Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Review ~ Gift Horse by Jan Ruth

Kindle edition
September 2018
Caroline Walker’s daughter suffers a horrific riding accident. Her distraught parents wonder if she’ll ever walk again, let alone ride. And when Mollie’s blood group is discovered as rare, her husband offers to donate blood. Except Ian is not a match. In fact, it’s unlikely he’s Mollie's father.

Eighteen years previously, Caroline had a one-night stand with Irish rock star, Rory O’Connor. Caroline fell pregnant. Deeply flawed boyfriend, Ian, was overjoyed. And Caroline’s parents were simply grateful that their daughter was to marry into the rich, influential Walker family. 

Caroline turns to Rory’s friend Connor; and although his almost spiritual connection with his horses appears to be the balm she needs, Caroline cannot forget Rory, or her youth – both lost to a man she never loved. Eighteen years on and after surviving cancer Rory lives as a virtual recluse in the Welsh mountains. Through his well-meaning but interfering sister, he is shocked to discover he has a teenage daughter. Or does he? 

Someone has made a terrible mistake… someone is going to get hurt…

My thoughts about it..

I have a few writers in my arsenal of "go to" authors, those whose stories I know will never disappoint, and this author is definitely one of those who I know will never let me down and, her latest novel, Gift Horse certainly ticks all the right boxes. 

Caroline Walker's daughter has a dreadful accident at a riding event, a trauma which acts as catalyst for what follows in the rest of the story. Flipping effortlessly between past and present, the story gradually emerges of something which happened in Caroline's past, a youthful indiscretion, which will have repercussions far into the future. 

The story flows beautifully, not just around the characters, but also of the landscape around it. People and places merge, delivering a story of a traumatised girl on the road to recovery, the emergence of secrets long buried, and of the devastating consequences of the truth being revealed.

There's such a powerful connection to the characters that you can't help but form an emotional bond with them, some I liked more than others, and yet, they all bring an overall strength to the story, particularly, Connor with his tender care of the horses at the therapy centre, Rory with his laissez-faire attitude to life, and Ian, Caroline’s husband, who brought some powerful anxieties of his own into the story. Throughout the whole of journey is Caroline, fighting her own particular demons with a reserve of character which, I think, we would all like to have. I enjoyed her company immensely and hoped that everything would eventually work out for her and her family.

I read Gift Horse quickly over the space of a few hours, not because it was light on content, far from it, but because once started, I really couldn’t put the book down and needed to keep turning the pages until I knew just how the story would eventually play out. And yes, there were a few tears at the ending.

About the Author

Jan Ruth lives in Snowdonia, a mountainous area of North Wales, UK. Jan writes contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic, often blending life in rural Wales with a touch of city business. Her style is best described as fast-paced and realistic, with a sprinkling of dry humour. 

Jan is also an active member of her local RDA group (Riding for the disabled) and is an Assistant Equine Facilitated Learning Practitioner for the Welsh Institute of Therapeutic Horsemanship. In her spare time she enjoys riding and walking the Welsh hills; a constant source of inspiration.

Jan’s books are available globally via Amazon in paperback and for Kindle; and locally, you’ll find them in North Wales libraries and Hinton’s bookshop of Conwy.

Twitter @JanRuthAuthor

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Review ~ Testament by Kim Sherwood

I always try to have a Remembrance Read on the go in November

12 July 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
Her family was always complicated. It's why Eva was closest to her grandfather: a charismatic painter - and a keeper of secrets. So when he dies, she's hit by a greater loss - of the questions he never answered, and the past he never shared.

It's then she finds the letter from the Jewish Museum in Berlin. They have uncovered the testimony he gave after his forced labour service in Hungary, which took him to the death camps and then to England as a refugee. This is how he survived.

But there is a deeper story that Eva will unravel - of how her grandfather learnt to live afterwards. As she confronts the lies that have haunted her family, their identity shifts and her own takes shape. The testament is in her hands.

My thoughts about it..

When Eva's beloved grandfather dies she's realises that his death brings about far more questions than it does answers for it would seem that Joseph Silk has not been entirely truthful about his experiences during the Second World War.

