Monday 31 July 2017

Blog Tour ~ This Beautiful Life by Katie Marsh

 Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on This Beautiful Life Blog Tour

It gives me great pleasure to welcome the author Katie Marsh 

Hi Katie, what can you tell us about This Beautiful Life without giving too much away?

The book is the story of Abi, who has just survived cancer when the book starts. It opens with the letter she writes to her husband John and son Seb just after being diagnosed, and then picks up a year later, when she is told she is in remission. After a year of treatment she is excited about her second chance. However, while she’s been ill her husband has made some questionable decisions, and her son is just starting to face up to a secret of his own. The novel follows the three of them in the year after she is declared cancer-free, and it’s all set to the music on her survival playlist.

Abi is the main protagonist of This Beautiful Life. Tell us about her and why you decided to tell her story?

Before she is diagnosed, Abi is warm, funny and confident - someone who dances until dawn and who loves her family with her whole heart. However the year of treatment really shatters her confidence – she doesn’t trust her own body any more – and she struggles to deal with the secrets that come out as her and her family ride the shockwaves of her diagnosis and treatment. I thought of the premise for this book – what happens after cancer? - a long time ago, but was spurred on to write it when some friends got diagnosed with cancer in their 30’s. Their bravery was incredible, but they and their families were all left with changed perspectives on life and on themselves – and not always in the way I might have expected.

In this novel, Abi is in remission from cancer, in researching the book did you discover anything which surprised you?

I spoke to a lot of cancer survivors while researching this book, and I was constantly surprised by what they told me. The main thing was that before talking to them I had assumed that everyone who survives cancer rushes into their second chance with huge smiles on their faces, but it simply wasn’t the case. All of them knew they were lucky to be alive, but some were far more cautious and fearful than they had been before, going to the GP for the slightest chill or waking up at night to check if they had any new lumps or bumps to worry about. That was what I wanted to write about – the gulf between trusting your own body and not, and between confidence and the lack of it – the seismic change that having cancer creates in a life, both in the person who has the disease and also on those around them.

Throughout the novel, Abi has a survival playlist – did you choose the music to suit the words, or did the words suit the music, and which came easier – words or music?

Choosing the songs to set the book to was by far the hardest part of writing it. At one point I had three hundred potential songs on my wall, and I had to be utterly brutal to get it down to twelve. Abi lives her whole life to music – she is always singing or turning up the radio -  but she chooses her survival playlist entirely to remind her of the people in her life who really matter – the people she has to fight for: Vivaldi for her dad; Queen for her husband; Daft Punk for her son and George Michael for her best friend. Once I had spent several agonizing nights of the soul picking the tracks, writing the accompanying sleeve notes was an absolute breeze.

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. Do they ever dictate how the story progresses or do you stick with a writing plan from the beginning and never deviate?

I always have a very clear idea of the premise, of where a story will start, and of the characters who will play their parts in a book. However, I never really know where a book is going to end – I like to find my way alongside my characters. The ending I thought I might be heading towards in This Beautiful Life isn’t the one in the final version, and so –yes – the characters led me to it. When I’m researching and planning a book, I tend to think in emotional moments – my attic wall is covered with them – and I find my way between them as I write, rather than plotting things out in a more formal way.

Your style of writing is very much ‘from the heart’. Does this take its toll on you emotionally, and if so, how do you overcome it?

I live my whole life from the heart - my friends and family would confirm this I’m sure - my daughter is a familiar with the concept of my ‘happy crying’ as she is with fish fingers or Lego cards. I do get a huge writing hangover when I’ve finished a book and I go to ground for a few weeks before gradually coming back to life and resting enough to get into gear for my next book. I can’t move straight from one to another – there needs to be some downtime in between.

When I first started writing twelve years ago I almost tried to avoid my naturally heartfelt tendency and I didn’t connect with my stories in the way that I do now. As a result my first two novels weren’t published and it was only when I took the emotional gloves off – and learnt from writers that I love like Rowan Coleman or Patrick Ness – that my writing really took flight.

