Saturday 30 September 2017

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Author spotlight on ...Lucienne Boyce

On Hist Fic Saturday I am thrilled to welcome Historical Fiction writer

 Lucienne Boyce

Why do I write historical fiction?

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

They are some of the best-known words in English literature. In fact, they are so well known that it’s easy to miss their impact. But for me, they sum up the reason I write historical fiction. I can still remember the effect they had on me when I first read them as a teenager, my puzzlement and sense of being challenged. 

How could a time be both the best and the worst? 

It didn’t make sense. Not until I realised that Dickens was telling me that there was no such thing as a final judgement on the past. 

It was like a breath of fresh air – especially after years of studying history at school under headings such as “The Causes of the Seven Years War” and “Why Charles I raised his standard at Nottingham”. Then – bam, bam, bam – would come a list of Facts, cut, dried, examination-ready. 

The opening of A Tale of Two Cities was something different. It said: people have different viewpoints; there is no single way of looking at things. 

But how, I wondered, can this be, if we know the facts? If we have the records? Now, the answer seems obvious. We don’t have the facts. All we have is what the records that happen to have survived tell us, and that telling is always biased by the teller, whether intentionally or not. Some people and some facts might be left out altogether, or put in where they don’t belong, or shown in a favourable or unfavourable light. If we want to identify, explain and perhaps redress the bias, we have to speculate about matters such as a person’s motives, what happened to them, how that affected them. We have to start telling stories to account for their actions. 

Which is where historical fiction comes in. For me, historical fiction is a way of thinking about what we know about history, making us more aware that that knowledge is not so clear cut. It’s not about trying to somehow recreate or accurately reflect something called the past. It’s about confronting the things that can’t be known: the records that got lost, and the things that were never recorded because they seemed too obvious, or too private, or too embarrassing, or too dangerous. 

Our knowledge of history is continually subject to readjustment, so historical fiction is always relevant to the time in which it is written. New evidence is constantly coming to light: a Roman mosaic in Berkshire, the grave of Richard III, a rediscovered William Caxton text in Reading University archives. Attitudes change: an 1890s biography of the critic John Addington Symonds by Horatio Forbes Brown carefully omitted all references to Symonds’s homosexuality. Theories and approaches to history change: at one time it was concerned only with Great Men and Women but nowadays we also study the lives of so-called “ordinary” people. As Hilary Mantel put it, “For many years we have been concerned with decentring the grand narrative. We have become romantic about the rootless, the broken, those without a voice – and sceptical about great men, dismissive of heroes. That’s how our inquiry into the human drama has evolved: first the gods go, and then the heroes, and then we are left with our grubby, compromised selves.” 

At its best, historical fiction reminds us about the nature of knowledge itself, how limited it is and, that being so, that it makes sense to be open to the possibility that we are not always right. There are so many ways of telling the same stories. In trying to understand them, we might let go of rigid ways of thinking, of bigotry and clichรฉ and stereotypes. Alas, too many people cling instead to simplistic historical myths, such as the idea of plucky Britain united by the Blitz. I still remember talking to people a generation or two above me who enthused about the Second World War when “no one locked their doors because there wasn’t any crime”. Anthony Horowitz’s superb Foyle’s War – which is based on real war-time crimes – challenged that myth. 

There’s a deep strand of speculation at the root of all historical fiction. For me that’s one of its greatest attractions. Nothing is final, everything is open for thinking and rethinking, for imagining and reimagining. It can be both the best of times and the worst of times. It all depends on the story you’re telling. 

Lucienne Boyce

September 2017

Find out more about Lucienne by following her social media links

Twitter: @LucienneWrite


Lucienne's latest novel The Butcher's Block is out now

Silverwood Books

During a routine patrol, police arrest two men in possession of human body parts intended for sale to the dissecting rooms of a London teaching hospital. Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist Dan Foster makes the grisly discovery that they are the remains of fellow officer George Kean. The arrested men are charged with Kean’s murder, but Dan is not convinced that they are the killers. In pursuit of the real murderer, he investigates the unhallowed activities of the resurrection men – bodysnatchers. 
The bodysnatching racket soon leads Dan to something bigger and much more dangerous. In a treacherous underworld of vicious pugilists, ruthless murderers, British spymasters and French agents, Dan must tread carefully…or meet the same terrible fate as Kean. 

'The Butcher’s Block' is the second Dan Foster Mystery. 'Bloodie Bones', the first in the series, was joint winner of the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016.

The Fatal Coin is an ebook novella sequel to The Bloodie Bones

Silverwood Books

In the winter of 1794 Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist, Dan Foster, is assigned to guard a Royal Mail coach. The mission ends in tragedy when a young constable is shot dead by a highwayman calling himself Colonel Pepper. Dan is determined to bring the killer to justice, but the trail runs cold. 

