Tuesday 31 January 2017

Guest Author ....Michael E. Wills

I am delighted to welcome back to the blog historical fiction writer

Michael E. Wills

 Michael has written this fascination guest post about The Lure of Miklagård...

In the third of my quartet of Viking novels for young readers, Children of the Chieftain: Bounty, a seventeen-year-old boy voyages with his crew down the rivers of Russia and the Ukraine to Miklagård, the Viking name for Constantinople, or Istanbul as it is known today. There they seek their fortune and are well rewarded by the emperor for their services. Fanciful? Not at all, there is an historical precedent, a story which really illustrates the statement, the truth can be stranger than fiction.

St Olaf is the patron saint of Norway and many churches, even in England, are dedicated to him. He was killed in 1030 when defeated in a battle against his discontented subjects. At his side in the battle was his fifteen-year-old half-brother Harald Sigurdsson. The boy was commanding six-hundred warriors, his own followers.

Harald was wounded in the battle, but his men managed to rescue him and take him into hiding in a farm in the mountains between Norway and Sweden, before they escaped into Sweden. There he spent the winter recovering from his injuries. In the spring, his men returned to collect their leader. The small army was re-armed by the king of Sweden and set off east to serve Grand Prince Jarolslav, the ruler of a huge area of what is now Russia. At the age of sixteen, Harald was made captain of Jaroslavs forces as they fought insurrections and invasions by Poles.

Before Harald was twenty, seeking his fortune, he led his force of six-hundred down the Dneiper River and across the Black Sea to Constantinople, which the Vikings knew as Miklagård. There he offered his services to the Emperor of Greece. (The area now known as Turkey!) And in the service of Emperor Michael IV, Harald and his men really did make their fortunes. They were given the task of ridding the Aegean Sea of pirates who had been plundering the islands. This work was extremely lucrative as not only were the Scandinavians paid for doing the work, but they were able to keep the goods, many of them valuable cargoes, which they seized. The Emperor required only a small percentage of what they recovered.

Impressed by their work, their employer drafted the force into his elite personal guard, the Varangians. Harald was given the rank of commander of this unit. Much of the work of the Varangians was to guard the Emperor, but they also acted on orders to take retribution and revenge on enemies of the state. This work was often far from pleasant as apart from executions, a standard form of punishment was blinding.

Nevertheless. Varangians were not always gainfully employed and seemed to have plentiful spare time. In what was once the Greek Empire there are still today, some ancient relics which have Scandinavian runes scrawled on them, graffiti written by bored Varangians. One example of this is shown in the picture. This marble lion statue on the left is three metres tall and was sculpted around 350 BC. It once stood in Piraeus, the harbour of Athens. 

Clearly, it was visited by the Varangians as can be seen in the close up picture of a copy of this lion, in Stockholm Museum of History. The runic text commemorates a dead Varangian warrior called Horsi. He came from Roslagen, north of Stockholm and the runes tell us that he had earned much gold.

Harald and his men became victims of their own success. In 1042, when they had amassed a considerable fortune they asked for the Emperors permission to go home. By this time there was a new ruler of the Greek Empire, Empress Zoe. She refused to let the Varnagians return to their own country, they were too valuable to her. However, risking the terrible vengeance of his employer, Harald managed to ecape with a few of his men in two ships laden with valuables. He then embarked on the lengthy and dangerous voyage home to Norway. On his way, he visited Grand Price Jaroslav and persuaded him that he was now wealthy enough to marry the Princes daughter, Princess Elisiv.

On his return to Norway, Harald used his enormous wealth to gain the throne. But his ambition did not stop there. He decided that he had a legitimate claim to the throne of England. He built up a formidable army of around sixteen thousand men and a fleet of three hundred ships to mount an invasion to claim the throne. Forming an alliance with Tostig, the exiled brother of King Harold of England, he landed in the north of England in September 1066. That year is of course most famous for the Battle of Hastings, however, Haralds invading army was far bigger than the Norman one. What happened next was to shape the future of England, its people, its language and culture.

