Wednesday 28 February 2018

Blog Tour ~ Meal of Fortune by Philip Brady

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on 

The Meal of Fortune Blog Tour

November 2018

My thanks to the Author and Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour
Failing celebrity agent Dermot Jack thinks his luck might have turned when a mysterious Russian oligarch hires him to represent his pop star daughter. Disaffected MI5 officer Anna Preston is just as happy to be handed the chance to resurrect her own career. Little do they know that their paths are about to cross again after seventeen years as they're thrown together in a desperate attempt to lure a notorious arms dealer into a highly unusual trap. Hard enough without having to deal with the lecherous celebrity chef trying to save his daytime TV career or the diminutive mafia enforcer who definitely has his own agenda. Then there's the very impatient loan shark who 'just wants his money back'. And Anna's bosses are hardly playing it straight either. But one thing's for sure. There'll be winners and losers when the Meal of Fortune finally stops spinning. Oh, and another thing, Anna and Dermot are absolutely not about to fall in love again. That's never going to happen, OK?

My thoughts about it..

Take Dermot Jack, a celebrity agent down on his luck, add an MI5 special agent determined to make her mark, and mix together with a fabulously wealthy Russian oligarch and you have all the ingredients for a super slick crime thriller. That this crime thriller also has a quirky songstress, a  place at the Eurovision song contest and a touch of mafia involvement makes it all the more interesting.

Caught in the hectic confusion of Dermot Jack's life, his quest to turn the tide of his fortune means that against his better judgement he gets drawn into the murky world of shady deals, and the problem he has of trying to keep track of who wants to hunt him down is all part of the fun of this book. The author writes well and has a sharp eye for quirky detail which adds so much spirit to the story, I found that I was soon quite engrossed in all the dark dealings which are written about with such a lightness of touch that it's difficult to put the book down.

The Meal of Fortune took me on whirlwind of a journey, from the quirky to the serious and back again, there is certainly never a dull moment in this decidedly different comedy crime thriller.

About the Author

I was first inspired to write when I read Lord of The Rings as a child. Back then the ambition was to create a whole fantasy world with dragons and sword fights. Sadly George RR Martin seems to have cornered that market, so I now try to comedy thrillers set in the (almost) real world instead. These feature spies, gangsters, vicious (if feckless) criminals, washed-up private detectives and daytime TV presenters. The Meal of Fortune is my first published novel. It is the first in a planned trilogy of comedy thrillers parodying society’s obsession with celebrity.

The follow-up, Tinker Tailor Solider Chef, sees the characters reunited in an attempt to foil a plot by the world’s most secretive intelligence agency (The Belgians) to bring the UK economy to its knees. The final book, centres on a referendum in Wales to decide whether the country should sell itself to an international technology giant for use as a conveniently located tax haven. It will be loosely based on the hilarious 80s film Local Hero.

My main rule in life is to never let tomato ketchup touch any food that is green. I am yet to work out any deep meaning behind this and suspect it is not the soundest of principles by which to live your life. But it’s better than quite a few I’ve come across down the years. Best not to get started on that one though.

I live in London with my fantastic wife and two remarkable children and didn’t vote for BREXIT

Twitter @philbradyUK #MealofFortune

Blog tour runs until the 10th March. Do visit the other stops.


Tuesday 27 February 2018

London Book Fair 2018...


Bookings now open for LBF’s Agent One-to-One programme

News for release, 2 March 2018: The London Book Fair (LBF), the UK’s biggest gathering of international publishers and agents, has announced bookings are now open for its Agent One-to-One programme, which will take place in LBF’s Author HQ - the area of the Fair dedicated to writers and aspiring writers.

The Agent One-to-One programme offers Author HQ attendees the opportunity to meet with a leading literary agent, who will be on hand to offer advice on the publishing process and provide feedback on authors’ pitches and ideas. 

Participating agents this year include representatives from AM Heath, Darley Anderson, David Higham Associates, DKW Literary Agency, MBA, Peters Fraser & Dunlop, Sheil Land Associates and Susanna Lea Associates. Between them, the agents’ areas of interest cover everything from children’s publishing, middle grade and YA, to SF and fantasy, as well as literary fiction, commercial fiction, historical fiction and crime thrillers. Narrative non-fiction and memoir are also covered.

Meetings are by appointment only, and need to be booked in advance of the Fair

How to book:

Tickets cost £25 and appointments can be booked by visiting: 

Asif Sardar, previous participant in LBF’s Agent One-to-One programme said: “It was a pleasure to meet up with a professional agent who was interested in my work and offered insightful opinions. Highly recommended for anyone looking to step out from the secret garden of isolated authoring into the daunting world of commercial publishing.

Author HQ, one of the most popular features of the Fair, will have plenty on offer for both established and aspiring writers, including a three-day seminar programme with industry experts and authors taking to the stage to share their expertise and experience. All Author HQ events are free-to-attend with the purchase of a three-day pass, required to access The London Book Fair.


