Sunday 31 January 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered...Guest Author, Gill Paul

As part of my ongoing tribute during this centenary of WW1, I am delighted to feature the work of some excellent authors who have written about The Great War.

 Please welcome

Gill Paul

Ivy Press

World War One Love Stories

War might seem the antithesis of love, yet it’s a time when love often flourishes, as people who’ve been through horrific experiences seek comfort and perhaps some kind of affirmation that life is worth living. Couples who are already an item at the war’s beginning face huge challenges in the long separations and lack of news then, if reunited, they are often hugely traumatised and changed by what they’ve been through. Wars also bring together people who might not otherwise have met – people of different nationalities and cultures – and that’s always fascinating for an author.

When I was asked to write a book of true World War One love stories, finding the couples was the hardest bit. In order to get any kind of real insight, I needed couples whose correspondence survives, or who wrote a journal or memoir about their wartime experiences, and because it’s an illustrated book I also needed photographs. I wanted the majority of my stories to be about non-famous people so it was important to get permission from living relatives, and the Internet was my first tool for tracking them down. University libraries were valuable resources, because some couples had donated their correspondence to their alma mater, and I found others through war museums, local history museums, and sometimes websites set up by their descendants.

Out of all the relatives I contacted, I only found one man in his eighties who had living memories of the couple I was writing about – his parents, in that case. A hundred years is just too long. How many of us know much about our grandparents’ love lives, never mind our great-grandparents’?

But I had a huge surprise when I came across the letters of a Glaswegian chap called Hugh Mann to his girlfriend Jessie Reid. I liked Hugh immediately for his sense of humour. He could find a joke in virtually anything, writing, for example, that France during wartime was “an entirely unhealthy residential area”. Even when he was given sick leave in 1916 because of a case of recurring boils he wrote to Jessie that it “Was the ideal malady for a person of my sunny disposition because they don’t give me the least pain.”

Hugh and Jessie
By courtesy of the author

Hugh was training to be a minister in the very strict Free Church of Scotland but, scandalously, Jessie fell pregnant during the summer of 1914. His career would have been destroyed if word got out so they had to get married post-haste and she was banished to Sheffield to stay with her married sister until after the birth. It was, wrote Hugh, “something of a debacle”.

As I read their letters to each other, there were many locations and names that rang a bell, and when I got in touch with Hugh’s great-niece it suddenly dawned on me that we are distantly related through my paternal grandmother. That made it personal. I am not going to tell you here what happened to Hugh and Jessie but let’s just say it can still make me cry if I talk about it.

I’ve written three books of wartime love stories, covering the First and Second World Wars and the American Civil War, and I also have a novel, No Place for a Lady, set during the Crimean War, which is about the love stories of two sisters who travelled out there. Each of the four wars was quite different in terms of the locations, the technology and therefore the type of fighting. The love letters were very different as well, with the 19th-century ones being passionate, flowery and rather formal, while the 20th-century ones are more chatty in tone, with the affection saved for a few lines at the end. In letters from the trenches in the First World War, British men adopted the characteristic stiff upper lip, and their letters are like postcards home from some rather grim holiday camp, where the food and the weather are particularly dire.

When war was declared in August 1914, everyone thought it would be over by Christmas. The long attrition of trench warfare was completely unexpected and unprepared for. No one had any idea that four years later these men would still be hunkered down in muddy, rat-infested trenches, waiting for a command to go over the top. It was all so new and so terrible. Perhaps that’s what makes their love stories the most poignant of all.

World War I Love Stories is available here

Gill’s novel No Place for a Lady is here:

 And her website is here:

If you live in the Cheltenham area, you can hear Gill talking about World War I Love Stories

 at the library next Saturday 6th February 2016, 4.30–6pm.

 Huge thanks to Gill for sharing her World War I Love stories with Jaffareadstoo. 

It's been a real delight to have you as our guest today.

True love stories have such a poignancy which are made all the more special by the realisation that so many young men didn't return home to their wives and sweethearts.

We will remember them.


Saturday 30 January 2016

It's all in the cover...

Notting Hill Press

Like most readers I am intrigued by the variation in book cover design from one country to another and have often wondered what makes one cover work better than another. This is a recent case in point with the US cover of  Michele Gorman's  latest novel, Match Me If  You Can.

