Friday 30 June 2017

Review ~ She Looks Pale by Kate Rigby


What's it all about ..

The title is taken from a schoolgirl levitation ritual, practised by the mother of narrator Hannah. As a result of Meningitis at the age of six, Hannah nearly dies leading her parents to become obsessively over-protective. Her parents gradually dispose of all methods of modern communication and take Hannah out of school until one day, tortured by the evils of the world, her father ‘disappears’ during the Lord’s Prayer one mealtime. Hannah's mother continues the self-imposed isolation. Confined in the house, Hannah’s only contact with the world is either through the window or through her mother’s past.

What did I think about it ...

She looks Pale is a very intuitive story which looks at the rather alarming way in which Hannah's life pans out following a devastating childhood illness. There's no doubt that any life threatening illness in childhood can have a devastating effect of the parents of the child but in this short novella Hannah's parents take it to its extreme with very interesting consequences.

Whilst reading the story I was immediately taken back to my own childhood, not that my parents were anything like Hannah's, but back to dusty days playing the levitation game, a game which both thrilled and terrified me in equal measure and I can remember very clearly sitting with a finger lightly resting under someone's torso and chanting "She looks pale, she looks pale... she is pale" whilst waiting, eagerly, for the dreaded levitation to happen.

Parts of the story made me smile especially Hannah's describing the cat next door as being a funny ossity, a saying so integral to my northern childhood that I felt quite at home within the pages of the novel, and more especially with the 1970s description of Hannah's mother whose own story is cleverly told as Hannah looks at old family photographs and sees her mother's reminiscences about Chelsea Girl and Chantilly perfume.

However, there are also parts of the story which are both poignant and thought provoking and I  think that the author has really played to her strength in describing Hannah's story in quite simple terms as we get a rather simplistic viewpoint and her childlike acceptance of what happened to her, is well described and at times, quite unsettling.

I really enjoyed She Looks Pale. It's a short story which packs a real punch.

Best Read with...a large paper bag of grapes and cherries..

About the Author

Kate Rigby was born in Crosby, Liverpool and now lives in Devon. She's been writing novels for over thirty years. She loves cats,singing, photography and LFC.

You can read an earlier interview with Kate by clicking here

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


Thursday 29 June 2017

Review ~ Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

Orenda Books
15 June 2017

What's it all about...

Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

What did I think about it...

From the start of the novel, and a very clever prologue, we are taken very securely by the hand as this talented writer leads us on a journey which becomes increasingly darker and more menacing as the story, and the journey, progresses.

Bo Luxton appears to be everyone's dream author, with a series of highly successful novels and the ability to encourage other aspiring authors at her writers' workshops. When she spots raw talent in Alice Dark, a young writer with heaps of potential, a disturbing and sinister relationship starts to develop between them. Both women are complete opposites, one with a successful writing career and a wonderful lifestyle, whilst the other seems to lurch from one calamity to another, and yet, the spark of attraction which exists between them is gloriously addictive, and is perhaps one of the most disturbing things I’ve read in ages.

Cleverly told, in alternate chapters and from Bo and Alice’s perspective, Exquisite is one of those stories which you are unable to leave alone. It follows you, insidiously, from room to room, so that in any spare minute you find that you pick up the story to delve deeper into the mystery of Bo and Alice’s chilling association. Throughout the story there is an overwhelming need for answers, and yet the author only ever reveals as much as you need to know, and she does this ever so slowly, drop by exquisite drop, until there comes a point where even as the truth and lies start to coalesce, you continue to doubt the trustworthiness of either narrator.

And that’s really where the strength of the novel lies, in that, you never really know what’s going on until the book has ended and even then there are still questions...

The Domestic Noir genre continues to go from strength to strength with some very fine female writers who command attention, and in my opinion Exquisite is up there with the best of the genre.

Best read with...a home made baguette with brie and grapes...

