Sunday 31 March 2019

Review ~ A Mother's Love by Katie Flynn

21 March 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
Liverpool, 1940: there comes a moment in every child’s life when they must learn to stand on their own two feet. For fifteen-year-old Ellie Lancton, that time has come all too soon. The death of her mother and the increase in air raids leaves Ellie alone and in grave danger. It’s not long before she is forced to leave her beloved Liverpool behind and cross the Mersey to seek refuge in the countryside. But as the war takes comforts away, so too does it bring new opportunities; for work, new friendships, and perhaps a little love… It will take all of Ellie’s courage to find her way without her mother’s guidance. But if Ellie can soldier on with grace and dignity, there might just be light at the end of the tunnel.

My thoughts..

After her mother's untimely death, fifteen year old Ellie Lancton is forced to make her own way in the world, and cared for by her warm hearted Liverpool friends Ellie soon discovers that true friendship will see her through the worst of her troubles.  Ellie and her best friend, Arla can't wait to do their bit for the war effort, and as soon as they turn sixteen they decide to enroll together in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, better known as the ATS.

The girls embark on a grand adventure, but as so often happens in war-time, life has a habit of taking a few unexpected turns. However, regardless of how far she moves from Liverpool, Ellie always knows that she carries her mother's love with her, and the occasional scent of lavender in the air confirms her belief that her mother is always with her.

I've really enjoyed reading this historical saga and have spent a couple of pleasant afternoons with Ellie and her pals in the ATS. The author has captured both the sombre mood of wartime, whilst at the same time allowing a glimpse into just how people coped with the momentous changes which were happening during WW2.

From the slums of Liverpool, to the camaraderie of women in wartime, and the dangers of flying Lancaster bombers, A Mother's Love is a novel about the power of love and how a mother's love for her child never goes away.

A perfect read for Mother's Day ♡

About the Author

Katie Flynn is the pen name of the much loved writer, Judy Turner, who published over ninety novels in her lifetime. Judy's unique stories were inspired by hearing family recollections of life in Liverpool during the early twentieth century, and her books went on to sell more than eight million copies. Judy passed away in January 2019, aged 82.

The legacy of Katie Flynn lives on through her daughter, Holly Flynn , who continues to write under the Katie Flynn name.

Twitter @arrowpublishing

Review ~ A Maiden's Voyage by Rosie Goodwin

7 March 2019

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
Thursday's child has far to go . . . 

London, 1912.

Flora Butler lives a settled life in London. She enjoys her work as a maid for her young mistress which means she can still live close to her family home, visiting her parents and siblings often and helping out when she can, plus she's recently met a young man who she sees on her days off.

When her mistress, Connie, loses her father and must move to New York, Flora faces a difficult decision. When her beau lets her down, her mind is made up. 

Soon, Flora and Connie are heading to Southampton to board RMS Titanic.

My thoughts..

Flora Butler has a nice life in London as a lady's maid for her young mistress, Grace Ogilvie but when tragedy strikes in Grace's life, Flora makes the decision to leave her home in London and go with to with her mistress to New York. A grand adventure is planned especially when the girls are booked on the wonderful new ship, RMS Titanic. When then follows is a story not just about the ill fated voyage of the Titanic, but which is also about what happens in the aftermath of the tragedy.

A Maiden's Voyage continues this author's Days of the Week series of historical sagas. With the concept of the idea that Thursday's child has far to go most of the story takes place in New York and there is a really authentic atmosphere as it moves between the upper echelons of high society and the working classes in and around the dock areas.

As always the author writes with a lovely light touch and brings her characters to life with such enthusiasm that you can't help but warm to them and want the best for them. I've really enjoyed being part of this early twentieth century world which is recreated with all the trademarks of this author's fine attention to even the smallest of detail.

A Maiden's Voyage is a lovely continuation of the days of the week series and is a perfect read for Mothering Sunday ♡

I look forward to seeing where the author takes us next with Friday's child. ๐Ÿ˜Š

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Rosie Goodwin is the author of over twenty bestselling novels. She is the first author in the world to be allowed to follow three of Catherine Cookson's trilogies with her own sequels. Having worked in the social services sector for many years, then fostered a number of children, she is now a full-time novelist. Rosie lives in Nuneaton, the setting for many of her books, with her husband and their beloved dogs.

Twitter @RosieGoodwin


Saturday 30 March 2019

Blog Tour ~ Sunwise by Helen Steadman

On Hist Fic Saturday

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Sunwise

Impress Books
1 April 2019

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

"There is a madness come upon England of late..."