Again, without giving too much away, what do you hope readers will take away from This Beautiful Life?

I hope that readers will be moved, uplifted and will feel the need to run off and tell their friends and families how much they love them.

You can find out more about Katie here
Follow on Twitter @marshisms

Huge thanks to Katie for being my guest today and for her kind invitation to be part of her blog tour, and, of course, for sharing her lovely story with me. 

Thanks also to Emma at Hodder for her invitation to be part of the Blog Tour.


Sunday 30 July 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

The Battle of Passchendaele

The Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, was a campaign of the First World War, fought by the Allies against the German Empire.

31 Jul 1917 – 10 Nov 1917

On the 30th and 31st July 2017, the UK Government in partnership with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the city of Ypres, the Municipality of Zonnebeke and the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 will mark the centenary of Passchendaele, the Third Battle of Ypres.

Irish Guards going up a communication trench. Elverdinghe, 30 July 1917.

© IWM (Q 5706)

Memorial Tablet (Great War)

Siegfried Sassoon

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’ ... that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...

What greater glory could a man desire?

Men of the East Yorkshire Regiment crossing newly won ground at Frezenburg during the Third Battle of Ypres, 5 September 1917.

© IWM (Q 3014)

Listening to the individual accounts and seeing the photographs of what happened during this campaign, I think that what comes across is the overwhelming tenacity and bravery of those who quite simply followed orders. Unbelievably tired, they crawled and fought their way through viscous, filthy mud, where amongst scenes of hell and horror they lived, and died, in constant fear of their lives amidst permanent gun fire.

Passchendaele Ridge was captured by the Canadians on 10 November and the campaign finally drew to a close on the 20th. Although there were occasional successes, the overall campaign is seen as a strategic failure, not just because of the huge cost of life, around 500,000 on both sides died, but also because the soldiers had to fight in some of the worst conditions ever experienced during wartime.

You can discover more about the Passchendaele centenary by clicking here 

Follow on Twitter #Passchendaele100

Listen to the Imperial War Museum : Passchendaele Podcast 31 Voices of the First World War 

Thanks to IWM for the photographs used in this blog post.


Saturday 29 July 2017

Close to Home...Susanna Bavin

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 Northern Writer

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

The simple answer to how I got started is that I was a child writer, churning out boarding school stories. Then, as a teenager, I was introduced to Victoria Holt's books by my best friend, and they got me started writing gothic novels. Over time, these naturally morphed into sagas, not because I had read sagas at that point, but because that was just the way my writing style developed.

What I love in particular about sagas, both as a reader and as a writer, is the historical aspect. The characters have to tackle whatever challenges the plot throws at them within the context of the social and legal framework of the time. Sagas are also famous for being regional and The Deserter's Daughter is set in early 1920s Manchester.

I wrote for years without attempting to get published. Then I submitted an early draft of The Deserter's Daughter to literary agents and received rejections all round - though mostly the rejections were personal letters that included comments about what the agents had and hadn't liked. Given that rejections on the whole are standard letters, I was heartened to get personal responses.

In the end it was the fourth draft that was the successful one. I did three email submissions one afternoon, intending to do more the following day, but I never had to do them, as I had a reply from Laura Longrigg at MBA that same evening. She had read my three chapters on her way home and wanted to see the rest of the book. I ended up with offers of representation from two agents, but Laura was at the top of my wish list. I went down to London to meet her and we took to one another right away.

In your research for your novel, The Deserter's Daughter, did you visit any of the places you write about and which have made a lasting impression?

Visit any of the places? I did better than that - I grew up there! The Deserter's Daughter is set in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, a suburb on the south side of Manchester. The River Mersey forms a natural boundary between Chorlton and Cheshire. At least five generations of my family have lived there, which gives me not just a strong sense of place but also of local history. Within fifteen minutes walk of the house in which I grew up are five other houses where previous generations of my family lived, going back to the 1800s.

