Saturday 30 April 2016

Review ~ Despite the Falling Snow by Shamim Sarif

Metro Publishing
This film tie -in edition released in 2016

You can betray your country
But not your heart

Love and betrayal are the two themes at heart of this dual time novel which is set in the turbulent years of The Cold War during the mid-nineteen fifties, and also some forty years later in Boston in the late-nineteen nineties.  The story focuses on the relationship between Katya and Alexander who meet in Moscow and where despite all odds, and their different political viewpoints, they meet and fall in love. But there are secrets and lies between them and although Katya hopes that she can start a fresh life with Alexander, sinister forces are unleashed of which they have no control. Forty years later, in Boston we meet up with Alexander again, now the owner of a successful catering company but with no sign of Katya, there is an obvious mystery to uncover.

I thought that story got off to something of a slow start and it took me a good third of the novel to really start to gel with the characters, but once the  relationship between Katya and Alexander started to emerge, the story started to settle and became more interesting. If I’m honest, I much preferred the Russian 1950’s era of the story to the more contemporary American setting where the book, for me, lost some of its appeal.

The author writes well and with confidence and is adept at description, bringing scenes alive quite vividly, particularly the bleakness of post-Stalinist Russia. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and I think that the author has created a nice atmosphere between both past and present.The conclusion of the story, when it comes, is nicely done and finishes the story appropriately. 

Despite the Falling Snow has been made into a movie starring Charles Dance as Alexander and Rebecca Ferguson as Katya. The film was released in cinemas in the UK on the 22nd April 2016.

Best Read with ...Slices of Autumn Cake from Marian's Bakery and cups of aromatic tea...



Twitter @shamimsarif

Read an interview with the author here

Amazon UK

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of this book


Friday 29 April 2016

Blog Tour ~ The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of this exciting blog tour

The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan
Published Penguin Ireland
5th May 2016


After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she's letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.

Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle. Jasper says he's all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door...

Hi, Vanessa, thank you for inviting us to be part of your blog tour and for taking the time to answer our questions about The Last Days of Summer.... 

Without giving too much away – what can you tell us about The Last Days of Summer?

THE LAST DAYS OF SUMMER begins as the convict, Jasper Curtis, is released from the Huntsville State Penitentiary to move in with his sister and her two young daughters far out on the Texas prairie. It is a story about a dark soul coming home and how this affects the family and the community. Told from four different points of view, it examines themes of forgiveness, redemption, and revenge.

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?

It took me just under four years to write THE LAST DAYS OF SUMMER. That’s four years of people in my head whose thoughts I grew surprisingly used to. Oddly though, I’m not sure I feel that differently about any character than I did at the start of the novel. I am quite attached to each and was quite early on. I don’t always like what my character’s do. Don’t always agree with their viewpoints or the things they may say, but I suppose I love them somewhat unconditionally. Like a mother loves her children. As the characters grew in my head and gained strength, they took on a surprising independence I didn’t expect—each one said or did things at one time or another that I hadn’t planned! But I felt I had to ‘go with it’ each time because that was what Jasper would have done or Joanne would have said, so who was I to stifle their voices? That was my first experience where characters at times seemed to make their own decisions. Now, as I write my second novel, it has felt very strange having new voices in my head, seeing through new eyes.

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

Having been an eleven-year-old girl living on the edge of the Texas prairie, I guess the easy answer to this question would be to say that I identify with Joanne the most, but, after four years of living somewhat equally between multiple imagined minds, I have to say in all honesty that I identify with Lizzie, Katie, and Joanne in nearly equal measure. At different stages of my life different aspects of their personalities have resonated with me more. Jasper’s character is obviously the most far removed from my own world view; however, even he has moments of humanity that resonate with me. (I have to admit, as his creator, I have a real soft spot for him.) In many ways there are parts of me in each of my characters, but there are also aspects of each of their personalities that are the complete opposite of my own. That’s part of what’s fun about being a writer—we get to take the parts of ourselves we can use and mould and shape and reshape them till we see another self emerge.  A changed self, our opposite, unrecognizable yet somehow known. These fragments of the self add humanity to our characters making them opposites we can understand, can relate to. Can then bend to suit the needs of the story we are telling.