Then Dan is sent to Staffordshire to recover a recently-excavated hoard of Roman gold which has gone missing. Here he unexpectedly encounters Colonel Pepper again. The hunt is back on – and this time Dan will risk his life to bring down Pepper and his gang.

Bloodie Bones Book 1 in the Dan Foster Mystery series 

Silverwood Books

When Lord Oldfield encloses Barcombe Wood, depriving the people of their ancient rights to gather food and fuel, the villagers retaliate with vandalism, arson and riot. Then Lord Oldfield’s gamekeeper, Josh Castle, is murdered during a poaching raid. Dan Foster, Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist, is sent to investigate.

Dan’s job is to infiltrate the poaching gang and bring the killers to justice. But there’s more to Castle’s death than at first sight appears. What is the secret of the gamekeeper’s past and does it have any connection with his murder? What is Lord Oldfield concealing? And did someone beside the poachers have a reason to want Josh Castle dead? 

As tensions in Barcombe build to a thrilling climax, Dan will need all his wits and his fighting skills to stay alive and get to the truth.

Warmest thanks to Lucienne for being a very welcome guest on Hist Fic Saturday today

 and for being the first author in my monthly spotlight 

Coming next month : Jean Fullerton


Friday 29 September 2017

Blog Tour ~ Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on the Bluebird, Bluebird Blog Tour

A Conversation with Attica Locke

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Attica.

Bluebird, Bluebird is the first in a new series set along Highway 59, Texas. What draws you to this setting? 

My whole family – on both my mother’s and father’s side – come from towns along this highway. I grew riding up and down Highway 59 several times a month, visiting relatives in East Texas. In some ways, I think I became a writer on Highway 59. Before iPads and all that technological distraction, my entertainment on long car rides through the country was solely my imagination as I stared out the window. East Texas was a rural fantasia full of towns like Cut and Shoot and Gun Barrel City, lush ranches and poor trailer park cities, all of thread through with bayous and creeks tucked in the piney woods. As a child, I would make up stories about this world. 

The novel touches on some very timely issues, with race relations in America particularly key to the plot and setting. What do you think of race relations in America today? 

We are in the most depressing state in my lifetime. The election of Donald Trump revealed an ugliness and a hard-heartedness among white folks who feel resentment about demographic shifts in the country. We’ve always known it was there, but I am so disheartened by the fact that those feelings of resentment would allow so many voters to overlook Donald Trump’s obvious shortcomings as a leader. But he gave a certain segment of the population permission to express publicly feelings that were usually reserved for the privacy of one’s own home. And that was worth more to them than access to adequate health care or having a leader who might not tweet us into WWIII. It’s mind-boggling, the power of racism that still exists in America. 

How does your work as a Hollywood screenwriter influence your work as a crime novelist? 

I think they influence each other. Screenwriting helps make my prose very visual (I hope), and it’s a reminder that even though you could explain every thought a character is having, maybe don't. Drama works when the audience has to figure out a character only by their actions and the words they say. I hope being a novelist makes me a more courageous screenwriter, willing to tackle difficult subjects with honesty. And I hope it makes me more descriptive in the ‘action’ lines.

Serpent's Tail
28 September 2017

Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead.

But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules - a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home.

So when allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it's stirred up a hornet's nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes - and save himself in the process - before Lark's long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

Attica Locke is an Orange Prize-shortlisted author and is the writer of the hit TV show Empire. Her previous novel, Pleasantville, was also longlisted for the Baileys two years ago.

Follow on Twitter @atticalocke  #BluebirdBluebird

My thanks to the author for being my guest today and also to Jess at Profile Books for her invitation to be part of this tour and for my e-copy of Bluebird, Bluebird.

Blog Tour runs until the 7th October. Do visit the other stops for more blog tour content


Thursday 28 September 2017

National Poetry Day 2017 ~ Guest Author, Ana Sampson

National Poetry Day is an annual celebration that inspires people throughout the UK to enjoy, discover and share poems. Everyone is invited to join in, whether by organising events, displays, competitions or by simply posting favourite lines of poetry on social media using #nationalpoetryday.

National Poetry Day was founded in 1994 by the charity Forward Arts Foundation, whose mission is to celebrate excellence in poetry and increase its audience. The Day enjoys the support of the BBC, Arts Council England, the Royal Mail and leading literary and cultural organisations, alongside booksellers, publishers, libraries and schools.

The theme for National Poetry Day 2017 is Freedom.