For all you Budding Authors...

The London Book Fair’s ever-popular writing competition issues Call for Entries for 2018!

London, 20 February 2018: The London Book Fair (LBF), the UK’s biggest gathering of international publishers and agents, has announced the Call for Entries for its ever-popular writing competition, The Write Stuff, which will take place on Thursday 12 April in LBF’s Author HQ - the area of the Fair dedicated to writers and aspiring writers, which is sponsored by IngramSpark and Kindle Direct Publishing.

The competition takes the form of a “Dragon’s Den” style panel event. Six authors will pitch their books to a panel of literary agents, and an Author HQ audience, for the chance to win a follow-up meeting with a literary agent and a free year’s membership to LBF’s Author Club. This year’s panel of judges includes representatives from Felicity Bryan Associates, Jo Unwin Literary Agency, Marjacq, MBA and Peters Fraser & Dunlop.

Authors will have three minutes each to pitch – to introduce themselves and present their work. The judging panel will then provide on-the-spot feedback to each pitch, as well as the authors’ writing, having received in advance of the competition sample chapters of each finalist’s work. 

The key deadlines for this year’s The Write Stuff are:

With immediate effect: Entries are now open and authors are invited to send in their submissions in accordance with the published guidelines and application process

Friday 9 March 2018, 5:00pm: Deadline for entries

Wednesday 14 March 2018: Longlist notified and asked to send in the first three chapters of their work

Monday 19 March 2018, 5:00pm: Deadline for longlisted authors to submit their work

Friday 23 March 2018: The Write Stuff finalists will be notified and invited to pitch on the day

Thursday 12 April 2018, 2:00pm-4:00pm: The Write Stuff competition takes place

Rochelle Bugg, winner of The Write Stuff 2017, said: Winning The Write Stuff has been a fantastic springboard for me over the past year. It has helped me sign with an agent, given me valuable extra ‘clout’ when speaking with publishers and, perhaps most importantly, renewed my confidence in my book and my ideas.” 

The winner of the 2018 competition will be announced on the day. Whilst the judging panel deliberate, last year’s winner, Rochelle Bugg, will take part in a Q&A in Author HQ to update on her year since her competition win. 

Susannah Stapleton, a previous finalist in The Write Stuff competition, will see the book she pitched at the event in 2016, The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective, published by Pan Macmillan in 2019. 

Author HQ, one of the most popular features of the Fair, will have plenty on offer for both established and aspiring writers, including a three-day seminar programme with industry experts and authors taking to the stage to share their expertise and experience. Aspiring authors and established authorpreneurs will be also able to meet the book marketing and production experts offering the go-to solutions for self-publishing success in The Writer’s Block – the destination for Author Services at the Fair, located next to Author HQ.

All Author HQ events are free-to-attend with the purchase of a three-day pass which also includes access to LBF’s extensive Insights Seminar programme of 200+ events covering all aspects of the publishing industry. Seminar places are allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Information on how to enter the The Write Stuff competition is below and can also be found at: For further information about The London Book Fair and ticket information, please visit

The Write Stuff - Entry criteria

Authors wishing to enter The Write Stuff competition should email putting The Write Stuff in the subject heading of their email and send a covering note and synopsis about the book they would like to pitch to the agent panel and why they should be chosen. Entries should be in the main body of the email – please do not send attachments. 250 words total word count for each application, including any covering note

Authors may enter up to two separate books. The deadline to enter is Friday 9 March 2018, 5:00pm - entries received after this will not be considered

The six finalists will be notified on Friday 23 March 2018

The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered in to

Applicants must have at least three sample chapters of their work available to be considered for entry

Published deadlines are final and no extensions will be offered 

Good Luck !!


Monday 26 February 2018

Review ~ A Country Escape by Katie FForde

22 February 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
Even though Fran is frightened of cows, she has always wanted to be a farmer. So when the opportunity arises for her to take over the running of a dilapidated Cotswold farm, she does so with a certain amount of trepidation. Her Aunt Amy has had to go into a nursing home and has informed Fran that if she makes a success of running the farm she will inherit it and all the responsibility that goes with it. With a little help from her best friend, Issi and also the support of Anthony, her eligible and wealthy neighbour, Fran does her best to make things work out but then something unexpected occurs which scuppers her plans and puts the farm under threat.

What then follows is a charming story which incorporates all the trademarks of this talented writer. The delightful characterisation sits comfortably alongside wonderful descriptions of farm life and Fran's venture into cheese making made me long for a golden slice of cheddar and a crisp green apple. The countryside comes gloriously alive and the distinctly pastoral feel combines perfectly in a story which is both warm and witty and then happy and sad. I loved getting to know Fran and such is the charm of her personality that I couldn't help but want her to succeed, and as the story progressed I become totally immersed in Fran's life at Hill Top Farm.

