Monday 30 November 2015

Review ~ The Other Half of My Heart by Stephanie Butland

Random House UK
Black Swan

What Memories Are You Hiding?

I first came across this author's work, last year when I read her novel, Surrounded by Water, (aka Letter to my Husband) so it was a lovely surprise to catch up with some of the characters from that novel, in The Other Half of My Heart. Although, it must be said that this novel is an entirely separate story, and not a sequel. 

It focuses on the story of Bettina May, a thirty something woman with a secret past,which at times, threatens to overwhelm her. Bettina finds comfort in baking the most delicious bread and her village bakery is the source of much comfort to her. She pours her heart and soul into the bread she lovingly bakes, and rather than risk getting hurt, Bettina shields herself from getting too close to anyone. Her relationship with her lover, Rufus, is filled with a reticent tenderness, which at times, Bettina doesn't seem to know how to handle. Very cleverly, and rather like putting together a literary jigsaw puzzle, the story is revealed, and we travel back to a time, some, fifteen years ago, when Bettina was a teenager known as Tina, in love for the first time and with her whole life ahead of her. The reasons for Bettina's reluctance to get close to people and the, rather, strained relationship she has with her mother, starts to make sense.

I thought this was a really poignant story, cleverly highlighting how life can change in a heartbeat and that if feelings are hidden away, the repercussions can last a whole lifetime. It's also about finding love, holding it tight and never letting it go, and equally it's the story of unbelievable suffering and of heartbreaking loss on  a grand scale. Stephanie Butland writes so beautifully, that I must admit that I had a walloping great lump in my throat on more than one occasion and at times, needed to take a break from reading in order to gather my thoughts.

It's an emotional story that will resonate long after the last page is turned.

Best Read with a strong expresso and thick slices of crusty Scarborough cob, loaded with butter.

My thanks to NetGalley and  Random House, Transworld Publishers for my copy of this novel.


Sunday 29 November 2015

Sunday WW1 Poet..

The theme for this months poetry





Seigfried Sassoon

(1886 - 1967)

When you are standing at your hero’s grave,
Or near some homeless village where he died,
Remember, through your heart’s rekindling pride,
The German soldiers who were loyal and brave.

Men fought like brutes; and hideous things were done;
And you have nourished hatred, harsh and blind.
But in that Golgotha perhaps you’ll find
The mothers of the men who killed your son.


Saturday 28 November 2015

*Blog Tour* - The Killing of Polly Carter by Robert Thorogood

**Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of this exciting Blog Tour**

The Killing of Polly Carter

Amazon UK

The Killing of Polly Carter is published by MIRA in hardback on the 3rd December 

Please welcome the author

Robert Thorogood

Robert is the creator of the BBC1 hit show, Death in Paradise.

Hi Robert, it's really great to have you as our guest author today...

When did your love affair with crime novels begin?

Hello everyone, thanks very much for stopping by. I’m delighted to be writing a guest blog for Jo and Jaffa today—and, in fact, I realise I can include a little Christmasy message for Jaffa at the end of this blog as well.

But first I thought I’d tell you about when I first fell in love with murder mystery novels, as I remember the occasion very well. It was when I was 9 or 10 years old and I read my first Agatha Christie book, Peril at End House. 

What blew my mind was the fact that there was at least one person in the story (the murderer!) who wasn’t telling the truth. And even better than this, I realised that the author wasn’t being honest either. She was actively trying to trick and misdirect me. I couldn’t believe it. Grown-ups didn’t lie… did they? Well, in the world of murder mysteries they did, and I loved it.

I’ve been reading murder mystery novels ever since. And when I was trying to get my TV writing career off the ground, there was only one show I wanted to work on, and that was Midsomer Murders. I adored it. Just adored, adored, adored it. 

I loved how the world of Agatha Christie had been transplanted without apology to modern-day Oxfordshire with John Nettles solving ‘Golden Age’ mysteries once a week. 

So I badgered the production company who make the show to see if I could get a job writing an episode of Midsomer. They said it wouldn’t be possible, which was an understandable response. I hadn’t written any broadcast TV at this point, and Midsomer is one of the top shows on TV, they can pick and choose their writers. 

However, it was only because I was failing to get a job on Midsomer that I continued to come up with my own ideas for murder mystery TV shows, including Death in Paradise. And when Death in Paradise got greenlit by the BBC and I had to write the first few episodes, I found myself going back to the ideas I’d developed for Midsomer and using them for my own show instead. 

It’s funny how life turns out, isn’t it? 

