Thursday 31 March 2016

Review ~ The Last of Us by Rob Ewing

The Borough Press
21 April 2016

The Last of Us is a heart-breaking novel about courage, survival and the overwhelming power of hope over adversity.

When a violent pandemic wipes out a community on a remote Scottish island only a handful of children remain. They fend for themselves, but are always looking for a means of survival. They scavenge food, store water, search for medicines which will aid their survival, and whilst they seem tough, underneath the bravado they're as vulnerable as kittens. Elizabeth is the sensible one, she cares and cajoles, gets them to attend an improvised school, and keeps an eye on the youngest, Alex, whose dependence on daily insulin, is just one more problem for them to face. With food running out and morale low, petty squabbles break out amongst the group and when two of the boys attempt to usurp Elizabeth, the tenuous link which holds the group together is broken.

This is a difficult story to enjoy as the prospect of a pandemic wiping out a community at first seems beyond belief but like any dystopian story, the truth is in the believing and the author does a really good job of making sure that the children's story is frighteningly truthful. I found the story immeasurably sad with a bleakness which is, at times, quite upsetting but such is the power of the story telling, that despite my misgivings, I found the story utterly convincing.  I read it very quickly as I didn’t want take any respite, as to put the book down felt like I was abandoning this intrepid band of little warriors to an unknown fate.

The overriding theme of endurance is captured with great insight, the evocative Scottish setting, the smattering of Gaelic spoken by the children and the oppressive nature of what happens when your little corner of the world is completely damaged certainly makes for compelling reading.

About the Author

Rob Ewing is a GP living in Edinburgh. His short stories and poetry have been published widely. The Last of Us is his first novel.

My thanks to The Borough Press and for the opportunity to read and review this novel in advance of its publication.

You can read other reviews of The Last Of Us on the Lovereading website.

Available to buy from all good bookshops from the 21 April  2016

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Review ~ Try Not To Breathe by Holly Seddon


Amy Stevenson was just a normal fifteen year old. She had a boyfriend called Jake, who was gentle and kind and although they shared kisses and held hands at school, they hadn't gone much further than that. However, unbeknownst to Jake, Amy had a dangerous secret; there was someone else who set her pulse racing with excitement. When Amy is attacked and left for dead, no-one, least of all Jake, can understand why this has happened. Fifteen years later, Amy is alive but uncommunicative, trapped on Neuro-Disability ward, in a persistent vegetative state, with no means of interacting, and with her doctor unsure of how much she can still understand of the world around her.

Alex Dale is a free-lance journalist writing an article about Amy’s doctor, a leading expert on vegetative states, who is researching brain activity in patients like Amy who are trapped within themselves. Alex feels an immediate affinity with Amy, they're the same age and grew up in the same place, and as she delves further into Amy’s past life, she realises that there is far to more to discover than she could ever have imagined.

Initially, Try Not To Breathe gets off to a quiet start, which belies the underlying strength of the novel, and in a way, lulls you into a false sense of security, as there is nothing at all gentle about the story. The events in Amy’s life in 1995 and Alex’s investigation in 2010 very soon become the driving force of the novel. Alex has her own demons to work through, and this combined with her sheer dogged determination to finally get retribution to Amy makes for compelling reading. Amy's story, which  is revealed piece by tantalising piece, is especially well explored. I enjoyed getting to know Amy and hearing her thoughts and sharing her feelings really helps in getting  the emotional aspect of the story across in vivid detail.

It's also really interesting to get the perspective of the story from two young women who have both been through such very different experiences and yet, who seem to have common ground.

Try Not To Breathe is a commendable debut novel from a talented new author. I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Best Read With…some crispy nibbles and a carefully, measured glass of chilled Chablis..

Holly Seddon

Visit the author's website
Follow on Twitter @hollyseddon
Find on Facebook

My thanks to Alison Davies at Corvus for my review copy of Try Not To Breathe


Tuesday 29 March 2016

Today my author spotlight shines on...Giselle Green

I am delighted to welcome Giselle Green back to Jaffareadstoo

sharing her thoughts on her latest book

Yule Press
31 March 2016

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Giselle....

Hi Jo! Thanks for inviting me onto your blog today to talk about my latest novel, it’s a real pleasure to be here.

Tell us a little about Giselle Green, author. How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing all my life. I don’t recall anything in particular that started me off, only that I was always reading as a child. I’ve also long been fascinated with words – the power they have to evoke and express. 