It’s interesting to see how the same book is marketed differently depending on where its fans are based. Michele Gorman’s Match Me If You Can is published by Avon (Harper Collins) in the UK and by Notting Hill Press in the US. Avon took the lead in designing the marketing package for Michele’s UK chick lit fans, with a pretty teal cover, fun font and firm focus on the online dating/romance storylines in the book.


Meet best friends Catherine, Rachel and Sarah. Yet to find Mr Right, they’ve been settling for Mr Right Now. But when Catherine, London’s finest matchmaker, gets the girls to join her dating site where they can rate and recommend their ex-boyfriends, they soon realise that anything could happen… There’s someone for everyone, right? These best friends are about to find out!

To complement the UK cover, we at Notting Hill Press designed the US cover using the same fonts and heart motif. But something started to bother us. Match Me If You Can is also about strong women. It’s funny, cheeky, poignant and realistic. The women join the dating website and recycle their exes but their lives – their friendship, families and careers – are at the heart of the book. And while both British and American fans are definitely romantics, American readers are also really partial to a feisty story about friends.

We had to admit it: our hot pink cover didn’t seem quite right for Michele’s US fans. So we had a rethink about it, and here’s the result!

Meet best friends, Catherine, Rachel and Sarah. They’re fun, smart and successful, and haven’t had a date worth booking a wax appointment for in ages.

Catherine runs London’s most successful matchmaking business with her silent partner and ex-husband, Richard, who’s just announced that he’s marrying his twenty-three year-old girlfriend. Catherine has bras that are older than Magda, and now she’s barging in on their business with her meddlesome demands and wedding plans.

Architect Rachel’s got problems of her own. At work she’s competing against her ex-boyfriend, James, to win their biggest project and the promotion that comes with it. So when she joins Catherine’s website,, where everyone brings an ex to recycle for the chance of an upgrade, she knows just who she’s going to trade in.

Homebody baker, Sarah, is in a rut thanks to family demands over the last few years. Reluctantly she joins, where she’s convinced that some minor adjustments will improve her chances. But as minor adjustments turn into a complete overhaul and dates start falling at her newly-pedicured feet, will her popularity be worth the sacrifices she’s making?

A warm, funny story of friendship, strong women and self-discovery. Match us if you can, guys, but if not then please step aside and we’ll get on with being fabulous.

We hope you love the new cover and blurb as much as we do !

Notting Hill Press

Michele Gorman

Amazon UK
Amazon US

My Review of Match Me If You Can is here

My thanks To Notting Hill Press for  inviting me to share this feature about Book covers

Fascinating , isn't it?


Friday 29 January 2016

Blog Tour ~ Redemption Song by Laura Wilkinson

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to host today's stop on the

Redemption Song Blog Tour

Please welcome  Laura Wilkinson

Author of Redemption Song


Hi Laura, I'm delighted to welcome you to Jaffareadstoo and thank you so much for sharing your love of red heads with us !!

For the Love of Ginger...

Other than a common thread of love, my three novels are diverse; touching on themes as broad as identity, parenthood, self-discovery, forgiveness and hope. Along with love, there is another factor which links all three: red-headed leads. There’s strawberry blond Jack (think young Robert Redford) in Bloodmining, ginger Yorkshire lass Mandy in Public Battles, Private Wars, and now there’s Saffron in Redemption Song, though at the story’s outset she has dyed her hair a dark brown. Why the proliferation of gingers? And what do readers expect from a hero or heroine with red tresses?

The why is straightforward to answer. Though it is rare worldwide (under 2%) all my family have red hair, apart from me, and I have two ginger sons. We even had a ginger tom cat, Hudson, when I was young. Jaffa reminds me of him. Family members cover the spectrum from a rich, chocolatey auburn to an orangey strawberry blonde, and I love them all and their unusual locks. Their hair has been a source of pleasure but, I’m afraid to say, mostly pain, so I like to wave the ginger flag vicariously. It’s homage to people I love, though I’ll stress that hair colour is the only thing my characters have in common with my family.