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

I am very, very much a start writing and see where it takes you sort of writer. I know the direction a story is going, know the general arch—where I’m starting, a few points along the way, have a vague impression of the ending, know the story’s tone—but room for spontaneity is incredibly important in my writing process. I often close my eyes visualize I am the character. Think, “Where am I now? What am I doing?” My scenes then unfold from there. 

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

I like to read almost everything! Favourites include: All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavril Kay, The Once and Future King by T H White, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Johnathan Safran Foer… I devoured the Harry Potter series. I love the old classics. I read a lot of poetry.

Cormac McCarthy, Isabel Allende, Tony Hillerman, and Larry McMurtry have been inspirations since I was young, as have the poets C. K. Williams, Sharon Olds, Silvia Palth, and Franz Wright. Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell was a big influence. Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony gave me the courage to keep my novel without chapters. Her description of her book as ‘a single telling’ really made sense to me.

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

I am writing my second novel. Another dark tale told from multiple perspectives, set into the fringes of society.

About the Author

Author bio: Vanessa Ronan was born in Houston and in her 28 years has lived in Texas, Mexico, New York, Edinburgh, and Dublin, where she now lives with her Irish husband. Among other things, she has been a dancer, a PA, a barmaid, a literature student, a dance teacher, and now, a writer. Home-schooled by her literature teacher parents, Vanessa began writing as soon as she learned the alphabet. The Last Days of Summer is her first novel.

Twitter @VRonan

Huge thanks to the author and publishers for their invitation to be part of this blog tour. Do visit the other stops for more author/book content.

Tour runs 26th April - 6th May


Thursday 28 April 2016

Blog Tour ~ The People We Were Before by Annabelle Thorpe

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to have been asked to be part of the

The People We Were Before

Blog Tour


21 April 2016

Yugoslavia, summer 1979. A new village. A new life.

But eight-year-old Miro knows the real reason why his family moved from the inland city of Knin to the sun kissed village of Ljeta on the Dalmatian Coast, a tragedy he tries desperately to forget.

The Ljeta years are happy ones, though, and when he marries his childhood sweetheart, and they have a baby daughter, it seems as though life is perfect. However, storm clouds are gathering above Yugoslavia.

War breaks out, and one split-second decision destroys the life Miro has managed to build. Driven by anger and grief, he flees to Dubrovnik, plunging himself into the hard-bitten world of international war reporters.

There begins a journey that will take him ever deeper into danger: from Dubrovnik, to Sarajevo, to the worst atrocities of war-torn Bosnia, Miro realises that even if he survives, there can be no way back to his earlier life. The war will change him, and everyone he loves, forever.

I am delighted to welcome Annabelle Thorpe to the blog today and to  share her thoughts about...

The Five Biggest Myths about Writing a Novel

The day The People We Were Before was published was, without doubt, the best day of my life.  It has taken years for me to achieve, almost two decades of writing, editing, sending out, and slipping rejection letters into battered folders.  In that time I have read endless articles about how to write a novel, why to write a novel, and what getting a novel published means.  Some of it was helpful, some of it not so much.  So here are the my five biggest myths about writing a novel.

1.  You Can Plan It

The biggest anxiety most people have about writing a novel is planning and structure - not  knowing quite where the story ends, or what will happen to all the characters.  This is normal.  Even though your characters are creations out of your own mind, at first they are only acquaintances.  It takes time to get to know them, understand them and see how they interact with other characters and in different situations.  Once you know them better you may find the plot goes in a different way, or the story becomes quite different.  Not having it all planned out in advance allows you the freedom to develop things as you go along.

2.  It's Fun

When you first start writing a novel it feels fabulous; the first few chapters flow, you're discovering your characters and playing around with scenarios and settings.  But somewhere along the line,  usually after about 30,000 words, it starts to get hard.  There's a relentlessness to it; the sense that every day for the foreseeable future you will get up and do exactly the same thing; sit at your desk, typing.  Half the time you won't think what you've done is any good.  And there's no-one to talk to.  Allow yourself to feel daunted, tired, isolated.  Once you get past about 60,000 words, things start to look up.

3. It will make you rich

Very few people can retire on what they make from writing novels.  Most advances are small and the myth of zillion-pound film-rights deals is usually exactly that; a myth.  But here's the good news; a small advance means far less pressure from the publisher to sell thousands of copies - which makes things a lot less challenging for a debut author.  Just don't give up the day job.