On National Poetry Day I am delighted to welcome Ana Sampson, editor of Best-Loved Poems

I asked Ana about the emotional connection we have with poetry and why in this fast and furious digital age poetry still has the ability to calm our souls.

On the pleasures of poetry 

Ana Sampson 

Poetry is personal. I’m never more conscious of that than when one of my anthologies is published, since readers (and my own friends and relatives) are never shy about telling me which poems I shouldn’t have left out! When compiling a collection like my latest, in which the brief was to include the ‘greatest hits’ of poetry in English, what really strikes is me is how these verses still resonate so strongly with readers after, sometimes, hundreds of years. Although we have changed a great deal through the ages in our language and references, our preoccupations, our values and what perplexes us have changed amazingly little through time.

The poems we love most will depend on our own taste, and how it has been shaped by our teachers, our parents and our peers. Poetry we read as children often has a special place in our private canons, and catches in the memory throughout our lives. It’s one of the reasons that poetry has been so effectively used – by Deborah Alma the Emergency Poet, among others – in therapies for dementia patients. Works by Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll and A A Milne are easier for me to recall than any of the items on my to-do list, and many times as entertaining. It’s also great fun to share them with my children, especially since very young children are used to most of their books rhyming and love the rhythm and music of verse.

Our life experiences will also influence our poetry choices. There are certainly poems about parenthood that are only now beginning to pierce me as my daughters grow: a couple by Kathryn Simmonds, Walking Away by C. Day Lewis and Penelope Shuttle’s Outgrown. It’s wonderful to read a poem that expresses something we, too, have felt and know that whatever road we are walking, we’re not alone. 

Reading a poem slows us down naturally. It takes time – more time than when reading prose – to chew over the words, examine the language and the phrasing and puzzle over meanings. It forces the reader – literally, if you read aloud – to allow themselves a breathing space in a way that a flow of text simply doesn’t. I think this is one of the reasons I can’t recommend poetry highly enough as a way to relax. It’s also usually brief enough to squeeze into the tiniest of tea-breaks and the quickest of commutes – unless you’re embarking on Paradise Lost (also to be recommended, but perhaps for a beach holiday!) If you reach for a book rather than your phone, you’re also giving yourself a break from screen time, and saving yourself from the often inaccurate versions of much-loved poems reproduced enthusiastically but often carelessly online. Of course, as an anthologist, I may not be entirely unbiased on this point! But wherever and however you find them, I promise you that five minutes reading a poem this week will be time well spent, a gift to yourself and an easy resolution to keep. I hope you discover something wonderful this National Poetry Day.

Michael O'Mara
21 September 2017

Whether in search of comfort, inspiration or escape, this treasury of celebrated verse brings together half a millennium of familiar and much-loved poetry to cherish.Including the classic poems of Tennyson, Marvell, Byron and Rossetti, alongside the more contemporary voices of Ayres, Larkin and Zephaniah, this special collection is divided into themes to suit every mood. From magic voyages through antique lands to the wonders of nature and the roar of city life, from love and war to those poems we used to know by heart, this volume is a bold and beautiful array of the finest verse from some of our greatest poets.

Best-Loved Poems is published by Michael O’Mara Books, and is Ana Sampson’s fifth anthology of well-known poems. Waterstones

My thoughts:

I really loved this treasury of verse, not just because it featured some of my favourite poetry, but also because I found the work of new poets and discovered a whole wealth of inspiring verse.

Not only is this a lovely collection of poetry but also the very tactile nature of its beautifully designed cover makes me want to keep touching the book and, no matter my state of my mind, I can find something to either soothe, or inspire. For ease of use, the book is nicely divided into well described sections and I particularly liked the little flower and bee line drawings which are scattered throughout like little gems. 

Everyone has a favourite poem, it could be something as modest as a favourite childhood poem read by a beloved parent, mine is, The Lamplighter by Robert Louis Stevenson, or it could be a poem that acts as a poignant reminder of something rather important, mine is Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night by Dylan Thomas, or a love poem written in a Valentine card, as Sonnets from the Portuguese : XLIII by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Just as the familiar brings comfort, so finding the work of a new poet inspires and I was especially interested to find, in this volume,  The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry, both a poem and poet that I hadn't read before and, if you haven't, then I would urge to read this poem, as it's really rather beautiful.

As a prolific reader, I read copious novels from all different genres,. Thanks to clever historians I am flung back into the dim and distant past, or courtesy of talented authors I delve into the minds of the most depraved individuals in contemporary crime novels, and whilst I'm not discounting the powerful effect of reading these wonderful stories, there are times when my soul cries out for peace and calm and that's when I turn to reading poetry.