Red-headed leads are more prolific in children’s fiction – Anne of Green Gables, Ron Weasley, Just William’s side-kick and Pippi Longstocking immediately spring to mind – but they are harder to find in adult literature. One of my favourites is the eponymous heroine in Susan Fletcher’s brilliant debut Eve Green. So what do readers expect from red-headed characters? Fiery, feisty, passionate, hot-headed and quirky? Possibly, though I believe the modern reader is more discerning. Smarter. Not all flame-haired people have a quick temper – Homeland’s Brody strikes me as remarkably level-headed – and they are as easily temptresses (Rita Hayworth, anyone?) as quirky mavericks. It is a mistake to assume stereotypical behaviours on the basis of hair colour, and although appearance can define us, it need not. Myriad influences mould character.

So miner’s wife Mandy and doctor-in-training Saffron are female, young, and ginger, but they have little else in common. At 23 Mandy is married with four children; Saffron is footloose, if not fancy free – she’s anything but fancy free, weighed down as she is by tragedy and a dark secret, though she’s a fighter and regains a sense of hope through love. But because red hair makes such a statement, their attitudes towards their hair is significant. Mandy underestimates herself as much as she does the beauty of her hair and until she begins to value herself, she hates it. Saffron’s dyed hair reflects the darkness she feels inside herself. It is a character’s attitude to life, love, and their appearance, which shows us their mettle, not their actual appearance. And both Mandy and Saffron’s attitude towards their hair speaks volumes – at least, I hope so!

My next novel – Skin Deep – set for release in early 2017 doesn’t have a red-headed hero or heroine so marks a departure for me. In the meantime, I’m shouting ‘Up the Gingers!’ metaphorically via the lovely, fragile Saffron.

Thanks so much for having me over at your wonderful blog, Jo and Jaffa.

You're so welcome Laura - it's been a real pleasure to be part of your blog tour.
Laura has written three novels. Her third, Redemption Song, is published on 28th January 2016 by Accent Press. A fourth is due in early 2017.

If you lost everything in one night, what would you do?

Saffron is studying for a promising career in medicine until a horrific accident changes her life for ever. Needing to escape London, she moves to the Welsh coast to live with her mother. Saffron hates the small town existence and feels trapped until she meets Joe, another outsider. Despite initial misgivings, they grow closer to each other as they realise they have a lot in common. Like Saffron, Joe has a complicated past…one that’s creeping up on his present. Can Joe escape his demons for long enough to live a normal life – and can Saffron reveal the truth about what really happened on that fateful night? Love is the one thing they need most, but will they – can they – risk it?
Redemption Song is a captivating, insightful look at what happens when everything goes wrong – and the process of putting the pieces back together again.

To buy the paperback:

If you’d like more information about Laura and her work visit:

Huge thanks to Laura for her lovely guest post - Jaffa is delighted with the shout out to gingers!!

Do visit the other stops on this exciting blog tour.

28th January - 11th February


Thursday 28 January 2016

Blog Tour ~ Night Blind by Ragnar J贸nasson

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of Ragnar J贸nasson's

Night Blind Blog Tour

 Ragnar J贸nasson  27248849

Ragnar J贸nasson is the author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series. His debut Snowblind went to number one in the kindle charts in four countries, shortly after publication, and continues to attract a great deal of attention. Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he works as a lawyer.

What's Night Blind all about...

Siglufj枚r冒ur: an idyllically quiet fishing village on the northernmost tip of Iceland, accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Th贸r Arason: a local policeman, whose tumultuous past and uneasy relationships with the villagers continue to haunt him.The peace of this close-knit community is shattered by the murder of a policeman –shot at point-blank range in the dead of night in a deserted house. With a killer on the loose and the dark arctic winter closing in, it falls to Ari Th贸r to piece together a puzzle that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik, where someone is being held against their will.Thena mysterious young woman moves to the area, on the run from something she dare not reveal, and it becomes all too clear that tragic events from the past are weaving a sinister spell that may threaten them all. Dark, chilling and complex, Nightblindis an extraordinary thriller from an undeniable new talent.

What did I think...

I'm not a great reader of Scandi noir as I sometimes find the stories difficult to get into, however, it must be acknowledged that that's more my fault than the fault of the fine Scandi Noir authors who write with such passion and enthusiasm. So, it was with some trepidation that I started to read Night Blind and I was surprised to find that, despite having no knowledge of what had gone before in Snow Blind, I was able to pick up the finer points of the story reasonably quickly.