In 1920, when The Deserter's Daughter starts, Chorlton was a small, quiet township and many of the old landmarks are still there today. Some of them feature in the book, but I was careful not to include landmarks just for the sake of it. Those that are featured are written directly into the plot - such as the Lloyds Hotel, where Ralph holds his auctions; Chorlton Green, where there is a temporary war memorial; and Jackson's Boat, the bridge that spans the Mersey, with Chorlton in Lancashire on one side and Sale in Cheshire on the other.

What did you learn about your writing through using a real location?

There is a fine line between creating a story setting based on personal knowledge and simply luxuriating in that knowledge and sharing it for its own sake. When a novel is set in a real place, readers who are familiar with the locality love the local references; but when I was writing, I was aware all the time of all the majority of readers, who would have no local knowledge and who would simply want to understand the local geography as it relates to the plot and who would want an idea of what important local landmarks look like.

I had a wonderful piece of feedback from blogger Catherine Boardman on her Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays website. She said: "All the action takes place in Chorlton, a Manchester suburb which I have never visited but now feel as if I have. Susanna Bavin describes the streets, rivers and bridges with such feeling that I felt that I was walking the cobbled terraces." I am deeply proud of that comment.

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

Obviously, as a Northern girl, I'm biased. I live in North Wales now, but my choice to set The Deserter's Daughter in Manchester shows the strength of my ties to my old home.

The North has everything - vibrant city life, beautiful countryside and miles of coastline, plus, of course, masses of history in the landscapes and townscapes. For me, the links with the past are hugely important, and all the more so because of the family history links I have all across the North of England. I think what the North offers is choice and variety in where and how you live. Oh, and it's definitely true what they say about northerners: we are a friendly bunch.

What are the ups and downs of being an author?

The biggest 'up' is the pure joy and satisfaction of writing. I'm sure that other writers will understand if I say that I get grumpy if I don't write for a few days. It is important to discover the self-discipline that enables you to get your work done; and of course the work/life balance is important, just as it is in any type of work. But, as in other types of work, there are times when this is easier said than done - just ask any writer who is working to a deadline!

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

For me, writing was a solitary pursuit for a long time, then I started going to courses and discovered the pleasure of meeting other writers. I would urge any writer to find ways to hook up with others, whether it's in a local group or by going on a writing holiday. I am a member of the RNA (Romantic Novelists Association) and the annual Conference is a marvellous venue for meeting other writers and generally having a good time together.

Moreover, I am a member of an online group of writers and we chat regularly, not just about our writing but about anything and everything. We are all at different stages in our writing careers and we carry one another through the dark times and lead the cheering when things go well. For example, one of us, Maddie Please, had her debut novel published at the beginning of last week and the rest of us provided lots of support on social media. We live in all corners of the UK (except Northern Ireland) and a couple of times a year, we descend on London to meet for lunch in the real world.

I also have a good friend in Canada, Jen Gilroy, who writes contemporary romance. She kindly invited me onto her blog to have a chat so I could tell her North American and Canadian readers about the British saga. Jen and I are in touch by email several times a week and our friendship makes a real difference to me, especially if I am facing some sort of writing or publishing issue and she says, 'That happened to me too.'

I would urge any writer to meet up with others - and remember, the online friendships and support are as real and valid as those you find in the real world. It is simply a matter of finding the people whom you relate to the best. It doesn't matter how sympathetic or interested your non-writing friends are - nothing beats the sheer delight and satisfaction of sharing with someone whose understanding is based on similar experience and similar dreams.

Discover more about Susanna on her website by clicking here
Follow on Twitter @SusannaBavin

Warmest thanks to Susanna for being our very welcome guest today and for talking about her writing and for sharing her love of the North with us.

I hope that you have enjoyed this week's Close to Home feature

Coming next week : Helen Steadman


Friday 28 July 2017

First Remembered Read ~ Shakespeare

Those of us who read, and who are influenced by books, tend to squirrel away our memories of all the stories we have read over the years. 