4. It will make you famous

For every JK Rowling or Joanne Harris there are thousands of authors who quietly go about the business of writing their novels, without ever disturbing the pages of the Times' books pages, or being interviewed by Mariella Frostrup.  Most authors will never make it to Hay or share their prose from a stage at Latitude.   But somewhere, on sunloungers or sofas, people will be reading the story that you wrote, drawn into a world entirely of your creation.  That's got to beat being able to get a table at the Chiltern Firehouse.

5. There's anything better

Anyone who tells you there's anything better than writing a novel is, basically, wrong.  To have the freedom to create characters and worlds and scenarios - to use your imagination in a way few of us get to do once we leave childhood behind - what better way is there to (almost) earn a living?  It's not an easy task and it may turn you into a bit of a hermit for a time.  But it is the best job in the world.

Annabelle Thorpe has been a travel and features journalist for fifteen years, writing for national print and online media. She currently works as a freelance for the Times, Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Express, and works as a consultant for the National Trust. Annabelle completed an MA in Contemporary History in September 2012 and is an alumna of Curtis Brown Creative. She lives in London and Sussex.

Visit the author's website 

Follow on Twitter @annabellet

Amazon UK

Huge thanks to the Annabelle for this lovely guest post today

and also to Olivia Mead at Quercus for the invitation to be part of this blog tour.

For more exciting content - do visit the other stops on the tour which runs between 

25th - 29th April


Wednesday 27 April 2016

Blog Tour ~ The Missing by C. L. Taylor

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host the penultimate day on The Missing Blog Tour


You love your family.
They make you feel safe
You trust them.
But should you ...?

The Missing focuses on the disappearance, six months ago, of fifteen year old Billy Wilkinson from the family home and interspersed as it is, with the clever references to the type of social media that youngsters seem addicted to these days, there is a definite sinister edge to the story from the very beginning. A missing child is every parent's worst nightmare and for Claire Wilkinson, Billy's mother, the need to find out what has happened to her child is palpable. 

However, the Wilkinson’s are a strange bunch and there are so many secrets and lies between this family that it’s difficult to really get to know just what’s going on with any of them. I enjoyed getting to know them, particularly Claire, who whilst not always very likeable, did succeed in getting her personality across quite forcibly and I was especially fascinated by Claire’s spiral into dissociative amnesia, which added a distinctly different element to the story.

The author writes well, she has a fine eye for detail and is able to infuse her characters with the faults and foibles which I’m sure can be found in many families, but it is the smallest of detail where the story really starts to come alive, and where family dynamics broken and shattered hide a terrifying truth. The plot is cleverly managed, and interspersed as it is with a dialogue between two characters known only as Jackdaw44 and ICE9, manages to be both current and scarily realistic.

It's always such a treat when you discover a book by an author whose work you haven't read before, only to finish the book and then immediately want to tootle off to discover what else she has written. Such is the case with The Missing which I thought was a very cleverly constructed psychological family/ crime thriller, and that once finished, immediately sent me on a search to discover this talented author's previous two books, The Lie and The Accident.

Best Read with….Milky coffee, one sugar and a packet of Maltesers…

About the Author

CL Taylor's first psychological thriller THE ACCIDENT was one of the top ten bestselling debut novels of 2014 according to The Bookseller. Her second novel, THE LIE, charted at number 5 in the Sunday Times Bestsellers list. Combined sales of both novels have now exceeded half a million copies in the UK alone.

Visit the author's Website
Find her on Facebook
Follow her Twitter @callytaylor

Amazon UK

Harper Collins

My thanks to the author and to Helena at Avon Harper Collins for my invitation to be part of this exciting blog tour.


Tuesday 26 April 2016

Review ~ The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

5 April 2016

On the surface you wouldn't think that an eleven year old boy would have anything remotely in common with a staunchly independent woman of 104, but when the one-in-a million boy enters the life of 104 year old Miss Ona Vitkus something quite special happens. And that's where this novel becomes so different as 'the boy' is only actually present in the novel for a very short spell of time but what then follows is the story of an insightful connection which runs throughout the whole of the story.