But there’s no doubting. My career writing murder mystery TV and novels now only exists because—many years ago—I picked up that first Agatha Christie book and thought, ‘Oo, I wonder if I’ll like this…?’ 

And now, as promised at the beginning of the blog, here’s a special Christmas photo of our lovely (but very grumpy*) cat, Daniel, wishing Jaffa and everyone else on the blog a very Merry Christmas!

Huge thanks to Robert ...and Daniel ....for being our guests today. 

And to Julia At MIDAS Public Relations for her kind invitation to be part of this exciting blog tour.

Do visit the other stops on the Blog Tour
28th November - 3rd December


Friday 27 November 2015

Review ~ Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson

Harper Impulse
November 2015

Last Christmas, I spent time in the company of Debbie Johnson and her charming seasonal read, Cold Feet at Christmas, so I am delighted to once again start off my Christmas reading list with this charming sequel, which reminds us of what's happened to Leah and Rob, who we met in Cold Feet whilst at the same time introducing us to Marco and Maggie, two people who seem to be destined to cross paths, right from the start.

What I enjoy most about these stories is the wonderful way the characters come alive; they jump off the page, often larger than life, filled with all sorts of angst like the majority of us and yet, there is also a charming vulnerability makes them seem, oh, so real. Maggie and Marco are complex people; there is an underlying sadness to both of them, making them seem susceptible to all sorts of hurt. It becomes interesting to see just how the relationship between them will play out after a less than auspicious start.

There are no great surprises in the story; it’s a light, easy read with some genuine laugh out loud moments that kept me entertained, and that’s ultimately what I want from a seasonal read. I want feel good factors, I want men in Christmas jumpers and I want to finish the story with a lovely warm glow of bonhomie, and I’m delighted to say that’s just what I got from Never Kiss a Man in Christmas Jumper.

Best read with Honey and Almond hot chocolate and a salted caramel cookie..

About the Author

Debbie   Johnson

Find Debbie on her website
Find her on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter @debbiemjohnson
Amazon UK

My thanks to Debbie for sharing her book with me and to Felicity at Harper Impulse for sending my review copy of Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper.


Thursday 26 November 2015

Review ~ The Angel Tree by Lucinda Riley

The Angel Tree

This is an interesting book to review because some readers may have already read this when it was first published in 1995 under the authors' previous pen name of Lucinda Edmonds. Since it would appear that the time is right for a reissue, the story has been redone, keeping some elements of the original but with some sections reworked, thus breathing new life into a story which is as fresh and characterful now, as it was in its original format.

The story begins as Greta returns to Marchmont Hall, in Monmouthshire, Wales after an absence of thirty years. Greta's memory of her life at Marchmont was irretrievably damaged when she was involved in a dreadful accident which altered her memory thus making her recollection of her previous life hazy and filled with shadows.Much has happened to Greta during this time, her life and that of her family has been very eventful, not without tragedy, and always with an element of misfortune. 

What then follows is a cleverly and intricately constructed family saga which spans several years and which flips forwards and backwards in time, mainly following the fortunes of Greta and her daughter Cheska. The peripheral characters who flit into and out of the story are strong and meaningful and add a real sense of continuity. The story is long, coming it at over 600 pages but as always the story draws you in from the beginning. The characters become as familiar as friends, some you learn to like whilst others become deeply unlikable but as always the strength of the story lies with the telling. The fine attention to detail, the authenticity of the setting, and the gloriously good story telling all combine to make this into another commendable novel from this talented author.

I hadn't read the book when it was first published, so was I was perfectly happy to read The Angel Tree with no preconceptions of what had gone before. I'm sure, however, that those readers who  read the novel when it was entitled 'Not Quite An Angel' will find much to enjoy in this reissued version.

Best read with a cinnamon latte and an enticing selection of Dunkin Donuts....

Lucinda Riley

Follow Lucinda Riley on Twitter @lucindariley
Find her on Facebook


Tuesday 24 November 2015

The Author in my spotlight is....Andrew Man

Please welcome to Jaffreadstoo the author

Happy Publication Day 

Tego Arcana Dei Series #3
Clink Street Publishing
24 November 2015

Hello Andrew and welcome to Jaffa reads too...

What can you tell us about Beyond the Rest of Us?

Well, it’s the final book in a series about a modern world I barely know today. I decided to write the final book as a conspiracy thriller. This means here is a good guy struggling to survive against difficult Government forces. This book also includes some ideas on the problems that Europe faces today including climate change.