I have an arsenal of poetry books that I keep for quiet days and Best Loved Poems is certainly up there with the best of them.

My thanks to Ana for her guest post today and for sharing her thoughts so eloquently
on National Poetry Day


Wednesday 27 September 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Angel by Katerina Diamond

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on The Angel Blog Tour 

and to share a tantalising extract from the book

Following hot on the success No. 1 Kindle bestsellers THE TEACHER and THE SECRET, the queen of grip-lit is back. Katerina Diamond has proved herself to be a hugely powerful new voice in the psychological crime thriller genre, and this book does not disappoint. Focussing on the prison system, it is gritty and compelling – filled with characters that will keep you guessing until the very end.

21 September 2017



When a burned body is found in a disused signal box, suspicion falls on lonely teenager Gabriel Webb. There’s no doubt he was at the scene of the crime, but does he deserve what awaits him in prison?

DS Imogen Grey is certain there’s more to the case than meets the eye. But while she struggles to convince those around her of the truth, her partner DS Adrian Miles is distracted by his own demons.

When a brutal double murder is reported, their investigation is stopped in its tracks. Is the body in the box even who they thought it was? The duo realise Gabriel might have been locked up for a crime he didn’t commit. But with enemies watching Gabriel’s every move, they may be too late.

Miles and Grey are back in the thrilling new novel from bestselling author Katerina Diamond, perfect for fans of Karin Slaughter and M.J. Arlidge, Orange Is The New Black and Locked Up.

Extract Six from Chapter One, pp 20-21

Trey dropped a few rocks of crack into the pipe and sucked in a couple of deep breaths as though he were about to dive into the sea before putting his lips to the edge of the pipe. He held the lighter under the glass bowl and gently rolled the glass stem in his fingers as he slowly drew the milky smoke into his lungs. His expression changed and he sat back in his chair. Chris took the pipe from him. Gabriel noticed that Leanne was watching Emma the whole time, obviously trying to gauge her reaction to this, to see if she was open to it. He saw her shiver again.

‘We should go. It’s freezing in here,’ Gabriel said, stepping closer to his girlfriend. The sun was going down and he didn’t fancy crossing the tracks in the dark, plus he really didn’t want to be here with these people any longer.

‘Killjoy.’ Leanne grinned, her face like a viper.

‘It’s OK. We’ll go in a bit.’ Emma smiled at Gabriel. He noticed how people were different with each other; Emma behaved differently when they were alone, she behaved differently with her family too and she was definitely behaving differently here with Leanne. This behaviour didn’t feel like her, it was a side he hadn’t seen before. A tapping sound echoed against the window as the rain began.

‘It’s starting to chuck it down,’ Gabriel said, looking at Emma hopefully, trying to impart to her his strong desire to leave. She just shifted her gaze away.

‘Why don’t you see if you can warm it up in here?’ Leanne asked him, it was a challenge, a threat maybe; there was something about her that made Gabriel really uneasy and it seemed amplified in here.

Gabriel went to the corner and grabbed the metal waste paper bin that had been left in the signal box. He didn’t want to cause a fuss; maybe his argument with his father earlier had made him extra defensive, maybe he wasn’t thinking straight. He collected some of the rubbish from the floor and piled it in before picking up one of Trey’s lighters from the table and snapping the head off.

About the author

Katerina Diamond lives on the east Kent Coast with her son and daughter. Born in Weston-super-Mare, she has lived in various places since including Greece, Cyprus, Derby, East London and Exeter. Her first novel reached number six in the Sunday Times Bestseller chart.

Follow on Twitter @TheVenomousPen

For more exciting content follow the other blog tour stops




My thanks to the author and Sabah at Harper Collins for the invitation to be part of this blog tour and also for their kind permission to share this extract. 


Tuesday 26 September 2017

Blog Tour ~ Secrets of the Shipyard Girls by Nancy Revell

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the 

Secrets of the Shipyard Girls Blog Tour

Arrow Books
21 September 2017

The third book in the compelling saga series The Shipyard Girls 

Perfect for fans of Donna Douglas and Ellie Dean

Sunderland, 1941

As the world war continues the shipyard girls face hardships at home, but work and friendship give them strength to carry on.

Gloria is smitten with her newly arrived bundle of joy, but baby Hope’s first weeks are bittersweet. Hope's father is missing at sea, and with their future as a family so uncertain, Gloria must lean on her girls for support.

Meanwhile, head welder Rosie has turned her back on love to keep her double life secret. But her persistent beau is determined to find out the truth and if he does, it could ruin her.

And there is finally a glimmer of hope for Polly and her family when Bel and Joe fall in love. But it isn’t long before a scandalous revelation threatens to pull them all apart.