Skillfully blending the past with the present a story emerges of a dark and shadowy time when Joseph was forced to work in horrendous circumstances in a labour camp in Hungary. His survival, from this dreadful time, was something he carried with him for the rest of his life, and yet, he didn't want to be defined by the terrible things he had witnessed. After his death, certain documents come to light which reveal more details about Joseph's WW2 experiences, and following a trip to the Jewish Museum in Berlin to read these documents, Eva must come to terms with the secrets  her grandfather had kept hidden for so long. A  burden of secrets and heartbreaking memories which Joseph Silk had wanted to be kept hidden forever.

Testament is a beautifully written and very moving story about the trauma of living through the holocaust and of the guilt and confusion of being one of the survivors. It's about the terror of being displaced without the shelter of home and family, and of the uncertainty of making a new future when all seemed hopeless.

A commendable and poignant debut novel from a talented new writer.

About the Author

Kim Sherwood was born in Camden in 1989. She studied on the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia, going on to teach creative writing at UEA and the University of Sussex. Kim's stories and articles have appeared in numerous journals, including Mslexia, Lighthouse, and Going Down Swinging. The manuscript of her debut novel, Testament, won the 2016 Bath Novel Award. Kim began writing Testament in 2011 after her grandfather, the actor George Baker, passed away. In the same year, Kim's grandmother began to talk about her experiences as a Holocaust Survivor for the first time. These events provided seeds for a story that grew as Kim undertook research into the events of  the Holocaust in Hungary, and as extremism rose again across Europe.

Kim lives in Bath. She is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of the West of England. Testament is her first novel.

Twitter @kimtsherwood #Testament

@riverrunbooks @QuercusBooks

Monday, 12 November 2018

Literary Book Gifts...

It's that time of year when thoughts turn to gift buying and I'm delighted to have been put in touch with Literary Book Gifts ,a small company who have a stunning array of high quality gifts for book lovers.

Literary Book Gifts brings bookish designs onto tote bags and shirts. The perfect online store for teachers, librarians, and bibliophiles!

Literary Book Gifts are inspired by vintage design and great literature. Old book covers have an amazing way of reminding us of our favorite stories, without even having to open up a book. New designs are added all the time, with a few fun ones on the way, check back often for new products!

If you love authors ranging from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Jane Austen be sure to stop by the Literary Book Gifts for some unique book gifts!

Just in time for Christmas shopping !!

© 2018, Literary Book Gifts

© 2018, Literary Book Gifts 

These look really great and perfect for the book lover in your life....or even as gift for yourself !

Literary Book Gifts has devised a special 20% discount code for Jaffareadstoo readers with no minimum spend and no expiry date...


😊 Happy Shopping 😊

Jaffareadstoo is not responsible for any orders, deliveries or returns 

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Armistice ~ Sunday WW1 Remembered...

At "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" in 1918 the guns grew silent on the Western Front. The Armistice of CompiΓ¨gne was signed between the Allies and Germany and went into effect at 11am, Paris time, on the 11th November, 1918 .

©Digital Images

And There Was a Great Calm


(On the Signing of the Armistice, 11 Nov. 1918)

There had been years of Passion—scorching, cold,
And much Despair, and Anger heaving high,
Care whitely watching, Sorrows manifold,
Among the young, among the weak and old,
And the pensive Spirit of Pity whispered, “Why?”

Men had not paused to answer. Foes distraught
Pierced the thinned peoples in a brute-like blindness,
Philosophies that sages long had taught,
And Selflessness, were as an unknown thought,
And “Hell!” and “Shell!” were yapped at Lovingkindness.

The feeble folk at home had grown full-used
To 'dug-outs', 'snipers', 'Huns', from the war-adept
In the mornings heard, and at evetides perused;
To day-dreamt men in millions, when they mused—
To nightmare-men in millions when they slept.

Waking to wish existence timeless, null,
Sirius they watched above where armies fell;
He seemed to check his flapping when, in the lull
Of night a boom came thencewise, like the dull
Plunge of a stone dropped into some deep well.

So, when old hopes that earth was bettering slowly
Were dead and damned, there sounded 'War is done!'
One morrow. Said the bereft, and meek, and lowly,
'Will men some day be given to grace? yea, wholly,
And in good sooth, as our dreams used to run?'

Breathless they paused. Out there men raised their glance
To where had stood those poplars lank and lopped,
As they had raised it through the four years’ dance
Of Death in the now familiar flats of France;
And murmured, 'Strange, this! How? All firing stopped?'

Aye; all was hushed. The about-to-fire fired not,
The aimed-at moved away in trance-lipped song.
One checkless regiment slung a clinching shot
And turned. The Spirit of Irony smirked out, 'What?
Spoil peradventures woven of Rage and Wrong?'