Curled up in my favourite reading chair, cup of tea in hand, I knew that from very start of A Country Escape I was going to love spending time at Hill Top Farm in the company of Fran and her friends.

Katie Fforde lives in the beautiful Cotswold countryside with her family and is a true country girl at heart. Each of her books explores a different profession or background and her research has helped to bring these to life.

Twitter @KatieFforde

Sunday 25 February 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Ordinary Lives of The First World War

After the outbreak of war in August 1914, a huge civilian army was needed, and in the first 8 weeks over 750,000 men had signed up.


The Photograph show recruits at the Whitehall Recruiting Office, London. 

Britain's declaration of war on Germany on 4 August 1914 was greeted for the most part with popular enthusiasm, and resulted in a rush of men to enlist.

 © IWM (Q 42033)

As an army officer reads out the oath, four young men hold Bibles and confirm their allegiance at a recruitment office. 

Photograph taken at Treaty Lodge, Hounslow, the HQ of the 8th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, in September 1917.

© IWM (Q 30071)
Nicholls, Horace (Photographer) 

Oath of Attestation

I ____________swear by Almighty God, that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George the Fifth, his Heirs and Successors, and that I will as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, his Heirs and Successors in Person, Crown and dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, and of the General and Officers set over me. So help me God.

Certificate of Magistrate of Attesting Officer

The Recruit above me named was cautioned by me that if he made any false answers to the above questions  he would be liable to be punished as provided in the Army Act.

The above questions were then read to the recruit in my presence.

I have taken care that he understands each questions and that his answer to each question has been duly entered as replied to  , and the said recruit has made and signed the declaration and taken the oath before me.

at___________on this ________day of _______191

The army couldn't accept every volunteer and and all recruits had to pass a series of medical examinations. All new soldiers had to meet age restrictions, nationality criteria, and pass a medical examination. This was designed to reject those with health conditions and a physique deemed unfit for the rigours of a soldier's life and role. However, in the chaos of early 1914, a blind eye was often turned to official standards. Examinations could be brief and hasty, allowing many underage or unfit men to slip through into the Army.

Source : Imperial War Museum


Saturday 24 February 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ Sarah Mallory

On Hist fic Saturday I am delighted to welcome to Jaffareadstoo

Historical Fiction Writer

Why I write historical fiction

Writing historical fiction is not an option for me, it is a necessity. I get withdrawal symptoms if I am away from my writing for more than a week or two! I fell in love with history when I was at school, thanks to a wonderful teacher who used to draw us into the subject with "gossip" about the period, putting flesh on the bare bones or dates and events. I became fascinated by the way people lived, how their lives were shaped by the times in which they lived. 

As a teenager I read Jane Austen and loved the language and manners of the late 18th/early 19th century, which we now tend to call the Regency (although in fact the future George IV of England was only Regent from 1811 to 1820). After that it was a natural progression to Georgette Heyer. I immersed myself in her Regency world and by the time she died in 1974 I had read every book she had written, and decided that the only way to get my Regency "fix" was to write the darn things myself! My first three novels were published in the early 1980's, under the pen name of Melinda Hammond. A dozen or so more books followed, albeit slowly (my writing career severely curtailed by having a family and several animals to look after!) then in 2008 I sold my first historical to Harlequin Mills & Boon, writing as Sarah Mallory.

It might be helpful if I digress a little here and explain why I write under two names. I chose Melinda Hammond as a pen name when I started writing, and use it for my traditional "sweet" Regencies (which go no further than a kiss) as well as a varied selection of historicals, ranging from a World War Two short story to a dual-time book set during the Crusades (more about that one later). When I began my career with Harlequin Mills & Boon, I decided that a separate name would be better, because these historical romances are a little hotter, that is, they go beyond the bedroom door, and it is important for the reader to know just what they are getting! 

I now have more than 25 books published as Sarah Mallory, all Georgian or Regency romances. This is my favourite period and I have been researching it ever since reading Austen and Heyer all those years ago. There is so much I love about the period, the costumes, manners and the characters, like Lady Hester Stanhope. She started out keeping house for her uncle, the British Prime minister William Pitt the Younger, and in 1810 left England to travel abroad. She was shipwrecked on the island of Rhodes but continued her travels in the near and Middle East. She crossed the desert dressed as a Bedouin and became something of a celebrity. She ended her days almost as a monarch of a small territory in what is now Lebanon.

I first came across Lady Hester when I was researching The Earl's Runaway Bride. The book opens in Corunna, Spain, during the Peninsular War, and I was reading up about Sir John Moore, who led the retreat to Corunna, chased by Napoleon's troops and managed to save the British Army from total annihilation. He is buried on the heights above Corunna and has a large tomb in the town, where he is revered as a great soldier and saviour of Spain. He and Lady Hester were great friends and it was rumoured they planned to marry.

Sir John Moore's Tomb
© by kind permission

It was after Sir John's death at the Battle of Corunna that Lady Hester set off on her adventures, and reading about her life gave me the inspiration for a more recent book, The Duke's Secret Heir, where my hero and heroine meet in the Egyptian desert.