When Jane’s lover, Tom, returns from the navy to find her unhappily married to his betrayer, Jane is caught in an impossible situation. Still reeling from the loss of her mother at the hands of the witchfinder John Sharpe, Jane has no choice but to continue her dangerous work as a healer while keeping her young daughter safe. But, as Tom searches for a way for him and Jane to be together, the witchfinder is still at large. Filled with vengeance, John will stop at nothing in his quest to rid England of the scourge of witchcraft. Inspired by true events, Sunwise tells the story of one woman’s struggle for survival in a hostile and superstitious world.

My thoughts..

From the very start of Sunwise there is a real sense of foreboding and those who have read Widdershins will, like me, want to know what happened to Jane Driver and her baby daughter, Rose, in the aftermath of the Newcastle witch trials.

At the start of the story we discover that Jane, although still grieving her beloved mother, is kept busy looking after her young daughter. She continues to help the villagers of Mutton Clog, delivering their babies and carefully preparing the healing potions her mother once taught her to make.

John Sharpe, the notorious witch finder, is still at large and is just as determined to rid the north of England of the witches he is certain still hide amongst the ordinary God fearing folk. However, in his crazed quest to root out evil, he has never forgotten Jane Driver, or of his insane ambition to rid the country of the one woman he considers to be the most dangerous witch in all of England.

Beautifully written, Sunwise is a worthy continuation of the story, and is filled to bursting with all the trademarks of this author’s exceptional writing, however, it must also be said that it is not an easy read. It’s dark and dirty and so insidiously evil that the individual chapters which feature John Sharpe made my, already chilled blood, run even colder. The author’s undeniable skill with words brings the story to life in glorious detail, from the lure of superstition and the absolute torment of lost love, to the very real threat of danger and the undeniable evil which lurks in the shadow of an ancient church. From start to finish there is never a moment when the story doesn’t hold every scrap of your imagination, taking you very firmly by the hand towards an inevitable conclusion, which, it must be said, made me gasp out loud.

I started to read Sunwise on a rather dreary afternoon and didn't look up from the seventeenth century, except to make restorative cups of tea, until the whole of the story had played out, and even after I'd closed the book, vivid images still ran in my mind and I couldn't stop thinking about the  places, the people and the roles they had all played in this remarkable story.

Whilst Sunwise can be read as a standalone story, I do think that it will work so much better if you read Widdershins first.

Helen Steadman lives in the foothills of the North Pennines, and she particularly enjoys researching and writing about the history of the north east of England. Following her MA in creative writing at Manchester Met, Helen is now completing a PhD in English at the University of Aberdeen to determine whether a writer can use psycho-physical techniques to create authentic fictional characters.

Twitter @hsteadman1650 #Sunwise #Widdershins #Witch


Friday 29 March 2019

Review ~ The Ghost Tree by Barbara Erskine

Harper Collins
7 March 2019

My thanks to for my copy of this book

Ruth has returned to Edinburgh after many years of exile, left rootless by the end of her marriage, career and now the death of her father. She is now faced with the daunting task of clearing his house.

Hidden away in a barely used top-floor room, she finds he had secretly kept a cupboard full of her mother’s possessions. Sifting through the ancient papers, Ruth discovers the diary and letters written by her ancestor from the eighteenth century, Thomas Erskine.

As the youngest son of a noble family now living in genteel poverty, Thomas always knew he would have to make his own way in the world. Unable to follow his brothers to university, instead he joins the navy, rising through the ranks, travelling the world. When he is finally able to study law, his extraordinary experiences and abilities propel him to the very top and he becomes Lord Chancellor. Yet he has made a powerful enemy on his voyages, who will hound him and his family to the death.

Ruth becomes ever more aware of Thomas as she is gripped by his story, and slowly senses that not only is his presence with her, but so is his enemy’s. Ruth will have to draw upon new friends and old in what becomes a battle for her very survival – and discover an inner power beyond anything she has imagined.

My thoughts..

Devastating family secrets forms the basis for this interesting and complex family drama.

After her father’s death Ruth returns to the family home in Edinburgh only to find that there is someone there who wishes to infiltrate every aspect of Ruth’s life and even though her relationship with her family has been difficult, and more especially with her father, Ruth is really unhappy to learn that there are details about her family of which she knew absolutely nothing. Further exploration into her family’s dark past reiterates just how many secrets have been hidden.

As with all of this author’s previous work there is a definite shifting of time and very cleverly the story moves between the present and the eighteenth century, and as it does so a dark and ghostly atmosphere starts to pervade. The author writes with authority because in creating The Ghost Tree she has dipped into her own rather complicated family history and, in doing so, has written an emotionally charged story which is based on factual historical evidence.