King Harold of England force marched his army to York to meet the threat. His arrival was completely unexpected by Harald of Norway who was still celebrating a victory over the local Earls. Despite his army being travel weary and outnumbered, the English King won the Battle of Stamford Bridge on 25th September. Harald Sigurdsson and Tostig were both killed. However, the price in English lives was high and when King Harold then set off south to counter the second invasion, that of the Normans, his army was much depleted.  He had few cavalry left and most of his best archers were dead. The rest is history, but there is no doubt that had Harald of Norway not interfered, the Battle of Hastings might well have gone another way.

As I said at the beginning, the truth can be stranger than fiction. The story of Harald, who later became known as Harald Hardrada, that is, Harald Hard Ruler, is so incredible that I doubt that any historical fiction writer could have written it.

About the Author

Michael is the author of a series of Viking adventure novels aimed at younger readers.

Find Michael on his website

Follow him on Twitter @MWillsofSarum

Huge thanks to Michael for this informative guest post about The Lure of Miklagård.

His latest novel Children of the Chieftain: Bounty is soon to be published by Silverwood Books.

Silverwood Books


Monday 30 January 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host the first day of the  Blog Tour 


A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess

Sidgwick & Jackson
Now out in paperback

What's it all about ...

In A Year in the Life of the Yorkshire Shepherdess the reader joins Amanda as she describes the age-old cycles of a farming year and the constant challenges the family faces: from being cut off in winter to tending their flock on some of the country’s highest, wildest moors - land so inaccessible that in places it can only be reached on foot.

Writing with her trademark warmth and humour, Amanda tells us how her nine-year-old son Miles got his first flock, Reuben took up the flugelhorn and she herself gave birth to a new baby girl. She shares the touching stories of an epic two-day journey taken by a ewe determined to find her lamb and of Queenie, an ageing and neglected horse who comes to live at the farm. Meanwhile, her husband Clive is almost arrested on a midnight stakeout to catch a sheep-worrying dog and becomes the object of affection for a randy young bull.

Amanda’s stories abound with humour and warmth that bring the countryside alive.

My thoughts about the book..

There's something refreshingly original about reading Amanda's account of life at Ravenseat. The image of this remote stone built farm, brooding in weather that sometimes leaves the farm isolated for days at a time, and perched high in the Yorkshire Dales, could be conjured right out of a Bronte novel. The Owen family live and work in glorious isolation, often at the mercy of whatever the weather or life throws at them, but always with a sense of realism and a huge dollop of good old fashioned Yorkshire pragmatism.

Photo Credit : Ian Forsyth

The book starts in January when the weather in Swaledale can be brutal but with remarkable resilience, the children are up and about early, and even before most school children have dragged themselves out of bed, the Owen children have tended to their chores, feeding chickens, collecting eggs and mucking out horses. In Amanda’s world no child is too young or too small to play a part in farm life.

With nine children to look after, Amanda and her husband Clive are constantly on the go, literally from dawn until dusk with little respite from either, the weather, or of the difficulties and dangers of managing a remote hill farm, and yet, throughout the book Amanda talks about her life with such warmth and humour that you can’t help but be envious of a life which at first appears relentlessly difficult.

With about a thousand sheep to look after, this huge flock features heavily in the year’s calendar, after all that’s where the family’s living comes from, but I never expected the sheep to have such distinct personalities or of the family’s emotional attachment to them. Amanda recounts her daily dealings with her flock with great affection, some of her stories made me laugh out loud, particularly the sheep who always seemed to know when a publicity photographer was around, or the way she has of warming up vulnerable baby lambs in the oven.

Photo Credit: Ian Forsyth

It’s not all about sheep, although they do feature large, but it’s also about how the changing seasons affects the family, of the adventures and mishaps of daily life, and of the determination needed to keep the farm productive and sustainable.

I raced through the book, always finding something of interest, a quip that made me smile, a story that tugged away at my heartstrings or an event which brings Ravenseat to life in Amanda’s indomitable style. It must be said that by the end of the book I was in awe of this family who live, work and play with such a unique perspective , and with such utter joy of living life to the full.

Best read with...One of Amanda's home baked scones and a large mug of tea..