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

It’ll be a mixture of both. I can have an idea in my mind or something that’s not even quite an idea – more like that nebulous sense you get when you’re trying to recall a dream you know you’ve forgotten – and then that needs to be grounded somehow. Sometimes visiting an atmospheric or evocative place can do that, it helps anchors the idea. There’s an art shop on Rochester High Street which, if you climb up to the third floor, has a great view of the Cathedral spire on a sunny day – in my mind’s eye, I set my main protagonist Nate’s flat up there. Once I ‘knew’ where he lived, I could see him in that flat, doing his daily things, looking out of the window and wishing he could just get out. In general, I’d say the characters are what come first, for me. Where they come from, I’m never sure, but having a visual sense of them is important. Sometimes I’ll look at photos in magazines or online to get an idea of what my character might look like – not glossy photos, but ones which display personality.

What can you tell us about Dear Dad that won’t give too much away?

I call it ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ without any of the characters in the story being related! 

A young boy Adam hopes to find a father who’ll take notice of his hopeless situation ... and ends up contacting our hunky but wounded hero Nate who’s in even worse circumstances himself. They are each in their own different way looking for hope ... and they find it in the form of Adam’s caring and attractive teacher Jenna. 

Only how is she going to take it when she realises she has been duped by them, all along? 

Did you need to do much research for this novel? 

I did quite a bit. I started off researching what it feels like to be agoraphobic – my hero Nate has been stuck in his house for weeks following PTSD brought on by his being a war reporter. I found some amazing resources – YouTube videos and such – online, where people detail their difficult journeys with this condition. Full-blown agoraphobia takes some getting over, so I wrote Nate as having ‘agoraphobic symptoms’ brought on by the PTSD, in order to enable the story to move forward.

Later on, there was quite a bit to learn about what happens to children who find themselves in Adam’s position – he’s a child carer, looking after his frail nan. I had to do a lot of ringing around to ask people who work in Children’s Services for possible scenarios of how his story might work out. A lot of this information is not stuff it’s easy to find online, I had to ask people who worked in the field ... I so wanted a happy ending for 9-year-old Adam.

What keeps you motivated as a writer?

Believe it or not, a lot of it is wanting to find out what happens, how it all works out, how my characters get to have their ‘Happy Ending’. I always assume they’ll have one – it’s just not always clear to me from the outset how that’ll come about. With the kind of insurmountable problems I’m fond of giving them – it’s not always an easy task , either!

What do you hope that readers will take away from your books?

I hope they’ll feel a deep sense of satisfaction. I hope they’ll feel as if they’ve been away on an adventurous journey. I hope they’ll have felt so invested in my character’s lives that they couldn’t walk away from them and that - while they couldn’t wait to find out the ending - now they’re sorry it’s all over (and can’t wait for the next book!).

Kindness is the cousin of love, and I’m always writing about love, so on another level, I’d also like readers to take away a sense of hope and of the human kindness there still is in this world.

About the Author

Visit Giselle on her website
Find her on Facebook
Follow on  Twitter @gisellegreenuk

Huge thanks to Giselle for being such a lovely guest and for sharing Dear Dad with me.


Monday 28 March 2016

Review ~ The Ultimate Classic FM Hall of Fame....

Elliot & Thompson Ltd
March 2016

The Ultimate Classic FM Hall of Fame celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Classic FM's Hall of Fame and is a fitting tribute to all those who have continued to support this venture since it first aired on our radios back in 1996.

I always have Classic FM playing quietly in the background, it forms the soundtrack to my day as I tap away on my PC, preparing blogs, tweeting or sharing my thoughts on Facebook. However, I'm not greatly knowledgeable about classical music, and sometimes I struggle to remember the details of composers and concertos, so to have an ultimate guide to Classic FM's Hall of Fame is a real treat.

Firstly, the book looks stunning; it’s one that would grace any coffee table with ease, the glossy sumptuousness of the book’s pages are made to be appreciated. However, the book is not just good to look at, it’s also a fascinating and informative read and forms a good introduction to classical music in an easy to understand style, which neither patronises nor over complicates.

Beautifully illustrated throughout with classic CD artwork, the pictures match the content perfectly, and it is obvious that so much thought has gone into the final presentation that it is a credit to the book’s authors and editors, who have collectively made such an effort to make sure that everything is perfect. I loved the ease of discovering snippets of fascinating information and have already made a note to purchase some of the music from the section entitled "25 Recordings You Should Own"...

Over the Easter Bank Holiday, I like thousands of other eager listeners tune into Classic FM to see which music and composers have made it into the current Hall of Fame. This year, thanks to this rather special edition of the The Ultimate Classic FM Hall of Fame, I have learned so much more about classical music and if,  like me, your soul warms to Allegri's Miserere or if you like the soaring majesty of Beethoven then this book is the perfect companion to your easy listening...

Best read with....A plate of English crumpets laden with strawberry conserve and a china teapot of aromatic Earl Grey.... 