My thanks to Karen at Orenda for my copy of Exquisite 


Wednesday 28 June 2017

Author spotlight ~ Mark Wesley

It's a real pleasure to welcome to Jaffareadstoo the author, Mark Wesley

Hi Mark, tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author

Thanks for inviting me into your Jaffareadstoo blog, Jo. I was a reluctant author. I didn't think I had the staying power to complete something as tough to do as writing a novel. However, I had an idea for a story and the itch got itchier and I just had to get it out of my system. What a journey of discovery. Yes, the early drafts weren't filled with the stylish pro's I might have hoped for, but as I battled on, the writing improved. I was aware of my short-comings and was determined to deliver a book that competed with novels of a similar genre. I think most new authors must go through a similar learning curve.

It wasn't that I couldn't write. My career had been filled with endless scripts and 30" copy for commercials and short business films. But my skill was the ability to sumarise something in as few words as possible - exactly the opposite of writing a novel.

When I started writing I knew everything about the story and it's main characters from beginning to end. I can't imagine writing a story without knowing where it's going. It turns out I have a natural talent for story plotting and pacing. This might be because of a life-time of interest in film making and movies generally.

Where and when did you get the first flash of inspiration for your novel ,BANGK!?

Hornet Books

In fact BANGK! is a combination of two elements. A while back there was a raid on the Millennium Dome. A diamond exhibition was held there and some daft gangsters thought it would be a good idea to nick them. They approached from the river. I was certain that a movie would be made of the story (I don't think it has). The opening sequence of BANGK! is how I imagined the opening scene to that movie - if ever it was made - should look like. Very much an 'Italian Job' caper. So, that was written and put to one side. Then I had this blinding inspiration about how to steal gold from the Bank of England. You can't get in to the bank - so, find a way to get some of the gold out. I devised a con that would force the BoE to put some of the gold into another place. Somewhere that would be a bit easier to break into.

All I needed was a main character and a couple of male side-kicks. Although the story starts with this group, it evolved into a my protagonist, James Stack, his side-kick Charlie 'Hollywood' Dawson and Summer Peterson. Each brought an interesting fresh element to the story.

Can you give us three interesting facts about BANGK! that won't give too much of the plot away?

Well, I have already mentioned an essential ingredient of the story earlier. I introduce a mysterious machiavellian character who only appears in telephone conversations. He calls himself 'Blackstone' and he moves amongst the great and the not so good in the world of banking and politics. He enters the story from time to time by leaving a 'Call this number' message for James Stack. He got his name from the nineteen century American illusionist, Harry Blackstone. Another thing. As you read, you'll notice that most of the chapter headings are song titles. That alone proved to be a really tricky thing to sustain. I was only looking for titles that in some way described the events in the chapter, rather than the actual words in the songs themselves. An index at the back provides info on who sang what.

James Stack is the main protagonist of BANGK!  - tell us about him and why you decided to tell his story?

Ah yes, James Stack, my all round good guy with an unreliable moral compass. I was determined that he shouldn't be compared with Lee Child's Jack Reacher. Reacher is a great action hero, but at six feet six inches, 250 pounds and gifted with undefeatable fighting skills, there's no danger he can't fight his way out of. I wanted James Stack to be tough but vulnerable. Yes, he is ex Special Forces, but there's a risk he might not survive a street brawl. He uses his wits to supplement his fighting skills. This is where the tension and drama lies when things get tough.

As for why. I didn't start with James Stack. I started with the story, but of course I needed a central character. I think I've found a good one. He's certainly part of my family now.

What do you think makes a good fictional villain and a good fictional hero?

We may all have a different reasons for enjoy various fictional protagonists types. Some stories call for embittered violent types, others call for suave sophisticated hero's. In my case, I needed someone I could enjoy writing about and who the reader could support and cheer on, even if he does cross the line morally. I think he works because the villain of the book, Victor Avery, is someone you just love to hate. He's a smug, slimy and corrupt bastard. I chose the name Victor Avery because it has the jagged letters V and A, almost like teeth.

If BANGK! was optioned for a TV drama or movie , who would you choose to play James Stack and why?