Siglufj枚rdur is a quiet fishing village on the northern most tip of Iceland, accessible only by a newly established mountain tunnel. Its idyllic location conjures the freshness of crystal clear skies and the heavenly glory of the northern lights, and yet, in this peaceful area not usually notorious for unsolved crime, comes the darkness of long buried secrets and the unpredictable sensation of not knowing who your enemy is. When a senior police officer is loured to his doom by person or persons unknown, it falls to the remaining officer, Ari Th贸r, to lead the investigation and to start to piece together the clues, such as they are.

What Ari Th贸r discovers as the story progresses is beautifully put together and the uncovering of a shadowy world of secrets is done with fine attention to detail. There is an overriding darkness to the narrative which could be due to its setting so close to the Arctic circle, where it must be said even the summers have an air of bleakness around them, or, as is more likely, it’s the ever present threat of danger, which unfolds throughout the story which has an inherent coldness to it and which transfers so well to the page.

Sometimes when you come late to a series with established characters, there’s always the possibility that you miss something vital about them. It could be a touch, a glance, an inner dialogue that you don’t understand and which then doesn’t seem to work so well, however, I quickly became quite intuitive about Ari Th贸r, who seems to have a charming vulnerability which is as endearing as it is mesmerising and I feel that, even at the end of Night Blind that I don’t know him well enough and now fully intend to read Snow Blind to see where his character really begins.

So overall, Night Blind is a really good thriller. It’s a quick read, coming in at just over 200 pages, but such is the succinctness of its narrative that by the ending all has been said and done and there is no need for any superfluous waffle.  It must be also recognised that the story has been considerately translated by Quentin Bates.

Best Read.... with snacks of hardfiskur and shots of Brennivin, Iceland’s vodka-like firewater..

Night Blind is the sequel to Snow Blind (Dark Iceland Series)

Published on the 15th January 2016 by Orenda Books


My thanks to the author, Ragnar J贸nasson and also to Karen at Orenda Books for their kind invitation to take part in this blog tour.

*Do visit the other stops on the tour*


Wednesday 27 January 2016

Review ~ The Birthday That Changed Everything by Debbie Johnson

Harper Impulse
28th January 2016

Sally Summers' fortieth birthday is fast approaching and whilst she didn't really expect much from her husband of seventeen years, she hoped that in some small way he would surprise her. Happily searching the internet looking for her own birthday present from him and wondering whether to choose a new Dyson or Botox, she was largely unprepared when an email from her husband landed in her in-box. Choosing to surprise her in quite an unexpected way, her husband's email informs her that he is leaving her and the kids in order to find himself. That he chooses to 'find himself' with a nineteen year old lap dancer is not accepted lightly.  

What then follows is a wry look at what happens when a relationship breaks down, of the anger and disbelief ,and yes, it must be said, of the appalling sadness. The trauma of starting again when really Sally just wants to curl up and die and of her trying to keep the peace between two unruly teenagers, whose own angst ridden problems are also the source of some irritation, forms the basis of the story.

A holiday in Turkey, at The Blue Bay resort seems like the perfect place for Sally to nurse her broken heart and which, she hopes, will help to take her mind of what's happening in her private life.  The characters Sally meets up with at The Blue Bay Resort are a quirky and entertaining bunch but it is in Sally's burgeoning friendship with James, a single dad with more than enough problems of his own, where the heart of the books lies.

As always, the author delivers an entertaining read, her stories never disappoint and whilst there are some laugh out loud moments which are very funny, there are also some really searching looks into modern day family life which are quite enlightening. And by spanning the story over the course of a couple of years, and over other holidays at The Blue Bay resort, we get the full effect of Sally's metamorphosis. I really enjoyed seeing how the story played out and the way the author handles Sally's gradual reawakening as a person in her own right, as someone who no longer hides in the shadows,  is really well done. As the story progresses, you can't help but warm to Sally and hope that all goes well for her.

Best read with ...huge slices of pepperoni pizza and a large glass of ice cold gin, easy on the tonic.