Where did you get your inspiration for the story from – people, places or imagination?

I was sitting at a table in the village opposite a young school teacher who asked me if I had ever met important people during my time in Switzerland. I started to tell her the story about a discussion with Mrs Thatcher, years ago in the 80’s. So I have used ideas from both people and places from the past, often with a Sci-Fi twist. What I have written in this book is a short exposé of where we may have gone wrong.

Tell us three interesting things about your novel which will pique the reader’s interest?

I used the second book in the series to describe a world fifty years in the future -this time I went back two hundred years to 1814. Writing historical chapters needs more research. I found links to Swiss
Argand lamps before electricity and of course the Geneva connection to Mary Shelly’s novel ‘Frankenstein.’

Most readers are familiar with the loss of the ‘Costa Concordia’ when it crashed onto rocks on an island off Italy. This was explained in the courts as an accident, but as an ex-banker it may have been something more sinister. Accidents will happen, but when stock markets are open, investors make big returns; of course this is all speculative fiction. 

Time travel is always interesting for readers as it offers speculation and conjecture on things that happen or have happened in everyday life -it allows both the writer and reader to think about things in a different light and reimagine the past.

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

Being retired has its advantages. Finding time to write is not difficult, but having to do research often slows me down for months. I do most reading, writing and online research in the winter, when the temperatures outside are below freezing. In summer it’s time for editing and correction. Details of some scenes can appear in dreams at night so I always keep a notepad next to my bed. This is what I call the ‘Connected Universe’ in my book.

What do you hope readers will take away from your novel?

Well first and foremost, I hope it may generate some interest in politics and modern science. I always include a list of books in the Acknowledgements at the end of each book, in the hope that a few readers may find at least one book of interest. 

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

I had thought that when you write a trilogy that should be the end of the story. But then I see how events this year have got out of control in Europe and the Middle East and it would be easy to continue the series...? I’m keeping my options open for now.

Andrew Man

Find Andrew on his website
Follow him on Twitter @TegoArcanaDei.

Beyond the Rest of Us (published by Clink Street Publishing 24th November 2015, RRP £7.99 paperback, RRP £3 ebook) will be available to purchase from online retailers including and order from all good bookstores. Stay up to date with the Tego Arcana Dei series on twitter @TegoArcanaDei.

My thanks to Andrew for talking to us about Beyond the Rest of Us. and to Kate Appleton at

A bit of blurb..

Beyond the Rest of Us is a thrilling journey of the contemporary human heart, intimate, magical, and subtly architected. A retired Swiss banker is kidnapped at a Geneva hotel for crimes he doesn't understand. An Italian cruise ship crashes into rocks in the Tyrrhenian Sea. A respected American scientist disappears into thin air. And a British secret agent follows a trail of corrupt power in this gripping third book featuring Andrew Man's aging male protagonist James Pollack.

My thoughts..

Although this is the third book in the Tego Arcana Dei Series, I think that it works as a standalone story, the common denominator, to all the novels, being that of the main protagonist, James Pollack. The story of kidnap, disappearance and corruption is well constructed and the author writes with assurance about a genre of fiction he obviously cares passionately about.

The story is very contemporary and draws the reader into a world of danger and espionage; it’s filled with subtle detail and littered with twists and turns which maintain interest. As with all book series, for better continuity, you really are perhaps wiser to read the series from the beginning , that way the subtle nuances of the story are better enjoyed.

The  Tego Arcana Dei  Series

 Keeping Gods Secret (Tego Arcana Dei, #1)  27039781  27039782


Monday 23 November 2015

**Blog Tour** The Secret by the Lake ~ Louise Douglas

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be today's host on the

The Secret by The Lake Blog Tour

Black Swam (Transworld)
November 19 2015

When The Secret by the Lake opens, in 1931, we have a tantalising glimpse into something which happened in the past before going forwards to 1961, to a time thirty years later when Amy is the treasured nanny to Viviane, and is living with Alain and Julia in an idyllic location in France. Peaceful summers spent on the French coast and in an apartment in an affluent suburb of Paris come to an abrupt halt when Amy is recalled home to care for her grandmother. But tragedy doesn’t end there and Amy is soon needed again, this time to care for Viviane in very difficult circumstances. Reservoir Cottage, in the village of Blackwater, in Somerset is now home to Viviane and Julia, it’s a place where heartbreak and misfortune sit awkwardly on the edge of a lonely expanse of water, and the darkness of the water, mirrors the forsaken atmosphere of Reservoir Cottage.