Amazon UK

Classic FM

Huge thanks to Alison Menzies at Elliot & Thompson for my review of copy of this lovely book.


Sunday 27 March 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered...Guest Author, Juliet Greenwood

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 novels set during The Great War

Please welcome the author

Juliet ~ Thank you so much for spending time with us and thank you for sharing your thoughts on The Women of WW1...

The moment I decided my next book was going to be set in the period of WW1, I knew I wanted to write about the experience of the women and the civilians. So much has been written about the trenches and the battlefields, but, until recently, the role of women has not been part of the story of The Great War.

In retelling the story of war, the civilians are still largely forgotten, and yet that is the experience of the majority of those living through, and touched by, war in all its forms. Until I began research for ‘We That are Left’ I hadn’t thought of the huge role played by the women and the civilians. Those in Britain didn’t have the horror of invasion, like those in France and Belgium, but as an island nation that imported much of its basic food and materials, keeping daily life going soon became a matter of survival. One of the most basic things is food, not only for the civilians, but also to be able to feed the troops on the battlefield. As in the Second World War, it was the women and the children who took over the role of the missing agricultural workers. Women became engineers, worked in munitions factories, and, like my heroine Elin, took over the running of country estates, discovering that they were just – if not more – capable than their husbands.

Women’s lives had been changing before the war, as they fought the right to education, to become doctors and scientists, to be able to earn their own money, and not to be tied to an abusive husband – and even for the simple right to wear clothing that did not restrict every movement. Many women already organised charity hospitals and were active in local politics, where they could vote and stand for office.

All these women swung into action once war was declared. Celebrated at the time, their stories have largely been forgotten. Women became spies, using their reputation for female cowardice and stupidity to gather information from behind enemy lines, sending information in coded letters back to London, where armies of women deciphered them meticulously. They worked on the front line, not only nursing and working as surgeons under fire, but driving ambulances and feeding the often hungry troops. The extraordinary Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker ran their own first aid post near Ypres, later being awarded the Order of Leopold II, Knights Cross by King Albert I of Belgium, and the British Military Medal. 

Their story is fascinating, as retold here:  and in Diane Atkinson’s ‘Elsie and Mari Go to War’.

The Duchess of Sutherland not only continued nursing as the German bombardment fell around her and her field hospital fell into German hands, but by sheer force of personality (and aristocratic connections) managed to talk her captors into releasing her, going on to set up and run her own field hospitals in Calais.

Women in WW1 not only played a vital role, but changed their own lives forever. Like Elin, having found their own strengths, and tasted independence and freedom, the world would never be the same again. It was these women who went on to become the businesswomen, doctors and scientists who forged the lives we live today. Women before the war were viewed as children, to be protected and guided, passed from the regulation of a father to that of a husband, while too much thinking would addle their already weak brains and destroy their ability to bear children. Elsie and Mairi, along with the indomitable Duchess of Sutherland, and millions of other brave and heroic woman, ensured that myth could never quite regain its power again.

Elin lives a luxurious but lonely life at Hiram Hall. Her husband Hugo loves her but he has never recovered from the Boer War. Now another war threatens to destroy everything she knows.

With Hugo at the front, and her cousin Alice and friend Mouse working for the war effort, Elin has to learn to run the estate in Cornwall, growing much needed food, sharing her mother's recipes and making new friends – and enemies. But when Mouse is in danger, Elin must face up to the horrors in France herself.

And when the Great War is finally over, Elin's battles prove to have only just begun.


Waterstones Wales Book of the Month,
Wales Independent Bookshops Book of the Month
Wales National Museums Book of the Month, March 2014

Buying and contact links:

Follow on Twitter @julietgreenwood   

Amazon UK    - 

***Juliet 's lovely book "We That Are Left" is on special offer today on Amazon UK . And at only 98p for a kindle copy, its cheaper than an Easter Egg !! ***

Huge thanks to Juliet for sharing her interest in the women of WW1

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


Saturday 26 March 2016

Today my author spotlight shines on...Heidi Perks

I am delighted to welcome to Jaffareadstoo

24 March 2016
Red Door Publishing

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Heidi and thank you for being our guest today and for sharing your debut novel Beneath the Surface with us..

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for Beneath the Surface?

It was a couple of years ago when I remembered this odd fear I had as a child of suddenly wondering what would happen if my mum turned out to be someone else and not who I thought she was. The thinking behind it was how would I cope if someone I trusted so implicitly did something completely out of character? Out if this idea for Beneath The Surface was born - though of course was happens to Abi is much worse!