Britain was at war for most of the Regency period, so battles play a major part in the background to my stories. I really enjoy battlefield tours. My first was a superb tour through Spain looking at the battles in the early part of the Peninsular War, culminating in the Battle of Corunna and I have been lucky enough to go to Waterloo twice, the second time in 2015 to see a fantastic re-enactment of the battle on its bicentenary. There is so much to learn from these re-enactments, from wandering about the camps and seeing how the soldiers lived (albeit the re-enactors's living conditions are probably a little cleaner and more hygienic than the original) to watching the battle commence, and realising just how high the corn was – plenty of room for riflemen to hide! 

© by kind permission

I have tried writing contemporary fiction, I really have, but somehow it always comes back to the history. My first attempt at a contemporary turned into a dual time novel – this was Moonshadows (writing as Melinda Hammond), which starts out with a young marketing graduate falling in love with a rich entrepreneur, but life becomes complicated when she thinks she is being haunted by an 18th century nobleman! My next – again writing as Melinda Hammond – was Casting Samson (which I describe as the Vicar of Dibley meets Ivanhoe). It is set in a quintessential English village and revolves around finding someone to play Samson in a pageant for the local church. Again, history plays a big part, and alongside the modern-day romance I found myself writing the story of a crusader and his lost love.

My latest book, The Ton's Most Notorious Rake, was inspired by what I have learned over the years about the plight of "fallen women" during the Regency. Very few women had any security during that period. They were reliant upon their fathers to look after them until they married when they became the property of their husbands. If the son of a household seduced a serving maid, she was most likely to lose her job and be cast out without a reference. If she became pregnant, her chances of finding employment (other than as a prostitute) were almost non-existent. It was not much better for those women from wealthier families. Very few had money of their own, and if they did not wish to marry, about the only "respectable" way to support themselves was as a governess or a companion. A man might be as "rakish" as he pleased, but once a young woman lost her reputation she was ruined.

Mills & Boon
22 February 2018

I wanted to redress the balance a bit, so I decided that my heroine, Molly, would do something about this sad state of affairs. She sets up a house to help some of these poor women. Naturally, she is very concerned when a notorious rake arrives in the area, and this sets the scene for some very lively encounters.

It is impossible to ignore some of the darker aspects of the past, but as a historical novelist my priority is to entertain. However, if I can whet the reader's appetite to go on and learn more about a particular period in history then that is a bonus. It is, after all, the way I started!


Sarah Mallory was born in the West Country and grew up with a love of books and history. She has had over 40 historical novels published and won the Rona Rose Award from the Romantic Novelists Association in 2012 and 2013.

You can find her on Twitter @SarahMRomance, Facebook as Melinda SarahMallory Hammond or on her website,

Sarah Mallory Books on Amazon UK 

The Ton's Most Notorious Rake was published yesterday by Harlequin Mills and Boon.

A huge thank you to Sarah for being such a lovely guest today 

and for sharing with us her love of historical fiction.


Friday 23 February 2018

Review ~ Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

Pan Macmillan
8 March 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Pop...1 Pop...2 Pop...3

When a gunman enters the McKinley Elementary School, six year old, Zach, his teacher Miss Russell, and the rest of his class huddle together in the closet, however, the pop, pop, pop, of gun fire can be clearly heard. Hiding in the dark and with no clear knowledge of what is happening they wait for someone to save them. When help finally arrives, the nightmare begins, and, in the aftermath of the tragedy, the small community around McKinley need to face up to the knowledge that such a despicable act happened on their doorstep.

Current and timely, in light of the recent school shooting in the US, Only Child gives us the story from the perspective of six year old Zach. It is his voice that leads us through the aftermath; his are the thoughts, feelings and observations, as is the way he perceives what the grown-ups around him are doing. His father, Jim immersed in his work no longer has time to listen and Zach's mother, Melissa, buries her grief and sorrow in a hate campaign against the perpetrator and always seems to be angry.

Insightful, sensitive and acutely observed, the author has with a subtle and delicate touch recreated the voice of a child and even as Zach struggles to explore his thoughts and feelings, so the adults around him are also trying to make sense of a world gone mad. Such is the strength of the story that my heart ached for Zach who desperately needed some TLC and good trauma counselling and yet his feelings, so very often, seemed to be brushed aside as the ‘grown ups’ slid into defence and attack mode.

All too often these terrible atrocities flash onto our TV screens and the world sits up and takes notice for a little while without ever really considering what happens to these small communities when the TV companies disappear and folks are left trying to pick up the shattered remnants of their lives. Beautifully written and astutely perceptive Only Child shows quite powerfully the trauma of loss, sadness and total incomprehension that surrounds a mass shooting. 

Zach’s story in Only Child brings this powerfully into focus.