If I’m honest it took me a while to really settle to the story but once I got used to the rather quirky style of writing, I found much to enjoy and became rather fond of Miss Ona, who is both fascinating and exasperating, in equal measure. I rather felt sorry for Quinn, who is the boy’s father and his role in the story, along with the boy’s mother, becomes apparent as the story progresses. To say more would be to spoil the premise of the story completely, as this is one of those stories which you need to read without any preconceptions of what is to come. Certainly, there are moments in the story which are heartbreakingly sad but even though it tugs away at your heartstrings it is never self-pitying or morose, and despite the sadness, in places, the sheer inventiveness of the story made me laugh out loud.

By the conclusion of The One-in-a Million Boy, I can only reiterate what most other readers are saying, that it’s a warm and perceptive look at love and loss, and whilst the story sparkles with sensitivity and honesty, it is also refreshingly different, and without doubt, one of those stories which stays with you long after the last page is turned..

Best Read with …A glass of cold milk and a plate of sugary sweet, animal crackers..

Monica Wood is the author of four works of fiction, most recently Any Bitter Thing, which spent 21 weeks on the American Booksellers Association extended bestseller list and was named a Book Sense Top Ten pick. Her other fiction includes Ernie’s Ark and My Only Story, a finalist for the Kate Chopin Award.

Monica Wood


My thanks to the publishers Headline for my review copy of The One-in-a Million Boy


Monday 25 April 2016

Review ~ A House Divided by Margaret Skea

Sanderling Books

Eleven years on from the Massacre of Annock, the Cunninghame / Montgomerie truce is fragile.For the Munro family, living in hiding under assumed names, these are dangerous times.

While Munro risks his life daily in the service of the French King, the spectre of discovery by William Cunninghame haunts his wife Kate. Her fears for their children and her absent husband realized as William’s desire for revenge tears their world apart.

A sweeping tale of compassion and cruelty, treachery and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of feuding clans, the French Wars of Religion, and the Great Scottish Witch Hunt of 1597.

I’ve always had a passion for Scottish history and my interest in this author’s work came about when I saw her debut book, Turn of the Tide, featured on the Alan Titchmarsh The People's Novelist competition back in 2011.  I then went on to discover this talented author for myself.

Keeping the stability whilst at the same time driving forward the focus of a continued story is not an easy accomplishment and there have been many sequels which have disappointed me when the follow on story lets itself down, but not so with A House Divided which takes up the story of the feuding Cunninghames and the Montgomeries in an altogether more detailed way.

When the story begins the fragile balance between the two clans is as delicate as ever, old grievances never to be forgotten lie dormant for a while, but there is never anything more than an uneasy peace between them, and the shadows and deceptions which irretrievably bind them together will always be at the forefront of any adventurous action.

As always, the history and the politics of sixteenth century Scotland is both scrupulously researched and intelligently written. Gradually, as the story unfolds, the perilous intrigue starts to emphasise just what a treacherous time this was, not just being part of a feudal system, which was scary enough, but also to be an intelligent woman, fighting for a place in a predominantly male world, was a dangerous risk. Skilful capability, whilst undoubtedly a gift, could, at this time in Scottish history,  all too easily result in superstition, gossip and undeniable treachery. 

There is no doubt that the author has a fine way with words and her ability as a story teller, particularly of historical fiction, I think,  is now firmly established.

I really enjoyed this sequel and hope that the author has more historical fiction planned for the future.

Best read with ....fresh caught herring, tangy with herbs and a tankard of small ale...

Margaret Skea grew up in Ulster at the height of the 'Troubles', but now lives with her husband in the Scottish Borders

Visit the author's Website

Follow on Twitter @margaretskea1

You can read guest posts by the author here... and here

My thanks to the author for sharing this story with me and also to the publishers Sanderling Books  for  providing an e-copy of this book. 


Sunday 24 April 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered...Guest Author, Glen Craney

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

I am delighted to welcome the author


An unlikely American duo made history together twice. In France and fourteen years later on the tear-gassed streets of Washington, D.C.

In the Great War, courage had many fathers.

Joe Angelo, a second-generation Italian-American, volunteered as a private for the American Expeditionary Force in 1917 to prove his loyalty to his family’s new country. In contrast, his future captain, George Patton, a brash West Pointer who would become the controversial World War II tank commander, sailed for France eager to match his Confederate ancestors in glory.

Angelo and Patton could not have been more different in background, temperament, or motives for fighting. Yet they came together twice during the early twentieth century to play pivotal roles in U.S. history.