What then follows is a deliciously creepy novel, which looks at the dynamics of family secrets. It’s a story of lives lost and of the tangled webs of malice which have been allowed to fester and which continue to twirl and dance in long forgotten shadows. In many ways, it is a profoundly sad book, and I won't enlighten you any further on that matter, but underneath the malice is a far gentler story, that of Amy's burgeoning attraction to Daniel, a young man of principle, who offers hope in dark times.

There is no doubt that Louise Douglas has the ability to take the reader by the hand, and believe me, a comforting hand to hold is very welcome during parts of this unhappy story. And as you embark on an adventure that feels so authentically real, you have to occasionally tear yourself away from the words on the page and look up to see the sky and the clouds scudding by, just to reaffirm that normal life is still going on around you. It’s been a long time since I read a book that had such a prowling malevolence which gets under your skin and creeps into the corners of your mind and really plays with your thoughts, until you can’t help but be completely taken in by what is unfolding on the page before you.

This is now the sixth book that this talented author has presented for our delectation and for fans, like me, she can’t write them quick enough. If you haven’t allowed yourself the pleasure of reading one of this fine author’s books, then you could pick any one of her stories, open it at random and read a page and if you don’t want to go back to the beginning and read more, well, I would be very surprised!

Best read with....a large glass of Tanqueray Gin ...and a comforting packet of cheese and onion crisps.

For your delectation...

2914988 7264960 10928527 13626714 


Louise Douglas

Find Louise on her website
Follow her on Twitter @LouiseDouglas3
And find her on her Facebook page

My thanks to Louise Douglas and Kim Nash for the kind invitation to join in with this exciting

Blog Tour.

And to Jan at BeadyJansBooks for her kindness in passing on her proof copy of this book.


Sunday 22 November 2015

Sunday War Poet ...

The theme for this months poetry



Valley of the Shadows 


John Galsworthy


God, I am travelling out to death's sea,
I, who exulted in sunshine and laughter,
Dreamed not of dying — death is such waste of me! —
Grant me one prayer: Doom not the hereafter
Of mankind to war, as though I had died not —
I, who in battle, my comrade's arm linking,
Shouted and sang, life in my pulses hot
Throbbing and dancing! Let not my sinking
In dark be for naught, my death a vain thing!
God, let me know it the end of man's fever!
Make my last breath a bugle call, carrying
Peace o'er the valleys and cold hills for ever!

Friday 20 November 2015

Review ~ Naked : A Novel of Lady Godiva by Eliza Redgold

St Martin's Griffin

We Know her name. We know her naked ride. We don't know her true story.

The legend of Lady Godiva is steeped within our culture - in fact we have a colloquial saying, hereabouts,   ..."who do you think you are, Lady Godiva...” meaning of course, that you think you are somebody rather special...

Well, for me this book was indeed rather special as it cleverly combines both myth and factual evidence and puts forward what we think we know about the Anglo-Saxon way of life. However, we must also remember that the eleventh century was a shadowy time, steeped in culture and custom and alive with intrigue and danger. In this tough and lawless time in our history, constant and vicious attack often overshadowed daily life and as such, Godiva, newly bereaved, and a lone female landowner, was a ripe target for violence. Her expedient marriage to Leofric of Mercia was as much about protection and security as it was about mutual attraction. In this story, which charts the events which led to Godiva's naked ride through the streets of Coventry, we learn much about the values and moralities of Anglo-Saxon life and of the limitations placed on those women who dared to challenge male supremacy.

There is lovely lyrical quality to the story which captures the very essence of Godiva; she cared passionately for her lands, and she laid bare both her body and soul to achieve what was right and proper for her people. The relationship between Godiva and Leofric is depicted as a meeting of equals, they are not always comfortable with each other, and yet,  there is an undeniable sensuousness between them that warms the heart. Beautifully evocative of a long forgotten age, life in the middle lands of Engla-lond with Godiva and Leofric comes alive in perfect detail in this story of love, loyalty, passion and betrayal. But what really shone throughout the story, for me, was the wonderfully evocative phrasing which the author uses to such great advantage and which evokes such a feeling of completeness.

True Love.
Laid bare.

I especially liked the references at the start of each chapter to Alfred, Lord Tennyson's epic poem, Godiva, and the author's comprehensive historical notes at the start of the novel really help to put time and place in firmly into context.

Best read with a brimming cup of yeasty beer... and maybe a sweet apple pudding laced with honey...