My thoughts:

Even if you haven't read the previous books in this wartime saga series it is very easy to pick up the gist of the back story as the author is very good at explaining what has happened before and I quickly became accustomed to the central characters and enjoyed reading of their lives and loves in war time Sunderland. That these women were able to keep such a vital industry, as the shipyards functioning, and doing so with great success, is testament to their strength of spirit.

In this third volume of stories about The Shipyard Girls we focus on lives of Gloria, Rosie and Bel. All are strong and feisty women, but they each have something hidden in their backgrounds which threaten their future happiness. They are all employed at the shipyard of J. L. Thompson in Sunderland and even though their work is tough and often fraught with danger, the camaraderie between the women is palpable and heart-warming and, as they all look out for each other, so their lives become intertwined.

The author writes with a real sense of history and using her local knowledge of the area is able to bring both the place and its people to life. The characters are entertaining and appealing with some perhaps more likeable than others. But always, there is a real sense of purpose and an authenticity, bringing everything to life in such a vibrant way, that you can’t help but become emotionally involved in each of their stories. The plot weaves together well, and there are more than enough twists and turns to keep you turning the pages until all the hidden secrets are revealed.

The fourth book in the series, Shipyard Girls in Love publishes 22nd March 2018 and is available to pre order now.

Nancy Revell is a writer and journalist under another name, and has worked for many national newspapers, providing them with hard-hitting news stories and in-depth features. She has also worked for just about every woman’s magazine, writing amazing and inspirational true life stories.

Nancy has recently relocated back to her home town of Sunderland,Tyne & Wear, with her husband Paul and their English Bull Mastiff, Rosie.

They live a short walk from the beautiful, award-winning beaches of Roker and Seaburn, within a mile of where The Shipyard Girls series is set. The subject is close to Nancy’s heart as she comes from a long line of shipbuilders, who were well-known in the area.

Follow the rest of the Blog Tour on Twitter @arevellwalton


Thanks to Clare at Penguin Random House for my review copy of Secrets of the Shipyard Girls and the kind invitation to be part of this blog tour.


Monday 25 September 2017

Review ~ Genuine Fraud by e lockhart

Hot Key Books
7 September 2017


The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.

Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete. 
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two. 

A bad romance, or maybe three.

Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains. 

A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.A girl who refuses to be the person she once was

A girl who is ....a genuine fraud

My thoughts:

It's difficult to know where to start with this one as from the very beginning there is a sense that nothing you are witnessing bears anything like a resemblance to truth. That the central character, Jule has far too many secrets is obvious from quite early on but just how this impacts on the story is revealed in pieces only where the writer thinks is necessary. The way the story is written and presented, and I won't spoil it at all by telling you what that is but it takes some getting used to and won't be everyone's cup of tea. I'll leave it for readers to decide if it works. I still have mixed feelings about it, but it certainly keeps you guessing ๐Ÿ˜

Even after finishing the story, I'm not convinced that I fully understand everything the writer wanted to achieve, perhaps it's one of those stories which works better on a re-read, as by then you may be able to pick up the clues which are missed on a quick first read through. The initial part of the story I found sharp and snappy and I really enjoyed Jule's ability to change chameleon like when life got too complicated. It's only a short book, coming in at 260 pages, but it certainly packs a punch and is memorable because it's just that bit different from the current batch of psychological suspense novels and I applaud the author for being brave enough to shake things up a little.

If you enjoyed The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith then this book will most certainly appeal as, by the author's own admission, she was influenced by this author, amongst others. I especially enjoyed the literary references which are scattered like pearls throughout Genuine Fraud, especially Jule's interest in Charles Dickens and his novel, Great Expectations.

E. Lockhart is the author of nine novels, including the best selling We Were Liars. 

Visit her website

Follow on Twitter @elockhart  #GenuineFraud

My thanks to Tina at Bonnier Zaffre for my review copy of Genuine Fraud


Sunday 24 September 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

The Dead Kings

By Francis Ledwidge

All the dead kings came to me

At Rosnaree, where I was dreaming,

A few stars glimmered through the morn,

And down the thorn the dews were streaming.

And every dead king had a story

Of ancient glory, sweetly told.

It was too early for the lark,

But the starry dark had tints of gold.

I listened to the sorrows three

Of that Eire passed into song.

A cock crowed near a hazel croft,

And up aloft dim larks winged strong.

And I, too, told the kings a story

Of later glory, her fourth sorrow:

There was a sound like moving shields

In high green fields and the lowland furrow.

And one said: ‘We who yet are kings

Have heard these things lamenting inly.’

Sweet music flowed from many a bill

And on the hill the morn stood queenly.