And yet, there is always that one special book tucked away in the far corner of your mind which reminds you just why you love reading so much…

During July and August I've invited a few friends to share their First Remembered Read

My First Remembered ~ Shakespeare

I'm thrilled to welcome

Anne Stormont, author of Displacement

By the time I started high school at Leith Academy in Edinburgh in 1968, I was already a keen reader and a bit of a writer too. I'd also had parts in several plays written by my maternal grandmother for the local children's drama group. So as well as writing stories for my younger sisters, I also liked writing plays for me and my friends to act out. Sometimes the plays were completely my own work, other times I'd dramatise part of a book I was reading.

But I'd never heard of William Shakespeare until my first-year English teacher introduced him to the class when she handed us out copies of The Merchant of Venice. Our teacher, Mrs Harkness, was blonde, glamorous, strict and all-round awesome. She was passionate about all aspects of literature, but most especially about the work of Shakespeare.


Mrs Harkness taught us about Shakespeare, about who he was, about the Elizabethan times in which he lived and wrote, and about how his plays would have been staged at Stratford.
And in order to study the play, we didn't just passively listen to the play being read out. Oh no, we were assigned parts, and we read those parts out loud, getting a feel for the language and meaning of the script, and stopping from time to time to discuss what we thought was going on.

The Merchant of Venice is classified as a comedy, but I remember it as more witty than comic.

It has love and romance, but it also has darker themes of bigotry, anti-semitism, sexism and injustice, and there is much suspense and intrigue. The story centres around Bassanio and his wooing of Portia. He borrows money from his friend, Antonio (who is the Merchant of Venice) to help with his wooing, but Antonio in turn has to borrow that money in order to lend it.

But when the time comes to repay the loan to its provider, the Jewish moneylender, Shylock, Antonio is unable to do so and Shylock therefore demands the agree bond of a pound of Antonio's flesh. And when Shylock takes Antonio to court over the unpaid bond, it is Portia who acts ( in disguise as a man) as Antonio's defence lawyer. None of the men come out of it all particularly well and it is Portia who cleverly brings proceedings to a satisfactory conclusion.

Sometimes, as the class read the play, I was assigned the part of Portia. I loved Portia.

There is a fairy tale quality to the sections in the play that deal with Portia's suitors as they try to win her affection, but Portia is no passive Sleeping Beauty. Yes, Portia is wealthy and beautiful, but she's also clever and resourceful. Her speeches, such as the one on the quality of mercy, (which I can still recite nearly 50 years on) are stunning.

This introduction to Shakespeare made quite an impression on me. It was an ideal play at an ideal time. Portia was a role model who not only helped me stand up to classroom bullies, but who also showed me that it's possible to be assertive without being aggressive – and that women are way smarter than men.

Rowan Russell Books

Kate Dunn, author of The Dragonfly

Shakespeare is in my blood - almost literally: my great-grandparents were leading Shakespearean actors during the Edwardian era and are commemorated in the Benson memorial window in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford on Avon, so I pretty much drank him in with my mother's milk when I was tiny. She even used quotes from Shakespeare to tell me off with : 'How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have an idle daughter,' she'd wail when I hadn't tidied my room.

The first play I remember reading was The Merchant of Venice - we acted out selected scenes when I was in the second year at school and I played the Prince of Aragon - I could probably still recite great chunks of it now, if you asked me nicely! Although it technically counts as My First Shakespeare, it isn't my favourite, nor is it one that has influenced me much. I'm a fanatical book-lover and collector - ask my husband - but the Shakespeares that have meant the most to me are probably ones I have seen. When I was eleven, in the space of two short weeks my mum took me to see two seminal productions: Ian McKellen as Hamlet was the first Shakespearean tragedy I ever saw and the legendary director Peter Brook's A Midsummer Night's Dream was the first comedy. Both of them, in their different ways, were transfiguring experiences: the written word, spoken, resonating in my head and heart and virtually every other vital organ. I devoured Shakespeare after that, on the page and in performance - oh brave new world that hath such people in it! My first job was as an usherette at the RSC and I watched the History plays night after night after night, dazzled, like a rabbit caught in the headlights. I still feel he is in the marrow of my bones.