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

It’s a story of a dysfunctional family and the impact of their actions on each generation. Abi comes home and finds that not only has her mum vanished she has taken the two youngest sisters with her. Fourteen years on she starts unravelling the past with the hope of finding a future for herself. As she does this we also see the story of her mother and the girls - who are now teenagers - and realise that history is threatening to repeat itself.

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?

Sometimes but not always. Sometimes they completely surprised me and this was a good thing because it meant they had really developed whilst I was writing them. I had an idea of how I wanted them to be perceived by readers although everyone sees them differently and it has been so interesting hearing feedback. The characters in Beneath The Surface have got people talking a lot!

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

That’s a tough one because I don’t think I am that similar to any, though I would probably have to say Abi, and possibly Hannah. Hopefully no one would say I have many similarities to the mother or grandmother!

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

Definitely start writing and see what happens! I don’t think this is always the most productive way of writing though as for me it means a lot of re-writes and plotting and re-structuring mid-way through. But I am not the kind of person who can sit down before I have begun and meticulously plan out what is going to happen. I am too eager to start writing!

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

Yes I do, absolutely. I love novels with lots of twists, I love psychological thrillers and dramas. Over the years I have been influenced by many writers but I particularly love Liane Moriaty and Rosamund Lupton. I read so much and always make sure I pick up whatever is big at the moment. I have just finished Behind Closed Doors, and am now reading The Teacher. 

Can you share with us anything about your next writing project?

I am now editing my second book. It is about a young girl who goes missing whilst being looked after by her mother’s friend. The story is told in the alternating voices of the mother and her friend. Despite finding it a hard subject matter I’ve loved writing this one too and can’t wait for it to come out!

My thoughts on Beneath the Surface...

Imagine being sixteen and coming home from school to find that your mother and baby stepsisters have disappeared from the family home, leaving no trace of where they might have gone. Trying to make sense of this disappearance would be beyond the comprehension of most people and for Abigail Ryder the devastating truth of abandonment is something that will shadow her throughout the rest of her adolescence and early adulthood.

After the initial disappearance we meet up with Abigail some fourteen years later when she partnered with Adam and they are considering having a family of their own, and that’s when the past in all its frightening reality comes back to haunt Abi. The intervening years haven’t been without incident for Abigail’s mother and younger sisters and the story of what happened to them forms a good percentage of the story. 

This tightly drawn suspense story grabs your attention from the beginning and what then follows is a cleverly constructed psychological profile of a family at odds with themselves, who are so full of secrets and lies that it’s difficult to know exactly where the truth is going to come from. It’s quite an emotional read in places, and the convoluted relationship between mothers and daughters becomes as much the focus of the story as the story itself. To say more would be to spoil the impact of the story and that would be such a pity as the story should be read with no spoilers from me.

The author writes well, with a fine eye for detail and the subtle references to family life, particularly in the choice of dialogue Abi has with Adam, and also in the sibling relationship between Hannah and Lauren, Abi’s younger stepsisters, I thought was particularly well done. I found the book to be a quick read, quite simply because, once started I couldn't put it down, and there's always that enticing need to discover just a little bit more. I really enjoyed trying to second guess what the outcome of the story would be and hoped that everything was going to work out well. Whether it does, or'll have to discover for yourself !

Beneath the Surface is a commendable debut novel from a fresh new talent and I look forward to seeing what’s coming next.

Best Read With …..Salty bacon sarnies and cans of diet coke...

Visit Heidi on her website

Find on Facebook

Follow on Twitter @heidiperks1

Amazon UK

Huge thanks to Heidi for being such a lovely guest and for sharing Beneath the Surface with me.


Friday 25 March 2016

Today my author spotlight shines on....Teresa Driscoll

I am delighted to welcome to Jaffareadstoo Teresa Driscoll and to congratulate her on the publication of her second novel.

**Happy Publication Day**

25 March 2016

A warm welcome to you Teresa and thank you for spending time with us today...

 Author Teresa Driscoll shares her thoughts on writing her second Bookouture novel 

Last Kiss Goodnight.

That difficult second book?

I’m not going to pretend it isn’t different. Publishing my second novel, I mean.

In the book world, it is often referred to as ‘that difficult second book’ and I get where everyone is coming from.

With your first novel, you can take as long as you like to write it. You can spend as long as you like tweaking and polishing before you submit to agents and publishers. But for the second novel, there is this whole new professional environment in which you are suddenly working. 

It is a bit like planning a gorgeous wedding and then suddenly realising that you have to be married…every day. Once you get over the euphoria of a book deal, you suddenly realise you have to be a ‘proper author’ ...every day. 

Oh – you mean I actually have to live with my husband now?

Oh – you mean I actually have to write another book?