Angelo was as diminutive as Patton was imposing. A laborer in the dangerous DuPont Powder Works in New Jersey, Angelo enlisted at a time when many Italian immigrants still had family in the old country, where support wavered during the first year of the war between the Central Powers and the Allies. First and second-generation Italian-Americans like Angelo came under suspicion in the States, as did German-Americans, some of whom suffered harassment and even lynchings.

Joey Angelo

Patton, despite his aristocratic Virginia roots, saw potential in Angelo and chose him for his orderly. That decision would prove one of the most important in Patton’s eventful life. On a foggy day in September of 1918, he and Angelo stumbled into a desperate machine-gun fight in the Meuse-Argonne. When Patton took a shot to his upper leg, Angelo stayed at his side while the battle raged and managed to drag him to safety. Angelo’s heroism earned him the Distinguished Service Cross.

George Patton

After the war, Patton climbed the ranks to command the Third U.S. Cavalry, while his orderly returned to the tough streets of Camden. Despite his medal commendation, Angelo would likely have been forgotten to obscurity had it not been for one of America’s most shameful episodes fourteen years later.

During the summer of 1932, a charismatic, rail-riding hobo named Walter Waters led nearly 43,000 unemployed WWI veterans and their families into Washington, D.C. to demand advance payment of their deferred service annuity, popularly known as the Bonus. Angelo, nearly destitute, walked 150 miles to testify at a congressional hearing about his plight. He became one of the colorful champions of the Bonus Expeditionary

Force, the name adopted by the army of veterans that camped under the shadows of the U.S. Capitol and paced along its steps in a pitiful procession called the Death March. Months passed in the standoff. Then, at the end of a tense July, General Douglas MacArthur, the Army’s Chief of Staff, called out the infantry regulars from their barracks and drove the encamped veterans and their families from the city with tanks and gas. Patton led MacArthur’s cavalry in the attack down Pennsylvania Avenue. Amid the screams and smoke of the rout, Angelo sought out his former captain whose life he had saved in France.

What happened during their encounter would shock the nation and help decide the U.S. presidential election of 1932.

The Yanks Are Starving: A Novel of the Bonus Army unfolds the experiences of eight Americans who survived the fighting in France and came together again during the Great Depression to decide the fate of the nation on the brink of upheaval. It is the little-known story of the political intrigue and government betrayal that culminated in the only pitched battle ever fought between two American armies under the same flag.

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

Thanks so much Glen for this fascinating post.
It's been a real pleasure to have you as our guest today.


Saturday 23 April 2016

Celebrating the bard...

William Shakespeare

23 April 1564 - 23 April 1616

William Shakespeare died four hundred years ago today on the 23rd April 1616.

He will never know the lasting legacy he left behind or the universal appeal in which his work is regarded.

I studied Shakespeare at school toiling through interminable texts and learning huge chunks of prose throughout my English A level course. It was only later, as an adult, and being privileged to visit the home of Shakespeare, at the the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon, that I realised, that to truly understand Shakespeare, you had to watch his plays,. It's not enough just read his work, you have to watch and understand the subtleties of his language, his wry observation, and the warmth and wit of his storytelling ability.

Because that's what Shakespeare is, he's a teller of tales, he's a political correspondent, a comedian a tragedian, and more importantly, he's also a superb wordsmith, giving us so many phrases which we now take for granted, and whose origins we have long forgotten.

Here are just a few examples :

All our yesterdays (Macbeth)

As merry as the day is long (Much Ado About Nothing / King John)

Beggar all description (Antony and Cleopatra)

In a better world than this (As You Like It)

Brevity is the soul of wit (Hamlet)

Fancy-free (Midsummer Night's Dream)

Jealousy is the green-eyed monster (Othello)

In a pickle (The Tempest)

Knock knock! Who's there? (Macbeth)

Love is blind (Merchant of Venice)

One fell swoop (Macbeth)

Wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)

The world's my oyster (Merry Wives of Windsor)

Whilst the actual date of Shakespeare's birth is not known, it has been assumed that he was born on or around 23rd April. His baptism date is given as the 26th April 1564. Born and brought up in Stratford-upon -Avon, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway at 18 and had three children, Susanna, and twins Hamnet and  Judith.

By 1585-1592, Shakespeare was in London making a career as a writer, playwright and part owner of a company of players, known as The Lord Chamberlain's men, later known as The King's Men.

Producing most of his work between 1592 -1613, he at first wrote comedies and histories, but by the end of the 16th century he was writing tragedies and tragicomedies and was collaborating with other playwrights.