Photo Credit : Ian Forsyth
Amanda Owen has been seen by millions on ITV’s The Dales and in Ben Fogle’s New Lives in the Wild and is currently appearing on ITV1’s Countrywise. Voted Yorkshirewoman of the Year by the Dalesman magazine, she is also the author of the top-ten bestseller The Yorkshire Shepherdess. Amanda lives and works at Ravenseat, a hill farm of 2,000 acres, which she shares with 1000 sheep, nine children, four dogs, and one husband. Not to mention chickens, pigs, cows, horses and an uncontrollable goat and a vole who has taken up residence in the living room. And she couldn’t be happier.

As well as looking after her animals and children, Amanda sells cream teas to walkers who stop at her farm on the Coast to Coast walk. Amanda’s farm Ravenseat is halfway along the 192 mile journey, which 16,000 people walk every year bringing new faces and stories to the farm each day.

Amanda also runs James Herriot tours for fans of the books, who visit her farm to see a way of life that hasn’t changed for decades. Amanda has also set up a traditional shepherds hut on the farm for couples wanting to experience a real country get away. After an encounter during a storm, Amanda now also counts former BBC Countryfile presenter Julia Bradbury as one of her good friends.

Amanda originally grew up in Huddersfield but was inspired by the James Herriot books to leave her town life behind and head to the countryside. After learning her craft as a freelance shepherdess, cow milker and alpaca shearer, she eventually settled down as a farmer's wife with her own flock of sheep at Ravenseat. Happily married with nine children, she wouldn't change a thing about her hectic but rewarding life.

Follow on Twitter @AmandaOwen8 or visit the Ravenseat website 

My thanks to Olivia at Midas PR for sending me a review copy of 

A Year in the Life of a Yorkshire Shepherdess

and for the invitation to be part of this blog tour.

Follow the blog tour on Twitter #yorkshireshepherdess


Sunday 29 January 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

The role that women played during the First World War must not be forgotten.

Women not only kept the home fires burning but also from 1917 they could be found, for the first time, in a military role.

The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps

© IWM (Art.IWM PST 13171)

In January 1917 the first women were recruited into the British Army to serve in a non-nursing role. The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) provided a range of duties for the army including cooking, vehicle maintenance and clerical duties, thus enabling more men to take up a fighting role. In 1918 Queen Mary became the patron of the WAAC and the corps were renamed as the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC).

BBC Schools World War One

Although recruiting women into the army wasn’t popular, by March 1917, commander-in-chief of the British Army, Sir Douglas Haig, realised that women could play a vital role in the British Army stating “the principle of employing women in this country (France) is accepted and they will be made use of wherever conditions admit.”

The WAAC was organised into four units, cookery, mechanical, clerical and miscellaneous. The War Office confirmed that any job given to a member of WAAC, had to result in a man being released for front-line duties.

Pay in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps was reliant on the work done. In the lower ranks, unqualified work was paid at the rate of 24 shillings a week. Shorthand typists could get 45 shillings a week. Money was also deducted per week for food although uniforms and accommodation were free.

There were no officer ranks in the WAAC as it was deemed that only men could achieve commission status, however, over 57,000 women enrolled and often worked very close to danger at the front-line. Three military medals for gallantry were subsequently awarded to women.

The QMAAC was eventually disbanded in September 1921.

The Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) was formed in November 1917, with 3,000 women.  

The Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) was born on 1 April 1918 with the Royal Air Force. Members of both the WAAC and WRNS transferred to the new service, which grew to 32,000, serving at home and in Germany and France. They undertook mechanical and technical roles as well as cooking, driving and administration.  The WRAF and WRNS were both dissolved in 1920.


Saturday 28 January 2017

Close to Home ...Cath Staincliffe

As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.

Please welcome Manchester Crime Writer

Hi and welcome to Jaffreadstoo Cath...


‘Cath Staincliffe moved to Manchester (all red brick and rain) from her home town, Bradford (hills and stone) to start a job. And stayed.’ The biography from my first novel Looking For Trouble. So I’m an incomer but I’ve lived in Manchester longer than anywhere else and it’s home. All my books are set here (even Half The World Away, the one that takes us to China, starts in Manchester). Blue Murder, the television series I created and the radio series Legacy are also based here as are the Scott and Bailey novels I was commissioned to write based on the TV show.