And one said: ‘Over is the singing,

And bell bough ringing, whence we come;

With heavy hearts we’ll tread the shadows,

In honey meadows birds are dumb.’

And one said: ‘Since the poets perished

And all they cherished in the way,

Their thoughts unsung, like petal showers

Inflame the hours of blue and grey.’

And one said: ‘A loud tramp of men

We’ll hear again at Rosnaree.’

A bomb burst near me where I lay.

I woke, ’twas day in Picardy.

Francis Ledwidge was an Irish writer and poet. 

He was killed in action at Passchendaele in 1917


Saturday 23 September 2017

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Pocketful of Dreams by Jean Fullerton

On Hist Fic Saturday let's go back in time...

to East London, 1939 

August 2017

It's 1939 and the East End of London is facing difficult times. However, the people's stoical spirit and long held notion of always making the best of everything reverberates throughout this war time saga which focuses on the tumultuous first years of the Second World War.

The Brogan family of Mafeking Terrace are East Enders through and through, and their indomitable spirit shines throughout this story which focuses on Mattie, the eldest Brogan girl, and her relationship with a mysterious young man who has arrived in the area.

The author has really brought to life the camaraderie and close knit community of the East End and shows what life could have been like for those who made their home in this area. There's some wonderful Brogan family moments, particularly at the wedding which opens the novel and also in the glorious character of the family matriarch , Granny Queenie, who rules the roost in her own unique style.

I enjoyed the many twists and turns in the novel and the inclusion of the unsettling and rather frightening actions of a handful of Nazi war sympathisers, who terrorised the area, added some darkly realistic moments, and which highlighted just what a dangerous time this was for those who just wanted to live their lives in peace.  Her characters are filled with oodles of personality, and whilst some are not likeable, there is one in particular who you hope will get his comeuppance, the majority of the people are filled with genuine East End charm, making the story such an enjoyable and fascinating read.

Pocketful of Dreams starts a new series of historical fiction by this author. Readers may well be aware of her previous historical series which have been set in the East End. Turning to World War Two history gives the author scope to show another side of this area and she does so with great aplomb and fine eye for detail. With warmth and wit she brings the place and it's people to vibrant life.

I really enjoyed getting to know the Brogan family and am already looking forward to seeing where the next book in the series will take us.

Jean Fullerton is the author of eight historical novels and two novellas She is a qualified District and Queen's nurse who has spent most of her working life in the East End of London, first as a Sister in charge of a team, and then as a District Nurse tutor. She is also a qualified teacher and spent twelve years lecturing on community nursing studies at a London university. She now writes full-time.

More about the author can be found on her website by clicking here
Twitter @JeanFullerton_

My thanks to the author and  to Karen at Corvus for my review copy of A Pocketful of Dreams


Friday 22 September 2017

Review ~ The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis



For as long as she can remember, Jemma has been planning the perfect honeymoon. A fortnight's retreat to a five-star resort in the Maldives, complete with luxury villas, personal butlers and absolute privacy. It should be paradise, but it's turned into a nightmare.

Because the man Jemma married a week ago has just disappeared from the island without a trace. And now her perfect new life is vanishing just as quickly before her eyes. After everything they've been through together, how can this be happening? Is there anyone on the island who Jemma can trust? And above all - where has her husband gone?

My thoughts..

A paradise island, a handsome and loving husband, should all add up to an idyllic honeymoon but for Jemma, what should have been a wonderful start to married life very soon dissolves into the holiday from hell.

The Honeymoon is a really clever psychological suspense story and such is the creativity of the writing that even though I actively disliked the main characters, I couldn't help but want to know what happened to them, and more especially what happened to Jemma's husband, whose disappearance  and Jemma's reaction to this forms the core of the novel.

Throughout the story there are twists and turns aplenty and a huge jaw dropping moment that took me completely unawares and made me so surprised that I had to tootle off to make a restorative cup of tea.

If you like convoluted suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat then The Honeymoon will certainly appeal, perhaps, just don't read it if you intend to honeymoon in the glorious Maldive islands any time soon ๐Ÿ˜

Tina Seskis grew up in Hampshire , and after graduating from the University of Bath spent over twenty years working in marketing and advertising.She is the author of two other novels, One Step Too Far and A Serpentine Affair. Tina lives in London with her husband and son.

Twitter @tinaseskis #The Honeymoon

 My thanks to Sarah at Penguin for my review copy of The Honeymoon


Thursday 21 September 2017

Review ~ Verdi : The Man Revealed by John Suchet

Elliot & Thompson
September 2017

It's always a real treat when one of these sumptuously produced books arrives for me to read and review and to have a glimpse into the life of Guiseppe Verdi, one of the greatest operatic composers , written by one of my favourite Classic FM presenters is, for me, something to really get excited about.

