Saturday 31 October 2015

Halloween Review ~ The House on Cold Hill by Peter James..

Pan Macmillan
October 2015

From the very beginning of The House on Cold Hill there is a feeling of unease and the opening chapter reiterates that this is not going to be an cosy read and that it's probably one that's going to be best devoured with all the lights full on.

Ollie and Caro Harcourt and their daughter Jade move into the dilapidated house in a peaceful Sussex village. Ollie's excited by this move, and even though the house is dilapidated and falling down around his ears, he instinctively knows that he has found home. Caro and Jade, on the other hand, need more convincing that this is the right place for them. You see, Jade misses her friends and even though face-timing them sort of works, it doesn't make her feel altogether comfortable when her friends keep spotting a mysterious figure in the background on Jade's iPhone screen. When other more inexplicable things start to happen, the move to the house in Cold Hill village doesn’t look such a good idea any more.

Gradually, the true horror of what is happening in the house starts to take over the narrative, and it's done in such a subtle, almost matter of fact way, that even as the coldness of the creeping menace starts to pervade your bones, you realise that almost without thinking you are caught looking over your shoulder to find yourself peering into the shadows. The ghostly nature of the house, and believe me, the house is by far the most important character in this story, starts to dominate and there is an overwhelming need to read on and on and on….

There is no doubt that the author is a supreme master of his craft. There is an understated intelligence to the story, a succinct way of drawing out the suspense and a cranking up of the tension until at times it’s almost impossible to read without feeling that fearful jumpiness which comes from being scared witless. All too often creepy stories can rely on shock tactics to make the reader believe they are frightened, The House on Cold Hill is far more refined, the sharpness of the writing, which neither patronises nor over sensationalises what is happening, guarantees that the horror feels authentic and accurate.

I was constantly surprised by the story, I’d just thought I had the substance of it when it would twist and take me down a completely different path, until by the end, with a conclusion which is definitely worth waiting for, I was completely terrified.  

You can find Peter on his website
Follow on Twitter @peterjamesuk
Find him on Facebook

Amazon UK

My thanks to the author for sharing his work with me and to Julia At Midas PR and Pan Macmillan for my review copy of The House on Cold Hill.


Friday 30 October 2015

The author in my spotlight is ...Katey Lovell

I am delighted to welcome to Jaffareadstoo

The Boy in the Bookshop : A Short Story 

  is available to download now. 

26826598     The Boy at the Beach: A Short Story (The Meet Cute)    26826596
October 2015

Hi Katey ~ welcome and thanks for spending time on our blog....

What makes you want to write romantic short stories?

I’ve always written short stories, partly because I didn’t have the belief that I’d be able to finish writing a novel or novella. Romance has been one of my favourite genres to read since my teens and although I’ve dabbled in other genres my heart and soul is committed to romance and women’s fiction, both as a reader and a writer.

Short stories are seeing a bit of a revival – people are reading them on tablets and mobile phones and they’re perfect for when you have a small amount of time to spare, such as when commuting on public transport, waiting for an appointment or during a lunch or coffee break. Harper Impulse published Brigid Coady’s Kiss series a couple of years back and that was a real catalyst for me in trying to get my own writing out there. Knowing publishers were looking to do something different, which is what I always try to do as a writer, encouraged me to write The Meet Cute series.

And do you write for yourself or other people?

First and foremost, I strongly believe every writer should write for themselves. It’s lovely to think of others reading and enjoying your stories, but if you don’t believe in what you write it’ll show.

Where do your ideas for stories come from?


Sometimes I’ll see something and think ‘ooh, I can use that!’ or I’ll overhear a word or phrase that sparks an idea. With The Meet Cute series I was talking to a group of friends on WhatsApp about a story I’d written and one said she loved any books or films with a ‘meetcute’ in them. Within ten minutes I’d decided to write the series and we were throwing ideas around of places where couples could get together. There were originally seven stories in the series but I’ve now written nine, with couples meeting in all kinds of settings.

Are you a romantic ?

Absolutely. I’m more likely to be wooed by thoughtful gestures than gifts.

What do you love about writing?

I love being able to create something that no one else knows about. That makes me sound secretive which I’m really not, but there’s something very special about starting a new project full of ideas and endless possibilities and it being entirely your own.

And on a good day when words are flowing, it’s the best feeling ever.

What scares you about writing ?

It’s a bit of a cliché, but the blank page can be terrifying! And when you share your writing, whether that’s through publication, a writing group or emailing it to a friend, there’s always a fear. I’ve spoken to lots of authors who say the same, I guess it’s just scary to let others form opinions about anything you’ve worked hard on. I’ve definitely developed a thicker skin through the whole process of submitting my writing to publishers and agents.

What’s next?

I’ve spent this year working on two longer projects, a women’s fiction novel and a steamy romance novella set in Hollywood. It’d be wonderful if either (or both!) were to be published. In terms of more writing, I’m planning to take part in NaNoWriMo although I’m not sure I’ll manage the full 50,000 words in November!