Debbie   Johnson

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

The Birthday That Changed Everything is published tomorrow on the 28th January 

My thanks to the author for sharing her book with me and to Felicity at Harper for providing me with my review copy of this book


Tuesday 26 January 2016

Review ~ Behind Closed Doors by B A Paris

11 February 2016

Sometimes a perfect marriage can be a perfect lie

I'd heard a flutter of excitement on social media about Behind Closed Doors and was lucky to be able to pick up an ARC from NetGalley and then I set it aside as I had other books that were ahead of it in my organised reading queue. I use the term 'organised' rather loosely, as I can, and do juggle books around to suit my reading mood.  So, with domestic noir as my reading mood, I bumped Behind Closed Doors up the queue and started to read on a quiet evening when there was nothing remotely decent to watch on any of the hundreds of TV channels that I have access too, and so, with music playing softly in the back ground, I entered the world of Jack and Grace. It says in the blurb that every one knows a couple like them. Well, please God, don't let any couple I know be like them, otherwise I would be very concerned indeed, but I digress...

Jack and Grace are beautiful people. Jack from the offset is described as a George Clooney lookalike which must be said, ticked the right box straight away, and Grace with her slender good looks is composed, sophisticated and every inch the beautiful wife of an accomplished man. As a couple they are always together, in that if you see Jack , you also see Grace and vice versa. They even go to visit Grace's sister, who needs just a little bit of extra care and who is ably looked after in a rather expensive, residential facility. Friends marvel at Jack's ability to anticipate Grace's every whim. They own a sumptuous house, have a kitchen to die for, a place where beautiful meals are prepared to wow dinner guests, and they share wonderful photographs of exotic holidays. Truly,  it would seem that Grace is a very lucky girl indeed.

But this sort of idyllic paradise comes with a high price tag as we are shortly to learn, as slowly, inch by tantalising inch, we are drawn into Grace's world, and that dear reader, is where I leave off what happens next. You really don't need me to outline the story in any more detail…

All I will say with any degree of intelligent observation is

I read Behind Closed Doors until my eyes ached with weariness, I didn't notice the CD player stop playing and when I could read no more, I went to bed and dreamed dark dreams that had no basis in reality, but which were very firmly placed in the darkness of an imagination stimulated by really good storytelling.

Picking up the story the following morning and even before my breakfast porridge had time to cool, I had re-entered Jack and Grace's world and, quite simply, read and read and read, until by the time the last word was finished, I was numb with shock, stunned at the power of a writer who had the imagination let this story take flight, and humbled that something so viscerally graphic, would move me to tears.

There are two cliches used often in my book reviewing world...' it was unputdownable' and 'will stay with me long after the last page is turned' ....without any shadow of doubt and reviewing cliches notwithstanding, this really is both unputdownable and memorable and I can't enthuse about it enough....

Best read with .....a very large glass of icy cold white Zinfandel and a gargantuan slice of rich chocolate cake, liberally laced with brandy...

About the author

B A Paris grew up in England but has spent most of her adult life in France. She has worked both in finance and as a teacher and has five daughters. Behind Closed Doors is her first novel.

Follow on Twitter @BAParisAuthor

Behind Closed Doors is available on Amazon UK to pre-order at the ridiculously low price of 99p which is not even the price of a decent daily paper or a cup of coffee...

My thanks to NetGalley and Mira for my review copy of this book.


Monday 25 January 2016

Blog Tour ~ The Chimes by Anna Smaill

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of this exciting blog tour

Sceptre Books
January 2014

What's The Chimes all about...

Imagine a London orchestrated by a vast musical instrument that destroys memory. Each object weaves its own melody and song rings into every drip of air, yet each day feels the same as the last and that is part of the mystery....

Anna Smaill has created a world where music has replaced the written word and memories are carried as physical objects. Memory itself is forbidden by the Order, whose vast musical instrument, the Carillon, renders the population amnesiac. The Chimes opens in a reimagined London and introduces Simon, an orphaned young man who discovers he has a gift that could change all of this forever. Slowly, inexplicably, Simon is beginning to remember – to wake up. He and his friend Lucien will eventually travel to the Order’s stronghold in Oxford, where they learn that nothing they ever believed about their world is true.

And here are my thoughts...