Looking For Trouble was inspired by the 1980s new wave of private eye fiction, where independent women investigated crime in vividly drawn urban settings. Sara Paretsky's Chicago and Sue Grafton’s Santa Teresa (based on Santa Barbara) feature almost as characters in their books. Wanting to emulate that in my Sal Kilkenny novels, I chose Manchester and not only because I lived and worked here (and am a reluctant researcher). Music and football (and post-industrial misery) may dominate people’s perception of Manchester and it has all that but Manchester has always been cutting edge. Home to the first free public library, the birthplace of the industrial revolution, of the first labour party and women’s suffrage movement, the city where the computer was invented and graphene, the first nuclear free city in the UK. But Manchester is also among the most deprived areas in the country, with reduced mortality, high unemployment and crime. There remains great inequality in the city and the contrast of innovation and creativity with lack of opportunity, of wealth and status with poverty, provides a tension to draw on. Ringed by satellite towns but still in striking distance of the Pennines and the Peaks, Manchester offers a hundred worlds to the writer. You can imagine how delighted I was when the estimable crime author Val McDermid was kind enough to say of that very first book, ‘Cath Staincliffe’s tour of the mean streets and leafy suburbs of Manchester reveals the city as the natural successor to Marlowe’s Los Angeles.’

Manchester and the North West inspire my work in a number of ways. First of all there’s the people here, the grit and humour, the warmth that characterises the way people deal with each other and how they talk. I think characters are shaped by the city and in turn shape it. And my characters are indivisible from their setting.

Locations give me ideas for scenes or for stories. So the stone archway at Heaton Park was the inspiration for a showdown at the end of one book as was the wooded sandstone ridge at Alderley Edge for another. The soulless Arndale Centre car park gave me an idea for the death at the heart of Towers of Silence. Famous landmarks like The Lowry or the Town Hall can provide the backdrop to encounters but so can that back alley off Piccadilly, the warehouses of the Northern Quarter before it was the Northern Quarter or the canal not yet refurbished and lined with luxury apartments. As a reader I love stories with a strong sense of place. I hope my work sparks recognition for people who know Manchester and gives an insight into what it’s like for those who don’t.

Incidents that happen here also inspire stories though I never write directly about real life events. Witness was a response to the tragic (and still unsolved) murder of teenager Jesse James at a time when gang violence made the murder statistics very grim reading. Assisted dying was the theme of The Kindest Thing and to make it as true to life as possible I spent time at the Crown Court watching trials and visited the women’s prison at Styal, speaking with the women there about life inside. Blink of an Eye gave me the opportunity to tell a contemporary story about death by dangerous driving but also to revisit the Manchester of the 1980s, and capture what I found when I first moved here. Like any major metropolis Manchester is in a constant process of change. Regeneration follows degeneration and the cityscape is always evolving, witness the ever-changing Metrolink network, the building for The Commonwealth Games, the development of Media City or the expansion of our three universities. People continue to move to the city, bringing their own contributions with them. Different cultures and communities, new areas of enterprise, are a continuing source of ideas for stories.

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Over the years publishers and agents have expressed a desire to get me out of Manchester, in a literary sense. Perhaps it's because the publishing industry is so relentlessly London-centric. But why relocate when the North West remains so fertile a hunting ground for the stories I want to tell? Besides, do they not realise, Manchester is the centre of the universe.

Cath's latest novel The Silence Between Breaths is due to be published in paperback in May 2017

Huge thanks to Cath for spending time on the blog with us today.

You can discover more about Cath's writing on her website by clicking here 

or follow on Twitter @CathStaincliffe

I hope you have enjoyed this Close to Home feature

Coming next week: Sarah Jasmon


Friday 27 January 2017

Blog Tour ~ Burned and Broken by Mark Hardie

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the Burned and Broken Blog Tour

Peter James meets James Oswald in this gripping, gritty British crime debut

Now available in eBook


The charred body of an enigmatic policeman – currently the subject of an internal investigation – is found in the burnt-out shell of his car on the Southend sea front.

Meanwhile, a vulnerable young woman, fresh out of the care system, is trying to discover the truth behind the sudden death of her best friend.

As DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell from the Essex Police Major Investigation Team are brought in to solve the mystery of their colleague's death, dark, dangerous secrets begin to surface. Can they solve both cases,  before it's too late?

My thoughts about the book...