The Boy in the Bookshop, the first story in the Meet Cute series is out now, published by Harper Impulse, to be followed by The Boy at the Beach on 5th November 2015 and The Boy at the Bakery on 12th November 2015.

Amazon UK
Amazon US

About the Author

Katey Lovell is fanatical about words. An avid reader, writer and poet, she once auditioned for Countdown and still tapes the show every night. Getting the conundrum before the contestants is her ultimate thrill.

She loves love and strives to write feel-good romance that'll make you laugh and cry in equal measure. 

Originally from South Wales, Katey now lives in Yorkshire with her husband and their seven year old son.

Find Katey on twitter, @katey5678

Huge thanks to Katey for sharing her thoughts about  her short stories with us today.

Jaffa and I wish you much success with your writing career.


Thursday 29 October 2015

Author Interview ~ Peter James

I am delighted to welcome to Jaffareadstoo the best selling author

Peter's new novel The House on Cold Hill is out now and is the perfect creepy read for Halloween.

Pan Macmillan
October 2015

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for The House on Cold Hill?

The House On Cold Hill is very much inspired by – and modelled on – an isolated historic house in Sussex that my former wife and I bought in 1989 – and which turned out to be seriously haunted.
It was a classically beautiful, rather melancholic looking Georgian manor house on the edge of a Sussex hamlet, with a long history.  Before being a manor house in the middle ages it had been a monastery, and prior to that there had been a Roman villa on the site.
‘You'll like this house, with what you write,’ the owner told me, mischievously, on our first viewing.  'We have three ghosts.’
It turned out he was fibbing - the house, we were to discover later, actually had four…  The first one manifested while we were in the process of moving in.  I was standing in the front porch, on a beautiful spring morning, with my mother-in-law, a very down-to-earth lady, who was a senior magistrate.  But she had a 'fey' side to her - in that she was very open minded about the paranormal, and always had a particular recurring, frightening dream whenever someone she knew was about to die.
From the front door where we were standing, there was a long, narrow corridor, which ran almost the width of the house, through to an oak-panelled atrium, with four Doric columns, which led through into the kitchen.  This atrium was all that remained of the monastery, which had originally been on the site, and you could still see the arches where the altar had been.
As we stepped aside to let the removals men leave the house to fetch another item, I suddenly saw a shadow, like the flit of a bird across a fanlight, in the interior of the house.
'Did you see that?'  She asked, with a knowing look.
Despite the warmth of the sunlight, I felt a sudden chill.  I knew at that moment she had seen something uncanny.  But I did not want to spook my wife on our very first day in this house.  We were both townies, and this was our first move into the countryside.  She was already apprehensive about the isolation of the property.  The last thing I needed was for her to be unnecessarily scared by a ghost!  So I shook my head and told her I had not seen anything.  But in truth, I was feeling a little spooked by this.
Our first night was uneventful, and our Hungarian Puli dog had been very happy and calm.  I’d been told that dogs would often pick up on any supernatural occurrence way before their owners, so I took this a good sign.
In the morning, my wife left for work at 8am.  After breakfast I went to my study to resume work on my third supernatural novel, Sweet Heart.  Around 10.30am I went downstairs to make a cup of coffee.  As I entered the atrium, on my way through to the kitchen, I saw tiny pinpricks of white light floating in the air all around me – two or three dozen in all.  My immediate reaction was that it was sunlight, coming through the window in the far wall, reflecting off my glasses.  I took them off, put them back on, and the pinpricks of light had gone.
I returned to my study, but when I went downstairs to make myself some lunch, the same thing happened.  And again after removing my glasses and putting them back on again, the pinpricks had gone.  But I was left with a slightly uneasy feeling.  In the afternoon, when I went downstairs to make a mug of tea, it happened again.
I said nothing to my wife when she arrived home that evening, and she did not see anything.
The next day around mid morning, when I was alone in the house, I saw the pinpricks again, and at lunchtime.  After lunch I took the dog for a walk.  We’d only gone a short distance along the lane when an elderly man came up to me, introducing himself as a neighbour in the hamlet.  ‘You are Mr James, aren’t you?’  He asked.
‘Yes, I am,’ I replied.
‘You've just moved into the Manor?’
‘Two days ago.’
‘How are you getting on with your grey lady?’  He said, with a strange, quizzical look that immediately unsettled me.
‘What grey lady?’   I asked.
He then really spooked me.  ‘I was the house sitter for the previous owners.  In winter, they used the atrium as a ‘snug’ because, adjoining the kitchen, it was always warm from the Aga.  Six years ago I was sitting in the snug, watching television, when a sinister looking woman, her face grey, and wearing a grey, silk crinoline dress, materialized out of the altar wall, swept across the room, gave me a malevolent stare, gave my face a flick with her dress, and vanished into the paneling behind me.  I was out of there thirty seconds later, and went back in the morning to collect my things.  Wild horses wouldn’t drag me back in there again!’
I was struck both by the sincerity of the man, and his genuine fear, which I could see in his eyes as he told me the story.  It truly made the hairs on the back of my neck rise.
I returned to the house after our walk, feeling very uncomfortable.  I even wimped out of going through the atrium into the kitchen to make my afternoon cuppa!  But when my wife came home in the evening, I said nothing – I suppose I did not want to believe it myself, and she was still extremely nervous about living in such an isolated house.
The following Sunday, we had invited her parents to lunch.  Whilst she was occupied putting the finishing touches to the meal, I took her mother aside and asked her what exactly she had seen that day we were moving in.
She described a woman, with a grey face, dressed in grey silk crinoline, moving across the atrium – exactly what the old man had described to me.
I was stunned – and very spooked.  Later, after her parents had left, I decided I had to tell my wife.  She took it in the pragmatic way she had of dealing with most difficult issues in life.  ‘You’ve met several mediums in your research – why don’t you ask one of them to come in and see what they find?’
A few days later, a medium who had helped me a lot during my writing of Possession came to the house, and I took her into the atrium, and left her on her own, as she had requested.
An hour later she came up to my study, and yet again, described exactly this woman in grey silk crinoline.  She explained the pinpricks of light I kept seeing by telling me I was slightly psychic, so while I was not actually seeing the entire apparition, I was picking up some of its energy – hence the pinpricks of light.
I asked her if there was anything I could do about this, and she told me that the apparition was of a deeply disturbed former resident of the house, and that it needed a clergyman to deal with it.
I felt a tad cynical about her response – but at the same time, I was now feeling deeply uncomfortable in what should have been the sanctuary of my own home.  But there was a vicar I knew who I thought would be able to help, and with whom I had become good friends.
At the time he was officially the Vicar of Brighton – but with another hat, he was also officially, the Chief Exorcist of the Church Of England.  That wasn’t his actual title, which was the less flaky-sounding Minister Of Deliverance.  A former monk, the son of two medics, a university double first in Psychology, he was as far from Max Von Sydow’s Father Merrin in The Exorcist as you could get.  He is delightful human being, with whom I had become good friends, and still am to this day.  He is a modern thinker, a clergyman who has a problem with the biblical concepts of God, yet still retains an infectious faith.  His views, for instance, on the Ouija board are that far from putting its participants in touch with the spiritual world, it actually opens up a Pandora’s Box of their own inner demons.
Even so, I was a little surprised when he cheerfully entered the atrium, stood still for a couple of minutes, and then loudly and very firmly enunciated, into thin air, ‘You may go now!’
He turned to me and said, ‘You should be fine now.’
Well, we were, until a mid June day in 1994.  My novel, Host, which had been published the previous year, by Penguin, in hardback, had just been published both on two floppy discs, billed as, The World’s First Electronic Novel, and in paperback.  The thick paperback lay on a beautiful antique wooden chest, which we kept in the atrium.  I always put my latest book there, for visitors to see.  On this particular sunny morning, I was having breakfast, around 7.45 am, while my wife was upstairs getting ready for work.  Suddenly she called down, ‘I can smell burning!’
I suddenly realized that I could, too.  I turned around, and to my amazement, the copy of Host, on top of the wooden chest, was on fire!
I rushed over, grabbed the book, ran to the kitchen sink and threw it in, then turned the taps on, to extinguish the flames.
There was, of course, a perfectly prosaic explanation:  Close to the book, on the chest, was a round glass paperweight.  The hot June morning sun rays had been refracted through it, much the same way that as kids, we used to set fire to things by letting the sun’s rays refract though a magnifying glass.  But…  the fact this had happened in this room which had had the apparition in added a very sinister dimension.