26192836  29777271

The first Shakespeare I'd grab from a burning building? 


A copy of Twelfth Night my grandmother gave me. She was a leading lady at the Old Vic Theatre in London during the 1930s and played Viola in a production by Lilian Baylis - another theatrical giant. The copy my granny gave me still has her moves written in pencil in the margin. She handed it on to me when she was too old and frail to write anything other than 'My lovely Kate' in shaky letters on the fly leaf.

That's my first Shakespeare.

Aurora Metro Publishers

Huge thanks to Anne and Kate for sharing the memories 

of their First Shakespeare with us today.

Next week : My First Grown Up Story

Thursday 27 July 2017

My author in the spotlight is...Annemarie Neary

I am delighted to welcome back to the blog, the author, Annemarie Neary on publication day of her latest novel, The Orphans 

Welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, Annemarie and thank you for spending time with us today

What inspired you to write The Orphans and how many rough drafts did it take before you were happy with the story?

The Orphans opens when the parents of two young children vanish on a Goa beach. Years ago, a friend told me about a woman she’d come across whose parents had vanished in similar circumstances. According to the story, the woman had fared OK, but her brother had floundered. Something about that floundering brother stayed with me. Years later, I was walking across the Common where I live in South London when I noticed a tall, very pale, young man standing by the side of the road. He was wearing a hi-vis vest that looked much too big for him and was staring fixedly at the parents and children leaving the school opposite. Right away, I had a character and the story went from there. I think I had about seven or eight drafts.

The Orphans explores the concept of abandonment. How did you research this and were you surprised by anything you discovered?

I focused on trying to get inside the characters. I did do some research, case studies and the like, but really I think you have to imagine the emotional impact from the inside out. You need to put yourself into the position of those children and the adults they might become. In the case of Jess, I suppose I worked backwards. I selected a risk-averse, cautious woman whose life choices have been built upon the desire to neutralise chance. I think there are a lot of people who try to control life like that, who are fearful, and I thought Jess might well have been similar. What I did research, however, was the particular psychology of her younger brother, Sparrow (Ro). I hope he’s convincing! 

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How did you feel about them when the book was finished?  Did they turn out as expected?

I wanted Jess to be able to change over the course of the book. I knew she would have to move out from behind her defences, though I wasn’t sure how that would play out. As for Ro, I was surprised at how attached I became to him, despite the terrible things he does.

How did you go about creating such a strong sense of time and place?

I’ve lived on a south London common for twenty years, so all it took was to keep my eyes and ears open. My previous novels have entailed much more location research – Berlin and Dublin during WW2, Belfast during the Troubles, an offshore Irish island in the recent past. The locations in my short stories are even more far-flung, ranging from Venice, Sarajevo, Algiers to entirely imaginary places. This is the first time I’ve had the luxury of just wandering across the road.

When you started writing The Orphans did you already know how the story would end?

No, I had no idea. When I started, all I had was those golden children on a Goa beach (and a strange young man twenty-odd years later in a high vis vest). 

And finally, what can we expect next from you?

I’m working on a suspense novel. It’s set overseas, at the shadowy margins of the oil industry, in a world of fixers and deal-makers, bluff and counter-bluff. Needless to say, my POV character finds herself seriously out of her depth.  It’s still early days, and I don’t want to jinx it, so I’d better just leave it at that.  

You can find out more about Annemarie and her writing on her website by clicking here

Follow on Twitter @AnnemarieNeary1

My thanks to the author for answering my questions about The Orphans so thoughtfully and also to Laura at Penguin Random House for my review copy of this book.

My thoughts about the book

July 27th 2017

The opening chapter of this thought-provoking novel really draws you into the story and sets the scene for what is to come. The idea that two young children can play happily on a sun drenched beach, only to have the realization dawn on them, particularly on the elder child, that their mother and father have quite simply disappeared, doesn't bear thinking about. What then follows, for both Jess and Ro (Sparrow), is their constant sense of searching, each taking a very different path, as they learn to cope, in their own very individual way, with such a devastating loss.