The story starts with a rather brutal prologue which sets the scene for this dark and gritty crime novel which investigates the murder of a serving police officer and the unexplained the death of a vulnerable young woman who has recently left the care system. On the surface these two deaths should be unrelated but as the Essex Police Major Investigation Team find out, nothing is ever as it should be when dealing with the complexities of major crime incidents. Set in the seaside town of Southend-on -Sea, there is a definite air of faded gentility to a town that is going downhill fast, and for police investigators DS Frank Pearson and DC Catherine Russell the more they delve into the events leading up to both these deaths, the more deadly secrets they start to unravel.

As with any new police procedural crime series there is a certain amount of getting to know the major characters and both Frank Pearson and Catherine Russell are written with more than enough going on in their private lives to be able to make an emotional connection to them. However, I thought that some of the other characters lagged behind in the personality stakes a little, but that's no bad thing, as sometimes, inevitably, you will like one character above another, that's the way life goes. The police procedural element to the story is well written with more than enough twists and turns in the plot to keep the reader guessing until the end, and I must say that I enjoyed trying to second guess the investigation.

Burned and Broken is this author's debut novel and I am sure that as the series progresses we will see the writing go from strength to strength. 

Best Read With...  A few prawns, some crusty bread and a large glass of Chardonnay

Mark Hardie was born in 1960 in Bow, East London. He began writing fulltime after completely losing his eyesight in 2002. He has completed a creative writing course and an advanced creative writing course at the Open University, both with distinction.

Mark lives with his wife Debbie in Southend-on-Sea.

Follow on Twitter @Markhardiecrime

#BurnedandBroken @TheCrimeVault

My thanks to Clara at Little, Brown for the invitation to be part of this exciting blog tour.

Burned and Broken will be out in paperback in May 2017


Thursday 26 January 2017

Review ~ The Hope Family Calendar


A bit of blurb...

Tom Hope is broken. Ever since his wife Laura died he hasn't been the same man, and definitely not the same father. Luckily however, his mother-in-law Linda is there to pick up the pieces and look after his two struggling daughters, Evie and Lola.

But Tom getting arrested on the first anniversary of his wife's death is the last straw for Linda.

She decides on drastic action, and in a final attempt to make Tom reconnect with his daughters, Linda leaves for Australia. Now, with two fast-maturing girls on his hands, Tom has to learn how to accept his responsibilities and navigate the newly discovered world of single fatherhood - starting immediately.

While Linda finds her journey brings more than she bargained for, Tom suddenly has only himself to rely on. 

Will he fall back into grief or finally step up and be the father his girls need?

My thoughts about the book...

From the start of The Hope Family Calendar you can't help but be drawn into Tom's story. Devastated by the loss of his wife, Laura, he is struggling to care for his children and relies heavily on his mother-in-law to pick up the pieces. But sometimes tough love is what's needed and when Tom gets arrested on the first anniversary of his wife's death, well, his mother in law Linda feels it’s now make or break time for To who needs to take back control of his life. Leaving him to fend for himself and the children is not easy but Linda does what she thinks, under the circumstances to be the best thing for everyone.

What the follows is the story of a man who is shattered into a million pieces, who is trying his best to make everything normal, but normal doesn't always work out. Tom needs to figure out, with the help his children, just how to go forward so that they can all begin to mend and heal and maybe, one day,  go forward as a new family unit.

The author writes with great warmth and compassion and shows both the strength and, with huge insight shows the vulnerabilities of all of the characters. From the start of the story both Tom and Linda have their own emotional journeys to travel on and I looked forward to reading their individual stories in alternate chapters. And yet, right at the heart of the novel, it mustn't be forgotten that the children were also grieving the loss of their mother and the way that their progression was explained also added depth in what is a very fascinating insight into modern family life.

 I am sure that fans of Mike Gayle's previous novels will find much to enjoy in this book as it has all the fine attention detail that we have come to know and love about his books.

Best Read With ...A large mug of tea and a crispy bacon buttie, ketchup on the side..

About the Author

Previously an Agony Uncle, Mike Gayle is a freelance journalist who has contributed to a variety of magazines including FHM, Sunday Times Style and Cosmopolitan. His bestselling novels include MY LEGENDARY GIRLFRIEND, MR COMMITMENT, TURNING THIRTY, HIS 'N' HERS and BRAND NEW FRIEND. He keeps a website at www.mikegayle.co.uk and can be found on Facebook and on twitter.com/mikegayle

My thanks to Hodder&Stoughton for the opportunity to read and review The Hope Family Calendar

Review ~ The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

HQ Books
December 2016

A bit of book blurb...