The above story was only one of the spooky occurrences we had in this otherwise glorious house. 

Without revealing too much, can you tell us anything about the story?

Following on from the last answer you’ll not be surprised to read that it is about a couple of townies who move from the heart of the city of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside! The couple in the story, Caro and Ollie, have a twelve-year old daughter, Jade, who is stroppy and unhappy about leaving Brighton where all her friends are. But Caro and Ollie both love the idea of living in a grand country pile, and despite the huge financial strain, and a number of warnings in the surveyors report, they buy Cold Hill House - a huge, dilapidated, Georgian mansion.  Within days of moving in with, it soon becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren't the only residents in the house….. The first thing that happens is that jade is up in her room a couple of days later, on Facetime, to her best friend in Brighton, when her friend suddenly says, ‘Jade, who is that lady standing behind you?’

Where do you get your inspiration for a story from – are you inspired by people, places or do you draw purely from your imagination?

Aside from my imagination and own experiences, I regularly spend time out with the police and gain a huge amount of inspiration from things I see over and hear over that time.  But I also think one of the best resources is in shops all over every town and city in the land, and refreshed daily – newspapers!  They contain so much of human life, and so many true crime stories.  In particular, I often think that local provincial papers contain more in-depth coverage and lurid details than the nationals.

Your writing is very atmospheric – how do you ‘set the scene’ in your novels and how much research did you do in order to bring The House on Cold Hill to life?