Thenceforth no flying fires inflamed the gray,
No hurtlings shook the dewdrop from the thorn,
No moan perplexed the mute bird on the spray;
Worn horses mused: 'We are not whipped to-day;'
No weft-winged engines blurred the moon’s thin horn.

Calm fell. From Heaven distilled a clemency;
There was peace on earth, and silence in the sky;
Some could, some could not, shake off misery:
The Sinister Spirit sneered: 'It had to be!'

And again the Spirit of Pity whispered, 'Why?'

Wigan Parish Church 2018
©J Barton

It's been a real privilege to bring this WW1 Remembered feature to Jaffareadstoo. 

Huge thanks to all those who have taken the time to read and especially to those who have contributed to this feature.

Gill Paul, Georgia Hill, Juliet Greenwood, Glen Craney, Ros Rendle, Susan Lannigan, Linda Gillard,Terri Nixon, John R McKay, Michael Wills, Jane Cable, Claire Dyer, Karen Maitland, Elisabeth Gifford, David Ebsworth, Kirsty Ferry, Rachel Sargent and John Barton.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the WW1 war poets whose eloquence brought tears to my eyes and whose words, with both poignant simplicity and graphic imagery, conjure the war in so many different ways.

Huge thanks to the Imperial War Museum for their magnificent WW1 archive and valuable shareable resources.

And remember, in the quiet corners of Commonwealth War Graves, there are those soldiers who lie, often forgotten, in our villages, towns and city cemeteries. We owe these quiet sentinels of our peace a huge debt, so do, please visit them and take a quiet moment to remember their extraordinary sacrifice.

Wigan Parish Church 2018
©Digital Images


In our family we remember 

Pte. John Hopkins

Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

Died 24th January 1919

©Digital Images


Pte. Sam Whalley

Royal Fusiliers/17th Lancers

©Digital Images

©Digital Images
Sam and his five brothers all survived the war


Driver Frederick Arkwright


Royal Army Service Corps

©J Barton

Died 1 February 1945
Buried Schoonselhof Cemetery 
Antwerp, Belgium

Wigan Cenotaph
©Digital Images
Wigan Cenotaph
©Digital Images


A generation of young men and women, gone too soon in a war that robbed them of their future so that we could have ours

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them


©Digital Images


Saturday, 10 November 2018

His Fic Saturday~ Author~ Jean Fullerton

On Hist Fic Saturday I am delighted to welcome back to the blog

Best selling author, Jean Fullerton

A very warm welcome, Jean. Thanks for coming back to see us and for sharing why you love writing historical fiction...

Threads through History.

One of the joys of writing for me is building worlds in which my characters and my imagination can play around in. It also means you can, for your own amusement run themes through successive books. 

However, even the most attentive reader can be forgiven for not picking up all the threads that run through my East London Victorian, East London Nurse and now my WW2 series but let me give you a clue. 

It started with my lovely Ellen in No Cure for Love who fell in love with Dr Munroe. The house where she and her daughter lived in Anthony Street is the self-same house Millie Sullivan's mum, in Call Nurse Millie moves into. The link between No Cure for Love and Call Nurse Millie continues as Millie works for the nursing association which is based in Munroe House, founded by Robina Munroe, Robert's daughter, a hundred years before. 

The hero of my second Victorian novel, A Glimpse at Happiness, is Patrick Nolan is the other man in my life and was in all four Victorian books but I loved him so much I couldn't let him go. When I moved forward some 100 years for the 1940s nurse series I reincarnated him as Alex Nolan Nurse Millie's love. Although he didn't know it Alex was Patrick's great, grandson. 

The link continues as the McGuire coal wagons and later lorries mentioned in all my novels are from the same coal yard Patrick's sister Mattie struggles so hard to build up in Perhaps Tomorrow and is later the scrap metal yard where the O'Toole family lived in All Change for Nurse Millie. It’s one of Maguire’s horses that Billy let loose from it’s shafts in A Pocketful of Dreams and that Jerimiah is hoping to hire in A Ration Book Christmas.

In addition, Kate’s Kitchen, the eating house which Mattie and Patrick's sister Kate ran and was situated on the Highway, made it through to the 20th century and featured in all of Nurse Millie and Nurse Connie books but was updated and called Kate's Cafe. I've also used it again in my previous book Pocketful of Dreams and the current one, A Ration Book Christmas. 