He died in 1616 and is buried at the Holy Trinity Church Stratford-upon-Avon and is also commemorated at Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey, London. 

Here's a few snippets from my favourite Shakespeare:

Antony and Cleopatra

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale

Her infinite variety. Other women cloy

The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry

Where most she satisfies. For vilest things

Become themselves in her, that the holy priests

Bless her when she is riggish.

Act Two Scene 2

A Midsummer Night's Dream

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight.

Act Two Scene 1

A Merchant of Venice

All that glisters is not gold—

Often have you heard that told.

Many a man his life hath sold

But my outside to behold.

Gilded tombs do worms enfold.

Had you been as wise as bold,

Young in limbs, in judgment old,

Your answer had not been inscrolled.

Fare you well. Your suit is cold—

Cold, indeed, and labor lost.”

Then, farewell, heat, and welcome, frost!

Act 2 Scene 7

There are lots of special events happening

You can find out more about Shakespeare 400th anniversary celebrations here

 Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.


Friday 22 April 2016

Review ~ coffee tea The Caribbean & Me by Caroline James

Add caption

Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me is the second book in the Coffee Tea series which began with Coffee Tea The Gypsy & Me, and which now continues the story, several years later, of Jo and her best friend Hattie. In this book , the story begins with Jo trying to rebuild her life after a devastating loss, and for those who haven't read the first book, I won't spoil anything here by revealing too much. Suffice to say, Jo and Hattie both need time away from Kirkton Sowerby and where better than to visit the Caribbean, ostensibly to visit Jo's son, Jimmy, who has recently relocated to Barbados, but also gives them time to mend their wounds and to take stock of their lives.

What then follows is a lovely story about the power of friendship, of comfortable days spent in the sun, of eating glorious food and drinking far too many cocktails, and enjoying light hearted flirtations. And yet there's also a lovely inclusion into the story of other characters especially Jo's other son. Zach, who is a talented , and it must be said, rather handsome Michelin starred chef. The author fills her characters with such warmth and wit and their delightful personalities shine through onto the pages of the story. I really liked spending time with them and thoroughly enjoyed seeing how the story eventually played out.

The very nature of Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me lends itself to a continuation, however, the story also sits comfortably on its own merits and can be read as a standalone. It's a perfect read for a sunny afternoon in the garden or leisurely reading on a hot afternoon by a poolside, preferably, somewhere exotic.

Best Read with.. Tall glasses of ice cold Pina Colada, heavy with white rum and a seafood lunch, of snapper, conch and pickled shrimp...

About the Author

Caroline James was born in Cheshire and wanted to be a writer from an early age, she trained, however, in the catering trade and worked and travelled both at home and abroad. Having lived in Cumbria for many years Caroline owned and ran a pub in Appleby followed by a country house hotel, south of Penrith and says that her time in Cumbria was the inspiration that led to her writing path.

Caroline's debut novel, Coffee Tea The Gypsy & Me shot to #3 on Amazon and was E-book of the Week in The Sun newspaper. Her second novel, So, You Think You're A Celebrity… Chef? has been described as wickedly funny: 'AbFab meets MasterChef in a Soap…' The manuscript for Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me was a Top Ten Finalist at The Write Stuff, London Book Fair 2015 and the judge’s comments included: “Caroline is a natural story-teller with a gift for humour in her writing.” Her next novel, Coffee Tea The Boomers & Me will be published autumn 2016.

Twitter @CarolineJames12

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


Thursday 21 April 2016

Charlotte Brontë Bicentenary 1816-2016

Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë was born on April 21st 1816 in Thornton, a suburb of Bradford. In 1820, she and her family moved to the small town of Haworth which snuggled into a corner of the wild Yorkshire Dales.

 ©Digital Images

In 1820, Charlotte's father Patrick took over as minister at the church of St Michael’s and All Angels and the Brontë family moved into the adjacent parsonage.

 ©Digital Images

Sadly, Maria, Charlotte’s mother, died in 1821, leaving husband Patrick, and her Maria’s sister Elizabeth Branwell, to look after the children,Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell.