With melodic candour The Chimes weaves an altogether unusual coming of age story about the power of memory and the shaping of lives bereft of the ability to recall past events. The insidious removal of generic recall is forbidden by the shadowy group, which is known only as The Order, and who subtly control a vast musical instrument called the Carillon which extracts public memory. The destruction of memory and the fundamental right of everyone to cherish hopes and dreams forms the basis of this beautifully observed story. And by focusing the story on a dystopian London there is an authenticity which is made frighteningly realistic by the sharp observation of people and places.

There is such a poetic resonance to the story, which flows so beautifully, that I felt like I was reading a piece of music and from the outset was drawn into a sharply observed world, where the principles and attitudes of distrust are allowed to fester. It is clear from the outset that the pervading menace is all consuming, and our main protagonist, Simon needs not only to understand his limitations, but must also be excruciatingly aware of the need to cherish his memories and to keep them close.

The language used throughout is imaginative and rather special and even those readers who have no great knowledge of musical vocabulary will start to understand the hidden nuances behind the words. However, some of the earlier parts of story, it must be said, are quite challenging, and until the terminology starts to resonate it may take just slightly longer to get the gist of what’s happening. However, throughout the story there is a wonderfully inventive feel to the narrative and an incredible urge to read on in order to find out just a little bit more about this dystopian world which has been so lovingly recreated.

Without doubt this is an impressive debut novel from an exciting new talent…

Best Read with…tea laden with spices and a memory of golden meat pasties, succulent with gravy..

About the Author

Anna Smaill 

My thanks to Anna Smaill and also to Ruby Mitchell at Hodder & Stoughton for their kind invitation to be part of this blog tour

Do visit the other stops on the tour


Sunday 24 January 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Over the course of my research for my Sunday WW1 Remembered feature

I've come across  poignant and emotional work by talented and awe inspiring writers

and none more so than the work of author, poet and pacifist

Vera Brittain

Vera Brittain

Vera Mary Brittain, Lady Catlin (29 December 1893 – 29 March 1970) was a British writer and pacifist, best remembered as the author of the best-selling 1933 memoir Testament of Youth, which recount her experiences during World War One.

Testament of Youth starring Alicia Vikander and Kit Harrington
was released as a film in 2014 to mark the centenary of WW1

Virago Classic Non Fiction
This film tie-in edition published in 2014

Testament of Youth is, perhaps, one of the most famous autobiographies of World War One. It describes how Vera survived and of how she and others nursed the wounded, often in harrowing circumstances. Both her fianc茅 Roland Leighton and her brother Edward Brittain were killed in the war.

It is a poignant and timely reminder of a lost generation.

Here's one of my favourite poems by Vera Brittain.

The Superfluous Woman

Ghosts crying down the vistas of the years,

Recalling words

Whose echoes long have died,

And kind moss grown

Over the sharp and blood-bespattered stones

Which cut our feet upon the ancient ways.

But who will look for my coming?

Long busy days where many meet and part;

Crowded aside

Remembered hours of hope;

And city streets

Grown dark and hot with eager multitudes

Hurrying homeward whither respite waits.

But who will seek me at nightfall?

Light fading where the chimneys cut the sky;

Footsteps that pass,

Nor tarry at my door.

And far away,

Behind the row of crosses, shadows black

Stretch out long arms before the smouldering sun.

But who will give me my children?

Vera Brittain, 1919

In the aftermath of the war such was the tragic loss of so many young men that the 1921 census showed that women outnumbered men by 2 million. A generation of young women were denied their chance of marriage and motherhood.


There is no doubt that the war left a shattering legacy and it it right and proper that we should continue to mark this centenary and honour their sacrifice.


Thursday 21 January 2016

Review ~ Children of the Chieftain : Banished by Michael E. Wills

Silverwood Books

Aimed at the young reader’s book market, Children of the Chieftain: Banished is a rollicking good story which continues the Viking trilogy which began with Children of the Chieftain: Betrayed. The story opens where the first book left off and follows the exciting adventures of a group of intrepid young people who lives have been irreversibly changed by the Viking raid on their small town on the Isle of Birches in Birka, which is now in modern day Sweden.  In this second story, one of their friends has been captured and sold into slavery in the land of the Rus and the children of the old chieftain, who we first met in Betrayed, set out to do all they can to liberate one of their own people.