I've reused some of the less salubrious locations too. In A Glimpse at Happiness the villainess Ma Tugman operated her brutal waterside empire from the Boatman public house, the self-same public house where Nurse Millie Meets Jim Smith in All Change for Nurse Millie. It’s also one of the pubs Queenie frequents in the Brogan series. 

I've also reincarnated Mooney's doss house in Spitalfields where Aggie Wilcox, the prostitute Kate's estranged husband Freddie takes up with in Hold on to Hope, becomes Fry House. This is now the clinic where Connie, in Wedding Bells for Nurse Connie, works. 

Of course, there are lots of other smaller links through the various series Glasson & Glasson the unscrupulous solicitors who aided Amos Stebbins fraudulent financial dealing are the same solicitors who evicted Millie’s mother Doris from her home and there are many others. 

Of course, I'm not the only author to do this but for me, all my characters and their offspring continue to live and thrive which is how I’m able to convince you they do, too even when the story on the page is finished. 

Ration Book Christmas. In the darkest days of the Blitz, Christmas is more important than ever.

With Christmas 1940 approaching, the Brogan family of London's East End are braving the horrors of the Blitz. With the men away fighting for King and Country and the ever-present dangers of the German Luftwaffe's nightly reign of death and destruction, the family must do all they can to keep a stiff upper lip.

For Jo, the youngest of the Brogan sisters, the perils of war also offer a new-found freedom. Jo falls in love with Tommy, a man known for his dangerous reputation as much as his charm. But as the falling bombs devastate their neighbourhood and rationing begins to bite, will the Brogans manage to pull together a traditional family Christmas? And will Jo find the love and security she seeks in a time of such grave peril?

Read my review of A Ration Book Christmas by clicking here

About The Author

Jean Fullerton is the author of eleven novels all set in East London where she was born. She worked as a district nurse in East London for over twenty-five years and is now a full-time author. 

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 has won multiple awards and all her books are set in her native East London. Her latest book, A RATION BOOK CHRISTMAS, is the second in her East London WW2 Ration Book series featuring sisters Mattie, Jo and Cathy Brogan and their family. 

Twitter: @JeanFullerton_ 

Huge thanks to Jean for being my Hist Fic Autho
r today and for sharing the amazing threads that bind all of her lovely stories together.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Northern Writer ~ Kay Patrick

I am delighted to bring to Jaffareadstoo this feature which showcases

 the work of authors who have based their work in the North of England

 ✨ Here's northern writer : Kay Patrick ✨

Hello Kay and welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Thank you for spending time with us today.

I was born and brought up in Yorkshire but won a scholarship to RADA when I was sixteen. I acted in Repertory and Television – among television roles were two appearances in the early Dr. Who. One as Nero’s wife in Dr. Who and the Romans – the other as Flower in Dr. Who and the Savages – both with William Hartnell as the Dr. However, I gradually became more interested in working with and developing writers and gave up acting. I joined BBC radio drama script department in London – eventually directing the scripts I worked on. After some years I devolved my job to Manchester – feeling that there was a sub text to northern writing that I understood. I couldn’t explain what it was – I still can’t. I eventually also began directing in theatre and television. Coronation Street was the programme I directed most regularly.

There’s something in the northern landscapes that really appeals to me. There’s a grittiness, a toughness as well as great beauty.

 My novel The Trial of Marie Montrecourt is set in Harrogate, Leeds and Ilkley in the early 1900s. It’s loosely based on a Victorian crime I discovered some years ago while researching for a potential television drama series. That particular story was never used – but it stayed with me. The woman who perpetrated the crime I disliked but there were fascinating coincidences and an unusual end and I wanted to create my own world where the reader would understand why my character could have been driven to take the action she did. I also loved weaving a story that the reader wouldn’t want to put down. I moved it to Yorkshire because by now I was in the north and that middle-class society contrasted strongly with the London world inhabited by my other central character. It would seem that whatever sub text affected me when I was script editing must still be working.


Although writing can be a solitary business - luckily many of my friends are authors and most of them northern so we can have a good moan. For further support, I think organisations like Promoting Yorkshire Authors are excellent and important and helpful – otherwise you can feel you’re working in a vacuum. As I am not very good at promoting my own work they can make suggestions for outlets and point out events such as literary festivals and they aim to give a higher profile to the writing talent that is happening in the north. in the north too there are still some independent bookshops which are very encouraging to local authors. One can only hope they continue to survive.