To be honest I found the historical aspects of the story rather stronger that the present day story but taken as a whole I thought that the content of the book had a real authenticity to it, and all credit to the author for using her own family history in order to create such a fascinating dual time narrative.

An historian by training, Barbara Erskine is the author of bestselling novels that demonstrate her interest in both history and the supernatural, plus two collections of short stories. Her books have appeared in at least twenty different languages. She lives with her family in an ancient manor house near Colchester, and in a cottage near Hay-on-Wye.

Twitter @Barbaraerskine


I read this book as part of the reading panel

You can find other reviews of this book by clicking here

Thursday 28 March 2019

Blog Tour ~ The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The American Agent

Allison & Busby
26 March 2019

Maisie Dobbs #15

My thanks to the publishers and to Anne at Random Things Tours for my copy of the book
 and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

When an American war correspondent’s murder is concealed by British authorities, Maisie Dobbs agrees to work with an agent of the US Department of Justice to help an old friend discover the truth. 
With German bombs raining down on London, Maisie is torn between the demands of solving this dangerous case and the need to protect a young evacuee. And what will happen when she faces losing her dearest friend and the possibility that she might be falling in love again?

My thoughts..

The American Agent is the fifteenth book in the Maisie Dobbs series so I have to admit to slight trepidation when I started the story as this is the first time I have met with the intrepid Miss Dobbs.

The story opens in London in September 1940 just as the German Luftwaffe launches the first of many attacks in what would later become known as the London Blitz, and whilst Maisie works with the Ambulance service helping to rescue those who have been affected by the bombings, it is her role as a private criminal investigator which forms the crux of the story.

Charged with investigating the murder of a young American war correspondent who has been found dead in mysterious circumstances, Maisie is paired with the enigmatic Mark Scott, a US agent, who has some sort of prior connection to Maisie.

What then follows is a complex crime investigation which is set against the historical background of a country in the throes of war. Maisie is an intrepid heroine and a clever sleuth, I grew to like her very much. Her no-nonsense attitude to crime investigation seems to be reminiscent of the stoicism of the country during wartime, and her tenacity at getting right into the heart of the investigation whilst at the same time balancing her need to protect those she loves makes the story all the more fascinating.

There’s always a tendency with a long running series for new readers to become a little bit bamboozled by the characters who, by book fifteen, will have shared many an adventure together. However, the author does a fabulous job of helping new readers make sense of Maisie’s past history, whilst at the same time keeping the integrity and continuity of an exciting new adventure.

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in Kent and emigrated to the USA in 1990. She has written extensively for journals, newspapers and magazines, and has worked in book publishing on both sides of the Atlantic. The Maisie Dobbs series of crime novels is beloved by readers worldwide – always going into the New York Times top 10 on publications.

Twitter  #JacquelineWinspear #TheAmericanAgent




Wednesday 27 March 2019

Blog Tour Extract ~ The Missing Sister by Dinah Jefferies

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the Blog Tour for The Missing Sister

Penguin Random House
 21 March 2019

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

Belle Hatton has embarked upon an exciting new life far from home: a glamorous job as a nightclub singer in 1930s Burma, with a host of sophisticated new friends and admirers. But Belle is haunted by a mystery from the past - a 25 year old newspaper clipping found in her parents' belongings after their death, saying that the Hattons were leaving Rangoon after the disappearance of their baby daughter, Elvira.

Belle is desperate to find out what happened to the sister she never knew she had - but when she starts asking questions, she is confronted with unsettling rumours, malicious gossip, and outright threats. Oliver, an attractive, easy-going American journalist, promises to help her, but an anonymous note tells her not to trust those closest to her. . .

Belle survives riots, intruders, and bomb attacks - but nothing will stop her in her mission to uncover the truth. Can she trust her growing feelings for Oliver? Is her sister really dead? And could there be a chance Belle might find her?

✴ I'm really delighted to be able to share this tantalising extract with you 

Rangoon, Burma, 1936

Belle straightened her shoulders, flicked back her long red-gold hair and stared, her heart leaping with excitement as the ship began its steady approach to Rangoon harbour. Rangoon. Think of it. The city where dreams were made, still a mysterious outline in the distance but coming into focus as the ship cut through the water. The sky, a shockingly bright blue, seemed huger than a sky ever had business to be, and the sea, almost navy in its depths, reflected a molten surface so shiny she could almost see her face in it. Even the air shimmered as if the sun had formed minute swirling crystals from the moisture rising out of the sea. Small boats dotting the water dipped and rose and she laughed as screeching seabirds swooped and squabbled. Belle didn’t mind the noise, in fact it added to the feeling that this was something so achingly different. She had long craved the freedom to travel and now she was really doing it.

