Monday 30 March 2015

Bloggers on the Blog... Random Things Through My Letterbox

Bloggers on the blog

My weekly feature showcases some of the best of the 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.

I am delighted to welcome



 the excellent blog

 Anne ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo...

What makes you want to blog about books?  

When I read a fabulous book I want to shout about it and blogging is a great way to shout. It's wonderful to be able to pass on my love of books.

What type of book makes you happy? 

A book that makes me want to carry on reading late in to the night.

Which book have you recommended the most?  

Broken by Daniel Clay

Which is the best book you received as a gift? 

A box set of the Woman of Substance trilogy by Barbara Taylor-Bradford - given to me by my Nana in the 1980s, I still have it

Which book has sent a shiver down your spine? 

Who Are You? by Lizzie Forbes

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

Just over 1200 - all real books, I don't have an e-reader

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

The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden - I read it many times as a child and have read it again quite recently.

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

Book heaven is an original, well-written story that keep me entralled.  

Book hell  is hard-to-understand dialect, reams of prose and no action and characters that I hate, but that the authors intends to be likeable.

Where is your favourite reading place? 

On a sunbed, in Greece.

What has been your favourite book of the far ?  

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin 

Follow Anne on Twitter@annecater

My thanks to Anne for giving so generously of her time

Jaffa and I love your blog

Long may it continue.


Sunday 29 March 2015

Sunday WW1 Poem..

The theme for this month's WW1 poetry





Rose Macauley


We lay and ate the sweet hurt-berries
In the bracken of Hurt Wood.
Like a quire of singers singing low
The dark pines stood.

Behind us climbed the Surrey Hills,
Wild, wild in greenery;
At our feet the downs of Sussex broke
To an unseen sea.

And life was bound in a still ring,
Drowsy, and quiet and sweet….
When heavily up the south-east wind
The great guns beat.

We did not wince, we did not weep,
We did not curse or pray;
We drowsily heard, and someone said,
‘They sound clear today’.

We did not shake with pity and pain,
Or sicken and blanch white.
We said, ’If the wind’s from over there
There’ll be rain tonight’.

Once pity we knew, and rage we knew,
And pain we knew, too well,
As we stared and peered dizzily
Through the gates of hell.

But now hell’s gates are an old tale;
Remote the anguish seems;
The guns are muffled and far away.
Dreams within dreams.

And far and far are Flanders mud,
And the pain of Picardy;
And the blood that runs there runs beyond
The wide waste sea.

We are shut about by guarding walls;
(We have built them lest we run
Mad from dreaming of naked fear
And of black things done).

We are ringed all round by guarding walls,
So high, they shut the view.
Not all the guns that shatter the world
Can quite break through.

Oh guns of France, oh guns of France,
Be still, you crash in vain….
Heavily up the south wind throb
Dull dreams of pain…..

Be still, be still, south wind, lest your
Blowing should bring the rain…...
We’ll lie very quiet on Hurt Hill,
And sleep once again.

Oh we’ll lie quite still, not listen nor look,
While the earth’s bounds reel and shake,
Lest, battered too long, our walls and we
Should break…....should break…….... 

Dame Rose Macaulay was born in Cambridge.
 She went to school and college in Oxford but spent most of her childhood in Italy. She was a prominent novelist, essayist and poet and won many literary prizes.


Saturday 28 March 2015

Blog Tour : The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable

I am delighted to welcome



February 2015

I asked Jane what inspired her to write The Faerie Tree.....

Inspiration is like an onion. Honestly – it is. Not that it makes you cry (although that’s possible) but that it’s multi-layered. Look at the skin and it’s pretty obvious what you’ve got, but start peeling the layers back and goodness only knows what you’ll find.

When Jaffa and Jo asked me to write about my inspiration for The Faerie Tree, the first answer was the tree. I visited it in 2010 and just knew it had to be part of a story; its beautiful setting, the people who visit it and the hidden hand who helps the faeries with their correspondence. Not to mention the sprinkling of ancient magic it brings to the woods.

So if the faerie tree on the banks of the River Hamble is the onion’s skin, what else do we find as we work through the layers? As with The Cheesemaker’s House, I think we find folklore – in its very broadest sense. With the faerie tree it is perhaps a little more obvious as special trees have been the focus of ancient rites for generations. So I thought – why not make some of my characters people who follow these beliefs now?