A chillingly unsettling psychological thriller, perfect for fans of Paula Hawkins, Liane Moriarty , Shari Lapena and Clare Macintosh. Are you ready to question if everything in your life is really as it seems…
She thought they had a perfect marriage.
When a plane crashes, Iris Griffiths watches the news unfold with horrorand then relief. Her beloved husband Will had just flown out from the same airport, but he was on a different flight.

So why is his name on the list of victims?
Surely there’s some mistake her husband would never lie to her. Would he? But wading deeper into the truth of her husband’s deception, Iris begins to think the unthinkable.

Maybe she’s glad that he’s dead.

My Thoughts about the book...

It's really difficult to imagine just what it would be like if you heard on the news that a plane had crashed, and to have a huge sense of relief wash over you when you realise that your husband was on a different flight, only to have then have the stuffing knocked out of you when your husband's name appears on the list of passengers from the crashed plane. For Iris Griffiths this becomes the frightening reality which is only superceded by the fact that her husband Will lied to her for a host of complicated reasons. These reasons become apparent in this tightly knit suspense story which grabs your attention from the start and which doesn't let up until the story is concluded.

Rather like the book action, I raced through this at high speed. Believe me, it's one of those stories that will leave you gasping in places, stunned into disbelief about what is unfurling on the page.

The author writes well and controls the narrative with a fine eye for detail. She makes her characters believable, I especially like Iris and found her family, particularly her twin brother Dave, to be very supportive and huge comfort to her. It really is a nightmare scenario that Iris finds herself in and I can't say much more as that would give away huge spoilers but what I can say is that ti thought that the story was really well explored. The twists and turns were a genuine surprise to me and I liked never quite knowing where the story would go next or indeed who I could trust to be telling me the truth.

If you enjoy psychological suspense stories that will leave you feeling like you have been through a roller coaster of emotions then do give this one a try. It's a great read from start to finish.

Best Read With ...A bag of savory snacks and a large take-out filter coffee..

Kimberly Belle grew up in Eastern Tennessee, in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Appalachians. A graduate of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, Kimberly lived for over a decade in the Netherlands and has worked in marketing and fundraising for various nonprofits. She’s the author of two novels, THE LAST BREATH and THE ONES WE TRUST (August 2015). She divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Twitter @KimberlySBelle

My thanks to Alice at Midas PR and also to HQ (Harper Collins) for the opportunity to read The Marriage Lie

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Review ~ Evil Games by Angela Marsons


About the book..

The greater the Evil, the more deadly the game...
When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.
With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.
Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time - it's personal.

My thoughts

Evil Games sees the welcome return of DI Kim Stone, who even on second meeting doesn't get any easier to understand. Her rather cold and calculating way of dealing with investigations takes some getting used to but the more I read of her and the more I really like her. She's maverick, rebellious, sassy and ambitious. She doesn't suffer fools gladly and has utter believability in everything she does.  I am sure that if I were involved in a criminal investigation team, I would want Kim Stone to always be on my side.

This story is really quite dark as not only are Kim's team faced with an upsetting investigation into a sickening paedophile ring, but they must also try to rationalise a series of seemingly unrelated events which are having devastating consequences on a set of very vulnerable individuals. The action, as always, moves along swiftly, there is never a moment when the narrative lags behind and there is never a moment when you aren't completely enthralled by the events as they start to unfold.

I'm always astounded by an author's ability to hold a reader in the palm of their hand. And without doubt, Angela Marsons has, from the very start of the novel, the unique ability to take a tight hold of the reader's hand, almost turning the pages with them, guiding, steering and manipulating the action, so that the whole reading experience is a bit like hurtling along at top speed along a complicated tunnel network. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel but you've no idea of how you'll get to the end, so you just hang on to every gloriously written word, and trust that author will steer you safely through to the end. 

And she does !

Best read with ...a cup of rich Columbian coffee and a  ham and cheese sandwich..

