adult fiction, and as such, is well worth reading by a wider audience.


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

You can read an interview with Kerry Drewery 
where she talks about her inspiration for A Dream of Lights

UKYA Extravaganza is an event happening on 28th February in Birmingham and is showcasing 35 great YA authors from all over the country.

 It’s an opportunity to meet, mingle and chat about all things YA.



Thursday 26 February 2015

Review ~ The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

July 2015

The Book of Life is the place where history, science, magic and romance combine and where the All Souls trilogy finally reaches its dramatic conclusion.

The Book of Life is the third and final part of the All Souls trilogy in which vampire scientist, Matthew Clairmont and his wife, historian and witch, Diana Bishop, search for the elusive alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, which is also known as The Book of Life.

The story is intense, complicated and filled to bursting with historical references to vampires, witches and daemons, and as the search for the mysterious Ashmole 782 gets underway, nothing and no-one is allowed to get in Matthew and Diana’s way. The ever present threat to their ordered world is real, their fear is tangible and the terrifying urgency of their search is controlled in a remarkably realistic way. Old grudges are allowed to fester, whilst forgotten resentments and malevolent forces constantly seek to outwit them. However, with a little help from their friends, true goodness will overcome pure evil and light will eventually shine through the darkness.

As the story draws to its inevitable conclusion, there is a definite sense of wrapping up all the loose ends, and after such an epic journey it’s gratifying to see some sort of resolution take place. My only criticism is that without prior knowledge of the previous two books in the trilogy, this book would be almost impossible to read, as so much of this story is reliant on what has gone before. My advice would be to start at the very beginning and take the journey into the All Souls trilogy alongside Matthew and Diana. I'm sure you won’t be disappointed.

I read this book as part of the Love Reading Panel.

The paperback of The Book of Life will be available from all good book shops from the 9th April 2015.

Amazon UK

My thanks also to NetGalley and Headline for my digital copy of this book


Wednesday 25 February 2015

Review ~ The A-Z of You and Me by James Hannah

12th March 2015

A crocheted blanket of memories and a young man lost in the reminiscences of life is the main focus for The A- Z of You and Me. Ivo is dying and is struggling to find any comfort in his memories. When his hospice nurse, Sheila, encourages him to concentrate on the A-Z game and think of stories or memories associated with alphabetical parts of his body, at first this seems a little outlandish, but gradually, piece by jagged piece,  Ivo learns to analyse the story of his life and tries to make sense of those people who have tried to make his life important.

This is a very different view of a difficult subject and the author confronts death and dying in very contemporary style which neither sensationalises nor patronises the journey Ivo has taken. Ivo makes no apology for the life he has led and whilst he is blunt to the point of rudeness, neither wanting nor needing anyone, there is, under the bravado, an aching vulnerability which I found to be quite heartbreaking.

In many ways it’s an emotional read, both sad and funny in equal measure but also quite uplifting about the power of the human spirit and how, in the end, we all need to reach out to each other as we never really know when or how our own journey will end.

Overall, a commendable debut novel from an author who I am sure will continue to go from strength to strength.

My thanks to Transworld / Doubleday Publishers for my review copy and for the chance to take part in their knit a square project which is associated with the publication of this book.


Tuesday 24 February 2015

The author in my spotlight is ...Josa Young

I am delighted to welcome



Published by Keyes Ink
December 2014

Josa ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for sharing your thoughts about the writing of
Sail Upon the Land.

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for Sail upon the Land ?

Thinking about what did or didn't happen in the Malabar Caves, in E M Forster's Passage to India.

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

Sex is not a straightforward thing like a game of tennis for most women, it has consequences - although the media and much modern fiction would have you think it is just a bit of 'naughty fun'. I beg to differ. 

The women who came to visit my mind when I started writing Sail Upon the Land had different reactions to those consequences, and not all straightforward or rose tinted. 

Having children is no more or less emotionally devastating now than it has ever been, although physically it is less alarming due to medical advances. 

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 never expect anything when I start writing. I have no control over my characters. When I have finished and go back to read what I have written, I am always startled by what they get up to. It is like opening a cupboard and finding clothes you have forgotten about, in which you had wonderful or dreadful experiences.

Which character in the story did you identify with the most?

None of them, but we can only write sincerely and in a believable way when we can emotionally understand what is happening to our characters, however different it might be from our own reactions to life.

Are you a plotter...or ...a start writing and see where it takes you, sort of writer?  

I feel extremely uncomfortable when I read about other writers with their flow charts, post it notes, excel spreadsheets and bits of useful software. I do simply write, and hope a first draft is a starting point. When concentrating, I hold the whole thing in my head - which is a leaky vessel at the best of times. It is probably hopeless as a technique and is the reason why I could never teach creative writing - the idea of technique is alien to me.

There are only a very few plots in the world so everything one writes falls into one of them. There is nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon perhaps. The only differentiating factor is the writer's 'voice' - if a reader enjoys that, then they will be carried through that writer's particular version of whichever plot or plots are before them.

We are all fascinated by our fellow humans, what they get up to. A good novel should reveal fresh things about our common humanity or reinforce things we have already thought. It should give rise to thoughts in the reader's mind that have NOT been thought by the author. 
For me, this is the most rewarding thing about writing fiction. When I read a review where the reader has shared a startling thought about what I have written that is absolute bliss.

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

It was when I read books by Mary Wesley and Marika Cobbold years ago that I thought maybe I could join in. Wesley is not fashionable now - due for a revival I think.

What’s next ?

There are two books just coming to a simmer in my mind, not nearly developed enough for sharing yet.

Twitter @JosaYoung

Thank you for having me on your blog!

Josa ~ It was real pleasure to host this interview with you. jaffa and I wish you continued success and look forward to reading your next book before too long.


My thoughts about Sail Upon the Land

Sail upon the Land is a multi generational family saga which, with great perception and insight, spans over eighty years and allows the stories of four very different women to be heard. From crumbling stately mansions in middle England, to the neglected splendour of an abandoned Indian hill station, a story of a family in turmoil starts to unfold. And, as the all too complex relationship between mothers and their daughters is opened up to scrutiny, it shows just how tragically the bonds of motherhood can be eroded by secrets and lies. There’s heartbreak, tragedy, and despair but also a perceptive understanding of human nature which is beautifully observed, and so realistically evoked, that I had to remind myself, whilst reading, that this was indeed fiction and not fact.

Seamlessly moving between past and present, the author conjures a bygone time with ease and as the story flits between time frames, a picture emerges of lives ruined by secrets and overshadowed by hopelessness .There is no doubt that the author has a skill for storytelling and is able to layer the story so logically that everything becomes real in the imagination. I found that I had rather more sympathy for some characters over others, and there’s one in particular who holds a special place in my heart. I was quite sorry when the story came to its conclusion as I could have continued reading about this family forever.

Overall, I thought this was a fascinating story and I am so looking forward to seeing what this talented writer comes up with next.


Monday 23 February 2015

Bloggers on the Blog...Liz Loves Books

Bloggers on the blog

My latest Monday feature showcases some of the best of my book blogging community. 

These are the unsung heroes who are constantly on the look out for new and exciting books 

and who give so generously of their time, energy and expertise.

So come and meet the Bloggers who Blog.


I am delighted to introduce



Liz Loves Books

Liz welcome to Jaffareadstoo

and thanks for taking part in our

10 questions in 10 minutes....

What makes you want to blog about books?

I read a book I want to talk about it. People got fed up with me blathering so now I BLOG about it. Read a book, love a book, review a book. Although to be fair with me at the moment it’s often "Read a book love a book, add it to the "write a review" list as I can't wait to get onto the next! I then splurge and do several in a few hours.

What type of book makes you happy?

Anything that gets the blood pumping. Example: Pierce Brown and the Red Rising trilogy. Nearly drove me insane but I loved it so much. I can't even tell you the range of emotions that I went through reading both Red Rising AND Golden Son.

Which book have you recommended the most?

The Humans by Matt Haig. The book that saved my life. I am determined that everyone on the planet will have read it before I die.

Which is the best book you received as a gift?

My first copy of "To Kill a Mockingbird" Now well worn and tattered it was given to me by my Dad who has not been with us for many years.

Which book has sent a shiver down your spine? 

Oh most recently Revival by Stephen King. But the book above all others that made me hide under the duvet was House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewsky

How many books do you have, as yet unread, on your book shelves?

Oh gosh I have NO idea. I have bookshelves full of books I've not YET read. Probably over 200. Its just the way I like it!

Tell me about a book you’ve read more than three times?

I've read all the John Connolly Charlie Parker series multiple times.  And expect to do so again. They are so haunting, beautifully written and addictive I can't get enough.

What’s your idea of book heaven or book hell?

Book Heaven: A new Courtney Summers (or add ANY of my fave authors there)  book, 2 hours, coffee and no-one to bother me. 

Book Hell : Anything involving the term "New Adult" What IS a New Adult anyway? 

Where is your favourite reading place?

My big comfy swivel reading chair with a blanket and often one of my kids curled up with their book beside me.

What has been your favourite book of the far ? 

So far? Difficult. But I'd have to say "Normal" by Graeme Cameron. That book KILLED me. I dare anyone to read it and hold the moral high ground.

You can find Liz on her website

Twitter @Lizzy11268

My thanks to Liz for giving so generously of her time

Jaffa and I love your blog

Long may it continue.


Sunday 22 February 2015

Sunday War Poet ...

This is the last of my WW1 love poems

in February.

Greater Love


Wilfred Owen

Red lips are not so red
As the stained stones kissed by the English dead.
Kindness of wooed and wooer
Seems shame to their love pure.
O Love, your eyes lose lure
When I behold eyes blinded in my stead!

Your slender attitude
Trembles not exquisite like limbs knife-skewed,
Rolling and rolling there
Where God seems not to care:
Till the fierce love they bear
Cramps them in death’s extreme decrepitude.

Your voice sings not so soft,—
Though even as wind murmuring through raftered loft,—
Your dear voice is not dear,
Gentle, and evening clear,
As theirs whom none now hear,
Now earth has stopped their piteous mouths that coughed.

Heart, you were never hot
Nor large, nor full like hearts made great with shot;
And though your hand be pale,
Paler are all which trail
Your cross through flame and hail:
Weep, you may weep, for you may touch them not.

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen

(1893- 1918) 

Was born in Oswestry, Shropshire. In 1913 he went to France for two years to work as a language tutor. He began writing poetry as a teenager. In 1915 he returned to England to enlist in the army and was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment.

 On 4 November 1918 he was killed while attempting to lead his men across the Sambre canal at Ors. The news of his death reached his parents on 11 November, Armistice Day


Thursday 19 February 2015

Review ~ Wilderness Trail of Love by Dorothy Wiley

American Wilderness Book 1

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Set in 1797, this romantic adventure takes the reader on a thrilling journey into the “brave new world” of the early American pioneers. Stephen Wylie has a thirst for land, and his search for his dream lifestyle means uprooting his wife and children from their home in New Hampshire, to travel into the wilderness of Kentucky. Their journey is fraught with danger and Stephen and his lovely wife, Jane, must face untold difficulties and heartbreak as they trek along the pioneer trail. However, it is their overriding passion for each other which holds the family together and which forms the basis of the story.

The book is professionally finished to a very high standard, and the light and easy style of writing compliments an engaging storyline. There is good attention to detail and the historical setting appears appropriate for time and place. I knew very little about the early American pioneers, but the author writes with authority about a period of history with which she is familiar, and this certainly helps to make the story an enjoyable and worthwhile read. The introduction of other major characters lends itself very nicely to a continuation of the story in further books, which I am sure will expand and develop the story of the Wylie family as they settle into the unfamiliar territory of a new lifestyle.

The romantic and sensual cover art depicts accurately that this story is primarily a romantic read; however, there are enough thrills and spills in the narrative to satisfy those readers who also like historical adventure. I have no hesitation in recommending Wilderness Trail of Love as an enjoyable and exciting romantic adventure.

Reviewed for the Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews


Wednesday 18 February 2015

Review ~ Sanctuary by Robert Edric

Random House UK
Transworld Publishers

In 1848, Branwell Bronte returns to the parsonage at Howarth after yet another failed attempt at a career. He is full of self pity, hindered by crippling doubts and struggling with mental illness, he is his own worst enemy, and yet, glimpses of his tortured genius can still be seen in this fictional account of the last year of his life. The author has done a commendable job of bringing Branwell to life and has, with some sympathy, allowed his voice to be heard. Time and place is captured really well, and there is a definite sense of the world changing around him and as society moved forward, Branwell was inevitably left floundering in the wake of his more successful and fascinating sisters.

There's something intriguing about the Bronte family which continues, long after their deaths, to perplex and enthral. Anyone who has ever visited the Bronte parsonage in Howarth will have stopped to wonder at the way in which the harsh and often brutal landscape of the Yorkshire moors shaped all their personalities to such an extent that the very essence of them still lingers in the shadows, and you half expect to catch a glimpse of them sitting at table, pens poised at the ready. Somehow, there's a huge sense of disappointment that lingers around Branwell Bronte, as all too often he stands lost in the shadow of his more charismatic sisters. However, that doesn't mean that he missed out on his share of genius, he was simply troubled by circumstances, lack of ambition and a lingering sense of not quite knowing his place in the world.

Having a story based on one of the lesser known Bronte siblings is an inspired choice of historical fiction, and is well worth a read if you are as intrigued by this enigmatic family as I am.

My thanks to NetGalley and Transworld for my ecopy of this book.


You can read more about the Bronte's here

In the footsteps of the Brontes

©Digital Images - John D Barton


Tuesday 17 February 2015

Review ~ Second Life by S J Watson

Random House UK
Transworld Publishers
January 2015

We all have secrets.....
This is one of those books which hits the ground running and takes an unstable and unreliable narrator who has so many personal problems that it’s hard to know where to begin. Julia is grieving the loss of her sister who has died in tragic circumstances and in order to rationalise the shock and horror, she starts a series of events which, ultimately, will have dramatic consequences on everyone around her. Pressing the self destruction button seems to come easily to Julia, she has issues going back years, which are revealed piecemeal throughout the story and which have damaged her , almost beyond repair. But it is the unlikely scenario of being drawn into the dark and dirty world of cyber sex where the book really starts to bite.

I suppose, given the spectacular achievement of the author’s debut book, Before I go To Sleep, there was huge anticipation about this much awaited second novel, and the expectation that it couldn't possibly outshine his first success has given rise to lots of comments. I think, before you start this one, you have to put Before I go to Sleep completely out of your mind and take this novel for the gift it is. It’s well written, nicely observed in places and has enough angst, counter plot and malice to see it through to an exciting conclusion. I found Julia’s story quite gripping in places, sure, there were times when I had to suspend belief, and say to myself ...”really...would she have been so incredibly naive?”....but, good writing, at least, gives the  reader the privilege of being able to take a glimpse into an ordered life that suddenly becomes completely skewed.

So, overall, I thought it was a job well done. It kept my attention from beginning to end and whilst the dénouement didn't shock me entirely, it was an ending which I hadn't really seen coming.

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


Monday 16 February 2015

Winter Siege by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman


"An absorbing re-creation of the 12th Century . . . this is a fast-moving story of humbler folk caught up in cruel battles." (The Independent)

"A strongly flavoured tale, thoroughly researched and well imagined, and the siege itself is magnificently vivid and exciting" (Guardian)

"Told with colloquial vigour, a gripping narrative." (Sunday Times)


Run, run, girl. In the name of God, run.

1141. A mercenary watches from the icy reeds as a little girl with red hair is attacked by his own men. He is powerless to stop them.

But a strange twist of fate brings them together again. Sheltering in a church, he finds the girl
freezing cold, close to death, clutching a sliver of parchment. And now he is certain of what he must do.

He will bring her back to life. He will train her to fight. And he will protect her from the man who calls himself a monk, who lost a piece of parchment he will do anything to get back . . .

An epic account of the brutal winter when Stephen and Matilda tore England apart in their battle for its crown – when atrocities were inflicted on the innocent, but bravery found a home in an old solider and a young girl.


One child holds the key to peace. One man will stop at nothing to silence her . . .

It’s 1141, and in the harsh and dangerous world of medieval England, the war between Stephen and Matilda gathers momentum. The people of the Cambridgeshire fens eke out a lowly living surrounded by convoluted rivers and reed beds, and bring up their children amongst the tree branches of willow and alder. Raising the four thousand eels needed to pacify the Bishop of Ely, and keeping the protection of St Ethelreda is their greatest worry, until the construction of a new castle for Hugh Bigod, the new Earl of Norfolk, takes away their men folk. 

Em is a young fen lander, whose striking red hair puts her in the very path of danger and links her fate with that of the mercenary soldier Gwil, and also of Maude of Kenniford, the sixteen year old chatelaine of Kenniford Castle in Oxfordshire. On the surface this disparate trio have nothing in common but the events of winter 1141 binds them irrevocably together in a story which abounds with treachery, intrigue and overwhelming danger.