With buzzing in her ears, she inhaled deeply, as if to suck in every particle of this glorious moment, and for a few minutes she closed her eyes. When she opened them again she gasped in awe. It wasn’t the bustling harbour with its tall cranes, its freighters laden with teak, its lumbering oil tankers, its steamers and the small fishing boats gathering in the shadow of the larger vessels that had gripped her. Nor was it the impressive white colonial buildings coming into sight. For, rising behind all that, a huge golden edifice appeared to be floating over the city. Yes, floating, as if suspended, as if a section of some inconceivable paradise had descended to earth. Spellbound by the gold glittering against the cobalt sky, Belle couldn’t look away. Could there be anything more captivating? Without a shadow of a doubt, she knew she was going to fall in love with Burma.

The heat, however, was oppressive: not a dry heat but a kind of damp heat that clung to her clothes. Certainly different, but she’d get used to it, and the air that smelt of salt and burning and caught at the back of her throat. She heard her name being called and twisted sideways to see Gloria, the woman she’d met on the deck early in the voyage, now leaning against the rails, wearing a wide-brimmed pink sun hat. Belle began to turn away, but not before Gloria called out again. The woman raised a white gloved hand and came across.

‘So,’ Gloria’s cut-glass voice rang out, breaking Belle’s reverie. ‘What do you make of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Impressive, no?’

Belle nodded.

‘Covered in real gold,’ Gloria said. ‘Funny lot, the Burmese. The entire place is peppered with shrines and golden pagodas. You can’t walk without falling over a monk.’

‘I think they must be splendid to create something as wonderful as this.’

‘As I said, the pagodas are everywhere. Now, my driver is waiting at the dock. I’ll give you a lift to our wonderful Strand Hotel. It overlooks the river.’

Belle glanced at the skin around the other woman’s deeply set dark eyes and, not for the first time, tried to guess her age. There were a number of lines, but she had what was generally termed handsome looks. Striking rather than beautiful, with a strong Roman nose, chiselled cheekbones and sleek dark hair elegantly coiled at the nape of a long neck . . . but as for her age, it was anyone’s guess. Probably well over fifty.

Gloria had spoken with the air of someone who owned the city. A woman with a reputation to preserve and a face to match it. Belle wondered what she might look like without the thick mask of expertly applied make‑​up, carefully drawn brows and film-star lips. Wouldn’t it all melt in the heat?

‘I occasionally stay at the Strand after a late night, in fact I will be tonight, though naturally I have my own home in Golden Valley,’ Gloria was saying.

‘Golden Valley?’ Belle couldn’t keep her curiosity from showing.

‘Yes, do you know of it?’

Belle shook her head and, after a moment’s hesitation, decided not to say anything. It wasn’t as if she knew the place, was it? She simply wasn’t ready to talk to someone she barely knew. ‘No. Not at all,’ she said. ‘I simply liked the name.’

Gloria gave her a quizzical look and Belle, even though she had determined not to, caught herself thinking back. A year had passed since her father’s death, and it hadn’t gone well. The only work she’d found was in a friend’s bookshop, but each week she’d pored over the latest copy of The Stage the moment it arrived. And then, joy of joy, she’d spotted the advertisement for performers wanted in prestigious hotels in Singapore, Colombo and Rangoon. Her audition had been in London, where she’d stayed for a gruelling two days and an anxious wait until she heard.

Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine. Her idyllic childhood always held a special place in her imagination, and when she began writing novels in her 60s, she was able to return there - first in her fiction and then on annual research trips for each new novel. Dinah Jefferies is the author of four novels, The Separation, The Tea Planter's Wife - a Number One Sunday Times bestseller, The Silk Merchant's Daughter and Before the Rains. She lives in Gloucestershire.

Twitter @DinahJefferies #TheMissingSister


Tuesday 26 March 2019

Blog Tour ~ My Sister's Lies by S D Robertson

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for My Sister's Lies

Avon Books
21 March 2019

My thanks to Sabah at Avon Books for my copy of this book and the invitation to be part of the blog tour

For a decade, Hannah’s life has been pretty close to perfect – she has a great job, she’s married to Mark, and her child-free existence means she’s free as a bird. The only sadness in her life is a fall-out with her sister Diane, who hasn’t spoken to her in over ten years. But now Diane is on her doorstep – and this time, she’s got her teenage daughter Mia in tow.

When Diane asks if Mia can stay with Hannah and Mark for a few days, Hannah is glad of the chance to get to know her niece. But as the days turn into weeks and Diane doesn’t return, Hannah begins to worry. Why hasn’t her sister been in touch?