The Orphans is a story about family and of the ties that bind us together. It's about expectations and the dreams of securing a semblance of hope when dark shadows of the past continue to influence the future. In many ways, it's a deeply contemplative story, consisting of many layers, which when peeled back reveal more and more facets of the effects of abandonment, of loss and unresolved grief. Thoughtfully created, both Jess and Sparrow have been irreparably damaged by their childhood experiences. With thoughtful precision and clever writing, we learn what makes Jess and Sparrow act and react, and always, I think, regardless of the fact that we see them as adults, that there is always a sense of the abandoned child about them.

I can remember very vividly as a young child turning in a busy department store and not being able to see my mother, that heartrending lurch of the stomach and the overwhelming sense of panic that resulted when I searched and searched and couldn't find her. I remember being taken by the hand and led to a cluttered office where an appeal was made over the tinny PA system and the relief when my mother arrived filled with her own sense of panic.

To lose someone and never to find them is unimaginable, that constant feeling of searching must be so very difficult to accept. In The Orphans, the author fills this novel with that devastating and incomprehensible sense of loss and abandonment in a suspenseful story with all the fundamental principles of family at its heart. Beautifully written, cleverly crafted, and with a fine eye for detail, this is another great story by a talented writer.

The Orphans by Annemarie Neary is published by Hutchinson in eBook and hardback priced £14.99.

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Summer Read 2017 ~ The Friend by Dorothy Koomson

It's that time of year when suitcases are being packed for holidays and along with the sun cream and the extra bikini thoughts must surely turn to what's good to read.

Over the next few weeks I will be adding my Summer Reads Collection for 2017


What's it all about ..

After her husband’s big promotion, Cece Solarin arrives in Brighton with their three children, ready to start afresh. But their new neighbourhood has a deadly secret.

Three weeks earlier, Yvonne, a very popular parent, was almost murdered in the grounds of the local school – the same school where Cece has unwittingly enrolled her children.

Already anxious about making friends when the parents seem so cliquey, Cece is now also worried about her children’s safety. By chance she meets Maxie, Anaya and Hazel, three very different school mothers who make her feel welcome and reassure her about her new life.

That is until Cece discovers the police believe one of her new friends tried to kill Yvonne. Reluctant to spy on her friends but determined to discover the truth, Cece must uncover the potential murderer before they strike again . .

What did I think about it..

What can be guaranteed with a Dorothy Koomson story is that as soon as you begin to read the opening chapter you can just sense that the story will take you to a wonderfully creative place.

The Friend is a little bit different from some of her previous books as this is more of a psychological roller coaster but, as always, it is full of the characteristic good writing and fine attention to detail which we have come to expect from this author.

The story is complex from the outset and requires a little concentration in order to get everyone in context but once the characters start to sit comfortably then the story really starts to take off. I had lots of questions in my mind as I continued to read and what I enjoyed the most was that I was constantly surprised by how certain characters behaved.

I'm deliberately not saying anything about the plot as to reveal anything would be to spoil this excellent story. However, what I will say, is that it's a  perfect summer read, either curled up in your favourite garden chair or lounging by a swimming pool, preferably somewhere hot and sunny...

More about the Author can by found on her website by clicking here

Follow on Twitter @DorothyKoomson

My thanks to Annabelle at edpr and also to the publishers for my copy of The Friend


Tuesday 25 July 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Other Twin by L V Hay

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's top on The Other Twin Blog Tour

Orenda Books
1 July 2017

What's it all about...

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India's death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India's laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its well heeled families, The Other Twin is startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth...

What did I think about it..

There's something very dark happening in the mean and moody streets of Brighton which Poppy discovers to her cost when she goes out to find just what happened to her sister, India. What Poppy discovers forms the basis of this cleverly put together mystery which grabs your attention from the offset.