I began my career by making low budget horror movies, and I think I’ve seen just about every scary movie ever made and read every significantly scary book. I was the radio presenter on and off for two years on a late night radio phone-in show about the paranormal in Sussex and Hampshire, and I got more than a few stories then!  In 1994 the BBC gave me carte blanche to make a documentary on ghosts in Scotland.  I’ve lived in two haunted houses and lived with a medium for thirteen years.  I’m also the only fiction author who’s been invited to lecture at the Society of Psychical Research, so I guess you could say I’d done over thirty years of research for this book!

Whilst researching the novel, did you discover anything which surprised you?

Yes! There is a chilling postscript to my writing THE HOUSE ON COLD HILL:  A key element of the story is a mysterious window in the mansion that my couple buy.  A window that, they one day realize, is for a room that does not appear to exist.  A room that has no door…     In addition to my home in Sussex, I have an apartment on two floors in Notting Hill.   A month after finishing the book my wife, Lara and I were walking along the street beneath, looking up, and talking about his particular part of the book.  Suddenly Lara asked, pointing up, ‘Which room is that window in?’
We stood there frozen for some moments, as it began to dawn on us that the window did not make sense.  We could not work out which room it was.  We ran in, raced up the six flights of stairs and into each of the two rooms which the “mystery” window seem to straddle.  But there was no window!
We finally did solve the mystery – the builders who had put a fitted wardrobe in the master bedroom had, for whatever reason, decided to lose the window in the process and, leaving the glass on the outside, had timbered over the inside.

Who says truth is not stranger than fiction???!

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

I try to ensure that whatever I’m doing I leave myself time to write 1000 words 6 days a week.  I have offices in my Sussex and Notting Hill homes, but I can write anywhere. Thanks to laptops, my office has long ceased to be a concrete space and I can write on the move.  I actually write really well on airplanes, in the back of a car and in hotel rooms!  But my favourite writing time is 6 - 9:30 in the evening. I got used to that when I was working full time in film and TV, and made this my ‘me’ time. I have a stiff drink – often a vodka martini, with four olives, put on music and get in a zone. I really love this time of the day.

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

I am currently writing my 12th Roy Grace Novel called “Love You Dead’ which will be published May 2016.  I’ve also started work on another standalone novel – on the theme of what might happen if someone claimed to have absolute proof of the existence of God.  It is a subject that has long intrigued me, and I have been working on the research planning of this book for nearly two decades.

 Peter was educated at Charterhouse then at film school.  Before becoming a full time novelist he has produced numerous films, including The Merchant Of Venice, starring Al Pacino. Both a film and a TV adaptation of the Roy Grace series is currently in development, with Peter overseeing all aspects. He has an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Brighton in recognition of his services to literature and the community, An Honorary Mastership of the Open University, is Patron of Neighbourhood Watch nationwide, Patron of Crimestoppers in Sussex, Patron of Brighton & Hove Samaritans, and Patron of Relate in Sussex, among many other charities he is involved with.  Peter has been two-times Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association and has won many literary awards, including the publicly voted ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards People’s Bestseller Dagger and he was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Book Prize.  As popular internationally as in the UK, he won the US Barry Award, for Best British Crime Novel in 2012. In 2015 in a poll run by WH Smith, Peter was publicly voted, The Best Crime Author Of All Time.

You can find Peter on his website
Follow on Twitter @peterjamesuk
Find him on Facebook

Huge thanks to Peter for giving his time so generously and for sharing his thoughts about

My thanks also to Julia at Midas PR for her help with this interview and to Pan Macmillan for my review copy of this book.


Wednesday 28 October 2015

Review ~ Destiny's Plan by Victoria Saccenti

Magick Publishing

Destiny has the final word.....

Raquelita Muro and Matthew Buchanan meet by chance on a Greyhound bus ride between Texas and Tallahassee. For both of them the journey is difficult and fraught with emotion. Raquelita is travelling with her difficult and irascible mother, Isobel, and her sweet younger sister, Marité, ostensibly, to make a new start, after her parent’s separation, and to stay with family in Florida. Matthew is travelling a very different path, a journey which will take him to Fort Benning and to deployment in Vietnam. The attraction between the gentle Raquelita and idealistic Matthew is instantaneous and they acknowledge that on some primal level, they have found, in each other, their soul mate.  

But all is not going to be easy for the young lovers, as fate has a nasty habit of intervening, and Raquelita’s abusive mother is disinclined to let Raquelita pursue a relationship with a young man of whom she knows nothing, and, of course, Matthew’s deployment brings with it a whole heap of worrying complications. The complexities of life for Raquelita and Matthew is explained well, you feel their angst and suffer emotionally as they face countless setbacks and difficulties. Isobel, on the other hand is manipulative and cruel, with her own complex relationship issues, which dominate throughout the narrative.