Diane is carrying a devastating secret that will destroy Hannah’s carefully constructed life. But how much is she willing to reveal – and when will she pick her moment?

My thoughts..

When Hannah's sister, Diane, turns up unexpectedly along with her teenage daughter, Mia, Hannah is apprehensive as she and her sister haven't seen each other since Mia was a toddler. So many secrets and lies separate the sisters, but when it comes down to it, Hannah is prepared to help Diane when she needs it, however, what she doesn't expect is that all of their lives are about to change forever.

What then follows is a dramatic family saga, which looks at the relationship between the sisters and which opens up to scrutiny lives which have been damaged by huge secrets and devastating lies. Caught in the middle of this drama is Mia who is struggling with all sorts of conflicting emotions and is increasingly lost and quite bewildered by the way her mother is acting.

The author writes this type of family drama really well and offers an insight into what makes people act in the way they do. The story twists and turns in quite a dramatic way and whilst its quite a dark story ,with some possible triggers which some readers might find upsetting, it's also really fascinating study into the vagaries of family life, and of the sometimes toxic relationship which can happen between siblings.

I found My Sister's Lies to be a powerful story and I was so engrossed in the way that everything was playing out that I read the book in one sitting reluctant to leave it in case I missed something important. ๐Ÿ˜Š

About the Author

Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his role as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming a novelist. 

An English graduate from the University of Manchester, he’s also worked as a holiday rep, door-to-door salesman, train cleaner, kitchen porter and mobile phone network engineer. 

Stuart lives in a village in North West England with his wife and daughter. There’s also his cat, Bernard, who likes to distract him from writing – usually by breaking things.

Twitter @SDRauthor #MySistersLies


Monday 25 March 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Point of Poetry by Joe Nutt

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on the The Point of Poetry Blog Tour

21 March 2019

My thanks to the author and Anne at Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to the tour

What’s the point of poetry? It’s a question asked in classrooms all over the world, but it rarely receives a satisfactory answer. Which is why so many people, who read all kinds of books, never read poetry after leaving school. 

Exploring twenty-two works from poets as varied as William Blake, Seamus Heaney, Rita Dove and Hollie McNish, this book makes the case for what poetry has to offer us, what it can tell us about the things that matter in life. Each poem is discussed with humour and refreshing clarity, using a mixture of anecdote and literary criticism that has been honed over a lifetime of teaching. 

Poetry can enrich our lives, if we’ll let it. The Point of Poetry is the perfect companion for anyone looking to discover how.

My thoughts..

The Point of Poetry is a cleverly put together selection of twenty two quite different forms of verse from some wonderfully diverse poets, from William Blake and William Shakespeare, to Christina Rossetti and Carol Ann Duffy, there's something which will appeal to everyone, and interspersed throughout is the author's interpretation of each poem, and the encouragement to give poetry a chance.

I absolutely get the point of poetry but completely understand that there are people who don't and for those who don't then this book will go along way to help them make sense of what makes poetry so beautiful and so addictive. I first fell under the spell of poetry at primary school when I had to learn Silver by Walter de la Mare, the rhythm of the words and the silent appeal of gentle moonlight makes this still one of my favourite poems.

I was delighted when I started to read The Point of Poetry and found so much to enjoy in the way that the author describes each featured poem, bringing the beauty and hidden meaning to life in a thought provoking way. There were also some nice surprises, with poems I wasn't at all familiar with, and the thrill of new discovery is what this book so fascinating. It's a chance to rediscover old favourites whilst at the same time finding something completely new.

I was quite sad when I came to the last chapter of the book, I'd so enjoyed reading the previous chapters that I didn't want the book to end, and then the author gave me an absolute gift with a whole chapter on Paradise Lost. Now I know that John Milton isn't everyone's go to author and I must admit that I haven't thought about reading Paradise Lost for a long, long time and then suddenly I read...

" Nine times the space that measures day and night
To mortal men he, with his horrid crew,
Lay vanquished, rolling in the fiery gulf,"

And I was immediately back in the long hot summer of 1976, sitting in the garden and revising for my English A' Level, learning this section of Paradise Lost by heart, and for me that beautiful connection is what makes the The Point of Poetry so very special.

About the Author

oe Nutt is a former teacher with twenty years of English teaching experience. He has written books on Shakespeare, John Donne and most recently a guidebook to Paradise Lost for one of the world’s foremost academic publishers. He is now one of the leading educationalists in the UK and writes a fortnightly column for the Times Educational Supplement.