About the Author

Angela Marsons is the author of the Amazon #1 bestseller SILENT SCREAM. She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their bouncy Labrador and a swearing parrot.

Read how Angela tackles sensitive subjects by clicking here

Follow on Twitter @WriteAngie

Find Angela on her website by clicking here

My thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre for providing a review copy of Evil Games.

Blog Tour ~ Evil Games by Angela Marsons

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting a stop on the Evil Games Blog Tour

I am thrilled to be able to welcome back to Jaffareadstoo Angela Marsons talking to us today about 

Tackling Sensitive Subjects

Over to you you, Angela....Tackling Sensitive Subjects...

I have been asked if there is any subject matter that I wouldn’t tackle in the Kim Stone series of books and my answer to that is no. I firmly believe that any subject can be explored providing it is done with respect and sensitivity.

In Evil Games I cover child abuse, manipulation, sociopathy, autism and Post Natal Psychosis amongst other subjects.

Exploring disabilities, both mental and physical is important to me. My partner, Julie, faces many physical challenges but it does not change the person inside. I recall an occasion when she was confined to a wheelchair and we were out shopping for a necklace for her mum’s birthday. In the first jewellery store the assistant asked me what my partner was looking for. I (not so) politely asked her to speak to my partner directly as it was only her legs that were impaired.

In the next store we entered the assistant took the tray from the window, brought it around the counter and placed it on Julie’s legs without addressing me once. No prizes for guessing which store got the sale.

It is important to me to capture the personality behind the disability, the spirit within as I tried to do with Lucy in Silent Scream who suffered with Muscular Dystrophy. In Evil Games I introduced a character named Dougie who although severely autistic was a loving and sharply intelligent young man.

It can be easy to overdo the description of a particularly gruesome crime scene. If you add too much information the reader can become inured against the subject completely. Many times I’ve had to edit out details on the second draft so that the horror can be realised in the reader’s own imagination.

The imagination is such a powerful instrument. There is a particular scene at the opening of Evil Games where Kim and her team carry out an early morning raid on the home of a paedophile. During the raid they search the cellar and uncover clues of the abuse. I chose not to detail the horror of the acts as that fear and repulsion lives in us all. The details were alluded to rather than stated but the scene stayed with me for a very long time. I always explain to readers that if a scene was difficult to read then it was also difficult to write.

As an author I don’t feel it’s my place to preach about subjects or to even pass judgement but I do think it’s an opportunity to bring subjects up for discussion. I always try to remember that my job is primarily to entertain the reader and if possible tap into their emotions whether that be anger, sadness or joy.

26 January 2017
The greater the evil, the more deadly the game

A bit of blurb...

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time - it's personal.

Angela Marsons is the author of the Amazon #1 bestseller SILENT SCREAM. She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their bouncy Labrador and a swearing parrot.

Find out more on Angela's website by clicking here
Follow on Twitter @WriteAngie

My thanks to Angela for her fascinating guest post, to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre and to Kim at Bookouture for the invitation to be part of this exciting blog tour.

The blog tour runs 23rd January to 13th February - do visit the other stops on the tour and follow on Twitter at #EvilGames.


Tuesday 24 January 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Watcher by Ross Armstrong

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting today's stop on The Watcher Blog Tour

About the book..

A keen birdwatcher, Lily Gullick loves watching the world through her binoculars. But she can’t seem to help using them to spy on her neighbours. Across from the new-build flat where Lily lives with herhusband, Aiden, something sinister is happening. In the crumbling estate complex, marked for demolition, Lily starts to see suspicious things beginning to happen. Then her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead,forcing Lily to confront what she thinks she sees to uncover the truth.

Intrigued by the social divide, and the gentrification that her local area seems to be going through, Lily knows that she has to act. But interfering is a dangerous thing, and soon Lily finds her own life threatened. The closer she gets to the truth, the faster she has to run.

Now that nothing is at it seems, can Lily trust everything she believes?

Maybe she isn’t the only one watching..

A blackly comic debut with an unreliable narrator and a classic Hitchcock feel, The Watcher is a highly contemporary and hugely compelling novel for people who enjoy books that you read through your fingers.

My thanks to the Ross for taking the time to answer my questions about The Watcher...

Hi Ross, welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for The Watcher?