Overall, I think that it this is a commendable debut novel and when viewed as a whole, the story works very well, although there were times when I thought that the writing was perhaps a little over complicated, but, I put that down to the exuberance of the debut novel and a new author’s enthusiasm for description. What does come across, however, is the fine attention to detail and the obvious love the writer has for both her story and her characters. Destiny’s Plan is unashamedly romantic, but to counteract the sweetness, there is also the anguish of survival, the darkness of people scarred by hurt, and the deeper passion which comes from overcoming adversity. I liked how the story developed, there was so much to consider, not just about the pain and anguish of young love, but also the irresistible notion that, eventually, love can conquer all.

I am confident that as the Destiny’s Plan series progresses, the author will continue to go from strength to strength, and I will watch, with great interest, to see how this exciting series plays out.


Twitter @VictoriaSAuthor

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


Tuesday 27 October 2015

Review ~ The Sea Between Us by Emylia Hall

Headline Review

If someone saved your life, could you ever forget them?

The anticipation of reading a new book by an author whose work you follow is always a huge treat and The Sea Between Us is no exception. Emylia Hall has, once again, brought to life a complex and fascinating look at two people who seem fated, always, to be just one step out of sync with the other.

When Jago Winters rescues Robyn Swinton from drowning, a connection is forged which will echo between them for years. Living so close to each other in Cornwall, Robyn and Jago come to depend on each other, there is an undeniable chemistry between them, but all too often fate dictates a very different path.

In The Sea Between Us, the author intertwines the stories of two families, She cleverly uses the relationships between them and focuses on shared experiences between Robyn and her parents, Jago and his father, and of the burgeoning attraction between two young people. But the story isn’t all about people, it’s also a love story to Cornwall, to such an extent that Cornwall became for me, one of the abiding threads of the whole story. Rockabilly, the hidden cove where Robyn practices surfing comes alive so vividly in your mind that you clamber over jagged rocks to hear the rolling waves and wipe the tang of sea spray from your lips. The tactile beauty of Jago’s exquisite wood carving and the beautiful descriptions of the wooden horses he so lovingly recreates left me desperate to find one for myself.

There is no doubt that this author has the ability to create written magic, her skillful weaving of all the story threads guarantees right from the beginning that there is never a moment when the story doesn’t work, when it doesn’t pull you into an imaginary world, so lovingly recreated.

I don’t make book of the year recommendations lightly but The Sea Between Us is definitely on my recommended list for 2015.

About the Author

Follow Emylia on Twitter @Emylia Hall

My thanks to Headline Review, Bookbridgr and NetGalley for my copies of this book


Monday 26 October 2015

Review ~ Rules for Thursday Lovers by Yana Stajno

Clink Street
July 2015

Angie and Fiona are two school friends who meet up years later whilst attending a time share event evening on a Thames barge. Both are rather tipsy and as they bond over discussing their individual personal lives, they realise that they still crave the excitement of their youth. Bonded by their enthusiasm to spice up their lives, they decide to embark upon an adventure; namely, that of time-sharing a lover, which seems, on the surface to be infinitely more exciting than their current boring lives. In order to keep some semblance of control, Angie and Fiona draw up a series of rules; hence the title of the novel.

What the follows is a witty and rather wry look at the complexities of modern relationships and even as the rules are drawn up, you can’t help but realise that all too soon, perhaps, these rules are just going to be broken. I must admit that it took me a little while to get into the story. I found it difficult to connect with any of the characters, and for some reason, I found most of them unlikable for quite different reasons, but I think that the author cleverly manipulates the narrative, so that it’s not necessary to feel any sort of emotional connection to any of them. The story is almost farcical in places, so much so, you could almost imagine it as theatre slapstick where everyone gets hopelessly mixed up, and I think therein lies its charm.

Overall, I thought that the story was well written with a fast moving story line,  which, after a shaky start, kept me entertained. 

My thanks to Kate Appleton at Authoright for my review copy of this book.


Sunday 25 October 2015

Sunday War Poet ...

The theme for this months poetry



The Place


Francis Ledwidge

Blossoms as old as May I scatter here,
And a blue wave I lifted from the stream.
It shall not know the winter days are drear
Or March is hoarse from blowing, But a-dream
The laurel boughs shall hold a canopy
Peacefully over it the winter long
Till all the birds are back from oversea
And April rainbows win a blackbird's song.

And when the war is over I shall take
My lute a-down to it and sing again
Songs of the whispering things amongst the brae
And those i love shall know them by their strain
Their airs shall be the blackbird's twilight song,
Their words shall all be flowers with fresh dews hoar-
But it is lonely now in winter long
And, God! to hear the blackbird sing once more

Francis Ledwidge 1887 - 1917 was an Irish writer and poet .

He was killed on the 31st July 1917 whilst helping to mend a road near Ypres.


Saturday 24 October 2015

Review ~ A Line of Blood by Ben McPherson

Harper Collins
August 2015

This disturbing story starts with an event that will have repercussions throughout the whole of the novel. When Alex Mercer finds his next door neighbour dead in the bath, at first his only thought is that his young son Max is with him, and that he has seen something that no seven year old should ever see.