The author writes well and holds the reader's attention in this complex mystery which looks at all aspects of family life and uncovers secrets which may well have been better left hidden. There are lots of twists and turns in this novel which exposes a whole web of dark secrets and cleverly uses the intricacies and complexities of the social media world in order to paint a realistic picture of modern day life.  

The novel certainly packs a real punch. The characters are well formed and whilst not always likeable they certainly get under your skin so that you can't help but become involved in the story in a visceral sort of way. The story is dark and moody, rather like the description of Brighton which I always imagined as being a cheery sort of place. Not so with The Other Twin which introduces us to a whole different side of  Brighton life.

The Other Twin is an interesting and clever novel which is well put together and which has an eerily realistic edge  to it. 

About the Author

Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin(2015), both starring Danny Dyer.

Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters' Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. She lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.

My thanks to Karen and Anne at Orenda book for the e-copy of The Other Twin and also for the invitation to be part of this tour which runs until the 6 August



Monday 24 July 2017

Review ~The Freedom Broker by K J Howe

July 2017

What's it all about...

At eight years old, Thea Paris watched her brother being snatched from his bed. Her inability to save him has haunted both their lives ever since.
Twenty years later , the unthinkable happens when he billionaire father is abducted
But this time she is prepared
Now Thea is at the top of her game as a freedom broker negotiating for the lease of kidnap victims around the world
And she has only one objective
Find him or die trying..

What did I think about it...

The Freedom Broker gets off to an all action start as we first meet Thea Paris as she is about to spring the release of an oil executive who has been kidnapped and held captive in Kwale, Nigeria. We see first hand how Thea operates, how she reacts under pressure and how she leads a team of highly competent negotiators who risk life and limb in order to track and find those who are being held against their will.

When Thea's mega rich father becomes the victim of a kidnap, she realises that it's a race against time to , not just track him down, but also to bring to justice those ruthless individuals who have turned her world upside down. However, in tracking her father, Thea must also face her own demons and confront bitter memories of an event which happened twenty years ago.

As with any new series there is a certain amount of getting to know the main characters and Thea Paris is certainly a complicated but feisty protagonist who I am sure we will get to know very well as the series progresses. That she is flawed and vulnerable also comes across which is what, I think, makes her such a likeable heroine. I think that the author writes well and with conviction and there are more that enough twists and turns in the story to keep the reader involved, not just in the complicated plot, but also in getting to know just what is going on in Thea's complicated family life.

The Freedom Broker is a strong and decisive debut novel by a new author and I look forward to seeing just how the series progresses in future stories.

About the Author

Born in Toronto, Canada, K.J Howe is the Executive Director of ThrillerFest, the annual writing festival for the International Thriller Writers organisation. She also has a Masters in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University and has won several writing awards, including three Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

My thanks to Samantha at Midas PR for my review copy of this book

The Freedom Broker is published on the 27th July by Headline 


Sunday 23 July 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered....

I enjoy reading books set during WW1 which cover as wide a range as possible. 

In July I will share my favourites, some non fiction and some fiction

First Edition
Ebury Press

In 1972 the Imperial War Museum set about the momentous task of tracing ordinary veterans and survivors of the First World War and interviewing them in detail about their wartime experiences.

With unlimited access o the complete WW1 tape recordings , the author  and his researchers created this landmark history book which acts as a poignant reminder of all that happened over one hundred years ago ensuring that those brave men and women will ever be forgotten

In all the history books that describe the events that happened during the momentous years of the Great War, it's sometimes easy to forget the voices of those ordinary soldiers who answered the call of duty and who embarked on the greatest adventure of their lives. For some it would be their only adventure as they met their fate in the mud and blood of a foreign field. For those who returned home life would never be the same again. Lost and bewildered in a fog of shell shock, with lungs irretrievably damaged by gas and stench, and with hearts and minds made heavy by man's inhumanity to man, an entire generation had their youth and vitality stolen from them, in a world that would never be the same again.

In Forgotten Voices of the Great War, the author Max Arthur, brings to the life the stories of those men and women who fought and died during the 1914-1918 conflict.  It is their words which express so powerfully the scenes and events which, over a hundred years later, remain significant and for anyone with an interest in WW1 this book  should always be compulsive reading.