I jest, of course. I’ve been very happily married for nearly 25 years and being an author is the most beloved job in the world. It is a joy and an absolutely privilege. But it is a job (which involves the ‘work’ word) so the adjustment I have made as so many authors before me, is building in the discipline to manage my different responsibilities all at once. Editing the new writing while marketing the published work. Learning to juggle efficiently. 

Thankfully I had the idea for this second novel and a very rough first draft already on my desk when I published my first book Recipes for Melissa. So as I was marketing my debut, I was already working on the next draft of Last Kiss Goodnight. And as I now join in the promotion of my second book, I am working hard on a new manuscript. It is a rolling road that I am now thankfully getting used to without quite so much wobbling!

What I don’t think will ever change for me is the joy of the actual writing. As I go forward now I know exactly what is key for me and that is to make sure that each book I write stems from something I feel passionately about. I always start with the theme. Something that really matters to me. Then the words just flow. Then it never feels like work.

Last Kiss Goodnight, for instance, grew out of a haunting, really. When I was a TV reporter many years ago, I was sent to a campaign launch near the House of Commons. A group of women were releasing balloons – each one representing a child who could not be found. The estrangements were varied but all the mothers’ stories were heart-breaking.

I have never forgotten watching those balloons. That’s how I came to write this book about lost children and the power of a mother’s love. A theme that really moved me…and one that has stayed with me.

And so now it’s on to the next book. 

I am hoping they call it the ‘easy third book’!

Teresa Driscoll is a former BBC TV news presenter with 25 years' experience across newspapers, magazines and broadcasting. After training as a newspaper reporter, she joined Thames TV for five years before 15 years as the anchor of the BBC's south west regional TV news programme Spotlight.

Find Teresa on her website
Visit her Facebook page
Follow on Twitter @TeresaDriscoll

My thanks to Teresa for sharing her thoughts about that 'difficult second book'

and to Kim at Bookouture for her help with this interview.


Thursday 24 March 2016

Today my author spotlight shines on ....Annemarie Neary

I am delighted to welcome Annemarie Neary to Jaffareadstoo and to congratulate her on the publication of her second novel.

**Happy Publication Day**

Hutchinson ( Penguin Random House UK)
24 March 2016

A warm welcome to you Annemarie and thank you for spending time with us today...

Tell us a little about Annemarie Neary, author.

I’m about to publish Siren (my second novel, but my first psychological thriller), which is coming out on 24th March; I signed a 2-book deal with Hutchinson, an imprint of Penguin Random House UK, last year. My first novel, A Parachute in the Lime Tree, was published by The History Press Ireland in 2012. I also write short stories, I’m working on a tricky first draft of one at the moment. 

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

I first started writing seriously in about 2008. I took an extended career break when my 3rd son was born, and I’d been back at work for about 2 years when it became obvious that the whole juggling work/home thing wasn’t going too well. I conceded defeat, stopped work, then felt like a bit of a failure. I realized then that if I was ever going to write, this was the moment. I developed the habit of working to competition deadlines — write, edit, send, repeat — until I started to get somewhere. 

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

Place is a big factor for me, especially when it comes to short stories. It’s important is to be open to things; observe, eavesdrop, wonder about people, take notes when you can. Also, if you come across something that piques your interest, try to catch it before it disappears — pin it down in some form, even if it’s only a note on your phone. And don’t be afraid to combine disparate things – often that’s where the interesting stuff begins. 

What inspired you to write Siren , and what can you tell us about it that won’t give too much away?

I find the genesis of ideas a bit of a mystery, and one I hesitate to interrogate too closely in case the ideas stop coming! With Siren, I began with a short story that centred on the protagonist, R贸is铆n, during a night out that goes unimaginably wrong. For the moment, that was that. But even though the story was finished, I couldn’t let R贸is铆n go. I became fascinated by the potential ramifications of that night. What would R贸is铆n’s future hold?

What keeps you motivated as a writer?

Deadlines are good! Having a book published is an exciting, exhausting, anxiety-provoking business; it’s also quite addictive. Having said that, writing has become so integral to my life that I’d write even if I weren’t being published. The great thing about writing is that nothing need ever be wasted. Every frustration, boredom, sorrow and joy can be turned to use. 

Do you have a routine when you’re writing?

It depends whether I’m writing raw or editing. I find writing new material quite a difficult process. I’m never sure whether something is going to work until I’ve found the shape of it, and that’s often not until I’m quite a way in. I tend to be a night owl, so I love to write late at night when everyone else is asleep. A lot of people say you should write your raw material first thing in the morning while you’re still adjusting to the day, almost in dream mode. Colm T贸ib铆n says to ‘Stay in your mental pajamas all day’ which might be a bit of an ask for those of us with jobs and families! However, the vast majority of my writing work constitutes editing, so that can be done any time. 