I have long been a fan of the historical fiction writing of Ariana Franklin and was saddened to hear of her death in 2011.  When the opportunity came around to read and review Winter Siege, Ariana’s last standalone historical narrative, completed by her daughter Samantha, I was interested to see how the book would work out with someone else’s hand at the helm. So, I started the story with some trepidation, but needn't have worried as Winter Siege drew me in from the beginning. There is no doubt that the unmistakable hand of Ariana is present in the heart and soul of the novel, but there is also an underlying freshness to the story which is evident in the lightest of touches and in the fine attention to emotional detail. 

I’m sure that Winter Siege will not only appeal to Ariana Franklin’s legions of fans but will also guarantee Samantha Norman a career in historical fiction should she choose to pursue it.

My thanks to Naomi Mantin at Penguin Random House UK, Transworld Publishers for my copy of this book.

Winter Siege is available in paperback from all good book stores.


Sunday 15 February 2015

Sunday War poet...

The theme for this month's WW1 war poems



I think this poem, written by Edward Thomas for his wife Helen is a fitting tribute

for  Valentine's Weekend.

And you, Helen

And you, Helen, what should I give you?
So many things I would give you
Had I an infinite great store
Offered me and I stood before
To choose. I would give you youth,
All kinds of loveliness and truth,
A clear eye as good as mine,
Lands, waters, flowers, wine,
As many children as your heart
Might wish for, a far better art
Than mine can be, all you have lost
Upon the travelling waters tossed,
Or given to me. If I could choose
Freely in that great treasure-house
Anything from any shelf,
I would give you back yourself,
And power to discriminate
What you want and want it not too late,
Many fair days free from care
And heart to enjoy both foul and fair,
And myself, too, if I could find
Where it lay hidden and it proved kind. 

Phillip Edward Thomas 

(1878  - 1917)

Was an Anglo-Welsh writer of prose and poetry. He is commonly considered a war poet, although few of his poems deal directly with his war experiences. Already an accomplished writer, Thomas turned to poetry only in 1914.

He enlisted in the army in 1915, and was killed in action during the Battle of Arras in 1917, soon after he arrived in France.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Thursday 12 February 2015

Paying it Forward ~ The Ice Twins by S K Tremayne

The book I'm giving away this month is a paperback ARC of The Ice Twins by S K Tremayne

So, if you haven't read and would like to..leave a comment on here and I'll draw the winner on the 19th February...

UK only folks.

Harper Collins
January 2014

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

Amazon UK


This giveaway is also open to those groups on Facebook of which I am a member
and also on my personal FB page.


Tuesday 10 February 2015

Review ~ The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen

Random House UK
Ebury Publishing

The idea of an alternate Tudor history has long fascinated me. There’s always been the hopeful glimmer of what might have happened had Anne Boleyn not miscarried of the boy who would have been her saviour. In The Boleyn King, Laura Andersen imagines what English history would have been like if, indeed, Henry and Anne’s son had survived. 

The boy king, Henry IX, known as William, is about to come into his majority leaving aside his mother’s brother, George, who has acted as the young king’s regent, since Henry VIII’s death. William’s mother Anne Boleyn , now the dowager queen, still  retains her charismatic hold over the English court.

What I found fascinating in this interpretation, and we must remember that this is indeed historical fiction, was the way that life at the English court was presented in such realistic detail, with the major historical characters still keeping the faults and foibles for which they have long since been known. Mary, is still aloof and largely unmanageable, whilst Elizabeth remains the shrewd operator, hopelessly, in love with Robert Dudley.

The story is told through the eyes of two main protagonists. Minuette, is a sweet and loving creature, closely attached to Elizabeth as one of her ladies in waiting, and Dominic, William’s closest male confidante, all have been friends since childhood. Now in early adulthood, this story charts their lives and loves, the dangers they all face from being so close to the crown and of the people who would see them all destroyed.

Overall, this is very readable romantic historical fiction. It delivers a nice blend of deadly intrigue combined with shades of romance, which I found to be quite refreshing. The story kept my attention from the beginning and, if I’m honest, being a Tudor purist, I enjoyed it, rather more that I thought I would.

The Boleyn King is the first in a series of alternate Tudor history novels:

Laura Andersen

 My thanks to NetGalley and Random House, Ebury Publishing

 for the chance to read and review this book.


Monday 9 February 2015

Author Spotlight ......Helena Fairfax

I am delighted to welcome

Helena Fairfax

Helena ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for telling us all about your latest novel,
 A Way from Heart to Heart

Accent Press

Thanks for inviting me today, Jo!