About the author

You can read an interview with Eliza Redgold here.

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


The author in my spotlight is ...Eliza Redgold

I am delighted to welcome the author

ELIZA REDGOLD is an author, academic and unashamed romantic. She writes historical fiction (St Martin’s Press) and romance (Harlequin).

NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva was released internationally by St Martin’s Press New York in 2015. Her ‘Romance your Senses’ series of contemporary romances are published by Harlequin. They include Black DiamondsHide and Seek and Wild Flower. Eliza is also contracted to Harlequin Historical for two upcoming Victorian historical romances. Look out for Enticing Benedict Cole in November 2015.

Eliza Redgold is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction. She was born in Irvine, Scotland on Marymass Day and currently lives in Australia.


We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don't know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva's ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for 'peeping Tom') and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax. Naked is an original version of Godiva's tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.

Eliza ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for answering our questions about

Naked : A Novel of Lady Godiva

The legend of Lady Godiva is shrouded in myth. In your research for the novel; did you discover anything which surprised you?

The biggest surprise in my research for NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva was how old the legend really is. The tale of Godiva’s famous naked ride is over a thousand years old, yet her myth goes even further back in time. Lady Godiva (or Countess Godgyfu, in the Anglo-Saxon version of her name) was a real person who lived in 11th century Anglo-Saxon England but there are more ancient stories linked to Godiva. In one very old version, Godiva’s ride is not a procession, but a love-chase. In this story, Leofric sets his wife a riddle to test her. She must come to him neither being clothed or unclothed, without a foot touching the ground. Cleverly, Godiva rides rather than walks and covers her naked body with a golden net of her hair. In some tellings of this version, Godiva is accompanied by a hare – connecting her to the Celtic goddess of Spring, Eostre. She also strongly resembles another spring goddess who took a woodland May-Day procession to summon the new season. Her name? The goddess Goda.

Godiva is very much a strong female character – did you find that she came easy to the page and how much fun did you have in bringing her to life?

Godiva rode into the story and surprised me for the whole journey. In my research for NAKED I discovered that Godiva’s tale has been revived during major periods of change and liberation in women’s lives. Her story was popular in the Middle Ages, when apparently there was a Godiva craze, and revived again in Victorian times just before the suffragettes demanded the vote (even Queen Victoria was a fan – she gave a nude statue of Godiva to Prince Albert!). Now Godiva’s riding high again. Godiva is more than a character – she’s a powerful female archetype.

Godiva’s husband, Leofric, has been much maligned and yet in Naked, you portray him as a sensitive and compassionate man. When did you decide to make him into a hero rather than a villain?

After his marriage to Godiva, Leofric the Earl of Mercia was a changed man. Ancient records suggest Leofric and Godiva’s marriage was a strong one. Together they supported monasteries, built abbeys and churches and aided the poor. The original cathedral in Coventry was founded by Godiva and Leofric. When I visited Coventry, it was near the old cathedral that I stumbled across the site where Godiva and Leofric are believed to be buried. Their spirits are definitely in the air and I became convinced there was more to their (love) story.

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

I knew the book was finished when in my imagination I saw Godiva and Leofric walk away. Godiva turned and smiled. Leofric walked on (he only has eyes for Godiva).

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

I wish I was one or the other. I plot then write, then re-plot, then rewrite … you get the idea. (I’m not a night owl or a lark either! I go to bed early and sleep late J).

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

There’s a quote by Helene Cixous that I love: ‘Between author and character, what secret proximity’.

Authors are in every character they write, but they are not their characters. There’s a difference. In NAKED I identified with them all – both heroes and villains, large and small, but I’d most want to be like Godiva – she’s my heroine.

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

As both an academic in gender studies and a novelist, I’m passionate about telling the tales of women. NAKED is the first in my ‘Legendary Lady’ series to take back the story of a legendary lady to tell it from her point of view and twist her tale. I like to read books that reveal a different point of view of history, and there are so many amazing novelists doing that today.

My biggest influence is Aphra Behn (1640 – 1689) who was the first English female playwright. Witty and scandalous, she was also said to be a spy. Virginia Woolf believed that “all women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn … for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Readers and writers alike - we all owe her!

NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva is available in all good bookstores and online.

Follow Eliza Redgold on 

Twitter: @ElizaRedgold 

or subscribe to her newsletter at

My thanks to Eliza for giving so generously of her time for sharing her story of Lady Godiva with my blog readers.

Huge thank to Anita Chapman for her help with this interview and the kind invitation to feature this lovely novel.