What do you hope that readers will take away from your books?

That’s a very interesting question, and not one I’ve thought about before. I don’t know that I do have something I want readers to take away, partly because every book or story is different, and partly because I’m not directing my characters to behave in any particular way. I place them in peril or temptation or in the midst of a moral dilemma and they cope according to their personalities, desires, needs. 

In Siren, R贸is铆n reaches a crisis in early middle age that leads her to do something that is brave and foolhardy but absolutely essential for her emotional and moral wellbeing. I suppose I’m interested in courage, and what it takes to behave well in extreme situations. In fact, It’s just occurred to me that both R贸isin in Siren and Oskar in Parachute fail to act with courage at a particular point of crisis then spend the rest of the book determined, if not to replay things, to do better next time. 

Thanks so much for your questions, Jo, and for inviting me to the blog. 

It's been a real pleasure Annemarie, do come back and see us again soon...

Irish-born, Annemarie was educated at Trinity College and King’s Inns, Dublin and the Courtauld Institute, London. A former lawyer, she lives in London with her husband and sons.

Annemarie’s short fiction has won awards in the UK, Ireland and the US. Her UK debut, Siren, is forthcoming from Hutchinson (Penguin Random House UK) in Spring 2016. A Parachute in the Lime Tree was published by The History Press Ireland in 2012.

Find AnneMarie on her website
Follow on Twitter @AnnemarieNeary1

Amazon UK

Siren is available to buy online and from all good good book shops from

24 March 2016 


Wednesday 23 March 2016

Blog Tour ~ Fire Damage by Kate Medina

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

Fire Damage Blog Tour


I'm delighted that the author Kate Medina has kindly taken the time to  answer some questions about Fire Damage...

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Kate.....

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

I started to write seriously because I had the idea for my debut thriller, White Crocodile, an idea that I loved and I wanted to get it down on paper. White Crocodile, a thriller set in the land mine fields of Cambodia, published in 2014, is very personal to me because it developed from my own experiences. I had the idea whilst I was Managing Editor, Land-Based Weapons, at Jane's Information Group, the world’s leading publisher of defence intelligence information. As part of that role, I worked alongside professional mine clearers in Cambodia and was privileged to meet many Khmers - adults and children - who had been devastated by losing limbs to land mines. When I returned to England, I had the very strong sense that I wanted to shine a light into what I found to be a heartbreaking corner of the world. The device of a page turning thriller that drew people into the story and characters whilst at the same time taking them into this world was, I felt, a great way to shine that light.

Unlike many novelists who have journalistic backgrounds, I had no formal background in writing, so while I had a great idea and plot, I wanted to learn how to write well. I enrolled in a Masters in Creative Writing at Bath Spa, one of the top creative writing courses in the U.K., and wrote the first draft of White Crocodile whilst there.

Although I only began to write seriously with a view to getting published five years ago, much of my childhood was spent immersed in stories – both reading and writing them. Enid Blyton's Famous Five series was one of my favourites and in common with many other tomboys, I wanted to be George. I am still an avid crime and thriller reader and love established writers such as Jo Nesbo, Steig Larsson, Martina Cole and Mo Hayder and newer writers such as Eva Dolan, Clare Mackintosh and Sarah Hilary.

Writing White Crocodile was far harder and took much longer than I had anticipated, but I must have secretly enjoyed the process as I started Fire Damage as soon as my publisher had signed-off the final draft of White Crocodile!

Tell us three things about your novel, which will be of interest to the reader.

Fire Damage is the first in a series featuring twenty-nine-year-old Dr Jessie Flynn, a clinical psychologist working with the Defence Psychology Service. Jessie is counselling Sami Scott, a deeply traumatised four-year-old boy whose father, a Major in the Intelligence Corp, was badly burnt in a petrol bomb attack in Afghanistan. Sami is terrified of someone he calls the ‘Shadowman’ and tells Jessie that ‘the girl knows’. However, there are no girls in Sami’s life. He also carries a huge metal Maglite torch with him wherever he goes, clutching onto it like a loved teddy bear. Sami’s parent insist that his trauma stems from seeing his father in hospital burnt beyond recognition and that Major Scott is the ‘Shadowman’, but Jessie feels that that something far darker explains Sami’s trauma.

With Fire Damage, I wanted to write a novel and kick-off a series that was original and a little out of the ordinary within the crime genre, in terms of the characters, the world those characters move in, and the stories that they become embroiled in. Combining psychology, my military experience and the fact that I wanted my protagonist to be a woman, to reflect the huge number of clever, funny, independent women that I know, it was an easy step to come up with Jessie.