Ah yes, characters. For me they aren’t inspired by real people – but pieces of people I know must find their way into them. That the young Robin is a carer; that he’s far from honest about it; that he has to keep up a faรงade – yes, I know people like that. I also know that it’s almost inevitable they will break. But what I find more inspirational is that Robin found a way back from the darkness and became a much stronger person. It would be wonderful if Robin’s journey could give hope to people who are struggling right now.

Of course at the beginning of the book Robin’s situation doesn’t look great. When Izzie first sees him again after twenty years he is living on the streets of Winchester. That was the second real moment of inspiration for me, sitting in Caffe Nero opposite the Buttercross one freezing Sunday morning, watching the homeless men gather there and wondering about their stories. Had they known love at some stage in their lives? What would happen if the person who loved them saw them now?

At the beginning of a book I find inspiration comes easily, but I never really know where the story is going to go. It may sound crazy – and I know a lot of writers who plan their work in meticulous detail before putting pen to paper – but I love allowing the characters to carry me along. The problem with The Faerie Tree was that I found myself writing that Robin’s and Izzie’s memories of their affair in 1986 were different, without really having a clue why. They had found the hook to their own story, but it took me a great deal of research, indecision and anguish before coming to a conclusion on why it happened that way.

Naturally I’m not going to tell you what I discovered…

My thoughts about The Faerie Tree

When Izzie meets Robin again after a gap of several years, there is much about them that lays hidden. Shared memories are hidden deeply away, locked in a place where hurt can no longer find them. Both Izzie and Robin have known loss and heartbreak and both have found love but in the intervening years they have never found the passion they once felt for each other.

In The Faerie Tree, the author sensitively explores the layers of memory that bind us together and just how deeply we lock away those memories when they seek to confuse and baffle us. The Faerie Tree itself  hidden deep in the woodland, is the place where Izzy and Robin made their memories. It’s a magical place but firmly bound in the rites and rituals of the earth, people often leave their secrets there and hope that their wishes will, one day, come true.

I was drawn into the story of The Faerie Tree from the beginning. Izzie and Robin’s story is beautifully realistic to the point where you find yourself looking with new eyes at people in the street, and wonder what their lives are like. The story is easy to read and nicely divided so that we see what’s happening from both Izzie’s and Robin's point of view, and although their memories sometime coalesce, often they don’t and once you get used to the quirkiness of the storyline, the book becomes unputdownable. Both Izzie and Robin dominate the story, they are superbly flawed and filled with so much angst and heartbreak that at times the storyline becomes almost a battle to see who hurts the most, and yet, there is a lightness to the narrative, in the shape of Izzy’s daughter Claire who is the still small voice of calm in an often emotionally fraught situation.

To say more about the plot would be to give too much away. This is one of those rather special stories which is all the better for reading knowing nothing of what is to come.

However, by the end of the novel I was in awe of vagaries of fate and of the powerful and unshakeable bond of memories.


You can find Jane on her website 
Follow her on Facebook
Find her on Twitter @JaneCable
Buy the book on Amazon UK

Jane is very kindly offering one lucky UK a paperback copy of The Faerie Tree

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Huge thanks to Jane for inviting us to be part of her Blog Tour.

We wish The Faerie Tree much success.


Friday 27 March 2015

Blog Tour : Black Wood by S J I Holliday

Jaffa and I are delighted to be part of the Black Wood 2015 Blog Tour

March 2015
Black & White Publishing

S J I Holliday grew up in Haddington, East Lothian. She works as a pharmaceutical statistician, and as a life long book worm has always dreamt of becoming a novelist, She has had several crime and horror short stories published in anthologies ad was short-listed for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham Prize . Her debut novel Black Wood was inspired by a disturbing incident in her childhood.

Susi ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo ~

Tell us more about the novel's background.
The idea was sparked from something that happened to me and a friend when we were 8 or 9 years old. We were playing in the woods one day, when two older boys appeared and started to make things very uncomfortable… one said he had a knife. I don’t know if he did, or he didn’t, but we were terrified. It stuck with me. I always thought: What if they hadn’t just let us escape across the burn…? What if something much, much worse had happened?’ The rest came from my twisted imagination.