Twitter @joenutt_author #ThePointOfPoetry



Blog Tour ~ 21st-Century Yokel by Tom Cox

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for 21st-Century Yokel

This edition 2019

My thanks to the publishers and to Anne at Random Things Tours for my copy of this book
and the invitation to be part of the tour

21st-Century Yokel is not quite nature writing, not quite a family memoir, not quite a book about walking, not quite a collection of humorous essays, but a bit of all five. 

Thick with owls and badgers, oak trees and wood piles, scarecrows and ghosts, and Tom Cox's loud and excitable dad, this book is full of the folklore of several counties – the ancient kind and the everyday variety – as well as wild places, mystical spots and curious objects. Emerging from this focus on the detail are themes that are broader and bigger and more important than ever. 

Tom's writing treads a new path, one that has a lot in common with a rambling country walk; it's bewitched by fresh air and big skies, intrepid in minor ways, haunted by weather and old stories and the spooky edges of the outdoors, restless and prone to a few detours, but it always reaches its destination in the end.

My thoughts..

21st-Century Yokel is a wonderful eclectic collection of ten chapters which feature stories showcasing this author writing. Something quite magical happens as you read, and thanks to the author's skilful way with words, his anecdotes and family stories, his wry observations and genuine connection with nature comes alive, so that reading the stories feels like you are walking alongside him, with our glorious countryside opened up to scrutiny.

I found it helpful to read this book slowly, savouring the promise of what was to come and, as a keen ambler, much of the book resonated with me, so much so, that I found myself quietly smiling through most of it, recognising nuances and understanding philosophies. One section in particular about the beauty of trees and the poignancy of "woodsmoke's primal reminder of the woodier place we all come from " had me nodding in agreement as there's just something so comforting about the way wood smoke permeates the environment and which, in an instant, can take us back to a gentler time.

Taking a literary walk with this author is rather like travelling the highways and byways alongside him as he opens up about his family, nature, wildlife and the pull of the landscape he calls home. Written with a wonderful eye for detail, I've travelled with him along wood-sorrel paths and past glistening streams, observed the playfulness of badgers and the clattering of jackdaws. I've marveled at the explanation of Witches Knickers, and and laughed out loud at Tom's dad's antics, and especially love his anachronism WOFFAL, which is something I must remember to use from time to time ๐Ÿ˜Š

21st-Century Yokel made me smile from beginning to end, it's filled with warmth and wit and is a perfect antidote to every day stress.

About the Author

Tom Cox lives in Devon. A one-time music journalist he is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Good, the Bad and the Furry and the William Hill Sports Book long olisted Bring Me The Head of Sergio Garcia. Help the Witch, a collection of folk ghost stories, was published in October 2019.


Twitter @cox_tom #21stCenturyYokel



Purchase Link

Saturday 23 March 2019

Review ~ Dark Blossom by Neel Mullick

Rupa Publications

My thanks to Ben at Cameron  Publicity and Marketing for my copy of this book

Sam returns home from a business trip a day before his son's thirteenth birthday and is looking forward to being with his family, when his world is cruelly shattered in one fell swoop. Initially he thinks he can cope with the loss, but finally seeks the help of Cynthia, an experienced therapist, to regain his equipoise. What he does not know is that Cynthia herself is trying to cope with a debilitating divorce and the sinister shadow of her ex-husband over her daughter...

What happens when doctor and patient find themselves in the same sinking boat? Moreover, when they are rowing in opposite directions--one clinging to the past, and the other unable to get rid of it! In the midst of it all is Lily, Cynthia's daughter, who harbours a secret that has the power to explode the lives around her.

My thoughts..

Sam is grieving for the catastrophic loss of his family, whilst Cynthia is trying desperately to juggle family life with her teenage daughter, Lily, and at the same time trying to cope with the aftermath of a painful separation from her abusive husband. On the surface these two characters have little in common, only coming together initially when Sam attends clinical appointments with Cynthia in her role as his  therapist.

When then follows is an interesting study in the way that trauma affects people, not just in their daily life but also in the long term effects on mental health and well being. The story builds slowly and the author does a great job in allowing the characters enough time to develop slowly, never rushing the action, and always with a considered response to what makes people, under pressure, act in the way that they do.

The author has an interesting writing style which took me a little while to get used to, but once I had the characters' individual characteristics firmly in mind the story became much more interesting. The action is rather slow which I think is quite deliberate, as this isn't an all action story, but is rather more a reflective piece about coping with psychological stress and the subsequent mental health issues which may arise from dealing with some quite dark and complex issues. There's also an interesting suspenseful element to the story which becomes more apparent as the story progresses.

Dark Blossom took me by surprise, as I wasn't sure what to expect, but drawn in by the rather interesting book cover I found the story to be both clever and complex with an interesting twist.