Psychology is such an interesting subject and so relevant to crime as a genre. I am lucky enough to have a degree in the subject, so it felt very relevant for me to use that knowledge in my lead protagonist. Jessie’s profession enables me to explore crime from a uniquely psychological perspective, not only the criminal’s motivation, thoughts and feelings, but also the victims and the investigators – Jessie herself and the other key characters in the series, Captain Ben Callan and Detective Inspector Bobby ‘Marilyn’ Simmons.

Fire Damage is foremost a story about families: love and hate, kindness and cruelty and the destructive nature of some relationships. The fear and helplessness experienced by a child trapped in a dysfunctional family was for me, as a psychologist and a mother of young children, a very powerful emotion to explore, as well as its flip side – intense love and an overwhelming desire to protect. In Fire Damage I have considered these themes not only through Sami Scott, the deeply traumatised boy Jessie is counselling, but also through Jessie’s troubled childhood and her own personal demons.

I hope that readers enjoy reading Fire Damage as much as I enjoyed writing it.

What would you like readers to take away from Fire Damage?

I found a lot of Fire Damage hard to write in that much of the novel is intensely emotional – both the heroine, Jessie Flynn, and Sami Scott the deeply disturbed four-year-old boy she is counseling, go through tough emotional journeys throughout the course of Fire Damage. However, there are also moments of real lightness and humour, which balance out the dark side!

My aim was to write a thriller that grabbed readers by the throat and by the heart, and that is what I have hopefully achieved with Fire Damage. I want readers to remember the novel, the complex characters they meet within it, and the issues it raises long after they have finished the last page.

My thoughts about Fire Damage...

Doctor Jessie Flynn is an interesting and complex protagonist, and working as she does for the Defence Psychology Service, she comes into contact with fragile and vulnerable army personnel who have been damaged in the line of duty. When she is asked to counsel Sami Scott, the four year old son of Major Nicholas Scott, not only does she encounter a terrified child who has been scarred by a dark tragedy, but also Major Scott’s own damaged vulnerability makes treating Sami extremely difficult. Working closely as she does with other army personnel, Jessie comes into contact with Captain Ben Callan of the Military Police Special Investigation, and gets drawn into a separate ongoing enquiry which is both perplexing and time consuming.

Jessie Flynn‘s world as a clinical psychologist is expertly explained, and I especially liked the idea that she is just as flawed, and has almost as many hang ups, as the people she attempts to counsel. Her relationship with Ben Callan is intriguing; they have an interesting connection, a shared history which hovers on the professional and yet, there is a lingering intimacy between them which is as intriguing, as it is provocative. From this tantalising early beginning; I’m sure that Jessie and Ben’s relationship will be explored as the series progresses.

It’s fascinating to have a crime novel told from the perspective of a clinical psychologist, as without being encumbered by too much police procedure, the criminal aspect of the story takes on a sharper meaning, and having a damaged child at its centre, allows Fire Damage to show the vulnerabilities of those people and families who get caught up in events beyond their control. In many ways Fire Damage is an emotional read, the damage that a dysfunctional family can inflict on a child is tremendous, and yet, with sensitivity and insight into the psychology of daily life, a story of terrible misfortune starts to emerge.

The story concludes well, with all the loose ends coming together, and yet, the ending lends itself very well to a continuation of the series. I am sure that Jessie’s character will continue to go from strength to strength as this series progresses.

Best Read With....….a large pot of tea and a comforting slice of cake, laden with calories

About the Author

Courtesy of Philipa Gedge

Twitter @KateTMedina

Fire Damage is published by Harper Collins on the 24th March, 2016 and is available to buy online and from all good bookshops.

My thanks to the author Kate Medina for her insightful answers to my questions and to Felicity at Harper Collins for the invitation to be part of this exciting blog tour.

Do visit the other stops on the tour.


Tuesday 22 March 2016

Review ~ Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers

Allen & Unwin

3 March 2016

One good deed. Two gutsy widowed sisters. Seven days of mystery, mayhem and mortal danger…

There is something delightfully quirky about Hester and Harriet which makes you instantly fall for their charms, and almost before the first chapter is finished, this delightful duo of eccentric ladies make you smile at their wit and wry sense of humour. 

They seem to attract an odd assortment of waifs and strays that without Hester and Harriet's intervention would flounder. There's Finbar, the vagrant, who troubles them only for the occasional foodie treat, Ben, their rapscallion nephew, who underneath his teenage bravado has a heart of gold and rather a soft spot for his eccentric great-aunts. However, it is Daria and baby Milo, who they rescue from a freezing bus stop on Christmas Day who form the real focus of the story and Daria’s complex and convoluted reason for wishing to remain hidden makes for interesting reading.