In August 1824 Patrick sent Charlotte, Emily, Maria and Elizabeth to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire. Charlotte maintained that the school's poor conditions permanently affected her health and physical development, and hastened the deaths of Maria (born 1814) and Elizabeth (born 1815), who both died of tuberculosis in June 1825. After the deaths of her older sisters her father took Charlotte and Emily from the school. It is thought that Charlotte used the school as the basis for Lowood School in Jane Eyre.

Back at the Howarth Parsonage, Charlotte and her surviving siblings Anne, Emily and Branwell escaped into a fictional world, where they made up stories to entertain each other. These fictional escapades laid the foundation for what was to come.

 ©Digital Images

Emily grew to adulthood and was educated between 1831 and 1832 at Roe Head in Mirfield. She later spent time there as a teacher in 1835-1838. In 1839 Charlotte took up the position of governess to a Yorkshire family. In 1842, Charlotte and her sister Emily travelled to Brussels where they enrolled in a boarding school run by Monsieur Constantin Héger and his wife. In return for board and lodgings, Charlotte taught English and Emily taught music. This experience in Brussels and Charlotte’s infatuation with Héger gave Charlotte the inspiration for her novels, The Professor and Villette. The sister’s time at the school was cut short by the death of their aunt Branwell and Emily returned to Haworth in 1842, whilst Charlotte returned to Brussels only to return to Haworth in 1844.
In May 1846 Charlotte, Emily and Anne now living together at the Parsonage decided to self-finance the publication of a joint collection of poems under their assumed names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.

On the use of a male pseudonym Charlotte wrote:

"Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because — without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called "feminine" – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise"

Charlotte Brontë Novels

1847 Jane Eyre
1849 Shirley
1853 Villette
1857 The Professor (published posthumously)
1860 Emma (unfinshed)

Tragically, the Brontë family suffered the deaths of three of its members within eight months. In September 1848 Branwell died of an illness made worse by heavy drinking, although Charlotte believed that his death was due to tuberculosis. Emily became seriously ill shortly after Branwell’s funeral and died of pulmonary tuberculosis in December 1848. Anne died of the same disease in May 1849.

Charlotte Brontë continued to live at the Howarth parsonage with her father. In June 1854 she married her father’s curate Arthur Bell Nicholls. Charlotte became pregnant shortly after their wedding but sadly, died with her unborn child, in March 1855, just three weeks before her thirty-ninth birthday. She is buried along with other family members in the family vault in the church of St Michael and All Angels.

 ©Digital Images

All the images you see were taken on my visit to Haworth were I spent time in the shadow of the Brontës , making literature come alive in my imagination.

To celebrate this Bicentenary I am giving away a paperback copy of my favourite Charlotte Brontë  classic...

Jane Eyre


Wednesday 20 April 2016

Review ~ The Furies of Rome by Robert Fabbri

Vespasian #7
January 2016

This is the seventh book in the Vespasian series which is set in Ancient Rome. In AD58, Vespasian is now middle aged and has seen much unrest during his time spent at the centre of Roman politics. In this latest installment, the emperor Nero is behaving very badly and Vespasian gets drawn more and more into the conspiracies and counter conspiracies which revolve around the seeming cruelties of Nero's court.

The closeted atmosphere of the ancient Roman world is brought vividly to life in truly believable way and the petty jealousies and squabbles which festered in the shadows are allowed to take centre stage. I enjoyed the adventurous aspect of the story particularly when Vespasian is dispatched to Londinium on a secret mission and of his interaction with Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni.

I'm new to this historical series so some of the finer nuances of the story have probably escaped my attention. And yet, having said that, the author does a really good job of explaining some of the issues which have gone before, so that I never felt like I was floundering too much in the dark. The clever blending of fact and fiction really makes the history come alive in the imagination and the ancient world is so well recreated that it does feel totally authentic. Even though I hadn't met Vespasian or his family before, I felt like, by the end of the novel, that I come to know them all very well.

I really enjoyed this foray into the ancient Roman world and I am sure that the the author with his skillful storytelling will be able to keep the momentum of the series for some time to come.

Best read with....An anchovy pasty and a cup of robust red wine…

Robert Fabbri read drama and theatre at London University and has worked in flim and TV for 25 years as an assistant director. He has worked on productions such as Hornblower, Hellraiser and Billy Elliott. His life long passion for ancient history inspired him to write the Vespasian series.

Robert Fabbri

Twitter @RobertEFabbri

Amazon UK

My thanks to Alison Davies at Corvus for my copy of this book.