About the Author

Rhiannon Navin

Rhiannon Navin grew up in Germany before a career in advertising took her to America. Now a full-time mother and writer, she lives in New York with her husband, three children and two cats.

ONLY CHILD is her first novel and with this story Rhiannon hopes to help bring about change and contribute to the important conversation about US gun control in a meaningful way.

Twitter @rhiannonnavin #OnlyChild

Only Child will be published in hardback on the 8th March by Mantle
Out in ebook now.

Thursday 22 February 2018

Review ~ The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

22 February 2018

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

What's it all about..

In the three years since her husband died in a car accident, Lili has just about managed to resume her day-to-day life as a single mother and successful illustrator. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work and watch TV like a pro. But there's still the small problem of the aching loss she feels inside.

When she's commissioned to illustrate a series of horticultural books, and signs up to a weekly gardening class, finally her life starts to bloom again.

The class provides Lili with a new network of unexpected friends - friends with their own heartaches and problems - and, maybe, another chance at love

My thoughts about it...

Lilian has had her share of life's difficulties but, three years after she was tragically widowed, she is bravely battling on, looking after her two children and keeping her job as a textbook illustrator. When she is offered the opportunity to illustrate a series of vegetable guides she is little taken aback when the proviso for her getting the job is that she must attend a vegetable growing class at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden. This is really far out of her comfort zone but with her children and sister accompanying her, Lilian finds that gardening opens up all sorts of unexpected possibilities.

Getting to know new people gives Lilian new found confidence and it was  interesting to see how her character progressed throughout the story. There are some lovely light hearted moments which made me smile but there also some quite sad reflective moments as Lilian, after a difficult few years, and with the help of her friends starts, to look forward into the future.

The Garden of Small Beginnings is a charming and inspirational story about finding out about what makes you truly happy. The author writes well and the novel has a lovely contemporary feel. I especially enjoyed reading the lovely gardening snippets which are interspersed throughout the novel.

Published today by Sphere.

Twitter @amplecat 

Wednesday 21 February 2018

Author Interview ~ Elisabeth Gifford

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome back to the blog the best selling author

Hi and welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, Elisabeth. Thank you for taking the time to come and talk with us today about your latest novel, The Good Doctor of Warsaw.

Atlantic Books
1 February 2018

Doctor Janusz Korczak is the eponymous doctor in The Good Doctor of Warsaw. Tell us about him and why you decided to tell his story.

I came across his quotes as a young mum and teacher and found them so helpful. You get pressures coming at you from all directions to be perfect and busy and Korczak helped me find a new perspective: he said just know your child and what they need. I began researching Korczak and came across Roman Wroblewski in Sweden, the son of two young teachers who worked with Korczak in the ghetto. So few people survived the ghetto and I realised the story would be lost if I didn’t try and tell it. Above all I wanted to share Korczak’s ideas on listening as the fabric of love. 

The Good Doctor of Warsaw is set in Poland during WW2. In researching the book did you visit Warsaw and did anything leave a lasting impression on you? 

Warsaw itself was an unforgettable experience. It is the site of a double tragedy. First the Jewish ghetto and it’s people were annihilated by the Nazis, then Hitler ordered the rest of Warsaw destroyed. The beautiful medieval centre was rebuilt from old photos and records but the Jewish ghetto is gone apart from a few sections of wall and various pavement markers, and a few buildings. The little white synagogue where Sabina was married is still there – it was a Gestapo stable during the war, as is the church where the girls went to obtain their false papers to escape the ghetto. The original orphanage built by Dr Korczak by some miracle is still standing and largely unchanged. It was an incredible experience to visit the place where he had cared for so many children, and where Misha had been a student teacher.

Mixing historical fact with fiction must be quite a challenge – how do you get the balance right without compromising on authenticity?

I kept to the facts but I did have to fill in missing information such as clothes, conversation and housing from research and then from imagination. I guess it’s the same principle as a historical film where there’s care taken to be accurate and authentic but you have to make decisions about filling in what is missing. Roman read the text and corrected errors which was challenging but essential.

Whilst you are writing you must live with your characters. How did you feel about them when the book was finished? Are they what you expected them to be? 

I feel as though they are friends. Korczak’s words, books, and diary are all part of my life now and he has altered the way I approach relationships and caring for children. I think I put more value on listening and getting to know other people from different cultures and generations as probably the most important thing we can do. It makes for a happier life for children when they feel listened to and safe.

The Good Doctor Of Warsaw is a powerful story and your style of writing is very much ‘from the heart’. Did writing the book take its toll on you emotionally, and if so, how did you overcome it?

Yes, it was quite hard to read so many difficult things. But a story gives the cause and effect between the things that happen so I wanted to show how the ghetto had come about. I didn’t want to make a gratuitous list of difficult things, but rather to include enough to give readers a clear view of the history and of people’s choices and character. I believe it is a story that still informs the way Europe and modern society work and that made me keep going. I did take quite a long break from writing afterwards and fortunately had a restorative trip planned.

Without giving too much away, what do you hope readers will take away from reading The Good Doctor of Warsaw?

We can see childhood as an expert activity belonging to the parents who are under pressure to do it perfectly and may end up pressurising their own children in ways that make them unhappy. Kids don’t just belong to the parents, they belong to themselves, and really their welfare is the concern of all of us. So long as a society puts children as their highest care, then we will have a good nation. And children save us : Korczak said that when nations stop holding on to the hand of a child, then the world flies apart – which is what happened in Nazi Germany and in the Warsaw ghetto when so many children were taken away.

Huge thanks to Elisabeth for sharing her thoughts about The Good Doctor and for her insightful answers to my questions.

You can read my review of the book  here 

More About the Author

Elisabeth Gifford's debut novel, Secrets of the Sea House, was shortlisted for the historical writers' Association Debut Crown. She is married with three children and lives in Kingston Upon Thames.

More about Elisabeth can be found on her website

Find on Facebook

Follow on Twitter @elisabeth04liz #GoodDoctorofWarsaw

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Book Feature ~ The Trip of a Lifetime by Monica McInerney

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to feature the latest novel by Monica McInerney

The Trip of a Lifetime

Michael Joseph
Penguin Random House
8 February 2018

A heart-warming multi-generational drama about homecomings from the Number One
bestselling author, Monica McInerney

I always thought memories were unchangeable. Set in stone, shaped by the years. But there are always others too, ones you haven’t let yourself remember . . . ’ 

The wilful and eccentric Lola Quinlan is off on the trip of a lifetime, taking her beloved granddaughter and great-granddaughter with her. More than sixty years after emigrating to Australia, she’s keeping a secret promise to return to her Irish homeland. 

But as she embarks on her journey, the flamboyant Lola is still hiding the hurtful reasons she left Ireland in the first place. What – and who – will be waiting for her on the other side of the world?

Publishing in February The Trip of a Lifetime is the perfect book to look ahead to spring with and beat the winter blues.  For fans of women’s fiction that packs an emotional punch, readers who enjoy Jojo Moyes,  Marian Keyes and Cathy Kelly will fall in love with Monica’s writing. 

The Trip of a Lifetime shot straight to No. 1 in the Australian bestseller chart and the Top 10 in Ireland.

Those who have followed the fortunes of the Quinlan family which began with The Alphabet Sisters will be pleased to know that A Trip of  a Lifetime which sees Lola returns to her native Ireland, follows, Lola's Secret .

Monica is a superstar in her native Australia - she's the #5 bestselling author across all adult fiction 

Her books have combined worldwide sales of over 1.3 million.

You can find out more about the author on her website 

Find on Facebook

Follow on Twitter @MonicaMcInerney

Monday 19 February 2018

Blog Tour ~ The Last Day by Clare Dyer

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for The Last Day

And to welcome the author

Hi Claire, welcome to Jaffareadstoo and thank you for spending time with us today. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started as an author?

Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me to take part in this Q&A. It’s a real treat! 

I guess I’ve always written (or had aspirations to). I remember sitting at my grandmother’s bureau when I was a girl and writing shockingly bad poems and short stories. I studied English at Birmingham University in the early 80s but then got sucked into the world of work and bringing up my family, so it was only when my kids were in their teens that I finally lifted my head above the parapet and thought, ‘Hey, why not give writing a try again?’ 

I went on a Cornerstones course and met Julie Cohen who introduced me to Reading Writers, the longest-running writing group in Reading and, on joining I began to work with some wonderfully supportive people who weren’t afraid to tell me when I was getting it wrong but who also celebrated with me when I got things right!

From there it was mainly because of the people I met on the way who gave me the encouragement and context to push myself to completing whole novels and then, when I thought I was ready – which I obviously wasn’t – I started the whole submission thing. There have been many rejections along the way, but what’s been fantastic is the whole learning process I’ve been on and the characters who have peopled that journey. I wouldn’t have been without any of them for all the world!

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for The Last Day?

The idea came to me when I was sitting at my desk and I hastily started writing down some notes for it. I wanted the book to be about an older woman and her ex’s new young partner. Originally, it was to be based around four portraits which would represent the changing relationship between the two women. It’s altered a bit along the way, obviously, but I what I wanted to explore was a different paradigm to the norm: one where the women actually liked one another!

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

The novel is told from three viewpoints: Boyd’s, his ex-wife Vita’s and his girlfriend Honey’s. 

When Boyd finds himself in financial straits he asks Vita if he can move back into the home they used to share and bring Honey with him. Vita says yes because she’s over him and it doesn’t bother her either way whether he’s there or not. 

However, living together is unsettling for all of them. Each has their own secrets and desires and the past has the tendency of bumping up against them and knocking them off course. I can’t say too much without giving the game away, but needless to say they each end up in completely different place than the one in which they started!

How do you plan your writing, are you a plotter, or a see where it goes kind of writer?

I’m more of a see-where-it-goes sort of writer. I have a basic plot outline but find that the characters tend to dictate where and how it develops. For example, in The Last Day, Vita’s POV was originally in the third person, but on the second rewrite, she pushed herself centre and forward and started waving her paintbrush at me and telling me what she should say next and so I had to put her in the first person after that!

Also, whilst I knew how the book was to end, I tried not to tell myself so that I would keep the same element of surprise in the writing that I hope the reader will experience when they read it!

Do you have a special place to write and where do you do your best thinking?

I’m very lucky in that I have a writing room at home. It faces my garden and since my kids have left home at least one, if not all, of my three cats tend to spend their days with me. Ideally, I like it to be quiet but living in Reading that’s not always possible, especially because each of my neighbours have had or are having major extensions done to their houses!

However, I also like to write in other places. I relish going on writing retreats to, for example, Retreats for You in Devon or Tŷ Newydd in North Wales but my absolute favourite writing place is Kalkan in Turkey. I think we’re on our 16th and 17th holidays there this year and there’s nothing better than sitting on the terrace of the villa where we stay with my laptop in front of me and gazing out over the bay as the sun sparkles the water.

Having said all this, my best thinking I suppose happens either at night in bed when I can’t sleep or in the swimming pool where I go for my thrice-weekly swim. The dark and silence of the night and/or the focus of thinking of nothing but counting lengths does, I find, free up my mind to sort plot problems or character dilemmas.

Are you your worst critic and why?

Oh yes, certainly! I think it’s a writer’s natural state to be in a constant state of doubt and despair. Whenever I write I have the good fairy on one shoulder telling me I can do it, and the bad fairy on the other, telling me what I’m doing is rubbish and doesn’t make sense. Even reading the proof copy of The Last Day was a rollercoaster: one minute I’d be telling myself, ‘This is OK, you know,’ and the next, I’d be wracked with uncertainty. The only way to counter this, I believe, is to put your trust in your characters. It’s their story, after all!

And finally ...If your life was book what would be the title?

My family have said that, due to my fashion choices, they are considering putting the words, ‘Here lies Claire Dyer, she wore beige’ on my headstone, so maybe the book of my life could be called ‘The Woman Who Wore Beige’!!!

Thank you again for featuring me on your site. It’s been a huge pleasure!

The Dome Press
15 February 2018

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

What's it all about..

Every ending starts with a beginning; every beginning, an end. 

Boyd and Vita have been separated for six years when Boyd asks if he can move back in to the house they both still own, bringing with him his twenty-seven-year-old girlfriend, Honey. 

Of course, Vita agrees: enough water has travelled under enough bridges since her marriage to Boyd ended and she is totally over him; nothing can touch her now. Boyd and Honey move in and everyone is happy - or so it seems.

However, all three are keeping secrets.

My thoughts about the book..

Vita enjoys her own company, immersed in her artwork, she appears self-contained and in control. When Boyd, her amicably estranged husband, falls on hard times, Vita is persuaded, almost against her better judgment, to allow him move back into what was once their shared home along with Honey, Boyd's much younger girlfriend. This unlikely ménage seems a strange combination but as their shared experiences start to merge and coalesce, so the secrets of their lives start to be exposed.

The whole idea of the last day is very skilfully developed and without saying anything at all about the plot, I was completely taken in by the whole concept of time passing. Through a fascinating three stranded narrative the circumstances of the story are revealed by Vita, Boyd and Honey. All three characters have distinct voices and the author, very cleverly, allows them time to tell their stories in their own unique voices, without any one of them outshining the other. I was engrossed by all three characters, but I was especially captivated by Vita, whose strength and determination wraps around her like a shield.

The Last Day is a beautifully written novel which shows remarkable insight into the subtle nuances of a fractured marriage, where past hurts have long gone unreconciled and where disappointment and sadness have lingered for far too long. The author carries the reader along, not with a plot that shouts and screams to be heard, but rather with a delicate blend of thoughtful reflection, so that before long, The Last Day fills spaces in your mind that you never knew existed.

Claire Dyer’s novels, The Moment and The Perfect Affair and her short story, Falling For Gatsby are published by Quercus. Her poetry collections, Interference Effects and Eleven Rooms, are published by Two Rivers Press. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London and teaches creative writing for Bracknell & Wokingham College. She also runs Fresh Eyes, an editorial and critiquing service.

In 2016, Claire penned and performed a poem for National Poetry Day, called The Oracle, for BBC Radio Berkshire.

Visit the author's Website

Follow on Twitter @ClaireDyer1 #TheLastDay @DomePress

And do visit the other blog tour stops for more exciting content.

Sunday 18 February 2018

Sunday WW1 Remembered...

Ordinary Lives of The First World War

WW1 War Tourism

During the war military authorities had occasionally allowed grieving relatives to visit the graves of their family members but this was only possible if the fighting was sufficiently far away for there to be no danger.

At the end of the war it became obvious that people would wish to visit the battlefields, and not just those tourists who had a burning desire to see the places where the action took place, but also for those families who had lost relatives in the mud of Flanders and who wanted to pay their respects.

The first tourists started to visit the battlefields as early as 1917. Michelin, the road map and tyre manufacturers, published its first Illustrated Michelin Guide to the Battlefields about the Marne (6-13 September 1914). Even with the war raging not very far away tourists wanted to see first hand the devastation and destruction.

In 1919, the travel company Thomas Cook started organised trips to the Western Front but travel was expensive and the areas around the battle sites were often impassable. Those visitors who wanted to visit the graves of loved ones had to first obtain a special pass from the Directorate of Graves Registration/Imperial War Graves Commission. By 1918, some 587,000 graves had been identified and a further 559,000 casualties were registered as having no known grave.

Church groups and charitable organisations also became involved in helping poorer families, particularly women, to visit the Western Front. The Church Army and the St Barnabas Society would arrange itineraries, meet people at Boulogne and even offer hostel accommodation in disused army huts.

Tourists in Ypres, Whit Monday, 1919.
Q 100481 © Jeremy Gordon-Smith
Imperial War Museum

Whit Monday tourists outside the Cloth Hall, Ypres, 1919.
Q 100486 © Jeremy Gordon-Smith
Imperial War Museum

The tourist trips were at first thought to be distasteful and disrespectful however, the pilgrimages continued and grew in popularity. They offered a valuable service and brought a much needed boost to the economy as the visitors needed places to stay and they bought food and drink and also souvenirs and mementos to take back home. 

On the blog yesterday I featured a historical fiction novel, In Love and War by Liz Trenow which focuses on the individual stories of three women who visited the battlefields of Flanders looking for clues about their loved ones.


Saturday 17 February 2018

Hist Fic Saturday ~ In Love and War by Liz Trenow

On Hist Fic Saturday

Let's go back in time to ... Flanders, 1919

Pan Macmillan
January 25th

My thanks to the publishers for the copy of the book

It was understandable that once the First World War was over grieving relatives would want to visit the towns and villages of Flanders to see the places where the lives of their loved ones had ended so violently. Within a few short months of the Armistice in 1918 travel operators, like Thomas Cook, were organising tours to the battlefields, which although a comfort for some, were also seen by others to be in poor taste and disrespectful to the war dead.

In July, 1919 Ruby, Alice and Martha have their own reasons for visiting the small Flemish village of Hoppestadt. Each of them have lost someone important to them and whilst their backgrounds are very different, their shared loss binds them together in ways they could never have imagined. The women find out, to their cost, that searching for loved ones is fraught with worry and whilst they each have a different story to share, it is the rawness of their grief and their need to understand what happened which eventually unites them.

The repercussions of The First World War are still profoundly real in 1919 and this story highlights the struggle of those small communities who were trying so desperately to bring some semblance of order to areas which had been devastated by war. The descriptions of the remnants of the battlefields and trenches and the huge expanse of grave markers particularly at the Tyne Cot cemetery are so vividly described that I felt like I was seeing them at first hand.

Impeccably researched and beautifully written In Love and War is a gentle story with a powerful message. Its quiet realism doesn’t seek to sensationalise what happened during the momentous years of WW1 but rather focuses on the emotional impact of loss and of the eventual hope of reconciliation.

Twitter @LizTrenow #InLoveAndWar

Friday 16 February 2018

Review ~ Final Girls by Riley Sager

Ebury Press
Penguin Random House

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy of this book

After an enigmatic introduction to something dreadful which happened at a remote cottage in the woods, we are introduced to Quincy Carpenter who is a successful baking blogger with a swanky New York apartment and a loving partner. All would be perfect except that Quincy is one of those interesting characters who has survived a horrific massacre. Dubbed by the media as a Final Girl, Quincy is only one of three such massacre survivors who, in recent memory, walked away from violent bloodshed. When news reaches Quincy that one of the other survivors has taken her own life, it opens up a whole series of memories which she has long since buried.

What then follows is a taut psychological suspense story which focuses on Quincy's life in the here and now whilst at the same time giving us flashbacks to what actually went on at Pine Cottage.  The story is an interesting observation into how people go into survivor mode and how the brain locks down painful memories in order to protect itself. Whilst Quincy thinks she is coping reasonably well, the terror of her past traumatic experience is never very far away.

Throughout the story the author does a really good job of cranking up the tension, particularly when the other final girl makes an appearance. This really shakes things up and takes the story in a whole different direction. Final Girls is a cleverly thought out psychological thriller with more than enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and although I did sort of work out where the story was heading, I certainly enjoyed getting to understand Quincy's complex character and of seeing just how the story would eventually play out.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley Sager is a writer,editor,movie lover and aspiring baker
Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey

Twitter @riley_sager #FinalGirls