Twitter @KpatrickAuthor

Huge thanks to Kay for being my special guest on the blog today

Coming next : Sam McColl

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Candlestick Press ~ The All Night Bookshop by David Belbin

Candlestick Press
September 2018
My thanks to Candlestick Press for my copy of this story

An elusive owner who lives on the top floor but is never seen… customers who turn up after midnight in slippers and dressing gown, driven by an urgent desire for a book about Icelandic myths or pottery… a beautiful and insomniac manager who is blind in one eye…

The ingredients of David Belbin’s intriguing tale take us into a shadowy world that seems to exist somewhere between reality and dream. The mysteries deepen as the story unfolds and then there is also love, never spoken or acknowledged, but somehow amplified amid the hushed aisles and dusty shelves.

This is a story for all those who love books and bookshops – or indeed for anyone who simply enjoys a good old-fashioned yarn.

My Thoughts...

When I was little girl there was a local shop which looked very similar to this one, with windows on both sides it curved around the edge of the street. Wonderfully dark inside, it was filled with all sorts of delicious things, the smell of sweet and sugary, the crackle of newspapers and the sharp tang of paperback books. It was a treasure trove and I loved it.

The All Night Bookshop conjures the world of the old fashioned book store quite perfectly, from the  display-free dusty front window there is something quite special about opening the door to a magical world of books. Books which come in every shape and size and which cover five floors, from the basement to the attic where the mysterious shop owner lives.

Beautifully compact at just over five and a bit pages, The All Night Bookshop is a lesson in short story perfection and will appeal to all  those who love books and bookshops. It's such clever little story written with so much care and attention to tiny detail, it leave you with a lovely warm feeling inside,

There's also two lovely poems to enjoy :

from Bookshops by Jim Burns

"It's difficult to find one these days,
a dusty place piled high with books,
and looked after by an old man
sitting in a corner by an electric fire "

 from Silver Moon by Jackie Kay

"And by the silvery light of the bookshop you grew up

By the open door, standing alone, together
Other readers as engrossed, browsing, basking"

David Belbin is the author of The Pretender, Bone and Cane and numerous novels for young adults. His short stories have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. More can be found in Provenance: New and Collected Stories from Shoestring Press.

Includes poems by Jim Burns and Jackie Kay.

Cover illustration by Steven Hubbard.

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously-produced poetry pamphlets, as well as short prose fiction and non-fiction. The pamphlets make a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Home, Clouds, Football and Kindness. Short stories include Gift of the Old One and Holly and Ivy, while The Wood in Winter is a highly-popular non-fiction title. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.

Twitter @poetrycandle


Review ~ Roar by Cecelia Ahern

Harper Collins
1 November 2018
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Have you ever imagined a different life?

Have you ever stood at a crossroads, undecided? Have you ever had a moment when you wanted to roar?

From much-loved, international bestseller Cecelia Ahern come stories for all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared to The Woman Who Returned and Exchanged her Husband, discover thirty touching, often hilarious, stories and meet thirty very different women. Each discovers her strength; each realizes she holds the power to make a change.

Witty, tender, surprising, these keenly observed tales speak to us all, and capture the moment when we all want to roar.

My thoughts about it..

Roar is an interesting grouping of thirty short stories which, collectively, look at the myriad of sensitive issues which beset women every day. From The Woman Who Slowly Disappeared, which is such a clever opener to the book, to the utter strength of The Woman Who Roared, which concludes the collection, there is, quite literally, something for everyone. Any woman who has ever been made to feel as though she doesn't matter, or who finds herself being overlooked in matters of life, love and business will find something in Roar which resonates and rings so true you will find, as you continue to read, that you are nodding your head in complete understanding.

If you are familiar with the way this author writes, you will know that she always has a firm grasp of the here and now which she cleverly intersperses with her special blend of magical realism, and this theme is certainly continued in this set of short stories, some of which are quite magical but never whimsical, whilst others shout loud and clear that women can and will make their voices heard, in world where, even 100 years after the suffragette movement, women are still being used, abused and exploited and ignored.

As I've mentioned before, I'm something of a short story butterfly, and happily flit from story to story, never sequentially, but always with an eye on the title of the story, and the promise of what's inside. For me Roar is like a garden filled with the most colourful flowers, and this short story butterfly thoroughly enjoyed sampling each and every flower in this quite special short story collection.