What was the most difficult aspect of the writing the story? How did you overcome it?
Finishing the damn thing! I love the ideas stage. I am full of ideas, and whenever one comes (i.e. most days) I email it to myself with some brief notes and store it for later. With Black Wood, I found that the story grew from a simple idea into something much more complex. More and more threads found their way in and I had to try to tie them all together. Just finding the time to sit down for long enough and formulate it all, and get it all onto the page – it was a constant struggle! I overcame it by just keeping on… I had a deadline, and that definitely helped.

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?
Good question! They often don’t come out quite as expected. Jo started off far more snarky than she ended up, and some would say she is still a bloody nightmare. I was a little frustrated by Claire – I wanted her to stand up to Jo and she never did. Davie Gray is my favourite character – he’s the one who came out exactly as I planned him – he’s the kind of guy who would do anything for anyone, he’s easy on the eye but he doesn’t respond to attempts to woo him… he needs to find love. He’s fairly straightforward, compared to a lot of the others. That’s not to say he hasn’t got any secrets of his own…

What do you think makes a good villain?

The perfect villain has got nothing left to lose. I like intelligent villains who keep one step ahead of their pursuers, but I also like the ones who just go for it and damn the consequences.

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

It’s tough to find the time. My day job, even though I aim to work part-time, can be demanding. I’ve only got one brain! Sometimes I find it hard to split from the scientific nature of my day job and get into the creative headspace that I need. I like to write with my laptop on a cushion, either on the sofa or in bed. I’m at a desk all day so I like to mix it up. Plays havoc on my back though!

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?
I hate this question. You know why? Because I have a million other novels planned and I am really struggling with trying to stick to just one. As soon as I write a few words of an idea, ten others pop up. That’s when I’m in full-fire creative mode! I plan to write all of the ideas, eventually. At the moment though, I am attempting another one set in Banktoun. Stay tuned!

Thanks for hosting me, Josie – great questions!

Huge thanks to Susi for giving so generously of her time to answer my questions

Jaffa and I wish you much success with Black Wood and we will follow your career with great interest.


My thanks to Black&White Publishing for my copy of this book
and to Liz at Liz Loves Books for all her help with this interview.

My thoughts about Black Wood.

The book opens as two young girls play in the woods. A deep sense of menace pervades the scene and it becomes noticeable, very quickly, that danger lurks in the shadows. Twenty-three years later, Claire and Jo have now grown to adulthood. They have remained close friends, but, there is always a sense of something kept hidden. Both girls, now young women, have hidden demons they would rather not challenge but when a familiar face walks into the bookshop where Jo works, dreadful memories are rekindled, and the past, once thought buried, surfaces with devastating consequences.

The story is a well written mystery with just the right amount of menace layering between the hidden clues of the storyline. The main protagonists are realistic and the police procedural element, ably led by police sergeant Davie Gray, is well controlled and nicely focused on the present, but with relevant hints towards the past. The insularity of the Scottish town of Banktoun is presented in a no nonsense kind of way, which I thought worked well, as this is the kind place where everyone knows each other’s business, and yet, there is still room for secrets and lies.

I really enjoyed Black Wood. I thought that the mystery at the heart of the novel was exciting. The twists and turns in the plot were complex and credible and the overall integrity of the ending worked well within the context of the story.

This is a good debut novel and I am sure that this exciting new writer will continue to go from strength to strength.

Amazon US

You can find Susi on her website
Follow her on Twitter @SJIHolliday


Thursday 26 March 2015

The Last Plantagenet King...

Richard III

October 1453 - August 1485

Richard Plantagenet was born into violent times, and even by the brutal standards of his day, he most certainly knew death and family tragedy on a grand scale. 

 Whether we judge him or not, it is entirely appropriate, that the last English King to be killed in battle be afforded some peace at last.

Richard III
Re-buried in Leicester Cathedral
26 March 2015


Wednesday 25 March 2015

Review ~ The Jackdaw by Luke Delaney

D I Sean Corrigan #4
March 2015
Harper Collins Publishers

The Crime is treachery. The sentence is death.

When an appalling event shows up on a social media video channel depicting the horrific death of a captive live on line, it opens up a murder mystery which will test the capabilities of the police investigative team to the very limits of their expertise. Keeping one step ahead of a fanatic whose sole purpose is to bring justice to a seemingly random group of corporate people makes for compelling reading.