Thursday 19 November 2015

Review ~ The Marble Collector by Cecelia Ahern

Harper Collins
October 2015

Fergus Boggs is being cared for in a nursing home after an illness has robbed him of his memory. When his daughter Sabina comes into possession of her father's belongings, she finds boxes of marbles, which, at first glance seem just like ordinary glass toys, however, her father's copious notes reveal that there something rather special about this collection. What then follows is a twenty-four hour period in which Sabrina seeks to discover more about her father, and the importance, in his life, of his marble collection. What she discovers will alter her feelings for her father forever.

This is a very introspective story; told from two viewpoints, that of Sabrina in the present and of Fergus's story growing up in rural Ireland with his mother and brothers. In many ways its gentle story about lives lost and won, of people and places with emotional blood ties which go beyond the ordinary, and of those parts of ourselves that we manage to keep secret, even from those we love.

I found this very much to be a book of two halves, with Fergus's story in the past working slightly better than the modern day search by Sabrina to find out more about Fergus's past life. Fergus's lively upbringing and the interaction between the brothers worked slightly better for me and seemed realistically rooted in the past, whilst Sabrina's search for her father's identity seemed rather quiet in comparison but there were some genuine heart-warming scenes between Fergus and Sabrina which pull on the heartstrings.

There's some nice detail about marbles, I never knew that there was so much to the history of them, and I enjoyed trying to imagine what the marbles looked like. So, overall, this is a quiet read, quite charming in places and with a warmth and tenderness which is so much a trade mark of this talented writer.

Best read with glasses of Tizer and a packet of Maltesers...

Cecelia Ahern

Find Cecelia Ahern on her website
Follow on Twitter @Cecelia_Ahern
Find her on Facebook

My thanks to Harper Collins UK for my copy of this book.


Wednesday 18 November 2015

Carrying Albert Home **Blog Tour**....

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the 

Blog Tour

It's with great pleasure I introduce the author - Homer Hickam

Homer Hickam is probably known best for his no. 1 New York Times bestselling memoir Rocket Boys which was adapted into the ever-popular movie, October Sky. Mr. Hickam has been a coal miner, Vietnam combat veteran, scuba instructor, NASA engineer and now a best-selling author.


Harper Collins
19 November 2015

This is the somewhat true story of a woman, a husband and her alligator.

Elsie Lavender and Homer Hickam were classmates at school in the West Virginia coalfields, graduating just as the Great Depression began. When Homer asked for her hand, Elsie instead headed to Orlando where she sparked up a relationship with dancing actor Buddy Ebsen. But when Buddy headed for New York, Elsie’s dreams of a life with him were crushed and eventually she found herself back in the coalfields, married to Homer.

Unfulfilled as a miner’s wife, Elsie was reminded of her carefree time with Buddy daily because of his unusual wedding gift; an alligator named Albert, whom she raised in the only bathroom in the house. After three years of marriage, Homer issued Elsie with an ultimatum – ‘it’s either me or the alligator.’ Thus, there was only one thing to do; carry Albert home. To Orlando. A road trip of nearly a thousand miles.


I am delighted that Homer has taken the time to answer my questions about the writing of 

Hi Homer  and welcome to Jaffareadstoo....

Carrying Albert Home was originally written as a memoir. Why did you decide to turn it into fiction? 

I used to tell the story of Albert getting carried home to friends and family, as well as in speeches I gave here and there, so that folks would understand who my mother and father actually were. The way I told it was with some sincerity, as if every part of it was true, and I also told it in a very concise way so I could get to the punch line that everyone found very funny, indeed. The story was so popular that whenever I went to speak, someone would invariably ask me to tell the "Albert" story. When one day I heard a voice in my head (all right, I'll confess it was the voice of my mother long since passed, go figure) telling me to write a book based on my tale, I knew that it was way too big to be a memoir. After all, we story tellers in the American South are forbidden to ever let the truth get in the way of a good story. So I determined not to call it a memoir but instead a "somewhat true story" that's actually all true except the bits that are not and they're true, too! As an author who hangs out in bookstores, I also noticed that the fiction shelves are invariably better lit and better placed than memoirs, which are often placed in dingy corners. 

Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the story? 