With wonderful glossy pages, this meticulously researched biography is easy to read and wonderfully informative, and  if, like me, you have little knowledge of the life of these great composers...well, to have everything you need to know in one lovely, glossy volume is a wonderful idea. I really enjoyed flipping through the book and reading chapters at whim, always finding something interesting and fascinating to learn about this most complex of individuals.

The author writes with real authority and includes, in this biography, all those snippets of information about Verdi's greatest works which are so important. From Rigoletto to Othello, La Traviata to Aida, all human emotion is to be found within his great catalogue of works, and the author ensures that all these are included and described in a very readable way. I particularly enjoyed reading of Verdi's early life in Italy, and the confusion surrounding his date of birth made me smile. 

Beautifully illustrated, the book is a sumptuous and beautiful journey through the whole of Verdi's very eventful life which I am sure will appeal to music lovers everywhere.

Verdi: The Man Revealed would make a perfect Christmas present for any classical music lover. My copy is definitely one to keep and cherish.

If you enjoy reading about the musical greats, then perhaps consider these composer

 biographies written for Classic FM by John Suchet

Published by Elliot & Thompson


26204875  16655520

About the Author

John Suchet presents Classic FM’s flagship morning programme, from 9am every weekday. His informative style of presentation, coupled with a deep knowledge of classical music, has won a wide spectrum of new listeners to the station. Before turning to classical music, John was one of the UK’s best-known television journalists. As a reporter for ITN he covered world events, including the Iran revolution, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Philippines revolution. He then became a newscaster, regularly presenting ITN’s flagship News at Ten, as well as all other bulletins, over a period of nearly twenty years.

John has been honoured for both roles. In 1986 he was voted Television Journalist of the Year, in 1996 Television Newscaster of the Year, and in 2008 the Royal Television Society awarded him its highest accolade, a Lifetime Achievement Award. John has been given an honorary degree by his old university, the University of Dundee, and in 2001 the Royal Academy of Music awarded him an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of his work on Beethoven, having written six books on the composer, including the highly acclaimed Beethoven: The Man Revealed (2012). His bestselling biography of the Strauss family, The Last Waltz: The Strauss Dynasty and Vienna, was published in 2015.

My thanks to Alison at Elliot&Thompson for my review copies of these books

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Reviews ~ These Darkening Days and Turning Blue by Benjamin Myers

Moth Publishing
22 September 2017


As autumn draws in, a series of unexplained vicious attacks occur in a small northern town renowned for being a bohemian backwater.

As the national media descends, local journalist Roddy Mace attempts to tell the story, but finds the very nature of truth being brought into question. He turns to disgraced detective James Brindle for help.

When further attacks occur the shattered community becomes the focus of an accelerating media that favours immediacy over truth. Murder and myth collide in a folk-crime story about place, identity and the tangled lives of those who never leave.

My thoughts about it ...

Those who have read this author's previous book, Turning Blue, will be entirely familiar with both lead protagonists in These Darkening Days. Roddy Mace, the struggling journalist, once again combines forces, with disgraced, Cold Storage, detective, James Brindle, and in their own indomitable style they endeavour to find out just what is happening in this dark corner of the Yorkshire Dales.

When a woman is found brutally attacked, the police hunt is on to find the perpetrator, which in this secretive Pennine valley town is easier said than done. Before long it becomes apparent that this vicious attack is the core of something which runs much deeper, and the desperate race against time to discover the attacker is fraught with difficulties and distractions. Tensions run high and secrets run deep and neither the town nor its occupants are prepared to give up their secrets easily.

To say more would be to give far too much of this complicated plot away, so rather than spoil it, I will concentrate on the interest I have in this author, who conjures time and place so realistically that you really feel like you stalk the high Pennine moors in company with misfits and murderers. The visceral nature of these stories are not for the faint hearted, and if you haven’t read Turning Blue, then I would suggest that you do before embarking on this one, as to understand the author and his writing you need to start at the very beginning. There is a dark lyricism to the stories, which is perhaps slightly more powerful in Turning Blue, which, believe me, takes a dark tale to the very extreme of darkness, but which is no less authoritative in These Darkening Days.

These Darkening Days is a compulsive and, at times, a distinctly uncomfortable read which brings rural-noir to life in a very convincing way. The brooding landscape of the high moors and the secluded nature of a small town at odds with itself is brought vividly and realistically to life. 

Small town crime has never been so interesting.

Moth Publishing

The depths of winter in the isolated Yorkshire Dales and a teenage girl is missing.