You can find out more about the Forgotten Voices of the Great War by clicking here


Saturday 22 July 2017

Close to Home...Susan Pape

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 Northern Writer

Susan Pape

Hi Susan, a very warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thanks so much for being our guest today. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author?

Like so many authors, I started making up stories as a little girl (and got into trouble more than once for telling people things that hadn’t actually happened. For instance, I told one of my mother’s friends a long tale about having been in a boat that was attacked by a whale. I think I’d been influenced by the film, Moby Dick.)

Your books are written in Northern England. Have the people and the northern landscape shaped your stories in any way? 

Apart from two short periods when I worked on newspapers in the South, I’ve always been based in Yorkshire. It’s a more varied county than people realise – with the wonderful Dales, glorious east coast and the gritty urban west. I know it’s a clichรฉ, but everyone’s so friendly too – you can smile and say hello to people and you’ll always get a friendly response. 

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

I was once in London to interview a Harley Street doctor for a newspaper interview, and his secretary was astonished that I had come down from Leeds that morning – and was going home that evening. She didn’t believe you could travel that far in a day! 

Luckily, life for a journalist/writer is not as London-centric as it was then, although many authors still have the impression it all goes on in the South, probably because so many publishing houses are based there. But increasing numbers of independent publishers are springing up throughout the country (and abroad) and they don’t feel it necessary to be based in or near London. The publisher who printed our two text books Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction and Feature Writing: A Practical Introduction, was London-based Sage, but the publisher of our novels is Lakewater Press, based in Australia.

The internet and social media has also changed completely the way we work. Authors and bloggers are great users of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and, of course, many of us run our own websites. With the internet, a writer can operate from anywhere in the world. 

I used to think we were missing out on literary events in the South, but more and more book people – authors and bloggers – are getting to know each other and meeting up in the North. 

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

In our first two novels, A Falling Friend and its sequel (to be published Autumn 2017), Sue and I place the stories in Yorkshire – in areas we both know well – so we didn’t have to do a lot of fresh research. However, the two books also take in France, Greece and India, which we’d both visited on various holidays, so we were able to incorporate details from our own travels. 

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

The North – and Yorkshire in particular – is such a special place to live and work. We have wonderful variety here: the Lake District (which has just been named a World Heritage Site) is only a couple of hours away; you can escape to the peace and beauty of the various Dales (such as Wensleydale and Swaledale); visit the elegant spa town of Harrogate; walk the dramatic coastline that takes in Whitby and Scarborough; trundle round the old mill towns of West Yorkshire; and do business or go shopping in the vibrant city of Leeds. 

The variety of places, and the people who live and work here, offer so much scope for book material and characterization. For instance, I only have to sit in a coffee shop for a short time to spot someone or hear something that will trigger my imagination. 

I couldn’t imagine living and working anywhere else.

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

I talk regularly to Sue on the phone or by email, and we also meet up for coffee/lunch as often as possible to discuss plot lines. I interact with other authors through Twitter and Facebook – and there are groups of us who meet for networking events and/or lunch, which is great.

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

Sue and I give talks to Book Groups, Literary Festivals, Women’s Institutes, local libraries and Lunch Clubs, and they’ve all been extremely supportive and encouraging. We always take copies of our books and love it when people want to buy them – and have us sign them.

More about Susan and her co-author, Sue Featherstone, can be found on their website, the Booklovers’ Booklist:

Follow Susan on Twitter @wordfocus

Susan Pape is a former newspaper journalist with extensive experience of working for national and regional papers and magazines, and public relations.

More recently she worked in higher education, teaching journalism to undergraduate and postgraduate students at Leeds Trinity University.

She now writes novels with her co-author, Sue Featherstone.

Huge thanks to Susan for being our very welcome guest today and for talking about her writing and for sharing her love of the North  with us.

I hope that you have enjoyed this week's Close to Home feature

Coming next week : Susanna Bavin