What then follows is a intricately plotted and very suspenseful novel which has a dark and very disturbing edge to it. On the surface, Alex and his American wife, Millicent seem to be unconventional but caring parents , they have a chaotic and unsettling life and Max, very much centre of their attention, is chillingly mature beyond his years.

The murder mystery at the heart of the story, that of the neighbour in the bath, is handled well and there are moments when the story twists and turns in on itself, so that you are never really sure of what is happening. All the characters in the novel appear fatally flawed, and the idea of having so many unstable narrators is quite beguiling, as throughout the novel you never really know who is actually telling the truth.

I read the book quickly over the space of a couple of afternoons and overall, I found it to be an engrossing and entirely convincing murder mystery, the twist in the tale was handled really well and had me guessing right to the very end.

About the author

Ben McPherson


Ben McPherson was born in Glasgow and grew up in Edinburgh, but left Scotland when he was eighteen. He studied languages at Cambridge, then worked for many years in film and television in London. In 1998, after working a forty-eight-hour shift, he went for a drink at the Coach and Horses in Soho and met the woman he would go on to marry. Similarities to the characters in A Line of Blood end there.
Ben now lives in Oslo with his wife and their two sons. He is a columnist for Aftenposten, Norway's leading quality daily newspaper.

My thanks to to Harper Collins for my review copy of this story


Friday 23 October 2015

Review ~ Ridley Road by Jo Bloom

Weidenfeld & Nicholson

When twenty year old Vivien Epstein's father dies, she makes the momentous decision to move from Manchester to London, ostensibly, to advance her career as a hair dresser but also to track down Jack Fox, a man she had a passionate, but all too brief an affair with some months before her father died.

London in the swinging sixties with all its colour and vivacity comes to life and yet, underneath the cheerful gaiety of working with the girls in Oscar’s hair establishment, a dark cloud is looming and Vivien soon learns that life in London is going to be very different. Searching for Jack is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack but Vivien is determined to track him down. Her search takes her into the dark and dangerous world of fascist propaganda and as she gets drawn into a maelstrom of hatred and violence, she begins to realise that Jack may have to remain hidden for a very good reason.

I was engrossed in this story from the beginning. It’s beautifully written, with a real sense, not just of time and place, but there's also a tangible awareness of something ugly taking place. The violence, the destruction of common values and the overwhelming futility of a community at odds with itself is clearly well researched. The story of the Jewish 62 Group which was formed to challenge the resurgence in fascism at this time is something of which, I'm ashamed to say, I knew nothing, but, by cleverly combining fact with fiction, the author has given me a greater awareness of this difficult time. And yet, all this is in direct contrast to the frivolity of life for Vivien working happily in Oscar’s, until she discovers what’s really happening in the streets around the East End. 

In a way, Ridley Road is Vivien’s coming of age story. We watch as she goes from naïve ingénue to young womanhood and overcomes the ugliness of hatred in an inspirational love story, which helps to show that love will always challenge, and hopefully, overcome adversity.

A commendable novel and well worth reading.

Photo: Matthew Andrews

My thanks to the author for sharing her book with me 
and to the publishers Weidenfeld & Nicholson for my copy of this book.


Thursday 22 October 2015

Review ~ Catlantis by Anna Starobinets

Pushkin Children's Books
October 22

I have often heard Jaffa's plaintive cry when the post pops through the letterbox, ...

"Oh, noes...not another kilted highlander story or a grisly murder set in the suburbs of New York. When is the cat book going to arrive, when is the proper story of a heroic cat, to rival the saintly Bagpuss, going to grace our bookshelves..."

And then .... thanks to the kind folk at Pushkin, and lovely Sophie at ED PR, there came the arrival of Catlantis ....and Jaffa rightly claimed it as his own.


So...what's it all about Jaffa...

Baguette is a pure ginger cat as orange as a carrot, who lives on the twelfth floor. He likes to lie in the window to watch his beloved Purriana on the street below. But in order to win the hand of the slender and striped Purriana, whose coat glistens like diamonds in the snow, Baguette must accomplish a heroic feat. He must find the magical, Catlantean white flower in order to save the nine lives of all cats before it is too late. This dangerous journey will take him beyond the ordinary and into the extraordinary world of Catlantis, there Baguette must meet with the beautiful and bold Catlanteans and learn the secrets of this ancient realm.

Told with impeccable style and littered with beautifully, simple but effective, line drawings, the story of Baguette's intrepid fearlessness combines myth, magic and legend. From beginning to end there is never a dull moment for Baguette,  who is a feisty, determined, and it must be said, very charismatic hero. He wears his coat, as orange as a carrot, with great panache and pride and his resolve to succeed knows no bounds.

Everything about the story just feels right, from the magnificence of Baguette on the front cover, to the orange as carrot endpapers.  The narrative is completely at ease with itself, it whirls and dances and the glorious poems which litter the text are like little pearls of wisdom, filling the story with a real sense of accomplishment.