Cecelia Ahern was born and grew up in Dublin. She is now published in nearly fifty countries, and has sold over twenty-four million copies of her novels worldwide. Two of her books have been adapted as films and she has created several TV series. 

She and her books have won numerous awards, including the Irish Book Award for Popular Fiction for The Year I Met You. She lives in Dublin with her family.

Twitter @Cecelia_Ahern #Roar



Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Blog Tour ~ Love and Fame by Susie Boyt

✨Jaffareadstoo is pleased to be involved in the Love and Fame Blog Tour✨

7 June 2018

My thanks to the author, publisher and Random Things Tours for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

Susie Boyt's sixth novel is the story of the first year of a marriage. Eve a nervous young actress from a powerful theatrical dynasty has found herself married to an international expert on anxiety called Jim. Could it work? Should it work? Must the show always go on? This is a highly-strung comedy about love, fame, grief, show business and the depths of the gutter press. Its witty and sincere tone - familiar to fans of Susie's newspaper column - will delight and unnerve in equal measure.

My thoughts about it..

Beatrice, a bereavement counsellor, her sister Rebecca, a journalist, don't seem, on the surface to have anything in common with Eve Swift and yet, this nervous young actress, who comes from a well-known theatrical family are soon to meet, and when they do their worlds collide in fascinating way. 

From the start it is obvious that Eve is riddled with insecurities, never quite matching up to the ideology of her talented, and very famous, actor father, and even being newly married to Jim, who is an expert on anxiety issues, is for Eve both a blessing and a curse. Beatrice and Rebecca have their own deep rooted problems, closely bonded since the death of their mother when they were children, Beatrice has always protected and looked after Rebecca, they still have a strong relationship which has continued long into adulthood.

Mostly Love and Fame is about grief and loss and how we cope in so many different ways, not just with the loss of people who are dear to us but also in the shared grief of past traumas and missed opportunities. And yet, it's not a sad book, far from it, parts of it made me laugh and smile at the absurdity of people's behaviour and reactions, whilst other beautifully written sentences struck a deep chord of acknowledgment. Love and Fame is an altogether different view of living with loss, and, for Eve especially, of coping with that loss in the full glare of unwanted public scrutiny. 

Within the novel there’s skilful writing and some lovely observations, which, on occasion, I had to go back and re-read and like a comfort blanket, this sentence stayed with me "Loss lapped at her feet, it bit at her heels. She had made friends with it, bathed in it, wore it like an overall" Loss distinguished her.” I think we’ve all shared that emotion at one time, or another.

About the Author

The daughter of Suzy Boyt and artist Lucian Freud, and great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud. Susie Boyt was educated at Channing and at Camden School for Girls and read English at St Catherine's College, Oxford, graduating in 1992. Working variously at a PR agency, and a literary agency, she completed her first novel, The Normal Man, which was published in 1995 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. She returned to university to do a Masters in Anglo American Literary Relations at University College London studying the works of Henry James and the poet John Berryman.

To date she has published six novels. In 2008, she published My Judy Garland Life, a layering of biography, hero-worship and self-help. Her journalism includes an ongoing column in the weekend Life & Arts section of the Financial Times. She is married to Tom Astor, a film producer. They live with their two daughters in London.

Twitter @SusieBoyt #LoveAndFame



Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Blog Tour ~ Paris in the Dark by Robert Olen Butler

Jaffareadstoo is pleased to be involved in the Blog Tour 

Paris in the Dark

No Exit Press
25 October 2018

My thanks to the publishers and Random Things Tours for my copy of this book
and the invitation to the blog tour.

AUTUMN 1915. The First World War is raging across Europe. Woodrow Wilson has kept Americans out of the trenches, although that hasn’t stopped young men and women from crossing the Atlantic to volunteer at the front. 

Christopher Marlowe ‘Kit’ Cobb, a Chicago reporter and undercover agent for the US government is in Paris when he meets an enigmatic nurse called Louise. Officially in the city for a story about American ambulance drivers, Cobb is grateful for the opportunity to get to know her but soon his intelligence handler, James Polk Trask, extends his mission. Parisians are meeting ‘death by dynamite’ in a new campaign of bombings, and the German-speaking Kit seems just the man to discover who is behind this – possibly a German operative who has infiltrated with the waves of refugees? And so begins a pursuit that will test Kit Cobb, in all his roles, to the very limits of his principles, wits and talents for survival. 