What draws me, an adult reader, into these Viking adventures is the fine attention to detail which the author instils into his novels. There is certainly no compromise on detail for a younger reading audience who, I am sure, will find much to enjoy in this thrilling story. Thriving on exciting historical content, this ancient world is wonderfully recreated and is filled with characters who are always believable, not always likeable, but who, collectively, add a real sense of authenticity to a story which abounds with excitement, danger and a real sense of adventure.

I am sure that those readers like me, who have followed the children of the chieftain from the beginning, will find much to enjoy in this continuation and will, by the end of the story, be looking eagerly towards book three, and the conclusion of the story, which is expected in Children of the Chieftain: Bounty.

Younger readers may need help with some of the terminology used and for those readers who are not familiar with Viking vocabulary there is an interesting and helpful glossary at the end of the book which explains some of the terms used in daily life.

Best read with ...wooden cups of ice cold stream water and line caught fish cooked over a wood fire..

Find Michael on his website

Follow him on Twitter @MWillsofSarum

Buy on Amazon UK

Read a sample chapter from Children of the Chieftain : Banished 

My thanks to Michael for sharing his book with Jaffareadstoo


Wednesday 20 January 2016

My author in the spotlight is ...Katy Hogan

I am delighted to introduce 

Sharing her thoughts about her debut novel


Does everything in life happen purely by chance ?
Or are we guided towards people who can help us in our hour of need?

Following the sudden death of her beloved mother, Jessica Gibson's world falls apart. But after meeting a man who seems heaven-sent, she starts to feel she has something to live for again, and soon discovers that their connection holds far more significance than she could ever have imagined. And when Jessica strikes an unlikely bond with Alexandra Green, the two new friends are taken on an emotional journey into the world of the supernatural, where psychic mediums pass on messages from beyond the grave. What -- or who -- is causing the strange goings-on in Alex's home? What secret is she keeping from Jessica? And who is the young woman who so badly needs their help? In a series of surprising twists and turns, the pieces of the puzzle finally fall into place and a mystery is unwittingly solved -- with life-changing consequences for all involved. 

'Out of the Darkness' is an uplifting tale of friendship and redemption; of love and loss. And life...after death.

Katy ~ welcome to Jaffareadstoo...

Tell us a little about Katy Hogan, author

I'm 51 years old, married and live in St Albans, Herts, with my husband and teenage children. I'm an animal-lover, and currently have three cocker spaniels, Toby, Smudge and Alfie, who I love to walk in the surrounding countryside.  Out of the Darkness is a self-published novel, and so I am currently spending a lot of time marketing the book myself, approaching bloggers for reviews, Tweeting and writing posts on my Facebook page.  I love interacting with readers -- many of whom have recently been sharing their own experiences of grief and loss (a major theme in my novel), which I feel very privileged to have been told. 

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

I have been writing since I was a teenager, when I started submitting short articles to teen magazines. I went on to become a journalist for women's magazines, such as Woman's Own, and worked on everything from beauty features to celebrity interviews. That was in the heady days of the Eighties, and it was a very exciting and unpredictable time -- one day I would be writing a fly-on-the-wall reportage piece; the next I would be sent to interview an up and coming band, such as Spandau Ballet! When I became a mother, I embarked upon a more family-friendly career in teaching, and I found this incredibly rewarding. Most recently, I have gone back to writing again, having done some freelance journalism, before concentrating on my novel.

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for Out of the Darkness?

When I was growing up, my mother often used to see misty 'spirit shapes' and read the tarot cards, so it's probably no surprise to hear that I've always been pretty open-minded when it comes to the subject of life after death. But it was after my world was turned upside down following the death of a loved one that I felt I needed to find out more, and so I started to visit clairvoyants and spiritual mediums where I live in Hertfordshire and also in London. It was after going to an evening of clairvoyance locally with two new female friends that the idea for Out of the Darkness struck me. Not only because of the fascinating messages I'd seen passed on from the medium to people gathered in the audience, but also because of the power of the support and friendship between we three women. We had each experienced our own heartache and deep loss, and yet were there for one another no matter what. And we were all in this slightly bizarre situation, hoping beyond hope to get a message from a totally ordinary-looking person who was apparently speaking with the dead! Moreover, it was almost as if we'd been somehow meant to meet one another, at the time in our lives when we most needed that friendship and support...It was as we walked arm in arm away from the pub later that night, looking up into the clear winter sky, that I felt there was a story in there that I wanted to write and share. And that's how Out of the Darkness was born!