From the very beginning I've been clear that the only person who could play James Stack would be, Colin Farrell. He carries that intelligent, tough but vulnerable quality I see in Stack. If anybody knows him. Get in touch. Quickly!

Can you tell us what's coming next?

The follow-up is already written. It's called FRACK! It's a big international adventure with one of the most original technical plots you'll ever read. Same cast: James Stack, Charlie Dawson and Summer. It's a hell of a ride.

About the Author

The author, Mark Wesley, has been, at various times in his career, copy writer, jingle-maker, song writer and record producer but is best known as the legendary Radio Luxembourg D

BANGK! is published by Hornet Books and is available as a paperback (£8.99) and ebook (£4.95).

Follow the author on Twitter @MarkWesleyLive

Read my review of BANGK! by clicking here 

Huge thanks to Mark for answering my questions and also to David at Hornet Books for introducing me to this new crime series


Tuesday 27 June 2017

Blog Tour ~ Skin Deep by Laura Wilkinson

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the Skin Deep Blog Tour


What's it all about ...

Art student and former model Diana has always been admired for her beauty, but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.

Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything and Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.

Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within.

Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what's on the outside counts for so much?

What did I think about it ...

Former model, Diana is a young art student when she first meets four year old Cal who is locked away in his own private world, hidden from view by his drug addled parents because of a facial disfigurement. Diana finds inspiration for her art in Cal and using him as her muse, she not only produces some spectacular artwork but she also fall in love with Cal.

As Diana and Cal's lives intertwine we find some comfort in that two quite damaged souls are able to find some sort of resolution with each other, and yet, damaged as they are, their combined stories make such a fascinating story. I think the author has done a really good job of allowing us a glimpse into the life affirming idea that we are all worth so much more than what we see, superficially, on the surface, and that by exploring people, quite literally, skin deep, we gain so much more of an insight into their character.

Taking the concept of beauty and the beast, and turning it on its head, is really interesting idea and I think that the author has done a good job of allowing the story to evolve without ever resorting to over-sentimentality. The characterisation is good; I loved Cal from the beginning, and yet, I wasn’t very sure about Diana, her motives in caring so much for the boy were commendable and yet, there were times when I felt that she was just as guilty of manipulating him for her own success as perhaps others were for seeing only his disfigurement, and not the person inside.

Skin Deep is an interesting novel, with a well written thoughtful insight into what makes us, despite our defects, continually search for an elusive perfection.

Best Read With ...Coffee and thick slices of buttered toast...

About the Author

Find Laura on her Facebook page

Follow on Twitter @ScorpioScribble

Visit her Amazon UK page

My thanks to the author and also to Accent Press for the invitation to be part of this blog tour.


Monday 26 June 2017

Author Spotlight ~ Isabella Davidson

I am delighted to have with me on the blog today, Isabella Davidson

 Author of The Beta Mum  Adventures in Alpha Land

Silverwood Books
June 2017

What's it all about ...

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet, sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn't know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha mums.. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep. 

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts The Beta Mum, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower's advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha mums?

Hi Isabella, welcome to Jaffareadstoo...☺

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started as an author.

Writing is something I have done my whole life, without even realising it. I wrote a short story when I was 9 years old and my teacher at the time told me that perhaps, one day, I would become a writer. I put this dream on hold when I went to university to study medicine, but it was always there at the back of my mind. When I had my first daughter, I thought I would write during my maternity leave, but then I had my daughter and realised how much work and effort it takes to look after a baby! Six months after I returned back to work, I realised I couldn’t be the doctor I wanted to be and the mother I wanted to be, so I quit working as a doctor. After my second child was born, I started a blog, chronicling the entertaining lives of west London residents and my love of writing returned. When people complimented my writing, I thought that perhaps I could write that book. Last year, I took the Faber Academy’s ‘Writing a Novel’ class and one and a half years later, my book, The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land, has just been published. 

Where did you get inspiration for The Beta Mum Adventures in Alpha Land? 