Fleetly plotted and engaging with political and cultural issues that resonate deeply today, Paris in the Dark is the finest novel yet in this riveting series.

My thoughts about it..

It's autumn of 1915 and Paris is a very dark place, incendiary devices are being deployed on the Parisian boulevards, and with only a vague idea of who could be behind these atrocities, Christopher Marlowe 'Kit' Cobb, a US undercover agent, is given the difficult task of infiltrating the network of a possible German source. Running alongside Kit Cobb's devilish pursuit of the clever perpetrators is a rather interesting connection, which in his guise as a Chicago news reporter he meets hospital nurse, Louise Pickering, a relationship which becomes more important as the story progresses.

Paris in the Dark is first book by this author I have read and even though this is now the fourth novel in the Christopher Marlowe Cobb series of early twentieth century crime thrillers I found it very easy to become involved in the story. I don't feel that I have missed anything by not having met Cobb before in previous adventures, that he is adventurous goes without saying however, Cobb is also fiercely intelligent and won't leave any clue uninvestigated until he has what he wants. There's a fair amount of political background to the story, specifically around the United States president's reluctance to involve the US in the escalating troubles on the Western Front, which I quite found fascinating. 

Thanks to the author's skilful writing, and excellent attention to even the smallest of detail, there is a distinct sensation of living through a dark and dangerous time; this comes across in the starkness and yet, lyrical quality, of the writing. The detailed description of meeting a train filled with wounded soldiers is bleakly evocative, filled with the sights, sounds and smells of broken and pain wracked men, and is something which will stay with me for a long time. 

Paris in the Dark is a compelling literary thriller, filled with the shadowy menace of a dark and dangerous period in WW1 history.

Drawing on his own experience as a war veteran and news reporter, Robert Olen Butler has created a page turning thriller of unmistakable literary quality.

Twitter @RobertOlenButler #ParisInTheDark



Monday, 5 November 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Word for Freedom: edited by Amanda Saint and Rose McGinty

 Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's Blog Tour stop

The Word for Freedom : Short stories celebrating women's suffrage and raising money for Hestia

Retreat West
1 November 2018

My thanks to the publisher, authors and Random Things Tours for my
copy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

A collection of 24 short stories celebrating a hundred years of women’ suffrage, from both established and emerging authors, all of whom have been inspired by the suffragettes and whose stories, whether set in 1918, the current day or the future, focus on the same freedoms that those women fought for so courageously.

A clerk of works at the Palace of Westminster encounters Emily Davison in a broom cupboard; a mermaid dares to tread on land to please the man she loves; a school girl friendship makes the suffragette protests relevant to the modern day; a mother leaves her child for a tree; an online troll has to face his target; and a woman caught in modern day slavery discovers a chance for freedom in a newspaper cutting.

These stories and many more come together in a collection that doesn’t shy away from the reality of a woman’s world, which has injustices and inequalities alongside opportunities and hard-won freedoms, but always finds strength, bravery and hope.

Through this anthology Retreat West Books is proud to support Hestia and the UK Says No More campaign against domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Authors that have donated stories include:

* Sophie Duffy, author of The Generation Game;

* Angela Readman, Costa Short Story Award winner;

* Anna Mazzola, author of The Story Keepers and winner of the Edgar Allen Poe award;

* Isabel Costello, author of Paris, Mon Amour and host of The Literary Sofa blog;

* Angela Clarke, best-selling author of the Social Media Murders series;

* Karen Hamilton, author of The Perfect Girlfriend;

* Helen Irene Young, author of The May Queen;

* Victoria Richards, journalist and award-winning short story writer; and

* Cath Bore, feminist short story writer and broadcaster.

Here are my thoughts about it..

I'm a bit of a butterfly when it comes to short story reading and rarely ever read a book of them in sequential order, so with The Word For Freedom, I followed tradition and jumped right in with The Silent Woman by Anna Mazola which comes mid-way in the book. I was intrigued by the story, which is only a couple of pages long, and yet, it made me stop and consider the effect of modern slavery, a term we hear far too often, and one which should make us deeply ashamed every time we hear it.