If you like cats, if you like children, indeed if you like both cats and children, or even if you're a cat with a coat as orange as carrot, then you must add Catlantis to the top of your shopping list along with cheese dreamies and whiskas cat milk....

It's published today ..go buy ...

About the Author

Anna Starobinets is an acclaimed and award-winning Russian novelist, children’s author and journalist, whose dystopian and metaphysical novels have earned her the title of ‘the Russian Queen of Horror’. Catlantis is her second children’s book, and her first to be translated into English. Anna Starobinets lives in Moscow.

Translated by

Janet Bugaeva was born in Russia and emigrated with her family to the United States at the age of six. Although she grew up in the US she has forever remained a Russian child at heart and today translates children’s literature from the Russian. She lived in North Carolina with her husband and two cats.

About the Artist

Andrzej Klimowski studied at St Martin’s School of Art and the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. A graphic novel writer, he is also a designer of film and theatre posters, and numerous book covers, including the entire Everyman Collection of P.G.Wodehouse and several editions of books by Milan Kundera. His works can be found in museums around the world. He is Professor of Illustration at the RCA.


My thanks to Sophie GoodFellow at edpr and Puskin Children's Books

 for sending Jaffa this book to cherish


Wednesday 21 October 2015

Review ~ Angel Heart by Marie Laval

Accent Press
Marie-Ange Norton is summoned to France, ostensibly to claim an inheritance which was hers by right of birth. Her now impoverished state is largely due to her husband's mysterious disappearance whilst fighting in the Napoleonic wars, leaving her in desperate financial need. In order to maintain the family home, for Robert, her husband's younger brother, Marie-Ange must make the difficult journey to her, as yet unknown, relative in France.

Capitaine Hugo Saintclair, a French cuirassier officer, is charged with the responsibility of getting Marie-Ange safely to her destination, namely, the Beauregard Estate in Lyon, France, where she hopes to meet with her relative, Uxeloup Malleval. However, the journey to Lyon is fraught with obstacles and Marie-Ange finds herself relying more and more on the gallant Capitaine's support.

Set in 1815, against the backdrop of the latter years of Napoleonic rule, both time and place is captured really well and there is a distinct sense of excitement, particularly for Marie-Ange, who is a feisty and determined protagonist. From the outset all is not well at Beauregard and her malevolent and scheming relative, Malleval has ideas for Marie Ange's future which seem to have no basis in reality.

I found the book absorbing, with a nice blend of fast-moving thriller and passionate romance and with more than enough twists and turns to keep me guessing until the end. The politics of the time are nicely explained, and the inherent danger which confronts Marie-Ange is told in an imaginative mix of suspense and mystical superstition. The story thrives on danger and political intrigue, but, it is in the burgeoning romance between Marie-Ange and Hugo where the story starts to tug away at the heartstrings. I so wanted everything to work out for them, and with this forefront in my mind, I raced through the story with great enjoyment.

Beautifully written, with a fine eye for detail, Angel Heart combines love, loss, betrayal and shocking family secrets in a story which captivates to the very end.

Marie Laval

Find Marie on her blog
Follow her on Twitter @MarieLaval1

Amazon UK

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


Tuesday 20 October 2015

Review ~ Dead Star Island by Andrew Shantos

Alliance Publishing Press

Sixteen superstars the world thinks are dead. One killer, determined to finish the job.

It's an intriguing idea, the story of a hideaway island where the great and good can disappear when their 'real' lives get too much for them. Faking their deaths and living on Dead Star Island, a remote tropical paradise, has worked for decades, and it would appear that John and Elvis, Marilyn and Diana, and a whole host of long cherished celebrities, find some sort of peace in obscurity. But all is not as idyllic as it first appears, and when a ruthless killer appears to be picking them off and murdering them one by one in a bizarre reconstruction of their original staged deaths, trouble flourishes in paradise. Enticed into investigating this bizarre crime scene, Mario Gunzabo, a one armed alcoholic with an unusual modus operandi, finds that the hidden secrets of the island and the narcissistic qualities of its celebrity guests, makes for a rather unusual crime investigation.

When I first read the précis for Dead Star Island, I was rather taken with the idea that world weary celebrities could choose to fake their deaths in order to escape a life which had become media intolerable. The idea that Marilyn and Diana were sitting close together on an island paradise was a strangely comforting thought. Less comforting, however, was the idea that these darling celebrities were being picked off one by one, like sitting ducks.

I was very soon absorbed into the whole concept of Dead Star Island, so believable is the idea that I really wanted this nirvana to actually exist. However, the important thing to remember is that this is beautifully written fiction; it’s well plotted, with a real sense of style and more than a hint of the downright bizarre, but when all is added together, the story really works, and works very well.. The mystery at the heart of the novel is intriguing, and whilst it is all very entertaining with Gunzabo at the head of the investigation, what mustn't be forgotten,  is that this is also a rather dark, twisted and highly energetic murder mystery.