They say to write about what you know, so I wrote about being a mum and the struggles and challenges of motherhood today. It is set in glitzy west London, which makes for a colourful and entertaining setting, but my main character’s experiences are common experiences that many mothers face today: loneliness, feeling like an outsider, trying to find a balance between being a mother and an individual, having a career and feeling guilty or not having a career and struggling with your identity. I think that many women will relate to my main character’s challenges. 

Tell us three interesting things about your novel which will tempt the reader's interest.

  • All my characters are fictional, but some of the events in the book are based on events that have happened to me or to people I know, like the time I went on a play date and someone thought I was there for a housekeeping interview.

  • I am not Sophie the main character but I have experienced feelings of loneliness and feeling like an outsider when I was a child and moved around the world every few years, so I used those emotions in Sophie when she moves to London and feels completely like a fish out of water. 

  • I had a lot of fun writing the character of Kelly, Sophie’s main ‘frenemy’ who is so bitchy and awful, but also so fun to write. She is a character that you love to hate. 

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. During the writing process did they ever dictate how the story progressed, or did you stick with a writing plan from the beginning and never deviate?

My characters didn’t really dictate how the story progressed, but I didn’t have a writing plan either! I tried really hard to have a writing plan, but it constantly changed, so I had to constantly change my characters to adapt to it. My characters evolved over time and became more complex as the book was edited and re-written. When you first start, you know your characters as acquaintances, but as you go through the writing process, you get to know them intimately and they become close friends that you know everything about. It’s a beautiful relationship in a way, between an author and his or her characters. 

The book world is very competitive – how do you get your book noticed?

Yes, the book world is very competitive – almost as competitive as some of the characters in my book! Writing a book takes a lot of work, but I never realised how much work it takes to promote a book; it takes hours and days of determination, perseverance and a very thick skin. I have been really lucky in that I have been featured in major newspapers – The Saturday Times and The Daily Mail – but even with this exposure, it is still hard to get noticed when there is so much information we are bombarded with on a daily basis. I have also approached bloggers and book reviewers and organised giveaways. It has been non-stop and it still continues even after the book is published. 

Without giving too much away, what do you hope readers will take away from reading The Beta Mum Adventures in Alpha Land?

I hope that readers will empathise with my character and perhaps feel less lonely in their situation. I know that many mums struggle with motherhood, whether out of loneliness or a loss of identity after having children and I hope that the readers feel that they are not alone. I have already had some wonderful reviews and comments from bloggers and book reviewers, and many have said that they related to Sophie, which is what I intended. Of course, I also want my readers to enjoy the book. It is a light, fun, summer read that isn’t meant to be taken very seriously, so I hope I make someone a little happier after reading it. That’s the beauty of books isn’t it? A bit of escapism and the chance to live another life for a few hours.

About the Author

Isabella Davidson is the author of the popular blog Notting Hill Yummy Mummy, which chronicles the entertaining lives of west London residents. She started The Beta Mum during the six-month Faber Academy novel writing course. Prior to startingher writing career, she worked for a Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian organisation and as a doctor for the National Health Service.

You can find more about Isabella on her website Notting Hill Yummy Mummy by clicking here

Discover her on Goodreads

Follow on Twitter @NHyummymummy #thebetamum

Huge thanks to Isabella for spending time with us today and for answering our questions so thoughtfully.  

The Beta Mum Adventures in Alpha Land is out now and published by Silverwood Books.


Sunday 25 June 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered ...

Following on from my post last week about caring for the wounded at the field hospital in Étaples where, in the main, most of the soldiers were patched up and sent back to the Western front to continue their military service. However, some were too badly injured to return to duty and so were considered to be medically unfit and were discharged from active service.

The Silver War Badge was issued in the United Kingdom and the British Empire to those service personnel who had been retired or honourably discharged due to wounds, sickness or on reaching the age of 51. It was first issued in 1916 and continued until 1920.

Silver War Badge

© IWM (INS 7364)

This small silver pin was designed to be worn on the lapel of civilian clothes after an authorised discharge from the British Army and was first issued in September 1916, but was also retrospectively issued to August, 1914. 