I then flipped back to the start of the book and went back into the past and entered into the Palace of Whitehall, where in Counting for England by Christine Powell, we are treated to the story of Emily Davison, the suffragette, who deliberately locked herself into the broom cupboard on the night of the 1911 census. Told from the point of view of the clerk of works, there's a nice little twist to the story, again its just a couple of pages long, but which conveys its message, loud and clear. I also loved, Women Don't Kill Animals by Carolyn Sanderson, and found myself cheering by the end of it. So many stories, far too many to single out, but which all made me stop, think, and consider the lives of women both past, present and future.

The Word for Freedom, written to celebrate 100 years of women's suffrage, continues the message that women's voices must be heard. In the book's 231 pages there really is something for everyone one to enjoy and consider, and whilst I have mentioned just a few by name, I have to say that all the stories have something rather special about them.

From the enigmatic, Word for Freedom by Isabel Costello, which opens the stories, to the stark message conveyed in a final suffragette story, Brick by Rachel Rivett  which concludes the book with a strong message, and whose final words made me think long and hard about how far we have come and yet, it would seem, it's nowhere near far enough..

Retreat West Books is an independent press publishing paperback books and ebooks.

Founder, Amanda Saint, is a novelist and short story writer. She’s also a features journalist writing about environmental sustainability and climate change. So all Retreat West Books publications take advantage of digital technology advances and are print-on-demand, in order to make best use of the world’s finite resources. Retreat West Books is an arm of Amanda’s creative writing business, Retreat West, through which she runs fiction writing retreats, courses and competitions and provides editorial services.

Initially started to publish the anthologies of winning stories in the Retreat West competitions, Retreat West Books is now open for submissions for short story collections, novels and memoirs. Submission info can be found here.

Twitter: @RetreatWest #WordForFreedom




Sunday, 4 November 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered - Blog Tour ~ The Glorious Dead by Tim Atkinson

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's The Glorious Dead Blog Tour stop 

1 November 2018
My thanks to the author, publisher and Random Things tours for my ecopy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

What's it all about..

What happened when the Great War ended and the guns stopped firing? Who cleared the battlefields and buried the dead? 

It's 1918 and the war may be over but Lance-Corporal Jack Patterson and the men of his platoon are still knee-deep in Flanders mud, searching the battlefields for the remains of 
comrades killed in action. 

But duty isn't all that's keeping Jack in Flanders. For one there is Katia, the daughter of a local publican, with whom he has struck up a romance. And then there is something else, a secret that lies buried in Jack's past, one he hopes isn't about to be dug up...

My Thoughts about it..

If you've been to the WW1 cemeteries of northern Europe, you will know that, even after a hundred years, the sight of row upon row of headstones, lasting memorials to the gallant fallen, you are looking at something you will never forget. I hadn’t considered just what a mammoth task it was, at the end of WW1, to try to locate the remains of bodies, or to re-bury those who had been so hastily buried in shallow graves usually where they had fallen in the midst of battle.

The Glorious Dead introduces us to a team of soldiers who, from the end of the war in 1918, are charged with the task of locating missing bodies which, taken from the mist and mud of Flanders, can be then reburied in recognised war graves. It's a gruesome task and not one undertaken easily and yet, for some of men, it is almost a way of putting the past into perspective, and of trying to move into some sort of uneasy future. 

Lance-Corporal Jack Patterson and the group of men who work alongside him, usually chest deep in the cloying mud of a Flanders field, do so with a cheerfulness that belies so many deep seated psychological wounds. Shared bravado and hidden secrets, cheeky songs and the consumption of many pints of strong Belgian beer, help the group to put their gruesome task into some sort of perspective.

The author, with a real sense of time and place, allows WW1 history to come alive, exploring the after effects of the war in a very readable way. There are some really nice touches in the book, descriptions of grieving families who went looking for their loved ones, and of the clandestine nature of choosing, and then repatriating, the body of the Unknown Soldier.

In this special anniversary year of the centenary of the Armistice, it is important to remember that the effects of the war didn't end with the cease of hostilities, and that the repercussions of this violent conflict were felt for so many years afterwards. The Glorious Dead is not just about the collective grief of a nation but it’s also about the natural order of things being re-established, of farmers who needed to have their fields restored, of towns and villages being reconstructed from shattered ruins, and of the mending of hearts after so many years of being broken.

Tim Atkinson is a teacher, author and award-winning blogger. He studied philosophy at the University of Hull and has worked variously as a filing clerk, lay-clerk, chain-man and school teacher. He was born in Colchester, brought up in Yorkshire and now lives in Lincolnshire.

Twitter @dotterel