Carrying Albert Home is simply the story of the eternal love triangle. Homer loves Elsie but Elsie loves Albert. The twist is kind of green and scaly. Albert, you see, is an alligator, a wedding gift to Elsie from her former boyfriend, a fellow named Buddy Ebsen who would go on to become a famous Hollywood actor. Elsie transferred her love for Buddy to Albert and raised him in the bathtub. When her husband sat down to do his business, the playful little alligator crawled out of the tub and stole his pants. That's when Homer started yelling, "It's either me of this alligator, Elsie!" After a few days of thinking it over, Elsie said, "All right. I will let Albert go but we have to carry him home to Florida." This began a madcap, adventurous road trip of over 1000 miles through the American South during the Great Depression with an estranged couple up front and an alligator in the backseat of a 1925 Buick. There's also a rooster but his presence is not entirely understood. Through one misadventure after another, Homer and Elsie begin to understand that destiny is in charge and that Albert is much more than he seems and perhaps the rooster, too. They may well be the agents of love, desperate love, joyful love, kind love, and everlasting love, too. 

What do you consider to be the overall theme of Carrying Albert Home? 

The story of how Homer and Elsie carried Albert home is their witness and testimony to what is heaven's greatest and perhaps only true gift, that strange and marvellous emotion we inadequately call love. 

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

Yes! When I put all the stories together that had been told to me by my parents about their marvellous journey carrying Albert home, I realized they were sending me a message from beyond the grave, "Never give up on love." 

You have had a very successful writing career, who or what have been your major influences? 

When I was a child in the West Virginia coalfields, I was terribly near-sighted, a fact not discovered until I was in the 4th grade. This turned out to be a wonderful thing for my future career as a writer since I couldn't see well enough to play outside with the other kids so contented myself with reading anything and everything that resided on my parents' bookshelves. They were both avid readers so I had a lot to choose from and I did. Certainly Huckleberry Finn would become a major influence but also the works of John Steinbeck. Mostly, however, I come from a mountain people who are renown for being good storytellers. I listened to them throughout my young life and learned how to tell a pretty good story, too. 

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

I write every day. I never miss a day. I can't be happy if I'm not writing. We have a loft in our home where I retreat to write. I am often joined by one of our seven cats who, just for fun, will sometime put a paw on my shift key and without realizing it, I end up WRITING EVERYTHING IN CAPS! 

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned? 

I have several ideas batting around in my head but, frankly, it kind of depends on how successful Carrying Albert Home is. If it does as well as predicted, then I will probably write more of these kinds of stories. Another book of mine titled Torpedo Junction has recently been optioned for a motion picture and I've been asked to help write the screenplay so that's liable to keep me busy for a little while.

It's been a real delight to host this stop on the Carrying Albert Home Blog Tour. 

Huge thanks to Homer for taking the time to answer my questions and for giving such a unique view of his delightful story and also to Hayley at Harper Collins for her kind invitation to take part in this exciting blog tour

Do visit the other stops on the tour....


Tuesday 17 November 2015

Christmas Cravings Blog Tour...

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the 

Christmas Cravings Blog Tour

Christmas Cravings is a festive romance standalone episode from the Greedily Yours series.

How could everything suddenly have gone so wrong for Mia Maxwell? She’s published her own foodie book, travelled around the world blogging her new recipes and has the perfect boyfriend in rugged, countryman Tom.

But since being spotted with her ex-boyfriend Paul, Tom has refused to even speak to her let alone see her for Christmas as planned. The warm, spiced wine of the German Christmas markets is little consolation for the hole in her heart.

Will Mia's Christmas turn out to be sugar and spice and all things nice – or a deflated soufflé of loneliness and regret?


Christmas Cravings is published on 20th November, price £0.99 in eBook.

 Greedily Yours Episode 1-8 are also all now available, price £1.49 each.


Here's a delightful guest post from Emma all about those dreaded Christmas Cooking Disasters...

It is Christmas 2013. Perhaps I should have seen that as a bad omen, given how superstitious I am, but I didn't. So I was happily looking forward to, for the first time in my life, hosting my very own Christmas dinner. Let me be clear, this is something I had been dreaming about and, in a way, preparing for since my teens, or at least early twenties, when every year, from the Sainsbury's magazine and the Observer food monthly I would cut out the Christmas food specials. I would drool over Nigella's accounts of how to host the perfect few days of friends and family. Jewelled couscous stuffing to go with an artful goose or a crackling duck perhaps. Or even if I stuck to the traditional turkey which I'd grown up with, I knew that I'd caramelize those parsnips, delicately sprinkled with cinnamon and serve up the perfect starter, cocktails and twist on a Christmas pudding as if I'd been doing it all my life.