The central character, Lily, actually virtually lives with me in the flat, which is quite awkward when I need some space on my own. By that I mean that the idea came to me with the setting, the inspiration being the view of my neighbourhood, and that first image and flash of possibility for a story happened on the very first day I moved in. This does mean however mean that every sight around here reminds me of her, or indeed a plot point to do with a murder that I’ve concocted vividly in my mind. Which is kind of creepy. I have to remind myself the book is an alternate version of reality, not reality itself.
It helped that I moved apartments recently, still staying in the building but away from the one where I wrote The Watcher. However, I’ve ended up in one of the other character’s flats! And spookily, having only imagined its look and dimensions in the book before living here, it is almost exactly as I had written.

Will you explain to us a little more about the plot without giving too much away?

It’s all about what Lily sees and a connection she makes with a woman over the road, motivated by a kind of gnawing middle-class guilt she has about living in a heavily gentrified area. When the woman ends up dead only a day after their encounter, Lily feels she is the only one able to solve what she believes to be a murder. Her thoughts soon turn everyone in the neighbourhood into suspects, many of whom she’s incidentally recently started to watch through binoculars and take notes on as if they were birds. Which makes us question whether this very unreliable narrator needs help in more ways than one.

What do you consider to be the strongest parts of the book?

I think the character of Lily has the ability to constantly draw strong feelings out of people through her strange manoeuvres. Even more so than I’d imagined before writing in fact. I like to think of my book structures as a tiny spotlight on a piece of a picture that slowly gets bigger until the whole, or almost the whole, is revealed. The clear but jagged way in which the story is told has, I hope, provided the most intriguing and leftfield angles to look at her character from, finally arriving at the most coherent understanding of her bizarre, impulsive behaviours. 

The Watcher has been described as homage to Hitchcock, which other writers have influenced your writing?

So many writers and film makers from all different genres. I love Chuck Palahniuk’s ability to disturb and compel with what he calls his ‘transgressional fiction’, and he’s someone I’d like to emulate. I’m always blown away by Harlan Coben’s thrillers, Jonathan Franzen’s incisive human detail, Gillian Flynn’s meticulous swagger. I really like everything Lena Dunham does. Ian Rankin is always superb. Jon Ronson and Louis Theroux really inspire me. As do film makers like Clio Barnard, Andrea Arnold, David Fincher and Steve McQueen.

What is the main thing you want readers to take away from The Watcher?

It’s about sanity, community and the drives that keep people going, which are variously, bizarre, personal, constructive, destructive, but above all, make us the people we are.
It attempts to stare at us with binoculars, checking in to question whether this is the best way things could be. It suggests embracing divergence of character and opinions, and a need to break down the modern phenomenon of fear of community, which has been exacerbated by social media and twenty-four-hour fear-based news.
But essentially it’s all wrapped up in a twisting turning thriller that’s meant to be consumed in as few sittings as possible and keep people up all night.

The Watcher is your debut novel, are there any nuggets of wisdom you can impart to aspiring writers?

Write what you want to write, as if your parents will never read it, as if you will never be called on to explain yourself, and the most true and compelling story might appear. But also be generous to the reader. Try not to demonstrate how smart you are, instead focus on building the most fulfilling story, that’s what will stay with people, will entertain them, and then leave them thinking about it a little if you’re really lucky.

What’s coming next - more writing, more acting, or a bit of both ?

I’m in a new TV show called ‘Will’, which is a vibrant, punk telling of the Shakespeare’s coming to London, getting involved with the theatre, some amazing characters and coming up with the best plays ever written. I play a kind of desperately, wonderfully uncool love rival of his.

Then my next book I’m working on is about a man trying to solve the disappearance of a series of young girls in North London while recovering from a major head injury. It’s very much about perception and the brain. It’s kind of ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’ meets ‘Seven’.
And, there could be more from Lily. She just won’t go away, and has so much to say. 

Ross , thanks so much for spending time with us today and for giving us such a fascinating glimpse into the writing of The Watcher.

About the Author.

Ross Armstrong is an actor and writer based in North London.He has performed on stage with the RSC as well as numerous TV appearances. The Watcher is his debut novel.

Follow on Twitter @Rarmstrongbooks #The Watcher

My thanks to Lucy at HQ for my copy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

Follow @HQStories