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

Set in Brighton,  Out of the Darkness is about three young women, who each have their own secrets, fears and emotional baggage. They are complete strangers, but when fate pulls them together, they find they have one remarkable connection, which brings life-changing consequences for them all.

Where did you get your inspiration for the story from – were you inspired by people, places or or specific events?

The story is about love, loss, friendship, redemption, and the idea that maybe everything in life happens for a reason.

The book touches on the supernatural, whilst researching the novel, did you discover anything which surprised you?

My research for Out of the Darkness was filled with surprising discoveries. From the sheer number, and mix, of people I saw attend  demonstrations of clairvoyance, to some remarkable messages from 'the other side'.  I, personally, was given some very accurate and precise messages from mediums, containing information which nobody else could have known. I was left gobsmacked on several occasions.

What do you hope readers will take away from Out of the Darkness?

My hope is that Out of the Darkness will encourage readers to consider that there might be more to this life than meets the eye. I have received many messages from readers who have lost loved ones, telling me that the book has given them great comfort and hope, and I could not wish for a greater accolade.

What's next?

What's next? Well, the reaction to Out of the Darkness has been overwhelmingly positive, so I would love to work with a mainstream publisher, to give the book greater exposure. I do have plans for my second novel, but in the meantime, many people have said that they think Out of the Darkness would make a great movie, so who knows...?!

About the Author

Visit her website
Find her on Facebook
Follow on Twitter @KatyHogan

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Huge thanks to Katy for sharing her thoughts about Out of the Darkness with us. 

Jaffa and I wish you continued success with your future writing and look forward to seeing 'what's coming next ...'


Tuesday 19 January 2016

Review ~ The Widow by Fiona Barton

Random House UK Transworld Publishers
Bantam Press
January 14 2016

Sometimes a book hits my book radar long before it's published and there has been a fair amount of hype on social media about The Widow, so my expectation was high long before I started to read what is being hailed as the psychological thriller of 2016. Despite the hype, I always try to have an open mind about any book I read, preferring, where I can, to make up  my own mind.

And so to The Widow, which, for me, has all the elements of a highly inventive story. The eponymous widow, Jean Taylor, is our guide over much of the story, she's the quintessential unstable narrator, because, as the books flips around in time, we are never quite sure of what to make of her. We know at the very start of the novel that her husband, Glen, is dead, that comes as no spoiler, after all, the clue is in the title, but, as this rather tragic story starts to unfold, do I really believe Jean’s version of events, can I reconcile what’s happening behind closed doors, with the naivety of a woman who disregards her husband’s rather bizarre behaviour as his bit of ‘nonsense’?

I am quite taken with this newly emerging domestic noir genre, and I quite believe that The Widow is up there with the best of them. It’s a clever book, well controlled but not overly demonstrative. It has a quiet confidence and a really subtle touch, and the narrative very quickly draws you into a story of two people who are each superbly flawed, and it must be said, totally unlikable, but for very different reasons. Glen Taylor has no redeeming features, he’s dark and dirty, a dangerous manipulator who schemes and plans and ever so subtly undermines everything that is right and proper. And then there’s Jean the widow, alone, vulnerable, carrying secrets and making up lies, twisting the truth, planning small victories as she sees them, but with long reaching repercussions. 

I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot, counter plot and all the manipulations that occur as that would be to do the author a complete disservice. What I will say is that I read the story quickly, starting it early one morning as heavy clouds overhead started to snow, and so the coldness of the story started to seep into my bones, and I found that I couldn’t leave the book alone until, with tired eyes, I had read the story in one sitting.

Some people have felt a bit let down by the ending, but I think that it was a perfectly acceptable way to wrap up the story. I agree that’s there’s no dramatic d茅nouement, but for me that’s where the strength of the story lies, in the multi-layered minutiae of ordinary lives, which should have been oh, so normal and yet, which, in the final analysis, went horribly wrong.

Best read with honey laced, frothy hot milk and chunks of bitter chocolate.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Bantam Press
for my copy of The Widow.