With degrees in Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon, USA, and Business Administration from INSEAD, France, NEEL MULLICK is the Head of Product and Information Security at a Belgian family-office technology company.

He mentors women entrepreneurs through the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, is involved in raising a generation of digital and socially-aware leaders with the Steering for Greatness Foundation (Nigeria), supports improvement in the quality of life of domestic workers at Emprendedoras del Hogar (Peru), and is helping IIMPACT (India) break the cycle of illiteracy plaguing young girls from socially and economically impoverished communities.

He lives on three continents, dividing his time between between New York, Brussels, and New Delhi.

Friday 22 March 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Shadow Between Us by Carol Mason

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be hosting today's stop on the The Shadow Between Us Blog Tour

Lake Union Publishing
21 March 2019

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

Olivia’s marriage is floundering, her grown up daughter is painfully distant, and her life is in pieces. Desperate for a fresh start, she packs her bags and retreats to a remote and beautiful holiday home on the coast near Port Townsend. Joining a letter-writing club seems like a harmless decision to connect with those around her in this small community. When she meets Ned, an ex-soldier badly wounded in Afghanistan, this unlooked-for friendship revives unexpected emotions and memories she’d rather forget… But is her marriage to Mark really over for good? And can Olivia find the courage to confront the haunting secret she’s hiding from, healing the wounds that have torn her life apart?

My thoughts..

Olivia has left the family home with all of its memories and has settled in the pretty town of Port Townsend, where she is befriended by the townsfolk, in particular, ex-navy SEAL Ned and book shop owner, Beth. Amongst the books, and as being part of a letter writing group, Olivia finally comes to terms with some tragic events which are stopping her from moving forward in her personal life.

This is a beautifully written observational story; it's about what makes us function as people and its about what happens when tragedy strikes and how we cope with trauma and grief. The heartache of losing things which are precious to us is very much in evidence and as the story starts to develop so Olivia reveals much about herself and in doing so the gradual pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of her life start to come together. The author writes with great sensitivity and real compassion, revealing the pieces of the story ever so gradually so that when an emotional bombshell is dropped it absolutely knocks you for six.

The Shadow Between Us is a quietly contemplative story which allows an emotional glimpse into lives of people which have been forever changed by circumstances. The way that the very different characters in the story cope with these changes is what makes this book such a fascinating observational read.

Carol Mason is the bestselling author of women's fiction novels including After You left, The Secrets if Married Women and The Last Time We Met. Carol grew up in Sunderland, working as a model before joining the Diplomatic Service. She moved to Canada and met the man who would become her husband. Her novels are translated into 10 languages.

Twitter @CarolMasonBooks # TheShadowBetweenUs


Thursday 21 March 2019

Blog Tour ~ The Conviction of Cora Burns by Carolyn Kirby

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on The Conviction of Cora Burns

No Exit Press
21 March 2019

My thanks to the Katherine at the publishers and Anne at Random Things Tours for my invitation to the tour

Set in 1880s Birmingham, Carolyn Kirby’s stunning debut The Conviction of Cora Burns tells the story of Cora, a young woman born in a prison to a convicted criminal she never knew but from whom she fears she has inherited a violent nature. Perfect for fans of Sarah Schmidt, Anna Mazzola and Hannah Kent.

Cora was born in a prison. But is this where she belongs?

My thoughts..

Right from the start of this story there's a real sense of history and as we are taken by the hand into Cora Burn's fractured life we soon start to understand that she is no ordinary gaol bird. Born into the dark restrictions of a Victorian prison system Cora very quickly learns that to survive with her spirit intact she must use her considerable wit in order to keep one step ahead of a social welfare system that threatens to engulf her.

When Cora is given the opportunity to move away from the only place she has known, she grabs the opportunity but is filled with a real sense of trepidation. Working as a Between Maid in the household of a scientist, Cora soon gets drawn into the very mysterious world of Mr Thomas Jerwood, a gentleman who has, it must be said, a very unusual interest in photography.

Moving seamlessly forwards and backwards over a twenty year period, the author creates a very believable Victorian world which is very dark at times, and yet, which poses an interesting conundrum about the question of nature over nurture. The story opens up the dark and often dangerous world of the Victorian reform system, whilst at the same shining a spotlight on the more unusual scientific practices which seemed to obsess some Victorians. Beautifully written with a real sense of history, Cora Burns, literally leaps of the pages, she is fierce and feisty, not always very likeable as she does some very odd things, but always, throughout the story, she has such a real sense of drive and ambition which is quite wonderful to observe.