Creatively written with a fine eye for detail, this fourth book in the D. I. Sean Corrigan series of murder mysteries rolls along at a cracking pace. There is never a lull in the narrative and the murder mystery at the core of the novel is dangerous, and in this age of social media, frighteningly realistic. There is a voyeuristic quality to the narrative as you can’t help but be drawn into the story and watch in fascinated horror as the perpetrator, nicknamed The Jackdaw, sets out to wreak revenge of the most deadly variety.

There is always a danger when you come into an established series so far into it that it becomes impossible to understand how the series works, but the author succeeds in keeping continuity for those readers who have been with him since the beginning whilst at the same time drawing in new readers with just enough back story information for the established characters to make sense.

I really enjoyed The Jackdaw. It was great read, not because the book was light on content, far from it, but because once I started reading, I really couldn't put it down and needed to read in fascinated horror, to see just what The Jackdaw would do next.

 My thanks to Emily Edwards at Harper Collins for my copy of this book.


Tuesday 24 March 2015

Review ~ Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix

20 March 2015

Love. Passion. An incredible legacy

Two women separated by time, experience the beautiful city of Pisa in a story which abounds with duplicity, passion and the temptation of marital infidelity. In 1999, Sam reacts to the news of her husband, Michael’s infidelity with sadness and confusion, which is made all the more poignant by discovering her husband has been taken seriously ill whilst making a documentary film about the iconic  Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

In twelfth century Pisa, Berta di Bernardo is the young, pampered wife of a rich merchant, who becomes enamoured by Geraldo, a young mason employed to work on Pisa’s new campanile. Berta’s unusual interest in the complexities of the campanile’s architecture and of the internal politics connected with its construction make for fascinating reading.

What then follows is a cleverly researched and well written story which succeeds in bringing both the past and present to life. The clear distinctions between time frames allow the stunning city of Pisa to come gloriously alive, and whether walking its medieval streets in the company of Berta and her maid, Aurelia, or watching Sam pick up ice cold frappes and shopping for clothes in the modern day piazzas, the sense of time and place is authentic and really rather beautiful.

There is no doubt that this is a commendable debut novel. The author has a real gift for storytelling and by using her own experiences of modern day Pisa, she allows Sam and Michael’s very modern marriage dilemma to be played out with an authenticity which is both poignant and thought provoking. And yet for me, the real heart and soul of the novel was played out in the thoughts and feelings evoked by the twelfth century protagonists and of the constrictions placed on women. Keeping company with Berta and Aurelia as they go about their daily business made for compelling reading and certainly kept me turning the pages long into the night to see just how their story would play out.

Pisa, both past and present comes alive with a lovely authenticity and the story sits comfortably within its dual time frame. I am sure Secrets of the Tower will appeal to historical fiction fans everywhere, and it’s certainly a book to load onto a reading device should you be heading to Italy on holiday.

My thanks to Netgalley and Kim Nash at Bookouture for my ecopy



The author in my spotlight is..... Debbie Rix

I am delighted to welcome

Author of

20 March 2015

~ Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Debbie ~

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for your novel , Secrets of the Tower?

The novel had a dual inspiration. My husband had a stroke while making a film about the Leaning Tower of Pisa back in the late 1990s. I had to go over to Pisa to take care of him, leaving our little children behind in the care of my mother. I got to know Pisa pretty well and a few years later, once he had recovered and life had returned to normal, I felt it would make an interesting premise for a novel. I knew from the start that I wanted to write a something where the modern-day story is interwoven with a tale from the past – but I wasn’t quite sure which aspect of the Tower’s fascinating history to focus on. Then I met the Professor of Medieval History at Pisa University, and he told me about Berta di Bernardo, the widow who made a bequest in her will leaving sixty ‘soldi’ to build the tower. Incredibly he had a copy of that will and from the moment I read it, I was hooked! It was witnessed of course, and they were a very interesting group of men – the notary (lawyer) to the Emperor Frederick, and a master mason named Gerardo di Gerardo. Clearly she was a woman of some influence, but I was intrigued by her relationship with the mason. Why was he there? In the novel I explore the possible explanation for their friendship. 

Tell us three interesting things about your novel which will pique the reader’s interest?
Perhaps the most interesting thing really is Berta herself. Whilst we know little about her in real life, beyond the contents of her will, I think it’s a great pity that she has been so overlooked by history. She must have been a special person, and yet – perhaps because she was a woman- she has been forgotten. And yet without her investment, the most famous building in the world – the Leaning Tower of Pisa - may never have been built.

In the story, Berta is childless. She is married to a wealthy merchant named Lorenzo Calvo and the one thing he wants is an heir to his fortune. So she embarks on a process of trying to get pregnant. She visits an apothecary named Violetta who tells her that her inability to conceive might be due to her husband …firing blanks. In the medieval period, the medical profession refused to countenance that a woman’s childlessness could be due to anything but her own ‘sin’ – so this was revolutionary. Her remedy involved getting Berta’s husband to eat some special biscuits made of crushed almonds, sugar and … ground lizard! This was a genuine recipe for male infertility at that time – incredible..

I am fascinated by how medieval masons and architects created such spectacular buildings as the Tower the Baptistery and the Duomo without machinery or mechanization of any kind – just brute strength and an intelligent use of natural forces. For example - the marble that was used comes largely from Monte Pisano – a mountainous region near Pisa. In order to cut the marble, without machinery, the workman would find a natural crack in the stone, allow water into it and then as it froze over the winter months, it would expand, splitting the marble into two. This is so simple, and yet so ingenious.

In your research for Secrets of the Tower did you discover anything which surprised you?

Pisa in the twelfth century was a melting pot of cultures. It was a sea-faring nation that traded with the Middle and Far East, as well as carrying crusaders from France to the region to fight – usually in return for money. On their return journey the traders brought back spices, silk cloth, damasks and fantastic glassware from Syria. But the most remarkable thing they imported was a camel –which was used to ferry goods around the city!

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

I write mostly at weekends and in the holidays, as I have a ‘day job’ as a journalist and Event Producer. I work in a little summerhouse in the garden that my husband renovated for me when I began this project 7 or 8 years ago. It’s essential that I work somewhere removed from the house, so as not to be distracted by work, or what’s going on in the kitchen! I even have a separate laptop for my writing that has no email function so I’m not interrupted by the arrival of email.

Name four essential items for a writer?

Imagination, patience, attention to detail and curiosity – not necessarily in that order!

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

I do yes… I am working on another novel based around an inanimate object (like the Tower). It will be set partly in Italy, partly in two other countries. It will also feature a modern day story that runs through it…

Thank you so much  Debbie for sharing your lovely story with us. Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your writing and look forward eagerly to your next novel.

You can find Debbie:

On her website 
Twitter @debbierix

My thanks to Kim at Bookouture and NetGalley for my ecopy of this novel.


Monday 23 March 2015

Bloggers on the Blog...Book Shelf Fantasies

Bloggers on the blog

This weekly feature showcases some of the best of the 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.

I am delighted to welcome



the excellent blog

Bookshelf Fantasies

Lisa ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo

What makes you want to blog about books?

I spend a lot of time reading books, talking about books, and thinking about books, and I finally realized that blogging might be a really good outlet for me. Blogging about books gives me a chance to share my thoughts, have some terrific discussions with other bloggers and booklovers, and as an added bonus, has introduced me to a wonderful community of book-obsessed bloggers!

What type of book makes you happy?

I read all sorts of genres, and I’m happiest when I alternate rather than reading only one type of book. That said, I typically enjoy books with well-drawn characters, unusual settings, and intense relationships. I love historical fiction, but also love science fiction and fantasy, contemporary drama, and great children’s literature. Books with strong, smart women leading the way make me especially happy.

Which book have you recommended the most?

I recommend the Outlander series a lot. Some other books I find myself recommending over and over again include Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, and The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. The series I most often recommend are Harry Potter, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Codex Alera series, and the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.

Which is the best book you received as a gift?

My daughter always gives me the best book gifts! Last year, she gave me a copy of the graphic novel of A Wrinkle in Time, which was perfect in so many ways – not least of which being that we enjoyed the original book together when she was young.

Which book has sent a shiver down your spine? 

The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian was unexpectedly scary! Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick was a different sort of shivery read, and Harrowgate by Kate Maruyama was also good for a chill.

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

Oh gosh, probably way more than I think! If I had to guess, I say I probably have about 200 total unread books in my house, including all of the unread books on my Kindle. I think I should do an inventory!

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

Besides Outlander? J I’ve gone back to The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell at least 3 or 4 times so far, and every time I find something new to appreciate. It’s a science fiction book that is also a beautiful look at friendships, faith, and what it means to be a good person. Whenever I read it, it breaks my heart all over again and makes me think – two signs that this is a book with impact.

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

Great question!

Book heaven: A big comfy chair, a never ending supply of new and exciting books, and all the time I could ever want to read them all. Preferably with snacks and coffee appearing by my elbow so I never have to look up or go make myself something to eat. 

Book hell: Being trapped forever with only airport books… or being in a room full of the best books in the world, but also having TVs blaring and people talking loudly right next to me at all times.

Where is your favourite reading place?

At home, my favorite reading place is on my back porch on a sunny day! The best place I’ve ever read a book was sitting on a rock in a meadow at Yosemite National Park while on a camping trip. I was reading Outlander for the first time in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and it was perfect.

What has been your favourite book of the far ?

Only one? That’s too hard! So far in 2015, my favorite book for adults was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, my favorite young adult novel was Winger by Andrew Smith, and my favorite re-read was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Find Lisa here :

Book Shelf Fantasies
Twitter @reader_bsf

My thanks to Lisa for giving so generously of her time

Jaffa and I love reading your blog.

Long may it continue.


Sunday 22 March 2015

Sunday WW1 Poem ...

The theme for this month's WW1 poetry




I think that this poem is appropriate for the first weekend in Spring.

Spring in Wartime 


Sara Teasdale

1884 -1933

I feel the spring far off, far off,

The faint, far scent of bud and leaf—

Oh, how can spring take heart to come

To a world in grief,

Deep grief?

The sun turns north, the days grow long,

Later the evening star grows bright—

How can the daylight linger on

For men to fight,

Still fight?

The grass is waking in the ground,

Soon it will rise and blow in waves—

How can it have the heart to sway

Over the graves,

New graves?

Under the boughs where lovers walked

The apple-blooms will shed their breath—

But what of all the lovers now

Parted by Death,

Grey Death?

Sara Teasdale was an American poet whose work was influenced
by the work of Christina Rossetti.
She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and after her marriage in 1914 she went by the name 
Sara Teasdale Filsinger.


Saturday 21 March 2015

Review ~ The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths

Quercus Books

This interesting stand alone thriller sees a departure for the author Elly Griffiths, who I am more used to reading as the author of the successful Ruth Galloway crime series which I love. So, with some trepidation I embarked on this quite different crime novel, which has the distinct feel of history about it, as it is set in Brighton in 1950, when memories of WW2 are still very real in the mind. When the body of a girl is found cut into three pieces, D I Edgar Stephens remembers a magic trick he once knew. The trick was called The Zig Zag Girl and its inventor was an ex army friend of the D I where the shadowy group called the Magic Men used their magical skills to confuse and bamboozle the enemy during the darker moments of the Second World War.

It is an accomplished crime novel with an interesting and complex plot which is made easy to read by the author’s great skill at keeping time and place in context. There is a definite feel of history to it in the seedier aspects of life in Brighton and the police procedural investigation is written with an authentic feel to it.  Overall, I enjoyed most of the story although if I’m really honest, I feel that it lacked a certain oomph in places which, whilst not necessarily a criticism, did sort of leave me feeling like I wanted something more from the characters.

I thought that there was a certain cinematographic quality to the narrative which I couldn’t help but compare to the TV programme Foyles War and I can easily see this story being picked up as a television post war drama. It’s certainly good enough to capture an audience.

My thanks to Quercus Books and NetGalley for my copy of this book.


Friday 20 March 2015

The Author in my spotlight is......Sue Shepherd

I am delighted to welcome to the blog

Author of


Published as an ebook 20th March 2015

Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret? is a romantic comedy about three very different people, each with a secret, whose lives collide in unexpected ways. 

Steph is a harassed mum who's considering an affair with her children's sexy headmaster. Penny is trying to deal with a crush on her boss, OCD and a sad secret from her childhood. And Mike is a vicar who is being blackmailed for his secret, although it's not all that it seems! 

Meanwhile, all three are being watched over by their own guardian angels, who try to push them in the right direction and help move their lives along - but not always successfully ... 

Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret? is genuinely laugh out loud funny, but also deals in a sensitive way with serious problems that any of us could face in life. Sue Shepherd's debut novel is bold, it doesn't pull any punches, and it has bucket loads of heart

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Sue and thanks for talking to us about your debut novel ~ 

Where did the idea for Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret? come from?

The idea came to me a few years ago when I took part in a creative writing course with the author, Sophie King. One night I was running late and I drove too fast through dark, country lanes. The first thing we always did on the course was to write for ten minutes about whatever came into our heads; so, that night, I wrote a short, jokey piece about an angel who wasn’t happy that she’d been given the job of watching over me as I sped along the road. From this tiny piece of ‘flash fiction’ the basis for my novel grew. Over time the angels seemed to naturally take a step back, as the main characters’ secrets took over, but they’re still an integral part of the novel.

What makes you want to write stories?

I just love writing. To me it’s like reading your favourite book, except you get to choose what happens next. When an idea comes to me for a good twist or a shocking surprise I’m often so excited I struggle to keep it to myself :-) I’m happy when I’m writing and I simply can’t imagine not doing it.

Do you write for yourself or other people?

This is an interesting question and one which I had to really think about. On the one hand I’d say I write for myself; the story plays out in my head as if it were a movie and I’m not truly content until I’ve written it all down. In fact, whilst writing Doesn’t Everyone Have A Secret? there were many occasions when, due to the demands of family life, I had to stop writing, sometimes for weeks or even months. During those times I always felt incomplete because I knew I owed it to my characters to finish writing their stories. Much like when you take a bite from a biscuit, or a sip from a mug of tea and then put it down, forgetting to finish it, and there’s a nagging voice telling you that something, somewhere is waiting for you, but you can’t remember exactly what! But, to get back to the question, who do I write for? I also think that to a certain extent I write for other people too. I have a few friends who kindly read my first couple of drafts and gave me their opinions and I really can’t say how delighted I was when they came back with positive reviews and told me they couldn’t put my work down. Knowing that people enjoy your writing, that they invest in your characters and that they truly care how the story is going to end is an amazing feeling. It makes it all the more worthwhile and, although I’m nervous about the fact that strangers are going to be reading my work, I must confess to also being excited about the possibilities.

What scares you about writing?

I don’t think anything actually scares me about writing, except perhaps the thought of not being able to do it any more. Of course, I do have a frisson of nerves when I imagine the general public reading my novel, however, the excitement surrounding this event far outweighs any concerns.

What books do you like to read?

I really like slightly quirky women’s fiction; time travel, parallel worlds, paradoxes – anything where you have to regularly check back in the book and ask, ‘How the heck did that happen?’ My favourite book is probably The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I also recently read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and I was fully engrossed in a world of opportunities whilst reading it.

What’s next?

I’m currently 30,000 words into my second novel. Referring back to the previous question, funnily enough, this book is about parallel worlds. The story explores how a fairly insignificant decision made by one person can change another person’s life immeasurably. I’m really enjoying writing it and the few people who’ve read my ‘work in progress’ have given it the thumbs up so far. I’m amazed to watch it unfold before me, and, due to the fact that my children have grown somewhat, this novel is developing a great deal quicker than my first, so I’m hopeful it will be completed this year.

Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret? is available from 20th March as an ebook

Amazon UK
Visit Sue on her website
Follow her on Twitter @thatsueshepherd

My Review

Have you ever wondered about the still small voice of calm that you sometimes hear deep within your subconscious that tells you to stop and consider your actions? Well, in Doesn’t Everyone Have a Secret, Sue Shepherd explores the concept of a team of guardian angels who watch over us and who guide, cajole and beguile us into thinking we are acting for ourselves, when really they are are guiding our every move and their gentle and sometimes, not so gentle hints, quite often, steer us in a direction we had never planned to go.

Steph Stubbs, Mike Bannerman and Penny Littleton are being watched over by a team of rather special guardian angels but of course they are unaware of this which makes for an interesting and sensitively managed story which looks the vagaries of modern life and of the secrets which we keep hidden, not just from our nearest and dearest, but also sometimes from ourselves.

I really enjoyed the story and found the writing to be accomplished and warm with just the right amount of humour mixed with compassion and sensitivity. The characters are nicely drawn so that they seem believable, rather like people you would like if you met them in the street, and as you read about them you start to care about what happens and hope that everything turns out right for them. I enjoyed their individual stories, their problems could be something we have all faced at one time or another, and it was good to see how everything played out for them.

I think that this is a commendable debut novel and I am sure that the author will continue to go from strength to strength.

My thanks to Corazon Books for the ecopy of this novel and to Sue for giving so generously of her time.