I felt comfortable with the idea of the story from the beginning. I enjoyed Hester and Harriet’s interference in the lives of those around them, and the author has done a really fine job of making these two highly individual sisters appear 'eccentrically' normal. I liked their disregard for convention, their utter belief in everything they did, and the warmth and beauty of their genuine care for others. There is so much to enjoy, there are genuinely funny moments which make you laugh out loud and some really poignant episodes which tug away at the heartstrings. But throughout this adventure, Hester and Harriet's utter belief in the righteousness of their actions brings both humour and pathos to a delightful story.

I would hope that we haven’t seen the last of Hester and Harriet as I think that their unlikely adventures could form the basis of a very enjoyable series. If you like cosy crime,  this delightful duo will greatly appeal.

Best Read with….A bowl of fat olives, a platter of assorted cheeses and a large glass of rich, red Burgundy …

Hilary Spiers has had a varied career – including law, speech therapy, teaching, youth work and the NHS. She has also been involved with the theatre as an actor, director and playwright, and her dramatic work has been performed in a number of theatres including Hampstead Theatre and Riverside Studios. Hilary has won several national short story competitions and had work broadcast on the radio. She lives in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

My thanks to Diana at Ruth Killick Publicity for my review copy of Hester and Harriet 

Hester and Harriet is available to buy online and from all good bookshops.


Monday 21 March 2016

Review ~ The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

7 April 2016

In the early hours of the 15th April 1912, RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean with the loss of over 1500 passengers and crew. Much has been written about this catastrophic maritime disaster and there have been myriad book and movies made about the events of that cold April night. What The Midnight Watch does differently is that it focuses on the role of the SS Californian, which was sailing just a few miles away from the Titanic, close enough, in fact, to warn the ship, by radio, of impending danger from ice, but yet, it failed to respond to eight distress flares which the Titanic later sent up into the night sky.

In this novel, the story focuses on the events of the 15th April, the dialogue between the SS Californian ship’s crew and the investigation by journalist John Steadman which reveals a story rich in intrigue and alive with gossip and innuendo.

The author has done a commendable job in bringing this little known story to life and by using what scant facts there are available about the SS Californian’s role in the disaster, he has developed an absorbing, almost biopic style novel. There is much to take in, particularly around the ship’s crew and their actions, which I thought gave the book its strength, and yet, the stubbornness of Steadman to get to the crux of the story is quite engrossing and makes for fascinating reading. I especially liked the way the story was divided into three parts, with part three being particularly well done.

Overall, The Midnight Watch is a fascinating story, and as the anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic looms once again, it’s refreshing to have a new slant on an old story, never forgetting, of course those 1500 souls who lost their lives in the ice and cold of a North Atlantic night in April, 1912.

Best read with … a hasty sandwich and a bourbon chaser, clinking with ice..

David Dyer spent many years as a lawyer at the London legal practice whose parent firm represented the Titanic’s owners in 1912. He has also worked as a cadet and ship’s officer on a wide range of merchant vessels, having graduated with distinction from the Australian Maritime College. His worldwide research and access to countless documents and artifacts has informed and inspired his work in The Midnight Watch. He currently teaches English in Sydney.

David Dyer

Find on his website

Visit his Facebook page 

Twitter @DavidDyerAuthor

My thanks to Atlantic Books and Real readers for my copies of this book

The Midnight Watch will be published on the 7 April 2016.


Sunday 20 March 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

Composers of the Great War

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Portrait of Ralph Vaughan Williams, C.1916, courtest RVW Society

Whilst the poetry  of WW1 is reminiscent of time and place it must also be remembered that music evoked strong feelings and none more so than the compositions of Ralph Vaughan Williams.

George Meredith's poem The Lark Ascending (1881) was Vaughan William's inspiration for his musical composition of the same name. It is thought that the musical piece, The Lark Ascending (1918) is a reflective study on Vaughan William's war experiences. He enlisted as a private into the Royal Army Medical Corp (Territorial Force) where he became a medical orderly and there is no doubt that Vaughan William's experiences as a stretcher bearer left a lasting impression on him. In 1917, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery and was responsible for firing shells towards enemy lines. His deafness in later life is usually attributed to the ear-shattering noise that these big guns emitted.

It is thought that his Pastoral Symphony (1921) and his cantata Dona Nobis Pacem (1936) are his musical response to the war.

Symphony No 3

Pastoral Symphony

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Just to say that this piece is  approx.35 minutes long but well worth listening to.

 If you've time to spare, grab a nice pot of English Breakfast tea and enjoy listening to this stunning piece of music.

It's one of my favourites.