In all my poring over Christmas recipes and dreaming of a house I've never had, ie. perfectly organised, huge oven, every cooking gadget known to man and an ability to cook a huge meal, while looking as polished as Nigella does on telly, I failed to pick up on the reality of Christmas. Early rising, huge stress about whether you will manage to time everything to perfection and the weight of expectation that hangs, somewhat heavily over the whole affair.

So when it finally came, I decided to stick to what I knew, or rather what my Mum knows, (in case I needed help) and ordered the biggest turkey Germany could provide. I think I was the talk of the town that year as I proceeded to order all sorts of other “weird”, ie. English, ingredients from my local butcher, so that I could make sausage rolls with my own stuffing, the Turkey, the stuffing for the turkey, rashers of bacon, sausages etc. etc.

Weighed down by a huge bag of meat, I then realised that I do not possess an American style freezer or oven.  Fitting the whole lot in the fridge and then oven was going to be a challenge; when 6 people's food, milk, cheese and vegetable needs were already stuffed in the fridge and needed to last for the several days of Christmas when German shops totally shut down. There would be none of that popping to the corner shop or to Sainsbury's on Boxing Day for those forgotten bags of peas in Germany. So I over catered, for fear that I would forget something; and had large plastic boxes stacked outside on the balcony full of food that we couldn't have possibly devoured in a month, let alone a couple of days.

Christmas day dawned, and I put on the Pogues, “Fairytale of New York” and proceeded to attack the tasks in my usual haphazard manner. All thought of planning and timing had gone out of the window. I refused all help and scrubbed and peeled the potatoes, the Brussels and made the sausage meat stuffing. Mum stepped in for consultation on the bird and we put it in the oven, stuffed with pork and apple and swaddled in bacon and then tinfoil. The oven was humming away, 40 mins on about 250 and then turned down to a lower heat. I had started on the cranberry sauce and was feeling quite good about my abilities to have done all this without recourse to tears or shouting.

Everyone else set off for a walk and I fended off my mother in law quietly coming over to check how things were going by shooing her away. (This is something you don't understand, I thought smugly) and proceeded to stir my sauce and check on the marinating onion in the milk and bread for the bread sauce. Delia was my only companion for a few hours and I ticked off the tasks. In retrospect, I should have worried that I couldn't smell the delicious aroma of roasting meat. But I was so busy thinking “I have this sussed” it didn't even occur to me to check the turkey.

Then the clock turned 3pm and the ubiquitous Kaffee und Kuchen were brought out to respect my German in law's traditions. I refused (who wants to eat a big slab of stollen when you've got a delicious Turkey to come) and carried on cooking, feeling virtuous. Then my mother in law asked me again “how is the Turkey, do you think we should check it?”. Sighing loudly, I humoured her, and opened the oven, to a blast of, well....nothing. No warm air, no delicious sizzling or golden flesh. The Turkey was still well and truly flaccidly pink and white and was totally uncooked. The bloody oven had broken down. It had been ticking merrily away on timer, but the fan and heat function had, well, ceased to function and all those hours of prep, were wasted.

That's when I broke down in tears and ate a huge slab of stollen, all my build up to this big day had totally crumbled, and I looked like the novice I am.

Luckily, my mother in law and mum rallied around and we managed to get the oven working on the baking function. I'm not sure what temperature we finally cooked that turkey on and the lovingly prepared stuffing had to be scraped out and cooked separately, as did the potatoes because there was no more room in the poor beleaguered oven, but eventually, at about 9pm, we sat down to Turkey and all the trimmings. And you know what, despite the tears and despite my bruised pride, it did taste good, well, at least our English contingent thought so. The Germans politely tucked in (but later said there were too many things on the plate for their taste); by that time, several bottles of wine later, we were all passed caring and the most important thing, Christmas Day had been saved. The following year? It was back to my Mum's for a stress free Christmas Day when the most I do is prepare a few Brussels and stir the bread sauce.

One day though, I'm still hoping to serve up that jewelled couscous and a goose or duck, but next time I do so, I think I'll wait until I have a fully functioning double oven at my disposal and a MUCH bigger fridge. What did that disaster teach me? that my mum all these years has done an amazing job. Something I should really have acknowledged a long time ago really, instead of thinking that I could do better.

You can find Emma Hamilton with all of her foodie and writing photos on Instagram: EmmaHamiltonAuthor.

Huge thanks to Emma for her Christmas Cooking Disasters guest post 

and also to Hayley at for her invitation to join in with this delightful blog tour.

Do visit the other stops on the tour...