Helena, where did the idea for A Way from Heart to Heart come from?

It’s a couple of years since I started writing this novel. I was asked this question recently, and I really had to think hard - until I remembered! One of the seeds of inspiration came from watching the film Love, Actually. There’s a scene where Keira Knightley discovers her husband’s best man has been secretly in love with her for years. I remember thinking what incredible strength of character the friend must have had to keep his love secret all that time. When the best man disappears from the film I wondered what happened to him. Where did he go? Did he love again?

What can you tell us about A Way from Heart to Heart that won't give too much away?

There is a way from heart to heart is an Afghan proverb I discovered whilst researching this novel. The saying is perfect for my title. I wanted to write a story that shows love of all kinds – between parent and child, between best friends, between lovers, and the intensity of teenage love. I wanted to show that people have an incredible gift for reaching out in love to one another, across all ages and cultures.

Do you write with a particular audience in mind?

That’s a great question. I’ve really had to think hard about that one! I guess when I first have an idea for a story, it’s something I personally want to tell. Of course as I write the story down, I have to think of my audience. I have to write in a way that I know will engage readers, that will make people identify with my characters, and that will make them want to keep turning the pages.
I don’t have a particular audience in mind, though, and I find it a shame that there are categories such as “women’s fiction” or “chick-lit,” as it puts many men off from reading novels that are character-driven and about relationships. The men I know who have read my books – and who would never otherwise have picked up this type of novel – have been surprised at how much they’ve enjoyed them. My husband even missed his stop on the train because he was so engrossed!

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

I do love to read stories with an uplifting ending, and so the answer would be yes, I write the type of books I like to read! I read prolifically – everything from sci-fi and crime to graphic novels. As far as women’s fiction or romance goes, it would be so hard to choose one author over another as an influence, because collectively they’ve had a massive effect. I love Rowan Coleman, Julie Cohen, Sue Moorcroft, Jennifer Crusie, Kristan Higgins, Courtney Milan, Adele Parks, Fiona Harper, Liz Fielding, Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, Colleen McCullough, Catherine Gaskin, Angela Thirkell…The list goes on and on!

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

I try and write for a couple of hours every day. If I can’t manage that much, then even just half an hour or a snatched few minutes here and there. I’m a very slow writer, though, and have made a resolution this year to try and increase my word count.
My favourite place to write is sitting on my settee, with my dog asleep next to me. It’s very peaceful then – unless the postman knocks on the door. Then my dog goes ballistic!

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

I’m working on a contemporary romance set in the Lake District. My hero has inherited an ailing hotel by the side of a lake. An old tragedy dogs the business, but when my heroine arrives, with her cheerfulness and enthusiasm she begins to sweep away the bad feeling and turn the hotel’s fortunes around. Unfortunately, her unscrupulous father has plans of his own for the hotel. The hero’s trust, and the heroine’s loyalties, are tried to the hilt.

You can find Helena on her website here
Twitter @HelenaFairfax
Facebook Helena Fairfax 

My review of A Way from Heart to Heart is here.

Thanks again for hosting me, Jo, and for being such a lovely hostess. I've much enjoyed answering your thought-provoking questions!

Helena thanks so much for sharing your thoughts so eloquently.

 Jaffa and I wish you continued success.


Sunday 8 February 2015

Sunday War Poet..

The theme for this month's WW1 war poems



Under the Shadow

Edith Nesbit

1858 - 1924

Under the shadow of a hawthorn brake,
Where bluebells draw the sky down to the wood,
Where, 'mid brown leaves, the primroses awake
And hidden violets smell of solitude;
Beneath green leaves bright-fluttered by the wing
Of fleeting, beautiful, immortal Spring,
I should have said, 'I love you,' and your eyes
Have said, 'I, too . . . ' The gods saw otherwise.

For this is winter, and the London streets
Are full of soldiers from that far, fierce fray
Where life knows death, and where poor glory meets
Full-face with shame, and weeps and turns away.
And in the broken, trampled foreign wood
Is horror, and the terrible scent of blood,
And love shines tremulous, like a drowning star,
Under the shadow of the wings of war.

First Published December ,1915

Edith Nesbit (1858-1924) was an English author and poet whose children's works were published under the name of E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on over 60 books of fiction for children, several of which have been adapted for film and television. She was also a political activist and co-founded the Fabian Society, a precursor to the modern Labour Party.