It was also known as the  ’Silver Wound Badge’, ‘Services Rendered Badge’, ‘Discharged Soldiers Badge’, or ‘King’s Silver Badge’.

The main purpose of the badge was to offer protection to men in uniform so that they wouldn't be considered to be shirkers or objectors. It was evidence that they had been on active service and were now discharged.

Approximately 1,150,000 were issued.

There was also a King's Certificate of Discharge which was awarded to those soldiers who had been disabled by injuries sustained in areas of active fighting overseas. Being awarded a Silver War Badge did not necessarily entitle a soldier to to be awarded the King's Certificate.


Saturday 24 June 2017

Close to Home ...June Francis

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.

Today I welcome North West  Writer

June Francis

Hi, June and a very warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author?

I have lived in Liverpool all my life within the roar of the football fans when there is a home match at Anfield but I was born in Blackpool as my mother was evacuated there for my birth during WW2. I have two older brothers and a younger sister. I married the boy I met in the local cinema in our mid teens and we were courting for six years. Life was different in the fifties. I wanted to be a writer at school and my English teacher told me I had a great imagination but terrible handwriting. I didn’t believe a working class girl could become an author so I was a cash clerk for ten years and then after leaving work to have my first son I started a playgroup in the church hall and was in charge of that, unpaid, for another ten years by then I had another two sons.

When the youngest started school I not only became editor of the church magazine I joined a writers’ group in Crosby and began sending off articles to magazines. For a year they all came back and then arrived that wonderful moment when I received some encouraging attention from the editor and a short time later I had my first article accepted about Christmas customs around the world, I went on to write more articles about various customs but my second article accepted was about how I was a terrible cook but eventually became a good one. After writing articles I entered a synopsis and five hundred words of an historical romance for the writers club competition and came second but I also won the cup for endeavour. A published writer of Mills & Boon told me to finish my novel and send it to them as they had started an historical imprint and were looking for authors. It took me two years to get the book right but eventually it was accepted, along with another one I had written set in Chester and North Wales. I had another two accepted before deciding I wanted to write a novel set in Liverpool which took me two years as it was a different genre, by then I had an agent. It was accepted after being turned down about five times, by Judy Piatkus and she sold on the paperback rights to Bantam and the large print rights to Magna.

Your books are written in North West England, but not always set in the North West – how have the people and its landscape shaped your stories?

I have always enjoyed history but didn’t start taking an enormous interest in local history until I began writing about it. Having said that my mother used to talk about her background, she had been in service, and about her family history and I’d visit aunts and uncles and my grandfather who still lived in different areas of the city. My maternal grandfather was a sailor and my paternal grandfather had worked at various jobs around the docks. His father was a Norwegian sailor, one of my brothers was a sailor, so I had strong feelings for family and for seafarers, as well as my home city and the magic of faraway places with strange sounding names. My mother-in-law had also been a great help to me, after being widowed she spent Sunday afternoons at my home and talked about her past which was very different to my mother’s, but both were strong working class women who’d had sorrow in their lives and lived through interesting times as had their husbands. My being a war-baby means that I remember something of post-war times, through the forties when the yanks were still on the scene and the fabulous musical fifties and sixties which shaped Liverpool in more recent times as much as it being a port did in the past.

As a writer based in the North West, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them?

It can be difficult promoting them beyond the North West but I do have a website and a blog and am on Facebook. Also setting parts of books in other places can help them sell elsewhere. I have set parts of stories in the South of England, the US, Australia, Ireland, France. I have cousins in the US and friends in Australia who get the word around about my books.

In your research for your books, did you visit any of the places you write about and which have made a lasting impression?