To say too much about the way the story plays out would really spoil things, however, if you enjoy the brooding nature of a Gothic mystery combined with a tragic tale of  lives ruined by circumstance, then I am sure that this story will appeal. Without doubt, The Conviction of Cora Burns is a stunning historical debut by an author who knows how to get right into the heart and soul of a story.

About the Author

Originally from the northeast of England, Carolyn Kirby studied history at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, before working in public housing and then as a teacher of English as a foreign language. Her novel The Conviction of Cora Burns, begun in 2013 during a writing course at Faber Academy in London, won the inaugural Bluepencilagency Award and was a runner-up for the DGA First Novel Prize and the Mslexia Novel Competition, Carolyn has two grown daughters and lives with her husband in rural Oxfordshire.

Twitter @novelcarolyn #TheConvictionOfCoraBurns



Wednesday 20 March 2019

Publication Week Blast ~ Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

✨✨ Publication Week Blast ✨✨

21 March

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

Maddie and Ian’s romance began when he was serving in the British Army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend Jo in Europe. Now sixteen years later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America.

But when an accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, the years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of shocking crime. But what in this beautiful home has gone so terribly bad?

My thoughts..

Beautiful Bad is an interesting psychological suspense story which opens with a frantic 911 call and the indication that something really bad has happened. The timeline then flips to ten weeks earlier and our proper introduction to Maddie, who is one of the main narrators. What then follows is an intricately plotted story, with multiple points of view, which looks at both the complexities of friendship and the minutiae of marriage.

As with all psychological suspense stories there are lots of twists and turns so it pays to keep a close eye on what's going on especially as the story jumps around rather a lot. I must admit to being rather lost in the story from time to time and I had to back track occasionally to remind myself of something I had missed. Moving between timescales and locations adds an interesting dimension to the story which can, at times, appear a little bit complicated, but once the complexities of the timeline start to become more apparent, so the story settles and it all becomes much more interesting.

My general impression is that this is one of those stories which takes quite an investment in time as the complicated plot and unstable narrators takes some getting used to, however, if you like complex psychological suspense which takes you to fascinating locations which range from the Balkans to Kansas via Iraq then Beautiful Bad is well worth reading.

Annie  Ward

Annie Ward has a BA in English Literature from UCLA and a MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. Her first screenplay, Strange Habit, starring Adam Scott was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and the Grand Jury Awrad winner at the Aspen Film Festival. She received a Fullbright Scholarship and An Escape to Create Artists residency. She live in Kansas with her family.

Twitter @_Annie_Ward #BeautifulBad


Tuesday 19 March 2019

Blog Tour ~ Keep Her Close by M J Ford

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's final stop on the Keep Her Close Blog Tour

7 March 2019

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

When a young girl goes missing from Jesus College Oxford, DS Josie Masters is plunged into a world of panic as fear grips the city. Along with Thames Valley Police’s newest recruit, the handsome DS Pryce, Josie must act fast – and when two more girls disappear from Oriel and Somerville colleges, she realises the killer is sending her a deadly message in a cruel game of cat and mouse. This time, the case is personal – but who is the perpetrator?

In a desperate race against the clock, Josie hunts for the kidnapper, and soon discovers he could be a lot closer to home than she’d ever thought…

My thoughts..

This is the second police procedural thriller to feature DS Josie Masters and we meet up with her just a few months after the traumatic events which happened in Hold My Hand, which is the first book. The opening chapter gives a brief insight into how Josie is now coping with the fall out from that first disturbing case before lunching us into a new and deadly investigation.

When a student goes missing from Oriel College, Oxford, Josie and her colleague DS Jack Pryce have to do all that they can to investigate a complicated crime which seems to be littered with inconsistencies and red herrings. It's really interesting to watch this police duo in action especially as the story progresses and their connection to each other gets more involved. The added complication of the disappearance of even more students leads to an investigation which, for Josie, gets more and more complicated and decidedly more personal.

I've really enjoyed reading Keep Her Close and, even though I hadn't read the first book, the author gives enough information about Josie Master's back story so that right from the start I felt in tune with the way she works. She's a bit of an individualist, deeply flawed by the events of her past and often quite vulnerable, and yet, she has a strong work ethic and all of the necessary commitment to duty which we expect from a high level detective.

The action moves along at a cracking pace which makes the story really easy to read in one sitting and I think it's one of those stories which benefits from reading quickly. There's so much scope for this series to run and run and I'm really looking forward to meeting up again with this enigmatic detective sergeant in future crime stories.

About the Author

M.J. Ford is back with a gripping new thriller, perfect for fans of Cara Hunter and T.M. Logan

Twitter @MJFordBooks #KeepHerClose