At a derelict farm high up on a hillside Steven Rutter, a destitute loner, harbours secrets. Nobody knows the bleak moors better than him, or their hiding places.

Obsessive, taciturn and solitary, detective Jim Brindle is relentless in pursuing justice. But he is not alone in his growing preoccupation with the case. Local journalist Roddy Mace has moved north from London to build a new life. 

As Brindle and Mace begin to prise the secrets of the case from tight-lipped locals, their investigation leads first to the pillars of the community and finally to a local celebrity and fixture of the nation's Saturday night TV. 'Lovely Larry' Lister has his own hiding places, and his own dark tastes.

My thoughts about it...

In the deep darkness of a snowy winter a local girl goes missing and for this small Yorkshire town life will be disturbed to such an extent that neighbour will look upon neighbour with more than a hint of suspicion. The malevolent forces which exist and flourish in the lonely corners of this wild and unforgiving landscape give refuge to the most depraved of individuals. That these debauched residents are well known within the town gives credence to the saying that you should keep your enemies close and your friends even closer. Steven Rutter is a depraved loner, eking out a miserable existence in the dilapidated and unkempt farm he vaguely calls home. That he has been victimised and abused throughout the whole of his miserable life lends a dark fascination to the overall visceral pull of the novel.

I read Turning Blue with an almost gruesome fascination, it’s not for the faint hearted and if you are offended by violence and graphic sexual description, then this is not the book, or the writer for you. It must be said that I did, at times read with one eye open and always with an air of trepidation about just what was going to happen next.

So, I will put the shocking contents aside and concentrate on the writing which is very good, and which is, at times, quite lyrical, something I really didn’t expect to find in a crime novel. The Yorkshire landscape is described in awesome detail and both the place and its people come vividly to life. It took a while to get used to the author’s distinct writing style, the no ‘speech marks’ confused me a little, but once this lack of punctuation sat more comfortably, and as the story started to bite, this, became no problem at all, but is perhaps worth mentioning.

Turning Blue is a dark and gloomy tale but which is perfectly written by an author who has given this rural noir genre a glorious new lease of life.

About the author

Benjamin Myers is an award winning writer His novel Beastings (2014) won the Portico Prize For Literature, was the recipient of the Northern Writers’ Award and long listed for a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award 2015. Pig Iron (2012) was the winner of the inaugural Gordon Burn Prize and Richard (2010) was selected as a Sunday Times book of the year. Turning Blue (2016) was named Book of the Year 2016 by Loud and Quiet magazine and his recent novel The Gallows Pole ( 2017) has already won the Roger Deakin award.

Find out more on his website by clicking here

Follow on Twitter @BenMyer1 @MothCrime

My thanks to the team at Moth Publishing for my review copies of these books

These Darkening Days will be published on the 22 September 2017


Tuesday 19 September 2017

Review ~ Midnight at the Bright Ideas Book Store by Matthew Sullivan

William Heinemann

What's it all about...

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the 'BookFrogs' the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: Trinkets and books, the detritus of a lonely, uncared-for man. But when Lydia pages through his books, she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

My thoughts about it...

I was really excited to receive my review copy of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, not just because of the tactile nature of its beautiful midnight blue hardback cover but also because any novel which features a book store is a sure fire winner with me.

When Lydia Smith discovers Joey Molina, one of her regular book customers, dead on the upper floor of her bookstore, this sad event opens up, for Lydia, a whole heap of secrets which she never knew existed. That Joey's life may be interwoven with Lydia's comes as something as a shock to her and the journey she must take in order to discover more about herself, and Joey, is both enlightening and frightening in equal measure.

I found that I was soon engrossed in the story, the writing is good and the plot development is maintained with a fine eye for detail and the complicated nature of the relationships within the novel added necessary light and shade. There are some deeply flawed characters, particularly Lydia's widowed father, Tomas, who had more than enough secrets of his own and the relationship between father and daughter is upsetting and at times, reveals far more questions than it does answers. I enjoyed the way the story combined both past and present . The mystery at the heart of the story is interwoven with some quite dark moments, particularly with those uncomfortable secrets which, if left unchallenged, can fester and destroy everything around them. 

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a well written debut novel by a talented new author.

About the Author

Matthew Sullivan grew up in a family of eight spirited children in suburban Denver, Colorado. In addition to working for years at Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver and at Brookline Booksmith in Boston, he has taught writing and literature at colleges in Boston, Idaho and Poland, and currently teaches writing, literature and film at Big Bend Community College in the high desert of Washington State. He is married to a librarian and has two children and a scruffy dog named Ernie.

More about the author can be found on his website by clicking here 

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore