Monday 29 June 2015

Blog Tour : Greedily Yours by Emma Hamilton

A delicious new series from Bastei Entertainment

Published twice weekly from 15th June 2015, price £1.49 per eBook

Book 1 : Taste Test

About the book

Mia Maxwell loves food. She loves it so much that she’s made it her career.

Everything in Mia’s life appears to be perfect. By day, she runs a food PR consultancy and by night she’s a busy food blogger, delving into new recipes and sharing delicious meals she’s enjoyed. Her boyfriend Paul is always whisking her away on fantastic holidays around the globe, helping her forget his daily comments about her weight and his businesslike approach to their life together. After all, no relationship is perfect, is it?
When Mia’s work takes her down to the countryside of Cornwall to manage a local food festival run by the kindly Lord Trelawney, she takes an instant dislike to his grumpy son Tom, who makes his aversion to ‘pushy Londoners’ very clear. But as the festival gets underway, Mia is surprised to find that he shares her passion for food and cooking. As her time in Cornwall turns out to be far more eventful than she could have imagined, Mia has no idea that her whole life is about to be cast adrift…

**As part of this delicious blog tour I can share with you**

Aunt Agatha's Cornish Fish Pie

My mum taught me the potato pastry but I think she got it from a cookbook originally, I’m just not sure which one. Do I need to find out?? I just make up the base depending on what fish and vegetables I have but obviously I have read lots of recipes for fish pie, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Rick Stein. 

For the pastry crust

300g of floury potatoes

250g of butter

250g of flour

A generous teaspoon of nutmeg

A good pinch of salt

Lots of ground black pepper

A dollop of clotted or double cream or Greek or Turkish yoghurt.

For the filling

A kilo of mixed fresh fish in season.

I like Haddock, Pollock, Salmon, Bream and Mackerel.

Chopped Squid can be good to add in too and seafood, mussels, cockles and crab, just see what your fishmonger has fresh.

3-4 red onions (depending on size)

4 cloves of garlic, chopped small or crushed

100 g of fresh tarragon, or a good bunch to your taste if you’re picking it from your garden or balcony.

3 grated carrots

A teaspoon of turmeric

A good shake of cumin seeds

A good shake of sweet paprika

A good squeeze of tomato puree - from a tube, about half the tube.

2 teaspoons of nutmeg

250 g of peas, frozen or fresh

1 fennel bulb including the fronds

2 large leeks, finely chopped

A good shake of seaweed, chopped nori works well

Rock salt / sea salt


Fish stock

Clotted Cream or Double cream or 10% Greek or Turkish yoghurt depending on how sour you like the taste to be.

1 lemon squeezed.

Flat leafed parsley if you want it.

Thyme or Lemon thyme if you have it.

You can alter all the ingredients depending on how many you’re making this for, I just chop and add as I feel. What you’re aiming for is a lovely creamy sauce with lots of fresh fish cooked down and then topped with a golden potato pastry crust. 

First you need to get the potatoes boiling for the pastry topping. Scrub and chop the potatoes up, if you don’t want to weigh them I take about 5 or 6 potatoes. Boil them in a pan of salted water. 

Then, chop and fry the onions and garlic, add in the grated carrot and the leeks and fennel and soften in butter or coconut oil and cook with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the Nori or seaweed to taste, the turmeric sweet paprika, the nutmeg and the tomato puree. When that has cooked down, add in the cumin seeds and then add in the fish and cook it gently on a medium heat, squeezing over the lemon juice and then adding in the fish stock gradually as everything is cooking to make sure nothing dries out. Whilst you leave that gently simmering, put on the oven and heat it to about 200 degrees or medium hot on a fan or top baking setting if you have one. 

Then prepare the pastry by cutting in the butter with the flour and salt and nutmeg until you have made fine breadcrumbs. Keep checking the fish base that it’s cooking gently and not drying out. 

By the time you have made the pastry the potatoes should be done. Drain them and then add in a pinch of salt, the dollop of clotted or double cream or thick yoghurt and the nutmeg and pepper and mash or pass through a potato ricer so the potato is really smooth. Add that to the flour and butter that is in crumbs and combine until the whole is a fluffy pastry. If you have the quantities right, you should be able to roll out a thick crust although it will be harder to handle than normal pastry. If it’s really falling apart, add in a little more flour and keep mixing until it binds together. Leave to sit a bit in the fridge or on the side. 

Meanwhile add the chopped tarragon and dried if you need it and clotted or double cream or thick yoghurt into the fish mixture and stir until it looks thick and creamy. Pour the lot in to a big pie dish, maybe around 30 cm long by about 20cm wide. Try and roll out the pastry and then place it on top, make a couple of cuts in the top of the pastry and if you want, fashion a little shape like a star or little fishes for the centre of the pie. If you really can’t roll out the pastry then dollop it on top as though it is normal mashed potato and make sure it completely covers the fish mixture underneath. It will still crisp up in the oven. Put the pie in the now hot oven for about 35-40 minutes or until the pastry is nicely golden brown and crisp. 

This is a messy dish so serve with a deep serving spoon to make sure you get all the creamy filling as well as a good helping of potato pastry topping. 

You can serve with green beans, broccoli or just on its own. 

About the Author

Emma Hamilton is the pen name for a food-loving journalist and writer. Once a staff producer and then freelance reporter for the BBC, CBC, and Deutsche Welle, she has also written for a number of magazines and newspapers, including The Guardian, BBC Magazines, The Mail on Sunday, Four Four Two and Italy Magazine. She has worked on a number of series and documentaries, including one about food and culture around the world. Emma spent six years reporting from Italy and has made radio programmes in many countries including Lebanon, Ethiopia, the USA, France, Germany, Russia, and Cameroon. When she’s not cooking, reading about food or eating it, she splits her time between presenting, producing and writing. She loves yoga, running, gardening and spending time with her husband, friends and family at home.

My Thoughts:

Taste Test is the first episode in an eight part serialisation of the Greedy Girls novellas and gives a tantalising taster of food, love and zesty adventure. We are introduced to Mia, a food blogger of Greedily Yours, whose four year on/off relationship with her boyfriend, Paul, forms part of the novella. But it is with her friend, Lizzie , who runs a cup cake cafe, where the fun lies.

A quick read at 79 pages, Taste Test is the perfect accompaniment to a lunch break in the park. Easily loaded onto your kindle, this lovely story is less than the price of meal deal and so much better for your waistline. The pages fly by, and by the cliff hanger ending, I was more than eager to start book Two...enticingly named ,Salty Tales...!

At the end of this novella are a series of delicious recipes of which Aunt Agatha's Fish Pie is one such scrumptious treat.

Bon Appetit !!

**Enter this Delicious Giveaway **

to win an e-copy of

Greedily Yours Episode 1 : Taste Test.

My thanks to Hayley at ED Public Relations for my invitation to join this lovely blog tour today.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday 28 June 2015

Sunday WW1 Poet...

This month's theme 


The Female Poets of the First World War

Nina Macdonald

A War time Nursery Rhyme 

Sing a Song of Wartime

Sing a song of War-Time,
Soldiers marching by,
Crowds of people standing,
Waving them 'Good-bye'.
When the crowds are over,
Home we go to tea,
Bread and margarine to eat,
War economy!

If I ask for cake, or
Jam of any sort,
Nurse says, 'What! In War-time?
Archie, cert'nly not!'
Life's not very funny
Now, for little boys,
Haven't any money,
Can't buy any toys.

Mummie does the house-work,
Can't get any maid,
Gone to make munitions,
'Cause they're better paid,
Nurse is always busy,
Never time to play,
Sewing shirts for soldiers,
Nearly ev'ry day.

Ev'ry body's doing
Something for the War,
Girls are doing things
They've never done before,
Go as 'bus conductors,
Drive a car or van,
All the world is topsy-turvy
Since the War began.

I can find very little information about this female poet other than she wrote a book of poems for children , possibly in 1918.

This poem scans like Sing a Song of Sixpence.

Rather poignant. isn't it?


Saturday 27 June 2015

Review ~ The Turning Point by Freya North

Harper Collins
June 2014

Scott Emerson and Frankie Shaw meet by chance in London. Neither of them is on the lookout for love, but when fate intervenes they know instinctively that what they have found in each other is special and rare. The only drawback to their blissful love affair is that Scott must return to his home in British Columbia, and Frankie needs to go back to her children and her home in Norfolk. Thousands of miles apart and against all odds the couple keep their love alive, until the fickle hand of fate intervenes once more.

The Turning Point is a stunning combination of love, sincerity and heartfelt longing. It’s beautifully written, both warm and comfortable, rather like curling up with a close friend in whose company you feel completely at ease, and yet, the gentleness of the narrative belies its strength, as this is one of those books which really does make you sit up and take notice. British Columbia comes gloriously alive with stunning descriptions and yet, it is with the cast of characters where the book really hits home, they entice, beguile and make you fall completely in love with them.

The emotional pull of the book is deep and profound and really highlights the uncertainty of life and of how we must all learn to deal with whatever fate throws at us. This is definitely one of those rare stories which stays with you long after the last page is turned and one of my favourite books of the year, so far.

My thanks to Louise at Harper Collins for my copy of this book

Freya North


Friday 26 June 2015

Review ~ That Girl from Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson


‘Where are you coming from with that accent of yours?' he asks.
‘Nowhere,' I reply. ‘I'm from nowhere.'
‘Everyone's from somewhere,' he says.
‘Not me,' I reply silently.

Clemency Smittson (nicknamed Smitty) has known since her early childhood that she was adopted, but made a promise to her adoptive mother, that she wouldn't search for her birth parents until the time was right. Smitty's only real clue to her birth mother, is an intricately decorated box in which she keeps her most precious memories. Now in her late thirties, and after an emotional end to a long term relationship, Smitty locates from Otley in Yorkshire to Hove, on the south coast, which offers a new start for Smitty and a chance for her to get her burgeoning jewellery business up and running. The only down side is that Smitty's mother, Heather, recently bereaved, also decides to come and live with Smitty in her rented flat. What then follows, is a series of events, which lead Smitty inexorably towards her destiny and her discovery of a hidden web of  secrets. There are some difficult choices ahead before Clemency can come to terms with her past and start to look towards her future.

After an initial slow start, the book opens out into an interesting story of family secrets and of the heart break involved in the whole adoption process. It took a little while for me to warm to Smitty’s character, initially I found her weak and indecisive, but then realised that this was perhaps quite deliberate, and this helped  me , in some way, to understand her character more. The story is well explained and intricately plotted, although I did feel that some of the events were a rather too orchestrated, and seemed a little bit too unrealistic for them to have happened in the way they did.

However, on the whole,  I thought it was a good story. Not a page turner by any means , but perhaps more of a slow burner of a story, which covers some pretty hard hitting topics in a compassionate and sympathetic way.

My thanks to Sophie at ed public relations for my copy of this book. 

Thursday 25 June 2015

Review ~ Without A Trace by Lesley Pearse

Michael Joseph

There's something extremely comforting about settling down with a new Lesley Pearse book and this story which is set in the early 1950s is no exception. Molly Heywood is a compassionate and lovely young woman who is brutally overshadowed by a domineering and vicious father. He life seems crushed by responsibility and yet, she has a wonderful empathy for others. When Molly's friend Cassie is found dead and Cassie's little girl Petal goes missing, Molly is determined to leave no stone unturned in the quest to find who is responsible for both Cassie's death and Petal's abduction.

What then follows is an interesting and intricately plotted novel, which sees Molly escape from the restrictions of her life in rural Somerset, to the bright lights of London where she is determined  to live her life, but she never forgets about Cassie and Petal. However, the closer she gets to the truth and the more she leaves herself open to extreme danger.

I really enjoyed this novel. I was entertained and engrossed in the story from beginning to end. There is no doubt that it has all the hallmarks of the fine writing that fans of Lesley Pearse have come to expect and I am sure that her legions of fans will not be disappointed with this her 23rd novel.

Out in paperback on the 15th August 2015.

My thanks go to Sophie at ed public relations for my copy of this book.


Wednesday 24 June 2015

Review ~ The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements


Aristocrat. Heiress. Highwaywoman.

Orphaned heiress, Katherine Ferrers is forced to enter into a loveless marriage in order to save her family from penury and hardship. The marriage turns out to be  a loveless affair and rather than save her family, Katherine sees their fortunes forfeit and her own life increasingly intolerable. When she is offered a way out she seizes the opportunity and even though the future is faced with extreme danger, anything is preferable to the life she is living with a profligate and uncaring husband.

Set against the backdrop of the English civil war and in the early years of the interregnum, this story abounds with danger and treachery and yet, always keeps at its heart, a feisty and determined young woman who seeks to protect herself in the only way she can.

I really enjoyed this novel and was impressed with the clever way the story brings history alive, particularly in the challenges faced by the English aristocracy in the uncertain years of civil war, when to be on the wrong side politically meant certain ruin. Katherine is perhaps less typical of the women of her generation, but parts of the story of a legendary highwaywoman, have a foothold in folklore, so maybe this 'wicked lady' was as feisty as she is portrayed in this version of her life, either way, the novel makes for fascinating reading. 

The author has a comfortable writing style and is able to conjure time and place quite perfectly. I felt like I was experiencing the challenges of being a woman alone in a man's world and understood why Katherine was forced to take up the challenge of her own protection.

In the author's debut novel, The Crimson Ribbon, we had the parliamentarian side of the political argument of the civil war. In The Silvered Heart it is interesting to read about the other side of the story in this aristocratic view of life in England once the King had been executed. It tells of the indignity of an extreme change in fortune and of how some aristocratic families went, quite literally from riches to rags overnight.

This is a praise worthy second novel by an author who clearly loves writing historical fiction. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

My thanks to Caitlin Raynor at Headline for my review copy of this novel.


Tuesday 23 June 2015

You, Me and Other People Blog Tour...

 Jaffa and I are delighted to be part of the blog tour 


You, Me and Other People by Fionnuala Kearney


But what happens when you open the door and they won’t stop tumbling out?

For Adam and Beth the first secret wasn’t the last, it was just the beginning.

You think you can imagine the worst thing that could happen to your family, but there are some secrets that change everything.

And then the question is, how can you piece together a future when your past is being rewritten?

You, Me and Other People was published by Harper on the 
18 June 2015

I'm delighted to be able to share a tantalizing taster of You, Me and Other People...

Chapter Two

I stare at the small screen. Call ended. She hung up on me. Again . . . And she swore at me. Beth knows how much I hate her potty mouth. Two weeks since I left and she still won’t talk without swearing.
Through the open door to the kitchen, I see Emma bend down to reach the lower shelf of the dishwasher. Clad in a figure-hugging black dress, the sight makes my head reel; images of Emma naked, Beth naked, cloud my fuzzy brain. I breathe deeply, filling my anxious lungs as quietly as I can.
‘I know you’re staring.’ Emma looks over her left shoulder and catches my eye. In one swift movement, she crosses her hands, grabs the hem of her dress and pulls it over her head. She’s wearing stockings. No knickers, just hold-ups, a tiny bra, and I feel immediate stirrings as she walks towards me. Some instinct tells me to back away from her, raise my palms in the air, say, ‘No, Emma, no,’ but it’s way too late for that. If I’d been a better man, I’d have said that months ago. So, I let my more primal instincts rule, the ones that make me want to take her here on her white Amtico kitchen floor. Before I know it, she’s on her knees, unzipping me. I squeeze my eyes shut. With one hand, I steady myself on the doorway, with the other I hold her head, just at the nape of her neck, my fingers lacing her long blonde hair.

I knew I was in trouble the moment I met her. It had started out a simple evening with a group from work in the restaurant where she works. She flirted with me. Private winks, smiles. At first I thought I was imagining it, until Matt, my business partner, cornered me outside the loo.
‘Don’t do it, mate,’ he said.
‘Don’t go there. You’re so flattered some blonde totty fancies you, you’ve been twirling your wedding ring under the table all night.’
‘I have not.’
‘Don’t be such a tosser, Adam. You and Beth have a good thing.’
But by the time I shared a taxi home with Emma, my ring was in my pocket, my choice made. I thought of Beth, my gorgeous, loyal, talented wife; the woman who made me laugh at least once a day; the woman I loved, the woman I would have died for, still would. I did think of her, but only briefly.
Emma was the most forward woman I’d ever met, launching herself on me in the back of the taxi, cupping my balls with long manicured fingers. I was weak, powerless. And months later, I’m still a weak forty-three-year-old man who has hurt his wife so much he doesn’t know how to fix it, so chooses to ignore it and indulge in copious amounts of fantastic, life-affirming sex with a new and younger woman.

I leave the office early, exit the underground car park to a beautiful September evening, the sun still quite high in the sky. Just across the river to my right, I see the shape of the London Eye, its capsules laden with carefree tourists. It’s Friday and normally I’d be heading across the river and down the A3 towards home, after staying the week in town. Eight months ago, Beth and I decided to ‘borrow’ my brother Ben’s flat while he’s abroad for a year. Both parties have a good deal. We pay a lot less than market rent, covering his mortgage, and he knows his tenants. The plan was we’d stay there during the week, cut out the commute for me, and Beth could enjoy London and write her songs. A new environment, new inspirations – that was the plan.
I turn the car east towards the highway, heading to Docklands, to the one-bedroom flat near the river, intent on staying in this evening. Tonight’s plan is for an Emma-free zone; give myself some head-space with a takeaway and Sky Plus footie on the telly. Why then do I keep driving east along the A13, towards the M25, taking a long route towards the house I used to call home?
I call ahead on the hands-free. She’ll kill me if I just turn up. I can imagine dying on the spot in the power of her penetrating stare. But I feel the need to see her, to try and explain. I have no words, just the will to try, because I can’t bear her hating me. The phone rings out and I hear her voice.
‘You have reached Adam and Beth Hall. Sorry we can’t get to the phone – leave a message. We’ll get back to you.’
Only she hasn’t got back to me yet. I dial another number, hoping the other person I’ve hurt is still talking to me.
‘Hey, Dad,’ she says, picking up on the third ring.
‘Hey, Meg.’ I resist using my pet name of Pumpkin for her. ‘You all right?’ I can hear my heartbeat.
‘As all right as I possibly can be with an arsehole for a father . . . ’
I sigh – an audible, slow sigh. ‘I deserve that. I’m sorry.’
‘You do and somehow sorry doesn’t quite cut it. Are you still with her?’
Straight for the jugular – she may have my eyes, my long legs and the hair colour that Beth calls conker, directly from my gene pool, but when it comes down to it, Meg is Beth’s daughter. She doesn’t believe in wasting words.
So I respond in the same vein. ‘Yes.’
‘Right . . . Why did you call?’
‘You’re my daughter, Meg. I’d like to see you. Please?’
‘And what? Introduce me to your bitch totty so we can play dysfunctional families?’
I flinch at her words. And blame Beth. My daughter has a potty mouth too.
‘Look, Dad. It’s too soon. Too raw. You’re not the man I thought you were. The man I respected.’ I can imagine her shaking her head as she continues. ‘You’re just not that man.’
I bite my lower lip, feel it tremble. She’s right. I’m not that man, but then, I never have been. ‘I’m sorry,’ I offer lamely.
‘Blah, blah, blah.’ She hangs up.
I pull over to the hard shoulder. The contents of my stomach heave onto the edge of the A13. I have managed to pebble-dash the door of my beloved Lexus. Words of my long-dead mother echo in my ears: ‘I hope you’re proud of yourself, Adam.’ I wipe my mouth with my shirtsleeve, stare across three lanes of fast-flowing traffic and look up to the sky. Meg hates me. I have screwed up. I have really screwed up large.

© Fionnula Kearney


More about Fionnula can be found on her website
Follow her on Twitter @fionnulatweets

My thanks to Harper for their generous invitation to be part of this exciting blog tour.
Please take a look at the other blogs taking part in this tour for more exciting content, fabulous giveaways and snappy interviews and reviews.


My thoughts about You, Me and Other People.

There are so many skeletons tumbling out of Adam Hall's closet that it’s difficult to keep up with the amount of self-destruct buttons he seems to have at his disposal. His marriage to Beth is imploding on a grand scale and whilst the majority of sympathy must lie with Beth, the wronged wife, I couldn't help but feel an inordinate amount of sympathy for Adam. And that's really where the strength of the novel lies, in the nitty -gritty of ordinary lives which have gone spectacularly wrong, and in generating compassion for a man who has hurt, lied, cheated and done irreparable wrong to so many people.

I was engrossed in the story of You, Me and Other People from the very beginning. It very quickly became one of those books I wanted to carry with me so could sneak in a few more pages whenever I had the chance. I both hated and loved Adam, I wanted to shake him until his teeth rattled and then ultimately, I sobbed, because when all is said and done, his story just feels so realistic. I really loved Beth - she is smart and sassy, brave as a lion and as a vulnerable as a kitten and I so wanted to be her, especially when she had the fling of her life,  I mean, well...who wouldn't!

But it's not just in Adam and Beth where the strength of the story lies, it is also about a whole cast of other people who add both light and shade, and some genuinely funny moments that had me laughing out loud, and some heartrendingly sad, throat gulping moments that had me reaching for a hanky and a restorative cup of tea.

Ultimately, I think that this story resonates because it could be about you, me or other people and that's what makes it so irresistible.

Read it.


Monday 22 June 2015

My guest on the blog is the author Linda Holeman....

Photo by kind permission

Linda Holeman is the author of The Devil on Her Tongue and The Lost Souls of Angelkov, 
as well as the internationally bestselling historical novels 
The Linnet Bird, The Moonlit Cage, In a Far Country and The Saffron Gate, 
and eight other works of fiction and short fiction.  
Her books have been translated into seventeen languages.  A world traveler, she grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and currently lives in Toronto. 

Published by Traverse Press
18 June 2015

Linda ~ welcome back to Jaffareadstoo. It is lovely to see you again.

Can you tell us where you got the inspiration for your latest novel, The Devil on Her Tongue?

I was on an adventure in Portugal, exploring the glorious southern coast of the Algarve, and came upon the town of Sagres, where Henry the Navigator started the first nautical school in the 15th century.  Six kilomentres from there I found Cabo de Sao Vicente, the most south-western point of Europe, and a landmark once known as the “End of the World” to sailors leaving from Sagres.  That day the sea was calm as a silver plate under the sun. It was a place of peace and wonder, with on the smell of the ocean, the soft taste of the salty wind on my lips, and the evocative sound of seabirds circling restlessly overhead.  I felt a kind of reverence as I stared at the sea…and in those moments, nudging images came to me.

That night I scribbled my first thoughts for what would become a novel, picturing the life of an 18th century sailor accused of a crime at sea.  And within a few days I was writing about this young sailor washed up on a remote beach on a tiny island in the Madeira archipelago. I took that idea and played with it, imagining his backstory – where he’d come from and how he came to be adrift in the ocean, and the new life he would create on the island. But unexpectedly, a woman walked onto that beach and into the story, a character I wasn’t expecting, and I then had to find out who she was.  From there the initial idea changed shape, and, almost against my wishes, it was no longer the sailor’s story. It morphed into the story of the daughter of a disgraced Dutch sailor and a woman condemned for witchery in her North African home. Born to these heathen parents on the very religious, isolated Portuguese island of Porto Santo, the girl’s only possibilities were wife or nun, and she could be neither because of the circumstances of her birth.  She had to create a new path for herself - and her choices and the conflicts they caused came the heart line of the story.

©Linda Holeman
June 20, 2015

You can find Linda on her website
Twitter @LindaHoleman

Published by Traverse Press is now available in the UK as an e-book.

Linda, thank you so much for sharing your writing inspiration with us.

 Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your writing.


Sunday 21 June 2015

Sunday WW1 Poet....

This month's theme 

The Female Poets of the First World War

For Father's Day

Marjorie Wilson

(IN MEMORY: T. P. C. W.)

Gemmed with white daisies was the great green world
Your restless feet have pressed this long day through –
Come now and let me whisper to your dreams
A little song grown from my love for you.

There was a man once loved green fields like you,
He drew his knowledge from the wild bird's songs;
And he had praise for every beauteous thing.
And he had pity for all piteous wrongs …

A lover of earth's forest – of her hills,
And brother to her sunlight – to her rain –
Man with a boy's fresh wonder. He was great
With greatness all too simple to explain.

He was a dreamer, and a poet, and brave
To face and hold what he alone found true.
He was a comrade of the old – a friend
To every little laughing child like you.

And when across the peaceful English land
Unhurt by war, the light is growing dim
And you remember by your shadowed bed
All those – the brave – you must remember him;

And know it was for you who bear his name
And such as you that all his joy he gave,
His love of quiet fields, his youth, his life,
To win that heritage of peace you have.'

Marjorie Wilson (1918).


Marjorie Wilson was the sister of the war poet Captain T P C Wilson. Her war work
included service in the War Relief Office and also in Voluntary Aid Detachment Nursing.


Saturday 20 June 2015

Ahoy for Joy by Keith Reilly


Seventeen year old Michael Colgan is on a Boy’s Brigade camping holiday to the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe when he meets Anna, a young Dutch girl. Their meeting is brief but powerful and leaves such a profound impression, that their relationship, such as it is, continues by letter when Michael returns home to Belfast and Anna returns to Pijpersbos, in the Netherlands. However, Michael returns to the Belfast of the 1970’s, when the troubles were vicious and sectarian hatred flourished in dark corners. Anna’s life in an affluent Dutch suburb is, by comparison, the light to Michael’s darkness.

After a slow beginning, the story picks up and starts to flow quite well, although there are times when the narrative meanders a little too much and would have, perhaps, benefited from a tighter edit. However, there are some nice descriptive touches which capture time and place really well. The emotional impact of the story is dramatic without being over sensational and nicely captures both the pain of lost love and the emotional pull of separation. The first part of the story is particularly well done and the troubles in Northern Ireland are written with a compassionate eye for detail by someone who clearly knows and understands this uneasy period in Irish history. I felt that Anna’s story, in part two, lacked energy but was written with thoughtful consideration and succeeds in bringing the story to a sensitive conclusion.

Ahoy for Joy is a tender and rather sad story about first love and lost love and of the memories we cherish in our hearts and which the passage of time can never dim. I enjoyed reading it.

My thanks to the author for sharing his story with me. More details can be found on the author's website.


Friday 19 June 2015

The author in my spotlight is ....Linda Chamberlain

Author of 

CreateSpace Independent
Publishing Platform

Linda ~ a warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions...

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing forever. Well, since childhood. Doesn’t everyone find it easier to jot something down rather than say something? Ideas, thoughts even jokes have been known to flow from me if I’m holding a pen but ask me to tell you a story to your face and I might freeze. 

Such a personality made me the ideal candidate for a career in journalism so that’s where I headed straight from school. It was wonderful and they paid me for doing what came easily. Journalists don’t have to talk about themselves because they are always asking questions but the writing style is clipped and efficient. No editor will ever ask you to describe the clouds in great detail and so turning to fiction from such a background wasn’t easy. 

The average news story will be a few hundred words. My books are about 100,000. I never like to think about that when I start a new one because the length is intimidating. 

But you asked what got me started on fiction? It was the need for financial independence. I felt a little lost when children came along and made a career in journalism hard to hold onto. By the time my youngest started going to football training, he was dutifully followed by his mum and a laptop. I never missed a training session, got a lot of writing done but, to my credit, didn’t miss a match or a goal.

What can you tell us about The First Vet that will pique the reader's interest?

Apart from it’s a darned good book, of course! Personally, I love books that have some facts at their disposal so that by the time you get to the end you are so intrigued that you start thinking beyond the story and want to know more about the thread underlying it. So, make yourself comfortable and let me tell you about one of this country’s first vets and why he was such a remarkable man worthy of the status of hero in a romantic novel. His name was Bracy Clark and he gave up a promising career as a surgeon in order to become a student at the newly opened veterinary college in 1793. It was all about horses at that time – sorry, Jaffa, cats didn’t matter, unfortunately. Horses were central to our economy and we were losing them more at home through ignorance than were being killed in the revolutionary wars. 

So, Bracy took a huge risk to help the horse because no one had heard of a veterinarian in the late 18th century and this new breed of animal doctors would have everything to prove, suspicion to overcome. You can already tell he was a self-sacrificing, wonderful man, can’t you?

But just as Ross Poldark had to deal with the wicked George Warleggan, Bracy had his own real-life nemesis to thwart in the guise of Professor Edward Coleman who ran the veterinary college for more than 40 years. He was charming, well liked and extremely well connected but, according to my man and a few historians, he was an ‘unmitigated evil’. The charges against him are many. He shortened the veterinary course to just three months. Fact. He allowed unsuitable pupils. Quite possibly. For the sake of the student fees that were going into his own pocket. Ah, an intriguing allegation. He died a very wealthy man and this gave credence to the claim of corruption. 

Since Bracy, as well as a few periodicals at the time, ran with the story in print, I saw no reason not to do the same. So this is the background to my historical romance - a story of love and corruption. Bracy has a few horses to ride, just like Poldark, but without the sea. He also has a few animals to save and a woman to convince. 

Are you a plotter...or...a start writing and see how it goes, kind of writer?

Plotters! I try not to talk to them. I certainly wouldn’t play chess against them. They know what’s happening, before it’s happened. Nothing surprises them. Be wary of them, Jaffa, they probably know what’s going to be in your food bowl tonight. History hasn’t been kind to people who plot so that’s probably their excuse. So many plots; so many executions.

No, I’m the type of writer who has great difficulty organising the book launch party, seems to get there in the end but has forgotten to write a thank-you-for-coming speech and has to wing it on the night. Faced with a new novel to start, I introduce my blank mind to a blank page. I have some characters, a bit of a story, possibly some historical research and off we go. There are huge disadvantages to this approach. The manuscript needs to be rewritten many, many times. Inconsistencies have to be spotted, ironed out; characters have to be honed. To be honest, I envy plotters and their dreadfully tidy, organised lives and their ability to get their tax return in before the deadline. 

What do you hope readers will take away from the story?

Bear with me because this is about the welfare of horses. Bracy Clark was an animal rights campaigner before we ever coined the phrase. He campaigned for better treatment of these animals; he was against heavy loads, whips, spurs…and horse shoes. Shoeing horses with metal and nails is the issue I have slipped in without anyone noticing. The non-horsey reader won’t even know there are welfare concerns about this age-old practice but it’s dividing the equine world and has led to much vitriol as well as prosecutions. I’m only going to intrigue you…not bore you, so I won’t tell you more. Anna Sewell popped a welfare issue into Black Beauty – the bearing rein which forced horses to hold their heads high but caused pain and injury. She told a good tale, sold an enormous number of books and did some good. So, I would like my readers to enjoy my story but also consider whether clip clop should, in future, become pad, pad…

Huge thanks to Linda for sharing her thoughts so eloquently. 
Jaffa and I have loved having you as our guest on the blog today.
We wish you continued success with your writing.

My review of The First Vet can be found here.


Thursday 18 June 2015

Review ~ Song of the Sea Maid by Rebecca Mascull

Hodder & Stoughton
18 June 2015

The mean and moody streets of eighteenth century London are no place for abandoned children and yet, two young siblings, names as yet unknown, eke out a meagre existence by petty pilfering, taking food where they find it, and surviving by their considerable wits. But the fickle hand of fortune sees the older boy forcibly pressed into a life at sea, leaving his small sister at the mercy of her own fate. Rescued by a providential stranger, the girl is removed from the anonymity of the streets and is taken to a foundling place and given the name of Dawnay Price, a name which will eventually carry her far away from her humble beginnings and into a world of enlightenment. 

Dawnay Price is a commendable narrator, who leads us quite forcibly by the hand and in her unique voice allows us a glimpse into the world of an eighteenth century enlightened female. Written with the author’s fine eye for detail, the story charts the events of Dawnay’s fascinating life and allows a glimpse into the workings of a fiercely intelligent woman who used her considerable wits to survive and rise above her early challenging start. 

As with Rebecca Mascull’s previous novel, The Visitors, there is a realistic historical feel to the novel. The characters, their dialogue and their mannerisms blend together to form a distinct picture of eighteenth century life. The intelligence of the research offers the reader a story with real depth and clarity, and a feisty heroine who stays with you long after the book is finished. 

There is huge expectation when reading an author’s second novel, especially when the first left such a lasting impression, so I must admit that I felt some trepidation when I first picked up my e-copy of Song of the Sea Maid. I knew the writing would be good, after all that’s what I’ve come to expect from this talented author, but I also wanted to be blown away by a story which captured my imagination, that gave me people I cared about and a story I didn’t want to end. I am delighted to say that from the opening chapter I was totally captivated and felt completely at ease in the company of a fine array of characters and by the storytelling skill of an author who clearly knows how to hold a reader in the palm of her hand. 

My thanks to Emma at Hodder & Stoughton for my e-copy of this book to read in advance of its publication.

Rebecca Mascull


Wednesday 17 June 2015

Review ~ The House of Frozen Dreams by Seré Prince Halverson

An imprint of Harper Collins

I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but this one is so striking that I was immediately drawn into the blue and white cold of an Alaskan wilderness and the story of two people who have been irreparably damaged by the catastrophic events of their lives.

Nadia has been living in the Winkel's homestead for the past ten years. She has had virtually no contact with the outside world and apart from her dog Leo, has been isolated and alone.

Kache Winkel returns to his abandoned homestead after two painful decades of trying to come to terms with the tragedy of his life. When he finds Nadia in the home he thought long abandoned, painful memories from his past threaten to rise to the surface.

What then follows is a beautifully written story about love and loss and of painful memories and lasting hurt, and of the need we all have to keep our memories and our loved ones safe. The writing is evocative and glorious and conjures an image of cold, crisp air in such striking detail that I actually felt the cold and experienced the isolation of living in a community that was full of secrets, controlled by lies and isolated to the point of loneliness.

Nadia’s and Kache’s story is allowed to evolve slowly but is no less dramatic because of this. We learn of their lives, their hopes and their dreams, and ultimately their fears, and as their individual stories begin to coalesce, a relationship starts to develop, which is both heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure.

Without doubt,  this is a lovely, lovely story and one that will stay with me for quite a time. 

My thanks to Harper for my copy of this book.

Seré Prince Halverson
 Seré Prince Halverson


Tuesday 16 June 2015

Review ~ I Can't Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan

Michael Joseph

British born Kay Eberstern has been married to her Danish husband Bror for twenty five years and her home in the well run country estate of Rosenlund is both secluded and peaceful. But when the Germans invade Denmark in 1940, life for the Ebersterns and in particular for Kay is about to change forever. Kay is lured, almost by default into becoming involved with the Danish resistance movement and her task to shield and protect a male operative, known only as Felix, is fraught with danger. When her family are unwittingly drawn into the conspiracy, Kay has some really tough decisions to make, none of which bode well for the future of her family.

What then follows is a complex and fraught story which looks at the dangers faced by those of the resistance who were 'on the ground' and constantly moving around trying to get coded information out to London. But what was equally fascinating was the complicated involvement of all those who were charged with the responsibility to both receive and decode these vital messages as they came in.

It was quite refreshing to read a WW2 novel which focused on Denmark as all too often the stories I have read about the resistance focus on France and it's easy to forget that other European countries were facing equally challenging circumstances.

The early part of the novel seems a little slow but I think this is quite deliberate as it allows the story to develop at its own pace, however, by about a third of the way into the novel the story really starts to take off and soon becomes utterly compelling.

This is a well written and fascinating novel and is worth reading if you enjoy WW2 historical fiction.

My thanks to Penguin / Michael Joseph for my copy of this book.

About the author

Elizabeth Buchan


Monday 15 June 2015

The Magna Carta ~ 800th Anniversary

Hodder & Stoughton

Eight hundred years ago, on June 15 1215, on the banks of the River Thames at Runnymede, King John was forced at the point of the sword to yield to pressure from his barons and set his seal to the document which would form the basis of English law for the next eight hundred years.

The Magna Carta was first drafted by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury in order to bring the recalcitrant king into line with his rebel barons. The charter promised to protect church rights, to protect the barons from false imprisonment, access to swift justice and limitations on feudal payments to the crown.

The parchment, roughly square and written using gall- based ink has retained its colour well. Approximately thirteen copies were made and distributed throughout the country, however, only four copies now exist - one in Lincoln Cathedral, one in Salisbury Cathedral and two in the British Library.

Magna Carta (British Library Cotton MS Augustus II.106).jpg
Magna Carta

John by the grace of God, King of England Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, Count of Anjou, to the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justiciars, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants and all his officials and faithful subjects greeting...

Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprionetur, aut disseisiatur aut utlagetur, aut exuletur,aut aliquo modo destuatur,necsuper eum inimus, nec super eum mittemus,nisi per legal judicium parium suorum vel per legem terre.
Nulli vende,us, nulli negabimus aut differemus rectum aut justicium.

"......No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or deprived or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go or send against him, except by the lawful judgement of his peers  or by the law of the land.

To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice....."

"...Given under our hand in the meadow which is called Runnymede between Windsor and Staines on the fifteenth day of June in the seventeenth year of our reign..."

The principle and the rule of law was born.


More about the events celebrating Magna Carta can be found

Magna Carta


Sunday 14 June 2015

Sunday WW1 Poet.....

This month's theme 

The Female Poets of the First World War

Lady Margaret Sackville


A Memory

There was no sound at all, no crying in the village,

Nothing you would count as sound, that is, after the shells;

Only behind a wall the low sobbing of women, 

The creaking of a door, a lost dog-nothing else.

Silence which might be felt, no pity in the silence, 

Horrible, soft like blood, down all the blood-stained ways;

In the middle of the street two corpses lie unburied, 

And a bayoneted woman stares in the market-place.

Humble and ruined folk-for these no pride of conquest, 

Their only prayer: "O Lord, give us our daily bread!"

Not by the battle fires, the shrapnel are we haunted; 

Who shall deliver us from the memory of these dead?

Lady Margaret Sackville was the daughter of the 7th Earl de la Warr. She was a poet and children's author. During WW1 she published a book of poems entitled The Pageant of War (1916). Her brother the 8th Earl of de la Warr was killed in battle in 1915.


Saturday 13 June 2015

Review ~ The Silent Hours by Cesca Major

June 2015

A quiet corner of unoccupied France is the setting for this beautifully written, and utterly heart-breaking wartime story which focuses on the lives of very different people. All of them have been affected by an appalling tragedy, the details of which, at the start of the novel we know very little. However, as the story gradually unfolds, and as their stories combine and coalesce, we learn of lives ruined by devastating loss. We start to connect emotionally with them, we grow to love them, feel with them, and experience life as they see it. Sometimes they are bursting with happiness, whilst at other times the sadness and the rawness of their grief is palpable. We see them going about their daily lives in a time when peace of mind was a forgotten commodity. When in reality, they were just waiting and praying for it all to be over.

The story evolves beautifully, with an almost cinematic quality which is quite outstanding. I felt like I was actually in the novel, experiencing both the highs and the lows and of course, completely wrung out emotionally, by the ending of the story. 

There is so much I could say which would hint at the eventual outcome, but that would be to do both the author and the story a complete disservice, as this is one of those books which should be read without any preconceptions of where it will end. 

All I can say, is that The Silent Hours is a stunningly good debut novel and truly deserves all the accolades which, I know, are going to come its way.

My thanks to Alison at Atlantic Books /Corvus for my review copy of this book.