I set a medieval romance in Ireland, also part of a saga, so visited Dublin and the Wicklow Hills. I took my youngest son Daniel with me as it was the school summer holidays at that and took our bikes and caught the ferry across the Irish Sea. We rode up from Dublin into the Wicklow Hills which are lovely but the weather was unbelievable hot so it was a hard slog and the tarmac melted and stuck to our tyres. There was definitely a magical feel about the countryside, as well as an emptiness. At that time I knew little Irish history. We were staying with a friend from church’s cousin and her husband and family on an erstwhile farm but they did no farming despite having several acres of land. They did have a few hens and ducks but no running water and the lavatory was in an outhouse with roses growing around the door. They had a huge old fashioned fireplace and burned peat. They had six children and the husband had delivered two of them at home. She was English and I think he was, too. He had been a lecturer in German and she had been one of his students. They had travelled around the world and came back broke. He had bought the house a few years before so they settled down there. They made us very welcome and Daniel and I would go with a couple of the children to fetch water from the river and also pick wild garlic. When the weather broke we returned to Dublin and stayed in the Georgian youth hostel there. They made us very welcome. Unfortunately Dublin Castle was closed and covered in scaffolding, so no research there but we did visited the museum and Trinity College which were interesting and dropped some coins in the hat of a woman and her baby begging on a bridge over the river Liffey. The only downside was the proclamation in the college or museum which contained the words our enemy the English. I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach, thinking how back in Liverpool half the population had Irish blood. At that time I believed I didn’t have a drop, but since tracing my family tree I’ve discovered a great-great grandfather who was a weaver and settled in Manchester. His daughter married a Manchurian and they moved to Liverpool.

If you were pitching the North West as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?

The North West has several cities of note with decent shopping centres, theatres and cinemas and art galleries, as well as several seaside resorts, attractive market towns and villages in lovely countryside and a coastline that has some great beaches and coastal walks as well as a National Trust red squirrel reserve. It also has two Tudor houses, Speke Hall and Rufford Hall. There are also two airports; Liverpool’s John Lennon and Manchester. Liverpool also has a new cruise liner terminal as well as a heritage waterfront which includes the Albert Dock, a Maritime Museum, a Liverpool Life Museum and a Beatles’ attraction and the Echo arena. Both Manchester and Liverpool cater for the classical music lovers with music halls and orchestras of note and both have universities and famous football teams. There is the beautiful city of Chester on the River Dee, with a world renowned zoo a few miles away and North Wales almost on the doorstep, as is the Wirral.

The North West has given birth to not only many a writer but also musicians, comedians, actors, sculptors and artist finding inspiration in its maritime and industrial history and its kind and gutsy people.

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

I belong to a local writers group that meets twice a month as well as two other groups that meet less often, one in Wales and the other in Southport. We also keep in touch online.

How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

Very supportive and there are opportunities to do signings and talks at books shops and libraries of which I have done many, as well as to women’s groups in church halls and the like. I am booked as one of the speakers at a forthcoming Litfest in Penny Lane, South Liverpool in October. Liverpool and Manchester both have good libraries in the city centres, most important for research for writers.

If someone is new to your work, which book do you think they should start with?

I have written 37 books so not an easy question. Probably A MOTHER’S DUTY which is set in a hotel in Liverpool in the latter years of the 1930s and the early years of WW2. The heroine is widow Kitty Ryan who owns the hotel and has three sons. There is a sequel called A DAUGHTER’S CHOICE.


More about June can be found on her website by clicking here or on her blog by clicking here

Find on Facebook

Huge thanks to June for being such a lovely guest today and for sharing her love of Liverpool with us 

I hope that you have enjoyed this Close to Home Feature

Coming next week : Rebecca Mascull


Friday 23 June 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to  be hosting one of the stops on today's  blog tour for

The Second Chance Cafe in Carlton Square by Lilly Bartlett

What's it all about

Harper Impulse
23 June 2017

One chance isn't always enough…

Everyone expects great things from Emma Billings, but when her future gets derailed by an unexpected turn of events, she realises that getting back on track means travelling in a different direction.

She finds that new path in the closed-down pub on Carlton Square. Summoning every ounce of ingenuity, and with the help of her friends and family, she opens the Second Chance Café. The charity training business is meant to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and (hopefully) away from the Metropolitan Police, and her new employees are full of ideas, enthusiasm … and trouble. They'll need as much TLC as the customers they’re serving.

This ragtag group of chancers have to make a go of a business they know nothing about, and they do get some expert help from an Italian who's in love with the espresso machine and a professional sandwich whisperer who reads auras, but not everyone is happy to see the café open. Their milk keeps disappearing and someone is cancelling the cake orders, but it's when someone commits bloomicide on all their window boxes that Emma realises things are serious. Can the café survive when NIMBY neighbours and the rival café owner join forces to close them down? Or will Emma’s dreams fall as flat as the cakes they’re serving?

What did I think about it ...

In this second book we see the welcome return of Emma who we met in The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square. We are now a couple of years further on and Emma is not only embracing young motherhood, but she is also about to realise her ambition of opening a cafe in Carlton Square which sells teas, coffees and delicious cakes. This is no ordinary venture, as Emma is determined to make a success of her newly fledged business whilst, at the same time, giving vulnerable youngsters a unique chance of learning a useful skill.

As with all of this talented author’s work, the book gets off to a zinging start. Emma is a feisty heroine, and her solid determination to make her business succeed against all the odds makes for some lively banter between the deliciously quirky characters, who flit into and out of the action, and who give the story its heart and soul.

As with any series, it's much better to start from the very beginning in order to really get to know the characteristics of the story, and yet, this book can easily stand on its own merits as a standalone, as the author does a great job of bringing everything to life in such a way that you soon start to feel comfortable with the place, and become equally fascinated by its people.

Written, as always, with genuine warmth and with the author's fine eye for detail, this story shows both the best and the worst of people, but what really shines through is the author's absolute commitment to entertaining storytelling, which always makes her books such a joy to read from beginning to end.

Best read with ...A half-caffeine, no-foam, fat free, triple shot latte..

Lilly Bartlett’s cosy romcoms are full of warmth, quirky characters and guaranteed happily-ever-afters. Lilly is the pen-name of Sunday Times and USA Today best-selling author, Michele Gorman, who writes best friend-girl power comedies under her own name.

Follow on Twitter @MicheleGormanUK


My thanks to the author for her kind invitation to be part of this lovely blog tour.
You can read my review of The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square by clicking here


Thursday 22 June 2017

Blog Tour ~ Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

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

Do Not Become Alarmed Blog Tour

Penguin Viking
June 2017

What's it all about..

When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship's comforts and possibilities seem infinite. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor mishaps lead the families further from the ship's safety. 

One minute the children are there, and the next they're gone.

What follows is a heart-racing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the distraught parents - now turning on one another and blaming themselves - try to recover their children and their shattered lives.

What did I think about it...

A Central American cruise should have been the holiday of a lifetime for Liv, Nora and their respective husbands and children, and at first everything is going well. The children flourish on board the ship and join in with all the many activities and the adults finally start to relax away from the pressures of life. That is until a fateful decision is made to go ashore and whilst the husbands go to play golf, Liv, Nora and the children are taken on a separate excursion which goes disastrously wrong. What then follows is a frightening portrayal of what can happen by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The story is told from the perspectives of the parents, alternating with that of the children, which works as it allows an insight into the two strands of the story, which is all so necessary to maintain momentum. The author captures the parent's utter fear as they realise that something has happened to their children which is beyond their control and their abject misery and gut wrenching sadness is palpable.  The children’s resolve is tested to the limit as they are taken into a situation which is terrifying, and yet, even though their ingenuity is commendable, there were times, particularly in the later chapters, when I had to suspend belief, as I didn’t quite feel that some of their situations rang true.

Whilst I enjoyed reading the story, I do feel that some parts of the novel worked better than others. There are some elements which could have been left out entirely, whilst other, more important issues could have been expanded upon to add a little more depth and clarity. However, there is no doubt that this is one of those frightening scenarios that you hope will never, ever, happen to anyone's children on what should be an idyllic holiday.

Do Not Become Alarmed is published on 6th July 2017 

Follow on Twitter @mailemeloy #DoNotBecomeAlarmed

My thanks to the author and also to Josie at Penguin for my review copy of this book and also for the invitation to be part of this blog tour.

Follow the tour until the 31st July 2017


Wednesday 21 June 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Woman in the Wood by Lesley Pearse

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on this very special blog tour to celebrate 

the author, Lesley Pearse's 25th novel.

On this blog tour each of the blog tour hosts will share a factoid about one of Lesley's books..

Lesley's Seventh Novel ~ Charlie was published in 1999


The Woman in the Wood is a powerful, passionate and sinister tale of a young woman's courage, friendship and determination from one of the world's favourite storytellers.

Fifteen-year-old twins Maisy and Duncan Mitcham have always had each other. Until the fateful day in the wood . . .

One night in 1960, the twins awake to find their father pulling their screaming mother from the house. She is to be committed to an asylum. It is, so their father insists, for her own good.
It's not long before they, too, are removed from their London home and sent to Nightingales - a large house deep in the New Forest countryside - to be watched over by their cold-hearted grandmother, Mrs Mitcham. Though they feel abandoned and unloved, at least here they have something they never had before - freedom.

The twins are left to their own devices, to explore, find new friends and first romances. That is until the day that Duncan doesn't come back for dinner. Nor does he return the next day. Or the one after that.

When the bodies of other young boys are discovered in the surrounding area the police appear to give up hope of finding Duncan alive. With Mrs Mitcham showing little interest in her grandson's disappearance, it is up to Maisy to discover the truth. And she knows just where to start. The woman who lives alone in the wood about whom so many rumours abound. A woman named Grace Deville.

Lesley Pearse

Visit the author's website

Visit on Facebook 

Follow on Twitter @Lesley Pearse 

#LoveLesley #TheWomanInTheWood

Follow the Blog tour until 25th June

My thanks to the author for continuing to enthral us with her unique brand of story telling and also to Darran at edpr for the invitation to be part of this very special blog tour.


Tuesday 20 June 2017

Blog Tour ~ I know My Name by C J Cooke

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

I Know My Name Blog Tour

15 June 2017

What's it all about...

Komméno Island, Greece: I don't know where I am, who I am. Help me. A woman is washed up on a remote Greek island with no recollection of who she is or how she got there.

Potter’s Lane, Twickenham, London: Eloïse Shelley is officially missing.

Lochlan’s wife has vanished into thin air, leaving their toddler and twelve-week-old baby alone. Her money, car and passport are all in the house, with no signs of foul play. Every clue the police turn up means someone has told a lie…

Does a husband ever truly know his wife? Or a wife know her husband? Why is Eloïse missing? Why did she forget?

The truth is found in these pages…

What did I think about it...

I Know My Name is an addictive psychological mystery which draws you in from the opening chapter - a chapter which leaves you with more questions than it does answers. I'm being deliberately vague as this really a book which is easily spoiled by giving too much away.

All I will say is that the story fired my imagination from the beginning so that I never really knew what was going to happen next or indeed which character was telling a version of the truth. So many unanswered questions form the basis of the plot which is taut, tight and beautifully recounted.

The author definitely knows how to crank up the pressure and in I Know My Name the tension exists from the very beginning. I really had no idea where the story was taking me, which is why I read it quickly over the space of just a few hours, partly because I couldn't put it down, but also because I wanted to find out just what was going on. As with all psychological thrillers there is a sting in the tail, which I didn’t suspect until it was upon me and then everything fitted into place beautifully.

What that twist is, well, you’ll have to find out for yourself…

I Know My Name
is one of those books which is just perfect for the holiday season, pack it in your travel bag and be prepared to suspend time ..

Best Read with...cherry tomatoes, olives and pitta bread..

I KNOW MY NAME by acclaimed poet and academic CJ Cooke is being published in several other languages and a TV adaptation is in development. CJ was inspired to write the novel through her work in creative writing interventions for treating mental illness

Follow on Twitter @CJ_Cooke_Author #IKnowMyName

My thanks to the author and also to Felicity at Harper Collins for my review copy of

I Know My Name and also for the kind invitation to be part of this blog tour which runs until

the 22nd June