This original and quirky debut novel is a real hidden gem and, I'm sure, heralds the start of an interesting writing career for its talented author.

Andrew Shantos

Twitter @andrewshantos

 A guest post by Andrew Shantos can be found here.

My thanks to Andrew Shantos and to Katy Weitz @GhostwriterBook for my review copy of Dead Star Island


Monday 19 October 2015

*Blog Tour * ~ The Human Script by Johnny Rich

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's first stop on

The Human Script Blog Tour

and to welcome the author

Johnny Rich

Today Johnny is sharing with us how he found the inspiration for his novel.....

I’m going to tell you a lie. Forgive me. It’s in a good cause. The lie is that the inspiration for my novel, The Human Script, came to me in a dream.

It sounds credible enough. I certainly have come up with short stories in my sleep. But they are half-formed blobs of ideas. As I try to trap them in words, they slip through my fingers. The nonsenses and plot holes that never bother us in dreams mock me from the page. By the time such stories have been wrangled into readability, they look no more like their inspiration than a roast chicken resembles an egg.

Let’s try another lie. An anecdote. A boy of ten or thereabouts – me – sits, cross-legged, in school uniform shorts, homework done, tea eaten, in front of the wood-framed TV. On the screen, Tomorrow’s World, a show that popularised science through mind-blowing innovations like CDs and automatic doors. On this episode, they had a vivarium of toads, which, they claimed with rehearsed awe, were ‘clones’. This was long before Dolly the Sheep – identical amphibians were an earlier milestone in genetic experimentation.

One toad was stretching up the side as if trying to escape. Another sat grumpily watching. A third was scraping at the gravel. As the presenter explained the marvels of their similarity, I was struck only by how differently they behaved. If they are identical, I thought, why aren’t they all doing the same thing? Maybe, I wondered, the simple difference was that they couldn’t be in the same place at the same time. That small difference made all the difference.

From such things thoughts are sparked. Thoughts grow into ideas. Ideas beg for expression and sprout stories. This is such stuff as novels are made of.

The curious musings of a boy were themselves the small difference that sparked a fuse of thought that ended in a novel that asks about how one thing causes another. Where the movie Sliding Doors asks, ‘what if?’, The Human Script asks, ‘Could it ever have been otherwise?’

One more lie: there was no inspiration, no cause. Just imagination. I made it up, conjured it, out of nothing. Stare blankly out of a window long enough and your mind will start to travel down paths of barely connected thought. Capture that butterfly of thought at the right moment and you will not crush its wings. Like a hurricane caused by the butterfly flapping, or like a universe sprung from a big bang of pure energy, a fictional world can grow from a scintilla.

But can that be true? Can something come from nothing? Surely, there had to be something to put the butterfly there in the first place? A caterpillar, of course, but what was before that? We’re back to chickens and eggs.

The truth is I cannot say what my inspiration was. Like all fiction, my lies are just my efforts to be truer than the truth.

There was no single event that set my ideas in motion. My whole life (and indeed those of countless generations before me) conspired to make The Human Script the story that I wanted to tell. That is not to say all creation existed for this purpose, merely that I and my novel are by-products of existence.

As it dawned on me that I had made the decision to write it (a realisation that emerged, rather than a moment of revelation), I then needed to take hold of the reins of my inspiration. I researched, spent time with geneticists, a Calvinist minister. I even pretended to be homeless one night. New inspirations sprang on me.

It was an adventure, but I can’t honestly say when it started, where, when or how. Nor if it’s over.

Have you ever felt like that yourself? Not entirely in control. Not exactly reeling, but unsure why you do stuff? Why stuff happened? Not imprisoned, but not free either. Like the world might be your oyster, but you’re stuck inside its shell.

If so, The Human Script is a story that will explain why you feel like that. I guarantee it will change your life, but only because everything does, however small.

©Johnny Rich

Johnny Rich is the author of TheHuman Script, published by Red Button Publishing, available now in paperback (£9.99) and eBook (£2.99) formats. 

To celebrate the launch of the paperback the author will be reading extracts from the novel followed by a Q&A on 17 November 2015 at the Betsey Trotwood, 56 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3BL. 

To find out more and to book tickets, visit:

Please take a look at the other blog tour stops

The Human Script

19th - 23rd October 2015

My thanks to Johnny for his guest post and to Karen at Red Button Publishing for the invitation to join in with this fun event.

My thoughts about The Human Script

I was bit out of my comfort zone with this novel and for a time it took me a while to feel really comfortable with the story. That's not to say the book is badly written, far from it, it's really very cleverly put together, it's more that my involvement in the story took a while to develop.

Chris Putnam is a scientist working on the Human Genome Project. On the surface he seems an average young man but he is troubled by indecision and feels that his life is drifting aimlessly. He fears the loss of stability which is further compounded by the ending of a relationship and the loss of his father. Changes in circumstance force Chris into making some difficult decisions.

This is a slow burner of a novel which takes a while to really get going but I'm glad I stuck with the story and commend the author on an original and highly innovative novel.